Simon Terry

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The Wisdom of Focus

“Thanks for joining us today. You bring such wisdom”

The words in a meeting this week struck me heavily. I don’t feel wise. I feel like I am doing what I do and continually learning more as I go. I feel trapped in the usual mess and complexity we all face as we go about our work. It was easy at first to attribute this “wisdom” to perceptions of my age. I had the least hair in the room and what I have is grey. I wrote the comment off, as I had done with similar comments before.

On further reflection, I realised that there is a pattern in the times that people appreciate my contributions as wisdom. Here is how you can increase your wisdom without waiting for the grey hair:

  • Stay calm – we expect gurus to be able to levitate above daily frustrations. With all that is going on at work, it is easy to lose it when things get challenging or complex. Keeping calm and centred when things are challenging is the first step to wisdom. Be a reminder that panic and flurry adds nothing valuable to work. Helping others to see that the daunting complexity can be managed or at least mitigated is an important role anyone can play
  • Ask good questions -the best way to be wise is to enable others to bring forth their wisdom. Great questions are the key to drawing out other’s contributions. People often know the answer they just lack the confidence to believe it. Questions can elicit new information or reframe the problem to help others forward.
  • Keep the focus on the goal – in the flurry or confusion of work, it is easy to confuse the goal. Clarifying the goal of a conversation or work can make matters dramatically easier for everyone, particularly in times of stress. Break down big daunting goals into smaller steps. There’s wisdom in progress and iteration too.
  • Leverage experience – Been there; done that; got the wisdom. If you have seen a challenge before, it is far less daunting. Ask what have I seen that relates to this? Collect experiences that are relevant to your work from your life, networks, media and other sources. The experience you share might be your own, or your networks, either way, it advances the conversation significantly.
  • Work from principles – Being able to support your positions and recommendations with principles and logic brings strength and ease of understanding to your work. Connecting the ideas that guide you makes your case stronger. Also working from principles, helps you to be in the rare category of having some principles at work.
  • Be brief – Make your point concisely. The less you say the more effective it is and the wiser you appear. Too many people think that their audience measures their contributions by duration. They don’t. They weigh their impact.

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