A Struggle With Values

We all strive to be value-driven people. But some values put us in conflict with ourselves especially when that value encroaches on another priority in our lives.

The dilemma we find ourselves in becomes much like when one wheel on a vehicle is out of alignment with the other three. The result, the whole car shakes and rattles. So too, commitment to one value can put our whole life in disarray.

Consider how loyalty can get us into trouble.

Some people of my generation (Boomers)  erroneously believed the social contract between the company and its employees, “you cover our back and we will cover yours.” If that were true, why did we need unions to protect us? Why has the expectation changed on the part of an employee that he/she will be with the company for life?

Changing conditions like shareholder value, new business models, and the need for up-dated skills can see an employee downsized at the drop of a hat. Move up or move out has become the norm in many organizations.

So for a person to believe that he/she needs to be fiercely loyal to that organization when the organization is not loyal in return may not be a wise move.

The same may be said of loyalty to friends. Just because one has known someone forever does not imply a lifelong commitment. This is especially true when the nature of the friendship changes and/or there is an injury to the relationship through a betrayal like backstabbing words and action. It’s all very well to say “Forgive and forget”, but if we are loyal at all costs this could be showing ourselves disrespect or acting in a co-dependent way.

So when do we stick to our convictions in the face of changing circumstances?

I read recently that Hamilton Jordan said that that the worst thing one could say to President Jimmy Carter was that a decision would be bad for his political career. When President Carter knew that an action was the right one both ethically and for the country, he boldly and uncompromisingly took that action.

Your Response

What stand have and would you take even if circumstances dictated otherwise?

When would you back off from a once held conviction?

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Pursue Excellence, Avoid Perfectionism

When we speak of the pursuit of excellence we always have some “gold standard” in mind like

  • A perfect safety record
  • A house that that is featured in a design magazine
  • A parent who provides age appropriate guidance but gets out of the way of the child’s development

When we aim for the best in any domain, how does that differ from perfectionism?

In distinguishing the pursuit of excellence from perfectionism we have to,

  1. View failure as a part of the learning curve

We can chose to view falling short of our goals as an unmitigated disaster. For instance, our perfectionistic inner critic may beat us up for an occasional parenting shortfall. By contrast, we can choose to view a parenting lapse as part of our learning experience. Such an attitude gives us the freedom to try out new things with the knowledge that we could fail in our initial attempts. This makes mastery a journey and not just a destination. As someone once said, “increase your success by doubling your failures.”

  1. Know when to back off and regroup when progress is frustrated

I love what Maya Angelou said, “If there is pain in the path ahead of you and pain in the path behind you, change paths” This act of finding a detour in the face of obstacles is not quitting but giving yourself other options. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is a compulsive attitude of “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” It keeps driving ahead even though the behavior may be counter productive.

  1. Aim for the highest standards

 We have a deep inner knowing that we are capable of more than we can even imagine for ourselves. This mental and physical driver comes from both a healthy sense of our potential as well as knowledge of our learning capability. When we reach that mark, metrics from outside of ourselves, e.g. from our industry or peers, let us know that we did a great job. Perfectionism, on the other hand, comes from a faulty internalized measurement system, a deficit mentality that believes that don’t have it in us to achieve our goals. It has nothing to do with a healthy sense of our limitations or even our real capabilities. It is a phantom metric.

  1. Distinguish rational judgment and being judgmental

Perfectionists are highly judgmental. They frown on others who dare to think, dress, socialize, and live differently from them. Such negative judging comes from a deep sense of inadequacy. By contrast, people who pursue excellence embrace diversity and see it as strengthening their own view of the world. Their assessment of differences is based on external standards and not some internal emotional struggle. As a result it is easier for the to “live and let live.”

So by all means pursue excellence and work on getting over perfectionism. But don’t confuse the one with the other.

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How Not to Lose Friends and Alienate People

I was told about of a person who goes into battle with people who disagree with her.

Surprise! Most people give her a wide berth on touchy issues. She also does not have many close friends.

