Posts Tagged ‘Inspirational Leadership’

An unpopular way to inspire

In a world where everyone appears to be shouting loudly (whether verbally or through the written word in their social media posts) to push others to think differently and act differently, it can seem as if forcing one’s hand is the only way to bring about change.

How did this become the norm, and when did the art of inspirational leadership lose its foothold?

It was the 14th century when the word inspire first came into use, carrying much of the same meaning then which it does today: to influence, move, or guide, not by force, but by a divine power, empowering followers to action. It was a metaphorical use of its Latin root inspirare which means to breathe or blow into to create something new. We figuratively refer to this when we say things like, “that vacation was a much-needed breath of fresh air”, or when a particular confrontation is stifling, “I need to get some air”.

I can’t help but think of a blow-up life raft, which, when uninflated, is rather useless, but when filled with air, is capable of fulfilling its intended purpose of floating upon turbulent waters to carry its passengers where they need to be. Inspirational leadership is like that. It’s the act of breathing life into others so they are then capable of being their best self, not only fulfilling their intended purpose, but motivated to rise above to create and achieve great things.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more, you are a leader.”

— John Quincy Adams

Back to the yelling. When you hear inflamed insults, name-calling, and outbursts of verbal venom spewing forth, do you feel inspired to dream more, learn more, and do more? Do you experience inspirare, your heart and soul filled and brimming over with the oxygen-rich motivation to become your best self and accomplish bigger, better things? Or instead, do the angry affronts leave you feeling rather deflated?

Inspirational leadership is the ability to mobilize individuals and groups by articulating a clear, compelling and motivational vision for the future. Those who possess this superpower (I jest, we all are capable of it, with some superpower effort!) are able to bring people together in unified efforts to reach an intelligible, enthralling objective. And one very effective way to do this is to be a servant leader.

Servant leader. It’s a phrase first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1970 in his essay The Servant as Leader. It’s not the most provocative phrase, is it? Where’s the passion, the persuasiveness, the power that we so often associate with leadership? For many, the word servant evokes images of weakness and ineffectiveness. If this is you, I challenge you to allow for a paradigm shift, for this humble, quieter style of leadership may very well be the most powerful breath of fresh air needed to inspire others.

Leaders who practice servant leadership focus on others’ needs and objectives, and seek to understand the why behind those needs and objectives. They are able to see and appreciate others’ perspectives. They actively look for ways to increase others’ satisfaction and make themselves available, with gladness, to offer assistance.

Think of someone you know who truly understands you, who ‘gets’ your hopes and dreams, and actively does as much as they can to help make them happen. They listen to you. They validate your viewpoints. They take time out to be with you, show an interest in your life, and truly care. When asked, they are happy to offer support to help you be successful. They celebrate your achievements and mourn your losses, by your side.

If you are so fortunate to have someone like this in your life, a servant leader, you understand the positive impact of the inspirare they provide. Imagine if all of us had these life-breathers encircling and lifting us up. In his article in the Small Business Chronical, Fraser Sherman outlines how servant leadership, in the workplace, can boost morale. He notes “Employees feel valued and they know you are looking out for them. That inspires them to work with more enthusiasm and [better] serve the customers, which benefits your bottom line.” Servant leaders also encourage a collaborative workplace, and provide a model of authenticity where employees, in turn, feel safe enough to be authentic, deepening levels of trust within the organization.

Palena Neale, Ph.D., writes in her Forbes article, “Why Servant Leadership is More Important Than Ever“, that our current “new normal” with different ways of operating, sickness, layoffs, furloughs, and at-home employees make this novel style of leadership vital. She writes, “Wider societal impacts include adverse effects on the global economy. This calls for a more comprehensive, communal leadership approach: leadership that is focused on serving others.”

In contrast, think of leaders you know who are not on the lookout for the needs of their teams. They focus on their own objectives and often diminish the needs of others. They don’t make time for those ‘beneath’ them, and when they do interact, they are distracted, quick to give quick, “off the shelf” advice or solutions, hurrying the conversation along. They fail to go above and beyond, and team members find themselves saying things like, “I hate to bother you…” or “I’m sorry to take your time but…” at the start of any ask. These individuals tend to speak poorly of others (leaving you to wonder what they say about you when you’re not there), point blame away from themselves, and rarely stand up for the underdog.

Sadly, leaders such as this leave their teams feeling deflated and discouraged.

“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

It’s easy to point the finger at those in leadership. “If only leaders would figure this stuff out!”, we say in exasperation. However, we’re talking about emotional intelligence here — that ability to exhibit self-awareness and self-management, and tune into others’ emotions and manage our relationships with them appropriately. If you’re ever tried to control someone else’s behavior, you probably know how well that turns out. We can only change ourselves. So instead of waiting on those who bear the title, let’s instead take the brave task of looking inward as to how we can improve our own inspirational leadership skills. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Get to know people. Ask others how they are doing and really stop to listen. Use open-ended questions to understand the why behind their needs, hopes, dreams. One of my favorite coaching questions, after someone has shared, is,”What else?”
  • Keep an eye out for small ways you can be of service to others. Open the door for someone, offer up the best parking space, spend an extra 5 minutes listening. Offer to buy a colleague’s coffee. Give a sincere compliment. These little gives can help build a new habit of service.
  • Schedule time for others. I know you’re busy. We all are. If it helps, set aside a small amount of time each week on your calendar as ‘Others’ time, so doing something for others actually DOES fit into your schedule.
  • Adopt a yes attitude for a while. When others make requests, think how you CAN help them instead of all the reasons you can’t. If it’s a no, it’s a no, but before you commit to the no, consider alternate ways you could turn it into a yes.
  • Keep your promises. Nothing sucks the air out of someone like a broken promise. Be realistic in what you can do and if you do agree to help someone, make that the priority. You will always have ‘better’ things come up…other opportunities and demands which compete for your time and attention. Though those things may be more attractive — stick to your word.
  • Become an over-deliverer. It’s one thing to meet someone’s needs, but going above and beyond can inspire others to new heights. Again, start small. If someone needs five minutes of your time, offer them ten. If they ask to have coffee, take them out to lunch. If they need an hour off work to tend to stressful events at home, if possible, tell them to take the day.
  • Develop the habit of follow-up. We all appreciate it when someone gives us the time of day, but if it’s a one-off incident, the value of that connection begins to fade with time. Follow up with them. Check in with them, and ask about details you discussed last time. If you’re one of those people who says, “I’m not good with names — let alone details!”, write down the things they share with you and review before your next encounter.

