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Articles tagged with: Advanced People Skills

Could Relationship Be the Motivational "Carrot" You’re Looking For?

My husband and I recently traveled to Italy with several of our family members.  We were fortunate enough to be hosted by dear friends of my in-laws who are natives of Pesaro. The landscape was breathtakingly beautiful; the architecture was inspirational. I enjoyed the savory food and delectable wine, but what most impressed me most was the allure and authenticity of the people and their relationships.

From the moment we met our new “friends”, we were embraced as family.  We did not have to “do” anything to earn or deserve their affection… we didn’t even have to “wait” for a certain period of time to prove ourselves.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  We were welcomed with warm smiles, holding of hands, sincere hugs, kisses on the cheek and instantly meaningful conversation.  I immediately became skeptical (even though I loved it).  I thought… “This is just because they are long term friends of my in-laws”.   Over the course of 10 days in Italy, I found this sort of charm and openness to be legitimate in relationships and consistent with most of the people I met.  We were also fortunate enough to be in a location that was not populated with tourists. So, our experience was authentically Italian.  Whether I was meeting someone in a shop or observing total strangers interact, relationships were the center focus.

This experience caused me to reflect on my own view of relationships and how I interact with strangers, new acquaintances, and even a friend I run into, on the street.  I have a tendency to be very focused (especially during work hours).  If a specific time was not scheduled, I rush any “interruptions” or “spontaneous encounters” in order to get back to my scheduled agenda.  I realize in doing this, I may be missing out on much of the richness of life that my Italian friends have mastered.

As I reflected on my own behaviors in relationships, I began to think about the importance of relationships in leadership.  If you have spent any time developing yourself as a leader, you know relationships are a vital part of being successful.  I wonder how many of us know this in our head as true (theory) but struggle to genuinely practice it.  I realize I do.  Even though I have spent years talking about how important relationships are, my short time in another country proved I do not practice it as much as I should. 

I am writing this to challenge myself and other leaders like me to make room for spontaneity in relationships and to embrace a less guarded approach… an approach that focuses on the individual and what they are saying and not on the next meeting.  I also encourage you (and myself) to not be afraid to appropriately give a hug or a pat on the shoulder.  I think we may both discover this to be rewarding both personally and professionally.  I am also confident there is a positive unintended by-product of truly connecting with people. Many times, we're looking for all kinds of ways to motivate people. Cultivating relationship frees up that mental energy we're using, because sincere and meaningful relationships are the motivational carrot that brings loyalty, commitment and drive.  I realize my behavior may never be as my new friends in Italy; however, I can work to be a little more like them.

What are your thoughts on this subject? If this is an area you would like to further develop in, I'd encourage you to contact us to discuss leadership coaching.

Windows and Mirrors in Leadership

As a leader, do you use a window/mirror approach?  This is a meaningful question for authentic and effective leaders to ask themselves.  When things are going well, and goals are being met or exceeded, a compelling leader will use the window approach.  The window approach transpires when a leader points out the window and says, “look out there… they did it… they are the reason for our success!”  On the contrary, when there is a failure or let down, the leader with integrity holds up the mirror and says, “I am responsible. Where did I fail to communicate, motivate, understand, or explain?” When using the window/mirror approach, it is important for leaders to know their intrinsic as well as their extrinsic motivations.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be valued and appreciated for the work you have done (and for some leaders this is an important source of motivation).  Nevertheless, it becomes your responsibility to share the glory once you step into the leadership role. As leaders, let’s hold up the mirror with the following questions:

  1. Have I ever taken credit when I shouldn’t have?
  2. Were there times when I had the opportunity to share the glory and chose not to?
  3. Have I ever pointed the finger at someone or something for a failure or a mistake?
  4. What are three action steps I will take to use the window/mirror approach in my leadership?
  5. Who can be an “accountability partner” to help me make sure that I am following through with these new leadership behavior patterns?
  6. If receiving credit is an important motivation for me, how can I share the credit and still be fulfilled?
  7. What will be the benefits to me if I use the window/mirror approach to leadership?
  8. What will be the benefits for my team if I use the window/mirror approach?

We know from Gallup research ( that only 28% of employees are “actively engaged”, a staggering 53% are “disengaged” and 19% are “actively disengaged”.  These numbers have drastic negative effects to the bottom line.  But leaders who practice the window/mirror principle create a bond with their employees to help increase employee commitment and the organization’s bottom line.  Leaders also start to see team members who are happier and more self-confident.  The window/mirror approach to leadership builds trust, loyalty, and employee engagement throughout the organization. Do you have any questions to add to our “mirror” list above?  Can you think of any instances where you have successfully employed the window/mirror approach to leadership, or some instances where you wish you did?  If so, I hope you will share your insights with us. Having a coach is a powerful way to become more effective with the window/mirror approach.  A coach will partner with you to help you uncover leadership blind spots, and steer you towards a more effective leadership approach.  MSBCoach specializes in leadership and executive coaching.  If you are interested in learning how to work with a coach and improve your leadership effectiveness, I invite you to contact us today to find out more.

