Thursday, November 10, 2011

Are You a Generous Leader?

I was recently reading an article on successful team collaboration and it mentioned something about creating a “gift culture”
(http://businesstalentdna.com/pdf/Eight_Ways_to_Build_Collaborative_Teams%5B1%5D%5B1%5D.pdf) and it got me thinking about how many leaders would be surprised to know that the word “stingy” could accurately describe their management approach? Want to know if you would be considered to be a generous leader? Take this quick, very non-scientific quiz and find out...

Robert Greenleaf wrote an amazing leaflet, originally published in 1970 called “The Servant as Leader” and revolutionized the idea of leading from within, by supporting your team, instead of directing from on top. The benefits of being a leader who is in service and who gives to others generously tend to drive engagement (low maintenance) vs. obedience (high oversight). What they generously provide is coaching, time, responsiveness, freedom to fail, sharing credit and decision-making authority. They draw people in versus pushing them along. They have a healthy sense of humility because they put their followers first and see their job is to remove obstacles for the team, using their influence (as well as getting their hands dirty and owning tasks both low and high level as needed) to make life better for their team vs themselves. They operate from EQ versus EGO.


Take this self-assessment to determine whether your team would more likely coin you as a generous leader or stingy leader:

1. Do I routinely ask for feedback on how I can help them be more effective both day-to-day and in meeting their larger goals?

Generous leaders keep a pulse on the obstacles to team performance and spend diligent time on cutting through bureaucracy to get resources or eliminate unnecessary steps that impede productivity. They see their job as a facilitator of work, not just visionary in the corner office. Generous leaders show the team that they are heeding their advice and continually proving to them that they have a voice within the organization.

2. How often do I defend my team when they need me?

Generous leaders protect their employees from gossip and rumors. They assume everyone’s best intentions and take steps to fully understand issues before reaching conclusions or rushing to judgment. They remain loyal to the absent. They speak up in meetings where their team is being attacked and run interference.

3. When was the last time I gave someone else credit for something I did?

Generous leaders share the spotlight. They are not threatened by others’ receiving attention for accomplishing the work of the team and are able to share successes with their followers. Taking an abundance theory when it comes to praise, acknowledgement and recognition earns deep respect from followers. And it is important to note that the way generous leaders share the spotlight is not just indiscriminately across the board, rather they find out how members of their team like to be recognized. Some appreciate large scale spotlight while others just appreciate a quick, private bask in the sun between them and their leader.

4. How often do I dominate a meeting?

Generous leaders do not need to be the smartest person in the room. They do more listening than talking. They listen to others for understanding, instead of judging. They guide critical thinking via questions versus stating opinions. The most generous leaders are best at asking dialogue enriching questions. Instead of just the facts, generous leaders deepen interactions between themselves and their teams by being a catalyst for deriving meaning from flat data and getting people to communicate in a way where genuine understanding and connections take place.

5. Would my team say that I get more than I give?

Generous leaders always attempt to give more than they get. They put the needs of others first, instead of expecting everyone else to keep them comfortable. They respect the deadlines of peers and direct reports and don’t constantly change priorities on them or operate in chronic crisis mode. Generous leaders respond to messages from their team before the boss or client.

6. What values and expectations do I unconsciously communicate through my behavior?

Every leader should evaluate what message they are sending when they are emailing at
2am or asking for things from their people on the weekends. Even if they say it’s not important for the employee to respond and send it anyway, the damage is done. The expectation is set for what is acceptable and tells others that no matter how much you say you value them as people, your actions don’t show it. And chances are they won’t feel entitled to honor and protect that work/life balance if you don’t. People don’t feel safe when leaders contradict themselves. Check your leadership for contradictions. It’s the number one saboteur of generous leadership.

