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11.26.18

Leading Matters: John L. Hennessy on the Leadership Journey

Leading Matters

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S A PROFESSOR, an entrepreneur, the president of Stanford University, and now the Chairman of the Board of Alphabet (Google’s Parent company) and Director of Knight-Hennessy Scholars, John Hennessy has had a lot of leadership experience. In Leading Matters, he shares the stories of what worked and what didn’t work.

Leading Matters is about the journey. The stories he tells here are revolve around the ten elements that shaped his journey and how he relied on these traits in pivotal moments. The elements are relevant to any leader at any level. As he observes, the higher up you go the crises just get bigger and come faster.

He begins by discussing the foundational elements: humility, authenticity, service, and empathy. He then links them together with courage. Finally, he shows how collaboration, innovation, intellectual curiosity, storytelling, and creating change that lasts, helped him reach his goals.

Here are some of his thoughts on each element extracted from his stories:

Humility

A true sense of one’s own skills and character—arises not from ego, but from humility. Arrogance sees only strengths, ignores our weaknesses, and overlooks the strengths of others, therefore leaving us vulnerable to catastrophic mistakes.

Leading with humility means letting others announce your accomplishments because you don’t need to, it means realizing and openly admitting that your understanding might not be right, it means taking the opportunity to learn from mistakes, and it means stepping up to the moments that challenge and grow you.

Authenticity and Trust

Authenticity is essential to building trust. Consider the wisdom popularly attributed to Socrates: “The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” It’s a start down the path to a deeper practice of authenticity—you must identify those good and true characteristics you admire, and then you must work to embody them.

So this is part of the practice: identify the virtue you admire, strive to embody them, and be humble about the journey—you probably aren’t there yet. In fact, just when you think you’ve arrived, life has a way of returning you back to the beginning.

Leadership as Service

The larger one’s leadership role becomes, the bigger the role of service in that leadership.

If you take a leadership role as a step toward a personal goal of gathering ever-greater titles, awards, and salaries, you will never see true success in that role.

Recognize the service of others. As a leader it is easy to get wrapped up in big projects and ambitious initiatives, and, in the process, to forget the smaller, but no less important, individual acts of service taking place all around you. Much of that service supports and enables the widely celebrated success of others.

Empathy

Empathy should always be a factor in making decisions and setting goals. Empathy represents a crucial check on action—placing a deep understanding of and concern for the human condition next to data can lead to decisions that support the wellbeing of all.

Empathy usually implies compassion and perhaps charity, but we are looking for more than that: we are looking for the kind of empathy that changes people as a result of their interactions with each other, the kind of empathy that arises when one sees the world anew through someone else’s eyes.

Courage

Humility, authenticity, empathy, service-mindedness—these characteristics shape a leader’s vision and chart a course toward right action. Courage, on the other hand, compels a leader to take that right action. While many people can discern what is right and true, acting on that discernment is more difficult.

Even if risk-taking is against your nature, for the good of your organization, you must find the courage to practice it.

Collaboration and Teamwork

Most significant endeavors will be accomplished by a team.

Certain ground rules circumvented interteam rivalries. First of all, I reminded everyone of our shared goal: we wanted to achieve something great. Further, to support innovative, cross-disciplinary thinking, I set a second ground rule: at the start, we don’t criticize ideas. To this, I added a third ground rule: tough questions aren’t only allowed, they are necessary. This led to my final ground rule: team members must be treated with the utmost respect.

Innovation

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with students: the student opens with, “I want to create a start-up.” I ask them to tell me about their technology, and they answer, “Well, I don’t have it yet, but I want to do a start-up.” I remind these students that great start-ups begin with great technology discoveries. Innovation presents great opportunities for smart entrepreneurs, not the other way around.

Intellectual Curiosity

Beyond personal enjoyment, though, this lifelong curiosity has served me well in my career. It has enabled me to engage in meaningful dialog about the world and its future.

Literature, biographies, and histories—they’re like laboratories in which we can examine and learn critical lessons without having to live the difficulties ourselves.

In challenging moments, great leaders show their true character. …Their stories taught me if you can’t take the blame for failure, you shouldn't take the job.

Storytelling

If you really want to inspire a team to action, best to engage them with a story. Once they become receptive—once they can imagine themselves as part of your vision—you can back your story up with facts and figures.

When you turn that dream into a vivid story, you make it so attractive and so real that people will want to share it with you by joining your team.

When it came time to respond to change, these companies moved quickly and efficiently, because every employee already understood the company identity and therefore knew how to respond without direct coaching.

In every profession and career, as we climb to higher leadership positions, the role of facts and data decreases.

Legacy

Instead of worrying about my legacy too much or too early, I’m choosing now—as I always have—to follow the path of making meaningful contributions.

Legacy means the institution serves people more effectively now than it did when you arrived.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:08 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development , Teamwork

09.07.18

Didn't See It Coming

Didn't See It Coming

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HERE ARE SEVEN key life challenges that every leader will face to one degree or another. Any one of them has the potential to derail even the best of leaders. But here’s the thing. While they may creep up on us, we can see them coming and apply the proper antidote.

Carey Nieuwhof is the author of Didn’t See It Coming. He wrote this book because too often we don’t. And even though these seven challenges never really go away, we can create some life habits that keep them at bay.

Nieuwhof writes from a been-there-done-that Christian perspective about the issues as they manifest themselves in our lives and follows up each one with a chapter on how to combat it. It’s not really just for leaders. These issues affect everyone and some you'll find hit close to home.

The seven challenges are:

Cynicism
Disappointment and frustration often end in cynicism. “Most cynics are former optimists.” He reminds us that cynicism is a choice that benefits no one. “Cynics never change the world. They just tell us why you can’t change the world. Ask them and they know all about it.” The antidote is curiosity. “Curious people are never cynical, and cynical people are never curious.” Simple but profound.

Compromise
The little compromises we make every day—the half-truths, the rationalizations, the excuses— “create a gap between who we are and who we want to be.” We often look to competency to carry us to success. It may get us in the door, but character is what determines how far we go. “If you don’t nurture your character daily, you can be most admired by the people who you know the least, while the people who know you best struggle with you the most.” Our character gets challenged every day. The antidote to compromise is to “work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency.”

Disconnection
Nieuwhof notes that technology doesn’t create disconnection, it just reveals what is already going on inside of us. “Disconnection is a human problem. Technology just makes it worse.” So the solution is to deal with what is going on inside of us. “When you search for an explanation as to why you have a hard time trusting or opening your heart to people, you can make progress. You’re using the past as a stepping stone into the future, not as a barricade against it.” Engage in life-giving conversation. Eliminate hurry from your life. And this comment could pull any of us up short:
For me, the sense that a conversation is going nowhere always carries with it an underpinning of judgment and even arrogance on my part. I just assume I’m better, smarter, or wiser or that I have greater emotional intelligence than others. Which, of course, should drive me right back to my knees in confession. After all, we’re encouraged to think of others as better than ourselves. That’s a cornerstone habit of the humble.

Irrelevance
Irrelevance happens when what you do no longer connects to the culture and the people around you. That gap is a factor of how fast things change relative to you. You defeat it by continuously “changing, learning, and evolving. Change staves off irrelevance.” A key idea here is you need to “love the mission more than the methods.” An easy trap to fall into. Get radical about change. Surround yourself with younger people. Seek change to transform you.

Pride
Pride manifests itself in many different and subtle ways so it’s hard to spot—in ourselves. “Pride will snuff out your empathy, stifle your compassion, create division, suffocate love, foster jealousy, deaden your soul, and make you think all this is normal.” The only way to deal with pride is to cultivate humility. “Learn the ways of the humble and make it your principal way of operating.” Nieuwhof offers practical ways to begin to make this happen in your life.

Burnout
Burnout saps the meaning and wonder out of life. Signs of burnout include among other things: your passion fades, you no longer feel your highs and lows, little things make you disproportionately emotional, everybody drains you, nothing satisfies you, and your productivity drops. Getting out of this state begins by admitting it and then figuring out how to live today so you will thrive tomorrow. What does that look like? “Maintaining health in all five major areas of life (spiritual, emotional, relational, physical, and financial)” must become a priority. Nieuwhof recommends some concrete steps you can take to bring you back from burnout. Go deep enough and take enough time to recover so that you begin to feel gratitude for the process.

Emptiness
Ironically, success often makes you feel empty. Once you have arrived, “you find there’s still something inside you that says there has to be more.” The antidote: “find a mission that’s bigger than you.” He continues, “Selfishness looks good only to the selfish in the same way that pride is attractive only to the proud. Humility will win you what pride never will: the affection of others. And that’s exactly what selflessness will do. Other people naturally gravitate toward people who live for a cause beyond themselves.”

Didn’t See It Coming is full of understanding and insight. The practical advice found here will benefit anyone on their leadership journey.

Nieuwhof Chart

Nieuwhof

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:01 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

09.03.18

Business Chemistry: What Type Are You?

Business Chemistry

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HE BETTER YOU UNDERSTAND yourself and those around you, the easier it is to work with other and as a leader, to give them what they need to excel.

Business Chemistry is a tool for self-understanding and empathy—a way to identify meaningful differences between people’s working styles and perspectives.

Kim Christfort and Suzanne Vickberg of Deloitte helped to develop Business Chemistry. It does not invalidate everything else of its type, rather it is designed to be simpler and thereby memorable and actionable on issues that really matter for people in the work environment. And it is quite straightforward for both accessing yourself and others you work with.

Using the key sticking points between people, they identify 4 Working Styles:

BC Pioneer Pioneers value possibilities and they spark energy and imagination. They’re outgoing, spontaneous, and adaptable. They’re creative thinkers who believe big risks can bring great things.

BC Drivers Drivers value challenge and they generate momentum. They’re technical, quantitative, and logical. They’re direct in their approach to people and problems.

BC Integrators Integrators value connection and they draw teams together. They’re empathic, diplomatic, and relationship oriented. They’re attuned to nuance, seeing shades of grey rather than black and white.

BC Guardians Guardians value stability and they bring order and rigor. They’re practical, detail-oriented, and reserved. They’re deliberate decision-makers apt to stick with the status quo.

The authors naturally go into detail on each of these types and give an example of a well-known person that fits that type. They also delve into difference between the types as they relate to stress (Pioneers are the least stressed.), career aspirations, environments they thrive in, and where each type if found organizationally and generationally.

The trick of course, is to use this knowledge to modify you own behavior. Otherwise it’s just a game. “By learning about your own type and developing a hunch about the types of those you work with, you can see right away where some of your key differences and similarities are. Then you can determine how you might flex your own style to better match the preferences of those around you.”
For example, too many constraints can completely shut a Pioneer down, while a Guardian may withdraw in an environment that feels too chaotic. A Driver may become very frustrated in an organization that lacks decisiveness, while an Integrator may wither on a team that doesn’t value broad-based input. Knowing these trigger points can help you as a leader to give people more of what they need to excel and less of what will turn them off.

To understand your own style and develop your hunch about others you know, they’ve developed a test which you can take here.

If you’re going to try it out for yourself, you might think about what you are naturally inclined to do and what you have learned to do. I might want to be direct with others but I have learned that I am more productive when I am diplomatic. But being that that is my natural tendency, I probably prefer when people are direct and concise with me. That fact would affect my working style profile.

Interestingly, 32% of Millennials are most likely Guardians. They prefer having all of the answers and enjoy zooming into every detail. 29% of Baby Boomers are most likely to be Pioneers or Integrators. They grew up in a different time and may have adopted a more novelty-seeking and relationship–focused orientation.

Business Chemistry Types
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:21 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development , Teamwork

08.27.18

Is a Lack of Awareness Holding You Back?

Conscious

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WARENESS is the ability to have knowledge of or are conscious of yourself and your surroundings in real time. Without it we tend to be reactive, disengaged, an unimaginative. The more conscious we are, the faster we adapt, and the higher performing we become.

Bob Rosen and Emma-Kate Swann wrote Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life, because they believe that becoming more conscious is critical in our increasingly disruptive and accelerating world. “Most of us believe they are self-aware, but research shows that only 10 to 15% of us truly have this capability.

“The real power of awareness is found when we master action and introspection together” or what they refer to as conscious. “Lifting your gaze outside yourself while looking inward to remove the roots of resistance is how you become more conscious.” Being the smartest person in the room is not the advantage it might have been because it gets in the way of adapting to the change happening all around us. “Conscious is the new smart.
Driven by the need to be right, those obsessed with being smart tend to hoard knowledge, externalize blame, and mismanage relationships and risks. This sabotages our ability to thrive in a constantly changing world.

There are four reasons why we are not aware as we need to be:

1. Too Shallow: “We spend little time self-reflecting and stay stuck in negative emotions, shackled by old baggage, resulting in little understanding of ourselves.” We just don’t dig deep enough.

2. Too Narrow: “We don’t challenge our outdated assumptions, which limits the power of our expansive minds.” With limited perspectives we miss opportunities and react irrationally.

3. Too Safe: “We are afraid of change and prefer to avoid the uncertainty around us. As a result, we stay stuck, biased, and reactive.”

4. Too Small: “If your view of yourself and the world is too small, you won’t see connections, possibilities, or solutions. Staying small and never stepping up is sure to lead to regrets and will undermine your highest potential.”

The antidote to our lack of self-awareness is:

Go Deep

Harness the power of introspection by getting to know who you are, where you come from, and why you act the way you do.

Think Big

Get curious and adaptive: deal with complexity and paradox by learning how to expand your mind, leverage your relationships and networks, and overcome unconscious biases.

Get Real

Become more honest and intentional in leadership and life, overcoming the pitfalls of being too safe and cautious while embracing reality.

Step Up

Act boldly and responsibly to reach your highest potential: how to champion your higher purpose, stretch people in constructive ways, and be generous in your relationships.

Conscious Chart

To address the realities of our time, we need people who will Go Deep, Think Big, Get Real, and Step Up. To lead change you need a conscious mindset. “Regardless of the context or the reason for change, leaders at all levels must lead people into the unknown and into the future.”

If we are going to create change, we have to begin with ourselves. That requires that we become more conscious of what pushes us forward—our Accelerators—and what holds us back—our Hijackers. Accelerators like courage, drive or determination, deliberate practice, resilience, and vulnerability, drive us forward. Hijackers like self-criticism, cynicism, controlling behavior, aloofness or disengagement, and hyper-competitiveness, hold us back. It is important to know how these things impact your performance and constructively use them or deal with them.

There are many things that conspire to throw us off-course. Knowing who you want to be in the world and remembering your purpose, will help you to manage these issues and keep you on course. The more conscious we are the less drama we will experience in our lives.

Another consequence of being conscious is to be civil. People and events will push our buttons, but the mature, conscious person will know when to “reprioritize personal needs and self-interests” for the good of all. “Conscious people realize there is a human being on the other end of every connection. Acts of civility are the small sacrifices we make for the good of all and the sake of harmoniously living and working together.” A good example of that kind of self-control and consciousness is John McCain’s comment to a woman at a town hall meeting that said she didn't trust then-Sen. Barack Obama because "he's an Arab." McCain responded, “No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.”

Conscious people see the big picture and know what is important. Consciousness is a choice.
Conscious unleashes our full potential as human beings. By expanding our minds, enriching our experiences, and shaping our destinies, we discover our purpose in life. Being conscious enables us to approach life as a journey. Equipped with everything we need—an open mind and heart, confidence and resilience, and our capacity for greater consciousness—we embrace the uncertainty of life. Conscious is the accelerator for effective change. The more conscious we are, the faster we adapt, and the higher performing we become.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:32 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

08.22.18

7 Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

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F YOU WANT TO GROW your career, Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director Dawn Graham recommends in her book Switchers, that you “continually put yourself in situations where you’re the least qualified person in the room.” That is, “put yourself into professional situations where you have some foundational knowledge, but are still a novice.”

Not only do you grow from the experience but you’ll have a roomful of experts to learn from. At first you may feel inadequate—feel like an imposter—but with enough grit you’ll succeed and move forward.

When you feel like you don’t belong—like you are not up to par—know that it is a side effect of growth that everyone experiences at one time—or many times—throughout a career. If you are a high-performer, it comes with the territory. Graham offers 7 tips for overcoming Imposer Syndrome:

1. If You Aren’t Struggling a Bit, You Aren’t Growing Much

“When you’re taking on a new venture like a job switch, it’s normal to feel behind the curve. This doesn’t mean you’re a fraud or not cut out for the work. Don’t compare your start to someone else’s peak.”

2. Quite that Inner Voice

“We are often our own worst critic and hardest on ourselves. If you’re new at something, have realistic expectations and give yourself the latitude to learn.”

3. Perfection is Slow Death

“Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing view. Even as a seasoned expert, you’re human and not immune to bad days or learning curves. Mistakes can indicate that you need to prioritize, delegate, or take a break. Or they could just be mistakes. Don’t make them into more than they are.”

4. Honor Your Accomplishments

“Life isn’t about keeping a scorecard. Reminisce about past successes, and then engage strategies that worked before to tackle the problems you’re facing.”

5. Drop the “Yes, but….”

“Do you deflect or write off compliments? Perhaps you attribute your success to luck. We are masters at believing negative feedback while shrugging off the positive. Take time to listen to praise from others and own it.”

6. Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario

“The worst-case scenario rarely happens, but if you have an action plan should it become a reality, you can be confident you’ll handle the lesser obstacles that do arise.”

7. Fake It ‘til You Make It

“When you come across as self-assured, other sense that it creates a positive spiral. Self-assurance doesn’t mean you have all of the answers, rather that you’re confident you can use resources to find solutions as problems arise.”

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And here’s a fact of life. The more you learn about something the more you’ll realize how little you know about the topic in terms of all there is to know. Stay humble and curious. It will give you unprecedented depth in this day and age.

Beyond what I'm sharing here, Switchers is an invaluable resource for those looking to make a career switch. “If you’re like most Americans, you’ll spend around five years of your life engaged in some type of job search activity.” Today though, people aren’t just changing jobs, they’re changing professions. And this requires a different approach than the typical job search.

Graham writes from a recruiter’s point of view sharing not only what they think but also the psychological principles that underlie the Switcher’s journey. She covers the five job search killers, networking and the 2nd Level Contact Strategy, rebranding your social media profile, and crafting your professional identity.
Bias is a reality in the hiring process, and can be an especially difficult hurdle for Switchers. Learn to identify it and engage strategies to overcome it such as using your network to become an insider.

Your career story is what will convince the hiring manager to pull the trigger and make the offer. It should be logical, compelling, attention-getting, and genuine.

You need to network to make a career switch. Second- (and third) level connections are where the action is! Most people in your immediate circle have the same information you do, so the goal is to get their network, because that is where your next opportunity lies.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:32 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

06.08.18

Reinforcements: How to Get People to Help You

Reinforcements

“I actually felt as if I was going to perish,” said psychologist Stanley Milgram upon asking a subway rider for their seat.

Asking for help makes most of us uncomfortable and we often go to great lengths to avoid doing it. We fear rejection. We fear that people we think less of us. We believe people don’t really want to help. But the truth is we need the help and support of others to succeed. To be sure, leadership is fundamentally about asking people for help. “Reaching your fullest potential—professionally or personally—requires you to understand how to enlist reinforcements when you need them. For many of us, ‘when you need them’ is literally every day,” writes Heidi Grant in Reinforcements.
Yet our reluctance to ask for help means we often don’t get the support or the resource we need. Making matters worse, our intuitions about what should make others more likely to help are often dead wrong; our fumbling, apologetic ways of asking for assistance generally make people feel far less likely to want to help. We hate imposing on people and then inadvertently, we make them feel imposed upon.

We underestimate our chances of getting help, especially from those that have said “no” once already. We don’t like saying “no.” We don’t think less of people when they ask us for help. But for some reason we forget that when it is our turn to ask for help.

Research shows that people actually like us more when they have been able to help us. It makes them feel good too—unless they feel compelled to help. Asking someone, “Can you do me a favor?” increase the likelihood that they’ll say yes, but usually because they now feel trapped.

So what are the subtle cues that motivate people to work for us?

Grant says, first of all, don’t make it weird by overdoing it on empathy (i.e., ASPCA commercials), apologizing profusely (just ask), using disclaimers (“I normally wouldn’t…”), emphasizing how much the other person will love helping (“This will be fun!”), and reminding people that they owe you one, among other tactics.

Instead try these three ways of asking others for help:

In-Group Reinforcement

Those members of our group are the most likely to help us. To create a sense of in-group among people, use the word “together,” create or highlight shared goals, identify a common enemy, share common emotions, experiences, and feelings.

The Positive Identity Reinforcement

Most people like to think of themselves as helpful because it is part of what it means to be a good person. We reinforce that with gratitude and appealing to the things that matter to them. “To maximize positive identity reinforcement, know your audience and emphasize what matters to them, not to you.”
Gratitude is a glue that binds you and your benefactor together, allowing you to hit the same well over and over again when you need support, know that it won’t run dry.

Also, “the more unique the help, the more closely tied it is to who they are.” If people feel that anyone could help you, it is more likely that they will pass thinking that someone else will help. They need not bother. “To activate the positive identity reinforcement, find ways to convey that the helper is in a unique position to help you.” “You’re my only hope.”

The Effectiveness Reinforcement

People want what they do to make an impact—to have meaning. If we feel we are not making an impact, we are likely to lose motivation. People need to clearly understand the impact of their helping.
Research shows that when people are unable to get any kind of feedback about how well they are doing on a task, they quickly become disengaged from it.

The question is, “How do I know what I am doing is important?” “How do I know that my time, money, or effort wouldn’t be better spent some other way?”

Be clear up-front about what you want done and the impact it will have. And be sure to follow-up. Let them know how things turned out. As a leader, “helping people see the impact of their work—their help—is one of the most important motivators you can wield.”

Reinforcements is written in an engaging way and is full of solid research to support the approach needed to get the help we need to succeed. It is practical advice for anyone asking for help in a way that will leave both parties feeling good about the relationship.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:41 AM
| Comments (0) | Motivation , Personal Development

06.06.18

Beyond the Drama Triangle

Beyond Drama Triangle

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OU’VE HEARD of the Bermuda Triangle, where ships and aircraft disappear without explanation. There’s a workplace equivalent, a triangle where good will and productivity vanish. How many working hours of the average day do you and your team spend in the Drama Triangle?

This triangle was developed as a social model years ago by Stephen Karpman, a student of Dr. Eric Berne, the father of Transactional Analysis. It maps out a type of dysfunctional interaction that is common in the workplace and in our homes as well. The word “dysfunctional” is nothing to be afraid of – it just means “not working very well.” Effective leaders notice when their relationships are working and when they aren’t … and as a result, they learn to stay out of the Drama Triangle.

Karpman used this triangle to define three points that arise predictably in any dysfunctional real-life drama: the Persecutor, the Victim, and the Rescuer. Notice that all three of these are roles we can choose to play, or choose to step back from, at any time.

So for instance, let’s assume that one of your team members promised you an update about an important project by Tuesday afternoon. It’s Wednesday morning. You don’t have the report yet. Here are three ways you could choose to respond:
  • “I said that report was due Tuesday and I meant it!” (Persecutor. This role sends the message “It’s all your fault,” typically in the voice of a critical parent.)
  • “There are three important meetings today that depended on me seeing that report from you … and now I’m going to crash and burn at all three.” (Victim. This role is all about “Poor me.”)
  • “Look -- send me the data you have and I’ll finish that report for you.” (Rescuer. The classic enabler.)

Every time you see one of these roles emerge, or find yourself tempted to play one of them, you can be certain that the Drama Triangle is beckoning … and you’re about to get sucked into it. One classic pattern is: boss attacks (Persecutor), people defend themselves (Victim), other people come to their aid (Rescuer). Be honest. How often do you really want to do that? Here’s what’s important to notice: The Drama Triangle is a game. If you choose to play, you’ll be asking for an exchange that’s high on conflict and denial, and low on resourcefulness, self-awareness, and win/win outcomes.

The problem is, it’s easy to play this game without even realizing that you’re playing, and easy to become addicted to drama without realizing you’re addicted to it. A lot of the leaders we work with are shocked to learn that most of their workplace interactions fall within this dysfunctional triangle! The leader’s title typically means he or she is given the responsibility of judging or dictating … and that can be a slippery slope toward the Persecutor role. If you’re not careful, you can spend the majority of their working hours playing this game. It doesn’t have to be that way.

The very first step to overcoming a drama addiction is simply to learn to recognize what’s happening. Start noticing that that the Drama Triangle game typically begins with one person – it could be you – taking up the Persecutor or Victim role. If you sense a piece of communication coming from your side that is some variation on “It’s all your fault” or “Poor me,” step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if that’s really the only way you can express yourself. It’s possible you’ll come up with a better way of approaching the situation – one that doesn’t simply invite the other person to intensify the drama. For instance:
  • “I know you’ve been really busy with a lot of different projects lately, but is there any way you could get me that report we talked about by one o’clock today? If not, could you think of anyone else we can get to help you out with it?”
  • Or, even better, give the person a chance not to fall into the trap at all. Send a note well ahead of time reminding them about the project and when it’s due. Leave people enough time to readjust before the deadline.

No blame. No drama. Just good communication!

Your responsibility as a leader is to support your people, start good conversations, and make good outcomes possible. The Drama Triangle goes in the exact opposite direction of all three of those goals: it disempowers your team, starts lousy conversations, and makes terrible outcomes much more likely. If you spend even one minute a day in the Drama Triangle, that’s one minute too much.

The only way to win this particular game to resolve not to play – and then stick with that decision!

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Leading Forum
This post is by David Mattson. He is CEO and President of Sandler Training, and author of The Road To Excellence: 6 Leadership Strategies to Build a Bulletproof Business. He oversees the corporate direction and strategy for the company's global operations including sales, marketing, consulting, alliances, and support. Under Mattson's leadership, the Sandler organization expanded domestically and internationally to over 250 offices in 32 countries. For more information, please visit the Road to Excellence website.

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Editor’s Note: The Road To Excellence asks the question, “What, exactly, stands between my company and organizational excellence—and what do I do about it?” David Mattson identifies 14 blind spots that have the potential to kill a business. The problem of course, is seeing what you don’t know. The Excellence Process consists of six steps that when taken in order and made part of your culture will turn excellence into a process and help to get rid of your blind spots.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:03 AM
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04.20.18

The GuruBook

GuruBook

J
ONATHAN LØW created The GuruBook to change, refine, and enhance your thinking. He has curated ideas from 45 internationally–known doers and thinkers on the topics of entrepreneurship, innovation, and authentic leadership.

You’ll find great insights here from the likes of Sonia Arrison, Edgar H. Schein, Henry Mintzberg, Tom Peters, Pascal Finette, Andreas Ehn, Murray Newlands, Brian Chesky, Hampus Jakobsson, Craig Newmark, Alf Rehn, Paul Nunes, Nathan Furr, Mette Lykke and others. But here are several that I found interesting my first time through the book:

Steve Blank: Startups Are Not a Smaller Version of a Large Company

We know that a startup is a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. The corollary for an enterprise is as follows:

A company is a permanent organization designed to execute a repeatable and scalable business model.

Once you understand that existing companies are designed to execute, then you can see why they have a hard time with continuous and disruptive innovation.

Danny Lange: Becoming Truly Data Driven

We’re seeing a development where you will be in trouble 24-36 months from now if you don’t start taking machine learning seriously. It will happen especially in industries such as transportation, shipping, finance, and retail, but all kinds of companies and leaders should look into this much deeper.

Of course, the big companies have an advantage due to the amount of data they often how. The startups lack this, and data is increasingly becoming king.

For example, you may be able to build a better app with a better backend than Uber, and pay a crew of drivers more money, but if you don’t have the data to deliver a consistently better pickup experience, all of that might not matter at all.

Christian Ørsted: Authentic Leadership is Narcissism

The leader’s most important task is not being authentic but focusing on serving. The leader’s own idea of the world or of him- or herself is completely without interest with regard to how he or she can serve the organization and the world in the best way possible.

That’s why there’s a risk that the whole concept of authentic leadership can easily give leaders an excuse for being narcissistic and focusing on themselves and their own values as leaders rather than how they create the best possible culture for their employees.

Daniel Burrus: How to Anticipate the Future

There are an amazing number of things we can accurately predict when we learn how to distinguish between what I call hard trends, trends that will happen, and soft trends, trends that might happen. Think of it as a two-sided coin. Agility is on one side, allowing you to react fast to unforeseen change, and the other side is anticipatory, allowing you to see what is coming and take action before the change occurs.

Agility is basically reacting quickly to change. Therefore, it’s important to understand that agile innovation is reactive innovation. Agile innovation will keep you reacting to disruptive innovation created by others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:34 PM
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03.14.18

Timeless: 10 Enduring Practices of Apex Leaders

Timeless

T
HE FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES of leadership don’t change over time. They are indeed timeless. Brian Dodd examines in Timeless (Kindle) what it takes to reach the top of your profession. How do you become the best at what you do? How do you become an Apex Leader?

Dodd has selected the 10 key practices that Apex Leaders have in common. While character, patience and empathy are important for a leader to sustain their leadership, they are not necessarily the behaviors and practices needed to get to the top of their chosen profession. To be sure, Dodd writes, “there are times when a leader’s talent can take them to places where their character cannot sustain them.” But that’s another story. Here, Dodd focuses on the achievement side of the equation. What is required to be the best at what you do?

Brian Dodd is the Director of New Ministry Relationships for Injoy Stewardship Solutions an organization founded by John Maxwell. While Timeless will resonate with Christian leaders, the principles apply across all organizations and contexts.

As readers of his blog have come to expect, Dodd draws on many examples from the world of sports. All of these principles are found in scripture and are being successfully applied by Apex Leaders in organizations of all types.

Here are 10 things Apex Leaders have done and will always do to achieve great success with Dodd’s insights:

Apex Leaders Build Great Teams
Apex Leaders are part of selfless, humble teams who are committed to each other’s success. Your team is your primary difference maker. Apex Leaders look for skill, work ethic and passion when building a team.

Apex Leaders Are Humble
Humble leaders do not deny their talents but are thankful for them. Humble leaders acknowledge that no matter how good they are, they are in constant need of support. All successful leaders must be servant-leaders first. They acknowledge they have been granted opportunities not for personal gain, but for the betterment of others. Humble leaders know they have not arrived. The mission and vision of what they are trying to accomplish is too important to remain the same.

Apex Leaders Continually Improve
Are you willing to be rebuilt? Pride and arrogance are enemies of continual improvement. An Apex Leader never asks, “Am I part of this organization’s past?” but, “Am I going to be a part of the future?” Continual improvement assures sustainability and continual options.

Apex Leaders Work Hard – Very Hard
Many leaders think their talent and competence alone will get them where they need to go, but hard work will always beat talent and competence when talent and competence don’t work hard. Proverbs 6:10-11: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will come on you like a thief.” No one is there to applaud the lonely work, but everyone applauds its results.

Apex Leaders Form Strong Relationships
One of the most impressive things about the leadership of Jesus was his continual focus on relationships. There is only one thing in your business which appreciates—your people. The most important relationship a leader needs to cultivate and protect is the relationship with their family. If you want to accomplish anything great as a leader, you must surround yourself with competent staff.

Worth thinking about: Almost all important decisions made about you and your career take place when you are not in the room. So, always leave a trail of kindness and respect behind you.

Apex Leaders Make Others Better
No matter how talented you are, you need someone who can make yourself better. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”

Apex Leaders Show Consistency
Organizations and their people suffer because of a lack of appreciation for consistent excellence. No athlete ever demonstrated consistent excellence better than the legendary Hank Aaron. We over-celebrate big results and under-appreciate consistent excellence. Aaron reminds us greatness is not always achieved through short-term spectacular results but sometimes through long-term consistency.

Apex Leaders Give Generously
The model of a generous life is investing in spiritual truth, intellectual capital, money, praise, encouragement, influence, and joy in other people’s lives.

Apex Leaders Lead by Example
You cannot lead by example if you do not effectively lead yourself first. Leading by example means putting the mission of your organization above your personal aspirations. Leaders who lead by example fight for unity.

Apex Leaders Deliver Results
Achieving results is one of the primary things separating Apex Leaders from all others. Delivering results requires preparation, decisiveness, talent, limiting unnecessary mistakes, energy, continual improvement, confidence, good health, and passion. Five-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady said, “Every year has its challenges in different ways … you’ve always got to work on something.” They also deliver under pressure. Brady said, “To me, what separates really good players from great players—execute well under pressure. The biggest game. The biggest stage. That’s what playing quarterback is all about.”

A leaders character and people skills make someone want to follow them. The ability to deliver results determines if someone actually will follow them.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:18 AM
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03.07.18

9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future

Book of Mistakes

I
F SOMEONE IS WILLING to share the wisdom of their experience, it’s worth taking the time to absorb their message. By seeking out the experiences of others, we can grow faster with less drama.

In The Book of Mistakes, Skip Prichard has created for us an absorbing fable of a young man and a young woman who are both part of a mysterious journey to learn the nine mistakes that tend to trip us up. While they make sense, they are not always intuitive. The truths presented here often stand between us and success.

The main story follows David whose life of promise has become ordinary. Through a life-altering event, he has a chance meeting with an Old Man who sets him on a journey that will take him to meet nine unique people who will share the nine mistakes and the impact these mistakes have had on their own lives.

The nine mistakes are framed by three universal laws that are found in an ancient book of wisdom. The parallel story is about Aria and how she comes to be the keeper of the book of wisdom and how she learns of the three laws.

9 Secrets
Printable Graphic download

The three universal laws enable the nine secrets to creating a successful future. To avoid the nine mistakes, you need to:

1. Live your own dream. “A life choreographed by someone else is not our finest performance.”

2. Recognize your inherent value. “Don’t accept the limitations others put on you.” “Others are so quick to define us. They set expectations. They don’t realize when we’ve changed.”

3. Reject excuses. “Behind every excuse is a door to greatness.” “If you want to take your life back, take your thoughts back.”

4. Surround yourself with the right people. “Your friends determine your fate.” “Replace naysayers, doubters, and energy drainers with encouragers, winners, and motivators.”

5. Explore outside your comfort zone. “Mediocrity is the end result of too much comfort.”

6. More forward through challenges with determination and purpose. “Don’t let current circumstances define your destiny.” There will be setbacks but “It doesn’t mean you have to be good at everything or do everything, but if you think it’s a skill that you need to fulfill your purpose, you need to find a way through it.”

7. Stand out. “Standing out is as simple as consistently outperforming expectations.”

8. Act boldly with the knowledge that your potential success is unlimited. “The only limitations you need to worry about are the ones in your mind.” “Helping others magnetizes people to your cause and enhances your success.”

9. Pursue your goals with urgency. Live each day as if it’s your last and your first. “Your last keeps you focused on what really matters. You think about people, about loving those around you. Your first is important because you also must have a longer view, or you will never accomplish the goals that are hard and take longer.”

Each mentor David encounters has their own story that illuminates the mistake they share with us. Their experiences help to identify and relate to the mistake and help us to take action to avoid the mistake in the future. Prichard brings a lot of wisdom to each of these common life issues.

The story is engaging for young and old. Share this book widely because these are the kinds of mistakes that create regret down the road. At the end of your life these are the things that you look back on and wonder why no one ever told you about these pitfalls. We are never too old to learn them and some are more difficult to deal with because of the baggage that often accompanies them. Now is the time to set your course.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:45 AM
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02.07.18

What You Don't Know About Doing Great Work

Great Work

W
HY DO SOME people outperform others? It’s not what you might think—talent, effort, organizational skills, time, or luck. We work under the assumption that more is better. But more time doesn’t necessarily lead to better performance.

Morten Hansen thinks the way we work is broken. Not only that but how we manage and reward work, and how our culture recognizes hard work. What we call hard work may not be our best work.

In Great at Work, Hansen reports on a five-year survey of 5,000 managers and employees, including sales reps, lawyers, actuaries, brokers, medical doctors, software programmers, engineers, store managers, plant foremen, nurses and even a Las Vegas casino dealer. They discovered seven work smart practices. The first four involves mastering your own work, and the last three encompasses mastering working with others.

Do Less, Then Obsess

The common practice he found among the highest-ranked performers in the study was that they carefully selected which priorities, tasks, meetings, customers, ideas or steps to undertake and which to let go. They then applied intense, targeted effort on those few priorities in order to excel. He found that there were just a few key work practices related to this selectivity that accounted for two-thirds of the variation in performance among our subjects.

So working smarter boils down to “maximizing the value of your work by selecting a few activities and applying intense targeted effort.” If we wish to perform better, we should examine our own selectivity process. But that’s only half of it. Not only do we pick a few priorities, but then we must “obsess over your chosen area of focus to excel.” “As few as you can, as many as you must.”

Redesign Your Work

Redesigning work is about creating more value for the same amount of work done. That requires an outside-in view “because it directs attention to the benefits our work brings to others. The typical inside-out view, by contrast, measures work according to whether we have completed our tasks and goals, regardless of whether they produce any benefits.” Hunt for value. Opportunities exist at “pain points.” Ways to create value include: eliminating existing activities of little value, increasing existing activities of high value, creating new activities of high value, improving quality, and doing existing activities more efficiently.

Don’t Just Learn, Loop

The Learning Loop means you learn while you work. Doing great work requires that you are getting feedback every day. In his study, 74 percent of the top performers reviewed their work in an effort to learn and improve. On 17 percent in the underperforming category did.

Aim for Passion and Purpose

You can have one without the other, but we should aim for both. “Purpose and passion are not the same. Passion is ‘do what you love,’ while purpose is ‘do what contributes.’ Purpose asks, ‘What can I give the world?’ Passion asks, ‘What can the world give me?’” With passion and purpose working for you, you bring more energy per hour of work. Passion alone doesn’t guarantee success or happiness. You may need to take a wider view of what ignites you. “Passion can also come from: success, creativity, social interactions, learning, and competence. Expand your circle of passion by tapping into these dimensions.”

Become a Forceful Champion

Getting our work done often hinges on our ability to gain the support of others. Getting other people on board takes more than just explaining the merits of your project. You’ve got to inspire them. The best advocates in their study master two skills in this regard. “They inspired others by evoking emotions, and they circumvented resistance by deploying smart grit.” Beyond just appealing to people’s emotions, they persevere taking into the account the perspective of the people they’re trying to influence and devising tactics that will win them over. Not just grit, but smart grit. Enlist others to help move your project forward. “Too many people try to get others to change by doing all the convincing themselves. They become lone crusaders for their efforts—and they exhaust themselves in the process.”

Fight and Unite

The ability to lead teams is crucial to great work. As a matter of necessity, much of this work takes place in meetings. The trick is to encourage constructive fights in meetings with cognitive diversity. Team members need to “debate the issues, consider alternatives, challenge one another, listen to minority views, scrutinize assumptions, and enable every participant to speak up without fear of retribution.” But after that is done, the team needs to come to a decision quickly and commit to a decision. You must unite. “That means people on a team have to commit to a decision—to agree to it and exert effort to implement it.”

Adopt Disciplined Collaboration

Hansen has identified two sins of collaboration: undercollaboration and overcollaboration. Some people talk too little, and some people talk too much across teams and departments. The goal isn’t collaboration, but better performance. He recommends disciplined collaboration. That is, “they carefully select which collaboration activities to participate in (and reject others), and follow five specific rules to make the chosen activities a success: establish a compelling reason for the collaboration, craft a unifying goal that excites, reward people for results, commit full resources or kill it, and tailor trust boosters to solve any trust issues quickly.

Hansen’s research has statistically linked superior performance to the daily practice of the above seven principles. Fresh and compelling examples are used throughout to fully illustrate the seven smart work practices.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:06 PM
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12.27.17

The Future Happens in the #NOW

Future Happens Now

N
OW is where the future happens. In this moment we will take action that will affect our future or we will not. All we have is now.

In #NOW, Max McKeown asks us the think about our now. He says that “for most people, most of the time, it is better to lean towards action than inaction.” People who grab opportunities that are available now, who don’t waste time looking back, and are regret-minimizers, are what McKeown calls Nowists. It is a flexible mindset so we can all learn to become a little more Nowist in our approach.

Using Your Past

Nowists don’t ignore the past, but they are good at bringing what they want or need from the past to serve them now for the future. They bring “lessons from their previous experiences and good memories” rather than living in the past. One of the reasons that Nowists can see opportunities is that they are not stuck trying to protect their past; spending time and energy on something that no longer makes sense.

Functional Impulsivity

Nowists don’t act without thinking. That’s dysfunctional. But they do possess a certain kind highly impulsive functional thinking. In a study performed at the University of Michigan on impulsivity, researchers found that there were two impulsive traits. There was the “kind that pushes people to decide quickly in a way that is likely to lead to bad consequences. And the kind that allows people to decide quickly with good results.” Successful Nowists benefit from functional impulsivity. They are good at deciding quickly under pressure and are willing to choose an option even at the cost of making a mistake that they can and are willing to correct as they go forward.

Procrastination

Nowists take control of their time. Nowists are good “at sequencing their own actions and the actions of others to get to the future on time.” Because they plan, seeing the future as a stream of connected sequences made up of actions and decisions, they can keep their momentum. And because each decision is connected to many actions, they don’t have to make as many decisions. “They can enjoy the pleasure of seeing progress in the past, present, and future, rather than discrete tasks that seem to add up to very little.”

You can avoid procrastination by changing your learning to see your future in your present. “Moving the priorities of your future-self into the present can become such a natural perspective that you are more likely to start something as early as possible than wait too long.” A Nowist leans towards the future from an “active, practical, let’s-make-this-work view of the world.” They only review the past for insights that will help them move forward. They understand cause and effect. “Not everyone sees clear connections between how actions in the past have created the situation in the present, or how actions in the present will shape, or create, the future.” I we can’t make these connections we are “isolated, disconnected and therefore cut off from the power of the #Now.”

We all exist in the #Now. It is only in the #Now that we can think, do, or change anything in the future. A Nowist is an active optimist. They believe they can make good things happen and take action to create a better future.

Now is a good time to think about your #Now. How will you use your #NOW?


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:19 PM
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12.11.17

There's a Password for Every Door

Bluefishing

H
OW DO YOU make things happen?
How does it feel to not be afraid?

Steve Sims, the founder of Bluefish, has built a company that gets things done. Bluefish makes seemingly out-of-reach, change-your-life, experiences happen. Experiences like training with the Navy Seals, singing with your favorite band, watching Formula 1 in Monaco with royalty, having a private dinner at the feet of Michelangelo’s David while being sung to by Andrea Bocelli, and being James Bond for the weekend. He calls it bluefishing.

Bluefishing is about changing your mindset. It’s about looking at life differently. “You can’t cower your way through life and hope to succeed; you’re going to have to stick your neck out a little.” We usually sell ourselves short.

“Anything I wasn’t achieving in life, any doors that were closed to me, I could figure out the password for.” It’s about understanding what someone wants and finding the right key for each door. Bluefishers look for connections. What are people passionate about and how can I find a win-win for their passions?

Passion is something you have to discover—your own and others too. Bluefishers question everything. They don’t doubt, they question. Read between the lines; get behind the façade. Drill down for it. Ask why at least three times. “The first why is what they think they think, the second why is what they think you want hear, the third why is why they feel.”
If you go in there with the idea that it’s going to fail, or that you’re asking too much, or you’re giving something the person doesn’t really want, you might as well not even go. You’ve gotta go in there knowing that this is really going to happen, but understanding that it’s not going to happen if it benefits only you.

It’s not about how much you know. “I don’t need to know how to do the whole event,” says Sims. “The first thing I need to know is which things I can’t do. The next thing is to find those people who can do what I can’t. I just find the ones who are good enough at doing what I can’t to make me look brilliant.”

Entrepreneurs should take note: You shouldn’t try to do everything, just “be able to magnificently orchestrate those who can.” You grow by giving others responsibility. “There’s a difference between being able to do everything and doing everything.”

