The Most Powerful Note on Authenticity I've Ever Received

I was blown away by an email I received from a woman who recently read Winning Well.  I was touched on so many levels…by her brave journey toward authenticity in the workplace, by her clear sense of confident humility, by her gratitude for accepting leaders and an inclusive workplace, and quite frankly by the fact that there are Winning Well CEOs out there looking for other Winning Well leaders who have the ability to value competence and confidence over all the other crap that gets in the way of awesome results and incredible professional relationships.

I am so grateful that she took the time to write…and for her willingness for me to share her story with you. As you read, I invite you to reflect:

  • What would it mean for you to show up authentically with your team?
  • Am I creating a team environment where people can show up with their authentic best self?

Here’s an excerpt (shared with her permission):

“I just finished reading Winning Well (it’d been on my Amazon pre-orders list for more than a month, and I devoured it as soon as it arrived) and wanted to reach out to thank you and David for a fantastic book. Your book made explicit a lot of things I’ve been doing intuitively, and highlighted some places I can step up and do even better. I’m super excited to put those things into practice and to continue to grow my leadership skills as a result.

I also wanted to share with you my story about the power of authenticity and vulnerability, because I truly believe it is the key to everything I have achieved in my career in the last few years.

A bit about me: I am presently managing a technical team of what are essentially technically oriented project managers (and she shares her very powerful work history and accomplishments)

I am also a transgender woman, who transitioned while living in Silicon Valley 17 years ago, during the peak of the dot-com boom.

During the years my ex-spouse and I ran our consulting company together, I never talked about my past or my transition with anyone save a few close friends. My ex was scared it would cost us the respect of our clients and, ultimately, their business. It turned out that most of them knew anyway – and, as in your story in your book, it turned out that I’d damaged their faith in me and their trust in our relationship by hiding who I was.

When my ex and I divorced in 2012, I vowed not to make that mistake again. And, in fact, in my subsequent job search, I made the decision that I was going to be up-front and honest about all of my life experiences and how the lessons I learned from them – compassion, tenacity, determination – made me who I am. If a company wanted to look at all that I had to offer and then not hire me because I am transgender, I reasoned, that was a sure sign that it was the wrong company for me.

The final of five interviews for my first role at my current company was with the CEO and co-founder. “He likes to talk about our Core Values”, the recruiter had told me, so when I came into the office I’d already reviewed and thought about those Core Values. “So, tell me why you want to work here,” he asked me, and I just started talking. I talked about my experience as a transgender woman and the obstacles I’d overcome to becoming my true and most fully realized self. I talked about the myriad changes happening in my life at that time – 2013 was the year I divorced, moved to a new city for a new job, turned 40, and saw my adopted daughter turn 18 and move out on her own. I talked about my personal core values and where I saw alignment with my company’s core values.

In all, I probably talked for about 35 minutes. At the end of that time, the CEO looked at me from the other side of a small round conference table in his office. “I’ve scheduled an hour for our interview,” he told me, “and I’d like to spend the rest of the time getting to know you better. But I have to tell you, you’re the most interesting person who’s walked into my office this week, and you have to come work here.”

He still says that his conversation with me is the most memorable job interview he’s ever done. As a result of my willingness to be authentic I’ve built relationships all over my company, I’ve been promoted twice in three years, I have the respect of my leadership, my peers, the folks who I serve as a manager, and other employees all over the company. And as a result of that, I’m able to keep achieving the results I do,  for my team, for the company, and for myself. (One example: after 17 years of waiting, I finally had gender confirmation surgery last year – and, again, thanks to my willingness to engage in authentic dialogue, my company covered the cost on their health insurance.)

Authenticity is the key to relationship-building, I think, and relationship-building has been my superpower career-wise.

Anyway, since you talked at some length about authenticity in your book, I wanted to reach out to share a bit of my story, and to say thanks again for a terrific book. I really enjoyed it, and it’s definitely given me some new ways to think about what I do as a manager.”

This important note really made me think about all the other stories of authenticity I may be missing, even from my regular readers. If you, or someone you know, has such a story, I’m more than ready to listen. I’ll never share anything without your permission. Please reach out to me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com

FREE WEBINAR

Winning Well-3DJoin me on Thursday, March 31st at 2pm EST for a FREE Webinar: Winning Well: Managing the Art of the Tough Conversation With Your Employees. Click here to learn more.

