Pursue What Matters
Episode 234: Book Review – On Managing Yourself
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
So much about life is learning to manage yourself? Well, it’s been the focus of our series on cultivating curiosity. And today, I have an excellent book to share with you on this very topic.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:12
I am Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we have been talking all about the secret power, the secret weapon of curiosity, for life, so we’re talking specifically about leadership, but for sure, Curiosity is a powerful tool in every area of your life. And why is that? So? If you haven’t listened to this series, you might go back to the beginning and check out the one that started it all on curiosity. Why is curiosity a secret weapon. So the in a nutshell, curiosity turns us toward our experience, it turns us towards self awareness, it turns us toward our bodily experience, right, which is how we experience the world. And so much of our lives are designed to turn us away from self awareness, we are bombarded with so many images and sights and sounds that are designed to distract and pull at our attention. All of these things, if we’re not careful, take us further from ourselves. And so curiosity in a very real way, is a tool that helps us to turn towards our own experience, to cultivate stillness to cultivate self awareness. Because if you can’t turn towards your, your internal experience, how do you know what’s best for you, whether that’s from intuition, whether that’s to sleep, right, it shows up in so many ways. And so it’s so important, it is really a foundation for learning to manage yourself. Wow. And so, you know, I hope that this series is helpful for you today, you know, at the end of each month, I always do a book review. And I’ve got a great book to share today, it’s a little bit different from traditional books, right, like, usually we’ve got a book by one author, with a coherent theme. And while this book definitely has a very compelling, coherent theme, it’s actually by multiple authors. And so this is a book that I came across during my MBA program. And it is by HBR.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:52
So the Harvard Business Review, and if you’ve, if you have any exposure to the world of business, or you’ve done an MBA, you’re very familiar with the Harvard Business Review. So you know, in the course of my program, we were always doing Harvard Business Review cases, it’s one of the most important ways that you learn, it’s a really great way to learn, because you jump into a company and a specific issue and do a lot of problem solving and analysis. And so the Harvard Business Review has been, you know, around for a long time. And they put out books based on some of their most compelling articles in the Harvard Business Review. And this is a book based on that. And so it’s HB Rs 10, must read. And they do this. I don’t know how often they do it. But I always appreciate this series, because I know that if I check out one of these books, it’s really going to have a great collection of articles on a specific theme that are going to be helpful to me and my leadership. And so this is one that came out in 2010. And before you say, Gosh, that’s too old, I promise you it’s relevant. That is the thing about the HBR’s must-reads, they work with principles, and some of the timeless principles that make for effective leaders that make for effective business management. And I promise you, it’s just as relevant today as it was when it came out. And so this, the the title of this book is on managing your self. And so as mentioned, it is a collection of some of the best Harvard Business Review articles on that topic. And so it’s as if you read nothing else on managing yourself, read these definitive articles from the Harvard Business Review. And so just a little bit more about the book, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:49
So we’ve combed through hundreds of her Harvard Business Review articles, to select the most important ones to help you maximize yourself and so this goes really well with our theme Right, you need to make sure that you’re leading yourself while you’re managing yourself well, before you can really be effective in leading others. And so you know, this book will inspire you to stay engaged throughout your work life, right. And for most of us, we’re going to spend at least 50 years of our lives working, it’s really good to be engaged and self aware about that. Tap into your deepest values. Certainly, that’s incredibly helpful. Solicit candid feedback. So of course, we need feedback to grow and to develop ourselves and to manage ourselves more effectively replenish physical and mental energy. That’s a big one. That’s something we’ve been talking a lot about in this series. And actually, always, it’s a big theme of the podcast, balance, work home community itself, spread positive energy throughout your organization. Think about that for just a minute. Think about different organizations that you’ve worked in. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s someone else can you can, can you think of someone who they just spread positive energy throughout your organization? Boy, as I think about my career, I, you know, a few people come to mind and like, I’m really grateful as I think about the organization that I’m at. Now, though, the one that I founded, we have, I can think of a few people on our team that are like that. It’s not me, but they absolutely spread positive energy throughout the organization. And it just it, I feel joyful when I see them. They are such a team player, they have a great attitude. They’re real, they’re they’re not afraid to bring up concerns. In fact, they’re very proactive and direct about that. But boy, these are, these are the energy holders in an organization. And so we we want to be those energy holders, we want to be part of spreading that positive energy and, you know, genuine connection to values, and it makes it’s a game changer for the whole organization. And then another topic is rebound from tough times. I think most of us can relate to that, regardless of what’s going on in our life, and then decrease distractibility and Frenzy boy, and not frenzy where it doesn’t that just kind of make you anxious.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:24
