Strategies for Deep Work #2

[This post is part of a book review series on Deep Work, by Cal NewPort. See post 1 for a summary.]


In Newport’s chapter titled “Rule #1: Work Deeply”, he outlines strategies and principles to help us build rituals and rhythms to do deep work that stretches our personal abilities. This first rule is about reducing and removing distractions that prohibit us from doing deep work. I outlined his first strategy (see post 1) about deciding on a Depth Philosophy. Here’s a list of the strategies (I’ll only highlight a few):

  • Decide on your Depth Philosophy
  • Ritualize
  • Make Grand Gestures
  • Don’t Work Alone
  • Execute Like a Business
  • Be Lazy

Ritualize

This strategy is about adopting rituals (actions, gestures, intentions) that help to create and maintain regular patterns of deep work. Here are some of his examples:

  • Identify where you’ll work and for how long
  • Identify how you’ll work once you start to work
  • Identify how you’ll support your work

I found this principle helpful to continue focusing on my work habits and patterns of when and where and how I like to think and create. For me, I like the morning times. It’s when my brain is the sharpest to think critically. I also don’t check emails, social media, or respond to phone calls/text messages. No tech distractions. I also like sitting in my reading chair or my patio. Both are quiet and soothing places.

“Surrounding such efforts with a complicated (and perhaps, to the outside world, quite strange) ritual accepts this reality—providing your mind with the structure and commitment it needs to slip into the state of focus where you can begin to create things that matter.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 121). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Execute Like a Business

For this principle, Newport is now interested in HOW to execute strategy. What and how are two different set of questions. We may know that (what) we need to do, but not know HOW to execute it. For this, Newport refers to the book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” and then summarizes each discipline.

  • Discipline #1: Focus on the Wildly Important
    • identify a small number of ambitious goals (or outcomes) during deep work hours…with a tangible reward attached to it.
  • Discipline #2: Act on the Lead Measures
    • measure your success by focusing on activities that will improve behaviors that will impact your long term goals
  • Discipline #3: Keep a Compelling Scoreboard
    • have a way to publicly record and track your lead measures
  • Discipline #4: Create a Cadence of Accountability
    • review your weekly work and scoreboard to celebrate and make adjustments

Here’s one my favorite quotes from the above principle:

David Brooks endorsed this approach of letting ambitious goals drive focused behavior, explaining: “If you want to win the war for attention, don’t try to say ‘no’ to the trivial distractions you find on the information smorgasbord; try to say ‘yes’ to the subject that arouses a terrifying longing, and let the terrifying longing crowd out everything else.”

Newport, Cal. Deep Work (p. 137). Grand Central Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Bringing it Home for Me

So how does this apply to me? I have a few areas that require some deep work:

  • church planting
  • corporate chaplaincy
  • music

Using the church planting area, my work is to focus on discovering what the wildy, ambitious goals are for a new church. For me, my goal isn’t to get a lot of people to a church service. It’s not even to tell people what to do. Part of my work is to discover what the wildy important goals are. They seem to be connected to justice, healthy relationships, and caring for leaders who have big ideas on how to transform our city to reflect God’s love.

Re-Post: Seven Toxic Bosses You Should Avoid Like the Plague

This is a re-post from an article sent to me.  It was so good that I’ve had it opened on my browser for three days!  By chance, I sat at a gathering of pastors today where the #1 issue that ministry leaders face is “feeding the monster” (i.e. focusing on administrative, financial, budgetary, organizational tasks…instead of fostering relationships and mentorship).

source (full article):  https://goo.gl/pNSvLm

Difficult bosses contaminate the workplace. Some do so obliviously, while others smugly manipulate their employees. The “bad boss” has become a comedic part of work culture, permeating movies and television, but when you actually work for one, there’s nothing funny about it.

Bad bosses cause irrevocable damage by hindering your performance and creating unnecessary stress. The stress they create is terrible for your health. Multiple studieshave found that working for a bad boss increases your chance of having a heart attack by as much as 50%.

Even more troubling is the number of bad bosses out there. Gallup research found that 60% of government workers are miserable because of bad bosses. In another study 69% of US workers compared bosses with too much power to toddlers with too much power. The comparisons don’t stop there. Significant percentages of US workers describe their bosses as self-oriented (60%), stubborn (49%), and overly demanding (43%).

Most bosses aren’t surprised by these statistics. A DDI study found that 64% of managers admit that they need to work on their management skills. When asked where they should focus their efforts, managers overwhelmingly say, “Bringing in the numbers”; yet, they are most often fired for poor people skills.

 

 

transformative leaders

We have constructed a way of leadership that is distant from others, believing that leading others is a one way street.  But transformative leaders make themselves transparent to others so that both are inspired towards growth.  

I know this leader who has snacks in her office.  Everyone goes to see Teri because they’re hungry throughout the day.  She will say, “Have something to eat, son” and after a few minutes of the employees eating, they start sharing their work and life struggles.  She just listens as they both snack and tell stories.  Teri might offer a story of her own experiences and then as they’re wrapping up, the employee will thank Teri and off they go.  Most employees describe Teri as one of the best managers to work for.  Why?  Because she cares.  Teri makes herself a vulnerable leader–who is not afraid to listen and learn from others.  I should also note that Teri’s department is constantly breaking records in her department.  

