5 Ways to Deal with a Bad Boss

Dealing with a bad boss

Bad bosses can be deadly. One 15-year study found that when employees had a difficult relationship with their boss, they were 30% more likely to suffer from heart disease. Perhaps really bad bosses have lower coronary disease because their hearts are seldom used!

If you have ever said, “My boss makes me sick!” you might be right. A British study found that stress induced by a bad boss lowers immune response, and participants were more susceptible to a cold virus.

As with much in life, it’s not what happens to us, but what we do about it. A bad boss might victimize you, but you choose whether to be a victim. Strong leaders don’t wait, they initiate. If you have a bad boss, you can decide that he or she’s not unbearable and live with your situation, fire your boss by leaving, or practice upward leadership with some boss management.

Boss management or leading upward is one of the most popular topics on our website. Recently The Globe & Mail published my column on Five Ways to Deal with a Bad Boss in their Leadership Labs section. I condensed years of writing and coaching on this topic into five steps:

  1. Strengthen your credibility and relationship
  2. Check your timing and approach
  3. Don’t wait, initiate
  4. Speak up
  5. Fire a bully boss

Click here to read the column for a brief description of each step.

A reporter once asked the Dalai Lama why he didn’t hate the Chinese Communists. Now they have some bad bosses! The Dalai Lama replied, “They have taken over Tibet, destroyed our temples, burned our sacred texts, ruined our communities, and taken away our freedom. They have taken so much. Why should I let them also take my peace of mind?”

The Hidden Benefits of Properly Training your Staff

Many organizations today still do not understand the importance of spending the time and effort to ensure their staff is properly trained. The common reasons for the companies who do not properly train staff are either “too busy” or “can’t justify the cost”.

Although it’s true that training costs do come right off the bottom line, it’s important to understand that proper training has many unseen, yet verifiable benefits to add to the bottom line. Especially with heavy equipment operators and snow plow operators.

 

Properly trained operational staff will reduce costs such as…
• Less waste of material such as gravel, salt and sand
• Less damage to heavy equipment and property
• Reduced injuries (WSIB and insurance costs)
• Reduced maintenance costs on equipment – due to proper daily pre-inspections
• Less turnover in staff – which reduces HR costs
• Projects completed faster – due to skilled equipment operators
• Improved moral – staff feel like they have a future with the organization, so they stay on

While training in the digital learning space is gaining in popularity, ON-SITE training with a qualified Instructor is still necessary for Municipal Public Works departments, to ensure their teams gain the hands-on skills they need to operate the municipality’s heavy equipment.

There are 3 measurable cost advantages to having an Instructor come to your location to provide training on-site for your staff using your equipment…
1. You don’t have the travel costs involved with sending your staff to a training centre

2. Your staff will be trained on the actual equipment they will be operating on the job

3. The Instructors will provide the hands-on practical (in-seat) portion of the training programs for only a few employees at a time, therefore you do not have to pull your entire staff away from their regular jobs/duties all at once. The rest of your staff can continue doing their jobs/duties until they’re scheduled to be with the Instructor.

Canada Heavy Equipment College (People call us “CHEC” for short) is a professional Heavy Equipment, Snow Plow and AZ/DZ truck training organization providing ON-SITE training to Municipal Public Works departments and construction companies throughout Canada.

CHEC has seasoned Professional Heavy Equipment Instructors stationed all across Canada and can send an Instructor to any customers location to provide ON-SITE training anywhere in Canada using the customers equipment.

Learn more here, contact us via the website – or call Toll Free 1-888-934-2432

Ted Butler
Canada Heavy Equipment College

Thinking about thinking….

Daily we are required to make decisions, recall facts, and balance risks, whether at work or at home.

All of this requires considerable thinking yet we don’t really pay much attention to how we do that. Is it because its so easy or because it is so hard????

Let’s explore….

If we were to ask a friend or colleague “What is capital of France?” most will quickly come up with the right answer. Paris, of course. Easy question and not a lot of effort goes into finding the answer. The same goes if I were to ask you to spot the pattern in this series of numbers 122333….?? Yes, you got it. 4444.

But what if you were asked to come up with the answer to 15 x 24 without using your phone/calculator? If you are like most people, this question requires you to pause and think hard. If you were good at math in school you might be able to recall a shortcut or you just might have to get out pen/paper and figure it out the old-fashioned way. Unless you are a math superstar, it will be difficult to come up with the answer quickly but, given time, we can all do it.  The answer btw is 360.

