The most important question you should ask yourself this week

At this time of the year (or certainly when the Christmas festivities have made way for New Years Eve) it is natural to do a little reflecting over the year just gone.

From both a business and personal point of view, CEOs I work with find that using questions to frame their reflection of the year helps them to do so in a logical and productive way.

One of my favourite such questions is this: “Have I had the opportunity to do my best work very day this year?”

I borrowed the essence of the question from ‘Strengths’ guru Marcus Buckingham. Buckingham has written a number of books on the importance of playing to one’s strengths at work. And by ‘strengths’ he doesn’t mean that we should be doing something we’re good at, but rather that we should be doing something that excites us, something that we look forward to and something that makes us feel strong.

When entrepreneurs first start their businesses, the majority say that they get the excitement and anticipation that Buckingham talks about, even if it comes with a side helping of being a little out of control.

But as the business grows entrepreneurs can start to feel a little dissatisfied – a fact which can come as something of a surprise to them given that they are now running a larger, sustainable business… Isn’t this exactly what they were aiming for?

Well yes and no.

As the business grows the role of the founder changes, it’s imperceptible at first but becomes quite significant over a few years. The trouble comes when, as the founder moves from creating the business to managing it, the managing aspect doesn’t play to his strengths.

This move away from doing ‘strong’ work to draining work isn’t just limited to people running young businesses. CEOs who have been at the helm of their organisations for many years can find themselves drifting away from their strengths into stuff that really feels like “work”.

Of course once we recognise that the source of our discontentment is the type of work we are doing, we can do something about it (delegate, reorganise the business, outsource for example). But often we don’t realise that we are filling our days with the tasks that drain us, leaving no room for the work that gives us strength.

So next week, while you are enjoying the sun, the barbecue and a few beers, take a moment to ask yourself, “Have I had the opportunity to do my best work every day this year?” And if you haven’t, well you owe it to yourself to put this right as soon as you get back to work.

Happy holidays!

Julia Bickerstaff’s expertise is in helping businesses grow profitably. She runs two businesses:Butterfly Coaching, a small advisory firm with a unique approach to assisting SMEs with profitable growth; and The Business Bakery, which helps kitchen table tycoons build their best businesses. Julia is the author of “How to Bake a Business”  and was previously a partner at Deloitte. She is a chartered accountant and has a degree in economics from The London School of Economics (London University).

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