Are you drowning in the content of your business?

Are you drowning in the content of your business?

A colleague of mine, after reading a few of my recent articles, commented that from these no one would know that I am an accountant. After my stereotypical response of, “why would you want anyone to know you’re an accountant”, I replied that first and foremost I am a leader in our business and the articles are meant to be contextual.

I believe all business leaders need to stay in context as much as they can. Context is what gives meaning to content. It is the “information necessary to correctly interpret a word or phrase that could otherwise be interpreted in a number of different ways”. If I asked what the colour red meant to you, I would get a range of responses – hot, fast, Valentine’s Day, latest episode of the Vampire Diaries (my daughter’s watching it currently!). However, if I asked you what red meant in the context of traffic lights, you would all give me the response of ‘stop’ (well, I hope you would anyway!)

Therefore, whether you’re an accountant, lawyer, architect, electrician or marine biologist (cue Seinfeld reference) how you want yourself and your team to show up won’t be determined by what your business does, how it conducts its meetings, what software you use, or how you approach your cashflow management, but by the context you set that will give the meaning to all that content.

Whether you want the team to allow themselves to be vulnerable, authentic, trustworthy, diligent or efficient, will all be a direct result of how you clarify, communicate and lead the context of your business.

I see too many leaders turn into managers, deep diving into the detail and focusing on the doing before setting the context of how they want to show up and where they are trying to go. This context really starts with clarity of your purpose, vision and values. By leading in this context, team members will get the bigger picture, and you will more effectively be able to bring them along on your journey, and have them engaged in their own purpose as they can then align to yours.

Ask yourself, do you know the context of your business or are you drowning in the content? How often do you stay in that space as a leader? The answer to these two questions will give you an insight into your effectiveness as a leader, and have you focused on the areas with the biggest impact.

This article was featured in the December issue of HBR Magazine.