A colleague recently suggested reflecting back seven years on what we learned and what we would do differently today based on that. Seven years is so long ago. It almost makes me dizzy to consider. The big issues and questions from back then seem minor or to have obvious answers in hindsight. In that period, I made a few life-changing, career-altering decisions. Seven years is too much to summarize here. However, looking back six months can be eye-opening and helpful. Here are some thoughts at mid-year.
How to build awareness? We may instruct our children or colleagues in what to do or how to do it. Teaching how to think is better, as it allows them to figure out what and how, when we are not there to guide them. To succeed at work and in life, most of the time it is up to them to figure it out for themselves. Call it awareness, a growth mindset, willingness to learn from failure, courage to face our faults. The learner can only gain this awareness by experience, the teacher can at best provide a safe classroom.
How to spend it? How much of our limited allowance of life do we waste on trivial things, or in wasted effort? As a leader, making people do wasteful work is to waste their lives. Policies, ambiguous instructions, conflicting priorities, ego-driven actions rather than data-driven ones, poorly-designed processes, these are all ways we make people do wasteful work. Rust never sleeps. Nor do waste, overburden and variability. Are we causing, allowing, or actively preventing this trio from finding a home in our work?
What is the job? Even the processes designed with best intentions, when left alone, deteriorate. Dumb ways of working invade our daily work. If a job involves doing something more than once, why not find ways to do it easier, better and faster next time? Ideally, a job is more than performing our defined tasks and duties. A job = doing the work + improving the work. A leader sets up the job to include performing the duties, improving the work, and opportunities for people to develop, starting with awareness.
What is the ideal? On the one hand it is fun to envision an ideal process, product or business model, and make grand plans to move toward it. On the other hand, how can we keep it real? What is the standard? How well do we follow the standard? How well is that working for us? What are we doing to elevate the standard? These questions should build awareness and encourage wise use of time, without losing sight of the long-term ideal.
Reflection does not always result in answers, but brings hints on what I can do to improve.