I had just finished leading a three-day offsite for an incredible new client. It was held at the Traavasa Spa, and if you haven’t been there, you should visit. Beautiful, serene, lovely service.
I was contacted a mere few weeks ago by this client and asked to pull together an agenda that would assimilate a new leader, build a trusting team, and plan for 2012. A lot to accomplish in such a short period of time, but I was up for the challenge.
Day one… Check!
Day three… Check!
Day two… hmmmmmm, what to do… this was the day of trust.
The team had all read “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and while I knew we would have some healthy discussion around this book, they really needed a turn around activity. One that would bond them, inspire them, allow them to experience the exhilarating rush of true team support and encouragement. Even tougher… this was a group of learning and development leaders. They had seen it all.
Enter my friend Tristan Truscott, Sensei Tristan that is. Tristan and I have worked together on several occasions with much success and I thought this team was calling his name.
We began prepping. I briefed him on the team dynamics and desires for the offsite. “Hmmm… interesting,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do yet. I’m going to meditate on that.” Seriously, dude, we are with this team in less than 10 days. Meditate? Cough up an exercise already!
Irony #1… I have deeply been trying to incorporate meditation into my daily life, telling people to breath more, meditate more. And here is someone for whom meditation is not an “event” for the day, but as fluid for him as breathing. It was required space for him to create, to envision, to realize the right activity.
Okay, calm down Linda. He’ll come up with something great. I’ve seen it twice before. Just trust. Let go and trust.
Okay, there it is: Irony #2… I had to trust. I had to let go. I had to practice the very lesson we were about to teach… cultivate and surround yourself with the best energy, build the trust through experience, and with that, the belief in all the possibilities will come.
Fast-forward to the day before the offsite. Tristan and I Skyped and I felt his focus and passion about the meeting. It was contagious. Still no detailed agenda discussed other than I knew we would be breaking boards at the end of the day. Trust, Linda, trust, I whispered to myself.
Day Two arrived… 12:30… 12:40… trust, Linda, trust.. aaah he’s here!
Irony #3… I was there to teach, yet I was the student. I was reminded of the great lessons I already knew… surround yourself with talented, passionate people, trust, let go, and guess what… they deliver. And he did.
SNAP! SNAP! SNAP! The boards broke one by one and with each split, a team divided became a team unified. And it felt amazing. Really amazing.
What a great way to end the week. Thanks to this great team for letting me be part of their lives this week. Thanks to my trusted friend and colleague, Tristan, for reminding me that all the lessons I get to learn are one of the greatest gifts of coaching.
Yeah, well, the waitress probably didn’t need to know it, but doesn’t everybody like to celebrate a birthday? Whether it’s your birthday or someone else’s there is a special feeling, like… I made it another year and I wonder what will come next. What will I get when the candles are blown out?
I am really excited for my next year of life because I’m starting with a concept called, “Every day is my birthday.” Now, that doesn’t mean I shall adorn myself with gifts, eat cake and tell every waitress that it’s my special day (although, that sounds kind of tempting.)
I am on a year-long and maybe even life-long experiment. What if, I wake up EVERYDAY with a level of enthusiasm, happiness and hope as though it really is my birthday where I’ll blow out the candles and make all my dreams a reality? What if I said and believed that nothing before me existed and it all starts right here, right now?
My oldest son started my day with a video of a guy doing “Dream Hands.” You have to watch this. You may have seen him already. Apparently over 5 million already have! I LOVED IT. He is doing my birthday dream dance with such zeal and enthusiasm and no worry in the world of what anybody else is thinking or laughing about him. And, yes, I do enjoy this as a former “Suncatcher”, our Jazz Choir at Capshaw Junior High. Hilarious.
I am now thinking about each day as an opportunity to start anew with my own dreams… whether it be an old friendship, a new job, an innovative idea, a new belief… how will that belief and desire impact my approach to the day?
I’m keeping a journal. Who knows, maybe you’ll see the book next year.
In the meantime, wherever you are… enjoy some cake and celebrate your own birthday!
I just spent two days in the Windy City coaching talent leaders on Strategic Talent Acquisition. We were on the 20th floor of the NBC Tower overlooking the lake… an office I could get used to in a second! It was a great diverse group from global pharma to high tech to national advertising. Despite the industry, one theme resonated across all… how do I lead strategically and shift the hiring team to do the same?
They all wanted to know… What are the hottest sourcing trends? To what level do I dig into workforce planning? What are the best interview questions?
To shift from the transactional to the strategic, we started at the very beginning with a targeted exercise defining exactly who the customers are and their true priority. With a heavy background in marketing, and a self-confessed process geek, I wholeheartedly believe that this is the best place to start.
I find that a lot of people jump right into the solution or the “how” without fully considering whom the customer really is; particularly when there is the distraction of the newest, shiniest recruiting app. As you know, whenever you work within an organization and are providing a service internally, the term “customer” can get thrown around in a pretty loosy, goosy way. The loudest and the squeakiest determine who is most important.
While at Starbucks, I had several critical and key stakeholders for all of our Talent programs and processes. While all these stakeholders or “customers” were all very important, they each had a different level of priority. Without clearly delineating priority, we would have ended up with solutions that were mediocre at best, only partially serving all of the customers.
To be clear about your top priority and really meet the customer’s needs, I encourage you to take the following steps:
1) List any and all potential customers by the following type:
- Those who receive your product or service directly or frequently are your Primary Customers. They represent the largest revenue.
- Those who receive your product or service indirectly or infrequently are your Secondary Customers.
- Those who don’t receive the product or service, but largely influence the way it should be designed are your Influencers. For example, for recruiting, and Influencer is the OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs).
2) Of all of your customers, check the ones that could leverage extreme consequences if their needs are not meant. These in concert with your Primary Customers get top consideration.
3) Once you have finished the steps, do them all over with your team to gain alignment. Does everyone agree? Use the final, prioritized customer list to really drive your design and decision-making.
It was a fascinating exercise to see how even like-minded talent leaders had some healthy discussion and disagreement around who the customer is when it comes to Talent Acquisition and Management. When I asked how this exercise would work in their own organizations, they said they couldn’t wait to find out.
Let me know how it goes for you!
Nuff said. Looking forward to reconnecting next week!
In the meantime, and on another non-business note, please join me and the cast at this year’s “Listen to Your Mother.” If you haven’t heard of it, this is a national series of live readings by local writers in celebration of Mother’s Day with part of the proceeds supporting Any Baby Can. The event will be on Sunday, April 29, 2012 from 2 to 4 pm at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center amphitheater here in Austin. Tickets can be purchased here. Last year was really fun and I hope to see you there!
Have a great weekend,
A bit off topic from leadership, but not really…
You know “the wave?” Not the one done by face-painted middle-aged men at a Packers game. I’m talking about “the wave” that someone gives you from the car or the street after you’ve made a small gesture. Like…
“Thanks giving me that parking space.”
“Thanks for letting me back out of here.”
“Thanks for telling me my lights weren’t on.”
“Thanks for moving aside.”
So simple. Takes no time. Zero cost.
I do it all the time. I’m a firm believer in the wave. In between all my singing in the car (see this post for further explanation), I’m usually waving “thanks” for someone’s gesture. And I love receiving it.
So why doesn’t everyone do it?
And, why, when someone doesn’t, do I literally feel a small rage inside of me? Almost like the lack of “the wave” is akin to flipping me the bird.
Are we really that tired or busy to wave a little?
Maybe it’s because I really like the small human connection that happens with the wave. For that small moment, there was an exchange of kindness with someone just for the pure purpose of exchanging kindness. I don’t like being robbed of that.
Again, simple, no time, free.
We each have a choice with every exchange we have with another human to say thanks even in the smallest ways. Are you living your everyday moments with others with a smile and a wave? It could be the one small gesture in a tough day that gives someone levity and peace.
And that someone could be a peer, a boss, a direct report. Maybe it’s your spouse who covered you all week for evening events (thanks Steve) or your kids who finally brushed their teeth without asking.
Small thanks and waves add up. So start the adding! What is your favorite way to give a small thanks? Any other things you do besides the wave?
As I stated in my post a few weeks ago (Take it Down a Notch), I mentioned that I was off to coffee with my buddy Kevin Leahy. A passionate, high notch man himself, we had a great discussion around the brain and what you can actually do to perceive and respond to another person’s level. As I said, “Meet them where they are.” Kevin, kindly offers this insight today. Thanks Kevin. Love this brain stuff. Safe Travels!
Linda, you asked: Where it is in our brains that we assess the states of mind of others?
Great question! Here are some thoughts. Our brains assess what others are thinking and feeling in several ways, including by paying attention to visual, auditory, and other cues.
What we see gets sent quickly to an area in the back-middle of our brains that keeps patterns about what we know of others (it is the integrative cortex). We match what we see with past patterns of what we know about people. Are the shoulders slumped? Does the face look strained? Are they looking down or away from us? Our brains give us a super fast answer that gets sent back to the dispatch area (called the thalamus) for further processing and also to the front of the brain (our executive function area). The front is where we make conscious assessments of what is happening. This effort can take some time so we benefit from patience as our brain figures out as much as it can without our asking specific questions.
The hearing system can be more sensitive than our vision. It is closer and more connected to the middle of the brain, which is the area where we generate our emotions. We can listen to the person’s tone of voice (deep, high, or thin and nervous, etc.); speed; volume; and any non-verbal utterances (sighs, harrumphs, and the like). We process those sounds and compare them with existing patterns to understand what’s going on.
We can then ask ourselves: should we adjust to the other person’s mood; mirror his or her body language; or simply wait patiently with little verbal and non-verbal communication either way until the other person lets us know how he or she feels, or what’s on his or her mind.
We have far more systems that help us decipher others’ states of mind than we realize. For starters, there are special cells in the back parts of the front brain areas called mirror neurons that “mirror” other people without our consciously knowing it. If his shoulders are slumped, our mirror neurons might cause our shoulders to slump too. Because body positions are linked to mental states we can pay attention to what our own bodies do to get a sense of what the other person might be thinking or feeling.
We can “smell” situations and “feel” them too by sensing energy fluctuations. We call these other systems intuition. It pays to know about these other systems and rely on the front-most part of our brains to help us sort them out. There are special ways to train for this that help increase our awareness including meditation, mental rehearsal, and body language management.
Aside from our brains’ default checks and balances, we have the luxury of asking questions. The first and best question to ask is: “Is this a good time to talk?” After obtaining initial permission to speak we do well to continue to ask for permission.
For example, if we sense something is wrong we can propose: “I may have this wrong… but did something happen that has you feeling a little off?” Or of the person is potentially in a re-energizing place, we can ask: “I have a big topic to talk about, shall we just catch up now or go ahead and talk about it?”
These additional levels of permission help us confirm where the other person’s state of mind and body are. We deserve to listen very carefully to the answers and consider “how” they are answered (what body language and tone are involved, for example).
Working with the brain
The key to all of this is to know that our brains are always looking to do the right thing. In the process they often pick up only part of the story and start filling in the gaps in ways that may not help our relationships. On their own, in other words, our brains can make significant social mistakes. Therefore, we benefit most from using our conscious ability to slow things down and help our brains make the right assessments. That way, we make the right choices about how much energy, information, and emotion to offer others.
Thanks for the opportunity to comment about the brain and social interactions.
Coaching? Isn’t that what I do for my kid’s soccer team?! Well, yes, we traditionally think of coaches when it comes to sports. And we always assume and know the value those coaches bring to a team. Now coaches of all kinds have entered our lives to support us from health to life to overall happiness. So when would I seek the help of an executive business coach and how do I know which one to choose?
Clients tend to come my way when they are in the midst of some pivotal change and growth; when they really need to take their business to the next level and stop behaving like a club and begin performing like a company. The “growing pains” can show up in several of different places…
5 Sure Signs You Need an Executive Business Coach
1. You’re successful, but your “start-up adrenaline” has crashed. You’re physically exhausted and can’t imagine how it will all get done.
2. You’ve become a “seagull” leader, swooping in and out with feedback and let’s face it … it’s not helping morale.
3. You’re short-tempered, frustrated and wondering… “why can’t my team just make the decisions and get it done?”
4. You’re finding that just working harder isn’t working anymore no matter how many Venti Starbucks you have. You need to work smarter.
5. You’re wondering if stealing your child’s Ritalin is the answer to focus. It’s time to stop multi-tasking and start mindful-tasking.
What is the cost of not addressing some of the challenges you’re having? Will you be unable to scale your business for growth? Will you be able to continue being an effective leader? Will your employees start leaving if you choose to work in the trenches? When you consider just a few of these questions, what do you think…luxury or necessity?
When a leader realizes that he or she needs to change to make things optimal, the leaders seeks a coach to help guide them through the process. It’s not always easy to tackle this change and development in a self-guided way. As an objective coach with actual business experience, I help leaders go through this change over a manageable period of time.
Once you’ve decided to use an executive business coach, how do you find the right one? Finding the right coach is critical to predicting success in the coaching relationship. In fact, I would advise that finding the right coach is no different to finding the right partner or new employee. Consider the following factors:
- Coach’s Business Experience: Has the coach ever been a leader of people? Been responsible for Profit and Loss? Set business strategy or a talent strategy?
- Proven Process: Does the coach have a proven process that measures for return on investment? Are there testimonials to back it up?
