Are you a marathoner or triathlete? In Episode 16, we meet Dr. Alison Eyring, author of Pacing for Growth - Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success - who has run marathons and is currently training for a triathlon. Dr. Eyring is a growth expert, organizational psychologist and CEO of Organisation Solutions in Singapore which combines her 25+ years advising the “Fortune and FTSE 500” and some of the most innovative high-growth companies on earth with what she has learned from training for ultra-marathons. She applies endurance training concepts like finding the right pace, pushing yourself to your maximum capacity building capabilities for the future, and conserving energy to lead business growth. Dr. Eyring has a lifelong passion for helping others reach their ultimate potential.
Ever notice how some of the greatest lessons are found by looking to the past? As what we may call a purpose-driven economy expands, and the global competition for talent likewise increases, the importance of communication skills in leaders becomes paramount. Leaders must be able to communicate well with different constituencies, from the board room to customers, and perhaps most of all, to the individuals and teams they directly lead.
In Carmine Gallo’s new book, Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great, he describes President Kennedy’s ability to persuade audiences that a person could set foot on the moon by the end of the ’60s decade. Kennedy didn’t convince us with facts alone, he made us feel. He combined what Aristotle called pathos and logos: emotion and logic. When we read Kim Scott’s current bestseller Radical Candor, she likewise shares with us that a good leader explains why, rather than rely on pure authority. Scott also cites the three classic steps of persuasion: pathos, logos, and ethos representing emotion, logic and credibility. A timeless lesson from Aristotle, and more important today than ever before.
The best leaders are lifetime learners. They look ahead and they learn from the past. The best leaders communicate. Leaders Persuade.
Ever have a life-changing event? In Episode 15, we meet Carla Moore, author of Crash - Leading Through the Wreckage - who has. An empowering and proven leader, Carla currently serves as Vice President of Sales Strategy and Education for Home Box Office (HBO) in New York. She began her career with HBO as an entry-level sales trainer 20 years ago and worked her way up, working in multiple departments. Carla is an active public speaker, delivering conference keynotes and facilitating workshops on a variety of subjects, including her passion – activating personal power. She has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Cosmopolitan Magazine, and other outlets and has also served as a panelist at leadership summits and career management events. Carla is an active member in the media industry, currently sits on the national board of National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC.), and holds an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Business.
We’ve learned through authors such as Mark Crowley that engagement in the workplace has been flat for about thirty years. Maybe old habits don’t die at all. Maybe we just need a fresh way of looking at things. In Kim Scott’s refreshing book Radical Candor, she challenges the classical Nine-Box Matrix Talent Model, developed by McKinsey, which positions individuals into a box based on potential and performance. Scott’s a deep thinker, and found she didn’t like using the word potential, because she doesn’t think there is any such thing as a low-potential human being. It says a lot about her.
Scott has been successful at top companies such as Google and Apple — very competitive and very successful organizations. So it’s not a big surprise that for the first twenty years of her career, it NEVER occurred to her that some people didn’t want the next, bigger job. She talked with Scott Forstall, who built the iOS team working directly for Steve Jobs, and he proposed using the word “growth” instead of “potential.” It’s brilliant.
Recall in our Energize2Lead (E2L) workshops we learn than 75% of people are wired completely differently that ourselves. We also learn that there may be deep, instinctive parts of our personalities that are largely hidden. Scott realized the same thing. She tells us:
“The most important thing you can do for your team collectively is to understand what growth trajectory each person wants to be on at a given time and whether that matches the needs and opportunities of the team. To do that, you are going to have to get to know each of your direct reports at a personal level. It’s also going to require you to have some of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have. Sometimes, you’ll even have to fire people.”
That’s Radical Candor. Leadership is hard. Building a team is hard. Leaders Understand Team Members Personally.
It’s refreshing when a professional reaches out and asks for help during a period of career growth - for executive coaching. Since this has happened quite a bit this month, Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter’s terrific coaching book, Triggers, came to mind. You may have heard of Marshall before, he’s a really good coach and he’s been doing it at a very high level for decades.
