The Promise of High Performing Teams

Why do we hear so much about the importance of teamwork and high performing teams? UCLA Coach John Wooden won a record 10 NCAA basketball championships because he focused on the basic fundamentals that make a team great. He didn’t care how talented a player was. He understood we could accomplish so much more as a team, than you can as a group of individuals working together. There is a price to creating high performing teams, which most leaders aren’t willing to pay. Those that do, find their investment rewarded greatly.

Today, most people assume because they are in the same department, they are part of a team. Many hiring managers have a tendency to focus on top talent, rather than how well the individual will fit with their culture. People unconsciously favor natural talent to work ethic, effort, and motivation.[1] Teamwork takes dedication, commitment and hard work. Many leaders take a short-term approach that it is easier to work independently as part of a group rather than commit to the steps of becoming a high performance team. In reality, once they have committed to developing a high performance team, everything is easier.

Several years ago I worked for an organization that was, ironically, providing leadership and teamwork training to businesses. The company was struggling with sales during the 2008 recession, so I was asked to leave my position in training and development to focus on increasing sales. The sales department had hired and lost over 50 sales people from 2008-2011. None of them were able to have the success needed to remain working there. Clearly, the sales process was not working. I found that the sales practices of the company incentivized individual performance versus team performance. I learned everything I could from the best performers, and I brought my own experience as well. When I began to share my ideas, I was told my ideas would not work. In this situation, I felt it easier to take my own approach rather than follow the current process. I was working on a “team”, but we did not function as a team. I became the top sales performer within a year and I remained one of the top performers. Then I was promoted to sales manager.

Because of the toxic culture this was a big challenge. As a manager, there was tremendous pressure to produce. Ownership had a short-term focus and had little patience for the work it would take to change the culture. Top performers behavior was seriously disruptive. Because sales were low, leadership opted to allow top performers to work from home to reduce friction and drama. It would have taken time and commitment to hold them accountable and build a cohesive team. Instead, this short-term approach created sales results which were difficult to sustain. Sustained results require much more than individuals with talent working separately. It requires people who are willing to work hard and put the team ahead of their own personal ambition and agendas. It requires that the members of the team trust each other’s motives and actions. It required me to take more ownership of the process and be more courageous than I was at the time.

My experience is that business leaders are afraid of replacing disruptive top producers. They rely on their production and are not sure they can replace it. In my experience, your organization will thrive without these disruptive talents. I find that when they leave, trust increases and the rest of the team is more willing to step up and take greater responsibility. I would rather have a team of average players who are committed and motivated to work together, than a “team” with great talent who thinks they can do it alone and so would you. Billy Bean, the manager of the Oakland A’s starting in 1997, showed the impact of average players working as a team who could get on base vs. the all star with a “big bat.” His approach was revolutionary and was chronicled in the 2011 movie “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt.

Several years ago, Boyd Packer was at a county fair in Vermont. He was interested in the main event, which was an ox pull. Teams of two oxen where given three chances to pull a sled of cement blocks starting at five tons. As more weight was added, teams were eliminated until one team remained. He observed several teams; one in particular with enormous oxen seemed favored to win. They did not even place. Instead, an unlikely much smaller team won the event. He asked the local New Englanders how this was possible? They explained that the small team pulled at exactly the same time allowing their energy to be evenly distributed through the yoke creating tremendous power. The bigger teams did not work as well together and the difference of one second as the oxen would pull caused the energy to be lost and the pulling power to dissipate.

Teamwork is one of the greatest advantages any organization can have. It will have more positive impact than any individuals with intellect or natural strength or ability. Change is happening so quickly today. It is reported that information doubles every twelve to eighteen months. Computing power doubles every two years. We must learn to work as a team to keep up.

If teamwork is so vital to our sustained success, why are there not more effective teams?

  1. It takes commitment, effort and courage. It takes a willingness to embrace change to create high performing teams

  2. Most leaders do not know how to transform their people into a high performance team.

  3. Many leaders are under so much pressure to produce today, they forget about the need to produce tomorrow and the day after that.

