The Motivation of Relatedness

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During my leadership series, I talk about motivation theory. Exceptional leaders must know how to motivate themselves and others. There are quite a few research theories out there and some practical advice. Motivational suggestions range from celebrating small wins to changing an organization’s culture.

For years, one of my favorite motivation theories came from Drive by Daniel Pink. He says that we are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose. I still like his list, but a sense of purpose is a difficult thing for most organizations to create. For example, it’s difficult to link manning a machine that creates a part for another machine to ultimate life purpose.

I recently reread Drive and was reminded that Pink derived his three items from research done by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. The two researchers determined that autonomy, competence, and relatedness are our basic needs that, when met, increase our feelings of motivation. Relatedness is something that organizations can influence in order to help their people feel motivated.

When we feel relatedness, we feel connected to others. We have a sense of belonging, and we feel that we matter to others. Organizations can foster feelings of being cared for and connected to others in several ways.

When onboarding new employees, assigning a buddy or mentor can help people feel connected to their new organization. In a sense, it gives them someone to sit with at lunch and to chat with.

Chatting is an underrated motivational tool. Many organizations discourage personal discussions, and they are missing the point. Our feeling of connectedness with others is fostered when we share personal information. Of course, it’s not good to chit-chat all day, but getting to know coworkers on a personal level is healthy.

I feel a need to point out that there is such a thing as oversharing at work. As leaders, it’s important that we set boundaries for conversations. Super personal information should not be shared or listened to. We have the right and obligation to say when we feel uncomfortable with a conversation.

The foundation of relatedness is caring. You can read about ways to develop a caring attitude [here.] Researchers Amy Cuddy, Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger have discovered that 90% of our impression of a leader consists of our evaluation of their warmth and strength. They suggest that leaders begin with warmth because it helps to build influence.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled “Connect, Then Lead”, they wrote, “Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.” In other words, demonstrating that you care about them – their ideas, feelings, and concerns.

(I can’t resist pointing out that focusing on warmth also fosters psychological safety, which we know is the secret sauce for exceptional teams.)

When using Deci and Ryan’s motivation theory, we might not be able to give a lot of autonomy. We can always ensure that employees gain mastery over their tasks. We also can let employees know how their work matters. However, ensuring that employees feel connected, seen, and cared for is one of the easiest and most effective ways to help them feel motivated to do good work.

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.

Not My Circus, Not My Elephants

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During a recent conference, I gave a short workshop on using a coaching style of leadership. We started by talking about the importance of a helping mindset. We talked about using powerful questions. The challenge for most people in my workshops is to refrain from offering solutions.

As leaders, we are trained to be fixers. We are constantly on the lookout for problems, and we then come up with ways to solve those problems. When we are using a coaching style of leadership, we help people figure out how to solve the problem themselves.

Before the group started coaching each other, I said, “It is not your job to solve the coachees’ problems. Your job is to ask them questions that will help them figure it out for themselves.” The purpose of coaching is to raise a person’s awareness around a challenge. The coach helps the coachee to get unstuck by helping them to see the big picture and possible paths to take.

For example, if I’m having trouble getting to work on time regularly, you could coach me on that. You might have several hypotheses about why I am late and several solutions in your head. It’s crucial that you keep them in your head and not let them spill out all over me.

There are a few reasons for this. First, if I use your solution and it doesn’t work, it’s your failure, not mine. Second, I have very little ownership and motivation if I’m just doing what you tell me to do. Third, you are giving me a solution that would work for you, but it probably won’t work for me. I am the expert in my own life and, hence, the only person who can come up with a great answer to my challenge.

Not telling others what to do has always been a challenge for me. My mother said that, as a little girl, I was bossy. During my coach training, I spent a great deal of time and energy learning to ask powerful questions instead of listing things that a person should try.

During coaching, and in life, people don’t really want to be told what to do. They want to be listened to, truly heard, and understood. When I am tempted to throw my two cents’ worth at someone, I have a phrase that I repeat to myself: “Not my circus, not my elephants.” It means that whatever situation a person is in, it’s not my responsibility to fix it. We are each the ringmaster in our own circus.

I did not share my personal reminder phrase about the circus at the workshop, but I did make a point of telling the group that they were not responsible for solving the problems of the people that they coach. One young woman told me after the workshop that learning that one thing had made the entire conference worthwhile.