If you consider yourself in the top 1% in terms of math abilities and are still feeling comfortable, here is my favourite math challenge of all time:

·       A bat and ball cost $1.10 to purchase

·       The bat costs one dollar more than the ball,

·       How much does the ball cost?

Allow me to keep you in suspense as you mull that one over. The answer is at the bottom of the page.

What these mind exercises illustrate is something that Daniel Kahneman refers to as “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, which happens to be the name of his best-selling book from 2011. Kahneman, who is now in his mid-80’s, is acknowledged to be the father of the field of behavioural economics. As a trained psychologist, and proudly not an economist, he has always been considered an iconoclast in his field of study. Along with his now deceased partner, Amos Tversky, he has spent a lifetime studying and gaining insight into how the human mind behaves.

As a result of their ground-breaking studies, Kahneman and Tversky came to realize that there are actually two systems at play in our brains which affect our reasoning, judgement and decision making:        

·       System 1 operates automatically in the background at all times. It is quick and intuitive requiring little or no effort to come up with an answer. System 1 allows us to answer “Paris” to the question about the capital of France. When we use this system to think we are looking for patterns and meaning from the information at hand. Consequently, it is prone to mistakes. We can easily make judgment errors and fall victim to bias and are generally unaware of these errors when they happen.

·       System 2 kicks in when System 1 can’t provide the answer, like in the example of 15 x 24. This type of thinking is necessarily slow and deliberative. It requires great effort and we have to pay careful attention. It works best when it tests and checks results from System 1. It too can be prone to errors if we become distracted and lose our focus on the task at hand.

As someone who has spent their career helping colleagues make important procurement decisions there is much we can learn from Kahneman and the study of the human mind.  How often have we seen rushed evaluations and distracted evaluators lead to the wrong contractor being selected and poor project outcomes?

That is not to say that evaluations need to be dragged out unnecessarily. The use of enabling technology and more effective evaluation methods can make a huge impact and result in better overall outcomes, while still being completed in a timely manner. I advocate for drafting more effective and efficient evaluation schemes. On your next RFP, consider asking suppliers to respond in a structured manner to avoid having evaluators engage in an endless cycle of page flipping as they seek to find the pertinent information.  Try using enhanced consensus scoring where you focus only on the differences in scoring that exceed a pre-determined variance. We often spend too much time debating the merits of a 6 vs 7 and too little time trying to reconcile significant differences of opinion. Finally, spend the time to adequately prepare and train evaluators, even those who have previous experience. Awareness of how the mind operates and the pitfalls to avoid can go a long way towards a better outcome.    

In closing, here are my top advice tips to evaluators:

·       Be prepared to invest the time necessary to the task

·       Don’t rely on your fellow evaluators to bail you out

·       Slow down your thinking and avoid the rush to judgment

·       Pay attention to the details

·       Use critical thinking

·       Be respectful of other viewpoints during consensus meetings

·       Be aware of your biases – everyone has them

 

·       When relying solely on intuition, pause and use slow thinking to check/recheck the result

The ball costs $0.05

https://www.wayfinderconsultinginc.com/

 

Applying Good to Great in the municipal sector

Full confession – I am a huge fan of the now old book (published in 2001), Good to Great by Jim Collins. The book is a study on how companies distinguished themselves as being great, when they started out as good. It included examining the 40-year performance of 1,435 good companies to find only 11 that became what Jim Collins would define as “great.”

In this day and age of big data, the results are even more relevant and compelling than they were then, and the increasing expectations of municipalities to re-invent the way they do business begs a long look at this book.

Now you’re probably saying, “That book talks about private companies and the public environment is much different.”

In many ways, I agree with this sentiment. But, in the desire to continuously improve and perform better, the concepts translate very nicely – a fact Collins addressed in 2005 in a follow-up book, Good to Great and the Social Sectors.

Upon reading both of these books, I was motivated to share my thoughts on how one might apply the learnings to the municipal sector.

Learn about the Six Elements to Achieving Greatness by reading the full article.

Kelly Rudyk was previously the Director – Corporate Planning for Strathcona County. His current work with It’s Logical Strategic Planning Services includes corporate strategic planning, business planning, and budgeting, and he is driven by continuous improvement.

He can be reached at [email protected] or 780-893-5635.

 

Are You Doing it…To…For…or…With…Your Team?

Are you manipulating your team

Many studies have shown the impact that control of our situation has on our health, happiness, and effectiveness. In one experiment a white-footed deer mouse was placed in a brightly lit cage. The mouse could press a bar to alter the light. The mouse reduced the lighting to a dim level. The next morning experimenters set the lights to dim. The mouse immediately stepped up the lighting to bright. The mouse didn’t seem to care about its level of lighting. The critical issue was having control.

Another autonomy and control experiment was in a nursing home. One floor of residents were allowed to rearrange their room layout, schedule their time, and given a plant to keep and look after. Another floor or residents were told about all the good things being done for them. The staff arranged their room, scheduled their time, and gave them a plant that the nurse looked after. Eighteen months later, the residents on the floor with more control were more active and healthier than their controlled peers. Only 15 percent on the control floor died compared to 30 percent on the other floor.

Countless organizational studies show that autonomy, participation, “having some say,” and a modicum of control in the workplace are vital to employee engagement. Here are a few ways you can engage your work teams:

  • Develop a regular Listen-Feedback-Action process. This generally starts with a survey or third party interviews or focus groups. The outside company then prepares a summary report. This is reported back to everyone in the organization for feedback, clarification, priority-setting, and action planning. Broader organizational issues are identified, and actions set for implementing those changes. This is reported back to everyone and part of an ongoing process.
  • Coach team members to enrich their jobs and align their personal strengths, passions, and organizational or job needs.
  • Engage frontline service providers in a systematic process of identifying changing customer expectations against your team or organization’s performance. Get their help in analyzing trends and planning to meet those shifting needs.
  • Hold regular breakfasts (“muffins with management”), lunches, and celebration dinners with frontline teams. Take this time to ask for feedback, concerns, and suggestions. A simple question such as: “What’s the dumbest thing we do around here?” can produce powerful insights and engage people in resolving the issues raised.
  • Keep highly visible scoreboards, big thermometers (like a fundraising campaign), bulletin boards, web sites, blog/Twitter posts, newsletters, and the like to update everyone on your progress toward key goals or change and improvement targets. Make goals/targets and progress as visible as possible.
  • To get partnering behavior, treat everyone like partners. Share financial and other “confidential” information openly so everyone can see how his or her efforts contribute.
  • Ask frontline service providers what systems and processes would better help them serve your customers. Get their involvement in prioritizing the areas to be changed and improving them.
  • Send personal thank you notes (on real notepaper, not by e-mail); make detours to offer a verbal “thanks again,” and make lots of supportive phone calls.
  • Use focus groups (a cross-section of frontline staff) to test new management directions before making grand announcements to everyone. Even if you press on against the advice of the focus groups, you’ll have deeper insight on how to face the issues the new direction may raise.
  • Promote those people who are exemplary leaders. Use 360 feedback and other input from a variety of people to get a profile on their leadership effectiveness. Promotions send the clearest signals about the true culture of an organization. Are you promoting your cultural standard barriers?

Resistance to change often frustrates managers. But most of us enjoy change — especially for the better. What we resist is being changed. Effective leaders “do it with” their team or organization rather than doing it to or for them.

The Mediocre Leader – Pt.3

The world is full of mediocre leaders, and I am one of them.

But I don’t want to be mediocre, and I don’t believe I’m condemned to a life sentence of mediocrity. Most of all, if I have any compassion on those I lead, on those subjected to my middling skills, I have to get better.

In Part 1 of this article, I talked about how odd it is that we practice our leadership skills on those we lead. Unlike other high-skill professions (surgeons, speakers, pilots, musicians, etc.) that are practiced off-line, our expectations of our leaders are apparently so low that we allow them to practice while performing.

Is an Effective Leader Simply a Well-Practiced Leader?

Before I get completely hung up on the idea that a significant quantity of deliberate practice is all that’s required to make me an awesome leader, I am forced to consider that there is much debate around Ericsson’s work. The debate doesn’t challenge the value of deliberate practice, or even the 10,000-hour marker. Rather, it suggests that inherent, non-trainable traits differentiate the best from the rest – such as height and bone structure in sports.

This debate makes sense to me, and completely I agree that effective leadership requires more than just deliberate practice. However, unlike height and bone structure, the traits that differentiate the best leaders from average leaders ARE trainable. In my experience, these differentiators are a leader’s principles – the leader’s beliefs about herself, about others, and about how things operate in world at large.

Much has been published regarding leadership principles by Ray Dalio, John Maxwell, Simon Sinek, Patrick Lencioni, Brené Brown and many others. Desiring to improve their “leadership game”, many leaders (including me) voraciously consume this literature. We learn from, and are second-hand mentored by, these strongly-principled leaders, and we slowly change our bone structure – our differentiating traits.

Principled and Practiced

But, to be effective, a leader must be both principled and practiced. And while I’m very much looking forward to my next shipment of principle-focused books from Amazon, I just can’t help but be disappointed with my lack of attention to deliberate practice.

To create opportunities for deliberate practice of leadership skills, LevellingUp was formed.  At Levelling Up, we help growing leaders quickly become exceptional leaders by connecting them with expert mentors & coaches.

Visit us at www.LevellingUp.ca

The experts you want.  The skills you need.

 

Smiling is Contagious. Try it!

It has been a spring that many will say there was nothing to smile about. It was cold, rainy and dark. From all the rain we have beautiful green lawns and flowers starting to bloom. Again there are many people in parts of the world that are not smiling with all the rain causing flooding and destruction. I wanted to take this opportunity to write about smiling and how contagious it may be in our workplace and for our clients.

Some people are always smiling, cheerful, and they seem to brighten up a room. Their positive attitude and gusto are identified by those they come in contact with. Moreover, we have all encountered those have the opposite effect on people-the “doom and gloom effect.” we often refer to one’s attitude and yet what is that? It is your mental state or the position you take regarding life.

Zig Ziglar once said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”  If you take the word “OPPORTUNITYISNOWHERE,” some people see the “no where” while others see “now here.” So is the glass half empty or half full? Often the difference between success and failure is not linked to how we look, how we dress, or how much education we have; it is based on how we think!

Great leaders share the same thought; knowing that a positive attitude is contagious. As leaders, it is vital that we display a positive mindset daily. After all, if we expect our employees to express positive attitudes, we should model such behaviours for them to see.

Each day we have a choice of whether we elect to display a positive or negative attitude. Daily, we encounter negative attitudes at work and in our personal lives. If you remain positive amongst pessimism, you can be contagious.

Some times it is not that easy. I have found some tips I would like to share to help you be positive from “Attitudes are Contagious. Is Yours Worth Catching” by Patti Wanamaker.

  • Be enthusiastic – people love to be around enthusiastic people. Enthusiasm is contagious and draws others to you like a magnet.
  • Associate with positive people – if you want to stay positive, stay away from people that drag you down. Associate yourself around like-minded people.
  • Smile – smiling makes it all better. Smiling releases endorphins and serotonin, which are known as the feel-good hormones. It is a lot easier to adopt a positive attitude when you feel good!
  • Change your thoughts – positive thoughts lead to a positive attitude, while negative thoughts lead to an adverse reaction.
  • Stop complaining – limit your complaints. Whining and griping about anything and everything will not create a positive attitude. When you are complaining, you are spreading negativity.

·        If you want more success in your leadership role and to have a positive impact on your employees, then make sure your attitude is worth catching.

Many of you are thinking, what is there to smile about, and why maintain a positive attitude when there are doom and gloom around us? Research has shown that there are health benefits of smiling in the workplace. We are dealing with conflict, mental health issues and have difficult situations arising every day as we manage our workplace. Interestingly many years ago, it was declared that “the smile is the best medicine for the happiness of humanity.” Later scientific research explained the effects and physiological benefits of smiling for a healthier life. Smiling can be beneficial, in dealing with illness, pressures of everyday life, stress at work, and smiling can even substantially change the quality and forecasts of our lives.

Would life not be better if people smile regularly? I think smiling every day would keep you away from the doctor and feeling self-confident. Try these:

  • By smiling, we can reduce the level of stress hormones. Smiling helps us to increase the number of antibody-producing cells and improve the effectiveness of other cells.
  • Smiling is good for our general health. Smiling 100 times is equivalent to ten minutes of rowing or cycling in fifteen minutes.
  • Sometimes we just want to laugh or cry. That means you want to release all the pent feelings in your head, making you feel both physically and mentally better. So to reduce anxiety smile often, even when you are not happy. Smiling at others will, in turn, help them be happy.
  • Smiling can take you from being angry, stressed, feeling guilty, and negative to putting you in a more favourable frame of mind. Smiling will make you change yourself and improve the attitudes and thinking to other people to the better.
  • When people can view an event that may be frightening as funny, they may be able to feel more content and see the events occurred just merely as a “challenge” in life, rather than a threat.

There are times when smiling, and laughter can be contagious. If you smile more than you can make other people around you also smile more. So by smiling yourself, you can reduce the stress levels of people around you and change their moods. Maybe even improve the quality of social interaction, and reduce your stress level as well.

