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.    

 

Want to Improve Team Effectiveness: Learn about Team Emotional Intelligence

Daily Quote: “Emotional Intelligence has had a real impact on individual growth and performance but the only problem is that so far emotional intelligence has not focused its research on team competency or effectiveness. The reality is that most work in organizations is done by teams. And if managers have one pressing need today, it’s to find ways to make teams work better”. Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff

“EXCELLENT” Meetings. Meetings are what bosses “do.” Meetings are de facto Leadership Opportunity #1. Act accordingly.  Dr. Tom Peters

How to make meetings more satisfying, productive and work more effectively? “Begin with the end in mind” or the vision thing. By setting a vision of what the team wants to accomplish and what a successful meeting looks like the changes of increasing engagement and having more satisfying outcomes increase dramatically .

We generally ignore priority setting or vision thinking in most meetings. For some reason there is pressure to get down to work quickly. This thinking goes like this “we can’t waste time on all this petty stuff we have important things to do”. So what happens is that most team leaders and members avoid or ignore answering these important questions: What is the most important thing to work on and accomplish while we are together this morning? Why are we doing this? What are we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get to?’ What does success look like? How do we handle side issues that might come up? How do we get everyone involved, engaged and committed to what’s important to discuss and decide on today? What the leader and team fail to understand is how important it is to answer these questions not just to motivate thinking and members engagement but to guide how to use our valuable time together. Both “structure and processes” are key elements for increasing energy and productivity in meetings.  So my advice to those who are bored or frustrated by meetings is to –STOP, CLARIFY and GET AGREEMENT on what is important to focus on today.

Another important idea is presented by Druskat and Wolff in their Harvard Business Review’s article that the real source of a great team’s success lies in the fundamental understanding of group emotional intelligence. This understanding allows effective task processes to emerge like setting decision-making and communication norms and that cause members to commit to the shared established by the team. Their research says there are three conditions are essential to a group’s effectiveness: trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy.”

Planning and detail thinking are both about “how” to implement your vision, with planning being more at the 30,000 level and big picture thinking, and detail discussions are more ground level dealing with specific actions and commitments.   “This kind of ‘how’ to execute or work together is very difficult if you don’t have a  clear why these activities are a priority and important to the individuals, team and organizational imperatives.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Learning how to conduct effective meetings can’t be learned over night. To break the habits of poor meetings will take experimentation and practice. In the beginning instituting new group maintenance procedures or processes will feel unnatural or uncomfortable. So as a team leader it is important from a learning and mental stand point to stick with changes long enough to see if they can make a difference in your team’s productivity. Remember that ” A team can have everything going for it the brightest and most qualified people, access to resources–a clear mission and still fail because it lacks group emotional intelligence and understanding of group dynamics”.

So over the next month your challenge as team leader is to explore ways to improve your meetings through feedback and speaking-up. Start first by reaching out to team members on two questions:

1. How do they feel about the effectiveness of our present meetings.

2. Ask for suggestions on what needs to change in order to make them more productive?

 

Daily Quote and Reflection: Are “SOFT SKILLS” and Emotional Intelligence the Missing Link for Your Life and Job Success in 2014?

Daily Quote:  “In the last decade or so, science has discovered a tremendous amount about the role emotions play in our lives. Researchers have found that even more than IQ, your emotional awareness and abilities to handle feelings will determine your success and happiness in all walks of life, including family relationships.” —Dr. John Gottman–From the book:  Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

“Let’s say you work at a place that’s saturated with smarts. If all of your colleagues were always the brightest person in the room growing up, then what makes you stand out? One of the key factors for differentiating yourself from others in the workplace is the concept of emotional intelligence and self-awareness”. Drake Baer,  from Fast Company 

Reflection: Many studies are now pointing to emotional intelligence as a strong predictor of  productivity, effectiveness and success for people and the companies they work for.

To be emotionally intelligent, Goleman and other researchers say, you need to have confidence. To have confidence, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. Yet what does it mean to have confidence? It means to understand and believe you have the ability and belief that you can do the things that produce positive results. When faced with a decision or choice of what to do to be successful at a task or activity you believe you have the wherewithal to use your focused concentration, experiences and talents to complete the job successfully. This underlining insight is based on what Arthur Bandura calls self-efficacy. Working from a basis of belief in yourself provides a behavioral framework or platform of “I can do this”.

