INSIGHTS (on leadership/self-leadership)
• There’s plenty of talk about finding and pursuing your passion. After all, “If you spend more than half your waking life at work, why not do what you love?” goes the advice (advice fraught with trouble–a topic for another day). Instead, I’m highlighting the power of showing your passion at work. That is, if you love what you do, even if just parts of it, not being afraid to put your passion on display. Being openly enthused about what you do is tremendously influential. It draws others in, creates shared energy, increases commitment, makes you more likable, and leaves an imprint. Case in point, I was recently hired to give a virtual keynote based on someone remembering the passion I showed for my topic, 20 years ago. Research on passion at work tends to be a bit complex, so I kept it simple. I asked 300 managers “What trait do you appreciate most in an employee?” I was surprised to find that “He/she is passionate about what they do and shows it” was chosen 78% of the time. It should be mentioned that the key to showing your passion is to ground it in a topic that’s meaningful to the audience. In other words, this isn’t about being constantly peppy (which can be annoying at times). So, when it comes to passion, don’t just focus on a deep-search to find it–show it where you can!
IMPERFECTIONS (a mistake I’ve made)
• Believe it or not, math can get in the way of your risk-taking. Research indicates that we consistently overestimate the consequences of taking a risk, while we discount the cost of status quo. Risks spur fear of failure, and fear of failure spurs fear of what we’ll lose due to that perceived failure (money, time, our reputation, our confidence, etc.). It’s critical to be realistic in your assessment of what can go wrong with the risk you’re considering and the true associated penalty. That includes an honest assessment of whether or not what could be lost is, in truth, merely superficial. And don’t blow off the cost of doing nothing. I learned this lesson the hard way. My apprehension about leaving corporate behind to broaden my platform for making a difference (through the spoken and written word) weighed me down for a while. It kept me in corporate, and away from my mission, for longer than necessary. I overestimated the risks and underestimated the cost of status quo. Learn from my error and get the math right on whatever risk you’re considering.
IMPLEMENTATION (one research-backed strategy, tip, or tool)
• To stimulate creativity, follow a strategy I use, inspired by the innovative minds at Facebook: Don’t talk about building it, build it. It turns out a key part of getting creativity going is to, well, just get it going. I spent time on the Facebook campus and saw this spirit everywhere. You’ve probably heard of this spirit, via Facebook’s famous “Hackathons”, the dusk ’til 6 a.m. sessions where engineers build prototypes for a pet idea, as long as it’s outside their day job. It’s been dubbed “The Hacker Way”–creatively solve a problem using the means you have at your disposal. As one company guidebook puts it, “It’s a prison shiv, not a Ginsu knife. MacGyver, not Bond”. It’s also about do, don’t ask. Just build it. Test. Learn. Iterate. And it’s a driver of Facebook’s product development success. So build it, and they will come. Or maybe they won’t.
Yet. But at least you’ll have got things off the ground and got creativity flowing.