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Take What You Need

January 18, 2013

The other night, I read a great book on leadership titled “Turn The Ship Around” by L. David Marquet. Captain Marquet commanded a nuclear-powered submarine called the USS Santa Fe. The crew went from being “worst to first.” The Santa Fe earned awards for being the most improved ship in the Pacific, and most combat-effective ship in the squadron. However, the metrics I found most interesting were that the Santa Fe continued to win awards after Captain Marquet’s departure and a disproportionate number of officers were promoted from within the crew. So not only did he leave the ship better than he found it, he built a true legacy.

Like most people, I read the book hoping to take something insightful away. And a few things definitely stuck with me: the practice of “deliberate action,” which is to think about what you are doing, and getting your team to do the same. And “thinking out loud,” which is exactly what it sounds. It’s a way to let your team be aware, and learn, from your thought processes, especially helpful in situations where a task has been delegated for the first time. The book was a light read, but thought provoking.

That caused me to think about other bits of advice I have received, or readings I have come across, that have had a pretty big impact on me, and provoked me to think:

  • There was the great article in Fortune in 2008 where Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico talks about the best advice she ever got. The advice was to “assume positive intent.” It helped me to completely change my mindset when approaching tough situations.
  • There was the HBR article that taught me that being a great manager was the exact opposite of being a great team member. I took away that being a manager was about being a great coach, supporting my team members. It had nothing to do with being the “do-er” who could do everything…by herself.
  • There was a mentor that constantly parroted: “Seven times. It takes seven times for the average person to remember something that’s new.” I’ve since heard four, five and thirteen. The message to take away was really that people only hear something when they’re ready.
  • The Gallup 12 questions outlining the core elements that most influence employee engagement levels in a workplace. The questions remind me a bit of Maslow’s pyramid that I coloured in during Grade 4 Social Studies. The twelve questions run the gamut from needing the right tools to do your work…to having a friend in the workplace.

And I could go on and on with the list. However, during my moment of reflection on the above bits and pieces, and the lessons I had taken away, I had another little “a-ha” moment . All of the above had meant a lot…to ME. Not to anyone else. Just to me. And the reason that all of it had somehow combined to have such an impact on me, was pretty simple: at that particular moment in my life, the advice just happened to be what I needed to hear, and what I needed to learn.

So keep reading, listening, observing, and reflecting. Always keep learning…and make sure that you take what you need.

– Lorraine Chan

We help organizations thrive by building strong leadership teams & driving sustainable growth.

Category: Blog

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