Servant leaders have a desire to be the change someone else needs. These days, it’s not the most popular way of leading, and surely won’t get you a lot of attention. And for most of us, it doesn’t come naturally, and it doesn’t come easily. But it is a skill set worth developing. Not only will your efforts breathe life into those around you to be their best, they just may inspire you to discover your own purpose and direction as well.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

— Mahatma Gandhi

Offering kindness: An innovative way to lead

Article submitted by Amy Sargent.

Not sure about you, but I’ve never once been inspired by someone’s angry, political rant. Oddly, I’m not moved to action by someone shouting at me to do/not do something. Accordingly, when someone hurls insults, calls names, or attempts to shame…again, strangely, I don’t find that motivational. Over the years, I have changed my viewpoint and actions exactly zero times as a result of that sort of behavior. You? Maybe I’m just stubborn that way.

Here’s a thought: If you really want to influence the way someone thinks, convince them that your way is best, or lead people into action, maybe consider a different approach.

Do something kind for them.Tell them what you appreciate about them, in detail. Thank them for who they are. Forgive them of past wrongs. Anonymously send them money with an encouraging note. Pray for them (all the while asking to see how you might be ‘off’). Send them a gift in secret. Treat them to coffee, or dinner, and when you’re together, do nothing but ask open-ended questions and listen. Offer respect. Validate their differing point of views, even if you don’t agree. Encourage them.

And if that’s just asking too much, consider getting out and doing something wonderful for someone else today…not by yelling, ranting, or condemning, but by showing active love. It’s kind of hard…especially when times are tough…but we can do hard things.

Yes, be smart. Be wise. Be alert. Be discerning. Be shrewd. And be kind.

Then, when you stop for a moment and glance behind you, you might be surprised by how many followers you have, looking to you to lead them, wanting to know more of how you think and learn from you.

Or, keep shouting into that social media megaphone, attacking and demeaning. It’s a choice we each get to make.

No matter how many shut downs, lock downs, viruses, conspiracies, quarantines, curfews, scandals, wars, and rumors of wars, that’s one freedom no one can take away.

It’s Lonely Near the Top: Challenges for Chiefs of Staff

Article submitted by guest author Ted Riter.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The role of Chief of Staff continues to grow in corporate and nonprofit America. While the responsibilities for this role vary from organization to organization, within organizations, and even between predecessors and successors, there are common challenges across the board for chiefs of staff. This paper presents both challenges for those in this field and recommendations for success as a Chief of Staff.

THIS STUDY

The background information for this study was gathered through interviews conducted November 2018-February 2019 with over three dozen current and former Chiefs of Staff. These Chiefs of Staff were in long-established corporations, startups, nonprofits, government agencies, and family offices[1]. They were in diverse fields, including high tech, pharmaceuticals, philanthropies, and higher education. Most Chiefs of Staff had served in their position for 12-18 months. Some had transitioned to other roles within the same organization or started their own ventures. A small number of Chiefs of Staff saw themselves as “career” Chiefs of Staff. Most Chiefs of Staff filled this role for a Chief Executive Officer. Some filled this role for other Executives or an entire C-Suite.

THE CHIEF OF STAFF ROLE

Chiefs of Staff are inspired and inspiring professionals, dedicated to the success of their Executives and their organizations They are eager learners, selfless with their time and energy, and masters of navigating sensitive situations. And, they are often placed in this role with great hopes, but little guidance or support for self-development.

Though a universal job description for Chiefs of Staff does not exist, Prime Chief of Staff, a leader in this field, breaks down the role of Chief of Staff into the following six functions: [2]

  • The Goalkeeper – Manage and triage workflow of the executive. Prioritize, delegate, and complete work on behalf of the executive.
  • The Operator – Add structure and process for better communication within the office of the executive as well as across teams. Ensure activities are running efficiently.
  • The Implementer – Drive business priorities from start to finish. Execute special projects or initiatives on behalf of the executive or the organization.
  • The Integrator – Create cohesion among teams and departments. Connect the dots across the organization for improved alignment and engagement.
  • The Proxy – Act on behalf of the executive for greater visibility and accessibility. Prevent bottle-necking and promote decision-making when the executive cannot be present.
  • The Advisor – Serve as a strategic thought partner, sounding board, and confidante. Inform organization strategy and decision-making.