This is a case of self sabotage and is a way to derail a career or contaminate a friendship.

The key to managing such unruly emotions involves both Reality Testing and Impulse Control.

Reality Testing

It is of paramount importance that we see our world as it really is and not have fantasies about what is going on. Our emotions cannot cloud our objectivity.

For instance when there is a minor perturbation in your world like the arrival of an unexpected letter from the IRS, bad traffic on the way to work, a child comes home with a less than stellar report card, or your project starts running late,

You choose not to freak out when you,

* Size up the situation for what it is

* See it as a one time incident and not something that will happen all the time

* Do not allow the stress of the situation to color your perceptions

* View it as a problem to be solved rather than the beginning of a battle

* Recognize that your mind can make the problem bigger than it actually is

With your reality testing intact you have a better chance for

Impulse Control

Successful people know both how to name as well as hit the brakes on their feelings.   Consider the following examples.

  • A colleague disrespects you or someone you know. Your impulse is to get overly emotional and “cut them off at the knees” with a sharp verbal response. Your better choice. Cool down and decide whether to let the incident pass or make a boundary setting remark like “Let’s stick with the issue at hand and not make this personal”
  • You are deeply disappointed by a leadership decision that impacts you personally e.g. you were not promoted. Your impulse may be to complain to anyone who will listen.Your better choiceAsk you boss for feedback as to how you could be better prepared for such a position in the future.

Reflection and Response

What insights have you had and actions have you taken to keep you from being derailed by your emotions?

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Self-Disclosure Inspires Trust

Self-disclosure is the sharing of intensely personal life details with people who normally would not be privy to that information.

Self-disclosure is generally seen as a “no-go” in business because it can leave the discloser vulnerable vis-à-vis others. However, if used wisely, self-disclosure can have just the opposite effect: it can strengthen a leader’s position and inspire trust especially in the area of team building.

How Self-Disclosure Strengthens Leaders

An organization cannot be effective without a climate of trust, mutual respect, and encouragement. When leaders selectively disclose personal information, such as how they struggled, then failed, to reach the best decision, they reveal their humanity — their common ground with others. It is through this connection that interpersonal trust and respect grow. Self-disclosure strengthens a leader’s position in several ways:

  1. Greater approachability. Employees want to feel an affinity with their bosses; they want to identify with their leaders. In an interview with the New York Times, Peter Löscher, president and CEO of Siemens AG remarked: “I’m always telling people, ‘Look, I make a mistake every day…’’’ When he says that, his employees see him as an ordinary person with foibles like themselves. This encourages employees to think: “He openly admits that he makes mistakes so he’s not going to judge me harshly when I make them.”
  2. Learning compassion for one’s self and othersOne of the toughest lessons in life is to acknowledge one’s mistakes and imperfections without self-judgment. Too often people beat themselves up (and others!). Self-compassion entails learning from your mistakes and continuing to improve without allowing those mistakes to diminish you or inhibit future action. When Peter Löscher said, Look, I make a mistake every day…,”  he ended with “…but hopefully, I’m not making the same mistake twice.”
  3. Developing greater levels of trust, loyalty, and friendship. Some conditions lend themselves to fast and deep bonding; surviving cancer is one of them. While one of the authors was coaching an executive, the executive was diagnosed with cancer and underwent surgery. The author had been through the same process. In sharing their stories of courage and persistence, they forged a deeper bond of trust. As a result, they addressed work issues at a more philosophical level, leading to significant leadership growth.

How to Make Self-Disclosures

It is important to follow four guidelines when making disclosures: establish your purpose, know your audience, satisfy the audience’s needs and develop their trust.

