Leadership

5 Common Vision Mistakes and How to Fix Them

When most leaders think of vision they imagine the two-fold process of creating the vision and casting it to their team. These are important elements but the responsibility of vision implementation does not solely rest in the creation process. Rather than the actual vision getting the blame when it's not gaining traction, maybe we need to dig a little deeper into the question of why our vision is not working.

Listed below are some reflections on common vision-setting mistakes. I’ve either made these mistakes myself or been associated with leaders who could have received better results if they had paid closer attention to these elements.

Problem#1: Not describing where the vision originated.

Whether your vision comes to you from a mountaintop, or at your desk, or from team collaboration, you need to communicate it to those in your organization. Your team needs sufficient details in order to understand and have trust in where you are taking them. Some will follow blindly, but most will not. As you provide details on how you arrived at your vision, you will earn their trust.

The Fix: Spend time providing details around the vision to your team so they can catch your enthusiasm for where the organization is headed.

Problem #2: Lack of role clarity for inner circle followers.

Those in your inner circle must have clarity about what role they play in order to make the vision a reality. Your direct reports must be able to articulate and own the entire vision from the creation process to the communication and implementation. Accountability is vital within this inner circle. The leader should not bear sole responsibility for creation, ownership, and implementation. These elements must be an organizational process.

The Fix: Everyone in the inner circle must have specific accountability for their aspect of vision implementation.

Problem #3: Lack of personal belief in the vision.

Many of you do not have direct impact or influence on the vision for your organization, however, others in your organization need to know that you embrace the vision. You do not have to agree with every small detail around implementation, nonetheless, it is vital that you believe in the vision and overall direction of the organization. If not, you probably need to do some reflection on whether you are in the right place. If you do not like the vision, influence it. If you can not influence it and you don’t like it, then maybe your calling is elsewhere.

The Fix: Reflect on how you personally believe in the vision of your organization. Write out your thoughts. If you don’t believe in the vision, get out. You will only be a barrier to performance in the long run. If you need to leave the organization, this reflection will help you articulate your beliefs for the next group you associate with.

Problem #4: Abdication of the vision.

Here is one I heard recently: “This is Pastor Eric’s vision for our church!" May these words never be uttered in your organization where the masses have not bought in and owned the vision for themselves. If ownership of the vision does not get passed down, the likelihood of the vision becoming reality is slim.

The Fix: Everyone in the organization needs to be accountable for how they are implementing the vision in their department. As you interact with your team have conversations about what they are doing to own and make the vision a reality?

Problem #5: Devaluing encouragement.

People in the organization need to know that you believe they understand the vision. Far too many leaders cast a vision then move on to something else. The best way to build positive momentum around the vision is to articulate it and catch people carrying it out. When you look for those opportunities of catching the vision, celebrate and let everyone in the organization commend their achievement. Again, there is no better way to get the behavior you are looking for than to communicate success. Period.

The Fix: Catch people implementing the vision and celebrate it with the world!

Where do you see yourself in these 5 vision mistakes? Perhaps it would be helpful to write a 3 bullet point action plan for you to turn your mistake into learning, and eventually a success. If you try this, we would love to hear how it is working for you. Why not leave a comment below and share your thoughts?

How Can Curiosity Help Your Leadership Journey?

When a child builds a Lego creation, they rarely step back and say, "This is my masterpiece, my life's work is finished!" Instead, they allow their curiosity to grow and they often improve their handiwork or build something entirely different. Kids are open to the possibilities of their creations.

Leadership is also 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.

WHAT IF YOU’VE LOST YOUR PASSION FOR THE JOB?

Elizabeth Gilbert, the 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 will be 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, helping my clients become more effective in their leadership 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 for anything because I enjoy the 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 treat the boring by igniting curiosity. I take myself and my needs out of it, and instead, make it an exploration. Always learning, always curious.

I encourage you to add this to your leadership experience: a journey of curiosity with the discipline of organizational leadership. Leadership is an arrangement between you and your followers. After some time, this relationship can become very boring, if you don’t remain curious.

Through curiosity and learning, you'll strengthen your leadership and build strong relationships with your followers. Your newfound 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. Until those moments arrive, remain curious and be eager to learn. This is a safe and wonderful place for you to explore.

What would it take for you to ignite curiosity about your team? What can you learn from them? What insights could they offer on your current project that you hadn't thought about?

Let me know what you learn by emailing me or leaving a comment below.

Will Removing These Leadership Lids Help You?

Not too long ago it was Taco Tuesday at the Livingston home. My wife, Kim, and I were assembling all the ingredients for our tacos: tortillas, ground beef, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, etc. I noticed my wife was 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 in heroically twisting 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.

Earlier that day, I was talking with a good friend about leadership LIDS. 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 it is also a cover, or barrier, keeping you away from what needs to be shared or utilized. Many times it's our own emotions and mentality that hold us back.

I want to focus on four of these potential barriers and consider how we can remove them: Loneliness, Indecisiveness, Defensiveness, and Selfishness.

As you read, think about your own leadership and which LIDS you need to remove. 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 workplace, 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 designed 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 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.

Indecisiveness

You may say that being indecisive comes from the inability to make a decision 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 I make is the wrong choice? 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. 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 often be defensive in our own lives, having the mindset that 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 may rise, you may feel your lips tighten, or you may 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 holding you and/or your team back?

Selfishness

Putting your needs and desires before others is the easiest way to explain selfishness. It is 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." 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 publicly for a job well done. Trust me, their success will be your success.

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?

How to Maintain Emotional Balance When Things Go Bad

In every organization, there are sometimes big changes and it can be hard to maintain emotional balance through each situation.You may be thinking, “Sure, it is easy to use the tools you mention when things are going well, but what happens when things go bad?” Just because there are changes that may affect your position, it does NOT require that it affects your emotions in a negative way.

