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

27 Jul

How are you?

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” – Socrates

Chatting with a wonderful client today, we discussed the word ‘busy’. It seems that it’s a word much in use. It’s not a ‘bad’ word, nor is it necessarily a ‘good’ word. It’s just a word. A word which increasingly seems to have hidden meaning.

I’ve noticed a trend over the last few years. As a normally polite person, I tend to start client conversations with “How are you?” I do care what the response is, hoping that my clients are experiencing wellness and contentedness in their lives. If they are having a good day, I want to share their energy and enjoyment. If they have a cold, or their child is sick, I want to empathise and wish them well. If they are feeling a little low, I want to support them.

Probably nine times out of ten I get a response using the word ‘busy’. Busy is sometimes a hard one to respond to. Is busy exciting? Is busy stressful? Is busy fulfilling? Is it draining? Does being busy mean that they are experiencing the fullness of life, or does it mean they are in distress?

The definition of busy as an adjective is ‘having a great deal to do’. That sounds like daily life, and could be positive or negative.

When did ‘busy’ become so popular in response to a question about our well being? It seems to have become almost an expected response. Sometimes I detect a challenging tone that might indicate “Are you as busy as me?”; sometimes frustration “I don’t have time to answer this question!”; most of the time the tone is fairly neutral, almost like an automated response.

Do we EXPECT people to be busy now? Is this what success looks like in our modern world? Does ‘busy’ equal “I’ve made it!”? Do we sometimes say it because we’re too embarrassed to say “Well, I’m great!”? Are we worried what people might think if we are not busy? Or are we using this word as an implied cry for help in a stressful world?

Some days I am ‘busy’ – I have a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy, and am grateful to have a good job. Sometimes I do feel overloaded – that usually means that I have taken on too much or agreed to unrealistic time frames – to me it’s more than ‘busy’, it’s a little stressed out and tired.

Some days I have less than a great deal to do. Most of these days I am content, I feel healthy and I am proud of the fact that occasionally I am committed to take time out to relax and recharge. This actually makes me more productive.

Many years ago a colleague I hadn’t seen for a while asked me “How are you?” I responded “Good – busy.” She laughed and said “That’s not what I asked you – I asked how you are, not how much you have to do.” This comment had a big impact. It made me realise that busy was a vague, ‘relative to what?’ word that did not convey my true self.

Personally I think I used the word ‘busy’ because somewhere along the way I had attached meaning to it – that busy equals “I have value in this world”. At times I’m sure I used it because I was stressed and didn’t know how to ask for help.

Now when people ask me “How are you?” I try to respond with a true refection of my well being. This, I believe, is what the question is designed to uncover.

An additional benefit of responding with words other than ‘busy’, is that I think it makes me different to what is fast becoming the norm – I don’t want to be the norm. I don’t want to drag people down by loading them with everything I have to do, or create competition with them to see who is the busiest. I want to have a meaningful conversation and I’m not sure ‘busy’ is a good starting point.

And remarkable as it may seem, I also am ok with not being busy at times. In my opinion (for what it’s worth!) life is not a world-wide competition to be the busiest. Sometimes I’d rather have much less than ‘a great deal to do’. Not least because that means that most times I respond to “How are you?” with “I’m feeling great, life is good.”

So how are you?

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

19 Jan

Start with 5 minutes

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This time of year it is popular to run planning days. These day/s sessions are designed to refocus us on the business after the end-of-year break and to prioritise actions for the new year. They are important discussions whether you are a business of one or a business of thousands; whether you are a start-up or an established organisation. The discussions may look different, depending on your size, industry, culture etc, yet all businesses should conduct some form of planning. And just as important is the ongoing review throughout the year of any actions from these discussions.

If these planning sessions are so important, why is it that many of you probably rolled your eyes or groaned when you read the first paragraph?

It’s because for many of us, the word ‘planning’ conjures images of boring monologues by senior executives, having to analyse data we are not interested in, or feeling frustrated to waste our time coming up with creative ideas that will never be implemented. In the same category of eye-rolling words you may also find ‘strategy’, ‘tactics’, ‘objectives’ and ‘critical success factors’. The outputs these words indicate are not bad – in fact, most companies would struggle to be effective without having the detail these words refer to. Yet these words for some reason do not inspire, energise or motivate many of us. And for some, they actually cause brain shut-down, leading to a sudden and extreme interest in doing anything BUT thinking about the detail behind these words!

