Do You Need to be Right?

In the workplace, in sports and in relationships there is a high priority placed on who is right. I had the great pleasure of seeing Edward G. Hochuli speak last year at a conference.  He is a NFL referee and has been for some 20 plus years.  He studies the rules of the game every day…all year.   Yes; every day. This is a guy who has to get it right or he’ll receive thousands of emails, bad press and public ridicule.  How about you? Edward Houchali

I think this illustrates the importance that is placed on rules and, in turn, who is right.  The problem is this can be counterproductive in the workplace.  Having the last word and being right has the potential to be really damaging to the relationships around you.  Even Dr. Phil, whether you like him or not, refers to Right-fighters.  It’s the perfect term for those who are mono-focused on winning their point at all costs.

Think about it for a moment.  Who was the last know it all that you enjoyed being around, or collaborating with, or, worst of all, reporting to.  I’d like to suggest that maybe we should try to just let that ego attachment go.  This can be quite a challenge especially for any of us baby boomers out there who had to line up for recess, cross the street at the cross walk and never raised their hand in class unless they were positive they had the right answer. 

I think that Dale Carnegie got it right when, in his principles for “Win People to Your Way of Thinking”, he said “Show respect for the other person’s opinions.  Never say, “You’re wrong.” 

So you’re probably wondering how to you bite your tongue when our culture and workplace have placed such a high priority on being right

Here are 5 ways to find peace and do that:

1. Listen.  Figure out if there is something you can find agreement on.  You might disagree with the direction of the project at hand but you might be able to agree that you’ve got the right team assembled and that you will not all agree but you all need to listen and respect others opinions.  There must be that acknowledgement that you’re all trying to get to completion and benefit from the process.  Listen for agreement.

2. Reflect.  Reflect on the impact.  How important is it to put someone in their place?  What will you gain from it in the end?  What will this do to the value of your “stock”?  In, other words, who else is going to want to work with you or value your opinion if you are constantly pointing out that you are right….and therefore, everyone else, is wrong.  Reflect before you start pointing your finger.

3. Patience.  Is this the time and place to “put this person in their place”? If this is your direct report, a peer or, worse yet, your boss…think long and hard about how this might damage your relationship.  At least find a more opportune time (i.e. less embarrassing) to sit down and listen to their reasoning and talk it out so that you come to a common understanding.  Swallow your pride and be patient.

4. Check in.  What is your own ego saying to you?  Are you really that dependent on being right to feel good…to have self-respect?  Is this the measure of your self-worth?  Do you really want to be known as that Right Person at the expense of all else? Check in to keep your ego at bay.

5. Silence.  It’s golden.  In this world of bombarding news, marketing and media; sometimes silence is the most powerful message you can have and share with others.  Just keep your mouth shut and embrace silence.

Several of my coaching clients keep track of when they try to make a personal change.  They will record every time they change their perspective on a situation and the way they changed their reaction.  See if you can give up on the almighty rightness and find peace.

It’s good to ask yourself on a fairly regular basis – When was the last time you “fell on the sword” and let someone else be right? Leave a comment below so we can all learn.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…Who’s Listening?

Besides being a better listener, as I discussed in a prior post, you need to be heard.  Why am I being ignored?  How come no one uses my ideas?  It might be time to look in the mirror…or watch a video tape of you.  How are you being you?  Think about who you listen to intently and who you ignore.  What about the guy who is completely self-absorbed and can only talk about himself?  His new car.  His vacation to Hawaii.  His awesome project that was implemented without a hitch.  I’m already making my grocery list and thinking about if I should DVR Downton Abbey remotely.  Or better yet.  I’m planning my escape from the conversation.  Didn’t I have an appointment at 10:18 a.m….precisely? Tree falls in the forest

There is the Rambler.  This is your neighbor who (as we say here in Eastern Carolina) “goes all the way to Savannah and back” before getting to the point.  There is the Chronologizer, someone who tells every detail regardless of its importance, in step by step chronological order.  This is one small step away from the Rambler but (for me) is far more excruciating as all the details wear out my patience.   Or the Linguist.  We might both be speaking English but they are using all sorts of acronyms and industry lingo that I end up being lost after “hello”. My point is (before I get to Savannah), if you need to be heard, make your message hearable.  Make your information or idea or instruction or feedback, easily digestible, accessible and memorable.

Here are some hints for how to be heard:

1.  Paint.  Paint a picture.  Using visual words helps our brain remember the information.  It stands out.  As David Rock recommends in “Quiet Leadership“, when we use visual words or metaphors “we are connecting with our own mental maps, then helping other people make their own mental maps for our ideas”.  Get out your watercolors and start painting.