These six functions are helpful when conceptualizing the role of a new Chief of Staff. Those interviewed in the field had a less nuanced view and responded:

  • I manage the staff – the CEO included.
  • My goal each day is to help connect people to people, people to ideas, and people to purpose. I spend 90% of my time helping people understand the “why.
  • I do a lot of listening and “pealing back the onion.” I’m the internal consultant/versatilist – I help every department scale.
  • I represent my CEO with special projects and make their life easier.
  • I am not chief of the staff, I am a chief connector

Chiefs of Staff routinely reported that their functions relied heavily upon both the needs of the Executive and their work and life experience. Mark Organ, Influitive CEO and thought-leader in the field of Chiefs of Staff, offers the following guidelines for hiring a Chief of Staff:[3]

  • A manager-level hire – This person would be responsible for typical administrative tasks like calendar management and booking travel, but he would also make important judgment calls on how the CEO should best spend her time and what meetings would be most valuable for her to attend.
  • A mid-career, director-level hire – This person may have 6-12 years of experience. He would be in charge of tasks like running town halls, preparing speeches and prepping the CEO for leadership meetings. He’s unlikely to take on any strategic responsibilities, however.
  • An experienced VP-level executive – This person is already an experienced executive who’s looking to become a CEO one day. She may meet with department heads to talk through goals and targets, and work on developing tactics for various parts of the business.

THE CHALLENGES

The Chief of Staff role is filled with challenges, some of which are unique to this position

Job Descriptions & Loneliness

Loneliness is not an uncommon experience for leaders. It often comes from a perception that they must “carry the burden” on their own. Chiefs of Staff report an added layer to this experience, often feeling that no one quite understands what they do in their organization.

In dozens of interviews, it was clear that day-to-day, no two Chiefs of Staff serve in the same role. Job descriptions vary greatly, and often do not even exist until long after the role is filled.

According to former Chief of Staff and author Tyler Parris, “…a chief of staff is a catch-all role, filled by someone with exceptional organizational and people skills, who handles all manner of tasks not covered by an existing member of an executive’s leadership team or administrative staff.”[4]

This difficult to define “catch-all role” can create confusion for executives, directors, and staff, especially when the role is filled for the first time.

Confusion around this role may result in pushback from those in the C-suite who see the Chief of Staff as a possible barrier to communication with the CEO. Staff might fear losing influence with the CEO and have uncertainty about their standing in the organization. This fear can easily be projected upon the Chief of Staff and lead to a creation of walls that hamper communication. Some staff members even outright express to the Chief of Staff, “I didn’t think we needed you.”

A consistent message from Chiefs of Staff, is that the most positive working relationships are based upon mutual agreements rather than expectations. One former Chief of Staff knew it was time to leave the role when it became clear that the CEO’s expectation was an 80/20 split between directly supporting the CEO and project management, while the Chief of Staff envisioned it as a 50/50 split.

Chiefs of Staff recognize that they have no real peers in their organization, unless they are in a larger setting with multiple Chiefs of Staff. The comradery that is often experienced in other positions may therefore be absent for Chiefs of Staff. A Chief of Staff for a Family Office shared that it “often feels like I’m on an island – it’s unlike any other job.” And, because of this isolation, one admitted, “I’m very frustrated. I don’t know how long I will be able to stay here.”

Even those Chiefs of Staff who excel in their position might feel unseen. One reported: “It’s very lonely. Because I’m so good at what I do, they don’t even see what I’m doing.” Another said, “I feel not seen and not appreciated.”

Many Chiefs of Staff spoke of the tremendous amount of privileged information they hold. This responsibility often makes it difficult to find colleagues and loved ones to confide in and count on for full support without breaking confidentiality. And, in fact, some Chiefs of Staff reported that their partners “know too much that is probably confidential.”

One Chief of Staff confided, “My CEO might be doing things that are unethical and I’m not sure what I can do about it.”

Social and Emotional Intelligence & Overwhelm

While the Executive might be a passionate leader with a big vision, the Chief of Staff often serves as a counter balance.

One Chief of Staff reported, “My job is to be an observer with my emotions removed, and then show what I see to the CEO, who cannot remove their emotions.”

This facility for social and emotional intelligence is critical for the success of a Chief of Staff, and yet not a skill that comes naturally to all in this role. As defined by the Institute for Social + Emotional Intelligence, “Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own and others’ feelings – in the moment – and use that information to lead yourself and others” [5]

Some Chiefs of Staff, lacking these skills, commented:

  • I internalized all my frustrations and then I changed the way I did things. For instance, I stopped bringing many things to the CEO.
  • I’m a people pleaser, so difficult conversations are a big challenge.
  • I have a hard time initiating the conversations and then letting them go.
  • I get frustrated because I see the change but am not able to do anything about it.
  • I’m often the least experienced person in the room and this kills my confidence.

Many of the Chiefs of Staff who struggled with social and emotional intelligence, reported feelings of overwhelm and burnout:

  • I sometimes work 90-hour weeks and rejoice when it’s down to 60.
  • I recently took my first vacation in 4 years.
  • I don’t know how long I can continue here.
  • A Chief of Staff has to thrive in chaos, and I don’t know if I can anymore.
  • I have no time for my own health and relationships, let alone personal development.

This toll of overwhelm might be a surprise for some in an organization. Some Chiefs of Staff report that others see their travel schedule with an Executive or a fancy restaurant reservation and imagine glamorous and exciting opportunities not afforded to everyone. While travel can be to exciting places and access to the Executive enviable, this is by no means vacation, and most Chiefs of Staff express a desire to curtail their travel and spend more time at home.

