Want to do your best work?

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Walk to the edge of your knowledge and start there

The weird thing about working at your peak is that it doesn’t occur when you know everything. If you want to do your best work, you have to be learning something new. There is a reason for this; you are engaging a different part of your brain. This is why the new people to the organisation are so valuable. 

The new people bring an unbiased and un-refined curiosity to everything. This is so important. It is important because so much of what you know is no longer relevant. In the knowledge age, learning and re-learning is the most important skill you can have.

Liz Wiseman reports that only 25% of the information we currently know will still be relevant in 5 years time. And the thing is, we don’t know which 25% it is…

So, if you expect that there is a job where you never have to learn anything new again, you are wrong. This is one of the reasons that the new people in the organisation, if they are empowered, can cause massive improvement in the teams.

They realise that they don’t know and as such, ask as many questions as permitted. All the while the rest of the team carries on without questioning.

Harnessing the curiosity of the newly arrived

I heard an analogy the other day;

If what you know is an island of information. You need to walk to the edge of it, the edge of your knowledge, then start work. It is here as you peek into the unknown, that you are the most energised, enthusiastic and productive. 

The newly arrived get to the edge of their knowledge very quickly, so are always working at the very limit of their understanding. They are voracious learners.

But those of us that have been around, have seen the best way to get things done, have forgotten this enthusiasm. We have all settled into our groove, and it is depleting our energy. We need to harness the power of the newly arrived in our everyday life.

We need to become novices again. Even if it is only in a few areas, it will seep into the rest of our work.

So how do we do it? How do we harness the power of being new?

You remember how you were when you first started.

What were your first weeks in the job like, your first weeks in that new project? The first meeting with your boss? You didn’t know what you didn’t know. 

This type of blank canvas start can be cultivated in your current job, the one you have a feeling of mastery over. If it has become a mundane activity for you and you want to re-energise you can try these things;

  1.  Sit with the new (or different) people as often as possible and talk about their work, then get their opinion on yours. New people provide new perspectives, and offer a fresh mindset. This can transfer to you, revitalise you.
  2. Find the fun in your work and bring your energy. The new starters in your organisations are enthusiastic and energetic with all they do. Bring that yourself, transfer it those around you.
  3. Start from humility. Rookies are willing to learn from everyone. They will be interested in everyone else’s jobs. They ask genuine questions with the desire to understand, find out how they can help them succeed. You too can take this with you everywhere.
  4. Slice it small and take some risks. Think about your job, no one knows it as you do, therefore you’re best placed to revolutionise it. Work out how to compartmentalise your job (and the risk) and start testing out some new methods. 

Photo by Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash

Restarting your team and bringing in the rookie

If you are a leader in your organisation you will have the task of bringing energy to your best workers, and introducing the new hires to their jobs. You too can benefit from the Rookie mindset. Take yourself back to your first day, and embrace that mentality. 

Look through the list above and see what you can introduce. The best leaders do not settle for mediocrity, they strive for improvement. To do this they need to unlock the potential of the team. You can create a rookie mindset in your best performers and change their viewpoint by embracing it yourself. But your biggest challenge will be in on-boarding the new starter. 

This will be your biggest test, you control the culture. You need to establish a tension with them, where they are uncomfortable with the task you have given them as it seems too big and daunting. Furthermore, you are uncomfortable with giving it to them, because you are unsure if they will rise to the challenge. This is the tension you need to create and learn to be comfortable living in.

Smart Leaders fit the Rookies to a challenge that is the right size

To lead is to see the shape of people — and the empty space in problems, then fit the people to that space and let them grow. If the problem space is too large, the stretch too far, you have failed them. If the problem space is too small, the fit too tight, you have failed them

I am a writer with a passion for leadership, growth and personal development. I try and create a spark, a little idea that nests inside and kindles your aspirations.