Category Archives: Leadership

10 Signs You’re a Scary Leader

jackolanterns10 SIGNS YOU’RE A SCARY LEADER:

  1. Conversations stop when you walk by.
  2. People laugh at your jokes (even when they’re not funny).
  3. All of your brainstorming ideas are “good ones.”
  4. Your 360-degree feedback comes back with all scores 5 out of 5.
  5. Employees avoid sitting with you at the lunch table.
  6. No one comes into your office, even when the door is open.
  7. People don’t come to you with problems.
  8. No one ever tells you you’re wrong.
  9. You’re not invited to social gatherings.Halloween bat
  10. People flatter you a lot.

ARE YOU A SCARY LEADER?

Even if you’re not this scary, you are probably scarier than you think. Merely by being in a leadership position, you have power over others that can be intimidating. For example, if you call someone into your office without a reason, that person may think they are in trouble—even if you’re calling them in to give them praise. Your positional power can also make your statements appear more intimidating than what you intend. A whimsical comment can be taken seriously by your employees. For example, if you say in jest “someone should bring donuts to our meetings,” you might find that someone actually does bring donuts to the next meeting because they took you seriously.

Deep voices and tall statures can be intimidating to others as well. If you have either (or both), you may need to take extra steps to set others at ease with you—especially when you are the leader. Sitting down and talking in a quieter voice are ways to make others feel more comfortable. A smile, an open posture, and small talk are further ways to warm up the room and help people feel comfortable talking to you. “How was your weekend?” or “Do you have anything fun planned for Halloween?” are easy questions to stimulate conversation. Statements, such as “It has finally cooled down to a comfortable temperature out there” or “I love the fall weather we’ve been having lately” are other statements that usually cause others to reply in a comfortable, easy conversation.

Many leaders strive to have a stronger presence as they move up the ladder. While that may be necessary to gain respect among peers and leaders at the next level, it is still important to maintain the rapport with your team members. Showing confidence and jumping into the conversation may get you ahead in your meetings with peers, but it may set you back with your direct reports. Being approachable, supportive, and attentive will earn you trust with your team and that will motivate them to work harder for you. Scaring them is, well, just scary.

Leaders Open Doors – Guest Post by Bill Treasurer

Bill Treasurer 2For over two decades I’ve been a contributor to the leadership complexification business. It started way back in graduate school when I wrote my thesis on—take a deep breath—the efficacy of the initiation of psychological structure through the use of directive leadership styles as a negative correlate of role ambiguity and positive correlate of employee satisfaction in workplaces that have undergone a recent reduction in force. Whew!

As a senior ranking officer in the Legion of Leadership Complexifiers (LLC), I can confidently say that leadership is the most overanalyzed, thoroughly dissected, and utterly confused topic in business. The challenge is, we leadership experts have made the topic of leadership far more complex than it needs to be, which causes people to opt out of the chance to lead. The checklist that we’ve constructed gets longer, more idealized, and more complicated with every passing year. We expect leaders to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, confident and humble, driven and patient, strategic and tactical, competitive and cooperative, principled and flexible. Of course, it is possible to be all of those things…if you walk on water!

It took my five-year old son, Ian, to bring me back to what matters most about leadership. Ian is a pre-schooler at The Asheville Montessori School in Asheville, North Carolina, where we live. Each Monday his teachers pick one person to be the “Class Leader” for the day. One sunny afternoon Ian came bounding up the stairs proclaiming, “Guess what, Daddy? I got to be the Class Leader today!”

“Really? Class Leader? That’s a big deal, little buddy. What did you get to do as the class leader?”

Ian’s answer was simple, funny, and in its own way, profound.

“I got to open doors for people!” Continue reading Leaders Open Doors – Guest Post by Bill Treasurer

Dealing with Resistance to Change

no on the handBy Joanie Connell

Change is inevitable, especially in today’s business world. Yet so many people resist it! On the one hand, it is natural because change often requires us to grow and we, as humans, are built to be comfortable in homeostasis. In other words, it’s easier to stay the same than it is to change. Change is scary and new and we don’t know if it will be better or worse.

