Do you work as hard on yourself as you do others?

My fellow Forbes Coaches Council member Divya Parekh recently posted a story which has been on my mind quite a bit:

A little boy went into a drug store, reached for a soda carton and pulled it over to the telephone. He climbed onto the carton so that he could reach the buttons on the phone and proceeded to punch in the phone numbers. The store-owner listened to the conversation.

Boy: ‘Lady, Can you give me the job of cutting your lawn?
Woman: (at the other end of the phone line): ‘I already have someone to cut my lawn.’
Boy: ‘Lady, I will cut your lawn for half the price of the person who cuts your lawn now.’
Woman: I’m very satisfied with the person who is presently cutting my lawn.
Boy: (with more perseverance): ‘Lady, I’ll even sweep your curb and your sidewalk.
Woman: No, thank you.
With a smile on his face, the little boy replaced the receiver. The store-owner, who was listening to all this, walked over to the boy.
Store Owner: ‘Son… I like your attitude; I like that positive spirit and would like to offer you a job.’
Boy: ‘No thanks.’
Store Owner: But you were really pleading for one.
Boy: No Sir, I was just checking my performance at the Job I already have. I am the one who is working for that lady I was talking to!’

What I love about this story is not how smart or resourceful or clever the kid is, but the genuine and persistent way with which he actively pursued getting “real-time” feedback on his work.
Of course I know some will immediately point out the flaws in the methodology and/or format of the feedback, so let me acknowledge right away, of course it’s not perfect or complete. But that’s not the point I was trying to make.
What really attracted me was the natural instinct he had to get external validation for his performance, instead of doing what I’ve seen many of us do – rely just on our own idea of how we feel we’re doing. I also loved the unflinching and determined way he pursued getting the feedback.
What would happen if more senior leaders, who are investing heavily in changing and improving organizational capabilities, also intentionally took the time and effort to work on our own capabilities — to improve, update or just check we’re getting it right? Isn’t this the very heart of design thinking as it relates to Leadership? Are we all growing and changing as fast as the world around us is? Are we staying ahead of the curve on a personal level? How do we know? What are we doing about it?
Hope the rest of your summer is relaxing – and I hope I’ve given you something to dream/ think about!

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