Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

What Services Do Servant Leaders Provide?

Article contributed by guest author Dennis Hooper.

Sometimes leaders ask if I help organizations understand and implement “servant leadership.” Maybe the individual has heard of the concept but can’t imagine how it functions, considering his or her current beliefs about leadership. I love exploring existing perspectives with inquisitive people, helping them see a more effective model and allowing them to adjust their leadership behaviors.

The most common image of leadership involves the traditional pyramidal hierarchy. Developed centuries ago, the corporate organization chart clearly identifies what portion of the empire each leader controls. “These people work for me” is the operative mental outlook. Within this framework, many leaders find it hard to consider “what can I do to serve them?”

So, let’s start thinking about servant leadership by representing the organization through a different model. Imagine how we might use a tree as a more appropriate organizational metaphor.

Visualize that the individuals who do the work on a day-to-day basis are the leaves. They are supported by the branches, which are the organization’s managers and supervisors. Top management is the trunk supporting the branches and leaves and delivering water and nutrients up from the roots. The trunk and branches provide substantial support for that portion of the organization where the “real work” is accomplished. When the winds of change blow, the trunk and roots provide stability, keeping the tree anchored firmly. The tree’s extensive root system collects revenue from customers, and the trunk delivers the needed capital equipment, raw materials, tools, and supplies to the leaves.

Through this simple paradigm shift, many individuals are immediately able to better understand the concept of servant leadership. The trunk and branches function collaboratively to ensure the health and growth of the twigs and leaves. A tree is a living organism; if any part becomes diseased, the life of the entire tree is in jeopardy.
If the organization remains healthy, the parts that do the “real work” are pushed higher, competing favorably with surrounding trees for sunlight. Growth, through increased production and reliability, is a natural desire among those doing the work. The trunk and branches grow only as much as is required to deliver the resources needed by the growing numbers of leaves.

Pyramids were never intended to grow; they were designed as tombs! Trees, however, are alive and beautiful. With apologies to Joyce Kilmer, “I think that I shall never see a pyramid lovely as a tree.”

Now, let’s consider the real-time services that you provide when you function as a servant leader. Let’s start with you as entrepreneur, gathering resources and sending up the first shoot. Leaves are added as survival seems viable. Growth occurs quickly in those first few years as the tender seedling seeks sunshine and manages to avoid consumption by insects and herbivores.

Once the organization matures, you as leader provide opportunity, resources, a healthy work environment, and clear expectations. Depending on the surroundings, you communicate direction so that everyone is empowered to achieve the inspiring vision of robust growth. When problems arise, you listen and collaborate to eliminate obstructions and obtain needed resources.

You offer coaching, feedback, respect, and expanded responsibilities. You inform everyone of the organization’s results and you invite new ideas. You offer encouragement, hope, balance, and clarity. You tell the truth. You plan so last-minute requests rarely occur. You keep promises that you’ve made. You ask people what they need, and you work to provide it.

Lest we take this model too far, let’s acknowledge that those doing the “real work” are accountable to your authority. However, the leaves rarely need to be reminded why they exist. They realize that their role–processing sunshine, water, and nutrients–is a critical function for the success of “the tree team.”

As a servant leader, you support and empower those who do the “real work” of the organization!

8 Essential Components of Personal Transformation

Article contributed by Brian Baker.

Today we are talking about personal transformation. These 8 strategies can help you become the person you’ve always wanted to be.

1. Identify your core values. You won’t be happy if you create a big change that puts you in conflict with your values. Most people have never really taken the time to identify their values. Take a day to consider the values that are most important to you. Write them down.

2. Create a vision of the future. Think about the end result of the transformation you want to make. What would that look like? What direction would you like your life to take? Is your transformation reasonable for you? For example, you might not be able to make a trillion dollars, but you could still build great wealth.

3. Determine why. Why do you want to make this change? Create a long list of reasons why you want to transform. Get excited and dream big!

4. Identify the qualities and skills you’ll need to develop. If you want to transform your body, you might need to learn more about exercise physiology, nutrition, and develop some discipline. Consider what it will take to accomplish your transformation.

5. Identify the resources you’ll require. Do you need a personal trainer, gym membership, and a blender? Maybe you need money and a life coach for your transformation. Figure out the resources you’ll need.

6. Make a plan. Start at the end and keep working backwards until you reach a step that you can do today. Avoid worrying about every little detail of the future and work in the moment. Don’t get ahead of yourself.

7. Audit your plan. Imagine following your plan and note how you feel at each step. You’re bound to feel some emotional resistance at one or more points. If you didn’t, you would have made the transformation long ago.

a. It’s important to address each of the issues that creates emotional discomfort. You’re likely to quit if you don’t.
b. Either come up with a plan to work around those issues or just relax and let the negative feelings go.
c. You’ll know you’re in a good place when you find yourself chomping at the bit to get started. Procrastination is a sign that something is awry.

8. Don’t quit! This is the most challenging part for most people. You fail if you quit. You can’t fail if you don’t. Keep on going no matter how bleak things seem. You can always do better tomorrow than you did today. A little bit of progress each day or week is all you need.

Start your transformation today. Build a vision and create a plan. Stay the course until you’re satisfied with the changes you’ve made.

The pursuit of “perfection” can lead to “procrastination”

 

Article contributed by guest author Stephanie Wachman.

