Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Visionaries and Vision-Runners

Article submitted by guest author Dennis Hooper

“There are only two kinds of people in this world–the realists and the dreamers. The realists know where they are going; the dreamers have already been there.”

     Robert Orben, author of Speaker’s Handbook of Humor and speechwriter for President Gerald Ford

 

There are visionary leaders, and there are vision-runner leaders. There are many more vision-runners than visionaries. Yet visionaries, when they are successful, usually garner greater public attention.

If you were alive in May of 1961, you’ll likely remember the surprising and inspiring words of President John F. Kennedy: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

Following that visionary statement, many vision-runner leaders worked to achieve what seemed impossible at the time. Vision-runners are typically “in the trenches” dealing with the how, the where, and the when and by whom that makes “the what” achievable. They rarely gain public glory, but the accomplishment of inspiring visions would never occur without their leadership.

So, more than anything, this article is about collaboration and inter-dependence.

Let me clarify that a given individual is rarely entirely a dreamer or a realist, totally visionary or vision-runner. Few leaders have the privilege of specializing in only one or the other. Most of us are out there trying our best to accomplish both.

I realize that many of you never considered the distinction between visionary and vision-runner leaders. If you look back at your past history, however, you’ll likely identify more strongly with one or the other.

Although independence is valued in our society, no one is ever successful alone. I recently watched “The Pursuit of Happyness,” the movie describing the homeless years of Chris Gardner. Wikipedia describes Chris as “a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and philanthropist.”

The movie is a powerful portrayal of personal tenacity and fatherly devotion to his son. A casual observer would also say it is a description of commanding independence. However, no one is “self-made.” Watch closely and you’ll see that many individuals contributed to Gardner’s ultimate success.

Even more individuals contributed to the successful landing on the moon in 1969. No leader is truly independent! I cannot overemphasize the powerful benefits and value of effective collaboration!

Visionaries are able to read the environment for opportunities. They push the envelope of ideas, generating initiatives and inspiring commitment. Sound mental images motivate and guide people in how to use their time and make choices. A powerful vision is a rallying call for a departure from the past–no more business as usual. The vision requires that people think, talk, and act differently.

However, even the most inspiring idea generates underlying apprehensions, anxiety, and fear of the unknown. Questions need answers. Obstacles require creative elimination. Bright ideas alone do not achieve desirable outcomes. Vision-runners empower and encourage the people doing the work.

Sometimes partners compete. As an outsider, I can see clearly the wasted energy and time consumed because of the subconscious choices made by each party. The visionary lacks patience or doesn’t heed feedback from those under his or her authority. The vision-runner generates unnecessary roadblocks or refuses to consider enhancements beyond the original idea.

However, it’s a work of art when partners value the skills and perspective of the other individual. Together, they model the vision. People observe what they do and see its consistency with what they say. Team members align with the concepts, and great progress occurs rapidly.

I encourage you to consider whether you are more of a visionary or a vision-runner. Whichever you happen to be, welcome a powerful colleague with a complementary skill and perspective, and start cooperating. I predict that delightful successes will begin to occur in a very short time.

Are you a realistic optimist?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

If you admit to being over 40, you probably remember the movie Pollyanna, the story about a little girl who saw everything through rose-colored glasses. The phrase “You’re being Pollyannish” was coined to describe someone who naively sees only the positive side of a situation. You know those kind of people. The ones who are always smiling. The ones who always have a cheerful word, no matter what’s going on around them. The ones who never have a bad thing to say about another, and always walk with a bounce in their step. You know, the ones who are, well, annoying.

It’s as if the frustrating, negative, painful aspects of life can’t touch them. They only feel the ups of the ups and downs, the highs of the highs and lows. I don’t understand them. I once walked into a retail store on my lunch hour, brooding about a previous incident at the office that rubbed me the wrong way, and was greeted by an enthusiastic attendant who, stepping a little too close into my space, chirped a cheery “It’s a great day — how can I help you?” with a smile so sincere that I felt a stab of pain in aversion to the overflowing joy. I turned around and walked out. If I’m in a mood, I can hardly make eye contact with these eternal optimists, for fear their wide-eyed brightness will rub off on my foul state of mind…one that I’m happily relishing in the moment. Especially if I haven’t yet had my morning coffee.