Powerful and lasting growth usually requires objective evaluation and structured coaching. Notice that evaluation and coaching are different forms of feedback. A common example of objective evaluation is a 360 review with inputs from different groups such as peers, direct reports, supervisors, in addition to ourselves.
Triggers was written in part, because we all have many internal triggers that hold us back, especially when receiving feedback. So, how can we think, in a general sense, about how to overcome all of these internal switches we usually aren’t aware of?
Chapters Nine and Ten, The Power of Active Questions & The Engaging Questions, form the heart of Triggers, with numerous engaging coaching stories. Goldsmith reflects when people are asked passive questions; they almost invariably provide “environmental” answers, often allowing a diversion from needed accountability. As a remedy, four magic moves are mentioned, which trigger decent behavior in others: Apologizing, Asking for help, Optimism, and asking active questions. Active questions can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ and the better we know someone, the better questions we may ask. Here’s an example:
“Tell me something important to you that would allow me
to help you become more successful and happier?”
Now let’s introduce Goldsmith’s six engaging questions:
Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
Did I do my best to find meaning today?
Did I do my best to be happy today?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?
Notice that each of these questions challenge us, daily, to do good, or to be choinque. They trigger good behavior. We can call this self coaching.
Good leaders coach others, and themselves. Leaders ask active and engaging questions.
Retention. Talent pipeline. We keep hearing these HR terms. In the past couple weeks, a military commander reached out wishing to improve low reenlistment numbers for first term airmen, a federal bankruptcy court shared plans for a 12-month regional leadership development program for junior team members and a local CEO seeking executive coaching connected on LinkedIn. What’s going on?
In Dr. Sydney Finkelstein’s meticulously researched masterwork, Superbosses, subtitled How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent, he explains that superbosses fall into three distinct patterns: Iconoclasts, who care about their work and their passion, such as Miles Davis, and are often artistic. Next are the Glorious Bastards, who care solely about winning, and know they need the best people to win, such as Larry Ellison, who has spawned a breadth of talent in Silicon Valley. Last, are the Nurturers, or activist bosses, who consistently guide and teach their protégées, such as Bill Walsh, legendary coach of the San Francisco 49ers.
It seems each of these three recent events may be describing a need for a more nurturing environment. Finkelstein recognized that all superbosses deeply know their team members, in stark contract to clueless, distanced bosses - think Undercover Boss. We may have been conditioned, especially if we are baby boomers, to simply trust our position of authority, or rank as adequate for performance — leaving development and growth to perhaps a different department. Quite the opposite, superbosses disdain anything that may create physical or emotional distance from those in their charge. What superbosses give protégés, then, is something quite rare in professional life, an opportunity to rebrand themselves, or the ultimate alignment of one’s traits and abilities with not just a job, but also a lifetime path.
Leaders are ultimately coaches. Leaders nurture. Super Leaders Deeply Know Their Team.
Has watching professional poker ever fascinated you? In Episode 14, we meet Annie Duke, author of Thinking in Bets, who has leveraged her expertise in the science of smart decision making to excel at pursuits as varied as championship poker to public speaking. For two decades, Annie was one of the top poker players in the world. In 2004, she bested a field of 234 players to win her first World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet. The same year, she triumphed in the $2 million winner-take-all, invitation-only WSOP Tournament of Champions. In 2010, she won the prestigious NBC National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Prior to becoming a professional poker player, Annie was awarded the National Science Foundation Fellowship. Because of this fellowship, she studied Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. Annie is also the co-founder of How I Decide, an educational nonprofit that works with urban, disadvantaged communities in the Philadelphia area.
Has anyone ever said to you that they or their organization embraces “continuous improvement.” It’s a pretty common buzzword, and don’t all of us want to get better at something? How can we think, and more importantly, do, something about that?
Let’s summarize. Purposeful practice:
• Has well-defined, specific goal
• is focused
• involves feedback
• requires getting out of one’s comfort zone
Now that’s just a start. Deliberate practice also requires development of mental representations, or pre-existing patterns of information - facts, images, rules, relationships and so on - that are held in long-term memory, and are easy to access. The key to deliberate practice is to go beyond our potential, or to make possible things that were not possible before. The way to do this is to learn a new skill which will then trigger a structural change in the brain rather than simply continuing to practice a skill already learned.