Striving to be perfect has its good side, but let’s be honest: perfectionism, paradoxically, can paralyze us and zap productivity. It often leads to missed opportunities, blown deadlines, massive stress, and frustration with ourselves and others. If we can learn to tame the voice in our head that says, “It’s still not good enough,” then we can free up our minds and schedules to conquer other important tasks and initiatives. The net result of “perfection” is usually “procrastination”.

If you have a pattern of blowing deadlines or not starting on a project, ask yourself why you are holding off. From my experience in working with professionals I have heard three consistent answers.

  • I’m not sure what I’m doing
  • I don’t know where to start, and
  • I’m not sure it will be good enough

By holding off on starting a big project or by frequently missing deadlines, you are actually sabotaging yourself and your success. Ask yourself if you have a pattern of behavior that causes you to hold back on delivering work on time.  Some of us are willing to accept the consequences of being slapped on the wrist for a blown deadline then the risk of turning in work we think is “imperfect”.  I refer to this predicament as Perfection Paralyses.

Although you won’t find this syndrome in the official book of psychological disorders, this is a real problem that’s not easy to overcome—unless you are perfect.

The pursuit of “perfection” can be an elusive ideal as “perfection” is hard to define for ourselves but ultimately leads to procrastination.

4 tips to overcome procrastination:

Sometimes good is good enough:  In some cases, doing a good enough job is the right choice, especially when you consider the consequences of not meeting your commitments.

Find a starting point: When you are overwhelmed with the task at hand, start by making a list of all the things you have to do pertaining to the project. Drill down as far as you can go and then pick one item to start with.  Often, we just need to get started somewhere in order to get the work flow going.

Set a timer: Blocking a short period of time on your calendar and setting a time for it will help you with focus. Make it into a challenge, where you play beat the clock.  I often say that if you are really blocked then start with 20 minutes and just begin with brainstorming.  This will warm up the mind and get thoughts flowing.

Ask for help:  If you have taken on a project that is more than you can handle or you are truly not equipped to do it, then find someone who can help you.  It might even be a colleague who isn’t in your office. Asking for help can be a lifeline when you need it most.

Getting past procrastination and the consequences that go along with it will help you improve your work performance as well as decrease stress.  Leaving things undone can increase the amount of frustration and disappointment you have in yourself. The good news is you can overcome it by being deliberate in how you take steps to get beyond it.

Sinking Boats and other lessons in Resilience

Article contributed by guest author Patricia Conlin.

As I close off another summer and prepare to send my boys back to school for another year, I remember some lessons that I relearned that are reminders or what is important to all of us on resilience.

This summer, I spent a lot of time at my cottage. It’s beautiful up there and more so because my father, who passed away in 2017, built the entire cottage including most of the furniture. I have fond childhood memories of our adventures and time together as a family each summer at the cottage. I’ve always noticed that at the cottage, everyone is more relaxed and life is full on food, games and swimming in the lake which is pure heaven. In July, I decided to buy a new boat for our water access cottage. I was also getting pressure from my boys to get a bigger motor to use with skis, knee-boards and tubes up there for even more fun so I caved in and made the purchase. I brought the boat up with my boyfriend who is a seasoned cottage owner so I didn’t bother getting involved in the whole boat launch prep. We went to a new boat launch and everything seemed to be working well. I was left with the boat in the narrows to drive a very short distance to the marina while my boyfriend parked our car few miles away. Unfortunately, we had forgotten one very important thing….to put in the plug! So I found myself mysteriously dragging on the bottom and then beating myself up for being an incompetent driver and not navigating well and then blaming myself when I heard a thud and knew I had damaged the motor somehow. I finally got out of the narrows somehow but my boat was dragging oddly at the back. I managed to get to the marina dock but was shaky. We loaded up and I was to too embarrassed about my driving to tell my boyfriend that the boat was dragging. The whole way over to the cottage I was silently cursing myself for wrecking the boat. When we docked and saw all the water coming in, we quickly figured out the real problem. We took immediate action and got the bilge pump working, drove the boat around the lake until massive amounts of water drained and then found a plug in the glove compartment. We realized after trying to fit it in many times that it wasn’t the right plug. Luckily, we managed to plug the holes with some of my Dad’s old plugs in his shed but had to take the boat back to the dealer to fix the prop and get a proper plug the next day as it was still taking on some water. The dealer paid for the prop damage because he realized they hadn’t fitted the plug properly but told us to always check the plug before we launch.

Good advice!

What lessons did I learn from this adventure? Well, isn’t it true that most of us jump to making false assumptions not only about ourselves but about others in a stressful situation. Also, why are we so hard on ourselves when things go wrong? Is there a way to reprogram our thinking to better manage during times of crisis, conflict or problems? We all have these so called garbage thoughts but the secret is to not listen to them too much or at least talk back to them. As Business Professionals we receive a lot of negative feedback at times and it can be draining and often we start beating ourselves up when we hear negative words from others. Too much work, too little, difficult staff, difficult client, deadlines etc. all add to our stress cooker day. And then we go home and face home challenges with kids, parents, chronic health issues, lack of time etc.

How can we navigate more successfully?

One word-RESILIENCE.