Several situations could be categorized as difficult for leaders to work through: downsizing, merging, restructuring, relocating, new leadership, project failure, ethical and moral failure, just to name a few. Basically, any situation involving a change that does not give you a positive feeling. These situations don't have to be awful, but they encompass any kind of change that takes you out of your normal routine, which can make them difficult.

When there has been a breakdown in your company, it doesn’t feel good. Tensions are high and people are on edge emotionally. Realizing the emotion exists and not allowing the negativity to drag you down is the skill. This is emotional resilience. Bad things are going to happen.

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How can you as a leader work on your own resilience to be able to lead others to see a brighter day ahead?

The first step in being a resilient leader in times of tension and complexity is to be aware of and manage your emotion. In an issue of Leadership Quarterly, Laura Little, Janaki Gooty, and Michelle Williams take on the topic of "the role of leader emotional management." The authors studied 163 leaders and their followers and concluded that when followers perceive that the leader was managing emotion, focusing on meeting expectations, and creating a future, followers felt better about the leadership being provided. Conversely, when followers perceive that leaders modulate or suppress their emotion, there is a lack of leadership and job satisfaction on the part of the follower.

What can you do as a leader to create better leadership in times of tension and complexity? How can you focus on meeting expectations while creating hope and a future for your followers when times are tough?

Here is a simple acronym that can help you stay in CHECK during difficult situations:

Consider the Situation

Take note of what's going on and how it is affecting you, your relationships, and your team. Can you describe the situation clearly and objectively, then identify the emotion it brings up and why? Are your emotions creating false expectations that need to be managed?

Hear from Others

Who are two or three people you trust that can speak into the situation? Identify individuals inside and outside of what's going on that can help you think and act productively as you figure out what to do. Don't spend too much time doing this, or else you become subject to the opinions of too many people and fall into a pit of gossip and negativity, which brings us to our “E."

Eliminate Negativity

This is easier said than done but necessary. Pessimism indicates that there's absolutely no hope or no solution to what's going on, and that's just simply not true. Whether it's coming from yourself or from others, be sure that what you are hearing and thinking will be constructive and productive. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association tells us we need to develop a “positive explanatory style." This is not “The Power of Positive Thinking” we all have heard about. It is much deeper than this. Seligman says, “What you think when you fail is crucial.“ How you explain things to yourself when they don’t go your way is the difference between helplessness and being energized.

Create a Plan - Organize and Carry Out

You've thought about it and talked about it, now it's time to decide what you will do about it. Start with the outcome you hope to have and work backward, documenting the steps you need to take to reach that outcome. The key here is to describe what success looks like to you before you implement the plan.

Keep Your Head Up - Stay Consistent, Present, and Motivated

We know it's not going to be easy, but no matter what happens you have the ability to take a deep breath, stay positive, and keep going. What are some things you can do to remove yourself from what's going on, clear your head, and rejuvenate yourself to stay in the game?

HOMEWORK

Think about this acronym and how you can apply to a difficult situation you are facing. Write CHECK on a note and stick it somewhere you can see it as a reminder of this process. When you see it, think about how you can apply it to the things causing tension for you and your organization.

Confessions of a Certified Control Freak: Delegation Series #1

Confessions are really hard for me.

Important, but really hard.

Confessions for me come in two different ways. Both of them entail me acting in a way that is disruptive to others.

The first way is when something is brought to my attention and I have no idea that I did it. The second way my need to confess, well, I’ll describe it in the story below.

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The other day my wife and I were driving in downtown Columbus Ohio to meet our youngest son Greg, and his wife Sylvia, for lunch. Most of you already know where this story is headed by the mere fact that a man is driving in a location he is not necessarily familiar with, but here’s how the conversation went.

“Let me put the address in the GPS,” Kim said to me rather nonchalantly.  

“No, I don’t need it,” was my reply. Finished by, “I know where I am going.”(Which, I guess was said with a little, OK, a LOT a of tonal impression.)

“Really?” Kim said. ”You don’t have to use that tone with me.”

In a knee-jerk reaction, I said, “I am sorry,” thinking that what I had done would be immediately forgiven and forgotten.

But then…

Kim said, “For what?”  

Startled, I said, “What do you mean for what?”

“What are you sorry for?” she said, followed by a rather long period of silence.

Now you can see I am at an inflection point in the conversation. “My tone?” I must have said with a bit of guessing in my voice.

“Nice guess,” she said. “You don’t have to use that tone with me, I am just trying to help us get there on time.”

Time for my confession, “You’re right. It was not my intention to belittle you.”

“I know,” she stated. "But it was the impact it had on me.”

For sure, it was not my intention to belittle. But it was important for me to see this and then to verbalize and confess the error of my way. It is a bit cliché to say that confession is good for the soul, but in a meta-analysis of over 150 studies, the idea of self-disclosure has been found to be beneficial for the confessor. Scientists are just now starting to understand why this is so important.

The second type of confession is the type where I know I did something wrong without anyone bringing it to my attention. Usually this type of confession, I call Type 2, is something I have been thinking about for quite a long time. I have made a mistake and I know it. I have pondered over how much of the error I actually own and am responsible for. Then, after some contemplation, I make the decision that the responsibility is mine.

According to Meg Jay in her best selling book Supernormal, it is critical for humans to take our feelings and experiences and “put them into words.” Turns out, words for us become labels or categories, according to Jay. When we talk about our experiences, we are sorting them out. Organizing our thoughts into words and speaking them can take what has happened and make it understandable and even less upsetting for us.

My Confession

I have a Type 2 confession to share with you today.

Many of you know I work in my own Executive Coaching and Consulting practice. I have decided that at this point in my life, this type of work fits me. I really enjoy helping those I work with become happier and healthier in the organizations they serve. That is the bright side of me.

