31 Chapters
Medium 9781626568020

Chapter 4: The Cheeky Middle

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CHAPTER 4

Life is like a dogsled team. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
—Lewis Grizzard

Ah, the middle place. This is the point in your leadership career where nothing is certain, and everything is up for grabs. It’s like being in the middle of an ocean: you’re far from where you launched and still a long way from the safe shores. As a leader, your development is well under way, but nowhere near complete; you are formed but not finished.

Much of what makes midcareer so challenging is that everyone wants a piece of you. Your employees want your time, guidance, and recognition. Your bosses want your loyalty, diligence, and competence. Both groups want your leadership, but each toward different aims. Your employees want your leadership devoted to giving them opportunities to grow and excel. For them, your influence as a leader should be aimed at making their jobs more fulfilling, stable, and secure. How you treat them—emotionally, developmentally, and financially—will have a direct impact on how hard they work, and how loyal they are to you and the organization. It’s in your best interest to meet their needs. After all, where would you be as a leader without their hard work and loyalty?

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Medium 9781576752463

Principle 4: Turn on the Risk Pressure

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

75


The fourth principle in readying for your risk is that you need pressure to nudge yourself from your current situation—your risk platform. Consider again the high dive. The moment preceding the jump is full of tension. The diver is well aware of being watched. The expectant eyes of the audience create pressure—pressure to leap, pressure to perform, pressure not to let the audience down. This is a pressure she’s felt before. She’s been dealing with it since she was a kid doing belly flops at the local pool. Other folks have pressured her too, like her parents, coach, and friends. But most of all, she’s felt pressure from herself. She constantly goads herself to dive higher and perform better.

Our lives have many points of risk pressure that act on us by forming an acute dissatisfaction with our current circumstances. Often our dissatisfaction intensifies until it grabs us by the throat and screams, “Take the risk and jump, you fool!” We reach this leaping point when the risk of changing outweighs the risk of staying the same. For example, when faced with a career transition, the risk decision often boils down to a choice between a known unhappiness and an unknown possibility of happiness. We become increasingly dissatisfied with our current job until it becomes nearly impossible to get out of bed and face another day at the office. We may call in sick to avoid the risk decision; but the decision won’t let us go. The more we allow ourselves to live in a state of dissatisfaction, the more we feel as if we are living a lie, and the pressure builds. Although many of us have a tremendous capacity for tolerating misery, eventually we will reach our high-dive moment and decide the risk of changing outweighs the risk of staying in a suffocating situation.

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Medium 9781626568020

Chapter 8: Three Expressions of Confident Humility

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

CHAPTER 8

If I only had a little humility, I would be perfect.
—Ted Turner

The more genuinely confident and humble you are, the less likely you’ll be to get kicked in the ass. That’s because, as mentioned, most butt kicks are self-inflicted behavioral boomerangs, the result of behaving with too much arrogance or too little strength. This chapter introduces three leadership roles that draw on, and are strengthened by, confidence and humility. They reflect the essential behaviors that differentiate a leader from everyone else. Consider them a form of butt-kick prevention, because when you mix confidence and humility in the right measure, they ward off arrogance and weakness . . . and butt kicks.

Hines Brannan was the best leader I ever worked for. Hines was a partner at Accenture and, at the time, was overseeing the largest outsourcing engagement in the history of the world. BellSouth had hired Accenture to manage over seven hundred IT applications. Hines led thirty-five partners, who in turn provided leadership to an organization of over two thousand Accenture employees, most of whom BellSouth had outsourced to Accenture. I was a middle manager in Accenture’s change management and human performance practice, and I reported directly to Hines. I was part chief of staff and part gofer. But I loved the job because it allowed me to work closely with Hines and interact with all of his leaders. Until then, I had never worked for a leader who lived up to the leader ideals that I had studied in graduate school. What made Hines so unique, and so unlike some of the other partners that I had experienced, was that he was a wonderful blend of company loyalist and independent rebel.

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Medium 9781576755013

Chapter 1 Look Before You Leap

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The most dangerous strategy is to jump into a chasm in two leaps.

Benjamin Disraeli

Dustin Webster was scared; that much was clear. It was unusual to see him this way. Dustin is the kind of employee that a supervisor dreams of. A real go-getter, Dustin always got to work on time (often early), undeterred by the Seattle traffic and unfazed by Seattle’s soggy mariner weather. With Dustin, such things never prompted grousing or pessimism. He had more important things on his mind, like pitching in, helping out, and getting the job done. So seeing Dustin scared, really scared, was way out of pattern.

Looking back on it now, I’m sure Dustin’s fear had something to do with the nature of the task. For Dustin, this was a pioneering endeavor. While he had plenty of skills to 18 draw upon, and he had confronted plenty of other work challenges, this assignment went well beyond Dustin’s comfort zone and into foreign terrain.

Firsts often provoke fear. I’m sure that Dustin had felt the same fearful feelings on his first day of school, or the first time he drove a car, or the first time he kissed a girl. These feelings were also at work the first time he led one of our team meetings, or the time I tapped him to be in charge when I got called out of town to temporarily lead another project.

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Medium 9781576752463

Principle 8: Be Perfectly Imperfect

Treasurer, Bill Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

131


Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from trying. And why not? There are lots of good reasons for wanting to be perfect. Some professions, for example, greatly benefit from their inherent perfectionism. This is especially true of professions where the consequences of mistakes would be catastrophic, where the human or the financial costs of errors are simply too great to bear. Indeed, the higher the potential for catastrophe, the more necessary and warranted is the perfectionistic behavior. Consequently, among the most perfectionistic people you’ll ever meet are bridge-building engineers, skyscraper architects, nuclear physicists, software engineers, and brain surgeons. I, for one, thank God for that. If you ever had the misfortune of requiring brain surgery and had to choose between a pursed-lipped, anal-retentive surgical tactician or a giddy, free-wheeling improvisationalist, who would you choose?

The trouble with perfectionism is that it impedes our ability to take risks. Perfectionists are better suited for mitigating risks than for taking them. This mostly stems from their almost obsessive preoccupation with anticipating what can go wrong. Perfectionists are prone to “catastrophizing,” focusing on worst-case scenarios in order to account for, and control, every possible negative outcome. This, in turn, lends itself toward a doom-n-gloom outlook when facing a risk. Thus, risks themselves are seen through a prism of negativity that not only makes the risk-taking experience unenjoyable, but through the power of expectancy often sets it up for failure as well. Which brings us to Right Risk Principle 8: Be perfectly imperfect. Here you will look at some of the ways that perfectionism interferes with risk-taking, and why making a commitment to being perfectly imperfect is one of the best things you can do while pursuing, and taking, your risk.

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