Know Your Verbs!

As a professional, here is the view I like. —>

A fallow field.

If it’s already built, if the framework is designed and the system is in place, I don’t belong.

I need to create new things. I used to wonder about serial entrepreneurs, before recognizing that, in fact, I am one. Ooops.

Others would never flourish in the face of the unstructured environment that excites me. And that’s fine, because we need people across the entire range of skills, from pure creativity to repetitive tasks, and everything in between.

That’s why you need to know your verbs. What are those actions that describe you at your peak of effectiveness?

For me: Analyze, Envision, Create, Connect, Communicate. Operational stuff? – ugh. Number-crunching? – umm, no. Toll-taking? – kill me now.

I want to look at what isn’t, and figure out how to create something new. Give me the fallow field.

Now, I’ve done plenty of work in the past that was outside of my ideal verb zone. And I highly value those with a whole different suite of verbs than mine – if we were all like me, there’d always be something new – and nothing else would get done!

So, what are your verbs? Can you narrow it down to, say, 3-5? Feel free to share them in the comments. Those verbs may well provide the clue to your future professional path!

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Leadership and Conviction

We hear about vision. Passion. Expertise. Connections. Out-of-the-box creativity. Goal-setting. Persistence. All very important ingredients to leadership and success, no doubt.

But none are as central as…and, in fact, all will take their marching orders from…Conviction.

By conviction I am not talking about a prison record. What I mean is a deep persuasion that something is right, and must be done.

A leader is convinced that an idea, and course of action, must be pursued. This conviction drives decision, promotes action, accepts risk, overcomes doubt, and draws others into the endeavor. If necessary, it walks through walls.

Conviction develops over time, through both positive and negative experiences, through seeing the successes and failings of others. Eventually, it seeps into your soul and you become persuaded that you MUST _________ (fill in the blank).

The best marketing will also draw its inspiration from conviction – that the company, or product, or service, is the best. That it must be known. This is the wellspring of true (not manufactured) word-of-mouth marketing – the conviction has now spread, and is spreading, to the audience.

This is not only true in business. A parent is, above all things, a leader – taking a little life and shaping and molding it into a full-fledged adult member of society. This requires conviction – that the greatest impact we have may well be through others, that the next generation is more important than my immediate gratification, that the hard (and often unglamorous) work of building now will bear fruit in years to come.

Conviction, of course, can be a double-edged sword. Some tyrannical people manage to convince themselves that they are right…and seek to destroy others in the process of carrying out their ruinous beliefs. Some can even inspire others, through the power of conviction, to take leave of their senses and drink Kool-Aid in a forsaken jungle. But far more (who do not make the 6:00 pm news) build businesses, create charities, donate organs, mentor young people, and care for the sick – because it is right. Because they must.

Those that manage others may or may not have this restless level of conviction. Those who perform tasks may actually do their work (less effectively, I’d argue) without it. Leaders, however, are a different story.

Conviction does not guarantee success. But a lack of it almost guarantees failure. Over the years, I’ve come to a number of juncture points where I’ve had to make bold – sometimes disruptive and costly – decisions. In each case, it was conviction that ruled the day. When you believe that a thing is right – when you are compelled to move forward no matter the cost – then you stand the best chance of success.

Conviction leads you to take a course. It feeds into persistence, which drives you to stay the course. And that’s the shortest path to results.

(Image credit)

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Leadership by Amputation

In this week’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter (theme for the week: Courage in Business), the idea popped up about how courageous leadership sometimes involves letting go an underperformer – for the sake of the morale of the team.

Exit: Randy Moss, from the Minnesota Vikings.

The bottom line is, a leader has to constantly weigh the cost/benefit ratio of someone who has talent, but who either:

  • doesn’t perform up to it,
  • is in a mismatched role,
  • puts on a prima donna act,
  • refuses to follow the rules,
  • …or some combination thereof.

Randy Moss is not the first full-of-myself athlete to be cut from a team, and he won’t be the last. The Vikings took a risk signing him, but they did the right thing by getting rid of him quickly. A good lesson for all business leaders who know in their gut that they have someone on-board who is a net negative.

Amputate, before the infection spreads.

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The World’s First Management Consultant

Moses had a problem.

He had just led hundreds of thousands of the descendants of Israel out of Egypt, and was on a journey to a new land, a homeland promised generations ago to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).

And they were pecking him to death.

Moses was the leader. And everyone came to him with their problems, their disputes, their needs. Everyone. That sounds like a prescription for maximum-strength Prozac.

Fortunately, a man named Jethro came along (would you listen to a consultant named Jethro?). Jethro was Moses’ father-in-law, but more than that, he was a wise and sensible fellow. A giver of good advice. A leadership and management consultant.

You can read about the entire encounter here in Exodus 18, and I’d urge you to do so for background (it’s fascinating). But in short, Jethro noticed that Moses was absolutely wearing himself down to shreds by sitting in judgment over the entire nation, dispensing instruction and settling difficulties. Morning, noon, and night – “Moses, what about Aaron’s son’s hair length?” “Moses, he took one of my sheep!” “Moses, what should be the dowry for a one-eyed wife?” And perhaps, “How do I change the settings on my Facebook page, to block those pesky Egyptians?”

No wonder Jethro said, as he watched this exhausting parade, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you, you cannot handle it alone.”

So, you’ll see as you read the passage, that Jethro gave Moses very wise advice about creating an inner circle of trusted people, delegating responsibility, and focusing on the big stuff. He saved Moses’ bac…well, lamb chops, and had a significant impact on the life of the nation for many years to come.

Jethro also provided, for us, three tremendous lessons in management.

    1. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can do it all alone (v. 18). You may be competent, but you’re not omnipresent, all-wise, and all-powerful. God alone has those attributes – and in human communities, since no one person can do it all, you are dependent on collaboration, outsourcing, and great talent selection.
    2. If you’re meant to lead, don’t get lost in the weeds (v. 19). Stick with the highest tasks and responsibilities. That’s where you’re a lot more indispensable.
    3. Choose the best. Look for people of character (v. 21). Trustworthy folks who can be counted on in the “inner circle.”

Many things can only be accomplished via larger communal efforts, in business and in every other endeavor. But only by structuring things so that the right people are on the bus, and in the right seats on the bus, can it all work well.

Jethro’s advice was free to Moses, and is free to you. It’s also just as timely as it was thousands of years ago. What can you learn from the world’s first management consultant?

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