Curiosity…helped…the cat?

Curiosity (n):  A strong desire to know or learn something; inquisitiveness.

 

One of the key characteristics of a learning leader is to be curious.  If you don’t have a strong Curiosity Quotient (CQ), you won’t go far.  I find in the world in general that there is a lack of curiosity.

Is it diminishing?   

We are more curious as children so we do need to try to keep that child-like curiosity alive and well.  If you are curious, you are interested in everything and everybody.

Is curiosity a natural or developed skill?

I would say … ‘yes’.  You probably have a natural tendency to be curious or not.  But you can train yourself to look around at to your situation and ask questions.  Where did he come from?  What is this data saying to me?  How does this piece of equipment work?

 

Those leaders who are naturally inquisitive want to know about the people they engage with everyday.  They want to know best practices of their competitors.  The want to know about the latest and greatest technology available to them.

 

When we complete personality assessments, we can learn about the individual’s curiosity if we look a little deeper:

  1.  Are they a good listener?
  2.  Do they naturally investigate problems by asking lots of questions?
  3.  Are they open to change and serendipity and exploration?
  4.  Do they focus on the moment as much as they focus on the future?
  5.  Are they willing to make mistakes and take risks that will teach them new things?
  6.  Do they build time into their overwrought schedule to think?
  7.  Do they put their ego aside and value others who have talents they don’t have?

 

How curious are you?  How curious can you become?

Let’s be clear, though, curiosity can be a practiced part of your day.  As part of your morning routine, write out 5 good hard questions you don’t readily have an answer for and keep them in mind as you move through your day.  Answering one of these questions might be as easy as Googling the answer and making an effort to memorize or retain the answer.  It may be that you need to use your life’s human resources (friends, family, coworkers) to work out an answer.  It may be that you need to meditate on the question to get some guidance, to hold on to it until you have a better sense of how to approach it and what method to find the answer. Needless to say if you approach your day through the lens of curiosity, you will doubtless expand your horizons and invite even more questions to answer.

 

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

 

“The human brain made us curious and creative.  Those were the characteristics that gave us an advantage – curiosity, creativity, and memory.  And that brain did something very special. It invented an idea called the future.” – David SuzukiScreen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.42.49 PM

The Good and the Bad in Leadership

I often listen to NPR radio. On one such occasion, there was a series of soliloquies about the 7 Deadly Sins. The purpose of the program was for presenters to talk about one Deadly Sin and how it comes to bear in less obvious ways. This led me to thinking about these sins as they apply to leadership.

Let’s explore them one at a time but let’s also look at the flip side of each sin.

Greed. Greed can quickly get you derailed. The leader who becomes greedy may make short-term decisions rather than long term ones. They may choose to pay key people less so that their year-end bonus will be more. Greed could create a positive influence if it yields giving generously or creating goodwill. This type of greed could have a leader  greedy for acknowledgement or being unselfish in making decisions about other people rather than selfish, e.g. taking a risk on promoting someone who is not quite ready, because the leader sees the potential rather than the immediate gain.

Sloth. Sloth in a leader can lead to many downsides. I have had the unfortunate experience of working for a boss who was slothful. I am sure you have had similar experiences with a boss or co-worker. This individual does just enough to get by. They pawn off work to anyone who is ready, willing, and able. When you follow-up with this slothful leader on tasks you thought they were going to do, somehow it has bounced back to you. On the positive side, a leader who holds back and lets others lead the way, allowing them to demonstrate their talents, gifts, and skills, knows that letting others shine doesn’t take away from their own competence.  What might look like sloth, could very well be good leadership, so be careful that you are not quick to judge.

Pride. You’ve heard the old adage, “Pride cometh before a fall.” Unbridled pride in a leader can create a huge narcissistic impediment. This is the leader who takes the credit for anything and everything, whether he accomplished it or not. Also, this is the leader who is potentially to prideful to own up to mistakes or short comings.  On the winning side, pride can help a person stay afloat when getting through a difficult time. The leader who takes great pride in the work is motivated to do his/her best. The operative phrase is ‘in the work’. Great leaders are typically pretty humble people.  The leader who holds out critical self-judgement and believes in themselves, can often see the pay off.

