Probably like many of you, I have a simple video game on my iPad that I will sometimes go to for a time of simple distraction. It is fun, mildly challenging, and I have not become addicted to it. In playing this game, it has come to my mind that it is a simple illustration of a challenge that leaders face daily.
How do you make decisions that are both fast and right? At what level of confidence do you make the decision? Is your focus on the right thing / area or are you distracted from something important going on in a different domain of your responsibilities?
The game I play is one where you match up jewels of a certain type into different combinations. The better the combinations and their locations the better the score, but while you are trying to make that decision, the clock is ticking as well. If you hesitate too long, the opportunity is gone!
Sometimes I will be moving fast and making quick decisions and missing opportunities for higher scoring opportunities, sometimes I hesitate too long and run out of time in the overall game, sometimes I am so focused on one area of the screen that I miss opportunities in other ares of the screen. It reminds me so much of making decisions as a leader.
You have to learn to be able to shift from a tactical to a strategic view quickly, you have to learn the consider (quickly) the second and third order consequences of your decisions, you have to learn to not be so focused on just one aspect of our business that you miss opportunities or looming challenges in another domain of your business.
Finally, you have to become comfortable with understanding that you will never know all the facts and that you have to make a decision or time will run out and the decision will be made by default.
Practice to learn how to make decisions fast and right.
Greg is the co-founder and CEO of Coachwell, Inc. and a master leadership coach.
“This book is a wake-up call for all people who find themselves in positions of leadership and influence, and who want to preserve their families, their organizations, their self-respect, and their peace of heart and mind. The tragedy that can be avoided by heeding the advice here, and the joy that can be experienced through authentic, humble leadership, makes this a treasure.”
Patrick Lencioni in the foreword to Enemies of Excellence
I am thoroughly enjoying reading Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s book Nine Lies About Work. It is incredibly eye-opening as they take common assumptions and challenge those assumptions with real data.
In Lie #3: The Best Companies Cascade Goals, they state:
“. . . cascaded goals are tagging along behind work, not out ahead of it: as used in the real world goal setting is more a system of record keeping than a system of work making.”
Nine Lies About Work, page 60
They go on to say something that, in my opinion, is critically important:
“The best companies don’t cascade goals; the best companies cascade meaning.”
I don’t know about you, but I have come to detest the zero-sum attitude that seems to prevail in our politics and in much of competition between businesses (and even non-profits!). The attitude that for us to do well, someone else has to lose is repellent to me.
Now, I am a competitive person, but I was blessed to have parents and coaches that taught me to compete in a sportsmanlike manner – that you competed by the rules, that you did your best, that you respected, and even admired your opponents, that when you knocked them down, after the whistle, you gave them a hand up.
We can respect others even when we disagree with them. There is such a thing as respectful dialogue – of truly listening and exchanging and debating ideas in a respectful manner. Too many people now equate agreeing with understanding, when in fact, the better we understand someone else’s idea we may actually disagree with them even more. Yet we still listen and engage with others in a respectful manner in order to better understand each other and to learn from one another.
Being a leader in an organization often means that you are incredibly busy and it is difficult just to het your personal to-do list complete (if that ever really happens). Because of that busyness, we often forget one of our most important job as a leader – connecting the dots.
Here is what I mean – the people we are privileged to lead, to serve, most often are people who want to care about what they are doing. They really do want to be part of something greater than themselves. They want to know that their work really matters in the greater scheme of things. As a leader, one of your most important jobs is to help those that you lead to understand how they, and the job they do, are connected to the greater mission of your organization. They need to know that their work actually contributes to the success of the organization.
Connecting the dots for those you lead is actually much more important that you completing your to-do list.
So, toady, take time away from your endless meetings and your over-flowing to-do list and do something really important – give meaning to the work of those that are under your care.
“This has changed my world” – a strong statement from a friend of mine in Michigan. Now what was he talking about?
Years ago, I was taught a simple approach to addressing issues we see in the people we lead without generating unhealthy conflict. It is especially helpful if there is a possibility of being wrong – which occurs much more frequently than most of us care to admit.
Again, it is not my invention at all, but unfortunately, I do not remember where I learned it from. So – here is the approach I was taught.
O – I – C
Simple right! What it means is:
Observe – Interpret – Clarify
When you need to address something with someone, you start off saying to the individual that you have observed a certain, behavior or action or attitude, and that this is the way you interpret that behavior. You then ask the person for clarification so that you may better understand what has happened.
This approach directly addresses an issue, but in a manner that most often does not initiate the “flight or fight” feeling in the person. It informs them of how you saw, or interpreted, their behavior (which is often a surprise to them) and then they have a chance to explain (clarify) why it occurred. So often I have learned that I had misinterpreted their intent and it was not really a problem of attitude, but one of execution and they were not aware of the unintended impact on others. I have also found, numerous times, that I was the issue, that I had misinterpreted what they had done.
The title of this article is a quote by Simon Sinek. I do believe that leaders are made, that it is a skill that can and should be learned. However, I do realize that sometimes some people are born with certain attributes that help them rise to incredible heights in leadership.
One example of this that I often use is Michael Phelps. In addition to an incredible focus, great sacrifice, and relentless practice, Michael has a unique body structure that is a great aid in his extraordinary swimming ability – attributes he was born with. Now, I enjoy swimming and learned how to do so at the age of four and became a lifeguard at a large lake. I learned how to swim and swim well, however, I will never rise to the level of a Michael Phelps (not even close!) yet, I do know how to swim and to swim well. (SIDE NOTE: I seldom swim now, so I am not nearly as good, with the analogy being that as leaders, if we quit learning, quit practicing, we will become less effective and possibly even irrelevant.)
As some of you know, Simon Sinek is one of my favorite leadership authors / speakers. Following is a quote I particularly like:
“True leadership isn’t reserved for the few who sit at the top. It’s the responsibility of anyone who belongs to a group, and that means all of us. We all need to step up, take the risk and put our interests second—not always—but when it counts.
Whether we’re leading armies, multinational corporations or a fledgling home-based business, the message is the same: We all have the responsibility to become the leaders we wish we had.”
Simon Sinek in his article “Leadership Is A Learnable Skill”