Guest post by Steven Snyder
Leadership is often a struggle. Yet we can be brainwashed by western culture into thinking that struggle is inherently bad, a stigma that gets in the way when we find ourselves facing difficult or challenging times. Fears take over, leaving us embarrassed or ashamed, or even denying that a problem exists in the first place.
Something powerful happens when we defy cultural stereotypes and face struggle head on, embracing it as an art to be mastered. New possibilities emerge, beginning with the awareness that our difficulties are actually a gateway to greater growth and learning.
From that moment of awareness comes positive action. We let go of old dysfunctional habits and healthier patterns emerge, more adaptive and aligned with our core purpose, values and vision.
Here are five ways to get started down this path:
- Adopt a growth mindset. My friend and former Microsoft CFO Frank Gaudette (now deceased) used to say: “I reserve the right to wake up smarter every day.” When facing a new challenge, be honest with yourself about what new skills you need. Take the time to build them.
- Center your mind, body and spirit. Like the foundation under a building, you need a set of daily and weekly practices to anchor and steady you through turbulence and upheaval. Find the mix that works for you, whether it is exercise, prayer, journaling, being with nature, or meditation. Despite how busy you are, take the time to eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep. The more you nourish your body, the better it will work for you.
- Build your support community. You can’t do it alone. You need people to help and guide you, and give you feedback when you veer off course. Your support team can include your family, friends, peers, coaches, mentors, and, if you are lucky, your boss. Consider starting a True North Group to create an ongoing support system.
- Overcome your blind spots. We all have blind spots that can get us into trouble if we are not careful. A common one—I call it the Conflict Blind Spot—comes in the midst of intense conflict. Every interaction is interpreted through a distorted lens, further justifying that we are in the right and others are wrong. As conflict escalates it can undermine the very organizational mission we intend to serve. At the core of the Conflict Blind Spot lies fear or hurt; fear of an unknown or uncertain future, or hurt stemming from some past, even unrelated, trauma. By releasing these negative emotions you clear space for healing, self-forgiveness and compassion, opening new avenues to seek common ground.
- Recommit, pivot, or leap. During any struggle episode you ultimately face a choice. Do you recommit to previous goals, albeit with renewed vigor, a new attitude and newly acquired skills? Or do you pivot, slightly altering course, based on new understanding and awareness? Or is a more major step required—a bold leap into uncharted territory? The risks vary, as do the rewards. To choose the best path for you, search inward and ask yourself: which path is most consistent with your personal vision or mission statement? If you haven’t written one down yet, now may be good time to start.
All leaders face adversity. Exceptional leaders thrive in it. As you move down the path toward struggle mastery, your leadership capability will improve and your journey will become more gratifying and fulfilling. Who knows? You may discover that today’s difficulties and challenges ultimately are revealed as gifts in disguise.
Steven Snyder’s new book Leadership and the Art of Struggle has been called the “must read leadership book of the year.” Snyder was an early leader at Microsoft where he worked closely with Bill Gates. He was also CEO of publicly traded Net Perceptions. Snyder holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit snyderleadership.com.
Personal note from Jesse: This week we are celebrating the official launch of Leadership and the Art of Struggle, one of this year’s most important leadership books. It’s a must-read, not only for leaders, but for all of us! This insightful and practical book will guide you on a journey we all must take – learning how to navigate this complex world from a position of strength, not from a survival mentality. Keep your copy close at hand as you will refer to it often!
Welcome to the March 2013 Leadership Development Carnival!
Thanks to those who contributed the many excellent posts on leadership practices, the workplace environment and personal mastery. And a special thanks to carnival leader Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership for the invitation to host this carnival.
Leadership Practices and Approaches
Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire-CS makes a compelling pitch for being intentional about giving praise and recognition as a daily practice in When things go right. Mary Jo reminds us that “leaders need to look and remark on the things that go right as well as those mistakes made by those around them.”
Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership says, “A lot of leaders make the mistake of using the same conflict management strategy for all kinds of conflict. There are actually three types of conflict, each requiring a different approach.” In How to Handle 3 Kinds of Conflict, Dan shows you how to be more effective next time conflict arises.
In her post 6 Qualities in a Leadership Role Model, Sharlyn Lauby, The HR Bartender, describes six qualities associated with Servant Leadership.
According to Neal Burgis at Practical Solutions Blog, “The old model of leadership was all about having the answers. In the current model, the leader’s primary role is to initiate conversations that bring out the best thinking of the group.” Powerful Conversations that Yield Powerful Results offers tips for holding these conversations.
Gwyn Teatro of You’re Not the Boss of Me says, “A team is made up of people. It is the leader’s job to learn as much as possible about what those people are capable of bringing to it and to encourage their willingness to do so.” Gwyn poignantly describes the consequences of a missed opportunity in A Reflection on Teambuilding… and the Story of Edith.
Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Blog points out “there should be no surprises at annual performance review time.” In Performance Reviews Made Effective, Wally offers sound advice that will not only make them more effective, but also helpful instead of painful.
In her excellent TEDx talk, The Woman Effect – Video and the Research Behind It, Dana Theus of InPower Consulting Blog examines the modern state of feminine leadership and invites us to show up and participate. She describes the “Tragic Queen” and the “Underdog Princess” and makes a compelling case that ultimately the real difference is in their belief in their own power.
According to Art Petty of Managing Excellence, we live and work in a world filled with chaos and turbulence and must plan and prepare for instability, disruption, and chaos in advance. Art describes 5 Priceless Lessons from Amundsen and Scott and points out, “we will all be better off if we incorporate this explorer’s constancy of purpose and unrelenting focus into our personal and professional endeavors.”
Anna Farmery of The Engaging Brand tells us it’s the little spontaneous gestures that mean so much in What is the Customer Experience.
Bernd Geropp at More Leadership discusses the difference between efficient and effective and your role as a leader. In Why Your Employees Are Not Working Efficiently, he points out it’s not just a simple matter of proper training.
Do KRA’s and Rewards Help in Quality? by Tanmay Vora at QAspire Blog touches upon Alfie Kohn’s work and questions if external reward systems help in tapping the intrinsic motivation of people.
Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context Blog addresses the challenges of complexity. She says, “As our work becomes more complex, so do our ethical dilemmas.” in Complexity in Leadership, Linda discusses the thinking skills to needed to navigate complex situations more easily.
Nick McCormick of The Joe and Wanda on Management Blog asks Are You a Manager or a Host?
The Workplace Environment: Culture, Change, Innovation, and Empowerment
Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within explains that to successfully implement a change effort, “leaders much acknowledge and deal with the emotions of the people who are affected.” Change the Sixth Sense shows us that “change cannot be comprehended without taking into account our feelings.”
John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog points out that “the need in so many organizations to avoid failure means wise actions are avoided because there is a risk of failure.” On the other hand, “reducing the impact of failure is very wise and sensible.” Taking Risks is Necessary, But Costs of Failure Should Still be Managed discusses how to maximize innovation and improvement while minimizing the impact of failure.
Leadership Development – a Key Strategy in Change Management, by Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation explores how coaching, training and 360 degree feedback is a key strategy for creating an organization that’s responsive to change. As a bonus, Jennifer includes an infographic of a 2013 survey by The Institute for Corporate Productivity that demonstrates how critical of an issue change is for today’s organizations.
In his TEDx talk, Why Great Ideas Get Rejected, David Burkus of LDRLD demonstrates that we possess an inherent bias against innovation in part because we evaluate new ideas through the lens of the status quo. He offers helpful advice on how we can get better at recognizing the value of new ideas when they are presented.
Tanveer Nasser shares Lessons on Effective Leadership From a Nobel Laureate derived from the work of James Watson. Tanveer notes “as innovation continues to evolve into a required cornerstone in today’s organizations, science will certainly play a guiding role in helping leaders to understand how to develop a experimentation mindset within their workforce,” and he stresses the importance of the role of observation.
