Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mental Maps Part 2 – How to Upgrade and Redraw Your Mental Map to Find the Best Path to Success

Here's part 2 on mental maps from Hay Group's Rick Lash:
Last week, we talked about mental maps – what they are, how we build them and the necessity of updating mental maps to match our professional development.
Our mental maps help us to navigate society by allowing us to build experience-based expectations of the world. We learn to predict the likes and dislikes of spouses, whether or not we can depend on a coworker to get a job done right and what constitutes acceptable behavior at cocktail parties.
But perhaps the most important and complex mental map we have in our heads is our self-image map: how we see ourselves in our mind’s eye.  Self image can include memories of key life events, what motivates or engages us, and our deeply held beliefs about the traits and characteristics that define who we are. Our self-image, along with other social mental maps, enables us to test out courses of action and predict the likeliest outcomes in our interaction with others. 
You can think of these projections as resembling an endless game of chess that we are constantly playing in our heads every time we step into a meeting, have a discussion with the boss, make a presentation or reprimand someone.  The most important chess piece is you. 
Our self-image map can determine success or failure in the world.  But our self-image tends to lag behind when the social environment changes, like when we get a promotion, transition to a new organization or experience some other major life event like getting married or having children.  We are usually unaware of how an outdated self-image map may be wreaking havoc in our internal game of social chess and keeping us stuck in old patterns of behavior.  
So how do we nurture and develop a more up to date self-image map when we need to see ourselves in a different way?  In our experience, people have the greatest success in redrawing their mental maps three important ways:
1.      Change Your Thinking: Ingrained old self images frequently serve as stumbling blocks when people are trying to rewrite their mental maps. For example, on a recent Hay Group project with a hospital client, we worked with an excellent nurse who was struggling after having been promoted to nurse manager. It turned out that she still had a very active mental self-image of being a bedside nurse, which made it very difficult for her to hold others accountable or engage in the confrontational discussions that are sometimes painful, but necessary for managers. It was only when she broadened her self-image from ‘nurse’ to ‘nurse leader’ by deepening her understanding of what her leadership role really required that she was able to perform to expectations in the nurse manager position. Here are two techniques that you can use to redraw your self-image map:
-          Rewrite your story:  Your self-image mental map is continuously reinforced by the story you continually tell yourself about who you are. This constant narrative lies just below your level of awareness. Any self-image story is usually defined by a central theme and may be more rooted in the past, present or future. For example, in director Steven Spielberg’s self image story, the central theme is one of being an outsider.  As a child he had trouble fitting in, experienced anti-Semitism and was bullied. These early difficult experiences defined how Spielberg saw himself growing up and influenced his career as a revolutionary filmmaker and the characters he created. Winston Churchill’s self-image story was defined by a sense of his own grand destiny.  If your self-image story needs a rewrite, try taking a piece of paper and drawing a timeline of your career – chart the ups and downs beginning at the start and ending today.  What patterns do you see?  When were you most engaged? When did you feel most miserable?  What values were with you throughout and helped you navigate those changes?  What is the theme that defines who you are in your career in five words or less?  Now, think about how your story needs to change or expand to meet the challenges you will face over the next few years. It can be helpful to study the lives of great leaders, read their biographies and seek inspiration from real or fictional characters from the past and present who embody the values and behaviors that you admire.  
-          Understand your role:  Most of us have a weak understanding of what a new role really requires. Ask any new mother or father and they will tell you they were unprepared for the true demands of parenthood despite having observed friends and relatives perform parenting roles. The same thing happens when we move to a new business role and find that our old mental maps have us bumping into roadblocks as we try to navigate the requirements and responsibilities of our new position. One of the best ways to update your mental map is to talk to your boss, direct reports, and your peers to get their perspectives on what they expect from you in your role. These conversations can give you a deeper sense of the true demands of your role and what you need to do to fulfill them. Getting feedback through multi-rater assessments can also be helpful by feeding you important information on what you need to change to succeed.

