Thursday, August 17, 2017

Promises to Keep


Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.
To make all of your friends feel that there is something special in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything, and to make your optimism come true.
To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.
To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievement of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.
To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear...and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Christian D. Larson

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Emotionally Intelligent Team



The Emotionally Intelligent Team

Have you had that nagging feeling that something is missing on your team keeping you from achieving breakthrough results or keeping you in a chronic conflict cycle? Many leaders have sensed this and found the solution in what experts are calling the #1 predictor of life success: Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a set of skills demonstrating the ability one has to recognize his or her behaviors, moods and impulses and to effectively manage them according to the situation or person they are dealing with. EQ is the demonstration of Sensibility

Someone with high EQ can manage their own impulses, can communicate with others effectively, can manage change well, is a good problem solver, uses humor to build rapport, has empathy and remains optimistic even in the face of difficulty.

These people can emotionally and mentally plug into others and can read the situation at hand and behave accordingly to get the best results for everyone.
 
To find out if EQ is missing from your team, take this short quiz: 

· Is there often a breakdown in team communication?
· Do you observe symptoms of low-stress tolerance?
· Do one or more of your team members struggle with or resist change - large or small?
· Are you needed to mediate conflict on a regular basis?
· Has pessimism taken over the work environment?
· Do team members say or do the wrong things at the wrong time? 

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, it is worth your time to explore Emotional Intelligence. There are several case studies of how increasing EQ in a work group results in higher productivity and lower turnover (among other things). To begin, take a baseline of your team's EQ through observation, interaction, and assessment.

EQ is applicable to all types of teams: executive teams, project management teams, sales teams, cross-functional teams, manufacturing teams. In fact, a study of sixty work teams found the single most important dimension of success was how members interacted with each other and with those outside the team. Another found that emotional competencies distinguished "star teams" from the others studied, based on objective performance data.

Among those competencies were: flexibility in how they addressed tasks; unified effort; learning to improve by listening to performance feedback; open communication; setting expectations and confronting low performing team members.
Of course, with all development, it has to start with Self-Awareness. The team must be aware of its strengths and deficits. Here are some tips for developing a Self-Aware team:

1. Assign an observer for the next team meeting. That person should not participate, only observe and document. They should record when team members interrupt each other, when team members are non-participative, if the meeting starts and ends on time, team member body language, if the team stayed on agenda, etc. Have them share the observations at the end of the meeting. 

2. Use a facilitator to put the team through a business simulation activity. Team patterns of behavior will naturally emerge and become observable in new ways to the team members. 

3. Identify team members who have an "it will never work" mentality and offer some coaching for their verbal and nonverbal responses to new information.

4. Conduct an Emotional Intelligence assessment for the team members with a group roll up report. This can identify individual areas for development, and common areas of weakness that would be best addressed during a team intervention.

5. Don't avoid conflict to keep the peace. Vigorous discussion is healthy for a team, especially when attitudes and feelings are addressed, not just tasks and action items. 

6. If you are the team leader, you set the tone. If you are not role modeling Emotional Intelligence it will be impossible to expect it from the members. There are several resources available to you, just ask us for some suggestions.     

Emotional Intelligence is comprised of skills that can be learned, so identifying the areas for opportunity can result in tremendous R-O-I.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Month in a Minute

How is it possibly August already?

Goodbye old friend(sniff)
July was a fairly quiet business month, but it was a challenging month for me personally. I was able to come to an agreement with the buyers of my home mid-July, which left me about 2 weeks to get everything done to close the sale by the 28th. I thought I had done a lot of packing. I thought I had cleaned out the closets, drawers, and kitchen to the minimum so the final steps would not take too much time. I was SO wrong. It took 4-6 people four solid 15-hour days.

 Moving is stressful for everyone, and this one was really tough for me. I think part of the reason why is that house is the place I lived the longest since I was a little girl. It was where I raised my kids. It saw some of my happiest times and my darkest times. I wrote two books in the home office. When I moved in 12 years earlier, I had pictured us having big family gatherings with our grandchildren there. I know it is stupid to get an emotional attachment to an inanimate object, but it did feel like I was losing an old friend. Like I was packing up my things and leaving her behind. 

