Thursday, October 11, 2018

Delegating for Development

I frequently get asked what I think is the best way to teach new skills on the job.  My answer is often delegation.  There is a difference between delegating tasks with the intent of completion versus delegating tasks with the intent of learning and completion. Want to increase employee accountability and minimize the risk of failure? Check out these quick tips to make the most of your assignments.  

Development Activities vs. Job Duties
Small actions you take can provide you with a double benefit when delegating that maximize opportunities for employee learning 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 a minor risk if it isn't "perfect." Think about how to paint a picture of success so they know what to strive for. 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 springboard to the next assignment. Assess your employee to see if they are continuously incorporating 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 employee autonomy and accountability, and minimizes the risk of failure.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Month in a Minute

All photos from the Brainier User Conference.
Why did we crop the photo of the three of us?  Because, we
think it's pretty incredible just the way it is(we asked a 
passerby to snap a quick picture)

Wow, we made it to the 4th quarter. In September we had the opportunity to all get together to attend the Brainier User Conference in Minneapolis, it was a great event! With technology changing constantly it is always good to catch up on the latest trends and solutions in the learning management system world. The good news is that emotional intelligence skills are as in demand as ever and employees who demonstrate flexibility, self-control, stress tolerance and empathy are highly sought after and valued in the workplace in every industry. My keynote is being converted into an eLearning module that will be available on their platform so you can catch it if you happen to be a current customer of theirs.

At the conference, I had the pleasure of meeting their CEO, Jerry Cox. He gave the welcome message and then stayed at the event, sitting in the ballroom at a table with clients and employees. I was impressed. Too often the key executive will make some opening remarks and leave immediately after they are done to tend to more pressing issues. Not Jerry. Then, a few days later I got a handwritten note from him in the mail. That’s right, handwritten. Who does that? What a rarity in today’s world that a busy executive will take the time to write a personal thank you note. The impact was huge. It was a good reminder to me to send more handwritten notes, it’s a small thing that has big meaning.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Company Culture: Who Are You?

I have been writing and speaking about corporate culture for almost 20 years now. After seeing "under the hood" at hundreds of organizations in dozens of industries, each has a unique culture; one that has either come by design or by default. Consider your own company culture - what is it? Is it aligned with your stated company values? Is anyone responsible for its measurement and good health? This month's article provides details on the factors that go into a company culture so you can do your own analysis of how your organization stacks up.        
Culture Defined
The definition of corporate culture includes a common understanding of definitions and traditions, including the appropriate ways to behave. In short, it is the way things get done at your company.
A strong culture gives a business an edge in two major ways:

1) it empowers people to feel part of the fabric of the company building motivation and employee engagement.   

2) it builds a brand image as the customer experience is shaped consistently and reinforced with every interaction. 

Spend a few moments considering your company or department culture and how you can be more intentional about shaping it into the one you desire. What five words would you use to describe your culture today? Are you satisfied with those descriptors? By limiting yourself to just five words, you can hone in on specific traits about your culture. Now ask your employees to do the same exercise...are their words the same? You may find their perceptions extremely insightful. 

Questions to Consider

There are several factors that influence a culture: 

1. How does your atmosphere support your stated business goals and values?   Atmosphere includes how the office or retail location looks, smells, and sounds. This includes how employees dress and what titles people are given. 

2. Are your policies/practices directly supporting the behaviors you expect from your employees? Policies include what is and isn’t formally allowed. Practices are the way policies are demonstrated behaviorally.

3. Take a look at your performance reviews, do they measure behaviors along with results? 

4. Do employees receive formal and informal rewards not just for the results they get but how they get them?

5. When new employees start with the company, does the on-boarding experience consist of a review of paperwork and benefits with Human Resources in a conference room? 

6. Does the company encourage folklore as a way to keep traditions alive? Folklore includes powerful stories that get told about your company by your customers and employees. When I worked at Nordstrom in the 1980’s, there was much talk about their return policy and a popular story routinely circulated involving a customer returning a snow tire.

7. Does every member of senior management set the right tone to support the culture? Duplicity is toxic to credibility. When you say one thing and then have hidden rules, you force employees to behave in self-preserving ways; they learn the loopholes, workarounds, and can go underground. Most employees will follow the path of least resistance to meeting their goals. Remember that leadership will always have the most influence on your organization's culture. 

