Note from Larissa for Donna… Hello again, dear readers. As we all know, it’s the beginning of the year, which happens to be the busiest time of year for most bookkeepers. Because of that fact, I convinced Donna to let me assist her with another few articles, beginning with a 2-part mini series inspired by John Maxwell’s Good Leaders Ask Great Questions. This first part is all about the questions we need to ask ourselves before becoming a leader to a team of people.
Business is a lot like art in a way, except instead of presenting our work to an audience we present our work to clients. We begin our business unconfidently and looking for someone to imitate. However, copying someone else never leads us to the audience we want to reach, or any audience at all. To find our audience, we need to let go of the roadmap and figure out what our business is about. In his book, Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, Maxwell explains that we have to ask ourselves some complicated questions before we can make any headway. For my money, a lot of these questions are all pointed at this idea that by copying someone else, we are subconsciously wishing for circumstances to simply be easier. It would be so much more comfortable for every client we get to come to us, be constantly agreeable, and to market to their peers for us. Sadly, no amount of imitation is going to get us there or make anything easier, all we can do is become more capable of solving the problems we come across.
The first question Maxwell asks is all about authenticity and self-image. Do you know what you want to do, and do you think you can do it? Way to begin on a complicated note, buddy. When I think about those two questions in the context of my own career, I come up short. Freelancing is all about marketing through word of mouth and getting enough steady gigs to keep food on the table. Like every freelancer, I began by searching through Upwork and Fiverr, imitating the few professionals that got in on the ground floor. Did I find clients? No, because I was just hoping that it would be easy. Instead, I found my clients through the mortifying ordeal of marketing to business owners directly. It’s challenging, but when I followed Maxwell’s advice and rated myself on a scale from 1 to 10, I never got above a two in the beginning. Maxwell says we need to ask ourselves if we feel a calling to what we’re doing. What do we dream about doing? An accountant might find themselves dreaming of doing live accounting services for monolithic non-profits but end up trying to find for-profit clients that need their taxes prepared. Tax prep for those types of clients is a tried-and-true method, our hypothetical accountant might be hoping that it’s going to be easy. Any accountant that does tax prep will tell you though, it’s not easy, not even close. Our hypothetical accountant is now doing something difficult that they don’t want to do, and until they sell to clients they want, they won’t find their audience. It might be scary, but the hard work that goes into convincing clients to choose us will make us better.
The problem with chasing our dreams, however, is that humans tend to feel more accomplished by starting than they do by finishing their tasks. The idea of ‘just try to become better’ is easily said but never easily achieved. If we want to achieve our dreams, Maxwell says we need to become leaders. Not leaders to a group, I’ll get to that in the second part of this mini-series. No, Maxwell wants us to become a leader to ourselves. If we want to achieve our dreams, we’re going to need to become experts at every single part of our dreams. To do that we should look at what other experts do: Hayao Miyazaki of animation fame practiced drawing for twelve hours a day. Richard Strawbridge served in the British armed forces as a lead engineer for twenty years. Of course, Neil DeGrasse Tyson tirelessly auditioned for every educational program he could to achieve his dream of teaching science through documentaries. What do all of these people have in common? Charles Bukowski would say that they have found what they love and they are going to let it kill them. If we want to chase our dreams we need to be prepared to chase those dreams for years, to take time during that vacation to read that book on hiring the right people, to go to that local seminar on investment banking, to go to that gala across the country that is hosting everyone in our target industries. Take that dream and make it your personal, beautiful, obsession, and cultivate that obsession through endless repetition. And eventually, we will be able to become the leaders of not just ourselves, but a team of people behind us.