Lolly Daskal lists ten mistakes unhappy people make every day. I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another, but especially #8 Spending time with negative people and #9 Perfectionism (an effort to control something, anything, when I couldn’t affect the things that really mattered.) I’m better now.
…and what to do about it: First thing to learn, whether or not you agree with the feedback / criticism / attack, is to say “thank-you”. As a leader please set the example you want your team to follow.
Remember, you don’t have to take it all at face value, but you should listen. Really listen.
Most leadership writing is not helpful, and worse some is harmful, un-actionable, drivel. I believe that the best way to learn about “Leadership” is to read the biographies of leaders.
Pick somebody you like, are interested in, or has had an impact on history, and learn about their life. I tend to prefer military leaders, but you can pick whom you like of course.
So what gives me the right to publish a “must read” Leadership Reading List? Well, not all management and leadership books are crap, and I believe that these are some of the best out there that I currently know of. If you think I’ve missed one then please let us know in the comments, or check out my list on Goodreads to see what other books are on my “must read” list.
- Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long – David Rock – How your brain works, and what to do about it. If we want to manage others we first need to manage ourselves. This book helps you do that. I was reading this during a recent emotionally turbulent time in my life. Talk about timing! I was able to apply some of the recommendations and benefit from them immediately.
- The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done – Peter F. Drucker – If you have to read one management guru, read Drucker. If you have to read one Drucker book, read this one. All other good management writing is derivative of this book. A little dated in its examples, but the principles still hold true, are powerful, and actionable.
- The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering – Frederick P. Brooks Jr. – one of the first management books I read over 25 years ago. Recently reprinted, which in itself is a singular recommendation. While focused on software development, the ideas and principles apply to any cognitive work. First book to describe why adding more people to a late project makes it later, and other counter-intuitive project management truths.
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t – Jim Collins – Of course this book had to make the list, and for good reason. If you’re trying to figure out how to succeed in the long term, this is what the best companies do. Practising strategic thinking doesn’t guarantee success, but it sure gives you a better chance.
You can’t network with the people on the contact list on your work computer, probably your most valuable “gotta find my next job” resource, when you’ve been escorted out the front door. It happens. It can happen to anybody. *holds up own hand*
Got it? Good. Do this every three months and keep your list up-to-date. This is the bare minimum you need to network. I’m not asking your to break of your company rules or the law, but you see the point.
Networking is the simple act of keeping in contact with people you can help, and that might be able to help you. When you do need to ask for something it won’t be awkward if you’ve stayed in contact. For many “technical” types this is a challenge. You may not feel comfortable reaching out to others for “no reason”, and it might be holding you back.
Here are some other places that you might consider, in your plan to build relationships in your industry:
Schools, Industry, Companies
If you’re still in school, or recently graduated, have you kept in contact with your class mates? The “good” schools like Carleton or Yale don’t necessarily have smarter professors or students than any other school. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But when their students graduate they have a built-in network and credibility. Your fellow students are good candidates for keeping in touch with over the years. Same industry, same interests, and likely a similar career path.
Go to dinner at your chosen profession’s association. This is a no-brainer. You’re not there for the rubber chicken or the dinner speaker. You’re there to meet others in your industry. For bonus points and to turbo-charge your connections: volunteer. It doesn’t matter if your volunteering effort is to hand out name-tags at the dinner reception desk, or to run the local annual association conference. Your name and your credibility goes up the more you give. Which makes it easier to find your next job (or next employee if you’re in recruiting mode).
Join a local Toastmasters. Even better if the club is industry, geographic, or interest specific. Again, bonus points for volunteering. This is also a good way to find connections if you’re planning to change careers or industries.
Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re looking for companies to work for, google “chamber of commerce” “your town”, and “your industry”. Then go to the open Chamber events and find the attendees that work for those companies. It’s a good way to target your next employer.
Question for the Comments:
How did you find your last job?
Other Articles You May Be Interested In:
Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse. And poor business practice.
He believes organizations are founded on their values. He believes that the workplace is a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive.
Check out his other articles at practicalmanagers.com
The universe is conspiring against me. Well, not really against. It’s conspiring on my behalf to take me to the next adjacent possibility. It’s tapped me on the forehead and made clear that I need to step up my game, especially about how I speak about women. Please let me explain.
Last week I was listening to a ManagerTools podcast on ethics, where two former West Pointers and now successful consultants were talking about the code of ethics they adopted at the academy:
“I will not lie, steal, cheat, nor tolerate those who do”.
With events in popular culture, the news, and politics, I decided to adopt a new personal honour code:
“I will not lie, steal, cheat, hate, nor tolerate those who do.”
Then I realized this week, while working with a woman CEO of a construction company, twice I used the term “girl” to describe an adult woman. Doh! Seems I have some work to do. I don’t think I do this maliciously, or trying to control others. At least that isn’t my intent, but I realize now it will sure come across that way.
I don’t want to be just another guy talking about women in the workplace. So how do I link my purported values to my behaviour? How does what I believe translate to how I am in the world. How are my words and action perceived by and impact others?
This is the work I do with business owners every day – how do we translate how we want to impact the world into everyday actions that take the company in the right direction? What is really going on? It often comes down to doing the basics well and consistently. In my case, dropping the use of “girl” to refer to adult women. Small changes often make the biggest difference. Especially when they allow us to make bigger changes.
Then I ran across an articles about Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. That’s her in the picture above running the first time 45 year ago this April. One of her cadre is body-checking a race official attempting to throw her out of “his” race. Katherine ran the race herself. Nobody carried her. That’s what she wanted, I imagine: the opportunity to run, to test herself, to do her best. Just like most of us.
It’s not enough to just give somebody an opportunity, job, or place, then stand by and watch them fail. In order to be leaders, in order for management to be a force for positive change in the world, sometimes we have to get up off our asses and run interference. Call bullies on their bullying. Deliberately solicit every opinion. Not tolerate poor behaviour. Let others lead. Which is what leaders are supposed to be doing when we’re “building teams”.
So I’m going to watch my language better, do some more volunteer one-on-one mentoring, and try to figure out how deep this blind-spot of mine goes. My little circle to start with. It will be interesting to see where this goes. Researching and writing this article has only made me realize how far I might have to go.
Who’s with me? What are you going to do to “lead”? What’s your blind spot?
If successful business leaders and top executives are life-long learners, then what does that look like? Here’s how to read your way to the top.