INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
Charlie Munger, long time business partner of Warren Buffett, recently passed, thus re-surfacing some of his best advice. That is, to learn from people who actually know what they’re talking about. Munger often told the story of Max Planck, who, after winning the Nobel Prize, toured Germany lecturing on quantum mechanics. He gave the speech so many times, his chauffer memorized it. Planck and the chauffer decided to have some fun, switching places for a lecture in Munich. The chauffer gave the talk, while Planck sat in the front row with a chauffer’s hat on. The chauffer pulled it off, until, after the lecture, when he got a difficult question he couldn’t answer. To which he responded, “I’m surprised that a citizen of an advanced city like Munich is asking so elementary a question, so I’m going to ask my chauffeur to respond.”
Munger didn’t mean to celebrate how clever the chauffer was. He was pointing out two kinds of knowledge in the world; Planck knowledge, born from having paid your dues, being skilled, and having credibility behind what you’re saying, and prattle, masquerading surface level understanding as real knowledge. The latter, frankly, is what all too many “influencers” spew. So, the need to sharpen your skill at discerning who is worth listening to and learning from, is greater than ever.
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake many, including me, have made)
I worked with a leader once who militantly believed in starting meetings on time. He even held meetings in a conference room with a “special” door – one with a lock he had installed on it. If the meeting started at, say, 8AM, he’d lock it at 8AM, and the meeting started. You were one minute late? Too bad – you missed the meeting. I thought it was overkill. For meetings I ran, my philosophy was, “As long as we get going reasonably close to starting time; people have enough to worry about.” In retrospect, it was a mistake. I’ve since learned that organizational psychology research shows that meeting effectiveness and satisfaction suffer substantially when the meeting starts late. In fact, analysis showed a meeting that started 10 minutes late was one-third less effective, including generating a third of the ideas, with the quality of the ideas being a third lower.
It has to do with the energy drain created by starting late. People drift in, chit-chat, while enthusiasm for the meeting itself dwindles. By the time you start, it’s hard to switch gears to get going with the business at hand. Different story if you show up on time, and start on time. Everyone knows they’re there to get down to business, so they do. Also, meetings that start late already have an undertone of a lack of discipline. It’s hard not to imagine that the rest of the meeting will underdeliver as well, as you’re sitting there, annoyed, waiting to get going. Then, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, start on time. Every time.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
Want to show up more in-touch and in tune with your employees or co-workers? Periodically ask them one simple question:
What fires have you had to put out this week, and how can I help prevent future fires?
This shows you understand that your employees/co-workers don’t have it easy, that they have to overcome obstacles in their work, and that you’re willing to roll up your sleeves to help. It shows you care about their well-being and productivity, and that you want to be an empowering force in their life.
It’s worth the effort of asking.