When you purposefully practice, it means you are focused on your goal. Accomplished artists, athletes and professionals intensely work on achieving their goals, to be better at their crafts. We need to think of behaving the same way at work and in other parts of our lives. Some people believe that when you practice purposefully you also naturally attract, or become attracted to, people and resources that accelerate your development. The metaphorical music finds you as much as you make music.
Practice does not make perfect but it makes better.
So what if we applied this practice idea to the Character Triangle? Here are simple examples of what we could do:
Self-Accountability: every day practice taking action on one thing you would have avoided previously. Make that phone call; write that note. Every day do one thing and keep track of what you’ve done.
Respect: every day ask one person for their input that you normally wouldn’t have. Then really listen to what they have to say. Note it.
Abundance: every day look for an opportunity to give freely (kindness comes to mind as an example). Do it proactively. Open a door. Help someone carry something. Look for an opportunity to give, and journal your action.
In all three examples above you are acting with purpose; you’re practicing!
Character Move: for 30 consecutive days journal what you do in each of these three areas, observe how you feel, and how others react to you. Let me know the impact.
Practice, practice, practice in the Triangle,
You have probably heard that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Often there is little data to support us feeling fearful. Our fears can become a self-fulfilling philosophy. Our minds often act on the strongest suggestion we give it. Convince yourself that you’re going to drive the golf ball into the rough and you likely will. Thoughts can become material. The good news is that this concept can also work in our favor.
In my position as a CEO I see so many people in the work place coming from a position of fear. “The customer won’t like me.” “I’ll probably just screw it up.” And guess what. It often turns out that way. Worry, stress, and doubt are often related to a lack of trust in oneself. How do we control this state of thinking?
When we act with confidence it is often because we are clear about our purpose and values. (The Character Triangle helps here.) Of course we also need to increase our knowledge and skills to make us more confident. We have to continuously practice skills we want to sharpen. And as the contemporary philosopher Eckert Tolle has pointed out, “We are not our minds.” We CAN control what we think about. Also self listening through quieting the mind (meditation and prayer) helps us find that clearer inner voice to define our purpose.
I really believe that when we view ourselves in a constant state of purpose-driven “becoming”, and declare a desired state, we will create and build to that state of being. We will put fear behind us and focus on that “becoming.” This very declaration can make such a positive difference.
Character Move: declare our purpose and desired state. As an example, if you want to be a leader at work, assume the position. Start thinking and acting that way. Identify the actions and skills, and just start doing more that way. Suppress the fears and nay sayers. Self-stating that you are […fill in the blank…] will propel you that way. Trust yourself.
Constantly Becoming in the Triangle,
My mom and dad married in 1945. He was 20 and she 17 years old. They managed to scrape up enough to buy a small farm: a few cows, chickens, pigs, and dirt for growing mixed grains. They had to borrow machinery from my grandpa to seed and they lived in a beat up old wood shingle shack. They of course had no power or indoor utilities …only a well and an outhouse. Most of all they were cash poor. Until they could get harvest money in the late fall, any cash came from selling milk, cream, and eggs. As a result they lived mostly on credit with merchants in the closest town, hoping to pay up after selling the crops. They often had less than a dollar in cash in the house after spending what little they had. One day a soldier, a world war two amputee, came to the door begging for help. He had 5 children and to my mom appeared desperate. He asked her if she could give him any money. So accepting the situation at face value, she went into the house and came back with 50 cents of the 53 cents they had left in their savings jar. She’s not sure why they kept the 3 cents, but as the poor veteran limped away down the drive way back to the main road, she recalls dad and her holding hands in the kitchen giggling. Perhaps generosity does that; it just promotes well being. They had almost nothing but gave almost everything they could.
My mom and dad were never materially rich but they never wanted for anything in life. More importantly they lived a life of contentment. And I believe that much of that contentment came from their abundant approach to life.
What I find interesting when I observe people at work is that no one is really asking them for their last 50 cents. So why be stingy with time and caring for team members? Why not give that little extra information? Take those extra few steps? Ask those few extra questions for understanding? Give that little bit of recognition?