I have spent years becoming more aware of my thinking patterns and how they impact my performance. During the boat launch adventure, I was aware of my negative thinking so was able to review it objectively and learn from it quickly instead of holding on to the negativity. I went back to the cottage and relaunched the boat successfully the following weekend to gain skill, reinforce a positive outcome and gain confidence in my ability to manage as a new cottage owner. In other words, I learned from my failure. I was even in a way grateful for the failure because it taught me to be careful and I have taken more time to learn about boats and boat launch techniques for next year.

To be resilient we need to stop beating ourselves up and instead be more aware of our thoughts, emotions and actions and work to course correct them for a more positive outcome on a regular basis.

What do you think is the single most important factor in success as a Business Professional-Resilience?

This one soft skill is what I believe has made me successful over the years despite huge upheavals in my life the past 10 years and something that you can work on each day for more success in work and in life.

Here are a few key ways to boost your own inner resilience to achieve more Success this Fall:

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  1. Catch your negative thoughts – When you become aware of a negative thought, ask yourself – Is this true? Often it is not true. Even if it is true, ask yourself, is there a way to create a positive outcome or accept the reality of a situation and learn from it without beating yourself up. In the past, I have had very demanding clients. Sometimes, they would be extremely critical and I would start to feel badly about myself. I would question my abilities. However, as I have learned this technique, I have consistently been able to separate fact from fiction. Instead of reacting or retreating because I felt badly, I have learned to respond to the comment or situation with confidence to improve the outcome every time. A way to do this is to move from an emotional state to a rational state and write down the key elements of the situation and how best to respond. For example, a client decided he hated all our work for no reason. He was negative about everything. It hurt yes but I caught the negative quickly. I responded with empathy for his frustration but then wrote a detailed note full of facts on what we had done so far, a comment on what our expectations are from him as a Partner (yes you heard it! Don’t let anyone disrespect you-EVER) and facts on the project, recommendations and an action plan. In short, I regained my power in the relationship by standing my ground and not letting my own negative thoughts weaken me of impact my performance. He started responding more positively and we successfully completed the project to his complete satisfaction.
  2.  Believe in yourself – Yes, sometimes we screw up. Sometimes, we overreact, say dumb stuff and do dumb stuff. So what. We are human. Any solid relationship that can’t take a little humanness, isn’t worth it. Be real. Believe in yourself and know that you are doing your best. When you aren’t doing your best, give yourself a kick in the butt and do your best. When we hear bad news or miss revenue targets, we sometimes go into a performance slump. The number one reason we stay in a slump is because we stop believing in ourselves. So always believe in yourself. When you screw up, pay attention. Why did it happen? Did you get off track somehow or were you not paying attention to signs from a candidate or client? A vital soft skill which I teach others to cultivate is self-awareness and other-awareness. I have saved and made many placements using awareness and honing this skill. If we are caught up in doom and gloom, we exude that instead of the confidence we need to be successful. So when you make a mistake, consider it a lesson or a redirection and keep going confidently towards success.
  3.  Fail and fail again – Life is about falling down and getting back up. It’s hard to become resilient if you never fail. Failure hurts but that pain teaches better than success. Failure hones skills, teaches humility, gratitude and strengthens are resolve. It helps us become resilient. So don’t beat yourself up when you fail. Tell others. Learn from your mistakes. None of us are perfect and the concept of perfection is impossible to achieve. We need to teach our kids and others to strive to improve every day while celebrating what we have accomplished already. Success comes from trial and error and those who are too afraid to step outside their comfort zone will not be able to achieve the success they seek. I love telling stories and my best stories come from my so called failures. My screw ups and mistakes turn into fodder for humour and lessons. Laugh at your failures then get up and try again!
  4.  Stay healthy – Working hard takes energy. Resilience comes from a healthy mind, body and spirit. It can be fun to party once in awhile or gorge on junk food, but a consistent neglect of your health will impact your performance over time. Contact me for easy tips on boosting energy and getting a better sleep.
  5. Learn – Adopt a continually learning mindset instead of staying fixed in your ways. Do this at both work and home. Find hobbies or passions your enjoy out side of work. For me, it’s ever expanding vegetable garden challenges, new recipes, my upcoming podcast series or finding time to practice a language skill and have been teaching my boys basic life skills that they will need like cooking, cleaning (yes, this one is a struggle…J) and cottage maintenance. Always work to improve your skills at work as well by learning more about tools, trends, and ways to better interact with clients and others. I have found that learning new skills builds our resilience muscle. As a Business Owner, I have worked hard to expand my revenue streams in Talent Solutions with growing divisions in RPO, Leadership Coaching and Training, Corporate workshops, Transition services and speaking which makes each day exciting and highly engaging.

I am getting ready to speak at NAPS again this Fall in Texas for their Go Big or Go Home conference. My talk will go into more detail on how to be Mentally Prepared for Anything. Resilience is key to our success and a soft skill we can all develop.

A reflection of integrity

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

When you look into the mirror, who do you see? I don’t mean the color of your eyes, how pointy your chin is, or how amazing your hair is looking today. I mean the deep down you, who you are on the inside,  the who of your who. The real you. Can you see this person in your reflection, or is he or she hidden, masked, or adulterated in a way that the real you is not recognizable?

In other words, is the life you’re living matching up with who you are on the inside, resulting in living a life of integrity?

For many of us, our naked soul is a little too uncomfortable to gaze upon for very long, so after a quick glance, we look away. Others of us are afraid to look at all for the pain the reflection may reveal. If only we could all could learn to live out who we truly are, accepting the things we can’t change, and making shifts on the things we can, so that who we see (and who others see) is an accurate representation of the life we’re living. That, I propose, is living a life of integrity.