Although generous leaders appear flexible and supportive, they are not weak. They do not let people walk all over them or take advantage of their philosophy on leadership. They set direction, drive outcomes and hold people accountable by utilizing a giving approach vs. a getting approach.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Three Simple Tips to Raise Your Emotional Intelligence

As with many things in life, big impact can come from very small gestures. Sometimes the things that touch us most profoundly are found in moments in time: a specific smile, a kind gesture, a personal note, well-chosen words spoken exactly when you needed to hear them. And the same goes for Emotional Intelligence (EQ). If you are working on increasing your EQ and all the things it brings: more effective working relationships, more genuine and enjoyable personal relationships, a better understanding of other’s needs as well as our own, more opportunities to do what we enjoy with people we enjoy inside and outside work, and the ability to have a greater platform for your thoughts and ideas, don’t feel like you have to reinvent yourself or change some big thing about you. Instead, make subtle but important changes to raise your influence and impact on others. Here are three simple tips to get you started…


In our October 2010 Performance Pointer (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs088/1100409827245/archive/1103776948817.html), we discussed the important balance between Ego and EQ. When we live in Ego we do things that are
comfortable for us, and force others to do the adjusting. When we use our EQ, we understand that we cannot work from a place that puts our own needs first. So, Tip #1 is get out of your comfort zone. For example, instead of sending out an email late at night or a document for someone else to review while they are on a day off just to be able to check it off your list, wait to do so if the timing is terrible for the receiver. Or if you can’t wait to send it, at least make it clear that you do not want or expect the person to review it on their time off. Setting a clear expectation of response demonstrates a respect and priority for the other person’s time.


Avoid making excuses for your own blind spots or missteps. Take accountability when you have
left someone with a wrong impression. Tip #2 is to judge yourself on your behaviors not your intentions. Get in a habit of nightly or weekly self-reflection where you replay the events of the
week and ponder ways that you may have handled them differently. Perhaps there are some whom you may owe an apology to for your behavior. Pay special attention to times when you unintentionally took out a bad mood or frustration on an undeserving coworker. Consider how
in touch you are with your own body language and behavioral cues. When was the last time you picked up a sense or cue that someone had an issue with you or your approach but didn’t verbalize it? How often do you find yourself mentally defending yourself in your own mind rather than seeking to understand alternate perspectives that would help you connect better with how others see you?

Social self-awareness is increased when we align our intended behavior with the perception others have of our behavior. Simply put, this means there is a congruency between who and how we want to be in relation to others and how others actually perceive us. Intention and reality can be worlds apart. This insight cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Tip #3 is to seek feedback from someone who will be honest. As a high-ranking leader, this is particularly important as the feedback you get on a regular basis will be filtered. Plus, if you don’t ask for it, no one wants
to give their boss unsolicited feedback. Be gracious and open. Thank them for their candor and willingness to care enough to share their thoughts. If anything comes across as unpleasant or confusing, resist the urge to defend or shut down and begin a new reflex response in its place – curiosity. Ask open ended questions in a non confrontive way such as “tell me more about
that….”, “okay that’s an important point…can you give me an example so I can be sure I’m on the same page”, “what would the better way look like if I were to improve or change that?”. If it is too difficult to get honest feedback yourself, consider taking a multi-rater assessment (also popularly called “a 360”) or h hire a coach to do some source interviews with the people who work with you and help you explore the data for meaning and application. Our coaching clients report that receiving once-in-a-lifetime feedback like this was life changing for them both
personally and professionally and from the coaches perspective post-360 is when we gain a lot of developmental traction because the person is able to for the first time clearly see cause and effect of their behavior.

If you’re tired of being frustrated with other’s behavior and wondering why it never seems to change despite your efforts, it might be time to reverse your focus. When we begin working with our clients on themselves (their motives, intentions vs. perceptions, reaction vs. seeking to understand, finding mutually satisfying goals/solutions), they are always shocked at how much the world around them changes as they do. Sailors know that adjusting the sail by even a few degrees can change the entire direction of their course. Human behavior is no different. Make small changes now and you may be amazed at the dramatically different place it takes you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Surprising Workplace Performance Booster: Mindfulness

“I don’t have time to think. My workload and pace is so intense I literally don’t feel like I have time to think, only to act and desperately try to keep up with the flood of demands and expectations. Thinking big picture or strategic or examining what and how I’m doing things and why, forget it. I have to keep my head down and keep going. And this is not just me, this is the culture. We all live with it.”

This is how one client described the incapacitating experience of his workload stress. Sadly, he’s not alone by a long shot. We hear this sentiment from clients at all levels and often from some of the most successful and productive people. Despite their results, they aren’t basking in the glow of their success. They’re busy trying not to drown in it.