  1. Clarify your purpose for sharing.  You could choose to reveal your mistakes and setbacks, for example, in order to encourage others to be persistent in the face of discouragement and failure. The message: “I’ve been there; I understand and identify with you.  I made it and you can make it too”.
  2. Know the cultural norms of your audience before revealing aspects of yourself. The tendency toward self-disclosure in some sectors of the USA, for example, can seem strange and entirely inappropriate to cultures that are more formal and less expressive. There may be other ways to achieve your purpose.
  3. Meet the needs of your audience. For instance, tell the story of your personal struggle to help the audience with theirs. Don’t reveal information that is not helpful to the audience—it could make them feel uncomfortable instead of inspired or encouraged.
  4. Build bonds of trust with key employees and goodwill with employees, in general, before you disclose personal matters. If employees, as a group, have had little direct experience with you or have developed low morale or resentment, self-disclosure can backfire. You may find the group using your personal revelations against you.
  5. In self-disclosing, use self-deprecating humor – it will humanize you and make you more approachable.

Case Study

At 39, Jim was the youngest and newest senior vice president in a manufacturing business. He had earned an MBA and advanced engineering degree. When Jim was referred for executive coaching, the referral noted: “He is our best and brightest but he intimidates everyone; this is resulting in decreased collaboration and low morale.” Jim was, in fact, a sensitive individual who cared deeply for others but his colleagues did not perceive him that way. Jim took some important actions in self-disclosure to become more transparent to his team and build their trust:

  • In meetings, instead of giving the right answer (and he was usually right), Jim disclosed that he was trying to be less opinionated and more inclusive.
  • With his (trusted) boss, Jim expressed vulnerability by admitting that he needed personal time off because of family problems.
  • Jim told his team that he was working on listening and validating their opinions without jumping to conclusions. He said he was trying to sound less interrogative by asking more open-ended questions.

When Jim made public his fallibility and desire to change, others identified more with him and were less intimidated. By listening carefully and acknowledging others’ input, they trusted him more. Collaboration increased as team members began to express their ideas and concerns more openly. If used wisely self-disclosure does not weaken leaders, it empowers them. The key is to know when and how to use it.

(This article was first published in September 2011)

Written by Cedric Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

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Perfectionism – The Voice of the Oppressor

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life” – Anne Lamott

Everything Joe did was “perfect”.  He considered every possible angle in formulating a business plan or while working on a project. He continually demanded more research. Deadlines came and went and he drove everyone including his boss crazy with his perfectionism. The result. Projects that missed deadlines.  His boss had a dilemma. Keep Joe on the team because of his elegant products or solutions or find another team leader who could get it done but not necessarily right. Unfortunately perfectionism slowed Joe down and, parenthetically, caused him much personal distress because he missed deadlines.

Joe was referred for coaching because of his disruptive perfectionism. His strength, attention to detail was becoming his weakness.

I was struck by a recent article in FastCompany “The Truth About Being “Done” Versus Being “Perfect”. The author, Martin Lindstrom contrasts the culture of caution in many established organizations with that at Facebook where two slogans drive this innovative culture.

  1. Done is better than perfect
  2. Move fast and break things

I mentioned those two mottos to Joe and he literally went as white as a sheet. He absolutely feared making a mistake and in so doing realized the truth of Shakespeare who wrote:

“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

So what does one (or a corporate culture) do if perfectionism becomes a disadvantage?

  1. Recognize that in the process of trial and error that increasing one’s success means doubling (at least) one’s errors.

Example: I once counseled a person struggling with shyness and who avoided social situations to “go to the dance and ask at least 20 women to dance before he gave up and left.” Person number 16 accepted his invitation to dance and disproved his belief “nobody wants to dance with me”.

  1. In your own risk/award analysis of a potential action do not spend too much time obsessing over the danger of failing. (It depends on your project of course. If you are trying to invent a better parachute your margin for error is much lower).
  1. Don’t let the power of your imagination be crushed by “what if I fail” thoughts. Do not take your eye off the goal and surround yourself by people who believe in and work towards that same goal.

I conclude with a quote from the Lindstrom article.

But at this very moment, someone is hanging one of those fine Facebook posters on their business’ office wall. And like David, armed with little more than a slingshot and a stone, they’re acting on pure courage and just going for it, because that’s one of the rules of survival today–not tomorrow.

