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. 

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

This article is the first in a four-part series for those who develop leaders to have more confidence and credibility.

Over the past 9 months at Livingston Consulting Group, we have been working on something pretty cool that I think many of you might find interesting, and possibly applicable to the leadership work that you do.

Here is Our Story

It all started with some conversations I was having with both my coaching clients and a few of the university students I teach in leadership development and executive coaching. At the end of my classes, I would get at least 3 emails from students saying something like, “I am getting a great education and will have a firm foundation for the direction I want my life to go. However, I feel like I am lacking the tools and resources to be successful.”

After having many phone conversations with these students about coaching, which often involved questions of process and procedure, coaching skill, sales and marketing, and practical development tools, I quickly saw needs and desires for leaders of all types:

  • those who coach others
  • those who shepherd others
  • those who counsel others
  • those who train others
  • those who consult with others
  • those who facilitate groups of others

The main message I heard as I talked with students and clients alike is that they desire to increase their credibility with those they serve. However, budgets are tightening, travel is becoming more restricted, virtual meetings are becoming a reality, and yet the leaders I talk with still lack quality tools to develop their followers.

Fast-forward to October of 2016: I am meeting with my virtual team (Brandi lives in Tampa, Angela lives in NYC, Michelle lives in Grand Rapids, Gretchen lives in Madrid, and Madison lives in Indianapolis,) and we are discussing Clayton Christensen’s book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice. In the book, Christensen outlines his "theory of jobs" that details how organizations should decipher what job it is that they actually do for their customers.

As we are discussing this book, someone on the team asked, "So, what job are our customers really asking us to do?"

This was an easier question to answer in regards to the training and executive coaching that I do. But when it came to providing tools and resources to those who develop others we felt like…we were missing the boat.

So we worked on it.

And we decided that our mission and the job we perform is: to provide confidence and credibility to those who develop others.

The Next Step

I will not bore you will the details of launching this new endeavor, but the real highlight is that we will be offering certification in 4 new leadership assessments starting in April of 2017! Over the next few weeks, I will be giving you a peak into what these tools can do for you as a leader, as someone who develops leaders, or someone who is interested in becoming a leader.

Emerging Leader Profile 360

This week I will be highlighting an assessment called Emerging Leader Profile 360 Feedback (ELP 360.)

This assessment is an electronic 360-degree assessment for those in an organization who are showing leadership promise and want a development plan that takes them toward this vision. This tool allows their superiors, peers, and subordinates to give the emerging leader competency-based quantitative and qualitative feedback.

Click here to download a free sample of the Emerging Leader 360 Report!

 

Brandi’s Experience

Brandi has been on my team for about 18 months now. She is responsible for all of our internal operations. While she has been in leadership roles in the past, the experience she had was not as positive as one would hope. So we decided to provide her with the ELP 360 as she is quickly emerging as a real leader on our team.

I asked Brandi a few questions that I thought you might enjoy her response to:

What was your overall impression of the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

I was pleasantly surprised by the comprehensive evaluation of my leadership that the Emerging Leader Profile 360 provided. Not only was the feedback I received from my manager, peers, and direct reports insightful and helpful, but I also found the self-evaluation to be incredibly valuable as it forced me to slow down and really think about how I interact with my work responsibilities, my colleagues, our clients, etc.

How did you initially feel when I approached you about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360?

When I was approached about taking the Emerging Leader Profile 360 I was both excited and a bit nervous. Self-evaluation of my leadership is one thing, but to open myself up to the evaluation of others on my team was a bit intimidating. Feedback is often the catalyst for growth, so I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about my leadership from the perspective of those who work closely with me on a day to day basis.

What is the most significant thing you learned about yourself from this feedback?

The most significant thing I learned about myself from this feedback has to do with my confidence as a leader. Both my self-evaluation and the feedback I received showed that I tend to “panic” when confronted or challenged by others. In the workplace, there will inevitably be times of unavoidable confrontation. As a leader, it is important that I develop the confidence necessary to express my thoughts in a healthy way, even in challenging times, rather than shutting down or avoiding the conflict entirely.

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

The insight from the 360 feedback has given me clarity around a few key areas where I can focus on maximizing my strengths as well as developing areas where improvement is needed. The feedback I received has given me a fresh and energized perspective and I look forward to the ways I will grow and develop my leadership as a result of this experience.

Brandi, thank you for your transparency in sharing what you learned about yourself and this process.

How about you, leader?

Do you need to have confidence and credibility with those you develop? If so stay tuned, we have more stories coming over the next few weeks, and in April you will be able to register to get certified in these exciting leader development tools!

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. 

What Advice Would You Give to This First-Time Leader?

As a part of my personal morning routine, I try really hard to spend at least 30 minutes in reflection, meditation, and prayer. I have been using a book recently to assist me in this quiet time called “40-Day Journey with Parker Palmer." The thing I like most about Palmer’s writing is the powerful way he provides insight into paradox. For example:

  • The inner life and the outer life
  • The darkness in the world and the light in the world
  • Action and reflection
  • Strength and weakness
  • Living while dying and dying while living

My mind has been in a couple of places this past week and my morning quiet time has proven quite valuable for me. My quandary has been a paradox of sorts between leadership and management. Reflection, meditation, and prayer, if done in the early morning, can have a profound impact on how you see your day, your week, and your world. If you do not currently use this leadership tool, I really recommend giving it a go and see how it might change your world.

