Who is Driving Your Agenda?

You pull into the customer's parking lot 10 minutes late for your meeting.  Traffic on the road leading to their building was very slow due to construction.  You had made this trip a dozen times before and had never been late in the past.  As you greet the client in their office, you say:
  1. Sorry for being late.  Traffic was really bad due to construction on the boulevard.
  2. Sorry for being late.  I wish the city had done a better job offering a detour to the construction on the boulevard.
  3. Sorry for being late.  I didn't allow enough time to navigate the construction.
Which of these opening statements would you make in the above situation?

The first one finds an excuse for your tardiness, the second one assigns blame to a third party, while the third has you accepting responsibility, and through your words, stating you will allow more time in the future.

The third statement would be given by a leader who is comfortable with her/himself, one who has personal humility and professional will.  This individual has taken control and is in the driver seat of his/her agenda.  Are you?

It is very easy in business for others to drive your agenda, take you off course, or worse, take you onto their course, such as:
  • Customers who ask for customization of your product or service
  • Manager's who give you off-the-cuff feedback on the yearly performance review
  • Peers who try to convince you to spend more.
In all cases, what others say and do can have an impact, if you are not aware of your own goals, wants, and needs.

We call this 'being internally directed’ and it’s an important leadership trait.  It allows you to deliver on personal goals and commitments while being aware of the external environment you impact.

Being internally directed and externally aware involves three perspectives:  focus, self-awareness, and resiliency.

Remaining focused is the starting point for being internally directed.  It is an alignment of your self-awareness and knowledge/skills/experiences with the enterprise strategy that creates a future focal point.

Leaders who live in the future and work in the present are focused and have mastered the ability to drive their agenda.

They understand the primary directive for themselves is to build other leaders, while influencing strategy and company productivity.

As you move through the day, many items will attempt to distract you from your primary agenda.  Remaining focused on your personal action plan will maintain your effectiveness.

Self-awareness helps you evaluate what resources you have and the changes you are prepared to make to achieve greater outcomes.  The more you know about your leadership behaviours, the more confident you become.

You have two types of strengths, realized and unrealized.  The former you are aware of and use every day.  The latter are behaviours you are exceptionally good at, but perhaps don't practice often enough.  Use unrealized strengths more frequently to deliver superior results with less effort.

Next are the learned behaviours, ones that you can do fairly well, but that don't come naturally to you.  These require a higher level of effort to get things done properly.  Minimize their use the best you can.

Lastly, there are behaviours you are not good at, period.  Delegate activities that require these.

Three of the most effective means of self-awareness are:
  • Direct personal feedback from your manager (if you are the President, this will come from the Board of Directors)
  • Accepting roles that expose you to new experiences and people
  • Self-assessments.

Wikipedia defines 'resiliency' as a term borrowed from the more exact sciences and adopted by psychology.  When used by psychologists it refers to the ability to overcome obstacles, navigate difficulties and to recover from trauma or crisis.  In business, we have adapted the meaning further to define our ability to deal with unforeseen events while ignoring unnecessary distractions.

Simply asked, "Can you hang in there and remain true to your purpose?"

Leaders who are internally driven develop a higher level of resiliency to help them sift through the multiple requests upon their agenda, finding the ones that are aligned with their strengths and internal goals while ignoring / delegating / deflecting items that are a distraction.

You can augment your resiliency through two simple tactics:
  • Sleeping on the issue prior to making a decision
  • Being comfortable in seeking a second opinion.
Put all three together – focus, self-awareness, and resiliency – and you will have the confidence to face any situation.  Trust your instincts and remain true to your goals.  Its your agenda - live it, breath it, deliver it!