Jun 25th, 2021

Business Insights


  Written by: Kirk Hoaglund, Chief Executive Officer

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One of my ardent hobbies is singing. I regularly take operatic singing lessons, perform occasional recitals, and sing with a Minneapolis choir, Sonomento, MacPhail’s premier, adult choir. Singing well, consistently, on key, in rhythm, and with clear pronunciation takes practice, passion, and focus. For me, progress is steady but not terribly fast. Still, I love doing it and always want to do better.

In a recent recital, I was midway through my second, of three, arias. It was just me, the piano, and the audience. The first aria banished my nerves and let me settle down. The second was better until I made a very small error singing a couple of words from a prior phrase in the new phrase. I was able to recover. Somehow, just at that moment a thought sprang up with great clarity: I realized that I was singing well, consistently, on key, in rhythm, and with clear pronunciation – but that wasn’t my job. It wasn’t enough to use the tools properly and execute against a well-made plan (the sheet music). My job was to convey the story and emotion of the aria to the audience. Not just sing the notes.

The rest of the second aria was better and I sang the third aria better than I ever had. Because I figured out the real job, the real objective, and executed against that.

It’s not enough to just use the tools properly and execute against a well-made plan.

Clientek authors have written about “objectives” often. Focus On What Matters, and When Done Is Done are two great examples. What I am thinking about, though, is perhaps a higher calling in terms of objectives. Taking a look at “what is your real job?”.

I realized in my recital that my job was not to sing properly, my job was to deliver emotion and storyline. Applying the same kind of thinking to my role as Clientek’s CEO. I think my job is to amplify.

Leaders are asked to manage, inspire, govern, communicate/embody vision, and to act as an ambassador for their teams. But why? As “top level” as those things start to sound, they are still just parts and actions that point to the real job: to amplify the passion, skill, effort, dedication, and authenticity brought by all of the team members. To be less of a direct contributor and more of enabler. To ensure that the teams can and will accomplish their shared goals.

Maybe this is a stretch, but should I be thinking the same way about singing and leading? One amplifies the intent of a composer’s music, making me a conduit for the story and emotion. The other amplifies the work of my teams, making me a conduit for their success.

I challenge you to think hard about your job. What is it, really?