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.


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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.


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.

 

Give it a shot!

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Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different hobbies while looking for a creative outlet. I started with crocheting in high school. I made a hot pink and purple afghan. Then, I went on to needlepoint. I have some lovely shells hanging in one of the bathrooms that I finished in the ‘80s. I failed at knitting. The sweater vest that I made wouldn’t fit over my head. I had the year of baskets in the ‘90s. I’ve tried drawing, but I still haven’t found my thing.

However, that doesn’t keep me from continuing to try new things. Right now, I have a bag of floss and a book on freestyle embroidery that are waiting for me to begin. The point is that I will never find the thing I love doing if I don’t keep experimenting. The battle cry is “Give it a shot!” If I don’t like it, it’s not a failure. I just don’t like it!

A friend called to tell me that a man was showing interest in her. He was recently out of another relationship, and she didn’t feel he was over it. She decided to give the relationship a shot, knowing that it might not work out. In the end, it didn’t, and she was disappointed, but not regretful over a missed opportunity. When we give something a chance, there is always the possibility that it won’t work out, but that’s okay. There is also always the possibility that it will.

Great leaders are bold, and they often live by the maxim “Give it a shot!” “It” could be a new process or procedure. “It” could be a new job or entering a new target market. Of course, great leaders do research, but it’s hard to know with 100% accuracy what will work. Sometimes, we just have to give it a shot.

The key to trying new things is jumping in wholeheartedly – whether it’s knitting, an advertising campaign, or a relationship. It’s only a failure if we don’t give it our all. Failure for lack of trying and commitment is failure. Otherwise, it’s just a learning experience.

What new thing can you try out? Maybe it’s a new look or a new way to prepare chicken! Perhaps a more authoritative way to communicate might be worth a try. You might love painting! Look around in your heart for something that sounds interesting or compelling and give it a shot! It’s great practice for the bigger leadership opportunities that are sure to come your way.


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.

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

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We humans have a tendency to notice the negative things around us more than we notice the positive. “Noticing more” means seeing most of the negative, not registering most of the positive, and giving more emotional emphasis to the negative events around us than we do the positive. Wow! No wonder many of us feel like we lead a hard-luck life. We are looking for and dwelling on the bad stuff! However, we aren’t doomed to humanity’s natural tendency to gloom.

We can change how we view the world with one simple exercise: keep track of the positive — specifically, by keeping a gratitude journal. My Mom was one of the first people I knew to write in a gratitude journal. She kept one for decades. She lived with us for the last 10 years of her life, so her entries included things about our family.

Mom would refer to a conversation with my sister as “hearing sweet Stacey’s voice.” She snuggled in bed with my youngest son and read Moby Dick aloud to him before the rest of us were up and moving. She played action figures with my oldest son. I know these things because she wrote about them in her gratitude journal. It is sweet and moving to read the things that touched her heart each day.

Everything about gratitude is good for us. Physiologically it slows our hearts and calms us down. Thinking of things for which we are grateful when we are lying in bed can help us fall asleep and sleep better. Feelings of gratitude can improve our health. Focusing on gratitude can be enormously helpful to people who struggle with feelings of anxiety. If we are feeling profound gratitude, we can’t feel worry or fear. Feeling more gratitude can only improve our lives!

In addition to writing three-to-five things a day for which I am grateful, I’m also writing three-to-five successes I’ve had that day. It’s working out great for me because I like to document what I accomplish. I write out a Dear Diary response of about middle school age: “Dear Diary, Today I…” You get the idea. I allow myself to fill the need to record my day, and then I pause, leaving the “doing” place and dropping into the “feeling” place.

If you want to go all-out, Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology professor who suggests going over the micro-moments of positivity you’ve experienced each day before you go to bed. Her research suggests that we can create a positivity spiral by focusing on gratitude and the small uplifting moments that we spend with others during our day. A micro-moment of positivity can be as simple as a brief exchange with someone bagging your groceries. You don’t even have to know the other person!

I’m still a work-in-progress on defining and embracing my emotions, so it’s a good exercise for me. It gets me to really sink into a feeling of gratitude for small things, like the soothing smell of coffee that I didn’t remember when I was counting successes.

Here’s the big news: in order to write our successes and gratitudes, we have to notice them! We must start looking for things that go right and things that give us that warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts as we go through our day. Then we write them down, which helps cement them in our memory.

Instead of noticing and dwelling on the negative, we are noticing and dwelling on the positive — and the world is suddenly a better place! We create a new and positive world for ourselves merely by looking at it with fresh eyes.


