Several weeks ago, I was coaching with a client (let’s call him John) who was working to further develop his listening skills. In the course of our conversation he said, “I want people to feel I am genuinely interested.”
John went on to share a short, but impactful story with me. John was attending the funeral of an elderly gentleman who was a long term friend of his family. This man was known to be a very quiet man. Because of this, John was a little surprised to see so many people at the funeral. After the service, John was talking with some of the guests and mentioned that he was surprised so many people were in attendance…. Not because this man was not a great man, but rather, because this man was so quiet. One of the guests responded to him with a statement that changed John’s perspective of this man forever. The guest said, “There are so many people here to honor him because he was more interested than interesting.”
This is the time of year most home owners are focusing on getting their yards looking good again. Many of us are seeding, re-planting, trimming, raking, mowing… and mowing…. and mowing! The poignant thing is, living things keep growing, the weeds continue to pop up and everything needs to be watered regularly as well as trimmed. It takes maintenance and consistent effort to keep a yard looking good.
Great leaders love and champion change…well, at least that’s what most business articles would have you believe. I believe that the question begs a more complex answer to provide true guidance. As managers, we can each “champion” change, what we need to explore is how to develop our personal skills and how this becomes part of our leadership journey.
So what do we mean by “championing change”? Change Champions are leaders selected and trained to manage the inevitable uncertainty that is bound to arise within your team when faced with a program of change. To consider your role, I will examine change at three core levels: Championing a Quality Culture for Change; Leading your Team through Change; and Your Role as a Change Champion.
There are many opportunities in our lives and careers to negotiate for what we want:
· The cost, scope or schedule of your next project
· The sale price of a car or house
· Your starting salary or vacation benefits for a new job
· Your upcoming performance raise
Many notable authors and scholars have pointed out the advantages of using emotional intelligence in these scenarios. My experience with these concepts is that I need to break them down in to very simple terms so that I can remember them in the “heat of the moment” and under the stress that negotiations typically put on us.
Read any survey, talk to any leader, any employee – Communication ranks at the top of the list for “things leaders need to do better”. We all know it, and yet, most of us still struggle with communicating. And now that we live in the world of instant communication and information overload, it has only gotten harder. We have more tools, more resources, more access and we are less effective. This reminds me of the famous quote of George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” There are some things that we can do to get better.
There are those of us that are really good at estimating how long a particular project will take, or how much effort can be reasonably expended in a period of time. And then there’s the rest of us.
Whether it is through sheer hope or lack of experience, we often underestimate the amount of time and energy it ALWAYS takes to complete a project and overestimate the number of things we can add to our plates.
While this can be painful at best if the project only affects you, when it affects your team, or the organization as a whole, estimation of time and effort really become critical to the success of the project, team morale and completion of strategic objectives.
Here are six strategies to consider for those of you that may share frustrations in estimating:
Once you are relatively certain of a good estimation, a project leader needs to be a champion, cheerleader and barrier remover once the work is underway. Delivering a project on time and on target is a very gratifying feeling – and working toward that is important for your team and the organization as a whole. However, if the path and the itinerary are not clear from the get go- or the expected arrival date is unreasonable or just plain wrong– no one will enjoy the trip! Frustrations will mount both on your part and that of your team and targets will be missed. Developing your skill in estimating a project scope and schedule to enable your team’s success will result in far more satisfaction on everyone’s part!
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.
Have you ever listened to a true storyteller? My dad was a gifted storyteller. Each night, he would weave a story for my sister and I, and we were transported to a world of the imagination. Vibrant characters would embark on all sorts of exciting challenges and adventures. These stories created a wonderful fabric of memories for my childhood.
I think of strategy as an engaging story about an organization. A strategy story can draw you into the passion and purpose of why that organization exists and what they hope to accomplish. Like a gifted storyteller, a strategic leader can bring you quickly to care about the mission and interest you in the pathway to the future. Navigating interesting business challenges and opportunities can craft an interesting plot that has you rooting for mission success. Like a gifted storyteller, leaders in great organizations can consistently recount their strategy story about who they are, how they serve their customers, and where the organization is headed in the future.
Shouldn’t you be able to tell your organization’s strategic story? To do it well, you need to develop an attention-grabbing script. Whether it is an employee, vendor, client or even a neighbor, the story you tell can engage the listener and generate interest in supporting future success.
So how do you weave your story of strategy? It takes effort to internalize the important messages of strategy. You need to own the story. Consider the following three parts to compose your strategy story:
Like a great story, strategy is about the journey to succeed and you get out of it what you put in. You can be a part of creating a wonderful journey of opportunity and success for your organization. I will never forget the amazing characters in my dad’s stories. My wish for you is to invest your career in organizations where you are truly a part of the strategy story.
For further information about connecting strategy and leadership, consider watching the MSBCoach Webinar: Connecting Leadership and Strategy: Sparking Energy for Success
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:
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:
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.
