Time to read: 3 minutes
*This statement is not always applicable; as an example the character Christine suffered from a mental illness.
- Why =The battery is dead
- Why = The interior lights were left on for several days
- Why = The door sensor stopped working
- Technology that we control and
- those the we don’t.
When using these types of technologies we are confident that the information is real and that because information is in plain sight; you can identify street names and recognise building on a map. You can see and understand the logic behind a calculator and control the formulas on a excel spreadsheet.
Time to read: 3 mins
Some of the hardest goals that we set for ourselves are those that are long term. Long term goals require consistent action, over an extended period of time. With long term goals the element of time is unavoidable. In these scenarios time can be used to learn, grow and mature.
In other circumstances time is avoidable, when you are clear on what you want to achieve and the steps that need to be followed; there is no need to wait or procrastinate.
So what can you do with your idle time while you are:
Learn, grow and mature
As I mentioned earlier learning, growing and maturing as a person are associated with long term goals. You might be completing a degree or saving for your first home or training for a marathon. Seeing the end is hard, especially when it is so far away. Imagining what it means to achieve your goals may give you enough motivation and momentum to keep yourself going and stay focused. If you have a long term goal in mind, take some time to think about how:
The small steps you take are leading to-> The lifelong habits you are developing-> How these habit are needed to -> Reach long term goals.
If we are in the latter (b.) we most likely don’t have clarity on what we have to do (i.e. the next action) and there is a deeper reason why we haven’t taken action (usually around fear), but it hasn’t surfaced. A combination of the two is used to make up excuses.
The definition of an excuse is: A justification for not doing something; but it’s not a reason, it’s more of a revision of the facts that you use to make yourself feel better. It’s an alteration of reality.
I recently read The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone and one of my favorite chapters was on excuses. Everybody has excuses and we all have a few that we employ over and over again. So rather than ignore them it’s better that you confront right now.
There is a third way we spend idle time that hasn’t been mentioned up until now.
We need idle time for our mind to be creative, inventive and find solutions to existing problems.
For most of us, when the words ‘solution’, ‘problem’ and even ‘invention’ is mentioned we naturally try to return to a model, or process that exists within our domain. This is not what I am talking about here. In fact, anytime where we are repeating something that we already know; this is not creative.
In its purest form, creative work has no purpose and no outcome; idle time is used to allow your mind to be silent and do nothing. We just need the time and space to let out minds moodle. Now, few of us have this luxury, because we live in an environment where results, productivity and outcomes are king. But think about this…
Capital isn’t so important in business, experience isn’t so important, you can get both these things. What is important is ideas, if you have ideas you have the main assets that you need and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life – Harvey Firestone
Understanding how our idle time is spent helps us to identify where our time is being used and what to do. When we are learning, growing and maturing; reflecting upon your goals will help to keep you motivated and focused.
When our time is being wasted on procrastination, identify the next action and drop the excuses to be more productive.
Finally (although it is less understood) allowing our minds the space and silence provides us with an opportunity to generate original ideas and thinking. This act may have greatest value and impact not only in our own lives but the lives of those around us.
Time to read: 2 mins
I have been building on the habit of writing daily. Not only to write, but to write with risk.
It’s easy enough to first learn about a topic and then write about it, but there is very little risk in that. You know that it won’t fail, because the ideas that you are presenting have worked before (for the previous author). When you are regurgitating ideas that are not your own, chances are no one will say that you are wrong.
What’s harder to do is to think and reflect and come up with your own idea, link that to other ideas, examine the reality of the world and then challenge them.
To come up with your own conclusions and not look for something that has already been done and proven is a risk… In essence, this is what it means to lead.
When we do anything to stand out and introduce something that is different from the norm, we stray from the herd and become vulnerable and an easy target. This is not only true of writing but for any other endeavours that we choose to follow.
Followers and leaders
When we follow, there is no fear of being rejected or being called a fraud and there is some comfort in that. Leaders, on the other hand, are constantly fighting off the lizard brain. They work along the edge and try to push the boundaries.
