The first three are rather self-evident in terms of what they mean. Virtual mentorship is something you do on your own. You simply pay attention to all of the people around you and learn from them. This can apply to both your professional and personal life. Pay attention to what others do or say that is particularly smart or good, then adopt it as your own habit.
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Notice also when a leader does something incredibly dumb or harmful to others, then put that in your leadership reservoir as well, so that you will never do the same. Think of your life as a journey carrying a backpack, and observed behaviors are rocks you find along the path.
Pick up both the good and bad—the good for future use and the bad to remind you not to repeat what those rocks represent.
All great leaders learn something from those they encounter along their journey. I regularly cite those who taught me something that I now use myself. Perhaps one of the greatest periods during which I learned from others was my time in the Pentagon in the late s.
My 23 years of service to that point had been exclusively within Army ranks, with no duty served in another military branch. But in , when I became a new brigadier general, I was assigned to the Joint Staff in the Pentagon. I served during this time with a number of great military leaders who influenced me.
I had to brief him each morning. That was a particularly interesting relationship, as he was a lieutenant colonel when I was a brigadier general in Seventeen years later, I reported to him. I remember our first discussion in his office in , where I made clear that while we had a different relationship in the Pentagon, I was perfectly fine working for him. I remember him saying he was, as well. He was very comfortable in his own skin. We got along great in the two years of his command tenure and remain good friends to this day. I freely pass on mine.
Feedback is not always well-intentioned and is used to punish, demean, or manipulate. As a result, you will find people avoiding it altogether—whether on the giving or receiving end of it. Or you will find people trying to take it to a higher lever and state that what we need and really want is attention. Positive attention is the way to go.
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Build on strengths. But sometimes we need to tame our strengths for our own good, and sometimes we need to manage our weaknesses. And frequently we have no idea unless we are told. We need feedback. Done right, feedback is not only a good thing, it is essential to growth and performance. They say we need to do more than tweak our feedback practices, we need to completely rethink the what, how, and why.
Focus is about making the feedback specific, targeted, and brief. Frequency is the accelerator. To revolutionize feedback, the best thing you can do right now—especially as a leader—is to become a Seeker of feedback. That is, become a person who proactively requests feedback from others with the intention of self-development or growth. It helps you in a couple of ways. First, you are the example you need to be, and second, to be a seeker lowers the fear associated with feedback because you choose the time and place, the issue and the extender of feedback.
The authors offer the Seeker several tips to effective feedback seeking.
First, ask in advance, giving the Extender s time to think. Asking more than one person provides you with a better picture of what is actually happening. Give them permission to be candid with you. They are most likely as uncomfortable with it as you are. Third, ask them to start noticing based on the nature of the feedback you are requesting. And finally, make the choice to do something with what you have learned.
I found the chart below helpful in wrapping your mind around the proper way to deliver feedback. The considerations are many but going through the chart will help you not only form the conversation but get a handle on your intention for giving feedback in the first place. Feedback and other dirty words is full of helpful insights and constructive interpretations of the scientific studies and data regarding the issue of feedback. It is a comprehensive look at feedback and well worth reviewing in terms of both delivering and receiving feedback. Inside every struggle is a gift. Leaders share their gifts with others.
We tend to not share our struggles or the lessons we learn from them.
They are painful and very personal. But once he shared his story—his struggles—they connected, and it gave them meaning. It not only changed the employees but more importantly, it changed him. He understood them better and became a more compassionate leader. His journey to founding and building the Populus Group is full of ups and downs. But every struggle left him with a gift he used to grow and overcome. The stories he shares are relatable and illuminate the gifts that will help you become a better leader.
Enduring cultures are never enforced by a top-down hierarchy. Everyone lives in a culture, and therefor everyone must use their voice to contribute to it. Own Your Part: Leadership amounts to wanting more for your people than we want from them. Always be a Student: If you want to be a wise leader someday, you must fiercely apply what you learn. You must also be selective when choosing who you will study. There are peaks and valleys—the business cycles we endure, the victories and pain points within an organization—that we experience as highs and lows.
And yet as long as our doors remain open, there is no final endpoint, only new challenges, problems, innovations, and solutions. Everyone you hire started their career climb before you met them, and they will continue climbing for a long time after their tenure with your company is over.
All of us are working within our own set of constraints, goals, and unexpected life events that shape our journey. Your job as a leader is to encourage the growth of your people and to appreciate their particular contributions to the ongoing climb of the company.
Regardless of when a person chooses to strike out on a different course, celebrate your time together. Life is a sequence of intersections, shared efforts, and differing goals. Welcome it into our lives as a tool for growth and increased meaning. Strength comes from our struggles.
When you view your struggles as a gift, you will become a stronger, more resilient, and more compassionate leader. And yet, what is crystal clear to me after 20 years in leadership roles is that those ingredients, while important to success, aren't enough if you've forgotten the fundamentals of being positive, learning from others, being honest and the kind of person people want to work with. I wrote the book Always and Never: 20 Truths for a Happy Heart , to help center readers on guardrails for living and leading at your best.
When you step outside of these boundaries, your professional and personal life are likely to suffer, holding you back on both fronts. Read, reflect, and recommit to these Always and Nevers, and realize the kind of future you've been planning for. What you say and how you feel starts with the way you think. The way you think about everything is in your control.