Self-Coaching Challenge: So your challenge for the New Year is to assess where you are on the Emotional Intelligence scale and then put together a plan for personal and emotional intelligence. Remember you can change your level of emotional intelligence because unlike IQ and other fixed variables our EQ is malleable but it will take more self-awareness and deliberative practice to improve you EQ level.

Want to learn more about EQ read this powerful article in Fast Company called: Emotional Intelligence predicts Job Success Do You Have It?  by Drake Baer.

http://www.fastcompany.com/3023335/leadership-now/emotional-intelligence-predicts-job-success-do-you-have-it#

 

Announcing the “SPARK” Framework for Self-Coaching available in 2014

 S.P.A.R.K. Framework and Underpinnings: The Fully Functioning Person

” The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change…If we value independence, if we are disturbed by the growing conformity of knowledge, of values, of attitudes, which our present system induces, then we may wish to set up conditions of learning which make for uniqueness, for self-direction, and for self-initiated learning.” Dr. Carl Rogers

Dr. Carl Rogers, father of Client-Centered Therapy (1961), believed that every person could achieve their goals wishes, and desires in life. When they did so self-actualization took place. This humanistic approach for Rogers was based on the belief that most people when provided the right conditions, support and structure are able to become more self-directed learners, self-aware, and self-actualized. These person’s were called fully functioning persons. This means that the person is in touch with the here and now, their subjective experiences and feelings, their strengths and weaknesses and a belief in continuous learning, growing and changing in life.

In many ways Rogers, regarded the fully functioning person as an ideal and one that people do not necessarily or ultimately achieve.

It is wrong to think of this as an end or completion of life’s journey; rather it is a process of always becoming and changing.

Rogers identified five characteristics of the fully functioning person:

1. Open to experience

    : both positive and negative emotions accepted. Negative feelings are not denied, but worked through (rather than resort to ego defence mechanisms).

2. Existential living: in touch with different experiences as they occur in life, avoiding prejudging and preconceptions. Being able to live and fully appreciate the present, not always looking back to the past or forward to the future (i.e. living for the moment).

3. Trust in feelings: feeling, instincts and gut-reactions are paid attention to and trusted. People’s own decisions are the right ones and we should trust ourselves to make the right choices.

4. Creativity and Openness: the ability to adjust and change and seek new experiences.

5. Fulfilled life: person is happy and satisfied with life, and always looking for new challenges and experiences.

For Rogers, fully functioning people are well-adjusted, well-balanced and interesting to know. Often such people are high achievers in society. Critics claim that the fully functioning person is a product and myth of Western culture. In other cultures, such as Eastern cultures, the achievement of the group is valued more highly than the achievement of any one person.

Announcing an exciting personal and leadership development modules for 2014:

The Self-Coaching Guided Mastery Process: S.P.A.R.K.  

 

 S--tructure withProcess and Plus-One Approach for personal development

Purpose for living a Meaningful and fulfilling Life  

Awareness of Inner and Emotional Self 3 through Awareness

R-elationships with Self and Others

Know and Do what you need to do to reach full potential

** Stay tuned I am going to be rolling-out the S.P.A.R.K:  Structure with Process methodology and Modules for Self-Coaching in the first quarter of 2014.

 

Formula for Peak Performing: Self 3 (Hardiness and Resilient thinking)

Formula for Peak Performing : Physical + Mental (thinking /feelings) + constructive action = Self 3 (hardy-resilient-constructive action self)

Life cycle:  Stuck——————-Surviving—————————Growing/learning (Mental Toughness )——————Peaking ( Self 3- Active Performer)

None of this is very useful information unless you know what to do about it and how to use it to your benefit and create a better selves. Mental Toughness (MT) is a very broad and complex topic involving the brain, neurology and psychological research, but where I would recommend starting by learning what the “hardy-resilient ” personality is.

Self 3  is broken down into four separate characteristics: Self-awareness, focused attention, integrated discovery learning, commitment to a constructive plan of action. These characteristics of Self 3 are based in an existential theory of personality and is defined as a person’s basic stance towards his or her place in the world.  ( Frankl 1954, Kobasa 1979; Dr. Rock 2010).

