Want Real Change? Don’t Take the Scenic Route

avoid the scenic route

If you are thinking about making a change at work, at home or for yourself, don’t take the scenic route.

We’ve all done it. You went on a trip. Somewhere along the way you see signs for the scenic route. So you take a detour.

You begin traveling down smaller, winding roads. You see fewer cars, trucks and congestion. While the views are truly magnificent, you run into road blocks.

Maybe the blockage is road repair where the lane is closed and you have to wait for oncoming traffic to drive by while you wait your turn to go.

flagman ahead, road sign

Or where I live, in Texas, side roads will always have slow moving farm equipment; tractors or trailers hauling something. They move at 20 miles an hour if I’m lucky.

What could have been a beautiful drive in the country turns into frustration and delay.

Looking for a Change

I met a new coaching prospect this past week. She owned a nice sized business that had been operating 12 years. She was well past the start-up phase.

What she told me about was her frustration with the way her people operated. She felt she couldn’t rely on anything without close supervision. She wanted a change without firing everyone and starting over.

After learning a good deal about her situation, I explained my team coaching model to her. That is what she had called for in the first place.

woman leader at peace

When she finally asked how long would this take, I shared the time frame; six months. It would be a direct and intentional process of implementing new standards, methods, accountability, and measurements.

Six months may seem long, but for her it would be the super-highway version of the change she’d need to turn her business around. After all, it would have required engaging all of her employees, changing their behaviors and expectations.

Compared to the 12 years she had been building the simmering mess she had, my recommendation was super-sonic.

Despite my best effort to explain how this process can help and has helped many other small businesses like hers, she decided she needed something else. She could not name what that was, but, in her mind, my approach would not fit.

She sent herself on the scenic route.

Common Mistake

Change of any kind can be hard. We hear that. We believe that. And it is if you take the scenic road.

Identifying the change that should be made can be easy. “I need to lose 20 pounds.”

But making it happen takes all kinds of detours, redirects, pauses, stops and starts. It is the scenic route.

Taking the scenic route creates distractions. Some may be welcomed distractions to take our mind off of how hard the change seems to be.

But if you keep allowing the detours, pauses and distractions, you arrive at some point down the road with no change at all.

Getting It Done

I’ve had the privilege to work with larger, more global companies where implementing change can be very hard. “It’s hard to turn a battleship” they say.

Yet for leaders who get laser focused on the change they want and the ‘case for change’, they make every subsequent move very intentionally.

Here is a list of the practices great leaders follow to avoid the scenic routes and get things done.

First, create a crystal clear vision of what is to come. Be able to explain the “future state” in clear detail.

Next, rally the team. Your team may have been operating well with former standards and processes, but change may require them to step out of that comfort. As their leader, you must reinforce the case for change and help them rise to the change.

Then, monitor your progress, keeping in mind all change has an “S” curve element to it. The S curve of change describes leaving the status quo, dipping into a bit of chaos, then slowly rising above and beyond to former state to achieve new things.

S-curve

Parts of your staff may be falling behind further than others as the “S” unfolds. Keep an eye on that. Coach and mentor individuals to help them make the change.

Also, you will need to make adjustments. In the team change model “Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing”, the ‘norming’ part is about settling into the change. But it takes adjustment to be sure the right pieces are fitting into place.

Lastly, and this is one far too many managers forget, celebrate the WIN. When the change is up and running, have a victory dance. Celebrate with the team. Acknowledge the contributions.

Use these steps wisely to effect change when you need it. You’ll be glad you stayed off the scenic route.

PS – I love taking the scenic routes when I have absolutely nowhere to be and plenty of time to get there. I’ve seen some amazing sights.

executive coaching by Doug Thorpe

Dodge, Duck, Dip, Dive, and Dodge

white-goodman-and-his-old-pal-peter-la-fleur

In the classic feel-good movie “Dodge Ball”, legend Patches O’Houlihan, played by Rip Torn, yells these 5 words at the misfits of “Average Joe’s Gym”. That gym is owned by Peter LaFleur (Vince Vaughn). The gym is in debt and needs $50,000 to avoid being gobbled up by “Globo Gym” owned by the villain, White Goodman (Ben Stiller).

The solution is a challenge to an epic dodge ball championship. Patches is a legend in the game. Peter gets Patches to coach his gang to help them beat the bad guys.

“Dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge” sums up the ‘best’ coaching Patches can offer about how to play and win at dodge ball. But it works.

The Game

Life these days seems like a big game of dodge ball. None of us knows what may be coming at us next.

Leaders have an even bigger challenge trying to run their own life while looking out for the people around them.

We wake up each day, facing news about changes in COVID-19 numbers, possible cures, testing, social injustice, partisan politics, upcoming elections, economic impact, and oh by the way, figuring out how to provide schooling and child care.

