David Byrd suggests that leaders take time – periodically and intentionally – to step back and take stock.
“What do you want your legacy to be? What do you want to be remembered for?” he asked.
Byrd, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City, spoke at Thursday’s monthly luncheon of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce. He said he considered himself deeply fortunate to lead such a group – “It is really my calling,” he said – and suggested that CEO in his case really stands for chief encourgement officer.
He encouraged everyone focus on what he called an individual’s personal brand, and he said that brand needs constant attention.
“It comes down to how you treat people. ... It makes the difference between whether you become a very good leader or a great leader,” he said.
And this tip: Put down the cell phone and iPad – the endless stream of work – and just take time to think.
“Self-reflection really is one of the hardest things to do because we never get away from it,” he said,
He posed a series of questions, including:
• What do you want to be remembered for? It’s more than being a good parent or being a success at work, he said.
“But did I make a difference in another human being’s life?” he said.
• Who is your personal board of directors? Can you take candid comments and learn from them?
“Who are the five or six people around you who will tell you the truth?” he asked.
• What do you do at 9 in the evening, a time when one should be winding down and reflecting but instead often is the time for catching up on email and other chores?
“When you send emails at 9:30 in the evening, are you saying, ‘I never stop working, and you shouldn’t either?’” he asked.
It’s true, he said, that great leaders persevere and overcome obstacles and failures, but he added “That doesn’t mean you have to work 80 hours a week, or 90 hours. In fact, just the opposite.”
• “How do you message?” It’s important to pay attention to that, and it’s important to humble, transparent and approachable in that regard, he said.
• How do you deal with the clutter that comes with each day? How do you handle the urgent as opposed to the important. He suggested thinking of it this way: The important things in your life are on your calendar.
• He repeatedly came back to this theme: How do you show up and present yourself?
“What are your core values? What do you believe in,” he said, adding that in hiring people he’s come to find that real strengths – integrity, values – don’t show up on a resume.
“But there’s no better day than today to say, ‘How am I showing up? ... How am I showing up as an individual?” he said.
The YMCA has a particular focus on youth, and he said children today have a pressing need for good parenting and good mentoring.
“Our kids have challenges like never before,” he said.
He closed with the well-known starfish story: A boy walks along the beach, where the tide has stranded countless starfish. He starts tossing them back into the water. An adult says to him, look you can’t save them all. You’re not really making a diifference.
The boy tosses another one back and says, well, I made a difference for that one.
“And that’s what we’re trying to do.” Byrd said.