Manage your emotions when you make leadership decisions

How to Manage Your Emotions When You Make Leadership Decisions

Do you struggle to manage your emotions? You’re not alone.

We were speaking to an international gathering of leaders from across Europe when a young man approached the microphone and asked: “How, as a leader, do you keep your personal feelings from clouding your decision making?”

It’s a brave question because it’s vulnerable. He recognized the power of his emotions and their power to limit his leadership.

Can you relate? Have you ever made a poor leadership decision because you were scared? Worried what people would think? Didn’t want to be embarrassed?

I know I have.

Manage Your Emotions – Don’t Eliminate Them

Let’s be real: you can’t separate your personal feelings from your decision-making – nor should you.

For example, compassion is a personal feeling and I hope that you always lead and make decisions with compassion for your team and your customers.

We need leaders to do the work machines can’t do. That includes human decisions that account for more than what’s on the spreadsheet. Please, don’t lose your humanity.

That said, your feelings can also prevent you from making healthy leadership decisions.

When that happens, it’s often because:

A) You’re hurt (eg: an employee disrespected you and your first impulse is to act from anger)

or

B) You’re trying to avoid pain (eg: the pain of embarrassment or rejection).

How to Manage Your Emotions With Perspective

In the first scenario, when you’re hurt by a disrespectful employee, the key to manage your emotions is to understand that it’s not about you. They likely did not wake up that morning wondering “How can I really hurt my boss today?”

It’s more likely that they are insecure, in a poor fit, or there is some other reason that caused the behavior. You may not know why they did what they did, but when you take a moment to de-personalize their behavior and remember that it’s not about you, that they’re dealing with their own reality, it will help calm your flight or fight emotions.

Then you can focus on your job: to help get them back on track – or into a better fit.

Frame Your Problems

In the second scenario, where you’re facing pain like the risk of embarrassment or rejection, there are two techniques that can help you get perspective.

First, ask yourself which set of problems you want to have. There’s no problem-free scenario. Leadership is a conscious choice to embrace problems and to solve them.

Leadership: It’s not IF problems, but WHICH problems.

When you remind yourself that you have a choice, you prevent victim thinking from setting in. eg: “Do I want the problem of being disliked (that comes with removing a poor performer) or do I want the problem of a team performing poorly (that comes with allowing a poor performer to stay)?

You’re not a victim. You have a choice to make. Framing your choices gives you power and you’re less likely to want to hide from the pain.

Connect to What Matters Most

The second way to face emotional pain is to reconnect with your leadership values.

Eg: “I want the team to grow and succeed” or “I value results and relationships.”

Then ask a “How can I…” question to get you aligned with what you value.

Eg: “How can I do what is in the best interest of the team?” or “How can I focus on results and relationships in this situation?”

Asking a good “How can I…” question re-engages the thinking part of your brain and relaxes the powerful emotions that can push you in a different direction.

Your Turn

Effective leaders channel their emotions into healthy relationships with their team while putting aside their limited self-interests in favor of what will be best for the team in the long run.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts or best technique to prevent emotions from limiting your leadership.

Power Corrupts Avoid Losing Your Leadership Soul

Power Corrupts – How to Avoid Losing Your Leadership Soul

Power Corrupts, But Does It Have to Corrupt You?

It was a heartfelt question. A young manager approached us after a Winning Well workshop and asked, “I’m not sure I want to be a leader. I keep seeing people get promoted – they were good people – but then they get into higher positions and they turn into jerks. It’s like the power goes to their head. Do you have any advice on how to not let that happen?”

We love this question. It gets to the heart of what we mean by confident humility.

We’re not talking about the senior leader who has to make tough business decisions that may not yet be understood. And we’re not talking about the manager who sets clear expectations, holds people accountable and has the necessary tough conversations to help their people grow. (We frequently hear of people being accused of being jerks when people don’t like the message.)

What we’re talking about are the all-too-common situations like a manager who treats people poorly because their position lets them get away with it. Or the Vice President who demands unethical behavior and cultivates a FOSU culture (fear of speaking up.) Or the Director who uses sarcasm and shame to “motivate” performance.

There’s a reason for the cliché that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Healthy Leaders

There are several steps you can take to guard yourself against the perils of power.

1) Plan for the End

Are you familiar with how George Washington did this? After serving two terms as the first President of the United States, President Washington did something revolutionary. He voluntarily gave up power by refusing to run for a third term.