Did I really say that??!!! Have you ever left an important meeting with a knot in the pit of your stomach not knowing exactly what you said but knowing that it was completely the wrong thing? Wondering if there is damage to your relationships with key colleagues because emotions took control of your voice?
Fear not! There are ways to better understand this emotional reaction and tools to help you use this energy for powerful and more effective messages.
First, let’s understand what is happening in your reaction. If you have worked with personality typing such as Emergenetics or Myers Briggs (and I heartily recommend considering these tools if you haven’t), you understand our differences in how we process situations, information, and reactions to other people. Certain ways of viewing the world are naturally more comfortable for you. So what happens to your style when stress or pressure pushes you to operate in a way that is completely outside of your usual style and comfort…and may lead you to post-meeting questions of “what was I thinking when I said THAT?”
I reference a great piece of research called In the Grip; Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function, by Naomi L. Quenk. The premise is that when our usual dominant styles are confronted with fatigue and stress, we have an inferior reaction type, the opposite of our standard Myers Briggs type, which takes over our reactions in the frustration of the moment.
So what does this mean in real life situations? Consider a situation when you are tired and at the end of your patience. The reasonable “you” is now agitated, angry, and acting out of character. Backed into a corner, the opposite of your standard personality erupts in a way that is confusing to you and to others in the discussion. You can come away from a meeting wondering “who was that person?”
So how can you manage the energy of stress and ensure that you project your best self in discussions that matter? The trick is to reconnect to your comfort and style strengths by recognizing the situations that cause this level of stress and fatigue. I recommend four basic ways to reconnect to your true type.
The better you understand yourself and others, the more productive your meeting discussions can be even in stressful situations. Exploring your personal style can be an exciting journey.
The intensity, destruction and aftermath of a powerful storm can be overwhelming. The things we once took for granted become the most important in the aftermath. We learn to value safety, warmth, clean water, a shower, and a hug from a caring person. In this case, as with others, there are lessons to be learned.
If you have been in a leadership role for any length of time, you have experienced a few storms both personal and professional. So, how do we weather these storms as leaders and how do we support others through their aftermath? Below are eight things that I are as true in leadership as they are with tornadoes and floods:
The bottom line is important; however, to achieve that desired bottom line, we need people. People need to know that you care…really care.
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:
He also provides proof that our brains
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.
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.
Thanks for joining us again for the third post for the Strategic Transformation Series. In the first two entries we talked about The Strategy and Engagement Connection & To Plan or To Transform? We look forward to your comments and questions as we dive into how strategic planning can not only enhance your company’s bottom line, but the engagement of your employees as well.
True transformation comes down to Intent. If our intention is to truly transform our organization through strategic planning, then that significant intention will require significant action.
Create a Strong Foundation If your last strategic plan is collecting dust on the shelf, let me ask you a few questions:
By answering YES to these questions, we show our intent to create strong foundation for success by HOW we prepare. Important work and we haven’t even started the planning! This important phase of creating cultural preparedness for your organization will help you create that all important buy-in from your teams that you need to have the transformation you desire.
Once you’ve created the foundation, it’s time to get to the business of planning. Here are some things to consider as you create the high level strategy that we are all familiar with.
Strategy, at its heart, is about great communication. Remember – this intent is that this strategy be something everyone in your organization understands and lives by. Be mindful of the strong foundation and work to develop the goals and objectives collaboratively and interactively through a series of facilitated sessions that draw upon all stakeholders’ input and perspectives.
As you write the plan, keep the messaging clear, concise and actionable. Less is more. Consider a strategy map to help as a communication tool that can help to internalize this strategy in your culture.
The typical next step is to issue the plan to the entire organization and instruct that they cascade the high-level goals and objectives into their operational divisions. We might even instruct that performance goals be tied to this strategy.
This all sounds good, in theory. However, Implementation Planning is often missing key results such as:
HOW you plan to implement the strategy is key to its success. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste; be sure to create a consistent process by which divisions are creating work plans that contribute to an overarching organizational work plan. Then work collaboratively to ensure the proper priorities and resources are allocated to TRANSFORM your organization!
MSBC brings an innovative approach and a team with extensive experience to guide your leadership through this Strategic Transformation process. Let us know if you like to learn more at .
This is an issue entire books are written on. I believe the major reason new managers fail is due to lack of training. New managers go into a position with “sugar plums dancing in their heads” and wide-eyed wonder of how fantastic it is to be a leader. It is wonderful to be a leader, but it is also a challenge.
We have to look at why people get promoted to leadership. It is usually because they were great individual performers. We then take them out of the role in which they have: excelled, built identity, and earned autonomy. We then we put them in a role where they are the “new kid on the block”, have not managed people before, and are trying to figure out who they are in this new realm. That seems to be a recipe for disaster and yet it happens every day. Instead of being responsible for themselves and for personal results, they are now responsible for a team of people, motivating and managing different personalities, and let’s not forget still having someone above them telling them what to do.
I think there are a several challenges that a new leader faces in this new opportunity. I will list them below with a few suggestions as to why this happens:
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?
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:
When in Doubt: