A true leader moves beyond “my idea” to “our idea.”
You can’t assume culture.
When faced with a setback, look beyond the point of impact.
Shifts of thinking that are necessary to become a great leader from Coach Mike Krzyzewski
New research from the University of Pennsylvania attempts to understand the personality traits of Americans and the well-being of the communities they live in, by studying what they tweet. In studying a mind-boggling volume of 37 billion tweets, the researchers at the World Well-Being Project have created an interactive map of U.S. counties with scores […]
I used to get dragged into team-building activities, and I never felt comfortable. I was always watching the clock and eyeing the exit. I like to chill with people, but I never got into team-building exercises. Years later, I know why.
Team-building exercises are pointless and even insulting to your team members because they suggest that if only your team members spent more time doing silly things and solving group problems together, climbing trees and rolling around on the floor, they would work more effectively together the rest of the time.
The fallacy is that the problem you as a leader must solve has anything to do with your teammates! It doesn’t. When a team hasn’t gelled and isn’t communicating, it’s not because they need team-building training. It’s because there is an energetic blockage in the mix and no one is talking about it.
That’s the elephant in the room, and it’s a leadership problem 100% of the time. An entire industry has sprung up around the made-up and juvenile idea of forcible team-building, all to prevent leaders from having to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the culture and communication on their teams.
No one ever hired a consultant to put on a team-building workshop when there were no problems! We only think about team-building when the team isn’t working together well. That’s a leadership problem.
It doesn’t mean that the team’s leader is unequipped for the job, but it means that the conversation has to begin with the question “Why is the energy blocked on this team, and why hasn’t the topic been aired yet?” rather than with the question “Should we take everybody to the arcade or take them to the ropes course in the woods, in order to do some team-building?”
Here are the principal energy blockers I see in corporations and not-for-profits, startups and government agencies:
• Fuzzy or missing strategy
• Unaddressed conflict
• Role confusion
• Red tape bureaucracy
• Slow processes requiring multiple approvals
• Over-reliance on measurement and quantitative goals
• Little to no conversation about culture, norms, energy, conflict or feelings
• Inexperienced leaders
• Little focus on experimentation, collaboration and innovation, and
• Lack of praise, acknowledgment and information-sharing
Being a leader means diving into conversations about sticky topics, rather than dancing around them and taking the team out for ice cream instead. Strong leaders can talk about icky, sticky topics. Weak leaders can’t. They organize fake-fun activities as a thank-you to their teammates for having the courtesy to keep quiet about the fake that the emperor has no clothes.
If you have to take your team off-site to play games because you can’t stand to talk about what’s happening in your office, what does that say about you as a leader?
Taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive. For example, silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets. Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, and quiets inner chatter as well as outer. Try going on a media fast, sitting silently for 2 minutes during the middle of your workday, or taking a long walk in the woods — with no phone. The world is getting louder, but silence is still accessible.
In a recent interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein, journalist and author Ta-Nehisi Coates argued that serious thinkers and writers should get off Twitter.
It wasn’t a critique of the 140-character medium or even the quality of the social media discourse in the age of fake news.
It was a call to get beyond the noise.
For Coates, generating good ideas and quality work products requires something all too rare in modern life: quiet.
He’s in good company. Author JK Rowling, biographer Walter Isaacson, and psychiatrist Carl Jung have all had disciplined practices for managing the information flow and cultivating periods of deep silence. Ray Dalio, Bill George, California Governor Jerry Brown, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan have also described structured periods of silence as important factors in their success.
Recent studies are showing that taking time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us now live, work, and lead. Duke Medical School’s Imke Kirste recently found that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory. Physician Luciano Bernardi found that two-minutes of silence inserted between musical pieces proved more stabilizing to cardiovascular and respiratory systems than even the music categorized as “relaxing.” And a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, based on a survey of 43,000 workers, concluded that the disadvantages of noise and distraction associated with open office plans outweighed anticipated, but still unproven, benefits like increasing morale and productivity boosts from unplanned interactions.
But cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets. Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.
This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.
Cultivating silence, as Hal Gregersen writes in a recent HBR article, “increase[s] your chances of encountering novel ideas and information and discerning weak signals.” When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found.
Even incredibly busy people can cultivate periods of sustained quiet time. Here are four practical ideas:
1) Punctuate meetings with five minutes of quiet time. If you’re able to close the office door, retreat to a park bench, or find another quiet hideaway, it’s possible to hit reset by engaging in a silent practice of meditation or reflection.
2) Take a silent afternoon in nature. You need not be a rugged outdoors type to ditch the phone and go for a simple two-or-three-hour jaunt in nature. In our own experience and those of many of our clients, immersion in nature can be the clearest option for improving creative thinking capacities. Henry David Thoreau went to the woods for a reason.
3) Go on a media fast. Turn off your email for several hours or even a full day, or try “fasting” from news and entertainment. While there may still be plenty of noise around—family, conversation, city sounds—you can enjoy real benefits by resting the parts of your mind associated with unending work obligations and tracking social media or current events.
4) Take the plunge and try a meditation retreat: Even a short retreat is arguably the most straightforward way to turn toward deeper listening and awaken intuition. The journalist Andrew Sullivan recently described his experience at a silent retreat as “the ultimate detox.” As he put it: “My breathing slowed. My brain settled…It was if my brain were moving away from the abstract and the distant toward the tangible and the near.”
The world is getting louder. But silence is still accessible—it just takes commitment and creativity to cultivate it.
Are you and your team willing to do what is necessary to “Be Better Than You Were Yesterday”?
Are you willing to invest your time into:
Building a Plan Of Action – create a path for yourself leading to your desires
Doing Deep Work – not just doing the day to day work
Building Your Reputation – become the go to person inside and outside of your organization
When things get busy, time for strategic thinking is almost always the first to go. “Planning sessions” seem amorphous, and the ROI is uncertain. But going for months or years without regular introspection can lead you down a professional path that you didn’t intend to be on. Instead, force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. `Harvard Business Review. (2016). Think Strategically About Your Career Development.
You are the leader of your team. What should your focus be? What role do you see yourself playing? What is your number one Job?
You must have a plan in place. A design for your success and your team’s success. Leaders will have a plan to help develop each member of their teams.
It’s significant to develop leadership skills in your employees for the growth of their careers and self-esteem. When your team is equipped with industry knowledge, they’ll be able to make informed decisions, guide their peers (and eventually those that they lead), and be better qualified for opportunities that come their way.
The leader’s goal is to explore new ideas, experiment, fail fast and tell stories of the future that inspire people. At the top of the list is your ability to motivate your team. Motivate, motivate, motivate by example and words.
“The most important task of a leader is to create leaders.” To build up your people and teams and the fastest path possible is to share industry knowledge along with the expert knowledge they require to perform the real task.