In that era, it was a massively different way to view power – as a temporary trust to be used on behalf of others and then passed on. His example set a precedent for US Presidents. (The two-term limit wasn’t made law until 1951.)

You can do the same thing.

Plan for your exit and your successor, even if it’s your own business. A true sign of great leadership is what happens after the leader walks away. Invest in developing the people and the processes that will ensure progress, especially after you are gone. (And “leaving” your current position may mean taking a new one with greater responsibility.)

2) Clarify Your Values

Get very clear about your values. Write them down. This is good work to do with a coach. What matters most to you? What values do you need to live with integrity every day to have a successful life? After you get incredibly clear about these values, you can measure yourself against them each week.

3) Build a Board

In healthy companies, the Board of Directors serves as accountability for the CEO. You can also build a personal board of directors. These are three to five people in your life who will hold you accountable, with whom you can speak confidentially, and who care about your success. Give them permission to challenge your thinking and especially to call you out on integrity lapses or abuses of power.

We have benefitted from this collection of mentors, sponsors, mastermind groups, and colleagues who do this for us. We can test ideas and strategies with them: eg “Does this feel in alignment to my values? What problems do you see? What am I not thinking about that I need to?”

4) Channel Challengers

Your team can be an incredible source of accountability and help you lead in alignment with your values. We have both had team members tell us, “You’re not leading like yourself anymore. What’s going on?”

This level of trust isn’t built overnight. You earn your team’s trust with how you invite (not just wait for) feedback and how you react when you receive it.

Your Turn

It’s easy to lose your perspective and become the power corrupts cliche – but it doesn’t have to happen. When you invest in your people, reflect on your values, and invite people to hold you accountable, you’ll stay centered in confident humility and build lasting influence.

Leave us a comment and share how you’ve seen leaders avoid letting power corrupt their leadership?


 

how to develop people when you dont have time

How to Develop People When You Don’t Have Time

You can’t afford not to develop people – but it doesn’t require hours.

Katrina paced back and forth as she described her problems with customer service and employee retention. “I can’t improve either one, but I don’t have time to develop people.”

“I know I should, but it’s a constant crisis. We’re backed up, missing deadlines left and right, and any time I take for development conversations is costing me on our KPIs.”

Ticking Away

You’ll never have enough time. It’s a fact of life – you can’t do everything. I’ve never met a manager who has extra time. It will never happen. The number of things you could do today will always exceed the time you have available to do them.

Mistaken Thinking

Even so, developing people tops the list of your leadership responsibilities. When leaders claim they don’t have time to develop people, it usually means they’ve misunderstood their responsibility. Here are common errors in thinking:

  • I’ve got to take care of the customer now so I can’t take care of the employee.

These aren’t mutually exclusive. Take care of the customer with your team member – not instead of your team member. Investing in your people will help them take care of future situations without your direct help, giving you more time.

  • HR can handle staff development.

This is a common mistake. Your Human Resource team can support you and your team, make training available, and coordinate grow opportunities, but as a leader, you are the only one who can help your people to grow right now, where they are. There’s no substitute for your leadership and you can’t outsource your team’s growth to someone who isn’t a direct part of their journey.

  • Developing people takes too long.

Many well-intentioned leaders make this mistake. You might feel like you need an hour to have a deep coaching conversation, but you don’t. You may want to take a couple of non-existent hours to put your thoughts together in a rousing motivational speech that will fuel your team’s performance.

But that’s not how the real world works.

Winning teams aren’t built by a stirring halftime speech; they’re built one micro-engagement at a time.

The Secret to Developing People When You Don’t Have Time

It’s true. Your time is limited. So you’ve got to be laser-focused and make the most of every opportunity. It’s amazing what you can achieve in 30 seconds or less when you’re prepared. This is the secret of micro-engagement – consistent short development wins every time.

Start by knowing what your people need. Use the Confidence-Competence Model to identify who needs encouragement, coaching, more challenge, or training. Don’t waste your time or their attention encouraging someone who needs a challenge or coaching someone who needs encouragement.

confidence competence model

Once you know what they need, be on the lookout for a chance to share it. Keep it short, keep it focused – that’s the magic of micro-engagement.

When time is tight, encouraging and challenging competent employees are often the first behaviors managers abandon. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate, so take the time to do it. You always have 10 seconds to look someone in the eyes and tell them they did well.

