“Drive thy business or it will drive thee.” – Benjamin Franklin
Last week in this space the focus was on making sure what you’re doing is driving your business toward the vision and making sure you’re busy doing things that matter, not just busy being busy. Someone emailed me with the comment that while that sounds great, there are so many things coming at us that there’s no time for visioning or identifying what’s really valuable. All we have time to do is put out whatever fires have started that day.
I understand the feeling, but my response was this – start your own fires. It’s true that things will happen that you didn’t expect or can’t control, and you may have to deal with them. Too often, though, when a leader tells me they’re too busy putting out fires to focus on the future or the vision or change, it’s just an excuse. They just aren’t sure how to even go about thinking about the future, so they fall back into the comfortable routine of waiting for someone to bring them a problem and then devoting their energy to solving it – whether it’s really worth solving or not.
Get past that. Yes, you can spend an entire career running around solving problems that other people in your organization should be solving. You can even spend a bunch of time solving problems that nobody in your organization should be solving. But neither of those things makes you a great leader.
Take charge of your business. Start by clearly identifying the vision. Who are your customers going to be in 3 years? What value will you be providing them? What processes or systems or knowledge is your business going to have to get right in order to successfully provide them with that value? If you can clearly define those questions (and more), then you’ll start to see that putting out all those fires is not the best use of your time.
As the leader, you have to take the initiative. You have to clearly identify what’s most important, and then make sure everybody is focused on that thing. Allowing things that just happen to come along to drive your focus is a recipe for disaster.
If you do nothing but spend your time reacting to fires somebody else started, you’ll eventually find years have gone by and your business is no closer to your goal than when you started. So if you want to spend your career putting out fires, then get out there and start your own.