As I have scanned social media in the past few weeks, I've seen numerous posts encouraging others to "never give up." I believe many who are sharing these words are doing so to combat the large number of resolutions that are typically ditched a few weeks into a new year. While I primarily appreciate the sentiment, I think it can be a dangerous mantra for a leader.
Giving up is okay. Really, it is! I know we are taught from childhood to "never be a quitter," but sometimes that's exactly what leaders have to be in order to succeed. In fact, there are two critical times I think it's okay to give up:
- When we are overwhelmed. As I work with leaders across the nation, I frequently encounter men and women who are overwhelmed. As we examine the reasons they feel this way, many point to a calendar that is full of activities. For example, a recent executive pointed to a double and triple booked week and lamented she has no time to think about the big picture. When I asked her to describe the events on her calendar, she couldn't explain why half of them were there. She's what I like to call a "serial appointment scheduler." She always says "yes" to every request made of her and often will call meetings herself only to address the issue off-line and fail to cancel the appointment. She admitted that several times she and her team have shown up to the meeting room and she has asked who has the agenda - only to be reminded that she called the meeting! Regardless of what industry we are in, as a leader, our time is money and should be spent on items with the most value. We can always delegate other items to direct reports or (perhaps better yet) just say "no" to the items that don't carry value for us or our organization. While I understand it hurts to tell others "no," I believe it hurts worse to say "yes" to everyone.
- When our goals are no longer valid. As leaders, we become very attached to our goals. In many ways, they represent who we are, so we feel uncomfortable when we aren't meeting them. But not all goals are purposeful or valid. Circumstances change, priorities change, and when they do, we must be willing to re-examine our goals. A few years ago, I began a journey to live a more purposeful life - professionally and personally. I identified my priorities as Faith, Family, Finance, Fitness and Fun. At the time, I was a board member for several non-profit organizations (one of my goals), but in re-examining my priorities, I had to admit that goal no longer fit into my priorities. Yes, it was Fun, but it took away from Family and Faith. Similarly, I was teaching classes each semester at my alma mater and another local university (another of my goals), and it was Fun and contributed to Finance, but it compromised my ability to address Finance in the best possible means (in other words, I could earn more money in less time if I focused on Ethos). It was difficult to give up those activities, but it was the right decision given my new priorities.
Do you have anything that you should give up? (Really, it's okay!)