Modern organizations are looking for “change agents”—people who embrace change and facilitate it in other people, structures, and processes. As a change agent, however, you will undoubtedly receive lots of resistance from other people who like things as they are. It’s important to be able to identify resistance and work through it with others. Here are seven typical forms of resistance for you to recognize. Continue reading Dealing with Resistance to Change

Emotional Intelligence Improves Millennial Communications at Work

babies crying

By Joanie Connell

A mom confided in me she had gotten so frustrated with her 7-year-old daughter that she started crying. She said that once her daughter saw her crying, her daughter immediately stopped misbehaving and came over and held her to comfort her. The mom was beating herself up for letting that happen, but I offered a different perspective. Look at what the daughter learned from that experience. Her behavior frustrated someone so much that it led them to cry. When someone cries it’s good to comfort them. And, the mom got over it and was fine after that. How empowering to the daughter to see how someone can get upset and get over it. How educational to understand how her behavior can affect the emotions of others and vice versa. Continue reading Emotional Intelligence Improves Millennial Communications at Work

Call for Predictability as a form of Flexibility at Work

This is a compelling story from the New York Times on how new shift scheduling technology (and corporate desire for higher profits) affects lower-level employees and their ability to meet demands outside of work.

Working Anything But 9-5: Scheduling Technology Leaves Low-Income Parents with Hours of Chaos

Please comment on your own experiences and suggestions for improvement.  Clearly, flexibility and even predictability are critical to employees.  They are fellow human beings, after all.

Bill Treasurer: 5 criteria for evaluating whether a risk is right or wrong for you

BBill Treasurerill Treasurer is an expert on Risk. He has graciously shared tips for assessing whether taking a risk is right for you. Millennials, especially, consider Bill’s advice. Women too. You have been raised in a risk-averse environment, but risk is actually a good thing if done right.

Bill Treasurer: 5 Criteria for Evaluating Whether a Risk Is Right or Wrong for You

When considering a risky move, most people resort to simple math, asking “What will I get and what do I stand to lose?” But big moves need to consider more than just gains or losses. It takes more than simple math to judge whether to take a risk. As explaiRight Risk book coverned in one of my other posts a Right Risk is one that is congruent with your deepest held values. It’s a risk that should help close the gap between who you are and who you aim to be. What matters most isn’t how much you stand to gain from the risk. What matters most is whether the risk is true for you. Risk should be about more than compensation. It should be about destination. Not, “What will this risk get me”, but “Where will this risk take me.”

Here are 5 criteria that you can use that will help you access your risk at a much deeper level than just jotting down a pro and con list. Using the 5 Ps won’t guarantee that your risk won’t be a wipeout, but they will increase the probability of success.

Passion: A Right Risk is something we care about intensely. Right risks are often ordeals, and ordeals involve suffering. The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb pati, literally translated as “to suffer.” By arousing the strongest, most untamed parts of our nature, and stirring up the wild mustangs in our soul, our passion gives us the raw energy and wherewithal to suffer through the anguishing moments that often accompany right risk. Ask, “What about this risk energizes me?”

Purpose: A Right Risk is taken out of a deep sense of purpose. Purpose serves to harness our passions and give them direction. Right Risks are rich with meaning. They stand for something beyond sensory or ego gratification. Ask, “How will this risk make me a more complete person? How will this risk further my life’s purpose? How will it help me get to where I want to go?”

Principle: Right Risks are governed by a set of values that are both essential and virtuous. As mentioned, risks are essentially decisions, and when facing a decision of consequences, principles form a set of criteria against which the risk can be judged. The principles that right- risk takers often use as the basis of their decision-making include truth, justice, independence, freedom, mercy, compassion and responsibility. Ask, “By taking this risk, which of my deepestly held values or ideals will I be upholding?”

