Getting Honest About the Leader You Are

33F0B02A-C04F-4435-BF59-AA0B24B49D5B-1588-000002E4663F390C_tmpI am so pleased to share this guest post from my friend and colleague Bill Treasurer, whose great new book A Leadership Kick in the Ass comes out Monday! This book is not afraid to share the truth about what it takes to truly lead. One of those truths is that “good leaders nearly always start out as bad leaders.”  Here is more in Bill’s own words.

I learn a lot from every leader I work with. For over two decades, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with thousands of leaders across the globe. For the last dozen years, most of my work has been with unionized Chicago-based construction companies. These are leaders who do real, in-the-trenches work where the consequences of mistakes can be catastrophic. Some of the leaders with whom I work lead giant multi-million-dollar projects on Chicago’s highways, transit lines, and at O’Hare airport.

One thing my work with leaders has taught me is that nothing stunts leadership growth as much as closed-mindedness. When your ability for self-reflection is shut down, personal accountability is next to impossible. Blaming others or giving excuses for our own faults, mistakes, and imperfections is, sadly, an all too common response.

How a leader takes feedback says a lot about just how open his or her mind really is. In my work with leaders, I sometimes have them go through a 360-degree feedback process, where the people they are leading rate the leader’s style and performance. The raters often include the leader him or herself and the leader’s boss, peers, and direct reports— hence a “360-degree” view. The feedback uses an anonymous survey consisting of quantitative data and qualitative (open-ended) questions. The idea is that people are likely to give more honest answers if they don’t feel threatened that the leader will retaliate against them for their honest feedback.

Leaders within the same company and in similar jobs often have dramatically different responses to the sting that sometimes comes with the feedback yielded during a 360. For example, one leader with whom I worked, a guy named Bruce, got feedback that he was “petulant”, “irrational” and “blockheaded”. His response to the feedback? He blew it off, rationalizing that it was just the sour grapes of poor performers.

Bruce’s response was very different than another leader I worked with at the same company, a guy named Derek. In some respects, Dereck’s 360 was even more biting. Words used to describe Derek included “hot-tempered”, “explosive”, “edgy”, and “harsh”.

At first, Dereck got defensive about his feedback too. Then he got quiet. Then he asked me, “How do my results compare to others.” I replied, “Not too good.” So Derek and I set out to change things. For the next six months, we met every two weeks for coaching. During that time he defined the leader he’d like to be led by. He started investing time with his direct reports to listen to their needs. He started keeping a leadership journal. And he started taking better physical care of himself.

I wasn’t fully aware of how earnestly Dereck had been about assimilating his 360 feedback until five years after coaching him I started working with two of his direct reports. Both of them spoke in glowing terms about what a mentor Dereck had become for them, and how he had inspired them to get interested in leadership too.

And what became of Bruce? He remained a blockhead, and, not surprisingly, got fired.

It takes a very self-aware and courageous leader to say, “I was wrong” or “I messed up” or “It was my fault.” Yet, saying these powerful words often endears a leader to those being led. There is something completely disarming, and even attractive, about a leader who admits when he or she is wrong. Something profoundly important is revealed and communicated when a leader admits a mistake: humanness.

Bill Treasurer is the Chief Encouragement Officer (CEO) of Giant Leap Consulting, Inc. His new book, A Leadership Kick in the Ass, focuses on the crucial importance of leadership humility. He is also the author of international best-seller Courage Goes To Work, which introduced the new
management practice of courage building and Leaders Open Doors, which became the #1
leadership training book on Amazon. Bill’s clients include NASA, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, Walsh Construction, Spanx, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs, and many others. Learn more at: www.BillTreasurer.com, www.CourageBuilding.com/Kickass. Free leadership video tips at: https://www.youtube.com/user/GiantLeapConsulting

Quiet Leaders, Heroes When It Counts

 

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It is in a crisis that the true colors of people rise to the surface. In the case of a snowstorm last week, I benefited from the strength of three quiet leaders when it really mattered.

The weather forecast wasn’t great last Saturday, but I made it to LaGuardia airport in NYC without incident. As I settled into the Delta Skyclub the snow fell harder and the dreaded red canceled signs on the screen started appearing. I waited in line with the other passengers and managed to secure a standby seat on the one remaining flight headed back to Atlanta.