The dark side of me is I am a control freak.

There, I said it. It feels a little cathartic and freeing to write it down for all to see.

The problem of being a control freak means I want to control everything in my business. I mean everything. So, I used to do sales, product design, product development, implementation, scheduling, finance, marketing, customer follow-up, customer communication, customer delight.  Think about all the different departments in your business. I do the same thing, just on a much smaller scale.

I was doing it all. And pretty effectively for a while. But, the problem was that with my controlling every single detail, my business was only growing so far.

My Freedom

I wanted to grow my business, but I still wanted to do the work I loved. The question for me was how could I do both?

A few years ago, I was listening to a podcast by Michael Hyatt. He was talking about his friend who had figured out a Delegation Matrix that offered freedom to entrepreneurs. His name was Bryan Miles and his company is BELAY.

Bryan started BELAY with his wife, Shannon. They wanted to take the stress and worry out of the lives of the entrepreneur, minister, and executive, so that they could focus on doing what they love. The brilliance of all of this is Bryan and Shannon figured out a way to do this virtually.

So, after listening to Michael Hyatt, I did some digging on virtual assistants and set up a meeting with Bryan.

Now, what happened next was not rocket science, but it did revolutionize the way I approach my life and my business.

Bryan and I had a half-hour call scheduled and I thought we would spend time in small talk and getting to know each other. WRONG!

Bryan said, “Scott it is nice to meet you. Tell me 3 things that you love to do in your business.”

I was a bit stunned. "Well I love to coach, I love to speak to groups, and I love to write my thoughts out.”

“Great!” he said. “Now what are 10 things you have to do to coach someone that you hate to do?”

It took me a couple of minutes to come up with the 10 things, but I did it.

“Great,” he said again. "Now, how long does it take you to do those things?”

“I don’t know, maybe 10 hours or so.”

“Great,” he said for the third time. “Now, what do you bill your clients out at an hourly rate”?

He had me.

I was spending way too much time doing what I didn’t like doing when I could have been what I loved to be doing.

All I had to do was give up control of what I hated.

Now, how hard is that?
 

This is the first in a four-part series on the topic of delegation. Next week, you'll have the opportunity to hear directly from Bryan Miles. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Belay's services, click here.

Does Your Team Need This Lifeline?

A while back, after a much-needed vacation, I scheduled some time for writing and research. During this time, my interaction with my coaching and training clients was limited to text and phone conversations.

About 10 days into this period, I noticed something unusual.

I was starting to get a little down. Not an all-out depression, but I was noticing something declining in my overall mood. I felt like I was sinking. Nothing bad happened, really. In fact, I had just come off a very restful vacation and had plenty of work to accomplish.

Nonetheless, there it was; the feeling of not having enough connections that sustain love for my work.

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 of care and compassion from others.

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.

The Wall Street Journal reported 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?

If loneliness is a bigger health risk than cigarette smoking and obesity, then perhaps it is something we as leaders should pay closer attention to. Are there people in our sphere of influence that need a lifeline?

IMPACT ON LEADERSHIP

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 thereof, 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

In the study, the frequency of gathering with friends and family—or not—was the key. What’s more, the researchers discovered the more in-person contact the less likely that depression would 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 gather in person, the better off they are.

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

Mayoclinic.org has some very simple steps for preventing depression. The 5 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, we can be intentional with those under our influence. Here is how I would adapt the above list for leader-follower interactions.

  • Become attuned to what stress looks like for those on your team

  • Meet regularly with your team members at least every 1-2 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

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? Your lifeline of care and compassion might be what is needed to help your team reach peak performance.

Don’t Make The Same Mistake I Did

During a recent 360 feedback event, where leaders receive feedback from their supervisor, peers, and direct reports, one of the leaders came up to me afterward. She said, “Scott, my feedback is telling me I need to have better interpersonal relationships, especially with my peers. Can you give me some advice on how I can improve in this area?"

My knee-jerk reaction was to provide advice from my training and experience so I began rattling off my instructions. I gave a step-by-step plan to this young leader what she needed to do to have mutually satisfying relationships. After all, in my training and coaching practice, I have developed a near effortless perspective in this area. As an executive coach with a doctoral dissertation in executive coaching, I assumed I knew what the problem was.

Thankfully, I noticed the blank stare on this young leader’s face. She was completely overwhelmed.

I FELL INTO THE TRAP OF THE LEADERSHIP EXPERT

I stopped mid-sentence, shifted my thinking, and asked, ”When it comes to interpersonal relationships, what doesn’t seem right to you?” The young leader went on for about 3-minutes describing her thoughts and analysis. She explained how she felt spending time on “chit-chat” was not productive in the midst of her busy day. For example, when she had a meeting she skipped pleasantries and got right down to business. She wondered aloud if this was a possible disconnect with her peers.

Asking this woman a simple question allowed her emotional space to verbalize ways she needed to improve her interpersonal relationships. I had forgotten that most young leaders are just beginning their journey. They are still getting used to the language of leadership. They are receiving feedback, many of them for the first time. Where I am in my practice and where they are as young leaders are two entirely different places.

THOSE I LEAD ARE AT DIFFERENT STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT

Scientists claim that it takes at least 10,000 hours of study, experimentation, and practice paired with coaching and advice from individuals in that field before you become an expert in an area.

10,000 hours equals 6 years spent on the subject full-time, 8 hours a day, 200 days per year. Few of us have dedicated this kind of time to a field, so for most of us, it takes 10 to 12 years to develop our expertise.

Have you fallen into the same trap I did? Are you holding young leaders to a high standard of evaluation?

Edgar Schein, in his book Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling, gives leaders sage advice when leadership conversations go wrong.

