Preface: A shorter version of this post was originally shared in my weekly newsletter—subscribe, and join our Ho‘ohana Community of Managing with Aloha practitioners.
When I’m asked for a quick definition of the value of Alaka‘i, I’ll regularly respond that “it’s leadership which starts with self-leadership.” In my view, you cannot presume to lead others until you practice self-leadership first and foremost, leading by merit of your own good example. Only then, will you gain the following which allows you to lead with your ideas and initiatives.
(Related Reading: Purposeful Following).
The 3 Cs of Self-Leadership
The 3 Cs of self-leadership are Curiosity, Clarity, and Courage.
It is often said that great managers don’t manage people; they lead people and manage the work they collaborate in. It’s a view I hold as well, and we often talk about how smart managers manage human energies, for it’s the most valuable asset they can tap into.
To accomplish this, managers must learn to stay above the fray—they cannot get swallowed up work, and must participate in it wisely, taking advantage of the team approaches of Lōkahi, the value of collaboration.
A heightened, ever-awake sense of curiosity helps the manager be hyper-aware of the possibilities which may be at hand, or easily accessible with a bit more visionary reach.
“Our lives don’t have to be dominated by ‘the daily grind.’ Curiosity can be harnessed to transform mundane, unsatisfying tasks in everyday life into something genuinely interesting and enjoyable… two simple processes—triggering intrigue and sustaining interest—are at the heart of a fulfilling life.”
—Todd Kashdan, Ph.D., author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life
Having a self-leadership practice gives you clarity—clarity that boosts your confidence and courage when it’s time to lead others. By practice, I mean a regularly recurring action which hones your craft.
One of the best ways I’ve found to coach myself and others in self-leadership, is with our month end practice of Rapid Fire Learning. If you aren’t doing it yet, let 2021 be the year it becomes your habit.
(Related Reading: You are Your Habits, so Make ‘em Good!)
Rapid Fire Learning is magnificent in revealing clarity, for it asks you to reflect on “what happened?!?” so you can be clear on why it happened.
In Rapid Fire Learning (RFL);
a) You reflect on what you learned during the month, and
b) You decide what you’ll do about it.
[Click here if you need a primer: Rapid Fire Learning.]
RFL Coaching Tips for the Reluctant Writer
Walt Whitman talked about his writing this way;
“The secret of it all, is to write in the gush, the throb, the flood, of the moment…to put things down without deliberation…without worrying about their style…without waiting for a fit time or place. I always worked that way. I took the first scrap of paper, the first doorstep, the first desk, and wrote, wrote, wrote… By writing at the instant the very heartbeat of life is caught.”
(Related Reading: Carry, and Use, Pen and Paper.)
If only writing could be that way for all of us!
People who balk at keeping journals seem to struggle the most in grooming the Rapid Fire Learning practice, telling me that sitting in front of the blank page is too daunting for them. If that sounds like you, here are a few suggestions, all which bypass that intimidating blank page with a bit more structure.
—Start by listing the 5 personal values which are top-of-mind for you. Next, write a sentence after each one, which describes how that value may have manifest itself in your behavior or experiences during the past month. Alternately, you might write a sentence on why it seemed to be missing.
Here’s why: Fact of the matter is, that we possess a multitude of personal values, and they show up in a hierarchy of personal need. You could conceivably read through all 19 Values of Aloha and feel, “these are my values too!” AND you could come up with a list of several more. Our values can change over time, and they will feel stronger and more prevalent to us at any given time in context—that is, they bubble to the surface of our interactions and current experiences because that’s when we need them to.
(Related Reading: Let’s Define Values and Values represent the good in your life.)
Approaching RFL in this way has the added benefit of strengthening your skill with diagnosing values in activities. To look at values as root causes helps you learn why people do what they do—it’s the people-reading skill managers need most of all.
(Related Reading: Skills for a Lifetime of Work).
—Instead of listing 5 personal values, list communally-relevant ones. By that I mean, if work felt intense for you in the past month, start with a list of 5 company values, and get clear on your alignment (or lack of alignment). If community issues felt intense, start with a list of 5 community and/or sense-of-place values (here is one of my published RFL examples: A Serenity Prayer for Maunakea). If family circumstances felt the most pressing, concentrate on family values.
