Articles tagged with: Authentic Leadership



Does What I do Make me Who I Am?

Here in America we define ourselves and those around us by what we do. Think about the first question we ask after introducing ourselves…. “So where do you work?” and “what do you do there?” In part, this is good small talk. We naturally ask these questions in succession. The other part has to do with sizing people up. We determine before we even get to know someone whether we think they are successful based on how they answer these questions. Is it any wonder why we personally define ourselves using this same measurement?

This type of stereotyping begs the question many are now facing, what happens when what we “do” is done away with? What happens when companies go bankrupt, jobs are outsourced, people are downsized or laid off? How then will we define ourselves, our friends, colleagues or family members? Although what we do is obviously important, we have to learn a better self-awareness, or who we are “being.” Who we are “being” is who we are, our character, values, beliefs and passions. It is not determined by titles, salary or prestige.

To discover who we really are beyond the titles we hold is a challenge. Think for a minute about who you are…. If I asked you to describe yourself could you do so without talking about what you do? The goal is that who we are being works collaboratively with what we do but it does not define us. I recently asked a client of mine while working through the “being” vs. “doing” question, “how would you respond if you lost your job for one reason or another and the only thing you could find was working at a fast food restaurant wiping down tables?” His answer was the best I have ever gotten. He said, “well I guess I would have to work hard and rise to the top in that industry!” Now that is knowing who you are being no matter what you are doing!

I want to encourage you, whether you are in the most secure position you have ever been in or whether you are having to re-define yourself due to job loss, search yourself to know who you are being in this world.

Here are some suggestions as you go through this process:

  • Be insightfully straight with yourself.
  • What transformations do you want?
  • What are your personal values, passions, beliefs?
  • Write a paper about who you are.
  • Write a paper about who you want to be.
  • Be in your possibilities.
  • Dream!

This can be an eye opening experience if you allow it to be. We would love to hear your feedback on this exercise and if it was beneficial.


Leadership Journey To Discovery And Development

What happens when you get where you think you want to be to realize it is not the right place or you find yourself compromising your values or passions to an upward 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 they are 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. Last year I read the book titled, “True North” by Bill George and realized it summarized what I had been  personally striving for as a leader. Throughout the last year, 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. 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 recent 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: .


Why Hire A Coach?

 

  1. The higher an executive advances up the organizational latter, they are less dependent on technical skill and require more effectiveness in interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence.
  2. Coaching is an effective tool for improving the bottom line performance in executives and organizations
  3. Coaching builds skills and capacities for more effective working relationships.
  4. Coaching paves the way for decision makers to create higher levels of organizational effectiveness through dialogue, inquiry and positive interactions.
  5. Coaching helps identify when teamwork is important; the how and when to apply the skills necessary to foster it.
  6. Coached executives have reported improvements in the following areas:
    1. 53% in Productivity
    2. 48% in Quality
    3. 48% in Organizational Strength
    4. 39% in Customer Service
    5. 34% in Reducing Customer Complaints
    6. 32% in Retaining Executives who Received Coaching
    7. 23% in Cost Reductions
    8. 22% in Bottom-line Profitability

*Research from the Center for Creative Leadership


Getting Real: How High-Achieving Women Can Lead Authentically

Women aren’t always true to themselves. In a vain attempt to live up to organizational norms and expectations, their behaviors sometimes go against their own values. But it’s not easy being a phony. It takes a lot of energy to behave in ways that are out of sync with our true values, priorities, hopes, char- acteristics and style. The energy expended trying to come across as something you are not is energy unavailable for work and other activities...

 

Getting Real How High Achieving Women Can Lead Authentically

 

 


Is There Room for Mercy in Leadership?

“I am big on mercy”. This was the statement that caught my attention and sparked this blog. I was listening to the radio while getting ready for work a few mornings ago. The DJ made a statement about the poor performance and the mistakes being made by a certain athletic coach. The sports announcer responded with the surprising remark, “I don’t have a lot to say here… as you know…. I am big on mercy.”

I don’t remember who was talking or what was being talked about; however, this statement grabbed me, so I wrote it down. I asked myself throughout the day, “Michelle, how big are you on mercy?” I must say, mercy is not one of my strong suits. But I certainly appreciate it when I am given mercy. Mercy by definition (according to dictionary.com) means: Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm: "the boy was begging for mercy". An event to be grateful for, esp. because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering. Mercy is also identified as a noun and an adjective. However, I would argue that mercy is a verb… it is only meaningful when it is put into action. As leaders, we have the opportunity everyday to show mercy and give compassion to someone who may not “deserve” it. I do believe that the same measuring stick which we use to measure other people’s deeds will be the same measuring stick which other people will “judge” ours. I also believe in the law of “sewing and reaping” or “good karma”, whatever you choose to call it. I hope there have been times when you have received mercy when you did not deserve it, because when any of us receive mercy, we are given the opportunity to right ourselves when we have gone down the wrong path. We could all use a break sometimes.