She shared that she often took on other people’s problems, relieving them of the burden of solving them at all. The new perspective was freeing for her and placed the responsibility for facing and overcoming challenges where it belonged – with the owner of the situation. We are not doing anyone a favor by taking on and solving their challenges.

When we take on other people’s problems, we are telling them that we don’t think that they can do it on their own. We minimize their creativity and determinedness. We also steal the opportunity to build resilience. Every challenge we overcome makes us more confident to face the next. Although it can feel callous, we are helping more by supporting people in overcoming their challenges rather than jumping in and doing it for them.

If you are tempted to send someone your remarkable solution to his or her challenge, remember that you are only responsible for your own circus and your own elephants.


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.

No Trace of Injury

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I was watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Worf (the big, scary Klingon) fell off a catwalk and broke his spine. Luckily, a friendly alien with healing powers was on the scene. He put his hands on Worf’s head and fixed the broken spine. Dr. Crusher scanned the now breathing Worf and declared that there was no trace of injury.

The phrase really hit me: No trace of injury. My first thought was “I want that.” As I move forward in life, I want no trace of past injuries. Of course, that can be impossible for physical injuries. My ankles will always have some stiffness and tons of broken blood vessels from multiple sprains while playing basketball in high school.

However, what about emotional injuries? Do we need to carry those scars forward with us throughout our lives? I began to ask myself what was keeping me from living a life with no trace of injury.

I have felt for some time that I am resistant to being happy and successful. It infuriates me when people say, “You look good. Everything must be going well for you.” The immediate response in my head is, “You try restarting your life from scratch at 58 and see how well it goes, Donkey Head!”

In truth, life is going well! I have work that I love. I’ve bought a condo that is beginning to feel like home. I have friends and family who love and support me. My life is not the life that I planned and worked on for 35 years, but it’s pretty darn nice!

So why do I resist joy and peace? It took some soul searching and navel-gazing to come up with the answer. I feel that I am minimizing or even forgetting the trauma of my divorce if I look like I’m doing great. Several years of my life were awful, bordering on unbearable. If I look good, I believe that others think it couldn’t have been that bad if I’ve managed to recover so well.

If I look depressed and miserable, I am showing the world just how yucky the experience has been. I wear my misery as proof of my suffering. Yes, I know, that sounds very melodramatic. I have never denied my gift for hyperbole. What’s surprising is that I actually felt that way. It was a bit of a self-revelation.

I know that I am not alone in dealing with the curveballs that life throws. Many people have suffered much greater traumas than the ones that I have experienced. We all have experienced situations and events that just weren’t fair! Absolutely not our fault and totally unfair! The injustice of life can really get my blood boiling.

However, blood boiling is not all that productive. In reality, the only person suffering from my suffering is me. Can’t I just let the injustices of the past disappear? After more soul searching and navel-gazing, the answer for me right now is no. I cannot let it go completely. I want all the injustices I’ve endured to live on.

I want them to live on, but I’m tired of carrying them. So, I decided to write them all down. When I think of a time that I’ve been harmed, I write it down. If I start to think of that particular event again, I stop and tell myself that I don’t need to hold on to it in my brain anymore because it’s written on paper. The process is a blend of release and cognitive restructuring.

I told my therapist about my coping mechanism, and he asked me to make a list of all the “shaping events” of my life. Those include both positive and negative events that have made me who I am. We got into a lively discussion about whether or not we get to choose how we are shaped by an event. I feel that we get to choose to some degree. I can choose to become bitter and resentful, or I can choose to process the @(*#%/! emotions, learn the lesson, and move on.

For the record, I do not like processing emotions. I spent a good deal of life stuffing them and ignoring them. Also for the record, that is not the healthiest way to deal with them. It’s best if we name the emotion, claim the emotion, and then tame the emotion, which means we integrate the feeling and emotion into who we are now.

I like the idea of creating a list of shaping events for several reasons. First, it’s a balanced list of good and bad life events that helped create the me I am right now. That’s some good information to bring to light and discuss. Second, our beliefs are based on our experiences, and I am ready to look at those beliefs and see if they are still serving me. Third, I like that an objective person is going to read my list. It makes me feel seen and heard. Someone else will see my traumas and triumphs. As a result, I don’t feel like I have to hold on to them so hard.