There’s a reason Pollyannish optimists get under our skin. It’s one thing to be optimistic, and it’s another thing to be realistically optimistic. Optimists of the naive sort tends to gloss over the negative aspects of life and lacks experience and wisdom. Without these it becomes difficult to respect them or trust their reliability. They are hard to relate to and we tend to close up and not want to enter an authentic relationship with them because they just don’t get it. Realistic optimism, on the other hand, is the ability to expect success rather than failure, see opportunities instead of threats, and expecting the future to bring positive change, in light of negative circumstances. Realistic optimists know how to make others feel accepted by showing they understand that life can be tough — but they don’t let the tough times take them down. It’s not that realistic optimists don’t see the downside of situations; they’re just able to look ahead with confidence that things are going to turn out all right. Realistic optimism is a competency of emotional intelligence and is a far cry from being Pollyannish.

“If we define optimism broadly as the tendency to maintain a positive outlook, then realistic optimism is the tendency to maintain a positive outlook within the constraints of the available “measurable phenomena situated in the physical and social world” — Sandra L. Schneider

People who possess this valuable skill are able to think clearly and stay focused when under pressure, restrain negative responses that will cause the situation to deteriorate, and manage impulsive feelings even in trying moments. In effect, they can adjust their emotional responses to fit the situation at hand. Without this competency, we tend to react impulsively, are quick to anger, can be defensive, and may become agitated, depressed or sullen when faced with stress on the job or at home.

Wondering which you are? Here are 5 traits of a realistic optimist:

  • ·        You view negative circumstances as surmountable
  • ·        You perceive setbacks as a challenge rather than a sign of defeat
  • ·        You operate from a mindset of taking action vs. inaction from fear of failure
  • ·        You recognize that unpleasant events are temporary
  • ·        You temper negative self-talk with a knowing that you will succeed

Exercising realistic optimism can great affect your productivity and ability to enjoy your daily work. Realistic optimism is not a personality trait but a learned behavior that can be developed. One way to increase this competency is to practice gratitude. A study was done by psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough on the impact gratitude has on our well-being. They put people into three groups — one group with instructions to simply keep a daily journal, no specifications as to content. The second group was to only record negative experiences, and the third to make a list of things they were thankful for. The results? Those who daily expressed their gratitude experienced less stress and depression and had higher levels of enthusiasm, energy, and determination, concluding that those in the third group were more likely to make progress toward the achievement of personal goals and exhibit an optimistic view of life.

“To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.” — Robert Emmons

If you struggle with an outlook of realistic optimism, try tuning into your self-talk about the adversities in your life. Take notes on the how you hear yourself describing your setbacks–and your responses to them. Dispute the negative beliefs and look for evidence of successes, avoiding phrases like “this always happens to me” or “I’ll always fail at this”.  A great resource for developing realistic optimism is Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism.

An optimist, in the words of the late Walter Winchell, an American newspaper and radio commentator, is “…a man who gets treed by a lion but enjoys the scenery.”

How’s the scenery from your tree?

4 Ways to Increase your Integrity

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

I tried to lie once.

It was winter in Colorado, when outdoor fun is a way of life as the snow envelopes the mountains. Funds were tight but I’d determined to take my three small children skiing. I’d collected ski gear at various thrift stores and concluded I could offer them this amazing experience on a frugal budget. Bundled up in their mix-and-match ski wear, they could hardly contain their excitement as we headed out of the city on our adventure.

I waited in line at the ticket window to purchase our lift tickets and noticed a sign that read “Children under the age of 5 ski free”.  Free–that word caught my attention like the burst of icy wind that hit our faces at 9,000 feet elevation. My older two were well over that age — but my youngest had just turned six years old a couple of weeks ago.  Immediately my brain went into scheming mode.  “I could tell them she’s five.  She just turned six, so it won’t matter. She’s small for her age anyway…I could get away with this — and save $55!”  So, when my turn came up, I asked for our three tickets and, patting my little one on the head, said “This one’s free.”  The attendant smugly looked at me and asked, “What’s her birth date?”  I flushed and panicked.  Do I add a year or take away one to her actual birth year? Subtract, yes. I quickly blurted out an answer and he grinned smugly, and said, “Yeah…that would make her seven.”

I was caught red-handed.  I paid the full price for her and walked away in embarrassment, not wanting to make eye contact with my three children looking at me with their innocent eyes wondering why mom had flat-out lied. How do you explain to kids that I was trying to get around the system? That I wanted to bend the rules for my benefit? That I wanted to pay less that others needed to pay by not telling the truth?  I avoided the situation and distracted them by heading to the ski lift lines.  Later that day, caught up in my guilt, I decided that lying about her age just wasn’t worth it.

It’s a silly story, I know, but one that made an impact on me.  It is so easy to be dishonest in the little things.  It’s not a big deal, right?  Or is it?