Pushing Past the Fear

The words leadership and fear seem to be in direct contradiction with one another, yet if we are honest and authentic, I believe most leaders would admit that there is something they fear, or of which they are at least a little intimidated.  One fear that I have often witnessed among leaders is the fear of allowing - even encouraging - people to out-shine them. Let me explain a little more what I mean through a personal story. 

My husband (Steven) and I enjoy the sport of running.  While we are not exceptional athletes, we both are committed and consistent.  A new person came into our running world a few years ago, on a brisk fall Saturday morning.  Every Saturday morning in October a group of crazy people begin training for the Charlottesville 10 Miler.  This year was no different - except for our new friend Mike, who was not a runner; in fact, this was his first attempt at training.  As the months went by, our friendship with Mike grew into one of value, held in high regard; however, something else happened during this training.  Mike discovered in his mid-50s that he has a natural talent for running.

After completing his first 10 miler at a much better pace than he anticipated, he went on to run a half marathon.  He did that so well and with such ease that he decided to run a marathon. This year he ran the Boston Marathon and had a record PR (personal record). The point of this story is that there was a time when Steven and I were better runners than Mike.  While we are committed runners, we do not have the talent and passion that Mike has discovered within himself.  Yet through all of this, we have maintained a strong friendship and continue to support and encourage Mike as he surpasses us.

There are strong parallels here between our friendship with Mike (and not being threatened by his success) and leaders being able to let those in their lives move beyond what they only dream of accomplishing.  It’s easy to let pride get in the way and become uncomfortable being around someone who was once a “novice”, but who is now better than you.  Or perhaps you can allow yourself to have a paradigm shift and see the influence you had in this person’s life.  As Mike discovered his hidden talent, Steven and I encouraged and supported him to pursue it more… until he was way past us.

A great mentor in my life, Yvonne Black, always said to me, “put people around you who are better than you and don’t be afraid of that.”  This is something I strive to live into.  I admit there are times I have to remind myself that this is not a threat.  Just as it is with our children, wanting them to go further than we have ever gone, so it should be with those we lead.  Our ceiling should be their floor.  “The key to change, is to let go of fear,” Rosanne Cash.

So, what have you done to move past the “fear” in leadership and encouraged someone you lead to become all they possibly can – even if that means passing you up for a promotion?

Trust – The Three Crucial Components

I was recently working with a group of first line leaders that represented several departments in an organization. We were discussing the importance of trust and how to create an environment of trust.  As often is the case, I heard from the group, “My boss needs to hear this stuff. He doesn’t do any of this”.  I’ve been at this long enough to know that some truth and a lot of perception is involved in those statements. When I challenged the group to have a conversation with their boss about their perceptions of the environment, I got the usual - an emphatic, “No way!” We know trust is the foundation to good leadership and a strong organization. Yet we often pay little attention to ensuring that trust actually exists, let alone nurturing it. Trust isn’t a competency or skill – it is (for lack of a better term) a “living thing”. By “living thing”, I mean it can grow; it can be injured; it can be withheld or freely given; and, it can cease to exist. I believe that trust is created and built upon three primary components – Intentions, Words, and Relationships. So, with that in mind, I want to share (one more time) – How to build an environment of trust. Intentions We all have met people that we were skeptical of their intentions. Often we can relate it to past experiences, reputation or our “gut feeling”.  Often the skepticism is just part of the tension that exists between leaders and followers (as well as leaders who lead other leaders).  Unfortunately, the world we live into day reflects a “always question the intention” attitude. Those you lead need to believe and see that your intentions are good. How do you do that?

  • Practice open, back and forth dialogue. Tell those that you lead what you’re thinking and ask them what they are thinking. People should not have to guess your intentions. State your intentions.  When we poorly communicate, people will fill the void with their own stories and perceived intentions. And those stories that people create are seldom good ones.
  • Be honest with yourself. Often we hide behind the excuse we’re protecting the people, the company, or the future.  If your intentions are being questioned, ask yourself these questions:
    1. What do I want for myself?
    2. What do I want for others?
    3. What do I want for the organization?

Hopefully, your answers are well-intended. Your next step would be to ensure that your actions align with your intentions.

The most powerful tool we have are our words. There is a song that says: “Words can build us up or put us down. Words can give us life or kill our dreams”. All too often we are careless and not very thoughtful with our words.  As leaders we do not get a pass for poorly chosen words - we are responsible and accountable.

