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What are Amazon's Leadership Principles?

If you're competitor focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer focused allows you to be more pioneering.

– Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO

 
One of my golf buddies is an Amazon addict.

This guy LOVES Amazon. On the course, he’ll say, “This driver, Amazon. These shoes, Amazon. My bag, Amazon.” He also talks about the stuff in his house and often will instant-order something when we’re backed up on the tee.

Don’t worry, I’m not judging him (or you) because I have my moments, too. This is why Amazon has roiled the retail sector, sending familiar brick-and-mortar stores reeling.

The company’s latest acquisition of Whole Foods, where I happen to be writing this article, is shaking up the grocery business.

Taking over the world
I hear people say Amazon is taking over the world. You can understand that reaction when you think of the company’s broad footprint: Four of every $10 spent online is with Amazon (43%); 80 million American households (65%) have Prime membership; it’s pushing the use of drone delivery; its owner is a pioneer in the space exploration business and owns the influential newspaper The Washington Post.

With this in mind, I was excited when I met an Amazon leader on a recent plane trip. I had been wondering about Amazon’s culture, the secret sauce. In talking about leadership, he brought up the company’s Leadership Principles. He said Amazon stresses the need to use the principles as the basis for all decisions and activities – to actually LIVE the principles.

For instance, he noted that Amazon is a low-margin business that requires frugality throughout the company. “We don’t stay at fancy hotels and our customers know we won’t take them out to expensive restaurants. It’s not who we are.”

I was intrigued and reviewed these principles on Amazon’s employment website.

The simple definition of Amazon's Leadership Principles is that they are 14 principles that focus on how Amazon leaders and employees should create value for their customers, conduct themselves, make decisions every day.

I can see the Amazon customer experience reflected here and find a lot of wisdom and direction for leaders in these 14 leadership principles:

Amazon: Our Leadership Principles
Our Leadership Principles aren't just a pretty inspirational wall hanging. These Principles work hard, just like we do. Amazonians use them, every day, whether they're discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer's problem, or interviewing candidates. It's just one of the things that makes Amazon peculiar.

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don't sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say "that's not my job."

Invent and Simplify
Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by "not invented here." As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

Are Right, A Lot
Leaders are right a lot. They have strong business judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Hire and Develop the Best
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

Insist on the Highest Standards
Leaders have relentlessly high standards—many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and driving their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

Bias for Action
Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk-taking.

Frugality
Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

Learn and Be Curious
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

Earn Trust
Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

Deliver Results
Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Amazon’s principles are a simple and clear statement of how its leaders should operate in a rapidly changing world. These principles become even more interesting when you realize they are actually a guide for leaders to be the creators of disruption throughout the world.

Many of my clients have similarly well-articulated leadership principles which they use to influence their cultures.

Does your organization have leadership principles? Do you use them every day to inform your decisions and actions? Do you have your own principles?
 
These are questions worth considering in a world of disruption across every industry.

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Coaching, Football and Love?

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment. 
-- Coach John Wooden


Recent feedback from a long-time Sunday Coffee reader:
 
I read this week’s newsletter, ‘Are You Coachable?’, with disappointment because it took the approach that coaching was needed because something was broken. Something needed to be improved.
 
You see, for several years I worked for a manager who perceived himself as a ‘coach.’ 1-2 times per week he would give me ‘a little coaching.’ What proceeded was an exhausting, humiliating, condescending, mind-numbing exercise that left me feeling like ‘he must think I just fell off of the turnip truck.’
 
Coaching and feedback became negative notions to me. To this day, I use neither. Not once did coaching include a positive. I finally got to the point where I had to say, ‘am I doing anything right?’ Obviously, I was. I’ve earned more recognition and promotions than most. I’ve also learned how NOT to lead. 
 
Shouldn’t coaching also celebrate the wins, large and small? Shouldn’t coaching recognize and encourage the positive as well as provide thoughts on areas of opportunity? Shouldn’t a coach provide balance? 