One way to know if your actual culture is aligned to your desired one is to read about your company online or by surveying your employees and customers to see if the picture painted is an accurate representation of the way things really are. Check out what people are saying.

As a manager, you cannot control every aspect of your corporate culture, but you do wield a great influence over it. By understanding and intentionally shaping your department’s culture, you can build more employee loyalty and engagement.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Are You a Generous Leader?

I'm remembering an HBR article I read a few years back on successful team collaboration and it mentioned something about creating a "gift culture" 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!

Generous or Stingy?

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 associate you with 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 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 good 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 praising, acknowledgment and recognition earn 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 versus a getting approach.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Surrounding Yourself with More of You

When it comes to the challenges of building an executive team, nearly every CEO or business owner will say to me: "I'm a really good judge of character, so I go with my gut." Too often, as a result, these leaders shortcut a thorough interview, and that perfect person turns out to be a terrible technical or motivational fit, resulting in more turnover or worse, an employee who stays and makes everyone else miserable. This week's blog points out the importance of having a team with mixed background, race, gender, age, strengths, values and mindsets.

Surrounding Yourself with More of You

Surrounding yourself with people you "click with" because they share your same strengths, values, and ways of thinking are exactly the people least likely to challenge your decisions or catch the balls you drop. That's a risky game to play in a competitive marketplace where diversity of thought and creative offerings are what keep organizations alive. When you surround yourself with more of "you," you set up-or, worse, institutionalize-blind spots that can prevent you from seeing oncoming challenges.

When you hire others who live on your wavelength, you unintentionally create a support system of people who are not equipped to challenge you, to question your thinking, or to offer you a different perspective and direction. You essentially become trapped in a self-made bubble, missing opportunities to hear valid dissent, better approaches, or alternative ideas. Consequences range from stagnation and disengagement to monotony or rigidity. Putting your emotional intelligence to work in the hiring and promoting process can help prevent these blind spots from occurring and give you a new way to think about what makes for the "perfect" hire. 

It's perfectly natural to be drawn to someone who understands you. You may finish each other's sentences and bristle at the same annoyances. I know it's tempting in the interview to think, "Wouldn't it be great to work with that person?" Regardless of the type of similarities, as an interviewer, you must be aware of any temptation to give priority to hiring or promoting someone who is similar to you, rather than consciously seeking out individuals who are able to bring a unique approach or mindset to the team or to offer a special skill set that's needed for success. Surrounding yourself with more of you is a sinister trap, because it lures you with a mirror that reflects your strengths, your style, and your language, while silently multiplying your (admittedly few and relatively minor) shortcomings. I know, a "mini-me" is as much fun to be around as you are. But wouldn't it be even better to surround yourself with skills complementary but not identical to yours? People who would thrive in areas you would rather hand off anyway? 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Month in a Minute

Top: Group shot of the ISA Emerging Leaders Conference in Chicago, Bottom Left: Leading the discussion at ISA, 
Bottom Right: Steve and me with Dana Jones of Thornburg Investments in Santa Fe

Me and David on my birthday
I am always sad when summer is over and the holidays start to loom. Although this year my winter will be much better in Arizona versus New Hampshire, it is still hard to say goodbye to my favorite season of sun, vacation and water activities. This year, my August was particularly meaningful since I turned 50. To celebrate, I treated myself to a trip to Turks and Caicos and spent the week doing my favorite thing: snorkeling for hours every day. One perk of being underwater was there was no way to bring my phone, and I really tried to unplug and stay off email all week (full disclosure: I caved in a few times). The island was so relaxing and beautiful, it was a place I had never been but can’t wait to return.

With Karen Sommers from City Wide in Boston
We also had a few great business trips last month, one was to Chicago to participate in the Industrial Supply Association Emerging Leaders Conference and the other was to Santa Fe NM to provide an EQ workshop. As we look toward the last quarter of the year, we hope to see you along the way. We still have some availability in October and a couple of days in November if you have budget left to spend and want to increase the EQ of your workforce, let me know!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Risks of Not Letting Go of Control

Micromanager. It's a term we've all heard before, and not without at least a little disdain. As Harvard Business Review blogger Ron Ashkenas reminds us, many people complain about a micromanager, but none of us will ever actually admit to being one. Why would we? The micromanager is seen as meddling, untrusting, and counterproductive. The micromanager may even be thought of -ahem, as a control freak. This week's blog provides some strategies for staying informed without staying too involved.