The Story

My youngest son Greg and his beautiful wife, Sylvia, spent the week after Thanksgiving with my wife and me at our home in Florida. Their trip to the sunshine state had several purposes:

  • Vacation - Greg has been working for Enterprise Car Rental for a year and had earned some much needed “PTO" (paid time off).
  • Thanksgiving - As much as possible, we wanted our immediate family to celebrate the holiday together (we were missing our daughter and her husband this year who are spending a year in Madrid, Spain teaching and traveling).
  • Promotion - Greg recently accomplished a major feat! After only a year at Enterprise he passed their rigorous management training program and will go back to central Ohio as an assistant branch manager. He has really worked hard for this promotion and, at age 23, Kim and I could not be more proud of Greg’s effort and accomplishment.

One of the things that Sylvia and Greg wanted to do on vacation was to spend a day at the beach. One afternoon we all got in the old Kia Sorento and headed over to Melbourne Beach. While we were sitting and enjoying the sun, sand, and ocean, Greg made the statement, “It is interesting, up until now at Enterprise it has been all about me and what I do to perform. When I go back to work next Tuesday I will have 3 other people who will have a say in my performance.”

The Paradox

Many of you who have been in leadership for a while may remember that moment when you had this same realization. Some of you are new to leadership and may be experiencing this same thought and feeling. Some of you have been in leadership for a while and may just be waking up to this seemingly unsolvable puzzle.

How can something be totally about me and not about me at the same time?

This is one of the intriguing things about leadership. Perhaps it is the tension that exists between management and leadership. Perhaps it is the tension that exists between task and relationship. Perhaps it is the tension that exists inside of both task and relationship, for each of them have a “what about me?” and “what about my followers?” component.

The Advice

As we sat on the beach, Greg turned and said, “You know, Dad, you should blog about that. I think a lot of people new to leadership would like to know what to be thinking about as they get started in a transition like this.”

So, never being one to hold back when asked to give an opinion, here are the questions that were on Greg’s mind that day and what I came up with as a response:

  • How do I motivate the people on my team when I am not around? Some of my team is remote so I don’t see them every day. 

    So I think this answer is two-fold. First is to find highly motivated people like yourself. There is only so much external motivation a leader can provide. If they don’t have a high internal motivation, then something is wrong and they need to find some other method of self-actualization. No amount of external motivation, even big bonuses, will give them the satisfaction in work they desire. Having said that, if you have someone who is self-motivated, the best thing I know to do to motivate someone is to care for them. Show compassion. Really listen and give them ways they can solve problems. The ultimate goal you are striving for is that when you are not around, they would say “I wonder what Greg would do in this situation?” That is leadership!

  • How do I know when to manage and when to lead? 

    Leadership is about the team! Find out who they are. Find out what they like. Really work to get to know them. Let them know you will have high expectations for performance, but ultimately caring for the customer and the employee is what you are there for. They will do amazing things for you if they know you care about them and that you have their back as best you can as a first line leader.Management is about the process. It is organizing and planning. Be as transparent as you possibly can about “why” things are the way they are. Most managers focus on the “how." Really dig in and explain the "why" so there is understanding about the processes. Don’t just tell them what to do, show them how and then explain why. 

  • How Do I Organize the Work? 

    Work with your supervisor (leader) on this one. Get advice on best practices they have seen. Seek out a mentor who has been really successful in your role. Each organization will have its own secrets to success. There is nothing like a good mentor when trying to figure out organization. When they share advice, implement it! Give it a fair try! It is frustrating as a mentor to give advice then have someone not take it and show up for the next meeting with the same question, or worse, having failed because they thought they knew better than to take the advice of wisdom.

  • What is the best way to give feedback & build trust? 

    The best way to build trust is to keep your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you declare you are going to “win” and have really high standards then you need to hold everyone on the team accountable for performance. You cannot have different standards for performance. You may have to make individual decisions based on circumstances but never have different standards. As far as feedback goes, my experience is people want it straight. They don’t want it sugar-coated. They don’t want 3 positives and then the “negative bomb." There are three steps I follow for feedback: 1. Give the situation the event occurred in. 2. Give the observed behavior they exhibited. 3. Give the result you observed. This is feedback. If you want them to change, coach them on what they could to in that situation, what the desired behavior looks like, and what result you expect. Ask them how they could do it differently next time to obtain a better result.

  • How do I achieve balance in my life?

    One of the conversations I have with many of my clients is, “all work and no play makes Jack/Jill very dull."  I don’t really ascribe to the "how to balance life" equation. I see life much more as flow and energy. What gives you energy and what sucks the life out of you. For all of us what we really control is our time, and to a lesser but equally important domain, our health (both physical and spiritual). Ensure as a leader that you find ways to revitalize yourself before, during, and after your work time. Make sure you have good positive thoughts going into your brain first thing in the morning and eat something for breakfast. Stay active during the day. Pay attention to the relationships you care most about. Never, ever, ever take them for granted. You will be tired and tempted to be isolated when you get home at the end of a long day. If so, how can you reenergize yourself so that those relationships you care most about at home feel as valued as your customers and your employees? Find your energy flow. No segment of your life gets all your focus.

Some of these answers could have been much bigger and broader and probably deserve some context. If you have thoughts on how you would answer these I would love to hear them. Why not leave a thought as a comment on my site?  If you send me an email that is cool, too, and with your permission I will post your comment on the site for you. I really do think a lot of young leaders have questions like this. Let's create a “Leadership Wisdom” forum that can serve as a repository for their leadership questions.