Our to-do lists have seeped into our nights and weekends, spreadsheets and emails whirling in our heads as we toss and turn. We work hard at staying organized, utilizing our technology and paper planners to cram productivity into every breath, only to wonder at the end of the week what the heck we accomplished that truly meant anything. Mindfulness is the key to breaking this paradoxical unproductive productive cycle. It just might be the switch to turn your personal rat race into the fulfilling and exciting career you deserve.

What is Mindfulness anyway? No pretzel yoga poses required. Nope, burning incense or candles in your office won’t be necessary. According to Ellen Langer, author of several groundbreaking books on Mindfulness, the term Mindfulness is the opposite of Mindlessness, which involves automatic, habitual thought that is most frequently associated with behaviors of people who are distracted, hurried, multi-tasking, and/or overloaded. Conversely, mindfulness means being continually aware and dialed in to the moment and those participating in our moments. It is an “attunement to today’s demands to avoid tomorrow’s difficulties”. This mindset creates an openness to new information (creativity), an awareness of multiple perspectives (empathy and insight), and a quiet mental room in which to explore and examine what would otherwise be performed on auto pilot (critical thinking).

Adopting a habit of mindfulness in the workplace simply means approaching everything on your list and in your day in a thoughtful, objective, and holistic (tasks/goals and people/relationships) manner. It requires that you mentally “check in” on what is happening within yourself and around you. Let’s briefly review three important check-ins that help to create a mindset of mindfulness at work.

Check Your Pace

Often our tendency is to move rapidly into fixing mode or to maintain a continuous breakneck speed towards achievement, especially within high pressure cultures. This approach can reap results and therefore reinforces a mindless pace that is riddled with the blind spots of an overly outcome centric approach. To be mindful doesn’t mean being slow or ineffective. Rather, it is a mental check-in that thoroughly assesses the situation to determine the most balanced and effective method and pace for accomplishing the task at hand. It causes us to ask
the why, how, who, and what else questions that are so vital to wise decision making: assessment before action. Instead of moving at the speed of the culture or others demands, mindfulness provides a stop gap that helps us focus, increases our energy and allows us to more skillfully apply our talents. It encourages us to stop and thoughtfully consider all aspects of the project or problem and resist the urge or pressure to jump in and rush toward results. Without this mindful pace check-in, we miss important details and fail to understand root causes, almost guaranteeing a reoccurrence of the issue. Mindlessly, we might actually make the problem worse. A good technique for creating a mindful work pace is to start by assessing how you currently schedule your days. Are you booking yourself too tightly or committing to unrealistic deadlines? Push back on timelines that don’t feel balanced or necessary and be sure to schedule chunks of time in between meetings to process and plan around what you’ve heard.

Check Your Control

Many people report deep frustration and lack of personal fulfillment stemming from feeling out of control of their time. Keeping up with an intense workload is a common cause of mindlessness. Conversely, practicing mindfulness snaps your brain out of auto pilot by reexamining everything you had previously accepted as part of the necessary evils of the job. Are all your deadlines and workload expectations realistic and set collaboratively? Simply put, how much are you managing your environment and how much is it managing you? Fight any urge to think that achieving this level of influence is not realistic in your environment. We’ve heard this excuse many times and unfailingly clients are able to think of at least one person they work with who does exert control over their time and the expectations placed on them by others. It’s not that you can’t control your time; it’s merely a matter of learning how to do it. This more mindful and assertive approach for managing workload expectations might be different than what others have come to expect from working with you but rarely does that become a stumbling block. More likely, others barely notice when we renegotiate task terms yet we get a world of relief and a sense of personal accomplishment from taking back control of our time.

Check Your Plate

Should everything that is on your list actually be on your list? This is where you check-in that you are asking for help when needed, not assuming the problems of others instead of coaching them to do it themselves, and having the confidence to push back on a task or deadline that either doesn’t belong with you or will cause undue stress to accomplish it in the time allotted. The worst case stories we often tell ourselves about what might happen if we don’t meet or exceed other’s expectations often include things like…they’ll stop coming to me for help…others will see me as disorganized, ineffective or lacking a sense of urgency if I
push back on their timing….they’ll communicate poorly about me to others…I should be able to handle this; it’s my job….and more of the same. Reality rarely lives up to the fiction that plays out in our heads. Stay mindful about what you take on, what resources you’ll need, and what commitments you’ll need others to make for you to be set up for success, not stress.

