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!”

 

 

Are You Too Comfortable?

Man Relaxing In Easy Chair - Retro Clipart IllustrationUnder the category of “Everything I Need to Know, I Learn from My Clients”: one of them said a remarkable thing last week. We were talking about a new, high pressure, high visibility job he is settling into and the fact that his To Do list far exceeds the realities of the time/space continuum. As we brainstormed what he could let go, reprioritize, or delegate, he kept balking. Then—complete silence.
He took a deep breath in and said, “I was talking to a good friend who recently became CEO of his company. He told me he was struggling with the fact that regardless of what he was ‘supposed’ to be doing, the things he does naturally are the things he loves doing and is comfortable doing. I think that’s exactly what’s going on with me.”
Well, he certainly made my job easy.
When you step into a senior leadership role, the task list is never, ever done. The only way to keep from drowning is to stay focused only on the things that really matter. And the things that matter most are often things that are new to you and, therefore, uncomfortable. You will automatically engage in the behaviors and activities that are easy and relaxing unless you stop, breathe, pay very close attention, and choose to do the stuff that really needs doing—and that isn’t going to be easy or relaxing.
So what happened with the client, you might be wondering. He continued to self coach. He decided that his homework would be to look at everything he was supposed to be doing, delegate the things someone else could do, and focus on the things only he could do.
Feeling overwhelmed? Too much to do? Ask yourself: Am I defaulting to doing the easy stuff that can wait (or be delegated) instead of staying focused on what really matters, even if it is harder.

Be Big!

I took on the challenge to complete my first Half Marathon. The other day during my training as I struggled to run the next mile, the words that came to mind were “Be Big…BeFemale Runner Big!” I thought what caused me to think of these words? What does it mean to “Be Big?” In other words, what is it going to take for me to accomplish this goal? I was now focused on this question as I continued running. I came up with the following:

  • Envisioning the journey and destination: Running with ease and crossing over the finish line.
  • Being Honest and Clear about my Motivation: Competitiveness (I want to say I ran a “Half Marathon!”), proving to myself I have what it takes to accomplish the goal, knowing it will build my confidence and discipline that will transition into other professional and personal goals.
  • Maintaining Positivity: Being positive about training even on tough days that I fall short of my training goal.
  • Being Confident: Believing in my abilities and strength even if I do not see it right away.
  • Being Discipline: Sticking to the training plan even when I don’t feel like working out; pushing myself.
  • Acknowledging What I Need: Rest-no late nights; diet-specific foods that work for me not against me; the time of day to get the most from my workout.

As a result, I gained clarity and ran the furthest and longest since I began training!! Realizing what it means to “Be Big” are key factors for me to successfully accomplish goals. Of course, it is not always easy! I believe it begins with envisioning and being honest and clear on what will keep me motivated.

What does it mean for you to “Be Big?” What do you need to “Be Big” professionally and personally? What do you envision? What are your motivators?

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.

The Power of Observational Feedback

By Linda Miller, MCC

When you think about giving feedback, what’s your first response?  Mine is, “Do I HAVE to??”  Making observational feedback can help. Observational feedback is information that’s shared without a request for change. It’s just an observation. For example, “You seemed quieter than usual in the meeting this morning. Hope everything is ok.”  Or, “Your energy level is different, and it looks like you’re enjoying the new project.”Monkeys

Observational feedback gives information that may not be otherwise recognized by the person receiving it.  It can confirm something that’s going on or point out something new. The best observational feedback is non-judgmental and timely. It’s a data point.  Our hypothesis is that if we increase the positive and observational feedback, it will decrease the need for feedback asking for a behavior request or change.

Last week, I had the privilege of working with some very talented managers.  During one of the sessions, we asked the managers to give each other observational feedback. Here’s a response from one of the participants: “When we were giving observational feedback to each other, someone gave me some feedback that I always knew but finally heard.  I can’t wait to start applying everything that I have learned.”  That’s the power of observational feedback.  Try it. Notice what happens.