If you whittle down your definition of leadership to its most basic function, it’s about people. I recently posted this on Twitter: Leadership is all about how people react to what we say and do.
When you take the time to reflect and evaluate your experiences, there will be certain tasks that you will want to repeat (redo) and tasks you should never do again (revoke). There will be tasks that might only need to be tweaked or changed a little (revise). There will even be things that went well, by your own effort or the effort of others, that you need to recognize (reward). But if you’re a leader, you must take a close look at the people involved in your evaluation process.
Most every professional athlete who reaches the top of his or her respective sport will tell you that it took a lot of hard work and practice to get there. Malcom Gladwell calls this the “10,000 hour” rule in his book, Outliers. It’s a process of focusing on a very few things and honing them to the point that the basics become second nature and the execution is nothing short of remarkable.
It’s not trying to learn how to do 5000 things well. It’s learning 5 things and doing them 5000 times.
The secret for greatness isn’t getting to a point where one doesn’t need to practice anymore, but it’s realizing that greatness comes from practicing the right things in a consistent manner.
When it comes to the evaluation process – the fourth perspective of revise comes into play here.
One of the most helpful pieces of productivity advice I’ve ever received was the suggestion to create a To Don’t list. This would be a list of all of the tasks and daily rituals that I should stop doing. It’s a simple message that moves one toward a simpler life.
I feel like I live in a world where I can probably handle “just one more thing.” Perhaps it’s an addiction to busyness or a desire to fill every moment with some type of activity. When someone brings me a new idea or an activity that I can get excited about, I tend to want to try and accomplish it. Yet all of this results in a level of busyness that doesn’t always lead to effectiveness or the accomplishment of what’s really important.
The second perspective of evaluation, which I call revoke, has a lot to do with cutting out the ineffective parts of an experience. Now that you’ve walked through this experience, lived with it for awhile, and have a chance to reflect and review it, you need to decide what’s not worth repeating.
I am always a bit amazed at some of the very wise things that Abraham Lincoln said. One of his quotes that you can spend an afternoon thinking and reflecting on deals with the importance of evaluation, in this case, self-evaluation:
“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I’m much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” -Abraham Lincoln
I probably beat this drum way too much, but I try to instill in our student leaders the value of a “completed event.” It basically comes down to three things…
An event or activity is not over until…
a) Everything is cleaned up and put away.
b) Everyone who helped make it happen is thanked.
c) You have evaluated your experience.
The first two are self-explanatory. It’s the third one that I have to stop and explain.
Have you ever heard the phrase: “Experience is the best teacher“?
According to www.phrases.org.uk, the history of the phrase can be traced all the way back to Julius Caesar:
EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER – “The great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, ‘Experience is the teacher of all things,’ in ‘De Bello Civili’ (c. 52 B.C.). Over a century later, the Roman author Pliny the Elder in ‘Naturalis Historia’ (A.D. 77) wrote, ‘Experience is the most efficient teacher of all things,’ and the Roman historian Tacitus said simply, ‘Experience teaches,’ in his ‘Histories’ (c. 209). The earliest English rendering appeared in 1539 as ‘Experience is mother of prudence,’ which was included in Richard Taverner’s ‘Proverbes or Adagies.’.the exact wording, ‘Experience is the best teacher,’ appeared in the ‘Widow Bedott Papers’ (1856) by Frances M. Whitcher.” From “Wise Words and Wives’ Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New” by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).
Unfortunately, I believe the phrase to be a MYTH.
This is because I know a lot of people who have a lot of experience, but don’t have the wisdom that should come from it. They had the experience, but they didn’t learn the lesson the experience provided.