They say that optimists have a stronger immune system and can fight disease better than the pessimists. There is a link between a positive attitude and good health, which is measured in many different ways. In general, researchers have discovered that optimistic people are more healthy, and they have a stronger immune system.

According to the British Organization of Dental Health, a smile has the level of stimulation as eating 2000 chocolate bars.

A smile does not cost you a cent, and it is easy to spread. A recent study showed that preschool children laugh 400 times a day, but the time we reach adulthood, we just laugh an average of 17 times per day.

So take the challenge and smile more often and find things in your lives that you can laugh about.

Stay great and healthy.

 

Monika B. Jensen PhD is Principal of the Aviary Group and can be contacted by email at [email protected]

 

Lessons Learned From the Mouths of Babes

Do you know what I love about kids?
Spoiler Alert: It’s not their ability to pick up socks from around the house.

But before I digress – allow me to tell you the story of The Neighbourhood Driveway Art Mural.

We live in a part of Canada where everyone has been desperately awaiting the warm weather, so when a sunny day does arrive, the kids immediately head outside to play.

A few weeks back, we had a low-key weekend with not much on the schedule. Over the course of those two days, our kids were constantly in and out of the house; sometimes together and sometimes with other children from around the neighbourhood. It’s the kind of scene we might nostalgically think about when we reflect on our own childhood – if you grew up prior to 1990.

I wasn’t there when it happened. At some point, one child decided /suggested/ began colouring the interlocking brick on the driveway with the sidewalk chalk.

  Lesson #1:
​Innovation can happen anywhere!

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We’ve lived here for over 12 years. Our oldest is almost 10. We have wide open sidewalks on which to colour, draw, or even create a hop scotch board. No one has ever drawn on the driveway.  But something about the pattern of the bricks, or the different textured ground or the who-knows-what, drew their attention to colour there that day.

Each time we came and went from the house, the mural was getting bigger. We never heard fighting over what colours should go where, or who got to colour at the top vs the bottom. The driveway was their proverbial oyster.  All of the kids just dropped by and left again, over the course of the weekend, adding their own mark on the project.

  Lesson #2:
Human beings are designed for community.

No one told the kids that they needed to collaborate and work together.  In fact, there are plenty of spots in the driveway for someone to have broken away to start their own mural elsewhere. But they didn’t. They all wanted to be a part of the project; on their own terms and at their own pace.

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Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Sometimes working with others is so challenging, it leaves us forgetting how much we need people.  Not in the moment, and not always in a way that’s even tangible. But a drive towards creating community or finding our tribe is hardwired inside all of us.  The sense of belonging is a powerful indicator of personal fulfillment.


As all of the children came and went at different times, they each contributed to the project differently.

Some of them stayed a long time, colouring in many bricks at each sitting. Some would like to have coloured more but they had to head home. Others only had the attention span to do 1 or 2 bricks at a time. And it didn’t matter: all efforts were welcome.

Lesson #3:
Meeting people at their needs is true teamwork.

None of the children ever got shamed or scolded for colouring too much, or too little.  Everyone had full autonomy over how much time and energy they spent working on it. Woah – what a concept!

Whoever said that teamwork meant everyone does the same amount?  What if we began meeting

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people at their needs; viewing the idea of teamwork as simply “accepting and valuing the individual contributions of everyone involved”?

This can be applied equally to our teams at work, as it is to our teams in the community or at home. We’ve probably all been guilty of spending time and attention towards calling out people whose share of the work hasn’t been equal to our own.  And yet, if we put that energy into the task at hand, it might already have been completed.
  Lesson #4:
There is freedom in embracing chaos. 

The kids working on the driveway mural ranged in age from 4-13. One of them came up with the initial idea. Some of them owned the sidewalk chalk. Someone lived at the house on which it was being produced. So do you know who the designated project manager was?
You guessed it – no one!

Now admittedly, there was little structure around producing this art installation: no deadlines to meet, no requirements to uphold or stakeholders to satisfy. That level of freedom lends itself well to operating as a ‘democracy’, of sorts because hierarchy is not required to have fun.

​Life can sometimes bring us these moments of freedom – if we let it.  An open-ended timeline, the joy of approaching a task with reckless abandon, the permission to make mistakes, or the joy of not considering them mistakes at all; it’s called “play”.

When was the last time you played?  

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Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

How liberating might it feel to engage in something fun, without structure or timelines or a preplanned agenda? Terrifying for some of us as adults, sure. But I guarantee you that if we surrender to the idea of being child-like in this way, it would be just like riding a bike.