Somewhere in all this, we have to get work done. The old norms just don’t apply. Standing still does not feel like a good option, yet where can we go?

The Leader’s Role

It’s too easy to simply say ‘no one has ever seen this before, so leadership is frozen.’ I categorically disagree.

Leadership should be thriving in this chaos. Good leaders should be rallying the teams, engaging and encouraging.

You don’t need to know the perfect answers, but you can offer perfect peace.

Many if not all of my clients are talking about the extraordinary challenges they are facing. There are pressures at work to create a new normal while wrestling economic impact in all sectors.

Plus there are pressures at home to handle childcare, at-home schooling and still get business related tasks done, it’s clearly overwhelming. (Not to mention round the clock co-inhabiting with the entire family.)

Even the best of relationships can be suffering.

What to Do

First, I encourage you to stay calm. Stop paying attention to the media outlets; all of them. Find a reliable source you can trust for news and updates, but avoid all other bombardment from the mainstream media. They hype and sensationalism will drive you mad.

Next, huddle with your teams. That includes family, friends and work associates. Obviously, not all at the same time, but separately, gather the teams and have huddles to talk about the situation.

Circumstances will change over time. A healthy discussion about each and every member of the team keeps them balanced and engaged. You may need to talk a few ‘off the ledge’ from time to time. But if you genuinely care about your people, you will invest the time to have the huddles.

As an example, I’ve been working with a group of small business owners. Before COVID-19, we met monthly. Once the pandemic escalated, they asked if we could meet weekly, which we have done. They all report that these routine huddles help them re-center their thoughts and ideas about what is happening.

Personal Purpose

Lastly, reconnect with your sense of personal purpose. If you believe in higher powers, strengthen that connection first. Call on the inner peace of knowing you are here for a purpose. Return to that core. Rekindle those values.

If you would like to know more about finding your personal purpose drop me note in the comments or schedule a short introductory call.

In the face of all that is going on, if you will consider these three simple things, you won’t feel like you’re playing dodge ball or have a retired coach throwing wrenches at you!

business consulting

Change by Choice or by Chance

choice vs chance

As I look back on my career, the major milestones are combinations of things done by choice and some by chance.

I would like to claim I had made all of my decisions by choice, not chance. That simply would not be true. Regardless of the reason for making a move, in all cases, change was the common requirement.

Whether I made a job change or location move by choice, change was there. The occasional chance happenings still required some form of change on my part.

3c concept - choice, chance and change

Planning

You can try to plan your career (and I encourage everyone to do so), but some things happen by chance that alter the course of the best laid plans. Circumstances can change in an instant when companies get acquired or spun off.

Market crashes and economics alter what would have been the plan. Layoffs happen and lives are changed. Or you get unexpectedly recognized for an accomplishment and you are whisked off to another assignment.

Big change can occur almost instantly. The question is what are you going to do with such a change?

After my book “The Uncommon Commodity” was released, I got this note from a longtime friend and college buddy:

For some reason your book has pulled a one liner out of my sub-conscience, which is “if you don’t like the result, change something”.

My Dad hammered into my brother and me that one of the biggest constants in your life is CHANGE. The way he said it is “you will find the only thing that won’t change for the rest of your lives is CHANGE” or “the only thing in life that is constant is CHANGE”. He would follow that with “the better you are at adapting to change and solving problems, the better off you will be”.

Great principal no doubt, but I have found that effecting change within ourselves (I should just say within me since that is all I have control over) is very difficult. Sometimes we have to be inspired and sometimes we have been trying to make changes, but, for whatever reason, have not been successful in either making any change or in making effective changes. The human tendency to stay with or return to what we are comfortable with is a very strong instinct and quite often prevents us from making effective change.

And finally, sometimes we humans want to make changes, but don’t have the knowledge to make the best or most effective changes. That seems to be where encouragement, mentoring and life coaching stands to be most effective.

Change is a Brain Thing

When faced with change, our bodies go into a fight or flight mode. Using an extreme example, when our cavemen forefathers were surprised by a wild beast in the woods, THAT was an immediate change. In just a nanosecond, they had to decide whether to fight or flee.

Our bodies have a natural mechanism to react to sudden change. It’s part of our survival instincts. Our brains drive that response mechanism.

In our current more modern setting, science has proven we can alter our thought patterns to manage our response to many things, chief of which is our reaction to change.

In 1949, Donald Hebb, a Canadian neuropsychologist known for his work in the field of associative learning, coined the phrase “Neurons that fire together , wire together.” Hebb’s axiom reminds us that every experience, thought, feeling, and physical sensation triggers thousands of neurons, which form a neural network. When you repeat an experience over and over, the brain learns to trigger the same neurons each time.