  • Hone your message to be succinct and clear. Limit yourself on the number of words that you use. Less is really more. Practice it. Ask someone to listen to your message and then tell you what they heard. If they don’t nail the message, keep honing it.
  • Use words that connect to your employees – example: “Your input and ideas are critical to our success.”
  • Drop the excessive expletives and descriptors.  Drop the “always”, “you should have”, “what were you thinking”, “if you’re not on board”, “this is my department – ship - project”.   People stop listening and begin to judge and create their own story.
  • If you put too much negative emotion and body language into your words, people hear and react to the perceived negativity. Your message is lost.
  • Want to know how your words are “landing” with your employees?
    • Watch their body language – especially their eyes.
    • Are they asking appropriate questions or sitting silently?
    • Ask them how you could improve with your choice of words – make sure you really want to hear.

In my earlier years, I had a boss that could not seem to remember my name correctly– even after a year. This same boss would make statements like: “I’m not here to be your best friend.”  Believe me, I didn’t want this boss as a best friend – I just wanted to be called by name! How would you define your relationship with your employees?  How would they define the relationship?  Good, bad, or indifferent, a relationship exists with all our employees. Studies continue to show that people want to know that their boss cares about them as an individual.  That level of care is defined differently for each person. The stronger the relationship between leaders and their employees the more engagement there is for everyone.

  • Relationships matter – make them a priority. Have one-on-ones with your folks at regular intervals – performance review time doesn’t count. Customize those times to the need of that employee.
  • Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have time – even a 5 minute conversation will improve the relationship and engagement.
  • Don’t play favorites – it gets noticed.
  • Ask for ongoing feedback – for you, for the organization, for the team.

Trust can be achieved and maintained when people believe that your intentions are good, that your words support those intentions, and that you choose to have a caring relationship.

There is an additional benefit to nurturing and growing trust. The day will come when trusting you to lead through a tough time is paramount to the success of a project and/or the organization.  Your employees will “have your back”. How do I know? They trust you!

Help! Our meetings are sucking the life out of our team!

I remember early in my leadership career, I hated meetings. I had to attend so many of them that I could hardly get my job done. I remember thinking, “what a wasteful use of everyone’s time and the company’s money”.

One of the many reasons the meetings were so dreadful was because they (more often than not) lasted way to long and whoever was leading them only spoke one language… “theirs”. When you are a leader, it is valuable to know your own language (this is self-awareness), but you also need to know how to speak the language of others. Each brain (person) is unique in the way they think,  and behave, even how people gain or lose energy is different. At MSBCoach we primarily use a tool called Emergenetics  Human Behavior Assessment to help leaders learn this important information. Emergenetics is a brain/science based tool to help individuals better understand how their brain works, what gives them energy and what drains their energy. It also helps them understand the brains (thinking, behaviors and energy patterns) of others. This is important if you want to be an effective leader and lead meaningful (not wasteful or boring) meetings that engage every brain.

Emergenetics divides the brain into four thinking preferences and three behavioral preferences:

Thinking Preferences:

  • Green – Structural – prefer consistency, procedures, tradition, practical, predictable, learns by doing
  • Blue – Analytical – prefer credible data, logical, clear thinker, rational, learns by analysis
  • Yellow – Conceptual – prefer ideas, brainstorming, imaginative, visionary, learns by doing
  • Red – Social – prefer people, connecting, working together, socially aware, empathetic, learns from people

Behavioral Preferences:

  • Expressive – may prefer to get energy from being quiet, alone or in small groups or the other end of the spectrum prefer getting energy from being a gregarious and a performer
  • Assertive – may prefer to get their energy from being quiet, maintaining peaceful energy or the other end of the spectrum and prefer to get their energy from driving hard and fast to get things done
  • Flexible – may prefer to get their energy through sticking to decisions once they are made or may prefer to get their energy to being open to what others want

The thing to remember as a leader is that there is not a right or wrong, it is just different. Each one of the behavioral and thinking preferences brings strength to the team.

We do not all think or behave alike. This is not rocket science to you I am sure, yet it is amazing how many leaders lead their people and run their meetings all the same way. Running effective meetings is brain science and Emergenetics can help leaders to be successful. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t understand  the science behind effective meetings and and they do what they know as the “best way”… which is the way “they” prefer to think and behave. This may be effective with people who are just like them, but, the opposite happens with people who have different preferences from them. Take for example, Erica is the boss, and is structural/left brained. Her meetings always start and end on time, they are by the book, expected and predictable. People always know what to expect. But what happens when Steven who is social/right brained wants some time to connect with people and he never gets it? or Tom who is analytical/left brained and wants to discuss the research and data but tends to get shut down because his topic is not on the agenda? Anthony who is conceptual/right brained and wants to share his ideas and possibilities for the future, and he is told to, “focus”. What happens is brain science, these team members disengage and Erica with the best of intentions has lost them, and is not leading effective meetings with her team.

