In my book patience is not a virtue and good things don’t come to those who wait. You can quote me.
Keeping next steps lined up for my projects and areas of responsibility helps ensure everything is moving forward (thank you David Allen and GTD). I may not always be able to control the timing but I can sure as heck guard against stalled projects.
Try this out for yourself. Take a look at your to do list. How many items on your list are doable action items? Most to do lists are actually made up of projects. You can’t do a project you can only do a next step.
So here’s to impatience and improved speed of execution.
For years I resisted the whole idea of networking. My mental association was an image of Herb Tarlek, the consumate slick salesman, wearing white shoes and an insincere grin handing out business cards two at at time with instructions to his new acquaintances to pass the extra cards to people in their network (if you’re my age you remember Herb from WKRP in Cincinnati – if this doesn’t ring a bell, never mind).
Then I began playing on LinkedIn. It wasn’t intentional. A colleague sent me an invitation and I accepted just to be polite. I got off to a rocky start by connecting with people who saw me as a shortcut to booking a sales call at the Fortune 500 company I worked for. You know the type. They don’t make eye contact when you meet because they’re too busy scanning the room to see if there’s anyone more interesting hanging around.
I took a break from social networking for a while and then I read an article about paying it forward. I decided to give it a try and began viewing networking as a way to provide value to others rather than as a means to making a sale. Five years later I have over six hundred connections on LinkedIn and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many business people in my communities that I would not have met without these social networking platforms. I’ve helped people find web sites on emigrating to Canada, I’ve connected job seekers with recruiters at my company all over North America, and I’ve helped people polish their resume.
That’s where the value of networking lies. It’s in paying it forward and making connections with real people. And learning. Sites like LinkedIn facilitate sharing and learning within the global business community in an unintrusive and collaborative way.
So try networking from a different perspective. Think what you can bring to your network and get out there and deliver. The results will come in later.
Hoarding has gotten a lot of press over the last year, thanks in large measure to a reality show called Hoarders. What keeps me watching the show is my fascination with a different kind of hoarding — one that can afflict today’s knowledge workers with very little outward sign: mental hoarding.
Considering the volume of information the average office worker processes in a week – and the fact that this information flow shows no signs of slowing down – this is a very good time to become skilled at clearing out and decluttering the mind.
Unlike possessions hoarding, brain clutter could easily build in private and go undetected for years. I envision cerebral passageways narrowed by the accumulation of unused information – stuff we retain because we might need it someday. Many of us have this problem with our computer hard drives. Ever spent twenty minutes searching for a document buried deep within folders filled with files you haven’t accessed in years? What makes us keep everything? I would guess it’s the conviction that just as soon as we hit the delete key someone will have a dire need for that very file.
Last month I had a conversation with someone who counseled me to ensure that I was keeping a healthy balance of tactical versus strategic goals. I love that we had that conversation and have given quite a bit of thought to it in the days and weeks following our telephone meeting. In my mind, that’s the mark of a great coaching conversation — the words return over and over and bring one to new places or new ideas.
What made this conversation so special? I’ll give myself some small credit for being open to coaching — but that’s not unique [smugly pats self on back]. What was different is I was speaking to someone who had already invested significant time toward clarifying and distilling the essence of “what needs to happen” into intentional action and a teachable point of view. This person’s communication style was once described to me as “masterful” by a client. People who really know their stuff are able to convey complex ideas simply and clearly. They help us see what’s possible and get us excited about going there.
This made me think of another colleague who provided leadership insight that I use on a regular basis. I sent questions in advance of our conversation as I was seeking solid, meaningful feedback. In the space of a 45-minute conversation she was able to help me find the one thing I could work on that would bring the most value and the greatest results.
In both these situations I received valuable coaching from people who were a step or two removed from the results of my actions. Maybe that’s the key. We were able to lift ourselves out of the day-to-day expectations and instead fly into the future and examine what’s possible and what needs to be different.
