How to Stop Rowing in Circles till You Sink
Fitting in is the path to regret. Leaders don’t fit in they stand out. Bureaucrats fit in.
Standing out is dangerous in some organizational cultures; you’ll get beat down till you conform. Conformity is death.
Positive impact confronts the sludge of stagnant organizations.
People of impact are known for something. Reputation establishes identity, improves impact, and advances potential.
Stop rowing your boat in circles till it sinks.
What are you known for? When people see you, what do they think? If you aren’t known for something:
- You’re stuck in can’t, won’t, or I don’t think so.
- You’re unfocused and spread too thin. Do fewer things so you can follow your passion.
- You’ve lost your dream.
- You can’t say no.
- You need everyone to like you.
Fame is not the answer. Be known for something in your circle of influence, that’s enough. For example, Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup, isn’t a movie star. But, he’s known for writing 30,000 handwritten thank you notes during his ten year tenure.
Influence grows when you’re known for something. Could it be thank you notes?
- Be known for positivity. Positive focus creates positive difference.
- Transform a negative into a positive. Skillfully move through brokenness to wholeness.
- Don’t get stuck in complications and deficiencies.
- Fix something in the community.
- Create solutions. Don’t be known as a nay saying scrooge.
- Tell others what you want to be known for.
Bonus: Being known for something is intentional not accidental. Persistently, fanatically repeat what you want to be known for.
My dream: When people see me, I want them to think, “Dan made my life better by helping me find and expand my potential.” I don’t want to fix people; I want to hand them tools.
What blocks people for being known for something? How can they rise above?
What do you want to be known for?
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Dan, great post. I especially like the distinction between wanting fame and being known for something within your circle of influence.
The pressure to conform is amazing. We all want to own the same cell phones, drive the same cars, wear the same trendy clothes, use the latest slang. And, at work, we act the same way. I think you are correct in identifying that as a major cause of leaders not daring to try something different. I just try to remember something we were taught about tactics: “If it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid.”
I’ll share one of those treasured memories: The day I retired from the military, a sergeant, re-telling an old war story, reminded me that in my old battalion I was still known as “the only officer who ever dug an M-60 fighting position.” A little thing, but one incident when I helped the privates do their work forever branded me in that small circle as a soldier’s leader.
I can’t say what I’d be known for in my current organization. I’d like it to be something similar.
I love how you flesh out some core ideas about fitting in…very useful.
The other thing I notice is the power of singular acts. They can become symbolic, even iconic. That contradicts the idea of repeated behaviors… perhaps repeating has more to do with behaviors centered on a theme … how we want to be known.
The power of singular acts is very encouraging.
As always your insights and transparency challenge, enlighten, and encourage.
Todd Rundgren once said, “if its stupid enough, it’s cool”-fits that same approach you mentioned Greg.
Love the M-60- great legacy story and there is much underneath it, if people choose to dig (so to speak). 😉
Doc, where the heck do you come up with this stuff. You sure know how to dig into things. Dan
Great post ( as always!). I believe it is our inner fears that become our Gremlins and stop us from moving out of our comfort zones.
We need to make that personal internal commitment. The day we do this,” the day we want something with all our heart, all the Universe will conspire to help us achieve it”: Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist.
” Failure to commit is high cost of low living”.
If you come back again, I’ll have to call you a regular! 🙂 Seriously, thanks for your comment.
Fear must be one of the biggest anchors in our lives. Fear prevents us from committing. Your insight that committing contrasts with fear is helpful. We don’t erase fear by becoming fearless. We defeat fear by taking action.
Thanks for the quote and for adding value.
I’ll keep looking for you,
Love the quote, Shakti. Thanks.
Well said Dan. Be known for something positive.
Telling others what you want to be known for is difficult for people. But it is unfortunate that more people don’t realize what a powerful interal and external tool and motivator this is for keeping us focused and on the desired path.
Bring something of value to the game; every time.
