digging deeper

What I Learned From Marshall Goldsmith: A Simple and Effective Technique

When Marshall Goldsmith sent me his new book, Triggers, I read it cover to cover on my flight to Vegas. Great read. But what makes a good book a great book is when it leads you to action. This one did.

The Power of Daily Questions

It’s so simple. Goldsmith recommends asking yourself a few “easy” questions each day. Of course, I say easy because they should be straightforward. But we all know gut-check questions are some of the most difficult in the world.

He shares:

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions, in which I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. Every day. For the longest time there were thirteen questions, many focused on my physical well-being, because if you don’t have your health . . well, you know the rest. The first question was always “How happy was I today?” (because that’s important to me), followed by questions like:

How meaningful was my day?
How much do I weigh?
Did I say or do something nice for Lydia?

And so on. The nightly specter of honestly answering these questions kept me focused on my goal of being a happier and healthier individual. For more than a decade it was the one constant of self-regulated discipline in my otherwise chaotic 180-days-a year-on-the-road life. (I’m not boasting that I do this test; I’m confessing how much discipline I lack.)

For those who are stumped on where to start, he draws on research of behaviors that lead to employee engagement and comes up with six key questions.

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

What you’ll notice is the recurring theme is “do my best.” Yes, its subjective. You could cheat. But if no one else is looking…

My Big 5

Picking the questions is easy and hard. I have about 100 things I SHOULD be doing every day, but that’s not the point. The point is to focus on what Covey would call the “big rocks” not the pebbles.

It also occurred to me that these questions will need to change with the seasons. For me this summer is really heavy into content development. I have a book due to a publisher and an online course that we’re neck-deep in curriculum development. I need to be writing and developing content every day. In other seasons, it will be more about delivery and the questions will change.

Here are mine:

  • Did I write something meaningful that will help managers lead more effectively?
  • Did I actively work on growing my speaking and consulting business?
  • Did I add value to husband’s and sons’ day?
  • Did I connect with my father today (This is really important because my mom died recently. He lives close and it’s a blessing to have him so integrated in our lives)?
  • Did I exercise?

As the clock ticks away, it’s surprising how motivating knowing I’ll have to answer to myself will be.

Simple and effective.

A Powerful Way to Gain the Trust of Your Team

building trustThe Senior Vice President stood in front of my all hands meeting of 300 and said, “I was wrong.” I’ve never heard a group that size sit in such silence. I’m not even sure we were breathing.

You see, she had been a naysayer. She knew the mission our team had been given was necessary, but she didn’t believe it could be done. This stung twice as hard because she’d been a mentor of mine for years. In some ways the mission to prove her wrong by accomplishing “the impossible” became quite personal.

And we had.

She could have chosen lots of other words to open up her talk. Words that would have saved face, but none that could have given her more credibility. “I was wrong, I didn’t think it could be done. You did it. Congratulations, and thank you.”

5 Ways to Admit You’re Wrong

The ability to admit you’re wrong is the ultimate sign of confident humility. It takes guts to admit you’ve made a mistake. More importantly, being vulnerable enough to admit you’re wrong makes it safe for others to do so too. Imagine a world where more people were that honest with themselves and others.

Quite frankly, many leaders screw this up. They reinvent history to justify their actions (another wrong.) No matter how you spin it two wrongs don’t make a right.

Next time you screw up, follow these tips.

1. Be straightforward

The power of her statement was that it was so blunt. “I was wrong.” She could have said something much softer with less impact, “You did a solid job,” would have been easier on her ego.

2. Explain why

Share what you’ve learned or would do differently. Articulating the lesson helps everyone learn.

3. Take accountability

Don’t be a blamer. “I was wrong, but Joe gave me bad information” or “I was wrong, but my boss had me distracted with other things” is basically saying, “Even if I am wrong, it doesn’t count.”

4. Apologize if needed

In this case there was no apology necessary, she was a leader with an opinion doing her job by expressing it. In fact, I’ll admit that her skepticism fired us up. It’s quite possible in some wacky way working to prove her wrong helped us win. But, if being wrong hurt someone, “I’m wrong,” coupled with “I’m sorry,” can go even further.

4.Follow-through

Of course the most sincere way to apologize is to not do it again. I have a friend who cheated on his wife. He admitted he was wrong, apologized, owned it… and then did it again. She left him. Those words only worked once.

