Blog Categories: Leading Positively

How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Mistakes

Posted on September 8, 2019

In my experience as a pscycholgoist and leadership Coach, I often hear the challenge successful people have in managing their thoughts around mistakes which they have made.  The pointers given in this brief Harvard Business Review article are timeless and quite effective.  And, to top it off, these “manage your mind around mistakes” methods are founded in social science research.

Be the Authentic Leader Your People Need

Posted on August 13, 2019

 

Many leaders are unaware of how their lack of authenticity chips away at people, breeding dissatisfaction, distrust, and disloyalty. Organizational effectiveness and productivity suffer when workers view leaders as inauthentic.

One out of three people distrusts his or her employer, according to the 2017 Edelman “Trust Barometer.” Four out of five don’t see authenticity in their leaders’ performance. When only 20 percent of leaders come across as genuine, they risk handicapping their organizations with insufficient influence, poor worker engagement and, ultimately, disappointing corporate results.

People want to be led well. They want assurance that their best interests are important and that their future is in safe hands. They need to believe their leaders will make sound, effective decisions. Inauthentic leaders destroy employee confidence.

The Real Deal

Authenticity is an emotionally vital state of well-being for employees—one that heavily relies on a leader’s consistent trueness, explains consultant Karissa Thacker in The Art of Authenticity (Wiley, 2016). The author suggests that leaders recognize this principle as irrefutable in order to enhance interdependence. The best leaders undergo continual self-assessment and improvement to convert habitual behaviors into authentic ones.

Being authentic encompasses several other key leadership mandates:

1. Be self-aware.
2. Earn respect.
3. Connect.
4. Convey credibility.
5. Earn trust.

Successful leaders optimize each of these behaviors to develop character and broaden influence.

Be Self-Aware

Great leaders know themselves well, notes Brenda Ellington Booth, a clinical professor of management at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business.

When you recognize your limitations and weaknesses, you can openly admit to them, and learn to compensate and find workable solutions. Focusing on self-improvement, with an emphasis on asking others to assist you, is as authentic as it gets.

Leaders who fully understand and express their vision are clear about promoting it—and more successful in getting others to believe in it. People will follow a leader who has a passion for everyone’s future. Understand what motivates this passion within you, and apply it to your advantage.

When you identify the values that affirm you, there’s no need to focus on being popular. You grow stronger from these inner affirmations—not from others’ approval. Your objective should be to give your best, even when those around you don’t. Authenticity allows you to move forward, confident in knowing who you are and where you’re going.

Earn Respect

Being respected begins with showing respect to others, both upline and downline in your organization. Model respect for everyone and it will be contagious.

The phrase “leading by example” is more than a suggestion. Leaders who model the behavior they want their organization to exhibit make the most effective strides in establishing a healthy culture. Employees respect leaders who walk the talk and regard them as authentic. Who doesn’t want to follow someone who displays noble values in decisions and behaviors?

Humility, expressed as a willingness to listen to and learn from others, is one of the most effective ways to earn respect, asserts leadership coach Brent Gleeson in his Inc.com article, “7 Simple Ways to Lead by Example.” Humility is a particularly refreshing attribute these days, and it can prove to be a valuable tool.

Authentic leaders recognize they don’t have all the answers, and probably never will. Soliciting and appreciating others’ ideas showers them with affirmation, which commands respect in return.

Connect

Sincere leaders say what they mean and mean what they say, thus coming across as authentic. A genuine, relational approach to people shows them they’re valued, Booth notes. When they see a leader who’s interested in them, they’ll reciprocate, thereby satisfying their need for security and value, while fueling engagement and productivity. A leader’s vision is compelling under these conditions.

When leaders want to connect with people, it shows. Their actions draw people to them, and connections grow. Relationships ascend to the next level when you seek feedback from your staff, especially regarding how they’re being managed. Your willingness to listen demonstrates an authentic sense of vulnerability that reveals courage, candor and caring.

