Tag Archives: Team building

The Power of Presence: 5 Critical Skills for Maximum Personal Effectiveness


The workplace is a web of communications between individuals and teams.

When things don’t go well, we tend to blame the other person or group.

If you’re ever tried to change anyone, you probably realize how pointless that is.

Our highest salvation and sense of peace is to work on ourselves, rise above the commotion and lead the way from a place of groundedness and authenticity.

Maintaining presence of mind in the midst of chaos is the way to accomplish that.

So, how does one maintain that presence when the world seems to be caving in on you? It is possible but takes concerted effort.

Here are the 5 skills that are critical for maximizing your effectiveness:

1. The ability to discover the things you do that other people notice but that you don’t know you do
We all have habits, patterns of behavior that seem to run themselves. We also all have blind spots. Things we do but are unaware of. Rarely do we seek them out and even less frequently, do we do anything about them

If you’re striving for maximum effectiveness in the workplace, you MUST know the impact you’re having on people. It takes courage to uncover them, but shining a light on the areas of your blindness will help you become more likeable, respected and influential.

2. The ability to calm yourself when your reptilian brain has just thrust you into Fight or Flight
When tensions mount, our instinct is to protect ourselves or annihilate the threat. Before you commit that career limiting move, take a moment to get ‘present’. That means calming yourself briefly before you lash out or duck and cover. Put your attention on your your physical body. Take a few deep breaths. Notice the pressure of your butt on the chair or your feet on the floor. Taking these few precious seconds will give you a chance to collect your more grounded thoughts and respond from a more centered place.

3. The ability to notice and objectively address the process you or a group are enmeshed in
Communication is a process which includes not just the words that are said but the underlying subtext of the conversation as well as what’s NOT being said. In a group or family, people fall into ‘roles’ they play in that community. When those roles can be brought to light in a way that is nonjudgmental the grip of the role is loosened.

For example, when a group is led by a powerful and directive boss, they may be reluctant to speak up if they have a different opinion than the one that is not being proferred. This is what triggers water-cooler conversations).

As the boss, it’s critical that you get the feedback you need in order to accomplish your goals. Notice that your staff is hesitant to be forthright with you. tell them you need their input AND THEN LISTEN AND TAKE IT INTO ACCOUNT.

As the staff member, it’s critical that you voice your perspective, not in a combative way but as another point of information that is valuable and key to moving forward on the right path.

4. The ability to quiet our inner critic
To be human is to have a voice that tries to protect us from harm. Unfortunately, it usually stops us from taking ‘risks’ that would actually be helpful to our personal growth. Notice what your inner critic or judge usually says to you. Then when it pipes up (in your head) in various situations, notice it and say ‘Thank you for pointing that out’.

Then imagine that there is a miracle awaiting you on the other side of whatever fear it raised and take some action toward bringing that miracle into fruition.

5. The ability to cultivate the Sage within you
There is another voice within us that knows what’s possible on a grander scale than what our human persona normally perceives. It is the voice of intution, Spirit, knowingness, God (or whicheve deity enlightens your world).

It whispers to us to take action. It’s suggestions sometimes scare us and that’s almost always a signal that growth or transformation is right around the corner if we go there.

Cultivating the Sage means creating quiet time and space for it to speak to us during periods of restfulness,

meditation or prayer. It means listening to the voice and honoring it by taking action on its suggestions. It’s a discipline and practice, being quite and taking acion. Ant it is a practice, that if done consistenly, will pay off in really big ways.

So, be aware then be courageous. Release the judge that condemns yourself and others. Invite the Sage to take a larger role in your life and the power of this new presence will dramatically improve your personal effectiveness.

Let me know how it works out for you!

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How to Sharpen Your Instinct for Empathy

It’s helpful to trace and understand the origin of the two words.   For a more elaborate explanation, read this article, empathy vs sympathy.

I’ll summarize here.

Empathy was brought into the English language from the German word Both are acts of feeling.  With sympathy, you feel FOR the person.  You may or may not fully understand their predicament, situation, problem or feelings.

With sympathy, you feel sorry for the person.  With empathy, you truly understand the sorrow, from their perspective and the world they endure as a result.

