Inspiration comes at the strangest times. For example, it is my duty to make breakfast — and I do so almost every morning. The occasional restaurant breakfast meeting breaks up the routine from time-to-time, but generally I’m in the kitchen preparing breakfast at about 5:30 am. I like to mix things up a bit, so my partner and I don’t get bored, but breakfast almost always has some kind of egg dish.
One particular morning I had a strong urge to make eggs over easy. I knew what I wanted – nice, uniformly fried eggs with yolks intact. I had a clear goal and a clear vision. Not unlike the picture to the right — except the eggs were to be over easy, not scrambled. You know what happened. As I broke the eggs one of the yolks hit the pan and started running. And I cursed.
I was very disappointed. Enough so that I decided I would scramble all four eggs instead of having to have one hard fried and three over easy eggs. My rule is, as “Chef,” I have to “eat my mistakes.” And I always like to make sure my wife has the nicest looking plate. So, I quickly added some salt, pepper, chives and shredded cheese and scrambled everything.
All this made me start thinking about what my intention was to begin with. Was my intention to have fried eggs or to make sure we had a good high protein breakfast to start the day? The more I thought about it, the more I realized my intention was the latter. The “higher intention” was to have protein and it didn’t really matter if the eggs were fried or scrambled or poached.
I think we sometimes make the same mistakes when leading organizations. Leadership requires having clear, well communicated intention and vision. It has to be the correct vision and intention — not an intermediate goal. A change in plan is easier to make, when external events require us to do so, if even as we change we are still working toward fulfilling the vision and intention.
As I ponder this thought, I realize that even though I have not expressed it this way in the past, the reason I have enjoyed my career and was able to make many changes is because my personal vision and intention can be achieved through many avenues. So as changes were needed, they were relatively easy for me to make.
In some of the companies for whom I worked, the vision and intention of the leadership served as a “North Star.” The organization could easily adapt to the market changes, technology disruptions and personnel changes because the intention and vision didn’t change. They were touchstones.
How clear are the intentions and visions in your personal life? Your professional life? How about in the groups and organizations you lead? What can you do to clarify them and succinctly communicate them?
What? You don’t think about leadership issues when you’re making breakfast!? Like I said, inspiration comes from the strangest places sometimes!