Leading a team is a lot like being a long-distance runner. Leadership and marathons have a lot in common. They both require preparation, endurance, a strong — but humble — understanding of your capabilities, and a realistic sense of where you have room for improvement.
Athletes turn to a host of tools to get them in tip-top shape, and leaders can do the same. Over the years, I’ve found myself turning again and again to some great resources, thinkers, and creatives to help me along my path — and to help my clients.
Below are some pragmatic, practical resources I recommend to any leader looking to improve their game, so to speak. I hope you find them as helpful as I do!
Brené Brown and Patrick Lencioni
I love virtually everything both of these authors have produced. But I’m a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, in particular. Everything Brené Brown has written is gold, and her TED Talks on shame and vulnerability are a must-see for every human, especially leaders.
Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes
William Bridges’s book is renowned for its ability to help people handle significant transitions in life, both positive (college or marriage) as well as negative (death, divorce, getting fired). It’s been named one of the fifty most important self-help and personal development books of all time.
Bridges says that every transition begins with an ending and travels back to the beginning through what he calls the neutral zone. According to Bridges, “People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. It is the very core of the transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what their new roles will be. They are in flux and may feel confusion and distress. The neutral zone is the seedbed for new beginnings.”
The problem for Americans isn’t that we deny there’s an ending — it’s that we jump from the ending to the beginning without taking time and doing the necessary work that occurs in the neutral zone.
We see this in people who end up job hunting because they’ve hated their last seven bosses. We see it in people who divorce and marry spouses just like the one prior.
If we don’t take time in the neutral zone to see differently and let something different and new in, we end up seeing the same thing and repeating the same mistakes.
The Level 10 Meeting Agenda
Entrepreneurial Operating System® has asked this same question of every business owner they’ve interviewed: how would you rate the effectiveness of your meetings on a scale of one to ten? The average answer is four.
So EOS developed the Level 10 Meeting Agenda which helps leaders to run a more effective meeting. Check out this great eight-minute video to learn all about it.
Notes from the Universe
I’ll be honest: I’m a little obsessed with Mike Dooley’s Notes from the Universe. I subscribe to this daily email, and it’s the one thing in my inbox that I’ll never NOT read. When I open my email, I panic if it’s not there. Mike’s Notes are short. And they’re beautiful.
When you subscribe, you fill out a profile, and that helps Mike to personalize the notes he sends you. Notes from the Universe is, without question, my little dose of mindfulness and zen for the day.
Favorite Song Lyrics
This last one might be a little surprising. It’s not an app or a book or a podcast. It’s song lyrics.
I find myself referencing a handful of favorite songs again and again — for good reason. Music is so universal. And the stories told through song often speak to shared worries, joys, or heartbreaks of just about anyone who listens to them.
One example is from Joshua Kadison’s “Invisible Man.”
It’s no big thing, no revelation,
No answer to these lives we lead.
But I think I do know one thing:
Sometimes I think we all need to say,
“Here I am, here I am, here I am,”
When life makes us feel like the invisible man.
Lights went on, people started yelling,
“Will the crazy man go back to bed?”
And there I was, laughing out my window,
Feeling much better now, somebody heard what I said.
I love this song because it speaks to the universal human need to be seen. When we feel invisible and unseen, we get lost. Kadison’s song reminds us that we’re not alone in our need to be seen and heard.
Another song that echoes a similar sentiment is Jason Isbell’s “Alabama Pines.” He sings, “Hardly even know my name anymore / When no one calls it out, it kind of vanishes away.”
We disappear when we feel like we’re invisible to the world.
In the work I do, I try to help managers and leaders recognize what others may be experiencing, how we can see them, and how we can help them to feel seen.
After all, as Dale Carnegie put it, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”