5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Throughout our new book, Winning Well (available now!), David and I talk consistently about the importance of confidence AND humility, results AND relationships. So many of the managers we work with tell us that the hardest part to master is confidence.

Even those highly successful managers who appear to be Winning Well and making a difference will often take us aside and admit that they sometimes feel like a fake.

They feel as if their success rests on a knife’s edge. One false move, one tiny mistake, and everyone would know they were nothing but a well-spoken fraud.

This is what’s known as “impostor syndrome.”

Imposter sydrome describes that feeling of strong self-doubt that you’re a fake, that your success is due more to luck or your ability to fool people than it is due to your work, and it often comes with your fear of being found out.

If you let it, imposter syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your people and achieve your goals–not to mention screw up your life in many other ways.

We know. We’ve been there too.

At earlier times in our lives, David and I have felt as if we didn’t belonging that boardroom, didn’t feel that others would take us seriously, that we weren’t as smart, as proficient, as musical, or as experienced as we needed to be compared to that group we were working with.

The brutal truth is that you can’t be the manager you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate, or you’ll stay silent when you should speak. Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence.

There are several tools you can use to overcome this self-sabotage. Here are just a few.

5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

1, Honor Your Past and Your Present

One of David’s mentors said, “It’s a good thing to remember where you came from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there. ”

His point is that your experiences in childhood and earlier life can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind. But it would be equally foolhardy to not acknowledge today’s circumstances. That’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.

2. Remember that You’re Always “Too Something” For Someone

These wise words came from 1999 world champion of public speaking and motivational speaker, Craig Valentine. “You’re always too something for someone” gets at the absurdity of it all, because once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.

3. Laugh at Your Doubts

When David writes and self-doubt begins to wrap him in its constricting coils, telling him he can’t write anything unless it’s absolutely perfect, he can almost hug that little voice, laugh at it and say “Aren’t you cute?It’s hard to be critical when you’re adorable.”

4. Examine it Before You Swallow It

Sometimes your doubts might have something to tell you. Maybe there is a new skill you need to learn or a true mistake you can avoid.  How can you tell the difference between legitimate self-doubt and useless insecurity?

Picture someone tossing you an apple. You don’t catch the apple with your teeth, immediately chew it, and swallow it. You catch it in your hand; then you might inspect the apple and decide if you want to eat it. Treat doubts and criticisms like the apple. Don’t automatically swallow them. Ask yourself if there is something of value for you here. Create space for curiosity. See what happens. You get to chose whether you take a bite from the apple and internalize the concern or toss it away.

5. Leverage Your People

One of the most effective tools for dealing with impostor syndrome is simply to focus on the team you serve. They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether you have a big house, a small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else. What they do care about is you you can help them succeed today.

It’s nearly impossible to trip over your own insecurities she you’re serving others. This is the reason volunteering is such a powerful experience and why you hear volunteers say they received so much more than they give.

Winning Well Available NOW 
winning wellIt’s official. Winning Well hit the bookstores this weekend (several weeks earlier than expected), and Amazon has starting shipping. if you haven’t ordered your copy, I hope you will soon and write a review.

Looking forward to spreading the Winning Well Word.

Frontline Festival March 2016: Fresh Insights for Leaders

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival, in keeping with the seasonal turn toward spring, is all about fresh insights for leaders.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Our thanks as well to the Brainy Quote site for being a great source of quotations.

Next month, we celebrate the launch of Winning Well, so we are asking for submissions about what Winning Well means to you, as well as giving you an opportunity to show us! Submissions due by April 15–the day of the launch!–for publication on April 22nd.  New participants always welcome–please use this form for all the details.

Now, on to some fresh insights!

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services  encourages that you are the instrument that makes your leadership work. Nothing happens without your continuous attention to yourself and your artFollow Mary Jo.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited suggests some fresh ways to say things. (Not THAT type of fresh.) Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership advises that it doesn’t take much to stay interested, motivated, and growing, but it won’t happen by accident. Follow Wally.

