The Blind Spot Leading the Blind Spot

 

We all have blind spots– aspects of our leadership style that we think are just fine and we don’t fully see the impact on others. What’s your blind spot?
Hah, that’s a trick question.

“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.”
~George Bernard Shaw

Blind spots are often our strengths weakened by metaphorical steroids.

When we are blinded by an over-used strength, it’s easy to become defensive.

“This is the core of who I am as a leader, I can’t change this!”
“This behavior is exactly WHY I am successful”
“Who are you to tell me this behavior doesn’t work.. are you as successful as me?”
And the trickiest one “Look at all the other successful leaders doing the same thing.”

Yup, there’s a short list of bad behaviors common in successful leaders. If you want to find other examples to justify your behaviors, you will find them. And thus, the blind spot cycle continues.

Unless you can take off your blinders and ask

“Is this person successful BECAUSE of this behavior
 or IN SPITE of it?

Of course, there are lots of ways to discover your blind spots (coaches, 360 feedback, assessments). However, if successful leaders don’t value or model this exploration they also reinforce that ignoring your blind spot is totally acceptable.

And once again, the blind spot leads the blind spot.

Are you a role model for blind spot exploration? Do you share with your team that you are working on you? Do you encourage your team and provide them resources to explore their troubling behaviors?

Shortcuts on the Long Road to Success

Are there really “shortcuts” to success?

That’s what I asked Mark Hopkins, author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepeneruial Habits and a Roadmap for an Exceptional Career.
His “shortcuts” seemed to me more like habits… that require a lot of work– worthwhile work. He shared,

“You’re right, figuring out what prosperity means to you and achieving it IS a lot of work. The shortcut is in understanding the common set of behaviors that prosperous people have figured out are critical to success. Every one of the people whose stories I write about feels lucky to have discovered (mostly through trial and error) what worked and they are all eager to illuminate the path for others. They know it’s not a zero sum game.”

The Prosperity Cycle

My favorite part of his book was his concept of the “prosperity cycle.” The cycle begins with either a “compelling personal hardship” or a “compelling personal vision” that motivates a decision to “do something.” From there the habits kick in, the winning begins, and confidence improves… which leads to more vision…
I asked him to elaborate. “You see two main starting points of the prosperity cycle, personal hardship and creating a compelling personal vision. Are both equally powerful triggers to “do something?”

The short answer is ‘yes’, hardship and a compelling personal vision can be equally powerful motivators. The longer answer is that, unfortunately, hardship is the more common motivator. Some of us have experienced more graphic hardship than others, but every one of us has had some very unfair life experiences. The only question we have to answer is “How am I going to respond to it?”. You can try to bury the memory of hardship or you can get mad as heck and decide to use it to fuel a change. In the book I share some stories of amazing achievement that was motivated by hardship.
The more infrequent, but in my opinion, more interesting motivator of change is when someone takes the time to think deeply about what they really want—what prosperity means to them—and paints a vivid picture of what that looks like. It’s hard to give up on something that you have taken the time to imagine achieving and that you really, really want. The magic of the prosperity cycle is that it usually starts small with a relatively simple change like doing what it takes to lose the ten pounds that you want to lose. But through successive cycles (wins) it can grow to encompass something much larger—like gaining the confidence to do what it takes to go in a new career direction or even to start your own company.

Mark’s Favorite

Mark shares, 10 “shortcuts,” so, looking for more shortcuts, I asked him which was “most vital and why?”

If someone said that they only had time to investigate one of the shortcuts, I would suggest they learn about Creative Tension (Shortcut 4). It is a powerful force first described by an MIT professor named Peter Senge. In short, it is the transformational power that you can tap into when you take the time to do an honest assessment of your Current Reality (your current life examined in its multiple dimensions) and compare it to the life of your dreams (your life as it would like it to be in everything from relationships to community to what you do for a living)

Tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community

I asked him for some final tips for the Let’s Grow Leaders Community.

