One of my core beliefs is that we lack confidence because we don’t truly, deeply understand what we bring to the table. Based on that I work with people to understand their areas of strength, then link those strengths to their effectiveness at work. And for the most part, it works. What Ben Bergeron says in “Chasing Excellence,” is that he makes his elite CrossFit athletes really focus on their areas of weakness. That doesn’t mean they’re off the hook on the easy stuff — they also spend A LOT of time practicing their areas of strength. But they don’t stop there.Similarly, in the public speaking team, I worked with we began the semester by filming students so they could see themselves speak, then asking them to select two non-verbal or vocal elements to improve. With the focus on just two things they made much more progress, and the confidence that built made lots of other issues go away.
To be clear, I still believe it’s key to begin with your strengths. It’s human nature to focus on our mistakes and weaknesses, and if you dive right into those you’ll just beat yourself up. That actually slows progress. Ben Bergeron’s athletes know what they do really well. And our public speaking students got lots of recognition for what comes easily to them. But if you feel grounded in your strengths and positive impact, and feel ready to turn up the volume, this is a great way to increase your bench strength as you create change.
Do you ever get tired of saying yes to that favor at work, even though you know you’ll resent it? Or being the one who takes the lead because you just know no one else will step up? Habits are hard to change and even harder to change when they are linked to our identity. In these examples, it’s the pleaser/nice guy and the responsible one.
According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are three types of learning: Cognitive, Motor, and Affective. In coaching I see these as, I can give you the tool and tell you what to do (cognitive), you can do it to learn what it’s like (motor), but you won’t really embrace the change if it doesn’t sync with your identity and who you are (affective). In Immunity to Change, the authors explore this phenomenon beautifully with an example of a man who can’t lose weight. As they explore his circumstances, it comes down to the fact that he comes from a big family that has dinner together each Sunday. And he can’t say no to his aging aunt who’s cooked all day. His identity as a good, loving nephew makes it impossible to say no.
Effective change is linked to vision, clarity, and passion, but sometimes something’s getting in the way. So if you find yourself saying, “That’s just not me,” or your team saying, “We don’t do that,” those may be positive values that you want to uphold. They may also be an identity rut that’s keeping you from adapting to today’s fast-changing business environment. This week why not think of something you’re struggling to accomplish. Then ask yourself what identity is behind the stuckness. If you gave yourself permission to let that go or found a different way to be around it (ie-bring that doting aunt flowers instead of overeating), what might happen next?
Change has been on my mind a lot. Maybe it’s the fall leaves. Maybe I’m ready for a change! The thing about change is that we want it, but we resist it. Or kick it down the road. It’s normal to fear change and that fear shows up in all kinds of ways. My take is that we have to pull the change dreams out of the clouds and break them down so they’re less scary. We have to face the fear it brings up. And we have to get clear on what we really want and what’s actually in the way. Over the next several weeks, I’m writing a series on change that’s inspired by recent events I’ve attended and reading I’ve done. I hope you enjoy it.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a live podcast with Melinda Gates as the guest. My biggest takeaways were:
- Get the facts. Melinda said that in her foundation work, her data science background is super helpful in measuring what actually keeps communities from changing. It turns out that having clean drinking water so children can thrive leads to having fewer children so women can work, and that is directly correlated with building wealth in the community. Not wishful thinking, but following the facts.
- Create pathways to change. Melinda talked about a woman who was ready to leave her husband and move to the city after the birth of their first child. She said that now that she had to take care of the baby, she no longer had time to fetch the water every day. Her husband, who loved her and didn’t want her to leave, started going to get the water in her place. The other men laughed until their wives started making them do it too.
At work, we think a lot about change. Maybe you’d love it if your boss wouldn’t call you into his office for a casual project review right when you’re ready to go home. Or you’d love it if your colleague didn’t interrupt you in meetings. Maybe you wish your team would be more excited about work so you didn’t have to micro-manage them all the time. Thing is, we think about change but we don’t always:
- Get the facts. Maybe there’s a way to update your boss earlier in the day. Maybe the interrupter thinks they are supporting you by finishing your sentences. Or your team would love to take more initiative, but they don’t like failing. We often see a situation from our point of view and that can make us spend a lot of unnecessary energy.