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A Dangerous Driver – An Egotist’s Journey

Cedric B Johnson, Ph.D and Kristine MacKain, Ph.D

The car in front of you is wandering from lane to lane, braking unpredictably. A warning signal goes off in your head: “Back off–this person is dangerous.”

 We also encounter “dangerous drivers” in the workplace — ego-driven individuals (or “egotists”) who cause “accidents” by alienating others and straining relationships. Egotists face special challenges in the workplace but they can change to become more effective leaders.

Who is Behind the Wheel?

When taken to the extreme, egotists are utterly preoccupied with themselves. They take credit for other team members’ work. In team discussions, they have a habit of returning the focus back to themselves. When attention is diverted from them, they become sulky or angry. They are not in control of themselves; rather, their ego is driving them.

How Egotists Undermine Relationships

In seeking to get their needs met, egotists use other people; they listen to and include others only insofar as they find them useful to their cause. In interactions, they’re wondering: “How do I benefit from this relationship?” “How do you make me look good?” Because egotists don’t value the opinion of others as much as their own, others may feel marginalized and expendable, making collaboration difficult.

Story

John was a senior manager in his company’s customer service unit.  He was extremely clever and used his intelligence to dominate other team members. In meetings, he minimized or dismissed others’ contributions and seemed distracted when others were talking. Frustrated, John’s reports and peers talked to his manager, saying that while his brilliant ideas were indispensible, he was not a team player.

After chronically failing to address collaboration as a development goal, John’s manager told John that although he was a high-potential leader, he was not ready for promotion to the level of Director. John expressed anger, saying his team did not respect him because he intimidated them with his extraordinary skills. He also expressed frustration because he considered himself ready to assume the prestigious position of Director.  John spurned the concerns of his team while focusing on his ego-based needs for career advancement. It was at this point that he was referred for coaching.

How can John make the necessary changes to get his promotion and become an effective leader?

Four Milestones in Implementing Change

1. Wanting to Change

John’s ego needs — to be the “smartest person in the group” and stay at the center of attention — hurt his leadership effectiveness in collaboration. He wanted to change but not because of the concerns of other team members. Rather, John’s motivation to change derived from his ego-drive (i.e., getting his desired promotion).

In working with egotists, we first need to address the frustration or discomfort that results from their ego needs being thwarted, not the collateral damage that their shortcomings have on others.  It is initially unproductive to try to help these individuals see the error of their ego-driven ways. Egotists have a very difficult time shifting their focus away from their ego-based needs. The primary impetus for change initially should be on improving collaboration skills in order to get promoted.

2. Changing Behaviors

John understood immediately that improving his collaboration would lead to an eventual promotion. However, he needed to learn a set of new, specific behaviors to replace the old behaviors that weren’t working for him. He needed explicit instruction on how to be more collaborative; for example, ask powerful questions, summarize others’ comments, recognize and implement others’ contributions. He also needed feedback from his group on how he was doing.  Because John lacked insight into the disruptive nature of his ego drive, the focus was on changing behaviors, not raising self-awareness.

3. Making John Accountable for Change

The biggest agent for personal change in an organization comes from social and political pressure. John knew that his manager was watching for change and that this would be the condition for promotion. Having his feet held to the fire insured that the changes were implemented.

4. Discovering What Inspires John

As John improved his collaboration skills, he embarked on a deeper journey of reflection to discover what inspired him. He found that his true passion was using his strategic thinking skills to solve business problems. Because a director position afforded him that opportunity, he was further motivated to make the necessary changes to secure the Director position. Now that John was connected to what inspired him he revealed his underlying potential to find deeper meaning in his work.

The leadership journey of the egotist is difficult but not impossible. For egotists, there are two underlying drives: the drive of the ego and the drive that comes from inspiration. The catalyst for change is the pressure from the workplace to reduce egotistical behaviors and the discovery, facilitated by mentors/coaches, of inspirational sources.

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Choose Empathy

Are some people more wired to be empathic than others?

