How Would You Answer This Great Question?

“How can I help my boss get better as a leader?”

This straightforward question was asked by a direct report of one of my clients as we were wrapping up our Leadership 360 interview (a series of open-ended leadership questions that help my clients get a clear picture of how their leadership looks to those around them). 

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A First For Me

Now, I have been doing these structured Leadership 360 interviews for about 15 years,  over 700 of them in total.  No one, not one person, has ever asked me that question.  

It’s nothing against the other 700 folks, I just found it really interesting that this one dear person cared enough about her supervisor that she would want to know how she could be involved in her boss's development.

My Response

All of my coaching sessions are confidential, including the 360 report and development planning.  I wanted to answer her question, but I needed to be tactful as to not disclose what my client was going to work on.

So, I thought to myself, how do I respond in a way that is really helpful for her, without breaking any confidentiality I must maintain with my client?

Here's how I responded...

“I think the best way you can help your boss is by helping him be more self-aware. Now, this is going to require a level of trust on your part, and there could be some risk, so you need to ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk. If you are, then your boss has probably already in some way declared strengths, and things he would like to do better.”

She agreed, so I continued...

“Then help him see when he is doing it. Let's imagine he has told you he is a micromanager and wants to change. Perhaps in the midst of a project, at the appropriate time, you then say to him, 'You know, Jim, it feels to me right now like you are micromanaging me. Is that something you are intending to do?'”

She sat in silence on the phone for a seemingly endless pause.

“I can do that." She finally broke the silence. “Good,” I affirmed her. “Don’t feel like you have to change him, don’t feel like you have to coach him. Just help him see the times where he is doing something he wants to change.”

Helping leaders SEE the change they want to make is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to them.

What About You?

So many of us get caught up in our own development, but I’d like to encourage you to begin looking for ways you could support someone else with their development. Perhaps it’s shifting your focus from helping them solve the problem, to inspiring their awareness of the opportunity right in front of them.

If you feel encouraged and motivated by this post, try asking your leader how you support them in their development. Their response may surprise you and revitalize you in your own self-development journey.

3-Step Recipe for a Productivity Reset

Question: When is the last time you experienced a productivity reset?

I read recently that in a knowledge-working society the work we do is really about creativity.  Now, when I hear the word creativity my mind immediately goes to the painters and sculptors of the world. And for sure the work they do is creative. 

But before those of us who are scientists, technologists, and managers or leaders abdicate the world of creativity to the artists, we probably should step back for a moment and make sure we are not leaving the best part of us behind.

The Story

I recently had a conversation with one of my graduate students who said she was completely burned out and didn’t know how she was going to get her research project finished on time.  She was definitely in need of a productivity reset.

Here is a part of our conversation: “…by the time I finish my commute to and from work I am logging 60 hours or more a week. In addition, I have a family and my church that are both really important to me. I just don’t have any energy left for creativity to get this research project finished.”

I could just sense the frustration and disappointment in her voice as she was trying to figure out how to be more productive. Then almost without taking a breath, she said, “…You know, perhaps I could be more efficient in the morning. If I got up an hour earlier I could get more done because I am at my most creative in the morning.”  

The Point

As knowledge-workers, we are all going to have to come to the realization that more time, more effort, more energy doesn’t equal creativity or effectiveness.  It just equals more time and more effort. That's it.  If you are playing a game of who-works-hardest then keep going, I guess, but if you want to be creative and innovative, then maybe work as hard as you can while you're working and then stop and do something else.

I think there is a reason that athlete’s work really hard in times of peak performance and then rest their bodies.

There is a reason writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, William Stafford, and Victor Hugo would work for a while in the morning and then go for long walks in the afternoon.  

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Both high performing athletes and creative writers alike see the value of both hard work and the regenerative process of the productivity reset.  There is only so much a knowledge-worker can do to be productive before they need to recharge their brain.

According to Margaret Moussa, Maria-Estella Varua, and Matthew Wright’s work on knowledge-workers, what has been left out of the discussion up until now are issues of self-efficacy and well-being.  

The question we need to ask ourselves as leader is:

Can we leaders continue to treat our knowledge-workers the same way we treated productivity-workers of ages gone by?

And…

Can we as knowledge-workers continue to try and cram more stuff into our day and expect quality outputs?

3 Step Rest Process

Here are three things that I try to do when I am in need of a productivity reset.

  1. Read. There is nothing like reading to stimulate productivity. If I ever have writer's block, reading is one of the best ways I know to get the juices flowing again.  I have found that there is nothing like poetry and fiction to really get my juices flowing again.  In fact, I just finished a chapter of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman.
     
  2. Walk. I love to exercise but when I work out I am really focused on pushing my body, so I don’t get many creative thoughts going when my heart rate is above 140. But when I am just out for a walk, and the sun is shining, and I can sense the beauty all around me, my creative energy just seems to flow.
     
  3. Phone a Friend. For me, there is nothing like community and conversation to spur creativity. I always feel better when I get off the phone with my coach, my coaching group, or a conversation with Kevin or Joanne. There is just something about talking to others that will spur on my creative process.

As leaders, when we think about ourselves or those who are in our care, perhaps we need to be thinking less about how productive we can be and more about how we are practicing self-care. It is elements like reading, taking a walk, and engaging in a community that are the real ways we gain wisdom. 

Could it be that as knowledge-workers we are really seeking things like wisdom, and as we do we actually become more productive as a by-product?

I had many more things to say about this topic, but I am feeling a bit confused and convoluted right now….

I think I will go for a walk.

3 Minute Read to Improve Your Leadership Resolution for 2018

Happy New Year! I know many of you are still on vacation so I promise to keep this one short and to the point. 

Many of us begin thinking today what we will resolve to do (or not do) in 2018.  

A resolution, in fact, is just this, "a firm decision to do or not do something."

Like you, In the past I have made many types of New Years Resolutions:

  • Personal: Eat right, exercise more and lose 10 pounds.
  • Professional: Increase sales by 20% by becoming more customer-centric.
  • Family: Become a better listener when talking with my wife.
  • Spiritual: Read through the Bible in a year.

All good stuff. I am sure many of you are making resolutions and talking with your friends and family about them even today.

I thought I might challenge you to add a category this year. In addition to your personal, professional, family, and spiritual resolutions to think about a resolution to improve your leadership.

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Leadership

Here are 10 Ideas to help you start to think about what you could resolve to change in 2018 when it comes to your leadership. I pulled this list from some of our more popular blog posts this year and have included a link to some of them just in case you want to read more on a few of these subjects.

  1. Reflect on Being a Great Leader and what is keeping you from being great. Who among us doesn’t want to be seen as a great leader? And yet so many of us have some barrier that we just don’t want to see or do anything about.  (Do You Make These Leadership Mistakes)
  2. Work on your values before your vision. Define what is important to you as you begin to sculpt your vision for yourself and your followers.
  3. Spend less time working and more time thinking. This idea runs counter-culture to our “doing” mentality. Perhaps you need to work less and think more to enhance your ability to lead. (Solve This Riddle and Challenge Your Leadership Perspective.)
  4. If you were a brand (like Kleenex or Toyota,) what would your value proposition be?
  5. Who in your organization do you need to network with?  (Who Else Wants to Develop as a Leader?)
  6.  What piece of FeedForward advice do you need to seek out? In our organizations, we are so good at feedback. We just love telling people what we observed them doing.  Why not start a culture of FeedForward? Perhaps we could all get a little better at offering some solutions in addition to what we see in others that we don’t like. (What advice would you give this first time leader)
  7. What cycle of negative thinking will you break this year?
  8. How are you resting in the middle of your workday? Studies are showing how important rest is for leaders to maintain their effectiveness. How are you cycling your work to maximize your performance?
  9. Take your emotional intelligence temperature. Are you able to choose how you react or are you “slave” to your knee-jerk reactions?
  10. Whatever change you make, put a plan in place to sustain it.

I am looking forward to being with you on your leadership journey. If there are subjects you would like tackled on these pages just drop me a line. I am happy to do the research and then write about what interests you.

My prayer for you is that you have a productive and effective year as a leader.

Blessings to you and your families.

PS: If you know someone who might be interested in growing as a leader in 2018, why not forward them this blog and have them sign up? It's free and easy, and we guarantee they will get tons of value.

5 of My Top 100 Reasons to be Thankful this Christmas Day

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

I thought I would take today to share with you 5 of my top 100 reasons to be thankful this Christmas. 

First, I am thankful for my beautiful wife who I get to enjoy life with. 

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I am thankful I get to work with so many of you in such amazing places. 

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I am thankful for really cool and mysterious things in this world, such as this square with 16 numbers that allows more than 300 possible combinations of 4 numbers that always add up to 33, the age of Christ when He was crucified.

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I am thankful for beaches and sunsets. 

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I am so thankful for the joy I get to experience in life. 

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Last, I am so thankful for you, my readers! Please CLICK HERE to download A Minimalist's Guide to a Personal Leadership Retreat as my free Christmas gift to you when you enter the promo code MERRYCHRISTMAS at checkout! 

Have a blessed Christmas, 

Dr. Scott Livingston

Solve this Riddle and Challenge Your Leadership Perspective

Alert! There is a free gift offer at the end of this post, but you have to read the entire post to get the free gift. Not really. You could go to the end and get the offer code, CLICK HERE and just get your free gift. But then you would miss a really cool riddle and some salient leadership stuff that might help you be more productive. 

Here is the riddle:

Three travelers were on a journey when they checked into a cut-rate hotel. The clerk at the desk told them there was only one room left and the price was $30 for the night.  Exhausted, the travelers took the room and each gave the clerk a $10 bill.  The next morning the hotel manager was reviewing the guest list and noticed that the night clerk had actually overcharged the travelers for the room. The published room rate was $25, and having just been to a leadership workshop on Building Character In Leaders, he asked the Bellhop to get five $1 bills out of the drawer and to refund the travelers the $5 difference. On the way to the travelers' room, the Bellhop realized that five is not easily divisible by three and not having been to the Building Character in Leaders workshop decided to give each of the travelers $1 and stick the remaining $2 in his pocket.

