Take the Wheel  from Your Saboteur

Sandy was walking down the hall to the office of his boss Jim.  He was ready to present his big idea. It could make a significant difference to the company and be a game changer to his career. He had worked late nights and weekends to polish it.

As he got closer, he thought: Jim might think my idea is off base…maybe way off base.  No way would the company take a chance like that.  Who am I to be upsetting the way we do things?  Jim isn’t going to be comfortable with the risk and will get mad — at me.  This could be bad for my career, even my job.  This is a mistake.

So . . .

Sandy stopped in his tracks and went back to his desk.  He put the carefully prepared document in a file and closed the drawer.  He never proposed the idea that might have catapulted the company over the competition and launched him to a new level of responsibility.

What happened in that hallway?

An internal voice, we call a saboteur, inner critic, gremlin or The Committee, whispered in Sandy’s ear and planted a big dose of doubt.

So, as Sandy made up a negative story that his next move was going to be dangerous, maybe even a career-killer, his dream crumpled.  Worst of all, his saboteur convinced him to do nothing, to not even try.

Who or what was that saboteur and where did it come from?

The saboteur is that inner voice that serves as an internal warning system to avoid danger.  It means well in trying to keep us safe but is woefully out of date and actually can do serious harm.

Some believe the source of this voice goes way back to when we were prehistoric hunters.  That rustle of leaves might have a large and dangerous animal behind it; an internal voice said don’t go investigate and so live another day.

Others believe we devise coping strategies when we are very young children and then continue to use them despite being adults in radically changed circumstances.

While not the first to expose the pernicious saboteur, Shirzad Chamine has written a very accessible book, Positive Intelligence, and offers a free assessment as well.

Noting that our mind can be our friend or our enemy, Chamine’s assessment determines one’s Positive Intelligence Quotient, a score represented as a percentage of how much of the time your mind is your friend or your enemy.

His research has determined that a score of 75 is a tipping point.  It means that your mind is serving you about 75% of the time and sabotaging you 25% of the time.  Above 75, we are uplifted by the internal self talk and below that, we are being dragged down.  He says that a dramatic 80% of individuals and teams score below this critical tipping point.

What are some strategies to deal with this saboteur?  Start with awareness.  When we notice an internal message holding us back, we have a choice to override it.  Without the awareness, the saboteur is driving the bus and making decisions for us.

Consider the difference between:  “I think I’m going to make a mess of this.” and  “My lying saboteur thinks I’m going to make a mess of this.”

The challenge and the opportunity?  Take the wheel from your inner critic.

Chamine offers his assessment for free at PositiveIntelligence.com.  The feedback is nuanced and worthwhile.  Your results are immediately available and will be followed up with a series of unobtrusive emails offering messages and brief exercises to reinforce the awareness and learning.

As we increase our awareness of that inner voice, we give ourselves a chance to restore choice.

Full disclosure:  I let my own saboteur be loud and bossy while writing this, causing the post to be delayed.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Self pity:  Resentment (resistance) about what is

Compassion:  Acceptance of what is

Success for you 

Mind the Gap: Your Path to Greater Fulfillment

Bob’s keynote at the conference went well.  As the clapping died down, the rush of elation felt like a victory.

By lunch, his mood had slumped and he was feeling alone and, actually, a little resentful.

Two days later, he noticed himself thinking, “I put a lot into that presentation and I didn’t get any help at all.”

When Bob contacted me about coaching, he was restless and irritable.  He said he was working as hard as ever and feeling discouraged.

The long hours at the office and time on his computer at night was taking a toll on his family life.  His wife felt slighted and his kids mumbled that he was grumpy all the time.

His routine felt like a grind.  All that effort at work and the results were good but there didn’t seem to be any teamwork or appreciation for what he saw as his sacrifices.

To get our coaching started I asked him to complete an exercise called the Wheel of Life, which offers a simple and effective way to gauge someone’s current level of satisfaction.

Think of a pie cut into eight wedges, where each wedge represents a major domain of your life.  The categories include:

  • Career
  • Money
  • Friends & Family
  • Significant Other/Romance
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Health
  • Physical Environment
  • Personal Growth/Spirituality

Then rate your current fulfillment for each one on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s quick, easy and provides a “snapshot” of today’s level of satisfaction.

Bob reported moderate to low satisfaction with his job (5), his relationship with his wife (6), his family time (5), and even with fun and recreation (3-4).

For the second part of the exercise, I noted to Bob the rating of 5 that he gave to Career and asked him to imagine what a 10 for him would look like.

