Leader of What?

Congratulations, Leader. You’ve done it! You have the title you wanted, and an amazing amount of responsibilities too. Are you ready for the big shift from managing deliverables to leading people? Because that is the heart of the matter…you really are NOT the leader of the team, or the division, or the company. You are a leader of people.
Why would anyone follow you? If I asked your direct reports, what would they answer? Do they know what you expect of them? Have you told them what they can expect from you? Do they know what you value? What have you done to earn their trust?
Engendering followership is the responsibility of the leader, not the other way around. Purposefully sharing your Leadership Point of View will accelerate the process. Over the years, this blog has discussed the steps involved in crafting the LPOV, most recently last October. Beyond the LPOV steps of “how” is the “why.”
For over fourteen years, Blanchard Coaching has supported leaders in the process of crafting their LPOVs and the impact is astonishing. Reflecting on the powerful events in your life with a coach will illuminate the essence of your perspective on leadership, and help you understand yourself better. Doing the hard work of “excavating” your LPOV, and then sharing it, accelerates trust between you and the people you lead. As a new CEO told his executive team when introducing this coaching process, “There is no better way for us to build trust than to create and share our Leadership Points of View.”
Hearing the story of why honesty matters to you, or why fairness is paramount in your life, will personalize what you value and stay with your direct reports. Personal stories stick with people in ways power points never can.
Build confidence in those you lead by revealing yourself to be an intentional leader: Create and share your Leadership Point of View.

Failing is Good

I am sure no one wants to fail. Failing is not pretty or fun. I know if I fail at something what usually follows is a feeling of disappointment and shame. The speculated thoughts of what others are thinking about me clouds my mind. I mentally beat myself up. This feeling is unpleasant and very distracting. Have you ever experienced these feelings?

Failure-imagesA66EGFIRFor example, I was coaching a senior manager who expressed she no longer wanted to continue the coaching engagement. The coaching, which I interpreted “I,” was not meeting her expectations and she needed something different. My internal voice immediately yelled, “You failed! You are not a skilled Coach! You will not have another executive assignment again! You did not meet your client’s expectation!” My internal voice was beating me up! Of course, I had to get a handle on it while speaking to my client.

As a coach, I know clients are not always open to coaching, expect the coach to be more of a consultant, and may resist action/accountability. I also know my role as a coach is to ensure clients have a clear understanding of coaching and to design the coaching relationship in the beginning. Even if I followed every detail in creating a perfect coaching relationship (note the word ‘perfect’ – nothing is perfect!) and it appears to be unsuccessful, my internal voice will tell me I failed.

I know the key is to quiet the internal negative voice and learn from the experience. In the above example, I responded to the client with questions such as “What do you need to move forward? What do I need to do differently to serve you?” During our discussion, I believe we both learned from this experience and gained increased self-awareness that will lead to professional growth.

Through my training as a coach and hearing and reading Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability, I know with confidence that one must fail to grow. One must be vulnerable and courageous knowing there will be unsuccessful times. What sets the strong from the weak are those who brush themselves off when they fall, look for the learning, and are willing to jump in again.Failure Key to Success

Note…I am being vulnerable with sharing this story. I am quieting my negative self talk about how others may be judging me as they read this blog and choosing to think about how my story may help others. I am brushing myself off and jumping in.

 

Be The Goat

Goat

“Goat” is short for scapegoat, which is a person or thing that is given all the blame or responsibility for a negative event. A “goat” is the opposite of a hero. Suffice it to say, a goat is someone who is blamed when things go wrong.

Rather than a focus on the historical, religious or etymological connotations of a goat, I instead want you to consider the species itself. A goat is agile, a goat is intelligent. Goats are social creatures who can also work well independently, as long as they frequently return to their herd. Here’s something: goats will not move away from pressure, they move into it! Hmmmm. Sounds like I’m listing the traits of a confident and successful professional!

It was in observing a neighbor’s goats that I thought of the “be the goat” concept. The goats were removing poison ivy and invasive vines from her yard. Rather than just nibble at the choicest leaves, the goats were completely devouring the plants. They were committed to removing the leaves, the vines, and the roots of each plant.

With a number of my coaching clients, the concept of completely handling something is new to them. Rather than giving 89% of effort, or 76% feedback, I ask them what would it be like to fully engage? To be complete in their endeavors and communications? To “be complete” is powerful! Incompletions drain energy, require maintenance of the façade, and never address the issue.

The goats are all about completely consuming the vines. To the root. And when a new shoot emerges, it will be swiftly eradicated. Completely. Because of this, my neighbor can spend her energy on her flower and vegetable gardens.

What issue or challenge do you need to completely handle? What pressures have you been avoiding, when moving into the pressure would actually eradicate it? What requires your agility and intelligence? What opportunity will become available to you once the challenge is vanquished? Go ahead now, and be the goat!

Goat: “Greatest of all time.” Thank you, Muhammad Ali!

Never Underestimate the Effect of Change

I recently shared a laugh with a client – we’ll call him Jon – because as he so eloquently said, “You just can’t win.” Here’s what happened.

Jon, by profession an accountant, is head of tax for a global manufacturing company. A lovely human being, he is nevertheless analytical and cerebral, and a 360-degree feedback process revealed that his people perceived him to be cold and unapproachable.

We worked together on practicing some new behaviors: making the effort to get to know folks, stopping to say hello to people in his area – all of whom report to people who report to him.

He worked on and shared his Leadership Point of View (his beliefs about leadership and his leadership values) which his people told him made him much more accessible.

Jon was really enjoying letting people see a little more of him, he was having more fun at work, he was literally wondering what took him so long to experience this very important side of himself.