One Chief of Staff offered, “I am envied by many because it looks fun. At the end of the day, it’s not a glamorous thing. I’m one of the hardest working people in the organization.”

Chiefs of Staff leave their position for many reasons, including acceptance of a predetermined tenure end-date, and following bigger dreams. However, many are burned out with no more to give in this position and gratefully move on to other positions in the current or different organizations.

SOLUTIONS

Most of the Chiefs of Staff interviewed self-identified as “successful” in their roles:

  • They are fully supportive of their Executive.
  • They feel supported by their Executive.
  • And, they believe they are helping the overall success of their organization.

And yet, even many of the successful Chiefs of Staff expressed a need for more support. With this added support, the role of Chiefs of Staff will continue to grow and benefit organizations across the globe.

Fuzzy Job Descriptions

Creating a job description for a Chief of Staff, especially for the first person to fill this role, is both challenging and worth the effort.

In addition to the measurable responsibilities for a Chief of Staff, the hallmark of a good Chief of Staff-Executive relationship is one built on trust. A high level of trust enables the Chief of Staff to predict the Executive’s behavior, understand the decision-making process, and allow the Executive to focus on the biggest priorities.

Recommendations to Build Trust:

Create measurable outcomes and goals from the beginning: One Chief of Staff suggested making a list of the top 5 tasks for the week and delegating everything else.

Schedule private time for direct communication: One Chief of Staff recommended undisturbed meeting time one to two times per week to give the Executive peace of mind so they can focus on what is most important for them to be doing.

Practice vulnerability: Vulnerability is not typically welcomed in the workplace because it is associated with weakness. However, vulnerability is an extraordinarily powerful tool for building trust in any relationship, including between an Executive and Chief of Staff.

There are many exercises for safely expressing vulnerability. The simplest practice is to admit and own mistakes without assigning blame to others.

Loneliness

Since there is unlikely to be peer support for Chiefs of Staff within an organization, find those who “get it.”

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Loneliness

Join an established Chief of Staff network: New opportunities for connection are being created through the efforts of Prime Chief of Staff and a current Chief of Staff herself, Caroline Pugh. Together, they are hosting events around the country and have created an online community of practice[6]

Create a Chief of Staff network: As the role increases in the business world, there are more and more opportunities to find or create a local network with Chiefs of Staff from all sectors of the workplace. Formality is not necessary.

Find a mentor: Chiefs of Staff are generous with their time and energy even when they have moved on to other roles, and they are often open to mentoring others.

Social and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, a pioneer in the field of social and emotional intelligence, teaches that leadership is based primarily (85%) on emotional intelligence and (15%) on IQ. Fortunately, emotional and social intelligence are also skills that can be honed through training.

There are four areas of concentration that can be trained for Chiefs of Staff to excel in their positions:[7]

  • Self-awareness – knowing your internal states, preferences, resources and intuitions.
  • Self-management – managing one’s internal states, impulses and resources.
  • Social awareness – awareness of others’ feelings, needs and concerns.
  • Social skills / relationship management – ability to create desirable responses in others.

Many Chiefs of Staff have a very high level of social and emotional intelligence. They report:

  • I’m good at learning new skills.
  • I’m fearless when it comes to failure – I hop into the ringer.
  • I’m not afraid to put out a shitty first draft; zero to one is easy for me.
  • I am very often the youngest person in the room and try to make age irrelevant in a meeting.
  • I like to sit in the back of the room and take it all in.

Recommendations to Build Social and Emotional Intelligence

Hire a coach: The coaching industry is growing even faster than the Chiefs of Staff field. Good coaches might have good answers to a Chief of Staff’s questions. The best coaches will have good questions to a Chief of Staff’s answers.

Budget time and funding for professional development: Training pays dividends. The best professional development has a component geared for Executives as well as Chiefs of Staff.

Overwhelm

Overwhelm can be a result of fuzzy job descriptions, loneliness, and poor social and emotional intelligence skills. And, there are practices to prevent overwhelm on and off the job.

Recommendations to Alleviate or Prevent Overwhelm:

Practice self-care: Physical exercise, meditation, healthy eating, and time off might sound trite. However, they are recommended by every successful Chief of Staff interviewed for this report.

Practice embodied leadership: Our bodies are excellent teachers if we are attuned to them. However, we spend most of our day in our heads. Through training in embodied practices that stretch our nervous system, Chiefs of Staff can better hold the disruption and stress of the day.

Train for clear communication: Difficult conversations are inevitable in any leadership position. Learning clear communication skills is an art form that will be of benefit both inside and outside the organization.

RESOURCES

 Books Recommended by Chiefs of Staff (with some surprises in the mix):

  • Being You, Changing the World by Dain Heer
  • Chief of Staff: The Strategic Partner Who Will Revolutionize Your Organizationby Tyler Parris
  • Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  • Difficult Conversations by Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen
  • Discover Your True North by Bill George
  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  • Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr
  • Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord
  • Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
  • Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  • Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happinessby Forrest Hanson and Rick Hanson
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Factsby Annie Duke
  • Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
  • The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
  • Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits to Help High Achievers Survive & Thrive by Kevin N. Lawrence

Books Not Yet In Print

In addition to recommending books, some Chiefs of Staff envision writing the following:

  • How To Do It All – Including taking care of yourself
  • I’m A Chief of Staff…Now What?
  • Paving the Way for Process
  • The Story of Creating This Place: Things that seemed so big, but in the end are pretty small
  • Things That Make Sense But Don’t Make Sense

 

FOR FUTURE CONSIDERATION

An Unexpected Finding

One of the unexpected findings of this study is that many Chiefs of Staff experienced difficult childhoods or other challenges in their formative years. Though this paper cannot make a direct link between a difficult childhood and success as a Chief of Staff, it is an interesting area for further exploration. When questioned about specifics, these Chiefs of Staff confided they were often the ones who mediated family disruption: Arguments, divorce, death, illness, crisis. Perhaps, the experience navigating these challenging situations made it easier to step into the Chief of Staff role and mediate the high stakes, big egos, and charged energy of the workspace.

