Are you an expert? An adviser? Both? Experts have deep technical expertise, high expectations, and consistent performance. The job is to be precise and right. They take on the work and get it done to expectations and beyond. Think surgeon, financial investor, aerospace engineer, etc.
An adviser may have many of the same characteristics, but the primary focus is to be helpful. They provide input and guidance. They may assist in a decision-making process without taking control or responsibility. They often point out multiple options and the pros and cons of each. Think coach, instructor, family counselor.
There is nothing wrong with either role. Sometimes we might need both, or one might be more appropriate than the other for a given situation. Personal health care is a good example. Do I need a surgical or medical intervention, which would require an expert? Or am I considering changing behavior to become healthier, thereby needing an adviser for guidance and support?
As a leader, what’s important is to recognize when you need to be in an expert role versus and adviser role. If you approach a situation that warrants an expert and you have your adviser hat on, you may be perceived as indecisive and perhaps lacking in competence. However, if you act as an expert when an adviser is needed, you may come across as too authoritative and not empathetic. Matching the role to the need on a situation-by-situation basis will increase your effectiveness.
And yet — this abundance of connectivity has created a conundrum. It’s what author and psychologist Barry Schwartz calls the paradox of choice. Simply put — when we have too many options, too much input — we find ourselves overwhelmed with abundance. Young people called it FOMO, fear of missing out. And that fear leaves us often frozen in a blizzard of choice, unable to manage the volume of unfiltered input.
His solution? Living a curated life. Rosenbaum offers a five-pronged approach that is particularly useful in addressing the abundance of technology options and how to sift and winnow to a manageable number:
- Take a personal ‘rhythm’ inventory
- Right size your tools to your life
- Filter your friends
- Get offline and explore real world experiences
- You are what you Tweet and eat
The goal is to, “…not let devices or content drive how you live your life.”
Item two on the list gives me pause. I would hardly know where to begin itemizing all of the technology tools, websites, and apps that I touch every day. Rosenbaum suggests, “But if we’re going to curate our life, the first place to start is with our devices. Open your phone, look at each and every app you have — and delete 2/3’s of them.”
It’s so easy to be seduced by the many choices in the marketplace. Look at all of the choices we have as consumers. Interestingly, there are companies that are leveraging this idea of curation. Examples include: Canoe, Snow Peak, and Trunk Club.
What’s that saying about the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem? Yikes.
“The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.”
In an early 2015 Harvard Business Review article, McKeown argues that success is a catalyst for failure. The opportunities that we are bombarded with due to success causes us to lose the clarity that provided success in the first place.
His simple rules apply to both our personal and professional lives. To paraphrase:
- What am I absolutely passionate about? In the absence of passion, don’t waste time on what is simply average.
- What is absolutely essential? Once that is determined, eliminate the rest.
- Beware of the weight of “sunk costs.” Just because you own something, don’t feel you need to keep it. Just because you’ve always done something, that doesn’t sentence you to keep doing it indefinitely.
I’m sure there are things at both work and home where I am holding onto something that I’m not passionate about and/or is not essential. It must be valuable because why else would I hold onto it, right? Perhaps its time for a little soul searching and spring cleaning to purge some of the “more” to fully appreciate the value of “less.” The tough question is where to start?