I love the week between Christmas and New Year's because it offers a little more leisure time than usual and it is perfectly positioned for reflection - one year is ending and a new one with all of its possibilities and perils is beginning.
I think, write, and coach about leadership a lot. But, at heart, I want to be a great follower.
My personal spiritual commitment is to be a follower of Jesus Christ and "disciple" is simply a synonym for follower. So, following is at the heart of what I want to do with my life.
Here are four areas of followership where I am trying to be strategic in 2014 - and I offer them for your consideration:
1. Follow Your Family
My first day as a consultant, the wisest and best consultant I have ever known gave me three principles I will never forget. I'm not going to tell you the first two because I don't want to blow two more blog posts. But here's number three: Follow the client's energy.
I've found that advice to be brilliant time and again. It simply says this: whatever you bring into the room as a coach/consultant is less important than what is already going on in the room. The point is not your experience, insight, or brilliance, assuming you have any. The point is what is going on in the heart and mind of the client. Figure out what that is and go there rather than presenting a predetermined boilerplate neatly packaged in a three ring binder or Keynote presentation.
Same for your family. Every member in your family has energy going on somewhere - a life change, an undiagnosed insecurity, a hidden resentment, a cherished dream. Figure out where the energy is in each of them, whether they are aging parent or pre-adolescent, and do your best to serve and help them there.
2. Follow Your Instincts...After You've Listened
The older I get the more I trust my gut. Some of that is accumulated experience - mine and others. But more than that it is increased skill in paying attention to patterns. Some folks are naturally gifted at seeing and identifying patterns of behavior, cause and effect, and motivation. Others of us have to work at it.
But in working at it, we learn a secret - having good instincts is not about going off half-cocked but about reflecting your way through life - considering everything that happens in your life for good or ill and divining what was going on underneath the surface at the time.
"Listen to your life...", Frederick Buechner writes. Listening leads to instincts you can trust. Listening defeats the prejudices and biases you grew up with or grew into, the comfortable certainties that are often unreliable. Listen. and then go with your instincts.
3. Follow Your Body
Chances are your body is not telling you to eat more Krispy Kreme, exercise less, function on very little sleep, and ingest more alcohol or nicotine.
You know this and your body does too.
The reptilian part of your brain - the part that likes to lie still and bask lazily in the sun - is telling you those things.
Repulse the reptile.
It's mostly inertia that piles on the calories, fat, shortness of breath and drowsiness.
It doesn't have to be CrossFit or a triathlon, but a few changes and tweaks (you know what they are) are going to raise the watermark on your physical well-being, which will bleed over to your spiritual, emotional, and relational life.
4. Follow The Right Leaders
Don't waste any more time following the wrong boss, pastor, or (God forbid) celebrity.
We don't live that long on Planet Earth. In the grand scheme of things, it's a short run. Why waste a second placing yourself in the hands of leaders who are incompetent, untrustworthy, unmotivated, or subpar?
That sounds brutal.
It's not. You've got a gift to bring to the world - Your Intentional Difference (by the way, there is a book by that title in a few days, if I haven't mentioned it previously!).
You and you alone are responsible for where and how you make that deposit, where you offer that contribution.
Evaluate who you are following. Don't be judgmental or arrogant, but do be reflective.
Do you trust the boss, pastor, or mentor you are following? Are they delivering consistently excellent results? Are they really good at what they do? Are their followers increasing or decreasing in number? Do you have confidence in the future under their leadership? If you had it to do over again, would you choose to follow them?
If you had to place your retirement income on them, would you?
If the answer is no, they why the heck are you following them?
They don't have to be perfect, but they do have to have game.
If not, move on. Don't move on with pride or arrogance, but with kindness and humility. Who knows, you may be the one holding them back! But, for your own sake, move on.
Take this week between Christmas and New Year's to evaluate how well you are following your family, your instincts, your body, and your leaders.
Get your thought ducks in a row:
And then make some gutsy leadership calls in order to follow well.