Let’s summarize again. Deliberate practice:
• Develops skills that other people have already figured out how to do and for which effective training techniques have been established
• Takes place outside one's comfort zone and requires a student to constantly try things that are just beyond his or her abilities
• Involves well-defined, specific goals and often involves improving some aspect of the target performance
• Requires a person's full attention and conscious action
• Involves feedback and modifications of efforts in response to that feedback
• Both produces and depends on effective mental representations
• Nearly always involves building or modifying previously acquired skills by focusing on particular aspects of those skills and working to improve them specifically
An effective leader understands both purposeful practice and that the quality and quantity of mental representations are vitally important. Imagine a leader that not only practices deliberately themself, but one that prioritizes developing others through deliberate practice. Good leaders practice purposefully. Great leaders practice deliberately.
Have you ever made a decision with incomplete or imperfect information? How did it feel?
Many of us struggle with daily distractions, and the pressure of making decisions with imperfect or incomplete information. In Annie Duke’s amazing new book, Thinking in Bets, Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All The Facts, she informs us that is the normal state in poker, where over the course of a single hand of poker, one could be involved in up to twenty decisions. And each hand ends with a concrete result: Win money or lose money.
Do you ever examine your decision-making process after a favorable outcome, or a business win? Many of us examine our decisions when the outcome isn’t favorable, or after a business proposal loss. Duke shares a poker player term for our tendency to equate the quality of a decision with the quality of its outcome: “resulting.” It’s one of the worst habits for a poker player, and it’s one of the worst habits for a responsible leader. Life is a lot like poker.
When we don't review or assess our decisions, our minds are likely to create blind spots, such as hindsight bias, or the tendency, after an outcome is known, to see the outcome as having been inevitable.
It’s always a good idea to examine our decision-making process, especially when there’s been a good outcome. That’s why the military uses After Action Reviews. The best leaders do this. The best leaders accept uncertainty. Leaders make smart bets.
During a recent coaching session, a client mentioned employee turnover issues within their organization, in particular with newer, younger hires. Among the factors brought up for the recent departures was low pay. I paused and asked how frequently coaching occurred between supervisors and subordinates. A culture check if you will. Let’s just say it got really quiet for a bit. You see, there’s often a significant disconnect between what we believe about people leaving an organization, and what really happened.
89 percent of managers believe employees leave their jobs for more money; and
88 percent of employees reported they left for reasons other than money.
Many old-school manager types believe focusing on results only is all that matters - the proverbial bottom line. Matthew Lieberman has some pretty interesting findings in his article “Should Leaders Focus on Results, or on People?” Great question. His findings:
If a leader was considered strong in social skills, the person was seen as a great leader 12 percent of the time. Okay. What about that bottom line?
If a leader was perceived to be strong in focusing on results, the number increased to… 14 percent of the time. That’s all. Just two percent more.
For leaders who were strong in both results and social skills, the likelihood of being seen as a strong leader skyrocketed to 72%.
Pop quiz time: What percentage of leaders rate high on results focus and social skills? Take a guess.
Less than one percent. That’s why Kelly and Robby Riggs conclude Leadership is Freaking Hard. And they are right. Great leaders are unicorns. They focus on results. They focus on people. Great leaders are rare.
Are you a CPA, attorney, or a partner in a professional services firm? Choinquecast thirteen showcases Wesley Middleton’s personal and professional journey in his book Violent Leadership. Unsatisfied with the practice and lifestyle found within the usual managerial-styled CPA firm, Middleton has pioneered a different kind of firm, a twenty-first century CPA firm, MRZ Financial, based on a leadership model suitable for any professional services group.
Middleton is also the host of the Violent Leadership podcast, a member of the Royalwood Church band and a team leader of the church’s Men’s Group.
In our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses, self-evaluation scores at the beginning of the Setting Leadership Priorities workshops usually plummet - with distractions and interruptions common culprits. Perhaps never before has the opportunity for distraction been so commonplace. Yet, there are those who are still effective getting things done and those who are effective leaders.
Most of us probably don’t know who psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik was, but we ought to. By the way, she was one of the first Russian women to attend a university. She studied memory in relation to complete and incomplete tasks, and found that incomplete tasks are easier to remember than successful ones. This is now known as the Zeigarnik effect. What does that mean for us as leaders?
First, it means that the best way to finish a task is to start it, since the now incomplete task will occupy our minds with little energy required. Until it is done. Maybe that is why we sometimes say “sleep on it,” intuitively knowing the Zeigarnik effect will assist during our slumber.
Second, the best leaders, like the best athletes, are masters of energy management; aligning tasks, their assignment and their completion, minding these effects. The best leaders are Zeigarnik masters. Leaders manage energy.
Choinquecast twelves takes direct aim at generational differences in the workplace as we meet Kelly Riggs who has co-written - with his son Robby - Counter Mentor Leadership, a pathfinding generational work. Kelly is the founder of Business LockerRoom, host of the CounterMentors Show, and a dynamic thought leader in the fields of sales and leadership. He is also a business performance coach who walks the talk: As a business owner, as a national award-winning sales representative and sales manager.
Kelly hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is passionate about supporting children, believing that the good we do for the young yields the greatest payoffs.
In a recent coaching call, a client shared a significant challenge - how to grow a team from 200 to possibly 700 this calendar year - without having the proverbial “wheels come off.” We talked about the importance of front line supervisors who take care of the teams at “the tip of the spear.” The topic of accountability came up.
Recall from our Academy Leadership Excellence Courses that 83% of organizations have accountability issues. Kelly and Robby Riggs concur in Counter Mentor Leadership. They describe accountability struggles as a twofold problem: The BOSS doesn’t know how to create a culture of accountability; then there is an issue, the BOSS doesn’t truly address the issue.
The Riggs’ visualize a useful construct, the Freedom Box. Imagine a rectangular box with four primary boundaries:
• Company values and/or guiding principles.
• Level of Authority.
• Performance standards and metrics.
Our values, expectations and performance standards can be expressed within our Personal Leadership Philosophy. Our level of authority provides delegation and coaching guidance. Putting this all together, the Freedom Box creates an agreed-upon area of autonomy. Just what we need for a rapidly growing organization, rather than having the wheels fall off. Leaders create accountability.
In choinquecast eleven we meet the author of “Disrupt Yourself," Whitney Johnson, who developed her proprietary framework and diagnostics after having founded the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen. This framework is complemented by a deep understanding of how executives create and destroy value, having spent nearly a decade as an Institutional Investor ranked equity analyst on Wall Street.
In addition to her work as a speaker and advisor, Whitney is one of Marshall Goldsmith’s original cohort of 25 for the #100 Coaches Project, is a coach for Harvard Business School’s Executive Education program, frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, is a Linkedin influencer, and hosts the twice-monthly Disrupt Yourself Podcast.
“Nothing affects the learning culture of an organization more
than the skill with which its executive team receives feedback.”
from Douglas Stone & Sheila Heen’s eye-opening Thanks for the Feedback candidly and systematically breaks down why receiving feedback is so difficult and what we as leaders and our organizations can do about it. Notice the emphasis on receiving feedback rather than offering it. How many times has someone in a senior leadership position asked you for candid feedback about themselves or the organization rather than offering you feedback or telling you something that you “ought to do?”
Does your organization even have a learning culture? Or is it the type organization where a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset prevails.
The authors remind us there are three forms of feedback: Appreciation, evaluation, and coaching. Most of us understand appreciation, but often mix up evaluation with coaching. Years of facilitating leadership courses and executive coaching suggests many people and organizations will claim coaching occurs, but more often than not evaluation is occurring rather than coaching. As a result, performance coaching gets a bad rap. An easy indicator: Who is doing the talking in the coaching session? If you are talking more than 25% of the time, it’s not coaching. It’s not even listening.
Indicating your commitment to receiving feedback in your Personal Leadership Philosophy is a great first step. Welcoming it comes next. Leaders embrace feedback.
The scarcity mindset. What is that? According to Whitney Johnson in Disrupt Yourself it is the failure to see the abundance in another person’s success and is actually a form of entitlement. Her antidote: A gratitude journal, or a written list of three things you are thankful for each day and why.
To some degree, we all seem to be conditioned by this both destructive, and limiting, mindset. For example, in our Academy leadership Leveraging the Power of Conflict workshops, we learn that a win-lose mindset is not an effective leader mindset, rather a gain-gain (think compromise) mindset is better or a win-win (think collaborative) mindset is the best conflict leadership strategy. It seems there is an inverse relationship between the degree of scarcity mindset and the degree of coaching or leadership effectiveness.
That’s worth thinking about.
J.K. Rowling comes to mind. One person imagined and shared with us the world of Harry Potter, influencing tens or hundreds of millions of people, yet without just her it would not exist. Imagining Harry Potter did not come at the expense of anyone or anything. The abundance mindset allows for this, the possibility of unlimited potential and outcomes for all.
Dr. Brené Brown likewise believes the scarcity mindset disables progress — in ourselves — in addition to others. In her extraordinary book Daring Greatly, she describes ten guideposts, or ways of engaging the world from a place of worthiness. One guidepost is letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark in order to cultivate gratitude and joy.
The next time the scarcity mindset begins influencing you or those around you, consider disrupting yourself or daring greatly. Leaders seek abundance.
Two recent client exchanges are worth sharing. The first was a visit to Tesla’s Gigafactory site in Nevada, the second a series of conversations with a director at a major health care consortium.
Both on the drive to the Gigafactory site with a client and as a passenger on numerous Uber trips in Reno, discussion about the local area centered on the tectonic transformation occurring in the Reno/Sparks area. Viewing the corporate infrastructure footprint of not just Tesla, but other companies such as Amazon, Apple and Switch makes one think of the vision leading to this transformation.
On the other hand, my discussion with the health care director focused almost exclusively on the process of implementing a single Project Portfolio Management software tool. Interestingly, the director mentioned concerns about internal survey scores and how to compete for talent in the Silicon Valley area. Not a word about improved lives through healthcare or any mention of people.
Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao’s book Scaling Up Excellence came to mind, especially chapter three which focuses on finding the “hot cause,” or overarching purpose that must be driven through an organization. Not just words on a poster in the lobby, but relentlessly demonstrated as the core mission and even better aligned with one’s Personal Leadership Philosophy.
Think about that. How well and how frequently do you communicate the big picture rather than the immediate project at hand to your team? Leaders share vision and purpose.
Choinquecast ten introduces Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert. She is a speaker, author, and the executive consultant and founder of The Cooper Strategic Group. She helps employees and employers to get along better, and coaches leaders and employees to improve productivity, morale, satisfaction, and overall work-life balance. Her book, Working with Difficult People, recently hit #1 in sales at Amazon for Business Etiquette books and was highlighted in Parade Magazine.
Dr. Hakim has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NBC, Fast Company, CNBC Make It, Vogue, Inc., The List, and Star-Telegram. She has also been a guest on the KRTH Morning Show, Think KERA Radio, the WBEZ Morning Shift, the Boca Voice, and Business Radio on Sirius XM.
It’s pop quiz time again. What are the four most dangerous words in a leader’s vocabulary?
"I don’t have time."
Let’s do a quick self-evaluation: When is the last time you said that to yourself, or, even worse, when was the last time you told that to someone you are responsible for? What are we really telling someone when we communicate that, directly or indirectly?
I don’t have time to listen to you, to coach you, or to take an interest in your life. Gee, why do we have a turnover problem in the company?
I don’t have time to slow down, breath, and express daily gratitude. Gee, maybe that’s why I’m taking all these over the counter pills and ignoring annual medical checkups.
I don’t have time for training and development of anyone on my team, nor myself. Gee, nobody seems engaged around here and we don’t really know or care about each other.
Priorities lead to clarity. Share your priorities. And learn to say no to the many distractions we encounter daily. Leaders make time.