You can tell your car is out of alignment when it pulls away from the center line.  How can you tell when you’re out of alignment as a leader?  My clients tell me they don’t feel aligned when they make a decision that supports the financial health of the business but damages the trust they worked hard to build with their team.  Or when they are too quick to trust their gut without rationally examining the options.  It’s easier to stay on the right road when we align our head, our gut and our heart.

What is Your Leadership Model?

The first step toward alignment is defining who you want to be as a leader.  In his book The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights, Doug Conant explains the importance of building your own leadership model.  Your model might be inspired by others but it must align with your values, beliefs and competencies.

Whose Story are You Living?

Conant’s journey on the road to aligning his head, gut and heart required owning his story rather than the story someone else had in mind for him.  This shift enabled Conant to turn around Campbell Soup Company by boldly making tough decisions and honoring the successes of individual employees.  Campbell’s  employee engagement went from the worst to the best in the Fortune 500 but it took ten years.  Conant fulfilled his promise to “win in the workplace before we can win in the marketplace.”

If you’re feeling off-center, I invite you to take a deep breath and imagine aligning your head, gut and heart.

  • What is the first thing you would do?
  • What obstacles might prevent you from doing that?
  • How can you manage those obstacles?
  • Who will hold you accountable?

It was so moving to hear my client’s story about his new approach in dealing with a subordinate who had been his peer and friend for many years.  We talked in advance about how he wanted this person to feel and how he wanted to feel at the end of the conversation.  My client wanted to be careful not to hurt his friend while addressing some negative behaviors that were likely related to competition and resentment.  The client put himself in his friend’s shoes and the preparation paid off – his friend became more at ease, self-confident and trusting.  He is now disclosing information more readily which enables my client to be more effective in his role and ultimately impacts the bottom line.

To Infinity and Beyond

This same client also described how he handled a difficult situation with a neighbor in a way that prompted her to tell other family members about it.  Then his wife complimented his interaction with a plumber who made an expensive mistake.  When you start multiplying the impact of my client’s new behaviors, the ripples are endless.

Make A Choice

Of course, the opposite is true as well – our negative behaviors have equally strong effects on those around us.  We see the results in schools, workplaces, communities and families over multiple generations.  When you envision what ripple effects you want to create, what behaviors will you choose to generate benefits beyond yourself?

Are you wondering when we’ll get to the new normal?  In Beyond Entrepreneurship 2.0, Jim Collins writes that “uncertainty is chronic, instability is permanent, disruption is common, and we can neither predict nor govern events. There will be no ‘new normal’; there will only be a continuous series of ‘not- normal’ episodes that defy prediction and are unforeseen by most of us until they happen.” Simon Sinek explained on Brené Brown’s  Dare to Lead podcast, “If you have a finite mindset that thought scares you, and if you have an infinite mindset you smile and think, “Ooh, that’s fun.”   Sinek pointed out that an infinite mindset empowers us to find opportunity in surprise.

Do You Like Surprises?

I’ve had countless coaching conversations in the past year with people who are really sick of surprises.  I am too!  Although it’s hard to envision opportunity when I’m in survival mode, I can appreciate that embracing an infinite mindset will help me adapt and thrive.  When I saw Ford Motor Company’s announcement that 30,000 employees in North America will have personalized work schedules that include face-to-face interactions in the office and independent work at home, I recognized this as an example of applying an infinite mindset to the long-standing issue of work/life balance.

The Future is Fluid

How will your team work together in the future?  Nikki Morgan, EVP of TDIndustries, a construction and facilities services company, sees a common theme emerging: much more flexibility regarding where you work, but in-person collaboration will be essential.  Nikki said, “More investment will be made in technology to enable remote workers to interact easily with onsite or other remote employees.  Offices will be de-densified to allow for more distance between people and much more collaborative spaces.  Some are looking for more real estate, while others are looking to reduce.  Although my company will probably never be back to 100% onsite, we are committed to providing safe environments for collaboration.   We have a people-centered culture built on strong relationships between employees, so we will have to work harder to ensure we still have face-to-face opportunities to build those relationships.”

 

Simon Sinek believes that “leaders who embrace an infinite mindset…build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. They have the resilience to thrive in an ever-changing world, while their competitors fall by the wayside. Ultimately, those who adopt an infinite mindset are the ones who lead the rest of us into the future.”  Contact cheryl@csbryan.com if you want to be one of them!

As the pandemic wears on, people are struggling more than ever with bandwidth challenges.  Of course, internet bandwidth is a common problem since everyone is constantly on video calls but limited mental bandwidth has become a prevalent topic with my coaching clients.

Lack of Focus

It’s not surprising that lack of sleep, stress, multi-tasking and distractions are affecting our ability to focus.   Right now I’m distracted by the hole we had to cut in my wall to get to a broken pipe caused by one of the worst ice storms in Houston’s history.  You might be struggling with home schooling your children, trying to get a vaccine for a family member or forecasting business results in an ever-changing economic environment.

Three Strategies

When you feel yourself starting to shut down, these three strategies can help increase your mental bandwidth:

  • Heighten your awareness: start by identifying the things that are the most distracting and why it’s essential that you change how you deal with them.  Texts and emails are persistent culprits but it might be your pet who is more fun than fully engaging on yet another team call.  Building relationships leads to more effective teamwork which impacts the bottom line.
  • Make a plan: explore resources like Ready for Anything, Essentialism and Getting Things Done to find solutions to prioritizing what is most important.
  • Enlist support: whether you need administrative support, a coach and/or an accountability partner to check in on your progress, you’re much more likely to succeed if you don’t try to go it alone.

I suggest you give yourself a break, acknowledge that things are tough and then refocus to increase your bandwidth.

Every single one of my clients has struggled with a difficult relationship – personal, professional or both.  Do you know anyone who hasn’t?  Sometimes we give up because nothing seems to work.  And then…we come back to a place where we decide it’s worth trying again because the relationship is too important.  What can we change in ourselves to achieve a better outcome?

How You Can Reconcile Differences

These steps are essential to reconciling differences and moving forward:

  1. Be clear — about what you want and what you’re willing to do
  2. Be aware — of the boundaries you need to define so you both feel safe
  3. Be brave — make the first move
  4. Be honest — acknowledge your part of what isn’t working
  5. Be open — listen without judgement
  6. Be accountable – do what you say you’ll do
  7. Be imperfect – apologize when you fail and keep trying

Do Your Homework First

Any attempt at reconciliation has a better chance of success if you first spend some time reflecting on each  step.  Picture a flight attendant demonstrating the importance of putting your oxygen mask on before trying to assist someone else.  You’re ready when you can let go of your expectations and the need to be right.  Contact cheryl@csbryan.com to find out how coaching can support you in this process.

“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,” Bob Seger sang in “Against the Wind.”  Reflecting on lessons learned can be painful.  It can also be productive.

You Can’t Go Back

When my clients get tough feedback it’s my job to help them process their new awareness of what isn’t working.  They can’t go back to not knowing that their overly direct communication style is perceived as uncaring or their lack of timely follow-up is considered disrespectful.

You Do Have a Choice

Accepting feedback without defensiveness is the first step.  That isn’t always easy but it’s critical to moving forward.  The next step is choosing to change behavior as a powerful way to turn awareness into action.  Specific elements of a different approach might include tone, word choice, body language or time management tools.

I invite you to make time for reflection and the awareness that comes with it.