Category Archives: Workplace or Marketplace

Monday Morning Moment – a Snow Day and an End-of-the-year Leadership Checklist

Monday morning. Quieter than usual. 11+ inches of snow has closed down much of the goings and comings of Richmond life today.

Although we know it’s not really a gift of time, snow days sure have the feel of a free day. Work still goes on for some (thank you all in the service industries), but for others we will catch up another day.

Today I am working on Christmas cards but they can’t be finished until husband Dave and I do our end-of-year reflection. We both look back separately, over the highs and lows of the year, and then come together to write a summary for our Christmas newsletter.

[If you hate those newsletters, just throw them in your recycling. They are probably more for the sender as the receiver…so the good has already been done. Happy Christmas.]

Dave works for an international organization. If we had kids or grandchildren at home, he may have just called it a snow day as his office, like many others in the city, is closed. However, because much of his day was already scheduled conference calls with people in different parts of the US and the world, he could work, from his office at home.

I say all this to emphasize how challenging it is to do any sort of review of the year…even on a snow day.

Still, year-end reflections are such a positive and productive activity, both for ourselves and for our workplace.

By year’s end, we are often just trying to appease the tyranny of the urgent. The dilemma is that a work life of putting out fires rarely puts in place barriers that can prevent further fires.

A year-end checklist used by leaders in concert with their direct reports can make a huge difference in accountability, employee engagement, evaluating practices, and planning for the next year.

Otherwise we live and work in the insanity that comes when we don’t block out time for reflection, evaluation, celebration, and development or planning.Photo Credit: Twitter, Seven Quotes

We think we’re doing all those things…but are we?

Below, you will find five links with five different end-of-the-year checklists. Some are longer than others. Some require deeper reflection than others. They are a nice mix written by brilliant thought leaders. [two have the same title but they are very different, by two different leaders].

Tomorrow, I will post my favorite points of the checklists below. Today, maybe you would take the time to look at them, like me, and come up with a checklist you would use…or one of your own making.

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Lolly Daskal (2018)

15 Things to Top Your Business Checklist for the new Year – Forbes – 2017

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Marcel Schwantes (2016)

A Great Leader’s Year-end Checklist – Les McKeown – 2012

A Leadership Checklist – 10 Things to Do Right Now to Make it a Great Year – Terry St. Marie (2010)

Monday Morning Moment – When You Walk Out of a Meeting, and You Ask Yourself, “What Just Happened?”

Photo Credit: Media.Defense

Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.

Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”

I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.

Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.

Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.

A meeting…or series of encounters that leave you wondering “what just happened” could relate to many factors. Culture shift, mission drift, power mongering. Any other factors come to mind for you?

I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.

1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere

By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.

2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur

Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book  Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia

“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team

Photo Credit: Style Whack

I wrote about gaslighting before here.

Gaslighting for BeginnersGaslighting Techniques to Use at Work – Sarah Cooper

Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.

I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.

Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.

Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.

11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? – Stephanie Sarkis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting – Aletheia Luna

The Culture of Any Organization Is Shaped…By the Worst Behavior the Leader Is Willing to Tolerate – Rich Lochner

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 1 – What Is Gaslighting and Who Does It? – Heather Bowden

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 2 – Oh no! I’m a Gaslighter! – Heather Bowden

If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!

12 Signs Your Boss Is Impressed with You, Even Thought It Doesn’t Seem Like It – Aine Cain

Monday Morning Moment – Respect & Civility – and the Lack Thereof – in the Workplace and Public Life

Photo Credit: Real Wellness Doc

In the summer of 2002, we returned home to the US from living in Cairo, Egypt for many years. I was surprised at the change in our culture. People passing each other didn’t make eye contact as much anymore. There was less acknowledgement in general. Once the cell phone (and especially the smart phone) became, not just en vogue but, normative, we became even more disconnected from people around us.

Then the humor at others’ expense escalated. As did impatience at others’ foibles and perceived differences (in traffic, at the ball-field, and in the workplace).

Respect had to be earned…not just given.

Tolerance is the public message, but genuine acceptance of another is altogether something else. On any side of the argument.

What do you take of all of this?

Is it possible to restore respect and civility in a culture? First, we have to know what that even means. When unkind habits become part of our lives, we don’t always know it’s happened.

Let’s focus on incivility.  Just last week, I watched business consultant Christine Porath’s TED Talk on incivility. Her research with Christine Pearson on respect and civility was eye-opening for me. Incivility is edgy in its acceptance in our culture.

We are both shocked and even sometimes amused when people are abrupt, sarcastic or rude with others. This is dependent on our age, gender, and cultural background.

The problem with incivility is that it is contagious. It can infect a whole culture. Incivility, and disrespect, can move subtly to bullying.

