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Just Saying “Sorry” Doesn’t Cut It

September 24th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we’ve heard multiple “I’m sorry” statements from public figures who have been accused of bad behavior. Most of them sound pretty much the same. “I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt my family, my friends, my (fill in the blanks)…

Let’s get real.  Just saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it.  Apology not accepted.

While you can’t go back and undo whatever the offense or error was, a few robo-words in response to it do not in any way compensate, nor do they make the offended party feel any better. You need to take ownership, acknowledge the impact of your error or offense, and assure the other person that it won’t happen again.  In other words, you need to be sincere about it. Saying “sorry” and being sorry are not the same things.

This applies to all errors or infractions, not just the big and public ones.

Imagine this scenario.  You’re on a project team with four other people.  The target project completion date is looming, and your deliverable is key to hitting that target. You’ve had a hellish couple of weeks. Family issues, and “fires” in your day-to-day responsibilities have put you behind. You didn’t alert anyone, because you were so sure you’d be able to catch up.  The day of reckoning – the status meeting – has arrived. How do you convey “mea culpa” to your team?

"I’m really sorry, folks. Between family issues and fighting fires there was just no way I could get it finished. I know it puts us behind, but it just couldn’t be helped."

Or…

"I realize that my slipping this deadline has put our hitting the target date in peril. I should have given you a heads up early last week when I first recognized I might not make it. I didn’t, and I know that was irresponsible. Here’s what I’m going to do to get us back on track, and how I’ll prevent things like this in the future…"

As a member of the project team, which would convey more sincerity to you?

I’m on a mission to encourage more kindness and courtesy in people’s day-to-day lives. Promoting sincere apologies is part of that.  We’ve seen multiple examples of insincere apologies from politicians and other public figures. Enough already.

Let’s move the tide in a different direction by: 1) taking ownership; 2) acknowledging the impact; and 3) assuring the injured party that it won’t happen again.

Till next time,

Karen

 

conflict resolution, Kindness, Learning, Life, Relationships

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Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency

June 21st, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Is it just me, or does rudeness seem to be on the rise?

You walk through an airport and it’s like “bumper-people” – people walking and talking on their phones and not paying attention to what’s in front of them. Or what about people who have a long (and loud) conversation on their phone without considering that maybe no one else really wants to hear it?  Or when you’re in a restaurant with someone and throughout your conversation you can see that they have one eye tilting toward the mobile which they’ve left on the table top because they’re waiting for an “important call.” So what am I, chopped liver?

Seriously, people. Put the phone away. Talk softly. Look where you’re going.

And it’s not just phone etiquette. It’s common courtesy and respect for others that seem to be taking a back seat to some individuals’ needs to be first in line, to take all the credit for something (that they worked on with others) or to shape their environment so that it works best for them, regardless of the consequences or how it might impact others.

A while back I wrote a blog about “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.” (Leading by example. Ahem.)  I’ve borrowed a few and added a few to create Karen’s Rules of Civility.

Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.

Say “Please and Thank you.” Always.

Be accountable. Do what you say you’re going to do by when you say you’re going to do it.

Be on time. Being chronically late to meetings or events or dinner shows a lack of respect for others.

Remember, we’re all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone’s bad day.

Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.

Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).

Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”

Be curious. Never stop learning.

Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

It’s not rocket science. Set the example and hopefully others will follow.

You can hear more on this blog topic in my podcast, Rudeness is NOT a Core Competency.  Let’s bring courtesy and kindness back!

Till next time,

Karen

Accountability, Gratitude, Kindness, Life, Personal development

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Accepting the Gift of Feedback

May 21st, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Most of us have a tough time receiving feedback, especially when it’s uninvited. We either immediately reject it (“What does she know anyway?”) or we take it so personally that it tampers with our basic self-esteem (“I can never do anything right.”)

Yet here’s the thing. Feedback is a growth opportunity. The key is in having the right mindset to take advantage of that opportunity.

Here’s how.

Shift your thinking. In her book, Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, talks about two mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence is a fixed trait and that it’s talent not effort that creates success. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, believe that “brains and talent are just the starting point.” They recognize that continuous learning is essential for great accomplishment. Practice a growth mindset by being receptive to feedback.