Now, you realize that $9 times three travelers is $27 plus the two dollars that the Bellhop put in his pocket equals $29.

Question: Where did the other dollar go?

Reflection is such an important part of leadership.

As organizational leaders, we find ourselves in the midst of some pretty busy times these days.  "Crazy busy” is actually what Dan called it in a workshop I led yesterday. The end of the year finds us trying to cram a lot of activity into not-so-much space. On the personal side, there are holiday parties, kids' school programs, last minute travel preparations, and gift purchase fill our minds. On the business side, there are year-end performance reviews to complete, development planning discussions to have, and planning meetings to hit the ground running in January.

 It just feels like there is not enough time to get everything in, let alone find space for personal reflection.

In fact, many of you might say, “Come on, man, there is no way I have time to rest and reflect!  I’ll do that down the road...”

And then you realize you won’t. 

Because January will be just as crazy as December and February just like the two months that preceded it.

So What Is A Leader to Do?

This is a question I get asked a lot in my executive coaching practice.  “I have so much that I need to do, I don’t have time to do anything else.” and then the question comes…”So, Scott what should I do about this?”  And you can see the trap we fall into.  We think that doing something is going to get us out of the crazy.  

Now I am not going to discount things like better planning, and prioritizing important over urgent work.  There are some productivity hacks that might help some folks.  But most of the leaders I work with are “hacked out” of productivity. Everything they are working on is important. So now what.

Here is my advice:  Work less and think more.

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I recently ran across a two-year study out of Sweden that experimented with a 6 hour work day instead of a traditional 8 hour day for nurses at a care facility in Gothenburg. Here are some of the researchers' conclusions regarding the nurses who worked fewer hours:

  • They were less tired
  • less sick
  • had more energy coming home 
  • increased time to do activities 
  • got an average of 7 hours of sleep a day versus less than 6 hours a day for nurses working traditional hours. 
  • even their blood pressure was lower than the average for all professional women in Sweeden.

So maybe you can’t get your supervisor to agree to a 6 hour work week. I get it. 

The question becomes, what can you do?

Try This Simple Step

The assumptions you are using to create your reality can’t all be valid if you can’t get everything done in the allotted time. You are telling yourself that all this craziness is normal and this is the cycle of thinking you need to break. 

But you don’t even have time to think about how to change. You are right! You don’t have the time!

You have to make the time! And I am going to give you a free gift that you can use when you make the time.

More on that in just a minute, but first the answer to the riddle: 

Answer to The Refunding The Travelers Riddle

Have you figured it out? 

If you follow the math as I originally laid it out there is a $1 that seems to be missing.

But that is because I gave you a faulty assumption.  

Each of the travelers indeed would get a $1 refund and the Bellhop put the $2 in his pocket. 

You do not add the $2 from the bellman, you subtract it from the total.  So 9 times $3 refunded reduces the price of the room to $27 dollars and when you subtract the $2 the bellman kept you get the $25 price of the room.

Faulty assumptions are at the root of many leadership issues.

What Faulty Assumptions Are You Making?

I wish I had some pixy dust or a magic wand to help you answer the above question. I don’t

But what I do have is a free gift that might be of value.

I have written The Minimalist Guide to a 4-Hour Personal Leadership Retreat and it is yours absolutely free if you CLICK HERE and enter this promo code below when you checkout:

MerryChristmas

It is my gift to you. While I don’t have the answer to what leadership assumptions you are making that are not serving you well right now, you do. You just have not MADE the time to think about what they are.

The Minimalist Guide was developed so that when you MAKE time for yourself to reflect on your personal leadership, you will have some structure to help you along the way.

If you decide to take the challenge and make some time for yourself and use the guide, drop me a note and let me know what you learned. I love hearing from you. I promise if you send me a note, I will read it and reply to it personally. 

A Golden Ticket for Learning From Critical Feedback

Last week I wrote about how it feels to receive critical feedback. This week I want to give you another example of how critical feedback can present itself and some more ideas on changing your response when this happens to you.

Blinding Glimpse

When my manager doesn’t see my performance the way I see it my natural reaction is to protect myself by desiring to understand WHY!

The feeling is that if we can understand the rationale of what the other person is thinking then we will somehow be better able to cope with what is going on.

My encouragement for you is going to be that when this happens to you, that your initial reaction change from “why” the person is saying this to “How could I do better?"

The goal, when someone is providing you critical feedback, is to not become defensive. If your knee-jerk reaction is “why” your defensive posture may be inhibiting you from learning. Focusing on you can improve and learn from the feedback can give you more of an open posture. In the moment, the “why” question can cause the other person to feel attacked.

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 If our goal in organizations is to learn, then we have to stop feeling like we are being attacked and get much better at learning from each other.

Please allow me to elaborate:

One of the tools that I find most effective in both my coaching and training practices is to use a 360 feedback tool. In my executive coaching, I prefer to use  Leaderpath 360, which is a leadership-oriented interview feedback tool. When it comes to training leaders in classroom settings my preference is the EQI 2.0 360.  

Both of these feedback tools provide for different professional and personal relations to give feedback to the participant I am working with. Professional clients receive feedback from direct reports, peers, and their direct supervisor.

While each of these relationships provide some interesting perspective for those receiving the feedback, the supervising manager's rating is the most impactful when it is lower than any of the other relations' ratings. This often causes the participant to become the most defensive. 

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I pulled an example from a sample EQI 2.0 360 report to illustrate my point. The Emotional Intelligence Competencies being measured are color-coded on the far left of the illustration. The Green icon “M” is the supervising managers feedback. The Blue icon “S” is the person’s self-reported feedback. (The Red “F” is family and the Brown “O” is other).  The numerical scale at the top goes from low of 50 (70 is first number shown) to a high of 150 (130 is the high number shown.) 

In each of these cases, you can see that the supervising manager's feedback is lower than the person’s self-reporting feedback. Not necessarily a message any of us likes to receive. 

You can imagine that if this were your EI 360 report, opening up to one of the first summary pages and seeing that you and your manager do not see eye to eye on most of the key leadership attributes. The first and natural reaction is "why?"

A perfectly natural, yet, oddly enough, not very helpful reaction.

Defensive Reactions Inhibit Learning

I had the opportunity to lead a training using this very instrument for a client several weeks ago and had a young leader come up to me at the lunch break. He was obviously trying to make sense of the data in front of him. Similar to the graphic above, his feedback showed that in every emotional intelligence competency, he, his peers, and his direct reports rated his emotional intelligence higher than his manager rated him.

The young leader was intently focused on trying to understand why this was so. 

His very natural, defensive reaction was to try and understand, to put story as to the reason why the manager saw him in this light.

“I just do not understand the reasons behind this feedback," was his opening comment to me.

“What is it that you do not understand?” I asked.

“Why would my manager rate me this low on all these competencies?” Tears started to well in his eyes.

As a coach, I knew at this point my job was to help this young leader see past the “why” of the situation. The important thing in that moment was not “why” the supervisor had done this, but what the young leader was going to focus on moving forward. 

Focusing on the wrong question was not going to help this young leader move forward. In that situation, in that moment, we were not going to be able to answer those most basic of “why” questions. The supervisor was not present, and even if he/she were present, the question could very well put the supervisor in a defensive position. 

If that were to happen we would then have a defensive supervisor and a defensive employee each focused on defending their position. Not a recipe for a healthy development conversation.

The Coache's Role

As someone in a leadership or coaching position, in that moment the goal must be to help the person let go of the "why" and focus on what to do next. For development to happen, we must use our coaching ability to help them see the change they need to make. This is our first step towards development.

The conversation when something like this:

Me: “I want to encourage you to let go of the question of 'why' and focus on what the report is telling you overall.” 

Participant: “But if I understand why my boss sees me this way, I can do something about it."

Me: “No, that is a rabbit trail, you think is logical, but in reality is a dead end.”

Participant:  Long blank stare followed by an even longer pause. “But why…?”  He just couldn’t help but get one more defensive salvo in before he let his guard down.

Me: Why isn’t important right now. Maybe someday it will become clear to you, but what is important now is to see the bigger picture the report is showing you. What are you going to do with this feedback? Who is going to help you move forward? These questions hold the object of your focus.”

As he exhaled I could see the shift in his demeanor from agitation to calm listening.  

Now The Development Conversation Can Start

This was hard for him, really hard.  Ultimately, what the young leader was experiencing was some form of put-down or rejection in the moment. None of us likes to be rejected or even experience the feeling of being rejected. This feeling of a cold shoulder toward our performance is disruptive, and, might I add, quite a valuable gift.

The bonus that this young leader received from the supervisor's feedback is more valuable than any nominal raise in pay he will ever receive. Now the young leader knows there is work to be done. Until this moment in time, he thought he was doing well across most of the leadership domains being measured.

Focusing on the next move or two can help the leader who is stuck on the wrong question to be able to move forward. And it is moving forward that best describes what development is all about.

Strategic Summary

Our first and natural reaction when receiving critical feedback is to defend ourselves. Even when we don’t think we are being defensive, many times we just can’t help ourselves.  It seems perfectly logical to want to understand why someone doesn’t see the world in the same way that we see it.

Move past your knee-jerk reaction of wanting to understand “why” behind the feedback and move quickly on to more productive ground of doing something about it. 

A Strategic Piece of Advice for When You Receive Critical Feedback

One of the most difficult things any of us can experience in our organizational life is to receive critical feedback.

So often we speak as if like feedback, we value feedback, we even welcome feedback.  I worked with a client a number of years ago who’s mantra was "We are a feedback-rich environment!"

But let's be honest, most of the time this desire for feedback is because we want validation that things are going really well. 

Do we have the same reactions however when the feedback we receive is more critical? Is there a best way to respond when you are given feedback that your performance is not up to standard or that your behaviors are not valued by others?

