Throughout my career, I have had the great privilege to meet and interact with many ambitious and highly driven individuals - full of energy and an unwavering focus on “what’s next?” Many of them were very successful in their endeavors and, as pointed out in one of my previous blogs, they were hungry to win. However, I have also encountered a fair share of individuals who were “too” future-bound. They all seemed dissatisfied with their present situation and circumstances, and were constantly thinking about the next job, the next role and the opportunity. Maybe ironically, by always thinking about the future, they missed the big opportunity which was right in front of them. As I was thinking more about this, I started to wonder what drives this type of restlessness and how can an organization or a leader create the right level of balance between the presence and the dreams?
To start, I want to be clear that I am not saying that dreams are bad. In fact, I want to emphasize that is important - vital - to have dreams, goals and ambitions. They give us a sense of direction, drive strategies and objectives, as well as allow us to create plans of action. Individuals with a strong and committed sense of purpose instill confidence, foster engagement and drive outcomes. However, the most effective leaders also stay in the moment, focus on execution and see the opportunities right in front of them. It is clear to these leaders that every moment is a gift and an opportunity. An opportunity to do “good”, an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to teach, an opportunity to make a meaningful connection or an opportunity to make a difference. They simply don’t sacrifice their presence for their dreams.
Many aspects, cultural, organizational, individual as well as the ever evolving Zeitgeist, all play a role here. For example, organizations may not be able to get their performance and development processes balanced the right way and create unintended consequences by moving individuals too quickly from role to role. Moving folks around can be extremely valuable for a firm, but if not effectively balanced can result into risks, including creating knowledge or expertise gaps in critical areas. In addition, individuals may feel the pressure to move, as the culture may be interpreted as moving frequently defines success. How we view success may be another contributor. An over-emphasis on career, bigger job or money may compound an always-future-focus. These are just a few examples of the different aspects preventing individuals to focus on their presence.
As leaders we should encourage people to stay in the moment. Staying in the moment means to be present and to give a task or a conversation 100% of your attention. Naturally, this demands an open mind, respect for each other and a genuine interest about what someone else has to say. Staying in the moment may also open the door to unexpected adventures and creates opportunities otherwise not dreamed about. Therefore, we should encourage our folks to have big dreams and ambitions, but nudge them to see the opportunities their current construct, role or environment gives them. Especially in today’s fast-paced and continuously changing world, the current construct evolves in real-time and demands a different and more focused level of attention.
I think one of the most important role of a leader is to help everyone on her or his team to allow them to operate in “servitude to their purpose”. This requires the leader to care and find out what each team member’s purpose actually is and then connect the current construct and present moment to it. We should remember the words of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj “Past and future are in the mind only – I am now.”