Do You Hear What I Hear?

Henry Kissinger is famous for saying that one of the most difficult things for a young leader to do is to “speak truth to power;' to go up the power gradient with information that is contrary to what the hierarchical, authoritative, and referent position believes to be true.

There is inherent organizational danger when communicating things to a leader that they may not be seeing:

  • You could be rejected, which leads to embarrassment.

  • You could be dismissed, which leads to self-doubt.

  • You could be humiliated, which leads to isolation.

  • You could be discounted, which leads to demoralization.

Alternately, there is huge upside in communicating to a leader what they are not seeing in the moment:

  • You could be celebrated for the input.

  • You could be included in the decision-making process.

  • You could be honored for your courage.

  • You could be valued for your contribution.

Whether a reality or a figment of our imagination as a young leader, “speaking truth to power” can be overwhelming. This is the risk tension that the young leader must face.

Receptivity of the Leader

No matter the current stage of our leadership journey, we have all been there at some point and can relate to emotion of the young leader when faced with the risky decision to “speak truth to power.”

However, it could be argued that the senior leader has even more at stake.

Unless they create a safe environment in which others feel the freedom to share, the senior leader runs the risk of missing key information that may never find its way to them. With that in mind, much of the burden falls on the senior leader to create an atmosphere that mitigates the risk for the young leader.

How are you doing in this area?

5 TIPS FOR CREATING A CULTURE THAT HEARS

Here are my top 5 tips for leaders who want to improve their chances of hearing the information they need in order to make informed decisions and lead well:

  • Slow down your cadence.

    Most of the leadership mistakes I have made were because my world was moving too fast and I did not slow down in order to see more possibilities. The faster I went the more convinced I became that I was right, and the further away I got from the truth. Take a deep breath, count to 10, sip a warm beverage, pray, do whatever you need to do in order to slow your pace.

  • Become curious.

    Suspend your need to be right and work really hard to understand an alternate position. Before you jump to a conclusion or shoot down an opposing opinion, spend some time to discern the message they are bringing to you.

  • Always say thank you.

    You would be surprised how often I observe leaders who turn and walk away from an interaction without expressing gratitude. Very rarely, if ever, is their intent to be unkind or degrading, however, the pressure of the moment takes the brain to the next thing rather than allowing them to focus on being fully present in their current interaction, with awareness and sensitivity to the needs of the relationship. Researchers at USC found that simple acts of gratitude provide benefits ranging from feelings of reward and satisfaction to simply helping people to hold on to their humanity. Try the simple act of saying “thank you” more often and see how it might contribute to more open communication.

  • Spend time reflecting.

    At the end of your day, take the time to review. Play back the interactions you had with others, resisting the temptation to become defensive. Ask yourself questions such as, I wonder what they were really trying to ask me? Why did I feel such a strong need to defend myself? Why did I feel such a strong need to exert power in the moment? What unintended consequences could my actions have? Be honest with yourself as you learn and grow from the challenges and successes.

  • Do the inner work of developing your soul.

    Psychology data says you are as intelligent right now as you will ever be. Your personality is fully formed, so you know if you are extroverted or introverted. You have most of the skill you will ever need. With that in mind, what is your next step in development? Could it be that you need to work on developing the soul of your leadership?

HOMEWORK

Pick one of the 5 tips above and work on it every day for a week. For example, in every personal interaction and every email you send, say “thank you." Work on making your attitude heartfelt, and let me know what outcomes you see. I’d love to know how these tips contribute to more open communication within your team or organization.

What Do Followers Want From Their Leaders?

I have been thinking a lot recently about the dynamic relationship between leaders and followers. Primarily, my thoughts have centered around the fundamental concept of what it means for someone to lead me and what words best describe me as a follower, what I want a leader to contribute to my life. I don’t expect that what I am about to share will rock your world in any way. In fact, prior to reading on. why don’t you answer these questions for yourself, and then compare your thoughts to mine?

  • What does it mean for someone to lead me?
  • What word or words best describe what I want a leader to contribute to my life?

Let me tackle the second question first:

Contribution

As I spent some time contemplating what I want a leader to contribute to my life, these four things came to mind:

  • Trust in the vision they are creating. I think there is an inherent assumption that if I am going to allow someone to lead me in some way, then I am going to invest my time, talent, and/or my resources working toward whatever picture of the future they have. For me, if I am allowing someone to have influence over my life in any substantial way, I have to have some assurance that they are credible and have access to the knowledge and skill to get us moving toward our desired future state.
  • Hope that the future is safe and abundant. While risk is inherent in any leader-follower relationship, I do think the Hippocratic Oath has merit not only in medicine but in leadership: First, do no harm. Resilience and optimism are both integral parts of the faith that we all put in leaders that have influence over us. We do not expect them to be perfect. It is reassuring that as we journey we will do it together and watch out for each other.
  • Love me for who I am and how I was created. I am not talking about romantic love, but a brotherly love. A kind of love that recognizes the influence a leader has over me and yet respects my value and recognizes how I fit into the organization. No matter what happens this leader will have my back and I have theirs. This love values my strengths and accepts my weaknesses, a love that shows compassion.

How about you? What words did you come up with that you want a leader to contribute to your life?

As I reflected and examined the question above I noticed that in each of the descriptions I wrote another word kept surfacing that is a perfect one-word description of what it means for someone to lead me:

Influence

Influence is the sum of positive (I choose to focus on positive rather than coercive) behaviors that you as a leader exhibit that have an impact on the choices I have as a follower.

As a leader, you have a vision you are trying to implement, and an idea for how to get there. As a follower of yours, I recognize that you have some kind of authority over me. You don’t need to flaunt it. You have some idea about the direction you want all of us to go. You recognize that we have choices and hence you must be adept at getting your vision clearly articulated. You must be skilled at getting your thoughts and ideas integrated and communicated into the social structure of the organization. Influence is the idea that I “buy in” to your thoughts and ideas and am choosing to come along with you. As time moves on you continue to have some degree of power over my choices in the form of increasing my faith, knowledge, experience, and my integration into the community you are leading. As leaders, we must never forget that while it may seem desperate at times for some followers, they do have a choice whether to remain under your leadership or not.

Influence is the idea that I “buy in” to your thoughts and ideas and am choosing to come along with you. As time moves on you continue to have some degree of power over my choices in the form of increasing my faith, knowledge, experience, and my integration into the community you are leading. As leaders, we must never forget that while it may seem desperate at times for some followers, they do have a choice whether to remain under your leadership or not. As a follower of yours, I really desire to align myself with the social norms you create. You don’t need to degrade me in public. As your follower, I know you are going to do things for me and expect things in return. Share what you expect and then work with me to see if I can hit your expectation.

What Is Your Influencing Style?

As you might have guessed, psychologists have been studying this idea of influence for almost 100 years. While some of the terms have evolved, the ideas supporting the original make-up of what it means to influence have remained fairly constant.

Using an Influencing Styles Inventory Assessment leaders can discover the style they prefer to use most often, the benefits of that style, and some of the traps that overuse or misuse can cause.

Click here to download a free example of an Influencing Style Assessment

This Influencing Style Assessment gives leaders the opportunity to obtain a certification to use with followers in their organization. This certification gives leaders and coaches a tool to find ideas and strategies for those in those in their sphere of influence to make them more effective.

Using The Influence Style Indicator

Angela is a new member of my team who is responsible for our marketing and social media efforts (you are reading this article, thanks to the hard work of Angela to get it out over many different media platforms.)  I asked Angela to take the assessment and answer some questions about the Influence Style Indicator so you could learn more about it

Angela, How easy was this assessment to take and how long did it take you to complete it?

It was very easy, I received an email with a link directly to the assessment, and I completed it in about 15 minutes.

What is one thing that you learned about yourself from the assessment that you didn’t already know?

I learned that it does not come naturally to inspire others when I am trying to influence, and I actually learned that I was wrong about what I thought it meant to inspire others with my influence.

How do you see using this assessment as you influence others on our team?

I want to be more inspiring when influencing our team. The assessment showed me what it means to inspire with influence, which brings unity to a team. I was given many practical examples for how to inspire in a constructive way that moves things forward. I learned that even though the style of influence I most often tend to use is in making rational appeals for why my leadership should be followed, I really feel that inspiration is something I'd like to work into my influence style. I would love to be someone who leads others in ways that make them feel hopeful about not only my leadership but also their personal well-being.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be more influential as a leader in their organization?

After taking this assessment, I would tell someone who wants to be more influential that they should really listen to themselves more closely when they are presenting their opinion on anything, not just in the workplace. Good influence is not just self-aware but requires a thoughtful care that often comes out through our words. There are many ways to influence, negative and positive, and when we are trying to influence others to go along with our plans, we can get so caught up in wanting to get our way that we do not stop to think about the best way to go about making that happen, and how to behave if that does not happen.