Here are four tips to help leaders bring brain science into their meetings and make them more effective:

  1. Be self-aware of your own thinking and behavioral preferences when leading meetings - you will have a bias to lead out of them because they are familiar and comfortable to you
  2. Recognize there are several other combinations of thinking and behavioral preferences and their preferences need to be met in order to keep good energy, ideas, information, structure and connection in the meeting room and to the team
  3. Leveraging and valuing all seven of the preferences will greatly benefit you and the team
  4. Be sure your meetings tap into all seven aspects of the brain:
  • Have an agenda and send it out in advance
  • Be sure to include time for the following:
    • People to connect
    • Sharing of ideas
    • Giving credible research and being practical
    • Pace the meetings so they are not too fast, nor to slow
    • Be sure to have energy with expression but not over the top
    • Be open to new possibilities and ideas even if a decision has been made
  • End on time
  • Set meeting ground rules
  • Only schedule meetings when necessary and not just because it is time for a meeting
  • If you want someone to present then know their preferences, they may need advance opportunity to prepare. Be careful ever putting people on the spot, even if it is information they know.

If you put these tips into practice, I guarantee you more effective meetings. Do you have any effective meeting tips you have discovered that work? If so, please share them with us, we would like to learn from you.

If you would like to learn more about Emergenetics for yourself personally or for your team, please contact us at or give us a call at 804-502-4319.

A great employee is a like a great pair of shoes... Invest in Quality!

Have you ever bought a pair of cheap shoes in a pinch?  Maybe you needed a quick replacement, or felt the budget didn’t bear anything more expensive?  More often than not, when you compromise on quality, the shoes don’t fit quite right, they to show wear quickly or maybe even fell apart well before you'd like.  In the end… you have to buy another pair.  Making this mistake often will add up quickly.  Consider how many $20 pairs of shoes you have replaced.  They probably add up to what it would have cost for a quality pair of shoes that you would love, feel confident and comfortable in and are made to last. We can draw a parallel from this metaphor to hiring and retaining employees… We should all learn from lessons in buying good shoes:

  1.  No matter what the price, find the right fit.  A bad hire will just end up giving you “blisters”… not to mention the time, money and effort of having to rehire and train the next person. Avoid quick replacements and be sure they fit your culture and the position qualifications!
  2. Be willing to invest.  This might come in the form of someone with more experience, or even better, someone with the potential to learn and grow with training, development and time.  Like your shoes, a larger upfront cost pays off in spades when your employee sticks with you and lives into the potential you saw.
  3. Repair – Don’t Replace.  If an employee that fits well and has all the potential to do great things just isn’t as shiny anymore, or worse, the sole has worn and they are not performing as well anymore, don’t just toss them out!  Now is the time to invest in them through coaching or more formal development. Your initial investment in quality must be maintained! Polish up those shoes and resole them again and again!  The cost of ongoing investment is far less than buying new!
  4. Don’t take your dress shoes hiking.  You wouldn’t try to make your shoes perform in an environment or for a task not suited to their purpose.  Why do we do this to our employees?  Get to know them and their strengths to ensure that they can perform at their best.
  5. Try them with a new outfit.  Sometime the effect of putting the same shoe with a completely different outfit can help you get even more wear out of them!Think about the last time you put those dress shoes with jeans-it can makes for a fun change and you got more wear out of those shoes! The same goes for your high potential employees.  Giving them new opportunities, experiences outside of their area of expertise, or promotions when they are ready for more leadership and responsibility can help them to find longevity and happiness in your organization!

The lesson that you eventually learn is that the return on investment when it comes to quality is almost always worth it… in shoes and in people! MSBCoach is in the business of investing in quality people.  Let us help you polish up or resole your teams through coaching or our training programs.  We also have many effective assessments that can help uncover their strengths and preferences so you can help them succeed!

The Leadership Journey to Authenticity

What happens when you get where you think you want to be, only to realize it is not the right place...or you find yourself compromising your values or passions to succeed in a new more senior position? If you are a leader and have not experienced something similar, hold on to your boots, you probably will. Is the school of hard knocks the only option? Many of us have a graduate degree in learning from failure, which is OK. As John Maxwell says, “success stands on top of a pile of failures”.

