Part I. Leadership Research: # 1 skill for Becoming Extraordinary Leader

High-Resolution Leadership a research study conducted by DDI identifies that “the single most important skill of a good leader may not be what you think. Although it is important to be visionary and a strategic thinker, a new study suggests that it’s more rooted in their daily conversations and interactions with people”.

According to DDI research on leadership, the leader who’s most effective in having successful conversations is most likely to do the best in developing their team and creating a successful business. “By the end of each day, leaders likely have had multiple conversations with a range of their constituents,” DDI’s researchers write. “Each of these interactions will collectively determine their ultimate success as a leader.”

This conclusion comes from a report called High-Resolution Leadership, which is the result of synthesizing assessments taken by 15,000 participants being considered for leadership from the front lines to executive levels at 300 companies in 18 countries. DDI evaluated the data from personality and intelligence tests as well as from “day-in-the-life” simulations that allowed participants to demonstrate their skills.

 

The Sterling Effect: How to Change Thinking about Ongoing Ignorance about Racism

What do you say to a person spouting ignorance about race? Just let them talk or confront their irrationality? Promote more education and understanding on projects that unite us? Try to understand the complexities of our own unique American history?

Recently, I was reflecting on this ongoing racism in America and then I remembered a conversation by James Baldwin to Studs Turkel that provided me with information and insight to this ongoing conflict in America. Don’t miss this this audio tape–

http://www.udel.edu/History/suisman/206_08-Fall/1-07%20James%20Baldwin,%201961.mp3

White Southern person says “it is just the way I was raise and you Yankees don’t get it”. This is not only an ignorant statement it is a way to try and forgive oneself and gives up the power of independent and critical thinking. You can change your thinking if you chose to.  Studs Terkel was best known for his work documenting the stories of everyday Americans, illuminating the undercurrents of the American psyche. James Baldwin’s lyrically hypnotic novels capture the struggles of the American black experience(s), wrestling with the intricacies of human identity in such a way that shakes readers to the core. Baldwin was perhaps best known for his ability to explore the nuance of typically taboo  interracial relationships, homosexuality, complexities within spiritual communities and his ability to articulate both anger at injustice and an ongoing belief in the underlining unity of humanity.

In this short and layered conversation, Baldwin recalls listening to Bessie Smith in Switzerland while writing his first novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain,  an autobiographical look at growing up in a conservative church in Harlem.  He boldly discusses race and racism, the invisibility of the black experience among most white Americans, and the deep need for an education that truly explores the historical interweaving of black and white Americans. “Education,” Baldwin states, “demands a certain daring, a certain independence of the mind.”  He talks of how the racism has harmed the nation in ways we are only beginning to recognize.

Terkel and Baldwin close the discussion by touching on his novel Nobody Knows My Name, noting the interdependence of human knowledge and freedom:

”To know your name, you’re going to have to know mine,” Baldwin

Choosing Self-Coaching: Means Commitment to Openness and Authenticity

Self-Coaching –Is about discovering your strengths and gifts and taking steps to develop in positive ways to reach your full potential. I make the assumption that you already have the ability, talents and knowledge to reach your full potential but irrational thinking, shame, interference and painful experiences are blocking breakthroughs for living a more daring and fulfilling life. I developed a “process with structure” framework to support your goals and push you to not hold back or let interference block the true self you can become. The Self-Coaching principles and processes are focused on your needs and wants. A lot of people can relate to—the frustrations and emotional baggage of barriers in life, and why it is important to reflect and learn new ways to learn from these experiences, and figuring out a more positive way forward. Self-Coaching provides the opportunity to take a pause in order to really experience what you are feeling and how you can create more effective ways to handle difficult life situations in this modern era of constant communication and stimulation.

Key question in the Self-Coaching process is –How do you go about discovering your true potential and the courage to act upon and share your authentic self? In discussing that we are all infallible human beings One answer is to study and listen to Dr. Berne Brown when she so clearly points us in the right direction for living a more fulfilling life based on vulnerability, courage,  openness and authenticity when she writes, “We need our lives back. It’s time to reclaim the gifts of imperfection—the courage to be real, the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life. These are the gifts that bring love, laughter, gratitude, empathy and joy into our lives.”

Avoid Derailing your Career: Pay attention to Blindspots and Other People’s Perceptions.

How other people see us impacts our identity, reputation and sense of worth. It can also derail a promising career. Here are some examples from my Leadership Coaching experience–Some people may see you as a “softie” because of your hypersensitivity to any comments that you perceive as criticism. This leads to less feedback because they are afraid of offending you and this leads to less feedback and others avoiding being straight with you. Others may see you as hot, impulsive, explosive, to quick to react emotionally or overwhelm them with your arguments. This leads to people seeing you as a bully or intimidating  because you are experienced as having always to  win with your idea or point of view. This type of style can be improved by being more open to other points of view and actively listening to understand people’s position and feelings.  Also, some withhold feedback because you are seen as to strong, rude or very opinionated; not getting feedback in any of these situations leaves you with many “blinspots” that can stall your career and raise undue tension and conflict in your management team.