There is no easy remedy to such feelings towards ‘planning’ and ‘strategy’ words. To progress in business, you will need to learn about and embrace such words and the actions and outcomes behind them. The purpose of this article is not to give you the run-down on the definitions and processes of business planning. The purpose here is to break it down to a simple starting point that removes eye-rolling, brain-shutdown words and kick-starts you to begin to think about the year ahead. And it comes down to allocating 5 minutes in your day. Starting with 5 minutes can get the ball rolling. Surely you can find 5 minutes?

So give yourself 5 minutes, find a place to sit where you will be undisturbed by others, grab a pen and paper to record your thoughts (we find the old-fashioned, organic way helps keep focus and connection to the work, yet if you must, you can use a digital device!) and complete the  following, inserting the word/s most relevant to you:

  • What I want for <myself/the business/my team> this year is…

Write down whatever comes to mind – you can cluster, prioritise and develop actions later. This is just the first 5 minutes to help you focus your mind on what you want from the year. Of course, what you do with the list after this exercise is incredibly important (topics for another day!) yet for many of us this first step is the hardest – the starting.

Just start with 5 minutes. And not an eye-rolling word in sight!

Happy new year!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

 

10 Jan

Is planning really that important?

“A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”Confucius

It is understood that at this time of year most management consultants, executives and CEOs are talking about the importance of planning. It can all get a bit much – what are we planning for and does it really help? And what does it mean to those of us who are not personally responsible for running the organisation?

Taking a step back, let’s look at this from a practical sense that relates to you. Think about the last meeting you ran that went really well – when you left the meeting feeling that you had achieved what you set out to achieve. It might have been a meeting giving feedback to an employee, a cross-functional meeting you were facilitating or a meeting where you had to challenge your boss on something important.How did you feel when you left that meeting? On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being very high) how satisfied were you with the way you conducted the meeting? What did you do well in the meeting that led to a good discussion or outcome?

Now let’s think about what you did before the meeting – did you by any chance plan how the meeting would flow, plan what you might say, or plan some possible objections that might be raised and how you might handle them? Did you plan what your objective was and what you hoped the outcome might be?

Chances are that the meeting you are thinking of was successful (even if you didn’t get exactly what you wanted) in large part due to the planning you did before hand. Whilst planning will not 100% guarantee success or cover every likely issue that might occur, it will definitely help you feel more prepared, confident and clear-minded. You will be more focussed. You will be more likely to listen to others than if you were planning in your head ‘on the spot’. You will be more in control than if you didn’t plan.

So we acknowledge that when we plan, we generally have more successful interactions with others, especially if there is an issue to discuss or a difficult conversation to be had. If we extrapolate this thinking to longer term business planning, we may start to see some benefits that relate to us. For example, if we are really clear on our objectives for the year, we are more able to map out the steps we need to achieve, more efficient in our use of resources (especially time!) and more likely to feel a sense of satisfaction when we hit our goal. We are less likely to be distracted by tasks that don’t fit with our objectives and less likely to procrastinate because we don’t know the reasons for what we are doing. We are likely to appear to others as being focussed, motivated and productive.

So now you might be saying “that’s all very well, but I have no time to plan!” It’s true, planning does take time – be it for a short-term meeting goal or for a longer term year plan. Yet if we plan in the first place, we are likely to save time later. How many times have you started a task or project, got part way in and then realised you weren’t really sure what the point was or how to actually do something related to the task? By the time you have had a few unsuccessful attempts at whatever it is, you realise that you need to go back to the start, to get more clarity from the boss, to map out timelines or to seek training in a particular area first. This all adds time to the project and may have been avoided if you had spent a few moments planning in advance.

Planning actually saves time compared to not planning! Planning may help you predict issues or find a simpler way, even before you start.

So whether it’s planning for the year, planning for a project, or planning for a meeting, it is worth the effort. You just have to commit to doing the plan in the first place – go on, it’s not that hard and will be worth it in the end!

A few things to think about when you plan at work:

  • What am I wanting to achieve with this year / project / meeting?
  • How does this relate to the company goals for the year?
  • What will be the most important outcomes or outputs?
  • What are the steps (and timeframes for each if applicable) needed to achieve the desired results?
  • What are the resources I may need to achieve results? (people, money, time, tools)
  • What are the possible obstacles I may face and how will I handle them?
  • How do I want myself and others to feel as a result of achieving the objectives of the year / project / meeting?

Once you get into the habit of asking yourself these questions, you will find planning gets easier and often quicker. And if you are not able to answer some of these questions, you will know that you need to ask for help or do some research.

So in the next month when your executive team are talking about planning, don’t switch off – see what they are doing and what they are planning for the business, reflect on how this will impact your job and start your own planning from there. Then keep planning – projects, meetings, discussions, presentations…

Happy new year and happy planning!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

24 Oct

3 questions to round off the year

“My future depends mostly upon myself.” – Paul Robeson

As we again start thinking about dusting off the plastic tree and try to remember if we even sent last year’s Christmas cards, it’s a great time to reflect on the year that was and the year that will be. This reflection is a springboard for considering our professional goals, strengths to build on and areas to develop. Yes, it is only October, however why wait until November or even December?

In the lead up to the year-end, we are usually so frantic finishing up work projects and planning family gatherings, that we often don’t feel we have time to breathe, let alone think about our professional goals and development. We might do a last-minute rush through of our end-year review documents, but do we really give our achievements and future plans the time they deserve?

Yes, it’s a busy time of year and yes you are just waiting for the Christmas break and will worry about it all next year… However, now is probably the best time to consider this often neglected part of our working lives. It is a time to reflect on achievements from the current year, set goals for the next year and plan how to make the most of future opportunities.

And really, it’s as simple as starting with these three questions:

  • What did I love most about my job this year?
  • Which of my achievements made the biggest difference (to me, my company, my customers)?
  • What do I look forward to achieving next year and how can I give myself the best chance of meeting these goals?

Of course, there are other aspects to consider for a full development plan, yet this is a positive starting point that won’t take a lot of time and is often more meaningful and interesting to complete than a ‘tick-the-box’ performance review document (especially one rushed through the night before you meet with your manager)!

Start with these questions, celebrate, and here’s to a successful 2013!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd

19 Jan

2011 – the year of success (with a positive attitude)!

 ” Two men looked out from prison through the bars – one saw mud, the other saw stars” – Unknown

Happy New Year!

What does 2011 hold in store for you personally and professionally? A brand new year, a fresh start perhaps? A new job? Renewed enthusiasm for work? Building on 2010 for even greater success?

No matter what you hope for in 2011, to make it ‘the year of success’, you must have the right attitude. A positive attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but a negative attitude will be a big barrier to achieving (have you ever noticed how a negative thought or comment can lead to another and build on itself?)

The great thing is that you have the ultimate control over your own attitude. So for all of us who are high achieving control freaks, this is a good thing! We are in control of our attitude. Granted, it’s not always easy when we come back to work after holidays to find 5,000 urgent emails, but we do still own our attitude towards those emails!

There are three things to try at the start of this year to help with choosing a positive attitude:

  • Be clear on what you want to achieve – having goals or visions for success will help you stay focused on the positive outcomes you are looking for
  • Know what motivates you – understanding what you love about your work and life will help you seek out those positive opportunities
  • Have a strategy for when the negative attitude seems like the easiest option – using simple techniques can help reduce negative emotions and thoughts

This final point is critical. Right now the year might seem like a clean sheet of paper that you will fill with new year’s resolutions and positive experiences. If we are honest, we all know that there will be times this year when we feel a little negative – a structure change at work, a busy day, unresolved issues, conflict with colleagues – all examples of when we may give way to negative emotions and thus impact our mindset for success.

There are thousands of books and experts to consult about coping with frustrations and situations where negativity can take hold. A simple Google search will give you plentyof options for resources. In the interim, here are some steps that might help on the precipice of negativity.

  •  Breathe! When we feel stressed, frustrated or disheartened, we have an immediate and sometimes powerful emotional reflex, which triggers many physiological responses – heart rate, sweating, headaches. The emotion can also lead us to act in a ‘flight or fight’ mode without always thinking through the consequences. Or, it can lead to a spiral of negative thoughts that lead us to build an issue into a catastrophe. So, in the heat of the moment or even during a long period of stress, we can help ourselves immensely if we just BREATHE. With that breath, we have the opportunity to calm the mind and the body before we deal with the issue.
  • Smile! This is not always easy to do (and on rare occasions may be inappropriate) yet it can help us refocus on our positive attitude. A smile is an action that will release stress. Even if it is a determined, gritty smile to say – “I can deal with this and be positive”. Exercise those facial muscles and get the endorphins flowing!
  • Choose! Tell yourself that you choose to be positive about the situation, no matter how hard that is. This might mean that you decide on positive action – “What are our options to solve this problem?” Or that you make an effort to think more constructively – “I can overcome obstacles and achieve my goals!” Or you may choose to try to empathise with a ‘difficult’ colleague – “They are only trying to do their job, just like me.” Or you might even remove yourself from a negative discussion “It’s hard, but I want to take a positive approach, so I don’t want to spend the day talking about all the bad aspects to this.”

Whatever  your technique for ensuring a positive attitude, if it truly works then it will put you on the path of success. So here’s to 2011 – the year of success!

engagingPOTENTIAL: training, team development, coaching

Specialising in working with managers to develop extraordinary teams!

© Engaging Potential Pty Ltd