1. Self-Awareness (SA) is the ability to know ones strengths and weakness through experiences in life. SA means being observant and growing from involvement in life activities by involving  oneself in, rather than standing by and watching life pass you by.  It means being in touch with our true make-up (strengths/weaknesses). People with high emotional intelligence know that life will end and have a generalized sense of purpose that allows them to identify with and engage in meaningful activities, persons, and events to bring pleasure and happiness to their lives.

2. Reality and Control are the elements that allow you to think, feel and act as if one is competent and influential in making a difference (self-efficacy), rather than helpless, in the face of many difficult and high pressured situations and experiences in life. They lean-in to life because there was a time when they did not exist .  Persons with perspective and balance in their lives do not naively expect to determine all events and outcomes but rather perceive themselves as being able to make a difference in the world through their exercise of imagination, knowledge, skill and choice.

3. Challenge is the tendency to believe that change rather than stability is normal in life and that changes are interesting occurrences to grow from  rather than threats to security. So far from being reckless adventurers, persons with challenge are rather individuals with an openness to new experiences and a tolerance of ambiguity that enables them to be flexible in the face of change.”

In sum, the greater your levels of SA, Learning (commitment, control and challenge) when faced with a stressful situation, the greater your chances of performing well and doing so without a negative impact on your mental and physical health.

The catch here, is that a high level of self-awareness must be involved in order to assess these characteristics within yourself. This is called “metaknowledge” and is the ability to think about the way in which you are thinking.

The next time you are faced with a high pressure, stressful situation, read through that list of the three hardiness factors and ask yourself to what degree do feel commitment, control and challenge. If you’re coming up low in any of those categories, try to stop and focus on what behaviors you can control and then make the necessary changes.

Part I : Listening and Building Relationships with the “Third Ear”

Daily Quote:  “When people are listened to sensitively, they tend to listen to themselves with more care and to make clear exactly what they are feeling and thinking.” Dr. Carl Rogers 

1. Communicate so as to build rapport by showing interest, respect and responsiveness.Show positive regard and respect by greeting and attending to others needs.Trying to find common interests creates unique and supportive connections. For example, pay attention to what the other person is wearing and how they carry themselves. Always be ready to pay sincere compliments and ask open ended questions.

2. Be in-synch. With words, voice tone, body language ( use high and low tones, open gestures, eye contact) aligned with clear and concise message. If you find the place in you that is really pleased to speak with the other person and truly interested in what they have to say, you will be congruent in what you say and how you say it. People will clearly see your warmth and caring concern through your eyes, voice tone and facial expressions.

3. Tune-in with the Third Ear-eliminate external and Internal distractions
We can all sense if someone is fully “present” with us or distracted by other things going on in the environment.  Listening with the “third ear” means that you focused not just the other person’s words or content, but you are truly trying to content and emotional intent of what they are saying. To do this you must be sure that your mind is not distracted. Active listening requires you to stay with and be there for the other person, so please eliminate al noise distractions such as cell phones, televisions and other conversations or activities.
If possible, find a place with minimal distractions away from other people and activities so that you can fully concentrate on listening and responding. If you are doing something else when someone approaches you to share, choose to “drop” what you are doing and actively fully focus on listening to show the person they are important and valued.

4. Acceptance of others and building trust. No one has said it better than Carl Rogers in his book Freedom to Learn “When I do truly hear a person and the meanings that are important to him at that moment, hearing not simply the words, but him, and when I let him know that I have heard his own private personal meanings, many things happen.  There is first of all a grateful look. He feels acceptance.  He feels released.  He wants to tell me more about his world. He surges forth in a new sense of freedom.  I think he becomes more open to the process of change.”

It is easier to eliminate external noise than the internal noise in your mind that is thinking of other things, worrying about the past or future conversations or problems.  Eastern psychologists warn us that the mind is like a bouncing ball going in one direction or another. So we need to learn to quiet our mind, stop randomly jumping around  and to focus on where we want the mind to go and then the behavior will follow.