The answer to these questions is an absolute “yes,” from my point of view as a coach. Coaching should focus on a person’s strengths and challenges.
 
(To clarify, the coaching article in question was simply focused on those who had specific challenges but weren’t necessarily open to receiving coaching. It did assume there was an issue to address.)
 
But as this reader, who requested anonymity, points out, many people in business, sports and life believe that “coaching” should focus on the negative – fixing your screwups. Come down hard and fast in the moment for maximum impact!
 
Sports Coaching

Nowhere is this approach more visible than in sports.
 
The first exposure to “coaching” for many people is in sports. It might be as a child on a soccer team or as a teenager in a high school sport.
 
In these settings, coaching can take on a wide variety of forms, mostly determined by the coach’s personality, experience and upbringing.
 
This coaching runs the spectrum from gentle and positive to brutally negative. It’s the stereotypical hardcore, screaming, spitting coaches that seem to etch in people’s memories.
 
You’re thinking about a coach right now, aren’t you? I’d love to hear your experiences in those settings. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
 
College Football Coaching
 
This stereotype really comes to life in college football.
 
Football is a tough sport. Bodies crash violently at full speed. A game can be won or lost in an instant. A simple mistake can go down in team history.
 
That’s why, to be successful, football coaches also must be tough. They must stoke the fires of anger, drill their players to go to war against the other teams.
 
You see this while watching college football on TV. Lots of coaches lose their minds. They grab jerseys. They yell and curse at players a few inches from their faces.
 
But that’s okay, people might think. Coaches need to stoke the fires of anger and hatred to motivate their teams to victory! It’s the only way to get through to them!
 
Or is it?
 
Coaching with ‘Love’
 
As we enter the first week of college football season, it’s worth noting that Dabo Swinney, the coach of the reining college football champs from last year, said his Clemson Tigers won because of “love.”
 
In his first interview after winning the national championship last year, an emotional Swinney said, “And to see my guys fight, just believe. I told them tonight, I told them that the difference in the game was going to be love. It’s been my word. My word all year’s been love. And I said, ‘Tonight we’re going to win it because we love each other…”
 
Do you agree with this approach? Is there room in sports, or business, for “love”?
 
After all, sports are a metaphor for business and life. Maybe that’s why lots of business leaders try to emulate the tough, negative approach. I believe this will get some short-term results but in the long run, will have diminishing returns.
 
In my experience, you’ll achieve better long-term results with a balanced approach using positive reinforcement to make incremental changes in very specific behaviors. Modifying habits changes behavior and results.
 
That’s my approach. What’s yours? What are your experiences with coaching or being coached?
 
In the comments below, please share your experiences and approaches with coaching in sports, business and life.

 

 

 

7 Ways to Organize Your Presentation

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

— Alice in Wonderland

When it comes to preparing presentations, many people are as directionally challenged as our dear Alice.
 
If you replace the word “walk” with “talk,” you’ll understand why so many presentations seem to wander the landscape without a clear road map or destination.
 
It’s also why so many audiences feel as lost as the people speaking.
 
A lack of clear organization in a talk is a problem that plagues presenters in organizations everywhere. It drains productivity in meetings and causes deep employee frustration and resentment.
 
I urge my clients to follow a simple process of using a whiteboard, flow chart or legal pad to mind map their major idea or argument with all the supporting points and evidence.
 
Once you have all of that in front of you, find patterns that emerge to cluster information and organize your talk and potential slides around the key messages that emerge.
 
To help you in building your presentation, here are seven of the best strategies for organizing your talk. (Regardless of which approach you choose, I recommend an overview in the beginning and a summary at the end. You should also include one or more stories in any of these structures.)

1) Simple structure: The classic structure, and quickest to use, is simply this: A) Tell them what you’re going to tell them (overview); B) Tell them (body); and C) Tell them what you told them (summary). Fast and efficient. Drop and drag your points and go. You can make the body messaging as simple or as deep as needed. Of course, to orient your audience, you’ll want to do an overview and summary with the following structures as well.

