Posted on January 12, 2021
In the past decade, we’ve seen remarkable innovations and extraordinary technological advancements change the way we live, play, and conduct business.
Today, anyone with a smartphone has access to general artificial intelligence. We can easily manage everyday tasks (Google Assistant), send money (Venmo), travel about town (autonomous taxis in some U.S. cities), and answer our doors—from anywhere (Ring).
In the world of sports, racing sailboats have gone from large, single wooden hulls to aerodynamic vessels of flight. Their once canvas sails are now wings that carry the team on two or three small hydro-foils faster than the speed of wind.
Simulators and virtual reality are now a part of learning and training. Organizations have become data-driven cultures, led by Chief Data Officers, who work with data scientists and computers that process hundreds of hypothetical questions and answers.
And incredibly, we’re just getting started.
The most notable innovations are the direct result of disruptors: leaders who changed the game. They transformed existing markets (or created new ones) by focusing on convenience, simplicity, accessibility, or affordability.
I have observed how disruptive leaders learned to innovate more quickly, cheaply, and with less risk. But this is no easy feat, especially in today’s accelerated environment. For many, disruption causes anxiety, fear, and leads to disruption fatigue.
Ignoring the problem, or worse, feeding the fear, are not real solutions. Leadership in the time of disruption calls for a two-prong approach: improving current product performance and developing new disruptive technology.
In many cases, starting, re-tooling, and scaling a business is easier than ever before. But achieving and maintaining success is another matter. While rapid innovation and new technologies allow for faster speed to market, there are considerable risks and impacts.
Disruptive leaders have a clear understanding of current, as well as potential future disruptors. They examine their mission and vision. Success is achieved when leaders, executives, and managers lead with careful consideration and mindful intention.
Posted on January 12, 2020
This article highlights many lessons learned over the last decade regarding digital technology — both positive and negative. A good review of how fast technology is growing and, with that, our growing dependence on it. Important points here on – privacy, our health record, news which can be deceiving and, the importance of getting our heads “out of the clouds” to remember who we are and what WE think.
The post ends with a great quote reminding us that we are human beings with an ability to reason and choose: “As we grow even more dependent on our phones in the next decade, remember to lift your face from the screen, step away from your devices and spend time making connections that matter right where you are.”
Posted on October 10, 2019
This beautifully written article reminds us that, no matter how many self-improvement exercises we engage in…”The thing that makes us happiest in life is other people.” Learn how one might start building a social network of caring– as this author did after a loss in her life.
Posted on October 10, 2019
This article is written by a psychologist who studies the “Good Life.” Don’t we all want a little more of that? So play, according to research, is not only fun…but play and fun are instrumental to our well being, helps us be more creative, build better relationships and improves our mood. Positive Psychology superhero Christopher E. Peterson put it this way, play is “…a robust predictor of how satisfied we are with our lives.” Read this article and then … go have some fun!
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.
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.
4. Convey credibility.
5. Earn trust.
Successful leaders optimize each of these behaviors to develop character and broaden influence.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted on June 5, 2019
They’re everywhere. Walk into any workplace and you’ll find them. Regardless of your company’s success or employee-friendly culture, difficult people pose challenges for managers and team leaders each day.
Some are angry; some are anxious. Others are fearful, negative and obstinate. Some spark frequent disputes with their peers. Still others quietly stonewall and fail to follow through on commitments.
You cannot afford to avoid dealing with difficult people. Whether they’re direct reports or peer managers, their frustrating behaviors will take a toll on your ability to manage others and produce stellar results.
The more serious forms of difficult behavior are, in some ways, easier to deal with because they are blatant and often illegal. In cases of harassment, sabotage or physical threats, swiftly follow your clearly outlined company policies and implement the appropriate consequences.
But long before overt infringements arise, there are subtle forms of damaging behaviors that should not be tolerated or allowed to escalate. Confronting and dealing with these sticky situations will prevent more serious problems in the future.
Unfortunately, many managers avoid dealing with difficult people and strong emotions in the workplace. “People problems” are often cited as the most challenging — and time-consuming — part of a manager’s job. One study found that 42 percent of managers’ time is spent on defusing office conflict.
The High Costs of Conflict
Regardless of the form difficult behavior takes, it exacts a serious toll, including high turnover, absenteeism, theft, loss of clients, and low productivity and morale. When managers are distracted and frustrated by difficult behaviors, they have less time and energy to devote to their core responsibility: getting things done through others.