Misaligned Expectations

I had a client call me a few weeks ago and he was audibly frustrated when I answered the phone. We really didn’t even exchange any pleasantries like, "How are you doing?" to start our conversation.  He just dug right in…

“Scott, you would not believe my boss and what she just did! We have been working really hard all year to deliver on a really important project for one of our top internal customers.  The project has gone well overall, the client has been very pleased and there have been zero complaints, and we are even under budget. When I sat down to review the project as part of my performance review, my boss acknowledged my hard work and then said I would be getting an average performance rating. Average! I can tell you my performance was anything but average!”

 He said that he just sat there just stunned and ask himself, "How could anything on the project went any better? Average performance? What do you have to do to get a top performance recognition around here?”

He told me that he was so emotional that he couldn’t even hear anything else his boss was saying to him. All he wanted to know was WHY she felt this way. Was she paying attention at all? 

Receiving Feedback that Feels Critical

I think there are times in our corporate lives when we receive critical feedback that is not intended to be harmful but it sure feels like it is to us.  

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I said to the young man on the phone, “It sounds to me like what your boss is saying is that your performance is like that of most people in the organization and that means that it is good enough that they want you to stick around for the near future.”

That went over like a ton of bricks.

“Scott, you have no idea how hard I worked, how many hours, what we did to make that project happen on time and under budget.”

“I am sure I don’t understand the details, but I am wondering if you are hearing the message your boss is trying to send. She is saying well done, but since you are expecting to hear 'excellent,' and you are not, what you are hearing is 'bad.'”   

Then I said, “Are you sure her message to you is BAD?”

I don’t think he heard my question because he was still so fired up that he said to me, “All I want to know is WHY she feels this way."

“That may be the wrong question,” I said,  “I think what you want to really know is HOW you could do better next time to get the rating you are expecting."

When we get feedback that feels critical in nature, our natural urge is to defend ourselves. We can’t help it, it is part of our hard-wiring. The goal as you work to develop yourself as a leader is to overcome these natural defense mechanisms and develop new response mechanisms so that you can learn and grow.

Your Experience

Have you ever experienced this? I mean, worked really hard on something, poured your life into it, thought you were doing really well, and then suddenly you are confronted with the feeling that what you are doing isn’t really good enough?

If you have been in an organization long enough you no doubt have experience this type of misaligned expectation or critical feedback. The feedback may not be critical in the sense that it is mean or demeaning, just that what you are doing or working on has some room for improvement.

Strategic Advice

Here is what I want to encourage you to do when you feel like you are receiving Critical Feedback.

  1. Step back and try and not take the criticism personally. 
  2. Take a deep breath and let go of the negative, defensive feeling.
  3. Change your WHY to HOW. Focus on what your improvement needs to be rather than have your boss defend their position.

In the end, your supervisor feels how they feel, and there is probably little you can do in the moment to change his/her mind. The question is less about WHY they feel the way they do and more about WHAT you need to do differently and HOW you can make changes for the future.

Next week I will continue on the topic of critical feedback, and offer more ideas on how to respond in this kind of situation. Have you experienced a situation like this before? Let me know in the comments what kind of responses you think are most helpful to critical feedback. 

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

This is a very busy time of year for many of us.  In the U.S. we just celebrated Thanksgiving and that means, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are both in our sights or at least still visible in our rear-view mirror. The passing of these events means the ever-looming Christmas craziness is just around the corner.

And for many of you that can only mean one thing...

It is performance review time. That time when you will sit down with your supervisor and go over the goals you set for the year and measure your performance against those standards. Or, at least that is how it is supposed to work in theory.

For all of you over-achievers out there,  this can be an anxious time.  Most of us who work in organizations get up every morning and our self-created goal is to do the very best we can every day. Sometimes what we are supposed to do isn’t very clear. Sometimes what we are supposed to do changes, it seems, on an hourly basis. Most times what we know is important to do gets hijacked by the tyranny of someone else's agenda. And sometimes what we were hired to do is not what we end up doing at all.  

No matter what your individual circumstance, I am confident that most of you show up wanting to do the very best that you can with the time you have available. You feel like you have exceeded your goals and far surpassed expectations. Yet you will sit down with your supervisor at some point and the reality is that only so many of you can get that top performance ranking in any given year.  The rules of statistics say that most of you will get an average performance rating every year even though you feel like you deserve much more.

The dilemma you face is that you had what you considered to be an excellent year. Your boss agrees but ranks you as having an average year and then challenges you to “step up your game” to get that top ranking.

I think when most of us get this kind of feedback, it makes us a little defensive, so in the next couple of weeks I am going to share some tips on dealing with critical feedback. 

But for now, I want you to proactively be thinking about what it is that you need to change to get that top performance ranking next year.  Maybe you need to add a skill to your toolbox. Maybe you need to be more assertive with your peers or show a little more empathy with your direct reports. Whatever the case, for most of you the problem isn’t finding what it is you need to change, the question is how to sustain the change you want to make.

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The issue of sustaining change is not a new concept. Kurt Lewen observed in the 1940s that making a change was often very short lived. It's like drinking a Monster energy drink. Sure, you are moving faster or have more focus, but so often, once the caffeine is out of your system, the energy level decreases back to its original level. Lewen noted that something more was needed than a shot-in-the-arm type of boost. Sure, changes can be made in the short-run, but how do you translate that change to long-term outcomes?

5 Steps Toward Sustainable Change

  1. Create a long-term value proposition. The coaching client has to see relevant longterm value in making any change that has been identified. Focusing on a value proposition will often cause the client to wrestle with their own belief system. Without changing what the person believes to be true, old behavioral habits return insidiously. In my health example, I have to associate overeating or eating the wrong foods as being bad for me ten years from now. It is too easy to succumb to temptation if you are focused on getting your short-term needs met. For my client from last week, who was always interrupting, he had to believe that his behavior was rude and that his intention was not to be seen this way. His need to be respected had to triumph over his need to be heard.
  2. Experiment with new behaviors to find a fit. So often I hear coaches talk about practicing new behaviors before they even know if the new behavior will work or not. I like for my clients to experiment with several options to see what will work for them. The fear I have is if this step is skipped then we could end up practicing the wrong behavior and have to go through the process of unlearning and relearning. For me, I had to experiment with reducing the size of my protein choice at dinner, giving up a snack before bed, working out an extra day a week and completely eliminating fried foods.  I played with all of these and finally found that what I wanted to practice was reducing my protein size at dinner. I went from eating an entire chicken breast to only eating a portion size equal to the size of my fist.  
  3. Practice the new behavior in a number of contexts. Then, I practiced this new behavior. When my wife and I grill, we split a chicken breast. When I go out to eat I ask for smaller sizes. When I travel I am conscious not to just go ahead and order the largest meal on the menu because I forgot to have an afternoon snack. To gain sustainability it is important to practice the new behavior across contexts. My client had to practice not interrupting his boss, his peers, his direct reports. He had to practice not interrupting during presentations, and one-on-ones, and on conference calls. 
  4. Identify relational feedback loops. No change can happen in isolation. We all need constant feedback. We need safe places to see if people notice the changes we are making. This is where it can help to share your development goals across a broad number of relationships. This constant feedback loop is critical to making that new behavior a sticky habit. My client would actually say to his direct reports during one-on-one meetings, "My goal is not to interrupt you and finish your sentences during our meeting today. If I do this would you please just get up and put a tick mark on my whiteboard.” Feedback is a gift, all the way through the development process.
  5. Celebrate the noted change. Let the dopamine in your brain flow. You have worked long and hard to gain this change. Likely somewhere between 2 and 3 months at a minimum. Why not have a party? Why not let the good feeling of accomplishment and a job well-done flow through to those who have been with you on your development journey.

I would be really interested in knowing if you have other coaching sustainability tips. Why not leave a comment or share an experience below. I would love to hear from you!

Making Change is Hard, This is Harder

 So most of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I pay fairly close attention to my health.

I try to make healthy food choices. 

I actually enjoy working out.

I value my faith in God and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I love my important relationships: My wife, my family, my team, my customers, my close friends.

At my most recent appointment with my physician, the incredible Dr. James Scelfo, he asked me a number of follow up questions from my previous visit. Here is the one that was the most interesting to me:

“Scott, you have lost about 5 pounds. We had a goal of 10, and 5 is really nice progress. Can you sustain it?”

Provocative Question

Did you catch it?  The good doctor inferred a change in behavior based on the outcome: The loss of 5 pounds. He also questioned if the shift in behavior and habits was one that I could continue. I thought his question was a really good one. He wasn't curious how it did it, but rather if I could sustain it.

Not improve upon it.

Not make it better.

Not lose 2 more.

Sustain it.

Sustain: What an interesting word! Not one that gets too much focus in the world of leadership development. We are always looking to say, "Can you improve? Can you give me a little more? Can you do just a little better? There might be one more promotion out there, if you do this one more thing!"

Dr. Scelfo didn't ask that. He is a really smart dude. He knows that before I can commit to giving him one or two more pounds, the real question is can I keep it up. Can I stay where I am long enough to learn new habits? Learning new habits becomes one of the key elements to sustainability.

What does it mean to sustain?

I was so intrigued by this question. I had to go back to my car and look up the word in the dictionary. I thought I knew what sustain meant and one of the definitions provided was pretty close to my thinking: “To keep going an action or process."

Although, that's not what caught my eye. What was fascinating to me was one of the other definitions given: “To undergo, experience, or suffer (injury, loss, etc;) endure without giving way or yielding.”

To sustain means to recognize that you have undergone a process, had an experience and even suffered and you are enduring without going back to your old ways.

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Celebrate Observable Change In Behavior

Personally, I don’t know if there is anything more rewarding than when I observe a client making a change.

I recall a client several years back who, unbeknownst to himself, would interrupt people and finish their sentences for them.  I remember like it was yesterday sitting with him, being in the conversation, and having him cut me off mid-sentence. As he would do it, I would stop him in his tracks and say, "There, you did it again."

In our coaching, he really worked hard on increasing his impulse control and at the same time decreasing his need to feel heard. 

Not easy work. In fact, it's really hard work.

When I did a mini-360 check-in with some of his key relationships they were surprised at the dramatic change he had made. The question the president of the affiliate had for me was, “So coach, do you think he can sustain the change?”

In our coaching, let’s not ever fool ourselves into thinking that just because we are seeing some behavior change, that we are seeing a new habit.

How Coaches Can Help Finish Change

There are times where a coaching relationship just ends too soon or for internal coaches, the behavior change happens and then we move on to whatever is next. All of this in the context of the person has “moved” to a new change behavior.  The question we all have to ask ourselves is have they made the change? Have they obtained sustainability?

Think about a change that you want to make or one you've tried to make. What would your life look like if you made that change? Are the habits for that change sustainable, something you can live with long term?

Next week, I'll share 5 steps you can take to make sustainable changes or coach someone through it. In the meantime, leave us a comment about what sustainable success you've had. How did you do it and what advice would you give others?

Have You Heard the One About the Turtle on the Fence Post....?

I was on the phone the other day with an old friend who is retiring from his job of 30 years, but who is too young to just fish and play golf. We were talking about what it is like to be in business for yourself. As the conversation went along, he said to me “Do you know the story of the turtle on the fence post?"

So, this story has been around for a long time, and yet, as I was thinking about the relationship to coaching and leadership it really struck me as impactful. As both coaches and leaders, we get mental pictures of how we are seeing the world. One very important task we all have is to be able to ask the right questions in order to get our clients and teams to broaden their perspectives when obstacles arise. Being open to perspective is the key to understanding and a sure sign you are at a minimum being empathic.

The story goes that a father and his daughter were driving along the road in West Texas. The road was long and straight and there was nothing but concrete, blue sky, and fence posts to look at. It seems like they had driven for hours to the point where all they saw was fence post….fence post…..fence post. If you have driven in West Texas you know what this can be like.  

Fencepost…fencepost….fencepost...

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Fencepost…fencepost…fencepost with a turtle on it….fencepost…

Then the young girl turned to her dad and said, “Did you see that turtle on the fencepost? I wonder how it got there!”

The father, seeing the teachable moment, pulls the truck off the side of the road, turns to his daughter and says, “The question isn’t how the turtle got there. The question really is WHO put the turtle there.”

Leadership Application

As leaders, so many times we see it as our job to have all the answers. We can have this insatiable desire for information or for knowledge. We fall into the trap of thinking that the person with the information is the one who has the power in a relationship.  

While it is foolish to discount the importance of having information, I have come to believe that it is the person who has the right question that really sets the tone and the agenda in the organization.

In the little story about the turtle on the fence post, the daughter had the information. She was able to observe what was going on in her world. She even asked a question which is really cool. She did not assume she could explain the quite unnatural phenomena.

In front of her was a turtle on a fence post...

  • unnatural
  • interesting
  • alluring
  • intriguing

All of these natural responses to seeing a turtle on a fence post.  

The little girl should even get credit for doing more than just saying, “Look there is a turtle on a fence post,” and then turning back to her phone to continue to mindlessly scroll through her Facebook page.

She asks a question of her dad, in fact, a good question, a reasonable question.  “How did the turtle get there?”

But the father knew that in this case, the answer to the question lay deeper in “who put the turtle on the fence post.”

4 Strategies for Leaders to think more critically

As I was thinking about the story of the turtle on the fence post and how it might apply to leadership, four main things came to mind.

  1. Be careful not to rush to judgement

This is a real trap for the experienced leader. A young person brings a problem into the office and rather than ask for understanding or context the wise sage says, "I have seen this 100 times in all my years…."

While having experience is important, as leaders we must be cautious in playing the experience card. Experience can give the impression of certainty. Certainty brings with it an idea of mitigation of risk. "I have seen this before and this is what will work."

The problem with certainty is that there is no room for creativity or curiosity. There is no room for learning for that young leader. There is no place for them to develop their own set of experiences so they have things to judge against in the future.

  1. Be open and curious in your questioning.

The main point here is for the leader to work hard to be unbiased and to be really genuine. We have to have our curiosity meter set on maximum as well as our genuine interest be on helping the other person.  

  1. Co-create Reality

Leaders who are skilled at critical thinking have an ability to co-create reality with those they are working with. Develop the ability to come up with questions for which you have no answer.  These types of questions will help to create the reality that you and your followers are experiencing.

As you think about the turtle on the fence post, remember that the father knew that there is no way the turtle could get there on its own. There was some assistance that was needed.  “How” the turtle got there was not going to get the conversation much further.  “I don’t know” is about the only answer you could expect to get. In this case, the person who might come into your office might be left with well, let me see if I can go find some reasons for turtles to be on a fence post and I will get back to you.

But the father circumvented this by changing the question.  By changing the question, the little girl now can co-create the reality with her father and a teachable moment comes about.  As the question changes from “how” to “who," the leader is able to set the agenda and the follower is able to enter into this reality as a co-creator of what can be versus just describing what is.

  1. think WHO as much as you think HOW

Almost once a week I find myself in a conversation with someone looking for a new job.  

Their questions often go something like:

“I am thinking about looking for this new job and was wondering if you could take a look at my resume.”

My standard reply has become, “Who do you know there? Who do you know in the industry?” 

Call me old school, but it is the person hiring who gets me the job, not my resume. How you got to the interview and all of your great experience IS NOT getting you the job that you desire. I guarantee it is the hiring manager who is going to bring you on the team.

What about you guys? Any tips you might have that improves your critical thinking?

Focus Here to Reduce Your Stress Today

The past two days were really busy for me, but they were not necessarily stressful. 

Have you ever noticed that when you ask someone how they are doing, a common response is “really busy..." and these words are usually followed by a heavy sigh, an eye-roll, and a shrug of the shoulders.

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Being busy carries some sort of identity for us. We can’t just “be” who we are, we have to “be” something in order to have identity.

We've decided that to be busy is to be stressed. And if busyness is stressful then this fills our identity, bringing some sort of value to who we are. I am amazed at the thinking on this. Just because we are busy and stressed we are somehow more valuable and have more self-worth.

A lie straight from the pit of Hell!!!

I completely disagree with these lies we tell ourselves:

Lie #1: I am busy so I have to be stressed.

Lie #2: I am busy and stressed so I must be bringing more value to my work.

Lie #3: I am busy and stressed and bringing more value so even though I am exhausted I have a higher feeling of self-worth.

When are we going to stop equating busyness and stress with self-worth?

My Point

I think you can be really busy and not be stressed out.

My good friend Dr. Tim Gardner is famous for saying, “What people know about stress is killing them.” Think about that for a minute. In the world of stress and stress management, there is not much new information that has come around over the last 20 years or so. You know everything you need to know about stress and how to manage it and yet you choose it anyway.

I am not talking about temporary stress here like the tension felt in Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the World Champion Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals. A four and a half hour, nine-inning baseball game that had more ups and downs and tense moments for both teams.  While it that was a really tense 4 and a half hours, that is not the kind of temporary tension I am writing about.

What Dr. Tim means is that most of us know we are going to be busy, and this busyness has the potential to be stressful, and if you let it be stressful it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health and well being.

The question I have for you today is: If you are busy can you choose not to be stressed?

Main Idea

Many of you know that for the past 20 years or so I have been involved in the emotional intelligence movement. Now when you teach something like emotional intelligence, I think folks watch to see if you are a theorist or a practitioner. A theorist knows what the main ideas are and can pass any exam they might take on a subject. A practitioner is someone who understands the theory and works hard to put it into practice.

One of the things we are really excited about in our organization is the certification work we are doing with the EQi 2.0.  The actual certification class is a 2-day virtual training that is filled with a lot of practical strategies for implementing the EQi 2.0 assessment.  It is exciting for us to work with professionals dedicated to the growth and development of others. We love the work and hearing the great things the participants have to say in training.

One of the competencies we work on is stress management. This idea of managing stress really has two components:

  1. What to do in a particularly stressful moment?
  2. How do you manage stress so you lessen its overall effect?

It is this second strategy I want you to think about today.

Management is by definition a planning and organizing function. So if you know you are going to be busy, then how can you plan and organize your life so that the busyness is not stressful?

We often talk about how to deal with stress after the fact, but what if we were more observant of stress before it began? Here are 3 keywords to a proactive stress plan. These words may sound familiar, but pay attention to their definitions. Putting a word to feelings you might not associate with stress can make all the difference when it comes to preparing to overcome our obstacles by helping us create clearer goals. While you're reading, see if any of these definitions relate to your relationship with stress in ways you may not have been able to put words to before. 

   3 Strategies To Change Your L      

FLEXIBILITY: The ability to adapt to change effectively. Any change in life is going to bring emotion. How flexible are you with these feelings? This is a different question than "are you able to take the needed action in a crisis?" Instead, flexibility asks if you are able to flex and choose a different emotional response when you are faced with obstacles. If not, ask yourself: can you put strategies in place to do so? Do you have the flexibility to overpower your emotion and choose a different one, or are you subject to the emotion?

Tolerance: How much can I hold until I break? Tolerance equates with strength. Think of metal: There is a certain amount of weight it holds until it will break. You are the same. There is a level of stress you can hold until you will break. Tolerance measures where that level is for you. This sounds abstract, but it is not. Make a list of all the stressors you are juggling. Can you cross one off or delegate some of that stress? 

Optimism: To be optimistic is not to be a shiny happy person who refuses to see harsh realities, but to be resilient. Optimistic people know that it is not a matter of if something will go wrong, but when and are prepared to respond with resilience. It is a constructive response to setbacks. This is where self-talk comes into play: How you talk to yourself when things don't go your way? Are you able to say "This setback happened, but I am still myself apart from this situation and will move on," or do you equate the even with your personality, saying things like, "This is who I am, this sort of thing always happens to me." To be optimistic is to perceive reality properly by not using words like "always" and "never," and to instead to see the situation as what it was, and be ready to separate it from your future self. 

