Is Fitness a Leadership Competency?

As a yogi, I believe in the connection between body, mind and spirit. I also know that my fitness routine is a vital aspect of who I am as a leader. For me, time spent on fitness is time to think, to clear my head and to become mentally and physically stronger. When I am exercising more and eating right, I feel better.

I lead better.

Would I go as far to say that fitness is a leadership competency?

I have been reluctant to write directly about this question.

Why?

Because I also see great leaders for whom this regimen does not seem necessary. Different leaders with different bodies, dispositions, ways of managing stress and processing techniques seem to be doing just fine–great actually.

And so, I share my recent thinking and writing to start the conversation. I invite your thinking and ask you to share your opinion.

Leader Athletes: Training For the Long Run (this week’s post on Lead Change Group). I am grateful to all the wonderful leader athletes who read, retweeted and offered their insights via their comments. I also amazed by the distances some of these leaders have gone in their athletic and leadership lives. It’s worth reading through the comments. I am also delighted with the support and friendship I am finding through The Lead Change Group. I am finding many kindred spirits.

Road Warrior Wisdom: 3 Ways to Health and Fitness on the Road (A recent post on 3 Plus International). A great group of women leaders mentoring and supporting one another.

And then I invite your thoughts on any of the following questions or other comments.

  • Do some need it more than others?
  • Is it important for you?
  • Why?

Please let me know your thoughts.

On Anger: Techniques for Managing Emotions at Work

I run, I do yoga, I reflect, I write and sometimes I get angry.

As leaders, how we manage our anger and other emotions is vital. Everyone is watching, and if we don’t handle our anger well we can make a tough situation even more difficult.

“Anyone can be angry, that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way this is not easy.”
~ Aristotle

I’ve gotten better at this over the years, but when I’m in a values clash, or if someone isn’t straight with me I get ticked off. I don’t always love how I react on the inside or the outside.

In his work on Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman writes,
Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energizing, even exhilarating.

Intervene Early in the Anger Cycle

Goleman talks about intervening early in the anger cycle, to challenge the thoughts and assumptions at the source of the anger. This is similar to the approach recommended by the Arbinger Institute in their work around “Self-Deception”. Both approaches focus on truly considering the emotions and values of the other person. Reframing the issues and changing perspective help to organize a more productive response.

While anger breeds more negativity as we subconsciously look for ways to justify our negative emotions; reframing diffuses the intensity and makes room for more logical approaches.

Consider Meditation and Other Mindfulness Techniques

In his book, The Mindful Leader, Michael Carroll recommends mindfulness practices and meditation as a way to get better insights and mastery of our emotions.
Emotions are like unruly but beautiful creatures that we work hard to tame. We want our emotions to behave themselves, but they are not always predictable. Some emotions seem very powerful and threatening, so we have them caged for fear that they will escape, and make us do all kinds of things that we might regret. On occasion, an emotion may break out and frighten others or we may let one out of its cage to prance around and have a little naughty fun, but generally, we work hard to keep them under lock and key. Other emotions we domesticate, and they behave like circus monkeys– entertaining us and keeping us distracted and happy.
Meditation helps us to sit with these emotions and handle then more objectively.

Of course, the techniques that will work best, are the ones we will actually use. As leaders, it is vital that we acknowledge how we handle our emotions and find productive way to manage those feelings productively.

Stupid Feedback: When Stupid Smarts and What to Do About It

We’ve all been on the receiving end of stupid feedback from time to time. It’s mean. It hurts. And it isn’t useful or is it?

Feedback is stupid when it’s alarming but not specific when we leave the conversation not understanding what to learn, or have any inkling about what to change. It’s easy to become frustrated and defensive.

A stupid example

I just spoke with an old friend. He was visibly distraught, “I was just told I am not a good leader,”

“Oh, why?”

No tangible examples

“What? That’s stupid feedback,” I replied.

And then, my brain went into one of those spins where I tried to concurrently entertain two competing thoughts leaving me with this divergent response:

1. “You can’t take that seriously”

2. “You must take that seriously”

What’s stupid

I have seen this guy lead up close. He’s got a lot of good going on. This kind of feedback destroys confidence. Even if there are issues, broad statements like this from someone in a position of power are not productive.

I then asked him to tell me why he knows he is a good leader he had a nice list.