Defining Integrity

Integrity is often described as doing the right thing, especially when no one is watching, or living in a way that’s trustworthy and honest, or having strong moral principles. I’d like to offer another aspect of integrity: Living in a way that aligns with who we truly are, so that our reflection, both in our eyes and in others’, and the life we live, is a match.

At one point or another we all have experienced flow — that place of oneness, where we’re completely absorbed in what we’re doing, where the time seems to fly by. Years ago, my middle daughter would come home from school, pick up her guitar, and hours later (though it only seemed moments for her), would look up with surprise at how much time had passed. It’s a good feeling to be in flow. However, often we find ourselves in relationships, jobs, and ways of living that don’t align with who we are. You know when things are off. You find yourself filled with dread, discouragement, and feel disillusioned. You wonder how you ended up here, and wonder, “Is this really all life has to offer?” You feel stuck, and can’t see a way out.

Learning to live our lives in conjunction with who we are takes courage, vulnerability, and insight. It takes emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of how we’re feeling, and how others are feeling, in the moment, then manage our behavior and relationships appropriately. To accurately reflect who we are, living in integrity, we need to know ourselves and understand the emotions we are feeling.

Knowing Yourself

Self-awareness is the first quadrant of emotional intelligence. If I were to ask you to tell me about who you are, how would you answer? Would you start by describing the work you do?  Or maybe that you’re a parent, or ‘married to…”? Or would the question throw you off completely and leave you without words? Try to look beyond the roles you perform. Make a list of qualities about yourself, ones that you feel define you well. Try journaling and see how easily the words flow. Now share this list with someone who knows you well. Do they agree? Would they describe you the same way? What descriptors would they add? Close friends can help alert us to any blind spots we may have in our self-awareness.

Emotions Check

How are you feeling, right now, in this moment? Can you put words to it? Too many times we’ve been told to leave our emotions at the door, however our emotions can serve as dear friends who are willing to offer understanding into what is going on in our world. Learning to tune in to our emotions can help us better know ourselves and better know how to reflect who we really are. Emotions provide us with valuable insights into the triggers that cause us to act the way we do. A good practice is to check in, on the hour each hour, by quickly jotting down how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. At the end of the day, look back on these emotions you felt and notice if they affected your behavior, and if so, how. Keeping track of how you’re feeling can help you begin to recognize your triggers which result in behavior that doesn’t benefit you. Once you know your triggers, you can begin to choose how you want to respond vs. letting your behavior come under a hijack of your emotions.

Values Check

What is important to you? Make a list of the first things that come to mind. It may be job, family, spirituality, beauty, friends, success, money, health, just to name a few. There are no wrong answers. If you’re not sure, try putting it this way: What things make your heart sing? What things cause you to feel strong positive emotions, and which things  make you smile and leave you with lasting joy? What activities create a sense of flow for you?

Time Check

How are you spending your time, and does it match up with who you are? Take a look at last week’s calendar. What did you spend most of your time doing? For most of us it’s work, because that’s how we sustain our lifestyles of choice. But how are you spending your time outside of work? Our calendars are a great record of how we are prioritizing our lives and what we are placing emphasis on. Do you like what you see? If not, what shifts could you  make to spend more time doing the things you value? Even small shifts in our schedules can bring about a better sense of aligning our daily actions with our values.

People Check

Now take a look at who you spend your time with. It may be your colleagues, your family, and friends. Maybe a few strangers here and there. Are you happy with whom you’re spending your time? Are you spending enough time with those you love most? If not, what shifts can you make to allow that to happen? Try listing out the people you value most, and note how much time you’ve spent with them in the last month. If you’re not satisfied with how much time is spent with those closest to you, what can you do to remedy that?

Regarding Shame

One hurdle to accurately reflecting who we truly are is that 5-letter curse word, shame. It’s defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” [https://www.google.com/search?q=definition+shame&oq=definition+shame&aqs=chrome..69i57j35i39l2j0j69i60l2.2538j0j9&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8]. Some of us have made choices we’re not proud of in our past, and allow them to define who we are. We forget that our choices are not who we are — they’re what we’ve done. You can be a very good person and have made some poor choices in your past. The key is to separate out your actions from your being, and to realize that you have a choice going forward to decide upon better actions, behaviors, and paths.

Learning to let go of the past and forgive yourself can take some hard work. Finding a social + emotional intelligence coach or a counselor may be a great place to start in working through some of the past. Once you feel you’ve made amends with yourself, (and possibly those who you may have hurt in the process), you can then decide to step into a new direction.

Living in Alignment

Now that you know yourself a little better, here are some questions to ask yourself to see if your actions are lining up with your character. If you answer yes to any of these, it may be time to make some shifts.

  • Do you feel the need to hide any of the choices you are making? Which ones? From whom do you need to hide? Why?
  • Are you afraid others will find out something you’re currently engaged in? What consequences do you fear?
  • Would you be proud to tell others about the choices you’re making?  Why or why not?

As we see ourselves more deeply and clearly, by tuning into our emotions, living out our values, using our time well, and spending time with those we love, and learning to let go of shame along the way, we can begin to look in the mirror and see the person we want to see — the one we truly are. Learning to reflect this person in our day-to-day actions can enable us to begin to live the life we want to live…a life of integrity.

