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Cornerstone: November 2009

In my office at fire headquarters, I have an inspirational poster on leadership that says leaders stand out by the nature of their commitment and the integrity of their character. I believe in this axiom, because anyone can be a leader when all is going well; it is how we present ourselves in times of adversity that demonstrates what types of people we are and how we deal with the highs and lows in our lives.

November 6, 2009
By Lyle Quan

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In my office at fire headquarters, I have an inspirational poster on leadership that says leaders stand out by the nature of their commitment and the integrity of their character. I believe in this axiom, because anyone can be a leader when all is going well; it is how we present ourselves in times of adversity that demonstrates what types of people we are and how we deal with the highs and lows in our lives.

The two books I am presenting here will help you create some winning habits for dealing with peaks and valleys in your careers and personal lives. They will also help you understand how the prudent things you do in bad times can create more good times for you. Why is this? Quite simply, the more adept you are at dealing with adversity the more skilled you will become at taking advantage of those good times in a progressive and beneficial manner.

In his book Winning Habits (2004), author Dick Lyles presents four basic habits that when applied consistently can help you to succeed in your career and overcome the challenges you face. As I read Lyles’ book I quickly realized that these four habits really are the basic keys to success.

Lyles’ four habits are:

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  1. Be first on, last off and add extra value – always do that little extra;
  2. Never trade results for excuses – don’t look for blame, look for results;
  3. Solve problems in advance – always try to stay two steps ahead;
  4. Always make those around you look good – if the team looks good, you look good.

Let’s break these down. Habit No. 1 tells us that those who are seen to always put in the extra effort and time are the ones who will get noticed in a positive way. Think of all the successful people you have met – what made them stand out? Most likely it was the fact that they had real staying power and were not afraid to put in that extra effort.

Habit No. 2  – never trading results for excuses – is something I hold near and dear because I don’t want anyone on my team who is always laying blame on others or circumstances. I want people who move beyond that. I often say “what was, was and what is, is”. In other words, we cannot change what has happened but we can make a difference from this point on, so let’s not blame anyone; let’s get it done.

No. 3  – solve problems in advance. When I look for people to help me with projects I gravitate toward problems solvers, not problem makers. What do I mean by this? Well, are you someone who plans ahead so you are trying to solve problems in advance, or are you someone who deals with issues as they present themselves and subsequently find yourself scrambling for answers?

And finally, No. 4 – make those around you look good. The more you make your team look good, the better you look. Believe me, everyone sees who is actually doing the work and who is simply trying to take credit for it. Never underestimate the ability of those around to see the truth.

Take these four habits, write them down and place them where you can see them as a daily reminder of how you can excel in what you do.

In the second book, Peaks and Valleys (2009), by Spencer Johnson, the author leads you through a concept that I find quite interesting. He presents readers with the idea that it’s what you do when you are in the valleys of life that dictates how quickly you can reach the peaks. In essence, peaks are moments when you appreciate what you have when you are riding high on life and/or at work. Valleys are moments when you long for what is missing. This is when things seem to go wrong no matter what you do.

Johnson’s book will teach readers how to get out of the valleys sooner; how to stay on the peaks longer and how to have more peaks and fewer valleys in the future. A key point in Johnson’s book is to avoid believing things are better than they really are when you are on a peak, or worse than they really are when you are in a valley. In other words, make reality your friend and see things for what they truly are.

Johnson also advises that, to stay on a peak longer, you should be humble and grateful. Do more of what got you there and keep making things better for yourself and for those around you.

I have no doubt that by applying Lyles’ four winning habits along with Johnson’s understanding of how to deal with peaks and valleys you will become more successful in what you do in life.

Both books can be obtained through Amazon and Chapters.

  • Winning Habits by Dick Lyles (2004), published by Prentice Hall.
  • Peaks and Valleys by Spencer Johnson (2009), published by Atria Books.

Deputy Chief Quan is a 28-year veteran of emergency services; a graduate of Lakeland College’s Bachelor of Applied Business: Emergency Services and Dalhousie University’s fire service leadership and administration programs. He is an associate instructor for the Ontario Fire College, Lakeland College and Dalhousie University. –E-mail: thequans@sympatico.ca


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