The Risks of Not Letting Go of Control

At the heart of micromanagement is an ego-based failure to let go of control. Ironically, in some cases, micromanaging leaders may see themselves as low-ego, ultimate "servant leaders." They may think: "Look at me, I am rolling up my sleeves and working side-by-side with the troops." In reality, what may look like helping, though, isn't helping at all since the group doesn't often need another operator. They need a leader. In most cases, the leader's need to be involved often slows down the work of the group, as other things sit and wait for the leader to review or approve them. This is the most common complaint I hear from employees who work for leaders caught in this trap.

Inc. magazine makes an interesting distinction between control and leadership that may help highlight the differences:

"Control is about making sure orders and work requirements are carried out by following management's plans and directions. Leadership, on the other hand, is based on setting clear objectives, delegating authority, relinquishing control, and trusting staff."

Only with the self-awareness, empathy, and self-control that comes with EQ can leaders have the understanding and discipline needed to cede control to the team so they can meet organizational objectives by exercising their own power and agency. The bottom line is it doesn't matter whether a leader refuses to give up control due to a strong personality or a passion for operations, the leader makes decisions and behaves in ways that make them feel comfortable at the expense of others' comfort.

The Battle of Ego vs. EQ

If you should discover that staying out of operations and letting go of control is a challenge for you, begin by looking within. Ask yourself questions like,
  • "Is this something I should be this involved with?"
  • "Have I delegated this to someone else but am I still too far in?"
  • "Is my involvement slowing everything down?"
  • "Am I just gathering information, or am I now in the middle of something, telling people what to do?"
  • "What would happen if I took my hands off the wheel? What does that tell me about how well I have prepared my next-tier leaders for running the business?"

Then, exercise your self-awareness and work to recognize when you're stepping too far into the weeds. You may feel that the visibility on the assignment is too high, you may realize that you distrust the team's competence, or you may recognize an excitement or overzealousness to be involved yourself in a given project. Rather than let these emotions dictate how you proceed-by jumping into operations-step back and consider what the environment needs from you. That's where empathy and reading come in.

With a good read on your team and insight into your own temptations, you'll have the information you need to respond appropriately and consciously.  If you feel uncertain of a team member's competence, take the leap of faith to let the person try and run with a starter project on his or her own. A major part of any leader's job is to develop a bench of capable talent. You'll only know how the person operates if you let her try. Lastly, don't be afraid of mistakes; they are sure to happen. They happened to you in the past and probably serve today as some of your best learning experiences.  The same goes for your team.

In most cases, there is a certain sense of serenity that comes with surrendering and accepting that unintended consequences aren't always terrible. If not, the worst that will happen is that some of your fears will come true but that you will have a new lens with which to view the situation.  You will see the gaps, learning needs, job misfits, and assumptions that you failed to see before from your controlling mindset.  These are invaluable tools you can now use to target where you want to improve the organization, focusing your passions and energy on something with much greater significance and impact.

In the end, you as a leader have to define for yourself when it is appropriate to get involved in a situation. Along these lines, it can be helpful to come up with some clear thresholds to guide you on when to get involved in projects and decisions and when it's better to stay out of the fray. By developing clearer guidelines for when to let go of control, inviting others to hold you accountable, and accepting that it may always feel uncomfortable to trust, you will develop a strong toolset to avoid the urge to micromanage.

This article is a summary excerpt from Ego vs EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps Using Emotional Intelligence. Click here to order a copy of the book, or here for companion webinar.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Don't Let Employees Get Too Comfortable

It's a constant challenge to know how to be the right kind of leader each employee needs us to be to keep them at their best. And although it may be tempting to allow employees to find their groove and just coast, it eventually leads to trouble. Read on to find out why.

Don't Let Employees Get Too Comfortable
As leaders, we are working hard to keep our employees productive and engaged in their work and organization. Followers of the strengths-based philosophy focus on delegating work that is only in an employee's sweet spot. Leaders of millennials may find themselves forced to bias the workload to the tasks the employee finds interesting and motivating because it makes giving positive feedback easier. Although this arrangement may make the leader popular and the employee happier, it comes with some sinister risks.

