Take Time to Think, Ask Questions About Your Career, Company

March 8, 2013

Nashville Business Journal

 

It’s amazing how little independent, critical thinking we do these days. We seldom set aside time to really contemplate our lives and our future with a long-term perspective.

Most of us tear through life at a breakneck pace. We’re distracted from morning until night with devices, and we rely so much on the Internet, social media and other people’s opinions to inform our thinking. What if we turned it all off for a few moments?

Hear that? It’s quiet. Just how I like it.

For decades, I’ve climbed into my car, leaving all distractions and diversions behind, in order to do my serious, in-depth thinking. Usually this leads me to the quiet upper level of a parking garage. It’s nothing fancy, but it works.

Be sure to bring a pen and paper to write your thoughts. Turn everything off. Then close your eyes and steady your thoughts. The goal is to think about serious leadership topics with an eye to your long-term future. I suggest breaking your thinking into three different topics: your current position, future career and personal life.

First, think about your current role and ask yourself some serious questions, like:
• How would I evaluate the performance of my business unit?
• How is my team performing?
• What am I doing to help my people be successful?
• Do I have a backup plan if someone gets promoted, transfers or leaves?
• What plans do I have for my operation in six months, a year and two years from now?
• Have I put in place all the components for long-term success?

The bottom line is to make a clear assessment of your organization’s performance. Then start to put in place whatever changes are needed to achieve maximum success.

Second, think about your career, and ask yourself questions like these:
• Being totally honest, how is my performance?
• What plans do I have to improve?
• Where do I want to be a year from now? Two years from now?
• Do I have career development plan?
• Have I discussed a plan with my boss?
• Have I enrolled in the necessary courses?
• Am I attending the trade shows, networking events, webinars, etc. that will lead to my development?

The point of this thinking is to identify areas of improvement, as well as resources that you can use to get to where you want to be. Use your boss as an adviser. Sign up for a class. Write down five things you want to achieve by the end of the year.

Third, think about your personal life — family and friends – and ask:
• How am I doing overall?
• Am I spending time with the kids?
• Did I take my spouse out to dinner last month?
• Did we plan our vacation ahead of time?
• Have I talked to my best friend this week?
• Have I told those who are closest to me that I love them?
• Do I need to alter my behavior?

The key to this one — and all of these topics — is to be honest. It’s OK. You’re alone. No one knows. Start to think about how the balance of your professional and personal life can increase your overall happiness and make you a stronger, more dynamic leader.

I do this kind of serious thinking several times a year and often make some serious, long-term alterations in my life. If you really devote time to dedicated quiet thinking, I can just about guarantee you’ll make some positive changes in your life.

Joe Scarlett is founder of the Scarlett Leadership Institute and retired chairman and CEO of Tractor Supply Co. He can be reached at joe@scarlettleadership.com.

Comments and Discussion:

Take Time

Posted Mar 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM by Tom Huberty
Great advice, Mr. Scarlett. The only thing I would add is to begin the thinking by writing a Gratitude List. We all have many blessings over the arc of a professional career and in our personal lives. The pace of life these days tires us out and at times, leaves us just blame grumpy. I find a good dose of gratitude goes a long way to settle my mind for next steps. At quiet times, I also remember just WHO I am working for and tip my hat to my real boss, My Higher Power. Keep up the great work, sir.




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