Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When is it OK NOT to Develop? Hint: Never.

This post first appeared in SmartBrief on Leadership:

Here’s a question I often get from managers:
“I have employees that don’t want to be developed. They just want to come to work, do their jobs, and go home. Development isn’t for everyone, right? I can’t force them to develop if they don’t want to!”

My answer? Yes, you and your employees are free to ignore that stupid individual development plan form that HR is forcing down your throats. But only if the employee can check off each of the following items and you’re willing to sign off on it:
- No changes in technology, now or next 2-3 years

- No changes in work processes, now or next 1-2 years
- No changes in customer preferences, requirements
- Can score a 10/10 on all technical/job specific skills
- Can score a 10/10 on all key behavioral competencies
- Company growth will remain flat or decline next 5 years
- There will be no organizational changes requiring new skills
- No interest or potential for promotion
- No interest or possibility of lateral move
- No need to fill in for team, cross-train
- No new projects or assignments coming up
Could you check them all? Probably not. In today’s hypercompetitive, white-water, VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) business environment, if you are not growing you are dying.

Standing still is not an option. Continuous improvement is a business imperative, and quite frankly, a condition of employment. Just as important as “coming to work every day”.
As a leader, letting your employees off the hook for development because “they don’t want to” is a cop-out and weak leadership. You’re letting the employee run the risk of becoming expendable and unemployable, and you’re saying it’s OK to run your team at less than optimal performance.

Too hard line? Please leave a comment if you agree or disagree.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leveling the Playing Field

But how, if we do not even know if we are considered a leading player?

Guest post by Rosalie Chamberlain
It is really common to think we can assess someone and think we know how they will be.  There is a certain amount of wishful thinking when a new employee comes on in an organization. After all, the resume is great, the experience may be great, and we really liked them.  We think they will be a fit. 

We can update and change policies and procedures to be more Inclusive and this is necessary, but if someone is stigmatized because of conscious or unconscious bias, real change won't happen. Sometimes, we even categorize that person even without knowing we do it. How can you really see someone if you have already decided how they will be? This squelches possibilities. And if a policy is new and you want people to take advantage of it; say, for instance, a flexible schedule policy or telecommuting, and an employee thinks or knows they will be stigmatized, why would they take advantage of it? Policies are being put in place all the time and they are not effective. Until we are all responsible for looking at our biases and their impact, real and sustainable change does not happen.

This is where the rooting out of our biases is crucial. It brings a tendency to see things from a dualistic lens.  And it works both ways.  From the dualistic view as a leader, I can't realize the impact of putting someone in a box because of assumptions and biases. As the employee, I won't take advantage of a benefit that could enhance my work experience and work satisfaction, yet alone my opportunities for growth and advancement.

So, that is one example. When we do not recognize bias is present, the negative effect also impacts how employees show up in their willingness to share ideas, creativity, engagement and innovation. There is clearly something wrong with this picture.  Left in unawareness of what is happening, the patterns do not change. What happens is a perpetuation of bias on both parts. It becomes habit.

An important piece for sorting through bias is to recognize what happens when the F.E.A.R. loop comes in. What happens when we experience fear?

F – We are in Fight or Flight mode; we become defended and often defensive.
E – We Exclude; we can become isolated and separated from others and even ourselves.

A – We Avoid; we avoid seeing other perspectives or looking deeper into cause and effect.
R – We React; we react from our emotions, sometimes focusing on the past or a perceived future.

Here are some questions to bring awareness to the situation and transform the feeling of fear:

F – Who and why do I want to fight or flight; how am I defended and what am I defending against?
E – Who am I excluding and how am I isolating and separating from others and from myself?

A – What are my beliefs and perceptions and what other ways of viewing a situation or person am I avoiding?
R – What are my emotional reactions and where are they coming from within my experience?

Gaining clarity through awareness gives us a choice to make a conscious decision that is not driven by fear. Even if a little discomfort still exists, it is a very different feeling that is manageable.

Another important factor about biases is that they are varied and broad. We often think of the five major areas of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation as the biases to address. Absolutely, awareness of these is critical to improve the lack of inclusion and diversity in organizations. And, we also have biases about personality types, work styles, communication styles, socio-economic backgrounds, geographic backgrounds, status, rank/privilege, family status, education, and the list goes on. Understanding these types of biases are also important for interaction with colleagues and the effectiveness of teams.