Lust. Lusting after anything – another person at work, your boss’ job, the corner office, the next wrung on the corporate ladder, the competition’s market position – creates more negatives than positives. It focuses the leader away from his/her own priorities, planning, and deployment AND leads to the next sin, Envy. A positive form of lust could be passion. Passionate leaders are those who help make things happen. They are on a quest for the next steppingstone and tend to take others with them in advancement.

Envy. Green (with envy) is not an attractive color in a leader. Envy creates resentment. The envious leader is sitting in a meeting thinking about why someone else gets away with not accomplishing a task or goal when s/he is held accountable. The thought, “Gosh, I wish I had it as easy as __________.” is one that often plays across the envious leader’s mental screen. Envy can also create a leader who is jealous of others’ abilities, especially when they are better at something that is a weakness for the leader. In this situation, the leader may sabotage an action of those s/he is envious of. On the positive side of envy, it may help that someone pays attention to what the others have that they want. So a leader who observes someone who is getting ahead because they care about other people may begin to ask themselves deeper questions about how they could begin to care more.

Gluttony. Gluttony can be similar to greed. It means excessive indulgence. So a leader who is gluttonous may do everything in excess – take on huge projects for a team that is under resourced, underestimate the time that is needed to complete a project when assigning it, becoming a workaholic, and creating stress by his/her unrealistic expectations. Gluttony creates MORE and MORE and MORE. It is not much fun to work for a gluttonous leader. The only positive of this type of leader is that s/he will also use excessiveness in the recognition of team members and the celebration of team accomplishments. Expect wonderful parties!

Wrath. The angry leader is indignant, wanting to deliver punishment rather than information.  Little injustices can create an instant trigger of anger. I have personally witnessed the angry leader who throws things, jumps up with waving arms to make a point, who explodes and lets you know they are angry by facial expressions, body language, and pointed words. There is no question in your mind when they are hot under the collar. It is very difficult to know when to approach them about anything. They are NOT very approachable. You typically have to work around the angry leader. The positive characteristics of someone who is intense is that they are willing to fight the battles for the budget, the team, and the company. Bring it on! Of course, it is better to have them on your side. This type of leader would be a formidable enemy.

Summary. As a leader in any situation, explore your motivations, especially when you react strongly to what is happening. Is your reaction driven by one of these sins? If so, rethink your viewpoint. Drop those preconceived ideas about people and about yourself. Often the line between the positive and negative side of these sins is thin.  You may spin it one way, but take cues from those around you in evaluating where on the spectrum you may stand.  Stand back, humble yourself, and start over. Apologize, if appropriate. Be as honest with yourself as possible.  Exercise self-control. Use positive words and deeds in your role. It is easier to abstain from the sins than clean up after them.  It is not an easy task to break the bad habits caused by any of the seven deadly sins, but self-reflection and honesty will go a long way to righting the past wrongs of a leader.

Professional Empathy: Walls, Barriers & No Tresspassing Signs

Wall: a continuous structure that encloses or divides an area; generally permanent.
Barrier: a fence or other obstacle that prevents movement or access; a circumstance or obstacle that keeps people or things apart or prevents communication or progress.
Trespass: to enter an owner’s property without permission; make unfair claims or take advantage of something; commit an offense against another person. Tresspassing: the act of intrusion on said property or personal space.
I have observed all of these in the workplace.  Just this week as I was meeting with a young woman who works for a client, we talked about how it feels to share your turf – whether work responsibilities or office space – with another person.  Things can be going along swimmingly, even harmoniously, when one person goes too far in the eyes of the other – taking over a project, using their dominant personality to get their way, acting as if they are your boss when they are not, etc.

In the workplace of today, teamwork is common, even mandatory, and generally accepted as best practice in a dynamic work environment.   That being said, the spirit of individualism is alive and well and can lead to moments of tension or awkwardness.  Striking the proper balance between teamwork and individual expression can be difficult.

You have probably experienced individualism push back against teamwork both ways – on the giving and receiving ends.  When someone steps into your work territory your hackles go up.  When you offer help to someone (or even more just do a coworker’s task without prior discussion) you are very surprised (even shocked) when they are not happy about it.

