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Leading Change

Managing and leading change is an absolute necessity regardless of your role. In my experience, there are a few essentials that will help you lead through change.

First, communicate! Over communicate if necessary but you need to communicate what will be changing and, more importantly, why. Here are some questions I suggest you have answers to when announcing the change:

  1. What is the organization changing?
  2. Why is the organization choosing to make this change now?
  3. What are the benefits of this change?
  4. How will the change impact the team?
  5. In order adopt this change, what other adjustments (changes) will be required?

Remember, when communicating change, initial responses will be emotional. Tap into those emotions by telling a story about another organization/team that went through a similar change and how they were successful. Alternatively tell a story of a team that chose not to go through the change and how that impacted them.

Provide support. Be supportive of team members who ask questions. Listen intently to their concerns and be honest in your responses. If you don’t know, say so, find an answer and return to the team member! You team members may not have had the time you have to process the change. Allow them to be frustrated, angry or whatever emotions they are experiencing.

Check out this short (2-minute) video of The Elephant, The Rider and the Path – A Tale of Behavior Change

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Leading Teams

There are multiple layers of leadership–individual, familial, work teams to name a few. I have found that leadership is generally most difficult when emotions run high. I, typically, do a better job leading in difficult situations at work than I do at home. Regardless of where you are, the principles of leadership are applicable.

Leading requires a level of trust. Members of the team need to trust you as their leader–whether formally (in a position of authority) or informally (as a member of the team)–those around you need to trust you. To build last trust you must get to know each other. Set aside some time to get to know your team. Send out a questionnaire asking about your team members. You can include questions about their family, hobbies, favorite books or games, etc. Refer to their answers in conversation. Building lasting trust takes time so don’t rush it. Team members will trust you as you show that you are worthy of that trust. So, if you say you will do something, do it when you say you will!

As noted in Strengths Based Leadership (pg 83):

  • if team members don’t trust their leaders, the chances of them being engaged at work is 1 in 12! If your team members don’t trust you, they are likely on the hunt for their next opportunity and possibly even working against you.
  • trust increases speed and efficiency. Once there is a level of trust among team members, they can skip all the getting-to-know-you activities required when working with people and go straight to what needs to be done.

Leading requires passion. Leaders are passionate! Some are passionate about leading; others are passionate about improving processes or developing people. Whatever your passion is, let your team in on it. As they see your passion, they will come to know you and recognize you as a “real” person and not just their boss (I hate this word) or colleague.

Leading requires restraint. Leading, formally or informally, requires you to, at times, fall in line with a decision you don’t agree with. If you are challenged with this because you feel you are being inauthentic or dishonest, let your team members know up-front that if ever a decision is made that you don’t agree with, how you will act. You can tell them that you if this situation comes up, you will voice your opinion/concern behind closed doors with the decision-makers but in public and to the team, you present the decision as one you support.

Marathons, Mindsets & World Records

In 2014 at the Berlin Marathon Dennis Kimetto set the world record of 2:02:57, averaging 4:42 per mile for 26.2 miles.

For years, within running circles, the idea of breaking a 2-hour marathon seemed nearly impossible. Last year, though, Nike completed a multi-year project where it attempted to break that 2-hour barrier. It chose a relatively flat race track in Italy, chose the best runners, and created the perfect shoes for those runners. In preparation for this attempt, special nutrition was developed for each runner, weather conditions were strictly monitored. A pace car (and pacer) were placed in a way to allow the three runners to draft off each other and the pacers. The thought was that if the 2-hour barrier could be broken, this would be the day. In the end, Eliud Kipchoge from Kenya finished the marathon in 2:00:25. While not achieving the goal, he destroyed the standing marathon record. (The Nike Breaking2 marathon was not a world record due to the very controlled environment of the runners.)

Yesterday, Sunday, September 16, Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record at the Berlin Marathon, leaving Kimetto’s record in the past. He average 4:39 per mile over the 26.2 mile course ending in 2:01:39 (yet to be ratified by the governing body), shaving 1:18 off the previous record. This caused me to think about Eliud’s mindset going into the race. Up until last year and the Breaking2 event the fastest he’d ever run a marathon was 2:03:05. BUT, after Breaking2, he knew he could do better. He knew his body could perform better and he had adjusted his mindset, recognizing that a sub-2:00 marathon was possible for him.

What are your mindset blocks?
What have you decided is not possible for you (but really when you think about it could be)?
What would happen in your life if you removed these blocks?
How would your life (personal, family work, etc.) be improved if you chose to have a “growth mindset” (Carol Dweck’s TED Talk)?

Are there members of your team (family) who seem to feel/act like they can’t do what they’ve been asked to do?
What can you do to help them remove their own roadblocks?

