Take the Shape Quiz to learn about yourself and colleagues

Posted by on Nov 8, 2016 in Communication, Conflict, Creativity, Effective conversations, Leadership, Self-awareness, Teams | 3 comments

This fun quiz is designed to get you thinking about how different we are.  It’s important to understand that you approach your work with a style and perspective that varies from your colleagues.  Understanding and appreciating the strengths within those differences allows you to become more successful.  You can start to work with the differences rather than against them.  It’s not meant to be a label – people are far too interesting and multi-dimensional for that.   Still, for the purposes of the quiz you’ll pick from four shapes. If it isn’t apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which shape category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren’t so good for other purposes. So here’s the quiz:  pick the figure you like most of these four shapes – a square, a triangle, a circle or a squiggle.  Then you can scroll to the bottom for a description of that type, including tips for your own improvement and tips for others to work better with you.  For a more complete picture you can even pick the figure you like the best and then the figure you like the second best.     The purpose of the quiz is not just self-understanding, but better communication.  You need to orient toward the style of the other person. A square will want specifics or perhaps details in writing. A triangle won’t appreciate indecisiveness. You may have to remove distractions before getting a squiggle’s attention. A circle needs to connect and have a conversation. In handling conflict, circles tend to accommodate or compromise. Triangles tend to compete, or, if they see how they can gain, compromise. Squiggles may not even perceive there’s an issue, but they can be competitive in defense of an idea. Avoidance is characteristic of squares because they don’t like dealing with emotion, or they may dig in until they get more information. Groups tend to take on a personality of their own.   Good teamwork needs all the shapes – triangles to focus on decisions and results, circles for harmony, squiggles for ideas, and squares to create the systems to get the details done. THE SHAPES QUIZ SQUARE:
 Details & Data & Systems People Characteristics: Hardest workers; task oriented Loyal Structured; organized Think sequentially, logically May be stubborn with opinions based on their data Value details and data; analytical Know policies & rules Not fond of change, prefer a stable environment Prefer to working alone to teamwork May see fun as unnecessary or a luxury Trouble saying “I’ve got enough information” Conservative, regular, orderly Meeting behavior:  well prepared, lots of notes, gets right down to work Motto: “Give me a job and a deadline and I’ll get it done” If you are a square it might help help you to: Be less picky with people Create your own routines Allow yourself to make a few mistakes so you...

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The Powerful Can’t Feel Your Pain or Hear Your Perspective

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 in Communication, Leadership, Self-awareness |

A client recently asked me why powerful leaders often don’t take feedback well.  A board asked me why their president wanted coaching in conflict management when they felt he needed compassion training. And then there’s our X-rated presidential race. I saw two studies recently that might give us all something to think about.  Increased power diminishes our ability to be empathetic and compassionate because of its impact on the “mirror system” – how we are able to experience what someone else experiences, according to a Canadian research study.  Amazingly, even a small bit of power shuts down that part of the brain!  Scary stuff! Another study conducted at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management by Adam Galinsky and his colleagues found that increasing power increases self-assurance and confidence but in a way that makes one prone to dismiss viewpoints of those lacking authority.   As we get more powerful, according to Galinsky, we have increasing difficult in correctly perceiving others’ perspectives. So power leaves leaders somewhat isolated – stuck in their own perspective of themselves and the world, and unable to feel or see the “plight of the little guy” or even the view from the frontlines. Maybe that’s why all those leaders on the TV show Undercover Boss see things differently when they go into their companies in disguise.  It’s not just what others are willing to tell them, maybe it’s what they are able to take in when they are even temporarily sitting in a less powerful role. Empathy, compassion, self-awareness, and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes are all qualities of a mature mind – one that can lead… and lead well. The good news is that other studies show you can grow these qualities with conscious effort.  That, of course, presupposes that you recognize that you need to grow those characteristics.  If you are willing, then you have to be all ears!  You have put off your mantle of power and seek out and listen to the feedback and perspectives of others.   This is when coaches can be really useful, or honest colleagues, board members, peers, friends, and even your...

