An Alternative Perspective: My Old Dog Struggles with New Tricks

By: Mike Harristhal, MBA |

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

Our overarching theme this month is “Stretching Your Skills.”  Certainly, I personally feel that need. (And, I know my mother-in-law is aware of many self-improvement opportunities I might take advantage of!) So, this was a good time to quickly review what I‘ve read by Tom Rath (“Strengthsfinder”) and Donald Clifton (“Now, Discover Your Strengths”) and even Emrys Westacott (“The Virtues of Our Vices”).

picture-of-murphyI am acutely aware of my shortcomings. In fact, the more seasoned I become (and I probably have more of my career behind me than ahead of me), the more I realize what I don’t know.  So, given our transforming world of digitalization and globalization, how have I managed to contribute to my clients, my employers, my community service?

My Goldendoodle Murphy (that’s him with the tennis ball) struggles with new tricks.  As do I.  But unlike Murphy, I have stretched one of my skills — an appreciation for the attributes and potential of others around me.

Optimal productivity, or close to it, occurs when team members are allowed to focus where they excel, while leveraging the skills of others who are more adept at filling the gaps of shortcomings. Complementary leadership structures are common and often institutionalized. The best strategist isn’t necessarily the best at execution. The effervescent extrovert may be able to energize, but can’t necessarily articulate the pathway for that energy. So, when confronted with a task that isn’t comfortably in my wheelhouse, rather than dwell on the enormity of the task or on what I don’t know, my frame of reference is no longer, “how can I do this?” but “how can the desired outcome be achieved?”

This is a make or buy decision. I do look inwardly first.  Is the competency required likely to be needed with any frequency and/or for immediate access? If so, I bear down.  If not, I look to my colleagues, my friends, my vendors, or even my competitors. I may appeal to their good nature, or what I believe to be their intrinsic satisfiers, or perhaps at what might be shared values or vested interests in aligned outcomes.

So, when thinking about self-improvement opportunities, my most fundamental success in stretching my skills has been the ability to identify who around me to engage and to hopefully inspire them to help us achieve our common objective.

Right, Murph?