Thursday, January 28, 2016

How Being a ‘4D’ Leader Impacts Business Relationships

Guest post from Dr Alan Watkins:

Organisations are collections of human beings and the success of our businesses are grounded in our relationships with each other and with our customers. Successful relationships require a multi-dimensional approach.

Unfortunately too many leaders today are one-dimensional. They are so preoccupied with what they need to do (the IT dimension) that they often fail to pay sufficient attention to themselves (the I dimension) or their relationships (the WE dimension) that ultimately drive performance.

The best leaders operate well in all three dimensions and they recognise that they also need to develop in the fourth dimension, which is their level of sophistication in the I, WE and IT dimensions.

Start with being (the I dimension)
Our ability to build successful relationships is entirely dependent on the sophistication of our interior landscape and our ability to regulate our own emotional state.

Unless you are an Oscar-winning actor, you will not be able to hide how you are really feeling at any point. How you feel is ultimately determined by your biology. If you’re anxious, your heart will be racing. When your heart beats fast, that biological signal is actually radiated off the body. Your colleagues may not have an ECG machine to know for sure, but they will notice an inconsistency between what you’re saying and the biological signals your body is emitting.

Getting into the right emotional state means taking control of your biology. We can only sustain confidence in the face of pressure if our biology actually supports this state. Such biological consistency is the ultimate level of ‘authentic leadership’.  Inspiring confidence, something critical to successful business relationships, is much easier when we shift ourselves into a genuine state of inner biological confidence. Our emotional state completely changes our ability to think clearly and build high quality relationships.

Move on to relating (the WE dimension)
Once you are more aware of how you are being and are able to control your emotional state, you will find building successful relationships comes much easier. But relating to others successfully means really listening and hearing what people mean rather than what they are saying.

Think about a conversation you’ve had recently. Can you say you were really listening to the other person? Did you pick up on the tone, body language and subtle nuance of their communication? Unfortunately, communication for most people is a combination of talking and waiting to speak.

Instead, if we cultivate a fascination in what the other person means, not just what they are saying we can connect much more effectively with them.  In such a condition, we can make people feel heard, and ‘seen’. Creating such a dynamic based on warmth and appreciation rather than indifference or judgmentalism will put the speaker more at ease and they will open up more.

Once the speaker has stopped their transmission, you can playback what they really meant at the deeper level rather than just repeating every word they said. You are not trying to simply summarise what they said or even offer an, opinion, solution, counterargument, reaction or interpretation. Rather you are simply reflecting back what you feel the speaker meant – the deeper meaning beneath the literal spoken words.

Successful business relationships come not from doing more things, but through a better understanding of ourselves and how we relate to others.

Dr. Alan Watkins is CEO and Founder of Complete Coherence. Both physician and neuroscientist, he has been a coach to many top CEOs and business leaders for over 15 years. He is also the author of Coherence: The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership and 4D Leadership: Competitive Advantage Through Vertical Leadership Development (both published by Kogan Page).

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Are You Using Those Fun New Technologies to Monitor, Mentor or "Motivate" Your Employees? Prepare for Sabotage

Guest post from Robert Galford:

It has been hard to ignore the recent spate of stories about the newest techniques and technologies designed to increase employee efficiency, motivation and/or engagement. A list of workplaces from Amazon to Zappo's have found themselves, perhaps unexpectedly, in the midst of a rather public discussion of the virtues, pitfalls and impact of these approaches on the workplace.

All of these tools and programs are high-tech, high-touch variations on the theme of getting people to work harder, work smarter, establish goals, measure progress, share results and receive accolades, encouragement and advice from those around them in the pursuit of ever-greater productivity. Some people might love the way they help them gauge their efficiency on the job, just as we have become accustomed to tracking everything from our steps to our sleep patterns. But scores of people will likely have quite the opposite reaction to these Fitbit-like trackers for the workplace.

Given that these new tools are unlikely to disappear any time soon, it might be useful to consider how to protect yourself and your organization from the unintended consequences, the damaging results or even the sabotage that may well ensue along the well-intentioned path of introduction or implementation. Though Newton's third law of physics may dictate that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, when it comes to the alteration of employee behaviors in the workplace, the reactions and resistance can often be disproportionately negative.  So if you or your organization are contemplating the introduction or tools for monitoring employees, here is a brief set of admonitions on how to avoid some of the pain that might otherwise ensue:

1. First and foremost, anticipate the forms of emotional resistance you will inevitably encounter: fear, skepticism and suspicion top the list. And while some of the resistance will be overt, and therefore easier to confront, it is the more insidious "simple sabotage" behaviors that are harder to stop and therefore important to address.

Having studied that topic, we use that term of "simple sabotage behaviors" advisedly here. You can see it when individuals, seemingly operating with the best of intentions, do subtle things that slow down progress or kill the effort entirely. For example, people could engage in overcompliance, providing so much detail as to overwhelm the system or render the data useless. At the other end, they could comply, but simply slow down their responsiveness. They could also sandbag the system by providing the types of answers they think the powers-that-be want to hear. These types of behaviors are subtle, hard to detect, and incredibly difficult to root out once they have taken hold.