2.      Change Your Behavior: An accumulating body of evidence shows that real-world actions can have an impact on brain processes and by extension, on mental maps. Stroke victims with partial paralysis who force themselves to use their weaker sides are sometimes able to regain significant control and movement in their limbs. Brain scans of these stroke patients show that mental connections that were destroyed in one part of the brain have been rebuilt in other undamaged parts of the brain. There are many other examples of this same sort of phenomenon. London taxi drivers who must memorize a vast amount of information about their city tend to have an enlarged hippocampus, the portion of the brain devoted to spatial memory and navigation. Playing the piano – or even visualizing playing the piano – seems to boost the size of a portion of the cortex, an outer layer of the brain responsible for higher brain functions including the voluntary hand muscle movements used by pianists.  

The idea here is simply that something new can seem very uncomfortable at first. In our previous blog post introducing mental maps, we gave the analogy of a toboggan rider who builds a mental map by taking the same route over and over again. In this analogy, trying to change your behavior would be like asking the tobogganist to leave the smooth track and forge a new trail – there are sure to be some bumps and maybe even some spills along the way. Over time, new tracks are built and the way gets easier.
Reprimanding an underperforming nurse might have seemed painful to the reluctant nurse manager the first time she tried it, but the second time was probably easier. After five or ten difficult discussions, the nurse manager would most likely have become more comfortable with that aspect of her role. She would have built a mental map that would guide her through the situation and its possible permutations.  How can you take a concrete step toward changing your mental map?

-          Pick one thing:  A single drip of water over time can carve a hole in a rock.  It’s all about focus. Which behavior would have the biggest impact on your leadership if you could change or strengthen that behavior? Benjamin Franklin pioneered this method for self-improvement. Write down the behavior you want to develop or change. Be specific, as if you were giving directions to someone else. Each day look at the behavior to remind yourself of what you need to do.  Track how often you demonstrated the behavior and when you failed to do so.  At the end of each week, and for a period of three weeks, monitor how you are doing and commit to increasing the frequency of the desired behavior. Soon, the new mental wiring will take over and the new behavior will become an integral part of you.
3.      Change Your Context – A physician friend of mine got some good advice.  She had recently been promoted to a leadership role in her hospital.  Three months later she approached her supervisor complaining that none of her peers would talk to her anymore because of the difficult decisions she had to take in the department. Her supervisor told her to get new friends. This advice sounds harsh, but newly promoted executives may in fact wish to broaden their circle of associates in order to have a better chance of successfully redrawing their mental maps.
Why should we make new friends when we take on new jobs? The problem here is that we all carry around mental maps not only to guide our own behavior, but also to anticipate how the people around us will act in a given situation. As we get to know people, we develop experienced-based predictions for how they are likely to act in a variety of circumstances.
People tend to reinforce or reflect back at us the self image that we project outward. In normal circumstances, this is often healthy and beneficial. But problems can arise when one person tries to evolve professionally – changing how she thinks of her own self image, acting differently to change behavioral-based mental maps – and then has coffee, lunch or drinks with former co-workers who can undercut all that change progress by mirroring back an old, outdated self-image. Such interactions can erase much progress made toward changing the mental map – like an artist who paints a canvas with one hand and hurriedly scrapes off all the paint with his other hand.
We are not suggesting that professionals who are promoted should jettison former friends and colleagues. We are saying simply that it is vital for executives to expand their network so that it includes people who have no preconceived notions of a person’s mental map and can thus start from scratch and assemble a mental map that corresponds with existing behaviors.

Thinking about self-image and changing our mental maps is critical both for someone getting promoted to a new executive position  as well as anyone who still has his or her existing job, but whose company has changed its strategic priorities, gotten acquired or completed a spin-off.

Trying to navigate unfamiliar business terrain with an outdated self-image would be like to trying to make one’s way over rough territory with old GPS data. It may be possible, but you are likely to reach your destination more quickly and successfully by updating your mental map to a version that helps you accurately find the most promising path to success and satisfaction.
Rick Lash, Director of Hay Group’s Leadership & Talent Practice in Canada and co-leader of the annual Hay Group Best Companies for Leadership study. Rick works with executives to build the leadership capabilities needed to execute their organizational strategy. He specializes in organizational change, succession planning and leadership development; working with leaders and senior teams to refine their capabilities and create lasting change and improved performance.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Manager’s Guide to Crying at Work

