09 Oct

Craving constructive curiosity

“Replace judgement with curiosity” – Lynn Nottage

Outrage, judgement, aggression, arrogance…seen any of that lately?

Blame, denial, deflection…?

It seems that everywhere we look recently – news, sports, politics, social media, reality TV, business – people are expressing strong opinions about, and onto, others. Sometimes this generates hurt, ridicule, division, anger – and so the cycle repeats and repeats.

Not that there’s anything wrong with having an opinion and speaking up. It’s often ‘how’ we do it that is so destructive – if not for ourselves, often for other people. If we are aggressive, defensive, judgemental or abusive in tone, then our impact could be very negative.

Making judgements before seeking understanding – is this the new normal?

In an attempt to lighten the mood, and use a simple example…take the recent ending to The Bachelor Australia. The outrage over ‘The Bach’ choosing neither woman has been loud. Is no one curious as to the reasons he made this decision? Has no one listened to the way he spoke to the women and his rationale for his choice? From a curious outside perspective, it actually could be seen as a respectful act, presented as kindly as possible in unusual circumstances. Does it really matter that normally someone ‘wins’? What reason does anyone have to be outraged about the ending to a TV show (even a highly addictive one!)? Ah, it seems a strange world.

From reality TV to the business world. In our coaching and training we often hear people deflect, deny, or blame others for dips in performance, lost clients and workplace conflicts. Could time spent focusing defensively outwards be better spent focusing on understanding someone else’s perspective, identifying possible solutions, seeking opportunities, and applying a healthy dose of reality testing? And even better, to own what you own – looking inwards to discover your role in situations and how you might turn things around or influence for a better outcome.

So, do we want to go down the pathway of destructive negativity, or can we turn this around for more positive interactions and discussions?

An idea – let’s get constructively curious before we get combative.

When we start telling ourselves – “how dare they?”, “who do they think they are?”, “are they an idiot?”  – perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask instead – “what’s another way of looking at this?” Or “how can I make a positive impact here?” Or “I wonder what has led them to say/do that?”

When our typing fingers get twitchy to scream out in capitals on social media, perhaps we can stop for 2 seconds and ask ourselves – “what are the (real) facts here?”  

Craving constructive curiosity in this combative world might just help us slow down, think about how we react, and consider the impact we are having on others. We don’t need to agree with everyone, yet perhaps we could be a little kinder, get on a little better, and recognise that it takes all sorts of characters to make this a pleasant world.

And wouldn’t it make sense to leave ‘The Bach’ and other relatively innocent people in peace and save our outrage for those who truly do major hurt and harm in the world?

And if that seems a little too fluffy for you, please minimise your outrage in the comments.

Long live constructive curiosity!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, facilitation

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

01 Sep

The ‘self’ in leadership Part 2

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly” – Jim Rohn

 

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of both the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in leadership, what self-leadership is, common pitfalls, and then posed some questions to consider (below).

  1. Are you living those values and behaviours – leading by example?
  2. Are you bringing positive intent to all your interactions with others ?
  3. Are you respecting other people’s values through your actions ?

In this discussion, we introduce a very simple model to help hold oneself to account in self-leadership. We use the SELF model. It is fairly self-explanatory (no pun intended!) and is designed as a quick check list for those who are developing their self-leadership and collaboration style.

SELF Model

There are 4 core actions, and 3 core attitudes to this model.

Actions

Set and meet your goals

Having professional and personal goals is what sets many true leaders apart. Goals can provide you with clear focus, help you prioritise and motivate you toward results. Leaders achieve!

Engage positively with others

As we discussed in Part 1, positive intent and respect in your interactions is key to effective collaboration. And it must be genuine! Test yourself – “What impact have I had on this person today?” If you don’t like the answer, review your approach.

Listen to your brain

The brain is the core of the behaviours we exhibit to others. If we are stressed, tired or otherwise worried, our brain tends to use it’s vital resources keeping us alive and functioning and often doesn’t have much left in reserve to moderate toward positive behaviour. This is why in stressful circumstances we might withdraw from others or emotionally ‘explode’. We are not operating with our best logical brain in action. So listen to your brain – if you feel emotional, stressed, tired – take some time out. Exercise, sleep, relax, or at the very least  – breathe calmly – so that you can bring your best behaviour to your leadership. Don’t ignore your brain health, it’s important.

Focus on your development

News flash – your boss isn’t responsible for your development! Sure they should support you, yet ultimately you are responsible. No matter how experienced, qualified or smart you might be, there are always areas to develop. Listen and seek to understand feedback given – both positive and constructive. Be self-aware – monitor what you do well and identify what you can improve. Look for opportunities to grow professionally and personally.

Attitudes

Empathy

The ability to empathise with others is an important leadership trait. This is most challenging when we are called on to use it with people we don’t necessarily ‘like’ or in situations that we don’t fully understand. You don’t have to agree with the person, take sides or solve problems – empathy is all about taking a moment to reflect what it’s like to walk in another’s shoes. So remove judgement, bring positive intent, listen and genuinely demonstrate empathy.

