June 16, 2014

Topic: Management & Leadership

Do what I say, not what I do

I have fond memories from my youth of my Dad saying things to me like: “Don’t make me pull this car over!”, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”, “Because I said so!” and “Do what I say, not what I do”. When I became a dad, unexplainably and unintentionally, I sometimes found some of these same classic words come flying out of my mouth! The last one is the phrase that I’m reminded of most, and in particular, in regards to my blog. I often wonder as I am giving out advice, am I really walking the walk? Or just talking the talk?

This actually came up again recently. I had some surgery that required general anesthesia and an overnight stay at the hospital. I had worked hard the day before to really clean up my inbox. When I woke up after surgery, I checked my phone and I saw that I had approximately one hundred new emails. I was a bit frustrated by the volume that had come in, so I immediately started plowing through them. I did this on and off until 10 o’clock that night. Over the next few days, I continued to find work to do, and never really found time to “take it easy”. In looking back at how I dealt with my recovery, it is definitely not the way I would have advised someone else to handle it. When you are in the moment, why is it so hard to coach yourself on the right thing to do? What can you do to step back and be a good coach to yourself?

I often use the saying: “simple but not easy.” Much of the advice that we give to others - how to behave, how to take care of themselves, etc. - is relatively simple. But when it comes to doing those same things for ourselves, somehow it’s not that easy. The trick is to force yourself to step back and be your own objective coach. Maybe periodically reading something like this blog can play a small role in that personal self-reflection. But you may find that you also need to create a discipline and mechanism to help coach yourself on a more consistent and regular basis.

I am big on goal setting. I like 90 day goals, and think the key to attaining them is writing them down and making them visible. However, these type of goals are, by definition, fairly big and long-term. On any given day, they may not be what you should be focused on. For example, after my surgery, my goal should have been on my recovery. But instead, I wasn’t a very good coach to myself, and my focus too quickly shifted to dealing with work.

So how do you keep yourself on track? First, you may want to develop a daily self check in, whereby you ask yourself “big picture, what is today about?” On a normal workday, that could mean looking to your 90-day goals and factoring in any other important items that may have some urgency, and then setting your priorities accordingly. On “other” days (when you are off work, sick, etc.), you’d direct your focus as appropriate. For example, when you are on vacation you should probably be focused on the people you are with, relaxing, or having fun.

Another technique is to write down reminders of the best advice th­at you know, but sometimes forget to stick to, and make them visible. This acts as a “to-do” list of things that you know are key for coaching yourself on the right behaviors. You could make this list your screen saver, add them to your daily calendar, or break down the reminders into single nuggets that you post on sticky notes in a variety of places, creating a constant drip of advice to yourself.

Ok, this time I’m going to try to take my own advice and not just talk the talk. I am going to try to better coach myself by contemplating what’s truly important each day and by sticking my own advice right in front of me on a regular basis. What will you do to ensure you follow your own good advice?


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