Active Disservice
This is a tricky trap because many leaders feel quite accomplished if they possess an intimate knowledge of what their people are good at and then provide those opportunities accordingly. Others may also feel a sense of loyalty or protectiveness when assigning work to their people, purposely avoiding things they've sensed makes the person feel uncomfortable or unqualified.

But by allowing employees to become too comfortable and reliant on their signature strengths, keeping themselves safely tucked away in their pockets of expertise, leaders are not actually rewarding them. They are in fact delivering to them an active disservice - enabling them to stay in the comfort zone nest, never stretching beyond their own (often self-imposed) limitations.

80% Strength / 20% Stretch
Although rewarding employees with specific projects that will draw from their strengths and involve duties they enjoy doing is still a smart idea, it should not become the norm all of the time. There is an ideal ratio of 80% strength/20% stretch. Employees who are left 100% comfortable may later face their own set of unpleasant eventualities, often struggling when circumstances change, limiting their own opportunities for advancement, slowly fall behind in meeting the minimum job requirements, and may risk burnout or disengagement as monotony sets in.

Start with a Conversation
Leaders can break the comfort zone handicap by looking more closely at any patterns of avoidance and assess what performance areas bring out signs of resistance or insecurity in their people. They then need to start an open dialogue with the person to find out what resources, training, understanding, or big picture may the person be missing that would help make a challenging assignment easier to complete. This also gives the leader an opportunity to clarify or reset any incorrect or exaggerated perceptions this employee may have had about what they deem as "success" in the particular task or job facet. Odds are you already know what they enjoy doing, this conversation can help you better understand what they avoid doing and why. Leaders must be careful to listen closely for the barriers employees face and actively work to remove them.

Delegate for Development

Acknowledge the discomfort, empathize with the anxiety it may create and don't give in. Helping employees see that a stretch assignment's only purpose is not to stress them out, but actually help them achieve their own goals is a good place to start. Then keep these three tips in mind when delegating:
  • 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 with a minor risk if it isn't "perfect." Think about how to paint a picture of success so they know what to strive for. And then be ready to accept less than perfect.
  • Development activities need a post-mortem. In today's rush-around 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 springboard to the next assignment. Assess your employee to see if they are continuously incorporating new skills into their daily work; this is a way to measure their learning agility.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone Too
One of the most important questions a leader should continually ask themselves is - are my people growing? And are my people growing because of me, in spite of me, or without me?

To gain the necessary credibility required to create a climate of safety where employees feel safe to open up to their boss about tough topics like insecurities, deficiencies, shortcomings, fear, failure, and confusion a leader must have first demonstrated that they too are seeking out growth opportunities that stretch them in unfamiliar areas. Being a leader who doesn't allow comfort zone handicaps to hurt their team requires that they first (or at the same time) make intentional efforts to get uncomfortable too. Maintaining a healthy level of challenge and struggle is what makes the most powerful teams. This is how a leader builds a team who is qualified and prepared to meet the demands of a thriving enterprise.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Five Ways to Build Trust Using Emotional Expression

This week’s blog focuses on the connection between emotional expression and trust. I know sometimes it's difficult to express emotion, and there are certainly some emotions that shouldn't be shared. But, I'm also talking about the nonverbal expression of emotion in the workplace. Actively expressing emotion will actually increase trust with others and make it easier for them to use their EQ when they are interacting with you. Therefore, I am inviting you to work harder this month on expressing a little more than you might today.

The EQi 2.0 assessment measures emotional intelligence and 15 skills that make-up the EQ competency, click here to learn more. One component on the report is called Emotional Expression and is defined as “Openly expressing one’s feelings verbally and non-verbally.” As you can probably guess, some employees get low scores on this because expressing feelings makes many people uncomfortable. Some I have spoken with have actively defended the importance of not ever expressing feelings, especially at work because “everything should be about data and facts and not personal opinion.” I don’t agree with that viewpoint, but I certainly understand it especially in today’s super-touchy, easily-offended workplace.

Using emotional intelligence includes exercising a good judgment about when to express, what to express and who is appropriate to express emotions with. When I use my EQ, I am trying to recognize my feelings, read those of others and then choose a response that is best. Those with lower Emotional Expression are reserved and hard to read. They can appear to others as guarded or disinterested.

