RESOLUTIONS? BALONEY!

It’s the new year.  New beginnings.  Time to leave “terrible 2016” behind and get on with fixing all that is wrong with you, your job, your life, your friends, and anything else you’d like to be different than it has been in the past, by making some New Years Resolutions!  What a perfect time for a new beginning. 

To this, I say “baloney!”  That’s right, I said it.  And I don’t take it back. 

You see, I’m a believer in life-long learning and continued incremental investment, not revolutionary change as a rule. Revolutionary change is much harder to accomplish than ongoing incremental change, and even when it is accomplished, it is much harder for that change to stick.  And so too is it true about New Years Resolutions.

By now you may have lumped me in with the grinches and haters of those who want to improve themselves and their situation and are taking this opportunity to do so, but please understand that I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade.  If you’ve set a resolution for 2017, go for it!  I hope you are successful!  I’ll even be there to cheer you on!  There are no grinches or haters to be found here. 

But I’m also a numbers guy, and here are the stats from statisticsbrain.com about the actual success of New Years Resolutions:

45% - Percent of Americans who usually make New Years resolutions

8%   - Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolutions

49% - Percent of people who have infrequent success at achieving their resolutions

24% - Percent of people who never succeed and fail on their resolutions each year

NOTE: people who explicitly make resolutions at 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions. 

 

These are not compelling success rates, so maybe there is a better approach?

Geoba.se lists the average life span of a person in the U.S. as 79 years old for 2017.  That means that on average we’ll have 79 News Years’ opportunities to make resolutions to materially change our lot in life.  That may seem like a lot until you get to middle age (or later) and see that number dwindling down. 

What if, instead of declaring meaningful resolutions only once per year, we tried to better ourselves on any given moment on any given day by making explicit measurable resolutions?  With that approach, we’d have 28,835 opportunities if we counted by days or 692,040 if we count by hours or 41,522,400 if we counted by minutes!  In other words, our opportunities to improve our lot in life are *almost* endless, it’s just that many of us don’t take advantage of them real-time as they occur.  We wait, we lose time and opportunity, and we end up with outcomes in both personal and business lives that may not be where we would like them to be.

For this year and going forward, I challenge you to look at every minute of every day as an opportunity for an explicit, measurable resolution, big or small, private or public, for your personal or business life, in which you can decide to make a positive change.  The change does not need to be an earth-shaking, mind-altering, mega-change, but at least an explicit, measurable, incremental change that will put you on the path to the upward track that you envision.  Five or ten successful ongoing incremental changes over the course of every year will almost certainly cumulatively leave you in a better position than the one or two mega-New-Years-Resolutions that are likely to fail and are even less likely to stick over time. 

So for 2017, I wish you all the best at work and at home, and however you approach change in your own life, I hope that it is more successful and more satisfying than you ever could have hoped.  

 

 

 

 

EMPATHY, YOUR MORAL COMPASS, AND LEADERSHIP

So you want to be an effective leader. Two of the most important and foundational attributes of great leaders are the ability to care about those around them (empathy) and the ability to make decisions in a consistent manner (your moral compass). 

 

First let’s look at empathy.  You can have too much empathy, and that can affect your ability to make effective business decisions.  The right business decisions do not always affect everyone in the organization in a positive manner, but the lack of making those decisions often affect more people in a negative manner in the long-run, up to and including in some instances the closure of the entire business and the loss of employment for all employees, possibly the worst possible outcome.   Leaders cannot allow an excess of empathy to affect their ability to make good, solid, fact-based business decisions. 

 

With that said, when decisions that affect people in a negative manner need to be made, they can be made in an empathetic manner.  Do you need to let good people go for the greater good?  Then make sure that they have strong transition support services available to them, and make sure you treat them with respect during the transition.  An early mentor of mine suggested that for every person you fire over your career, you should already have three interviews set up for them up on the date of their job loss.  Although I have been fortunate in that I’ve had to fire very few people in the course of my career, I’ve followed that advice in every case, and in every case, it has come back in the longer-term for the benefit of the individual who was put into transition as well as for the relationship between that person and myself. 

 

Looking at the other extreme, a complete lack of empathy is always negative.  In order to lead, people need to know that you actually care about them.  And you can’t fake this!  Nowhere is this more evident than in the military.  A classic example is when in the First World War the French Generals positioned themselves behind the front lines so that they didn’t need to see the human suffering that they were creating.  These decisions were foundational to the French Army Mutinies of 1917. 

 

You need to figure out a way to genuinely connect with your people.  You don’t need to like everything about a person, but there is always something that you have in common upon which you can build an empathetic relationship.  Look at their work space and then look at your work space an there will almost always be something important to each of you that will be in common.  Maybe it’s pets, or kids, or grandkids, or gardening, or sports, or martial arts, or music, or politics, or whatever else is top of mind for the person.  Build on that as a start.  And remember that empathy begets empathy.  It’s a two-way street, and all of a sudden you have a genuine human connection. 

 

Now let’s look at your moral compass.  There are two key questions here: 1) do you make decisions in a consistent manner (i.e. are you predictable), and 2) do the moral guideposts you use to make your decisions align with the guideposts of those who you lead?  Both are important, but being consistent and also having moral guideposts that align with your team is the best combination.  If your moral guidelines don’t agree with your team members' moral guidelines, and sometimes they won’t, then you need to at least be consistent.  Your team needs to know how you will react to a situation even if it’s not the same way they would react.  To have random differing responses to similar situations is the worst scenario because it brings fundamental uncertainty to those with whom you are entrusted to lead.  And they willabsolutely not follow you in that scenario. 

 

Finally, let’s look at how to two interrelate.  There is often confusion about these two aspects of leadership in that they are rolled into one concept.  In fact they are completely distinct.  You can be erratic in your responses and decision making while still genuinely caring for others, and you can be completely consistent in your decision making while not caring at all for others.  It is the combination of these two characteristics, empathy and a consistent moral compass that will lay the foundation for you as an effective leader.  While there are also other attributes of great leaders, these two are foundational.  Don’t lose sight of either, and be sure to intentionally care for each on an every day basis.

 

Scot Berkey

Managing Director, FullPeak LLC