Below are five questions to ask yourself:

  1. As a leader, how can you choose to lead and still show mercy?
  2. When and to whom do you choose to give mercy?
  3. When would it not be wise as a leader to give mercy?
  4. Are you afraid you will appear “weak” or get taken advantage of if you give mercy?
  5. Where would you value some mercy in your own life?

This blog stirred inside me before I wrote it and continues to stir inside me as I finish it. I am striving to be more merciful…. What about you? Do you have a story of how you gifted someone with mercy when they did not deserve it, or a story where someone gifted you with mercy? If so, I hope you will share it with us! If you are a leader and interested in developing new behaviors, be it in mercy or another area, I invite you to contact us today. We specialize in working with leaders like you (and me)!


The Success Equation

I had the privilege of hearing author, Jim Collins, speak recently.  He said a lot of things that made me think, a sign of a good SME (subject-matter-expert), and one thing in particular stood out: “ First, great leaders must have strong values and a strong will and then skills”. How many people have you encountered that had tremendous skills and competencies, with great potential, yet they never reach that potential?  Skills matter and with a strong under-pinning of good values and a strong will, success is inevitable. We are constantly bouncing around the whole “values” concept.  Values are the guiding force of how we live and work. We understand that very few people have identical values. Yet, we know that our values must be in sync for us to work cohesively and productively. When was the last time you thought about how your values and your organization’s values work in tandem? If I ask you to list your personal values and that of your organization, would they align? Would there be any out of sync?  What does your organization offer in support of your core values?  How do your values support the goals/objectives of the organization?  It may be worth your time to examine this.  It could answer a few questions that you may have about your next steps and future goals. Jim Collins told a wonderful story of how having a strong will can make the difference in growing and surviving during tough times.  We all have those tough times – individually and organizationally. What determines a strong will? More importantly how do you develop one?  Ever heard of the phrase: “strong-willed child”?  I happen to have given birth to one….some of you are relating to me right now!  Once this child decided that she was going to do something or not do something, it became a real battle of wills.  I would usually resort to using a well-known technique of: “You will do it because I am bigger than you!”  I realized that technique was not going to last too long so fortunately I was given wise counsel that I should guide that strong will instead of trying to break it.  This wise person told me that my strong-willed child who was pushing all my buttons would have a greater chance of being a successful adult if I would nurture that will. So how do we nurture a strong will?   Here are some thoughts from Jim Collins’ insight and a few from someone who was raising one:

  • Be clear on your objectives.  Know what you want and don’t want. My strong-willed child was always very clear about her objectives, wants, needs, etc.
  • Be ok with others pushing against you.  Many times we get “talked out” of doing something that we know is the right thing to do.  The key here is to make sure that we are aligned with our values and clear objectives. Strong-willed people should always listen to wise counsel and adjust if needed but never cave to someone else’s thinking.
  • Set a plan and follow your plan.  We lose our way so often because we didn’t create a plan or follow the plan that we created.  We allow others to change it or we don’t take the necessary time to think it through.
  • Be “fanatically disciplined”.  This is one of the discoveries that Jim Collins made in his research of leaders for his book, Great by Choice. His research revealed that strong-willed leaders did the “hard” things, sacrificed for the future instead of enjoying the moment, and relied on their skills in times of chaos.
  • Mistakes are going to happen. And there will be consequences. Strong-willed leaders will choose to accept those circumstances and to learn from them. This is a lesson that I learned from my wise counselor.  Every time my strong-willed child made a “mistake”, I was encouraged to ask, “What did you learn?” instead of saying, “I told you so…”

In our ever-changing, competitive, super-charged information world, it’s more important than ever to be clear on our values and to be strong-willed.  What are you doing to stay centered on your values and strengthen your will?  