Some people have gotten feedback at one time that they were too loud, reactive, emotional or an over-sharer so they are trying to improve, but overcompensating. Some are very private and don’t like to reveal or discuss feelings with others. This is a problem because suppressing emotion could result in negative health consequences like high blood pressure, ulcers, and stress. It’s also a problem because it makes it very difficult for me to use my EQ with someone who isn’t giving me anything to work with. I don’t know how to best respond because I can’t get a reaction from you.

When this happens, thoughts swirl in my head about why they aren’t responding. Do they not understand what I am saying? Do they not care? Do they have such low self-awareness they don’t know how they feel about it? Do they not trust me to be honest with me?

None of these guessed reasons may be accurate or fair, but they create a less than positive perception. I was speaking with a Chief Diversity Officer at a large organization not long ago who struggled with this. When I asked her why she had difficulty sharing her feelings said she didn’t want to risk coming across as an "angry activist." While I agree and understand her fear, I also pointed out that being too inexpressive isn’t engaging anyone else in her cause. I wondered, "How do you expect me to get passionate about the importance of diversity if I never see it in you?"

If you think your Emotional Expression could use a boost, try these pointers:

  • Use your audience as your guide, match a similar level of expression even if it’s higher than you naturally would.

  • Remember that not all feelings are intimate. You can share feelings of frustration, worry, pride, concern, excitement, and confusion in a business-appropriate way.

  •  If you just can’t share some feelings, remember that others can track your likely emotion by sharing some thoughts or rationale for decisions instead. Most will have what they need if you give them some information about what’s going on behind the scenes for you.

  • You may struggle to share your feelings if you haven’t identified what they are. Spend time reflecting on your strongest emotions – why do you feel that way and what triggers them?

  • Start small. Pick a low-risk situation to practice sharing more. This could be a co-worker with whom you already have a high trust established or a low stakes discussion in which you can contribute an opinion.

The good news is all of the EQ skills can be learned so this is something we can all develop. Just a note of caution to not over-correct and use too much Emotional Expression either! The goal is to express emotions according to the situation and with common sense. Once you do, it will make a big difference in your interactions, and possibly your health as well.   

Monday, August 13, 2018

EQ&You: Emotional Expression and Trust

This week's EQ&You goes hand in hand with the August Performance Pointer which will be coming out on Thursday.  If you want to build trust, use a little more of this...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Months in a Minute

Top Left: Me and Stephanie Moy at S.P. Richards, Top Right: WithIt Women's Conference in Charleston, Bottom Left: Speaking at SNHU's Adjunct Instructor Summit, Bottom Right: Me, Steve Friedlein and the fabulous folks at Otis College of Art and Design
This month’s post is a twofer. We missed the June Minute because we were just too dang busy. This week I have completed my 95th flight since Jan 1st, flying through 18 airports. Work has been very exciting with several new clients on board, personally has been challenging (see last week’s post). My daughter Annie is about to start back to high school next week, she is in 11th grade and starting at a new school in a new state so we are all interested to see what’s different between NH and AZ. I have also been in a more reflective mood lately too, with everything going on and a BIG birthday a few weeks away I am working hard to make everything I do meaningful. I have seen old friends for the first time in many years. I am working to make everyone I talk to feel better. I want to add value to anything I touch. I want to ensure that the people I am with know that I love and appreciate them. I don’t want to worry about silly things or stress out over something temporary. I am working hard to maintain a good perspective. I hope you have been able to have some business and personal experiences this summer that have enriched you as well.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

One Last Act of Love

We had a sudden death in our family this month. It was my mother’s husband of 8 years who was 69 years old. His son’s wife had delivered pre-mature twins just the night before, a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between life and death. My mom needed immediate support from us in comforting her and helping with all the necessary arrangements that had to take place. When I arrived to see her and schedule the appointment with the mortuary, I asked what my step-dad had shared with her about his final wishes?

She said, “We never talked about it.”

I know that the topic of death is uncomfortable for most people.  How many of us want to contemplate our own demise? It’s the easiest thing in the world to postpone and procrastinate about. But, it is also very unfair to the surviving family members who are not only reeling from their shock and grief but now also are asked to make very big decisions that are even more complicated when you have stepfamilies involved.

