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Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


What are the right tools for the job?

I just finished reading my SlackerManager friend's note on the Context Agnostic Toolkit for Managers, which lists some technology-related tools that help you out in just about any field. I believe there is another set of tools: a Context Agnostic Mental Toolkit for Managers. Please indulge me in a story, as I attempt to explain.

As you may know from some of my posts, I help out with my son's Boy Scout troop fairly regularly (as an Assistant Scoutmaster). This past weekend, we were at a district Camporee -- that's an annual event in which a bunch of Boy Scout troops from a scouting district gather together.

I was staffing one of the skills stations which dealt with knot-tying. My job was to help Scouts learn to tie knots they didn't know so they could prepare for a time trial, which involved working together as a patrol to:

  • tie a pile of ropes together to connect them between two poles
  • use 8 different knots
  • use the knots in a specific order
  • suspend a piece of wood off the ground in the middle of this rope chain
  • assign the knots to specific scouts so that everyone must participate

I taught a bunch of Scouts some new skills and details about knots. In the process of teaching and judging, I learned and practiced a lot of things:

  • I didn't know all the knots so I had to quickly learn them myself, well enough to teach them (and grade them)
  • I strove for objectivity in grading them so I could have consistency across the scoring
  • I collaborated with other adults to ensure we were applying consistent standards
  • I practiced my coaching and feedback skills to help young guys (with big egos and/or sensitive natures) when their knots were close, but not quite right
  • I counseled people on how to work together more effectively as a team (part of our grading was on cooperation and coordination of effort within the patrol)
  • I encouraged boys that wanted to quit because they thought they might not win to keep going because there is value in the process

I think I learned more than I taught, and now recognize how universal some of the skills I used can be. With that in mind, I think the Context Agnostic Mental Toolkit for Managers includes things like:

It's important that managers remain open to learn new things. Even better if you stay on the lookout for new things to learn (that's what I mean by "genuine curiosity.")

Teaching ability
Managers are more effective when they help others learn new skills, and replicate their expertise in others.

Similar to teaching ability, but I think it's subtly different. To me, coaching goes beyond teaching skills and crosses over into guiding the perspective and philosophical approach of others. In advanced stages, I'd call it mentoring.

The ability to look at issues objectively, which recognizes the value of activity, but rewards for results.

The ability to maintain a perspective which seeks to preserve the human aspect (psyche, ego, soul, etc.) that's part of everyone we manage.

The ability to collaborate, work effectively as a team, and make others part of your efforts.

Being a good manager starts with wanting to be a good manager. But it's maintained by the drive to be a better manager, and the passion to keep that drive strong.

I once heard that there is nothing more frightening than passion without focus. Could be true. Focus gets things done, and managers get things done.

I know there are more, and I'm by no means a master of the ones on this list. As managers, just like young scouts trying to tie knots they haven't yet mastered, there is value in the process. And there is always value in improving.

What skills would you add to the list?

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