If you can relate to our client’s sentiments and feel you too struggle to find the time to think, then take this opportunity to stop and awaken to another option. A mindful mindset is counter to our modern world and will take practice. Start by taking one thing on your plate today and mindfully assess it with fresh eyes. Less stress, more fun, collaboration, and meaningful impact….You never know what else you might discover.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Choosing Optimism

We all have heard the expression that you can see the glass as half full or half empty, which implies that we have a choice in seeing the world the way we want to. Some challenge that and wonder how much can someone’s outlook on life be altered? The good news is research has shown that optimism, which is one of the Emotional Intelligence skills, can be learned. It is vital for organizations be chock full of optimists and the positive attitudes that come with them. If you would like information on testing your optimism or learn how to increase it, read on.

Optimism has a correlation with better health (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/positive-thinking/SR00009), longer life (http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov06/healthy.aspx), more happiness and more fulfilling relationships. The Oxford English Dictionary defines optimism as having "hopefulness and confidence about the future or successful outcome of something; a tendency to take a favourable or hopeful view." It is someone who sees setbacks as temporary, and good things in life to be prevalent. It is someone who believes that positive change is possible in themselves and others. And an optimist sees problems as individual occurrences, not the grand plan against them. Without optimism, individuals tend to look for the negative in all situations, finding all the reasons why something will go wrong and the flaw in any plan (yes, they love to quote “Murphy”).

The leading researcher on the topic of optimism and “positive psychology” is Martin Seligman. He runs the Authentic Happiness Institute and the University of Pennsylvania. At his website (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/questionnaires.aspx) you can take several free assessments on your level of Optimism, Happiness and Gratitude.

In his book Learned Optimism Seligman says,
“The defining characteristic of pessimists is that they tend to believe that bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do, and are their own fault. The optimists, who are confronted with the same hard knocks of this world, think about misfortune in the opposite way. They tend to believe that defeat is just a temporary setback or a challenge, that its causes are just confined to this one case.”
This highlights the common dynamic of pessimists who commonly point outward in their search for why things aren’t the way they want them to be. Instead of looking for their part in the problem, owning it and taking steps toward fixing the issue, they always find someone to blame. Instead of identifying their point of influence and leveraging their personal power, they waste loads of time and energy complaining about their issues. “Bad luck” lets them off the hook for taking action and personal responsibility. Pessimists unknowingly play the victim in life (http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs088/1100409827245/archive/1101690503429.html)

Seligman tested his theory with the hiring of new sales people at Met Life. It was a daring experiment: hire candidates who scored low on the company’s traditional hiring process but high in optimism. They tracked their results against a control group and they outsold the pessimists by 21 percent the first year, and by 57 percent the second year. The results included Met Life increasing its market share of the personal insurance market by 50%.

Tips on Increasing Your Optimism:
• Be mindful of your first reaction to assume the worst. Ask yourself, “What about this situation could work out well?”
• Catch yourself (or ask a trusted colleague) to catch you using negative language. Words such as “fat chance”, “don’t waste your breath”, “I have the worst luck”, “nothing will change” all reveal your pessimistic expectations and make you look like a downer.
• Find your happy place. Visualize your life in the future at its best, with your goals accomplished, your stressors removed, surrounded by the people who bring out the best in you.
• Don’t believe everything you think. Challenge yourself to change your thinking and you will change your behavior.
• Interview yourself when you anticipate the worst to happen. Ask: Why do I have such low expectations of this? What are the odds that the worst case scenario will actually happen? Are there actions I can take to mitigate any risk? What if the best outcome happened?
• Lose the pessimists in your life. Free yourself of relationships that bring out the worst in you, and make a date with an optimist. Good feelings and positive attitudes are contagious (just like the negative ones). Work to surround yourself in your business and personal life with people who make you feel strong, successful, valuable, energized, and happy.
• Leaders with optimism are the ones people want to work for. Light-hearted, positive, seeing the best in people, and confident are all strong leadership qualities. On the flip side, a leader cannot be seen as too optimistic or they appear out of touch with reality. Bosses who continually talk in prettied up press release-speak and relentlessly preach the company line quickly lose credibility, respect and performance from their people. If you’ve had an overly idealistic supervisor attempt to “motivate” you, then you know exactly how frustrating and demotivating unbalanced optimism can be.

