Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:

I.

Samuel R. Chand, a leadership author and consultant, on disruption:

“A fighter pilot knows he’s in the right spot when he’s getting anti-aircraft fire. If you’re not catching flack for your disruptive idea, you’re not over your target yet. Keep flying.”

Source: New Thinking, New Future

II.

Michelle King in stressing that gender equality is not about fixing women, but fixing workplaces, says:

“Gender equality is not about raising women up at the expense of men. It is not about making men feel bad or listing all the ways than men need to change. Quite the contrary. It is about creating a workplace that values men and women equally and gives everyone the freedom to be themselves.”

Source: The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work

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Look for these ideas every Thursday on the Leading Blog. Find more ideas on the LeadingThoughts index.

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Read more: leadershipnow.com

Helping People Change

Helping People Change

MOST OF US want to help people. And typically, we go about it by trying to correct a problem. We focus on what we think they should be doing. Makes sense. To us. But it frequently does not create sustainable change in the other person.

Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten suggest a different approach in Helping People Change. Instead of coaching people for compliance, we should be coaching with compassion.

The conventional view of coaching is that it is an activity where, “based on your experience, expertise, or authority, you advise individuals on what they should do and how they should do it. While there may be time and place for it, this type of coaching for compliance is unlikely to lead to sustained behavioral change.” When people change out of obligation, they often lack the inner motivation they need to sustain that change. For people to changes in ways that stick, that change has to connect with their passion and core values. To do that, you need to coach with compassion.

Coaching with compassion is how we help a person frame the situation or opportunity in the context of who she wants to be as a person and what she would like to achieve in her ideal future. Such broad framing helps the person draw on the inner resources most likely to enable her to learn, change, or grow in the meaningful and sustained ways as she works through that situation, whatever it may be.

The PEA Versus the NEA

Coaching for compliance leads to a defensive response in the person being coached. They shut down and rather than learning or changing, they enter survival mode or what they term the zone of the negative emotional attractor (NEA). This is in contrast to coaching with compassion which elicits positive emotions as it focuses on a vision of a desired future state and strengths rather than weaknesses. This zone is called the positive emotional attractor (PEA). In this state, the person is relaxed and open, and new neural pathways form in the brain “paving the way for new learning, and sustained behavioral change to occur.”

For sustained learning to occur, it is important that coaches manage the emotional flow of the coaching process. This means being able to both read and influence the emotions the person is experiencing. Getting people into a PEA state begins by asking the right questions. Questions that “discover their views of the word, their situation, and how they feel.” “Our mistake is in thinking—often assuming—that we can see what the other person should do to lead to a better life, be more productive, or learn more.” When we focus on the wrong things as a coach, we essentially block change. (Chapter 4 is the game-changer in this regard.)

Three Cornerstones of Coaching

Building a good relationship with the person you are coaching requires the right mindset. “First, believe that individual change is a process, not an event.” Change doesn’t happen overnight. We need to make room for mistakes, feedback, and more practice.

“Second, consider your approach to coaching as a chance to mine for gold, not dig for dirt.” We need to connect with people’s strengths and their desired outcomes. At one time, Andrew Carnegie had 43 millionaires working for him. Carnegie was asked, “How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?” Carnegie replied that people are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn’t go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for the gold.

“Third, consider that the agenda for the conversation should come from the person being coached.” While the coach manages the process, “the fundamental reason for the process is to help the other person—not the coach to share his advice or experience.” It means listening more. This quote from gestalt psychotherapist Robert Lee is worth repeating every time we begin to work with others: “Our assumptions and stereotypes create filters for how we hear people. We don’t hear others from the place of who they are. We hear them through the filter of who we think they are.”

When we coach for problem identification and problem-solving—as seems to make the most sense—we risk having the process becoming bogged down in negative emotions. “A problem-focused approach may seem efficient, but it ignores the fact that thinking about and arousing feelings about problems activates the NEA, which in turn can close a person’s imagination to new ideas and possibilities. Recognizing that a problem exists is quite different from spending a lot of time thinking and talking about it.”

This book is invaluable not only for coaches but for leaders of all kinds—managers, parents, health care professionals pastors, and anyone who works with to guide others through life changes. The primary theme stressed throughout this book “is using personal vision to evoke positive emotions—essentially, to begin with the end in mind, thereby setting up the connections in the brain and emotions that will help us pave the road to the desired end.”

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When you stop and think about it a big part of leadership is about convincing people to do things differently. It could be persuading customers to buy your product or try your service. It could be getting employees or vendors to raise their game. It could be convincing regulators and other rules makers to support what you want to do. In each of these examples or a dozen others that you could come up with, success depends on getting people to change their behaviors.