Encouragement:

“You had fantastic empathy and patience with that customer. I know it’s not easy when we’re this busy, and you did a great job. Well done.”

“I appreciate the dissenting perspectives you shared – that keeps us thinking and makes sure we don’t make dumb mistakes.”

Challenge:

“You did a masterful job bringing that project in on time. Would you be willing to start our next team meeting with a five-minute overview of how you did it? Some of the newer team members could really benefit from your wisdom.”

Coaching:

“I noticed that you didn’t follow the client’s request on the design specification. What’s going on there?” Assuming it’s not a justified reason: “Okay, rework it to spec and bring it to me by four this afternoon, please.”

Training:

“Can I show you a faster way to find that information and solve that problem?”

Your Turn

Effective development conversations happen in the work, not apart from it. Don’t wait for the next retreat, offsite, or performance review to give your people the development feedback they desperately need. Help them grow through the daily interaction you already have.

You don’t have time not to.

Please leave us a comment and share how your favorite way to invest in your people when time is tight.


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What do I do if they cry

What Do I Do if They Cry?

Let’s be real. No one likes to hear what they’re doing wrong, particularly if they know you are right. Giving feedback is tough. Hearing tough feedback is even tougher. What do you do if they cry?

We hear this “What do I do if they cry?” question every time we teach the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model in our tough conversations training. And we’ve had hundreds of managers confide that they’ve avoided giving needed feedback because the employee is a cryer.

Of course, if you avoid giving feedback because you can’t stand the drama, you’re making the problem worse. The behavior you need to change continues AND you’ve rewarded the crying behavior.

Some emotion is normal, but when someone regularly cries when receiving feedback (or regularly has extreme angry outbursts) it is often a defense mechanism. The unconscious reasoning goes something like this: “If I want my boss to leave me alone, I’ve just got to get a little emotional.”

What To Do if They Cry

We’re going to assume they’re not crying because you’re a jerk–that you’ve delivered the feedback carefully and are coming from a place of genuine concern to help the employee improve.

If your well-intentioned, well-delivered feedback still brings on the tears here are a few tips.Effective Communication Karin Hurt and David Dye

  1. Hand them a tissue and wait.
    It’s so tempting to keep talking or abort the conversation once the tears start. But here’s the deal: either one of those will limit the other person’s growth. It’s unlikely they’re going to hear anything you’re saying when they’re that worked up. Show some empathy and give them a minute to gather themselves. If they’re still struggling to get their emotions under control, you might suggest regrouping later in the day. Either way, you want to maintain a calm neutral demeanor. Crocodile tears will dry up quickly when you do.
  2. Use the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model to notice the behavior  (a quick example)
    I (Initiate)- “I really care about you and your career and want you to be successful”
    N (Notice)- “I’ve Noticed you get emotional whenever we have a feedback discussion.”
    S (Support) “For example, in our last one-on-one you cried, and now you’re getting upset again.”
    P (Probe) “What’s going on?” (linger here)
    I (Invite) “What do you think you could do to be able to engage in these conversations in a more productive way?”
    R (Review) “Oh, I think that’s a great idea”
    E (Enforce) “So let’s debrief our next feedback conversation next week and talk about how those new strategies went.”
  3. Keep your cool.
    Emotions can be contagious. As a leader, it’s important that you keep the conversation in perspective. You’re giving them feedback because you care and want to help. Their reaction is not about you. Don’t take it personally. Calm, neutral, and curious is your mantra.
  4. Check for understanding.
    When people are in an emotional state it’s more important than ever to ensure they’ve heard you. Once they’ve calmed down ask them to recap what they’ve heard and what they’re committing to do differently (Review), and set up a time to connect again to assess progress (Enforce).

Your turn.

What is your best advice for dealing with a frequent cryer at work?

How to Turnaround an Underperforming team

Inherited an Underperforming Team? What Now?

If you’re a great leader, it’s bound to happen to you. You invest your heart and soul getting your team to peak performance, and just as you’re about to breathe a sigh of relief, you get the call. There’s an underperforming team that needs your leadership.

Your boss asks, “Would you be open to a “special assignment” or a “lateral move” or even a “promotion that’s going to be a bit of a challenge?”

So you trade-in the high performing team you’ve built the hard way, and you brace yourself to start all over again with an underperforming team and all the drama and pressure that comes with that. You know it won’t be long before everyone forgets what a shambles you took over, and starts to question your leadership and results. You’ve got to get to work, fast.