Empathy takes more work. It requires more imagination in that in order to empathize with a person, you must attempt to understand their thoughts: walk in their moccasins, so to speak. Empathy helps you identify with and feel closer to the other person.

While sympathy is also a tender feeling, it keeps you at a distance and sometimes even a bit above the person. Your perspective reflects that the person is somehow not only less fortunate than you but also ‘less than’ you, at least at the moment. The ‘less than’ may an assessment of their (perhaps temporary) competence or power level.

The most frequent expression of sympathy is felt when you hear that a person you know has lost someone close to them to death.  Feeling sympathy is almost an immediate reaction on our part.  Empathy would step in if you were very close to the survivor and understood, to a strong degree what the impact of that loss actually meant to them.  it might also kick in if you’ve lost someone
yourself and can actually experience that feeling of grief.

So, how does one bring empathy into existence when there is no tragedy to demand its emergence?

Here are three ways to sharpen your instinct for empathy.

1. Practice recognizing the signs that you’re about to distance yourself and dismiss the other person.
Empathy is an exercise in self-awareness and flexibility.  When you sense an arising experience of some negative emotion (disgust, sadness, anger, resentment), know that the first signal is your OWN emotion.  Once you know it’s YOUR reaction you’re trying to tame (rather than the other person’s), you’ll have more success in flexing and responding.

2. Imagine the other person’s life and try to feel what they are currently feeling.
Take into consideration not only their current life, but years past that have formed their perspective and outlook on life.  Be curious about how they have come to adopt their opinions. Ask open-ended questions that will help shine a light on their internal thoughts and help you understand them.

3. Legitimize their feelings
Even if you struggle to understand the feelings or opinions yourself, acknowledge that the perspective is a legitimate one for the person holding it. When you tell them you could see how they came to believe what they believe, it will be easier to have a meaningful dialog.  The natural tendency is to disagree with them; to dismiss them as a nut-case.  It’s hard to solve problems when you each think your ‘adversary’ is a lunatic.  Someone has to have some collaborative energy.  It might as well be you.

As Michael Jackson said, “I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways.” If you’re always looking for someone else to change their ways, they won’t. If you keep denying their opinion, they’ll hold on to it that much stronger.  Meet them where they are.  That’s how you find common ground.

5 Things Every Team Needs to Win and Flourish

Most work in companies gets done through interaction between people.  Some managers mistakenly think they can just hire people, give them a job or task to do and then expect that they’ll ‘make it happen’.

Recently, I’ve heard leaders say “Do your job!” like that person could just wave a magic wand and have everything turn out ‘peachy keen’.

In reality, most tasks require planning and collaboration and a whole lot more in order for them to be completed successfully. It’s the bosses job to facilitate activities, not just dictate them.

I’ve identified 5 things teams need to have in order for them to be successful and productive.

  1. Goals
  2. Roles
  3. Rules
  4. Styles
  5. Scores

1. Goals
Each person needs goals, but the team itself needs goals as well.  Without knowing there they’re headed as a group, teams will flounder.  Individual self-interests will prevail and competition will ensue.

  • Where are we going?
  • Why is that important?
  • Who are we serving and why?

2. Roles
Team members need to be clear about their individual roles and how they are contributing to the accomplishment of the goals.

  • What does everyone on the team do?
  • How do ‘hand-offs’ occur?
  • How does my work impact them?

3. Rules
Rules provide structure, systems and processes that make teams more effective.

  • How do we communicate with each other? How rapidly can we expect a response?
  • What processes do we follow?
  • How do we make decisions around here?
  • What happens when things go awry?
  • How do we share in the wins?

4. Styles
It’s critical to understand the human side of each team member.  People are more than just cogs in a wheel.  When team members take time to know each other beyond their roles on the team, getting the work done will take much less effort.

If I communicate with you on your terms, appealing to your thought process and priorities, fewer ‘breakdowns in communication’ will happen.  Expectations will be more explicit, not implied.  Implications lead to assumptions and  assumptions create mistakes and unfulfilled expectations and opportunities.

5. Scores
Scores are often measures of the goals that have been set.  They allow a team to track their progress and ultimately, their success.  Scores also allow analysis of what could be improved.

