I’ve got a question for you to consider; Are you dangerous to your organization?
We’ve already established that whatever your formal title, we want you to think of yourself as the ‘Director of Emotional Safety®‘. This means that you make people feel safe when they are bringing you bad news, even if that news is about you.
Our theory is that the higher you go on the organizational chart, the more potential there is for you to become dangerous to the organization.
When we get startled or scared, we breathe in. When we feel relieved, we breathe out. If I were to do something right now to scare you, like tell you I have to give you bad news, you would be likely to breathe in. Alternatively, if I were to tell you I just resolved a problem you’ve been worried about for 6 months, you would breathe out a sigh of relief. The question we have for you is: ‘are you creating more breathing in or breathing out moments for the people you work with?’ When I come into your office am I thinking, “hmph, the last two people who brought him bad news got fired, and I’m probably next” or am I thinking, (inhale) “this is really bad news, but, (exhale) she’s a great person to bring bad news to. She’s solution-oriented, and does not blame the messenger.”
When people are afraid to bring you bad news they stop doing it. This means that the higher you are on the organizational chart and the more authority you have, the more dangerous you might be if people are not giving you real-time information about the organizational realities. They may be withholding critical information from you, information that you need to make fully informed decisions.
In short, if you don’t create emotional safety for others, you will still retain your authority and responsibility and you will be making decisions in an information vacuum. This makes you dangerous, and the higher you are on the org-chart, the more danger you present to the organization.
What advice do we give our clients? We advise them to ‘reform or remove’ the players who may have great technical competence and at the same time, deliver a cultural cancer to the organization. This means giving people the coaching and resources to reform their behavior, and if they can’t, inviting them to bring their talents to your competitor. The most dangerous people in your organization are the ones who use their job-related talent to justify their destructive behavior with others. We say that pain of a vacancy is less acute than the pain of having a person who is dismantling your culture.
Try this: ask people you work with how they feel when they see your name on incoming e-mail and/or when they see you on their calendar. Are they breathing in or breathing out? The better you understand how people feel about you, the better you will be able to open the door to real-time, valuable information, the fuel for good decision-making.
Making others feel safe helps you do better work, while at the same time, makes your organization a great place to get work done. You are likely then to attract, develop, and retain top talent.
As always, we appreciate your attention, and for additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans
Recently, I was working with one of the Senior Executives of a $7 billion dollar client organization.
He opened up to me and explained that after exceeding all targets set for them the previous year, their global office had given them even more aggressive targets for the current year.
His team didn’t see how they could hit these targets and they asked him to explain how they could. He explained to me that he didn’t have the answer, didn’t see the solution and didn’t know what to do.
I was already armed with the information that he was very happy with the team he had and felt that he worked with smart and talented people.
Leaning on my emotional intelligence training, I asked him how he felt about being vulnerable enough to simply tell his team that while he was committed to hitting the targets, he didn’t have the answer either and wanted to hear their ideas about how working together, they could do it.
In short, that is exactly what he did, and his team immediately switched from worrying about the problem to working on a solution. Our client led with transparency, not arrogance. He led with honesty and a request for help, rather than trying to “lead from the front” and have all the answers.
We feel that relationships are built and strengthened in moments when we admit to our team that we don’t see the way – while still demonstrating a commitment to finding a solution. Sometimes, you can be a leader by leading from without (having all the answers). In fact, vulnerability is the primary conduit to trust. When we admit we are lacking an answer or solution, counter-intuitive as it may sound, people trust us more, not less.
We encourage you to give this “leading from without” a try. This can work regardless of your position or title. If you’re dealing with a boss who expects you to have all the answers, try saying something like “I feel confident that you see how to do this, and right now, I don’t. Would you help me think it through?”