If you are interested in learning more about this assessment and how it can be valuable to your organization or your practice as a coach we would love to connect with you. 

When Negative Self-Talk Creeps In

A good friend of mine (and an avid reader and commenter on this blog,) Ken, submitted my name as a speaker for an organization he is affiliated with. He emailed me asking if I would consider giving a talk and facilitating a dialogue on the value of emotional intelligence (EI). I am always humbled when anyone thinks that I might have something valuable to say when it comes to EI. It is one of my favorite subjects to talk about, and I often use the EQi 2.0 in training programs I do and with almost every coaching client I work with does a self-assessment that shows them what their leadership habits may appear like to others.

Now, here is what you need to know about Ken. His job is to serve as a hospice chaplain in Polk County Florida. His request was for me to come and speak to a group of his peers and his boss on the subject of how EI can be of value to a hospital chaplain.

Gulp! I have to admit, the email produced mixed feelings in me. Like I said above, I was humbled for sure, but scared out of my pants as well. Hospice chaplains...really?! While I might know something about EI, my immediate “knee-jerk” reaction was, I don’t know anything about hospice chaplains!

Then the negative self-talk started to creep in:

  • You’re no expert in hospice care.
  • What do you know about how to fit EI into their world?
  • You have never even studied EI in this context, what if there is no data?
  • Your not a very good public speaker.
  • Maybe you should call him up and back out.

Now, am I the only one this happens too? When you are hit with a complex, tension-filled situation what do you do? Do you immediately become filled with fear, anxiety, and self-doubt? How do you stop the negative self-talk from creeping in and taking over your thinking?

Here is a quick and easy method that I use when this happens to me: I use an acronym I call "STOP." It is a four step method that helps me turn my negative thinking into a more positive and constructive use of my time and energy.

STOP

Stop: Do something to interrupt the cycle of negative thinking.

Take a deep breath: Breathing relaxes your tension, releases dopamine, and calms you down to think more clearly.

Other focused: Exercise empathy and become curious about what it is like to be in the other person's shoes.

Purpose a question: Asking questions can have a calming effect and bring you more into a zone of safety than one of fear.

Here is how the model helped me get rid of the negative thinking and increase my confidence in this situation:

When I first noticed the negative thinking creeping into my mind with the thought, you’re no expert in hospice, I should have taken the time to put this model into effect. Unfortunately, even though I teach this stuff, I got all the way down to, maybe you should call him and back out before I put this into practice.

Stop: Psychologists call this pattern interrupt. I noticed the negative thinking and I did something physical to draw attention away from the negative thought. In this case, I was sitting down when I read the email. When I finally noticed the negativity, I stood up. I concentrated on doing something different. Distract yourself away from the source of negativity.

Take a deep breath: When I stood up, I took several yoga style breaths. Focused on bringing my belly button to my spine. I actually could feel myself starting to calm down. This is often when I will also say a prayer, asking God for wisdom as I navigate these treacherous negative waters. I distracted myself from the negativity for a moment. That is the goal with this step.

Other Focused: I tried to take the thoughts off of myself and my shortcomings. I put my thoughts onto Ken and his team instead. I began to think, what might they need from a model like emotional intelligence? What value could it bring them? Notice the questions starting to form when I start to turn my thinking from self-referential to other-focused.

Purpose a question: I crafted an email back to Ken asking him, what are some common situations that hospital chaplains find themselves in where they need more EI? What had other speakers done that the chaplains found valuable? How had he used EI in his work as a hospice chaplain?

I noticed, then, that my fear and anxiety were dissipating into curiosity. I was moving from a lack of self-consciousness into a state of confidence by focusing on the value I could bring to this group of dedicated servants.

Self-Actualization and Optimism

According to authors Steven J. Stein and Howard E. Book, EI always exists in balance. This is pretty easy to see when we think about a leader who is very self-confident but lacks any empathy or interpersonal ability. We often put a label on a leader who has this balance of qualities as being someone who is arrogant at best, and a real narcissist on the more clinical side of the psychology

In my case, I am usually a fairly self-perceptive person. This means that in part, I get a lot of meaning and purpose out of my life and the work I do. This is a real strength for me.

Most of the time I am optimistic, which means I have a positive outlook on the future and am fairly resilient in the face of setbacks. However, this ability can come into question, especially when fear or anxiety enter the stage. My optimism can turn into a negative downward spiral of self-critical thinking.

What I need when I am faced with these fears and anxieties is to balance my self-actualization and my waning level of optimism.

The STOP model helps me to put the brakes on the negative thinking, so I can use all the meaning and purpose I get in my life to teach and coach emotional intelligence, regaining my level of optimism.

I am happy to report that Ken and I have a call scheduled to talk through what value EI can bring to the hospice chaplains and the talk is scheduled for mid-April.

Homework: Where do fear and anxiety creep into your leadership? Can you anticipate when these events occur? When you feel your thoughts going negative, try using the STOP model to see if it can bring you back into emotional balance.

Are You Listening to This Voice In Your Leadership?

Every leader needs a voice who will speak truth to and help them see things that are not obvious. Henry Kissinger is famous for saying that one of the most difficult things for a young leader to do is to “speak truth to power;' to go up the power gradient with information that is contrary to what the hierarchical, authoritative, and referent, position believes to be true. We have all been there at points and felt the emotion of that moment. There is inherent organizational danger in communicating things to a leader that they are not seeing in the moment:

  •  You could be rejected which leads to embarrassment
  •  You could be dismissed which leads to self-doubt
  •  You could be humiliated which leads to isolation
  •  You could be discounted which leads to demoralization

The young leader has information that someone in a decision-making position needs to hear, and is frozen in the moment by these potentially negative outcomes.

The other side of the proposition is, all things being equal, there is huge upside in communicating to a leader what they are not seeing in the moment:

  • You could be celebrated for the input
  • You could be included in the decision-making process
  • You could be honored for your courage
  • You could be valued for your contribution

Whether a part of reality or a figment of our imagination as a young leader “speaking truth to power” can seem overwhelming. This is the risk tension that the young leader faces. Some of the mediators that go into the “speak truth to power" equation are:

  • Culture of the organization-What is the level of freedom that truly exists for information sharing?
  • Young leaders' personal-risk tolerance-Where do they fall on a spectrum between “wary” and “adventurous”?
  • Receptivity of the leader to feedback-What is the historical behavior elicited when contrary opinions have been shared?

Receptivity of the Leader

I think we can all pretty easily agree that the young leader when faced with a decision to speak truth to power, has a burden that can feel like wearing a shirt made of lead.

However, as more senior leaders in organizations, how much of the burden falls on us to create an atmosphere where much of the risk is mediated for a young leader? How much of the responsibility is ours to create the environment in which others feel a freedom to be able to share?

I argue that much of the speaking-truth-to-power-dichotomy rests not in the hands of the deliverer but the receiver. And yet the senior leader is the one who often times has the most to lose by missing key information that was never brought to them. In the fast-paced, get it done now, microwave culture that organizations exist in today many of us cave into our survival reptilian brain that tells us to do whatever we can to survive.

Many times these environmental and personal factors are not acting in our favor. As leaders, we have to put effort into creating a persona and a culture so that the voice we need to be able to hear in our organization comes through.

5 Actions you can work on today

Here are my top 5 tips for leaders who want to improve their chances of hearing all the information they need to hear to be able to make an informed decision:

  • Slow down your cadence-Most of the leadership mistakes I have made were because my world was moving fast and I did not slow down to see more possibilities. The faster I went, the more convinced I became that I was right, and the further away I got from the truth. Take a deep breath, count to 10, silently sing a familiar tune very slowly (I like; “Row, row, row, your boat), pray, do whatever you need to do to slow your reality down.
  • Become curious-The practice is to suspend your need to be right or heard and to work really hard to understand the other person's position. Before you jump to conclusion or shoot them down because of what you know that they don’t, spend some time to really discern the message they are bringing to you.
  • Always say thank you-So before it feels like I am your mom or kindergarten teacher, just hear me out. You would be surprised at how often I observe leaders in interactions where they turn and walk away without expressing gratitude. I don’t think it is an intent to be mean or degrading, the pressure of the moment takes the brain to the next thing rather than finishing the relationship with the current interaction. Researchers at USC found that simple acts of gratitude provide benefits ranging from feelings of reward and satisfaction to just helping people to hold on to their humanity.
  • Spend time reflecting- At the end of your day take the time to review the day. Play back the interactions you had with others. Resist the temptation to become defensive and ask yourself questions like:  I wonder what they were really trying to ask me?  Why did I feel such a strong need to defend myself?  Why did I feel such a strong need to exert power in the moment?  What unintended consequences could the action I took cause?
  • Do the inner work of developing your soul- The psychology data says you are as intelligent right now as you will ever be. Your personality is fully formed, so you know if you are extroverted or introverted. You have most of the skill you will ever need. So what is your next step in development? Do you need to work on developing the soul of your leadership?

