On any given day, in just about any given business publication, you will find one or more laundry lists of skills, qualities, behaviors, competencies, and whatevers that are attributed to an effective, successful or great leader. It’s actually a bit mind-boggling. How can anyone possibly be all of that?!
Well, here’s the thing.
I’ve been working with leaders at all levels for…well, a long time. I’ve implemented leadership development programs across organizations large and small, and I’ve worked one-on-one with senior leaders and executives. I’ve been a leader in the corporate world, on boards and in my own business. And here’s what I’ve learned. While the leadership competencies touted in those lists are important, it’s time to get real about what makes a leader truly extraordinary. It’s not rocket science. It’s what I call the Get Real Leadership Basic 6 (or Leadership According to Karen).
Learn. Be self-aware: know your strengths and be willing to admit (and work on) your blind spots. Make the time to get to know your team. Be curious. Cultivate a growth mindset and set an example of continuous learning. Provide learning opportunities for your people and encourage them to keep growing.
TAWK. That’s New Jersey-speak for talk. Communicate, communicate, communicate. People need to hear things multiple times in multiple ways before they really “hear” it. Adapt your communication style to the listener – everyone takes in information differently. Remember it’s about them, not you. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Oh! And don’t forget to listen!
Tomorrow. What is your vision? Share it. Give your people a reason to want to stay. Let them know what’s next, how “we’re” going to get there, and what they can do to help. Give your people a reason to believe in the future and to want to participate in building it.
Resources. Give your people adequate resources, tools and support to do their jobs. Then get out of the way and let them do it. Don’t make them beg or want to look elsewhere to fulfill their goals. Be sure you have the right resources to make your team successful.
Please and Thank You. Say it. Always. No excuses. Always be courteous and kind. Express your gratitude and mean it. No one gets tired of hearing: “Please” and “Thank You.”
Laugh. Laugh often and laugh loudly. You spend a whole lot of time working. Make sure you create a work environment that people are happy to come to, where they feel supported and connected, where they can do their best work. Then enjoy the ride!
You’ll note that integrity, honesty and trust are not on this list. Why? Because they are just “no-brainers.” Without trust there is absolutely no one who is going to follow you anywhere. Trust is the foundation of a leader.
“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader. A great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Till next time,
Research shows that 75-90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. Additionally, 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress and…(as if that is not enough) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declared stress a workplace hazard. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually! What is wrong with this picture???
We all know that a little stress is OK. It keeps our fight-or-flight juices working, and often helps us get the job done. And, we all know someone who lives by the motto: “I do my best work under pressure.”
However, too much stress can contribute to a laundry list of health issues, including headaches, nausea, high blood pressure, chest pain, and insomnia. Not to mention how being over-stressed (and no doubt cranky!) can impair relationships, decrease productivity, and increase the risk of accidents.
Having too much stress, or as we call it at Lumina Learning, being “overextended,” can even turn your positive qualities into negative ones. For example, someone who is detail-focused and analytical may exhibit “analysis paralysis” when overextended. Someone who is typically creative and social, may become impulsive and over-emotional under extreme stress. And the “people person” who brings harmony to every meeting may suddenly become stubborn and resistant. When Mr. Nice Guy turns into Attila the Hun, it’s time to get a handle on stress.
So…how do you do it? Start by taking some time to sit down and review your day, your week, your life. Where and when do you notice your body crying “uncle” via a headache, mood swing, or other physical signal? Can you identify particular responsibilities, activities, people that are stress triggers for you? Is it the unexpected that gets to you, the volume of work, the work itself, or the fact that you never seem to get a break?
Write your personal/professional stressors down and then select and prioritize three that you will work on to reduce. Do you need to have a “difficult conversation” with someone to resolve a lingering issue? Do you need to request more resources to meet a looming deadline you are worried about? Ask for what you need.
And, to get started on reducing your stress level in general, here are some stress busters for you.
Set boundaries. Establish a time after which you do not take work phone calls or respond to work emails, texts, smoke signals, whatever. Manage expectations about your “work hours.”
Be willing to say “no.” When asked to do something with a clearly unreasonable deadline, or without appropriate resources, explain the impact it will have on your current work. Offer alternative dates or suggest alternative resources.
Stop and pause. Do a personal check-in. Adjust priorities, if necessary. Take a break.
Breathe. Deeply and often. Consider meditation. Take a walk in the park or along the beach.
Laugh. I can’t recommend this enough. Find something to laugh about every day. It’s good medicine!
“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change…Life’s too short to be anything but happy.” – Unknown
Till next time,
In my last blog I wrote about the importance of leadership development at all levels. And, as I said, it is especially important for people to receive training as they make the transition from being an individual contributor to leading a team. With that being said, it is EQUALLY important that new leaders – and leaders at all levels – proactively share the responsibility for their own development. After all, “The road to success is not a path you find, but a trail you blaze.” (Robert Brault) Ya gotta put some skin in the game.