We say more about leading from anywhere on the org chart in our book “Step Up, Lead in Six Moments that Matter”. As always, we appreciate your attention, and for additional ideas, follow me on twitter: @HenryJEvans
Recently, we spoke to you about both the importance of creating clear visual expectations (a cornerstone of our accountability method) and making sure you get reflection back from your people. This insures that you’re more focused on understanding what they heard, rather than on what you said.
Our clients are outperforming their industries in a big way. We have clients that are market leaders in over twenty-eight segments. One reason they out-perform their competitors is the language they use. Here are a few ways that different functions in your company can leverage some of the language we talked about last month and gain a competitive advantage.
Let’s start with your sales team: What if your sales team saw and tried the techniques shown in last month’s video. They go into client meetings focused on creating both crystal clarity and visual expectations and then getting reflection back from those clients before writing an order. Imagine your team never assuming they understand what the client wants, and are constantly reflecting and paraphrasing what they heard to ensure clarity. And, more importantly, by doing that, they are always building the client’s confidence that they’ve been clearly understood before the order is written. Our experience shows that this team would lead the rest of your organization in exceeding clients’ expectations. This simple practice is overlooked by too many sales teams.
But your company doesn’t just run on sales.
Let’s look at your back end-let’s look at I.T. What if your I.T. pros hear unclear requests like “Hey, can you make my computer work better so I can multitask?”, and your people start to reflect what they think was really meant? They might say “What I hear you saying is that you really need to see a split-screen on your laptop, with your training video on one side and you making notes in Word on the other side. Is that right?”
In creating this reflection by paraphrasing, they’d be either affirming their understanding or clarifying it. They begin to deliver better service by simply tweaking their language when requests and commitments are being made.
Now let’s look at executive meetings (where I spend most of my time working with leaders). If you want to drive results through accountability, you need to change the way you’re making and requesting your commitments. What if executive meetings sounded less like “Let’s get our employees more engaged,” and more like “I suggest that we need a 5% drop in attrition by September thirtieth, and that we raise our engagement survey score by an average of 2%.”
Clarity takes time, and we know how busy you are. That being understood, we’re suggesting that taking a few extra moments to set clear expectations before a project starts will save a lot of time in the long run.
When I was a process consultant, I would hear companies, particularly in manufacturing, justify terrible and wasteful manufacturing practices. They were basically stating that they didn’t have time to make something right the first time; but always had time and resources enough to do it over again. For them “accountability” was just a word.
Doing things more than once because of an accountability gap didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense today.
At Dynamic Results, we are always focused on giving you ways to focus your communications to enable ever-increasing accountability and efficiency in your interactions and planning. Our certified facilitators are ready to train your company in our proven accountability method.
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to seeing you soon.
We often offer ideas about how you can drive better business results through our accountability method, and today we want to focus on: How you can reframe your thought cycle when you’re going to a meeting.
Everyone knows that many meetings suck. Having observed thousands of meetings, I’ve come to believe that sometimes we ourselves may be the reason we feel that way.
I know that sometimes I have been the reason why. Let’s examine how my attitude might impact a meeting. No matter where you are on the organizational chart, this might apply to you as well.
OK! I’m going into a meeting, and I have a bad attitude about it. Why? Because so far it’s never been a productive meeting. Or, maybe I just haven’t enjoyed it; or I don’t like one of the people. Maybe one of the people doesn’t like me. Whatever the motivation or reason, I’m going to this meeting in a state of mind that indicates that I’m not showing up at my best. I’m starting out thinking “I hate this meeting.”
We call this a negative thought cycle. I hate this meeting, so I’m cranky, irritable, and upset. In that mood, I’m going to limit my participation. I’m going to be withdrawn and I may even make negative comments. Then, leaving that meeting I’m feeling victimized and powerless.
Next week I go into that meeting feeling even worse. Now, I’m not thinking “I hate this meeting,” I’m thinking, “I really hate it; it really sucked last week;” and I’m probably ignoring my own contribution to that outcome. Stacy Colino wrote that, “emotions are like germs-they’re contagious.” If I’m going into a meeting hating it, that will impact others and probably make the meeting even worse.