If empathy is an ability to imagine oneself in another’s place and understand the other’s feelings, desires, ideas, and actions, then what’s the scoop on who can become more empathic?

In the past the prevailing view was that empathy was hard-wired; you either have it or you don’t.

However, a series of recent studies demonstrate that empathy is a choice. In a summary of recent research on empathy in the NY Times (July 10th 2015) authors Daryl Cameron, Michael Inzlicht, and William A Cunningham conclude,

“Empathy is only as limited as we choose it to be.”

Now when I am asked at the beginning of a coaching assignment, “Help this person lead more from the heart,” I do not believe that their empathy is a fixed feature of their personality. I begin to work for change right away with one caveat in mind,

the leader must want to change.

When people focus intentionally on becoming more empathic and repeatedly practice certain empathy building skills,

They change.

Simple empathy building steps may include,

  1. Putting a label on the feelings in the room. The team may be experiencing a lot of anger and frustration in the midst of a challenging project. Instead of ignoring the emotional elephant in the room the leader merely states, “I sense the frustration level to be very high right now!” He/she does not try to FIX the emotional state of the group but normalizes it by giving it a name. It is amazing how this action on the part of leaders helps people believe “our pain is understood”.
  1. Walking in the shoes of others. It is a know fact that the more senior and more powerful the leader is, the less likely he/she identifies with the pain of others. When executives remember what it was like when they were more junior they can see the perceived threats felt by their reports more realistically.
  1. Moving the focus away from the leader’s own needs and feelings. There is nothing more blinding to the needs of others than a preoccupation with our own agenda or ideas. Empathy involves a voluntary shift to the world of the other.

Try making the choice to be more empathic, repeatedly practice empathy building strategies, and watch yourself change.

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The Struggle Between the Ego and the Soul

There are two very different and competing voices—that of the ego and that of the soul—that live in constant conflict within us.

We are socialized in our culture to be ego-driven; that is, to operate from a position of exclusive self-reference, as expressed in popular expressions such as “What’s in it for me” or “It’s my way or the highway.” The problem with this approach is that it is very narcissistic and myopic and can threaten, or even destroy, the potential of a productive  connection with others.

We have all struggled with our egos to some degree or another and have experienced its divisive and disruptive results.  Consequently, our first task is to learn to be aware of the other ego-driven voices that threaten to dominate us in making personal and leadership decisions.

An example of leading with the ego-driven voice is expressed in the statement of a devotee of an Eastern religion in Asia:

“One teaching is, you make money Monday to Friday, then on Saturday and Sunday you come to the temple and meditate and your mind will be more supple and clear so that on Monday you can make more money.”

Contrast this with a more soul-driven statement from the Dalai Lama:

“If we begin with the simple act of regularly helping others, for instance, even if we don’t feel particularly kind or caring, we may discover an inner transformation is taking place, as we gradually develop feelings of compassion [and, we would add, a commitment to the needs of the world-at-large].

Each of the statements above reflects clear goals and highly focused action. But they are qualitatively different in their primary motivation as well as the feelings that are experienced by individuals who live by the one perspective or the other.

While the motivation behind the first statement is obviously solely economic, the second one is about the type of (compassionate) people we can become through our individual or group contribution to causes greater than the self.

In regards to the feeling states of living from the ego or the soul imagine the two following scenarios.

A person has just heard that they had received a highly contested and sometimes contentious promotion at their place of work. The announcement is made and the person feels a mixture of happiness and threat. Happiness at the achievement but ambivalence about being able to live up to the demands of the position or the fear that they may have reached a plateau in their career.

In the second scenario a person has just spent an evening with work colleagues at a dinner at their favorite restaurant. They had known each other of years, trusted each other deeply, and shared common interests and values. The conversation was convivial, explored deep issues, displayed personal and intellectual honesty, and reinforced the strong bond between the colleagues. This person left the event with a deep feel of happiness and contentment that let her sleep in peace that night.

These two very different and competing voices—that of the ego and that of the soul—are in a push-pull struggle within us.

Our task, in regards to these competing voices, is to take the time and imagination to listen to the voice of the soul and honor its directives. (We also need to recognize the voice of the ego for what it is and make the decision to attend to the soul instead)

The Voice of the Ego

The voice of the ego is used here in the popular sense, as in “He has a big ego” or “Her ego got in the way of team communication.” Intuitively, from this perspective, we are saying that the ego-driven person is being self-preoccupied, and (psychologically speaking), trying to hide a sagging self-esteem.

The ego is a cunning enemy that comes disguised as a friend. It tells that we are worth something because of our achievements, looks, possessions, social status, or intellectual abilities. It hints at a sense of entitlement and that makes us feel we deserve preferential treatment by life. It can prompt us to be sultry or angry when we are not the center of attention. So how then is the ego an enemy? We become so attached to the needs that it says it will fulfill in our lives we live in constant fear of losing things like prestige, status, or our youthfulness.

(We all struggle with our ego. But the tragedy is when we don’t see it for what it is. We judge that we a really living life to its fullest when really all we have is the illusion of the self. In fact, some call it the false self. This is the self is built on the lies we were told about what we were or should become. “You are the impression that you make” or “You are what you do ” or “You are your physical appearance.” And when we bought into such messages we lived inauthentic lives and missed what it meant to be a soul-inspired being).

In the end the ego is the illusion or poor imitation of the soul. It gives the mistaken impression that life is being lived to its fullest. After all is the person not “being of service in the community” and “making a difference for good in the world?” We may see philanthropic acts, selfless service, and bursts of imagination and energy and believe that we are viewing the soul at work. The trouble arises when the person’s chief driving force is self-aggrandizement, attachment to the fruit of the action, the desire to live up to the dictates of the false self. The public relations impact of the act is more important than the fact that people are helped.

Motivation is the litmus test for our behavior to determine whether the origins are ego or soul-driven. But first we must understand the origins of the ego to know why we do what we do.

Its ways are learned but the origins often go back to early childhood. Ego-driven people often learn their ways by the manner in which their parents regarded them. The parents who sought to gain their worth through children may have emphasized the child’s looks or performance. The parents felt inadequate but the children made them look good. The children became the means for their own self-aggrandizement. Consequently, the children never really learn to be accepted for themselves and instead, came to believe that their value rested with how well they score on family measures of success or importance. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common in our culture that assigns value to an individual based on performance or appearance rather than character or contribution.

Ways to get beyond the ego

1. Feel the pain 

The pain of having one’s person eclipsed by measures of performance can be our teacher after we are left feeling empty and unsatisfied. Unfulfilled longings linger as we desire acceptance for what we are or the value of our contribution.

The soul gets bored with the empty pursuit of image. But the ego is not easily dissuaded since rewards like praise and promotion are not to be sniffed at. It is also very cunning in its efforts to ‘con’ us into believing that it is really what life is all about. Both the advertisement and the ego tell us “Life does not get any better than this” or “the one who dies with the most toys wins”.

The good news is that a creative tension is set up in the conflict between the soul and ego. It can force an examination of the rewards and consequences of attending to either voice. We read of a lawyer who leaves a high-powered job to teach inner city kids because she perceives that to be her passion and calling. She followed the call of the soul. Like her, we all suffer the pangs of a life lived apart from the soul seen in boredom, lack of imagination, and sterile relationships. We then search for a better way. And that path is for us to “wake up”

2. Wake up.. When we ask ourselves questions like, “What are the implications to me of,

a life with an attachment to all my ego needs?”

a lack of meaningful and fulfilling connection to others?”

a sense that there must be more to life than this”

we give ourselves a wake up call to a better way, one where we are not a prisoner to the dictates of the ego. That is when we begin to live by

The Voice of Soul

The soul speaks in subtle, indirect, and surprising ways. However, since our soul is primarily detectable in the quality of our relationships how do we know when it is speaking to us and we are living according to its dictates or prompting? We experience soul when we:

Feel connected to someone’s essence. (The person reports feeling understood and validated)

Respond to the person’s deepest needs and values (For example, that person’s need to make a contribution)

And that connection inspires them. (The person reports that we have connected with one of their five inspirational sources).

