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  • Writer's pictureDave Griffith

A time to astound ourselves

The principle of Muddy Boots is straightforward. You put on your boots, go into the world, ask questions, listen, learn, and act on that knowledge. The asking is easy. It is listening that is hard. So too is the acting on the knowledge part. That thought is brought into focus from a quote from Thomas Edison I recently reread.

“If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.” - Thomas Edison

Hold that thought and do a little bit of self-reflection.

How many times have you gone into an effort and doubted your ability to pull it off? As you look back and are honest with yourself, you have some examples. In my own experience and observations as a manager over 40 plus years, I have seen individuals exceed their own expectations time and time again.

The opportunity is how we inspire the leap, the stretch, to make an attempt and discount the fear of failure. In there lies the art of management both of ourselves and the individuals we lead.

If you create a safe space, support risk, challenge getting out of your comfort zone, your team will not only astound themselves, they will delight your customers and stakeholders. Do not miss the opportunity that even in falling short is the opportunity to learn and grow as scar tissue from such an event is often the best teacher and sets the stage for future success.

It is also the opportunity to coach. To be clear, coaching is not telling an individual what to do. It is often the questions you ask, testing the data, understanding the why of an approach, and the support and space to try. To be clear, there is a place and time to say no, but use that as a coaching moment by explaining the why.

History tells us that performance breakthroughs come from pushing the limits and often doing the uncomfortable. As I have said here, doing the uncomfortable is where I have learned the most. It is rarely fatal—granted, there are many ways to improve the odds of success, like collaboration, being open to a range of thoughts and experiences, data, pilots, etc... All that, but in the end, you still need to take the leap: both yourself and your team.

As we come out of Covid and take on all of the challenges we face, we would do well to listen to Edison’s advice. We are capable of more in so many places and opportunities. Not just ourselves, but the people we lead and the customers we serve.

Time to astound ourselves.

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I have had a diverse career. Starting with IBM, ROLM, and MCI, then moving to The Modern Group, Ltd., and Episcopal Community Services. These days, I serve on several boards, both for-profit and nonpr


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