Blog Categories: work place behavior

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.

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.

Using Evidence Based Positive Psychology Methods to Grow Your Business

Posted on January 10, 2016

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Social Scientists at the turn of the 21st century decided to study what makes people thrive, flourish and lead successful lives.  The results of these studies have given us some rich data to apply to our lives, especially our work lives where we are spending more and more of our time. Applying these resources to the work place costs minimal amounts.  The rewards on this investment yield: increased employee engagement, greater employee productivity and higher job satisfaction to name a few.  This brief article article gives a review of the benefits of applying positive psychology in the work place and how your business can thrive as a result. Many of the workshops and trainings that I do focus on more engaged employees and increased profitability applying Positive Psychology methods in the work place. Contact me if you would like more information: Rosemarie@Perlagroup.com.

Managing Yourself: Emotional Intelligence

Posted on June 22, 2015

Diagram of emotional intelligence

How well do you manage yourself at work?  How about communicating with co-workers? Are you aware of your emotions enough to understand them before you say what you think?   Take this information quiz and get a clearer idea of how well you use your emotional intelligence now when leading.  This article also gives suggestions/resources to support improving this valuable set of skills for business leaders.

Want to Engage and Motivate Your Employees?

Posted on February 23, 2015

-why-engagement-happens-in-employeess-hearts-not-their-mindsHow to engage employees?  This article offers proven methods to answer this question…simply Love them.

Love 2.0

Posted on March 13, 2013

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No, not just for some but for everyone.”
                                    Burt Bacharach and Hal David

 

Jackie DeShannon soulful rendering of this song, written in 1965, transported listeners for a few minutes – to feel lighter, breath easier and to imagine the possibilities of love.  In the 1960’s, our nation was just beginning a large shift of consciousness that was felt in vast social, historical and political shifts.  As the negative emotion felt by the anger of change grew, some thought that increasing our ability and capacity to love was the answer.  However, back then, science had few tools for studying positive emotions like Love.  Instead this emotion found expression and calibration through artists and songwriters.

Fast forward to the 21st century: our world still needs more love, more positive emotion expression.  Science can now observe and collect clear data on how we express positive emotions like love… the greatest positive emotion. Advances in science give scientists this opportunity –  neuroimaging of the brain, as well as the tools of medicine that allow us to measure neural activity and hormone secretion.One of the most exceptional social scientists on the scene today, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, a distinguished Professor from the University of North Carolina, has written a compelling, cogent and warm-hearted book, called Love 2.0, How our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything we Feel, Think and Do.  A gifted writer, she is able to interpret the hard data experiments that she and other scientists have done on the subject, interpreting and combining it with her own experiences, and at times poetical words to challenge us to consider a new definition of love: she calls it positivity resonance.

Love, she posits, is not just the stuff of lovers/married folks/parents and children…this emotion she renames “positivity resonance” can happen with strangers—even for a few minutes.  Dr. Fredrickson’s research show that love is connection and therefore is:

 “…The momentary upwelling of three tightly interwoven events: first a sharing of one or more positive emotions between you and another; second, a synchrony between your and the other person’s biochemistry and behaviors; and third, a reflected motive to invest in each other’s well-being that brings mutual care.”

A familiar example of what she describes as a “micro-moment of positivity resonance”: imagine waiting in an airport and casually telling a story with a stranger sitting next to you and, before you both know it you are laughing, even sharing similar life events, feeling lighter, more relaxed. Forgetting that the plane is 2 hours delayed, you are enjoying the brief exchange, where by the way, you not only make the time go faster, meet a kindred soul, but share a few traveling tips as well.  That Barbara Fredrickson says is love… or positivity resonance.  She has chapter after chapter of describing her own and other’s research showing changes in the brain, vagus nerve, respiration and one’s hormonal level during such positive emotion exchanges which gives proof of how love does indeed calm and connect us with ourselves and others.

So why is this important in living, relating and working?

We now know by Dr. Fredrickson’s own research as well as other research completed by Drs. Marcial Losada in mathematics and John Gottman in marriage – that there is a 3:1 tipping point of positive to negative emotion at which point, when experienced, people begin to flourish.  At work that means we then can begin to interact with co-workers creating higher team productivity, smoother communication and more successful client interactions.

This research shows that negative emotion narrows our awareness (“fight or flight”) and positive emotion broadens our perspective (“calming and connecting”) which results in more creative thinking and some studies show, a higher IQ after interacting with someone in a positive way.

In the workplace, this could mean: creative breakthroughs, more flexible problem solving, and increased resilient behavior that allows for a broader array of skills to deal with difficulty, disappointment and loss.  Dr. Fredrickson describes this as the ability of positive resonance to “unlock collective brainstorming power.”  She even outlines a meditation practice that leads you to “re-designing your job around love.”

The book also gives myriad resources and tools on practices to increase positive emotion, particularly borrowing from the Tibetan tradition of Loving Kindness meditation.

She has crafted a most informative website: www.positivityresonance.com which offers tools, videos and a series of mp3 meditations, in her own voice, that you can practice and a few from some more famous meditation masters like Sharon Salzberg.  As we strive to increase our positive emotion so that we can move toward flourishing in our work and life, Dr. Fredrickson’s book is a must read.

References:

Love, 2.0, Barbara L. Fredrickson, PH.D, Hudson Street Press, 2013

www.Positivityresonace.com – Dr. Fredrickson’s website on Love 2.0 that has many tools and meditations available for listening.

Fredrickson, B.L., Losada, M.F.,  “Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing” American Psychologist, October 2005.  This article is available on a Google search.

Gottman, John.  Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last, Simon and Schuster. 1994