The boundaries are around what is perceived to be our ‘safety zone’ (i.e. what is good enough’) and our ‘comfort zone’ (what we are willing to do). Think about that last sentence for a minute before reading on.
The amazing Cynthia Carroll
I recently finished reading Seth Godin’s book The Icarus Deception. In the appendix, Seth told the story of Cynthia Carroll, the first female CEO and the first non-South African to head the 100 year old company, Anglo American, a multibillion dollar major mining company that employs over 150,000 staff. As one of her first act as CEO, she visited the Rustenburg mine.
Cynthia found out about the dangerous work conditions (where on average 40 employees die a year) and opted to shut down the mine for 9 weeks; a mine that was the most profitable platinum mine in the world. After a multiyear battle with unions, government and other mining companies, a year later, fatalities dropped by half.
Cynthia (illustrated above) did something that no other CEO before her had ever done, she shared stats, provided options and made herself vulnerable. She pushed the boundaries of what is good enough and what she and Anglo America were willing to do.
When to lead
It’s important to understand that we don’t need to be a leader in every aspect of our lives (nor should you try). But there are times and places when you should:
- When you have the passion
- When you have the expertise on a particular subject and
- When it’s your duty to do so.
Leading is risky, it’s sometimes scary and can be painful, but as we have seen in Cynthia’s case, anything that is worthwhile, anything that will make a real difference and anything that creates a lasting change will involve some level of risk (most of the time, it’s on a personal level).
But when we have a noble enough cause, trying and failing is not such a big deal and the risks that were once seen as obstacles, after moving forward, are now viewed as trivial.
Time to read: 5 mins
Last year I had a close friend of mine (Ryan) recommend a book called “Leading from the Heart” by Mike Kryzyewski (illustrated above). Ryan has completed his MBA and has spent some time as a consultant, he described the book as one of the best he has read on the topic of leadership.
So with such a glowing endorsement I purchased and finished the book late last year.
Unlike some of the other topics that I have written about, leadership has a major element and without it that topic does not exist. That element is other people. Leadership needs people, without it you are the leader of nothing.
What determines a good leader from a bad or incompetent one is the people that they lead.
With that being said I thought that I’d take some time in identifying the attributes and characteristics of a leader. You can use these six characteristics to do a self-assessment or an assessment on those that have a leadership role.
And because we are all people, the position or title we hold in the work place is irrelevant. We should all be able to identify these leadership qualities within ourselves and our co-workers.
#1. A leader uses inclusive language
A leader will use inclusive language, when acknowledging a job well done. The goals that a leader sets are not his own, or by higher management; a leader has the ability to create and convey goals so that they become shared goals among each team member.
When things don’t go to plan, a leader won’t single out individuals, instead ‘if one person fails, then we all fail” approach is adopted. This line of thinking shifts the focus on helping out other team members as opposed to just looking out for themselves.
#2. A leader admits their own mistakes
Leaders can sometimes make the wrong decision or set the team off in the wrong direction. In these circumstances a leader should not make excuses or blame others (by the way blaming others is the quickest way to destroy trust).
A leader has the humility to admit mistakes as their own and openly and honestly apologise for them. Unlike making up their excuses and blaming others which only creates hostility, this vulnerable act builds trust between them and the team and shows that they truly have the best interests of the their team before their own interest.
#3. A leader make time for others
A leader makes time for others because they understand the importance and value of the people who work for them. They understand that people are most effective when they are working ‘for someone’ and towards a shared goal. Connection is important, it’s hard to be engaged with someone you can’t relate to or to something that you don’t believe in.
#4. A leader shouldn’t have too many rules
Another aspect of leadership is decision making, which is sometimes avoided for multiple reasons, here are a few that come to mind:
- It’s time consuming
- Requires effort and investigation
- Has consequences
- Requires someone to take responsibility
Generally when you see someone that implements and advertises a lot of rules, they generally do so to avoid making decisions, which in turns allows them to avoid responsibility and avoid consequences.