My second book called “Choose Resilience” was all about the importance of getting out of your comfort zone using emotional intelligence. I warned of the dangers of unexpected change when you are not prepared for it and it played out before my eyes in the last few weeks. Fortunately for us, my step-brother who was his only child was incredibly supportive of my mother and made all the decisions about his father cooperatively and inclusively with her. This is not typical.

Because his father chose not to have an uncomfortable conversation or even put some things in writing, he put his son and his wife into a traumatic position. His son had a wife in the hospital recovering from a C-section, he had twins in the NICU, he had a 2-yr old son he needed to take care of and then be available to drive to the funeral home which was 3-hours away several times during that week. He and my mom had to discuss everything from cremation to inheritance and did so under emotional duress while trying to guess what he would have wanted. It was so unnecessary and unfair in many ways to the people he claimed to have loved the most in his life.

I took this opportunity to talk to my mom (who is 76) and confirm my understanding of what she wanted us to do when she passes on. And it made me happy to know that I made the decision years ago to establish a trust, a will, a health care directive and write down my funeral wishes. If you haven’t done this, especially if you are in a blended family, I beg you to please do so. If you cannot afford to have someone prepare these for you, you can at least create a will and write down your final wishes on your own. Your loved ones will appreciate it more than you will ever know. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Friday, June 29, 2018

How to Use Your EQ with a Boss Who Has None

The Clueless Boss

Think Horrible Bosses. Okay, maybe not that bad, but working with someone with little self-awareness or empathy can make your life miserable. So how do you outsmart a boss that appears to have little to no EQ?

Do frequent check-ins. The lower their EQ the more likely they are to be a control freak. Keeping them updated pro-actively prevents them from needing to get deep in the weeds of your work.

Don't give them enough information to be dangerous. When you provide a laundry list of problems or complaints you set yourself up to get a negative response. Keep updates brief and concise and always provide solutions to any problem you share.

Work around them. Use your organizational awareness and network so you have resources around the company happy to help you.

Never go over their head or use the BCC. We know it is tempting but usually backfires and results in a disaster.

Always connect for them how what they are doing is hurting them getting what they want. They probably won't care about you or what is important to you so you have to put everything in the context of how they unintentionally impede their own desired results.

The Enlightened Employee

It will also be important for you to maintain your Stress Tolerance so throughout the day take breaks, get some exercise in or be protective of family time on weekends no matter what.

Use your Flexibility to pick your timing well. Pay attention to their moods, are they a morning person or an afternoon person? If they are not a morning person, don't ask for something at 8am on a Monday.

Focus on results. Most bosses won't care as much about how as what. Use your Self-Control to resist the urge to go passive-aggressive and just tell them what they want to hear to get them off your back. A better way is to set polite but firm expectations of what can be accomplished when. Most of the executives we work with that have little EQ respond well to someone who occasionally challenges them in a professional and appropriate way.

Use some Empathy, they likely have a lot on their plate too, and odds are they were promoted for their technical skills, not people skills so don't expect them to be someone they are not. Sometimes lowering your expectations is the best way to stop being perpetually disappointed.

And lastly, take control over what you can - your thoughts, your attitude, your reactions. You are not a victim forced to stay in a miserable situation. If it becomes unbearable to work with the person, make an adult decision and get yourself to a happier place.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Curse of Being Competent

There is an old saying, "If you want something to get done, give it to the busiest person you know."  If you are that person, the odds are your company will continue to lean on you, whether or not you have the bandwidth or aptitude. Too often, this dynamic leads to a new kind of dilemma, one that you may have lived through, or are currently facing. It's called The Competency Dilemma.

A competency dilemma doesn't simply occur as a one-time event.  If it isn't successfully resolved, it can ultimately become a barrier to professional success.  Without regard for the signals and alerts along the way, it can trigger an alarming state of "task creep," one by one, extra little tasks find their way to your desk.

The Competency Dilemma:  A Progressive Condition

At the time we're hired, or when we're promoted into a new position, the most common goal is to exhibit ways to prove our worth.  We strive to assure those around us, (and particularly our leaders) that the decision they made in hiring or promoting us was indeed the right choice.  Showcasing our skills and abilities (competencies) is a natural response to our primal need to survive in a new environment.
Over time, our competencies become apparent within the culture.  We may ultimately find ourselves becoming the "go to person" for multiple projects that begin to stretch our ability to prioritize and manage a wide array of requests.  Suddenly, we awaken to a newly defined, and amazingly expanded job description.