  1. Do less telling.

  2. Learn to do more asking.

  3. Do a better job of listening.

Here are three suggestions to practically implement Schein’s advice:

  1. Do less telling by learning to let go of your need to be heard as an expert. What is driving your need to be right or heard? Replace your directive style with an inquiry.

  2. Learn to do more asking by making your questions open-ended. “What doesn’t seem right to you” or “Tell me more about what you are saying."

  3. Do a better job of listening by practicing empathy. Give them your full, undivided attention while keeping in mind where they are in their development.

Think of a relationship you have struggled with at work. The next time you are in conversation with this person, give up your expert position and ask some open-ended questions instead. Focus on improving the strained relationship. Let go of the outcome of the subject you are working on and focus on the quality of your questions and your listening ability. By making this kind of investment in others, your work may actually become easier.

If you have some success with this I would love to hear about it. Send me an email or better yet make a comment below so everyone can benefit from the conversation.

Does Your Culture of Origin Affect Your Leadership?

A while ago, I was at a conference speaking about leadership and how our Emotional Intelligence impacts performance. In the group discussion, questions surfaced regarding the clash of cultures. One participant observed the culture of her company did not align with her cultural background. Her company valued expression of emotion as a way to show vulnerability and authenticity, but this created tension as it was the opposite of her family culture which valued performance without emotion. “Just the facts," the young lady said. No empathy was expressed with difficult classes as she was growing up. “Just deliver the ‘A’ grade.”

This young woman felt trapped between the performance model she was taught as a youth and the new professional culture of empathy and connectedness. I have to tell you, the tension in the room was palpable and the struggle for learning to navigate this dynamic seemed unyielding.

The culture we grew up in is a foundational part of who we are and provides much of our leadership frame. The culture we are exposed to as infants, children, and young adults forms the values, beliefs, and social norms we carry around as adults today. This cultural development is so integral to who we are that it can cause us to behave in ways that we see as entirely normal, but others may look at and say, “What planet did you come from?“ How can one deal with the stress of valuing their culture of origin, yet pressing into a different culture that requires an increase in Emotional Intelligence?

As a group, we discussed how the impact of our formative culture has on our professional behavior. This is not something easily changed without full awareness and willing intention. In fact, it may not be a full-on change that is needed, but skill in navigating between the two cultural dynamics. This is a real value for the discipline of Emotional Intelligence.

According to Michael Polanyi (my favorite science philosopher), “…as human beings, we must inevitably see the universe from a center lying within ourselves and speak about it in terms of a human language shaped by the exigencies of human intercourse.” Everything we do as leaders is culturally situated by our entire human experience: race, sex, economic class, family of origin, family dynamics, teachers, coaches, and friends. It all has an impact on how you see the world and how you lead. Culture is influential and inevitable in shaping every single person in this world.

Emotional Intelligence encompasses your ability to create space in a situation and make a behavioral choice rather than acting impulsively. Being Emotionally Intelligent equips you to assess the cultural tension, adapt to an unfamiliar way of life, and even affect an environment with good leadership and team cooperation.

Much can be learned from Young Yun Kim’s cross-cultural adaptation theory of "stress-adapt-grow." For example, the higher a leader's Emotional Intelligence, the more equipped they are to recognize the impact that the cultural stress is having on them. Self-awareness to understand the difference allows the leader to be able to feel the stress and deal with it rather than ignore it and let it mount.

If stress mounts to a point that cannot be tolerated, all sorts of negative consequences are possible. If stress is managed, then adaptation to the new culture is possible. Learning the Emotional Intelligence skill of healthy emotional expression will empower this young leader to value both her culture of origin and her culture of destiny. When she adapts, she can grow to a place where she can feel less stress about the cultural differences. She will grow as a leader without having to give up core elements of who she is as a person.

What would help you see the tension between your culture of origin and culture of destiny in a different light? Look for places of friction in your work and see if it might have something to do with the clash of cultures. If there is potential for improvement in Emotional Intelligence take some healthy strides toward understanding the differences between the cultures and grow as a leader.

10 C's Checklist to Decide If You Have an Effective Team (Part 1)

Many years ago when I led my own sales team, I rarely thought deeply about what it took for a team to be effective. Honestly, I thought that if you worked hard and held people accountable to do what they said they were going to do, then that was enough. However, most of the teams I am working with today have people who work really hard, and yet they struggle.

Working with teams has caused me to stop and reflect on the subject of their effectiveness in an organization. Some have leaders who are willing to hold the team accountable, and yet they just don’t seem to be performing. They seem to be leaving things on the table that could really help them achieve at a high level.

I took some time to dig into the literature to see what I could find on topics like high performing teams, trust, goal setting, and the like. I have linked this with some of my recent experiences. Next week, I’ll include a free download with the remainder of my checklist, but for now, here are the first 5 C’s of my thoughts on high performing teams.

  1. Clarity of purpose. Teams need to see the link between the overall vision, the mission of the organization, and the tactical implementation plans. Put your vision all over the place. If you are a leader, talk about it every day with everyone you meet. If you think you are being repetitive and people will get bored…fear not. Frankly, I would prefer boredom, yet headed in the right direction, than excited and clueless about where they are going. Shout your vision from the roof-top and put it where everyone can see it. Remind your folks of it in the morning when they come to work, and in the evening when they go home. Talk about it in your 5-minute huddles as you start the day, in your hour-long staff meetings, and at your leadership retreats. Never lose frequency on communicating the vision of where you are taking people in your organization.

  2. Co-created goals. After you plaster your vision everywhere, put up tactical goal boards. Goals are what people should be held accountable for in organizations. Meet them and celebrate like crazy. See yourself falling short and do an early correction. If you wait too long, you may be leaving no possible way you will hit them. Every office and cubicle should have a goal board so that whoever comes into the workspace can clearly see what is being worked on and what the person is accountable to produce. My high school basketball coach used to do this with free-throw shooting. We had a board in the locker room and after practice, we had to shoot free throws, write our percentage goal, and then our actual number made. If you consistently hit your goal then the percentage went up. The only way to know this was to keep score. I have a goal score sheet in my coaching and consulting practice that I look at every Monday with my assistant, Brandi. She is responsible for holding me accountable for my percentage of progress to my goals. Hopefully, you have someone on your team that you are talking with on a regular basis about your goals and how you are doing toward them.