This is no time to be timid. Get set for some careful and deliberate boat rocking.

My best leadership memories have come from turnaround work with underperforming teams.  Those were the years I grew the most and learned how to win well. If this is your scene, game on. Sure it will be frustrating at times, but if you can dig deep and weather the stormy seas, you’re in for a rewarding journey your team will look back on with pride.

When you rock a sinking boat, it’s hard for the naysayers to notice. Rock it. Make an Impact.

When turning around an underperforming team, the trick is to carefully assess the situation and then articulate a bold vision and strong execution plan that builds hope and excitement as you turn the ship around.

How to Turnaround an Underperforming Team

Do This

  • Start slow and ask a lot of questions.
  • Be curious about the current “brand” of the team or organization and where it came from.
  • Talk with key stakeholders about what is working and what’s not (do this as early as possible, they’re far more likely to tell you the truth before you’re considered part of the problem.)
  • Give the current team the benefit of the doubt (listen carefully to what they’ve been doing and why.)
  • Find your “A Players” and listen carefully for best practices (you can watch a video of how to do this at the bottom of this post.)
  • Articulate a BOLD vision.
  • Identify the most important things/priorities (MIT. )  (You can’t fix everything all at once, be sure to start with what will make the biggest impact.)
  • Identify specific BEHAVIORS that will lead to success every level.
  • Communicate what’s got to go–what behaviors must change for the team to be successful.
  • Spend as much time side by side with your team as possible. Ask about what’s holding them back, listen deeply and respond.
  • Communicate the MIT priorities and behaviors until everyone sees you coming and screams “Okay, okay we get it.” For tips on how to do this well, click here.
  • Clearly define the skills needed for success.
  • Assess the will and skill of the current team, and get the right people in the right seats.
  • Recruit for missing skill sets.
  • Celebrate and reward incremental wins.
  • Repeat.

BONUS TIP

  • Consider re-branding the organization or project with a new name and/or logo (make sure something is really different before you do this.)

Not That

  • Talk poorly about previous leadership or strategy.
  • Assume everything needs to change.
  • Write-off your current team assuming they don’t have the potential to be successful.
  • Change everything.
  • Assume you know what is best.
  • Be afraid to make some bold changes.
  • Give up too soon–real change happens incrementally.
  • Start claiming victory too soon–see above.

One of my Favorite Turnaround Success Stories from My Sales Team Leadership Role

Want a deeper view? We share our system for building high-performing teams in our book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul.

Your turn.

What’s your very best advice for turning around an underperforming team?

Different or better

Different or Better?

Have you ever noticed the radically different approaches people take to preparing Thanksgiving dinner?

Scott might order the whole thing from a caterer just to have it done.

Jenny asks what they can bring, then shows up early with extra, and offers to help chop, cook, set the table, or watch the kids – whatever you need.

Joe loves creating a feast and schedules everything to arrive at the table precisely 60 minutes after the guests arrive – whether they’ve actually arrived or not.

And Tina relishes the conversation among friends and family, forgetting what’s in the oven. The food might be overcooked or late, but the camaraderie, wine, and laughter are fantastic.

There’s no wrong or right way to do Thanksgiving. (Although David’s on Joe’s side and I’m with Tina all the way).

People are different.

And thankfully, just like your family at Thanksgiving, the people on your team are wonderfully different, too.

However they show up, each person brings a different gift to your team.

Recognize their gifts. Help them leverage the unique magic they bring to the team.

You need them. You need all the magic you can get.

To our U.S. readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

To our readers around the world: we are thankful for you and the Let’s Grow Leaders community.

3 problems with open door policy

3 Problems with Your Open Door Policy and What To Do Instead

An open door policy doesn’t get you what you need to lead.

The intent behind your open door policy is good: a door that is figuratively always open to encourage transparency, open lines of communication, a standing invitation for your employees to bring you issues that affect them or their work.

The intent is good, but the reality is more complicated. In fact, your open door policy may be causing your team more harm than good and limiting your leadership.

3 Problems With Your Open Door Policy 

1. Your Door is Literally Always Open.

An open door policy doesn’t mean you are constantly interruptible. Constant interruption prevents you from thinking deeply and serving your team in the ways only you can. If you allow a constant barrage of “Gotta minute?” to obliterate your day, you won’t be able to lead your team anywhere.