As with all the EI skills, optimism must be at high, but appropriate, levels to be seen as genuine. Do an attitude check and ensure that you are not getting into a pattern of negative energy or constant complaining. No one wants to work with a buzz kill.

A pessimist has no motor. An optimist has no brakes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

EQ and Leadership

I was interviewed on July 6th by Ric Franzi of Critical Mass for Business (www.criticalmassforbusiness.com) on the topic of Emotional Intelligence and leadership.

I hope you check it out...

http://t.co/XRMYF3Q

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Feedback After Failure

Obviously, no one wants to make a bad decision or make a mistake. Yet if we consider the things in life that have shaped us the most, there are likely more than a few failures and tough lessons on the list. However, we rarely allow employees the benefit of this “fail forward” environment; the freedom to feel fully empowered to experiment and take risks. Most leaders have difficulty letting go because of trust issues, image management motives, and/or a need to protect people from the deflating failure experience. However, to be a fully effective leader we are required to delegate and trust employees to take responsibility and accountability for their own decisions. This is a significant distinguisher between management and leadership. Are you directing or developing?

Rest assured that if you have an engaged employee who fails, no one will feel worse about it than they will, so your feedback through it will be vital. A borderline employee will need the post-mortem to collaboratively sift through the experience to find the valuable lessons they can leverage to improve their performance. A poor performer will tire of the consistent communication, expectations, and accountability, and will likely pick up their anchor and move on.

After all the recovery plans have been created and implemented, it is time to schedule the meeting to do a post-mortem. Here are some ideas:

• Let them talk. Think coaching, not instructing. Ask questions that allow them to process what happened and self-discover any warning signs they may have missed. A lesson learned personally has far greater power to change than accepting someone else’s truth.

• Don’t play the blame game – and stop them from playing it to. If it really was their decision that led to failure they must own it, but you also need to ease up on your urge to lecture or say I told you so. If others truly were involved in the mistake or poor decision, allow this fact to be acknowledged on one condition. They must also acknowledge what they personally could have done to influence other’s behavior to have achieved better results. How can they be more successful working with and through others going forward?

• What lessons have been learned – what can you both take away from the experience?

• Moving forward – how can you help them re-establish credibility or trust? Identify what resources may be missing to assist them.

• Remind them of past success – you don’t want to make them fearful of risking again. Build their confidence. Remember that they will beat themselves up worse than you ever will. You can verbally communicate a safe environment, but if your actions at any point contradict this message, there will be no growth in performance or personal ownership. Check in intermittently with your staff to ask how effective you are being in delivering a consistent message of safety in risk taking.

The only way to delegate more is to trust more. The only way to build trust is to give people room to prove themselves, including the risk of failing. Keep the conversation objective, make it safe for them to try new things and grow, and if things don’t go as planned, ask what contingency plans he/she would have put in place knowing what they know now. How can you both use that information for the next time? Don’t stop providing autonomy because of failure; be there to give them what they need, just when they need it. Someone somewhere gave you an important chance to learn and grow. Be that someone for your team.

Random Thoughts From the Road

What city am I in? Was 906 my hotel room number from last night or last week? When I walk into the parking lot, I go to the blue car then realize that was from the day before. What color was that car I picked up last night? Toyota or Nissan?

If only my body kept up with changing time zones as well as my phone does.

I walked into Enterprise to pick up a car last week and was surprised to find they couldn’t find my reservation. Until I realized I made my reservation with Hertz.

My iPhone lets me set appointments, but doesn’t clarify in what time zone they are in. Sorry to the client with whom I tried to schedule a conference call at 5am PDT; that was intended for 8am PDT.

The NetJet people email me to taunt me, as I am pretty sure I can never fly on a private jet because that would just ruin me for commercial air travel ever again. I also don’t dare consider the cost – probably a year’s worth of health insurance premiums for my family.

It’s official, US Air does have the most bitter flight attendants in the industry.

