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Bold Leader Moves in the Current Market

bold leadership

What do you think is a bold move nowadays? How do you look at employee engagement? With the turmoil in the job market, what has your company or organization done to secure the team you have and attract new talent when the need arises?

On occasion, doing something bold is not limited to something NEW. Instead, you just might be surprised about ways to engage with and retain your talent team.

The current job market is simply too frenzied to allow your best people to walk out the door because YOU failed to do something you could have easily done to keep them happy and engaged.

Ezra’s Findings

For the past two years, I’ve had the good fortune to partner with the Ezra Coaching team. Ezra is a coaching platform that is exclusively virtual. Interestingly, it was conceived and under development long before the COVID pandemic hit. Ezra provides coaching on-demand, virtually.

Ezra is a global solution that, since its inception, has coached over 15,000 clients during the past two years. In addition to delivering world-class executive leadership development, Ezra tracks emerging trends in the employment environment.

In a recent survey. Ezra captured these five ideas about keeping top talent. The data was accumulated using a poll of the client companies Ezra supports.

A word in advance. Like I said previously, something bold does not have to be something new.

1. Listen to them

2. Encourage open communication

3. Work in ways that suit THEIR life

4. Invest in L&D (coaching is a great place to start)!

5. Prioritize their wellbeing

Task #1, Listen to Them

This is something leaders and managers have struggled with for decades (so do husbands and wives, but I digress). The art of effectively and engagingly listening is lost on the pace of business these days. I’ve talked to too many managers who say they simply don’t have time.

At the same time, I routinely hear from leaders that they feel frustrated because their bosses are not listening to them.

How do you respond? The popular phrase is “empathetic listening.” It involves truly listening to the employee without formulating your next statement. Give feedback like “So what I am hearing is…” Let the other person either agree or clarify.

Some might argue it’s a common courtesy to properly listen to someone else when spoken to. But again, the pace of business has adversely influenced the way managers and staff connect via listening.

Bold leaders in today’s work world are stepping up and changing the way they listen.

Task #2, Encourage Open Communication

Communication is actually a very complicated exchange requiring much more intentional effort than most organizations provide. For a leader to create truly open communication, there has to be a framework and accountability.

The framework needs to define methods, practices, and formats that contribute to communication. Thinking about this at the team level, Patrick Lencioni in his “Five Habits if Dysfunctional Teams” describes the need to develop a team charter and a team contract.

The charter defines who and why the team exists. It becomes the foundation of thinking and understanding about the team.

The contract applies a bit of structure. I’ve seen powerful team contracts that go so far as to explain how to reel in a team member in an open meeting who has run away with the agenda. I’ve written before about one approach called “ELMO” which is an acronym for ‘enough, let’s move on.’

The accountability part is where the manager or leader takes responsibility for dealing with bullies on the team or personalities who derail the team effort. Team members allowed to get away with belittling others’ opinions do too much damage to good communication.

Task #3, Work in Ways That Suit THEIR Life

This may be the one truly new, bold idea. It applies to finding ways to receive employee input about their lifestyle and expectations for work-life harmony (not balance, but harmony).

The ramifications of the pandemic lockdowns have reshaped everyone’s views of how to work. With only a few exceptions requiring ‘boots on the ground’ work situations (e.g. manufacturing, assembly lines, and heavy construction), many workers have reshaped their ideas about what makes a good job.

The old 9:00 to 5:00 is obsolete. The standard 40 hours in the office will not survive either. Studies tell us workers are asking for a hybrid office at the least or at best, fully remote.

Companies of all sizes are going to need to do some soul searching about the best way to respond to these expectations.

Task #4, Invest in L&D

Learning and development have historically fallen by the wayside when budgets get tightened. It’s often the first HR program to get slashed. Ironically, it’s the exact place companies should be focused.

Taking people off the street and getting them coached and trained to be ideal employees inside your company is a valuable commodity. You can try as you might to find perfect fits for every job, but usually, a good fit only gets you just so far. You still have to develop your people.

Providing ongoing development opportunities keeps people engaged and inspired. If they can see some kind of opportunity forward, they are more likely to stay with you.

Task #5 Prioritize Their Wellbeing

This is an all-encompassing idea. First, you must decide what ‘wellbeing’ involves. It’s no longer limited to compensation and benefits. Companies are having to do much more to answer questions about things like environmental, social, and governmental stands (ESG) or diversion and inclusion.

Recent news has highlighted cases, where 100-year brands have failed with certain ESG initiatives and the workforce, is not happy about it.

No doubt the new pressures on leadership teams continue to rise. In many cases 30 and 40-year veterans are simply choosing to retire rather than redirect their traditional methods of leadership. New, emerging leaders are making names for themselves by boldly taking on these challenges and guiding companies to new horizons.

The Last Question

The real question is, where do you, as a leader, stand? Are you even aware of what it might take to keep high performers satisfied? Do you care?

The management style of “My way or the highway” may be officially DEAD! I certainly hope so.

Leadership Effectiveness Can Improve Using Simple Triggers

executive leadership coaching

You can improve your leadership effectiveness with some simple triggers.

As much as I love all the science, academia, and psychology of leadership development, and believe me I follow a lot of it, I often find the biggest achievements come from simple steps. I call these triggers.

I had a client recently who was tasked with improving his executive presence. He had developed a reputation as having a somewhat short fuse when it came to interactions in the field.

In his defense, he works in a labor-intensive industry, with much of the workforce being trade skills and blue-collar. Nothing wrong with that picture other than you must understand confrontations can be ‘lively.’

My client had a tendency to meet his folks on their level whenever prompted by conflict.

As we worked through his options for changing his style and approach, we discussed specific instances and role-played the scenarios. After we had explored his options, I asked him “How do you think you will be able to affect this behavior once you’re back in the field?”

He was stumped for a moment. He really couldn’t think of ways to make it work.

The choice was simple. Either react the old way or respond with the new framework and mindset.

The Trigger

I suggested he think of a trigger. It was going to be easy to know when a confrontation was about to begin.

I asked him if he thought he could decide between two simple choices; either “on” or “off”. What I meant was, decide whether the employee reactions were “on”, as in, “I don’t like this instruction, but…. I can see why I need to do that.” That is an “on” position.

If the employee is totally opposed and becoming agitated, then the matter is “off”.

He agreed that would be easy to process.

By knowing whether the moment was on or off, he could choose to use his new methods for dealing with “off” situations.

The central theme we had landed upon was “an executive must act as he should, not as he feels.”

When circumstances were looking like they were in the “off” position, he needed to be extra diligent to be MORE executive about the situation, refrain from responding in kind, and become the peacemaker rather than another combatant.

By not forcing himself to have to think too deeply about the situation, he could rely on simple on/off logic to know which response was appropriate.

It worked very well.

Common Sense

After all my years of business and community leadership, I firmly believe there is a great deal you can accomplish as a leader with good common sense. That’s why I refer to much of my work as “Leadership Powered by Common Sense.”

Again, I love brain science, emotional intelligence, psychology, and all other facets of effective leadership study. Yet when you are in the heat of battle, you need simple, effective triggers to guide your response.

Question: What are some triggers you can use in your leadership to become a more effective leader? Leave a comment.

Also, if you are looking for ways to become a better manager, leader, or boss, check out my Best Boss Ever Challenge. I’ve pledged to connect with 10,000 business owners, managers, and leaders in 2022. Click the button below to learn more.

Rating and Ranking Employees – Yikes!

employee reviews

The month of January not only starts the new year, but it serves to end the old one. For many businesses, January sends HR folks and Managers into a frenzy trying to finalize employee reviews, ratings and rankings for the entire staff.

There are score sheets, narratives, interviews, and ‘coaching sessions’ done to inform employees how they did with the last twelve months of performance. Thousands of hours are dedicated to performing this daunting task. And to what end?

Anyone who has ever worked for a company with more than 50 employees has likely been subject to or responsible for the processing of this archaic ritual.

It’s a Littered Road

Let’s look at some history. The idea of doing such a process no doubt started with good intentions. Let’s face it, we all like some appreciation for the work we do. Furthermore, if we’ve been doing the work for a while, we feel the need to get a raise or bonus. It’s a risk/reward mindset. “I took the risk by dedicating my time and effort, so what is my reward.”

From the company’s viewpoint, if we’re going to permit merit raises for good performance, we need to be ‘fair’ in how we do that. If we have a larger population to administer, not all frontline raters will think the same, so we need layers to screen the outcomes. Hopefully (and I stress that word), the layered process can more evenly distribute the budget we allocated to the raises and bonuses.

Having said just this much, the system is already broken, right? I mean what about the individual contribution? Does it get melded and mashed into a corporate box ranked one thru ten? Or worse yet, rated one thru five? What’s the real difference between a seven and an eight, or a four and a five?

Compound this method by declaring the rankings need to be distributed on some bell curve, now you have a real mess that totally unmotivates even the best of performers. I’ve even seen “force-placed” ranking systems using scores one through 100. Managers are told you only get one person at 100 and somebody has to be the one.

From where I sit, with 40+ years of leadership experience, the rigid ranking and rating systems produce no positive outcome. It relegates your best people to ask simply, “What am I going to get paid?” Your lower performers likely already know they are slacking and the process only agitates an already bad attitude.

Throughout the year, bosses who may have thanked an employee for a good project outcome or praised them openly at a team meeting get ambushed at year-end when that employee is rated a three out of five and told “you met my expectations.” The boss rates them that way because, compared to the rest of the group, the middle of the pack is where they stand. Or, still bad news, the boss forgot about the good outcome from May when trying to rank the whole team at year-end. Yes, it happens.

A Story

Remember, I said the HR folks get hammered during these rating cycles? Here’s one for you. I got a call from an HR professional I’ve known for 20+ years. Her company had gone through major layoffs due to the COVID pandemic. The division she supports had suffered what amounted to a 33% cut in the team last year. Everything was wild and wooly for a while but seem to have settled down now.

employee review

They did their year-end performance appraisals and all the surviving people met their goals, according to the commercial software system they use for administering employee performance appraisals. The goals, by the way, were set by corporate, not by the local managers, and are lock-tight tracked and reported by the system. They apparently use a three-point system for assigning an overall score… ‘met goals’, ‘needs improvement’, or ‘move them out’. (How’s that for motivational messaging?)

Corporate called her to say that THE COMPLETED PROCESS was unacceptable. The results should have produced more of a bell curve with 2-3% of the highest-ranking at the top, and equal distributions below. By the way, it’s not clear what happened to the STANDARD bell curve with 20% at the top and bottom, 60% in the middle? She also reported she was totally confused why she wasn’t given these instructions at the beginning of the process.

So they are asking her and her managers to change the ratings after the entire process has been completed! She is about to lose her mind. All of this non-sense from a Fortune 500 that should know better. No wonder people hate HR.

In addition, you must ask yourself, what about the employees who have already been told about their standing?

That ‘Less Than’ Feeling

The whole artificial mess leaves employees with a ‘less-than’ feeling. ‘I am less than what the company wants.’ I feel ‘less than’ excited to work here.

I am convinced it is programs like this that are contributing to the Great Resignation. It’s exactly why good people are leaving what otherwise might be considered good jobs to start their own businesses or search for more employee-friendly environments. People are simply fed up with old systems, narrow mindsets, and poor evaluation systems.

Leaders at all levels must realize the need for better employee communication. Communication of expectations, clear goals, and priorities, plus fair accountability standards. It’s a huge challenge. But it can be done.