2. Precise. Use precise words.  This can be hard on the fly (or maybe it’s just my middle aged brain) but be as specific as possible with your words.  For example, if you compliment your friend, you could say “you look great today”.  Or “that blouse is stunning on you, the blue really brings out your eyes”.  Which is more effective?  The more precise one is.

3. Surgical.  Be surgical with your words.  Slice it down to one sentence; maybe two.  It has more value and impact when you get directly to the point.  Be surgical.

4. Audience.  Know your audience.  As a Human Resource Executive if I start spewing all the alphabet soup of labor law acronyms (i.e. FMLA, FLSA, EEOC, ADAAA, OSHA…get the picture?), I will lose the audience unless I am at a SHRM conference.  Don’t feel like you need to raise yourself above the level of those around you by bringing out the industry lingo.  Leave it in your office and speak English.  Or at least check in with your audience to make sure they understand your message.  Adjust for your audience.

5. Sign posts.  Leave some sign posts along the way.  If you are working with a group or trying to move a discussion forward, try and restate what you have already accomplished.  In the NeuroLeadership Group training for Results Based Coaching course, they referred to this as placement.  It’s kind of like leaving breadcrumbs so you know where you have been and where you are going.  “So Suzy had some ideas on computer software we could you use and is willing to research options and Joe really likes the idea of sending out a survey to the customer service team.  Can we move on to other ideas?”  Suzy and Joe feel recognized and acknowledged.  The team can move on.  Leave some sign posts.

6. Them. It’s always about them.  If it’s about them and you aren’t being selfish (i.e. making sure you have the last word, making a joke at the other’s expense), people will listen to you.  There is an old ad line “When EF Hutton speaks, people listen”.  Odds are that EF Hutton was focused on their clients and doing a lot of listening.  If you focus on them, when you finally speak, they will listen.

7. Real. If there is an opportunity – Be real. Be vulnerable.  Be authentic.  This attracts attention and trust.  But you can’t fake it.  Isn’t this part of the reason that Oprah has a legion of followers?  If she was battling weight or sharing personal demons, she was being authentic and building trust.  If you are real; they will listen.

Being ignored can be painful and turning the ship around can take more than just one tug boat.  It’s a slow process and one that takes patience.  But it is possible to be heard.

Why Fear Doesn’t Work

I just got back from a conference by the NeuroLeadership Group on Results Based Coaching developed by David Rock and all I can say is, “Wow”.  Intimidation and fear have no place in the workplace; or in healthy relationships.  This may seem obvious but aren’t we all guilty of using ultimatums (eat your peas or else I’ll….)? I know I am.  We have this notion that we have to drive performance with the “whip”; much like the slave driver in the movie “The Ten Commandments”.  As Dan Pink has illustrated in his book “Drive”, unless it’s really the type of straight forward, non-thinking kind of work; threat will not drive performance. hebrew slaves building Rameses city_thumb

Paul McGinniss, an outstanding trainer for the NeuroLeadership Group, illustrated this in the training by suggesting that if the leader says “create or else”, you aren’t going to drive performance.  He also said that it takes five “towards or reward” feedback to counteract one “away or threat” responses.  So every time you criticize your employee or your child, it’s going to take five (yes, five) positive responses to get the limbic system back to equilibrium.  And you want that equilibrium.  If the brain of your direct report or spouse is in “fear” mode (when the limbic system is lit up), there ain’t no productive thinking happening.   When was the last time you made a meaningful decision when you were under stress or fear?  Yeah. right – I thought so.  Fear is not going to drive performance.

Here are some ideas on how to diminish fear in those around you:

1. Presence.  Are you aware of how your direct report is reacting or acting at this moment?  Is he tapping his foot with a furrowed brow?  He’s under stress.  If your spouse looks preoccupied; they probably are.  When your child is on the phone and takes a moment or two to reply or to answer a simple question; they might be in the “away” state.   You can’t move on.  We can’t move on, when one of us is in fear, preoccupied or as my husband says, “too many people on my stage” (the prefrontal cortex).  Being present makes you aware.

2. Esteem check.  It’s a good idea to maintain or boost other’s self-esteem (one of the Key Principles from DDI).   Criticizing and nit picking will not enhance performance.  Your teammate will not start picking up the pace or lend you a hand when they are on the defense.  Nagging your partner about mowing the lawn or asking your daughter if she’s gained weight; will not enhance either’s performance.  A thank you or specific positive feedback, on the other hand, will help bring them back to equilibrium.  If you want enhanced performance, make sure you are boosting self-esteem.

