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Let’s Stop Underestimating What Others Can Do

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“I have to hold their hands.” “They need constant supervision.” “They don’t think!” “They aren’t creative.” Have you heard leaders and managers pass these kinds of judgments on employee abilities?

Frequently, as I conduct employee focus groups or review 360 results, leaders who make these kinds of statements receive the following kinds of comments: “What a micromanager!” “Constant meetings and checklists and interference keep us from our work.” “We’re treated like children!”

“But I tried giving more autonomy and it was a disaster,” many leaders say. Frequently, they provided autonomy without clarity of goals or the benefit of wisdom learned from the past. There’s a happy medium of structure AND autonomy, a polarity that leads to results AND happy employees!

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3 Key Mindshifts for REALLY Leading Change

“Get the resisters on board–that’s why we’re bringing you in” is what I often hear from leaders when change processes aren’tBerlin ped signals.001 going smoothly. In most cases, though, a few simple yet profound changes in leadership attitudes and practices are what is really needed. Here are three mind shifts I’ve seen in effective leaders:

1. Instead of Leading, Think Leading and Listening

As a school leader I know stepped into a new principalship, he told the staff, “I’ll be spending this first year listening, watching and dialoguing with you to understand the strengths and needs of this particular community of learners.”

No one believed him.

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Emotional Intelligence and Your Profession

Recently, I’ve been working with auditors–my former life as a financial analyst provides insights into work style patterns in their profession and how they compare to many other professions. Below, I’ll be highlighting emotional intelligence sub scales, as described by Multi Health System’s EQi 2.0© instrument, one tool for thinking about these kinds of patterns, so that you can think about how these ideas might apply to the strengths and struggles of your own profession.

Research exists on some of the biggest problems facing the audit profession. The Dallas chapter of the Institute for Internal Audit found that

  • The audit function is often undervalued by other corporate leaders
  • Audit teams often struggle to recruit, develop and retain employees
  • The overall image of the profession needs strengthening; it is seen as less than public accounting and other financial professions.

It doesn’t take much thinking to see how the audit profession’s core strengths, especially independence and assertiveness, might create these issues. Every strength has corresponding blind spots. If you need to be objective and independent, buildinginterpersonal relationships, emotional expression and empathy can seem not only counterproductive but outright dangerous. Think how this might contribute to the first two problems the industry cites.

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Mastery: Are You Doing All You Can?

masteryLast year, I read a book that challenged me at a personal level, Robert Greene’s Mastery. In it, Greene asks, given that so many high-IQ people are pretty much failures at life, what separates the da Vincis and Mozarts–and modern-day examples such as musician John Coltrane, animal behaviorist Temple Grandin, and boxing trainer Freddie Roach–from the pack?

Greene came up with six common factors, all of which should give each one of us to ponder, “Where am I selling my own talents short? What next step would help me make more of the potential I’ve been given? How should I be working harder? Have I searched hard enough to identify the idea/cause/goal that would motivate me to pursue thousands of hours of deliberate practice to reach mastery?” Here are the common factors.

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What’s Your Part of the Problem?

3855181622_292d0f13d4_zRecently I learned that an organization for which I’d made possible a large (and successful) marketing event hadn’t bothered to follow through with a requested reciprocal effort.

My first reaction? Frustration that threatened to quickly move toward anger. Lucky for me, I didn’t run into the responsible parties while I was discovering what hadn’t been done. If I had, I might have resorted to the kind of blaming tactics that I hope I left behind on the grade school playground!

But something reminded me to ask myself, “What was your part in this problem?” What had I done, or not done, that resulted in their lack of follow-through? As I reflected, I had to admit that I probably hadn’d specifically outlined how a couple of simple actions on their part would not only support my goals but probably improves results for them and for us.

As an old Irish saying puts it,

“Why do we judge others by their actions and ourselves by our good intentions?”

Before being sure that blame rests with the other party, consider

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Get Creative? Why Not!

P1040304This month’s Scientific American Mind has a quick article on being a better artist (January/February 2014, p. 200) with four easy ways to make sure it’s easy for you to be more creative. How might you

Get outside more. In one measure of creativity, those who went backpacking did 50% better than those who didn’t. It turns out that nature makes us more aware of patterns, forms, and other elements that add to creativity. Oh, and it’s a stress-reducer. Stop telling yourself you don’t have time and get outside to spark better ideas!

Embrace your own weirdness. People who aren’t ashamed of their quirks–who talk to themselves or admit to knowing the name of every Star Trek episode or who have to win a game of Spider Solitaire before opening their research files–come up with more creative ideas.

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3 Moves for Moving from SMART Goals to Intentional Results

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.”

(Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 101)

How about substituting  “SMART goals” for management and “being intentional” for leadership in the above quote? Why?

Too often, a goal is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) but still not the right goal. If you’re setting goals for yourself, or if you’re coaching others, here are three key questions that aid in ensuring that goals intentionally target what is most important, not what your or your client might assume is most important.

  1. Is this the right goal right now? Leadership is situational. While there are core competencies all leaders need, different ones are more important in some situations than in others. Unfortunately, those new to leadership—or to a given role—may be unaware of priorities they’ve never needed to attend to in the past.
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