Let’s look at that same hateful meeting, but with my thinking tweaked just a little. Let’s call this a positive thought cycle.
Instead of going into the meeting thinking I hate it, I go in thinking, “I’m going to make a contribution today.” That changes my mood. Going in with that intention, I’m now a little calmer, somewhat curious, and more open-minded; so I behave differently. I fully participate. I’m more thoughtful, more relational, and I add some value. I probably receive a little more value, too; and I leave feeling confident.
What does that confidence do in the next meeting? I don’t go into that meeting thinking that I might make a contribution; I go in thinking that I will make a positive contribution, just like I did last time.
We want you to switch such negative thought cycles to positive ones, whether you’re talking about a meeting you don’t like, or a person that you don’t enjoy interacting with.
Instead of thinking, “This person fails me all the time and I don’t like him”; you could go into that interaction thinking “I’m going to make a contribution to this person and help him improve.”
These little (or maybe not-so-little) tweaks in thinking are what we observe our highest performing clients do on a regular basis. They are driving results through accountability, and outperforming their industries with this kind of behavior.
We appreciate your having taken a few minutes to hear this concept of switching negative thought cycles to positive ones.
Our certified facilitators are ready to help you drive better business results through our accountability method and also, how to generate leadership at every level of your organization, with the ideas we outlined in “Step Up, Lead in Six Moments that Matter”.
In our book, we talk about the importance of reflection-it’s a key element of your leadership development, and we want to say a little bit more about that now.
When we talk to our clients about reflection, many of them push back, saying things like, “I’m already too busy – there’s no way I can devote time to meditating.” We don’t want you to engage in occasional, deep-dive, soul-searching activity. This is like doing no exercise all week and then trying to compensate on Sunday by running a marathon.
We completely understand how busy and time-crunched you are. We want to offer you a different, more efficient take, on the practice of reflection. We see reflection as a series of short, two to three minute, mental pit stops that you take regularly. The key is the regularly part. You need to engage in these pit stops twice a day, every day. We find that our clients are most successful – they achieve the most improvement in their leadership competencies – when they adopt two strategies to support their reflection.
Firstly, they make it a regular habit; say, by associating it with their commute to work. Secondly, they associate it or link it to a reward, the first good coffee of the day. During your morning reflection, think about what competency you’re working on, and what specific opportunity you’ll have that day to practice that competency. In your evening reflection, think about, “How did that encounter work out for you?” How did that go for me?
When you’re reflecting on your behavior, we encourage you to be curious and compassionate with yourself. We often find our clients describe themselves in language they would never apply to another person: “I was an idiot – I was so stupid.” In our book, “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter,” my coauthor Henry Evans says that, “Curiosity builds relationships; judgment kills them.” This is great advice that applies equally to your relationship with yourself as it does to your relationship with others. So, incorporate our mental pit stops into your daily routine, and you will start to see the benefits.
Thank you for your continued interest, and we look forward to bringing you additional insights from our experts in future blogs.
If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.
Hi, I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results, and with my colleague, Henry Evans, coauthor of “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter.” You can follow my current ideas by following me on Twitter, @DrColmFoster.
Sometimes we see our clients, with or without formal leadership titles, who doubt their leadership ability, because they find themselves in situations where they don’t have all the answers. In effect, they see indecisiveness as leadership kryptonite. Having had the privilege to work with many high-performing leaders, we notice that real leaders share the same doubts, concerns, and anxieties that we all feel some of the time.
The difference between them and us is that, even in times of uncertainty, they commit to decisive action. This can sound like: “Hey, I’m not sure that what we’ve decided will prove to be the right thing a year from now, but everyone need to understand that this is what we are doing. I don’t need your full agreement with this decision; I do need your full understanding that this is the decision that has been made, and also, your commitment to execute with excellence.”