Why in the world would someone not want your input, ideas, creativity, and possibly even genius thoughts to be brought to the table?  There are several possible reasons.  They:

  1. Have their own ideas about the task or project.
  2. Don’t want to appear incompetent or as if they need help.  They are concerned about perceptions of their boss or peers.
  3. Are a little bit insecure.
  4. Know their role, have been doing it for a while and are comfortable with the established boundaries.

These same points can be used to measure your reaction as well.  Maybe you are able to see the big picture better than others.  You may understand and appreciate the advantages of hearing, seeing, and experiencing others’ ideas.  Even if this is so, it can still feel strange and awkward when you sense a trespasser.  If this is something you can identify with, use that to help generate or hone a sense of professional empathy.  If someone bristles at your help, then think about why you would bristle at someone else’s help and proceed with caution.

Beware!  When you are helping someone in your organization and you are entering someone else’s territory without permission (or even with permission – vocally or by omission) you may not get the appreciation you think you deserve and you may leave behind a bad taste.

Yes, walls need to be broken down sometimes.  Yes, problems need to be solved creatively. And, yes, collaboration is a good thing.  But tread softly the first time.  Be sensitive to others being hurt or offended.

Ensure that you are working toward a common goal and not just pushing your agenda. I will leave you with these suggested steps in the collaborative process:

  1. Assess the situation.  Be aware of the personalities involved, especially those who have more competitive personalities.
  2. Secure permission to be involved.
  3. Be flexible while being a part of the process and solution.
  4. Allow time for discussion, feedback, and debriefing.

 

Brenda Haughney   –  President

 

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.” – Ronald Reagan

Milestones: Setting Them and Celebrating Them

Milestone: an important point in the progress or development of something; a very important event or advance.

As I reflect on 2015 and consider the possibilities of 2016, the milestones of the past year come to mind:

  1. Celebrating our 16th anniversary of being in business on December 1.
  2. Downsizing to a new home and office space
  3. New / returning clients
  4. New / Completed projects
  5. Taking on blogging and other social media tasks (with a little help)

 

Milestones are important. They help us measure our progress. They allow us to break down a large task into smaller ones. For example, if a goal is to improve a working relationship with a colleague, I have to be intentional about how I go about that advancement. I must adjust my attitude, define the tasks that will help to ensure success, implement the “to-do list”, hold myself accountable, look back at progress made, ask for feedback, and celebrate the accomplishments along the way – large and small. This particular goal may be a difficult one to measure but intuition will help.

A more tangible example, an easier one to assess progress, is my daily exercise – walking five miles.  My Fitbit will help keep me on track but my own visual milestones assist too. When I see the blue mailbox, I know that I am 25% of the way. This adds a little zip to my step. When I spot the cream-colored post at the end of a driveway, 50% of the way is completed.  A sense of accomplishment overcomes me. There’s no turning back.  At the red and yellow fire hydrant, my achievement level is at 75%.  The end is near. Arrival back at home marks 100% and I am energized to do even more – walk around the cul-de-sac or run up the stairs.

“Try the Swiss cheese method of time management and project management. Instead of putting off complex tasks, hoping to have more time for them later, get started by chipping away at them. With enough holes, the cheese either disappears altogether, because the job is done, or enough of it disappears to make the job manageable.” – Alan Lakein

In the workplace, get your team to help you set the milestones related to the common goal. Achieving milestones creates energy and excitement and helps everyone move on to the next milestone. Be aware of the milestones reached.  Celebrate them!  Recognize those who helped you get there!

BRH

Words in the Workplace: Delegation

Delegation / noun : The act or process of delegating or being delegated : prioritizing tasks for delegation., delegated power, ‘send on a commission’

Delegate / verb : To Entrust (a task or responsibility) to another person, typically one who is less senior than oneself : He delegates routine tasks | The power delegated to him must never be misused., To send or authorize (someone) to do something as a representative : Edward was delegated to meet new arrivals.

 

Delegation: What Leaders Need to Know

“You’re on the spot every day. Ultimately, you are accountable. Your success is measured in terms of the way your employees perform. You have to make sure that the work gets done, costs are controlled, employees work as a team, and upper management is satisfied. Clearly, you have a tough job. Delegation is a powerful tool to ensure that all of this is possible.

