The Next-Generation: Leaders or Loafers?

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boss_conversation_06As “Generation iY” is entering the workforce and subsequent leadership roles, organizations are seeking to understand key values and engagement drivers of these next-generation leaders.

At the same time, seasoned leaders are observing a sense of entitlement in these young leaders.   Over-protective parents have rescued their kids to quickly from tough situations rather than instilling perseverance and hard work.      They are growing up being repeatedly told:  “You’re Awesome!”  “You’re Smart!” and “You’re Gifted!” which easily can lead to a self-centered view of the world and an unrealistic view of their place on a team.

Here’s the good news:  I’ve met some fantastic young leaders who are going against the grain and ready to impact their world as servant-leaders.   They are out there.   But finding them demands focused attention on recruiting and training those who are a “diamond” in the rough.

In his book “Artificial Maturity”, Tim Elmore provides 7 Marks of Maturity which help us identify those next-generation team members who are Leaders vs. Loafers:

1. They prioritize others before themselves.

A wise man once said: A mature person is one whose agenda revolves around others, not self. Certainly this can go to an extreme and be unhealthy, but I believe a pathway out of childishness is getting past your own desires and beginning to live to meet the needs of others less fortunate.

2. They are able to keep long-term commitments.

One key signal of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. Part of this means a student is able to keep commitments even when they are no longer new or novel. They can commit to continue doing what is right even when they don’t feel like it.

3. They are unshaken by flattery or criticism.

As people mature, they sooner or later understand that nothing is as good as it seems and nothing is as bad as it seems. Mature people can receive compliments or criticism without letting it ruin them or sway them into a distorted view of themselves. They are secure in their identity.

4. They possess a spirit of humility.

Humility parallels maturity. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less. Mature people aren’t consumed with drawing attention to themselves. They see how others have contributed to their success and can sincerely give honor to their Creator who gave them the talent. This is the opposite of arrogance.

5. Their decisions are based on character not feelings.

Mature people—students or adults—live by values. They have principles that guide their decisions. They are able to progress beyond merely reacting to life’s options, and be proactive as they live their life. Their character is master over their emotions.

5. They express gratitude consistently.

I have found the more I mature, the more grateful I am, for both big and little things. Immature children presume they deserve everything good that happens to them. Mature people see the big picture and realize how good they have it, compared to most of the world’s population.

7. They seek wisdom before acting.

Finally, a mature person is teachable. They don’t’ presume they have all the answers. The wiser they get, the more they realize they need more wisdom. They’re not ashamed of seeking counsel from adults (teachers, parents, coaches) or from God, in prayer. Only the wise seek wisdom.

Such high-capacity “next generation” leaders aren’t en masse – you find them one at a time.  Keep recruiting, keep developing and keep mentoring.

Because – no longer are they the “next” generation.

They are already here.

How Do You Know When a Conversation Turns “Crucial”?

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j04392841_thumbI’ve met a ton of leaders.  I know a ton of great leaders.  And I read a lot from great leaders.

One observation is that all successful leaders do this one thing.

Their personalities may be different.

Their vision will be tailored to their industry.

Even values will be different.

But the key differentiator between good leaders and GREAT leaders is their ability to handle “Crucial  Conversations”.  

Many years ago, I was 28 and trying to prove himself.   I confronted someone about a small thing.  But I handled the conversation poorly.   The small thing turned into a HUGE thing.  I didn’t know how to use T.A.C.T.   So this one area has been a massive growth area for me personally and professionally.

What are Crucial Conversations?   You know when a conversation is turning “Crucial” when there are:

1.  Opposing Opinions

2.  Strong Emotions

3.  High Stakes

So…how do you handle “Crucial Conversations”?   That’s the key question.  To answer, I am attempting to condense an entire book (called “Crucial Conversations”) into a few statements.

The best way to summarize is this:  We must use T.A.C.T

Talk Facts.   Share the facts, not your assumptions.   Facts are least insulting and verifiable.  Facts keep the conversation on the issue, not the person.  Facts keep you focused and helps the other person keep focus also.

