Significance

I decided that one of my first entries should be a variation of my military retirement speech give on May 27, 2015.  I can’t take credit for all, actually probably should take credit from little.  The ideas here are a combination of Colonel Mark Blum’s article on Urgent vs Important with a new slant on significance that I heard during a podcast interview with Rory Vaden.

Good afternoon, I am humbled by the pure numbers that have shown up today.  Thank you very much.

I initially planned on standing up and executing the 3 B’s of presenting:  Be Bold, Be Brief, and Be Gone.  I was told that was unfair.  I have 29 years of experience and have coached and mentored numerous here in the audience. So I thought.  What is my greatest lesson identified?

I decided to take a few minutes and talk about time management.

There is no such thing as time management, there is only self-management.  Time is finite.  It is 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year.  What we learn of as time management today is just tips and tricks of calendars and checklists.  It is apps on our phones, tablets and computers to make it appear as if we control time.  These things are all just logical steps, but in the world in which we live, time management is not just logical but it is also emotional.

We all do this.  How we deal with all the guilt, anxiety, and success associated with demands on our time dictates how we create to-do lists, how we prioritize, how we determine what we believe is the most urgent and most important. We all buy into the same clichés of time management.  We think of things in terms of importance and urgency.

Decades ago we wanted to become more efficient so we started arranging tasks by importance.  In the late 80s, Stephen Covey gave us a two dimensional model of importance and urgency, and the modern checklist emerged.  Importance told us how much something mattered, and urgency told us how soon it mattered.  This allowed us to create long lists of things to-do and then a way to score, rank, and prioritize.  The problem with prioritization is that it does nothing to create more time.   It simply gives you the emotional ability to do one thing before another.

What I want to do is add the concept of significance.   Importance is how much something matters, urgency is how soon it matters, and significance is how long is this going to matter.  When we sit at our desks and ask,”What is the most important thing I need to do today?”, we should ask, “What activity will have the longest impact on me or the organization?”

When you ask yourself what is the most important then you fall victim to urgency.  As President Eisenhower stated, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”  When you are reduced to urgency, you will be simply chasing the bright shiny thing in the corner, whatever is latest and loudest.

When we ignore the significance calculation we overweight the urgency calculation.  We end up doing only things that are urgent.  We will leave at the end of the day with only the most urgent items complete.  We need to accept that significance is a part of importance just like urgency.  But without taking significance into account, we walk away determining success by the volume of task complete and not their significance on neither the organization nor ourselves.  We have to determine those things that are significant to the organization or toward ourselves that only I can do.

I would like to tell you a little story.  About 8 years ago, I received a call asking for me to attend a Daddy Daughter Dance in Huntington WV, about a 7 hour drive from here.  I put in for leave and it was approved, Saturday night was my date.  Well on Thursday the Chief of Staff decided that we should do a drill weekend here in the Readiness Center, she said, “just like the states”.  I was called into the front office and told, Chuck you are one of our only true strategist so we need your assistance.  We can argue over the only true strategist and really if I was needed but as a Major, how could I question the insight and wisdom.  So the Daddy Daughter Dance came and went, I stayed here for the “drill weekend”.  Was the event important here, as a good friend of mine in the Coast Guard would say, boss if you like it, I love it.  So I am sure it was important to someone.  Was it urgent?  Not really sure it was.  Was is significant?  There are several of you in the audience that attended, so I will leave that to your analysis.  What I do know is that dance was significant to a 12 year old, and the invite never came again.

So here is what I ask of you.  Never miss a baseball game, a ballet recital, or the first day of kindergarten.  Birthdays and holidays only happen once.  Don’t skip date night or the anniversary of something significant to those you love.  And for goodness sakes, never miss a Daddy Daughter dance.

This is my lesson learned.  Learn from it, do not repeat it.  When having to evaluate and decide between a work event and a family event, ask yourself three questions.

  • Is it significant to someone who is important to me?
  • Does my personal presence make a difference?
  • Will this opportunity ever come around again?

This means…..on Friday afternoons at 1600, if your subordinates are sitting at their desk, rowing, ask yourself.  “Is what they are doing significant for the organization right now?”  If it is not, send them home.

This means….It should be shameful for us as leaders to stand at a Hail and Farewell praising that a subordinate was the last one to go home.  Let your praise be about the quality of their work not the longevity of their days.  Let’s praise the ones that get the work done that is significant for organization with the most efficiency.  Don’t stay here just because someone has placed emotional baggage at the toes your boots.

This means….as the people that have worked for me know…you do not work on your birthday or your anniversary.  You do not lose leave at the end of the year nor does anyone who is under your command.

This means…Mom, Dad, I am coming home to visit.  Aunt Judy and Virginia, I am coming to Pittsburg.  Matt and Linda, Colorado is not too far.  Jim, neither is Dayton for we have some cycling to do.  Jeffrey, find me a Starbucks and Stamford is on my list.  And Dana, my promise to you.  I will be home waiting for you each night, because I love you and you are significant.

And to everyone here today, today was significant for me, I know you all had more important and urgent matters to attend, but you prioritized and came here and I Thank you for that.  Hopefully the last few minutes have made significance in your life and given you a “lessons learned”.

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