Don’t Miss This Shift in Leading Your Team

A new trend in performance management is changing the landscape in the relationship between leaders and followers. In a recent article (At Kimberly-Clark, ‘Dead Wood’ Workers Have Nowhere to Hide) the Wall Street Journal reported on how organizations like Coca-Cola, GE, and Accenture are moving away from traditional yearly performance reviews to more real-time coaching and feedback.

Top performers in all the generations, from millennials to baby boomers, are applauding this shift. Those who desire feedback to grow and improve are ready to get more frequent, relevant, and actionable input on their performance.

Portrait of young business man and woman sitting in cafe and discussing contract. Diverse businesspeople meeting in hotel lobby reading documents.

The Story: A Tale Of Two Perspectives

Remmy had worked with Shelia as a market analyst for 18 months. While Shelia considered Remmy a solid performer, her perspective is that he is not anywhere near ready for the promotion he asked for at his year-end review 6 months ago.

Shelia’s Perspective

Remmy has a solid development plan that was put in place 6 months ago. We reviewed the plan at our monthly one-on-one meeting, and for every two steps forward Remmy takes another one backward. He has done a much better job of partnering with his marketing and training colleagues. Remmy just doesn’t seem to hear the coaching and feedback I am giving him on being more assertive in sharing the data he collects.

Remmy’s Perspective

I have learned everything I need to take the next step in my career. I have done all of the items on my development plan but I don’t know how Shelia would know. When we meet it is always her agenda and some new fire that needs put out. “Be more assertive,” she says. But really what she wants is for me to just be more like her. We never seem to have time to review how projects have gone or even use 10 minutes of our monthly one-on one time for me to get any feedback besides be more assertive. Shelia is so busy and I feel like if I am proactive with her about my development she will just give me some line about millennials all being alike. “Impatient” is the label she uses most. I heard a podcast recently that said if you want to get ahead you had to switch companies. I like it here, but maybe the reality is I need to move on.

What Shelia is Missing

Emotional Intelligence is being aware of your emotions and those around you. Self Awareness is where this discipline begins. Part of this self-awareness is recognizing your perspectives and biases as a leader. Another important part is being able to express them.

I want to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in the case study above. There are many twists and turns it could take.

The aspect I want to focus on is Shelia’s perspective. This is what needs to change. I would argue that Shelia has all the skill she needs. She is most likely transfixed on a perspective that has served her well in the past. The question is, does this perspective still serve her today?

Shelia observed at some point that Remmy could be more assertive. Point taken. Is she self-aware enough to know her investment in Remmy has been less than adequate? Is she aware that Remmy has developed, but that what is stuck is her perspective?

There are three dimensions she needs to consider improving in executing her role as the leader of her team and individuals like Remmy. Using a leadership model like emotional intelligence can give Shelia the real-time implementable change she needs to coach Remmy to higher levels of performance.

Interaction Frequency

The days of leaders being able to interact infrequently and provide feedback on irregular intervals are in the past. Shelia could consider her:

  • Emotional Self-Awareness – Is she aware of the impact her emotion is having on the situation? Are her emotions clouding her thinking?
  • Interpersonal Relationships – Has she taken the time for the relationship to be mutually satisfying? Does she realize she is reaping the reward of her investment ?

Interaction Relevance

Relevant coaching and feedback means that you have the other person’s best interest in mind and that what is being coached can actually be observed and has context for the improvement.

  • Self-Regard – Having enough confidence in herself and her expectations. Not only stating what can change but why this change gets the person being coached where they want to be.
  • Reality Testing – Ensuring she has all of the assumptions she needs to make accurate decisions. What data could she be missing? Is she seeing everything as it really is?

Actionable Feedback

  • Emotional Expression – Is she being honest with Remmy about how she is feeling or is she defaulting to biases and generalizations?
  • Assertiveness – Can she be assertive and compassionate at the same time?

Emotional Intelligence is a powerful lens for leaders to reflect, examine, and develop their leadership abilities. As expectations for leaders continue to change, what preferences and perspectives are you using that need to be reexamined? Could emotional intelligence be a valuable lens for your self-examination?

Homework

What one change do you need to make in your approach to development discussions? Perhaps you see individual development as a long-term process and you are thinking about repositioning this into short-term events. Thinking about development as taking bites of a meal rather than dinner itself. How could focusing on developing your emotional intelligence help you make this change that is rooted in preference?

What Is Your One Thing to Change?

My family loves to play games, and we have found a new one that everyone can play called Ticket to Ride.

Ticket to Ride is a fast pasted game where you try to connect cities by building railroad routes. What I love about the game is its underlying premise. When it is your turn, you can do one thing and one thing only. You can:

  • Draw train cards
  • Draw route cards
  • Lay down trains
  • Discard route cards

The winner is the one who has a firm strategy to connect their cities with train routes, then implements this strategy by doing the best “next one thing.” The ultimate goal is to gain the most number of points by completing route cards and trying to get a bonus for being the player with the longest train.

It is Nine Arch Bridge near Bandarawela, Sri Lanka

Sometimes it is in your best interest to draw train cards and sometimes you find yourself wondering if you should “waste” a turn by discarding a route card, which will count against your point total if you do not complete the route.

I receive no commercial endorsement from the publishers of the game, but if you are looking to build some family time this is an excellent game to do it, as long as the kids can tell colors and read cities they can probably play. (I will leave it up to your family culture as to what level of competition the game should take with young kids).