Join me in my 2022 Challenge to Be a Better Boss. Visit the challenge here.

As a bonus, here are several other articles I’ve written on this important subject.

The King of Leadership Fails – not recognizing good talent

Kill the Bell Curve – why the normalized bell curve doesn’t work in today’s market

Is Your HR Department Lying to You? – why we need to reform performance reviews

Defining Customer Service in 2022

Starting fresh in the new year might be a good time to rethink your views of customer service. For businesses of all sizes, the first question is simply “Who is my customer?”

The word customer usually applies to the end-user; the person paying for the goods or services. However, in larger corporate settings, your team’s customer may not be external at all. You may be serving an internal ‘customer.’

Either way, the notion that there is someone out there to consume or receive what you do should be important to review on a regular basis.

Small Business Coaching @ DougThorpe.com

The Myths

First, let’s do a little myth-busting about customers. Leading the list is the age-old favorite “The customer is always right.”

This myth was busted for me many years ago by Herb Kelleher, the infamous founding CEO of Southwest Airlines. Herb told a story one day.

There was this disgruntled and somewhat drunk customer waiting to board a flight at the Southwest hub in Dallas (their home). The weather had caused delays throughout the system. As one delay after another was announced, this one customer got more and more belligerent. He yelled at and belittled the gate agents. Then he event took to spewing abusive rants at fellow customers.

Finally, the flight was ready to board. He pushed his way to the front of the line, only to be greeted by two Dallas cops. They cuffed him and escorted him behind the line. The crowd in the terminal cheered.

Herb said while they (his crew at Southwest) made one customer really mad, they made 300 others very happy.

This stuck with me.

Myth #2 – ‘So long as customer needs are met, we’ve done our job well’

Supplying the customer with what they asked for is one thing, but in reality, it’s only half of the service. To build a real customer experience, it is all about how you make the customer feel — from the moment they become acquainted with your company, to the last interaction you have with them.

This includes everything from their surroundings and environment, your employees’ tone of voice, extra facilities, availability, the speed of service, and so on. Everything about the customer’s experience must be as close to perfect as possible (and yes, if something goes wrong, you can indeed still achieve this).

It is not enough to simply satisfy a customer’s primary request. The customer experience is made up of tons of micro-interactions that all influence how that person will see your brand. In short … it really is the little things that matter.

Myth #3 – ‘Our customer service should be built and governed by policies and procedures.’

Policies and procedures are indeed necessary for a business to run safely and smoothly, but following them rigidly to the letter can often be the reason a customer leaves dissatisfied. This might involve the hours that you’re open, your policy on returns, or a simple customer mistake based on human oversight. Rather than play rigidly by the rules, your employees should be empowered to make independent, on-the-spot decisions in favor of the customer, without consulting a more authoritative member of staff first.

Employee empowerment is not about breaking or ignoring the rules, but about bending the rules to keep customers happy. If employees are afraid of negative consequences such as losing salary, losing their job or simply being belittled, then your customer service will quickly become stagnant and unresponsive to customer needs. Instead, it must be creative, free-flowing, reactive, and dynamic as new solutions are sought every day.

Going out of the box to make customers happy lets them know you value their custom. It is naive to worry about what side-stepping rules and policies might cost you. These same customers are likely to return more frequently and spread the word of their experience to others, making this practice a worthy investment.

customer service

Myth #4 – ‘Low customer complaint numbers mean we are doing well.’

There are several flaws in this one. First, your complaint count might be low because your customers are too frustrated to care about reporting it.

Or, your customer service process may be so bad that the real complaints are not getting through. Either way, don’t get complacent about low complaint counts. Be sure you’re getting the right picture.

Ask questions. routinely, get in touch with your customers. Ask why they like working with you. Find out what they expect. Be sure you fully understand what they want, why they picked you, and what it will take for them to stay.

Myth #5 – ‘I can’t fire any customers. They’re too hard to find.’

This is a lie straight from Hell. A bad customer should be fired quickly. What is bad? Well, any customer who makes unrealistic demands on your time and the time of your team members. Any customer who expects to be first in line regardless of the other business you have in progress.

If you are delivering on your word and providing good service, a customer who constantly gripes and complains about the service should be fired. Plain and simple.

The time you take trying to coddle these clowns can best be used to land and support good customers.

New Year: Same Results?

Are you expecting better results but planning to do the same things? Now is the time to renew your thinking about your business. Review what worked well and what didn’t work.

Set a fresh course for where you want your business going in 2022. If you’d like to schedule a no-obligation discovery call to learn what business coaching can do for you, then click the button below.

Leaders: Setting a New Standard

best boss

Be a Better Boss

Welcome to 2022. Yes, we have entered a new year. Like many of you, I have reviewed my accomplishments and plotted a course for this new trip around the sun.

As for me, I have chosen a noble task.

I want to help 10,000 business leaders and company owners become Better Bosses. Let’s start with WHY.

For a long time, there has been a saying among HR professionals. “People join companies but quit bosses.”

Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.

The individuals who get promoted into management jobs and/or start businesses rely on chance and circumstance for ways to figure out how to lead a team. Experience tells me that most fail in some way or another.

I think it’s time we seriously focus on making our bosses be accountable for better behavior.

It’s Tradition

First, let’s be real. In western commerce and so-called ‘big business’, we have this strange tradition of promoting the brightest bulb on the string to be a supervisor when a spot comes open. The logic goes something like this.

“Sally is our best producer. She would be the best one to lead this team.”

WRONG! Instead, we usually end up ruining the best producer and frustrating the team because Sally doesn’t do well leading people. (No knock on Sally. It could be a Bill or a George here too.)

In the case of the entrepreneur, this person has an idea for a product or service. So they start a company. The idea takes off. Pretty soon the owner knows they need a bigger team to keep things going. Hiring begins and the fun starts.