If a decision is being discussed to death, you could try to identify the top five considerations you need to make. Once you reconcile four of those, you’re eighty percent home, and can probably make a decision and mobilize people into action. We do, of course, recommend that you keep the fifth one on the review, but don’t let that stop you from mobilizing.
Thank you for your continued interest, and we look forward to bringing you more insights from our experts in future blogs.
If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.
Anger is one of the most powerful and feared emotions anywhere, but certainly in the workplace. As long-time assessors of emotional intelligence, Colm and I have always encouraged our clients to eliminate and suppress any form of afflictive emotions in meetings. Afflictive emotions are the types of feelings that make you feel badly, like anger; they feel distressing. We have realized, after a lot of research and study, that we and all the other emotional intelligence assessors we know have been doing this wrong, and that it is time for a change.
As we have worked with some of the world’s highest performing organizations, we’ve noticed that the highest performing teams don’t restrict the expression of anger. Instead, they have learned to use these emotions intelligently and found a way to express afflictive emotion in a way that can build relationships.
Our beef is with stupidity, not anger. The problem isn’t that people get angry. It’s that they get stupid while feeling angry, and they wind up saying things that they later regret and that causes damage to key relationships.
Think about a time when you found yourself starting to lose it. your heart rate increases, your breathing changes, and you feel as though you can’t stop yourself from blurting out whatever is on your mind – even though you know, in that moment, it is going to cause relationship damage.
You have a choice to make in these moments about how you are going to respond to this emotional surge. We all feel them at some point: Is it going to control you, or will you control it? We don’t want you to suppress or eliminate these emotions, but we do want you to use them in an intelligent way.
In moments when your blood is boiling, the key is to manage your physical reaction so you can manage your emotional response. We suggest, doing things like; managing your breathing, or changing a body position.
Sit back, rather than leaning in
Open your arms in a palms-up posture, rather than crossing your arms with clenched fists
Simply ask yourself any question (Silently, ‘what did I have for breakfast’)
It’s important that you manage your anger, and it’s also important, however counterintuitive this may sound, to use your anger intelligently.
Anger has two big advantages:
It narrows your focus, which stops your paralysis by analysis; and
It makes you more confident in your decision.
Anger is not a good emotion when you’re developing your ideas and attack plan, but it can be an excellent emotion when you need to action your ideas.
For example: if my team is facing a crisis, I want to plan our strategy in a calm and rational state.
However, you do not want your team to take a calm and passive approach to addressing the problem once they have a plan. In fact, you may want to get them a little riled up and in battle-mode, to attack that problem with vigor. That might sound something like, “Hey! We lost that last project because we were late delivering our proposal. I know this client hasn’t given us a fair amount of time to deliver this one, but we’re not going to lose another one. Let’s get this done!”
In our book Step Up, Lead In Six Moments That Matter, the idea of getting angry, not stupid, is just one of the counterintuitive ways that we recommend people lead, regardless of their title, or their position on the org-chart.
If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.
Henry: Hi, I’m Henry Evans, Managing Partner at Dynamic Results.
Colm: And I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate at Dynamic Results. Henry and I are coauthors of the Amazon Top-10 “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter.” You can follow me on Twitter @DrColmFoster.
Henry: And you can always follow me on Twitter @HenryJEvans.
In our Amazon Top-10 book “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments that Matter,” we offer the idea that anyone can lead if they understand the six critical moments in which leadership is needed, and of course, what to do when they find themselves in one of those moments. In our chapter entitled “Leveraging Pessimism,” we talk about how undervalued and underappreciated your pessimists might be, and also feel.
Colm: In our blog entitled “Attack the Idea, Not the Person,” we talk about the problem of terminal politeness, and how many teams fail to discuss critical issues in a timely manner. Your pessimist might just be the very person leading your team into a critical discussion that otherwise might be avoided.
Henry: You know, as a recovering optimist myself, I greatly appreciate those people in my company. They’re the ones that point out the problems or challenges that might get in our way that I’m either missing altogether, or that I may just be avoiding because I don’t want to face them.
