Key Point: I recently spent an evening with a cohort of University students excitedly standing on the springboard of their careers, almost ready to take that big plunge into the world. It made me think about Steve Jobs’ poignant perspective: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… And, most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” I wish this for each of these kids… The courage to follow their hearts and intuition. I wish it for each of you.
In 2012, Parade magazine collaborated with Yahoo! Finance to jointly survey 26,000 Americans, and discovered that nearly 60 percent of them fully regretted their career choices. Wow! It would not be unreasonable to assume a similar finding amongst other westerners. I honestly believe it is never too late to do something about your career choice. Of course we are often limited by practical considerations, but if we can ask the right questions, maybe we have more options than we think?
Over the 27-year span since he first began teaching, Wharton Business School Professor G. Richard Shell has focused on the concept of “success,” and the process by which people best discover their own values and purpose. He developed a university-wide seminar called, The Literature of Success to help his students leave school far better prepared to make the important life choices that lay ahead of them. After teaching his course to students and faculty for more than a decade, Shell now has documented his lessons in his recently released book, Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success.
Shell believes many of us are not equipped to thoughtfully define what success looks like in our own terms. The answer to what determines success is intensely personal. If you want to really dig into this, read Shell’s book. In the meantime you may want to try spending a little time on the following.
- Imagine you’ve won the lottery, and money no longer is a primary motivator. Your obligations are taken care of. What would you do next in your life? (After a vacation, etc). What do your answers tell you about what really drives you? What small (or big) steps could you take in the direction of your deepest wish?
- Make a list of the things you’ve done in your life to date that help you feel fulfilled, and just plain good about yourself. What is your heart telling you?
- Make a list about things you’ve done that leave you feeling empty, cynical and disappointed. What is the honest back story regarding these?
- Have the courage to ask yourself the right questions, and live YOUR life. Define YOUR success. Your time is limited.
Lottery in The Triangle,
Key Point: We need to be balanced so we learn from BOTH success and failures. Any one reading my blog knows that I am, by all accounts, closer to the end than the beginning of my career. Yet I genuinely feel that every stage of one’s work journey is a huge opportunity for personal growth. I’m learning as much or more about myself than ever. However, the reality is that practice time is practically shorter, later on in life. Learn from me… Make sure you are balanced. In this regard and in the spirit of total transparency, the following is feedback from world-class psychologists who recently assessed my leadership strengths and development opportunities.
“Lorne is an expert strength based developer… [He] needs to help others discuss and grow from downsides… He should do the same in his own development”… “[He should put] more focus on what he and others can learn from frustration and failure.”
At first, it is hard for me to not just want to discount this feedback. After all what do these psychologists really know after a battery of tests, interviews and lots of 360 degree feedback from peers, direct reports and others…? Well, the truth is that they know a lot and are very practiced at discovering insights. It is important for me to accept and learn from this feedback.
The fact is that I DO have a propensity to focus more on people’s strengths and to optimize their contribution accordingly. As the psychologists point out, this is a real strength and I’m proud of this capability. Most of us have core strengths and a tendency to rely on these skills and attributes. As an example, most who have worked with me, know that I will never be really quantitatively gifted; although people will be surprised if they think I do everything by the seat of my pants too. I know that about myself and therefore surround myself with quantitative geniuses to help me out. This adds balance to my overall capability.
Over the years I have occasionally found myself in territory I have been through before. My reaction is, “Do I need to learn this again?” Apparently so. How about you? Do you find yourself repeating past failures, frustrations or mistakes? Think about the following:
- Become known as an expert based strength developer. It will take you and others a long way down the success road. Additionally do No. 2 below!
- Be tenacious and very rigorous about what you can learn from frustration and failure. Sometimes it is compelling to skip this and move on. Unfortunately this contributes to the worst of déjà vu or Groundhog Day. We really need to reflect and learn from the failures of others and our own. How and what do you really learn from failure? Are you confident you will avoid repeating the same mistakes, disappointments and frustrations in the future?
- Document and write out your “war stories.” See my last blog. The act of writing and reflection will pull out themes and insights from your failures. Always ask for feedback from people that care about you and your progress. Hopefully they have the courage to help you identify blind spots.
- Self-awareness and development never ends. I like to tell the story about Pablo Casals, the world famous cellist who practiced three hours a day well into his 90′s. When a neighbor asked Pablo why, at his age, he did this, his comment was, “maybe one day I’ll get it right.”
