How to Ensure Your Team Gets It

It had been a long night…and morning…and afternoon at the airport.

The kind where cancellations and delays compound into a complex verb of frustration that includes four letters. The kind where you start to notice the characters around you and make up their stories.

I had pegged the guy next to me for a Baptist preacher. Among other signs, it was HOW he earnestly offered to watch my stuff as I went to the bathroom, “Ma’am I’ve been watching ladies purses for decades. I watch my wife’s purse. I watch my girl’s purses. I watch my wife’s friend’s friends purses. So whatever you need. I’m your purse watching man.”

And I trusted him.

He was on the phone when I came back from the bathroom. He silently nodded and grinned toward my big red purse which also serves as a computer bag, dongle carrier, journal holder, with nooks and crannies for light snacks and kombucha.

Nope, definitely not Baptist preacher–bankruptcy lawyer. Now I’m intrigued and can’t help but overhear his conversation occurring in such a beautiful Southern drawl it would have been fun to hear, even if I couldn’t understand the words.

Now my wife says I hear okay, but I doooon’t listen tooooo gooood. Let me repeat back what I’m hearing you say you want to do.”  

Silence as the caller responds. Then…

“You see sir, my wife is right. That is just NOT one of the options. Let me be clear. You CAAAAN’T do THAAAT. How about this? Let me share with you your three options again.”

Gives three options. Then…

“You sleep on it.  Call your Momma or talk to your wife…and then we’ll talk again tomorrow.”

I’m beside myself. This is the most remarkable Winning Well check for understanding I’ve ever heard. Full-on confident humility.

“Sir, Thank so much for watching my bag, and indeed you are a remarkable purse watcher. AND I couldn’t help but to overhear…What you did there was brilliant.

You see I wrote this book… and my co-author (now fiance, but that’s another story) and I had this remarkable disagreement about whether the ‘check for understanding’ should be included. I thought it was too simple. He swore it was a vital concept. As we’ve been doing workshops, guess what’s one of the top 10 take-aways?

The funny part is, the higher the managers  are in the organization, the more they love it.

It’s so easy.  

‘Do a simple check to understand…are they picking up what you’re putting down?’

Instead of  ‘Any questions?’ or ‘Are you with me?’ You ask… ‘Okay, so I just want to check to ensure we’re all on the same page…’ and then get them to repeat back. ‘What are we going to do first? And then? By when?’ “

He shared, “Karin, I’ve been doing this for years. When people are going through bankruptcy they hear what they want to–not necessary what’s true. I give them a way to hear it again.”

Amen.

There’s real power in hearing what your team hears.

Eileen McDargh

The Down-and-Dirty Truth about Humility (Eileen McDargh)

Winning Well Connection Reflection

I first met Eileen when a mutual friend said “You two should really know one another,” and she was right. Eileen has a warm and generous spirit and is an amazing role model of confident humility. 

Before you throw up your hands in horror, consider the root of the word “humility.” The term comes from the Latin humilitas, which may be translated as “humble,” but also as “grounded,” or “from the earth,” since it derives from humus (earth). Put your hands into rich humus, that dark soil that is the incubator for plant life. Your hands will emerge dirty and your knees probably dusty from getting down on the ground. However, if properly tended, you might have created a garden of bountiful flowers, a vine that produces wine, or a tree that bears fruit.

Winning well with others, creating an organization that thrives just like that garden, requires humility—a trait that is impossible if a manager looks down rather than gets down with team members, colleagues, and associates. Sadly, we see far too many examples of ego-filled executives in both public and private sectors who claim to have all the answers. That position threatens the resiliency and staying power of the executive, in fact, of the organization.

So the question becomes: “Can humility be developed?” The answer: perhaps.

My colleague Bill Treasurer asserts that it will take a “leadership kick in the ass:” a failure, a demotion, a serious downturn, or other significant loss. Even with that, some so-called leaders have such emotional insecurity and fragile egos that any “failure” will be recast as blame on someone or something else.

Click on the image to learn more about Eileen’s book.

