Make it beautiful

“Begin with the end in mind” is a mantra I borrow from one of my heros and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey.

What end do you have in mind?

It’s a big question and needs refinement, but first let’s answer the big one… what end do you have in mind for yourself? There’s a practice for envisioning this end that goes something like this:

You are at YOUR funeral having died peacefully in your sleep. Who do you hope to see in attendance? What thoughts do you want them to carry? How about those in the front row and the people speaking on your behalf? What would you like to hear them say?

This is how you must live your life. Begin with this end in mind. Make it beautiful. A life well-lived and a legacy to behold.

Now back to the present:

What priorities are you working on?
And how do they fit this vision?

What activities and attitudes are you demonstrating?
And how do they fit this vision?

What interactions are you having?
And how do they fit this vision?

When working with people these are great places to start. Creating uplifting and realistic visions is what gives life to all great success stories and learning to weave these visions into one’s daily actions and interactions is what makes them come true.

Let’s look at some real world situations.

In sales and business development, the end in mind is a transaction or agreement. However there are several smaller milestones to meet on the way. First you are asking for one’s time and attention, next their honest evaluation, and finally the yes. Beginning with the end in mind you can model your inquiry to follow suit by asking for these things up front. In doing so you honor their time, wisdom, and budget.

In product development, teams need lots of coordination. Asking individuals up front to commit to communication guidelines and taking time to establish strong working relationships are key to product success, as is a shared vision of the end product and how to get there. It can feel like pulling teeth to get individuals to open up vs. cover up, but a team is built on this willingness to share weaknesses and seek each other’s help. This must be done in the beginning before SHTF as it helps assure a healthy (coordinated, solutions-oriented) response, which is very much in line with the long-term end we had in mind even if this particular product fails.

Startups often begin with dreams of an IPO along with the talent and funds to match. With that end in mind you are on the fast lane and best be ready for the ride. Others ventures may be social or civic-minded, which have lofty goals that must be met with lofty resourcefulness. Beginning with the end in mind helps make sure you have those things and good communication with investors, board members, and your early-adopters allows each of them to help where you need it and creates the kinds of relationships that can survive missteps. Can you clearly envision your role and the team you’ll need to build? What are your internal processes? How do you interact with customers? How will you scale and grow? How will you balance work-life?

Leading a startup to IPO will likely tilt the scales heavily toward work. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a life! In fact, having a life is part of what will make you successful. So be sure to include it in your vision before you begin the journey. How many hours do you want to dedicate to work? How will you use your time?

One great use of your time is working to improve and deepen relationships. Mahatma Gandhi had this to say,

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

Within every endeavour, relationships are at the center. Relationship with team, investors, customers, partners, and with the individuals throughout. If part of that big vision is to make friends and create lasting impact, then each relationship is of critical importance to the person we wish to be and organization we wish to lead. I believe it’s entirely possible and should be an absolute requirement that all relationships and negotiations begin with a mutually beneficial (win-win) outcome in mind. How might you approach your personal and professional relationships differently with this end in mind? It’s proven in human resources that treating employees with respect and generosity increases productivity (loyalty and camaraderie) directly benefiting the bottom line. Clients and customers are the same and will buy more and spread the word if you treat them with respect and are generous in your dealings.

As we don’t know when the end may come we must be the vision of the end we have in mind in each and every action and interaction. Having a big vision simplifies the decision by putting things like dedication, kindness, generosity, collaboration and resourcefulness at the beginning of every (inter)action.