By Jay Ledesma
Finding our North Star
“WHAT the new year will bring to you depends a great deal on what you bring to the new year.” - Yern Mclellan
It’s customary that either before or at the start of each new year we make our personal New Year’s resolutions. It’s a list of all the things we want to continue doing, stop doing, or try doing for the first time. We start the year excited, committed and dead set in accomplishing what we have written down. But sadly, almost always, we end the year, not being able to do most of what’s in our list. We are happy and feel lucky if we did at least 1!
The same is true when we talk about the company or team goals. At the start of a new year, several planning sessions are held and conducted. Goals and targets are set. Action plans are laid out. Everyone in the team is excited and ready to do their part. But then again, come yearend, targets were missed, plans not fully implemented.
What’s stopping us then from achieving our desired results, may it be personal or for the team? What seems to be the missing link?
Begin with the end in mind. We often fail to implement and deliver the results because we are not 100% clear of the reason why we need to implement and deliver. One time, in one of the big malls here in Davao, I approached a janitress, who seems to be just going through the motion of wiping the escalator rails with alcohol, and asked her, why do you have to clean it with alcohol? Her answer was, “because my supervisor told me so”. When I went inside the grocery, I saw another janitress, this time passionately wiping the pushcart handles with alcohol (she’s even singing). So I asked her the same question, why are you doing that? And her reply made me smile, “We need to do this so in case the previous customer has covid, it will not spread to the next customer. I am helping stop the spread of covid.”
Same task but a different appreciation of the purpose and different execution. Clearly, their attitude towards their work is influenced by their understanding of why they need to do what they do. For the first, it was just mere obeying an instruction but for the second one, it’s contributing to a bigger cause. When we lack clarity of the real purpose, when we are not clear with our Why behind the targets and action plans, our commitment level may not be as strong. But when we are clear with our WHY, just in the case of the 2nd janitress, we do our job well. We are happy and proud of it!
This crucial first step of finding and being clear with our North Star will allow us to formulate the right action steps. It will allow us to identify the needed resources and timeline. Conversely, when our purpose is not clear, we waste resources, talents, efforts, and time since we end up doing wrong or unnecessary activities. In my past corporate life, I have seen projects that did not fly simply because the deeper reason behind the project was not established. To get to the deeper layer of the reason, my former boss will always tell us to ask Why 5 times. Only then can we identify the real purpose. However, very seldom was this done. Oftentimes, we served the superficial purpose of the things we do. Thus, the wrong action steps, weak execution, and low commitment level.
Our North Star should not only be clear. It should be very compelling. It should be strong enough to push us to our limits and not give up easily because we know that there will always be challenges and obstacles along the way. Some can be manageable while some may be extra tough. There will be times when it may appear that the best action to do is to stop and quit. So if our WHY is not compelling enough, giving up or quitting is going to be easy. As you may have also experienced, I encountered too many riders during this pandemic. They come rain or shine. On a few occasions, they will brave heavy rains and poor road visibility just to deliver our orders. They don’t waste time so they can take and deliver more orders. More orders/deliveries mean more take-home pay for the family. One rider even intimated that he has to finish all his deliveries before 6 pm because the money he will bring home will buy them their dinner. If that is not compelling a reason, then I don’t what is. How compelling is your Northstar? Does it keep you awake at night? Does it make you excited to get out of bed every morning? Does it keep you going when the going gets tough? If they don’t, then you may need to revisit your purpose. It may not really be your North Star.
With all the uncertainties and uncontrollable things around us, the only thing we should be certain of and have control of is our purpose, our North Star. No one can dictate this to us. It is something deep-seated and personal. It’s been only a few days since we started the new year. Still is the best time to either revisit or find our true North Star. It might be the missing link to making 2022 our best year ever!
About the Columnist
Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.