THE most important thing to do once you have a clear goal in place is to identify the key driver. By “driver” I mean the key strategy or activity that more than anything else will lead you to your goal. The goal is something you really want; the driver on the other hand may well be something you’re not really geeked about doing. In reaching a big and meaningful goal, diffusion of focus and division of energy are intrepid enemies. Tangents are killers. By contrast, people who reach big, long-term goals keep grabbing the reins of the most important work. So, this “Reading for Leading” is not about reviving your attitude, or reviewing a little knowledge, or a fun story. This RFL invites you to think and focus. I dare you to take me – but especially yourself – seriously, and use a blank sheet and a pen to write one sentence or one word if you’re serious about your long term goal.
Here’s a quick example of a key driver: in a major fund-raising campaign, there are many activities that contribute to success: A good theme and materials, hiring good people, setting an ambitious yet reasonable goal, bringing in new donors, identifying a needed and wanted project for solicitation, cultivating relationships, etc. But there is one key driver and that is having the president or dean or CEO “make the ask of major donors.” And leadership must pay focused attention to that key driver. Many campaigns and campaign leaders will falter because they won’t clearly identify this as the key driver. They may not ask – their board, consultants, and themselves – what the key driver is, because they don’t want to hear the answer: “Dude, you and only you have to ask some people for big amounts of their money!!!!” Few things are harder. They may feel they’re not persuasive. They may hate hearing “no.” They may find the prospective donors to be less than great or enjoyable people. They may much prefer to look at architectural plans for the new wing, hold receptions to brief prospects, or even write fund raising letters. But if they want to reach the goal, asking individual people for major gifts is the key driver. Knowing that is the major first step.
If you’re serious about your goal, get serious about the driver.
Here are some other key drivers – in my experience and in general: For writers, it is setting aside sacrosanct hours every day to write. At some point it may be finding an agent, or letting someone review their work. For managers it’s having regular, focused meetings about the goal and progress towards it. For parents, it is spending quality time with their children. Often, the key driver will be asking somebody else for something: to invest, to donate, to review your writing or listen to your playing, to give you a chance on a big project, to take you on as a mentee, to understand your need for space or intimacy as a lover, to help you stay clean of an addiction at hard moments. Often you can only make this “ask,” if your goal is truly important, and sometimes it takes believing that you are really important, that you matter.
The driver is the strategy that sits between a goal that really matters to you – and the fears and doubts that can undermine you. When you’re clear about the goal and clear about the key driver, it’s a whole lot easier to act and to succeed in spite of all doubt.
On your key goal(s), I encourage you to write down the key driver so you can truly
Lead with your best self!