“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
Well … honestly spoken … I appreciate myself. Not always. But again and again. And I admit to enjoying it.
I appreciate myself for minor and major achievements. Every time something worked as planned. Every time I kept milestones and budget … or even overachieved. Then, I am as pleased as Punch, deeply proud of myself, and I inwardly tell myself: “Well done, Christian!”
No, I do not miss appreciation by others. Most of the time I have been very fortunate having fellows and leaders, who acknowledged and esteemed my contribution … and myself. Hence, I always felt privileged. I never took it as granted, and I know that many others have to go without appreciation by others.
But especially then it is even more important to honor yourself, to self-appreciate your performance. For me, the joy about my own success goes along with self-respect; the value I give myself.
Frankly spoken, for quite a long time I thought that it would be absolutely common being pleased about own successes. A natural element of intrinsic motivation. Praise has been proven to be the best motivator. By praising myself I motivate myself. And that is how it also always felt for me. And over the years it carried me through various difficult situations.
Meanwhile I have learned that self-appreciation is by far common and generally understood. From time to time I meet people having a serious problem with appreciating themselves, appreciating their own performance.
But I think we agree that most successes are earned through hard work and are not to be taken as granted. For that reason, it should be well justified being proud of any single success. Not the narcissistic, foppish type of self-praise … but the well-deserved inward self-appreciation for a real performance. No pride which is exaggerating the own person. But joy because you successfully delivered.
If I do not appreciate myself and my achievements … why should others do?
There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees.
Michel de Montaigne
If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-44), French pilot and writer
Of course yearning alone is not enough.
You certainly need quality wood, good tools, clear allocation of tasks, a plan and much more.
And yes, unfortunately I also know more than enough ‘hot-air guns’ in leadership positions, who contribute great visions (= yearnings) … but that has been it.
I would like to talk about myself instead. In the past, I realized that sometimes I got lost in bits and pieces of strategic or project planning and management during workaday’s life. This simply happens when you are working quite intensively and focused. I am sure you know what I mean.
The issue is that then the big picture easily gets lost. But this big picture is really important. It actually is the destination, the purpose of everything being done! Not adhering perfectly to the project plan or KPIs. Those are just resources and tools … but in daily routine they sometimes end in themselves. Neither the wood is the destination, nor is the ship. The destination is being able going out to sea and sailing to other places.
It is about motivation. To take along people, employees and colleagues. To not just let them settle tasks. But to actively include them in an exciting, promising and joint journey.
For me, Saint-Exupéry’s “yearning” is anticipation, joy, enthusiasm and identification. I am deeply convinced that this kind of “yearning” does not only yield in settling required tasks …
… but to jointly deliver superior achievements and true innovation. More than the best project plan ever could do.
You need to cancel something on someone but you do not know how? Well, there are for example the …
8 ways of saying “no”
- I would like to … but unfortunately I can’t.
- This would contradict my personal maxims.
- I would like to make an alternative suggestion.
- My wife doesn’t want it.
- I would gladly pick up later … but currently I am at full capacity.
- I appreciate your kind offer … but to my opinion even more is possible.
- I need to think about it.
- John can do it much better!
The smart “no”
To my personal opinion, the best way in any case is being open, transparent and honest and letting people not wait for your decision longer than necessary.
If something is going beyond your capabilities … clarify it. If you are fully loaded … say it. If you need time to think about … request it. If you have an even better idea … suggest it. If you have an ethical or fundamental issue … put it on the table.
But do not delay your “no” because you are afraid. Fear is a bad advisor. And in case you are concerned about the possibility of negative consequences of a “no”, promptly document your decision and the underlying justification with a brief mail (optionally with CC to your line manager and/or the project manager).
Be clear with your “no” and be clear with your “yes” without dancing around the cake. And most people will appreciate. Those who do not anyhow don’t care about your opinion. But this is a different story.
If you challenge an existing preference for hiring younger workers over e.g. “best agers” (50+), you get a series of arguments which initially sound somehow reasonable.
- Younger candidates have more energy and higher productivity.
- Younger candidates bring along more recent expert knowledge due to their contemporary professional training/university education … and thereby deliver higher quality.
- Younger candidates are cheaper.
- Younger candidates are less resistent to change.
- In an aging society it is more future-oriented to hire younger candidates and develop them internally on the long-term.
As non-involved I can dare to say: all those are dumb stereotypes … if not lies!
The “younger is more productive” myth
It has been repeatedly investigated and proven hat “best agers” on average do show at least a similar productivity and level of achievements while typically being more efficient and delivering higher quality. No more to say.
