Smarter, Faster, Better

Karlin Sloan's book has a subtitle of "Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership". This book isn't about organizing your time or 10 tricks of Pushing your Employees. It's about a more long term approach to being a leader - ensuring that you choose a moral path and then achieve your goals in a sustainable, person-supporting manner.

The key here is to work smarter, NOT just faster. By being intelligent about your daily working habits, you can achieve more high quality output with less wear and tear on yourself and others. You consider when you have been successful in the past, and what can inspire you in each day's offerings to bring you to that same state. For example, set a five minute timer and write down all your strengths. Did you feel uncomfortable "praising" yourself? Are these strengths that you bring into play, or do you try to work from your weak side? If you know you're great with numbers, and not so great with creative drawing, then bring on someone to handle the drawing, and put your own efforts where you will easily get "in the flow". The whole company will benefit.

Much of the book emphasizes the importance of values. A company that moves strongly down the wrong path is not doing well. A company that first charts out a path which is great for the environment, for the customers and for the employees will achieve great things every single day. Make sure you appreciate each member of your team for what they contribute, and present them with the positive you know they can achieve, rather than pointing out the negatives that they have slipped up on. That is, if someone presents a report with a lot of typos, instead of criticizing them for the typos, say how you appreciate the information but worry that they typos will hold them back from the career progression they could be making. Suggest software programs and a second pair of eyes to help them achieve their goals.

Karlin talks a fair amount about having a healthy metal state and how critical this is to working at your best levels. A brain works best when it is relaxed. You might think of yourself as a firefighter - but firefighters work hard on staying in shape, getting good sleep, keeping their equipment in top notch state and acting as a team. When there IS a fire, they go in as a coordinated unit, following a well understood plan of attack and working together to put out that fire. It's not a knee-jerk, wild reaction with no preparation. To handle fires, you need that healthy "starting point".

The same is true for sports greats. They achieve those great heights not by killing themself every day with long hours and no support. Instead, the true greats work out daily, take care of themselves, get steady coaching and training from those with experience. They ask for help and rely on their team members. Even solitary sports heroes like golfers have a cadre of caddies, coaches, nutritionists and others who support them in their goals.

We might think we're more rushed than any other time in history - but really we have WAY more time in our lives than any other period of history. Back in the Roman times, people tended to die at age 25!! Think of all the YEARS we have in our lives that no others before us had. Rather than multi-task, which studies say result in each task not being done as well as it could be, we should focus on what we are doing. People can tell when we're on the phone but really doing something else. It comes across in our speech pattern and in our inflection. Don't try to be perfect - but give focus to each task you work on and do it well. Seek that "flow state" that writers and athletes talk about, where your training and attention merge to make your actions and thoughts move easily. The Theta State of Meditation can really help you focus and get great insights. There are many books which help you learn to meditate even in 5 minute breaks at work.

Working 21 hours in a row puts you in the mental state of being legally drunk. It's far more valuable to get the sleep you need and to work less hours, but in a more productive, happy manner. Set boundaries on your time. People will respect you when you set out a healthy balance of what you can achieve.

In addition to all this great advice, the book provides many stories that help the examples make sense, as well as a variety of check lists to help you get feedback and see how well you're doing in your own world.

My only real complaint about the book is that the writing style is at times rather formal and stilted. I have many other books I've read where they had a very easy-going writing style that was easy to sink into and enjoy from start to end. With this one, it was more of an effort to read - it was like reading a textbook on the subject of leadership rather than talking with a friendly person who had information to share. Still, the information is quite valuable, and I recommend that people make the effort to get through the book to learn what it has to offer.

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