It’s all about gratitude. Gratitude feeds the soul and is the beginning of joy. At our first Acumen meeting of the year, we talked about what we learned and what we were grateful for in 2018, and then how that will change who we are and what we’ll do in 2019.

Here’s my list:

1. “All things rise and fall on leadership.”

A timeless truth I first learned from Ken Blanchard buried in one of his many business leadership books. One can easily see it play out in virtually every corner of our lives ranging from government to higher learning; families to churches; not-for-profits to traditional businesses. Everywhere! Of course, I see it mostly first hand in the SMB space.

2. People and top grading

As leadership is the catalyst for rising and falling (see #1), it has a direct correlative connection to people. Top leaders we work with are in a constant battle to recruit, identify, hire and retain top talent. That’s no surprise or profound epiphany. People drive growth and results. They can also limit growth and results. They can advance culture or destroy it. There should be no sacred cows when it comes to people, but there are. Often leaders become unwilling to disrupt the status quo or top-grade opportunistically. I did it. I’ve done it. I see others fall victim to an inability, lack of courage or fear of top grading. I understand why, as it impacts people’s lives in a real way. It impacts others in the organization whether a change is made or not. Think about it.

3. Don’t settle

More of a stark reminder than profound learning. Too often, I settle. Settle for “not ideal” candidates to occupy critical strategic roles in our firms. Settle for mediocre players. Settle for less than stellar results. Again, guilty as charged. In some cases, it’s hard not to settle when a strong economy creates a tight labor market, and top talent can be very difficult to find or exceedingly expensive to recruit. And oh by the way, you desperately need a position filled…asap! Though they may have a pulse, don’t settle.

4. Kick the Ick – too much administrivia

I spent way too much time this past year engaged in administrative activities. I won’t get into the details of why but needless to say, it drained my enthusiasm and it was unproductive for me and our organization and community. Identify your MVPs (most valuable and profitable activities) and engage in them. Identify and hire people who can help keep you in that zone. Your quality of life will be better. Your organization will be more functional and those you lead will be better served.

5. Get off the grid – you are not as important as you think you are

It’s OK, really… you won’t be missed. I took a month off this year. Some people called it sabbatical. I called it off the grid. It was one of the most refreshing, clarifying, and rejuvenating experiences of my life. I can’t believe I waited this long to do it and I would encourage others to engage. You really won’t be missed that much-we’re not as important as we think we are.

6. Three perspectives on Marriage

Newlyweds
We celebrated the marriage of my two oldest sons this year. One in June. One in December. Both were extraordinarily awesome occasions each with their own unique flavor and flair. It was surreal and rewarding, fun and energizing. As a parent, I can’t think of a more exciting new crossroad and threshold for your child to jump across.

Celebrating 30 years
Sarah and I are on the brink of celebrating our 30th anniversary. It’s virtually impossible to think that our marital lives have existed for that long. I can’t believe she’s put up with me that long! That’s a lot of time to spend together. And I feel very blessed because I can’t wait for the next 30!

Partnership marriages
Daily I am reminded that partnerships in a business sense closely resemble marriage. So many of the owners we serve are challenged with partnership turbulence. I have been in my past! Fortunately, I have a great partner today! We know that a huge key to a successful partnership resembles characteristics that help marriages thrive. Time. Communication. Open dialogue. Continuity. The consistency of communication. Tackling tough issues. Prayer. Grace and truth. Dave Ramsey says that “the only ships that don’t sail are partnerships.” I agree if the partners don’t share a covenant similar to marriage.

Cheers to a prosperous and gratitude filled 2019!