When's the Last Time You Checked Your Alignment?

walkthewalk“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”, Mahatma Gandhi.  This is a meaningful quote and one I find to be true.  I have worked in leadership and with leaders for over 20 years and I am still surprised (although I should not be) when I work with a smart, experienced, and a well read (in leadership) leader who knows all the right things to say, yet does not practice what they preach.  For a leader’s credibility and influence, it is invaluable that their words and behaviors align.  Nothing will destroy trust in the leader and the organization faster than this lack of alignment. Several years ago I had a colleague who worked with an organization that was having many challenges.  This colleague worked for several years trying to get to the root of the problem.  She slowly peeled the onion, building trust and uncovering the source of the “cancer”.  Eventually the true root was revealed.  The CEO constantly spoke of honesty, integrity, and family values, and how important all of these things were to him and the organization, and all the while he was having an affair with a subordinate within the organization.  His lack of alignment was not hidden, even though he thought it was… and even when people do not know exactly “why”, they can usually discern when sincerity is not “real”. This is one extreme example of words and actions not aligning.  However, misalignment shows up in many forms, such as respecting people, valuing time, being dependable, not gossiping, taking care of your mental and physical health… just to name a few.  The truth is that none of us are 100% perfect at leadership alignment, but we should always be striving to be as close to perfection as possible. Are there any places in your personal or professional leadership that are out of alignment?  Are there things (even the smallest things) that you do not want others to know about?  If so, I challenge and encourage you to ask yourself “why? “ Remember the quote we opened with:  “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”.  You will not only be a better leader when you are in alignment, but you will also sleep better at night, be healthier, and enjoy more meaningful work and personal relationships.  To thine own self be true first. Below are 5 questions for the “thought leaders” to ask themselves:

  1. What are your values?
  2. How do your leadership behaviors reflect these values?
  3. When have you been out of alignment?
  4. Are you usually in alignment?
  5. If I asked your team members, colleagues, bosses, friends and family members this question, would they give the same answer that you did?

If you would like an accountability partner to work with you on your leadership alignment, you can read more here or contact us.  Having a leadership coach is a meaningful way to begin or enhance this journey, and “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, Lao-tzu.


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 (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150383/majority-american-workers-not-engaged-jobs.aspx) 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.


Purposeful Leadership

ThomasJefferson250

Are leaders made or are leaders born? This is an ongoing question that often triggers interesting conversations and debate. One thing is for sure, leadership is a journey and something that is continuous process.

I personally believe leaders are “made” through learning, experiences, successes, failures and choices. You are not just “born” a leader, although personalities, temperaments, upbringing, and cultural norms all play a part in what makes you who you are.

Leaders come in all styles and approaches, and thank goodness we do not have a “cookie-cutter” leadership format that is exactly what “works” in leadership. We can and should find patterns and leadership styles to learn from and look up to yet, in the end, we have to own and develop our own leadership style.

Your leadership style is formulated through your leadership journey and everyone’s is different. Your style emerges out of a combination of your past and current experiences (both personal and professional), how your values and judgments emerge from these events and your personality.

We also know from Gallup’s research on strengths that your brain is “wired” for certain potential strengths/talents that are there from birth. The difference between becoming a poor, good or great leader is based more on how you respond and learn from your experiences, as opposed to the experiences making or breaking you as a leader.

Even though nature and your experiences have both shaped and influenced your personal leadership style, one thing I feel sure of is that you will not be successful in your leadership unless you create a purposeful plan. For anything to be consistently successful requires intent.

For example, in order to take care of your body, your home, your car, and your relationships, you must give intentional attention to the success. If you don’t, things can fall apart. Your leadership is not any different.

Great artists, athletes, parents and friendships do not just happen by chance. Great leaders do not just “fall into” their greatness. It is a planned process that they are committed to and accountable for. A person or leader may have occasional success from “being lucky”, but for sustainability, calculated goals with action and accountability have to be in place.

A powerful example of a leader who was purposeful and intentional about his leadership was our third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. It is said by historians that Jefferson was mindful in developing his leadership which ultimately led to his influential legacy. He did this through a careful review of his life and his career, and then selecting which contributions he deemed most important to his public service. He even went so far as to write his own epitaph: Jefferson wished to be remembered on his tombstone for three things:

  • Author of the Declaration of Independence
  • Author of the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom
  • Founder of the University of Virginia

Though known today, and then, for many impressive accomplishments (such as the Louisiana Purchase), Jefferson feared that any mention of his purely political career and presidency (even on popular issues) could cloud people’s views of his leadership purpose.

By listing his main achievements in the form of broad ideas and educational purposes, Jefferson hoped to shape future interpretation of his leadership in those terms, rather than in the language of political gain. Now this is a purposeful plan; although, your plan may not be this elaborate, you still need a plan.

