I have just had my annual ‘well man’ check up at the doctors and it got me thinking – given we are all on the busy treadmill called life, isn’t it easy to get caught up in the daily grind without making sure that we are still fit for purpose. This is pertinent to our personal health, our relationships, the role we are performing at work, the team, function or organisation we lead – how often do we check if it/they are still healthy?
If my experience (of myself and the teams and clients I work with) is anything to go by – I would suggest not as often or as effectively as we might benefit from. My trip to the doctor was prompted by a close family member recently being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer, hugely sad and completely out of the blue, no symptoms and only caught by a similar ‘well man’ check. We can’t walk around paranoid asking for MRI scans weekly, or go about conducting organisational reviews every 5 minutes, but we can find ways of ensuring that at regular intervals we do enough to check that the important things are functioning correctly and that there is nothing nasty lurking ready to disrupt our longer term effectiveness/future. After all most of the household products and devices we take for granted in our lives have means of establishing when optimal performance is compromised and remedial action may be necessary. Cars have pressure and temperature gauges, the dishwasher has a gauge to detect whether you have enough salt and your smart phone automatically scans for updates and the latest improvements. Why don’t we?
Partly we are too busy – the team is too busy knocking work out of the park to take a time out and reflect whether the way it is working is fit for purpose. We are too busy, in my case, just being a husband, son, dad, brother to think about whether we are doing a good job. As a leader we are so busy trying to make sure that our stakeholders are happy and we are delivering what we promised that we may fail to think about how we might be doing that.
Partly it is through fear – my doctor was quite clear that men of my age bracket are the worst at coming forward to talk about potential issues – they are scared of the implications and would rather bury their head in the sand. If the customer is happy, should I really worry too much about unearthing issues and challenges with the way the team is operating? Sometimes it is just because it is complicated and not easy for a reasonably quick and easy diagnostic / health check. Whichever way around these are all excuses and in my humble opinion – at a personal, relationship, team or organisational level – they are excuses that we can ill afford to make if future and on-going success is part of our grand plan.
So what can we do to ensure that we protect and futureproof ourselves, our relationships, our role performance (husband, dad, brother etc), work performance, the team, function or the organisation we lead. Well, keeping things simple I think there are 4 basic steps that we can take regardless of the focus.
- Define the indicators that would determine good health, success, progress and that the how is balanced with the what. For my ‘health check’ this was clearly about blood tests, blood pressure and indicators of a healthy lifestyle. For our relationships it could be about time spent, levels of support, levels of trust, levels of shared understanding?? For our teams there are plenty of tools out there – but in real terms what are the indicators that show your team is fit for purpose and healthy, now and into the future?
- Having defined the indicators then you need to work out the best way to test them – what are the questions you need to ask, of whom and how is it best to ask them? The key issue is ensuring that people are open, honest and consistent.
- Having gotten the information, how do you then interpret the results in a balanced and objective way? I had a nurse to interpret the results because the measures and indicators are complicated. The simpler the indicators, the easier it is to interpret and do something with them.
- Take action – sounds simple but this is often the hardest part because the indicators are probably flagging the implications of engrained habits and rituals. You may have been putting double cream on your cereal (only when you have it left over from Sunday of course 🙂 ) for years, so changing this habit because your cholesterol is slightly raised is tough. Your team may have always started the week focussing on the problems and issues of the previous week, so asking them to share and celebrate the positives may be alien and uncomfortable. BUT – there is no point in learning about a potential risk if you are going to do nothing to mitigate it.
We are all trying to do our best in every facet of our life, we apply our energy and our effort with the very best of intentions at the point of decision making. But are the decisions we take on a daily basis, the activities and habits we persist with, helping us be successful in the roles we play, or are they hiding flaws, issues or worse, which may cause catastrophic results at some stage in the future. Life is too short to take for granted the successes and achievements we have made thus far, in our personal lives, our relationships or at work. So take the time to take a step back, find the courage to confront the brutal reality and check the health of the things that matter most in your life.
Personal plea – if you are a man over 45 – please get yourself along for a FREE ‘well man’ check asap!!