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A Moment of 2011: Skills and Views

Image: creativenerds.co.uk

The amount of literature on personal development and business skills I’ve read since 2009 isn’t particularly huge, but I resolved to go ad fontes and to try and read those who paved the way. Naturally, Napoleon Hill was the top dog, along with a few others. Plus, I regularly receive Seth Godin’s blog by email. In 2010 I came face to face with Direct Marketing when I worked for Cobra Group in the UK. In short, I was fairly well prepared to some bossy tasks I was entrusted with in 2011.

The beautiful thing is that when you take on a position for which you are not entirely prepared, it takes you on a massive learning curve and requires a complete lack of fear. I cannot be thankful enough to those who recognised my capabilities and gave me positions in spite of my CV. This was the case of the BBC, Latitude Group, and Cobra (Appco).

But what a good leader should be good at is motivating people. Vision, enthusiasm, authority, it all counts until the moment you realise that “leader is a lonely job“. Not necessarily in the sense of being alienated or needing to keep the distance, but – in my case – a gap in knowledge or experience.

I am eternally grateful to one of my mentors this year who gave me an article to read about Russian workers, and how to best get to work with them (or to get them to work). The article said that Russian workers are sometimes afraid of taking on a task, or being proactive and showing initiative. The opportunity to test the findings came soon. In my years online I’ve learnt many things I didn’t expect myself to learn when I was researching History in archives. Yet I still didn’t become a techie person. I cannot write programs and scripts, and this time I needed an RSS feed.

The person who was going to do it is a bright guy who is just a bit cautious. Like many other people, he’s afraid to fail. He has never dealt with RSS feed scripts. I have also never dealt with RSS feed scripts, but I assumed that for a professional it shouldn’t be difficult. The first time I asked him to write an RSS I gave a very strict deadline. I recently read about our brain’s reactions to fear, and I now understand that my request must have made him so uncomfortable that we ended up exchanging a few heated emails.

The middle ground was established when we agreed a flexible deadline in exchange of him twisting and bending to figure out how to write the feed script. In the meantime I did my best to explain that 1) I don’t feel like looking for somebody else to do this task, 2) I cannot see why he cannot learn to write a feed if he’d learnt many other things, 3) I want him to be proactive and creative, and 4) I don’t mind something going wrong along the way, I rather don’t want him to live off his old skills.

The result is that this week he’d finished yet another RSS feed. The first one is working fine.

To motivate someone means to give them strength to go after their goals and dreams. It means to alleviate the destructive impact of fear and doubt in the ability to achieve something. I’ve always given support to my classmates and unimates, but not so often to business colleagues – or at least I didn’t always see how my support influenced them.

And just yesterday in the evening I had another very pleasant occurence. I held the door for a gentleman, as we were both entering the underground. I needed to buy a ticket, but he called me out of the queue and insisted on letting me through with his pass. Although I did something that is absolutely natural to me, he told me it wasn’t quite so, which is why he also wanted to do something unusual for me.

I know someone may be reading this, thinking: “Oh that’s just luck” or “Well, there was just no other way“. I think the mistake many of us make is that we confirm our “principles” and “views” long before we acquire any experience. And even when experience is acquired, we seldom bother testing either principles or views. Or, if one believes in the law of attraction, we attain experience that confirms our principles and views. This is good if we have a positive outlook in life. Unfortunately, many people have a negative outlook, and this results in such wide-spread cynicism that it’s frightening. As people at Cobra say in their morning meetings, world is good, it’s your mind that’s a sh*thole. It’s up to us to dig out diamonds from under all the rubbish, to use the analogy from a Paul McKenna book.

The RSS image is courtesy of Creativenerds.co.uk. Click on the link to see a complete selection of RSS feed icons.

Author: Julia Shuvalova

Julia Shuvalova is the author of Los Cuadernos de Julia blog. She is an author of several books, a translator, and a Foreign Languages tutor. She lives and works in Moscow, Russia.

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