44957814 - concept of human intelligence with human brain on blue background

Awareness of the need for change can allow each of us to condition our thought habits to respond more positively in the face of change rather than negatively.

Old Habits Die Hard

Practical experience tells me that old habits die hard. I’ve coached way too many professionals who simply freeze like deer in headlights when major change comes their way.

Events happening more by chance than choice have a greater probability to triggering the wrong response.

At least when you’ve made a choice to do something, the change factor is mitigated by your own thought process to get there (through the change). However, an event happening by chance is a whole different story.

Therefore, when a sudden change happens by chance, your response mechanism needs to be trained to handle the change. People who perpetually struggle to accept change will be routinely thrown out of balance by the chance happenings in their life.

How are you equipped to deal with change in your life? Share some insights.

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Here’s a video I shot talking about this choice versus chance dimension.

The 5 C’s of a Trusted Leader

Trusted leader image

Successful leaders build trust. Building trust is something you must do. Trust underpins every relationship in the workplace – between boss and employee, between colleagues, and between businesses.

Trust isn’t something that is inherent; it must be forged through consistent action. While there are many ways to become a trusted leader, here are some recurring themes. I’ll call them the “Five Cs.”

Commitment, connection, compassion, consistency, and competency

Commitment

A committed leader is someone who is loyal to the cause, the vision, and the team. They persevere despite setbacks.

When a leader is committed, they build the trust of those around them by staying present, engaged, and positive. Commitment is the number one thing a leader can demonstrate to build trust.

Connection

A trustworthy leader is connected to those who look up to him. They resist the temptation to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind. Nor will they become neglectful of those who depend upon him.

They never come off as distant or detached in their leadership role. There is a willingness to take some time away from their daily commitments to get to know their team members in a meaningful way.

Therefore, this helps the team see the Leader as a trusted person who cares about them and values their involvement.

Compassion

A great leader gets to know their employees, listens to their concerns, and responds in a meaningful way – each and every time.

This doesn’t mean coddling them. A trustworthy leader expects their team members to perform their jobs professionally. But a trusted leader knows that no one is perfect. People make mistakes, suffer hardships, and sometimes just need to know that someone cares.

A great leader “has the back” of each member of her team.

Consistency

Consistency for a leader is key. A trusted leader maintains a calm and collected demeanor, even under fire. Their staff are therefore more likely to approach the Leader with their great ideas, as well as with their legitimate concerns.

By maintaining consistent expectations, and reacting in a consistent manner, he/she builds trust with his team.

Competency

An impactful leader invests time in getting to know the issues, expands skills, and participates in continuous learning. He/she doesn’t pretend to be an expert in all things.

They surround themselves with skilled, knowledgeable people and relies on their expertise. Employees trust the leader for being straightforward and honest.

The Sixth “C”

There is actually one more “C”. That is communication. A great leader communicates clearly, concisely, and coherently.

TEAM TRUST

If you want to know even more about diving into the Black Box of building trust within your team, I have a dedicated model that explains a proven process. This model has been used by Fortune 100 companies as well as small businesses of many types. To learn more, visit the story of Building High Trust HERE.

Team Trust
Team Trust

Why Do Bad Bosses Always Win?

confused minds say no

Doesn’t it seem like the bad guys frequently get the promotions and advancements at work? Have you ever wondered why or how that happens?

First let’s clear out one issue. Just because I don’t like my boss, that doesn’t mean he.she is bad. It takes a wide range of experience and observation to declare a boss bad. But some of them make the decision so easy.

OK, so yes, there are often bad bosses at work. They keep getting promoted. But why?

Authority Rules

As much as we hate to admit it, we still operate most business in a hierarchical structure. Somebody has to have ht final say in what gets done. So we build org charts to describe who has what power.

The power of the position is never a replacement for good leadership. Too often the person who gets to sit in a particular box on the org chart is not worthy of the power that comes with the position.

Authority is often given a “free ride”. We feel stuck or even powerless to confront bad management. We wait for the process to take them down, but seldom does that happen.

Bullying and Intimidation

If you have a boss that is just the adult version of the neighborhood bully, you have a big problem.

Yet just like that mean kid on the playground, boss bullies carefully pick targets for bullying, knowing full well that the targets are unlikely to retaliate, and bystanders will not intervene because they fear becoming the next target.

overwhelmed

Poor Organizational Process

Companies with a large number of bad bosses have very poor systems in place to manage people. If the rating process for managers does not accurately and effectively get stakeholder feedback, then bad behaviors can survive.

If there is no accountability for employee satisfaction and turnover, then poor managers get to keep doing the bad things they do.

