It Might be a Train

Have you heard the expression, “That light at the end of the tunnel might be a train?” For a lot of us who work in the energy sector, the impact of the rapid drop in the price of oil has felt like being hit by a train we didn’t see coming. The ripple effect on other industries hasn’t started yet but the forecasters tell us it won’t be long.

So what do we do now? Hunker down and play it safe or find ways to be creative?

It is easy to keep doing what works when times are good. In the face of an unexpected setback, our first response may not be stepping out of our comfort zone. Research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that any experience, good or bad, can lead to creativity if it pushes us outside our normal thought patterns.

If you use this opportunity to think creatively about your business, your team or yourself, how might you ride that train through the downturn and be well-positioned for the recovery?

Read the Signs!

It is summer vacation time and parents occasionally have to find ways to entertain their kids that don’t involve electronics. Remember the classic game of finding the letters of the alphabet on road signs and billboards? You have to watch carefully to find those tough letters like “Q” and “Z”.

Driven, results oriented leaders sometimes miss a few signs on the way to their destination. One of the most frequent comments I hear when conducting 360 feedback interviews is, “he needs to do a better job of adjusting his style based on the situation.” Those signs might look like:

  1. High turnover on your team
  2. Difficulty getting your peers to support your ideas
  3. Your boss tuning you out or cutting you off

When you notice those signs, consider making these adjustments:

  1. Delegate more and micromanage less
  2. Take the time to build consensus
  3. Provide a high level summary and get into details only when asked

I invite you to try and identify one sign this week and figure out which direction you should go. It could make the trip a lot smoother!

 

The Devil is in the Details

When we hear “The devil is in the details,” we are reminded not to overlook something small that could have a big impact.  When I work with leaders who are detail oriented, they often struggle to let go.  That becomes even more difficult when their boss expects them to have the details at their fingertips.

How do you find the right balance?

  • Set an example – What kind of leader do you want to be?  A micromanager or a big picture thinker?
  • Weigh the risk – What is the worst that could happen if you said, “I can get that information for you.”
  • Push back appropriately – “Based on my assessment of the information provided by my team, I recommend the following…”

I invite you to stretch beyond your comfort zone and trust your team to handle the details, and then manage your boss’ expectations.  You might help him or her become a more effective leader in the process!

 

The Mask

Do you ever feel like you have to put on a mask when you get to work?

As you move up in an organization, it can be challenging to adjust your behavior without losing yourself.  Leaders are expected to fit in with their peers while demonstrating the ability to offer differing opinions.  Here are some suggestions for achieving this delicate balance:

  • Know your blind spots:  be aware of the things that may derail your effectiveness and learn how to manage them.
  • Choose your battles:  voice your opinion when it really counts rather than disagreeing just for the sake of making a point.
  • Channel your personality:  if you have a wicked sense of humor, use it appropriately.
  • Identify what you’re not willing to change:  know your core values and demonstrate them consistently.
  • Ask for feedback:  find someone who will give you honest, objective input about how you’re doing and ask for it on a regular basis.

It is possible to be the same person at work that you are at home.  Instead of masking your true identity, I encourage you to reveal the relevant aspects of your identity to each audience. 

Catch Them Doing it Right

Reinforcing the Right Thing

If you have ever read a book on parenting, you may remember this advice, “Catch them doing it right.”  It was a great reminder that we shouldn’t spend all of our time correcting our children when they make mistakes or misbehave.  We also need to focus on reinforcing the behavior that we want.

Motivational Tool

This is also great advice for leaders.  When I meet with a new coachee’s boss to discuss their 360 feedback and development plan, we talk about how to help the coachee change behavior.  Holding them accountable is the first key to success.  The second is letting them know when they demonstrate the desired behavior.  Unsolicited positive feedback can be a great motivator when the coachee isn’t  sure whether she is making any progress.

Gratitude

At this time of year when we take a moment to remember our blessings, I am grateful for the opportunity to know and learn from so many wonderful people.  I hope your Thanksgiving holiday is filled with all the things you enjoy.

Stay in Your Lane

I had a conversation recently with a woman who was chastised by her boss for venturing too far outside her job description. Since she thrives on creativity, she was very discouraged and demotivated.   As she talked more about it, she realized that this attitude is pervasive in her company.  It didn’t take long before she was questioning whether this was the right place for her.

Rules Are Necessary Too

What message are you sending to your team members about staying in their lane?  Of course, in some functions following the rules is required and valued.  Does that mean you don’t want people thinking creatively and trying to come up with better ways of doing things?

It’s a Judgement Call

It could be that you are more comfortable staying in your lane, so it might feel a little threatening for someone on your team to get too far from the norm.  It might be more challenging to motivate people who don’t like to stay in their lane.  At the end of the day, you have to decide what is most valuable to your organization.

Unpopularity

People who stray outside their lane often challenge the status quo, which isn’t always a popular position.  Politics aside, think of the impact of those who did:  Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, Gloria Steinem, and more recently, Ted Cruz.  Can you afford not to have some nonconformists in your company?