Or rather…

How will the two megatrends of our time define you in 2019?

As you closed out 2018 and took some time to reflect over the holiday break, I wonder how many great conversations came into sharp focus for you? How many were memorable? Clearing? Defining?

Personally, I’m very grateful to everyone I worked with, partnered or even met for the first time over coffee. Every conversation taught me something valuable – even if it meant walking away sometimes thinking “that conversation could have gone better”.

In closing out 2018, I reflected on the many wonderful conversations with people about their own journeys (really tangible with a mixed bag of defining moments) and about the future they want to shape (harder to imagine and, for many, the first such conversation).

For most of us, defining moments leave us feeling somewhere between okay and restless.

Defining moments are episodes in our lives where we need to act or make a decision that will determine our course ahead – the person we show up as, the life we breathe into, and the people we draw close.

At the okay end of the spectrum, at best, we are comforted by the act of making a decision rather than the quality of the decision itself. A not-quite-right decision will leave us restless and ungrounded.

“It’s easy to fool the eye but it’s hard to fool the heart.” – Al Pacino (his short interview with The Guardian is worth a read)

Acting on mood doesn’t make our decisions right or durable.

The act of making a decision can reflect the feeling of accomplishment only. And having just enough familiar outcomes or good things in the situation helps us justify our choices. So why not jump on that mood wave?

Because as any scarred and wise leader can tell us, riding the mood (or fooling ourselves) is no substitute for strategy. As with opinion polls, mood is an unreliable guide to the quality of the decisions we make.

Why a list of pros and cons hardly ever delivers up a clear answer.

In this age of individual empowerment – the megatrend of our time – we understand behaviours, physiological drivers, and motivations far more than we ever did.

So why do we still take actions and make decisions on the basis of mood, fears and public opinion?

Because striding uncomfortably alongside individual empowerment is another potent megatrend – our appetite for chasing fame and fortune. Most ungrounding of our confidence and most potent in sowing self-doubt.

Play this scene out in leadership teams, especially at fast-paced start-ups, and you’re on a collision course to employee disengagement, high staff turnover, unhappy cultures, and average productivity as people try to figure out the ever-changing rules of the game. But that’s another post.

While we understand that our defining moments are our own to control, we end up taking action that is weighted by our hopes and fears, biases and expectations, disappointments and failures, successes and adulation, cliched theories and snappy soundbites, habits and attitudes to risk. Also, a good dose of misinterpretations and misunderstandings all driven by the mood and opinion of those around us, who influence and judge us.

So we weigh the pros and cons unevenly in our minds and with a high emotional charge so the list never looks or feels right.

Shouldn’t our defining moments feel more satisfying, lasting and grounded?

Yes, they should. And they can.

The key to more satisfying defining moments is having better conversations – more robust, honest, exploratory, brave, and clearing conversations.

Safe places where we don’t have to fool ourselves. Safe places to really hear our own thoughts, listen to our gut, and explore or test possibilities with our sparring partner whom we trust and who holds that space for us. Safe places to reach decisions that define how we truly want to show up, the life we want to live, and the people we want close by.

“No legacy is so rich as honesty.” – William Shakespeare, who marvelled at humankind

Make your defining moments of 2019 more satisfying, lasting and grounded.

Ready for more?

If you’re starting a new job soon, watch my video on landing strong in your first 100 days.