Lead the orchestra. “All you want is to find a whole bunch of people with unique abilities, all with their own 5 percent traits or skill that no one else can do. That’s how you build up an irreplaceable team. A dream team.” Don’t spend time on things that slow you down.

Don’t overthink everything. Try something and fail at it over and over until you find out how to do it properly—to see if it is worth pursuing—while everyone else is still trying to work out the demographics. Sims Dad told him, “No one drowned from falling in the water. They drowned from staying there.” Don’t stand still.

When you don’t succeed, it isn’t failure. It is discovery. Failure is final. Discovery is just the beginning. “You didn’t fail. You learned what to do on your next attempt.” It’s an education. “If you build up obstacles in your head, you’re looking for a reason to end it.” That’s failure.

To build your brand, first, do a self-audit. What do you stand for? How do you want people to feel when they are around you? Discover your strengths and manage your weaknesses. “Focus on the smallest element that can bring you down. Focus on your own weak links, the things that foul up your life or your work again and again and again.”

Forget about counting likes. If you tell people how good you are, that’s just selling. Get others to talk about you—recommend you. “What brands need to do—both personal and business brands—is ask other people to validate the truth.” Focus on the community you’re building around you.

Invest in your growth. Get better for your clients—your followers. And let them know. Sims told a friend, “Mate, the only difference between you and me is that I was willing to get into uncomfortable situations. I was willing to look dumb, to be among people that I knew were far more intelligent than me, so that I could learn. There’s no reason to get into a room with people stupider than you.” When you expose yourself to something new, you never go back. Be a sponge.

Bluefishers move, act, do, go. “Action is everything. Learn what you don’t know, then try again.” It doesn’t always work out. When it doesn’t, stop counting your losses. “Sometimes you have to flip the page over and start a new cycle, one that’s focused on something positive.”

Sims shares techniques to support the thinking but the tactics change over time. The thinking never does. Bluefishing is a mentality first, then a stack of tools and behaviors. Learn the password and the doors will open.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:44 AM
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11.23.17

Unconditional Gratitude

Unconditional Gratitude

W
E ARE NOT AUTONOMOUS.

Autonomy is simply looking at life as though we are a world unto ourselves. As though we did it all by ourselves. It’s pride. But the reality is, we are connected.

The opposite of autonomy is gratitude. Gratitude isn’t dead, but it is in trouble. Society does not see gratitude as a moral or a character issue, which it certainly is. Although it is has been scientifically proven to be a key to happiness, it is something much more profound than that.

Most of our problems—especially relational issues—can be traced back to a lack of gratitude. In dealing with any of our problems, you will find that there is a lack of gratitude over something or someone.

The Roman statesman Cicero wrote, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.

Even Adam Smith, the economist that believed that the market should be driven by self-interest, expressed in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, his belief that feelings of gratitude are crucial for maintaining a society that is based on goodwill. He considered gratitude to be a crucial source of social civility and stability.

Like all character traits, gratitude is expressed in action. It is returning a favor, giving thanks, showing appreciation or simply giving someone your time and attention. Cicero said, “There is no duty more indispensable than that of returning a kindness.”

Ingratitude has been called the “essence of vileness” and “the most horrible and unnatural crime that a person is capable of committing.” It is a moral issue that impacts our lives and thinking in significant ways. When we are full of pride, angry, frustrated, depressed, defensive, stressed, irritated or anxious, we would do well take a time-out and uncover our ungratefulness.

Gratitude is most often expressed by simply thanking others, but it is more than just giving thanks. It is a way of looking at life; a way of seeing other people. It is more than a strategy or a technique to influence others. It is a way of being.

We shouldn’t think of gratitude as something that happens at certain moments throughout our life. Real gratitude doesn’t appear at moments in our life, but it is a disposition we have towards life. Real gratitude is unconditional.

Gratitude endures through everything. It is not a fleeting response to our circumstances. You may remember Blanch Dubois’s classic statement in Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, where she said that she always depended on “the kindness of strangers”—people she didn’t know and may never see again. It was not about individual episodes in her life, but rather it speaks to a perspective on life. It’s not just gratefulness to a person but a gratefulness for your existence and how far you’ve come. It’s being aware of your whole life. An awareness of how much we owe to others throughout our life.

Gratitude creates perspective. Gratitude says, “I’m part of something bigger. I am not alone.” It connects us with each other. It strengthens our relationships while moderating our behavior.

The autonomous person rejects gratitude precisely because they must recognize and submit to others in this way. They think, “If I can find something wrong with that person I don’t have to recognize their kindness. I can invalidate them.” The autonomous don’t want to recognize others so that they can justify treating them any way they want. This kind of thinking is not based in reality. Eventually, it leads to self-destruction.

Gratefulness changes us. It strips away our indifference. It puts us in touch with reality because it acknowledges our connections—our networked existence.

It is this gratitude effect—the way it grounds us in reality—that benefits us and those around us the most. Gratitude moderates and even inhibits toxic emotions but more than that, it gives birth to positive emotions. It’s why Cicero said that it was the parent of all of the other virtues. Gratitude gives birth to and nurtures patience, a sense of humor, curiosity, creativity, insight, kindness, respect, courage, generosity, empathy, and positivity to name a few.

Gratitude creates the space for positive emotions to grow and flourish. Anger, irritation, defensiveness, worry, and impatience, are choices. These emotions don’t happen to us; we choose them. Have you ever been in the middle of an angry rant when the phone rings? When you answer the call you are all “sugar and spice and everything nice.” When it’s over you go right back into your angry rant. It’s a choice. The point is, we can choose gratitude to drive these toxic emotions out of our lives. Negative emotions cannot coexist with gratitude.

Gratitude has the power to pull teams together. When things don’t go our way, or when people don’t do what we think they should, we tend to pull away—withdraw. We want to take our ball and go home—disengage. If we can develop a mindset of gratitude, that will not happen. We will stay engaged. We will work together.

Gratitude has the power to slow us down and reflect and refocus our attention on what matters. Sometimes we have to step back to see our life in perspective; to be able to connect the dots. I like the way American writer Ursula Le Guin put it: “If you can see a thing whole—it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives. …But close up a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.”

It’s easy for any of us to lose the pattern, to lose the narrative, to forget what we are doing this all for if we never step back and see the bigger picture with gratitude.

How do we get to the point where gratitude defines who we are?

Humility, of course, makes all of this work. Humility is the ability to silence the self. Humility is valuing other people; appreciating them. Humility allows us to be open to recognizing the good in all of our circumstances. Gratitude is humility in action.

Not surprisingly, the mechanism behind gratitude is remembering. Developing a mindset of gratitude is about remembering.

We don’t come by gratitude naturally. It’s not common sense. It’s something we have to cultivate. And remembering takes effort.

Of course, we can find the differences; we can find the negative. We can dwell on it. It’s the core trait of a toxic individual. But we can combat that by seeking out anything that is excellent or praiseworthy—seeking out the good in any situation. Drawing upon positive memories gives us hope for the future. Unconditional gratitude heals and creates understanding and builds relationships.

Gratitude acknowledges that we are connected. Allow unconditional gratitude to define you as a leader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:40 AM
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11.15.17

What Are Good People?

Good people

W
HAT DO WE MEAN when we say someone is good? Good is often confused with competency. But it is really a character issue. You can be good at your job but doing good is a character issue. Doing good is not just no being bad but intentionally creating more good in the workplace and especially in others.

Anthony Tjan, author of Good People says, “Pursuing goodness in yourself while surrounding yourself with good people is the only leadership decision that really, truly, matters.

Tjan begins a discussion by trying to define good and to build a framework and language to talk about what good is. He defines good people as “those committed to continuously cultivating the values that help them and others become the fullest possible versions of who they are.”

He discusses in detail a concept of goodness based on three cornerstone values:

Truth: A mindset of humility that makes you teachable. Self-awareness and integrity between your thoughts and actions based on that self-awareness

Compassion: An open mind that without bias allows you to understand the actions of others. To practice empathy and act on that empathy with a generous spirit that gives people what they need.

Wholeness: Involves gratitude for the people around you that leads to an outgoing concern for others. Caring and nurturing the growth of others. Having the respect to fulfil your obligations to yourself and others and acting with a degree of wisdom. Knowing what is important.

As leaders this is easier said than done. Daily we face tensions that have to managed as we try to implement our ideals real. Tjan lists five core tensions:
  1. Pragmatism versus Idealism
    Our ambitious goals versus reality. Neither one is good or bad. They are a productive tension. “Purpose and vision should be grounded in a set of enduring and relatable values, or immutable truths, that can guide us through dilemmas and difficulties.”
  2. Short-termism versus Long-termism
    We have a great ability to think long term but we are biased to act short term. Character is a long-term investment.
  3. Vulnerability versus Conviction
    “If we are strong enough to take on our vulnerability, it can fuel the conviction of our purpose.”
  4. Idiosyncrasy versus Connectedness
    Just weird enough but still connected.
  5. Grit versus Acceptance
    “Resolving the tension between grit and acceptance requires a strong and clear sense of purpose, and a strategic philosophy that embraces a willing ness to sense and respond to new information.”

What can we do?

Good people do five things:

Good people put people first in their decision making. What does this do to my people?

Good people grow by continually seeking to improve themselves and help others to become fuller versions of themselves.

While good people value competency, they place a premium on character and values. They commit beyond competency to character and values of truth, compassion, and wholeness.

Good people are realists and find the balance between competing priorities and tensions. Learn to balance the tensions that exist in leadership

Good people aren’t situational but seek to do good at all times. Don’t just practice goodness to avoid badness.

These five things are the Good People Mantra. They are five promises. As leaders we need to break from our role as leader to follower and relate to others human to human. Goodness come from building it in yourself and inspiring it in others.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:10 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.06.17

Shake it Off

Shake it Off

I
T'S EASY FOR LITTLE THINGS to hang you up at work. A customer tells you they are unhappy with a job, your boss gives you that dreaded look of displeasure or a coworker mocks your new haircut. Negative memories can linger for a long time.

Well you’re about to get a leadership lesson from a dog. This is not a typo. Dogs are naturals at exhibiting the leadership they need to be leader of the pack. And they are the masters at shaking things off.

Ever watch a dripping wet dog as it gets out of a pool or a lake? Once it’s on dry land it just shakes it off. No towel or hairdryer needed, just a hypnotic back and forth motion that sprays unwanted water in every direction. And when it’s done the dog just moves on as if nothing ever happened.

At work, we need to learn how to do the same. Many of us make mountains out of mole hills. Instead, we need to practice how to shake things off. After all, that little jab about your new mullet hairdo was meant as a good-natured joke. Heck, they’re probably jealous of your smokin’ hot new Billy Ray Cyrus look.

So how do you shake off these little things at work? Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want.

Trust in others’ positive intentions. It is overwhelmingly more likely that your co-worker is not out to undermine you. So if they jab you for the way you did a project, take it as a learning experience. Pivot to how you can do better the next time.

If you’re on the receiving end of a mean-spirited joke, talk privately with the perpetrator. Pivot to what you want—a good relationship—and let them know how their comments made you feel. Leaders speak truth to power, but in a way that helps everyone come out a winner.

If you’re the leader of a team or office you also need to create an environment where everyone feels happy at work. If you see someone who is not able to shake things off, step in and make things right. Don’t allow the inmates to run the asylum.

Great leaders set the right tone. They show their team how they pivot from the negative—“we lost a good customer”—to the positive—“let’s redouble our efforts to learn from that and win a new customer.” Leaders don’t allow the little things to get under their skin.

There are, of course, some things that we should not shrug off. Constructive criticism, safety concerns and feedback on company policy can be critical to our success within the organization. These big issues are valid and require our buy in.

It’s easy to wallow in misery. If you find the right compatriots you can wail and moan for weeks or years. But it won’t do you any good. Take a leadership lesson from a dog. Pivot from what you don’t want to what you do want. And shake it off.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Krissi Barr, CEO of Barr Corporate Success and co-author of The Fido Factor, a leadership book on the lessons learned from dogs. It isn’t a cute little book about puppies and it won’t teach you how to beg. The Fido Factor is a fresh take on leadership that’s as powerful and practical as it is approachable and relatable. A quick read that’s sprinkled with humor, The Fido Factor is the perfect tool to help you — and your entire team — get a leg up at work.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

09.06.17

The Potential Principle: How Good Could You Be?

Potential Principle

Y
OU KNOW HOW GOOD you are, but do you know how good you could be?

This is a case where it’s easy to think that good is good enough and get comfortable. Most of us live below our potential. As a result, we miss out on opportunities and therefore live below our true potential and hinder our ability to contribute to others.

The Potential Principle by Mark Sanborn is about how we can become better – even better than our best selves. It’s not about perfect. It’s about better.

So you might ask, “Better at what?” Sanborn presents a program to get you on the road to better. First, you need to figure out just what you want to improve.

What Do You Want to Improve?

Your journey toward better can be organized into four areas: Performing, Learning, Reflecting, and Thinking.

Improvement happens by not only things you initiate like interactive, collaborative activities but also by responding to what you hear, observe, learn as represented by the vertical line. Improvement also takes place in both our inner (things going on inside us) and our outer (things going with others) worlds as represented by the horizontal line. It’s about the inner world of being versus the outer world of performing.

Potential Matrix

Performing

The top right quadrant is the most familiar to us. “It’s where most of us consciously spend each day doing things: the observable world of initiating, acting, and producing.” It’s what people expect of us when we show up – results. It takes deliberate practice. Performance improvement is not a straight line. There are plateaus. Also, keep in mind the FIT model: Frequency, Intensity, and Technique. How often you practice, the intensity you bring to it and the techniques you use, make all the difference.

Learning

Learning involves the acquisition of new ideas that we put into practice. If we approach life humbly, we will be enriched by what we do not know. Intentional curiosity keeps us growing. “Develop a learning agenda.” Identify what you must or need to learn and then make the time and find the resources to do it.

Reflecting

Reflecting is the inner world of responding. This is an underappreciated value in our instant, tech driven world. It’s about waiting and listening. “Epiphanies—that is, clarity and deeper understanding about yourself and how to improve your life—happen through introspection.” It’s easy to think that we have no time for this and focus on the outer world of doing, but, says Sanborn, “the inner world informs the outer world, and that for the majority of us, going within to understand motivations, hopes fears, and dreams offers some of the greatest leverage to improving every area of our lives.”

Thinking

Think about thinking. “Thinking is about proactively contemplating the world around you. It’s the source of vision, dreams, plans, and strategies. It uses external input and creates connections and directions.” Make the time to think about what you need to learn and unlearn. Focus your thinking and write it down. “Some of the biggest payoffs from thinking will occur when you review notes of previous thinking sessions and add to or modify what you came up with.

Sanborn explains each of these areas in more detail to help you develop the right mindset. Improvement in these four areas are key to improving consistently.

To be sure, each of us is more comfortable on one or two of these areas. If you are not spending enough time in an area, that will signal an area where you could improve. “Each area complements the others. If you are headed toward better, you’ll want to use each of the four areas identified. Doing so will help you reach your destination sooner and, perhaps more important, enrich the trip.”

Four Tools for Breakthrough Improvement

These four tools will help you “prevent complacency, create improvement, and bust through barriers” on your improvement journey.
  1. Disrupt Yourself (before someone else does)
    “Unwillingness to confront assumptions, challenge your thinking, and try new things is a roadblock to improvement.” It’s proactive rather than reactive. Ask disruptive questions like: “What is the most important lesson I’ve learned this past year? What am I doing out of habit that doesn’t serve me well?
  2. (re)Focus
    “Distraction impedes getting better.”
  3. Engage Others
    “Self-responsibility is the primary step toward a successful life. But engaging others and building mutually beneficial relationships will leverage everything you do.” Solicit advice, ideas, and counsel.
  4. Expand Your Capacity
    There’s room for more. Time x Effort = Capacity. “What one or two skills, if fully developed and consistently deployed, would make the biggest difference in your personal and professional improvement?”

The ideas you will find in The Potential Principle are not all new, but they are organized in such a way as to make them actionable. Sanborn has done a great job of laying the foundation and providing a blueprint for continuous improvement. All you need to do now is to put it into practice.

Quote 
It seems like common sense: Become the best, and then hit cruise control. Right? Nope. When you reach the top, it’s time to hit the accelerator because you’re just getting started.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:28 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development

08.28.17

The Mood Elevator

Mood Elevator

W
E ALL have mood swings.

But once we accept the fact that moods aren’t something that happen to us, but are the result of our thinking, we can do something to control them—or at least manage them better.

Senn Delaney, Chairman and founder of Senn Delaney, wrote The Mood Elevator to help us take charge of our emotions and control our rides on the Mood Elevator.

Step one is understanding that the way we respond to outside events depends on what is happening inside our heads. “There may be events that stimulate our thoughts, but it is the thoughts that determine our moods.” Reality is reality; it’s what we make of it that makes a difference in our lives.
You will never let go of your moods completely, but knowing that hour thoughts are the source of those moods can provide a little added distance and help you remain in control. It’s a powerful first step to learning to ride up the Mood Elevator rather than feeling like a helpless victim of emotional forces you can’t control.

Why Does It Matter?

When we are down the Mood Elevator our thinking is closed. When we travel up the Mood Elevator our thinking improves and opens up. We can reconnect with our best self.
We all come into this world with the potential for mental and emotional health. Our natural state is to be loving, creative, trusting, forgiving, curious, happy, and desirous of warm, close relationships with others. Unfortunately, as we grow up most of us develop thought habits or beliefs that can mask or obscure our innate health. At some point we are hurt by someone, and we may become guarded and defensive. We are criticized for a mistake, and we may earn to make excuses and blame others, seeking to become less accountable so we don’t look bad.

Mood ElevatorWhen we are up the Mood Elevator it is easier to maintain our sense of perspective and keep our cool in times of difficulty, stress, or conflict. Traveling up the Mood Elevator we are more ready to access the sources of original ideas.

Unfortunately, we can become stuck so long on the lower floors of the Mood Elevator that we can begin to think that it’s normal. Recognize when you are staying on the lower-floor emotions. Although it doesn’t make us happy, we can actually grow comfortable with self-destructive patterns of thought, negative thinking and victimization. So we feed these thinking patterns and reinforce them with stories told to validate our perspective on life. Other people are often motivated by the same things we are. It’s just that their perspective is different than ours. It’s best for us if we let it go.

How to Move Up the Mood Elevator

The dividing line is curiosity because when something happens that threatens to pull you down to the lower floors, you can stop yourself and ask, “I wonder why they did that? It would be interesting to find out.” We tend to rush to the judgmental/blaming floor but with a curious perspective you can begin to move up to the higher floors.

Learn to interrupt your own mood patterns and typical responses. A good night’s sleep, exercise, deep breathing, positive self-talk, and even listen to your favorite music can all help in this regard.

Adapt an attitude of mild preference. Senn explains:
Living in mild preference doesn’t mean adopting a Pollyanna attitude. It does mean looking for positive steps you can take to solve problems when they arise—and refusing to wallow in the emotions of frustration and anger that problems can so easily generate. Living in mild preference does not mean having no standards or principles. It does mean being selective about how and when to apply your standards and principles—choosing your battels carefully, as the saying goes.

Naturally a sense of humor and humility help here. But at the top of the Mood Elevator you will find gratefulness. Senn calls it the overriding emotion. “It’s almost impossible to be grateful and at the same time be angry, depressed, irritated, or self-righteous.” Gratitude is a good way to maintain a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your life. “Focus on activities that will nourish your sense of gratitude and your appreciation for the blessings you’ve already been granted.”.

A few other important thoughts to help us manage our moods:
Recognize and honor separate realties we all live in. Be quick to understand other’s perspectives and slow to blame or criticize.

Remember that your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states, so delay important conversations and decisions; don’t act on your unreliable thinking, and don’t take your lower mood state out on other people.

Have faith when you are down on the Mood Elevator, that this too shall pass.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

08.18.17

4 Things Solitude Will Do for You

Solitude

W
E LIVE in an age of noise. Getting some time for yourself is a challenge. But if we are going to lead effectively, we need white space. We need solitude.

I know none of us have any extra time, but there is overwhelming evidence that taking a time-out to simply think is foundational to your success.

Raymond Kethledge and Michael Erwin explore some solid reasons why you must make the time to think in Lead Yourself First.

When we say solitude we mean a “subjective state of mind, in which the mind, isolated from input from other minds, works through a problem on its own.” There is no particular structure to it—place, time, or length—but it must focus the mind. It’s scheduled white space—a commitment you make to yourself simply because your leadership begins with who you are—not what you do.

So let’s look at four things solitude will do for you.

Clarity

Clarity is about what is true. What is signal and what is noise? Solitude facilitates that distillation process. It helps you to eliminate or deliberately deemphasize all distractions. That alone will help you to make the time to think. Clarity and focus go hand-in-hand. That kind of focused attention is often best done alone.

Intuition complements analytical thought. When we get stuck, “intuition can provide clarity when analytical thinking cannot.” The challenge is accessing it. Accessing intuition requires “a deeper form of solitude: an absence of inputs not only from other minds, but also from one’s own.”

Clarity is important for decision-making but it is also critical for understanding who you are—strengths and weaknesses. It helps to connect you with your core values and understand your place from that perspective.

Creativity

Solitude opens the path to creativity. Solitude isn’t always the shortest distance to the goal. Joey Reiman, CEO of the consulting firm BrightHouse, credits their success to their “longer, incubation pace.” On one project he says, “If we had moved at a faster, business pace, we never would have excavated that original brand identity and then generalized it into a new ethos.”

Dena Braeger, mother of six in El Paso, offered this insight into information overload:
People make such an effort to copy what other people do, because we have so much access to information. I’m surrounded by people on Pinterest. I’ll be dammed if I make something on Pinterest. You’ll see things like these cupcakes that look amazing. And people copy them. But on the inside their phony, because the person didn’t create it themselves. We’re getting more of everything, but less of what is authentically ourselves. If we spent more time alone, creating something that might not look as amazing but is more authentic, we’d value ourselves more.

Creativity is doing something differently than the norm. Solitude allows us to get away from the inertia of our environment and connect to new possibilities.

Emotional Balance

Emotional balance requires you to respond rather than react. General James Mattis finds a lack of reflection the single biggest problem facing leaders. “The leader who neglects to step out of the sweep of events, to contemplate from whence they come and where they might go. Finds himself merely blown from one thing to another. But the leader who steps outside events is a leader who can change them.”

Solitude allows you to reflect on what is making you emotional and provide clarity on the issue. Often what you are emotional about is more of a distraction than an issue. Again Dena Braeger, the West Point graduate and mother of six in El Paso, said, “When I’m practicing solitude regularly, I self-correct so much better. I’m more focused on what’s important, and I let things go that aren’t important.”

Instead of allowing our emotions to adversely affect our leadership, it is wise to move away and deal with them in private. Our emotions will find an outlet somewhere. And that is best alone than in decisions made through unfiltered emotions that affect those around us.

Moral Courage

We’ve all seen them: leaders who take themselves too seriously—who believe their own press release. And it’s all too easy for any of us to fall prey to self-admiration. “Honest reflation can deflate these pretentions.” Reflection can pave the way to humility.

Solitude allows you to slow down and be clear and firmly convicted of your values and beliefs. “Leaders who are well anchored in what they believe are going to be more effective,” says Doug Conant, the former CEO and president of the Campbell Soup Company. When those criticisms come along that are design to enforce conformity, it is easier to weather the storm when you know that what you are doing is the right thing to do for the right reasons. It is the power to rise above.

Reclaiming Solitude

Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly, says that “The biggest mistake I’ve made in my career to date is believing that solitude is a luxury. I could chart the ups and downs of my quality of life personally and professionally and the amount of time I spend in solitude.” As important as it is, it is easy to let it slip away without even realizing it. We are continuously bombarded by pressures—both personal and social—not to stop and reflect but if we lose our solitude, we will lose who we are.

You don’t have to go off to a mountaintop or sit at the seashore. It can be a closed room, the library, a park bench, and even a waiting room.

We have a responsibility to seek out periods of solitude. We owe it to ourselves and those we lead.
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Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Does Your Leadership Have “White Space?”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:05 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development

08.16.17

5 Ways You Can Improve Your Relationships

Arcement

K
NOWING how to work with and relate to people is an imperative. Relationship building is critical for anyone wishing to rise to any position of leadership. The guidelines for achievement are many. Here are five ideas you might be able to start using today:
  1. Avoid becoming an antagonist. Antagonism doesn’t build friends. It is acceptable to disagree on an issue. But reaching the level of adversary builds resistance to you and your ideas. Learn to disagree in a professional manner. You can have strong support for your belief without antagonizing. (A little patience goes a long way here). It may be surprising to you that the strategy works more often than not. And, in the long term, it enhances your ability to influence.

  2. Always thank anyone who helps, even in the slightest way. Even small events deserve a sincere round of thanks. People appreciate appreciation and “thank you” does exactly that. This is especially important for the people that work under your leadership. Never miss an opportunity to express sincere thanks for a job well done. Go the extra mile and send a hand written note expressing your appreciation. Doing so separates you from others who are not as considerate and appreciative for the help of others. Stand Out! Write!

  3. Treat everyone you meet well. What I’m saying here is have a genuine respect for those you meet. Starting from that position moves the relationship in a positive direction. Business owners (leaders) need to greet customers in this manner. Doing so is the first step to creating an atmosphere for long-term customer relations. Showing respect builds trust of the leader. Couple that with a genuine desire to serve and you make leadership a successful practice.

  4. Build your speaking skills and you will build your people skills. Words are powerful tools. Become masters of conversation and you enhance your ability to lead. Delivering messages with great clarity and understanding builds followers, a necessary component of leadership. Delivering words with passion and believability can influence, another important quality of a leader. But, let’s not forget another important part of communication, listening. Learn how to speak well and give equal importance to learning how to listen well.

  5. Conflict is more likely to get resolved with calmness than with any other method. Staying calm disarms conflict. Echoing their emotions is a catalyst for a fight. It’s difficult to argue with or fight calmness.

    A manager once approached me in an agitated manner. I had scheduled a safety training for his department. I assumed, as a new safety manager, that I just scheduled training and people attended. My mistake was not checking with him to verify if my proposed schedule worked for his employees. Instead of arguing or disagreeing, I realized I had made a mistake and apologized. He stopped in his tracks. And, with a confused look on his face, lost his hostility and words. I told him I would work with him to reschedule this training. In the future, I would work with him when offering other training. This calm approach disarmed him and he walked away without a word.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Billy Arcement, MEd—The Leadership Strategist. He is a professional speaker, consultant, executive coach, and author of three books and over 300 published articles. He provides leadership solutions that improve performance. See SearchingForSuccess.com to learn about his services and contact information.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:14 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

06.20.17

Humility is the New Smart: Are You Ready?

Humility is the New Smart

S
MART used to be a quantity game. “I know more than you. I get more things right.” But Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig say that in the new Smart Machine Age, that’s losing game. The new smart is about quality. Specifically, the quality of your thinking, your listening, and your relating and collaborative skills.

Are you ready?

The Smart Machine Age (SMA) will revolutionize how most of us live and work. In Humility is the New Smart, the authors state that “smart technologies will become ubiquitous, invading and changing many aspects of our professional and personal lives and in many ways challenging our fundamental beliefs about success, opportunity, and the American Dream.” This means that the “number and types of available jobs and required skills will turn our lives and our children’s lives upside down.”

New skills will be needed. Uniquely human skills. Those skills, while uniquely human, are not what we are typically trained to do and require a deal of messy personal development. We will need to become better thinkers, listeners, relators, and collaborators, while working to overcome our culture of obsessive individualism in order to thrive in the SMA. Humility is the mindset that will make all of this possible.
Most of today’s adults have had no formal training in how to think, how to listen, how to learn and experiment through inquiry, how to emotionally engage, how to manage emotions, how to collaborate, or how to embrace mistakes as learning opportunities.

In short, say the authors, we need to acquire and continually develop four fundamental NewSmart behaviors:

Quieting Ego

Quieting Ego has always been the challenge for us humans. As they observe, “Even if we don’t consider ourselves part of the ‘big me’ cultural phenomenon, for many of us to feel good about ourselves we have to constantly be ‘right,’ self-enhance, self-promote, and conceal our weaknesses, all of which drive ego defensiveness and failure intolerance that impedes higher-level thinking and relating.” This tendency negatively affects our behavior, thinking, and ability to relate to and engage with others.

Managing Self—Thinking and Emotions

We need to get above ourselves to see ourselves impartially. We all struggle “to self-regulate our basic humanity—our biases, fears, insecurities, and natural fight-flee-or-freeze response to stress and anxiety.” We need to be willing to treat all of our “beliefs (not values) as hypotheses subject to stress tests and modification by better data.”

Negative emotions cause narrow-mindedness. Positive emotions on the other hand, have been scientifically linked to “broader attention, open-mindedness, deeper focus, and more flexible thinking, all of which underlie creativity and innovative thinking.”

Reflective Listening

Because we are limited by our own thinking, we need to listen to others to “open our minds and, push past our biases and mental models, and mitigate self-absorption in order to collaborate and build better relationships.” The problem is “we’re just too wired to confirm what we already believe, and we feel too comfortable having a cohesive simple story of how our world works.” Listening to others helps to quiet our ego.

Otherness

To create these new behaviors and mindsets, it should become obvious that we need to enlist the help of others. “We can’t think, innovate, or relate at our best alone.” As Barbara Fredrickson observed, “nobody reaches his or her full potential in isolation.” Jane Dutton out it this way: “It seems to be another fact that no man can come to know himself except as the outcome of disclosing himself to another.”

The NewSmart Organization

Optimal human performance in the SMA will require an emphasis on the emotional aspects of critical thinking, creativity, innovation and engaging with others. “The work environment must be designed to reduce fears, insecurities, and other negative emotions.

To do this it means “providing people a feeling of being respected, held in positive regard, and listened to. It means creating opportunities for people to connect and build trust. “It means allocating time and designing work environments that bring people together to relate about nonwork matters.” Finally, it means getting to know employees and helping them to get the “right training or opportunities to develop and provide feedback.”

The NewSmart organization needs to be a safe place to learn. “Feeling safe means that you feel that your boss your employer, and your colleagues will do you no harm as you try to learn.”

The New Smart

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Of Related Interest:
  Learn or Die

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:28 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Positive Leadership

06.05.17

How to Avoid Your Leadership Gap

Leadership Gap

T
HE GAP IN OUR LEADERSHIP arises as a result of the disconnect between how we think people are experiencing our leadership and how they are actually experiencing our leadership. And where we find that disconnect we limit or even derail our leadership potential.

In The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal addresses this gap—what it is, why it happens, and what we can do about it. The gap is always there but at some point it comes the surface to sabotage us. What if we don’t know what we think we know?
The problem is that one day, suddenly, what once worked so well to propel their rise stops working. And the very same traits that had worked for them actually start working against them.
It is at this point that we need to begin asking ourselves some questions. “What is the gap between who I am and who I want to be, and do I know what it is I still need to learn?” In short, “Who am I being?” We need to rethink how our behaviors are perceived by those around us. And when there is that gap between how we want to be perceived and how we are actually being perceived, we need to take action. “Learning to recognize your leadership gap is the factor that determines your greatness as a leader.” Sometimes we overuse a strength and sometimes we drift into the shadow side of our strengths. Either way, an understanding of what drives can give us the insight we need to avoid our leadership gaps.

Daskal invites us to look at who we are being and the instincts that drive our behaviors. The “shadow” you. She has developed seven leadership architypes to help us gain some clarity as to what drives our beliefs and therefore our behaviors. We aren’t necessarily one type as we tend to shift from one to another depending on the circumstances but “we tend to lean repeatedly toward the same archetype persona.”

The Seven Archetypes

rebelThe Rebel who is driven by confidence. “How can I push the envelope?” The gap is self-doubt. The gap architype is The Imposter who is so insecure they play havoc with their mind because they have self-doubt. The key to the Rebel’s success is confidence, but self-doubt that often accompanies great success, undermines their confidence and they act out of the imposter syndrome. They undermine their leadership thus keeping them from achieving greatness.

explorerThe Explorer who is fueled by intuition. “What can I discover?” The gap is manipulation. The gap architype is The Exploiter who manipulates every chance they get just so you will not know how powerless they really feel. The tendency for the Explorer is to use their intuition to manipulate others to gain control. Daskal notes, “Whereas intuition makes things better for others, manipulation is always about making things better for you.”

truthThe Truth Teller who embraces candor. “Where should I speak up?” The gap is suspicion. The gap architype is The Deceiver who is suspicious about everyone because they cannot trust themselves to speak the truth. Discovering the truth and then speaking up for what is right is never easy but when we find we have been deceived, we can become paranoid and suspicious of others undermining our influence. We can become a kind of victim that will not speak up when we need to because of our paranoia.

heroThe Hero who embodies courage. “Where is courage needed?” The gap is fear. The gap architype is The Bystander who is too fearful to be brave, too conservative to take a risk, and too cautious to take a stand. Once enabled by courage, they are now sidelined by fear. “Most of us not really afraid of being brave—we are afraid of what it takes to be brave. We are not really afraid of losing everything—we are afraid of what will happen when we have nothing.”

inventorThe Inventor who is brimming with integrity. “How can we make this better?” No matter what you do you will be “held accountable and responsible as people. Everything in business, leadership, and success is founded on the virtue of integrity—it is the force that leads the way.” The gap is corruption. The gap archetype is The Destroyer who is morally corrupt. While an Inventor puts their personal values into practice, if those values become corrupted, usually by forces such as ego, personal gain, or anger, they destroy the organization from within. The Destroyer advocates cutting corners, quick fixes and compromising quality and standards. “The Inventor maintains his or her integrity while thinking outside the box.”

navigatorThe Navigator who trusts and is trusted as they guide people to where they need to go. “How can we get to where we need to go?” The gap is arrogance. The gap architype is The Fixer who a chronic rescuer no one trusts They want to help too much, fix too much and rescue too much. “Navigators have a way of making the complicated simple, and the simple understandable. They inspire trust. But their ability and confidence to know where to go and become an arrogance that attempt to control others—to do for others what they need to be doing themselves.

knightThe Knight for whom loyalty is everything and will stand beside you and will serve you before they serve themselves. “How can I serve you?” The gap is self-serving. The gap architype is The Mercenary who is self -serving and put their own needs before those of the team, the business or the organization. Often the transition from serving to self-serving is subtle. “Loyal employees become disloyal one infraction at a time. Only after unfaithfulness shapes itself does the self-serving attitude emerge in a way it can be detected and deciphered.”

Daskal reminds us that understanding our weaknesses is our greatest strength. From these seven architypes we can see how each has powerful abilities and hidden impediments. By knowing the gaps we can get into we can better use our strengths to achieve our own leadership greatness.

Daskal explains each of these architypes in detail and importantly how we avoid these gaps. She describes what the positive looks like and what the negative looks like with examples for each.

The Leadership Gap provides the antidote for leading on autopilot. Daskal provides the insight into our behaviors and beliefs that can if not managed properly can derail even the most talented and successful leaders. Confronting and avoiding our leadership gaps is the key to attaining long-term leadership success.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:03 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

05.26.17

Lifestorming: Creating the Life You Want

Sam Zell

T
WO OF THE TOP top coaches of our time, Alan Weiss and Marshall Goldsmith, have come together to write a book about how to grow into possibility—your unique possibility.

Lifestorming: Creating Meaning and Achievement in Your Career and Life presents life as a journey without a “there.” An evolutionary journey through life. The goal for each of us is to take on life and enjoy it immensely by developing the required character and engaging in it enormously.

As we go through life, “people skills are usually the key differentiators of success.” It is imperative that we work on ourselves. We begin by understanding where we are and then where we want to be. “The fundamental work of changing our behavior for the better is ultimately our own responsibility.”

Going it alone is not easy and not the most effective way to implement major changes. We need a coach—or someone in our life that can act as a coach—because we need accountability and frankly, all too often, we don’t know what it is we really need to change.

Replace Poor Behaviors

When thinking about change, our strategy needs to be not to change poor behavior but to replace it. We cling to poor behaviors because we get something from it. Even in the midst of painful consequences we can find some comfort in reproducing old ways of thinking. So, we need to find a positive, constructive behavior to replace the negative behavior that is currently generating the reward we seek without all of the collateral damage.. “We often engage in behavior for no other reason than that we’ve never examined alternatives.”

Challenge Your Beliefs

If we can get to the beliefs behind our actions we can better regulate our behaviors. It’s important to remember too, that “we aren’t in a snapshot; we’re part of a film. We deal with what is today, knowing that it shouldn’t necessarily be what is tomorrow.”

Beliefs form attitudes which in turn create behaviors. “Attitudes are the connectors—the synapses—between beliefs and behavior, a self-comforting way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically reflected in a person’s behavior.” Everything we do comes from how we look at life—our personal reality.

Remaining Faithful to Our Growth Plan

We need to create a support system and we are responsible for creating our own support system. As a journey, we need to understand that behavior is more important than victories. “If you engage in consistently correct behavior, you’ll be successful.” Seek excellence, not perfection. “Once you’re content with excellence, you’ll improve daily and will act daily with alacrity and intent.” And learn when to fold and when to hold. “There is a time when you cannot change things, they will not get better on their own, and you need to take a sharp right turn to escape your predicament.” They caution: “If we don’t accept the things we can’t change, we’ll forever be stressed and unhealthy.”

A growth journey is not always easy and there will be obstacles. “Achieving success does not immediately or automatically make life easier. Instead, it usually creates new challenges—often ones we didn’t anticipate.”

“We know that whatever fate delivers, we have some agency—even if it’s only in how we react.” We need to stay in control of ourselves and only take prudent risks. For example, don’t gamble with finances, time, health, or relationships.

As we grow, a spirit of generosity will help us to keep from backsliding. A scarcity mindset weakens and limits us. We must expand our view. “We have to think differently and think bigger. Instead of extrapolating from where we are today and looking at arithmetic growth, we must paint a picture of the future and decide how to achieve it through geometric growth. Our journey is a moving target.”

Lifestorming addresses the pitfalls of growth and the traps we fall into—like the need to be right. You will find a complete and effective plan to guide you on your own growth journey. The authors also share their own personal stories for encouragement. Lifestorming pack years of experience into one book.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:25 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

04.28.17

4 Ways to Avoid False Humility

False Humility

H
UMILITY IS A CHOICE. When you meet a humble person you know you will be accepted, respected and listened to. They won’t try to manipulate you, control you, criticize you or try to impress you. They are safe.

When we haven’t conquered our pride putting on false humility might seem like the shortcut to the benefits of being a truly humble person. We’ve all met these kinds of people. False humility is nothing but arrogance.

In Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success, Pat Williams, author and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, suggests four ways we can avoid the mask of false humility.

1. Take time to reflect on the person you are—and the person you want to be.

If we are genuinely humble, we are keenly aware of the disparity between who we are and who we aspire to be. We recognize that we have not already arrived, in terms of our character, integrity, and accomplishments. We are works in progress.

We need to remember that it’s easy over time to become someone we really don’t want to be. Williams cites Stanford professor Roderick Kramer:
When I ask respondents to explain why they think the process of experiencing great success will not change them in any fundamental way, they typically say something along the lines of, “Because I know what kind of person I am”….It is as if in finding success they will become merely bigger and better versions of what they are now. They can’t even imagine that they could ever fall from grace. And that, of course, guarantees that some of them will.

2. Ask a few trusted friends to be brutally honest with you.

We all need people in our lives who will hold up a mirror and show us who we truly are so we won’t be walking around with the moral equivalent of spinach in our teeth. Truth is a powerful antidote to self-deception and false humility. If you always have people in your life who will tell you the truth for your own good, and if you humbly need their wise counsel, they will save you from a multitude of self-inflicted wounds.

3. Immediately and humbly admit your faults and failures.

In other words, apologize without delay. Anyone who tries to achieve anything is bound to make mistakes. The greater your goals, the bigger your potential blunders. Our natural tendency is to deny our failings and shortcomings. We don’t like to admit that we’ve messed up. We prefer to protect our pride and our egos.

If you want to recover from a moral failure or a lapse in judgment, the key is o apologize fully, specifically, and humbly. Don’t try to get away with a non-apology apology. Be sincere. Take your lumps. Learn your lessons.

4. Be honestly humble and humbly honest.

Don’t inflate your resume—but don’t deflate it either. It’s perfectly wise and acceptable to own yur achievements and state your qualifications. Just don’t brag or take more credit than you’ve earned.

There’s never any need for false modesty. False modesty tends to break down authentic humility because it becomes hard to know where your real humility leaves off and your phony humility begins. Yu become so accustomed to devaluing your own talent, accomplishments, and self-worth that you actually lose confidence in yourself. Yu stop speaking up, stop advocating for what you believe, stop pursuing your own goals. In short, you start believing your own self-depreciating falsehoods.

Genuine humility is the best policy. False modesty comes from ego and pride. As Canadian humorist Eric Nicol observed, “I am keenly aware of the need to avoid false modesty. Which, like false teeth, can make you talk funny.”

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Adapted from Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success by Pat Williams with Jim Denney

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Of Related Interest:
  Humility Casts a Wide Net
  Humility Is a Core Quality Found In Great Leaders
  Footwashing for Leaders

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:16 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

04.26.17

Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less

Stretch

I
N HIS BOOK Stretch, Scott Sonenshein dispels the notion that having more resources = getting better results and replaces it with the conviction that a better use of resources = getting better results.

We are under more pressure than ever to do more. The idea that we can stretch and do more with what we already have begins to remove us from the dehumanizing rat race for resources that is impossible to win. Chasing limits us. Stretch liberates.

Especially in uncertain times, “stretching equips us with the abilities to adapt and change when facing a less predictable set of circumstances.”

One of the reasons we chase instead of stretch is because fail to see how we might see a resources beyond its traditional use. It’s also easy to assume that if we just had more money we could spend our way out of our problems. It’s often easier to acquire things than to think about how to use those same resources in more productive ways. “The problem is that chasers become so fixated on acquiring resources that they lose sight of what those resources will do for them” so we end up squandering them.

We need to place more focus on what we already have. “Stretchers find beauty and richness in places where others struggle to see anything of value. Too often, we understand, interact with, and use things at face value, locking ourselves into conventions that limit possibilities.” Our creativity is sparked by constraints. Filmmaker Robert Rodrigues comments:
The creative person with limitless imagination and no money can make a better film than the talentless mogul with the limitless checkbook every time. Take advantage of your disadvantages, feature the few assets you may have, and work harder than anyone else around you.
Outsiders can often stretch by seeing possibilities that we can’t because we are the expert or just too close to the issue. “Breadth of experiences helps people stretch.” The well rounded often outperform those who are deeply focused on a single thing especially when trying to solve complex problems. It makes a case for a liberal arts education.

We need to repeatedly go outside ourselves. “Temporary departures from our small worlds can come from short bursts of new activities such as reading about another field, finding a hobby, or having conversations with people from different backgrounds.”

Stretching is not about being a cheapskate. There is a difference between frugal and cheap.

A Stretching Roadmap

In summary, here are a dozen ways Sonenshein suggests to help get us into the stretching habit.

Just Say NoStretching
Just say no to more resources. Ask: “If I only didn’t have these resources, I could…” “By saying no to more resources, we’re saying yes to an entirely new outlook on working and living.”

Find a Sleeping Beauty
It’s easy to miss what is right before us. Again an outsider can help here. “In the world beyond fairy tales, a lot of resources lie dormant. If we look hard enough, we’ll find resources all around us waiting to be activated. We just need to awaken them to benefit from more than we thought we had, allowing us to solve different problems and pursue promising opportunities that otherwise might be impossible.”

Go Explore
Dedicate time every week to reading something different, educate yourself outside of your industry, take lunch with someone new, or spend time with outsiders. Leave your comfort zone.

Take a Break (and Pay Less Attention)
Consider rotating between difficult work and mindless work. “Mindless work recharges our batteries, readies us to do more down the road, and lets our mind wander to find new connections among our resources.” Take a walk to find new connections. Consider putting yourself on the clock to provide a mandatory beginning and ending to your work.