Everything I own now fits in two PODS
I will tell you I was so ashamed of myself when I saw the dozens (and dozens) of trash bags we took to the dump. I keep a pretty clean house that is never cluttered, and yet I had so much garbage (old textbooks, 8-year-old school work from the kids elementary years, paint cans, 10-year-old Christmas cards, games with missing pieces, dried up bottles of nail polish, etc) lying in junk drawers, under the bathroom sinks, in the garage and the basement. Why hadn’t I gone through and cleaned some of that out years ago?
We also donated 7 or 8 bags of old clothes and about half of the furniture in the house. Why did I think I needed so much stuff? It really forced me to consider how much is enough and the importance of cleaning out and donating unnecessary items. Now that it is behind me, it feels good to have closed that chapter. I am excited about the new house I am building with David in Arizona. I am committed to decluttering and minimizing my possessions (okay, maybe not shoes).

So, if you had to move out in 2 weeks, could you do it? What is cluttering up your life that is no longer needed?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Most Common Reasons Training Programs Fail



Whether you are the executive leader responsible for a learning event or a front-line training specialist, this article is for you. Having spent my entire career in a training and development capacity I have seen and delivered exceptional learning experiences, but I have been part of some disastrous ones as well. With some forethought and an overall strategic approach to training, some principles can be followed to dramatically increase the overall effectiveness and value of any learning event you design.  

The Most Common Reasons
Training Programs Fail

We have all been the victim of a bad training event - and for some impossible to understand reason, it is often tolerated. Participants have come to expect that they will have to sit for too long, hear content that is too generic, and listen to speakers who are content experts but not trainers. Organizations tolerate bad training too, spending oodles of money on meetings and events with low expectations and little formal mechanism to measure any change in behavior.  The difference between bad training and good training can come down to some simple (but very critical) factors. Here are some of the most common reasons training initiatives fail, and what you can do to avoid them.

Poor needs assessment.

It is critically important for an organization to take the time to identify the real development needs of the workforce instead of turning to one-size-fits all learning events. Consider offering learning tracks based on participant job specialties, years of experience, or open enrollment so participants can choose the session they know would benefit them the most.  

Content that is too theoretical.
It is impossible to design an effective learning event from the comfort of your office. Program design is best done from the perspective of real field research, being in the field or office that the participants live in is the only way to truly understand the challenges they face on a daily basis. 


Trainers that want to check the box.
When training is seen as a singular event instead of one facet in an overall organizational development strategy, the learning is often disjointed, random and rarely leads to a direct improvement in performance. Every training event should build on a previous one; should add depth and layers to a developing competency; should continuously increase in complexity. 

No post-training reinforcement.
Training only creates awareness.  For true improvement to occur, participants need additional reinforcement in a real-life setting.  Consider providing participants with follow up options such as enrichment clinics 6 to 9 months after the completion of a program, job shadowing where coaches work onsite to provide participants with coaching and feedback on their application of the principles taught in the course and support in overcoming obstacles that impede performance, weekly or monthly email tips sent on practical ways to apply the learning content in day-to-day interactions.

No measurement of the behavior before the learning event.
It is impossible to know how much a participant is learning, growing or changing without a baseline measurement. Add knowledge surveys, skill evaluations, and self-assessments to your training process so you can better pre- and post-test to measure the results of your learning event.

Lack of professional trainers.
When budgets are tight, it is a common practice for organizations to use subject matter experts as trainers.  Learning specialists must have advanced speaking and facilitation skills that require specific training. A learning event can become a complete disaster with untrained trainers leading the program. In this case, the delivery of the learning is paramount to the content - hands down. 

No adult learning theory.
Too many programs are based on a classroom model of training - the trainer speaks and the participants listen. We've all fallen prey to Death by PowerPoint. Instead, it is critically important for content designers to understand the principals of how adults learn (which is very different than children) and ways to integrate various training methodology into the learning experience. Most adults don't sit in a chair for 8 straight hours with little opportunity for movement or discussion but in most training sessions, that is exactly what is expected.

