Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and author of the book “Rules of Thumb“, thinks every leader needs to keep 2 lists:
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What keeps you up at night?
There is a lot for leaders to think about in those two sentences. Here is a summary of Webber’s challenges:
Some people just have jobs. Others have something they really work at.
Some people are just occupied. Others have something that preoccupies them.
It makes all the difference in the world.
Consider this: you spend at least eight hours a day working, five days a week. A minimum of forty hours a week for at least forty-eight to fifty weeks a year. That’s a minimum of 1,920 hours a year. For how many years? You do the math.
What gets you up in the morning?
The level of energy put out by an organization’s people is one of the things that you are aware of as soon as you enter their space. There’s a buzz in the air (sometimes literally) created by people who are working hard and working together. They want to be there – they came in ready to go.
What keeps you up at night?
This is a chance to be honest with yourself. Many times leaders rarely get a chance to reflect on the things that really matter to the organization’s goals. Most of the time, day-to-day urgent concerns crowd out broader issues that are the really important ones. The things that often keep leaders up are the things that never seem to find the time or place for serious engagement in the course of an ordinary workday.
We all want to do work that excites us. We want to care about things that concern us. So, about that list…
Take out a stack of three-by-five cards. Use one to write down the answer to the question “What gets you up in the morning?” Keep it to one sentence. If you don’t like your answer, throw away the card and start over – it’s only a card. Keep doing it until you’ve got an answer you can live with.
Now repeat the exercise for the question “What keeps you up at night?” Work at it until you’ve got an honest answer.
Now read your answers out loud to yourself. If you like them – if they give you a sense of purpose and direction – congratulations! Use them as a compass, checking from time to time to see if they’re still true.
If you don’t like one or both of your answers, you have a new question to consider: What are you going to do about it?
Whatever your answers are, you’re spending almost two thousand hours a year of your life doing it.
That makes it worthwhile to come up with answers you can not only live with but also live for.