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.

Forcing Intimacy in the Name of Psychological Safety

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My youngest son knows that psychological safety is one of the things that I talk about most often. He sent me an article on it that was in an online magazine called Inverse. You can read it here.

As always, I have some opinions about the article. I like the authors’ description of psychological safety: the feeling of trust that you are free to be you. I associate psychological safety with a feeling of freedom. When we feel psychologically safe, we feel free to disagree, voice another perspective, ask questions, and take reasonable risks. We aren’t worried about other people’s reactions or retaliation. Psychological safety is a wonderful thing at work and at home. It’s no wonder that exceptional, high-performing teams foster psychological safety.

The article states that familiarity engenders the trust needed for psychological safety. I agree. So does Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Trust is the foundation of his pyramid for the qualities of exceptional teams. He advocates building trust with a few questions that he has researched:

  • What is your birth order?
  • What was a major childhood challenge?
  • What was your first job?

Where they lose me in the Inverse article is using the infamous 36 Questions That Lead to Love to build trust at work. You can read the NY Times article about the 36 Questions here. Some of the questions are fine for the workplace, but some of them are just too personal!

We walk a fine line at the workplace when creating relationships. Leaders can’t keep themselves and their personal lives completely separate from their coworkers. We don’t generally trust people who won’t tell us anything about themselves. We feel that they don’t like us or trust us.

Of course, those individuals could just be intensely private, but we all know that we interpret situations through our Frame of Reference. What we assume or guess isn’t always what is true. In my dealings with organizations, I have seen a distinct distrust and resentment toward people who refuse to share any of themselves with others.

In looking at the graph in the article, it looks like a couple of people were alienated by the exercise. Their dots move out further from the group. I’m not surprised. Forced intimacy at the level of the 36 Questions was bound to insult and maybe even infuriate a few people.

At the end of the article, the authors say that no one should be forced to take part. Refusing to do a team-building exercise takes a lot of courage, especially if there is a lack of psychological safety in the group. Making workers stand up against something that is clearly inappropriate for the workplace isn’t helping the situation at all.

However, as I stated earlier, it’s a fine line. There are a few people who feel that answering questions about their first job is too personal. When I do trust-building exercises that involve some personal disclosure, I make it clear that people don’t have to share anything that makes them uncomfortable. If they don’t want anyone to know what their first job was, they can talk about their second or third job. We definitely don’t want any oversharing in the workplace.

I’ve created my own list of questions. Some are from Lencioni. Some are from the 36 Questions. The rest I made up. You can get a copy of those questions here. Click on “Getting to Know You.” I print these out on both sides of card stock. Then I cut down the middle to create bookmarks.

The foundation of any healthy relationship is trust. The more we know about a person, the more likely we are to trust them – if they are trustworthy. Every now and then, a particularly negative or mean-spirited person will give answers that push people away rather than draw them closer. 

In our personal lives, we can avoid these people. At work, we must accept that psychological safety with this particular person is not going to happen. As a leader, it’s important to realize the damage that the negative person can do to a team or organization.

Trying to get to know someone better is always worth the effort. Ask some friendly questions, and know that every response is an okay response. Whatever level of intimacy a person is comfortable with is the right one for him or her.


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.

What is my outfit telling you?

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In leadership workshops, we talk about what we tell people with our clothes, bags, jewelry, and even water bottles. Some conclusions are roundly agreed upon. If you are wrinkled and frayed, we don’t think that you take your job seriously and that you probably have some time management issues since you can’t make yourself presentable in the morning.

I am not talking about things that we can’t control. Study after study shows that tall people are seen as more intelligent and responsible. I’m almost six feet tall, so this one works to my advantage, but it’s just luck. We don’t get to choose our height.

Our facial structure has a huge impact on how we are perceived by others. A symmetrical face makes us more attractive and trustworthy. However, if our eyes are too wide and our cheekbones pronounced, we are assumed to be aggressive. Once again, not in our control!

Let’s talk about things that we can do. Generally, we are seen in a more positive light if we have a pleasant facial expression. Those of us whose resting facial expression looks bored or angry benefit from looking in a mirror and working to change to a more positive expression.

When I was in my 20s, I read an article about wrinkles. It said that we create wrinkles in our face by the expressions we display. One way to minimize wrinkles is to keep a neutral face with muscles relaxed as much as possible. Man, I took that suggestion to heart. I started keeping my face relaxed as much as possible.

