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Want Do Be?

Posted by Aubrey Warren on 20 January 2021

Is what you do who you want to be?

As we start into a new year, it's a useful time to be intentional about what we want to achieve in the year ahead: what's important to us, what has value, where our focus should be.

Every day we do things - usually in conscious or unconscious pursuit of things we want for ourselves, for others or for a shared purpose. This is true for organisations, teams and individuals. At the end of the day sometimes we ask ourselves what we actually did that day -  despite a full day of "doing", sometimes we haven't achieved what we wanted. The energy we've expended seems to have drained us with little reward. And some days just seem to flow - we accomplish things large and small that are satisfying and rewarding. The energy we expend seems to be replenished through our positive and productive focus.

On the way through each day of "doing", the things we do are expressed in our communication, our behaviour, our moods, and our attention - our way of "being", if you like.  Aligning the way we do things with what we want to achieve can enable us to be more successful, more satisfied and more effective as leaders.

One framework for thinking about this is the "Want-Do-Be" cycle. It can be useful in both micro and macro applications; at the goals and strategies level and also at the career and life direction level.  It can work individually and collectively.

What we want
Sometimes what we want or need is obvious and instinctive: we want more business, we want better communication within a team, we want to reduce costs. But sometimes identifying what we want or need takes more focused effort. For example, in times of change and challenge we know we want things to improve, but we may need to analyse underlying issues, trends, environmental influences and strategic potential to identify what our goal or changed state needs to look like.

"Begin with the end in mind," advised Stephen Covey in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Clarity of purpose focuses and energises; lack of clarity frustrates and enervates.  Knowing what we want and being able to communicate that clearly is a vital first step towards success and achievement, not least because it also helps us identify what we don't want.

Wants are not just immediate. Beyond the weekly, quarterly or annual "to do" lists, goals and targets, our lives need purpose and direction. Among others, Martin Seligman has identified and explained this in his work about what contributes to "well-being" and a "flourishing" life. He describes this as a "Meaningful Life, which consists of using your signature strengths in the service of something that you believe is larger than you are". Being conscious of what we want to contribute and achieve in an overall sense provides a meaningful and purposeful framework for our daily activities.

So, what do you want?

What we need to do
What we need to do is clearer and more energising when it's tied to purpose: knowing what we want and why. With a clearer sense of what we want our actions have direction, focus and value. Purpose provides propulsion. While a bias for action is good, without direction it can mean we start doing before focusing, creating the potential for wasted effort, leading to frustration and disillusionment. Knowing what to do often means that we've also worked out what we don't need to do, or what we don't need to do yet, or perhaps what we need someone else to do.

From a leadership perspective the same is true: "creating a shared vision" may sound a bit grand sometimes, but it has everyday practical application in providing clarity and focus so people can do what needs to be done with confidence and a sense of purpose, knowing that what they're doing has value.

So, what do you need to do?

How and who we need to be
The third part of the "Want Do Be" framework is the one that is simultaneously most obvious and yet least conscious. Our behaviour, manners and "style" - our ethos or "personal brand", if you like - are how others know us and experience us. And yet the actions others experience from us aren't always aligned with our own intentions.

Consider, for example, a leadership team that wants to improve productivity and communication within their business units. They identify some targeted areas for improvement (what they want) and they specify some key actions for themselves and for their teams (what they need to do). All good. But what's easily overlooked is what behaviours are required and expected. This starts with the leaders themselves identifying - individually and collectively - how they need to "be" in order to give credibility and value to the actions to be pursued. What will those behaviours and conversations look and sound like? What effect will they aim for?

To those we are trying to influence, the importance and value of the "what" and "how" is significantly shaped by the "way" it is communicated, modelled and supported. "How we show up" is the first thing people notice and it frames their response. How they feel in response to how we are is what they will remember. So how we need to "be" is critical to what we "do" in achieving what we "want".

So, how do you want to be as you do the things you ned to do to achieve what you want? What behaviours might you need to do more of (or less of) or differently? What values or principles do you need to consciously express, model or emphasise to ensure your way of "being" is aligned with what is to be done and what is wanted?

You can use "Want Do Be" for planning and for review, for projects and for development, for individuals and for teams. And, perhaps most importantly, it's a reminder that our being - the way we do things - is one of the most important things about us.

If you'd like to read more about the idea of how we need to "be" as leaders, please just email me and I'll send you my summary of The Achievement Habit, by Bernard Roth, which explores achieving, doing and being from a design thinking perspective.

And if part of your intentional development for the year ahead is doing leadership more effectively, find out more about our Situational Leadership® training available as a F2F workshop and also now in a flexible online learning resource.


Aubrey Warren
Situational Leadership® Master Trainer and Australia and New Zealand Affiliate for the Center for Leadership Studies

© Copyright Aubrey Warren 2021

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Tags: Situational Leadership

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