The world of work is changing so fast. What does it take to be a “hot commodity” in today’s world? 

That’s easy—deep insight and knowledge. The pace of change in the world has only reinforced something that has always been true, that leaders, managers, and most importantly, consumers are drawn to the person who has the ability to produce a better solution to their problem. And the best solutions come from those with the deepest knowledge and insight. The way to become a hot commodity is to leverage your natural curiosity to effortlessly invest the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell says (and I heartily agree) it takes to get to the point that you have a differentiating level of knowledge. After that, it’s just a matter of finding the right place to do what you love.

I resonate with Mark and his perspective. He “skips to work” and teaches others to do so. As you know, I’m not selling this book… just sharing insights. In fact you can check it out on your own and download the first chapter of Shortcut to Prosperity here for free.

About Mark Hopkins

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy. After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in the developing world. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, a partner in Social Venture Partners’ Boulder-chapter, and is on the board of governors for Opportunity International. He has led YPO Global Leadership Workshops around the world.

The Secret Behind the 9 Box Performance Potential Grid

Do you know where you stand in your organization’s succession plan?

“Our cultural instinct is to wait to get picked…No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Most organizations use a deliberate approach like the 9 box Performance Potential Grid (great tool, for more visit Dan McCarthy).

If you have been told you are “high potential” do you know how many others are in the same “box?” in line for the same jobs?
If you don’t know, you should ask. If these programs are being executed well, those identified as having higher performance and potential will receive extra development and stretch assignments.

Being on the grid can be very helpful.

However the grid is based on perception and opinions. If you are in a good spot on the grid, great but don’t depend on it. If not, don’t freak out take action.

A grid does not define you.

Why Being on the Performance Potential Grid is Not Enough

“Blaming the system is soothing because it lets you off the hook. But when the system was broken, we wonder why you were relying on it in the first place.”
~Seth Godin

Organizations reorganize. Sponsors retire. Mergers happen. Politics change. It’s quite possible that all the people who put you on the grid yesterday, will be off doing something else tomorrow. Then, the grid is just a grid. Those opinions have moved on.

Performance Potential Grids don’t promote people, people do.

I went back and looked though the grids I had used in my organization as an HR Director years ago. Many names from the best parts of the grid have since been promoted and having strong careers. But other high performance-potential candidates had been caught up in mergers, downsizings, and other drama. Some are still unemployed. There were also people who had been once deemed “lower potential” now holding significant leadership positions.

Don’t wait for the grid

What else you can do.

5 Secrets to a Kick-Butt Kickoff (how to host a motivational meeting)

Are you looking to host a kickoff meeting to inspire and motivate your team? When’s the last time you got the whole crowd together to rally around the vision, celebrate progress and have a little fun?

What if you got this note in your email today (I did)?

“I was approached by one of my employees this morning. He wanted to share with me what the Kickoff meant to him. He stated that he was so inspired by the enthusiasm and the things he heard, that he wanted to work harder than he ever has before. He said that he woke up 3 times in the middle of the night, thinking about what he had learned. He kept thinking about what he had to do to make sure that he made it up on stage next year as a top performer. He came into work today with a great attitude and a desire to create a WOW experience with every person he spoke to today. I also observed him in the break room today encouraging another representatives from his team to do the same.”

And then a follow-up message from one of the leaders on my team:

“and, that’s why we do what we do.” My response was one word. “Amen.”