2) Narrative: People love stories. That’s why all presentations should amount to a story, but this approach calls for specifically crafting one long-form story to walk people through the evolution of a new product, a service, a building or many other projects. For example, you’d tell a story about how we came up with the idea; stories about the process of creation; and stories about the final development and execution.

3) Chronological: You take your audience from the past, to the present, to the future. Describe where we came from, what we are doing now and where we go from here.

4) Problem / Solution: This can be a clear and powerful technique, especially with business audiences. Senior leaders who want to get to the point will appreciate you focusing specifically and comprehensively on the problem and clearly defining the options and your recommended solution.

5) Myths vs Facts: For an issue, product or service that is generally misunderstood, laying out a myth and the truth, side by side, can be very persuasive, especially on people who have not yet made up their minds.

6) Physical: When describing issues with a geographic component, physical organization allows you to walk people through the landscape as a journey. You might show a map of the U.S. and work from West to East through the various regions as stopping points for analysis.

7) Compare and Contrast: This method is helpful when your organization, product or service is trying to find differentiation from competitors. Work with others to determine the most important factors of comparison and set up your talk to specifically address each of the top three or five factors. This works well in planning and brainstorming meetings.
There are many more methods for organizing your presentations. It doesn’t necessarily matter which one you use. The key is to use some sort of pattern to organize your thoughts before you begin.
 
Using a structure has great benefits, including clearer messaging, less time needed to prepare, a guide to creating slides and many more advantages.
 
But the greatest benefit is for you and your audience because you’ll all know where you’re going and how you plan to get there. It’s like you're all looking at the same GPS device, which means everyone can relax and enjoy the ride.

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Photo by Marcos Luiz on Unsplash

Why People Love Pictures

Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language. — Walt Disney

Think back to a moment in your childhood, or some other special time in your life. Chances are, you see a picture. It’s a mental photo capturing the essence of that moment.
 
Look up from your phone or tablet or computer right now.  If you scan around your home or office you’ll probably see pictures that capture special times or a memento or an art piece that brings out a certain emotion.
 
The Power of Visuals
Visual images have that kind of power — the ability to evoke deep emotions, inspire and entertain us.
 
As human beings, we think in images. It’s why we are captivated by movies, television and websites. Images, not words, are what power Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and YouTube.
 
This makes sense since scientists have determined that the majority of our brain’s activity is dedicated to visual processing. In fact, various researchers have found that:

  • When we have our eyes open, our vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity of the brain — a full two billion of the three billion firings per second.
  • About half of our neural tissue, that stuff that drives our nervous systems, is directly or indirectly related to vision. In fact, more of our neurons are dedicated to vision than all the other senses combined.
  • We process images in as little as 13 milliseconds, according to a recent MIT study. That’s 13/1000 of a second.

“The fact that you can do that at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,” says Mary Potter, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the study.
 
This rapid-fire processing may help direct the eyes, which shift their gaze three times per second, to their next target, Potter says. “The job of the eyes is not only to get the information into the brain but to allow the brain to think about it rapidly enough to know what you should look at next. So, in general, we’re calibrating our eyes so they move around just as often as possible consistent with understanding what we’re seeing,” she says.
 
This means our eyes and minds are constantly searching for images and processing them to understand the world.
 
And, according to research, we process images tens of thousands of times faster than words. This is probably why more than 65 percent of the population falls into the visual-learner category. Thinking visually can help you to learn and memorize concepts more easily.
 
Even the act of reading, as you are doing now, is piecing together images, according to
Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and the author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School.
 
Medina explains why reading is not as efficient as images can be for learning and retaining new information. “Combinations of straight lines and curves become the word ‘three.’ Written information has a lot of visual features in it, and this report takes a great deal of effort and time to organize.” For this reason, Medina says, “reading is a relatively slow way to put information into the brain.”
 
Bare this in mind next time you’re putting together a PowerPoint or report and use images and a few words on your slides, as opposed to text-heavy information.
 
