It’s all about execution

Posted February 6, 2009 in Latest News & Insights

I recently read an article in Oprah (yes, I occassionally read Oprah… and why does she keeping talking about her weight?).  It was written by Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place, who was marvelling at her daughter’s obsession in practising cartwheels.  She compared it to her own career where she had jumped from columnist to photography, to writing a novel to now working on a screen play.

She muses about how her daughters unrelenting focus produced picture perfect cartwheels that can be executed anywhere, anytime.  Her own dabblings may have led to some great outcomes, but have made her far from an expert in any of the fields she’s pursued.

This unrelenting focus on execution… on doing what we’re already good at over and over again until we become experts… appears to be the key to anytime of long term success.  Malcolm Gladwell explores it in his book Outliers and you only have to look at professional atheletes like Tiger Woods or performers like Beyonce and you see how artists, atheletes and musician’s spend their lives practicing what they already know how to do well.

So, in a work place flooded with BA’s, MBA’s, and CYA’s what are you becoming an expert in?

I think, if you’re on the management track (and want to get good at it), you might want to consider becoming an expert in yourself.   I think this is a novell concept… it was for me anyway.  I never thought, after my first official move into management, “gee… I wonder what kind of leader I am and how I can get better at it.”

For the first 8 years of my leadership career, I did the usual leadership devleopment… read lots of books on leadership, went to courses and workshops and learned the tools to manage my time, delegate by responsibilities, motivate my team… but, what I quickly discovered is that – although the tools were helpful – they weren’t where you learn about leadership.  You can only learn about leadership by doing.

In addition to 10 years “sink or swim” fast track leadership experience, I had a wonderful opportunity to work for a consulting firm that focussed in leadership and spent close 10 years navel gazing about my own personal leadership style.  I sometimes like to say that leadership was easier when I could live in oblivion as to how my behaviours were impacting others.  Curse MRG and their brilliant leadership 360 tool for forcing me to face the facts that I was part of the problem!!!  🙂

So, does all this self-introspection and access to leadership courses and learning make me an expert of leadership?  Hardly.  Is anyone?  I doubt it (even though there are thousands of consultants who will tell you they are).  All I think any of us can do is keep exploring and learning and doing and reflecting.  And if we are consciously trying to understand ourselves better, maybe in 10 or 20 or 30 years, we’ll all be a bit more of an expert in ourselves as a leaders.

So go forth and develop expertise in you… the leader.

Oh… and if you agree with this chain of thinking and would like to find a place to reflect and share your experiences and challenges with other like-minded leaders, come and join us at The Executive Roundtable.  Membership is currently free (as in, no dues… EVER) for founding members.  But that all ends on March 31, s0 be sure to join soon.

Happy leading!

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