Pick New Neighbors
“Whom we spend time with shapes a lot of our behavior.” You don’t need to change zip codes. “Instead, identify one stretcher you admire and already know. Commit to spending at least one hour with him or her once a month.”

Appreciate
“When people are grateful, they expand how they think about resources, often in ways that try to help others.” Also, by appreciating what we have, it makes it easier to say no to tempting things we lack but really don’t need.

Shop Your Closet
Use what you have. “Many of the best known inventions came from existing products. Play-Doh started as a wallpaper cleaning compound that became obsolete with the rise of vinyl wallpaper in the 1950s; the corkscrew came from a military tool to remove bullets; and Pyrex came from material from train lantern glass the wife of a scientist at Corning Glass Work experimented with to bake a cake.”

Plan Backward
Think improvisation. Without a plan is often difficult to get started. But “jazz music replaces a plan with improvisation, teaching us to act and respond more spontaneously. Once we get moving, we free ourselves from worrying about plotting and following a plan and focus on observing and learning from our actions.”

Scramble the Back Row
To remove chess players from entrenched thinking, Bobby Fischer suggested randomly scrambling the back row. “If we find ourselves too regularly on autopilot, it might be time to scramble our back rows. There’s comfort in habits, but it’s critical to avoid being complacent with how things are, closing off the possibility of imagining how things might be better.”

Make Midyear Resolutions
“Why wait until the beginning of the year to make a pledge. The midyear resolutions also allow us to take stock of how we did with our New Year’s resolutions and set additional goals from a presumably clearer head space.”

Break it Down
If we can break down our resources to their smallest components, then it becomes easier to see the hidden potential.

Turn Treasure into Trash
Keep a benefits diary to records unexpected benefits from you key events, activities, or experiences. “Once we find a hidden benefit in something, we can turn it into a treasure.

Stretch is a very well done book. Good and relevant examples give power to the points he is making. By chasing resources we really limit our potential. Stretching brings out our best.

Equals

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Quote 
In Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less - and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined, you will learn to rethink what you need to succeed, and do more with what you already have. Scott Sonenshein examines why some people and organizations succeed with so little while others fail with so much.


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Of Related Interest:
  A Beautiful Constraint
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:55 PM
| Comments (0) | Management , Personal Development , Problem Solving

04.19.17

Ego Free Leadership

Ego Free Leadership

E
GO IS A CONSTANT preoccupation with our self-worth.
Each of us has beliefs and fears about our value, and they cause defensive and/or self-promotional behaviors when under stress. Whether in a meeting, a presentation, or a relationship, part of our attention—sometimes all of it—is preoccupied by our view of our self. Are we competent? Respected? Intelligent? Liked? Attractive? Included? Each of us has a set of criteria we unconsciously judge ourselves against. When we measure up, we feel pride, even superiority. When we don’t, we feel uncomfortable, stressed, often afraid.
Ego Free Leadership is co-written by executive coach Shayne Hughes, president of Learning as Leadership and Brandon Black the retired CEO of Encore Capital Group. The book tracks Black’s journey from acknowledging to changing the destructive elements of his ego. Once he committed to change, the transformation began in his team and throughout the culture of the Encore organization. Quite effectively, Hughes and Black go back and forth sharing their perspectives on the unfolding transformation. Naturally, it’s not a step-by-step prescription, but it is instructive to see the process because we all share similar issues and thinking.

They begin by debunking the "ego is good" myth. Our egos limit us as we try to protect it in various ways. “Our ego can’t stand failure, incompetence, or weakness, so it avoids what is truly challenging us.

When we feel at the mercy of what is happening around us we react often distorting reality. “We read criticism, abandonment, judgment, competitiveness, and aggression into a situation where it may not exist.” We seek to fix what we believe is causing our distress resorting to learned behaviors that really don’t serve us well.

Anytime we know intellectually what to do, but our actual behavior is inconsistent or in contradiction, it is a sign we are being short-circuited by our egosystem. These behavioral derailers come in many forms: conflict avoidance, procrastination, defensiveness, people pleasing, shutting down, being argumentative, just to name a few. Upon examination, these ingrained knee-jerk reactions invariably prove to be predictable and recurrent.” It’s not just the way we are, it’s the way we have learned to be. In order to defuse our reactive behaviors we need to identify the underlying triggers that created our behaviors in the first place.

Here are some insights from Ego Free Leadership:

Intellectually it’s easy to decide that learning, growing, or creating authentic relationships is more important than not appearing incompetent, failing, or being hurt. Unfortunately, this is not how we feel at a visceral level, or we wouldn’t be continuously repeating these dysfunctional behaviors. Transformation comes when we consciously connect with goals not tied to our self-worth and use this emotional clarity to inspire action in the present moment.

The theoretical importance of having authentic, transparent conversations isn’t in question: it’s rather the practical difficulty of doing so when there isn’t emotional safety in the relationship.

For our ego, the sensation of being right is like electricity to a lightbulb. It fuels us with energy and vigor. We sit straighter, our voice sharpens, and our language hardens. We face an issue or a conflict, and we see the answer clearly. With this certainty comes a feeling of power and righteousness, as captivating as a drug rush. This is the way it is. Being right sweeps us so automatically into an aggressive mental stance that any collateral damage seems just a necessary evil.

Our egosystem and brain can convince us of anything, regardless of its veracity. We can make—I myself have done it countless times—any number of important decisions with profound conviction, only to realize later it wasn’t really what we wanted or was based on incorrect perceptions. (“…clearly distinguishing between the facts I had collected and my conclusions about them.”)

In each case, people experienced their frustration as true, when in fact they were unconsciously focusing on the negative in others. Worse when we do this, our mindset and behaviors actually influence others to be less than their best selves, either because they don’t feel safe or because we simply don’t allow them to participate. We limit their potential.

As the authors admit no organization (or individual) can be completely ego-free, but we can manage it better. In every situation we have a choice. We can either give in to our ego or break free of the limits it imposes on us. They recommend:

  1. Notice the moments in your life when you experience a pinch. It might be an event or something someone says or does.
  2. Instead of reacting, search for what is triggered in you. What is that visceral discomfort you’re trying to numb or you’re blaming others for? How is your sense of self-worth threatened?
  3. Look outward and consider what vulnerabilities other might be feeling behind the veneer of strength or indifference. Empathize with how they feel in danger.
  4. Take the risk of disclosing how you feel vulnerable. Share your ego threat, not your mind chatter. Model a context of safety.


The lessons and insights shared in Ego Free Leadership could have a profound effect on any reader.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:16 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

04.14.17

Conflict without Casualties

Conflict without Casualties

C
ONFLICT is everywhere. Conflict at the most basic level is simply a gap between what we want and what we are experiencing at any given point in time.

Conflict is energy, and can be used in positive or negative ways. Negative conflict becomes drama, and it is costly to companies, teams and relationships at all levels. In fact, according to a Gallup Poll, negative conflict drains the U.S. economy by about $350 billion a year in lost productivity and wasted energy.

In Conflict without Casualties, author Nate Regier believes that the misuse of conflict energy is the biggest crisis facing our world, and that we haven’t even begun to harness the creative potential of conflict. When people embrace the fullest meaning of compassion as a process of “struggling with” others in creative conflict, they can transform lives, companies, and the world.

It is understandable that we try to avoid conflict considering all of the drama and negative fallout that always seems to accompany it. But Regier says if we use conflict correctly, we can use it to create. “Eliminating the casualties of conflict cannot happen by repressing the conflict and just ‘being nice.’ It happens by stewarding the energy inherent in conflict to make something positive, even amazing.” That seems like a tall order, but it makes sense.

Compassionate Accountability

The way forward is to practice Compassionate Accountability. Compassionate Accountability is a method for resisting the negative pull of drama—“I gotta win.” Negative conflict becomes drama. “Drama is the mismanaging of the energy of conflict. It diverts energy towards the pursuit of self-justification, one of the strongest human urges and the one that almost always gets us into trouble.” (Chapter 2 on drama is one of the clearest discussions of drama I’ve read.)

To be compassionate is to struggle alongside with others; to struggle with instead of against. “Compassion is the result of people taking ownership of their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and choosing to spend the energy of conflict pursuing effective solutions that preserve the dignity of all involved. Compassion is more than care and concern for others. It’s about the willingness to get in the trenches and struggle together as an equal with others.

Compassion CycleCompassionate Accountability is based on three skills:

Openness
Openness is a state of non-judgmental receptivity to your own and others’ experiences. Openness is the healthy alternative to the Victim response that is a part of most drama. It also involves transparency, courage with self and others, self-awareness, empathy, confidence in one’s own adequacy, and a willingness to own and disclose emotions. Openness involves empathy (understanding others), validation (affirming others), and disclosure (sharing with others).

Resourcefulness
If Openness reveals the real issues, motives, and emotions in our lives, then resourcefulness is the ability to problem-solve to satisfy those motives and address the issues. When there’s conflict, Openness is where we discover and affirm how the gap between what we want and what we’re experiencing is affecting us. Resourcefulness is the ability to understand the gap and figure out what to do about it. It requires the abandonment of the ego in order to gather ideas and opinions, analyze what has worked in the past, and leverage personal strengths.

Persistence
Persistence is all about seeing things through with integrity, humility, and respect. It’s accountability. It means setting boundaries, reinforcing non-negotiables, and accepting responsibility for your own behaviors. “Compassion without accountability gets you nowhere. Accountability without compassion gets you alienated. Blending the two is the essence of leadership.”

These three skills are a process that starts at Open, moves to Resourceful, and finally to Persistence. They are three interdependent ways of feeling, thinking, and acting that work productively together.

When Regier’s model is placed inside the Drama Triangle (developed by Steven Karpman), the author creates a useful visual for understanding where we often end up if we don’t intentionally stay the Compassionate Accountability course.

Regier writes: “Drama inevitably pushes us into corners, where we cling to distorted worldviews that compel us to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Compassion, on the other hand, keeps us moving, searching, nimble, effective, and capable of adapting to change.” It also keep us from being mired inside our own head and thus limiting our responses and our ability to reframe the conflict. We get stuck.

drama


It would seem that if you stop at Persistence then you become stagnant and eventually irrelevant. A state of non-judgmental receptivity would seem to go hand-in-hand with progress, the inevitability of change, and the understanding of others. “As a species, human beings seem to have a very difficult time returning to Openness in order to keep the cycle going. We take up residence at Persistence, which inevitably morphs into Persecutor as we fight to protect what we’ve built and save ourselves from the consequences of our own creation.”

He adds, “Each point on the Compassion Cycle has a purpose. When that purpose is fulfilled, it’s time to move. Lingering after the purpose has been achieved is a recipe for stagnation and drama.”

If you want to end the drama in your life or organization then you have to replace it with something else. Compassionate Accountability is the cure. Regier concludes the book with a section devoted to implementing this concept into everything you do. A very useful user’s manual.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:01 PM
| Comments (0) | Change , Communication , Personal Development

04.03.17

Are You Living an Adult Story?

Adult Story

I
N The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal makes clear to us that “if we want to continue to have a positive impact on the world and make a difference, we must constantly rethink the instincts that drive us.” Leaders need to question “who they are being while they are leading.”

This need for leaders to rethink who they are gets to the heart of what Rosamund Stone Zander describes in Pathways to Possibility. Often, our growth requires that we live a new story. We are not “trained to think of ourselves as governed by stories made up by younger iterations of ourselves, frozen in time.

We need to rewrite the stories to reflect life as it is now. “I believe that when we become aware of patterns in our behavior, when we learn to identify and rewrite the stories that give us our identities, we will gain passage, at any age, into a new phase of adulthood. In this territory of maturity, where old fear-based pattern no longer hold us back, we will, I wager, do what we now think of as remarkable, even magical, things.”

We all have a point of view about how life should go and they are often illogical. But when they are we produce reasons for why we do and think like we do even if it has no basis on our current reality. They hold us back. What children’s stories have in common is survival anxiety. We are living a story made up by a child when we are frightened about the future, are ready to run, feel the need to control others, act out of insecurity, and are unable to take criticism of any kind.

The stores we tell ourselves are generally adopted unknowingly from the environment in which we grew up and are not under the control of the reasoning mind. To move forward, we have to uncover the story and tell a new one. Zander repeatedly states that new habits are formed in an environment of love.

How do you know if you are living in a story crafted by the mind of a child?

You are being captured by the child in you if you are certain that your views are true, and you make no attempt to question them.

When you are frequently anxious that things will go wrong, or are living your life cautiously. Fear and anxiety are the underlying emotions in the child’s view of the world because for a child it is all about survival.

You are living in a child apart if you are regularly concerned with what others think of you.

When you assume that things will repeat. It makes you approach the future with resistance, be overly cautious, and close down to life.

You are expressing a child part when you are convinced that you have absolute needs and you are further convinced that your needs and desire will never change.

In short, a child’s stories are I-centered, concrete, fear-based, scarcity-minded, identity-bound, personal through and through, and indisputable—self-centered—my way.

When we are operating from the adult narrative:

We know we survived childhood and staying alive is no longer a present issue.

The mature mind is curious and devotes attention to what is not known.

The adult mind is open and flexible: willing to entertain new thoughts and feelings without the need to protect itself.

The adult mind is creative: on the lookout for opportunity and able to invent stories and move into contexts that will further our alignment with one another.

The adult mind is loving and compassionate. Defined by love, joy, appreciation, gratitude and wonder. Nothing appears as personal.

Zander relates three rules that coach Pete Carroll gave his players. Zander says that these three rule will help support the adoption of an adult story. “These three rules,” she writes, “almost guarantee that the person who follows them is saved from the distraction of survival instincts, such as possessiveness, entitlement, and winning over others, and feelings of helplessness, fear and rage when things don’t turn out the way he planned. Here are the three rules with Zander’s comments:

Rule 1: Protect the Team: A perfect instruction to remind a player that he is not, in fact, the center of the universe, and to encourage him in all matters related to the game to adopt and live into a story of collaboration.

Rule 2: No Negative Talk. No Whining and Complaining: This rule establishes that the game is played in a mode of possibility and not one of survival where players are out for themselves and can be weakened by a victim story. It requires that people be responsible for the effect of their words and their moods, which ensures that the team maintains energy.

Rule 3: Be Early: What powerful little words! What an amazing third rule! The player who lives by “be early” puts himself in charge of his life. If you decide to be early, you are always in charge; you will show up as a considerate person as well as a paragon of responsibility.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.27.17

The Outward Mindset: Seeing Beyond Ourselves

Outward Mindset

A
N OUTWARD MINDSET will greatly impact how we negotiate our world and the impact we will have. An outward mindset helps us to see the world as it is and not how we imagine it to be. Our age increasingly requires us to collaborate more and more with others. An outward mindset is essential.

An outward mindset doesn’t come naturally. We have to consciously change how we think about others.

In The Outward Mindset, the Arbinger Institute reports that “the biggest lever for change is not a change in self-belief but a fundamental change in the way one sees and regards one’s connections with and obligations to others.”

People and organizations get stuck when they have an inward mindset because when we are focused on ourselves and our needs, our reality becomes distorted. An inward mindset limits our possibilities and negatively affects our behavior and thus our relationships.

Arbinger reminds us that an inward mindset and introspection are not the same thing. “One can introspect in a self-centered way, which would indicate an inward mindset. However, a person also can introspect about one’s connections with others, which is the very essence of what we are calling outwardness. Sometimes it is helpful to look inside to see how one is connected with what is outside.”

Moving from an inward mindset to an outward mindset is more that a surface adjustment or behavioral change alone. It requires a change in how we see and thing about others. How we see and respond to others is not so much about them as it is a reflection of what is going on inside of us. We often fixate on other’s shortcomings so we don’t have to deal with our own.

Inward-mindset people and organizations do things. Outward-mindset people and organizations help others to be able to do things.” It is possible to be a inward-mindset person or organization masquerading as an outward-mindset person or organization if you aren’t paying attention to the needs, objectives, and challenges of those you are supposedly doing the work for. Whose needs are your primary focus?

Arbinger has discovered that those who consistently work with an outward mindset follow a pattern. They:
  1. See the needs, objectives, and challenges of others (Create opportunities for people to see each other so they can begin to talk.)

  2. Adjust their efforts to be more helpful to others (“Real helpfulness can’t be made into a formula. To be outward doesn’t mean that people should adopt this or that prescribed behavior. Rather, it means that when people see the needs, challenges, desire, and humanity of others, the most effective ways to adjust their efforts occur to them in the moment. When they see others as people, they respond in human and helpful ways.”)

  3. Measure and hold themselves accountable for the impact of their work on others (“Measuring one’s impact requires nothing but a willingness to stay in regular conversations with others about whether they feel one’s efforts are helping them or not.”)

An outward-mindset begins with you. “While the goal in shifting mindsets is to get everyone turned toward each other, accomplishing this goal is possible only if people are prepared to turn their mindsets toward others with no expectation that others will change their mindsets in return. This capability—to change the way I see and work with others regardless of whether they change—overcomes the biggest impediment to mindset change: the natural, inward-mindset inclination to wait for others to change before doing anything different oneself.” This of course, is true leadership.

To begin:
  1. Start with mindset. Apply the outward-mindset pattern: see others, adjust efforts, and measure impact
  2. Don’t wait for others to change. The most important move is to turn your mindset regardless of whether others change theirs.
  3. Mobilize yourself and your team or organization to achieve a collective goal. Each person is oart of a larger whole.
  4. Allow people (beginning with yourself) to be fully responsible. Own your work—your plans, your actions, and your impact—and position others to own theirs.
  5. Eliminate the unnecessary distinctions that create distance between yourself and others.
  6. To the extent that you have the authority to do so, rethink systems and processes to turn them outward; create an organizational ecosystem that energizes people rather than manage objects.

Take the Mindset Audit online.

Outward Mindset

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:21 PM
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03.22.17

5 Critical Skills You Will Need to Hit the Ground Running After College

Critical Skills You Need

J
OURNALIST AND FORMER EDITOR of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jeff Selingo has written an insightful and essential guide as to why some people prosper after college and some fail or find themselves underemployed. You need more than a degree.

There is Life After College is a book that every student should read—twice. Frankly, it would hurt those already in the workplace to read it as the ground is shifting under our feet as well.

Employers are looking for T-shaped individuals. The vertical bar represents depth of knowledge and the horizontal bar represents the ability to work across a variety of complex subject areas with ease and confidence. Something a liberal arts education is designed to do.

Selingo notes that too many undergraduates want to be spoon-fed. “They sit back and wait for professors to deliver lessons in the classroom. They participate in campus life but too often from the sidelines, so they lack and deep engagement in activities that provide much-needed skills for the job market. They fail to cultivate relationships with professors or staff on campus who might lend advice or act as mentors. And they are reluctant to chase after experiences—whether undergraduate research, study abroad, or internships—that help them discover their passions and arm them with the interpersonal skills so in demand by employers today.”

Selingo has distilled a lot of wisdom into five often overlapping skills needed to succeed in your career and life. (You see these concepts are appearing more and more in leadership development studies as well.) I’ve listed them here with brief outtakes for each from the chapter. The book provides much more detail and practical career and life advice that is well worth taking the time to consider.

1. Be Curious, Ask Questions, and Be a Learner for Life
The recent graduates who succeed in their careers are flexible about how they learn. “They have ideas and act on them,” said Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO. “Being able to get stuff done is a capacity that is rather important.” Most of all he’s looking for a mind-set with creativity, passion, and empathy at its root. “I want diversity of experiences in college that have exercised their brain,” Brown said.

On executive said, “Our industry is changing so fast that we can’t depend on what students already know. We need people who are creative, curious, whose brains are wired to constantly ask what’s next. What we need are learning animals.

2. Build an Expertise, Take Risks, and Learn the Meaning of Grit
“We see a lot of transferable skills in athletes,” Marie Artim, vice president of talent acquisition at Enterprise, told me. Enterprise is not alone. As employers search for signals that someone is ready for a job beyond achieving the baseline bachelor’s degree, participation in collegiate athletics is seen by many as one clear indicator of commitment and drive in a generation of college graduates often lacking both.

The qualities prized in athletes obviously apply to other college activities. Employers told me they value musicians, game designers, and writers in much the same way.

“We want to see that they have a passion, and they show proficiency and go deep in it.” The more time students spend trying to master a skill or a job, the more likely they are to encounter failure. “Our best employees are problem solvers and are able to weave everything they know together—customer service, empathy, persuasive skills, leadership skills, flexibility, and work ethic,” Marie Artim of Enterprise told me. “They can think on their feet.”

Selingo adds, “What is unfortunate is that our desire to protect our kids and fill every waking moment of their schedules with organized activities seems to only worsen as they get older.” So they never find opportunities to take risks and perhaps fail.

Recruiters are looking for applicants who have overcome challenges and learned from their disappointments.

3. Every Job is a Tech Job
Understanding the programming language behind the apps on your iPhone or the basics of artificial intelligence is now seen as basic foundational skills by many employers. Learning to program is much like learning a second language was in the twentieth century: You might not become proficient enough to move overseas, but you could get by if you traveled to a particular country.

“It’s more about giving people the skills and tools they learn in the act of coding,” Carol Smith, who oversees Google’s Summer of Code program, told Wired magazine. “It gives them the critical thinking skills that are important whether or not they go into computer science as a profession.”

The generation entering college and the workforce now are often referred to as “digital natives” because they were raised on technology from a very young age. But their relationship has been largely passive: switch on the device and use it. Being digitally aware isn’t about turning more people into computer geeks. It’s about moving from a passive relationship with technology to a more active one—especially in understanding the how and why behind machines, not just the what.

4. Learn to Deal with Ambiguity
“Excelling at any job is about doing the things you weren’t asked to do,” said Mary Egan, founder of Gatheredtable, a Seattle-based start-up, and former senior vice president for strategy and corporate development at Starbucks. “This generation is not as comfortable with figuring out what to do.”

The ability to negotiate ambiguity on the job requires people to think contextually, to provide what I call the “connective tissue” that occupies the space in between ideas. It is the “killer app” of today’ workplaces. People who make these connections do so by following their curiosity and exploring and learning from peers. Knowledge is not only what is in our brains, but also what is distributed through our networks. Learning happens by building and navigating those networks.

5. Be Humble and Learn from Your Peers and Mentors
People who manage recent college graduates all had the same complaint about their new hires: they’re too impatient about their careers and unrealistic about their roles within a company. A friend who is my age and a manager at a major media company told me about new graduates who applied for senior roles after less than a year on the job and who were flabbergasted when they didn’t get the promotion, which went to someone with ten or twenty years more experience.

Being socially aware goes beyond knowing your role within the organization. It includes important skill sets like written and verbal communication as well as the ability to deal with negative feedback, speak in public, and, most of all, interact on a basic human level with coworkers and clients that doesn’t involve texting them.

eBay offers classes on managing your personal brand (because graduates usually can’t set goals for themselves), giving an elevator pitch (they often can’t get to their point fast enough), managing your calendar (once again, time management), and performance reviews.

Selingo emphasizes that what you do in college (and therefore what you become—who you are) is typically more important than where you go.

Launch Chart

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:27 AM
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03.08.17

Humility Casts a Wide Net

Humility Casts a Wide Net

HUMILITY casts a wide net and makes possible the work of leadership. Nothing facilitates community, collaboration, and innovation like humility.

In Humility is the New Smart, Ed Hess and Katherine Ludwig define humility as “a mindset about oneself that is open-minded, self-accurate, and not all about me, and that enables one to embrace the world as it is in the pursuit of human excellence.”

Their definition encompasses the mind of a leader that will be able to lead in a changing and uncertain world. Humility is inclusive. It is inclusive of others ideas, others needs, others strengths, other contributions, and the realities that exist outside of our own head. A humble leader asks more questions and is open to more answers thus deepening the pool of resources they have to draw upon. But it requires a strength of character. As senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, Pat Williams writes in Humility: The Secret Ingredient of Success:

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to listen to other points of view.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to admit their mistakes and learn from them.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to celebrate their achievements of others.

  • Humble leaders are strong enough to surround themselves with talented people without feeling threatened or diminished.

Additionally,

  • Humble people treat others as equals.

  • Humble people don’t claim to know everything.

  • Humble people are better team players.

  • Humble people are willing to set aside their egos.

Humility is the antidote to insecurity that often plagues us. A lack of humility actually drives insecurity. Humility makes your strengths productive and multiplies the strengths of others. Humility acknowledges a world beyond our own thinking and minimizes our own limitations. A good leader knows this and acts accordingly to produce the best results.

Do you have the strength to be humble?

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Of Related Interest:
  Footwashing for Leaders
  Humility

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:50 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Personal Development

03.06.17

How Do We Get Outside Our Comfort Zone?

Thank You for Being Late

YOU'VE NO DOUBT HEARD that it is outside our comfort zone where the magic happens. But how do we get outside our comfort zone? It’s not always easy in some cases too stressful to consider.

Andy Molinsky gives us some practical first steps in Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence.

We often fail to get outside our comfort zone because of the feeling that it’s too big a reach (which is why they’re outside your comfort zone): “It’s not me,” “People won’t like this version of me,” “It’s embarrassing because I’m clearly not good at this,” “Why should I have to do this,” and/or “Maybe this isn’t something I should be doing.” So commonly, we do nothing. We avoid it altogether. Or we only do it half-heartedly. All of these things sabotage our efforts.

So the question to ask yourself is, "If I could erase the anxiety and distress, is it something I’d like to be able to do?"

Molinsky has interviewed and also observed people in many different professions and walks of life. And the stories he includes from managers, executives, priests, baristas, stay-at-home-moms, singers, actors and performers, are helpful and relatable. And although these people are very different, there is a common theme. He has found that those most successful at getting outside of their comfort zones have three things going for them:

Conviction—Making Sure the Gain is Worth the Discomfort
It’s a deep sense of purpose that it’s actually worth it to endure the strain or stress entailed in stepping outside your comfort zone. This is the “why am I doing this?” And that can come from anywhere.

Customization—Designing a Personalized Baby-Step Plan
This is the ability to tweak or adjust in often very slight ways how you perform a task to make it feel more comfortable and natural. When facing difficult situations we often feel powerless, but we can alter situations to play to our strengths. For example, we can change the words we use or the topics we talk about, change our body language, or change the timing or location.

Clarity—Getting Some Perspective on Your Fears
Clarity is the ability to develop an even-handed, reasonable perspective on the challenges you face. “It is an attempt to be as true as possible with ourselves about the situations we’re currently working on, taking a careful inventory of our true feelings—even if we’re embarrassed by them—as well as an inventory of our avoidance strategies.” In other words, to not succumb to the distorted and exaggerated thinking so many of us do in very stressful situations. It may not really be as far outside of our comfort zones as we imagine.

Here are Five Comfort Zone Myths to consider:

Myth #1: All it takes to step outside your comfort zone is taking a leap.
Reality: Very few people spontaneously “leap” outside their comfort zones; rather, that leap is the result of considerable thinking and deliberation.

Myth #2: The “magic” only happens outside your comfort zone.
Reality: The “magic” can happen both inside and outside your comfort zone.

Myth #3: I’m the only one who struggles with situations outside my comfort zone.
Reality: Nearly everyone struggles with situations outside their comfort zones.

Myth #4: Getting out of your comfort zone is just about “sucking it up.”
Reality: “Sucking it up” is important, but so too are other strategies which, in fact, can ultimately make ‘sucking it up’ less necessary.

Myth #5: With enough inspiration, anyone can stretch outside their comfort zone.
Reality: Anyone can do it, but it takes more than inspiration; it takes effort, persistence, strategy, and a keen understanding of the challenges.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:06 AM
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03.03.17

Thank You for Being Late

Thank You for Being Late

Booknotes
IN Thank You for Being Late, journalist Thomas Friedman affirms that we are living in one of the greatest inflection points in history. “The three largest forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces, and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be remained.”

As he notes, it more than just change it is reshaping that is taking place. It’s hard for any of us to keep up. “In such a time, opting to pause and reflect, rather than panic or withdraw, is a necessity. It is not a luxury or a distraction—it is a way to increase the odds that you’ll better understand, and engage productively with, the world around you.”

Friedman’s title, Thank You for Being Late, comes from realizing that a guest’s tardiness to a meeting gave him time to just sit and think. And he was better for it. So, “Thank you for being late.”

Thank You for Being Late succeeds in presenting a better understanding of why the world is the way it is. What follows is a small selction of thoughts and analysis of and prescriptions for the world we live in:

☙ As the world becomes more interdependent and complex, it becomes more vital than ever to widen your aperture and to synthesize more perspectives.

☙ Creativity becomes, in part, about asking the best questions.

☙ You can’t just show up. You need a plan to succeed. You have to know more, you have to update what you know more often, and you have to do more creative things with it. Self-motivation is now so much more important.

☙ It is so easy to forget that many, many people in America don’t have a professional network, an alumni network, two parents, or in some cases anyone around them with a job, to consult about how to get one.

☙ In a world of so many choices, it’s hard to know what to do.

☙ Social media is good for collective sharing, but not always so great for collective building; good for collective destruction, but maybe not so good for collective construction; fantastic for generating a flash mob, but not so good at generating a flash consensus on a party platform or a constitution.

☙ Quoting Jeffrey Garten, the former dean of the Yale School of Management: Maybe this is overly romantic, but I think leadership is going to require the ability to come to grips with values and ethics. The more technological we get, the more we need people who have a much broader framework. You’ll be able to hire the technologist to make systems work, but in terms of the goals, that takes a different kind of leader.

☙ A number of technological forces came together to create an exponential step in change in the power of men and machines—much faster than we have been able to reshape our institutions, our laws, and our modes of leadership. Quoting Dov Seidman: Technology creates possibilities for new behaviors and experiences and connection, but it takes human beings to make the behaviors principled, the experiences meaningful and the connections deeper and rooted in shared values and aspirations.

☙ No better source of restraint then a strong community.

☙ It is only when people relax their hearts and their minds that they are open to hear and engage with others, and healthy communities create a context for that.

Thank You for Being Late
Buy at AMZN

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:07 AM
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02.27.17

Mastering Civility

Mastering Civility

Civility costs nothing, and buys everything.
— M. W. Montagu


CIVILITY has a way of winning people over and garnering influence.

Civility isn’t just the absence of incivility. In Mastering Civility, Christine Porath explains that “Civility in the fullest sense requires something more: positive gestures of respect, dignity, courtesy, or kindness that lift people up.”

Incivility impacts our health and performance. It depletes our “immune system, causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and ulcers.” It also robs us of our “cognitive resources, hijacks our performance and creativity, and sidelines us from our work. Even if we want to perform at our best, we can’t, because we’re bothered and preoccupied by the rudeness.”

Incivility is contagious. “When you’re exposed to hostility or aggression, you behave differently. Incivility sneaks into your subconscious. It’s easy to see how plagues of incivility can take shape and spread.” But you don’t have to succumb to incivility. “When you follow a rude experience with a polite one, the polite one ‘overwrites’ the rude one, loosening the hold it has on your mind.”

Civility starts with a few basic behaviors and it grows from there. Simple things like saying please and thank you make a difference in how we are perceived by others and the influence we have on them. “Most of us are in a hurry to prove our competence, but warmth contributes significantly more to others’ evaluations. Warmth is the pathway to influence.”

Other basic behaviors include acknowledging people and listening. They signal caring, commitment and connection. Show respect for others by sharing resources, the limelight, and positive feedback. “The highest performers offer more positive feedback with their peers; in fact, high-performing teams share six times more positive feedback than average teams. Meanwhile, low-performing teams share twice as much negative feedback than average teams.”

What if you are the victim of incivility?

When someone is being uncivil to you it’s easy to let your emotions take over. It’s easy to get sucked in to their incivility. Porath advises you to avoid the temptation to get even. It’s not a win for you.

The best advice has nothing to do with them and everything to do with you. How will you choose to interpret it? Here are a few of her thoughts:
When you experience incivility, your sense of thriving comes into play in a particular way: by making it easier for you to reframe the negativity of the event so that it isn’t nearly as destructive.

What are you going to make this mean? How you interpret the situation is crucial. How much are you going to let someone pull you down? What useful lessons might there be for you in the situation?

Science reveals that about 50m percent of our happiness is based on brain wiring; 40 percent is owed to how we interpret and respond to what happens to us, and 10 percent is driven by our circumstances.

In large part, you really do get to decide how you interpret incivility, the meaning you assign to it, and the stories you tell yourself. You also get to control whether it makes you feel bad or not. It may not be realistic for you to “toughen up,” but you can choose not to worry about what was said or done to you.”

Everyone would agree that we should be civil and we recoil when we see others engaged in it, yet incivility has become more commonplace. Somehow we feel justified being uncivil when things don’t go our way. And it costs us all.

Uncivil behavior does not generate greater influence no matter how loud you are. Most leadership failures can be attributed to abrasive or arrogant approaches to others. Uncivil leaders eventually undermine their own potential.

Are you civil? Porath offers a quick civility assessment online.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:44 AM
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02.17.17

Freeing Yourself from Yourself

I Am Keats

TOM ASACKER always makes you think.

Life is not scripted but we live it as though it were. In doing so, we create boxes that we operate within without ever really seeing the possibilities. “We’re confined in mental prisons of our own creation.”

We make these scripts up or others make them up for us and eventually we come to believe them. And the problem is we think that is reality. It’s that story inside our head that keeps us from flourishing as we should—a life that moves us. We are sabotaging ourselves.

We act more like Coleridge and less like Keats. In I Am Keats, Asacker develops a metaphor for two worldviews as expressed through the poetry of two 19th century poets: Coleridge and Keats.

Keats was passionate. He was moved by his senses and imagination. Capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries and doubts, he was uninhibited, open, and without judgment.

We are conditioned – perhaps predisposed – to live in Coleridge’s worldview. Coleridge wants to predict an unknowable future. He is logic, order, control and progress. Coleridge wants you to live a productive and mistake-free life. “He is an expert craftsman, skilled in the rights and wrongs of the world, and turned on by the desire for risk aversion, accumulation and conformity.”

Neither is right or wrong but we need to be aware of the dynamic between the two or we never really live. We never see the possibilities. Knowing is safe. Being is frightening – “a dynamic dance with reality.”

But we are held captive by our beliefs—what we believe to be reality. “Here’s the thing about our beliefs. We don’t want them pointed out to us. We don’t want to have our soothing stories interrupted. We don’t want to be woken up from our script, from our reassuring routines. Otherwise, we’ll have to think. And then, heaven forbid, we may have to change.

Asacker writes, “Let go of your incessant desire to know, to predict and influence, and instead be willing to experience the mystery of the present without corrupting it with questions.”

When you allow yourself to become more like Keats, “you find yourself being pulled deeper and deeper into a process that creates serendipitous connections and refines your perceptions. Your old eyes adjust to a new world, and you become more creative and discerning.”

Experience the moment. “Your present creates the meaning of your past.”

I Am Keats is a book for our times. It is a philosophy says Asacker. “Magic, then logic. Heart, then head.” Try it.

More at: IAmKeats.com

Of Related Interest:
  The Business of Belief

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:33 AM
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01.04.17

Ditch Lofty Outcome Goals and “Hit the Glove!”

WHEN IT COMES TO KEEPING New Year’s Resolutions, the stats aren’t good. Surveys show that while some 40 percent of us make them, only 8 percent of us keep them. We may feel exhilarated when we set a big goal, but that soon gives way to anxiety. While we all want to get better, lofty goals don’t always help.

There is a way to set goals and achieve them. It comes from Rick Peterson, the former Major League Baseball pitching coach (of Moneyball fame), who guided the New York Mets and the Oakland A’s to great success. He did it by getting his pitchers to scale back their goals from lofty to bite-sized, from outcome to process. His mantra, “Hit the glove,” was not only powerful and effective, it translates well beyond professional baseball.

At the beginning of spring training, Rick would ask his pitchers, “What’s your goal?” Most had the kind of long-term, outcome goals you find on the back of a baseball card — winning a certain number of games or pitching a certain number of innings.

The problem with focusing on great big goals is that you’re distracted into focusing on factors outside your control. Winning a ball game involves more than just the pitcher’s performance — it hinges on how many runs his team scores, how well his team fields, how well the opposing hitters handle good pitches, and even the umpire’s calls. When we don’t hit that big outcome goal we get demoralized, creating doubt and anxiety can hurt our performance.

Instead, Rick refocused his pitchers on short-term, bite-sized process goals. He told them they were professional glove hitters with one simple goal: Hit the catcher’s glove as often as possible — with the right pitch.

If a player focuses on hitting that glove, he can’t focus on the pressure of a loftier outcome goal. He has to concentrate on hitting that glove. He’s not distracted by things outside his control. Hitting the glove on a high percentage of pitches is also the most probable path to achieving larger, outcome-oriented individual and team goals.

How It Translates

We can all learn to refocus on hitting that glove. I’ve been in sales for decades. At the start of every year, salespeople’s anxieties peak. Whatever numbers they produced last year, they no longer matter. The scoreboard’s back to zero. Time to prove yourself all over again.

Many sales organizations try to motivate their sales forces with talk of raising the bar and hitting even bigger numbers. But that lofty-goal approach can trigger fear and worry instead. Just like pitchers, salespeople know there are parts of the sales game beyond our control. And it’s easy to lose focus amidst the cornucopia of daily distractions.

After I heard Rick’s mantra, “Hit the glove!” I thought of what that meant in terms of my day-to-day sales. I settled on high-quality interactions with customers and prospects, meaning one that advances a sale and/or our relationship. By focusing on having daily, high-quality interactions with customers, I would make great progress toward putting a dent in my quota.

Thinking about how many high-quality interactions I should have each day, I set the initial target at two. Before you laugh and ask what I was going to do after lunch, consider the math. Two high-quality interactions per day are 10 per week, and 40 per month. Assuming one month of vacation, that’s 440 per year — far more than I was averaging.

As soon as I started focusing on my new simple, short-term, bite-sized process goal — two high-quality interactions with customers each day — I began thinking about my day differently. I began prioritizing those two high-quality interactions with customers above everything else. As I considered how to invest my time, I regularly asked myself, “Is this helping me hit the glove?

As a result, my focus improved remarkably. I wasted less time. I didn’t give my quota a second thought. My numbers took off, and I finished the year more than 25 percent ahead of my previous year’s performance. Focusing on that one small change brought about big results. So ask yourself: What’s your version of hitting the glove?

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Leading Forum
This post is by Judd Hoekstra. He is a leadership and human performance author, consultant and speaker. He serves as a Vice President at The Ken Blanchard Companies, a premier leadership training and coaching company. He is also a coauthor of the bestselling Leading at a Higher Level as well as Who Killed Change? He received his bachelor's from Cornell University, where he played hockey and baseball. He also graduated from the Advanced Business Management Program at Kellogg School of Management. For more information, go to www.juddhoekstra.com.

Rick Peterson has coached some of baseball’s best pitchers in the past twenty years, including Cy Young Award winners and Hall of Famers.
Crunch Time
He was the Oakland Athletics’ pitching coach during the famed Moneyball era and has served as a coach with the New York Mets, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Milwaukee Brewers. He is currently director of pitching development with the Baltimore Orioles. He holds a combined degree in psychology and art. He and Judd Hoekstra are the authors of Crunch Time: How To Be Your Best When It Matters Most. For more information, go to www.rickpetersoncoaching.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:24 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.24.16

Gratitude is Good for You Too

Gratitude

WE KNOW GRATITUDE makes relationships thrive and makes trust possible. Gratitude encourages, clarifies, motivates, includes, and unifies.

When we show gratitude, people feel valued, they know what’s important, they want to do more, and they feel part of something bigger than themselves.

But gratitude is good for you too.

Gratitude puts you in the right mindset to lead. Gratitude and humility are interconnected. They reinforce each other. Gratitude says, “I didn’t do this alone.” French philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville wrote, The narcissistic leader or “the egoist is ungrateful because he doesn’t like to acknowledge his debt to others and gratitude is this acknowledgement.” A lack of gratitude is at the core of narcissism. We alone are not responsible for who we are and what we do and that is the essence of leadership. We are never truly self-sufficient.

In a practical way, gratitude provides guardrails in our life. Gratitude helps us to protect from ourselves. It is amazing how much gratitude plays into avoiding poor behavior and wrong thinking. Gratitude sets a boundary on our thoughts by making us mindful of others. It helps us to avoid going where we should not go because we are more self-aware.

Gratitude requires that we slow down and reflect. Gratitude is the basis of emotional intelligence. It puts other people first. It says you know and you care. While empathy has been found to be essential to leadership, empathy is not empathy if it is silent. It must be expressed.

Gratefulness helps to curb unproductive emotions such as frustration, resentment, and revenge. Studies have shown that it is an antidote to depression. It has the power to heal and move us forward.

It improves relationships and is a remedy to envy and greed. Instead of trying to strive with others we are thankful for what they do. It eliminates a leader’s tendency towards entitlement. Grateful people find more meaning in life and feel more connected to others.

In these changing and uncertain times, gratitude is a leaders ally. Gratitude looks at the long term and doesn’t focus on the present situation. Life is a continuum. Gratitude allows a leader to appreciate where they are and the resources they have at their disposal to face what life throws at them. A habit of gratitude gives us perspective. It doesn’t blind us to the negative but it facilitates a solution.

Gratitude can’t just be something we do is has to be who we are as a leader. More than a behavior it must come from the heart. It must be the mindset we lead from, manage from, and make decisions from. Gratefulness is grounded in reality because ultimately we must realize that everything good in our life is a gift.

Leadership begins and ends with gratefulness.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:34 AM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

02.24.16

10 Ways You Earn Respect

Truth Trust Tenacity
One of the critical lessons I’ve learned in life - and it extends beyond the workplace - is the importance of respect. This may seem old-fashioned or trite in the days of, “I got mine, go get yours,” but if you treat people right, you will get the results you want. This is especially true in business. Respect still matters!

Great leaders appreciate every job that is done well; it doesn’t matter whether it’s in the C-suite or the mailroom. Great leaders also understand that respect isn’t an entitlement linked to a particular job title. They need to respect others before others will respect them.

So, how do you earn respect in business? Here are 10 ways:
  1. Lead by example. Embody the qualities and traits you expect from the people you lead and people you deal with. You want your workers and peers to be honest, so be honest yourself in all your business dealings. If you want your employees to be hardworking, set that example and quit taking long lunches or leaving the office early all the time. Model the traits you want others to show, such as integrity, kindness, creativity, inventiveness and industriousness.
  2. Be humble. Don’t expect anyone to care about where you went to college or your past successes. Plenty of businesspeople went to top universities and graduated with honors, and plenty more win awards and honors from chambers of commerce all the time. Braggarts are boring and turn people off. Get over yourself and do it quickly. Avoid self-promotion and publicity stunts. They are obvious and obnoxious and can damage your reputation.
  3. Show your commitment every single day. Work alongside the people you lead. Work longer and harder than they do. Get in the trenches and get your hands dirty once in a while. If you manage a warehouse, manufacturing plant or factory, make it a point on a regular basis to get off the phone, get out of your office and visit the production floor. Talk to the employees, get to know their names so you can address them personally, ask them how things are going, and pitch in if needed. Ask them if there are any glitches that need correcting.
  4. Help people succeed and advance. Promote your staff. Help your employees gain exposure and give them opportunities for development and advancement. Great leaders let their teams shine and are confident enough not to need the spotlight.
  5. Be a teacher or mentor. People always have other work or educational opportunities regardless of the economy and will leave your business unless they see an investment is being made in their future. Focus on those people who are bright, hardworking, dedicated, reliable and creative, and have skill sets that you don’t, or those who show potential. Mentor them at work or support programs that allow them to earn a new skill certification or degree.
  6. Strike a balance between delegating and being hands-on. An excessive delegator is opting out of responsibility, but keeping too tight control of everything deflates employees and tells them that you don’t value or trust their judgment. Find the middle ground.
  7. Encourage creativity. Take chances to come up with new ideas. Teach people how to take calculated risks, and then let them test their wings. Don’t punish failure. Learn from mistakes. A leader has to create a setting where there is a full vetting of ideas, where everyone is expected to provide suggestions, and where nothing is necessarily wrong.
  8. Share your expectations of others. People want to know what is expected of them so they can work to meet or exceed expectations. Help your employees succeed by letting them know what’s expected of them.
  9. Reward success. If it’s a small business, thank those who do a good job with a personal handwritten note, a lunch out or a small gift card. Large businesses should have an employee reward or recognition program to acknowledge employee successes on a regular basis. People want to be acknowledged for a job well done and will appreciate being called out for respect in front of their peers.
  10. Build coalitions and maintain civility in all business dealings. The “divide and conquer” approach doesn’t work in the private sector or in government. Nothing gets done! Civility and compromise are essential. Lots of people think that if you compromise, you’re weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leaders who compromise come across as caring leaders who are able to put others before themselves and who go out of their way to spend time understanding a differing point of view, even if they don’t act on it. Incivility impedes productivity - and profits.