Unfortunately, when my facial muscles are relaxed, I look a bit like a serial killer contemplating her next victim. I was editing Army regulations in Heidelberg at the time. My coworkers began asking me if I was okay. They’d say, “Are you angry about something?”

It took me longer than I want to admit to put two and two together. I started intentionally smiling before I looked up from my work when someone asked me a question. The difference in my coworkers’ reactions and treatment of me was remarkable.

However, assumptions about many aspects of a person’s appearance vary wildly. I demonstrate this point by asking participants in my workshop to share their assumptions based on the way I dress. For example, I don’t wear jewelry other than a watch. I ask them to create some hypotheses about why I don’t have on jewelry.

The guesses or assumptions vary wildly. They range from metal allergies to wanting to live simply to not wanting to be bothered by that morning decision. The guesses say more about the person than about me. Remember, we look at the world through our Frame of Reference. What we notice and how we judge what we see is unique to our values, priorities, experiences, and beliefs. We give answers that fit in with our own Frame of Reference.

I don’t wear nail polish, either, and no one ever guesses the real reason why. Why do you think I don’t wear nail polish? Come up with some reasons that make sense to you. The better you know me, the more accurate your answer might be. Got some hypotheses? Really pause and think about it!

The reason I don’t wear nail polish is that it is filled with toxic chemicals. Our bodies continually absorb and have to deal with a cocktail of toxins, and some of them are carcinogens. Are you appalled when you see children with nail polish on? I am! I put it in the category of smoking around children because it is harmful to their health.

Did you see that one coming? Unless you know me well or have been in one of my workshops, I’m guessing that you probably didn’t guess correctly. Through experience, I’ve learned that the nontoxic part of my Frame of Reference is not shared by many other people.

So, what are the takeaways here? First, we want to appear as we want to be perceived. If we want to be seen as a bit of a rule breaker, we can wear funkier-than-usual work attire. If we are ambitious, we can dress like our boss or our boss’s boss. If we want to be considered approachable, we can wear a friendly expression. If we want to be taken seriously at work, we can make sure that our clothes are wrinkle-free and in good condition.

We can take this suggestion one step further and say, “Dress as you want to be.” There is quite a bit of research that supports the fact that our clothes influence our own behavior, not just how people react to us. One study even showed that the cognitive ability of students improved when they wore more formal attire rather than “street clothes.”

I will make a small side note for women here. I just read a study that found that provocative dress results in women being seen as less intelligent and competent. When women wore conservative outfits, they were judged highly. However, unbutton one button on that same outfit or hike the skirt above the knee, and the women were seen as being dressed appropriately to be a receptionist, but not a leader.

Second, when judging others, it’s important to remember that our assumptions are based on our own Frame of Reference. It’s natural to pull on our past experiences, knowledge, and values when making a judgment about something. It’s vital that we remember that we are guessing.

It’s best to label our deductions as hypotheses – predictions that have yet to be proven or disproven. It keeps us from turning an assumption into a fact in our heads. Until we gather more information or ask the person, our assumptions are just something that we made up.

As leaders, one crucial question to ask is “Am I being perceived by others as I want to be seen?” Our clothes and facial expressions can help us be seen as and be the leaders that we want to be. Another important question is “What assumptions am I making based on my own experiences and beliefs?” Great leaders constantly challenge their own thinking.


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 Chair Is a Chair

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One phrase has been coming up more and more in both leadership workshops and my life: The Chair Is a Chair. The phrase comes from a book by Marshall Goldsmith, Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts. Goldsmith mentions the concept only briefly in the book, but it really captured my attention. He writes:

“I end the exercise with a simple reminder that getting mad at people for being who they are makes as much sense as getting mad at a chair for being a chair. The chair cannot help but be a chair, and neither can most of the people we encounter. If there’s a person who drives you crazy, you don’t have to like, agree with, or respect him, just accept him for being who he is.”

I notice in leadership workshops that the participants often want to figure out how to change other people who they believe are the problem. In reality, we cannot change other people. We can only change ourselves. We can model positive behavior, and we can invite positive behavior in others, but we cannot wave the Magic Wand of Destiny around and change them. The Magic Wand of Destiny only works on ourselves.

We can save ourselves a lot of emotional pennies by just accepting that people are the way that they are. Negative Nellies aren’t going to suddenly become positive because we want them to. People are a product of their Frame of Reference, which is made up of their values, priorities, experiences, and beliefs. Perhaps Negative Nellie has had some hard knocks in life and concluded that life is a hardship to be endured. She is doing the best that she can, given her experiences and emotional intelligence.