An open door policy doesn’t mean your door (if you have one) is literally open all the time. We helped one senior leader overcome this challenge by defining 90 minutes of deep-think time in the morning and again in the afternoon where everyone committed not to interrupt anyone else unless it was an emergency.

That may not work in your setting, but the principle is important. How can you give yourself and your team the space to focus?

2. You Don’t Get All the Information You Need.

Your people know things you need to know. They can spot problems before they spin out of control. They know what irritates your customers. They’ve already created micro-innovations to be more productive and better serve your customers. They’re your greatest asset – but only if you hear what they have to say.

Problem-solving innovation isn’t going to walk through your open door. [Tweet This]

Most of the information that will walk through your open door are complaints. There’s nothing wrong with this necessarily. You need to be aware of problems – especially those that create a hostile workplace.

An open door policy isn’t enough. Occasionally, you’ll have someone walk through your open door with a great idea. I’ve had it happen. But most of the great ideas will stay locked in your employees’ minds.

To get the information you need to make the best decisions, you’ve got to intentionally go ask for it. Most employees are busy doing their jobs. They may not even realize they have experience or wisdom worth sharing. If they do have insights, they may believe you’re not interested in hearing them, no matter how many times you talk about your open door policy.

Take the initiative and seek out the information you need. Regularly ask your team how things are going, how you can help them to do their job more effectively or serve the customer, or what’s getting in their way. Ask them to teach you how they do their work.

3. You’re Not Strategic.

The final leadership problem with an open door policy is that it puts you in a reactive mode. You’re not thinking strategically about what will move your team or the business forward. You’re waiting and responding to the issues that come to you.

I’m not suggesting that you don’t respond to problems that people bring to you. Rather, if you’re leading strategically and moving things forward, you are more likely to have surfaced and solved these issues long before they surface as complaints or distractions.

Most employees aren’t asked to think strategically in their normal work, so the problems they bring you won’t be strategic either. To help your team think strategically, give them the information they need to make strategic decisions. Help them understand how the business makes money and impact and how they’re work contributes to the bigger picture. Facilitate Own the UGLY discussions to help find the game-changing opportunities and challenges long before they would walk through your open door.

Your Turn

Your open door policy can be a foundation for trust, transparency, and communication, but there’s a danger if you let it make you passive and reactive. Leave us a comment and share How do you maintain a strategic focus for your team and solve problems before they become bigger problems?

one easy way to have more influence

One Easy Way to Have More Influence

More influence isn’t always about what you say.

I knew Gary wasn’t happy.

During my first time in a mid-level management role, one of my team leaders was clearly struggling. He looked frustrated, sounded frustrated, and it didn’t take a genius to know something was bothering Gary.

So I asked if I could get him coffee and hear what was on his mind.

He sipped a cappuccino and shared his troubles: he’d been disrespected and abused by a senior manager, his team wasn’t doing as well as he hoped, he wasn’t sure the company’s vision matched his own, and so on.

Gary appreciated my invitation to coffee and the opportunity to be heard. Then I tried to be helpful.

He was halfway through his first issue when I interrupted and offered solutions, tried to help him see the issue or person differently, or pointed out where he might be responsible.

Finally, he looked at me and said, “David! You asked me how I was feeling and what’s bothering me…quit arguing. I’m just trying to answer your question.”

He had a point.

A Common Influence Mistake

Gary might have needed help, or it could be that just talking through what was bothering him would do the trick. Your team may need help, but you won’t be able to help them if you make the same critical leadership mistake I did.

I didn’t keep my mouth shut long enough. I wasn’t truly present with Gary. I had jumped ahead to my own response.

Most leaders think of influence as talking – or maybe leading by example. We see rousing speeches in movies, we remember key pieces of advice we’ve heard from our mentors, and we know we have something worthwhile to share. However, when you think of influence only in terms of what you say, you leave out the most critical piece:

Listening.

A Columbia Business School study found that when it comes to influencing others, your listening skills outrank your verbal ability. It makes sense. Listening builds trust and helps you get the information you need to offer your conversation partner what they most need.

When it comes to helping someone, good intentions don’t make the difference. Effective action, what you do that works, means everything. I’d intended to help, but in my youthful rush to show what I knew and be valuable, I’d missed the most important thing I could have done.

5 Ways to Listen Influentially

Your team needs you to regularly ask, “How can I help?” When you ask, be sure to really listen. Here are a few tips to improve your listening skills and build your influence.