S. Chris Edmonds of The Purposeful Culture Group asks “how well do your leaders communicate, model, and champion your organization’s desired culture?” in Enable Employees with Liberating Rules.
Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding by Giana Consulting discusses the importance of organizational culture in The greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage.
Joel Garfinkle of Career Advancement Blog discusses three best practices in recruiting and retaining talent in What’s It Worth to You? — Valuing Human Capital.
Mark Stelzner of Inflexion Point explains that fear is pervasive for all of us and makes the case that an important role of HR is to support employees in facing their fears: On Fear And HR.
Ray Benedetto of Guiding Star Blog describes three anchors of effective leadership systems and provides a checklist to assess your ability to survive the next leadership change in Avoiding Organizational Leadership Crises.
Chris Young at Human Capital Strategies Blog shares 7 Business Lessons from Peter Drucker Every CEO Must Follow.
In Stuck in the Middle, Mary Ila Ward of The Point offers suggestions to C Level executives for empowering middle managers.
Personal Mastery, Communication and Networking
Wendy Appel at The Enneagram Source Blog show us that better decisions will result if our head, heart and gut all have a seat at the table in Integrated Response: Head, Heart, Gut.
Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace offers Tips To Pinpoint Real Issues At Work. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a colleague or a boss who is “talking around an issue,” here are 4 good questions you can ask to help them get focused and right to the heart of the issue.
How do you respond to feedback? Jesse Lyn Stoner describes the peril of ignoring it and provides 4 tips for How to Answer a Wake Up Call. (Hint: Don’t hit the snooze button.)
Julie Winkle Giulioni says “networking is a core competency and requirement for business success.” In Networking Not Working? 6 Strategies for the Intrepid Schmoozer, Julie offers six practical suggestions to increasing your comfort and confidence in networking situations.
In Simple Virtual Touchpoints – A Catalyst for Global Conversations, Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership says, “One of the most valuable outcomes of engaging with people via Social Media has been the opportunity to network with, learn from and build communities with thought leaders from around the world.”
Mark Bennett of TalentedApps explains that to achieve your goals you need a plan that “translates into specific behaviors for your particular situation” in Make sure you know the second shot.
In The Secret Behind the 9 Box Performance Potential Grid, Karin Hurt of Let’s Grow Leaders explains how to take charge of your career. She suggests finding out where you fit in your organization’s succession plan and offers some additional tips.
Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success explains that stress itself might not be bad, but rather the problem is how you handle it. She says, “If you put your energy into controlling stuff to avoid stress you are bound to fail” in Cope or Control (That is the Question).
Jon Mertz of Thin Difference Blog recently attended the Wisdom 2.0 Conference and shares his learnings in Six New, New Things I Learned from Wisdom 2.0.
Jim Taggart at Changing Winds outlines 9 types of intelligence in Are You Emotionally Intelligent? EI–The Inner Side of Leadership: Part I
In Leadership that Limits Success, Guy Farmer of Self-Awareness Workshops Blog says self-awareness is important so you can choose behaviors that increase success.
Joan Kofodimos of Anyone Can Lead Blog offers some excellent advice on how to Make Sure Your Strengths Don’t Become Weaknesses.
In Saddle Up and Lead Claudio Morelli of The Lead Change Group says,“Overcoming fear is key to a leader’s success in working through difficult situations when their leadership is challenged and sometimes threatened.”
In her post The real ways to capitalize on failure, Robyn McLeod summarizes an Inc. magazine blog post by Lewis Schiff on 5 things to do when you fail.
Randy Conley of Leading with Trust closes out the carnival by providing encouragement to us all by reminding us that we matter in You Matter – The Truth About Your Purpose and Value. A message we all need to remember.
The results on her 360 feedback were troubling… for her boss… but apparently not for her. Susan was delivering great results, and she knew it. She had successfully led the effort to launch three new products since she had joined the company two years earlier. Bright, ambitious and well-educated, Susan had a clear career path in the company.
She was surprised her direct reports had rated her so low on empathy, managing emotions and providing feedback, and she reluctantly agreed when her boss suggested she work with a coach.
Susan hit the snooze button on her wake up call.
After a few coaching sessions, Susan decided she was too busy to continue and that she could resolve the issues on her own. Indeed, things did improve for a while, and Susan was given additional responsibilities.
Fast-forward three years: Susan is no longer with the company. The company did not continue to tolerate her behavior despite her marketing brilliance.
Snooze and you lose!
Recently I wrote about how Alfred Nobel answered his wake up call, and in the comments section I shared a personal wake up call of my own. We all get wake up calls at some point.
The question is: how are you going to answer yours? Here are four tips:
1. Pay attention.
First listen to the message in your wake up call. Set your inner critic aside and listen with objectivity. If you’re beating yourself up or defending yourself, you won’t get the message. You can’t respond if you don’t hear the call.
2. Create space.
Most likely you won’t know what to do right away, and your first impulse might not be the best one. Jumping to action might relieve your anxiety, but you might be jumping out of the pot and into the frying pan. Before you start doing something, just stop doing what is inconsistent with the message. Susan could have backed off from giving so much direction for a bit. If your wake up call is about a career change, it’s difficult to think about options if all of your time is filled. The point is to take some time for reflection and stay with the message until it has been digested and understood.
3. Show up.
Sometimes an alchemy occurs when you are clear about what you want and create space. You don’t necessarily have to figure it all out. On the other hand, sitting back and just waiting for magic to occur is not a good idea either. It’s important to show up and be present so when opportunity arises, you’ll recognize it. Susan could have started listening more to her team. She could have asked for more information to better understand the feedback or even asked for their thoughts on how to proceed with the current project. If your wake up call involves a career change, you could talk with people who are doing things that look interesting about what their work really entails, what they like about it and what they don’t. This is a time to ask lots of questions.
4. Make your decision visible.
Once it is clear what to do, make a commitment to take action. When I decided I was only going to work within a 100 mile radius of my home, I didn’t just sit and wait for the phone to ring. I let people know my intention. And I followed up on their suggestions. Making it visible serves two purposes: 1) It activates your support network, and 2) It holds your feet to the fire and makes you accountable to take action. If you don’t feel comfortable making it public, write it down and put it somewhere visible to yourself.
Two years ago, as I sat down to write my first blog post, I found myself at a loss for where to start. As a focusing activity, I decided to write the purpose of my blog. It was quite helpful, and I ended up making that the topic of my first post: The Answer to What is Why.
I hit the publish button that evening, sent out a tweet - “What happens when you put a message in a bottle? I’ll find out in the morning. I just published my first blog post” - and then I went to bed. When I awoke the next morning, I was surprised to find 6 comments waiting for me, and more came in later that day. In some ways it was more exhilarating than publishing my first book. Such tangible, instant feedback!
Since then, I have written at least one blog post a week for the past two years. I have found my rhythm and style, and blogging has become part of my routine. My original purpose in blogging still holds, and I have personally benefited and grown as a result. To be honest, I still take a deep breath when I hit the publish button as it still feels a bit audacious sending my words off into cyberspace.
There have been some unexpected bonuses. I am delighted that my blog has become recognized and widely read in such a short period. What I noted in my first post holds true. Each post is like sending a message in a bottle – there are no guarantees it will be received, understood or appreciated.
The second bonus is that I often get a lot of comments. This has been the most rewarding part of blogging for me. I love the conversation as reader comments deepen the messages in my posts and take me further in my own thinking.
Finally, I have been honored to discover and connect with some wonderful leadership bloggers who generously offered me guidance early on, many of whom who have become real friends – Lolly Daskal, Wally Bock, Dan Rockwell aka Leadership Freak, Becky Robinson, Whitney Johnson, Bret Simmons, Mary Jo Asmus, Tanveer Naseer, Kathy Caprino and my buddy Chris Edmonds who I had worked with at the Ken Blanchard Companies.