The “younger is cheaper” myth
Is it? I would like to challenge this assertion by stating that the average “best ager” achieves more with less energy and in less time. He compensates youthful freshness with experience and beneficial learnings from the past. So, I dare to say that a complete and honest calculation will give at least the same if not lower costs for the “best ager”.
And by the way, cheap or valuable, you always get what you pay for!
The “younger provides better knowledge” myth
Yes, sure, the expert knowledge a mid-20s university leaver brings along is more recent. But …
- By whom did they get it? From “best agers” being their trainer/teacher, am I right or am I wrong?
- Blank knowledge from professional training or university is by far not enough for real life success and best practice. “Best agers” typically provide expert knowledge plus experiences from years of daily working including highly valuable experiences and learnings the youngster simply miss. The overall level of current and real-life knowledge is much higher with the “best ager”.
And by the way, it is impertinent to generally insinuate that older colleagues do not continuously develop their expert knowledge to the state-of-the-art level.
The “seniors are more resistant to change” myth
To my observation, more senior colleagues are not above average resistant to change but in many cases even drive it. And I was involved in quite a few change projects/processes. No, senior colleagues do more dare speaking up for stupid changes and dumb implementations … where many youngsters just follow like sheep. For me this level of commitment by senior colleagues never has been a bug but a feature. And in most cases it was highly beneficial for the whole change project.
The “younger provides more long-term benefit” myth
Especially the more promising youngsters have a much higher tendency to switch their job if not the company due to career aspirations. Exception proves the rule and there are certainly companies which do a proper good job in developing and keeping their staff. But I dare to say that many companies will benefit longer from a hired “best ager” staying 10-15 years than of a “±30 ager” leaving for the next career step after 3-4 years.
The true reason
I think there is another important point which is typically less mentioned but more influencing the preference for younger candidates within a hiring process.
Younger workers are much easier to influence and to manipulate. They challenge instructions and decisions by their line manager (who is also their hiring manager) much less. And just to avoid any misunderstanding: to my opinion this is bad, at least with advanced, innovative, forward-thinking companies. But unfortunately there is a fatal correlation between leader quality and the tendency to hire team members which are better qualified than oneself.
“Best agers” are not more difficult to lead. But they are more resistant to bad leadership. So they are less likely hired by bad leaders who cannot stand to be constructively challenged.
Check it! Just watch the leaders in your own working environment. Which of them would you rate as better leaders and which as worse? And what is the average team age of the better … and what the average team age of the poor leaders? *
You see, what I mean!
* OK, and please kindly ignore any constitutional bias, e.g. by type of job or team where the average age is unavoidably lower.
I call it the “Microsoft principle” … and it is a mess. For many years, Microsoft is quite famous for delivering half-baked software, which is subsequently improved by patches and “service packs” based on customer findings. Microsoft lets its customers do the quality control (QC) for them.
Change of scenery. A couple of years ago, I attended a lean processes workshop. To make a long story short, the resulting “optimized” lean process basically included an abandonment of the pre-delivery inspection process step and a shift of the final QC to the customer. To be fair, some new QC cross-checks were included at handover interfaces within the process … but the proof that the product is finally OK was factually handed over.
I was surprised finding myself alone with speaking up and insisting: “this is simply crap!”
At this point I need to admit, that my horizon of experience had been different from the others. Before joining the pharmaceutical company (I was working for at that time), I had had my own little service business for about 10 years. So, I knew by heart, that customers typically wish if not clearly expect to get a product of reliable high quality delivered for the money they pay. And I think, they can expect to get the same. Also I myself do. As a service provider it had always been a wonderful and tremendously satisfying experience getting customer’s feedback that he is vice versa satisfied and happy with a high quality, error-free delivery. I tell you, it is really great to enjoy your own appreciated product.
Certainly, a customer needs provide an explicit confirmation of proper delivery which by design requires some kind of cross-check on his side. But this is not what I am talking about. Ideally he should not find anything. At least no careless mistakes or faulty deliveries which typically would have been identified and rejected by a proper pre-delivery QC.
Change of scenery again. I recently worked with an agency where I typically had to check every delivery several times. In my view, I was doing their work. And we are talking about mistakes which were obvious and would have been solved by a simple pre-delivery cross-check at the agency before reaching my desk. And I found myself asking, why I am doing a part of the job I am actually paying for? I clearly expect (just in case any current of future collaborating agency might read this) a reliable, rock solid product which is finally QCed already before landing in my inbox. This agency was simply annoying me.
Would this be the basis of a long fruitful collaboration?
I do not really think so.
Altogether, delivering properly QCed products might be better for business than being “over-lean”. Do not play Microsoft until you are in the same monopoly position.
Satisfy by quality … and enjoy satisfaction and success!