Photo Credit: Patricia Bouweraerts, Martha Stout, WorkplaceStory

Author and podcaster Michelle McQuaid interviewed Christine Porath on “the cost of incivility”.  Following are my notes in brief from that podcast:

  • Incivility is defined as rude, disrespectful or insensitive behavior (whether or not the actor sees him/herself as being uncivil or disrespectful – it has to do with what the receiver hears or feels).
  • We are all biased. We may not know our behavior is uncivil. The only way we can know is to seek feedback…and truly listen to and consider constructive criticism.
  • Technology is a relationship distractor. It muddies civility. With our faces in our various e-screens, we miss verbal and nonverbal cues, make wrong assumptions, lose the tone and tenor of the conversation in front of us…and so on and so on.
  • The cost of tolerating such behavior in the workplace: performance, mental and physical tolls, personnel retention, cognitive tolls (memory, attention, creativity), and less help within a team or across departments (incivility breeds mistrust – collaboration and cooperation just don’t happen in such an environment).

Porath gives some excellent counsel on what can help in an environment that has become disrespectful and uncivil. Unfortunately, incivility is too often expressed by those with authority/power. The best organizational intervention, then, is to recruit for civility, coach and train toward civility and practice civility. Respect and civility have to be core values of the organization. See Bryan Cave Law Firm‘s Code of Civility below:

Photo Credit: Bryan Cave, Christine Porath

For us as individuals, Porath counsels to take the high road in regards to civility. Do what you can to effectually put the incivil person “in a bubble”. Then work on your own habits of respect and civility. Smile at people…genuinely, warmly, acknowledging them. Listen – tune in, invest, make eye contact. Build relationships with your team, especially those who report to you. Humbly reach out.

Porath also gave a shout-out to Adam Grant‘s advice along the same lines: to share resources and recognition; give credit; show gratitude; say thank you; share purpose and meaning. [She did the same thing she encourages us listening to do.]

Porath is the author of Mastering Civility: a Manifesto for the Workplace. Definitely on my to-read list now.

I took her quick and easy assess yourself survey and tried to be as honest and forthcoming as I could be. The result was 64 our of 100 points (“good” on her civility assessment). It surprised me – thinking it would be a higher score. Along with the number score she gives a great strengths and “things to focus on” determination and guide. Take the survey. Worth your time.

We can pull ourselves up and out of a culture that thinks it shows confidence to yell at people or that it’s ok to laugh at someone else’s expense. We have the power to rise above and to bring back health to our organization. One small respectful and civil gesture at a time.

The Cost of Incivility With Christine Porath

Assess Yourself – Christine Porath

The Price of Incivility – Christine Porath and Christine Pearson

Choosing Civility – 25 Rules to Live By – with P. M. Forni – Barb Schrader

YouTube Video – Civility: a Conversation with P. M. Forni

Monday Morning Moment – Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – with Richard T. Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Chinese Philosopher Lao Tse

Photo Credit: Waggl

We have all encountered people in life who are bright stars in our universe. They aren’t necessarily those who climb the corporate ladder or win public office. However, in their own niche, in their own small place in a company or community, they are brilliant change agents, people making a difference and moving us to a better situation. Just by showing up.

[Please take the time to share in Comments your experience of such a person – either at work or in your family or friend space.

Organizational change is usually driven from top-down planning and execution. Occasionally, those changes are not received well by the company employees or organizational members. Ownership doesn’t follow and at some point the change fizzles into something altogether different.

Wouldn’t it be wisdom to create successful and sustainable change? What is missing from typical change orchestration? Is change planned in the isolation of the executive conference room or in the company of those most impacted by the change.

Business authors and educators Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin wrote several years ago about the very environment where positive and impactful change takes place. Their piece is titled Your Company’s Secret Change Agents and was introduced to me by a friend in a huge time of change himself. I wondered if his own situation resonated with this piece.

Pascale and Sternin write about the power of positive deviance. it is defined below.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

Positive Deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges.

Five basic steps serve as the backbone of the approach. The 5 D’s are:

  1. Define the problem, its causes and common practices, and articulate desired outcome.
  2. Determine presence of PDs,
  3. Discover their uncommon but successful behaviors & strategies through PD inquiries,
  4. Develop activities based on the inquiry findings
  5. Discern (monitor and evaluate) the results. – Positive Deviance Initiative

The Power of Positive Deviance – How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems – Richard Pascale, Jerry & Monique Sternin (Slideshare produced by Melih Arat)

Your Company’s Secret Change Agents – Richard T. Pascale and Jerry Sternin

The Power of Positive Deviancy – Jerry Sternin and Robert Choo

What Pascale and Sternin discovered was the essential component to change embraced by those impacted was the work done to find and learn from those “positive defiants” in the particular community. The practice of PD inquiry sorts out who those persons are and then discovers what they are doing well that others within the workplace or community aren’t. It’s not a judgment as much as a fact-finding mission.

