Would you enjoy working under yourself?

I ask myself the above question whenever I look into the eyes of my associates and see bewilderment. It always helps me recall a beautiful question by Benjamin Zander from his TED talk on the transformative power of classical music – “Who am I being that my player’s eyes are not shining?” This question reins me in.

And typically the following thoughts follow. 

Most of what we complain about in our bosses, we are.
This is a sad and mostly shameful truth. Most of the ills we see in our bosses goes through us and is sometimes compounded before it gets to our associates. It is a vicious cycle that entrenches bad behavior. I have found that the best way to shield myself from the ills, is to reduce exposure.


Have high expectations
People live up or down to our expectations. It has been tested severally. I particularly liked the experiments in A Class Divided – a 1985 episode of the PBS series Frontline.
Look at those that have truly inspired you to greatness, those you wanted to prove right. You most likely put in more work, made more sacrifices and carried the scars with more pride. The journey and the destination always feels better, when people expect more and not less from you. Labels matter.

Allow space for mistakes
Please forget the skewed adjectives people put before mistakes – honest mistake, senseless mistake, genuine mistake, stupid mistake. 
No one knows whether a mistake is logical or illogical until there is a hindsight review, and hindsight reviews are laced with bias, chiefly hindsight and confirmation biases. 
Allow space for mistakes and ensure the individual and team learn from each mistake. Learning is not convenient. Challenge those that expect learning, especially learning from mistakes, to be convenient.

Use razors
Razors are heuristics that help to simplify thought and action, shaving off unnecessary complexity.
Hanlon’s razor – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. Yes, there is malice, but if you interpret every mishap as someone trying to sabotage you, maybe you are the one sabotaging yourself and ignoring the ignorance that exists around you.
Occam’s razor – The simplest solution tends to be the right one. Be wary of those that thrive on making everything complex.
Hitchens’s razor – What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Be careful with those you give your ears. A lot of leaders have been ruined by unfounded paranoia. 

Be patient with the process, but impatient with results
This reads like an oxymoron, but it is not. You and your process will be long gone, if there are no quick wins. The quality of relationships are directly proportional to the quality of results.
Good results build good relationships. Bad results build bad relationships. Bad relationships entrench bad results. Good relationships foster good results. It is what it is.

Do not interrupt flow
Not everything needs to be changed. Let momentum work for you. Get out of your own way.

Celebrate the little acts of individuals and the big results of teams
There is always something worth celebrating. Always. Celebrations are not a distraction, they are appetizers to the concrete victories.

There should be a learning in every experience – win or lose
Again, learning is inconvenient. It reveals your underbelly and your vulnerabilities. Be a disciple to all your experiences. Each experience is revealing and teaching you something. Learn.
If you’re not learning, you’re not growing. If you’re not growing, you’re swelling. If you’re swelling, you stink and will no sooner, be buried.

Care
Find out more about your team, than how the work is going. What is their support system outside work? Give them a second look. Care. Remain approachable, but manage accessibility. 

Raise your actions
Your team can already tell what you think from how you act. They are watching. They replicate your actions, and rarely follow your words. When your words are inconsistent with your actions, trust is undermined. If you lose trust, you lose everything. Your team is a reflection of you.

Be their ozone

 – Osasu Oviawe

Leave a Reply