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3 Personal Insights from the MOR Leadership Program

| February 16, 2021

by Garrett King

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Garrett King, Director of Identity & Access Management at Carnegie Mellon University.  He is a MOR alum.  Garrett may be reached at [email protected].]
Looking back over my MOR experience, I wanted to share a few moments of insight (lightbulb moments) that I had over the course of the MOR program.  Insights that I’m also continuing to work on as my career journey continues to evolve.
My hope is that some of these insights will resonate with others, and perhaps in a small way, help us all inch a little bit closer towards a more positive and productive career, and life.
Here were my top 3 moments of insight:
Lightbulb #1 – Develop a personal approach for changing your habits
It’s relatively easy to go through a MOR workshop, or any training program, and tell yourself that “come Monday morning when I return to the office, I’m going to BE a new person”.  And poof, cross it off your list.  The problem is, changing habits can be very difficult and it’s incredibly easy to take on too much in an unsustainable way.  The idea of developing new habits is one of those concepts in life that is simple to understand, but hard to do.
For me, there were a number of critical questions that I had to ask myself that would later form the ingredients I needed to fuel positive and lasting behavioral change.  What are my values? What is my ‘Why’ (see Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle)?  What does my ideal future self look like?  How can I begin to focus on long term gains versus quick wins, hacks, or shortcuts?
Being in this for the long game, and combining the above ingredients to form my inner compass, I used this new mindset or mental model to find small concrete and sustainable ways to incorporate my new habits and desired behavior changes.

  • Executive Presence? Introduce one ‘pause’ in my next presentation to add weight to the message. 
  • Growth Mindset? Try to catch one negative thought tomorrow and return with a growth oriented/positive thought. 
  • Coaching? Catch myself offering unsolicited advice once next week. 
  • Self-Awareness? During my next outdoor walk…ask myself…What is one thing that I’m grateful for? What is one area that I want to focus on today? What is one area or stressor that I no longer want to focus on?

I think to truly latch on to a higher level trajectory for our personal and professional career and lives, it requires a level of commitment where you can continually be realistic about what you can take on, be forgiving when you have off days, and break down your desired habits into very concrete next actions.  
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” – Bill Gates
Lightbulb #2 – Coaching to help with relationship building and authenticity
I think the word ‘coach’ does not do full justice to the power of this concept.   Reflecting on what it takes to be an effective coach, it’s much more than asking ‘scripted’ open ended questions, but the realization that people need “space” to speak and be themselves, and as an active listener, allowing them to navigate their own thinking and reach their own conclusions.  This creates a dialog that is much more present and, in a way, authentic.
With that said, my realization came that most every conversation could use a dash of ‘coaching’.  Where you don’t have to be in ‘coach mode’ through the entire conversation, but rather, find a moment where the other person really needs you to listen and be there for them.  That becomes the trigger to pause your internal dialog and to give the other person the space they need.
So for my next new/important professional relationship, I’m going to start the conversation by taking pause, creating this space, and asking a single question that shows my primary motivation is to better understand where they’re coming from and not sharing my personal agenda.

 “One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” -Bryant H. McGill
Lightbulb #3 – Knowing what your approach is to learning
Our fields, I think we can all agree, require lifelong learning and continual personal development in order to keep up and stay the course. 
A few quick tips that I think are really essential to maximize our learning journey and optimize our growth:

  • Look at your past big decisions, and reflect whether you were oriented towards either a Fixed or Growth Mindset.  The latter is more rooted in fear while the former is rooted in potential and possibilities.  Mindset is a spectrum that I slide back and forth on over the course of the day, but I’ve come to realize that sliding too far towards the Fixed mindset often will greatly reduce the possibility for learning, growth, and extending outside my comfort zone.
  • Develop an approach and practice for cataloging the information you’ve picked up over the course of the MOR program (and in general), so that it can be at your fingertips when needed.   It’s not so much remembering all of the material that’s effective, but being resourceful enough to quickly refer to it when the moment counts. 
  • Find time to reflect on what your goals are and whether what you’re reading and learning is aligned to where you want to be in the future.  This continued practice has enabled me to create a prioritized reading list that I stick to.

 “Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”  -Abigail Adams
I hope these lightbulb moments are helpful to you on your own journey through leadership and life.