Are you going through the motions without examining your stress management? Use these 3 words this week to help you evaluate yourself in these areas, and open up a dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself difficult questions about how much you can really take on, what you are allowing to define your worth, and whether or not you are a slave to your emotions. 

5 Performance Killers We All Face and How to Deal with Them

My wife and I were faced with a tough decision a few months ago. 

Now, you have to understand that I have the cutest granddaughter in the world. I know some of you out there have grandkids too, but let me tell you something right now…not one of them is cuter than mine.

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The problem is that we live in Florida and she lives in Ohio. I think you see the issue now. Grandma and I just don’t get enough quality time with that cute little bundle of joy. When she says, “Come on, Grandpa, let's go play with toys…” my heart melts like butter in a skillet.

So, we were talking with some friends about our problem and they said, “Why don’t you just move to Columbus?”

Fair question. Here is my response:

  1. Don’t want to move
  2. Hate winter

Then our friend said, "Why don’t you live in Ohio in the summer and winter in Florida."

My knee-jerk reaction was, “I am not old enough to be a snowbird." However, the more I thought about it and the more we talked the more it sounded kind of cool.

So, we decided to buy a small, inexpensive little condo in Ohio. We talked to my financial team who convinced me that because interest rates are low I should borrow some of the money for the condo. This sent me into a bit of an emotional “fight or flight” moment. I really don’t like borrowing money. It is the invasiveness of the process that just turns my stomach: I actually got an email from one of the lenders asking to validate my accounts to prove I was not a money launderer or terrorist. 

Intellectually, I get it. This is the world we live in, but now I have to prove I am  not one of these things for someone to do business with me. When I questioned the banker he blamed it on the Feds.

And some of you still think having the government in healthcare is a good idea. Really?

That is when I realized I have some performance anxieties.  Nothing I need to see a psychiatrist about (at least I don’t think it is that bad,) but there are times when my performance is not as good as it could be. 

When my financial advisor said that I should get a small mortgage on the condo, my flight or flight kicked in, so I did what any good coach would tell their client to do, and sat down to journal my feelings. I also did some research on this idea of emotional distraction and performance.

My Journaling Results

So the first thing I did was to sit down and document what I was feeling. This was not difficult and I came up with this list in under five minutes. It was amazing to me when I sat down and just wrote it out what happened.

  1. Not smart enough. I had this overwhelming feeling like the bankers and loan people would ask me questions that I wouldn’t know the answer to.
  2. Weakness. What if this was a bad decision and someone criticized it along the way?
  3. Rejection. What if they said I didn’t qualify?
  4. Asking for help. The more people who know I am taking out this loan, the more people who could see me as incompetent. After all, Kim and I have really avoided debt for most of our marriage.
  5. Power gradient. I felt like I had to do everything I could to please the lender so they would approve me. 

The Research

In 2002 Kaiser and Kaplan did some research on distortions in performance caused by what they called “sensitivities." These sensitivities are things that have happened to us in our past that now affect how we perform in the present. What they describe in their research that I didn’t realize in my journaling is that there is an underperforming and an overperforming reaction. 

So for example, if a leader gets into a situation where they feel “Intellectually Inadequate” or what I termed “not smart enough," if they respond by “doing too little” they might not contribute in meetings, but if they “overdo it” they might work extreme hours to over compensate for the inadequate feeling.

How About You?

Think about a decision you are going to make soon or a place where your performance is not where you want it. Pay attention to how you are feeling. Do you feel:

  1. Not smart enough
  2. Weak
  3. Rejected
  4. Dependent 
  5. Powerless 

If you have these feelings, are you overcompensating or under compensating? Some of these feelings might run very deep and the cause can stem back to your childhood. 

Sitting down with a journal and analyzing your feeling and understanding them might help you be able to overcome any compensation you are experiencing and put a plan in place to overcome the anxiety.

By the way, I was able to answer all the lenders' questions. It was not that difficult of a process and we should close on our condo this week. I can tell you one thing, being close to my grand baby is going to make any performance anxiety I was dealing with totally worth it.

3 Reasons I love What I Do

I had a very interesting conversation about work with a friend of mine this week. He received some feedback at work saying that he was very intense and could at times slip into being very transactional with people, especially when he is under a lot of pressure. There are times when people saw him as controlling to the point that he would step in and do others work for them just so workflow processes were not interrupted. The folks in his department said that, while a great guy socially, he was not fun to work with.

To his credit, he completely owned his behavior. He was not proud of it and held himself completely accountable for it.

As I began to ask him questions about his role and the organization he is apart of I started to notice something in his language that I found really interesting.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:  “So tell me about your area of responsibility."

Him: “Well, we basically make sure that there are enough supplies coming in so that when a need arises the work is not interrupted, and ultimately customer needs are met.”

Me: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility. Do you enjoy being in the middle of all the action?”

Him: “The work takes a lot of focus and there are a lot of people who depend on us to get it right.”

Me:”I get that it is important, but do you enjoy it?”

He took a long pause before answering.

Him:”Well it is work. By definition, it is not supposed to be fun”. 

Another long pause.

Me: "So what you are saying is that you spend 60-65% of your life, most of your waking hours, doing something that is not giving you meaning and satisfaction?”

Him: “Well, I have goals, and the work I do helps me to fulfill those goals.”

Me: “I get it that you have goals and the work you do is important. Why can’t your work be fun?”

He paused again.

Him: "Because it is work...Scott, do you have fun doing what you do?”

There it was. Plain as the vanilla yogurt my wife puts on her cereal in the morning.

Do I have FUN doing what I am doing?

I told him that without a doubt, I do. I really feel like I am answering a calling for my life. For over 20 years I worked in organizations. I had the chance to work with some really top-notch leaders and some leaders who, well let's just say, were not so top notch. 

When I started doing EQ training and executive coaching almost 15 years ago I really felt called to help leaders seek opportunities to find meaning and purpose in their chosen vocation and lend them the support to make any change they deemed necessary. I think when you find what it is that you were created to do, then the rest just takes care of itself.

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I told my friend that I truly believe that the organization is totally reflective of the soul of the leader. That the issue he was having in his organization had nothing to do with his skills or abilities. I really didn’t even think it was the tension and pressure of the role he was in. 

The issue is that he is treating his role like his job and not his calling.

3 Reasons I Love What I Do

  1. I interact with really cool people. Since I am a solo practitioner I have to limit the number of clients I can take on at any one time. So my main criteria for whom I work with is: are they cool? Do they have interesting organizational issues? Do they have really hard challenges that I can help them think through? Do their values line up with mine? I have to tell you, this is so important to me. I want to interact with folks who see me as a partner and not a vendor.
  2. I am passionate about my topic. The leadership model I use most often is emotional intelligence. I see so much application for this work from improving sales technique and making good hiring decisions to improving interpersonal relationships and lowering stress. Emotional intelligence is about helping leaders find a sense of well-being and pursuing meaning in life. 
  3. There is always a challenge. People-work is interesting work. I work with very high functioning, high performing, and successful individuals and teams. The work is never easy and never boring. There is always a new challenge waiting just around the corner.
  4. BONUS: I have a really great team. Shout out to Brandi, Angela, Gretchen, and Michelle. I could not do what I do without you guys.

How about YOU? Why do you love what you do? What gives you a sense of calling and purpose in the work you do?

How to Navigate Change Without Frustration

       People are suffering in Puerto Rico this week and may be without power for months, reports are saying. Recovery will be hard, but it is a challenge that Puerto Rican Governor Rossello is determined to take on. "God is with us; we are stronger than any hurricane. Together we will rise again." So as we keep these many people in our thoughts and prayers this week, I thought it would be good for us to reflect on ourselves and the people we both lead and interact with.

Gov. Rossello's empowering words give me so much hope for Puerto Rico, and got me thinking: that statement reflects a pragmatist's approach to change.  Now, I don't know Gov. Rossello personally, but for the sake of argument let's say, based on this statement, that pragmatism is his change style.

"Scott, what on earth is a 'change style?'"

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I'm so glad you asked. Your change style is the type of approach you naturally bend toward when leading others in the midst of great change. These are the three change styles based upon the  Change Style Assessment  that I often use with my clients. 

Pragmatists: These people approach change by exploring existing structures within a situation, and operate as mediators and catalystsfor change within that structure. Thy prefer change that best serves the function. Thy can often appear reasonable, practical and flexible but also noncommittal. Gov. Rossello is ready for Puerto Rico to "rise again," to become what she was before this storm, he knows his system has worked before, and is ready to use it. 

Conservers: These people accept existing structures around them, but unlike pragmatists, prefer to keep existing systems and structures in place. They would rather see gradual changes happen. While they might seem cautious and inflexible at times, they are not afraid to ask the hard questions. This might be someone such as President Calvin Coolidge. He is an often overlooked president because he was seen as too cautious and inflexible to enact any real change. However, his slow-moving approach allowed him to see the big picture when it came to things like the economy, and he became the only president to leave office with no national deficit. 

Originators: These people are original thinkers who will challenge existing structures from the very beginning. They actually enjoy risk and uncertainty, quick and radical change. Sometimes they can come off as unorganized and undisciplined. An example of an originator would be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who challenged the broken social structure and took risky steps that led to radical, beautiful change. 

What is the value of Knowing your Change Style?

Who among us is not in the middle of some kind of change? Change is all around us. Here are some that I have noticed this last week just in my little corner of the world:

  • My grocery store changed where my favorite frozen yogurt treat is found in the freezer case. Seems like every time I go into the grocery, something has moved.
  • My favorite brand of frozen protein waffles changed their packaging and I almost couldn’t find them on the shelf.
  • My workout routine is changing more and more as my wife and I prepare for our very first back to back half-marathons. One on October 14 the other on Oct 21!
  • I have started to do more online teaching, beginning with some of the assessments we certify leaders and coaches to use in their organizations and practices.

Since things in both our personal and professional lives are constantly changing, I think it is good for us to understand how we approach change. I tend to be more of an originator and get a lot of satisfaction out of rearranging things to see if I can make them better. However, I also know that if I am not aware of a change, I can easily get frustrated, like I was when I couldn’t find my frozen waffles because the package is different.

