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Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #89
(August 25, 2020)

Nine Key Things I (Almost) Didn't Learn in School

“Neil, I'd like to speak with you. Now.”

Every one of us has someone in our past who had a significant impact on the direction we end up taking in our life journey. However, some of us didn't necessarily appreciate the life-changing message at the time it was delivered. In my case, this message came when I was a Junior—and it came from my Home Room teacher. Now, when I went to high school, a Home Room teacher was simply there to take attendance first thing in the morning before we all departed to meet the obligations of our respective class schedules. But, Mr. Sturm saw it differently ...

On that day he sent the rest of the students on their way but asked me to stay back. He then sat on the corner of his desk and described the fact that my demonstrable lack of motivation; my do-just-enough-to-get-by attitude; and my acceptance of mediocrity, as it pertained to my education, was going to define a very limited set of options for me in life. The examples he used—as difficult as they were to hear—made it obvious that I must have been the subject of conversation in the Staff Room. [Ouch!]

This is when I first recognized that life is about Choices ... not Chances.

While it varies in different parts of the world, this is the time when many students are preparing for, or heading back, to whatever the new version of school will be for them. I was pondering this week how many of them haven't yet had a "Mr. Sturm Conversation" and will miss out on some of the key elements of school that aren't listed as 'subjects' or graded on the report card. Yes, learning the Pythagorean Theory and knowing that the mitochondria is the power plant of the cell is important stuff, but many of the key learnings are only discovered when someone who's been there points the way.

The HVAs this week won't be new for most—but they are timeless. Use them as a reminder (and/or refresher) within your own life; use them to help coach/mentor members of your team who may need to learn these lessons; or, just maybe, you can use them to have a "Mr. Sturm Conversation" with your own children as they go back to school.

[On a personal note, here is what I wrote about Mr. Sturm in the Acknowledgments section of my PhD Dissertation: "To Mr. Sturm who, as a teacher in my junior year in high school took this immature, bad-actor with a 'tude and provided him with a firm wake-up call that resulted in some much better life choices. Thank you!" ]

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week (starting today), look for situations where you would benefit from re-thinking or re-framing or re-executing the HVAs listed below:

  • There's No Substitute for Hard Work: In school I looked for any possible way to circumvent or shortcut my way around assignments that I didn't have a lot of interest in. This seemed like a good plan at the time (until I assessed the outcome). It wasn't just poor grades that resulted; as I think back, the areas where I struggled most as I ventured out into life were a direct result of not learning when I had the opportunity. We usually don't have a problem putting out effort for those things that we enjoy doing. That should be the first clue.
  • You'll Never Be Good at Everything: In a world where building self-esteem seems to be more important than accomplishment, it's easy to see why people can end up with an unwarranted high level of self regard in pretty much everything they do. In all practical reality, it isn't likely that a person can excel in all areas. But instead of feeling diminished, this is an opportunity to learn how to derive maximum benefit from what you are good at while learning how to delegate those things that aren't in your wheelhouse.
  • Write is the Right Thing to Do: Brain research shows that the more we write things down, the more retention we have and the more ability we have to connect-the-dots at a later date. Paradoxically, that same level of retention is not attained when we only type our notes into an electronic device. A good suggestion is to get yourself a journal—typically with a hardcover—that you fill with your notes from meetings, learnings, and musings and then store them chronologically. You'll be amazed at how many times you go back to reference some nugget of information.
  • Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You: This gem came directly from Mr. Sturm as he described his approach to accelerated learning and overcoming fears. You only have to step one inch outside of your comfort zone to successfully expand your capability and comfort with people/things.
  • Choose Your Attitude … Change Your Reality: You've heard many times that your attitude determines your altitude. As much as we may think that there are people who have been put on this planet to make our lives miserable, the truth of the matter is we still CONTROL how we deal with these things. It's not what comes at you that matters; it's how you respond that matters.
  • Nothing Succeeds Like Failure™: In school, we come to learn that mistakes on assignments result in a punishment (lower or failing grade) so it's no wonder we develop early on a view that failure is a negative experience that you want to avoid. But in the business world any form of innovation or creativity is going to result in frequent failures—these failures are absolutely critical to forward progress. Remember, we learn by trial and error not by trial and accuracy.
  • Metrics Matter: When assignments were being returned, or when report cards were being issued, I was filled with a mixture of apprehension and dread. This came from a belief that these things were once-and-done activities instead of seeing them as opportunities to track progress and track improvement. In adult life, metrics can help us improve our quality of life. For example (and I'm not using these to make anyone feel guilty), the number of hours working out per week, the number of servings of vegetables you eat each day, the number of glasses of water you drink, etc. Measure what Matters!
  • Relationships Require Regular Renewal: Relationships take time; they take consistent effort; and they take your undivided attention. Relationships also require letting the people who you care for KNOW how much you care. Reach out—and today would be a really good day to do it (nudge-nudge)—and let someone know how much they mean to you. This includes employees and members of your team, friends, and family.
  • Learning Opportunities Never Stop™: In school we had lots of not-very-nice names for those individuals who were passionate about learning because it wasn't considered 'cool' to be the teacher's pet. But, as an adult, if you're not engaged in continuous learning you're going to be left behind. Life is a learning laboratory and the opportunities for learning are all around us. What are you doing for yourself, for your team, and for your children to help capitalize on these opportunities? It's cool to be in school!

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse."

— Jim Rohn —