1. Put down the phone.

Seriously. Put it on silent, put it face down or stash it in a bag. Get rid of it.

You simply can’t give someone your full attention with the mental stimulation of email, voice messages, and texts. Put it away and focus on the person.

2. Maintain eye contact.

Don’t be creepy, but maintain eye contact. For that time, there is nothing else going on and no one else in the world, but the person you’re talking to.

3. Empathize

Empathy communicates that you understand how the other person feels. You’re not agreeing or sanctioning – just recognizing their emotions. For example:

  • “That must have been frustrating.”
  • “Sounds like you felt like no one else cared?”
  • “That would be upsetting.”
  • “Wow – you must have been excited.”

4. Summarize

Before going any farther, take a moment to check for understanding about what the other person said. Use your own words and ask if you’ve got it right. If not, ask questions or encourage them to help you get it. Fully connect with their emotions and thoughts. Until you’ve done that, you haven’t listened.

5. Ask permission.

Once you’ve fully connected to the emotion and the thought, if you feel you have something helpful to add to the conversation, ask permission to share it. This is a huge integrity move and demonstrates tremendous respect for the other person.

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Something like, “I appreciate you trusting me enough to share those things. Would you be interested in hearing ways you might address that or is it enough to get it off your chest?”

Your Turn

When you fully connect and have acknowledged the other person’s dignity, then you’re in a position to be truly helpful. Leave us a comment and share a time when you were influenced by a powerful listener, or your best practice to ensure others are heard.

6 steps help team navigate change

6 Smart Steps to Help Your Team Navigate Change

Change is Inevitable, Strategic Change is a Choice

It’s a hard truth that confounds many leaders: continued success requires continued change.

But change isn’t easy. For most people (and therefore most of your team) it’s more comfortable to do what you did yesterday than to do something new today.

One of the critical roles every leader plays is to help their teams to navigate change successfully. Not just change for the sake of change, but strategic change that achieves breakthrough results.

Transforming results requires every heart and brain working together. Change requires confidence and inclusion, not selling. When you take your audacious vision and make it feel real, practical, and achievable, your team will be energized and ready for what’s next.

1. Establish a clear vision

Be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish. Communicate and reinforce your vision through every medium possible. When you’re sure everyone’s got it, communicate even more. It’s important to explain the reasons behind a change as well as to identify the specific behaviors you need from employees in each role.

2. Be honest about the benefits

The notion that all that employees care about is WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—is BS. Sure, employees want to know what’s in it for them. They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for their customers.

It’s not enough to be clear about the “What?” – they’ve got to know the “Why?” as well. In the absence of information, people often jump to the most pathological conclusion. Leave out key information and they fill in the blanks with assumptions (e.g., “the next thing you’ll do is downsize.”) They want to know that you’ve thought this through with your brain and not just your pocketbook.

3. Start small

Don’t advocate for an idea or change that’s half-baked or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously, and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it stank before, but now it’s better,” only leaves people wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for an idea, system, or process that was full of problems in the real world.

Even if it looks great on paper, your boss is sold, and it worked well in the IT war room, field test the change first.

Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.

Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. You might be slower out of the gate than others, but when you get it right and everyone owns it, you’ll sustain your results and be ready for the next change.

4. Establish easy-to-access listening posts

This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people tell you. Respond to feedback with solutions, not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back using the 5×5 method – 5 times, 5 different ways. Ask, “How can we address this and make the change serve its purpose?”

5. Leverage reluctant testimony

Share as many testimonials as you can, especially from people who were doubtful at first. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system, or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this stuff before, the new rep who’s now running circles around the old-timers because she uses the new system, the supervisor who got his entire team (including the union steward) performing acrobatics with the new process.

6. Involve the team in key decisions

No one wants stuff done to them, or even for them. With them goes a lot further. Ask employees, “What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next?” All these questions go a long way. Include employees by involving them in your change efforts.

Your Turn

Leave a comment and share with us your best leadership strategy to help your team navigate change.

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How Leaders Can Get the Most from Criticism

How Leaders Can Get the Most from Criticism

Criticism: Gift or Garbage?

“David, I hear what you’re saying about getting the feedback you need to make good decisions. I get it – I really do. But my problem isn’t getting enough feedback. I get too much. Everybody has an opinion and sometimes the criticism is overwhelming.”