Transitioning Into and Out of the Chief of Staff Role

As the role of Chief of Staff grows outside of government, it is becoming seen as a stepping stone to higher leadership positions.[8] Though a great proving ground for numerous C-Suite and VP positions, the transition is often not seamless. There is a training opportunity both in the time before stepping into the Chief of Staff role and upon exiting. There is also an opportunity for addressing the emotional impact of transitions felt by Executives and Chiefs of Staff as the relationships come to an end.

CONCLUSION

Chiefs of Staff are proving to be invaluable assets for Executives in business and nonprofit organizations, just as they have been for many years in the government and military. Those who participated in this study were smart, talented, energetic, and motivated for success. They were great ambassadors for their Executives, their organizations, and their roles as Chiefs of Staff.

As this position becomes more common, it is important to address the challenges unique to Chiefs of Staff and offer appropriate training and coaching to ensure continued success for both the role and for those who serve in these positions.

 

How to inspire others

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

We so often think we need to something amazing, fantastical, and over-the-top to be an inspiration to others.  Climb a mountain, travel the world, invent a new medical device, write a best-selling book. I recently read of yet another woman who started a company that enables impoverished women in regions of Africa to use their skill sets to make a profitable living. Wow. Don’t we all dream of doing something big? Something where others are awed by our efforts and are motivated to do the same?

But dreaming and doing are often two different things, and though we may have high hopes for living large,  the reality of our day-to-day existence can sometimes prevent us from getting there. And while those who accomplish these far-reaching feats are truly inspiring — being an inspiration to others can be much simpler than you  may think.  I’m not saying don’t pursue your dreams — please do — but in the meantime of getting there, don’t negate that your current, seemingly mundane existence can be an inspiration to others.

Inspiration is simply the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something — usually something new or creative or challenging. Leading with inspiration is a competency of emotional intelligence, but it’s not a quality resigned for those in a well-defined leadership role. Each of us is capable of inspiring others by living by these two mantras:  1-Doing what you love and 2-Living the best version of yourself.

Let’s start with the first.  A dear friend recently told me she doesn’t even know what she enjoys doing anymore — work and raising kids has been her go-to for years now and she’s lost touch with things that make her spirit soar.  It’s easy to do.  Life is full of demands and in the struggle to keep up, we often let our beloved pastimes slip and slide away.

So what is it you love to do?  Chances are you already know.  Think back on a time when you felt excited, filled with joy, when you did something that “made your heart sing”.  The activities and experiences that are tied closely with our passions are the things that we love.  Maybe it was time spent at a family reunion this summer with your favorite people in the world. Maybe it was seeing a beautiful waterfall on a challenging hike.  Maybe it was crooning at the top of your lungs in the car, or laughing with friends, or reading a good book in cozy chair. Maybe it was working hard and completing a project at work, or running your first 5k.  Write down the things that bring you joy.  Note how you felt  and list out the emotions that surrounded the event.  Journal about why you felt the way you did and why you think that particular activity aroused such a strong emotional reaction.

It’s easy to think we’re too busy to do the things we love — and maybe we are — which means it’s time to make some adjustments.  Start with small steps. Carve out a little time each day/week to do something you love…even if it’s just for a few moments. I enjoy being in the outdoors and when I spend time in nature, I sense a healing of my soul. But I haven’t yet figured out how to take large chunks of time each day to be outdoors.  In the meantime, I sit outside for five minutes in the mornings as I sip my coffee. It’s just a tiny dose of the outdoors each day, but it does wonders for my well-being. We all have a few minutes here and there to spare if we prioritize a bit. Remember, it may take saying no to something to open up space for another.

When we do the things we love, our joy is spontaneous — and spontaneous joy is hard to hide. Those who live a life they love have a twinkle in their eyes, a curve of a smile on their lips, and excitement in their voice.  You’ve heard the phrase, “She had a face that launched a thousand ships.”  The reference is to Helen of Troy, whose face was said to be so lovely that, after she was abducted, a 1000-strong fleet of ships was sent to win her back.  I think the joy that others see in our faces can launch a thousand ships.  Try it. It’s hard not to smile back at someone who flashes a toothy grin your way.  It’s difficult to not feel excitement when someone shares their fervor about a new endeavor. It’s next to impossible to not be motivated by another’s enthusiasm around a recent accomplishment. Studies around the ‘mirror effect’ show that the same neural activity that’s stimulated when we are performing an action is engaged when we see someone else perform an action.  (). Passionate people breed passionate people. The joy from doing the things you love will spill over into your relationships and serve as an inspiration to those you interact with.