I encourage you to become aware of whom you want to be as a leader. Identify for yourself, what is necessary to get you where you want to go. Take time to:

  • Value, appreciate and understand where you have come from.
  • Identify the values you lead out of and how they have come into play in your life.
  • Be aware of your past and current experiences, your personality and how, combined, they influence your leadership.
  • Identify what are you doing that is creating success in your leadership.

To get started for now, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Where are you not getting the results you want?
  2. What do you need to do to bring about change?
  3. Who will hold you accountable for these goals?

If you get yourself out of your comfort zone, your comfort zone will start to grow.

This exercise alone is deliberate and it will help you identify how to create greater success and give purpose to your leadership. Live, behave and dress as though you are who and where you want to be.

What can you do now to live into your purposeful leadership? You will get where you want to go much faster if you set goals and live into it now. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”, Hebrew proverb. I have worked with leaders who have said, “When I get this promotion, I will change….” My suggestion is to make those changes now and do it with intent.

I would love to hear your feedback. What have you done to live into your leadership? What have you done to be sure your leadership is on purpose? Any other ideas or suggestions you can give are welcome!


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: .


Is There Such a Thing as “Leadership Commonsense”?

I was recently coaching with a leader who was frustrated with one of their first line supervisors. The complaint was stated like this: "He just doesn't have commonsense when it comes to leading people".

What do we mean by commonsense leadership? Commonsense is defined as sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence. Webster describes commonsense as "the unreflective opinions of ordinary people". Therefore, would we define commonsense leadership as the leading of people from our individual "native intelligence". I thought about this for a few minutes. So, we could have leaders that run the gamut of Michael Scott from "The Office" to maybe a Warren Buffet! That could be like rolling dice with your leaders. Is that a risk that you're willing to take?

The problem with commonsense is that in the best of times, it is our "red flag" detector, the little spot in our brain that says "That doesn’t seem right." In the worst of times, though, it’s that little spot in the brain that says "That seems right" when it isn’t. And if commonsense comes from experiences and experience is the great teacher. Why are we still in a mess?

Duncan Watts, who authored Everything is Obvious - Once You Know the Answer, states that "commonsense is a hodge-podge of accumulated advice, experiences, aphorisms, norms, received wisdom, inherited beliefs, and introspection that is neither coherent nor even internally self-consistent". As evidenced by these famous commonsense quotes: " Two minds are better than one vs. too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth" or Try, try again vs. stop flogging a dead horse". And if "experience is the best teacher", when should one also "maintain a beginner's mind"?

Back to my leader's complaint about the supervisor lack of commonsense. In reality what the leader was saying was, "Why isn't this supervisor doing what I do?" But when you ask some to use their commonsense, you are asking them to do what is common and makes sense to them. If you want people doing what you would do then you must train, mentor, coach to that. A word of caution - trying to pass along your commonsense is going to be very difficult and (I know that this will be hard to hear) your commonsense approach may not be the best in every situation.

Here are four things to consider when leading others to find their own “leadership commonsense”:

1. Commonsense is individual - drawn from personal experience. And often that personal experience is not common nor consistent. What we gain is impacted by our interpretation of that experience at that moment in time coupled with our past experiences. Research states that we pick and choose what we remember about experiences and that our memory tends to forget details that are less favorable. And those different interpretations will give inconsistent and sometimes uncommon sense. An organization and/or teams need a common, consistent approach to problem solving. Creating an environment of collaboration and shared experiences that connects to a shared vision will produce better results.

2. Commonsense accepts obvious answers - because commonsense always has an answer. You immediately dig back into your past experiences looking for commonality or at least similarity to the question/concern at hand. The answer seems obvious because you have been there, done that, and have the t-shirt. Leaders should never overlook the obvious but we too often want a quick answer. We don"t allow time for the not so obvious. Instead of always having the answer - we may need to ask a question. Leaders need to ask the "Why". Why is this an issue? Why is this happening again? Why is the team struggling? Why are our results inconsistent? To find the answer you need to understand the why and the why may not be obvious.

3. Commonsense can be vague - because you're following your "gut". When you are following your "gut", it may be hard to give concrete direction or advice. We say things like "Just trust me on this." or "We don't have time to discuss the details, just do it". Often it is precise actions and directions that are needed. It is a must for any successful organization to have a strategic plan with specific goals that is communicated widely and often.