Homework

You have two assignments this week. The first is to provide your comment and leadership advice to the above questions. There is nothing like experience weighing in on questions like this. The second is some intentional personal reflection.  If you are not spending time in personal reflection in the morning, I highly encourage this discipline. Take 30 minutes with a spiritual book (I like using the Psalms or Proverbs from the Bible) or a book by a spiritual leader (I love using work by Parker Palmer and Ken Boa), and find a short passage that takes less than 5 minutes to read. Then spend the rest of your time reflecting on what the reading means to you. If you decide to implement a practice like this, I would love to hear how it is going for you.

When Professionals Write Development Plans What Do They Do

Might as well get used to it, we are very much a “what have you done for me lately” society. The folks I work with say things like, “Scott, I just had the best year ever and my boss wants more," or “My team just voted me most valuable and want to know what is next for us.” As a society, why do we have such a hard time celebrating success and achievement for more than a day? Why can we not bathe in the success and enjoy the moment for more than a moment? Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point already...

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By the time this article gets to you the Chicago Cubs will have celebrated winning the 2016 World Series. If you are reading this article, that means the rumor of the end of the world coming when the North Siders win it all has been grossly exaggerated. The accolades for the team keep pouring in, both in the major media and on my own personal text messaging. My good friend Ken Bish even wants Billionaire Joe Ricketts to give President of baseball operations for the Cubs, Theo Epstein, an ownership stake in the team. My answer was, Ricketts is a billionaire, they don’t give anything, that is why they are billionaires. Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

I woke up this morning, the day after the thrilling game 7, which kept me up until 1:30am. Come on MLB, really, you couldn’t have started the game at 7pmEST? Why not take a lesson from Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump? The people who care are going to vote for you no matter what, so why not make it most convenient and give the best product possible option for those who care and want to consume it? I mean really, this is a Thursday and some of us have to work so we can pay you $50 for a T-shirt that costs $1.25 to manufacture! Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

So, when I got up this morning, I put the coffee pot on and turned on the TV - something I never do. I practically ran into the living room to turn on ESPN’s Mike & Mike because I wanted to hear the celebration and insight from this historic event. One of the most interesting interviews was with Aaron Boone, who hit a home run in extra innings in game 7 of a League Championship series. He talked about how hard it is starting at 8pm the day leading up to the first pitch. Ah, but I am starting to digress from my main point again.

The Point

I just finished reading what I hope becomes a classic in the leader development space. The book is "GRIT" by Angela Duckworth and my main learning from her research is that those who succeed stick with it. They don’t let themselves digress from the main point.

Duckworth calls this perseverance. The most impactful research for me comes from a Stanford Psychologist, Catherine Cox, who studied 301 exceptional historical figures. According to the research, there were only two things that made the exceptional truly exceptional in their field: passion & perseverance.

“Quiet determination to stick to a Goal.” “Tendency not to abandon tasks in the face of obstacles." 

Theoverance

When professionals write development plans they practice Theoverance.

This term has its genesis for me as I have watched Theo Epstein craft this 2016 World Champion baseball team. There are three steps to this process, and the first and third one are often the ones that are ignored.

  • Have a vision for what leadership success looks like. Before you plan, you must dream and your dream has to be in sync with your definition for success. This is Stephen Covey’s famous “begin with the end in mind” principle. Many leaders have a vision for their organization based upon what is in front of them rather than what is possible.
  • Have a plan that is aligned with your vision. Is your plan filled with actions or is it really taking you toward your vision? This is where a lot of stress comes in for leaders. Is your plan taking you toward your vision or are you just putting in time? Are you choosing safety over satisfaction? No judgment here on my part. I understand safety and if this aligns with your vision then this is the plan that is right for you. You just need to manage the expectation that come along with a safety plan.
  • Persevere with the plan. If you have a vision and a plan, stick with it. Too many leaders I work with get bored, or when the going gets tough in the middle of the plan, they give up. When the going gets tough this is when you are learning what you need to do and not do for your vision to become a reality. If you like your vision and your plan, stick with it.

Baseball, and more specifically Theo Epstein, have taught me something about developing into a winner. I am now going to call it "Theoverance." Some call it perseverance, some call it grit. Some may even call it resilience. I am calling it Theoverance.

Theo had a five-year plan. Here are the results of that plan:

  • 2011 lost 91 games (56% of games)
  • 2012 lost 101 games (63% of games)
  • 2013 lost 96 games (60% of games)
  • 2014 lost 89 games (54% of games)

By now you have to be saying, yes, Scott, we know.. It is the Cubs. But wait! Remember, there was a plan… The vision took time to bring to reality.

  • 2015 won 97 games (60% of games)
  • 2016 won 103 games (64% of games)

You see, Theo and the Cubs management could have easily quit, given up, chalked it up to the Goat, or whatever mystical Bartman type curse could be dreamed up. But they did not! They stayed with the plan.

The Learning

Three points from our time together today:

  • Honestly assess your vision.
  • Have a leadership development plan. If you don’t have a plan, you will for sure stay where you are.
  • Stick with your plan. Believe in yourself. If you have a dream, you can achieve it.

It is vital for leaders to have a personal vision for where they want to head.

A significant part of managing stress is managing expectations. When reality does not equal expectations stress can sneak in and cripple your plans.