The secret is not a great venue, fancy AV, or a high-priced motivational speaker. I’ve seen successful kickoffs in parking lots and warehouses. It’s something else

5 Secrets to a Motivational Kickoff Meeting

  1. Sincerity
    You can’t fake sincerity. It’s also impossible to have a once-a-year high-energy kickoff meeting if the rest of the time people are dragging themselves to work, or the leader is leading with fear and intimidation. Ensure that you bring your authentic self to the microphone (sure get out of your comfort zone at least a little), but the most motivating messages will come from your heart.
  2. Simplified Messaging
    Pick no more than 3 key messages you want to reinforce. Hit the points strong from several angles. Complicated Powerpoint slides will bore the crowd, make your slides pop with messages they will remember.
  3. Emotional Engagement
    Tell stories, have employees share what works, disclose a bit about what you wrestle with, find ways to share the microphone try “pulling out” the message rather than “imparting” your wisdom.
  4. Creative Involvement
    Okay, I’m a sucker for this stuff but only because it works. In the last month I have seen the entire fully costumed “cast” of “We Are The World” in a kickoff finale that reinforced every strategy, A VP dressed as a greaser sharing how to “rock” results, and more wigs and blinky lights than I can count. Creative “silly” reinforces meaningful messages. Get the team involved and see what they come up with there’s a singer-songwriter in every crowd.
  5. The Right Recognition
    Take the time to get this right. I can tell from the first drumroll whether the leadership has picked the right folks by the way the crowd responds. Don’t just look at numbers, consider other contributions as well. Who do you want the team to emulate?

Have you been part of a kick-butt kickoff meeting?

Volunteer and Grow? Side Effects of Volunteering

Has volunteering made you a better leader?

As I was getting established in my career, going to grad school at night, and becoming a mom, I kept thinking (and saying), “I just don’t have time to volunteer.”

Sure, I would bake the cupcakes or volunteer at church, but certainly nothing that required sustained energy and effort. I thought, “people with more time would surely be better at that than me.”

Looking back now, that sure sounds like an excuse and a mistake.

I regret what I missed in the giving and in the growing that comes from volunteering during that phase of my life. The growing is more fun these days.

I am delighted to have a guest post this week on SmartBlog: Smartbrief on Leadership entitled How Volunteering Makes You a Better Leader.

I hope you will take the time to check it out and leave a comment.

Is Your “Nice” Leadership Style Counter-Productive?

Have you ever had a boss that what just too nice?
Yesterday we talked about “Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean:” On the flip-side what happened when your boss was too nice? Did they inspire? How were results?

Nice feels great but nice alone will not help anyone grow. Most employees want to be challenged. They want to know what behaviors to improve. It’s not nice to make the sugar-coating so sweet that they can’t taste the truth.

A Few Nice Examples

Job interview Feedback

I coached 3 employees headed into the same job interview. We refined resumes, role-played interview questions, and practiced the “close.” I was excited to hear the outcome. All three came back to me with the almost identical response.

“I didn’t get the job, but she told me I did just great in the interview my background was perfect, and I was clearly her second choice.”

I knew that was BS, but it was not my position to say. I then got sucked into the “nice but unproductive” spin cycle.

Clearly all three were not the hiring manager’s “second choice.” Sure all 3 candidates emerged with their egos intact. But, How was this helpful? What should they do next time to be better prepared? How should they enhance their background for a similar position? How did they perform in the interview? They were destined to head into the next scene with the same approach, and likely the same outcome.

The Email Lesson
“I asked you to prepare me for the executive session. You have now sent me 5 emails with all kinds of detail on the subject. I am now sorting by your name and deleting every email you sent me this month. If you have something I need to know, send it to me in a 5 bullet list in the next 10 minutes.”

Ouch. Ahh, but what a memorable lesson. A teachable moment well-played. You might even get to the word “nice” if you thought about it long enough.

Is This the Best You Can Do?
“Every time I take work to my boss he asks ‘is this the best you can do?’ At first I was so mad. I couldn’t stand him. But each time I realized I could do better. Now I ask myself that question 3 times before i even take anything to him. I have grown so much under his leadership. I now realize how nice he was to invest all that time in developing me.”

 What is Nice?

Productive Nice…

  • starts with caring deeply about the person you are working to help
  • is truthful
  • improves
  • challenges
  • raises the bar
  • celebrates success and incremental improvements
  • helps people to learn from their mistakes
  • ?