Integrity is the ability to maintain high standards of honesty and ethics at all times, even when no one else is watching. Those who have high integrity do what is right, even if it’s not personally rewarding.  They build trust in others through their reliability.  They are authentic.  They’re not afraid to admit their mistakes and confront unethical actions of others. They can take the ethical stance despite its unpopularity. They keep their word, give accurate reports, and treat all people with the same level of respect.

Think of the people in your life — how many of them can you say live in integrity in their personal lives? It’s a tall order to fill and not many are able to pull it off. Far too often, their own self-interests take precedence over doing what is right…especially if they think no one is watching.

The workplace is susceptible to a lack of integrity as well.  How many coworkers have you heard make it sound like they did most of the work on a project when you know you did?  Or fudge just a bit on recording work hours? Or spend a little too much time on social media during work time? How does that make you feel when you are working hard?  And we all love those who brag to a coworker about their depth of connection with the boss, when we know it’s just not true, right? Those who are dishonest in the little things can be annoying.  But are there greater consequences?

A study done in 2000 titled Human Communication Research (Kim B. Serota, Timothy R. Levine, Franklin J. Boster), showed that:

1-The average person tells 1.65 lies a day. Sounds low? It’s possible some participants lied about the extent of their lies!

2-40.1% admitted to telling a lie in the past 24 hours

3-22.7% of the lies told were committed by one percent of participants

Do these figures surprise you? If you asked yourself how many times you stretch the truth in a day, and in the last 24 hours, how would you answer?

Those who are low in integrity tend to be impulsive, thinking only of the ‘now’ vs. long-term outcomes.  Most often they haven’t taken the time to sort out what their belief systems are and what values they hold as important. Those with low integrity tend to show little independent thought and are easily influenced by others, often caving to peer pressure.

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” –Dwight D. Eisenhower

If we continually act with our own interests in mind, especially if our choices are wrong, others will not be able to trust us.  And trust is key to effective leadership.  In an article by Michael Ray Hopkin in 2012, he says:  To succeed as a manager you must live with integrity. It’s crucial for managers to build trust with the teams they work with and depend on. Trust grows through meaningful interaction with your teams and consistent application of proven principles. Developing trust and leading with integrity will increase the confidence others have in your work. When engineers, salespeople, marketers and others have confidence in their product managers, they will do amazing work. (https://leadonpurposeblog.com/2012/01/21/leadership-and-integrity/)

But living without integrity can also harm ourselves. You know how it works.  You lie, then need to cover up the lie, then need to make sure you tell the story the same way if it ever resurfaces, all the time worrying if you will be found out.  The stress and angst that comes from covering up the truth can be agonizing, and keep you up at night, eroding self-confidence and assurance.

“The truly scary thing about undiscovered lies is that they have a greater capacity to diminish us than exposed ones. They erode our strength, our self-esteem, our very foundation.” –Cheryl Hughes

Those who aren’t able to act with integrity need not be stereotyped as a “bad”. Integrity is a competency of emotional intelligence and is a behavior which can be learned. Consider completing an integrity inventory, to see how you’re doing (Contact us for a free inventory). If you would like to grow in integrity, consider engaging a social + emotional intelligence coach to walk alongside you to help you  begin to make behavior shifts.   In the meantime, try  these developmental tips:

  • Establish a clear picture of what your values are.  Know what you stand for — what you believe, what you’d fight for, what will stand the test of time.  Jot down fifteen values that are most important to you and prioritize them. Post these somewhere where you’ll see them often.
  • Ask yourself this question: Is my behavior consistent with these values?  Going back to your list, circle the ones that you’ve lived out this week. Journal about the circumstances in which you acted according to your values- and notice the situations where you tend to shy away from your values.  Is there a pattern?
  • Consider the consequences of living in dishonesty. What effects does your lack of integrity have on your mental well-being?  on your physical well-being?  on others?
  • Envision what your life would look like if you incorporated more integrity. What specific circumstances would be affected and how?

“Living with integrity means: Not settling for less than what you know you deserve in your relationships. Asking for what you want and need from others. Speaking your truth, even though it might create conflict or tension. Behaving in ways that are in harmony with your personal values. Making choices based on what you believe, and not what others believe.” –Barbara De Angelis

Free 1-hour webinar on emotional intelligence

Date: Monday, July 9, 2018

Time: 5-6 pm Eastern time, USA

This FREE, interactive online webinar will give you an overview of social and emotional intelligence and its impact on individual lives, relationships, and employee engagement.

The first 20 people who register and attend this online class will receive a FREE Social + Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)®, one of the most statistically-reliable and scientifically-validated S+EI instruments on the market today, to begin your own journey down the path of social and emotional intelligence.

Even if you can’t attend, go ahead and register and we’ll send you a recording of the webinar that you can listen to on your own time.

