I’ve been discussing aspects of leadership for a short jaunt but I’ve been reminded I need to think much more deeply about this.
This will be the first in a mini series on what intangible attributes we, as leaders, must have to prevail. I’ll cover the attributes laid out at a recent conference with one specific question in mind: how does this affect my leadership?
Bill Hybels — a pastor in the Chicago area — in a room of clergy, businessmen, and government leaders stated this one line: “Armed with enough humility we can learn from anybody.” I’ve not forgotten that. Though it’s hinge is humility, I’ve begun asking myself with the question of whether or not I can swallow my pride to truly hear what others are saying.
Conversely, it’s really easy to say, “yeah, yeah, yeah. I know” whether or not I “know.”
I was recently posed with the question: “Is it possible that we’re actually at our best when we know the very least? When we’re new…we are rookies.”
For me, I’ve already outlined that I felt inadequate to blog because I entered a new career, a new area, a new…you get the point. Yet it’s in this fog and confusion that I can really shine — not when I’ve got all the proven facts and abilities.
For most of us, we want to move down the learning curve to become better at our jobs, roles, projects, etc. This is important. It has it’s place. But some downsides are that once we have knowledge, we tend to make assumptions. We see the patterns, so we fill in the gaps.
The upside of inexperience is that although we have a long way to mastery, we tend to work in pioneer mode because we’re desperate. We’re on the frontier and we’re working in scrappy ways. The way it was put to me is this: with a small, easy challenge, are you really satisfied? Yet we do great work in this awkward state of emotion to reduce the tension. Sort of like why we, as teenagers, wanted to grow up quickly so we’d stop being dorky forever.
A better explanation of the learning curve is thus:
Early on we’re confused, but we build steam and eventually, unless continually hitting new challenges, become bored. We then tend to put in less effort. We don’t see the game as challenging. We become frustrated. We lose interest.
I got my wish. To many out there this will sound ridiculous, but to me: giddy with joy.
I got to listen to Horst Schulze speak. The former president of Ritz Carlton. In my role at Riskalyze, I’ve much to learn. There are so many areas I want to push beyond what is accepted and what I’m capable of.
Some key takeaways I hope to grow in. Although stated by everyone, he had the emotion behind the statement: we don’t talk to businesses, we talk to people. They are your neighbors. People are your employees, your vendors, your customers.
Every employee has a major role — although companies simply hire someone to wash dishes, they take it very seriously. On average, they interview 10 people before the select one. Ten. For someone to wash dishes. That is commitment and caring for the customer that I wish I had!
Why is it that important to him? Why do they go to such extremes? Because, in Horst’s mind, service is your product. You may go to a bank and get a defect-free product, timely service, but if it’s poor service, what will you remember? What will you tell others?
In the case of a bank, a hotel, an airlines…the service is the product. The type of caring that employees give. This is how we create loyal, loving, trusting customers.
I hope one day to get close to this level of focus on the customer.
We typically think of feedback as binary: either good or bad. “Hey, great job today!” or “please step into my office.”
Feedback is so much more. It’s my relationship to the world and the world’s relationship to me. These are the conversations that drive business growth. They drive people to get more out of their leaders, and leaders to get more out of their people.
I tend to think of improving my feedback by being more clear, more effective, and more often. As if more is the answer. I thought I needed to hone those — which I did. But it turns out I misled myself.
Not only do I need to learn how to give feedback, but I’ve got to learn from feedback that’s poorly delivered and off-base. Feedback is necessary, though it can be some of the most painful experiences. Instead of sidelining those times, could it be best to understand the pain to get to the learning that much faster?
Getting back to binary feedback. It’s not simply good or bad. I’ve been trying to solve for the wrong question.
There’s Appreciation, Coaching, and Evaluation — I’d been focusing on evaluation (tell me where I stand: whether good or bad). But I’d forgot about appreciating others, not to mention coaching. Both critical and necessary functions of feedback.
I was challenged with regard to feedback: become better at receiving it, and then I will earn the privilege of being heard. Start with two questions:
“What’s one thing in particular that I run this team or a meeting really well?”
“What’s one thing you see me doing — or failing to do — that’s getting in the way?”
To avoid only focusing on the negative and remembering I do some good, keep the first question. No need to completely eradicate everything I do if there is something good to be retained — rather than purged. But it’s all to grow to be a better leader. Modeling feedback.
I had the awesome pleasure of attending a conference where Brené Brown spoke (she’s a wonderful speaker, I first watched her on a TED talk).
Speaking of shame, there’s almost a shame about talking about shame — as if anyone who acknowledges it will then be shamed as weak. Ironic?
She is open and honest about shame, vulnerability, and openness. For me, without admitting and being honest, I know I make my own life so difficult — just ask my wife.
Here’s an example: when we’re unsure of something, our mind automatically begin filling in details. I’m telling myself a story — whether true or false — to fill in the gaps. Sometimes shameful details. That’s when we need to hear from the other person: “here’s the story I’m telling myself. I need to hear from you.”
How many times someone wasn’t talking to me and I felt like they were ignoring me for some past event or action. Do I really have the guts or courage to say, “here’s the story I’m telling myself. I’m afraid you’re not talking to me because of…I need to hear from you to tell me what the truth is.” Otherwise, my brain is hardwired to make up a story on what went down.
That’s shame. That shame can be deep-rooted under decades of activities, statements, and actions. Moving forward — going past the point of no return — is where leaders are defined, refined, and found.
After getting rocked, can I really:
Reckon with my emotions? Am I okay with discomfort? Do I have real emotional awareness to work through this?
Can I rumble with emotion? Can I be brave about talking about this discomfort? Rumbling with truth and others is difficult — but necessary, growing, and beautifully metamorphic.
Creating a revolution. My worthiness lives inside the stories I tell myself…Courage is uncomfortable, which is why it’s rare.
The bravest among us will be the most brokenhearted. The creative and innovative ones will always know failure. The physics of vulnerability is straightforward: if I am brave, then I will fail.