Why Empathy Matters

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

Not feeling it

She theatrically shared her sob story, voice cracking from the flood of emotion, complete with a long, pregnant pause to regain her composure. I squirmed uncomfortably in my hard, metal seat and inwardly rolled my eyes. Oh, the drama. The presenter struggled through her testimony and I struggled with listening–caring. Her situation seemed easy to me, and not worth the eruption of emotional energy she was giving it.

I turned my head toward my colleague with a smirk, knowing she’d share my lack of enthusiasm at this flagrant show of sentiment. I was surprised to see she had a big, fat tear trickling down her cheek. She quickly brushed it away and reached in her purse for a tissue. As I looked around, I noticed others in the audience sniffling and dabbing their eyes. They, like my colleague, were feeling what the speaker was feeling, displaying compassionate listening skills.

I was not.

What is empathy?

Empathy is the ability to sense others’ feelings and take an active interest in their perspectives and concerns. It’s that ability to put yourself in another’s shoes and respond in a way that creates connection and understanding within your relationship. People who are good at this are able to tune into a wide array of emotional signals. They can sense underlying emotions that the other may be trying to hide. They show sensitivity to how the other is feeling and respond in a way that makes the other person feel understood, valued, and heard.

Those of us who aren’t so good at it tend to be judgmental and stereotype others before we have all the facts. We misunderstand how others are feeling and are quick to evaluate their actions based upon our criteria–not theirs.  As a result, we tend to act in a way that may crush another’s spirit and come across as indifferent or uncaring, which can cripple a relationship.

Before you cast your judgment upon me for my obvious lack of this vital competency of emotional intelligence, know that it reared its ugly head at a time in my life when I was younger, more focused on myself and my needs, with an inability to understand what others were suffering–mainly because I hadn’t lived much of my own life yet. Research shows that when we are in comfortable situations it is more difficult to empathize with someone else’s suffering. “At a neurobiological level – without a properly functioning supramarginal gyrus – the part of the brain that decouples perception of self from that of others  — your brain has a tough time putting itself in someone else’s shoes.”[https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy] .

“Maturity begins to grow when you can sense your concern for others outweighing your concern for yourself.”  — John MacNaughton

Little did I know that just around the corner, I’d soon be in dire need for the empathy I didn’t yet know how to offer others.

Empathy is vital

Learning to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and meaning, without losing the ‘as-if’ mentality — as if the same thing could happen to me — is a skill that is valuable to the health of our relationships.  It enables us to “share experiences, needs, and desires between individuals and providing an emotional bridge that promotes pro-social behavior.” [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513638/]. Empathy leads to helping shift behaviors which benefit us socially. “When people experience empathy, they are more likely to engage in pro-social behaviors that benefit other people. Things such as altruism and heroism are also connected to feeling empathy for others.” [https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-empathy-2795562].

Empathy is considered the missing link when it comes to strong connections in our families, schools, and workplaces. “Without empathy”, says Julie Fuimano,  certified coach, writer and speaker, “people tend to go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. We are so limited when we only see our own perspective. Without taking a moment to assess another, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions which leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale, and broken relationships.” [https://www.healthecareers.com/article/healthcare-news/the-importance-of-empathy-in-the-workplace].

It wasn’t but a few short months after that conference that my own set of struggles–which all of us encounter in this thing called life–began to take me down. My emotions were a raw, raucous roller coaster of highs and lows, and I could see no light at the end of the tunnel.  I couldn’t see my way ahead and my days became filled with pretending and my nights filled with worry. I noticed some friends started avoiding me. They’d tell me they were there for me, and some even went so far to say they were praying for me, but they sure didn’t want to hang around me.  I felt alone and questioned my self-worth.

“If there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put yourself in the other person’s place and to see things from his point of view — as well as your own.” — Henry Ford

Oh, what I would’ve given for someone to assure me, “Of course you’re feeling that way. I get it.  And it’s OK.” Where were all the empaths when I needed them?! It was as if no one really cared. It’s not surprising that only around 20 percent of the population is genetically predisposed toward empathy, based upon a study published in the Brain and Behavior journal. [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322189.php].  The good news, though, is that empathy is a competency of emotional intelligence, a behavior, and can be learned, even if we our natural tendencies don’t lend toward us shedding tears.

8 Ways to Increase your Empathy

  1.  Work on your listening skills. Listening is key to empathy, so practice quieting your mind when others are talking and really tune in to what they are saying, both verbally and non-verbally.
  2. Go beyond the words. When someone is speaking, search for the meaning behind their words, body language, and approach, to figure out what their underlying purpose and concerns are.
  3. Stop what you’re doing. When someone approaches you to share their heart, try to stop what you’re doing by looking at them, turning away from your computer, and putting down your phone.
  4. Find the emotions. What is the other person feeling?  Try to name the emotions they are experiencing and connect them to your own emotions.
  5. Paraphrase.  Check your understanding of what’s being said by repeating back to them what you think you heard.  “What I heard was…” or “It sounds like you’re….” are great ways to paraphrase what they said.
  6. Withhold judgment. Even if you agree with nothing that was said, try to be supportive of their viewpoint by letting them know you value their opinion.  Let them know that though you may believe differently, you still respect them for the way they are feeling and thinking.
  7. Think back. Reflect upon a time when you were hurting, or struggling with a tough situation.  Do you remember who helped you find your way?  Who was it who made you feel heard and understood, and what did they do to make you feel that way? Attempt to emulate their behavior as you work with others.
  8. Remind yourself that we’re all in this together.  It’s rare that someone close to you can go through a rough time without it affecting you and others.  Consider doing a compassion meditation to develop a greater understanding of how similar we all really are.

My own empathy has grown and developed since those heartless days. And though I have a long way to go, I can say that after years of work, I’m now often the first one crying in the room. If you struggle with empathy, see if you can’t choose just one of the above steps to start practicing this week.  After a few weeks, move on to another step, and so on. Journal about each step and reach out to others to talk about your progress. It takes work, but if you want to have meaningful, deep relationships, and make an impact on others as a leader, it’s a trait worth developing.

Managing Work-Related Stress with EQ

Article contributed by guest author Deb Westcott.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is critical to being able to manage stress. Out of all the major EQ competencies, the most powerful tool at your disposal is self-awareness. It allows you to know what your body is telling you, as well as be mindful of how you are adapting internally to outside stressors such as headaches, muscle tension, unsupportive self-talk, worry, and fatigue.

Here are 8 simple things you can do from the comfort of your own desk to combat stress every day:

1. Deep Breathing
The no. 1 most important and most successful stress reducer— resets your body and produces a physiological response.

2. Engage Your Senses
Listening to music, using scented lotion or candles, looking at vacation pictures, playing with stress balls – all of these actions reduce cortisol and increase oxytocin, which disrupts the stress reaction in your body.

3. Visualize a Happy Place
Seriously! It changes your mindset and hits the “restart” button in your body.

4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
A long phrase for listening to where your body is hurting and actively working on relaxing those muscles, one by one. Roll your shoulders, stretch your arms above your head, touch your toes.

5. Laugh
Laughing not only releases endorphins and fosters brain connectivity— it tends to be contagious!

6. Take a Break
(Okay, so there’s one of these that you shouldn’t do at your desk.) Stand up, walk outside, and let your eyes focus on something in the distance. A change of perspective can do you good!

7. Self-Awareness
Stop, listen to what you are saying to yourself, and make sure it’s supportive and positive.

8. Change How You Communicate With Others
Say no, set boundaries, be assertive, and ask for help.

Unless we are present, our bodies and minds react to stress. Knowing ourselves and creating a pro-active plan to reduce stress is our best tool.

Five Ways The Most Effective Leaders Manage Their Emotions

The best managers know how to keep their emotions in check and focus on building a healthy team.

Article submitted by guest author Harvey Deutschendorf

Five Ways The Most Effective Leaders Manage Their Emotions
[PHOTO: H. ARMSTRONG ROBERTS/CLASSICSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES]

Soft skills have garnered increasing attention in the workplace over the last 20 years. In fact, emotional intelligence is one of the fastest growing job skills, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

Ironically, those are the very skills hiring managers say the latest crop of college graduates lacks as they’ve focused on honing their technological prowess. Yet managing our emotions effectively in the workplace is a major component of success for all of us.

Emotions running amok can damage those who work directly with us. Although employees may get away with an occasional lapse in emotional control, leaders are not afforded that leeway. A leader who is not managing his or her emotions well can wreak severe havoc on an organization, seriously damaging employee morale, retention, and ultimately the bottom line. Every reaction–positive or negative–will have consequences for all those who are under them and effect the overall success of the company.

Here are five ways effective leaders manage their emotions.

1. THEY KNOW WHEN AND HOW TO SHARE

It isn’t necessary or healthy for leaders to be unemotional robots and keep all their feelings inside. Effective leaders are able to use their emotions to connect with others through their ability to share the feelings that enhance relationships with their direct reports.

Whether an employee is feeling joy over a successful sales week or sadness over a family member passing, an effective leader is able to express emotions to let that person know they are connecting with them on a heart level.

While their emotions are under control, they know what to express and how much to let out in the circumstance. For example, if someone just lost a family member, the manager could express how they felt when they lost someone close to them and how good it felt to be supported. Then, they could ask the grieving person if they needed anything. Depending on the closeness of the relationship, they could put a hand on the person’s back or shoulder, or offer a hug.

2. THEY DO WHAT’S RIGHT INSTEAD OF WHAT’S POPULAR

There are many instances when leaders are tempted to make popular decisions as these will bring them instant feelings of relief from a pressing and difficult situation. However, effective managers overcome the urge to give in to what is popular and opt for what is right. This requires a great deal of self-confidence and courage.

If a particular unpopular employee was being subjected to ridicule and being ostracized, the manager could support that employee and confront his or her coworkers in order to stop the behavior. This may cause resentment from the offender, but it enforces the idea that bullying isn’t tolerated, and that’s more important for effective managers than being popular.

3. THEY TRUST THEIR INTUITION

When struggling with a decision, effective managers are able to tune into and use their gut instincts to make decisions, even though there may be compelling reasons for not doing so. That’s because they’ve relied on intuition in the past and trust it will be the best guide when there isn’t an obvious answer.

For example, they might make a decision to hire someone outside of the company who they feel would be a great fit instead of promoting someone from the inside who is popular, but doesn’t have the vision or initiative to take on the new role.