Leadership credo Spring 2015

The Power of a Change of Venue

It’s tricky for all of us. I’m teaching the only leadership course these accounting students will take as part of their masters programs. The class runs from 5-10 PM after most have worked all day in their internships, and we’re crammed into a room too small for the big moving around that is critical under such conditions.

All but a handful are on visas from China. This is their final semester, and most who are not finding a job, face a fast-ticking clock that matters.

A good number name public speaking as their greatest fear, and of course it’s a leadership class, and it’s me, and it’s five hours…everybody needs to talk.

Which brings us to tonight, where each student was asked to present their leadership credo (if you want to try this click here, or heck, let me come help you 😉

Now, this is a Karin Hurt classic. It never fails. Until tonight, or so I thought.

The Power of a Change of Venue

It was time to present the credos–the student’s “This I believe” on leadership. Each student sat straight up in their seats. I could see glimpses, so I was optimistic of effort, but nearly everyone had their credo turned face down on the desk.  I invited volunteers to share their credo. I was met with crickets. Then two brave souls came forth with rock star quality presentations— followed by (you guessed it)–more crickets. The class looked at me with big, longing eyes waiting for me to move on. I offered a prize for the creativity folks most admired–not helpful.

Perhaps it was the tenacity to not let this fail, or the panic I felt realizing that this exercise should fill an hour and “We can’t be done in two minutes!”–but, I regrouped.

“I can see you’ve got great stuff by the glimpses I caught as you entered the room. I also see most of you don’t feel comfortable sharing in a crowd.

Let’s go into the hallway.” 45 students formed two circles and I quickly arranged a “speed dating” kind of sharing.

The energy level went up about 10 times, and I quickly realized my previously shy students had something important to say.

One minute in, it was clear, we were disturbing the surrounding classes.

I interrupted. “That’s the spirit! But, now ironically, we’re too loud.” Would anyone object to going outside? (It was sunny but a bit chilly.)

And off we went. You would have thought I had started serving cocktails. Bystanders  were staring as they walked by to see what we were up to.

They shared and admired and celebrated their leadership teachable point of views.

As we returned inside, I shared my “teachable moment.”

“My leadership was failing. I tried to get you to follow and you refused. I had to take a step back and regroup and change the approach (and in this case the venue). If no one’s following, blaming it on your followers may feel good, but it won’t work. If you’re really blowing it, step back and try again.”

And then the magic happened. The class selected one of their quietest members as their “winner” for creativity and content. And then, classmates who had never participated started sharing their credos. The rest of the evening went a whole lot quicker. Ahhh the remarkable power of #confidenthumility.

Who Decides Your Future?

It’s been a long day, turning into tomorrow, but I can’t get her out of my mind.  Ling (not her real name) bravely raised her hand in my Masters level leadership class tonight. “Professor, I see how these techniques would be important for someone who could accomplish something great, but it’s hard to apply for someone like me…”

I gave more examples and stories of how these basic techniques are easily used in motivating frontline teams or to stand out in an interview.

Again, Ling shook her head.

Let me step back and paint a picture. Ling is early in her career, from China, taking a masters level curriculum completely in English. Life is tricky. Visas are uncertain. She’s a rock star contributor– thinking deeply and expressing great insights. She cares, she tries, she knows a great deal. She’s scared.

Someone like me…

I paused to hear more.

Ling continued, “I’m not going to accomplish anything like THAT.”

Next, a few more few anxious nods. Not from the men.

And I’m left with the nagging question so many of us feel.

“Am I someone who could accomplish something great?”

Who, or what, limits our belief that we can be great?

What’s the right level of audacious hope?

I’m sure she’s thinking, “For God’s sakes Professor, just give me enough practical advice to land a job.”

We’ll go there. But I’m not sure that advice will work.

“One notch above” won’t differentiate or lead an employer to go the extra mile to take on immigration.

Being remarkable takes bold moves, differentiated thinking, and a really strong “why.”

In an uneven playing field who defines remarkable?

How do you build audacious confidence amidst a chorus of assimilation advice to “just fit in?”

This is not just Ling’s story.

Her journey is hard. Yours is too. You can be the guy who “accomplishes something great.”

In fact, we’re counting on it.

Karin Hurt, CEO

Other LGL News

I’m delighted to announce I’ve signed a book publishing contract with AMACOM with co-author David Dye. Working title is Winning Well:  How to Lead Your Team to the Top Without Losing Your Soul.  We’re headed for an early Spring release, stay tuned for ways to get involved.

