Continuous Improvement

Art and Science
February 15, 2021
How to Spend Less Time on Email
February 15, 2021

Continuous Improvement


In Japanese business culture, the word kaizen means continuous improvement.

Like almost anything worth doing well, good leadership rarely come in the form of a single gem, a great class, one coach, or any single event.

I got decent advice early in my career:

Pay attention to things that both work for others and resonate with you. Then, incorporate them into your own, unique style.

Most leadership skills are not be unique — but how and what you bring into your own leadership style becomes uniquely you.

In this guide, leadership perspective that will help us all improve, just a bit.

Inch By Inch, Life’s a Cinch

On episode #217, Kendra Kinnison spoke about the practice of setting tiny habits to work towards your goals. I mentioned recently that it’s helped me reframe daily actions for better results.

You can do the same with annual planning. At least one member of the Coaching for Leaders Mastermind is planning 2016 in 12-week increments, focused on consistent, gradual progress throughout the year.

Shorter intervals for achievement get you faster wins and may keep you motivated to do more. A simple start to maximize this practice is to take Mike Vardy’s advice and apply a theme to each month of the year.

An Over(many)night Success

Whenever I interview people who’ve had substantial career success, they rarely point to a single event that explains it.

More often, it sounds like this:

People often ask what my big break was, and I can honestly say that I didn’t have one. I just had lots of small, incremental steps.

That’s a quote from designer Marc Newson, one of the people Harvard Business Review profiled in leadership lessons from 10 wildly successful people.

Beware Margarine in Maine

Speaking of lessons, one that got hammered into my head along the way was the distinction between correlation and causation.

Causation means that one thing directly influences something else to happen. Correlation, in contrast, is any relation between two variables that align. Sometimes correlation implies causation — sometimes it clearly does not.

Researchers learn to keep this distinction clear, but it’s also essential for leaders to take the time to understand relationships between data and metrics, helping vision and strategies emerge that actually make sense.

Failure to appreciate the distinction can lead to ridiculous conclusions, such as implying a relationship between the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine.

Just Say No

A lot of us have learned to be as efficient with our time as possible. We’re listening to podcasts while we work out. We’re keeping friendships going by phone while driving down the freeway. We’re on the laptop at the coffee shop.

And at some point, we’ve realistically maxed out how efficient we can become.

That’s why past guest Dorie Clark points out that effective professionals also need to learn a key skill for success: how to say no to things you want to do.

Mr. Speaker, Hail Me a Taxi

Whenever the President of the United States addresses a joint session of Congress, a member of the Presidential line of succession is absent.

Should any perilous event overtake the Capitol, this “designated survivor” could assume the Presidency, ensuring continuity of government.

The power dynamics of this practice are oddly interesting. A past designated survivor recalled:

Here I was just a few minutes earlier, almost the most powerful person in the country, and now I couldn’t even get a cab.

This annual practice of the United States government provides a reminder of the impermanence of power.

Monday’s Show

Chip Espinoza

227: How Millennials Who Manage Can Overcome Workplace Perceptions

As more millennials reach management in organizations, the power dynamics and perceptions emerging are helpful to recognize. Millennial expert Chip Espinoza returned to the show this week to discuss his new book, Millennials Who Manage and help all of us navigate this new environment.

Find the quotes and resources mentioned on the show on the Coaching for Leaders website.

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