Podcast: Feelings! We are all OK!

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One must identify both the fact and feeling parts of a situation in order to deal with it effectively or to communicate clearly. That means it’s important to identify how others feel about it and how we feel about it. We also want to consciously cultivate positive feelings towards ourselves and others. All doable things that make us more resilient, happy, and healthy.

Review: Qualities of a Great Leader

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In leadership workshops, we create a list of important leadership qualities. For frontline employees, there are two crucial qualities for great leaders. Consistently being fair is the first quality. Favoritism is one of the things that destroys the morale of a team. Even the appearance of favoritism can mess with the dynamics of a group. Being fair beyond anyone’s doubt can be a challenge, especially if some of our employees are friends.

As leaders, we might need to create a little bit of distance from friends with whom we work. If we supervise friends, we must tell them that we cannot talk about situations at work or any of the other people on our team. Our friends cannot enjoy access to us and our opinions about work that the rest of the team does not get. We must treat everyone in the same way.

It’s also important for us to let the people we supervise know that we have established boundaries with our friends. Our employees will think the worst if we don’t bring it up, so we need to go ahead and discuss the agreement that we have made with our friends. It’s crucial that everyone on the team feels confident that when we are chatting with our friends, we aren’t talking about the other people on the team or what’s going on at work.

The second quality that is important to frontline employees is the ability to listen. One of the things that employees complain about most often is when leaders don’t stop what they are doing and listen. Basically, we want to listen for understanding. Our personal needs are to be listened to, understood, and respected. A lot of times people don’t care if we agree with them in the end; they do care that we took the time to listen and understand their point of view.

It is important to take the time to fully understand other people’s perspectives. However, listening for understanding does not mean that we have to agree with a person’s perspective or take his or her suggestions. We want to maintain a mindset that says, “There is a possibility that I might agree with you or that I might incorporate your perspective.” However, there is no obligation to agree at the end of the conversation. We can say upfront, “You know, I haven’t made up my mind, and I may or may not do this the way you’d like for me to, but I do want to understand your point of view.”

The next important leadership quality is kindness. Leaders often push back at the idea that kindness matters. They say, “I don’t have to be kind. I’m not their best friend!” We don’t have to be someone’s friend to be kind to them. Being kind also doesn’t make us a pushover. We still need to set clear expectations and be sure that everyone is living up to those expectations. However, we want to maintain a positive relationship, so we act with kindness. We don’t yell or belittle. We help them succeed in a positive way.

The next quality is integrity. Integrity is a bit of a catch-all because integrity is walking the talk, being a role model, and acting consistently with honesty, kindness, and fairness. Integrity is also about being trustworthy and reliable.

The little extra dash of spice in integrity is your own personality. As leaders, we get to be us. Everyone’s style is a little different. It’s not that one is better than the other. It’s that we are each acting according to our own strengths and our own personalities.

The last quality is consistency. It is important that we have a positive and caring attitude, listen, act fairly, be kind, and act with integrity all the time. Great leaders are consistent, dependable, and reliable.

Honestly, none of us are going to be reliable and consistent all the time, but we need to manage to do it most of the time. Our employees need to know that we aren’t going to yell at them when they come to us with a problem. They need to feel confident that we are going to be calm and reliable. We’re going to ask questions and figure out how to fix the situation. We want our employees to feel that we are a stable, reliable force who is going to help them. Until employees feel confident that their leaders are reliable and consistent, they are going to be tentative and watchful—maybe even subversive or dishonest in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation.

Of course, the list could continue. In workshops, we sometimes come up with 20 qualities of exceptional leaders, but the ones we’ve just discussed are a good place to start.


For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

 

The Danger of Assumptions

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As leaders, we want to collect accurate knowledge in a way that builds and maintains positive relationships. It’s one of the ways that we cultivate our personal influence. Unfortunately, we sometimes base our actions and opinions on assumptions, rather than accurate information.

Assumptions are not all bad. We walk up to a door, and we assume that the doorknob is going to turn and the door is going to open. We base a lot of our lives on assumptions because they save us time and make life easier. However, it’s important to be aware of when we’re making assumptions.

