By Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
In this column, I continue using an acronym that spells out BLACK BELT, using words that relate to teams and leadership. This month I’ll address “K,” which stands for knowledge.
Let’s frame knowledge as it relates to 1) yourself; 2) your team; and 3) your environment.
Knowledge of yourself: The temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, is famous for numerous inscriptions. One of the more famous aphorisms which emanated from this temple was “Know Thyself.” This saying is very profound in its depth and simplicity.
We are all familiar with our personalities and intellects, but we forget the importance of understanding our limits. When discussing limits, we also need to remember this applies to our physical abilities, too.
Recently, I did not run in the Houston half-marathon, even though I had participated in it the previous year. I allowed professional and personal issues to interfere with properly training.
Now, as a martial artist and fellow black belt, I know all about digging down deep and showing up as a warrior. But I have to tell you, the prospect of the injuries and recovery time that my “mature” body would have to endure because of running just wasn't appealing.
So, I made an executive decision because I know myself and, subsequently, my limits. If I had chosen to run the half-marathon, I would have completed it. That’s how we diehard martial artists are. However, would the outcomes have been worth it? No!
It’s important as a leader and team member to know what your capacity is, along with what qualities you have. But more importantly, you must know your limits. Remember, knowing your limits and pushing past them can be worthwhile, but not if it results in significant damage and substantial disruption.
Knowledge of your team: This point is similar to the previous one. As a leader, how well do you know your team? What is the depth of your familiarity with the personalities, skills and strengths/weaknesses of your team members?
In another context, how well do your team members know you (the leader) and your limitations?
Leaders aren’t going to know every aspect of their members’ personalities, cognitive abilities, etc. But there needs to be a high level of understanding and knowing between leaders and teams if the organization is going to succeed.
High-functioning teams can do amazingly well and succeed, if leaders and members really work at knowing each other.
A buddy from college once left a restaurant job, even though she had earned a promotion to assistant manager. Sadly, she and her boss never knew each other well enough and, consequently, didn't understand each other’s values.
My friend enjoyed being part of her church and going to services while balancing work and school. Worship and church-related activities were very important to my friend. Conversely, her manager was quite irreverent about everything from politics to religion to you-name-it.
So, when she (the manager) continuously scheduled my friend to work weekend shifts that interfered with church time, you can see how that became problematic.
When my friend quit, she said her manager was shocked and surprised. The manager claimed not to know how important her schedule was.
Imagine if both my friend and her manager would have better understood each other and worked with each other accordingly. My friend stated that she told her manager she should have known. While I’m sure there was more to that story, the value of knowledge and insight cannot be emphasized enough.
Knowledge of your environment: Successful organizations are keen and adept at reading, knowing and predicting what happens in their environment. If you act without analyzing how your surroundings work, you risk getting blindsided. I’m sure many of us can recall the pains related to economic recessions and downturns.
Likewise, leaders and teams that don't stay on top of all aspects of their business environment (clients, location, services offered, facilities, etc.) are prone to being painfully surprised.
In the early 2000s, I worked in I.T. for Enron. The very short version of this story is I knew quite a few colleagues and friends who never saw Enron’s infamous fall coming and consequently suffered terribly.
I often discuss the Enron debacle for business-ethics presentations, and people are amazed at the number of companies and lives that were affected by Enron’s downfall.
Again, had people been aware of the environment and the signs that were in front of them, quite a few could have saved themselves the impending pain. So it’s important that leaders and teams are very aware of everything in their environments, that could either help or hinder them.
Stay knowledgeable. Keep earning those rank stripes and I’d love to see you at the 2019 Martial Arts SuperShow!
Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected]
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