Perhaps you remember the story of the person who goes to the doctor and the doctor upon his examination tells the patient he needs to lose weight, begin physical activity, stop smoking and change self destructive habits. The patient, upon leaving the office murmurs, “quack” and immediately finds another doctor.
There are many managers who in essence do the same thing. I speak from personal experience, in my early career I was like that, I worked hard, too hard, which is precisely the point I make. With so much emphasis on activity I didn’t focus on those things I should have focused on. Lacking introspection I worked for a living rather than building a life. With much time wasted I later played a tremendous game of catch-up, all because I invested so little time in improving me. Those choices I made were tension relieving not goal achieving. I went home exhausted from work and in doing the work of others who worked for me.
Planning was an anathema, getting through one day only to have that day repeated tomorrow was my unconscious objective. I was a slave at work and did nothing to relieve tension or take my mind off my job. I grew unhappy, even though I didn’t consciously realize it and developed the destructive habit of blaming others for negative circumstances or when things didn’t go my way.
I became overly sensitive and critical of others, particularly those in positions of authority. Not only that, I was not bashful telling anyone who would listen of my unhappiness or disagreement, all the while believing the only necessity in moving ahead was doing an excellent job, boy was I wrong.
I thought I had to have all the answers to every imaginable problem, subscribing to the old belief that I was the best person for every job and if I really wanted something done right I needed to do it myself. Much of my effort was spent impressing managers and subordinates in my restaurant with what I could do, as a result trust levels with my employees was low.
What I could have accomplished if I had been more open-minded and receptive to criticism and those who wished too help me. I subscribed to the belief that weakness needed to be hidden, or had to be counterbalanced with strength. I was bullheaded and too often met criticism with hostility. I was climbing the ladder of success, but the ladder was against the wrong wall.
Thankfully, in my mid thirties I stumbled upon a couple of mentors who profoundly impacted my life. More then likely we found each other because I was receptive and no longer an overly determined, stubborn and somewhat hostile person, hell-bent on self-discovery. I stopped, looked, listened and made changes based upon the input of others. I accepted responsibility for outcomes, looking internally for solutions that in the past I avoided. I became an improved version of myself.
I accepted advice and advice has made a world of difference in me as a manager, leader and person. Success is measured in ways other than possessions (possessions are nice), as I've matured and grown as a person I understand it is not what a person gets, but what he/she becomes that makes the real difference.
My mentors suggested I spend time in personal development and reflection. In those days I traveled as an internal business consultant for my company driving 40+ thousand miles a year. My car became a rolling university; I’ve lost count how many books and motivational, educational tapes I’ve listened too while driving. In addition, when packing my suitcase there was at least one book packed as my ever-present companion. This was and remains my attempt at becoming a better more improved person (I don't mean a softer person).
Recently I reread the Seven Habits, its incredible commercial success masks its depth. In reading and rereading the book I find nuggets of gold every time. Dr. Covey takes no ownership of the material believing instead he simply organized universally held beliefs. His humbleness is an example that makes the Seven Habits more than a book he wrote, but a practice he lives.
I won’t go through the highlights, but if you haven’t read it in a while pick it up and I’ll almost guarantee you’ll agree with me it’s like reading it again for the first time. Every manager advancing his/her career and life should read and reread this book in my opinion. It is a reminder of what is good about learning and growing in consideration of others.
It’s been said there are two types of people, one type enters a room with the attitude “here I am” (you know the type) and the second type enters with the attitude, “there you are”. I don’t think I have to tell you the one most likely to succeed in business and in personal terms. Think about it, if you could pick one person as mentor would it be someone like you?
I place myself on no pedestal, I’m very much a work in progress, however, each day I work on improving myself with the hope of one day being closer to that actualized person I wish to be, helping others and in the process helping myself.