Sixteen Lessons From Fourteen Years

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I recently left the company I have worked for, since 2001.

A lot has changed since then, for example the first generation iPod had not even been released! Remember the fly wheel?

I wanted to dilute all my major learning and lessons – sharing this with you.

The below is useful for everyone, but the lessons may be of particular use if you are just starting out as a leader.

1) Have a Strong Sense of Purpose

This should underpin everything you do in life – including work.
What are you passionate about, what excites you, what gives you a great sense of achievement? How does this showcase the very best of you? How can you share this passion and get other people excited about it?

2) Mistakes

Mistakes are vital in helping us to learn about ourselves and improve our performance. Of course you don’t want to make mistakes, but don’t allow them to swallow you whole.

3) Will it Matter in a Year’s Time?

Sometimes we do allow issues to swallow us whole, we become panicked and we can’t sleep at night. Sometimes it can be hard to take a step back and gain some perspective. One way of doing this is asking whether the issue will matter in a year’s time.
I guarantee that 99% of the issues will not matter in a year’s time – stop giving yourself such a hard time.

4) It Might Get Worse, Before it Gets Worse

The reality is you can be dealing with a really crappy situation and you think you have reached rock bottom. Then something else happens, to make it worse and then something else happens, to make it worse.
You are still here, you survived and you have great resillience – it will be OK.

5) Intent Vs Behaviour

When we talk about ourselves we often talk about our intent. When we talk about others we often talk about their behaviour. It is easy to mix the two up but behaviour wins, every time. Period. Be honest with yourself and others.

6) Opinion Vs Fact

Many people mistake opinion as fact – don’t accept everything at face value. Question it, ask them to prove what they are saying.
There have been many times I held back or did not contribute in a work setting was because of this. You may come across people that make a lot of noise. It does not mean the noise is of value.

7) Have a Sense of Urgency

If you are laid back it can be a great characteristic to have (keeps people calm) it can also set the wrong perception (does he not care?)
Everything you do can have a sense of urgency and you can achieve far more than you believe is possible. Be passionate about achieving a deadline or helping someone – don’t allow distractions to get in the way

8) Failure is Your Responsibility

If you mess up, take responsibility.
Don’t try and blame someone else or the situation.
Take it on the chin, keep the mistake small (see above) and move on.

9) The Small Details Matter

From being on time, to remembering someone’s name, to making a point of thanking someone personally – the small stuff matters.
The majority of people will not remember the things you said, or the work you delivered, but they will absolutely remember how you made them feel.

10) Positivity

In July of this year I set a personal goal to be positive with everything – no exceptions. I did not success 100% of the time and it could be exhausting having to switch my way of thinking.
However, I was surprised by how much better I felt and it changed the way I viewed certain situations/people for the better – you absolutely can change your mindset, if you choose to.

11) Don’t Allow Fear to be the Decision Maker.

I can’t tell you how many times I talked myself out of certain things, due to fear. I regret many of those decisions (or lack of action) and I wish I had swallowed the fear and done it anyway.
During the times I have ignored the nagging voice in my head it has always been a positive experience.

12) It’s Never to Late to Say Sorry

I can be incredibly stubborn.
Pride (fear in disguise) often creates anxiety and ultimately damages relationships if allowed to fester for too long. Saying sorry (if it is the right thing to do and you know it is!) can be very hard, but it is the right thing to do it – See above message about fear

13) If You Are Saying Yes, What Are You Saying No To?

Yes, work is incredibly important and there are times where you absolutely have to be flexible. However, if you are saying yes to every demand made of you, then you are ultimately saying no to something else. When we look back on our lives we will not wish we could have attended more meetings or replied to that e-mail, but to have spent more time with our friends and family and pursuing our passions.

14) Perception is Everything

It does not matter what image you think you are projecting, or want to project, it is your audience and the people around you that will make their own mind up. Check in with them from time to time and make sure their perception of you is something you are happy with.

15) Everything is Theatre

A dear friend and mentor once told me that ‘everything is theatre’ and we are ultimately putting on a show. This starts the moment you walk through the door and into the office. What type of performance do you want to put on? How do you want your audience to react? Will they want an encore?

16) Everything is a Choice

Very controversial for some people, but the reality is everything is a choice. There may be some small exceptions linked to environment but ultimately we are in charge of the choices we make.
If you make the wrong choice you have to be responsible for the failure (see above)

What has been your biggest learning in your career to date?

I would love to hear about your experiences.

Believe and take action.

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Ian Ruane

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