Convey Credibility

People don’t believe leaders who exhibit questionable behavior. Being true, inwardly and outwardly, avoids this potential pitfall.

Trueness to oneself is the most basic form of genuineness, which aligns with authenticity. Be the real you. Faking things is deceptive and eventually evident to all. People aren’t fooled for long. They’ll question and distrust inconsistencies. Being true to yourself requires healthy self-awareness and self-worth. Who you are is the person people will see, and it’s the noble character in you they want to see.

Consistency in trueness builds credibility. People know who they’ll face day in and day out, through good and tough times. Great leaders are mindful of this. They’ve trained themselves to proactively discern the high road and take it, with honorable motives. Noble character, lived out on a regular basis, is the anchor of authenticity that people need to weather any storm.

Outward truthfulness is also critical. Honesty shouldn’t be the best policy; it should be the only policy. Leaders caught in a lie inflict damage to themselves and those around them. A quick glance at today’s headlines should serve as a brisk confirmation. Nothing builds barricades faster than a leader who tries to deceive. Truthfulness is a pillar your culture cannot be without, so lead with it.

Exercise judgment when truth must be guarded. Confidentiality is required for credibility. Sensitive, personal or private information must be handled carefully and discreetly. Don’t jump to conclusions or make decisions based on assumptions or rumors. Once inappropriate things are said or misinformation falls into the wrong hands, it cannot be retracted. Tension soars, and credibility plummets.

Credible leaders avoid these kinds of risks. They use professional language, with the proper sensitivities, cautions and accuracies. This doesn’t mean there can’t be light or even humorous moments, but they shouldn’t be careless or reckless.

Earn Trust

You can earn trust by practicing the four previous attributes, but there are other ways to enhance your trust quotient and demonstrate authenticity.

Accountability is key. Establishing a system of personal checks and balances conveys the importance of responsibility. Submitting to the authority of peers or top leaders helps assure people that the decisions governing them can be trusted as prudent and beneficial for everyone (catering to their inward need for safety and assurance). This builds trust.

When you accept blame for errors and give credit for victories, you’re demonstrating accountability and setting the stage for greater trust. Your actions place value on the most appropriate people: those doing the work. Without your people, you accomplish nothing, so be sure to express appreciation. You’ll be rewarded with their trust.

The greatest leaders give their people the most freedom possible to make decisions, pushing authority down to the most foundational level. This is a powerful sign of trust in staff, and it is returned with something just as powerful: trust in the leader. Employees free from overcontrolling and micromanaging acquire a sense of empowerment that raises productivity and innovation.

Finally, authentic leaders are flexible. They adapt to shifting situations and go off script if needed, always keeping in mind their people’s well-being. Sticking to routines or insisting on preferences shows inflexibility, which is usually self-serving. Your willingness to change plans in response to a challenge or crisis, with authentic good judgment, is a sign of your trustworthiness. You’re putting your people’s best interests at the forefront, building a solid foundation of trust.

You owe it to yourself and your people to continually refine your character and insights, as well as think and respond in credible, authentic ways. Work toward making effective decisions and powerful impressions that draw your people into an engaging and productive unity you never thought possible.

Does earning this kind of respect and trust come easy? Not at all. It takes hard work, but the alternative should be unacceptable. Choose to pursue these authentic leadership traits, and refine them. Let an experienced leadership coach assist with the areas that challenge you the most.

Power of the Pack: Women Who Support Women are More Successful

Posted on July 27, 2019

A great quote in this article by Madeleine Albright:  “There is a special place in heaven for women who support other women.”  The article goes on to specify ways that women (and men) can view networking as a valued way of building and sustaining key relationships and, not just as an exercise in shaking hands and passing out business cards.  Read on for some brilliant and simple ways to further career and relational connections.

The Need for Managers with Coaching Skills

Posted on April 1, 2019

Managers who effectively harness their coaching skills reap multiple benefits. Their employees are more committed, willing to put in greater effort and are less likely to leave.