How does your team stack up?  If you are the leader, how well are you facilitating the creation and management of these 5 critical items? What improvements can be made?

When you attend to the people side of your business, your business can deliver on the profit side.

When to Train, Coach, Manage or Fire an Employee

I spent over two decades of my corporate career in various roles in Human  Resources and as a result, had TONS of conversations with managers about how to deal with their employees or teams when their performance wasn’t ‘up to snuff’.  Quite often, their initial ‘remedy’ was to suggest training, but training isn’t always the answer for performance issues.

Train

ASUDowntownTraining (when done well) imparts specific skills and/or knowledge. It’s most useful when targeted and narrowly focused on a particular topic and is attended by people who are willing to learn but not able to do the specific task.

Training’s effectiveness is enhanced greatly when employees can immediately implement the new skills or knowledge back on the job. So it’s best when a group of people need to improve on the same areas. Training an entire department when only one or two people need it is a waste of company resources.

One reason training often ‘fails’ is because managers think one or two days of concentrated training will turn their errant person into a super star and unfortunately, that rarely happens. The value or ROI (return on investment) of training therefore, is improved when it is supplemented by some sort of follow up activities that reinforce the new abilities and behaviors over time.

[I have experienced  some powerful 2- to 3-day personal development programs that generate dramatic mental beliefs and emotional perspective shifts in people that result in new behaviors but those are unfortunately not the types of programs generally offered in the workplace.]

Coach

LLH_on_PhoneCroppedOne of the major values that coaching brings is its ability to produce sustained growth and change over time. People are creatures of habit and habits don’t alter significantly after 1 day of training. The effectiveness of coaching requires that a person be willing and able to move forward productively.

Sometimes people are thrust into coaching because they are good as most aspects of their job but demonstrate some counterproductive behavior that is impeding their performance.  If those people aren’t willing – deep in their hearts – to change, coaching won’t produce lasting change.  (A good coach will recognize when someone is going through the motions and either challenge the person to ‘step up’ or will terminate the coaching relationship if they don’t.]

In a collaborative, productive coaching relationship, the coachee develops critical thinking skills by being guided to tap into his/her own internal resources to reach decisions.  Rather than becoming reliant on the coach, the coach becomes a springboard for the ‘clients’ own self-development.

Coaching can really accelerate the career momentum of an already effective person and make them even better.  With coaching, people can improve their leadership presence, strategic thinking and credibility in the workplace.

SMARTgoalsettingManage

SMARTGoalSettingGraphicClose management is useful when a person is able but perhaps not so willing to perform.    Management involves keeping someone on a ‘short leash’ by instituting short-term goals, objectives and consequences or outcomes.  ‘Hit this quota’ or ‘produce this result by this date’ are examples of management tactics.

Tight management may include frequent ‘check ins’ to make sure the right behaviors that should produce the result are being enacted on a consistent basis.

Managing a person who is not able to perform a particular task won’t be enough to get the job done. In fact, piling on the additional pressure of short term goals will likely raise their anxiety and reduce performance.   This person needs training, coaching or some other sort of ability development process.

Fire

DonaldTrumpYou'reFiredWhen a person is not willing or not able (after the above development efforts have been tried), it might be time to ‘fire’ them.

As an HR executive, I would occasionally have managers drop in my office saying “I need to fire “So-And-So”.  I would always ask ‘why’ and inevitably they would say, “They aren’t getting the job done.”

When I would then ask, “What did they say when you spoke to them about this?” and often heard, “I haven’t talked to them. They should just know better!”

Well, employees can’t read your mind. You must tell them clearly what your expectations are.  You should then give them time to correct the situation.

Even in an employment-at-will state, it’s dangerous to fire someone ‘just because’ because juries generally tend to side with employees and the company (and maybe even the manager) could be left with an expensive lawsuit or complaint filed against them.

If you do get to the point when termination is the answer, always do it with dignity.  The employee may have just been in the wrong job for his or her skill set.Perhaps YOU made the wrong hiring decision.Perhaps business has caused a change in the job requirements.

I remember working with one astute manager who said she never had to ‘fire’ a person but had several under-performing employees who had been ‘counseled out’.

