We are often our own worst critics. So when someone else chimes in with their own criticism, it’s as if we expected it. It reaffirms our fears.
As a result, It can be difficult to take a compliment. To say thank you without thinking “but”.
If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of what we didn’t get done. Focusing on the mistakes we made instead of being proud of our accomplishments. Of what we were able to do.
While it may be easier to believe the bad stuff, because it sounds like the fears running around our heads, that doesn’t make it true.
To make it easier to believe the good stuff, we have to flip our thinking. While humility is good, self-sabotage is not. We have to periodically remind ourselves of our strengths. Of how much we rock.
The next time someone offers a compliment, pause before deflecting. Embrace the feeling and sentiment to say thank you. Resist the urge to argue or mentally check off what could have been done differently.
Over time, the good stuff will be easier to believe.
I’m a rule breaker. Well, maybe more of a bender. I believe in spirit and intent, as sometimes rules take time to catch up with reality.
Going into this past weekend, I was really looking forward to Captain America: Civil War. I’ve long said I am Iron Man, and identify with Tony Stark as someone who has had to figure out how to lead without the suit. However, when it comes to Team Iron Man or Team Cap, I’ve been Team Cap all the way.
While I say I’m a rule bender (Tony frequently bends, shapes or ignores rules as he sees fit), I have a firm grasp of what I see as right and wrong. I understand the rules – all the nuances of the rules – to make sure I don’t put a toe past them.
If Tony and Cap are each on one side, then I know Cap is going to be squarely on the side of right. That’s just what he does. In effect, he’s the balance Tony needs.
At least that was my position going into the weekend. The reality, as expected, is murkier than a strict definition of right and wrong.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you may want to stop here. Spoilers ahead.
There will be rough terrain. It may feel like we’re traveling in circles at times. Mountains we aren’t sure we will be able to crest.
But we will also experience majestic views. Strengthen our mental and physical muscles. Look back on our journey with a sense of accomplishment.
We are each following our own map. A map that leads to who we aspire to be. Whether we realize it or not.
Every twist and turn. Every dark night. Every boulder and ravine.
Wherever it is that we think we’re headed, our destination is the same. We are all headed to the version of ourselves that is waiting. Waiting for us to experience what we must experience along our journey.
While fear, disappointment, or hurt are possible – and highly likely – along the way…there’s also joy, love, and excitement to be found. When the path is rough, remember that it’s all part of the journey. The map that will get you to the you of your dreams.
Who do you see when you look around you? What types of people are in your circles – of friends and colleagues, as well as the people you hire?
Homogeneity or Diversity?
Much in life would be easier if we were surrounded by like-minded individuals that reaffirm our thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Easier, maybe, but we wouldn’t get very far.
Diversity in our circles is what pushes and challenges us. Allows us to experience cultures, perspectives, values and ideas we might not otherwise be exposed to. It helps us lead richer lives.
As leaders, I would argue that a homogeneous circle can lead to disaster. Not only do we need diversity, we need to be very aware of our own tendencies, challenges, and strengths to ensure we balance those in our circles.
Like-minded partners can help us save time and effort
In my most recent role, I was the first to develop a certain type of strategy at a particular breadth and scale. Over the last year, other groups have initiated similar efforts, allowing me to meet a number of new people, all with similar goals as mine.
We spent a lot of time and money on our strategy, and we get more value out of it if shared. If it means other teams can reduce the cost and effort of their work, all the better.
One of these colleagues and I meet regularly and have gotten to know each other pretty well. I consider him to be part of my “common sense club” – the nickname I gave my circle. The members are those that have the uncommon gift of common sense.
While he and I get along very well, and agree fundamentally in a lot of areas, we are very different. He loves spending hours with his music. I can bury myself in writing. He considers himself slow to move, wanting to understand all the variables of a situation. I’m the first to jump at something new, working through the variables as they come.
Too much like-mindedness can create blind spots
The other day, we were talking about those differences, and agree it’s part of the reason we partner so well together. We challenge each other, with an end result that is better than if we worked independently.
We also discussed our teams. Two very different leaders have two very different teams, but they have one thing in common.
Our teams complement us.
The key to success is balance in our circle
Where he considers himself slow and deliberate, considering all the potential issues and risks, his team is more prone to action. His way of thinking about problems keeps the team from rushing into chaos unprepared.
I, on the other hand, am very fast-paced. I focus on framing out a vision and high-level plan that delivers value early and often. Looking around my team, I lean heavily towards people that can take those high-level plans and make them executable, with a tendency to slow-down and understand all the possible risks and pitfalls.
While we each have some people on our teams that have styles more aligned to ours, they are relatively few. Instead, we complement our natural gifts and challenges with teams that provide a better overall balance.
When I’m eager to move forward, he shares the risks that need to be accounted for. The issues he reveals and solves create new opportunities and capabilities my team may leverage, as intended or in a different way.
If I push forward with my organizations’ top concerns, we go through (sometimes painful) issue identification and learnings. We share those and make it easier for other teams to accelerate their plans.
As leaders, we each have our strengths, which we should leverage as much as possible. We also have our challenges.
We could spend our time trying to improve them – and to some degree that is necessary. However, there is also the option of balancing our challenges with the strengths of others by building diversity in the circles that surround us.
This week, I’m in Florida, spending time with witches and wizards. My son and I have been reading the first Harry Potter book over the last few weeks in preparation for butter beer, chocolate frogs, and casting spells.
While literal spells and witchcraft are not a part of my life, I do believe in magic. The magic of possibilities. Of inspiration. Of joy and love.
Magicians transform what is into what can be. Fix what is broken. Unlock doors.
We do not need a wand or crystal ball to create magic in our own lives, or that of our families and teams. Being present, creating opportunities, or resolving challenges – they may all sound simple, but can be powerful to those around us.
Open yourself to magic, and you can transform your life and that of those around you. And if you happen to keep a magic wand in your office (I do), all the better.