This article is dedicated to the memory to the three reasons I am an elated Cub fan today:

Harold “Poggy” Livingston  1899-1985
Ruth Ann Baker 1931-1990
Harold Robert Livingston 1936-2003
"Wait until next year" takes on a whole new meaning for me. Vegas has the odds of the Cubs winning in 2017 @ 3:1. Stay focused boys, stay focused and stick with the plan.

5 Tricks That Are Real Treats for Leader Development

Last week I had the opportunity to give a webinar to a group of highly talented coaches who are members of the Georgia International Coach Federation. The topic of our discussion was The Secret of Developing Emotional Intelligence. As webinars go, it was a fascinating hour of exploration on what leaders can do TODAY to become more emotionally intelligent. As we went through the topic there was one slide that really caught the attention of the coaches. There were more questions and comments about this one idea than any other we discussed.

Developing the Whole Leader

If you have followed these ramblings for any length of time, you know I am a big believer in the development of the entire person: body, mind, soul, and strength. The entire leader needs to show up every day. If we miss developing any part of our humanity then we become out of balance. If you ever have driven a car with a flat tire you know what it feels like when 3 of the tires are full of air and running fine, but one of them is lifeless and flat. You can’t go as far and you can’t go as fast. The same is true with leader development. If we don’t balance our development, we will struggle in the long-run with effectiveness in our leadership lives.

Developing your body entails paying attention to what you put in it, how you use it, and how you rest it.  Developing your mind involves intellectual stimulation, creativity, and includes things like serious play.

Developing your mind involves intellectual stimulation, creativity, and includes things like serious play.

Developing your strength to me means your attitude. How are you showing up? Do you provide energy and enthusiasm to those you lead or do you “suck the life” out of the room? Strength entails attitude, passion, commitment, perseverance.

Developing your soul. This is what I want to engage you in today. The soul is the essence of who you are. This is often a scary place for some folks because it feels religious and spiritual on one hand, or conceptual and theoretical on the other. I want to acknowledge this fear and say that yes, there is an element of spirituality and theory in this idea of the soul. But it is not one we should run from or ignore, as it is one that for sure can affect our balance as a leader.

The soul is often thought of in terms of the human psyche. The etymology of the word psyche refers to the animating spirit of the individual. Those who are experts in the spiritual disciplines tell us this is the part of our humanity that is eternal and lives forever. If you believe this premise, then paying attention to what makes it up and developing it has real value to all of us, especially those called into leadership.

5 Realms of the Human Psyche

The graphic used in this post represents how I am looking at the human psyche these days. While this graphic is not a complete picture of the soul, I do think it begins to capture major components when it comes to leader development. (i.e. an example of what is not pictured would be a memory. I believe one aspect of the human soul is the capacity to recall history, even though our recollection at times can be dim.) The graphic is best read from the inside out, so that if some type of stimulus happens in our outside world, the first filter that stimulus goes through is your values and beliefs and then the reaction moves out toward a behavior you elicit.

Values/Beliefs

At the very core of the leader are our values and beliefs. Some scholars will take these constructs and call this the leader's worldview. While every leader has a worldview, most of these structures that support the core of who we are, we don’t think much about. Your worldview is how you rationalize and explain everything that exists and that matters to you. A simple tool to understand your values is a values card sort.

Leadership Question: Do your values/beliefs/worldview align with your leadership principles and actions?

Affective Emotion

These emotions are your basic feelings and perceptions that shape your world. The feelings that are elicited by events, the recognition of those feelings, and the experience you have with the emotion are all part of the affective realm. Things like fear, disgust, happiness, surprise are all responses leaders elicit, recognize, and experience. I think the MSCEIT is an excellent development tool for understanding this level of emotion.

Leadership Question: Are you aware of the impact of your affective responses that you are not proud of?

Personality

The next realm is that of our preferences or personality. When you get a stimulus from outside, do you prefer to react via the outer realm of people and things or the inner world of ideas and impressions? There is no right or wrong in this domain, only what the individual finds most comfortable for them. Some of the more popular models for describing personality are DISC, MBTI, and a newer tool, the Pearman Personality Integrator.

Leadership Question: Do you know your personality type along with its strengths and inherent weaknesses?

Trait Emotional Intelligence

This level describes a leader's awareness of their emotional ability. While there are several models for describing trait emotional intelligence, my personal favorite is the Bar-On EQi 2.0. The model considers the emotional ability around 5 distinct domains such as self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, decision making, and stress management.

Leadership Question: Do you know how balanced emotionally you are as a leader?

Skills & Talents & Behaviors

Finally, we reach the outermost layer. It is actually the layer that is seen by the most casual of observers. Unless others know us well, rarely do they know our worldview or our emotional triggers. What they see are the skills and talents we display. Tools such as Strengthfinders, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Inventory, or 360-degree feedback are valuable at helping leaders understand their behaviors and the impacts they can have on others.

As a leader, when you are thinking about developing this innermost part of who you are, I want to encourage you to develop the whole you. For example, you may be an excellent politician with great negotiating skills, but without a value structure to support your skill, we all know too well what we get when this happens. Before we are too hard on the politicians, you may be a minister who is very good at public speaking, but if you do not value people you may end up hurting those you say you care most about.

Leader, don’t leave any one of these domains to chance in your development. I encourage you to consider all of them as you think through what development needs you are planning for the next year. What I see too much of in my executive coaching practice is leaders wanting to focus on skill, rather than doing the deeper but more valuable work.

