Sunday, November 14, 2010

Control Issues

"The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses." Napoleon Hill

Here’s what I’ve learned from competitive ballroom dancing – winning is not in my control. I can practice my feet off, dance my best dance ever and still not earn a first place. Maybe there was somebody on the floor who is a better dancer than I am. Maybe there was a dancer there at my level who danced her best dance ever! Maybe the judges were watching when I made my only mistake of the entire heat. Whatever the reason, a hard reality of competition is that the result is not in my control.

However, there are many things in my control and they all start with my attitude. I can choose to do my very best at every practice session or I can coast through because I’m kinda tired that day. I can choose to work on the tiniest little details that most people never see because I know that every detail adds to the final package or I can be lazy about those ‘picky’ bits. I can walk out onto the dance floor with confidence – even if I know my knees are shaking. When I compete with some of the best dancers in the state, I can let that fact intimidate me or push me to show I deserve to be there as well. Those things are completely up to me.

My experience tells me that if I pick the hard work choice, the attention to detail choice, the positive attitude choice, the result is better every time. Not that I’ll win every time, but I know that whatever the final result, I’m happier with the experience. I’ve had more fun because I danced as well as I could. I also know that over time, I’ve won more heats with that attitude than with the negative one. So if I bring the right attitude with me, over time the win/loss record takes care of itself.

The same is true in leadership. I can’t always control the resources nor can I control the results every time. But I can always choose how I approach a situation. I can pay attention to the details no one else notices and appreciate those who are managing those details well or I can ignore them. I can choose to do my best work and design situations so staff members have a chance to do their best work. I can support creativity or squelch it and then wonder why no one tries anything new.

As in competitive dancing, or any sort of work really, the end result is not entirely in my control. There are many situations and people who can get in the way (literally on the dance floor) of a ‘win’. But my attitude and my effort, my attention and my appreciation for work well done, these and more are in my control. Experience tells me in my leadership work as in my dancing, that when I choose the positive side of the equation, I’m happier with the experience whatever the details of the result.
All the best,