Monday Morning Leadership

I’ve always struggled with reading as much as I should. When I do, it tends to be fiction and strictly for entertainment. Over the last year though, I’ve started reading business books to find those nuggets of wisdom that can apply to my current role in the military and during my transition to the business world.

I’m developing a series of briefings to leave to the folks I mentor currently with just a taste of the lessons I’m learning from my professional reading list. Since I’m putting in that work, I figured I might as well share some of that information with you. I don’t want to steal any of the authors’ thunder by giving you everything from their books, so I’ll just stick to the top 3 to 5 bits of information that meant the most to me during my read through.

Please pick up the books if you’re even remotely interested based on my interpretation of the information. Also, provide critiques to help me develop my writing skills.

Today’s book is Monday Morning Leadership by David Cottrell. It’s one of the easiest to read (we’re talking about finishing it on a slow Monday morning in the office) and common sense-filled books I’ve ever read on leadership and management. It has themes you’ll see echo throughout other books I write about, so naturally it’s the easiest choice for my first post.

Lesson learned 1. Meetings: Start them and stop them on time.

From my experience and possibly yours, we end up in meetings that become routine and only expand in scope and time required. How many times has your 15 to 30 minute meeting turned into 2 hours, most of which does not apply to you or help the company? After reading this chapter, i pitched my Boss limiting our weekly meeting to 30 minutes, having people prepare better for them, and keeping it to 3 key points for the week. After everyone had their say, we could re-attack any issues that needed to be addressed. The point was to create a time limited meeting that served a purpose. And for a few weeks it worked. We hit all the notes, we had thoughtful discussion, and we were back to actual work in 30 minutes. What killed us? The guy who didn’t prepare and wanted to go farther into the weeds (adding content that didn’t impact a majority of the people in the room). It takes a leader to re-focus when this starts happening.

Lesson learned 2. Be: Fair, Consistent, Empathetic, and Positive.

By shifting my focus to becoming more empathetic, I’ve found that employee performance has increased by several orders of magnitude. Your people are your company, and sometimes a negative change in performance is worth looking into in a more personal way. Odds are the people just need an ear to listen when they are dealing with issues at home. I’m not an interpersonal expert, but I want to keep working towards being a better listener. I take several opportunities a day to walk around and just say hello to people, if you want to know what’s happening “on the ground”, you ought to do the same.

Lesson learned 3. Do Less or Work Faster

The focus within this chapter had more to do with time management. I have found myself with too many tasks, not enough time, staying up until 2 A.M. working on projects just to keep pace with the workload. I get a lot of work done quickly and spend a lot of time on things that add no real value. This was the first (and definitely not the last) time I heard the Pareto Principle where you find that 80% of your results come from 20% of your activities. Combined with other books I’ve read focusing on the same topic, I’d gladly take an 80% solution sooner than putting in the time and energy to get a 100% solution a year and a half from now. Leave that to the process improvers. In terms of applying it to business, one message was to focus your energy on that 80% and find ways to drop the other 20%. Find ways to develop the 20% of your employees doing 80% of the work, and be prepared to make tough decisions regarding the other 20%.

I’ve heard this is a foundational principle in The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, I haven’t read the book yet, but I do enjoy his podcast and video series. Do you see this in your workplace? Do you ever feel like the employee in the 20% sitting on your hands while the same people keep getting overloaded with work? I try to be more self-aware about this. Which e-mails do I get are providing the 80% value, which ones aren’t worth the time it takes to delete?

The lessons I brought up in this post only cover a small sliver of the book. If you read it, you’ll get a nice leadership fable about a guy (coincidentally named Jeff) dealing with attrition and performance issues at work. Like I said before, it’s a very quick read taking place over several weeks, it is absolutely worth your time and a good jumping off point to begin your professional reading list. Plenty of lessons to practice in your leadership lab of choice.

Have you read it? What did you take away? Please leave a comment or contact me on twitter @JeffForSuccess

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