3. Steady.  Being steady or consistent is a tenet of emotional intelligence.  Be the same boss, mother, brother or team mate on Monday as on Friday.  Try to keep the team on a steady course as well.  If you are constantly changing directions or “flip flop” on decisions, you will have the team on the back of their heels waiting for the next shoe to drop.  There are times when this is impossible, and that’s OK, just remember that it isn’t the best time to introduce a new project or expect a breakthrough with the team.  Their limbic system is lit up and they are sitting in threat mode.  Wait till the storm passes and keep a steady course.

4. Justice. Hand in hand with being consistent is handing out equal justice.  The same way you need to show up and be the same person day to day, you need to treat Sam, Suzy and Old Joe the same as well.  I’m not suggesting you be a robot but handling situations with an even hand will build respect with the team.  Your family is likely to call foul on this immediately.  If I let my son take a car alone on a weekend trip and didn’t let my daughter (this actually almost happened), your child will educate you on the discrepancy.  Trust me.  Your teammates may not.  Reflect on the manner in which you dole out punishments, rewards and delegation.  Make sure you are using equal justice.

5. Let go the reins.  Let your children, your direct reports or your teammates call their own shots.  Keep your fingers out of the pie.  As I’ve written before, delegate the monkey and let the receiver of the monkey take it from there.  Self-mastery isn’t built under the direction of micro managers.  Delegate the project, figure out the available resources and let them loose.  At some point, you have to allow that 16 year old behind the wheel and Let. Them. Go.

6. Human.  People want to be recognized as human beings.  As Patrick Lencioni wrote in “3 Signs of a Miserable Job“, “People cannot be fulfilled in their work if they are not known”.  This is one of the signs of a miserable job, anonymity.  Know your teammates children’s names, if they play a sport, where their spouse works, what their hobbies are.  You don’t need to know what they had for dinner last night or when their last dental cleaning was, just be able to stay connected.  Make sure they know they are human; that they matter.

There is no need to get wrapped up in perfection with these ideas.  Don’t worry about conquering all 6 by Monday.  Try one out a week and see if you don’t get better performance around you.  One or two tweaks in your approach can go a long way.

My Boss Doesn’t Listen to Me

You probably consider yourself to be an excellent employee, student, contributor or active participant in your life but there still may be one area you’ve overlooked.my boss doesn't listen to me

Listening is an art that starts with you.  It’s ironic but actually true. Be a good listener first; they will follow.  I know sounds counter-intuitive but if you just shut up and listen…I mean really listen… you will end up with followers.  So you want to lead by example; listen by example.

So you’re in the staff meeting and have a brilliant idea on how to address the revenue short fall.   Or your boss is unloading on you about the operations manager from the plant in Detroit.  You probably want to stand on the conference table and get everyone’s attention- bad idea.  Frequently it is just best to bite your tongue and do nothing.  We’ve all worked with the “someone” who constantly interrupts, who has to have the last word, who just can’t let a topic, an argument or really anything go.  Don’t be that person.  Be the listener and they will follow.

Here are the 6 steps to being a better and active listener:

1. Seek first to understand.  If you focus on understanding (instead of your rebuttal), you will be much more engaged with what is being said.  As David Rock writes in “Quiet Leadership”, listen for potential.  Ask questions to expand on your boss’ ideas.  Help her gain insight. She’ll appreciate the space to develop ideas.  I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to vent, merely vent about a work situation and my husband jumped to give me advice. I just wanted someone to vent to; someone to understand.

2. Don’t drift.  If you are thinking about your grocery list or if you forgot to record American Idol – You.Are.Not.Engaged.In.Listening.  Turn off your cell notifications. Put your technology away.   Be in the moment and just listen.  And if you find yourself drifting; ask a clarifying question.  Apologize and say you were preoccupied for a moment and get back into the listening mode.

3. Let there be silence.  It’s amazing how we all feel obligated to fill space up with the sound of our voice.  Let there be an awkward silence.  There is power in silence and more importantly time to reflect and understand (refer to #1).  In fact, those who prefer introversion will appreciate the time to reflect.  Don’t drive the bus over someone’s time to reflect; be comfortable with the silence.

4. Reflect.  Ask questions to expound on your boss’ ideas.  Seek clarity.  Is there something you don’t understand?  Do you really understand the rationale? “So what I hear you saying is that we need to make some difficult cuts and you’re not completely sure where to make them.   How much time do we have to make the decision?”  Reflecting keeps you in the present.

5. Check assumptions.  It is amazing how quickly our mind works and how our internal dialogue will immediately jump to the worst-case scenario.  Like “yeah…this idea will never work.  Last time we did this it was an epic fail”…meanwhile we are smiling and nodding.  Or we immediately discount someone’s ideas, “Nah, tequila shots for lunch is a horrible idea.” Yes, this is a bad idea, just don’t say it and shut down the idea machine.  “tequila shots…OK, what else….” Check your assumptions to stop your inner dictator from running its mouth; and killing the idea before it ever gets launched.

