Thursday, March 28, 2019

Increasing Flexibility

There are several key skills within the Emotional Intelligence spectrum but there is one that remains critical to today's world - Flexibility. It seems we are all being asked to stretch, flex and push ourselves to do more, be more and accomplish more with less. This week's article provides suggestions for increasing our flexibility and to help others do the same.  

Leading Others Through Ambiguity

Flexibility in the context of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is defined as: The ability to handle changing circumstances and expectations without disruption.  Someone with high Flexibility can handle changing conditions and uncertainty while maintaining their productivity.

Yes, change makes all of us uncomfortable, so why do that to ourselves? Because the opposite of flexibility is rigidity and leaders and teams who demonstrate rigidity get left behind. Leaders who are closed-minded and resist spontaneity do not engage others. Instead, leaders must accept and implement feedback from others, not be easily annoyed or triggered, and remain open-minded and willing to experiment with different solutions. Leading others through ambiguity is a vital competency in today's world. And our human nature doesn't help: the more uncertainty around us, more we cling to what we know. When things feel out of control, we micro-manage more, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When we tie others to old patterns, we tie ourselves as well. Remember that the prison guard is a prisoner too (see The Paradox of Letting Go).

If you are looking to increase your own Flexibility or lead a team to do that, here are some suggestions:

  • Take time (and/or encourage others) to respond to unexpected events and not reject them out-of-hand. Force yourself to sleep on it before stating an opinion on a new initiative. Instead of first finding all the things that won't work, spend time searching for the things that can.
  • Remain open-minded to new ways of responding to old problems. Brainstorm ideas with others for handling dynamic, changing demands instead of relying on your own ways of doing it.
  • Rigidity can be tied to risk aversion so think of several contingency plans to make change feel safer. Play the worst-case scenario game by imagining how you would be able to respond if your deepest concerns were realized and work backward from there. 
  • Do a self-debate on an issue you feel strongly about. Only take the other side.
  • Self-reflect on a situation when something that happened felt like a failure at the time, but actually turned out to be a good thing.
  • Catch yourself (and ask for help from others) when you start slipping back to old habits and behaviors. Don't allow yourself to drift back to a comfort zone. 
Don't attempt to change too much at once and remember that creating new habits requires mind, body, and heart to stick. Therefore focus on one thing at a time. We also know that change initiatives require minutes of attention every day versus focus during one week a year, or one day a month, or even one hour a week. As a leader, you set the tone. As you demonstrate more flexibility, you earn credibility and build a nimbler team.

Find the positive in fresh ways of doing things; the more you leave behind, the more room you have to explore something new.

Friday, March 22, 2019

We Have an Announcement!

Sending out a giant, "Thank you" to Randy and his phenomenal team at Get N' Social!  They did a fantastic job designing our new website!  Hard-working and customer-satisfying'!  Check them out!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Onboarding Yourself Using EQ

When I got my last new job, I came in like a hurricane: full of energy, ideas, optimism, and a big fat ego. I had very little EQ in those days and made every mistake in the world assimilating to my new boss and peers. Even after all these years of focused attention on onboarding, I still see new employees making the same mistakes. I thought I would write about it this week, to share some ideas on how to make the new job experience better on both sides, by using a little Emotional Intelligence.

Onboarding Yourself 

For the last few years organizations have been focused on creating engaging onboarding programs to replace their old stand-alone "orientation" day. The research has been concluded that a bad onboarding experience of an employee results in higher turnover in the first 90 days. And to their credit, many companies have taken 100% responsibility for the onboarding experience of the workforce. But what about the other side of that equation? Shouldn't a new employee also be responsible for their own new-hire experience? We think so. 

Michael, a new employee we recently met with started a new job with a dreamy expectation that the position would be custom made to be a perfect fit for him, that his manager would make adjustments to meet his needs, and that he had finally found a culture better than his last one. 

As tempting as that way of thinking is, it's time for a wake-up call. You are setting yourself and your company up to fail if you think that way. As a new employee, you have a responsibility to use some Emotional Intelligence (EQ) to ensure the success of your onboarding experience by doing some of the following.  Your whole employment experience and career path at the organization depends on it:

  • Spend the first 30 days using your eyes and ears, not your mouth. Simple statements made by well-meaning new employees are an instant source of annoyance and red flags for bosses and new co-workers. Comments like "At my last job...", "I know a much better way to do that...", "We did that so much better where I used to work". No one feels good about someone coming into their "home" and telling them how to run it.  There will be the appropriate emotionally intelligent manner and timing to share your fresh insight and ideas.  You need to earn the right to share it by being a respectful and educated "guest" first. By using the foundational Emotional Intelligence skills of self-awareness and self-control, you can choose appropriate opportunities to provide constructive input but do it sparingly in the first few months.  
  • Introduce yourself and build relationships proactively instead of waiting for people to come to you. People are busy. If you landed lunch with your new boss on your first day, consider yourself fortunate to be perceived as a priority. Using the social skill aspect of EQ, reach out to your new peers and invite them to have coffee or a meeting and focus on first learning about what they do, what they did before this, their schooling, what they enjoy about the company, etc.  IF they ask, share your own, and if they don't simply share your hopes for your current position and ask how you might help with their goals.  People help those who help them first.
  • Don't expect the culture or other employees to adjust to you. Odds are the company culture has been around a while. There won't be a sudden change in the dynamic of how people communicate, how work gets delegated, when deadlines are due, or how training is done, merely because of your presence. Think something could be done in a more efficient way. Use your empathy to try and figure out the why behind the current approach and give yourself time to evaluate your first negative assessment.  After a few months, you will have enough experiential evidence to provide a sound a professional case for change.
  • The behaviors you used at your old company that worked well there may not transfer well to your new company. That's right, the things that earned you praise before may now get you in hot water. Don't assume that you can plug and play the way you behaved before in your new job. Use your social awareness to find people in the organization who are good models for behaviors that breed success in your new company. Watch them, meet them, learn from them.  They are your new unofficial guides for what can stay from your wealth of past learnings and what's got to go.
  • Don't assume you know everything about the company because you did online research during the interview process. Learn the history of your organization as told by those on the ground, not just what made it on to the website. Understand legacy practices and why they were put in place. Check your ego to show respect for others who have been there before you, no matter what their role is.
Getting the right employee hired is only half of the equation; the organization also has the responsibility to provide a new employee with tools to be successful. And, the new employee must also understand their part in getting well integrated into a new organization.