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The Best Leadership Links to Read Right Now: Forget Perfection, Battle ‘Proximity Bias,’ Make a ‘Done List,’ and More

by | May 31, 2022

Today we dispatched the May 2022 edition of our Leadership That Works Newslettera curated digest of the best leadership links from around the web, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s best leadership links to read right now: Forget perfection, battle ‘proximity bias,’ make a ‘done list,’ and more. As alwayswe’re sharing the content from our newsletter on our blog in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you find these links enriching, you can sign up to receive our newsletter right here.

The Action of Compassion

“What can you do if you want to manage your team with compassion, but your leadership hasn’t bought into this philosophy?” asks this practical Harvard Business Review article on how to shift a culture from the inside out. The piece offers six strategies that don’t require external buy-in but may “convince some of your less-compassionate colleagues that they can do better.” The first piece of advice for leading more compassionately is recognizing the power of taking action. Moving compassion out of the theoretical realm and into the world around you requires working out your own “robust, business-focused definition” of how you want to show up and then acting on it: “It’s the desire to act and create change that differentiates compassion from empathy.” For example, it’s empathetic to “feel bad because the current requirement to be back in the workplace is creating a personal hardship for your team member,” but it’s compassionate to “take steps to change the schedule so they can work more comfortably.” Overall, “it’s the action that makes the difference.” Get the full story here.

**For more on taking action, explore our post on how to lead change no matter your job title.


You Don’t Have to Switch Roles to Grow

“It’s time for a mindset shift,” that releases “promotions and positions as the default measuring stick of success,” says this TD Magazine piece on finding fulfillment in your current role. While the ‘great resignation’ and the ‘great reshuffle’ point to trends of dissatisfaction at work, the assumption that “career development satisfaction” always requires changing roles is false. If you’re happy where you are but still hunger to stretch yourself, you can pursue growth opportunities outside the narrow trajectory of seeking another promotion. The author provides three examples, the first of which is talking to your boss about creative ways to “heighten visibility” with your broader organization. Without changing job titles, a request for visibility offers “vast opportunities you can pursue from the comfort of your current role,” for example, “attending meetings and conferences, coaching, being on the giving or receiving end of mentorship, leading special high-profile projects, or even reconnecting your work with the bigger picture.” Get the full story here.


Is Your Boss a ‘Fixer Upper’?

By now, you’ve probably heard the widely-quoted business maxim that “employees don’t leave a company, they leave a manager.” In today’s tough talent market, there are several contributing variables informing why and when workers jump ship, but a bad boss is often a factor. But what if your boss isn’t a lost cause? Maybe they just need some gentle coaxing to see the light. This Fast Company article on how to have more honest conversations with your “fixer upper” leader offers strategies for giving feedback delicately—and in a way that’s mutually beneficial for you and the other party. The post offers constructive ways to approach your boss that, if handled carefully, won’t result in them getting defensive or shutting down. The first principle is to be respectful, making sure you’re not “diving into a list of grievances.” Then, make sure to “understand your goal,” “prepare for the conversation,” “ease into your feedback,” “remove the emotion” from your remarks, and “create a two-way street.” Get the full story here


Battling ‘Proximity Bias’

“Hybrid work isn’t the future. It’s already here,” says this Senior Executive piece on running better hybrid meetings. More than half of employees now work in organizations with a hybrid model so “businesses must adapt their communications and meetings for distributed teams.” To ensure all team members feel included, a top priority should be correcting for “proximity bias,” a phenomenon where “in-person participants are treated preferably or have more opportunities to express their opinions.” To better structure meetings “to foster collaboration” between all employees, regardless of their respective locations, leaders should run a self-assessment to check if their equipment is sufficient to handle remote meetings, and to make sure “that the balance of power, and the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ syndrome doesn’t result in separate classes of subordinates.” Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore our 3 Guiding Principles for Managing Remote Teams, and explore our CEO Manifesto for Better Meetings.


Forget Perfection

“Mamahuhu,” is a Mandarin expression which means “so-so” or “mediocre,” shares Vanessa Hua in this New York Times Magazine essay about releasing the rigidity of perfection. The expression became an in-joke in her family, a way to describe their sometimes slapdash or unconventional way of doing things: “When I was a child, the mamahuhu attitude sometimes embarrassed me. But it also taught me not to get hung up on mainstream ideals of perfection—and to embrace originality instead.” Ultimately, Hua and her siblings, “transformed mamahuhu from an adjective into an ethos,” a guiding belief that often, when you’re trying to get things done, “good enough” is all that’s needed. The philosophy helped them survive during the pandemic: With “no in-person school, no travel possible,” their practice of making do in less-than-ideal circumstances helped them embrace the “power, possibility, and irreverence,” of a mamahuhu approach to life. With mamahuhu, Hua is imparting this central lesson to her own children, that “the best-laid plans are no guarantee of safety or happiness,” but accepting that fact frees you to find creative, imperfect ways to learn, live, lead, and have fun. Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore the 6-step Blueprint process—a battle-tested way to get more joy and fulfillment out of your leadership journey, with “forget perfection” as its central rallying cry.