Vacationer / Prisoner / Learner participants.
Every audience contains three types of participants: the Vacationer who is thrilled to get out of the office or the field for any reason and see a day of training as an escape from reality; the Prisoner who absolutely does not want to be there and sees training as an unwanted interruption from their priorities and resents the trainer for making them be there; and the third type is the Learner who is actively looking for ways to improve him or herself and will seek out takeaways to get value from any learning program.  Trainers must prepare for these three types of participants and build in engagement levels for each. 


These common mistakes are the main reasons why training initiatives fail in most organizations. They make proving any return-on-investment in a learning event impossible to document and give training events a bad reputation. Most employees dread the idea of being shut into a conference room or hotel ballroom for days and days with little attention being paid to their unique learning needs and preferences. A focused investment in time and effort by the learning and development team can make a very worthwhile impact on any event, not to mention the overall competence of your workforce.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Things Better Left Unsaid



One of the principle skills of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is self-control: managing impulses to say or do inappropriate things even when the urge is strong to do them. The stakes are high when we don't think before speaking or don't consider the negative consequences of being impulsive.

In fairness, we all struggle with maintaining self-control because we have biological impulses that work against us. For the purposes of survival, we are hard-wired to feel before we think. A small gland in our brain triggers this instinct and for a brief moment takes over our rational thinking, as Daniel Goleman calls it "an amygdala hijacking." We have all been the victim of it, reacting in the heat of the moment and feeling out of control to stop it. And in some cases, the outcome may be serious.

Low self-control presents itself in angry outbursts, compulsive talking, interrupting or talking over others, impulsiveness, poor judgment, loss of emotional control (crying), and utter inappropriateness.

We have a good biological reason to have low self-control but that is absolutely not an excuse for it. There is no getting away with, "It's not my fault, I was the victim of a hijacking.” Sorry. Most of the time, the critical time to use self-control is the first five seconds of the trigger. When you feel the blood rush to your face and your heart race with adrenaline, is when you need to stop and count to five. The impulse wave will pass and you get your rational mind back.

One profession that could benefit overall from increasing self-control is sales. Most salespeople tend to talk way too much. When I am working out in the field doing performance coaching via job shadowing with salespeople it is very common to see chronic chattiness in interactions with customers. In one case, the salesperson spoke for 46 minutes of a 50 minute meeting (and yes, I timed it) and barely let a customer get a word in. It was torture for me to witness it and I couldn't get the song out of my head, "you talk too much...you never shut up...” Consider your talking/listening ratio when interacting with others, particularly customers.  

If you could use some help in increasing your self-control or need to coach someone else, here are some tips:

1. Be mindful of any impulses to say what you are thinking; use long pauses and take opportunities to buy time while you collect your thoughts.

2. Call a time-out if you sense growing anger; use cooling off periods and remove yourself from the situation.

3. Identify triggers for your impulsiveness; pre-plan strategies for dealing with people or situations that you know will test you.

4. Use the "draft" folder in email; it is there for a reason. Before sending any emails written in the heat of the moment, sleep on it and reread them the next day before you press Send.

5. Manage your stress; lower Stress Tolerance makes you more vulnerable to losing control.


Exercising impulse control is not easy, but with some conscientious effort it can be dramatically improved. And just think how nice it will be to spend less time apologizing for saying something that you later regretted.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Month in a Minute

Clockwise from bottom left:  Speaking at ACFO-ACAF in Canada, Engagement Day, Steve and me in the Sandbox at SNHU, Caitlin and Annie at graduation, Steve at Alkermes, Downtown Ottawa.
June was quite an adventurous month for us. It started with a trip I was scheduled for from Boston to Ottawa Canada. It is a direct flight, about one hour in length. I was booked with Air Canada at 6 pm. At 7 am, I was notified by TripIt (an amazing travel app, if you don’t have it, you need it) that my flight was canceled. I called the airline to get rebooked and they had no other direct flights that day which meant I had to add a stop in Toronto, adding another hour to my trip. As the agent was rebooking me to a 3:30 pm flight, she informed me that it had also just been canceled. That left me with a 12:30 pm flight to catch, still through Toronto. The reason for the trouble was Logan Airport in Boston has runway construction so fewer flights could actually depart on time and combined with the drizzling rain we had that day, there was low visibility.

