I froze during my speech as I looked out at the faces of the members of that chamber of commerce. It was a temporary block that hopefully went unnoticed by my audience. Yet clearly, I was unfocused for a second.
I had been asked to be the guest speaker at their awards celebration. I had travelled to the community and knew no one.
As I glanced around the room, I came to the realization that while they were celebrating their successes, the achievements for many of them had not come easily.
Awards ceremonies are great for recognizing the strides that companies make. The awards can pump up a team and make company leaders and employees proud of their accomplishments. They can generate recognition and publicity for the company, building them up in the eyes of their customers.
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But accomplishments often come at a cost. It takes time, energy and money to build a company, but rarely are companies built without sacrifices that are more personal.
Relationships are seldom mentioned as a cost of doing business, but for many leaders, they’re a significant cost. Missing your kids’ sports or school events, birthday parties and rites of passage are commonplace for many busy leaders. Long hours at work ensure that you’re missing meaningful time with your spouse, children, parents and friends.
Some of the other wounds leaders suffer in their battle for excellence include:
- bites out of their ego when their star employee defects;
- burns by customers who take pleasure in bringing down your brand;
- stabs in the back by vendors who side with your largest competitor.
There are also many self-inflicted injuries, the result of our own stupidity:
- hiring the wrong people;
- not raising enough money;
- shame at the way we’ve behaved toward people in our organizations or our families;
- bruised egos as a result of our failures and inability to reach goals.
It’s wonderful to win awards but we rarely consider all those who have enabled us to reach this pinnacle:
- the managers, spouses, mentors and workers who held the ladder steady as we climbed;
- the cheerleaders, including our children, parents and teachers, who believed in us when we couldn’t believe in ourselves;
- the stabilizing influence of our great vendors, bankers and partners, who enabled us to walk when we could barely crawl.
As I looked out at my unaware audience that evening, I thought of my business battle scars. At that moment, I could see their scars as well. The tired eyes, the fatigue of battle, the surprise at being recognized for success despite the feeling that they were just faking it. Some of them were relishing the moment, and others were biding time until the evening ended.
They say it takes a whole community to raise a child, but it also takes a whole community to support an entrepreneur who, in turn, supports the community.
Leadership isn’t always as glamorous as it seems and the wounds suffered in pursuing dreams don’t always heal.
We need to recognize greatness and excellence more often in our communities, but we also need to acknowledge that there’s a cost to excellence. Above all, we need to be thankful for the sacrifices of many that have benefited countless people in our communities.
Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc.
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