#5. A leader is always positive and motivates others
A leader has the ability to stay positive. Which is easy enough to do while everything is smooth sailing and going to plan but it can only be demonstrated when things go wayward or when unplanned events occur.
I remember working on a small team as a Business Analyst. It was a Wednesday and on this day we were planned to do a production environment update for the first time. There was quiet a bit of planning leading to this event.
And so Wednesday morning came and we heard that the Release Manager (who plans and manages the days proceeding) was sick and would not be coming into the office. Our immediate reaction was:
‘What are we going to do… Who will manage the deployment… (and finally) We will just have to postpone, there is no other option’
We waited until the project manager came in and to my surprise he took all of the news with a smile and said:
‘Well, this is a good opportunity to test our contingency plan. We will have a lot more of these deployment in the future and our Release Manager may not always be available’
#6. A leader treats his team like family
I have left this one till last, because it’s only on the rare occasion that these situations exist and even rarer that you have the opportunity to be a part of.
If this can be achieved it is the pinnacle of any team. A lot of businesses ‘talk about’ this concept but few will actually ‘be about’ this concept. So much can be said about the benefits of having a family type environment in the workplace that it deserves to be a topic on its own (maybe for another time).
Leading into my the final thoughts take a moment to think about your own family and the lengths you go to ensure their happiness, well being and safety. Think about those that have done the same for you, most likely it will be a parent or maybe your partner or sibling.
I know (like our workplace) we can’t always choose our family but we can choose our behaviour and how we choose to treat others. Most of the points made in this article (e.g. making time for others, not having too many rules, being positive) are naturally associated with family.
Adopting such behaviours is what makes family important and something that we want to be a part of, which leads me to think:
Is there any reason why we shouldn’t try to bring the same behaviours into the workplace..? Or maybe it’s someone else’s job to think about.
A job for a leader perhaps…
Time to read: 2 mins
When we hear or use the term constraints, we usually associate it with a negative or limiting connotation, which align perfectly with its dictionary definition.
We deal with constraints every day and in all aspects of our lives. They are all around us; they exist in our personal relationships, the sports we play, the entertainment we watch and the video games that we play (yes, I play video games… A LOT)
In some instances constraints are needed, but they don’t necessarily need to be viewed in a negatively light, in fact quite the opposite is true. Constraints can provide a positive benefit.
Let’s look at some examples where constraints are beneficial.
In marriage the obvious constraints that you remain exclusive to one person. The benefits of this constraint is that you achieve a deeper level of intimacy, caring and understanding of your partner that you otherwise would not be able to achieve with another person.
In sports there are rules (or constraints) that will determine what a player can’t do. As an example in basketball you can’t bounce the ball with two hands, you can’t take more than two steps while holding the ball, etc. With these types of constraints it’s a lot harder to get around opposing players, but by having these rules in place it makes us appreciate the level of skill required to dribble the ball.
Without these constraints moves such as the crossover, behind-the-back and spin move that we as fans find so entertaining to watch would never have been invented.
Another example is the comedic style of Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry decided to put a constraint on himself . He would only tell jokes about everyday mundane task that we all perform. A little different to what we normally see in a standup comedy.
When you think about imposing such a constraint like Jerry did, it forced him to be incredibly focused about his subject matter and extremely creative within the boundaries that he set. Even more creative then someone with no constraints. Comedian’s without constraints usually fall back on using crude humor and dropping the F bomb every so often.
Time for a new definition?
Businesses today face new types of constraints on a more regular basis as change becomes the only constant. There is a need to create more with less of everything, whether it is less people, money and/or time. So how businesses and knowledge workers choose to perceive these constraints makes all the difference.
A constraint can either limit your belief of what is possible and will compromise what we originally set out to achieve to the point where we start to scale back our ambition.
Alternatively constraints can be the catalyst to innovation that will bring about solutions that can provide a tremendous about of benefits.
In the book A Beautiful Constrain (where most of these idea have come from) Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, predicts that a new definition is needed for the term ‘constraint’, the next google search might say something like..
“A limitation or defining parameter, which often is a stimulus for doing things better.”