Why it’s still serious

And then the tougher conversation.

What was driving this impression and subsequent feedback?

Who else was hearing this view?

Is there real feedback here to be understood and acted upon?

Looking beyond stupid

I began to think of some of the really vague and frustrating feedback I’ve received over the years. Usually, once I got past the emotional reaction, there was some nugget worth learning.

The lesson was not always obvious, but there was value in the digging.

Some approaches that can help

  • Examine the bigger context as objectively as possible
  • Calm down, and then go back and ask for clarification, examples, and help
  • Seek feedback from others, are there patterns to be understood?
  • Consider a 360 Feedback assessment
  • Look for a coach or mentor to support
  • And then again, after open-minded consideration, it’s possible that the feedback is not being given from a helpful place. That’s a discovery too

Even when delivered clumsily or from a biased viewpoint, feedback may offer some value. If we can look beyond the delivery, we may be surprised by what we can learn.

Team Trouble? How to Build a Team One Person at a Time

My phone rang again this week. It was a front-line leader I have known for years having team trouble.

“I can’t get them motivated. They just don’t seem to care like I do. I am not sure what to do, I’ve tried everything.”

I have received this same call many times over the years, not from this person but from others in similar circumstances.

When the frustration level hits a wall like that, I go back to my most fundamental belief about team building: great teams are built one person at a time.

Until that fundamental trust is built between the leader and each individual team member, team meetings will likely remain superficial and team builders won’t get much traction.

Also, it’s a lot less daunting to think about how you can empower one person’s success, rather than feeling like you need to influence an entire team all at once.

Doing this involves meeting the person where they are. And as Dan Rockwell suggests, adapting your style the person you are working to influence.

Steps for One Person at a Time Team Building

Set the stage with the group

  • Start positive: express your commitment to their development
  • Be careful not to position it as fixing something broken
  • Let the team know you will be reaching out to set up individual meetings

Prepare by thinking about your impressions of each person

  • What are they most proud of?
  • What do they care most about?
  • What excites them?
  • What’s their biggest strength?
  • What seems to scare them?
  • Who do they respect? Why?
  • What is their role on the team?
  • What do they want to do next?

Hold individual discussions

  • Ask some of the questions above
  • Really listen
  • Resist the urge to comment or challenge, take it all in
  • Consider: what surprised you? What did you learn?
  • Agree on one or two key actions with measurements of success
  • Pick one great thing and ask them to share back at the next team meeting
  • Establish time to check in

On the side

  • Find time to learn more about who they are and what they do outside of work
  • Share a bit about yourself and look for common interests
  • Look for opportunities to work with them on something fun
  • Encourage opportunities for team members to work together

Incorporate some highlights into future team meetings

  • Start with asking each team member to share something they are proud of
  • Ask them to share a best practice or teach something
  • Have them share wins around their key actions

Please share your experiences what team building techniques have worked best for you?

Leadership Magic: Key Actions That Inspire Results

“What’s your leadership magic?”

That’s my favorite question to ask really successful front line leaders. Clearly something is working for these folks, and I am always thirsty to understand just what.

If you are a leader growing leaders, it’s a great question to ask. I guarantee it will immediately bring out sparkles in eyes, great stories, and inspiring conversation.

It might also be worth asking yourself about your own leadership magic.

Across companies and contexts, the lists that come from these interactions are remarkably consistent.

And so, I offer the magic secret shared with me in conference rooms, recognition events, cars, and coffee bars from the best leadership magicians I have met across the country.

Leadership Magic Playbook

Begin well

  • Start each day with energy and enthusiasm
  • Connect with each person at the beginning of their shift–to inspire and check for distractions
  • Ensure each person has clear goals and a plan for the day

Know Your Craft

  • Understand the business and the work your team does
  • Get in and role-model the work from time to time (get on the phones, make the sale)
  • Be a teacher of specific best practices

Conjure up Confidence

  • Spend more time celebrating what is working than discussing what is not
  • Talk about what scares them
  • Help them master one skill at a time
  • Have them teach someone else

Make a Connection

  • Be really available
  • Be even more available– stay out of your office
  • Get to know your people as people
  • Understand what motivates them and individualize your approach
  • Learn about their families and what they like to do outside of work
  • Help them with their career goals

Razzle Dazzle Em

  • Make a fool of yourself (wear a costume, sing a song, have contests with you as a prize pie in the face, dunking booths, washing cars)
  • Encourage them to be silly too help them giggle
  • Create friendly and fun competitions with other teams
  • Talk smack

No Slight of Hand– Create Trust

  • Always do what you say you will
  • Tell the truth
  • Let people know where they stand
  • Help them understand the business

What’s Next? One Big Thing (Book Review)

What’s next? What are you born to do? What is your calling? A vital topic for me and for those I lead.

Phil Cooke contributes well to this conversation with his book, The One Big Thing.

“It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
~ Phil Cooke

He starts with two Big Questions about what’s next:

  1. What am I supposed to do in my life?
  2. In a hyper-connected, cluttered, and distracted world, how do I get noticed?

From there, he asks readers to consider 4 key questions about what’s next:

  • What comes easy for you
  • What do you love?
  • What drives you crazy?
  • What do you want to leave behind?

My favorite of these was, “what drives you crazy”

The more I live, the more I notice that what ticks me off strangely brings me closer to my calling. In fact, I had a great conversation with a wonderful leader today who asked me “who is your enemy?”

Turns out, my answer, which I hadn’t articulated until today is”bad leadership.”

There are lots of us fighting that fight working toward a common big thing.

Why Phil’s Approach is Intriguing

  • He is an interesting guy while completely advocating for a focus on “One Big Thing” he also recognizes that having broad interests creates paths to discovery and nurturing of that goal, “no matter what your OBT might be, you’ll be better because you approach it from a wide variety of perspectives”
  • He creates a tight linkage with finding a platform and getting noticed, “It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
  • He’s got relevant experience (leadership, writing, film producing, non-profit change) he’s been successful in various arenas and yet continues to refine his big gig with grace
  • He writes from the perspective of the Christian tradition in relevant ways, and yet is very open and accessible to those with differing backgrounds

What could be done better

  • He seems to assume that this concept is a bit new to the reader he offers lots of great fodder, but I imagine this will not be a new thought for most picking up this book
  • He relies a lot on frequently cited and tweeted leadership quotes, I would have preferred to hear more call-outs from his thinking

Overall a good read,to get people thinking about what’s next

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

What's Next? One Big Thing (Book Review)

What’s next? What are you born to do? What is your calling? A vital topic for me and for those I lead.

Phil Cooke contributes well to this conversation with his book, The One Big Thing.

“It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
~ Phil Cooke

He starts with two Big Questions about what’s next:

  1. What am I supposed to do in my life?
  2. In a hyper-connected, cluttered, and distracted world, how do I get noticed?

From there, he asks readers to consider 4 key questions about what’s next:

  • What comes easy for you
  • What do you love?
  • What drives you crazy?
  • What do you want to leave behind?

My favorite of these was, “what drives you crazy”

The more I live, the more I notice that what ticks me off strangely brings me closer to my calling. In fact, I had a great conversation with a wonderful leader today who asked me “who is your enemy?”

Turns out, my answer, which I hadn’t articulated until today is”bad leadership.”

There are lots of us fighting that fight working toward a common big thing.

Why Phil’s Approach is Intriguing

  • He is an interesting guy while completely advocating for a focus on “One Big Thing” he also recognizes that having broad interests creates paths to discovery and nurturing of that goal, “no matter what your OBT might be, you’ll be better because you approach it from a wide variety of perspectives”
  • He creates a tight linkage with finding a platform and getting noticed, “It’s tough not to notice a raging fire”
  • He’s got relevant experience (leadership, writing, film producing, non-profit change) he’s been successful in various arenas and yet continues to refine his big gig with grace
  • He writes from the perspective of the Christian tradition in relevant ways, and yet is very open and accessible to those with differing backgrounds

What could be done better

  • He seems to assume that this concept is a bit new to the reader he offers lots of great fodder, but I imagine this will not be a new thought for most picking up this book
  • He relies a lot on frequently cited and tweeted leadership quotes, I would have preferred to hear more call-outs from his thinking

Overall a good read,to get people thinking about what’s next

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Charisma Questions and Answers From Olivia Fox Cabane

If you are just tuning in to our Charisma Experiment, a group of my readers and I have been on a journey exploring the concepts and techniques discussed in Olivia Fox Cabane’s book, The Charisma Myth.

