Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Penumbra's Month in a Minute

The Penumbra team was on the go in March, visiting clients from coast to coast with stops in: Boston, Toledo, Houston, New York City, and Portland, Oregon.

Some highlights of the month included: 
  • A speaking engagement on Ego vs EQ at SHRA, one of the SHRM Chapters in NH.                                                                     
  • A visit to Toledo to speak at Health Care REIT 
  • And, rounded out the month in NYC to see one of the Eaton Vance offices and to deliver leadership tips to the staff at The Quin, a premier mid-town Manhattan boutique hotel. 

Pamela and I also visited Houston to provide executive coaching at Scientific Drilling and see some wonderful colleagues in the area. The meetings went great, but unfortunately the travel logistics didn't follow suit. The day we were leaving, our rental car broke down. We called the rental company (Dollar) to report the problem to Roadside Service, while we dashed into a cab to catch our flights. We made a stop to drop the keys at the airport Dollar counter and explain the situation. From there it was a bit of a comedy – the car never arrived at the airport, luckily I was given the name of the tow company Dollar called and when I checked with them they said they never picked up the car and notified Dollar that their truck wouldn’t fit in the garage where the rental car was parked. When I asked Dollar who they called next they said they had no record of my call to report the problem initially (apparently their agents have ESP on when to call a wrecking service), and when I called the garage where we left the car hoping it might still be there they checked and said it was not still parked there, but they happily confirmed that they were not the ones to have it towed. Great.  

With the car gone without a trace and me now 1500 miles away, I am starting to read the fine print of my car insurance policy on deductibles while getting calls from Dollar Corporate Security saying they will report the car stolen if I don’t return it. I could not get any help tracking down where the car was from anyone at the Dollar Roadside Assistance or Dollar Corporate Security and was about ready to tell them to go ahead and report the car stolen when I called the manager Sheryl at the Hobby airport who was the first helpful, reasonable person I spoke to. She got in touch with Travis at Bayou City Wrecker. He was able to locate the car (exactly where we left it in the garage BTW) and finally returned it back to the airport…8 days after we left. Thank goodness for Travis.

Needless to say, I think we are taking a break from renting cars at Penumbra for a while. Taxi! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Bracket Ban? Reconsider

Something I think many of us struggle with as leaders is how lenient we should be with regard to non-work related activities.  One hot button topic this month is the number of people participating in the college basketball championship tournament (Brackets).  A recent report estimated a $1.9 billion loss of productivity across US workplaces during March Madness.  I happened to see a few articles embedded in my news feed chastising employees involvement.  Forbes then stepped up to the plate to defend the time being spent at work on bracket related activities by highlighting the positive qualities that come with it. 
Like with most things, March Madness can be an enjoyable activity that will foster goodwill for everyone – when managers and employees add a little EQ.  Here are a few things to think about considering both sides of the coin:

Employees Should Practice Self-Awareness and Self-Control
     Appreciate the fact if your managers openly allow your participation.

     Keep it in check by not letting it interfere with your regular commitments.

     Include everyone that wants to be included, but be respectful of those wishing to opt out.

Employers/Managers Should Practice Empathy and Flexibility

     Instead of focusing on a temporary loss in productivity, look at the gain you get in team building and camaraderie.

     Everyone has a cell phone, the reality is there is no way you are going to prevent it from happening.  If you can’t beat them…

     Get involved!  Not doing so could land you smack dab in the middle of Ego Trap #7, Losing Touch with the Frontline Experience.

     Set aside some time each morning for everyone to get updated on the scores, do a little trash talking, make some predictions, and then get back to work. 

     Just remember, it’s only three weeks of your life. This will pass.  

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."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Increasing your Joy Through Higher EQ

I was fortunate to be asked to appear in a guest blog by my good friend Allison Rimm.  The following was originally posted on her website's blog.  As you can see, she was a most gracious hostess.

I’m delighted to share author Jen Shirkani’s insights into how your emotional intelligence skills can increase your joy on and off the job.  She says that people with high EQ know they are responsible for their own happiness and that it is within your reach.  Read on to find out how to go get it.