And so, the dilemma begins.  Discretionary time is greatly reduced or becomes non-existent.  Our personal and professional identities become blurred, and the need for restructuring is imminent because the consequences often include high stress, family strife, damaged peer relationships or even health issues. It's usually not a sustainable situation.
If you are reading these words and are starting to realize that you are currently experiencing a personal Competency Dilemma, it's time to take action. The solution requires a proactive approach.  I am not going to say that you are being taken for granted, but the truth is that no one is going to show up at your desk with a solution on your behalf. It's time to reset some boundaries and establish a renewed state of personal and professional alignment.

The Competency Dilemma:  Awakening & Defining a Solution

Start by clarifying the expectations put on you. How much is actually delegated and expected, and how much is the perpetuation of old habits from you or them? Are there things that could be more effectively managed by another team member?  Could you be partnering more productively with others, in order to benefit both you and the organization?  Is the bulk of your workload out of alignment with the responsibilities associated with your job description?   If so, when was the last time you initiated a discussion regarding the areas in which you possess the most significant competencies?  And, what are the areas of development in which you'd like to gain a new understanding or skill?

The thought of being the catalyst to a discussion based on the need to re-align your workload can be intimidating at first glance.  However, as we all know, the ever-pressing potential of a personal business crisis awaits those who are unwilling to communicate tactfully on their own behalf.

Unfortunately, we don't usually awaken to the potential dangers of a self-described Competency Dilemma until we begin to feel the stress and overload associated with being assigned (or when we have "over-volunteered" for) projects beyond our capacity to function effectively.

The dilemma didn't evolve in a moment's likewise, a long-term definitive solution will only be consistently successful as a result of your ongoing effort to enact positive change.

Remember:  Your ability to thrive within any organization is based upon your capacity to function within the limits of your competencies. And, that is something everyone wants.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

EQ Does Not Equal Pushover

I recently presented at a leadership conference on Emotional Intelligence and shared with the audience that someone with high EQ understands he or she cannot always be kept comfortable, expecting the world to do the adjusting to them. Instead, they realize that often they must make the adjustments and that will mean they are the ones to sometimes be uncomfortable. At lunch, someone asked me if using EQ as leader meant that you were a pushover because in order to keep others comfortable you just give them what they want all the time. Think it's true? Read on.

At the heart of Emotional Intelligence are three R's: Recognize, Read, Respond.

Recognizing (Self-Awareness) your own tendencies - strengths, weaknesses, moods, drives, emotional states;
Reading (Situational-Awareness) the verbal and non-verbal signals of your environment to accurately assess it and its response to you; and
Responding in ways that are most appropriate based on the evidence gathered around you and within you.

When this is applied to managing others, powerful leaders (high EI) are able to recognize their downstream impact on others, recognizing when their own moods are influencing others' performance and their ability to voice ideas or challenges to them, and recognizing when they must own their disruptive (albeit often unintentional) behavior when they need to and take the necessary steps to adjust, repair and learn from the situation.

He or she is able to read the emotional make-up of their direct reports and connect with them on a level that meets the follower's needs, which may or not be the same style as the leaders'. They do this through empathy, seeing each employee as an individual and complex person with unique talents, needs, and perspectives. Which is the opposite of one-size-fits-all leadership? He or she takes responsibility for responding in appropriate ways - by not taking out bad moods or misdirected or exaggerated performance intensity on those around him or her. And by providing praise when and how someone needs to hear it and clearly communicating expectations and desired outcomes instead of doing management by mindreading and assumptions.        

Leaders with high EQ are not just "yes" people. We have all had to hear bad news, and the way it is delivered is critical. EQ helps you to be fair but firm, assertive and sensitive. It allows you to show care while holding people accountable because you have made enough of an emotional investment in them to drive their engagement and loyalty to you; approaching each employee as a unique asset and resource, taking the time to tap into their internal motivations, passions, and talents. A leader with high Emotional Intelligence doesn't do this spontaneously or in a vacuum, instead, they mindfully practice "learning" their employees as a daily habit. Most who have learned to do this report it is their highest leverage leadership behavior - an important shift with huge impact for all. So, I guess it is true, one might say leaders with high EQ do give people exactly what they want.