And so, here we are. You’ve walked with me down the path from mentor to manager to senior leader. Along the way I hope that you’ve learned a few tricks, identified a few pitfalls to watch out for, and felt inspired to meet the challenge of whatever role you’re in.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be able to manage yourself if you want to be good at managing others. The more time you spend understanding yourself, the way you react, the things that inspire you, and the things that drive you crazy, the better off you will be.
Great managers are masters of working through conflict. Getting good at working through conflict means getting good at taking your ego out of the conversation. To find a clear view of a complex situation, you must see past your interpretations and the stories you’re telling yourself. If you want to be able to tell people hard things and have them hear what you have to say, you must be able to tell them without embellishing the facts with your storyline. People who seek out management roles often have strong views on how things should be. That decisiveness is a good quality, but it can hinder you when you fail to see your interpretation of a situation is just that: an interpretation.
Learning to recognize the voice of your ego is one of the benefits of meditation, and when I wrote the first draft of this book it included a series of meditations at each level. For me, having a meditation practice has been essential to developing self-management and self-awareness. Meditation isn’t a cure-all, but it can be a useful exercise to practice that awareness of your own reactions, and for that reason I recommend trying it for a while if you are interested. Some of my favorite resources include the podcasts on tarabrach.com and the writings of Pema Chödrön.
One other trick I use to get away from my ego is curiosity. I also have a daily habit of writing a page or two of free-flow thoughts every morning, to clear my mind and prepare for the day. I always end with the mantra “Get curious.” For me, becoming a great leader was a series of difficult lessons, mistakes, and challenges. Nothing about it was easy, and I was often frustrated with the interpersonal situations I found myself in. Inevitably, when I told my coach about these situations, she would advise me to think about things from the other person’s perspective. What are they trying to do? What do they value? What do they want and need? Her advice, always, was to get curious.
So I leave you with that thought. Look for the other side of the story. Think about the other perspectives at play. Investigate your emotional reactions, and observe when those reactions make it hard to see clearly what’s going on around you, what needs to be said. Apply that curiosity to people. Apply it to process. Apply it to technology, and strategy, and business. Ask questions, and be willing to have your notions proven wrong.
Stay curious, and good luck on your path!