This is a great summary video of a book that had a great impact on me back when I was 23 years old. I was working for Accenture (in those days, Andersen Consulting) and the organisation shared this book with all employees. There’s a photo there of me there on the right with my leather bound edition of the book.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the most influential books in self-development.
A good gardener creates the conditions for growth of a garden, but cannot force the flowers to grow in an exact way. The good gardener creates the conditions and accepts what arises.
The bad gardener fights what arises. The bad gardener hacks and chops and fights against the natural growth of nature.
The good gardener changes the conditions and different plant shapes and varieties arise.
In each case the attitude of the gardener is “Interesting! I wouldn’t have expected that.” Creative indifference as a gardener is a deep curiosity, and an openness to delight in the million and one ways that nature can arise.
Good Teaching as Good Gardening
I want to teach more as a gardener than as a sculptor.
Up to now I often find that I am trying to remake a participant into my image of what she could be – I am metaphorically hacking off bits of stone and adding bits of paint.
A good gardener allows the plant to grow in its own unique way. Nature is difference. Nature is no straight lines, no leaf exactly like any other leaf, no flower exactly like any other flower.
I want to focus more on creating the conditions for growth in the classroom, during the breaks, during the lunches… that would allow the participants to grow in their own individual way – and have less fixed ideas about how each individual will use those conditions. I want to be willing to allow the person to become who he is to become, rather than my ideal of what he could be.
“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart”? Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince.
Will shares his experience of failure:
“After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”
Will says that in his house they have this quote up on the wall:
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Pema Chödrön
Will summarises the meaning of these words for his family:
“We call it leaning into the sharp parts. Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There’s a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life.”
I recently posted about the 4 paths of our working lives – and one path is Quit and Stayed. These category of people are those who have emotionally given up on their jobs, but they still keep sending their body in to sit at the desk and collect a salary.
Ridgely shared statistics on the impact of disengaged employees on a company.
An indifferent employee costs you $2,246 per year according to Gallup. An actively disengaged employee costs you more than $25,000.
33% of American employees change jobs every year. 90% leave jobs for reasons to do with “attitude“, not skills.
Recruiting expert Brad Smart (author of Topgrading) shares evidence that 1 bad hire costs a company 5 times their salary (and 10-15 times for senior hires)
Apart from the financial cost, there is a painful emotional cost for all those who must work in close proximity to this disengaged individual – they suck your passion. I know that the best way to increase team performance is to remove the disengaged team members.
According to the AONHewitt definition, engaged employees want to:
Stay (intent to stay with the organisation)
Say (speak highly of the organisation to others) and
Strive (make an discretionary effort to deliver results)
Ridgely shared that engaged employees deliver:
37% less absenteeism and turnover
48% fewer safety accidents
41% fewer safety defects
21% higher productivity
22% higher profitability
How do we Achieve a Culture of Engagement?
Ridgely explained that people are different and seek to express themselves in different ways. If we try to be everything for everybody, we end up frustrated and wasting our time.
Do you understand the different personalities of the people that you work with? I have done so many psychological tests that I assume that everyone knows these tools (I studied psychology at university…). When I was 14, my father brought home a Myers-Briggs test and did it on all of the family.
What about you? What are you? What types do you get frustrated by?
The Why types
Ridgely worked through a short coaching process where each participant was able to identify their primary “why” from a list of 9 “Whys”. The 9 whys are:
By the way, I came out as a 7 – Master. My “why” is to seek mastery and understanding above all else.
Infographic: Employee Engagement
One of the challenges of important life lessons is that we need to be reminded every day. Now that I have just written a blog post about how people are different, I am primed to not over-react when I meet someone who is a “5 – Right Way” and has a constant focus on what the precedent is, what is proven, what is low risk… all perspectives that I find tiring. However, tomorrow I will forget and will overreact again.
What can company leaders do to create a culture where we actively seek to empathise with each person’s primary purpose?
I found an infographic that describes the problem of employee disengagement and 6 things that CEOs can do to create engaged employees. Click on the infographic to get a large version. (Personally, I think that the yellow colour scheme is a bit aggressive):
Inspire employees through purpose
Align employees behind your strategy
Develop line managers
Be Fair (in process, in resource distribution, in relationships)
First, you may ask, what is “Strategic Unavailability” anyway?
What is Strategic Unavailability?
If you say “yes” to every request for your time, money or attention you will have none for the areas that are your own personal priority. If you want to achieve success, you must retain most of your resources and dedicate them to one to three areas of your choosing. Thus, you must learn to say “No”.
Saying “No” is hard. It also has several negative consequences in polite society.
Far better than the use of the word “No” is the use of a series of tactics that come under the general concept “Strategic Unavailability”.
At the very simplest, the idea is to avoid being there when someone might make a request that will take away your time, money or attention. The key is to retain “plausible deniability” during your use of the tactic. Some tactics require greater acting capacity than others. Beginners would be best avoiding these high acting requirement tactics.
The aim is to keep time for the important 1, 2 or 3 priorities that you have decided for yourself in your profession. It is a total waste if you use the freed-up time to watch CSI Las Vegas or re-runs of Downton Abbey.
Some simple ideas for achieving “strategic unavailability”
Go to the toilet when you know someone is approaching your desk
Work from coffee shops, other people’s offices or meeting rooms during dangerous periods
Return phone calls when you can see that the person is away from their desk (go to voicemail)
Return phone calls after work hours
Delay email responses until tomorrow morning (you can write them today, but don’t let them leave your outbox until tomorrow morning)
Receive an important phone call just as a meeting is reaching the moment where actions will be assigned to people (either phone a friend style, or develop your acting abilities)
Use an old iPhone that regularly runs out of battery (this is a highly plausible tactic, mine is down to about 2 hours of battery)
Always ensure that you are involved in at least 3 projects, and demonstrate massive productivity in the first week of exposure to any new manager or colleague.
“Forget” to switch off the direct to voicemail setting on your phone
Tell your colleagues/team that you have an open-door for them – but that you request that they batch their problems into groups of 10… they can’t interrupt you unless they have accumulated 10 specific issues that they cannot address without your input (usually #1 gets resolved before they get to #5…)
Regularly ask “what could you do to move this forward that does not require anybody’s approval?”
Work with headphones in (whether you are listening to music or not, this also works on airplanes when your neighbour aims to talk for 14 hours)
Keep a charity box on your desk and ask for donations whenever anybody approaches (if you have kids, then ask visitors to your desk to sponsor your kid in a race or something). Bonus edition is to have stickers so that when one person donates, you give them a sticker and then they let others know to avoid your desk unless you wish to donate.
Cultivate a freakish interest in Star Wars, or World Wrestling Foundation, or ancient Greek philosophy, or NLP, or furniture upholstery and engage all visitors in a deep discussion about the merits of your hobby. Freaky hobbies with a plausible connection to your work are ideal.
When asked if you are available to meet, say “yes, I am free this Friday at 6:00am” – puts off all but the most keen time thieves. You will very rarely have to do it.
Bring a regional speciality food to work – I recommend any Icelanders to use “rotting shark meat in vinegar” – and request that anyone who comes to your desk try it.
Have a large audio recorder device and make a big show of switching it on when anyone comes to interrupt you – tell them that you are on a personal efficiency drive and are making a detailed study of all your interactions and all requests
Cultivate a mysterious illness with unclear symptoms
Remove all other chairs from your office (this made a massive improvement on my meeting time when I was running an airline); another variant is really uncomfortable chairs (especially very low seats)
Eat a rich curry or garlic dish for lunch in your office
Keep saying “that would make a great tweet!” and write down some banal saying from the other person
Advanced Strategic Unavailability
I need your help. What else works for you?
PS You better be very good at establishing a great reputation before you engage seriously in these tactics. If you are not viewed as a strong performer, if you are not delivering measurable results and if you are not gaining good exposure to senior influencers – fix that first (check out The PIE Model). These tactics only work if you are perceived as an “A” player…
I know plenty of financial advisors who would love to spend a few hours reviewing my investments, cash position, investment goals and helping me make a realistic plan.
I know how much I spent on food, travel, housing, school in the last month, year and if I did the sums I could calculate a rough lifetime spend.
You can always earn more money.
Organisations spend small fortunes developing capital expenditure budgets and operational budgets and auditing the cash of the business.
My time, in contrast, goes un-managed. Most organisations have no systematic procedure to eliminate time wasters. They place clear objectives for the use of every dollar, but no barriers on the expenditure of another hour.
My first girlfriend used to tell me that time is like money but with one major difference – at the end of every day, everything you have left unspent is taken away from you. Imagine if you started every day with €240 and you knew that at midnight, any left unspent will be taken away.
Imagine Managing Time Like Companies Budget Capital
Imagine if every month, instead of receiving a bank statement, I received a time-statement: a detailed breakdown of where my hours have been put, how many were invested and how many just dripped through the cracks.
Would it change how I spend my time? Would it reduce facebook and increase playing with my daughter? Would it reduce email and increase face-to-face meetings? How would the measurement change me?
This post was originally published on Alternet and it is written by coaching guru Cloe Madanes.
The 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People
Most of us claim we want to be happy—to have meaningful lives, enjoy ourselves, experience fulfillment, and share love and friendship with other people and maybe other species, like dogs, cats, birds, and whatnot. Strangely enough, however, some people act as if they just want to be miserable, and they succeed remarkably at inviting misery into their lives, even though they get little apparent benefit from it, since being miserable doesn’t help them find lovers and friends, get better jobs, make more money, or go on more interesting vacations. Why do they do this? After perusing the output of some of the finest brains in the therapy profession, I’ve come to the conclusion that misery is an art form, and the satisfaction people seem to find in it reflects the creative effort required to cultivate it. In other words, when your living conditions are stable, peaceful, and prosperous—no civil wars raging in your streets, no mass hunger, no epidemic disease, no vexation from poverty—making yourself miserable is a craft all its own, requiring imagination, vision, and ingenuity. It can even give life a distinctive meaning.
So if you aspire to make yourself miserable, what are the best, most proven techniques for doing it? Let’s exclude some obvious ways, like doing drugs, committing crimes, gambling, and beating up your spouse or neighbor. Subtler strategies, ones that won’t lead anyone to suspect that you’re acting deliberately, can be highly effective. But you need to pretend that you want to be happy, like everybody else, or people won’t take your misery seriously. The real art is to behave in ways that’ll bring on misery while allowing you to claim that you’re an innocent victim, ideally of the very people from whom you’re forcibly extracting compassion and pity.
Here, I cover most areas of life, such as family, work, friends, and romantic partners. These areas will overlap nicely, since you can’t ruin your life without ruining your marriage and maybe your relationships with your children and friends. It’s inevitable that as you make yourself miserable, you’ll be making those around you miserable also, at least until they leave you—which will give you another reason to feel miserable. So it’s important to keep in mind the benefits you’re accruing in your misery.
When you’re miserable, people feel sorry for you. Not only that, they often feel obscurely guilty, as if your misery might somehow be their fault. This is good! There’s power in making other people feel guilty. The people who love you and those who depend on you will walk on eggshells to make sure that they don’t say or do anything that will increase your misery.
When you’re miserable, since you have no hopes and expect nothing good to happen, you can’t be disappointed or disillusioned.
Being miserable can give the impression that you’re a wise and worldly person, especially if you’re miserable not just about your life, but about society in general. You can project an aura of someone burdened by a form of profound, tragic, existential knowledge that happy, shallow people can’t possibly appreciate.
Honing Your Misery Skills
Let’s get right to it and take a look at some effective strategies to become miserable. This list is by no means exhaustive, but engaging in four or five of these practices will help refine your talent.
1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. In hard economic times, many people are afraid of losing their jobs or savings. The art of messing up your life consists of indulging these fears, even when there’s little risk that you’ll actually suffer such losses. Concentrate on this fear, make it a priority in your life, moan continuously that you could go broke any day now, and complain about how much everything costs, particularly if someone else is buying. Try to initiate quarrels about other people’s feckless, spendthrift ways, and suggest that the recession has resulted from irresponsible fiscal behavior like theirs.
Fearing economic loss has several advantages. First, it’ll keep you working forever at a job you hate. Second, it balances nicely with greed, an obsession with money, and a selfishness that even Ebenezer Scrooge would envy. Third, not only will you alienate your friends and family, but you’ll likely become even more anxious, depressed, and possibly even ill from your money worries. Good job!
Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and, for 15 minutes, meditate on all the things you could lose: your job, your house, your savings, and so forth. Then brood about living in a homeless shelter.
2. Practice sustained boredom. Cultivate the feeling that everything is predictable, that life holds no excitement, no possibility for adventure, that an inherently fascinating person like yourself has been deposited into a completely tedious and pointless life through no fault of your own. Complain a lot about how bored you are. Make it the main subject of conversation with everyone you know so they’ll get the distinct feeling that you think they’re boring. Consider provoking a crisis to relieve your boredom. Have an affair (this works best if you’re already married and even better if you have an affair with someone else who’s married); go on repeated shopping sprees for clothes, cars, fancy appliances, sporting equipment (take several credit cards, in case one maxes out); start pointless fights with your spouse, boss, children, friends, neighbors; have another child; quit your job, clean out your savings account, and move to a state you know nothing about.
A side benefit of being bored is that you inevitably become boring. Friends and relatives will avoid you. You won’t be invited anywhere; nobody will want to call you, much less actually see you. As this happens, you’ll feel lonely and even more bored and miserable.
Exercise: Force yourself to watch hours of mindless reality TV programs every day, and read only nonstimulating tabloids that leave you feeling soulless. Avoid literature, art, and keeping up with current affairs.
3. Give yourself a negative identity. Allow a perceived emotional problem to absorb all other aspects of your self-identification. If you feel depressed, become a Depressed Person; if you suffer from social anxiety or a phobia, assume the identity of a Phobic Person or a Person with Anxiety Disorder. Make your condition the focus of your life. Talk about it to everybody, and make sure to read up on the symptoms so you can speak about them knowledgeably and endlessly. Practice the behaviors most associated with that condition, particularly when it’ll interfere with regular activities and relationships. Focus on how depressed you are and become weepy, if that’s your identity of choice. Refuse to go places or try new things because they make you too anxious. Work yourself into panic attacks in places it’ll cause the most commotion. It’s important to show that you don’t enjoy these states or behaviors, but that there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.
Practice putting yourself in the physiological state that represents your negative identity. For example, if your negative identity is Depressed Person, hunch your shoulders, look at the floor, breathe shallowly. It’s important to condition your body to help you reach your negative peak as quickly as possible.
Exercise: Write down 10 situations that make you anxious, depressed, or distracted. Once a week, pick a single anxiety-provoking situation, and use it to work yourself into a panic for at least 15 minutes.
Cloe Madanes has teamed up with Tony Robbins to launch a coaching certification program. They have released a new series of eye-opening educational videos that will show you how to create profound changes in yourself and others – within a short conversation.
I encourage you to sign up for this training series (affiliate link) – you’re going to be inspired by what is possible. Tony has been an inspiration for me for over 20 years and I love how practical and direct he is in his trainings. His focus is on making a real difference in people’s lives.
4. Pick fights. This is an excellent way of ruining a relationship with a romantic partner. Once in a while, unpredictably, pick a fight or have a crying spell over something trivial and make unwarranted accusations. The interaction should last for at least 15 minutes and ideally occur in public. During the tantrum, expect your partner to be kind and sympathetic, but should he or she mention it later, insist that you never did such a thing and that he or she must have misunderstood what you were trying to say. Act injured and hurt that your partner somehow implied you weren’t behaving well.
Another way of doing this is to say unexpectedly, “We need to talk,” and then to barrage your partner with statements about how disappointed you are with the relationship. Make sure to begin this barrage just as your partner is about to leave for some engagement or activity, and refuse to end it for at least an hour. Another variation is to text or phone your partner at work to express your issues and disappointments. Do the same if your partner is out with friends.
Exercise: Write down 20 annoying text messages you could send to a romantic partner. Keep a grudge list going, and add to it daily.