6. Don’t interrupt.  If you are interrupting, you are not listening.  You just put your agenda first.  You just shut the other person down and basically said…”my idea is way better than yours so shut up”.   Your boss’ idea, your partner’s idea, your child’s idea….are all the best ideas, because they own it.  They will see it through. Your idea? Not so much.  Interrupting stops your boss from finding insight.

Full disclosure.  I’ve been working on this for years and it’s not easy.  It won’t happen overnight but if you keep this at the forefront with every interaction you have, you will improve and others, including your boss, will start to follow.

52 Weeks of Showing Up

This is it.  I have been blogging weekly for one solid year.  Woo hoo! I have to say that when I started this, I wasn’t sure it I could do it.  As my husband can tell you, I am not a quitter.  In fact, I’ve been described as tenacious (on more than one occasion) but I was very uncertain when I started this blog, 52 weeks ago.  The biggest lesson I have learned is, that I just need to show up. Showing up does not mean being “perfect”.  It means putting one foot in front of the other; even when you are tired.  It means writing when only 5 people have subscribed.  It’s when you would much rather sleep in or surf Facebook.  Trust – Just show up.

As Seth Godin says ,”Don’t just start. Continue. Ship. Repeat.”  I thought the hardest step was starting.  I have found out that repeat is the hardest step.  It’s so easy to say, “Well, maybe this should be a bi-weekly blog, maybe monthly…maybe quarterly”.  We’ve all been there.  The goal, finish line starts to slide or fade.  Excuses flood your brain.  The Inner Dictator takes over and tells you that your stuff is just no good anyway.  Trust me; you can win the battle if you just show up.

Here are some tips to help keep you on track:

1.  Preparation.  If you want to run a marathon, put your running shoes by your bed the night before.  If you want to cook at home more, make a shopping list for the week.  If you want to write a weekly blog, have a list of ideas to pick and choose from and make sure you are reading or listening or scanning the environment for ideas for that list.  If you only wait for inspiration, you’ll be waiting a long time.  Preparation is critical to showing up.

2. Routine.  I block off 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday morning to write.  I can set my watch by devoted runners in my neighborhood.  “Oh, there’s Mike and his friends on a Sunday morning; must be 9 AM. Or  –  It’s six o’clock, I better see what I’m making for dinner from the pile of recipes I selected on Saturday.”  If you have a routine, your body and mind are on auto pilot.  You don’t even think about it (and there is no time for the Inner Dictator to protest).  Once you have established the routine; it’s so much easier to show up for yourself.

3. Messy.  Embrace some messiness.  It won’t be perfect.  So just get over it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  I’m not enthralled with every post I wrote, but overall, I am proud of the blog.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I am amazed that often, that the least “inspired” post gets tons of feedback.  And the one I thought was a masterpiece, barely gets noticed.  Sometimes, I think the post that is most from the heart has the best “legs” and the post that has been “primped, preened and edited to death” is ho-hum.  Let it be messy; don’t be your own judge.  Others will.

4. Neighbors.  As in, quit worrying about your neighbors, and what they might say.  As Eleanor Roosevelt said “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”  Worrying about acceptance will grip you with fear.  Maybe only one person reads the post, and no one else does.  That’s fine.  I remember being shocked when I realized about two months ago that my site had been clicked on from 46 different countries.  46!  Global.  I had no idea.  Who knew I had so many “neighbors”.

5. End in mind.  My best writing is when I am talking to someone.  An ex boss, a client, a friend or my child; when I’m trying to inspire them to action.  When I was training for a 10k, last year, I had the race in mind every day.  When I’m planning for a dinner party; it’s the same thing.  Imagine success.  Breath it.  Embody it.  Be it. Keep the end in mind and you cannot fail.

6. Yes.  Try to say yes to things that support your goals.  Someone asks you to be on the panel of a Success Panel; say Yes.  Invites you to a Peer-to Peer group an hour’s drive away; say Yes.  Asks you to teach a Leadership class; say Yes. As Hunter S. Thompson said “Half of life is just showing up”.  It might be a hassle.  It might even be scary.  It might stretch your comfort zone.  You can’t get there unless you say Yes .

I couldn’t have shown up this last year without an audience.  I thank all of you; from those who have read one or two posts to my ardent weekly readers.  I appreciate all the feedback whether from my local Rotary club or from the middle of the Pacific via cyberspace.

What do you need to be showing up for?