If any of you would be interested in joining a group on what it means to develop the soul of the leader send an email to Info@DrScottLivingston.com. My assistant will coordinate a time for us to talk about your interest and what a group like this will look like.

Homework:

Pick one of the 5 Actions above and work on it every day for a week. For example, in every personal interaction and every email you send, say “thank you." Work on making your attitude heartfelt and not rote. If you try any of these let me know how they go for you, I would love to hear.

Is This Leadership Question on Your Mind?

It happens every year. Around the second week in January, just when I am recovering from my holiday vacation, my lovely wife of 32 years will ask me a very pointed question. It is a question that comes from her desire to know me and connect more deeply with me. Her question is:

“Scott, what is your word for the year?”

The answer gives her peace about where I am in life. I do not see it as a nagging question. Her intention is not meanness, nor is it meant to put me on the spot, although, it is direct. Her intention is to to get me to focus. To be honest, I like the question, it is deeply reflective of where I am at the moment, and what I am thinking about our future.

If you read this column with any regularity, you know I like to talk and write on a number of leadership-oriented topics. I am interested in many things. I love sports, reading,  running and walking, and sitting around. I like sushi and steak (hamburgers are my favorite!) I listen to smooth jazz and “that Old Time Rock and Roll.” I love God, and people who screw up all the time. I guess you could say I am a classic Jack of all Trades, Master of None. I tend to bounce around a lot.

That said, it is totally fair that my wife wants to focus my attention. She deserves to know a single avenue I am going to go down in any given year. What am I going to concentrate on? What can she ask me about from time to time to see how I am doing?

In years past I have had words like:

Family Vacation Perform Read Persevere Wisdom

Last year my word was commit. I had a lot of business opportunities, and I really needed to focus on the next step to take in growing my business. The biggest need I had to meet as a leader was to commit to something and stick with the plan. I am the kind of guy who has an idea for a new book about twice a day, but who gets bored easily so that the book I thought about writing in the morning doesn’t seem nearly as interesting as the book I thought about writing in the afternoon.

2016 was a year I needed to commit to something and see it through to the end.

Powerful Leadership Question:

Why is having a Word For The Year such a powerful concept?

Perhaps the idea is best summed up by something I read recently about presidential inauguration speeches. After analyzing all the inauguration speeches given by the 44 U.S. presidents, researchers found an inverse correlation between the length of the speech given and the historical success of the president. In simple terms, the shorter the inaugural speech, the better the president. For example, Washington’s second speech came in at just 135 words. Jefferson, Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson all are credited with short speeches. After a quick Google search, I found that the longest speech belongs to William Henry Harrison who spoke for 1 hour and 45 minutes using over 9,000 words. He also delivered the address in a snowstorm, came down with pneumonia, and died a week later.

Brevity Has its Benefits

A Word of the Year can be a pin-pointed theme for your year. These attributes are what I look for when I am choosing my Word of the Year.

  • Focused. This word keeps me grounded and centered. Since I have such an ability to stray off topic and chase rabbits down trails, The Word For the Year gives me a central point to return to often.
  • Measurable. I can easily set goals around my word of the year. This allows me to be intentional and look for examples of how I am displaying my commitment in my life.
  • Simple. Since it is only one word, I do not get distracted by complicated plot twists. It is easy for me to remember what I am trying to focus on in that given year.
  • Memorable. While I am not completely losing my mind (some on my staff might disagree with this,) I find that it is easier and more efficient to search my mind for one word I want to remember than for some phrase or quip.
  • Communicable. My word of the year is easy for me to communicate to others. The message is much less likely to get lost in translation if I keep my thoughts to one word.

My Word for 2017

This year the focus of my leadership life is contentment.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear this word? Lazy? Complacent? Comfortable? Peaceful?

For some, this word probably sends shivers up your spine. You may be saying something like, “interesting word for a guy who runs his own business!”

However, when I was researching this word I started with its definition. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. This does not mean that I stop trying, it does not mean I won't try my very best. In our company, we have adopted a verse from the Bible that says, “Whatever you do, work at it as for the Lord and not for men.” It reminds us that we need to have an attitude that reflects the work we do, which has an element of spirituality to it.

So, in no way does the word contentment mean complacent, or indifferent, or even comfortable!

What it does mean to me is that at the end of the day, when I finish the work I set out to do, or even if I don't get everything done that I hope to….I will be content. When I really want to meet with someone for an hour, but who only has 15 minutes instead, I will be content with the time I get. If I put a bid in on a project I really want to do and I don’t get the work, I will be content.

My real goal here is to put my very best effort in, knowing that I can be happy knowing I did my best. I don’t think contentment excludes self-examining where I could do better, nor does it mean accepting mediocrity. That is not my best. I will NOT be content if I do something without giving it my all.

The reason I chose contentment as my word of the year is to remind me that if I have done a good job, finished the race, and done the best I could with the talent and effort I have, then I should be content.

Homework:

What is your word of the year? Have you ever thought through something like this? What kind of focus would this bring to your leadership life if you committed yourself to defining your year by one thing? Comment with your word and definition below so that we can connect throughout the year about how our words of the year are shaping us in 2017!

Do You Make These Mistakes in Leadership?

I was having a conversation with a really close friend the other day. This person is a high-level leader who has a lot of autonomy in his role. He can make many decisions that can affect many lives. His board of directors gives him a lot of latitude to direct the vision and mission of his organization. His team loves working with him.

He knows leadership. He not only articulates this in the way he speaks, but I can see the actions of his life. He is:

  • Self-aware and others-aware.He knows his strengths and weaknesses, and is not afraid to admit when he doesn't know something. He is keenly aware of how others are presenting themselves.
  • Communicates vision. He repeats the vision for his organization over and over and over. I mean, if you are part of his group and cannot articulate what the organization is about, then you must be trying not to understand. You might not like it, You might not agree with it, But there is one thing for sure…You HAVE HEARD IT!
  • Displays cognitive and emotional intelligence. He is smart enough to be in his role and knows when his emotions are in play and how to manage them.
  • Balances task and relationship. He realizes that leadership is about both Leaders have followers and they need to work together to create the organization's vision.
  • Understands positives and negatives of culture. He knows that culture has both cool stuff about it and warts, and that is all just part of the cultural paradox.
  • Change Matters. He moves his team forward because he knows if he stands still, they become irrelevant. He is keenly aware of dynamics of change like conflict, stress, and speed.
  • Strategic and systematic thinker. He has a strong ability to know what the root issue is that needs to be addressed. He listens compassionately to all concerns and can keep his team focused on what the whole organization needs.
  • Spiritually connected. He interacts with people showing both grace and mercy at appropriate times and has a strong moral compass.

He both knows leadership and acts as a leader. As you can tell, I am a fan. I am not in any way saying he is perfect, just that when it comes to leadership he really gets the core essence.

The Conversation

Our dialogue was actually quite short. Neither of us had much time that day, but the conversation was about something very important to both of us. We both are members of an organization that is struggling. Its current leadership has been in place for a few years.

Leading this organization is in no way easy. What is easy is to sit back (like I am doing) and be critical.

My intention is not to be negative or critical but to turn some of our observations of this organization into a learning moment for all of us.

Here are 5 leadership mistakes we quickly identified. Perhaps you could use this list as a reflection of where you are in your own leadership.

The Mistakes

  • Personal Agenda. The leader has become emotionally attached to his initial vision and doesn’t seem to be allowing himself the capacity to learn.
  • Incremental Change. The leadership team has gotten into the weeds of the change that is needed. They are too focused on the tactics of making the change happen rather than staying strategic and delegating. This is causing the change to be micromanaged and blame is starting to occur.
  • Spirit of Defensiveness. When strategy gets questions and an answer is given confidently. When people want more depth, the same answers are given only louder and with more extraversion. This behavior is turf-protection rather than a spirit of openness and curiosity.
  • Vision possibility. While the vision for the organization is inspirational, it is one that is hard to relate to the practical. While inspiration carries with it emotion and cultural comfort, a vision has to do more than give a feeling of eating “Momma’s meatloaf and mashed potatoes." George Bernard Shaw gets attributed with one of my favorite vision quotes that makes the distinction between inspiration and possibility: “you see things; and you say, ‘why'. But I dream things that never were; and say 'why not!’.”
  • Lack of personal awareness. Perhaps the biggest issue is that many people tell this leader he is great all the time. I think he has started to believe it. While I am sure he feels some pressure in the role, my concern for him is that he is falling prey to the invulnerability fallacy.
  • The invulnerability fallacy. Because he has risen to the top, and many in the organization were excited he took the role, nothing can go wrong for him.

