So check this out.
Recently I received an email from someone who found me on LinkedIn. The person wasn’t a connection of mine, so I had no idea who he was or where he worked.
Let’s go through some of the items on the email (indicated by red letters A-F) and how it influenced my impression of this person. I changed personally identifiable information and will call him John Doe.
As an individual contributor, Joe was praised by his management for his speed in delivering results. His management was so enamored with his ability to get things done quickly that he was promoted to a leader role over a team of ten. Joe’s speed in taking action carried over into his decision making. He saw making decisions fast as a sign of getting “real work done,” versus sitting around talking about things. “Great leaders don’t have all the facts,” he would say to his team, as justification for moving forward without a good understanding of a decision’s implications. Joe’s team learned to just say, “Yes, Sir,” and do their best to execute what Joe wanted done by the time expected. His impulsive decision making came to a head with a new hire named Greg.
As a young manager, I was involved in a significant crisis which had the attention of not only the partners in the firm but also its CEO. I, like many of my cohorts, was nervous about the crisis, its impact on our clients, and my employment status at the firm. There was a very senior partner who was tasked by the CEO to assume responsibility for navigating the firm through the crisis. It took us a year to work our way out of the crisis; and we all learned some valuable nuggets. I thought I was a good leader before the crisis. Now I realize how naïve I was in my assessing my leadership skills. That experience, while excruciatingly painful, was an inflection point in putting me on the path to becoming a better leader.
So the older I get the more I think about the lessons I’ve learned in my career. Oh, to go back in time and talk to my younger self about the boneheaded things I did. Sadly, my younger self probably wouldn’t have listened to any imparted wisdom (which I define as knowledge coupled with experience). I was recklessly confident—I didn’t think I would get burned by touching the stove, no matter how many before me got burnt.
Ah, the naivete of youth.
What I’ve come to realize is that learning hard lessons doesn’t mean I have to experience them first-hand. It’s far less physically, emotionally and financially painful to learn from others. This has led me to an important conclusion--there are two paths to wisdom. The first is experiential wisdom, where I know the stove is hot because I touched it. The second is inherited wisdom, where I believe someone with credibility when they tell me the stove is hot. I could have saved myself a lot of time, stress, and money if I understood and practiced inherited wisdom.
In my zeal to help those still climbing the career mountain, following are my 12 wisdom nuggets to help others avoid experiential wisdom and replace it with inherited wisdom.
On the 1980s HBO show Not Necessarily the News, comedian Rich Hall created Sniglets, which dictionary.com defines as “any word coined for something that has no specific name. Words like Jokesult (When someone insults you, you call them on it, and they say, "It was just a joke.”) and Chwads (discarded gum found beneath tables and countertops) were born to humorously explain commonplace things or actions. I’ve created 20 of my own project management and leadership sniglets; some made up words, others repurposed words or phrases. I hope they resonate with you and put a bit of humor in your day.
Recently I wrote an article about creating a sustained lifestyle. In the article I introduced a concept which contrasts achievement (doing something meaningful that accomplishes a desired result which gives you joy) and stress (the degree of mental, physical, or emotional strain undertaken to achieve a desired result). In the model I define four different lifestyles driven by achievements and stress, as follows:
In 2004, I left Microsoft so Patty and I could homeschool our son Trevor. He was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at age five, and we decided as he was entering seventh grade that he would need more help than what his public school could offer. I was his math and science teacher for two years until he re-entered public school in ninth grade. After my homeschooling stint, I decided to focus on writing and consulting, and later Patty and I starting a publishing business. From that point until now, I have regularly been asked if I’m “retired.” At first, I would respond with a strong “no” due to my opinion that retirees spend their days on the golf course or playing bridge. Over time, though, I recognized I had to come up with a better description of what I do as a profession. It’s not a choice of either the golf course or the 8-to-5 grind. For me, it’s something I call sustained lifestyle.
So, what’s sustained lifestyle? Here’s the definition, then we’ll unpack it:
A LinkedIn interaction from some time back still sticks with me today. Why? He and I connected, then he immediately asked to review my personal finances so he could do for me what he had allegedly done for so many other “thrilled customers.” I told him “No thanks.” He replied back asking me why. Being the direct guy I am, I told him I thought it was insincere to connect with me and immediately want to review my personal finances and try to sell me on his service. He said he never asked me to send my personal finances through LinkedIn. At this point, the discussion was no longer about him trying to sell me a service; instead, I wanted to provide a teachable moment for him. I told him that sending personal finances through LinkedIn wasn’t the issue, but I didn’t want to divulge my personal finances to someone I didn’t even know who connected with me only 30 minutes ago. After another couple of interactions, he told me that “nice people” would agree to meet with him (I guess I’m not a nice person) and that he was rescinding his offer to meet (even though I already told him I didn’t want to meet with him). It was kind of like “you can’t break up with me because I’m breaking up with you first”. He then wished me the best. He made an impression on me for sure, just not one he wanted.
Ahh, social media. Where from the comfort of your living room you can make your point known to millions of people. People and businesses have grown from being virtual unknowns to worldwide phenoms (think “Gangnam Style”) thanks to social media. Then there are those who fell from grace like a lead balloon (think Roseanne Barr, Anthony Weiner, or Paula Deen) because of social media. Both the rises and falls can happen swiftly and without advance warning. Sadly, it doesn’t even have to be true. Fake news travels just as fast as the truth. It just has to be tantalizing. It also doesn’t even have to go viral; a handful of viewers can see something that will alter their opinions of the person posting.
That viewer could be your current or future boss, customer, or business partner.
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