I encourage you to use more images in your slides and reports because:
 
People can’t multitask
They’re either reading the words on your slide or listening to you. An image is easier and faster to process so people can return to looking at and listening to you.   
 
Contrast
One of the most important elements in your presentations is contrast. Human beings, particularly in a digital world, are constantly distracted. An image gives your audience new stimulation and a rest from all the words and numbers.
 
Most people are visual learners
As noted above, most people are visual learners and will better understand and retain your key messages when you incorporate images. Pictures also appeal to the creative side of the brain and more effectively engage people.
 
Images dominate modern culture
We have become a visually oriented society. People are used to seeing and responding to images. If they are at work being given an extra deep dose of data without a visual break, they will feel overwhelmed or bored and tune you out.
 
Visuals speed understanding
With a visual that represents a metaphor of the concept you are trying to explain, you help them make a faster transition to learning what you want them to know.
 
Where to find images
There are plenty of sources for images around the internet, both paid and free. Google is your friend. Creative Commons and Flickr are good sources for royalty-free images, with or without restrictions such as needing to provide attribution to the photographer.
 
On the free side, there are sites that come with no requirements and few restrictions on use. My current go-to site is Unsplash.com. I generally give credit to the photographers, though this is not required.
 
This week, think about the visuals in your world and how you respond to them. Then consider using more images in your presentations and reports to speed understanding and keep your audience engaged.
 
In your mind right now, think about looking up at that PowerPoint screen and seeing a bright, orange sunrise. It feels warm and full of possibilities for the future!
 
We are visual creatures. See what I mean?

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Are You Coachable?

Q: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
 
A: Just one. But the light bulb has to want to change.

 

I’m not sure where I first heard this joke years ago, but I find myself telling it or thinking of it frequently.
 
I’m often asked by leader development teams to take on an executive coaching assignment with someone who doesn’t want to be coached.
 
I tell them this joke, and then I try, sometimes successfully, to politely decline these assignments. Why? Because coaching is about guiding people through change and until someone recognizes the need for change, they are unlikely to be receptive. “I’m fine, thanks,” they are saying or thinking.
 
We all know this happens frequently in organizations and in life. I’m sure you can think of someone right now who needs change in his or her life, but won’t or can’t, acknowledge it and take action.
 
Leave your comfort zone
To change, we need to leave our comfort zones. All of our personal growth happens outside of our comfort zones. If it were easy to change, we would all do it right away. We wouldn’t need coaching. We’d see our own blind spots and change.
 
But it doesn’t work that way. I’ve learned over the years that until someone recognizes the need there will be no movement.
 
This is true in all aspects of human behavior. We see it all the time, in common areas, like behavior toward others, weight loss, social anxiety, smoking, even smartphone addiction. Until people see the issue and ask for help, they are unlikely to change.
 
For some people, until they reach rock bottom, they won’t change. Until the pain of staying where they are exceeds the perceived pain, the discomfort, of change, there will be nothing. Unfortunately, the act of “hitting bottom” to motivate change can mean an emotional breakdown, a health scare, a divorce, a bad review, or being fired.
 
These factors apply to all kinds of feedback. When I say, “coaching” I don’t only mean formally engaging a professional coach. I mean being open to feedback or mentoring, from others. Letting people help us find our blind spots.
 
Highest-level performers
This is what the most successful people do all the time. It’s perhaps counter intuitive but the people who are highest achievers are the ones who normally most open to coaching. They see it as necessary for continuous improvement.
 
This is why the highest-level performers in sports, business and life have coaches who can be neutral observers, ask the right questions and lead them to new results.
 
If you want to become coachable, or to become better at coaching, here are some ideas:
 
Start with an open mind
Most of us believe we are open-minded and open to feedback and new perspectives. But the truth is that we are comfortable where we are and only looking for reinforcement of our current beliefs.
 
The key is to adopt what Zen Buddhists call the “Beginner’s Mind,” a child-like perspective of openness to learning. A classic story is of the Japanese Zen master Nan-in who was visited by a university professor to understand Zen.
 