These blindspots are not to be considered personality flaws but only areas for more training and development of your interpersonal communication skills. Blindspots generally signal a need for more self-understanding because people are experiencing you in a way that is not productive for you or your organization. A blindspot  area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding information from you and this might lead to your inability to manage and lead the team.

Self-Coaching Challenge:  To reduce the blind spots that may de-rail your career or interpersonal relationships you need to seek more input and information from others. To do this you need to model and support more listening and less judgmental feedback. Modeling openness and support for  more individual disclosure, reduces fear and therefore encourages honest feedback to flourish.  The extent to which an individual seeks feedback, and the issues on which feedback is sought, must always be at the individual’s own discretion. Some people are more resilient than others – care needs to be taken to avoid causing emotional upset. The process of soliciting serious and deep feedback relates to the process of ‘self-development and growth as a leader.

If you are committed to seek more feedback the question becomes– how do you go about getting it?

Sometimes people describe blind spots as perception disconnects – when the people around us don’t perceive our words and behaviors in the way we intended. We might believe that our calm, composed demeanor is a serious advantage in a high-stress workplace. Unfortunately, our co-workers perceive us as robotic, uncaring and even bully. Our goal might be to appear decisive and candid, but others actually think we’re abrupt and insensitive. Are we energetic and driven? Or relentless and annoying?  Are we methodical and systematic? Or inflexible and overly cautious? Sometimes there’s a very fine line there. But, at the end of the day, perceptions trump intentions. Despite our goals and the impressions we intend to make, our career success is determined by our reputations and the perceptions of us held by others.

Over the next three weeks take time to inform others that you want more feedback. Ask a close associate to observe and provide feedback on your blind spots– Be careful to be concrete in your request–by saying something like this– during the next few staffing meetings would you mind observing and documenting my ability and manner of listening or not  with team members and after the meeting we can talk about what worked, what didn’t work and how I might improve my listening skills.

Remember in trying to get feedback and uncover your blind spots you need to be supportive when this person provides their feedback on areas for improvement. Good Luck and be sure and share with us how it your personal development goes.

Importance of Empathy on Employee Engagement and Satisfaction

Empathy is a building block of one’s interpersonal connections.—for people to cultivate empathy skills, it helps if they can stop and take the time to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. It is also a key ingredient of successful relationships because it helps us understand the needs, priorities and desires of others. Here are some of the ways that interpersonal communication research has testified to the far-reaching importance of empathy. 

  • Empathy is good for bonding and team development: Managers who demonstrate empathy have employees who report greater job satisfaction and engagement 
  • Tied closely to empathy is the concept worker engagement and positive work climate this  recent trend towards positive psychology, where the concern is positive aspects of employees’ behavior. According to Maslach and Leiter (1997), when there is a person and positive job match, employees experience engagement with their work, characterized by high energy, involvement, and positive efficacy. As per Schaufeli et al. (2002), employee engagement is a positive, work-related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption. In this regard, attention is paid to human strengths, optimal functioning, and positive experiences at work (Seligmen and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Schaufeli and Bakker, 2004) not on negative feedback or focus on weaknesses. While, disengaged employees display incomplete role performances and task  behaviors become effortless, automatic or robotic (Hochschild, 1983). According to the author, disengagement may be result of employees who lack positive social interaction and support, who experience little autonomy in work roles, or who feel their work and contribution is unimportant to others.  

So the question is -How often do you stop to listen to and engage your fellow workers? Or Do you focus on the task and getting the job done? 

Want to improve social-emotion connections cultivate empathy in your relationships.

1 Model empathy. Show people what mens to appreciate them. Observe and show interest in the lives of others. Listen to other people’s experience and opinions. Talk about your experiences practicing empathy, and about the times you forgot to act with empathy.

2. Start with safety and security. Fear and self-centeredness interferes with the development of empathy. Learn to stop and demonstrate consideration and toward others.

3. Practice self-regulation skills. Self-regulation skills are the foundation for empathy. By learning to calm yourself, regulate emotions, delay gratification, persevere, and stay focused on the right things, fellow workers and family members develop the skills which allow them to look beyond themselves.

4. Notice other people’s feelings without judgment or put downs. Talk about these feelings and assure the other person they are okay to share and have these inner experiences. Learn to use words that focus on the so-called “soft things” in life and avoid only the “hard stuff” like project schedules, profit, or task activities.

5. Follow the Golden Rule of relationships and empathy  “ Treat others in the same way that they themselves would like to be treated because relationships matter. Relations emphasizing empathy are built on focused attention, active listening and demonstrated caring and trust. For example, most of us would like to be listened to and understood by others.