Have you ever had a boss that was just too nice?

Is Your "Nice" Leadership Style Counter-Productive?

Have you ever had a boss that what just too nice?
Yesterday we talked about “Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean:” On the flip-side what happened when your boss was too nice? Did they inspire? How were results?

Nice feels great but nice alone will not help anyone grow. Most employees want to be challenged. They want to know what behaviors to improve. It’s not nice to make the sugar-coating so sweet that they can’t taste the truth.

A Few Nice Examples

Job interview Feedback

I coached 3 employees headed into the same job interview. We refined resumes, role-played interview questions, and practiced the “close.” I was excited to hear the outcome. All three came back to me with the almost identical response.

“I didn’t get the job, but she told me I did just great in the interview my background was perfect, and I was clearly her second choice.”

I knew that was BS, but it was not my position to say. I then got sucked into the “nice but unproductive” spin cycle.

Clearly all three were not the hiring manager’s “second choice.” Sure all 3 candidates emerged with their egos intact. But, How was this helpful? What should they do next time to be better prepared? How should they enhance their background for a similar position? How did they perform in the interview? They were destined to head into the next scene with the same approach, and likely the same outcome.

The Email Lesson
“I asked you to prepare me for the executive session. You have now sent me 5 emails with all kinds of detail on the subject. I am now sorting by your name and deleting every email you sent me this month. If you have something I need to know, send it to me in a 5 bullet list in the next 10 minutes.”

Ouch. Ahh, but what a memorable lesson. A teachable moment well-played. You might even get to the word “nice” if you thought about it long enough.

Is This the Best You Can Do?
“Every time I take work to my boss he asks ‘is this the best you can do?’ At first I was so mad. I couldn’t stand him. But each time I realized I could do better. Now I ask myself that question 3 times before i even take anything to him. I have grown so much under his leadership. I now realize how nice he was to invest all that time in developing me.”

 What is Nice?

Productive Nice…

  • starts with caring deeply about the person you are working to help
  • is truthful
  • improves
  • challenges
  • raises the bar
  • celebrates success and incremental improvements
  • helps people to learn from their mistakes
  • ?

Have you ever had a boss that was just too nice?

Unnecessary Roughness: What Happens When Leaders are Mean

A side effect of being a leadership blogger is that people go out of their to tell me stories of “bad leadership.” Unfortunately bad leaders are everywhere, and show up in all kinds of organizations. Lately my readers and others have been sending me examples of what I call, “unnecessary roughness.”

“It was Superbowl Sunday, 5 minutes before kickoff, and our sales director calls a mandatory conference call to discuss lagging KPIs.
“My boss knows I go to church, but always calls me on Sunday mornings at 10 am, just to “check in.”
“Our entire scorecard is “green” with unprecedented results, but our ops review was brutal. No one smiled. They kept drilling us all about really trivial areas where we “weren’t doing well.” Not one mention of the positive results.”
“I was 5 minutes late for a meeting, because I was wrapping up a critical conversation with another senior leader. He went crazy in front of everyone. ”

I imagine you have heard similar examples of unnecessary roughness in your world.

Unnecessary roughness comes in many shapes and forms. When I hear these examples, I always ask the same question, “why do you think s/he acted that way.” The most comment response (after he’s a jerk or she’s just a witch) is “because it gets results.”

The Pros and Cons of Unnecessary Roughness

Unnecessary roughness…

  • Drives short-term results
  • Creates compliance
  • Scares people into working harder
  • Reinforces your position of authority
  • Keeps them on their toes
  • Will ensure you never hear bad news
  • Will make you feel powerful
  • ? What would you add?

Unnecessary roughness also…

  • Creates paralyzing stress
  • Stifles creativity
  • Will bury problems
  • Will translate to customers
  • Causes people to work on the politics more than the work
  • Increases absenteeism and attrition
  • Is contagious
  • Teaches your team that “mean” is okay
  • ? what would you add?