  3. Comfort with vulnerability. By vulnerable I mean a willingness to admit weakness and mistakes. Become confident in sharing what you struggle with. If you are a conflict avoider, then admit it and ask folks to help you with it. If you have an ego or a temper…just know we all have something. Admit your shortcomings and ask folks who are really skilled at empathy, or have a calm presence, to help you along. What I DO NOT mean by vulnerable is using your weakness as an excuse to behave poorly. Let’s face it since all of us have shortcomings, none of us care that much what yours are. Weaknesses are not excuses for character flaws to be accepted, but opportunities for connecting with others from which to learn and grow.

  4. Common enemy. I think this one relates back to the visioning component. What I have found is that even people who would describe themselves as noncompetitive love to win. My lovely wife would describe herself as a noncompetitive personality. However, I can assure you that if you get her in a game of “Quirkle” she will try and destroy you as fast as she can (in a loving and kind sort of way, of course). Look, if people naturally want to compete, why not give them a target to compete against. Stop fighting with each other over who has the best idea or is getting the biggest bonus or the most funding. Remember the game you are playing.  To all my friends in healthcare out there, stop worrying about who has the most department resources and go cure cancer…please!

  5. Cultural integrity. Last week I did an Organization Culture assessment for a group who is integrating two very different cultures. I was reminded during my presentation of the famous quote by management guru Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!” For me, any leader who is forming a culture based on honesty and trust is really focused on the right thing. Recall that trust is made up of both a cognitive and affective component. Cognitive trust is basically procedural fairness; can folks count on you to do what you say you are going to do? Affective trust is the emotional connection we feel that stems from care and compassion. A culture, no matter the stereotype; be it family oriented or more entrepreneurial, will live successfully if it is built on a foundation of integrity. It will not always be easy, but it will always be consistent and people will feel valued.

How is your team doing with these first 5 C’s? Don’t forget, next week I’ll give my final 5 C’s to decide if you have an effective team, plus a free download.

Open with Caution...Do You Trust Me?

“I just don’t know where they are coming from” lamented Julie. “Of course I am trustworthy. How could they think I am not?” The tension in the room was rising as she was reading the summary of her leadership 360 feedback report.  

“I take good care of all of the people on the team, walking around asking about how they are doing. I ask about their kids and what they did fun over the weekend. I mean I work hard at showing genuine concern for them.”

Julie continued with simmering anger underneath her words. “I mean I don’t question them at all when they have to leave in the middle of the afternoon when the school calls and one of the kids are in the principal’s office sick and needs to be picked up immediately. In fact, I am actually proactive and tell them, ‘Go we will cover whatever you have to do, just go and take care of your family.’’’

As I listened to Julie struggle with the feedback, I sat back and said to myself, you know she does sound like she has care and compassion and a genuine concern.  But the 360 is saying that there are those on her team that do not trust her.

Where is the disconnect?

I reflected back on previous clients who also received feedback revealing trust as a potential issue in their leadership.

My thoughts turned to Tim whose team said that he was the most dependable manager anyone could ever have. If you ever needed anything all you had to do was ask Tim and he was there for you. Tim got great accolades for being reliable, whether you were in crisis or just needed to talk something out. Tim struggled when he was reading his 360 feedback and trying to process the disconnect between being dependable and reliable, yet being seen as not being fully trustworthy.

How is it that two leaders, one who is seen as showing concern, care, and compassion and the other who clearly demonstrates reliability and dependability both be seen as not being able to be trusted?

Well, it turns out that trust, or what those in our organizations perceive as trust, are rooted in two parts of our brain; our cognitive thinking, and our emotional feeling abilities.

Trust has, as a component of its formation, something called psychological safety. In order for your team to trust you, they need to both KNOW and FEEL that they are safe. Psychological safety is the portion of our being that says all is well. You can be free to be yourself. No harm is going to come to you, this is an open and judgment-free zone.

Experts have found this psychological safety is built on a couple of important foundations. The first is that the leader is able to develop cognition-based trust. This is the type of trust that Tim was giving himself such high marks for demonstrating. Tim indeed received excellent marks for being dependable and reliable. But something was missing.

And the second type, like Julie, who was perceived as not fully trustworthy by her team even though she was demonstrating strong affect-based trust abilities. These strengths are based on emotional bonds of care, compassion, and concern between people. Even though she demonstrated affect-based trust, Julie was missing something.

Well by now you have guessed it.

Julie was missing that cognitive-based trust from her team. While she was great at caring and demonstrating compassion, she was unreliable. She was often triple booked on her calendar and members of her team would need her support in meetings or presentations and Julie was nowhere to be found. Julie could not be trusted to show up.

And while Tim was a dependable manager who had an open door policy, walking into his office was another matter entirely. Tim, being an intellectual and (literally) the smartest guy in the room, would give people on his team the feeling they were insignificant by intimidating them, never asking questions, or showing empathy, just quick with an opinion on what should be done. Tim could not be trusted to care.

So what about you as a leader? Are you able to display both aspects of trust, cognitive and affective? Do you find yourself relying more on one and apologizing for the other?

Trust is a really big deal in leadership (blinding glimpse of the obvious here). Most leaders I meet would never say they are not trustworthy and they often will cite one aspect or the other of the psychological safety equation.

Which side do you lean toward? Cognitive or affective? Is it time you gave full consideration to what goes into driving trust with your team?

