My Year of Learning: Lessons in Leadership and Performance

Here’s some advice to live by: Keep learning to stay relevant. In fact, according to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, dedicate at least 5 hours a week of your own time to learning or risk becoming obsolete. Preach it Randall!

With that in mind, I want to reflect on my year of learning.

2016 was a year of change for me. After five amazing years at Texture, I was excited to get outside my comfort zone and chase a new career challenge. I had a quick 4-month stint at a startup before I landed at Flipboard mid-year, where I now lead Performance Marketing.

Here, really smart people whom I learn from on a daily basis surround me. In fact, some of my best learning in the last year has come from the leaders at Flipboard. For a quick sampling, check out these inspiring posts:

Mike McCue, CEO: The Most Powerful Lesson I’ve Learned In Business

Marci McCue, CMO: The Meaning of Open

Cecily Mak, Head of Revenue: Showing Up As A Leader

Over the last year, I’ve had two main areas of learning focus: 1) Become a better leader and 2) Perform better. Here are some of the articles I learned the most from. You can also read all the articles in my Flipboard magazine.

Striking a work-life balance

Stop touting the crazy hours you work. It helps no one.

Look, I’m all for leaning in and working crazy hours when it’s needed. I’m not for working crazy hours “just because.” I have a family and a recreational life I need (and want) to pay attention to, so I can stay sane and healthy. In fact, as this article points out, studies show that after about 50 hours of work a week, your productivity will start decreasing, and there’s no detectable difference between 56 hours and 70 or more of working.

Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team

As a leader you set an example. If you don’t believe working crazy hours is good for your own productivity, morale and health, don’t put it on your co-workers. If they see you send an email at 9pm, the bad habit will spread. They’ll feel obligated to respond and they’ll start sending out their own urgent (not urgent) late night emails.

Just listen

How To Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

There are a lot of indications that high emotional intelligence is a great predictor of performance. So, how can you improve your EQ? Here, you learn 7 steps, starting with being aware of your own emotions and reactions, in order to become more mindful and building control. It’s deep stuff.

What Great Listeners Actually Do

I’ll admit that I like to talk. But part of improving my EQ means being self-aware and aware of others. Working on my listening skills is at the top of my list. This article goes beyond the traditional (and good) advice of not talking when others talk and letting others know you’re listening. A good listener can do much more. There are many different levels of listening and asking questions, making suggestions and creating a cooperative conversation are all tools you should utilize.

Slow it down

Just Do It Tomorrow: The Powerful Science of Putting Things Off

Oh, how I love this article. It’s saying it’s ok to procrastinate. Better yet, by putting stuff off, you’ll be more productive. What? Makes sense when you think about it. How often have you had to rush to meet a ridiculous deadline, just to realize after the fact that your work is filled with errors? Do over! By slowing things down (a little bit) you activate a different part of your brain and deliver better results.

Slow Deciders Make Better Strategists

There are four different styles of decision making evolving around your level of confidence in a decision and your speed of making the decision. The main take away is that if you have the mindset to take it slow and be skeptical, you’ll be a better decision maker. It’s a fascinating read.

Running effective meetings

6 Reasons to Get Better at Leading Meetings

You’re in meetings all day. As a leader you have the opportunity to make each and every one of them matter. If you do, as this great article points out, you matter.

A Simple Rule to Eliminate Useless Meetings

I’ve read plenty of articles on how to run good meetings, and I still have plenty of bad habits. When I need a refresher, I always come back to CEO at LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner’s advice, including sending out reading material in advance of the meeting, define clear objectives, assign a note taker and summarize key action items, deliverables, and points of accountability.

Brainstorming Is Dumb

Turns out brainstorming is a terrible technique to generate good ideas. A better way is a technique called brainwriting. I remember reading this article and trying out the technique a week later. Lo and behold, the results were great. We’ll be executing an idea from that meeting at Flipboard soon!

Get stuff done

Six Simple Sunday Habits To Set You Up For A Productive Week

This is a tough one. It’s Sunday, and I really just want to do nothing. But every time I follow the advice here, the difference in my week is significant. Forcing myself to steal a quick hour to get organized and anticipate the week ahead is key. (Just don’t send your co-workers any emails till Monday).

We Tested 7 Top Productivity Methods So You Don’t Have To

When I’m getting lost in my smartphone for the tenth time, I know it’s time to make a change. My friends at Blinkist road-tested these seven classic methods, and I’ve picked up on a couple of them, if not literally, at least in my mindset. I strive to Eat that Frog, and I try to adhere to my Pomodori schedule. Turning off email and silencing my phone helps.

Do You Listen to Music While Working? Here’s What It Does to Your Brain (and It’s Pretty Awesome)

Being in an open work space has its challenges. It’s noisy and there are plenty of distractions. Putting your headphones on signals that you don’t want to be disturbed. But what’s coming out of your headphones matter. This guide tells you what to listen to and why. Fascinating.

Now, what should be my learning focus this year? Maybe I should learn more about micro-dosing to up my productivity game? Or… maybe not. I’m open for suggestions, so if you have any, please share.