Application to Leadership

I love the idea of thinking about leadership as a game. Games change all the time. Different players have different strategies that constantly have an impact on your strategy and implementation.

With games in mind, I really like the Ticket to Ride approach of focusing on the “one thing” you will do that will make the most impact and be the most strategic that moment. What would be that one thing, one move, or one change? Let me give you an example of what I mean by telling you Bobbie’s story.

Bobbie was a participant in a recent Emotional Intelligence 360 training program I facilitated.

In this program, Bobbie received feedback from

  • Her manager
  • 4 of her peers
  • 3 of her direct reports
  • 4 vendor partners she works with on a regular basis
  • 4 family members

Bobbie’s feedback was centered around the Bar-On EQi 2.0, which is a trait assessment of emotional intelligence with 5 structured domains, each with three sub-competencies.
(Domain: Sub-Competency)

  1. Self-Perception: Self-Regard, Self-Actualization, Emotional Self-Awareness
  2. Self-Expression: Emotional Expression, Assertiveness, Independence
  3. Interpersonal: Interpersonal Relationships, Empathy, Social Responsibility
  4. Decision Making: Impulse Control, Reality Testing, Problem-Solving
  5. Stress Management: Optimism, Stress Tolerance, Flexibility

Here are the major takeaways from Bobbie’s assessment:

  • Her strength was her interpersonal relationships and the level of empathy she shows.
  • She rated her level of self-regard much lower than her manager or her peers did.
  • The rating she gave herself showed that her self-regard was much higher than her assertiveness.
  • Everyone, including herself and her family, rated optimism as her lowest competency.
  • Her level of stress tolerance was significantly below where most leaders are, which is putting her at risk for derailing as a leader.

What To Do

Like most people who get any kind of 360 feedback, a feeling of being overwhelmed quickly came over Bobbie. In our one on one debrief of her assessment, she lamented what most do when trying to digest 360 feedback, “I don’t even know where to begin!”

This is a very common feeling when a leader is faced with feedback. Many times this feedback can be paralyzing, and not knowing what to change the leader will just “freeze” on the development and default to doing what they always do.

I said to Bobbie, who was pouring over the pages in her report trying to make sense of it all, “Let’s put the report aside for a moment. Take a deep breath….and another one…and another one…let’s just breathe for a minute and relax our minds.”

As we did this, a sense of calm came over the room. Bobbie relaxed. (I even relaxed!)

I then asked her, “From all the feedback you received, what is the one thing your heart is telling you that needs to change?”

Why the Question

This becomes the fundamental question for leaders who get feedback and want to develop.
What is your next step? What skill do you need to enhance or develop or initiate? How do you need to balance Emotional Intelligence competencies like self-regard and assertiveness?

Finding the one thing out of the myriad of options can bring a settling calm and a real peace about being able to achieve the objective.

In their book on change, It Starts With One, Black and Gregersen make the case that the individual must SEE the change before the change can ever happen.

Way too many people who get feedback never process what the feedback is saying or take the time to SEE it. They move right into action and never really embrace the change.

Do you know what your “one thing” is to move on in your leader development plan?

Note to my family: Look out! I have my Ticked to Ride strategy in place and plan on winning this weekend.

Homework

What is the “one thing” you are working on in your development? Have you taken the time to process and SEE the change you need to make? Are you actively working on intentionally developing yourself as a leader? Change is intentional and it takes one step at a time to win the game.

*If you want to know more about doing an EQi 360 feedback in your organization, or you want to do one for yourself, click here for more information and contact us today! 

Who Else Wants to Develop as a Leader?

As I sit and write this article, the day is August 11, 2016. My beautiful wife Kim and I celebrate 32 years of marriage today.

I cannot tell you all the joy that this relationship has brought me over the years. Which is why, when we were having coffee this morning, gazing into each other’s eyes (well, maybe it was more like a stare waiting for the coffee to kick in…no, no I am sure it was gazing) Kim asked me a most curious question:

“When we got married, do you think we were best friends?”

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Those of you with any skill in the art of marital conversation will quickly realize the trap I was in. To say yes would potentially mean we were better friends then than now. To answer no would potentially mean we had not quite reached that “best friend” level but married anyway.

So, like any skilled married person, I said, “Tell me more about what you are thinking.” She said, “Well…” and I breathed a sigh of relief that we were going to unpack this discussion together. Kim continued, “I mean, we are such good friends now. I know we were friends, and probably best friends, but there is no way we were as good of friends then as we are now.” Then she provided the wisdom,

“We have grown so much!”

Ah, yes. We have grown so much.

The Growth

The growth that Kim and I have experienced in our marriage is two-fold from my perspective.

First, we have grown as individuals. Each of us have different interests and callings. These differences in skills and abilities need to be honed, nurtured, and grown. Second, our relationship as a married couple has grown. Over the years we have made emotional and social deposits in our relationship accounts, building up equity and assets we can rely on that help to strengthen the trust we have in each other. This networking back and forth in the relationship relies heavily on the use of interpersonal skills and competencies such as mutual respect and empathy.

In a healthy and vibrant marriage you have to grow as an individual and the relationship has to grow as well. Both are important.  You certainly cannot focus on individual growth only. If you are only growing as individuals, the relationship will suffer. You will focus on yourself and your needs and the relationship will suffer. By the same token, you can not solely focus on the relationship, stifling individual growth and personal achievement.

Bridge to Leadership

Ok, so I know most of you read this for some perspective on leadership and not marriage relationships. Here is the point, in development, leadership is a lot like marriage. You have to focus on yourself as a leader as well as on your leadership.

