A Time for Three Words
Chris Brogan, author, keynote speaker, Chief of Staff to the CEO of Appfire, and an all-around good guy, began a practice in 2006 that I’ve always admired. It’s called My Three Words. I have not always adopted it consistently over the years, but when I have, I found it to be everything Chris suggests it can be. He describes it this way: “The My Three Words idea is simple. Choose three words (not 1, not 4) that will help guide your choices and actions day-to-day. Think of them as lighthouses. ‘Should I say yes to this project?’ ‘Well, does this align with my three words?’”
The point is that the three words should be specific to you and your aspirations for the coming year. So here are my three words, which I believe are necessities that I will use to guide my work and drive success for my clients and audiences all around the world in 2022:
Purpose, Clarity, Intentionality.
If there has ever been a time to reflect on our purpose and draft a purpose statement, it’s now. That said, don’t go through the exercise, craft an eloquent sentence or two, congratulate yourself, and never look at it again for the rest of the year. I’m talking about a statement that anchors you and, as Chris Brogan says, serves as one of your lighthouses.
During my time at Mullen (today MullenLowe), I learned the power of being at a creative agency that helped every employee maximize their potential and collaborate to create the best advertising in the world. We respected and challenged each other relentlessly. Because we were grounded and guided by our purpose, we never fought against one another. Instead, we fought for the best idea and celebrated our great work together. What is great work, you ask?
Executive Creative Director at the time, Edward Boches, answered the question for all of us with this unequivocal quote: “Good work tells you what a product does and why you should buy it. Great work conveys what a brand stands for and invites you to share in its beliefs.”
Take the time this year to craft (or revise) your purpose statement; then live it, and know that you helped make the world a better place for having done so.
As the world of work continues to change by the day, assumptions about what to do, how to do it, and who’s responsible won’t cut it. We need clarity, and creating that clarity is 100% up to the CEO and leadership team in any organization or situation. What I mean by 100% is that the receipt of the message is received as intended. If that appears to be an unrealistic or unreasonable burden for the leader, it’s not. It’s what being a leader is all about. If being a CEO was easy, anybody could do it.
This responsibility exists in business, on the track, in the operating room, or on the battlefield. For example, runners pass a baton to one another in a relay race. If the baton hits the ground during the pass, the responsibility lies with the runner who passed the baton because he let go of it before he was sure it was in the firm grasp of the recipient. In the operating room, a nurse passes a scalpel to the surgeon so it won’t drop on the floor, or heaven forbid, in the patient. There are numerous instances from history on the battlefield when commanders gave orders that the troops misinterpreted. When that happened, soldiers were not held responsible for the mistake; instead, the commander was relieved of his duty.
My third word serves the other two. In my Peernovation programs, I facilitate intentional conversations using a five-factor framework. It’s an exercise that helps team members identify and reconnect with their purpose and clarify what individuals expect of themselves and their teammates. The five factors are as follows: 1) The Right People – What values, traits, and behaviors do we expect of ourselves and one another to be valued contributors? 2) Psychological Safety – Do we have an environment where people feel psychologically safe, and if so, are they free to leverage and access it? 3) Productivity – Are we as productive as we can be? If not, what can we do to improve? 4) Accountability – As team members, are we accountable to one another or just to our supervisors or KPIs? 5) Leadership – As leaders, what can we do to help the team succeed?
These intentional conversations, which do not always happen organically, create clarity about a team’s purpose and working relationship and serve as a unifying and empowering exercise for teams to set new standards of excellence. I used the five factors from Peernovation to offer an example of what a framework for intentional conversations can look like. Feel free to either use this framework or develop your own. What matters is that it works for you.
My Three Words Summary
Intentional conversations that inspire a sense of purpose and create clarity among team members will strengthen your core (culture) and help you be more agile (become a more adaptative organization). Reflection and confidence about your inner strength will only help you meet whatever challenge the world sends in your direction. Identify your three words. Or feel free to borrow mine.
Written by Leo Bottary.
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