Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's Hard to Breath in a Feedback Vacuum


Hearing feedback can be tough, especially information that we don't like or don't want to believe about ourselves. But those who are willing to face it gain a real opportunity to increase their overall effectiveness, influence and business results. I have had my fair share of days when I have thought that feedback is overrated and I am just fine, thank you very much. But I know that I don't help myself when I shut down data on how my behavior is impacting someone else and taking note of it makes it all the more valuable. And as you will see in this week's article, getting helpful feedback is key to avoiding career derailment, by a big amount.

A Feedback Vacuum 

The world today is filled with ambiguity: the economy, politics, terrorism, Wall Street. With so many factors out of your control, doesn't it make sense for you to ensure you are paying attention to what is in your control? Your own behaviors? What shifts can you make in your behavior to safeguard against possible ego pitfalls that could potentially hurt your career and reputation? What tactics can you employ to sharpen your emotional intelligence (EQ) and reap its proven benefits? It all starts with getting some feedback, especially if you are a leader.

To become a truly excellent formal or informal leader who creates exceptional results, a question that everyone needs to ask themselves from time to time is: "How am I doing as a leader and how do I know I have an accurate answer?" Followed by the all-important question: "How closely does my own opinion of how I'm doing match what my direct reports, my peers, and my boss would say about how I'm doing?" The reality is that your success in leading others requires alignment between your self-perception and your followers' perception. From a leadership standpoint, it's an important distinction. The continuum runs from "plugged in" to "clueless." Where you fall on this scale affects not only your leadership credibility but your effectiveness and ultimately your career.


 What leaders do is always more impactful than what leaders say. And regardless of intent, the message to followers when leaders exempt themselves from the feedback process is clearly, "Do as I say, not as I do" or worse, "I am okay, but you are not." My guess is that most leaders don't mean to make such statements intentionally. Yet when they forgo the feedback-gathering process for themselves, that's exactly what they are doing.

A study of 39,000 global leaders by PDI Ninth House confirms that there is, in fact, a significant correlation between an "inability or unwillingness to see one's own faults" and career stalling or derailment. Those who were identified as "out of touch" with how their direct managers rated them were 629% more likely to "derail"(i.e., performing below the level of expected achievement, being demoted, or even being fired) than those who were in touch with how their direct manager rated them. Stop for a moment and re-read that number...629%! That's a big, career-imploding difference. If that stat doesn't make you stop to consider the importance of syncing up your own assessment of your performance with those around you - to gather and listen to feedback - what will?
  
Much of the time, daily feedback will be delivered to you in vague terms, tied to business issues, or masked within frivolous praise so as not to hurt your feelings, or, more often, so as not to have to deal with your reaction. So you'll need to listen for the cues and really observe what people are trying to communicate to you. If someone looks uncomfortable or hesitant while telling you something, a little red flag should pop up, encouraging you to tune in and ask more. You can also look for common themes among statements by your team members and use these as valuable clues on where your people may need you to adjust.

Feedback provides you with valuable input for how to ramp up your EQ in several key areas:

  • Recognize your own impulses before acting on them (self-awareness)
  • Relate better to others, meeting their needs when appropriate (empathy)
  • Moderate your own behavior (self-control) to avoid unproductive interactions and responses
While the ego tells us that a lack of constructive feedback is a sign that we are doing "great," EQ reminds us to stay grounded in what's true by soliciting feedback from others and using that feedback to create a more complete picture of our performance. A healthy dose of regular feedback from others can help to keep the ego in check and allow the benefits of EQ to flow. Remember that ego and EQ are mutually exclusive: you must make a conscious and daily choice about which one will dominate your conduct each day.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Great Divide: Our Inter-Generational Workplace


I remember watching the Superbowl one year with my daughter Annie. At the time she was 7-years-old, and after a few minutes she said to me, "They are just playing for fun, right?" and I said, "No, they are playing for real. They want to win." And she said, "But it's just a game so it doesn't matter who wins, right?" She was a soccer player on our town's recreational team, her team didn't keep score and everyone received a trophy at the end of the season; thus she thought all games were played that way.