Although I have not found a way to eliminate mistakes (and frankly do not think we would ever want to, as it a good teacher) I do believe there is a way to help leaders navigate through moves and decisions that maybe less painful. The “new” title given to this sort of awareness is authentic leadership. Often, leaders, through years of experience develop this but it has not been defined with a  name until  recently.  The book , “True North” by Bill George and summarizes what I had been  personally striving for as a leader. Throughout the last few years, I have engaged in much of what I have  learned through this process as well as coaching others to their own personal authentic leadership style. If you have read the book, you will notice some of George’s passion threaded throughout this article.  We have tried for many years to develop the perfect model for leadership but the truth is, leaders come  in all shapes and sizes. That is because we are all different and bring our own set of experiences,  personalities and passions into our leadership.

Certainly, we can learn from other’s experiences but we cannot  live through and lead through another’s experiences. In the book titled “The Enemy Called Average”  was the quote, “we are all born originals but most die carbon copies”. Others can mentor and influence your authentic leadership style but only you can determine what it is. There is only one you with your  personality inspired by you unique set of life experiences. Although there may be other people like you,  only you have lived your life.

A leader can develop their authentic leadership by focusing on seven areas:  self awareness, personal  values, balancing extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, developing a trustworthy support team, staying  grounded, integrating life and empowering others to lead.

Being self aware is not as easy as it may appear. Self awareness is birthed out of one’s own life story and how their story affects their leadership. Often leaders do not tap into this goldmine of discovery. They may not go through this process for several reasons.  Some of these reasons may include:  not knowing how, lack of understanding in the value of their life story, it is too painful or they are unwilling  to invest the time. This journey is worth the investment however.  A study from Stanford  Graduate School of Business’s Advisory Council recommended self awareness as the most important  capability for leader’s to develop. Learning your authentic leadership will require not only honesty but  also courage. The process can begin in through different areas of self discovery such as: writing out  your story and listening to feedback to more formal methods such as: 360 profiles, personality profiles,  strength finder and emotional intelligence.

Reflecting on and learning from your life story is the starting point. One’s personal life story allows a  leader to better understand themselves. It also opens their eyes to their passions, values and principles. Reviewing life experiences that go back as far as can be remembered encourages a leader to discover  what drives their passions and then learn how to channel that passion to their own leadership. The  difficult challenges faced in life often define who a leader is and give direction to what they will become.  A leader’s understanding of their values becomes even more relevant when tested under pressure. Having a strong foundation of values that are tried under fire enables a leader to develop the principles  they will apply in leading others.

A leader’s values help them to gain insight to their motivations both intrinsically and extrinsically. The  common response in measuring a leader’s success is extrinsically. When the measuring stick for success  is the “world’s view” it creates a void that is never satisfied. This view encompasses tangible things such  as:  money, home, cars, titles, etc. The challenge is that these things are not sustainable and more often  than not leave a leader unfulfilled with lack of meaning in life. Intrinsic motivations on the other hand  lead the person to pursue more meaningful success that is congruent with their values thus balancing  the fulfillment of their extrinsic motivations. Discovering both your extrinsic and intrinsic motivation takes self evaluation, honesty and a willingness to explore how to bring balance between the two.

Leaders cannot succeed on their own. It takes support and advice. Authentic leaders build a support team to help them stay focused. This team provides feedback, balanced perspective and has earned the  right to speak into the leader’s life. They will help with focus and correction when the leader needs it. This support group also gives a leader a group of individuals to authentically be themselves with and to  rely on to coach and challenge them. This group may consist of peers, family, colleagues, mentors  and/or friends.

Staying grounded as a leader can be a challenge. Leaders that are able to integrate all areas of their life  find the journey to authenticity become a reality. True authenticity comes when a leader is balanced  and consistent in work, faith, family, community and friends. The challenge is balancing effective  leadership at work and maintaining a strong personal life. Those who achieve authentic leadership are constantly working to maintain balance and stay grounded through holistic lives. This allows for  accountability, spending time with family and close friends, physical exercise, community service and a  commitment to spiritual practices, remembering where you came from, what values drive your values  and passions – all allowing authenticity to be sustainable.

Once a leader has worked through self awareness (which is an on going challenge), they now have  earned the right of passage (so to speak) to empower others to lead. Authentic leaders create a culture  of trust and loyalty. This culture enables the leader’s organization to retain and attract top talent that  aligns team members with shared values and goals. Team members are inspired at all levels to step up  and lead and/or take on greater challenges. Thus, authentic leaders are able to produce sustainable  results for themselves and their organization for a long term period. At MSBCoach, we are dedicated to coaching leaders to become authentic leaders. For more information please contact us at: .

