Key Point: We need to be balanced so we learn from BOTH success and failures. Any one reading my blog knows that I am, by all accounts, closer to the end than the beginning of my career. Yet I genuinely feel that every stage of one’s work journey is a huge opportunity for personal growth. I’m learning as much or more about myself than ever. However, the reality is that practice time is practically shorter, later on in life. Learn from me… Make sure you are balanced. In this regard and in the spirit of total transparency, the following is feedback from world-class psychologists who recently assessed my leadership strengths and development opportunities.
“Lorne is an expert strength based developer… [He] needs to help others discuss and grow from downsides… He should do the same in his own development”… “[He should put] more focus on what he and others can learn from frustration and failure.”
At first, it is hard for me to not just want to discount this feedback. After all what do these psychologists really know after a battery of tests, interviews and lots of 360 degree feedback from peers, direct reports and others…? Well, the truth is that they know a lot and are very practiced at discovering insights. It is important for me to accept and learn from this feedback.
The fact is that I DO have a propensity to focus more on people’s strengths and to optimize their contribution accordingly. As the psychologists point out, this is a real strength and I’m proud of this capability. Most of us have core strengths and a tendency to rely on these skills and attributes. As an example, most who have worked with me, know that I will never be really quantitatively gifted; although people will be surprised if they think I do everything by the seat of my pants too. I know that about myself and therefore surround myself with quantitative geniuses to help me out. This adds balance to my overall capability.
Over the years I have occasionally found myself in territory I have been through before. My reaction is, “Do I need to learn this again?” Apparently so. How about you? Do you find yourself repeating past failures, frustrations or mistakes? Think about the following:
- Become known as an expert based strength developer. It will take you and others a long way down the success road. Additionally do No. 2 below!
- Be tenacious and very rigorous about what you can learn from frustration and failure. Sometimes it is compelling to skip this and move on. Unfortunately this contributes to the worst of déjà vu or Groundhog Day. We really need to reflect and learn from the failures of others and our own. How and what do you really learn from failure? Are you confident you will avoid repeating the same mistakes, disappointments and frustrations in the future?
- Document and write out your “war stories.” See my last blog. The act of writing and reflection will pull out themes and insights from your failures. Always ask for feedback from people that care about you and your progress. Hopefully they have the courage to help you identify blind spots.
- Self-awareness and development never ends. I like to tell the story about Pablo Casals, the world famous cellist who practiced three hours a day well into his 90’s. When a neighbor asked Pablo why, at his age, he did this, his comment was, “maybe one day I’ll get it right.”
Learning from failures in The Triangle,
Key Point: Each of us ultimately stand for some things. When we act on our beliefs, we begin to write our individual narrative or story. This includes our personal mission, purpose, values and essence of being. Even if we are not conscious of one, we’ve all been living and writing an implicit narrative. However, we have to be very self-aware and present or this narrative can be deceptively hard to identify.
There is a reliable method to narrative discovery. Block out time to write down “war stories” – the anecdotes that best capture experiences, successes, failures, and our views of the world. These recollections often contain the kernels or themes of what matters most to us. By looking at the stories we tell, to ourselves and about ourselves, we begin to see patterns and shapes.
I have introduced a concept (with the help of many) for developing and capturing personal narratives in the company I’m Chief People Officer at. My belief is that by recording stories and anecdotes, people will accelerate their personal learning. Perhaps as importantly, they will begin to harness their unique voice or narrative. This application will help them discover common themes that will provide a distinct personal platform of contribution… Maybe even a legacy. I haven’t used the term narrative but the onboarding at our corporation is, “The Story Begins.” What’s your story?
- Just write. Instead of wondering what you should write about, just reflect on and capture the war story of the day, week, etc. If you don’t have a software application like we have given our associates, just use a “black and red” book or scribbler. I literally have a few hundred of them filled with illegible musings and reflections. Even with analogue systems like these scribblers, patterns and ideas of your personal narrative emerge.
- I have written about the importance of developing positive habits many times before, but somehow you need to build and develop a system of routinely recording your experiences. When you do, you will be delighted to see themes about what you believe and stand for evolve. This will give you an explicit platform for expressing your voice, story or narrative.
- I have been around too many people who can tell me what they are against or don’t like. But the people who give me great energy have consciously created a narrative and stand for something. They live it. And eventually they have, or will become thought leaders or at least vessels of explicit communication. Their unique themes that represent who they really are will emerge in an authentic spotlight for others to see and appreciate.
Having a narrative in The Triangle,
Key Point: Open yourself up! You and I have a view of the world. It is just one view. As we emotionally and spiritually mature, we fully recognize that everyone has a unique interpretation of the world, and we are at our best when we accept and open ourselves to all points.
I had a friend who traveled extensively in the 1970’s. I remember him telling me about an odd experience, well in advance of today’s much greater gender self-security. He told how it was both awkward and satisfying for him to have a young man from Bali, Indonesia (at that time) naturally grab and hold his hand as they strolled conversing down the beach. It took everything he had to relax and recognize the other’s handclasp was a personal cultural compliment. It had nothing to do with sexual orientation, and everything to do with cultural orientation.
Recently, I listened to a CBC radio show where an Ethiopian man talked about how he and his best friend used walk and hold hands when they took a lunch break at work. Both immigrated to Canada and lost track of where the other settled. They ran into each other unexpectedly on the streets of Winnipeg. The man being interviewed by the CBC described how he joyfully kissed his friend on both cheeks and naturally grabbed the other’s hands. The friend recoiled and withdrew, explaining sheepishly that he didn’t want to be accused of being gay on the sidewalks of Canada. The interviewee explained how embarrassed he felt and remembers putting his hands in his pockets as the conversation stumbled on. He then went on to eloquently explain that the West might be missing something, by not accepting this level of communication intimacy.
In both examples above, the men comfortable holding the hands of other men were Muslim and it is not only common, but also desirable for men in the Islamic culture to hold hands to facilitate a deeper personal connection. Although far more secular, men holding hands is also much more common in the Chinese culture, especially amongst teens and young adults. In the Western cultures however, especially the UK, US, Canada, and Australia, men greeting each other with a kiss and holding hands during conversation is not a normal part of how communication occurs. Hugs, on the other hand, are more acceptable and common.
In fact, in these days of the “man hug,” perhaps male intimacy in the West is becoming less uptight. There is good reason for men to be more physically comfortable with their friends. Recent research by Sydney University has found that men who hug more often are both healthier and happier. Physical contact with others is important for well-being. Hugging can even release a hormone called oxytocin in the brain, making people feel more secure, less stressed and less anxious. Handholding can do the same.
- I’m a hugger. I like the physical contact with others. But in spite of research in support of hugging, the character move here is to better understand and accept the worldview of others. Some of it is cultural. In other cases, it is entirely personal.
- Do not take for granted that your world perspective is the “right one.” There are people who I would naturally hug but are very UNCOMFORTABLE with me putting my arm around their shoulders. I need to be aware and respect that.
- Ideally our organizations can accommodate and include the varied and unique intimacy and communication orientation of all associates. As the world becomes closer and flatter, understanding and acceptance of the many worldviews will be a source of strength. The world is becoming more about the inclusion of differences while uniting those differences towards the shared intent of the advancement of humankind.
Hugging in The Triangle,