I was UK based this week. I visited a partner company Monday and Tuesday and worked as normal rest of the week. I managed to have dinner with friends who I work with on both Monday and Tuesday evenings. Both dinners and the visit were engaging and thought provoking…as well as enjoyable and fun.
We talked work and family. Leadership and followership. Science and strategy. Europe and America. We managed to avoid sport. We laughed and I learned.
At both dinners I found myself offering an opinion. It’s a subtlety (of value to me at least) but I differentiate offering opinions from offering advice. My opinions are what I think or believe (today…they can and do change)…if anyone takes heed of my opinion I am flattered and delighted. Offering advice always sounds more like giving direction or guidance…recommending a course of action.
All we can do…in whatever role we have…is to always do the best we can do.
I know. It sounds obvious. When would any of us ever not do the best we can do? When we are worrying too much about what other people want, or expect, us to do.
I find myself with decisions to make or actions to take, all the time. We all do. I have to do the right thing for the right reasons. If I find myself wondering what others may want me to do, or whether others will be happy, impressed or disappointed then I am less likely to do the best I can do.
The first choice I have to make is whether this is a decision I can make alone. Do I have enough information and experience…or do I need to involve others. Even if it is my decision to make – my responsibility – there is nothing wrong (and everything good) with me seeking additional insights or opinions. There are so often facts of which I am unaware, or aspects I have not seen. It is so easy and always so helpful to involve others. And of course involving others is an excellent way of finding out what they would…so much easier than worrying or guessing. And then it is time to decide and time to act.
Which lead to my second belief – that it is essential to learn from every decision we make and action we take.
I know, again…it sounds obvious. But I do it all the time. Alone or with others. What did I want, or expect, to happen? What did happen? Why (or why not)? And what will I do differently next time. It is an analysis loop that can take seconds or minutes or even hours. It is how I try to grow and how I try to improve. It can be formal or informal. I always find it thought provoking and engaging. Almost addictive.
And I know it works for me. When I look back at decisions I made or actions I took some time ago – decisions that I know at that time were the best possible – I am always surprised, often amazed and sometime embarrassed. What was I thinking? Sometimes the outcome will have been so much better than we dared to expect. Other times not as good. But this is why identifying and taking the learning is so important. This is what growth looks like.
Offering these opinions over dinner gave me opportunity to learn from my friends. I gave them examples about me – my decisions and my learnings – but in situations they both knew. Both listened and neither laughed (much). Both then told me what they thought. And I immediately learned even more.