Leader Development Is Distinguishable from Leadership Development

Leader development focuses on the skills, talents, knowledge, and abilities of the individual person. This can be in the form of formal courses where the leader does analysis and self-reflection. Courses on personality, such as the Pearman Personality Integrator, Myers-Briggs, or DiSC are examples. Training in emotional intelligence using an assessment like the EQi-2.0 is another example of leader development. There is knowledge of self that is then put to use inside the organization. Learning in the area of core values, or important skills like marketing or sales, are also part of the leader development domain.

Leadership development has more of an emphasis on building social capital, networking, and the interpersonal skills such as reciprocity and trustworthiness. Leadership from a social capital sense builds upon the work of Robert Putnam who gave three reasons why social capital is important:

  • Social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems. People are better off when they cooperate.
  • When people trust each other they are more likely to interact more often and better with each other. As a result, everyday business and social transactions become less costly.
  • Understanding in the end that our fates are linked.

Leader development is key. It is clear. It is usually what most of us think about when we think of leadership development.

My premise is that we need to work on both, and what gets left out of the mix is our work in actual leadership development.

Think about your organization. Maybe you are in an HR, Training, or Functional leadership position. Whatever your organizational role, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What kind of environment am I fostering that allows leaders to solve collective problems? How are we rewarding and recognizing cooperation over individual achievement?
  2. How are we setting up our work environments and meetings so that they happen more frequently and better? It isn’t the frequency of your meetings that is the problem, it is the quality. Social Capital Theory would say that the more people are together and the better they are together this is what drives costs down.
  3. Do your leaders understand that their fates are linked? Are their reward and recognition systems linked? Do sales and marketing share goals? Have you done disaster scenarios around the possibility that your vision is not realized?

Too many times in the leadership development space, we focus solely on the leader and not really on leadership.

Success in marriage requires both focusing on developing the individual and the relationship. I would argue that success in the organization requires developing the leader and leadership.

Hey Kim, sign me up for another 32 years. Happy Anniversary!

Homework:

Do the 3 question assessment of your organization above. Have the discussion with leaders on your team. What do you need to do in your organization to both improve your leader and your leadership abilities?

Here is to wishing you many happy anniversaries leading your organization!

Are You Missing This in Your Leadership Life?

Spoiler Alert!
There is a free download link for a leader development tool at the end of this post!


I had a chance last week to sit down with a young leader and process with him about why the vision he has for his organization is not being implemented. As we sat together he told his story to me in quite graphic detail. Let me spare you all the gory detail and give you the highlights:

  • He is a passionate leader who is an excellent communicator.
  • The energy he exudes for the mission of the organization is extraordinary.
  • His level of intellect and knowledge of his core business is solid.
  • He is morally solid.
  • He cares deeply for what his organization is trying to accomplish, and he cares deeply for the people in the organization and those they are trying to serve.
  • In the Emotional Intelligence assessment work we did together, he was above average and in most competencies.

So what is the problem? Why is this guy working with an executive coach? (Not that you have to have a problem to have a coach!)

To be honest, that is what I thought when our conversation first started. Then we started to dig into the data…

The Issue

The organization he has been a part of for a number of years was stuck. They just couldn’t grow the business past a certain metric that is common to measure in their industry.

The stagnation issue became evident as we looked over some feedback provided by his peers. One of the interview questions I ask the peers of my clients as a routine part of my data gathering is “What is the vision this leader has for the organization?”

Person after person I interviewed on behalf of this leader gave basically the same feedback in response to the above question regarding vision: “The vision is very clear and we have no idea what steps we need to take to get started. It is like he has been dreaming of this his entire life and we are catching it for the first time.”

I found this feedback around vision fascinating. When he and I debriefed this feedback, guess what…

IT WAS TRUE!

Since his college days, he had dreamed of working with an established organization and taking it to another level in growth. He not only had the vision, but he had the entire plan worked out in his head, even down to the last detail of how this vision was to become a reality.

I actually find this quite often when I work with experts. They have worked the vision in such detail, but others have not even opened their eyes to the possibility yet.

The issue was not that a vision was not being communicated, it was that people in the organization had not been given the time to absorb, process, and own the vision themselves.

As this young leader and I processed this data together, his knee-jerk reaction was “We don’t have time to wait for them to process this. The time is now! They need to get on board or get out of the way. We are going to miss our opportunity. The timing is just right!”

“Well now,” I said to myself, “that doesn’t sound like the person I started this leader development process with.” So I said to him, “That response seems out of character for you, would you like to expand on what you mean?”

He sat in silence. I think he had stunned himself with his own articulation. The seconds literally turned into minutes. We both just sat there, separated by this canyon of silence. I wanted to say something to break the tension, but all the training I have had said just wait, the ball is in his court. He owns the silence and the next move.

“People could be sick or dying, and we have no sense of urgency. I don’t get it,” is what he spewed out to break the silence.

So I asked,“Is it their lack of urgency, or could it be something else?”

Balance

Let me take you to the end of this experience with this leader. Turns out, there was not a lack of urgency on the part of the organization, there was a lack of emotional connection between the leader and his followers.

“But wait a minute,” you might be saying to yourself, “it sounded like this guy had it all together in the beginning.” It did to me, too! At least on the surface. However, there was a struggle to implement a vision that was difficult to figure out. He didn’t have poor interpersonal skills or struggle with communication. The emotional connection issue was in response to this one thing: his vision.

The urgency that the leader was feeling for vision implementation and change was not being offset by his emotional connection competency of patience.

