When stuck in the line at the grocery store, I’m amused and occasionally horrified. Headlines like, “Lose 20 Pounds This Month in Just Minutes a Day!” or “Aliens spotted in California!” adorn the tabloid and diet magazines.
I can’t help but glance, just for giggles. And then, occasionally, someone standing next to me to me will grab a copy and throw it into their shopping bag (that’s the horrifying part).
These publications cater to the worst in us: a promise that things we believe to be false could, possibly, maybe, just for us…be true. All we need is a few minutes and a few dollars.
For me and most of the people I know who are serious about their professional development, real learning is actually fairly boring. Unlike the excitement of the tabloids, true improvement is incremental, unexciting, and takes real commitment over time.
But the long-term results make it all worth it. In today’s edition, a few small changes to help you lead a bit better.
About twenty years ago, I read a book that suggested conducting an exercise to discover what you’re good at. The book made the case that a lot of us struggle with identifying real strengths.
Many of us assume our strengths are the things we’ve worked hardest to develop. Ironically, those usually are not our real strengths. Real strengths are most often the things that come naturally to us; the skills and talents we don’t even think about.
That’s why this article in Harvard Business Review resonated with me. In it, Christine Porath suggests that you ask for focused feedback on your best behaviors. I did an exercise like this once and it was powerful. People said really different things than I expected.
Make Peace With Failure
I’ve seen lots more people writing about the importance of failure on their path to success. Many of them claim that without failure, they wouldn’t be where they are today.
I find that perspective helpful on two fronts:
- I’m not alone in failing at stuff.
- I worry less about things not going perfectly.
Making the shift from seeing failure as failure to seeing failure as information is helpful. That’s why a recent story on NPR caught my attention. A New Yorker cartoonist claims 90 percent rejection is doing great.
Someone email this part back to me the next time I fall flat on my face.
Be Up to Something Big
If you don’t already have one, articulating a purpose in life may not seem like a small change.
Before you run off on a silent retreat to map out your life’s purpose, just take a small step. Purpose means a lot of different things and you don’t have to go crazy with it to change the world (and your world).
If you feel aimless, one place to start is considering what you can make better for others this year, this month, or even just today? Simply asking the question will get you started. Purpose takes time and is ever-evolving. Starting to think about it is way more important than getting it perfect.
And it’s worth doing. Turns out that people who feel they have a purpose in life live longer.
Stanford University gets it too. The most popular class at Stanford isn’t computer science. It’s something much more important.
Channel Curious George
Last summer we stayed in a hotel with our kids while on a brief trip to San Diego. One of our son’s favorite things about the hotel room was finding the PBS channel (since we don’t have live TV at home) and discovering Curious George for the first time.
A lot of the rest of us would benefit from rediscovering the monkey, too. When I spoke with Tom Henschel during episode #190 on how to improve your coaching skills, one of the suggestions he had for all of us was to be curious about people so we can meet them where they are.
Listening and curiosity are the two mantras I have for myself anytime I’m interviewing someone. The better I do with being curious, the better the interview turns out.
Harvard Business Review recently identified four reasons managers should spend more time on coaching. Yep, curiosity is here too. Starting to see a pattern?
I welcome your thoughts and comments.
195: Handling Someone You Don’t Trust and More Community Questions
Bonni and I responded to questions this month on dealing with poor managers, people you don’t trust, controlling fear when speaking, and organization development. Plus, we made a call to help one of our community members with her research.
You can find the full audio and show notes on the Coaching for Leaders website.
Have a question you’d like us to consider for the 200th Coaching for Leaders episode in July? Submit it here.