I recently had a discussion with a friend, where we were comparing our brains to computers. Yeah, we’re nerds.
*On a computer, we type information and download content to add information to the hard drive, then process that information towards productive synthesis in order to create original content, ideas, expression, etc…
*As humans, we work similarly: We seek and observe information which is stored in our brains. From there we judge, opine, conclude, and synthesize this hard observational data into outward expression and ideas.
What is interesting to me is this: the most expensive computers have very fast processors that can analyze data rapidly and spit out results. Sure, expensive computers also often have a lot of storage for data, but the processor is where its at. I think this is where the human workforce is headed. There are more and more resources available for finding data when we need it – there is less of a need to memorize stuff than there used to be – and the most successful people seem to be the most efficient and effective processors of this information.
So how can we continue to shift into a personhood where we prioritize ability to process and effectively create results more than our capacity to memorize facts and hard data?
This year I’ve come to enjoy the show Undercover Boss (thanks Netflix!!!). Perhaps I’m late to the party – since its been on for a few years – but it has a lot of relevancy towards leadership and management.
If you haven’t seen this reality show, the plotline is usually very similar: A CEO puts on a disguise and works for a week in the different entry level positions in their company. There will often be a similar collection of examples they’ll encounter: an employee overcoming hardship, an epiphany of a thing or person who shouldn’t be in the position they’re in, and some positive employees working to further the brand of their company. It’s pretty entertaining and I’d recommend it, even if it does feel a little propaganda-ish sometimes.
I was thinking about it today and I realized something: Each of these CEO’s are well-intentioned and probably good people, but they’re disconnected. It’ s not any mystery why; these high-ranking leaders control so many things at once on a daily basis and their responsibilities are plentiful. Being as extremely solution-oriented as I am, I began to ask the question “what can I do to ensure I do not become disconnected, especially as I am in my management job longer – or find myself in an even higher level position in the future?” I came up with a few ideas:
1. Engagement is a daily walk, not a monthly check-in. I need to be present in the lives of those around me, present in their careers, and to let them be present in my life as well.
2. When I am in a position where there are just too many people to know everything about, I will need to ensure my leaders beneath me can be my hands and feet, living out these engagement principles and communicating with me regularly.
3. The focus of any business or role I am ever involved in always must be largely people-based. Whether I’m selling tents at REI or stickers at my previous job at Graphicsland, everything comes back to people. As long as I am genuinely committed to facilitating a culture of excellence in everyone around me, customers will come, sales will be made, and employees will be productive and connected to the business purpose.
These 3 things I pledge. Let this be my contract 🙂
Yesterday i brought up the importance of becoming self aware for one’s own growth. However i didn’t really talk much about how to do this, especially when it isn’t a part of a person’s natural intuition. I want to share a question that I’ve asked frequently to help me in this regard:
“Is the performance of my team and business because of my efforts or in spite of them?”
Reflecting on that has helped me determine some growth areas. Perhaps it may also help you on your journey.
Last week, work was busy. Heck, I’m working retail during the holiday season, so it should be!
There was a rare afternoon semi-lull, however, and as is my responsibility as a manager, I did a couple rounds of the store to survey my surroundings to ensure my team was still productive. There were good things to report: every employee was engaged with customers, the store looked well organized and put together, and nothing really required my immediate attention. In fact, the store was running autonomously, which is my goal as a manager, right?
This moment of success birthed a rare conundrum for me: what the heck should I be doing now? Everything that needed to be stocked out had been. My back office stuff was already taken care of. My team was engaged with customers so it wouldn’t be smart to walk around distracting my employees with other conversations outside of their customers.
I eventually found some things that I could improve and shortly after that, more customers came in and I was once again needed on the floor. This caused me to internally evaluate myself, however: how do I identify areas within myself that need to improve? As a leader, I get direction every once in awhile from a superior on what to do better or more or what-not… but most of the time I am responsible for self-evaluating myself, performance, and overall being. This is an absolutely necessary ability and skill for an independent leader to hold.
Sometimes I find that I simply learn things about myself organically. Other times, events will happen around me and I’ll realize that I didn’t deal with them as well as I ought to have – so I should improve that respective skill. My question that I’d love some input on is: how have you grown your ability to self-evaluate yourself in order to figure out what to improve? Is this even happening? How have you encouraged this spirit of development in others around you?
I once took part in a clean up effort for local water channels. I was told that we’d be pulling out debris and litter from shallow canals to help the water flow better. When our small group of 5 arrived at the canal – armed with nothing but latex gloves, poker sticks, and hefty bags – the methane-fart smell of the polluted waterway told us this would not be a walk in the park. However, one of the quieter people in our group that we didn’t know changed all that. He put on his knee-high rubber galoshes and kitchen gloves and jumped right into the muck. He was pulling out condoms, tennis balls, fishing line, bags, and anything else that you can imagine. Before I knew it, another group member followed him in. And then another. And another. At this point, I had to step up and join in.
Leaders don’t talk about change – they lead it from the inside out. This opportunity might look like a conflict between a group of people you work with, a category of items that are very hard to sell and are avoided by most employees, or an intimidating change in a process that people are evading. Influential leaders ignore the intimidating or unpleasant nature of these tasks; instead they bite their lip and jump right in.
Want to be an influential leader? Put on your galoshes, jump into an undesirable scenario, and lead change from the inside out! Throw yourself into the fire!
“People don’t resist change. People resist BEING changed.”
I just found this really interesting Tedx Talk on increasing ownership and reducing resistance in organizations. Check it here: