Published - January 2004

By Dave Jakielo

Redefining What's Important

It is hard to believe that another year is rushing toward us. The older I get, the faster time seems to whiz by me. I once heard someone explain why time creeps for a ten year old, yet has the thrust of a jet engine for a fifty year old like me. When we are ten, one year represents ten percent of our entire life, whereas at 50, one year is only two percent of our life.

So the years rush by, and we're busy, busy, busy. But are we accomplishing what's really important? This past Christmas, playing Santa at a local center, I asked one little girl what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas. She responded, "My Mommy went to heaven this year because she had a bad boo boo on her head. Could you bring her back down to earth? Because I could fix her boo boo."

The question stopped me cold. In the midst of getting and spending, I suddenly realized how much I take for granted in this life. With a new year looming before me, I began to wonder just what was important-really important-for me to accomplish.

I once read the following: "Work hard on your business and make a living; work hard on yourself and make a fortune." I like this quote, but it's important to keep in mind that fortune has many meanings. It may actually have little to do with a vast accumulation of money. One way to measure fortune is to calculate the value of what we have given to others. Are we helping those around us to improve, or are we so busy being busy that we've abdicated our roles as leaders and let the people around us stagnate?

Look back on the year 2003 and ask yourself these questions:

  • Whom did I mentor this past year?
  • Whom did I help to reach full potential?
  • What did I give to others?
  • How have I improved myself this year?"

    I'm a proponent of continuous improvement. Keep in mind that if we aren't moving ahead, we are definitely moving backward. There is no standing still. We must invest in ourselves if we expect others to invest in us. And we must share our knowledge with those around us.

    Recently I conducted a meeting with a roomful of managers. Their experience ranged from little as two months in their leadership position up to 20-plus years. I posed the question, "What was the title of the last book you read on how to lead your team members?" I didn't get a response I just got the old deer-in-the-headlights stare.

    It always amazes me that most people, after they are given a position of leadership, think it isn't necessary to continually enhance their leadership skills. Our formal education system, regardless of which level, does a poor job of preparing anyone for a leadership role. It's no wonder many managers say they love their job except for the people.

    One of the hallmarks of a good leader is what he or she gives back to employees. Ask yourself what you are doing to lead and mentor the people around you. Have you shared your knowledge with staff and coworkers to help them learn and become better at their jobs? Is there anyone you are training to become your potential replacement so you can move on to bigger and better things? Have you taken the time to invest in yourself and improve your skills so you have more to give?

    Management is a constant challenge. We must continually learn to deal with a myriad of difficult situations and how to understand the various factors that drive people to do what they do. I know management isn't a science, but we have a better chance of being an effective leader if we concentrate on what we are giving our employees, rather than what we expect to get from them.

    The next time you let some petty inconvenience like a late report or a misspelling in a document get you all bent out of shape, just remember the little eight-year-old girl's request. That should change your perspective about what is important.

    And if you didn't give as much as you could have in 2003, don't fret. A new year is here with a fresh opportunity to define what is really important right now.

    Send your questions and comments to Or contact him at Seminars & Consulting, 86 Hall Avenue, Pittsburgh PA15205. 412-921-0976.

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