Thomas Friedman wrote a great opinion piece in The New York Times yesterday called “The New Untouchables.” I buy his arguments about a broken education system, but for the purposes of this blog I want to focus on the type of worker he says is surviving and thriving in the current economic crisis:
Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive.
I get that message loud and clear. It is one of the big reasons why I started this website and now am working feverishly to make it and myself better. I have no control over whether or not the state will fund my job in the future, but I know I am not waiting around to find out. I am looking for new and innovative ways to leverage my value platform so that I never find myself in this position again – ever. Excuses are irrelevant.
Grit, not strength, is what it takes to become untouchable. I think you are making a huge mistake if you have bought the strength-based leadership mirage and are trying to compete on fixed talent and not on learning and growth.
As leaders, we need people that are open to learning, willing to confront challenges, able to stick to difficult tasks, and capable of bouncing back from failures (Dweck, 2008). Stop praising people for fixed qualities like talent and strength and start developing and rewarding malleable qualities like effort, flexibility, collaboration, and innovation.
Teach your people to give themselves permission to do something different.