How do we how do we move into more proactive stance, and then delegate and develop employees initiatives? So that’s a bit about this book, of course, I’m not going to talk to you about all the authors, because there are multiple authors, these are articles. But I do just want to, I want to highlight the first article that they have in this book on managing yourself, because I think it’s it just fits so nicely with everything that we’ve been talking about. And really, I think, gives us the very valuable perspective for how we think about ourselves, our careers, our relationships with others. And so this is an article that was written by Clayton Christensen. So he was, he was a faculty member at the Harvard Business School for many years. He is now deceased, I think he died of cancer not too long ago, incredible man, I have had the privilege of listening to him speak locally in Utah. He’s originally from Utah. So he kind of has a little bit of that hometown connection. But as mentioned, he’s been on the faculty of h of the Harvard Business School for many years, and he’s a best selling author. He really wrote a lot about the innovators dilemma, in fact, coined that term. And so his ideas have really created very important shifts within the business world. So, you know, in a nutshell, he’s been incredibly successful, and incredibly influential in the world of business. And, you know, one of the things that he often spoke about, is this idea, this question of how will you measure your life. And so I always appreciated that because here was a very high achieving influential business mind, who was not afraid to talk about what’s most important to each of us, which is our relationships, and our sense of purpose. And he in many ways, he made it okay for the business world to talk about these things and to consider these things. And so he really, he broke a lot of ground in many ways, not just in his great incredible work around innovation, but also in his willingness to talk about personal purpose to talk about spirituality and faith and really You know, very compelling stuff.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:01
So I wanted to share a few highlights from this article. And these are some of the lessons that he’s learned over his career. And as he has taught 1000s of students in the Harvard Business School. So one of the things that he said that, you know, one of the recommendations that he makes, and he gives an example of this, is don’t tell people what to think. Instead, teach them how to think. So, you know, this is something right that, especially in leadership positions, it’s so easy to get pulled into a position of the one that has the answers, not that that’s true, but it’s this hierarchical power and authority. And sometimes, right experience and expertise makes it easy for people to come to you with questions. And I’m not saying for one minute that we shouldn’t be a resource, and we shouldn’t be really helpful for people, of course, we should. But when it comes to decision making, and critical thinking, we really do people a disservice if we simply give them the answers. And so one of the things really pay attention to is can we help people to to learn how to think critically about a problem, it’s so much easier just to give them the answer. But then they’re going to keep coming back to you again and again, with their questions. And they’re not going to develop the critical thinking skills that they need to be able to be problem solvers. And I don’t know about you, but I want an organization of problem solvers. I want an organization of critical thinkers. And so, you know, one of the recommendations that Christiansen makes, and certainly one that I have for you and try to practice in, in my own work is, you know, when there’s a consultation or a question, write a problem, to be able to take a step back and say, Okay, help me understand the problem. And let’s think through it together, instead of just giving the answer, it’s so easy to give the answer. And I have found myself, I just have to, like bite my tongue, and not jump right in, because often the answer is really clear to me. But I’m also missing context, right? Like, I might not know the situation, as well as I think I do. And so this role of being the expert can be kind of dangerous and undermining. And so instead of that, we really want to take a step back and understand the situation. And then one of the things I always try to start with is, what do you think is the best course of action, right? Because the person coming to you with questions, probably have some thoughts about it, they’ve thought about it. And that’s one of the reasons they’re seeking out consultation. And, you know, if you have a team approach, getting, getting a few people thinking about it can be really helpful. And so, when it comes to teaching, and guiding and leading, don’t tell people what to think, instead, teach them how to think and this is where we’re really cultivating critical thinking skills within our organization. And so, you know, one of the things that Christiansen says is that when people ask what I think they should do, I rarely answer their question their question directly. Instead, I run the question aloud through one of my models. And then he talks about how he, how he visits with people to really help them to generate some critical thinking skills. And so, you know, we really want to resist giving people answers about what they should do. Instead, we want to help them think through a question critically, they’re on their answers will often be better than the answer that you would have given them. And so again, I’m not saying that, you know, you don’t help.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:55
But the key is a lot of leaders see themselves as problem solvers. And it’s a bigger problem is that a lot of people in their organization, see the leader as problem solvers, rather than everyone within the organization should be a problem solver. Right? And so again, it’s not about not supporting people and not collaborating. But it’s actually about driving collaboration and critical thinking to say, hey, let’s think through this together. And so that can be really helpful. And then, you know, I just want to share a couple other things from this article. So he talks about, you know, he’s been teaching he taught students for years and at the on the last day of class, he asks students to turn everything that they’ve learned towards themselves and so it’s really a turn towards self reflection, and he asked them three questions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:51
First, how can I be sure I’ll be happy in my career, right? You’re gonna spend 50 years and you’re, you’re working so we should really Be thinking about this. And second, how can I be sure that my relationships with my family become an enduring source of happiness? So write that balance? And then third, how can I be sure I’ll stay out of jail? Right? So this is a love that question, and is really about integrity and ethics? And how do we say on the right line of that? And so he takes some time and answer some of these questions, or expounds on them, or gives us some recommendations for how we can think about them. And he shares some information from Frederick Hertzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money. It’s the opportunity to learn, grow and responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements. And I think most of us know that is true, right? Like, we need to have a baseline amount of money for security. But beyond that, more money does not bring us more happiness, more well being in fact, it can actually undermine all of that, because we are pursuing something that’s not designed to create well being. And so he gives a really great answer to this question from in the answer is really from Herzberg that, it’s really the opportunity to learn. So if you want to be happy in your work for 50 years, you better find a way to keep learning. And I can tell you that that I have absolutely seen that for people, when people don’t keep learning, they get stele, they get despondent, they lose their sense of purpose, for why they went into the work in the first place. And so you should always be constantly learning, there should be something that you’re excited about that sparking your interest. Right now, I am super excited and interested in not only psychedelic medicine, but also polyvagal theory. And I see so many applications, and clinical work, but also in the work of leadership. And so it’s something you know, it’s great to have something that you’re learning about because it it helps you to be excited about going to work and about thinking about how can we how can we apply some of this learning into our own work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:19
The second thing is grow in responsibilities, right? This is something that our world has totally wrong. We live in a very self-indulgent world, where the message is, Do what makes you happy. And don’t worry about anything else. So it is the antithesis of responsibility. But eons of human history, in addition to decades of research, because right there are more than one way of knowing sciences but one. But all of this history plus research really points to a very important truth. That is, that’s not not a popular thought in our society right now. And it is a thought that, that we’re actively being taught the opposite of which is responsibility is the pathway to well being the degree of responsibility we can take in our lives, will bring a sense of purpose and joy and meaning and you don’t have to look any further than parenting. We know that parenting isn’t an activity that everyone engages in. And it doesn’t mean of course, that you can’t have a meaningful life or a life of well being without that. But parenting is a good example of something that requires a ton of responsibility. And so, take on responsibility where you can, you will grow you will be better, you will help others right, you will contribute to others. And that is the path of well being. And then the the last two recommendations are contribute to others, right? I’ve just mentioned now serving others, you’ve got to serve a purpose greater than yourself, and then to be recognized for our achievements. That’s important to each of us. So think about that. If you’re in a leadership role, it’s important that people are acknowledged for their achievements for their contribution. And so we think about, you know, there are so many great ways to do that. And so we want to be mindful of that in our in our organizations.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:26
So, you know, one of the conclusions that he makes, and I think this is interesting, I think this is not something that we often hear about either, but he says my conclusion management is the most noble of professions, if it’s practice, well, no other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility, and be recognized for achievement and contribute to the success of a team. So if you notice there, he worked in all of those components from Hertzberg and you know, if you can think about Your role as a manager or as a leader, right manager sometimes gets a bad rap or a bad rap. But it’s it’s a very important role and responsibility. But when done well, leading others, managing others, helps them to grow to their potential helps others to develop careers that are satisfying, right? So not only are you creating a satisfying career for yourself, but you’re making that more likely for others, by the role you take in their lives. And I think that is just so cool. It’s such a virtuous cycle. And then, let’s talk about the second question, which is, how can I ensure that my relationship with my family proves to be an enduring source of happiness? And so, you know, I think the simple answer, the first answer is, make sure that you’re prioritizing them. If your entire focus becomes on getting ahead in your career, your family will suffer, like guaranteed, without a doubt, we have so much evidence of this, if you just look at people in your lives, when we prioritize our careers, or anything else, actually, to the exclusion of our family, our family suffers, we need to cultivate our relationships. And so, you know, he talks about something that he had seen over the course of his career is that many people that he went to school with or that he knew over the years, they didn’t keep the purpose of their lives, front and center, as they decided how to spend their time, talents and energy. And so they let other things get in the way. And they didn’t take time to reflect on the purpose of their lives to reflect deeply on what is my purpose.