In conflict resolution workshops, participants role-play a scenario about laundry. Almost all of them take on the stereotypical gender role for laundry. Male or female, if they are the ones with responsibility for laundry, they take on the societal role of females. During the discussion after the role play, participants are surprised at how easily they assumed women do the laundry. No one questioned or even realized the assumptions they were making. The strength of the gender roles was surprising because the scenario was based on a Marine who did the laundry and didn’t feel he was appreciated. We don’t want to hold any assumptions, but we often do without even realizing it.

The real danger of assumptions is that we don’t realize that they are assumptions. Many times, we transform the assumptions into absolute truth in our heads. For example, somebody doesn’t say good morning to us, and we assume that the person is ignoring us on purpose. The truth may be that he or she had a really bad morning and didn’t even notice us. However, we make up this story in our head about the person being uppity and thinking that they are better than us. We move forward as if that assumption is true and treat the other person accordingly. We allow an assumption that probably isn’t true to influence our relationship in a negative way. The poor person who didn’t say good morning will probably be mystified by our chilly and maybe even unprofessional behavior.

As a leader, it is important to stop and ask, “Is this something I really know, or am I making an assumption?” The only way to know if something is true or not is to ask. Perhaps a person’s poor performance is due to laziness, but it could also be caused by a lack of training, illness, or just not understanding that a particular task is a priority. As leaders, it’s our job to find out for sure, not assume.


For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

Power of Positivity and Caring

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There is a growing body of evidence on the power of positivity and caring in leadership. An increase in positivity results in an increase in productivity and efficiency. It also improves morale and reduces turnover. Those are some important results for a leader to attain.

Our own personal experiences support the research. Think of a great leader you have known. Did that person have a positive attitude? In workshops, everyone answers yes. Was that person caring? That is to say, did that leader have your best interests at heart even if he or she was tough on you? Once again, most everyone in workshops answers yes.

One of the fundamental goals of leadership is to create and maintain positive relationships. Really, maintaining positive relationships with the people at work is basic professionalism. When we have positive relationships, both parties in the relationship can focus on work. We don’t take part in anything petty or negative, and no one is distracted from the job at hand.  That does not mean that we need to be best friends with people at work, it just means that we have relationships based on respect and kindness.

Maintaining a positive attitude and work environment is a challenge. Humans are hardwired to notice and hold on to negative situations and events. It’s part of our nature. We can change our natural tendencies, but it requires some discipline and a commitment to choosing differently. We have to wave around the Magic Wand of Destiny and CHOOSE to notice and remember the positive.

Identifying and solving problems are primary responsibilities of leaders, and we don’t need to stop doing those things. However, we do need to begin noticing what is going right. Fortunately, there are many more positive events in a day than negative. Think about it—we do all sorts of things right in a day, and all anyone notices or comments on is the negative. It’s frustrating! We want to notice and comment whenever we see someone doing something right.

Noticing and commenting positively on actions that we want to see again is powerful. It lets people know that we are paying attention to what they do, that we appreciate their efforts, and that the task itself is something worth doing. The best way to get someone to do something again is to praise them for doing it. It’s an easy motivational technique that also builds the positivity of the relationship.

When we create positive relationships, we are using personal influence as opposed to positional power. In a leadership position, you have power over the people who work for you. Perhaps you have some options to give awards. You definitely have the power to discipline. Positional power is bestowed on you with your job title, and it is not the best long-term motivational technique.

Positional authority is effective as long as you are watching your employees. If we use the metaphor of the carrot and the stick, positional authority is using the stick to threaten people. It is highly effective if we are standing in front of the person. The carrot is positive incentive. When we create positive relationships, we are using our personal influence. People want to work for us, and they keep working when we are not present.

In order to create a positive relationship, one must have a positive interaction ratio of at least five-to-one. That is five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Negative interactions include developmental feedback, which leaders must give. The only way to maintain the required positivity ratio is to increase the number of positive conversations. The positivity ratio is in alignment with other research that found people are most motivated by being acknowledged and appreciated for their contributions.

Not everyone who works with you will be easy to get along with. Their negative attitude and actions can make the creation of a positive relationship more difficult. We can overcome the challenge, but it takes determination, self-discipline, and some knowledge. Knowing something about people can make it easier to create a positive relationship with them. The author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni, found that just knowing each other’s birth order and a childhood challenge increases trust. We can get to know one another better with something as simple as starting meetings with an icebreaker. It’s also a good idea to take some time to chat with people. Short chats are not a waste of time because they increase familiarity, trust, and positivity.