Ask for it. Not from everyone, but from people you respect and who know you. They may have some ideas that can help you grow.  They’ve been waiting for your permission to share them with you. Be specific in the ask. “I want to be sure I’m conveying confidence when I’m presenting. What observations do you have, and how can I improve?” Research shows that people who seek feedback have higher performance ratings and are happier overall.

Conversely, a 3-year study by Leadership IQ found that the biggest reason new hires fail (46% of them fail within the first 18 months) is because they cannot accept feedback. Seriously? You’d think that, being new, they’d be more open to it. Nope. Of those who fail, for 26% it’s because they’re uncoachable and for 23% it’s due to lack of emotional intelligence (which also relates to being able to accept feedback.) Only 11% fail due to lack of technical skills.

Listen. Even when feedback is uninvited (or unwelcome) allow yourself to just listen. Ask for clarification – and/or a specific example – to be sure you understand what the other person meant. If you feel an emotional response coming on, take a breath (not a sigh and eye roll) and say something like, “Thank you for that feedback. Let me think about it.” Then really do think about it and pull from it what is useful.

Take notes. When someone gives you feedback jot down in your own words what they said. That will take the sting out of it and also give you the opportunity to tie it to specific examples in your work or behaviors. Look for patterns. Maybe there’s a non-word you use all the time that is impacting your credibility when presenting or speaking to customers. Writing that down will make it real and help you think about how to fix it.

Say thank you and follow up. Feedback is a gift. Say thank you. And one of the best ways to show your appreciation is to actually implement what you learned from the feedback. It doesn’t mean that you have to make every change. What it means is that you have to at least think it through and capture the nuggets of wisdom that will contribute to your growth.

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates

Feedback, Leadership, learning and development, Personal development, Uncategorized

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Letting Your New Leaders Sink or Swim? Big Mistake!

March 16th, 2018

By: Karen Colligan

Eighty-four percent of organizations anticipate a shortfall of leaders in the next five years, according to a State of Leadership Development report by Brandon Hall.  And a nearly equal number (83%) say that it’s important to develop leaders at all levels. Yet here’s the thing. Only 5% have actually implemented leadership development at all levels. In fact, the biggest chunk of money spent on leadership development goes toward senior leaders and executives, instead of to those who need it most – first time, frontline leaders. All too often these new leaders are put in a “sink or swim” situation, thrown into the deep end of leading a team and left to figure out for themselves how to stay afloat.

This is both unfair to the new leader and detrimental to the organization.

Most people are promoted into their first leadership role as a result of their high performance as an individual contributor and/or because of their technical skills. Yet what helped them succeed as an individual, will not necessarily contribute to their success as a people leader – where the challenges and responsibilities require a different set of skills. Without some sort of development opportunity early on in their transition from individual performer to leader, new leaders may simply mimic the behaviors of a leader they’ve had in the past, and not necessarily a good one. And those behaviors, once ingrained, are difficult to change.

A survey of HR leaders and practitioners conducted by the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that “the sink or swim mindset toward new managers is ubiquitous.” In that survey, respondents were asked to rank the must-have skills for frontline managers in order of importance. Technical expertise was ranked as Number 7, preceded by:

- Ethics and integrity

- Communicates effectively

- Drives for results/motivation to succeed

- Flexibility/adaptability

- Develops effective teams

- Maintains relationships with internal stakeholders

While some of these skills might be inherent in a new leader, being able to apply them effectively while adapting to leading people – understanding individual strengths, motivators, skill gaps, personalities and how those individuals work together as a team, being accountable not just for their work but for the work of others – requires coaching and support.  Not to mention the challenge that many internally promoted leaders face – transitioning from buddy to boss.

New leader training needs to be a key component of every organization’s learning and development plan. And it should not be just a one-day event around policies, performance reviews and disciplinary actions.  It needs to be structured in a way that gives participants time to apply their learning, receive feedback, and get the ongoing support necessary (mentoring, coaching) to grow into the next line of senior leaders and executives.

Managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Gallup estimates that actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

One last startling factoid for you from that Brandon Hall Report:  More money is spent on leadership development than any other area of corporate training, yet 71% of organizations do not feel their leaders are able to lead their organization into the future.

Doesn't it make sense to take the time to effectively develop leaders from the very beginning?

For more on this topic, check out my podcast: Sink or Swim is NOT Leadership Development.

