Are You Leading Like an Alligator?

It’s not every day I meet an alligator in a building lobby – that gets your attention!  I recently had an opportunity to facilitate a team building session at a client site in alligator country.   This alligator was stuffed and buffed so you could see every bony plate.  My Google search told me these plates are what make the alligator’s skin very hard to penetrate.

We humans have a similar armor. In Dare to Lead Brene’ Brown lists 16 examples of armored leadership and 16 daring leadership responses.  One of those armored leadership examples is hiding behind cynicism.  We see this in people who aren’t brave enough to say what they really mean or those who need to put someone else down so they can feel better about themselves.

Effective leaders don’t tolerate this behavior on their teams and they model the appropriate response — being clear and kind.  The challenge for the cynic is identifying and dealing with their underlying anger or fear of inadequacy so they can say what they mean and mean what they say.

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.”

I first saw this Lewis Carroll quote in a high school guidance counselor’s office.  The poster featured Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit checking his giant pocket watch before running madly toward a mysterious hole in the ground.

As someone who has always been in a hurry to get things done with maximum efficiency, I need to be reminded to slow down.  Even as I write this I’m operating at warp speed to juggle competing priorities and too-short timelines.  And sure enough, a few of my spinning plates have tipped a little too far for comfort.

If your new year is off to a roaring start with too much to do and not enough time to get it all done, let’s take a collective deep breath – using the 4 square technique taught by yoga instructors and Navy SEALs and included in Dare to Lead:

Imagine moving around the 4 corners of a Square

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of 4
  2. Hold in the breath for a count of 4
  3. Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of 4
  4. Hold the empty breath for a count of 4
  5. Repeat until you feel calm – in for 4, hold for 4, out for 4, hold for 4

This will help us avoid that mysterious hole in the ground!

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!

Can You Have Too Much Charisma?

During election season there is a lot of discussion about which candidates have the most charisma.  Dictionary.com defines charisma as a personal quality that gives an individual influence or authority over large numbers of people. We often assume that the most charismatic leaders are also the best leaders but a Harvard Business Review study indicates that too much charisma may actually hinder a leader’s effectiveness.  When self-confidence becomes narcissism or persuasiveness turns into manipulative behavior, that isn’t effective leadership.

Here are some ways to demonstrate the right level of charisma:

  • Make a good first impression – you have less than a second to do so. The way you walk, dress, shake hands and make eye contact speak volumes before you ever open your mouth.
  • Focus on others – express genuine interest by asking questions and listening to the answers without thinking about what you’re going to say next.
  • Be appropriately passionate – talk with enthusiasm about what excites you and tell compelling stories.

How can you leverage charisma as one element of Executive Presence to be a more effective leader?

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.