Like the promoted high-performer, most small business founders seldom know how to manage people.

In both cases, you can hope for a collection of positive experiences with prior bosses to model good habits, but guess what? Those folks had their own journey arriving where they were. So did you really get a good lesson?

Nature or Nurture?

Then there is another thought. In the halls of most business schools, you can find a raging debate among academicians about whether leadership is born or bred, nature vs nurture.

I’m not going to rehash the whole debate here. Instead, I will say this. I have met and worked with clients who clearly have more natural talent to be a leader. They have a sixth sense of reading people and making decisions. They are comfortable at the podium speaking to a team or a whole organization.

These individuals do shine in positions of leadership, running companies. And, like professional athletes, they get better with coaching to help them refine the natural-born skills they seem to have.

I wanted to play sports in school. But growing quickly to six feet tall before any notion of hand-eye coordination kicked in limited my future in athletics. Obviously, I was NOT a natural-born athlete. The few things I’ve tried since then, like golf or tennis, have required hard work.

On the other hand, I have worked with clients who did not start with “natural” leadership ability. Instead, they embraced the need to be a leader. They worked hard to learn concepts, principles, and values they could use to become better leaders and, hence, better bosses.

Therefore, my observation is simply this. Some people may be born to be leaders and get better with training. Others can learn to be better leaders with the right coaching, hard work, and commitment.

Back to Human Resources

I knew a global HR professional who boldly led a charge to redesign his company’s entire HR role. His premiss said, “If we trained better managers, our people problems would go away.”

While the company didn’t accept the theory outright, they did permit him to test it with a large global project he was assigned to support. The results were never empirically proven, but the overall success was positive based on exit reviews and employee feedback.

The idea is solid. Better bosses can make a difference in the way work teams view the company. More importantly, it impacts the quality and quantity of work contributed by employees.

Today’s Situation

Add to the above factors the rapidly changing world of work today in the face of COVID lockdowns, remote working, and workforce change.

Studies are beginning to emerge wherein labor pools are voicing one common theme. People are tired of toxic cultures created by bad bosses. Here are a few of these studies:

Management teams who have historically ignored employee feedback are being systemically voted out of office. No, I don’t mean literally, because there is no such vote. But symbolically, they are receiving a “no confidence” vote from people walking off the job. The “Great Resignation” it is being called.

In essence, the modern workforce is saying “Enough!”

Should You Be Surprised?

If you are in a management position, now is the time to take action. There is always time to review what you do with your team. You can make a change.

Want to be a better boss? Here are a few tips to help get the journey started.

First, disconnect from the tradition and legacy of your company’s “less than” culture. Take a serious inventory of the standards enforced by tradition. Does the culture rely on command and control leadership styles?

More specifically, does the culture rely on any aspect of interaction that serves to diminish an employee’s status? Is it customary to always talk down to the people below you by job grade?

When an employee brings bad news, are they subjected to ridicule and admonishment?

Break that chain. Treat people with respect. No one deserves to be subjected to harsh emotional lashings for trying to do their job.

Next, decide on an intentional change in the way you look at your responsibilities.

Shift your thinking. Can you do more to represent your team? Are there better ways to show your support for them?

Then, upgrade your communication ability. Are you the best communicator you can be?

Step outside your own box for a moment and get a read on the way your messaging lands. Ask for some 360 feedback about your communication style and effectiveness.

Just because you say it, doesn’t mean people get it.

Make your communication a true two-way exchange. State your issues, then ask for feedback on the spot. You can start with a simple ask from your people, “Please tell me what I said, in your own words.”

Communication is King

Also, don’t rehearse tragedies.

This is a line I picked up from the hit TV show “Blue Bloods.” It means don’t dwell on the bad stuff going on. If something fails, make a one-time review of why, learn from it, then move on. Don’t keep dredging up the negativity.

With this also, never use a team or individual fail to justify a ‘public execution.’ Good people fundamentally know if they made an error. You as the boss, don’t have to keep reminding them of it.

Finally, learn how to read the room.

Pay attention to what is going on around you. If people seem on edge about a problem that is in front of them, you have to handle the problem first. Then you can announce a new piece of guidance or instruction. You can’t teach a sailor to tie a knot when the ship is sinking.

The New Year

Turning the page on the calendar is a great way to reset your own focus. Please take a moment to think about how you manage and lead your team.

Can you be a Better Boss? We all can do something to up our leadership game. Why not join me in making 2022 the year of the Better Boss?

Feeling Flat? Here’s How to Rekindle Your Spark for Life

upset couple in bad mood holding cups of coffee and sitting at home on christmas eve

The holidays have a way of triggering certain joyous celebrations. But for many, the holidays bring on serious downside exposure too. Here are some ways to reignite your zest for life.

Everyone feels down and lost at certain points in their life. Sometimes, this has a more obvious cause, like a break-up or failing an exam. Sometimes nothing bad has happened at all, and you’re just having a bad day. However, when those feelings start to affect your relationships, decision-making skills, and career over a prolonged period of time, it might be time to start doing something about it.

It can be quite overwhelming to know just where to start when it comes to turning your mindset around and banishing self-doubt. However, one common solution is to seek professional help in the form of a life coach. They will help uncover the root of why you’re feeling the way you are, and come up with strategies to change your day-to-day mood and more importantly your life.

Here are three ways you can find the missing piece to help overcome negative thoughts, and how a life coach could assist you along the way.

man in chair with head in hand

Get out of your comfort zone

Whether that’s signing up to a dating app and talking to new people, or confronting a phobia you’ve always had, moving out of your comfort zone can have endless benefits.

If you’ve always played it safe in terms of meeting new people, traveling to different locations, and looking for work opportunities, then you are restricting both your personal and professional development.

Instead, you need to open yourself up to new experiences that are going to allow you to make new connections and gain perspectives you otherwise wouldn’t have had. This might seem scary, but can be incredibly rewarding.

