Sep 07 2019| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
One of the challenges of focussing my life’s work into human flourishing, personal leadership and healthy workplaces is remembering to take my own advice. It can be easy for me to see other people’s issues and help to solve them whilst remaining blind to my own.
Taking time for personal contemplation is invaluable and I have taken a few moments to jot down my current leadership reflections. I hope that you will find one or more helpful. As ever, I welcome all ideas and thoughts on advancing excellence in personal leadership, feel free to comment and share your thoughts.
Understanding and remaining true to the purpose of our work (and life) is crucial for leadership success. Our world is exceptionally active, demanding fast responses and with a plethora of ideas, challenges and uncertainties.
Activity for the sake of activity can be seductive and if we are not careful, distract us from our core, best work. Even a 1% deviation compounded over time will take us away from our vision and purpose.
I ask these questions of our clients and myself to help clarify purpose:
- Why is what you do important?
- How does your work make the world (even if only a small part of it) a better place?
- How are other people’s lives improved as a result of your work?
- What is the one thing that you must do, regardless of who you’re working with or for?
- What phrases about yourself are true in every context (work, home, recreation, with friends?)
- What type of work excites you? What is the source of that excitement?
- How would you describe the particular qualities and experiences that you enjoy applying to your work?
Understanding why your contribution, work, business and even life are purposeful provides the basis for allocating precious resources - time, energy, finances - to only purposeful activity. Anything that doesn’t contribute to purposeful work can and should be avoided.
Close the door on distractions
This is easier said than done, especially when under pressure. In my own reflections, I have been considering launching new products and orientating my effort towards a particular sector (including in the USA), but realised that these would be a diversion from the core purpose of my work. I’ve closed those doors and am focussing only on work with purpose - bringing objective insight to leaders and teams that propel them towards leadership excellence, serving my vision that every workplace in the world is a place where the people flourish.
The value of saying ‘no’
It’s difficult sometimes to say no, to turn activity down, to say no to a potential new client or opportunity. But if they don’t serve your core purpose, they will detract from excellence, become painful and problematic whilst demanding resources that would otherwise be utilised to great effect.
What is your big ‘why?’, the core purpose of your work? What do you need to turn away in order to refocus?
This might sound contradictory to my point about purpose. Yet there’s leadership truth in the phrase ‘just do it’. I’m learning that it is easy to over-think, over-plan, procrastinate (especially when self-doubt creeps in), over-discuss and evade productive action.
Do you find yourself…...
- Talking about the work isn’t doing the work
- Dreaming about the work isn’t doing the work
- Thinking about the work isn’t doing the work.
Only doing the work is doing the work.
Brad Stulberg, the author of The Passion Paradox, puts it like this, “the secret (to success) is that there is no secret. The secret is to stop paying attention to anyone who says they have a secret. If you want to get stronger, lift heavy things, rest, repeat. If you want to learn, read; rest, repeat.”
Leadership success is achieved through consistent practice, aiming not to be the best, but to be the best at getting better. It’s less about targeting the big win and more about consistently pursuing the steps and process that will take you forward, time after time.
Hoping that something big will arrive is rarely a basis for success. Turning up consistently and doing the work is the ‘non-secret’ to success.
I’m learning to…
- Pick up the phone
- Write the email
- Work to refine and improve our offering
- Write the article (!)
…regardless of mood and the myriad of distractions that seem to present themselves. In every case, ‘just doing it’ opens opportunities that I hadn’t anticipated. The key is to be aware enough that procrastination in kicking in.
What do you need to ‘just do’? What’s getting in the way?
“This office would be great, apart from the people!”. Have you ever been tempted to think this? Whilst some people in teams can be problematic and are better moved elsewhere, we are, in fact, better together than apart.
In working with leaders, it’s clear that a strong support team - even if that’s just one supportive person - makes the difference between good and great leadership.
For some, this means actively seeking out supportive people, whether mentors, colleagues or friends. I am grateful for my friend and mentor, Dr Chuck Coker, who lives and works in the USA. Whilst we speak frequently via Skype, I am reminded to spend quality time with him and I am now working on a visit. His support and friendship is crucial at many levels.
Who do you have in your support team? When was the last time you connected with them personally and deeply? Do you need to make more time for them?
We would like to think that we are more rational than emotional, yet a growing body of research shows that we are more influenced by the limbic part of our brain - responsible for emotions - than we might like to think.
Perhaps intuitively we realise this. For example, the power of fear, to name just one emotion, can be disproportionate in our decision making. Fear of failure, fear of missing out, fear of being ridiculed, fear of exclusion from social groups and more.
Find the source of emotions
Being able to recognise the emotions that we’re experiencing is an essential skill for effective leadership. Identifying the source of those emotions helps to bring any situation into its proper perspective, giving us a much better chance of making an effective decision. I recommend Kerry Goyette’s recently published The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligencefor a more thorough discussion on this.
Know your pressure limit
I enjoy pressure and tend to perform at my best when moving quickly between different environments and demands. Yet I also recognise that, if I’m not mindful when working under pressure, I’ll over-commit and take on projects that would either be better served by someone else or that simply don’t fit into my diary. If that sounds familiar to you, why not try some of these strategies and let me know if they help you avoid xxx
Hubris is a killer, causing the ego-fuelled leader to reject any kind of criticism, place their own desires at the centre of the organisation, live in denial about problems, bury bad news, avoid sharing information and believe that only they and they alone are responsible for successes (whilst everyone else is responsible for problems).
A serve to lead attitude - the motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst - keeps ego in check and ensures a proper perspective on who is truly the most important in any relationship.
Putting others first
Excellent leaders place the lives of others at the centre of their decision making, planning and activity, whether colleagues, customers or suppliers. They do the right thing, not just the expedient thing, even and especially when this comes at a cost. This will include transparency on mistakes and plans to fix them, placing customer needs above their own and implementing difficult decisions with compassion.
This, again, takes a high degree of emotional intelligence to recognise the emotions that factor into decisions, overcoming short term fear in order to live serve-to-lead values. Mere words on walls, ‘putting customers at the centre’ are not enough. A serve-to- lead attitude must be authentic to be believed; people are quick to spot and call out fake care, often voting with their feet.
Remain focussed and grounded
How can we keep others in focus? Some of the best leaders that we know keep themselves grounded by choosing to spend time with the very people that their organisation serves. For example, a medical technology company frequently introduces patients that have survived as a result of their technology to their employees. Another regularly visits families of colleagues, especially when times are difficult in their personal lives.
Ask yourself these questions:
In our work with leadership teams (and ourselves!) we utilise data from psychometrics to help identify the critical factors that contribute to strength in leadership, values, purpose as well as blindspots and counterproductive habits.
We’re here to serve you, call today to find out how.