4 Tips to Unlock the Potential in Millennials and Unify Your Workforce

We are embarking on a time when we will have five generations in the workforce including: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials (Gen Y), and the newest generation about to enter the workforce, Generation 2020. Many say they have had difficulty leading such generational diversity, especially with Millennials. This is illustrated by the countless negative articles, discussions, and blogs on the dilemma of hiring and working with Millennials, also known as the “Entitled Group”. Concerns are so widespread and misguided that Strategy + Business magazine published an article titled, “Five Millennial Myths: Forget what you think you know about your Gen Y employee”. The article provides insight into the many disparaging myths that shroud this generation.

Each generation grows and adjusts with the dynamic world in their time, facing different events and challenges as they make their way into adulthood and the workforce. One’s world experience is a major part of the fabric that makes everyone authentic. This combination of generations, experiences and uniqueness make it an incredibly exciting and challenging time to lead!

Here are 4 tips for leaders to help unlock the potential in Millennials and unify your workforce:

  1. Unlock their passion. Assign a mentor who will show them the ropes, help set goals, and help them understand boundaries and expectations. Spend quality time with them and learn what motivates and excites each individual. This can be done by administering behavior/personality assessments and conducting regular coaching sessions geared toward helping them find their place in your organization – (for more information on human behavior assessments, contact me at ). By allowing Millenials to feel comfortable and welcome, you give them the freedom to express themselves and find passion in their work.
  2. Promote contributions. Renowned psychologist B.F Skinner said, “You can build a society entirely on the basis of positive reinforcement”. Encourage and promote their insight and ideas by acknowledging and celebrating great input, solutions, and accomplishments. Use positive reinforcement instead of negativity when they don’t quite hit the mark, taking care not to squash creativity.
  3. Ignite creativity and innovation. The Millennial generation is more technically savvy than any before them. They were practically born on the computer and use social media to connect with people and information all over the world. We need to align our businesses and relationships to accommodate their level of connectivity. Maximize the authenticity of the Millennial generation to ensure we do not get left behind or become status quo. Allow them the opportunity to do for you what they do best.
  4. Encourage teamwork. “…there is nothing more important than teamwork. It gives people a sense of connection and belonging, which ultimately makes them better…”—Patrick Lencioni One of greatest contributions of this generation is their ability to function as a team. This is a result of receiving constant (and as the parent of two teenagers, I’m told, annoying) parental guidance and support as well as the trend of recognizing teams’ accomplishments by promoting the “everybody wins” approach to competition. Millennials know that they are never alone in their endeavors and associate being a part of a team with winning. They ask for help when they need it and do not take issue with being a follower. Leaders building highly effective teams would do well to learn from Millenials.

Working with Millennials and untapping the many talents they bring to your organization should not be difficult for good leaders. Their talents are a gift to us. The ultimate gift that you can give to your organization is to identify all the strengths and invest in those you lead. The returns are boundless! It is our time as leaders to mold and prepare younger generations to be tomorrow’s leaders.

How are you making a positive difference unifying your Millennials with all the generations in your workplace? Share your comments!

Also check out, Do Gen-Y’s make good Leaders? by Michelle Braden and Five Millennial Myths: Forget what you think you know about your Gen Y employee”,   written by Jennifer J. Deal.

Are You a Bad Teacher Because You’re Too Smart?

I was recently reading the book, “Brain Rules” by John Medina. In the book, Medina teaches us that in order for learning to take place we have to connect with those we teach. He gives several examples of how to do this, but one in particular stood out to me. This example is that we have a tendency to forget that the information we are sharing is NEW to those we are teaching.

This hit me like a brick when I began to realize as leaders, mentors, and teachers we take for granted the information we have accumulated and how long it took us to master it. I first reflected on this insight within myself. I realized that I often move very quickly when teaching and coaching new concepts to those I am working with. I have a tendency to just assume they “have it” and are ready to move on; often I do not want to “bore” them (or myself).

According to Medina our brains:

  • can only process 10 minutes of information at a time and
  • can only focus on one thing at a time.

He also provides proof that our brains

  • do not pay attention to things we are not interested in
  • are inspired by emotional arousal and it helps the brain to learn.

This book enhanced and brought validation to concerns I already had. I began developing ways that I can more consciously connect with my audience – even if it is an audience of one. I also began to think about the executives I work with and how frustrated they get when people do not “get it” like they do, do not “get it” quick enough, or make mistakes.

Here are some of the tools that I use to connect with my audience. I encourage other executives I work with to do the same. Hopefully they will help you too.

  1. Create interest – people do not pay attention to what is “boring” to them
  2. Reduce multi-tasking – especially when new information is being learned
  3. Help those you are training to connect to the big picture first and fine tune the details later
  4. Tell a story (or something) to emotionally connect your learners/staff to what you are teaching
  5. Only teach 10 minutes at a time and then pull your audience or staff back in by creating a hypothetical situation they can connect to – even better if it involves their emotions
  6. Create an open environment for learning. Make sure your staff or audience are comfortable making and owning their mistakes and asking questions, otherwise, people will tell you they “get it” when they do not.