Patience is devoting the appropriate time and attention to others in ways that enhance meaningful interaction. Patience is suspending your personal need for satisfaction and action. Patience seeks to slow down those fast-paced exchanges with others in order to facilitate better decision-making. Patience is not racing ahead in one’s thought processes while missing the nuanced information that others are endeavoring to share. Patience is not missing the opportunities to encourage, inspire, and motivate others.

In leader development, it is always important to keep perspective on a leader who is not connecting emotionally with followers. Without this emotional connection, it is virtually impossible to have the social intelligence needed to achieve organizational effectiveness.

There are a number of reasons a follower may choose to align with a leader. Freely choosing to commit fully to the vision of the leader is a quintessential desire that followers have. What the follower receives in return for committing to the vision of the leader is an emotional connection with that leader.

In our case study above, if the leader doesn’t balance his sense of urgency for his vision with being patient and taking the time to encourage, inspire, and motivate, the entire vision will be lost. Not because it wasn’t a good, valuable, or noble vision, but lost because the leader didn’t take the time for all the followers to truly connect emotionally and buy into where the vision was taking them.

Tool

To assist leaders in developing emotional intelligence and emotional connection with individuals in their organizations, we have identified eight emotional connection skills that have the potential to enhance the engagement of followers. These emotional connection competencies include presence, trust, calm, patience, speaking truth, valuing others, empathy, and openness.

If you are interested in a free pdf of this tool, you may download it by clicking here.

Homework

Download the free emotional connection tool from the above link. Think of something that is not going well in your leadership life with a follower or followers. Identify which of these 8 competencies are at risk. Remember that this is for you to say what you need to work on, not what others need to do. I would love to hear back from you if you recognize any growth in yourself as a result of this tool.

Stop Following Your Passion, Try This Instead

When The Passion Burns Out

We are all told to ‘follow our passion.’ When finding a job, do something you’re passionate about. If you are working on a project or presentation, find a topic you are passionate about. Although passion is important, I challenge you to consider if it is truly sustainable, and if it can remain constant. Much like in a dating relationship, the passion is strong in the beginning, yet over time, the intensity of the passion mellows. This also happens when starting a new position in leadership. You are excited about the possibilities ahead for your followers and are passionate about the work, yet as you settle into the role and establish a routine you find that the excitement has dissolved and the passionate drive has slowed down significantly.

Does this feel familiar to you?

Trust me, you are not alone in this feeling. In fact, I can relate and even share with you what I did about it.

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It’s Happened to Me

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, says one of the grand misconceptions about quitting your boring job so you can have a creative life is that 90% of what you will find in your new life that you are seeking is boring too. It is mundane. It is slugging it out. In my own life, I left my job to pursue my passion and do what I felt would be more exciting. Today, I get entrepreneurs and business people who come up to me and say, “I want to do what you do, it seems so cool.” Now, I am blessed beyond measure, and when I am with my clients face to face helping them become more effective it is awesome.

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

I have contracting, and invoicing, and managing expectations, and TSA, and delayed flights. But I wouldn’t trade it right now for anything because I do enjoy that 10% that allows me to interact with interesting people. The one thing that motivates me through the mundane are those people, as well as one simple word: curiosity.

Cure it with Curiosity

I propose that curiosity is more sustainable than passion. Curiosity is vibrant and what you as a human being have been created to be. Think about sitting a little kid down with crayons or with Legos. They just started to create and explore the colors. It often doesn’t make any sense to have a purple bumble bee, but we encourage this in kids. When a kid builds a lego building or car, rarely do they ever step back and say, “This is my masterpiece, my life’s work is finished!” Instead, they are curious about their creation and what they can do to make it better, or even do something entirely different with it.

Leadership is much this way. Cast a vision, identify your followers, build your team up, but do not stop there. Become curious about your team, how you work together, and the goal you are working toward. Learn about your followers and look at your projects from different angles. This will allow you to gain perspective of how others see your leadership versus how you see it and allow you to revel in this curiosity.

Stay Curious

Krista Tippet, the producer and host of the podcast On Being, asked this about marriage one time: “Can there be anything more intimate and exciting than marriage?” Two people whose lives become intertwined and intimate to a point that at times they feel as though they are one. A relationship that experiences intimacy and passion, and yet in my own experience is 90% boring.

Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. My wife is NOT boring! In a marriage, especially when the kids are grown, this becomes evident. Things become routine. We take the basics for granted and most of the time it can seem quite ho-hum.

How I treat the boring is to become curious about what is boring. Taking myself and my needs out of it, and instead making it an exploration of the perspective of my wife. Always learning, always curious.

This is should be your leadership experience: A journey of curiosity with the discipline of organizational leadership. Leadership is a marriage between you and your followers. After some time, this relationship can become very boring, if you don’t remain curious.

The Power of Curiosity

Through curiosity and learning, you’ll strengthen your leadership and build strong relationships with your followers. Your new found understanding will allow you to work in sync and you’ll see your vision arise. When this happens, there will be moments where the passion is reignited and you should enjoy it. Until those moments, remain curious and be eager to learn. This is a safe and wonderful place for you to explore.

Like the famous actor (and most interesting man in the world) Jonathan Goldsmith laments on the Dos Equis beer commercial to “stay thirsty my friends,” I say “stay curious my friends, stay curious.”

