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?

Don’t Tell Me What to Do!

On a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy are driving around in a Porsche Carrera talking about anything and everything.  Seinfeld says, “You know when you see two people talking, one of them is giving the other one advice…saying something like, ‘What I’ve learned…’ or ‘In my experience…’”

It’s funny because we know it’s true — we’ve all been on the sending and receiving end of unsolicited advice.  As this Psychology Today article confirms, however, being told what we should do actually makes us feel defensive.  When a coaching client asks for advice, I remind them that my job is to help them find their own answers.  If they insist, I might say, “What I’ve seen others do in a similar situation is…” and then ask, “How do you feel about that?”  Research tells us that giving advice appeals mostly to the rational parts of the brain.  I also want to engage the feeling part of the brain so my client can make the best possible decision – and own it.

As I’m writing, I realize that I need to practice this approach more in my personal life.  Is there anything you might need to change in how you respond when someone asks for advice? Here is a Harvard Business Review article that might be helpful.  Notice I didn’t say that you should read it!

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?”

How Authentic is Your Leadership Brand?

During my recent Dare to Lead™ Facilitator training with Brené Brown I experienced the power of authenticity up close and personal. Brené is well known for promoting the importance of authenticity as a “daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” She shares her own struggles with perfectionism and self-compassion which it makes it easy to relate to her as a person instead of a superstar who has been on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday and has a new Netflix special Call to Courage.

Since I’ve read all her books and watched her videos many times, I felt like I already knew Brené. Although meeting her was a little surreal it was also very real because her brand is all about authenticity, vulnerability and courage. Brené is the same person no matter what the circumstances.

We often hear about people in positions of power and influence who present one image to the world and another behind the scenes. If I asked your colleagues to describe your leadership brand would they mention authenticity?

Contact cheryl@csbryan.com if you’re interested in finding out more about Dare to Lead™ , developing courage-building skills and teaching individuals and teams to move from armored leadership to daring leadership.

The Key to Increasing Leadership Development ROI

You’ve just completed a prestigious executive MBA program that required you to be away from your job and your family for an extended period.  The exhilaration of the learning environment has started to wear off and you realize that nothing changed while you were gone.  None of those case studies prepared you for this and you’re pretty frustrated so you decide to return the call from that headhunter to find out if the grass might be greener somewhere else.

That isn’t the outcome companies anticipate when they spend $50,000 or more. Educating the Next Generation of Leaders, a thought-provoking article in the most recent issue of Harvard Business Review, acknowledges that traditional approaches to leadership development are too generic.  Interviews for the article and evidence from LinkedIn Learning indicate that most executives value on-the-job professional development that relates to their environment.  The authors cite anecdotal evidence that only 10% of the $200 billion annual expenditure on corporate training and development delivers concrete results.

Although the authors propose a solution that includes more customized content they overlook a key component to effective leadership development –- coaching.  You can’t get more customized than helping a leader leverage his or her strengths, request and respond to feedback and enhance emotional intelligence.  Sustainable behavior change takes time, practice and accountability.  A seasoned coach will ensure the leader has all the necessary tools for success beyond the coaching engagement.

If you’re ready to increase the return on your leadership development investment contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com