Where is your power zone?

In a conversation with a colleague last week, I touched on an idea from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. A brilliant book about what effective leadership really looks and feels like.

Collins talks about identifying your organisation’s “hedgehog concept” – the one thing that your business can be the best in the world at, which is defined by the intersection of three things. Your passions, your expertise and the driver of your economic engine.

I think this idea is really helpful for individuals too, in identifying where you can make the most impact. I just change the words just a little bit.

power-zone

What are you passionate about? What do you love about your work?

Where does your expertise lie? What can you be REALLY good at?

What does the market want? Where “market” is defined by your role and might be no more complicated than “your employer” or “your organisation”, but could also be real stakeholders or customers. So… What is it about your unique skills, understanding and insight that is truly valuable to your “market”?

For me, the intersection of the answers to these questions is your Power Zone. It is where you can really make a difference, whatever your role.

We can sometimes let ourselves take on things that we’re passionate about and expert in, but that aren’t at the core of what our markets need. This can be good for the soul, but if we do it too much we are missing the chance to make a real tangible difference. And our bosses will wonder why they’re paying us for having our own fun at the expense of their priorities.

We all get drawn into doing things that the market wants and we are expert in, but if we’re not truly passionate about them we will struggle to sustain meaningful effort and eventually grow weary.

This way of thinking is really useful when you’re trying to develop vision and mission statements, for yourself or your team. And for helping set your priorities.

Lots of stuff in the “urgent but not important” quadrant in the Eisenhower Matrix is stuff that the market wants that you’re expert in.

If you can make time to pull yourself towards the power zone, by delegating the stuff that you’re less passionate about, you’ll enjoy your work more, and make more of an impact.

Avoid setting up an email for failure

I got an email last night, which started like this.

Dear all,
Firstly, let me apologise for this note, which is rather long and technical. You might want to fortify yourself with tea and biscuits before reading…

The email that followed was indeed long and technical. But it was also really useful and entirely appropriate. It was timely, in that it related to an issue discussed in a meeting earlier that day, it had exactly the right information, it was exactly the length it needed to be and was written in a tone that was friendly and informative. It was a great email.

However.

By STARTING with an apology, and by pointing out some things that weren’t great about it, the author was “priming” his readers towards thinking the email would be boring/tedious/complicated/difficult.

He was setting their subconscious elephants off down a track that made it more likely they would hate the email. And thus not pay attention to its contents.

I get it. You don’t want to inflict stuff on your colleagues that they’re not really interested in and you want them to know that you know they’re not really interested in it. So you apologise before you’ve started.

In many ways this is just dialling up the humility a bit, which can be a useful thing to do sometimes. But not at the start of an email. Don’t do it.

All it does is weaken the power of your message and make it more likely that people will ignore what you’re saying.

You don’t have to go overboard. Don’t try to oversell the thing.

Just keep it factual and informative.

Dear all,
Following on from our discussion this afternoon, I wanted to share the key points of the policy we were talking about and direct you to relevant resources…

“Key points” says “short and to the point, it won’t take you long to read this.”

“Direct you to relevant resources” says “I want to help, you can find what you need by reading this email.”

These things prime the reader in the other direction. It steers the subconscious elephant to a path that says “This email will be useful to me. I should pay attention.”

First impressions count. In emails as well as in person. Don’t put yourself on the back foot before you’ve started.

Grab a copy of my FREE eBook – 6 Keys to Leadership to find out more about Confidence vs Humility and getting the balance right between them.

Coping with uncertainty

How long can you handle things being unclear?

Uncertainty and lack of clarity can be paralysing. “We have to wait until we know how [this thing] will turn out before deciding what to do and how to do it.”

Sometimes the leadership thing to do is cut through uncertainty, identify the key point, create clarity for the team and get things moving forward. 

But.

Often… the thing to do… is wait. 

Live with the uncertainty. Hold the jaws of the situation open for a while. Help your colleagues cope with things being unclear.  

Because sometimes the situation just IS unclear and will remain so. 

Letting things play out, rather than rushing to an answer, can let the context emerge or settle, and opinions shift towards a consensus. Your own understanding and ideas will develop. Eventually the answer can just appear as an obvious truth. 

You have to choose. Decide quickly and get moving? Or live with the uncertainty and let the answers emerge?

Remembering you have this choice is a leadership skill in itself.