Nan-in served him tea. He filled his visitor’s cup and continued to pour as it over flowed. The professor watched the cup with alarm and finally said, “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
 
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
 
Recognize your fear
Why are we resistant to coaching? Some believe they know it all; others lack awareness of their blind spots, but I find it more often motivated by fear.
 
In my experience, most of our resistance to change stems from fear. Fear of the unknown; fear of discomfort; fear of not being good enough; even fear of success. If you dig deep, you’ll find the fear that holds you back from making the changes you know are necessary.
 
A coach or mentor can help you to identify and overcome that resistance. After all, according to that coaching canard, “FEAR is false evidence appearing real.”

Connect with your purpose
As I’ve written about before reconnecting someone with their purpose can be a powerful tool of engagement. Often a person that really needs to change has lost sight of their “why.”
 
“Why should I change my way of leading people? To get better results with less stress, or to advance your career. Why should I lose weight? To be around to see your children grandchildren grow up. Why should I find work-life balance? To live a fuller, happier life.”
 
It’s amazing to see the motivation and energy for behavioral change that can come from a person reconnected to their purpose.
 
Tweak your habits
When we finally decide to make a change, it’s usually a grand, sweeping declaration, often on New Year’s Day, or a milestone birthday. “I’ll exercise every day for one hour before work!” How long does that last? It varies with people, but I can say that it’s much easier to get a parking space at the gym on the second week of January. ;-)
 
As I wrote about in Change Your Habit, Change Your Life, if you want real change, you should tweak your habits. Modifying a habit might seem too small, too easy. But science proves that the lasting changes in our lives come from making small changes that are easier to implement.
 
Consider this small, but powerful example: Replace a soft drink with water at just one meal --say, lunch. With this small change, you will drink approximately forty more gallons of water per year, while not drinking forty gallons of carbonated sugar. You also save up to fifty thousand calories and as much as five hundred dollars. (From Small Change, Little Things Make a Big Difference by Susan and Larry Terkel.)
 
Practice consistency
As you work to improve through coaching, practicing daily is most effective for behavior change. As Daniel Coyle writes in The Little of Talent, 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, With deep practice, small daily practice ‘snacks’ are more effective than once-a-week practice binges. The reason has to do with the way our brains grow -- incrementally, a little each day, even as we sleep.
 
Daily practice, even for five minutes, nourishes this process, while more occasional practice forces your brain to play catch-up. Or as the music-education pioneer Shinichi Suzuki puts it, "Practice on the days that you eat."
 

Well said.
 
To improve our lives and the lives of those around us, whether at work or at home, we should all be coaches, and coachable. And that takes an open mind and continuous practice.
 
Okay, that’s it from Coach John. I’m blowing my whistle. Go get back in the game!
 

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Photo Credit: Photo by Alexander Redl on Unsplash

How to Control Your Ego

 
There is no limit to the amount of good you can do, if you don’t care who gets the credit.

— President Ronald Reagan

  
If you overhear someone talking about a person’s ego, you can be sure it’s not positive. You never hear, “I love the ego Bob brings to his work!”
 
More likely you’ll hear: “Phil’s got a huge ego!” “Pam’s ego is out of control!” “Cameron’s an ego maniac!”
 
It’s unfortunate that egos have such a negative reputation because a healthy ego can drive ambition, creativity and accomplishment.
 
Cambridge Dictionary defines ego simply as, “The idea or opinion that you have of yourself, especially the level of your ability and intelligence, and your importance as a person.”
 
Ego is how we understand ourselves and sometimes, unchecked, our egos fight to maintain that image and put us on a collision course with people and with trust.
 
Cocky and self-centered
People who are described as egotistical are seen as takers, not givers. They can be seen as cocky, self-centered and, often, bullies. We don’t want to work with people like that.
 
We see those manifestations of ego on display every day in our public arenas such as sports, politics and business.
 
In the workplace, we see it come to life as one-upmanship, infighting and passive/aggressive behavior. Our egos may spur jealousy, backstabbing and unproductive, often toxic, environments.
 
