I know I’m dating myself here, but have you ever seen the film City Slickers? The basic synopsis is that it’s a comedy about a group of guy friends from the big city on the verge of mid-life crisis who go on a western cattle ranching vacation and end up learning a bit about themselves in the process. Anyway, there’s a scene in which one of the friends (played by Billy Crystal) is having a discussion about life with this really rough, intimidating old-fashioned sandpaper-and-gunpowder cowboy character named Curly (played by a now deceased Jack Pallance, I believe). Curly tells our protagonist that the meaning of life is “this”, while he holds up one finger. He then explains that while most of us “city folk” over-complicate things, life’s meaning really comes down to just one thing – the one thing that matters most. And that one thing is different for different people.
Now, I’ll be honest and say that my work is not my “one thing”. However, my work is motivated by my one thing. When I think about the notion of “one thing” within a professional context though, what comes to mind directly relates to my personal life and my personal, true “one thing”. So often it seems the key to successfully working through both personal and professional matters is about motivating people. Successful leadership results from proper motivation. Successful teaching and learning can only come with proper motivation. Parenting seems to be about 90% motivation. I direct an after-school rock band program for middle and high school students in my town, and the successes in that program result from proper motivation (some of which I can help manage, and some of which I can’t). Sales – for products and services – are directly an outcome of motivating clients or customers. Personal relationships, professional relationships, goal attainment and success all only become realized as a result of and in the midst of real motivation.
My point is that if I were to choose a “one thing” for business, the one thing that matters most, I think I might say it’s motivation. Now, whether you agree or not, I’d recommend you at least consider the importance of motivating the folks who matter in your business – your peers and staff, your leadership, your clients and customers. Always try walking in their shoes a bit. Try learning from them. Understand what motivates them. And build that into what you do with and for them.