I’ve been traveling down a path with a certain vision. However, it’s time for a few tweaks. I realized something very important: much of my vision depended on others. If I have a vision for who I want to be, it can’t all depend on others. For example, part of the vision is to “be respected.” Do I fail if no one chooses to respect me?
However, at the same time, I also know that we should be interdependent beings, not islands attempting to achieve something all on our own.
Therefore, I want to be clear with myself on what is in my power and what involves the free will of others.
As a thought leader I am:
- respectful and respected
- balanced and effective
- enabling and vulnerable
- boundless with knowledge, yet succinct
- relaxed with harnessed passion
- happy and fulfilled
- passionate and peaceful
- balanced and effective
As an influencer, I am:
- respectful and respected
- enabling and vulnerable
- boundless with knowledge, yet succinct
I’m reading the article 6 Things Really Powerful Leaders Do, which obviously talks about leadership and principles by which leaders should live. One, “Be generous to your tribe,” outlines a few ways to be generous to those whom you hope to influence:
- Share your learnings along the way
- Include them in the process
- Show gratitude
- Give recognition
- Work synergistically
My mentor sent me an article called “22 Ways to Say No” in which the author lists ways to say no to adding a task that would not be in line with your priorities.
- Encouragement. Saying “I feel you can do this on your own.” You encourage the person to do something they think they need you to do by showing confidence in their ability to find the answer or finish the project.
- Principles. If the task is not in line with your values, you can say so as a matter of principle. “According to my experience, doing that will not be worth the investment of time.” Or, “I don’t do that sort of thing as a matter of principle” (if it is a moral issue).
- Priorities. You can let people know, “I can’t take on new commitments right now, otherwise my existing priorities will suffer.” It shows you want to perform well at what you do, and that person cannot ask you to sacrifice your job or project for theirs.
- Meet half way. As a rejection, offer a “cheap alternative,” such as “Frank, I’m terribly sorry I can’t assist you during that meeting. However, I could review your presentation slides in advance.”
If you want to know more ways to say no, read the rest of Evomend’s article here.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter says, “Adding new items without subtracting old ones is how closets get cluttered, bureaucracies expand, workloads grow out of control, national budgets go into deficit, and people get fat. It takes discipline to cut or consolidate some things for every one added. Too often that discipline is missing” (“Five Self-Defeating Behaviors that Ruin Companies and Careers,” Harvard Business Review).
I acknowledge the many responsibilities I and others have added to my plate – even as a result of my own enthusiasm – and I acknowledge that I must maintain a balance between what I take on myself and what I delegate or remove from my responsibilities.
My mentor sent me an article on the subject of leadership. I found it helpful as I think of myself as a leader. An individual can be a leader without being a manager. The article talks about asking yourself:
- 5-7-10: where was I when I was 5 years old? What was I doing 7 years ago? Where do I want to be in 10 years?
- What do you want to be in ten years? Be ≠ president of the company, retired, spending more time with activity X.
Once you realize that “being” a good leader is different from “doing” your job well, live by the following principles:
- understand yourself
- understand your context
- be fully present with a person and understand their needs and concerns; put away your smartphone and turn away from your computer when you meet with others
Leadership is a lot about the other person, but it’s also about yourself. It’s neither one nor the other alone. It makes sense: the title “leader” is a relational term. You can’t be a leader if you’re not leading anyone.
For example, I always catered to everyone’s “needs,” saying yes to every request and burning myself out. I was focused on the people I was leading and their needs, but I had left out the leadership part of my role (me and the cohesive identity of “being” I want for myself), so I was just being thrown about by the many voiced needs of my colleagues. What I needed to do was clearly define how I want to be as a leader and how that helps people most, and then control my own schedule for achieving that.
In my most recent meeting with my mentor (over a delicious cup pumpkin-spice-flavored steamed milk), I realized my vision as a thought leader was missing one important element: happiness. I should make sure that in all of this striving to “be” who I want to be, that I be happy.
I believe my idea of balance is a reactionary goal based on stress, the stress that reduces happiness if not experienced in appropriate doses (like healthy deadlines vs. debilitating inhumane levels of work to be done).
My mentor sent me an article from T+D called “Our Inexpert Judgment of Expertise” by Catherine Lombardozzi. There are 18 determinants of expertise, according to Lombardozzi: six are objective and twelve are subjective.
