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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Growth: It's Personal

If you are selling yourself -- from a branding perspective (come on now) -- and we all should be, reflective change is an absolute necessity in how we do business today. It doesn't mean you have to constantly be changing, it means you have to constantly be thinking about whether you need to be changing. There's a great book entitled What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith that covers this concept.

Would it surprise you that he suggests even successful people need to be examining whether they have the right tools needed for continued success in their tool kit? Resting on your laurels is never a way to win a race. We're taught that as children with the Tortoise and the Hare so why do we assume that the top level's innovation should be at a product or service level. If you head up an organization you need to think about more than just the strategy involving the business. You need to think about your skill set.

As your climbing the corporate ladder, there are plenty of reminders of the skills you need to acquire or refine. You have managers, supervisors, reviews, job descriptions and many more that are continually pointing out areas for continued growth, but when the company is looking to you for leadership, the stellar leader is looking both outwards and inwards.

I liked what Les McKeown wrote in Inc., on the 3 Silent Killers of Successful Businesses:

"When was the last time you had a massive change of mind about a fundamental way in which you do business? When was the last time a coach or a mentor so challenged you about your management and leadership skills that you lost sleep? When did you last scrap a much-loved process, or system, or meeting, or process because its time had passed? When was the last occasion when someone told you you were flat-out wrong about something important-- and they were right?"

The problem with professional growth and attaining that point on the top of the corporate ladder is that you no longer are continually reminded of growth opportunities from the outside. You have to rely on yourself to uncover and explore them and so many times the pressure of leadership keeps you from doing that. You're busy thinking about the business or the employees, and you miss the teaching opportunities for your own growth.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Getting the Message

It's Friday the 13th so I'm going to try something a little different. I'm going to tell you, I believe in the interconnectedness of humanity, like we're all just pebbles on the same beach or drinking from the same fountain of influence. I know this may sound a little out there, but anyone who's ever been a writer or a reader realizes there are occasions when people create extremely similar stories or articles at nearly the same time. They don't move within the same circles but they have the same, creative idea. Coincidence?

How about learning? There are many life lessons you acquire on your journey to adulthood. Some of us are really good at learning these lessons the first time they present themselves and others need to be hit by the same train over and over for it to really sink in. It's not hard to see the pattern behind these opportunities for growth. Sometimes it takes the form of repeating the same mistakes in relationships with seemingly different people and sometimes it's encountering the same article theme in different locations.

I'm reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. In it she writes about the impostor syndrome. She shows that women tend to feel it's only a matter of time before the walls come down and "people" discover they are frauds; untalented hacks in over their heads. I read it and thought, that's nice. Not me. I wouldn't credit myself as being overly secure but I know what I do well and what I don't. (I can't make jello, no matter how hard I try, and running will never be my thing, but give me something to capture my thoughts and I bleed words until my fingers hurt.)

Since reading this yesterday, I have seen multiple references to impostor syndrome, in the most uncanny places, and I began to wonder if I needed to think more about this message. Am I insecure in my abilities? Certainly not. Right? Well, maybe a little...but everyone is right?   This was how my conversation went with myself last night. I was very convinced (at first) I was not insecure, and then the other side of my mind (the rational, argumentative part of me is always much more astute than my idealistic self), pointed out if you are so secure in your abilities, what is holding you back from attaining this goal of yours? I have a desire to do something I've never attempted before but the possibility of failure makes me ill. I fail terribly. I'm awful at it, so I rarely do anything that would open me up to this sort of disappointment.

And then I realized it. I was insecure. Not in what I currently do, but in what I will do in the future. It's easy for me to blame my responsibilities - I can't do X, because I'm saddled with Y - but it's more the fear of failing that hinders me. I tuck it under the polite guise of responsibility but let's be honest - it's really the fear of failing.

I have a lot of introspection to do over this weekend but at least I finally got the message.