“Leaders with higher social & emotional intelligence produce more powerful business results and greater profitability.” –Steven Stein

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How to live a beautiful life

Article contributed by Amy Sargent
Someone told me yesterday that my world sounds so easy, so fun. She even went on to say she wished she had my life.  I took it as a compliment–as it was–but I had to laugh. My life, really? If she only knew…!
Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” — Abraham Lincoln
It’s all about perspective. I don’t lead any more of a charmed life than the next (nor am I any worse for the wear than the next).  I am simply learning the art of reframing. Like when we snap a photo of a beautiful nature scene, and notice it’s not centered, or an unwanted object is marring the setting, we open our photo editing software and crop to get a new perspective. In reality, the undesirables are still there but we’ve reframed it, so our focus is on the beauty instead of the blemishes.
We must do the same to live a beautiful life.
This month I’ll admit I’ve experienced an enviable lifestyle. I have drunk in the scandalous scent of lavender and lilacs, watched the orange-pink sun rise in the morning’s first light, and squinted in the glimmer of sun rays dancing on a shimmering lake. I have heard the sweet harmonies of my daughter’s voices and watched their speedy legs run across the finish line to victory. I’ve spent enjoyable evenings with dear, sweet elderly women and laughed at their stories of days gone by. I’ve relaxed by the turquoise pool at my cozy apartment, baked warm, fresh homemade bread and enjoyed drinks on a patio with a dear friend. I’ve spent quiet, peaceful alone time on a long morning run contemplating life and the exciting options spread before me. I received a surprise refund from my cable company. On Mother’s Day, I hiked along a sparkling stream with my girls and saw two magnificent moose in the wilderness of a national park. Yes, it’s been a month to be coveted.
Yet in this very same month, I inhaled a lot of second-hand pot smoke (not my favorite thing in the world), which wafts up from our inconsiderate neighbors below. I could only get a glimpse of the sunrise for the tall concrete buildings that block my morning view, and watched discarded Styrofoam cups floating on the surface of a dirty lake. I heard my daughters declare they felt ugly and watched them cry with disappointment after not performing as well as they’d hoped in their races. I’ve spent exhausting evenings with frail, old ladies who admitted they are ready to die. I lived in a cramped apartment with an overcrowded pool full of screaming kids and slept in a too-small twin bed that made my back ache. I baked my own bread in attempt to save money because I was worried about bills. I felt lonely, doubted my purpose in life, and felt fat while attempting a slow morning run. I got a notice that I owed more than I thought on a credit card bill.  On Mother’s Day I spent the entire morning alone while my girls took their stepmother out to brunch.
Same month. Same events. Two perspectives.
If we only tune in to the ugly parts of our lives, which we all experience from time to time, what an ugly life we’ll lead!
Realistic optimism is a competency of emotional intelligence and something we can all learn. It isn’t about pretending tough times don’t exist or being a naive Pollyanna; it’s learning to hone in on the positive and not on the parts of life that drag us down.  It’s easier to do the latter, trust me, as I’ve spent hours, days, and weeks over the years wallowing in my miseries. The difficulty of our struggles can feel so heavy that they diminish our ability to see clearly. But no matter how dark it may look, remember that right alongside those woes is a world of wonder. To ‘see’ requires a shift of focus.
I have friends whose daughter is in a battle for her life, and in each moment they don’t know if she is going to make it. I have another friend who has lost use of her legs, racked with pain, and can’t get outside to see the pink blossoms on the springtime trees. Yet all three of these saints somehow remain positive and joyful. Their noble, hope-infused mindset inspires me beyond words.
“Life is like a sandwich! Birth as one slice, and death as the other. What you put in between the slices is up to you. Is your sandwich tasty or sour?” — Allan Rufus
As you tumble out of bed on this fresh, new morning, and begin to go about your day, get out your editing software! Refuse to let the negatives define your day or even worse, your life. Of course your trials are heavy and difficult. I know. But beauty and blessings are right there too, light and lovely, awaiting your discovery. Now is as good as time as any to begin to learn how to reframe so you can get busy living a beautiful life.

You’re invited: Free 1-hour webinar, “How to Coach Emotional Intelligence”

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Time: 5-6 pm Eastern time

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Even if you can’t attend, go ahead and register and we’ll send you a recording of the webinar that you can listen to on your own time.

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“Leaders with higher social & emotional intelligence produce more powerful business results and greater profitability.”

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How can I help?

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

They bought me a car.

