(This is an edited version of a column that was originally published online by the New Times newspaper of Rwanda on 7 January 2021)
When preparing to negotiate your salary for a new job or for a raise in your current job, you might think about two numbers: how much would you ideally like to earn in pay and benefits? And how much do you actually need to earn in order to feel appreciated and to cover all your expenses?
This principle might also apply to a personal relationship: what are all the positive qualities that make for an ideal partner in your mind and heart? And what do you actually need in a real partner to live happily and healthily?
And it is the same when embarking on a new year of leading yourself, your team and your organization.
On the one hand, you may want to lay out or update your “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal” (BHAG). The term comes from writers Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who urged leaders in their book: “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” to create and articulate a long-term, 10- to 25-year “BHAG”, guided by their organization’s core values and purpose.
This approach can also be valid on an individual level, asking yourself some of the following, longer-term questions:
1. Who are my main role models in work (and life in general) and why?
2. What am I most passionate about in work (and life in general)?
3. What do I care most about in work (and life in general)?
4. What would I do if I didn’t have to work?
5. Assuming I do have to work for a good while longer, what does it really mean to me?
6. What does leadership mean to me?
7. What are three to five jobs that I would hate/love to do? And why?
8. What are three to five cities that I would hate/love to live in? And why?
And then take a long, leisurely walk or bath and start to visualize and then record in detail on paper or on your phone your ideal work and life in five to 10 years’ time and your ideal workday (or -night) from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Where? What? With whom?
Yes, much of this may be pure speculation right now but still be bold as: “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years,” according to US philanthropist, Bill Gates.
Once you have completed some or all of this big-picture visioning, you will probably need to come back down to Earth and start planning more realistically for the year ahead, without any “over-estimation”:
1. What do I want/need to achieve at work for myself and others this year to create a feeling of success and satisfaction?
2. What kind of leader do I want/need to be in this persistently disrupted and uncertain work environment?
3. What do I want/need to do on a personal level – even with gyms still closed – to maintain my physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness?
4. How will my and others’ work change if and when treatments and vaccinations help to end the Covid crisis and allow us to go back to the office and the airport?
5. How can I incorporate the positive aspects of my Corona experience into physical “un-distancing” and face-to-face encounters, such as the often-surprising level of virtual safety, team trust, technological comfort and social intimacy that we have developed online in the last nine months?
6. How can I mitigate the negative aspects of a possible return to: noisy cubicle farms; office gossip; unhealthy indulgence in networking drinks and dinners; less time with my family and friends; long commutes and travel delays; cramped and stuffy planes; and troubled sleep in sterile hotels, with only conditioned air and the wrong kind of pillows?
7. What is one thing I will continue, start or stop doing to help me progress towards my long-term goal/s this year?
8. How will I know that I and others have been successful? (more on this in my next article)
And after all of these reflections, questions and planning, it will then be time for concrete, measurable action for the short (and longer) term.
Or in the probable words of US businessman Joel Barker (that are often attributed to Nelson Mandela and others): “A vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”