This short essay explores difficult and unpopular character traits that I personally try to attain each day. I admit they are not easy. Not only are they hard to achieve personally, but it is quite a challenge to encourage the people that I lead to hold similar values as each one of us has a different life experience and lens through which to view the world. With compassion for the human experience I write this not as dogma but as an essay in encouragement and ideas from my own personal experience as an owner and businessman working with very smart people in this exciting, accelerating age we are immersed in.
The character traits are:
- Attention to Details
- Radical Personal Responsibility
- Extreme Ownership
- Your Job as a Craft
- Owning Your Own Presence
I wrote an article about human error the other day (read it on LinkedIn and the RedZone blog) and sent it to my employees as a reminder to be aware as they do their IT Security work for our customers. In short, my business helps companies with IT Security. The article is about the self-inflicted problem of human error being the leading cause of breaches right now across the industry. Human errors causing problems is not new to IT Security, however it is interesting to look at other industries, like hospitals for example, who for years have had to come up with ways to mitigate human error with treating patients.
I have been reading a book about ‘checklists’ being used as a way to mitigate human error. The book titled “The Checklist Manifesto” in particular has been useful as the author is a surgeon and has clearly demonstrated that for virtually no cost, human errors caused by complexity can be mitigated with a checklist.
- Are you paying attention to details?
- Are you really concentrating?
- Are you taking radical personal responsibility?
- Are you taking extreme ownership?
- Are you approaching your job as a craft?
- Do you own your own presence?
People who do this stand out. They stand out above all others. For these individuals, there is no competition for pay and promotion. There is none at all! I am talking stratosphere beyond the pack. You Inc. You are a mini business within a business. This is how your employer should look at you and how you should look at yourself. You are a product. You are the sum of a quality statement that you are making in each moment.
I look at everyone as having stratosphere capability and the ability to operate at a level personally and professionally that makes others say WOW!
What fixes human error?
Checklists and detailed processes help enormously.
They are probably needed in the most complicated areas of work that humans are engaged in since repetitive cognitive tasks are freed up for higher level thinking (at least in theory anyway).
However, I can tell you we will never have a checklist for caring.
It won’t happen. Now, if you are a business owner or an executive in charge of customer service for example, the argument can be made that if someone writes out a checklist of specific and highly defined tasks in your business each week that would make customers happy then this would be great…right?
These steps might even be tied to a vision of radical service, however following this process can’t ensure that these steps are done with care, empathy, and concern.
I can say “do an audit checklist for a task, process, or procedure” but I can’t guarantee that it is done with attention and concentration to make sure that potential errors are identified and made visible.
I can say that “phones must be answered like it is Jesus Christ himself calling in”, but I can’t truly control how they are answered because at the end of the day the person picking up the phone has to decide what impact they are going to make in the life of the person calling in.
If you are running late to an appointment, a company can mandate that you must call the customer/employer to let them know you are running late. When this happens to you, do you call? Do you give an excuse? Do you give an excuse, even if it is untrue?
A quick lesson from someone like me, who is late to most things:
When I call I say, “listen I am late because I left the house late. I am late because I did NOT account for traffic. Or I am late because I am flat out late…..” no excuses. Late plus+ an excuse does NOT make you ‘on time’. My point is take radical responsibility for everything! Most people will appreciate it.
Extreme ownership makes you stand out with yourself, customers, spouse, your employer, etc. Guaranteed!
Try this thought experiment:
- If you were hired by the President of the United States for one week, what would be your level of concentration?
- If you were on a team in Afghanistan providing IT support, what would your level of focus be?
- What is the level of concentration that a surgeon must have in the middle of an operation?
- What if you were in charge of IT during a space shuttle launch – would you need a cup of coffee on launch day?
Being forced into the moment undoubtedly enhances concentration. By comparison, when you are doing a repetitive task it is unlike the more extreme examples I have listed above. However, you do have times when you are highly energized and focused, times that you care deeply. You need to record and notice these enhanced moments of awareness so that you can learn how to replicate them.
Three Checklist Items to Make Sure You are Doing Each Day:
- Exercise in a Certain Way – When exercising, breathe deeply. When I Exercise in this way it oxygenates my body and ‘lights’ it up and this re-invigorates my body and re-centers it.
- Breathe and Focus – Consciously and periodically breathe. Try it, breathe deeply into the belly and lungs. When I do so I bring awareness into my body and out of my head. This gives me a stronger awareness and presence. Elongate your shallow breathing.
- Walking and Moving – Studies show that movement every 90 minutes is very helpful for health. Computer work is still very new for our species. Just a few generations ago we were out working fields most of the day, so stop pretending that your body loves to sit still all day. Make sure you incorporate movement into your day and not just in the gym.
I want to encourage you to aspire to a level of BEING and operating that is extraordinary. The results will ripple into every area of life and not just your employer!
To learn more about reducing IT Security problems caused by human error, see this article.
Bill is dedicated to your success as an IT Business Leader. Follow Bill on LinkedIn and Twitter. Sign up/Subscribe for weekly podcast, CIO Mastermind and CISO Mastermind updates delivered to your inbox easily and effortlessly.