leadership legacy

What do Missy Higgins and Good Managers Have in Common?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership legacy |

Well Missy took a 5 year break from music because she’d “forgotten why I wanted to write music in the first place”. For her, losing the connection with her music and her purpose turned her passion into a business and a job.  For an artist and a musician that can be a hollow place to be.

Actually, it can be a hollow feeling for anyone to feel their joy and enthusiasm for what they do melting away.  Or worse, realise that it has gone completely and then to feel stuck or trapped.

Does that sound like anyone you know?

Are you a manager who has lost some (or all) of your passion and enthusiasm? Does working with people drain your energy rather than inspire you to be the best leader you can be?

Some people say that it is life’s greatest pleasure to work at what you love.  I say it is essential to love what you do – even if that is only part of what you do – otherwise it is a grind or a rut.

An old favourite phase of mine is

“The only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth”

Because when you get into a rut things lose their life and colour and passion.  It doesn’t really seem that far off being completely cut off from life itself.

Can you feel how that may happen?  Many people I meet for career guidance tell me they feel stuck or trapped.  Being a career advisor and manager coach means I have a lot of conversations with a lot of people – and the majority of those conversations relate to people who feel that their work is a j.o.b. (or just off broke).  Can you imagine how that comes across to people you work with?  When you feel frustrated and unhappy in your work it does come across to others, even if only in subtle ways.

And that is why I believe Missy has been very wise to take a break.  Her music is her passion.  Her music is enjoyed because she sings and plays and writes with passion.  If there were no passion where would the joy be – for her as a performer or for her audience?

I recall seeing a well known band perform live – there was no banter or interaction between the members, there were no smiles and no apparent enjoyment of the gig.  Some people say they are a great band because their sound is perfect on stage and in the studio.  For me, there was no passion and it was a technical display only. That is not why I wanted to see a band perform live.

Enough with the imagery about boredom and death! Although one final comment on the picture – how many people do you know who believe that if they work harder and longer than anyone else that they will reap the rewards?  And how many of those people subsequently get ill or suffer stress – especially if they are overlooked for a promotion.  The hardest working people in a company can be the least visible – think about the cleaners, the admin and support staff, those in back office jobs: they all work very hard and with little recognition.  Those of us in more customer facing roles work hard also yet our direct connection with customers usually provides us with some recognition.  Don’t fool yourself – working yourself into a grave may get you the Unknown headstone too – and that’s about  it.

Back to Missy – she clearly knows that you need to be true to yourself to be good at what you do.

Does that make sense to you?  It’s a pretty deep concept – happiness comes from being true to yourself.  Being good at what you do involves (usually) enjoying what you do – so that you’ll keep doing it – and therefore the more you do it the better you get.  This phenomena is also known as the 3 Ps – practice (creates) prefeence (increases) proficiency.  You (and I) practice what is preferred and that leads to proficiency. So we do what we like and then get better at it because we’ve practiced and then we develop an even stronger preference or liking for it.

Yes that’s why I work with lots of managers and people seeking career counselling because I enjoy it, which I hope makes me easier to work with and then get great results with people, and then I want to keep doing it because it helps people.

So to be really good at what you do you need to enjoy it.  Enjoyment comes from being true to yourself and knowing what you like.

Managers are the same – most of us become leaders or managers because we like people and think we can make a positive difference.

Now for my tough question – Why did you become a manager?

What were the reasons you signed up to lead people? Are you still doing it for those reasons or has your role become lost in the blur of budgets, reporting, deliverables, projects and problem solving?

If that notion cause you to feel sad, then I ask you this Is the despair or frustration that you feel, showing in your work and to your team?

If so – it is surely not how you want to be seen and remembered.  And now perhaps you are in a dilemma.  I love my company and my team (and let’s face it, the wages are probably a positive influence too) yet the job has lost some (or all) of it’s appeal for me.  Now what do I do?

Well you do not have to resign or quit!

I hope that is a relief.

Unless that is really what you want to do, and have been thinking about for some time – in which case I suggest have a chat with a career advisor and then do it if it is right for you! Very little is to be gained for making a rash decision, however the theme of this post is also that continuing to do something that makes you unhappy is also not a good thing.

My suggestion is to rediscover what it is that you love about what you do – why did you get started in the first place.  See if you can reconnect with that passion and enthusiasm. And then let it shine.

Personally, I have resigned from jobs before because there was no longer a fit between what the role/company required and what I love to do. And like Missy I knew that if I stayed in that role that all I’d be doing was being bad for my health, lowering the results I could achieve and leaving a less than brilliant impression of myself with people I worked with. To do my best I need to be in the right frame of mind – which comes when i do what I love.

One role that I resigned from was a head of learning and development, and it had lots of training/workshop facilitation, career advice with staff, skill and development planning with managers and some great projects as well.  It was my ideal role at the time. Well the company went into a consolidation period and wanted to do fairly standard training for about 12 months and then review whether they would resume the staff skill and career development aspect.

For me I did not want to be a contract manager for 12 months – that is not the type of work that really makes my heart sing.  I realise that there are people out there who love contract management and so I decided to resign from that job and let someone in who would really, passionately and diligently do what was required.

Now some folks would say that’s a pretty brave move and not something that just anyone could or should do.  We are all in different circumstances which need to be weighd up. It worked for me and I knew that I would not do myself or the job justice if I stayed.

My view is that your well being also needs to be weighed up.  If you work in a job you hate then it could well be eating you up from the inside. And maybe you would be better off doing something else.

Something you feel passion for. Something you enjoy. Something that helps you be a great person to work with. And makes you a happier person to be around outside of work.