This is a common mindset that we see in the generation who will be replacing the Baby Boomers. They are called Gen Y, Millenials or Trophy Kids.  The “everyone wins” philosophy poses some challenges in terms of how to best integrate younger talent with colleagues of other generations who see things very differently. 
Managing an Inter-Generational Workforce

We live during a unique time in workplace history. Walk into any business, and you might find three - sometimes four - generations working side by side: Millenials (born 1980-2000, also called Gen Y), Generation X (1965-1979), Baby Boomers (1943-1964), and Veterans or Silent Generation(pre-1942).

Research indicates that the generation in which an individual grew up influences his or her behaviors, motivators, expectations, and mindset about work. Consider the following vastly different factors.


And between generations, the outcome of those influences on an individual's work may be very different!

So how do you handle these differences in the workplace?

  • Focus on different benefits and aspects of the company in recruiting. When recruiting Boomers, focus on the company benefits and career paths. For Gen Xers focus on short term perks like gym memberships, flex time, monthly or quarterly bonuses, and cash incentives. Millenials care about the organization's commitment to being green, social networks available, community service opportunities, and the various places in the company in which they can work and learn.
  • Use a slightly different coaching approach for each generation. Offer formal training programs (including topics like flexibility, technology, and interpersonal skills) for Boomers. When coaching Gen Xers, discuss development ideas as peers, and then give them independence and empowerment to try new things. When coaching Millenials, allow them to work in teams, and give them specific and timely feedback on their performance.
  • Understand that different generations are motivated by different rewards. When possible, tailor your rewards to the individual who will receive it. For example, a Baby Boomer may prefer a small bonus or gift card, while a Millenial prefers an email thank you with a new, challenging assignment.
Remember that all employees, despite their generation, want to be treated fairly, managed with respect, and given an opportunity to grow.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Month in a Minute


School is back in session. The Fall routine starts again and we are heading into the last 100 days of the year. For those in Texas, Louisiana and now Florida, there has likely been a lot of business and personal life disruption. If you have been affected, keep that stress tolerance and optimism high and I wish you a speedy return to normalcy. For the rest of us, it’s time to decide what needs to be accomplished before we sing Auld Lang Syne to 2017. If I may make a suggestion, one of your year-end goals should be personal development. Pick a book to read. Attend a webinar. Listen to a podcast. Take an assessment. If your company offers free workshops or pays for you to attend offsite ones, do it. Never pass up an opportunity to invest in yourself.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Taking Stock: Leadership Credibility



This week's blog will help you take a good hard look in the performance mirror and take steps toward becoming the kind of leader people remember....in a good way. What are your leadership goals and challenges? Where should you focus your development? Where are your blind spots?

Finding the answers to these weighty questions must begin with self-examination but then be tested by seeking outside perspective - discovering who we are in the eyes of others. Let your employees hold up the mirror and you may be surprised by what you see. Blind spots are our stumbling blocks, our bad habits that hold us back from being the kind of leader we aspire to be. Resolve to take a risk and learn how to lead from the ones who matter most – those following you.

There are many ways to help your employees open up and share their insight, some more formal like employee surveys, and some informal like an end-of-year leadership performance review. Yes, you read right, it's time to give your employee's a turn to review your performance and provide written and verbal feedback on your key leadership competencies.

Consider the following behaviors that crush leadership credibility and employee motivation (trends uncovered through employee focus groups and surveys across industries and levels):

Lack of direct feedback - Telling others about the person or saying nothing at all.
Common employee complaint: “You can tell they are unhappy with me but won’t talk to me directly about it”

Solitary decision making - Making decisions that impact others without soliciting their feedback.
Common employee complaint: “This directly affected my job but they didn’t think it was important enough to ask me what I think”

Talking out of both sides of your mouth - Being hypocritical, contradictory or overly political.
Common employee complaint: “Mixed messages”