Secondly, to inspire others, we want to be living out the best version of ourselves.  What is the best version of yourself?  Just like discovering what you love, you probably have a good idea of what your best self looks like. Remember the times when you felt a great sense of accomplishment…when you were proud of yourself…when you felt whole, well, and healthy, both physically and mentally? These times may be fleeting but they are good indicators of our best selves.  Again, journal or talk to someone about the times you felt that sense of wholeness. What triggered those feelings?  Describe the lifestyle that embraced  those emotions and list out the way you were spending your time. Again, adjustments may need to be made to get back to that sort of oneness with self.  A change of diet maybe, or being more discerning about who you spend your time with, or adjusting the input you allow into your head each day. Living the best version of yourself may mean revisiting your values and making sure you are practicing them…and if not, making shifts to get back there again. Many studies have been done on correlations between our lifestyle and its impact on our happiness levels (to see a few, click this link:  https://ourworldindata.org/happiness-and-life-satisfaction. Sometimes our lifestyle needs a face lift to help us get back to who we really are.

When others see you living out the best version of yourself, just like living the life you love, they will be motivated to do the same.  You’ll find others will start asking about your ‘secret’.  A friend recently told me, “You look happy. What is it?”  People notice the joy that results and want a piece of it.

“Your soul is attracted to people the same way flowers are attracted to the sun, surround yourself only with those who want to see you grow.” — Pavana Reddy

Please note that none of this is about having a perfect life.  We all go through trying times, difficult circumstances, and situations that are nothing short of stressful and ugly.  It’s part of being human to experience suffering. However, our reactions to these negative life events — how we manage our emotions and relationships in the midst of them — can serve as an inspiration to others as well.  In an article on the Mental Health America site, researchers found these benefits of staying positive through difficult times:

  • People who were pessimistic had a nearly 20 percent higher risk of dying over a 30-year period than those who were optimistic
  • People who kept track of their gratitude once a week were more upbeat and had fewer physical complaints than others
  • People who obsessively repeated negative thoughts and behaviors were able to change their unhealthy patterns—and their brain activity actually changed too. (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/stay-positive).

“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.”  — Nelson Mandela

How we choose to react to difficulties is vital to being our best selves.  How do you respond to trying times? If you find you tend to go down a negative path, consider teaming up with a social + emotional intelligence coach to help you make some shifts.

Pursuing a life of doing what we love and being our best selves may not sound glamorous.  We may not have a biography written about us, or be interviewed on a talk show, or get thousands of followers on our social media pages.  But others will notice and be prompted to pursue a life they love and be their best selves…which will in turn motivate others to do the same…and thus begins the cycle of inspiration.  Why not start today?

“It only takes one person to mobilize a community and inspire change. Even if you don’t feel like you have it in you, it’s in you. You have to believe in yourself. People will see your vision and passion and follow you.” — Teyonah Parris

The desire to inspire

Article contributed by Amy Sargent

My very first boss made me laugh. Hard. As in, sometimes I’d have to leave the room to regain my professional composure because of one of his antics. And not only was he funny, he was a clear communicator, and praised my work with specific encouragement. He complimented me in front of others and took an interest in my personal life.  He and his wife treated me like family. In return, I was more than happy to work long hours, putting in extra effort whenever I could, and even babysat his children on numerous occasions in my free time.

He was an inspiring leader.

And in being so, I was motivated to develop a strong work ethic. We accomplished a lot of great things together. He made work fun and engaging and others were envious of my job.

Are you familiar with the attributes exercise? Take a moment and think of a person who has been an inspiration to you. It could be a mentor, or a teacher, a parent, or a friend…someone who has made an impact in your life. Jot down their name, then list the qualities about them that you admire most.

Now look at the attributes you wrote down.  Do these fall under IQ, intellect quotient, or EQ, emotional quotient?  It’s most likely that the attributes you noted are a competency of the latter, social + emotional intelligence. These competencies– self-awareness, self-management, other awareness, and relationship management — have a powerful impact on us.

One competency of emotional intelligence that has far-reaching effects on others is inspirational leadership.  It’s that ability to mobilize individuals and groups to want to accomplish the goals set before them. It comes in many different shapes and forms, and there are various methods (humor, being one) that feed inspiration. People who are inspiring are able to articulate goals clearly and stimulate enthusiasm for a clear, compelling vision. They have the ability to bring people together and create a sense of belonging. They know how to create  an emotional bond that helps others feel they are part of something larger than themselves.  They are able to invoke a sense of common purpose beyond the day-to-day tasks, making work exciting and something people want to be a part of.  Does this describe you?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Each of us is capable of increasing our ability to inspire others.  But there are some hurdles that can slow us down.  Which of these tends to trip you up?

  • You don’t have a clear vision for the future of your team/organization
  • You lose the big-picture view of the organization and get lost in the weeds
  • You aren’t a good team player
  • You are not passionate about your work or those you work with, thus aren’t able to create a sense of passion in others
  • You too often think your opinion is more important than others’ opinions
  • You tend to think work should be a “one-man-show” … you lead, they follow
  • You … (fill in the blank with your own stumbling block)

What’s great about emotional intelligence is that these competencies can be learned and developed.  If you’d like to become more inspiring as a leader, finding a social + emotional intelligence coach can be an asset.  As well, consider these tips:

  • Figure out what your vision is for your personal life as well as the vision of the organization you work with. Not sure?  Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about?  What is my company passionate about?”
  • Learn to put words to that vision and articulate it in a way that expresses your feelings around the vision.
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge the status-quo.  Be creative; come up with fresh and innovative perspectives.
  • Ask yourself what you admire in a leader (the above attributes exercise will help!) so you can develop your own definition of inspirational leadership.
  • Open up high-level discussions to include your team members and value their input as substantive and valuable.
  • Look for ways to create opportunities for ownership in your vision with your team members.
  • Give specific compliments and don’t hold back praise for work well done. Most people thrive on kind words.
  • Avoid micro-managing, and give capable team and group members latitude to move things forward without needing your stamp of approval on each step of the project.
  • Evaluate if you are living in integrity — do your actions match your values? People are inspired by those who live out their belief systems in their day-to-day activities.
  • Keep it fun.  People like to laugh.  A sense of humor can go a long way in creating an engaging work environment.

