25Sep/170

This Quiz Reveals Your True Leadership Potential!

Posted by WABC

Most of us think of leaders as people of character. They aren’t people who live vicariously through others, but people who live their own lives and lead by example.

What exactly do we mean by character? Character evolves; circumstances change; what worked in one situation is unsuccessful in another. We take our definition from Robespierre, who claimed that, “No man can step outside the shadow of his own character.” And we add to it that we believe the shadow changes because of our growth and the angle of the light.

Here are six elements of what we’ve come to call character:

  1. Intelligence: The ability to apply critical thinking skills to problems and challenges. Separating how one thinks about something from what one feels about it. Aptitude for learning. The ability to quickly discern and apply patterns and identify distinctions.
  2. Drive or assertiveness: The ability to identify the need for and to create urgency. A goal orientation. Moving through and around obstacles that block others. Finding ways to make something happen rather than creating excuses about why something can’t happen.
  3. Happiness: As characterized in Dan Gilbert’s work at Harvard, happiness isn’t merely about the fortunate circumstances life brings us by chance, but our ability to create “synthetic” happiness (which we often dismiss negatively as rationalization). My getting fired wasone of the best things that ever happened to me, just as a broken arm or a missed flight may be one of yours.
  4. Empathy: Part of strong character and a virtuous life is the ability to put yourself in others’ shoes and understand how they feel. The extension of kindness and the genuine regard for others is a wonderful character trait. This is why passive-aggressive behavior (“Your daughter was accepted at Michigan? Congratulations. Was that her back-up school?”) reflects weak character, because it is malicious and seeks to undermine others.
  5. Reciprocity and friendship: The ability to give as well as take, to contribute as much as benefit, is a strong element of character. Introversion is not a negative, but the unwillingness to help others and to create friendships is. Healthy people maintain friendships, although they frequently change with our circumstances.
  6. Intimacy and trust: Strong character demands the ability to form loving bonds and to allow for vulnerability. The people we coach who make the most progress the fastest are those who are comfortable exposing their fears and weaknesses—being vulnerable in front of others. People incapable of creating strong, intimate bonds in their lives are affected by a key character flaw.

Now for the test.

Rate yourself on a one-to-five scale on our six elements. Ratings are follows.

  • I can’t really say that this is at all like me.
  • Occasionally, I could be described this way.
  • In some circumstances, I’m always like this.
  • This usually describes me.
  • I’m like this.

Score

  1. Intelligence ____
  2. Drive ____
  3. Happiness ____
  4. Empathy ____
  5. Reciprocity ____
  6. Intimacy ____

We’re not asking you to total these elements because the point is to raise each of them to the maximum level. There is no total score above which you are fine if any of the individual ones are low. Our feeling is that a 4 or 5 is needed in each element. Which, if any, are your weak points?

To build character, you need to build these six elements. To evolve character, you need to evolve these elements. Our recommendations:

  1. Intelligence: Read widely and diversely, including fiction, history, biography, science, and philosophy. Don’t allow social media to be your news source. Read the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and similar publications daily. Try to solve word and math problems. Practice writing your opinions in a blog or newsletter, then move to letters to the editor and op-ed pieces. Attend discussion groups, participate in mastermind groups, and invest in self-development experiences. The finest return you’ll ever obtain derives from an investment in yourself.
  2. Drive: Create short-term deadlines. Identify two priorities a day (personal and/or professional) that must be completed. Use a calendar to record your metrics for progress by predetermined dates. Don’t look for blame; find the causes of obstacles and then work to remove them. Don’t rely on others or wait for others, take control of your route to your goals.
  3. Happiness: Find the silver lining in any circumstance. Convince yourself that failing is a learning experience and that failing is far better than never trying. Make the best of situations. If your travel connection is missed, use the time to call friends or prospects, or to write a proposal you’ve been meaning to get to. Buy a book you wouldn’t otherwise have picked up. At the beginning of the day remind yourself of why you’re going to make it a great one, and at the end of the day review what went well, no matter how minor. Focus on the improvements in your behavior (your character) and not on achieving victories that are defined by someone else’s criteria.
  4. Empathy: Think about similar circumstances you’ve experienced as you listen to someone else. Try not to make judgments, but to listen and understand. Don’t position yourself as a teacher but rather as a colleague. Ask for more details, even if you believe you’ve understood the circumstances. Encourage the other person to talk.
  5. Reciprocity: Identify how you would like to be treated if you were the other person (not necessarily as you’ve been treated in the past). Don’t hesitate to give more than you received. Don’t expect a thank you for something that you’re doing as a courtesy or to help. (A lot of us allow a car to cross in front of us in heavy traffic, but some of us become incensed when the other driver doesn’t offer a formal thanks!) Accept the fact that reciprocity doesn’t have to be immediate in all cases.
  6. Intimacy: Be willing to talk about “defeats” and setbacks. Call a failure a failure. Ask others you trust (trust, hence intimacy) what reactions and advice they have. Be open to hearing another’s burning issues even if you consider them to be trivial or irrelevant. Proactively ask for help and opinions. Make an effort to stop being embarrassed by personal questions and expressions of personal feelings.