And so my first point don’t be that guy. Take a good look in the mirror to ensure you have no signs of unnecessary roughness.

But what if you’re dealing with that guy? I bring this to the Let’s Grow Leaders community for your ideas and suggestions (please comment). I’ll incorporate your suggestions into a future post.

How do you cope with unnecessary roughness?

Is This Phone on Mute? 6 Tips for Speaking To Be Heard

Have you ever been in a meeting where 2 people said exactly the same thing but one person got heard and the other did not? Have you ever been on a conference call and felt like you were speaking to the mute button? Perhaps you know that feeling of being ignored.

Sometimes its position. If you are the boss, your speaking will likely be heard. Sometimes its politics that happens. But often, you can give yourself a fighting chance with some careful preparation and positioning.

There is big risk in assuming it’s position or politics. It’s easy to blame the system. But before you shut down, it’s worth trying some new approaches to your speaking patterns.

Speaking To Be Heard

I was fortunate early in my career to have a great teacher on timing. My company had hired a consultant to do some important process work. I was a kid and the token HR person in the room– not the best combo for being heard. And, I was fired up and passionate about treating employees with respect, transparency, engagement (some things stay with us). The first few times I shared what I thought were vital points, I was ignored. The consultant pulled me aside on a break and said,

“everything you are saying is right on, but they can’t hear you, your timing is off.” Here’s the deal when I give you the look, you start talking employee engagement (not before). I will back you up, and ask provocative questions for them to consider.”

It worked masterfully. My voice was heard, and we started caring for the people side of the project. I paid close attention to the timing of her nods and learned the patterns. I was promoted shortly after.

6 Tips for Sending a Hearable Message

  1. Do your homework (what do people believe on this subject and why?)
  2. Bring a fact based-argument (what data do you have to support your case?)
  3. Stay calm with an even tone of voice (let the passion come through in the message, not volume)
  4. Wait for an appropriate time in the conversation to create a natural bridge to your ideas
  5. Respectfully listen to the opinions of others, and build on their ideas (resist the urge to tune out and prepare your bit)
  6. When possible, consider some advanced work with key stakeholders
  7. ? what would you add?

Are You Developing Your Team’s Mutant Powers?

In some organizations its standard practice to “groom” leaders to adapt to corporate norms. We teach future leaders to speak so they can be heard. We encourage rising stars to capture their ideas just right in the perfect Powerpoint template. We teach them when, where, and with whom to share their ideas. I work hard to develop these skills on my team (and in fact am writing about how to “speak to be heard” tomorrow). The corporate world does not have much appetite for “mutant” gifts.

Is there a cost to such conformity? Those with more quirky personalities and styles seldom rise to the top in favor of those who look better in a gray suit. Does all the time spent on fitting in and honing the standard leadership skills, distract us from developing the unique and more edgy gifts that could lead to creative breakthroughs?

Mutants and Leadership?

“If you are using half of your power of concentration to look normal, than you are only half paying attention to everything else you are doing.”
~Magneto (a powerful mutant)

This weekend my son, Sebastian approached me excitedly, “Mom, you’ve got to see this movie. I think it has something to do with leadership.” My mind quickly raced through all the possible movies he could be considering. I was excited to spend that brisk Saturday afternoon snuggled up watching a movie and talking about leadership. And then he revealed his selection.“X-Men: First Class.” I groaned, but settled in. Sometimes you have to meet growing leaders where they are.

It’s not a “must see,” so if you missed it, I’ll save you some time. The world is full of interesting “genetic mutants” with amazing, yet underdeveloped powers (telepathy, teleportation, shape shifting). These mutants work to disguise their mutant powers, working to fit in, to “feel normal.” When under stress, the mutant powers overtake their ability to control them and they come out in awkward in dangerous ways. Until, one day, they find each other and a fellow mutant serves as their mentor helping them to not only to reveal and embrace their gifts, but to refine them.