And an awesome dream. One many of us share with you, and one you have fulfilled in many of our lives.
Bring value to the game… I’m going off to tweet that in a minute!
You might think of telling people how you want to be known as letting your positive intentions out… Speak your intentions. “I want ____”
Thanks for leaving your twitter handle.
I’m thankful to find you here and thankful for your encouragement.
Keep moving forward,
As usual Dan, you knocked this out of the park!
“1.Be known for positivity. Positive focus creates positive diff,erence”
I love this. “positive focus creates positive difference” – That’s a daily affirmation for us all!
Several years ago I heard a speaker talk about how words, positive words, can make a difference in our communication.
He said that if we started all discussions with “yes, if”, instead of “no, because”, we might end up at the same conclusion, but we would always have a more positive view of the discussion. If we remain positive in our focus on a problem or challenge, we can, at a minimum, find a solution without creating a Push, Push Back, emotionally, negatively charged, environment.
I have tried ever since then, to stop and say to myself, before I even speak the words, “Yes, if”. I want people to think of me as that person that affirms them, that person who says “yes” to their ideas. I heard someone talking about Bill Clinton, (back in the day)that everyone who came into his office with a suggestion, challenge, business idea, etc, walked out believing that Clinton agreed with him and was forever his fan.
Don’t we all want to be that person? That person who makes others believe in their own greatness?
Thanks again Dan, for continuing to be the person whose “positive focus creates positive difference” in our lives.
Barb, “Yes, if” is an incredibly powerful and usable suggestion. Thank you. It reminds me of the question of “yes authority.” In old-school organizations, too often anyone can say “no” (you can’t do that, we won’t do that, the policy says . . . ) but only the boss can say yes to something out of the ordinary. I’ve always tried to turn that upside down. Anyone in my organization can say yes to anything they think they can do, but no one may say no. The only right answer besides yes is “Let’s go talk to . . . about how we could do this.” Sometimes, of course, the answer in the end is no, but at least that isn’t where we start.
Moving through negativity to being positive is central to leadership. Man, do I wish someone would have taught me this 30 years ago!
I just spoke with Doug Conant, the CEO I mention in this post. He like to talk about moving toward bright. We might not be there but it’s brighter than it used to be.
I’m with Greg, “Yes, if” is beautiful. KaChing!! Something in me thinks it’s a great challenge. 🙂
You extended our conversation. Thank you
Great perspective. I am a relationship and personal development coach. Helping my clients to access, identify and crystallize this info is incredibly valuable.
Thanks for the post.
Thanks for dropping in.. We’ll leave the light on for ya! 🙂
Thank you for reminding us to be known for something positive. I have known many people over the years that were known for their ability to turn down projects or criticize people to point of tears. What we need from our leaders is to inspire us. People who write thank you notes inspire us. People who make other cry might be famous within their circle of influence but they don’t inspire us and we don’t want to be lead by them.
I am known for several things within my circle of influence including technical knowledge and they ability effectively teach and communicate that knowledge. But what I would like to be known for is the personal and professional development of those around me. That is why I value both this blog and the community of leaders that comment here.
Bonnie, our CFO has the nickname “Dreamkiller.” Sounds like you’ve worked with a few like him.
Great seeing you Bonnie.
I think your illustration is useful. Maybe it’s a power trip that makes people love saying no.
I’ll add this alternative view which isn’t about leadership development as much as doing business. The first answer Jack Welch gives to anyone who has a business proposition is “no.” He wants them to prove it’s value.
Thanks for the good word and for joining the conversation. You’re one reason it’s great to be part of the LF community.
Weird little dichotomy…we want to be part of the team (blend in) and still be recognized for what we do (stand out).
The positive focus (or having fun work!?) is so powerful, especially in the face of failure, brokenness, loss and change. Failure is the richest vein to mine, also often very uncomfortable–price of admission. Leaders model how to handle adversity– one of the key unintended legacy moments. Tongue in cheek-celebrate failure, pragmatically, celebrate learnings from failure.(As long as they are not repeated over and over.)