Knowing about yourself or your clients and how they approach change can be very valuable. Think about a conserver style leader who is asked to lead a new systems initiative in their organization. If the leader is aware of their change style, then they can better manage the processes. Left unaware, frustration and doubt can hold the best leaders frozen in their tracks.

What is your change style?

Take this fun quiz below to get an idea of which style might be yours. If you are coaching someone through change, we have an assessment tool available for you to use to find our their change style that will allow you to help them grow in their approach to change. 

 

 

 

6 Influence Strategies You Need to Lead

I had this really cool thought while on the treadmill the other day. Now, I have to tell you, being on a treadmill is not my favorite thing in the world. However, it has become an important part of my workout routine as my wife and I train for our next half-marathon in October. 

So I am jogging along at about a 4.7 miles per hour on the treadmill. My trainer calls this my base pace. That means that it is a pace I could theoretically keep up for 30 minutes or more if I had to do it. So I am jogging along at my comfortable 4.7 paceand my trainer Cynthia says, "Okay, everybody I want you to establish a new base. I want everyone to go 0.1mph faster." 

What! Get me out of my comfort zone? Are you kidding me?  

But you know what I did. I took my speed up 0.1mph

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That's when I had the thought: Cynthia has influence over me. Here is this petite female trainer giving me instruction over a microphone with 36 other people in a class at 6:15 in the morning, and what do I do? Exactly what she said to do. Why did I do that?

It is because Cynthia has influence over me.

Because I work for myself, I am able to make my own schedule when I am not traveling for training, and therefore could theoretically go to the gym whenever I please, but I don't. Why? Because even though I have a flexible schedule, I choose to go to the gym when I know there will be a trainer working who I like. This may sound like just a personal preference of mine, but it's more than that, and this kind of behavior probably shows up more in your life than you realize. My trainers’ likability and the friendship they show me along with their expertise in physical fitness that can make me a better runner makes me want to learn more from them. Likability and authority are actually keys for influencing others. 

As I was thinking about Cynthia’s influence over me in that moment it reminded me of what  Robert Cialdini talks about in his book "Influence.” Cialdini has identified 6 influencing strategies that people use with each other.

Here is a summary of those strategies.

Influencing Strategies

Reciprocation: This is the idea that we do things in return for each other. Always share your strengths to help others, and return the favor when they do the same, even if your reciprocation is just a "thank you very much for your time." Let the kindness always end with you. 

Scarcity: "The rule of the rare," you can have influence when things like time and budget are scarce to be found. Help those around you see the urgency and the resources that are available. This type of influence must be used with integrity. When used wrongly it can hurt people and cost you your influence. The scarcity in the situation must be real. Don't create a deadline that you don't intend to stick to or fail to mention some possible solutions in order to create the appearance of scarcity.

Authority: This type of influence doesn't have to do with positional power like the word may suggest, but reverential power. Showing that you have the right data, an expert perspective will influence others. When you're the expert though, don't stop listening to others or you will lose your influence. If you walk in the room thinking you are the one with all the answers your expertise will not be heard. 

Commitment: This is the starting point of influence. If you are an influential leader, then those you lead will generally be committed rather than merely compliant. If you ask them to do something that's going to cost them some sacrifice you may see if they are committed or compliant. If they're committed they will do it with enthusiasm,  if not they may not do the task at all or they may do it begrudgingly. If you find they are compliant with your influence, reflect on how open you have been with them about your larger vision for the future of your work together. To gain commitment you must show them where they're going. 

Likability: As I mentioned earlier, building a friendship to build influence is important. Likability matters. A phrase I hear sometimes from clients is "I don't care about being liked, I just want to be respected." If that is you, I challenge you to take caution with that thought. When you are liked, you can gain as much influence as when you are respected. 

Consensus: "People-proof over people-power."  As you gain rapport with others and show that you have valuable knowledge, it will increase the success and value in others. It will be because of what you delivered, and this makes you more influential. 

Personalize One of These Strategies

Think about something you are trying to get done, maybe a change you are trying to get made, or a goal you are trying to help a team to reach.  Think through the influencing strategies above and identify the one you would like to try to implement to help you achieve your goal.

We all have different personalities that leave us with our own strengths and weaknesses, but for others to benefit from our influence, we must grow and adapt to better lead with influence in many types of relationships and situations. What kind of influence do you see on this list that comes the most naturally to you? The least? Leave a comment and let's chat about it!

5 Things Irma is Teaching Me About Self-Awareness

By the time you read these words, Hurricane Irma will have put her stamp on my home state of Florida. We are currently preparing for the worst while hoping and praying for the best.  I thought it might be fun to put myself to a test. I talk with my coaching clients all the time about the leadership skill of self-awareness. So here are some things I noticed about myself as we prepare for this monster storm. 

Our first experience with one of these spinning giants was last year. Matthew went whirling past and the winds were about 80mph, but the storm stayed far enough off the east coast of Florida that in Orlando, where we live, property damage was minimal. Since so much devastation was predicted, and we only lost power for an hour or two, my thoughts were completely biased with bad information. Even as I saw the destruction of Harvey on the news, my thought was we won’t ever see a storm like that. 

My thoughts have changed. As I write this post, I am realizing how faulty my thinking actually has been. Only God knows what Irma will bring with her or even where she will go, as I write to you on this Thursday morning, about 3 days prior to the storm's impact.

I will be honest with you, I really didn’t think much about this storm until yesterday (Wednesday) when I got a text from my brother asking if we were prepared and what our plans are for the storm. We were in the middle of enjoying a relaxing Labor Day weekend with our boys in Columbus Ohio and spending quality time with our granddaughter.

In that moment, I turned to my wife, Kim and said, “Did you know there was a storm coming?” Up until this point, I was completely unaware that Irma was even in existence. How could I have possibly missed news of this magnitude? I knew that my granddaughter was cute, but I had no idea that enjoying my time with her so much had disconnected me from the rest of the world.

Point One About Self-Awareness: Pay Attention

By definition, it is incredibly difficult to know something that you are not aware of. Most of us just cruise through our day focused on our own agenda and the tasks that we have to complete that day. We just don’t take the time to see how we are showing up when we go about doing what we do. 

In order to be more self-aware of what is going on around you, it is imperative that you stop what you are doing and observe how you are doing it. When you are in a meeting with someone and they are not doing what you want them to do. Take notice of how you are talking to them. What is the tone of your voice like? Can you feel the emotion and then describe the feeling? The more aware of how you are showing up, the more control you will have over the choices you can make in how you show up.

Back to the story….

So my wife Kim pulls up the weather app on her iPad and sure enough, there is a Category 5 Hurricane in the Atlantic and all of the spaghetti maps show that Florida is in the bulls-eye of the storm. 

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"What do you think we should do?” Kim asked. 

Point Two About Self-Awareness: Stay Humble

When Kim asked the question, I had no idea what we should do…but I felt like she was looking to me for an answer. She needed some reassurance from me that I had an idea of what would be best for us as this crisis came upon us. 

While I actually didn’t know what to do, my knee jerk reaction was to do something. My wife was looking for me to answer her safety and security needs. At that particular time, she had me in a position of large-and-in-charge. The feeling can be overwhelming and dangerous. 

 In the moment it didn’t really matter to me what I said, I just felt like I needed to say something in response to her, like she needed some definitive expert knowledge from me on how to predict what a category 5 hurricane was going to do and how I should respond to it five days in advance of the event.  I had this overwhelming feeling of power come over me and that a decision was needed from me at the moment.  Very strange! 

Back to the story...

What I did was resist the temptation to be “all knowing expert” and said, “I don’t know, let's talk not about what we should do, but what we could do.”

Point Three About Self-Awareness:  Create Options

So we made a list of options. Action steps that could be taken some 5 days ahead of the crisis. I think the most important thing about creating options is to make sure you are using what is called divergent thinking. Most of us like to think in a convergent style: our preference is to focus in on a solution of what needs to be done at the moment. Leaders who are self-aware can resist being seen as the “all knowing” and practice thinking in a divergent manner. These leaders can start with the problem instead of focusing on what they see as the solution. If you start by focusing on the problem, then you can create options on how to solve the problem. If you focus on the solution, you might miss the core of the problem that you are solving.

Back to the story...

Here are the options we came up with:

  1. Keep our current plan of flying home on Thursday. Once we got home:
    1. Stay home and ride the storm out.
    2. Drive to Atlanta and stay where I have a program to do next Wednesday
  2. Stay in Ohio with our son and daughter-in-law and get to spend more time with that granddaughter
  3. Rent a car and drive 6 hours to see my mom in Central Illinois
  4. Stay in Ohio for the weekend and then rent a car and drive to Atlanta next week

Point Four About Self-Awareness: Calm is better than anxious

As we discussed the pros and cons of each of our options I tried to maintain focus on staying calm. In the emotional intelligence courses I teach, we make a big point about how stimulated emotion can affect the decisions we make. While all of the options we had were viable, the decision became clear as we calmly talked through what we needed to do. It was very easy to let anxiety creep into the moment and over the course of our discussion I could palpably feel the tension. Then I would take a deep breath, stand up and walk around and try to get curious about our discussion. What I have noticed over the years is that anxiety wants to rush me into the decision, but I know I make the best decisions when I am calm and have a level head to think.

Point Five About Self-Awareness: Learning is as important as judgment

We decided to keep our current plans, and are at the moment 25,000 feet in the air somewhere over the state of Florida. We are going to ride this storm out. Our desire was to be there for our friends and neighbors and if we can lend a hand to those who need we want to do that. 

I will try and give you an update this week on what we learned about category 5 hurricanes.

Some of you are reading this and might have made a different decision. In fact, the police officer at the Columbus airport we were talking with before going through security encouraged us to evacuate. He gave us some solid reasons, but we have our reasons to stay and they are solid reasons. 