2. Start to reduce the likelihood of those simple sabotage behaviors by including a small heterogeneous group of employees as early on as possible to test drive the process. Go beyond managers and your usual compliant suspects to include some likely naysayers or cranky folks in the group (but not too many!). Beta-test the program with one to two groups before you roll it out, collect honest feedback and spot potential problems, and adjust as needed before introducing it to the entire organization.

3. Be excruciatingly clear on how the program will work, how it will help employees, what personal information is shared and with whom, what happens to the data, how it is used, who might use it, and for what purpose. Make all that as verifiable as possible. And then show and tell and test the hell out of it again, whether with your initial beta groups or, ideally, with a new set of users.

4. Be both transparent and realistic up front about how you expect people to use the tools. If you compare this to how people have learned to engage with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other social tool, you'll need to be both clear and rational about what people are supposed to do, including their options or lack thereof, with regard to:
-participation-privacy levels
-frequency of use
-reading and responding to information and/or requests
-contributing input
-staying current and involved

5. Don't expect it to be the Holy Grail and immediately demand total compliance. Make sure there are other ways for people to pursue the same goals, at least for a while, whether that’s three months, six months, or longer. This will give you some time to work out the kinks of the new system, and also allow people space to get used to the new program.

6. Finally, stay vigilant over time, in order to be able to identify, isolate and inoculate against the later-stage simple sabotage behaviors that will inevitably arise. Not all sabotage – blatant or covert – will emerge early on. Some initially benign behaviors evolve into more dangerous characteristics as complacency or fatigue sets in. 

And give the Fitbit a rest every so often. You may have the technological tools at your disposal, but they should not be the only tools in your belt. Go back to some of the older ways of keeping your finger on the pulse, or getting your exercise, or whatever it was you did before that dazzling new technology landed in your midst or on your wrist.  

Robert M. Galford is the co-author, with Bob Frisch and Cary Greene, of Simple Sabotage: A Modern Field Manual for Detecting and Rooting Out Everyday Behaviors That Undermine Your Workplace (HarperOne). Robert is the Managing Partner of the Center for Leading Organizations.  Bob is the Managing Partner, and Cary is a Partner, of the Strategic Offsites Group.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cracking the Behavior Code

Guest post from Bob Nease:

In attempting to explain the nature of physics, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Nothing happens until something moves.”  A corollary applies to our organizations: “Nothing happens until someone does something.” We can talk all we want, but what our managers, employees, and customers do is mission critical to business success. Perhaps more than anything, behavior matters.

For better or worse, human behavior is complicated, messy, and unpredictable. This makes it difficult for today’s leaders to achieve optimal performance from their teams.  Great leaders, however, use three simple insights to understand and change the behaviors of their key people.

Understand the Fifty Bits Challenge

If you want to understand something about human behavior, there’s no better place to start than human brains. Each of our noggins processes a stunning 10 million bits of information per second. That’s comparable to the throughput of the original Ethernet cable. But an even more shocking statistic is that the conscious part of the brain – what we think of as the mind – runs at a pokey 50 bits per second.

To get a handle on what this means, let’s assume that a cup of sugar represents the entire bandwidth of your brain. The throughput of your conscious mind? It’s a measly ten grains… almost negligible.

In other words, it’s about 99.9995% true that our brains are wired for inattention and inertia. This heavy reliance on quick twitch, automatic behaviors served our ancestors very well 100,000 years ago, but today it contributes to behavioral hiccups.

This isn’t meant to be an excuse or a reason to let people off the hook.  High performance often requires attention to detail and the ability to put effort into a project in the here and now for a reward in the future. Nonetheless, it’s critical to remember that people can’t pay attention to everything all the time, nor can they be counted on to endlessly optimize every decision they face.

See Beyond Bad Behaviors to Underlying Intentions

There are nearly as many behavior change strategies as there are professions. Educators tell us that better behavior requires better information. Economists argue that things will improve when we get the incentives right. Marketers claim that cajoling in just the right way will get things done. Each of these approaches shares a common fallacy: that people’s intentions and behaviors go hand in hand. They all implicitly agree with the belief that if we get people’s intentions squared away, good things will follow.

These approaches are barking up the wrong tree because over time inattention and inertia create a yawning and persistent gap between our underlying intentions and what we actually do.  We refer to this chasm as the intent / behavior gap.

The intent / behavior gap is a critical concept because it helps keep us from being fooled by observed behavior. If we incorrectly attribute bad behaviors to intentions, our efforts at change will leave us disappointed and frustrated.