Don’t Sleep on These Other Types of Rest

Are you dutifully getting your recommended seven to eight hours of sleep only to still feel exhausted during the workday? You’re not alone. The reason, writes Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, in this 2021 TED post, is: “Sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two. We go through life thinking we’ve rested because we have gotten enough sleep—but in reality we are missing out on the other types of rest we desperately need.” While the importance of rest became a hot topic during the pandemic as we experienced a collective reckoning over burnout and ‘grind culture,’ there has often been a lack of clarity around what rest might look like beyond lying down and the vague catch-all of ‘self-care.’ Thankfully, Dalton-Smith has identified seven key kinds of rest that every person needs to feel truly restored— physical rest, social rest, mental rest, sensory rest, creative rest, emotional rest, and spiritual rest—and she offers advice for each type. Get the full story here.  


Make a ‘Done List’

In last month’s newsletter, we celebrated the rebellious utility of the “to-don’t” list. This month we offer another, equally satisfying foil to the ho-hum to-do list: The “done list.” In this post, Oliver Burkeman laments that each morning he awakes feeling “in a kind of ‘productivity debt’,” which he then struggles “to pay off through the day.” So he tried a re-frame: “What if you worked on the basis that you began each day at zero balance, so that everything you accomplished—every task you got done, every tiny thing you did to address the world’s troubles, or the needs of your household—put you ever further into the black?” So he started making a daily “done list,” which starts empty and gets gradually filled with accomplishments as the day progresses. He stresses this is not a frivolous exercise to make you “feel better about yourself,” it has real benefits for how you prioritize things in the future: “If you can give up the impossible quest to pay off your productivity debt, and instead start thinking of each day as an opportunity to move a small-but-meaningful set of items over to your done list, you’ll find yourself making better choices about what to focus on” in perpetuity. Get the full story here.  

**For more on this, read this Suzi McAlpine post on the value of a ‘to-don’t list, and for ‘to-do’ list die-hards, read this ode in The Cut to the pleasure of writing to-dos.


When the News Is Overwhelming

Far too often, the news is horrific. With multiple mass shootings in May compounding the prolonged grief and anxiety from several converging global crises like war, climate change, the pandemic, and political unrest—it can be hard to focus on anything else. So it may be helpful to revisit this thoughtful Shondaland post from 2020 reminding you that it’s OK to unplug sometimes for the sake of your mental health. Needing a break from your feed, or to take time to process events internally, doesn’t mean you don’t care. Dr. Aderonke Oguntoye writes: “The desire to stay plugged into the news is understandable. You want to be well informed and not miss important information. . . But staying plugged into the news cycle 24/7 isn’t always healthy.” Studies show that over-exposure to horrifying news can have disastrous psychological effects that result in burnout so it’s important to “be in tune with your body and look out for physical changes” that point to distress such as headaches, sleep disruption, irritability, poor concentration, and more. If you notice these symptoms, that’s when it’s time to take a social media break and use some of Oguntoye’s practical tips like setting boundaries, spending time with your favorite people, pursuing joyful movement, finding sources of support, and more. Then, to take action, start by choosing just one from the “dozens of things to be fired up about,” because if you try to solve everything you risk spreading yourself too thin. Get the full story here.


At the third bi-annual BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit last month, Doug Conant was joined in conversation by Susan Cain, world-renowned bestselling author of Bittersweet and Quiet. Read their tips for fostering deeper connections in today’s workplace in this new blog post.

We Have a Greater Responsibility to Society than Just the Bottom Line’—Steve Collis and Doug Conant on Leadership

At the third bi-annual BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit last month,  Doug Conant was joined in conversation by Steve Collis, celebrated CEO of AmerisourceBergen. Read their smart tips for creating purpose-driven organizations in this new blog post.

6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights

In the latest episode of the American Writers MuseumAuthor Talks podcast, Doug and I talk about the core messages of our book, The Blueprint, and offer an exclusive peek into our writing process.

‘Empathy Is the Secret Source of Connection’—Brené Brown and Doug Conant on Leadership in the Pandemic Era

At the third bi-annual BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit last month, Doug Conant was joined in conversation by Brené Brown, beloved researcher and bestselling author. Read their smart tips for leading with empathy in this blog post.


April’s Leadership That Works Newsletter

In last month’s newsletter: Make a ‘to-don’t list,’ understand the ‘YOLO’ job market, don’t ‘freak out,’ and more.


Level Up Your Leadership at the BLUEPRINT Boot Camp

Join us at the next BLUEPRINT Boot Camp by ConantLeadership, a 2-day leadership intensive which offers elite-level, highly interactive training with Doug Conant and a community of your peers.
This engaging and immersive leadership development experience is centered around a structured 6-step process for reflection and learning that empowers you to lead like only you can. You’ll leave with your own personal leadership model that you’ll design over the two days, actionable practices for making a difference, VIP access to Doug Conant, and a new lease on life and leading. 
Registration is now open for our November 2022 program: conantleadership.com/bootcamp

Amy FedermanAbout the Author: Amy Federman is ConantLeadership’s Director of Content and Editor in Chief, and co-author with Doug Conant of the WSJ bestseller, The Blueprint.

(Cover photo by Avinash Kumar on Unsplash)

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