Seven Ways to Get Smarter
Given my druthers, I’d choose smart over dumb. Sadly, all of us do things that prolong dumbness.
4 qualities of smart leaders who stay dumb:
Staying dumb requires persistence. Growing smarter requires change.
Dumb leaders persist in:
- Negative patterns.
- The false belief that the people who caused the problem can solve the problem.
- The belief that trying harder solves problems. Trying harder makes things worse when you’re doing the wrong things.
- Rejecting input from frontline employees – people doing the work.
Smart leaders, who stay dumb, are too busy to get smart. Dumb leaders don’t have time for:
Dumb takes more work than smart.
Dumb leaders are glum leaders. A disappointing past, coupled with a dark future, disheartens the best of us.
The glummest leaders of all are busy persisting in strategies that don’t work.
Dumb leaders, who aren’t glum, are dumb optimists. The universe is bringing success to them on a silver platter.
You need a hard dose of negativity, if you’re in a persistent downward spiral.
You’ll be spiraling next year, if you don’t change.
Seven ways to get smart:
- Embrace the dark-side. Dig into your disappoints, failures, and frustrations, don’t run.
- Go with their gut. You’ve been going with your gut and it isn’t working. What do experience leaders suggest?
- Include others in the process. Isolation makes you dumb.
- Maintain optimism. Believe that learning, adapting, and hard work, works.
- Persist in exploration and evaluation, but, always try things.
- Follow your energy. You can’t succeed for long if you’re constantly drained.
- Reflect. There was a time when you were smarter. What were you doing?
Bonus: Confess you don’t know. Sometimes dumb is smart.
What are smart things you’ve done to deal with being dumb?
I agree so much. Our busyness, whether perceived or real, is a great enemy to our personal growth. Thanks for this post!
Thanks Dr. Real success centers on personal growth. 🙂 It’s a sad thing to neglect it.
A humbling topic this morning! My greatest vulnerability to acting dumb is my often relentless persistence.To mitigate against it, I try to be mindful of environmental cues- body language, performance metrics- that indicate a problem, and to pause long enough to interrupt the pattern of behavior that was yielding negative outcomes. I find it helps to name what isn’t working, solicit feedback and brainstorm with others around a more effective approach to achieve the desired outcome.
When trying to overcome my own “dumb persistence”, I find the greatest challenge is to stop “trying harder” long enough to interrupt unsuccessful old patterns!
Have a great day!
Thanks Lori. Brilliant!
Something as simple as pausing can make us smarter. I love it.
I have learned the hard way that all feedback is helpful if viewed with the right attitude. There is no such thing as “negative feedback.” The only true negative feedback we ever get is the one we don’t learn from. There is always a lesson if we “listen” and since no one is perfect, growth always is an option. The dumb leader never takes off the headphones. The world is full of music but we won’t hear it unless we stop, observe, and listen. Great post Dan. This one goes into my “keeper file.” Have a great day. Best, Al
Thanks Al. Great seeing you here. “The hard way”… oh man!! I’ve traveled the hard way. Perhaps that’s one of the main qualities of dumb leaders. They have to learn the hard way. 🙂
Your comment is powerful because it’s so true and so difficult to follow. I can think of a million reasons why I can ignore someone’s feedback. But, as you indicate, that’s dumb.
Is there an easy way?!?
Apparently I did not get that memo!😉
Not making time to listen to the front line employees and customers is a BIG dumb move I see seemingly smart people make all the time. If you’ve come up with the problem and solution without their input you’re not only being dumb, your dooming yourself for business failure and lack of personal growth.
Thanks James. Powerful and to the point.
I still have a tendency to huddle up with a few leaders and solve other people’s problems. Doh!
Number 7. Reflect: Sometimes I unplug for a day – no phone, email, tv, etc. I exercise, read books, play games with my kids, go on a walk with my spouse, go for a ride in the country, etc. Those days allow me to pause, reflect, change my perspective, and recharge. I haven’t noticed that I got smarter, but I sure felt more optomistic about life and work.
Thanks Duane. Here’s to following your example.
This is such a smart post. Unfortunately, it makes me feel dumb. I work too hard and I’m the queen of persistence. Time for me to work smarter.
Thanks for helping me take another look at what I’m doing.
Thanks Dauna. 🙂
The fact that you feel dumb makes me think you’re smart!
If you ask me, “bad” persistence is one of the top dumb things motivated leaders do.
I find stepping back out of the situation, even for a few moments, enough to provide clarity. Good chess players analyze the whole board while sitting back from it. By this, they can spot weaknesses in the opponents formation, identify his or her level of aggression, and can be proactive.
Imagine if you were trying to play chess if you were a piece on the board. You wouldn’t see the whole picture, and would likely play more reactionary. In most cases, once a player has to resort to reactionary actions for more than a short time, the game’s already decided. It is okay to be reactionary or on a negative spiral for a short time, but knowing how and when to pull out of it is often the difference between smart and dumb.
Thanks John. I really enjoy your illustration. Your reference to being reactionary play is a challenge. Most of the time we are reacting. But effective leadership requires seeing the big picture.
I like the “Bonus”. You don’t have to always know the answer, and if it is the first thought that comes to mind it may not be well considered. If you confess you don’t know, others will tell you their answers.
Thanks Ian. I think we can confess we don’t know in a way that makes others feel important and useful.. everyone wins.
Coupled with the persistence of dumb leaders, they do keep doing the same thing and expect different results…oh wait, that’s the definition of insanity, not dumb…my bad! 😉
I see you have not lost your “touch” Doc. Best, AD
Thanks Doc. Like Al said, you haven’t lost your touch. Maybe you are getting better with age.
Finding your “kick” or what excites you can definitely help. I’ll be honest, I think like most Americans nowadays, my major is not at all applicable to my profession. However, when I would have classes on leadership, I excelled in them as this is what I believe I was called to do.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of “I’ve got to do what will get me lots of money.” However, we gain knowledge by researching what we truly love and provides us happiness! Find what you love and the money will follow somehow. In most cases, the money won’t even matter.
Thanks Scott. You got it. There is some pressure to go out and be successful… better to set out to make a difference through bringing our passion in service to others.
Love it Dan. I believe change and persistence needs to go hand in hand. Without change, persistence is meaningless, and without persistence, change doesn’t stick. Really appreciate your daily dose of leadership vitamin!
Paul// Leadership Blogger, http://www.paulsohn.org
Great connection between change and persistence, Paul!
Knowing when to persist and when to reassess is critical – Change is an important metric – although the question of how soon change can be expected to know when it is time to reassess is not always so clear cut
For those of us that are fanatically persistent- we often fall into a trap of convincing ourselves that change is just around the corner- even at times when there is no evidence to support this ‘delusion’!
“change is just around the corner.” I’m learning to ask, what makes me believe that change is just around the corner. The change fairy ain’t coming. 🙂
Thanks Paul. Glad to see you becoming a regular. Very useful connection. It seems that we may lean on one quality or the other. Some of us are great at change and others great at persistence. But, success requires both.
Years ago I read a book, Siddhartha by Hermann Hess, that had nothing to do with management per se, but focused on the enhancement and enrichment of life, living, being, and doing. With reference to the ups and downs of life both personally and professionally, Hess used the character and journey of Siddhartha to express the importance of regular “time-outs” to regain focus on the process of short-term steps, the vision of long-term goals, and the significance of people in life.
Among the many things said was something like this: “I will take care of ME for YOU…if you will take care of YOU for me.” At the time, Siddhartha was experiencing some muddled thoughts about the persons he was working with, and some doubts about his own leadership. So he asked his people for help, and I believe Siddhartha learned and suggested they may have found the worst enemy or best friend in themselves. I think also he turned his “busyness” into a kind of thoughtfulness—perhaps stillness.
The book spoke also to control and order of life in a rather simple, profound and insightful way. When our life seems “out of control,” it’s simply that “things” in our life are “out of order”: Put things in order, and we gain control again. We all know a simple life is the “good life,” yet not many know how to make life simple. We put our lives in order by cutting back on our schedules, routines, and even our desires. This is simple–not easy, as we can be restless, indulgent and tempted by distractions—and thus we overstep our limits. However, things don’t have to be as complicated as we make them. Getting back to the “simplicity of the basics” can “simply” include rest, relaxation, and introspection.
And when speaking about “being dumb,” throughout the entire book Siddhartha was shown to be a highly intelligent person, but very short on “common sense”—which as we all know is not all that common. It’s was a great tragedy to see Siddhartha spend almost his whole life “perfecting his faults.” For most of us, it takes all our lives to understand “it’s not necessary to understand everything.” We can’t be happy if we continuously search for what happiness is. And, we can’t enjoy life if we’re always looking for the meaning of life.
In the end of the book, Siddhartha learned that it’s not until we are lost that we begin to find and understand ourselves. Our quest for certainty blocks our search for meaning: Uncertainty is the very condition to impel us to unfold our powers, abilities, character, and goodness. Ultimately, like Siddhartha, what we decide is “how we are valuable,” not how valuable we are.
It’s a great thing to awaken from self-reflection…smart.
Outstanding response. Thank you for sharing all of the thoughts. Definitely a book to read and re-read. AD
Thanks Books. I appreciate your thoughtful response.
Dan, wonderful post as always – you’re dedication and motivation to our growth is heart warming and inspiring.
Just wondering where effectivenessactivator is these days…
I can send you his email if you like.
I like the points you raise. The points about embracing the dark, and reflection are valid. As always, balance is required. When I quit my job last year, I embraced the dark side a little too fully, and turned it into a long mope. I lost a year in the process. No one, these days, waits for a person who mopes!
great article Mr.Dan learning is growing!
Nice post Dan. I once let a dumb leader make me glum. It turned out to be a powerful learning experience – perhaps one of the most catalytic for my own growth, which in turn led me to discover and focus on realizing my own purpose in the world.
Recognizing that we all do dumb things, I particularly appreciate your point about staying with/having the courage to look at those things. That takes courage and a willingness to acknowledge our past failings.
Spooky! It’s like you know my old chief exec. I’d send him a link to this post but he just wouldn’t get it.
The only thing that doesn’t fit is that he seemed to have plenty of time for books, self-reflection and play. Sadly it was the first two of those that actually made him believe he was right.
It was like getting out from under a storm cloud. Everything feels clearer and fresher when it’s gone.
“Trying harder makes things worse when you’re doing the wrong things.” I have found this to be painful true in my life. From my sports days it was said “practice makes perfect”. I found that practicing the wrong things makes things worse, no matter how much I practice, I just get better at the wrong things. When I am trying hard and not making progress I attempt to pause for an evaluation to make sure what I am doing are the right things. Thanks for this great post.