coaching

7 Steps To Effective Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

  • Begin With an Open Mind Coaching never begins in a vacuum. We all come into coaching relationships with biases. Coaches must come to clients with an open mind. The client must be seen as being a whole and healthy person. While there are times when you will have received information from others, focus on what the client is saying to you.

  • Get to Know Your Client It is hard to coach without knowing more information about your client. Find out more about who they are, what they do, their life story, and what they hope to accomplish. Consider putting together a series of questions that could apply to any client you serve. Personally, I use multiple types of assessments with my clients.

  • Confirm With the Client It is always important that you validate the collected data with the client. You want the client to be confident that you understand their perspective on what is happening, why the did what they did, or what is the genesis of how they are thinking or feeling.

  • Compare the Data to a Standard Once the client agrees with the collected data, you'll compare it to an acceptable standard. The client must agree that the standard is acceptable. If they do not, then the data may become meaningless because the objective of what the data revealed could become irrelevant. For example, I had a client who gave the appearance of being arrogant. The data we collected from others in the organization said this person’s primary objective was to get their own way all the time. This behavior is the polar opposite of what is expected in the organization: being collaborative. Before I can coach the person to a more collaborative style, they have to agree that collaboration is the right standard. Once this happens we can begin work on the arrogance. If collaboration isn’t the mutually agreed upon goal then it is tough to improve the behavior.

  • Identify Gaps Gaps are the space that exist between the client's current behavior and the agreed upon standard. They are the difference between where the client is now and where they would like to be in the future.It is useful to talk these gaps out and to get examples of where they have taken place. Coaches should always be looking for gaps between current and expected performance.

  • Set a Plan to Close the Gaps When planning with your clients, develop a simple plan that is laser focused on one or two items. When we give people too much we lose focus and the person runs the risk of being overwhelmed. When examining the performance standard I use the Stop/Start/Continue model. Here's how it works:

    • What behaviors do they need to stop?

    • What behaviors do they need to start?

    • What behaviors need to continue?

      • Do not short change the "continue" aspect. Often by stopping and starting a few simple things, people will see dramatic change. Most of the time they are doing a lot of things right, which you want to encourage to continue.

      • Establish a Date to Follow-Up It is my opinion that this step is where most coaching fails. There is no date set to follow-up, no check-in’s to see how the person is doing, and little to no interaction at all once a plan is put in place. Follow-up with those you coach is the most important part of the coaching relationship! I recommend scheduling all follow-up meetings with your client at the end of your sessions together. This will enforce some accountability on their end and help you maintain the relationship.

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

Homework

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

"Speaking" of Leadership

This past weekend I was honored to speak at the Exalt Conference that was put on by a coach training organization called Lark's Song  (If any of you are interested in becoming a certified coach you should check out this program. All I can say is: quality people doing quality coaching work.)

Being an extrovert's extrovert, if I am not taking care of myself 36 hours before the event, I will either run out of energy before I get on stage or during my talk. So, I thought I would put down some thoughts on how I practice “self-care” prior to speaking at an event or just preparing for a full day of training (I will say, the better I know the material, the more I may sway from these ideas.)

Scott’s Rules for Self-Care Prior To Public Speaking

The day before/the morning of:

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I drink at least 100 ounces of water (half my body weight in ounces) the day prior, and the day of the event. If I am giving the first talk at 8 or 9am, then I will probably only get in 16 to 24 ounces. Hydrating prevents my body from pulling energy from other sources. It is also important to flush any cortisol-related to stress from my body.

  2. Eat right. That means balancing carbs and proteins and limiting my fat intake. I have reflux from time to time that is totally dietarily-triggered. So, I need to make sure I am getting both the protein I need for strength, and the carbs I need for energy.

  3. One last look. I like to go over my talk one last time prior to going to bed. I make sure my presentation delivers the message I want within the time given, and the stories I am using make sense.

  4. Sleep. Even if I am with a client at dinner, I try my best to be in bed early. A good night's sleep is so important for a number of reasons. In a 2014 article in Sleep Science, author Mindy Friedman concludes, "Sleep deprivation results in objective changes in effort including reductions in the speed of task completion, work rates and the number of solutions attempted. A preference for lower effort tasks, less challenging non-academic tasks and the selection of only high priority tasks have been observed.”

  5. Morning routine. When I wake up the next day, after my devotion and meditation time, I open my presentation and go over it one more time. I find this combination of good rest the night before and revisiting my presentation in the morning vital to my preparation. I don’t cloud my thoughts with TV or news. I might glance at a headline so I am current, but I don’t bog myself down with items that I can’t concern myself with prior to a talk.

15 minute Warning

  1. Opening Visualization. I write out my opening 3 minutes. I then visualize myself stepping onstage, smiling, and delivering the first 3 minutes. I find if I rehearse and memorize my first 3 minutes I am able to get into an unstoppable flow.

  2. Use the restroom. About 10-15 minutes prior to going on stage I use the facilities for two reasons. I have drunk 200 ounces of water over the past 36 hours, and I want to do one final appearance check. I know I am not much to look at, but I want to make sure my shirt is tucked in and my fly is zipped up. This is just a last minute quality check.  (Hint: If you are already mic’ed up make sure the power is off so that if your sound is live everyone in the “house” will not hear you.)

  3. Find a mirror. This one is all about me pumping myself up. Sometimes there is a mirror in the green room or restroom. So after I make sure I look presentable, I look myself in the mirror and say:

    1. You are a child of God

    2.  You are using your unique giftedness

    3. Have some fun out there.

  4. Take deep breaths. About 3 minutes before my music is queued I try to take about 10 deep, yoga style breaths. Often even those around me will not know I am doing this. This breathing both calms me and centers me on my topic.

  5. Smile. My goal is to be smiling and relaxed before I go on. I want everyone around me to be relaxed. If they are relaxed then I am relaxed. If there are tense people, I try and avoid them. I want nothing but positive energy and smiles prior to going on stage.

These are just some things I have noticed the last few times I presented. I would be interested in hearing from you. What do you do prior to making a presentation that allows you to be successful?
 

Using Leadership Assessments with a Virtual Team

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

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

Here is Our Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we worked on it.

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

The Next Step

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

Emerging Leader Profile 360

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

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

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

 

Brandi’s Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you see this feedback accelerating your leadership abilities?

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

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

How about you, leader?

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

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?

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.

How to Energize Your Leadership Life

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

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

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

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

I looked up!

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

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

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

Leadership Lessons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homework

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

When Professionals Write Development Plans What Do They Do

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

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

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

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

The Point

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

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

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

Theoverance

When professionals write development plans they practice Theoverance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Learning

Three points from our time together today:

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

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

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

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

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

Don't Miss This Shift in Leading Your Team

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

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

The Story: A Tale Of Two Perspectives

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

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

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

What Shelia is Missing

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

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

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

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

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

Interaction Frequency

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

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

Interaction Relevance

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

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

Actionable Feedback

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

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

Homework

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

Stop Following Your Passion, Try This Instead

When The Passion Burns Out

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

Does this feel familiar to you?

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

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It's Happened to Me

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

But I want to let you in on a secret.

90% of what I do is boring.

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

Cure it with Curiosity

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

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

Stay Curious

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

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

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

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

The Power of Curiosity

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

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

Homework

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

All Leaders Should Do This One Thing

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

  1. Perfection is Not the Goal

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

  2. Let Go of Expectations

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

  3. Write Like It's Your Job

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

Writing is a Journey

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

Homework

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

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

Are Your Goals Making You Sore or Helping You Soar?

Remember back in January when you had that new year motivation and fresh start attitude? You had all of this pent up passion for making something change this year. You had the idea that something was going to be different this year from your previous rut.

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

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

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

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

Stay In the Game

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

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

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

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

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

The Feeling Is Not Real

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

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

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

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

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

Homework

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

How to Get More, Simply Put

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

The Background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Link To Leadership

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

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

IMG_1027 Then I looked up and saw the visual of what the words were saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time for a Change

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

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

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

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

Invest wisely.

Homework

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

Medicine, Leadership, and The Beatles

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

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

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

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

Leaders have misaligned intention, too.