- Create pathways to change. When your boss, team or colleague does the same frustrating things again and again, why not get curious. For each thing that’s bothering you, write it down and then write 2-3 questions you could be asking. As soon as we shift from frustration to curiosity, the brain shifts into creative gear. Then possibilities emerge.
When change is too sudden or people haven’t been included, they are likely to resist it. So make sure the change makes sense and that you’re seeing it from their point of view. And try to include them along the way so the barriers come up early in the process.
This week I got a Harvard Business Review email that tickled me because it’s exactly what I’ve been saying for years!
“Throughout history, people had little need to manage their
careers — they were born into their stations in life or, in the
recent past, they relied on their companies to chart their career
paths. But times have drastically changed. Today we must all
learn to manage ourselves. What does that mean? According to
Peter Drucker, author of the classic HBR article, “Managing
Oneself,” it means we have to learn to develop ourselves. We
have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest
contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have
to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life,
which means knowing how and when to change the work we do.”
When I’m working with managers, it’s all about understanding the workplace they’re operating in, knowing where they have the best leverage, and making sure they have the tools to navigate their environment. When we know what we contribute and understand how things hang together, it builds breakthrough confidence. That leads to lower stress, greater balance, and more creative problem-solving.
If you want to be a more effective leader, think about what support you need, and what support your middle and junior level employees have. Please click here if you would like to have a private conversation about your effectiveness as a leader.
This spring I worked with a team that had seen impressive growth over an 18-month period. But you wouldn’t have known it by how they presented themselves. They were exhausted. They were experiencing low-level conflict and tension. They complained that if things kept going this way, they were expecting significant employee turnover. Despite their success, the future looked bleak, like a recipe for burnout.
The first thing we did was to take stock of where they were and what they had accomplished. Not the version of things they were making up, but the real reality. We talked about how they’d grown. We talked about how their communication was mostly successful, even with their fast-moving client. We talked about systems that they had built, without even realizing, along the way. It was a collective hugfest, and once their mood had shifted they found a few very simple solutions that could significantly increase their efficiency.
What they realized is something so many of us forget. Success doesn’t mean that all problems will be resolved forever. Change invites new opportunities…and new challenges. So the next time you feel like the problems never end, ask yourself: is this new challenge is here because just before it, I did something well?
For more on how to be more creative and solve bigger problems, take a look at “Positive Intelligence” by Shirzad Chamine. Please feel free to schedule a call with me by clicking here about your role on a team that feels like it is in chaos.
One of the things I hear consistently from clients is, “We’re working on clarifying roles and responsibilities.” And while that’s important, it’s not the whole issue. Take my recent visit to Dunkin Donuts. When I asked for more milk in my coffee, the woman said, “How many milks?” ”Huh? Just the one?” I thought to myself. For those employees, each squirt from the machine is a “milk” and they, in turn have trained the customers to ask for milk by number. It’s one approach — roles and responsibilities are clear — but I believe it leaves people disengaged and not accountable. The Dunkin Donuts was in the middle of farm country and we were talking about milk. What could be more basic?
Marie Kondo woke us up to the reality that we can’t organize our way to a beautiful home. Buying more boxes to organize stuff only gets us more boxes. The real issue is that we have too much stuff. It’s the same with organizing people and work. While we do need to organize ourselves, without the simplifying element of trust, and without understanding the underlying dynamics of the organization’s culture, we don’t get the productivity we want. According to Patrick Lencioni, absence of trust leads to artificial harmony and conflict avoidance. In one of the most powerful exercises I do with teams, each person gives and gets positive and difficult feedback about their behavior. People love it because they finally learn that they can ask for what they need without creating conflict. Combine that with well-defined roles and responsibilities, and it’s a powerful combination.
Camping in Vermont this past August, my family and I discovered a beaver living just 100 feet down-river from our site. On day two we named him George because he swam in very close to our dock to smell and listen to us. Not long after, he smacked his tail and dove underwater. I shifted from “Awwwww, cute,” to a nervous, “heh, heh,” when I realized that I had no idea how beavers behave when they feel threatened. “Is 100 feet too close?” “Is the tail smack a signal that he is about to run out of the water, teeth bared, claws extended, ready to attack?” “Can a beaver run faster than a 10-year old boy?”