There may be a good reason why you haven’t got out of your comfort zone, such as a lack of confidence due to a past experience. Whatever the reason, life coaches will work through everything at your own pace.

They will challenge you in an empowering way so that you embrace new opportunities rather than running for the hills.

All of which is going to help you rekindle that spark for life and help you to feel more satisfied in your career and personal life as a result.

man looking over a cliff after climbing to the top

Set goals for yourself

Coasting along with no real direction is a sure-fire way to end up feeling bored in your life. After all, if you’re not working towards anything, then what do you have to look forward to? Every day will just roll into the next, which is about as fun as it sounds.

Setting personal goals can seem a daunting task. However, no goal is too small or too big. Starting off with small, easily achievable goals can help you build up greater confidence and self-belief, which can help when it comes to reaching your longer-term goals.

Now is the time to decide what you want out of life and to figure out how you’re going to get it. A life coach is the perfect professional for the job, since helping people create goals and making sure they achieve them is a big part of what they do.

typewriter setting out goals

Hold yourself accountable

It’s always the easier option in life to apportion the blame to someone or something else when things go wrong. However, taking ownership of both your mistakes and your achievements will help you to feel more in control of your own life.

Holding you personally accountable is a big part of life coaching. Coaches will turn the emphasis on you, including what has prevented you from achieving your aims in the past.

One of the most challenging yet rewarding aspects is owning up to yourself about things you could or should have done differently. While there’s no way of winding back the clock, you must recognize your own failures so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes going forward.

Accountability also extends into how you live your daily life. For example, this can include noticing when your timekeeping isn’t good enough, or that you are procrastinating. From simple bad habits to the more damaging ones, from now on if you want to rekindle your spark for life, you’re going to have to leave such unproductive traits behind.

How to Get What You Want: Negotiate Your Way to Success

team negotiating

Do you ever encounter situations when you feel very strongly about how you believe a project should be planned, carried out, or completed? Do you sometimes feel annoyed that the others involved don’t see the situation the same as you do? Here’s where good negotiation skills come in handy.

Regardless of the career you’ve chosen, there will be times you’ll find negotiation necessary. Learning this critical skill will also improve your personal relationships.

Review these tips for negotiating a situation to get the results you want:

Know your material. Avoid in-depth discussions about topics and situations that you’re not yet educated about. In advance of conversations or projects you know are coming, ensure that you understand the ins and outs of the situation at hand. Preparation is your friend in negotiation!

Listen. Keep an open mind to what the other person has to say. We’ve all had the experience of rushing in and insisting on what we want, only to discover later that it’s actually quite similar to what the other person wants (we just didn’t know that because we weren’t listening).

Find areas of agreement. With a little luck, you’ll only disagree on one or two minor points. Make a list of where you’re in concurrence and where you’re split. This will concretely illustrate how much negotiating will actually be necessary and how much you really do agree.

Talk about the issue at hand first. Avoid trying to discuss solutions until you both see the problem similarly. You’ve got to be on the same page about the issue before you can possibly be on the same page for the solution.

Keep your emotions out of it. Consider the situation as business. Remain objective at all times. Keep your cool.

Avoid intimidating behaviors and manipulative comments. If you fall back on these unsavory methods just to get your way, you lose credibility with the person with whom you’re negotiating. Then they stop being willing to listen to you.

Be honest and use integrity. If you misunderstand an element of the challenge or their proposed solution and suddenly realize it, say so. Keep your word. Respect the other person.

Ask for the other person’s ideas. Solicit suggestions from them on how to resolve the situation. Listen carefully, and be willing to implement some or all of what you hear.

Remind yourself that you’re on same side. After all, you both want to resolve the issue. If you focus on finding common threads, that will help.

State your ideas for a solution. Make your case, too; tell them why you believe it’s the way to go. For example, you could say something like, “Rather than make in-person follow-up visits once per week to new customers, I think it’s a better idea to do them monthly and use the off-weeks to follow up by phone.”

• To make your case in this example, you may follow up by saying, “This way, we’ve got time during the off-weeks to develop new customers. We’ll be widening our customer base while keeping contacts with customers we already have.”

Show flexibility. You’re two separate people with two separate sets of ideas and perspectives about the issue at hand. Avoid expecting to get your way 100%.

Learning to use effective negotiation skills will help you in accomplishing any goals you have that involve others. Skillfully listen, remain non-emotional, discover points of agreement, honestly state your ideas, and show flexibility when interfacing with others. Get what you want by putting these excellent negotiation skills to work for you!

trust at work

Make Life More Fulfilling: Discover Your Life Purpose

Do you wake up each day dreading the idea of spending another day at work? You might even feel the need to be a part of something bigger and more meaningful. If you’ve failed to discover and build your life around your life purpose, you might feel dissatisfied with your life. Determining the purpose of your life can be a simple process.

It can take a bit of work to uncover the truth, but it’s within you. It’s waiting to be unearthed and utilized.

Living a life that’s congruent with your purpose will allow you to start each day with a smile, hope, and a plan. It’s a tool for connecting with something meaningful outside yourself. Everyone has a different “why”. The trick is to determine the “why” that fits your values and talents.

If your life is in a rut, discovering your life purpose is the first step to a life filled with passion and contentment.

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

The Benefits of Discovering and Living Your Life Purpose

Maybe you hold the belief that work is called “work” for a reason. You might think that life is hard, boring, and that enjoyment is only for children and retirees. All stages of life can be meaningful and exciting. Knowing that you’re living the life that’s right for you is the key to finding enjoyment each day.

The advantages of knowing your life purpose are far-reaching:

You’ll enjoy focus and clarity. When you’re not spending your time and efforts on the things that matter to you, your focus is elsewhere. When you’re not clear on your purpose, it’s hard to make effective decisions.

