The one question every leader should ask themselves


Boris is the wise old TNW CEO who writes a weekly column on everything about being a tech entrepreneur – from stress management to awkwardness. You can receive his thoughts directly in your inbox by subscribing to his newsletter!

I know a business coach who always starts his sessions by asking a single question to his clients: “Who would you be if you weren’t you?”

What he means is; If you didn’t have your current job and responsibilities, and if you didn’t invest the time and energy in your current career, who would you be and what would you do?

It’s a great question to ask yourself every now and then, but it can be extremely difficult to answer. This is because you are the result of a very complicated puzzle, made up of thousands and thousands of pieces, and you are only half assembled.

[Read: Stop listening to your #yesbut brain if you want to grow]

The same goes for businesses and projects. There are a lot of things you do just because you’ve been doing them for a while. You could stick to the projects you started only to find yourself now stuck with them.

That’s why you should ask yourself – at least once a year – if you started today, would you still continue this project? The answer could be a firm ‘yes’, and that’s great. But a hesitant “no” is also interesting because it will allow you to reassess your work.

It doesn’t end there, however, as you can apply the same thinking to your partners and employees.

If the person you are working with applied today, would you hire them? It can be a painful realization when your answer is less than an enthusiastic “yes”, but maybe this discomfort shouldn’t be avoided. In fact, I tell my managers not to think of employees as fixed assets but as living beings who change alongside your business and the world – because they are.

I think it’s healthy and respectful to have a conversation with someone you work with and figure out how long you’re going to work together. Back then people might have been in the same job for 40 years, but I would expect most people to work for you for around 5 years. Some a little longer, others a lot shorter.

The great thing about setting those expectations early on is that when they leave – instead of feeling betrayed and abandoned – you can thank them for their contribution and accept that they gave their all.

You can also clearly see the opportunities it offers and ask yourself: Now that I have the budget for a new hire, who can I hire that will be perfect for what I want to achieve now?

So when an employee decides to leave, you both can remember a successful partnership and you both have something to celebrate. Now you can hire the perfect person for your next goal, and the departing employee can move on to their next challenge. Everybody wins.

Let’s go back to the original question and your homework for the week: who would you be if you weren’t you?

Haven’t you had enough of Boris? Check out his ancient stories here and sign up for his newsletter here.

Published March 4, 2021 – 16:21 UTC


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