Granted, there is a fine line between getting to know someone and getting too personal at work. Leadership is an art, not a science. However, you cannot be an exceptional leader without knowing and caring for the people who work for you. It can be done within reasonable, professional boundaries.

Studies have shown that caring leaders are more effective, and now we have some research-backed actions that we can take to increase our capacity and ability to care about others. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson found that people who participated in loving-kindness meditation became more compassionate and empathetic toward others. There were also emotional and physical health benefits and an increased tendency to see things in a good light and be more optimistic about the future. That is an impressive list of results for a meditation practice of 60 minutes a week. There are lots of guided loving-kindness meditations online.

Dr. Fredrickson also found that shared positive moments can have positive emotional and physical results for individuals. The more positive moments we share, the easier it becomes to create more. We also increase our own positivity in the process. The shared moments of positivity don’t have to be with people that we know for us to gain the benefits. Our discussion is focused on work, but you can practice engaging others in a positive way in line at the grocery store.

Being positive does not mean that you have to be Little Mary Sunshine and never offer developmental feedback. Being positive and caring does not mean that you give up maintaining standards and discipline. Leaders must give developmental feedback when needed and not shy away from tough discussions. However, it is important to intentionally create positive conversations in order to maintain the positivity ratio of at least five-to-one. The main behavior changes required are being pleasant, noticing what is going right, and then commenting on it in an appreciative way.

The book FISH! gives us an excellent example of how a group of determined people can create a positive culture. A group of fishmongers decided that they didn’t want to work in a negative environment anymore. They focused on four things that increased the positivity of their work environment: Play, Make Their Day, Be Present, and Choose Your Attitude. The results were amazing. Their work became more enjoyable and their business more successful.

Keep in mind, a leader’s job is to help everyone else be successful. If the people around you are failing, you are failing. Your job is to create success for everyone. One of the most effective ways to help people be successful is to help them focus on work and to motivate them. Creating and maintaining positive relationships can accomplish both of those things.

You can create a more pleasant work environment, motivate people in lasting ways that are effective when you aren’t watching over them, and increase productivity and efficiency just by waving around the Magic Wand of Destiny and intentionally choosing to be positive.


For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

 

 

Building and Rebuilding Trust

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Think back to the leader that you consider to be a role model. Do you trust that person? Participants in workshops always answer yes. We trust the people who we are willing to follow. Great leaders need to be trustworthy in order to have the personal influence needed to get people to follow them. We build trust by being consistent. Great supervisors are consistent and reliable.

Honestly, none of us are going to be reliable and consistent all the time, but we need to manage it most of the time. Our employees need to know that we aren’t going to yell at them when they come to us with a problem. They need to feel confident that we are going to be calm and reliable. We’re going to ask questions and figure out how to fix the situation. We want our employees to feel that we are a stable, reliable force that is going to help them. Until employees feel confident that their leaders are reliable and consistent, they are going to be tentative and watchful—maybe even subversive or dishonest in order to avoid an unpleasant confrontation.

Fortunately for us, people tend to extend trust to people at the beginning of a relationship. Trust is a gift that we need to appreciate and work to keep. We want to avoid breaching trust because once it’s gone, trust is difficult to gain back. However, all is not lost if we lose someone’s trust. There are things that we can do to regain it as quickly as possible.

The first thing to do is to admit that we’ve done something disappointing. If we made a bad decision, forgot something, or lost our temper, we should admit it. The second thing to do is apologize. Some old-school thought states that leaders should never apologize. It’s based on the belief that leaders have to be perfect to be great leaders. The problem with that thinking is that none of us are perfect. We are human, and we make mistakes. We only make matters worse if we don’t admit them and apologize.

We also need to do whatever we can to fix the problem if that’s possible. An apology goes a long way, but we also want to do what we can to make things right. If we forgot to do something, how can we get it done and deal with the results of forgetting? If a plan doesn’t work, it’s time to regroup and try again. We help to rebuild trust when we do what we can to repair any damage that we’ve done.

After we have broken trust, we will have to continue to behave in a consistent, reliable manner until everyone feels comfortable again. It may take some time, so we need to be patient.

