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Leadership Thought #262 – What’s The “One Thing” That Would Make All the Difference?

December 13, 2011

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What’s the one thing that will make all the difference for you right now?

I was fortunate to receive great training early on in my management consulting career.  Many of the big firms are smart about investing in the professional development of their junior people.  I learned quite a bit during those first few years, but one thing really stuck out for me.  Sometimes the best lessons are quite simple.  During the initial assessment phase with every client, we would ask a series of interview questions and then always end with the same one.  “What’s the one thing that if it changed would make all the difference (for the better) for you right now?”  There was often gold to be mined in these answers.

It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  With everything going on in someone’s life, there are a myriad of things they could produce that require some level of attention.  I don’t know about you, but my “to do” list is always quite expensive, and I can always add to it.  However, there is usually one pressing issue that stands above the rest.  Often, many other problems stem from this one issue and if I address it the results tend to multiply, and my stress level goes down.

What is the one thing that if it changed would make all the difference in your home or work lifeWhat have you been avoiding because it is too hard to address, or you’ve been distracted by other issues?  Where are you most vulnerable or unhappy?  If you narrow your focus on this one issue as best you can and deal with it, positive change will begin to happen.  It just takes disciplined action, some courage, and the willingness to be truly honest with yourself.

Many times, I will be dealing with a leader who is struggling, and he/she will be flailing about trying to do too many things at once at making marginal progress at best.  I’ve witnessed people knowingly making things worse through hyper-activity and scattered focus because they don’t know what else to do.   A person who is flailing about in the water has a high probability of drowning and taking someone else with them.  When you are in this situation, slow down, take a deep breath, and get your wits about you. Think about what’s the most important thing to be focusing on at that point.  Treading water may not be easy but it could be the only viable option you have at your disposal.  And, anything that gets in the way of this survival objective is counterproductive.

Thank goodness that it’s rare that a pressing issue could have life or death consequences (although mortality does tend to focus the mind).  Despite what you may like to think, we are all the masters of our own destiny.  We reach the destination we work towards, not dream about.  Stay focused on what’s most important and do your best to minimize the distractions that get you off course.  Get into the habit of asking yourself, “what is the one thing that if it changed would make all the difference (for the better),” and focus on that.  It’s a start and sometimes the right beginning can make all the difference.  Always remember that time is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted.