A Caring Mindset

Straightforwardness, thoughtfulness, accountability, and resolve.

…the elements of a caring mindset. Do you think this would help you professionally and why?

 

Thanks Jeff for the recommendation

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Pick One String

Flossing just one tooth (getting started, doing it regularly) isn’t the only thing we need to do to change a habit, but it comes first. Make no mistake, leadership and coaching is a skill and a habit that can be learned. 

To learn a new skill or habit, we need deliberately practice. For example, I like the song “Jamaica Farewell” (the Belafonte version, my mother used to have the LP and a lazy smile every time she played it.) When I wanted to learn to play guitar that’s the song I chose.

If “Jamaica Farewell” was the only song I every practised on my guitar I would only every learn three chords, and it would get boring really fast. I would be able to play a kick-ass version of that song, but it has its limits. To get better, have fun, and master the guitar I should and do challenge myself with progressively more difficult material over time.

Consistency and intentional practice – that’s how you get better. Even as a leader.

What are you going to practise today?

On [crude] Jokes and Decades of Shame

Ever wonder why there aren’t more women in technology? I’ll just leave this here for you to read: “On Cock-Sucking Jokes and Decades of Shame“.

Please follow the Wheaton Rule if you feel the need to comment.

Floss One Tooth

I was listening to Tim Ferris one day talking about productivity and setting small goals. He was talking about how writing a book is a grind for him, and he set the small goal of writing “two crappy pages” a day. Some days he would only write the two pages, but very often, after getting started, he would blow past that least acceptable very low bar and write many (presumably good) pages.

He mentioned in passing it was like just flossing one tooth a day.

Huh?

This caught my attention because despise flossing. I know I should. And I know of some weirdos who actually enjoy brushing and flossing their teeth. For me, there are other things I’d rather be doing for two minutes twice a day.

But as an adult I am more than mature and capable of managing my own dental hygiene. I am, honest! But it’s a struggle. It got to the point where my dental hygienist had left a note in my file about how I was sensitive to the issue. I learned this when a new hygienist asked me about the note.

“Good morning, Mr. May. I`ll be cleaning your teeth today. I see here you don’t like flossing your teeth and you don’t want to talk about it.”

[Internal Dialog: “I’m fine, thanks for asking. Or at least I was until you shared that with me. Please don’t show my how to floss my teeth for the 1000th time. I’m a god-dammed grow-up. I know how to floss my teeth. No, I don’t need one of those little plastic helpers. I’m a grown-up, really!”]

I thought I’d test Mr. Ferris’ “floss one tooth” rule, and that’s what I started doing.  Every morning, after I brushed my teeth and before I got in the shower. I would floss at least one tooth. If nothing else, it was enough time to let the shower warm up. And honestly, most mornings, I did only floss one tooth. The bottom front one, specifically.

Lo and behold, the next time I visited my hygienist, she complemented me on how well I was flossing my teeth. This surprised me. I had passive-aggressively done as bad a job as I could get away with, rarely flossing my whole mouth and mostly just sticking to that one tooth at the bottom front. Apparently attempting a minimal effort every day is better than not making any effort at all. This pleased me, and have now expanded my tooth flossing program to two teeth a day. I’m hoping for even better results on my next visit!

If we’re trying to get better at something, like being a better leader, it seems that getting started and doing even the smallest thing consistently, is better better than not.

What It Takes to Be a Great Leader

Three things, apparently. Thoughts?

 

Mistakes to Avoid: 5. Play Not to Lose

There is a difference between playing to win, and playing not to lose.

If you’re playing not to lose, you work hard to avoid making mistakes. You will also be less likely to admit mistakes (even to yourself), won’t ask for help or apologize for mistakes (because it makes you look weak), or try new things (it’s a risk).

If you’re playing to win, you’re more like to try new things (in small experiments), drop what doesn’t work (change tactics but stay focused on the goal), learn from your mistakes (even if it’s “Let’s never do that again.”), evolve and move on.

It’s about having the courage to set the example, not the cowardice of being perfect. It’s about modelling the behaviour you want from your team. Think about how you want them to behave, and think about how you creating the environment and example to make that happen.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.

The First Follower

“The first follower is an underappreciated form of leadership . . . that transforms a lone nut into a leader”

Mistakes to Avoid: 4. Ignore Your Commitments

Ever work on a team or in a partnership where the trust has been lost? Or there was never any trust to begin with? Yea, that. Not fun for anybody involved.

There are many ways to build trust – showing vulnerability, asking for help, including people, admitting mistakes – but the fastest way to lose it is to not keep your word. Not just about the big things, about all things.

Be very clear about what you can and cannot commit to, and once you’ve made a commitment, make every effort to live up to it. If you can’t, you make sure you are explicitly absolved from that commitment (not ignore it and hope it goes away), have an alternative to offer, or otherwise authentically show you’ve made your best effort.

Likewise, expect the same standard from the people you work with. Leaders who “go easy” on their people are respected less. Leaders who have high standards and push their team to do their best are respected more. You just have to have the courage to hold yourself to that same standard.

It’s called “setting the example”, aka “leadership”.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.

Getting Things Done is Easy, Building a Culture is Effective

Many leaders I work with are frustrated that the people in their organization aren’t being accountable, responsible, have an “ownership mentality”, aren’t entrepreneurial enough. And then, sometimes, they create processes and rules to try to cover every contingency to set clear expectations, which leads to more frustration.

My first Sergeant once told me if you lock an infantryman in a room with a cannon-ball he’ll either break it, eat it, or lose it. Which seems ridiculous until you’ve tried to make any non-trivial system “idiot-proof”.

Maybe focus on building an effective culture instead?

Mistakes to Avoid: 3. Face the Difficult Conversations

Where I work we often say:

“The conversations that are killing you business are the ones you’re not having.”

I was working with a client once, facilitating a discussion about what to do with a long-term, loyal, but unproductive employee. After discussing  all the internal and external workarounds put in place to support this employee, I asked “When was the last time you talked to them about this?”

Silly me. I should have asked that question first. The leadership team looked at each other a bit sheepishly and admitted that not once had they given them a clear set expectations, feedback, or an evaluation of any kind, formal or informal, in all the convulsions they had gone through to avoid firing this person.

My next question was: “What do you think would happen if you did?”

The best leaders I know have a knack of telling people things they might not want to hear in a way that preserves the relationship in a positive way, and sometimes even makes it stronger. Often the only people who will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth are your friends…

The good news is that’s there’s lots of help out there to learn this skill (it is a skill, and it can be learned.) If you need a place to start, try Crucial Conversations – Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High. Then think about the conversation you’ve put off the longest, and go plan it.

 

*Imagine my delight when Trent asked me join a podcast on leadership. The question Trent was asking was “what mistakes should leaders avoid?” I jotted down five headlines inspired by my new-found fame. This is the third.