Tuesday, December 26, 2017

5 Ways to Be Mindful in 2018

What is Mindfulness Anyway?

According to Ellen Langer, author of several groundbreaking books on Mindfulness, the term Mindfulness is the opposite of Mindlessness, which involves automatic, habitual thought that is most frequently associated with behaviors of people who are distracted, hurried, multi-tasking, and/or overloaded.

Conversely, mindfulness means being continually aware and dialed into the moment and those participating in our moments. It is an "attunement to today's demands to avoid tomorrow's difficulties". This mindset creates an openness to new information (creativity), an awareness of multiple perspectives (empathy and insight), and a quiet mental room in which to explore and examine what would otherwise be performed on autopilot (critical thinking).

Adopting a habit of mindfulness in the workplace simply means approaching everything on your list and in your day in a thoughtful, objective, and holistic (tasks/goals and people/relationships) manner. It requires that you mentally "check in" on what is happening within yourself and around you. Here are 5 ways to make 2018 your most mindful year yet.

1. Check Your Pace

There are a lot of problem solvers out there who go right into fix-it mode. This approach gets results and therefore reinforces a mindless pace that is riddled with the blind spots of an overly outcome-centric approach. To be mindful doesn't mean being slow or ineffective. Rather, it is a mental check-in that thoroughly assesses the situation to determine the most balanced and effective method and pace for accomplishing the task at hand. Mindfulness is an assessment prior to an action. Instead of moving at the speed of the culture or others demands, mindfulness provides a stop gap that helps us focus, increases our energy and allows us to more skillfully apply our talents. Without this mindful pace check-in, we miss important details and fail to understand root causes, almost guaranteeing a reoccurrence of the issue. Mindlessly, we might actually make the problem worse.

2. Check Your Control

Keeping up with an intense workload is a common cause of mindlessness. Conversely, practicing mindfulness snaps your brain out of autopilot by reexamining everything you had previously accepted as part of the necessary evils of the job. Simply put, how much are you managing your environment and how much is it managing you?  It's not a matter of controlling your time; it's merely a matter of learning HOW to do it. A good technique for creating a mindful work pace is to start by assessing how you currently schedule your days. Are you booking yourself too tightly or committing to unrealistic deadlines? Push back on timelines that don't feel balanced or necessary and be sure to schedule chunks of time in between meetings to process and plan around what you've heard. (For more info on this click here)

3. Check Your Plate

Should everything that is on your list actually be on your list?  This is where you check-in that you are asking for help when needed, not assuming the problems of others instead of coaching them to do it themselves, and having the confidence to push back on a task or deadline that either doesn't belong with you or will cause undue stress to accomplish it in the time allotted. Are you delegating enough? Stay mindful of what you take on, what resources you'll need, and what commitments you'll need others to make for you to be set up for success, not stress. (For more info on this click here)

4. Check Your Engagement

Studies show that 60% of the US workplace is disengaged. Non-engaged employees have essentially ‘checked out.’ They sleepwalk through workdays. They put in time but don’t approach their work with energy or passion. You can imagine how this results in a mindless approach to work and coworkers. One of the EQ skills is Self-Actualization. This is feeling fulfilled by the work we do, a sense that we are utilizing our strengths and talents to add value. If you want to be more mindful, ask yourself why your work is unfulfilling and what it would take to re-engage you? Consider if your motivation drivers are being met and if not, have a conversation with your manager about what you need.  

5. Check Your Attention

One huge benefit of increasing your mindfulness is your memory will improve. Being fully present in meetings allows your brain to focus and process what is happening in a more permanent way. To keep yourself attentive, make mental notes of what people are wearing, what body language they are presenting and the interpersonal dynamics of the room. Notice details that you would otherwise miss if you were multi-tasking.

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

Friday, December 22, 2017

21 Quotes to Inspire Your Holiday and Your Life

As we wrap up 2017, our team is counting our blessings. Thank you for your continued support and interest in the work we do, and your commitment to being stronger leaders and building stronger organizations that serve others. We are very grateful for the opportunity to know you, support you, and correspond with you on your own journey to success. We have collected this series of quotes to leave you with some inspiration (and a smile) as we look toward the promise of a new year.