Self-Check

It is good for all of us to get really honest with ourselves from time to time. If you are sitting there telling yourself, “Well none of this happens to me so I am doing well," then perhaps you are suffering from the fallacy of thinking that you are all-knowing. I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains.

I think as leaders we need to constantly be challenging ourselves across a number of leadership domains. This is one of the reasons that coaching is so important. Every leader needs to have a voice who will speak truth to them. Who can help them see things that are not obvious. It is very difficult for someone who is internal to the organization and wants to stay, to deliver meaningful, long-term feedback. Once in awhile, someone will speak one word of truth, but very few will have the intestinal fortitude to continue on. This is one of the real values that coaching can bring. Hopefully, you are working with a coach, and this coach is providing you the challenge you need in your leadership life.

Every leader needs someone in their life who will keep them honest and humble, who doesn’t have much to lose in delivering bad news, a trusted voice who can lead the leader out of the wilderness, someone you can put your faith in because you know they have your best interest in mind.

Homework:

I have given you 8 positive leadership dimensions and 5 things that can go wrong in leadership. Do a reflective assessment of your own leadership. Not that these two lists are in any way definitive, but use them to think, reflect, and assess what your leadership looks like. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. 

The 5 Books I Plan to Re-read in 2017

Happy New Year!  I hope that you are having a wonderful holiday season. In last week's blog post I shared some of my top reads for 2016.

Every year I re-read a few of my favorite books that have really engaged me over the years. I hope you discover something you might find interesting and/or useful in developing yourself as a leader this year.

  1. Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein Schein’s motivation for writing this short (123 pages) yet powerful book is both personal and professional. The first paragraph of the book sets the entire tone. The bottom line is that those who possess a “telling” and “aggressive” tone destroy relationships. We all know the value of positive relationships in organizations and in this little gem Schein gives some very practical tips on how to be both humble and a leader. I think it was my most recommended book of 2016 to my clients.
  2. Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell This is an account of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Saint Luke. The vivid imagery and the subtle, yet powerful situations really give testimony that what is in the Bible could indeed be true. The writing gives a perspective that is original and creative. One of my all time favorites.
  3. Running By The Book by Corinne Bauer These pages contain the training plan that I used to run my first half-marathon. I followed the plan very closely and was able to exceed the goal I set for myself. In races that I ran subsequently, I was not as diligent in following the plan and my performance has born this out. I have a goal in 2017 to run a Personal Best for 13.1 miles, and I am going to dust off these pages to make it happen.
  4. Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Thompson   This is a classic that every coach needs to read both for themselves and for the clients they interact with. Cloud and Thompson come at the topic of boundaries from a distinct and overtly Christian worldview, which lends a very interesting perspective on “when to say yes and how to say no" so that you as a leader can take control of your life. Professionally, my business is growing and I am going to have to start saying NO to some things I have enjoyed in the past. Personally, I have made a lot of sacrifices so the business can grow and I am going to start saying YES to more things in life.
  5. Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett While Hewlett wrote this book primarily with females in mind, there are great lessons in it for all of us. I have a real interest in this topic for both males and females and would love to write on this subject as it pertains to those in leadership and young people who desire leadership responsibilities. I am hoping a re-read of this important work gets me thinking and writing in this area.

Well, that is it for me. How about you? Any of these titles grab you as a re-read or even a first time through? Hey, if you are re-reading something I would love to hear it and why you are choosing to spend your time with the work again.

Here is to a successful 2017!

My Top 5 Reads of 2016

Many of you wind down a bit and focus on your family this time of year (and I am so proud of you for doing that), so you don’t want any heavy leadership stuff. However, more than one of you, now that Christmas is over, will sneak an hour or two just to catch up on email or see if anything happened over the last two days while you were off.  The other thing you are probably starting to do is plan your development activities for 2017. With that in mind, I thought I would give you something quick to read that might be relevant for your 2017 development plan.

Here are the top 5 books I read this last year and a very brief synopsis of what I learned:

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David Duncan

A very convincing argument is made about what the authors call "The Theory of Jobs." Basically what they are saying is that people hire companies and products to do a job for them. If you can figure out what people hire you for, then you have a unique advantage on how to market and position yourself.

Personal Application: I am asking myself "Why do people hire me as a coach? What job are they asking me to do for them?" My answer for this right now is that my clients desire an honest assessment of what their leadership looks like. I provide both that honest assessment they are seeking, as well as a compassionate response.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

In this New York Times bestseller, a very powerful argument is made for what successful people really possess. So much emphasis is put on talent in our culture that we often overlook what allowed that talent to develop and thrive. Using both psychological research and powerful example, a very strong case is made for being passionate about a goal and then sticking with that goal over time. This combination is what leads to success.

Personal Application: I am using this book to write some high-level, mid-level, and low-level related goals. I have some things in both my professional and personal life that I want to still achieve. If I do not start moving on them, time will find a way of passing by. I need to write these goals down and have my coach hold me accountable to them.

A Man Called Ove. by Fredrik Backman

This is a brilliantly written piece of fiction that weaves the story of a man that I could have grown up next door to. Ove possess many quirky, yet admirable traits I kept finding myself saying, “Now, that is a really neat perspective! I wonder how I would show up in that situation?” For those of you who don’t usually read fiction, this is one that I really think you will enjoy. The best fiction story I have read in many years!

Personal Application: Since this is a book of fiction, it is hard to find application directly. I will say that this book has caused me to want to read more stories from Backman. If the rest of his work is as good as this, he for sure is a certifiable genius.

A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design by Frank Wiczek 

Unlike A Man Called Ove, this book is deep and quite thick, not only in page number (over 400) but in content as well. Wickek is a Nobel Prize winner in physics, but don’t let this warning scare you away. This book speaks to one central question, “Does the world we live in embody beautiful ideas?” This book is more of a scientific and philosophical musing on what entails beauty. Since I love all three of these; science, philosophy, and the idea of beauty, this was a real winner for me. It is all I can do to resist myself and share with you the conclusion. If you like books that will make you think and challenge your current worldview, then this one is for you.

Personal Application: I am working hard at finding beauty in the world I live in. By searching for and recognizing beauty, I am more aware of the pain, suffering, and strife in the world, and what I am called to do about turning those things into beauty.

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippet

As I start this review I want to enforce that I am a happily married man. My wife, Kim and I, have been together for 32 years and neither of us would change that. Period. However, I do have a confession to make; I have a PROFESSIONAL crush on Krista Tippet. She is actually one of the top 5 people who I would love to meet and spend time with. The opening sentence of the book Krista writes states this, “I’m a person who listens for a living." Some of the people she has interviewed are those who have shaped the very fiber of our world's culture. This book is a distillation of the wisdom she has gleaned from her 30 years or so of interviewing scientists, poets, theologians, activists, who have in many ways shaped the culture of our world.

Personal Application: In reading this book I realize I need to be more open to what I do not know rather than only focusing on what I do know. I am working on becoming more comfortable with questions than answers. With paradox over position. With listening rather than convincing.

If you have any money on your Amazon gift card left or your Grandma gave you a crisp $20 for Christmas, you can’t go wrong with any of these. I guarantee it.

Homework: You really want to know what your homework is? Go buy one of these great reads and see what application you can make to your own leadership life! If you do this assignment, I would love to hear about it. why not post a comment or two. I love to discuss books and how they impact our leadership journies.

How to Energize Your Leadership Life

The coolest thing happened to me last night! My wife had a meeting and rather than sit at home in my office, she dropped me off at the local Starbucks. So I am sitting outside (a benefit of living in Florida) having a hot chai tea latte (my personal favorite), grading some papers for an Executive Coaching class I am teaching. I had graded about 12 papers and my eyes were starting to cross when an older gentleman sat down at the table next to mine.

I know better than to make eye contact. When you make eye contact, that is when they start talking. Even thought I had completed what I needed to get done, I had a chance to get ahead in the class. I had work to do. Just stay focused, Scott, you can do it. Just don’t look up.