We are aware of and remain detached from the needs of the ego.

Any disruption in a relationship, whether it is through unresolved conflict, unwarranted assumptions, jealousy, envy, or hurtful events that may have occurred, leaves us with the choice. Gary Zukav is right when he writes: “What you intend is what you become.” In order to be soul-driven persons and therefore inspirational we need to choose to live from the soul and this involves understanding and starving the ego.

The bottom line is

Soul-driven living is a choice of people decide to be awake.

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The Boss Everyone Wants

Students sometimes choose a university because of a particular professor. Employees stay in a job because of a boss.

Recently a heavily recruited IT professional told his boss that he chose to stay in his current company because that boss cared for him as a person as well as his career path. That’s the boss we all want.

Here are some other characteristics of the ideal people leader. He/she

  1. Sets the performance bar high for all in the organization. Working on the premise that most everyone wants to do a good job, the great leader has high expectations from his/her workforce.
  1. Sees the potential in every report. A leader who sees capabilities within us that we barely see in ourselves has a way of bringing out the best in us.
  1. Provides the encouragement and resources for all employees to grow professionally. An “I trust that you can do it” attitude is the modus operandi of an empowering leader.
  1. Spends regular 1:1 time with direct reports working on their career path. The fact that this boss takes regular time to be with us on what we want for our professional lives leaves a deep and lasting positive impression.
  1. Gives accurate feedback on how each person is doing in his/her assignments. In turn these bosses thrive on accurate feedback from people in their network.
  1. Has a deep personal concern for everyone in the work environment. I know a CEO who knows the names of the people who serve him in the cafeteria plus details about their families.
  1. Inspires people by finding inspirational sources within them. Rather than push us towards goals the great boss pulls us in the direction of our work-related passions.

These are the seven habits of highly effective bosses.

What other characteristics of the empowering boss have you experienced?

As a boss, how are you doing in terms of the above best people management practices?

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An Inspirational Leader

What does it take to be an inspirational leader?

A few weeks ago I heard a CEO speak to his senior leaders. He was not the most dynamic speaker I’ve heard but he had three things that touched an inspirational nerve in his organization. He displayed a clear vision, deep ethical commitment (what we will not do with our customers), and was genuinely authentic.

We all know that we need to inspire individuals to get them to follow us and make that vision a reality.

In our book “What Inspirational Leaders Do” (Kindle 2008) we explore what inspirational leaders do to bring out the best in their teams. Specifically, we discuss several important needs or behaviors that you, as a leader, will need to know in order to inspire your team to work together to realize the vision you have for your organization.

The needs we have identified have arisen out of our work in coaching and developing business leaders all over the world. Over the last decade, we often began our first coaching session by asking, “What inspires you?” The answers to this question were compelling in that they typically reflected an individual leader’s deeply held values or needs. We subsequently grouped these needs into five categories that we call The Five Sources of Inspiration.

Incidentally, our observations were confirmed in part by seeing how this inspiring CEO  galvanized action around his compelling vision.

The Five Sources of Inspiration

The need to:

1. Make a contribution to benefit individuals or the world-at-large. (Contribution)

2. Work in alignment with one’s highest values. (Character)

3. Engage one’s creative potential, to imagine a better way. (Imagination)

4. Be interpersonally moved or emotionally engaged to work toward achieving team goals. (Empathy)

5. Be acknowledged and affirmed for one’s unique talents and strengths, and engage those skills in meeting work challenges. (Expecting the Best)

Once engaged, these needs drive individuals to perform and produce at levels they previously may not have thought possible. A leader’s first step in inspiring others is to identify which source(s) of inspiration drive a particular individual and then appeal to that source.

That is the basic theme of our book and has been explored in this blog over the past five years.

How have others like friends, teachers, and mentors inspired the best in you and helped you realize your potential?

And, in turn, how do you inspire those around you?

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