And, as oft-cited research from Gallup suggests, there’s about a 70 percent chance you’re going to fail.

Why is it that so many change initiatives fail? Based on a few decades of experience as a corporate leader or a coach to leaders, I regularly see three related reasons your change initiative will fail. They all involve too much of this and not enough of that.

Here they are and what you can do to increase your odds of success:

Too much solution, not enough acceptance: Years ago, I learned a simple little equation about change management developed by leaders at GE. It’s Q x A = E. What it means is the quality of your technical solution multiplied by the acceptance strategy for your solution equals your overall effectiveness. If you score 10 out of 10 on both the Q and the A then you end up with a 100 percent effective solution. Most leaders and organizations don’t end up at 100 percent though and it’s rarely because they don’t have a good enough technical solution. The relatively easy part of the equation is pulling together a group of subject matter experts to develop a good to great solution. What usually doesn’t get the same amount of effort is putting together an awesome strategy for stakeholder acceptance of the solution.  The math makes the impact of that kind of obvious. If you score a 10 on the Q and a 3 on the A, you’re only going to be 30 percent effective. A score like that is usually a fail.

Too much thinking, not enough feeling: Overemphasizing the quality of the technical solution and underplaying the acceptance strategy stems from the second reason most change initiatives fail. There’s too much emphasis on logical thinking and not enough emphasis on emotional feeling. The problem with that is people almost always take actions based on their emotional feeling rather than their logical thinking. Too many leaders believe that just getting their logical thoughts out there about the change will be enough to win people over. As in, “They’ll see the logic of this and then we’ll be good to go.” Logical to you, maybe; perhaps not so much to them. A more effective approach is to consider how you need people to feel to take the actions that will lead to the change result you’re hoping for. For instance, if they’re feeling angry, ignored or disengaged, they’re probably not going to take the actions you’d like for them to take. If, on the other hand, they’re feeling excited, appreciated and engaged, you’re much more likely to generate actions that lead to positive outcomes. What do you need to do as a leader to get your stakeholders’ feeling more supportive of your change?

Too much results, not enough relationships: Here’s a hint for answering that last question. Focus at least as much on the relationships as you do the results. You’ve probably picked up by now on one of the big things these three reasons for change failure all have in common. The mistake too many leaders make is over-indexing on “what” and under on the “how” of the change. One variant of this is when their time, attention and behavioral energy is focused too much on the results and not enough on the relationships that will yield the results. Great change leaders exhibit roughly equal measures of results-oriented behaviors and relationship-oriented behaviors. I summarized the differences between the two in this post from ten (!) years ago. The spoiler alert is that a lot of the differences I outlined come down to that old idea that they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Relationship building works best when it is part of your everyday routine and not a last-minute activity like you’re cramming for a final exam.

Why do change initiatives fail? There are lots of reasons – way more than I covered here. But if you want to do a post-mortem on why your latest crashed and burned or prevent the next one from doing so, I’d argue that the three I’ve listed here are a pretty good place to start.

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Read more: eblingroup.com

Nincompoopery

NINCOMPOOPERY is the crazy stuff we do (or don’t do) that drives our customers crazy and makes life difficult for employees and keeps organizations from getting what they want.

There are nincompoops, and there is nincompoopery. But when an organization is driving people crazy, it’s a nincompoopery problem. Usually, the organization knows what’s wrong; it’s just that nobody has the courage to overcome the tradition, the inertia, or the apathy to fix it. And so, it persists.

John Brandt writes in Nincompoopery: Why Customers Hate You—and How to Fix It, that the good news is that there is a plan to fix it and you already know enough to get started.

Most organizations are rife with Nincompoopery, which deadens the souls of their employees (including, sometimes you and me) and lead them (us) to act like nincompoops. To wit, we get stuck in old ways of doing things; we convince ourselves that change would be impossible because nobody could fix such a nincompoopish company anyway; or we fret that even if we tried to lead a change, none of the nincompoops to whom we report or work with would listen. Really, human beings are endlessly inventive in thinking of reasons why not to change ourselves, our companies, and our fates—in other words, we’re really good at remaining nitwits and stuck in Nincompoopery.

So, you need a plan and some good politics by managing relationships, providing safety and meaning in order to make the changes out of nincompoopery. Brandt offers a plan organized around three simple strategies: innovation, talent, and process.

Innovation

Innovation is not always the game-changing products that change a culture. Customers think differently about value. Innovation should revolve around “How can we make our customers’ lives simpler, happier, less stressed, and more productive, by removing or solving multiple issues with a single solution?”