Our biases impact who we put on teams, provide effective feedback to, give opportunities to, position for advancement, let alone hire in the first place.  It does mean that we become best cohorts or friends, but it does mean we miss out on significant amounts of talent when we make decisions of inclusion and exclusion based on a lack of awareness of our biases and how they impact our decisions.

Rosalie Chamberlain is the Owner of Denver, CO-based Rosalie Chamberlain Consulting & Coaching. A thirty-five year organizational culture and eighteen year corporate coaching veteran, she specializes in maximizing talent and productivity within organizations. She is a skilled consultant, facilitator, coach and speaker in the areas of diversity and inclusion strategy, multicultural competency, leadership development, and talent management, with expertise in managing and leveraging diverse talent.
Previously, Chamberlain was a Diversity & Inclusion Manager for a national American Lawyer Top 100 law firm. She received her diversity and inclusion credentials from Cornell University’s Institute for Labor & Relations (ILR) and was certified through the International Coaching Federation. To learn more visit www.rosaliechamberlainconsulting.com and connect on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Her new book, Conscious Leadership in the Workplace, is available on Amazon as well as other online booksellers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Art and Science of Professional Development

Guest post from Bill Bartlett:

What is your position on professional development? If you are among the top 20% of all executives, you believe it is as necessary as the air you breathe whereas the remaining 80% consider it to be a waste of time or give lip service to it. I have been coaching and training business executives for over 20 years and I find the high performers demonstrate a common need to continuously raise the learning bar to stay ahead of the competition. The top 20 percenters gain developmental insight from numerous sources, however, I find there are three primary categories of executive development: outside experience, training, and coaching. Most high-performing leaders are committed to using a combination of all three to accomplish their goal to be the best.

I have always heard that experience is the best teacher and this may be true if it is broad enough to encompass new information. Unfortunately, when executives derive his expertise strictly from the internal occurrences of their company, they often develop tunnel vision which hampers growth. The true development of their company’s potential is stunted due to the absence of externally gleaned knowledge that might challenge outdated thinking. The richest types of experience come from executives being “out in the world” to witness different approaches and concepts which may be applicable to their business. Far too many executives lead lives of “quiet desperation”, returning to their office every Monday, to prescribe identical solutions to what they perceive to be identical problems they had left behind the previous Friday. Exciting new ideas are presented and discussed at association meetings, executive mastermind groups, as well as outside industry consulting groups. If you are an executive who strictly relies on internal experiences, you owe it to yourself to explore resources that could lead to you questioning the same old thought patterns that worked at one time, but are clearly no longer effective.

Training is a critical driver of executive growth and development. One of the main focuses for my business is sales and leadership training in order to stay abreast of the needs of today’s fast-paced learning curve. My role as corporate trainer is to teach every leader new skills in a manner that allows them to confidently adopt new strategies and tactics for growth in their position. Unfortunately, approximately 80% of executives do not believe in the power of continuous learning and either suffer significant plateaus in their career and/or inertia in their business. An effective training methodology is typically designed to impart skills, knowledge, and application in a manner that enhances their performance as leaders and managers. I believe every executive initially brings an impressive skill set to their position, but, over time, its effectiveness is diminished as they face greater challenges. Training sharpens the saw and provides new skills to add to their toolbox. Simply developing them, however, is not enough. I have to ensure executives understand their context to assure their commitment to utilizing them is solidified. This provides a framework for the skills execution and leads to the executive exhibiting heightened situational awareness. Lastly, training provides a path for continuous application, the key to sustainable success, and eliminates the “flavor of the month” approach to growth.

The final area for executives to consider when exploring professional development is coaching. Executives are now learning what professional athletes have always known: a great coach is an invaluable resource when pursuing a goal. Athletic coaches usually don’t possess the same physical attributes as their athletes, however, they have the ability to reach into the minds and souls of the athletes to help them raise their performance level to heights they may have only dreamed of attaining. In the world of professional development, coaching helps transfer experience and training into the wisdom necessary for the executive to transcend to a much more impactful level of performance. I am an executive coach for many executives ranging from the Fortune 1000 to small business and I find that each has a performance code that when accessed, helps them significantly raise their level of success.

