I’ll never forget that day my freshman year of high school when Mrs. Gallagher made me cry. My band director since 5th grade, Mrs. Gallagher had a way of saying things straight and she didn’t mince words as she called me selfish in front of the whole class, challenging me to group up and quit my poor attitude. I remember being pretty frustrated with her. But today, I wouldn’t trade that day, or the other 1,440+ days I had class with her.
Come to think of it, I remember teachers from almost every grade edifying, encouraging, and rebuking me in ways that boosted my emotional IQ, creativity, attention to detail (could have used a few more days of chastisement on that one ;-), and overall capacity. Furthermore, many of those experiences included me crying! There was Mrs. B in 3rd grade, who encouraged my love of reading. I also remember Mrs. O in 5th grade, who tenderly helped me through a grammar book I couldn’t grasp. She was also one of the first teachers I remember to make me stay after class for speaking out of turn. In 6th grade, Mrs. R reminded me that I won’t have friends if I don’t wash under my armpits regularly. In 7th Grade, Mr. J challenged my beliefs on God creating the universe. He actually solidified them. In 8th Grade, Mrs. W ensured that my future was not in clothing or fashion as I failed to correctly sow a pair of pants I could wear. In 10th Grade, Mrs. K kept my focus on the arts rather than the sciences. In that same grade, Mr. G (the basketball coach) told me to stop playing basketball, saying, “you’re more built for football.” In 11th and 12th grade, Mr. B (the football coach) helped me review film after each game (he also brought donuts, which fed into Mr. G’s theory) to see my strengths, weaknesses, victories and failures.
Teachers, coaches, and mentors, we are forever indebted to you. You are much of the reason we are who we are. Never hesitate to edify, encourage, or rebuke us just because we respond with a poor attitude. The truth is, we need it; I pray our (students around the world) eyes are opened to see how valuable your words and actions are.
A long time ago, I read a book in which the author penned, “Great leaders can face the facts and keep hopeful expectation for the future” (Collins in Good to Great). I’ve been challenged to do that even more recently. The fact is, there’s a lot that I can improve on as a leader and manager. I recently got some fantastic feedback based off a book called 42 Rules For Your New Leadership Role.
I asked a key leader in each area of Aroma along with two people I knew would give honest feedback beyond their role to give ratings to each of the 42 rules. It was tough feedback, but filled with clear, actionable data to move forward on. Here are four things I suck at and a brief preview of how I plan to improve them in the next quarter:
Set your milestones. It’s hard to reach a goal if you’re not sure what the goal is. I often fail to be specific in setting goals. Another book offers a great way to outline clear goals: “From X to Y by Date.” If I can be clearer with a goal that is a “WIN” (What’s important now), people are going to know more clearly how to focus their work. This is highly related to Boundaries for Leaders. What’s important right now? If I don’t clearly say what’s most important, I have no right to be frustrated when people aren’t making forward progress on that a particular issue. It’s time for focus and clarity.
Tune up your team and Launch 1:1’s that actually drive performance (2 combined). I work with many amazing people. I’m excited to see them continue to grow. I put these two together, because they’re intimately connected. As one leader recently challenged me, “You have to be spending more time with your key people.” I often turn those times into sessions that are longer than they need to be. Again, being clear about expectations at the onset allows people to focus on what’s most important. Spending tim with each person on the team is highly valuable. It’s good for their health, mine, and their future growth both personally and for the organization.
Run unmissable meetings. Sometimes, I don’t even want to go to the meetings I call. That has to change. Meetings need to be compelling because they have unmissable information, healthy debate, decisiveness, and a small dose of engaging humor.
Model healthy paranoia. As a big-picture, idea guy, I sometimes get annoyed when people ask things like “How’s that actually going to happen.” Fortunately, these people haven’t given up just because I’ve been rebellious. I’m learning, through more than one source, that healthy paranoia is more than useful!
I actually got a rating a little higher than an F. The good news is I passed. The great news is I still have tons of room for growth. I’m looking forward to this next season.
I encourage you as a leader or manager to ferret out feedback (one of the 42 rules) from people that you work with. It’s one of the toughest, but most fruitful, ways to learn and grow personally and professionally. If you’d like to know more about the book, the test I created, or how you can grow as a leader and manager, please drop me a line. Here’s to your success!