As I was getting on the shuttle bus to head to the rental car lot from the airport I have to admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the driver. I greeted him and asked how he was but I was more focused on my own thoughts about the client I was preparing to meet and how to best help them. His response changed that for me. He said, “I’m doing great and I have never seen this day before.” That started a conversation that led me to learn a little bit more about this man. At the age of 68 he had a tremendous optimism about what the day might bring, the people he would meet and the opportunities that were in front of him. Candidly, that was something that I didn’t expect to encounter on a shuttle bus to the rental car lot.
As we talked I realized that many of the business leaders that I work with lack this same kind of enthusiasm for what is possible and passion for the journey itself. It occurred to me that the best leaders I’ve been around had this trait in common. They were focused on the goal, no doubt, but they were also enjoying the process of reaching the goal. They understood that the goal is a moment, an achievement, a reward for the work that was done to get there. If the path to the goal isn’t rewarding by itself though, we can spend a lot of life being miserable and no one pursues a goal very effectively when it’s perceived as constant suffering.
What great leaders personify is the ability to inspire others with a meaningful goal that they can connect to, but also to make the trip feel rewarding, growth oriented and worth doing in and of itself. If people feel that they are getting better, learning, experiencing new things and accomplishing along the way, the likelihood that they stay on the path is significantly increased. When we both enjoy the process and want the results, we usually win.
Sports teams who win championships don’t just talk about the final game, they talk about the season. Businesses who become great don’t define a moment that made them great; they talk about the process of becoming great and the smaller victories along the way. Runners don’t just talk about the moment of crossing the finish line; they talk about the entire race.
The best teams I’ve ever worked with find a great deal of satisfaction in the daily progress; what they learn, what they change, and how they feel about the people around them while they make things happen. Daily victories are what fuel us along the way to major achievements or monumental breakthroughs.
True leaders understand that all kinds of successes are possible in the moments of an ordinary day. They also know that helping their team find satisfaction in those daily wins helps them continue the work toward the larger milestones, not just because they have to, but because they are enjoying the journey, and because they have never seen this day before.