Note 1: Stumbling on Happiness, Knopf, 2007

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20Sep/170

4 Things Successful People Do to Have Great Relationships!

Posted by WABC

Relationships fuel our journey. Some are constant sources of power, some are present for certain intervals and provide guidance and help. There are others, however, which should be avoided, ended, or minimized because they represent unwanted detours, excess weight, or distraction.

First let’s review different types of relationships.

Some are permanent; examples can include our families, life partners, close friends, and professional colleagues. These are the lifelong bonds we have with some people. These venerable relationships endure not necessarily because of frequency of contact, but because of the nature of the relationship.

Some relationships are transient. Some friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and colleagues enter and leave our lives. Parting can be voluntary or involuntary. Such relationships can be highly valuable and rewarding, even if only for the short term.

Finally, many some relationships are virtual. By virtual relationships, we’re talking about the nature of the relationship itself. These are connections we have (note that they’re called “followers” or “friends” or, literally, “connections”) with electronic representations of people. Virtual friends may be transient or permanent—and, many permanent and transient relationships are enhanced by the use of social media. However, there is a difference between the use of social media as a communications tool for face-to-face relationships versus a source for developing new relationships.

With these distinctions in mind, let’s now focus on sustaining your journey through relationships, whether permanent or temporary or virtual, with these four goals in mind:

  1. We have to give to get. For relationships to be fulfilling we have to invest in them; we can’t simply be takers. What we offer needn’t be tangible (although it can be); it can be listening, support, feedback, or empathy. Relationships are two-way streets. You can’t hog the road.
  2. Relationships are based on trust. Trust is the belief that the other person has your best interests in mind and that you have his/her best interests in mind. Honest feedback and advice, even when painful, are part of caring for the other person.
  3. Relationships are not a zero-sum game. For me to win, you don’t have to lose. For you to win, I don’t have to lose. We can both win (or lose). I am not diminished by your victories. We rejoice in success and bemoan loss for either party.
  4. Relationships need to be appropriate. If you’re promoted, your former colleagues are now subordinates, and your former superiors are now peers. You can reach a level of familiarity and ease in a personal relationship that may not be right for a professional relationship. Similarly, social relationships have their own unspoken rules. You probably wouldn’t act the same way your college friends as you would with your prospective mother-in-law.

One of the things that makes successful people so successful is that they have great relationships. Practice living the four goals above and you will have them too!

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11Jul/170

How to Handle Difficult Conversations Like Great Leaders Do!

Posted by WABC

Most people avoid difficult conversations because they are painful, awkward, and well, difficult. That’s most people. Leaders, managers, and employees who are successful at work have to learn how not to avoid difficult conversations.

Say for instance, you’re a leader and you have to give someone negative feedback about his poor performance on the job. Or look at it from the other side, say you’re an employee, and you need to give your manager criticism about her “soft skills”.

There are a couple of ways to handle these difficult conversations.

