Just got back from a 10k run and spent my time on the road thinking about some things that I realized are important to me. And I thought to myself that I am old enough to have learned a few valuable lessons that Life has fortunately taught me, but not old enough really to consider myself a wise sage. Being at the halfway point in my career, I am young enough to know that I still have a lot to learn... But where has life and my career taken me so far? Here is a shot at taking stock of the lessons I've learned thus far:
1. Live and Love like there is no tomorrow!
That’s right, one of the first business lessons I have learned is that you cannot take anything with you once you are gone! For that reason, it is important to balance all of your enthusiasm for your work with a lot of enthusiasm for your life and your most important relationships. For me, it has become important to look at my life holistically. Job Success, Adventures, Love, Health, Fitness (running, in my case…) and Nutrition all need to feed into one another. When one of these key areas in life crumble or fail, so do all the others at the end of the day. So be aware of this and work actively to ensure that you achieve the balance your life needs. Personally, I believe that Love is probably the one attribute that will carry you through the toughest of challenges in your darkest of days, with health, fitness and nutrition following right behind. If you get these areas in your life right, the rest – such as job success and adventures – will follow …
2. At work, be a leader and hire managers (you’ll have to lead them, too!)
Probably related to the point above, leadership is most important in your role at work. There is a big difference between leadership and management. Leaders inspire and give vision to where an individual,
a team or a company is headed, managers get the job done at the team level, throughout the organization. But being a leader requires more than just management skills. And I don’t mean you have to be hired as a c-level leader. You can be a leader in any position at work. And to be a leader,
regardless at what level in the hierarchy, all it takes are some important ingredients that will carry you, your team and your company to the next level: Communication, Respect, Recognition, Purpose of Mission and Role Model. Let me take you through some overlying thoughts on each area without going into the nitty gritty of it all:
This happens to be what I would call the „mother of all motivation“. Speaking regularly and openly with your team about goals and objectives, whether on a team level or at a company level, giving feedback on performance, advice on personal and professional growth and keeping tabs on how your team and your people are doing will lead the people around you to feel that you care about them as individuals and not just pieces of some grand puzzle. This applies to the market in general
and also your customers/clients. And while you’re doing all this communication, don’t forget to LISTEN as well. Most innovation ideas come from employees at even the lowest ranks, or from your customers. Ignoring them will be your downfall. Oh, and communication is probably the number one factor in love and your relationships as well, so please take heed of this advice.
This one is a no-brainer. Respect others and they will respect you. When it comes to employees, every single one of them have always had my fullest respect. Regardless the level. In German, I call this „Führung auf Augenhöhe“, which kind of translates to „leadership on a level playing field“ (I think, but if anyone has a better translation, please add to the comments below…). Some so-called leaders think it is beneath themselves to treat, say the foreign-looking janitor with the same respect that one would afford a fellow board member or more senior people in the organisation. I reject such notions. Every employee and every customer deserves your respect, regardless of race, gender,
nationality, income etc. Giving respect will garner respect and a higher level of engagement both at
the workplace or in the customer relationship. (This also works in love and relationships, btw.)
Please recognise and reward your employees for good work. And I don’t mean pay raises and bonuses. While pay raises and bonuses are greatly appreciated at the time they are given, the motivation that arises out of them basically last for about 10 days. After that, the effect dissipates. Saying „Thank you“ and giving positive feedback for a job well done on a regular basis bears with it a more sustainable level of engagement. And don’t wait for the yearly performance review to give positive feedback. Give it as soon as it is deserved. And every time it is deserved!
Purpose of Mission
Don’t leave your co-workers or employees in the dark about what you expect of them. But don’t just tell them WHAT to do, but WHY it is important. That creates more involvement and buy-in from your team. It gets them more excited to perform and be a part of the mission at hand.
This is easy for most people who understand leadership. Don’t ask anything of your team and/or employees that you yourself are not prepared to do. I’m not sure of the phrase anymore, but I am sure it has something to do with „walk the talk“ or something like that. People want leaders that inspire and motivate them and are willing to roll their sleeves up and to do what they ask others to do, especially in tough times…
Stay Fit, healthy and adapt nutritious eating habits
Ok, I realize that this is a broad subject and there are a ton of books that can be read on each of the three topics. But the short of it is that keeping fit, staying healthy and eating right will help you in your performance both at work and at play. It will also help you to live longer. Or, as one of my
trainers once said, doing all three won’t ensure that you will live forever (we all have to die), but might be able to help you to live longer more healthy, which greatly improves your quality of life. I only realized this a few years ago when my father died of cancer, his final words to me before he died was to tell me to live a more healthy life. That was all…and they were the words that mattered most to me from then on…