If you want to have success in the workplace, your home or life, learn to kill, or at least control, your ego.
 
Fear and insecurity
It’s funny, because often this kind of egocentric behavior comes from a place of insecurity and fear. The person doesn’t feel confident and lashes out to exert control.
 
A positive, confident leader is more likely to be transparent and supportive. For me, that was my former boss, John Cook, the SVP of Communications and Marketing in a Fortune 100 company. Now enjoying his retirement, John is the kind of leader who brings out the best in his team members by supporting them.
 
Many leaders hide their teams from management for fear of being overtaken. Instead, John would frequently have me travel with our CEO and presidents to develop my own authority and relationship with these leaders. That proved invaluable for the company and John’s support was rewarded in kind and multiplied.
 
John was practicing servant leadership, which is in essence subverting the ego. Instead of making ourselves so important we make serving others the core. (I’ll be writing more about servant leadership another time.)
 
Kill the ego
This makes sense. Buddhists believe that most of the pain we suffer as human beings stems from our desires for love, for recognition, for wealth, for power. That’s why they advocate killing the ego.
 
It’s our ego, uncontrolled, that trips us up. Perhaps you’re not ready to kill your ego yet. Maybe just try to deprive it of breath for a while. Here are a few key mindset shifts and actions that will help you to manifest the benefits of “killing your ego.”
 
Stop and breathe, or walk away
As children, we are taught to pause and count to 10 before we impulsively react to a situation. Our emotional reactions, especially negative ones, rarely result in a positive outcome.
 
Whatever it is, take the time to pause and regroup before you respond. When you do respond, try a positive response.

Last week, I had to do that myself. I rarely get angry, but I was mad about a client email that I felt was unfair. It was nearly midnight and I was exhausted from training all day. I wrote back a harsh response and copied more senior leaders in the organization.
 
But I never sent that email. Instead, I deleted the email addresses on the note, put it into my draft file and went to bed. In the morning, I reopened the email with a different perspective and actually laughed about how out of control the writer (me) sounded. I deleted it and sent a very positive, rational response. It was received well and the problem was quickly resolved, saving the relationship.
 
Seek first to understand
For the third time in a month, I find myself thinking of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, specifically the habit, “Seek First to Understand.” When our ego drives our thinking, we tend to focus on our primitive needs and feelings: Am I being disrespected? Am I still in control? Am I losing?
 
Then our egos give us negative self-talk: that person hasn’t answered me, I must be in trouble. She hates me. My boss isn’t acting as friendly as usual. What’s up? Did I mess something up?
 
Shift your perspective and think of alternative reasons. Seek to understand. We tend to go right to the negative. Maybe she’s busy, or missed your email. Maybe he has a sick child at home. There are so many explanations. Reserve judgment until you hear from the source.
 
Stop being selfish
Our egos also show up when we give presentations or talk in meetings. I say presentation anxiety is selfish because our nerves come from a focus on us, instead of on our audience – the people to whom we are supposed to bring value. Our ego makes it about us: I’m being judged; they might reject me; I’m not performing well. The ego-less approach focuses on their needs.
 
Lose control
Try losing control, but in a good way. It’s the paradox of leadership and life. The more we try to control people, circumstances and events, the more likely we are to lose them.

What’s that old song lyric from the band 38 Special? “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you hold too tightly, you’re going to lose control.”
 
Be a giver
Samuel Johnson said, in the 1700s, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.” As I wrote in “How to Be a Successful Leader at Work,” research by professor Adam Grant shows that everyone knows who the givers and takers are at work and that, in the long term, takers lose and strategic givers win.
 
Think about how you show up and how you respond to life’s everyday situations at work, at home and elsewhere in life.
 
It turns out that less ego and more focus on others will ultimately give you less stress, greater personal satisfaction and more external rewards.

All of these benefits will, by the way, will also make your ego happy.

John

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Photo by Massimo Mancini on Unsplash