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The Power of a Single Word

A few years ago (more than I care to remember), I challenged my team to consider the power of a single word to guide their objectives, priorities, and personal development for the new year.  My inspiration stemmed from some popular music that had me dancing in my car…….

  • Happy [Pharrel Williams, 2014] - especially as this video was filmed to represent each hour of the day (24 hour project)

  • Brave [Sara Bareillis, 2014] - humorous video with everyday people dancing in public (that’s brave!)

  • Sugar [Maroon 5, 2015] - mostly for the element of surprise

  • Believer [Imagine Dragons, 2017] - a recent addition to the list

  • Cups [Anna Kendrick, 2013] - particularly relevant in the retirement context

I was reminded of this concept by a Facebook friend, who posted her word for this year is Courage, and asked for the rest of us to consider/ post our word for the year; I’m proud of her for so many reasons, and know she will live with the challenge and rewards of living a year with Courage.  I have chosen the word Balance for myself, both from a physical perspective (with help from yoga and lifting weights, I might find balance on my bike!) and from a mindset/ emotional perspective, given the unexpected gift of early retirement.  Having the freedom to pursue work that is meaningful and fun for me on a part-time schedule certainly sets a new and attractive balance point!!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of 2 coaching sessions, and interestingly, we discussed this topic of leveraging a single word or short phrase as the point of focus for an organization.  I didn’t plan it - perhaps the concept was on my mind - but it certainly is a “new year” kind of topic!  The power of the single word is the focus it provides, the framework on which to hang your goals, objectives, actions, priorities.  It allows for creativity and latitude for the individual on the team, but also provides much-needed guidance and, at times, a point of governance for decisions, ensuring all on moving in the same direction.  You can only take the beach-head if all of the ships arrive on the same beach!

It sounds obvious, having alignment on direction; but it is not an easy exercise to coalesce the strategy, desired outcomes, customer needs, and all that goes into running a business into a single word - or, for that matter, a phrase of 5-6 words.  It can be done!!  And once the word or phrase is present, all other conversations become clear, deliberate, and focused for the entire team.  Then the real change can begin!! 

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