Lacking direction, focus, and purpose is no way to go through life. Knowing your purpose makes life simpler.

Life will be more fun! When you know your purpose and live it each day, life has the opportunity to be more enjoyable. With your fears and doubts in the rearview mirror, you’re in a better position to enjoy yourself.

It enhances your passion for life. Spending your day on the things that are most important to you will release your passion. You’ll feel the enthusiasm you had as a child. With a compelling future and a high level of motivation, you become unstoppable. This is missing from a life without a clear purpose.

You become part of something bigger than yourself. You’ll have a sense of certainty that’s both comforting and peaceful. It’s a chance to make a big and meaningful contribution to the world.

Discovering the answer to the question, “What is the purpose of my life?” will change your life forever. How can you determine your life purpose?

As you’ll see, there are several strategies.

 “The human race is a monotonous affair. Most people spend the greatest part of their time working in order to live, and what little freedom remains so fills them with fear that they seek out any and every means to be rid of it.”

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Questions to Reveal the Purpose of Your Life

It’s impossible to find your purpose without a degree of self-reflection. Answers are the result of asking questions. Asking the right questions will provide the answers you seek. When you ask yourself questions, it’s imperative to listen to the answers. The response you receive can be very subtle and quiet. Keep an open mind.

Be sure to record your answers!

Ask yourself these useful questions:

If you only had a year to live, how would you spend it? With the clock ticking, we’re much more able to focus on the important stuff and let everything else go.

  • The things that come to mind are worthy of further consideration. Could you spend your life engaged in one of these ideas?
  • Just reminding yourself that you’re going to die one day can be helpful. The reminder that your time is limited can reduce the habit of wasting time and being indecisive.

How do you want others to remember you? What would you like your obituary to say? How would you like your children, friends, and other family members to remember you?

  • Make a conscious decision about how you’d like others to remember you and put together a plan to live that life.

What did you love to do as a child that you no longer do? As children, we’re quite clear about what we like and don’t like. In addition, younger children aren’t concerned with the perceptions of others. We do things solely because we like them when we’re 6-years old. What have you given up over the years?

  • As we become teenagers, social pressure and the need to impress others can steer us away from the things we love.
  • In young adulthood, we become overly concerned with the practicality of our choices. “Can I make enough money at this to have a decent lifestyle?”
  • With a little thought, you can find a way to make a living doing what you love. Life is short. Consider what you once loved to do and find a way to incorporate it back into your life.

What type of discomfort can I handle? Everything is awful part of the time. Living your life’s purpose will have its disadvantages. What can you handle?

  • If you dream of being an artist, musician, writer, or actor, you’ll be rejected at least 95% of the time.
  • If you want to create a law firm, you’ll spend at least a decade working 80-hours each week.
  • Do you want to be a teacher? Can you handle the parents and the children that constantly disrupt class?
  • If you can’t handle the worst aspects of pursuing your purpose, consider reconsidering your choice.

What topics and activities make you lose track of time? Have you ever gotten so involved with a conversation or an activity that you missed a meal or were amazed by how much time had passed?

  • Maybe you lose track of time when you play the guitar. However, take another step in your thinking. Is it the guitar specifically or music in general? Is it the guitar or the process of competing with yourself and seeing improvement?
  • Make a list of the times you’ve been so focused that you forgot about everything else.
  • Imagine if you had a career that incorporated this phenomenon. You’d never have to “work” another day again!

What do you dream about doing but are too afraid of? Admit it. There’s something you fantasize about, but you can’t quite get yourself to take action. It might be climbing Mount Everest, writing a screenplay, or becoming a doctor.

  • Why haven’t you taken the first step? In many cases, you’ll find your resistance to trying something new is fear. Often, it’s the fear of failing, especially failing in front of others.
  • Keep in mind that the only way to become good at something is to work through the initial period of being bad at it. It’s unlikely that your first script will be purchased. In fact, it will probably be awful. But the next attempt will be better. It takes time to become good at a new skill.
  • The more embarrassment you can handle, the greater your ultimate success.

How could you best serve the world? Of all the challenges that exist in the world, how could you best solve one of them?

  • True happiness requires contributing to something outside yourself.
  • It’s not possible to solve any of the world’s problems alone. You’ll be forced to work constructively and creatively with others. This could be the kind of fulfillment you seek.
  • Make of list of all the ways your skills, interests, and talents could benefit the world in a meaningful way.

Did you ask yourself every question? Did you record your answers?

How can you use the answers to enhance your life?

Introspection is a necessary part of finding your life purpose. Ask yourself the important questions and listen to the answers.

“A small change can make a big difference. You are the only one who can make our world a better place to inhabit. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand.”

– Ankita Singhal

7 More Questions to Reveal Your Life Purpose

If the above approaches haven’t satisfied your quest, there are additional questions you can answer. While meditation and writing can be highly effective, some of us have greater success with more conventional means. Avoid giving up. There’s too much at stake to stop.

Spend a few minutes on each question before moving on to the next:

What are your greatest regrets? Which missed opportunities do you regret the most? Is there a skill you wish you had started learning years ago? What decisions would you change if given a second chance?

  • What career would choose if you could go back in time and be 18-years old again? Is it really too late now?

Who inspires you the most? Think about the people that fill you with feelings of respect and admiration.

  • What is it about them that inspires you? Could you incorporate some of these same qualities in yourself? Could you live a similar life?

What are your natural talents? In what areas have you always excelled? Do you understand complex ideas? Is it your social skills? Are you musically talented? Are you compassionate and considerate?

  • While you can learn to be good at anything, you can save a lot of time if you’re able to put your natural abilities to work. Imagine the progress you’d make after 10 years of effort using your natural abilities rather than starting from scratch.
  • If you believe that you were born with a particular purpose, it only makes sense that the necessary talents would be provided to you, too.

