The Sunday Mail
Hunt for Greatness
Greatness is most available. Change is inevitable. As times change, so must you. Eric Hoffer once said, in times of change, learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists. Growth is a process that requires change. Build your capacity to sustain your growth momentum.
Stop looking at the fields and opportunities for growth that appear further ahead and look at the ground whereon you stand. Make decisions that matter, build your capacity and keep the growth momentum by mastering the basics, executing relentlessly and developing yourself. Identify the basics that matter to you, make these your vital routines and excel at execution.
As you grow, so must certain things go. As you grow and mature, there are many things that you have to outgrow. It is usually better to deliberately let go of things that no longer work than to have to be forced out of the kitchen. Make a conscious decision to accelerate change, fuel personal growth and sustain improvement. Do not wait to change until there is absolutely no other way, but change. Change is easier when it is intentional and harder when it is an absolute imperative.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:11, stated: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Growth is a process of putting away things that may have served you before, but no longer serve you. The celebrated leadership coach, Marsall Goldsmith, in his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There states that there are 20 transactional flaws that leaders have to wean themselves out of as they develop. These are:
- Winning too much: The need to win at all costs and in all situations — when it matters, when it does not, and when it is totally beside the point.
- Adding too much value: The overwhelming desire to add our two cents to every discussion.
- Passing judgment: The need to rate others and impose our standards on them.
- Making destructive comments: The needless sarcasms and cutting remarks that we think make us sound sharp and witty.
- Starting with “No”, “But” or “However”: The overuse of these negative qualifiers that secretly say to everyone, “I’m right. You’re wrong.”
- Telling the world how smart we are: The need to show people we are smarter than they think we are.
- Speaking when angry: Using emotional volatility as a management tool.
- Negativity, or “Let me explain why that won’t work”: The need to share our negative thoughts even when we were not asked.
- Withholding information: The refusal to share information in order to maintain an advantage over others.
- Failing to give proper recognition: The inability to praise and reward.
- Claiming credit that we do not deserve: The most annoying way to overestimate our contribution to any success.
- Making excuses: The need to reposition our annoying behaviour as a permanent fixture so people excuse us for it.
- Clinging to the past: The need to deflect blame away from ourselves and onto events and people from our past; a subset of blaming everyone else.
- Playing favourites: Failing to see that we are treating someone unfairly.
- Refusing to express regret: The inability to take responsibility for our actions, admit we are wrong, or recognise how our actions affect others.
- Not listening: The most passive-aggressive form of disrespect for colleagues.
- Failing to express gratitude: The most basic form of bad manners.
- Punishing the messenger: The misguided need to attack the innocent who are usually only trying to help us.
- Passing the buck: The need to blame everyone but ourselves.
- An excessive need to be “me”: Exalting our faults as virtues simply because they are who we are.
Leadership growth process can be likened to a pipeline. In the leadership growth pipeline, you move from managing self to managing others, then on to managing managers, and then managing a function. As the growth process continues, you then move to managing a business and then finally managing an enterprise. In each of these leadership stages, there are things that you have to outgrow in order to be more effective and move higher. In particular, it is important that you consider your capacity across the dimensions of skills, time applications, priorities, diplomacy and the ability to deal with increasing complexity.
It is not enough to know what needs to be done, but it is more important to be able to apply yourself well. Skills grow as we take responsibility, execute and deliver results consistently .Think about the current battlefield and challenges. You must be able to play to win in the current battlefield, while you build capacity to play in the new and emerging battlefield that may look totally different from the current one.
It is important to keep challenging your competence levels. Past success does not guarantee you anything in a fast-changing world. Remaining at one skill level spells professional death. Look at your scope, and expand it. Look at the time frame you are focusing on and expand it. Look at how you are allocating resources and check if you have the future in mind at all. Look at your attitude to failure and refuse to let the past be a limitation. Keep growing and developing, daily and in every way. When your skills grow, you are able to apply yourself a lot more efficiently and you will deliver better results.
Time is a valuable resource and an essential raw-material of greatness. Bill Gates once stated that we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10. How you apply yourself across different time frames determines your greatness trajectory.
Keep learning how to use time to your best advantage. Your strategy should see the different time horizons and the needed adjustments. Time well used creates miracles. Time abused results in lasting regrets. The worst thing you could ever say is, “If only . . .”
Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least. Priorities are not just the things that we do but the things you do first. Most failures have roots in misplaced priorities. A useful and easy guide to clarifying your priorities is to always have one or at most two big questions that consume you. Once you are focused on meaningful goals, prioritisation is simpler.
Transform your strategic priorities into smaller and focused battles. Your micro-battle plans drive your execution in a focused manner. They give you growth momentum. To keep the momentum towards growth, you have to change your leading, learning, thinking, relating and growth behaviours.
The world, as you already know, is complex. Most things simply cannot fit into a small brain because the issues are hyper-dimensional. Most things do not have simple solutions. As you rise higher in leadership, you have to deal with increasing complexity, think through issues and make tough decisions. Do not run away from the heavy challenge to taking decisions that matter. One of the key ways to manage complexity is to clarify your values in advance. Your values are a plumb line for building greatness. They are like the true north for aiding your navigation. Once north is plotted, it is easy to plot the other bearings.
A question that you will find useful is to keep asking: What is not yet perfect? There is always room to grow, develop and improve. If you cannot see that room, it is time to change, explore a little further and dig a little deeper.
Committed to your greatness.
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author and a virtual, hybrid and in-person workshop facilitator. He is a cutting-edge strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. He can be reached at: [email protected]; website: www.miltonkamwendo.com