The next time you are coaching, training or mentoring someone, remember people need time to learn, process, store and practice the new information. Everyone learns differently and at a different pace, so get to know the person you are training and adjust your style accordingly.

Do not take for granted the learning process and reflect on how long it took you to master the subject matter you are teaching. Remember that while you may be proficient with a certain subject, it might not be your audience’s strength. This is vital if you really want people to learn and not just a perfunctory process to check off the list.

People are Motivated by Passion not Money

It is an interesting and a false understanding that people leave their jobs for money. In fact, people are motivated by their passions and not money. People will spend all kinds of money on their passions. If you don't believe me, look at people's hobbies and recreational spending. One thing is for sure, money follows passion, and passion does not follow money. If you can tap into your people's passions, you will find them making money for you and themselves.

Here are a few questions you can use to help you tap into people's passion:

  1. Are your employees in the right job position?
  2. Do they need extra training, feedback and/or coaching?
  3. Is there an opportunity for advancement or continued learning?
  4. Do they feel unappreciated, devalued, or are their opinions respected?
  5. Do they have poor work/life balance, and do they trust their leadership?
  6. Is stress a factor (stress can sometimes stunt creativity and passion) involved?

I encourage you to meet with your team and find out what they think needs to be done. Get them involved with the recovery plan. People buy into what they create, so let them help to create the solution.

Tips For Better Company Reviews

  1. Steer clear from annual reviews, they don't work. Historically they bring too much anxiety and take up too much valuable time. There is also too much time between reviews to measure progress or work on developing anything.
  2. Do monthly or quarterly reviews depending on the size of your staff.
  3. Have each team member set quarterly goals that are smaller and easily evaluated and are attainable.
  4. Have team members complete their own review and bring it to the meeting. The leader will then assess the review, giving their thoughts and feedback to how to reach their goals and steer the team member towards helping the company reach it's goals.
  5. Use behavioral tools (assessments) such as EQ and DISC or Emergenetics to help you connect with your team member. Strength Finder is good too.
  6. Ask team members what motivates them. Help each team member to discover their own flow and internal motivations so their work is inspiring and not drudgery.

Do Gen-Y's Make Good Leaders?

In my experience as a coach to emerging leaders from this generation and as a parent of a Millennial, there are challenges and strengths just like any other group. We see in this generation a creative ability to multi-task and use technology to get things done more efficiently. They tend to see everyone as being on the same playing field. Organizations should be flat and everyone has the right to speak and to be taken seriously and judged on their merits, not on status or position. The challenge is that the greatest strength can become the greatest weakness. We know that multi-tasking can actually create an inability to focus and more mistakes in the long-run. We know everything cannot be solved via text or email, that human interaction, soft skills, the ability to read and express proper body language is imperative to business success. We also know that even in a flat organization a leader will rise even without a title. So I think as with any generation, this generation brings amazing skills to the table. They will also have the challenge of the school of hard knocks, which all of us will agree is a powerful teacher.

I will share a story with you. I have always believed in everyone pulling their weight whether in a business or a family. When my son was 16, I was having a difficult time getting him to keep the yard up. I was a full time, single working mom (not to mention he needed to do this anyway to be responsible) and needed his help. I was so frustrated with “nagging”. I then began to think a little more, How can I motivate this kid, what inspires him? Well, he likes to be in control, he wants to make his own decisions, he likes positive feedback and he likes to spend money. I made him the yard director for the summer, gave him a budget, and told him to spend it however he chose but the outcome was to be a great looking yard. This fed all his needs. I could not believe the pride he took in our yard. What this means is that if you are leading a Millennial, you are going to have to think deeper than “just do this because I said so”. “That dog don’t hunt!” I don’t know if this is any different than it was with any other generational cohort. The difference is this cohort is not afraid to ask why. They want to attach meaning to their work – purpose. Truth is, there is nothing wrong with that. Everyone does not get the trophy at work but you can build a relationship (which is very important to Millennials) and mentor them to greatness. This may be the next great generation. Our ceiling should be their floor! I think they can make amazing entrepreneurs. They have funding money, technology, relationship support but they need to develop their interpersonal, leadership development and long term thinking skills and they can create success. I believe all funding organizations should require a year of leadership/business coaching to be included in their funding to help ensure their success rather than handing over money from a good business plan to make better widgets.