Most managers have had some training in coaching people for high performance. Ten years ago, 73% of managers received some form of training, according to BlessingWhite, a global leadership-development firm. But the firm’s 2015 report reveals that employees who receive regular feedback through coaching conversations are in the minority.

Why Don’t More Managers Coach?

Managers usually cite lack of time as the main excuse for failing to coach employees, but the real reasons may be different, note John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett in The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow (McGraw-Hill Education, 2010).

Three common barriers stand in the way:

  1. Misconceptions of what coaching is
  2. A desire to avoid difficult conversations
  3. No clear game plan for initiating and framing coaching conversations

The Manager-Fixer

Despite good intentions, the manager-fixer creates numerous problems:

  1. Quick fixes don’t teach people to think for themselves.
  2. When work is challenging, employees will look to their managers for an easy fix.
  3. Managers who fix problems encourage dependency, thereby creating additional work for themselves.

Let’s address the reasons why managers fail to coach.

  1. Misconceptions of What Coaching Is

Coaching isn’t instructing, mentoring, counseling, cheerleading, therapy or directing, although there are some similarities. Coaching skills include:

  • Clarifying an interaction’s outcome and agreeing to a conversation’s goal
  • Listening to what is—and isn’t—said
  • Asking non-leading questions to expand awareness
  • Exploring possibilities, consequences, actions and decisions
  • Eliciting a desired future state
  • Establishing goals and expectations, including stretch goals
  • Providing support
  • Following up on progress
  • Setting accountability agreements
  1. A Desire to Avoid Difficult Conversations

Coaching conversations require time and energy, but they’re the only way to gain trust, honesty and transparency. If you’re unwilling to invest the required time and effort, coaching will inevitably fail.

  1. No Game Plan for Coaching Conversations

Many coaching models exist, but the best are short, simple and easy to employ. With a solid framework, you can achieve results in as little as 10 minutes.

GROW Model

One of the original coaching frameworks is the GROW model, created by Graham Alexander, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore:

G Goal The Goal is where the client wants to be. It must be clearly defined so people know when they’ve achieved it.
R Reality The Current Reality is where the client is now. What are the issues and challenges? How far away is Goal achievement?
O Obstacles What Obstacles are stopping the client from reaching the Goal?
Options Once Obstacles are identified, the client finds Options to deal with them and make progress.
W Way Forward The Options are converted into the Way Forward—action steps that map the way to reach the Goal.

 

FUEL Coaching Conversations

Zenger and Stinnett suggest using the FUEL model in The Extraordinary Coach:

  • F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process and desired outcomes.
  • U = Understand the Current State. Explore the current state from the coachee’s point of view. Expand the coachee’s awareness of the situation to determine the real coaching issue.
  • E = Explore the Desired State. Articulate your vision of success in this scenario. Explore multiple alternative paths before prioritizing methods of achieving this vision.
  • L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify the specific, time-bounded action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results. Determine milestones for follow-up and accountability.

Face the Coaching FACTS

While people enjoy receiving their managers’ support, they also want to be challenged, note John Blakey and Ian Day in Challenging Coaching: Going Beyond Traditional Coaching to Face the FACTS (Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2012).

Blakey and Day developed the FACTS coaching model from frontline observations:

  • F = Feedback: How can coaches provide challenging feedback that informs and inspires? How can we ensure that praise and recognition are balanced with honest feedback on mistakes?
  • A = Accountability: How does a coach hold people accountable for commitments without blame or shame? How can accountability be extended from personal commitments to alignment with the values, strategy and ethos of the wider organization?
  • C = Courageous Goals: How does a coach move beyond incremental goal-setting models to those that engage the right-brain attributes of courage, excitement, inspiration and transformation?
  • T = Tension: When is tension constructive? How can coaches practice creating and holding tension without risking burnout in key performers? How can the tension in a conversation be calibrated and dynamically adjusted to ensure peak performance? When does tension go too far and damage the underlying relationships?
  • S = Systems Thinking: How can a coach stay sensitive to “big-picture” issues like ethics, diversity and the environment without losing focus on bottom-line results? What can be learned from the world of systems thinking that enables the coach to be a positive agent of change for the wider organization?

