This past weekend I attended the 2016 National Conference for the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) in Washington D.C. and it triggered the reminder of my long term commitment to a simple but formative phrase … being your best.  This phrase captures a mentality and gift from my father, son of an immigrant from Ireland who came through Ellis Island looking for a chance for a better life.   As I arrived in Washington last Thursday, I first stopped at Arlington Cemetery where both my mother and father reside because of his thirty year career in the Navy.  Coincidently, it turns out that day was the 26th anniversary of his passing.  You cannot go to Arlington Cemetery and not come away with the reminder of how many “gave their best” for our freedom and security.

The conference included keynotes from two of the most renowned management consultants in Peter Block – author of Flawless Consulting and Alan Weiss – author of Million Dollar Consulting and many more.  It was definitely an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse of what the “best” looks like in my profession.  It was a clear reminder of how important it is for all of us to reset our calipers of what being the best actually involves. This awareness is also so very relevant to our business clients as they try and calibrate “how good” should we strive to become and why?

BEING YOUR BEST is a mindset that fuels a free standing belief system for continuous improvement.  Why? Because nothing less will satisfy those committed to being the best.  As my children (and others) will attest, this goes back even to days of coaching their teams in youth soccer.   Winning or losing was less important that doing your best for yourself and the team.  Whenever we used to place our thumbs and index fingers into that triangle shape … it was a non-verbal reminder that what mattered most was playing with your head, heart and guts … we called it grit and its all about being your best. I don’t use exactly those same terms with my business clients and coaching charges this days … but it actually is very much the same thing.  Being driven to be your best … always.

Throughout this weekend, I strived to sharpen my axe … learning from the world famous guru’s as well as my other highly talented IMC colleagues from all over the globe.  The opportunities to learn new content, techniques and style were abundant.  I also had the opportunity to share insights and experiences since I was chosen to serve on two distinguished discussion panels … one on being a Thought Leader and one on Consulting at a Higher Level.

Alan Weiss gave the closing keynote and definitely further reinforced everything I had already conjured up – like the icing on the cake.  Alan spoke about generating confidence in ourselves and our consulting ecosystem – even if not using those terms.  For me, that is what being your best is all about … enabling all of your clients and community of practice to be the best and always striving to improve yourself.  It is an on-going journey for all of us.

I once had the privilege of doing leadership coaching with a series of country managers for a well-known global consumer products company.  I think i may have gotten as much nourishment from one particular executive in India as I provided him.  Ajit was the head of consumer and governmental affairs and he told me that he was in process of writing his book entitled “Being My Best Self”.

We had great conversation exploring the concept and meaning of your “best self”.  What does that look like and how does it feel when you are in that zone?  What are the benefits and obstacles to staying in the space?  Discovering the insights from such reflection can help feed what Mahatma Gandhi once defined as “true happiness” … when what you think, what you say and what you do … are all the same thing.  I am thinking that comes close to describing what Ajit meant by “being” his best self.

I believe both leaders and organizations become more aerodynamic when grounded by their core belief system and values.  Their vision and pathway for success becomes clearer and helps them think, believe and act in accordance.  The keys to success – clarity, unity and agility.