Back in 1968, Ed Muskie, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination, may have lost the election when he allegedly broke down in tears in front of reporters while defending attacks made on his wife.
Fast forward to 2012: President Obama cried at a meeting with his campaign staff the day after he won the election. Speaker of the house John Boehner cried on 60 minutes, and is a notorious crier.
Reactions to our political leaders, sports heroes, and other role models crying are mixed. Some say it’s embarrassing and a sign of emotional instability or weakness. Others say it’s a good thing, as it shows passion, sensitivity, and authenticity, all important characteristics for today’s leader. And still others accuse some criers of using “crocodile tears” as a way to manipulate or as a form of emotional blackmail.
No matter where you stand on the issue of crying, as a manager, if you have not already, you’ll be faced with a crying employee. The old rule of thumb was “there’s no place for emotions in the workplace (or baseball), it’s all about the facts, just the facts”. Managers, when faced with a crying employee, would either run away in fear or do something stupid or insensitive, or both.

So what’s a manager to do when faced with a crying employee? While there are no clear, consensus management rules to fall back to, there are a few things that may be helpful to know:

1. It’s not about character, it’s about science.
According to Dr. William Frey, the director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., and author of the 1985 book Crying: The Mystery of Tears, adult women cry four times as often as men. But it has less to do with weakness or sensitivity, and more to do with biology.
Men’s and women’s tear ducts are anatomically different. Women also have higher levels of the hormone prolactin, which promotes lactation and has been associated with an increased tendency to cry. Prolactin levels also rise when a woman is menstruating, pregnant, or has recently given birth. Similarly, testosterone—of which men have more—has been associated with a decreased tendency to tear up. Different people have different prolactin and testosterone levels, so some people are more apt to cry than others.
So, as managers, we need to let go of stereotypes and perceptions about crying and recognize it for what it is – a chemical reaction. 

2. Keep a box of tissue on your desk at all times.
While this may seem obvious to some, I’ve sometimes walked around offices and noticed that more than half of the manager’s desks lack this management essential. Who knows, maybe they’re hiding them in a desk drawer, only to be pulled out when needed?

In either case, when faced with tears, gently pushing a tissue box is a way to break the tension, show some sensitivity, and provide a practical solution to running noses and mascara.
3. Offer a brief “time out” to allow the employee to regain their composure.
Although crying at work may be more common, acceptable, and biological, it’s still often embarrassing and uncomfortable for the employee. Asking “are you OK?”, or pointing it out, may just make it worse. The employee will most likely appreciate the opportunity to regroup and resume the discussion in an hour or so. I even read about a manager that took a break from her own office to use the restroom, giving the employee a chance to compose herself. When she returned, they were able to continue the discussion without a word said about the crying.

4. Avoid the "fish bowl".
If you know the discussion will be sensitive and the employee is prone to crying, have the discussion in a private place. If you don’t have an office or if your office has glass windows, then book a conference room. It’s embarrassing enough having to cry in front of your manager, and even more so having all of your co-workers watching it.
5. Don’t let crying be an excuse for avoiding the issue or lowering your standard.

Yes, a “time-out” is a good idea, but it should not be a permanent time-out. Set a follow-up time and get pick up right where you left off.

6. Be aware that sudden and frequent crying may be a symptom of bigger problems, either at work or home.
I’d certainly be concerned if lots of my employees were crying at work – that just might be a sign that there’s a problem with the work environment, don’t you think? Also, stuff happens in our lives, and it’s impossible to separate our personal lives from our work lives. While it’s not part of your job description to solve your employee’s personal problems, being understanding and supportive is the right thing to do as a leader.
7. Provide coaching if the crying is “inappropriate”. 

Workplace experts will disagree on this, but as normal and acceptable as crying may be in today’s workplace, there are STILL situations where it could have an impact on your performance or be career limiting. Crying as a reaction to feedback, losing your composure in a boardroom, or an inability to deal with conflict are all situations that can’t be overlooked. Your employee may need your help in pointing this out, as well coming up with more acceptable ways to cope with their emotions.

How about you? Where do you stand on the issue of crying at work? What advice would you offer managers?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Mental Maps: Why We Build Them and Why We Sometimes Need to Change Them

Sorry, no new post from me this week, I've been traveling on business and with the short Holiday week and other obligations, just couldn't meet my own deadline. However, I'm pleased to offer this part one of a two part post from regular Great Leadership guest Rick Lash, from Hay Group.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my U.S. readers!

Imagine that you are going sledding on a toboggan. You head out early in the morning. You are the first person at the top of the hill. The sky is clear blue. The snow is pristine with not a track or footprint in sight. You jump on your toboggan and slide down the hillside, plowing a fresh track in the snow.
Maybe the first run is a little slow, since you have to compress the snow into a track and decide on the best route down. But subsequent runs go faster and smoother. Over the course of the morning, your toboggan and your body weight compress the snow into a smooth, fast track. Pretty soon, you can zip down the hillside practically without thinking. The toboggan knows where to go, simply following the track that you already blazed.
The toboggan run is an apt metaphor for the mental maps that we all carry inside our heads. In many ways, our lives are based on patterns and repetition. We are creatures of habit. We take the same route to work each day, eat the same foods for dinner each week, spend our leisure time repeatedly enjoying a few cherished hobbies and performing our jobs according to a comfortable set of routines. As these habits become second nature, we develop mental maps as a way to organize information.
These mental maps guide our behaviors. They let us test out and plan actions in our heads. A surgeon, for instance, accumulates mental maps that help him or her pre-plan which actions to take in various patient scenarios. These mental maps are shortcuts that save us the time, energy and risk that we would otherwise have to face if we tackled each problem from scratch without relying on the benefit of our accumulated experiences.
(Incidentally, mental maps are not just a nice metaphor to help us visualize ingrained business and lifestyle practices. Mental maps are real neurological phenomena that govern our responses to physical stimuli such as taste and sound.)
Ordinarily, this process of building mental maps is beneficial. Day after day, the toboggan run gets smoother, deeper and easier to travel. Our mental maps get etched more deeply in our brains. But what if circumstances compel us to change these mental maps? In his 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, Dr. Norman Doidge discusses case histories of people who have re-routed their mental maps after a portion of their brain is rendered dysfunctional because of mental limitations or brain damage. While each of these stories look specifically at brains that have been damaged, the book concludes that each of us has the ability to re-route our own mental maps to enhance most aspects of our lives – including professional development.
Therefore, what if we are promoted or transferred or asked to take on some new business challenge? Again, we stand on the hilltop with our toboggan. This time, we want to reach a slightly different destination, but our toboggan is practically preprogrammed to follow its existing route – our existing mental map – and take us where we have been going all along. 
How can we break free from the limitations of that old trail and blaze new trails, writing new mental maps that are better able to get us to our new goals? It’s not easy updating our mental GPS, but in his 2010 book Mindsight: The New Science of Personal TransformationUCLA clinical professor of psychology Dr. Dan Siegel not only claims that it is possible to redraw our own mental maps, but that the rewiring process itself has beneficial side effects.
“Our brain is like a muscle that can be exercised to create new neural connections,” says Siegel. “When we focus our attention in specific ways, we create neural firing patterns that permit previously separated areas to become linked and integrated.  The synaptic linkages are strengthened, the brain becomes more interconnected, and the mind becomes more adaptive.”
So in the real business world, how can executives who have taken on a new role go about redrawing their mental map so that their thought processes—and ultimately their actions and problem-solving strategies—are tailored to their new circumstances?
Broadly speaking, there are three primary ways in which you can redraw a mental map. You can:
1.      Change the way you think about yourself
2.      Change your behavior
3.      Change the context in which you operate
None of these changes is necessarily easy to make, but sometimes redrawing the mental map is critical for executives who find themselves thrust into new roles with different types of challenges and responsibilities. If you wouldn’t want to rely on a GPS with outdated map software, then you certainly do not want to depend on an outdated mental map for navigating the business world.
In a subsequent post, we’ll elaborate on each of the three suggestions listed above for updating your mental map to help you stay on track and reach your professional goals.
Rick Lash, Director of Hay Group’s Leadership & Talent Practice in Canada and co-leader of the annual Hay Group Best Companies for Leadership study. Rick works with executives to build the leadership capabilities needed to execute their organizational strategy. He specializes in organizational change, succession planning and leadership development; working with leaders and senior teams to refine their capabilities and create lasting change and improved performance.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The 5 Perils of Leadership

Guest post from Miles Anthony Smith:

If we go into management to earn more, have more power/prestige, and work less, we are either naïve or ignorant. (And let’s admit right now that those are precisely the reasons most of us go into management.)

1. Prepare to be Hated
Wise leaders accept that some decisions will be unpopular. If you can’t handle others’ disapproval, then leadership probably isn’t for you. Trying to be everyone’s friend is a futile and selfish effort. Most of us want to be liked; as we progress through school, we do things to get others to accept us (with varying levels of success). We try to wear the cool clothes, have a cool car, or take the cool classes. We then carry those bad habits into the workplace; we do things to attain the approval of others, allowing true accountability to wither. Some of us want so desperately to be accepted that we will sacrifice the good of the rest of the organization for our own selfish emotional gain. While it might help in the short-term, the pursuit of approval is a guarantee of long-term failure. Those who don’t throw their leadership opportunities away in pursuit of approval will be teased at best; at worst, they will be ridiculed, mocked, and defamed. So prepare to be hated, but remember that the haters are the ones who don’t matter. The ones who do matter will sincerely appreciate your leadership and implicitly trust your guidance, since you have proven your constancy and trustworthiness.

2. Conquer Your Fears
In life, but especially in leadership positions, we all face fears. We fear not being accepted, feelings of inadequacy, shame, rejection, discomfort, and the list goes on. My response (and I am speaking to myself more loudly than others) is, “We’re all afraid . . . so what!” We must choose to get over our fears and not allow them to hinder our growth and development as leaders. So what if we don’t have it all together. So what if we didn’t go to the right school; so what if we didn’t have a good mentor. We all have something to offer, and we must choose to focus on what we do have to offer, not what we don’t. And remember the dirty little secret is that those who are acting like they have it all together really don’t.

3. Betrayals are Par for the Course
One thing that fuels fears about the future is past betrayals, and betrayal is one of the ultimate tests of leadership. Are we willing to walk in forgiveness with those who betray or seem to have betrayed us? Are we going to wall ourselves off from future close relationships with others, or are we going to allow intimate relationships with others that ultimately might mean another betrayal? I do recommend that we are wise in this, not allowing obviously dysfunctional people close to us, but we can’t use that as an excuse to not be vulnerable. I admit that forgiving betrayal is difficult for me, but I must choose to let those circumstances go, since unforgiveness only hurts me, not the other person. I would rather choose to remain vulnerable and be taken advantage of than be so skeptical of others that I have no intimate friendships.

4&5: Get Comfortable with Discomfort & Vulnerability
Leaders also get to be uncomfortable; it’s part of the job description. At one point, I resigned from a position with a company and had the choice to leave without talking to anyone or come back the next day and give my leaders some closure. As painful and emotional as I knew it would be, I chose the latter and am glad I did. As leaders, we don’t have the luxury of shirking painful responsibilities even though we would like to. Leadership is not necessarily safe but can be perilous to our career; it involves much more risk than just being a team member. Our actions as leaders are held to a much higher standard, and criticism of our leadership decisions is much more out in the open for everyone to see. Simply being a team member allows more anonymity for the quality of work and decisions made. If things don’t work out in leadership, that person usually doesn’t have the opportunity to move to another position within the company like a non-manager does.

The Bottom Line
So if the perils of leadership are hatred, discomfort, vulnerability, fear, and betrayal, why should anyone lead? This world desperately needs leaders who aren't afraid of the discomfort that is required of leadership and will do the gnarly job of putting the needs of others first, not their own selfish interests. Without true selfless leadership, pride, ego, and self-interest will destroy organizational, political, and societal culture. So I challenge us to look for ways to coach and teach others that even though being "others focused" is often painful in the short term, it is valuable and worthwhile in the long run. I invite you to join me on this challenging, yet satisfying leadership journey together.

About Miles Anthony Smith:
Born a Hoosier, raised an Okie, and currently residing in the Frozen Tundra of Green Bay, Wisconsin, Miles Anthony Smith, a Gen X'er leader, cares enough about organizational health to make the tough decisions, hire and coach the right people, set clear expectations, develop a strong team culture, and strengthen organizational cash flow, exhibiting both humility and fierce resolve. His mission in life is “To Chart the Course, Pave the Pathway, and Light the Lane for Others to Eclipse My Own Success in Leadership.”
He’s the author of the new book Why LeadershipSucks: Fundamentals of Level 5 Leadership and Servant Leadership.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

10 Questions and Answers for Managers about Praise

Praise is one of the most misunderstood, powerful, and underutilized management skills. The following is a reenactment of an actual coaching conversation I had with a manager.
1. What is “praise”? Just what exactly are we talking about here?
Giving praise means telling someone about something positive that they did. Other common terms for praise include positive recognition, positive feedback, a complement, appreciation, a pat on the back, props, kudos, WERK, toot, and yadah.
2. Why is it important for managers to praise their employees?

EVERYONE wants it and it’s one of the easiest things to give. It encourages, inspires, motivates, rewards, shows respect, and retains.
Being appreciated is a basic human need, right up there with a need for food, caffeine, sex, and smartphones.

In survey after survey, employees consistently report that “recognition for a job well done” is one of their most important motivators. And in those same surveys, the majority of respondents always say they don’t get enough of it.
Think about it: all employees want it. Most employees don’t get enough of it. As a manager, you have an unlimited supply of it and it doesn’t cost you a dime. How damn hard can it be to be a good boss without even breaking a sweat??

3. Can you give too much praise? You know, overdo it? I don’t want my employees walking around with swelled heads.
I’ll answer that question with another question:

How many managers have you worked for gave you just waaaay too much praise?
I’ve asked that question to hundreds – perhaps thousands of managers in seminars, and I’ve never seen a single hand go up.

I suppose it could happen – but given all of the potential benefits, it just may be one of those crazy risks worth taking. You might just have to run out and buy some extra-large hats.
4. What are some of the best excuses for why a manager doesn’t give praise?

Ah, there are many, and I’ve heard them all. Not enough time, my manager doesn’t give me praise, my employees work remotely, I have too many direct reports, my employee(s) haven’t done anything to deserve it, and I’m not comfortable giving it.
All of which are lame, lame, and lamer excuses. The manager either doesn’t see the value in it, doesn’t know how to do it effectively so shy’s away from it, or was raised by a pack of hyenas.

5. OK, I get it, and I was raised by my Mom and Dad. How DO you give praise effectively? Is it something that a manager can screw up, or will employees appreciate that I at least tried it out?
Actually, it IS possible to screw it up. In fact, I suspect getting a negative reaction to praise is one of the reasons managers don’t do it often enough. Some people – maybe even most people – are as bad at receiving praise as others are about giving it. They’ll shrug it off, say it was nothing, clam up, or get embarrassed. So, a manager doesn’t always get instant gratification for giving praise. That’s OK – as a manager, it’s not all about YOU. Even if the employee doesn’t react the way you might hope they would, it doesn’t mean it’s not important to them. Chances are, they’ll go home and tell their significant other. Or maybe not tell anyone – but trust me, at the end of the day, it matters.

Let’s go get back to screwing it up. Yes, in order for praise to have its maximum positive effect, it should be:
A. Timely
Timely simply means not waiting too long. You don’t want to have one of those George Costanza “Jerk Store” moments, where you think of something witty to say 3-4 days too late.

B. Sincere
Don’t make stuff up just to check it off your list. Be patient, like a hunter stalking its prey. LOOK for good things – it’ll happen, and when it does, pounce on it!
C. Specific
This is the one where people seem to have the hardest time with. It will take a little effort and practice to get really good at it, but when you do, the sincerity will follow.

There’s two parts to “Specific”: (1) a description of the behavior or action and (2) why the action or behavior was such a good thing.

6. That last thingy sounds a little tricky – can you give me an example?
Be happy too:

“Thanks for asking for clarification and examples on how to be specific. By doing that, it allowed me to make sure not only you know what it means, but chances are, a lot of other readers probably had the same question”.
Much better than "good question", right?
7. OK, I’m sold, but how can I turn over a new leaf without looking like I just got back from charm school or read the latest leadership book?

The good thing about learning how to give praise is that there are SO many opportunities to practice in a safe environment. You can try it with you kids, parents, significant other, waiters and waitresses, cab drivers, flight attendants, nurses, teachers, …… the possibilities are endless! Best of all, the better you get at it, you’ll start enjoying the reaction you get from people as much as they enjoy the praise.

8. Is it OK to praise my boss? Isn’t that “sucking up”?
Yes, it is perfectly OK to praise your boss, as long as your intentions are to sincerely recognize and show appreciation for something positive, not to gain some kind of political edge.

9. What about public vs. private praise?
I’d have to answer this one with a big, fat “it depends”. There are pros and cons to both, so it all depends on the situation and most importantly, the individual’s preference. It’s part of getting to know your employees and what is motivates them. If you don’t know, ask.

10. Can you recommend a book on the topic?
Seriously?! A book? Come on, this isn’t rocket science. But if you’re really all geeked up about learning more about employee recognition, I’d recommend the classic 1501 Ways to Reward Employees, by Bob Nelson, and Love 'em or Lose 'em: Getting Good People to Stay, by Beverly Kaye. But don’t over study it – just get started today.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Simplifying Leadership with the 3C Disciplines

Guest post by Great Leadership regular contributor Beth Armknecht Miller:

I, and others, have been guilty in the past of making leadership so complicated. Both new and current leaders can become overwhelmed with the long lists of leadership “how tos” and “need tos”. How can any leader master all of these?  But does great leadership really have to be so complicated? 

As I have worked with successful leaders over the years, they all have demonstrated three disciplines that I believe are critical to success: Care, Curiosity, and Courage. And when leaders embrace and master these three disciplines much of what a leader has to accomplish is a result of these core disciplines.

So what is so special about Care, Curiosity, and Courage?

As a leader, when you consistently care, both employee engagement and employer brand are improved for the organization. 

Care is perceived by others from actions that a leader chooses to do or not do. The ability to consciously and purposefully choose to act and communicate in a caring way shows those that you lead that they are much more than an employee to you and the organization. When you demonstrate care a trusting and safe environment will develop, where employees will want to share their ideas and concerns with you. 

I want readers not to confuse care with coddling. Care is not coddling! Coddling is for kids not for adults who are being compensated for work. 

Care is also about community and society as a whole. Today’s leaders must be part of the greater good and not insular to their company and industry. Great leaders care about what is happening in their community and become an active part of their community. 

Consistently exhibiting curiosity and having a commanding desire to understand and learn can stimulate innovation and creativity within an organization. And with the rate of change accelerating, both innovation and creativity are critical to a company’s future. Curiosity can drive you as a leader to be more agile to market and economic changes. 

You demonstrate curiosity by asking great and powerful questions to understand others and uncover opportunities. Learning and developing yourself as a leader shows others that you are not only curious but that you value growth and development. And when you embrace curiosity then you are helping to develop others around you. Curiosity can have a synergistic effect on others. 

On the other hand, if you think you have all the answers and aren’t open to new ideas you won’t be prepared for changes that can affect both you, your team members and your organization. Lack of curiosity is a risk to leaders. 

And the final leadership discipline but by no means least, courage. This is the discipline that if mastered can set you apart as a leader. Leadership courage aids in keeping companies on the path to their vision, and true to their mission and values. With courage, organizations thrive in a world of transparency where the truth is spoken even when the message is difficult.  

Accountability is found with leaders of courage. Employees have clear expectations of performance standards and are held to them. And, employees aren’t surprised when receiving feedback and development plans. 

Courage doesn’t come easily.  It requires you to make tough decisions that may have a negative impact on you personally and/or professionally. Courage is also demonstrated when you have the fierce conversations with team members that you don’t look forward to in a timely manner. 

When you can concentrate on just three and not multiple lists of disciplines, change is manageable. Take time to assess yourself in these three disciplines, identify what needs to be strengthened and work at becoming more consistent in practicing them all.
Beth Armknecht Miller, of Atlanta, Georgia, is Founder and President of Executive Velocity, a leadership development advisory firm accelerating the leadership success of CEOs and business leaders. She is also a Vistage Chair and Executive Coach. She is certified in Myers Briggs and Hogan leadership assessment tools and is a Certified Managerial Coach by Kennesaw State University. Visit or or follow her on twitter at SrExecAdvisor.