You can

  1. focus on the past, give the historical facts to this person of their problems, challenges, and/or issues. Be careful, if poorly delivered feedback can make people very defensive and angry; or you can
  2. focus on the future, provide suggestions and solutions for the future, and possibly inspire the person to make constructive changes that will help her, the team, and the organization. The challenge here is that without knowing a bit about the past, there is no context for the feedforward.

The greatest leaders I know employ both feedback and feedforward. This is truly the key to successfully handling difficult conversations of this type.

Feedback is often necessary. While it can be negative, if delivered well, it is very helpful in setting the stage for why change is needed. (The worst leaders I know only give feedback and they often don’t do it well.) Feedforward, on the other hand, is almost always seen as positive because it focuses on solutions rather than problems.

Feedforward is not the miracle cure. As historians tell us if we can learn the lessons of the past, we will be able to avoid making mistakes in the future. We cannot ignore the past just because we are uncomfortable or unskilled in providing feedback. If we provide feedforward without context, it will not have meaning and it will be without impact. The person receiving the feedforward may say “I don’t understand why you are making this suggestion. What relevance does it have to me?” We need to understand and be connected with the past to provide context and then make suggestions for the future.

When providing feedforward, I always suggest that the person frame the feedforward something like this: “Here are four ideas for the future. Please accept these in the positive spirit that they are given. If you can only use two of the ideas, you are still two ahead. Just ignore what doesn’t make sense for you.” This is a forward-looking, positive, non-judgmental statement typical of feedforward.

In August, I am hosting a free webinar series for the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches applicants! You will learn more about feedback and feedforward, and other topics from my books, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There and Triggers. All are welcome to join!

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20Jun/170

How to Get Incredibly Helpful Feedback from Just About Anyone!

Posted by WABC

Feedback is very useful for telling us “where we are.” Without it, I couldn’t work with my clients. I wouldn’t know what the people around my client think about what he or she needs to change. Likewise, without feedback, we wouldn’t know if were getting better or worse. We all need feedback to see where we are, where we need to go, and to measure our progress along the way. And I have a foolproof method for securing it.

When I work with coaching clients, I always get confidential feedback from their coworkers at the beginning of the process. I enlist each person to help me out. I want them to assist, not sabotage, the change process. I do this by saying to them, “I’m going to be working with my client for the next year. I don’t get paid if she doesn’t get better. Better is not defined by me; it is not defined by her. It is defined by you and the other coworkers involved in the process.” I then present them with four requests. I ask them to commit to:

  1. Let go of the past.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Be supportive and helpful–not cynical or negative.
  4. Pick something to improve themselves, so everyone is focused on more “improving” than “judging.”

As you contemplate changing your behavior yourself, you will need to do this same thing with your colleagues. Pick about a dozen people with whom you’ve had professional contact–work friends, peers, colleagues–and ask them to agree to these four commitments. When they do, which they nearly always will, you are ready to begin soliciting feedback from them about yourself.

In my experience, there are a hundred wrong ways to ask for feedback and one right way. Most of us know the wrong ways. We ask people, “What do you think of me?” “How do you feel about me?” “What do you hate about me?” or “What do you like about me?” Think about your colleagues. How many of them are your friends? How many of them really want to express to you their “true” feelings about you, to you?

A better question (and in my opinion the only question that works) is, “How can I do better?” Variations based on circumstances are okay, such as “What can I do to be a better partner at home?” or “What can I do to be a better leader of the group?” You get the idea. Pure issue-free feedback that makes change possible has to a) solicit advice rather than criticism, b) be directed towards the future, and c) be couched in a way that suggests you are, in fact, going to try to do better.

Finally, when you get the answer, when someone gives you the gift of what you can do to be better, don’t respond with your opinion of their advice. It will just sound like denial, rationalization, and objection. Treat every piece of advice as a gift, a compliment, and simply say, “Thank you.” No one expects you to act on every piece of advice. Just act on advice that makes sense to you. The people around you will be thrilled!

Now I want to hear from you!

Do you solicit feedback? How do you go about it? What holds you back from asking for feedback? What holds you back from giving feedback? We all need honest, helpful, constructive feedback. It’s hard to find, so I’m counting on you to give me your ideas, reflections, and experiences with feedback. I look forward to hearing from you!

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