Jane was a group manager over a team of six buyers for a large department store chain. Her team specialized in buying house-wares, including linens, sheets, towels and small appliances. Her team met every week to discuss advertised specials for upcoming weeks and any supplier issues that the team needed to be aware of. There was one linens supplier, Patty’s Linens, that has had some difficulty with product quality and the department store was experiencing higher-than-normal returns on the product. Two weeks earlier, the supplier submitted a plan for how they were going to improve the quality of their product. The department store decided to keep the supplier on for three more months to evaluate their plan and give the supplier an opportunity to resolve the quality issues. With this as backdrop, we eavesdrop on Jane’s current team meeting:
In December 2015 our son Trevor, who was diagnosed with autism at age 5, graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Film and Media Studies. Despite the challenges and all of the change Trevor endured in his college experience, he graduated with a 3.5 GPA with very little assistance. He also experienced living by himself, living with nice and not-so-nice roommates, internships, and a summer job as a photographer at a boys camp in North Carolina. He gained a tremendous amount of life experience and learned a ton about himself as a person. His graduation in December put an exclamation point on a very rich college experience. But college is only one race in the marathon called life; his next race - employment - was yet to start. Read more
Some time back I was reminded about a crucial attribute that all seasoned leaders possess. What surprised me was that it didn't come from what I do in my work life, it came from an interaction I had with my then 15-year-old son.
Sparing you some of the gory details, we had a situation where my son and I had to have some "man talk" where I expressed some displeasure with his behavior. It wasn't pretty and was very uncomfortable for him and not at all pleasant for me. Given that I took some huge withdrawals from the emotional bank account with him I recognized that I needed to have a more grounded follow-up discussion with him the next day.
I love baseball. I love watching the strategies, the big plays, the colossal errors (anyone remember poor Bill Buckner?) and the dramatic finishes. The Tampa Bay Rays, who in nine of their first ten years of existence finished dead last in their division (In 2004 they managed to beat out one team and finished fourth in their division), surprised everyone in 2008 by beating out such teams as the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees and made it to the World Series only to lose to the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though they lost the World Series, they were heroes in the eyes of millions who rooted for them and their storybook season.
One strategy that I particularly enjoy is the use of specialty players, of which the most prevalent is the "closer". The closer is a pitcher who is brought in for just a very short period of the game (typically the last inning of a game) to shut down opponent hitters and either secure a win for their team or allow a team who is behind to catch up in their last at-bat.
In Part 1: Ten Differences Between a Secure and an Insecure Leader, I contrasted ten key attributes that distinguish a secure leader from one who is insecure in his or her abilities. Part 2 is dedicated to giving you eight nuggets to help you succeed under an insecure leader.
For years I was an insecure leader. My greatest fear in leading others was that I would be "found out" and that everyone would see me not as a strong, competent leader but as a bumbling fool. Through the years I've learned that the quest for infallibility is impossible to reach and that making mistakes is part of the growth process. I'm less insecure today because I am more comfortable saying "I don't know" without everyone in the room thinking I'm an incompetent twit. Having said that, I am secure in knowing I will continue to screw up until my Maker calls me home.
Several years back I got into a conversation with a colleague about our kids. He told me of how he took his daughters to the circus. He wasn't able to afford it, but decided to go anyway. While they were at the circus, he looked over at his oldest daughter. The look on her face was one of utter contentment and delight. Seeing his daughter's face caused my colleague to get all choked up. The price of admission was redeemed through a priceless moment that my colleague shared with his daughter.
Some time back I was working with a leader who was having difficulty with his employees feeling empowered in their work. Ned (not his real name) was frustrated. "I don't understand it!" he stammered. "I assign tasks out, stay out of their way while they're completing the tasks, hold them accountable to dates, and praise them when the task is done well. I do all this yet my employees tell me I don't empower them. I'm ready to pull my hair out (ironically he was folically challenged)".
Recently Patty and I met up with our financial advisor to walk through our long-term finances. A key component of that discussion was about our net worth, defined as assets minus liabilities. While we had a very fruitful discussion that resulted in some great take-aways, it got me to thinking about how easy it is to focus on a single aspect of one's life and derive how good (or bad) one might be doing based on that aspect. Don't get me wrong; one's net worth is certainly an important measure that needs to be tended to. My point is that there is more to life than net worth when looking at your overall contentment. This hit home for me with the suicides of famous figures Robin Williams, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and others. These are people who appeared to have it all but to them something was so missing that it caused them to commit a horribly sad act. Lives ended too early; my prayers go to their loved ones.
In thinking about contentment, I looked hard at what, to me, are the most important driving factors behind contentment. Keep in mind my analysis is not from a point of scientific expertise; rather it is from a point of practicality as to what I think are the most important drivers. I've honed my list to 8:
Now I completely realize that some of these above drivers are extremely important to some or not at all important. My point is not to second guess your importance level; what I do believe necessary is to decide how important each of the above drivers are to you. If something is not at all important to you then that is certainly your choice. Just be mindful of avoiding something that could adversely impact you later. As example, if you say financial contentment is not at all important and you decide not to financially plan for the future then you might be creating a problem for yourself later in life.
So what now? I put together a simple excel spreadsheet which allows you to assess, for each of the contentment drivers, how important it is to you, what makes you content, and how you could be more content. I think it's important to articulate both what makes you content and how you could be more content for a couple of reasons. First, it allows you to celebrate things you are already happy with. Second, it enables you to improve on some things which you may already be doing well.
If you find this helpful, you can download the excel template to help you self-assess yourself based on the 8 drivers. Download it here.
As always, would love to hear what you think. let me know your thoughts in below comments.
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