On Giving:

"What do we live for, for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" 
-George Eliot

"If every American donated five hours a week, it would equal the labor of 20 million full-time volunteers."
-Whoopi Goldberg

"Your luck is how you treat people." -Bridget O'Donnel

"Giving whether it be of time, labor, affection, advice, gifts, or whatever, is one of life's greatest pleasures."
-Rebecca Russel

"Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving."
-Erma Bombeck

On Family:

"One day you will do things for me that you hate. That is what it means to be family."
-Jonathan Safran Foer

"The family is a haven in a heartless world."
-Christopher Lasch

"Family makes you who you are and aren't."
-Marcelina Hardy

"I said to my mother-in-law, "My house is your house."  She said, "Get the hell off my property!" 
-Joan Rivers

"Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one."
-Jane Howard

On Happiness:

"Happiness is good health and a bad memory."
-Ingrid Bergman

"For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears."
-John Lennon

"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city."
-George Burns

"Happiness is not a goal, it is a
-Elenor Roosevelt

On Learning:

"If you are under the impression you have already perfected yourself, you will never rise to the heights you are no doubt capable of."
-Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

"Do not get obsolete like an old technology, keep innovating yourself."
- Sukant Ratnakar, Open the Windows

"The mind is just like a muscle - the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand."
-Idowu Koyenikan

"Everyone you meet knows something you don't know, but need to know. Learn from them."

"Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others this is possible."
-Cadet Maxim, U.S. Military Academy of West Point

On New Beginnings:

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
-T.S. Eliot

"Every sunset is the opportunity to reset."
-Richie Norton

"Letting there be room for not knowing is the most important thing of all. When there's a big disappointment, we don't know if that's the end of the story. It may just be the beginning of a great adventure. Life is like that. We don't know anything. We call something bad; we call it good. But really we just don't know."
-Pema Chodron

"Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right."
-Oprah Winfrey

"May all of your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions!"

-Joey Adams

Wishing all of you a safe and happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Elusive Engagement

The dictionary definition of the word engage is to occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons.  In the performance world, the concept of engagement refers to employees' willingness and ability to contribute to the company's success; people's desire to give discretionary effort in their jobs.  
The real challenge in achieving engagement is that what engages us today, may not be what engages us in the future. And what engages me may be very different from what engages the person sitting in the cubicle next to me.
What this means is that organizations and leaders have to be very nimble, creative and individualized in how they continually re-engage workers to the work they do.
The individualization component ends up being a very thorny issue. Employment law requires "equal treatment" so most organizations end up following a black and white, by-the-book, written-by-lawyers policy that disallows individualized compensation, reward, recognition, perks or incentives. So what is a leader to do?
Old school managers throw their hands up and stop trying, leaving employees to figure out for themselves how to stay self motivated. Progressive leaders roll up their sleeves and find ways to maintain the spirit of the law, while equally meeting the needs of unique employees.
Does it take more effort? Yes.
Does is require creative thinking and challenging ineffective policy? Yes.
Does it pay off? Well, Gallup estimates that disengaged employees cost US businesses as much as $350 billion a year. So this is not just about employee satisfaction, your choice may come down to employees who make meaningful contribution to the organization or actively sabotage it.
Daniel H. Pink, in his book DRIVE discusses the death of our old notions about motivation and worker satisfaction and challenges us to consider the ways to meet the needs of today's employees while still keeping that labor attorney happy. The best approach to getting the best performance and engagement "emerges when people have autonomy over four T's: their task, their time, their technique, and their team."
According to Pink, autonomy is where it's at. Too many of our workplaces and institutions assume that employees need to be told what to do with laundry lists of job duties and procedure manuals, and supervisors who focus too much on controlling the work of others and too little on providing freedom of choice.
Tune into what natural motivators exist in your employees - do they get excited about solving difficult problems? Do they spend extra time to coach or mentor new employees? Do they put in extra hours when a contest is in place? Once you know their preferred four T's, you can begin to match the level of autonomy you offer with the activities that trigger their intrinsic motivation.
The good news is that engagement can't be bought. Even with limited (or no) budgets and resources to put toward traditional reward systems, you can still keep a highly engaged workforce. The things that drive the greatest loyalty and commitment in your employees cost you no money. Just remember: a one-size-fits-all leadership style fits one. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Month in a Minute

Happy holidays!