I also had fun this week with a feature article on Yahoo:  What to Do When Your Boss Drives You Crazy

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or some support in taking your team to the next level? Please give me a call for a free consultation. 443 750-1249.

Why You Should Go There

Recognizing that some members of the newly formed call center engagement task force may not know each other very well, I reached for one of my favorite, go-to, get-em-talking and laughing icebreakers, two truths and a lie. My selection was met with a few “Oh, not that again” grimaces. “Ah, you’ve done that one before, huh?” Twelve heads nodded a quick yes.

I thought of the exercise I’d just read about in Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team Field Guide. It involves participants sharing something about their childhood that made it particularly difficult. I’ve been looking to try it, but was reluctant in an environment riddled with trust issues, particularly with a mixed group of reps, supervisors and managers.

I tipped my hand.

“A key element of trust is knowing one another at a human level. As you know, there are respect and trust issues in this center that we’re here to fix. I want to ensure you all know a bit about one another before we dive into the work. I’ve got another exercise I’ve been looking to try, but I’ve never done it before and it could be heavier than you’re ready for. How about I explain it and then you can decide?”

My explanation was met with eager, unanimous agreement to do the more difficult exercise. Before long, stories of abuse, sibling death, divorce, and poverty filled the room. Nods of understanding, words of encouragement, and knowing looks of “Me, too” quickly warmed the room.  A few folks shared what was happening in their lives today.

We finished and sat for a moment silently breathing in the understanding.

After thanking them, I asked what they thought would happen if we brought any other 12 people from the center into the room for the same exercise. Everyone agreed similar stories would emerge.

So I asked the obvious question. “If you all know that people have this kind of hardship in their lives, why would you treat one another  so harshly and with lack of respect?”

Again the response was unanimous.

“Because we’re strangers.”

We knew where to start our planning.

It’s tempting to assume that people want to keep their personal lives private. That we shouldn’t “go there” at work, and of course everyone has different comfort levels and strategies with such boundaries. It’s important to know that everyone in any given room has something going on that makes life hard. Making it easier to “go there” could make all the difference in the world.

What Interviewing Curve Balls Say About Your Culture

I was recently interviewed by Fast Company on the effectiveness of “curve ball questions” in the interview process.  When I received the call, I was intrigued. Surely there would be a pro and con, and I was happy to be the con artist.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in hiring managers conducting deep interviews to get beyond the BS. But judging competence on a 30 second response to “Who would win a battle between Spiderman and Batman?” places heavy value on a candidate’s ability to BS eloquently rather than lead.

Insightful introverts will lose in this game every time. That is a tragedy.

5 Messages Oozing From Curve Balls

  1. “We’re really smart, hope you can keep up (we don’t know about you, but we’re the bee’s knees.)”
  2. “I’m in charge, figure me out (I’m more important than you.)”
  3. “We love to play games (that make you feel uncomfortable… get used to it.)”
  4. “Form matters more than substance (we value a great gamer… are you tough enough?)”
  5. “There’s more where that came from (we expect you to learn to throw curve balls with your team and teach your high-potentials the art.)”

I’ve watched enough Little League to know that nothing feels more powerful than a curve ball.

But you’re bigger than that. Think wiser.

Yes, yes, go deep in an interview. Here are some ways.

Conduct behavior-based interviews. Dig deep and find out what matters most to them, and how it aligns with your culture. Look for ways your candidates set themselves apart. 

Want to build a game-changing culture? Call me at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

The Real Definition of Employee Engagement

Ever since Gallup revealed their findings that 70% of workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged in their work, “employee engagement” has been all the buzz. Quite frankly, none of this is new, and anyone reading this blog knows that and is working hard to change the game.

Tonight, I started to write a different post (which I’ll save for Monday), but got sidetracked when for grins, I looked up Employee Engagement in the Urban Dictionary, searching for a pithy opener. I was shocked by the search results:

urban-dictionary

employee engagement isn’t defined.

Can you define it?

Game on.

Let’s do this!  Please leave your best definitions in the comment section here, and I’ll upload your responses (or just go for it and upload your own to Urban Dictionary). What an opportunity to tell the truth. Of course consider the medium–you’ll want to be “hip.”

P.S. my son Sebastian (9) reminded me the other day (after I commented on how “hip” he looked) that neither of us would know “hip” if it bit us in the butt… but “the way we looked now, was about as good as it gets.”

With that said, I’m quite sure our hip crowd is up to the challenge.