Till next time,

Karen

company culture, Development, leadership development, New leaders

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Igniting a Campaign for Civility

October 27th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Is it just me, or have you also noticed that people seem to be increasingly cranky, rude and self-absorbed these days? Certainly the polarizing rhetoric of this election campaign doesn’t help. And it’s reflected in our everyday communications and behaviors.

“Please” and “thank you” have all but disappeared. And the immediacy and fervor of social media seem to have unleashed a flood of negative and nasty comments that years ago would have kept Proctor & Gamble soap distributors in business.

Enough already.

It’s time for us to pause and consider, “The Young George Washington’s Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and in Conversation.”

Apparently this is not the first time our society has suffered from a lack of kindness, civility and manners. Originally from a list made by French Jesuits in 1595, Washington wrote out the rules as a handwriting exercise when he was a teenager. There are 110 of them. I won’t share them all, but here are 5 that seem especially relevant today.

25th - Superfluous Compliments and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

65th - Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest. Scoff at none although they give Occasion. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. Be kind!

82nd - Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Careful to keep your Promise. Do what you say you are going to do.

89th - Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust. Don’t gossip or speak behind someone’s back.

110th - Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celestial fire Called Conscience. THINK before you speak, before you write, before you act.

In the spirit of George Washington, I’d like to add some modern-day rules to the list. So here are Karen’s Rules of Civility.

1. Smile – even at a stranger – you never know what amazing things may come of it.
2. Say “Please.” Always.
3. Say “Thank you” and acknowledge the gift or deed or service received.
4. Remember, we are all human; we have good days and bad days. Don’t glory in someone else’s bad day.
5. Listen. Put down your cell phone and engage in conversation.
6. Be kind to one another. (Borrowed from Ellen DeGeneres).
7. Say: “Yes, and…” not “Yes, but…” Be positive! See the possibilities…
8. Tell the truth. Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
9. Be curious. Never stop learning.
10. Forgive. Life is too short to hold a grudge.

Thank you for listening.

Till next time,
Karen

Communication, Gratitude, Kindness, Life, Relationships

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We Can All Use a Little Grit

August 29th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

If you’re like most of us, you’ve been glued over the past couple of weeks (at least for short periods) to the televised coverage of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Those athletes were amazing. Such focus. Such dedication. Such grit.

Speaking of grit, I recently read Angela Duckworth’s best-selling book, Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and I was thinking about it a lot as I heard different athletes share their journey to Olympic competition.  “Sacrifices,” “hard work,” “perseverance,” “goals.”  Those words were common threads in the conversation. Along the way…they fell down, they got up. They lost a competition, they worked harder for the next one.  They got injured, they healed, and got right back in the game. So much of what I heard and observed resonated with what Duckworth describes as “grit.”  She says:

“It is not just about luck, opportunity, and talent – it is about the quality and quantity of engagement.”  There are a lot of talented athletes, but they don’t all make it to the Olympics.

“You have to have stamina and stick to it for years.”  “Grit is a marathon not a sprint.”  Most Olympians have been working toward their Olympic dream since childhood.

“We need to have a Deliberate Practice – engage in one small thing at a time and give it 100% full concentration. Get feedback – what went well and what do you need to do better? Make adjustments by refining and reflecting accordingly.” Sacrifice, hard work, perseverance, goals. And coaching!

So what does this mean for us non-Olympians – in our jobs, in our businesses, in our lives? Few of us can afford to be quite so single-minded, and within a business organization the drive to compete does not always sit well. As Daniel Goleman said in his blog, The Trouble with Grit, “People who are driven toward high achievement can be fantastic individual contributors in an organization, to be sure. But if that’s their only strength, they will be miserable team members and atrocious leaders.”  He also points out the importance of balancing grit with people skills. “Cultivate relationship skills, starting with empathy. Lacking empathy, a high-grit go-getter cares not at all about how his or her driving ambition impacts those around them…There’s nothing wrong with grit per se, just balance it with some emotional intelligence.”

Still, I think that taking some of the concepts from Grit can help us all no matter what we are doing or where we are in our lives – student, worker, athlete. When I think about grit, I think about my parents and what they taught me – you work hard and do your absolute best. You will fall down. Grit is about getting up time and time again and forging ahead. It’s about not allowing other people or circumstances to stop your progress.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

Till next time,

Karen

Development, Learning, Life

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