TOOLkit/ What Works Well

Manila, 5 July 2017 — What book should I read for my leadership, what app will help me, what habit should I build, people ask. I suggest you start with these three.

As leaders, we value many things to drive us forward and to support us along the way. One of them is tools that work well. They come in different sorts.

Here are some that are helping me a lot on my leadership journey, so I am happy to share them with you in this first installment of TOOLkit.

First a book, then an app, and finally, a habit.

The Book

Years ago, when I started exploring leadership for myself, what got me going were some of the books by John C. Maxwell. You will find them readily available in bookstores around the world.

Maxwell uses simple words, writes in an organized way, and focuses on putting stuff in practice. Among his many books are some workbooks as well, and I remember well how I got started on Developing the Leader Within You—Workbook. Highly recommended. 

The book I want to bring to your attention today is another of Maxwell's titles. It is his 2013 book Sometimes You Win—Sometimes You Learn. Why? 

Because what defines our leadership, in my view, is how we deal with, and make meaning of, the problems, failures, and losses we encounter along the way. As Maxwell says, we gain life's greatest lessons from these experiences.

In the same vein, President Mandela used to say "I never lose. I either win or I learn." When he was imprisoned for 27 years, his saw his work as being interrupted in the middle. He did not give up. 

So go ahead and read this book by Maxwell about learning. Make notes of the insights you get from it, and then put them into practice, as you resolve to become someone who makes meaning of what happens, for yourself and then for others. It's what leaders do.

The App

Now let's turn to apps. How rich we are in those today! A multitude of apps for any conceivable purpose.

The one I recommend you to look into is an app that was designed to make writing easier. I believe that every leader should also be a writer, regardless of whether that comes easily to you or not. Why?

Because at the very least, the act of writing clarifies our thoughts, beliefs, and direction. That's why workbooks are great, because they allow you to write, not only read.

Thinking, which often precedes writing, can be seen as a luxury activity that requires neither structure nor brevity, unlike writing. Thinking and meditating are two activities that might bring us closest to an experience of freedom. 

Writing requires more. We need inspiration, motivation, and persistence. Especially when we set out to write a longer piece, like a book. Of course, if we are able to persist in our writing, we might create something that helps others on their journey too, as in educational books, gripping novels, or in books on developing leadership, for example.

The app that I recommend you to check out, was created for that very purpose. To help you get started and finish your longer writing projects, by dividing them into smaller pieces that are easy to handle.

It is called Scrivener, and it works on Mac (my system), Windows, and iOS. Note that as I write this, the publishers Literature and Latte are still working on a version for Android.  

Why do I like Scrivener?

First, because it allows writers to outline their projects before they start writing.

Second, it gives us the freedom to write section by section, bit by bit, as we like, and then still shuffle them around easily as our ideas take shape.

And third, it's not just about the paper we write, it handles our whole project, including our resource documents, photos, and videos. They all fit together in the same app, and we can have two windows open at the same time, one for our own writing piece, and the other one for a resource we're looking at for inspiration or reference. How cool is that!

When you're done writing all your bits and pieces, Scrivener will compile it into a single text for you, with one click of a button.

So when you want to make it easier for yourself to get organized with your writing projects, especially larger ones, check out Scrivener. You will be in good company. Your fellow users include novelists, scriptwriters, academics and students, lawyers, journalists, and translators.

The Habit

On to habits now, and let's take just one, as we know it takes time to build new habits to replace old ones. How much time? I keep reading as much as a month. That's not really long, is it? Building a habit, however, takes more than having a good idea about it.

Leadership gurus like Kouzes and Posner—famous for explaining the five practices of Transformational Leadership—and many others, agree that building strong habits is key to becoming an effective leader.

The important question is not so much whether we practice or not, because anyone aspiring to develop their leadership will surely practice it. The key question is how often we practice. And that is where habit building comes in.

Now, there are many habits that leaders are intent on building, and I can mention many that I am working on and that are helping me in my journey.

The one I would like to mention in this first installment is, in my view, the most powerful of them all. You can easily do it at anytime, anywhere, and without any cost. It actually does not require any knowledge or effort either.

It is the habit of Smiling regularly. Why?

Those of you who practice this habit already know that it has a kind of magic effect and energy all of its own. When we smile, lots of things are triggered in us, and often also in people around us.

Practicing gratitude becomes easier when we smile. Appreciating, forgiving, and loving ourselves becomes easier. Seeing the positive sides of situations becomes easier. Recognizing the positive behaviors and actions of other people becomes easier. I can go on making this list longer.

Our perspective changes when we smile, and that is powerful, especially because leaders need to do this often. So why don't we smile more often? I believe it is because we tend to wait until conditions around us are pleasant enough to make us smile. That means we have to wait long, more often than not.

On my leadership journey, an important lesson I have learned is that happiness can be seen as a choice rather than an outcome of other things. A smile can trigger happiness. It can remind us of all that is good inside us and in people around us. We realize that every situation has the potential to turn into a beneficial outcome for all, if we are patient and compassionate to explore that. 

Don't wait until the world around you makes you smile. Try smiling without reason, and take note of what happens when you do. Make it a habit to smile regularly. 

I never lose. I either win or I learn.
— Nelson Mandela