I’m posting this on the second day of April, also known as the day after April Fools Day. You probably opened a few trick emails yesterday and checked to see Google’s infamous prank-of-the-year.
It occurs to me that perhaps the world is out of balance. We all like to have fun, and an April Fools Day fills the bill. But isn’t it odd that we have no official day on which we celebrate wisdom? Why that is, I have no idea, but maybe it’s time to correct the omission.
Having been fooled, we are often made wiser (and not necessarily sadder), so let’s just agree amongst ourselves that April 2nd is April Wisdom Day. And another thing… I think that the correct ratio of wisdom to frivolity is probably 12:1, so let’s follow with May Wisdom Day (which has a nice ring to it), and June, and so on. Who knows? This could propel us all into a happier future!
How to celebrate wisdom? Start by thinking of the special things you know about, or know how to do, that most people don’t. They don’t have to involve world-changing drive, or enormous curated stores of treasure. They just have to be important enough to you to have created or collected them. Now ask yourself:
- Do I appreciate myself for having acquired this wisdom?
- Have I let it be known that I have access to this wisdom?
- Have I shared my accumulated wisdom enough with others?
- Have I added something new to my wisdom collection lately?
- How do I plan to pass my wisdom on to those who will need it after I am gone?
Just contemplating the answers should tell you something. Things that we assume are commonplace, we often overlook. But gems of wisdom are never ordinary or trite, while pranks often are.
You don’t have to give up any fun you planned for yesterday. But, if you will believe in the intrinsic worth of your own wisdom, you will soon develop a greater appreciation for the wisdom of others, and this will have far more positive impact than even the most creative of April Fools.
There is a famous old Peanuts cartoon. Linus, ever philosophical, quotes “It is better to light one candle rather than curse the darkness”, whereupon Lucy, ever the pessimist, says something like, “You stupid darkness!”
Before you choose your favorite (and yes, one choice is more ‘socially desirable’) consider the advantages of being a Lucy.
- You never have to expend much energy finding the candle and lighting it.
- You don’t have to actually achieve anything, so you don’t have to put forth any effort.
- You won’t have to challenge any of your old beliefs, even the ones that make you miserable.
Are you with me? There is a choice here to be made. To do something positive that causes the light to be lit – or to curse it for not lighting itself.
Make no mistake about it: there is a lot of darkness in the world. You may not be feeling very positive about searching for light, especially if this has been a particularly dark time for you. If it has, the only positive thing may be that you are tired of cursing it.
So here are my three best suggestions for making sure that even in the darkness, you leave room for some light.
- One candle might not seem like much in a sea of darkness, so find other holders of light. They are all around, but even if you can’t see them, their flames will keep yours lit.
- If you find yourself surrounded by cursers, refuse to join. Instead, consider turning their curses into kisses by thanking them for their caring about whatever it is that they are cursing.
- Remember, curses pass the tongue quickly but linger in the atmosphere. Before you are tempted to curse the darkness, look around. Do you really want to snuff out other people’s candles, or would you rather let yourself be warmed by their light?
Just one more reminder: the direction a leader takes is the direction in which their team will follow them.
Leadership isn’t easy, but there are a lot of people who can tell you how it’s done! You can find about 69,000 of them on Amazon.com. Read a few, and soon you will be ready for the fitting of your halo and wings.
Last year I answered a question about Leadership on Quora.com. I have a special place in my heart for this website. The questions that people ask and answer there can range from tough to touching. The question I picked was, ‘What are the top 10 interpersonal skills found in great leaders?’ It was irresistible because I’ve met a lot of people who seem to believe that a team is only as good as its leader, and that is just not so!
Here’s my ‘Top 10’:
- They are team players.
- They are coherent (neither rigid not diffuse) in all their interactions with others.
- Depending on what they are leading, they are either highly inspirational, in which case people are drawn to follow them and their vision, or they are excellent at shepherding people toward the goal. Occasionally you find people who are good at both.
- They take initiative, especially in innovation companies – they seize the moment, and go for the opportunity.
- They clearly get that other people have a point of view that may not be an exact mirror of theirs. (They might not like it, but they definitely get it.)
- They aren’t consumed by greed. Their ambition and desire to win extends to their team, organization, stakeholders, and especially their customers.
- They aren’t know-it-alls, even though they are generally smart.
- They know how to be able depend on other people – their trust is highly desired and valued.
- They respect all living things. (That includes ‘silicon-based life forms’ – the technology that runs the company.)
