Building a Leader’s Bucket List

Bucket list imageThe idea of a Bucket List was popularized by a 2007 film starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, but Bucket Lists aren’t just for senior citizens. In fact, as the end of summer nears and the first day of school looms, I’ve been looking over my family’s summer Bucket List to make sure we accomplished all of our goals — like going on a road trip, attending a concert, and catching the upcoming solar eclipse. The idea of a Bucket List is to prioritize all the things you want to accomplish before it’s too late. Bucket Lists are great ways to challenge yourself to think past the daily routine. The items you place on your Bucket List are usually larger and more rewarding activities than we plan on a monthly basis.

Most people create Bucket Lists with their own mortality in mind, but they don’t add professional goals to their bucket list. Since the average American spends 1/3 of their life at work, shouldn’t we put a few work-related Bucket items between seeing the Grand Canyon and bungee jumping?

Here are a few Leadership-related Bucket ideas to consider:

  1. Create an award-winning culture. There are many “Best companies to work for” lists published each year. From Fortune to Glassdoor, there are plenty of opportunities to get recognized if you create a culture worthy of recognition. Culture starts from the ground-up. Make it a measurable priority to treat each of your employees in a way that is award-worthy. Create selection processes, comp plans, benefits, awards, and engagement surveys that align with that goal and actively seek out recognition for your hard work in that area.
  2. Grow your team more than ever before. How much training/coaching is “enough?” Instead of trying to minimize the training budget as a cost-saving measure, identify skills gaps and address them aggressively. Additionally, identify key strengths that can become a competitive advantage and build them to pro level. Take a look at how much you invested in your employees’ development in the past 3 years and double it. Those employees will become more engaged, loyal, and successful than ever before.
  3. Create more leaders than followers. I’ve always loved the quote by Tom Peters “Leaders don’t create followers. They create more leaders.” Good leaders create followers. Great leaders coach, mentor, challenge, and delegate to create more leaders. Creating a culture of leadership starts with trusting your team, giving them stretch assignments, and delegating meaningful work. Those team members take ownership and approach work with a problem-solving, results-oriented mindset that breeds success. No company has ever suffered from having too many leaders in their succession planning pipeline.
  4. Hire a team smarter than you. A-players surround themselves with other A-players. Do you know who B-players surround themselves with? C-players. High performers love the challenge of healthy competition. They’re internally driven to be the best among the best. But average players are territorial about the middle-ground. They aren’t motivated enough to become an A-player, so they secure their spot in the middle of the pack by keeping poor performers nearby. Live by the phrase “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” If you find yourself worrying that someone you hire could replace you, don’t let the intimidation defeat you. Use the competition to help both of you grow. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to work harder, try new things, and think differently.
  5. Break records. Finally, in business we’re constantly setting goals for growth and streamlining. When we’re responsible for setting our own goals, we set ones that we believe are achievable with an acceptable level of effort. Most comp plans are tied to annual goal achievement and performance plans, so we don’t set the bar too high. But when it comes to the Bucket List, why not go for something bigger? Take the Built to Last approach and create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal that could change the very nature of your organization.

To get started building your Leadership Bucket List, ask yourself “if I only have 1 year left to make a difference in this organization, what can I do to leave a positive, enduring legacy?