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Leading Forum
This post is by Ritch K. Eich. He is the former Chief of Public Affairs for Blue Shield of CA and is a Captain, U.S. Naval Reserve (Ret.). He is the author of three books: “Truth, Trust + Tenacity: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary Leaders” (2015); “Leadership Requires Extra Innings: Lessons on Leading from a Life in the Trenches” (2013); “Real Leaders Don’t Boss: Inspire, Motivate and Earn Respect from Employees and Watch Your Organization Soar” (2012).

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 02:51 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

01.29.16

4 Rules for Getting Valuable Work Done

Deep Work

TO THRIVE IN the new economy—the current information economy—you need to master these two core abilities:
  1. The ability to quickly master hard things. (If you can’t learn you can’t thrive.)
  2. The ability to produce at an elite level, in terms of both quality and speed. (To produce tangible results that people value. What Seth Godin calls the ability to “ship.”)
These two abilities depend on your ability to perform deep work.

Cal Newport bases his book Deep Work on the Deep Work Hypothesis: The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.

Learning is an act of deep work. An act of intense focus. “To produce at a peak level you need to work for extended periods with full concentration on a single task free from distraction.”

The reason deep work is rare is because we encourage distractions by the way we design our life. “An interruption, even if short, delays the total time required to complete a task by a significant fraction.” Deep work is not a priority. We are what we focus on and that is increasingly, the superficial.

Shallow work adds to our sense of meaninglessness. Science writer Winifred Gallagher observed that “when you lose focus, you mind tends to fix on what could be wrong with your life instead of what’s right.” Newport adds: “A workday driven by the shallow, from a neurological perspective, is likely to be a draining and upsetting day, even if most of the shallow things that capture your attention seem harmless or fun.”

To fight the drift into the superficial we need to cultivate some strategies to develop a deep work habit. Here are a few Newport suggests:

Find Your Deep Work Philosophy
Newport describes four approaches to making time for deep work. There is the Monastic approach that eliminates or radically minimizes shallow obligations. The Bimodal approach that suggests binging on deep work for various lengths of time. The Rhythmic approach makes deep work a habit by scheduling a regular chain of deep work in your day. The last approach and the one Newport prefers, is called the Journalistic approach. Using this approach you fit deep work wherever you can into your schedule. This last approach however, requires a great deal of willpower and practice. The Rhythmic approach may work best to get you started.

Take Breaks from Focus
Make deep work a priority by taking breaks from focus, not from distraction. “The idea motivating this strategy is that use of a distracting service does not, by itself, reduce your brain’s ability to focus. It’s instead the constant switching from low-stimuli/high-value activities to high-stimuli/low value activities, at the slightest hint of boredom or cognitive challenge, that teaches your mind to never tolerate an absence of novelty.”

Quit Social Media
Network tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and infotainment sites like Business Insider and Buzzfeed, “fragment our time and reduce our ability to concentrate.” The overuse of social media unwittingly cripples our ability to succeed in the world of knowledge work. “To master the art of deep work, therefore, you must take back control of your time and attention from the many diversions that attempt to steal them.” Newport recommends that we only use a tool if its positive impact on the core factors that determine our success and happiness, substantially outweigh it negative impacts.
If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout all your waking hours, you’ll end the day more fulfilled, and begin the next one more relaxed, than if you instead allow your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured Web surfing.

Be Intentional with Your Time
Have a plan for your day. Confine the shallow work you must do, don’t eliminate it. If you start your day with blocks of deep work scheduled in, you stand a much better chance of actually getting some deep work done. “Your goal is not to stick to a given schedule at all costs; it’s instead to maintain, at all times, a thoughtful say in what you’re doing with your time going forward—even if those decisions are reworked again and again as the day unfolds.”

“To succeed,” writes Newport, “you have to produce the absolute best stuff you’re capable of producing—a task that requires depth. A deep life is a good life.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:54 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

01.18.16

Now is the Time to Find Your Sweet Spot

As a twenty-something, Paul Sohn said his life looked so good on paper. But a growing feeling of disappointment overwhelmed him. He wondered, “Is this all there is?”

He was experiencing a quarter–life crisis.

Leadership
It can happen at any age especially when you get caught up in these five approaches that he identifies in Quarter-Life Calling: How to Find Your Sweet Spot in Your Twenties:

Fear and Anxiety: Instead of enjoying where you are at you allow the uncertainty of the world around you to overwhelm you with stress and a sense of trepidation.

The Choice Overload: We allow the choice we have to paralyze us. This is brought on “by a recent phenomenon called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Twentysomethings live in a 24/7 plugged-in culture. We live in an era where we are accosted by the incessant meals, vacations, parties, and sheer awesomeness people are experiencing—thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. According to a new study by Eventbrite, 69 percent of millennials experience FOMO when they can’t attend something that their family or friends are going to.”

Too Busy to Slow Down: Are we doing the things we really should be doing? We are overscheduled, overworked and over committed.

The Obsessive Comparison Disorder: We can always find people who are doing better than us and we want what everyone else has. ‘Millennial expert Paul Angone calls this Obsessive Comparison Disorder (OCD). He says, “OCD is the smallpox of our generation.” This is an epidemic that is producing unwanted thoughts and feelings, driving us into depression, consumption, anxiety, and all-around discontent. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

The YOLO/FOMO Generation: You only live once. It’s easy to get stuck in the moment. Social media encourages this thinking and the resulting drift into instant gratification and self-absorption.

Paul Sohn is talking to twenty-somethings but we all can learn from his experience. The context changes but the principles are the same.

The answer is to find your sweet spot—that place where you are living out your calling. Sohn says it is found at the intersection of your personality (who you are wired to be), gifts (that which you are naturally gifted in), passions (that which ignites a fire in your soul), and life story (what doors have opened and closed in your life). It is here that you will find your purpose that will lead you to a meaningful life.

Sweet Spot

In a noisy world it is hard to slow down enough to know yourself. Finding your sweet-spot begins with getting outside of yourself—seeing yourself from another perspective. A meaningful life comes from something outside yourself. Sohn found that in the Bible. It allowed him to integrate his life around a concept outside of his present. It makes all the difference.

For twenty-somethings, Sohn says the key is to start well. Start early.
As a clinical psychologist who specializes in twentysomethings, Meg Jay [author of Defining Decade] has observed how twentysomethings have considered this time as a throwaway decade, paying the price, professionally, personally, spiritually, and economically later in life. This is the biggest myth out there. No more procrastination. No more wasting away your time, talent, and treasure believing you can make it up later in life.

Keep learning. Find mentors. Life isn’t meant to be a rat-race. You were meant to flourish. Begin today.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:33 PM
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01.15.16

Finding Your 30-Second Anchoring Technique

Leading Forum
This is a post by Achim Nowak, the author of The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World

We live in a hugely distracted world. Rush from one meeting to the next, have too many emails to answer on any given day. There are moments when it seems all we do is fly by the seat of our pants. Yes, every aspect of our work rhythms conspires to throw us off-center! Staying grounded feels like the impossible dream.

I used to train actors. Have you ever wondered how an actor manages to be in the right frame of mind when the camera says “action?” How she accomplishes this amidst the relentless hustle and bustle of a movie set? Actors study the art of being in the optimal state of mind. Well, you are the actor in your own life, and your life will unfold with more grace the moment you master some of the same skills. We tend to call them anchoring techniques.

Here are a few of my favorites. Beware – what works well for one person will not work as well for another. Part of your homework is to experiment and discover the technique that “does it” for you!
  • Self-Talk:

    Affirmations have become the stuff of satire. I just watched an episode of the TV show “Two Broke Girls” in which the heroines hurl affirmations at each other with a sarcastic sense of glee. Too bad. To the cynic, an affirmation may seem too good to be true. Truth is, when you find an affirmation that works for you, the result DOES feel too good to be true!

    Here’s a phrase I use when I’m about to enter a meeting and feel anxious (and being anxious is not helpful). When I feel tired (and showing up tired is not an option): I am a vibrant vehicle of light and love.

    The three key words – vibrant, light, love – are high energy words for me. They resonate deeply. If you haven’t worked with self-talk before, this is what I want you to get:

    This little phrase works for me, every time. It shifts my energy, every time. I repeat it to myself, quietly, for about 30 seconds. Combined with a few deep breaths, it activates the cellular energy within me and around me that I am seeking to access.

    Do not use MY affirmation. Find the words that affirm YOUR highest good within you. Repeat them quietly. Instantly anchored!

  • Sensory Reprogramming:

    Mental worry tends to get us unhinged, and classic anchoring techniques shift us away from the mind, back into our optimal states of being.

    If you’re a highly visual person, see yourself in a physical place where you feel serene. Visualize the sensory details of this place. Calm will return quickly. If you’re a highly auditory person, listen to a piece of music that soothes you or fires you up.

    If you’re a highly kinesthetic person, take a few conscious breaths and adjust your posture. If you’re a spiritual person, saying a prayer or repeating a mantra will quickly reconnect you with your energy source.

This is common-sense stuff, but here’s the conundrum. An anchoring technique, applied with quiet commitment, invokes a powerful inner shift within 30 seconds. When we’re under pressure, the last thing we tend to think about is our anchoring technique. I urge you to discover the one or two techniques that “do it” for you, every time. Make them a daily habit.

And reap your anchoring rewards.

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Leadership
Achim Nowak is the author of The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World. He is the president of Influens and an international authority on presence and interpersonal connection. Achim's work integrates a wealth of experience in the personal transformation field, actor training, conflict resolution, and spiritual practice. He has been featured on 60 Minutes, NPR, Fox News, and in the Miami Herald. His weekly Energy Boost message offers practical tools for creating an energized life and has a devoted following across the globe.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:22 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.05.15

What Gear Are You In Right Now?

“Wherever you are, be all there!” Jim Elliot’s advice offers a difficult challenge. “You’re here but your mind is somewhere else” is a common refrain.

5 Gears
Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, authors of 5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There Is Never Enough Time, write “Every day, millions of people are negatively impacted by the inability of a person to connect appropriately and to be present.” So much drama is created when we don’t know how to shift gears and become present.

5 Gears offers an extremely valuable metaphor for identifying which gear you are in and finding the right gear at the right time in order to connect fully with others. The model is a relationship-driven approach. It is values-driven and helps to counteract self-absorption.
The majority of people are not aware of their social awkwardness and give little time to thinking about what gear the other person is in while they are talking.

When a person’s agenda is the driving force of their life, then they are going to run over people most of the time unless they learn to use their brakes and downshift.
What I like most about the 5 Gears model is first, it gives you language to communicate which gear you are in to yourself and others, and to understand where others are at so that you can be more fully present. Second, it helps you plan what gear you need to be in as you move through your day. And third, it helps to be more self-aware and other-aware.

5 gears


Like shifting gears in a car, there is a right order and a right time for each gear. Life goes more smoothly when you are shifting through the gears at the right time—and avoiding getting stuck in any one gear.

Here are the 5 Gears:

5th Gear5th Gear: Learn to Get "In the Zone"

5th Gear is focus mode that allows us to “get in the zone” without interruption. It takes discipline to shut the door, turn off your email, and let people know that you are shifting into 5th gear, but it makes it possible to cruise at a sustained speed for a period of time. The caution is that when you get stuck in 5th gear you miss out on relationships, opportunities to add value, and events in life that matter in the long term.

4th Gear4th Gear: Leading in a Task World

4th Gear is the task gear that allows us to work hard while also multitasking. Most of the time we operate in 4th Gear so we need to learn to use it well. Waking up in 4th Gear is not the best strategy for your life. Our tasks can begin to control our lives. (Do you normally check your e-mail when you first wake up?) We need to learn how to shift into it and how to shift out of it. They relate the observation of Elizabeth Paul as an example. How many of us are like this:
The personal story for me was realizing that as a woman I have “work” 4th and 5th gear and “domestic” 4th and 5th gear. I thought that because I was being disciplined about putting my devices away during the golden family window of 5 to 8 P.M. I wasn’t in 4th or 5th gear, when in reality I was just putting on a different task hat. When my eyes were opened to that, I realized that I actually have little to no 3rd or 1st gear in my life at all. That was shocking.
In other words, the other gears are not just another 4th Gear task. Each Gear requires a different mindset or approach to your time. If we learn to implement the other gears in our life we will find that our everyday, multitasking 4th gear will become more productive.

3rd Gear3rd Gear: Why Being Social Matters

3rd Gear is the social gear. 3rd gear is a mindset. It is the space between task-driven, hyper focused work and the no-work, relational connection of being with your family, spouse, or close friend. Type-As need to remember that business happens in 3rd gear—in relationships. If you are too important for small talk, you might want to study the chapter on 3rd Gear. Of course you can get stuck in 3rd gear and overdo it. At the same time if you try to control social space it actually becomes a 4th Gear activity for you.

2nd Gear2nd Gear: Connecting Deeply

2nd Gear represents connecting with family, friends, or colleagues. Whether work colleagues, family, or friends, it is time geared toward relationship building without an agenda or pressure to be productive. Some of us have never really learned how to connect. It can’t be forced. It requires making time and learning to truly give of yourself to others.

2nd Gear is a difficult gear to be in because we live in a 4th Gear world. Kubicek writes that while writing this book consumed a lot of time, energy and mental thought, “it is still my responsibility to be the leader worth following in my home. Even with the pressure of a deadline, I still have to practice shifting.” He has found that being present in 2nd Gear leads to healthy relationships that bring peace to your mind and heart, fruitful growth between people, better conversations, likeability and trust, reestablished priorities, less drama and more security, social awareness and emotional intelligence.

1st Gear1st Gear: Learn How To Recharge

1st Gear represents being fully recharged. Do you know how to recharge? “If you figure out what 1st Gear feels like for you and discipline yourself to spend more time there, more power will flow through you. If you live and lead out of 20 percent battery life then you will never experience what you hope to experience.” The recharging gear if different for all of us. What works for one may not work for another. But we need to find what works for us. Think about this statement: “Working from your rest, not rest from your work, is the goal.” Note to self: “Crashing is not resting; it is actually just crashing.” It is simply stalling out. Truly healthy rest restores you.

Reverse GearReverse: Learn How to Apologize

Reverse is the responsive gear. It is used when we need to back up and start again or apologize. Too many people operate without a reverse gear.
There are two types of people—responsive and resistant. You hire responsive ones and fire the resistant. Responsive people are self-aware and have a consciousness that is not steeped in victim mentality, but rather responsibility. They understand that they are responsible for their actions and will make amends when they have clearly overstepped their bounds. Responsive people are the best employees, and spouses, and children.

Resistant people, on the other hand, are exhausting. Resistance is basically pride. Resistance will fight rather than resolve, blame rather than admit, and run away rather than run toward reconciliation.
Are there any relationships you need to restore?

Making the 5 Gears Work For You

After explaining the 5 gears, Kubicek and Cockram ask us to find our go-to gear. Where do we like to spend most of our time and what gear is the hardest for us to be in? Learning how to improve on your hardest gears hold the keys to improving your influence in the lives of others.

Next you need to find the right time for each gear as you go through your day. There is a natural time for gears. Your mornings should not start in 4th Gear. Really! When we are in the wrong gear at the wrong time we create disconnects. Shifting well is both an art and a science. 5 Gears offers some practical examples of leading your life intentionally and in the right gear at the right time.

I know this post is getting long, but let me leave you with an example of integrating the 5 Gears into your daily schedule:
6A.M.—Wake Time: 1st Gear
7A.M.—Drive Time: 1st or 4th Gear
8A.M.—Work Time: 4th or 5th Gear
12 Noon—Lunchtime: 3rd or 1st Gear
1P.M.—Work Time: 4th or 5th Gear
5P.M.—Drive Time: 4th or 1st Gear
6P.M.—Dinner Time: 2nd or 3rd Gear
8P.M.—Social Time: 3rd or 2nd or 1st Gear
10P.M.—Bedtime: 1st Gear

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:28 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

10.28.15

Triggers: Do You Underestimate the World You Live In?

NO MATTER HOW HARD WE TRY, our environment affects us in powerful, insidious, and mysterious ways. Our environment triggers behaviors or responses in us.

Triggers
Marshall Goldsmith explains in Triggers the kinds of things in our environment that derail us from becoming the kind of leader, co-worker, parent, or spouse that we want to be. He illuminates an aspect of self-awareness that is so vital to a leader’s success.

We can’t control our environment, but we can control our responses. We always have a choice.

When it comes to interpersonal behavior we can’t rely on habits to help us. “We must be adaptable, not habitual—because the stakes are so much higher.” We need something more to help us deal with the uncertainty of our day.

When it comes to triggers, it’s not the big triggers that usually do us in, it is the little moments in life that trigger our most outsized and unproductive responses. They trigger some of our basest impulses. Especially with the people we know and love the most. “We can say and do anything with these folks. They know us. They’ll forgive us. We don’t have to edit ourselves. We can be true to our impulses. That’s how our closes relationships often become trigger festivals with consequences that we rarely see in any other part of our lives—the fuming and shouting, the fights and slammed doors, the angry departures and refusals to talk to each other for months, years, decades.”

So where the problem is most vivid is in the small, minor moments of the day, when we are not thinking about our environment or our behavior. That’s when we need to be most vigilant.

Sometimes the best strategy is to avoid the trigger altogether. Stop flirting with those things that tempt you. Goldsmith says that one of the most common behavioral issues among leaders is “succumbing to the temptation to exercise power when they would be better off showing restraint.” And that behavior is very hard to eliminate because those who engage in it because they no doubt enjoy doing it.

But we can’t always walk away.

SOLUTION

The solution then isn’t trying to fix the environment or the behavior of others, the solution is to change our behavior. When we are triggered we need to adjust.

Goldsmith has found that asking yourself some active questions works magic. Active questions get to personal responsibility—something you have control over. Goldsmith suggests six engaging questions anyone should be asking themselves each day to build engagement:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
Did I do my best to find meaning today?
Did I do my best to be happy today?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

In addition, Goldsmith has a number of other Daily Questions he asks himself to gauge whether he had taken responsibility for his own life. Our own questions would reflect those things that we want to work on—will success on these items help me become the person I want to be?

Did I do my best to have a healthy diet?
Did I do my best to be a good spouse?
Did I do my best to add value to ______?
Did I do my best to learn something new?
Did I do my best to get a good night’s sleep?
Did I do my best to not prove how right I am when it’s not really worth it?

You score yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to track your progress or the lack of it. “One of the underappreciated benefits of the Daily Questions is that they force us to quantify an unfamiliar data point: Our level of trying. We rarely do that.”

Daily Questions remind us that success is the result of small efforts repeated consistently over time. Daily Questions can be a game changer because they reinforce our commitment, they ignite our motivation where we need it and not where we don’t, and they shrink our goals into manageable increments.

OUR NEED FOR STRUCTURE

The Daily Questions provide structure in our lives. Simply put, Goldsmith says: “We do not get better without structure.” Like rules, structure pushes us in the right direction when our first impulse is to go the other way.

Goldsmith has work with Alan Mulally and finds that “no idea looms bigger in Alan’s mind than the importance of structure in turning around and organization and its people.” Goldsmith explains how Mulally integrated the Daily Questions process in his weekly Business Plan Review meetings with his sixteen top executives. And repetition was key. “In the same way that Daily Questions drive us to measure our effort every day and then face the reality of our own behavior, the executives would be announcing how they graded themselves every Thursday—without deviation.” And in the group setting the idea was: How can we help one another more?

Structure “limits our options so that we’re not thrown off course by externalities….Imposing structure on parts of our day is how we seize control of our otherwise unruly environment.”

Goldsmith points out that after a hard, decision-filled day we become depleted. Our discipline and decisiveness fade at the end of the day to the point where we want to do nothing or fill our time with mindless activities.

Deletion isn’t something that we are always aware of but we should anticipate it and create structure where we can. “If we provide ourselves with enough structure, we don’t need discipline. The structure provides it for us. We can’t structure everything obviously—no environment is that cooperative.” But the more structure we have the less we have to worry about.

ANTICIPATE

When you know you are headed into a pointless meeting, imagine that you are going to be tested on your behavior:

Did I do my best to be happy?
Did I do my best to find meaning?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

Sometimes we think we have to show everyone how we feel but that’s ego talking. “Why waste that hour being disengaged and cynical?” asks Goldsmith.

It’s in the moment that we shape ourselves into a better person. Sometimes hourly questions might help. When we face an event were not up for or a person that usually throws us off our game, why not try setting our Smartphone to ask us a question like, “Am I doing my best to…?”

THE BEST PART

What I like best about Triggers is that by creating an awareness of our environment and identifying our own triggers we can be a force for adding value in other people’s lives by triggering something good in others. It requires our imagination and clarity about what we want to become.
When we dive all the way into adult behavioral change—with 100 percent focus and energy—we become an irresistible force rather than the proverbial immovable object. We begin to change our environment rather than be hanged by it. The people around us sense this. We have become the trigger.

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Of Related Interest:
  Goldsmith's Gold: You Are Under the Microscope

Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:19 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

10.26.15

When to Cooperate and When to Compete

Friend and Foe
As we navigate through life, we must be able to cooperate and compete. Knowing what to do when is very important to getting where you want to go and to where you want to go next time.

In Friend and Foe, authors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer, state that all of our relationships are both cooperative and competitive and we get more out of life when we learn to find the right balance between acting as a friend and acting as a foe.

Drawing on interdisciplinary studies, they show how to manage social comparisons (We crave comparisons because we like to know how we’re doing compared to the people around us.), get and keep power, how to get others to put their trust in you and what to do when you lose it, the art of seeking another perspective, negotiating, when it’s best to go last and when it’s best to go first, and finishing every interaction well.

When it comes to power, it’s not so much how powerful we are, but how powerful we feel that determines how think and act. Whether you have it or feel it, power makes us more focused on our own vantage point and oblivious to the perspective of others. The key to keeping our power is being able to see the world through the perspectives of others.

There is an acceptable range of power that you can display relative to your actual power. Exceed it and you will be ostracized. You also need to find the right balance between being confident and deferential. It’s usually a lack of deference rather than excess of confidence that get powerful people into trouble.

Interestingly, they say we crave hierarchy because it helps to manage the tension between cooperation and in competition.

Hierarchy provides a means for solving the question of how we distribute scarce resources. It also facilitates coordination. Studies demonstrate that co-leadership usually doesn’t work. “Co-leadership can kill both ideas and people, because it creates uncertainty over who is really in charge. Of course, co-led teams are not always ineffective and dangerous. But when there is not clear division of labor among these leaders, coordination becomes difficult, patterns of deference can disappear, and conflict can erupt.”

Hierarchy is less useful the more human the task or the more cognitively complex—more thought than any one person can attend to. Why? “Because to make the best complex decisions, we need to tap ideas from all the rungs of the hierarchical ladder and learn from everyone who has relevant knowledge to share.” Steve Jobs said, “You have to run by ideas, not hierarchy.”

But here is an interesting find. When over 30,000 Himalayan mountain climbers were analyzed, they found that members of expeditions from more hierarchical countries were more likely to die on the expedition because in countries and cultures that are hierarchical, decision-making tends to be a top-down process. These expedition members are less likely to speak up and less likely to alert leaders to changing conditions and impending problems.

They say that asking for advice does more than turn adversaries into advocates. “It can also help you supercharge your advocates and lead them to help you climb up the corporate ladder.” And when you don’t take their advice you need to explain that even though you didn’t take their advice it gave you a unique perspective and insight that lead to your success. Always follow up with your advice givers.

Friend and Foe is a very interesting read and full of useful advice and insights to help you get along and get ahead. It will go a long way to developing the awareness that is essential to leadership.

No matter what happens, it your interaction ends well people will tend to remember it well. More importantly, it sets the stage for anything that comes next.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:42 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

08.26.15

What Are Your Hidden Strengths?

Your strengths will get you in the door, but to make progress you are going to have to become more of who you are and draw on your hidden strengths.

Hidden strengths are not weaknesses. They are capacities you have that have yet to be recognized, developed and utilized. They become your Learned Strengths.

Your strengths and weaknesses need to be managed. Strengths need to be managed so that they are not overused or overbearing. Weaknesses need to be managed so that they don’t derail you. Often they can be delegated. But the area between the two—your hidden strengths—not only provide a deep pool of strengths to draw on but they will help you to smooth out your rough edges and bring into balance your natural strengths.

Hidden Strengths
Hidden Strengths, authors Thuy and Milo Sindell have identified 28 skills in four categories and made available a free Hidden Strengths Assessment at HiddenStrengths.com. The four categories are: Leading Self, Leading Others, Leading the Organization, and Leading Implementation.

Once you have identified your hidden strengths you can identify areas to focus on developing that would nullify a weakness or contribute to your success without directly attacking areas where you struggle. For example, Barry lacked emotional control and it was hurting his leadership capacity. He did have hidden strengths in the areas of resilience and flexibility. So instead of attacking his weakness, he developed his resilience and flexibility. In doing so he did not get so fired up that he lost control of his emotions. The authors note that “if he prepared ahead of time for meetings by formulating his ideas and alternatives, it make him more flexible when he listened to others’ ideas, and everyone would feel heard and understood.”

You are more than what naturally comes to you. There is much more that can be developed. “With awareness and dedication, you can leverage these Hidden Strengths to continually reach new levels of performance and success.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:54 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

07.24.15

You Can’t Lead If You’re in the Weeds

Leading Forum
Leaders work on a spectrum of effectiveness and the continuum varies with the ups and downs of your work’s natural rhythms. When you are in a good place, with available margin to deal with your load, you take a balanced approach to meeting your demands, use your strengths wisely, and sustain the capacity to manage well against the challenges of the day. Let’s call this the Performance Zone, which is the place you need to be.

As you confront our day-to-day demands from this place, you are more likely to be: response-driven, multidimensional, flexible, proactive, and engaged. However, when your margin runs low and the inverse equation of shrinking resources and increasing demands stresses our capacity to the breaking point, the strain can tilt you away from the Performance Zone and push you out into the weeds toward the Danger Zone. In this overwhelmed place, it’s easy to get into a reactionary mode where priorities get blurred by the fatigue of doing more with less.

The bottom line is that you can’t lead if you’re lost. To know whether your demands are pushing you out of the Performance Zone, consider each of the following questions and answer with either “Yes” or “No” depending on whether the statement is true for you:
  1. Have the demands on you increased over the past several months?
  2. Are they likely to stay elevated and/or continue rising?
  3. If your demands have increased, have you gained enough additional time, energy, resources, and focus to adequately address them?
If you answered “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No” to these questions then you are tilting toward the Danger Zone and at risk of getting stuck in what I call The Manager’s Dilemma. To know if you’re already stuck in the dilemma's grip, listen to the way you talk about your own work. The emergence of paradoxical statements like the following is the first sign that the manager’s dilemma is settling into your atmosphere:
  • "I can’t afford to relax because things are too busy right now."
  • "With so many deadlines and demands, some priorities will have to be sacrificed."
  • "It’s too crazy now; I’ll focus better once things settle down."
From the outside looking in, you can see how backward statements like these actually are. If a friend said something like this to you, it would be easy to point out the flaw in their logic and show them how the undoubtedly counterproductive behaviors stemming from these attitudes will leave them more deeply entrenched in their dilemma. However, when it comes to our own situations, we’re too close to and too tangled up in them to maintain this level of objectivity.

When we are stuck in our own dilemmas, we somehow start believing that this is how work has to be. Over time, the cumulative effect of this way of thinking and working leaves us feeling like there is truly no way out. What was easy is now difficult. What was enjoyable is now unsatisfying. What used to give us a sense of purpose now seems unimportant.

The good news is that you can get yourself out of the weeds and back on track – even when you cannot change the responsibilities you face. It turns out that the dilemma’s triggers are swinging doors and within each one there is an alternative path that acts as an escape hatch. To exit the dilemma, you have to go out the way you came in:
  1. It turns us around and distorts our values and goals, so determine your line of sight to focus on the right priorities.
  2. It spins our wheels, causing extra effort with less effectiveness, so distinguish your contribution to make a deeper impact.
  3. It punctures leaks in our already fragile time, energy, resources, and focus, so plug the leaks to restore your capacity.
  4. It limits our ability to use everyday obstacles for good, so convert your challenges to fuel and turn the tables on the dilemma.
Together, these four drivers and related responses can change the way you work.

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Manage’s Dilemma
Jesse Sostrin is the author of The Manager’s Dilemma. He writes and speaks at the intersection of individual and organizational success. Follow him @jessesostrin.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:57 AM
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07.20.15

Is it Time to Disrupt You?

“I was presenting myself to the world as an out-of-shape, intimidated middle-aged man. That needed to change,” writes Jay Samit.

Disruption can be a powerful and positive force. If we are to work with and take advantage of the disruptions in the world around us, we must be willing to disrupt ourselves.

Leadership
All disruption, says Samit in Disrupt You!, begins with introspection. After an early failure he began a process of self-disruption. “I analyzed all the pieces that came together to form my identity. I began to define what unique experiences and knowledge I had that would set me apart from my peers. I thought about the way I made decisions, how I processed and responded to information, how I approached problems. I thought about the way I presented myself to the world and how I communicated my abilities to potential business partners and clients. And I thought about how I was sending my time and energy. If I was going to find opportunities to make a name for myself in the world, I was going to have to change something in my approach.”

This a lot to tackle, but it is a process we all need to face. It can be very difficult to confront our assumptions about ourselves and the world around us to create a reimagined self. It is difficult to upend what we have built—our identity and approach—in exchange for a better future. It’s unknown. We are often more comfortable with what we have always done—even if it is not working for us—than we are moving into unchartered territory.

Like any business we also have a value chain—our identities. Any or all of these links may need to be disrupted. You might think of research and development as the way we interpret the world. Where do I thrive? What kind of people do I work with best? What do I believe about myself that might not be true?

Production and design are the ways in which you respond to problems. Do I tackle problems with an open mind, thinking holistically? Your reactions to disruptions in your environment will depend on your mind-set.

The next link relates to how you market and sell your potential. Not what you have done, but what you can do. Success says Samit, is about defining your future. About his own marketing and sales links he writes:
We market and sell ourselves in the ways we present ourselves to the world, which are based on what we see as our personal strengths or limitations. We distribute ourselves in the ways we choose to spend our time and where we focus our energies. When viewed from this framework, the process of self-transformation becomes approachable: you need only analyze each link in your internal value chain and find the single link that’s holding you back. Then make changes to that link to disrupt yourself.
Finally, distribution is how we spend your time and where we direct our focus. Do I devote my time and energy to achieving my dreams, or am I surfing the Internet every evening? Our time and energy is a valuable resource, we must distribute it wisely.

Self-disruption is about making deliberate choices rather than running on autopilot. It’s about making preemptive moves rather than just being a pawn in a game.

Samit provides Disruptor’s Map in each of these areas to help you begin disrupting yourself before you are disrupted. Consider where you are and where you want to be. And don’t forget to ask yourself what you want to do along the way personally and professionally. Both are critical areas to consider.

Self-disruption can prepare us for the future and the disruptions it will bring.

Every disruption brings about opportunities. By analyzing the value chain you can find new ways to capture value. “The real challenge,” says Samit, “is for each of us to determine where we feel we can make the most impact.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:17 AM
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07.14.15

Why You’re Not Achieving Your Goals

Achievement Habit
Bernard Roth, one of the founders of the multi-disciplinary d.school at Stanford University, has written a book titled, The Achievement Habit. However, it is much more than the title might let on.

It’s about how you can achieve your goals more fully and faster by expanding your limited view of reality. It’s about design thinking applied to every aspect of your life. It’s about assisting us to break through the walls that are mostly of our own making.

You Give Everything Its Meaning

Roth begins by reminding us that nothing has any meaning except for the meaning that we give it. “Stop labeling things in their usual way. Make the familiar into the unfamiliar, and the result can be amazing and delightful, as opposed to dull, nonfunctional, and ordinary.” Along these same lines, this applies to our need to be right. “Next time you find yourself playing right and wrong, remember: You give everything in your life its meaning, so you can choose to end the game. It does not matter how right you are or how wrong they are; you lose just by playing.” You have the power to change your attitude and therefore, how you will play the game.

Reasons Are Excuses

And then there are all the reasons we have for why something is or isn’t happening. They’re really just excuses prettied up says Roth. He was chronically late until he decided to stop coming up with reasons and deal with the real issue. Here’s the key point: We use reasons “to hide shortcomings from ourselves. When we stop using reasons to justify ourselves, we increase our chances of changing behavior, gaining a realistic self-image, and living a more satisfying and productive life.” In other words, we take responsibility for our life.

We often get stuck because we are working on the wrong issue. We have some faulty assumptions. “Experience has shown me that one of the main causes of losing sleep over a problem is that we think we are dealing with a question when in fact we are dealing with an answer (a solution) that turns out not to be a good fit to our actual problem.” Letting go of the problem is often the best solution. Roth shows you how to rework your question to find the actual issue.

At the d.school there is a bias toward action. Failure is part of the expected result. In reaching our goals we also need to watch our language because it influences the way we see things (and the way others see us too). The word but creates conflict. Using the word and opens up the conversation. Change “I have to” to “I want to.” It clarifies the fact that we have a choice in the matter.

Don’t Interrupt

Here’s a ego taxing communication tip: Don’t interrupt. “Many people interrupt because they have something that they are afraid they might forget or that it will not be relevant later. The best thing to do is to let it go. If it is still appropriate at the end, say it then. If it gets lost and remains unspoken—no matter how brilliant it would have been—the world will not notice.”

Flat Organization

Roth describes the flat organization of the d.school over the last forty years. Why and how it works. With a common goal and purpose, I think what Roth describes is possible: “We operated by consensus and negotiation, almost never voting on anything. There was almost no acrimony, and people treated each other with respect, collegiality, and a spirit of shared purpose and commitment.” “We were all in charge, and we wanted to make it work.” If you can overcome your biases, “you might find a management structure that strongly supports what you want to accomplish.”

Many more topics from designing work spaces to self-image are discussed. All of it valuable. Each concept is followed by a “Your Turn” section to give you tools and techniques to apply these ideas to your own situation.
When you hold yourself in high esteem and keep a positive outlook on your future, other will usually follow suit. By choosing the meaning we give to people and things in our environment, ultimately we control our own experiences, not matter what work we are doing.


Quote 
The Achievement Habit is a book about life. How to design your life and leadership through design thinking. Stop wishing, start doing, and take command of your life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:44 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Personal Development

06.03.15

Five Habits of Top Athletes We Can Take To the Workplace

Leading Forum
This is a post by Dr. Greg Wells author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets From the World's Best Athletes Wells is a scientist who specializes in extreme human physiology, draws the parallels between elite athletes and top executives to help business leaders perform at the highest level, even when under the most extreme circumstances.

An athlete steps up to the starting blocks in the Olympic stadium. They stand tall, take a few deep breaths, and shake out their muscles. Thousands of people cheer while they are introduced, but their eyes never waver from the lane they’re about to run down. When the gun goes off, they explode into high performance action.

How can we apply this scenario to a business situation? The same techniques that athletes use to perform under pressure allow business leaders to excel in the workplace. Here are five top practices that will improve your health and performance both at the office.

1. The Power Pose. Before competition, athletes often stand tall with their shoulders back and head up. Adopting certain postures improve performance by changing the levels of hormones in your body. Recent research by Dr. Amy Cuddy from the Harvard Business School has shown that adopting a “Power Pose” increases testosterone levels, which is a repair and regenerate hormone, and lowers cortisol, which is a stress hormone.

2. Relaxation Breathing. Stress and tension undermine performance and contribute to the development of chronic, stress-related illnesses. Taking a few deep relaxing breaths and exhaling slowly can dramatically change your psychological state and boost performance. Pause and take a few deep relaxing breaths to regain control of both body and mind.

3. Focus. In sports, it’s obvious that staying focused is critical for success. Physiological science tells us that humans simply can’t focus on multiple things at the same time. We live in the age of distraction, bombarded by emails, social media and text messages all day long. To perform at your best, it is critical to find time each day to focus exclusively on only the most important projects and tasks.

4. Hydrate properly. Athletes know how fundamental water is to their performance. A dehydrated body and brain are sluggish on the track and in the office. Caffeine is great in moderation – one or two cups of coffee per day, ideally 30 minutes before a mental energy boost is required. Other than that, it’s water all the way to maintain focus and stamina. And plenty of it.

5. Be 1% Better. An athlete who delivers an incredible performance in the playoffs is showing the result of thousands of hours of practice. We can do the same thing with our food, sleep, exercise, thinking and work. Strive to be 1% better each day. A 1% change might not seem like much, but those small daily improvements amplify your life. It’s like earning compound interest for your body and mind.

We can all learn from elite performers in any discipline, even areas quite different from our own. Do you have any techniques that you use to perform at your absolute best?

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Dr. Greg Wells is an assistant professor in kinesiology at the University of Toronto and an associate scientist in physiology and experimental medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children. You can follow him on Twitter at @drgregwells or visit his website at drgregwells.com.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:41 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

05.05.15

Return on Character

We live in an age where wisdom is only wisdom if it is supported by numbers.

There are two obvious problems with this. First, we miss a lot because we are looking for immediate return. And so it puts our focus on the wrong things. And secondly, as a result, we tend to assign value to things in terms of numbers. It is assumed that if it gives us the best numbers, it must be the best choice or behavior. Nevertheless, it is satisfying when the numbers do add up.

Leadership
In Return on Character, Fred Kiel has put numbers to the notion that good leadership aimed at promoting the common good, not just individual, winner-take-all acquisition can be good business.

In a seven year study of 121 CEOs they found that highly principled CEOs—Virtuoso CEOs—achieved nearly five times the return on assets that leaders whose character scores were the lowest—Self-Focused CEOs—in the study. Also encouraging is the fact that people demonstrate character through habitual behaviors and therefore anyone can learn habits of good character an unlearn habits of poor character.

Character is defined in this study as “an individual’s unique combination of internalized beliefs and moral habits that motivate and shape how that individual relates to others.” Our character is what we believe. Despite what we say. Our leadership is what we what we do for (or to) others as a result of what we believe.

To assess character traits Kiel defined four keystone characters traits that supported that definition: integrity (telling the truth, acting consistently), responsibility (admitting mistakes, concern for common good), forgiveness (letting go of mistakes of others and ourselves, focusing on what’s right) and compassion (empathizing with and empowering others, caring for others, committed to others’ development).

Not surprisingly, self-awareness is a key issue in character development. The Virtuoso leaders rated themselves quite accurately. However, the Self-Focused leaders rated themselves as high as the Virtuoso leaders. Clearly, we have issues seeing ourselves as we are.
Perhaps the most important fact revealed by these interviews was whether the leaders knew their life story. Could they provide a coherent narrative about their past, touching on a number of major events, both positive and negative, and including a reasonable description of the effect those events had on their personal development?

The Self-focused leaders seem to have had very little opportunity to construct a meaningful platform of beliefs or principles.

As a result, they lack the foundation of supportive relationships, character habits, self-awareness, and mental complexity upon which to build the kind of character-driven leadership that reliably contributes to sound decision making and strong, sustainable business results.
Virtuoso leaders also had the disciplined decision making skills that resulted in clearer organizational vision, more focused strategies, a higher-performing executive team, and a stronger culture of accountability.

The good news is we can all improve our character—even Virtuoso leaders. Kiel outlines six steps in the personal change process. Step one is probably the most difficult and the key to the whole process.

Step 1: Acknowledge Invitations to Change. “Being confronted with an undeniable truth about the way others perceive our behavior and character is a gift.”And that usually doesn’t come in the form we would want it. (If there is such a way!) “No matter what their source, all invitations to change share one thing in common: they make you aware that your current understanding of the world is inadequate, that you have encountered the limits of your level of personal integration. Your existing worldview, your level of mental complexity, or your ability to act in a way that reflects your core values and principles is no longer working, and you have to find a new way forward.”

Step 2: Discover What You Want to Change. Understanding exactly what habit you need to change is not always apparent. It requires some self-examination and quite possibly some outside help for some additional feedback.

Step 3: Find the Fuel for Change. The resolve to make changes is made easier if you connect it to a visionary goal. “I want to be thought of as…” What result do you desire?

Step 4: Identify the Keystone Change. What change will contribute the most to your character development? Often a single new habit will bring about other positive character adjustments.

Step 5: Disarm Your Security System. Any change will make you uncomfortable. You have to be okay with that. Disarming your brain’s instinctive resistance to change “requires that you face the assumptions that rigger your unwanted responses and behaviors and the true outcomes they produce for you.” Create an action plan. “I will do this when…” This help you to avoid your automatic responses you are trying to change.

Step 6: Rewire Your Brain. As your new patterns of behavior seem secure, celebrate your progress.

It is not easy to become a Virtuoso leader in a world looking for loopholes. But Return on Character demonstrates that the payoff is there.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:00 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

03.03.15

The 5 Habits of Mind that Self-Made Billionaires Possess

Self-Made Billionaire Effect
Self-made billionaires think differently than most of us do.

Most of us think like what authors John Sviokla and Mitch Cohen call Performers because their success is tracked through performance. They excel at optimizing within known systems. They strive to excel in well-defined areas, and are important to any organization – in fact, they are important to the self-made billionaire.

Self-made billionaires have what the authors call the Producer mind-set. They thrive in uncertainty. Producers are critical to any company looking to create massive value because they redefine what’s possible, rather than simply meeting preexisting goals and standards. Combining sound judgment with imaginative vision, Producers think up entirely new products, services, strategies, and business models.

For The Self-Made Billionaire Effect, they interviewed 120 billionaires and found that they had in common five habits of mind. What is interesting is that most organizations weed out the very people that they need to create massive value. Imagine what Atari might have achieved if Steve Jobs had stayed there to develop the first mass market personal computer.

Self-made billionaires are able to integrate ideas and actions that most individuals and organizations keep separate or even hold in direct tension to one another. Self-made billionaires effectively operate in a world of dualities—they seamlessly hold on to multiple ideas, multiple perspectives, and multiple scales. Here are the five critical dualities that they observed with additional thoughts on each:

Empathetic Imagination
Producers billion-dollar ideas come through the marriage of extreme empathy for the customer’s needs and wants, and an imaginative mind-set that allows him or her to come up with and explore new, untested ideas.
Focusing on the competencies of today is exactly what causes companies to get stuck in the markets they serve and the products they deliver now, with little eye for the shifts and innovation they will need for tomorrow. Sometimes it takes a slight twist in perspective to see opportunities through a different lens.

Steve Case said that his experience at Williams College—a top liberal arts college—was a kind of laboratory for imaginative thinking. “Liberal arts education is important particularly in a world that’s changing rapidly, because there is a lot of fluidity. There’s the melding of different perspectives, having a sense of things and having a sense of how to learn about things and to look for connections.”

Patient Urgency
Producers urgently prepare to seize an opportunity but patiently wait for that opportunity to fully emerge.
Producers are willing to operate simultaneously at multiple speeds and time frames.

