Seinfeld is a great comedy show from the 90s that is known for its observational humor and the absurd situations that the group of four friends find themselves in. The show was hugely popular when it first aired and today finds itself in a new renaissance thanks to the popularity of streaming.
What leadership lessons can be learned from a show that claims itself to be a show about nothing and includes amazing leadership quotes like, “It’s not a lie if you (yourself) believe it.”
Be confident and own who you are
Jerry Seinfeld, the main character and stand-up comedian, is often seen as the voice of reason and sanity among his friends. He is there to be a listening ear and they bust through his apartment door unannounced. He’s also confident and authentic in his style and personality; he’s not pretending to be someone he is not.
Jerry reminds us that we need to be comfortable in our own skin. Avoid the trap of trying to change who you are to gain the affection and attention of others. It’s a facade that is not easy to keep up and you’ll only find yourself less happy and fulfilled as a result. Being confident in yourself also gives you the space to express your opinions and insight, which Jerry was certainly an expert at.
Learn from the mistakes that you make
George Costanza, Jerry’s best friend is…… a loser. Some of the most memorable moments of the show center around George and how disastrous he is in life and the ability to make the right choice. George is insecure, dishonest, lazy, and selfish, and sabotages himself more than anyone he encounters. If there is something positive to be said about George, it’s that he is resilient. He is willing to try new things, experiment with different strategies, and learn from his mistakes and failures. (Sometimes just to turn around and make another new mistake.)
Everybody makes mistakes, hopefully, a little less than George, but it’s a part of our regular path to personal and professional growth. Be open to feedback, criticism, and change, and use them as opportunities for your own growth and improvement. Mistakes hold value too if you are willing to take the lessons that they teach. As you reflect on a recent mistake, what is the lesson learned and how could you be resourceful to come to a different conclusion the next time the situation presents itself?
Keep things in perspective and enjoy the funny things in life
Elaine Benes, Jerry’s ex-girlfriend, and friend, is a smart, independent, and successful woman. She is also incredibly witty, sarcastic, and humorous, often making fun of herself and others. She doesn’t take herself or life too seriously and knows how to have fun and enjoy the moment. Perhaps the most memorable example of this is the famous Elanie Dance where she dances so horribly that George describes it as a “full body dry heave set to music.”
Having the right perspective, and understanding of the larger context is important in both leadership and life, so you don’t overreact or underreact to everyday challenges. Be willing to laugh at yourself and the situation that you might find yourself in. For more information on this pairing, check out Humor (PTB 44) and Finding Perspective (PTB 111).
Sometimes you have to deal with the weirdos
Cosmos Kramer. What a name and character. He always came bursting through Jerry’s door like an out-of-control washing machine shaking and bouncing from an uneven load of laundry. Kramer was full-on weird, but often stole the scenes that he was in and somehow became a friend in Jerry’s small inner circle. Jerry didn’t have much of a choice but to deal with and interact with Kramer. Even if he kept the apartment locked at all times, Kramer lived across the hall, so no doubt he would still have run-ins and interactions with him.
It is guaranteed that you are going to have people that you would consider weird and out there come across your path, both at work and in your personal life. Regardless of the situation, treat them with the respect and friendliness that you give to others. Even though Jerry could have been dismissive and rude to Kramer, he chose to listen to him and go along with his crazy line of thoughts. In the real world, you may be making a mighty impact on the other person, because there is a chance that you are the only one that shows them any respect and attention at all.
Jerry’s circle of friends is an unlikely group that found themselves together. Be true to yourself, embrace and own your mistakes, keep it in perspective, and care for the weirdos in your life. You’ll be a better leader and friend as a result.
Thank you so much for supporting the show over the years! We love to receive and answer your questions and hear how you are passing the baton to others in your own leadership journey. Whether you are a first-year Baton Carrier or have been listening to us since the beginning, we are honored to be a part of your leadership growth.
I can look back on my life and see where there was always a group of friends that were there for me to support me as I grew older and tried to figure out life. No matter your life stage, your circle of friends can impact your leadership skills in a positive way.