I have met the most amazing people through the work I do, and am honored that they trust me enough to let me peek under the covers. I am blessed to still be in business after the last 3 years, still have my home, and still have health insurance for my family. I so appreciate my supportive husband and beautiful daughters who flex and roll with this crazy, unorthodox, non-traditional life, without complaint.

If I meet you on a plane, I ask for your forgiveness in advance if I seem a little spacey. Jet lag. Life jag.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Man Up

There is a dynamic going on in the workplace today: a shortage of people willing to step up and own their behaviors. The way it plays out is in employee’s who blame others for their failures, get defensive, deflect responsibility, or claim ignorance. There is a link between Self-Awareness and being accountable for our behavior. It requires self-reflection, and it requires seeing ourselves from another point of view. It requires manning up to apologize, even if not for the content of your message but for how you botched its delivery. Self-awareness helps you sense when your behavior is being disruptive and making efforts to remove yourself or use your self-control to minimize the negative impact on others.

To increase Accountability:

Be a leader, role model for your team how to say, “I had no intention of misleading you, I don’t think I was clear with my expectations and I am sorry it created confusion for you.”

Stop telling people what to do: if they are simply carrying out your directives, it makes it impossible for them to take any ownership of its outcome or for you to hold them accountable.

Be self-deprecating. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you get defensive when given feedback. Be able to laugh at your own mistakes, especially in front of your team.

Any time you end up in a conflict or a difficult confrontation, really consider the part you played in it. Almost always, people’s bad behavior is the reaction to something you have done (usually unintentionally). So reflect on what you did to get such a reaction from them, and own up to it with them and apologize.

Watch the blame game. No one wants to work with someone who is always pointing fingers at others as explanation for their own failure. Do people let us down? Yes.
Does workload sometimes feel unfair? Yes. Deal with it.

I really hope if you are in a leadership role that you will try some of these suggestions. You hold the power to change the behavior in your whole lead team by doing so.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Increasing Flexibility

It seems we are all being asked to stretch, flex and push ourselves to do more, be more and accomplish more with less. This requires one critical EQ skill – Flexibility.

Flexibility in the context of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is defined as:
The ability to handle changing circumstances and expectations without disruption. Someone with high Flexibility can handle changing conditions and uncertainty while maintaining their productivity.

Yes, change makes all of us uncomfortable, so why do that to ourselves? Because the opposite of flexibility is rigidity and leaders and teams who demonstrate rigidity get left behind. Leaders who are closed-minded and resist spontaneity do not engage others. Instead, leaders must accept and implement feedback from others, not be easily annoyed or triggered, and remain open minded and willing to experiment with different solutions. Leading others through ambiguity is a vital competency in today’s world. And our human nature doesn’t help: the more uncertainty around us, more we cling to what we know. When things feel out of control, we micro-manage more, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When we tie others to old patterns we tie ourselves as well. Remember that the prison guard is a prisoner too.

If you are looking to increase your own Flexibility or lead a team to do that, here are some suggestions:

• Take time (and/or encourage others) to respond to unexpected events and not reject them out-of-hand. Force yourself to sleep on it before stating an opinion on a new initiative. Instead of first finding all the things that won’t work, spend time searching for the things that can.

• Remain open minded to new ways of responding to old problems. Brainstorm ideas with others for handling dynamic, changing demands instead of relying on your own ways of doing it.

• Rigidity can be tied to risk aversion so think of several contingency plans to make change feel safer. Play the worst case scenario game by imagining how you would be able to respond if your deepest concerns were realized and work backwards from there.

• Do a self debate on an issue you feel strongly about. Only take the other side.

• Find the positive in fresh ways of doing things; the more you leave behind, the more room you have to explore something new.

• Self-reflect on a time when something that happened felt like failure at the time, but actually turned out to be a good thing.

• Catch yourself (and ask for help from others) when you start slipping back to old habits and behaviors. Don’t allow yourself to drift back to a comfort zone.

Don’t attempt to change too much at once and remember that creating new habits requires mind, body and heart to stick so focus on one thing at a time. We also know that change initiatives require minutes of attention every day versus focus during one week a year, or one day a month, or even one hour a week.