5. Attribute bad intentions. Whenever you can, attribute the worst possible intentions to your partner, friends, and coworkers. Take any innocent remark and turn it into an insult or attempt to humiliate you. For example, if someone asks, “How did you like such and such movie?” you should immediately think, He’s trying to humiliate me by proving that I didn’t understand the movie, or He’s preparing to tell me that I have poor taste in movies. The idea is to always expect the worst from people. If someone is late to meet you for dinner, while you wait for them, remind yourself of all the other times the person was late, and tell yourself that he or she is doing this deliberately to slight you. Make sure that by the time the person arrives, you’re either seething or so despondent that the evening is ruined. If the person asks what’s wrong, don’t say a word: let him or her suffer.
Exercise: List the names of five relatives or friends. For each, write down something they did or said in the recent past that proves they’re as invested in adding to your misery as you are.
6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Sometimes you’ll be tempted to help someone, contribute to a charity, or participate in a community activity. Don’t do it, unless there’s something in it for you, like the opportunity to seem like a good person or to get to know somebody you can borrow money from some day. Never fall into the trap of doing something purely because you want to help people. Remember that your primary goal is to take care of Numero Uno, even though you hate yourself.
Exercise: Think of all the things you’ve done for others in the past that haven’t been reciprocated. Think about how everyone around you is trying to take from you. Now list three things you could do that would make you appear altruistic while bringing you personal, social, or professional gain.
7. Avoid gratitude. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier than those who don’t, so never express gratitude. Counting your blessings is for idiots. What blessings? Life is suffering, and then you die. What’s there to be thankful for?
Well-meaning friends and relatives will try to sabotage your efforts to be thankless. For example, while you’re in the middle of complaining about the project you procrastinated on at work to your spouse during an unhealthy dinner, he or she might try to remind you of how grateful you should be to have a job or food at all. Such attempts to encourage gratitude and cheerfulness are common and easily deflected. Simply point out that the things you should be grateful for aren’t perfect—which frees you to find as much fault with them as you like.
Exercise: Make a list of all the things you could be grateful for. Next to each item, write down why you aren’t. Imagine the worst. When you think of the future, imagine the worst possible scenario. It’s important to be prepared for and preemptively miserable about any possible disaster or tragedy. Think of the possibilities: terrorist attacks, natural disasters, fatal disease, horrible accidents, massive crop failures, your child not getting picked for the varsity softball team.
8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. Optimism about the future leads only to disappointment. Therefore, you have to do your best to believe that your marriage will flounder, your children won’t love you, your business will fail, and nothing good will ever work out for you.
Exercise: Do some research on what natural or manmade disasters could occur in your area, such as earthquakes, floods, nuclear plant leaks, rabies outbreaks. Focus on these things for at least an hour a day.
9. Blame your parents. Blaming your parents for your defects, shortcomings, and failures is among the most important steps you can take. After all, your parents made you who you are today; you had nothing to do with it. If you happen to have any good qualities or successes, don’t give your parents credit. Those are flukes.
Extend the blame to other people from your past: the second-grade teacher who yelled at you in the cafeteria, the boy who bullied you when you were 9, the college professor who gave you a D on your paper, your first boyfriend, even the hick town you grew up in—the possibilities are limitless. Blame is essential in the art of being miserable.
Exercise: Call one of your parents and tell her or him that you just remembered something horrible they did when you were a child, and make sure he or she understands how terrible it made you feel and that you’re still suffering from it.
10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Taking pleasure in things like food, wine, music, and beauty is for flighty, shallow people. Tell yourself that. If you inadvertently find yourself enjoying some flavor, song, or work of art, remind yourself immediately that these are transitory pleasures, which can’t compensate for the miserable state of the world. The same applies to nature. If you accidentally find yourself enjoying a beautiful view, a walk on the beach, or a stroll through a forest, stop! Remind yourself that the world is full of poverty, illness, and devastation. The beauty of nature is a deception.
Exercise: Once a week, engage in an activity that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but do so while thinking about how pointless it is. In other words, concentrate on removing all sense of pleasure from the pleasurable activity.