I rushed to leave my house in New Hampshire by 9 am, prepared for the inevitable traffic going into downtown Boston on a weekday morning and the 2-hour international flight rule. I arrived at Logan and got through security by 11:15 am. My gate was one of 3 in a very small section of the airport. By 11:45 am, a delay was posted to my flight of 15 minutes. By noon, it was delayed another 30 minutes, making my connection in Toronto impossible to make. I prepared to go find a gate agent to help me with a rebooking and there were none to be found. They completely left the gate area. After speaking with a TSA agent, they told me that I would have to leave security to go out to the check-in desks if I needed to rebook. Really?

Off I went, only to be told that there were no other later options through Toronto, so basically, I was not going to be able to fly out that day. At that point, I had still not been notified by Air Canada of my initial flight cancellation or the delays. I was booked to speak the next morning at the Canadian Financial Officers Association conference as a keynote so canceling that was not an option. So, I tried to rent a car one way so I could at least keep the return half of my flight intact. All the car rental agencies at Logan were sold out. I got back in my car and headed north (essentially backtracking past my house). I arrived in Ottawa that evening at 9 pm, 12 hours after I left that morning. Ugh.

On the personal side, this has been a busy month too. I am officially engaged to David, Caitlin graduated from high school, I got an offer on my house (we are still negotiating terms), and I was able to travel to Seattle, Spokane, Salt Lake City, Denver, and Phoenix.

Hope your summer is off to a good start and free from travel woes!  

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learn How to be a Better Boundary Setter


When I explain EQ, I tell people that it’s about using situational awareness and empathy to read your audience to know how to make temporary adjustments in yourself that meet the needs of the other person over your own. Note that I said over your own, not instead of your own. Many people ask if using emotional intelligence means you have to be a pushover (the answer is no and if you want to learn more about that, see my article here). If you are looking for ways to balance your own boundaries with the needs of others, read on.

In order to gain more influence and be more effective with others, you should be a selfless communicator. That means putting aside your own agenda or sole perspective to better understand the viewpoint of others. It does not mean you have to agree with that perspective to understand it, but you do need to be a generous listener. The goal is to make small adjustments to others while still maintaining your own needs, by being firm but appropriate. 

Here are some ways to set communication boundaries with others:

1. Instead of having open door / on demand availability to others, set a time limit for an interaction, for example: “Can you talk tomorrow? I have a 30-minute window open at 2pm” or “I don’t want to cut you off, but I have a commitment in ten minutes." Even if you don’t, end the meeting as if you do.

2. Ask the person to give you the bottom line. Some people like to add a lot of unnecessary detail so don’t be afraid to say, “Can you first give me a high level overview of the problem? That allows me to ask for the specifics I need that will help me clarify my understanding without wasting your time.” 

3. If the person is a chronic complainer, say “I have heard you complain of this before, what have you done to change the situation since we last spoke?” This puts some ownership back on them and allows you to then say, “Let me know how it goes after you try…” to send the message that I am done listening to this until you have tried something new.

4. Make empathy statements that validate their frustration but don’t allow them to take advantage of your listening nature if you are not the person who can help them. “I understand it is a frustrating situation but I don’t think I am the one who needs to hear this, why don’t you talk to…?” “I wish I could help you with this, but it is out of my ability to do so."

5. Misery seeks company. If they think you will join them in their negativity/complaining or even if you stay quiet while they do it, it will continue. If you start being very positive with statements like, “I’ve learned that things are never really as bad as they seem.” “Don’t worry, things always work out for the best!” “Isn’t life great how it teaches us via setbacks?” “There are always two sides to every story.” They will stop. They don’t want to be around someone who is too cheery, optimistic or refuses to perpetuate their drama.

It’s not always easy or comfortable to set boundaries with others, but the more EQ you demonstrate every day the more others will respect you and your needs. Healthy relationships have an equal balance of candor and support, don’t be afraid to tip the scales as needed.   

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