4. Commonsense produces inconsistent results - each "commonsense" leader sees his role and responsibility differently. We find ourselves deep in the "If onlys"..if only we had the right people leading, if only we could find the right incentives, if only they were more competent. All this actually proves that common sense is not that common. To get the desired results an organization must know what will take to produce the desired performance every time. The only way to know this is to have specific processes, personal accountability, and measurable outcomes that align with the strategy and goals. This requires hard work and time but so worth the investment.

I agree that commonsense is good at making the world seem sensible - by allowing us to reject explanations that don't coincide with our experiences and ignoring counterfactuals. In reality, commonsense may be less about a way to understand our world but more of a way just to survive without having to understand. This is possibly one of the reasons that we don't learn and grow from our and other's experiences. May I suggest that perhaps its time to view our organizational struggles like how medical science views finding cures. No one in the science community is throwing up their hands just because finding a cure is complex and hard. Let's apply that same admirable resolve to our organizations - do the hard work! The reward will be a healthy, productive organization.

What are your thoughts on “leadership commonsense”? We would love to hear your feedback and/or answer your questions. If you are interested in learning more about working with a coach for yourself and/or someone you work with please contact us today at 804-502-4319 or . You can also contact JoAnn directly at .


Knowing Yourself: 3 Steps to Leadership Growth

We have all heard the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”. Effective leaders work tirelessly to understand themselves, practicing to the best of their ability what they preach. In Making a Difference, I shared the importance of preparing yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Now let’s move to part II of getting to know yourself as the absolute best way to begin to make a difference.

I would like to share this quote with you as you think about getting to know yourself, "Success is when you realize obstacles you face are challenges to help you become better - and your response equals the challenge." - Stephen Covey Becoming a leader requires learning from a combination of successes, failures, training as well as mentoring, and finding value in challenging experiences. Effective leaders learn from many situations encountered in life. As a leader, you have a unique story and a “special” lens through which you view the world. Leaders receive the greatest benefit when they appreciate and absorb every experience in their “story”, then they move forward to make the experience (both positive and negative) a part of their leadership fabric.

As a leader your experiences create a journey. Although journeys may be similar, no two experiences are the same. I’d like to share a chapter from my daughter’s leadership journey and how it affected her. She is a 4th year cadet (freshman) at Virginia Military Institute. For the last six months she has been a “Rat” in the “Ratline” going through what many call the hardest military school initiation in the country. During this time the upper classmen developed her into a Cadet for the class of 2017. Many times we would ask her if she was going to make it and she would answer, always with tears in her eyes, that she was fine. She told us that although she sometimes felt like quitting when faced with some of the toughest challenges, what kept her going were her “brother rats”, finding an outlet in her studies, her soccer teammates who give her constant support, her mentor who continues to guide her, and advice from her “grand” mentor. Here is the advice that we as leaders would benefit from as well – 3 steps to leadership growth:

  1. Give it everything you have and don’t look for an easy way out of the demanding responsibilities.
  2. Accept challenges and make them worthwhile.
  3. Know that you will never regret working hard - anything else is a waste of time.

After completing her most challenging time at the Institute thus far, she said, “It was the hardest thing I have ever done. It was awesome.”

In your leadership journey, find the value in all your life lessons and be proud of all the challenges you have encountered. I encourage you to recognize that it is “awesome” when you face challenges “head-on” and not only persevere, but succeed!

You learn more about yourself through your experiences, your challenges and the great stories from the people in your life every day. As a student of leadership on my own journey, it would enrich my experience and those of others to hear yours. Please share your story.


No More Cookie-Cutter Leaders

It is amazing how many books have been written on leadership. I bet I own most of them! I love to read about leadership, however, one of the things I have realized is that if I am not careful, I am trying to act out everything I am reading. I am grateful for inspiring books and role models to look up to, but the truth for all of us is that we have to know ourselves and create our own personal leadership style.

I once heard a quote that has stuck with me, “All of us are born originals, but most of us will die carbon copies”. I want to be a leader who is authentic to myself and those I lead. I love this definition of cookie-cutter from wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn, “having the same appearance, as if mass-produced”.

I don’t think any of us want to live up to that definition as a leader. I encourage you to review who you are as a leader. It is important to allow others to shape and influence you, but it is more important that you know how to apply that to who you are and who you are not.

An authentic leader is not a cookie-cutter leader, no matter how good the cookie-cutter is. An authentic leader knows their personal values, where those values came from and how to apply them in their leadership. You are the only one who can determine this. No one can decide it for you. You are the only you and you are not a cookie-cutter! Each of us is one of a kind.  No one else has your story.

What do you think about cookie-cutter leadership? How do you stay above the line to be authentic?


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?