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials shares that insights can be like relationships. Sometimes we must step into a different perspective from the onset. She likens it to keeping a relationship fresh. Follow Michelle.

According to David Dye of Trailblaze, leadership theory is great, but what works day-to-day in the real world? In advance of our new book, David recently spent time with a group of accomplished managers to share their one most valuable piece of leadership advice. Here is what they said…   Follow David.

Ariana Friedlander of Rosabella Consulting brings to light some of the deep seeded cultural norms that discourage learning and how they negatively impact creativity and innovation in our organizations. Then it provides readers with some specific steps they can take to begin correcting these problems. Follow Ariana.

No winter lasts forever. No spring skips its turn.
~ Hal Borland

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding shares that when people perceive that your comfort is more important than their needs or the growth of the organization…your leadership quakes. Leadership is not about you or your comfort.  Follow Chery.

Liza Heidelberger of MyLeaderSphere tells us that each leader has Super Powers, but those powers can easily become overwhelmed by the Dark Side.  Here are some ways that you can responsibly care for your leadership Super Powers.   Follow Liza.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement says leaders must be concerned with the results of what they are trying to accomplish. Leadership is not divorced from implementation of ideas it is intricately intertwined with implementation. Follow John.

Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents “What you may be missing every morning” where she shares a simple act that can transform your life. And work. And effectiveness. And enjoyment. Follow Lisa.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader  asks, “What is a leader’s role? How about making sure everything in your organization connects effectively?”  Follow Paul.

Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Scott Mabry of Soul to Work shares thoughts on how we invest our time and how we can undo busyness to focus more of our attention on leadership and influence. Follow Scott.

Bernie Nagle of Altrupreneur proclaims that contract is SO last century! Conscious leaders are learning that agreements based on Trust and Relationship are replacing the old paradigm of contractual obligation and “Remedy.”  Follow Bernie.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership   reveals three leadership lessons gleaned from the annual spring ritual of the flight of the Canadian geese in V-formation on how leaders can spur collaboration and improved communication among those they lead.  Follow Tanveer.

From Jon Mertz of Thin Difference: Mindfulness‬ and effective strategic leadership are tightly linked. More than new age thought mindfulness can shape strategic leadership.  Follow Jon.

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation  offers a fresh take on a classic piece of advice from leadership expert Ken Blanchard. Follow Jennifer.

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com  shares that the audience decides if the story is believable. Find capable people and connect your vision with their desires. Follow Michelle.

The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also.
~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights happily reminds us that it’s nearly spring. Though we have no control of the seasons, we have control over our mind. Leaders can choose their season. A fresh perspective and a fresh season may just ahead for you. Follow Skip.

LaRae Quy of Mental Toughness Center! tells us that not very many people are excited to get a phone call from an FBI Agent. They tend to be even less enthusiastic when the Agent tells them they need to speak with them about a pending investigation. As a result, I had to work—hard at times—to be likable if I wanted to get my job doneFollow LaRae.

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute  says that diversity is needed to bring together the brightest minds to create solutions to business, economic and social challenges of the 21st century and beyond. Follow Artika.

Martin Webster of Leadership Thoughts reminds us that a crisis will happen in almost every business at some time and shares eight critical ways to lead in a crisisFollow Martin.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds, managers avoid career conversations fearing employees’ desire for promotions, which turns out to be a false assumption that puts career development at risk. Follow Julie.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
~ C.S. Lewis

 

6 Ways to Stay Productive When You're Completely Overwhelmed

Have you ever looked at your to do list and just laughed? You think, “Oh right, that’s not happening,” and then moments later, you realize that none of the tasks on your list are really an option. Perhaps that’s the point that your nervous laughter turns to tears.

That’s the wall I hit this week. I’ve had a number of serious personal challenges that require an intense investment of emotion and time, some stuff I wouldn’t have chosen, and certainly not at a time like this, and other remarkable surprises filled with joy and hope.

And, I’m neck-deep in the throes of the most intense and exciting time of my entire career.  We’re starting our tour for Winning Well, and response has been tremendous. There’s a constant flurry of speeches and media interviews to prepare for, and we head to Oregon next week to film for our forthcoming Winning Well online course.