Avoid Assumptions.   You and I typically know a narrow slice of facts, so our mind fills in the gaps with assumptions and “stories” about why the person did what they did or said what they said.  We guess about their intentions.   You and I will never handle conversations well if we speak from assumption rather than fact.

Collaborate.  After finding out the facts, ask how you can help.  Partner with them for performance.    Rather than playing the role of an enemy in their eyes, you are offering to be their support, their friend, their advocate.   This is servant leadership at it’s best – even when you’ve been wronged.

Talk Tentatively.   If we address the conversation with a spirit of humility, our body language says “you can trust me.”  However, if we come across direct and confrontative, we will shut them down before the conversation even starts.

Use T.A.C.T when conversations turn crucial.  Use T.A.C.T to hunt the elephant in the room.  

One thing about elephants in the room:  if you don’t address them, they have a tendency to multiply.

Then you’re really screwed.

Why Women Prefer Working Together (and Why Men Prefer Working Alone)

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Men think they’re better off solo, even when they aren’t


My thanks to Derek Thompson from The Atlantic for these insights.  
One of the puzzles of the persistent gender wage gap is why women are highly overrepresented in certain fields, like the nonprofit sector, and hugely underrepresented in other fields, like financial institutions and executive positions in major companies. One reasonable question to ask about the gap is: How much should we blame “the system” (i.e.: clubby nepotism, sexism, lack of paternity leave) and how much should we chalk this up to women’s decisions (i.e.: leaning out in their late 20s and choosing careers that pay less even when they had options to earn more).
Peter J. Kuhn and Marie-Claire Villeval wade into this contentious field with a new study: “Are Women More Attracted to Cooperation Than Men?” The short answer is, well, yes. The more complex answer is: Yes, because men demonstrate more overconfidence in their own abilities and distrust in their colleagues’ aptitude, except under key situations.
Numerous studies have shown that women prefer to work in teams, men prefer to work alone, and women perform worse in competitive environments, even when their performance was similar to men in noncompetitive environments. Kuhn and Villeval wanted to understand why. Although their experiment is highly theoretical, its real-world applications are clear. Women outnumber men in many helping occupations, from charitable organizations to nursing, both of which offer cooperative production with less financial reward.
Their most important conclusion involves perceptions of relative competence. Basically, if you think your colleagues are idiots, you don’t want to cast your lot with them. But if you think your colleagues are smart, you’ll see the advantages in working as a team. Women demonstrated less confidence about their own abilities, the researchers said, and more confidence in their potential partners’ abilities. They were also much more sensitive to increasing their potential partner’s incomes, reinforcing a well-established idea that women demonstrate more “inequity aversion” than men. That is, they’re less comfortable with their colleagues making dramatically different salaries.
But, interestingly, the researchers found that a tiny tweak in team-based compensation erased this entire gender gap.
Kuhn and Villeval cleverly ran an experiment allowing men and women to select team-work versus solo-work, and then re-ran the experiment increasing the returns from excellent team-work by about 10 percent. Once they did this, the cooperation gap between men and women disappeared, as you can see in the difference between Figure 1 and Figure 2 below (EA Treatment = efficiency advantages, or modestly increasing the gains from teamwork).
“The gender gap in the willingness to form a team vanishes when efficiency advantages are introduced,” the researchers said, “because both genders increase their team choices, but men’s increase is much larger. ” In other words, men are more sensitive than women to small tweaks in team-based compensation.
Maybe that sounds absurdly theoretical to you. But it’s a lesson many corporations are already putting to work. The number of Fortune 1000 companies using workgroup or team incentives for at least a fifth of their workers more than doubled between 1990 and 2002, and management have switched to team-pay in both the minimill and the apparel industry.
This isn’t just a story about gender wage gaps; it’s a story about motivation. In manufacturing and other complex processes, teamwork is vital. It’s not enough to focus on making brilliant women feel confident. It’s also key to make overconfident men trust that their colleagues just might be competent.