Humility

Humility is all about keeping your ego in check! It’s great to be confident, wonderful to have an opinion and important to highlight your strengths. Humility is all about knowing the right time and place to do these things, and when to take a step back. This might be to allow someone else to speak, to seek another’s opinion, to recognise you don’t know the answer, to acknowledge a team effort, or to be gracious in success or defeat.

Humour

This does not mean that leaders have to be comedians! Nor should the humour be inappropriate – obviously! A positive leader understands the importance of laughter, lightheartedness and fun in human bonding. It’s not about cracking jokes, it’s about being willing to let down your guard, and show enjoyment of the lighter side of life – it’s being human.

What does your leadership ‘selfie’ look like? 🙂

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

21 Apr

The ‘self’ in leadership Part 1

“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour, but without folly” – Jim Rohn

A common misunderstanding that is often raised in coaching sessions concerns the term ‘leader’. Many people believe a leader is someone who has direct reports; someone who manages or supervises others. Some interesting conversations and insights arise when we discuss the difference between ‘management’ and ‘leadership’ and the fact that you don’t have to be a manager or supervisor to demonstrate leadership.

This is the ‘self’ of leadership – what you bring to the workplace that sets you apart from others, and what behaviours you consistently demonstrate. It is how you interact with and treat others, how you go about achieving results and how you handle set backs. Notice the use of the word ‘how’ here. The ‘what’ you deliver is very important to leadership; equally as important is the ‘how’ you go about delivering results.

If for instance, you achieve targets, yet along the way you undermine others, are rude to customers, throw tantrums in your boss’ office and break policies, then you are not showing good self-leadership. On the other hand, if you deliver results and along the way support colleagues, respect customers, uphold policies and professionally discuss issues with your boss, then you likely are demonstrating good self-leadership.

So, this sounds like common sense – yes? Well, in many respects it is – most of us have learnt from childhood that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Yet this is where we encounter the ‘knowing-doing’ gap, the concept of differing values and the positive approach of emotional intelligence.

Knowing-doing gap examples:

  • “I know that I should greet all colleagues politely, yet at times I don’t, because some of them annoy me!”
  • “I know that it’s inappropriate to yell at people in the office, yet I find managing my emotions difficult and so occasionally I do yell at people.”

So you might know what is or isn’t appropriate; you might know the theory of a particular situation (e.g. giving feedback), yet are you actually ‘doing’ it as you ‘know’?

Differing values examples:

  • “I think humour in the workplace is positive; Geoffrey takes it too far because he likes to tell rude jokes that make me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “Respect is so important to me and I would never gossip about a colleague; I hear people talking about Jenny’s divorce when she’s not here and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
  • “If I have a problem with how we interact, I’ll tell you; it concerns me when I hear that you’ve been telling everyone else but me that you don’t like how I do things.”

We all have values that are important to us; yet what they are differs widely from person to person. And even if we have similar priority values (e.g. respect), what we expect of others in relation to these values can be very different (i.e. ‘respect’ can mean different things to different people).

These differences are ok – it’s part of being human – we are all different! We just need to look at whether we respect others’ values, where we are willing to be flexible with our values, and where/when we need courage to stand up for our values.

Emotional intelligence examples:

  • “In frustrating situations, I am able to avoid emotional outbursts, yet still discuss my feelings in an appropriate and productive way.”
  • “I am able to connect with others by seeking to understand their perspective, even if it differs to my own.”
  • “I know how to demonstrate empathy and support others.”
  • “I can raise challenging issues and provide feedback in a way that maintains relationships.”
  • “I understand that others will differ in their behaviours and values and that I can only control my own actions.”

Do you have the emotional intelligence to handle difficult situations in the workplace and to demonstrate leadership that sets you apart in a positive way?

Emotional intelligence is one of the most effective skills to demonstrate leadership – whether it be self-leadership or leading others in a team. A key ingredient to being able to develop emotional intelligence is self-awareness – being able to identify your strengths and gaps and recognise when you do and when you don’t demonstrate appropriate behaviours.

It’s not about making excuses – “that’s just me” – it’s about truly understanding your strengths and limitations. And then from there, it’s been willing and committed to consistently demonstrate strengths and work toward closing any gaps.

Your self-leadership challenge

Think about how you would like to be perceived in the workplace.

  • What values and behaviours would you like to be known for?

Now ask yourself 3 questions:

  1. Are you living those values and behaviours – leading by example?
  2. Are you bringing positive intent to all your interactions with others (regardless of whether you like them or not)?
  3. Are you respecting other people’s values through your actions (whether you have the same values or not)?

Next post we will look at a simple model to help hold ourselves accountable to self-leadership.

In the meantime – what does your leadership ‘selfie’ look like?

