PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FOR­WARD

The Smart Manager - - Myth Buster -

Achiev­ing goals and pos­i­tively con­tribut­ing to work re­quire one to be the best ver­sion of them­selves, at all times. Leo Bot­tary, au­thor of What Any­one Can Do and co-au­thor of The Power of Peers, tells us why we should sur­round our­selves with the right people to boost our chance for suc­cess.

01 if you want it done right, do it your­self

That is be­cause our limited un­der­stand­ing of what is right and what is pos­si­ble keeps us from do­ing our very best and rais­ing our stan­dards of ex­cel­lence. My time at Bos­ton­based ad­ver­tis­ing agency Mul­lenLowe of­fers an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of what can hap­pen when a di­verse, tal­ented team, is fo­cused on cre­at­ing the best ad­ver­tis­ing in the world.

The cre­ative direc­tor would typ­i­cally gather a group of 20 to 25 people to de­velop a new ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign. Once ev­ery­one shows up, the ideas start fly­ing. They all have their box­ing gloves on—not to fight against one an­other, but to work as a team to fight for the best idea. Even­tu­ally, the bones of a cam­paign are dis­played on a board at the front of the room. People look at one an­other and col­lec­tively cel­e­brate their ge­nius—only briefly, of course, be­cause they know it is time to start from scratch and come up with an­other cam­paign. The group will re­peat the process sev­eral times in a re­lent­less pur­suit of what for­mer Na­tional Ge­o­graphic pho­tog­ra­pher Dewitt Jones calls ‘an­other right an­swer’.

Here is the best part: on all the oc­ca­sions I ever par­tic­i­pated in that ex­er­cise, the first cam­paign—which ev­ery­one cel­e­brated with such great en­thu­si­asm—did not make the cut to show the client. It is what hap­pens when you have a team, whose mem­bers trust and re­spect one an­other, go to bat­tle for the best idea. If you want it done right, then you as­sem­ble the right team.

02 most people know what they want

False. One of my pod­cast guests, Laura Goodrich, who wrote a ter­rific book called See­ing Red Cars, finds that when you ask most people what they want, they are of­ten clear about what they do not want, but un­able to ex­press what they do want. Goodrich also as­serts that be­cause we tend to get more of what we fo­cus on, that once we take note of the red car, we start see­ing them ev­ery­where.

So, why is iden­ti­fy­ing and ex­press­ing what we want so dif­fi­cult? Man­age­ment con­sul­tant Robert Fritz ar­gues that most of us hold two con­trary be­liefs—pow­er­less­ness and un­wor­thi­ness—that limit our abil­ity to iden­tify and create what we re­ally want. Fritz said he has only met a hand­ful of in­di­vid­u­als who are not limited by one or the other.

Once you de­cide what you do want, you can sur­round your­self with people who share your goal and/or who have al­ready ac­com­plished it. These are the people who will en­cour­age you, share ex­pe­ri­ences, pro­vide ad­vice, and help you stick to your daily sched­ule.

03 keep your eye on the prize

This is not as good an idea as you might think. Here is a case in point:

More than fif­teen years ago, my teenaged daugh­ters asked me if we could climb Mount Baldy in Crested Butte, Colorado. Of course, stand­ing on the peak is one thing, get­ting there is quite an­other. I talked to them about what it would take to pre­pare for the climb, and a few weeks later we em­barked on our ver­ti­cal jour­ney.

As we be­gan the climb, the girls were quite en­thu­si­as­tic. Now, if you have ever climbed a moun­tain, you know that in ad­di­tion to the phys­i­cal chal­lenge, there is a psy­cho­log­i­cal one. Be­cause of the ten­dency to fix your eyes on the peak (or the prize if you will), it is easy to climb for twenty or thirty min­utes and feel as if you are not mak­ing any progress. Fix­at­ing on any goal, es­pe­cially in the early stages, that con­tin­ues to look unattain­able can be very dis­cour­ag­ing. So after about ninety min­utes, the girls were ready to turn back.

But be­fore we did, I sug­gested that rather than stare at the sum­mit, they take note of where we were, climb for fif­teen more min­utes, and re­assess. If they wanted to quit then, they could. They re­luc­tantly agreed. After fif­teen min­utes, the sum­mit did not look any closer, but when I asked them to lo­cate the bush we used to mark our start

po­si­tion, they could not be­lieve how far away it was. They were as­ton­ished at their progress. So much so, that they felt a surge in their men­tal and phys­i­cal en­ergy. After even­tu­ally reach­ing the sum­mit (12,805 ft.), they re­al­ized that there is noth­ing quite like the view from the top.

To this day, my daugh­ters con­tinue to draw upon this ex­pe­ri­ence. When­ever they are faced with a tough chal­lenge, they re­mem­ber what they did that day. Tak­ing your eye off the prize to cel­e­brate small wins can be quite ben­e­fi­cial.

04 avoid con­ver­sa­tions about pol­i­tics and re­li­gion

Have you ever been told to avoid con­ver­sa­tions about pol­i­tics and re­li­gion? Most of us re­ceived this ad­vice from our par­ents. While they may have meant well, (so­cially speak­ing and to avoid people chal­leng­ing their chil­dren’s nascent views), this di­rec­tive did more harm than good. For starters, such a pro­hi­bi­tion as­sumes that these top­ics are fod­der for hos­tile de­bate rather than pro­duc­tive di­a­logue. It as­sumes that when we en­gage in a con­ver­sa­tion about our po­lit­i­cal views or our faith, an ar­gu­ment is sure to en­sue, and that we can­not sim­ply ask ques­tions to get to the core of why some­one is lib­eral rather than con­ser­va­tive or how faith plays a role in one’s life.

Imag­ine what we could learn if we were equipped to have thought­ful con­ver­sa­tions about ev­ery­thing. Con­sider how less di­vided the world might be if we were taught to lis­ten and learn rather than ar­gue and judge. Un­for­tu­nately, be­cause the no­tion that we should avoid con­tro­ver­sial sub­jects was so em­bed­ded into our psy­ches as kids, we, as adults, of­ten lack the abil­ity to have re­spect­ful con­ver­sa­tions about any­thing with­out let­ting emo­tions run wild. As a re­sult, we talk about com­fort­able top­ics and sur­round our­selves with people like our­selves—hardly a recipe for learn­ing and growth.

05 in the scheme of things, you do not mat­ter that much

One of my pod­cast guests, founder of Choose2Mat­ter, An­gela Maiers begs to dif­fer. She ex­plains it this way: “Fiveyear-olds be­lieve they were born to make an im­pact. They wake up ev­ery day be­liev­ing that un­til an adult in their world says, ‘You’re not good enough to make that im­pact.’ We weren’t born to em­brace lim­i­ta­tions. That is taught. Av­er­age is some­thing that we choose. Maybe not ex­plic­itly, but sub­tly, we’re taught to cover up, to hide and hold in our ge­nius be­cause it’s not com­fort­able for the other people around us. We’ve got to stop that.”

Maiers adds, “You are a ge­nius, and the world needs your con­tri­bu­tion. I watch as I say that line to five-yearolds all the way up to CEOs of For­tune 500 com­pa­nies, and it is at about eight- to nine-years-old that I start see­ing the first signs of people hold­ing back. That is ab­so­lutely some­thing we should ur­gently be con­cerned about, be­cause the mo­ment that our pas­sion­ate people get quiet, the mo­ment that the most bril­liant ideas start be­ing held back, the mo­ment we don’t start tak­ing risks with one an­other, ev­ery­one loses.”

If you are part of any group or team, then your pres­ence and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion mat­ters. Not un­like a jazz en­sem­ble, if you start tak­ing away in­stru­ments, then the en­sem­ble will in­vari­ably sound dif­fer­ent. You mat­ter.

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