Bad Bosses Don’t Have to Violate Employee Rights

Someone can be a bad boss by just failing to create an environment for people to grow. Their actions do not have to be obvious attacks on character, gender, or ethnicity.

I’ve known a few really bad bosses who were not racist nor sexist. They were just bad. They made poor decisions, didn’t hear people, and generally failed at inspiring anyone.

I once had a boss who never rated his people any higher than he was rated. He didn’t get rated very well. Let’s call it a C+. Working for him meant you’d get a C+ if you were lucky.

I and two of my peers were in the same boat. It took us the first year of rating to figure him out. All three of us were producing record high returns, metrics and deliverables, yet we could never get past a C+. We did what most people do, we tried harder the next year and delivered yet again, but got the same poor ranking.

That impacted raises and bonuses. It was a terrible two years in my career until he got moved elsewhere. He was just bad. Actually, a nice guy, but a terrible boss.

Speaking Truth to Power

We all know how hard it can be to try to speak up, especially when it is ‘up the organization.’ There is a concept called “Speaking Truth to Power.” There are studies around the subject. See “Emperor Has No Clothes.

In September 2015 the leadership team at Volkswagen was shamed by an issue regarding emissions that was known about by some employees, but not spoken up about (or listened to) effectively.

The previous month an animated Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, announced that he did ‘not recognize’ the ‘bruising culture’ and the consequent accusations voiced against his organization by employees and reported in a New York Times article.

In the July 2016 report by the UK Financial Reporting Council, ‘Corporate Culture and the Role of Boards’, the following observations and recommendations were made that directly address the issue of speaking truth to power:

“Good governance means a focus on how [openness and accountability at every level] takes place throughout the company… A healthy ‘speak up’ culture breaks down the barriers that can often exist between the workforce and the board… A key ingredient of a healthy culture is a willingness on the part of senior management to listen to their employees… Employees usually want their organization to succeed, and have good ideas about how to make this happen… A culture of engagement and ‘permission’ is required for employees to feel able to voice their ideas and concerns.”

Leadership development programs focus on developing specific skills to address conversational situations experienced as problematic, for instance training for ‘difficult conversations’. They train leaders to be ‘impactful’ in what they say, valiantly attempting to introduce coaching skills to executives who have paradoxically been promoted based on their individual capacity to ‘know answers’.

Whistle Blowing

Meanwhile the issue of challenging authority is increasingly addressed through whistle blowing procedures, part of continuing attempts to control certain conversations through formal processes.

Yet it would be far more productive if companies didn’t have to wait on whistle blowers, but relied instead on their employees to speak openly and candidly.

The Entrepreneur’s Plight

In small business, the egocentric owner can be a stumbling block for truth at work. After all, it is their idea and their company, so how can anyone confront the owner?

Usually this is nothing more than inflated ego getting in the way of good management and leadership.

What Can You Do?

When you want to confront a bad boss or speak truth to power, several key questions come up.

  • What happens in the moment of choice of whether to speak up or stay silent?
  • How does an appreciation of the complexities of this moment inform effective leadership?
  • How might individuals make more informed choices regarding speaking up?

Here are some key principles to think about if you are the one needing to speak up.

Conviction – How strongly you believe in the value of your opinion. Pick your battles.

Risk Awareness – Do you have a realistic grasp of the consequences of speaking up. In a healthy environment, these risks are low, always.

Political Awareness – Do you understand the political games being played inside your company? Can you navigate that swamp?

Social Awareness – Understanding of how to work within the social climate around you so that people will listen.

Judgement – Some call is discernment. Knowing what to say, who to say it to, and when.

We Live in a BLURT World

The rise of social media has created a BLURT World. What is that? You just blurt something out whenever you feel like it without regard to any of the key principles above.

When you blurt, there is no consideration for your real conviction on the topic. Likely no assessment of the risks included with the comment.

Definitely, there is no social awareness (Ironic isn’t it that lack of social awareness happens on ‘social’ media.)

The habits we create for our behaviors on social media will spill over into the workplace. It’s unavoidable.

Conclusion

Sure, we all have bad bosses. To help solve the problem, employees at all levels need to be able to be heard.

However, there is a catch. To enable a positive and productive conversation or to be heard at all, there are principles that need to be followed.

The next time you hear someone shouting about injustice or fair treatment, see if any of these principles are being followed.

By the way, in my coaching, every time my client has trouble in the workplace with the bad boss, I never forget to remind them, they can leave. It’s true in domestic violence, it’s true at work.

If you firmly believe the system is severely flawed, you just may need to leave.