I will definitely be asking my coaching clients to do the shaping event exercise. Coaching is about raising awareness and providing support. I look forward to being their witness to life’s triumphs and injustices. I will be keeper of their experiences so that they don’t have to carry them around anymore.

If we hold onto the past, we cannot move forward with joy into the future – with no trace of injury.


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.

Leading Change

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Great leaders must have a solid foundation of mindsets, perspectives, and tools in order to effectively lead a change. During a leadership series, I talk about Intentional Change Theory (ICT), Leadership and Self-Deception, the power of choice, communication, the discussion outline, handling conflict in a positive way, using a coaching style of management, and motivation theory before we begin to talk about leading change. We start with the change theory from the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by,  Chip and Dan Heath which uses the model of the Rider, Elephant, and Path. You can read about all of these topics by following the link to the appropriate blog.

Here are some other considerations when leading others through a change:

  1. When facing a change, we want to clearly understand what is going to happen and why so that we can pass that information along to our subordinates. People are uneasy during a change, and knowledge makes them feel more comfortable. We want to create a clear picture of where we are going and why. People really like to know what the rationale is behind a change.
  2. We create buy-in by asking for people’s opinions and perspectives. It’s okay if they express negative feelings; it’s important to acknowledge those feelings and keep everyone focused on what they can do. We want to ask for input about the change as much as we can. However, it’s best not to ask for input if the change is set in stone or if we already have our minds made up; it breaks trust.
  3. Maintaining a positive attitude about the change, whether we like it or not, is crucial. Leaders set the tone for organizational change with their own attitudes. We create unnecessary hardship on people when we impose negative feelings about something that is going to happen anyway. We help the people around us when we stay positive.

If you have some people who aren’t really on board for the change. You can read about how to help them here.

Leading others through a change is the pinnacle of exceptional leadership that requires a solid base of foundational skills and knowledge.


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 Importance of Being Reliable

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Trustworthiness is the cornerstone of exceptional leadership. If people don’t feel that they can trust us, we do not have psychological safety or the positive relationships required for organizational success. However, trust is a difficult thing to cultivate and maintain because it relies on us being consistent. Great supervisors are consistent, dependable, 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.

Keeping our emotions and, more importantly, our actions in check takes a great deal of emotional intelligence. Specifically, we must exercise self-discipline. We don’t get to fly off the handle and yell whenever we get angry. When we talk about this in workshops, participants ask me if I ever lose my temper, yell, and say hurtful things. My answer is “rarely.” Actually, I can’t think of a time in the last ten years when I’ve hurled mean-spirited insults at anyone. I do get angry, and I sometimes raise my voice a bit and sound stern, but my words are still intentional and measured.

The first reaction that I get is incredulity, and then there is a definite belief that to control one’s temper is not healthy. One does need to express anger, but we don’t need to damage people, walls, furniture, or relationships to do it. Exercise is a great way to release pent-up anger. When my boys were young, I would hold sofa cushions while they hit on them and yelled. I’ve used both of those techniques.

I’ve also walked through my home ranting and yelling. I have a friend or two that will allow me to vent to them. One time I called a good friend and fellow coach and said, “I need you to say, ‘What an ass!’ every time I pause for breath for about three minutes.” She did, and I felt better. Recently I bought an ax-throwing kit for children. Think Nerf when you visualize it in your head. Throwing foam axes can be very cathartic.

The bottom line is that we can manage our anger so that we don’t intentionally harm others. Words can be powerful weapons. We want to express our anger in appropriate ways to others, and then go home and take it out on the sofa cushions.

Fortunately for us, people have a tendency to extend trust to others in the beginning of a relationship. The 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 to 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. However, the best course of action is to do our best each moment of every day to be reliable, consistent, and dependable.


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.

Delegation and Exceptional Teams

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In workshops, I talk a lot about psychological safety, which Project Aristotle identifies as one of the required traits for exceptional teams. However, psychological safety wasn’t the only thing on the list of findings. The entire list is below.

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Structure and clarity can be a particular challenge for leaders transitioning from a “doing” role to a “delegating” role. However, delegation in alignment with clear roles and goals is a crucial skill to develop.

