The Stage Between Stages

Today, the 31st of December 2020, is my last official day as an employee of Discovery. I met some wonderful people, and learned a great deal. I expanded my techical repertoire: I learned more about R, statistics, machine learning and data science/analysis in general. I was fortunate to also be part of something called the Leadership Lab: once a week a group of about 15-20 people from across the group sat down with a top exec and discussed articles broadly encompassing the topic of leadership.

I’ve been meaning to document these articles, and my corresponding notes, as a blog post for some time. The liminal stage between stages I now find myself in allows for just that.

The lab was divided into 6 weeks: 1 article per week. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend 2 sessions. Regardless, the experience was invaluable.

Week 1 - In a Difficult Conversation, Listen More Than You Talk

This article can be found here.

3 main points in this article. When in conversation:

  • Be Present (Really)
  • Listen More
  • Be Open

The article discusses how each point can help avoid a breakdown in communication. I believe that these points all relate to the same idea: truly giving your time and focus to the matter being discussed, as well as the discussant(s). Quote the article: ‘As someone is speaking, notice: Are you already thinking about your rebuttal? Are you responding with a “yes,” followed by an immediate “but”? Or have you already interrupted? Be open to another person’s perspective.’

An important point the article brings up is psychological safety, which is a necessary ingredient for successful teams. The article, as well as the discussion in the lab centered around work teams. Of course, there are other areas in life (family, friends, extended community) where one can apply these ideas. Where are you a leader?

Week 2 - How to Boost Your (and Others’) Emotional Intelligence

This article can be found here.

This article discusses how EQ (with effort) is trainable. It mentions studies which have found EQ to be predictive of employability, job performance, leadership potential, etc…

5 critical steps for developing EQ:

  • Turn self-deception into self-awareness
  • Turn self-focus into other-focus
  • Be more rewarding to deal with
  • Control your temper tantrums
  • Display humility, even if it’s fake

All these points have a common theme of awareness. In particular, self-awareness. This was probably my favourite article of the 6.

Other notes from week 2’s discussion

  • Gently, directly, firmly: how to deal with difficult discussions, like confrontations / someone not doing well / inconsistent work
  • Make sure goals are clear. Make sure timeframes are clear
  • Meaning -> what gives you meaning at work? Lack of meaning drains you of energy…
  • Authentically calling out good work: make this a habit. Don’t underestimate the meaning / power of this. But don’t be disingenuous.

Each of the above points could easily be turned into its own blog post. For now, I’m just satisfied to have them here; to not lose them.

Week 3 - Authentic Leadership Rediscovered

This article can be found here.

  • Authentic leadership is built on your character, not your style
  • Authentic leaders are real and genuine
  • Authentic leaders are constantly growing
  • Authentic leaders match their behavior to their context
  • Authentic leaders are not perfect, nor do they try to be
  • Authentic leaders are sensitive to the needs of others

Week 4 - How Managers Drive Results and Employee Engagement at the Same Time

This article can be found here.

Week 5 - How Humble Leadership Really Works

This article can be found here

Week 6 - 7 Things That Make Great Bosses Unforgettable

This article can be found here

Finally…

These readings and discussions gave me remarkable insight into the types of qualities which result in effective leadership. The question of how to authentically cultivate these qualities I found particularly relevant.

It’s insightful to see that leadership can be both firm and gentle at the same time; these are characteristics which appear to be at odds with one another.

The topic of self-awareness and matching behaviour to context is a practical, implementable bit of advice which I’d like to carry forward with me.

This type of discussion is never really complete. I guess this blog post is more of a starting point. It’s impossible to incorporate all the advice here. I don’t think that’s the point. If you can just do a little better than you would have otherwise done, then that’s a win.