Executive stagnation is a disease that no leader can afford to contract as it restricts the growth of both the executive and the company being led. Experience, training, and coaching should challenge them to think differently and break antiquated patterns of behavior that have never been questioned. I challenge all of my executive coaching clients with the following questions:
1. What is ONE new idea you have brought to your management team that you wanted them to vet?

2. What is ONE traditional operating principle you have relied on for growth? Is it still valid?

3. What is ONE recent example of your management team’s willingness to critically challenge your thinking?

4. Do you regularly take an objective 360-degree analysis of your company to determine areas of stagnation?

5. What artificial limitations have you placed on your behavior?

6. How do you test your business assumptions to validate or change them?

7. Have you created a continuous learning culture?

Far too many executives see their role as a mass of tactics designed to drive the business forward. In reality, the executive function of any company must be firmly rooted in strategic thinking, not tactical action. How differently would executives lead their company if they truly believed they were paid to think, not do? Professional executive development demands a commitment to growth and the discipline to act. Ask yourself, “What’s holding me back” and if the answer is nothing, NOW is the time to act.

Bill Bartlett is author of THE SALES COACH’S PLAYBOOK:  Breaking The
Performance Code (Sandler Training / 2016).  Bartlett is an experienced Sandler trainer who plays an important role in Sandler’s worldwide organization and is recognized as a business development expert specializing in executive sales training and sales productivity training.  He currently heads a Sandler training center in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL.
For more information, please visit https://www.sandler.com/resources/sandler-books/coaching.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why Hippies Make Great Business Leaders

Guest post from Michael Klassen:

After three decades of working in marketing, I thought I had heard or read nearly every story of innovation and entrepreneurship out there.  Then I uncovered a story of business invention and reinvention that nobody knew anything about.  A tale that featured three dozen or so people who hatched forty-some innovative ideas and products, all in less than two years’ time, that over time accrued a collective value of nearly a trillion dollars and employment for millions.. Today we fondly refer to these extraordinary American innovators as Haight-Ashbury hippies.
Who were these people and how did they do it? 

Fred Rohe was a high school trouble-maker who had a penchant for vegetarianism – very odd for a teenager in the 1950s.  He left his upstate New York home in 1959 for San Francisco to become a “beatnik” and work in the food business.  .  By the end of the decade, Fred had opened the nation’s first organic/natural supermarket, café, trade union, and distribution center – almost single-handedly engineering what has become a $200 billion-plus collection of industries devoted to selling and distributing natural/organic food.
Judith Goldhaft employed the assistance of fabric designer and fellow hippie gal, Jodi Palladini, to create an apparel design that would permit San Francisco’s homeless women to sell their very own fabric creations.  A hippie icon, the tie-dye shirt, first produced in the basement of a Haight-Ashbury church, has consistently sold into the millions of dollars year after year for nearly 50 years.  . 

Laurel Burch sold homemade jewelry out of a fishing tackle box on Haight Street and eventually built a multi-million dollar international design company. 
Jeanne Rose (Laurel’s friend and fellow single mom), is known today as the “godmother” of herbalism, essential oils, and aromatherapy.  A best-selling author and sought-after speaker, Jeanne has helped shape the highly lucrative American health and beauty care industry over the last four decades. 

Tsvi Strauch and the late Hyla Deer, husband and wife retailers employed both young businesswomen, Burch and Rose, to help stock their Haight Street boutique in 1966, and today they are responsible for the creation of an $11.5 billion men’s accessory fashion industry.
Nancy Kamren drew from her grandmother’s yogurt and cottage cheese recipes from the Great Depression to help feed members of the Haight-Ashbury commune that she and her boyfriend lived in.  This, at a time when most Americans had no idea what yogurt was. Today, Nancy co-owns (with another well-known hippie, Chuck Kesey) Nancy’s Yogurt which made $20 million in 2010 and is responsible for shaping a yogurt and probiotic market in the US that had grown to over $20 billion by 2013.

Along with products, Haight-Ashbury hippies conceived of innovative ideas that transformed product development and advertising.  Before the hippies, most products were developed and advertised for what they DID contain; after the hippies, product were promoted for what they DID NOT contain: no sugar, no fat, no pesticides, and so forth.  Their “no-approach” was quickly adopted by 7-Up in the early 1970s for their Un-Cola campaign. 
How could we forget about the hippie music industry.  The most popular of all, I nevertheless judge hippie music a “middling industry” compared to the billions created by the sales of many other authentic hippie products, such as herbal tea, screen-printed and graphic tees and, of course, marijuana, which today ranks in the top-3 largest crops in America (alongside corn and soy beans) at between $20 and $35 billion annually.