“Mutant” Gifts

  • What unique gifts are hidden on your team?
  • Do these “mutant” gifts come out in clumsy ways?
  • What if you could help them to refine these special powers?
  • What are we missing by honing the more commonly accepted talents?
  • How much of own developmental energy is spent on “looking normal” versus becoming exceptional?

Are You Developing Your Team's Mutant Powers?

In some organizations its standard practice to “groom” leaders to adapt to corporate norms. We teach future leaders to speak so they can be heard. We encourage rising stars to capture their ideas just right in the perfect Powerpoint template. We teach them when, where, and with whom to share their ideas. I work hard to develop these skills on my team (and in fact am writing about how to “speak to be heard” tomorrow). The corporate world does not have much appetite for “mutant” gifts.

Is there a cost to such conformity? Those with more quirky personalities and styles seldom rise to the top in favor of those who look better in a gray suit. Does all the time spent on fitting in and honing the standard leadership skills, distract us from developing the unique and more edgy gifts that could lead to creative breakthroughs?

Mutants and Leadership?

“If you are using half of your power of concentration to look normal, than you are only half paying attention to everything else you are doing.”
~Magneto (a powerful mutant)

This weekend my son, Sebastian approached me excitedly, “Mom, you’ve got to see this movie. I think it has something to do with leadership.” My mind quickly raced through all the possible movies he could be considering. I was excited to spend that brisk Saturday afternoon snuggled up watching a movie and talking about leadership. And then he revealed his selection.“X-Men: First Class.” I groaned, but settled in. Sometimes you have to meet growing leaders where they are.

It’s not a “must see,” so if you missed it, I’ll save you some time. The world is full of interesting “genetic mutants” with amazing, yet underdeveloped powers (telepathy, teleportation, shape shifting). These mutants work to disguise their mutant powers, working to fit in, to “feel normal.” When under stress, the mutant powers overtake their ability to control them and they come out in awkward in dangerous ways. Until, one day, they find each other and a fellow mutant serves as their mentor helping them to not only to reveal and embrace their gifts, but to refine them.

“Mutant” Gifts

  • What unique gifts are hidden on your team?
  • Do these “mutant” gifts come out in clumsy ways?
  • What if you could help them to refine these special powers?
  • What are we missing by honing the more commonly accepted talents?
  • How much of own developmental energy is spent on “looking normal” versus becoming exceptional?

The Big Problem with Little White Lies

When’s the last time you sat in a meeting and heard a “little white lie”?

Sure, what they presented was “technically” the truth. The statistics they presented were real, but no one walked away with the full story. Perhaps you found yourself wondering “do they really think I’m that stupid?”

“White lies introduce others of a darker complexion.”
~William Paley

We all have different triggers and thresholds. I’ve come to learn that my white lie-detector is set to quick frustration. I go from skeptical to spitting teeth in a matter of seconds.

I suspect I’m not alone.

Little white lies come in many forms

  • spin
  • strategic ambiguity
  • manipulated data
  • left out facts
  • embellished stories
  • hedging
  • broken promises
  • covering our butts
  • ?

Little white lies can…

  • be easy
  • get you out of jam
  • buy you time
  • shift blame
  • destroy your relationships
  • derail your career

If you tell a little lie, we question…

  • where did these numbers come from?
  • did you tell me the truth last time?
  • what else do i need to dig into?
  • what aren’t you telling me?
  • are you for real?
  • do you have my back?
  • should I work with you again?
  • can I trust you?
  • ?

Great Leaders Don’t BS

It takes courage to…

  • Admit when we’ve screwed up
  • Share the whole truth
  • Lift up problems
  • Tell the whole story
  • ?

Ask Yourself These Truths…

  • When you present do “they” know you are sharing the whole view?
  • Would they work with you again?

Please comment: Is there a place for “little white lies” in business?
Does it always pay to tell the truth?