My only concern is that a lot of my original thinking was published before many people were aware of my blog. Because people tend not to read older posts, they are missing out on material I have not repeated. For the past two years, I’ve been laying out my research, concepts and process for creating a shared vision, interspersed with information on building high performing teams, organizational change, collaborative leadership, and navigating non-hierarchical work environments.
30 quotes from my first year of blogging
A while ago I listed some quotes from my books. Recently my friend and colleague Irene Becker suggested I list some quotes from my blog. I think it’s a nice way to honor and celebrate my 2nd anniversary. Each quote links back to the original post.
Guest Post by Mark Miller
There was a lot in the news this week about a ship adrift at sea – its passengers stranded. The ship drifted 90 miles in one night, pushed by the currents. Have you ever been on a team that felt like it was moving but not purposefully? Perhaps you had a sense it was the winds of corporate politics moving you rather than focused, strategic intent. Or, maybe the currents of uncertainty set your “direction.” In her Harvard Business Review article, Jesse Lyn Stoner calls this “Team Drift.”
I’ve been working with teams for over 20 years, and unfortunately, I’ve seen many teams drift, but I’ve never seen one drift to greatness. There are numerous case studies of great teams – in sports, in non-profit organizations, even in businesses. I’ve read of their heroic accomplishments and their journeys. However, I’ve never have seen a report that indicated the team woke up one morning and realized they were great.
So, if it’s not an accident or a case of spontaneous team combustion, how does it happen? Although the journeys are all unique, they all begin the same way – it starts with leadership. Leaders build high performance teams by ensuring their teams are strong in each of these six areas.
Establish Vision – Leadership always begins with clarity on where you want to go. Leaders make sure their team understands what they want to achieve, how they’re going to accomplish it and what they want to become.
Create Core Values – Values are the beliefs that drive behavior. They establish the norms of behavior for the team, how to approach the work, how to think about customers, what behaviors will be rewarded and which ones will not be tolerated.
Provide Resources – Once when I was promoted to lead an already strong team, a senior member of the team privately told me, “What we need you to do for us is get the resources. We’ll do the rest.” It was a great reminder of one of the most important roles of a team leader.
Establish Boundaries – What’s “in bounds” and what is not? Team members need clarity on which decisions the leader wants or needs to be involved in and which decisions should be handled independently by the team. This should not be a mystery!
Provide Education – Leaders know skills turn aspiration into accomplishment. Leaders need to help the team assess what skill gaps exist and ensure the team gets the training and education needed to close those gaps.
Provide Encouragement – Because of the position we occupy, our words carry more weight than those who aren’t in positions of leadership. Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-A, is known for asking the question: “How can you tell if someone needs encouragement?” His answer, “If they’re breathing!”
If you’ve decided to build a team, congratulations! You can be the rudder your team needs to navigate the currents attempting to pull them out to sea.
Enjoy the journey!
Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, best-selling author, and communicator, is excited about sharing The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do. You can find it on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere. Mark writes the popular blog Great Leaders Serve. Follow Mark on Twitter @LeadersServe and find him on Facebook: Great Leaders Serve
Guest Post by Don Maruska and Jay Perry
Pursuing a second career in a different field can be either an opportunity for excitement and fulfillment or a nightmare. These three critical actions will help you succeed.
1. Think it through – not just on your own but with someone else.
Left on your own, it’s easy to get caught up in wishful thinking or debilitating fears — or to vacillate unproductively between the two. Find a friend, coworker, or family member who is willing to listen to you and support your hopes without being judgmental or directive. It’s your talent, and you need to be the one taking charge of it.
The latest insights from neuroscience and psychology and decades of experience have shown that when carefully pursued, this conversation can explore your person’s hopes, identify opportunities, and initiate productive actions. We call it a Talent Catalyst Conversation because in about an hour it stimulates fresh thinking and accelerates action.
2. Plan how you will tap resources and opportunities to pursue your aspirations.
Starting a second career in a different field has similar challenges as a business that is making a huge shift into a new market. It takes thoughtful planning and diligent efforts to tap the resources you have and reach out to others in creative and productive ways. You need to expand your resources, make more complete use of them, and connect them for faster results — what we call a Resource Power Up.
