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.

3 ways being a champion for others can change the world

One of the key skills of coaching is to be a champion for your client. Knowing in your bones that the client CAN succeed at that crazy stretch goal can make the difference between wild success and abject failure. Here are three ways to be a champion for your clients
1. Think BIG picture. Help the client focus on the end game, pie in the sky, full tilt outcome. Keep the lens there, rather than on the “why not” or “how to.”
2. Listen through the fear. There are a million reasons why someone can fail and a million more things we are afraid of. It all boils down to letting folks express their fear and then coaching them beyond and in spite of it. Refer back to item one.
3. Trust them. Clients are brilliant. They will figure out a way to achieve their goals. When you trust them, deeply and completely, they know it and it inspires them to keep going in spite of themselves.

Think back to the last time someone helped you to do these things. How did that influence YOUR outcomes?
Yep, let’s have more of THAT in the world.

5 Step Checklist for Behavior Change

You can’t get a personality transplant but small behavioral changes can make a big impact. A 2% Shift in direction will affect your Destination

1. Once you have noticed how your intent is different than your impact, articulate the gap.  Put words to where you are now, and where you want to be.  This helps you to understand the nature shift and makes it real.

Old Behavior ___________________

New Behavior ___________________

Start Date: ______________________

2. Notice when you might practice your new behavior; define triggers that will soon remind you to do your new behavior.


3. Try on your new behavior in a safe environment.  Do your new behavior every time you get a trigger in a safe environment.

 4. Try on your new behavior in an “unsafe environment”.  Promise yourself to do it ONCE –  Once a day, once per opportunity, define a minimum for yourself and reward yourself every time you do it.

Minimum: _________________________________

5. Discuss the upside of your new behavior with a sympathetic champion of you.  The more you remind yourself of the benefit, the more you will be inclined to do it.

Who to talk to: ___________________________________________

 TIPS For Trying on new things:

  • Tell the people you feel safe with that you are trying something new.  Prepare to be teased. Teasing is good, generally people who like/love you tease you.
  • Ask for help in tweaking your new behavior
  • Ask for support  in identifying triggers, and in holding yourself accountable
  • Breathe deeply to avoid freezing up
  • Keep your feet on floor and feel your feet when you feel scared.
  • You will not be good at your new behavior.  You will fail, and you will feel foolish.  However, you will not die so keep trying and you will get better.  I promise.
  • Stick to one thing. Try on new things one at a time.  You can make a lot of changes, just not all at once.  Give yourself a chance to master one thing first, then you can move on to the next thing.


Taking the “UN” out of Un-Leaderlike Moments

It is perfect that this blog post coincides with a live cast with yours truly, Madeleine Blanchard,  that The Ken Blanchard Companies is sponsoring at 10 am Pacific today, October 30th. In the workshop we examine some of the ways you can increase your self-awareness and minimize behavior that you know might be weakening your leadership effectiveness.

So our blog readers get the Readers Digest version!   If you think you could be a better leader pay attention to:

Intent and Impact – Make sure you are having the impact you intend, watch people’s faces!  If you make an impact you do not intend, STOP, call it out and deal with it right in the moment. 

Habits – Take a look at what you complain about – that will give you a clue as to what bad habits you might have.  For example, if you are always late and complain about the traffic, you might have a habit of blaming circumstances for things that you actually have control over.  This will undermine your credibility as a leader.  

Also, you may have good habits – habits that you developed that have made you successful but might now be holding you back.  Take a look at what you do that has always worked that it might be time to let go of.  Best book on this topic:  Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

Strengths – You heard it before and I am saying it again:  the more you are able to leverage your strengths, the more powerful you will be.  There are several ways to assess your strengths, you can buy StrenghtFinder 2.0 by Tim Roth and it provides you with a code to use for an online assessment.  You can take a free assessment immediately at the VIA Institute on Character website.   Another book:  Standout by Marcus Buckingham.

Blind Spots – you have ‘em but they’re blind spots, right?  So you don’t know you have them.  Ask someone you trust what they think yours might be.  Or, look to the spot where you have pain – an ongoing conflict you have with someone else, or an intractable problem, and ask yourself, “What am not seeing about myself that could be at the root of this?”  Painful, yes, but so much better to get the harsh beep from the person you are swerving into than actually get into a car wreck.

Limiting Beliefs – There is a good chance that you are a less than great leader because you are still playing small.  Cut it out.  Seriously, listen to the nasty voices in your head that hold you back by asking “Who do think you are?” and then talk back to them and tell them to shut up.  What limiting belief do you have that you would you challenge if you heard it from a friend?   