But the words of my pastor’s sermon jumped into my mind at that very moment “the gift of Christmas is found in the margins." The point of his sermon last Sunday morning was that even when it looks like all is lost and you have no power of your own to provide, God is in the margins. Christmas is a time for hope because 2000 years ago the Romans had such powerful rule over all the people they had lost hope.  Then, in the middle of the night, in a Bethlehem stable, HOPE showed up in the margins. God acted because he cared. I was thinking to myself, “Scott, how much do you care?"

…And as I was having this thought, you guessed it...

I looked up!

“You live around here?" the old-timer asked.

That was it. I was done for the night. Turns out he was a real talker. We spent the next 45 minutes together of which I asked 3 questions and he talked the entire time. And what a glorious night it turned out to be! Turns out he was a football coach from central Ohio down in Florida for Christmas with his daughter. He started in the high school ranks and worked his way up the coaching ladder. He has spent time with and coached for some of the all-time greats: Bo Schembechler, Tommy Tuberville, and even spent some time in the Canadian professional league.

I honestly could have listened to him all night. He had such a neat perspective on both football, coaching, and life.

Leadership Lessons

Here are my three big take-a-ways from my conversation with the old coach.

  1. There is only one letter difference between "hire" and "fire." No matter which you are experiencing, there is probably some “ire” in each. Do the very best job you can with the job you have today. Hold everything loosely, because you never know when you could lose your job, even when you have a winning record. If you get a new job, there are others who wanted it and some of them might still be on the team.
  2. Professionals don’t need your advice. At the end of the day, the professional (football player or insert whatever noun you wish) gets paid for how they perform. Period. They are ultimately responsible for the decisions they make that affect their overall performance. There is too much victim mentality today. Too many people think they are entitled to something they haven’t put an ounce of effort into. Professionals might want you to help them think through something, or get some perspective, but don’t ever be fooled into thinking they want your advice.
  3. The end will come. One of my questions for him was, “In hindsight, would you do it again?” Without flinching or even much thinking, he said, “Without question!" He said, “I have this tablet thing at home (and I am dying laughing on the inside), and I get messages from other coaches, from past players, even from kids in my English class. They say, "Hey coach, good to see you are still alive. Did you see that game last night between Clemson and Virginia Tech?”

Then came one of the only pauses in roughly 45 minutes of conversation …

“Do it again…I would not have done anything else.”

In rather dramatic fashion, my wife pulls up in the old Kia Sorento to pick me up.

As I thanked him for the lively conversation and started to walk back to the car it hit me right between the eyes: God had shown up in the margin, but not as I had originally intended it.

My original idea was to show up and be some margin in this guys life. After all, he was older and all alone.

Turns out, I could not have been more wrong. Turns out I was the one who needed the blessing of someone else's company.

I don’t even know the old coach's name. For all I know maybe he wasn’t even a football coach. But I am really thankful he took the time to show up and provide some light into the margins of my life.

Homework

Maybe you know someone in your organization who is feeling marginalized. Maybe there is someone who needs a 45 minute Starbucks conversation. Even though you don’t have time, maybe what you need to do is stop and recognize that they are human too. Who knows, maybe you will be the one who ends up with the blessing. Merry Christmas!

Don't Miss This Shift in Leading Your Team

A new trend in performance management is changing the landscape in the relationship between leaders and followers. In a recent article (At Kimberly-Clark, ‘Dead Wood’ Workers Have Nowhere to Hide) the Wall Street Journal reported on how organizations like Coca-Cola, GE, and Accenture are moving away from traditional yearly performance reviews to more real-time coaching and feedback. Top performers in all the generations, from millennials to baby boomers, are applauding this shift. Those who desire feedback to grow and improve are ready to get more frequent, relevant, and actionable input on their performance.

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

The Story: A Tale Of Two Perspectives

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

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

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

What Shelia is Missing

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

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

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

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

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

Interaction Frequency

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

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

Interaction Relevance

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

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

Actionable Feedback

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

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

Homework

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

Stop Following Your Passion, Try This Instead

When The Passion Burns Out

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

Does this feel familiar to you?

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

pexels-photo-89860

It's Happened to Me

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

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

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

Cure it with Curiosity

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

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

Stay Curious

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

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

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

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

The Power of Curiosity

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

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

Homework

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

Medicine, Leadership, and The Beatles

Many of you know my undergraduate degree is in pharmacy from Drake University. I worked in retail pharmacy prior to starting my career at Eli Lilly. As a result, I am naturally drawn to cutting edge stories in the field of medicine.  One that caught my eye recently in the Journal of the American Association (February, 2016) had to do with changing physician behavior when prescribing antibiotics.

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

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

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

Leaders have misaligned intention, too.

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

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

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

Truth is when facts converge on a central point. 

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

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

Here is what the data from the antibiotic study says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Use This Leadership Lifeline to Save Your Followers

A lifeline is defined as "a rope or line used for life-saving, typically one thrown to rescue someone in difficulties in water or one used by sailors to secure themselves to a boat." Things can happen to us in our lives that give us a similar feeling of sinking or being stuck. If we don’t have some help to secure us, we can begin to feel alone and hopeless.

From time to time, we all need a lifeline thrown to us by others who are showing care and compassion.

Lifebuoy in a stormy blue sea

My Story

Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent most of my time taking a much-needed vacation. In addition to this down time, I scheduled some time for writing and research for a couple of new courses I am teaching. During this time, my interaction with my coaching and training clients is limited to text and phone conversations.

About 10 days into this period, I noticed something quite odd.

I was starting to get a little down. Not an all out depression, but I was noticing something declining in my overall mood. The feeling was like I was sinking. There wasn’t anything bad that had happened to me. In fact, I had just come off a very restful vacation! I had plenty of things that needed to get done.

Nonetheless, there it was. The feeling of not having enough of the connections that are the reason that I love the work I do.

Basic Human Psychology

It is fairly common knowledge amongst psychologists that the feeling of isolation can be a key determinant for a wide range of human ailments, from depression all the way through to premature death!

I know I wasn't totally isolated during that time, but as I sit back and reflect, I sure was feeling lonely.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that there are very few public health initiatives to combat loneliness, even though this state of being is riskier to “health and survival than cigarette smoking or obesity.”

Loneliness a bigger health risk than smoking or being overweight?

I was floored by that! Here is why. My personal physician, in my opinion, is the best in the world.

Seriously, he is an amazing clinician! He is constantly asking about my smoking habits (which I don’t), how much alcohol I am drinking, and how much red meat I am eating. He takes my blood, weighs me on a scale (which is always 3 pounds heavier than any other scale I ever get on), takes my blood pressure, and once a year hooks me up to an EKG. I do routine sonograms of my kidney because 3 years ago I had a small tumor removed. As part of his practice, I even have access to a dietician and an exercise physiologist. He spends no less than 40 minutes with me on every visit. I mean the dude has it going on. I love him!

In spite of all this great care I get, I don’t ever recall being asked about my social life, work life, or my important relationships! Perhaps my physician is assessing all of this without my knowledge by how I present in the office.

My point is not to question how to practice medicine.  Rather, my point is that if loneliness is really a bigger health risk than cigarette smoking and obesity, then perhaps it is something that we as leaders should pay closer attention to. Are there people in our sphere of influence that need a lifeline from time to time?

Impact on Leadership

According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry February 2015 issue, the economic burden of depression, including workplace costs, direct costs, and suicide-related costs, was estimated to be $210.5 billion in 2010.

Major depression, the disease of dark thoughts, hits 16% of all Americans, who are twice as likely to be diagnosed with it during their lifetimes as they are to be diagnosed with cancer.

So this state of loneliness, which can lead to or be a part of a clinical depression, has an economic business impact, and must not just be seen as a social issue.

A very insightful study was published last October in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers wanted to know the impacts and categories of social contact, or lack of it, that might predict clinical depression. In studying over 11 thousand people over the age of 50 the scientists found that only face-to-face interaction forestalled depression in older adults. Phone calls made a difference to people with a history of mood disorders but not to anyone else. Email and texts had no impact at all.

The lifeline that people need, according to this study, is face-to-face interaction

How often people got together with friends and family—or didn’t—turned out to be key. What’s more, the researchers discovered that the more in-person contact there was in the present, the less likely that depression may occur in the future. Participants who had minimal social contacts had the highest depressive symptom rate, while those who connected with people in person at least three times a week had the lowest.

It would seem that the more people got together in person, the better off they were!

What could we as leaders do to become part of the solution?

I can stop that feeling…Or can I?

Mayoclinic.org has some very simple steps for preventing depression. The 5 I thought most relevant to our discussion are:

  • Control your stress
  • Increase your resilience
  • Boost your self-esteem
  • Reach out to family and friends (i.e.. grab a lifeline)
  • Get help fast

As leaders, I think we can be intentional with those under our responsibility. Here is how I would adapt the above list for leader-follower interactions.