So, what is your responsibility, as a leader, in initiating and continuing your personal development?
First, become self-aware. Spend some time reflecting on the behaviors and skills that have helped you thus far in your career and be honest with yourself about those that have worked against you. If given the opportunity to take a personality assessment, 360-review, or candid conversation with your leader about your strengths and development areas – take it. Gaining self-awareness is the first step on your journey (blaze that trail!) to becoming an effective leader.
Create your personal vision, or as I like to call it, your leadership mantra. What kind of leader do you want to be? Who was the best leader you ever had? What was remarkable about them? In the leadership model I use – Lumina Leader – we look at four domains of leadership: Leading with Vision, Leading with Drive, Leading to Deliver, and Leading through People. As leaders, we should develop competency in each of these domains, yet we tend to operate most frequently in one or two of them. Here’s a brief description of each. Where do you see yourself?
Leading with Vision - focuses on strategy, innovation and inspiring the team.
Leading with Drive - provides the team with very clear direction and is focused on achieving excellence.
Leading to Deliver - strength lies in planning, follow-through and accountability.
Leading through People - focuses on coaching and developing the team and creating win-win partnerships.
Identify and acknowledge gaps. We don’t often associate humility with leadership and yet, the most effective leaders are willing to admit they don’t know it all. They are continuously learning. What are the areas you need to develop to become the leader you want (and need) to be? Make a list, make a plan, set some goals – create a trail map for your leadership journey.
Take action / be an advocate. Back to the other half of this leadership development shared responsibility. Once you have your trail map in hand, leverage any leadership development offered by your organization. If none is offered, advocate for it. Leadership development comes in many forms, and the most effective programs are a combination of them. Learning is a process, not just an event.
In my leadership development work with organizations, I’ve seen the greatest benefits come from programs where we used a variety of components from the following: workshops, mentoring or coaching, assessments, stretch assignments to apply the learning, teach-back sessions conducted by participants, leadership forums, required reading, etc.
When the responsibility for leadership development is shared, with leaders driving their personal development and organizations providing the opportunities and resources for them to do so, everyone succeeds.
Till next time,
How many times in the last six months have you said “yes” to something you really didn’t want to do? Or allowed yourself to be burdened with meeting expectations that were unreasonable or out of your control? Or avoided saying something when a person or situation made you uncomfortable? Most of us have been in one or more of these situations at some point. We kick ourselves afterward for acquiescing, yet may rationalize it by the desire to be “seen as a team player,” or, not wanting to “hurt someone’s feelings.” Here’s the problem with this. We teach people how we want to be treated. And when we keep saying “yes” when we’re thinking “no” and don’t set and communicate our limits – our boundaries – people are going to keep asking us, and expecting us, to do things we don’t want to do, or to do more than originally agreed. (Can we say “scope creep?”) Eventually we become resentful. And when we finally draw the line, it may not be pretty. Better to set, communicate and maintain your personal boundaries up front. Here’s how.
Be self-aware. Knowing your boundaries starts with understanding your values and what’s important to you. If having personal downtime in the evening or family time on the weekend is important to you, then you would want to make it clear that you’re offline in the evenings and not working on weekends. Difficult, I know, in this always-connected work environment. And, this environment was created by all of us who said “yes” to being always connected and working a ridiculous number of hours in the week (including weekends!) It’s up to us to change it.
Set your boundaries. Decide what your boundaries are. Prioritize them. Write them down. Internalize them. Practice saying them in front of the mirror. Give yourself permission to have boundaries and acknowledge the benefits – more respect from others; more respect for yourself; less stress and anxiety and/or feelings of resentment; more free time; more time to focus on the projects you want to do, etc.
Communicate them. Be direct. If you don’t want your boss and co-workers contacting you at all hours, be specific about the times you’re available. On projects, manage others’ expectations up front with regard to what you’re capable of and the timeframe in which you can achieve it. Be very clear about scope, and the cost – in time, dollars or other work – when scope expands beyond that.
Learn to say no. Saying “no” is hard, especially when it’s to your leader, or to someone whose relationship you value. Yet as workplace communication consultant Diane Amundson says, “Good bosses appreciate employees who have the confidence to say no.” It’s all in how you frame it.
Challenge the stories that hold you back. Think about times in the past when you’ve said “yes” and later regretted it. Or allowed yourself to be taken advantage of. What held you back from being more direct? Fear of losing your job? Fear of disappointing the other person? Most people are unaware of how their actions impact us unless we tell them, and will appreciate being told what our limits are.
Be consistent. Once you’ve established and communicated your boundaries, work to maintain them. This will help educate others how to treat you, and will contribute to your well-being and peace of mind.