  4. There is a culture of blame. If the leader blames, he cannot expect anyone else to take ownership either and this creates a vicious cycle of poor accountability.

  5. There is a bias toward talent. Often high potential performers are overlooked because they do not immediately stand out. A team of dedicated and committed people will outperform a group of individually talented people.

  6. Incentives often reward individual versus team performance.

  7. Not enough time is devoted to building trust with team members.

These challenges can be overcome. Working on a high performance team is fun and energizing. The return on investment is exciting and profitable.

Think of the best team you have ever been on. What made it great? What did you accomplish? Years ago, I played basketball in a city league. The members of this team were not particularly talented or fast. We had fun together and we worked cohesively. One Saturday, we were practicing on a court by the beach. A group of young and individually talented men challenged us to a game. They were supremely confident in their success and told us we should be ready to lose. Instead, they became frustrated as we began pulling ahead. We were playing as a team. They were showcasing their individual talents and eventually began arguing and blaming each other. They lost and left in disgust and frustration.

How do you get committed to the team? You have to be willing to own the results of the team. You can’t say you are succeeding and failing because of someone else. It is our boss, our co-workers, or our customers who are fault. Our marketing is poor, our product is weak, our leadership doesn’t know what they are doing. You must own the results of the team you are on. Regardless of title and position, you can influence the team to improve, by your commitment to the team. It is easier to blame and go it alone or leave. That is what many of us do.

If you are willing to pull together, you will be rewarded. I have a client that today is absolutely thriving as a high performance organization. There are multiple teams at many different levels. It took several years of hard work to make some major changes. They had to ask one of their founding principals to leave. This process took tremendous courage and commitment. The individual was immensely talented but toxic. The team was so much better in the long run. They were able to heal and come together to fulfill the very important mission of the organization. At the time, there was uncertainty about losing the talent of this individual, though there was damage to this person’s reputation and also the organizations reputation. The results two years later were unmistakable.

It is so much fun to be an underdog that exceeds expectations. Your leadership matters to the performance of the team. You do not have to be the smartest or most talented. You just have to be the most committed to creating team performance. You are much more effective as a team than alone.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: 7 Steps For a More Productive Team; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values; Results Killing Virus

If you would like to take a closer look at how much more productive your team could be through greater teamwork, message me and I will send you a comprehensive diagnostic tool.

[1] Chia-Jung Tsay, an assistant professor at University College London, “Beware Of The Bias Toward Natural Ability”, Harvard Business Review, April 2106, pgs. 28-29

7 Success Strategies For 2018

People are more anxious and stressed these days. They are working harder with diminishing returns. Just focusing on accomplishing more is not enough in 2018. Research supports the idea that focus on increasing joy and happiness in your life will help you achieve the success you desire. (Over 200 happiness studies of 275,000 people worldwide. “The Happiness Advantage”, Shawn Achor)

This means we have to think differently about success. Happiness is not a by-product of success; instead, happiness leads to success. The following strategies will help you release the brakes and accelerate toward the success you desire. Learn to reduce stress and anxiety, increase your joy, and your productivity will increase.

  1. Take breaks and vacations:

    According to a recent U.S. survey, the average American employee only takes half of their available vacation time. Studies report that taking breaks and vacations from your business reduces stress and heart disease, increases productivity, and improves sleep. The effects are long lasting. When you are happy, relationships, work and life are easier. Just the act of planning a vacation can improve productivity. According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, Having something to look forward to can make you happier, and energize you to be more productive. The study suggests taking shorter vacations more often to take advantage of this phenomenon.

    Regular time off is also important. My son in-law has two degrees from Harvard University. He explained the demands on students to perform are great. Many suffer anxiety and stress from the pressure. They would study seven days a week with the occasional self-medicating break. My son in-law would take a break from his studies on Sunday and perform faith-based service (more about this later). He reports this break did not disadvantage him, rather enabled him to refocus his efforts. With these regular breaks, he was able to graduate at the top of his class in his undergraduate and graduate degrees.

    For many years, Bill gates would get away from his business for two separate weeks each year. He called these “Think Weeks” and many innovations at Microsoft emerged from these retreats.