  • Become attuned to what stress looks like for people on your team.
  • Meet regularly with followers at least every week to two weeks.
  • Prioritize these meetings.
  • Spend most of your time listening and asking questions, rather than being in "solve mode."
  • Meet in person if at all possible. If not, use video chat like FaceTime or Zoom.
  • Give them some assurances that you believe in them.
  • Establish a culture that encourages learning from mistakes.
  • Do spot check-ins in times of high stress.
  • If a teammate seems down, ask about it early.
  • Consider frequent mini-sabbaticals as a way to rejuvenate.

Homework

How often are you connecting with those you lead? How intentional are you in making connections? Who on your team seems a little down and needs to know you believe in them? Why not become more intentional in reaching out and touching someone? Who knows, that might just be what is needed to help your team reach peak performance.

4 Factors to a Longer and More Successful Leadership Life

"One of my clients had a profound impact on my life this week. What I heard him say is:

"Scott I realized that I have to take care of me. I am at my best when I am taking care of myself. I decided that I am going to do yoga when I get up in the morning, and I am going to exercise at noon. I am going to be conscious of my diet and make good choices about what goes into my body."

When I probed for the reason, he continued,

"There has been a lot of negativity in my life recently, and I am just not going to allow it to get me down any longer. I am going to choose the leader I want to be and not be some weak victim of circumstance."

Absolutely Profound.

Choosing positive self-care over a negative circumstantial life perspective. Thanks to the courage of this story, this month I am dedicating the blog to the idea of wellness. We will discuss ways that you as a leader can take a positive self-care position, rather than be a victim of any negative circumstance.

Businessman holding two papers with happy and angry face each on them

According to the National Wellness Institute, wellness is "an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

Four things to notice about wellness:

  • It is an active process. It is something you devote energy to making happen. It is intentional on your part as a leader.
  • It starts with self-awareness. Are you aware of the moment when health choices present themselves?
  • Wellness is a choice. You decide to be well in the moment, or say screw it and become a victim of your circumstance.
  • There is an end game. A successful existence. This is your life. You only get one. Why not make it the very best that it can be?

The National Wellness Institute describes six different dimensions for us to consider as we examine our own wellbeing:

  • Emotional
  • Occupational
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Intellectual
  • Spiritual

This week I want to focus on your Emotional Wellbeing as a leader.

The Story

One of my favorite authors is Martin Seligman. As a past president of the American Psychological Association, he has the credibility from a research standpoint that is really meaningful for me. In addition, Martin is a gifted storyteller who can weave a story together and then bring home a point that has real impact and causes me to pause and examine my own life.

One of my favorite stories that Martin tells is in his book Authentic Happiness. He details the stories of two of 180 nuns who are the subjects of an impactful and noteworthy study on longevity and happiness. If you want all the details, you really need to get the book, it is a great read. Here is the bottom line:

  • 90% of the most cheerful 25% of the nuns was alive at age 85 vs. only 34% of the least cheerful 25%.
  • 54% of the most cheerful quarter was alive at age 94, as opposed to only 11% of the least cheerful.

Studies of longevity are admittedly dicey and very complex from a pure science standpoint. Causality is extremely difficult to make a case for. However, one of the reasons this study is so impactful is that nuns lead very similar life. They eat similar food, they don’t smoke or drink alcohol, they have similar routines. Sure there are some other differences that could account for the results:

  • Different levels of intellect
  • Different depths of spirituality
  • Different outlooks on the future

However, none of these in the research made any difference. The thing that Seligman points out that made a difference in the longevity of the nuns was the amount of positive feelings expressed.

If longevity is at least one measure of a successful existence, then the positive outlook you have on life matters!

Happiness and Emotional Intelligence

In the Emotional Intelligence training that I do as a part of my consulting, one of the attributes we measure is that of Happiness or Wellbeing. In the model we use there are four factors that comprise Wellbeing:

  • Self-Regard: Believing in yourself and living according to your values.
  • Self-Actualization: A willingness to learn and grow in accordance with your values.
  • Interpersonal Relationships: Engaging in mutually satisfying relationships.
  • Optimism: The ability to respond, recover, and claim a happy state from disappointments and setbacks in life

There are two important considerations as you evaluate your own level of well-being.

The first is that you display as much of these four attributes as you can. Believe in yourself and live according to your values. Learn and grow in areas that really matter to you. Have friends and ensure that there is reciprocity. Realize that things are not always going to go your way. It isn’t if you are going to have a setback in life it is when. What counts is how you respond.

The second is that you have balance between these attributes. For example, you want to make sure that your self-regard is balanced with your interpersonal relationships. If you have a high level of self-regard and low levels of interpersonal relationships, you could come across as prideful and in it for yourself. If you have low levels of self-regard and high interpersonal relationships, then you could come across as needy and not fun to be around.

As you think about the successful life you want to live as a leader, are you choosing to maximize and balance these 4 attributes of emotional health?

Homework:

Rate yourself on a scale from one (low) to 10 (high) on each of the 4 attributes of well-being. Are you maximizing each attribute? Are all four of the attributes in balance with each other? As you reflect on these, what changes would you need to make to live a long and successful life?

5 Ways to Positively Impact Your Organization’s Culture

There is a lot of conversation in the “blogosphere” these days about the types of cultures leaders can create in organizations. Here are a few examples:

  • Learning Culture
  • Performance Culture
  • Service Culture
  • Command & Control Culture
  • Customer Centric Culture
  • Employee’s First Culture
  • Shareholder’s First Culture

Frankly, there are probably thousands of cultures and subcultures that organizations can identify with. Leaders can be left in a state of ambiguity about what is really acceptable in a culture unless organization-wide consensus can be found.

Confusion can lead to inconsistency in strategy implementation or even complete chaos, which can result in paralysis. This fragmentation in organizational culture can leave the strongest subcultures defined by those with the loudest voices, which may not actually be representative of the culture at all.

Perhaps a story can clarify:

Years ago I worked at an organization that had a cultural norm of “respect for people." This norm was carried out in a lot of very positive ways throughout the organization, such as caring and compassion with a death in an employee's family, paternity and maternity leaves, even pay based on performance was weaved into this respectful culture.

In one department, there swooped in a leader who had an agenda. A change in performance standards would take place but only a select few favorites would be told of these new rules in the culture. Low performance ratings were given to people who had traditionally been top performers. The organization became chaotic and fragmented as no one knew what the cultural norms were in order to perform at high levels. All anyone knew was to "please the leader or you are out."

Fast forward 6 months and the entire department had been decimated. The leader had to be replaced. What was once a high performing organization had been completely and utterly destroyed by the actions of one person. One really loud voice was able to take down an entire team, exiting many top performers from the company in the process.

The culture you define as an organizational leader impacts the development of your team members. If they don't feel safe, they definitely won't feel valued as a team member. And if they don't feel valued, then they won't be motivated. When you have unmotivated team members you run the risk of losing them or leaving untapped potential on the table.

So, how do you create a culture that allows your newest team members to feel safe as well as your current colleagues to be motivated? Perhaps it's not something that you DO, but instead what you can BE.

Focus on developing your emotional intelligence. This effort on your part will impact the culture you want to create. As you create this positive culture, the desired behaviors will become part of who you are and not just something that you do occasionally. Think deeply about the kind of culture you are shaping as you lead your team.

Here are 5 things you can become that will positively impact the culture of your organization to give you great results:

Be Self Aware Know and be confident in yourself and your abilities. Understand how you handle your emotions, and how they impress your company. Everyone is watching you to see how you will react. In fact, they may be able to predict your behaviors. Become just as aware of yourself and how you can choose your emotional responses.

Be Assertive Communicate your what, how, and why in a simple, clear, and even repetitive way so that your team understands.

Be Empathetic When I teach seminars on Emotional Intelligence, I often ask the group for a common definition for empathy. The response I get back more than any other is “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.” I love this definition, but to take it one step further (pun intended), “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes, even when the shoe doesn’t fit." Being empathetic is about being compassionate, caring, listening, and being flexible as needed. I believe strongly that we should not neglect the impact empathy has on shaping the culture of your company. Showing regular empathy will instantly invoke safety and value for your teammates.

Be in Control Not wavering, or changing things based on emotional reactions. When something comes up that invokes an emotional response, remind yourself of the companies mission, and your principles, to be sure that the decisions being made align with your mission. This way your team can feel confident that you won't make changes at the drop of a hat. As they trust you, they can focus on the work they need to do.

