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You’ve just completed a prestigious executive MBA program that required you to be away from your job and your family for an extended period.  The exhilaration of the learning environment has started to wear off and you realize that nothing changed while you were gone.  None of those case studies prepared you for this and you’re pretty frustrated so you decide to return the call from that headhunter to find out if the grass might be greener somewhere else.

Custom vs. Generic

That isn’t the outcome companies anticipate when they spend $50,000 or more. Educating the Next Generation of Leaders, a thought-provoking Harvard Business Review article , acknowledges that traditional approaches to leadership development are too generic.  Interviews for the article and evidence from LinkedIn Learning indicate that most executives value on-the-job professional development that relates to their environment.  The authors cite anecdotal evidence that only 10% of the $200 billion annual expenditure on corporate training and development delivers concrete results.

Coaching is the Key

Although the authors propose a solution that includes more customized content they overlook a key component to effective leadership development –- coaching.  You can’t get more customized than helping a leader leverage his or her strengths, request and respond to feedback and enhance emotional intelligence.  Sustainable behavior change takes time, practice and accountability.  A seasoned coach will ensure the leader has all the necessary tools for success beyond the coaching engagement.

If you’re ready to increase the return on your leadership development investment contact me at cheryl@csbryan.com

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.

Nature and Nurture

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.  MIT neuroscientists recently pinpointed a brain region that can generate a pessimistic outlook.

The Right Balance

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!

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.
When 850 people attended my webinar on Fierce Conversations for the Society of Women Engineers it confirmed that this is a hot topic.  You may be familiar with the book by Susan Scott, who defines a Fierce Conversation as one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real. That means we have to be authentic and say what we mean. We have to resist the temptation to answer, “Everything is fine” when it really isn’t. We have to say what is true – in a way that others can hear it.

You Make the Change Happen

Often we avoid engaging someone in a conversation because we worry that they might feel hurt or get defensive. They might refuse to talk or get emotional. But Fierce Conversations can’t be dependent on how others respond. If you know something must change, then you’re the one who must change it. 

How to Start
The Fierce Conversations model includes an opening statement in which you:
  1. Name the issue
  2. Provide a specific example of the behavior or situation you want to change
  3. Describe your emotions about this issue
  4. Clarify what is at stake
  5. Identify your contribution to this problem
  6. Indicate your wish to resolve this issue
  7. Invite the other person to respond
Next Steps
  1. Listen and ensure that the other person feels understood
  2. Reach resolution and determine how to move forward
  3. Make an agreement and commit to holding each other accountable
As Susan Scott says, “Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. The quality of our lives is largely determined by the quality of the questions we ask – and the quality of our answers.”  
 
What Fierce Conversation do you need to have?

How can you leverage virtual team building to bridge the distance between people in multiple locations?

Ground Rules

In the same way that we set ground rules for an in-person team building session, the team needs to decide how they will interact on calls. Here are some things to consider in making this an effective tool for creating personal connections:

Include an icebreaker activity to help people get to know each other. Check out 50 Digital Team Building Games

  • Determine how to ensure everyone’s participation
  • Constructively voice differences of opinion during the call rather than afterward
  • Define the boundaries for confidentiality
  • Establish accountability and timelines for action items

After the Call

In between calls, pairing team members on special projects or initiatives can create camaraderie. Rotating the responsibility for leading the call is a great way to develop new skills and generate different ideas and approaches. Find more ideas at HBR Making Virtual Teams Work.

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.