Patient time spent waiting for an idea to mature is not the same as idle time. They’ll wait for the time to be right, but they will prepare relentlessly so that they are ready to jump on the opportunity when it arrives.

They don’t go off track planning for the next stage before they have capitalized on the present.

Inventive Execution
Producers approach execution of their ideas with the same integrative, inventive mind-set they applied to come up with a billion-dollar idea in the first place. Inventive freedom allows them to design aspects of the customer experience that outsiders consider fixed, thus unlocking new value.
Producers frequently operate in markets that require them to rethink the fundamentals of product or business design in order to deliver at scale.

Taking a Relative View of Risk
Self-made billionaires are not huge risk takers. Their perceptions of risks are relative: they are far less concerned about losing what they have than of not being part of a bigger future.
What Producers are not willing to risk is the chance to capture an opportunity. This dynamic creates a critical duality between the right kind of risk and the resilience needed to do it all over again when the original plan doesn’t work out.

They invest bog, but they often have a parallel spring of income or safe source of cash they can count on to keep them solvent while they work the more exciting high-stakes opportunities.

Leadership Partnership
Producer overwhelmingly do not go it alone. Creating billions in value requires both a master Producer, who can bring together divergent ideas and resources into a blockbuster product design, and a virtuoso Performer, who can apply his or her creative acumen to optimizing the potential of that design.
Creating billions in value requires both: the Producer’s ability to bring together divergent ideas and resources into a blockbuster concept and inventive design, and the Performer’s ability to follow through on details needed to make the business work.

Why don’t organizations hold on to extraordinarily talented people? These Producers?

Here’s the thing: while we can all get behind these attitudes of mind, organizationally we don’t generally reward these traits. We recognize and reward Performers. They get the raises and promotions largely because their easy to recognize. They fit in; they can hit the ground running. Producers on the other hand don’t always fit because they think differently from those around them. “The ideas they propose move against the standard approach you are following, and that friction is what you need to achieve breakthrough value.” That makes us uncomfortable. As a result we tend to drive Producers away or cause them to just give up.

need both types, but when looking for new employees we need to look for more people whose background hints at looking at things differently. People who have started something new. People with the raw imagination to see something new and the fortitude necessary to work through the difficulty of execution.

“The key imperative for management is to differentiate between opportunities that need a Performer and those that need a Producer. Look at areas of achievement for the business and at who did the work. When it is a Producer, recognize that and give that Producer her next Producer-appropriate challenge.”

As leaders we need to accept both Producers and Performers and reject neither. We need to find and support positive deviance while promoting for systematic improvement.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Management , Personal Development

12.29.14

The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity


5 Choices
The 5 Choices is a nuts and bolts solution to greater productivity.

Ironically, while we live in a time of unprecedented opportunity, we spend almost half—40%—of our time attention and energy on unimportant or irrelevant activities almost insuring that we miss the possibilities all around us. Not only does that leave us feeling empty, but we end the day uncertain that we’ve accomplished what we needed to, worry about things left undone, and end up dreading the day ahead.

The authors, Kory Kogon, Adam Merrill, and Leena Rinne, say that the biggest hidden cost in our organizations is people spending their time, attention, and energy on things that don’t drive your most important results.

To improve the situation we have five choices to make in three areas: Decision Management, Attention Management, and Energy Management.

5 Choices
The 5 Choices are:

Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
What is my return on this moment? This is really the foundational choice to make. “In today’s world, we can’t just go on the ‘I have a busy life’ autopilot and expect to end up where we want to be.” The authors have offered a Time Matrix model to help us make good decisions about where we spend our time, attention, and energy. Too often we get caught up in Quadrant 4 spending time (or too much time) on the trivial things that contribute nothing to our life.

Time MatrixQ1: The Quadrant of Necessity. “These are things that need to be done now and, if not done, could have serious consequences.

Q3: The Quadrant of Distraction. These are activities marked as urgent that feel like they need to be done now, but there are no serious consequences if you don’t do them. “Many people spend a lot of time in Q3 thinking they’re in Q1. However, they’re just reacting to everything coming their way. They are confusing motion with progress, action with accomplishment.”

Q4: The Quadrant of Waste. These are activities that are neither urgent nor important. When we get burned out we often go here for escape. “When we spend a lot of time in Q4, we feel lethargic and aimless. If we stay too long, we can experience depression and even despair.”

Q2: The Quadrant of Extraordinary Productivity. These are that activities that will make a real difference in terms of accomplishment and results like proactive work, achieving high-impact goals, creative thinking, planning, prevention, relationship building, learning, and renewal. But you have to make a conscious choice to operate in this quadrant.

Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
Most people don’t clarify what is important to them so they never spend the time working on those things. Identify your roles. “Roles are where life happens. It’s where we build relationships, where all the activities that make us human go on.” Craft a role statement for each role.

Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
“In today’s environment, the key to true productivity is not to get more things done, but to get the right things done—the important things—with the highest quality you can achieve. It’s not about doing more with less, but doing more about less.” Plan and decide when.

Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t let it Rule You
There are basically four types of information you need to mange: Appointments (Things you need to do at specific times), Tasks (Things you need to do that are not yet scheduled), Contacts (Information about people you interact with), and Notes or Documents (Other information you want to keep track of that does not fall into one of the other three categories). Organize accordingly.

Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out
Constant stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and sleep lead to burnout. The five energy drivers are adequate movement, proper diet, sleep, relaxation, and positive social connections. Your brain is your number-one asset in a knowledge-work world. Fuel it properly.

You can also find events and resources on the 5 Choices and the FranklinCovey web sites.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:37 PM
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12.22.14

Are You Uncomfortable?

Uncomfortable
No one likes to be uncomfortable.

But, there is a correlation between our growth and success in life and the discomfort we’re willing to impose on ourselves. Growth necessarily takes us outside of our comfort zone.

In a world of rapid and continual change, radical personal growth is required. We need to get used to it.

If we are going to stay relevant, we are going to be uncomfortable. If we are going to grow, we’re going to be uncomfortable. It’s difficult and unsettling. It’s just doesn’t feel right.

If a behavior or thinking has gotten us by, we just keep repeating it even if it really isn’t serving us well. We won’t take another look at our underlying assumptions until it lands us in a crisis. Typically, until we are uncomfortable, we don’t see the need to do anything different. We just keep repeating what we know until it’s too late. Staying within our comfort zone limits us.

And here’s the thing, we can put ourselves into an uncomfortable position, or in time, it will be thrust upon us—and not on our terms. Every time we avoid the opportunity to grow, the stakes get higher.

Discomfort motivates us to change, to explore, to seek out new answers. It spurs on creativity. It gives us confidence. We need to learn to systematically reassess what we are doing and look for alternatives to the way we do what we do.

Real growth happens when we go into the unknown knowing that whatever happens, we will come out a different person—even a different organization. We will no longer think and act in the same way we did before. This expands our view. Provides us with new opportunities. Previously unseen solutions.

Richard Branson says, “If your vision is to reach a distant beach where, because of the reefs surrounding it, no one has ever set foot, then the chances are that reading the same old charts as everyone else has used isn’t going to get you there either.”

When it comes to leadership, we’ve been reading the same charts for too long. Running over the same old ground. We must develop the discipline to challenge—our beliefs, our assumptions, and our “tried and true” responses.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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11.19.14

The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership

Rules of Leadership
Michael Soupios and Panos Mourdoukoutas have reviewed the writings of the Classical philosophers and selected ten ideas that will positively impact our leadership effectiveness in The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership. Not surprisingly, the philosophies of classic figures remain relevant in today's workplace.

Early on the authors suggest that the raw material of leadership is not latent in just about everyone and rightly discredit the idea that it “just takes a nudge to trigger its unfolding.” Further, they say that the “special qualities of genuine leadership are remarkably complex and rare.” It is true that good leaders are not as common as they need to be and that we do confuse administration with actual leadership as they suggest, but the potential is there in each one of us. The problem is that it remains latent in many of us. We choose not to do the work necessary and instead assume reading “Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Cat” is enough to unlock our potential.

The authors do expose the real culprit at the end of the book: “Achieving the rank of genuine leader is a daunting task that most will find prohibitively challenging.” In short, “leadership requires a special form of courage: the courage to fashion a code of conduct governed by principled conviction.”

Genuine leadership is not complex but it is difficult because it requires that we do the inner-work on a continual basis. And that is a lot to commit to. It’s lifelong. And what we want to do is to check it off and mark it as good enough. Sustainable leadership requires a radical life-long commitment to rule one of leadership: Know Thyself.

Rule 1: “Know Thyself.” –Thales
This is an intimidating task and one that many leaders never really get around to. It never seems as important as the task at hand. The larger issue though is that we all possess a “powerful tendency to obscure, distort, and fictionalize on behalf of a fabricated reality.” The authors note that “Knowing Thyself means bringing a fresh transparency to our hidden motives and identities.” They suggest that a would-be leader commit to “an agenda of spirited self-indictment.”

Rule 2: “Office Shows the Person.” –Pittacus
Giving a person power reveals their inner qualities. “Specifically, power discloses whether or not a person has disposed if the psychological deficiencies that negate the possibility of real leadership.”

Rule 3: “Nurture Community at the Workplace.” –Plato
Plato insisted that “there is no greater evil than discord and faction and no greater good than the bonds of communal sentiment.” The idea that if one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. “Foster a culture of cooperation and collaboration by defying the myth of the exceptional individual, and by explaining the corporate gains of working together.”

Rule 4: “Do Not Waste Energy on Things You Cannot Change.” –Aristophanes
The Athenian playwright Aristophanes wrote in his play titled Peace, “Never will you make the crab to walk straight.” Some things we cannot change. “Leaders must assume a posture of flexible response.”

Rule 5: “Always Embrace the Truth.” –Antisthenes
Antisthenes wrote, “There are only two people who will tell you the truth about yourself—an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.” “Honest assessment is an essential requirement of effective leadership.” The problem is that the higher up the ladder you go, the less likely you will receive complete and accurate information.” Seek the truth. Hire a heretic.

Rule 6: “Let Competition Reveal Talent.” –Hesiod
Hesiod suggested that competition that releases selfishness is destructive, but competition that releases ingenuity and creativity is a constructive use of competition. Strife than is not the byproduct, but inner excellence and personal development.

Rule 7: “Live Life by a Higher Code.” –Aristotle
Aristotle wrote of the “magnanimous man” or the “great-souled” person. He is referring to a person that lives by a higher or more rigorous code than the average person, but not in a vain way. “When it comes to the great-souled individual, personal honor, not ego, is the ultimate priority and concern.”

Rule 8: “Always Evaluate Information with a Critical Eye.” –The Skeptics
“Leaders should never assume that the information they receive is unsoiled by hidden agendas or political agendas.” The problem though is even more personal than that. Socrates reminded us that “we must be vigilant against the conceits of wisdom [and] that we are all strongly inclined to assume we understand things that in truth we fail to genuinely comprehend.”

Rule 9: “Never Underestimate the Power of Personal Integrity.” –Sophocles
In the play Philoctetes by Sophocles, one of the two central characters believes that the ends justify the means; “one should not allow moral concerns to impede the necessities of practical achievement.” In the face of this seductive idea, the other main character, Neoptolemus, responds, “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” It’s easy to rationalize wrong behavior.

Rule 10: “Character Is Destiny.” –Heraclitus
Our character or our moral essence determines the course of our lives. While we can’t control the world around us, “Heraclitus was correct to insist that we are, to a very great extent, the authors of both our own blessings and our own burdens.” “A well formed character,” write the authors, “is the priceless reward paid to those who have done the hard work of coming to know themselves.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:24 PM
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11.17.14

Do you have Moxie?

Leadership
Leaders with moxie are leaders that have what it takes to lead others in tough circumstances. They are tough on the outside but soft on the inside. When knocked down they know how to get back up and they can bring others with them because they are likeable.

John Baldoni, author of MOXIE, says that “Leadership post-crash is not really any different from leadership pre-crash, except for one thing: resilience.” Leaders with moxie have four key attributes:

Fire. They have a passion for what they do and have a need to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Drive. They have ambition and want others to share in it.

Resilience. They have known defeat and it doesn’t scare them. They know how to pick themselves up after a fall.

Street Smarts. They know how the world works and what makes people tick.

Baldoni breaks moxie down into five characteristics that you can practice and develop to be a leader that demonstrates moxie. Each characteristic is brought to life through the examples of leaders who have demonstrated it in their own life and leadership.

The first is Mindfulness. “A mindful leader knows the situation as well as his capabilities and those of the people around him.” aware if his situation but at the same time focused on what could be done to improve it. Mindfulness “prepares leaders to focus on the present as well as prepare for the future”— to be aware of your situation but at the same time focused on what could be done to improve it.

opportunitySecond is Opportunity. “An opportunistic leader looks for ways to make things better. She is motivated by a desire to make a positive difference.” That means a willingness to see beyond the immediate problem and see the possibilities over the horizon.

Third is X-Factor. “A leader with the X-Factor has what we call ‘the right stuff of leadership.’ She radiates character and uses her ambition to focus on the right goals. She has the persevering spirit that radiates resolve. Leaders with the X-Factor are humble, and their humility attracts others to them.” The X-Factor is those things that allow you to do what you do well: character, beliefs and talent. These can all be examined and improved. In addition, look for opportunities to improve through more training and consider taking on responsibilities that stretch you.

Fourth is Innovation. “An innovative leader knows that life is not lived in a linear fashion. Sometimes you need to take risks. That means thinking differently, doing differently, and rewarding others who do the same.” Leaders with moxie aren’t content with the status quo. They are tuned to the future. A “forward-themed outlook is not merely one of observation, it is one of application….That gives rise to innovation.”

Fifth is Engagement. “Persons with moxie seek to engage with the wider community around them. They are focused on making a positive difference in their teams and in their organizations.” Leaders must work through others. “Engagement is an essential part of extending the leadership self in order to make a positive difference.”

All of us can demonstrate moxie when the going gets tough. Preparing and developing yourself now sets you up to make better decisions when you do get knocked down.

Moxie is full of great stories and examples making it immediately relatable and practical. It is structured so that you can thoughtfully and tactically look at each of these areas to see where you can better prepare yourself. Baldoni also provides an appendix that works as a handbook to guide you in this. Questions, examples, additional thoughts and action steps help you access where you are at and what you might need to do next.

Moxie is not just about your work life, it also impacts every other aspect of your life and positively influences the lives of those you touch.

Of Related Interest:
  The Leader’s Pocket Guide
  Lead With Purpose
  Lead Your Boss
  Lead By Example

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:50 PM
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11.07.14

How to Pull Yourself Back from the Brink of Your Caffeine-Driven, Smart Phone-Addicted Life

Leading Forum
This is a post by Scott Eblin. Scott is is the co-founder and president of The Eblin Group. He is the author of The Next Level and Overworked and Overwhelmed.

On a summer Sunday night four years ago, I found myself standing in front of a roomful of about 80 corporate managers who probably didn’t want to be there. They had just finished the first week of a high-profile leadership development program in one of the world’s largest companies and week two was scheduled to start at 7:30 am the next morning. They were polite but understandably restless. I was there as a guest speaker brought in to share some of what I’d learned from working with several hundred other leaders in their company.

Since high-achieving people usually like to compare themselves to their peers, I asked if they’d like to see the summary results of hundreds of leadership behavior self-assessments completed by those other leaders. Of course they said yes. Starting with the highest assessed behaviors, everyone could quickly identify with commitment to behaviors like making timely decisions, being clear about priorities and accepting accountability for results. Then we took a look at the lowest assessed behaviors like pacing myself, taking regular time to step back and giving others my full presence and attention. There were nods and murmurs of recognition. I summed it up for the group with the headline, “Leaders in your company are so busy doing stuff that they probably don’t see what needs to be done.

Then the room erupted. Not in anger but in vociferous agreement. “Yeah, that’s exactly it!” one person exclaimed. “Yeah, another agreed, they expect us to be corporate warriors, answer e-mails at 2:00 in the morning and get by on four hours of sleep a night.” Several people at once said, “We can’t keep this up.”

Overworked and Overwhelmed
The conversation I led that evening was the beginning of work and a thought process that led to my new book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative. One of the things I’ve noticed in my work as an executive coach and speaker over the past four or five years is that most of the executives, managers and professionals I work with are trying to work harder every year. The demands of a “do more with less” culture and a 24/7, smart phone enabled operating environment have left too many people teetering on the brink of a caffeine-addicted, sleep-deprived, stressed-out existence. The impact of all of that on short-term productivity and happiness and long-term health and well being is devastating.

Because of all they’re trying to do and pay attention to many of the leaders and professionals I work with are in a chronic state of fight or flight. Their stress hormones and blood pressure are too high and their immune and digestive systems don’t operate at healthy levels. In the short run, all of that leads to anxiety, insomnia, poor decision making, lack of focus and generally poor health. In the long run, it leads to broken relationships, premature aging and early death.

The point I’m trying to make in Overworked and Overwhelmed is it doesn’t have to be that way. There are simple, relatively easy steps you can take to pull your life from the brink. That’s where the mindfulness alternative comes in. Over the past few years, mindfulness has gotten more and more attention in the mainstream media – it's even made the cover of Time magazine. The picture that a lot of people get in their minds when they hear the word mindfulness is of blissed out people sitting cross legged while they meditate and chant. That’s one way to do it, but it’s not something that most stressed out professionals are going to do.

What I’m presenting in my book is what I’ve learned about how the basics of mindfulness can be used and applied by just about anyone who needs to get out of chronic fight or flight. We all know what fight or flight is – it’s supposed to be the emergency response system controlled by your body’s sympathetic nervous system. It’s a big problem when the fight or flight response gets stuck in the on position and becomes chronic. That’s where another system that all of us have but few of us have heard of comes into play. It’s called your rest and digest response and is controlled by your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. You can think of it as fight or flight being the gas pedal and rest and digest as the brakes. We need to exercise both throughout the day to be healthy, happy and effective. Fortunately, there are simple, easy to do routines that we can learn from the practice of mindfulness that can help even the most overworked and overwhelmed people activate their rest and digest response. I summarize a lot of those routines in my book and offer a simple one-page framework called the Life GPS® that helps make it easy to follow through on the routines that help you show up at your best.

The Life GPS® asks for your answers to three questions:
  • How am I when I’m at my best?
  • What are the routines – physical, mental, relational and spiritual – that will help me show up at my best?
  • What outcomes do I hope to see in the three big arenas of life – home, work and community – if I regularly show up at my best?
Based on my work with hundreds of leaders, I can tell you that getting clear about your Life GPS® and following through on it can help you step back from the brink and make a huge difference in the quality of your life and for the people you care most about. It doesn’t require perfection in either discipline or execution. It just requires the willingness to take some small initial steps and repeating them until they’ve become healthy habits.

It’s never too late to pull yourself back from the brink and reclaim your life. Now is a great time to get started. My goal with Overworked and Overwhelmed is to help you do that.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:37 PM
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07.14.14

Six Critical Areas Where You Need to Be Grounded

Good leaders are healthy leaders.

Leadership
We can’t separate our leadership from who we are inside. “Your well-being, success, and organization depend, first and foremost on who you are. You need to examine the internal stuff—what goes on in your mind and heart—before doing anything,” writes Bob Rosen in Grounded .

Faced with the speed of change today, staying aligned with who we are is very difficult making us feel stressed and defeated. We can deal with the winds of change in one of three ways: ignore the change, deal with it head on with uninformed short-term fixes, or get ahead of it. Those ignoring the situation often “adapt a rigid attitude toward personal change, avoiding introspection or soul-searching that might threaten long-held values or unexamined results.” Those who get ahead of it are not only flexible but are personally grounded.

Rosen says that great leaders are grounded in six areas:

Physical Health / How You Live: Not just the absence of disease but the presence of health. “Strong personal health begins with body-mind awareness, which gives you the personal insights and knowledge to develop a healthy lifestyle specially tailored for you.”

Emotional Health / How You Feel: Having good self-awareness. “Emotionally healthy leaders have a nimbleness, evident in their reactions, thinking and behavior.”

Intellectual Health / How You Think: Having a good curiosity so that you can break out of your mental comfort zone. “By expanding your mental range, you can broaden your thinking, solve complex problems, and focus on what is truly important.”

Social Health / How You Interact: The ability to build mutually rewarding relationships while being true to yourself – transparent and connected. “Leadership follows an inside-outside progression. Social health starts with authenticity, advances to mutually rewarding relationships, and culminates in nourishing teams and communities.”

Vocational Health / How You Perform: Meaningful work that reflects who you are. “A company led by an ill-equipped leader soon falls behind in the race for talent and productivity. Now more than ever, people are yearning for leaders to create the conditions that enable others to excel and to reach their full potential.”

Spiritual Health / How You View the World: The ability to recognize a higher purpose and something more meaningful than your personal needs. It’s connecting at the macro level. “On a personal level, individuals become alienated, rootless, and self-destructive. A business devoid of spiritual health promotes elfish, parochial, and narrow financial interests above humanity and social responsibility.”

Rosen says that these six areas are part of a system of health and if one of these subsystems is out of line, the entire system can come undone. “Poor leadership is a failure or breakdown of the whole or of part of the system.”

Rosen deals with each of these areas addressing the key issues of each, identifying where you need work, and how to develop and master each of them. The process requires self-awareness, disciple and the conscious choice to take the steps to achieve desired outcomes.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 PM
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05.13.14

Leadership Impact: Where it Comes From

Why do some leaders make an impact, while others flounder after initial success?

Impact
Tim Irwin says “leadership failures rarely reflect a problem with the leader’s competence. Most often the fall occurs because of a breach of something inside the leader.” This is not surprising because we lead from our core. No matter how polished we become on the outside, eventually what is on the inside comes through.

Great leadership is not a technique. It comes from within. In Impact, Irwin says, “Truly engaging others flows from the essence of who we are—from our core. Management is positional; leadership is personal.”

We see this too often: “Unregulated power is one of the chief instigators of a compromised core.” Something happened along the way. Successful leadership depends on growing and protecting our core. Of course, self-awareness is key. And we must acknowledge that all is not well. “Our culture’s obsession with striving to look perfect makes us reluctant to look at our own duality—that some of our impulses are noble, while others are not so benevolent. It is not that we have yielded to our shadow, but we prefer to deny that we even have a shadow.

Power and our tendency to misuse it, is an area we need to be aware of. “Self-awareness and self regulation must grow in direct proportion to the power we exert.

Irwin discusses identifying and dealing with arrogance, the beliefs that drive our behavior, self-deception. He also stresses the need for accountability We can’t regulate our core alone. Unfortunately, too many leaders derail themselves because they think that they are too good to be held accountable by anyone else. We need to have people around us that will speak candidly with us. Accountability must be part of the organization’s culture. If it is not, the first place to look for a lack of accountability is at the very top.

Steve Reinemund, former chairman and CEO of PepsiCo told Irwin:
Accountability is being responsible to some other person or organization for the activities and actions we take. it is critical to an individuals performance and an organization’s integrity and credibility.

A good organization where high-performing people want to work is a place where people have responsibilities and accountabilities for their actions and how they perform in their jobs. High performing organizations do a great job of defining accountability and then measuring it and holding people accountable for results on a real time basis.

Some of the best organizations that I have seen are very clear and very specific about those accountabilities. If people join an organization and don’t recognize its culture of accountability, they join at their own peril.
They stay at their own peril too.

Irwin’s book is a book to keep handy and to refer to throughout the seasons of your leadership. It will help you to stay on track and lead from a solid and uncompromised core.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:11 PM
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04.23.14

How to Find Leadership Blindspots

Blindspots
Blindspots. Those problems that are right in front of us that we fail to see. We all have them not because we can’t find them, but because we don’t look very hard.

In Leadership Blindspots, author Robert Shaw make this important observation: “Leadership strengths are often found in close proximity to blindspots. An overpowering strength, in particular, usually has an associated blindspot.”

Shaw suggests that not all blindspots are bad. Some may actually protect a leader from doubt. For instance a certain confidence may “push him or her forward in the face of uncertainty and adversity” to “see what is possible beyond what a realistic assessment would suggest is sensible.” Yes, but…. I would talk about it differently but eventually arrive at the same place.

To me a blindspot is a blindspot and needs to be uncovered. Once uncovered it can be managed in some way. An uncommon confidence in your approach to uncertainty may serve you well and if recognized and understood it is no longer a blindspot but an approach to life that is managed. Any blindspot puts distance between you and reality. A small deviation may never become an issue but large deviations will eventually trip you up.
An optimal margin of illusion occurs when individuals have a small, positive distortion about themselves. This results in an advantage over those who are more realistic. A positive bias is useful because it increases an individual’s motivation to move forward in risky situations and persevere in difficult situations.
“Leaders get into trouble when they don’t know what they don’t know in areas that matter.” There are degrees of blindness:

First is a complete lack of awareness. Leaders are said to be blindsided by these weaknesses or threats.

Second is denial. “In this case, a leader may be aware of a weakness or threat but doesn’t analyze it in sufficient depth to understand its causes and potential impact. The vulnerability is seen by the leader as ‘not being a big deal’ or ‘not my problem.’”

And third is the failure to act on a known weakness or threat. “There are cases when a leader knows that trouble lies ahead but fails to take action due to a range of factors including a lack of skill. I refer to this as a type of blindness because the leader fails to fully appreciate the risk he or she is facing and the consequences of not taking action.”

Not all blindspots are created equal. “Leaders need to question the relative importance of a weakness or threat once they become aware of it.”

Not surprisingly, “the more power and status people have, the less likely they are to pay attention to those below them and the less empathic they will be.” So we just don’t bother searching for blindspots.

Leadership Blindspots has a Leadership Blindspot Survey in the appendix of the book. It contains self-assessment questions in each of the four potential blindspot areas: self, team, company and markets.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
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04.11.14

Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success

Leadership
Failure is how we learn. The problem is, argues Megan McArdle, we’re forgetting that truth. We are becoming too risk-averse and that is bad for our children, for our personal lives, for our companies, and for our country.

While we tend to treat success as finite and failure as disaster, the reality is that in order to be successful, we must learn how to harness the power of failure. In The Up Side Down, McArdle explains why.

Unfortunately, teaching our kids how to fail smartly is one of the most important things we (and our schools) could be doing. Instead, we protect our kids from failure.
Educational software can help kids master new skills by pinpointing where they’re going wrong, and letting them practice just that task over and over until they get it. And yet, we don’t seem to be carrying that lesson outside the computer lab. Perhaps this is because even as our electronics have become a better and better environment for learning from failure, our educational system has become much worse.
Of course, learning from failure means asking the right questions after a failure and taking responsibility for the answers. “Learning to fail well means overcoming our natural instincts to blame someone—maybe ourselves—whenever something goes wrong.” Perhaps we deflect responsibility not just to make ourselves look better, but also to create a sense of control and structure in the world.

Our fear of failure also causes us to stay the course long after we should have quit. The biggest key to understand, says McArdle, is that failure is not the problem. It’s our refusal to recognize that we have failed. “If we assume that failure is a catastrophe, we’ll often try to delay recognizing it as long as possible. That, of course, gives your failure lots of room to turn into a disaster.”

In The Up Side of Down you’ll find why making bankruptcy easy relative to the rest of the world means not only are people willing to takes more risks, but they are feed to try again. “We built the biggest, richest country in the world” and we did it mostly because “we were willing to risk more, and forgive more easily, than most other countries. We lend more freely, and let debtors off the hook; we regulate more lightly, and rely on a hit-and-miss liability system instead. These things are often painted as weaknesses, but in fact they are great strengths. They are the sign of a country more invested in the future than the past.”

Sharing her own experiences among the unemployed, she explains the psychology of why some unemployed people stay unemployed—and what can be done about it. In a chapter titled “Adopting the Way of the Shark,” she explains why you need to keep moving. She notes, “It is very difficult to communicate the progressive corrosion of long-term unemployment to someone who has not endured it.” Money is an issue, but the psychological toll is worse—withdrawing from social relationships because it is “increasingly painful to hang out with people who have jobs.”

The Up Side Down is persuasive and engaging. It is a rewarding read that will have you looking at the “failures” in your life as opportunities to learn and reinvent yourself.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:42 PM
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12.09.13

The 12 Rules of Respect

Respect
Paul Meshanko has highlighted the importance of demonstrating respect in all of our interactions in The Respect Effect. The desired result is that those we interact with will feel valued in some way. He offers 12 Ways of thinking and behaving around others:

1. Be Aware of Your Nonverbal and Extra-verbal Cues.
What we say is important but how we say it can make or break the communication. “Extra-verbal cues include the speed with which we speak, our volume relative to background noise, our inflection, and our willingness to pause to make space for others to speak.”

2. Develop Curiosity About the Perspectives of Others.
“Empathy is demonstrated when it becomes evident to others around us that we are interested in what they think, why they think it, and how they feel about it. When this happens, it becomes easier to communicate respect to others, even if we disagree with them.”

3. Assume that Everyone is Smart About Something.
“Because I like to think I’m smart, it is reasonable to assume that other people like to think they are also smart. The only difference is that we are all smart through different histories and life experiences.”

4. Become a Better Listener by Shaking Your “But.” The word “but” can be used in a way that hinders our ability to show respect. The word “but” negates what came before it. Replacing it with “and” and other words that validate and convey consideration, the entire tone is changed.

5. Look for Opportunities to Connect with and Support Others.
“Even in the heat of conflict, there are ways to connect with people if we want to. When we demonstrate a willingness to move away from our immediate agenda and search for positions of agreement first, it makes working through the actual differences a bit easier.”

6. When You Disagree, Explain Why.
“It is disrespectful when we fail to share our observations and opinions in order to avoid conflict. We have an obligation to others to be truthful with our perspectives and points of view. When done with civility, tact, and room for counterarguments, sharing our perspectives leads to the best decisions and optimal results. It also prevents the accumulation of ‘baggage’ that builds up when we keep things bottled up.” And remember, it works both ways.

7. Look for Opportunities to Grow, Stretch, and Change.
“As we develop the desire and the willingness to hold ourselves up to the proverbial ‘bright light’ for an occasional reality check, two things happen. First, we become infinitely easier to be around because we are less critical of others. Second, we grow in wisdom and perspective. That’s because we start considering that, in situations where we might initially view others critically, the problems may be ours to deal with and not theirs.

8. Learn to Be Wrong on Occasion.
“From a neurological perspective, there is absolutely no correlation between our degree of certainty about a subject and the likelihood that we are actually correct in our beliefs. This means that our feeling of certainty about something is nothing more than a strong emotion. The stronger the emotion, the more likely we are to develop blind spots around it.” An open mind is a demonstration of respect.

9. Never Hesitate to Say You Are Sorry.
“Unfortunately, it is often when we’re at our worst that our actions are most memorable to others. While we don’t expect everybody to be perfect, “we do expect people to make it right when their words, actions, or decisions cause damage.”

10. Intentionally Engage Others in Ways that Build Their Self-Esteem.
“Building esteem in people we work with or for requires a shift in agendas. It takes a shift in focus away from what we need to what others need.” Meshanko colleague Teresa Welborne said, “If you are in a leadership position and you are not a people person, you become a liability to your organization. And if you’re not willing to make the effort to become a people person, you should not be in a position of leadership.”

11. Be Respectful of Time When Making Comments.
“If we don’t become curious or have value for what other people have to say, it is difficult to consistently fake the behaviors that demonstrate interest.”

12. Smile!
“Sometimes the most effective strategies are also the simplest. With rare exception, when we meet people who greet us with a smile, they are sending us important information about heir intentions.”

Meshanko concludes with 3 key ingredients to improving your ability to demonstrate respect for others:
Respect is about you and me, not “them,” and our commitment to it influences everyone around us. Once we understand the value proposition respect offers, that insight can provide us with patience, courage, and creativity.

Patience permits us to maintain our composure and respectful demeanor when others are not acting at their best.

Courage enables us to candidly challenge disrespectful behavior and actions directed toward others.

Creativity allows us to see points of connection, even in the midst of conflict.

When we bring these qualities online and into our work interactions, everyone benefits, including our peers, customers, vendors, and ultimately, our shareholders.


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:13 PM
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10.24.13

How to Discover Your What

Youtr WHAT
Your WHAT is the “single most crucial element of your life that needs to be identified, defined, and fulfilled,” says Steve Olsher in What is Your What? Here’s why:

Your unfulfilled WHAT will absolutely affect you in a variety of unexpected ways. It could be the source of your high blood pressure, the reason you don’t feel “good enough,” the cause of your general sense of loathing when you wake up, or the impetus behind your efforts at self-sabotage.

It should be noted here that finding your what is not a surefire way to fame and riches—or gainful employment for that matter. And while each person is unique, many others possess similar abilities and may fill a need in the marketplace better than you do. It takes work. At the same time, some people chose to work at jobs that do not fulfill or satisfy their what because it fills a purpose or a value that they consider to be greater than their own personal needs. Perhaps that is their what. That said, What is Your What? will help you get to gain control over your life rather than letting it happen haphazardly.

What is Your What? is a self-awareness book to help you connect with who you really are. What you do from there is your choice. Olsher has developed a three-step process to help you uncover and reconnect with your natural strengths, identify the vehicle you’ll leverage to share your gifts with the world and the specific audiences who’ll benefit most from your gifts.

“As we endure life’s hardships, we tend to lose touch with our inner greatness. We start to make distasteful compromises, settle for less, and become people different from our deepest selves.” Becoming aware of how you were knocked down is the first step in ascending to your most natural state of being.

Olsher bases his program on seven principles:

1. Recognize YaNo Moments. These are those moments when you are faced with a choice. Some are big; some are small. “Any time you undertake an activity without evaluating the impact your choice will have on your life, you run the risk of compromising your state of mind. The key to regaining control of your life is to make deliberate choices with an understanding of the consequences.”

2. Reclaim the Canyon. Establish space between life as it happens and your reaction to those events.

3. The Sufficiency Theory. Attain satisfaction, peace, and contentment by minimizing material desires and the effect of outside influences. Olsher suggests that we stop drawing lines in the sand. “Happiness is not a destination that can be reached by attaining select milestones. Shift your approach from waiting for certain things to happen in order to feel a certain way to feeling and acting that way now. Surprisingly often, this will spur the results you desire to happen.”

4. Retrain Your Brain. “Anything from your past that you choose to relive becomes a part of your identity. Be careful about which memories you commit to.”

5. Incorporate Jack Welch’s successful business practices into your behavior. Specifically, become highly focused on who you are, what you stand for, and what your purpose is; identify the Top 20 Percent, Vital 70 Percent, and Bottom 10 Percent for each area of your life; achieve Six Sigma in all key aspects of your life and strive to accept nothing less than your best.

6. The Not-So-Golden Rule. Eliminate fear or expectation as a motive for your actions. Your motive does matter. Act out of love, without the expectation of anything in return.

7. The Slow Death of Not Being the Star. Shift your focus away from time-consuming distractions and toward the pursuit of your personal goals. Keep track of your activities for a week. “Chances are you’ll find that what you’ve been thinking of as relaxing ‘downtime’ is actually the dominant force in your life, devouring months and years you can never get back.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:56 PM
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10.13.13

The Advantage of Dealing with Giants in Our Life

Leadership
Malcom Gladwell wants us to rethink how we think about the giants in our lives whether they be outsized opponents, disabilities, misfortunes, or oppression. We all face or have faced odds that seemed to be stacked against us. Odds that we are forced to deal with.

In David and Goliath, Gladwell shares two ideas. First, “much of what we consider valuable in our world arises out of these kinds of lopsided conflicts, because the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” The battle makes us better. It develops us and reveals strengths that we didn’t know we had.

Second, giants are not always what we think they are. The powerful and strong are not always what they seem. Often their strength can expose their greatest vulnerability. Their size can be their undoing. What we see as their overwhelming advantages can also be the thing that limits their options.

We know but easily forget, that there is a point where more doesn’t make a difference and more still becomes a disadvantage. “We all assume,” writes Gladwell, “that being bigger and stronger and richer is always in our best interest.” A wealthy man told Gladwell about the relationship between wealth and parenting:
My own instinct is that it’s much harder than anybody believes to bring kinds up in a wealthy environment. People are ruined by challenged economic lives. But they’re ruined by wealth as well because they lose their ambition and they lose their pride and they lose their sense of self-worth. It’s difficult at both ends of the spectrum. There’s some place in the middle which probably works best of all.
Gladwell is a master storyteller. The stories are compelling and at times provocative. But they all make you think.

Gladwell makes the point that certainly some people triumph over their disabilities in spite of them. They simply won’t let them stand in their way. But there are those that succeed because of their disability. “They learned something in their struggle that proved to be of enormous advantage.” Challenges can cause us to develop skills we might not otherwise have developed if we choose to respond that way.

Although Gladwell makes the point that there are “desirable disadvantages,” in that it is the difficulty that eventually led to a person’s success and made them a better person, it is not to suggest that we should wish for more disadvantages or wish them on other people. We all have disadvantages, some are huge and some are not, but the lesson is in how we see them. How we react.

Some of what we perceive as advantages—opportunities or resources that we wish we had—have actually ruined people or diminished their full potential in some way.

The thread that runs through all of Gladwell’s examples is how individuals or organizations turned their disadvantages to their advantage—how they defeated giants by reframing their perceived advantage. There is no formula here as to what will work and what won’t. The question is as it has always been, how will you respond to what you have been given?

The key lesson is that for the most part, difficulties are what you make of them.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:16 PM
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09.10.13

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night?

Leadership
Gaps in what we know can trouble us for a time, but gaps in what we know about ourselves and others can truly keep us up at night. We are unpredictable, messy, complicated, illogical, and fallible. That will never change, “but through a commitment to self-awareness we can all become more highly attuned to the subtle and not-so-subtle red flags that sometimes pull us off course.”

What Keeps Leaders Up at Night? by Nicole Lipkin is a treatise on self-awareness and personal responsibility and the damaging effects a lack of those qualities has in our lives.

“You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can change what you do next.…I’ve learned that the solutions always begin with raising my self-awareness and helping others raise theirs.”

Using research personal examples, Lipkin tackles a number of issues:

I’m a Good Boss. So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One? (You usually find three overarching reasons: too busy to win, too proud to see, and too afraid to lose. “Although most of us don’t like to admit it, we often get all wrapped up in our own ideas, not because we are idiots but because we are human. It’s natural to think our ideas best, especially when we’re the boss.”)

Why Don’t People Heed My Sage Advice? (If you focus on treating your people with kindness and respect, your influence will grow.)

Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations? (“Leaders who want to solve the problems that keep them up at night would be wise to begin with a through inventory of their stress personality.” Learn “how to negotiate your own reactions to the stress that inevitably occurs every day.”)

Why Does a Good Fight Sometimes Turn Bad? (The emotions underlying a good fight gone bad in the workplace often occur as a result of a dense of injustice, contention for resources or standing, or [I suspect most likely] feelings of inferiority.”)

Why Can Ambition Sabotage Success? (“The Julius Caesars of the world often end up failing because they pursue myopic success, a ‘nearsighted’ view that defines success in terms of self-interest. The Caesar Augustuses, on the other hand, pursue panoramic success, defining success in terms of the ‘big picture’ best interests of all.”)

Why Do People Resist Change? (“We find it amazingly easy to turn our backs on compelling reasons to change…Beginning in childhood, we tend to shed habits that don’t serve us well but hang on tightly to those habits that provide us comfort or safety. These persistent habits are able to endure even the most vicious assaults long past their expiration date.”)

Why Do Good Teams Go Bad? (“Few other aspects of organizational life pose greater challenges to a leader than the behavior of people in groups.” Groups are inevitable, and once we do join a group, some truly fascinating dynamics kick in as Lipkin explains.)

What Causes a Star to Fade? (The failure to engage people. “Engagement depends more than anything else on the sort of panoramic leadership Augustus practices throughout his tenure as Rome’s leader.”)

If things do start to go south, here are Three Simple Rules for getting back on track:

1. Seek Self-Awareness
2. Help Other Gain Self-Awareness
3. Remember we’re Only Human After All.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:56 PM
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07.03.13

The 5 Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace and What You Can Do About It

Reality
Cy Wakeman does an excellent job of helping us to peel away the layers of rationalizations and excuses we create to avoid facing reality. First she did it with Reality-Based Leadership and now with Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace.

Too often work seems harder than it should be. We can feel helpless in dealing with the realities of "today's" workplace. That said, every time period seems unparalleled in all of history to those going through it. However, people have always struggled with these issues: doing more with less; reduced hours, benefits, or pay; increased work hours; underappreciated. The problem is, as Wakeman puts it, "no one is born accountable self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence and afford you the chance to chose your destiny, no matter what your field of endeavor." The trick is learning to see your circumstances differently.

Wakeman has put this book together to help you do just that. If you have been playing the victim for a substantial period of time, her ideas will seem impossible, but they are the only thing that will work.
I am here to tell you: You are not a cog in a machine — far from it. You have more control than you think. That’s the good news. The bad news is, you and you alone are causing your own suffering. What most of you have lost touch with is that it isn’t your reality that is causing your pain and frustration. It’s the worn-out methods, techniques, and mind-sets with which you are approaching your reality. I’m here to tell you that your suffering is optional. I can help you get back on track so you can find bliss in your work again, while becoming more valuable to your organization than ever before.
She has created some pretty straightforward, brief assessments to determine your current performance and your future potential. Your value, plain and simple is based on "the value you bring to your organization, the market value of your work, and the return on investment that you deliver, both economically and emotionally, now and into the future." You must be clear about the value you bring to your organization. The three factors that make up your value:

YOUR VALUE = Current Performance + Future Potential - (3 x Emotional Expensiveness)

The chapter on Your Emotional Expensiveness is worth reading twice. It's your drama factor. "It is the single most important factor in the New Value Equation, the one that determines whether our Performance and Potential and anything meaningful to the bottom line, and whether others feel that working with us is worth the effort." Wakeman lists 15 clues to your emotional expensiveness factor. Among them are:

You may be Emotionally Expensive if …
  • You come to work in a bad mood. Ever.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers, and the boundary between your public life and private life is very permeable.
  • You complain a lot or judge others.
  • You tend to focus in what you need rather than what you have.
  • You assume the worst of others' motivations.
  • When you perform well, you want a medal for it.
Wakeman presents the Five Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace:

1. Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness. Personally accountable people bring their own motivation and engagement to everything they do. Be one of those people, and you will ensure your job security—or that your résumé goes to the top of the stack.

2. Suffering is optional … so ditch the drama. (Wakeman estimates that the average person spends two hours each day in drama—complaining, creating stories, and arguing with reality.) Your circumstances are what they are, but your reaction to them is up to you.
Even if you don't share your drama with others, there is no such thing as a throwaway thought. Most thoughts lead in some way to an action—or lack of action….Your thinking manifests itself in a way that affects everyone around you and the way they see you.

If you remain in your lane, tending to your own responsibilities in the present, you will seldom be stressed. You'll be clear, capable, and effective. Stress enters the picture when you leave your lane to meddle in other people's business, judging or trying to control them.

Learn to see stress as a sign—not that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but that you are not currently living in reality and need to inquire on your thinking.
3. Buy-in is not optional. To succeed, your buy-in is not optional, and action, not opinion, adds value. The most valuable people say "yes" the most often. If a decision has been made, opinions are no longer welcome.

4. Say “yes” to what’s next. Your success will not be dependent on everything staying the same, but on your readiness for what's next.

5. You will always have extenuating circumstances. Succeed anyway. That which is missing from this situation is something I am not giving. When you find something missing (especially—but not limited to—intangibles, like honesty, generosity, humor, sensitivity, or gratitude) don't dwell on what other people "should" be doing or giving.

Quote 
More down-to-earth straight talk from Cy Wakeman about personal responsibility and what it takes to succeed. Cuts through the clutter and gets to the core issues. Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace is a road map for everyone on how to be a valuable member of any organization.