How to stop the “bouncing ball” and be attentive and actively listen? 
Many neurologists and psychologist suggest the practice of meditation, mindfulness and/or other western methods of focusing the mind with discipline, people begin to become the master of their minds and in control of the vast energy and power of the mind.  The mind focused on one-to-one communication is “mindful” and gives the person an immense power of “presence”, the power of focus, of attention, and really being fully present with another person in the moment

ELIMINATE INTERNAL PERSONAL JUDGEMENTS
We are often distracted by our own views and values, our own perceptions that cause us to judge another person from our own personal experiences and histories.  We cannot fully listen to another person if we are really listening to our own “mind chatter.”  We tend to listen “autobiographically” and perceive what the other person is saying through filters based on our own lives and personal experiences. We need to be less self-centered. The key concept is listening with a mind-set of non-judgment. Often we “selectively listen” to what the other person is saying with personal bias, listening for affirmations of our own views or judging negatively when we find differences. If we eliminate our own judgments based on our own lives, we can have the opportunity to experience empathic understanding of the other person and enter into their world, their perceptions and reality.
Be sure you are listening to the other person and not to yourself and your own perceptions of the world.  Full respect, positive regard and unconditional acceptance of the other person are necessary conditions  for becoming a empathic listening.

ACTIVELY LISTEN FOR UNDERSTANDING
As you listen carefully, what do you want to know to understand more fully the other person’s perspective?  Invite them to share more to deepen your understanding.  Ask “open questions”  and “door openers” that invite the person to share more.   “That is very interesting, . . “  Tell me more about . . .” How do you feel about . . .”

Let your body express that you are “following” and interested in what the other person is saying and that you would like to hear more.  Show excitement and genuine interest by using “encouragers”, allowing your body to express attention through positive and encouraging head nods, caring voice tone, warm eye contact and expressive facial expressions.  Convey genuine interest, enthusiasm and joy in trying to connect with others.

Practice:  Clarification, Restatement and Reflective RESPONSES
Once you have begun to sense the world of the other person, begin to reflect back their significant thoughts and feelings.  Listen to what they have just shared and find the most important feelings that the person has shared or the deeper meaning that may lie behind the words.  Use reflective statements to paraphrase or summarize what the other person seems to be thinking or feeling.
Check your perceptions by reflecting back what you think you have heard the other person say or perhaps what they might like to say or explore..  “Perception-checking” often starts with statements like “You seem to feel”, “I imagine you must want.”   You are not sure so you give “wiggle-room” for them to agree or clarify more fully how they do feel etc.  Your clear interest allows the other person to share his/her feelings at a deeper, more accurate level that fosters real contact and genuine communication.

FACILITATE CLARIFICATION AND CONCRETENESS
As you actively listen and respond, you will clarify the feelings and meanings of what the person is expressing or trying to express.  When you do not understand exactly what the other person means, paraphrase or summarize what you think they are saying and they will clarify their feelings for you.
In your reflections, strive to use clear, specific, “concrete” descriptions to deepen the level of understanding.  Being clear and descriptive communicates true understanding and leads to deeper levels of empathic two-way communication and sharing that can lead to improved  interpersonal connections and relationship development and growth.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify one person who you would like to connect with and understand more fully, then choose to practice one of the techniques listed above like clarification, reflection or perception checking. Take notes in your journal on what worked, what didn’t work and how you can improve your listening skills.

Self-Coaching: Discover how to Stop Criticizing and Feeling Insecure through being more Self-Compassionate

Daily Quote: “If life is what we choose to make of it, then I will choose to forget losses and negativity and live a life full of possibility and abundance; high energy and exhilaration; happiness, and fulfillment.  I will choose to live a passionate, meaningful and inspired life based on doing the “best I can with what I have”. Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D 

The relentless search for high self-esteem has become dogmatic with most psychologists and coaches. Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special, above average and be a winner in order to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average. There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a golf ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.

If you feel that you lack sufficient self-compassion or self-understanding, check in with yourself – are you criticizing yourself too much?  If so, stop and learn to be more gentle and forgiving of yourself.  Try to feel compassion for how difficult it is to be a fallible human being and imperfect in this extremely competitive society of ours.  Most of us live in cultures that do not emphasize self-compassion, quite the opposite.  We’re told that we’re being lazy and self-indulgent if we don’t harshly push and criticize ourselves.  We’re told that no matter how hard we try, our best just is not good enough. We become driven and stressed out individuals who are never satisfied with their life.  It’s time for something different.  We can all benefit by learning to be more forgiving and self-compassionate.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to self-esteem that many psychologists believe is a better and more effective path to happiness: self-compassion building into a sense of self-efficacy. The research of Dr. Kristin Neff and others strongly suggests that people who are more self-compassionate lead happier, healthier, more productive lives than those who are self-critical. Feelings of security and self-worth provided by self-compassion are highly stable. while self-esteem fluctuates depending on you latest success or failure. Self-compassion steps in precisely when we fall down, allowing us to get up and try again.

