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.
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.
Acronyms are lazy. We should be making more effort to be convey rich meaning, not less.
In business, precise expression and meaning are vital.
When we compress our words into new groups to make codes, we flatten our tone, communalise ourselves and render ourselves less individual. We make our language and expression less precise and more open to interpretation.
Like a joke that needs explaining, an acronym that requires decoding is POOR (caps for emphasis, not an acronym…as far as I know) communication. It obscures meaning, distracts from the message and corrupts our purpose.
Put some grain, colour and accentuation into your language. What you say and write will be memorable because it will better convey life’s many folds.
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.
I’ve been thinking a little about hard work.
We all work hard right? The usual definition of long hours usually comes to mind. Fine…but you can’t build a competitive advantage by putting in more time. Anyone can decide to work longer hours and do it – low barriers to entry – no particular skill required (other than say, maintaining effectiveness as hours on the job build).
So how can you work harder in unusual ways to get a true advantage which is hard to copy?
Try working difficult.
It’s a subtle but important variation on working hard. Working difficult goes to the heart of what it means to create value. You choose to do the work that others avoid, you choose to do the work that requires thinking but you do not choose the path of least resistance.
I recently attended a function at my son’s school. The Head of Junior primary presented for an hour to a group of about 150 parents about curriculum and child developmental milestones. Pretty dry stuff – but she transformed it into a totally captivating presentation by telling stories throughout…sad, funny & endearing, all the stories were about kids and their experiences…each one a metaphorical “every-child”.
Got me thinking about the power of stories in the business environment and how a ppt pres can be changed by introducing a concept and then sharing a story about its practical application. Around the same time a colleague coincidentally sent me this link…