Think about the other guy

wallet
My brother lost his wallet last week. Turns out, he’d left it on top of his car when he drove out of a gas station in an unfamiliar town. Fortunately for him, a truck driver was on the country lane behind him. After the wallet blew off the roof, the driver retrieved the wallet and painstakingly collected all of the contents strewn across the road, and turned it in at the state police barracks.
You can imagine how my brother felt when he got the call from Trooper Bradford the next evening! What did my brother do? He took a shower, he ate his dinner, and then he went to the store and purchased a box of chocolates and a card before heading west for the (now familiar) 2 hour drive. He told the state troopers stationed at the barracks that the chocolates were a thank you for Trooper Bradford—and with a wink, said hopefully he’ll share them. He then counted the cash in the wallet–$27 dollars. He wrote in the thank you card to the driver: “When Trooper Bradford called me to say the wallet had been turned in, he recounted how he’d told you you’d done a good deed, and karma would pay you back tenfold. Here is a check for $270. Don’t you wish I carried more cash?” With his wallet securely in his pocket, my brother then drove another 2 hours home.
After the stress of a lost wallet, I was surprised he was so chipper for the 4 hour round trip! I asked him about it and he reminded me that our mom has always told us to “think about the other guy,” especially when we’re feeling sorry for ourselves. My brother was filled with appreciation for both the trooper and the driver, and that really buoyed him. It’s also good to note that he took care to fortify himself before heading west.
Why am I blogging about this? Because this is a great story! Story telling connects us with one another, and I hope it transported you right into my brother’s experience. Story telling is both the art and the heart of being human. Scientifically, listening to stories engage more parts of your brain than simply reviewing facts, which is why stories have staying power (see earlier blogs on neuroscience and LPOV). Story telling matters in families, and it matters in business, too.
Next time you’re having a hard time, think about the other guy. It’s highly probable that shift in focus will improve things for BOTH of you!

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.

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!

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!

Commencement

ken

May is a great month.  Here in New England, winter’s grip is finally loosened and spring bursts forth.  The earth is resplendent with trees budding and flowers blooming.  Bears emerge from hibernation, and songbirds return.  Adding to these natural festivities (at least in this college town) are college commencements.  Graduations are achieved after the sheer determination and hard work of 8 or more semesters.

When I was younger, I always thought “commencement” was such an odd word.  My sense was we were celebrating what has (finally) been completed!  Commencement, of course, means to begin.  This focus on moving forward is essential.  No successful person is “done learning” when she or he graduates.  Understanding that learning is a life-long commitment is a powerful differentiator among people.  To value learning is to cultivate it at every opportunity.  To value learning means your life is enriched, and you enrich the lives of others, too.

One person who holds learning as one of his core values is Ken Blanchard.  Today, we celebrate Ken’s 75th birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEN!  Thank you for your example of life-long learning.  Your curiosity, coupled with your interest in sharing your learnings, has truly unleashed “the greater good” in hundreds of thousands of leaders all over the world.

It is a happy concurrence to have Ken’s birthday during “commencement season.”  We can pause to recall our past opportunities for learning, and be grateful for all of them.  Moreover, we can assess the ways in which we continue to learn.  Mostly, today we can commit to ways we can increase these learning opportunities:  for ourselves, and for others.

Happy Commencement!

Managerial Courage

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What does it take to be able to say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, and to whom it must be said? Managerial Courage. This leadership competency is an essential topic for leadership development programs, and is a central focus for many executive coaching initiatives.

I’ve recently been coaching two leaders who’ve been identified as possessing “high potential” for advancement in their organization. In assessing which leadership competencies they must develop, each leader, along with their respective bosses, has aligned on the topic Managerial Courage. But that is where the similarities end! When asked, each leader defines the stuff of managerial courage differently. And each of their bosses do, too.

Listening to each, I hear assorted aspects of what is to be achieved through our coaching:

  • To respond more swiftly in real time (because they are over-thinking and staying silent)
  • To trust they will be listened to when speaking (because they are accustomed to NOT talking)
  • To believe their contributions are “legitimate” (because they over-value others, and under-value their own contributions)
  • To learn to be uncomfortable, and more visible (because they have become too comfortable in familiar spaces)
  • To behave more authentically (because they hide behind their positions and titles)

Discomfort abounds when a leader has to “get out of a comfort zone,” and that’s ok. However, anxieties increase when leaders fear “managerial courage” means they have to change their essence. I assure them they do NOT have to trade their stripes for spots! Their essence is who they are—and our coaching is to have them increase their own knowledge of who they are, what matters to them, why, and why that should matter to the people in their workplace. Courage begets courage—and the etymology of the word says it all—it comes from the heart.

The first step to increase managerial courage isn’t to “just do” the things I’ve bulleted above.  The first step to increase managerial courage calls on the leader to examine his or her heart, and see what really matters. The second step is to share it.  Heart speaks to heart.

Get Your Needs Met

What is the benefit in the need to pretend that one has no needs? Huh? The energy spent in pretending we have no needs is astonishing. But, sadly, it can be seen every day at work and at home. Let’s just cut to the core of the matter:

  • All humans have needs (ask Abraham Maslow if you don’t believe me)
  • The idea of being called “needy” is terrifying to most adults
  •  Many of us were raised to be embarrassed by our needs, so therefore we may deny their very existence
  •  Even if we have denied the needs, our unconscious will drive our behavior to get them met…and this wreaks havoc—on us, and those around us
  •  Guess what? Everyone else can see our needs anyway!
  •  It’s “cleaner” to identify each need and get it met appropriately, than to deny it

Since we were little, all of us have had encounters with rude, whiny, and demanding people. Our parents and teachers have pronounced that these folks are SELFISH. The lesson? “I don’t want to ever be talked about like that.” So, we proceed through life, ignoring, denying and dismissing our needs.
The punch line, though, is the needs do not go away. Psychologist Linda Berens notes that when needs are not met, an “individual is drained of energy and suffers dissatisfaction or stress.”  Taking the responsibility to get one’s own needs identified and then satisfied is the opposite of being needy!  It will renew your energy and remove your stress.

Here’s just such an example:
I coached a vice president of sales who had been enjoying great success in attaining her sales goals, but found herself feeling increasingly fussy and uninspired. Her frustrations were spilling out in work meetings and around her kitchen table, too. In questioning her about her activities, I learned that she is a master gardener. However, over the years, she had pruned back her time in the garden because of the demands from work. A-ha! In our coaching work, we were able to identify her unmet needs: to create beauty, order, and to be a master. She realized that returning to the garden would meet those needs in a more satisfactory way than expecting her sales force or children to meet them for her. Within weeks, her team noted that she was less prickly and more developmental in her leadership.
Returning to the garden suitably met a number of her needs…but she deserved to have ALL of her needs met. I asked her to consider where else her need for order could be satisfied. So, she decided to institute a family calendar in the kitchen, and the children chose their own color for the markers which would signify their disparate activities. She also concluded that the need to be a master is more graciously attained in the garden than in her book club.

How about you?
Think about a recent time when you found yourself behaving in a way you really can’t explain or disregard. Now, grab your pencil and start answering the following questions:

  • What was your behavior?
  • What need was not getting met?
  • What did it cost you in the eyes of others?
  • If this need were met, how would you conduct yourself?
  • Who can help you to get this need met?