How did they do it?
First, hippie businesspeople exercised a principled approach to their ventures and innovations by insisting on using several high-minded ideals - such as environmentalism, support for local business owners and family farmers, non-violence, and the healthy nurturing of authentic and transparent relationships – to define and guide their creative endeavors.  These principles, seen at the time as pipe dreams that had no practical impact on everyday business lent a keen sense of definition, purpose, and mission that was quickly adopted by non-hippie businesspeople who made the connection between hippie ideals, outstanding customer relations, and developing product offerings that consumers loved.

Second, hippie businesspeople were sticklers for detail. Contrary to the idea that the hippies were spontaneous and haphazard, most took a very studied and thoughtful approach to their innovations.  Artist Wes Wilson, the inventor of psychedelic design, drew inspiration from 19th century artists, such as Austrian Gustave Klimt, spending days in San Francisco art museums and libraries.   Skip Yowell and Murray Pletz, won a product design contest sponsored by Alcoa and used their meager winnings to develop a scaled-down backpack that would appeal to college students more interested in climbing the corporate ladder than scaling Mount Everest.  Their company, JanSport, eventually became one of the largest makers of consumer backpacks in the world.  Mo Siegel took a simple hippie practice of combining regular tea with natural additives and sweeteners found in nature to develop Celestial Seasonings (today owned by Kraft), and he helped create the template for a highly successful, modern-day RTD (ready-to-drink) flavored bottled tea industry.
Third, the hippies were masters of re-invention and continuous innovation.  By expanding on and developing new ways to reconfigure old products – pressed jeans into distressed denim, Army Surplus-issued apparel into Camo clothing; and centuries-old German worship styles into a $4 billion dollar “contemporary Christian worship” industry of music, lights, and entertainment – the hippies were able to work with what they had and knew, skipping a costly and time-consuming R&D process, and becoming the first kids on the block in a city teeming with new Baby Boomer consumers open to innovation and intent on “doing their own thing.”

Fifty years ago, it was anyone’s guess as to what would be the commercial outcome of the hippie movement.  Today, the guessing is over.  Fifty years hence, will employers pay special attention to the strange job applicant with an imagination primed for innovation and sure-fire money-making business ventures?  The Haight-Ashbury hippie businesspeople provide plenty of reasons to believe they should.

Michael Klassen is the the author of HIPPIE INC.: The Misunderstood Subculture That Changed the Way We Live and Generated Billions of Dollars in the Process. He is a marketing professor at the University of Northern Iowa, business consultant, and the author of five books and over fifty journal articles. He received his Ph.D. from Kansas State University in 1987 and since that time has spoken to audiences at national and international conferences and invited lectureships in Asia, Europe, and South America. His research has been featured on ABC 20/20, NBC News Magazine Europe/Asia, and he has appeared on Dateline NBC.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

7 Ways to Build Trust and Confidence with Your Team

Guest post from Karin Hurt and David Dye

When John needed something, he wanted it fast, and nothing made him want it faster than when the request was coming from his boss. John, figured that the most efficient way to get his answer and know that it was right was to text all of his direct reports the question at the same time and ask for the information he needed.

He’d wait for at least two people to respond, and if they had the same answer, he’d send it up the chain.

Each of his employees wanted to please John, so they dropped what they were doing and scrambled to get the answers. Which led all of them to Bob, the data guy, all in the same ten-minute window.

Bob, rightfully irritated, asked, “You do know three other people just asked for that information, right?”

“Err, nope.”

It took a few of these fire drills before the managers realized what was going on, and they were ticked.

They asked each other, “Why would he waste our time like that? Doesn’t he trust us? Doesn’t he value our time?”

After some time spent fuming, they came up with a work- around.

When the text came in, the first one to receive it would go to Bob, and Bob would give everyone the same answer, which they would all forward to John.

After receiving all the responses with identical words, John knew he’d been found out.

Although the managers eventually told John they didn’t appreciate the wasted effort, he never fully understood how hurt they were by his apparent need to quadruple verify their work.

Now if you asked John if he trusted his team, he would say “of course.” But his actions screamed otherwise.


It takes more than words to demonstrate your trust in your team. Here are several behaviors that will help you show your employees you trust them.

1. Set audacious goals.
Oh sure, your team may grumble, but managers who win well know there’s no greater gift you can give your team than leading them toward head-turning results.

Set the bar high and then tell them, “I believe in you. I know what this team is capable of. Now let’s  figure out just how, together.”

Show trust by believing it’s possible.

2. Believe in them.
We watched Sam, a manager in a small non profit, handle this masterfully with his direct report. The organization worked to ensure water quality in mountain streams. Laura, a free spirit who cared passionately about her people and clean water, managed a team of paid engineers and volunteer inspectors. She worked hard, but her team wasn’t satisfied with her performance. They wanted to see her in the field more; she didn’t know how she could make them happy, and she didn’t feel she was making a big enough impact in a cause she cared deeply about. She came into Sam’s office, slumped down in a folding chair, and declared, “I’m done.” She said she would turn in her resignation, that she’d lost faith in her ability to be an executive.

Sam was devastated. She was one of his rock stars. How had he missed conveying that to her? Sam did not accept her resignation.

“You may have lost your belief in yourself, but you have a problem,” he said.

“I do? What’s that?”

“I still believe in you. You can quit on yourself, but don’t expect me to quit on you.”

Of course, that conversation was only the start. It eventually led to Laura’s taking a more balanced view of her accomplishments and gaining the confidence she needed to continue her vital work.
Show trust by believing in their capabilities.

3. Invite them to come along.
Early in her career, one of Karin’s first bosses, Gail, brought Karin with her to senior-level meetings, arguing that “no one could explain it better” than she could.

Of course, that wasn’t true; Gail was a seriously gifted explainer. She trusted Karin would do okay and was secure enough to give up the spotlight.

We are amazed at how many bosses are afraid to give such opportunities to their team.
Show trust by sharing the stage.
4. Admit what you don’t know.
Show your team you trust them by admitting you don’t have all the answers. Trust them with your concerns. You’ll be surprised how your people rise to the occasion when you trust them with your questions.

Show trust by being real.
5. Encourage them to meet without you.
A great way to show trust in your team is to give them a big hairy
problem and ask them to meet to figure it out. Be sure to define what success looks like. Get any information, criteria, and parameters they may need out of your head and into theirs first—otherwise they’ll spin their wheels.

Show trust by getting out of the way.

6. Tell them.
This one might seem obvious, but it works. Can you imagine
how good it feels to hear, “I really trust you because . . . ”?

Show trust by telling them why.

7. Correct and move on.
If an employee screws up, talk about it, help her learn, and then
move on.
Show trust by letting it go.

Isn’t what you think or say, it’s what you do that communicates trust—or lack of it. The best way to get your team to trust you is to trust them. Trust begets trust. Hire for trust. Require trust. Rid your team of untrustworthy players. Then show your team how much you trust them.

Karin Hurt (Baltimore, MD) is a top leadership consultant and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. 
David Dye (Denver, CO) is a former nonprofit executive, elected official, award-winning author, and president of Trailblaze, Inc., a leadership training and consulting firm. 

For more information, or to download a free chapter visit WinningWellBook.com.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Virtue of Humility

Guest post by Ron Wallace:

When you envision the best boss you ever worked for, what character trait comes to mind? Determination? Integrity? Maybe optimism? What about humility? Contrary to popular opinion, humility is not a sign of weakness -- it is discipline and strength personified.

In my more than 40 years of working at UPS International, the values that UPS holds dear became second nature to me and the company’s culture of "we, not me" has inspired generations of employees to create one of the most remarkable corporations the world has ever seen. The loyalty UPSers display towards one another, and the company brand, is legendary. How is this possible in this day and age you might ask? It's because UPS's leaders are humble and servant-minded. There exists a knowledge of accountability to others, and to the entire organization, that many companies simply don't have because their leaders are more focused on themselves than their people.

Humility is the character trait that enables us to win the hearts of our team members and build a truly high performance team. In many opinion polls, integrity is often the stated as the highest valued trait.  And while it is a necessary one to have, a humble person who shows genuine concern for the welfare of their team members is far more likely to gain their unbridled support.

