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08 2013

A Great Exercise That Makes Several Great Points

Syndicated from: balance-AND-results

The Internet overlaps on itself in interesting ways. The blog of the Leadership program of Pittsburg’s Duquesne University posted a New Year’s exercise I didn’t immediately recall seeing before, but which makes tremendous sense. It’s actually from a book by David Novak that I mentioned some months ago. There was so much in that book that I didn’t pick out this small item as one of the most interesting. We’re deluged with so much stuff, much of it adding at least small amounts to insight, that we whiz by things that deserve significantly more attention. Without this helpful reminder, I wouldn’t be mentioning the book again: Taking People With You or reminding everyone it is one of the best books of 2013 as well as 2012 (now it’s officially out this year in paperback, too). How easily we lose sight of what’s highly valuable in our topsy turvy world. The blog reproduces a file card on which highly successful CEO Novak lists just five skill improvements he wants to work on for a recent year. The concept alone is worth huge attention. First he realizes that change takes time. Implied also is that it’s a trial and error or ‘try,try again’ process in which you have to acknowledge you are less than perfect, less than successful each time you try until you eventually make the behavior automatic and unnoticed. For some reason many people find this inordinately difficult. They can’t face admitting even to themselves on a regular basis that they are less than all they hope to be. Most important for followers of the current themes of performance improvement is that, yes, Novak is proposing to work on strengths. He isn’t setting goals of becoming able to do things where he currently sees no strengths… BUT (and it’s a huge but)… he is working on the weaknesses within those strengths. With the on-going reminders that we see everywhere to forget working on weaknesses, it’s easy to take a too-rosy view and suppose that we never have to even think about weaknesses again. What a relief that would be, but it’s not the case. We have to look closely at our strengths and, in the interest of making them even stronger, we have to pick out what’s wrong, where the weaknesses are and face them just as squarely as if we were told by a boss on a performance evaluation that we need to fix some completely new weakness to get ahead. The boss may be asking too much, but it doesn’t mean only picking out strengths and asking for more of the same. For one, Novak wants to improve his strength as someone passionate and ‘convicted’ (filled with conviction… your own idiosyncratic words are fine) by not so much so that it’s overwhelming or intimidating to others. Sound like any CEOs you know who might benefit from the same improvement? We keep hearing ‘a great strength overdone becomes a weakness,’ but who had the courage to look that in the face, point it out (even to him- or herself) and struggle with the challenge of doing something about it. Likewise in all but one of his other strengths he shoots for the all-important balancing of actions: “creative, but stay focused,” “instinctive, but balance with facts, discipline and process,” and “striving for balance >>more time at home, stay healthy.” In only one of his five objectives or resolutions or whatever one wants to call them, would I say he doesn’t obviously emphasize balance as the key missing factor (exactly what I recommend in my five keys approach). That one is “driven for results >>instill a sense of urgency, so what, now what?” So am I off base? Is he after all just going to try to amplify what is already a strength without looking for balance. I argue no. He is recognizing that his ‘drive for results’ strength is still somehow not where he wants it to be. I don’t think he means ‘instill a sense of urgency’ in others as much as in himself. The rest of his recommendations in the book basically say – ‘start with yourself.’ So how is someone driven for results missing a sense of urgency? Might it be because we all have plans – to write a book, to take a longer vacation or whatever – that would benefit if we said to ourselves “start NOW”? Is there one of us who hasn’t a great plan, who isn’t going to let that go until we reach results, but who hasn’t yet started? I wish I could say I was an exception, but I clearly have things I definitely want to do and achieve that I can barely force myself to start. The answer, in the final analysis, goes back to balance. I’m such a promoter of balance that I don’t take my own advice – that weighing alternatives and not needing to feel rushed into things can become procrastination. Finding the ‘balance’ between ‘acting now’ and ‘procrastinating until an idea matures and the time is right’ is one of the most challenging balancing acts of all. Bookmark and share this post More »

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