Zen & Quality
Am finding Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance a moribund affair, I must confess. Interesting, but stagnant. I have never invested hours ruminating on the definition of ‘quality’ before, and indeed will never again. It’s of no surprise the author had a mental breakdown, and is actually relating an autobiography of sorts as he rides across America. It’s the minor nuances that plough on for pages that wear you out. As Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘crikey, he does go on a bit!’
It has though given my mind plenty of time to canter away to more interesting things, one of which was leadership discussed by hard-ass Navy Seal in the Tim Ferris and Jocko Willinck podcast. There were two key leadership skills according to Jocko: detachment and feedback. Incidentally, if you listen to the podcast, there is always an extended delay whenever the colossus Jocko answers a question, which makes Tim extremely uncomfortable – proper schadenfreude stuff!
Detachment comes in the form of stepping outside of yourself to review the situation more dispassionately. I love the idea of this, and it’s perhaps the slow inhale of breath and giving himself more time that Jacko is inherently practicing during the podcast. Take time to gather your thoughts, rid yourself of emotion, think before you speak. In a combat zone I guess this could be best summed up by the excellent Kipling ‘if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’, potentially saving your own life as well as others. Thankfully corporate offices are a little less exacting. For example, it’s been several weeks since a public execution was required for double-booking a meeting room.
Secondly Jocko thinks leaders constantly seek feedback and are always very ready to receive it, analysing, assessing and implementing. Simply, they listen and act accordingly. Despite the ardent beliefs of my girlfriend (hey darling!), I prefer to listen more than talk. As a leader, you can do one of two things: speak first, resulting in immediately coercing others to drive a general consensus; or speak last, letting others drive that general consensus. I use both, depending on what outcome I’m trying to achieve. An even better balance would be to perhaps split the topic at hand, asking different team members on sperate aspects so as not to pollute opinion. But that’s all very, erm, zen. The debate though would undoubtedly be of the highest quality.
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