- Core Values Match: Does the coach fit your company’s core values? If respect and dignity are core to your business, do you know if the coach will demonstrate those?
- Coaching Competencies: Does the coach demonstrate the ability to listen and empathize, show sensitivity and hold confidentiality, have ability to work across cultures/genders, have openness to change, ability to gain and maintain trust?
And then there’s the highly technical assessment: gut. What is your gut telling you when you meet with your potential coach? Can I have an open, trusting relationship with this person and be willing to be challenged?
And remember… while a coach may be the guide, you will be the one putting the work into action. Make sure yours is a trusted partner that will push you, challenge you and teach you invaluable lessons about your leadership!
Visit here to learn more about Linda’s approach to coaching.
Boom, ba-boom, boom, ba-boom… that car was vibrating. The music was cranked up to 11. The person inside was singing, I mean singing full out. Hands a wavin’, interacting with the audience, singing at the top of the lungs, belting like Aretha… it felt really good.
Yeah, that was me. I admit it. And while I risked being seen by unsuspecting neighbors who may now think twice about play dates with the Hill boys, it was worth it. I felt so happy. All of my favorite songs were playing and while these artists were perfectly competent to sing on their own, I’m certain their performance was just a wee bit better with my help on Tuesday morning.
I’ve been accused before of being “that person.” You know, the person who shows up to work that is overly positive. “Good morning everyone!” And while one might think that is an admirable trait, some might tell you that it didn’t work for them.
Take my ex-coworker, now good friend, who I’ll refer to as “Gena.” When we worked together at Starbucks in Creative Services in the late 90s, I would commonly get in around 7 (hey, I’m a recovering farm girl). “Gena” would arrive around 8:30 or so, a sane time by most people’s standards. She would turn the corner heading toward our space and I can only imagine what was going through her head…
“Damn, there she is. She’s already here again. Isn’t everything so happy, Miss Happy Pants? Keep your face down… don’t make eye contact… oh wait, it’s too late… she’s… coming… towards… me. Here it comes. Brace yourself.” GOOD MORNING GENA!
Poor Gena. I never gave her a chance. I was consumed with my emotion, not taking into account that maybe it was too much for her.
This all came to mind when I was talking to someone yesterday about how as a leader, whether we are talking to a peer, a direct report or a boss, we need to “meet them where they are.” Where is that person emotionally? How are they feeling? And if someone is really stressed, how being overly positive can actually make things worse. It can also be equally bad if the person is overly positive and so are you and you about to embark on some critical thinking. Think you might have some blind spots?
Next time you meet someone, take a minute to calculate where that person is emotionally on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being miserable, 10 being jubilant. What are you about to do and where do you need him or her to be? As a leader, how can use your emotional knowledge to lead someone to a productive place, not force him or her there with a GOOD MORNING!
This morning, however, I’ll be cranking to 11 because I’m meeting with Kevin Leahy, the brain trainer, who is well over 15 on the scale of positivity at ALL TIMES. We’re meeting for coffee at 8 am (although he suggested 7… Love that guy!) for a little brainstorming about the brain, a perfect reason to be overly positive.
Have a great Friday everyone!
I was at my son’s school this morning for a special celebration breakfast. For once, my schedule was clear and no plane was in sight. I was able to make it. (For those of you working parents out there, you realize that this can be an accomplishment likened to the building of the Parthenon.)
I arrived early and took a spin around the classroom. What is going on in 1st grade?
I happened upon a wall where they had clearly illustrated a story they had heard, I’m assuming of two friends. The outlines of the friends were made, but it was up to each child to fill in the blanks.
The first one I saw was delightful… what one would expect to see… simple happy faces, two friends joined hand in hand. Lovely.
Then, I shifted over to the right. The kid drew inside the lines, but what in the world was going on here? Who were his parents and what is going on in that household? They must be happy, maybe reggae Rastafarians? Oh, wait, that’s my kid’s drawing.
I started to wonder how many of my clients were like my son when they were kids. Working with so many entrepreneurs, surely there was a desire to draw outside the lines. And if they couldn’t, they sure as hell were going to do everything but.
The world of business has a lot of “should’s” and “this is the way it works.” However, the last couple of years has truly challenged the “norm.” It has inspired the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us. We know there are some “basic lines” in business, but where can we innovate, do it differently, challenge the “should”?
I’m going to hang this picture in my office as a reminder that when I’m drawing inside the lines, maybe I don’t need to. Thanks for the reminder, Fin.
When was the last time you drew outside the lines?