Prerogative: Right-risk taking involves the exercise of choice. Right-risk takers view the power to choose as a privilege, and then honor it as such. By consistently making choices at a conscious level, they are better able to make superior judgment calls at an instinctual level — in fast-moving situations. After all of the input of naysayers and yea-sayers are considered, the Right-risk taker makes the final judgment as to whether the risk is right for him or her. Ultimately, a Right Risk is an exercise of free will. Ask, “Am I taking this risk because I have to, or because I choose to?”

Profit: A Right Risk should come with a real potential for gain. Risks are, well, risky. And in exchange for assuming the potential risk of hardship, you are entitled to some real and unequivocal upside gains. Notice, however, that Profit is the fifth “P”. It’s the criteria that should be assessed last, otherwise you’ll be in danger of getting too enamored with the pot at the end of the rainbow, which can distort your decision-making. Ask, “What gains do I hope to reap from this risk?” and “How enduring are the gains likely to be?”

Bill Treasurer is the author of Leaders Open Doors, which focuses on how leaders create growth through opportunity. Bill is also the author of Courage Goes to Work, an international bestselling book that introduces the concept of courage-building. He is also the author of Courageous Leadership: A Program for Using Courage to Transform the Workplace, an off-the-shelf training toolkit that organizations can use to build workplace courage. Bill’s first book, Right Risk, draws on his experiences as a professional high diver. Bill has led courage-building workshops for, among others, NASA, Accenture, CNN, PNC Bank, SPANX, Hugo Boss, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs. To learn more, contact info@giantleapconsulting.com.

Why It Is Important to Take Vacation

fete de la musique
Musicians play on the streets of Paris at Fete de la Musique
coupe de monde
World Cup fans outside my window at 2:00 a.m.

By Joanie Connell

Taking two weeks off in itself is a great way to gain perspective on life. Traveling to another country is even better. I just returned from two weeks in Paris. During those two weeks I experienced a very different way of life. I was kept up till all hours of the night by the Fête de la Musique, an all-night music festival that takes place on the streets of Paris. I lost sleep because the fans of the World Cup celebrated on the streets too, by driving around with their horns on at 2:00 in the morning. During daylight hours, I was slowed down by traffic that was gridlocked due to protest marches and demonstrations and by strikes that delayed trains and planes coming in and out of Paris

None of that bothered me. Rather, I found it curiously intriguing. What bothered me–at least at first–was spending over a week without WiFi. The router in our apartment broke and the landlord didn’t seem to understand the urgency around fixing it promptly. I was planning to work while on vacation and was shut down. Public WiFi was no option. In France, free WiFi tends to be so slow it is unusable except for email—another curiosity. The French just don’t seem to have the same need for speed that Americans do.

What was I to do? Well, how about enjoy my vacation! I gave up worrying about work. I didn’t blog for two weeks. I stayed off Face Book and I hardly emailed. Rather, I immersed myself into French culture and leisure.

A funny thing happened. In more than one conversation, French people asked me why I was only on vacation for two weeks. They asked what else I would do during the summer for the rest of my vacation. I kept having to explain that this was my summer vacation and that I would be returning to work when I got home and that I was fortunate to be able to travel for two weeks because many Americans don’t have that kind of time. Now it was their turn to find my culture curiously intriguing.

Even if we only have 2 weeks of vacation per year, as compared to their typical 2 months of vacation, it makes all the difference in the world to get away from work for a while. It gives you perspective. Realizing that you’re dispensable, that the daily crisis at work really isn’t urgent or earth shattering, and that life has so much more to offer than work is truly important. Taking vacation helps to broaden your perspective and refocus your priorities in life.