Professor Lupin on Facing Your Fears #confidenthumility

Our biggest leadership screw-ups are fear in disguise. Fears have a powerful and dangerous habit of shape shifting into a monster that stands in our way, blocking the behaviors we most need for success.

Mike’s arrogant approach and intimidating demeanor is covering up his biggest fear–that the team will discover he’s not really an expert. The team talks about him constantly–about his horrible leadership–and avoids interaction. His fear wins.

John doesn’t start the blog he’s always wanted to write for fear of being irrelevant. His fear wins.

Rachel doesn’t share her best practices with her peers, because she wants to be the best and get promoted. She doesn’t get promoted because she’s not a team player. Her fear wins.

When we pretend we’re not afraid, fear wins.

By denying what scares us, our worst characteristics emerge bigger than the demons we fear.

But if we can NAME our fear, and see it for what it truly is–a ridiculous exaggeration of the worse case scenario–we stop the cycle.

We show up stronger, and have the strength to lead from a place of bigger confidence.

No one teaches this better than J.K. Rowling’s Professor Lupin.

Name your fear. Visualize it. Face it. And discover what makes it ridiculous.

I agree with Seth, “the worst trolls are in your head.” Give them a name. Laugh at them. And lead well.

Why Competitors Will Make You Question Everything

In business school we teach SWOT analysis. Know what your competitors are doing so you can outsmart them.

There’s power in benchmarking, and many a company has met their demise by a sudden competitive surprise.

But any time your energy is focused on what OTHER people are doing instead of honing your craft, you’re at risk. Watching your competition puts you in the passenger seat of their story, instead of blazing your own trail.

When I was a competitive swimmer growing up, I had a terrible habit of looking for my competitors in the lanes beside me every time I turned my head to take a breath. Out of complete frustration, my coach threatened to move me to the lane next to the wall if I didn’t stop. From that lane, I wouldn’t be able to see any of my key competition, and it wasn’t exactly considered the rock star lane–I told you, I don’t have this humility thing licked. I stopped looking. You guessed it, that streamlined movement was just what I needed to move from second to first in many of my races.

I was reminded of this phenomena this week. Mike (not his real name), a consulting client, was going for an important promotion. He’d spent weeks honing his strategy and materials. He’d identified all the right stories to share, and had nailed the first interview. He’d gotten great feedback and was preparing for round two when he discovered another smart and popular guy had just put his hat in the ring. Confidence level went down five notches and panic set in. Naturally, he began rethinking his strategy.

When you’ve been preparing for weeks, the day before is not the time to rethink your plan, particularly from an unsettled frame of mind.

A few hours later I got this email:

“…I am going to take sage advice from the Disney movie my daughters watch, Ice Princess. “Put in ear plugs about your competitors. If they do well it will shake your confidence and if they do poorly it will make you cocky.”

Amen.

Play your own game the best you can. Leave it all on the field. Stop worrying about everyone else.

How to Outsmart The Competition

This is part 6 of a 7 part series on outsmarting the competition. In case you’re just catching up.

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

Are You Letting Your Team Outgrow Their Past?

Most leaders mature (and yes, that’s me on the right). And yet, often when someone has been with the company for a long time, it’s their old image that sticks. Be sure you’re helping your team outgrow their past.

I’ve seen too many companies go “in search of” the ideal candidate, hire them, and then find they had the right guy all along (after the first one didn’t work out). In fact, I’ve been that guy.

This post was inspired by a recent post by Dan Rockwell encouraging his readers to overcome their past. Brilliant insights. As I was reading it, my heart felt heavy for all the leaders I know who are desperately trying to escape their past and can’t grow beyond their early reputations.

“The past is a weight that grows heavier with the passage of time. Little mistakes grow larger. Offenses get heavier. Failures persecute.” -Dan Rockwell

Most leaders mature. And yet, often when someone has been with the company for a long time it’s their old image that sticks.

Be brave enough to see who’s really showing up.

Anticipate maturity and watch it florish.

Don’t miss out on the most fun part of being a leader– watching others grow.

Be an advocate.

Don’t overlook the game changers who were once young, naive and a little overly _________(brash, politically inept, unconfident, overconfident).

You were too.

Who do you need to give a second chance to?

What are you going to do this year to take your leadership development program to the next level? Call me at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

7 Ways to Show Your Team You Trust Them

Trust begets trust. The best way to get your team to trust you is to trust them. Hire for trust. Require trust. Rid your team of untrustworthy players. And then, show your team how much you trust them. Here’s how.