Author’s Note: Special thanks to Ron Riggio for reminding me of this need to address bad bosses. Also, thanks to the good folks at Hult Research, specifically Megan Reitz and John Higgins for their amazing study on the ability to speak truth to power. Lastly, my good friend George Head at LHH for keeping me inspired to help others with this important topic.

Please! Keep Your Pants On

america, keep your pants on

It was inevitable. People would start writing posts about the mask requirements to protect against Corona-virus.

I’ve been amused at several I’ve seen pop up that start something like this.

I don’t like wearing pants.

I keep my pants off at home.

When I go outside, I put my pants on to avoid making others uncomfortable.

I don’t like wearing masks.

I never wear a mask at home.

When I go outside….

You get the idea. Clearly for many, mask wearing is no big deal. Just do it so you can be a good citizen, help yourself while helping others. (Your Mamma raised you right.)

However, for others mask wearing is violating some kind of rights. We have the video posts of people absolutely loosing their minds at a store when the greeter reminds them to wear a mask. I’ve seen a young Mom dumping a full shopping cart. I’ve seen a 60-something grandpa almost crush a greeter.

It seems we’ve all lost our collective minds.

Oh No!

Yes, I get it that the unknown of all this COVID-19 has caused grief and suffering for so many. Those emotions are real.

We’ve had an unprecedented outcry over social injustice, which, granted, could use a lot of work. This alone has caused a backlash of anger and hostility in people who are otherwise pretty calm neighbors.

People seem just angry and upset; about EVERYTHING.

What’s the deal people? Keep your pants ON!

What happened to being able to have a civilized discussion about the problems? What does taking a nice neighborhood and burning it to the ground do for the cause? What about the shop owners and small business people who worked their whole life to build something only to have it torched in the wake of a ruthless crowd who has lost all respect for their fellow humans?

Aw crap. Nobody wants to hear me talk about this. Sorry. My soapbox was close by and I couldn’t help myself.

Sadly, there is no talking with some. For whatever reason, we have a generation of new thinkers getting airtime, raising hostilities, and demanding change in a system they haven’t even studied.

I do not believe they represent the wishes of the larger population. Yet for the sake of sensationalism they get the visibility. They get to speak for the masses when there are millions of hard working ethnic groups just going to work. Perhaps even a second job. But these choose to work hard to make the difference they desire. They won’t burn anything or tear anything down. They’re too busy going to work.

The Commitment

My commitment to you, my readers, is to find objective nuggets in the common sense life we share. Nuggets that can help you be better managers and leaders at work. In today’s crazy world, my simple common sense idea is this….

Keep your pants on.

Keep your head on straight. Do what you can right where you are. Be a person who can stand up for solid principles without encroaching on the rights of others. Find a balance for diversity and inclusion.

Take comfort in knowing that not every one of your neighbors agree with what you hear on the news. I’ve turned off my news. It’s unreliable and inflammatory.

Stay away from those who only want to get you worked up. I saw a great post this week that said “Why would I pay attention to anyone who I wouldn’t otherwise ask for advice?”

I’ll close with this. One of the best words of advice I ever heard was to “Harness your mind’s attention with your heart’s affection.”

minds attention hearts affection

Take the passions you have in your heart and align them with the power of your brain. Or conversely, be sure the capabilities you have for thinking critically and problem solving can be used for the good that may be in your heart.

We will always have outliers in our lives. There will always be those who cannot or will not accept authority. But for the larger majority who do, be a leader who gives them something to respect and aspire to. Keep your mind and heart aligned for a greater good. Never lose sight of the prize.

Keep our pants on.

How Ping Pong Can Save Your Relationships

ping pong to save your relationship

You could be nicer and help-out a little more around the house, but your wife has been such a pain lately. She just doesn’t seem very happy– about anything.

She complains about where you park at the grocery store, ALWAYS has a better idea, and your sex life seems like a distant memory. She also doesn’t seem to appreciate the pressures you are under at work and you are starting to wonder,

“Who are you and what have you done with my wife?”

This is not an uncommon situation.

Picture each of your daily interactions with your spouse as a game of table tennis—you know, ping-pong, like the table you had set-up in the garage as a kid. Here’s how ping pong can save your relationships.

Visualize each thing you say to your spouse as a serve. You comment; your wife volleys back a response; you respond, and so on. Easy, right?

Now ask yourself. What kind of things are you saying in your serves and volleys? Are they positive, complimentary, helpful, and loving or are they rocket-like slams designed to burn the corners of the table, defeating your competition?

It’s a vicious cycle you know… trying to win every point, even when you are “right” and justified in your beliefs (“I park this far out to try and prevent door dings to your new car, lady!”).

Quality of Moments

Indulge my ping-pong analogy one more step, please. Visualize the quality of the comments made during the serve and volley, over time, as either positive and uplifting, raising the level of the game; or as negative, harming the relationship, lowering the level of the table.

