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To Be a Great Leader, Make It About The Journey, Not The Destination

Happy New Year! With 2023 now underway, it’s time for individuals and businesses alike to make resolutions, set goals, and reflect on the trials and triumphs of the previous year.

This period of reflection is particularly important for leaders, since they are responsible for guiding their teams to achieve those goals and resolutions. However, something that truly great leaders know is that it’s not only reaching the goal that makes them successful. In fact, hitting their targets is only half of the battle.

What sets great leaders apart from ordinary bosses is how they guide their teams during the process of hitting their goals.

Focus On The Journey To Build Up Your Team

“It’s about the journey, not the destination” can be trite, but it’s the case with leadership. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is that when they are leading a team around a common goal - a project, a deadline, a team-building exercise - they put as much emphasis on the process of reaching the goal as they do on the goal itself.

Completing big projects and achieving goals as a group isn’t just an exercise in business management - it’s a fantastic opportunity to build trust and cohesion as a team. Making the journey to hitting your goal a positive, empowering experience for your team is an investment both in the success of your goal and in the future of your organization.

Barometer XP Example: County Health Department Plays Games (And Wins Trust)

Last year, a county health department engaged Barometer XP to help them build trust and cohesion among leaders across their different units. We knew that the unit leaders involved didn’t have great expectations coming in (really, how many people look forward to ordinary ‘team-building exercises’?). But instead of the expected lectures about “cross-departmental cooperation” and other corporate-speak, we created a positive experience for the different department leaders through games.

Leading with games helped disrupt the initial negative expectations of the intervention, opening up their curiosity and trust in us. In turn, we focused on leading the group through the journey of the games, taking time to notice the various strategies, questions, and interactions that came up during play, and reflecting on those observations. By making the game experience as rich as possible, we were able to:

a) make the learning experience much more enjoyable;

b) subvert negative expectations; and

c) produce more powerful realizations for the participants because they came from within.

Leading people to come to their own conclusions is far more effective than saying, “this is what you should learn.”

Create a Winning Journey for Long-Term Growth

If you’re working with a group of people, remembering the importance of the journey doubles the value of achieving the goal. It makes the process an investment in the well-being of your people as well as the way to reach your desired destination.

Plus, if you have broadened your definition of success to include a successful journey, you will be able to salvage value from the situation even if you don’t reach the desired destination.

Finally, focusing only on the destination at the expense of the people working towards it is incredibly short-sighted. Even if you reach the desired destination, if you sacrificed a positive experience to reach it, where does that leave your team? Probably stressed, demoralized, and significantly less likely to give their all to the next project that comes along. You’ve won a short-term battle at the expense of a long-term victory.

And no matter the situation or the stakes at hand, that is something that great leaders will not do.


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