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

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

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

Truth is when facts converge on a central point. 

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

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

Here is what the data from the antibiotic study says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Steps to Effective Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

7 Steps To Successful Coaching

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

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

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

Homework

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

Use This Leadership Lifeline to Save Your Followers

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

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

Lifebuoy in a stormy blue sea

My Story

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

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

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

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

Basic Human Psychology

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

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

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

Loneliness a bigger health risk than smoking or being overweight?

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

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

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

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

Impact on Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can stop that feeling…Or can I?

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

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

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

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

Homework

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

3 Aspects of Healthy Organizational Competition

A couple weeks ago now, my eldest son challenged our family to fill out a bracket for March Madness. My son suggested that the prize would be that the winning couple (since all the kids are married now) would be exempt from the responsibility of providing a meal when we gather together over the Fourth of July weekend this year. Everyone agreed, and we submitted our brackets by noon early last week before all the games started. (Guess who is in first place at the writing of this blog…:) A businessman crossing out teams on his busted March Madness bracket

My family communicates on a regular basis, but once March Madness was in full gear we were all texting and calling each other to comment on certain game upsets, as well as predicted outcomes for upcoming games. Even my daughter, who did cheerleading and theater in high school, was focused on the "madness," checking the game results and how it affected her bracket by the hour. My wife, who is an ordained minister and hasn’t watched one college game all year, is constantly checking in on the games to see how her predictions are fairing.

This spirited competition motivated our entire family to think strategically about the projected outcome, remain engaged through the entirety of the event, and increased our communication with each other.

Wouldn't it be great if we could apply this same competitive spirit to motivate the teams in our organizations?

Yes, it would be great, and I believe we can! Here are the three things you need to integrate this healthy competitive spirit into your organization's culture:

Identify the Goal and the Vision

Tell your team what it is they are working towards and why. Make it clear and concise so that they could repeat it back to you or explain it well to someone else. Knowing the end goal will give your team direction and motivate them as they strive towards it.

What Not To Do: Assume that once you have communicated a goal or a vision that people in the organization automatically get it! One of the significant works of the leader is to keep repeating and bringing people back to the goal and the vision. Your role is often to prevent straying and distractions from the desired outcomes.

Identify Rules and Measurements

With March Madness, not being able to change your bracket is part of the fun and gamble. However, our workplace shouldn't be a gamble where we role the dice and see what happens, or blindly guess based upon no information. In order to create a healthy competition, there needs to be rules, parameters, and boundaries that the team members are expected to abide by. Fair play will be respected and rewarded as a way to encourage others, allowing them to trust the system created. There should be check-points to allow your team to measure how well they are doing and consider whether their strategy needs to be reevaluated to reach the goal.

What Not To Do: Let people off the hook if they don’t meet the goal. Accountability doesn’t always have to mean retribution, penalty, or punishment, but it should have enough teeth in it so that you build a culture of trust. According to Patrick Lencioni in his "5 Dysfunctions of a Team" work, a lack of accountability is a significant cause of organizational mistrust.

Identify the Reward

Think about how you can reward your team when goals are met. How might the reward motivate them personally as well as collectively? What is the reward and how would it be received by the individual you are rewarding? You don't want to give a reward to someone that you wouldn't want yourself, or perhaps what you would want differs from others. These are just a few things to consider before deciding what the reward will be.

What Not To Do: Make reward a drag. If your people are working long hours, please don’t schedule another team builder that is going to require more of their personal time. If a team builder is important, why not do it at 2pm on Friday? Rewards should be something they enjoy, not something they dread.

HOMEWORK

  • Look back at your calendar. How many times have you repeated the goals and visions for your organization this year? Are you assuming because you said it once two years ago that they are connected with it? Just because the goals and visions run around in your head all day, doesn’t mean it reaches the cerebral cortex of others in your organization.
  • Assess the level of accountability your team has with each other. Do they hold each other accountable, or is this your role? A high performing team holds each other accountable and doesn’t leave this level of responsibility solely with the leader.
  • Reward your team this week. You are almost at the end of the quarter and I bet you can find something that the group is doing really well. Why not reward them? Find something they enjoy and implement the reward this week. Don’t put it off. Schedule it now!