I’d just finished delivering a keynote for a group of senior leaders and their managers. Elise had waited until her team headed downstairs to happy hour and appetizers, then came up to ask me a question.

She continued: “If I ignore it, they think I don’t care, but I can’t possibly make everyone happy and I know that’s not my job. I feel stuck.”

Too often, leaders take criticism or negative feedback and either ignore it (at the cost of their credibility) or overreact to it and paralyze themselves.

Critical feedback can be a gift, but it’s how you use that gift that makes the difference.

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Criticism

1) Be aware of your emotions.

Critical feedback is never pleasant, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. You’re responsible for your emotions. Manage your emotions, get perspective, and then consider the value (or lack of it) in what you heard. Remember that if you’re moving things forward and making a difference, you will tick people off, and they may be critical of you for all the right reasons.

2) Look for patterns.

If one person says it, file it. If two people say it, pay attention. If three or more people have the same feedback, it’s time to take it seriously. The pattern doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong – it could be that or could be that there’s some additional information they need, or that you need to clarify who owns a decision, or clarify the MIT.

3) Ask why.

Some feedback is given only for the benefit of the critic. They enjoy feeling superior to others by cutting them down. If you suspect you’re receiving this kind of criticism, ask them why they’re sharing. When they respond defensively, it’s usually a sign their feedback was more about them than it was for genuinely helping you.

4) Look for causes.

People often complain about symptoms. They may not recognize or even be aware of the underlying causes. Look beneath the criticism for a valid cause – something that would be worth paying attention to.

5) Be curious.

Listen with the intent of hearing and allowing truth to influence you. Even if the person’s feedback doesn’t apply in the way they intended, the fact that you listened and valued what they had to say builds your credibility and influence.

6) Test it.

If you suspect there is a valuable perspective in what you’ve heard, check in with your truth-tellers, mentors, and coach. Let them know what you’ve heard and that you’d like their honest perspective.

7) Show gratitude.

If someone shares a difficult truth with you, thank them. They’ve done you a favor. Caring truth-tellers are rare. Cherish them.

8) Ignore it.

Imagine what a mess it would be if authors, movie directors, and restaurant managers tried to react to every critical review they receive. It’s impossible to satisfy everyone (and some people don’t want to be satisfied – they just criticize to be noticed.)

9) Respond where you can.

When it makes sense, it’s consistent with your values, and in line with your mission, be clear about how you are responding to the feedback you receive. And if something prevents you from responding, be clear about that too.

10) Move on.

You’re not perfect. You’re not going to be. Learn and apply what you can, then move on.

When it comes to dealing with criticism, one of my favorite quotes comes from Abraham Lincoln:

“If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

Your Turn:

Leave us a comment and share: How do you get the most out of criticism without letting it paralyze you? 


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how to ensure your business storytelling makes an impact

How to Ensure Your Business Storytelling Makes an Impact

If you’re using business storytelling regularly, how do you assess the impact?

How do you ensure you craft the very best stories that leave your audience not only inspired, but with an inkling of what to do next?

There’s no question, stories are one of the very best ways to send a message your team will remember.

Done right, great business storytelling explains the why behind your asks, reinforces what’s most important, and builds deeper trust.

And yet, done poorly, your team will roll their eyes and brace themselves when they see you coming. “Oh gosh, here comes one of his stories,” is not what you’re going for.

We’re constantly hearing “Bless his heart he means well” stories of likable leaders who waste their team’s time and drive everyone a bit batty with their rambling yarns.

Of course, if you’re the boss they may nod along and laugh politely at the right spots, but that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily making the impact you hoped for.

If you’re looking to take your business storytelling to the next level do this, not that.

Do This, Not That, For Better Business Storytelling

Do This

Do: Be clear about your message

The difference between business storytelling and a telling great story around the campfire or in your favorite bar comes down to one thing– the point.

Whether your audience is an employee in the passenger’s seat of your car on the way to an event, a small group of direct reports in a team meeting, or a thousand people at a town hall meeting, ask yourself this: “What do I want my audience to think, do or feel as a result of this story?” Be as specific as possible.

Think beyond the obvious feelings of “encouraged” or “motivated.” And consider specific behaviors or key actions you want them to take next.

Do: Pick a Relatable Scene

I can’t tell you how many corporate events we go to where the CEO starts with a story from an unrelatable setting. “When my family of five and I were on a cruise last week, the funniest thing happened…” And all the frontline workers who are struggling to make it through the month, tune out.  They lost that story at hello.

Do: Keep it Tight

It’s tempting to offer every chronological detail and play by play. Don’t. Great stories focus on the emotional truth. Don’t make stuff up, but it’s perfectly okay to condense the details and the characters to build suspense, intrigue, and most importantly reinforce the point.

Do: Give Your Characters Character

Paint a picture of your characters. What did they look like? What did they wear? Why? Give us a glimpse into their fears and motivations. If you’re the main character in your story, give us a look behind the curtain. What were you feeling? Why?

D0: Check for Understanding 

In Winning Well, we emphasize the importance of a solid check for understanding in every communication. At the conclusion of your story, instead of saying, “and the reason I told you that story is…” Try, “Why do you think I share that story?” If they don’t get it, keep refining your story to ensure it conveys your most important message.

Not That

Don’t: Be the Hero of Your Own Story

Even if you are the hero, who else was involved? How can you emphasize their impact? And then I met __________ who had the best idea I’ve heard in a long time…

Don’t: Tell Stories Within the Story

Life is messy. No story happens in a vacuum. But, the most impactful business storytelling happens one story at a time. Do what you can to avoid the detours.

Don’t: Wing it

Great storytellers make it look easy. Like the story just came to them and off they go. The very best storytellers know there is nothing further from the truth. Becoming a great storyteller takes practice. Try out your stories in low-risk contexts, ask for feedback and keep refining.

See also:

HR Storytellers: Karin Hurt

 

 

 

 

 

Town Hall Meetings: 6 Mistakes to Avoid

How to Tell a Great Story: The LGL S.T.O.R.I.E.S. technique for strategic storytelling

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how to ensure your leadership training sticks

6 Ways to Ensure Your Leadership Training Makes You a Better Leader

You’ve invested the time and effort to go to leadership training. So how do you ensure the work you’ve done will make you a better leader? How do you get feedback from your team on what’s working (and what’s not?)

What steps can you take to ensure the leadership training actually improve your leadership?

How to Ensure Your Leadership Training Sticks

Leadership training isn’t about what you learned, it’s about what you do with what you learned.

If you’re just back from training, here are a few tips to ensure your leadership training makes you and your team stronger.

  1. Focus on one behavior change at a time.
    When you learn game-changing leadership techniques, it’s tempting to try everything at once. After all, if these techniques produce results, you owe it to your team to use them. Right? Perhaps. But not all at the same time. Pick one specific behavior or approach your gut tells you will make the biggest impact and integrate it into your leadership approach. Practice it consistently. Tweak it. Make it your own. Ask for feedback. Once you feel confident and competent in that behavior, the timing might be right to add in another technique. Too much change all at once will overwhelm both you and your team.
  2. Find an accountability partner.
    Change is hard, and it can be lonely. It’s much easier to give up when no one’s looking. Find someone you trust who understands what you’ve just learned (someone else in your training class is a great choice.) Share the behavior you’re working on and make a commitment to check in with one another once a week to see how things are going and discuss challenges and brainstorm next steps.
  3. Invite your team on the journey.
    Tell your team what you’ve learned and what you’ve chosen to work on and why. Invite them to notice when it’s working and offer suggestions as to what you can do better. Your team already knows you’re not perfect, and they’ll be delighted to know you’re working on becoming a more effective manager. It’s even okay to show your hand. Share the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model or the 9 What’s Method and work through the process with them. “I’ve just come back from leadership training and I’ve learned a new technique that I think could help. Want to try it?”
  4. Teach what you’ve learned.
    One of the best ways to become a rock star at a skill is to teach it. Consider sharing some of the tools you’ve learned and teach them to others. See where they struggle. Share your stories.
  5. Ask for feedback.
    Make it a point to ask for feedback on the impact your new approach is having on the people you’re leading. Ask open-ended questions about what you can do to improve.
  6. When you screw up, apologize and try again.
    New habits don’t come easy. If you slip back into old behaviors, apologize and try again. Your team knows you’re not perfect. They just want to know you’re trying. Training is important, but what matters most is what you do when you get back to your team. With just a bit of focus, you can ensure the strongest ROI for you and your team.

Other Important Posts For Ensuring Leadership Training ROI

How to Measure the ROI of Leadership Development Programs (SHRM)

How to Build a Better Leadership Development Program

5 Tragic Mistakes That Will Derail Your Action Learning Projects

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