We had a busy November with travel and events throughout the month. I had one interesting experience while speaking at the AICPA Women’s Global Conference in Chicago. In the middle of my talk, the side doors to the ballroom directly next to the stage suddenly swung open. A hotel employee began to wheel in a large cart filled with high stools. Apparently, the session after mine was going to be a panel discussion and this employee decided to come in early to set up. He seemed oblivious to the fact that a session was still in progress and a full ballroom of people were watching him. I tried to maintain my focus and keep talking, hoping he would just quickly and quietly take care of his set up. Within a minute, I hear a shout from the hallway (which startled both him and me) so we turned to look and a small group of hotel employees were gesturing him to get out of the room and come back into the hallway. He paused, and proceeded to load back up the three chairs he set on the stage and slowly wheeled his cart right back out of the room. It was hard not to have a little chuckle with the audience, as my topic was on situational awareness and employee engagement. Someone had told him to set up for the panel, and by golly, that is what he was going to do.

Clockwise from top left:  An interview by the lovely Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, AICPA Chairman; the "ballroom" mentioned above in Chicago; Women's Harbor Forum, Portsmouth, NH; Steve Friedlein and me at SNHU; Speaking at Fidelity Investments; Can't go to Chicago and not have deep dish!
In one of the fancy hotels I visited this month, I was in the ladies room at the sink, ready to wash my hands. I waved my hand under the faucet to start the water and the sensor wasn’t working. So I moved to the next sink and the same thing happened. Annoyed, I moved to the next one and still no water. I started wondering if there was something wrong with the water in the hotel when a housekeeper came in. I mentioned that the water wasn’t working and she walked over to my sink and turned the knob.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You Learn

After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul;
and you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and company doesn't mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises.

And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of an adult, not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.

After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And learn that you really can endure...that you really are strong, and you really do have worth.

Jorge Luis Borges

Thursday, November 16, 2017

5 Ways to Say Thank You

With the holidays coming and November being the month of gratitude, I thought I would share the best ways to say thanks. It’s a common platitude and often shared verbally, but we know that people want to feel appreciated in a variety of ways, so why not mix it up and try something new? It could lead to greater employee loyalty and coworker effort.

We all like to hear “thank you” after we have put in some effort or helped someone else out, but somehow it doesn’t really leave us with a true sense of appreciation. In fact, many people have their auto signature on emails say “Thank you” or “Thanks” just above their name. If I notice that you are sending that to everyone, how special do you think I feel? People value different things and what one person takes as a gesture of gratitude is different than someone else, even if you extend the exact same gesture to both. One might be over the moon. The other? Meh. To engage all different types of employees, we have to be creative in our approach.

1. Reciprocate. Instead of just saying thanks, do a favor in return. It’s always nice to hear, “Thanks for the ride to work today. As a thank you, I filed that stack of folders for you.” This exchanges an act of service with an act of service, instead of lip service.

2. Put it in writing. Some people really respond to written comments of appreciation. This doesn’t need to be a long letter or even a Hallmark card; sometimes a properly placed Post-It note with an earned compliment is worth gold to someone else.

3. Include recognition. Many employees would appreciate a public acknowledgment of something they did, perhaps in an internal memo or at a staff meeting. Others would be thrilled to see a LinkedIn review about them or a Tweet acknowledging them.

4. Specify the difference they made. Instead of a generic “Thanks” or “Great job” include some tangible outcomes that resulted from their effort. “Doing that extra research saved the department so much time, and helped us make the tight deadline!”

5. Give a tangible gift. It can be as small as a mug or a gift card or as big as personalized stationary or a round of golf, what matters is it shows you know them well and what they value most. You want them to feel the gift is perfect for them.    
If you aren’t sure which one of these would have the greatest impact on someone else, experiment. Try a few of them and watch the reaction you get. Once they feel truly appreciated, you will know it. Then keep it up beyond Thanksgiving so people feel valued all year long.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

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; and 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 requires 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: 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 levers 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, November 2, 2017

Months in a Minute

Walker Customer Experience Conference, San Antonio, TX; Nationwide Columbus, OH; Utah SHRM Crossroads Conference, Provo, Utah
We have to cover two months in this blog entry – I have been a little behind! September and October took us to clients and events in Manchester NH, Boston MA, Provo UT, San Antonio TX, Toronto CA, Pittsburgh PA, Salt Lake City UT, Gilbert AZ, and Columbus OH. Whenever I am at the conferences I speak at, I will usually attend another breakout or keynote session to keep myself abreast of current topics and trends in leadership. The themes of this Fall have included business acumen (knowing your business not just your job), identifying true customer engagement, successfully managing constant change, building resiliency, and self-leadership. Are these trends affecting you too?