Let us instead turn a light on you—a leader who is part of this symposium because you believe in growing your skill. That simple belief loosens the soil for proactive steps that we all can take to develop and strengthen humility.

  1. Think of 2 or 3 challenges from your past life. What personal strengths did you use AND what were your personal weaknesses? Were these weaknesses based on lack of knowledge, skill, faulty information? If you were to encounter those challenges again, whom could you turn to in order to create a better outcome? What’s stopping you right now, from developing those relationships? In the heat of the moment, it will be too late to gather support around you if you haven’t already been growing it.
  2. Create a sounding board of 2 or 3 “critical lovers.” Lovers are those people who never give you straight feedback. You are perfect in their eyes, or they pretend you are perfect. Maybe they are the “suck-up” kinda folks. Criticizers are those who find that everything you do or say is wrong. These folks are demoralizing and dangerous. What you want are “critical lovers.” These are people who care about you enough to be straight-forward about what they see. They will call you on your behavior and, at the same time, offer helpful advice.
  3. Practice reflective listening. We all hear but few people are skilled in listening. Learning to carefully listen is akin to learning how to play a musical instrument. Practice. Ask a question and then carefully listen for both content AND intent. Content is the words. Intent is the emotions behind the words. Learn how to ask clarifying and reflective questions. Practice. As is written in the Book of Proverbs: “Seek first to understand rather than be understood.”
  4. Find a Yoda. Yoda was a legendary Jedi Master (Star Wars) and stronger than most in his connection with the Force. Small in size but wise and powerful, he trained Jedi for over 800 years. Yoda is a metaphor for a person who seems wise—often wise beyond their years. My first-born daughter is my Yoda. She offers insights that I need and yes, it takes humility to admit that age does not guarantee wisdom.
  5. Realize that lost is a place. Humility is developed in coming to grips with the fact that there are times in our life when we do not know where to turn. We feel small, insecure, frightened, and possibly alone. I wrote my last book, Your Resiliency GPS, because I needed to find answers when death altered my world.

I humbly thank you for taking the time to read this. Your thoughts are always welcome.

Winning Well Reflection

As achievement-oriented entrepreneurs who are often our toughest critics, Eileen’s thoughts about how humility resonate strongly with us. All of us can do with more self-compassion. Her invitation to consider that ‘lost is a place’ helps leaders to release the need to have all the answers and dictate direction, to “trust the trenches”, and include the team in critical questions and answers.

 

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Role Models of Confident Humility: Profile #1 Jesus Christ

When I think of role models of confident humility, it’s hard to imagine a better example than Jesus. Born in a manger, washing feet, hanging out with the poor; yet let’s face it, he had some pretty big asks. From time to time in 2015, I’ll be showcasing examples of leaders across a variety of contexts lead from a place of humble confidence.

This Christmas it seemed only appropriate to start with Jesus. Let’s have some fun with this one in a big virtual Christmas party. Even if you’re not Christian, there’s a lot we can learn from Jesus as a human leader as well. I’ll start with a few ideas, gathered from some of my Lead Change Group friends to get us started.  Grab some cocoa and add your thoughts.

“Confident humility says I can love you and serve you, even if your actions don’t deserve it.” -Chery Gegelman

Confidence

lead from who you are | stand up for what matters | speak the truth

  • Calming the raging storm
  • Walking on water
  • Taking on the establishment

“He knew who he was. The attitude of everything he said was confident based on who he was and what he was going to do.” – Mike Henry Sr.

Humility

know your vulnerabilities | admit mistakes | invite challengers

  • Washing the disciples feet
  • “Into your hands I commend my spirit:” Submitting to crucifixion
  • Note:  I’m curious– can anyone think of a time where Jesus admits he made a mistake?

Connection

listen carefully | understand perspectives | collaborate endlessly

  • As a young boy, confident enough to discuss God with the priests, yet humble enough to submit when Mary and Joseph came back for him.
  • Hanging out with outcasts and children
  • Telling stories

Vision

imagine more | invite bold possibility | do what matters

  • Energized a strong, diverse team to drop everything and follow-him
  • Strong ideas that challenged the status quo
  • Drew a compelling picture of life after death

Thanks so much to Johann Gauthier, Randy Conley, Jane Anderson, John Smith, Paul Larue, Chery Gegelman, Bill Treasurer, Mike Henry, Sr, and Paula Kiger for their insights on this topic that served as a basis for this post.