As a consultant, I get an external perspective of companies. More often than not, I feel the office tension as I walk in. I see the desperate looks on executives’ faces as they try to do what they think the president wants. If the president decides he/she wants X, the executives send their teams into a frenzy to deliver X2. The executives advise me on what words to use or not use to appeal to the president’s idiosyncrasies. They demand that I turn in work proposals immediately and be available to perform without delay. They expect me to work after hours and on weekends like they do. I’ve learned my lesson because, when I do, they change their minds or the president isn’t available to look at it or the project gets canceled or something like that. We have all rushed around with elevated heart rates and stress levels for no real reason.

vacationEvery time I return from vacation, I gain perspective and vow not to get sucked into this lifestyle when I return. Sometimes I succeed. If more of us took time out to relax and gain perspective, we would probably be much less stressed at work. I highly recommend giving it a try. If anything, you’ll be less stressed for a while. If it catches on, we might make the workplace a better place for all of us.

Why Trust?

By Joanie Connell

handshakeThere are many reasons to distrust people, but what are some reasons to trust them? The biggest reason to trust people is because we are more productive when we cooperate.  This is true at the individual level, the team level, the organization level, and at the societal level. Humans are a social species; we are designed to live in groups, share responsibilities, and exchange goods and services with each other. We can’t do it all on our own. We do better when we build trusting relationships with others.

In terms of organizational language, the gains from trust can far outweigh the savings from distrust. Organizations need leaders who are transparent to increase innovation and share information responsibly. In today’s on-line world, employees can leak private information to anyone with simply a keystroke. Leaders need to be open, honest, and responsible with information and they need to be able to trust their employees to do the same.

Research on trust shows that trust predicts many desirable outcomes for organizations. At the employee level, increased trust corresponds with increased levels of job performance, prosocial behavior, organizational commitment, and commitment to a leader’s decisions. At the company level, higher levels of trust correspond to greater organizational performance, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

Even at the most basic level, trust is desirable because it can lead to better health. Think about it. When you trust and cooperate with people, you are less stressed than when you are worried about every little detail that others are handling and whether they are trying to stab you in the back. If something goes wrong, you trust that you can handle it. Isn’t that a better way to live?

Women: Increase Your Presence in Meetings

Lessowoman running meetingns from “Managing Yourself: Women, Find Your Voice” by Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, and Mary Davis Holt, in the June 14 issue of Harvard Business Review.

By Joanie Connell

Last week I attended a webinar and was surprised at how useful it was. In it, Kathryn Heath summarized the findings of research she conducted with her co-authors about how women can increase their presence in meetings. A few key messages stood out to me as new and important and I’d like to share them with you.

Be actively present. This means to be engaged in the discussion, not reading emails, and to actively participate and capture others’ attention. Two things can greatly improve your presence in a meeting. First, be concise. To be concise, it helps to prepare statements in advance and practice them. Yes, that means actually rehearse what you are going to say. Women, more than men, tend to begin statements with preambles and qualifiers. Ditch the preambles and go straight for the message. You can qualify it later. Strong (sometimes blanket) statements grab people’s attention.

Make powerful statements that have a strong point of view. These statements also come out of the preparation piece. To know where you stand on an issue requires you to know what the important issues are, do your research on which position you ought to take and to know where others stand before you enter the meeting.

Being actively present also requires you to insert yourself into the discussion. I say “insert yourself” very deliberately because it is critical for you to take responsibility for being heard. Don’t wait around for others to ask you your opinion or wait around for you to get to your opinion when you are not concise. Don’t shut down when others interrupt you. The best advice I heard from Heath was: “Don’t let yourself be interrupted.” This message came from the men she interviewed. Have you ever watched men have a heated discussion? They interrupt each other, talk over each other, and talk louder and louder until they are heard. Don’t be afraid to “enter the ring” and engage in the competition for the floor.

Strategy helps. It’s not only about being the loudest or most aggressive. Timing is key. Be actively engaged by watching the conversation intensively. To use a sports metaphor, think of playing basketball or soccer and watching the ball intensively to jump in and steal the ball at just the right time. You are watching the person’s moves, anticipating where they are going and who they are going to pass the ball to.

The same strategy works in meetings. Make transformational statements and ask transformational questions at opportune moments to “steal” control of the conversation and take it in a new direction.

