By Stephen James and Carlos Fuentes
Even though we may think that Pythagoras exaggerated when he said, “Man, know thyself, then thou shalt know the universe and god,” few of us doubt the wisdom of his advice. The problem with insightful, useful precepts is that they may appear childishly simple, almost trivial. “Come on,” some might say, “of course, knowing yourself is important, adults understand that and most know themselves.” We don't believe this. Many of us are unaware of our little and great flaws, or if aware, tend to dismiss them. Lisa Boero tackles the “little” ones, but don't be deceived by the adjective because they can sabotage your career. Bill Maw talks about more unpleasant ones. How unpleasant? Well, do you know of someone, including yourself, who has acknowledged having an inferiority complex? Whether or not we are honest, we all have little and great flaws. What to do about them? Lisa and Bill have useful advice.
Moving to corporate matters: have you come across complicated strategy dictums that few people remember and even fewer understand? Simplicity is an asset. And to move in that direction, frequent contributor and consultant Jay Vogt, describes the “One-Page Strategic Plan” and, as usual, shares helpful hints. Maybe elegant simplicity is what Colin Powell had in mind when he said: “Our strategy in going after this army is very simple. First we are going to cut it off; then we are going to kill it.” Understood?
- The Fatal Flaw―Lisa Boero is honest about her fatal flows and invites us to ponder on our own. She makes the assumption―we hope correctly―that we can face reality. What is the part of your job that you wish didn't exist and that prompts you to delay taking action; the kind of delay that uses Workers' Compensation lag factors? Maybe it is not an intimidating model that requires a lot of mental horsepower, but instead something simple that involves small amounts of time and effort, like recording billable time, or maybe your fatal flaw is the same as Lisa's. Once fatal flaws are identified, the next step is to fix them. Read on and you'll see the imaginative ways Lisa tried, which ones worked, which ones didn't―you'll be surprised. Go on, fix yours, anything is allowed except saying mañana.
- “The Need for Self-Awareness and Self-Improvement”―Have you met someone who is not self-aware, suffers from an inferiority or a superiority complex, has regrets or a sense of guilt? Unfortunately, if we are honest, all we have to do is to look at the mirror to see ourselves. Author and entrepreneur Bill Maw acknowledges candidly his shortcomings while insisting that self-awareness is the first step in the route to self-improvement. Traveling it is not easy, it requires a true desire to improve and the will to not give up. Fortunately or unfortunately, many of us can relate to Bill's story.
- “Creating Focus with a One-Page Strategic Plan”―”Elegant simplicity,” to quote author and frequently contributor Jay Vogt, “is a strategic asset, nay, a strategic imperative.” If you don't understand the big picture and how the different pieces of the business machine move and interact, you are driving blindly. As a general manager, it doesn't matter if you are an expert in one or two tactical areas, not when those areas are unimportant or, even worse, irrelevant. The flow of strategic thinking, as Jay explains, should be from the general to the particular. The One-Page Strategic Plan helps organize ideas and test your knowledge of the problem at hand. If you cannot answer a few fundamental questions, then you may be heading to a high-speed crash. Teamwork is the best way to develop concise strategic plans. To avoid herding cats, Jay suggests well organized management retreats.
Stephen James, FSA, FCIA, can be reached at StephenAndrewJames@shaw.ca.
Carlos Fuentes, FSA, MAAA, FCA, MBA, MS, is managing partner at Axiom Actuarial Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.