Homework

Think about your followers and what you would be curious to learn about them. Plan a team meeting or a one-on-one with your followers to spend time getting to know them more personally and professionally. What can you learn from them? What potential or skills do they have that you could utilize more? What insights could they offer on your current project that you hadn’t thought about? Take some time this week and schedule a couple of these meetings. Let us know how they go or what you learned by leaving a comment below!

All Leaders Should Do This One Thing

It’s been well over a year since I launched my blog.

Along the way, I’ve been inspired to write by something I read or someone I talked to. Other times, I had writers block or felt too busy to write. But making writing a priority has helped me in my own journey more than I could imagine. I thought I would share with you all today a few things writing has taught me and how it can help you, too.

  1. Perfection is Not the Goal

    When you begin writing, just write. Don’t edit. My coach Jeremy Robinson gave me this advice. I love to use Evernote, because when I open Word Document I am conditioned to think 1-inchh margins, New Times Roman font, no misspelled words, etc.” With Evernote, I just write. I explore my thoughts and ideas as I read, then I will come back to them for reflection. Other times I will hear or read something and save it in Evernote. Sometimes I will just outline my thoughts. The main thing is to just write. Projects and presentations demand perfection, while writing is about exploration. Don’t confuse the two.

  2. Let Go of Expectations

    This leads me to an idea I mentioned in last week’s post. 90% of what you are doing is going to become mundane. This is true in any work, project, or presentation you do. It’s also true with writing. Even in my own work, I’ve waited for a mountaintop experience like Moses, where revelation would be revealed to me and only me, then somehow, someway, I would have knowledge and leadership ability that no one else in the nation would have. And then, with grey beard and flowing hair, I would publish this blog and all of a sudden an entire nation would stop what they were doing and listen to what I have to say. Well, you know that never happened and I am doubtful it will. Think about the expectations you have about your leadership or a project and what you think it will do. Decide that it will be okay if those expectations aren’t met and actively look for the positive outcomes that will happen. For me, writing has helped me organize my thoughts and dig deeper into some topics that interested me, many of which I never took time to investigate before beginning this endeavor, which has been truly rewarding.

  3. Write Like It’s Your Job

    I approach writing like I am going to work. I give my dad a lot of credit for instilling in me a work ethic and a focus. My dad was a sheet metal worker who started in the union as a laborer and became a VP of a large industrial construction company. He would do everything himself; paint his house, build his room addition, change the oil in his cars. Now, I don’t do those things, but I did. Even when I didn’t want to and wanted to play ball. Dad would say “You can play when you finish working, but when you are working, work. Now get back to work!” So, when I write, I very much take that attitude. I don’t write on vacation, and I don’t write when I am traveling on a plane to clients. Writing for me is an experience of work that is like surgery. During an operation, you expect to have a doctor’s full, surgical attention; not watching a ball game with one eye on the game and the other on my renal artery.

Writing is a Journey

We often want to think that the obstacles that get in our way or fall onto the road are somehow distractions to our journey. Instead, reframe the roadblock as part of your journey. Understand that how you overcome the roadblock will be a part of your story. The obstacles and the road are an important part of the journey. Enjoy the entirety of your journey, and write about it!

Homework

You guessed it: Write! Try to write three separate times this week. Here are some writing prompts if you need some inspiration:

  • What is one thing you’ve always wanted to try, but never have? What’s holding you back from doing it? What would it be like to try that new thing?
  • Who is a leader that you admire? Someone you know personally or even a historical figure. What qualities do you admire about them and why?
  • “We succeed at our very best only when we help others succeed.” – Jim Collins Do you agree with this quote? Where have you seen it played out in your own life?

Are Your Goals Making You Sore or Helping You Soar?

Remember back in January when you had that new year motivation and fresh start attitude?

You had all of this pent up passion for making something change this year. You had the idea that something was going to be different this year from your previous rut.

Once you identified the “what” you wanted to change, your next step was to set some goals for yourself. For most of us, we set goals for working in the office, traveling, or God forbid, maybe even working out at the gym. Do you even remember your goals from the beginning of the year? Do you remember where you posted them? Are they still posted in legible form or has the Post-It Note you wrote them on started to curl around the edges with its spotlight position on the refrigerator now covered by last month’s grocery list? Have you made any progress on the goals you set?

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You might even have named your goal: BHOG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), Key Results Area, Performance Management Objective, Personal Development Plan, or some other colloquial term that you or your organization or discipline uses.

It is now July, and it is time to go back and check in on what was important to you at the beginning of the year. Ask yourself, “Have I accomplished my goals or did I get off track?

It can be quite common for people to not to want to review the goals the set earlier in the year, especially if they know they have not made the progress they hoped. The feeling of discouragement can become overwhelming when we see a lack of progress and know we aren’t where we had hoped to be by now when the goal was originally set.

Stay In the Game

Discouragement can be devastating when it comes to goals. In my experience, it can be one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. Look, the goal had meaning and significance to you 6 months ago, so it’s time to start asking yourself some questions as to why you are not making progress. You HAVE NOT failed! You have likely learned a lot in 6 months about the goal and your progress if you just stop and think about it.

An analogy came to me the other day as I was teaching a class of doctoral students at Indiana Wesleyan University that may have some application.

In January, you set your goal. Let’s say you wanted to exercise three days a week for an hour. Think of this goal as getting on an airplane. You are all buckled in your seat and ready for take-off. You know the goal. It is written down and it actually feels comfortable.

The plane starts down the runway, shakes, and surges as it gains speed. All of a sudden, it is February. You likely have taken a couple of steps toward goal attainment. You are gaining speed and you can feel the inertia of the plane starting to lift off. In regard to your goal, maybe you called around to see what gym would best fit your needs. You went out and bought new exercise clothes and maybe some shoes. The feeling and speed of the change feels good.

