Archive for the 'Personal & Self-awareness' Category

Self evaluation using the Characteristics of Admired Leaders

Knowing that I’m always keen to devour anything related to personal development or business my wonderful wife Susie bought me “The Leadership Challenge” for Christmas.

Early on in the book Kouzes and Posner put forward the characteristics of admired leaders based on studies they’ve conducted asking leaders’ constituents to describe what they look for in a leader they would be most willing to follow. Over numerous studies four characteristics continue to stand out:

  1. Honesty
  2. Forward-thinking
  3. Competent
  4. Inspiring

I think that this list is a great tool for self evaluation purposes. If you are reflecting on something that occurred and wondering whether you lead the situation well then you can quickly evaluate yourself against these four characteristics.

I caution against using it  as a list of “things that I must do to be a good leader” because it lists the symptoms or effects of  the character, passion, commitment, beliefs and understanding operating on a deeper level. For example, a reader could take this as “well if I just act forward-thinking then I can lead people.” I personally believe that you must be forward thinking and being forward thinking comes from a deep interest in and understanding of the area you are leading people through. Similarly, a reader of the book might be tempted to think “well if I just act inspiringly then people will follow me.” But you can’t inspire others if you aren’t inspired yourself; when you are inspired yourself, that will just rub off on others. If you are looking to exhibit the characteristics that people look for in a leader then you need to look under the covers.


Inspiration from Sporting Nation

At the end of Sporting Nation (a documentary on ABC) there were some great, thought provoking insights from some elite athletes. My favourite was from Herb Elliot.

Herb recounted a conversation he had early in his career, I think it was with his soon to be Olympic coach. After some discussion his coach said “so why do you want to do nothing but focus on running around and around in circles for the next 3 years, 7 days a week?” His coach answered for him (I’m paraphrasing here):

“You want to have such an intense narrow focus because it will:

  • allow you to experience things you will never otherwise experience
  • allow you to understand things about yourself that you never would if you didn’t push yourself
  • give you a great sense of self-respect
  • give you a sense of self-reliance

I find it fascinating listening to the experiences of people that have achieved greatness at something. Their experience is, at a psychological and philosophical level, always so applicable elsewhere.

Here were some other take aways:

  • There will always be negative things in your mind, you must learn to beat them with your attitude and not take notice of them.
  • What you do must be about the intrinsic value of the activity itself rather than the extrinsic reward.

Don’t let “just this once” get you

My great office buddy Sri pointed me at “The Trap of Marginal Thinking” by Clayton Christensen the other day. I must say it truly struck a cord with me.

Here are my favourite parts:

The marginal cost of doing something “just this once” always seems to be negligible, but the full cost will typically be much higher. Yet unconsciously, we will naturally employ the marginal-cost doctrine in our personal lives. A voice in our head says, “Look, I know that as a general rule, most people shouldn’t do this. But in this particular extenuating circumstance, just this once, it’s okay.” And the voice in our head seems to be right; the price of doing something wrong “just this once” usually appears alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t see where that path is ultimately headed or the full cost that the choice entails.

Many of us have convinced ourselves that we are able to break our own personal rules “just this once.” In our minds, we can justify these small choices. None of those things, when they first happen, feels like a life-changing decision. The marginal costs are almost always low. But each of those decisions can roll up into a much bigger picture, turning you into the kind of person you never wanted to be.

It was something running through my head today when I almost compromised on a hiring decision. The guy was so close to being great but then failed dramatically at one of our coding tests. Failing at the coding test or not completing it in an above average way is a deal breaker. I almost bent the rules, I went so far as to invite him back the following day to work on something together in the hope that things would workout.

Then I thought of the words quoted above and asked myself, if I bend the rules just this once, then what happens? I’ve compromised the business. The others that work with us will see this and it will cascade like a snow ball destroying everything in its path (… slight exaggeration but I like exaggeration).

Busy isn’t always moving forward

A lesson I learnt this year: if you’re busy and you’ve got a lot of tasks and deadlines being set it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re moving in the right direction, even if those tasks are coming from the outside. There are always a lot of different things to do but there are some that are just that much more important than others.

Some quick questions to ask yourself to make sure that you’re doing the right things:

  • Is your task list for the day in alignment with the bigger picture? If not, why?
  • Is this client actually a client you want to keep dealing with?
  • Having complete these tasks will you be any closer to your goal by the end of the week/month?


Using Highrise For Personal Contacts

I just wanted to let everyone in on a new little secret: using Highrise for your personal contacts. Highrise gives you somewhere to keep track of everything you know about everyone (what was her new son’s name?) and keep in touch.

I really enjoy keeping in touch with all the switched on people I meet and I really want to make sure I don’t forget anything they’ve told me.

I’ve got a personal account with Highrise where I enter basic contact details and, more importantly to me, things they mention in conversation. What they like, dislike, their spouses name, kids name, their kids sports team, details on what they’re working on and more.

Now, you might be saying “who is this guy? some kind of stalker?” Well maybe! (=P) But maybe not. I just enjoy knowing about people because it matters to me. I genuinely care about people and one way of showing you care is remembering. For remembering details on lots of people (and be able to quickly access it) Highrise is one of the best solutions.

As I mentioned before, I like staying in touch. When you’re busy it is tough to remember when and with who you wanted to get in touch with. Not with Highrise, you just setup your tasks and reminders and let Highrise manage you and your relationships. I look forward to those emails saying “TASK: Call Joe”.

Head down, bum up!

Right now is one of those points where it has just been nothing but head down, bum up. For those not acquainted with the saying, this means it has been nothing but nose to the grind, slogging it out without much of a chance to come up for a breath of fresh air.

I’m loving it.

I was never really sure of the saying “if you want someone done give it to someone busy” but now I understand. There seems to be something about that momentum of getting things done.

However, being so deep down in everything I’ve taken on I’m becoming worried that I may be missing the bigger picture. So, I’ve started setting aside a bit of nothing time to let the creative part of the brain take over. You know those moments you’re on the toilet and you think “aha! I’ve got the answer!” – by giving myself a bit of nothing time I’m hoping those creative moments happen more often. I usually find they take an angle I hadn’t thought of.

The Perfect Gift for a Man

Every now and then something comes completely out of the blue that you have to be involved with. Just recently, I heard about The Perfect Gift for a Man through Gavin Heaton. I submitted my story on growing up and becoming a man (many, including myself and my missus when she wants to have a dig, might say I’m still far from it). My story has been included.

It was a great process having to think through the emotions and the events involved in my life.

Anyway, here is part of the press release:

A group of Australian men have banded together to create a book about some of the tough issues facing the average Aussie bloke.

The book, The Perfect Gift for a Man – 30 Stories about Reinventing Manhood aims to get men talking about their feelings in a bid to help prevent male suicide in Australia

Touched by the mental health, drug and alcohol problems facing young Australian men, local bloggers Gavin Heaton and Mark Pollard appealed to their readers, friends and family to honestly share the intense emotions and experiences of being a man. This collection of stories has been published into a high quality book for the first time, using online creative publishing website’s unique self-publishing capability.

The Perfect Gift for a Man is available for sale via the Blurb Bookstore with the profits going to the Inspire Foundation a national non-profit that delivers online programs that prevent youth suicide and improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing.

You can buy the book on Blurb.

Scott Middleton
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