Answer these questions to create an outline that you can share with others — what you want to accomplish, why, how, with whom, when, what resources and what reports and measures.
3. Create and test your new “brand” to see how it sells.
Will people perceive and support your new direction? Tony wanted to shift out of a management role in a specialized field where he’d been for decades into a broader general manager role. He had a “personal brand’ problem. He needed to rebrand himself from a specialty line manager into a general manager.
Tony used the following formula to shift others’ perceptions and get the job he wanted: Personal brand + proof points = opportunities. Work this equation backwards: Tony wanted general manager opportunities. So, what personal brand would he need to project? Instead of seeing him as “Tony the specialty line manager,” others needed to see him as “Tony the problem solver,” with abilities that cover a range of issues. He needed express that brand and provide concrete proof points to support it.
One way Tony created proof points was by writing up a case study of one of the critical problems he had led his department in solving. He highlighted how his problem solving approach worked and how others could apply it in different areas. These proof points boosted his credibility as a general manager. What had been in his head was now converted into a valuable problem solving asset which he brought to his new general manager job.
Take Charge of Your Talent: Three Keys to Thriving in Your Career, Organization, and Life, is for anyone at any stage of their career – whether just beginning, mid-career, or even considering a “second act.” Maruska and Perry show how each of us can unlock our talents and enjoy doing it. They turn the old top-down models of talent development on their heads and provide keys that anyone can easily apply. Check out the Take Charge of Your Talent Facebook Page.
Don Maruska, author of How Great Decisions Get Made, founded and was CEO of three Silicon Valley companies. Jay Perry is one of the founders of Coach University and the International Coach Federation.
A personal note from Jesse:
I am excited about Take Charge of Your Talent. In the Foreword, one of my favorite leadership thought-leaders, Jim Kouzes, author of The Leadership Challenge, explains why: “Each and every person has the power to make extraordinary things happen in their lives. What is required is to take personal responsibility for using that power. That’s why this book is so important and useful. It gives us the tools and methodology. This book offers the keys to ignite your personal power.”
Alfred came from a long line of Swedish scientists, engineers and inventors. He learned the principles of explosives at a young age from his father who owned a machine tool and weapons factory in Russia in the mid 19th century. He studied chemistry in Paris and the United States and filed his first patent for a gas meter at the age of 24. At the age of 34, Alfred invented dynamite.
By the time he was 55 in 1888, Alfred had been issued over 350 patents internationally, owned 90 armaments factories in over 20 countries and had amassed a great fortune. Although he owned a home in Paris, he was constantly traveling, unmarried, and according to Victor Hugo was “Europe’s richest vagabond.”
1888 was a significant year for Alfred. His older brother Ludwig had just died. When Alfred opened the newspaper, he was startled to read his own obituary instead of Ludwig’s. The Paris newspaper had confused the two brothers.
Worse yet, the headline ran: “Le marchand de la mort est mort” – “The merchant of death is dead.” The article went on to say that Alfred had “made his fortune by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
That would give anyone pause for reflection! And Alfred had 8 more years to reflect on this before his real death in 1896 … 8 years to do something about it. He made a big decision, and his actions changed the impact of his life and how he would be remembered.
Alfred Nobel established the world’s most famous awards – the Nobel Prizes.
How do you want to be remembered?
What do you want people to say about you after you’re gone?
Most of us are not given the gift of reading our own obituary prematurely. However, you can write your obituary by the way you live your life now.
You will not be remembered for what you owned, the clothes you wore, what kind of car you drove, or how fancy your home was. No one ever put on their tombstone how much time they spent at work.
You will be remembered for the effect you had on others and the contribution you made to the world – either positive or negative.
Create a vision for who you want to be and how you want to live your life.
Are you living the life you want to be remembered for?
Do you have a vision for the life you want? One way to create a vision is to write your own obituary. As morbid as it might sound, there is something powerful about actually writing it out, and not just thinking about it.
