What? Leadership lessons from Stephen King? He’s not a leader ….
I grew up playing softball – a lot. I remember, as a young girl, sleeping with my new glove under my pillow to soften it up. Night after night you could find me throwing the ball around with my older brother, focusing on getting both accuracy and power into my game.
Last week, as I played backyard cricket with my two sons, I noticed exactly why my elder son’s accuracy and power were lacking as he threw the ball to the keeper (the catcher in softball.)
But when I made a gentle suggestion about moving his elbow further back before the throw, he immediately dismissed me as a non-expert.
Because I had never played cricket.
The value of cross-contextual learning
Stephen King is a mega-huge, mega-successful, mega-prolific author. He’s a master of communication and a devotee of persistence. I don’t know about you, but I, for one, think that if the guy’s going to share how he succeeded, as he did in his book “On Writing,” there might be some valuable lessons for those of us who aim to be successful in other realms, such as in leading people.
So here are 5 nuggets of gold from Stephen King that wise leaders would do well to consider.
Picture three people, briefcases in hand, standing on a commuter train platform. Their train is 10 minutes late, they don’t know why, and no one’s made any announcement about it.
The first person texts her friend about how typical it is that the train’s late, and how this always happens when she has an early morning meeting.
The second person knows that there’s a transport website that updates commuters on late trains. He checks this website on his smartphone, discovers the train will be another 10 minutes, and settles into a game of Angry Birds to wait it out.
The third person also checks the transport website with her smartphone. When she discovers the train will be another 10 minutes, she goes up to each of the other two people on the platform and lets them know what the situation is.
I wonder which one of these three people you would want as your leader?
Here are the three stages of responsibility on the path to inspiring leadership.
What’s the most important part of decision-making?
Author Brian Tracy says, “Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.”
Putting off key decisions is like burying your head under the sheets so that the bogey man in the closet doesn’t get you.
Here are 3 mistakes that are unnecessarily stopping managers and leaders from making the very decisions that must be made, and fast.
Mistake #1: You tell yourself you need more time
There’s a decision sitting right in front of you, but rather than decide, you tell yourself you’ll make the decision later. Then you settle into doing something else altogether.
Needing more time is an automatic strategy for some people who can’t make up their minds. It’s as if time has a magical power in and of itself. Somehow, after a certain number of hours or days, the time will be right for this decision. In the meantime, you don’t have to do any analysis, thinking, or consulting at all.
If this sounds like you, ask yourself, how will time passing bring this decision closer to me? (It won’t.) Can I just make the decision right now? If not, what has to happen above and beyond the passage of time in order for this decision to be made?
You’re tasked with translating business strategy into business tactics and squeezing the best possible result you can out of each quarter.
You’re responsible for balancing budgets in a constantly changing business environment, a feat which can feel crossing a tightrope over a chasm on a unicycle – and the wind’s getting gusty.
And on top of all that, you’re responsible for developing people, which some people think is the trickiest job of them all.
Feedback in the “too hard” basket
A senior manager I worked with said he stopped doing one-on-ones with his staff members because they became too much work for too little result. What’s more, the greater the effort the senior manager put in to developing his team, the more his team behaved as if their career progression was his job, not theirs.
The truth is, there are a million things your boss would like to say to you, but doesn’t bother to anymore because it’s all too hard.
Here are five reasons your boss is keeping mum, and how employees who really do want feedback can overcome them.
What is it that calm, cool, and collected managers do that their harried, run-off-their-feet colleagues haven’t figured out yet?
Peter Drucker, management guru, said, “Action without planning is the reason for every failure.” But even when you plan your actions in advance (starting your day getting clear on what you want to achieve, checking your schedule, making lists of things to do) you can still end up running around like a chicken with its head cut off if you don’t ask yourself critical questions about how to take action.
Planning + Action + The Secret Ingredient
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself before taking action is, “How could I get this done with a high quality outcome, but with the least amount of effort?” Some would call that laziness. Others (those more laid back, got-it-all-under-control types) would call it plain old smart thinking.
Here are 5 more questions to help you get really clear on how harnessing “laziness” on your part might just result in the best possible outcome for everyone.
Have you been involved in the employee engagement conversation?
Most large companies perform employee engagement surveys, or spend time and money identifying the level of employee satisfaction. And it’s because they know that disengaged employees can have a significant impact on a business’s bottom line.
But what happens when it comes time to put new strategies into place in order to increase your team’s engagement? What actually does motivate and engage your staff?
What is it that your team is actually looking for?
The four needs of all employees
Not surprisingly, the needs of employees are based on how people tick. They’re based on our human needs.
According to the theory of universal human needs, there are four needs of the personality that drive every single one of us, and tapping into those needs is a powerful way to keep your team motivated.
Getting those needs met underlies that sense of satisfaction, and meeting them in a quality way drives motivation at high levels.
The four needs are: certainty, variety, significance and connection.
What’s even more important than reviewing bad decisions after the fact, and analysing what went wrong? After all, hindsight is 20/20, right?
It’s wise to take stock when things don’t go our way, when a project fails, when a goal isn’t reached. And when we do look back, we often find things we could have done differently. Smart project management methodologies make this a part of their approach by ensuring that there is a final phase after implementation that allows for review and project learnings.
Tactics versus strategy
Often these reviews are about tactics. They’re about specific things done, specific choices made, that you would make differently next time.
But why was the decision wrong in the first place? When you’re talking tactics, specific approaches you took on that specific project, then the value of the review becomes quite narrow, because unless you’re going through a similar project again, you may never need to use those same tactics again.
How you make your decisions – in other words, your decision-making strategy – comes into every project you do, every task you take on, no matter what tactics you decide on.
Here are three questions to ask yourself at decision-making time so you can spend less time reviewing, and more time celebrating your success .
Sometimes the past just seems to bubble up without you realising it.
I went to a hockey game last winter (ice, not field) and something strange started to happen: my Canadian accent made a firm re-appearance. I do sound largely Canadian normally, but with a certain Aussie twang after over 15 years in the land Down Under.
For some reason, sitting in the crowd of a hockey game completely erased any trace of Aussie from my pronunciation. Hands deep in my pockets against the cold and sitting on the edge of my seat in an Australian ice rink, I was suddenly Canadian again, in my heart, in my mind, and in my voice.
And I didn’t even realise it until my kids asked me why I was talking funny.
It got me to thinking: what other settings or situations have an effect on us that wrangles up old habits without us even realising it? If just being in a hockey rink watching a game can actually change the way a person speaks, even the way a person thinks, what else can bring up the past – and is it a past you want to bring up?
Have you noticed that too many meetings are unfocused discussions that seem to go round and round, but never get anywhere?
People work best when we’re working within a framework. The most creative people build structure around what they do in order to be successful, making ritual their grounding force. We even prefer structure when we play. In his fascinating book “Game Frame,” Aaron Dignan explains that games are so compelling and energising because they use “the free space of movement within a rigid structure.”
And meetings are no different.
Structure is certainty
Without structure, there is chaos. Without structure we feel lost and unbalanced. With structure, we feel a sense of comfort and certainty that we are at least moving forward. Successful meetings follow a very specific structure, and the facilitator needs to know that structure in order to guide the attendees from one end of the meeting to the other, in the right sequence.
If you don’t follow this sequenced structure of the meeting, you will lose your attendees’ focus, and your meeting will start going down dark alleyways and will take wrong turns. The people in the meeting need to be taken by the hand and guided through the meeting, in order for them to feel satisfied that the meeting was useful.
Here are the 5 landmarks on the meeting roadmap that will keep your meeting tight, targeted and tactical.