Executive Spotlight: Chief Operating Officer, John Nebergall
COO, John Nebergall, responds to the question: “Based on your experience in a leadership role, if you only had 6 words of advice to give a business, what would they be”?
“Skate to where the puck’s going”
Hindsight is 20/20. That’s to say you can have perfect vision when you look back, see what maybe you should have done or understand how you may have been able to do something differently and achieve a better outcome. Now the problem with that is very few of us have a time machine. Now, I’m not suggesting that learning from those past instances and applying the lesson going forward aren’t valuable, but remember that the application of that learning is about the future, not the past. Looking ahead and applying the sum of your knowledge, experience and talent to chart the future path is infinitely more important than “woulda, shoulda, coulda” to your career.
I’ve found that personally that by spending my energy on mapping a course to a future objective has been key to any success I’ve found both professionally and personally. Sure, there are problems of the day to be addressed, tweaks and adjustments to make an operation run better or solve an immediate issue – and that execution is the bare minimum to be a competent manager. In reality, that’s the super easy part of leadership – dealing with the needs of the day. I’ve seen it time and time again where managers who are seeking to advance their careers assess their worth in terms of how they stack up in solving a problem in front of them or completing the checklist of the day’s tasks that the boss gave them. It’s a piece of cake to start your day doing what the emails tell you to do, go to where the calendar tells you where to go and at the end of the day (as if it has one) say “I’ve done my job”. The more difficult and challenging discipline is to start your day by deciding what you should do today that is going to drive you to a future objective, and then put in the work to drive things in that direction. Where do I want the company to be in 5 years? 10 years? What do I want to be doing in the future and what do I have to do/learn/create to get there? Driving those is much more rewarding and valuable than making sure I get through the business of the day.
Now because I practice and espouse this course, doesn’t mean I’m an expert at it. There are areas that I could work harder at, be more disciplined about or pursue more aggressively. That just means I need to be working on those weaknesses and try to improve them. At the same time, the longer you spend looking ahead, planning a future route for a future objective, skating to where the puck is going, you get better at it. It’s a skill like any other – no magic, no freakish talent required. This is a mindset, and it’s how organizations are pushed forward and how individuals grow professionally. Do the hard things. Pick your “puck” and really think about where it’s going. Then really think about what you need to do to get there. Then have the discipline to do what’s necessary to get there.