Leaders Define Reality

Max Depree writes:

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader. Concepts of leadership, ideas about leadership, and leadership practices are the subject of much thought, discussion, writing, teaching, and learning. True leaders are sought after and cultivated. Leadership is not an easy subject to explain. A friend of mine characterizes leaders simply like this: “Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.” The goal of thinking hard about leadership is not to produce great or charismatic or well-known leaders. The measure of leadership is not the quality of the head, but the tone of the body. The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers. Are the followers reaching their potential? Are they learning? Serving? Do they achieve the required results? Do they change with grace? Manage conflict?

The art of leadership requires us to think about the leader-as-steward in terms of relationships: of assets and legacy, of momentum and effectiveness, of civility and values.

from Leadership Is an Art

I think of the leadership theory and development because if I don’t, I won’t become a good leader.  Plain and simple.  I think leaders need to make more time to reflect on their leadership practices and habits.

Max Depree offers a great reflection of what leaders, who they are, and how they think.

Reflection Questions

*What do think of the statement, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality”?  One can imagine that it might be a struggle to define reality and have to say the hard things sometimes, acknowledge the losses, or admit failure.  How do you cope with reality?

*Reflect on this statement:  “The measure of leadership is not the quality of the head, but the tone of the body. The signs of outstanding leadership appear primarily among the followers.”  If the body or team is the primary sign of how things are going, how does that shift your leadership tactics?

*What might be one way that you can define reality for your team this week?

Successful Teams Share These 5 Traits

Source:  goo.gl/Hh4ZPD

1. Dependability.

Team members get things done on time and meet expectations.

2. Structure and clarity.

High-performing teams have clear goals, and have well-defined roles within the group.

3. Meaning.

The work has personal significance to each member.

4. Impact.

The group believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts the greater good.

Yes, that’s four, not five. The last one stood out from the rest:

5. Psychological Safety.

We’ve all been in meetings and, due to the fear of seeming incompetent, have held back questions or ideas. I get it. It’s unnerving to feel like you’re in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.

But imagine a different setting. A situation in which everyone is safe to take risks, voice their opinions, and ask judgment-free questions. A culture where managers provide air cover and create safe zones so employees can let down their guard. That’s psychological safety.

Questions:

  • What if current team members don’t exude these traits?
  • Can leaders/managers help team members transform into these traits?
  • As a leader, who are you talking to about team and leadership development?  What practices are you doing to shape your leadership formation?

Reflections

  • These are habits/practices to embody for life, not just work.  That’s why we can’t have a dualistic way of seeing work as professional and life as personal.  The name of the game is integration.
  • We can’t become these traits on our own.  We must realize that it’s a process and that we need a means to become this in our core.  They’re not just “soft skills” to attain.  We must become them.

Leading Up in the Workplace

Not the Owner or the CEO?  That’s okay.  You still have influence.  Here’s a way to “lead up”.  I hear a lot of employees saying they wish things were “done different”.  Here’s a way to influence that difference.  It’s not a quick and easy answer but there are some practical ways to influence.

Source:  http://www.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/11/10/manage.your.boss/

1. Understand your boss
Ask yourself, what makes your boss tick at work? Is it control and predictability, or exciting ideas and new initiatives?
“First, you have to understand what’s important to your boss, what they care about, and what they wake up in the night worrying about,” said Cohen.
But you don’t have to go foraging through your boss’s trash to find clues to their psychological makeup. What your boss says and does will tell you all you need to know.
“Pay attention to the person you work for, because that person is telling you an awful lot about how to work with them,” Edwards told CNN.

2. Lead from the middle
You many not be the boss, but that doesn’t mean you can’t think like one.
John Baldoni is a leadership development consultant and author of “Lead your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.” He told CNN he prefers the term “leading up” to managing up.
“Leading up means adopting the perspective of a CEO with the authority of a middle manager,” said Baldoni.
“Look for opportunities to effect positive change, grow the business, or get more out of the team. Think holistically about how your actions as a middle manager can affect the whole organization.”

3. Build credibility
You won’t be able to influence your manager unless you are credible, and the way to build credibility is by being good at your job, says Cohen.
Baldoni told CNN, “If you are someone who can get things done and your colleagues and bosses trust you, they will know you are a positive influence and they will come to you.”

4. It’s not about you
Managing up may be good for your career, but it’s not about brown nosing — it’s about doing what’s right for your organization.
“Some people think managing up is sucking up, but it’s not,” Edwards told CNN. “Yes, it ends up having a tremendous impact on your own PR, but you have to put other people first, and that’s something a lot of people don’t understand.”
Cohen agrees. “People listen more to what you’re saying if they think you actually care about them and are interested in their general welfare,” he said.

5. Take action
It’s not enough to just turn up for work and wait for your manager to lead. You need to be proactive in your relationship towards your manager, and your organization as a whole.
“Act upon what it is that needs to be done,” said Baldoni. “Initiate a new program, take a lead in product development, perhaps the reorganization of a business.
“Be front and center on an issue that will benefit not simply yourself, but the whole organization.”

6. Dealing with a difficult boss
Edwards says that dealing with a difficult boss is sometimes just a matter of communicating in a way they understand. Technical people respond to hard data, creative types prefer hearing about big ideas. But some bosses just won’t respond to leadership from below.