The danger of lowering the game, of course, is that the table can become so low that one or both you simply decide it is no longer worth their time and energy to play. Remember that the opposite of love is not always hate. It can be fatigue induced indifference.

So you serve up something sincere (that’s important) and positive like, “Hey, you really look nice today,” and she returns that serve with something less than positive,

“Oh really? My hair is a mess, I haven’t had my nails done in three months, and I am wearing a shirt that’s older than our first child!”

Don’t take the bait. Regardless of how she might respond, volley with a positive, something like, “Well I don’t exactly know how you are pulling it off. I just want you to know that you look great to me!” Then walk away quickly and live to serve and volley another day.

Make this a habitual practice. Stop reacting negatively when she slams a spinning forehand to the far corner and, instead, craft a positive volley.

Try your best to make everything you say helpful, complimentary, and sincere. She will notice and when she finally asks you about your change in behavior, you can share a printed copy of this post with her, inviting her to join you in raising the game.

Same Is True at Work

The same can be said for your interactions at work, especially if you have management responsibility.

Your serve at work holds even more power over the employees. Just by default, the power that comes with your position puts a little extra sting on your first serves, whether intended or not.

You have to be careful about being too casual with your comments.

business leaders

I’ve known some very smart executives who have fun with spirited jabs as responses to worker’s questions. While they truly don’t mean anything negative by it, it can become very off-putting.

In one case, members of the team needed to work there quite a while to understand the boss’s brand of humor. Eventually, you get past it, but I’ve known a few new members of the team who struggled to find the meaning.

My coaching to that leader was to tone it down a bit, especially with his newest staffers. Get to know them first and them know you before you introduce your version of levity and ‘smartness’. Then be intentional about using that approach.

Eventually he agreed he should stop altogether. The dry wit was better saved for closest friends and people outside of work.

He changed his ‘serve.’

Conclusion

Never forget, that raising the game is your responsibility. It is not only a matter of basic leadership but also the most pragmatic approach.

After all, at the end of the day, the only thing you can truly control is YOUR serves and volleys. Viewing this from the ping-pong
perspective may be a better alternative than trying to change your spouse.

Change yourself instead.

Note: The inspiration for this word picture came from friend and colleague, Roger Ferguson. Thanks, Roger for a juicy idea to hit home.

Missing Your Old Meetings?

People everywhere are struggling with the extended shutdowns from COVID-19. All the Type-A personalities are going absolutely crazy not being able to interact face to face or in small groups.

If you rated ‘extrovert’ on your personality assessment, you are hurting right about now. The introverts are enjoying the calm. However, none of us can stay separated for long.

This is why virtual meeting tools like Zoom have skyrocketed. ‘Zoom’ is now a noun, verb and adjective all in one.

Aren’t you missing that 90-minute weekly staff meeting with your boss? OK, maybe I’m kidding on that one. What about the water cooler chat with colleagues?

There is just something special about that sense of belonging when we can stand or sit together and talk.

Why is that?

Seth Goden spoke about it in his seminal book “Tribes”. Since the dawning of mankind, we have been tribal in nature. We naturally gravitate together.

The caveman did it for survival. There was survival in numbers. Yet I see that same tribal mindset today.

Let’s face it, we all live in or belong to some kind of tribe today. Perhaps it’s your neighborhood. You want the kids going to a certain school. How tribal is that?

You pick your friends based on common interests and values.

Or maybe you attend a certain church, mosque or synagogue based of course on your religious preferences. Maybe you don’t go to church at all because you belong to a golf group or a fishing/boating club.

Tribes get formed by many different standards. I’m certainly not judging any of them, I’m just making the point that tribal desire exists.

The tribal mindset can go wrong of course. Think of the real Nazis in Germany in the 1930s. Ideaology is fine if it serves a common good, but taken to extremes, whole populations can be impacted, as we clearly saw then.

As soon as tribal thinking begins to not only exclude others, but demean, oppress and hurt others, it’s gone too far.

Not Me

You may argue you’ve never been part of a ‘tribe’. Maybe that word alone is offensive to you. It’s not meant to be.

Do you own a iPhone or Mac? You’re in a tribe.

Do you only buy certain clothes? Tribe.

Do you only support one school? Tribe.

Do you only drive certain cars? Tribe.

Do you work for a certain company and never think of others in your industry? Tribe.

Do you only wear certain watches? Tribe.

Do you only follow certain public figures? Tribe.

Do you vote by single lever pull? Tribe.

Do you think contrary of others because they don’t look/act like you? Tribe.

The days of needing a tribe for survival should be gone, but they’re not. People begin to assemble a tribe when they feel ‘less than’ others. They seek strength in numbers when systems and policies leave them out.