Be Optimistic People who are positive are magnetic. We want to be around them and we can be inspired by them. In order to be optimistic, you have to change the way you talk to yourself. What I mean by that is being able to see the best in yourself, see setbacks as learning opportunities, and see obstacles as unique, temporary events that you'll get through. Learn more about this by downloading my eBook, Optimistic Thinking.

Homework

Think about the 5 "Be's" above. Choose one you would want to work on.

To help organize your thoughts, grab a piece of paper, then write and complete the following sentence:

I want to be more ______________, so that my team can feel ______________ and we'll create a culture that is ___________________.

Here are three ways I will be more ____________ this week: 1. 2. 3.

Share what you wrote with a mentor or coach and have them help you with this development. If you can't think of who to share this with, write it in our comments below or contact me directly. I'd love to hear what you have to say and find out how we can help you!

What Great Leaders Do When Bad Things Happen

One thing that can get anyone's fear and anxiety levels up is big organizational changes. A new company President has been named, my department is being reorganized, my job is being eliminated, my company is merging with another organization, my boss just announced she/he is leaving and joining a competitor. All of these changes can have both positive and negative emotional impact. The plans of company leaders, meant with the best intentions for the organization and strategic purpose, can be seen by some as a new beginning and by others as the end of the world.

However, when people hear there is going to be a change, let's face it, the first thought for most of us is, “What about me?"

businessman pulling open blank white curtain covering infographic doodles on old dark brick wall with gray concrete floor

How is this change going to affect my world? Our senses are heightened and we may be nervous about our job being in jeopardy or worried about the restructuring of our team and who we will answer to. When we feel this tension, we tend to respond emotionally.

I recently had a friend whose organization was going through a merge and he noticed some leaders in the company were responding very differently to the situation. Some of the leaders were being more encouraging, trying to help those under their leadership to face the emotion they were feeling.

Last week we talked about what these leaders are actually doing: reframing the fear of those under their leadership into excitement. Is the situation good? Is it all rosy and pollyanna? No, of course not.

Is there pain in a merger? Of course there is, especially when the news first hits. Is it the end of the world? No, I don’t think so. These leaders help those experiencing this emotion to initially calm themselves from the emotional fever pitch they are feeling so that they can begin to turn their fear into excitement.

My friend observed that other leaders in the organization weren't quite as helpful. My guess is these folks fall into one of two camps. The first camp is those who are so worried about themselves that they are no earthly good to those under their leadership. They are self-referential and self-absorbed. They turn their fear into survival of the fittest mode, caring only for themselves and their needs. The other camp just doesn’t know how to express emotion.

Emotional expression, according to Steve Stein and Howard Book, authors of The EQ Edge: Emotional Intelligence and Your Success, involves openly expressing feelings both verbally and non-verbally. The way we come across to others can greatly influence their opinion of us. Emotional expression is a skill, and some leaders lack this ability. When things go bad and everybody knows it, leaders need to have the skill to express the emotion that fits the circumstance in order to have authenticity and credibility.

So what do you do when changes like these happen in your organization?

Maybe the most important thing to remember is that the only person who can control you is you, so you can choose what will be the best response. The next important thing to remember is that you can't change anyone else, however, your behavior will influence others as they watch what you do and how you do it.

Here's how I would use the CHECK list that I mentioned a couple weeks ago to guide you through a difficult situation like this:

Consider the Situation

  • What is happening to the company, leadership, colleagues, and yourself? Write out the situation and be as objective as you can. How could the merge be looked at from a positive perspective? Why is this situation difficult and what would make it better? It's okay to notice the emotions you are feeling, yet be as objective as possible in order to make sure that the vision of the organization aligns with your values and what you hope to accomplish in your career.

Hear from Others

  • As a leader, plan a couple of open meetings with your team and employees, allowing them to provide ideas and opinions that they believe would help the merge. Allowing your followers to speak into the situation and listening to them will make them feel more comfortable with the change and set a tone for safety moving forward.

Eliminate Negativity

  • Before you make a plan and implement it, it is important that you have a confident, optimistic attitude moving forward. This isn't only about your thoughts regarding the situation, but thoughts about yourself and ability to accomplish your goal. Make sure you believe in yourself and remain hopeful in the situation, then live out that positivism in your workplace. Avoid negativity that others are sharing in order to stay focused and on your optimistic track. Your colleagues and leaders will notice this and your personal actions will have a better impact on the situation.

Conduct a Plan

  • When making your plan for the outcome you would like to have, think realistically about what you can actually do. Plan to stay connected and available for your leaders and team. If you are a leader, make sure your team knows the plan just as well as you do, so they can feel confident and safe in the direction of the organization, which will motivate them to perform well.

Keep Your Head Up

  • You will be one of few that choose to be positive and it will be tempting to fall into the trap of being defensive, complaining, etc. Remind yourself daily of the outcome you are working towards and write it out as part of your to-do list. Focus on one thing you will do daily or weekly to work towards your goal. You will become invaluable to the team as long as you are a team player who is present and willing to work, yet exemplifying leadership through maintaining a positive attitude.

HOMEWORK

Read my blog post about the effectiveness of an open meeting and plan one with your team in the next week or so with only the discussion topic in mind. If you typically don't organize meetings, talk to your leader about the idea of having one and why you feel it would be helpful. Why not even offer to facilitate the meeting? This will show commitment and initiative to your leader and teammates.

What You Can Learn from NFL Coaches to Get to the Superbowl in Your Career

This week I am happy to share this blog space with Gretchen Holcomb. Gretchen is spending a few months fine-tuning some things in our organization before going off to Spain for a year to teach English as a second language. I hope you enjoy her perspective on coaching and leadership.

 

February is an exciting month for football fans across the nation as we come to the pinnacle of the NFL season, the Superbowl.

This Sunday night, the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers will face off to determine who will be the Superbowl 50 Champion!

Although it is an exciting time for the players on the field, I can't help but think what it must be like for the coaches who saw the big picture, planned the strategy that got them this far, and wonder how they might be handling the pressure. Whether or not you are fan of either of these teams, I believe we can learn a lot from coaches Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak that we can apply to our own playing field.

They Know Who they Are

Rivera and Kubiak lead with their strengths, because they know what their strengths are. They've identified their values and implemented them on and off the field. They leverage their self-awareness in order to lead their team and care for themselves. By understanding what they need to do in order to handle stress and pressure, they are able to manage and channel them so that their performance does not suffer.

Knowing themselves gives them the endurance to perform well throughout the entire season. In fact, in Rivera's bio on the Panthers' website, he recognizes the influence of his family background as a part of who he is: “Coming from a military background, there's a lot of discipline, a lot of structure. That's how I feel when I coach.”

What About You?

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?

Are you extroverted or introverted? How do you manage stress when under pressure? Do you handle work conflicts differently than conflicts at home? If you are interested in learning more about yourself, check out last Monday's blog when we discuss the latest personality assessment and how you can take it.

They Know Their Game

This may seem like an obvious point. If Rivera and Kubiak are football coaches, then they better know the game. They have to know the game so well, in fact, that they are able to create strategies, teach their players, and make quick judgment calls in the midst of all the action. Both coaches have years of experience as successful players. Most likely, they mastered their game as players and enjoyed leading their teammates, which led them to coach. However, coaching is different than playing. To do this well, they had to pay attention to all the ins and outs of the game; not just what the quarterback is supposed to do, or the basic rules. It takes time to study, observe, and listen. Most importantly it takes having a great coach to become a great coach, just like these head coaches had when they were once players. In fact, I would bet they still have coaches or advisers helping them in their current position.

What about You?

What's your “game” and how well do you know it?

How has it changed in the last 10 years, and how could it change in the next five? What do you need to study to make your game your expertise? When you look around, what do you observe on the field and in the game? Who do you need to listen to? Who can coach you?

They know Their Plan and Work It

Only when these coaches know themselves, the game, and their team are they ready to get to work. It is up to the coaches to communicate their plan, prepare the players, and motivate the team. You see, the players are their resources, and it is the responsibility of the coach to help them get into game-ready shape, building them physically and mentally so they are able to perform in such a way that carries out the plan and strategy the coaches have devised. Yes, it's important for them to be in physical shape to play each game, but what is going to motivate the players to stay engaged for the entire season? The end goal is to win the Superbowl, but why does that really matter? It is up to the coaches to communicate this "why", and to communicate it often, so that the players stay focused and on track.

What about You?

What is the goal of what you want to accomplish and why? What resources are available to and how are you shaping them so they work to your advantage?

They Celebrate

We know what this looks like: balloons, streamers, fireworks, and someone announcing that they are going to Disney World! What would it look like if after the Superbowl these celebrations didn't happen? What if the players just walked off the field, cleaned out their lockers, and went home?