If you decide to give it a try, here are some questions to consider:
- What are 5 adjectives you would like people to use to describe you? Rank order them from most important to least important. You might have a longer list, but it’s not possible to be all things to all people all the time. Which are the ones you are not willing to compromise on?
- What do you care deeply about? Is there anything you would be willing to take a public stand for, regardless of whether it felt uncomfortable?
- Who are the most important people in your life? What would you like each of them to say about you, how you treated them and what effect you had on them.
- What would you like your co-workers and boss to say about you?
- What would you like your letter carrier, newspaper delivery person, the grocery clerk or others who serve you to say about you?
- What would you like people who don’t know you well to say about you?
- What would you like to be able to say about yourself?- your personality, physical appearance, health, spiritual life, knowledge, etc.?
- What would be said about your priorities and how you demonstrated what they were. (e.g. yourself, family, friends, communities, work, environment, society, etc.
- In what areas of your life would your two or three greatest accomplishments be? What would be an example that would demonstrate you had achieved your goals in these areas?
Most importantly, for each answer you come up with, ask yourself. “Why do I want that?” — Keep asking why until you get down to what is most fundamentally important to you.
The most difficult and important step in a creating a meaningful vision for who you want to be is to discover what you really desire.
Chris is unhappy at work. He thinks the work is boring, and he doesn’t like his boss or co-workers.
Why doesn’t he quit?
The answer lies in Newton’s First Law: An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing and resists change unless an unbalancing force is exerted upon it.
An Unbalancing Force is needed to overcome resistance to change. The amount of Chris’s unhappiness is not great enough to unbalance him. And no strong vision of an attractive alternative entices him to move.
An Unbalancing Force might occur if something big were to happen, such as if Chris were passed over for a promotion he had been expecting. Or he might quit one day if enough minor things built up until they were intolerable. But in that case, Chris will only have moved from one difficult situation to another.
When you focus only on what is wrong with your current situation, you can become miserable, with your feet stuck in the mud.
There is nowhere to go unless you also have a believable, compelling vision of a where you want to go.
Vision alone is not necessarily an Unbalancing Force.
How many people have dreams that they never put into action because they are not grounded in reality?
When you only focus on your vision without an accurate assessment of your current reality, you can become unrealistic, with your head stuck in the clouds.
An Unbalancing Force occurs when enough tension is generated between the realization that the current situation is no longer tenable and a belief in the possibility of a more desirable place to move toward.
The Newton’s First Law holds true for organizations as well as individuals.
Organizations are like elephants. The bigger they are, the harder they are to move. However, no matter what size your elephant is – whether you are the leader of a team, a division or an entire organization- the same principle applies. To create an Unbalancing Force, you need to do both:
1. Describe the unvarnished truth of the current situation. To be credible, you must articulate a truth that people already sense or that is verifiable. Creating a false sense of urgency will backfire as people will lose trust in your leadership.
2. Help people envision an attractive future that resonates with their hopes and dreams and which they believe is possible.
Paint Powerful Contrasting Pictures
When you hold the images of both your present situation and your desired future, creative tension is generated. Another law of nature is “tension seeks resolution.” It feels uncomfortable, but it is the creative force that drives the movement in the direction of your vision.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is often used as an example of a compelling vision. It is actually a beautiful example of an Unbalancing Force. He paints powerful pictures that go back and forth between the “truth of the present realities” (in red) and “vivid pictures of a desirable future” (in blue).
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification”--one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers…. we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day and.…. we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Polarization keeps us apart, disconnected. Polarization keeps us from finding creative solutions that benefit all.
There is no winning in polarization. There is only “win-lose.”
Leadership is about bringing people together, unifying around a common vision. It is about creating community.
“Leadership is the wise use of power. Power is the capacity to translate intention into reality and sustain it.” ~Warren Bennis
Unifying people against a common enemy is an immoral use of power. This is what Hitler did — he led his people right over a cliff.
When we are filled with hatred and disrespect, we can only square off in opposite camps. We might negotiate agreements, but each side walks away feeling like they lost more than they gained.