The Engagement Wizard

I think so many businesses, in today’s economy, figure employees “should be happy they have a job.” The truth is that, according to Inc. magazine, 70% of your employees are job hunting. They might smile and nod and laugh at your jokes, and at night they are on CareerBuilder and asking for recommendations on LinkedIn.  Their resumes are up to date and they are ready to jump ship at the first sign of a decent paying job. They aren’t just looking for more money; they want a place that encourages engagement.  As Dan Pink espouses in his book Drive, “autonomy, mastery and purpose” are the ingredients for the Engagement Wizard. Engagement Wizard

The Engagement Wizard is the secret to holding onto those employees who are phoning it in while they search for greener, autonomous pastures. It is far better to employ some engagement tactics to hold onto your veteran employees than to search out a perceived better fit. I realize that some folks are too far gone to turn around and they are the poison in the kool-aid.  Employing a few tactics to create engagement for those who are salvageable, is well worth the effort when you figure that turnover can cost you anywhere from 50 to 200 % of the positions salary (and the replacements likely to cost you 10 to 20% more that the incumbent anyway).

So what are the techniques of the Engagement Wizard? Here are a few:

1. Thumb.  Quit keeping your employees tightly under your thumb.  It’s time to loosen the reigns.  As Dan Pink said at a recent conference, no one ever said “my favorite boss was the guy who breathed down my neck”.  People leave bosses.  If you are dictating an employee’s every movement and deed and watching the clock to make sure they are constantly at the grind stone, your employee will not be engaged. Loosen up your thumbs.

2. Don’t prescribe.  You should not view yourself as the doctor who is prescribing all the answers.  As Liz Wiseman said in her book “Multipliers”, you want to shift from being the Tyrant who has all the answers to the Liberator who is listening.  Listen; don’t talk.  This encourages the autonomy that Dan Pink prescribes.  If your employee is thinking for themselves, they are happier.  If you don’t believe me, tell your partner how to make the bed.  See how that goes over; and if they ever make the bed again.  Don’t prescribe.

3. Learning.  One of the downfalls in the recent economy is the slashing of training budgets.  We keep the Sales and Marketing budget status quo, and cut the non-essential training and development budget.  This, especially for Millennials, is a bad idea.  Employees, who have a “Growth Mindset” as espoused by Carol Dweck, are constantly looking to learn new skills.  “The Investor” as written by Liz Wiseman is the leader who is investing in resources for their team.  Encourage learning so that your employees are gaining “Mastery”.

4. Monkeys.  Delegate the monkey (as in task, project or duty) and check up on their care and feeding.  Leaders need to delegate and give ownership to their team.  This is another trait of Wiseman’s “The Investor”.  You can’t develop Pink’s “Mastery” without letting go of the monkeys.  This doesn’t mean you aren’t responsible for checking in on the monkeys, however you shouldn’t be the one filling the water dish.  Delegate the monkeys.

5. Big Picture.  Does your team know the big picture?  Jon Gordon at a recent conference suggested handing out 3 X 5 cards to all your employees and asking what the purpose of the company was.  What would your team answer?  We all need to know the purpose of the organization for which we work.  It is much easier to align with an organization and be engaged when we know what the purpose it.  If you answer, “To make money”, your team is not engaged.  Make sure they know the Big Picture.

6. Non-Commissioned Work.  One of the best examples of how effective autonomy is to creating better outcomes was a study that Pink refers to in his book “Drive”.  They found that in a blind evaluation (they didn’t know which art work was commissioned versus non-commissioned) paintings that were commissioned (i.e. I want it to match my couch, I want flamingos and it needs to be 6 feet wide) were of less quality and creativeness as opposed to non-commissioned work.  So make sure your team has some time to just create instead of keeping them “in the box.”  It’s not practical to have all non-commissioned work all the time, however some time left to one’s own devices is critical to engagement.

Once you’ve found your magic wand, get out of the way.  You will be amazed at what folks can do if they are given the freedom to find their own path.   Find your Engagement Wizard and start waving the magic wand.

Falling on the Sword

I was recently at a Peer-to-Peer Human Resource group at Elinvar in Raleigh, NC.  They had an interesting speaker, Santo Costa, Esq., who spoke to the group about workplace integrity.  The surprising observation he made was that integrity in an organization can be determined by how a manager handles mistakes.  He brought up the example of General McChrystal  stepping down after comments some of his staff made to a New York Times reporter and contrasted that with Janet Reno saying she was “taking full responsibility” for the Waco Siege but went back to her office and kept her job.  I think any political example can be fraught with misinformation (press versus one party versus another party) but it does illustrate that the person who takes the bullet for his staff can dictate the culture of the organization.

Fall on the Sword
Fall on the Sword

In most organizations that I have worked in, if the leader isn’t willing to take the heat for his direct reports mistakes, there is inevitably a lack of trust.  If the leader is constantly throwing their reports under the bus for every error and misstep, it will be a culture of CYA squared (covering your butt).  If you want to build a culture of trust and integrity in work or your life, you’ll need to fall on the sword whether it’s for a direct report or your child or your spouse.