—Instead of listing values, pull out your calendar, and list the 5 most significant events or interactions which occurred: Why do you think they happened in the way that they did? If presented with a similar circumstance in the future, would you handle it the same way or differently? Why?
I remember how this turned out to be where nearly all of my aha! moments came from when I sat down to write Managing with Aloha years ago. Now that I had studied value alignment more intensely, I could look back at the crucible moments of my career and have the light bulb shine—oh my goodness, so that’s why that happened that way!
You might include something you weren’t directly involved in, but feel you’d like to capture your own reaction and/or future commitments to. For instance, this calendar reflection was the approach I took this month with my own RFL draft: One of the events I included was the insurrection on America’s Capitol on January 6th, to come to more clarity on how I felt about it, as opposed to all the media bombardment about it. I thought about the arrests and censures people are demanding, and asked myself what the accountability of Kuleana personally means to me.
—My favorite RFL approach, is the relational one, aimed at people-powered learning: I start by listing the 5 people I care about most in the world, or by listing the members of my current work team. What did I learn from them this past month? How can I use that learning, even if just about their quirks or other preferences, so that we can continue to improve upon our relationship and/or our current partnership? What do they probably need from me, and how can I provide it?
(Suggested Reading: Sunday Mālama: We Learn Best From Other People.)
—Toss the journal. Sometimes, the magic of RFL is found in other mediums. One manager I coached preferred typing into Evernote, because he likes the search feature in digital documentation. Another story-boarded with sketch notes—there are oodles of free templates like the one above when you image-search online. Yet another manager told me she uses Post-it notes on her refrigerator door as an impulsive first draft she can keep seeing and thinking about. Do what works for you.
One of the best ways to build a habit is to add an element of fun to it, and Rapid Fire Learning should definitely be something you look forward to—tweak it in some way if you ever start to think of it as a chore; shift your approach and get creative.
Feed your curiosity about yourself. Self-reflect and self-coach, and practice Rapid Fire Learning for YOU. Do it at the end of each and every month, and you will begin to find that self-leadership seems to come to you more naturally and more instinctively. I guarantee it.
The 4th C is Connection
In “leading by example” a 4th C comes to mind in self-leadership: your Connection to others.
Due to the pandemic, 2020 will forevermore be known as “our Zoom year,” when remote work became necessity more than choice.
Are you one who is suffering from Zoom fatigue?
—Design your remote work more efficiently, by communicating better. Communication is how our connection happens.
While in the self-coaching zone of RFL, try this, another self-coaching exercise which helped me greatly with getting some of my virtual work sanity back. Quickly outline your purpose when you do each of the following things:
- I text when…
- I chat when…
- I call when…
- I leave a voicemail when…
- I email when…
- I send a photo or diagram when…
- I initiate a conference call when…
- I FaceTime or Zoom when…
“Your purpose” will be things like: I have a question; I need feedback; I’m giving someone a reminder; I’m sharing a contact or phone number; people will prefer my information in writing (or illustrated); we need to come to a mutual decision; I need to do my Daily 5 Minutes remotely; etc. You may think you already do much of this instinctively, but trust me on this—taking a few moments to do the exercise can be very helpful.
When you think you have exhausted your thoughts about purpose, switch to thinking about the outcome you want, especially if you have a specific work process in mind. Are you familiar with the POP Model? (Shorter read: POP Everything! Strategic Planning in 30 Seconds or Less.)
Pro-tip: Suggest the exercise to your work team, so you all get in the same flow. When to FaceTime or Zoom will likely always be the last-case scenario, allowing everyone to sigh in relief! One of the downfalls of Zoom, has been how it has pushed people into group interactions which should have been done one-on-one instead.
(Related Reading: Conversational Catch-up ~ with Aloha.)
Last, do keep this in mind: we managers do not work the same way everyone else does! This is the essay I periodically read in my own litany of constant self-coaching: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, by Paul Graham.
Postscript: If you have read this far, you get the ultimate free resource in self-coaching, a link to Ed Batista’s public course done for Stanford Graduate School of Business: The Art of Self-Coaching. Anyone can take it at any time; all you need is a partner.
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