In Search Of Confident, Humble Leaders

Do you know (or know of) a leader who is a role model of confident humility? Well known or not? Please drop me a note for consideration for a 2015 profile in confident humility.

Merry Christmas.

Thanks so much for being such an amazing part of my year.

In Peace and Joy,

Karin

7 Sales Skills For Leaders

Sales gets a bad rap. No one wants to be that smooth-talking guy pushing a vacation club or spamming us on LinkedIn. By the way, if you’re that guy, please stop, I will never buy a program from a LinkedIn spammer.

But the truth is, leadership and sales have a lot in common: Inspiring a vision; building genuine relationships; finding creative solutions. Selling well is about caring and helping others achieve what they imagine. Leaders can benefit from honing some of their “sales” skills.

How I Became a Sales Leader

I’d been in HR for years when the Sales VP encouraged me to interview for a Sales Director gig. I was shocked. “Oh, I’ve never done sales…how could I lead a large sales team?” She just laughed, “Karin, you’re selling all the time. You’re constantly convincing us to take time out of the field to invest in leadership and HR programs. Trust me. That’s selling.”

She was right. And as it turns out, leading a team of several thousand sales people was one of my favorite gigs.

Today I find the advice I gave to new sales people useful in developing leaders as well.

7 Leadership Sales Skills

First, recognize that you already know how to sell. You’ve been selling from the very first time you convinced your parents to let you stay up past your bedtime. Think about all you’ve sold in your life, and use that to bolster your confidence.

If the thought of “selling ” your vision, your concept, or your idea sill intimidates you, here are some selling 101 tips that can help.

  1. Be confident in your “product” – If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, your “customer” won’t either. If you find yourself spinning the truth or speaking with strategic ambiguity consider your motives and your leadership. If you don’t buy it, they won’t (and shouldn’t).
  2. Create genuine connection – Relating on a human level and demonstrating that you truly care is much more important than any sales (or leadership) “technique”.
  3. Be truly humbleConfidence without humility will turn off “prospects” every time. False “humility (e.g. stupid self-deprecating remarks will make them gag.)
  4. Ask great questions – Find out what they truly need. Help them clarify their vision based on their scene, not what you’ve got to give. Listen more than you talk.
  5. Focus on helping – Work to find creative solutions that solve people’s problems
  6. Don’t sell past the close – Once the “customer” says yes, say thank you, and wrap it up. Don’t over-stay your welcome

Top 10 Sales Tips for Non Sales Professionals

You Know You're A High-Maintenance Leader When…

She doesn’t think she’s high-maintenance. After all, she’s just trying to do her job. In the meantime, eyes roll, stories are shared, the team loses productive time catering to her needs.

“You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”
~ Harry (When Harry Met Sally)

It’s not all her fault, “that’s the way she likes it” has morphed into “that’s how she must have it.” It works, so she continues to let them cater. 

The team doesn’t seem to mind: “oh it’s no big deal”, “Of course I understand”, “You have so much on your plate”. And more requirements get added to the list. We’ve all got a bit of high-maintenance within us.

High Maintenance Leaders

  • don’t mean to be
  • “pose” just in case someone wants to take a picture
  • work to be “liked” above all else
  • have a different focus goal for every day of the year
  • distribute every leadership book they read as “personal development” assignments
  • relentlessly pester the team about how they can help you succeed.
  • have a motivational saying for every situation
  • won’t take “no” for an answer, even when “no” IS the answer.
  • demand the team provide alternatives with justification, but have no intent to accept any solution different from their own
  • never hear the truth
  • have food brought to them on a regular basis.
  • demand fancy updates and complicated Powerpoints, even when their team is slammed with work
  • triple book their calendar, as a line forms outside their office
  • want the Powerpoints to match their eyes (true story)
  • ________?