Then comes March. The plane reaches 30,000 feet, the seat belt sign comes off, the plane levels out. And the exercise doldrums set in. You no longer feel the rush of take-off. You no longer can sense the speed of the plane. This is when goal attainment becomes difficult. When it feels like you are not making any progress at all.

The Feeling Is Not Real

The interesting thing to me is the lie our emotions give us in this context. While the positive “dopamine” feeling of starting may be gone, the important thing to realize is that the plane is still going 450 miles an hour even when you can’t feel it. You are still moving. You are still experiencing progress. Even though Q2 is gone and we have said goodbye to April, May, and June, YOU are still flying. Realize your plane is in the air. You have not crashed. YOU HAVE NOT FAILED!

Instead of assuming that you’re way off track and that you’ve already failed, step back and look at your goal objectively. Think about when you set the goal, were they SMART goals? Most likely you’ve heard this acronym, and even used them when setting goals, but it is helpful to use to check up on your goals or even get back on track.

  • Was it Specific? When getting specific with your goal, don’t just consider what your goal is, but why and how you want to achieve it. Perhaps you want to work on developing young leaders. Your why might be because your want to prepare them for more responsibility in the future and your how will be through professional development workshops or one-on-one mentoring sessions.
  • Was it Measurable? Are you able to see where you are right now and where you’ll end up? If you are not able to track the progress of obtaining the goal along the way, you’ll have a hard time seeing if you succeeded in the end or stay motivated along the way.
  • Was it Achievable and Realistic? I feel the A and R in our acronym go hand in hand in some ways. When you figure out your goal, how to do it, and when to accomplish it by, you have to think about the parameters and circumstances that you are working in that will make it possible. This isn’t to discourage you from setting the goal, but rather encourage you to think about how you will make sure you complete the goal, and ensure that it’s not completely out of reach or asking too much from your team. At this point, something may have come up in the last 6 months that have changed your circumstance and deterred your goal. That’s okay. Life happens. Instead of seeing it as a failure or no longer attainable, just think about what changes need to be made to your goal, the plan, or the timeline. Don’t be tempted to start from scratch, instead, make less work for yourself by simply re-evaluating and tweaking what’s already in progress and steer it back on track.
  • Was it Time-bound? Some of you may have set goals that you’ve already completed, others might feel the pressure of the time ticking away. Use the time as positive pressure to get the work done, not to stress you out. If you feel constrained, give yourself a break and allow yourself more time. If it’s a project with a deadline, reach out to your team or manager and see how you can work together to get it completed. Also, consider how you are using your time and what could be distracting you from focusing on your goal. What limits do you need to implement personally to give yourself time and focus to achieve this goal?

Most importantly, remember the why behind your goal and the reasons that motivated you to set the goal in the first place. Visualize what it will look like for you and your team when that goal is accomplished. Write this down and keep it somewhere you’ll see it and can read it often. (Perhaps avoid the refrigerator this time!)

Keep yourself in the air and land that goal safely on the ground.

Homework

Take a look at the goal you set at the beginning of the year. Grab a coach, mentor, or trusted advisor and share with them your SMART goal. Listen to any advice they have for you. Be encouraged by the progress you have made (even if it feels like you are flying in circles). Decide with your support system what steps you need to take to land your plane safely. Set up another meeting with them in September for a progress check and December for a celebration of your achievement.

How to Get More, Simply Put

Sometimes I like to dig deep into data or theory to find answers to questions I am asking. Other times simple truth is enough for me. Today is a simple truth kind of day.

Today is a simple truth kind of day.

The Background

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal ran an article where the author was touting the benefits of UBI (Universal Basic Income). Without getting into all the details of UBI, it is being pitched as a replacement for the welfare state that has been created in this country. If you want to learn more about UBI you can click here. I have to admit, that the idea has some interesting merit in my mind.

Rather than go deep into UBI theory, I want to focus on a “letter to the editor” that was written in response to the article.

M.R.Ward, Sr. from Garland, Texas wrote the following:

“There are three types of people: frugals, who produce more than they consume; prodigals, who by choice produce less than they consume; and the disabled, who physically can’t produce as much as they consume. A country’s success depends on fair treatment of all three groups. America today unfortunately treats prodigals the same as the disabled.”

Brilliant, right? At the end of the day, you are either producing more that you take in, consuming more than you produce, or you are on the sideline for some reason. I actually think Mr. Ward is right. We are treating those, who by their own choice and volition choose not to produce, just like we treat those who can’t produce.

Where I disagree with Mr. Ward is that each needs fair treatment. I would argue that each needs to be treated justly.

The idea of fairness says everyone gets treated the same, regardless of circumstance. The idea of “everyone gets a trophy at the end of the season.” The idea of justice says you get what you deserve. Our country’s entire legal system is built on justice, not fairness.

The Link To Leadership

My wife and I got to spend some time a few weeks ago in the John Muir National Forest just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. What a beautiful piece of the world! If you have not been, please put it on your bucket list.

As we were walking by some of the beautiful trees, I stopped to read one of the signs posted along the way. You can read the sign for yourself below:

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Then I looked up and saw the visual of what the words were saying:

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The thought then hit me! The original tree did not die. It had developed such a strong root system that it survived disaster and grew new life. From this one tree came five or six more.

The question I am asking myself is this: What do the redwoods know about survival that those of us who work in organizations are missing?