Character Move: look at team members with a new sense of generosity. Think of going to the savings jar and realize it is always full. We have a never ending fund of generosity. It is possible to constantly give and never go “broke.” And the compounded interest we get is the well being and gratification of helping others.
Give 50 cents in the triangle,
As a CEO, over the 40 years of my career it has been interesting to watch people promote themselves. Some do it well, bring value, and increase their personal brands. Others are clumsier and even damage their personal credibility. Here is what I’ve observed about how to do it well:
- Get absolute clarity about the projects assigned to you so that there is minimal doubt about what defines success. Do not accept fuzzy assignments. You will likely fail because success is undefined or changes with the whims of your boss.
- Show and celebrate progress along the way by:
- Using facts and data to validate forward movement; be precise and don’t use B.S. to overstate progress.
- Getting stake holders (customers, other departments, etc.) to announce progress to your boss and his/her boss.
- Celebrating milestones; have stake holders be part of the hoopla. Make it clear what the milestones are, share in the success, and have fun.
- Letting your team get as much credit as possible. Make everyone associated with you a winner. Do not minimize your role but shine a brighter spotlight on them.
- Under promising but over delivering. This is incredibly important at every stage of a project and a key principle for our careers.
- Doing something memorable to announce “mission accomplished.” (Never announce accomplishment unless the stakeholders want to participate and agree that facts/data support the win.)
- Stay humble and never take exclusive credit. Your team will appreciate it and others will notice.
Character Move: be proactive reinforcing your personal value and brand promise. Identify what projects you can apply these principles against asap! Promote yourself shamelessly following the above.
Self Promoting with Respect in the Triangle,
Self-control is becoming a topic that I want to spend more time with. Why? We can have the best intentions and information but can we personally execute? Do we have a personal system for discipline and self-control? Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, just published a great blog on this. His view is that self-control as a behavioral focus may be “something we can tap into to make sweeping improvements in life outcomes.”
Ariely goes on to note that research by people like Walter Mischel and others suggest that those of us who develop greater self-control capability are likely to get better results in a wide range of areas including work. There are many temptations to get distracted while working. The “donut shop” facing today’s worker may be Facebook or Angry Birds.
So what are some strategies for improvement in self-control?
- Try establishing a binding agreement with yourself by using the support system found in a web-site like www.stickK.com.
- Up the ante by applying “self imposed fees or fines” when temptation wins. Learn about fines to ante-charities.
- Get help from others, “For god’s sake don’t let me order dessert tonight!”
Character Move: let’s recognize that self-control, like most things, requires a system and purposeful practice. Will power alone will not work for most of us humans. Read the book We Have Met the Enemy: Self-Control in an Age of Excess by Daniel Akst for more insight and tactics!
Passing on the donut in the Triangle,
I read Gruen’s book Water for Elephants a few years ago and enjoyed it. I recently saw the movie. What struck me as I watched it on the big screen was the beginning, which of course started at the end. The central character was at the final stage of his long life; the “circus” was a literal metaphor for life. One day, for some of us much sooner than later, we will be standing at the end looking back at our working lives. Our journey will have its ups and downs of course but what can we do now to prepare for the time when we look back over our journey? Here is what I deeply believe in:
- If we do what we are good at and practice it to get even better; we will have a better chance at happiness at work.
- If we also do what we like to most of the time; then we will take our working lives to an even higher plane.
- If we add the ingredients of doing #1 and #2 while giving superb value to what others need most of the time, including our team mates, clients and customers, then we will likely achieve a great sense of gratification.
When we can intersect these three things, and keep turning the wheel to be amazing, we will be happy to stand at the end thinking about our metaphorical circus with contentment. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be easy. And, of course, I deeply believe the Character Triangle values will give you that character to excel.
Character Move: don’t let the world wash over us while we feel stuck getting a pay check. We can find a way to balance our talent with what we like and provide value. Yes we have obligations but that doesn’t mean we can’t find that recipe. Start to work on a plan now.
Do you really know what your good at and what you like to do? What are you practicing to get better at? How do you connect this activity into giving value? and into being amazing?
Start at the end to get to the beginning! Imagine standing there at the end. You are 70 yrs old. What did you spend time doing over the last 50 years? How do you feel?
Water that elephant in the triangle,