Self-Coaching Mastery: Be who you are…5 Ways to Overcome Negative Mindset

“Your identity is what you’ve committed yourself to. It may just mean doing a better job at whatever you’re doing. There are men and women who make the world better just by being the kind of people they are –and that too is a kind of commitment. They have the gift of kindness or courage or loyalty or integrity. It matters very little whether they’re behind the wheel of a truck or running a country store or bringing up a family.”  John Gardner on Self-Renewal

One of the key obstacles to self- renewal is fear. The reason fear is at the center as a barrier to self-renewal  is that fear what fuels negative outlooks and excuses. We start making excuses when we are afraid how someone will react to something we say or do. Maybe you say you’re “busy” when a friend asks you out for drinks, or maybe you say “I don’t know how to…” when you haven’t even tried. We all have anxieties, fears and make make excuses once in a while, here’s how to overcome this negative mindset and live a more engaging and fulfilling life.

  1. Focus on the type of self-talk you use. Listen to the kind of words we use is beneficial in understanding our excuse, fears and anxieties in life. Do you use negative and inaccurate words to describe your actions? Such as …stupid, dummy or other vague terms to put yourself down. Internal Your internal dialogue has a powerful way of directing your thinking, physical appearance and actions.  To stop this negative drumbeat we must stop and challenge the messages we are sending to ourselves. To over ride this “alien”  and unhelpful negative talk we must observe our internal talk and determine if it is communicating in a way that is helpful helping us get what we need and want in life.
  2.  Practice honesty. The first thing to know is that an excuse is nothing more than a lie to ourselves and others. The more you make excuses, the easier it gets. Lying, like most everything else, becomes easier the more you do it. But so does telling the truth. Practice telling yourself and other people the truth all of the time. If you don’t want to go out with a friend, don’t lie. Tell the truth. I am sure  YOU appreciate your friends telling you the truth?
  3. Prioritize. Use your talent, time, and resources doing things that are important and meaningful for you. Stop saying yes to doing things that you don’t like doing. If the person or project does not fit your strengths or interests or excite you or make you happy, then don’t waste your time. If there are people in your life who are draining your energy, then don’t give them yours. Make a list of what is important to you and do things toward that end. If spending time with family is a priority, then take steps to prove it.
  4. Start believing in yourself. Why not you…Why not us… Russell Wilson’s ( winning super bowl QB ) Dad constantly asked his son “why not you”…this reflective and encouraging question stayed “top of the mind ” for Russel through many ups and downs of his sports journey.  This question has kept him focused and motivated to be the best he can be in life. It is a very positive motivator for him. It is easy to say “Be positive!” to people, but it is a lot harder in practice. You might wake up in a great mood, but by the time you get to work that mood is nothing but a distant memory. Don’t let the weather or traffic ruin your day, or your argument with your wife dim the days outlook. If you find yourself hating the world, take a deep breath and think about a pleasant memory of your life. This positive recall will usually make you smile. And, smiling is one of  many ways to turn your thinking from negative mood into a bright, shiny one.
  5. Be Self-compassionate. One of the nasty ways excuses creep in to your mental mindset is “self talk”. Let me re-state a few key ideas from the above #1 point. Self talk is the way you think about yourself, or even talk about yourself to others. If you are aware of the power of self-efficacy you know the way you view a task or a challenge, and the way you view your own ability to conquer that task has a direct impact on your ability to actually complete it. If you approach a project thinking it is too difficult, or that you are not good enough, then chances are you won’t do it. The good news is that once you become aware of how you are talking to yourself, you can stop. Each time you hear yourself using doubt as an excuse, stop. Change your mental dialog into something positive, and you will become something positive.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Accepting and Knowing Your Natural Self

Daily Quote : ” Knowing how to stop, relax and step-up to difficult people and challenging situation is a critical skill needed to grow and develop as a leader.” Robert Greenleaf, author of Servant Leader     

Reflection:In the moment of truth, having the ability for controlling impulses and  powerful emotions is important for all of us. I have found this technique of saying to yourself—  STOP… BREATHE…REFLECT…THINK allows you to get back in control by triggering the executive function of your brain. Your emotional impulses of fight or flight slow down so you can take charge in a more deliberate way by observing and reflecting on the other person and the situation you find yourself in.

When safety, trust, congruence and self-disclosure are established, these qualities support the actions that lead to greater self-awareness to be who you are–a mixture of hopes, dreams, caring and ambitions and disappointments, anger frustrations etc. With this acceptance of your natural self comes a willingness to experiment, take risk and grow in the process. When we feel able to experiment, take risks and make ourselves vulnerable, our ability to learn, to increase our self-awareness (and our awareness of others) to change our immediate impulsive reaction and over ride our emotions in order to achieve our goals increases dramatically. Find ways to successful step-up or lean-in provides an opportunity to constructively take on life as an adventure. Don’t be afraid t try new things, take risks and use your natural strengths. 

Self-Coaching challenge: Read the poem–Be Strong. This poem will highlight the struggle between our good and bad self. After reading the poem thing of a situation where you lost it.  Capture in your Personal Journal what the situation was, who was involved  and how you reacted. Then based on what you now know about handling difficult and emotionally charged situations reflect and think through how you would handle the situation differently, if you had the chance to relive it. Good Luck and keep us posted on your progress to learn more optimal ways to handle these challenges.