4. THEY ROUTINELY FIGHT APATHY, INERTIA, AND PROCRASTINATION

Ever have a day when you felt like doing very little, leaving things undone until later, or the next day? Perhaps you’re feeling tired, or just having a bad day or week. We’ve all had those days.

Leaders share this struggle but don’t have the luxury of giving in. Others depend on them to take action and get things done–even when they don’t they feel like it. They’ve disciplined themselves to do whatever it takes, regardless of how they feel. If they need to have a difficult conversation with an employee or customer, they’ll go through with it even if they’re tempted to put it off for another day.

5. THEY LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS, NOT SOMEONE TO BLAME

One of the easiest traps to fall into is to avoid responsibility when things aren’t going well. Poor leaders look for ways to shift the blame to others when things go wrong. It’s easier to avoid responsibility by pinning it on others or on outside circumstances–but that isn’t leadership.

Effective leaders immediately begin to look for solutions. They find out what went wrong to avoid the same problem in the future. They’re more interested in using the failure as a learning opportunity and moving on from it, rather than spending time and energy looking for scapegoats.

Often the reason for the problem is a breakdown in communication between leaders and those assisting them. Effective leaders find out where that happened and readily admit that their instructions may not have been clear enough.

This also creates an opportunity to reassure employees who are reluctant to admit they didn’t understand for fear of appearing stupid, and let them know their boss won’t think less of them for asking for clarification. It’s crucial for good managers not to show any signs of frustration if what they thought was a straightforward request wasn’t understood at first.

Effective leaders are acutely aware of their feelings and know their responsibilities toward staff, customers, and the organization. This isn’t easy–it takes effort. But they’ve worked on themselves to develop their abilities to keep their emotions in check when necessary and show them when the situation calls for it.

Letting Go of Past Resentment for Higher Production

Article contributed by guest author Patricia (Tish) Conlin

What injustices have you suffered in your work as a Business Professional? Are you harboring resentments right now over slights or mishandled situations? We all experience negative emotions in our work and they are painful for sure. As hard working professionals, respect can often be hard to win with clients and staff alike and negative stereotypes can influence others’ treatment of us at times. Whether you have chosen your field of work or have fallen into, we all acknowledge that the casual rejections and ups and downs of any business can overwhelm even the most successful of us. Do you think it is easier to bury the negative emotions of past hurts or project failures deep inside than to face them? Guess what? Those past resentments that you are holding onto are impacting your energy and success today so you need to let them go so you can focus on the present instead of living in the past.

I remember a few years ago working on a huge ERP Recruitment project with a large U.S Client project. It was an incredible success for a year. Then the client got bought out by a bigger company and soon informed us that they were hiring an internal recruitment team and my team all felt doomed. Sure enough, within weeks of working with the internal recruiter, he started consistently rejected our candidates even the rock stars. I was working with our team of recruiters in both Canada and the U.S and there was enormous frustration involved. Everyone started to complain and there was a lot of anger, frustration and resentment. One of the recruiters became almost aggressive with the internal recruiter and the animosity increased. I noticed that things were heading in the wrong direction and was happy when she asked me to take over. What I did to turn this around was not rocket science. I started by separating the internal recruiter’s actions from him as a person. I developed a rapport with him and learned about his life and interests by asking genuine questions. I learned more about his past work and reasons for joining the current company which gave me insights into his decision making confidence. We shared stories and ideas and even laughed together. Then,  I started questioning his decisions to reject our candidates without rancor. I used compelling facts to reconfirmed their skills and track records and create a win-win for both sides. As trust built between us, he started selecting candidates for interviews. Eventually one was hired and the relationship started to become positive and productive. This was not magic. I have built a successful recruitment firm over 20 years because I learned the simple lesson that it never pays to get angry at the other party’s behavior just as it never pays (metaphorically and actually) to hold onto resentment.

If you are able to observe yourself every day and notice that you becoming more tense, irritable or angry on a regular basis, ask yourself what set you off. Sometimes a lost deal or rejected offer can really hurt and it is normal to feel frustrated but if you go to work consistently in a bad mood, you are doing yourself, your staff and your business a real disservice. If we’re honest with ourselves, past wrongs committed by people we expected to respond better aren’t easily forgotten like our normal everyday problems. Betrayal seeps into the bones and carves a well of toxic thoughts and feelings. Anger feels like an effective answer to betrayal, and it takes a lot of pain and suffering to raise your own little army of resentments. Unfortunately, that army is actually a bunch of crafty warriors that are attacking YOU and destroying your ability to let go and move on to better circumstances. Letting go of resentment can be incredibly hard but is incredibly powerful and will help you shift back into higher productivity at work and in life.

Below are some great tips to shift out of resentment and get back to being productive and

  1.  GAIN PERSPECTIVE- It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when your unresolved feelings begin snowballing into anger and blame. Be aware of or record your feelings in writing. Revisit later and see if those feelings make sense in the bigger picture.
  2. LET IT GO – They probably forgot already. Consider the perspective of the one who hurt you. This person is not sitting gleefully reliving how they once affronted you. More likely, they were unaware they did you harm or totally forgot. No amount of emotive rage will change the past. It’s natural to go through stages of grief when you’ve been hurt in some way. Let yourself go through them. Then let it go.
  3. TAKE THE HIGH ROAD – Taking the high road feels amazing. By now you’ve probably noticed that resentment hasn’t gotten you anywhere. That’s because you’re putting your energy and resources into nursing animosity instead of more fruitful endeavors. When you discuss the situation with the person who wronged you, focus on win-win outcomes for both to build a better go forward. Try to understand why the other person responded the way they did and whether stress or specific circumstances caused the reaction. Bring empathy and understanding to the discussion is hugely helpful. If there is a pattern of disappointment or lack of trust, opt to move on graciously instead of making a scene. It never is worth while holding onto a client or any relationship where trust has been permanently breaches.