An important point to remember is that the actions of other people that annoy us are not generally directed at us. There is no need to take other people’s behavior personally. They are who they are with everyone, not just us. We are spending emotional pennies unnecessarily when we react and get offended.

Of course, accepting that someone is a chair doesn’t mean that we can’t set boundaries when the chair’s behavior is inappropriate or downright offensive. However, we can do it without anger. We just let them know what is not acceptable, why it isn’t acceptable, and that we won’t tolerate it.

Enforcing boundaries at work doesn’t usually require official action. Firm but unemotional reminders often are effective. If the chair is a subordinate, coaching might in order. If the chair is a peer or superior, we get to decide if the behavior warrants a trip to HR.

Personal relationships are another thing entirely. We don’t have to stay around chairs who challenge our values and self-worth. Outside work, we get to choose our friends. We also get to decide which family members we spend a lot of time with. Sometimes we are required to interact with family, but we can keep it to a minimum and remember that family chairs aren’t likely to change either. Most importantly, their behavior is all about them and their experiences. It has little to do with us, no matter how many fingers they point at us.

My daughter-in-law wrote an article about Arnold Lobel’s series of children’s books about Frog and Toad. You can read her article here: https://verilymag.com/2019/03/what-frog-and-toad-can-teach-readers-of-all-ages. She analyzes the relationship between Frog and Toad and uses the information to talk about successful friendships.

I like her list of important friendship qualities, and I would add to it that each friend can accept that the other is a chair who isn’t going to change. In other words, they accept each other exactly as they are and don’t wish for or try to get each other to change. Toad is a bit negative. Frog sees the world through rose-colored glasses, and he doesn’t ever get upset about Toad’s negative attitude.

Now Frog does try to change Toad now and again. It’s a behavior we all slip into. However, on the whole, Frog just accepts Toad for who he is. The result is that Toad sometimes tries to improve himself. When we invite new behavior with positivity and acceptance, sometimes the invitation is accepted. We can be happy when the chair decides to improve itself a bit, but it’s important not to get disappointed when it stays the same.

I use Goldsmith’s concept of the chair all the time now, and my life is better for it. When someone is close-minded or mean, I don’t take it personally anymore. I remind myself that the chair is a chair and that it will probably stay a chair for the rest of its life. I also remember that the chair’s actions have absolutely nothing to do with me. When a chair points a finger at you, they have three fingers pointing back at themselves, which is where the problem usually lies.

Here is one last caveat: we are chairs, too! If more than two people comment on one of our behaviors or perspectives, it’s a good idea to do some introspection. We can ask, “Am I the person that I want to be? Do I want to change my behavior?” We can become a better chair if we want to. The choice is ours. Thank goodness we can wave around the Magic Wand of Destiny and make intentional choices for ourselves to create the future and persona that we desire.


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 Three Choices in Every Situation

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When faced with a situation, we have three choices:

  1. Accept the situation as it is
  2. Try and change the situation
  3. Flee

The choice that we pick will depend on the circumstances. Let’s say that I have a tedious boss who drives me crazy. I could decide to accept the situation. I love what I do, and my co-workers rock. I can accept meddling now and then from a micromanaging boss. Or perhaps I really need this job for now, and I can use mindfulness and positivity to help me manage my emotions.

However, if my boss is overbearing and making my life miserable every day, it might be a challenge to my mental health. The second choice is to try and change the situation. Maybe I could ask for a one-on-one discussion with her. I could use some of my stellar communication skills to find the fact and feeling parts of what is going on. It is probably worth a shot. It is possible that I could go down in flames during the discussion and change nothing. Then, maybe a trip to HR would be in order. In the end, I might not affect any change, but I can try. However, I don’t have to try and change it; that’s just one option.

If I can’t change the situation, and I can’t accept it as it is, it’s time to make plans to move on. Perhaps it’s time to start my own business. Maybe I could take an early retirement. There are several options when fleeing a job that I can’t stand, and fleeing doesn’t have to be done rashly.

When facing a situation that you don’t like, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can I truly accept the situation as it is without harming my physical or mental health?
  2. What can I do to change this situation? Do I want to try and change it?
  3. How can I get out of this situation if I can’t accept or change it?

Remember: your circumstances, goals, and values will help you to make the best decision for you.


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.