Here are some ideas on how to boost your integrity:

1. Consistent. Show up in your relationships in a consistent manner.  The ability to control one’s emotions is a basic tenet of Emotion Intelligence.  Being a hot head or moody, can put people in your life on edge.  “Hmmm.  I wonder if Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde is showing up for this budget meeting?”  Working towards authenticity involves people’s expectations being met in that they can be confident that you won’t overreact or fall off the deep end.  They know what to expect when you interact with them. Consistency is important to building trust.

2.  Humility.  Being humble in front of the team is important.  No one likes working for the leader who is constantly tooting their own horn.  The leader who does so is much less approachable. The humble leader makes sure their entire team gets credit for the project and makes sure the organization knows it. The humble leader is not trying to build their resume.  They are building everyone else’s resume.

3. Rationale.  Sharing the rationale with the folks around you builds integrity.  If you are looking at new software to make the transaction process easier, make sure the folks that will be impacted by the new software, understand the rationale.  There won’t be any buy-in if you don’t communicate the rationale.  More likely, there will be dissent and mistrust and folks might try to thwart the process.  Share the rationale.

4. Punches.  Don’t pull punches.  If there is bad news, craft the message and deliver it.  Don’t drag your feet.  Having information in limbo causes everyone to be in limbo.  The gossip mill will certainly get a tidbit of information and turn it into catastrophic conclusions in the blink of an eye.  Grab the tiger by the tail before it gets loose.  Don’t pull punches.

5. Private.  When someone makes a mistake, talk to them in private.  Figure out what went wrong; maintain their self esteem and move on to some solutions.  Don’t call someone on the carpet in front of the team.  The best practice for a leader is to critique in private.

6. Public.  When someone or the team gets something right, celebrate in public.  It’s so important to identify milestones in a project or when you finally attain the millionth customer that you celebrate.  Let everyone bath in the glory.  They will seek more of it. Others will want to be on your team.  Make sure you celebrate success in public.

7. Monkeys.  Once you have delegated a monkey (a task or project), don’t take the monkey back.  If you have assigned a monkey and the person has gotten off to a rocky start; don’t take the monkey back.  You want to check in on the monkey (make sure it’s being fed and scratched), just don’t take it back.  If people are unsure if they will keep the monkey they are much more likely to fail.  Keep the monkeys where they belong.

Building trust and creating an authentic relationship is a long process.  This cannot be created overnight.  Take responsibility for those that work for and with you.  There are times when you will need to fall on the sword but your team will be there to support you and you will create a culture of integrity.

Stress buster

I had the privilege of hearing Jon Gordon speak at a Capital Associated Industries conference recently.  He is the author of several books but the one quote I took away from the lecture was “Be positive! You can’t be stressed and thankful at the same time.” How true is that!  When was the last time you were stressed while praying or meditating? So when you’re running late for work; be thankful that you have a job and a car that’s working.

be positiveJon Gordon’s recent book is “The Positive Dog”. It talks about how positivity in your relationships and at work will not only make it better for you but for those around you as well.  Haven’t we all been there?  You know who the Debbie Downers of the world are; and you try and stay clear of them.  The guy who is constantly saying that the sky is falling?  Yeah.  Skip lunch with him.  You’ll have a gun to your head if you hang out with him for too long.  Positivity rules.  And it is the ultimate stress buster.

Here are some tips on how to increase your positivity:

1. Stop.  The minute you start catastrophizing some adverse event, you need to STOP.  In Martin Seligman‘s book “Learned Optimism”, he recommends physically hitting the wall and saying “Stop!”  If there isn’t a wall handy, try a rubber band on your wrist and snap it (hard) and say “Stop!”  As Seligman says, this disrupts the thoughts.  So if you are thinking your daughter was in a car accident because she is 10 minutes late, just smack yourself and say “Stop!”

2. Truth.  As Byron Katie says in her book “Loving What Is”, is it the truth?  If you are telling your self that your boss hates you, that your spouse doesn’t love you or that you’ve blown your diet; take a second look.  Stuff a sock in your Inner Dictator, and ask yourself if it’s true.  Dust off the evidence and analyze what you know to be absolutely true.  What evidence do you have other than what your Inner Dictator has said?  The boss is in the middle of an acquisition and is overwhelmed.  Your spouse is working overtime and needs some appreciation.  One brownie and a glass of Zinfandel is not blowing a diet.  Make sure you know the truth.