In summary, when we break trust, it’s important to acknowledge it, apologize, and do what we can to fix it. Then we continue to be trustworthy until whoever was affected decides that they can trust us again.


For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.

 

Podcast: Dealing With Gremlins

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We all have a voice or two in our heads that tries to keep us from taking risks and living large. If we follow our Gremlins’ advice, we don’t take chances on life, career, or love. The less we expect or try for, the less disappointment we experience – and it’s a terrible way to live. However, there ways to manage those Gremlins.

 

I did my best to …

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I am reading Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith, and one of his recommendations has made a big impact in my life. He recommends a system to keep us on track to achieving our goals that involves asking questions of ourselves each evening. (Actually, Goldsmith pays someone to call and ask him his questions, so I that’s an option.)

In his earlier books, he put the questions in a yes- or- no format. For example, one question might be “Did I exercise today?” You could also ask yourself, “Was I a good spouse today?” I have to admit that the questions in this format did not resonate with me.

In Triggers, he modifies the system. Instead of yes/no questions, each question begins with “Did I do my best today to…” He got the idea from his daughter, Kelly. They did some research around the new format’s effectiveness, and those types of questions work better.

The new format also works for me. “Did I do my best to…” gives me a lot more information than just asking if I did it or not. It also makes me feel like less of a failure if I don’t get something done.

I came up with a list of questions. One of them is “Did you do your best to maintain an orderly and peaceful environment?” I have had a relatively crazy week and a half. I made an unplanned trip to help with a minor family emergency. I returned home and then spent the next day on last-minute details for two workshops. The next morning, I packed up, facilitated a workshop, stayed in a hotel one night, facilitated another day, and returned home. Needless to say, my home was a bit of a mess, with piles of clothes and papers scattered about. I would have to answer “no” if you asked me if I had maintained an orderly and peaceful environment.

However, on the morning that I left for the workshop, I was ready about 20 minutes before I had to leave. I took the time to put a few things away and load the dishwasher. My condo wasn’t perfect, but I did do my best on that day to maintain an orderly environment – and felt good about it. I didn’t do perfectly, but I did do my best under that day’s circumstances.

I told my friend about the question system, and she came up with a good one that I am now also using: “Did I do my best to stay healthy and vibrant today?” I’ve been slacking off on my exercise and eating habits. This question gets me to reflect on how I’ve supported my health daily.

So far, I don’t record my answers as Goldsmith suggests. I can see the value of monitoring trends and progress. I might set up a system that works with my calendar. I do not see myself setting up an Excel spreadsheet, as some of Goldsmith’s clients did.

He has a list of 22 questions. That feels overwhelming to me. I cannot focus on that many things at one time. I have three questions right now. There are the two mentioned above and this one: “Did I do my best to earn one million dollars today?” I feel an urge to apologize for such a grandiose goal, but I like it. In my mind it encompasses stewarding money, getting on top of my investments, and creating new business.

Earning money is a top priority in my life right now. Doing my best to make ends meet or make more money aren’t inspiring to me. Making my personal worth equal to at least one million dollars is.

I find it amazing that these questions are as motivating as they are. I look for opportunities to do my best. When I was organizing the workshops across the living room floor, I took a minute to do a plank. Instead of reaching for my iPad and playing Plants vs. Zombies as a break from writing, I get up and pick up a few things or start laundry. The questions are also motivating me to stick with getting my podcast going, despite some frustrating technical issues. (My podcast is going to help me earn a million dollars – in case you were wondering.)

It seems that the key is to pick areas where you want to change behavior and focus on those areas. I don’t have a question about being a good friend because I have a nice pattern and relationships with my friends. I’ve picked three areas for now and want to change my behavior around those.

Behavior change is not easy! Think about past attempts at diet, exercise, and saving money. Goldsmith focuses on behavior change and talks about how environment conspires to keep us stagnant and tempt us. That’s a whole ‘nother topic, but the questions are helping me overcome my environment. I have a great big TV and an iPad sitting next to me that offer mindless breaks.

The questions are helping me be more intentional in my actions and moving me towards my goals. That feels better than watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation – and I really like watching Captain Jean-Luc Picard.


For a little bit of fun leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com.