First-time supervisors are usually promoted because they are very good at what they do. Generally, they were successful employees with a lot of knowledge and ability. Once they become leaders, it can be hard to let go of the “doing” part. It’s difficult to let other people try and maybe not do it quite as well as they could have done it. However, as a leader, it’s important to help employees be successful by not jumping in and doing the tasks for them. It’s a leader’s responsibility to develop employees’ skills and experience.

When we are employees who are responsible for only ourselves, we are judged on our own actions and abilities. We can create our own success by how hard and how well we work. As a leader, we aren’t just judged on what we do alone anymore. Our success is dependent on the success of everyone who works for us. That’s a big difference.

The first step in delegation is to let each employee know what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and what outcome needs to happen for the employee to be considered successful. Essentially, we are saying, “These are your tasks. When you do these tasks like this, you will be successful.” It creates a wonderful environment where everyone knows what they’re responsible for and what they’re supposed to be doing. Clarity on tasks helps employees grasp their roles and stay in their own lanes.

Once everyone has a clear idea of the tasks that they need to perform, it’s important to make sure that they have all the resources that they need to do those tasks. Sometimes employees don’t have the authority or ability to get the resources that they need. It’s our job as leaders to make sure that they have everything that they need to be successful. Resources could mean information for a report or parts to keep a manufacturing line running. Leaders are responsible for securing resources that employees cannot get on their own.

Another responsibility of leaders is to remove obstacles that keep employees from performing their assigned tasks. An obstacle could be a process requirement that slows things down or a person who is being uncooperative. If something is making it difficult for a person to do his or her job, it’s the leader’s responsibility to change the situation.

In summary, the first steps to consider in the delegation of tasks are:

  1. Make sure that everyone knows exactly what tasks they need to perform and why those tasks are important.
  2. Clearly define what success at each task will include.
  3. Ensure employees have the resources that they need to do their assigned tasks successfully.
  4. Remove any obstacles that are hindering employees in the performance of their tasks.

Clear and specific expectations for successful behaviors, along with the proper support, are foundational elements when building an exceptional team or organization.

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.

Delegation and Situational Leadership

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A supervisor’s level of involvement in an employee’s task is dependent on two things: 1) How important the task is, and 2) How experienced the employee is in performing that particular task. Those two considerations are represented on the graph below, which is a modification of the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model.

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The left scale of the graph represents the level of importance of the task. At the bottom of the graph are tasks that are not important. Near the top of the graph, the tasks are very important. Important tasks are high-visibility tasks with major consequences if not done successfully. The scale along the bottom of the graph shows how experienced the employee is at the specific task you are delegating. If the person has no experience, he or she would fall on the left side of the graph. If the employee has done the task successfully before, he or she would fall on the right side of the graph.

The terms in the middle of the graph are the same ones that are used in the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model. Each category represents a different amount of instruction and monitoring of employees.

It is appropriate to coach when the task is not important and the employee doesn’t have experience performing the task. Coaching includes giving a clear and detailed description of the expected outcome. However, we want to give employees some room to try and figure out the details on their own. If they make a mistake, it’s not a big deal because the task isn’t crucial. In coaching, we are creating a learning experience. We will tell them what success looks like and then check in with them periodically to make sure that they have the resources they need and that everything is going okay.

If we move up the page along the Importance of the Task scale but stay to the left on the graph, we’re still talking about employees who are not very experienced. However, they are working on something that’s really important with high visibility. In that situation, we want to direct. We are going to tell them exactly what to do, and then we are going to keep very close tabs on their actions. We would probably establish timelines and benchmarks and ensure that those requirements are met because we want to make sure that they succeed and the organization benefits.

Experienced employees will fall on the right side of the graph. If the task is not very important, we are going to delegate. We know that they can handle whatever task this is. Ultimately, a great supervisor’s goal is to have minimal involvement in the accomplishment of tasks. We want to tell them what success looks like and have them let us know when they are done. Of course, it’s difficult to attain that standard all the time because we get new employees, new tasks, and other changes.

Even experienced, trustworthy employees need support on important tasks. We have a lot of confidence in them, but because the task is important and may be highly visible, we want to make sure that we’re checking in with them to ensure everything is going well. We will provide a timeline for complex tasks and ask for updates. We aren’t directly in the nuts-and-bolts of the task, but we are keeping track of how it’s going.