To avoid resentment, set clear and realistic expectations with clients, candidates and staff/managers to start. Think of what you want and what they want and how both parties can achieve their goals successfully. Remember the below quote when a situation is taking charge of your moods:

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” —Hermann Hesse

I’m inspired to help other Business Professionals achieve their true potential. Why? I’m passionate about the business of living fully and achieving personal and professional goals that are meaningful. During the decades of owning and running a leading Talent Solutions company, I have witnessed countless people suffering from burn-out, chronic illness, severe stress, depression and anxiety. I’ve experiences the joy of the ups and the agony of the downs in our business and decided to use my decades of experience and training as a successful Business Professional, Black Belt Martial Artist, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Emotional Intelligence Trainer to develop specific training and coaching programs that address the soft skills needed to create lasting success. These (6 Session video and audio) on-line courses help you learn how to increase energy, improve performance and build more resilient, focused and engaged teams and are available at www.tishconlin.com

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” ~ Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

 

Is your communication obsolete?

“Half the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.” –Robert Frost

Article contributed by Amy Sargent.

Do you know your communication style?

The DISC assessment, based upon the theory of psychologist William Marston, and developed into a behavioral management tool by Walter Clarke, measures our style of relating to others, which directly effects how we communicate.  Of the four styles, which do you lean toward as you communicate with others?

1-DOMINANCE.  These communicators provide direct answers and tend to be brief, and to the point.  They ask “what” questions instead of “why” or “how” and stress logical benefits using factual information. They can tend to be blunt and demanding at times, and may seem to lack empathy or basic social skills. You won’t find these folks spending too much time with chit chat.

2-INFLUENCE. Those who communicate with this interactive style are relaxed and sociable, and enjoy verbalizing their ideas, thoughts, and feelings.  They enjoy social activities and will bore quickly if you dive into the details. Their communication is inclusive and motivational.  They like the limelight, and will quickly shut down if others attempt to persuade or influence them.

3-STEADINESS. Those who communicate in this style are agreeable, cooperative, and value knowing their individual role within a team setting.  They show appreciation with their words and focus on the “how” and “why”.  They tend to enjoy sincerity and a friendly, approachable manner of speaking. They may have difficulty prioritizing their ideas as they can be people-pleasers, but respond well to clearly defined goals and objectives, and thrive when assured follow-up and support.

4-COMPLIANCE. These communicators value accuracy and like to skip the socializing piece. They thrive on the specifics: precise expectations and uniform standards.  They’ll provide you with the straight-up pros and cons, support their ideas with accurate data, and communicate in a systematic and focused manner. They may resist vague or general information and you may find them double-checking everything you say or do.

Knowing yourself and your inclinations are a good first step in improving your communication. And understanding the communication style of others can help you better work as a team player and support them in becoming their best self as you learn to communicate in a way that enables their natural tendencies. But though each of these four styles can be effective, they also can become obsolete — depending on your behaviors.

The question to ask is not which style do I utilize, but “How well does my style enable me to listen deeply and send clear, convincing messages to those I’m communicating with?”

Here are some indicators that your way of communicating may need some updating:

  • You talk more than you listen in conversations with colleagues or loved ones
  • You fail to hear what others say, even though you thought you were listening
  • You catch yourself interrupting often
  • You don’t connect well with others and struggle to establish rapport
  • You judge the ‘why’ behind what others say before finding out their true motivations
  • You rarely ask for others’ opinions or insights
  • You fail to make eye contact or give non-verbal feedback when someone else is talking
  • Threats and emotional outbursts are a mainstay of communicating for you
  • You sometimes lack tact and diplomacy
  • You can come across dogmatic when expressing your own ideas
  • You refuse to let others change your opinion — even if you realize they may be right
  • You ask very few questions in conversations

No matter your style of relating and communicating with others, these negative attributes are behaviors — and behaviors can be changed.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” — Brian Tracy

If you find you’re at a place where your way of communicating needs some updating, try some of these on for size:

  • Learn what an open-ended question is, and start using them in every conversation
  • Become a good listener. Make eye contact, tune in to what is being said, and ask questions for clarification.
  • Stop thinking about what you’re going to say next so you can focus on the person who is talking
  • Use positive body language like smiling, uncrossed arms, and nodding where appropriate to welcome others’ ideas and input
  • Hold back your judgments if you don’t agree and seek to understand the why behind what they are saying
  • Practice speaking your words with clear enunciation and well-thought-out ideas if needed to ensure accurate delivery
  • Express gratitude and appreciation often; validate what the other person is saying
  • Match your emotions to the situation  and refrain from outbursts of negative expressions of feelings
  • Be patient when others speak and give them the time they need to express their thoughts.  Try not to finish their sentences or sum up their words before they are done speaking.
  • Fill in the blank: What is one additional behavior you can try this week to improve your communication skills?  ___________________________________________

Now get out there and practice, practice, practice!

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” –Jim Rohn

 

 

 

 

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