11. Ruminate. Spend a great deal of time focused on yourself. Worry constantly about the causes of your behavior, analyze your defects, and chew on your problems. This will help you foster a pessimistic view of your life. Don’t allow yourself to become distracted by any positive experience or influence. The point is to ensure that even minor upsets and difficulties appear huge and portentous.
You can ruminate on the problems of others or the world, but make them about you. Your child is sick? Ruminate on what a burden it is for you to take time off from work to care for her. Your spouse is hurt by your behavior? Focus on how terrible it makes you feel when he points out how you make him feel. By ruminating not only on your own problems but also those of others, you’ll come across as a deep, sensitive thinker who holds the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Exercise: Sit in a comfortable chair and seek out negative feelings, like anger, depression, anxiety, boredom, whatever. Concentrate on these feelings for 15 minutes. During the rest of the day, keep them in the back of your mind, no matter what you’re doing.
12. Glorify or vilify the past. Glorifying the past is telling yourself how good, happy, fortunate, and worthwhile life was when you were a child, a young person, or a newly married person—and regretting how it’s all been downhill ever since. When you were young, for example, you were glamorous and danced the samba with handsome men on the beach at twilight; and now you’re in a so-so marriage to an insurance adjuster in Topeka. You should’ve married tall, dark Antonio. You should’ve invested in Microsoft when you had the chance. In short, focus on what you could’ve and should’ve done, instead of what you did. This will surely make you miserable.
Vilifying the past is easy, too. You were born in the wrong place at the wrong time, you never got what you needed, you felt you were discriminated against, you never got to go to summer camp. How can you possibly be happy when you had such a lousy background? It’s important to think that bad memories, serious mistakes, and traumatic events were much more influential in forming you and your future than good memories, successes, and happy events. Focus on bad times. Obsess about them. Treasure them. This will ensure that, no matter what’s happening in the present, you won’t be happy.
Exercise: Make a list of your most important bad memories and keep it where you can review it frequently. Once a week, tell someone about your horrible childhood or how much better your life was 20 years ago.
13. Find a romantic partner to reform. Make sure that you fall in love with someone with a major defect (cat hoarder, gambler, alcoholic, womanizer, sociopath), and set out to reform him or her, regardless of whether he or she wants to be reformed. Believe firmly that you can reform this person, and ignore all evidence to the contrary.
Exercise: Go to online dating sites and see how many bad choices you can find in one afternoon. Make efforts to meet these people. It’s good if the dating site charges a lot of money, since this means you’ll be emotionally starved and poor.
14. Be critical. Make sure to have an endless list of dislikes and voice them often, whether or not your opinion is solicited. For example, don’t hesitate to say, “That’s what you chose to wear this morning?” or “Why is your voice so shrill?” If someone is eating eggs, tell them you don’t like eggs. Your negativity can be applied to almost anything.
It helps if the things you criticize are well liked by most people so that your dislike of them sets you apart. Disliking traffic and mosquitos isn’t creative enough: everyone knows what it’s like to find these things annoying, and they won’t pay much attention if you find them annoying, too. But disliking the new movie that all your friends are praising? You’ll find plenty of opportunities to counter your friends’ glowing reviews with your contrarian opinion.
Exercise: Make a list of 20 things you dislike and see how many times you can insert them into a conversation over the course of the day. For best results, dislike things you’ve never given yourself a chance to like.
I’ve just listed 14 ways to make yourself miserable. You don’t have to nail every one of them, but even if you succeed with just four or five, make sure to berate yourself regularly for not enacting the entire list. If you find yourself in a therapist’s office—because someone who’s still clinging to their love for you has tricked you into going—make sure your misery seems organic. If the therapist enlightens you in any way or teaches you mind-body techniques to quiet your anxious mind, make sure to co-opt the conversation and talk about your misery-filled dreams from the night before. If the therapist is skilled in dream analysis, quickly start complaining about the cost of therapy itself. If the therapist uses your complaints as a launching pad to discuss transference issues, accuse him or her of having countertransference issues. Ultimately, the therapist is your enemy when trying to cultivate misery in your life. So get out as soon as possible. And if you happen upon a therapist who’ll sit quietly while you bring all 14 items on this list to life each week, call me. I’ll want to make an appointment, too.