Lower Your Maintenance Threshold

Check for signs of high-maintenance in your leadership. Determine what your teams think you “need” and why. If it feels high-maintenance, it is.

  • Start with helpful. Make your team’s job easier.
  • Talk about what you really need and why.
  • Ask what else they think you need. Scratch a bunch off their list.
  • Resist the urge to cater to ridiculous needs for those above. Your team is watching, and think you want such treatment too.
  • Find ways to meet your “maintenance needs” outside of work (hire folks to help.)

A special thanks to the Lead Change, with a special shout-out to John E. Smith, and Harvard Business Review communities for jump-starting this conversation.

You Know You’re A High-Maintenance Leader When…

She doesn’t think she’s high-maintenance. After all, she’s just trying to do her job. In the meantime, eyes roll, stories are shared, the team loses productive time catering to her needs.

“You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”
~ Harry (When Harry Met Sally)

It’s not all her fault, “that’s the way she likes it” has morphed into “that’s how she must have it.” It works, so she continues to let them cater. 

The team doesn’t seem to mind: “oh it’s no big deal”, “Of course I understand”, “You have so much on your plate”. And more requirements get added to the list. We’ve all got a bit of high-maintenance within us.

High Maintenance Leaders

  • don’t mean to be
  • “pose” just in case someone wants to take a picture
  • work to be “liked” above all else
  • have a different focus goal for every day of the year
  • distribute every leadership book they read as “personal development” assignments
  • relentlessly pester the team about how they can help you succeed.
  • have a motivational saying for every situation
  • won’t take “no” for an answer, even when “no” IS the answer.
  • demand the team provide alternatives with justification, but have no intent to accept any solution different from their own
  • never hear the truth
  • have food brought to them on a regular basis.
  • demand fancy updates and complicated Powerpoints, even when their team is slammed with work
  • triple book their calendar, as a line forms outside their office
  • want the Powerpoints to match their eyes (true story)
  • ________?

Lower Your Maintenance Threshold

Check for signs of high-maintenance in your leadership. Determine what your teams think you “need” and why. If it feels high-maintenance, it is.

  • Start with helpful. Make your team’s job easier.
  • Talk about what you really need and why.
  • Ask what else they think you need. Scratch a bunch off their list.
  • Resist the urge to cater to ridiculous needs for those above. Your team is watching, and think you want such treatment too.
  • Find ways to meet your “maintenance needs” outside of work (hire folks to help.)

A special thanks to the Lead Change, with a special shout-out to John E. Smith, and Harvard Business Review communities for jump-starting this conversation.

Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues

Two of our most popular conversations on Lets Grow Leaders involve the concept of confident humility. See both of these related articles: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble and Can We Teach Humility?.

The active dialogue from your inspired comments attracted interest from the extended community. I had the opportunity to extrapolate the converation in an interview with Jesse Lahey on his Engaging Leaders poodcast and in an interview with Mark Tobin. I share each of these conversations today.

Confident Humility: A Podcast

Listen to the podcast by going to Engaging Leader.

Karin and Jesse discuss:

  • Why humility matters so much in leadership
  • Being confident but still remaining humble
  • Five ways to teach confident humility
  • Confidence + Humility = Credibility

Karin and Jesse also address these questions from listeners:

  • Does humility get in the way of executive presence?
  • If the concept of humility was not learned as a child. Do you really think it can be learned in adulthood, especially if the person has already achieved success or leader status?

An Interview with Mark Tobin

Tobin writes:

mark-tobin-200x300“I’m fortunate that practically all my corporate clients genuinely care about leadership and demonstrate this commitment in our engagement. However, many executives claim to be interested in leadership yet their behavior often doesn’t match their speech. I’ve recently crossed paths with a senior leader (not a client) who writes about and demonstrates leadership.

Karin and I both blogged about the coexistence of confidence and humility in leadership and exchanged thoughts (Can Confidence & Humility Coexist In A Leader?). I recently interviewed Karin about our shared thoughts on leaders and leadership.