Here I am, twenty five years later, and I still remember the gift of inspirational leadership my first boss bestowed upon me. And now, as I lead my own teams, I find myself trying to emulate his style to hopefully inspire those I work with.  Inspirational leadership has far-reaching effects that can carry over to the next generation of employees. Let’s all commit to taking a step forward in this competency this week.

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams

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

Resonant leaders practice conversations that inspire

CEO meeting with team of business associates

Article contributed by guest author Gordon Sanderson.

Research shows that consistently high performing organisations engage strongly with their people in a way that opens them up to greater connection, better cognitive ability and behavior that gets results. Their leaders look to build capability by focusing on strengths and what’s possible rather than weaknesses and compliance. We can gain insights into why this is so by considering how the brain responds to communication.

In response to a perceived threat or reward, or in response to change, the brain moves people toward an “approach” behavior or “avoidance” behavior. It either stimulates a stress response from our emotional brain, through the release of the stress hormone cortisol, or stimulates a positive state by stimulating the prefrontal cortex, the executive functioning part of our brain.

What we say and how we say it influences this. When a person perceives a threat in the shape of criticism, disregard, threat to status, independence, or lack of control, it induces an action in the brain that raises stress levels and reduces cognitive functioning. This result is avoidance behavior. The person withdraws to avoid more stress and in turn loses touch with their constructive self. In contrast, comments that arouse a positive emotional state increase cognitive functioning that allows a person to be at their best, open to new ideas, critical thinking, and engagement in positive change.

Leaders who inspire people use language that opens people up. They appeal to a person’s vision, their strengths and talents, what’s possible for them. They tend to ask questions of the other person rather than telling them “how it should be done”.

Five Tips for more inspirational conversations:

1-Ask questions that open up to vision.

Asking these questions keep people open to possibilities, curiosity and the ability to look at a problem constructively with a solution in mind rather than in an emotional way, which is not forward focused.

2-Acknowledge people for “who they are being”.

It’s easy to acknowledge someone for what they have done but to recognise them for the character that they are showing, connects at a deeper level. You have to be really watching and empathise with a person to genuinely get in touch with who they are being.It is a gift to the other person to acknowledge this and a powerful way of connecting.  Rather than, “you did a great job with that” try a statement that acknowledges the character they showed, such as: “You showed a lot of persistence to get that through” or “that took a lot of courage”. An additional note:  You cannot authentically acknowledge someone at this deeper level without having empathy.  Empathy requires presence, and presence in turn is a form of mindfulness, a stress reducer.  There is a term described by Dr. Richard E. Boyatzis of Case Western University in the United States  “executive renewal”, meaning that certain experiences invoke the renewal process  from stress in the body.  One of these experiences is empathy, and this is because you cannot be truly mindful and stressed at the same time.  Intentionally practicing empathy is one method of getting in touch with executive renewal.

3-Focus on the solution/outcome, not the problem.

Remaining solution orientated connects more with an outcome and allows a problem to be considered in a different way. Research shows that most meetings get bogged down in the problem and the detail. This is because the meeting loses sight of the objective, or never articulates it in the first place. Consequently the problem is all that is discussed. The result is long, unproductive meetings. Try, for example, “The objective of this meeting is to define a set of actions that will take this issue forward towards completion”. Get people to agree to the objective and commit to the outcome and then facilitate to that outcome.

4-Ask, don’t tell.

Ask questions that inspire rather than use statements that seek compliance. If you are opening up to vision this becomes more natural to do. If you focus on problems then it is easy to slip into conversation that seeks compliance.

5-Avoid conversations that will close people down.

Support people’s status. Statements like “let me give you some advice” or putting someone down in front of others arouses a threat response and people disconnect. Respect people’s status and autonomy. A threat to autonomy will close people down and, more importantly raise stress levels. You will lose connection. Ensure people feel connected to the larger picture. A feeling of being disconnected will result in “away” type behavior. Inspire people and they will reward you.

What will you do this week to inspire people through your communication?

Try a different approach to:

  • One on one conversations
  • Team meetings
  • Collaboration
  • Performance Reviews
  • Building Capability
  • Invoking change

 

The 4 reasons your employees are looking for a new job

They tell you it’s because they were offered higher compensation or found something closer to their career goals, but is that really why they looked elsewhere? Studies show that the four primary reasons for people quitting their jobs are:

  • I don’t like my boss
  • I feel no empowerment
  • I don’t like the internal politics going on
  • My manager/boss doesn’t recognize my accomplishments

 

“What do these four things have in common? They can all be tied back to poor leadership, specifically the leader’s emotional intelligence — how in touch a leader is with their professional emotions and those of the people they lead.”      — David Hults

 

That’s a strong statement.

