In October's edition of the CEO Corner, Janet M. Harvey discusses the importance of being a finisher and shares her personal journey in understanding the tension between competition and collaboration. Janet reflects on the lessons learned from her professional life and how perseverance became her superpower.
“Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No Excuses.” – Kobe Bryant
Be a finisher. That's it, that's all I got for you. It's just teasing, and yet, it's a great perspective as we begin the month of October and look toward finishing strong in the fourth calendar quarter of 2023. "Be a finisher" is a phrase I heard daily as a youth in competitive athletics, first in swimming and then in skating. It was a phrase and a call to action that followed me into professional life, first when working in sales and later in leading change as a corporate executive and today as a coach and owner leading a human development organization. The cliché that starting is easy and finishing is hard dishes out some tough love. Businesses value creativity and innovation and value effective results even more. It's no wonder that competition shows up on a top ten list of personal values for people we coach inside of businesses. Remember that any strength, overused, can backfire. There are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who started with great ideas and have not yet reached a satisfying finish line, including me! I suppose that's why perseverance and hard work go together in the formula for success; as the Los Angeles Lakers Basketball star Kobe Bryant once said, there are no excuses.
It's also how perseverance became a superpower for me. How about for you? Many of our readers are business owners, leaders, and entrepreneurs across many industries. What do you experience inside yourself as you hear the words "be a finisher? Maybe you can feel the tension just reading the words that this call to action evokes. One of the most important lessons learned in my professional life became a guiding principle: tension is the doorway to transformation. More on that later this year as my new book, From Tension to Transformation: A Leader's Guide to Generative Change, releases on January 9, 2024.
The way this principle - tension is the doorway to transformation - operates may need to be more evident and intuitive to apply. While the quality of perseverance motivated hard work, discipline, and commitment with a no-excuse mindset, it also set up an impossible level of competition within me. Over time, I realized that I had overdone. My attitude that motivated competitive choices isolated me from others and, worse, left an impression I wanted to be alone to pursue my ambitions and goals. That was the furthest thing from my truth. A common refrain from colleagues worldwide is, "Being a professional coach is lonely." Wow, that got me thinking hard about the unconscious habits that produce this belief, usually expressed as limiting their joy and ability to love their life's work.
The more I examined this belief, the more I began to see the other side of the tension, the spectrum between competition and collaboration. For example, if fulfilling my life purpose demands high competition, I will work hard to set and exceed my goals and make the destination the most important focus. I have been there, done that, and felt the exhaustion and unsatisfactory imbalance in my life: all work and no play. Once I could consciously see the tension, I also saw the power of choice to act differently. Don't get me wrong, it's super useful to have a clear and aspirational destination to motivate action. However, what we feel and sense in every moment on the journey sustains our activity and generates an experience of our wholeness, work, and play through intentional sovereign choices.
Play for me was about being with other people, sharing my life experiences, being champions for each other, and expressing gratitude for the journey at every moment. These elements all arise when in collaboration with others. Our research on common leadership dilemmas (yep, that's what the new book will share) revealed this tension of presence between competition and collaboration. We will explore this tension on October 6 with global visionary leader Suzi Pomerantz in the next episode of the Vanguard Conversation Series. If you want support and find some collaborators to be a vibrant finisher for the remainder of 2023, do join us, Noon-1 PM US Eastern. Register here.
I am closing this post with a tool we created for the recent Purpose and Profits Summit. It's a Wholeness Self-Audit. The steps for the reflection questions apply to you personally and how you engage your customers and interact and collaborate with your employees. Pausing at the start of a new business quarter to reflect on what's working and what I want to strengthen continuously reveals new opportunities for collaboration. Going it alone and working hard never gets me as far as going together; we are always better together.
Here's to loving your life's work even more throughout October and beyond!
Experienced with individuals at the Board of Directors, “C” Chair, Executive and Senior Management levels, Janet assists executives in adopting effective habits of perception and behavior to lead and accelerate corporate strategies. Typical engagements address executive development in the following areas: articulate and inspire through clarity of vision, enable respectful challenge, debate and catalyze synergy for strategic business choices, risk/reward critical thinking about investments and shareholder value, plan leader succession and architect sustainable cultural/strategic change.
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