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Thursday, June 14, 2012

How to be a Leader in Life

business leader

How To Be A Leader In Life

by Anthony  Fernando 
As a new manager in a multinational corporation, Donna Peterson’s main focus in life was to prove that she had the skills and talent necessary to succeed in a male dominated industry. 

After graduating from Harvard, summa cum laude, and completing her MBA at the Stanford school of business, Donna was confident in her knowledge and ability.
However, even with a strong academic background, Donna’s first year as a manager was tough.

While she tried to apply the principles she’d learnt at college, the members of her team were extremely resistant to change. Also, a number of the older team members continually questioned Donna’s authority and actively tried to undermine her.
By the time of her annual performance review, Donna was stressed, unhappy and was starting to question whether she really did have the street smarts necessary to succeed in the business world.

As she sat nervously in the waiting room at head office, Donna prepared to defend herself against the criticisms that she knew were in store.
At exactly 9am, the board room doors opened and an immaculately dressed woman in her mid fifties emerged. Her name was Karen Whitaker and within the company she was something of a living legend.

Karen greeted Donna warmly, and with an air of smooth authority, led her to a corner office that overlooked the bay. After the preliminaries of the annual review were out of the way, Karen quickly got down to business.

“Donna, I know that you’re doing your best and that you’re trying really hard. In fact, in a lot of ways, you remind me of myself when I started out in this business.” This made Donna smile. It was nice to hear that someone knew how hard she was trying.
“I’m going to give you one piece of advice that I’d like you to follow for the next six months. WIll you do that for me?”

“Of course I will” replied Donna expectantly.
“I want you to stop focusing on PROVING yourself, and start focusing on IMPROVING yourself”
“Umm, OK” replied Donna hesitantly.

“Let me explain” continued Karen, “When you focus on proving yourself, you always try and defend your position and demonstrate that you already have all the answers. However, when you focus on improving yourself, you begin to open yourself up to new ideas and feedback.”
“I think I understand Karen, and I’ll do my best. Thank-you”

When she returned to work, Donna took a piece of paper, and in permanent marker she wrote herself a sign that said, “Stop trying to PROVE yourself – Start trying to IMPROVE yourself”.
She then placed this sign in her top drawer so that she would see it regularly. Over the next six months, this single idea had an incredible impact on Donna’s life at work.

Instead of trying to prove that the theories she’d learnt at college were correct, and that she had all the answers, Donna began talking to other managers and touching base with Karen on a regular basis to improve her understanding of how the company worked in the real world.
She also began reading widely and listening to audiobooks to improve her knowledge of the industry she worked in. She was amazed at how fast things were moving and realised how important it was to stay in touch with emerging ideas.

On a practical level, one of the most useful things Donna did in response to Karen’s advice was to create a special file on her computer called ‘Lessons Learned’
lessons learned
Every time she picked up a useful idea or a gold nugget of advice, she would jot it down in her ‘Lessons Learned’ document. She then reviewed this document once a month to make sure that she was implementing these ideas into her life.

Another major change in Donna’s approach was her response to feedback. In the past her reaction to negative feedback was to fight back and defend herself in order to prove that the negative feedback was unjustified.

Now, with her focus on improving herself, she looked forward to all feedback – good OR bad. When she received negative feedback she now looked at it as a chance to grow and build her skills.

Donna’s new focus also had a big impact on the dynamics of her team. Instead of always trying to prove that she was in charge and knew what was best, she now asked the members of her team for their input before making important decisions. 

This was not however the same thing as making decisions by committee. Donna still made the final call, but now everyone in the team felt that they had the opportunity to contribute.
But perhaps best of all, Donna no longer carried the weight of trying to prove that she was perfect all the time.

Her new focus on improving herself allowed her to admit that she sometimes made mistakes and also allowed her to ask for help when she needed it.
So today I’d like to encourage you to apply Karen’s advice to your own life. 

Here’s what to do:

1. Stop focusing on PROVING yourself and start focusing on IMPROVING yourself.
2. Instead of defending your current knowledge, find ways to continually increase your levels of understanding and grow as a person.
3. Instead of becoming defensive and fighting against negative feedback, embrace feedback of all kinds and use it to get better.
4. Create a document called ‘Lessons Learned’ and every time you discover a gold nugget of advice, write it down and review your collection regularly.
5. Stop trying to be perfect. Give yourself permission to learn from your mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Until next time,
Dare To Dream!
Dr. Anthony

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