The Singer Has No Passion

My husband and I are in NYC with friends for a bike trip. We all went to a restaurant last night where the servers sing and dance. We discovered this place at Christmas. It is amazing. We met up with a group of 5 other people and went in to be entertained. About half way through our meal, one of the singers got up, like all the others, this singer had an amazing voice BUT something was not there. The friend next to me said, “Something is missing… he is not connecting with the audience.” I then realized the talent was there, but there was no connection or passion. He was singing, but his heart was someplace else.

It is amazing the difference in how you feel as a listener. Others, who sang, did not have the voice quality he did but, did have passion and connection. In the overall experience, they were the ones we wanted to hear again. They were the ones who made us feel important, like they were there for us.

The conversation turned to the aspect of what we are looking for as humans. I of course, with my affection and dedication to compare everything to leadership did just that. I reflected on how people want a leader who connects with them, they want a leader who they feel is devoted and passionate. Just like the singers, it was the ones we felt “linked” to through their stage relationship to us as an audience that won our affection. So it is with leaders, people are lot looking for you to be perfect. No one is perfect. They are looking for a leader who is real, passionate, dedicated and engaged.

How about you, what are you looking for in a leader?

TMI… How Much is TOO Much Information?

As a leader of a team or an organization creating a culture of transparency can be a powerful tool to build trust and organizational cohesion.

But what should we share, and when?  How much is too much?

One thing to consider the type of information, is it tactical or strategic?  Is it key to executing the next steps on the path, or is it helping to make sure we are on the right path?  The level of information and the way it is presented will depend on what its purpose is.

Tactical: How can you tell if you are giving too much information a leader about day-to-day operations or a specific project?   How much of the details of what you are doing (behind the scenes) or reasons for your decisions do you make should you share?

Ask yourself:

  • How much information does your team really need to do their job effectively?
  • Will they be more engaged if you explain the details – or check-out from boredom?
  • What does this do to your credibility as a leader?  Will explaining this allow them to see more clearly how you think and act or is it just your ego wanting attention?

When it comes to transactional information – its important to keep people in the loop – but more often than not, it should be at a higher level.  Just as you aren’t always interested in HOW the job got done, just that it did and satisfactorily, by keeping status updates and decisions made at the summary level, it allows them to make informed decisions and act on their own with a more comprehensive understanding of the impacts of their decision.

Too many details will make your meetings long and expects your team to be able to connect the dot and understand their impact to their work at the same time.   Make it easier for them by giving the highlights and the outcomes and offer offline explanations to anyone interested.

Strategic More often than not, we need to share the strategic vision and mission of our organizations and projects.  This helps to make sure everyone’s activities are in alignment with the overall expected outcomes.

Most of us communicate the “What” and the “How” of our activities pretty well, but it is also important to share "Why" we are doing them.  Good things come from including why we are doing things like:

  • Connection the “what and how”
  • Creating dialogue
  • Encouraging innovation and creativity
  • Providing clarity
  • Identifying errors/flaws/misunderstandings
  • Ensuring safety
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Generating buy-in

Always Share:

  • Strategic vision and mission of the organization
  • The challenges to achieving the vision and mission
  • The strategies and tactics to overcome the challenges
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Decisions that affect people, policies, methodologies, products, and services
  • The rationale or decision-making processes for difficult situations

Dangerous Territory:

  • Too much Personal Information – Use your personal relationship with the recipient as a barometer – but understand all things you share will become part of how people view you.  It is always important to be authentic, but you don’t also have to air your dirty laundry– and it can be a damaging habit to confide too much.
  • Ideas not fully vetted or thought out  (outside of a brainstorming activity) – or that are seriously couched
  • Sharing Frustration or overwhelm.  Be a real person, but buffer appropriately if the recipients can’t actually help.  Stress is contagious and drama is never productive.
  • Concerns about other leaders in organization
  • Admitting Flaws or Mistakes is often a great way to help other people learn from your own experiences.  However, not all that goes on behind the wizard’s curtain is required to be shared… just like I don’t tell my guests about the laundry baskets full of toys and papers shoved in the closet when they come over!

When in Doubt:

  • Consider Size and culture of your organization; share when sharing is promoted and accepted
  • Consider Role of the Recipient and their ability to act on the information – or will they just feel overwhelmed by the stress of the information?
  • Recipient’s ability to assimilate the level of detail shared with out disrupting their ability to function.  Not everyone is good at being in the weeds!
  • Before sharing – ask what your team wants, what level of information they need to do great work and make good decisions
  • Ask yourself:
    • What is my intention for sharing this information?  If the intent is pure, and you deliver it in a careful way, the outcome will often be good.
    • Is this stimulating the passion and commitment in the team members? Remember to also ask for their thoughts and ideas in order to get buy in and commitment!