Sure I took out Eisenhower’s good old urgent and important matrix and mapped my priorities. The truth is, the urgent AND important box would make your hair curl. My closest friends and family are all saying “You have every right to feel this way… even half of the list would feel impossible.” Although that may feel strangely comforting, it doesn’t actually make the list smaller.

So if you’re reading this because you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that I’m right there with you.

Here’s what I’ve been doing to cope. And it’s helping. I hope it can help you too.

6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

  1. Identify Your Most Important Thing (MIT)
    In Winning Well, we write about the importance of identifying your MIT each day, “At the start of each day look over your projects, tasks, and to-dos and identify the one item that is the MIT for that day.”
  2. Follow the “Rule of One”
    The Rule of One means that you give one thing at a time your full attention. When you need to change focus do so fully and intentionally. If you spend much time with C-level executives, you’ll see that they do not multi-task. They focus. They’re all in. Concentrating. They’re confident their focus will make an impact. There’s a reason they focus on one important task at a time. Give it a shot.
  3. Breathe
    Yes, that sounds cliché, and it is…if you keep breathing as a metaphor. But if you find yourself holding your breath as you’re working your way down the list, I encourage you to stop, close your eyes and take five slow breaths in and out.
  4. Take a Walk
    Before you scream at your computer, “Yeah, lady, I told you I don’t have time already and now you want me to go for a walk?” stay with me. This week I was feeling really blocked on the structure for an important speech I’m doing. I’m committed to adding real value for the audience, and we’re filming it, so I need to nail it to preserve the value for others as well. I was making myself insane staring at my computer writing and rewriting, and I just couldn’t get the stories to flow to align with my message. I got in the car and drove to a trailhead with a blank piece of paper and a pencil. I walked without consciously thinking, and whenever I got a surge of inspiration, I wrote it down. At one point, I just stopped and sat on a rock and sketched out a brand new model that’s perfect for this speech and others. Plus, I got to check off exercise from the list.  BAM!
  5. Ask For and Receive Help
    Look around, my guess is there are people offering to help. If not think about who you can ask. This can be tough for so many reasons… perhaps you think you can do it better, perhaps you want to be doing your fair share, or maybe you just don’t want to feel out of control. I get it. I also know when you receive help, tasks go away. Our Winning Well toolkit is done and the Frontline Festival will run as scheduled, all without much intervention from me because I said “yes” to help from my co-author, David and my assistant, Beth, when they said “Just let me do this.”
  6. Decide What Must Go
    After three years, of religiously writing a blog post three times a week, the last few weeks, I’ve gone down to one. Yes, I felt guilty. Sure I worried about letting folks down. But the truth is, bringing you strong, fresh content three times a week just isn’t feasible right now. Better to take a step back and decide how to keep the blog adding value AND focusing on the rest of the list.

    People who are making an impact all feel overwhelmed from time to time. If you’re in that season, don’t spend time feeling frustrated and guilty. Take a deep breath, break it down, ask for help and work on what you know will make the biggest difference for your work and the people you care about.

10 Things to Do When Your Team's Not Listening

Her call touched me deeply. She was trying so hard…to establish the right vision, to key in on the important behaviors, to scaffold and develop…and her team just wasn’t listening.

Perhaps you’ve been there too. You’ve got vision. You care deeply. You teach. You repeat yourself. But no one seems to “get it”?

Here are ten questions worth asking when you hit that wall–when your team is just not listening. Note this is a preview of Winning Well Insights from our new book. You can download the first few chapters for free here).

1- Do you say it in different ways?
People learn differently—some by seeing things, some by hearing, some through practice, and so on. As you practice communicating frequently, use different techniques. Try our Winning Well 6×3 communication strategy: repeat critical information at least six times through three or more channels. For example, to communicate a new procedure, you might use email, a staff meeting, and one-on-one meetings for your three channels.

2- Do you say it often enough?
We have worked with so many frustrated leaders who complain that their team is insubordinate or unresponsive. When asked if they communicated the issue to their team, they say “yes.” Here are a few of the answers we got when we asked, When was the last time you communicated the issue?
“Last year.”
“At that off-site the year before last.”
“We were in the hallway six months ago.”
“At the staff meeting last month.”
“In an email.”

