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Widgets or Gizmos?

I recently got to revisit my youth and participate in a good old-fashioned field day. From the basketball lay up competition to the rubber chicken slingshot, the day was full of all manner of competitions. But nowhere did my team need to work together more than during the three-legged race. If you’ve ever had your leg tied to someone else’s, you understand the importance of moving in the same direction as your partner. Bad things will happen if either of you start going your own way.

 While the chances of you literally falling on your face are significantly lower in the workplace, moving in the same direction is equally important in any collaborative relationship. This requires everyone on the team to know where the finish line is and move in that direction.

What’s your finish line? Is it a percentage of market share? Is it specific top line goal for the year? How about a certain level of brand recognition? These are often the goals that we set for what we want our teams to accomplish, and in most cases, we encourage you to set very specific, measurable, achievable goals. For example, you may set the goal to sell one million widgets. As a leader, you will inspire your team to work hard to crank out those widgets.

But what if you define your finish line in a different way. What if, in addition to casting a vision to the team of WHAT you’re trying to accomplish, you cast a vision of WHY you’re in the game to begin with. Instead of simply selling widgets, your goal becomes to providing one million people with the resources they need to provide a safe environment for their families. Widgets may be one way to do that, but if you find out that a gizmo is better than a widget, you and your team will be more apt to redirect or expand your services. It’s no longer about widgets—it’s about WHY you’re making widgets in the first place.

WHY is a matter of impact, and it is ultimately about people. What’s your vision for how the work that you do can impact the world and the people in it?

Do you know what your finish line is? Does your team? Maybe it’s time to remind them of the WHY behind the what.