“For our most important beginnings take place in the darkness outside our awareness. It is, after all, the ending that makes the beginning possible.”
– William Bridges, TRANSITIONS

Monday, March 28, 2011

Group Intelligence

The researchers find some quite intriguing – and counterintuitive – correlations between properties at the level of the individual and the level of the group. For example, one might “pre-theoretically” think that group intelligence is a function of the average intelligence of that group’s members. And one might “pre-theoretically” think that a group with a single exceptional individual would have a higher group IQ than one with, say, three above average but non-exceptional members. However, Woolley and her colleagues find only a statistical correlation between the intelligence of groups and these two member-level properties. In other words, it’s not possible to accurately predict how well groups will perform on a range of cognitive tasks simply by averaging the IQs of its members, or by noting a single exceptional individual within the group. These features aren’t linked – or at least not robustly – to group IQ, despite what intuition might suggest.

What, then, determines how smart a group of collaborating individuals is? The researchers find three individual-level features that correlate in a statistically significant way to collective intelligence.

First, the greater the social sensitivity of group members, the smarter the group. Second, the more turn-taking within the group, the better the group performs.
And third, the more women in the group, the higher the group IQ.

For any reader who works on projects in groups, this is good information to know!
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/verdoux20110119

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Problem with Healthcare

My daughter needs eye surgery. Nothing major, she was born with a tear duct issue that causes teary eyes. Because she was born with 2 other health issues, the eyes fell to the bottom of the priority list. Now we are ready to deal with it and have been to 3 surgeons to determine the best approach and hospital. The first stop we made was to Boston Children’s who recommended an outpatient procedure. Being self-employed, we do not have great health insurance coverage so we knew we would likely be out-of-pocket for the majority of the cost. So we asked if we could get an all-in cost estimate (the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the OR, – the total expected cost of the surgery) and were told no: they couldn’t provide it because they didn’t know how to create an estimate.

The third opinion was at Dartmouth Medical Center where we received a similar diagnosis and recommended out-patient procedure, so again we asked for a cost estimate. This time, they were able to give us an estimate (it took almost a month to get it) – are you ready? We were quoted $30,000 to $35,000. I was stunned when I heard the amount. I called the surgical coordinator back to get a breakdown and try and understand how a 10-minute outpatient procedure could possibly cost so much. After leaving 2 messages for her, another 3 weeks later I still did not have an answer. I kept thinking that if I were calling a car dealership about purchasing a $35,000 Lexus I would have a call back the same day.

So I called the surgeon directly and told her my story. She said she had no idea how much even her own fees were and when I told her the quoted amount of $30,000 to $35,000 she herself gasped. She said she had no idea how much it cost to have any of the procedures she performed. Despite follow up, it has been almost 2 months since our original appointment and no one can give us the breakdown of the estimated costs for her procedure.

THIS IS THE PROBLEM WITH HEALTHCARE!

The providers don’t even know how much they are charging. The healthcare system doesn’t know how to accurately create an estimate for services. The patients aren’t asking for cost information. What other industry can get away with this? I can’t imagine my clients asking about my fee structure and me saying, “I have no idea”.

My daughter needs this surgery but also feel that I have a responsibility to manage how much I will pay and how much my insurance company will pay for a routine procedure. If you are a patient and haven’t been asking about the costs of your healthcare, start asking. If you are a provider and don’t know your own fee structure, start learning. We all need to take a role in assessing reasonableness in cost of care. This is ridiculous.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Delegating For Development

Development Activities vs. Job Duties

Once you have identified some employees with high-potential that you would like to groom and develop, consider small actions you can take to maximize opportunities that allow your employee to learn while they work toward accomplishing job duties.
Important things to consider:

Development activities should come with added levels of support. As the employee learns, they will have questions. Pre-plan whom they should go to first and what sources are available to them. You may also suggest some “hands off” sources if you know there is a risk of them learning bad habits first. You will need to make yourself available on a predictable schedule so the employee has access to you as they learn.

Development activities must allow room for failure. Don’t assign a super-sensitive, high visibility project to your employee as a stretch assignment. Pick something that has a long deadline, that you may have time to review and finalize before it goes public, or something that has minor risk if it isn’t “perfect.” Think about how you would explain “perfect” to them as you delegate. Paint a picture of what a perfect outcome would be in your mind. And then be ready to accept less than perfect.

Development activities need a post-mortem. In today’s rush-around, no-resource world we complete projects, check them off the list and move on to the next thing. After a development activity is assigned, schedule a formal meeting to discuss process, roadblocks, successes and key learnings. It can be as simple as “what worked/what didn’t work”. Use it as an opportunity to spring board to the next assignment. Test your employee to see if they are continuously incorporating their new skills into their daily work; this is a way to measure their learning agility.

Most organizations today are relying on “on-the-job” (OTJ) training to develop employees to increasing levels of skill and competence. For OTJ to be effective, it requires a different approach to delegation and categorizing job tasks into development activities. This process aids learning, allows the employee autonomy and accountability, and minimizes risk of failure.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Type A personality: It's not all bad news!

Type A Personality: It’s not all bad news!

People with Type A personalities are known for being impatient, aggressive and high-stress. They often get a bad rap. But recent research suggests that if you have some Type A characteristics, there may be benefits – especially when it comes to your work life.

Here's what some studies say:

  • A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggests that employees with Type A personalities are often effective leaders and have lower levels of work stress.
  • Research presented in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that people with Type A personalities tend to be more ambitious. As a result, they have higher levels of job satisfaction.
  • A study in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology found that Type A employees are more likely to be engaged in their work and less likely to report burnout.
  • Research conducted in Finland found that the leadership component of Type A personalities is related to several positive traits, including high standards, perseverance and self-esteem and and being well liked among friends and co-workers - traits that may even help lower the risk of heart disease.


Source: Mayo Clinic Health Solutions

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Intent vs. Impact

Stephen Covey has said that we judge others on their behavior and we judge ourselves on our intentions. What would happen if we reversed that thinking?

Wouldn't your team be more creative if they experienced less judgment in the workplace? Wouldn't there be less stress if everyone felt accepted and understood?

Consider doing a brief, but easy exercise to learn more about perceptions.

Imagine seeing yourself from someone else's point of view. They do not have the benefit of knowing how you think. They do not get insight into your rationale when you make decisions. They only see what you do and what you say. For one week, spend the last 10 minutes of each workday writing down the names of the people you interacted with that day and, thinking about your behavior only, list the adjectives they would give if asked to describe you. Now make a list of everyone you interacted with and how you judged them that day.


On the flip side, since we don't have the ability to read someone else's mind, we make a lot of assumptions about why someone behaves the way they do. What if you spent one week conscientiously assuming everyone had the best intent? Even bad behavior can be driven by someone trying to do the right thing and being stymied by the actions of others. Catch yourself before judging someone else negatively and instead consider any and all positive motives. Choose one of those.


Done earnestly, this will be a very enlightening exercise increasing your self-awareness and empathy.

What have you got to lose?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Annual Travel Summary - 2010

Here is my 2010 travel summary:

113,635 miles, 7 airlines, 32 airports.

Total delays: 15.05 hours (includes credits for early arrivals)

Percent of all flights with a delay: 30.77% (78% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)

Average delay (all flights): 42 minutes

Percent of delays not weather related: 84.38%


Percent of flights with a delay by airline:

Southwest (45 flights) 35.56% (81% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)

United (40 flights) 25% (100% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)

US Air (9 flights) 44.44% (50% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)

Continental (8 flights) 12.5% (0% of those were delayed more than 15 mins)


Average delay by airline:

Southwest: 38 minutes

United: 59 minutes, plus 2 delayed bags

US Air: 19 minutes

Continental: 13 minutes


The winner of the most outrageous reason for a delay is United Airlines. We were sitting on the active taxiway, in line for takeoff when the pilot came on and said that we had to return to the gate to pick up a crew member who needed to be at the airport for a morning flight. The delay ended up being 61 minutes for a flight that was scheduled to be 1 hr 23 minutes, gate to gate.

Compared to 2009, my stats are actually worse in 2010. Sadly, the FAA Reauthorization funding has been delayed yet again (I think it is on it's 14th extension) so until the system improves, airline passenger's will continue to face long delays, wasted time, and unreliable service from the air carriers. There is a lot in the airlines control, although I have seen very little effort to determine what that is and make the most of customer experience.