Many days, others want you. Other days, you are needed; your actions are vital and the wheels turn about you. Then there are the few days when no one cares what you do. These are the days when you stand apart.
You capitalise on some breathing space, not by taking a breather, but by doing the things that matter beyond the end of today, past the end of this week.
This body of work; the things that you do when no one is waiting or watching, will become your legacy. These are the things that you will be proud of. And this work will determine your value.
You should care if you do nothing at work today.
A mentor should actively seek gain from their mentee relationship (I’m not convinced that mentee is a real word, makes me think of manatees…). Anyway, one of the first questions a new mentee asks me is, “so, why do you mentor?”
The correct answer seems to be about giving something back. I’ve used this reply. I’ve talked about helping others but, in truth, I’m a Selfish Mentor.
The Selfish Mentor gives of his time only with an expectation of something in return. I’m aiming to develop myself too. And I know that I’ll get great , if I give great too.
Mentoring develops a wonderful symbiotic relationship. Both mentor and mentee come together out of self interest and, as they grow together, enrich themselves and each other.
Selfishness builds a richer, more fulfilling relationship for both parties. The giving causes taking…and the giving given, allows for taking.
And that’s why my desire to gain moves me to give the mentee the best I’ve got.
I have a friend who runs a very successful professional services company. In her company, the expertise of her people is paramount. In fact, it’s all her clients care about. So she’s always on the lookout for potential.
She has a secret policy for emerging leaders. Secret? What kind of a policy is that?
Her secret policy supports her best employees through their post grad studies. You see, the only people who qualify for consideration are those with the initiative, spark and determination to wonder about what’s possible. The only people in her company who ever get to hear about the secret policy, are those who actually talk to her about what they can do together.
She’s believes in the underlying principle that we should each be responsible for making things happen for ourselves. And so having leaders self-select for development is the perfect way to allocate very limited resources towards those people who are determined to use them well.
So the next time you hear a whisper around the water cooler at your office, you might wonder if you’re missing out on a really useful secret.
Last weekend I sat on a panel of business school alumni. We fielded questions from prospective MBA students. They all wanted to know…how do you manage your time when you’re studying part time and managing a full time job?
Clients don’t care that your studying and your lecturers and syndicate group members don’t care what your clients want. And what about your family and friends.
Somehow you’ve got to find a way to fit it all in. You sleep less, go out less and with a bit of practice you learn to produce much more, with a lot less effort. You simply have to.
You work out when to spend time reading thoroughly and when to skim. You come to understand the Law of Diminishing Returns and you stop re-reading and obsessing. You find the sweet spot of least input for maximum outcome.
Then you take that idea to work everyday and you start getting better results when you’re under pressure. You get great at fast and good work. And that is one of the best things about having no time, for years on end.
Last summer, in less than a mouse-click, I snapped my fibula and tibia and dislocated my ankle at roughly 45 degrees to my shin. Now, I’m a big fan of experiential learning but I have to admit, as a I lay screaming, the idea of reviewing David Kolb’s axiomatic model of reflection, the Cycle of Learning, wasn’t on my to-do list. I did come to learn, not long after, that there is indeed a website for everything. http://www.mybrokenleg.com does exist.
When Christopher Hitchens invoked the Nietzschean phrase, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, he professed serious doubt about cancer and it’s treatment making him stronger. Ha, but a broken leg…nothing really, in the scheme of things.
Did it actually make me stronger. Doubtful. Though it did give me a lot of time to think. Mostly, I lay calmly and thought about the calming effecting of laying calmly. Nice feeling, if you can get it.
I try to recall that restfulness now that I’m upright and mobile and occassionally stressed to the eyeballs. I have to admit it is difficult to remember. I’m not sure I have any lasting lessons from the orthopaedic zone. Or maybe there is this…sometimes unexpected things happen and then you get up, get moving and get on with it.
Zero Follow Ups…is a really powerful guide to your ability to manage yourself.
It’s simple, practical, fast and measurable. Your own little self-assessment tool.
Just score yourself a point every time some one follows you up on something…client, colleague, report or boss.
If you aim for zero every week and come close, you’re doing well. Better still, the measure itself will really focus you on delivering for the people that matter to you.
How does one become a leader? I see and hear this question a lot. People want to know how they can become leaders, or better leaders. More influential, more successful.
Leadership is like anything else. You’ve got to practice…and practice and practice…
Lead is a verb. So you can practice leadership by leading.
Do leadership everyday. The results might not be obvious each day. But like piano, public speaking, tennis or writing, over weeks and months and years you will improve and may even become pretty good. You may even attain greatness – you will certainly become your best.
Practice by showing people what can be. Lead people to new understandings. Lead people by getting it wrong and trying again. Ask people what they think. Examine your style. Experiment. Understand your defaults and try switching them. Do the difficult and be honest with yourself and others. Be courageous and keep at it.
Do one act of leading today.
Intuitively, we know that first impressions count. But not only do they count, they are very difficult to change.
The work of Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman demonstrates some startling biases that we humans exhibit.
One, that he calls Confirmation Bias, describes a tendency towards confirmatory evidence. Once we form an impression of someone / something (psychologists call them schemas) we will favour evidence that confirms our “theory” and disregard contradictory evidence. It has been shown that disconfirming evidence can in fact strengthen a pre-existing belief.
For further reading try Thinking…Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman or for an intersting and extreme example click here
Watch your biases and don’t forget to work hard to make your first impressions count.
Opinion is often derided (”well that’s just your opinion”) as inferior to fact.
I happen to value opinions a great deal. Next time someone asks you for a fact or some data, think about how you can provide them with value by offering your opinion. This might require some thinking and a little extra time but I guarantee that you’ll enrich yourself, learn more and win points with the recipient.
I have a broken leg is a fact…my opinion is that having a broken leg has made me more sanguine and tolerant and has enabled me to see life through a different lens.
Give and ask for opinions. See what you get back – you might be delighted (that’s just my opinion)