She was so caring and sincere and skilled in counseling conversations, the employees always left of their own volition, happily looking for a job where they could shine and be happy.  They rarely knew she was ‘trying to get rid of them’ and always felt empowered by the separation.

So, next time you’re confronted with an under-performing person or team, use the above distinctions to pinpoint the most effective remedy and you’ll get a higher return on your investment.

Top 10 Tips for Surviving Anything

I’ve learned a lot of lessons having survived 10 years in business plus 30 years in Corporate America. I’m sure you have too. Here are some of the top tips that come to mind as I reflect back on my happy and not-so-happy days.

10. Admit your mistakes

This can be hard to do, especially if you’re the boss. However, people will respect you more when you show the courage to own up to your humanity. You will endear yourself to them in ways you can’t if you present yourself as infallible.

9. Make people feel important

I know there are a lot of egos out there and it’s tempting to not ‘fan the (already- inflated ego) flame’. However, it really doesn’t cost you much to be appreciative. People will love you all the more when you place them on what feels like a pedestal to them. I’m not saying to undervalue yourself nor ignore your own needs. Just put a little love in your heart and share it.

8. Take control of your own career

Time was, when you took a job, your future seemed to be controlled by the bosses. The employment ‘deal’ changed a few years ago. Career ladders aren’t what they used to be. Nothing is a given. Set your sights on where you want to be, experience and learn what you need to in order to best prepare yourself. Stretch yourself. Try new things.

Don’t blame ‘the system’ for your lack of progress. Take aim and steadily move forward (whether sideways or out). My husband, Karl has sometimes said ‘That person doesn’t have 20 years of experience. (S)he’s had 1 year of experience 20 times.’ Don’t be one of those people.

7. Ask for help

People are often afraid to admit they need help because they think it will make them appear weak. If you whine all of the time, that definitely won’t reflect on you well. But when working on something critical, in an emergency or when you just don’t know what to do, asking for advice or help could save your company or business a lot of money. The key is to ask the right person/people and to ask in a way that they see the benefit to them for honoring your request. Don’t make it about you. Make it about them and the business.

6. Have fun

If you’re not having fun, you’re in the wrong job or business. I realized decades ago that I spent too much time working not to enjoy it. So I’ve left a couple of ‘good’ jobs that I hated and let my personality out at work in the jobs I stayed in. (Encourage your team/staff to do the same.)

5. Stand up for what you believe in

Your perspective is important. What makes teams produce incredible results is harvesting the wisdom of everyone in the group. If you tend to be quiet, speak up more. Your voice needs to be heard. If you’re one of the ‘loud mouths’ your perspective is still important. Just don’t cry ‘wolf’ too much or you’ll lose your credibility.

4. Ask your clients / bosses / employees what they need, then give it to them

I fundamentally believe that most people are doing the best they can with what they have. If you want to be successful, the people around you have to be succeeding too. It’s hard to be a rock star with no fans or roadies. When you invest in others, you’ll gain dividends and rewards you were never expecting.

3. Keep your eyes on the prize

This presumes that you have a ‘prize’ – the reason you’re working or in business in the first place. When you’re clear about your purpose in being there, you’ll make better choices, set stronger boundaries about what you’ll tolerate or not and be less affected by the little things that don’t go the way you’d like them to.

2. Remember, this too shall pass

Whether it’s a bad economy, an intolerable boss or a project from Hades, it won’t last forever. Someone once said to me “Never take or leave a job because of the boss. They won’t be there forever”. (That may be less comforting in the public domain where I hear people can stay in jobs a really long time.) In any event, take heed of the earlier tips, do your best and remember you’re in charge of your life.

And the #1 tip for surviving anything…

1. To thine own self be true

I harp on this a lot. You have a purpose. You’re on the planet for a particular reason. You may not be entirely clear about your purpose just yet. If that’s the case, stay true to your values. They will point you in the right direction. (I presume you know what’s important to you. If not, take some time to figure that out.) Don’t engage in behaviors that compromise your integrity.

If something feels inherently wrong, don’t stand by and suffer in silence. Express yourself or extract yourself.

Your life is too important to waste your talents, time or passion.