I am sharing a new book and a short video by a friend of mine, Bill Treasurer. The book is called “Leaders Open Doors” and is a short, simple answer to the question: what do great leaders do for those around them?
I first met Bill over 20 years ago on an Accenture (then Andersen Consulting) training program in Chicago. We were put on the same team and enjoyed the fun and challenges of 2 weeks of intense, sleep deprived, project work.
Since then, Bill has become a well known speaker and author. Bill is the author of Courage Goes to Work, an internationally bestselling book on courage building. Bill is also a former member of the U.S. High Diving Team, a cancer survivor, and a champion for the rights of people with disabilities. Bill currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife and three children.
Leaders Open Doors
Transcript of Bill’s talk
But the reality is we’ve inflated this idea of leadership too much and after twenty years I had a conversation with a very wise person that brought me back to the essence of what leadership is really all about I had a conversation with my five-year-old son.
Now Ian, at the time, was a five year old at the preschool the Montessori School and Asheville North Carolina where I live. I came home and my wife said “hey honey Ian got to be the class leader today!”
“A class leader!” My son.
I’m the guy who goes around teaching leadership and my son got to be the class leader.
“Son give me a high five! What’s it like to be a leader? What did you get to do as a class leader Iain?”
He looked at me and with 7 words he cut through to what matters most about leadership. He looked at me and said: “I got to open doors for people”
I get to open doors for people.
I thought about it for a couple of days… I kept thinking about that concept: leaders opening doors. I thought about the leaders who had made a difference in my life; and there are always people that have taken an interest in me and nudged me into discomfort; sometimes to help me be accountable to my own potential… they believed in me until I start to believe in myself.
I can live up to, and into, my potential. Leaders to open doors… and I thought about that concept and it turned into a book. “Open-door Leadership” is about serving people and organisations by creating opportunities for them to grow and develop.
What if leadership was that simple? What if that’s the central idea? Leadership is serving others. Leadership is not about the leader, it is about those being led. What are you going to do in the service for them?
Everyone wants to be Bruce Lee, but few want to put in the 10,000 (or more) hours of practice and preparation. It is only when the bar is held high that we can consistently put in the practice and push our skills to the highest levels.
What makes for an ‘A’ Player?
The simplest possible definition is “somebody you would enthusiastically re-hire”. Imagine you got to re-hire your team each morning. Who would be the first people chosen? These are your “A players”.
What attracts “A” Players? Two things – other “A” Players and a meaningful challenge.
How do you create a culture of “A” Players? There is only one path: Zero tolerance of mediocrity. At the end of this post I describe this leadership attitude.
Positive Attitude – Resilient; life gives us all blows… some keep moving, some get knocked down. A players keep moving.
Adaptable – Open to Change, Flexible; what was right yesterday may be wrong today, what worked well yesterday may be ineffective today.
Reliable – write things down, get things done, relentless follow through, do what needs to be done
Big Picture – they know where they and their team are going, they have a personal sense of why they are doing the work that they are doing; building skills not just for today, but for where they want to be tomorrow.
Connected and Influential – Plays well with others, listens actively, open to being influenced and capable of shaping the perspectives and attitudes of others.
Always Learning – reading books, attending seminars, open to culture
How to run your talent program like FC Barcelona
At a conference at IESE Business School in 2011, Geoff Smart spoke to the audience about how to source, select and attract top talent to your organization. He asked “has anyone ever hired someone who looked great on paper, only to find out weeks or months later that it was a terrible decision?” Many hands were raised in the air.
Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, says that the very first step of leaders who create massive success in their businesses is “get the right people on the bus”… and the corollary… get the wrong people off the bus.
There are 4 parts to hiring well.
Know clearly what you want the person to achieve. Go beyond vague descriptions of skills. eg. “Analytical Thought Process” develop further to “Distinguishes key facts from secondary factors; can follow a progressive thought process from idea to idea; makes sound observations.”