What to do when your business vision is stuck

Years ago, I worked with a business leader who had an incredible vision for his organization. He was a passionate leader with excellent communication skills and energy for his mission. He was intellectually and morally solid and cared deeply for the people in his organization.

But he was stuck.

His organization just couldn’t grow the business past a certain industry-standard metric. However, the stagnation issue became evident as we looked over some feedback provided by his peers. One of the interview questions I ask the peers of my clients (as a routine part of my data gathering) was, "What is the vision this leader has for the organization?" After several interviews, the collective response was, “The vision is very clear, but we have no idea what steps we need to take to get started. It is like he has been dreaming of this his entire life and we are catching it for the first time."

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

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

After processing with him for a while, we discovered there was not a lack of urgency on the part of the organization. There was, however, a lack of emotional connection between the leader and his team. The urgency that the leader was feeling for vision implementation and change was being offset by his lack of emotional connection competency of patience. People in the organization need the time to absorb, process, and own the vision themselves.

Patience is devoting the appropriate time and attention to others in ways that enhance meaningful interaction.

Patience is suspending your personal need for satisfaction and action.

Patience seeks to slow down those fast-paced exchanges with others in order to facilitate better decision-making.

Patience is not racing ahead in thought process while missing information that others are endeavoring to share.

Patience is not wasting the opportunities to encourage, inspire, and motivate others.

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

There are a number of reasons a follower may choose to align with a leader. Fully committing to the vision of the leader is a quintessential desire that followers have. What they receive in return for committing to the vision of the leader is an emotional connection with that leader.

In our case study above, the leader has a choice. He can either move forward with his urgency and risk losing his entire vision. Or he can proactively slow down and take the time to encourage, inspire, and motivate his people. By embracing patience and connecting emotionally with his team, he can catapult the vision to the next level with everyone on board.

How are you connecting emotionally with your team? I’d love to hear your comments.

What Do Followers Want From Their Leaders?

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

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

Let me tackle the second question first:

Contribution

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

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

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

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

Influence

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

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

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

What Is Your Influencing Style?

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

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

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

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

Using The Influence Style Indicator

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Negative Self-Talk Creeps In

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

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

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

Then the negative self-talk started to creep in:

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

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

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

STOP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Actualization and Optimism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leader: Spend Time Here as You Grow

"Who are you really, wanderer?” - William Stafford Reading more poetry lately has taught me that poets, gifted with this unique communication style, ask really penetrating questions. Stafford, an Oregon Poet Laureate, sends a penetrating question to us all in this quote: Wanderer, who are you? Really, who are you? This question begs a leader to self-examine, which is work that so many leaders just don’t want to spend the time to do.

Outer Life

So much of leadership development work is focused on the outer life these days, including things like goals to accomplish, skills to develop, or problems to be solved. The objective of this kind of work often seems to be gaining credibility and marketability.

We try to define who we are by what we do.

This includes the goals we have set, the objective measures we strive to meet, the problems we are able to solve. What item do I need to check off my list to give me that feeling of accomplishment and show others what I have done? How can I continue to justify my existence and the work I've been doing?

Now, those of you who read this column on any regular basis know that I am not opposed to outer work: development of skills and talents, the 'doing' part of who we are, the observable economy of leadership, the accomplishment of tasks, the progression of the agenda.

All of this kind of work is very important. I don’t want to minimize that.

I do not argue against improving on one's outer life, but want to point out that to focus only on this part of development is shallow and does not engage the entire person. My point is to challenge the leader to become more intentional about developing their inner life.

My motivation for this post comes from my own research on the subject of wisdom that I did a few years ago. I surveyed 185 executive coaches and asked them to validate 10 different parts of a wisdom model. They were to think about their work as an executive coach and were then asked if they thought the development of things like knowledge, experience, community, and courage were areas they would work to develop wisdom in organizational leaders. For most of the 10 aspects of wisdom we tested, roughly 70% of those surveyed said they did work to develop that attribute...except one.

Spirituality.

Of the executive coaches I surveyed, 70% said that if the situation presented itself, they WOULD NOT work with a leader to develop this component of wisdom.

Stop and think about that for a moment: executive coaches who get paid to develop leaders said that if some topic of spirituality presented itself, they would turn themselves away from helping develop the leader in that area.

Spiritual inner work is so needed by leaders at all levels in organizations.

Why is Wisdom Spiritual?

When our 3 kids were in grade school, every morning as they were going out the door my wife would say to them, "remember who you belong to!"

On the surface, this quote could have many meanings. But for those of you who actually know my wife and have spent any time with her, those words could only have one meaning: "Hey, kids! Do not forget you are children of the King."

And those of you who know my wife also know she was not referencing me in her royal reminder to the kids of their position in life. She was telling the kids as they went out into the world that they are children of God.

In Stafford's poem he writes:

"Who are you really, wanderer?" and the answer you have to give no matter how dark and cold the world around you is: "Maybe I'm a king."

While to my knowledge my wife never met William Stafford, they are in some ways united souls declaring that each of us is indeed royal. We are all kings and queens.

So, wanderer, if you are a king, then you have the inner work of wisdom to do.

Inner Work of Wisdom: Developing the Spirituality of the Leader

I spent about an hour researching what workplace spirituality even means. Turns out there is a quite immense body of literature on the subject.

Generally, spirituality is seen as being comprised of two components. The first is a search for a connection with some transcendent force in the universe, and often that there is a being or force that most religious dogmas call God who calls the human soul back to himself after the death of the physical body.

The second is that humans have a spirit. This spirit of man is involved in finding meaning and purpose in life. This means that as human beings, one of the royal quests we are on is to grow into our full potential.

