Tag Archives: culture

The Art of the Extra Minute

If there’s something I’ve learned in my time working in Corporate America or in coaching wild little weasels in youth baseball, it’s that the people in charge can often lose sight of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of their leadership or guidance.  It’s really not all that surprising because most people don’t spend oodles of time in their days considering how others perceive them.  This is partly because… well… who the hell would spend that much time obsessed on such a point?  In addition, no one should be so purely “other-focused” that they never account for their own personal tastes, talents and desires.

That being said, there is a tremendous amount of value to be gained for anyone who is a manager, leader or coach to consider how their leadership is delivered and received.

A leader may have a weekly staff meeting with her team where she feels completely at ease, free to have an open discussion.  However, does the team feel the same way?  Maybe, maybe not.  One leader’s place of restful sanctuary is another team member’s “More face time with the boss where I have to play the part…”

image

As a baseball coach, I try to think about things from the kid’s perspective as best I can… and Lord knows I probably fail at this much more often than I succeed, but I think the effort is the big part.

It’s the art of taking the extra minute.  That extra minute to think about your methods in relation to your players is hugely helpful.

For me it’s been about thinking about myself as a Little Leaguer.  I was seldom a confident player back in those days – far more concerned with messing up than playing well.  Hell, I can remember playing a game as it was getting dark, rain was coming down and I was hoping the pitcher, TJ, would strike me out.  True story.

Hence, my extra minute is to remember that there are a lot of kids who aren’t naturally gifted athletes and for whom standing all by themselves at the plate with everyone watching them at a baseball game is a daunting experience.  Kids for whom their coach looking them in the eye and saying, “Hey, you just go up there and go for it. All I care is about you trying hard – that’s it.” might be the difference between them enjoying the game and not.  Or the coach letting them know that making an error or messing up or doing something “wrong” because they tried too hard is totally OK.  Sure, you try to have them learn from that moment, but you can’t just light them up or else they’ll shut down for good.

And even if you don’t coach youth baseball, these same lessons apply at work, in your church, with your charitable group, etc.  Your presence and position will affect those around you in ways you likely don’t notice or think to consider.

And all you need to do is develop the art of taking that extra minute.  It won’t fix everything, but the self-awareness it brings is certainly the most important first step of them all.

The Outer Limits of Comfort and the Value of Dissonance

Thinking, Thinking, Thinking...
Thinking, Thinking, Thinking...

Are you ready for a small slice of truth to close out your Thursday evening?  Good.  Me too.

It’s hard to have original ideas when you are surrounded by people who all have the same experiences as you.
Jonathan Harris

And there we have it.  If you are anything like me, you want to be creative and let your mind freely expand to take on new thoughts, ideas and concepts.  Heck, one of my favorite things to do is to find a connection between two seemingly disparate notions.  It can be like a game or puzzle to carefully thread ideas together, to see potential connections which are not readily apparent.  It’s actually quite fun.  I mean, maybe not quite as fun as full-contact mah jongg, but that would also be setting the bar pretty damn high.

But what happens when you seek to expand your thinking when surrounded by people who look like, talk like, sound like and live exactly as you do?  Maybe it’s who you work with every day.  Think about how your department or company probably handles recruiting new members – cultural fit is always a big thing.  Heck, I am HUGE believer that cultural fit may matter more than specific skill sets in many ways.  If someone just doesn’t “get it”, they can possess the intellect of Newton, Spinoza or Descartes and it’s going to be an utter clusterf… umm… it’s going to be super bad.  Yeah, let’s just go with super bad and move right along.

Except how do you come up with something new if everyone is the same?  What causes the deviation from the norm?  The bolt out of the blue?  The zig when everyone zags?  Unless the culture is to seek out the differences (an all-too-rare cultural trait for many groups, I find), there is nothing to inspire the new to be born.  And why would there be?  The group was brought together because of “like-ness” and similarity, not uniqueness and dissonance.

Just a little something for all of us to remember: comfort can be a wonderful thing.  It can bring a greater sense of shared understanding and it’s just a pleasant experience… but ahh… when you need something new, fresh and different?  Comfort does us a disservice.  We match, but we are stale.  We get each other, but don’t stretch each other.

Comfort is not a bad thing and can cause a great deal of harmony.  But when we seek to boldly break into new ground without a map to guide us?  Take on the iconoclast, bear out the awkwardness and let new thoughts come forth.