Coffee on the road – our word for the year

Big surprise – no, really, an actual surprise – our word for 2017 is not ‘coffee’!

This year we are going public with our choice to applaud all those mature decision makers who know when to hold ’em, when to fold ’em, and when to walk off into the sunset for the next challenge – the ones who can hear the clanging bell and know whether it signifies the start of the next round or the end of the game.

Our word is ‘enough’.

It is the word for all those leaders who know when they have given their best to a role and done what only they could do, and who then make a positive choice to move on to the next challenge, the next part of their own journey.

It is also the word for a business – and we are thinking especially of small and medium business here, that can’t help but have a narrower engagement with the marketplace – when their place in the market is overtaken by events and the time has come to reinvent the business, for example.

Years of working with teams facing change – some welcoming it, others not so much – provide us with a feast of examples on the genuine art to judging what the environment is saying.  Has the market developed new tastes or different dynamics that don’t suit your product?  Does the organisation – commercial or nonprofit – now more generally need other messengers or, indeed, other messages? Hearing the bell and calling the change might be the most important decision a leader makes.

Part of the issue is that there is always so much left to be done.  The grown ups recognise more nuanced questions – not just what is left to be done, but how best to do it well; not just whether they can lead that, but whether they should.

Of course, knowing when enough is enough battles against fear of the unknown, of what might – or might not – come next, always in tension with the truism that progress in part relies on taking risks – in a measured fashion certainly, but taking risks all the same.

There are always some happy to take the safe path – keeping a low profile against the light of review and accountability, letting ‘consensus’ provide cover for their choices, and using creative inertia to avoid standing up to be counted on new or different directions that are needed.

In other times, the worst that might bring is a leader becoming stale by staying past their ‘use by’ date, or a flat year from unimaginative answers to the usual run of organisational questions.

This year looks different though.  In 2017, if the early warnings are in any way on target, following that conventional wisdom just won’t be enough.

For leaders in government, business, nonprofits and the entire community, our crystal ball shows 2017 as a year when taking the ‘safe’ path might be the riskiest strategy of all.

Our word for 2017 is ‘enough’.

Hearing when enough is enough is always great leadership art.

‘Post-truth’ leadership art includes caring enough to dare enough in the decisions leaders make.