Learning from failures in The Triangle,
Key Point: Attribute talent wins! One of the common questions I get from people at all levels in organizations is, “When will all the chaos stop? When will we get past all the change going on?” My response is, “NEVER.” Some days or months may be less or more hectic than others but the whirlwind will not stop or slow down. I actually believe that turbulence will increase. The reasons? We will experience even more of the following: Intense global competition, constant technology revolution, rapid innovation, and unpredictable geopolitical turbulence. A business model or revenue stream… Even an organization… Can disappear in a breathtaking few months. No value – no money – no work. Literally nothing is certain, except “death and taxes” as the old saying goes.
So here is an assumption about people and work I deeply believe in: The competition for top talent will become more ATTRIBUTE intense than ever. I do expect to hire very smart people who are exceptionally proficient in performing certain skills. But a great formal education is table stakes to just get in the talent competition pool. However if I can hire a hungry, self-accountable, respectful, abundant thinking individual who is capable of connecting, translating, collaborating and creating… WE THRIVE and SUCCEED in a sustainable way! Why? People with these attributes realize THEY are the key to defining and contributing to success. They are mega collaborators. They do not depend on somebody leading “change” because improvement, growth, and personal change management is built into their mindset. This type of talent is happy to be engaged AND engaged to be happy! They expect to navigate through tough challenges and even seek out that kind of environment. Agility helps define who they are. They are content and yet realize good is the enemy of great. And the better lead the organization, the greater leverage and value results from this attribute talent.
- When you think about how much you’re improving, think about describing it in terms of attributes along with numeric results. The good news is that the distinguishing variables to find these desired attributes are not necessarily resident in any particular age, gender, IQ, size, shape, GPA, University, country, or region. They are evident through results and behavior.
- Self-evaluate and build a development plan on the following attributes: A. Self-accountability, B. Respect, C. Abundance, D. Hunger, E. Connector, F. Creator, G, Translator, H. Catalyst, I. Collaborator. These are not necessarily ALL of the right attributes but they are a great list to work from.
- If you were asked to provide a story as evidence of how you have displayed each of these attributes and achieved results that have had an impact and inspired others, how would you do? If you haven’t been asked to do so, expect that you might in the very near future.
Attributes in the Triangle,
Key Point: Two very simple but effective leadership actions that have a BIG return on their investment are: Giving recognition AND having regular one-on-one meetings with your direct reports. Giving sincere recognition is an outcome of having a “personal growth” mind set. It is the ultimate tool for confirming the value exchange between people. There is a lot of questioning whether daily work is providing measurable value in companies today. Recognize the results you want and you will get more of it. There’s no Mensa membership required to understand this concept but recognition is still underutilized in many organizations. Regular (at least monthly) one-on-one meetings that are short, snappy AND “direct listening” oriented, help focus resources on actionable behavior addressing the business priorities. Read more to discover what I mean by applying 2×4 leadership to better leverage these two elements.
1. Recognition: Too often it is thought of as something we have to do (an additive task) versus part of how we think and act. When we constantly observe the action of others and acknowledge the positive impact they have, we not only reinforce desired activity but we also benefit from constantly sharpening our observation and personal development skills.
35 percent of workers and 30 percent of chief financial officers in an Accountemps poll cited frequent recognition of accomplishments as the most effective nonmonetary reward. Thanking people for their hard work and commitment is a vital element for helping people to appreciate they are adding value.
2. One-On-One Connect: In many organizations people get so busy with daily work, they forget to check in with each other to really examine if the work people are doing is really what’s needed and valued. Who is the customer? Do internal or external customers willingly pay for the work being done? Do they really care? I often see employee survey data where it is evident that people don’t sit down for those talks until some serious redirect of activity or behavior is involved. And then the conversation is obviously more challenging for all. In most cases waiting for annual performance reviews is too reactive and too late, (and often an administrative exercise with minimum benefit to anyone).
Apply 2×4 leadership this way. It is simple but effective. Do your own research to see if it works!
- Regular Personal Recognition. Focus on your key value drivers and recognize people who are having an impact on those drivers at least four times per day or week. Make it specific AND personal. Use whatever method you want but make it clear that the behavior the associate you are recognizing is having a positive impact on the company, others, you and them. It needs to be part of what we do and who we are. Set up a process in your management system to make it a positive habit.
- Regular Personal one-on-one connect: Ask four simple questions in your regular one-on-ones and you will likely have a constructive discussion. They are: What is going well that we want to keep doing or do more of? What is tricky or challenging? What can we do better going forward? How can I help you help yourself get valued results?
That’s it. I don’t want to over simplify but I have historical data and lots of experience that doing these TWO things; regular personal recognition and regular personal one-on-ones (AND applying the FOUR recognitions and questions) will result in significant positive outcomes! Obviously the 2×4 leadership idea is to help provide a framework… No reason it can’t be your 2×5 or 2×3, etc. Just try it.
Using a 2×4 in The Triangle,