What makes you feel good about yourself? If you could spend most of your time doing things that make you feel great, your life would be pretty wonderful!

  • Create a list of all the things you do that make you feel good about yourself.

If you had to teach a subject, what would you choose? It’s only enjoyable to teach subjects that you like. The subject you’d like to teach is a good candidate for your life purpose.

In what areas do people ask you for help? Most of us wouldn’t ask a homeless person for stock tips. We ask people for advice that we believe have a level of expertise higher than our own.

  • Do others constantly ask you for relationship advice?
  • Do people ask you about spiritual matters?

Imagine you’re 80-years old, what memories do you want to have? Imagine you’re sitting on your front porch swing. What would you like to claim as your past? What type of relationships would you like to have experienced? What do you want to have accomplished?

  • How can you make this ideal past become your present?

You now have a good idea of your life purpose. The next step is determining how to incorporate the knowledge into your life. Ideas are the easy part. It’s the implementation that’s challenging.

“As the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”

– Viktor E. Frankl

Make Your Purpose a Part of Your Life

It’s great that you’ve narrowed down your primary reason for living, but how can you use that knowledge? Knowing something has minimal value if you’re not applying the knowledge. Focus on making small changes to your daily habits. Slow progress is the most reliable way to create major change in your life.

Let’s suppose your purpose is to help illiterate adults to read:

Look to the future. What does the end of your journey look like? Are you sitting at the library, helping someone learn to read? Are you in charge of a charity that serves those unable to read? Are you asking Bill Gates for $10,000,000 to fight for your cause?

What can you do today to get started? Starting is always the hardest part. What can you do today?

  • Learn more about illiteracy. What are the statistics? What are the causes? What is the best way to teach an adult to read?
  • What local resources are available? Can you contact them for advice?
  • Could you put an ad in Craig’s List and get started helping someone today?

Remind yourself of your purpose each day. Each morning and evening, take a minute to remind yourself of your purpose. Look to the future and feel excited. This is especially important on those challenging days that inevitably happen from time to time.

Track your progress. Keep a journal and list your successes and failures. How can you experience more successes and prevent future failures? Appreciate how far you’ve come.

Spread the word. If you’ve found your purpose in life, it’s your obligation to let the world know about it. How can you communicate the importance of adult illiteracy to the world? You’re not just a worker on this project. You’re also a messenger.

Realize that making a big difference requires big effort and time. Avoid letting the magnitude of your dreams overwhelm you. A little work and attention each day are cumulative. Your progress will shock you.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

– Seneca

In Conclusion

Finding your life purpose changes the direction and emphasis of your life. If you haven’t taken the time to determine the purpose of your life, the quality of your experience on Earth has been limited. There are many advantages to discovering your unique purpose.

Introspection is a part of making this discovery. Self-reflective questions, meditation, and writing are all potential options. Use every method at your disposal until you’re satisfied with the answer you receive.

Today, more than ever, it’s possible to make a living doing a wide variety of things. You can live in Alaska and give tuba lessons to a student in Miami via skype. You can publish your own book without the need for a traditional publisher. There is a way to make a living while being true to your life purpose.

Find your purpose and reclaim your life.

If you need some help to explore these and other questions bout your personal purpose, I can help.

Accountability. What a Concept.

accountability

Yet who can really define it? Let’s take a look at leadership accountability.

Google the word and you get some interesting thoughts. Here are a few.

Accountability eliminates the time and effort you spend on distracting activities and other unproductive behavior. When you make people accountable for their actions, you’re effectively teaching them to value their work. When done right, accountability can increase your team members’ skills and confidence.

Accountability means living in integrity, with all your thoughts, words, and actions are consistent with one another and in alignment. Commitment is one thing, but accountability is vital to sustaining long-term success

In other words, the term doesn’t mean punishment; instead, it describes a willingness to accept responsibility for our own actions and their impact.

Henry Evans, the author of Winning with Accountability, defines it as “Clear commitments that — in the eyes of others — have been kept.” Here, the phrase “in the eyes of others” is key. In our organizations, accountability is not just about making and keeping commitments — it is also about transparency. When we make our commitments visible to our teammates, everyone is empowered to ask follow-up questions, check on progress, and help move work forward.

The Rub

Marine LTC Stuart Scheller has made news by denouncing his chain of command in Afghanistan for allowing the bombing at the Kabul Airport that resulted in the deaths of 13 U.S. Service members. He has gone so far as to resign his commission and forego his full retirement after 20+ years in the Corps.

Scheller’s basic call to action is to return to accountability in leadership. From his view, commanders were demanding accountability from subordinate troops yet abdicating their own accountability…

..all the way to Washington, D.C. His contention is that leaders (anywhere) must themselves be accountable.

I happen to agree with Scheller. My sense is that our political leaders (all of them, both parties) have abandoned basic principles of accountability. They have built systems and agencies to shield their collective actions to cover up any true visibility of the ramifications of their choices and actions.

What is any American able to do to connect all of the dots? When an executive order is issued, how can any of us really know the impact it has, whether positive or negative?

If you happen to have voted for the party in office all you can do is hope they are doing the things you thought they promised you. But are they? Where’s the accountability?

In recent years I’ve heard frequent mention of how overwhelming various Bills that have come out of Congress may be. Speaker Pelosi herself was once asked, “Do you know everything in this Bill?” Her reply was “No, let’s see what happens.” Really? That my friends, is not much accountability.

Power Corrupts

There is an old saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I’ve experienced that myself on a very small scale. When I was a young Lieutenant in the Army, I was put in temporary command of a troop unit with some 450 soldiers who were assigned for training. Under the terms of the UCMJ (the Uniformed Code of Military Justice), I had simultaneous powers as prosecutor, judge, and jury.

