As we sit here mid-February, I'd like to ask you the following 2 questions:
• how are you growing?
• how have you changed your patterns and processes to respond to that growth?
Consider the nuance between both those questions. The first is a 'thinking' question – you will have answered that in your mind. The second is a 'doing question' – it will have forced you to observe yourself in the 'doing'.
The difference between intention and implementation
Many of us believe we're growing simply because we have the intention to grow. Growth is important to us as we're typically high performance, aspirational and ambitious execs.
Intention isn't enough.
Many of you will have heard me say 'ideation without implementation is a waste'. The real question here is: what are you doing differently now to grow? What habits, routines and rituals are you doing in 2023 that you didn't do in 2022?
I think there are 3 key obstacles we need to overcome to move from thinking to doing growth.
Why we don't implement our growth intentions
There are many reasons, and of course the first is time. Growth implies that you need to do something else or something more to develop and grow. On the basis you had a full workload last year, you're probably thinking 'I don't have time for anything else!'.
Well, here's the thing. How you spend your time is your choice. So if you don't think you have enough time to take the actions you need to grow, then you're choosing to go backwards. Harsh but true. Inaction is indeed action.
Quite often we might have an intention to grow, but we don't really know to what end. We don't have clarity on our future path beyond what's right in front of us. So when it comes to meaningful growth, we're not sure of the activities that we should be doing to grow.
I see this with executives who carve out 'strategic thinking' or 'high performance time' and they don't know how to utilise that time. This is a problem of clarity of vision and direction.
2 weeks ago we held a Catalyst Planning session where we helped 20 Chief Financial Officers get clarity on their vision, their 5 year plan, and their quarterly plan for the next 12 months. My intention was to help them be inspired by their vision and have the comfort of a plan that would act as a safety net to ensure that (a) they'd grow this year and (b) none of the 'must dos' would be dropped.
Gaining clarity around their vision and direction wasn't easy – it was hard for them to be brave and consider the possibilities in front of them that might not be the 'traditional path'. But they all wanted something more: something meaningful that would not only give them the growth in their careers that they desired, but would inspire them to do and be better. That would help them contribute to their communities around them.
What came up during the session was the tyranny of expectation. That for many of us, a finance profession was something that just happened. We didn't necessarily choose it to be a CFO, but it was the safer, more conservative choice. And then we grew up the ranks because we like to achieve.
CFOs get to a point where they find themselves feeling like they're 'in a box'. In the 'CFO box' which comes with expectations around what CFOs can do, can be, both now and in the future. We've been conditioned this way – we look at the world in boxes to help us make sense of ourselves in the context around us. When you say to someone 'I'm a CFO' people know what that means. It's easy and it makes sense.
Expectation often keeps us small
This fitting into a box/into the norm is dangerous. More often than not it's like putting on a pair of jeans that have just come out of the dryer. You have to mould yourself to squish your body inside those stiff jeans.
If everyone is doing their best to fit in, then everyone is playing a smaller game.
This is the start of mediocrity in business.
Playing your game unleashes excellence
It is the I was so inspired by the CFOs that joined me that day because they grappled with the idea of what could work and look like 'beyond the box'.
This wasn't easy. It required some big thinking (which is why we hold the space because it's almost impossible to do alone) but even harder than that it required courage and self-belief that they could consider an option bigger than they'd previously believed for themselves.
Even though we were simply putting pen to paper, the courage it took to say out aloud that they were aspiring to play bigger and bolder was massive. The trust they had to have to back themselves to write those plans on the page was huge. They did so well and I'm still hearing the profound impact it's had on them and their businesses.
2023 is the year to play your game
This is going to be a tough year. Tougher than years past...if we ever thought that was possible. We'll be asked once again to do more with less and you'll be wondering where you'll find the reserves to dig deeper.
We can't have another year like 2022.
I believe when we play our own game we discover untapped reserves of performance excellence. And when our vision aligns with the vision of our organisation, we channel that latent energy into our work and we conquer organisational mediocrity.
I think this is the year where organisations need their leaders to stand up and play their best and truest game so that they can achieve the organisational growth they need this year.
When we allow for our leaders to stay in the generally accepted boxes, they play small and you don't get the best from them.
Pre-sales start now – jump in to get a discount on my upcoming CFOs Connect breakfast series and additional pre-sales bonuses that will be announced between now and April.
But until then, I leave you with these questions:
How are you facing into the tyranny of expectation?
Are you playing your game?
What possibilities would that open for you and your organisation?
Love to hear your thoughts...