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Of Related Interest:
  The Reality-Based Leader’s Manifesto

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:22 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

06.06.13

Balance: The Business—Life Connection

Balance
In Balance, James A. Cusumano reflects on his five careers as the lead singer of a rock band, an Exxon research scientist and executive, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, a filmmaker and a luxury hotel owner. Through it all he points to people who helped him along the way and pointed him in the right direction. Their perspective helped keep his life in balance.

We can all make a unique contribution with the specific set of skills we came into this world with says Cusumano and "there is no greater personal satisfaction on this planet than being in the thick of doing so."

To find your passion and purpose, you have to answer four questions:

1. What do I love to do so much so that time passes incredibly quickly?
2. What work do I do or have done in the past that I do not consider work?
3. What could I do that would create the greatest value for the world around me, as well as the greatest personal satisfaction for the amount of time spent?
4. What is my unique ability, the skill or skills which, if truly actualized, could provide significant benefits to the organization for which I work and to me?

He believes that 80 percent of his success was based on his early discovery of his fundamental essence—his life purpose—that was fueled by the energy of passion and guided by the "giants" in his life.

Passion fuels your creativity and the process provides a deep sense of gratitude and "gratitude always leads to long-term fulfillment and happiness. The greater your sense of gratitude, the greater your level of happiness."

Cusumano provides eight principles for building a successful business:
  1. Have a skilled CEO who embraces and is committed to Inspired Leadership*, and has a deep sense of how to create a challenging, far-reaching, yet realistic company vision and mission. The CEO creates the dream; committed employees embrace and embellish it.
  2. Achieve passionate buy-in of this vision and mission from all key stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the community.
  3. Coach employees on developing corporate values to which they are firmly committed.
  4. Hire the right people for the right positions at the right time—and compassionately and quickly ask those to leave who do not work out.
  5. Address a growing market, better yet, create one. Don't waste your time on dying markets.
  6. Focus strictly and passionately on the best opportunities. You can't do everything.
  7. Plan for an early commercial success—even a modest one. Hit a few singles instead of trying for all home runs.
  8. Have a strategic plan but stay flexible. For maximum effectiveness, the plan should be understood and embraced by all employees.
*Inspired Leadership is based on the CASTLE Principles, an acronym for Courage, Authenticity, Service, Truthfulness, Love, and Effectiveness developed by Lance Secretan. Inspired Leadership is a serving relationship with others that inspires them to grow and reach their innate human potential and in doing so they not only exhibit outstanding performance and thereby contribute much more to their company, but they also make the world a better place. Inspired Leadership is not a model, or a formula, or a system, or a process. Instead of doing something to someone, Inspired Leadership is a way of being and it comes from within.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:30 PM
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05.13.13

The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You - Redux

Human beings—and that includes most leaders—are relational.

Self-leadership is fundamental to good leadership, but it is not the end-game.

Self-awareness for self-awareness sake has a limited value.

Through introspection and reflection we can get to know a great deal about ourselves—as far as we know. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. Only when we are able to test our assumptions about ourselves, can we know if we are getting it right. It is when we see ourselves in relation to others and in relation to a higher purpose that we really begin to clarify (and many times even identify) our core values, beliefs and intentions. We can all know who we think we are, but it isn't until we get out and interact with others that we can begin to see where we are right and where we have been fooling ourselves.

Who we are takes on meaning when it is in the context of our relationship with others. Superman's stance on "truth, justice and the American Way" is pointless if he remains isolated in his Fortress of Solitude. His values only have meaning in relationship to other people. All the self-knowledge in the world counts for very little if it is not put to work in the service of others.

Self-awareness that points to your unique contribution in the world is leadership. Who you are is leveraged when it is placed in the service of other people. Surely we must lead with integrity—in a manner consistent with who we are. However, the only way to know if we are really doing that is by looking at how we impact the lives of others—how our leadership is experienced by others.

Self-awareness provides the opportunity for us to close the gap between who we think we are or want to be and who we actually are at a particular point in time. But that can only be achieved with feedback of some kind. I want to share a lengthy story provided by Scott Weiss in his great book DARE, to illustrate this point. It's a book about trust in leadership and the trust that is generated by knowing who you are and leading as that person.
At thirty-five, I was already an executive vice president with Turner Broadcasting, overseeing two divisions and reporting directly to the second most senior executive who soon would be named the company's CEO. I believed that I was very much at the top of my game, already delivering a lot of high-level presentations, and getting consistent positive feedback. I was more than a little offended by the suggestion that I needed any help at all with my communication skills. But I went.

In Atlanta, I participated in Speakeasy's exclusive, invitation-only workshop for C-suite executives. Called "The Leader's Edge," this intense three-day workshop focused on communication style and delivery with respect to leadership. In spite of my initial resistance, I did my best to participate without revealing my conviction that I felt superior to this target audience that needed help with communication and presentation skills. I wasn't the least bit nervous when it came time to watch the video recordings of our individual presentations. I was sure I'd done just fine.

With the others in our group, I watched as the executive persona of Scott Weiss delivered his speech from the screen. The guy up there looked pretty good. Very sure of himself. Very corporate. Very buttoned up. I expected to be told, as I always had been before, that I was a very effective presenter. But after a moment, Sandy Linver, the faculty leader who had directed our session turned to ask me a question.

"So," she said, "as you look at yourself, objectively, how do you perceive this person?"

"Fine," I said. "He seems knowledgeable. Experienced. Very confident."

"Hmm," she said. "That's interesting. If you could separate yourself from this person and experience him objectively, would you want to hang out with a person like that on the weekend?"

It was a strange question. But I looked at that person frozen on the TV monitor and thought about it. Reluctantly, I had to tell the truth.

"No," I said. "Probably not."

"Really?" she asked. "And why not?"

"Well," I said, "because I don't hang out with people like that."

I'm not sure whether there was a collective gasp from the audience or just a stunned silence, but what she said next definitely stunned me.

"You know, don't you, that you're talking about yourself?"

Yes. I was. I had just admitted that the person I was projecting was not someone to whom I could relate. He wasn't even someone I really liked!

And apparently, I wasn't the only one to be put off by Scott Weiss's executive persona. In our remaining time together, other members of the audience began to offer more specific impressions of how they had experienced me as a communicator, and as a person.

Arrogant.
Cocky.
Superior.
Disconnected.
Not real.


Those were just some of the terms they used. I had never heard myself described this way before. I felt like the emperor with no clothes.

I had not gone to Speakeasy for a consciousness-raising experience. But I sure had one. In the weeks following that close and uncomfortable encounter with my own executive persona, I did a lot of thinking. I examined what I had learned about how others actually did experience me, and thought about how I wanted people to experience me. There was a gaping abyss between those two extremes, and I realized that I had a lot of work to do to bring them closer together—to become more congruent as an individual and as a leader. I needed to find my authentic self and learn how to bring more of my real personality to my vocation.
I appreciate Scott Weiss sharing this story, for it's not just a process all growth oriented leaders must go through, but a process we must seek out continuously.

Feedback is a process that, if we allow it, will keep us honest with ourselves. We see things as we are; and we see ourselves through our intentions. Feedback gives us a reality check that we are free to accept or reject, but without it we have no way to combat our own self-deception.

We must be able to experience ourselves in relation to other people if we are to have a genuine understanding of who we are and why we do what we do.

So the place to begin if we truly want to know ourselves is to reflect on the impact that we have on others. Only then can we lead authentically knowing that our inner being is congruent with our outer behavior.
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Of Related Interest:
  The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
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05.10.13

The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You

Ironically, the more self absorbed we are, the less self-aware we are.

Self-awareness is vital to the development of a leader. But it's not navel-gazing. It is not an inward focus. It is an outward focus. Its ultimate goal is to improve our connection and effectiveness with others.

The self absorbed leader struggles with self-awareness and emotional intelligence because self-awareness is about how we are perceived by others. It's about understanding how our behaviors are affecting other people. And we just can't do that by focusing on ourselves.

It is easy for us to focus on ourselves—to think people just don't understand us. And when we do, we tend to rationalize rather than grow. Explain rather than listen. Disconnect rather than lead.

Self important leaders can't see how they are sabotaging themselves because they focus on their needs and feelings and not those of their followers. Consequently, they don't encourage feedback because it never seems relevant to them. An inward focus dooms us to operate from a place of weakness—never able to see what is holding us back.

It is in the character of great leaders to have a great appetite for feedback. It's a gift and still the best way to gain an awareness of ourselves. You might think of it as a personal scorecard.

To see where we need to grow, we need to see how we affect other people. Only then can we begin the introspection that will lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves and learn to move past unproductive thinking and develop new behaviors.

More: The First Step in Self-Awareness Isn’t You - Redux

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Of Related Interest:
  12 Keys to Greater Self-Awareness
  Emotional Intelligence: Self-Awareness

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:52 PM
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05.03.13

How to Make Better Decisions

"Why do we have such a hard time making good choices?" ask Chip and Dan Heath in Decisive.

"A remarkable aspect of your mental life," says Daniel Kahneman, "is that you are rarely stumped." We have opinions about nearly everything and are quick to jump to conclusions based only on the information that is right in front of us. We often just go with our gut. And that hasn't always served us well.

Bad Decision
• An estimated 61,535 tattoos were reversed in the United States in 2009.

• Forty-one percent of first marriages end in divorce.

• Forty-four percent of lawyers would not recommend a career in law to young people.

• Eighty-three percent of corporate mergers and acquisitions fail to create any value for shareholders.

The Heath brothers have identified “four villains” when it comes to making decisions:
  1. Narrow Framing. We tend to define our choices too narrowly and see them in binary terms. We miss other options.

  2. Confirmation Bias. We develop a quick belief about a situation and then seek out information that confirms our belief. When we want something to be true, we look for reasons to justify it.

  3. Short-Term Emotion. Our emotions paralyze our decisions. We think we're working it out, when all we have really done is kick up "so much dust that we can't see the way forward."

  4. Overconfidence. We think we know more than we actually do. The problem is that we don't know what we don't know. "The future has an uncanny ability to surprise. We can't shine a spotlight on areas when we don't know they exist."

What can we do? We can counteract our tendencies with these four strategies the authors call the WRAP Process from the first letter of each step:
  1. Widen Our Options. As it turns out, most of the "decisions" we make do not involve any real choice. They are whether-or-not, yes-no decisions. We do not even consider other choices. Like a teenager, we "get stuck thinking about questions like 'Should I go to the party or not?' The party is in their mental spotlight, assessed in isolation, while the other options go unexplored. A more enlightened teen might let the spotlight roam: 'Should I go to the party all night, or go to the movies with a few friends, or attend the basketball game and then drop by the party for a few minutes?'"

    We would benefit by even adding one more option to our "decision." Consider opportunity costs. ("If I do this, then I can't do that?") Or the Vanishing Options Test: If you cannot choose any of the current options you're considering, what else could you do? And consider asking others who have "been there done that."

  2. Reality-Test Our Assumptions. Encourage constructive disagreement. Consider the opposite. Consider the "outside view"—the averages. If possible, run small experiments to test our theories.

  3. Attain Distance Before Deciding. Try the 10/10/10 analysis: How will you feel about your decision 10 minutes from now? How about 10 months? How about 10 years? Also, identify and stick to your core priorities. Perhaps the most powerful question for resolving a personal decisions is, "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"

  4. Prepare to Be Wrong. We have to stretch our sense of what the future will bring—both good and bad. Think about the extremes. The future is not a "point"—a single scenario that we must predict. It's a range. Set a tripwire: "We will act when…" a predetermined set point occurs.
Making better decisions is a choice. This process will help us to make better choices.

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Leadership
As you might expect from the Heath brothers, Decisive is both informative and fun and well worth the investment. It would be a great book to get your teens to read as well. There will always be bad decisions, but with the four-step process we can improve our odds and have greater peace of mind. "You can quit asking, 'What am I missing?' You can stop the cycle of agonizing."

(By the way, if you ever get a chance to see Chip (and Dan) Heath live, do it. The presentation is very well done.)

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:09 AM
| Comments (0) | Management , Personal Development , Thinking

04.29.13

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Leadership
Research shows that givers sink to the bottom of the success ladder. Givers may make others better off, but they do so at their own expense.

But here's the thing, givers also land at the top of the ladder with takers and matchers in the middle. Adam Grant explores in Give and Take, what separates givers at the bottom and top. And the difference is not competence, but the kinds of strategies givers use and the choices they make.

Grant notes that in "purely zero-sum situations and win-lose interactions, giving rarely pays off…. But most of life isn't zero-sum."

The giver advantage is often hard to see in the short term because the "giver advantage grows over time." Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels, explains, "Being a giver is not good for a 100-yard dash, but it's valuable in a marathon."

The Strength of Weak Ties

Givers connect with the people they know casually--their acquaintances. Although it is harder to ask them for help, they are the faster route to new leads and ideas. "The dormant ties provided more novel information than the current contacts. Over the past few years, while they were out of touch, they had been exposed to new ideas and perspectives."

The Five-Minute Favor: "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody."

Givers create a ripple effect around themselves. "Giving, especially when it's distinctive and consistent, establishes a pattern that shifts other people's reciprocity styles within a group." Givers take on the tasks that are in the best interests of the group.

Developing Others

As leaders, givers don't look for talent first, they focus on motivation. "Because they tend to be trusting and optimistic about other people's intentions, in their roles as leaders, managers, and mentors, givers are inclined to see the potential in everyone."

Takers have a general distrust of others. "Even when takers are impressed by another person's capabilities or motivation, they're more likely to see this person as a threat, which means they're less willing to support and develop him or her." Takers desire to be the smartest person in the room.

"The matcher's mistake lies in waiting for signs of high potential. Since matchers tend to play it safe, they often wait to offer support until they've seen evidence of promise."

Otherish Givers

Givers that end up on top are otherish. "Being otherish means being willing to give more than you receive, but still keeping your own interests in sight, using them as a guide for choosing when, where, how, and to whom you give." Giving energizes and is meaningful when it is done out of choice rather than duty or obligation—and otherish givers give more than totally selfless givers.

To avoid being taken, it is important to distinguish between givers and takers and those that pretend to be givers. Givers become matchers when they are dealing with takers.

Grant provides a lot of fresh examples—people from all walks of life. What he finds most magnetic about successful givers: "they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefits themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts."

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Every time we interact with another person at work, we have a choice to make: do we try to claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return? In the workplace, says Adam Grant, givers are a relatively rare breed.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:10 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Management , Personal Development

04.26.13

Learning the Wrong Lesson

wrong lesson
Injustices happen.

Bad things happen to good people.

And when they do, we need to be sure we are taking away the right lesson. When something bad happens we naturally prefer to process the injustice in a way that makes us coming out as the victim; we are right, they are wrong. Sympathy is in our corner.

But, if we are honest with ourselves, rarely do we find ourselves in a situation where we played no part. And if we have the courage to step back, we can see where we contributed to the perceived injustice.

In What You're Really Meant to Do, Robert Kaplan tells the story of a television producer that got passed over for a promotion. Initially, he took the easy way out. He chose to frame it as a "political" issue. "The people who get the jobs are the ones with the connections. All this talk about being a team player and helping others sounds nice, but it's not how people get ahead." This is the wrong lesson. Worse still is the fact that this thinking taints all of your thinking and behavior from this point forward and contributes to further "injustices" down the road. You undermine your "ability to exhibit character and leadership traits" that could help your career, says Kaplan. With this narrative in your head, you fail to do the things you should and when things don't go well for you, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy that further degrades your attitude and performance. At that point, everything you do is operating from a place of weakness and not your strengths.

He adds, the producer "found it easier to stew about the unfairness of it rather than take the more uncomfortable path of figuring out how he needed to improve." We all typically do this but we can't leave it there. Kaplan wisely counsels:
I urge people who have suffered a trauma that they experience as an injustice to take time out to process it. You need to reflect on what just happened, seek advice from others who witnessed it, and figure out whether you played a role in what happened…. Learning the wrong lesson, or failing to learn at all, may doom you to repeat some version of the same experience.
When you have been wronged, slow down long enough to learn the right lesson.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:19 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

04.18.13

Reinventing You – Becoming the Person You Were Meant to Be

Leadership
It’s not uncommon to think of personal reinvention as being somewhat contrived or manipulative. But reinventing you isn’t about becoming what you are not, but more of who you are. In Reinventing You, Dorie Clark says “it’s about taking control of your life and living strategically. Who do you want to be? And what do you need to get there?” It’s about making sure that our personal brands reflect the reality of our lives (Facebook notwithstanding).

KNOW YOURSELF

Clark takes you through the whole process, beginning with, of course, starting where you are. This is a vital step and not to be glossed over because many of us don’t know where we are starting. We need you understand our reputation and why it is what it is. She offers ways to do this, questions to ask and how to conduct your own 360 interview—determining what those around you think about you. Very valuable material.

Next you need to research your next move or future destination and test drive it. (Did you know that there is a company that allows you to test-drive over 125 new careers to see if they are a fit?)

Once you have determined where you need to be, it is important to develop the skills you need. Clark explains how to do this and when to go back to school and when not to, and finding a mentor (someone who embodies what you’d like to develop and the person you’d like to become).

LEVERAGE YOUR POINTS OF DIFFERENCE

Rebranding yourself publicly means understanding first, what is unique about you. It may not be what you think. Often it's the mindsets and thinking that proved valuable in your current situation may differentiate you in a completely unrelated field. The examples of people that Clark provides, who have done just that, are very helpful in getting you to see your unique contribution.

From that you can build your narrative that pulls together the underlying themes that connect your professional experiences in a way that is obvious to others.

THE GAP

There is a time lag–a gap–between fully inhabiting the “old you” and the “new you.” Clark writes that the “hardest part of making a transition can be bridging the gap between how others used to perceive you (and how you perceive yourself) and how you’d like to be seen moving forward.” She say the only solution is to fake it till you make it.

I’m sure that we have all experienced this dynamic when making any personal change. When no one readily accepts the nice person you have finally become, it’s easy to give it up and resort to the old habits of behavior. The answer is to keep projecting the new behavior until you’re comfortable with it and others begin to accept it as the new “normal.” Your commitment to the new you will eventually win people over.

Clark adds, “You need to be hyperaware of what you’re doing and make sure you’re signaling explicitly to the outside world what you’re trying to build.” This is where doing the homework in step one—know yourself—will help you to have the fortitude to press on.

Clark explains how to get the word out and how to prove your worth. She reminds us that rebranding is a process and not a one-time activity. It is important to “keep monitoring your reputation to ensure you’re being perceived by others the way you’d like.” This is a well done and thoughtful book that is valuable not just for rebranding yourself but also for managing your reputation in general.

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Reputation management is not as straight-forward as it once was. The behavior is the same, the tools are different. In addition, says Dorie Clark, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally—and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:28 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development

03.20.13

Tipping Sacred Cows or How We Unwittingly Turn Our Virtues Into Vices

Leadership
Tipping Sacred Cows by Jake Breeden is one of those bring-you-back-to-reality must-read books. It is about how we undermine ourselves and our organizations and get ourselves into comfortable ruts, by blindly following seemingly virtuous traits. It’s often about taking our strengths too far or misapplying them.

Our values give us life and direction on one hand, “and on the other hand can steal our energy, effectiveness, and success. Like rocks in a river channel, these unexamined values can get in our way, impede our efforts, and even capsize us,” writes Breeden.

Julian was given the reins of a company and immediately set about cutting waste and inefficiency—his core value. Profits temporarily rose but growth eventually stalled. He took the firm “from growing inefficiently to shrinking efficiently.” In an effort to be efficient, he ripped the heart out of the organizational culture. Breeden advises:
Julian Fletcher shouldn’t stop being efficient—he needs to start being more sophisticated. He needs to raise his game so he understands how efficiency can harmonize with other complementary leadership traits he needs to nourish.

When leaders embrace beliefs without understanding and managing the potential side effects, the beliefs become sacred cows and get in the way. When leaders shut off their brains and blindly follow the bromides of conventional wisdom they set off a string of unintended consequences.
Breeden tackles seven sacred cows:

Balance: “Balance operates through a constant stream of choices.” Balance is often thought to mean finding the middle ground. That’s not balance, that’s compromise. In order to find the middle ground, our choices “can too easily drift toward the middle in a cowardly compromise of nothingness. Balance backfires when it moves from being about bold, sometimes tough, choices to being about bland compromises.”

Collaboration: Collaboration should be accountable not automatic. “The default state of working should be alone; leaders should collaborate only when they must. Depending on your role, that may mean a significant part of your job requires collaboration. But ask yourself the question: does this work really need more than me?

Creativity: We all like creativity. It’s fun and exciting. But creativity needs to be useful and meet a real need or it’s just narcissistic creativity—creativity to serve our legacy. “Creativity should be pragmatic, not prideful.”

Excellence: Our pursuit of excellence “backfires when our high standards choke progress.” Forcing excellence on the process rather than the outcome.

One point I would add to Breeden’s section on excellence: excellence isn’t about doing everything perfectly. That’s perfectionism. We need to be careful not to confuse the two. Excellence is a way of thinking and includes making excellent mistakes, learning an excellent lesson and perhaps even going on to make a new and different mistake. If excellence is used as an excuse for indecision, avoiding all risk or unreasonable and immovable standards, it’s counterproductive. Excellence is a term that we sometimes throw around too loosely. It’s an excuse to cover perfectionism and/or controlling and self-centered behavior—my way or the highway.

Fairness: “Fairness backfires when some of our noblest instincts force us to ensure equitable outcomes rather than equitable processes.” Keeping score and evening the score to make sure no one gets more than their "fair share" often leads to regrets.

Passion: Bad passion crowds out everything else causing you to ruminate on one thing at the expense of others. Healthy passion is part of a diverse set of traits. Passion backfires when it becomes obsessive.

Preparation: The problem here is with too much backstage preparation. Preparation is critical but sometimes the best work is done in real-time—onstage preparation—learning while you are doing.

To make all of this very practical, Breeden provides in each chapter seven steps to: Make Your Balance Bold, Make Your Collaboration Accountable, Make Your Creativity Useful, Make Your Excellence Meaningful, Train Your Brain to Focus on Process Fairness, Make Your Passion More Harmonious, and seven ideas to Take Your Preparation to Center Stage. Very helpful material.

“Sometimes, without realizing it, we use our most reassured values as an excuse to avoid the discomfort of actually leading.” Organizational cultures and personal assumptions promote certain values. If these values are not examined from time to time in light of the overall purpose, then they can cause derailment or stagnation.

We can train ourselves “to avoid the waste that comes from the unintended consequences of unexamined conventional wisdom.” We can learn to lead with wisdom.

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Tipping Sacred Cows is an important book for anyone interested in applying virtues wisely. It provides understanding as to why things sometimes turn out so badly even though we did everything “right.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:54 PM
| Comments (0) | Management , Personal Development

03.18.13

Fred 2.0 – Leadership in Action

You are no doubt familiar with Fred, first introduced to us in The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn. Fred exemplified an attitude of exceptional service delivered consistently with creativity and passion in a way that values other people.

Leadership
Now Fred 2.0 brings us fresh insights, deeper understanding and wider application of the Fred Principles—and an update on the life of the real Fred Shea.

Fred 2.0 is about a specific way of approaching life and business. It’s an attitude that extends far beyond customer service. It comes from within and says I will do extraordinary things because that’s who I am. It’s not a feeling—it’s who you are. It is not dependent on the performance of anyone else.

Why Would You Live this Way?

Sanborn says it’s because being a Fred enriches others, expands you, puts more life into your living, breaks the bonds of self-absorption, makes you more employable, offers you a better way to live, creates a positive influence, and is more fun.

“Creativity is an essential ingredient in delivering extraordinary results,” writes Sanborn. Being creative is doing something different that adds value. More often than not, it’s the little things we notice that can be done better. This applies not only to the “things” we do, but also to our relationships; how we respond and interact to those around us.

Sanborn shows very specifically how to build better relationships, elevate the experience for those we come into contact with, how to build a team of Freds and how to instill the Fred approach in your kids philosophy of life.

The Fred Philosophy is Good Leadership

The Fred philosophy is ultimately what good leadership is all about. It’s a battle against mediocrity says Sanborn.
The first job of leadership is to help people see their significance. Leaders recognize that those who feel insignificant rarely make significant contributions. An effective leader is able to show people that they are significant in ways they may not realize.
The Fred philosophy means:

• Leading by example
• Starting with what’s right instead of what’s wrong
• Encouraging people to try
• Asking for and sharing good ideas
• Removing barriers and obstacles
• Being a champion of those around you
• Giving people the freedom they need
• Teaching the Fred philosophy consistently
• Recognizing and rewarding
• Make the process enjoyable

“It’s our choice whether we’ll use our time, effort, and talents to turn ordinary work into something extraordinary.” writes Sanborn. It begins as always, with integrity. If you value it, those around you will too.

Fred 2.0 will show you the thinking behind extraordinary leadership and apply it in every area of your life. “When you know what is important to you in your life and work, you should apportion your talents and efforts so you can give the best you have to those things.” Love what you do and love the people you do it with.

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Fred 2.0 makes a significant contribution to focusing our minds on what leadership is all about. By living it and sharing it you can build a team of Freds in your organization, community and family.

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SPECIAL OFFER: Visit Mark Sanborn's Fred 2.0 web site now to learn more and gain instant access to a Fred 2.0 “EXTRAordinary Results” Resource Kit, free with purchase of Fred 2.0.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:17 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

03.12.13

Leadership and the Art of Struggle: 5 Things You Can Do

Struggle is a part of any human endeavor and leadership is no different. The problem is we view struggle as a negative. But struggle is how we grow. Without them we can’t reach our full potential as leaders.

Leadership
We like to think of our leaders as flawless. We like to be perceived as flawless—or at least we like people to think we have everything under control. But as Joe Badaracco has pointed out, “leadership is a struggle by flawed human beings to make some important human values real and effective in the world as it is.”

It may sound counterintuitive, but considering the benefits illuminated by Stephen Snyder in Leadership and the Art of Struggle, we should welcome it as an important element of the leadership process and our own personal development. Snyder writes that we should face struggle “head on—not hiding from it or feeling shame—because struggle is the gateway to learning and growth.” It can also help us to discover our purpose and meaning and develop the adaptive energy necessary to sustain our leadership for a lifetime.

Struggles have three defining characteristics:
Change: Every struggle is triggered by some type of change.
Tensions: Change creates a natural set of tensions.
Being out of Balance: Change and its ensuing tensions throw a leader off balance. This may happen without us even being aware of it, but acknowledgement of it is central to regaining control.

In the world we live in today, this is a common occurrence often leading to burnout unless we learn to see struggle through a different lens. Snyder recommends:

Adopt a growth mindset. The first step in accomplishing this is through reflection—being aware of what is going on around you. Snyder’s former colleague at Microsoft, Frank Gaudette, used to say: “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day.” A good mantra to make our own.

Center your mind, body and spirit. We all need some way to anchor ourselves and gain perspective that we practice daily like exercise and diet, prayer, connecting with nature, meditation, and/or journaling.

Build your support community. “Create a community of people whom you can connect and bond with and from whom you can seek advice and feedback.”

Overcome your blind spots. Blind spots by their very nature are hard to recognize. And they are frustrating because they blind us from seeing why people may be responding to us in counterproductive ways—leading us to finger pointing rather than personal responsibility. “Blind spots,” writes Snyder, “are the product of an overactive automatic mind and an underactive reflective mind.”

A fairly common blind spot Snyder calls the Conflict Blind Spot. This blind spot can cause someone to interpret every interaction through a distorted lens. It reinforces the perception that the other person is wrong and we are right.

Recommit, pivot, or leap. When we struggle we have essentially three options. The first is to recommit and stay the course. The second is to pivot and make a course correction. And third is to leap into uncharted territory far beyond our comfort zone. Choosing the right option requires that we examine ourselves and determine which choice is most consistent with our personal values or mission statement.

Every struggle is a chance to learn and to confront who we are and what we are becoming. Seen in that light, they are a gift. And our ability to deal with our own struggles effectively has an impact on those around us. Not only does it create a more positive environment to function in, but it provides a constructive example for others to follow.

Snyder has written an outstanding and practical book to help us to rethink the challenges and problems we face along the way. One of the best you’ll ever read on the topic.

(The Adaptive Leader Profile is available from Snyder Leadership Group.)

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Struggles are an inevitable part of the leadership journey. With every episode of struggle, there is a learning opportunity. Snyder offers insights as how to accept and reconcile the struggles you find in your own leadership journey.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:27 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership , Leadership Development , Personal Development , Problem Solving

02.13.13

Rebooting Work: How to Make Work— Work for You

Rebooting Work

Rebooting Work
Rebooting Work by Silicon Valley legend Maynard Webb and Carlye Adler is a sensible look at the changing nature of the workplace and how you can use emerging technologies to take charge of your career. To become a CEO of your own destiny.

Less than half of Americans (47 percent) are satisfied with their work. Companies are changing too. They can no longer provide the safety nets that were expected in the last century. Employees must become more self-reliant. That of course means a workplace that rewards people for their performance rather than their time in. An organization that supports entitlement over results, writes Webb, “can limit growth and opportunity.”

Giving someone a leg-up is one thing, entitlement has a permanence to it that both hinders employees and harms companies and neither performs up to their maximum potential.

Webb believes that technology presents us with an opportunity. It has the power to enable people to do something about their dissatisfaction with work and move on to careers that can provide both fulfillment and financial security. “Understanding and embracing today’s technological trends is the fastest way to travel to the career of your dreams.

Rebooting WorkWebb presents us with four ways of looking at work. We may move from frame to frame but we tend to operate in one. They are Company Man or Woman, CEO of Your Own Destiny, Disenchanted Employee, and Aspiring Entrepreneur. Where we should all be headed, states Webb, is to the mindset of the CEO of Your Own Destiny. We are living in the age of the entrepreneur.
Prior to the Civil War, most Americans worked in agriculture or as small merchants or tradesmen. Success was the result of self-direction, self-motivation, and self determination. In a way, everyone was self-made.

The Industrial Revolution brought opportunities to work outside the home, reversing the entrepreneurial spirit and giving rise to the paternalistic company, but now the Age of Entrepreneurship is bringing it back.
Today personal and professional development is on the employee. It “requires you to be relevant every day and to be voted on to the team you want to play with.” But with this freedom come accountability. In an entrepreneurial age it is more important than ever that you think like a leader—no matter where or at what level you work.

As research indicates, many people find themselves in the Disenchanted Employee frame: you are waiting to be discovered or recognized, you don’t understand why others don’t see how good you really are, your career isn’t going as expected, and you believe your circumstances are someone else’s fault.

This kind of thinking is not just unproductive, it feeds on itself and keeps you just where you don’t want to be. One of the most important things you can do is to get a mentor; someone to help you see the reality of your situation and offer constructive advice to get you moving again. Webb also offers these ideas:
  1. Make sure you do something every day to show others you deserve to be a part of their team.
  2. Have a great attitude. You might be brilliant, but if you are hard to manage, it’s easy to find someone else.
  3. Work for a higher purpose. Your job has more impact than just making money.
  4. Pick your battles. Fight only about things that are really important and that will move the needle.
  5. Don’t be afraid of change.
  6. Be brutally honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. It does you no good to kid yourself here.
  7. Don’t confuse action with traction. Focus on outcomes, not face time.
  8. Focus on expanding your sphere of influence; it will give you the opportunity to have an impact over more areas.
  9. Take time to sit back and reflect on where you are and where you want to be. Make time for a “compass check.”
  10. Be brave and be bold. Most things worth doing are hard.
Technology is pushing flexibility in the workplace. Technology doesn’t replace the need for human contact but it can make work more efficient and face time more rewarding. It provides the opportunity to create how you do your work in new ways if you are willing to perform. Outcomes become more important than ever. If you give more you will receive more.

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Of Related Interest:
  Dear Founder

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:55 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Marketing , Personal Development

02.12.13

Where Winners Live

Where Winners Live
Where Winners Live by Dave Porter and Linda Galindo is a book oriented towards sales professionals, but the issue it deals with is important (vital) to us all—personal responsibility.

Winners live in a mindset of 100 percent accountability. Accountability, say the authors is taking responsibility for the “success and failure of everything you do—for your choices, behaviors, and actions—before you know how it will turn out” (even if you’re working with someone else).

If you’re not living the personal responsibility mindset where winners live then you might be displaying what the authors call loser characteristics:

The Victim: If you live in a world where circumstances beyond your control dictate your success, you have no power.

The Finger-Pointer “owns” only the good. If it is good, I did it; if it is bad, you did it.

The Robbery Victim always blames someone else for undermining him, for getting something he deserved instead, or for scoring a win at her expense.

The Coulda-Woulda tries to take credit for what she didn’t earn by saying she easily could have, if only … (take your pick of excuses).

The Guess Man knows that there is no accountability without clarity. The more vague he is with his instructions, the easier it will be to blame someone else when the job doesn’t go well.

Where do you live?
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:06 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

02.04.13

Put Your Minutes Where Your Mouth Is

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Robert Smith, author of 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course For Mastering Your Life Right Now. He asks, "What if you were able to accomplish MORE TODAY than most people accomplish all year?" Decisions you make right now can change your life forever. …We do choose how we will live. May you have a glorious ending by beginning today.

A HUGE difference between the leaders who make things happen and those who do not is how they prioritize their time.

Leaders who make things happen schedule their lives around what needs to get done. Leaders who don’t make things happen do the exact opposite, scheduling what needs to get done around their lives.

The difference is priorities.

If meeting your deadline isn’t more important than going to the football game or getting eight hours of sleep, then you probably don’t have what it takes.

I’m not saying that football is bad. I’m just saying that I simply cannot go. I just can’t get it all done in time and still catch a four-hour game. If you want to lead a team of people who are so invested in your vision that they are willing to sacrifice certain things to help you accomplish it, then the sacrifices must first start with you.

Ask yourself this question: What are most people spending time on that I could probably live without?

You must be intense about finishing on a deadline, and that might mean sacrificing a lot of recreational things.

The key is to know thyself.

You know what you need to get done, and you ought to know how long it will take you to finish it. If you’re serious about making it happen, you must design days around completing what you know needs to be completed in order to make things MOVE.

Here’s another hint: 40 hours a week won’t cut it.

If you’re spending half the “workday” cleaning out your inbox, maybe its time to start waking up at five. Leadership is not exclusive to eight-hour windows. You have to set the tone. If you possess a 9-5 mentality, so will the people you are leading.

Every leader I’ve met who is really killing it puts in an average of around 80 HOURS PER WEEK!

Leaders have to think like entrepreneurs. It’s funny to me that I’ve never seen an entrepreneur just standing around the water cooler with a cup of coffee. The doers don’t have time for that; they’re too busy grinding away.

The bottom line is that success is built by chunks of time. And a successful leader has that time built in.

If you’re truly serious about making it happen, put your minutes where your mouth is.

Of course, if you are that serious, you probably already do. Keep it up!

What techniques do you have for blocking out distractions and getting things done?

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20,000 Days and Counting
Robert D. Smith is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting, a crash course in living each day with maximum purpose and intensity. He also writes about entrepreneurship, personal growth, and more at TheRobertD.com.

Most people measure their lives in years. But how would our thought processes change if we measured our lives in days? The average American lifespan is 28,649 days. Use the life-calculator to see how many days you've been alive.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:46 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

01.28.13

It’s Not About the Bike: A Lesson from Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong once wrote: “I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn't a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough.”

Often we begin the race with solid values. We begin with values that drive our behavior based on intrinsic rewards. But over time, something can happen if we are not careful. Competitive pressures weigh on us. The chance for extrinsic rewards like money and power loom larger. If we have not built the strength of character to resist those temptations, we can easily become the person we don’t recognize.

bike
Success also seduces us. It brings with it its own kind of pressure. When we win we get rewards from unexpected places. Strangers think we're amazing. They think we’re smarter than we are. They want our opinion about things we really know very little about. It feels good. We’re on a roll. We want to keep this going. It now becomes about the win. No longer driven by intrinsic rewards, our focus turns to extrinsic values and rewards like money, power, and fame. Our values become defined by what is going on outside rather than what is going on inside of us. And our choices reflect that shift.

The fact is, success changes nothing. Our legacy is built on the how not the what.

Without a strong hold on intrinsic values like humility, respect, truthfulness, patience and honor, we leave the door open for corruption and fraud. Changing what we value, changes everything. More to the point, it changes the choices we make. Choices build the life we lead and the legacy we leave.

When it’s all about the win, we lose. Good values and solid character build a firm foundation for wins that can’t be taken away.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:09 PM
| Comments (0) | Ethics , Motivation , Personal Development

01.14.13

Why We Find it Hard to Change Our Behavior

We know every behavior begins with a thought. So if we want to have lasting change, the beginning point has to be our thinking.

Behavioral change is only surface change if we don’t first change the thinking behind those behaviors. And it won’t stick. It will keep coming out in so many ways we won’t be able to keep up with it because we haven’t changed the thinking behind it.

When we look at our behavior we have to understand that there is a thought going on in our heads that is tripping us up. And we have to change that first. Or we’re working on the wrong thing.

behavioral change
The question becomes, “What thoughts do I need to change to make my behavior change?” New behavior will automatically follow a change in thinking. One right thought can correct a lot of bad behavior.

What am I thinking that isn’t allowing me to see things as I should? As human beings, we latch on to certain ideas and assumptions and they blind us from seeing other options and responses to what life throws at us. We get ideas in our head that can literally block us from seeing other perspectives.

Change doesn’t happen in a moment. We’ve had these patterns of thinking and behavior for a lot of years. We have to unlearn some behaviors and then learn and put into practice the new thinking and resulting behaviors. And it just takes time.

It’s right thinking over time that brings about lasting change. It’s a process. It’s a long history of repeated behaviors in the same direction that builds character.

We have to wake up every day and know that we have a tendency—not just because of our life experiences, but also because of the way that we have chosen to respond to them—to repeat a certain set of behaviors over and over again. We’ve got to remember that and change the thinking that supports these behaviors.

We’ve got a lot of set patterns in our heads that we want to return to, that we have become comfortable with, that we can justify, that we can blame on something someone else did.

That’s why we have to make a point of reflecting on our behaviors and on the impact we have on the people around us. And learn from it. And then go to work on the thinking behind the behaviors we want to change.

It’s not what you do that needs to change, it’s what you think that needs to change.

First change your thinking. The behavior will follow. It all starts with a thought.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:13 PM
| Comments (0) | Change , Personal Development , Thinking

11.28.12

How to Avoid the Artificial Maturity Trap

Maturity
Children today are overexposed to information far earlier than they are ready and underexposed to real-life experiences far later than they are ready producing a kind of artificial maturity. Tim Elmore writes in Artificial Maturity, that “it looks so real because kids know so much, but it’s virtual because they have experienced so little.” He continues:
Today, because information is so prevalent, our kids assume they have [experiential knowledge] when they only have [informational knowledge]. With an abundance of knowledge, their confidence can soar, but it’s based on a virtual foundation. Without experience, it’s easier for knowledge to produce judgmental attitudes, bullying, and arrogance.
With all of this information kids think they are mature. And unfortunately, we do too. That’s part of the problem. How often have we seen a “smart” child and thought, “They are sure mature for their age.” Intelligence and maturity are not the same thing. (Of course, we see this same issue in “adults” too.) Elmore writes, “Except in rare cases, their knowledge has only entertained them. It has not produced anything real.”

Leadership
Elmore provides reasons for why artificial maturity has become so widespread, but his real focus is what we can do about it. To transform artificial maturity into authentic maturity, we must concentrate on four areas says Elmore:

Emotional Intelligence. Mature, healthy people manage their emotions. This means developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.

Character and a Sense of Ethics. Mature, healthy people live by a set of values and principles. They don’t merely react to what is going on around them. They have self-discipline, emotional security, core values, and a clear sense of identity.

Strength Discovery. Mature, healthy people who become the best versions of themselves are one’s who’ve stopped trying to do everything and focused on what they do very well. This means developing their natural talents and gifts, knowledge base, heartfelt passions, and acquired skills.

Leadership Perspective. Mature, healthy people live lives that don’t just revolve around themselves. They invest their lives in something beyond themselves. A leadership perspective involves a personal vision, responsibility, compassion, and initiative.

Developing maturity is centered on four key areas:
  • Provide autonomy and responsibility simultaneously
  • Provide information and accountability simultaneously
  • Provide experiences to accompany teens' technology-savvy lifestyles
  • Provide community-service opportunities to balance self-service time
In addition, Elmore believes there are four debts we owe our kids: clarity (fosters focused direction), transparency (fosters validation and vulnerability), consistency (fosters trust and assurance), and boundaries (fosters security).

There is far too much information in this book to cover it here, but here are a few more ideas from Elmore:

• Start inserting age-appropriate responsibility into your children’s lives right away. Avoid indulging and overprotecting them and creating hyperinflated egos. We are doing a disservice to young people if we remove their chance to fail.

• Enable them to take control of their lives; to boss their calendars. Hold them accountable and responsible for the choices they’ve made and don’t bail them out. Let them see that failure isn’t final and poor judgment is not necessarily poor character.

• Connect them to people (adults) outside their peer group. This generation doesn’t need you for information (they can get that without you), but they do need you for interpretation. They need mentors to help them make sense of the information and the world around them.

• Communicate that there is meaning even in the small, mundane tasks. Give them a sense of the big picture and how all the little things they do fit into the big picture of history, or of the organization, or of their community.

Authentic maturity is a leadership issue. Elmore concludes, “Our kids have what it takes inside of them, if we’ll just take them seriously and equip them for the future. As they enter adolescence, we must begin to treat them as young adults and train them to be both autonomous and responsible. Then, I dare you to stand back and watch them amaze you.”

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Artificial Maturity is an excellent book to help us understand maturity—what it is and how it is developed. Not only is it helpful for developing it in children but the issues raised are good to reflect on for our own development.

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Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Tim Elmore’s Generation iY
  Are You Mature?
  Cause and Effect
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:10 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.19.12

Does This Doorframe Make My Head Look Big?

Failure
Failure is not an option. And we learn a lot if we take the time to learn from our mistakes. But gain much more when we can learn from the mistakes of others before we find ourselves confronted with the same issues.

The Wisdom of Failure by Laurance Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey, examines the lessons learned by studying thousands of executives in hundreds of companies. They have discovered three areas where aspiring leaders fail:

Unbalanced Orchestration (leadership failures at the organizational level)
  1. Trying to be all things to all people
  2. Being in business you have no business being in
  3. Entrenched in efficiency: forgetting to put effectiveness first
Drama Management (leadership failures at the team level)
  1. Leaders who rule by bullying
  2. Problems with dysfunctional harmony—when you want consensus too badly, you miss out on valuable debate
  3. Distracted purpose
Personality Issues (leadership failures at the individual level)
  1. Hoarding power and responsibility
  2. The Destructive path of disengagement
  3. Problems of Self-absorbed leaders
The authors report that the final lesson, “Does this doorframe make my head look big?” is the most damning mistake a leader can make. The mistake of self-absorption. It’s not surprising since it is the antithesis of a good leader.

The goal of the self-absorbed leader “isn’t necessarily status, position, or promotion. Rather, their goal is to have things work out the way they think they should work, because, well, they are the greatest.” This is an easy mindset to slip into. And unfortunately, it is almost impossible for a self-absorbed leader to recognize that they are just that. They need outside help, but when confronted, they are sure that the observation is of course, wrong.

Underneath is all, self-absorption is “rooted in low self-esteem and a feeling of insecurity, as well as a profound discomfort with or disregard for what others bring to the table.” It is marked by “talking big, a sense of entitlement, a sense of infallibility, a lack of empathy for others, an intense desire to win at all costs, one-upmanship, a know-it-all attitude, and an inability to listen.”