Be a supportive coach. Tune into your employees’ talents. Delegate projects based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Redirect those who perform below standards. Correct negative behavior gently for long-term change. Learn the psychology of motivating people through the art of delegation.  Finding the right combination of responsibilities can be a great motivator for success.

Bring out the best in your team members. Help them grow so they’ll contribute more and feel better about themselves. You’ll all enjoy your workplace more — and find greater satisfaction in working together.”

“Go Team!  Take Your Team to the Next Level” by Ken Blanchard

I would add, these top three things you need to know about delegating:

  1. Let go.  You will not succeed as a manager and leader until you learn to delegate well.  Letting go of some of the details will allow you to step up to the next level of performance.  Delegating is as much about your own growth as it is about the growth of your team members.
  2. Be creative.  Delegating requires creativity.  You have to answer the questions, “What details can I give up? What small projects or tasks can I carve out of my day?  How can I break down large projects into smaller milestones that can be delegated to others?”
  3. Set standards and boundaries.  You cannot begin to delegate a task until you have defined the boundaries of decision-making, trained the individual or individuals well, and tested them in the process.

To get great results:

  • Move key decisions closer to the front line.
  • Create teams that release the power of team members – power that comes from their knowledge, experience, and internal motivation.
  • Use the abilities of people in performing tasks that do not make the best use of your experience and skills as a supervisor.

BRH

Thankfulness – Two Books, One message

Tis’ the season to be thankful, grateful, and to have an attitude of gratitude.   Our economy has suffered over the last seven years, to the extent that many have lost their jobs, their homes, and their future security.  Yet, we seem to have learned some important lessons from that era.  Here are some things we learned not to do during this time:

1. Living on tomorrow’s income
2. Taking equity out of your home
3. Depending upon the stock market to keep going up
4. Trusting others with your money decisions
5. Taking your job for granted
6. Waiting to save for retirement or not saving enough
7. Assuming emergencies happen to everyone else

When the dust finally settled, we were wiser people.  One of the strong lessons we learned is to be grateful for what we have – our loved ones, home, job, daily necessities, transportation, and the ability to do what we have to do to make ends meet.

There are two books, I have read that do a good job of focusing us on gratitude.  One is “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” by Jen Hatmaker and the other is “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor.  Both impacted me in a positive way.

The premise of “7” is to encourage you to spend seven months doing with less in seven areas of your life.  Jen chose food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress.  During each four-week interval, she and her family could only choose seven items to use for the category they were focused on.  For example, only seven foods for a month, only seven pieces of clothing for a month, give away seven things every day for a month, eliminate seven forms of media for a month, adopt seven habits for a greener life for a month…and on and on.

One thing that hit home for me as I went through the exercise of identifying extraneous or overindulgent aspects of my life was my access to clean water.  Count the number of places you can get clean water at your home.  Don’t leave out both faucets in the master bathroom or the water coming into your washing machine, or the spigots outside.  Compare that number to those who have no access to clean water.  It is very humbling.  In fact, it will make you feel guilty about how much we have and take for granted.  The point is not to feel guilty, but to feel thankful and to identify ways to use our blessings and privilege to find peace and do good in the world.

The second book, “Happiness Advantage”, suggests that you choose one of five ways of developing or reinforcing habits, which will impact you in a positive way.  Here are the five:

  • Journaling every day, e.g. positives that occurred or that you influenced.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Meditating every day.
  • Entering into a gratitude journal three things you are grateful for every day.
  • Sending thank you emails on a regular basis – to those who have helped you or positively

The assignment is to choose one, complete it for three weeks so that you develop a new habit, and hopefully continue it.  I chose the gratitude journal.  I am happy to say that I am continuing that habit.  Some examples of things I have listed over the last several weeks are:

  • Meaningful work
  • Love of family
  • Beautiful Sunrises
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies

This weekend, in the afterglow of Thanksgiving, I hope that you will pause long enough to be in awe of the good things in your life.  Find ways to bring that awe with you through the season and into the New Year.

BRH

Words in the Workplace: Resilience

The human capacity for resilience has always fascinated me.  Everyone has it to varying degrees, and it is amazing to watch – personally and professionally.

Let’s examine the definition:

Resilience

  • The ability to spring back.
  • The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
  • Toughness.
  • Positive adaption to significant threats.

Continue reading “Words in the Workplace: Resilience”