BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON
Where were you in the last decade of the 20th century? I know where I was: catching planes, trains, and automobiles as I raced from company to company across our great nation and sometimes, “across the pond.” I was making a living in a way that I mostly loved, often catching Happy Hour on a 6 PM flight from Kansas City to the Big Apple, headed home. More than anything else, I loved the values-based engagement I had with corporate managers and leaders, which had everything to do with these three simple words:
Be. Do. Have.
It’s amazing how that tiny trio could provoke real conversation amongst leaders trying to bring out the best in people while contributing to their organization’s goals and bottom line. We talked a lot about how differently one leads when getting the sequence of these words “right.” Because when you think about it, the order most often goes like this:
What do I want to have?
What do I have to do to get it?
Who do I want to be as I go about this pursuit?
I had the privilege of challenging this verb-based hierarchy, inviting conversation around how employees might respond differently if their leader were a renegade who lived from this variation:
Who do I want to be as a person and a leader?
What do I need to do to achieve that?
What will we all have if I succeed?
Even back then, the research had proven that people don’t leave organizations. They leave bad bosses. I certainly have. The values-based challenge was to consider what might happen if leaders put their being before their doing. It was to consider how they might show up differently if they led from their own and their organization’s professed values.
I spent countless hours in those corporate conference rooms where stories were told, laughter was shared, empathy was given and received. Nearly everyone could relate an incident where they made a bold move by doing the right thing, by challenging an ineffective policy, by supporting an employee who everyone else had given up on. The question was: What difference would it make if you led from that place – first, foremost, and always? Most people, in their hearts, wanted to be that type of manager, that type of boss. From that common ground, we grappled with the more practical matter of finding the bridge that connects and supports values-based leadership on the one hand, and achieves corporate results on the other. They are not incompatible! Everyone, including me, left inspired to work on the Be. Do. Have. Opportunity.
But what, you may ask, has any of this to do with ditching the old 9 to 5 and heading out to the golf course? In my view, everything. Here’s why: we wait seemingly forever to arrive at the promised land of retirement. And once “the pinch-me-now giddies” wear off, we often find ourselves face to face with a Be. Do. Have. Crisis. We ask questions like:
- Who do I want to be now? YES, please ask this question first because it is the key to living retirement with intentionality!
- What do I want to do with my time, energy, skills, interests, resources?
- What do I want to have and what do I want to ditch?
Thankfully, there are two zillion resources out there on how to live the retirement life. My approach – the one that mattered back then in those conference rooms and still does – is to get the order right. Don’t shortchange yourself now when you have the ultimate freedom to define how you want to BE. Put your being before your doing and your having. A memorable mantra.