Best hopes as you traverse your own personal development.

Guaranteed This Will Make You a Better Leader...or Your Money Back

Many of you know I am passionate about the health of the leader. The premise I use is pretty basic… You have to be present to lead. Leaders have to show up. If they don’t, followers will drift from your vision. As a leader, your health matters. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? And what message does this send to those who follow you?

As a person who is a cancer survivor, (cancer free for the past 3 years), I can attest to the fact that two of the greatest gifts in life are health and time. Maybe that is why I am willing to pay more for my healthcare.

You read that last sentence right. I choose to pay more for my health care than I have to.

My Story

When my wife and I moved to the Orlando area around 4 years ago, I made the choice to join a concierge medical practice.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, concierge medicine is a fancy term for medical membership. The patient pays a monthly fee to join a physician practice, similar to a subscription like Netflix!

My wife and I pay $3000 per year to be a member of my doctor's practice. This is over and above the $1,200 per month we pay for traditional, high deductible health insurance for the two of us. A lot of money, you might say. But, in my opinion, it is totally worth it! Sure, it is much more than my monthly Netflix membership, but I get so much more than a movie from it!

I can hear you asking, "Scott, why would you choose to pay so much money to be a part of a physician practice?"

Fair question.

My Answer

I want quality care, and I don’t think you get that in a 5-minute office visit that you often have to sit and wait over an hour to occur. As a leader, our time is precious. I understand the typical physician has no idea what is behind the door when they walk in, and some people are really sick. But come on, every time I go to the office? This type of experience is not the exception, it is the rule.

According to Dr. Caleb Gardner, a physician and resident at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, and Dr. John Levinson, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, primary care appointments are now as short as five minutes, and the physician must spend much of that time typing rather than attending to the patient and performing a physical examination.

In order for a physician to make a living, they must see a certain number of patients each day, in a certain amount of time. My understanding is that it is a numbers game. The more patience you can see in the fewest amount of time, the more money you make. Not really a tough business model to understand. It seems similar to McDonalds to me: the more hamburgers sold, the more profit.

More volume equals more profit, except seeing my doctor should not be like visiting a fast food restaurant. As a leader of people, neither should yours. Your health is too important. The algorithms your doctor needs to go through to accurately make a diagnosis are too difficult to do in 1/12th of an hour.

My reasoning is fairly simple…I want both quality and quantity of care for my health.

I never bought the quality versus quantity time argument when I was raising my kids. There is no substitute for quantity of time. Time and health are not replaceable in this life. I can make more money, but once my health goes downhill making more money is really hard. So I pay $4.15 ($8.30 for both myself and my wife) a day so that I can get both quality and quantity care from my physician. Interestingly, Kim and I spent over $8 at Starbucks the other day. Go figure.

How It Works

In exchange for the yearly membership fee, my doctor promises to keep his practice to a small number of patients, almost one-third the size of a standard family practice physician. This membership allows my doctor to spend more time doing what he loves to do, practice medicine.

My appointment time is one hour in length. I have never spent less than 40 minutes going over my history, labs, sonograms, or whatever other data that has been collected. For me, these discussions are highly motivational. I leave my appointment energized about what I am doing to stay healthy, not depressed about my problems. I see my concierge medicine physician as my “health coach." His job is to give me advice on how I can stay in this game of life with both quality and quantity. His perspective is that I can live a long, full, active, and healthy life, not that I am a disease waiting to happen. I love the optimistic outlook!

I also have my doctors email address and cell phone number. How about you?

This is a great comfort to me, as like many of you, I travel a lot. It is really nice to know that if I get sick on the road all I have to do is email or call. To date I have not had to use his cell phone (for this I am thankful), but when I email I get a response usually within an hour or two.

These thoughts are perhaps best summed up in the article I referenced above by Dr. Gardner and Dr. Levinson, who say that medicine is losing its humanity in favor of market efficiency. When it comes to my personal health, I am not willing to make that trade-off. How about you?

Call to Action

Leaders, this leaning toward market efficiency doesn’t have to define you. Hey, if you like your doctor and you like how you are treated, then in the wise words of one of my professors in grad school, Dr. Sharon Drury, “Keep On Keepin’ On." No change required. As long as you are meeting your personal health goals (you do have them, don’t you?), then all is well.

However, if you're sick of the weight of the “efficient” health system, then for the price of a Starbucks coffee per day, you have an out.

Is concierge medicine right for everyone? Maybe not. The answer to that question is above my pay grade. If you don’t prioritize your health, why spend your hard earned money in this way?

I had a mentor tell me one time, “Show me your checkbook record and I will show you what you prioritize in life." For me, it really isn’t that hard of a decision, and it is a check worth writing.

You lead, you choose, but you can’t lead if you can’t show up.

Would those you lead say this about you?

My good friend Kris Bowers is the president of the Indiana chapter of the Kiwanis Club. A few weeks ago she asked me to be the keynote speaker at their annual convention. I was honored to be asked by Kris, who is a classmate of mine from graduate school and a person who exudes servant leadership. Kris and I had the opportunity to talk over the phone about her organization and the goals for my talk prior to the event. As I was taking notes on what Kris was saying about Kiwanis and the direction the service organization was headed, one theme rang through loud and clear. According to Kris, this organization will thrive based upon the leadership that is exhibited.

Perhaps this is not a shocking revelation to you. I know so many of you who follow these musings truly believe that organizations rise and fall based upon their leadership.