You would think this could only be good right?

I certainly did.

3D Hand Giving Thumbs DownBut, you can never underestimate the power of change, even good change, to distress someone. Not everyone was thrilled with the change. One of Jon’s direct reports, Emilia, asked for a private meeting during which she reported that she was upset with this new softer, friendlier Jon.

He was shocked – of all people he had thought she would appreciate it the most.

It turns out that she was enjoying the change for herself, but she was worried that Jon’s new accessibility was “undermining” her position with her direct reports. She was concerned that people might feel comfortable going straight to Jon instead of having to get things done through her.

Of course this presented a great coaching opportunity for Jon. But we had to laugh…I had thought in 25 years of coaching that I had heard everything, but this was a first.

Appreciative Leadership

ai vs prob

The problem with becoming known as a good “problem solver” is that you get really good at looking at situations as, well, problems!   Your focus is on what has failed.   Your goal is to correct, save, or restore a broken system to a state where it will again provide acceptable results.  You get a reputation as the “fixer,” and are dispatched again and again to solve different problems.  Where is the fun in that?

There is a better way to contribute to organizations.

David Cooperrider invented Appreciative Inquiry when he was a graduate student studying Organizational Development at Case Western Reserve University in the late 1980’s.  You can read all about him, and the AI Movement, at http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu/.  (The work he began with Professor Suresh Srivastva transformed me and my leadership research.  I cited their initial work in my 1990 dissertation when I posited that having dialogue rather than debate can help groups work together to come to better decisions.)

I have continued to follow AI in the ensuing 25 years, and unabashedly say the reason coaching works is because the inquiry of the coach uncovers the wisdom in the leader.  Appreciative Inquiry is the underpinning of Positive Psychology, a theoretical foundation in the Coaching Profession, and is essential in understanding the impact of language in the field of Neuroscience.

Here is why Appreciative Inquiry matters for leaders:

  • Appreciative Inquiry has a positive core:  it focuses on the strengths and peak experiences in an organization.  AI focuses on the best of what is, and then stretches further to imagine the ideal future state.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is co-creative:  Rather than one “Mr. Fixit,” with AI everyone can be involved in the discovery, the dream, the design, and the destiny of the ideal state of the organization.
  • Appreciative Inquiry is generative:  with a focus on “what works,” a leader is aligned towards new possibilities for the organization.

You don’t have to wait for an AI intervention in your organization to benefit from this approach.  Simply shifting your focus from seeking problems to seeking what works well has an immediate, positive, and generative effect:  on you, on your group, and on your effectiveness.  Have at it!

Veterans Need Coaching Too…!

Memorial Day is a holiday in which we honor our service men and women who have given ultimate sacrifice. This day is also a great time to honor those who continue to serve.  Memorial Day-american-soldier-saluting

As veterans transition from years of armed conflict, many of them are pursuing civilian careers. Coaching is one of the professional services provided to veterans during this transition period. Coaching services include specific focus areas such as financial, educational, family dynamics, career, and health. Professional coaches are assisting service members in their transition by helping them identify and achieve their personal and professional goals. Many coaches volunteer their time to support veterans through group and one-on-one coaching.

I was contacted earlier this year to coach veteran women on transitioning back into the civilian workforce. I am looking forward to donating my time to support women veterans in identifying their career and life goals as well as creating action plans that move them toward accomplishing their goals.

Military service men and women have paved the way for our freedom.

What ways can you support our service men and women?

I salute all veterans and active service members!

Your Strengths are a Powerful Ally

As some may know, May 4th is considered an unofficial holiday by Star Wars fans, who celebrate the classic movie franchise, books and culture.  The date was chosen for the easy pun to the well-known movie phrase “May the Force be with you” – “May the fourth be with you.”  As a fan myself, I pay tribute, by following the wise advise of Jedi Master Yoda, who said to his young apprentice, Luke Skywalker, “Always pass on what you have learned.”

Superhero opening suit

I recently completed a strengths-based assessment, and although the results of my top five strengths weren’t overly surprising, I did still learn a few things about my strengths, the strengths of my team and how I can leverage my strengths and my team’s strengths in order to help me achieve my goals.

  • Those who know me are aware that I’m not the most social person by nature.  However, developing my sociable skills could help me connect better with those I work with or want to influence.  When discussing our strengths amongst our team, I learned that at least one of our team members has four out of their top five strengths in the relationship area.
    Tip: Find your Jedi Master.  Find someone who excels in the strength areas that you want to develop for yourself and become their apprentice.  Observe their behavior, ask them questions and for honest feedback.
  • Some of my own personal strengths include such areas as achiever, consistency and discipline.  These strengths help me to be successful in my current role.  However, I realized these strengths don’t have to define me and I can chose to develop other strengths in order to support other areas of interest.
    Tip: Find opportunities to practice the ways of the Force in an environment where it is safe to fail.  Practicing a non-strength of yours will seem unnatural at first.  I shared recent examples of this in my two previous blogs. In an effort to try something completely outside my introverted comfort level, I decided to smile throughout an entire grocery buying experience as a way to be more approachable, while noticing the feelings within myself and the reactions that I was getting from other people.  The other experiment I performed was at a party, where I arrived with the intention of learning as much as I could, from as many people as I could, just by asking lots of questions and listening.  Again, I did this to practice being more sociable in order to develop those skills that aren’t natural strength areas of mine.  I performed both of these experiments in a relatively safe environment, where any consequences were either minimal or non-existent.

While these are just a few of the things I learned after evaluating the results of my strengths-based assessment, I conclude this blog with my last thought, conveyed through another wise quote from Jedi Master Yoda, “Much to learn I still have.” … “This is just the beginning!”