New Managers – Begin with the End in Mind

Wise words to live by for any First-Time Manager

This is one of the wisest teachings I have heard in a long time. Anyone who has been appointed as a new manager should be thinking about this vital aspect of the new role they are playing at work.

Step #2 in Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits” is ‘begin with the end in mind’. I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that many things do not end well.

There are the obvious examples like divorces, car crashes, job loss, health issues, and financial change (downward). Then there are the things like our favorite TV shows that came to an end. Shows like Lost, Friends, Fraser, and Boston Legal all had pretty good endings. But some very successful and well admired shows had really bad endings; think fade to black on The Sopranos. How often have you seen a movie or read a book and said “gee, I didn’t like the way it ended”?

Endings are hard. Having a good, successful ending may be much harder than most people think. That is why it is so important in situations you might actually be able to control to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Ask yourself the question “How do I want this to end?”

Courtesy 123rf.com/Leo Lintang

Courtesy 123rf.com/Leo Lintang

We learn how to do this almost subconsciously when we think about taking a trip. We know where we are starting from and where we want to go. We check GPS, maps, air routes, highways, train schedules etc. to get someplace at a designated time. I will pause here to pay homage to my directionally challenged friends who will not agree with this metaphor. Nonetheless, many people can relate to the process I am describing.

In consulting we often work hard to set expectations up front. We work with the client to be sure all things are discussed. If we can, we get answers in writing to define critical outcomes. This way, as the end gets closer, neither party is saying this project did not work out. As scope changes and new information surfaces, the expectations can be reset and recalibrated for proper expectation alignment.

Personal relationships can benefit from this same sort of discipline. When two people come together, life becomes a swirl of ever-changing expectations. If those expectations are not clearly communicated on a constant basis, assumptions get made and the ending can be less than desirable.

Oh sure, there will be those moments when a surprise change in situation or circumstance happens. But successful partners know how to deal with those changes and almost automatically reset the definition of the outcome/end game. If the end game does not need to change, likely the steps to get there may. Either way, knowing how to make these changes and get consensus for them is vital to successful and happy endings.

Leading your new team requires some careful thought for the end you want to achieve. This is equally true of small projects and big deliverables. Take a moment to consider whether you have set a good course for the end you expect to achieve.

Question: What does your ending look like right now? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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