5 ways friendships help your leadership
Your friends are the ones that should be believing in you and rooting for your success in the good times as well as the bad. Thanks to the internet and specialized social media accounts, it’s easy to go out and get a little motivation each day. While there is nothing wrong with those outlets; they actually do have some encouraging thoughts from time to time, encouragement from a friend hits differently. Encouragement means more from those that you respect and know on a personal level. Check out 5 ways to encourage friends at work and at home for tips on how you can be an encouragement to others.
2. Friendships boost our self-confidence
Friends are certainly good for your self-esteem. They help you feel secure and give you a sense of belonging. They are your cheerleaders and inject confidence into the decisions and moves that you make. Think about a good friend that is or was that person for you. How are using that example with those that you lead? Would you consider yourself a great cheerleader and coach or is there a chance to improve?
3. Friendships expand our perspectives
A healthy circle of friends exposes us to different views, opinions, experiences, and cultures. They also stimulate our creativity, curiosity, and innovation. Having that larger worldview and context is essential in order to be the best leader that you can be for your team and in leading yourself well. Be open to listening to others as they share their perspectives and grow keenly aware as your biases put up a defense around what others share and think.
4. Friendships build trust and loyalty
Sometimes it can be hard to share about your personal life with others that you lead. There are a number of root causes of that hesitation; maybe you’ve been burned in the past, taught early on to keep personal discussions to a minimum or you worked somewhere that did not promote transparency in their organization. A good friend can help you grow through this by giving you opportunities to be vulnerable and transparent with them, sharing things that you may not be comfortable sharing with teammates yet.
5. Friendships cultivate compassion and empathy
It’s important to know the difference between empathy, sympathy, and pity. While it’s likely that you’ll run through all of those emotional responses during the life of a friendship, friends can teach us a great deal about empathy. In order to have empathy with someone, you’ve got to be able to put yourself in their proverbial shoes. That can be a challenging muscle to strengthen, but it can be trained with your friends. They are the ones that you know the most; you likely have a good amount of relationship equity built up and you have a better understanding of the larger context of what’s going for the other person. Leverage your friendships to grow your empathy with your team and be thankful for the times that your friends show empathy and compassion to you.
Friendships can help us become better leaders by boosting our self-confidence, expanding our perspectives, fostering trust and loyalty, and cultivating compassion and empathy. By caring for and learning from your friendships, you can become a more inspiring leader for others to follow.
A number of studies show that as an employee feels disconnected and unengaged with their work and their leadership, their likelihood of leaving the organization rises significantly. Check-ins, or formal times to sit down together and look at the larger picture, are key in order to keep people around for longer. Here are some ways check-ins positively impact your team, and the work they do.
Check-ins keep accountabilityin place
You’ve likely heard the term, “inspect what you expect.” It’s a phrase that’s used as a reminder to leaders that they shouldn’t lay out an objective and expect it magically come to a successful reality on its own. If it’s something that is important to you and the business, you need to check in on occasion to see how the progress is going.
Check-ins are great for shared accountability, and that’s a good thing. Some people think of the term accountable as only negative, like someone is being reprimanded. That’s not the case at all. The accountability in check-ins is to see that we’ve made our agreed-upon progress in the finalized timeline. It’s a chance to celebrate or course correct as needed as well.
Associates want that level of accountability and clarity as well. Imagine giving your best effort into a project only to realize that you are off the mark because the requirements changed as you neared the deadline. Check-ins are also a great time to hold their leader accountable for the resources and promises that were made during the last touchpoint.
Check-ins keep things from hitting critical mass
It’s fairly common to look at big HR cases and draw a line back to a much smaller set of circumstances that snowballed into a massive breakdown for the associate and the business.
Check-ins are a wonderful opportunity to discover those issues and course-correct them before they turn into monsters that you have to deal with later. During your check-in be sure to ask some things about the larger team and how relationships and dynamics are working (or not working). Understanding these situations early and having the willingness and managerial courage to step up to potentially difficult conversations will help prevent future escalations and flare-ups. You can literally save someone’s career by leveraging your relationship management skills during your check-ins.