Increasing Your Joy Through Higher EQ

We all have moments of joy and despair, successes and struggles. Those who are able to sustain the high that comes from the joy and mitigate the consequences of difficulty have resiliency. In my own life, I have gained resiliency by turning to my emotional intelligence (EQ) skill set to keep me grounded and positive, even in the face of adversity.
EQ is someone’s ability to recognize her or himself well, including their moods, emotional instincts and strengths and weaknesses. It is also about reading situations and people accurately and then responding to be most appropriate based on the circumstances. This is a competency that requires a skill set.
One skill that is extremely important to the foundation of EQ is self-awareness. Those with higher self-awareness know what brings out the best in them and the worst too. This provides good insight into knowing our moods and motivations and when our emotional state is impacting our performance or reactions to others. A big advantage of having high self-awareness is that it helps us know what jobs leverage our strengths so we can add the most value. This often results in more job fulfillment which typically results in more happy work days. In both our business and personal lives, we can time difficult conversations for when we are at our best not our worst. For example, if you are not a morning person, don’t schedule that tough performance review you need to deliver at 8 am on a Monday. Or if you’re not a night person, don’t pick 10 pm to start a conversation with your spouse about the chores he has been slacking on.
Another EQ skill is self-actualization. In terms of career selection, this relates to feeling that we are fulfilling our destiny through the work we do. This provides greater degrees of joy as we live out our purpose. Working beyond meeting our essential needs, we give and receive benefits from our chosen profession. I have found most people who see that the work they do has greater meaning than a paycheck are more motivated and engaged, and are acknowledged for the dedication they bring to the job every day.
I also see a key EQ skill that connects to happiness and joy is flexibility. This helps us manage the unexpected better; whether it’s a sudden re-organization, a forced relocation, a closed office, a lay-off, or a host of other changes we may not predict. As a result of higher flexibility, we remain open minded to new ways of doing things. We are not stuck in a routine, but instead keep ourselves challenged to learn and grow and see change as an opportunity to learn, not as a rude intruder into our well managed life. Especially when flexibility is combined with optimism, it is easier to see that positive change is possible instead of feeling victimized by circumstances that are out of your control.
Higher stress tolerance is another key EQ skill that provides us with a better landing pad for life’s ups and downs. As you can probably imagine, if I am less stressed, I am less irritable and less likely to let little things get me down or invoke an angry response. As I focus on reducing my stress in healthy ways, the little things don’t rattle me as easily and I am able to keep a better perspective on the challenges I face and the decisions I must make.
Those with higher EQ understand that they are responsible for their own happiness. It is not the burden of an employer, a spouse, a child, a boss or a best friend. The ability to find joy in your own life is within your reach, go get it!

About Allison Rimm

Allison Rimm is an author, consultant, coach, and strategic planning expert who inspires individuals and organizational leaders to create breathtaking visions and practical plans to make them come to life. The former Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Information Management at Massachusetts General Hospital, she engages the hearts and minds of her clients to drive performance and create teams joyfully committed to their collective missions.  In her book, The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for LifeAllison presents eight practical steps to help readers find their purpose, set priorities, and fulfill even their most elusive goals. She is also a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review. A sought-after speaker, Allison presents on topics related to strategic planning, workplace engagement, and leadership development.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Your Big Ego Can Actually Help Your Coworkers

Egos are necessary and, believe it or not, they do not have to be obnoxious and productivity-killing.  They can actually make you, and everyone around you, better

By Gwen Moran

Ditch them. Shrink them. Leave them at the door. All in all, egos get a bad rap. An October 2013 article by researchers from Harvard, Duke and the University of Michigan in the Academy Management Journal was heralded as proof that leaders’ egos can be destructive to teams and companies because people who thought themselves powerful often shut down communication and made teams less effective
Not so fast, HR consultant Jen Shirkani says. The Bedford, NH-based founder of Penumbra Group and author of Ego vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence says we all have egos and they tend to be bigger and bolder in successful people. In fact, you need a healthy ego to be effective in the workplace, otherwise you can come across as weak and ineffective.
"A healthy ego is feeling secure enough in my own ideas and direction that I can share them with others in a way that’s inspirational and not feel threatened by feedback or criticism," she says.

Shirkani says you can tell if your ego is healthy, rather than obnoxious and productivity-killing, based on where it’s focused and how you’re interacting with others. If your demanding nature is focused mainly around the company’s performance and your team’s outcomes, that’s typically healthier than if you’re looking for personal accolades and status.
If people around you actually give you feedback or, better, push-back on some of your ideas rather than agreeing with you all the time, that’s another good sign that your swagger isn't stifling them. And when you have that healthy ego, she says there are several ways it benefits those around you.
Bounce back fast. Got a setback? No problem. People with healthy egos tend to bounce back faster and find a new way because they believe they can, Shirkani says. When salespeople hear "no," those who believe in themselves don’t waste a lot of time licking their wounds. Instead, they move on to the next opportunity.
Inspire others. When a self-confident leader you respect says he or she believes you can do something, that’s a powerful motivator and confidence-booster, Shirkani says. When you have that kind of belief in yourself, you can help your team members and co-workers see their own strengths. The inclination to do so is also proof positive that your ego is assured rather than arrogant.
Produce better performance. When you’re in a position of power, whether it’s running a company or heading a project, giving directions and delegating responsibility doesn't mean that those in your charge are going to carry it out well.
"You can either get performance or compliance. If they don’t care, they’ll just do the minimum to get the job done. When you have a healthy ego, people are going to want to do the job well for you because they believe in you," Shirkani says.
Be a better risk-taker. If you’re too low-ego, you might be afraid to take risks at all, which limits growth opportunities. At the same time, people who believe their own public relations may take risks or behave in ways that can damage the company or the team. When you’re somewhere in the middle—confident enough to take some risk, but not convinced that you’re a modern-day superhero—you’re more likely to take the reasonable risks you need to accomplish great things.
Default to positive. If you have a healthy ego, you tend to feel good about yourself and have a positive outlook, Shirkani says. A recent World Economic Forum report found that the workplace and particularly how people are managed has a "profound effect on their well-being." Being a positive leader in the workplace makes a difference both in the office and in the lives of the people with whom you work.

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and web sites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans(Alpha, 2010). She is currently creating Biziversity.com, an information resource for micro-businesses, from her office near the Jersey shore--the beautiful place, not the horrible television show. Find her on Twitter @gwenmoran.