If you’ve communicated something once, you haven’t communicated. Managers who win well communicate frequently.

3- Do you check for understanding?
An idea is rarely as clear to the listener as it is to the speaker. Ask your listeners what they heard, what they understood you to be asking, and what they understand the consequences to be.

4- Have you explained the “whys”?
Even military briefings include the reasons and objectives behind the orders. Sometimes people’s lack of response results from not understanding the consequences of their action or inaction.

5- Are you ordering or inviting?
Invitation is the language of collaboration. We don’t mean the literal phrasing of the words (although that can make a difference too), so much as the attitude behind them. People know when you focus on relationships along with results. Do you communicate that you’re better than everyone else and they should serve you? Or do you invite people with mutual dignity to participate with you?

6- Do  you know what matters to them?
Everyone values something. If the values you promote conflict with your people’s values, you’ll have trouble being heard.

7- Do you have credibility?
If your team can say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” and they have evidence to back up their conclusion, expect to be ignored. Credibility is built, not demanded. If you don’t know what you’re doing in a certain arena, admit it and seek out others with the expertise to supplement what you do know. When your people can’t trust you or rely on you, but you insist on compliance, you fight an uphill battle you cannot win in the long run.

8- Do you listen?
If you don’t hear what people tell you, they’ll naturally think you don’t care, they’ll lose heart, and they will stop caring. To learn whether or not you’re hearing people, ask a few team members to share with you: “Is there anything you’ve been trying to tell me that I’m just not hearing?” Be quiet and listen. Thank them for sharing, and respond in time. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to hear. It takes both internal values of confidence and humility to truly listen without defending yourself. When you listen, you strengthen the connection with your people and learn what areas of training, execution, and accountability need attention.

9- Do you speak their language?
Do the words and concepts you use mean the same thing to your team that they mean to you? Do you share numbers and facts when stories and demonstrations are needed—or vice versa?

10- What do you really want?
Whenever you have management challenges, the first thing to examine is your own motivation. Are you truly focused on results and relationships, or are other self-protecting or self motivations creeping in? There’s a big difference between wanting what’s best for the team and wanting what’s best for you. So what is it you really want? If the answer is submission—“I know what’s best, and they’d better listen to me”—then you won’t ever have a team that wins well. They will act out of fear when they have to and ignore you when they feel it’s safe. When you want more—for the group to succeed together, to make an impact—you’re on your way to Winning Well

If you feel as if no one’s listening, ask yourself these ten questions, be honest with yourself, and take action in response to your answers. Winning Well managers master these challenging communication moments.

Want to learn more about Winning Well? You can see our book trailer, and download the first few chapters for free by clicking here. 

The Secret To a Great Leap

It’s been almost 5 years since that fireside chat. My friend “Joe” and I were one of the last few remaining at our campsite fireside on our annual church camping trip. The embers were glowing and yes, there was a bit of whisky involved. I distinctly remember Val emerging from her nearby tent in her pajamas and explaining that although our conversation was “indeed fascinating,” she was tired, and to please keep it down. Clearly the conversation stuck with me, as I wrote about it a year later.

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “By the time we are in our 40s our path is set. Your potential is channeled. You are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started…”

His words angered me more than they should, perhaps because I was preparing for my own leap into the leadership development space. Looking back, my frustration with him was most likely driven by my own fear. What if he was right? Maybe it was too late to follow this dream. I woke up the next morning worried I had given him a bit too much “encouragement.” We never spoke of that evening again.

Fast forward to this week, leap year 2016.

His wife approached me. “Joe’s got a great opportunity for a huge new job in a new city. It’s just perfect for him and for us. It’s all so new and exciting.”

Surprised and delighted, I leaned in to hear more. What she said next floored me.

“Joe shared something the other night, I thought you should know. He said that conversation you had by the fire really stuck with him and made him think. He believes it helped him to be open and confident when the recruiters called out of the blue with an offer to change course.”

Great leaps don’t start the moment our feet leave the cliff. They begin in the moment we open our hearts and minds to the possibility for more.

Your path is not set.

Stay open.