Significance vs. Achievement

I have been attending the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Leadership Summit this week in San Diego. I had the pleasure of hearing Kim Beardon, one of the cofounders of the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. She had a powerful message that was broad and deep.

While she was speaking in context of our role as educational leaders, she focused more on our role as humans. She said the following,

“No longer am I going to seek achievements. I am going to seek significance.”

This is a powerful paradigm shift for many of us. It definitely is for me. We can definitely get caught in the “getting things done” mentality. We feel good when we clear our to-do lists. We often speak in terms of quantity as opposed to quality.

The truth is, when I am able to slow down and truly think about what brings me great joy and satisfaction in my life, I am able to realize it has so much more to do with significance than it does with achievement. I think of my role as a father of seven children. My greatest joy with them is not what I have done for them, it is what they have been able to BECOME. That is true significance and it is lasting.

Beardon shared many great stories and ideas with us today. There is one very simple thing she shared that I believe has impact for all who are reading this, regardless of vocation and/or position. She shared a list of what she called “Culture Killers.” They seem simple and intuitive and yet, we can lose sight of their significance when we focus only on getting things done or checking off an achievement. Here is the list:

  • Fail to speak with staff in the hallways.
  • Fail to smile.
  • Fail to communicate.
  • Fail to acknowledge those on your team publicly.
  • Fail to attend professional development (thinking it is for others and not for yourself)
  • Fail to communicate quickly after a performance review process is complete.
  • Failure to give credit where credit is due.
  • Fail to admit when you don’t know the answer.
  • Fail to listen first.

It doesn’t matter what type of leader you are, these failures have a negative impact on YOUR significance within your school, organization, company and even in your family.

While listening to Kim Beardon, I was reminded of another great concept I heard from Don Clifton, a renowned psychologist. He said, “The only way to fill your bucket is to fill the bucket of someone else.”

There is certainly nothing wrong with getting things done and achieving great things, however, if they come at the expense of creating significance in your life by doing the same for others around you, then we must question the value of the achievement.

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