A few weeks ago we held our JuntoClass on Leadership & Self-Management, led by Dave Dyson of Eclipse Telecom. Dave led us through a series of important lessons learned, potential weaknesses in our leadership styles, and vulnerabilities we have in decision-making.
Self-Care is a Choice
Dave began the Class asking the JuntoApprentices “Who worked out this morning?”, “What did you have for breakfast?”, and “Did you even have breakfast?” These questions may seem trivial; after all, what does breakfast have to do with one's leadership ability? Dave was asking these as rhetorical questions to dig into the lifestyles and self-care habits of those in the room. Our culture loves to glorify the over-extended entrepreneur, burning the midnight oil, living off coffee and a quick lunch at the computer, never stopping until the company reaches the pinnacle.
Dave pressed us to remember that we are all human and all different. We each have limits - different ones at that - and our optimal work-life integration is unique to each of us. Self-care is not something for the privileged folks that “have the time”. We are all busy. Self-care is choice, a decision to prioritize ourselves on the daily list of things to take care of, and a recognition that taking care of ourselves results in better decisions, interactions, and time management. It’s important to take time to establish a routine that supports us being better leaders, not shorter-tempered, expended, underslept people just trying to catch a break.
Acknowledge Personal Habits & Biases
The Blind Men & the Elephant is one of Dave’s favorite poems. Six blind men, who after touching an elephant for the first time, each found it comparable to completely different things depending on what part of the elephant they touched.
The story is an analogy for how easy it is for leaders to fall prey to misunderstanding a situation by only looking at it from their own perspective. Leaders must self-manage and not rely on first impressions or hasty conclusions. It is the responsibility of the leader to pause, and intentionally seek out other angles and perspectives of a situation that she/he is not seeing. This is not just about slowing down before jumping to conclusions, but understanding the conclusions that we are pre-disposed to make.
Dave had everyone in Class do a quick search on biases and identify a few that are prevalent in our individual lives. Then, he led a discussion of how those biases and pre-conditioned habits have influenced our leadership styles and decisions. “Our biases influence decision making in everything we do and we have to be mindful of them,” Dave reminded us.
Sit with a Problem Before Jumping to a Solution
Every day a leader’s plate is full of decisions to make and issues to solve - big and small. Many of us are “solutions-focused” and immediately brainstorm how a challenge can be resolved once aware of it.
For weightier decisions and challenges, it’s important for leaders to flip this paradigm and focus more on the problem before considering a solution. We need to recognize our impulse to “deal with it and move on,” and instead create a pause. Jumping to find a solution puts us in “checklist mode” and shuts down our creativity.
Dave urged the Class to spend more time observing the problem, consider it in different perspectives, and be aware of our biases. Spending more time with the problem allows leaders to see related events, unseen players, and additional influences that may not be apparent at first, resulting in an increased ability to find a better, more innovative solution.
Walk Before You Run
Dave concluded the class by urging each Apprentice to improve their self-management by picking just one thing to focus on improving and build a new behavior around for the next month. Taking the slow road is not natural to many startup leaders who instead try to improve multiple areas of weakness at once. That, however, can be the quickest path to dropping the effort altogether. Dave explained that selecting one new habit can be most effective for good habit development; whether it’s working out in the morning four days a week, slowing down decision-making, or focusing on addressing a specific bias.
Small stones can move mountains, and small steps of self-management eventually turn into leaps and bounds in becoming a better leader.