What would Mr. Ward say about this? Well, since I don’t know him personally and can’t ask him, I thought I might take a guess…

“There are three types of leaders in this world. Investors, who develop others and multiply themselves. Croupier’s, who rake in everything for themselves, and the Inert, those who lead but are not worth following.”

I would argue that an organization’s success is dependent on rewarding investors.

Unfortunately, in the work I do, I hear far too many stories of the croupier getting far too many accolades. These folks are very different from the inert. The croupier’s are working and getting things done. However, they tend to be selfish, credit grabbers.

In too many organizations these folks get away with extremely poor behavior in the name of performance. It sounds like this:

“Well you know that is just Neutron Bob, he destroys the people in his organization but boy can he get projects done!”

So we let Bob the Croupier get away with poor behavior. That is, until he doesn’t perform. The first quarter that Bob doesn’t hit his goals, he is shuffled out the door.

Before we get too critical of the for profit business sector, which is probably where your mind goes when a story like this is related, let me say that I see this type of behavior in ALL organizations I work with. From for profit, to nonprofit, to government. This type of leadership is even prevalent in places you think it would not exist, like in local churches and ministry organizations.

Time for a Change

Perhaps it is time that we begin looking at performance in a different way.

Perhaps in addition to performance metrics and goals, we start rewarding and encouraging those leaders who invest in and develop others.

Perhaps we start giving public recognition to those who really do care enough about the mission and vision of the organization to invest in others.

Performance is a key ingredient, no doubt. But so is the growth of young leaders for the survival of your mission.

Invest wisely.

Homework

Identify 5 leaders in your organization and really invest in them. Show them that you care by spending time with them. A very good client of mine who is an expert in training and development says 70% of an employee’s development comes from on the job training. Why not become an active part of that 70%? Help them learn, help them grow. Give them a strong root system so that when you are no longer there the organization lives on. Learn from the Redwoods!

Medicine, Leadership, and The Beatles

Many of you know my undergraduate degree is in pharmacy from Drake University. I worked in retail pharmacy prior to starting my career at Eli Lilly.

As a result, I am naturally drawn to cutting edge stories in the field of medicine.  One that caught my eye recently in the Journal of the American Association (February, 2016) had to do with changing physician behavior when prescribing antibiotics.

Antibiotics are effective for patients only when there is a bacterial infection present. However, research into physician prescribing habits show that they are given to patients for diagnosis such as asthma, influenza, middle ear infections without pus, and viral pneumonia, (all which have an allergic or viral cause), where antibiotics are of absolutely no value to the patient.

According to a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust, roughly 30% of all antibiotic prescriptions are for improper use, costing the health care system millions of dollars a year as a result. The reasons for overprescribing are probably numerous. I am confident no physician wakes up in the morning intending to do harm, or to do anything but practice the best medicine they know how.

So, it would seem there is a difference between the “intention” of the physician to do no harm and the actual impact of their behavior.

Leaders have misaligned intention, too.

I think many leaders are the same way. No leader gets up in the morning thinking, “You know, I wonder how I can make everyone on my team’s life absolutely miserable!” (except Kevin Spacy’s character in Bad Bosses).  Here are just a few examples related to me recently:

  • A friend was telling me a story of how a leader on his team recently called out a follower in public regarding a very sensitive personal matter. This leader is now in a lot of trouble with his board of directors and will likely lose his job in the coming months.
  • A person in a training recently told me that her supervisor would not give her time off work to attend the funeral of a close family member.
  • A manager gave an associate a set of assumptions to run a market forecast. When the results came in, the manager was furious with the results, blaming the associate for not using the correct assumptions. When the associate pulled up the document with the assumptions the manager sent, the manager said the associate “misread what the manager wrote.”
  • A female friend’s boss did not want to give her a deserved promotion. When her bosses supervisor intervened and promoted her, the boss actually suggested it was because she was an attractive female and had nothing to do with her skill set.

It is really hard for me to believe that leaders don’t know this kind of behavior is wrong. Yet whether we are talking about leadership or medicine, sometimes really smart people do really stupid things.

Truth is when facts converge on a central point. 

I have been realizing there is a lot of truth told in the arts. While writing this article, I realized how right John Lennon and Paul McCartney where when they wrote, “We get by with a little help from our friends,” as one of the songs done by Ringo Star on the Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album (just be glad this isn’t a podcast and I am not signing this to you!!!)

Perhaps we would all be a little better by practicing impulse control, and before we act, reach out to some peers and say, “Hey, I am thinking about doing [insert behavior here]. Before I do that, what do you think?”

Here is what the data from the antibiotic study says:

Dr. Daniella Meeker MD, associate professor at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, University of Southern California, is the lead researcher in the study I referenced earlier in JAMA. Dr. Meeker and her team set out to see if any of three different behavioral interventions would change physician behavior in prescribing antibiotics. The three actions that the researchers tested were:

  1. Suggested Alternatives – Doctors were given a list of a range of different choices they could make rather than the antibiotic they were going to prescribe.
  2. Accountable Justification – Doctors had to write a justification for the antibiotic they had written. A peer review board reads the justification and determines appropriateness.
  3. Peer Comparison – An email was sent to all the doctors in the study that compared their prescribing behavior to that of their peers. The doctors own prescribing was compared to that of top performers who’s prescribing was deemed appropriate.