This is a basic coach technique; we invite a client to imagine an ideal outcome and then hold that vision as a goal. Next, after acknowledging where we are now, we collaborate and devise a strategic action plan to close the gap and make the vision a reality.

The Wheel exercise helped Bob get in touch with his current level of discontent and start the process of identifying solutions.

We quickly pinpointed the focal point as time.  Bob had been promoted into a bigger job with more responsibility and he hadn’t fully embraced his new role.

We worked together on establishing priorities, improving time management; and then, delegating and coaching his direct reports to take on more ownership.

The transition took some time.  As Bob’s staff members took on more responsibility, they developed new competencies.

Bob got out of the weeds and began to lead more and manage less.  He felt less stressed out and was able to enjoy his family again.  He also stopped bringing the ghost of an unhappy home life to the office.

We know that simply completing the Wheel exercise will not turn around major issues.  It can be a useful tool, however, to highlight areas of dissatisfaction and facilitate the process of identifying paths to greater fulfillment.

The challenge is to mind the gap.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

Don’t be a prisoner of your past. 

Be a pioneer of your future. 

Lead for your success.

The Promise of Possibilities

Dogs…chased…the…gorillas…because…they…smelled…like…tangerines…that…cats…forgot…and…left…behind…at…the…party……period!

So plays out an exercise of improvisation among business colleagues.  That the sentence doesn’t make sense is beside the point.

Participating in groups of three, each member added one word at a time.  It meant that each of them had to listen to the others, be present to the exercise, and let go of where they wanted to take the story.

And, underlying the whole process, they all had to practice a Yes, And perspective.

Yes, And is the most basic building block of improvisation and stands in contrast to No or Yes, But.

With a Yes, And perspective one accepts what another offers and builds on it and never dismisses or denies.

The Yes, And perspective makes space for an idea to breathe before being shot down, sometimes just the moment that is needed for a new idea to develop into something worth pursuing.

Yes, And promotes the creation of a safe and courageous space and in turn supports risk taking and encourages innovation and creativity.

I’ve been leading groups to perform improv exercises on a regular basis this past year  The participants quickly get over any shyness.  They pay attention, focus and have fun.  Their energy goes up and they leave a little more open to possibilities and willing to engage with others.

Improvisation is an activity that allows participants to experience new concepts and in a visceral and lasting way.

The intent is not to try to be funny or to deliver a performance in front of their peers.  Instead, participating in a structured series of improv exercises can be a form of emotional intelligence in action and offers a creative learning experience.

Though the exercises may feel like play, improv promotes better listening, more spontaneity, increased confidence as well as flexibility and agility.

The benefits are not limited to just the individual experience.  Because the exercises are done in pairs, triads and larger groups, they can also build team cohesion and collaboration.

Another key part of what makes practicing improv effective is supporting our partners and helping them look good.  When we respond in the moment and build on the ideas that come up in the exercises, we’re not competing for credit.  This approach de-emphasizes ego and contributes to better teamwork.

Living in today’s period of unprecedented and accelerating change, it will be the people and institutions that are willing to adapt and consider new ways of doing things that will survive and thrive.  There are too many examples of institutions that have faded because they didn’t.

Contempt before investigation is a sure way to block progress and maintain the illusion of safety of the status quo.

Yes, And is positive, versatile and invites participation.

As we can lead from any chair, the opportunity in hand is to start noticing the negative impact of No and Yes, Butand replace it with

YES, that’s an interesting idea. . .AND. . .

 

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From the Water Cooler . . .

What we send out, we get back. 

Success for you now today

What’s All That Stress About, Anyway?  

In a world where . . .

the toe-tapping demands for your attention are non-stop and getting more insistent . . .just keeping up-to-date sometimes feels like you’re trying to get a drink but it’s from a whooshing fire hose.   In a world like this, survival is the order of the day.

In this world, changes pile up on one another and the pace keeps accelerating.

All this change generates stress.

Measuring the impact of stressful events, the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale is a list of 43 life events of varying magnitude–starting with Death of a Spouse (100 life change units), Divorce (73), and ending with Christmas (12) and a Minor Violation of the Law (11).  Nearly all of them hinge on change.  To get a sense of impact, review the events in your life in the last year; a cumulative score above 300 indicates risk of illness.

So what exactly about change is stressful?

The answer is likely complex, unique to you and situational.  In general, though, I think it is about a loss of control.

Double-clicking on that, stress manifests due to the fears of losing what we have and not getting what we want.  And, the worst fear of all: needing to let go of what we have to be available for something new, not getting it, and ending up with nothing.