In leadership, I think it is important to be open to learning. Many of you get paid to make judgments and decisions and I really value this as part of your role. As a leader, people are looking to you for insight and wisdom to run your business. 

Leadership is also about learning. Rarely are two situations or contexts are ever the same. So many variables go into good decision-making. My hope is that you will pay attention, stay humble, create options, stay calm, and learn as you go.

See you on the other side of Irma.

Are You Interviewing for This Critical Attribute?

If you are a leader who has hiring responsibility or are interviewing for a new role yourself, here is something to keep at the top of your mind.

I saw an interesting article in the New York Times the other day claiming that for every career there is an opposite career, requiring completely opposite skills. For instance, if you are a kindergarten teacher, your opposite career is a physicist. Teaching kindergarten is all about developing young minds. Physics is about using logic, math, and reasoning to solve problems. Different skills are needed for these different kinds of work outcomes. Here you can see the top set of skills needed for these two careers side by side. 

The opposite job of a kindergarten teacher is a physicist.

Skills Kindergarten Teachers Use Most            Skills Physicist Use Most

  1. Coaching & developing others                      Physics
  2. Learning strategies                                         Mathematics
  3. Developing & building teams                        Number facility
  4. Training & teaching others                            Information ordering
  5. Philosophy & theology                                    Logical Reasoning
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I thought this was really interesting on a couple of fronts. First, it fascinates me that, thanks to the tax money you provide the US government, the Department of Labor actually keeps data on this kind of information. While I never want to be critical about things I don’t know much about, I do have to scratch my head and ask if my tax dollars could have gone into the free market rather than pay for what seems on the surface to be a useless analysis of data collected.

Once I got past my inner critic it was kind of fun to think about the differences between being a writer and a mobile home installer: creative communication skill versus spatial thinking and manual dexterity. 

While it is a bit of a “blinding glimpse of the obvious” that the work of a physicist (thanks, Big Bang Theory for cluing me into this one) is very different from that of a kindergarten teacher. What becomes interesting are the assumptions we make about what it takes to be successful in different organizational roles.

3 Components of workplace success

Raw Intellect. There is a well-established link, with little to no debate, between the importance of overall intelligence and success in the workplace. It goes without saying that for any job that exists in an organization a certain amount of intellect is required to be able to accomplish the tasks that the organization is paying for. If you teach kindergarten you may not need to be able to do advanced calculus or understand how statistics applies to quantum theory but you need to be able to master education philosophies and advanced learning strategies. 

For most of the roles in our organizations, we don’t measure the minimum level of intellect is needed for job success on any kind of scale. We have some idea through education processes that if someone graduated from a school that has a  qualified welding program, most likely the person has the intellect to do the job. This is one reason that education matters so much, even if young people have no idea what they want to do after graduation, stay in school and get your degree you will just have more opportunities to choose from.

Skills and Talents. The second component for workplace success that gets the most scrutiny in interview processes are the behavior abilities the person displays. Back in my sales management days in the pharmaceutical industry, I spent many a day interviewing potential candidates trying to decipher if they had the skills needed to be successful on my team. We looked for people who could verbally articulate in a concise manner and who could solve problems on the spot. Paramount to sales success was the person's desire to learn complex ideas and then explain them simply. 

Behavior-based interviewing has become so popular over the years, focusing on a candidate's job experience gives some clue as to their ability to be able to perform similar task types in different roles. If a specialist in supply chain management knows how to use a pivot table then the use of this skill could be applied to any other role where pivot tables are important for job success.

And yet I can remember going through interviews with candidates from very good schools (had enough intellect) who had what seemed to have good transferable skills (in my case: sales experience) and think, “this person is not a good fit for my team." 

How is is that the person can be smart enough, and have the skills, but not be a good fit?

Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a set of emotional and social skills that people engage to know themselves better, have better relationships, and make better decisions.  Data from the World Economic Forum suggests that over one-third of the job skills that exist today will NOT be needed in the next ten years. And a new set of competencies that don't make the list today will end up on the list instead. 

In their book The EQ Edge, Steve Stein and Howard Book provide some examples of the emotional and social skills needed for different types of roles, including jobs like account executives and teachers and customer service professionals. For example, if you need to fill a customer facing role that includes sales and customer support components, you might know the type of education, skills, and talents you are looking for in a candidate, but do you know what emotional and social skills the person needs in order to increase their level of success?

Case study

Here is how I have been helping my clients think through these types of situations. Let’s use the above scenario as a case study. 

You have been hired as a consultant to help a client understand the types of candidates they need to hire for a new customer support role they are creating, which includes sales and customer service components.

Here are some steps you can use to think through the kind of people you might need to fill these roles:

Step 1. Define the Role-most of my clients have a good job description so this one is easy.

Step 2. Define what success looks like. How will your new hire know they are doing the job well?

Step 3. What kind of education level does the person need to have to be successful? Do they need an MBA from a top 10 school or a bachelors degree from any accredited institution?

Step 4. What are the skills and talents that the person has to have to meet the minimum level of success we are expecting?

For this role you might be looking for skills and talents like:

  1. Ability to collaborate and partner
  2. Self-motivation
  3. Creative problem-solving
  4. Result oriented
  5. Inspiring and influencing

Step 5. What are the emotional and social functioning abilities a person is going to need to align with the skills and talents they possess? We think about this as being the “how” they go about doing the skill.

                          Skill                                          Emotional Intelligence Ability

    1. Ability to collaborate and partner        Interpersonal relationships
    2. Self-motivation                                       Self-actualization
    3. Creative problem-solving                      Reality testing
    4. Result oriented                                       Optimism
    5. Inspiring and influencing                      Empathy

    Final Thought

    If you are a hiring manager or a candidate looking for your next role, you have probably spent a lot of time on considering education, skills, and talents, but have you spent enough time thinking through the impact that emotional intelligence plays in success?

    You Better Get Working on This Now

    Just because something has the same name, is there equivalence? 

    Recently, while running an emotional intelligence training, I had a participant come up to me, obviously disturbed. 

    We had just distributed the results of the EQi 2.0 Leadership Self-Assessment that we use in the leadership development program for high potential talent, and the young lady was not happy with how she had scored herself.

    “Something is wrong with this assessment,” she said. 

    “Tell me what you think is wrong," I asked her.

    “Well, I just took a different emotional intelligence assessment from a book that I bought in the airport, and that test said I had really strong empathy.” 

    “What makes you think the assessment we took in class is wrong?” I asked her.

    A bit stunned by that question, she hesitated, and said, “Well, this assessment says my empathy is below average, and the other test said I am way above average, so I guess I just want the high score to be the right score.” 

    “Let me ask you this, and be really honest: which of these two assessments of your empathy seems most like you?" I replied.

    After a long pause, she said, a bit sheepishly, “I guess the lower one. I know I have work to do in this area," she said, “I was just hoping that the hill wasn’t so steep.  I know my lack of empathy gets in my way as a leader.”

    “How was your Reality Testing score in the Decision-Making domain?" I asked.

    “One development thing at a time,” she stated.

    Buyer Beware

    Just like any consumer product you might purchase at your local Walmart or Walgreens, there are many types of leadership assessments you can choose from. When you go to buy a car you have many choices:

    What is the Make of car:  Mercedes or Smart Car

    What is the Model of car: C-Class or Fortwo

    Then you have to think about what features you want to add to each vehicle.

    Sure, you want to buy a car, but the quality and price difference will be staggering: Thousands of dollars of difference between Mercedes and Smart Car. 

    Yeah, tell me something I don’t already know, Scott, what is your point?

    My Point

    As you think about the leadership tools you put in your toolbox, make sure they are the ones that are going to take you where you need to go. Just like there are big differences in cars, so too are the big differences in leadership tools. In many cases, what looks like a low-cost option might not be getting you the results you are looking for. 

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    In the area of emotional intelligence, consider these recent studies as you think about the tools you want to provide to the leaders you work with:

    1.  A 2014 report showed that investments in Artificial Intelligence startups have increased by 300% over a four-year period (Stamps, 2017). Routine tasks are being handled more by machines, and ever increasingly, it will be emotional and social skills, such as empathy and collaboration, that will be required by people. (Kolbjørnsrud, et al., 2016). 
    2.  Alex Gray of the World Economic Forum (2016) states, “Five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed." Emotional intelligence, for example, is not on the list today of top ten job skills needed. By 2020, emotional intelligence is listed as number six in the top ten of job skills needed by everyone (Gray, 2016).
    3. According to Miao, C. Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2016), based on a meta-analysis, leaders' emotional intelligence (EI) positively relates to subordinates' job satisfaction. Job satisfaction can have a direct impact on an employee's intent to stay and hence a direct correlation to the organizations bottom line. High-quality relationships have a positive impact on employee work perception, well-being and emotional experience (Karanika-Murray, et al., 2015).
    4. Miao, C., Humphrey, R. H., & Qian, S. (2017) report that An analysis of self-report EI found that the effects of EI on Organization Citizenship Behavior (OCB)  and Counterproductive Work Behavior (CWB) are stronger in health care and service industries than in industries where emotional labor demands are lower. The results imply that organizations can increase OCB and reduce CWB by recruiting employees high in EI and by training employees in emotional competencies.

    According to the research that I read, the need to hire and train leaders in emotional intelligence is gaining in relevance and importance. 

    3 Factors In Selecting Leadership Tools

    As your organization evaluates tools to train your leaders, here are 3 significant things to keep in mind:

    1. Validity and Reliability: If you are going to use any tool in your leadership toolbox, these might be the two most important to consider. For a tool to be valid, it must be proven to measure what you want it to measure. To be reliable, it must measure the same thing repeatedly. You will want to ensure that your tool was built with these in mind as it was developed. It really doesn’t matter how many people have taken an assessment if it was not developed with the right scientific rigor. People can get scores that are meaningless if the validity and reliability are not right.
    2. Normed Population Distribution: Does the population that the assessment was built for fit the population you are working with? If you are working with professional people, does your assessment allow you to select an appropriate population to measure against? If you are measuring how good a professional athlete is, for example, do you want to assess their statistics against other professionals or just a general population some of whom might not even play sports at all? 
    3. Normed Population Size: Is the population of your leadership tool big enough to give you the statistical power you need to be able to show measurable differences in behavior. If it is then you can create meaningful development plans. If not then you run the risk of telling people that they are good at things they know they are not.

