"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!

The 5 Books I Plan to Re-read in 2017

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

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

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

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

Here is to a successful 2017!

The One Big Mistake Every Leader Makes

Have you ever noticed that it is the really simple things in life that trip us up? I know it happens to me, and if you stopped to think about it, you may notice that it happens to you as well. Most leaders I know are expert at something:

  • Getting the most out of the resources they have.
  • Driving profit.
  • Developing other leaders.
  • Thinking strategically.
  • Casting an inspirational vision.
  • Coaching others to higher levels of performance.
  • Leading teams in tactical execution.
  • Building and maintaining trust.
  • Content or knowledge virtuoso.

You may be an expert in an area, but it is important to remember that your team is likely not anywhere close to your level of expertise, nor are they mind readers.


My Story

I was doing an emotional intelligence 360 feedback program last week. My partner and I had 40 young leaders in the room participating in a process where they get feedback from their supervisor, peers, and direct reports across 15 distinct emotional intelligence traits.

This is no insignificant day for these young leaders. Many of them are getting feedback from these organizational relationships for the very first time. More often than not, this feedback is telling the young leader that they have significant areas of development in order to become the effective leader they want to be.

One of these leaders came up to me at a break and said, “Scott, my feedback is telling me that I need to have better interpersonal relationships, especially with my peers. Can you give me some advice on how I can improve in this area?"

My knee-jerk reaction was to start to provide advice from my training and experience. I was so excited to provide my expertise in this area that I began telling this young leader what they needed to do to have mutually satisfying relationships. Thankfully, I noticed the blank stare on this young leader’s face. I was completely overwhelming them with the advice I was giving.

I stopped mid-sentence and asked …”When it comes to interpersonal relationships, what doesn’t seem right to you?”  She went on for about 3 minutes describing her thoughts and analysis. This young leader went on to describe for me that she was struggling to make a personal connection. When she had a meeting with her peers, she just wanted to get right down to business. She felt like spending time on “chit chat” was not productive in the midst of her busy day.

So here is the lesson from the story: I was overwhelming her with my expertise! I had all this knowledge and how to and just started to dump it all on her. Once we stepped back and I asked the probing question, “…what doesn’t seem right to you?” she immediately started to add some specificity to the problem and we were able to come up with 2 practical things she was comfortable trying to improve her interpersonal relationships.

Where I Went Wrong

As I was thinking about this interaction, I realized that I had fallen into the trap of the Leadership Expert! In my training and coaching practice, I have developed an expertise, such that I could do much of my work without much effort. It almost comes naturally to me at this point. And yet, even as an executive coach with a doctoral dissertation in executive coaching I just assumed I knew what the problem was.

It is really important for me to remember that the participants in my class are just beginning their journey. They are still getting used to the language of leadership. They are just getting feedback, many of them for the first time. Where I am in my practice and where they are as young leaders are two entirely different places.

That One Big Mistake

I had made the One Big Mistake Every Leader Makes…Not realizing those I lead are at different stages of development.

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

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

So why are we holding young leaders to such a high standard of evaluation?

Instead of always being evaluative and judgmental, why not use more of a coaching and development perspective?

Try This Remedy

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

  1. Do less telling.
  2. Learn to do more asking.
  3. Do a better job of listening.

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

  1. Do less telling by learning to let go of your need to be heard as an expert. What is driving your need to be right or heard? Replace your directive style with inquiry.
  2. Learn to do more asking by making your questions open-ended. “What doesn’t seem right to you” or “Tell me more about what you are saying."
  3. Do a better job of listening by practicing empathy. Give them your full, undivided attention while keeping in mind where they are in their development.

Homework: Identify a relationship you have struggled with at work. As you are in conversation with this person, give up your expert position and ask some open-ended questions. Focus on improving the strained relationship. Let go of the outcome of the subject you are working on and focus on the quality of your questions and your listening ability. By making this kind of investment in others, your work may actually become easier. If you have some success with this I would love to hear about it. Send me an email or better yet make a comment below so everyone can benefit from the conversation.