March 26, 2018
Community Connections

Effective leaders must develop toolkit to create 'defining moments'

Karen Senteio

Moments matter to leaders.

They can mark the time when they realize things are not working and it is time to change course or when they've found a product that can change the world. How can we anticipate, recognize and learn from those moments that have the power to redefine our experience?

One of my coaching colleagues has a mantra that is simple but very relevant to this topic: pay attention. Paying attention is an underrated but critical skill for leaders. Paying attention to moments that deserve punctuation can help us transform them into defining moments when special things happen. Paying attention paves the way to self-reflection, insight, explosive change and more.

Effective leaders develop a toolkit they can reach into and utilize to create those defining moments. The toolkit contains an eclectic collection of classes, notes, experiences, successes, failures, quotes, books and other items that have made an impression and are saved for future access.

I reserve my toolkit for items that get in my bones and become a part of me, things that have changed or impacted how I see the world. They are personal entries because they touch on a value that I hold for myself or one that I hope is expressed in how I treat others.

The book, "The Power of Moments," by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, is in my toolkit and in my bones. They explain why certain moments have extraordinary impact and endure in our memory. These moments can bring us joy or pain, but they can shape our lives and the lives of others.

"The Power of Moments," the book Leadership Greater Hartford is currently studying as part of our Lessons in Leadership series, describes the characteristics of defining moments. They rise above other day-to-day moments, rewire our understanding of ourselves or the world, capture us at our best and/or connect us to others.

Leaders pay attention to opportunities to transform ordinary moments into defining moments. When we have the responsibility for leading an effort or people, we can create moments that encourage people to take a step forward or backwards or even stop for a moment and be still. The leader can define the direction that is needed, and that movement can become a defining moment.

Another book in my toolkit is "212: The Extra Degree," by Sam Parker, a small but powerful book about inspiring people to new and higher levels of performance. Parker draws on a metaphor: at 211 degrees water is very hot, but at 212 degrees, it boils and becomes the steam that powers a train. That train cannot move until the water reaches 212 degrees and turning up the heat at exactly the right moment determines whether the train stalls or flies down the track.

A defining moment can be a 212- degrees event. Effective leaders anticipate these moments and turn up the heat at the right time to move our teams, projects and organizations down the track.

Too many potentially defining moments get missed. Leaders run the risk of missing moments because busyness is stealing or dulling our capability for letting them sink in. Instead, we move on to the next moment, the next and the next, without giving ourselves a chance to grow from these experiences. The potentially defining moments are missed and become forgettable.

"The Power of Moments," teaches leaders how to "think in moments" so that we can anticipate those that can become defining moments for ourselves and others. Let's re-inspire ourselves and become students and watchers for moments.

Karen Senteio is the director of consulting and training at Leadership Greater Hartford.

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