Those motivated to band together in this way hope that the combined voice will be louder than what they alone can shout.

It happens in business. It is happening on our streets.

What Can We Do? What Can I Do?

First, look around at the tribes to which you already belong. Are they really OK? When others know about your tribe, can they accept what it stands for? They don’t have to agree with or support the specific values, but can they accept there are reasonable differences and good reasons that you joined?

business leaders

Many will say it’s nobody’s business what I do. On many levels that’s true. Yet when it comes to expressing or demonstrably exercising action that offend others, your tribe needs adjustment.

‘Communication’ is a word I’ve heard much about lately. Sure we need to talk about our differences. But that is a slippery slope. When does a conversation turn into an argument?

The popular thinking these days is to try to convince the other person that the values you believe in or represent are the only right ones. NO they’re not. Stop doing that.

As business leaders we must create an environment that can allow open exchange. If it is discovered that a person, policy or practice somehow makes others feel ‘less than’, then it needs to get fixed.

What employees and any member of any tribe must understand is that the gathering happened for a reason. If you joined, but later discover there is something you don’t like, YOU made a bad choice. Find another tribe. Change jobs.

If enough businesses lose good talent over bad practices, they will change.

I help business owners and executives make change happen all the time. Good leaders are open for change. They genuinely want to listen better and make adjustments to the tribe they manage. Sometimes the system and the legacy is too big to change quickly, but it can change.

If you want to talk about ways to make the change you need in your tribe, I am here.

Disorienting Situations – The Leader’s Response

As someone who works with business leaders in many different sectors, I’ve paused to reflect on exactly how I feel about the current state of affairs around us. Now, I feel it is important to share the outcome of this reflective pause.

A colleague shared the word “disorienting”. Recent events are very disorienting to everyone. Between COVID lock-downs, economic conditions, and now, civil unrest and rage over the death of George Floyd.

On one hand, the past several weeks have shown us that we have an intense undercurrent in the fabric of our country. That is an understatement. Leaders in many sectors have tried to speak up, taking a stand on the matter, only to be told that somehow, someway they were still wrong.

As strongly as some feel about “Black Lives Matter” anyone who whispers ‘all lives matter’ gets ridiculed for “being insensitive and not getting it.”

I hear business leaders saying we need to have more conversations. Haven’t the conversations been going on for decades? My Black colleagues agree, yes that’s the point. The conversations haven’t fixed anything.

The easy answer is to say our leaders have failed us. The U.S. political system has grown more and more galvanized over the past 20 years. We select candidates and elect ‘leaders’ who have the best story to tell us. I stopped being a ‘political party’ member a long time ago. I decided to do my research and place my votes for the person who, to me demonstrated the best, real leadership possibilities. Sadly, I am routinely disappointed. I don’t have a good answer for that.

I am deeply saddened by the senseless death of George Floyd. It was just plain wrong. Our system says even suspected criminals have rights. His rights were ignored and were fatally taken away. That is wrong. Just simply wrong.

However, did a flawed system kill him? I think not. A rouge, overzealous cop did it. One man perpetrating hatred and rage against another.

Sadly this same rage happens night after night in all of our cities. I don’t mean just cop versus citizen, black versus white. I mean one bad person raging against another unsuspecting human. An individual who wants something someone else has. This happens without regard to race and gender.

Leadership Duties

With everything being disoriented around us, what can a leader do?

Clearly the leader must first look inwardly. Do YOU harbor any hatred, bias, or ‘less than’ thinking about the people around you? You may think you have good reason to think as you do, but you must correct that thinking if you ever want to come anywhere close to inclusivity in the workplace.

One way or another, your own biases will be revealed. As a leader that cannot happen.

Unfortunately, the process by which we choose to deal with each other is full of natural bias. It is by no means limited to the color of one’s skin. Every time someone does something that runs either in favor of or opposite of the other person, a checkmark gets put on the list we all have in our brain.

The next time there is an encounter, that checklist gets reviewed and we sit waiting for the other person to ‘prove themselves’ as the friend or foe we expect them to be. That is no way to run effective conversations, clouded with bias.

By the way, as you read this you’re already judging me for what I am saying, right or wrong. It just proves my point.

Sensitivity

Strong leadership requires a keen ability to apply sensitivity. What do I mean by that? For me, it means being aware of the plight and condition of those around you.

I’ve spoken before about the ways every person who shows up for work has a personal process going on similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. They move up and down that hierarchy on a daily basis. If they feel threatened at home or in the community where they live, they come to work feeling tired of the situation. They may even be afraid of you as the leader because you represent ‘power’ they may not want to see.

Where’s the Goal Post?

