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Let’s get to it

January 3, 2011

I recently took on a new role leading marketing and communications for our company. It involves bringing together people from about eight different teams today into a single unit. In the early stages of that process I kept saying “I’m anxious to get to it” or “I can’t wait to start my real job”. It’s been a few months and we finally put our senior leadership team together and guess what they are saying? Yep. They tell me “I can’t wait to get to it“. Or “I just want to start, you know, on it“.

So just what is “it” that we were trying to get to? And why the heck were we trying so hard to get there?

Well, the “it” is performing our marketing and communications functions on a daily basis, as intended by the mandate given us. We’re excited about “it” because we have a grand mission and vision (A manifesto! Read all about it here http://accidentalexec.com/2010/12/18/risking-a-manifesto/) and a great new team. Well, we think we’re going to have a great new team but they aren’t fully in place yet. And that’s preventing us from getting to “it“. Or is it?

Isn’t the “it” we’re supposed to be doing is managing a world-class marketing and communications team and isn’t that precisely what we are doing? Even if we don’t think we’re doing “it“. When I reflected on the original conundrum of wanting to get to “it” I quickly realized the more I denied I was already doing “it“, the less of “it” I was doing. I know, it’s enough to make your head spin.

We think the “it” is supposed to represent some kind of final, end state where we are all together, singing Kumbaya, doing whatever it is we are supposed to be doing, off to Shangri-La we go.  Yeah. Nonsense. For two reasons. One, there is never an end state without change. We’re constantly evolving. Constantly changing. Constantly testing the limits of who we are and what we do. Constantly looking for efficiencies. Constantly looking to be better. There is no “it“. At least not as a destination, because “it” does not exist. “It” is a process. And that leads into the second reason. We’re like an Olympic sprinter who just wants to run for the gold medal without doing any other work. No training. No prep. No game plan. No equipment. Not even a passport or a travel reservation. Some how, some way, we’re just going to magically show up and run. And then win the gold medal. Yeah. Sure we are.

It” is a process. “It” is not a destination. Therefore we are doing “it“. We are managing a world-class marketing and communications team. We’re back at training camp, getting ready for the Olympics which is some time away. We have to train. We have to prep. We have to game plan. We have to get the right team together. We have to get every logistic right. We need equipment.

I get what the new leadership team is telling me. They are eager to start the process of winning. But as I remind them, that process has already started. “It doesn’t begin the day you show up for the big event. “It” is starting now. You can’t lose sight of that. You can’t lose sight of your purpose. You must focus on it always. If the purpose is to “win”, then what does winning take? Showing up and running? For an Olympic sprinter that is 10 seconds or less of what “it” takes. In the four years prior to that it takes roughly 126 million seconds of preparation time. 126 million seconds of preparation time for a 10 second race that will be decided by hundredths of a second. That’s what separates heroes from zeroes. And all you want to do is show up and race? With no prep? No training?

Okay, go for “it“. Let me know how that works out.

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