Do not be pulled so strongly toward a pole that you become unbalanced.
It is only through dialogue and surfacing our common concerns, hopes and dreams that we can find solutions that satisfy what is most fundamentally important. Dialogue is about discussion with the intent to understand – not debate with the intent to win.
Move away from the pole and listen. If you are so absolutely certain you’re right that you can’t even listen to another view, you’re probably wrong. If we only discuss issues with people who agree with us, we stop learning and become self-righteous.
You might not be able to have it all, but you can have what you most deeply desire, when you are clear about what you really want.
Collaboration is the remedy for polarization.
Collaboration is not about giving up your individuality. In fact, successful collaboration depends on speaking clearly and honesty about what you stand for. Collaboration is about valuing and mobilizing diversity as a force toward the common good. It is about recognizing and respecting the humanity in each individual, even those who are stuck at a pole.
Finding common ground does not mean giving up what you care about. It means letting go of some of your ideas about what will get you there and considering the possibility there may be another solution. It means respecting the people who see things differently, rather than assuming a superior attitude and dismissing them as evil, crazy, or out of touch with reality.
Collaborative leadership is based on respect, trust and the wise use of power.
Distrust will not create trust. Hatred will not breed respect. Violence will not protect us from violence.
“Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
During his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King, Jr cautioned us:
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrong deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.
The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.”
“Their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”
We are all in this together. If you are stuck at a pole blaming “them” for being unreasonable, remember that in the view from the other side of the pole, you are “them.” You have a choice. You can continue the never-ending cycle of polarization. Or you can decide to stop following leaders who are misusing their power and decide it is time to engage in sincere, respectful dialogue.
As a team member, you share responsibility for the success of your team.
If your team meetings are boring or wasting your time, explain the problem from your point of view. Then do a reality test. Do others feel the same way? If they do, there is a team issue, and by putting it on the table you have given your team an opportunity to discuss and solve the problem.
If no one else is having a similar experience, it might be an issue of your own temperament. When you identify in a non-judgmental way what is difficult for you, your team is likely to be willing to make changes. They may even come up with some creative solutions you hadn’t thought of.
… If the problem is that you get distracted easily, team members might find some fun ways to help you refocus when that happens.
… If the problem is that it’s hard to sit still for long meetings, they might be willing to take breaks or perhaps you could stand up when you feel the need.
… Other times you might decide you need to tough it out because the team needs your active participation. But at least by having shared what’s hard for you, your team members will understand what’s going on for you, appreciate your efforts and not misinterpret them.
These are all examples of how serving yourself is also serving your team. They all involve:
- Stating the truth of your experience in a non-judgmental way.
- Reality testing – checking to see if others are having the same experience.
- Openness to understanding other’s experiences, needs and ideas.
- Seeking a solution that meets your needs without impeding your team’s ability to work together effectively.
6 self-serving behaviors that hurt your team:
- Hostility: Being aggressive, criticizing, or blaming toward other team members, the team leader or the team in general.
- Blocking: Rejecting ideas outright without considering them, arguing a point too long, or going off on a tangential topic.
- Competing: Trying to be the one with the best ideas, interrupting people, self-promoting, attention-seeking or talking the most.
- Lobbying: Pushing your own agenda or pet concern.
- Clowning around: At the right time, levity and laughter can lighten the conversation and make team meetings more fun, but it can also disrupt the work. Timing is important. Are your jokes helping the team or hindering them?
- Withdrawing: Acting indifferent, texting, doing unrelated work, daydreaming, or having side conversations.
- Passivity: Showing up at meetings unprepared, without having read materials that were sent ahead of time, showing up late, leaving early.
If you’re not happy with the way your team is working, instead of engaging in these self-serving behaviors, serve your team by non-judgmentally putting your concerns on the table.
If one of your team members engages in self-serving behaviors, it’s difficult to work around it. Most of us are guilty of some of these at one point or another. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. But ignoring an ongoing pattern of these behaviors will eventually torpedo the effectiveness of your team.