Leaders: Begin With the End in Mind


In Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits,” Step #2 says to “begin with the end in mind.”

I was thinking about this the other day and it occurred to me that many things often do not end well.

All Is Well That Ends Well

There are the obvious examples like:

  • Divorces
  • Car Crashes
  • Job Loss
  • Health Issues
  • Financial Hardships

Then there are the things like our favorite TV shows that came to their eventual end. In my opinion, popular shows like Lost, Friends, Fraser, and Boston Legal all had pretty good endings.

But some very successful and well-admired shows had notable bad endings;

Think fade to black on The Sopranos or the much panned ending of Seinfeld.

How often have you seen a movie or read a book and said “Gee… I didn’t like the way it ended?”

The End in Mind

Endings are hard. And having a good, successful ending may be much harder than most people think. And for leaders, understanding the importance of “beginning with the end in mind” is vital because they are leading others down a very certain path. This could be a path to great success, or a path to an “epic fail.”

So leaders, always ask yourself this question: “How do I want this to end?

Case in Point

We learn how to do this almost subconsciously when we think about taking a trip.

  • We know where we are starting from and where we want to go.
  • We checks maps, air routes, highways, train schedules etc. to get someplace at a designated time.
  • We consider obstacles like traffic, weather, road conditions, delays, etc.

Also, in consulting practices, we often work hard to set expectations up front.

  • We work with the client to be sure all things are discussed.
  • If we can, we get answers in writing to define critical outcomes. This way, as the end gets closer, neither party is saying this project did not work out.
  • As scope changes and new information surfaces, the expectations can be reset and recalibrated for proper expectation alignment.

Personal relationships can benefit from this same sort of discipline.

  • When two people come together, life becomes a swirl of ever-changing expectations.
  • If those expectations are not clearly communicated on a constant basis, assumptions get made and the ending can be less than desirable.

Oh sure, there will be those moments when a surprise change in situation or circumstance happens.

  • But successful partners know how to deal with those changes and almost automatically reset the definition of the outcome/end game.

If the end game does not need to change, likely the steps to get there may. Either way, knowing how to make these changes and get consensus for them is vital to successful and happy endings.

So, how are you doing with designing your missions with the end in mind? Are you taking the time to think of the elements, tactics, and strategy and plan accordingly? How could your team help you in your future endeavors with keeping the end in mind BEFORE you start? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Doug Thorpe
Doug Thorpe is Practice Leader-Mortgage Banking at Solomon Edwards Group
He is a Speaker, Author, Executive Coach, and Founder of SilverbackGorillas
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L2L Contributing Author