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Balance – Chaos Versus Structure

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Change, Innovation, Leadership | 0 comments

  Too much chaos and nothing gets done, people lose faith and ultimately become apathetic.  Too much control and they feel stifled and want to revolt, or leave.  Where’s the sweet spot?  I was introduced to a concept called the Chaordic Model, which immediately resonated as a useful description of  many circumstances. The term was coined in the late 90’s by the former CEO of Visa, Dee Hock.  The idea is based on combining characteristics of chaos and characteristics of order, with neither dominating.  It applies to an organization, a team, a meeting, or even a relationship, and was said to have evolved from Hock’s fascination with the study of organic systems.  He described their dynamic state: “Life is eternal, perpetual becoming, or it is nothing.  Becoming is not a thing to be know, or controlled.  It is a magnificent, mysterious odyssey to be experienced.” This diagram explains the various system states and identifies the place where the system has enough strength to tolerate risk, and enough openness to respond to change.  The circle on the right is the old command and control, ask no questions type of leadership that creates an organization that can’t respond to change.  It’s useful in very specific situations, but not as a steady diet.  The circle on the left is the complete anarchy that occurs when there’s no leadership, either formal or informal. Instinctively, I gravitate toward that overlap in the middle of chaos and order, as a leader of an organization, as a facilitator of a meeting, and in the way I lead my life.  When I was younger, though, I needed more order, more control. Take a look at the way you lead – do you tend to lean one way or the other?  Is it right for your team, and for your...

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Why are these senior leaders in the news? Female Stereotypes and Glass Cliffs

Posted by on May 29, 2014 in Leadership, Self-awareness | 0 comments

Why do the stories of Jill Abramson, newly fired executive editor of the New York Times, and Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors matter?  Are these two leaders facing stormy situations because they’re women?  Is one about a woman paying for exhibiting male behavior, and the other about the glass cliff syndrome of letting women take the hit? Abramson was fired by a privately held company.  We’ll never know the whole story.  She was said to be a poor collaborator, and difficult on her staff, according to owner Sulzberger, even though he acknowledged she produced a great version of the paper.   There’s also a “he said-she said” buzz about the underlying reason being salary sexism – that Abramson was being paid less than her colleagues and her approach to getting that changed was the final aggressive behavior that tipped the scales.   But wouldn’t this behavior be expected of a male editor? And if she hadn’t been tough and aggressive, would she ever have even made it to that career pinnacle? In a New York Times article, columnist David Carr addressed that issue.  “Some might suggest that these traits are all in the historical job description of a man editing The New York Times, but Arthur concluded “she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.” I like Jill and the version of The Times she made. But my reporting, including interviews with senior people in the newsroom, some of them women, backs up his conclusion.” But could it be that the same behavior her colleagues (both male and female) would have accepted from a male editor, they couldn’t or wouldn’t accept from a female?  Their internal filters built from years of experience and culture reframed the behavior from a woman as unacceptable and shifted their judgment toward the negative.   Perhaps she was expected, as a woman, to be more collaborative in their leadership style, and she turned them off by violating their expectations? I surely don’t know the answer but I am interested in the larger issue of how cultural stereotypes and expectations can color our judgments. So what about the other woman in the news, Mary Barra, having to defend GM against allegations that they hid defects that should have prompted immediate recalls?  Was she appointed in January because of something called the “glass cliff?” Coined by researchers in 2005, the term glass cliff refers to the pattern of appointing women to positions of power when companies are going bad.  The research says the rationale is two-fold:  highly competent men scatter because don’t want to be left holding the bag for past mistakes, leaving less competition.  Plus women don’t have the same networks and access to information that might make them reluctant.  Possibly, companies may hope that women will be seen as more empathetic when the problems go public. The research has been limited so far, so it hasn’t gotten a lot of traction.  Some offer a different view of the phenomenon...