In summary, our level of involvement with employees doing tasks is dependent on the person’s experience and the importance of the task. As supervisors, we aren’t going to maintain one level of involvement across the board all the time. We are going to gauge the level of involvement that we need based on the specific circumstances.


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.

Just Pick Up The Books!

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When my sons were young, I would tell them to go and clean their room. One could handle his part of the job. The other was completely overwhelmed by the task. He would sit on the floor and become engrossed in the books that he was supposed to be putting on the shelf. Getting him to clean his part of the room was a bit of a battle.

I thought about the appropriateness of the chore. Cleaning one’s room is not an unreasonable expectation. However, a room that has gotten out of hand can be daunting. I find my own room intimidating to clean when I put it off for too long.

One day, I decided to break the task up into manageable bits so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. I asked him to put away one category of items for ten minutes. For example, I asked him to just put away books for ten minutes. I wanted to set him up for success.

When we first take on a task or assign one to someone else, we want the experience to be a positive one. If we overwhelm someone with too much information in the beginning, they can lose hope. As leaders, we want to do what we can to ensure success early. It’s easy to increase the difficulty of the actions as a person’s skill and familiarity with a task grows.

Instead of dumping an entire task on someone, we can break it down into pieces. If an employee’s ultimate responsibility is to compile information and create a complex report, we can hand over the requirements in pieces.

For example, we could first have them collect the information from the various people they will collaborate with. It would give them a chance to meet fellow employees and learn why the information is important. They could also ensure the information is in the proper format, and learn what that looks like and why we request the information in that way. Then we move on and have them do another piece of the report.

In the book Drive, Daniel Pink states that mastery is one of the things that motivates people. We want to become good at doing things. We want to do tasks well and with ease. Mastery comes with practice. If we ask too much in the beginning, we can make mastery seem like a far-fetched goal. We want people to experience small successes along the way. Each success builds confidence and motivates us to take on the next level of the task.

Another reason to begin with easy is that we want to create a positive feeling about the task and avoid a bad attitude. My nephew’s teacher is requiring four days of creative writing a week. He is eight years old and faces frustration and anger each evening as he cranks out two pages of creative writing. His attitude toward writing is not good at the moment. My sister is currently advocating on his behalf with the teacher so that he won’t decide that he is not a good writer or that he will never write again.

My son was successful when I set a time limit and had him focus on just one part of the entire job. Gradually, we lengthened the time and broadened the scope of what he would do at one time. Each small win made him feel more confident that he could handle cleaning his room.

The key is to ensure that any job we do ourselves or assign to another never feels hopeless. We can all master our tasks – and have a positive attitude about them – if we create small successes that build up to complete proficiency. It might feel like it takes longer to delegate in this way, but the positive feelings and errors that we avoid far outweigh a little bit of time.


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.

 

Imagery Is the Lighthouse of Great Leadership

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One of the ways to inspire people is to use imagery. Imagery also makes ideas and concepts easier to understand.

We create imagery using analogies, metaphors, and similes. Frankly, I look up the definition of these terms every time I write about them, and I still can’t keep them straight. Let’s just say that we inspire others when we use imagery to show them how one thing is like another.

Here is some imagery that I use to show the importance of a leader having a clear vision and getting everyone to move toward that vision.

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This is a dog sled with the dogs arranged in a gangline team configuration. It’s the one with which we are most familiar. However, if the terrain is rough and the dogs need to be able to avoid obstacles and rough ice, the musher will arrange the dogs in a fan hitch, pictured below.

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The fan hitch allows the dogs more freedom and flexibility, which is the same thing that great leaders give their employees. It’s an ideal arrangement as long as the musher or leader can keep everyone pulling in the same direction. You can imagine the loss of direction for the entire team if one dog pulls off in a 90-degree angle from the rest of the pack. One troublesome employee can have the same effect.

That imagery helps to show the importance of a leader having a direction, clearly communicating that vision, and ensuring that everyone is working toward that goal. We can clearly see how one employee can derail momentum, efficiency, and success.

When trying to make a point or explain an idea, we can think of what imagery might illustrate the concept. We can start by asking how this situation is similar to another one.