After reading the original post, Olivia graciously offered to answer questions that emerged. You can learn more about the book, the concepts, and our challenge by clicking on the above links.

This wonderful group included leaders from a variety of contexts (corporate, executive coaching, and high school). We read the book, and then each picked several techniques to use in our leadership.

Our Charisma Experiment Findings

The most frequently chosen focus areas were: strategic use of head nodding, mirroring, use of silence, and eye contact.

Some found that staying more still and nodding less made others “work a little harder” in the conversation. This resulted in deeper and more meaningful conversations. Mirroring other’s body language had a similar impact. Mirroring actions reduced inhibitions and invited others to be more open.

Use of silence and sustained eye contact were more tricky for both angles. We were tempted to fill the silence with chatter to reduce discomfort (ours or the people we are talking with). Eye contact created intimacy quickly, which can be uncomfortable, particularly in talking with people of the opposite gender. One participant tried, “counting the blinks” as Olivia suggests, and found this to help a great deal. We all recognized that there is indeed value in create more space and more connection through these techniques and will continue to leverage them.

Our Charisma Questions and Olivia’s Answers

Q: How can we be more charismatic via email?

A: By email, you’re going to be going for influence, not charisma. The best book I know on the subject is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Q; When working with your clients, what kinds of tools or techniques do you put in place to help them sustain their new behaviors over time?

A: That depends on the behavior! Many of the new behaviors are so intrinsically rewarding (you immediately see the great results they provide) that they self-reinforce. For others, each behavior has its own reinforcement.

Q: What are some ways for a leader in a position of “authority” to become more comfortable and charismatic in that “authority role” when authority charisma does not come naturally to them (they much prefer the other styles)?

A: When you’re in the situation, do the “big gorilla” exercise. You can also visualize ahead of time, pre-hearse the situation while in an assertive stance, and see it play out the way you would. You can also role-play with friends, and work on becoming comfortable with the authority stance and voice.

(a) physical: take martial arts classes. I really recommend Brazilian jiu-jitsu for this.
(b) mental: take improv classes. Learn to step into different roles.

Charisma Side Effects

A salient side effect of this work is that each of us was much more in-tune to our own actions, and were more active in seeking out feedback from others. We all agreed that staying authentic is the most vital part of any of this. Adopting techniques that do not integrate well with our true personalities will backfire and will actually diminish charisma.

One participant remarked, “I am feeling better about myself and that is making me show up stronger my team tells me they notice a difference.” Which of course is entirely the point. There is nothing more vital to charisma than coming from a confident place.

Note

I am grateful for the open spirits and warm hearts who engaged in this journey, and took some risks by trying on new behaviors and talking about them with “strangers.” I will work to provide more opportunities for such leadership experimentation. I would appreciate your joining the conversation via comments.

If you have not yet subscribed, please join the fun and learning by signing up for email or RSS updates.

Also, I would appreciate your sharing and tweeting the links to get others involved.

Saturday Salutation: Spirited Warrior

I first really met this spirited warrior, Matt on a (yoga) Mat. Our arms and spirits intertwined as we breathed through warrior poses. That was when I began to understand his powerful and joyful heart and spirit.

Oh sure, we had been working together at church on our “Quest” before that, me as advisor and he as “Quester” trying to figure as much of “it” out as we could. “It” being what we believed. about God, and values, and life. And what he would share about those beliefs with our congregations.

The real deal is, he made a permanent impression on my spiritual journey.

Matt lives with full-on joy. At every minute it oozes from his spirit. His muscles don’t always listen to his spirit, but he never says “I can’t. If he needs help, he asks for just enough, but not an ounce more than is vital.

There is much to be learned from a man like that.

If you attend any of his high-school drama productions, he is lighting up the stage with full on animation, full on spirit giving everything he has to that moment.

I asked him about that joy, “I think that because I am able to do so much more than before, I do not give up”

I think that’s what makes him so wise

‘I will tell anyone to not stop, do whatever you want no matter what/who may stand in your way.”

Amen and Namaste.

5 Ways Leaders Bust Confidence

Leaders work hard to build confidence in their teams.

They know that building confident teams and people is vital to success.

Confident team members are more creative, communicate more effectively,

and take more risks.

Plus, it’s easier to delegate to a confident person.