I wrestled with some feelings of shame after boasting that I was going camping. I’m really just a city girl who knows more about getting from City Hall to the Upper West Side on the subway at rush hour than I do about the rhythms of nature. And it occurred to me that growth is like that. Whether you are growing your team or business, just got a promotion, or are working to be a more effective leader, it’s often not what you thought it would be. You are disoriented. You need time to learn new rhythms. You may feel some shame that you don’t know what you’re doing. All of that is normal.
In the end, I learned that George was in fact signaling to his buddies that we were in their space. And that his normal behavior was a good thing because it meant he wasn’t rabid(!) I managed my disaster fears and was amazed by how quickly I learned his rhythms. I even got the attached photo of him doing his morning swim.
If you are experiencing change (and we all are these days), know that some wobble goes along with growth and change, for you and for your team. If you want to have a quick chat about change and growth, click here.
When I was in business school, a fellow student in my strategy class always had the response the professor was looking for. It was especially impressive because the professor was notorious for assigning 60+ pages of dense reading per class. After the third class, I asked him how he did it. He said, “Pay attention. In class, she tells you the key reading. Read that; leave the rest in a big pile for someday, when school’s done.” (I hauled those readings through four apartment moves until I finally gave up.)
I’m forever grateful to this student for reminding me of the importance of prioritizing. From then on I felt prepared, and the boost in confidence was game-changing. Today as an entrepreneur/CEO, that lesson is more important than ever. If I didn’t spend significant time each quarter, month, week and day prioritizing, delegating and plowing through, I’d be at a standstill. Time management is a vast topic, but here are a few of my favorite rules:
- Outside of your daily work, decide 2-3 goals each quarter and focus consistently on those (one should be results/bottom-line oriented). You will not grow your team and organization if you don’t move “important/not urgent” goals forward. And yes, putting aside other goals is hard, but focusing on too much leads to overwhelm and lower productivity.
- Write a to-do list, then schedule it. And leave yourself A LOT of time between tasks. Things take longer and shorter than you expect and if you schedule it too tightly, the plan doesn’t work.
- Plan to do less. Ending the day feeling disappointed saps way too much energy. When you put less on your list you are more likely to end the day with that happy, skipping feeling, and that builds momentum.
- Do it. Don’t let “not fun” get in the way of doing things. You will lose out on the feeling of accomplishment.
- Measure and celebrate your success. Every day I take a few minutes to review what I am grateful for from the last 24 hours, including 2-3 accomplishments. The shift to my well-being, and reduction in my stress, is immediate. To learn more about this, see “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor.
- And finally, make a Whole Life To Do list that includes personal and work. I learned this from Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Personal things that take mental space are like a tire with a slow leak; you can’t fully concentrate and work things take way longer.
Nothing matters more than your well-being, and taking good care of yourself leads to much greater productivity. If you want to have a conversation about time management, click here to book a complimentary call with me.
There’s a feeling in the air that I love towards the end of August. The city has more people again, and there is a palpable anticipation. It makes me want to run to the stationery store and load up on notebooks and bubble gum smelling Hello Kitty erasers, and cut and fold paper shopping bags into textbook covers. It’s the end of the ease of summer, and I look forward to being swept up in the reconnecting and being productive.
If you haven’t already, it’s a great time to think about what you are wanting next. We do get swept up, and if you don’t take a moment to consciously think about how you want to grow as a manager or professional, it can be October before you know it, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas.
So take a moment. What’s going on for you? Is there a goal that’s been floating for a while? What would further progress look like, and what immediate next steps could you take? If you would like to have a quick conversation about your next steps, click here to schedule a complimentary call.
I just ended a four-week grand jury duty. Yes, every afternoon for four weeks. It was a challenge to say the least. But what I love about jury duty is the sitting around waiting, and talking and connecting to New Yorkers you don’t get to talk to every day. It’s the best. It opens up so many perspectives.
One conversation I had was with a lovely 21-year old Orthodox Jewish woman. She told me that her community’s tradition of shutting down all electronics, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, has taken on new meaning in the digital age. Saturday has become far and away her favorite day of the week. No cell phone, just doing things with friends and family and connecting. What a gift.
The rare times I’ve forgotten my phone over the last couple of years have been so peaceful. I am determined to have a screen-free day each weekend with my family and friends. Join me?