In the movie “City Slickers,” Billy Crystal plays Mitch, a middle-aged man in crisis who has lost his direction. He and his friends go to a dude ranch to participate in a real cattle drive and search for the meaning of life. Jack Palance plays Curly, a crusty old cowhand whose job it is to babysit the city slickers along the dusty trail.
In one memorable piece of dialogue, Curly asks Mitch: “You know what the secret of life is?”
“No, what?” Mitch responds.
Curly holds up his index finger. “This.” Mitch looks confused. “Your finger?”
“One thing. Just one thing,” Curly growls. “You stick to that and everything else don’t mean sh-t.”
“That’s great,” Mitch replies, “but what’s the one thing?”
Curly smiles. “That’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
In typical movie fashion, of course, Mitch solves his problems by gaining new perspective on his life and knowing what changes he has to make. He learns that “it” — the one thing — varies for each of us. As Mitch tells one of his fellow searchers, “It’s something different for everybody. It’s whatever is the most important for you.”
Recently, I facilitated a two and a half day strategy retreat for an industry think tank. This group formed years ago to learn from each other, share best practices, collectively develop tools they could use in their organizations, and provide educational opportunities for the leaders for their organizational leaders. They were a hands-on group with minimal staff support. They all had very busy jobs with extensive travelling in their global companies. This think tank work was a voluntary labor of love.
As the planning session progressed, I was getting fuzzier and fuzzier about what they were trying to achieve. Disagreements about what they’d achieved in the past year and their priorities for the next year were hardening into opposing camps.
At dinner after the first day, a consultation with the group’s leaders showed they agreed with a need to refocus. We were getting off track. So, we started our second day by stepping back and rediscovering “it.” Why did this group exist? We reviewed, debated, and ultimately agreed on the overarching purpose and strategic focus of the group. We found “it.” And this shifted the tone, direction, and outcomes of the planning session. The group left reenergized with clearer key priorities and implementation steps.
Leadership time is as critical an investment as money. How the leadership team leverages or squanders their time and attention ripples throughout their organization and determines results. How we use our time is determined by our “it.”
Tomorrow we publish October’s blogs in the November issue of The Leader Letter. This month’s issue looks at key issues around strategic use of leaders’ time and provides a brief time assessment. You’ll also find five other short assessments for you and/or your team to take your bearings and determine if you’re heading into dangerous waters. And we all know feedback is vital to ensure we’re on course. But feedback fear often causes us to avoid or shut down feedback. You’ll find a link to an archived webinar full of practical ideas and steps to embrace and learn from feedback. You’ll also see how employee feedback drives the ‘Employee Recommended Workplace Award,’ a unique opportunity to garner feedback on the Total Health of your workplace.