Dr. Neff helps readers understand that compassion isn’t only something that we should apply to others. Just as we are able to provide compassion for a good friend who was going through a difficult illness or loss or felt inadequate in some way, why not for ourselves? Many people believe that they need to be self-critical to motivate themselves, but in fact they just end up feeling anxious, incompetent and stressed. Dr. Neff’s research shows that far from encouraging self-indulgence, self-compassion helps us to see ourselves clearly and make needed changes because we care about ourselves and want to reach our full potential.

Her groundbreaking book Self-Compassion based on years of solid empirical research into human happiness and success  identifies how to let go of insecurity and constant, debilitating self-judgment and finally learn to be kind to themselves. This book provides practical exercises to support people who want to tackle the skill of self-compassion. Below I am posting some info from Dr. Neff to help you get started and if this info triggers your curosity and interest I would definitely invest a few bucks and buy it. This idea hof self-compassion has the power to change your life. First let’s get to an overview of what self-compassion is and how it differs from self-esteem. 

Definition of self-compassion

Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. “Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience…” 

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment? Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness and fallibility. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.

The three elements of self-compassion

Self-kindness. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.  Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism.  When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.

Common humanity.
 Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.  All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.  Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.  It also means recognizing that personal thoughts, feelings and actions are impacted by “external” factors such as parenting history, culture, genetic and environmental conditions, as well as the behavior and expectations of others.  Thich Nhat Hahn calls the intricate web of reciprocal cause and effect in which we are all imbedded “interbeing.”  Recognizing our essential interbeing allows us to be less judgmental about our personal failings. After all, if we had full control over our behavior, how many people would consciously choose to have anger issues, addiction issues, debilitating social anxiety, eating disorders, and so on?  Many aspects of ourselves and the circumstances of our lives are not of our choosing, but instead stem from innumerable factors (genetic and/or environmental) that we have little control over.  By recognizing our essential interdependence, therefore, failings and life difficulties do not have to be taken so personally, but can be acknowledged with non-judgmental compassion and understanding.

Mindfulness. Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.  This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.  At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

Self-compassion versus self-esteem

Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways.  Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is little doubt that low self-esteem is problematic and often leads to depression and lack of motivation, trying to have higher self-esteem can also be problematic.  In modern Western culture, self-esteem is often based on how much we are different from others, how much we stand out or are special.  It is not okay to be average, we have to feel above average to feel good about ourselves.  This means that attempts to raise self-esteem may result in narcissistic, self-absorbed behavior, or lead us to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves.  We also tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who have said or done anything that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves.  The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can’t see ourselves clearly and accurately.

Finally, our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.

In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.  Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t dependent on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face!  Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger”

Self-Coaching Challenge: Determine what you need to get started on understanding the power of self-compassion. Ask how could self-compassion increase your outlook on life and what implications does it have for you becoming a better leader? 

 

 

Daily Quote and Reflection: Seeing yourself as others see you.

Daily Quote and Reflection: Oh, what a great gift we would have if we could only see ourselves as others see us .” – Robert Burns

Reflection: How other people see us impacts our identity and sense of worth. 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 and others avoiding being straight with you. Others may see you as impulsive and explosive, to quick to react in difficult or complex  situations and so you are left with little information when trying to resolve key personnel or investment issues.  Also, some withhold feedback because you are seen as to strong, rude or very opinionated; not getting feedback in these situations leaves you with many “blinspots” and an inaccurate picture of what your strengths are or how you might be overusing them.

This blind area is not an effective or productive space for individuals or groups. This blind area could also be referred to as ignorance about oneself, or an ineffective way to delude yourself . A blind area could also include issues that others are deliberately withholding from a person. We all know how difficult it is to work well when kept in the dark. No-one works well when being subject to ‘mushroom management’. People who are ‘thick-skinned’ tend to have a large ‘blindspots.

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 and uncaring. 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 business 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 feedback on areas for improvement. Good Luck and be sure and share with us how it your personal development goes. 