Colm: We really think you should have these people on your team, but we don’t think they should be in senior leadership roles. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be lead into battle by someone who thinks we’re not going to leave the battlefield alive. So, how do we leverage that pessimism?
Henry: One way is to overtly thank that pessimist for the challenges that they raise. So, that might sound like this: “Mary, I appreciate all the concerns you’ve raised about the project we have in front of us. I think you just raised some issues that we might have otherwise missed or avoided. But I want to know from the rest of the room is what do you think about the challenges that Mary just raised.”
Colm: We all know examples of people who are written off as pessimists-who, while they may be been expressing their pessimistic viewpoint, turned out to be more like Nostradamus. I’m sure there are people at Kodak-probably pessimists-who suggested they should get into digital long before they lost their global dominance.
Henry: If you’re the pessimist on your team, your challenge is to continue to offer your ideas, but in a way that engages people and makes them want to hear you. That might sound like: “Hey, I don’t want to panic anybody and I don’t want to be too dramatic, but what I do want to do is get us focused on subject X because I think that it may get in our way, and that we should talk about it before we finalize our decision.”
Colm: So, what are examples of situations where you should desire or maybe even pursue some pessimism in your meetings? Well, things like quality or process audits, risk mitigation discussions, entering a new market, budget analysis. In summary, situations where you really want to risk-assure your decisions.
Henry: We want you to learn to love your pessimists. You may not like having them in the organization, but you need some of that pessimism in order to have a healthy dialogue. We look forward to bringing you more real-life examples of what we see working in the business world.
Hi, I’m Dr. Colm Foster, Senior Associate with Dynamic Results, and coauthor with my colleague, Henry Evans, of our book “Step Up: Lead in Six Moments That Matter.” You can follow me on Twitter @DrColmFoster.
In a recent blog, we spoke of our belief that leadership is a developable skill, and some of you have asked us to say a little bit more about that. Based on our work with many senior executives, we believe that leadership is a set of behaviors or competencies that are demonstrated at a high level of skill. The specific competencies required in today’s organizations are changing all the time. In fact, in Henry’s upcoming book, “The Leadership Edge,” which he has coauthored with our Dynamic Results colleague, Dr. Michael McElhenie, they identified the key leadership competencies for 21st century leaders. Once you have identified those competencies, you want to work on the key to improving in these areas, which is to purposefully learn from experience.
Behavioral skill is learned in a part of the brain call the limbic system, and this learns best through repeated practice. There are four components to effective learning from repeated practice. Firstly, experimentation: you have to actually try new behaviors. Holding the intention to change is not enough. Feedback: get good quality feedback on your performance—ideally from a trusted coach. Thirdly, reflection: deeply consider what happened when you tried out the new behavior. And last, fourthly, making sense: understand what worked and why—equally, what didn’t work and why, and use this to set up the next experiment, and so on in a virtuous circle.
I’m sure as you’re listening to me; you more than understand what I just said. But that doesn’t make you any better at actually doing it. You have to practice what we’re talking about today, in order for it to become a sustainable competency. So, what might those four steps look like? Experimentation: I want to show more empathy with Mary and Sherianne, so I think I might try to make a more personal connection with them. Feedback: Mary now says our relationship is better, which is great; but Sherianne doesn’t seem to have responded in the same way. Reflection: I wonder why there’s a difference? Is it to do with their personality? Is it to do with their role? Was I just more engaged with Mary? Maybe there’s a cultural dimension that I was missing here. Making sense: I think that I’ve misunderstood the cultural norms for my Asian colleague, so I’m going to have to approach the relationship building exercise with Sherianne in a different way, and here’s what I am going to try next.
Our clients have reported great results when they adopt this approach, and we’re confident that you will, too. Thank you for your continued interest, and we look forward to bringing you more insights from our experts in future blogs.
If you want to learn more about Stepping Up, contact us.