“It’s easier to ACT your way into a new way of THINKING, than to THINK your way into a new way of ACTING”. – Pascale and Sternin

Too often we think our own personal expertise (knowledge) can move us and others to a changed attitude which would then impact practice. For sustainable change to take place (as in habit formation), we figure out what effective practice is and as we begin doing it, then our attitude changes and our knowledge grows. What are your thoughts about this?

The authors quote 6th century Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu in simply and eloquently describing this process:

Learn from the people

Plan with the people

Begin with what they have

Build on what they know

Of the best leaders

When the task is accomplished

The people all remark

We have done it ourselves

Photo Credit: Brilliant Ink

I love when worlds converge giving greater import to what is happening. In recent weeks, I’ve been taking a course with Wendy McCaig, executive director of Embrace Richmond, instructing. The topic is Asset-based Community Development – (ABCD). It is very similar to positive deviance in setting out toward change.

ABCD is community and relationship driven. It’s not a more resourced agent coming in and trying to fix the problems of a workplace, organization, or neighborhood. It is a “working with process”. Like the PD inquiry, ABCD uses a methodology focused on listening – to individuals and to communities. These listening conversations are geared toward finding the positive deviants within that community…and seeking out their practices, attitudes, and particular knowledge.

What Is Asset-based Community Development? – Graeme Stuart

Something I ask friends and former colleagues (free-lancing as I am now) often, especially when they are struggling with a top-down decision- and change-making structure is “Who is thriving in your situation?” “What are they doing to thrive?” “What are you doing to add to or contribute to the health of your organization?”

Too often, we get tunnel vision regarding change; thinking we have no other option but to respond…or react. Like Pascale, Sternin, Lao Tse, and also Wendy McCaig…I know and believe in those secret change agents. If you don’t know any, search them out.

Or…become one.

Both/and really. Search them out AND become one as well.

[Do your bosses, your organizational leads, and yourselves a big favor…introduce them to your company’s secret change agents…those positive deviants in your lives.]

Monday Morning Moment – Thriving Under a Narcissistic Boss and a Not-so-random Inspiring Other Story

If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…

[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]

Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.

10 Signs Your Boss or Manager Is a Narcissist – Preston Ni

The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.

One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 212: Erwin McManus on How to Spot a Narcissist in Leadership, Overcoming the Need for Approval, and What He Experienced at the Global Leadership Summit 2018

McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”

In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:

A Narcissist has:

A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.

A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.

A Narcissist doesn’t:

Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.

Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.

Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.

McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.

Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).

What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”.  Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:

  1. Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
  2. Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
  3. Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin. “Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
  5. Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it. “Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
  7. Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
  8. Don’t argue. The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
  9. Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal

A Mild Case of Narcissism? – Dana Robert Hicks

As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News

This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*

[*See article by Carey Nieuwhof below.]

If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.

Postscript:

“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving AccidentJoni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

Joni’s Favorite Quotes on Suffering (We would do well to make copies of these and put them at eye-level at our work stations. Perspective.)

What Self-Aware Leaders Know that Others Don’t – Carey Nieuwhof

Monday Morning Moment – “What Are You Doing These Days?” – the Utility Infielder

Photo Credit: Service Desk Show, James West

When I was a little girl, the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was easy to answer. I wanted to be a nurse. Being on the serving end of helping people in crisis was the stuff that even populated my nighttime dreams. It was my passion as a child.

In my teen years, teachers and other adults commended me on my writing. For years, kind people who actually read what I read have asked, “When are you going to write that book?” A much harder question for me than the earlier one.

Photography, music and drama clubs were my loves in high school and college, mixed with a budding political activism. That activism was baby steps at first, with rallies and protests. Long conversations over coffee on Saturday mornings. Nothing requiring much commitment. Our military conflicts were confusing to me (with seemingly never an end in sight). In my youth, I would write to soldiers serving in far countries…doing my small part to encourage them and humanize their situation. I still have a box of letters from those soldier pen-pals.

My girlhood goal was to do nursing overseas…among the poorest of the poor. Those strong youthful dreams directed me first to Emory University for nursing and grad school. Then a few years later to Yale University to teach. In the between time, my “poorest of the poor” turned out to be on the oncology unit of Grady Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia’s inner city…

The “what do you want to do when you grow up?” question took on a life of its own. As did the question: “What are you doing these days?”