The problem with the virtue of humility is that as soon as you think you have attained it, you have probably lost it. For most, the battle with pride is a difficult one that is fought daily, but cultivating a humble spirit is essential if to becoming a truly great leader.

A humble leader won't flaunt their position or power. At UPS, it is common for a car washer or delivery driver to be on a first name basis with the CEO and our other corporate executives. The company has a level of mutual respect, even admiration, for everyone in the organization. This translates into trust, and trust is the cornerstone of great teams.

Servant leaders are rare, but everyone has it within them to become one by honestly assessing their motives and getting their heart right. A humble leader doesn't grab for power or a position, rather their influence increases when they serve others first.
Ron Wallace is the author of Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver: Delivering a Culture of We, Not Me. Over a career of nearly 40 years, Wallace went from a UPS driver to the president of UPS International, where he was responsible for the operations of UPS in more than 200 countries and led more than 60,000 employees. Now retired, he continues to serve on numerous boards and foundations, owns several businesses and real estate developments and is the author of several books.
For more information about Wallace and Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver please visit, www.leadershiplessonsbyronwallace.com.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Dos and Don’t of Managing Office Characters

Guest post by Judy Nelson

Let’s face it, every office has, at least, one character. If they’re harmless and carry their load, most coworkers tolerate characters or even protect them. If they’re abrasive and add to the burden of others, coworkers don’t—and you might have a tricky situation on your hands. There are important Dos and Don’ts as the manager of a character that can have significant consequences for your organization.

Who are these characters? The behavior that designates character status varies. Maybe they are a loner or a hermit, walking through the hallways looking down, making limited or no eye contact with coworkers. Some characters are loud talkers; some characters have a twitch; some blurt things out at strange and often inappropriate times. Or maybe their behavior is best summarized by an often uttered phrase like, “That’s just George.”

(And if you are thinking your workplace doesn’t have any of these characters…well, I have some bad news for you about your role at the office!)

If you are the manager of a character whose failing performance and odd behavior is creating a “situation” what do you do? Proceed with caution. Here are some important Dos and Don’t to consider:


ü  Model 100% professionalism. As a manager, your job is to keep the peace and protect the rights of your team. This means that you should limit your intervention to what applies to the professional atmosphere of the office.

ü  Separate personal from professional. Your actions should address only what affects individual performance and productivity.

ü  Get answers to important questions before proceeding. Keep the focus on the behavior and its effect on the individual’s work. Consider the following:

·         Does the behavior prevent the person from doing his or her job?

·         Does the behavior inhibit the person from effective participation on the team?

·         Is the behavior something the individual can correct?

ü  Have a plan for improvement that focuses on behavior and performance only. Again, zero in on the job-related, detrimental impacts of the character’s behavior. Specify the needed corrections, a timeline for requested improvement, and offer assistance to help them meet their goals. Also, clearly communicate the consequences if the behavior doesn’t improve.

ü  Document, Document, Document. A written account of any incident or intervention will never be a bad thing to have on file.


ü  Don’t try to make everyone be friends. Interpersonal relationships are not your area. Ostensibly everyone involved should be a grown up!

ü  Don’t participate in the marginalization of the individual. Ostensibly, you should also be a grown up!

ü  Don’t try to diagnose the individual. It is NOT your role to determine the mental health or illness of a colleague, and it could subject you to charges of slander. It IS your role to focus on performance and to help the individual do his or her job. You are not a therapist or a medical professional, so don’t diagnose. And even if you are professionally trained in these areas, you are not the character’s therapist or medical professional, so you still shouldn’t diagnose.

ü  Don’t try to go it alone if you aren’t sure what the law is. Certain behavioral situations such as those where a medical condition might be involved require professional consultation before taking action. If the person is, in fact, suffering mental or emotional challenges, you need advice about proper accommodation requirements. If you have a Human Resources department, lean on their expertise. Otherwise, I recommend an outside party well-versed in the particulars.

Managing a character has its problems to be sure, but there are also possible rewards. Throughout history, the greatest innovators and problem-solving artists of their time were people considered odd or eccentric. Your office character could well be the salvation of your organization one day.

My mother always said, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.” That’s also true of organizations. It takes all kinds of people to make your team. Our job as the manager is to treat all members of our team with respect, professionalism and decency.