Sometimes the very actions leaders take to create confidence, can backfire. How does what was meant to be a confidence-builder become a confidence buster? It’s a matter of depth.

Here are a few ways well-intentioned leaders destroy confidence (from the follower’s point of view):

 1. Give me a new big task, because you believe in me

… but don’t give me enough support to succeed

2. Tell me I am doing great

…with no details as to what is working

3. Recognize what I do at work

… and ignore who I am and what I am accomplishing on the sidelines

4. View me as a specialist

… and overlook my creative ideas and what I could contribute to the bigger picture

5. Stay calm, cool, and collected

… and show no emotion around my big wins

The common thread through all of these well-intentioned actions is how much the leader invests. Building confidence requires exploring deeply with someone. Understanding what they are most proud of and building on that through specific opportunities, feedback and recognition.

It also involves getting into the muck, working a few levels below the obvious insecurity to understand what scares them, and helping them to overcome those fears one step at a time.

With subtle shifts in approach, leaders can build on their positive intentions, and work to create stronger, more-confident followers.

Missy Franklin: The Cincinnatus of the Olympics (a guest post from Greg Marcus)

My favorite character from Latin class was Cincinnatus – he was a farmer who became Dictator to lead the Roman army against invaders, and then returned to his farming life after the war. The fame and glory did not prevent him from continuing to be who he wanted to be, and he willingly gave up almost absolute power to return to a simple life. Cincinnatus was revered as an exemplar of civic virtue, someone willing to work for the greater good without accumulating personal wealth and power.

“I am pleased to present a guest post from Greg Marcus.

After ten years as a scientist, and ten years as a marketer, Greg Marcus, Ph.D. is a stay-at-home dad and author. If you are interested in more of his writing you can find it by clicking here, or you can find him on linked in.  Greg reminds us of the constant choices we make as we pursue our dreams, and balance them with the rest of our lives”

Missy Franklin is not a general, but a swimmer on the US Olympic team. Unlike many Olympians, she elected not to leave home and move to a training center to work with a high-powered coach. She stayed with her childhood coach, and in fact turned down endorsement deals to maintain eligibility for her high school swim team.

I think its safe to say along the way, some thought her crazy for not making the most of her talent by moving to California, swimming full-time, and getting the best coach available. But Franklin showed that a move to the next level of achievement does not require sacrificing who we are, or the people in our life. And I strongly suspect that without her family, Franklin could not have achieved what she achieved.

Franklin won four gold medals and one bronze, in London, second only to Michael Phelps in total medals. Now, Franklin is faced with a choice – does she go back to the life she had, swimming for her high school team and then on to college, or does she take advantage of the millions of dollars in endorsement deals that she could get as an Olympic Champion? For now, she is leaning towards college because she says that is what will make her a happy girl, but she will consider all the options. It’s a real dilemma.

One of these choices represents a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Reluctant Leader: Why Confidence Matters

Sometimes people find themselves in positions of leadership before their self-confidence has caught up with them, and are reluctant to lead.

Helping reluctant leaders to see themselves as the leaders they are, can make them more powerful. Here’s a story of why confidence matters.

Yesterday I herded cattle.

Not by myself, but with an eclectic group of 7 other novice city slickers out to try something new.

As we began our journey, I overheard our reluctant young cowgirl guide tell her friend “you know this is just so hard for me, I am not a leader, I am much better at following.”

She then proceeded to guide us on a journey which involved the complex balancing act of leading horses, cows, annoyed bulls, and inexperienced, unconnected strangers. Everyone followed. She knew what she was doing and she taught us well.

Under her competent leadership, we all worked together and herded the cattle just where they needed to go— having fun along the way. When one of us would get mixed up in the middle of the mooing mass, she would shout “you’re a cow!” That was our signal to move to a more productive and safer space. She used everyone’s name, and constantly checked in with each person on their feelings and how they were connecting with their horse.

She was indeed a leader.

Except for one thing.

She lacked confidence which surfaced in the way she spoke of herself.

“Oh, I am not very good at getting people’s attention.” “I really talk too much, it’s not good sometimes I just can’t stop talking.”

I watched as people were leaving, and I am fairly certain this impacted her tips.

She was teaching people what to think about her.

As leaders, what we say about ourselves matters a lot.

How can we help young leaders to feel more confident in their abilities?