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Suspending Judgment

In a recent presentation, Avoiding Potholes on the Road to Career Success, I mentioned one of the 20 habits in Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There — Passing Judgment. Goldsmith defines that as rating people according to our standards, which is different from stating an opinion.

This is a hard habit to break in a world focused on celebrities and reality TV. I admit to the guilty pleasure of watching the “pre-game show” on Academy Awards night, which is all about rating what the stars are wearing and judging how they look. When we pass judgment on someone’s appearance, actions or ideas, we assume we know better. No one wants to be judged.

If you need to break this habit, here is a celebrity challenge for you: try to avoid judging any ideas for one week. Stay neutral and just say, “Thanks.” That doesn’t mean you agree or disagree with the idea, only that you heard it. Notice how people react. If you find that suspending judgment leads to more open discussion, keep it up!

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Building Trust

What makes you trust someone? Transparency, maintaining confidentiality, delivering on commitments, telling the truth even when it’s difficult – these are some of the qualities of a trustworthy person. With the continual news about public figures abusing the trust of their constituents, fans and families, building an environment of trust is a timely topic for all leaders.

Here are a few fundamentals:

  • Let go – delegate authority and trust your team to handle it responsibly
  • Be honest – give constructive feedback
  • Admit your mistakes – set the example for humility and learning
  • Show that you care – about them as a person, not just an employee
  • Be consistent – so people will know what to expect

Building trust takes time but it is an investment with a significant return. I invite you to consider one thing you might do this month to build trust with a colleague and how that might pay dividends to both of you.

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Managing Expectations

I just returned from a weekend in the Colorado Mountains which was a great escape from the dog days of Houston’s summer. One of the activities, a bicycle ride that was billed as mostly downhill, ended up being eight miles of hard pedaling into a strong wind. Good workout but not what I expected – the bike rental guy over-promised and under-delivered. Thankfully, the reward was a burger and a beer!

While under-promising and over-delivering should be the mantra of every salesperson, for corporate leaders who have to manage the expectations of multiple stakeholders, it may be more important to promise and deliver as accurately as possible.

Some people are flexible enough to adjust to unexpected changes easily. Others need advance notice and time to buy into the changes in order to support them. If one of your team members seems resistant to change, consider how well you managed their expectations. Did you tell them it would be a tough journey and give them a chance to ask how best to prepare? Or did you gloss over the challenges and just focus on the reward?

Being aware of how you react to change can help you adjust to others with different needs. If you can take unexpected changes in stride, you will have to work extra hard at being patient with those who can’t. If you are someone who is frustrated by surprises, let others know to give you a heads up whenever possible.

See if you can spot someone this week whose response to change is similar to yours and someone whose style is different.

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Celebrating with Gratitude

I am celebrating the fifth anniversary of founding my executive coaching and team development practice. The time has really flown by because I love what I do. I have had the privilege of working with and learning from amazing clients. It has been incredibly rewarding to hear clients say, “My colleagues and my family can tell I have been working hard to improve.” That means they are getting it — and applying it in all aspects of their lives.

In the process of completing my certification in Organizational Dynamics, I was reminded of the importance of recognizing people who have had an impact on my career. Thank you to those who encouraged and supported me, those who challenged me, and those who tried to hold me back. I wouldn’t be here without all of you.

Have you acknowledged the people who have helped you along the way? It’s never too late …

 

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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. 

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Listening Has Value

Do You Hear What I Hear?

As the Christmas carol says, “Do you hear what I hear?”  If we’re honest, mostly what we hear is ourselves talking.  Telling others what we think they should do or how they should feel or what we have accomplished since our last holiday letter.

What Am I Doing?

In our results-oriented world, it is easy to focus on delivering value by doing something.  Although we think we’re helping by offering solutions, our spouse, colleague or friend may just want a sympathetic ear or a brainstorming partner.

Giving a Gift

This holiday season is a great time to give the gift of listening.  That means:

  • Keeping our mouths shut and holding our advice until we’re asked
  • Emulating Nelson Mandela and focusing on the person who is talking as if there were no one else in the room
  • Restating what was said so the other party feels heard
  • Expressing empathy

I invite you to give this gift generously and often and reap the benefits of improved relationships.