Check-ins are a compass for career growth
One of the most common themes that employees give about their leader and organizations is that no one has a career aspirations conversation with them. No one has asked them what they want to be or do at the company! Now, some of that could be that the leader is afraid to ask because they don’t want to know the answer. It could also be generational. Noone asked ever asked the leader, so the leader doesn’t put much thought into it for their own team. Regardless of the reason for the disconnect, regular check-ins provide an easy avenue to have some career-focused discussions. Discover their aspirations and help them make connections and acquired needed skills between check-ins.
Check-ins show you care
Above all, check-ins show that you care about the other person. Your team knows that you have a busy schedule, so they appreciate and recognize the time that you take to sit down and have regular check-in conversations with them. It’s another great opportunity to build and strengthen a relational bond with the other person as well.
If you don’t currently have a regular cadence for check-ins, I’d encourage you to do so with your team. Block the time for the next year on both calendars to prevent the time and tasks from getting the best of your positive intent. Your people deserve a regular time when they can get clarity on the role, share personal and professional progress, and feel like they have a clear line of sight for the next step in their career.
Have you ever warned yourself out mentally thinking about a person, situation, or change that you ultimately have no control over? Maybe a better way to phrase the question is not how, but how often! Growing through and letting go of those things that you can’t control can be challenging and cause you anxiety, and stress, and can ultimately derail your day, month, year, or life if you let it take too much of a hold on you.
Today we’ll dive into a few reminders of those things that you can not control in order to let them go and move forward in a healthy way.
As obvious as it sounds, you can’t control the past. Nevertheless, others and perhaps yourself will shackle the past to a person or relationship that can become an unbearable burden. Sometimes that may be justified; think of abusive relationships or all-around toxic relationships (Show 205). Other times, you need to move past the past so you can have a better future.
For those that hold the past against you: The other person will always have the choice and power to hold on to your past or let it go. The best that you can do is continue to show how you’ve grown and matured. Be sure to check out our recommended steps for turning around a bad reputation. (Show 174)
If you hold on to the past yourself: Freeing yourself from the past can be extremely challenging depending on the situation. I’ve talked to and coached people who have been recovering addicts, close combat veterans, people who have contemplated and survived suicidal thoughts, and others who have had a really rough path to travel. If you carry a heavy burden, get help through a professional counselor, psychiatrist, or other trusted and certified avenues to help you get back on track. Remember to give yourself some grace and don’t try too hard (Show 136)
Sometimes when we think about the past we focus on what we could have done differently. That’s good to a point. Use that reflection to grow towards the future, but to get stuck at that moment in the past is not beneficial for you or anyone else.
Other people’s actions and choices
I’ll say that this one got me for a good portion of my early leadership days. I struggled with people who I had invested in and given all the tools to be successful, but only throw those tools away and set themselves back through poor choices in both the leadership and life walk.
Giving the person the support and tools to be successful is in your control. How a person uses (or doesn’t) use the tools is totally up to them and fully out of your control. Know that you did your best and remind yourself of the work that you put in to reassure yourself when others make poor choices.
If you still have interaction with a person that falls into this scenario, be respectful and cordial in the conversation. Share your concerns if you have a level of trust with the other person, but don’t carry an expectation on yourself that you have to redeem or restore that person.
What others think or feel… especially about us.
We typically put a high value on what others think of us, even those that we have no relationship with at all. We can hyper-focus on what a person thinks of us or how they feel based on our own insecurities and need to be validated. If you find yourself consumed with thoughts about the other person, ask yourself a few questions:
How much control do I have over the other person liking me?
How helpful is the time spent thinking about this person?
Does all this time and mental effort thinking about the other person add any value back to me?
If you answer no, then think about the things that you can control. What can you do to keep refining to make a better version of yourself?
People love their comfort and safety! There are few things guaranteed in life, but change is certainly one of them. Change is easy to see. Think about the you from a year ago and no doubt you can see change both good and bad that has occurred since then.