New Leader Insights
The New Leader Way is leadership that is character and personality based. This orientation informs how we handle ourselves, what we choose to focus on, and keeps us aligned. The insights on this page illustrate the philosophy.
What would your work eulogy sound like?
Maybe that opener sounds a bit morbid. The idea isn’t about dying, it’s about what remains when we move on from our organizations.
What would the people we left behind say about us? What would they continue doing that we inspired? What would they remember about us?
Ever thought about that?
I have a number of LinkedIn connections. In the last few months I have seen so many people give farewell posts to jobs they loved, positions they have held for some time.
What I have noticed is that these farewell posts aren’t mean spirited. They aren’t cold. Many look back fondly. They seem appreciative. They seem grateful.
The farewell post comes at a time of reflection. My question is not what you will think about upon your departure, but what others will think about you on that day. What will their reflections be? I ask because we all leave something behind. We can choose to leave something behind that’s worth remembering.
It’s never one big thing. Rather, it’s a collection of moments. Moments where we choose to be the bigger person or the more generous person. Moments where we spend a little more time than we think we should. Moments where we stand for something and moments when we care.
The 737-MAX is back in action!
Now, if you had to board one tonight how you feel?
Would it soothe you to know that the FAA Administrator said he was “100% confident” in the airplane?
Would you rest easy knowing that there are new pilot training requirements and the software has been updated?
Or would you still have that little twinge in your gut? Would you hear your brain saying, “everything will probably be fine,” while feeling your gut hesitate.
Where is that hesitation coming from? It’s a trust thing. Boeing’s big problem now, and the airlines’ big problem now with the 737-MAX is trust. And why is that? As someone who follows the aviation industry, I just haven’t seen enough effort (yet) put in to rebuilding trust.
Let’s set this case study aside. For those of you in leadership positions, trust is essential. In general, If the product is broken, fixing the technical errors is important. Equally important, though, is communicating openly, earnestly, frankly, and frequently about what happened, why it happened, and what you are doing about it.
We do that because the big problems are never just about solving technical solutions, they’re also have a human component.
How gracious can you be?
That email with just enough snark. The person who is 10 minutes late to your virtual meeting. The “correction” somebody offered you that makes no real difference.
How many times can you smile and let it pass by?
The problem with COVID-19 and WFH and shutdowns is that it occupies space in our psychology. We are carrying a brick of Worry, Tired, Fear. Could be about our jobs or our families or our friends or everything mixed together.
Because our psychological space has limits, that WTF brick, depending on how big yours is, can eat up room that used to be dedicated to things like patience and grace.
So you might be feeling less patient. Little slights may be getting under your skin faster. People annoy you more frequently.
Despite all of that, how gracious can you be?
Start here: Assess your general level of patience of graciousness. Is this normal for you?
Patience is allowing.
I have been meditating on patience for a few moments each morning over the past two weeks. I have been running low on it.
The insight was that patience is a bridge between reality and our expectations. We want things to be a certain way, and often we work very hard to get reality and our expectations aligned. In spite of all that, reality often diverges from our expectations.
So what do we do?
We can argue with reality. We can get frustrated with it, or angry at it. We can let it get us down.
Or, we can allow.
We can simply allow reality to be what it is, and we can use patience while our expectations slowly adjust.
10 minutes of relaxation, meditation, or mindfulness twice per day.
Read an article about the meditation app maker Headspace today. The co-founder noted that twice a day they partake in a 10-15 minute mindfulness break.
As in, everybody stops fretting about, they collectively breathe, they allow their shoulders to drop, they allow their brains to relax, they regain perspective.
We should be taking notes.
Things are, like, really weird right now.
We are trying to work in a new way, while a pandemic rages, while our kids are at home, while our partners have been laid off, during a contentious election season, and on the day that Van Halen died.
We are experiencing all flavors of stress and anxiety, and we are constantly dealing with other people who are also experiencing all flavors of stress and anxiety.
It’s rough right now. So much is out of our control.
But what is in our control is our ability to detach for a few moments. Whether via meditation, a walk, or simply sitting outside and breathing deep, we have the ability to regain our sense of agency and, maybe, a moment of peace.
Take care of yourself.
A different way to keep score in your relationships: Every morning, reset all scores to 0-0.