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

16 Feb

Leadership Valentine

“Better let my heart be without words than my words without heart.” – John Bunyan

Another purple heart Roz

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. We thought we’d have a bit of fun and see if there are any leadership lessons from this day that is sometimes loved and sometimes loathed across the globe.

  1. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move. Leaders are bold and confident. They know that they may not have all the right answers, yet they have confidence in their team and their own decisions. They take calculated risks and learn from successes, as well as heartache.
  2. Flowers and chocolates don’t make a relationship. Leaders know that building a great working relationship takes time – whether it’s with their team, their colleagues, their boss or customers. Bubbles and gifts are nice, yet they fade in comparison to a strong and trusting relationship with mutually beneficial goals
  3. True success means expressing gratitude every day. Leaders are thankful for the privileges they attract, the teams they work with and the customers they serve. Every day they express this gratitude through their actions and words; it’s authentic and consistent.

I’m sure there are many other comparisons you can think of, yet these are a few of our favourites.

Hope you had a Happy Valentine’s day!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

03 Oct

Balance and leadership

 “…being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t be considered truly successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” –  Zig Ziglar

When coaching new and experienced managers, we have noticed a trend towards ‘burn-out’ and ‘over-load’ being discussed as serious issues in the workplace. Many people being coached are  feeling ‘overloaded’, with some also expressing concern for their direct reports. It is concerning to hear these managers talk about the long hours they work, the weekends lost to emails and reports and the subsequent strain experienced by their families.

Sadly, there is no easy answer to this problem. Businesses are being pushed to reduce costs and raise productivity, and the resulting restructures, budget cuts and redundancies means that people often find themselves with more work and less resources. To cope, employees are working longer, and often experiencing feelings of resentment, frustration and even anger for doing so. Many find that they strive to do a good job, yet are left thinking that they are never quite doing anything well, rather doing lots of things poorly. For the high achievers, this can be a major issue!

So if there is no easy answer, where do we start?

We must remind businesses and employees of the benefits of balance. In his book ‘The four principles of values-based leadership”,  Harry Kraemer  talks about the importance of balance from several perspectives. One such perspective is ‘life balance’ and “…the importance of diverse activities and experiences that keep you fresh, engaged and motivated.” Remember, if we focus only on work, our brains are not stretched or refreshed. How can we expect to be innovative, productive and positive if our brains are not working properly? How can we expect to solve problems and overcome challenges if we are feeling burnt-out? How can we as managers engage positively to motivate our teams if we are feeling resentful of the work piling up?

As leaders, we must be disciplined to get the balance right. It’s no good for us to tell our people to prioritise or leave work on time if we are not practicing what we preach. We must lead by example. It will take self-awareness, discipline and courage, yet what is the alternative? Some people seem to think that if they complain about the workload long enough or if they talk about the hours they work loud enough, that someone will make it all OK. This will never happen and we so often see managers spiraling on this until they spin  out of control – they might yell at their staff, quit their job, or worse still suffer mental exhaustion and breakdown.

When we talk about balance, it’s not just about leaving work on time or turning off the laptop over the weekend. It’s about replacing these behaviours with balanced behaviours; it’s about exploring  opportunities and experiences outside of the workplace. This might include reconnecting with something you enjoyed when you were younger, experiencing a loved activity with your family, or even stepping outside of your comfort zone with a new course or hobby.

If you do regain some balance, there is no doubt you will start to see benefits – feeling refreshed, focusing better at work, maintaining and growing positive relationships – the list goes on. [An aside: To be honest, when many feel overloaded at work, it is commonly exacerbated by procrastination – such as talking about how busy they are, spending hours writing to do lists (don’t get us wrong, to do lists are critical, yet they can be overdone!) or worrying about what there is to do. This post is not about time management, yet learning about some time management disciplines will help many to get the balance back.)

We all know the saying “Life is short.” well, it is. Imagine yourself at 80 – go on, visualise it! Can you see the wrinkles, the grey hair…? Now imagine yourself looking back at your life. Think not just about work, think about your LIFE. Will you be happy at 80 if you can say “Yep, I worked myself raggard and had no time for anything else…”?

  • What do you want to be most proud of?
  • What do you want to have experienced?
  • What do you want to be able to reflect on at 80?

Now, once you’ve thought those things through with your 80-year old self, consider the following:

  • What are 3 – 5 things you can do to take back control now and get a better life balance?
  • How will you hold yourself accountable when you neglect or forget the above actions?
  • Who can help you achieve these actions?
  • When are you going to start?

When you are determining actions, consider those that you can apply at work and even more importantly at home. At work you might need to reprioritise your work, talk to your boss about deadlines or aim to finish on time 3 days of the week. On the personal side, you might want to commit to learning a new language, play football once a week, take up meditation or join a book club. Whatever the actions are that work for you – the key is to be disciplined, monitor your commitment and reassess in a month or so. Once you are able to gain better balance, consider how you might help your team members do the same. But until you start with yourself and lead by example, you and your team will be left spinning on the ‘work harder and longer’ merry-go-round.

Here’s to a balanced life!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd