Category Archives: Career Tips & Strategies

Are You a Leader that Others Follow?

I was intrigued by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s book, Strengths Based Leadership (See more on that below.) and especially intrigued on their chapter on why people follow certain leaders. Gallup conducted a random sampling of 10,000 people using just these two questions:

  • “What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?” and
  • “Now, please list three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life.”

The results were fascinating because, with no prompts or categories to choose from, the respondents overwhelmingly identified the same four characteristics of the leaders they choose to follow in their work, personal and community lives. These were: Trust, Compassion, Stability and Hope.

I found myself wondering how we feel we meet these characteristics. Here are some questions to ask ourselves.

  1. Trust: Do others see me as honest? Having integrity? Being ethical?
  2. Compassion: Do I show that I care? Am I empathetic and aware of other people’s needs?
  3. Stability: Do I lead from a solid foundation of values and strength? Can I move through change?
  4. Hope: Am I realistically optimistic and able to provide positive guidance for the future?

What are your thoughts? How do you rate yourself? How would others rate you? We all may need to take our leadership skills up to that next level and embrace these qualities more on a daily basis. I’m sure we will see powerful results!

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5 Steps to Build a Strong & Effective Habit

Building a strong habit that brings us the results we want is not that hard once we make up our minds that a change in our behavior is needed. But how do we do it? In his brand new book, The Coaching Habit, author Michael Bungay Stanier includes a chapter on how to teach yourself a new habit

I was intrigued, and Stanier’s ideas got me thinking about some of the best practices I recommend to leaders in today’s rapidly changing and challenging workplace. Here they are:

  1. Be honest with yourself – what is the “why” you are committing to this new behavior, especially when the success of this new habit will positively affect someone you care about.
  2. Identify what will be the specific “clue” or situation that will prompt your new behavior.
  3. Make your new behavior very simple and very short – no longer than 60 seconds to complete.
  4. Repeat the new behavior over and over and over until it becomes “second nature”.
  5. Acknowledge your successes everyday even when they might not have been “perfect”.

What would you add to this list? What works well for you? What can get in the way of your good intentions and how do you deal with those saboteurs? Let me know your ideas!

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Robots vs. Leaders with Empathy

Speaking from my years of experience working with people, families and communities as a professional coach, trainer, psychotherapist and social worker, I’ve always appreciated that our human needs are very clear – we want to be seen, have a voice and be able to contribute in a meaningful way.

And a robot or computer simply can’t provide that connection in any significant way and never will be able to. A robot is no competition for the human touch, the human heart and the human ear.

As leaders, these subtle but critical sensibilities show up as empathy. Empathy is the core of all social & emotional intelligence: true inspirational leadership never happens without it. Empathy is the ability to see the situation from another person’s eyes and heart. It’s the ability to set aside your own agenda, to listen deeply without judgment and to be able to genuinely understand and appreciate the perspective of another.

Do all leaders have this ability? No, they do not but the ones who do are remembered for their ability to engage and inspire us to always be at our best. We will work our hearts and souls out for that leader who genuinely hears us, values us and gives us the opportunity to use our talents to contribute in meaningful ways.

Can empathy be learned? Yes, it can, with daily practice and an authentic belief and enjoyment of others. It’s part of what clearly differentiates us from any computer program, machine or data package.

A robot can’t compete or replace us when we as leaders are at our best and humanly connected to others.

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You Have a Right to a Seat at the Table

As a woman, how do you get to a position of leadership? A position of influence? A position to make a difference? It’s by having self-confidence. It’s the confidence to know that you can do it – that you are a strong and capable woman. It’s by taking that seat at the table right along with your male colleagues

As Sheryl Sandberg writes in her wonderful book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, 2013, we as women unconsciously but regularly hold ourselves back from sitting at the table.

As women, we can learn a lot from men about how to embrace our own successes. For example, research shows that when men are asked about how they achieved their various successes, they give credit to themselves – to their own innate qualities, skills and yes, their potential. It’s not in an egotistical way (no one likes that) but men don’t usually minimize or excuse their abilities but rather give themselves credit where credit is due.

Now, when a woman is asked about her success, what does she say? You will hear them (or even yourself) attribute their success to external factors like “I couldn’t have done it without other people’s help” or “I had a good mentor” or the worse for self-confidence . . . “I just got lucky”.

We constantly underestimate ourselves! Does that sound familiar? And the research verifies what we as women have suspected for a long time . . . we judge our performance worse than it actually is (men judge themselves slightly better) and when we are in front of other people, we are even more critical.

Changing this kind of self-talk is long overdue – especially as we raising our talented young daughters. We truly need the best of everyone – men and women of all ages – and, yes, ourselves as well!

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Creating Positive Energy as a Leader

As a leader, do you bring positive energy into the room or do you drain it as soon as you walk in? Think about it . . . you may have a good sense of what emotional impact you have on others or maybe you don’t have a clue.

Why is it even important? A core competency for any leader in any capacity is their ability to connect positively with others up and down their organization’s structure. These leaders bring an energy, optimism and a sense of hope to their work and relationships. This positive connection expands into an ability to engage and influence others in the mission and desired outcomes of the company, organization or team effort. People gravitate very naturally to this kind of leader.

But how do we as individual leaders develop this competency for ourselves? It’s so easy to slip back to the doom and gloom of everyday work life. Neuroscientists tell us this is actually how our brains are hard-wired – for basic survival – but our world has changed and we need to change our thinking as well.

Here are my favorite three ways to practice changing these old thinking habits:

First, when you wake up tomorrow morning think of 3 things that you are thankful for or grateful for in this new day. These are the lenses through which you will see everything that will happen during your day – a perspective of abundance rather than scarcity.

Second, do a small act of kindness today – and don’t mention it to anyone.

Third, when you go to bed tonight think of 3 things that went well during that day – not what you didn’t get done or what went wrong but rather What Went Well (WWW) (Seligman).

As a leader in any capacity, these simple daily practices will help you refocus on what is going well and restore a sense of positive energy that will ripple out, increasing your ability to engage and influence others.

Try it and let me know what happens!

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