What would you add to the lists of Dos and Don’ts? We’d all love to hear your insight in the comments below.

@CoachJudyNelson has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor. As a former CEO, Judy has been a Certified Professional Coach since 2006 and assists leaders and career seekers to develop and reach stretch goals. Her new book, Intentional Leadership (Motivational Press, 2016) debuts later this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get a Specific “SIP”

Guest post by Karissa Thacker
What is your current specific self-improvement project? Is it specific? Is it measurable? Is it clear? I have taken a coaching tip from Mark Zuckerberg, the boy wonder and CEO of Facebook, and have committed myself to one self-improvement project for this entire year. Every year, Zuckerberg makes a public pledge to improve himself in one very specific way. This year, he is running 365 miles. In 2014, he wrote daily thank you notes. In 2013, he met someone new every day. Every year, he has a specific self-improvement project, or a “SIP.”
In contrast to Zuckerberg, we psychologists tend to think much smaller, and go for 30-day commitments from ourselves and other people. The whole life and work thing seems to be going pretty well for Zuckerberg, so maybe he is right.
In my case, I’ve committed myself to mindfulness meditation first thing every morning this year. I have missed three days so far, one of them this morning. I overslept due to too much Oscar watching. I know, weak excuse. But in the words of Tal Ben Shahar, I am going to give myself permission to be human. I will refrain from beating myself up mentally. I have learned that beating myself up mentally about missing one day seems to lower the probability that I will return to practice the next day. But I will return to my commitment tomorrow because I have accepted that I am not going to be perfect. Falling off the wagon and getting back on sooner rather than later is core to ultimately being successful with any self-improvement project.
To be sure, we all feel a bit overwhelmed at times with our self-help, self-improvement culture. Part of the problem is that we have too many options and chatter. How do we sort through it all and commit? Despite all of our apps and devices to measure our steps, are we actually becoming more evolved as humans and as leaders? It seems that we all talk, read, and think about developing ourselves more than we actually do it.
Becoming a better leader is essentially a self-improvement project. As an executive coach, I am reminded every day that whether a project succeeds or fails comes down to my client’s willingness to experiment and try new things. If the client is willing to take on a new behavioral experiment within the first couple of meetings, we will likely be successful. If not, we usually wind up wasting each other’s time, or achieving mediocre results at best.
Making these self-improvement projects intrinsically rewarding is the secret to success. On a practical level, intrinsic rewards are not usually immediate or flashy. Receiving a gold medal or a promotion are examples of external rewards that are obvious, flashy, and give us an immediate rush. But what do the intrinsic gold medals look like? We cannot see intrinsic rewards as we can extrinsic rewards.  But we can feel intrinsic rewards. So the important question is how do intrinsic gold medals feel? This set of feelings is much more subtle. Think of intrinsic rewards as quiet background music that you will not notice if you are engaged in a conversation. Tuning into intrinsic rewards requires knowing what you really want, what is important to you, and why.  When you behave in alignment with what is really important to you, positive feelings happen. Doing the things that are really important to you and purposeful are intrinsically rewarding.   But, our brains are wired to focus on what is right in front of us not what is deep within us.  We need tools and practices to help us notice the intrinsic rewards that are happening within us. 
One of the ways to notice intrinsic rewards is to write with a pen or pencil for three to five minutes. Let’s say you commit to running 365 miles. It is a Tuesday and you run one mile. Immediately after the run, write down what you are feeling for three minutes. In my case, I write down exactly what I feel after my morning mindfulness practice a couple of times a week. It helps me get in touch with the positive feelings about my discipline that are happening in there but I would not otherwise notice. By tuning into and noting those positive feelings I’m much more likely to stay committed and get back on track if I miss a day here or there.  
Okay. Decision time. What is it that you know you need to work on? Commit yourself to a specific, clear, and measurable SIP. Get going now! And plug into the power of intrinsic rewards. You don’t have to take on the whole year from the get-go—give it a try for a week first. Think of it as a 7-day challenge.
Karissa Thacker is founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions Inc., a management training and consulting firm dedicated to elevating people to reach their highest potential and career satisfaction. She is the author of The Art of Authenticity: Tools To Become An Authentic Leader And Your Best Self (Wiley). For more information visit www.KarissaThacker.com.