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As far as leading yourself, you need to know where you're headed. What is your ultimate destination? What's your professional goal? This isn't about saying, "I want to get that promotion," or, "I want to have this particular job." It's really about, at the end of your career, what are they going to say about you? What do you want to stand for as a leader? By articulating that, you are setting an end-point that you can then make deliberate decisions along the way, to get there.
I like to ask people, "What will your epitaph say?" That's a little bit grim, but it's a very clarifying question. For me, I would like mine to say, "He was always learning, teaching and coaching." That's what I would like to stand for, and I look for situations where I can live that maxim out. In terms of learning, it's a reminder. That maxim reminds me that I enjoy leaning new things. I'm the kind of guy, that when I hear a word I don't know, I go look it up.
When there's a new concept and I'm working with new people, and maybe a new client, I try to understand their business, because I enjoy learning. Teaching. I love to teach. It ties to other maxims that I've got around teaching, and helping people understand things. Coaching. I love the one-on-one aspect of a lot of the work that I do, and whether it's prior roles as a leader, or roles that I have now as I'm working with clients, I enjoy the coaching aspect of my work.
That maxim drives my behavior. Again, if I'm given choices, I can use my maxim to help me make that decision. If I'm given two pieces of work, one where I'll work by myself, and one where I can teach somebody something new, or I can coach them to be better, and enjoy the work that they do more, I'm obviously going to head in that direction. The beautiful thing about this maxim is it helps me be consistent. Eventually, the sum of all those choices I make, that say I'm about learning, teaching and coaching, will lead me down a professional path where I'm going to be the most satisfied with the work that I do.
That work satisfaction should result in better performance coming out of me. As you articulate your maxim, related to how you are going to shape your future, ask yourself, "What are the most satisfying aspects of my work?" "What do I want people saying about me when I'm gone?" "What do I really stand for as a leader?" "What type of work should I gravitate toward?" Again think through the emotionally-resonant aspect of that.
Think about particular situations that have been so satisfying for you that you tell people about them. When somebody asks you, "What's your biggest accomplishment?" the first thing that comes out of your mouth should be a hint as to what your maxim is, and as you reflect on those stories, and reflect on those situations, you should be able to very clearly articulate, "This is where I'm going in my future "and this is the maxim that will help get me there."
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