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:47
And one of the things that Christiansen did for himself. And I don’t know what what point in this career in his career, he did this, but he didn’t want to lose this purpose. And so he decided to spend an hour every single night reading, thinking, and for him, he’s a deeply religious man, praying about why God put him on this earth. And he said, that priority helped him to keep things straight, as he then went out into the world. And he was able to apply his knowledge of the purpose of his life every day. And just think about that, if you have the purpose of your life front and center, it brings so much clarity when it comes to decision making. You decide what you’re not going to do and, and what you are going to do. And it makes those decisions much easier. He said, You know, he could have spent an hour a night reading research articles. And he probably, you know, probably would have really helped him to become, you know, better with, you know, domain specific knowledge. But he, he said that he felt like that could have absolutely steered him off course, and away from his most important values around family, and around faith. And so, you know, if it’s easy for us to say that we prioritize our family, right, and that those relationships are important to us. I think we all agree with that. But look at the details of your life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:21
How much time are you spending with your family? Is there evidence of that love and that care in your life, and often that comes through time through dedication, or through cultivating meaningful relationships with them. And so if you don’t have any time with them, if you if you don’t know what’s going on in their lives, you need to reassess that question because you might not be as on target as you would like to be or that you think you are. And so he says, Your decisions about allocating your personal time, energy and talent ultimately shape your life strategies. And that’s really what we’ve been talking about with all this series, like what are the activities that really helped to cultivate well being self awareness, self leadership. And so you know, he really encourages us to be very clear about how we approach that. And so again, being intentional being proactive, makes a big difference. And he said that many troubles relate right back to a short term perspective, right? So we do what is expedient or what feels urgent, but may not be important, and you know, almost always our loved ones are the ones that suffer from that because they love us, they’ll be patient with us. But we need to be careful about that because we will lose those relationships. And so that let’s let’s talk about the third question, which is how do I stay out of jail, right, which is all about this question of integrity. And he really talks about, you know, creating a culture of integrity. Reading a culture where we, we are forced, right? We don’t cut corners on our integrity. And, you know, really, really make sure that we’re, we’re careful about, about always telling the truth, right, like, that sounds so basic, but there are so many ways that we fall out of that integrity. And so, you know, he says one of the concerns that he’s seen with people is that they make exceptions, they’ll say just this once. And, you know, whether it’s around, you know, being away from home during important activities, or missing a lot of his faith worship, you know, he said he, he could, he could look at those situations and say, This is just one time, it’s not going to be that big of a deal. But he said, as he looks back on his career, his career has been an unending stream of extenuating circumstances. And so for him holding that wine, and being really clear about what he would and would not do help to save him from a lot of difficult decisions down the road. And so you’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for, and draw the line in a safe place. And right, of course, that’s a personal determination. But then he wraps up with talking about the importance of humility, and that, you know, in order to be effective in your life, to manage yourself, well.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:33
Humility is key. Because humility keeps us open to learning. It keeps us open to feedback. And, you know, this is a really great article, I think it’s it’s such a good refresh, maybe it’s something you read once a year. And then of course, the rest of the book is really excellent as well. I talked about some of the themes there. So many of the articles are very practical, and giving you specific tools and others are reflective. So there’s a really nice balance there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:02
So head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/234-managingyourself. So again, that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/234-managingyourself. And of course, I’d love to connect with you on Instagram @dr.melissasmith I always have more resources related to the podcast there. And in the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember, love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai