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Watch your Head!

If you’ve ever been on a ranch, you’ve probably seen a cattle panel (check out the picture above). Not something you want to run into, especially head first.  That’s what I did recently when there were several panels in the bed of my husband’s truck, at just my height.  I jumped out of my side of the truck and was headed around the back when, bam!  A sharp corner of the panel banged my forehead and jammed into my sunglasses.  I was lucky that I only ended up with a few scrapes and bruises.

Although you may assume that I’m generally clumsy (no comment), I would tell you that this happened because:

  • I was looking at the ground
  • I forgot the panel was there
  • I was in a hurry

After I had some time to reflect on my good fortune, I asked myself if there were any lessons to be learned that might apply to my work with leaders and teams, such as:

  • Are we missing a signal that we aren’t communicating effectively with someone because we aren’t looking for it?
  • Are we failing to change a non-productive behavior because we forget about the negative impact it has?
  • Have we overlooked an opportunity to create an effective team environment because we are in a hurry to get results?

Amid this busy holiday season and year-end planning, I invite you to raise your head and look around at the things you may be missing that could derail your professional relationships.  If you need someone to help you figure out how to avoid the bumps and bruises, give me a call.  In the meantime, enjoy the holidays.

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Building on What is Working

As companies are reorganizing and stretching the capabilities of their people, team building is in high demand.  I recently had the opportunity to work with a group of people in the midst of drastic change.  Their team leader and many of his direct reports had been let go abruptly, the new leader had been in her role for less than a week, and the company was undergoing massive restructuring.  They were trying to change the tires on the car while speeding down the highway at 90 miles an hour.

In my preliminary interviews with each of the team members, they shared their objectives for the team building session, potential challenges, and what they were willing to do to make it successful.  Not surprisingly, the list of challenges was long, but one of their key objectives was to get past the obstacles and focus on moving forward.

After acknowledging all the challenges, the team made a list of what they are already doing well and created statements describing the ideal future state such as, “people want to work on our team.”  They prioritized each statement according to the degree of difficulty and value.  The highest value, least difficult things to achieve were assigned top priority.

From there, the team moved into action steps, accountability and metrics for each aspect of their ideal future state.  They left the meeting feeling energized by what is already working and creating a plan to build on that.

This approach to change management, called Appreciative Inquiry, is a powerful alternative to the traditional method of focusing on problems and trying to find solutions.  For a high level overview, see The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry, by Sue Annis Hammond.

If your team is ready to try something new, contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com


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How Can You Get Others to Change?

Our topic at this month’s professional association meeting was change. Josh Freedman, an expert in using emotional intelligence for effective individual and organizational change, led a webinar on how coaches can transform organizations.  Interesting timing since I was talking to a client about change.  He was frustrated because he couldn’t get his boss or his peers to see things his way.  My client knew he was right but no one else seemed to get it.  He wanted to know how he could get them to change.

I asked him if he believed that in order for others to change you first have to change yourself.  After pondering the question for a few seconds, my client said, “Yes” with a knowing smile.  He realized that he would have to change his approach, but he complained that it wouldn’t be easy.  Probably not, but still easier than trying to get other people to change!

As Josh Freedman pointed out, it is the coach’s job to help people make the transition from resistance to engagement.  In order to do that, we have to help increase the client’s awareness within themselves, in relation to other people and in relation to their organization.  My question increased my client’s awareness of his need to change as well as his resistance to doing so.  He moved a few steps away from resisting to engaging in the idea that changing his behavior could lead to a more productive outcome.

Here are some questions to increase your awareness about the need for change:

  • What am I doing that isn’t working?
  • If I change one thing, what is the likely impact on my colleagues, my business, and/or my personal life?
  • If I don’t change anything, what is the likely impact?
  • What will it cost me to change that one thing?
  • What will it cost me if I don’t change it?

When you decide to change one thing, ask yourself:

  • What is keeping me from making this change?
  • What do I need to do to overcome my resistance?

The reality is that we can’t get others to change but, if we change ourselves, there’s a good chance they may change as well.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

If you would like to explore how coaching can increase your awareness and support you in making change, contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com.

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How Would You Characterize the Best Boss You Ever Had?

Most of us would say things like strategic, team-oriented, supportive.  We value leaders who want us to be successful.  That post-industrial revolution concept was developed in the 1970’s when Robert Greenleaf introduced the idea of servant leadership.  Several clients recently expressed an interest in the tenets of servant leaders, which are:

1. Listening:  A critical component of communication is listening for understanding and clarity. A servant leader listens to what is said and what is left unsaid.

2. Empathy: A servant leader tries to see things from another person’s viewpoint.

3. Healing:  Servant leaders ensure they are healthy emotionally, spiritually and physically and provide opportunities for others to be healthy.

4. Awareness: According to Greenleaf, “Awareness … is a disturber and an awakener.” A servant leader is attuned to both internal and external cues.

5. Persuasion: Unlike a traditional authoritarian, a servant leader relies on persuasion rather than coercion.

6. Conceptualization: Servant leaders are able to see the big picture.

7. Foresight:  Learning from the past and understanding the present enables the servant leader to anticipate probable outcomes.

8. Stewardship: Servant leaders are stewards of their organizations as part of a larger society.

9. Commitment to the growth of people: A servant leader takes responsibility for encouraging the personal and professional growth of the people in his or her organization.

10.Building community: Servant leaders reach beyond a hierarchical company structure to offer a sense of community to those who want to be a part of something greater than themselves.

Did you identify any attributes you would like to develop further?  If so, let’s talk.  You can read more: Practicing Servant Leadership: Succeeding Through Trust, Bravery and Forgiveness, Larry C. Spears and Michele Lawrence editors, 2004, Jossey-Bass.

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Building Effective Relationships

When I solicit feedback from my clients’ colleagues, I often hear, “she needs to be more effective at building relationships across the organization.” What does that mean? It may mean that my client hasn’t established credibility in her role. It might mean that she hasn’t delivered on her commitments. It could also mean that she is a completely different person with the CEO than with her peers. In any case, skill in building effective relationships is a core competency for leaders.

Building effective work relationships requires the following:

• Respect – we earn respect by inviting different perspectives and by sharing our expertise in a constructive way

• Trust – we earn trust by following through on deliverables and giving credit to others where it is due

• Consistency – we demonstrate consistency when we value people at all levels

• Communication – we communicate effectively by actively listening before we speak

Think about the people with whom you most enjoy working. What makes those relationships productive? Do you respect and trust one another? Can you disagree in a healthy way? Does each of you treat people consistently and give credit appropriately? Do you strive to listen and understand before stating your opinion? I encourage you to consider how you can transfer those behaviors to relationships you would like to improve.

To assess or enhance your ability to build effective relationships, contact me at: cheryl@csbryan.com


How Much is Your 2 cents Really Worth?

Does this sound familiar?  The team is brainstorming with the boss and she says, “That’s a great idea but…”  She can’t resist adding her 2 cents.  I see it happen in teambuilding sessions and it completely changes the direction of the discussion. The team learns that the boss doesn’t value their ideas so they won’t waste time coming up with any.  They also aren’t nearly as enthusiastic about implementing her ideas as they would be their own.

I have a client who is almost always the smartest person in the room.  It is really difficult for him to wait for his team members to figure things out on their own.  Once he realized that giving them the answer inhibited their learning and development, he took a different approach.  He practiced asking questions that helped them see different perspectives and possibilities and allowed them to learn from their mistakes.  Without jeopardizing the business, he gave them the freedom they needed to come up with their own ideas.

The more senior you are in the organization, the more important it is to help others be successful.  How can you be sure you’re doing that?

• Stop before you speak – is your 2 cents really going to add more than detract?
• Encourage your team to come up with their own ideas – and to try a few
• Practice patience – know that they aren’t going to get it right every time

If you are struggling with holding on to your 2 cents, let’s talk about how coaching can help. Contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com