Michael Bryant, CEO of Centra Health explained it this way: “A good leader is like a coach of a basketball team. It is not important for the leader to score the points. It is important for his team to score the points. It’s not rocket science! So the one key to being an egoless leader is to understand the paradox….Self-absorbed leaders never get the paradox.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:55 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

11.05.12

Next Time You’re in a Slump, Try Stillpower

Leadership
When our performance is in a slump or we get stuck, we tend to become anxious and reach for any quick fix or technique that promises to get us out of it. We apply more effort, focus, and willpower. And when all of that doesn’t work, we get even more anxious and our performance heads even further south.

Instead, when we get stuck we need to rely on Stillpower, not willpower says Garret Kramer. Stillpower is the ability to return to a clear mindset after we get into a muddled mental state—a low state of mind. It’s knowing that “all sentiments are temporary since they originate from your own thoughts and moods. Stillpower comes from knowing that self-worth has nothing to do with winning, losing, parental approval, money, fame, or anything external to you.”

When we get into a low state of mind we need to do nothing. It’s when we operate from a low state of mind that we usually make mistakes, poor judgments, miss opportunities and dig ourselves deeper into whatever hole we are digging. “Once you understand,” says Kramer, “that as human beings we form our perceptions from the inside out, that the quality of our thinking and level of awareness move up and down independent of our circumstances, you will see that it makes little sense to work yourself through a temporarily low state of mind.” But that’s often exactly what we do.

When we run into trouble that’s a sign to step back—not a call to action. Negativity is a sign to slow down. We can't perform at an elevated level when we are in a low state of mind.
A seemingly unresolved issue of today has nothing to do with erroneous thinking of today. And until an individual comes to this realization, he or she will always fall prey to the conditions of life itself.

Here’s what many of us ought to consider: All human beings exist, from moment to moment, at varying levels of psychological functioning. When this level of functioning is low, most often for no tangible reason, we view life through a dirty lens and are prone to deviant behavior—if we act. Once this principle is grasped, we see that navigating smoothly through life doesn’t have to be so complicated, and unlike the belief of many counselors and coaches in the self-help world, it has nothing to do with personal history.
Awareness is key. When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings in the moment and when necessary, allow your thinking to clear, then you will have the clarity to act; “insights will flow and answers will become obvious.” He adds, “Insight is infinitely more powerful than willpower. Actually, insight, or having a new idea and/or a change of heart, erases the need for strength or force of will of any kind.”

COACHING

Kramer notes that when you are coaching or counseling, you need to be operating from a higher level of thinking than the person you are talking to. “What comes out of your mouth is much less significant than the level of mental functioning from which the words are spoken.” We need to interact with people from a state of mind “brimming with love, compassion, and selflessness….External how-to resources are not all that necessary; love will provide all the direction you seek.”

Leadership is an all-in proposition. Done right, it’s a lot of hard work. To cut ourselves some slack, we too often rely on external gimmicks and techniques rather than the messy work of a real relationship.

IDEAS TO CONSIDER

• “We perform better when we get caught up in the experience, rather than when we make the experience about us….When we focus on a personal prize, our options narrow; when we relish the process, our options expand.”

• “When we act from clarity, it is impossible to get weighed down by judgmental outcomes.”

• “When we succumb to our errant thoughts or closed-off moods, judge another person, and then act from this egotistical perspective of insecurity, it is practically impossible to find long-term success.”

• “Every failure, every mistake, every loss—occurs to clarify our path, not to obscure it.”

• “You will never wrestle with a choice when your level of consciousness is high.”

Leaders will find a lot to consider here. Stillpower is one of those books that makes you reconsider your approach on many things. While Kramer might seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater at times, he doesn’t overturn conventional wisdom as much as he calls us on it when we misapply it. It is the perfect prescription for those that have a need to control their world and the people around them

It is important to note too, that looking within for answers is fine if you have consciously put something there to draw-on in the first place. Good flashes of insight are only produced when there is something good to draw upon. Choose your sources wisely.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Personal Development , Thinking

10.03.12

Feedback Can Be Fun

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Jack Zenger, co-author of How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success By Magnifying Your Strengths. Readers will learn not only how to pinpoint their best leadership traits but will learn ways to leverage their strengths into ones that truly distinguish them.

Why do people all over the world enjoy participating in games and sports? Why have games and sports been going on for not just centuries, but millennia?

One of the theories is that they provide immediate feedback.

The batter in a neighborhood game of softball knows immediately if he hits or misses the ball. If it is hit, it is clear whether it is in bounds or a foul ball. It’s clear if it bobbles into the infield or sails over the fence for a home run. The tennis player learns immediately how the angle of the racket and the strength of the swing can cause the ball to be returned too low and hit the net or if it is hit too high and too hard it goes out of bounds. Indeed, a good part of the joy and appeal of every sport is this immediate feedback. It also enables the player to make an infinite number of adjustments necessary to improve performance.

It’s important for organizations to become feedback-rich environments in which information flows freely and is accepted and acted upon. It is obviously not enough to simply have feedback given if it is angrily rejected or dismissed because of the source. There is a Swedish proverb that says, “With the eating comes the appetite.” We have found that the more that feedback is shared in organizations, the more easily it is digested and acted upon.

Attitudes about feedback in companies that have been doing 360-degree feedback for 25 years are extremely different from those doing it for the first time. Within organizations that routinely provide feedback, there is a much higher degree of eagerness to get data. At the same time, there is a calm and ease about being able to dismiss the occasional outlier number or comment.

Good things come from asking for feedback. Seeking the opinions of others has a host of benefits. It conveys respect. It reduces barriers between the levels. Managers learn valuable information that comes in no other way. Empirically it reduces by 10 percent the number of employees who intend to leave.

Clearly the ideal is for managers to both give and get, but if you had to choose one or the other, our data suggests that it is better to receive than to give.

Leadership
Jack Zenger is the CEO of Zenger Folkman and co-author of How To Be Exceptional: Drive Leadership Success By Magnifying Your Strengths.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:01 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

09.26.12

You According to Them

You According to Them
Sara Canaday addresses a vital issue for leaders in You According to Them: self-awareness. While it is fundamental to our growth, we usually don’t make the time to explore it. And too frequently, we dismiss feedback or make excuses for the insights we receive into our own behavior.

How we are perceived matters more to our leadership effectiveness than our intentions. We must not only seek out how we are perceived by others but we must do something with the feedback we get. Canaday calls this applied self-awareness. In other words, using that information to adjust our behavior and close the gaps between our intentions and how others perceive us.

Typically, our blind spots, our perception gaps exist in those areas where we have overemphasized our strengths. “For instance,” writes Canaday, “do your colleagues think of you as assertive? Or overbearing? Collaborative or manipulative? Gregarious or obnoxious? There’s a fine line between these perceptions, but you can see why the subtle differences can have a huge impact on your career and your future.”

Canaday discusses in detail nine common perception gaps and how to begin to deal with them:
  • Don’t Fence Me In: Highly Productive and innovative? Or rebellious and uncooperative?
  • Intellectual Snob: Intelligent and well-qualified? Or condescending and elitist?
  • Frozen Compass: Too Direct: Decisive and candid? Or abrupt and insensitive? Or maybe you’re Not Direct Enough: Supportive and personable? Or soft and Lenient?
  • Dust in my Wind: Extremely energetic and driven? Or relentless and unrealistic?
  • No Crying in Baseball: Composed and steady? Or robotic and indifferent?
  • Safety Patrol: Methodical and compliant? Or inflexible and overly cautious?
  • Faulty Volume Control: Volume Too Low: Understated and humble? Or bland and forgettable? Or perhaps you’re Volume Too High: Assertive and enthusiastic? Or self-serving and inappropriate?
  • Passion Pistol: Spirited and passionate? Or intense and overzealous?
  • Perpetual Doer: Remarkably reliable and high performing? Or one-dimensional and over-functioning?
Self-awareness flourishes in a person that accepts personal responsibility. Without it, we only seek to justify what we do. We never quite get to dealing with those areas where we mean well but are coming across badly.

Whether we like how we are coming across to others or not, it is our reality. It is crucial that we seek out our perception gaps and deal with them if we are to be effective and grow as leaders. “No one is so amazingly self-aware that he or she can clearly see and eliminate every potential perception disconnect before it occurs. Those who are the most successful have just learned how to read the diverse people and situations they encounter and respond appropriately.”

You According to Them is a great place to start. Canaday places an emphasis throughout this book on “actively working to understand our reputations and artfully managing the perceptions that directly impact our careers.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:04 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

09.24.12

Wisdom from The Leader’s Climb

The Strategy Book
The Leader’s Climb by Bob Parsanko and Paul Heagen is a business fable about learning to counteract the growing pressure to go too fast, fight too much, and force too many decisions.

There is an alternative to this pressure we all feel. Throughout the story—an exercise in itself to create space, slow down and become more aware—the author’s stress three qualities to strengthen your leadership: Awareness (slowing down), Acceptance (embracing reality), and Abundance (considering multiple options).

The Leader’s Climb is well written and nearly everyone will recognize patterns of behavior found in the story’s main character Adam, in themselves. The authors provide a lot to think over. Here are some excerpts:

It’s not hard to see the impact on organizations of leadership that focuses primarily on speed, efficiency, results, and financial return. The same issues come up over and over again. The tyranny of the urgent becomes a substitute for planning and prioritization. Snap decisions with hidden costs replace careful consideration with obvious time requirements. Mindless compliance replaces community and commitment. Activity that looks like momentum disguises chaos. Purpose is sacrificed to performance at any cost.

Removing what does not matter is the first step in figuring out what does.

I’m afraid we often find it easier to fight an obstacle or pretend it’s not there, rather than accept it for what it is and use it to accomplish something worthwhile.

Acceptance does not mean quitting.

Activity is not the only sign of progress.

[Personal responsibility and self awareness.] I’d be a little more careful about seeing who is on the way before you throw your words around. Someone might get hurt.

[The challenge.] You’re becoming more consciously aware of what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. We just need to find where they fit together.

Most of the time, when people think they are at cross-purposes, it is simply that they don’t know each other well enough. So they speculate or assume, which almost always goes to the wrong place.

Nothing’s authentic when you try too hard and others see right through it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:34 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

09.07.12

Adaptability: The Art of Winning In An Age of Uncertainty

Max McKeown accurately argues in Unshrink that our beliefs have shrunk us. They have limited our responses. And it profoundly affects our ability to adapt.

Adaptability
Adaptability is a book about how people adapt. It is about how to win more often. “In the future,” writes author Max McKeown, “you can try to maintain what you already have, or you can attempt to transcend the constraints of your situation.”

Of course, to begin, you have to recognize the need to adapt. That’s not always as easy as it sounds mainly because we have to admit that something isn’t right. You have to understand what’s going on. Enthusiastic ignorance often rules the day. And so as, McKeown points out, “stupid survives until smart succeeds.” Knowing the rules and when to break them is essential to successful adaptability.
If you find a system failing, then you have also found a system that is failing to adapt. You need to discover, first, what adaptations are needed for the system to succeed. Second, you should understand what has stopped the system from adapting successfully. And third, you should find out how to free the people in the system to make the necessary adaptations.
Once you recognize the need to adapt, you need to understand what adaptation is required. In times of great uncertainty, we need the knowledge creators, the radical and the rebels. “When times are easy, almost anyone can look effective….When choices seem obvious, unimaginative leaders may be rewarded for making the obvious choices even when they know they’re the wrong choices.”

Leaders too, need to release its stranglehold on what is considered acceptable and unacceptable thought. Effective adaptation will not happen when there is a dominance of a couple of people over the way everyone else is allowed to think and act.

It is important to not only identify what needs to be done, but to keep on learning until you get it right. Something to think about:
Most people lock on to a particular course of action, they make their minds up early and fail to adapt to evidence that their choices are wrong. As a result, only a small portion of most people’s experiences lead to new learning.
Finally, you need to actually make the changes necessary to adapt. “The most successfully adaptive companies are those that never grow up.” It is rare to find leaders that are comfortable with “learning what is necessary from the people who do the work and know the answers.” McKeown rightly observes that being all knowing is not a human quality.

When attempting to adapt, “it is very tempting to try to remake a new situation to match an old situation.” We tend to continue to do what we already know.

“In adaptive terms, if you are still in the game, then it’s always the beginning.” This is a critical mindset for successful adaptation. “You can imaginatively rethink your actions so that wherever you are becomes the best place to start.”

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Adaptive intelligence is the ability to perceive how well a behavior fits in with a particular circumstance. It’s about fit. These ideas also have implications for our relationships as well. Failing relationships may be seen as a failure to adapt to the presence of another person. Sometimes that's called self-centeredness.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 AM
| Comments (0) | Change , General Business , Management , Personal Development

08.16.12

Behaviors and Mindsets that Ruin Careers

Leadership
Bill Lane was Jack Welch’s speechwriter for nearly two decades. In Losing It, he draws on his experiences primarily at GE to highlight the behaviors that are career killers. Naturally, Welch figures into much of this book. Reading the stories you might recognize a few areas where you may need to rethink your approach or behavior.

Most of his insights are the kind of common sense that we easily see overlooked by others but forget to put into practice in our own lives. Here is a selection of ideas to think about:

The best advice I can give anyone in management in business, organizations, politics, the military, or life in general is to fight and strive endlessly to expand your responsibilities and never stop, never coast, never get comfortable, no matter how many people tell you how great you are and how well you are doing.

“Show off” with actions, never words.

“You need to ask yourself every day of your career, ‘Am I up to speed? Am I pushing the envelope, or am I stagnating and falling behind?’” Are you still living off the same achievement you had 20 years ago?

The ultimate sustainable advantage in your career is the ability to learn.

Incuriosity leaves you vulnerable to lies and dissembling.

Good leaders put their heads down and do what has to be done, within the inflexible ropes of absolute integrity.

“Superficiality—[managing at too high a level] – leads you to decisions that I think are ‘glossy’—made at too high a level, without real understanding of the data—and leads to decisions that do not account for key data, such as risk.” Without real diligence, the organization slides into a mindset of slack.

“Uninvolved” emperors or empresses (at any level) usually design elaborate and sometimes clever mechanisms to protect themselves from the vulnerabilities and snickers caused by their feckless or disconnected behavior.

Very few people have ever gotten hurt by keeping their mouths shut.

Of Related Interest:
  5 Leadership Lessons: Inside Welch's Communication Revolution at GE

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:59 AM
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08.08.12

Leadership by Choice

Leadership
Leadership is always a choice. In Leadership by Choice, author Eric Papp says it means “making a conscious choice to positively influence those around you by managing yourself and leading others in four areas: communication, leading teams, productivity, and personal development.”

Communication — How well do you listen, ask questions, and speak with influence? How many of our problems are caused by lack of listening?

We listen better to people we like, but we can learn to listen with liking to anyone. What prevents us from doing so is preconceived ideas and ideas that we have about someone. “Sometimes while listening to someone, thoughts flood your mind – “can this person do anything for me?” “I probably won’t like this person,” or “Who likes them anyway?” – influencing how you listen.” Listen with liking.

Leading Teams – How well do you establish trust, healthy conflict, and achieve results with others?

A culture of blame teaches people that they can avert their own responsibility by blaming others. “When you breed and teach a culture of no accountability, it’s very hard to reach anything above mediocrity.” Without accountability you can’t lead. Papp suggests five ways to hold yourself accountable: 1. Don’t overextend yourself; 2. Take action before you speak. Actions speak louder than words; 3. Have an accountability partner; 4. Chart your progress. Write down daily or weekly actions that chart your continual growth; 5. Aim for consistency, not perfection.

Productivity – How well do you spend your time and how focused are you?

You are responsible for being productive. Know where your time is going, plan the day before, focus on high-payoff items, and delegate for results and not the process. (Forcing someone to do things your way is not delegating for results. It makes for a very stressful environment and is also counterproductive.)

Personal Development – What are you doing to develop yourself?

Where do leaders find their inspiration? “When we retreat to silence, we tap into the inner calm that allows us to search for answers.” Lead with silence.

We must learn to deal with stress. Papp suggests that we enjoy silence, create a gratitude list, get your sleep and take naps, allow for mistakes, help someone (giving is a great stress reducer), and make a decision to enjoy life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:25 AM
| Comments (0) | Communication , Personal Development , Teamwork

07.30.12

Influencing Up

Leadership
If you’re trying to make a significant contribution you will have to influence people you can’t control. In other words, you will need to influence up.

Often we get in our own way when trying to influence. In Influencing Up, authors Allan Cohen and David Bradford we have to overcome these barriers:
  • The assumptions you hold about how hard to push
  • An unwillingness to raise a tough issue or have a difficult conversation with your boss
  • A combative tone that provokes the exact reactions you dislike
  • Fear of being turned down
  • Inability to let go of your own concerns long enough to remember to give something valuable to get cooperation
  • Any problems you might have dealing with authority
Cohn and Bradford deal with all of these issues. Beside any self-examination you will need to do, you will need courage to deal with two influencing up issues:

First, the impact of large power differentials. Obviously, the greater the power differential between you and the powerful person, the more difficult influence becomes.
Unfortunately, this kind of large power gap tends to produce dysfunctional behavior for people on both sides of the equation. Relatively high-power people tend to overvalue their own contributions and undervalue others’, whereas those with less authority tend to overestimate higher-level individuals’ power and underestimate their own.
Second, becoming a partner with high-powered people. Partner does not necessarily mean equals. It’s a matter of “joining with” not just “reporting to” and taking responsibility for developing the partnership. To do that you need a clear understanding of your boss’s world.

Characteristics of this partnership are:
  • both partners are committed to the organizational goals and the success of the other,
  • you must be motivated by the desire to help and not just personal advancement,
  • you need to be proactive (a leader in your own right),
  • both partners must be honest and transparent, and free to offer honest feedback giving each other the benefit of the doubt,
  • and you must accept the differences between you and your partner.
Just as leaders should ask themselves, “Why am I doing that?” so should junior partners ask themselves, “Why aren’t I doing that?” Not all bosses of course, are interested in the idea of influencing up and this is one area where the partnering mind-set really helps.
You need to carefully examine the interests, power, knowledge, and agendas of every relevant individual, group, or organizational stakeholder—and determine who influences others. Although you might not be able to sway a powerful person, he or she might respond to someone else’s argument. Who has those connections? This complete analysis is critical for selling ideas or proposals, gaining backing for projects, neutralizing resistance, or otherwise making a difference.
Building on the model they first presented in their book Influence Without Authority, Cohen and Bradford deal with challenges of power differentials and partnering and how to overcome them in a step-by-step, straightforward way.

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As long as you don’t inadvertently give away your power, are willing to do your homework, and act with reasonable courage, you can increase your influence with a variety of high-power people.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:42 AM
| Comments (0) | Followership , Leadership , Personal Development

07.27.12

The Titleless Leader

Leading without a title is about taking personal responsibility. We—the world—is in desperate need of people who will choose to lead whenever and wherever they can. In The Titleless Leader, Nan Russell describes where we are:
Everything isn’t alright in our workplaces. People are frustrated, angry, disillusioned, tired, and afraid. Not to mention skeptical, cynical, and distrustful. And those plaques touting people as the most important asset should be taken down. They’re a hypocritical reminder of last century’s failed promise. Not everywhere, of course, but in far too many organizations.
But we have a choice.
We can continue the de-motivating spiral of self-indulgent, unaligned leaders, or we can decide to create tomorrow’s workplaces through a new kind of leadership. It’s the kind that doesn’t come with a title. It’s not determined by rank, responsibilities, or position. No one needs to appoint you, promote you, or nominate you. You decide.
What Russell is talking about here is a different kind of leadership that starts with what all good leadership begins with: self-discipline. It is taking responsibility for the outcomes in your area. It’s setting an example of behaviors that are aligned with values.

Leadership
For Russell, titleless leadership is based on four cornerstones:

Self-Alignment: Behavioral integrity. People remember what you are.

Possibility Seeds: Encourages and nurtures others. Titleless leaders plant possibility seeds “not because there’s a mentoring- or succession-planning program, but because they’re operating with a better together approach.”

Soul Courage: Step-up and offer your best self. Push outside your comfort zone to do the right thing.

and Winning Philosophies: It’s only when we’re all winning that we truly all win. Focus on group wins and not the politics of individual wins.

The Titleless Leader is a handbook of behaviors and thinking to help you lead from where you are. Certainly, they’re not easy and require some change in perspective, but they will create more meaning and value in your workplace and more importantly, in your life.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:58 PM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Personal Development

07.06.12

Negativity Loops Destroy Intention

When the stakes are high, negative thinking is a no-brainer; it comes naturally to any of us. Living intentionally is the path to success, but what happens when our intentions are derailed? When things aren’t going as planned?

Kristi Hedges is an expert in executive presence. In The Power of Presence she describes presence as “how people move through the world.” It is how people perceive you over time. Negativity dramatically affects your ability to lead.

Negativity pulls us down and inward. Positivity pulls us up and outward.

Negative thoughts have two characteristics: they are permanent and universal. As in, “They are…” “It is…” and “I’m not.” Hedges says, “People who maintain optimistic thoughts gain resilience. When they have setbacks, they see the issue as temporary and specific, not permanent and pervasive.”

You have to learn to dispute your own negativity and turn it into optimism. Most of our pessimistic thoughts are just catastrophizing with little or no root in reality. Negative thoughts “Support inaction, excuse complacency, and take away our options for solutions. They destroy our game.”

When you find yourself in a stressful situation and caught in a downward negative spiral, Hedges recommends that you:
  • Stay vigilant and recognize when it’s purely pessimism and not constructive.
  • Learn to challenge your thoughts before, during, and after a stressful situation.
  • Find a pregame ritual—a repeatable process to get yourself in the zone of your intention—to get yourself into a positive frame of mind from the outset.
  • When you have a physical reaction in a stressful situation, accept that it is a normal response and use helpful strategies to work around it, including taking deep breaths, pausing, and simply acknowledging them. Instead of fighting and resisting a physical reaction, “learn to observe it and acknowledge it as purely a physical effect with no link to your ability to perform effectively.”

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:25 AM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

05.23.12

InsideOut Enneagram

InsideOut Enneagram
The Enneagram is a method for identifying your personality type and is valuable system for learning about yourself and others. The Enneagram system defines nine basic personality types of human nature and their complex interrelationships.

Wendy Appel has tackled the Enneagram’s subtleties and complexities in InsideOut Enneagram. Her book makes practical the Enneagram system by use of clear explanations of each Type, case studies and a structured journaling process. There is a section on Type and team interactions that examines predictable points of tension, reactive patterns, and synergies between all of the possible Enneagram Type pairs. Her goal is to help you to see and think differently about your strengths, your weaknesses, and mostly the subterranean habits of mind and motivations that drive you and others. It’s a journey of self-mastery.

Appel observes that “most of us focus our attention outward and neglect our inner life. We think that change is out there. Instead of tuning in to the language of our head, heart, and gut, we are busy looking outside, ahead, and down.”

Understanding who we are, uncovering our blind spots, and creating a game plan to master our thinking and behavior, is vital to developing our leadership potential and to better understand those we lead.
The subconscious mind, where our habits, patterns, and beliefs reside, directs the course of our lives, and most of us are unaware that this is happening. To transform as leaders and to transform our organizations require that we examine our core beliefs—both individual and collective. If not, we simply make iterative changes, and that won’t be enough to succeed in today’s globalized economy.

The Enneagram gives you the possibility to transform the way you show up as a leader. Inner change leads to outer change—when your inner world transforms, an opening is created for extraordinary shifts to occur in your outer world. When you lead from the InsideOut, you have the ability to be responsive and flexible enough to act in the moment. Your words and actions are aligned. You take responsibility for creating your life and for leading with integrity and passion.
Appel says she often gets asked “about the difference between the MBTI and the Enneagram, or whether MBTI Type preferences neatly fit into the Ennegram Types. The most simplistic way to understand how the systems complement each other is that the MBTI describes preferences for how we do things (get our energy, make decisions, gather information, and so on); the Enneagram describes why and how we behave as we do (beliefs, fears, desires, focus of attention), and how we go about getting our perceived needs met.”

InsideOut Enneagram is an opportunity to discover what is working for you, what is not working for you, why, and what you can do about it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
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05.03.12

Stuck? Flip the Script

Flip the Script
Flip the Script is about approaching everything in your life with a new mindset: you can’t control circumstances but you can manage them. Author Bill Wackermann says that the first step is to “embrace the notion that turning a situation around and creating new opportunities takes the desire to face yourself as you really are and a willingness to see the potential that could be hiding right in front of you.”

Wackermann believes that anything can be flipped—any expectation can be turned upside down. It is a skill that can be learned and developed through practice. The book is divided into three sections: understanding yourself, navigating how to build your flip, and winning, overcoming obstacles and putting it all together. All three steps are important, but the first section is the meat of the book and the one that requires the most attention because this is where we get in our own way most of the time.

Understanding yourself and your situation requires honesty. It doesn’t do any good to make excuses here; that only clouds the issues. “Designing your way around obstacles starts with a proper mind-set.” Begin by asking, “So what if …?” So what if there isn’t enough money? We are short on people? So what if they don’t come through? “So what if?” is a “mental tactic that allows you to force yourself to consider alternative viewpoints and plan for the worst.”

Taking responsibility for where you are in this moment, is crucial and once done can actually provide us with a great deal of freedom. Blaming others imprisons us. Wackermann suggests asking yourself:
  1. What can I do right now to fix the situation I want to change? It can be a big or small action, but it has to be something.
  2. What did I do that contributed to getting me to where I am?
  3. What could I have done differently?
In conjunction with those questions, you might also ask yourself:
  1. Do I blame others? Colleagues, clients, or family members? (E.g., “He never told me it was due today?”)
  2. Do I make excuses to avoid responsibility? (E.g., “I couldn’t get to that email because I was traveling.”)
  3. Do I ever apologize?
  4. Do I complain rather than try to make a situation better? (E.g., “They really need to fix that.”)
Wackerman says blame is like candy; too much is unhealthful and will make you sick. “What’s standing between you and success right now is you. Not your folks, not your history, just you. I’m not suggesting that you deny your past, but I am advising that you refuse to live there because it just might kill your future.”

He covers common areas of self-sabotage like Know-It-All-Ism, My Boss Hates Me, Taking Things Personally, Perception is Reality, and Excusing Yourself. Wackermann leaves you with much to think about. Here are a few more ideas to keep in mind:
Flipping means managing all aspects of a situation, including the internal and external…A successful flip requires that we not confuse our motives with what the world sees. To move our goals forward, we have to be mature enough to recognize that perception, unfortunately, is reality. That is business, and our actions and behavior shape how others see us and see our potential for growth. The good news is that we can control in way both big and small how the world sees us.

You can borrow the best of what you like in others rather than fixating on their worst traits.

The behaviors you do robotically are the ones that are keeping you stuck in your current situation.

Actions must follow words. If you feel like other people are catching all the breaks, come in early, stay late, and volunteer for assignments that take you out of your job function. It’s called taking the initiative: you need to show your boss that side of you.

Flipping the script isn’t based on intelligence, rather it’s based on our ability to manage ourselves and control our urges.

Doing the right thing is so hard because it usually takes much more work, determination, willpower, and self-control than you’d expect.

To win at politics, don’t complain, and take five minutes a day to build alliances and stay focused on your end goals. Use the ROPE method: Have a good Role Model, Open yourself to change, Project confidence, and Express humility.

In the end, you can’t make people behave differently; all you can do is manage yourself.


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Your success in flipping the script will be determined by how hard you are willing to look at yourself and your ability to deconstruct patterns of behavior that you’ve established over a lifetime.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:41 AM
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03.30.12

The Power of Habit

Habits will always be with us. Some good. Some bad. But how do you replace bad habits with good habits? More importantly, how often do we ask ourselves if what we are doing is really just a habit? We are less intentional than we think we are.

The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg has written a book for all of us: The Power of Habit. After reading it you will understand how habits are formed and what you can do about it. You will also look at habits in a new way. Habits infiltrate our organizations and become invisible forces to contend with that we never realized were there. Learning to spot them is key to our success. Consider the following story:

As a newspaper reporter in Baghdad, Duhigg heard about an officer conducting an impromptu habit modification program in Kufa, a small city ninety miles south of the capital.
He was an army major who had analyzed videotapes of recent riots and had identified a pattern: Violence was usually preceded by a crowd of Iraqis gathering in a plaza or other open space and, over the course of several hours, growing in size. Food vendors would show up, as well as spectators. Then, someone would throw a rock or bottle and all hell would break loose.

When the major met with Kufa’s mayor, he made an odd request: Could they keep the food vendors out of the plazas? Sure, the mayor said. A few weeks later, a small crowd gathered near the Masjid al-Kufa, or Great Mosque of Kufa. Throughout the afternoon, it grew in size. Some people started chanting angry slogans….At dusk, the crowd started getting restless and hungry. People looked for the kebab sellers normally filling the plaza, but there were none to be found. The spectators left. The chanters became dispirited. By 8PM, everyone was gone.
In a sense, a community—your organization—is a giant collection of habits. Later, when Duhigg talked to the major, he said, “Understanding habits is the most important thing I’ve learned in the army.” “Once you see everything as a bunch of habits,” says Duhigg, “it’s like someone gave you a flashlight and a crowbar and you can get to work.

Habit LoopA habit is the brain’s way of saving effort. Duhigg has broken the formation of habits into a three-step loop: the cue (“a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (“which can be physical, or mental or emotional”), and finally there is the reward (which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future).

The key to remember here says Duhigg is that “When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. It stops working so hard, or diverts focus to other tasks. So unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”

Breaking habits down in this way makes them easier to deal with. If we can learn to identify the cues and rewards, we can change the routines. We can live life a bit more intentionally.

Duhigg shows how habits played a part in the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. He goes behind the scenes at Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, and NFL locker rooms. He explains how improving a single habit rippled out to improve an entire organization—Alcoa. Fascinating material to think about on many levels.

How much of what you do is on autopilot?

How much of what your organization does is on autopilot?

Of Related Interest:
  Breaking Old Habits

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Habits are not destiny. They can be changed if we understand how they work. Habits cannot be eliminated, but they can be replaced.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 PM
| Comments (0) | General Business , Human Resources , Management , Personal Development

03.14.12

Develop a Relentless Solution Focus

Collaboration
Whatever you are trying to accomplish, Jason Selk, author of Executive Toughness, says a relentless solution focus (RSF) will dramatically increase your chances of achieving it.

The tactic is this: Within 60-seconds, replace all problem focused thought with solution-focused thinking to dramatically improve your health, happiness, and success.

We naturally like to focus on and talk about our problems. “We all have the tendency to take the positive for granted. We allow it to become the faint background for the problems we draw in intricate, larger-than-life detail.” A focus on problems only produces more problems. Your mind can only focus on one thing at a time—better to have it focusing on solutions than problems.

“Anytime you catch yourself focusing on a problem, negativity, or self doubt, as yourself this question: What is the one thing I can do differently that could make this situation better?

Any solution, even a partial one will begin to stop the negative emotions. “To ensure you have the necessary perseverance to continue searching for the viable solution, you must first realize that each and every problem has a solution. There’s always a +1 solution that brings you one step closer to a full solution. Most people want a solution that produces complete resolution to the problem….Any improvement, small or large, is a solution: a +1 solution to be precise.”

Selk, mental toughness is the ability to focus on and execute solutions, especially in the face of adversity. It is built on three skills: developing accountability (consistently doing what needs to be done), increasing focus, and becoming optimistic (confident in one’s abilities).

Selk was inspired by coach John Wooden and his belief in trusting the process; “give me those things that I know you can give me and I will take whatever comes.” Executive Toughness explains how to develop mental toughness through the daily practice of ten fundamentals.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:01 PM
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03.07.12

8 Essential Principles of Effective Leadership

Leadership
Gayle Beebe has written a book on how effective and moral leaders develop and more importantly, how they must continue to develop. Too often leaders think they have made it and stop working on themselves. Eventually they become leaders in title only. He writes in The Shaping of an Effective Leader:
Our understanding of leadership does not come to us all at once. It takes time. In our instant-oriented culture we often want to short-circuit the thinking, reflecting and acting that mark our progressive development as leaders. Understanding how leaders develop and why they matter requires discernment, wisdom and insight.
Leadership development is a process. Seeking instant results and ladder-climbing can leave us little to show for our efforts. Some leaders “penchant for moving on has allowed them to avoid facing the consequences of their decisions” thereby restricting their development. “They have changed responsibility so often that they have failed to undergo the development that comes from facing mistakes.” Then too, some leaders are so busy “fixing problems” with personnel changes that they never really face the core issue—themselves.

Beebe draws heavily on Peter Drucker’s teachings and writings. The implementation of these eight principles will have a profound impact on your leadership:

The Necessity of Character. “The formation of our character creates predictability to our leadership. Predictability, dependability and consistency: these three qualities ensure that our leadership is reliable and motivates people to place their confidence in us.”

The Importance of Competence. “Drucker emphasized the importance of a liberal arts education, which he believed was the best training for learning how to synthesize discrete pieces of information into a meaningful whole….All knowledge must be brought to bear on our challenges.”

The Advantage of Team Chemistry. Generosity builds teams. Greed destroys them. “Eventually it leads to a lack of respect for the needs and ambitions of others because our own needs and ambitions overrun all normal boundaries and expectations….It is made manifest by an excessive need for acclaim, attention or compensation. It also is evident in an inability to share the limelight. Malice and thoughtlessness are twin manifestations of this same inner drive.”

The Interplay of Culture and Context. Cultures shape people. “An appropriate structure (culture) is the one best suited to maximize the performance of our people.” In addition, “culture is also shaped and influenced by the environmental context in which it exists….One of the biggest mistakes a company can make...is when it operates on the basis of what it prefers and how it believes a society should function, rather than how the society actually operates.”

The Strength of Compatibility and Coherence. “We have to know ourselves well enough and understand ourselves deeply enough to enter into the kind of human communities that will sustain us.”

The Guidance of Convictions. “An individual must balance a strong self-understanding and self-esteem with the necessity of confronting all issues both objectively and subjectively….A self-differentiated leader is one who has a head (intellectual capacity) from which he speaks with conviction while having a heart (empathetic capacity) with which he stays connected to people.”

The Significance of Maintaining Our Connections. “Remaining connected to our work associates even when we make hard decisions is only possible if we maintain personal integrity, display competence, create team chemistry, develop a great culture, retain a level of compatibility that motivates, and display a level of conviction and predictability that people trust.”

The Opportunity to Make an Ultimate Contribution. The ultimate contribution is in our quest for meaning. “Work, meaningful as it may be, can lose its appeal….Drucker advocated developing a second interest long before we exhaust our first interest. This parallel career becomes not only our lifeblood for meaningful work and service opportunities in the future, but also a source of great support if we were to experience major setbacks in the present.”

Beebe writes, “These principles do not operate separately from one another. Indeed, they build on each other, and their effect is cumulative.” These eight principles will improve our contribution as leaders if we are mindful of them on a daily basis throughout the rest of our lives. At each level our character is tested and developed. Effective leadership is built on moral authority grounded in character. Leadership is a privilege that we earn every day.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:36 PM
| Comments (0) | Leadership Development , Personal Development

02.20.12

5 Leadership Lessons: Where Negative Emotions Come From

5 Leadership Lessons

Brian Tracy and Christina Stein have written a book—Kiss That Frog—to help you root out the causes of the negative thoughts that are influencing your attitudes and behaviors more than you realize. It’s a critical issue for leaders.

“All emotions, especially negative emotions, distort evaluations. A person in the grip of a negative emotion is incapable of thinking clearly or rationally.”
Kiss That Frog
Here’s the danger: “The more intense the negative emotion, the more the sufferer becomes detached from reality and is incapable of reasoning clearly. The person then talks and acts in a way that is often unexplainable and destructive.”

Tracy and Stein have identified five major factors that cause people to create negative emotions and hold on to them:

1  Justification: You defend your negativity and your right to be angry. Negative emotions cannot exist unless you can justify your right to experience them to yourself and others. The more you justify yourself and convince yourself that the other person involved is bad in some way, that you are pure and innocent and are therefore entitled to feel the way you do, the angrier and more upset you become.

2  Identification: This means that you take things personally. You interpret what has happened as a personal attack on you. Having healthy emotional boundaries is essential, especially in a work environment. You can be compassionate without identifying with someone else’s emotions.

3  Hypersensitivity: To be extremely sensitive to the thoughts, opinions, or attitudes of others toward you. Peter Ouspensky called it “inward considering.” In extreme cases, hypersensitive people become paralyzed in that they cannot make a decision without getting the approval of other people.

4  Judgmentalism: The tendency of people to make negative assessments about others. When you judge another, you become emotional. And emotions distort evaluations. People often judge others because they want to control their behavior.

5  Rationalization: What happens when you put a socially acceptable explanation on an otherwise socially unacceptable act. Because of low self-esteem and weak egos, most people cannot admit that they have done or said something that was not thoroughly reasonable and justified.

Rehashing negative situations allows the negative emotions to grow. Keeping an eye on these factors leading to negative emotions can help you to stop the negative emotion the moment it is triggered.
You have a wonderful mind. But it is a two-edged sword. You can use it to make yourself happy, or you can use it to make yourself angry. Your goal should be to use your intelligence to keep yourself calm, in control, and at peace, no matter what is happening around you or to you.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 PM
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01.23.12

The Compound Effect

Leadership
The Compound Effect is a reminder of the law of cause and effect. Darren Hardy shares the impact it has had on his life and how you can make yourself accountable for your choices.

The Compound Effect is the ripple effect you get from the choices you make. In life, you not only reap what you sow, you reap more than you sow. The seemingly insignificant choices we make daily, will create major changes in your life for good or bad. These are the things we don’t think about because they have no immediate effect. They don’t seem to matter. But over time, they can take you places you never intended. Hardy encourages us to make conscious choices—daily.

Given the fact that we have a limited lifespan, the earlier we start consciously making small changes in our behavior, the more powerfully the Compound Effect works in our favor.

Since your outcomes are all a result of your moment-to-moment choices, you have incredible power to change your life by changing your choices. Step-by-step, day by day, your choices will shape you actions until they become habits, where practice makes them permanent.

Creating habits isn’t easy. Hardy says you have to begin by thinking your way out of the instant gratification trap. “The problem is that the payoff or instant gratification derived from bad habits often far outweighs what’s going on in your rational mind concerning long-term consequences. Indulging in our bad habits doesn’t seem to have any negative effects at all in the moment. But it doesn’t mean you haven’t activated the Compound Effect.

Hardy also recommends that when we try to change a habit we should focus on what we are adding-in rather than what we are taking-out. Instead of thinking about all of the TV you will miss in the evening, think about the experience and fulfillment you will gain by adding-in a hobby instead. Instead of focusing on what you have to sacrifice, focus on what you get to add-in.

It harder to get started than it is to keep going, so you must be consistent to keep your momentum going. “When you start thinking about slacking off on your routines and rhythms, consider the massive cost of inconsistency. It is not the loss of the single action and tiny results it creates; it is the utter collapse and loss of momentum your entire progress will suffer.”

In this regard, it is important to look at what is influencing you. What you feed your mind, the people you spend time with, and your environment will all conspire to bring you closer or further from your goals. Stand guard.

Finally, Hardy says to multiply your results by going beyond the expectations; doing the unexpected. Uncommon things deliver uncommon results.

Quote 
Hardy says what stands between you and your goal is your behavior. Your life comes down to this formula:

Compound Effect

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:47 PM
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01.11.12

What You Need to Know About Why People Fail

Failure
“There are thousands of books on success. But very few on failure,” begins Siimon Reynolds in Why People Fail. “Yet mastering failure is surely a vital step in achieving your aims, hopes, and dreams.”

He is passionately driven to take the "taboo" out of failure. As Reynolds suggests it is a "forbidden subject. We're not supposed to fail and if we do, we're supposed to hide it from everybody. It gives people the wrong impression about what it takes to be successful."

Failure leads to success—if you see it as a process. “If someone has achieved more than you, it’s not usually because they are better than you or smarter than you. It’s because they have discovered a better strategy for success.”

Reynolds has identified 16 reasons for failure. They are:

1. Unclear purpose
Reynolds claims that the reason average people are average is because they have no clear purpose. “It is not unusual to see people working 12 hours a day and still not getting anything substantial done. Why? At the heart of it, their lack of clarity about the best use of their time leads them to work on what’s urgent, not what’s important.” Foggy purpose leads to mediocre results, says Reynolds. Zig Ziglar remarked, “Most people are a wandering generality rather than a meaningful specific.”

2. Destructive thinking
Not surprisingly, destructive thinking has a dramatic impact on both our health and our behavior. Reynolds recommends the SCORE technique created by Jim Fannin. Before you begin a new task, ask yourself: Are you working toward your goals? (Self-Discipline), Are you focused? (Concentration), Are you positive? (Optimism), Are you calm? (Relaxation), and Are you choosing to have fun? (Enjoyment).

3. Low productivity
Getting productive begins with planning before you start. Make a list. Break your work down into blocks of time. Reynolds says that when he’s feeling down or lazy, he likes to separate his day into 10-minute blocks. Working in short bursts boosts his momentum and increased his concentration. This technique he learned from Igvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA. Kamprad says, “Divide your life into 10-minute units and sacrifice as few of them as possible in meaningless activity.”

4. Fixed mindset
People with a fixed mindset believe that their capabilities are set in stone. They tend to not try hard, give up early, and don’t try new things. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe that with dedication and effort you can get better. They tend to forgive more, see problems as temporary, learn from their mistakes, and have faith in the future. What would happen if you worked a little harder at something you feel you’re not good at?

5. Weak energy
Success takes energy. Success requires good sleep, a proper diet, exercise, and a balanced lifestyle.

6. Not asking the right questions
The questions you are create the things you think about and the direction of your life. You should be asking yourself the following questions frequently: What are my values? What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail? What could go wrong? How could I make 10 times more money? What would X do? Should I even be involved with this? How would my competition defeat me? What’s the best use of my time right now? When I die, what kind of life would I like to have lived? How could I improve that performance?

7. Poor presentation skills
“Presenting well will increase your confidence and your salary faster than almost any other skill. Your boss will want you to lead more and your clients will trust you more. You’ll feel in command and in control, and others will sense that they’re dealing with someone highly capable and dynamic.”

8. Mistaking IQ for EQ
A priceless ability for leaders, those with a strong EQ (emotional intelligence) are able to perceive emotions, use emotions, understand emotions, and manage emotions. “When it comes to everyday practical living, EQ beats IQ every time.”

9. Poor self-image
Self-image is important because it determines what actions you will take and how you will feel each and every day. It’s like your “mental operating software…a mental blueprint of what’s possible for you.” Mostly, you are not your conscious thought. According to Deepak Chopra, about 70% of your thoughts are not new. They are the same thoughts you had yesterday. “The truth is, because of their low self-image most people are selling themselves short.” Think about your self-image and focus on building it up. Act-as-if. Consider the people you socialize with. Are they building you up? Visualize who you could be.

10. Not enough thinking
We are obsessed with doing and don’t spend enough time thinking. Brainstorm regularly.

11. No daily rituals
Daily rituals enable even average people to become champions of life and ultimately outperform others who seemingly have more talent. “If you can add a structure to your goals, a ritual you do daily, you will increase the chances of achieving them by 1000%.” If you’re not getting the results you want in any area of your life, Reynolds attributes it to a lack of ritual.

12. Stress
Stress can kill. Relieve stress with deep breathing and the practice of releasing. You might try list making, dividing your stress into things you can do something about and things you can’t, cleaning and simplifying your environment, getting outside, eating properly and creating order in your life.

13. Few relationships
You can’t get there alone. You must enlist the help of many others along the way. Develop your ability to develop strong personal relationships.

14. Lack of persistence
Giving up too soon is at the heart of many failures for two reasons. The first is a poor self-image. “Deep down they don’t have the faith that they are capable of pulling off a great victory, so when they try, they do so in a tentative, half-hearted manner and are ready to give up at the first sign of difficulty.” And second, they think there is something wrong with failure. Champions know they are going to fail numerous times, so they get on with it.