Talent

“Leading companies recruit for smarts, diligence, and caring.” Character matters. “The only way that we create a difference at any individual customer’s moment of truth is by the investment we make in talent, training, and culture. That difference, for good or bad, will determine our bottom lines for years to come. If you hire right, train right and get out of their way, your employees will deliver.

Process

With god process in place, you can reap the benefits of the time, effort, and money you’ve invested in innovation and talent. Look at your company through your customer’s eyes. How do you create customer value? What are you good at, and what are you terrible at? Your customers know. Brandt says excel, improve, and fix—or kill. Start with what you are terrible at and fix it or kill it because it is driving customers away.

With a little bit of strategic thinking and a whole bunch of empathy for customers and employees, you can lead change and eliminate nincompoopery.

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I was recently participating in a family event. As I was walking by I heard someone saying: “well what can you do about it… That’s her character, and people can’t change.” The fact that people believe that character and attitude can’t be changed always surprises me. I keep hearing this from people who are considered educated yet with all those university degrees, it feels like some very basic truths are missed.

Everything is either growing or disintegrating

Everything in our world is either growing or disintegrating, including our bodies and minds. Likewise a person’s character or attitude is continuously changing. The reason many people think they can’t change is because of habits. A habit is an action that requires no conscious mental effort. This action is so ingrained in us, that we don’t give any thought of whether or not to perform it.

For example, did you have to decide whether to get dressed this morning? Since habits help us manage the data load of our everyday lives, we are usually inclined to make more of them. We become so accustomed to them, that we think they control our lives. That’s why most people think they can’t change. They believe that their habits are stronger than they are. The truth is that our habits are as strong as the power we give them.

Changing our habits is something that requires a big enough reward to do so. If we feel the reward for changing our behavior is big enough, then it would have more power than the habit. So how can you change your attitude?

Here are 3 ways that will help you change yourself and your attitude:
1. Construct a new habit

If habits are ingrained in our behavior it’s only logical that changing them will change our attitude. Choose a habit you wish to change. For example: arriving late for meetings. Start working on it. Be there 20 minutes before the meeting, and then do it again and again. You might think that a new habit takes 21-30 days to form. This is probably not true and originates in a mix of study and folklore.

The more recent studies show that habits take anywhere between 18-254 days to become fully automated. This is not to discourage you from trying out a new habit, but rather so you know that changing habits takes time. So if you slip up on adopting your new habit it’s completely okay, don’t beat yourself up for it.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Shaw

2. Think different thoughts

Our thoughts are vibrations in certain frequencies that we send out. Whatever we send out, the universe returns back.  Just think of a radio station that is tuned to a certain station. Each station is a different frequency, and in order to receive a different broadcast, we simply change the tuned frequency.

This is the same with our thoughts. Once we change the frequency of our thoughts, we would receive different results. So negative (low-frequency) thoughts will bring negative results, and high-frequency thoughts will bring positive results.

Use the below exercise to change your thoughts:

Choose any object. It could be a person or an inanimate object that has some relation to yourself. For 5 minutes, think about all the good things this object/person brings into your life. How does that object/person make your life easier or more enjoyable? Then, focus on acknowledging the good and give thanks for having that object/person in your life. This exercise immediately switches the vibration you are currently on into a more positive one. It is actually possible to feel the change of feeling when we give thanks for the good in our life.

3. Adopt a new perspective

The way we look at things affects our thoughts about them. Everything just is. We are the ones that give meaning to it based on the way we perceive it. So changing our behavior can be achieved by changing the way we perceive things.

Let’s say that you didn’t manage to complete your daily tasks one day. One perspective could be that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. However, shifting the perspective could mean that we could look at the situation as if you are simply prolific. You are simply a very fruitful person. Feels better, right?

One exercise to help shift your perspective is to write down whatever bothers you on a piece paper. Then sit a table where you can see the paper. Choose 2-3 people you respect and think highly of. They could be someone you personally know, or even historical figures (my favorite is Churchill).

Then sit at the table with the paper in front and say out loud everything that bothers you about the written subject. Once you finish, move to a different place at the table and imagine what one of the people you chose think about the situation. What would he have to say? Act as that person, and say his thoughts out loud.

Do that a few times while switching chairs and people, so you’d have a range of perspectives to choose from. Then adopt the perspective that you like best.

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates

Our attitude towards things is comprised of our thoughts, feelings and actions. These three are inseparable. Just as if you have a cake, which has ingredients that construct the whole, so does our attitude and it is constructed of these 3 parts.

We can change the minute we decide to. Our attitude is plastic, and can change at any point in life. It only requires us to decide we want to change, commit to our decision and keep at it until we feel the shift. After that, repeating the new pattern would make it our new nature. So next time you hear someone say that people can’t change, tell them how you did.

Read more: addicted2success.com