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.
Posted on June 12, 2017
The Stoics were those Roman and Greek philosophers who flourished in and around the 3rd Century. The Stoic philosophers promtoed ways to manage one’s minds to have a better understanding of the natural world, to be open to a broader view of life beyond pleasure and pain and, to treat others in a fair and just way.
Sounds like a great formula for team work? Yes, and we can also learn a lot from the Stoics about choosing the right actions and priorities which can aid our productive habits. Read on about tips regarding how we think about our time and effort can lead to being more productive, ultimately leading to contributing your talents most effectively.
Posted on May 11, 2017
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 handicap their organizations with insufficient influence, poor worker engagement and, ultimately, disappointing corporate results.
The Real Deal
Authenticity is an emotionally vital state of well-being for employees—one that heavily relies on a leader’s consistent true-ness, explains consultant Karissa Thacker in The Art of Authenticity (Wiley, 2016). Being authentic encompasses several other key leadership mandates:
1. Be self-aware.
2. Earn respect.
4. Convey credibility.
5. Earn trust.
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, 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 clearer about promoting it—and more successful in getting others to believe in it.
Being respected begins with showing respect to others, both upline and downline in your organization. Model respect for everyone to imitate, and it will be contagious.
The phrase “leading by example” is more than a suggestion. Leaders who model the behavior they want their organizations to exhibit make the most effective strides in establishing a healthy culture. Employees respect leaders who walk the talk.
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.” Authentic leaders recognize they don’t have all the answers, and probably never will. Soliciting others’ ideas showers them with affirmation.
Sincere leaders say what they mean and mean what they say. 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, which fuels engagement and productivity.
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 have trained themselves to proactively discern the high road and take it, with honorable motives.
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.
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.
Establishing a system of personal checks and balances conveys the importance of accountability. 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).
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 overcontrol 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 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. Let an experienced leadership coach assist with the areas that challenge you the most.
Posted on May 11, 2017
Organizations waste vast amounts of time, effort and money each year by failing to recognize or correct dysfunctional teams.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 200 global companies across various sectors―involving more than 10,000 projects―found less than 3% successfully completed their plans. Similar research reveals 60%–70% project failure rates. In the United States alone, IT project failures cause estimated losses of up to $150 billion per year.
Dysfunctional teams cannot be blamed for all business failures, but they play a major role in unsuccessful projects and missed goals. In his acclaimed bestseller, organizational consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. No accountability
5. Lack of attention to results
1. Absence of Trust
Lack of trust is the core dysfunction, the one that leads to all other problems.
Several group behaviors demonstrate distrust. Team members may have low confidence in others. They may fear that any sign of personal weakness could be used against them. Consequently, people are unwilling to be vulnerable, transparent or open when exchanging ideas or expressing their feelings.
A lack of trust creates defensiveness in team members, notes leadership consultant Roger M. Schwarz in Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Defensive team members feel the need to protect themselves.
Leaders who want to rebuild trust can try the following strategies:
• Vulnerability: Create an environment in which team members can safely feel vulnerable. Draw out people’s personal experiences by sharing your own stories, thereby setting the proper tone and lowering barriers.
• Honest Feedback: Team members must learn how to provide feedback. Acknowledging and affirming others with constructive feedback set the stage for positive reinforcement and encouragement.
• Authenticity: Practice humility to tear down walls. If you and your team can admit that you don’t know everything, the experience will be freeing.
• Integrity: Model integrity in group dynamics. Everything you do is magnified and often copied. When you “walk the talk,” others will follow your example.
2. Fear of Conflict
Lack of trust within a team easily leads to fear of conflict, confrontation, criticism and/or reprisal. When teammates and leaders are seen as potential threats, people adopt avoidance tactics. This sets up an artificial harmony that has no productive value. There is no true consensus, just a risk-preventing sentiment of “yes” feedback. True critique is avoided. Genuine solutions are not explored, and the team functions poorly.
This dynamic allows a domineering team member to take over, with a unilateral-control mentality. Dominant personalities believe they’re always correct, and anyone who disagrees is wrong and disloyal. Independent ideas are stifled. Negative feedback creates discomfort. People’s spirits and self-esteem eventually plummet, crippling group performance.
Conflict-resolution training can help you encourage productive debate without hurting feelings or wounding character.
3. Lack of commitment
When teams lack trust and fear conflict, they’re likely to avoid commitment. We focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As we attempt to avoid confrontation, we stop listening to others’ concerns. Discussions become superficially polite.