15. Money obsession
Professor Tim Kasser remarked, “The more materialistic values are at the center of our lives, the more our quality of life is diminished.” Research shows that people who focus on the material things are less satisfied with their lives. There is nothing wrong with money, but we shouldn’t build our life around it. Better to focus on relationships, community, serving others, and appreciation.

16. Not focusing on strengths
Know your strengths to maximize you natural strengths. Not everything you need to do can be centered around your strengths, but the more you do, the more successful and enjoyable your life will be.

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If you are struggling, you can probably identify with at least one of the above reasons. Actually, all of us can identify with some of them and could benefit from designing a ritual to overcome them one by one. It’s not always easy but it is doable. Pick one and make a commitment to conquer it.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:31 PM
| Comments (0) | Personal Development

11.24.11

Finding Gratitude in the Common Things


We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
—Thornton Wilder

Sometimes we have big and uncommon things to be thankful for, but mostly what we have to be thankful for is daily, common and mundane. It’s these daily blessings that we take for granted. It’s these that we need to be most thankful for and learn to find ways to express our gratitude for—daily.

Gratefulness is a state of mind. Gratitude puts us more in the moment rather than being shackled to the past. Without an attitude of gratitude we tend to focus on the wrong things. It makes us do things we shouldn’t do.

Gratitude assigns meaning to that which we find common, but is, in fact, a gift. At the same time it gives us meaning.

Often it is not until we are deprived of something that we begin to appreciate that which we take for granted. It is easy to be oblivious to that which we have until we lose it or face the prospect of losing it.

Do we have to suffer a loss to appreciate that which we have?

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Of Related Interest:
  Gratitude: The Habit of Noticing

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 12:01 AM
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11.14.11

Do You Have Moral Overconfidence?

In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article, Harvard Business School Dean, Nitin Nohria stated that because we all suffer from “moral overconfidence,” the most important thing business schools could be teaching is humility. He writes:
Many people view “character” as an immutable trait formed during childhood and adolescence. I believe character development is similar to the development of knowledge or wisdom—it’s a lifelong process. The world isn’t neatly divided into good people and bad people. Most will behave well or poorly, depending on the context….Business leaders need to remember that most of us have too much confidence in our strength of character.
Nohria is exactly correct. Good leadership is humble leadership. Humility is living in truth. The truth about our limitations and an understanding of our proper relationship with others. And do we share with each other a moral overconfidence—a certain naiveté about ourselves that carries with it the seeds of our own destruction.

Humility gives us a better understanding of how we are to treat each other. Without it we operate from only one perspective—our own. This kills influence. As leaders, we are to work with people, not over them. It is far too tempting to think hierarchically and not relationally.

In Leading Without Power, Max De Pree says that “Leaders belong to their followers.” Too many leaders try to create a buffer between themselves and their followers, when instead, they need to be leading from among their followers. A humble leader will close the gap between themselves and others.

Humility manifests itself in understanding the need to learn. Authority disciplined by humility is teachable. It is arrogant to think that once we have the position or a title, we’ve arrived. We never arrive. It is merely an opportunity to learn from another perspective. If you stop learning, you stop leading. It’s something we need to stay on top of because if we don’t, life has a way of bringing us up short in an effort to get us to wake-up and start learning. Leadership has a way of revealing our weaknesses.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:07 PM
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11.09.11

Uncertainty Will Freeze You in Place if You Let It

Leadership
Ambiguity is not only certain; it is a necessary state for advancing. Jonathan Fields writes, in Uncertainty: “The more you’re able to tolerate ambiguity and lean into the unknown, the more likely you’ll be to dance with it long enough to come up with better solutions, ideas and creations.”

The problem is that most of us, to one degree or another react so strongly to ambiguity or uncertainty, that it becomes a limiting factor in our lives and stops us from acting in the face of it. The issue is not so much failure as it is not wanting to “be judged for taking the less-mainstream path and coming up empty.”

But taking the risk in the face of uncertainty is “not about tempting fate, it’s about going to that place where magic happens.” Living in the question. So how do we push forward when everything seems to be spinning out of control?

Fields suggests we first find our certainty anchors. Certainty anchors are rituals and routines that we build into our life that help to counter the resistance. On those occasions when you find that it is “Twitter-Time,” rituals and routines will help move the process along. “Ritual helps train you to sit down when you most want to stand, when you’re forced to work on the part of the process that leaves you anywhere from bored to riddled with anxiety.”

Get feedback along the way. Build a hive of heroes, mentors and champions. Consider ways to bring into the process the very people you are creating for.

Train your brain in the art of focused awareness through meditation, mindfulness, visualization, and exercise to stay focused and grounded. Randy Komisar, author of The Monk and the Riddle, told Fields:
It’s a process of stripping myself bare of all the pressures, all of the barnacles that accumulate around you every day as you interact in the world—the pressures, the expectations, the ego, the things that ultimately make your vision unclear.
Exercise in the list above wasn’t an afterthought. Most of us feel we don’t have time to work out. But we really can't afford not to. Fields, writes:
Studies now prove that aerobic exercise both increases the size of the prefrontal cortex and facilitates interaction between it and the amygdala. This is vitally important to creators because the prefrontal cortex, as we discussed earlier, is the part of the brain that helps tamp down the amygdala’s fear and anxiety signals.

For artists, entrepreneurs, and any other driven creators, exercise is a powerful tool in the quest to help transform the persistent uncertainty, fear, and anxiety that accompany the quest to create from a source of suffering into something less toxic, then potentially even into fuel.
I emphasize this a lot on the Leading Blog, but I think it’s something we really have to work at. Randy Nelson, Pixar’s former head of education said, “The core skill of innovators is not failure avoidance, it’s error recovery.” Fields adds, “When that’s baked into your creative culture on all levels, people become more empowered to lean into the creative abyss—and magic tends to happen.”

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Creating value involves varying degrees of uncertainty. But that uncertainty can lead to fear and paralysis unless we learn how to use it to our advantage. And it’s important that we do because that’s where the greatest creations and experiences happen. The poet John Keats put it well. He called it “Negative Capability.” He referred to it as the quality that people of achievement possess: the capability of being in uncertainties. Fields shows how to be okay working in that space.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:39 PM
| Comments (0) | Creativity & Innovation , Personal Development , Problem Solving

11.07.11

3 Self-Limiting Mindsets that Will Hold You Back at Work

Leading Forum
This is a guest post by Joel Garfinkle, author of Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. Garfinkle asks, “What makes one person more successful than another?” Getting Ahead is a straightforward guide to help you eliminate your blind spots to improve how you are perceived, increase your visibility and exert your influence. Great material.

The workplace has enough challenges and obstacles without us getting in our own way. But too often, we sabotage ourselves. Whether it’s internal forces that cause us to sell ourselves short or it’s a matter of having been conditioned not to “toot our own horn,” people have a marked tendency to avoid the limelight when in truth they belong in it. What’s more, if you’ve always been the ‘unsung hero,’ management wants to know who you are.

In my executive coaching business, I’ve worked with scores of clients over the years to help them overcome self-limiting mindsets that were holding them back in the workplace. Here are some of the most common issues:
  1. Not making an effort to be visible to management. Some of my clients were frustrated because they felt chronically underappreciated, undervalued and anonymous. “I can’t get ahead because nobody knows who I am or what I do for this company,” is a common refrain. This is a particularly severe problem where managers are “results-oriented” while paying scant attention to developing the processes and people that bring them those results.

    It’s up to you to ensure that you get credit for your accomplishments. Make a conscious effort to keep your boss apprised of the progress you are making and the projects you complete successfully. If you want to be valued and appreciated, you need to make sure management knows what you are doing and how your efforts contribute to the company’s bottom line.

  2. Believing it’s the boss’s job to manage your career. Career management is your job, not his. Don’t leave your career management up to your boss.

    You may need to take charge of your employee evaluation process yourself. To do this, first get an understanding of how the employee evaluation system works. Find out exactly what criteria or metrics your boss is using to evaluate your performance. This will probably require a sit-down session.

    Once you know how you will be evaluated, you need to prepare in advance for the evaluation. Keep careful notes on all your accomplishments for the company. Put dollar figures on them whenever possible. The more numbers, the better. Then take initiative to schedule sit-downs to discuss your progress throughout the year. Don’t rely on your manager to do it.

    Then, at least a month before your annual evaluation is due, schedule another appointment. Hand your boss an itemized list of your accomplishments for the year. Say, “Here’s a list of the things we’ve discussed over the year. I thought this would come in handy for when you write my eval.” Then let it go at that. If your manager is on the ball, though, and writes your eval way ahead of the deadline, you may need to schedule your meeting even earlier. The important thing is to take initiative and stay ahead of the curve.

    Management wants to make their star employees look good. Some of them don’t have the administrative or managerial skill set to allow them to do that, though. They get distracted and don’t know what a good, solid evaluation even looks like. Managers will appreciate that you took the time.

  3. Failure to notice the opportunities around you. Some workers limit themselves by getting so focused on their immediate jobs and departments that they lose sight of the big picture. One solution: Think two levels up. Make sure you know about the key issues and projects not just in your immediate department, but at least two levels up from you. You should also network within the company and find out who the key players are in other departments. Keep your ear to the ground to learn about new initiatives, particularly in revenue-generating endeavors or where you will have an opportunity to create substantial savings for the company.

    If your immediate boss can’t or won’t promote you, you need to have options. By exposing your talents, skills and value to leaders in other departments, you enhance your chances of gaining a promotion. It’s not just who you know; it’s who knows you! Work hard to maximize your exposure for lateral movements and promotions.

Remember, if you don’t take credit for your own success, someone else will. That doesn’t serve your own interests. And if you think about it, it doesn’t serve the long-term interests of the company. You have a professional duty to yourself as well as your company to make sure your accomplishments are recognized and credited to you.

Leadership
Joel A. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the U.S., having worked with many of the world's leading companies. He is the author of seven books, including Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level. View his books and FREE articles at his Executive Coaching Services website. You can also subscribe to his Executive Leadership newsletter and receive the FREE e-book, 40 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!”

Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:11 AM
| Comments (0) | Human Resources , Leadership Development , Leading Forum , Personal Development

10.26.11

It’s Not About You

Leadership
It’s Not About You by Bob Burg and John David Mann, is the story of a leader’s journey. A journey any good leader has to take.

Ben begins with an agenda. His job is to convince or if necessary, to steamroll a manufacturer of high-quality chairs to accepting a merger. Ben’s company believes it to be a good thing, but the target company is not so sure. Ben’s mindset as he starts out is: “how do I get them to do what I want them to do.”

Somewhere between getting people to understand him and slowing-down long enough to understand them, he found his answer.

Through a series of encounters with a mentor—Aunt Elle—and a lot of reflection Ben comes to understand that it is not about him. His journey causes him to reflect on five lessons:

Lesson #1: Hold the Vision. The hard part isn’t coming up with the vision, it’s holding on to the vision. “As a leader, your job is to hold fast to the big picture, to keep seeing it in your mind’s eye, with crystal clarity, where it is you are going—that place that right at this moment exists only in your mind's eye. And to keep seeing that, even when nobody else does.”

Lesson #2: Build Your People. “People have all sorts of amazing qualities and natural abilities trapped inside them. With the wood, it’s knowing how to apply the heat. With people, it’s applying your belief.” If you give people something great to live up to, they usually will. “How influential you are, comes down to your intention. What are you focused on? Your benefit, or theirs?” The more you yield, the more power you have.

Lesson #3: Do the Work. Be humble and stay grounded. Aunt Elle said, “People who achieve great things that the world will never forget, start out by accomplishing small things the world will never see.”

Lesson #4: Stand for Something. Lead from who you are. People will figure it out anyway. People need to trust your competence, but they need to trust your character more. “Competence is simply the baseline, the thing that puts you in the game. It matters, but honestly, it’s a dime a dozen.” The authors remind us that you can only lead as far as you grow. Aunt Elle says, “What you have to give, you offer least of all through what you say; in greater part through what you do; but in greatest part through who you are.”

Lesson #5: Share the Mantle. It’s not about you. “You are not their dreams, you are only the steward of those dreams. And leaders often get it backwards and start thinking they not only hold the best of others but they are the best….The moment you start thinking it’s all about you, that you’re the deal, is the moment you begin losing your capacity to positively influence others’ lives.”
Whatever great parenting looks like, it is not about the parent.
It’s Not About You is a great presentation of solid life lessons. A book to be read and passed around. Unfortunately, “it’s not about you,” is not the kind of lesson that once learned, is always remembered. If it was, fewer great leaders would finish poorly after so many years of outstanding service. This is an issue that we face over and over again, but hopefully in ever diminishing frequency and intensity as our leadership matures. This book is a great reminder of the power of the right kind of leadership; leadership that comes from an inner strength of understanding, service and outgoing concern for others.

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Sometimes the hardest thing to grasp about leadership is that it is not about you. It’s easy to make it about us. We want to do something, so naturally we push; when actually we should be pulling by considering the needs of others first. In leadership, as with so much in life, the more we give, the more we have.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 09:29 PM
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10.21.11

Practical Genius is a Choice


Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses you.
—Buckminster Fuller
Gina Rudan’s Practical Genius is designed to re-genius you. Gina says we all have the capacity for what she terms, practical genius. It is the “kind of practical, street-level, everyday genius that can change the game for you, your business, and every aspect of your life.” Practical genius is a choice.
So many of us are unconsciously compromising some of our greatest natural assets because of external factors, past hurts, or current fears. Or, even worse, we have sacrificed our skills, strengths, and passion to the expectations and influence of others. Or we’re consciously hitting the snooze button, rolling over and going back to slept every time we’re reminded how far from feeling happy and fulfilled we are in our work and personal lives.
In order to identify and leverage both the hard and soft unique personal assets we all possess, Gina has created a 5-step plan:

Leadership
Step 1: Identify Your Genius. Through a series of reflective exercises you identify your hard assets—skills, strengths and expertise—and your soft assets—passions, creative abilities and values. Where these strengths intersect is your own unique practical genius lies. “Reach to the farthest edges, the fringes of your curiosities, and spend some serious time there.”

Step 2: Express Your Genius. You must actively and purposefully tell your story. Without visibility, you’re compromising your impact. “A person without a story is invisible.”

Step 3: Surround Yourself with Genius. You are who you walk with. Relationships are choices not accidents. Identify others of your “tribe” that can help you amplify your genius. To build a tribe that feeds, supports, and roots for you, you have to feed, support, and root for them.

Step 4: Sustain Your Genius. Find what fuels you. Consider your routines and practice those that keep you healthy, productive, and prosperous. In addition to food, exercise and sleep, “do one thing every day that represents a conscious effort to expose yourself to the extraordinary instead of the ordinary, the profound instead of the pedestrian, the breathtaking instead of the mind-numbing.”

Step 5: Market Your Genius. Live and work at the intersection of all your assets. Project your paradox. “Market the scholar alongside the fool. The entrepreneur alongside the philosopher. The conservationist alongside the game designer.” Know your audience and build relationships with them.

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Everyone has practical genius, but it’s up to you to find it, put it to work, and watch it change your life. So much of what we do in life numbs us. Rudan’s approach to life will help you turn that process around.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:48 PM
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10.07.11

Work-Life Balance?

Leadership
The term work-life balance is fatally flawed says Matthew Kelly in Off Balance. Meant to deal with the pressures surrounding both personal and professional life, the term has unwittingly created a false dichotomy. You can’t separate the two. In fact, says Kelly, “the term itself diminishes our ability to make the case that work can be a richly rewarding part of a person’s life and should in many ways be personal.”

What people really want (and need) is not work-life balance, but to “live deeply satisfying lives both personally and professionally.” The trick is to get in touch with your dissatisfaction and then strategically create the life you want. But it will take some work. It’s not going to happen accidentally. Kelly writes, “The life you desire is there for the taking, but it comes at a cost. Life, like business, hinges on the successful allocation of scarce resources.”

Kelly provides some key thinking to support this discussion:
We seem more interested in how we want to live than we are in discovering the best way to live. Likewise, we are much more interested in developing self-expression than we are in developing selves that are worth expressing. Personal preference has triumphed over the pursuit of excellence. We want what we want, and we feel entitled to get what we want.

The problem with all this is that getting what we want is certainly not work-life balance, and getting what we want almost never leads to personal and professional satisfaction. The reason is that very few people have the requisite self-knowledge to want the right things. As we grow and gain this self-knowledge we begin to want what we need because we discover that the fulfillment of our legitimate needs is more likely to lead to lasting happiness in a changing world than the reckless pursuit of whimsical happiness.
So we need to begin with self-knowledge. “Satisfaction does not arise from simply having experiences and things, but rather from having the experiences and things that you deem important.” Kelly has developed a system to increase the level of personal and professional satisfaction in your life that involves five steps, beginning of course with assessment:

Assessment. What brings you satisfaction? (There is an Off-Balance Assessment in the book and online at FloydConsulting.com) This process says Kelly, allows us to pinpoint an element of our dissatisfaction and create a prescription to overcome it.

Priorities. What matters most to you? (Priority Exercise Worksheet PDF) While these may change over time, it is essential that we clearly define them or we become victims of the tyranny of the urgent.

Core Habits. What are the daily habits that keep you healthy, focused and energized? For example, workout, meditation, proper diet, maintaining relationships. “What one thing, if done every day, would change your life markedly?”

Weekly Strategy Session. What is the key project that should have your attention and be your starting point for each day of the week? Our lives are destined for underachievement and dissatisfaction if we don’t learn to plan and strategize personally.

Quarterly Review. Every three months review what is working well in your life, review what you said you would do in the last ninety days; outline the key objectives in your life at this time; share your plan to accomplish these objectives.

Kelly says that knowing how to balance various activities in our life to produce the maximum flow of energy is perhaps the most important skill any of us can learn and develop. “Each day has a focus, and holding to this focus plays a significant role in creating and sustaining high levels of satisfaction.” He concludes, “To lay your head on your pillow at night, knowing that who you are and what you do makes sense … now, that is satisfaction.”

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Work-life balance is a myth. We can’t have it all, but we can find both personal and professional satisfaction. You can stumble into a moderately satisfying life, but to sustain and increase that satisfaction requires a strategic approach and some real work. You can be the architect of a life that is both personally and professionally satisfying.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:00 PM
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10.05.11

Are You Up, Down, or Sideways?

There are no guarantees in life. We can be proactive, but there are some things that are completely outside of our control. So if we can’t be proactive on everything, we can, Mark Sanborn suggests, be interactive. We must learn how to interact with the forces in our life that are bigger than we are to create the outcomes we desire. No matter where we are—up, down, or sideways—there are things we can do to mitigate the downs, take advantage of the ups and maximize the sideways times in our life.

Leadership
Up, Down, or Sideways by Mark Sanborn is a thoughtful book born of experience and based on sound principles. It would be a mistake to think of this as another business book. It is, in fact, a life book that will deeply impact your business.

To be interactive, you first need to define your scorecard for success. Most people don’t live the life they imagined because “they are stuck using a scoring system that doesn’t fit the game they want to play.” Sanborn guides you in developing a scoring system that is meaningful, long-term, and personal.

Besides a clear scoring system, your success also depends on your attitude. You must develop an optimistic attitude. “The way you look at yourself and the world around you affects your success regardless of the circumstances.” We can choose what we focus on.

Another important mindset is that of the lifelong learner. “The more you learn, the more prepared you are for whatever comes your way. And the more you learn, the more you develop behavioral flexibility that provides a distinct advantage over your competition.”

Sanborn offer six methods to succeed when times are Up, Down, or Sideways.
  1. Produce Value. Value keeps you in the game. But value is a moving target, so “if you want to mitigate the downsides and increase the upsides, you need to recognize that value is the currency that gets you a seat at the table....keep your pipeline full of the things people value and the people who value them.” Continue to create value in an ever-changing environment.
  2. Create and Keep Connections. “When we create value and deliver it with service and love, we develop connections that increase our value to others and we multiply their impact on our value.” While creating connections is easier than maintaining them, take special care of the relationships that matter.
  3. Continuously Innovate. Best practices are not enough. Better to work on “better practices and next practices.” Sanborn asserts that the “purpose of innovation is distinction.” But, and this is important, “it’s not enough to be different. Being different without being valued is being weird. Distinction is being different and valued.”
  4. Build Reserves. “You protect what you value by building reserves.” We need to build financial, physical, psychological, and spiritual reserves.
  5. Practice Gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote to negative thinking. In Sanborn’s insightful way, he writes that gratitude is a gift. It is the gift of perspective, energy, guidance, and resilience. Make gratitude something you do and not just feel.
  6. Embrace Discipline. “Success isn’t based on what we know, believe, or intend; it’s a result of what we consistently do.” Consistently act on your intentions until they become habits. Make time for the most important things.
Sanborn gives some final reminders: When you’re Up, you need humility and perspective. So surround yourself with people who keep you grounded. When you’re Sideways, you need a boost. So surround yourself with people who challenge you to keep moving in the right direction. And finally, when you’re Down, you need hope. So surround yourself with people who life your spirits.

Certainly this is an important book for these times, but this book is meant to help your thrive no matter what life throws your way. You need this book—young people need this book—to prepare for the rest of your life, whether you are Up, Down, or Sideways. Read, reread, and refer.

Up down sideways

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Rather than trying to predict the future, prepare for it. There are a few things you should do all the time, regardless of circumstances. These are things that set you on a course toward sustainable success—whether times are Up, Down, or Sideways.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:08 AM
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08.25.11

How Character Erodes

Erosion
Character is built choice by choice, decision by decision. And it is eroded the same way. We often don’t stop to think about how each choice builds on the last until it’s too late. It is a worthwhile practice to think about your choices and where they are leading you on a daily basis. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well: “The force of character is cumulative.”

In a October 2002 Fast Company article—The Secret Life of the CEO: Is the Economy Just Built to Flip?—Jim Collins, explains how character erodes:
These were the people who, in the presence of an opportunity to behave differently, got drawn into it, one step after another. If you told them 10 years ahead of time, "Hey, let's cook the books and all get rich," they would never go along with it. But that's rarely how most people get drawn into activities that they later regret. When you are at step A, it feels inconceivable to jump all the way to step Z, if step Z involves something that is a total breach of your values.”


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Posted by Michael McKinney at 10:14 PM
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08.19.11

What to Ask the Person in the Mirror

While we might like to think otherwise, here is a fact about successful leaders:
Successful leaders go through significant periods of time in which they feel confused, discouraged, and unsure of themselves and their decisions. They feel as if they should be somewhere else, doing something else.
And unsuccessful leaders go through the same thing. The difference, says Harvard professor Robert Kaplan, is “how they deal with these periods of confusion and uncertainty. The trick lies not in avoiding these difficult periods; it lies in knowing how to step back, diagnose, regroup, and move forward.”

Leadership
This means not having all the right answers, but learning to ask the right questions. The challenge will be asking the right questions and making to the time to reflect on them. Reflecting is the key ingredient here and what many of us are short on. In his timeless book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, Kaplan offers seven basic types of inquiry or areas of focus—actually a system of inquiry that ties the leadership function together—that you should be looking at on a regular basis:

Vision and Priorities. In this foundational area we need to be very clear and communicate it in a way that helps others to be able to determine where to focus their own efforts. Have you developed a clear vision and have you identified three to five clear priorities to achieve that vision?

Managing Your Time. Your vision and priorities are reflected in the way you use your time. Track your time for two weeks. How does this compare to your key priorities?

Giving and Getting Feedback. Most leaders do not effectively coach their subordinates, and also fail to get the critical coaching that they themselves need in order to excel. Do you cultivate advisors who are able to confront you with criticisms that you may not want to hear?

Succession Planning and Delegation. When leaders fail to actively plan for succession, they do not delegate sufficiently and may become decision-making bottlenecks. Have you identified potential successors for your job? Why not?

Evaluation and Alignment. It is often extremely difficult as an insider to see where you and the organization have drifted out of alignment. If you had to start again, how would you do it? Would you be doing the same things? Does the design of your organization, your incentive systems, your culture, and even your approach to leading still fit the needs of the organization?

The Leader as Role Model. Many leaders fail to appreciate that their actions speak louder than their words. Self-awareness is critically important. Write down two or three key messages you believe you send with your behavior. Seek advice from key subordinates and advisors who directly observe your behavior, in order to answer this question: is there a “disconnect” between the messages you wish to send and those you are in fact sending?

Reaching Your Potential. Know and learn to manage your strengths, weaknesses, and passions, not only to bring out your best, but also to create this same environment and aspiration among your staff.

It’s not uncommon to find leaders that just stick to what they know best and not address those areas where they feel uncomfortable or insecure. All of these areas need to be reflected on as they each have an impact on the other. Taking the time to reflect is not easy and “doesn’t sound like fun, and may not sound as important as the fifty other things you have to fit into your day—but it works.” And be sure to take the time to reflect on these issues with your team as well.

With many down-to-earth examples, Kaplan will expand the range of questions you should be asking yourself. What to Ask the Person in the Mirror will help you to rethink unsustainable behaviors that are damaging to both you and your organization and help you to mature and grow in your leadership role.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 03:57 PM
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07.26.11

Have a Nice Conflict!

Reading Have a Nice Conflict was like listening to my Dad again. He first met “Doc” Porter in the early seventies and they clicked almost immediately. Elias Porter’s Relationship Awareness Theory, on which the book is based, resonated with my Dad.
Behaviors are the tools we choose and use to support our self-worth.

You can look at personal strengths like behaviors. They represent the different ways a person can interact with others to achieve self-worth. When a person tries one of these strengths and has success with it, they use it more often. Other strengths might have rendered poor results, and so they might tend to use those less and less. Over time, we develop a set of “go-to” strengths. They become our modus operandi.

But it’s important to remember that you have a whole tool chest of other options that may get you better results from time to time.

It is possible that some of your conflict at work happens because other people don’t see your strengths the way you intend them to be seen. … So when you find another person’s behavior annoying, look for the strength behind it. What are they overdoing? What are they really trying to accomplish? Most likely, their intent is not to annoy you. If you can find the strength lurking behind the perceived weakness, you’ve discovered insight into that person that may help you understand them better.

Conflict can happen when other people misinterpret your strengths.
Leadership
Have a Nice Conflict is the story of sales manager John Doyle who has been passed over for what he believes is a well-deserved promotion. He has lost some of his top performers because he rubbed them the wrong way. When he turns up at an old friend and client’s office to explain yet another change in sales reps, he puts him on to Dr. Mac to help him improve his people skills at both work and home.

Dr. Mac explains to John that there are many ways of interacting with others. We have default ways of behaving and when in conflict we often shift into other behaviors to maintain our self-worth. While we are trying to do the “right thing” to maintain our self-worth, conflict can happen when our “right thing” appears to be the “wrong thing” to another person. Conflict can be prevented by seeing contentious behavior as merely a different style instead of a direct challenge or threat aimed at annoying you or derailing you.

He introduces him to the Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI) which is a tool to help you understand the motivations behind your own behaviors and to better discern the motivations of others. By giving you a framework it helps you to understand what you and others are feeling and then helps you be better able to respond.

Having a nice conflict is about taking personal responsibility for the interaction. To create movement toward resolution, we need to show the other person the path back to self-worth—where they feel good about themselves. That path may be different than yours. SDI The SDI helps you understand those paths. “When we’re stuck in a place of protecting our self-worth, it’s much harder to help others protect or restore what’s important to them. And that’s the primary mission of managing conflict. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions that empower others to manage themselves out of their emotional state of conflict. To effectively manage conflict, we have to begin with ourselves. If we’re pulled into conflict ourselves, we’re usually not in a great position to help others.”

The concept should be taught in schools, however the thought process is essential for leaders. The book alone offers valuable insights into the process and methodology, but coupled with the SDI you’ll have greater success. The authors offer a discount on the SDI to readers of the book.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:08 PM
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07.12.11

Learn From Your Heroes, but Believe in Yourself

It is natural to want to be like the people we look up to. We want to recreate the success they have enjoyed in our own lives. So we try to imitate them. It seems like the shortest distance between two points. Of course, we are trying to copy a result. What we often fail to see is the work it took to get them to the place where they could do what they do. And sometimes it’s all flash and no substance.

And while you can try to copy a style, mannerisms, or life path, what makes it work for them isn’t what is written down. It’s what they can’t teach you that makes it work for them. It’s the things you can’t easily articulate that come from the core of your being—that which makes you you—that makes the difference.

Harvard Business School Professor and former Medtronic CEO Bill George, wrote, “Any prospective leader who buys into the necessity of attempting to emulate all the characteristics of a leader is doomed to failure.” It’s one thing to learn from others, it’s quite another to try to imitate them.

A big part of the problem is the lack of confidence we have in ourselves. Sometimes in watching the success of others, we lose faith in ourselves. “There is but one cause of failure and that is a man’s lack of faith in his true self,” observed William James.

Jazz saxophonist Stan Getz took a teaching position at Stanford in 1986. In an interview with a reporter about his role there, he put it this way:
I’m a strong opponent of imitation. I always tell them that they have to be themselves. That’s hard, because they don’t believe in themselves, they believe in their heroes. And I will tell them: that’s perfectly alright, but your hero is the only one who can play that way. If you want to try and do the same thing, it will only be an imitation, however perfectly you will do it. I keep on trying to convince them that they have to play what they feel themselves. But that’s not easy.
Your hero is the only one that can play it that way. Be yourself.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 04:43 PM
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07.05.11

Footwashing for Leaders

An easy trap for any leader to fall into is the “Look what I did!” trap. Success easily erodes humility. Humility isn’t about the lack of ambition, but acknowledging the luck, the good fortune, and the contributions of others to your success. It is the humility that comes with a habit of respect for others. Stephen Hall calls it the “gift of perspective.” It is indeed. Humility is all about perspective.

Fast Company cofounder Bill Taylor argues in Are You “Humbitious” Enough to Lead? in the Summer 2011 Leader to Leader journal, that “the best way to deliver on an ambitious agenda for your organization is to embrace a sense of “humbition” in your personal style and as part of your leadership repertoire.”

Taylor reports that “in a manifesto of sorts that urged up-and-coming IBMers to embrace a new leadership mind-set, Jane Harper, a 30-year veteran of IBM and a group of her colleagues offered a compelling description of what it takes to succeed in a complex, fast-moving, hard-to-figure-out world. Their strongly worded advice to aspiring leaders inside IBM should be read as words of wisdom for leaders at every level of all kinds of organizations:”
“Humbition is one part humility and one part ambition. We notice that by far the lion’s share of world-changing luminaries are humble people. They focus on the work, not themselves. They seek success—they are ambitious—but they are humbled when it arrives. They know that much of that success was luck, timing, and a thousand factors out of their personal control. They feel lucky, not all-powerful. Oddly, the ones operating under a delusion that they are all-powerful are the ones who have yet to reach their potential. . . . [So] be ambitious. Be a leader. But do not belittle others in your pursuit of your ambitions. Raise them up instead. The biggest leader is the one washing the feet of the others.
Success most often doesn’t come from our efforts alone but in our ability to include and organize the contributions of others; to coax the fragments of a good idea from the hearts and minds of others; from a practiced watchfulness that comes from knowing that a good idea can come from anyone or anywhere. The result, when it comes together—the execution of a great idea—should be humbling to any leader.

It is humility coupled with ambition that correlates with results.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 11:04 PM
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06.24.11

Does Your Wellbeing Need a Boost?

Gallup scientists have determined that there are five universal and interdependent elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering:
  • Career: liking what you do every day (Tip: Every day, use your strengths.)
  • Social: having strong relationships (Tip: Spend six hours a day socializing—face-to-face, phone, e-mail.)
  • Financial: a well managed economic life (Tip: Spend on others instead of solely on material possessions.)
  • Physical: having good health and the energy to get things done on a daily basis (Tip: Get at least 20 minutes of activity each day and 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.)
  • Community: a sense of engagement with the area where you live (Tip: Identify how you can contribute in your community based on your own values.)
Statistically, while 66% are doing well in at least one area, only 7% are thriving in all five. If we are struggling in any one of these areas, as most of us are, it damages our wellbeing and wears on our daily life.

Ways to measure and improve in each of these areas is provided in Wellbeing by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. (The Wellbeing Finder can be taken online by using the code provided in the book.)

Our wellbeing will not improve if we don’t make a conscious decision to do so. Small changes can have a huge impact. To get started they recommend setting positive defaults.
One of the best ways to create more good days is by setting positive defaults. Any time you help your-short-term self work with your long-term self, you have an opportunity.

You can intentionally choose to spend more time with the people you enjoy most and engage your strengths as much as possible.

You can structure your finances to minimize the worry caused by debt.

You can make exercise a standard part of your routine. You can make healthier decisions in the supermarket so you don’t have to trust yourself when you have a craving a few days later.

And you can make commitments to community, religious, or volunteer groups, knowing that you will follow through once you’ve signed up in advance.

Through these daily choices, you create stronger friendships, families, workplaces, and communities.
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Posted by Michael McKinney at 06:12 PM
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05.24.11

Got Drama?

You can’t stop The Drama. There will always be drama.

Leadership
But that’s not the problem says Marlene Chism, author of Stop Workplace Drama. “The amount of time you stay in the drama—and the effort you put toward it—is the problem. Complaints, excuses, and regrets only serve to keep the drama alive.” Your drama—what you add to The Drama—is the problem.

Chism defines drama as “any obstacle to your peace and prosperity.” Drama is the result of not recognizing or taking care of the little signs of bigger problems when they first presented themselves. At the core of drama you will find one of three common elements (if not all three): a lack of clarity, a relationship issue, and/or resistance. So, says Chism, when you experience drama you need to ask yourself three questions:

1. Where am I unclear?
2. What is my relationship issue?
3. What am I resisting?

Chism presents eight principles for dealing with drama, but “lack of clarity” struck me as the most common and excuse-laden trap there is. Too often this is where we get stuck.

When we first set a goal we’re clear. In her terms, “we see the island.” But between here and there the process become difficult and someone on your team becomes unhappy, and, “instead of focusing on the island we are trying to reach, we’re now concentrating on pleasing the one person who is upset. Our focus has shifted because we became confused about our number one priority.” And the fog rolls in.

Any type of discord, abuse, confusion, or game-playing always boils down to a lack of clarity.” A loss of focus.

Sometimes we create drama because we want something on our terms. We imagine that we can’t do something because we can’t do it the way we think it should be done—our way. Chism relates a clarifying example of this with the recently divorced Joe who is having visitation issues with his ex-wife Patty. She’s not letting him do what he wants in the way that he wants.
Many people get stuck in the drama of what should or shouldn’t be. Yes, you can fight that battle, if winning a battle is what you want. But again, in order to clear the fog and help Joe get clarity, I asked, “If there are two islands you can go to, and one means winning a battle with your wife and the other island is getting to see your kids and be a father to them—then which island would you choose?”

He said, “Seeing my kids, but…”

I said, “No buts. Are you willing to drive to Illinois several times a year and spend quality time with your kids, even if Patty does nothing more than cooperate?”

Joe said, “Yes.”

It’s never as difficult as we make it when we get clear on what we can control and what we are committed to.. The point here is that clarity may or not change Joe’s ex-wife. Joe will struggle if that is his motive or intention. However, Joe’s clarity will give him the essence of what he really wants. If he is able to let go of distractions and not get stuck on the rocks that lie between him and his final goal.

Do you see that while this kind of clarity may not change all the drama, it will give you peace and free up your energy for more productive endeavors?
This kind of dynamic plays out every day in our business and personal lives. When we are not clear about what we want, what our values are, what we are committed to, it is easy to lose our focus, to drift off course.

Solution: Clear the fog.

Chism has written a good-natured and practical book that will change your thinking and in the process help you to control the drama in both your personal and professional life. As leaders, we have the responsibility to be very clear with ourselves and our team so that we don’t get pulled into negativity, gossip, power plays, resistance and … drama. Chism suggests asking the following questions:

What are my top 10 principle-based values?
What areas of my life or business are in the fog?
What are some of the distractions that take me off course?
Where do I get stuck?
Where can I improve as a leader?
What drama do I see on a daily basis in the workplace?
What drama do I see in my personal life?
Where am I avoiding or procrastinating?

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05.06.11

3 Attributes that Will Help You be Better Under Pressure

Stress
Justin Menkes says that there are no longer periods of calm seas for leaders in any industry. So it’s not a matter of gritting your teeth and riding out the crisis. Leaders must get comfortable in an environment of ongoing stress. They must be Better Under Pressure.

To do this a leader must possess a “highly unusual set of attributes that often run counter to natural human behavior.” This means leaders must “foster specific attributes to achieve maximum success in themselves and their people. No longer can leaders think of leadership as unidirectional. Instead, leadership “becomes a fluid, virtuous cycle of exchange and growth between leaders and the people they lead.”

Menkes writes, “Almost every human being alive today has an underutilized thirst for bettering himself or herself. It is up to leaders to discover how to trigger this thirst—in fact, it is a leader’s most critical responsibility.” Recognizing and developing that thirst is something that must be and can be learned.

He identifies three catalysts that will help a leader to realize his or her own potential and the potential of others:

Realistic Optimism. Striking a balance between the known and unknown. Kevin Sharer, CEO of Amgen, said, “With all the things that are going on in today’s workplace, if you’re not a little bit self-reflective and self-aware, you’re not going to make it.” And you won’t get the best from your team.

Awareness requires humility. Humility allows you to see yourself as you are. It also allows you to see your role in any problem.

Realistic optimism creates a sense of agency—the degree to which you believe your circumstances are within your control. “People must recognize how—and that—their own approach to the problem can either exacerbate these obstacles or bridge the space between two parties.”

You must learn says Menkes, “to minimize the ways your mind distorts reality.”

Subservience to Purpose. While realistic optimism allows leaders to see and address deficiencies in themselves and the world around them, subservience to purpose gives them the drive to do so. In this framework, “people’s level of dedication toward the mission of the enterprise is paramount, rather than their dedication to each other….Hierarchical distinctions are secondary to the overarching value system that considers the company’s noble missions its most important function.”

Subservience to purpose means developing affect tolerance or “the ability to channel intense reactions to recurring setbacks in a way that not only avoids hampering you, but also constructively keeps you and your organization moving forward toward maximum potential.”

It is vital that a leader understand the outsized effect that their emotional behaviors have on their people. Not managing your emotions and reactions—especially in a stressful environment—will hinder other people’s progress. You must temper the intensity of your responses “with the awareness of the unequal power dynamics you share with your team.” This also means keeping in check your sense of self-importance. Menkes writes:
Grandiosity is particularly costly to you as a leader, because its expression unintelligently telegraphs to your subordinates that you believe the group’s accomplishments are largely due to your involvement. This why expressing humility is so important, because when you are humble, you clearly communicate to others that you recognize the critical role each team member plays in contributing to the organization’s progress.
Fred Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of FedEx told Menkes:
As a founder, you must be able to resist any temptation to let the organization become a cult of personality built around you. FedEx isn’t about me. When I walk out the door here, this organization won’t miss a beat.”
How many can (want to) say that?

Finding Order in Chaos. This attribute is about maintaining clarity of thought and a drive to solve the puzzle. Maintaining clarity of thought is developed by learning how to manage your stress in such a way that it fuels your focus and increases your clarity. To do this, one must seek out experiences that support your sense of competence under duress—“managing adrenaline without panic and gaining confidence that the sensations that stress induces will not lead to collapse.”

The drive to solve the puzzle “manifests itself as an intense intellectual curiosity…and a pleasure in finding solutions to them.” Menkes adds, “The positive feedback we get from maintaining clarity under pressure gives us a thirst for more situations that involve pressure, and we are thus driven to solve the puzzle.”

better under pressureAll of these attributes work to develop the other. Understanding things as they are gives you the confidence to face the issues with the mission in mind. Success in this area drives you to remain calm and find solutions to the problems with those around you. “Once you experience the gratification of triumph in the pursuit of meaningful goals, the virtuous cycle of realizing potential becomes a regenerating flywheel that is transmitted to others.”

Importantly, Menkes reminds us, “people do not act as isolated entities, but are reflections of an essential interaction between themselves and the context in which they are placed….A person’s potential can only emerge as an active process, consciously cultivated through a fluid, ongoing exchange between leaders and their people.” It serves to remind us of the privilege and huge responsibility leadership truly is. To see leadership primarily as a function of authority, is to totally miss the mark.

I’ve only offered an overview of the ideas Menkes presents here. There are so many more insights in this book than can be provided here. But reading the examples of those who exemplify theses attributes and those who haven’t, coupled with the interviews of 25 leaders, you will come away with a sense of where you stand and a confidence that you can improve in any area you identify.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 05:13 PM
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04.12.11

From Values to Action

From Values to Action
Former chairman and chief executive officer of Baxter International, Harry Kraemer, has written a genuine, back-to-basics book on value-based leadership: From Values to Action. He presents four interconnected principles that build on and contribute to each other:

Self-Reflection is the most important and is central to your leadership. “If you are not self-reflective, how can you truly know yourself?” writes Kraemer. “If you do not know yourself, how can you lead yourself? If you cannot lead yourself, how can you possibly lead others?”

Self-reflection allows you to transform activity into productivity for all the right reasons. It means “you are surprised less frequently.” It is essential in setting priorities. You can’t do everything. So reflection makes it possible to answer key questions like What is most important? and What should we be doing? in a way that is in line with your strengths and values and organizational goals.
Engaging in self-reflection on a regular, ongoing basis (preferably daily) keeps you from becoming so caught up in the momentum of the situation that you get carried away and consider actions and decisions that are not aligned with who you are and what you want to do with your life.
Balance and Perspective is the ability to understand all sides of an issue. Pursuing balance means you will have to grasp the fact that leaders don’t have all the answers. Kraemer says, “My task was to recognize when a particular perspective offered by one of my team members was the best answer….Leadership is not a democracy. My job as the leader is to seek input, not consensus.”

Because he believes we are more effective if we balance all areas of our life, he prefers the term “life balance” over “work-life balance.” It’s not an either or proposition. “When you identify too closely with your work, you can easily lose perspective and become unable to look at all angles in a situation.” He recommends implementing a “life-grid” to keep track of where you are spending your time and to hold yourself accountable.

True Self-Confidence is know what you know and you don’t know; to be comfortable with who you are while acknowledging that you still need to develop in certain areas. (Comfortable not complacent.) Why TRUE self-confidence?
There are people who adopt a persona that might make others think that they have self-confidence, but they are not the real deal. Instead, they possess false self-confidence, which is really just an act without any substance. These individuals are full of bravado and are dominating. They believe they have all the answers and are quick to cut off any discussion that veers in a direction that runs contrary to their opinions. They dismiss debate as being a complete waste of time. They always need to be right—which means proving everyone else wrong.
Genuine Humility is born of self-knowledge. Never forget where you started. “Genuine humility helps you recognize that you are neither better nor worse than anyone else, that you ought to respect everyone equally and not treat anyone differently just because of a job title.”

From Values to ActionAfter describing each of these principles, Kraemer explains how these four elements play in everyday situations such as talent management and leadership development (“The values based leader is looking for people who exhibit the values that are most important to her.”), setting a clear direction (You’ve been tasked with creating a quick strategy, the first step is to listen. “This is precisely the time that you need to draw upon the capabilities of the excellent team you’ve put together.”), communication (“Never assume you have communicated enough.”), motivation (“What you must do is relate to others by letting them know who you are and the values you stand for.”), and execution (“As you become a leader, you will shift from knowing the right answers to asking the right questions.”).

Kraemer describes a values-based leader well: “Self-reflection increases his self-awareness. Balance encourages him to seek out different perspectives from all team members and to change his mind when appropriate in order to make the best possible decisions. With true self-confidence, he does not have to be right, and he easily shares credit with his team. Genuine humility allows him to connect with everyone because no one is more important than anyone else.”

From Values to Action is an outstanding book and filled with important concepts that any would-be leader would benefit from.

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Of Related Interest:
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 4
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 3
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 2
  Taking Another Look: Leading Minds on Reflection Part 1
  Consider: Harnessing the Power of Reflective Thinking in Your Organization

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