Without boring you with all the statistics, the authors of the study concluded, “Among primary care practices, the use of accountable justification and peer comparison as behavioral interventions resulted in lower rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections.” 1

Let’s apply this learning to leadership.  Take the story my friend told me about a leader who called someone out in public over a sensitive personal issue.

What if, rather than calling the person out over the sensitive personal issue, the leader instead:

  1. Suggested Alternatives – The leader took time to journal some possible alternative behaviors rather than just acting impulsively in the moment.
  2. Accountable Justification – The leader had to write a justification that was submitted to a peer review board. This board then would deem the action appropriate or not.
  3. Peer Comparison – An email was sent to all the leaders in a group that documents the behavior and the leader had to see that their behavior was not aligned with top performers in their field.

No man is an island. We all suffer the consequences of our poor leadership actions.

Homework: What would it be like for you to set up one, or even all three, of the metric tools listed above. For those of you who are serious about your leadership, this is a must! At a minimum, find a peer group who can hold you accountable for actions and use them proactively in your practice of leadership.

Meeker D, Linder JA, Fox CR, et al. Effect of Behavioral Interventions on Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Among Primary Care Practices: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2016;315(6):562-570. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.0275.

7 Steps to Effective Coaching

There are times when I want to start new things but hesitate because I am afraid I won’t know what to do. I felt this way for a long time with Facebook and LinkedIn. Everyone was doing it, it seemed simple and fun, but I didn’t want to look silly if I couldn’t figure it out. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat on the sideline and watched rather than jumping in and learning.

I felt with same way with this blog. For over a year, I wrestled with the idea. Should I start blogging? What would I say? What would other people think about what I had to say? All this negativity swirled around in my mind.

Then one day I listened to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. I remember Michael saying something like, “Stop thinking about it and start doing it.” He gave 5 simple steps that I followed to start my blog. And shazam! Here we are today. Those steps gave me the confidence I needed to start something I wanted to do.

This got me thinking; There are probably people out there that have this similar problem. Maybe there are people hesitant to coach others simply because they don’t know where to start. Maybe this is you! If only you had an outline of steps to take that would give you the confidence you need to do it.

This led me to reflect on what I do when I get a coaching client for the first time and outline the major ingredients that go into every coaching engagement that I do. Please enjoy my recipe for a successful coaching engagement in 7 simple steps below and try putting them to practice.

(I think this model is transferable. So if you are a professional coach, a supervisor of employees, or a Mom or Dad coaching a youth soccer team, following these 7 steps can mean the difference for your outcome being successful!)

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

  • Begin With an Open Mind
    Coaching never begins in a vacuum. We all come into coaching relationships with biases. Coaches must come to clients with an open mind. The client must be seen as being a whole and healthy person. While there are times when you will have received information from others, focus on what the client is saying to you.
  • Get to Know Your Client
    It is hard to coach without knowing more information about your client. Find out more about who they are, what they do, their life story, and what they hope to accomplish. Consider putting together a series of questions that could apply to any client you serve. Personally, I use multiple types of assessments with my clients.
  • Confirm With the Client
    It is always important that you validate the collected data with the client. You want the client to be confident that you understand their perspective on what is happening, why the did what they did, or what is the genesis of how they are thinking or feeling.
  • Compare the Data to a Standard
    Once the client agrees with the collected data, you’ll compare it to an acceptable standard. The client must agree that the standard is acceptable. If they do not, then the data may become meaningless because the objective of what the data revealed could become irrelevant. For example, I had a client who gave the appearance of being arrogant. The data we collected from others in the organization said this person’s primary objective was to get their own way all the time. This behavior is the polar opposite of what is expected in the organization: being collaborative. Before I can coach the person to a more collaborative style, they have to agree that collaboration is the right standard. Once this happens we can begin work on the arrogance. If collaboration isn’t the mutually agreed upon goal then it is tough to improve the behavior.
  • Identify Gaps
    Gaps are the space that exist between the client’s current behavior and the agreed upon standard. They are the difference between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.It is useful to talk these gaps out and to get examples of where they have taken place. Coaches should always be looking for gaps between current and expected performance.
  • Set a Plan to Close the Gaps
    When planning with your clients, develop a simple plan that is laser focused on one or two items. When we give people too much we lose focus and the person runs the risk of being overwhelmed. When examining the performance standard I use the Stop/Start/Continue model. Here’s how it works:

    • What behaviors do they need to stop?
    • What behaviors do they need to start?
    • What behaviors need to continue?
      • Do not short change the “continue” aspect. Often by stopping and starting a few simple things, people will see dramatic change. Most of the time they are doing a lot of things right, which you want to encourage to continue.
  • Establish a Date to Follow-Up
    It is my opinion that this step is where most coaching fails. There is no date set to follow-up, no check-in’s to see how the person is doing, and little to no interaction at all once a plan is put in place. Follow-up with those you coach is the most important part of the coaching relationship! I recommend scheduling all follow-up meetings with your client at the end of your sessions together. This will enforce some accountability on their end and help you maintain the relationship.

Coaching is a valuable skill for helping others become the best person they desire to become. Coaching skills are important tools that anyone in a leadership position needs to possess. Whether you have employees on your team or you are responsible for a group of 8-year-old girls on a soccer field, coaching is the transportation vehicle you use to help an idea become a behavior.

Homework

Identify a person in your life who needs your coaching, or better yet someone who is already getting your coaching. Think about whether you have followed all 7 steps to successful coaching within that relationship. Is there any step that you have missed? How can you use these 7 steps to coach yourself to improve your own coaching outcomes? We would love to hear from you regarding what you think about this process. Leave us a comment below!