A few years ago I did some work for one of our client’s in the hotel industry. We worked out a barter for a couple of nights at one of their resort properties in Bermuda. With my credits about to expire, David and I decided to go for a long weekend in October and I am so glad we did because it was gorgeous. The island is small and gasoline is $9 a gallon so the best way to get around is on a motor scooter. It’s relatively safe since the speed limit is no more than 35 MPH and there is only one lane going in each direction on almost all roads. However, if you are on a motorbike and traffic gets backed up, it is customary to pass cars to their right. Keep in mind that Bermuda is a British colony so they drive on the left side of the road. That means passing on the right puts you straddling the double yellow line and oncoming traffic. It was terrifying and thrilling at once. I have never ridden a motorcycle and not one for risking my ability to work so I almost chickened out of the whole thing. I am so glad I got out of my comfort zone because riding on the curving roads alongside the ocean in the warm breeze was heavenly. It also helps that David is a very good driver and was a good sport about the death grip I had on his waist!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Man Up

I don't know how it has happened exactly, but there seems to be an epidemic of employees who are lacking in personal accountability. I have observed it myself, and hear a lot of excuses when I ask someone why they didn't take control of their own actions. When talking with leaders, they say that finding employees who take responsibility for their behaviors or those of their team is getting harder and harder to find. So, where did accountability go and how do we increase it? First, as leaders, we must role model it, and second, we must hold people to their word. It takes some courage and persistence but remains a worthwhile focus area. Here are a few tips to assist you in your efforts.

Man Up

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

To Increase Accountability:

  • Be a leader, role model for your team how to say, "I had no intention of misleading you, I don't think I was clear with my expectations and I am sorry it created confusion for you."
  • Stop telling people how to accomplish tasks: if they are simply carrying out your directives, it makes it impossible for them to take any ownership of its outcome or for you to hold them accountable to it.
  • Be self-deprecating.  Don't take yourself so seriously that you get defensive when given feedback. Be able to laugh at your own mistakes, especially in front of your team.
  • Any time you end up in a conflict or a difficult confrontation, really consider the part you played in it. Almost always, people's bad behavior is the reaction to something you have done (usually unintentionally). So reflect on what you did to get such a reaction from them, and own up to it with them and apologize.
  • Watch the blame game. No one wants to work with someone who is always pointing fingers at others as an explanation for their own failure. Do people let us down? Yes. Does workload sometimes feel unfair? Yes. Deal with it.

Should you apply some of these suggestions, you hold the power to change the behavior in your entire team by doing so.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

5 Ways to Be More Resilient at Work

Resilient employees adjust to unexpected change. They also remain positive after a setback. They can make the best of a situation without any special accommodation or drama. In short – they make a dream employee. This week’s blog provides 5 tips on how you can be one too.

