Without a doubt, your personal integrity is your most prized possession. Each day, that integrity is constantly tested, and you have an opportunity to prove it or lose it with every decision you make. If you compromise your integrity, your team will stop following you out of commitment and will follow you only out of compliance with your position. If people stop following you, you aren't really leading anymore regardless of your title.
Doing the right thing is not always the easiest thing - but it is always the right thing to do. Choosing to do the right thing - even when it's painful - ensures you will maintain your most precious possession throughout your personal and professional journey - your integrity.
The power of choice is one of the greatest gifts we are given. In fact, it is so important that the privilege of choice is removed from prison inmates as a form of punishment. Although we make many choices every hour of the day, we rarely make neutral choices. Each choice has a positive or negative consequence for us at some level.
Julie recently attended a session to help students prepare for college, and more importantly, for life. The presenter encouraged students to make early decisions about many things going forward, not just the university they choose. Some of these areas included making early decisions about the vision that they have for their future, what it will take to realize their vision and how they will handle difficult decisions.
Since similar decisions lie ahead for each of us, making early decisions now can make the future much easier by:
- Removing the stress and pressure of making decisions "in the moment."
- Being comfortable that your decisions are aligned with your values and vision for your life.
- Ensuring clear thinking about consequences of decisions - good or bad (i.e., consider today what this action/decision will feel like in five hours, five days and five years).
Making early decisions increases the likelihood that you will realize your vision for a team, project, task, career, family, etc. To this day, my wife, business partner and co-author honors two early decisions she made in third grade - not to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes. Julie did not like the smell of the combination of coffee and smoke, so Julie decided to avoid these many years before they were even an option for her. That commitment made it easy to avoid coffee and cigarettes for her entire life. This early decision provided freedom for her and required little thought or energy at future decision points.
Making early decisions about your priorities provides a double benefit for boosting your personal reliability. For example, you might say that your order of priorities for how you spend your time might be family, work, friends and community. Making that early decision about your priorities would make it easier to say "yes" to spending your time with your higher priorities and occasionally say "no" to requests for lower priorities. The same would hold true for spending money. Let's say your top priorities are to spend on items that have a long-term benefit like retirement savings and experiences your family can share. It becomes clear that you might say "no" to a new couch if it forces you to say "no" to your 401(k) or a family vacation.
Don't think that saying "no" just means saying it to other people. Reliable people also say "no" to themselves - they sacrifice today (by saying "no" to something that might be fun or tempting) to achieve tomorrow's rewards (saying "yes" to their ultimate goal). Knowing when to say "no" is not a once-in-a- while thing; it's a daily action.
For example, if you spend two hours in a meeting that doesn't help your team achieve its goals, you pay an opportunity cost by spending time on tasks that do not support your commitments. If you find yourself saying, "That was a waste of time," "Boy, that didn't add any value," or "Why was I attending that meeting?"- these questions may be signs you need to say "no." Reliable people consistently ask themselves, "Is this the best investment of my team's attention at this moment?" If it is, they get busy. If it's not, they refocus their attention.
In which areas of your life can you make early decisions? Your values, your relationships, your faith, your education, your health, your career, your leadership? It's never too late to make an early decision. Early decisions help pave the path to your desired future, whether you are in third grade, college or mid-career.
Think about the future for you and your team. Make an early decision today about the kind of leader you want to be for your team. It will pave a smoother path for tomorrow and to help you become the inspiring leader (and person) you want to be and that you team needs.