Tony Schwartz describes CEOs as Chief Energy Officers and writes here about his experience of re-orienting a meeting where he was feeding the group many new ideas with enthusiasm, and not receiving the warm welcome he had hoped for. Instead he was hearing about people’s stress and lack of recognition for the work done so far.
My two favourite points in his response:
“Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones. It once clearly served our survival to be vigilant about what might go wrong and that instinct persists. Today, it may serve to buffer us from disappointment, but it also promotes disproportionate and destructive discontent. The simple question “What’s going right?” provides ballast in tough times.”
“The highest skill — whatever your role — is the willingness to embrace opposite feelings without choosing up sides. Acknowledging bad feelings is key to being able to address what’s causing them. Recognizing they’re only one part of the story frees us to notice what we feel good about and grateful for, which helps us to feel positive even in the face of ongoing challenges.”
I’d add a third observation from the first rate materials and training that I have received from the National Managers’ Community in the Government of Canada: Behind every complaint is a commitment. Whereas in my early days as a manager my instincts might lead me to wonder why people were “just being oppositional” when work needed to get done, when now I take the space for explorations of the values that people are indirectly expressing when they are complaining, I have found important information that may provide a jumping off point to a better working relationship. The number one reason that people are complaining: they want sufficient time and space to submit a good product.
This is a great article on why taking some time to ascend in your career has benefits.
The article lists many good reasons to take a measured approach to promotions including avoiding burnout and gaining the skills you’ll need to succeed. And my favourite of all:
“Following a “deliberate” path may prevent the problem experienced by any number of hard-charging executives: getting to the top of the career ladder only to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”
We get better decisions (if we overfit for the past, this is a poor predictor of the future)
People can actually follow a small number of rules even under great stress.
The gist of the research:
Researchers examined product development teams to see who got the most done and overly rule driven and complicated processes resulted in the wrong products being produced very efficiently while teams with no rules had a great time getting nothing done.
Teams benefited from having a few rules that would guide work but leave flexibility for innovation.
The steps recommended to develop your rules:
Set your objective
Find the bottleneck (it may not be where you think it is – in the example given it was during the hiring process.)
Develop your rules by looking at your own data of when you have been successful and by talking to outside experts.
The hardest rules to follow are the ones telling you when to stop doing something – we are all great at starting something and very poor at stopping.
Perfectionism is the enemy of transformative leaders. No great leader spends three hours perfecting an email. Perfectionism is absolutely seductive and must be kept at bay.
I have explored perfectionism in earlier posts and got new insight in this lecture today. For every perfectionist who spends time agonizing over work only to see it come back rife with feedback, a difficult feedback loop can ensue. Not: “Well that this the failure of perfectionism” But rather: “I should have worked even harder on that.” What is useful as a reminder is that perfectionism as a mindset is seductive and well viewed as a process addiction. Yet to indulge, you deprive the world of your work.
I enjoyed this recent book on how to focus on the most important things and ensure that our limited energy goes to the essential. I am experimenting with a “mind map” software to show the connections between the concepts that I found resonated most for me. Let me know what you think of this approach versus the usual narrative form. (The magnifying glass can be used to increase text size on a portion of the doc).
A good short article on one person’s strategy to let go of procrastination. The things I found most powerful were the suggestions of thinking of the pain it would cause in the end to keep avoiding the real work and the challenge to think about whether the trade off to give in to distractions were worth it to avoid the difficult work that would precede a satisfying outcome.
This book was a decent read in the era of information overload. As the author says, the most important commodity to a busy person is their time – don’t waste it.
The author focuses on the need to have three key things to tell a tight story: a headline, a consistent narrative and a powerful conclusion. It’ll be valuable to do a quick outline with your headline (focal point) and then lay out the challenge, the opportunity and the payoff.
Most helpfully to me was the instruction to start in the middle. This helps articulate a struggle that I have had in giving feedback for years on why briefings aren’t working. You lose an audience very quickly if you don’t jump in at what feels like the middle of the story and explain why the audience should care about what you are speaking about.
The book also has some good reminders to study all available information to avoid traveled ground – too many people start the briefing from the top and want to give a full picture of all the circumstances. Instead you should focus on what you have to say to the audience that is different and valuable from what your audience already knows.
The gist of the thinking is that people are givers, matchers or takers. You might be a different sort at work than at home. Work settings can feel harder to navigate because you don’t want to be taken advantage of so you may want to adapt a normally generous style at work to a more matching style.
Givers have the potential to do the best and the worst in work settings. When they do the best, they succeed at understanding their clients to serve them well and reap the benefits. They are generous with their time and with information and they are willing to invest in the development of employees/students etc. to mentor them. This creates a generative cycle. Having built trust though their investments in others, others are willing to be generous to them.
Grant also gives practical suggestions on how to communicate in a way that isn’t aligned with being a “taker” of information. He coins the term “powerless communication” and gives a great example of someone in a difficult negotiation on a job offer in a different city who, instead of presenting a demand list, finally asked for HR’s advice on how to proceed noting the considerations with which they were struggling. They were presented with an ideal solution for their situation.
At worst however, givers can overdo it and burn out. They do this by failing to look after their own needs and those needs may include neglect of work-related goals crucial to success. The book also contains interesting information on volunteering. Apparently 100 hours a year is the ideal for many which is good news for the creative Timeraiser initiative (though the number may decrease for seniors). Also interesting was that that the research shows that you’d generate more benefits from your volunteering if you did it in large chunks of time rather than small bit of time over many days. Something for me to aspire to.
I loved that this book affirmed my own commitment to be generous with my own resources with good reminders of the needs to draw boundaries on the levels of contribution. The book is great at outlining how we must be discerning with our time and it’ll be fine to devote our time to people who will give to others rather than those who are just interested in taking for themselves.
This is another excellent article – worth the whole read especially for female leaders.
Top ten reasons:
1. It drives away good people.
2. It causes pain to those you manage.
“Even if they don’t quit working for you, your perfectionism can cause others on your team to put in unnecessary hours, suffer from constant criticism and actually stop taking initiative.”
3. It blocks promotability.
4. It prevents risk-taking.
5. It stops people from applying for new jobs.
6. It impedes innovation.
7. It makes work-life balance impossible.
8. It crowds out networking:
“Too many of the women we coach have to learn to lift up their heads from task completion to look around, build relationships and study their business beyond their own purview. We, as women, tend to criticize men for golfing, drinking together or taking long lunches while we slave away at our desks. Networking is crucial for building trust, strengthening teams and preparing yourself for the next levels of your career.”
9. Makes you seem overly tactical (and not strategic).
“No one will think you can see the big picture or set priorities when you seem focused on the minutia. Being able to let go of your perfectionist tendencies may help you to win more strategic projects.”
10. Takes the focus off the most important things.
A short piece to help you re-frame quitting from the failure lens. There are bits on helping you get past the fear part of quitting and move beyond the failure identity label, as well as this good bit on seeing quitting as a beginning:
SEE QUITTING AS A BEGINNING, NOT AN END.
“As Bo Ren writes, “All new beginnings come from quitting something.” Quitting is a forward-looking action. You are making space for bigger and better possibilities and connections. A quit opens up energy and resources for whatever new endeavor you have your eye on. Rather than worry about you’re losing by quitting, think about what you’re losing by keeping your hands full of something that’s doing nothing for you or anyone else.”