Resorting to firing and replacing people is risky and time-consuming; thus, many executives fail to confront problem behaviors at all. They find workarounds: avoidance, vague feedback, compensation for underperformance by taking on more work themselves. Even worse, they may promote a problem person out of their unit.
With practice, you can improve your ability to deal with difficult behaviors – a move that will free up enormous energy reserves. When conflicts are handled immediately, you and your team will function better, meet deadlines earlier, create more innovative processes and products, and make fewer errors.
Three Important Questions
Three major questions will emerge when you start to explore how to deal with difficult people:
- How do you respond to specific types of problematic behavior?
- What is the impact of your own behaviors and attitudes on others?
- How do you communicate effectively in a disciplinary conversation?
It’s a challenge to deal with behavior that’s not criminal, but nonetheless destructive to the company’s operations and culture. You can’t fire someone for complaining or whining. So, what can you do?
Attempt to clarify and understand the causes of problematic behaviors and intense emotions. You may also need to learn more about handling your own and others’ emotions. This enables you to reflect on your own behaviors and attitudes, as well as identify your part in any given situation. You can then articulate your feelings with transparency and authenticity.
Finally, smart managers know how to deliver constructive feedback that helps others grow and improve their performance. They are not afraid to facilitate discussions. Open-door communication prevents problematic behavior from arising in the first place.
Identify the Problem Behaviors
Everyone talks about difficult people and personalities, but labeling such individuals shifts attention from what they did to who they are. It’s always best to deal with behaviors, rather than personalities – and be as specific as possible.
While problem behavior can stem from an innately annoying personality – or, in some cases, even a personality disorder or other mental problems – these issues are beyond what one can expect to change. When there are deeper issues involved, referral to an Employee Assistance Program is usually advised.
Smart managers confine their discussion to specific behaviors: what was done and/or said. Behaviors and communication patterns are usually clearly identifiable. The situation becomes tricky when intense emotions are triggered.
The Force of Strong Emotions
Strong emotions include anxiety, fear, anger and an intense drive to be right at all costs. Feelings are often at stake (i.e., being perceived as incompetent, vulnerable or unlikable in the office).
When fear kicks in, there’s an immediate fight-or-flight response in the autonomic nervous system. In a nanosecond, people react to powerful emotions without moderation from the more rational parts of their brains. Individuals may resort to strong language or lash out to defend their territory against a perceived threat. Psychologists refer to this as an “amygdala hijacking” – an immediate rush to either strike back or withdraw in submission. (The amygdala, a structure in the brain’s temporal lobe, plays a role in behavioral responses.)
What happens next is the interpretation of events. Most people cling to what their rational minds tell them is correct or “right,” as each of us operates with a set of assumptions about the way the world is supposed to work. We always operate from our own perspective and worldview; therefore, in our own minds, we are right.
As a manager, you can explore the roots of people’s interpretations of events and help them see other perspectives.
Handling Difficult Behaviors
Step One: Develop a Plan
Smart managers can develop a plan for managing anger and other strong emotions in the workplace. This may include establishing policies and retaining employee assistance program counselors to help with more serious problems. When special resources are identified in advance and a clear policy is in place, it’s easier to manage crisis situations.
Step 2: Invest in Training
The wise manager is open to investing in training and personal development programs that focus on emotional intelligence and assertive communications models. Learning how to handle the complex relationships that arise during work projects is an astute investment that will save time, energy and money in the long run.
Understanding basic human thinking styles and behavior patterns will boost your comfort level when handling interpersonal dynamics. Personality-type assessments and 360-degree feedback programs have also proved helpful. The better you know yourself, the greater your likelihood of understanding and tolerating others’ differences. It may be advisable to retain outside consultants and specialists.
Step 3: Invest in Coaching
Consider investing in a coach who can teach your people about human dynamics in the workplace. Greater confidence levels allow employees to work through their anxieties, fears and personality differences. Coaching programs improve individuals’ performance and ultimately increase the bottom line.
What Is Your Part?
It may be hard to admit this, but as a manager you most likely contribute some part to the dynamics among the people in your work group. You need to examine your own behaviors and attitudes to determine the extent to which you play a role in any conflict – even inadvertently. This exploration takes patience and courage, and will most likely require help from a mentor, trusted peer or coach.
One way managers contribute to conflict is avoidance. Ducking problems makes it harder to achieve goals. Conflict arises from people’s needs, and needs that go unmet won’t disappear. They lie in wait for the next opportunity to express themselves.
When conflict escalates, energy is directed toward interpersonal issues and away from tasks. Some managers may be conflict-aversive, thinking it’s best to steer clear of employee strife. But if you reframe conflict as an expression of differences, instead of condemning it, you can confront it, discuss it and make it work.
Smart managers recognize their personal hot buttons and needs. When you bring your anger, suspicions or assumptions into a discussion, a conflict can become even more complex. By asking neutral questions, you can help people determine their differences and common interests, which will bring them closer to agreement.
A Checklist for the Disciplinary Conversation
Inevitably, over the span of your managerial career, certain employees will behave in an unacceptable way, requiring you to call them in for a disciplinary conversation.
Some actions are so egregious that the offender must be fired. More often, the unacceptable behavior doesn’t call for such drastic measures. It’s up to you to decide on some measure of discipline.
Disciplinary meetings will always be more effective if they are the exception to the rule. Positive reinforcement is the most effective method of affecting conduct. If you provide feedback only when people stumble, you are missing the best opportunity to motivate them.
- Communicate company rules well in advance. Some managers prefer to leave the disciplinary policy unspoken for fear of appearing unfriendly or punitive. It’s reassuring to most people, however, to know there are boundaries over which one doesn’t step.
- Don’t act when angry. Strong emotions cloud judgment and impede one’s ability to speak appropriately. Anger also evokes heated responses, taking the focus off the real issues that need to be addressed.
- Reprimand in private. If you embarrass or injure a person’s pride in front of colleagues, you reduce the likelihood that performance will improve.
- Determine whether the problem is with the employee or the work conditions. Ask if anything is hindering the person from doing a good job. This line of questioning demonstrates that you are more interested in performance than blame.
- Frame your complaint in terms of observed behavior. Describe the difference between the desired and actual behavior in a clear, nonjudgmental statement.
- Don’t describe the problem in terms of a “bad attitude” — and don’t assume this to be the case. You don’t know what’s going on in a person’s head. You can observe the behavior and determine whether it stays the same, improves or gets worse. An accusation of a bad attitude will not stick as a defense in a wrongful termination suit.
- Cite the business reasons behind a company policy. You should be able to defend any policy in terms of consequences that affect the business, profitability or employees.
- Gain the employee’s commitment to change. Most people, if their shortcomings are confronted in a calm, professional manner, will make an agreement to improve behavior.
- Coach, but don’t counsel. Coach the employee on improving performance by clarifying expectations. Emphasize the responsibility to behave correctly. Counseling on personal problems should be left to outside professionals.
- If a problem continues, issue an oral reminder. Be specific when describing the behaviors that fail to meet expectations. Make it very clear that this verbal warning is the first step in a formal disciplinary process, and outline subsequent stages. Document the meeting afterward.
- Proceed to a written reminder.
- Consider a one-day paid leave of absence. Use this cooling-off period to focus on transforming behaviors, rather than on punishing. This technique has shown to produce good results, with fewer grievances filed.
- Issue an ultimatum. During the leave of absence, ask people to think about the company’s performance demands and to commit to meeting them the very next day — or go elsewhere.
- Discharge should be viewed as the failure of the process. Most people placed on a decision-making leave will return with a willingness to correct their behavior. When they do not, termination should be the inevitable consequence of that choice.
Follow these procedures consistently to fulfill your ethical and legal obligations. You can then move intransigent employees out of the organization and move forward.
Dealing with Difficult People, 2005. The Results Driven Manager Series. Harvard Business School Press. Boston MA.
Posted on May 31, 2019
We have all been there: presentation coming up, need to develop slides, how to make them interesting, not cluttered? Where to begin, end? What is too much and what is too little on a slide? How many slides are needed? Here is an article written by an expert on Powerpoint who offers advice and, introduces new technology in PowerPoint, e.g., morph, reuse slide, and text icons–all of which can support efficient and interesting slide deck development for a presentation.
Posted on May 31, 2019
With the opportunities to write through social media and email, we are awash in words, some communicate well, others don’t. This quick read article offers some strategies for how one might write in emails in a more compelling and authentic way–which might be more interesting to read.