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Social norms for social media

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: culture, leadership legacy, personal leadership |

Somewhat following the theme of my last post about beliefs and how strongly held they are – and hence why arguing logically about them is unlikely to help – I’m now thinking about social media.

For some reason social media appears to be perceived as being exempt from usual norms and protocols of communicating.

What makes me say that?  Consider these examples:

  • the increasing amount of press and media coverage about cyber bullying using facebook and twitter
  • media article about schoolchildren using facebook pages and blogs to vent their deep feelings as they believe their parents are not savvy enough to find them
  • requests from people on their twitter and linked in accounts for others to stop selling before “getting to know them”

This last one in particular has really spurred me into action (well writing at least!).  Why is it that people who would not cold call or doorknock – because they feel that this is hard selling and not the way they want to run their business – appear quite comfortable to straight off the bat sell to a new connection?  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of connecting online with someone who has then done something we feel has stepped over the line.

Or have they?

Isn’t this another example of differing beliefs?  I had an experience not that long ago of meeting someone at an event and we exchanged conversation and then business cards. As you do. We connected via LinkedIn soon after.  Within a day or so I received a request to refer this person to someone else in my network.

That last step was the one where I felt uncomfortable – and I replied saying that I only refer people whom I know well and that sadly I did not know this new contact well enough to do that just yet.  Perhaps my phrasing was not quite right because I received a pretty strong message back from my new contact reassuring me that they were ethical and would not act inappropriately and felt offended that I felt the way I did.

Hmmm.  My response was to let it cool.  The contact and I are still connected, although there have been no direct follow ups or other requests for referrals – from either of us.

Picking up another thread, I attended an internet security briefing last year where a presenter made a great comment about  people seeming to believe that what happens online is somehow less real than things that happen face to face.  The example was to ask us how we would respond if walking along the street and someone approached us with a software package valued at $900 for only $39.99.  Most people would not buy as they would suspect it’s legitimacy or legality!  Yet how often do we buy this sort of offer when it is online?

And so going back to my LinkedIn connection – if the same thing had happened at a function (say a networking lunch) would I have made the introduction? Yes I would.

Having had time to ponder why I said no online when I would do the opposite in real life I believe it was for two key reasons.  Firstly face to face I can position the introduction as “here’s someone I just met who said they are keen to meet you” and also I can assess the established connection’s reaction at that time.  Secondly, I could have “sussed” out exactly why the new connection wanted the introduction and if I felt it was going to be for a sales pitch I still would have said no.

Are there things that you do or ways that you behave differently online?

As business people we need to be really careful about this because our online activity and presence creates just as strong an impression of our character, if not stronger, to others.  One great comment is that words published online remain accessible to everyone forever.  How much do we really think about what we post about ourselves?  It’s not just our words – such as in blogs – it is also the messages about ourselves that those words create and sustain.

When training managers and teams I often refer to the fact that we judge ourselves on our intention and others on their behaviour.  Just as we cannot see their intent, only their behaviour – that is also all they see of us.  Are we really certain that our behaviours are giving the message we intended?  Social media allows us to have an online presence and personality – I wonder how many of us are as careful with that as we are our real life one?



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Leadership stereotypes

Posted on August 22, 2010. Filed under: command or control, expectations, leadership legacy, leadership stereotype, personal leadership |

Today’s post is very different to the one I had planned – all because of two unforseen factors.

The first was the point at which I was up to in reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” where he talks about a war games scenario. One team gathered and formatted many types of data and information on the ‘enemy’ and used that to create detailed forecasts and plans about what would happen next in the battle. The other team was far more adaptable and creative in the situation. The rogue leader in the scenario (known as Rip – or more correctly Paul Van Riper) refused to allow himself or his team to become caught up in the process or the data analysis – he told his team that he would be in command not in control.

Let’s look into that phrase a little deeper – being in command traditionally is associated with control (we even label one leadership style as command and control) yet here is a man saying that he is going to be out of control. How many people could panic if they knew their leader was out of control. Yet think about it: what leader expecially at senior levels can be physically in control of every single task and interaction within the business or even the team?  MMany of our assumptions and stereotypes place this undue expectation on a leader – and then when s/he fails to deliver on that level of detail we criticise.

For those of us who are or have been leaders I’m sure there are examples and experiences coming to mind right now.

Leadership as being in command and out of control.

A freeing statement – the leader is freed to focus on the vision, strategy, holistic view while the team are empowered to do what they do best. It allows members of an organisation to apply their technical specialties and perhaps gain a high degree of satisfaction from being trusted enough to be left alone to get things done.

Naturally this is not a totally hands off situation – the leader is always there if and when the team need to reach out for guidance or assistance. The leader is not effective if present and close to the team to the point where s/he is “in the face” of the individuals trying to get their work done.

So leadership as being in command not control.

That seemed like an interesting topic to contemplate as it seems far removed from how we normally reward or monitor the performance and effectiveness of leaders.

And the second factor that came up today – leadership as a legacy. After attending a great dinner on Friday night hosted by Loddon Murray Community leadership I held onto a comment about our role as leaders being to pick up where others have trail blazed us to and then also paving the way for those following us. Each of us has an opportunity, or even an obligation, to smooth the way to some degree for those following us.

It made me think about the role of leadership as being about a legacy and in some ways it’s humbling to see yourself as both a leader (traditionally associated with success and being one of a small group) and as a piece of a larger puzzle or tapestry.

Two thoughts, related in many ways yet different.

Looking forward to more discussion and development on these areas.

Have a great day.


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