Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Well-Rounded Chiefs Stay Upbeat; Cultivate Character

The following article originally appeared in the November, 2013 online supplement to Investors Business Daily.

Well-Rounded Chiefs Stay Upbeat; Cultivate Character
by Sonja Carberry

For an upbeat outlook, leaders strengthen their dispositions. Top qualities to hone:

 Stay in touch. Intellect moves executives up corporate ladders. Staying on top requires something more, says "Ego Vs. EQ" author Jen Shirkani.

Emotional intelligence — dubbed EQ — sparks those in charge to lead well. Shirkani describes it as demonstrating sensibility.

Lacking a reasonable mindset results in ego-fueled traps, such as ignoring unfavorable feedback and not letting go of control. Sometimes top chiefs just lose touch. EQ helps. "It's the environment. It's designed to make them more comfortable. It sets them up in a lot of ways," Shirkani told IBD.

 Look around. Take submarine bosses, who surface only when they need something. "Suddenly they come up with 10,000 questions on everything," Shirkani said.

A leader strong in EQ would pause and ask himself or herself: Is the timing right for these questions? Who are the people I need in the room?

"The self-control piece of EQ is so important," Shirkani said.

 Strive. Most rising executives can benefit from coaching to strengthen emotional smarts. "It really is some of the most hardworking, earnest executives who fall victim to these traps," Shirkani said.

 Build strength. "The 7 Nonnegotiables of Winning" identified by author David Williams: respect, belief, trust, loyalty, commitment, courage, gratitude.

Williams credits these leadership attributes with driving the growth of Fishbowl, an inventory management software firm. When he took the CEO spot in 2004, the company was slated for dismantling.

His first move? Trusting and believing in the staffers who promised to deliver a viable product. They did, and the company has since ranked on Inc. magazine's 5,000 list of fastest-growing private companies for five straight years, and was named Utah's No. 8 job creator by Inc.'s Hire Power Awards in 2012.

"We really believe that respect is the keystone, and gratitude is the common denominator," he said.

 Loosen reins. "People don't like to be managed. They want to be led and they want to be free," said Williams.

A culture emphasizing trust and loyalty encourages autonomy.

That doesn't mean it's a free-for-all. Expectations at Fishbowl are clearly defined.

"We have department leaders," he said. "That doesn't mean you have to get in the way of the creative output of individuals."

 Stretch the horizon. Uncertainty puts workers on guard. To build trust, Williams and team drafted a long-term plan for Fishbowl.

"Not having an exit strategy gives a sense of security that is profound to our people," he said.

 Find balance. "I think CEOs are much more stressed by the winds of change than they ever have been. Stability is an illusion. Uncertainty is the new norm."

So says "Grounded" author Bob Rosen. To deal with turbulence, he advises leaders to strengthen six personal areas: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social, vocational.

Executives likely have the first four on their radar screens.

Honing social health improves business relationships, and vocational wellness refers to leading in a way that draws maximum potential out of workers. "All six are important, but nobody is going to be perfect in all of them," Rosen said.

The reward is in the striving.

He calls all-around health of leaders a leading indicator of corporate success. "(The six points) create an environment that brings out the best in people," Rosen said. "This isn't just nice things to do. This is real business."

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