Depending on the season of life, it was cancer nursing, home-schooling mom, cross-cultural living, facilitating a cultural exchange program, teaching ESL, communications strategist/social media manager, and finally freelance writing.

Now…after all these seasons and address changes, the question, “What are you doing these days?” is mystifying. I almost feel a bit ashamed that I haven’t landed anywhere as a specialist in anything.

Just this morning, a friend posted on her Facebook page a TED talk that encouraged her…and it also encouraged me.

The speaker on the TED talk was writer, creator Emilie Wapnick. She describes herself as a multipotentialite which she defines as “someone with many interests and creative pursuits“.  Wapnick is the founder of the website Puttylike…out of which has evolved a fascinating global community of other multipotentialites.

In her TED talk, Wapnick describes three “superpowers” of these multipotentialites. They are:

  • Idea synthesis – “combining two or more fields and creating something new at the intersection”
  • Rapid learning – multipotentialites “go hard” at learning. They have been beginners many times, therefore, they aren’t afraid to try a new way. They “rarely start from scratch”.
  • Adaptability – “the ability to morph into whatever you need to be in a given situation”.

Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling – Emilie Wapnick TEDx

The Fine Art of Bringing Together Unrelated Ideas Emilie Wapnick

Now whether being a multipotentialite applies to my career journey…or yours, it is so refreshing to to be reminded that going in multiple directions professionally can be a normal and good thing.

I love “both/and” situations, and there are lots of them out there, if we open our eyes to see them. A few careers back, I had the opportunity of being a cancer nursing specialist, but looking ahead, being an expert in any given discipline is unlikely. Being decent, however, (maybe even good) at both this…and that is possible. Being a generalist works for me… However, I can still aim at being a versatilist (see below). How about you? Where are you in your career?Photo Credit: Gartner, Shi Wen, HR in Asia

Talent Archetypes: Specialists, Generalists, and VersatilistsShi Wen

You may have never heard the term multipotentialite or versatilist, but in America, especially in the summer, you may have heard of a utility infielder. “A utility infielder (UI) is a baseball player, usually one who does not have a regular starting role on the team and who is capable of playing more than one of the four defensive infield positions:   second base, third base, shortstop, and less typically first base. Utility infielders are generally considered excellent defensive players who do not hit well enough to remain in the starting lineup,[2] but can fill in at multiple defensive positions to give the various starters a rest, or replace a starter late in a game to provide improved defense when the team is winning.” – Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Dan Ryan, Ryan Search & Consulting

Why You Want to Be a Utility Infielder – Dan Ryan

A utility infielder is definitely someone you want on your team. I’m married to one. Multipotentialite, versatilist, utility infielder. Whatever this person’s title, he or she brings their own special strengths.

Some days, dark days, I despair of some of my career choices and wonder if I’d been more focused, or less inclined to chase after this opportunity or that dream…would I have been more effective? Would I have made a greater difference? Today, and more days lately, I am content with the roads taken. Some of us have laser focus and sharp skills. Others of us are more like the Swiss Army utility knife. Both are indispensable. Both/and.Photo Credit: CBT Nuggets

The Value of an Adaptable Skill Set – Leadership Made Simple

5 Ways a Compliance officer Is Like a Swiss Army Knife – Compliance Experts

Getting Ahead at Work: Are You a Hammer or a Swiss Army Knife? – Carlos Portocarrero

Monday Morning Moment – Picking a Lane – It’s Never Too Late – Deb Mills – an example of a multipotentialite who is excellent in all his pursuits, best I can tell.

Monday Morning Moment – 10 Characteristics of a Good Leader – What Do You Say?

Photo Credit: Wolfgang Lehmacher, Quora

Too often we focus on what makes for a bad boss rather than looking at those good leaders in our lives. For the last several days, I’ve been asking friends what makes for a leader of excellence…one who  brings excellence to the table and also brings it out in their teams.

Before I asked these friends…from various disciplines (education, health care, private sector, and non-profits)…I developed my own list. As they talked about the good leaders in their lives – either past or present – their characteristics resonated with mine below.

10 Characteristics of a Good Leader

  • They enjoy their personnel. – Story after story of bosses who made the workplace more pleasant by their sheer enjoyment of their colleagues and teams. They were present. They didn’t have to have the room’s attention. They clearly just took pleasure in the folks with whom they worked (up and down the chain of command).
  • They know their personnel. – Leaders were described as excellent when they really knew their employees. They not only asked about the progress of work but how the individual was doing as well. They knew successes and failures. They knew the families. Maybe not in so many details, but it was obvious, by their interest that they genuinely cared about their employees…as well as what they were doing on the job.
  • They treat their personnel with dignity, even in hard conversations. – When conversations were disciplinary or corrective, these leaders still respected boundaries and showed care. No raised voices, no demeaning, no putdowns, no threats.
  • They reel in stress, instill confidence, and bring perspective. – Along with the above, when outcomes weren’t as hoped or when difficult change had to be executed, these leaders kept drama out of it. What was communicated was that we would get through this…together. Now, that wasn’t always possible, as when downsizing has to happen, for instance, but every effort was taken to care for those most negatively impacted.
  • They sacrifice for their personnel. – Business coach Ron Carucci wrote a post earlier this year entitled 3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic Culture. He talks about how easy it can be for leaders to become isolated from the majority of their employees, so focused on the success of the company…or their own success…that employees below them are neglected in the process. Time and time again, friends talked about how leaders would interrupt their own schedule…even travel or meetings…to deal with some difficult situation with a team or employee. This is a rare circumstance, I’m sure, but what a trust-builder, right?
  • They develop their personnel. – None of us know really what kind of person we can be until we have proven ourselves through experience and training. I hear so often about the problem of “not enough leaders”. Good leaders develop their personnel with broad generous strokes. Then, in time, they will discover who may very well be of the caliber to be in the line of succession for their jobs…avoiding the crisis of “not enough”.
  • They provide platforms for their personnel to shine. – One comment I received repeatedly was “She believed in me.” or “He knew I could do it.” Being challenged and then given the resources to be successful/effective were huge for folks describing good leaders.
  • Their decisions make sense to their personnel. – Because good leaders keep their teams up-to-date with vision, plans of execution, outcomes, then their decision-making brought no confusing after-shocks. Besides, good leaders instill trust, so buy-in comes more naturally. Often because leaders allowed their teams to speak into the decision as well. This is huge.
  • They extend their reputation to their personnel. – By this, I mean that good leaders share – with those on their teams – the responsibility and rewards of engineering a product or service. It’s not just the upper echelon leaders who collect the kudos. It’s the organization as a whole.
  • They show up when their personnel need them. – Lastly, this characteristic seemed to carry a high emotional ring to it with those I questioned. When an employee is in a tough situation, with an unhappy parent, or a litigious customer, or just having a really bad day, these leaders don’t leave it always to someone else. If they are needed they come…one way or another. “He always had our back.” “She knows me so she knew how hard it was for me that day.” For leaders to show this kind of character requires margin in their lives and willingness to let go of some other piece of their work to show up in this way. Again, I’m thinking these situations are rare, but they reflect a level of leadership that we all appreciate.

Photo Credit: Lone Wolf Technologies

Good leaders are others-focused. They have fought off the natural tendency of being self-focused and self-promoting. They are self-aware (they know themselves and know how they may be perceived by others). They have trained themselves in the habit of putting others first. This discipline is the cut of the fabric of excellence in leadership.

Now, I didn’t go into the other critical parts of a leader’s responsibility – that of keeping the business of the organization running well. This was all about what goes into the kind of leader we are glad to work for. When it comes to bottom-line and performance, Carucci in his article shows research that demonstrates the profitability of keeping priorities (like those above) and focusing positively on personnel. Photo Credit: Assad Schuitema, Care and Growth

“If a video camera captured your leadership team in action for a full day, how would you feel about that video being used as training for the rest of the organization? Serving on a leadership team should be viewed as a privilege. And along with that privilege comes a responsibility to behave in ways you would be proud to have the rest of the organization emulate.” – Ron Carucci

What do you think about what makes for a good leader? Please comment below. Whether you comment or not, take a moment to consider those leaders in your life that have made a tremendous positive impact on your worklife…and through that, your personal life as well. Maybe you’re a good leader because of the influence of those who mentored you.

Have a great Monday!

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

Want to Be a Better leader? – 5 Powerful Ways Kindness Can Help – Peter Economy

What Is the Essence of Leadership? – Quora

Monday Morning Moment – the Endearing, Enduring Multipliers in the Workplace

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

For several years, we had the great privilege of living and working in Cairo, Egypt. My husband directed a Middle Eastern Studies program. I helped him oversee the comings and goings of bright, energetic 20-somethings. When the work, heat, or press of city life became too much, we would escape to the Sinai and the Red Sea. Usually the resort town of Ras Sudr was our quick and quiet get-away, where we could take a weekend just to clear our heads with blue skies and salty sea air.

This time, we went for a week to Dahab, on the far side of the Sinai. r_seaman@hotmail.comPhoto Credit: Egypttailormade.net

Dave was finishing his time in this director role and would take a short sabbatical in the US. We would then return to Egypt, this time for a regional consulting job, guiding the expansion of these study centers.

We were tired, and a consulting job was a dream, with the prospect of just giving a hand to other directors – not nearly the intensity of being responsible for so many young people.

Driving the long road to Dahab, through the calming desert of the Sinai, kids in the backseat, Dave got a phone call.

Whoever it was on the other end, (Dave hadn’t called him by name), the conversation, from my side, was warm and affectionate at first, and then serious. As they talked, visible goose bumps rose on Dave’s arms. Goose bumps on a hot deserty day in Egypt?! I knew no one had died from his side of the conversation, but something huge was clearly being introduced by the caller.

When the call ended, I got the details. Dave spoke quietly so the kids wouldn’t be distracted by a call that could change the course (and geography) of our lives. The person on the other end of the conversation was his dearest mentor – a man for whom he had the deepest respect, even love. On the phone call, he had asked Dave to consider not taking the job of consultant but to take a job with him where he would have even more leadership responsibility. Supervising many more than a couple of dozen 20-somethings in one city. This job would require him to provide leadership to about 100 people spread over 6 different countries AND we would have to move from our beloved Cairo.

Thus, the goose bumps.

Dave did walk away from the “easier” job of consultant to take on the much larger, scarier job his mentor asked of him. We did eventually break the news to our children that we would be moving away from Cairo to a whole new country of possibilities and friendships. It was a stretching move for us (more so than our original move to Cairo), and it was a job and situation we would never have aspired to…were it not for this mentor…this multiplier of leaders.

Liz Wiseman has written the most incredible book on leadership – Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter . Her book describes this mentor of my husband as if she knew him personally. Wiseman is the president of The Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm, headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Blog - Liz Wiseman

Photo Credit: LiveIntentionally.org

I first heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit. Her presentation centered on a more recent book Rookie Smarts. This engaging young woman clearly has had multipliers in her own life and has obviously learned from some diminishers as well.

On the inside cover of Wiseman’s book Multipliers, she defines the terms “Diminishers” and “Multipliers”:

“The first type [diminishers] drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the ones around them and always need to be the smartest ones in the room. These are idea killers, the energy sappers, the diminishers of talent and commitment. On the other side of the spectrum [the multipliers] are leaders who use their intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of the people around them…These are the leaders who inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.” – Liz Wiseman

Have you ever been in a job where you felt your wisdom, understanding, experience were being drained right out of you? As if you were getting stupider and stupider? That can happen…or at least the sense of it happening is so strong it might as well be real. Some of this we must own ourselves, and some of it is owned by our leaders.

[Sidebar – It’s not like diminishers are evil people. Possibly, their focus is so tuned to the endgame that people and processes get lost in the pursuit. I believe if ever they have an “aha!” moment, maybe through the multipliers in their own lives, they could change their habits and disciplines…especially those who become accidental diminishers – in video at minute 28:35.]

This mentor of Dave’s was/is a Multiplier. For much of Dave’s professional life, this man has “popped in” and pressed my husband to reach farther than he might have in his career.

I want to be this sort of leader myself – this one who inspires confidence in others, who sees the possibilities, who risks by giving over control to another, who stirs thinking and enlarges the lives of those in his/her circle of influence…a circle that’s widely inclusive.

Being a leader is a humbling, stretching experience and, for the sake of those under our watch in the workplace, we want to offer the best leadership possible. We can all fall into habits over time that diminish others. Forging disciplines that keep us from doing so is wisdom. Note them from Liz Wiseman’s book:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Wiseman also talks about leaders as change agents – do we reserve the right to make the final decision every time or do we wrestle through decisions with those most affected by them? The latter can definitely be more messy but is also more effective and honoring.

“Multipliers invoke each person’s unique intelligence and create an atmosphere of genius—innovation, productive effort, and collective intelligence…He’ll outstretch all your capabilities to make it happen. He is highly demanding, but you feel great. You know you are signing up for something that will challenge you on a daily basis for many years to come. You will challenge yourself and all your capabilities…Exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, gratifying. He’s a big source of energy. He is a source of power and a tail-wind for what we do.”  – Liz Wiseman

Thank you, Liz Wiseman. You are a wise woman (I’m sure you get this all the time…couldn’t resist). Thanks also to that unnamed mentor and multiplier in my husband’s life…and to all those multipliers in my life’s journey.

Read Wiseman’s book. [If you watch this video, you will want to buy the book…if I haven’t already sold you.] I’d love to hear your stories of multipliers in your life…and any diminishers that you learned from but (hopefully) were not diminished in the season you were together…maybe you became a multiplier in that person’s life. Journey strong, Friends.

Multipliers – How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman with Greg McKeown

Photo Credit: Leadership Natives

Leadership Natives – About Multipliers

YouTube Video – Leaders as Multipliers with Liz Wiseman

Multipliers Quotes from GoodReads

Monday Morning Moment – How an Accidental Diminisher Becomes a Multiplier – Deb Mills

2013 Global Leadership Summit Session 3a: Liz Wiseman

Brian Dodd – 4 Leadership Lessons From Mt. Rainier and the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Business List – another example of a Multiplier

Monday Morning Moment – 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well – Dave Mills

Leadership is a process that has been a great interest all my adult life. There’s this man I know well who actually spends concentrated time studying about leadership, both through books and observing it in practice. He has had the experience of being a leader of few and many. He has managed teams, budgets, and action plans. Other times, he has led only by influence, without authority. He is my go-to person on what is good leadership – which is never a finished product. Leadership changes as organizations and cultures change.

Yet, the basic elements of leadership that builds leaders and, at the same time, gets the job done are foundational.

The man is my husband. He, from time to time, has also been my boss in the workplace. Dave Mills wears many hats. He most recently applies himself to risk/crisis management, security processes, and strategic partnerships. Making leadership development happen is his professional happy place.

In the training he does on Leading From the Heart, he lays out these 6 Basic Elements of Leading Well. With permission, they are excerpted in brief below:

  • Be clear about what you want personnel to do (What)
  • Make sure they know why it is important (Why)
  • Make sure they have what they need to do the job (How)
  • Give them a way to know how they are doing
  • Follow up regularly on priorities and progress (accountability)
  • Make sure they know you care about them

This is intended to help leaders understand what they need to provide for people to thrive in their work. This doesn’t address vision or strategy; it focuses on the people part of the process – the interaction between leaders and those we are responsible to lead.

For someone to thrive in a job, they need all six of these in place.

6 Basic elements of leading people:

1. What:  Be clear about what you want them to do.

People tend to underestimate the amount of communication effort required to achieve clarity.  This requires repeated communication to hammer home a clear understanding of the task. A feedback loop where you ask the team member to explain the assignment back to you is essential.  Even when they can do that, you still need to revisit it regularly.  Do not short-change the work involved to achieve clarity.

[This is very different from micro-managing. This is empowering through comprehensive, understandable information-sharing.]

2. Why:  Make sure they know why it is important.

Do not assume that employees understand why the task is important.  Make sure that is clearly communicated.  If they already know the importance, it helps them to hear it so they know their leader understands the importance.

This is often neglected.  Sometimes it is because it is assumed that the person knows why the task is important.  Sometimes it may be obvious why it is important.  However, it is worth unpacking that together to reinforce the importance of the task and your confidence in the person to successfully carry out the assignment.  The most common scenario is probably just to ignore the issue and never bother to help the person understand why their work is important.  This is one of the points in Lencioni’s three characteristics of a miserable job.  He calls it irrelevance.

3. How:  Make sure they have what they need to do the job.

When you assign a task you must be sure that the person has what is needed to do it.  This may involve resources, like access to equipment or funding.  It may be knowledge.  It may be connections to other people.  There may be a training need.  Or it may be capacity.  Do they have the capacity to take on the task you are assigning to them?  Make sure they have capacity, or free them up from something else, or give them someone to help them with the task.  Also recognize that sometimes at the beginning it may not be clear where the gaps are.  This is something that should be regularly revisited with people – Don’t forget to ask them if they have everything they need.

[This is another area where micro-managing would stifle rather than empower employees. Give team members the authority to get what they need to get the job done.]

4. Give them a way to know how they are doing.

People need to know what a good job looks like.  At the end of a day they need to be able to assess whether or not they did a good job that day.  What are the most important outcomes that you are expecting from them?  Have you expressed these in ways that can be quantified?

5. Accountability: Follow up regularly on priorities and progress.

Check in with them regularly, with intentionality, about progress and priorities.  The leader must take responsibility for driving this.  The frequency depends on the employee and situation, but there should be a regularly set time.  This needs to be a one-on-one conversation with each direct report to discuss what progress has been made since the last check-in and what are the priorities to be focused on until the next check-in.

Not only do you give them a way to assess their own performance, you regularly review their progress and provide feedback on how they are doing.  This is a good opportunity to revisit whether or not they have everything they need to accomplish the assigned work.  This is where coaching and accountability happen.

6. Heart level connections: Make sure they know you care about them.

Relationships are key to leadership.  You need to be intentional and deliberate about building heart level connections with those you lead.  There is an enormous amount of research indicating the importance of this.  If you do all the other parts of the process well and fail on this one, your people may endure your leadership but they will not thrive.  On the other hand, if you are not so great on some of the other parts but do this one well, people will cut you a lot of slack if they know you care about them.  Relationships are the oil that keeps the work machinery going.  Like having something with a lot of moving parts – as long as the oil is there, it runs smoothly.  If you throw some sand in the works, it doesn’t run so well and over time it will grind down to a point where it doesn’t work at all.

Caring about our employees (direct reports, in particular) involves investing in their development. Proactively looking for ways to help someone improve and grow in their work is a very caring and practical thing to do.

[Be careful that you, as a leader, don’t presume a relationship exists. This is only effective when the employee experiences the relationship as positive and caring.]

– Dave Mills, Leading From the Heart

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What do you think? Any element you could use as a leader or team member? In our work (both together and in work independent of each other), Dave and I also believe that leadership development – intentional and proactive – should begin at orientation. The tendency in the workplace is to load development on those already in authority. Entry level and mid-level employees don’t always have benefit of the care needed to provide opportunity to grow and develop in their areas of expertise. It is something to consider on the order of company core values.

Lastly, I just wanted to give a shout-out to some of the folks who have demonstrated excellent leadership to Dave…as well as those in relationship with him who have developed as excellent leaders themselves during the time they worked together. These make for long and rewarding relationships across a lifetime of work.

[Just a few of those remarkable ones are in the following images]

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Trust Me – Sharing Economy, Idling Capacities, and Trust with Rachel Botsman

Photo Credit: YouTube, Rachel Botsman

Trust me. If you ever have the opportunity to hear thought leader Rachel Botsman speak, don’t miss it. Don’t miss her.

Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together and Why It Might Drive Us Apart – Rachel Botsman [Botsman’s latest book]

I discovered Rachel Botsman just a few weeks ago and, of course, wrote a bit about her work.

The concept of “shared economy” and “idling capacities” isn’t new. However, when I heard her use those terms in a TED Talk, my heart about leapt out of my chest. This resonates so with my idea of work and workplace, in terms of valuing people and resources as well as maximizing outcomes.

Rachel Botsman defines these terms as:

Sharing economy – “an economic system that unlocks the value of underused assets through platforms that match ‘needs’ with ‘haves’ in ways that create greater efficiency and access”. – Rachel Botsman

Idling capacity – “untapped social economic and environmental value of underused assets – tend[ing] to fall into three categories: physical stuff, labor assets (time, skills, human potential), and capital assets (crowd-funding, crowd equity, peer-to-peer lending platforms)” – Rachel Botsman

She talks about this broken system of supply-and-demand. “How can we extract more value from existing assets?”

These ideas are captured in a short video of her speaking here.

I see idling capacities and underused assets in all areas of my life… maybe it’s because I struggle with my own idling or being “idled”. That is not for this conversation. What matters more is how to get folks “in the game”, so to speak, who have so much to bring to the table. Yet, for whatever reasons, are idling. At their work station. In meetings without voice. Working at an idling pace when they have capacity for so much more.

Are you aware of such a situation? Share it in Comments below.

A sharing economy breaks down organizational silos, even departmental and team silos, and creates an environment where assets (people, products, places) are maximized. It can be a messy fuzzy-boundaried process. If organizational leaders are willing to give some latitude to the process and the people “idling”, a much healthier and more efficient workplace could be birthed.

Botsman introduces how technology has spurred the evolution of the sharing economy.

Photo Credit: Rachel Botsman

In considering how to have a more expansive mindset related to applying available resources to a problem, we have to be willing to do some difficult things. There are those who will have to give up some control. In a sharing economy, there’s no such only one “smartest person in the room”. Trusting other people on our teams with chunks of decision-making along with the work both conserves and optimizes.

We have to be willing to think outside that proverbial box and ask questions like “what more can we do with….” or “who else can we include….” or “what is it we don’t want to leave out”.

I love those kinds of questions!

Maddening for some, I know. I get it…

For today, I just wanted to introduce this subject…still very much a preschooler in this arena. However, I see it as so influential positively in today’s workplace. So fundamental, too.

Build in idling for reflection, rest, and recalibration…but don’t leave assets in that state for very long. It devalues people and delays product development.

Even when we have the technology to streamline processes and move projects to completion, we have to understand how technology affects trust. Botsman has a quick summation here:

Again, this is just the start of learning in this area for me…Will stop for now. Any thoughts on what you have read or watched?

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Currency of the New Economy Is Trust – Rachel Botsman

YouTube Video – TED Talk – We’ve Stopped Trusting Institutions and Started Trusting Strangers – Rachel Botsman

Thinking – Rachel Botsman

Slideshares – Rachel Botsman

Rise of the Shared Workplace in the Sharing Economy and How the Sharing Economy Is Influencing the Workplace

YouTube Video – TED Talk – How to Trust People We Don’t Like – WorkLife with Adam Grant