7 Ways to Show Your Team You Trust Them

1. Set Audacious Goals

Oh sure your team may grumble. But there’s no greater gift you can give your team than leading them toward head-turning results. Set the bar high and then look them in the eye, “I believe in you. I know what this team is capable of. Now let’s figure out just how, together.” Show trust by believing it’s possible.

2. Tell The Truth

Even when it’s hard.  Don’t sugarcoat the bad news. Play it straight. Show trust by treating them like grown-ups.

3. Invite Them To Come Along

I’ll never forget of my best first bosses, Gail. She would constantly take me along to senior level meetings, arguing that “no one could explain it better” than I could. Of course that wasn’t true, she was one of the most gifted explainers I know. But she trusted I would do okay, and was secure enough to give up the spotlight. I’ve been amazed at how many bosses are afraid to give such opportunities to their team. Show trust by sharing the stage.

4. Admit What You Don’t Know

Show your team you trust them by admitting you don’t have all the answers. Trust them with your concerns. Trust them with your questions. Show trust by being real.

5. Encourage Them to Meet Without You

This one took me a minute to get used to (you can read about that here), but a great way to show trust in your team is to give them a big hairy problem and ask them to meet to figure it out. Make sure that any information and parameters they may need gets out of your head and into theirs first, otherwise they’ll spin their wheels. Show trust by getting out of the way.

6. Tell Them

This one might seem obvious or even silly, but I guarantee it can’t hurt. Can you imagine how good it would feel to hear, “I really trust you because_________.” Show trust by telling them why.

7. Forgive Them

If your team screws up, talk about it, help them learn, and then move on. Show trust by letting it go.

PrintTrust Across America has once again released their list of Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior. See the list (and lots of other great content) in their lastest online issue of Trust Magazine. I feel very honored and humbled to be included with such amazing trust leaders.

Are you looking to build greater trust with your team? I’d love to help. Give me a call at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

Who Do You Trust? An Easy Team Exercise

“Do you trust me?” What a loaded question. It’s tough, even with people we love. “Sure, I trust you to be faithful, but do I trust you’ll remember to pick up the dry cleaning?” Even small actions can build or diminish trust over time.

Defining the behaviors that breed trust can go a long way in encouraging more of the good stuff on teams. Let’s have some fun with this easy trust building exercise.

An Easy Team Trust Exercise

Materials Needed:

for the initial conversation

  • yellow sticky notes
  • a wall or white board
  • easel paper and markers

to make it last

  • an artist (if you don’t have one on your team, you can find one online for a reasonable price. Joy Guthrie does a nice job. Or you can find other creative help on Fiverr)
  • a laminator

Process:

  1. Ask each team member to write down what they consider their own most trustworthy characteristics, one per sticky note (e.g. set clear expectations, tell the truth, follow-through). They can come up with as many examples as they like. Don’t skip this step, introspection is an important part of the process.
  2. Ask each person to share three of their trustworthy characteristics with the group. Some discussion may occur naturally here. Allow that to happen.
  3. Have each team member place their sticky notes on the wall or white board, and begin to group them into similar clusters.
  4. Identify the themes and write them on the easel paper.
  5. Now the fun part: have the team design their ideal trusted team member. For now this can be just a stick figure with labels, but encourage the team to get creative (e.g. sincere eyes, strong arms for heavy lifting, transparent heart). Name this little guy, or gal (e.g, Trusted Tracy).
  6. To keep the conversation going, have an artistic team member (or rent some help online) draw up the caricature of your ideal trusted team member (with labels highlighting the characteristics). Laminate the caricature (like your very own team Flat Stanley)
  7. When your team comes together for team meetings or other events, find time to ask who wins the “Trusted Tracy” award? And why. This is a great way for people to nominate and highlight the trusted behaviors that are happening on the team. Team members can do a casual “vote” to select a winner, and that person gets to hold on to “Tracy” in his or her cube or office until the next time. This works for virtual teams as well, just take a pic and turn it into an email-able image.

Let’s have some fun ourselves! Send me your ideas for building our own Trusted Tracy, and we’ll turn it into pic. If there are artists out there who want to play, I’ll include them in the post as well. Let’s have a big LGL Friday virtual team builder Even if you’ve never commented before, this is an easy time to chime in.

Thanks for all your contributions!  Here’s our composite (click to see a bigger version).

TrustedTracy(800x600)