Resilience is becoming a critical competency for employees at all levels to demonstrate. It can be seen as strength, stamina, grit, endurance, recovery, growth and hope. It is something that comes from deep within us, but it also can be enhanced and learned as you increase your EQ. Not only does being resilient help you if you are faced with a crisis, it also helps you better navigate day-to-day stress and build more risk tolerance and self-confidence.
  • Ask for stretch assignments.  How long has it been since you have taken on something new and challenging? Instead of adding more volume of the same work to your plate, ask for something that you’ve never done before. By volunteering for something small you can ease yourself in and grow the deliverables from there. You can also suggest things that you know you will be suited for or have an interest in.
  • React to new information as an optimist. Instead of allowing your first reaction to unexpected news to be negative, find ways to see the positive in change. What could you learn? How can this make your organization more competitive, thus giving you job security or new opportunities?
  • Get yourself engaged in your work. According to Gallup, over 60% of US employees are not engaged in the workplace which means they are coasting through the day without putting in extra effort or energy. Who is responsible for your engagement? YOU are. Reflect on why you might be lagging, identify what you need to do to re-engage and start a conversation with your manager. They will be happy to work with you; they want you to be engaged.
  • Build a support network.  Resilient people rely on others for help when they need it. Network both inside and outside your organization so you have colleagues who can provide advice, assistance or influence others on your behalf. Like everything, you get out of the network what you put into it, so be generous with them and they will be there when you need them.
  • Keep your perspective. Minimize the drama. Avoid gossip. Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. All aspects of our work and home life have ups and downs. Hang in there with a smile and trust that nature seeks equilibrium. Don’t pass up opportunities because “the timing isn’t right.”
Resilient employees report 4 times higher job satisfaction. Building resilience doesn’t require psychotherapy (although that might not hurt!) but it does require mindful awareness and a willingness to leave the comfort zone behind. Small but consistent actions pay off in a big way! So, what are you waiting for?  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

I Call It Like I See It

I was working with a client a few weeks ago and heard him say, "I just call it like I see it..." in response to being called insensitive after giving some brutally honest feedback to a coworker.

Think about that statement: "I" call it like "I" see it. You can call it like you think it is but it still remains your perception, not someone else's reality. Honest feedback is important but the way it gets delivered makes all the difference in the world. It is easy to think that it is only about getting results from people. Why should you care about hurt feelings? You should care because your goal when giving feedback should be to get better results by changing someone else's behavior. You cannot do that until you change your own behavior first. 

This week we explore the EQ skill of Empathy. Empathy by definition is "identification with or vicarious experiencing of, the feelings or thoughts of another person" but in the context of Emotional Intelligence, it is deeper than that. It is about reading the emotional needs of someone else; fully connecting with them to understand how they think and prefer to communicate. 

Empathy is not sympathy, and it is not always agreeing with someone else's preferences. Empathy requires us to frame our message differently based on who we are with, and more importantly being able to recognize that the way the message is delivered can be more important than the message itself. We use Empathy when we select the most appropriate means of communication (email, phone, text, in person). Low Empathy sounds like: "I don't text so I am not doing that" and we expect others to adjust to us and what we are comfortable with. Low Empathy also sounds like: "the truth hurts" and "it's not personal, it's business." 

Exceptional leaders understand that people are the most motivated when they receive fair, clear, and respectful performance feedback. For those who just want employees to come in and check their feelings at the door, must remember that employees bring their head AND their heart to work - it's a package deal.  But here is a little secret - you can show Empathy even if you don't feel Empathy.

Here are some suggestions:

1. If your tendency is to walk into the office Monday morning and get right to task, assigning duties, asking for deliverables, and setting the priorities for the day - STOP. Many people in the office need to reconnect with you before they can move on to a task. Delay your needs by 120 seconds to ask how their weekend was and make some small talk. Likewise, if you are someone who enjoys 15 minutes of chit-chat with co-workers over your morning coffee, cut that down to 2 minutes and skip the gory details of your weekend with the person who just wants to get to work.

2. When you have to deliver bad news, consider in advance how it will sound to others. Some will want to hear it straight, with little superfluous data included. Others will need to be eased in, gently told, and will want to ask a lot of questions; feeling they have your support. Let go of your own preference for hearing tough messages and meet the needs of the other person first.

3. Body language speaks volumes: if you want to show Empathy you must give someone your undivided attention, use eye contact, show concern in your tone, resist the urge to speak and just listen to understand them. Don't judge or try and fix them. 

4. Ask yourself how often you are focused on your own needs and concerns without much thought to others? When communicating with others, be cognizant of how much time is spent talking about you and your opinions versus asking questions and listening to others.  

Part of being emotionally intelligent requires us to get out of our comfort zone - to meet others in theirs - and the pathway to get there is by demonstrating Empathy.

It can be difficult to see how this approach will get you what you need. However, even a small gesture goes a long way with others, and they will want to work with you when they see that it doesn't always have to be about you. As it has been said, the Golden Rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated. But the Platinum Rule is to treat others the way they want to be treated.      

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 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.

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.