The title of this blog compares imagery to a lighthouse. Why do you think that I picked a lighthouse? A lighthouse shines a bright light out into the darkness. The light both guides boats towards home and warns them off of a rocky coast. If a crew is lost and unsure of where to go, the beam from a lighthouse is a welcome sight.

Actually, I often think of myself and my work as a lighthouse. I want to hold up a shining example for leaders to strive for, and also warn them off of behaviors that are unproductive or harmful. I want to create hope and direction in a world that is often murky and confusing. The imagery of my work as a lighthouse helps me stay motivated and on-track.

What imagery would help you and your organization stay motivated and moving in a positive direction? I’d love to hear your ideas!


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.

 

Stages of Grief and Change

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In leadership workshops on leading change, I always include a discussion of the stages of grief. When something changes, the old thing or way is gone. When we feel a sense of loss, we grieve.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote about the stages of grief in her 1969 book On Death and Dying. She created the model from research she did on people who were facing death. The stages of grief in the Kübler-Ross model are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance.

It is important to note that there is not a clear progression from one stage to the next and no “normal” time frame for each stage. People are unique, and each one processes grief differently. In addition, the research has been applied by therapists and the public to anyone grieving, not just those facing death, and the research doesn’t support the shift.

However, the Kübler-Ross model does normalize many of the feelings that people experience when facing a loss. For me, that’s where its real value lies. From my own experience and the experiences of my coaching clients, I often see denial, anger, depression, and acceptance as common emotions when facing a loss.

For example, in 2009 I had brain surgery. I had an abnormality that the doctor repaired by inserting a few platinum coils to redirect the blood flow. After the surgery, I lost my ability to do difficult physical tasks that raised my heart rate. I became a wimp! Being a wimp really hurt. I had always considered myself an athlete, and now my athleticism and endurance were gone. It felt like an enormous loss.

In the beginning, I did deny that any change had happened. I worked to try and increase my stamina, but I never got better. Each time I did a hard workout, I ended up on the sofa for several days with nausea and dizziness. It was so frustrating!

Denial can be useful if the loss is so overwhelming that we can’t process all the implications at one time. Our brains give us one piece at a time so that we don’t become completely overwhelmed.

I did go through the stages in order, even though that isn’t always the case. Next, I was angry. I was so angry. Life was unfair, and something precious had been taken from me. I growled at the world for quite a while, but anger takes a lot of emotional energy to maintain.

Depression came next. My depression was marked by a complete sense of hopelessness. What was the point of going on in this condition? I had trouble standing up in front of a group to facilitate for a few hours. I love facilitating, and it had taken me a long time to find my calling, which was now being taken away. I facilitated, but it was a struggle.

Eventually, I did reach a level of acceptance. I sat down and wrote out a list of all the things that I could do in an effort to stop dwelling on the things that I couldn’t do. My health did improve enough to facilitate, but I can’t do it Monday through Friday without taking the next week off.

I do still dip back into depression and anger now and again, but I don’t stay there for long. There are many people with bigger obstacles than the ones that I face. Counting my blessings, the things that I’ve accomplished, the people that I’ve helped, and the family that I love all help me move back to acceptance.

Now, how does all of this relate to change in the workplace? Even a change in one procedure can create a sense of loss for someone. Perhaps the procedure makes the person feel less valuable. Perhaps it removes some control or authority. The new procedure could be inconvenient and irritating. You wouldn’t believe the complaints I’ve heard from more than one organization about changes to the copy machines!

There are ways before, during, and after a change to make it easier on everyone, but I want to focus on the part grief plays in this blog.

As leaders, when someone is resisting change, we want to look for the loss and the feelings around the loss. Remember, there is a fact and a feeling part in every situation. We cannot begin to guess how a change is affecting someone. The best way to move forward is to ask.

People don’t usually resist change just to be ornery, although I have seen people with change fatigue lash out. The last change in a long line of changes can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. However, most of the time people resist change because they feel like have lost something of value. It’s up to us to help them move through their feelings, which may or may not follow Kübler-Ross’ model.

Our personal needs are to be listened to, understood, and respected. We can help people move through grief by filling those needs by asking curious questions and showing some compassion.


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