I am not yet convinced anyone has defined where the goal post may be. In terms of the COVID-19, many say we need the vaccine and then things will be safe again. But efforts are already underway to get back to business so that the economic conditions can stabilize. While basic business function can return, may of the activities we all counted as normal will likely not return for quite some time.

As an example, before COVID-19 did you go to a regular, recurring networking meeting? While all of those have tried going virtual, it just doesn’t have the same result. Yet we may not return to the full, in-person gathering like that for a long time.

The more important question is where is the goal post for answering the cries of Black Lives Matter? I don’t say that lightly. I am sympathetic. I can honestly say to my Black friends, I don’t yet know what I can do.

Unfunding police and funding a reparation program doesn’t make any sense because that is a one-time bandaid. When that money runs out, and it will, what do we do? We will have new generations of Black children growing up to what?

I am very willing to work on the exact ‘what’ question that can move us to better harmony.

Even when we get closer to equality, there will still be human nature to recognize we are all different. In my world, I love that diversity. That is what keeps things interesting and exciting.

PS – A good friend, West Point Grad, and fellow Veteran sent me this link, commemorating D-Day, which by the way was June 6. Nobody said much about that. If you still believe in America, this is worth the watch.

Leaders: Are You a Pretender or a Contender?

If your desire is to be a better manager at work, at home, or in the community, you may want to develop some actual leadership skills.

However, if you are already following certain leadership principles, there is always room for lifting the lid to expand your reach and influence.

After many years working with clients of all kinds, I see one recurring theme, time and again. The biggest difference between managers and leaders who are pretenders versus contenders is a small six-inch piece of real estate; the distance between your ears.

Yes, I am talking about the space inside your head. The things you allow to happen in your thought life will drive the rate of success. You can be a pretender or you can be a contender. The difference is isolated in this really small space.

In the following diagram, you can see the natural progression of thought, action, reaction and behavior that is derived from our beliefs, expectations, and experiences. It’s all centered in the mind.

BELIEFS

Beliefs are your values, judgments, interpretations, assumptions, and attitudes. When you wake up each day, you have a whole set of these beliefs waiting ready in your head. The sum total of all these makes up your outlook for the day, often before you even begin. The collection of these beliefs set the stage for the way each day might unfold.

If a string of circumstance has tainted your set of beliefs, you will look at new opportunity through a jaded lens. On the other hand, if you have achieved a certain success, you may be more inclined to view new opportunity with a more optimistic mindset.

BEHAVIORS

Your beliefs drive your behaviors. Your “style” openness (or not), your habits, skills, practices, and actions stem from the beliefs you carry.

If you prefer mustard over mayonnaise, you are expressing an eating behavior based on some belief you established a long time ago. And so it goes with many of your daily choices, clothes, cars, hobbies, reading, entertainment, music, etc.

RELATIONSHIPS

Even the people you may choose to call friends will be governed by your beliefs turned into behavior. The kind of tribe you may join at work or in the community will be influenced by your behaviors.

If you align with a certain religious belief system, that will dictate the house of worship you choose to attend. Political affiliations, other social settings, and even workplace choices will be heavily swayed by the relationships you think you want to make; all having root in your mind’s eye.

RESULTS

Finally, the results will reflect the collection of beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. The direct circles of activity you choose will have a specific set of outcomes. These results (outcomes, impact, improvements, and “performance”) will all serve to reinforce your belief system.

When the results align with your original beliefs you say “see, I told you so.” You feel you knew it all along.

On the other hand, if an outcome somehow runs counter to what you expected (as many things will do), you may be inclined to fall deeper into your beliefs saying things like “I will never do THAT again”, or “I wish I had followed my gut.”

The Remedy

The successful leader will learn how to control that delicate real estate between the ears. Negative thoughts will be replaced by ones that provide a more meaningful value. The cycle of belief, behavior, relationship, and result will become a momentum-generating machine for positive action and success.

Whenever limiting thoughts creep in or pop up, the prudent, experienced leader will properly address the thought and prevent it from taking root to undermine the rest of the experience.

Whenever in doubt, the seasoned, learning leader will seek advice from trusted counselors and coaches or mentors and friends, to better evaluate the thought. If the thought has merit, then it can be addressed with a balanced, healthy view, never interrupting forward progress.

When you handle the root belief system, you set the stage for a more positive outcome. More importantly, you set the process by which you can grow, profit, and prosper in all areas of your life.

team building via trust

I’ve coached hundreds of business people helping them develop more effective leadership skills. Whether you own the business or you’re climbing the ladder in a larger corporate setting, you can benefit from finding a close, confidential advisor to help you develop the extra skills that make a difference. Use the contact forms here to reach out. Let me introduce you to my proven programs for leadership growth.