Executive Coach Executive CoachExecutive Coach
Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

What Matters to You?

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If you skew a little bit "old school," you probably remember a series of TV ads for Dunkin' Donuts that featured a shop manager who wearily woke up at 3:00 am every day with the mordant refrain, "Time to make the donuts." If you're too young to know what I'm talking about, check this out:

My wife recently saw a bumper sticker with the (edited here for public consumption) phrase, "Freakin' Donuts." If you're old enough to remember, then you're in on the joke. Sometimes life can feel like it's just one more day of making the donuts.

I find this happens when you get overly focused on the tasks that stack up in front of you. All those donuts can cause you to lose sight of the bigger purpose and picture. Leaders (and I definitely include myself here), need to pull the lens back on a regular basis and ask themselves, "What really matters to me?" Getting clear on your answers to that question can help you clarify your priorities and even come up with some innovative ways to address them.

So, how did I come up with this point and why am I bringing it up now? Well, it so happens that I'm married to a really excellent coach named Diane who asked me last night to make a list of the things that matter to me. Once we covered the basics (e.g. strong marriage, healthy kids, food and shelter), I moved on to other things that matter to me. Since I'm a leadership coach, one of the obvious answers is leadership. But, if you think about it, good leadership is a means to an end. So, Diane kept asking, "What else matters to you?" Here's my list:

  1. Sustainable global economy
  2. Justice
  3. Basic levels of quality of life for all people
  4. Global and national security
  5. Innovation and progress
  6. Health and wellness
  7. Learning and knowledge
  8. Happiness
  9. Reflection and spiritual development
  10. Personal and family sustainability

Admittedly, that is a wide ranging list of things that matter to me. It can easily lead to the question, "How could anyone, unless they were a head of government, work on all of that?" Well, I'm fortunate that my profession of leadership coaching, writing and speaking allows me to support leaders in organizations that are doing great work on many of those issues. When I frame my work in the context of "What am I doing to contribute to the things that matter most to me?," I immediately move past the feeling of just making the daily batch of donuts.

How about you? What matters to you? What's the connection between your daily work and what matters? What about your team? What kinds of conversations are you having about the connection between their work and what matters?

Speaking of conversations, let's start one here. I'd love to see some comments posted on what matters to you and the meaningful work that you and your team are doing about that.

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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