- Has qualifications required
- Has education necessary
- Has been trained in his area of expertise
- Has knowledge about her field
- Has knowledge specific to his field
- Conducts research related to her field
- Is self-assured
- Is charismatic
- Has self-confidence
- Can deduce things easily from work-related situations
- Can assess whether a work-related situation is important
- Is intuitive in her job
- Is an expert who is outgoing
- Is capable of improving herself
- Is able to judge what things are important
- Has the drive to become what she is capable of becoming in her field
- Is ambitious about her work
- Can talk her way through any work-related situation
According to Lombardozzi it is not only important to have the expertise, but to project those subjective factors that underscore the perception of expertise. She notes that self-assured people may give the impression that they have more expertise than they do. This is important to consider “when making selection decisions or assessing performance.” I see this often in my field, that perceptions drive selection and assessment at times over the actual objective descriptors. It goes both ways. Some favor the outgoing individuals, whose confidence affects the perception, and some favor the quiet, introverted, even antisocial individuals, who seem even more like innovative geniuses because of the quiet lives they live.
The point is to be wise in our judgments of expertise. I think I have focused my vision for myself as a thought leader a little too much on the subjective side; I want to make sure I have all the objective descriptors.
Two weeks ago my mentor and I discussed balance. A few tactics to keeping balance:
- Check in with yourself
- Have a system
- Once balance is gained, maintain it
- Say no
- Don’t fill up the schedule again after cleaning it out
- Take some things off the list once the list is created
What is the bigger picture? Being a thought leader. What does that mean for the work I do? Who am I aiming to be? I cannot move each grain of sand (if sand = things to do), so what is more important than the grains? The emphasis, from my mentor: “You can’t keep trying to complete all the details in your list or you’re going to make yourself sick.”
Balance and Vision
I learned I need to refocus on the strategy and ask myself:
- Where am I trying to go?
- What would a thought leader do?
- What is the best use of my time and energy?
My mentor said something very important that stuck with me. He said self-confidence leads to being balanced. Confidence is a common element for the characteristics of my vision.
- Respectful and respected: how can people respect a person who doesn’t respect his or herself?
- Enabling and vulnerable: I am willing to share my failures for teaching purposes if I am confident that those failures do not make me “a failure.”
- Relaxed with harnessed passion: A self-confident person can relax because they believe in themselves. My anxiety peaks when I’m not sure of myself.
This month I failed at balance. I said yes to too many meetings, but all of them seemed essential. I receive an average of 100 emails a day, many that require responses. I have projects that require constant care and attention. I take on just as much volunteer work, social engagements, and so on. My life is filled with so much “duty” that I lack quiet, meditative peace and even time to take care of mortal essentials such as eating meals and sleeping enough. So today I recommitted myself.
I sat in a meeting that went 15 minutes over its allotted time. To put it frankly, the person in charge was inconsiderate of the time of the individuals in the meeting and was inconsiderate of those who had scheduled the room next. I was appalled at such disrespectful behavior. However, a friend of mine, who sat several rows back, told me she just left at the hour it was supposed to end. She didn’t walk out in rage, but she had another commitment and slipped out the back. Sometimes I wonder what to do in these situations. Out of what I think is respect, I stay the extra 15 minutes. After all, it’s a prisoner’s dilemma. If we all were to decide to leave early from the long meeting, we’d all be walking out the door at the same time. An individual who wants to leave on time from a meeting that goes long depends on those who stick it out and stay so he or she can slip out the back somewhat unnoticed. I am curious to see what my mentor will say. He is much wiser than me about the concept of respect.
The theme I notice in this, though, is that I am allowing others to dictate how I spend my time. A hundred people, through a mix of email, phone calls, and walk-ins, are controlling my schedule. The meeting that went long controlled more of my schedule than I thought it would. There is value in being flexible, but when do I need to be firm – and how do I do it? How can I change my behaviors to say no and not feel guilty for doing so?
Nearly every diligent person, who is passionate about the work they do, struggles with balance. I have at different points in my career felt more balanced than at other times. I keep a list of “tasks” I need to do – behaviors I have focused on cultivating. The list is different from other task lists, however, because I do not check off any as completed. That’s why I want to call it my list of behaviors. It is a reminder to me that the process is ongoing. My list includes:
Declutter • Focus on one task at once • Allow myself to edit commitments to what I can do • Eliminate all but essentials • Don’t do everything at once • Declutter my mind • Do nothing for a moment • Eat more slowly • Have a purpose for each day • Focus on the big rocks, not the sand • Clear out the inbox • Clear off my desk • Be an early riser • Be motivated • Decompress after high stress situations • Cultivate more compassion • Escape materialism • Live the Golden Rule • Accept criticism with grace and appreciation • Have faith in humanity • Boost my self-confidence and respect my expertise • Live my life mindfully and more aware
I have been focusing on these behaviors for a long time now. There is still progress to be made, but I feel that I’ve come a long way. There are some behaviors listed above that I have improved and others with which I still struggle. However, awareness is the first critical step, as my mentor would say!