That wouldn't feel very good to the players, coaches, or the fans. They should feel excited, proud, and motivated by their accomplishments! The celebration is important, even when reaching milestones.

On the Denver Bronco's website a few weeks ago I saw that they hosted a Playoffs Rally to celebrate their step toward the Superbowl with their fans. I can only imagine how exciting and motivating that is for the players. Just a little taste of victory encourages you to press forward towards the ultimate victory.

What about You?

Where are the milestones in your plan? How will you celebrate when you reach those milestones in such a way that it pushes you closer to your end goal? What will it look like for you to celebrate your end goal? Plan those celebrations now to keep you motivated and in the game.

Homework

Consider taking a personality assessment like Strengths Finder, MBTI, EQi 2.0, or Pearman Personality Integrator. If you are not sure where to start, contact me and we can help you decide which assessment would be best for you.

Identify one way to learn your game. Is there a new book in your field you could read? Is there an expert in your field you could talk to? Even better, could you listen to your followers or clients, gather data about their observations, and learn from them?

Write out your plans for this month. Be sure to include how you will celebrate when you accomplish your goals. Finally, decide what action step you will take this week and tell us that step in the comments below.

A Quick and Easy Way to Enhance Your Leadership

"What I want to believe based on emotions and what I should believe based on evidence does not always coincide." - Michael Shermer

Have you ever felt this in your leadership?

Here are some ways that I have experienced this phenomena:

  • I worked really hard and delivered on all my projects last year, I should have gotten a bigger raise.
  • I feel like I am plateauing in my career and there is nothing left to learn.
  • I just accomplished my major objective, now promote me.
  • My kids say they are getting straight A's, but I never see them study.

There are times in our leadership lives where the emotion of what we desire can outrun the evidence that is before us.

Closeup of business team showing unity with putting their hands together on top of each other. Concept of teamwork.

Harvard Business Review (November, 2015) wrote on what they called “The New Science of Customer Emotions." The premise is that when companies connect with customers emotions, the payoff is enormous. The idea is that brands and the companies they represent want to be trusted, but they often fail to align themselves with the emotion that drives the desired behavior.

The authors of the article suggest that if your customer wants to “have confidence in the future,” you will need to show them that future is better than the past by creating positive mental pictures of what the future looks like.

As a leader, how does this apply to you?

In my experience, those under your leadership have different emotional needs that you may meet. Some of these needs include:

  • To be trusted and believed in not only as an employee, but as a person.
  • To feel valued as an individual, and that their work is meaningful.
  • To believe you listen to and understand them through your actions.
  • To rest assure that they may be forgiven if they make a mistake.
  • To feel confident in their current position, as well as what the future may bring.

At this point, you are probably saying, “Okay, so I know I need to connect emotionally.” Yes, you know you need to; but does the evidence support what you believe to be true?

Here is an example of what I mean.

I was in a class not long ago where the facilitator played "The Ultimate Game" with a couple of students. It goes like this:

One person gets a sum of money and is told to split it with the other person and keep the rest for themselves. If the second person accepts the deal, they both keep the money. If the second person rejects the deal, neither one of them keep the money. They will play the game twice. Here is how it worked:

Game 1: Person A gets $100 and decides to give Person B $50. Person B accepted this amount. The teacher said that almost 100% of the time, it happens like this.

Then they play Game 2.

Game 2: Person A gets $100 and decides to give Person B $10. Person B did not accept.

Person A: “Why didn't you accept?” Person B: “Because you got more than me.“ Person A: “Yes, but you still have $10 more than when you started.” Person B: “I know, but it isn’t fair, so no deal.“

Neither Person A or Person B keep any money.

In a non-emotive state, we can see that Person B is being irrational. This person would have received 10 more dollars than they started the day with. This is free money, no strings attached. However, because it did not seem fair, emotion began to cloud the decision-making process and poor outcomes occurred.

It is no secret that emotions are important influences on the decisions we make and the impact we have on other people. As leaders, this is true for us as well. Let's not assume that we are making good emotional connections with those under our leadership. Go out and ensure that they feel valued and appreciated for what they do and who they are. Oh, and by the way, why not collect some data along the way to show you actually are connecting emotionally?

Homework: Look at the 10 emotional needs that you as a leader can meet for your followers. Can you show supporting evidence that you actually meet those needs?

7 Steps To Effective Coaching

There are times when I want to start new things but hesitate because I am afraid I won’t know what to do. I felt this way for a long time with Facebook and LinkedIn. Everyone was doing it, it seemed simple and fun, but I didn’t want to look silly if I couldn't figure it out. I didn't know what to do, so I sat on the sideline and watched rather than jumping in and learning. I felt with same way with this blog. For over a year, I wrestled with the idea. Should I start blogging? What would I say? What would other people think about what I had to say? All this negativity swirled around in my mind.

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

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

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

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

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

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

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

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

Homework

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

You Need This More Than Anything Else to Lead Effectively In 2016

Last summer my wife Kim and I ran a “Hit & Run 5K” This was a traditional 5k with an obstacle course built into the run. It was a blast, and even though my 5K time was pathetic, we laughed so hard it made my side hurt. As you ran this 5K you would come up to an obstacle that had to be navigated in order to continue the course. These obstacles were of the blow-up variety, so they all had some bounce to them and many of them included a water feature as well.

Atlanta, GA USA - March 5, 2014: A woman begins to slip and fall into the water trying to run through the wrecking balls event, at the Ridiculous Obstacle Challenge (ROC) 5K race.

One of the obstacles we had to traverse was a rubber air mattress that had plastic pillars all around it that were filled with air. People stood behind the pillars and pushed them into you as you ran across the mattress. Their goal was to knock you off balance so that you could not go straight through the course and finish the obstacle. These pillar pushers were trying to keep you from hitting your goal time.

Many of you, during this week between the Christmas holiday and the New Year, find yourself on such an obstacle course. You are trying to get in some meaningful family time while closing out 2015 and preparing for 2016. It is like your family, 2015, and 2016, are plastic airfield pillars that are trying to knock you off course, inhibiting your ability to finish the race you are running.

There is an important leadership concept that is continuing to surface in the leadership literature, and my guess is that it is only going to get more study time as the years go on.

What I am going to continue to reinforce with those I train and coach is the idea of Rejuvenation.

If you are going to run through an obstacle course, from time to time you need to recharge your batteries. No leader can stay on the course, being battered from all sides, all the time.

Henry Thompson, in his most excellent book The Stress Effect states that leaders have an effective energy zone they run in. If the stress gets too high, they can be subject to burn out. If the stress is too low, they can rust out. As you prepare for 2016, how are you going to be intentional with your rejuvenation?

I hope you didn’t miss that last sentence. If you did, go back and read it again.

Here is the key: Be intentional with rejuvenation.

Leaders face immense stress and pressure from all parts of the organization and their lives. You have to be equipped to handle the stress that is going to come your way. One of the best ways to be equipped is to plan for different types of rejuvenating events.

Here are some tips to help you rejuvenate as your day goes along:

  • Be self-aware of the impact that stress of others can have on you. Many of us have a habit of picking up on the emotional stress that others bring when we interact with them. Own what you can own, but do not be subject to stress that someone else is feeling. Be empathetic instead of sympathetic with them.
  • Pay attention to what you eat for breakfast and lunch. I had a conversation with my physician recently about my diet. I told him I loved hamburgers. You see I really lovvvvve hamburgers. I just know that when I eat one, I go into a food coma for about 3 hours. So, if I have one for lunch, I might as well take the rest of the day off.
  • Drink 100 ounces of water every day. This will rejuvenate your cells as they dehydrate. It wall also get you up and moving to the restroom more which will give you the short break you need to refocus when you get back to your desk.
  • Find an exercise you like and commit to it. I love my boot camp and exercising 5 days a week. It works for me. It might not for you. Try yoga, try walking in the park, get a dog and walk it. Ride your bike. I know this one isn’t new, but if you are going to rejuvenate and be an effective leader, you have to find some way to release the cortisol that is accumulating in your muscles throughout the day.
  • Find a leadership group to join. Talking with like-minded peers is therapeutic. When done once a month for an hour or two , it can revitalize your energy. There is real power in sharing where you are in your leadership life and hearing where others are as well.
  • Get a coach. If you have some intense conversations that need to be released, there is nothing like a coaching relationship to help you clear your head so you can navigate your leadership course.

Homework: Pick one of the 6 Leadership Rejuvenators outlined above and implement it starting the first week in January. Commit to doing this one thing for the next 6 months and see if you can notice any change in your leadership energy. If you decide to implement one of these, please let us know. We would love to hear your story so we can learn and grow as well.