The delay seemed to last forever, but miraculously the flight was not canceled and 6 hours later several of us headed down to the gate. My first quiet hero was an off-duty flight attendant who volunteered to join the assigned crew so that the plane could comply with the FAA and be able to take off.  She changed into her uniform and waited 2 hours for her clearance. Then she stepped into character, switching from a weary passenger to a focused, working flight attendant. When I boarded the plane and thanked her she looked slightly embarrassed. “Of course!” she said and continued helping passengers on the crowded flight with their bags.

After we landed late that evening, I ran to a taxi at the curb. Atlanta was emerging from an ice storm and I knew driving could be treacherous. My cab driver navigated the road safely. He exhibited calm and made low-key conversation so the time flew by. I trusted him to get me safely home and he did.  When I thanked him he just smiled.

It was 2:30 a.m. when the garage door finally opened and the man who I have known most of my life stepped onto the ice to help me out of the cab. I was so happy and touched that husband Bill actually waited up for me. He showed up and that meant everything.

The actions of quiet leaders speak so much louder than words ever can.  Without fanfare, they deliver when it counts.

 

 

 

 

France Lets Introverts Turn Off, Tune Out and Live Life

I bet the introverts in France right now are rejoicing. According to a NY Times article France Lets Workers Turn Off, Tune Out and Live Life “a provision in the labor law does not ban work-related emails, but does require that companies with more than 50 employees negotiate a new protocol to ensure that work does not spill into days off or after-work hours. Some consultants have recommended that employees and managers avoid the “reply all” function on emails to groups so that only one person is being asked to read an email and respond, rather than half the office. Another approach recommends setting a time each evening after which employees are not expected to reply — several firms have designated the 10 hours between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m., others the 12 hours between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.”  Companies are on their own in how they implement the new law and can be creative in their execution.

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One of the best ways to encourage employees to take more time off from working is to model that behavior. Introverted leaders who close their door, take walks and leave work on their desk send out the message that it is okay to have a life.

Though many will argue that legislating a break from work is none of the government’s business, this move does point out that our work lives have really gone askew. Having support from our organizations and even government might help push some more balance back into our frenetic working lives.  And with balance comes the quiet time to think, dream and reflect. All these quiet pursuits make us better employees.

 

 

Dating for introverts and others who hate small talk

Dating for introverts and others who hate small talk This piece on dating for introverts appeared in the Huffington Post this week. As the title suggests, almost all of us hate small talk and the article contains some good tips for getting over the hate factor and making progress on the dating front.

I appreciated being asked for my thoughts on the topic and spoke with a few millennials who are in the dating world. Here are some additional tips and other angles they shared that didn’t make it into the article. I think tip # 2 is pretty creative. Do you have any to add?

1) Go to the party.Being there the whole time will be exhausting…You don’t have to stay. You may find interesting people to follow-up with on social media or in person and then you can make a quiet exit.

2) Introverts tend to use social media with thought and purpose.  Peruse Instagram to find interesting posts. Comment and like photos. You can morph these connections into offline dialogues with those whose postings you like. These online interactions can lead to dates.

3) Be open to occasional random conversations. Extroverts love to start these and they do the bulk of the work holding the convo with their questions. Instead of putting on your earphones the minute you get settled into your airplane seat or at your local coffee shop, try responding. You will likely take the conversation to a deeper level. Opportunities to get off our phones and truly engage are around us if we take the time to look. I know of several quieter friends who have met their future spouses this way.

4) Introverts are known to shy away from conflict. All the “talking it out” is a turn off to them. Dating past the honeymoon phase inevitably will be tricky but you may want to avoid your instinct to run away from the first fight. Research shows that the most successful partnerships emerge when couples work through these sticky situations.

5) Follow your interests to lead to other like-minded people. Join a hiking club for weekend hikes or that art class you have always thought about taking. Introverts prefer to go deep rather than engage in superficial small talk. You will get to know others in a more natural, low-key way.  The relationships you build might not immediately lead to “Mr. or Ms. Right” but you will definitely expand your network.

 

The Power of Quiet:Return to the Island

img_2702As I sat on a beach in the British Virgin Islands I called my 96-year-old mom, Lucille. It was snowing in NYC and I wanted to make sure she was safe and sound in her apartment. After assuring me that I “shouldn’t worry,” I held the phone up to the sound of the gentle waves and described the bright blue sky to her. Mom had been to that same place 30 years before and she described snorkeling from that same beach. The fish were beautiful, she said. I told her she could still visit that place anytime she wants to by closing her eyes and imagining the quiet, serene scene of warmth and sunlight. I want to follow my own advice. 

One of the many strengths of introverts is that they are able to get quiet and engage in an active inner life. One way to do that is through guided imagery. WEB MD says  “You can achieve a relaxed state when you imagine all the details of a safe, comfortable place, such as a beach or a garden. This relaxed state may aid healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It may help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes, which may improve your attitude, health, and sense of well-being.”

Introverts relish being alone. Stepping away from phones, the news and the busyness of life allowed me to step into my introverted side and be present. I noticed the changing weather, the sounds of roosters, the soft breezes, the far away airplane engine and even a barracuda’s sleek lines as we passed each other under water.

Early one morning I walked to a nearby beach. I sat down and leaned against a large boulder. Except for the crashing waves and my footprints in the deep, wet sand I was totally alone. It was exhilarating and so rare an experience in today’s world.

Thanks to the brain’s ability to take me back I will conjure up that scene when I start to feel overwhelmed or anxious. I believe it will become easier the more I do it. I can return to the island and regain the power of quiet. Guided imagery is a gift we all have access to any time, in any place.

 

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Communication Between Introverts and Extroverts

Communication Between Introverts and Extroverts

I had two situations recently where key differences around communication between introverts and extroverts showed up for me.

Scenario #1

When was the last time you came back to your office and listened to 100 voicemails?  More likely you responded to the many emails in your inbox.

I reached my saturation point a few weeks ago after I realized that I hadn’t had one live conversation all day.  That is an energy drain for an extrovert.  The real tipping point came during a back and forth email dialogue with an introverted work colleague.

As our email tennis match proceeded, I could see the misunderstandings multiply.  I wrote him to ask for a five-minute phone call to clear up the issue.  He wrote back, asking me if we could “settle it on email”.  “No way,” I thought.  “It would take more time to write each other again than  to talk.”

With some apprehension, I decided to pick up the phone and dial his number.  We had a brief conversation in which he explained his position and we discussed several viable options.  The matter was resolved in less than four minutes.

I know that, as an introvert, he prefers to communicate via email. I agree — most of our communication can be handled that way but there are times that we need to do the extrovert thing and talk it out. We can ask each other questions, dig a little deeper and listen to our respective voices.

Scenario #2

One of the lessons I have learned from introverts is the value of preparation. So when my colleague, Caroline, asked to talk to  me about her new website I wrote back and requested that she send me a few questions  to consider. I wanted to have the time to adequately prepare so that I could give her valuable feedback. Was she looking for help with the design, the content or the branding? There were many aspects of her website I could consider. She didn’t take too well to my questions at first but then realized that our style differences were probably the reason for her concern. I found it interesting that she thinks I am an introvert. I suppose I have been flexing into introvert behaviors for so long that people don’t realize that I am more extroverted.

Here is what Caroline wrote:

“When you asked what questions I have for the conversation it didn’t even occur to me that you, as an introvert, prefer and become more comfortable thinking ahead of time. My instinctive reaction (and probably reflective of the fact that I am doing a lot of selling these days in which I’m asking strangers to meet with me) was that you were challenging the relevance or desirability of spending this time with me. It was only after writing the questions down that it occurred to me that the I/E difference might be at play.”

I assured her that I just wanted  to be prepared. She thought about what she wanted from me and I had a chance to reflect upon her questions. We had a productive dialogue as a result.

It is natural to have differences in communication between extroverts and introverts. Here are some tips   from author Nancy Ancowitz which should help you to smooth out some introvert-extrovert disconnects.

What is Your Writing Process?

What is your writing process?
Before I started keeping journals I remember searching for just the right pen and perfect notebook. It wasn’t long before I realized this pursuit actually kept me from writing my first entry. So I took one of the many notebooks I had lying around, grabbed a handy ballpoint pen and dove in. I am so grateful I did. 20 years and countless notebooks later the positive calming effects of the practice have spilled over into the rest of my life.  Sometimes I write in lovely leather-bound journals but other times a handy cocktail napkin suffices. I try to remember not to make the writing process supersede the act itself.