Heath and her co-authors offer more valuable advice, like ask for feedback and don’t ruminate over failed attempts in meetings. Prepare, practice, and persevere. It takes time to improve at anything. Keep at it until you feel that you are getting the results that you want.

One question that Heath did not address: What does it mean to be successful in meetings? Depending on the context, it could be to win, to have influence over a decision, or to help the team come up with the best solution possible. I would add to Heath’s advice that it is important to keep your goal in mind and not dominate the meeting purely for the sake of having a presence. This can alienate people, not get them on your side. Heath’s techniques can help you advance the team’s best interests if used for that purpose. After all, a good leader does, in fact, work for the team.

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Special thanks to Becky Robinson of Weaving Influence for putting together this webinar and inviting me to attend.

Two Effective Ways to Give Feedback

By Joanie Connell

feedbackGiving feedback is a critical component of leadership. To develop your followers, you need to let them know how they can improve. Feedback should be specific and timely and, most importantly, constructive. Here are two models for delivering feedback that I use. They have both proven to be very effective.

Behavior-Impact-Behavior (BIB) Model:

I find the Behavior-Impact-Behavior (BIB) model to be the most effective. However, it is pretty direct and some situations may call for a softer approach. That’s when the Sandwich model is a good choice. You can also sandwich the BIB model inside positive feedback to use a combined BIB-Sandwich approach.

Behavior-Impact-Behavior Model (BIB)
 Example:
Behavior When you don’t respond to an email message quickly,
Impact of Behavior I assume you don’t care and I lose trust in you.
New Behavior If you reply, even to say you’ll get back to me later,
Impact of New Behavior I trust that you will respond when you are able.

The BIB model is effective because it lets the person understand how their behavior is being received by others. Often, people don’t realize how their behavior is received. They may assume that people receive their actions exactly the way they intend them to or be clueless in how their nonverbal cues contradict their verbal ones. For example, when someone says “I’m listening” as they are reading emails on their phone, the other person may feel brushed off. If the person says, “I feel like I’m not important when you read emails while I am talking to you,” it alerts the person to the impact of their behavior. If you give the person an alternative behavior with a positive impact, it helps redirect them to a pleasing result. For example, you could say, “when you put down your phone and make eye contact with me, it makes me feel like you really care about what I am saying.”

Sandwich Model:

I use the Sandwich model a lot, especially when giving feedback tofeedback 2 Millennials. Younger people, in general, may be more sensitive to feedback because they don’t have years of experience to fall back on. Millennials, as a generation, are more sensitive to negative feedback because they have been brought up in an era where there is an emphasis on raising self-esteem. Thus, they are more accustomed to positive feedback than direct, honest feedback. Sandwiching is reassuring to them yet gives them the opportunity to receive constructive criticism.

Sandwich Model: Positive-Negative-Positive
Example:
Positive I appreciate how much effort you have put into this project. Your energy and commitment are impressive.
Negative I am concerned that you aren’t as focused as you need to be. I’d like to work with you to help you focus your efforts in a single direction so that your efforts will have greater impact.
Positive For example, you came up with an excellent solution to the marketing problem.   Let’s work on getting the Marketing Department on board with it.

The Sandwich model not only makes the feedback easier to take, it makes it easier to give too. If you are uncomfortable giving people negative feedback, the Sandwich model is for you. You can both start and end on a positive note. I recommend that you write out your feedback (at least in bullet points) before you give it as you start out. That way, you have a plan and you know where you need to go with it. Having a positive point to end on helps you get through the middle part.

Another way to help feedback go more smoothly is to frame it ahead of time so the recipient knows that something is coming their way. You can say “I need to talk to you about something” or “I need to give feedback 3you some feedback on the project you’re working on” or “let’s have a one-on-one to discuss your progress on the project” or something like that. These phrases tend to alert the person that something is up. You can also add “you’re doing a good job, but I need to give you some feedback (or direction) to help you move forward.” This is adding the positive to the framing to let the person know they’re not getting fired or anything. It’s just a little feedback.