Doc, the dichotomy you note is directly related to risk, isn’t it? We blend in to avoid risk, we want to stand out but we want that to be pain-free as well.
Thanks for poking the topic. We value team work and I’m pressing for individuality. Is the best of both worlds found in leveraging our individuality within a team dynamic?
I absolutely love the insight that the way we deal with adversity is one of those unintended moments where we establish our reputation…we become known for something. Beautiful! … We could probably stretch out adversity to include connected ideas like stress, failure, pressure…
It’s always a pleasure to find your insights waiting here for me.
I believe fear blocks us from taking the stand for what we should be known for.
I want my writing to encourage success in collaboration rather than individualism.
Thanks for sharing how you want your writing to be known. You have my best wishes you become known for that.
Thank you for joining the conversation… stop in again soon.
Funny, but I feel this way at my church. I wish more conversations had a positive, upbeat reaction. Too many times they are conversations filled with the feeling of ‘no.’
Great post today, Dan! Thank you for helping me challenge current knowns and explore new possibilities!
Thank you for taking time to encourage me. When we encourage someone we make life a little easier for them, even though the external world hasn’t changed.
Hi Dan (and everyone else) —
I am moved by the power of intention. Acting with intent is the surest way to make sure you leave the mark you want.
Too often it is easy to fall into automatic responses and the default mode. When we do that, others will tell our story for us, and it is rarely a good one then.
Powerful comment. I say death to default mode live with intention.
Thanks for a challenging encouragement.
Nice one Michael… and often paired with intention is passion.
Amen! Many organizations “kill” the creative spirit of great leaders with organizational politics. Great read.
Dan many good insights. I particularly like the idea of being known for something.
One thought, I’m all about balance, and I feel that at times we do need to just fit in and be the team player—I think the hard part is knowing when to stand out and stake your claim, and when to get on board with the program and be supportive.
Thanks so much for this timely post, after a few hard weeks as an assistant manager, being reprimanded for a small decision, this reminds me to stay on track. In my circle I’m known for my sales, which to my co workers is to be scorned at, anyone can do those sales, I realize that no, not anyone can do them, if that was the case they would have those sales as well. I was falling into the trap of not caring because they don’t, this post is exactly what I needed. Many thanks!
Too many organizations equate “being a team player” with conforming; marching in lock step with everyone else. This is not teamwork! A team is built from people with many views, styles, and abilities all leveraging their unique talents to work toward a common goal; it is not a group of automatons marching in formation.
I’m a new reader, but with a post like this I’m already leaning towards being a fan! I can’t agree more with your 5 descriptions of the person who is NOT known for something. They have lost their way, lost track of the dream, and so have reached a state of being on autopilot and as you put it, “rowing in circles.”
To be known for something, anything, means you are conscientously working towards a desired outcome, which is something I believe to be key to dream and goal achievement.
Also, as mentioned earlier in the comments by Shatki, our fears are huge deterrants that scare us from great opportunities, instead of just warning us to prepared to be thrown out of our comfort zones. I want to be known, among other things, to be Courageous, because I don’t want to allow fears to keep me from my own dreams.
Thanks for the thought provoking post!
Taking away 2 things today- loving them all and trying these 2 on:
Positive focus creates positive difference
Thanks Dan 🙂
You have positively affected my life and I truly enjoy your words of encouragement and wisdom. One of my teachers in elementary school wanted to be known for “never breaking the spirit of a child.” She went out of her way to help each child succeed and to provide guidance to help them grow and learn. I personally want to be known as the friend that was available; the scoutmaster who encouraged and taught boy scouts on how to lead and grow; the supervisor who groomed each team member to success; and the parent who was #1 in the eyes of her child.
Thank you for bringing up a topic to ponder today!