It happened a number of years ago, as I was putting myself through grad school, going to classes at night and on the weekends, working two jobs during the day, and somehow trying to find time to spend with my three kids as a single mom. Times were a little tough financially though we always found ways to make ends meet and have fun while we were at it. We’d driven our tired, old red Subaru, “Bessie”, into the ground. She was limping along, radiator problems and engine troubles, and was held together by duct tape in several places on the bumper. Some dear friends of mine found out — friends I had known in college and hadn’t seen for 15+ years — and called me up one night and said, “We’re buying you a new car.  Go out and figure out what you want, then let us know. We’ll cover everything.”

Who buys someone a car?!

The simplest way to explain it would be to say that servant leaders focus on identifying and meeting the needs of others rather than trying to acquire power, wealth and fame for themselves.” — Kent Keith, former CEO of Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership

Have you ever met those people who just seem to think of others first? Those that want to make a difference in others’ lives and pursue opportunities to impact others for the better? Having a service orientation is a competency of those with strong emotional intelligence. People who possess this amazing quality anticipate, recognize, and meet others’ needs. Not only do they notice when someone is in need — they respond. Those who are strong in having a heart to serve others seem to understand what others are lacking before the need arises and have an uncanny ability to grasp the perspective of others, quickly, and readily take action to help. They creatively look for ways to make others’ lives more comfortable — and do so with a willing attitude.

I want to be like this.

Many of us, on the other hand, tend to focus on our own objectives most of the time. We don’t exactly want to go out of our way to help someone and often think, “This isn’t my problem”, or, “They should’ve made better choices so they wouldn’t be in this predicament”. If someone needs our help, we may offer “easy-way-out help” — solutions that don’t require a great deal of time, effort, or money on our part. We tend to not want to go above and beyond for others, unless there’s something in it for us.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” –Charles Dickens

Why would we want to develop an attitude of service? One reason is that it simply brightens the other person’s day…and not just theirs but of those around them! For example, if someone at the bus station doesn’t have enough money for a ticket, and you step in and buy them one — most likely they’ll tell their friends/family later that day about the awesome thing that happened to them today, spreading the cheer. Give the check-out lady a compliment on how you appreciate your positive attitude and most likely she’ll exhibit that positive attitude with the next customer — and the next. Helping your coworker on a task which feels overwhelming to them will relieve them of the stress they’re carrying and result in less stress they bring home to their loved ones. Doing kind things for others can be the very thing that turns someone’s bad day into a good one. And knowing we’ve turned someone’s day around can only lift our own spirits.

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” — Maya Angelou

Another outcome of having a heart of service is that it transforms us. Servant leadership helps us switch from an outlook of lack to an outlook of abundance. In Nipun Mehta’s article Five Reasons to Serve Others, published in YES magazine in 2012, we learn that when we begin to serve others, we discover the “full range of resources” at our disposal — not only financial gifts but our time, presence, and attention — and can begin to discover  opportunities to serve – everywhere — enabling us to operate from a place of abundance instead of scarcity. Abundant-thinking helps us build trust more easily, welcome competition, embrace risks, and stay optimistic about the future…all great qualities for a leader to possess.

In Robert Greenleaf’s book, Servant Leadership, he outlines ten principles of servant leadership.  Which of these could you stand to improve in?

  1. Listening
  2. Empathy
  3. Healing
  4. Awareness
  5. Persuasion
  6. Conceptualization
  7. Foresight
  8. Stewardship
  9. Commitment to the growth of others
  10. Building community

You may not feel you are wired for service oriented-leadership, but there are simple steps you can take to enhance your relationships with an attitude of service.

  • Become a better listener.  Listen for meaning and suspend your judgments and opinions unless asked. Most people are longing to be heard and understand — just tuning into others when they speak can help with that.
  • Be available. Carve out time in your schedule to “be” with others, simply enjoying the time with them. And put down that phone while you’re at it!
  • Offer compliments. Kind words are such a gift! A proverb says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Be on the lookout for sincere compliments you can offer another.
  • Make a giving list.  Think of the people who you regularly interact with — and ask yourself, “How can I help?” Jot down their names, and beside their name, write down one thing you could do for them to satisfy one of their needs, hopes, or dreams. It could be buying them their favorite coffee or inviting them to lunch.  Then go do it!
  • Keep your promises. You might not think of this as a way to give to others, but being true to your word, reliable, and someone others can count on is an act of service in and of itself.

I felt like the luckiest and most-loved girl in the world the day my friends bought us the car. Their kindness had a powerful, positive impact on our family, and ever since we have looked for ways to give back to others, so they too can experience the joy we did. You may not ever have the financial means to buy someone a car…most of us don’t…but we can find small and simple ways to serve others in our everyday lives.

I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”  — Albert Schweitzer

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