Considering these very broad thoughts, we then turn to the question of how to develop the spirituality of a leader. Are there important components to spirituality that affect us as leaders? If so, then we need to work on our spiritual inner life to be more effective and authentic at this thing we call leadership. Here are four items I pulled from the literature that may resonate with you on your inner life and spirituality:

Worldview

This constructs a leader's thoughts and feelings. It is what the leader believes in regards to the most important things in life. Worldview recognizes that our speech is one thing, but our actions may be something entirely different, and often more important. For example, a devout Christian may talk about love on a Sunday morning but then act like the devil the other 6 days in the week. This will cause outside observers like Gandhi to make claims like, “I like their Christ, but not their Christian.”

For leaders, a worldview is more than just thoughts or a collection of ideas. A worldview is encapsulated in the vision set forth by the leader, one that has been simmering for years of learning and experience. This vision is not based on the scientific method or model, instead, the worldview of the leader answers questions about spirituality, the world, life paradox’s, human nature, social relationships, relationship to self. It is the very essence and core of who the leader is, and ultimately it is what the leader is constantly trying to reconcile actions with. For most it is so subtle we don’t even recognize it is there, but it is consciously calling our actions to align with it.

Leader-Follower Relationship

While humans live in social communities of about 150 individuals, we have deep and abiding relationships with very few members of our tribe. Doctors Steve Stein and Howard Book, in their book EQ Edge, define interpersonal relationships as those that are mutually satisfying for both parties. If a relationship is going to meet the needs of both individuals, a connection must be established beyond the physical realm. It is easy to recognize that when we connect with the closest relationships in our community there is, what is often described as, a spiritual connection. We have a deeper, almost transcendent connection with some close friends that includes a level of understanding between both parties that we can form with no other creatures on this earth.

Community

Dr. Vern Ludden, in his groundbreaking research on wisdom in organizational leadership, claims that most religions and cultures recognize that wisdom is not developed individually, but in community with others. Dr. Mathew Lieberman, in his book Social, gives physiologic support for the importance of community by comparing the size of the human's brain to the size of other animals' brains. Most animals on earth have a brain just large enough to support the body it is confined with. Not so with humans; they have a brain 10 times larger than needed. Current thought is that this extra capacity, found primarily in the neocortex, is for humans to manage the complexity of the diverse relationships that exist in the communities we are a part of.

Acknowledging Imperfection

Some call this humanity. Who among us doesn’t realize that we all make mistakes? And yet who among us gives that benefit of the doubt to others? I, for one, am quick to want others to say "Don't worry, no one is perfect," when I do wrong, but you best hope you are not the person who cuts me off in traffic or tries to get into the 10-items-or-less checkout line with an extra jar of peanut butter. The spirituality of the leader needs to move beyond humanity and into exploring humility. As a leader, do you actually have the ability to humble yourself? Can you raise the status of others highly enough that they can be seen instead of you? What does it take for you to admit that you might be leading your team in the wrong direction? How easy is it for you to ask and listen instead of command and control?

Homework: Do any of the four elements above strike a nerve with you? Which one would you say you need to spend time reflecting on to grow your own leadership ability?

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!

How to Predict Success in 2017

I hope you had a wonderful holiday season! I know I sure did.  My time was spent with family and catching up with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while. One of the conversations I had over the holidays was with a friend from graduate school who is sensing some transition in his life. He asked a question during our coffee that I actually get asked by a lot by folks who are desiring a change in their life:

“Scott, when you first got started, what are 3 things you think allowed you to be successful?”

First, I want you to know that I am humbled to be put in a category where others see me as successful. It is truly an honor that the clients I work with (or have worked with in the past) would continue to hire me to develop the leadership in themselves or others within their organizations. I don’t take this responsibility lightly or for granted…ever!

Second, I think attempting to replicate another person's experience is dangerous. Models are built upon data and a number of assumptions. The assumptions I used and the situation I was in when I first started this business 15 years or so ago could not possibly be duplicated by others today. Although I can provide some information that is directionally helpful, trying to replicate my experience would be quite frustrating.

Clayton Christensen echo’s this point in his book Competing Against Luck. He tells the story of how Google attempted to use analytics to predict influenza outbreaks. By creating search engine algorithms, engineers tried to predict when people were searching for items related to influenza. It turns out that the link between specific search terms and the algorithm was too complex and the tool became unreliable as a predictive.

Reframe the Question

While it is always an honor and fun to share my story, I don’t think my story is really what people want to know! I get asked a lot about my experience, but what people are really asking has nothing to do with me!

So, what is the question the person is really asking?

Any “coach” (whether formal or informal, external or internal, paid or volunteer, executive or life or organizational) must have the skill of listening then reframing questions. Reframing a question provides a different perspective on the issue at hand.

Here is what I have come up with when I reframe the question my friend asked me initially:

Scott, based on your experience what are the 3 things I need to do to be successful?

Don’t you think this is what most people really want to know when they ask about translating your success into their story?

Examples

Consider these questions you might get asked within your role, and what is the question the people might really be asking:

Question: As an HR Vice President, what does leadership development look like? Real Question: What do I need to do to get promoted to my next role in the company?

Question: As a Sales Leader, how did you balance work and family? Real Question: If I sacrifice time with my family will it be worth it financially?

Question: As a Church Plant Pastor, what are you doing to grow your congregation? Real Question: What should I be doing to grow my church? I am doing everything the books say I should do, but it isn't working!

Please don’t misunderstand my point. I do think that people want to know how you approach things, how you set goals, how you solve problems, how you prioritize resources, how you assess risk.

But… mostly what they want to know is what about them!

Enter the world of what psychologist call self-efficacy.

Research On Self-Efficacy

Self-Efficacy is a fancy term for belief in yourself; confidence in the capabilities and talents you have been given and developed. Studies have shown that the confidence you have in your capabilities affects your performance and is linked to happiness, satisfaction, and well-being. All of these attributes in one way or another link to success.

