Most MDs Don’t Know What They Really Want - Do You?



The conference hall goes silent as I pull out the flipchart marker pen. You could hear a pin drop. A glimpse of the blindingly obvious or a stroke of genius, I write on the flipchart, “The problem is that most of you don’t know what you really want.” 

Half the audience of CEOs and Managing Directors shrug and smirk. But the others look like I have just winded them. I think I may have hit a raw nerve and I am pretty sure that the shruggers and smirkers are just in self-denial, refusing to publicly acknowledge their own lack of focus.

There is a logic to be followed through.

If you knew what you wanted then hopefully you would be doing it and living it.

If you didn’t know what you really wanted, then you would be acting out your life without doing what you really want.

How frustrating would that be? And if you were that frustrated I suspect that most people would conceal their frustration and pretend that they are doing what they want (the shruggers and smirkers).

So, who admits they don’t know what they really want? Precious few, I suspect.

A highly-charged debate with the audience becomes a fascinating exploration of the subject and reveals a number of fascinating points of view which I will transcribe.

These one-liners confirmed my suspicion

  • “Most of us are addicted to busy-ness. We know we are alive if we are wanted and needed.”

  • "The resurgence of mindfulness and emotional intelligence is a reaction to years of businesses being driven by spreadsheets and financial dashboards. It is time to take the foot off the pedal.”

  • “Too many CEOs and MDs had clear goals when they started but have somehow lost the plot along the way.”

  • ”We are coming to realise that if our team understand its purpose, our ‘why’, then they will be committed, engaged and productive.”

A few points I would like to make (while acknowledging that many of the ideas came from a reading of Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek).

Having the money but not the time to enjoy it is a pretty sorry place to be. But many CEOs and MD are in exactly that place.

Storing up your pleasures for retirement seems barmy – why wait till then to enjoy so many pleasures that taste so much sweeter when you are young and fully alert.

You can have access to so many things now even if you do not own them. And surely pleasure comes from using rather than simply owning assets. Want to drive a Ferrari? Hire one for the weekend now. Want to have a summer holiday villa? Rent one now, but somewhere cheap like Thailand. You do not need to wait.

Most of what you do can be replicated and delegated. You should only do what only you can do – that’s why you have staff! You need to be leading not managing.

Working the 80/20 rule hard, only doing what adds tremendous value, ruthlessly applying time management creates the space to enjoy the rest of your life. Properly.

Maybe it is time for a rethink?

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Topics: Leading, Not Managing