“I encourage people to remember that “No” is a complete sentence.” - Gavin de Becker
Till next time, Karen
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” - Gloria Steinem
As the New Year begins, everyone is talking about losing weight, working out more, eating right, getting more sleep. I am exhausted just listening to the same blah…blah…blah every year. Why set yourself up for failure? Instead of those same old broken-by-February resolutions, how about this year you think about all that can be possible for you?
We wake up every morning and start our routine, and before we know it, it’s bedtime. Then suddenly it’s July and everyone is saying “can you believe it’s July already?” And then before you know it, it’s December, and everyone is running around saying Happy Holidays!! Give…me…strength!
Do at least one thing this year that will stretch your being…your thinking…your heart…your soul… Think about it. What will that be?
To figure it out, you have to slow down long enough for your mind catch up to you. My best dreaming and thinking comes when I run. I don’t use ear buds to hear music, and I don’t run with anyone. It’s just me and nature. I sometimes amaze myself at how smart I am when I run. I come up with ideas I would never come up with if I were at home or in my office. For me, running is my dream space. What is yours?
I’m declaring 2017 The Year of Possibilities. I encourage you to take some time and find your “dream space” whatever that might be – running, a walk in the park, a stroll on the beach, a comfy chair by the fire, etc. – and allow yourself to dream about possibilities.
Here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Just DO IT already. How often have you said over the past few years – “I can’t do that now, it’s not the right time”? Well, if not now, when? Go on that vacation, learn a new language, or how to play an instrument (air guitar does not count). Read that book you’ve been meaning to read for years. Or just do nothing for an entire weekend!
2. Stop multi-tasking. How many studies do we need to read to be convinced that multi-tasking is nothing more than getting nothing done well? Besides, it is very disrespectful. And how are you going to see the possibilities if you are busy doing 3 things at once?
3. Pay attention to what’s around you. Do you ever get home from a day at the office and wonder, “how the heck did I get here?” Commuting can be stressful – by planes, trains or automobiles – and often we just tune out. Open your eyes and allow yourself to see things you miss when you’re just going through the motions.
4. Listen…really listen. What I’m talking about is listening to the signals all around you – what is this wonderful, crazy universe trying to tell you? I can promise you, it ain’t telling you to work more!
5. Dream Big. If you don’t dream for yourself, no one else will. You don’t want a “regret list,” you want a “possibility list.” Say what you want out loud. Tell your friends, family and partner. The more you say it, the more real it becomes.
Expand your thinking and believe in what is possible…
Here’s to a dreamy 2017!!!
Till next time,
A lot of the work I do is around helping people increase their self-awareness and gain clarity on how to develop to their highest potential. I recently discovered that one of the most effective ways to learn about yourself is to face fear and find your way through it.
For me, it was a hiking trip to the Grand Canyon. If you’ve ever been to the Grand Canyon, or seen pictures of it, it’s pretty clear that there are some significant cliffs and drops and ridges. But ah, the beauty! How could any place so majestic, so serene, so awe inspiring, so spiritual, instill such terror into an innocent first-time visitor?
I was soon to find out. In the past, I had a fear of heights, which I thought I’d overcome. Not! (Perhaps hiking down into the Grand Canyon was not such a good way to test that). We did several trails while there, and the hardest was a 7-mile stretch of the Hermit Trail on the South Rim with a 1700 ft. elevation change. The highest point on that trail is over 6,600 feet, and the lowest 2,400 ft, so wherever you are on the trail it’s a long way down!
I have to admit, I was petrified! I was with a group, and two very competent guides, and…I did not want anyone to see my fear or to be held back by it. I’m just not used to being so vulnerable in front of other people. So I cried, silently. I sweated, profusely. I lost my appetite. I moved along the trail in baby steps. And I fooled no one. In fact, one of the other hikers said to me, “I could feel your fear.” Imagine how that made me feel! And as it turns out, I was not the only one who was scared. I just happened to show it (as much as I thought I was hiding it).
Here’s the good news: I survived! By allowing myself to be vulnerable and to completely rely on my team and our leaders I got through it. This gave me the boost of confidence and support I needed to push myself to complete something that was terrifying for me. If I had been on my own, I would have turned back and would never have realized how fantastic it feels to feel the fear and just keep going.
And here’s what I learned:
• Mother Nature is very powerful and she really does rule the world.
• We need to occasionally take stock of who we are in the context of the bigger world – do I love what I do? Am I making a difference? What are the things that really matter?
• It’s OK, and in fact recommended, to rely on others.
• Patience is a virtue. It took 5-6 million years for the Grand Canyon to become the majestic masterpiece it is. Maybe instant gratification isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
• Feeling fear is OK and actually good. (I don’t recommend being terrified, however).
• Embrace adventure – stretch everything you think you know about yourself.
Hiking the Grand Canyon was a wonderful and enlightening adventure. I’m very proud of my accomplishment. I might even try it again. Someday. In the meantime, there are so many other adventures to pursue!
Till next time,