Most people can sense when someone isn’t listening to their ideas or questions. This single dynamic―often subtle―will shut down team engagement and commitment, and tension continues to grow.
Teammates who are cut off or ignored feel left out. They’re less committed to team effort, so they’re unlikely to “get with the program.” It becomes difficult for a team to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for projects takes a nosedive, and confrontations become commonplace. Some members even stop caring about whether the team succeeds.
Lack of commitment also becomes a problem when you fail to convey clear goals or direction. People are left to wonder what they’re supposed to do, and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and just start going through the motions.
You can reestablish commitment by prompting team members to ask questions. When you invite dialogue, teammates learn more about each other. They’ll see others’ intentions, attitudes, motives and mindsets more clearly, eliminating the need to guess or assume.
4. No Accountability
If you fail to reverse a lack of commitment, dysfunctions will intensify. Team members will lose their sense of accountability. If there’s little buy-in, there’s no desire to meet obligations, follow directions or help others. This is most common in environments where progress isn’t adequately assessed and definitive project schedules don’t exist.
Work toward establishing clear directions, standards and expectations. All team members need to work with the same information set at all times. Realistic, understandable schedules help drive activities and allow work flow to meet interconnected goals.
Activity tracking methods should clearly report which tasks are on time and which are late. Corrective action plans should make the necessary adjustments and redirect activities accordingly.
5. Inattention to Results
Without team accountability, the focus of group success is lost in the shuffle. Self-preservation and self-interest trump results in a climate of distrust and fear. Your inability to track results leaves you with no way to judge ongoing success or failure, progress or pitfalls. No one is praised for good results, and no one is corrected for the lack thereof.
Effective project management methods must track progress toward intermediate and final goals. Affirm team members (and their interdependence) through their accomplishments and struggles. This draws them together and lets them know they’re valuable to the organization, team and, ultimately, themselves.
Posted on January 17, 2017
By knowing what our strengths are, we can consciously think of using them when confronted with everyday stress. This simple article offer a free strengths test that was developed by Drs. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson- serious, respected social scientists who researched all major cultures to find out what strengths were key to being successful in that culture. Take the test and focus on ways to use these strengths everyday in the New Year to manage the challenges you may face.
Posted on January 10, 2017
A Coaching Conversation Checklist for Smart Managers
In spite of wide-spread coach training, many managers aren’t using coaching skills to grow and develop their people. Instead, they see themselves as problem solvers, cutting short conversations with employees by providing solutions, advice, and answers.
Yet managers who coach find that their employees are more committed, willing to put forth greater effort, and less likely to leave.
“Clearly, the benefits of building a coaching culture and increasing the effectiveness of coaching are great. There are both tangible benefits (increased employee engagement and productivity) and intangible benefits (improved culture and finding meaning and purpose in work).” ~ John H. Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett, The Extraordinary Coach: How the Best Leaders Help Others Grow, McGraw-Hill, 2010
The authors suggest using the FUEL model outlined in their book to help create a coaching checklist:
- F = Frame the Conversation. Set the context by agreeing on the discussion’s purpose, process, and desired outcome.
- U = Understand the Current State from the coachee’s point of view, and expand his awareness of the situation.
- E = Explore the Desired State. Help the coachee to articulate a vision of success in this scenario.
- L = Lay Out a Success Plan. Identify specific, time-bound action steps to be taken to achieve the desired results with milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Step 1: Frame the Coaching Conversation
Conversations with employees often turn into project task updates instead of furthering growth and development. A checklist helps set up a coaching dialogue. According to Zenger and Stinnett The Extraordinary Coach, there are three steps that work well for initiating a developmental dialogue.
- Identify the behavior or issue to discuss.
- Determine the purpose or outcomes of the conversation.
- Agree on the process for the conversation.
This sounds almost too simple to bother with, but without it employees aren’t clear about what the issues are and how they can use them to grow and develop.
Step 2: Understanding Leads to Insights
The next step in a coaching conversation is to address the “meat” of the issue. This part can be tricky because of our natural tendency to assume we understand what the issues are. We fill in the blanks and automatically judge—usually prematurely.
Instead, a manager needs to listen well and encourage the coachee to talk. Explore what the real challenge is for her.