What Happens To Others When You Speak

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If you find yourself speaking to small or large groups of people – even once in a while – you will want to read this.   
If you train, teach, speak or deliver reports to a group of people, these six helpful revelations about what goes on inside the mind of every audience member will help you best at your best.  
And each are backed up by scientific research.

Speaking Coach Bryan Kelly shares these six “secrets” from years of interviews and research. 
Here are the six secrets:
1.         We follow leaders. When you’re the presenter, you’re given authority. The audience wants and expects you to lead them. What you do next is vital so you don’t lose their allegiance. Become a leader from the start and own it. Stanley Milgram’s controversial experiments in the early 1960s showed it’s very hard for most of us to resist authority. We’re simply wired to follow leaders.
2.         We instantly read people. Audience members size you up before you even speak, which makes it essential to carefully design your opening. A well-crafted introduction and confident body language inspire people to follow your lead throughout the presentation. The past 15 years of psychological study shows people make unconscious decisions about others in one second or less. Malcolm Gladwell explores this research in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.
3.         We assign meaning to body movement. Knowing how to stand, move, gesture, and deal with nervousness conveys leadership, passion, and openness. Stand straight, head upright, breathe deeply, and record yourself on camera when rehearsing. Intentional practice leads to confidence. A 2009 study conducted by Pablo Brinol revealed that by simply taking a posture of confidence, people feel more confident. In her 2011 book, The Silent Language of Leaders, Carol Kinsey Goman explains how physical gestures help us be effective leaders.
4.         We pay attention to vocal tone. The way you say a phrase means as much or more as the words themselves. Great speakers have long utilized this secret to engage audiences through volume, modulation, articulation, and well-placed pauses. MIT professor Alex Pentland summarized his study of nonverbal communication in his 2008 book, Honest Signalsand helped create a device called the Sociometer that monitors and predicts a person’s communication effectiveness.
5.         We imitate emotions. Two highly contagious emotions are passion and nervousness. Think hard about what you’d like people to feel, then exhibit that emotion. Those feelings will be conveyed through your voice and body language. Mirror neurons in our brain allow us to literally experience what others experience. It’s believed these neurons help us empathize with someone. Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran’s 2012 book, The Tell-Tale Brain, details the significance of these neurons and how they work.
6.         We sync brain patterns when listening. Our audience is more strongly affected by listening than by reading slides. Visuals should support what you’re saying, not interfere. Better to have people intently listening than distracted by bullet points and complex charts. A 2010 study by Greg Stephens put participants in an fMRI machine while listening to someone talking. The brain patterns of the listener began to sync with the speaker’s brain patterns. The longer this occurred, the deeper the comprehension.

Mastering these six secrets gives you the ability to effectively connect with any group of people when sharing your expertise.

Why Your Team isn’t Motivated

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I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with some great leaders, and one of those thought leaders, Dr. David Facer with the Ken Blanchard Company, is a friend who has done extensive research on “Optimal Motivation” factors related to our personal and professional engagement.   

The following are thoughts from David regarding three ways to begin motivating our teams.  The great motivation debate among business leaders has been whether motivation is a trait we are born with or a skill that can be developed. Contemporary research has answered that question; motivation is a skill that can be nurtured and developed in oneself and others. This important finding means that employees at all levels have the capability to motivate themselves to meet the complex demands of their jobs in today’s knowledge economy.