Where are your mentors? Are there people you admire that you would like to reach out to? I’m challenging myself to interact with individuals I don’t know well – perhaps some of my LinkedIn connections – where there could be a valuable interchange of thoughts and ideas. I’m also reaching out to people who have had a positive mentoring impact on me to say thank you and continue the conversation.
Moving to take advantage of career opportunities has been an excellent experience and one that I highly recommend if your personal circumstances permit. Working in new environments not only helps to round out practical experience, it exposes one to new ways of doing things and helps build resilience and adaptability.
An advantage that I seldom hear mentioned is the positive impact to one’s professional network. Upon arrival in the new city you have an automatic kinship with other “transplants”. This can step up your networking to include higher ranking business people as corporate relocation is more common among senior professionals. And there’s often a way for contacts in your previous community to connect you with people they know in your new community. Just don’t forget to ask!
I have a friend who seems to have lived all over the world. I met her when she and her family relocated to Canada. Here’s her blog about the family’s most recent move – to Qatar! I’m sure you’ll enjoy her wit — she reminds me of author Erma Bombeck. I especially appreciate her open respect for other cultures. If you’re considering an international move without corporate sponsorship there are several things to consider – primary among them, the legal requirements to work in the new country. Every country differs. Fortunately the internet abounds with research sites. Once you have selected your destination and are ready to start packing, you might enjoy this blog post that points out the most common avoidable mistakes.
At this point I’ve moved literally from one coast to the other with a 4-year stop in the middle. I highly recommend it as a way of rounding out business experience, broadening perspective and meeting lots of new people.
“Pull the string, and it will follow wherever you wish. Push it, and it will go nowhere at all.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
It’s great to believe ourselves capable of inspiring people to action — that we can influence behaviours simply by painting a compelling picture of a bright, shiny new future — but the truth is, it’s much harder than it looks. And if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we may be doing more pushing than pulling.
Positional Power versus Personal Power
Not sure if you ever use positional power? Here are some phrases to surface those times:
“Do it because I said so.”
“I’ve been doing this for X years. I know what I’m doing.”
“What is your supervisor’s name?”
You can imagine many other scenarios – in fact, anytime we are tempted to cite our title (parent, VP, tax-paying citizen) or ask the other person what their title is, we are probably leaning on positional power to get something done. This is pushing.
Pulling, on the other hand, is a beautiful thing. Pulling requires us to be open and curious. Pulling sounds more like this:
“Tell me more about why you prefer that method over this one.”
“What else do you think might work?”
“Who else do we need to involve in this decision?”
If you are enjoying this topic, here are some additional online resources:
What’s the most popular blog and editorial topic every January? It has to be New Year’s resolutions. Promises to do better, be better, make a difference, make a change or take a chance. If you are one of the millions with a 2010 resolutions list, hold your list up to these questions to see if they measure up as truly useful tools capable of pulling you toward what you really want.
Are my resolutions measurable and quantifiable? Compare “lose one pound per week” to the less specific phrase “lose weight”.
Have I framed my goals in positive language with no recriminations that will make me feel bad when I read them? Compare “Each morning I will do first the things I would be tempted to put off” to “I will stop procrastinating”.
What is motivating me to create resolutions? Are they energizing? Do I truly want to create different results for myself or am I simply recording what I think I should do?
Albert Ellis (1913-2007) coined the phrase “don’t should on yourself”. It’s all about challenging the social edicts that surface from our subconscious as imposter goals — goals that set us up for failure because they’re not personally motivating. We don’t own them. They are someone else’s idea of what is good or worthwhile. If the prospect of becoming an ex-smoker doesn’t excite us how will we produce the strength required to overcome the physical addiction and behavioral habit?
Here are some online resources to help us bring personal development into the new year.
Maria Galca’s Life Toolkit – I like this site a lot. She’s got some truly helpful tips for turning new year’s resolutions into a positive be-good-to-yourself experience.