For me, it took a leader who showed (and told) me that I would never go anywhere in the organization as long as she had her say in it. She then showed (and helped) me find a better way. She consistently and constantly reminded me of my goal to improve. Over the course of a year, it happened. I changed.

If you find a mindset blocks in your life, you change remove them. You can change and you can help your team change too!

Just Start!

Analysis Paralysis

A couple weeks ago I met with a coaching client who wants to change her life. She had a general idea of what she wanted–a more rewarding career in the medical field (nurse, pharmacy, etc.)–but struggled to move forward toward that goal. Analysis paralysis had set in. She didn’t know what her first step should be or how to take it.

My client was spinning her wheels in the mud of life and couldn’t see the way out! Over the course of several minutes and some questions, I helped her commit to research and register for a course at the local technical school that offered several options that would meet her needs.

She needed an outsider to give her the little push to move forward the then almost immediately fear set in.

Fear

Then came the questions.

Which field do I choose?

How do I know if I am making the right decision?

What if now isn’t the right time?

As she asked these questions (somewhat to me and somewhat to herself), I felt a bit of fear rising up in her. She had every right to be afraid. This decision, if followed-through, would impact the rest of her life. You may feel the same at the moment of decision. So, how do we get past the fear and start moving forward?

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Move

As simple as it may be, you just need to move forward. Determine the smallest possible decision you can make toward your goal and make that decision. Then the next and the next. As you continue to make small, infinitesimally small decisions, you will begin to build momentum toward your goal. Clearly this isn’t easy but by breaking up your goal into the smallest possible action you can take right now, you begin to overcome fear.

Maslow-InAnyGivenMoment.jpg

Example

Back to my client

This process is what my client and friend is going through right now. She wants a new job in a new industry. That is a daunting task and extremely difficult to face. Although this happened quickly, she and I essentially took that goal and broke it down into the actions she needed to take now.

She had heard that a local university had a good nursing program. As we met, I did some research and found that getting a nursing degree from that institution was going to require more work and that wasn’t a realistic option right now. We then moved to a couple of the technical schools and found one that offered multiple programs she was interested in and all could be accomplished in less than a year.

Which one?

Now that a school had been chosen, which program should she choose? She was stuck between three. I repeatedly told her that if she was interested in all three it really didn’t matter which one she chose. Understandably, she struggled with this because she wanted to make the right decision. We talked some more and she accepted that in choosing a program, she was really just choosing to get more information from the school and not committing her life to that program. This decision was changed from life-altering to information-gathering and much less fear-inducing.

Movement

The next day I asked if she had followed through with the commitment she had made–to get more information–and she had! Step one was done.

Fear continues to be part of this process and likely will be for some time but as Susan David has said, “courage is fear walking.”

You!

Do you struggle with a huge decision and can’t seem to move forward? Contact me and I’ll help get you started.

Leadership Essentials: Communication

We communicate all day, every day. Communication is likely THE essential skill of humankind.

Understanding

In order to communicate fully, the words spoken must align with the non-verbal cues we are using. We’ve all had conversations where we this alignment didn’t exist and you likely left confused, not knowing with certainty the outcome. Alan Greenspan, an American economist who served as Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States from 1987 to 2006, is quoted as saying, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

This quote illustrates the reason we can find ourselves confused in conversations–the “sending” party is generally responsible for saying/expressing their point-of-view or opinion but all-too-frequently doesn’t take responsibility to ensure the “receiving” party has understood what was meant.

Six Words

Last week I was having a conversation with a mentor who keenly illustrated a better way to communicate where all parties take responsibility for full conversation. We were discussing an idea I had had about his business. I expressed what I thought was clear in an email and he asked if we could talk for a few minutes. During our call, my mentor expressed a lack of understanding of my idea. I told him what I was thinking and he said, “OK, let me make sure I understand…” and rephrased what I had just said. I confirmed his statement was correct and we continued on.

This short interaction shows that all parties in a conversation must take responsibility for coming to a common understanding. I thought I had been clear and concise in what I said and he took the time to make sure what I had said is what he understood.

He forced clarity into the conversation by simply stating, “let me make sure I understand.” Six words ensured understanding. Six words proved to me his humility. Six words showed his willingness to learn.

Six words.

Call to Action

In order for me to improve from this conversation, I now must implement these six words in my daily routine. I ask that you do the same!

Let me make sure I understand

 

For more information, I suggest listening to (or reading the transcript of) this episode of the Becoming Your Best podcast: https://www.becomingyourbest.com/ep-118-win-at-communication/.