OK.  So what do you do if you really want to change a behavior?  Next week, I will share a 5 step plan for behavior change. Stay tuned!

To Beat Defeat is Really Neat

The last couple of days I’ve been doing some redesign work on our department intranet site. Things were moving along pretty well until I encountered a problem. I knew what I wanted to do and felt confident I knew how to make it happen but, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t working.

I was puzzled and slightly frustrated since everything appeared to be done correctly. I had reviewed and analyzed all the little details of my work to see if I missed something. I couldn’t find anything. So I started experimenting with different settings that might have contributed to my problem. That didn’t work either. At this point, slight frustration turned into genuine frustration.

I picked the brain of my colleague in the office next door as he’s worked on a similar project. He couldn’t find anything out of place either and suggested I call our expert up in the I.T. department. But by this point, I was committed to figuring this one out. I refused to admit defeat!

After attempting every possible minor adjustment without success, I discarded ALL my work and decided to start over again from scratch. As far as I know, I did everything the same the second time around only this time, it worked! I threw my hands up in victory and danced around my office while laughing uncontrollably. (OK, so I may have exaggerated that a bit but I was obviously pretty pleased with myself.) Even though I can’t tell you exactly why it worked the second time but not the first, I did learn some new techniques and approaches throughout the problem-solving process.

The takeaway here is that there is a huge learning opportunity and an enormous level of satisfaction to be gained from solving a problem. And in order to solve a problem, you need to allow for the extra time involved. In this instance, I spent an extra two or three hours that I hadn’t originally planned for but the emotional return far outweighed the time investment. Had I escalated the issue to our I.T. department, the problem may have been solved a little quicker, though no guarantees, but I wouldn’t have the same emotional attachment to the outcome that I am currently experiencing. I’m still smiling!

What emotions do you experience when you solve a difficult problem? Do you learn best by doing? If not, what type of learner are you? And finally, leaders, are you allowing room for your people to problem solve?

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The Truth About Coaching

Casting a Critical Eye on Coaching must-read article on executive coaching in Chief Learning Officer magazine. This strongly supports everything we know to be true about coaching in organizations and thus our methodology and approach.

Their short story: There are proven benefits to coaching as a leadership development tool if engagements are structured, transparent and their effectiveness measured.

Our short story:

  • The coach is only as good as the players’ readiness, willingness and ability to shift and grow.  Coaching is best used to help good people be great, not to stabilize the “problem people.”
  • The goals for coaching must be crystal clear for coach, client and organization to know if it has been successful.
  • Coaching is an extremely broad and multi-purpose tool – like a Swiss army knife – and the task at hand must be clearly defined so the right tool can be deployed. And as great as a Swiss Army Knife is, sometimes you need a wrench, meaning: coaching is not right for everyone all of the time.
  • There are ways for the correct people in the organization to get good information about the coaching without betraying confidentiality.  It takes a little work and a lot of finesse – for more information on this go to Ace Coaching Alliances

We have devoted our lives to coaching and we are thrilled that the information about how to best leverage it in organizations is becoming more and more clear!

Meet Your Brain

For my final post in the series on the books that have made the biggest impact on my coaching practice, I choose Your Brain at Work by David Rock.  It outlines the implications of all the recent research in neuroscience to the way we function at work – as employees, as bosses.  There are several terrific takeaways from it, notably, that the pre-frontal cortex – the front of the brain where complex calculations take place, decisions get made and self regulation gets handled – is easily exhausted.  It needs a great deal of rest and glucose.  Our ability to think clearly, make good decisions and manage ourselves erodes steadily over the course of the work day. 

David Rock also shares his model expressing what people need for their brain to be at its best, known as the SCARF Model:

Status – a clear sense of our own self worth and the acknowledgement of this perception in our environment is critical to our brains feeling good.

Certainty – we crave certainty the way we crave sugar or any other reward.  We will avoid uncertainty at all costs.

Autonomy – it is critical that we feel as much control over our environment as we are capable of managing; loss of control is interpreted by the brain as a serious threat.

Relatedness – we will naturally find what we have in common to increase relatedness, we will move toward people with whom we can relate believing them to be like ourselves, and away from those to whom we cannot relate making them “other”.

Fairness – is as rewarding as food or sex, and when things are perceived as “unfair” it causes us to feel an intense sense of threat. 

 For more on The SCARF Model check out some of David’s YouTube videos.  The book is also a really fun read, and there is a lot more that what I can share here!