“I’m afraid if I stay in the same place whenever I’m in a familiar locale, my mind will stop expanding, my neurotransmitters will get smaller and smaller, and so will my whole world.” Jean Anne Costa, MSW
My wife, Jean Anne, writes a weekly blog that shares her wisdom in the form of powerful affirmations http://creatingpositiveaffirmations.blogspot.com . I think Jean’s comment above leads us to a question whose answers can have significant effects upon our personal and business lives: How do we expand our perspective, our ability to form accurate judgments, and have the confidence of knowing that we are expanding our mind’s ability to function well?
Niccolo Machiavelli in his renowned tutorial The Prince (1513) provides one clue as to whether leaders are aware of their intrinsic limitations and thereby open to advice–certainly one way of expanding our mind’s abilities. According to Nick, the 16th century leadership coach, you simply need to observe the types of individuals who surround “The Prince.” So true. How often do we see or read of leaders who surround themselves with toadies and sycophants–pathological yes-men. No wise help coming from those guys and gals.
The fact is that lots of executives (I wouldn’t call them leaders) believe that their position in an organization, their status of sorts, is only secure when others view them as the smartest fish in the pond. So how do they insure their perpetual security? Acting out of fear, they stock the pond with fish that can barely swim.
That doesn’t work well. More than seventy years ago the legendary Dale Carnegie told us that we “win friends and influence people” by recognizing that we don’t have to be the smartest engineer in order to head the engineering department. In my experience, great leaders are far more impressed by the department head that brings superstars, rather than bench-warmers, into the organization. Besides, stakeholders—us!–only trust people or departments that are competent. When was the last time you had trust in a doctor or financial advisor who didn’t appear competent?
Make no mistake, at every level of an organization surrounding yourself with the most talented individuals you can recruit labels you as a self-confident leader–someone who can be trusted to do the best job possible. But one more thing self-confident leaders do is to encourage and show off their top-notch people. We all know people who insist on being the only contact with top management. Chain of command, and all that!
When I was a senior executive, I told my direct reports that if I had a question and knew who in their department had the answer, expect me to call on that person directly. I simply didn’t have the time or the inclination to follow the chain of command. It was always interesting to see who expressed verbally or through their body language any discomfort with that plan of action. But by giving your staff ever-increasing responsibility, you allow others to get the word out that you work with only the best. That’s excellent on the face of it, but it also causes the perceived trust in your judgment to be geometrically enhanced! And everyone’s confidence rises and their fears subside when they see you seeking the best advice around you time and time again—this kind of predictability is anything but boring!
How does this “expanding my neurotransmitters” idea work in our personal lives? In his classic memoir of life at the pond, Walden (1854), Henry David Thoreau identifies the person who forever enhances his or her knowledge and understanding of how the world works. After declaring the morning to be “the most memorable season of the day,” that hour when we are “awakened by our Genius,” he notes that, “To him whose elastic and vigorous thoughts keep pace with the sun, the day is a perpetual morning.” Wondrous stuff—and true indeed!
Joel Osteen recently gave a homily that spoke to exactly how our thoughts keep pace with the sun. To paraphrase his prescription, if you are the smartest person in your group of friends and associates, you need to expand that group. You need to frequent the thoughts and teachings of folks who are smarter, more creative than you are! To conjure up new and exciting dreams, you need to explore your world to find more dream-makers! If you think about it, the notion of surrounding yourself with the most competent individuals you can snag either at work or in your personal life is an act of supreme self-confidence as well as a sign of a healthy ego. In the eyes of most, that action is starkly different from how so many attempt to polish their image while swimming tight circles in a pool of mediocrity.
My friends, follow this advice and enhanced status in your organization as well as new and wondrous dreams and experiences can’t be far off! And even more important, you’ll be able to measure the perennial growth and expansion of your own neurotransmitters by the increase in the number of inquisitive, intelligent, positive people in your circle. Count them and count on them, too. They will awaken your Genius in ways you’ve never imagined. You’ll have proof that a newly awakened mind is the most fun of all!