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4 Questions Help You Hold People Accountable

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Accountability, Leadership | 0 comments

Too many managers and leaders avoid or delay holding people accountable because they find it uncomfortable, or because they are too trusting, or even too disorganized.  Then they get angry (at themselves and the employee). Here are four questions and an outline to help you. Don’t manage by anger.  Start with a primary assumption:  People generally want to do well at work and feel proud of their accomplishments.  You want to trust them to do well, and you also need to track their performance (trust & track).  You start with clear expectations including how each person’s role fits into the whole.   1.  If an individual or team isn’t doing well, what’s in the way? Missing skills Misunderstanding expectations System or process obstacles Individual obstacles Behavior/attitude issues 2.  How do you find out where the problem lies? Ask the individual what they believe is in their way Verify understanding of expectations Explore skill gaps Examine the process and the system (other contributing people, departments, etc) Determine specific impact of behavior/attitude issues   3.  When do you hold someone accountable? Prevention and intervention:       Prevention:           Immediately Upon assigning responsibility – ask individual or team to reframe the expectations in their own words so you can verify initial understanding Ongoing Agree upon check-points in advance – 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, etc., or different process steps -whatever is appropriate Create a simple system for you to check-in and evaluate performance at check-points (put on your calendar) Addressing obstacles immediately – think “what’s going wrong and how can it be fixed?” Intervention: As soon as you see problems: All too often we wait too long to act.  Holding someone accountable is your obligation to your organization.  It isn’t personal.  You shouldn’t need to get angry to discuss problems or the need for course corrections of any kind. Review data: Remind the individual of the expectations, provide data on the performance to date, discuss gap between expectations and performance. Balance your role Holding someone accountable isn’t the same thing as micromanagement, so manage the boundary carefully.  People need to try and sometimes even fail when the consequences to all are tolerable. 4.  What are the consequences? Know the consequences at every level: Organizational (lose money?  Lose clients? Lose reputation? Lose time? Etc.) Team (Lose credibility?  Slow other teams? Etc.) Individual (Lose respect?  Lose bonus?  Lose future opportunities? Lose job? Etc.) Share the consequences for non-performance with the individual or team. Separate the person from the behavior – it’s the behavior that’s the problem Act on the consequences Make sure they are appropriate and specific Be consistent Be timely In a book based on research on shame, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown, PhD LMSW talks about accountability: “Setting boundaries and holding people accountable is a lot more work than shaming or blaming.  But it’s also much more effective.  Shaming and blaming without accountability is toxic to couples, families, organizations, and communities. .. Additionally, if we don’t...

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How To Develop a New Generation of Leaders

Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

A plan to develop your next leaders requires answering three questions: How do you define leadership? What are the most important skills and behaviors necessary for leadership in your organization?  How do you nurture those skills and behaviors through mentoring, training, coaching or modeling (developing a culture of leadership)? Definition: I define leadership as the ability to see the big picture, determine a direction, and inspire others to move beyond the status quo.  There are roles and titles of leadership, but there are also acts of leadership that come from thinking like a leader at any level. Skills and Behaviors: Awareness is the meta-skill of leadership.  Without that, nothing else matters.  We need to be aware of ourselves and how we impact others.  I call this presence.  We need to be aware of the world beyond our corner – the wider influences on staff, on customers, on our community.   We need to be able to shift our awareness from narrow focus to wide angle and back, in order to assess conditions, create plans, and manage details. With awareness, we can tackle some of the primary skills necessary for leadership which don’t usually get taught through the technical skill sets we learn to do our jobs.   I categorize them broadly as self-management, decision making, handling challenge, and process management. Self-management is required for other management.  Self-awareness of our presence is crucial.  Clearly understanding our work style, and how we differ from others comes first.  Have a bit of fun and take my Shapes Quiz to see how you differ from those around you. Understanding who we are (values, assumptions, filters through which we make judgments because of our personality, background, etc.) allows the possibility of managing how we react to others who are different.  This includes how our generational values and experiences differ from those we are leading.  We need to try to see the world through the eyes of the next generation of leaders so we understand them better. I start leadership training by asking people to assess themselves, and to search out feedback from others (e.g. ask 3 people for 3 adjectives describing you – a peer, a boss, and a direct report).   Then we need to examine how those characteristics and the way they manifest as behaviors serve us well and how they get in our way. I include how we communicate in this category, both in person and virtually. Through coaching, or asking for immediate feedback from friends and colleagues, we can start to make appropriate changes. Good self-management leads to good management of others! Decision making is another skill we are often not taught, and our young leaders get stuck making decisions too quickly, or waiting too long, or involving the wrong people.  They can learn a matrix of assessments to determine whether the decision is theirs, or belongs down the organizational ladder or up the organizational ladder.  If it is theirs, they can then decide if it can be made alone, with input from others,...

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