And yet, how many of us fall into the leadership fallacies of:

  • Leader has the best view.
  • Leader is the smartest person in the room.
  • Leader means power position.
  • I got this far, I won’t fail.
  • My experience is valid, so I am better grounded than anyone else.

I have to admit that I have to check myself often to guard against these traps. Just the other day I was talking with my staff about a product we are excited about rolling out in 2017. In the middle of the discussion, I had a moment of self-awareness. It was not an out of body experience or anything like that, however, I found myself both talking with the staff and observing their behavior at the same time. I realized I had been droning on for about 5 minutes with all my knowledge, wisdom, and experience about what we should do and how we should do it.

It was kind of surreal.

In the moment, my mind took me back to the keynote I had done for Kris and the Kiwanis Leaders of Indiana. You see, I had asked these leaders to think of a leader they admired the most, then to write down the leadership quality that was most admirable about that leader.

In a very brave technology moment for me, I had the 300 or so participants text the leadership quality that they admired most about the leader they were thinking of to my PollEverywhere account. The results of their work were shown instantly on the screen.

Here is the actual result of that poll:

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Nowhere on this list of most admirable qualities is: Smartest in the room, Most Experienced, Can’t fail, All-powerfull.

As I studied the graphic, I found almost the exact opposite:

  • Listener
  • Compassionate
  • Selfless
  • Humble
  • Positive

If we asked those who follow you to name the one attribute they admire most about your leadership, what word would they pick? What would your word cloud look like that would describe your leadership?

Homework

Spend some time in reflection on the last time you were with your team. Ask yourself, did you listen to them more than you tried to position your agenda? Did you really care what they had to say or did you just hold the time until you could exert your power? Were you able to remain positive even in the face of adversity? What does it mean for you to be humble and how does this attribute affect your leadership?

To Any Leader Who Has Ever Had a Struggle

I recently had a conversation with a good friend of mine, Drew Wilkerson, on some interesting leadership ideas. I was excited because since Drew was my last call of the day and it was Tuesday, which meant Taco Tuesday at the Livingston home. My wife, Kim, and I were getting out all the ingredients so we could assemble our own tacos: tortillas, ground beef, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, etc. I noticed my wife, Kim, struggling to take the lid off of the salsa jar, so I gently gestured for her to give me the jar and proudly assumed the position to heroically twist the lid off the jar. It wouldn't budge. I put forth a little more effort, twisting harder this time. Nothing. I resorted to running it under hot water for a while, then took a towel to dry it before I tried again. Sure enough, the lid finally gave way and the jar was open for salsa to be enjoyed that evening.

Then it hit me. Drew and I had been talking about leadership LIDS as a part of our time together. During our conversation, the idea of the lid intrigued me. Yes, the lid is there as a cover or protection for what's inside, but could it also be a cover or barrier keeping you from what needs to be shared or utilized? Many times it's our own emotions and mentality that is holding us back.

In this blog, we are going to focus on four of these potential barriers: Loneliness, Indecisiveness, Defensiveness, and Selfishness.

Let's define the LIDS and consider how we remove them. As you read, think about your own leadership and which LIDS you need to take off of yourself. Which of these LIDS is holding you back from sharing what you have to offer?

Loneliness This could be something you are experiencing in the work place or in your personal life. It can creep up when you've physically spent too much time on your own or you feel as if no one can relate to what you are going through or processing. Feeling alone is difficult, and doing alone is even more challenging. As humans, we are meant for relationships. Although alone time can be rejuvenating, we aren't meant to remain there in order to progress or thrive.

Remove this lid: Invite people into your world. Whether it's including them on a project you are working on or asking someone to get coffee. If the loneliness doesn't subside and you are having trouble processing or expressing your thoughts, consider talking to a mentor, counselor, or coach that can help you.

Indecisiveness You may say that being indecisive comes from the inability to make a decision either because there's seems to be no wrong or right way to go. While that's true, I also see a lot of fear behind decision making. What if the decision I make is the wrong one? Yet making a decision is going to keep you moving while indecisiveness keeps you stagnant. How can you lead people if you aren't really going anywhere yourself?

Remove this Lid: Make a decision. As the familiar Nike brand claims, "Just Do It." Don't let the fear of failure keep you from moving forward. Making a mistake or taking a wrong turn doesn't mean you failed, instead, it's an opportunity to learn and grow.

Defensiveness In the great American sport of football, the defensive line has a responsibility to keep the other team's offense and quarterback from advancing the field with the ball. They push. They fight. This creates struggle and tension, not to mention it is exhausting as they keep it up until the other team scores or it is their turn to play offense. I bring up this example because we tend to think of defense as protecting, yet the defensive line isn't protecting anything. They are pushing back and preventing advancement. We can be defensive in our own lives thinking we are protecting something. This could be our job, our reputation, or more often than not, our pride. In this case, protection is a fallacy and our defensiveness creates a barrier and tension that prevents the advancement of our goals or our team.

Remove this lid: It takes some intentional awareness of your emotions to see when you may be acting defensively. Your heart might start beating faster, your body temperature rises, and you may feel your lips tighten or unconsciously cross your arms. Try to identify what happens when you start to feel defensive, why you are feeling it, and what you might think you're "protecting." How is your defensiveness hold your own team back?