Do you keep score? Come on… Be honest. Who owes you something? It feels normal to keep score. Especially when we are “up” in any relationship. That special thing you did for your partner. The donuts you brought in for the team. The out-of-your-way encouragement for a friend. Feels like money in the bank.
But it’s not. Reciprocity is only good form. And oh how irritated we become when the receiving does not align with the giving. “I do everything for them and they can’t even…”
What if we scrapped the ledger completely? What if we reset the scoreboard to 0-0 each day for every relationship?
And then what if we took it one step further and made sure to end each day with giving more than we received?
How we activate and manage personal resilience is changing.
It used to feel like we lived in relatively stable times with periods of instability that required personal resilience. Now it feels like we’re living in relatively unstable times punctuated with periods of stability.
The reorientation of this equation–for whatever period of time–is the result of what I refer to as the “stuff stack.” I usually replace “stuff” with a more colorful term. In this kind of stack, problems that require meaningful personal resilience dramatically overlap.
First Covid, then at home schooling, then losing a job, then the hurricanes or wildfires, then… Because of the overlap the requirement for personal resilience extends out to the horizon. Who knows when things will feel better?
Might just be an extended problem of the moment, sure, but what if “stuff stacks” continue with more regularity? How should you respond?
Here’s a thought as you rustle in the junk drawer looking for some more resilience:
Drop your gaze from the unknown end to the day itself. The mission is the day. The goal is to do the work of today, to find rest, to find perspective. Today. Long resilience requires dedicated and daily recharging. It’s not selfish. It’s how we show up at our best over time.
The same thing they didn’t tell me about being a parent also applies leadership.
Here it is, in a phrase: It’s every day.
The concept of “every day” doesn’t feel heavy. We are jazzed with starting the new thing. The new job. The new exercise program. Every day is not considered a problem. In fact, “every day” is something we imagine will be the path to success. Cue the movie montage!
Then something happens. The months and years stack up. And whatever ephemeral excitement shaped our original approach has exited the building. All that’s left in excitement’s wake is you. Plain you. Whoever you are. Your characteristics. Your attitude. Your beliefs. Your ambience. The real you.
And now you have this thing (a child, a team, a job) and the real you. And it’s still every day. And it can be a total grind.
The point is this: In any meaningful endeavor, we cannot wear excitement’s mask for long because “every day” will eventually surface who we really are.
If we understand that then we know that leadership is really about developing the technical skills *and* developing the person behind the technical skills.
In this role, who you are matters.
“The opposite of distraction is not focus, it’s traction.” From a podcast interview with Nir Eyal author of Indistractable.
I smiled at the sentiment because I get it. We are distracted. I am distracted. Not only by technology. Distraction is more covert, more insidious. Anything that is getting between us and what we said we were going to do is a distraction, no matter how noble the sidetrack.
The problem isn’t you. Well, it is you. And it’s me. And it’s our modern environment coupled with our predisposition to avoid pain. We scan the to-do list for the quick wins while the important projects slip to tomorrow. Or the day after. We answer the text instead of drafting the chapter.
Big work is painful. We have to think. We have to manifest brilliance. We have to take risks. We have to… [picks up phone, checks email].
Here’s my question to you: What do you want to make traction on? It could be anything. What is it? Pick a thing. Now imagine the feeling of finally making progress.
Here’s my follow up question: It’s a month from today and you have that feeling. What did you do to feel that way?
The unfortunate truth is that there is no end to distraction. It is limitless. So, if it’s truly what you want, how will you go about it?
What is the actual value of college? Yes, it widens our social and professional networks. Yes, we learn how to be a bit more responsible. Yes, we get a chance to explore interests and learn fundamentals. We might even learn something that has a shelf life longer than 6 months.
One of the big values, though, for young people is being able to put the university’s name down on your resume. College is a signal (an expensive one). It’s one type of signal that shows you are serious about doing things that matter. Employers notice.
But there is another signal we can use. It’s the signal of ability instead of achievement. And what if we could get that skill faster and for less money?
What if we could get “the signal” in 6 months and for tens of thousands less? What if we could get launched into the new world of work faster? The future of work isn’t more degrees, it’s more ability. Whether you lead people or work on product, ability will matter ever more in the years ahead.