The Dash – contribution through choice

A few days ago, searching for my children’s birth certificates I stumbled across the commemorative book from one of my friend’s funerals. Anyone who’s heard me speak will know I use the story of the loss of my friends to explain that we all have a story. I believe that it’s only by acknowledging ‘our story’ that we can better focus on how we lead and how we live.

In addition to finding the book I also heard a song by Scotty McCreery called ‘The Dash’. The chorus in the song goes:

“It’s always too soon. It’s always too fast. There’ll never come a day when you don’t want them back. It ain’t about the numbers chiselled in concrete. It’s about how they lived their lives in the dash between…in the dash between.” 

Although we prefer, for good reason, not to think about these things, I think there is power in these types of memories. They provide a healthy reminder about the choices we are making across the contexts of our life, and especially at work.

Leadership is about choice

As leaders we can recognise that our role is primarily about decision making. To help us be more efficient in making decisions we will often sit on autopilot, unconsciously moving from one issue to the next without properly considering what’s most important. In doing this however we risk unconsciously prioritising potentially easier or less risky tasks over others.

For example, how often have you buried yourself in a spreadsheet or a report, rather than spending time with your team because it just feels easier?

Choice is about contribution

If leadership is about choice and ultimately decision making, then we must find ways to be more conscious about the contribution and difference our decisions are creating. In practice, this means taking the time to properly reflect on all we need to achieve and assessing our ‘to-do’ lists on the basis of the value and difference completing each task will make. Through this assessment we can then direct our energy in a more conscious and productive way.

After all, you’re not judged solely on the dates on your CV, but on what you difference you’ve made ‘in the dash between’ those dates. As Scotty McCreery states:

“the dash defines your legacy”

Something to consider:

Of all the tasks on your to-do list, which will allow you to make the greatest contribution to your organisation, your team and yourself?

Something to try:

Focusing on the task that allows you to make the greatest contribution, plan to give yourself at least 30minutes this week to complete it.

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