Selfishness Putting your needs and desires before others is the easiest way to explain selfishness. It's even easier, unfortunately, to get caught up in selfishness if we don't stop to think about what we are doing or behaving. Consider what your priorities are right now. Are you focusing on your own advancements and needs? What about those of your team and followers? Don't get me wrong, self-care is important, as long as it's not at the expense of another person.

Remove this lid: Think about your goals, priorities, and needs. What would it look like if you included your team in those goals, changing "I" statements to "we." Even call on your team and followers to find our what their goals and priorities are, then think about how you can help them achieve their goals. Practice humility by stepping back, letting them take lead on a project, and praising them for a job well done publicly. Trust me, their success will be your success.

There may be other things you struggle with as a leader besides these four. I would love to hear from you and to have you describe your struggle. I promise two things: not to name you in any posting without permission, and to provide some perspective on overcoming your struggle in a subsequent post. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but as a community, I know we can all be better when we lean on each other.

Homework: Think about our LIDS analogy above and identify one of them that you need to remove. What action steps or conversations do you need to have in order to remove them? What benefits will come to you and your followers when you remove the lid?

Stop Following Your Passion, Try This Instead

When The Passion Burns Out

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

Does this feel familiar to you?

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

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It's Happened to Me

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

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

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

Cure it with Curiosity

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

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

Stay Curious

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

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

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

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

The Power of Curiosity

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

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

Homework

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

All Leaders Should Do This One Thing

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

  1. Perfection is Not the Goal

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

  2. Let Go of Expectations

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

  3. Write Like It's Your Job

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

Writing is a Journey

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

Homework

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

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

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.

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Cari Nicholson! Cari won a copy of Jan Tilley’s new book, “Eat Well to Be Well,” from last week's blog contest.

Hey, Cari, check out the Yogurt Marinated Grilled Chicken on p. 103! I made it last night on my smoker. Only 170 calories; 7 gms of fat, and 24 gms of protein. It was KILLER good!

If you want to order a copy of Jan’s book you can find it by clicking here.

If you are saying, “Hey, I didn’t know there was a contest last week!”...

First, here is the link to last week's guest blog from Jan Tilley herself! It's a really good one you don’t want to miss it.

Second, don’t fret. We are going to give away another copy of Jan’s book this week! Just leave us your favorite healthy eating tip, either when you travel or when you are home, and we will draw another winner next week!

The Leadership Paradox

Speaking of the winner.

Do you remember the famous paradox story from Greek mythology of Achilles and the tortoise?

Achilles was a warrior character of great strength and speed. If you want a modern day equivalent, think of Usain Bolt who currently holds the title as the fastest man in the world. The tortoise is, well, you know what a tortoise is: slow, steady, and sure.

Imagine a race between Achilles (or Usain) and the tortoise, a sprint like the 100-yard dash. And to make it interesting, we are going to give the tortoise a 50-yard head start.

Who do you think would cross the 100-yard finish line first? Most of you would say that Achilles would easily catch the tortoise and beat him soundly.

Not so fast, says Parmenides, a pre-Socratic scholar, who philosophized that one's senses can lead to results which are false and deceitful.

Parmenides (and his student Zeno) make the claim that for Achilles to beat the tortoise, he first has to catch up to the animal. These ancient philosophers say this can never happen, and here is why:

Suppose when Achilles starts running, the tortoise is at spot X. When Achilles gets to spot X, then the tortoise is at X2. When Achilles gets to X2 then the tortoise is at X3….hence the ancients say that Achilles will never catch the tortoise and the tortoise wins the race.

The Leadership Lesson

What is wrong with the above paradox? Well, there might be several things wrong (there are some quantum physicists who say there might be more truth to the paradox than we give credit, but their thinking goes beyond my feeble brain).

If we only think about one dimension such as distance, then the logic used by Parmenides and Zeno might be true. But we know that a race is more than distance. We have to consider things like strength, speed, motivation, and mental preparation just to name a few. You can not just use one dimension to determine who is going to win a race.

As we think about what goes into leadership, too many of us pick one dimension and focus only on that one item. But just like the race between Achilles and the tortoise, we have to consider more than distance in order to determine a winner.

For example, many folks I work with equate certain leadership styles to leader effectiveness. Leadership is much more than personality; being an ENTJ on the Myers-Briggs or a high “D” on the DiSK. Leadership is so much more than being able to articulate a vision, or being influential, or even having a servants heart.

Maybe it is time for us to get a much broader view of what it takes to be a leader!

Connection to Wellness

Over the past few weeks, we have dedicated these electrons (we used to call them pages, but that just doesn’t feel right anymore) to the idea of wellness.

How might wellness inform our ideas on leadership? This is a question I have been asking myself a lot lately:

  • Perhaps spurred on by what is going on in the US political arena.
  • Perhaps aroused by some experiences in my past.
  • Instigated potentially by some reading I have been doing.
  • Propelled by some enlightened conversations I have been having.

Likely a combination of these.

WELLNESS the process you go through as a leader to live a meaningful, purposeful, and intentional existence.

WELLNESS as a metric for leadership in addition to personality, vision, integrity, performance.

The next time you have to select a leader in your organization, why not frame your interview around a wellness framework? Stop asking them about past achievements, or at least expand the horizon of your discussion to topics of:

  • How positive and affirming the person is.
  • How they view their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
  • How does achieving their potential help others achieve what they want out of life?