What Great Leaders Do When Bad Things Happen

It seemed like a complete disaster. It was a project that our team created, organized, and executed, yet the outcome we received was far from what we desired. Sound familiar? It should, as we’ve all experienced the feeling of failure at one point in our lives. Whether in the workplace, in a sporting event, or other moments in our daily life, this failure can cause many different emotions such as frustration, disappointment, and most of all, fear.

In his new book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, Adam Grant (Wharton’s four-time teacher of the year) gives some practical advice when we face fear. Instead of letting fear drift into anxiety or dread, reframe it into excitement. For example, in a study of people who fear public speaking (listed as one of the biggest fears people experience), the participants were divided into two groups. One group was given these three words: “I am calm." The other group was given three different words: “I am excited."

Which group performed their speeches better?

This one-word difference caused listeners of the talks to rate the “I am excited” group as 17% more persuasive and 15% more confident than the “I am calm” group.

Turning your fear into excitement can energize you to act. If you remain to calm for too long, there is a potential for negative self-talk and anxiety to set in. My hypothesis here is that the old advice of “remain calm” when you are in fear is really, "lower your anxiety and get moving." To remain calm for too long can cause paralysis in times of tension and complexity.

When you face times of tension, stress, and fear, how do you react?

We developed the CHECK list that we wrote about last week to give you a tool that will help you move forward when you are experiencing situations that bring fear.

Consider the Situation

It can be difficult to look at your situation objectively, considering the result of the project didn’t meet your expectations. Ask yourself the following questions to help you reflect and move forward:

  • What went well?
  • What could be improved?
  • What needs to change or be omitted?

Hear from Others

Take it to your team and colleagues. Ask them the questions that you asked yourself above. Create a space that allows them to speak into the situation and feel positive through a process of brainstorming the solutions. Including them will motivate them in moving forward. If your team is stuck, consider bringing a coach into the situation to offer a fresh perspective and facilitate conversations or the planning process.

Eliminate Negativity

It requires a full 360 shift perspective to begin to see failing as a learning opportunity instead of as failure. Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz talk about this feeling of failure in their book, Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win. In their research, the authors found that people who are happy and successful spend less time planning and more time acting. Now, there is planning involved prior to action, but what these people do is act on their plan without emotional fear based baggage. These folks get out into their universe to try different things and learn from their mistakes. From their perspective, failing is learning, not failure.

Conduct a Plan

Once you've looked at the situation objectively and heard from others, you can go back to the drawing board and work out a plan for moving forward. As mentioned earlier, try not to dwell in the planning stage. Instead, implement action. Consider adding some check-ups throughout your plan to track the progress along the way. Include someone in these check-ups for accountability.

Keep Your Head Up

Believe in yourself and in your team. Let others see your positive attitude and resilient behavior focused on moving forward. They will follow your lead and look to you for support or motivation. Approach your project from a different angle than before to give it a fresh feel for you and your team.

Homework

Reflect on a project or situation that didn't go the way you planned. Write down what went well and what could have been done differently. Share these thoughts with a colleague or mentor and brainstorm a plan for improvement next time.

What Great Leaders Do When Bad Things Happen

Recently, one of our blog readers reached out to me on Facebook (which I love, so feel free to comment on anything we write) expressing appreciation for my post on “Quick and Easy Ways to Enhance your Leadership." Along with his comment, he also inquired that I write about a topic relevant to a big change happening in his organization. He concluded by saying, “Sure, it is easy to use the tools you mention when things are going well... what happens when things go bad?” Great Question!

Close up blank checkbox

These 6 words led me to reflect on several situations that 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, anything 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. With all this in mind, I want to do something I have never done before.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at some specific difficult situations and learn how to maintain emotional balance through each situation. You see, just because there is change that affects your position, it does NOT require that it affects your emotions in a negative way.

When there has been an ethical 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.

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 the most recent 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 so 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? Consider following my guide for a quick, personal leadership retreat.

HOMEWORK

Think about this acronym and how you can apply to a difficult situation you are facing. Write CHECK on a post-it note and stick it somewhere you can see it as a reminder of this process and how you can apply it to anything going on in your life that is causing tension for you and your organization.

Stay tuned in the weeks to come as we use our CHECK list in some specific situations that will help you better apply it to your leadership life.

Win or Lose, Emotional Intelligence Matters

After the Super Bowl on Sunday night, the quarterbacks from each team were bombarded by the media with questions. For Peyton Manning, it was all about whether he would cap his career on a high note. For Cam Newton, the questions reflected his fresh defeat. Whether you're a rookie like Newton, or a seasoned veteran like Manning, it is important to think through how we will respond emotionally whether we win or lose. Let's look a little closer at both players and think through what we can learn from them.

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Let's Start with Manning

After his win, we heard Manning repeat again and again what he planned to do, which did not involve releasing any clues of retirement. He gave a lot of credit to Coach Tony Dungy who encouraged him not to make any emotional decisions. Note that this advice came before a Super Bowl victory, because either outcome of the game would affect Manning's emotional decisions in the moment.

In the midst of the rush, you risk saying or doing something that you wouldn't when your emotional state is leveled and you are thinking clearly. In Manning's case, he could be feeling pretty good about his victory and desire to do it again. It's important for him to level emotion and take on a posture of humility in the weeks to come.

Now, Newton

I can't help but sympathize with Newton in some ways. It's early in his career and he had a great run this season. Stats and predictions for a victory pointed his way, yet just as he said in his brief interview after the game, “They just played better than us.” From his body language (hood up, eyes down) and his short answers, it was obvious that Newton was emotionally defeated.

No, he probably shouldn't have walked out of his interview, however, I think his emotional response could have been worse. Perhaps for Newton, at this point in his life and early in his career, the best thing he could do to avoid an emotional reaction was to just walk away. This was his immediate reaction. How he lets this loss affect him and his leadership moving forward will be crucial.

What this Means To You as a Leader

Sometimes things are going to go your way and you will win. The question becomes, how are you going to display your victory?

One of they key characteristics that attracts followers to a leader is humility. Winning with grace is a very attractive leadership attribute.

Humility can be disregarded at times because it is misrepresented as lacking toughness and grit. However, in an article in the Military Review, authors Joseph Doty and Dan Gerdes say this is not the case. They describe a humble leader as lacking arrogance, not aggressiveness. Humility can even carry a spiritual tone, since the leaders activities are seen as free of ego and self-aggrandizement. Peyton Manning may have the title of 2x Super Bowl Champion and leader of all-time passing yards, however, his posture of humility over the years is what attracted his fans and followers.

And then there are times when things are not going to go your way and you are going to lose. The question then becomes, how are you going to show grace in defeat?

Nobody likes a sore loser. Just look at what happened to Donald Trump in New Hampshire when he displayed poor character as he spoke about his loss in Iowa last week. His poll numbers started to drop, so much so that the Wall Street Journal says he must change his message to avoid another primary disaster.

The question is not if you are going to have a setback in life. The real question is when are you going to have a setback in life, and how do you respond when you do?

In the emotional intelligence realm, the trait that is needed by leaders is called resiliency. Leaders need to have an ability to recover, to get back to their original form when things do not go their way.

It will be interesting to see how Cam Newton recovers from losing the Super Bowl and how he'll channel this experience to shape his leadership for the next season.

What can you do?

  1. Picture yourself in the moment after you succeeded and then again as if you failed. How would you hope you'd react in either circumstance? How do you plan to respond? Do you know yourself well enough to know when you are in control or when you just need to walk away? Think about these things.
  2. Ask trusted mentors or coaches for insight. They will consider the situation in a way you may not have based on their past experiences. They will also be honest about how you may react, because they know you well. Make sure you really listen to them and consider what they share.
  3. Write out your plan and immediate response whether you win or lose. Think through your stance and posture as well. Stick to this script. This way, you don't risk saying or doing anything you didn't mean.

Homework

Identify the next big moment in your career or in your life. Think about the questions above and write out a plan of action whether you win or lose. We'd love to hear from you, so don't forget to comment below.