  2. Eliminate energy drains that depress productivity and happiness:

    a. Paper & document handling: Do something with it now, delegate it, defer it, destroy it.
    b. Manage the “Got a minute?” interruptions: By setting a time you are available to give focused attention. Being in control of your day will significantly increase your energy and satisfaction.
    c. Emails: Check only 2x a day. Avoid the dopamine fix of looking every few minutes. This interrupts your concentration and workflow. Stay focused on activities that are most important. It is etiquette to respond within 24 hours. c. d. Smart phones: The irony is these amazing tools are making us dumb, people don’t have to think, they can ask Google or Siri just about anything. We spend a great deal of our productive time distracted by social media. There is a statistic that says using a smartphone is equivalent to smoking two joints. The constant interruptions distract you from being present. One addiction therapist says giving your child a smartphone is like “giving them a gram of cocaine”(Mandy Saligari, June 7, 2017). The smartphone emerged 10 years ago; many of these “addicted” children are distracted workers in our business today.

    Adults are no less connected with the Internet, social media, texts, news alerts and more causing constant interruption. Don’t look at social media during work hours unless it is part of your job. Take time to unplug and turn off your alerts. Take a vacation from your smart devices. You will be happier and more productive.

  3. Learn how to set effective goals:

    Achieving your goals is incredibly satisfying and boosts self-confidence. Having a clear purpose and focus can help you get out of bed in the morning and give you a spring in your step. For goals to be more effective focus on the activities that will help you achieve your goals and eliminate the obstacles. Develop a system that will help track and implement your goal-focused activities.

    For example: If you want to increase your income in 2018, and you have identified a goal you believe you can achieve and a date to achieve that, you are off to a good start. Now work backwards from that date and identify all the activities you must do differently or more of than you are currently doing. These actions may include: cold calling, attending networking events and making new contacts, asking for referrals, making sales presentations and more. These activities are called leading indicators. Engaging in these activities daily will lead to your goal achievement.

    To do lists alone are not enough to help you achieve your goals. You must have a system to integrate your activities into your calendar. A system will keep you focused on activities that move you towards your goals. A system also helps keep you accountable. An example of a system is an activity tracking tool. You may use a program that tracks activities like ASANA, Coach.me, Habitify, Goalplus, Todoist, or any other of your choosing. The best ones integrate with your calendar. You may wish to have an accountability partner or coach you report to on at least a weekly basis. If you need extra help, report daily. Marshall Goldsmith suggests creating a system called the daily questions. This enables you to focus on your goal achieving activities and measure your effort and success everyday.

  4. Manage your energy not your time:

    I took over as CEO of a company needing a major turn around. I worked long hours and took few breaks. My stress increased and my energy decreased. Many executives are in similar situations pushing themselves further and harder. Since the number of hours you have a day is fixed, focus on increasing your energy so the time you spend is more effective.

    In their article “Manage Your Energy Not Your Time”, authors Schwartz and McCarthy conducted a study at Wachovia Bank, which focused on increasing physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy. Revenue for the participants increased 13-20% over the control group.

    What can you do increase your energy?

    Plan to leave work by 5:30pm. You will find with a deadline, you will get more done. You will have more time for renewing activities like exercise, time with family, reading good books, meditating, etc. Some of the most productive people work shorter hours.

    Understand that your cognitive abilities will vary predictably throughout the day. Research shows that the impact of time-of-day accounts for 20% of cognitive performance variance. How you use the time of day will allow you to leverage your energy and cognitive abilities. For most us, our executive brain function, and our ability to concentrate and engage in analytical efforts peaks in the morning until about noon. Our cognitive sharpness and energy fall drastically in the afternoon. This is a great time to engage in more mundane activities like checking email, organization, and expense reports. This would not be a good time to hold a staff meeting that requires the creative participation of all involved.

    In the late afternoon and evening we begin to recover. Psychologists, Mareike Weith and Rose Zacks believe this time is best suited to creative or collaborative thinking which requires less focus than algorithmic thinking of our mornings. Of course, these time trends vary for someone like my wife who finds her greatest ability to concentrate at night and finds her creative rebound in the late morning. The key is to identify your energy and focus rhythm’s and match the work required of you to the time of day where your energy and focus is best applied.

