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Daily Leadership Thought #167 – 5 Questions To Ask Before Embarking On Any Major Project

July 6, 2011

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You must ask the right questions to get the right answers.

Leaders are usually “Type A” people who need to keep busy and get things done.  This typically serves them well but can also be a problem if they are not careful.  Being busy for the sake of being busy can lead to unnecessary distractions and waste energy and time better spent elsewhere.  Moreover, anyone in charge of anything needs some regular time to pause and reflect on what he or she is doing and why they are doing it.  I have found the answering the following five questions can be a useful process before embarking on anything of significance:

  1. Why am I doing this?  It is always a good idea to check-in on your motivations for doing something.  Be wary of doing things just to keep you busy or make you feel important.
  2. What else could I be doing with my time?  Busy people all know that time is a precious commodity.  You rarely have more of it and usually must give up something to take on anything new (if you want to do it right).  Life is all about making tradeoffs.
  3. What does a successful outcome look like, and will it warrant the time and energy spent on this project given other considerations?  Basically, what is the return on investment (ROI)?  In the end, the benefits should always clearly outweigh the costs.
  4. Who else will benefit from me doing this and will they truly appreciate my efforts?  The more people who benefit from your decisions/actions the better.  However, never forget that they also need to understand and agree that what you are doing benefits them.  With rare exception, try and avoid things that just benefit you.
  5. Am I excited and energized about doing the work required to complete this project?  Passion does matter.  Very often, you can delegate tasks/activities that move you towards your objective, but in the end, you need to care about the outcome and want to pitch in and participate as needed. Do your best to avoid projects that you view as drudgery or find uninspiring.

I am certain there are many other questions you could ask yourself, especially as you drill down on certain issues.   This list is only a basic guide to help you get started.  If you can’t produce positive responses to these five questions, I would highly recommend you reconsider your decision before moving forward.  Leadership is not about being busy; it is about being effective!