Holidays are an excellent time to catch-up with my reading, so I have just had a very stimulating week reading Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional”. I’ve previously enjoyed Yeung’s books on networking, and emotional intelligence, and picked this one up at random, not really knowing what to expect.
It’s a gem! Like his other books it’s extremely readable – with anecdotal illustrations from the many exceptional people that he has interviewed, backed up by references from the literature, exercises to start developing our own capabilities for being exceptional and summaries at the end of each chapter in case we missed anything.
I would strongly recommend everyone to read this book, but in the meantime, here’s my own interpretive summary.
(By the way, the key capabilities in this book are aimed at individuals, but many would apply to businesses or teams – so I’ll be writing the next issue of my company newsletter based on this too. Look out for ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ on http://riverrheeconsulting.wordpress.com)
Banishing the Monday morning blues (authenticity)
I’m always sad when I come across people who feel glum or worse at the start of the working week. I’ve wondered if I’m naïve to think that people have a choice: that they could take the plunge and go for something different.
Rob Yeung backs me up: he calls this ‘authenticity’ and suggests that we should absolutely be true to ourselves and find work that is inspiring: what we enjoy most and are good at. It’s what will help us feel fulfilled and, whilst doing it, put us ‘in the flow’ – where time just goes by without us noticing. If we find and do what is authentic to us, Yeung maintains that the money will follow!
Being ‘authentic’ does not necessarily mean completely changing what we’re doing – it may be possible to craft a current job or role to bring it closer to what we enjoy doing the most. This relates to other blogs that I’ve written about taking a self-employed attitude when working for an employer. Fostering this may also lead to greater employee engagement and empowerment.
Having a vision
The idea of writing a business or team vision is well established – that of writing one for ourselves as individuals is less so. Yeung makes a strong case for both developing and writing down our personal vision.
A vision acts as a framework for our ‘authenticity’. It helps us create work-life balance so that we give enough time to all the things that are important to us: family, friends, physical health, social activities or anything else, as well as our work. It helps us enjoy the ‘here and now’ and avoid ‘destination fixation’. And it puts our shorter term goals into a longer term context so that we can make sure we don’t get inappropriately side-tracked.
Up till now my personal vision has been very much in my head – but I’ll be writing it down, referring to it and refreshing it as Yeung suggests. I’ve written my first draft.
I’m following a different order in describing these capabilities than the one in the book, because I believe that finding our area of ‘authenticity’, and then putting it within the context of a personal vision gives us the focus from which everything else can flow. Daring is then all about taking action: pursuing opportunities that come our way even if they’re scary, but with the conviction that they’re the right thing to do – as I did in starting my own business!
Being daring is about doing things that we would otherwise regret not having done. But it’s also about articulating these daring activities as individual goals, with specific measures (so we know when we’ve succeeded), timelines (to avoid procrastination), and a series of steps that we can follow one at a time and so maintain and build our motivation as each step succeeds.
I love Yeung’s suggestion of having a ‘setback manifesto’, so that we can constructively review what’s happened if things go wrong, identify actions to take to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence, and know how to behave if something similar happens again!
All the ‘C’s
Yeung describes 5 other capabilities of exceptional people, which would seem to ‘feed’ and sustain our authenticity.
Curiosity or ‘awe’ enables us to develop our knowledge, pick up new ideas, be more creative. In a work situation this is what enables us to ‘work smarter not harder’: solve problems more effectively and innovate. Yeung encourages us to read widely – not only in our area of expertise, but across disciplines too. Incidentally he challenges the group approach to brainstorming, saying it is less effective than individual brainstorming and suggesting a new (4-tier) model, which combines the two. I will definitely be trying this different approach with teams.
Connecting with people to achieve diversity in our contacts, but with an emphasis on ‘netfriending’ rather than ‘networking’ so that we build relationships with the people that we get to know. Yeung talks about ‘seeking the spark’ with people where connecting comes easily rather than forcing ourselves to try building relationships with everyone we meet. He also reminds us that making connections with people can come through speaking at and running events or courses, writing, joining committees, going to conferences etc. not just attending pure networking events. For those working within an organisation, connecting can come from going to lunch with people, joining task forces, or simply stopping by to say hello to colleagues.
Cherishing is about building that rapport with people; having the emotional intelligence to put ourselves in other people’s shoes; really listening to others and giving them space to express themselves. Yeung also encourages us to look for the ‘3rd way’ in conflict situations in that both people could be right in their views, and the way forward could build on both views, rather than on only one or the other.
Centredness is also a form of emotional intelligence. In this case it’s about developing our inner calm; cultivating more positive than negative inner thoughts; recognising that ‘thoughts are just thoughts’; and developing a mindfulness or focus on the here and now. Yeung has some very helpful exercises on how we can help ourselves feel better about both short-term and more serious emotional setbacks.
Citizenship is all about integrity, being a responsible member of our community, and respecting the environment (sustainability). It’s about focusing on our personal legacy and managing our reputation. Without it, all the other efforts we might make at being exceptional could be wiped out!
“E is for Exceptional” has been an inspirational book. There are lots of ideas that I have taken away for developing my own capabilities, and I’m looking forward to exploring how these ideas can be applied to ‘Creating Exceptional Teams’ in my RiverRhee Consulting newsletter. Hopefully some of you will also pick up Rob Yeung’s book, and/or follow my newsletter.
I do hope that anyone suffering from Monday morning blues will discover a way to banish them forever, and will be daring enough to follow it through!
[Footnote. It’s interesting to compare Rob Yeung’s “E is for Exceptional” with Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “The 8th Habit – From Effectiveness to Greatness” – there is a strong overlap in the capabilities covered between them and I may re-read Covey’s books in that light on my next holiday! I would also mention Michael Bungay Stanier’s “Do more great work” as another easy to read, exercise based approach for helping you to find your ‘authenticity’. I wrote a blog some time ago (Building Strong Personal Careers) inspired by “The 8th Habit” and “Do More Great Work” which readers might also find interesting.]
Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge and change management. Follow the links to find out about how Elisabeth Goodman and RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.
Read Elisabeth Goodman’s blog for more discussions on topics covered by this blog.