As we usher in the new year, I encourage you to consider those handful of things you’ll stop doing that will contribute to a more effective, successful, and leaderful you. When I help clients develop strategic plans, I include time and space for the ‘stop-doing’ conversation. It’s often a tough talk to have with organizational leaders because it requires rigorous self-examination and discipline to say ‘no’ to cherished assumptions, traditions, and ways of doing things, even when they no longer serve our success.
It’s just as essential to have this conversation on the personal level as leaders as it is to have it at the organizational leadership level. What we decide to stop doing is just as important as what we intend to start doing, or continue doing into the New Year.
To begin, look back on 2014 and get very clear about where you let yourself – and others – down as a leader. Take some time to reflect – what didn’t work, felt onerous and mired you down with resentment? What are the leadership habits, behaviors and practices holding you back? Write down everything that comes to mind. Then, pick the top five things which, if you stopped doing, would make be the biggest difference for you. Not the loftiest or grandest things – those things that will make the biggest difference.
Here’s my personal short list of things to stop doing in 2015 – because when we put it out there, well, we put it out there:
- Being too busy to write. I enjoy writing and want to do more of it – in my blog, through my e-news. I even have the working title for a book, Leadership Lessons from My Horses.
- Avoiding social media. This is my year to start building a serious on-line presence. Who knows what will come of it?
- Believing I can do it all. On my good days, I know better, really. I’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last couple of years building partnerships and collaborations with a group of excellent and diverse professionals so that I can better serve you, my clients, and so that I don’t have to it all. 2014 put this to the test. Several times my wonderful and capable colleagues stepped up to deliver leadership training, coaching and Leadership with Horses programs – while I was out of town or the country, preparing for knee surgery, etc. Here’s to more of that in 2015.
- Interim executive work. Almost as soon as I declared last year that I was on hiatus, my schedule filled up and even over-flowed with what I love to do most and where I do my very best work: executive coaching, leadership development, Leadership with Horses. I traveled to Ireland and spoke for two days at Microsoft’s EMEA Summit on how to Shape Your Future, Love Your Work. I also had time to expand my executive transition and search consulting, completing two searches and opening 2015 with another active search.
- Short vacations. In the 10 years since I moved to Epona Meadows Farm, my vacations – if you can call them that – have been short. An extra day here and there tacked on to a two-day business trip to Bend, San Francisco, Denver, etc. After wrapping up my Microsoft assignment in September, I spent 7 days horseback riding through the mountains, moors, dunes and beautiful, isolated beaches of Dunfanaghy, Ireland. That trip convinced me there’s a lot more of the world to see from the back of a horse.
When you stop doing something, you create white space, room ‘on the board’ for something new, different, even liberating. You find more time for what matters most. Every leader knows how to go, go, go. I’ve learned stopping is the stuff of leadership mastery.
What should you stop doing? If you look hard enough, you’ll find something. It could be related to your attitude, the way you communicate or the example you set. Whatever it is, you probably already know about it. So, make an active decision now to stop doing it. And I’d love it if you’d share your list with me.