But leaders still play a vital role. The next advance needed in today’s organizations is to develop motivation into a strategic leadership capacity. When leaders treat employee motivation as a strategic issue, they create a distinctive advantage that is not easily matched by competitors. This strategic approach results in higher quality individual performance on everyday goals and projects, more “out of the box” thinking, faster innovation, greater acceptance of change, and greater “idea velocity.” Sustaining high quality motivation as a strategic capability also creates a magnet for talent.
Where to start?
The path to competitive advantage is paved with autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Focus on honoring employees’ legitimate needs for a sense of freedom in their work, their natural desire for warm relationships that are free of manipulation, and the natural striving for ongoing competence and growth.
One powerful place to start is with what you write and say to employees.  Here are three simple upgrades that you can make to your communication style to build more autonomy, relatedness, and competence in your interactions:
  1. Offer as many options as possible when making requests for action, and make them true options. Employees need to feel a sense of freedom and control over their work. Try to avoid false options that really pressure them toward the single outcome you think is best.
  2. Highlight the extraordinary learning that everyone is doing, particularly when times are tough. People are less afraid of difficult challenges when they realize they are successfully learning their way through them.
  3. Balance focus on final results with focus on team, community, and collective effort. Be sure not to bang the table for results without expressing your gratitude for individual and team effort along the way.
Distinctive motivational capacity across the entire organization, in all functional areas, and among every level of executive, can be built by more carefully cultivating the work environment. Optimal motivation is fostered when you upgrade the quality of the language used in everyday meetings, in email, and even in how senior leaders speak to the financial markets. Such improvements tell employees what matters most—and whether employee well-being is really a central management focus.
The more you show that you genuinely care about your people as human beings, and are thankful for all they strive to achieve every day, the more likely you are to set your organization apart from the rest.

About the author:
The Motivation Guy  (also known as Dr. David Facer)  is one of the principal authors—together with Susan Fowler and Drea Zigarmi—of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ new Optimal Motivation process and workshop.

How to Control Your Control Freak

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Control freaks are bullies even when they smile.  Trust me, I’m a “recovering” control freak and I know first hand. Anything less than compliance offends “us”.  

Dan Rockwell has some great thoughts on this topic:  

We are a Control Freak if we:

1.  Believe perfectionism is the same as excellence

2.  Get irritated when people don’t adapt to you

3.  Possess irritating tenacity

4.  Know better and can do better than others

5.  Nitpick and intervene

6.  Monopolize conversations and interrupt.

Bonus: Control freaks panic when they feel control going to others.

6 Ways to control your control freak:
  1. Authorize someone on your team to confront you when you’re controlling. Give them permission to point out controlling language, postures, and behaviors.
  2. Ask more; command less.
  3. Adapt to and align with others. Adapting is weakness and failure to control freaks. Everything’s a contest.
  4. Speak for yourself not others. Control freaks won’t speak from their hearts and won’t let others speak from theirs either. Say what you really think.
  5. Monitor and reject fear-based decisions. Control freaks are fearful. Fear is best for maintaining and protecting. Courage innovates.
  6. Go with new ideas. Control freaks default to “no,” unless it’s their idea.                             

Control your control freak by having real conversations:
Control freaks can’t have conversations because conversations are with  – not to.

Control ends conversation.
Control freaks can’t listen. They’re constantly wondering how to get what they want.

Candor and control:
Control freaks aren’t candid, they manipulate.
Candor takes courage to own hard things 

not just say hard things.

Types of leadership conversations
  1. Connect. Close the distance. Embrace casual; reject corporate-speak.
  2. Correct or confront.
  3. Create.
  4. Collaborate. Plan with not for.

Utter these Four Words (If You Want to Kill Young a Leader’s Drive and Motivation)

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  I met a young man in his mid-20’s recently who shared with me his plans to change jobs. He’d been with his current employer for a couple of years, taking on increasing levels of responsibility. He didn’t mind the additional work without a title change or more compensation; he was delighted to be learning, expanding his skills, and gaining valuable experience. A position in his current organization that represented the next logical step in his career progression had recently opened up. He summoned the courage to approach his management with his interest. The response he received started with those four small words:
You’re too young to…”
Nothing that came after mattered to – or was even heard by – this young man. He promptly activated his network, started applying for jobs elsewhere, and tendered his resignation.
“You’re too young to…”
These four small words go far beyond answering a request or redirecting someone’s effort. They’re killer words.  They extinguish motivation, inspiration, excitement, and even connection with the organization. These four small words close doors and choke off possibilities. They discourage, demoralize, and drive young people away.
Now, let’s be honest. Not all young people are prepared to take on every challenge they aspire to. But youth should never be used as an excuse or reason to hold someone back. Instead, what if organizations and managers communicated a different ‘you’re too’ message to their young, ambitious workers? What about…
You’re too talented to not keep growing… so what skills will you need to develop to be prepared to take on greater responsibilities?
You’re too valuable to not know how much we appreciate you… so thank you for your contributions and performance.
You’re too creative and innovative to not continue to be challenged… so what‘s next on the list of things you’d like to take on?
The ambition and even impatience of young workers can be a vital competitive advantage to organizations who know how to harness it. We need young employees to remain passionately engaged so we can cultivate them into the tenured contributors who will become the bedrock of our organizations. The first step is to rid your vocabulary of those four small words.  And we’re never too young – or old – to do that.

*I am thankful to Julie Guilioni who stated these findings, and caused these thoughts to be noteworthy.

Four Ways to Overcome the Fear of Conflict

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It’s nauseating to hear – someone soft-shoe dancing around an issue because they’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings. They do so because they might receive negative feedback in a 360 review that they were abrupt or too direct in delivering feedback on that issue. So rather than going the direct route, they water down their message until it’s a mealy mouthed blathering stream of meaningless suggestions.

Let me ask you this – do you want to follow a “leader” who doesn’t speak his or her mind? Someone who is more concerned with how their actions will be perceived rather than saying what they really think? Do you want to follow a leader who is more interested in doing nothing wrong (and hence not doing much of anything) or would you rather follow someone who takes a stand for what they believe in and suffers the consequences as appropriate?
Me? I’ll choose option B.
Conflict avoidance has invaded teams,  and it’s an ugly blight. IMPORTANT: realize, I’m not advocating or approving of hateful, cruel, rude, or offensive behavior and words. Those words and behaviors have no place in any workplace (or our lives for that matter).
What I’m attacking is a belief that we as leaders can’t speak our minds because we might hurt someone’s feelings. It’s that mindset that erodes the core of leadership over time and turns it into gentle corrective actions that end up having no impact whatsoever. Sure, no one felt corrected or had their feelings hurt but they now effectively have no idea what they’re supposed to do or what they did wrong in the first place because the message was diluted.

It’s called CANDOR.  Jack Welch speaks of this as critical for personal success.   So here’s what I propose:
1. Take the But(t) Sandwich off the Menu
Starting and ending feedback sessions with some false flattery just so you can jam a big slice of nasty feedback in the middle is a waste of time. It’s disingenuous. It also destroys your credibility as a leader. Any time after that if you begin praising someone, they’ll simply be waiting for the “but…” even if it’s never coming. This approach to giving feedback is terrible. Stop it. Now. But(t) sandwiches are now off the menu.
2. Everyone Grow Up
Take your binkies out of your mouths and put your blankies away in your Scooby Doo knapsacks. This ain’t kindergarten anymore folks. The feedback isn’t personal. If you screwed up, step up and take it like an adult. I’ve screwed up plenty of times. And yes, when I took my beatings they were VERY unpleasant. But I took them and acted on them.
When you get drilled for doing something wrong then go crying about it to your peers, it makes you look like an idiot. They know you screwed up. They know you’re simply deflecting blame. If we spent as much time and energy focusing on fixing the mistake and building our skills to prevent the next one as we do on complaining to our coworkers about how mean our boss was to us, maybe we would actually perform better.  Getting some pointed feedback and being mature about receiving it is in your job description.  When you take responsibility, others trust you much more.  
3. Take of the Soft Shoes and Put on the Boots
When you tiptoe around an issue, we come across as lacking conviction and clarity. More likely than not the recipient of the feedback knows what they did (or didn’t do). They just want you to get it over with. Dancing around the issue is a waste of time. It’s confusing. The recipient might walk away confused or with the wrong impression. None of these are good things.
Whether you’re going to saddle up and be more direct or not, you’ll need to take off the soft shoes and put on the boots. If you’re going to be direct, you’ll need the boots to deliver a swift kick in the behind. If you’re still going to dance around the issue, the boots will at least protect your ankles from the piles of crap that are rising and filling the room.
4. Lead
It’s not always a glamorous job.  Whether you are a Director, Executive, Teacher or Parent, you’ve chosen to do it. Go be direct. Don’t deliberately hurt feelings but for crying out loud tell people what you really think.
If you’re avoiding conflict so you can fly under the radar and continue to advance your career,  at some point your lack of direct communications will be your undoing. If you simply find being direct difficult and inherently unpleasant you might want to reconsider where you want to take your career. The higher you go, the less tolerance there is for bullcrap.
The best leaders I’ve ever met and worked for were direct. They were respectful of the individual, polite, and when needed, up in your grill with some pointed feedback. I know it made me a better performer. You’ve probably had similar experiences. Don’t you owe that same directness to your team? Shouldn’t they know exactly where they stand?
Being “nice” for the sake of avoiding conflict is dysfunctional. It will destroy your organization and your credibility in the long run. I call on each and every one of us to embrace candor and directness in the spirit of making our teams better. I think I’ve been direct enough in this post with what’s on my mind. Now it’s your turn…

The Yoda Principle of Leadership

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Life goals. Bucket lists. “One day I’ll…”

We all have dreams and goals. The biggest difference between people who achieve them and people who don’t is the act of actually DOING. 

Do you have goals and things you want to achieve? Professional aspirations? Personal bucket list items? Let me ask this – what’s stopping you from starting on them?
Today I decided to serve up a little motivation, Yoda style.

Luke whined “All right. I’ll give it a try.” Yoda gave Luke an attitude adjustment “No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

What would Yoda say to you if you talked to him about your goals and your progress toward them? That’s what I thought. I’m here to be your Yoda. (for a few minutes anyway).  
Here are some great first steps you can take right now to help you move toward achieving your goals.
“Ready are you?” – Yoda
You can’t get “there” if you don’t know where “there” is. Sit down and actually articulate what it is you’re trying to achieve. Define success.
Some people say I’m lucky (I actually think I am) but there’s more to it than luck. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” I tend to make sure I’m prepared to achieve my goals.
Have you defined your goal? Are you ready to seize the opportunity when it knocks? No? Then go write your goal down. Now. I’m not kidding. Write it down.
Luke: “I don’t believe it!”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”
Do you believe in yourself? What about belief in God’s direction in your life?  Do you believe you have the ability to achieve the goal or build the skills that will enable you to achieve it?  
You have to believe. You must be relentless in pursuing those goals. The minute you lose confidence, you’re done. That lack of confidence will show through in all you do and a vicious circle of failure will begin.
Do you have reminders around you that help you remember you can achieve and succeed? Find those reminders. Start believing in yourself, those close to you and providential purpose. It’s a good bet to make.
“There is no try. Do.” – Yoda
I could spew forth a ton of quotes about taking that first step on your journey blah blah blah. I won’t. I’ll just say if you have big goals, they can be daunting. But you have to start somewhere.
Every interim step on the path to the broader goal is a goal in and of itself. I tackle every one with a mindset of “do.” Do not procrastinate. Do not be overwhelmed. Break your goal up into smaller steps and “do.”
Look – I know you have goals. The question is whether you’re actively pursuing them and ready to achieve them. 

Heed Yoda’s advice:

– “Ready are you?”
–  Believe
– “Do”

Four Words I Say to Jerks

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Someone once taught me four words that you should say to jerks.

They are simple, they are easy, and they are not that fancy.

Whenever someone is a jerk to me, I always say, “You might be right.”

This accomplishes a few things:

1. It admits that maybe they are right. I make mistakes. Maybe I did something wrong. Could this person bring it up without being a jerk? Sure, but just because they were a jerk doesn’t mean they were wrong.

2. It ends the conversation.

3. It releases me from carrying it around all day.

It’s over. I’m done. You might be right.

Maybe you’re not, but I didn’t say, “You are right.” I said “You might be right.”

I’m just not going to give you anymore of my life to figure out if you are.

I’m out.