Go to where the best people are. Where are the best people? They are not looking at job adverts. They are not spending their weekend reading job websites. They are passionate about their current role. It is unlikely that those who are actively searching through non-personal channels are top performers. The top performers are still doing well in their current jobs. How to find the best people? There is only one way: Network. If you want talent: ask who the best people are, get to industry events, meet people at conferences. Watch people in action, know them through their activity, read their books, their tweets, their Quora profiles, their blogs.
Selecting the A players: focus on the past, not the future. Don’t ever ask “how would you solve the problem?”. Ask “tell me about a time when you solved a similar problem?” Everyone can tell you a great story about what they would do. The top performers are not smarter, don’t have better to-do list systems, better technology. The differentiator is that they have found the way to overcome procrastination. They actually do the things that they say they will do. Give them a present problem and ask them to solve it. See their creative thinking, not necessarily the solution. Look for performance, don’t ask for opinions.
Selling the opportunity, building the culture. Selling the opportunity to an A player does not mean “be their friend”; it means sell them on the personal growth, the professional growth the opportunity to impact the world on a massive scale. This is what great people want. Not more friends. They want to be pushed and demanded and be allowed to change the world for the better. Jonathan Davis says that culture is hard to build and easy to destroy. Jonathan turned down a hiring contract recently with a big company. He told the CEO “You cannot be client of ours. I’ll tell you why. Your VP of sales is a !@#$%^!. He won’t waste an opportunity to tell you how awesome he is. We can help you recruit a great employee, but he will leave.” It is the culture that you build that will really attract and keep the top talent. If you create a great culture, you don’t need to pay employees to bring people in… they will bring their ambitious, high performing friends in. The online shoe retailer Zappos pay $2000 for people to leave.
Finding, Recruiting and Retaining Talent is Hard Work
How do you do this without any effort? You don’t. Good talent doesn’t just happen because you are showing up. One of the hardest things in business life is removing a loyal but mediocre performer from your team. There may be bonds of friendship, there may be many good shared experiences in the past, feelings of connection. However, the continued presence of mediocrity in your team is a cancer that will eat away at your ability to achieve important goals. One way to reduce the pain of having to let go of mediocre performers is to get very good at only hiring star performers into your team.
Leadership sometimes means Letting People Go
My father once told me that the greatest service you can do for an unhappy, under performing employee is to let them go – it frees them to search and find a place where they can contribute and find greater meaning. They won’t thank you in the moment, but this is the service of a leader – it is not about giving – it is about serving; it is not about the easy answers, it is about the right answers.
Highly Demanding, with Love
How would you get Leo Messi to play for your football team? It would help if you had 3 of the top 5 footballers in the world already on the team. How do you attract the top talent to your team? Build a culture of high performance around you.
This starts with a zero tolerance of mediocrity.
A participant on my course last year began his speech “I have often wondered whether it is better as a parent to be permissive or authoritarian. Which is better? At a conference a few years ago, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the world guru’s on child development. I went up to him after his talk. I congratulated him. I asked him the question: ‘is it better for a parent to be permissive or authoritarian?’
The guru smiled and said ‘highly demanding with love’.”
It is the same as a leader – can you be highly demanding, with love. Expect the best from those around you and they rise to the challenge. Accept the worst, and they will coast in comfort.
The equation for human performance is the following:
Performance = Potential – Self-Sabotage
That is it. You achieve not what your boss lets you, not what the others let you… you achieve what you don’t screw up for yourself.
In the years since I first wrote this equation up in a class and people said “No… it can’t be that” I have become more and more convinced that the greatest devil in our own lives is the 4 Arts of Self Sabotage.
The 4 Arts of Self-Sabotage
Distraction: Lack of Focus
Fixed mindset: “I have what I have now because of who I am, not how hard I have worked”
Arrogance: sometimes seen as Denial, sometimes as Nostalgia, sometimes as Victim, sometimes as Sole Hero
Inability to Handle Anxiety (or anger, or rage, or fear)
Success in life, whether sporting success, writing success or financial success has more to do with overcoming these 4 arts of self-sabotage than any level of original brilliance or one-time shots of luck.
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