In some fascinating new research published in the December 2016 issue of the Consulting Psychology Journal it turns out that you can help those you “coach” to be more successful by following 3 simple ideas:

  • Invest the Time The confidence of the person increased as the coaching relationship evolved over time. As you coach others over the course of your conversation, notice how their confidence increases toward the coaching objective. When it does, make them aware that you are seeing this increase in confidence.
  • Say it Out Loud Turns out that the more the client verbally articulates their confidence, the higher the achievement to the goal actually becomes. “I am going to do this” type statements show confidence in the client's ability. The more they make commitments out loud, the increased likelihood of belief in themselves.
  • Ask the Right Question at the Right Time In this study questions coaches asked fell into three categories: Open-ended - “What do you want to do?" Proposing Solutions - “You could search for other companies that offer better possibilities.” Provide Support - “That sounds like a great idea."

Turns out that proposing solutions was only effective in triggering self-efficacy statements in the very first coaching session. While the other two methods enhanced the confidence of the other person throughout the coaching engagement.

2017 and Beyond

As you work with and coach others on your team, especially if you have more of a long-term relationship, focus on asking open-ended questions and providing support for the ideas they bring. Too many of us fall into the trap of proposing solutions because it makes us feel better about ourselves, like we added real value. I would argue that the value you bring is the investment of time and belief in the person you are coaching. The research says that the value of you proposing solutions beyond early in a coaching relationship does little to improve the confidence or belief in the mind of the person you are working with.

I predict if you focus on building the confidence of others in your organization, you will have a very successful 2017. Let me know throughout your year how this prediction is coming true for you!

Homework

When you are coaching others, resist the temptation to make the coaching about you by offering advice and providing them solutions. Really focus this year on practicing open-ended questions and providing your client the support they need.

My Top 5 Reads of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

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

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

A Man Called Ove. by Fredrik Backman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Try Giving Less of This to Improve Team Performance

Maybe it is the Christmas season? Maybe it is the end of the year? Maybe folks I communicate with are just feeling burned out? Whatever the reason, I sure have noticed a lot of people this year saying things like:

“Let's take that up next year, I just don’t have any more capacity this year.”

“Our people are really feeling stressed with everything going on right now.”

“There are just a lot of priorities on people's plates at this point in time.”

“I am feeling a little under-valued with everything going on right now, there just is not a lot of recognition for the simple things, like no one says thank you anymore.”

I am not sure how the people under your leadership are feeling right now as you read this, but are you? Are they feeling:

  • Overwhelmed?
  • Under-appreciated?
  • Stressed (for whatever reason)?

New Term/Old Concept

A relatively new area to hit the leadership literature is the concept of job crafting. In addition to top-down, hierarchical job expectations, many organizations are leaning more on the individual worker to “craft” their job by changing everything from the tasks they accomplish to mapping the important relationships they need to accomplish the goals they need to meet to be successful. This idea of “job crafting” actually has been cited in leadership studies as being aspirational, motivational, and allowing the individual to self-actualize and find meaning and purpose in work.

Job crafting has been cited as increasing work productivity, employee engagement, effective problem solving, and overall employee performance.

Before I even knew it was called “job crafting” I always thought of it as “just do what you need to do to get the job done." Be responsible. Be accountable. The folks at Nike would say, “just do it.”

The Research

An article in the most recent publication of The Leadership Quarterly (the Bible of Leadership Studies) by Elizabeth Solberg and Sut Wong took on the question of what employees perceived as their ability to craft their job in the context of work overload.

In English: If I have work overload, do I feel I can do what I need to do to get my job done?

Turns out, job crafting is often classified as a proactive behavior and reflects traits such as self-initiation to bring about any needed change. However, it also turns out that job crafting is not necessarily anticipative. Most scholars view job crafting as a behavioral response to one's current work situation. Rather than being future oriented and strategic about what work we have, most of us will just react to the load we currently face. It really is the “tyranny of the moment” that is a key factor in our ability to be able to craft the job into what we need it to be.

The Findings

There are two really important points that come out of this study as it relates to job demand and role crafting. When employees are feeling the overload of work, their perception of the chances for a positive resolution and their leader’s need for structure are two very important factors.

As always in leadership studies, there is more than one variable that must be considered. When studying the leader it usually goes without saying that studying the follower is critical. When thinking about employee performance and work overload, the literature will support this idea.

The Employee

If your organization is going to face work overload from time to time it is a good idea to ensure you have people on your team who can both adapt to and initiate change. It turns out that proactivity in times of work overload requires both adapting to and initiating change that is needed to relieve the work overload.

The follower does have to have some skill or trait in their overall ability to be able to manage change. There is an accountability and expectation that rests on the shoulder of the follower that when work overload is occurring they can cope with it, manage it, and change what needs to be changed.

Point taken. Followers need to be accountable.

The Leader

Turns out that follower accountability is only half of the story. The other half of the story is how much control the leader exudes.

According to Dragoni and Kuenzi (2012), leaders engage in leadership behavior consistent with their own goal orientations, producing a work climate that influences their employees to adopt aligned goal perceptions. The research by Solberg and Wong shows that the more controlling the leader is, the less willing the follower will be to exhibit autonomy and make changes that are needed to alleviate work overload.

The Lesson

If folks in your organization are overworked and feeling stressed, maybe it isn’t the holidays to blame. Maybe it isn’t all of the end of the year tasks. Perhaps it is your need to control as a leader. If our need for structure across all time and circumstance is consistent, then in times of heavy workload, your workload is going to increase even more. Why? Because in order to get things right, the followers are going to need you to think for them. If as leaders we want to feel less stress or have more time to think and create, then perhaps letting go of control might be just the gift to give yourself and those on your team this holiday season.

Homework

What can you as a leader do to loosen your control reigns? What value would giving your team more autonomy have on the overall effectiveness of your team?