Activate People’s Pre-Existing Good Intentions

Once you understand that bad behavior is often the result of dormant good intentions rather than active bad ones, everything changes.  Instead of looking for ways to change people’s intentions, we start focusing on strategies that activate the good intentions that most people already have. There are two main ways to do this: demand attention and leverage inertia.

Demand Attention… Wisely

If the problem is inattention, then one solution is to figure out how to capture people’s scant fifty bits. For example, you can stop people in a process and require that they make an active decision before moving on. (PetSmart does this with its customers during the checkout process, asking whether or not they want to donate money to help save homeless pets.) You can also simply go to where a person’s fifty bits are likely to be; this is why family members leave notes for each other on the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror.

Demanding attention needs to be done carefully and wisely. One of the quickest ways to whittle away at your ability to capture the attention of others is to “cry wolf” too often. Let people know when you really need their “fifty bits” – and when you don’t. Also, try to push information to people when they need it rather than when it’s easiest to send.

Leverage Inertia

We usually think of procrastination as the enemy of better behavior. But that’s only true if the current state – or default behavior – is something other than the desired one. In that case, procrastination stands as an obstacle between the status quo and the better choice. If we can make the desired behavior the default, however, procrastination becomes an ally: changing to a less desired behavior requires an active change.

This is the secret behind increased participation in 401(K) retirement plans. Early on, employers offered their workers the option to participate in these plans but the uptake was modest. Even matching contributions didn’t move the needle all that much: participation rates were about 30% to 40%. But when employers made participation the default option (allowing employees to opt out or change the level of their contribution), participation rates soared to 80% to 90%.

The lesson: whenever possible, make the right behavior the natural, default choice. Leveraging the natural inclination toward inertia can be a powerful way to improve behaviors.

In every organization, behavior matters. If you want to help your coworkers, your clients, and yourself, remember three important insights: people are wired for inattention and inertia, there’s often a gap between good intentions and actual behavior, and that those good intentions can be effectively activated by demanding attention (wisely) or leveraging inertia.

Bob Nease, PhD, is the author of “The Power of Fifty Bits: The New Science of Turning Good Intentions Into Positive Results (HarperBusiness, 2016).  He is the former Chief Scientist of Express Scripts, the nations largest pharmacy benefits management company, and has authored and published more than 70 peer-reviewed papers. Dr. Nease is the recipient of the Henry Christian Award for Excellence in Research from the American Federation for Clinical Research and the URAC’s Health Care Consumer Empowerment and Protection Award for his application of behavioral economics to health care. He and his wife currently divide their time between Phoenix, Austin, and a small farm in rural Italy. For more information about Bob’s work, visit

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Year’s Development Goals for Leaders 2016 Edition (Added Bonus: How to Keep Them!)

This post was recently published in SmartBlog on Leadership:

For many of us, making and breaking promises to ourselves for the New Year has become an annual tradition. We say we’re going to lose that 10 pounds, quit smoking, change jobs, read more, be more positive, be more productive, etc… and start off all Tigger-like with energy and great intentions. Then, when the going gets tough we lose interest, motivation, and momentum and at the end of the year we’re back to where we started.
For next year, let’s break that cycle! Let’s set our yearly leadership development goals and put some best practices in place to help us achieve those goals.

We’ll start with 10 goals. Don’t get too ambitious, just pick 1-2, or maybe these will inspire you to come up with something better of your own. Then, make sure you include the three “goal boosters” at the end.
1. Pick one thing you like to do or are good at – but probably should not be doing at your level – and delegate it. That’s right, let it go! Just be sure to provide appropriate support and coaching to your delegee (new made-up word).

2. Practice in-the-moment, don’t get distracted by shiny objects, focused active listening. It’s called “leadership presence”, and it’s the single most important thing you can do as a leader.
3. Let someone on your team know where they really stand. Good or bad, doesn’t matter, just commit to some honest, caring, constructive developmental straight-talk.

4. Pick one thing that’s not broke and make it better. Look for an innovative breakthrough solution, not just incremental improvement.
5. Look for at least one thing someone is doing well and tell them about it. While each day would be a nice stretch goal, weekly may be more realistic.

6. Gain clarity on your leadership values and share those values with your team.
7. Get feedback on your leadership skills. Take a formal 360 degree assessment or use some other method to get more informal feedback. Then do something about the feedback!

8. Take a leadership course. Whatever program you chose to attend, just make sure it’s grounded in solid theory (no flavor of the month fads), builds self-awareness, and includes lots of practical on-the-job application.
9. Read at least 4 leadership books. That’s one a quarter. Believe me, it’s harder than it sounds. Keep an action log of new ideas that you are going to try out.

10. Find a new mentor or coach and/or mentor or coach someone new. Get a little, give a little.
Bonus content:

3 Proven Ways to Help you Achieve your Leadership Goals:
1. Write them down. Be SMART about it – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound).

2. Tell others about them. Make “public declarations”.
3. Find an “accountability partner”. Someone to check in with you once a month to review progress on your goals (or each other’s goals).