3. Spill.  Set the timer, grab a pen and spill your guts on paper.  Dump all the worries, self-doubt and demons on some good old college ruled paper.  This is amazingly freeing.   Suddenly the stage of your prefrontal cortex is wide open, now that you have all the villains, bad actors and stage hands safely cleared off.  Getting it all on paper and out of your head is such a relief.  From there, light a match and literally “burn up your worries”. Spill your guts so you can look at the positive.

4. Blessings. Count your blessings.  Inspiring coach Michele Woodward recommends counting three things you are thankful for before you get out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes I cheat and count ten things I’m thankful for.  Being grateful starts your day off with optimism.  It might just be the roof over your head, your hardworking spouse and your dog (who is happy to see you no matter the circumstances…actually I’m usually the one that feeds her and she knows where her bread is buttered).  An attitude of gratitude is an attraction magnet.  Who would you rather hang out with, Sue Ann Nivens or Simon Cowell?  I’m guessing the one who counts their blessings.

5. Discourse.  Martin Seligman also recommends getting a close trusted friend and modeling the self talk in your head through some discourse.  Your role is to take the positive angle and your trusted buddy takes your normal self talk of pessimism. So your buddy starts off with “You messed up that project and everyone is disgusted with you. You are so lazy”.  You respond with, “It’s true I delivered the project late but the project itself was spot on.  I know my boss was upset it was late, but he appreciated the quality of the project.  I’m a hard worker.  I was just a little overwhelmed and that caused me to be late.”  The point is, that if you get good at arguing for you instead of against you (in your self talk), it will become second nature to stand up for yourself against your inner dictator.  Grab a buddy and engage in discourse.

It’s amazing how much stress can be created by our inner dictator.  Embracing optimism and positivity can have a huge impact on your ability to roll with the punches.  The most important thing that Martin Seligman has found in his research is that you can learn to be optimistic.  I hope a few of these techniques will help be a stress buster in your life.

Whooping all the Children

Unilateral punishment rarely is effective.  In fact, I can’t think of a situation where it has ever been effective.  I can remember threats from insecure teachers in elementary school, ”If no one owns up to the spit wad that just came sailing across the room, then everyone will stay after class, until someone comes forward.”  It’s pretty difficult to back out of that threat.  And if no one owns up or at least falls on the sword for the rest of the kids?  Do the kids really think they’ll be stuck there until night fall? Perhaps someone will rat the culprit out; perhaps not.  What are the kids learning from this situation?  Punishment isn’t fair?  Guilt by association?  I need to be in a different class, preferably without spit wads? whooping all the children

Similar situations happen in the workplace all the time.  One person has an odor problem?  Let’s institute a policy about daily bathing.  One employee misused the company credit card? No more company credit cards.  One manager is way over budget? The “whooping” meeting.  Invariably, the culprit walks out of the meeting oblivious to their transgressions and assumes “they must be talking about someone else”.  The rest of the team slides into paranoia and figures “it must be me”.  Unilateral punishment isn’t effective.  Whooping all the children isn’t going to stop the hijinks.

Here are some tips on dealing with performance issues:

1. Exhale. As in, take a breath.  I’ve seen meetings hurriedly thrown together while the boss is in a good lather.  Not a good idea. Anger rarely results in proactive outcomes.  You never know what you might say and whose feelings you will hurt (perhaps even innocent bystanders). Take some time and reflect on the situation. If you can feel your temples bulging and your heart racing, take a break…even a walk, and exhale.

2. Diagnose. What is really going on here? It’s time for some root cause analysis. Do we have a policy problem? Is everyone over budget or just two departments?  If this is a systemic problem, it might be time to craft a new policy.  If it’s just an offender or two, it’s time for a few one-on-one chats.  Get to the bottom of the cause.  If everyone stinks then Personal Hygiene Policy. If it’s just Joe that stinks, time for a Hygiene discussion with Joe. Diagnose the problem.

3. Blanket check. So if you decide that the issue needs a policy, make sure you have the right group covered by the blanket.  Sending out the updated Company Travel Policy to the rank and file may cause confusion, (jealousy), and, eventually, over saturation of meaningless emails which are ignored.  If there is a new software update for customer service folks, send out the update to the customer service folks who use the software. Sounds obvious, but isn’t your inbox full of information you don’t need? Make sure you’ve got the right blanket.

4. Test assumptions. So if you decide that it’s just Joe that stinks, check out your assumptions.  Take a walk by Joe’s cube first thing in the morning.  After lunch. After the budget meeting. Take a whiff. Is it a bathing problem or a deodorant problem or a cologne problem?  You aren’t going to know unless you collect some observations. It might be that onion sandwich at lunch.  Test your assumptions.

