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The Alternative Board Blog

Tuna not Perch- Pursuing Significance

Jul. 13, 2021 | Posted by Jim Gerberman
Business Leadership

It's hard to imagine a more difficult time for being an effective business leader. Correspondingly, finding significance in what we do has never seemed more fleeting...and, necessary.

As we all emerge from this pandemic and endeavor to lead our businesses in ways that address the changing needs and preferences of our customers, our colleagues, and families,  the challenges we face seem to necessitate a more complex and nuanced decision-making process. All the while, the pursuit of significance in our lives and in our relationship with others, continues to drive our sense of self worth.

I have the privilege of facilitating a board of business owners that meets regularly to help each other in setting direction, addressing issues, and holding each other accountable for what we say we'll do. As we shift from virtual meetings back to convening in person, each board member has been revisiting and sharing their personal vision...which includes their vision for the business and their role, expectations, and priorities for action.

In doing so, one of our members- having shared some of what he he had in mind, and struggling with some tradeoffs associated with competing choices, was asked a similar question- several ways, by the other board members.

    - Why?

    - To what end?

    - What's your purpose?

Having already proceeded down the path of  "What" and "How",  the challenge to reconsider "Why?" led  to more than a few moments of silence interspersed with comments like "Not sure", "Haven't really thought about..."

Then, after a considerable pause, he said "Tuna not Perch".

To give some context to this moment of discovery: Several of our board members love to fish, do so regularly, and fishing analogies are not rare in our check-ins, sharing of best moments, and general discussion. And, for those of you who may be less familiar with the piscine species...a tuna is a very big fish...and, a perch-by comparison, is quite small.

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The "Tuna" epiphany is helping him...and, us, to define and better understand the "Why?" and "To what end?"  questions. While fishing for perch can be enjoyable and fun, that activity will not likely provide satisfaction or meaning if you are pursuing something of greater significance.

Let's be clear. While fishing for tuna and fishing for perch may be the same sport, they are certainly not in the same league- requiring different tools, a different support team, and a different approach. And, tuna will be found in a totally different place than perch. So, once you decide that your purpose must be significant, keep in mind that you must  have the right gear, the right support network, and be operating in those places where significance can be found and in a way that significance can be landed.

Tuna is not the answer. But, by considering how we pursue tuna differently than we would pursue perch, we can better align our decisions, priorities, and actions, with our true calling and purpose.

And, as business owners and leaders serving others, we find ourselves frequently mentoring, advising, and listening to others who are seeking our insight. Rather than merely answering their questions, our value will come from making sure that we...and they, are asking the right questions.

Perhaps a good place for us to start is by asking: 'Is that a Tuna question or a Perch question?"

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Written by Jim Gerberman

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