- Ask open-ended, non-leading questions
- Act as a mirror, observe, and repeat what you hear and see
- Encourage the coachee to explore what the real issue or challenge is
- Discuss consequences in the event things don’t change
- Assume anything
- Judge, criticize, or categorize
- Ask for too many details or focus on other people
- Offer your perspective or advice right away
- Find an answer for the person
People won’t change until they experience a need to, and if a manager is too helpful, the coachee won’t feel enough motivation.
Step 3: Explore Desired Outcomes
Typically, managers are excellent problem-fixers and advice-givers. They want to jump in at Step 3 and often skip over Steps 1 and 2.
But that is a big trap. Instead of pouncing on the first viable solution, it’s worthwhile to explore alternatives by helping people think things through. Let the coachee do most of the talking to find out what matters most to her. By suggesting at least three alternatives, she will end up with a more effective solution. As the manager, you can negotiate and influence what the measures of success must include.
Step 4: Lay Out a Success Plan
This is the home stretch in a coaching conversation and should not be rushed or skimmed over. Your role now is that of a guide. Together you will develop and agree on an action plan with timelines, enlist support from others, and set milestones for follow-up and accountability.
Why Bother with Coaching Conversations?
Without going into all the statistical ROI studies, let’s look at the benefits of coaching as a managerial style.
- Coaching gives new meaning to work. When people feel that they are engaged in a useful cause and not merely performing menial tasks, they will go beyond minimal requirements.
- Coaching leads to more engaged and committed employees.
- Coaching increases productivity.
- Coaching refocuses people on the most important objectives.
- Coaching leads to a stronger culture, which has a tremendous impact on performance and productivity.
- Coaching strengthens the relationship between supervisor and employee.
- Coaching promotes heightened self-esteem and confidence among employees.
- Coaching encourages resilience and creative problem-solving ability.
- Coaching helps people take responsibility and ownership of both problems and solutions.
Posted on November 20, 2016
An important adult skill to develop: Understanding your own emotions and how they contribute to your thinking. Our best thinking leads to our best actions, producing the connections with others that we desire. This article gives compelling research on how simple acts like smiles, touch and laughter can add great dividends to leading a good life.
Posted on November 13, 2016
When giving trainings in Leadership Management, people often tell me that the first thing they do in the morning is to check their email. Read this HBR post on how that little habit may catapult you into a day of having difficulty focusing and thus creating the productivity you want.
Posted on October 15, 2016
We hear so much about it … why should we study this topic?
I have been working with owners of businesses, executives in corporations, managers, young and mature leaders and, high potential talented emerging leaders for over 20 years. Having read numerous books, articles and coached individuals from different professions…I still ask this question and continue to study the topic.
But what does this concept mean and why the deep dive into training that so many companies invest in?
I believe that by studying leadership, we create ways to move into a more positive future in our work and in our personal lives.
Consider this: can you think of someone in your life who positively impacted you by perhaps seeing something in you that you never saw before in yourself; someone who helped you think about the world in a way that opened you up to greater thinking and possibilities for the future?
This person was a leader.
Perhaps they encouraged you to manifest your talents and gifts or, inspired you to contribute to the world in a thoughtful way. This is a leadership quality, one that comes from a person having the courage to show their true character, values and strengths. When a person has this quality we trust them enough to learn from them and follow their lead. In doing so, we not only show confidence in them, but also in our own ability to learn and grow – guiding us to have more impact in our chosen professions and in our communities.
Often I hear people say they don’t want to be leaders and would rather sit back and have someone else do the heavy lifting. However, at some point in your life you may be asked to develop an idea, or to implement a project, or to change a situation. When this happens who will you get to help you or how will you assemble a group to support you? How will you leverage your talents and abilities in working towards a gratifying goal: a needed community project, a key work task, or to step up in your family to assist with a challenge or crisis?
So I invite you to think about leadership in a different way. To think about how someday you may be called upon to make a positive impact in someone else’s life, in your family, in your work place or community.
When thinking about leadership it is often necessary to review the key leadership building blocks that can assist you in developing those mind sets and skills for professional growth with the leadership opportunities presented to you.
I invite you to think about those people in your life who positively impacted you and what you consider to be the values and strengths you saw in them. You might want to start a digital or written notebook to begin recording these insights.
Posted on April 19, 2016
This former employee from Microsoft gives some sobering yet essential advice on “when you know it’s time to walk away” from a demanding job. Read this Huffington Post article on how he found the importance of — being dedicated to your professional growth, without sacrificing your personal growth.