 

Give and Take

Adam Grant is the author of Originals and Give and Take and co-author with Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) of Option B. He is a Wharton Business School management and psychology professor. He has focused his work on generosity and helping, job design and meaningful work, leadership and culture, originality and non-conformity, work motivation and success. His TED talk on giving and taking at work (and elsewhere):

  • Giver – someone who cares more about helping others than helping themselves
  • Taker – someone who cares more about helping themselves than helping others

Which group do you think you are a member of?
Which group do you think performs better?
If you could build a team, would you want only one group or a combination? More givers than takers or vice-versa?

Watch this 13-ish minute video and hopefully you will have some a-ha moments about yourself and your team.

And, if you like that talk, I recommend Adam’s other TED talk on “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers.”

Silent Leadership

Desperation

I was 16. I was failing in front of what seemed to me (at least at the time) a large congregation at church. I was given the responsibility, along with another young man, Jeremiah (also 16 or 17), to perform an ordinance. All I essentially had to do was recite a few lines perfectly.

First attempt…I failed.

Second attempt…I failed.

Third attempt…I failed.

You know how you feel when you are the center of unwanted attention? Time seems to slow and pressure mounts. Sweat starts to bead on your brow. You become increasingly self-conscious and time slows more.

I just wanted to get out of there. I wanted to give up and let someone else take over. I wanted relief from the embarrassment and freedom from the situation. I didn’t know how I could get out and that is all I wanted–to get out!

Confidence

As I started my fourth attempt, unbeknownst to anyone else, Jeremiah silently placed his hand on my shoulder. In this silent expression, I felt confident, I felt relief. I don’t know if the confidence and relief I felt in that moment was his or mine but it didn’t matter, I felt that I could do it. And, at long last I was successful. We were successful!

Lessons Learned

Looking back, this entire experience likely lasted no more than 2-3 minutes but I learned a lesson that will forever show me the power of leadership. I’ll highlight just two lessons I’ve learned from this act of silent leadership:

Leadership is Simple

Jeremiah’s act was simple. I don’t even know if I thanked him. I would like to think I did but as a 16-year-old kid, it is entirely possible I was too absorbed in my own embarrassment to say, “thank you.”

Acts of leadership should be simple. In your leadership, you don’t have to (and, in my mind, shouldn’t be) grandiose. Simplify your acts and make them count. Jeremiah’s act allowed me to proceed with confidence. It counted to me! His act allowed the entire congregation to proceed with the meeting. It certainly counted to them! A simple act allowed a group of believers to move forward with their worship service!

Leadership Serves One

The placing of his hand on my shoulder, was an act of selfless service. Jeremiah served me.

Leading, whether teams or families or groups of believers, is, ultimately, done through serving each one person. Lisa’s service to me was singular and profoundly impacted my life and the lives of my family. Jeremiah’s act served me directly and, indirectly, the rest of the congregation that day.

As you lead your team or family, you do so through one-on-one acts of service. For example, coaching sessions with your team (or talking with your family) members should be opportunities for you to serve by helping each one come up with solutions to their challenges.

Silent Leadership

While Jeremiah’s act was a simple act of service and it drew no fanfare and no recognition from anyone, it had a major impact on me. Through his silent act, he lifted me out of my moment of desperation. He helped me believe that I could do something I had repeatedly failed.

Leadership styles certainly vary. Some leaders are boisterous, some are extroverts, others are introverts. Silent leadership moments are those that can have the biggest impact on the lives of those you lead, those you serve!

According to David Rock (author or Quiet Leadership), “Quiet leaders are masters at bringing out the best performance in others. They improve the thinking of people around them—literally improving the way their brains process information—without telling anyone what to do. Given how many people in today’s companies are being paid to think and analyze, improving our thinking is one of the fastest ways to improve performance.”

As a quiet leader, you can immediately impact the people you serve and lead through silent acts of confidence!

Why?

Why do you do what you do? Can you explain to your family, friend, colleagues what drives you? When I first watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action it resonated with me and I’ve watched it many times since. If you are able to accurately articulate your Why then you will find that others will more readily follow you.

Enjoy the video and comment below what you take from this talk.

Leadership Essentials: Caring

The Event

I remember the day vividly. Lisa and I were meeting for a one-on-one. She was my manager’s manager and every couple of months I had the opportunity to sit down with her and talk. We both sat at a table in a larger-than-needed, stereotypically drab conference room. As was typical for Lisa, the conversation started with me and how I was doing then it moved to my family and, finally, work. She always made sure she knew what was going on in the lives of the people she served and wanted them to understand how intensely she cared.

I had no idea that the conversation that day would be truly life-altering for me. I don’t remember what we were discussing but as I was jotting down notes I said, “if only I could write.” This statement wasn’t just an acknowledgment of a mistake I had made but, in Lisa’s mind, this was a statement of self-doubt.