- They openly express their faith in their team, that together they can achieve the vision.
After I posted it, I had to ask myself if I was only feeding into the perfection myth, but they checked out OK, especially #7 & #8.
Leaders need to acknowledge their imperfections, and that is actually the perfect team’s scenario. Every thing you do not do well calls for someone on your team who does do it well, and who loves having the opportunity. This gives the team, as an entity in and of itself, a much greater chance of being perfect than a ‘perfect’ leader ever could, or should.
No, leadership is not a formula, or a style, or a canon. Neither can it be adequately described as a series of traits or bits and pieces of experience. Leadership is intertwined with situational context, and thus leadership is a team sport. In the end, all that matters is that, collectively, your team is pulling together to achieve its mission.
There is a way to describe what any team needs, in terms of the people who are attracted to fill those needs. Each has a Role. Not a ‘role’ – like a job title or a set of responsibilities – but Role in the language of Teamability™: the manner or mode in which a given person seeks to make a meaningful contributions to meet team needs.
When you understand that you cannot do all of these things well, you may feel angry, or cheated, or sad in your imperfection. Or, you may suddenly realize that your moments of greatest joy and fulfillment have come when you were entirely immersed in contributions that were aligned with Your Role – and that in those moments, you were grateful for the others on your team who were also experiencing joy in performing their own ‘life’s mission.’ When people and teams are functioning this way, they generate tremendous positive synergy and performance, producing real business value for an organization.
I read an article last week asking if a business leadership background is essential for performing the job of the President. (If I could remember where, I would give the citation, but by now there are probably a few thousand expert opinions on the subject.) And, of course, my first thought was, hiring by resume? How will that tell you what kind of Teamability the applicant will demonstrate when they’re hired?
It got me thinking. How does the top leader of our nation need to team? With who? In what circumstances? Like any job in the leadership of an organization, there are three key teaming relationships:
(a) The senior executive team. For the President, that includes the Cabinet, the heads of the branches of the military, and leadership of the Senate, House, and Supreme Court, at a minimum.
(b) The rest of the organization. That includes all of the rest of us, we ordinary citizens. We may not be on speed dial, but we do need to hear from our President on a regular basis, and at times of crisis.
(c) The people outside the organization. This includes just about everyone else on the planet, especially the leadership of countries outside ours.
That is a lot of teaming, and there is no vacation from it. Even when you do get a few hours or days away with your loved ones.
So what’s required? If you aren’t familiar with the metrics of Teamability, just look at the header of my Teamability blog. We’re talking about Role, Coherence, and Teaming Characteristics.
Role: The next POTUS needs to be a Founder with a long term vision and the ability to inspire us to believe in it. A Founder will also respect other Founders – the heads of state of other countries. And if you think that isn’t important, remember that it’s much harder to go to war with someone you actually have a respectful relationship with. Bonus: A great Founder is likely to have a Communicator for a spouse, and isn’t that great for a FLOTUS. (What will they call the first woman president’s husband, I wonder. FHOTUS?)
Coherence: I can’t think of a more stressful job than being the leader of the free world. As Coherent as possible. Rigid may be ok for a hard driving business person, but demanding things be so will not make them that way.
Teaming Characteristics: I’ll just drop a few no-no’s here. For one, I want someone who is sensitive to how they are seen by others. Clueless is just not going to work, not at home and definitely not abroad. Anything that’s a red flag or serious caution is definitely a deal killer. And anything indicating any degree of unlikeableness is, in the end, going to present more challenges and the potential for risky foreign relations.
You may disagree with what I think is important and that’s fine. But please. Can we just agree that how our next President teams will be critical to our success as a nation?
You dreamt up something completely new. It is so cool that people don’t even know they need it yet. But, like their iPad, once they try it, they’ll forget they ever had a life without it.
It was a fit for your line of business, so – with great hopes swelling in your chest – you brought it to your teammate, your manager, or even the Vice President of Innovation, and it got shot down before you even had a chance to explain the vision, or the strategy, or the compelling need it would serve.
You’re a grownup, and you can take rejection. But still, it grinds you. It’s one thing when people give an idea a fair shake, and maybe it doesn’t fly because one or the other decision-makers isn’t ‘in the know,’ but this time it was clear that they were simply ‘in the NO!’
What’s an innovator to do?
First identify the naysayer. Was it one of these usual suspects?
- Nano Teamer: This is the person who is so into ‘teamwork’ that they spend more time talking about it than doing it. A favorite expression: “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” A frequent tendency: hanging around where things are ‘happening’ and taking credit for results that were actually produced by other people. Motivation: If it will make someone else look good, kill it.
- Mini Manager: There are managers who are team players, and there are managers who ‘play’ their team. The latter type prefers to be the source of all great ideas and all good will. Anyone else who dares to tread on that turf is regarded with suspicion, or worse, and will be dealt with severely.
- Inno Vader: Like Inno’s big brother Darth, he (or she) believes that the purpose of decision-making power is to punch the other person’s lights out. It’s ironic that some of the people who have ‘Innovation’ in their job title seem to be preoccupied with controlling innovation rather than facilitating it. It’s a little like the VC or Angel investor who thinks, ‘I have the money. Therefore, I get to decide because I’m smarter than you, entrepreneur!’
Second, consider whether or not the concept is worth pursuing at your present company.
- Is there someone in the organization who can be trusted help you shape up your plan so it can be re-presented?
- Is there an ‘open door’ policy further up the food chain? A ‘Department of Last Resort’? Or would running an ‘end-around’ just be a short cut to getting yourself a pink slip?
- Are there other reasons you’ve been looking elsewhere, and this most recent affront is feeling like ‘the last straw’? Perhaps it even seems that the stars are aligning that way, since recruiters have been calling you day and night with tempting offers.
Finally, make your decision, and follow your path.
- Is there enough potential commercial value and growth potential to enable you to attract seed capital?
- Can you build your own prototype during your off hours? Land a space in a business incubator? Get a grant?
- Are you sure you would not be violating any obligations to your present company? Would a top plaintiff’s attorney agree with you?
If you’re not confident in your ability to make it happen on your own, it’s OK to just ‘let it go.’ But you really should give some thought to finding a more collegial work environment!
Innovation is precious, and often fragile. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself be the one who put the ‘no’ in innovation!
(This post originally appeared in InnovationDAILY)
Tomorrow is Independence Day. With organizations becoming increasingly global, the meaning of that day needs to change. I mean, it will never be much of an occasion for our friends in the UK. That would be too much like celebrating a divorce. And for many millions in other countries, July 4 may be no more notable than January 14 (Pongal, the Harvest Festival in India) is here in the US.
So I have a suggestion. Amidst the fireworks and barbeques honoring a victory long past, let’s celebrate the people who trek into uncharted territory to create a new vision: entrepreneurs!
Whether you think of yourself as one, or not, you may be more entrepreneurial than you think. Have you ever convinced a group of people to try something new? Dreamed about improving something? Had a burning desire to help others or to create a more glorious future? If so, you have the spirit of the entrepreneur in your blood, and you deserve to be celebrated.
In that spirit, you are similar to the signers of the Declaration of Independence, who confirmed their intentions to each other, mutually pledging ‘our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor’ to the grand vision. This is also the pledge of the entrepreneur: to continue striving, and to do nothing half way.
As the hot dogs are passed around and the fireworks dazzle the waterfront, I will be celebrating the pledge I made eleven years ago, when The Gabriel Institute was founded. I hope that you will be celebrating yourself, too.
Teamability: The ability to be a great team player.
Everyone wants great team players. What can you do to be a better one? Try answering these questions and you’ll generate your own personalized tips:
- Think back over all your job experiences – both paid and volunteer work. What kinds of things really made you feel good? Make a list. Can you find some similarities between them? There’s an excellent chance that you will ‘team best’ when doing work that involve the same types of tasks, responsibilities, and/or work environments. Consider asking for the opportunity to add or ‘swap’ some of the listed items into your current job.
- You don’t have to be a manager to help your teammates. Does someone need a hand with something that you can offer? Go for it!
- There’s really no better ‘growth gift’ than honest, caring, respectful feedback. Is there someone you trust to give you some? If so, go ahead and ask. In fact, your first question should be for feedback on your teamability!
- You probably have a good sense of how you make your best contributions to group efforts. But you could be mistaken if you assume that others know this about you. Can you think of some of ways to ‘advertise’ your readiness to take on job challenges that really ‘fit’?
- Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate from school, finish training, or reach a goal. There are always opportunities to develop a new talent, skill, ability, or interest. Are you seeking out the ones that will benefit you while bringing benefits to others?
What will your future look like? With greater teamability, you’ll have broader options, plus the flexibility and support to see them through to a successful conclusion!