Powerful Questions

Managers who avoid coaching often struggle with starting a coaching conversation. In the absence of deep, hour-long coaching sessions, you can use key questions to realize change and growth.

Michael Bungay Stanier shares seven core questions to open coaching conversations in The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (Box of Crayons Press, 2016):

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. What else?
  3. What’s the real challenge here for you?
  4. What do you want?
  5. How can I help?
  6. If you’re saying “yes” to this, to what are you saying “no”?
  7. What was most useful for you?

Growing Better Leaders: 5 Developmental Stages

Posted on February 19, 2019

 

Like all maturing adults, leaders progress through sequential developmental levels. At the higher stages, they become more successful. With increased effectiveness, there’s a 38% probability of seeing higher business performance, according to one study.

The increasingly complex and chaotic marketplace poses an urgent need to grow better leaders. Leaders remain confused, however, about how to strengthen their competencies.

Rather than focusing on training, skills and knowledge, developmental-stage theory involves expanding one’s “forms of mind,” defined by leadership coach Jennifer Garvey Berger as our changing capacity to cope with complexity, multiple perspectives and abstraction.

Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), applied developmental-stage theory to create the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360°assessment tool that measures leaders’ developmental stages.

Similarly, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs use developmental-stages as the foundation for Leadership Agility 360°, their 360° assessment tool, in Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (Jossey-Bass 2007).

By identifying stages of progressive development, we can use behavioral action plans and coaching to expand a leader’s forms of mind and modify behavior.

Foundations of Developmental Theory

Developmental theories have been around for decades, based on 50 years of psychological research into how adults mature. The basics are summarized here:

  1. Just as children improve their cognitive capacities with age, so do adults.
  2. Adults, however, develop according to needs and opportunities, not because of age.
  3. Some adults can function only at lower levels of development. A small percentage attains higher levels of awareness, wisdom and compassion.
  4. As leaders progress through developmental levels, they expand their mental and emotional capacities and become increasingly skilled at handling complexity.
  5. Each stage describes a form of mind: a way of thinking about responsibility, conflicts, perspective and assumptions (about self, others and the world).
  6. Leaders may operate partially at one stage and occasionally at the next, but return to old habits before transitioning.
  7. Transitioning requires changing one’s previous assumptions to expand consciousness.

5 Levels of Leadership

The following table explains how four leadership experts define levels of leadership behaviors and mindsets. Unfortunately, there is no uniform agreement on vocabulary, which has created a confusing array of names and definitions.

(Please note: The rows of stages aren’t equal; that is, while there may be some similarities, the stages are not defined as equivalent to others across the rows.)

Using a broad brush, we can summarize the various stages of leadership development as follows:

  • Level 1: Leaders who operate at the first stage of development are focused on their own need to excel, which explains why it’s referred to as an Egocentric, Opportunist or Expert stage. These leaders are acutely aware of what they need to do to succeed and how they must be perceived by others. Leadership at Level 1 therefore tends to be autocratic and controlling. Growth requires one to become aware of, and interested in, other people’s needs and to reach out co-relationally. This is a normal developmental stage for young adults, but ineffective for leaders (although 5% appear to operate at this stage).
  • Level 2: Leaders’ abilities to simultaneously respond to their personal needs and those of others is the hallmark of Stage 2, referred to as the Socialized or Reactive mindset by some, and the Diplomat or Achiever stage by others. At this stage, a leader plays by the organization’s rules and expectations and builds alliances, but with a focus on how to best get ahead. One’s emphasis is on the outer game to gain meaning, self-worth and security. At this stage, identity is defined from the outside-in and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength, intellect or results. Leaders fall into three categories at Level 2: Complying, Protecting or Controlling (reflecting overdependence on heart, head or will). Most leaders (nearly 75%, as with most adults) operate at this level.
  • Level 3: Referred to as the Creative, Self-Authoring, Individualist or Catalyst stage, Level 3 is marked by personal transformation from old assumptions/beliefs and a quest for external validation to a more authentic version of the self. These leaders want to know who they truly are and what they care most about. They’re on a path to becoming visionary leaders, accepting that authenticity carries a risk of disappointing others, potential failures and hazards associated with contradicting accepted norms. Leaders trade their need to be admired for a higher purpose. They don’t feel the need to be the hero and begin to share power. About 20% of leaders operate with a Level 3 mindset.
  • Level 4: Called the Integral, Transforming Self, Strategist and Co-Creator stage, Level 4’s hallmark is one’s ability to focus not only on an organizational vision, but the welfare of the larger system in which a company operates. Servant leadership emerges, as one considers more interdependent components and systemic complexities.
  • Level 5: Level 5 is referred to as Unitive, Alchemist and Synergist. Other stages of development may be unexplored, as very few leaders grow past the fourth level. To some theorists, Level 5 encompasses a spiritual focus.

As leaders progress from one level to the next, they expand your strengths and abilities. Leaders can grow into the next developmental stage, recognizing there will be a learning curve and inherent challenges.

Leadership development programs must take developmental stages into account if organizations are to grow better leaders.

This is How to Have a Long Awesome Life: 7 Secrets from Research

Posted on January 23, 2019

We have a lot to learn from research–not only living well, longer — but happier.  So a group of demographers published papers on those areas in the world where people do just that:  Areas where people were up to three times more likely to live to 100 than the average American. And they didn’t just live long — they lived well. Healthier. Happier. Fewer diseases. More energy.  Read this concise blog to find out what the researchers did — lessons for living longer from people around the world who lived the longest.  Hint:  the answer is not in a bottle of supplements or in a cream.

Why You Should Put a Little More Thought Into Your Out-of-Office Message

Posted on October 14, 2018

This HBR article written by Michelle Gielan,

Positive Psychology researcher gives a surprising view of Out-Of-Office (OOO) messages.  She gives ideas as to how we can use the message to build social connections which, research finds that social connection, which adds meaning and depth to our relationships, is the greatest predictor of long-term levels of happiness, and can be a major contributing factor to our performance at work.  She also offers some creative examples beyond the boring OOO that can forge conversational sharing and ways to be offer resources to your clients while letting them know that you are away.

Benjamin Franklin built his character around 13 virtues — and following his weekly plan could change your life

Posted on January 19, 2018

 

When I start to work with a client, I ask them to define what their values/virtues and strengths are — taking the VIA strengths survey helps to determine them.  Then I ask them to rate their top 6 values each day on a scale of 1 -10.  This exercise was also practiced by one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin.  Read this article on how esteemed Mr. Franklin defined his values and then contemplated each day how he used them.  How many years later and we are still talking about Ben?  I would say his method of defining his virtues and living them out served him well … and us.

This Is How To Create Happy Memories That Will Last A Lifetime: 3 Secrets From Research

Posted on November 12, 2017

It’s fascinating what causes people to remember certain experiences, activities, and times in their lives.  Yet, most of the time we wonder what we did last week that was meaningful or, how fast time is going by and … what is there to show for it?  This article describes the research behind what makes certain events memorable and how to create more of them to savor and enjoy the life we have.  Here are some hints:  tell a employee that you appreciate their work, celebrate getting past a disagreement and remaining friends, mark a memory with a ritual that involves a sensory delight…live your life and look to make more moments of connection and gratitude.

Turning Negative Thinkers into Positive Ones

Posted on August 3, 2017

We all know negative thinking when we hear it, the challenge is managing our own negative thoughts even in the face of hearing the “half empty glass” dialogue of others.  This article by NYT health editor Jane Brody describes the compelling research of current social scientists whose data suggests that developing positive emotions in oneself promotes healthy bodies, minds and more life satisfaction.