Want to get better? Be a work in progress!

by | Jun 7, 2017 | Blog | 0 comments

Which  term do you prefer? Being considered a “work in progress?” “In beta?” A “test case?” Something else?

Call yourself whatever resonates most with you. Just don’t describe yourself as “complete.”

Gone are the days when we declare people, products, and projects finished and wrapped up in pretty paper with a bow on top.

Humans as well as organizations will get left behind if they stand still in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world.

What’s the implication? You need to always be learning and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, working to develop, adapt, and improve so you can become a better version of yourself.

Consider four individuals who are each at the top of their profession yet are pushing themselves to perform in new and better ways. Their actions are making a huge impact on the rest of us. I’ve had the pleasure of observing them in person this past month and being inspired. They are:

1. Dee Dee Bridgewater, the Grammy and Tony award winner who told her audiences at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA that she had decided to stop just remembering her Memphis roots and start embracing them. She departed from her usual jazz repertoire and introduced us to the rhythm and blues featured in her upcoming Memphis album. Outside under the live oak trees on the College of Charleston campus with her Memphis “Soulphony” band, she showed us powerful emotional honesty with an improvisational jazz flair.

2. Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook Chief Operating Officer and author of the best-sellers Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead and now with Adam Grant, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. Option B is not the book she would have volunteered to write but after suddenly being widowed in May 2015 she found it the best way to deal with the tragedy of her husband’s death. In her talk at a sold out concert hall in Charleston, she encouraged us to believe in posttraumatic growth. When faced with adversity, you can become a better, different person than you were before – without denying your past. She also described how she’s learned that joy is a discipline that you can practice, which has helped her and her two children recover and position her as a great role model for women and men alike.

3. Adam Grant, the Wharton professor and best-selling author of not only Option B but also Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Adam was one of the keynote speakers at the WorkHuman 2017 Conference I attended in Phoenix. Watching him on the stage, I had a hard time believing how he used to hate public speaking, even for his college classes. He gave new meaning to “edutainment” as he shared intriguing research nuggets and stories as we laughed and clapped. Some of my favorites were:

  • Do you really want to build a truly human workplace? Figure out whose voices aren’t being heard and invite them into the conversation.
  • Women statistically have more creative ideas, but are more likely to be silenced.
  • The biggest obstacle to driving a culture of originals is a focus on outcomes instead of process. Reward the right processes. We over reward bad process, good outcome. We over punish good process, bad outcome.
  • Limit your organization’s values to three to four. (People can’t remember more than that.) Then rank order them by importance so individuals will know which are the non-negotiable values.
  • The more powerful you are the more compromised your judgment of people is.

4. Susan Cain, the author of the best-seller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, who also delivered one of the keynote addresses at the WorkHuman 2017 Conference. An introvert herself, she also was an engaging and informative speaker. And with her Quiet Revolution organization, she is working to “unlock the power of introverts for the benefit of us all.” Some of her sage observations and advice included:

  • Make personality differences and preferences part of everyday conversation so people will have a language for talking about the topic.
  • Introverts, don’t curb your enthusiasm. The level of enthusiasm you show will still be lower than most extroverts, and they need to see it to believe you.
  • If you want employees working at their best, you need to give them control over the amount of stimulations coming at them.

These four individuals are such inspiring role models that they almost can be intimidating if we allow it. (I’m still trying to be the person my dog thinks I am. And I can’t imagine how Sheryl Sandberg who’s got a fulltime job as a COO could also write a best-selling book less than two years after her husband died….But I digress….)

Nonetheless, we humans have no idea what our true potential is, until we acknowledge we’re a work in progress and start experimenting more.

What are you doing to be a better version of yourself?


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