If a soldier committed an infraction, they were brought to my ‘court.’ It became intoxicating for me. I could levy penalties, garnish wages, demote rank and impact a wide range of punitive actions. Unchecked I could seriously influence those under my command.

But for me, personally, I had a commitment to God. I was a Christian with real beliefs in a much higher power than my own. I was accountable to Him for what I might do to others here.

That accountability was called into action one day when I was feeling particularly smug about my command and the powers of the UCMJ. I won’t go into all the details, but the significance of the moment was that I checked in on my accountability. I was reminded of the vows and promises I had made to God about being the person He wanted me to be.

Invoking all the strength and might of a code written by other men (the UCNJ) was not the standard I was being called to honor. I changed my mindset about power. I was humbled to realize the code was important but had to be administered with honor and human decency. Yes, discipline could be applied, but the soldier who was subject to that discipline needed to be redeemed.

The Elected Career “Leader”

Anyone who has engaged in elected office as a career cannot possibly have the same sense of balance. How can I say that? I say it because I have known several Congressmen and Senators in my day. The ones who live by higher standards don’t make Washington a career. They go, serve, and try to impact the system. But in the end, they retreat.

They don’t run for re-election after a few terms. The system beats them down. They run headlong into the reality that to survive there, you must compromise everything. You cannot live by the higher standards. You cannot permit total transparency.

Why? Because deals must get made for the ‘system’ to work. Those deals are not always good for the constituents you say you represent. There is no leadership accountability. Those deals may not represent the real values you intend to live by.

This gets us back to leadership accountability.

Will your actions stand the test of the words you speak? Real leaders, elected or not, are accountable. In fact, they demand it. First of themselves and then from others.

Lead by example is an easy phrase to utter. But living by it day by day is a much bigger challenge. We need leaders who are accountable.

LTC Scheller, I am with you Sir. Soldier on!

The Truth Is in the Middle

Conflict resolution is a natural part of running a business; any business. Conflicts happen with customers, colleagues, and employees. In your personal life, you see conflict popping up at home with your spouse or your kids. Family dynamics can be a big source of conflict. Simply said, conflict is eveywhere.

As a coach, I get asked about dealing with conflict on a regular basis. My first answer is an old saying I was taught many years ago.

“The truth is in the middle.”

Seldom are you perfectly right or wrong. It is not very often that you are completely spot on with a solution. Instead there are always other considerations to weigh.

When two opposing ideas collide, the moment can be emotionally charged. One side can feel indignant if the other has dared to oppose the idea. The situation becomes a fight to the death.

It simply doesn’t have to be that way.

Emotionally mature leaders learn to look at conflict more objectively. Rather than jump immediately to one side or the other, the smart leader hears the arguments, then weighs the merits of each before making a decision.

Really great leaders seek the truth in the middle first. But if a settlement is still not there, you can move to this next idea.

The Marriage Bed

No relationship in life can be more complex than the marriage of a couple. Two otherwise independent souls agree to join together to become one couple.

On one hand it’s the definition of compromise. I give something up and you give something up so we can be together. Said outloud it sounds very unworkable.

However, to better understand the ways to solve conflict at work, I am going to borrow a guide from the Gottman Institute, an organization dedicated to helping marriages and families.

Drs. John and Julie Gottman present this exercise will help partners to make headway into the perpetually gridlocked problems you face in your relationship. It requires compromise.

Therefore the real question is about how can we reach a compromise?

The Art of Compromise

Step 1: Consider an area of conflict where you and your partner are stuck in perpetual gridlock. Draw two ovals, one within the other. The one on the inside is your Inflexible Area and the one on the outside is your Flexible Area.

Step 2: Think of the inside oval containing the ideas, needs, and values you absolutely cannot compromise on, and the outside oval containing the ideas, needs, and values that you feel more flexible with in this area. Make two lists.

Step 3: Discuss the following questions with your partner that feels most comfortable and natural for the two of you:

  • Can you help me to understand why your “inflexible” needs or values are so important to you?
  • What are your guiding feelings here?
  • What feelings and goals do we have in common? How might these goals be accomplished?
  • Help me to understand your flexible areas. Let’s see which ones we have in common.
  • How can I help you to meet your core needs?
  • What temporary compromise can we reach on this problem?

Applying these principles to a business situation may take some other thinking.

From a career standpoint, compromise is something that one must become comfortable with, particularly in leadership roles. Whether it’s negotiating a new contract with a vendor, discussing a potential new business venture, resolving a complaint or trying to reach an important business decision, mastering the art of compromise is key.

Compromise 6

Here’s how to do so effectively without giving up too much or putting yourself in a bad position.

First understand what is at stake. Prioritize the key issues in your own mind. Evaluate the real significance of the issue first.

Next, determine the potential outcomes. What will ultimately happen if you give in or stand your ground? How much of an impact would compromising have on your business? In many cases, you’ll likely find that giving in won’t have many repercussions at all.

Draw a mental line in the sand. Know your limits, focus on what is key to your longer term goals and vision.

Next, Genuinely listen. Stephen R. Covey encouraged seeking the win-win position. You have to listen carefully to find the opportunities for the win for each party.

Then, give something worthwhile. Recognize that the other party is also going to need to compromise to some degree. To reach that middle ground, you’ll need to be willing to give your opponent something worthwhile.

Finally, always be professional. When it comes to compromise, there’s always going to be those situations in which the results aren’t as favorable as you’d have liked. Regardless of outcome, it’s imperative that you maintain the utmost professionalism at all times.

Leadership Values

Becoming a leader who is effective at managing conflict and achieving compromise is easier than you think. However, it takes intentional effort, focused on facts not emotions. Other articles in my blog address these topics too.

Be a leader who is dedicated to delivering value. Value your people. Provide them with value day by day. Enrich and influence the lives of those around you. Lead your people to overcome the conflicts. That will become your legacy as a leader.