 

 

Self-Coaching: Observing and Coping with Being Overwhelmed

Self-Coaching Activity:—Observing and Coping with Being Overwhelmed 

Start with self-awareness. Observe and tune-in to feelings, and where you feel them in your body and name them.  Give yourself a couple of minutes for practice getting in touch with your level of emotional intensity and then practice the 10 second stress reduction response to lower you agitation , practice this deliberate attunement process several times during the day when you feel uneasy and jot down in your journal your reflections and insights—who were you interacting with, what was the topic of conversations and what did you say or do and why did this discussion bring forth such an intense emotional reaction.

Then, after a week of collecting this data ask yourself:  Do I have more control over these situations than I exercise? If so, “What I can do about it?” Take 30 minutes to do a self-brainstorm on solutions for these situations. Develop a plan to change your behavior and get feedback from a trusted colleague or friend on how successful your change plan is working—what worked, where did you fall short and get stuck? What can you do next time to be more successful?

Remember most personal growth and change plans are an “inside-out job” that begins with the foundation of enhanced self-awareness through observation of your unique patterns of behavior.  Turn inward, be curious about who you really are, and then show up to support the change you wish to be in the world. This self-coaching approach can encourage and support your tools of choice and then allow you to reach your potential in growing into being your best self!

Power of Acceptance and Choice in Changing other People’s Behavior

 

Daily Quote: “Acceptance is the ability and willingness to allow those that you care for to be what they choose for themselves without any requirement that they follow your advice or dreams for them. In doing this you set yourself free to love others unconditionally”. Carl Rogers  

Reflection: I have learned that if you accept yourself and others as they are you provide the other person the space and time for them to reflect on their behavior and possibly choose to change. Don’t try to change others by pressure or pushing.  When you accept somebody you love them for what they think they should be or do. You give them the gift of freedom and reap the benefits of who they become come, and learn the lesson of less control, without imposing your will and without constantly trying to change them.

Self-Coaching Challenge: Identify a behavior of a partner or fellow employee you would like to change. For the first week just make a note of the behavior and how many times it appears in your relationship and how it makes you fee. The try one of these techniques for influencing the other person to try something new.

1.  Let go of the idea that you are going to be able to change the other person’s behavior. Sit and reflect on the possibility of resistance and that change may not happen. By getting comfortable and accepting the possibility of no change you will gain a new perspective on the situation. Now contemplate how it would feel to simply ignore or live with the behavior? Is it possible you could change your own behavior and attitude to accommodate them? Remember you have the right to share your observation and give feedback on how their behavior affects you, but nagging someone to change is the quickest and surest way to completely sabotage your desire for change. Once you truly accept that they may never change, you can use this strategy without grasping and desperation. If you cannot accept the behavior, then prepare yourself for a slow but inevitable emotional erosion and distancing in the relationship.

2. Use a form of empathy to try and understand or figure out what are the payoffs for this person to keep acting this way. Once you have identified the rewards or payoffs work on breaking this chain by reinforcing the behavior you want. Try to “catch the person doing things right” is a powerful tool for changing behavior. Once you catching them moving in the desired direction using praise can reinforce the desired change that is wanted. Praise good behavior using specific focus on their effort to change. Praise in whatever form the person understands and appreciates. For example, kind words, gifts, doing things for the person, etc. Connect the good behavior to you being thrilled with them and your that relationship is being positively influenced as a result. 

  • 3. Ask for what you want using this technique: When you do…. I feel…. because… How do you feel and what can we do about it.  “I want you to arrange your schedule so that you are sure to be on time to meet me.” “If you are unavoidably delayed, I want you to call me and let me know what’s going on, so I can decide whether to go without you.” Then back off and do not dwell on the subject. If you have already been telling the person, calmly and clearly, what you want and that it frustrates you, then you might want to try another technique. If you feel you can no longer suffer in silence, look for a way to work around their annoying behavior. For example, if you have a colleagur or friend who is always late for meetings. Would it work to simply tell the person a time to meet you that is a half-hour earlier than necessary? Is there something that could be purchased that would solve the problem, for example, if your complaint is that the person will not clean the litter box like they promised, can you buy a self-cleaning one? If they won’t dust, can you afford maid service? 
  •