One of the problems we have in our society is that we think only on one dimension. We use the winning and losing arguments of performance to gauge success. This is not a metric that is going to serve us well in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-competitive, far from it. But focusing only on performance for performances sake can leave us longing as humans.

We still have as a classic example of this phenomena, “The Stock Market Crash of 1929."  In a nut shell, people thought the performance of the market would always go up. To the average investor, stocks were a sure thing. Performance was all that mattered. As we all know, fraudulent companies were formed and money poured into them. Then on October 24, 1929, panic selling ensued as the realization came that the market was nothing more than an overly speculative and inflated bubble.

Performance is only one metric to be studied.

Even if you do not want to change your paradigm, perhaps we might at least consider things in addition to performance. Perhaps we should look beyond results and start looking at what goes into those results. Focus on quality inputs instead of solely looking at outcomes.

Leadership is a holistic discipline. Don’t get caught living in just one dimension where a tortoise could beat Usain Bolt in a 100-yard dash. This logic is doomed to leave you wanting and spending too much time diagnosing what went wrong in your leadership.

Homework: Reflect for yourself on how you are doing on your wellness journey. Use the questions above to ask yourself what you are doing to live a more successful existence. Grade yourself on your emotional, occupational, physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual health. How are you doing?

7 Strategies for Eating Healthy on the Road

[guestpost]Today I would like to welcome my friend, Jan Tilley, to the blog. Jan is a gifted author and dietician, and her new book 'Eat Well to Be Well' is available now. I'm excited to be giving away a few copies of her book on today's blog, so enjoy the post and be sure to comment below for your chance to win![/guestpost] As a dietitian and professional speaker who is very accustomed to traveling for business, I can tell you that eating healthy while traveling may not be easy, but it is not impossible!

Page1Many of my clients struggle with making healthy choices on the road.  I have a client who entertains customers at dinner several nights a week.  As a part of our counseling, he asked me to go with him to dinner to teach him to make healthy choices at a steakhouse.  What I discovered was that he was making fairly healthy choices but his portions were way out of line.  He started the meal with a large shrimp cocktail, followed by a Caprese salad, a 12-ounce rib eye steak with a loaded baked potato, red wine, and dessert.   None of these were horrible choices, but the overall combined meal exceeded 3000 calories – way more than he needed for the entire day!  For our meal together, I made the following suggestions:  small shrimp cocktail, house salad with dressing on the side, 6 oz. petite filet, steamed vegetables, one glass of red wine, a decaf cappuccino for dessert.  With just a few small changes, he was enjoying a delicious, well-balanced dinner at the same restaurant for less than 700 calories!  To remind him to order wisely, I asked him to repeat to himself as he made his selection from the menu, “the only meal I need to get right is this one, I am only one meal away from success!”

Here are 7 tried and true strategies to help you maneuver the challenges of making healthy food choices on the road:

  1. Drink water. The goal is ½ your body weight in ounces.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim for about 75 ounces of water a day.  This will serve two purposes – it will keep you feeling fuller and it will prevent you from thinking you are hungry when really you are just thirsty!
  2. Stick to your normal eating schedule. If you eat breakfast at 7:00 every day at home, then try to stick with that time on the road.  Traveling is not an excuse to miss meals and snacks.  The goal is to eat about every 3 hours to stay energized for your day.  Be sure to pack or purchase healthy foods (think apples, carrots, nuts, jerky) to prevent hunger and maximize productivity.
  3. Keep it real! Avoid processed and fast foods that are laden with fat, sugar, salt and a list of chemicals your body doesn’t need and doesn’t know how to process!  When faced with making difficult choices on the road, look at the menu to determine which choices are made up of primarily vegetables and lean protein without a lot of high-fat sauces and toppings.
  4. Limit or Avoid Alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can be a huge calorie trap!  A couple of tips to remember; make lower calorie choices such as a low-calorie mixer, beer, or wine and when consuming alcohol, have one drink followed by one very big glass of water before deciding to have another.
  5. Protein is Your Friend! Eating protein stabilizes your blood sugar and keeps you feeling satisfied.  Carbohydrates are digested quickly and leave you feeling hungry again very quickly.  If you will make it a habit to eat lean protein every 3 hours throughout your day, you will be much less likely to overindulge in the evening.
  6. Eat Breakfast. Start your day right with a healthy, protein-rich breakfast.  This will prevent making bad choices midmorning when you are starving!
  7. Free isn’t FREE! Conventions and events are notorious for providing piles of decadent foods for meals and snacks.  It is tempting to load up to keep yourself entertained and awake during meetings, then have some extra to take back to your room for an evening snack.  This spells trouble for your waistline!

For more tools on building a healthy you, check out Jan’s new book, Eat Well to Be Well.  Jan is a powerful thought leader in all things health and wellness.  In the book, she translates the most current science-based information into easy to read tips and tools for making healthy choices in how we eat, sleep, exercise, and manage stress.  Eat Well to Be Well is available on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and on Jan’s website at www.jtawellness.com.  In addition to her knowledge as a medical professional, Jan is quite the foodie.  On her website, you will find thousands of tried and true healthy recipes along with past blogs and health resources.  While visiting the site, be sure to sign up for Jan’s weekly newsletter!

Homework

Get a copy of Jan's book and equip yourself with tools for making healthy choices! I am giving away three copies here on today's blog. If you would like a chance to win one of those copies, leave a comment below sharing your favorite tip for eating healthy while traveling.

Winners will be announced in the comment section, as well as by email, on Friday.

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?