 Imagine an iceberg:  the small part above water is the stressors we notice such as when we’re running late, stuck in rush hour traffic and then a truck blares its horn, starting a chain reaction of honking cars, kids fighting in the backseat and spilled coffee.

The much larger part of the iceberg below water is what really gets to us.  That would be the anxiety of the imagined consequences of . . . being late and not getting a critical report finished by tomorrow’s noon deadline; or, failing to persuade in next week’s presentation to senior management at your biggest client.

Drilling down, it’s always about fear.  Sometimes, just fear about fear.

The answer is to start with awareness.  Increasing our awareness of what the triggers are. This means that we can start by recognizing these stressors and be alert to their impact.  Forewarned is forearmed.  It also means we can take pre-emptive steps to cut out some of these stressors.

Accepting that some stress is inevitable, if we take an observant perspective, we can keep some remove from the fears and not get so pulled in.

Next month, we’ll look more in depth at motivations for coping with stress for increased wellness.

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From the Water Cooler . . .

Every time I say Yes to something new,

 I am saying No to something else.

Success, enlightenment.

A Win-Win for New Employees, and You  

Sam’s performance was disappointing and, honestly, he was teetering into trouble.   His boss was puzzled.  The recruiting process had been smooth and Sam seemed so promising in his interviews.

Now, three months into his new job, Sam’s boss felt Sam didn’t have a clear focus on his role or what was expected of him.  He hadn’t connected with many of the key people whose support he needed, and worst of all, this company had certain ways of doing things and Sam “just didn’t get it.”

How did this happen?

Sam got the same orientation that all employees got.

That was a big part of the problem.

Like so many people facing new situations, especially when the outcome really matters, Sam had difficulty navigating his new circumstances.  He would have benefitted from a structured process to help him integrate into the firm.

The company’s orientation process handled the mandatory paperwork, basic company policies and included a few introductions to random colleagues. This company’s orientation process was like that at many firms: very short in duration, available to all employees, with low engagement potential and low-to-no strategic value.

Of leaders who join companies from the outside, an alarming 40% fail in their first 18 months, according to Fortune magazine.  What’s more, a full third of external hires are no longer with an organization after two years, say Stein & Christiansen in their book, Successful Onboarding.  They say further that less than a third of executives are positive about their onboarding experience.  So, Sam’s experience was not so unusual.

So, what is onboarding?

It is a program a company designs to reduce the time it takes for a new employee to get up to speed and become productive and to align with the firm’s culture and objectives.

Plus, a well-thought-out program can help a new employee:

  • Assimilate into a firm’s culture
  • Create and develop relationships key to their effectiveness,
  • Offer clarity on roles and expectations
  • Provide guidance on how work gets done

Onboarding often starts early.  A 2011 SHRM study reported that 60% of companies said they began their onboarding efforts before the employee’s first day, some during the recruiting process.  Another 32% started on the first day.

While some companies have programs lasting up to a year or more, they are a tiny minority.  The SHRM research showed 66% completed at 60 days and 91% at 90 days.

   

A good program is strategic and intentional.  This kind of help translates into employees getting further faster and results in higher productivity, retention, profitability and employee engagement.

We believe that the development of the onboarding initiative is best as a multi-departmental effort representing the commitment of top management, the soft skills of HR and talent management, and the perspective of recent hires.

It is usually up to the employee’s manager to oversee the program for their direct report.  To encourage compliance, some companies include the manager’s onboarding supervision as part of the annual review.

Separate from the employee’s manager, mentors (or buddies) can answer the many normal questions that can feel embarrassing and vulnerable to ask. This is especially true with cultural assimilation, the most frequent cause of new employees’ derailment.  Mentors can demystify social norms that seem invisible until they are stepped on.

The mentoring relationship is most effective when it is somewhat informal.  Good candidates for mentoring are employees who are not too much more senior in rank (conducive for candid discussion), have good people skills, are actively engaged and who are willing to be available.

Other elements of a good onboarding program include lots of two-way communication, check points at designated intervals to ensure accountability, clear direction, clarity on expectations, coaching, peer group discussions and metrics to measure progress.

Ultimately, a good onboarding program can deliver a win-win.

First, there is the solid ROI as measured in productivity, retention and engagement.  Second, there is a notable competitive advantage to your firm as most companies do not expend an effort robust and sustained enough for real impact.

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From the Water Cooler . . . 

I can control only two things:  my attitude and my actions.  For everything else, I have to let go.

 Success for you