When an employee quits, you have choices. As a leader, you can do the easiest thing and dismiss the employee as ‘not a good fit’, fill their spot with a new warm body, and move on. Or (and this is the more challenging route to take), you can stop and reflect upon your leadership style to see if it is having a negative effect on your team members. Are you an inspirational leader, one who motivates others to reach their fullest potential? Does your leadership style guide and mobilize individuals to feel a sense of belonging within your company, inspiring them to jump on board with the vision and pursue their roles with excitement and passion? Or is the way you are leading others causing them to feel disengaged, undervalued, and dismissed?

Inspirational leadership is a quality that can be developed, with the help of self-assessment, a coach, and a willingness to modify the way you’re currently doing things. If you sense your leadership could be one of the reasons your team members are “moving on”, here are some solid goals to begin working toward:

  • Articulate your company’s vision in a way that compels your team members to want to be a part of it.  Share with them your passions about the ‘why’ of company direction.
  • Be open to creative ideas and fresh perspectives. Maybe it doesn’t actually have to be your way or the highway.
  • Be authentic.  Your employees can see right through any attempts of putting on a facade or being someone you are not.
  • Openly discuss high-level issues with your team members and seek their input.
  • Attempt to match each individual’s talents, skills, and aspirations with the tasks/opportunities at hand to avoid micro managing. To do this, you will have to get to know your team members, and learn what really motivates them. You may be surprised that what motivates you may not motivate them!
  • Don’t forget to share the credit for successes with ALL of your team members — not just those you feel are most important. Remember everyone on your team plays a role in your team’s accomplishments.
  • Act with integrity at all times or your employees will not respect your leadership.

Want to dive more deeply into this one? Read David Hults’ interesting article here:  Your leadership style reveals your emotional intelligence

Leadership in Times of Chaos

peaceArticle Contributed by Amy Sargent

We are all saddened and disturbed each time we hear of another mass shooting or act of terrorism on this beloved planet we inhabit. The violence is unfathomable and the seeming lack of emotional intelligence by the perpetrators is repelling. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers go to the families of those who suffer each time there is a loss of loved ones.

As our minds attempt to process the chaos, we are often quick to blame those in leadership. I witness this phenomenon all the time. The Broncos lose, it’s Peyton’s fault. The bus breaks down, it’s the driver’s fault. Our kids fail a test, it’s the teacher’s fault. We have conflict in the office, it’s the boss’s fault. I clumsily trip and fall on the ice, it’s obviously the city’s fault for not clearing the sidewalks. Finding someone on which to peg responsibility somehow seems to help us make sense of why bad things happen.

Though leadership does play a vital role in determining the course of our nation, teams, schools, and offices, this knee-jerk reaction of tagging blame on others can prevent us from developing our own conflict management skills. During times such as these, it’s a good practice to look at our own lives and assess both how we are managing our own emotions and how we are leading those in our realm of control. Are we practicing integrity in the office? Are we reacting appropriately when things don’t go our way? Are we working to resolve conflict in a healthy manner? Are we actively spending time coaching and mentoring others, building bonds and strengthening our interpersonal skills?

Let’s take some time at the start of this new year to do some self-assessment of our own leadership patterns affecting the peace of our current relationships, both at work and at home. Becoming aware is a good first step in appropriating change toward the better.  Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How am I handling the difficult people in my life?  Am I working to resolve the issues at hand or using avoidance tactics?
  • Do I tend to help deflate arguments or spur them on?
  • What is one potential conflict on the horizon in my personal life?  What can I do to bring it into the open before it escalates?
  • Do I truly understand the perspectives of those with whom I am at odds with? How can I discover what factors are motivating them to come together to a place of better understanding?

 

“Each and every human being on Earth has both the responsibility and the privilege of viewing themselves as Divine beings with the power to bring about peace.”
– James Twyman

The Resilient Leader: Building Strength Through Adversity

We are offering an exciting specialty course in Social + Emotional Awareness starting May 6th entitled The Resilient Leader:  Building Strength Through Adversity and would love for you to join us!

In today’s world, fundamental change occurs in seconds, whereas twenty years ago it took months.  Resilient leaders are now a necessity and the demand for them is exploding.  Human capital challenges were the #1 CEO concern in 2013 and most are associated with employee and manager capabilities.  Companies are searching for ways to lower employee stress and stop the accompanying decline in individual performance.  This is our “new normal.”

Be on the leading edge and be able to develop your own proprietary model for Resilience Coaching.  The course content for The Resilient Leader:  Building Strength Through Adversity is founded upon the works of Drs. Seligman, Reivich, Schatte, and Seigler, and the U.S. Army’s extensive work with the University of Pennsylvania.

Here’s how this course differs from others you have taken elsewhere:

  • There is abundant theory matched with both application and the opportunity to practice in a learning environment
  • You will create your own “Resiliency Coaching Framework” and have the chance to employ it
  • If you put your “all” into this program you will finish with a high degree of confidence in your ability to help clients build their resilience
  • You will have the tools and the resources to grow in this critical coaching focus area
John MooreThis exciting class will be facilitated by Colonel (Retired) John Moore, CEO of Moore Strength Executive Leadership and Business Advisors.  John is an ICF Credentialed Professional Certified Coach (PCC) and an ACTP Certified Executive Leadership, Business, and Marketing Coach (John Moore Bio).   The cost for the class is $795 and you can earn 6 CCEUs from ICF or 6 re-certification credits from HRCI.
Register today for The Resilient Leader:  Building Strength Through Adversity
Tuesdays, May 6-June 10, 3 PM ET  
We hope to ‘see’ you in class!
Upcoming Classes