    Exercise more often. Intense exercise helps increase your neurotransmitters and grows new brain cells. Do it five times a week. When you exercise also matters. Morning exercise will help you burn 20% more fat than later after meal workouts. Early exercise also give you’re the advantage of boosting your mood throughout the day. (For more information on exercise and cognitive performance variance, read: “When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink)

    Improve your diet to improve your energy. The food we eat provides the energy we burn all day. There is a great disparity of the quality of food fuel available. Don’t skip meals; eating the best foods regularly increases your metabolism and available energy.

    Get 7-9 hours of sleep. This will increase your mood, energy, and your ability to concentrate.

  5. Develop personal relationships:

    I have always prided myself on being task focused. I know how to get things done. The problem is that this usually comes at the expense of developing relationships. I suggest scheduling lunch meetings each week with people you want to develop relationships with. Network with people who can mentor you and give you career advice. If you are in a position to be a mentor, make time to help others on your team. This can make a huge impact on the team culture and engagement. It will give you a sense of satisfaction and happiness. It may also provide you with opportunities for increased credibility, responsibility, and income.

    One of my client’s has created a mentorship program where a senior employee is paired with a younger employee to help them with their career goals. Having a senior employee available for mentorship meetings and to advocate on behalf of their mentee’s is strengthen the culture an improving the engagement and satisfaction of all involved.

    If you are a senior executive, network with people outside of the company who can support you. Finding a coach or board of experts that can help hold you accountable and advise you on your goals and strategies. Your personal joy and happiness is tied to your ability to learn and grow as person. Often we are happiest when we are challenged to step outside of our comfort zones.

  6. Help someone in need:

    During 2017, we had a number of natural disasters in the U.S. alone, including floods in Houston, Hurricanes in Florida and Puerto Rico, and fires in California. These events and others have provided numerous opportunities to serve. A less dramatic opportunity to serve came recently to my nineteen-year-old son just before Christmas. He was asked to join a group of young men and young women ages 12-18 that were going caroling to several families in need. He was asked to dress up like Santa Claus. At first he was reluctant. He came back feeling terrific.

    He said he realized that he was able to bring so much joy to the little children in the homes that he visited. He realized, this was not about how he felt, but rather, how he could use his talents to benefit others. We discussed that often he and other youth don’t want to go to service events because they would rather follow selfish pursuits like playing video games, being with their friends “chilling” or even studying. In my sons case, he reported that each time he overcame these selfish desires to serve, he always returned feeling “filled” with joy and gratitude.

    Taking a portion of your time to serve others in your community has multiple benefits. First, it boosts your self-worth and esteem as you engage in helping others that benefit from your experience or efforts on their behalf. Not only does service make you feel better, it has several health benefits including: physical health, mental health, emotional stability, reduces stress, prolongs life, reduces the risk of alzheimer’s disease, and more. It can also boost your career prospects and benefit your business as you engage in corporate philanthropy and employee volunteer programs.

    Find a cause you believe in to support. You don’t have to look far, there are many worthy causes right in your own community. Justserve.org will help you find someone to help in your backyard.

  7. Learn to say no:

    Though there are many worthy causes that merit your attention, saying yes to too many will increase stress and dissatisfaction. If you take on too much, you may do many things poorly instead of a few things well. We all have limits to what we can accomplish. Saying no to some things means we can say yes to our own mental well-being and to the most important things in our lives; like family, faith, and health.

    Saying no can be very difficult for different personalities. Some people are afraid if they say no, no one else will do it. Some are uncomfortable saying no because they feel they are letting others down. Some truly believe they can help everyone and they focus their talents and energy on everyone but themselves. This can lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. This can happen to anyone, but especially health-care providers and non-profit employees. Often their own health suffers as they go about “saving the world.” The danger is their ability to give and help is not sustainable. We want to be able to sustain our efforts. There are certainly seasons in our life when we will be out of balance. We just have to be careful to say no, or our health and energy will say no for us.

Theses strategies will go a long way to helping you have a happy and successful 2018. Feeling better physically, emotionally, and mentally will help you focus the best of you on activities that matters most to you. It will also make you more resilient and prepared to manage the challenges you may face.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC, Face Your Fears; Learn From Mistakes; Start Beating Yourself Up; The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions; How To Create Success From Failure

Effectively Managing The Praised Generation

There is a generation out in the workforce today who do not regard, accept or handle feedback or criticism. Often when some of these young professionals run into opposition or frustration at work, they don’t always handle it well. If they don’t get along with a boss, many quit within weeks of being hired. They stay in a job less than two years compared to the average worker who stays in their job about 4.4 years (Bureau of Labor and Statistics). These employees belong to what is called the “praised generation.” Effectively managing the praised generation is a business necessity.

One problem with this generation is they have been overly praised by well-meaning parents. These parents have boosted self-esteem by telling their children how amazing, smart and talented they are. This form of praise, according to psychologist Carol Dweck, can create a fixed mindset that does not respond well to setbacks or opposition. These children are entering the workforce and according to Ms. Dweck, “…many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move. Companies are reinforcing this behavior by shifting annual bonuses to quarterly or even monthly. Instead of employee of the month, it is employee of the day. Companies are hiring consultants to help them recruit, reward and retain this population.” I just attended an event where one of these consultants was giving my CEO peer group advice to better manage this generation. We have a workforce with too many that require constant positive feedback and can’t handle feedback for improvement.

Two things need to happen for this to change: 1. Managers must to own their behaviors and learn to be better bosses and learn to encourage better behaviors in their employees. 2. Younger employees must learn some resilience and learn how to deal with conflict and disappointment when things don’t go their way like they may be used to. It is important that we figure this out, because like it or not, Millenials (praised generation) are currently the largest generation in the workforce and will make up 49% of the workforce by 2020. They also have many tremendous talents and qualities that will benefit in our businesses.

So what do we do? Long-term: Parents must be willing to allow their children to fail. Help them feel the consequences of loosing a game occasionally, instead of a trophy just for showing up. They need to know when they do a great job and when they can do better. My wife and I have five children. Some of our children are grown and are doing well; they hard working productive members of society. They (mostly) took correction well and learned from mistakes. Some are still growing and learning. Our parenting is sometimes viewed as unreasonable and punishments are sometimes considered ‘mean’ and/or ‘crazy’. Our behavior is viewed as the problem rather than their actions being the issue. We, as parents, have had to be consistent and fair in order to develop responsible, productive adults.

My wife and I get feedback from other parents who say our children are well adjusted. It leads me to believe that many are not ‘leaning’ into the discomfort of teaching children discipline. It is not about being friends. It is about being loving parents. Part of my evidence about these parents comes from managers who are asking for my help with these praised children who work for them. More disturbing evidence of failed parenting comes from a conversation I had recently with a district judge in Las Vegas, where I live. He tells me that convicted felon’s always ask for mercy and don’t feel they deserve punishment for their crimes. He said when he gives the sentence, he is called ‘crazy’, ‘mean’, and worse things including threats. This judge knows the only way we learn is if we experience the consequences of our choices. Society it seems, must bear some of the burden of parenting deficiencies.

My question for you as a leader is-how well do you handle adversity? How good are you at taking responsibility for your actions and your failures? We live in a society where so many look to blame others for their failings. It seems most would do anything they can to avoid consequences. People with this mindset fail to learn and grow because they perceive consequences as negative. Many have the attitude that laws apply to everyone else and breaking the law is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Then if you do, it is because you are being treated unfairly.

So what can you do be more effective as a manager of this praised generation?

  1. Adjust your expectations:
    Realize that developing this praised generation into productive contributors in your business takes commitment and consistency. You cannot simply hope the problem will solve itself. Make employee development an integral part of your business strategy.
  2. Learn how to praise: 
    Ms. Dweck gives some great advice that I support which you can immediately implement. Change what you praise your kids and employees for. When they do something hard, praise them for that. When they stick with a project regardless of the outcome, praise them for their commitment. Praise them for the effort not the outcome. Instead of praising for a job well done or a brilliant performance or a great idea, praise them for taking initiative. Ms Dweck even says, tongue in cheek, “praise them for not needing constant praise.”
  3. Coach & Mentor: 
    Develop coaching and mentoring programs that focus on soft as well and hard skills. Have a deliberate leadership development program that identifies and advances high potential employees.
  4. Fail forward: 
    Create an environment where people have enough freedom to learn by trial and error. Encourage employees to take initiative and take risks within reasonable limits. Mistakes can accelerate learning.
  5. Increase conflict: 
    Learning how to normalize conflict and disagreement. With the proper training, managers can learn how to turn conflict into a positive tool for the organization. It will help employees learn to constructively give feedback and benefit from disagreement. Building these conflict muscles will help develop this praised generation and consequently, help older generations make better decisions and be more engaged and productive.

The solution takes persistence and commitment. Your efforts can yield great benefits. Despite some of the negative press the “praised generation” gets, they have a great deal to offer and they are the future of your business.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC.

Other topics that may interest you: Magnify Your Reputation; How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable;  Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionWhat Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?Cure For The CEO DiseaseWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You

How To Make Yourself Instantly More Valuable

The current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 4.2%, 6.2% in Canada, 4.3% in the U.K., and 5.5% in Australia. Employment is considered to be at “full-employment” when the unemployment rate is at 6%. At this level, most people who want to work, have a job. At 4.2% unemployment in the U.S., companies are struggling to fill open positions with the best candidates. It is common practice for companies to poach the best talent from the competition. Making yourself valuable to your current employer may also attract the attention of other employers. Your ability to communicate effectively will give you options. If you are not currently satisfied with your work environment, learning to communicate with power and influence can help you interview more effectively and improve your upward mobility.

Communicate With Power & Influence

Learning the art of communicating with power and influence will pay big dividends in your career and life. Much of what you as a leader, manager, or project manager do requires the support of your teams, and support from cross-functional teams. In today’s workplace there is a premium on collaboration. Managers that can do it well will find their services in greater demand and their responsibility and earning power increasing. Communicating with power and influence can help you advance in your career, earn more money, effectively navigate conflict, and get buy-in for your ideas.

I graduated with a master’s degree in economics in 1992. I remember having little initial success in my job hunt. As I felt less and less confident, it hurt my chances for several opportunities. I remember interviewing with Mark, the Vice President of the International Division of Franklin Covey. He asked me how much I was worth. I was so beat up I said the minimum I would take was $30,000/yr. He said if I was not worth $100k why would he hire me? If I had learned to speak more powerfully and feel more confident in the moment, the outcome might have been different. Instead, I actually started to cry in the interview. Mark had compassion on me and encouraged me. Though I never worked for the company, we became friends and we are still in touch 25 years later.

After this experience, I was hired by an international public company and I soon became the vice president of operations. As part of the hiring process, I was taken on a trip together with my wife to see the site of a future project development. My experience is that my behavior and ability to communicate was under the microscope. With my wife by my side my confidence was high. When the CEO trusted that I had the character and qualities necessary secure the support of the shareholders, I was offered the job.

Trust Me, This Is Important

Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy, says that when people meet you they instantly judge if they can 1. trust and 2. respect you. Psychologists describe these two factors as warmth and competence. While most business professionals and certainly job seekers believe respect and competence rule, Ms. Cuddy argues that trust must come first. Of course competence is a prerequisite for any job. Let’s call it a ‘pay to play’ or threshold requirement. If we are not trusted, we may never have the opportunity to demonstrate our competence. It is not just what we do and say that matters, but how we do it and how we say it that matters today. It is not merely style over substance. Substance is required. But substance with no style is often a non-starter. To emphasize this point, HR.com reports that 90% of companies hire for skill, yet 90% fire for behavior. So hiring mangers are getting wiser, your style, your brand, and how you engender trust matters.

Enhance Your Brand

Your brand and how you engender trust are influenced by your communication style. Some people are naturally assertive and controlling. Others are encouraging motivators who appreciate recognition. Some are naturally supportive and avoid confrontation. Finally, some prefer accuracy and rules and have a need to be correct in everything they do and say. Knowing your natural communication style will help you manage your brand. Armed with the knowledge of your natural tendencies, you can begin to enhance your natural style for improved results.