5. Message. Craft the message. Whether a policy or individual conversation. Decide what needs to said. Maintain self esteem.  This is not the time to get out the hammer.  Focus on facts and not emotions.  Distill what you want to say down to two or three impactful sentences.  If it’s a new policy, brevity and preciseness is key. Pass it by a second set of eyes or ears (someone without a dog in the fight) and then edit. This is not the time for a diatribe where the true message might get lost.

6. Deliver.  Time to take the plunge and deliver the message.  If it’s a policy, make sure to check step 3.  Disseminate to those it clearly applies to.  If you are constantly sending out messages that don’t relate to the person, you will eventually be ignored.  If it’s a conversation with Stinky Joe?  Make sure it’s private and check your timing.  Monday morning? Bad idea.  Month end?  Bad idea.  Wednesday afternoon after the company BBQ?  Sounds good.  Deliver the message with respect and empathy.

Most of the time when I’ve been present for a “Whooping all the Children” session, we’ve let things get down the road too far.  We’ve avoided the conflict and waited until we are so uncomfortable that we need to lash out.  Or we lash out at the wrong audience (i.e. we yell at the dog or lose our cool with our spouse).  Try these steps to spare those relationships that are most important to you.  Don’t whoop all the children.

Git ‘er done!

Have you ever –

  • Hemmed and hawed over a project?
  • Drug your feet on even starting?
  • Come up with 50 shoulda’s and kicked the can down the road?
  •  And down the road a little more?

Your lizard brain has taken over your prefrontal cortex with fear of failure and all you can do is hang out on facebook for hours or watch one more show on the Food Network.  Procrastination is gripping you and you can’t even see the first step, let alone the whole staircase.

I spent my Christmas vacation watching my son delay his college application process.  He spent hours on “Call of Duty” instead writing college essays.  This was a project he promised to start in August.  And suddenly it was December 28th and most of the deadlines were January 1st.  Now he was behind the eight ball and his sister and I (his editors) were not very empathetic.  Now with the pressure of the looming deadline, he had to git ‘er done!  He did get it done although it was painful for all of us.  Care for some ideas on getting over procrastination and moving projects to completion?

Here are some tips:

1. VacationZig Ziglar makes the case in his audio tapes called “How to Stay Motivated”, that we all seem to find time to get it all done on the day before vacation.  This really hit home with me.  Suddenly, you have your day scheduled out, know all your priorities, don’t waste a minute and are completely focused.  So, if you really want to take action, imagine that you are going on vacation and plan accordingly.

2. Three.  When the alarm goes off in the morning, plan three things you want to accomplish today.  Just three.  Not five.  Not ten.  Just three. (1) Go to the Y and work out. (2) Finish the financial aid submission.  (3) Finish 3 annual reviews.  There.  You have your day planned out.  As Stephen Covey would recommend, you have to schedule your “Big Rocks” (important non-urgent projects).  In doing so, the “gravel” (unimportant distractions i.e. facebook, twitter) will fall by the wayside.

3. Timer.  I do this for every blog post I write.  I give myself 30 minutes to write.  Anything.  Just write.  I don’t have to finish.  I just need to write.  After thirty minutes.  I’m done.  If I’m still inspired and on a roll, I keep going.  If not?  Go onto the next project.  I find this to be the best cure for procrastination.  It helps you side step perfection.  It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect.  You invested 30 minutes.  And you can invest another 30 minutes tomorrow.  At least you started.  Set a timer.

4. Appointment.  Many times we are collaborating with coworkers, team mates and bosses who are even better procrastinators than ourselves.  They create squishy deadlines or vague goals.  This can be like herding wet kittens.  Make a firm follow up date.  Make an appointment.  It might get moved.  But at least you are taking steps to keep the team or department on task.  Make an appointment to follow up and stay on task. eat an elephant one bit at a time 2

5. Chunks.  Big projects are really just a gathering of chunks.  How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  Break the project into chunks.  I can remember my daughter getting a book to study for the SAT’s.  It was a very thick book.  An overwhelming book.  I suggested that she take twenty pages a day.  We wrote on the calendar page numbers on each day.  We chopped up the elephant.  Chunks are much easier to digest.

6. Worst is first.  In “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy, he recommends starting with the worst task first (ergo eat that frog).  So if that happens to be exercise or reading an SAT prep book or writing annual reviews.  Go for it.  Forgo answering emails, chatting over coffee with your coworkers, or surfing pinterest.  Get out your fork and knife, and eat that frog.  The rest of the day will glide by with the worst of it behind you.  Tackle the worst first.

Procrastination can be debilitating.  Try just one or two of these suggestions.  You’d be surprised how starting a habit or two can change what you can accomplish.  Let’s reduce the frog and elephant population (no animals were harmed in this post) and git ‘er done!