“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” Aristotle (384-322BC)
“Being aware is more important than being smart.” This is a quote from the book, Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior, written by Phil Jackson, NBA All-American and former head coach of the Chicago Bulls.
Phil Jackson had the privilege of coaching one of, if not the greatest of players in NBA history – Michael Jordan. He knew that Michael was going to set all kinds of professional basketball records. Coach Jackson wanted championships and believed that Jordan shared that goal for their team. As special as individual records may be for those few very talented players, championships are more significant.
Is this philosophy not also true in companies, organizations, and even in families? Being very good may be desirable. Being successful, however, as a family or as an organization, trumps even our own individual greatness. When I am in a particular zone, but everything is not right within my family, then even that distinct place for me does not feel ideal. It is lacking. Does this sound familiar to you? What do you want most? Do you want to win? Do you also want your team to win? And the reference to “team” covers many different groups, including family, as well as the critical two-person relationship in a marriage.
As good as Jordan was as an NBA star, he had to make some notable adjustments in his own learned skills and techniques in order to help develop his team that would prove triumphant as champions again and again. By being wholly aware of his teammates’ skills (as well as those of each opposing team), Michael consistently contributed to his team excelling as cohesive players.
Being aware is about being connected. Being joined to people with whom you work is a vital key to success. It is central to leadership. Being connected is a process of spending time listening and asking the right questions. Within a family, listening is more than just putting the newspaper down or silencing a television. It is more than turning off the smartphone, iPad or electronic device. (Some families are now adopting a designated “non-electronic” hour, day, or, even total vacation from electronic access). Truly listening is giving your full attention to the members of your family.
Giving someone your personal focus enables them to more fully understand their own role and value. It is amazing to me, that when you give someone real attention, how much that helps them to verbalize what is truly in their innermost thoughts. They are equipped to rise to owning, at a deeper level, their own thinking. They become more of who they really are. Someone who feels understood will have a greater appreciation of personal value. Armed with an improved perception of self, a person can elevate their game and more successfully achieve their goals.
Michael Jordan’s teammates became huge stars, individually, in their own rights. Is that not the way it should work in our organizations and families? Our personal style should serve to elevate everyone – with this, we all win!
Awareness is critically important in business. To be fully conscious of what is going on in your company, and specifically within your department, you must get out of your comfortable chair, leave your office, and mingle with the people – those who comprise your base of coworkers, customers, vendors, and everyone else who has an impact or bearing on the results to be produced. If you are smart, you will learn to listen intently, which will help you in becoming acutely aware. Some have called this ‘MBWA’ – manage-by-walking-around – a phrase made famous by management guru, Thomas J. “Tom” Peters, Ph.D., American writer and speaker. Sometimes this methodology does not seem ‘scientific.’ In fact, it may even be seemingly disorganized, at times even wasteful. We look at the clock and think, “I don’t have time for this!” Actually, this is when we may most need to invest significant time in making this important connection.
Ask the right questions. Here are just a few for you to try that will produce results you will be able to see expeditiously:
- How can our company help you to succeed?
- What are we doing that is getting in the way of your (as well as the company’s) success?
- What great idea have you had that has yet to be implemented?
- What can you do as a person to elevate our company to the next level?
- What will help our company to be more efficient, effective, profitable or successful?
When you ask these questions, the first and only thing you should do is . . . listen. Take time to ponder what you have heard before responding. Make sure you listen first. If not currently in a supervisory role, you can still ask these questions of others in your company, as well as vendors and customers. You will find that people love to be given the opportunity to answer these questions! If your company welcomes this kind of input, you may want to hand this list of questions as a gift to your supervisor. Encourage others to ask the right questions.
Chatting with those in the field is different, but it may be as important as analyzing financial numbers. Talking to a vendor about a recent event is a good way to gain understanding and to communicate the value of your company. Spending time listening to customers will present excellent opportunities, some of which may be uncomfortable, and as previously stated, appear to be wasteful. But, talking to the folks who are in the know, and listening to their stories, will help you gain greater awareness of what is significantly more important to the success of your company.
When you become aware, you will also become smarter. You will become better educated about your surroundings. Armed with important knowledge, you will be in a position to make wiser decisions that will help to ensure that you and your company will be successful.
By becoming aware of the people in your surroundings, you will become smarter about your family, your job, your relationships, and your marriage.
So, today, why not take a stroll down Awareness Avenue!
Today, I will get connected!
. . . I will ask the right questions.
. . . I will listen first before speaking.
. . . I will become aware.