    Final Thought

    When I was a young boy I used to love to go to work with my dad, a sheet-metal worker. I used to watch them put huge pieces of siding on buildings and set air conditioning units on the tops of hospitals with helicopters. It was pretty cool stuff to watch as a kid.  

    Dad was always a stickler for using the right tool for the right job. I can remember more than once I had to go back to the tool box and get the crescent wrench because I had grabbed the pipe wrench the first time he asked for it. "What difference does it make?" I asked, “It makes all the difference in the world.” He would say. "If we don’t use the right tool we might break something and then we will have a big mess on our hands."

    As you consider the leadership tools you put into your toolbox, please make sure they are the right ones that are going to allow you to build the type of leaders the organizations you support are going to need to take them into the future.

    Sometimes It's What's Not There That's Most Interesting

    “When you forget to put the bay leaf in, the pot roast doesn’t taste as good.”-Norma Smith

    There are times when what is missing is just as important as what goes in.

    If you are ever in Lake Wales Florida and have an evening to spare, you need to stop in and pay a visit to my mother-in-law. There are two things I can guarantee will happen if you ever decide to do this. First, you will hear stories, lots of them, about how the sharing of one's faith is much more than talking. It is about actually doing something to help someone, like dig a well, buying a goat, or even teaching a child. Faith talk is cheap, Faith action is much more impactful. The second thing you will get is a wonderful meal. The woman can cook, and my favorite thing by far is the pot roast. In fact, if you call her in advance and tell her you are coming, drop a hint about the pot roast. You will be so glad you did.  

    Now, if you promise not to tell anyone, I will share a secret with you…the secret of a good pot roast. 

    It's the bay leaf or bay laurel as it is known in cooking circles. As they simmer the leaf, it gives off a complex-tea like aroma that adds a subtle flavor somewhere between oregano and thyme.  

    I can recall one time the family got together and pot roast was on the menu. Norma asked me to put take the beef from the roaster and put it in the serving dish. As I was doing this she said, “Make sure you take the Bay Leaf out and throw it away." Being a curious type I asked, "have you ever forgotten the bay leaf?” 

    If you leave the Bay Leaf out the the roast just isn’t as good….

    That story came to my mind as I read  an article in the Wall Street Journal on graduate school admissions. 

    This summer, NYU’s Stern School of Business started asking for endorsements from a pal or co-worker who can comment on the applicant’s social skills or emotional intelligence.

    I found this so interesting because for years now the leadership literature has bee calling out the fact that while intellect is important, it is emotional intelligence that mediates performance. You have to be smart enough to be in the role, but after that it is your emotional and social skills that matter to the organization you work with.

    In addition to the two recommendations Stern requires students to submit, the school now has applicants ask a friend or colleague to write a 250-word statement highlighting their traits like empathy and self-awareness. Interestingly, for their next incoming class, Wharton will ask recommenders to do something similar in describing a candidate, asking them to pick six traits—such as conscientiousness or humility—from a list of 20 that best describe the person.

    What Goes In and What's Left Out

    One of the workshops we've been asked to facilitate more often is “Interviewing for Emotional Intelligence." Organizations, in addition to academic institutions, are realizing the importance of emotional intelligence to overall success.

    Often times it isn’t what the person is saying in an interview that matters, but what is left out.

    Consider the individual contributor who is interviewing for their first manager (leadership) position…

    Interviewer: “Tell me about a time when you were successful in leading a team.”

    Hopeful Candidate goes on to tell the interviewer about a time when they convened a meeting for a major problem and then assigned everyone a role, kept the group on task, and the got this impactful result that saved the company millions of dollars.

    What becomes evident as our Hopeful Candidate is sharing is the imbalance he/she has between self-confidence and empathy. The entire answer to the question was about what Hopeful Candidate was able to accomplish and nothing about how Hopeful Candidate went about building mutual trust in relationships or tried to understand how the team was feeling. There was nothing said about how well Hopeful Candidate was able to articulate others perspectives and behave in a way that was respectful to others feelings. 

    You see, Hopeful Candidate had the “beef” of the interview question answered and was in the pot ready to cook. What was left out was the bay leaf, the flavor, how Hopeful Candidate was able to get things done with other people. 

    So, if you find yourself cooking a pot roast or interviewing for a new role, don’t forget to add the flavor that shows you have the emotional, social, and intellectual ability to be wildly successful in the role.

    Now, who's ready for lunch?

    The Paradox Parable of the Called Leader

    Once upon a time right around now, in an organization not far from here, sits Hero, the leader of the whole thing. She is not having a very good day, although both the quantitative and qualitative metrics upon which her performance are measured look good. No, let's not fool ourselves, the numbers are actually great. Hero is in her element. She loves her role and she is really good at it. She has found her niche in life. Some of the articles she read recently in Scholarly Organization Journal would say Hero has found her calling. 

    By all accounts, Hero should be having a very good day. Indeed this should be a very, very good day. 

    She has a late meeting with an influential member of the board of directors, Distance. Distance oversees the selection, compensation, and retention of the executive team. The relationship Hero has with Distance is a good one, even though Hero has never felt like the relationship was that close. In fact, Hero has only ever met with Distance in board meetings and on executive retreats. She was really looking forward to finally meeting one-on-one with Distance and aligning goals for the upcoming year.

    Yes, it really, really should have been a good day. 

    Hero, even started her morning with 15 minutes of quiet reflection using her favorite bible verse as the focus of her morning contemplation. She turned in her bible to Proverbs 3:5-6 which reads “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path.”  Because of the complexity of her organization, Hero often finds herself turning to her spiritual connections for wisdom in decision-making.  Since she often feels the magnitude of hundreds of people whose lives are impacted by her decisions, connecting with her spiritual nature helps her to realize that she is not the center of the universe. Hero remembers attending a conference where she heard a speaker* say, "Humility is like a sock with a hole in it, it's realizing what is not there that really matters."

    As Hero sat in quiet contemplation what really jumped out at her in this morning's reading was the instruction not to lean on her own understanding. This was quite a puzzling paradox. The instruction seems to say that Hero should not put her trust in or be supported by the structures of all that she had learned over the course of her 50 some odd years on earth. 

    As Hero focused her attention on these words “lean not on your own understanding” her mind started to drift….

              I have always felt my business and my life are solid. My marriage of 30 years to Loveofmylife is rock solid. As for the workplace, I  have been complemented by Boardchair that I show excellent critical thinking and a strong ability to discern between very viable, but distinctly different options when a decision is needed.  My experiences have been formed from a very good academic pedigree that lead to an excellent job right out of school. Each opportunity I have been given in life seemed to build perfectly as a jumping off point for my next career opportunity.  I really can’t believe it, here I sit three years into this leadership role really trying to fully appreciate what I have accomplished…no that's not right, why do I always do that? It is what the team has accomplished. If it wasn’t for their hard work and dedication to the mission we would be nowhere

    As she sat and stared at her journal where she keeps these reflective thoughts she got an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and appreciation for who she is and what she has been able to accomplish.

    Then Hero remembered the words of her Coach who told her that when journaling, if her mind wanders, she should come back to the thought she was reflecting on, Lean not on your own understanding.  She even remembered proper meditation technique. A good day, are you kidding? 

    Yes, this really should have been one of those.

    Now time doesn’t allow us to tell you in any detail about the excellent workout that Hero had that morning, nor the healthy breakfast she enjoyed (perfectly balanced between carbs and proteins). We just really don’t have the space to discuss her commute to work where it seemed like she was the only person on the road, and not one car pulled in front of her to cut her off. Not one. When does that ever happen?

    We wish there was time to tell you about all the productive meetings Hero had that day, the 20-minute nap she enjoyed in the afternoon, and the very productive afternoon session she had with her Coach. Time and space just don’t allow. Sorry. But all that aside...

    Really and truly this should have been a perfect game of a day.

    Oh yeah, Hero got in a 45 minute Hot Yoga class before her meeting with Distance. 

    Good Day? Ha. 

    And yet, to quote from one of Hero's favorite childhood books,

     “This is an awful, no good, very bad day.” 

    You see, Hero had her late meeting with Distance, who told Hero her services were no longer needed by the organization. The board wanted to go a different direction. Sure there was certainly acknowledgment of all her positive results. Distance thanked her for all her effort. But in the end, the board decided they needed a new focus and direction (it is highly recommended, that if this was a real organization, who had a real board who made decisions like this, and who issued real stock; that you sell as fast as you can.)

    Distance said the announcement would be made in 2 weeks and that they would like to throw a party for Hero. Yes, you read that right, the board fired Hero and wanted to celebrate it.  "Who does that? “Hero asked her Coach when she called to provide the update on her meeting with Distance, 

    Indeed, this was not a good day. 

    "But one day does not a life make. Nor does what happens on any single day ever define us. It can have an impact for sure, but is in no way a full picture of who we are". —Coach

    Now if Coaches are good at one thing, they are good at asking the right question at the right time. They are not very good at providing quotes to be used in a blog post.

    Hero’s Coach sat with her in silence as Hero contemplated this day that should have been so good and yet felt not that way at all.

    “It's not if something bad might happen in your life but when." Those are the words Hero spoke that broke the silence that enveloped the coaching session (they are also words that will end up some day in a blog post, quoted by Coach.) “The real question to be answered is, How am I going to respond?”  Coach knew what Hero was saying, that leaders are often defined by their resilience in the face of setbacks. Having a positive optimistic long term outlook is what trust is all about.

    And now you know why she is my Hero.

    *This quote is from Dr. Jay Wood, author of Virtue Epistemology, taken from a lecture at Indiana Wesleyan University. Hero hopes she heard this as the speaker intended.