I was reflecting today on the last several years of work - the situations and outcomes I am most proud of and those that struggled and that I need to learn from. One characteristic seems central to both the successes and failure.
- Did the conversation spark thinking?
- Were people moved from inaction to action?
- Could I see new light and energy within the person or group?
- Are discussions evocative (coming from within) and/or provocative (external interest)?
In 30 days I will turn 50 and one of the most helpful lessons I have learned is that it is not WHAT we do as a leader that matters but how what we do IMPACTS OTHERS. If we can work in ways that help catalyze the actions of others, our contribution multiplies.
But not all conversations are ripe for intervention. Timing is important. And sometimes this means holding back. I was talking to a younger leader yesterday about a meeting that we both attended. She felt that I could have been more talkative - that I could have shaped their thinking. But in this situation, the participants had already decided the conversation that needed to happen and anytime the discussion veered off their path, they yanked it back. It was not the right time to rock their world, they did not have the listening for it.
Her response what that this awareness must be something that I have learned from experience because she had not thought about whether the timing was right (It was a meeting, so the timing is is assumed to be right, right? Often, no!).
What I value, more than anything, is when my work kicks off discussion and action that reverberates in ways that lead to progress. I have gotten better at recognizing when this is happening as it is happening and that's cool, too.
How about you, what aspect of your work do you most value?