A few days following the epic weekend of co-creation, the rain came, as it often does for us at this time of year.  It washed away the mural completely.

  Lesson #5:
Everything is temporary! 

If you’d asked any of the children that weekend, toiling away on their knees, chalk in hand, they’d have told you that the rain would come. None of them were shocked or upset when the mural got washed away.  In fact, I may have been the most broken-hearted of anyone! And they certainly didn’t let the knowledge of this temporary artwork hinder their excitement and enthusiasm to create it in the first place.

The good, the bad and the ugly times of life; none of it ever lasts!  Parties finish. Businesses close. Buildings crumble. People pass away.  It’s a sad reality of the human experience.  But I also know this to be true: awkward styles fall out of trend. Bruises heal. Memories of embarrassing moments fade and even wars, eventually, come to an end.

Everything is temporary.

It would behoove us to remember this during the unpleasant times – trusting that brighter days are still to come. And it’s also a sobering reminder during the good times, to be grateful. To appreciate life’s splendor, in all its fragility and fleetingness.  It can be a tough balance; not allowing the end of something to rob us of the joy we feel from the experience itself.  Our relationship with time is a fickle friend.

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And that is what I love about children.

Their willingness to take life at face value.  The beautiful naivety that comes with living in the moment. The ability to make space for each other, without governance or comparison.  The complete freedom of producing something so wonderful, without needing it to last.

Has anyone ever thought about letting children run the world for a while?  I mean, sure, there’ll be random, odd socks littered in every open space, as far as the eye can see.  But probably a lot of incredibly amazing stuff would happen, too!

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The Mediocre Leader – Pt.2

The world is full of mediocre leaders, and I am one of them.

But I don’t want to be mediocre, and I don’t believe I’m condemned to a life sentence of mediocrity. Most of all, if I have any compassion on those I lead, on those subjected to my middling skills, I have to get better.

In Part 1 of this article, I talked about how odd it is that we practice our leadership skills on those we lead. Unlike other high-skill professions (surgeons, speakers, pilots, musicians, etc.) that are practiced off-line, our expectations of our leaders are apparently so low that we allow them to practice while performing.

Not all Practice is Good Practice

In his groundbreaking 1993 paper “The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance”, cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson explains “many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of [deliberate] practice”.

According to Ericsson, deliberate practice includes:

“A constant sense of self-evaluation, of focusing on one’s weaknesses, rather than simply fooling around and playing to one’s strengths. Studies show that practice aimed at remedying weaknesses is a better predictor of expertise than raw number of hours; playing for fun and repeating what you already know is not necessarily the same as efficiently reaching a new level. Most of the practicing that most people do, most of the time… yields almost no effect.”

You may have heard about Daniel Letiv and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule – that a key prerequisite to mastery in any skill domain is 10,000 hours of practice. I quote Letiv contemplating that the 10,000-hour rule “doesn’t address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do”. Not only does Ericsson answer this with “deliberate practice”, but his research also lands on the 10,000-hour figure as a pre-requisite for mastery.

If 10,000 hours (or 5 years of 8 hours of practice 5 days a week) scares the pants off you, it has been established that 10,000 hours is insufficient in the most highly competitive fields such as the Olympics. Performances that were record-setting twenty years ago are now achieved in training by many competitive athletes! Or, maybe looking at this from a more reassuring angle, in pursuits where the bar is set low (like leadership?), significantly fewer than 10,000 hours are required to become outstanding. After all, the U.S. had 1 Olympic athlete in Rio for every 583,213 Americans – as compared to 1 people manager for every 4.7 employees.

As a musician and an athlete, I willingly adopt the discipline of focusing on weaknesses, and that (as Ericsson puts it) getting better “requires effort and is not inherently enjoyable”. However, in the realm of leadership, I don’t think I’ve ever invested in any deliberate, effort-laden, not-inherently-enjoyable practice. Given that I spend WAY more time leading people than I do in athletic competition and/or music performance, I profess this lack of investment doesn’t make sense.

Sure, I’ve spent over fifteen years – or 30,000 hours – of my career in positions of formal leadership and am therefore “highly experienced”. However, I grudgingly admit most of these practice hours match Ericsson’s description of “playing for fun and repeating what you already know” and will therefore “yield almost no effect”.

 

But practice obviously isn’t the only thing that allows leaders to achieve mastery – and we will talk more about that in part three of this series.

At Levelling Up, we help growing leaders quickly become exceptional leaders by connecting them with expert mentors & coaches.