Last week, I attended the Virginia Council of CEOs Retreat at The Homestead in Warm Springs, VA. It was a great event set in stunning outdoor surroundings, featuring excellent ideas for improving a company. I learned the importance of letting things go, saying "thank you" more, and feeding forward. Don't worry, I'll explain.
I've attended the Retreat every year for the last decade, and it dawned on me this week that I've changed my approach over time. I used to attend the event, write everything down, treat every keynote and breakout session as critically important and would come home planning to implement everything that I had learned. As you can imagine, I usually ended up implementing very little. If everything's important, then nothing's important.
Over time, I've come to appreciate the notion of picking up a few ideas and trying to implement them. In 2015, we implemented our Mission, Vision, and Values process (still going strong). 2016 saw us adopt planning around the 12-Week Year (also still doing well). This year I decided to come home with a better method to plan out our 12-Week Year sprints.
After attending a session by Randle Raggio from the University of Richmond, I feel much better about leading our team through the strategic planning process. I even kept my notes confined to a small pad of paper from the hotel room to prevent me from writing too much down and suffering from the dreaded "seminar effect" upon returning home (fantastic ideas from a conference often collide with real life and go nowhere).
An unexpected, but welcome, lesson came from Dr. Marshall Goldsmith (http://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/about/) on the second day of the Retreat. Dr. Goldsmith exhorted us to resist the urge to be “right” and “win” all the time. "Let it go," he said. "Say thank you.”
Easier said than done. I found myself reflecting back on his talk on the drive home. As I daydreamed, my buddy Jyot warned me about a car braking suddenly in front of us. "Thank you," I said. I realized that without Dr. Goldsmith’s talk, I would've felt self-defensive about being called out. I felt the urge rising up in me to be right… to win. "Thank you," I said. For me, remembering to say "thank you" was my win. Maybe Dr. Goldsmith knew that. What a clever, simple device to achieve harmony at home and work. Imagine never proving your significant other wrong again or making one of your employees feel bad about making a mistake. So far this week, I've "let it go" 17 times and lost count of the number of times I've said "thank you." Thank you, Dr. Goldsmith!
Another clever technique Dr. Goldsmith taught us revolved around giving feedback based on future performance versus dwelling on the past. There's an old aviation adage that says, "All the sky above you and all the fuel back at the airport won't do you any good." Feedback based on past performance invites hurt feelings and bruised egos. Future feedback (Dr. Goldsmith calls this the FeedForward method) can be done in a safe environment and invites candor. He frames it very simply by changing the question from "How did I do over the last two months?" to "Based on the last two months, what should I be doing over the next two months?" I love the change in voice because it's much more likely to generate the kind of feedback you want.
Are you willing to let it go, say "thank you," and FeedForward? I am.
Stay frosty and see you in the field.