November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and hundreds of thousands of authors will aim to write 50K words to create their novel.
While there may be some non-fiction writers participating, like myself, many are writing fictional stories. Creating characters and inviting others along their journey.
To be successful, each writer must consider their audience and what what makes a good story.
Ideally, they will have an engaging plot with a sympathetic main character that we root for. There should also be some sort of challenge that he or she must overcome to grow into the person they will become by the end of the story.
These elements are typical to the hero’s/heroine’s journey.
We all have a story
None of us need to be an author to create a story. Each of us is the main character of our own story. One we live every day.
At different points, it may be a drama. A comedy. A tragedy. Our stories are tapestries, weaving these elements in as each chapter progresses.
We have secondary characters that come and go, some having a pivotal role in our development. Others may exist only on the periphery.
No matter what our story, it is being written each day. With every new day, there’s an opportunity to start a new chapter. To write a new ending. The question is, what will our story be once it unfolds?
I like to think of it as hibernating. I’m no bear, but going out of commission for 6-8 weeks sounded an awful lot like taking a winter’s nap (even if it is September).
The physical preparation
Any hibernation takes preparation. Stocking up. After all, if a bear doesn’t have enough food for the winter, bad things can happen.
I did my fair share anticipating my needs and buying things. The more research I did, the more I’d buy.
Ultimately, this process was more cathartic than practical. There are a few things that will assist me medically, but most of it was completely mental:
- A body pillow to help me rest.
- Superhero movies and Netflix binge watching for when I can’t.
- Adult coloring books for when I’m feeling inspired.
- Fiction and non-fiction books for learning and distraction when I’m not.
- Star Wars origami because it’s awesome and I’ll never have a better excuse.
What this process really represented was my need to control. I started to plan out my entire recovery and my project plan was EPIC!
The illusion and appeal of control
Control may be an illusion, but it’s an appealing one. As leaders, the idea that we can control what goes on around us is like a drug. The more success we have influencing positive outcomes in challenging circumstances, the more we buy into the illusion.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
I was well on my way there. Hair on fire…burning, burning, burning as I tried to do the right thing.
Or at least what I thought was the right thing.
Last year at this time, my days were not my own. I was working until late each night, sacrificing sleep (and likely my health) to meet critical deadlines in September.
This year, I was determined to make it different. We have several leaders engaged – splitting the work among many of us.
We got started early – planning out our work and beginning to chip away at deliverables. I was feeling really good about how we had lined everything up.
Just when you think you’ve got your arms around what worries you…
I got word from my doctor that would change all our carefully designed plans. I’d be out on disability for 8 weeks…right in the middle of all the chaos.
Study the past to know the future
Our brains have the amazing ability to predict the future. That’s right – we are our own crystal ball.
In order to survive our early experiences on this planet, our brains developed the ability to use past events to predict the future. We consider what we know, or trends we can perceive in past experience, to anticipate what will happen in future scenarios.
Predicting the future comes in quite handy. If we touch something hot once, we are unlikely to do it again, reducing the chance of being burned. In the past, it was knowledge of fight or flight scenarios that kept us alive as a species.
While many of our learnings have less dire results now than they would have a millennia ago, using the past to predict the future is both necessary and advantageous.
Predicting our individual futures
Our ability to predict outcomes based on historical experience is a double-edged sword. It can help us identify dangers to avoid, as well as opportunities to chase. However, for the process to work, we need the actual experience available to us.
We can be “told” about risks, dangers, or opportunities. However, until it becomes our experience, it is not real and part of our own predictions.
The Elusive “How” of People Development
As a leader, there is rarely a more important job than coaching and developing our people.
My own skills were developed through on-the-job experience. After twenty years, I have plenty of scenarios to draw on, which can guide me through most interactions. But what about new managers?
I have worked across industries and companies. They have all been similar – providing development and coaching tools (for tracking, monitoring, etc), but not much more. Not one provided guidance for how to align different styles of coaching and development for the types of people we will manage.
I’m sure some companies do this and do it well. Yet, most people that I meet say the same – they figured it out over time, through trial and error.
What if we didn’t have to?
Introducing Lead Inside the Box
When Mike Figliuolo reached out to me about his new book, Lead Inside the Box, I was intrigued. We met a few years ago, when I first started my writing journey. I was honored to receive a preview guide, and thrilled with what I found inside.
Lead Inside the Box provides a framework for how we can best invest our leadership capital (our time and energy) to our team members.
Great leaders get the best out of their teams by providing 12 core leadership “services”. The best leaders provide these services in an efficient and effective way.
Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, co-author of Lead Inside the Box: How Smart Leaders Guide Their Teams to Exceptional Results.
Every leader wants to give their team all the help they need. That help can come in many forms. How do leaders help their team members grow and become more autonomous? Are leaders serving their teams in the most efficient and effective way?
In our new book, Victor Prince and I describe the 12 “leadership services” that leaders must provide to their teams: