Empathy or Effectiveness – Do We Have to Choose?

A very results-oriented CEO, frustrated with what she perceived as a direct report’s lack of commitment, felt she had to choose between empathy and effectiveness.  This CEO has been working hard to embrace the concepts in Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead™ , especially the idea that people are doing the best they can.  We went back to the source for clarification: “Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change.  It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.”

If a team member isn’t meeting expectations, it’s the leader’s job to have the tough conversation and hold that person accountable.  It is possible to do that with empathy but here’s the surprise – we have to set appropriate boundaries for ourselves first.  When the CEO acknowledged that her direct report’s best wasn’t good enough, she made the decision to let him go.  Defining that clear boundary for herself meant she didn’t have to choose between empathy and effectiveness.

What boundary do you need to strengthen to be both empathetic and effective?

Looking Forward

How would you celebrate a major career milestone?  On the tenth anniversary of launching my practice, I am celebrating your inspiration, encouragement, and the privilege of sharing this amazing journey with you.

I am also looking forward to what the next ten years will bring — leveraging thousands of hours of assessment, coaching, team development, and facilitation with clients across 18 functions in 70 companies and helping to cultivate courage through the Dare to Lead™  work.

My first blog post was about removing barriers to career success and that is my celebratory toast to you:  when you look forward may you see the path to the best version of yourself.

Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast

What do Netflix and snails have in common?  Check out this Forbes article and go see this documentary The Biggest Little Farm to find out.  The article highlights a formula for successful innovation:  “Think Big, Start Small and Learn Fast” and the documentary provides a great illustration of that formula. It tells the story of a couple who left their white collar jobs to become biodynamic farmers in California.

Since they had no experience, Molly and John Chester found a wise mentor who encouraged them to think big and plan for the future.  He also taught them to start small by bringing the soil back to life with worms.  As you might imagine, the Chesters and their team had to learn fast, often by making mistakes.  After seven years of hard work, Apricot Lane Farms is now 200 acres of organic and biodynamic certified avocado and lemon orchards, a vegetable garden, more than 75 varieties of stone fruit trees and a lot of very photogenic animals.

As you consider opportunities for innovation in your sphere of influence, how might you apply the success formula of “Think Big, Start Small and Learn Fast?”

What Are You Waiting For?

My client kept saying, “Once I know whether I’m going to get this promotion, I will …”  She put her life on hold without realizing that waiting doesn’t change what’s happening now.

Although we don’t like to admit it, fear is usually the reason we keep looking to the future for certainty.  We may feel safer avoiding a tough conversation or the risk of making the wrong decision but what opportunities might be missed if we wait?

  • Making a relationship better
  • Broadening or deepening our skills
  • Exploring a new opportunity

I invite you to get out of your holding pattern by:

  1. Identifying what is keeping you there
  2. Envisioning what you want instead
  3. Taking the first step toward that vision right now…

Naysayer or Yaysayer?

My friend and fellow coach Cecilia Rose asks, “Do you want to be a Naysayer or a Yaysayer?”  Some of us want to be Yaysayers but we struggle with seeing the glass as half full. It may be helpful to know that research published in the journal Psychological Science indicates that a combination of environmental and biological factors can amplify negative experiences and that MIT neuroscientists recently pinpointed a brain region that can generate a pessimistic outlook.

While a healthy dose of pessimism can contribute to critical thinking, optimism has been proven to be beneficial to our well-being.  How do Naysayers find the right balance?

  • Hope for the best and plan for the worst – this approach allows us to feel prepared so that we can focus on envisioning the positive outcomes
  • Practice gratitude – we can start with the simple step of sharing something good at the end of each day and work up to keeping a journal as a resource when our outlook gets cloudy
  • Find an accountability partner– we have a much better shot at succeeding if someone is willing to gently remind us of our commitment to changing our behavior, especially if they use humor

If you’re hardwired for pessimism I encourage you to work on getting the benefits of optimism – for yourself and those around you!

4 Keys to Sustaining Behavior Change

Since coaching is often about changes in behavior that will improve individual effectiveness, I talk with my clients about how they can sustain those changes after the coaching engagement ends.  Mantras can be a useful tool so I created one for this discussion:
  • Purpose– Remember why you decided to make these changes. Focus on the benefits for yourself and others.
  • Patience– Expect that you will fall back into old behaviors under stress.  Give yourself a break and ask others to do the same.
  • Practice– It takes about a year of consistent practice, feedback and accountability to sustain a behavior change.
  • Plan– Who will be your feedback and accountability partners? How will you deal with setbacks?
These four P’s are the keys to keeping up your good work.