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Mastery: Are You Doing All You Can?

masteryLast year, I read a book that challenged me at a personal level, Robert Greene’s Mastery. In it, Greene asks, given that so many high-IQ people are pretty much failures at life, what separates the da Vincis and Mozarts–and modern-day examples such as musician John Coltrane, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, and boxing trainer Freddie Roach–from the pack?

Greene came up with six common factors, all of which should give each one of us to ponder, “Where am I selling my own talents short? What next step would help me make more of the potential I’ve been given? How should I be working harder? Have I searched hard enough to identify the idea/cause/goal that would motivate me to pursue thousands of hours of deliberate practice to reach mastery?” Here are the common factors.

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What’s Your Part of the Problem?

3855181622_292d0f13d4_zRecently I learned that an organization for which I’d made possible a large (and successful) marketing event hadn’t bothered to follow through with a requested reciprocal effort.

My first reaction? Frustration that threatened to quickly move toward anger. Lucky for me, I didn’t run into the responsible parties while I was discovering what hadn’t been done. If I had, I might have resorted to the kind of blaming tactics that I hope I left behind on the grade school playground!

But something reminded me to ask myself, “What was your part in this problem?” What had I done, or not done, that resulted in their lack of follow-through? As I reflected, I had to admit that I probably hadn’d specifically outlined how a couple of simple actions on their part would not only support my goals but probably improves results for them and for us.

As an old Irish saying puts it,

[quote align=”center” color=”#247ca4″]Why do we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our good intentions?[/quote] Before being sure that blame rests with the other party, consider

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Get Creative? Why Not!

P1040304This month’s Scientific American Mind has a quick article on being a better artist (January/February 2014, p. 200) with four easy ways to make sure it’s easy for you to be more creative. How might you

Get outside more. In one measure of creativity, those who went backpacking did 50% better than those who didn’t. It turns out that nature makes us more aware of patterns, forms, and other elements that add to creativity. Oh, and it’s a stress-reducer. Stop telling yourself you don’t have time and get outside to spark better ideas!

Embrace your own weirdness. People who aren’t ashamed of their quirks–who talk to themselves or admit to knowing the name of every Star Trek episode or who have to win a game of Spider Solitaire before opening their research files–come up with more creative ideas.

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3 Moves for Moving from SMART Goals to Intentional Results

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[quote align=”center” color=”#247ca4″]Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

(Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 101)[/quote] How about substituting  “SMART goals” for management and “being intentional” for leadership in the above quote? Why?

Too often, a goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) but still not the right goal. If you’re setting goals for yourself, or if you’re coaching others, here are three key questions that aid in ensuring that goals intentionally target what is most important, not what your or your client might assume is most important.

  1. Is this the right goal right now? Leadership is situational. While there are core competencies all leaders need, different ones are more important in some situations than in others. Unfortunately, those new to leadership—or to a given role—may be unaware of priorities they’ve never needed to attend to in the past.
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How Do You Know You Know What You Know?

P6141528By chance….Have you noticed that right now, intelligent people are polarized on issues? They’re holding polar opposite viewpoints? We all do. We think we’ve carefully vetted our positions and are in the right. So how much should we trust our own wisely-thought-through views?

Not much, actually, if one considers the research on how we form our viewpoints. A recent slew of books asks us to ponder this and perhaps change how we interact with those who hold opposing views.

Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, guides us through the neuroscience and psychology research on how we form our opinions. And it’s humbling. Or should be. Not only do we consistently pay attention to information that reinforces what we believe, but the more intelligent we are, the better we are at spinning one-sided arguments.

In Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, Katheryn Schulz uses both research and humor to help us understand just how wrong we can have the facts and thus how flimsy our arguments can be.

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Get Your Priorities Straight!

Intentional Leadership Priority CardsDid you know…leaders are great at setting goals, but seldom set priorities.

Another way to put this is that leaders far too frequently bite off more than they, or those they lead, can chew. Lack of priorities can take several forms, such as:

[list type=”check”]
  • Overwhelming their staffs with competing initiatives
  • Leading projects with “scope creep” that end up devouring time and resources way beyond what was anticipated, funded or staffed
  • Asking others to “do more with less” until, inevitably, human capacity is truly overwhelmed.[/list]

Goals are often tangible—profits, products, student learning targets, or implementation of strategies. Priorities are things such as professional development, staff relationships, accountability, autonomy, consistency in policy, and so on. And we can only concentrate on so many of them. Not setting priorities is similar to playing poker–you won’t have as much control as you like over the cards you’re dealt.

When I coach for intentional leadership, I start by asking leaders to sort their priorities. We then map those priorities onto essential tasks of leadership and compare the patterns to the leader’s natural strengths and equally natural blind spots. Are they focused on the right priorities for the situation, including their current goals?

Now there are three ways to sort your intentional leadership priorities:

[list type=”check”]
  • Use the exercise provided in the book (included in the first chapter, part of the amazon.com free downoad)
  • Work with an Intentional Leadership Coach
  • Use the Leadership Priority Cards–hot off the press and available through me. When you use these cards, though, you’ll be able to choose your ideal hand–and move toward your goals.[/list]

Why the cards? All learning styles benefit from the tactile use of cards. As a coach, you can observe

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