Forgetfulness - Forgetting conversations and instructions given. Poor listening skills. Common employee complaint: “I have to take notes just to be sure I can prove later we had this conversation”

Unpredictable/Reactive - Crisis mentality, often adopting the reactions of others. 
Common employee complaint: “We’re headed one direction today, we’ll be headed the opposite direction tomorrow”

Fairweather boss - A fan one minute, a critic the next.
Common employee complaint: “You have their support until it becomes unpopular”

Unrealistic or assumed expectations - Expecting others to possess the same work ethic or assuming unspoken expectations will be met.
Common employee complaint: “I failed at something I didn’t even know I was being evaluated on and never got the chance to discuss it”

Not understanding their employee’s jobs - Assuming credibility can be earned without understanding the inner workings of the team.
Common employee complaint: “If they had any idea what we do they would make better decisions instead of making our jobs harder”

Breaking promises/poor follow through - Unreliability in all its ugly incarnations. Common employee complaint: “They hold us accountable but when it comes to them there are always exceptions and excuses”

Leadership behaviors that build credibility and employee motivation:


         Getting your hands dirty; working WITH them

         Assuming the best and delaying judgment

         Reliability in word and deed

         Soliciting their input in brainstorming and problem solving

         Challenging them to think outside their job description

         Taking a genuine interest in employees as individuals

         Delegating learning opportunities, not just problems

         Laughing at yourself and fessing up when you blow it

         Encouraging creativity

         Giving others the freedom to “fail forward”

         Operating from a hope of success rather than a fear of failure

         Asking “how am I doing?”

You can make great strides toward becoming the kind of leader you most admire. The first step is moving out of your comfort zone and asking for feedback on how others see you modeling these behaviors. Learning about how others perceive you will reveal ways you can be more effective and is surprisingly liberating.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

10 Conflict Management Strategies


This week’s blog gives some tips on dealing with the natural tensions and differences of opinion that arise when you put hard truths on the table. The days of harmony for harmony's sake are over - keep it authentic and keep it real.  At some point in every relationship - because we're human - we will experience conflict.

Conflict, in and of itself, is neither positive nor negative. Simply put, conflict occurs when two or more differing opinions or values meet. How we deal with the conflict is what affects our relationships and leaves us with a positive or negative experience.

So how do you deal with conflict that arises? Here are 10 pointers to consider the next time you find yourself in conflict.

1. Step back and define the root issue. Some conflicts may be ignited by a work task, but the real issue usually lies deeper. Perhaps an employee feels undervalued or micro-managed. If you never address the root issue, the conflict will continue to surface.

2. When seeking a conflict resolution be sure to include in your discussion the underlying issues (each person's goals, interests, and fears).

3. Choose the setting for a conflict conversation in advance and prepare discussion points beforehand; someplace neutral, quiet and private. 

4. Beware of the overuse of an "Accommodate" (go along to get along) or "Compete" (my way or no way) conflict response. Both have several disadvantages and can do serious damage to either the relationship or your credibility. Sometimes they are appropriate but proceed with caution. 

5. If possible, break down the conflict into multiple parts. Some pieces may be easier to resolve than others, so get those out of the way before tackling the more controversial issues.

6. As Dr. Phil says, "Somebody needs to be the hero." Sometimes the issue can be resolved in more than one "right" approach. If you're in a deadlock over two possible approaches, be the hero by doing what it takes to move forward, even if that means a little blow to the ego.

7. Choose your battles. Not every battle is worth fighting, so best to use this strategy when the relationship is more important to you than the issue.

8. Admit when you're wrong. The goal is not to prove who is right or wrong, but to move the team forward. If you realize that you were wrong, admit it quickly so everyone can spend time on the solution rather than trying to decide who's to blame.

9. Focus on moving forward: make mutual commitments, request collaboration and schedule a time to follow up with each other and do a progress report.

10.
Remember you're on the same team. At the end of the day, everyone wants the company to be successful and profitable. Approach conflict from this viewpoint: you're working together to resolve a problem, not against each other to prove who wins.

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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