She immediately stopped me. She asked, “Would you say that to your Bridget or Felicity [my daughters]?” and “What gives you the right to talk that way about someone I care about?” She forced me to verbally answer each question and as I did, I became upset with her (after all, how dare she question something I had been doing for all my adult life!). She was telling me that my self-deprecation needed to end. I was a bit ashamed of myself because I realized I would never want to hear my kids say anything like what I had just said.

My anger didn’t last long, though, as Lisa expressed her care and concern for me but she didn’t stop there. I had expressed to both my manager and Lisa my desire to be in a formal managerial/leadership role. She took this opportunity to explain that if I didn’t have confidence in myself, no one else would either and she would never recommend me for such a role until I respected myself enough to stop the negative self-talk.

The Effect

More than five years have passed since that meeting. It changed me. In the ensuing years Lisa and I worked together until I learned to control the negative self-talk and see the positive in myself and more readily in others. A few years later, Lisa promoted me to manage the team I was on.

So, what is the true effect of leadership? In my experience, it changes the people you serve. True leadership is about caring about individuals, helping them become their best; it is helping those you serve understand they are capable of more than they think.

Good, better, best never let it rest ’til the good is better and the better is best

As you lead (in whatever capacity), I challenge you to help those you lead improve–from good to better and from better to best.

A short conversation started me down the path that ultimately led to a changed trajectory and caused me to improve. If you think you don’t impact those around you, you are wrong. You, too, can be the catalyst of change for those you serve.

Personal Disruption

I set a goal to read 13 books this year. I decided I’d start small and Whitney Johnson’s Disrupt Yourself seemed to fit the bill. I figured I’d be able to easily read it in 3–4 weeks and apply some of the ideas the author presents. I picked it up January 1 and had no idea how much I’d need this book when I finished it just 3 weeks later.

Somehow over the course of three weeks, I went from being totally content with where my career was heading to having a crazy desire to start something new. The idea had been on my mind for some time but it was always a “sometime” goals — something I’d do at some point in the future. However, I started reading Disrupt Yourself and this desire grew. I found a domain name (leadershipamplified.com) and hired a graphic designer and rapidly put together a site that would be foundation for my hopeful future of becoming a leadership & business consultant.

As I’ve gone through this process, I’ve realized I had a great example of personal disruption my entire life. Since this occurred throughout my life, I don’t have (or remember) all the details but here’s my version of it.

Dad’s Career

My father started out as a truck driver. He left that job and started a lumber and milling company. This was successful for some time but then the lumber market plummeted and he (we) lost the business, the plane, the house and I don’t remember what else. I can only imagine how hard it was being the father of 4 having just lost everything you had spent years acquiring!

His next move was back into transportation and started a company brokering loads with different trucking companies (he was essentially the middle-man between the company wanting to ship something and the trucking company who hauled it for them). Some years later, he sold his portion of the company to his partner and moved us to Montana.

In Montana, Dad started another brokering company but found a new passion — fire fighting. He started his fire-fighting career with the local volunteer fire department. A few years later, he became the chief. A volunteer chief. The brokering company began to flounder, despite my mom’s best attempts to keep it running. He found unmet needs of one of the largest employers in the area and he figured out a way to meet that need. He had no experience but he bought the equipment and figured it out. Somehow we survived as the years went by and eventually the volunteer chief job became a paid position. He was likely called “Chief” more than “Dad” until he retired.

But that isn’t the end. Living in a small resort community, he saw another unmet need and he became the town handyman. Having remodeled two homes (largely on his own, or with help from Mom and, at times, entirely out of need and lack of money to hire someone to do it), he’s learned how to take care of many of the handyman-type tasks required at vacation homes. This surely isn’t the end of his many moves. I see another on the horizon and will continue to learn from his example.


Lessons Learned

Find a Niche

In Disrupt Yourself, Whitney talks about two risks — competitive & market. Competitive risks are those are within your current market (i.e. a new product competing against similar products) while market risks are unmet needs that may not have a market (yet). This is the first lesson I’ve recognized in my dad’s career — find a need and meet it.

Market risk is the right kind of risk when you’e looking for a new learning curve to scale.

Have a Vision

I’m confident it was very difficult for Dad to leave the brokering company in the hands of Mom but, I also am confident he had an idea of where he was going (or, at least, I hope so). He saw unmet needs and was focused on meeting them and he did! Eventually.

Dig In and Work!

It wasn’t easy. I remember one year being told that we had been living below the poverty line. (Truth be told, I hadn’t noticed.) But, Dad worked. He worked a lot. He worked hard. Over the course of years, he found a way to make it work and, ultimately, found a way to live a comfortable life.

…when resources are at a minimum, successful people dig deep to discover an embarrassment of riches right under their feet and a plumb line to distinctive strengths.

So, what’s all the point of this? Disruption is a good thing for you but rather than letting it happen to you, control it! Find a niche, create a vision and do the work!