When writers are interviewed, one question you can always count on is “What is your writing process?” Their answers are all over the map. Novelist Alice Hoffman  curls up on her couch but can write just about anywhere. Non-fiction author Jeffrey Toobin disciplines himself to write 2500 words each day and often starts writing before he has completed his research. Novelist, journalist and illustrator Christopher Noxon, grabs precious moments in between carpool pickups. Stephen King writes in the morning, reserving afternoons for “Red Sox games…..”

I was aware of this writing process question as a young girl. My Dad, Alvin Boretz was a screenwriter and I vividly remember going to sleep to the sound of clacking typewriter keys from the converted closet of my parent’s bedroom. He reserved his days for research trips to the library, diving into his latest passion (Irish playwrights, navigation by the stars,  travel, etc.) riding his bike around the streets of our Long Island home and being there for my sister and I with made to order milkshakes.

Fortunately, Dad was a fast writer and wrote well with deadlines. Stories, dialogues, and characters lived in is his head but he sometimes needed gentle nudges to transfer them to the page. When a script was due, my mom, Lucille, his “coach in residence” knew he could become easily distracted.  When mom heard Dad talking on the phone, kidding around with my sister and I or napping a little too long she would call upstairs with an emphatic  “Get to work, Alvin!”  That verbal cue was usually all he needed.  Dad sent his scripts in on time.

I have been productive. I have written 3 books in 6 years.   Still, writing doesn’t get easier. So, I continue to seek out different writing routines, Would it be better to force myself to write with a timer?  Should I take a cabin in the woods? Is listening to Mozart or Mendelson more conducive to eliciting that elusive phrase?

I don’t want the process to become the end itself. That only keeps me from writing. It is about the blank screen and diving in. So I think I will use a version of mom’s mantra (along with my phone’s timer) to continue working on that next book.  “Get to work Jennifer!”  serves me for right now. 

5 Ways To Keep Introverts In Their Rooms at Conferences

©AboutYOU, Inc. 2016

©AboutYOU, Inc. 2016

This is an updated version of a previously published post. 

 “Time’s Up! Move to your next partner” Ellen, the well-meaning trainer shouted into the mike. I could feel the large room shudder with the silent eye rolls of the mostly 200 introverts. The current exercise was meant as an icebreaker – to get us to loosen up and discover what we had in common. But the time was too brief to learn anything of substance and her staccato-like, loud interruptions were jarring, even to us extroverts.

I have found that most facilitators, trainers, and speakers are unaware of the impact their actions can have on the introverts in the crowd. It is possible  that they are missing out on 40%-60% of their audience and sending those introverts running back to their hotel rooms.

Here are 5 “rules” to follow as a trainer, facilitator or meeting planner that will ensure you lose a good part of your audience.

Rule #1 Turn up the lighting and blast the sound.  Introverts are more sensitive to outside stimuli than extroverts so be conscious of the mood you are setting.  Ask an introvert how the setting feels to them.

Rule #2 Cram seats close together. Physical space is important so give everyone breathing. room. When you are talking to introverts be aware of how close you are standing to them.

Rule #3 Provide short breaks. With time only to grab a quick cup of coffee and no opportunity to recharge by themselves, introverts will most certainly lose steam by midday and will skip out of those afternoon sessions.

Rule #4 Introduce everyone to everyone. Assume everyone wants to network all the time and pull people who are standing alone over to meet others. Though you may be well-meaning, restrain every matchmaking chance. Respect people’s ability to meet others in their own time and own way.

Rule #5 Put people on the spot. Ask introverts to introduce themselves to a large group without preparation. This can be very anxiety producing. This also goes for pulling “volunteers” up on the stage for activities and demos without a private request before the program. This also includes Likewise for putting a mike in their face.

If your goal is to reach your entire audience and keep people where the action is – at programs and at networking events – take a moment. Stop and  ask yourself “What would an introvert prefer?”

And if you are unsure, ask the nearest introvert. They are probably sitting next to you at this moment. One last piece of advice: wait for their answer.

Also, take a look at an article I wrote with Canadian speaker David Gouthro called Get Me Out of Here Please . We suggest more practical tips for engaging ALL of your participants. Good luck!