Read the interview here: Thoughts On Leadership From A Fortune 20 Executive

Can We Teach Leaders Humility?

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less” –C. S. Lewis

I’m alarmed by the humility deficit in many leaders.  Why do we reinforce, recognize and promote the brazen and arrogant, over the humble?  Why do we teach our teams to cater to executives as celebrities?

I’m always in awe of the truly humble–those consistently making enormous sacrifices and deflecting the credit.  The most humble leaders are great spiritual teachers.

Is humility teachable?  

Apparently yes. I’m audacious enough to write a post on teaching humility.  Let me add a caveat.  I don’t have humility handled.

Truly humble leaders don’t try to impress us with titles, credentials, or accomplishments.  They pull out the best in us. Or as Max Brown wrote in The Character-Based Leader,

“Humility isn’t timidity or weakness.  It is confidence, wisdom and grace combine with an acknowledgement that we are all imperfect.”

5 Ways To Teach Humility

1. Build Confidence:  Often what passes for arrogance is actually fear.   Some leaders attempt to “humble” other leaders or “put them in their place” through public criticism or embarrassment.  This tactic actually has the opposite impact.  We need leaders who are confident enough to not need to talk about it.http://letsgrowleaders.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/karin-8-copy-300×300.jpg

2. Teach the Art of Great Questions:  
Teach the art of provocative questions.   Teach the power of pause.  Ask your own questions “what does your team think about this idea?”  “Who did you involve in this decision?”

3. Get Them Out of Their Comfort Zone:  Give them a stretch assignment  or project in an area they know nothing about.  I can tell you from experience, nothing is more humbling than being clueless.  Put them in arenas where they must rely on their team or peers to be successful.

4. Give them tools to manage their blind spots:  Do a 360 assessment.  Give them a coach.  Encourage your team to surface and work through their own conflicts.

5. Model it

  • Be a servant leader
  • Admit when you are wrong
  • Coach privately
  • Recognize, honor and reward humble behaviors on teams, as ironic as this sounds.  Minimize desire for folks to “toot their own horn” by tooting it for them.
  • Reject special treatment, even when it’s convenient.  Live by the same rules and standards you expect your team to uphold.

Humility Matters: 9 Ways Confident Leaders Remain Humble

We want to follow people with confidence, charisma and a strong sense of direction. Confidence inspires, attracts, excites and ignites. We think, “they sure do seem to know what they’re doing” And yet, I have observed that confidence, without humility, can be dangerous. I have seen it significantly limit a leader’s effectiveness. They stay their course, but may miss important input. People may follow, but not with their full spirit. Truly confident leaders are secure enough to embrace and share their humility. In the long run, their humility makes them stronger.

“What the world needs now is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left.”
~Oscar Levant

Michael Carroll describes the “talent of humility,” in his book The Mindful Leader. He shares that when leaders understand they are part of a much bigger scene that is not fully within their control, they are free to show up more human. It’s from that humility, that they can confidently show up to do the best work possible. They offer more of their whole selves to the moment.

“Humility is how we express our delight– how we appreciate the simple pleasures and great joys. And equally, humility is how we open to life’s inconveniences and devastating tragedies. When we are humble, no experience is beneath us, no colleague is unworthy, no moment does not merit our full attention. Because we are humble, we do not pick and chose– savoring only the tasty parts of life and leaving the rest for others. We are wiling to experience the entire situation directly and work with every detail.”

I have been observing the leaders I admire who seem to striving for confident humility. Here’s 9 things I’m picking up. Please share your thoughts on the 10th.

9 Ways Confident Leaders Express Humility

  1. Understand they don’t have all the answers– and search for more
  2. Attract those who will tell the truth– and be able to hear them
  3. Reflect on their own leadership– and seek out change as needed
  4. Read about other approaches– and adjust
  5. Seek out mentors– from all levels
  6. Share more about themselves and create connections
  7. Seek to learn about the people they work with– and see them as people
  8. Try out new behaviors and ask for feedback
  9. Take stands against the politically correct choice
  10. ??? (please share your thoughts)