A Few Thoughts on Life and Leadership

A Note on Elephant Consumption

What is the best way to eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

I believe this to be true-ish. You may have heard this before. This is the metaphor for accomplishing a large task. I want to make one key change to the idea.

So, what is the best way to eat an elephant? One (high quality) bite at a time.

Why the difference? Because we often lose sight of quality in our steps towards a larger goal. I think it is important to prioritize better before bigger.

In my occupation, I work with a lot of young adults who have very bright futures outside of what they are doing right now. In some cases, they choose to perform at a high level where they are. In other cases, they do not. This is a missed opportunity. A low quality bite of elephant.

In my own life, I have large goals but I know that I will never reach them if I accept mediocrity in the interim. I am a firm believer that our habits eventually catch up to us.

Focus on cultivating great habits.

Focus on quality every step of the way.

Managing Expectations

Do you know where disappointment comes from? It comes from the difference between reality and our expectations.

Unmet expectations.

I think a critical responsibility of a leader is to manage expectations.

Now, please do not think I am an advocate of setting low expectations. Quite the opposite, but here is where I have seen some people struggle.

High expectations do not equal realistic expectations.

The people you lead and the people you serve come with a set of expectations. It is your responsibility to effectively understand and manage those expectations.

How?

Here are a couple tips –

  • Consistent Communication
    • A consistent flow of information helps you maintain control of expectations.
    • Nature abhors a vacuum and people do too, so in the absence of information they are left to their own conclusions, assumptions, and biases.
  • Honesty/Transparency
    • A bad situation does not get better with time.
    • In my experience, people have appreciated my honesty and transparency in leadership.
    • Again, this helps remove any assumptions or biases from developing (and getting out of control).
  • Practice Empathy
    • Put yourself in their shoes and consider what their expectations might be. This can help you in many ways, but most importantly you can anticipate their needs and perhaps move to meet them.
    • Just ask yourself, “If I were in their shoes, what would my expectations be?”

Pessimism = Rust / Optimism = Oil

Let’s say your team is an engine, and as a leader you are a mechanic. Your job is to make sure the engine is taken care of so it can perform at the highest level.

So you coach and monitor progress. Try and hire the best people, set high expectations and enforce them.

When things are great, the engine runs fine. You can even step on the gas a little with no issues.

Then one day you notice performance declines unexpectedly. You take a look at the engine and notice some corrosion has occurred. You see some rust developing.

In teams, rust is pessimism. And pessimism will DESTROY teams from the inside out.

As the leader, you need to address pessimism when it manifests. Pessimism is a consistent negative outlook. In this sense, it differs from negative feedback.

Pessimism tends to show up with a lot of complaints and few solutions.

To combat pessimism, I recommend the following

  • Model optimism
    • Do not allow the snowball of pessimism to turn into an avalanche by continuing to pile on. You have to think differently and teach your team to think differently (especially in the midst of negative situations).
  • Address honest concerns quickly
    • Often times pessimism comes when issues/concerns are not addressed.
    • Trust and confidence are lost when a member of your team brings something to your attention repeatedly and you take no action. This is very discouraging.
  • Push for solutions/create buy in
    • When a problem is brought to your attention, push the person bringing the problem for a solution ESPECIALLY if it is a complaint
    • In some circumstances, you will have to handle the problem
    • However, in other circumstances you can create buy in by allowing your team to pursue a solution. Often times, the best solutions come from those closest to the action anyway.

Stick-To-Itiveness

If you had a choice between a person with higher intelligence or greater self control, which would you choose?

I hope you would choose greater self control. Someone with a high level of self control is more likely to have an asset sometimes called “Stick-To-Itiveness”.

Persistence. Discipline. Determination. Optimism. (Some may say a little stubborn).

This is a quality I want on my team in large quantities because these individuals are more likely to get things done.

History is filled with examples of individuals with this uncanny ability to just keep moving forward and now we read about them.

You know what we don’t see in history?

People who made a difference because they consistently quit.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

– Brian

 

 

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