I eventually became a CEO of leadership training development company. Over the years I developed a reputation or ‘brand’ as a manager. I was most interested in people doing what I wanted them to do. To be sure, I wanted their buy-in, but if I didn’t get it I would bulldoze them. This also showed up at home with my kids. I was more focused on the task than on connection. I was not getting the results I wanted. I decided to change my brand. I worked hard at changing my natural style to become more empowering and motivating. I worked with coaches and mentors to help me improve. I have become a personal and executive coach. My experiences have been a powerful catalyst in my life and the life of my clients.

You May Be Creating Your Own Problems

In the workplace, it is common for managers to create problems with their employees based on their individual communication and leadership styles. One way managers create their own problems is by controlling employee behavior instead empowering them to solve their own problems. When we have problems with our employees, what do we usually do? Tell them to fix it. Sometimes we tell them how to fix it. Usually how we would fix it. The problem with that approach is if they are not fully in agreement with your idea and it doesn’t work, they blame you!

Take the first step to understand and improve your communication style. Find an effective behavioral survey. I have used many and I recommend the ProScan for accuracy. Take the survey here and schedule a brief initial consultation today! This awareness will instantly make you more valuable. Armed with this information you will be able to immediately make adjustments to enhance your natural communication style.

Improving you are ability to communicate with power and influence has many components. This is just the first article of many on the topic.

Related topics: How To Make a Stronger ImpressionLeadership Is About Impact Not Intention, What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You? How Asking Questions Strengthens Your TeamWhen Being Too Smart Hurts You,

The Author, Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC

Face Your Fears!

I know everyone has challenges. There are people all around the world who have experienced and are experiencing tragedies and may be struggling with how to move forward. Some of you may be struggling with fears about loved ones who are sick. Perhaps you are having relationship, emotional or financial challenges. Maybe you are concerned about your job security or you are afraid that you are not having the results you deserve. I do not want to trivialize the seriousness of your specific challenges. It is my hope that perhaps some of my personal experience and perspective may provide a small dose of help and hope to one of you in need.

During these difficult times it is easy to complain to others about our condition. Sometimes we do this to garner sympathy from others, or just get a burden off our chest. It is natural for us to desire the support and understanding of people close to us. It is important that we do not dwell on our problems excessively or let our fears consume our thoughts. When we do, we actually help bring about the thing that we fear. It is possible that by sharing our fears too much, we may reinforce and strengthen those fears. This may also cause fearful thoughts and behaviors in others.

I do believe it is good to reach out in our times of challenge. However, I submit that we must avoid the negative complaining that fuels fear and focus on thoughts and actions that build hope. For example, a co-worker recently asked each of us at work to think positive thoughts or pray for her mother who was receiving her final chemo-therapy treatment and check up for cancer. I know my friend was concerned about her mother and the chance that her cancer would persist. However, instead of focusing on the fact that the cancer may persist, she focused on getting everyone around thinking that her mother’s health would improve. When in fact it did, her hope, faith, and actions were rewarded.

I understand that our faith may not always be rewarded with these positive outcomes. I believe our hopefully positive outlook must persist regardless of the outcome. This will allow us to have the greatest fulfillment in our life. It will also reinforce the attitude that we need to courageously face the challenges of life. We will get through the difficulties of life that we will all experience. When we face our fears and difficulties with hope and faith, we will ACT in ways that will help us begin to have the results we desire. It is in action based on hope and faith that enables us to create: great relationships, health, wealth, confidence, happiness, and joy.

Choose one or two of the thoughts below, print them out and display it as a reminder to move forward with hope and faith. Recite them as a daily affirmation:

“We come this way but once. We can either tiptoe through life and hope that we get to death without being too badly bruised or we can live a full, complete life achieving our goals and realizing our wildest dreams”. -Bob Proctor

“I have insecurities. But whatever I’m insecure about, I don’t dissect it, but I’ll go after it and say, ‘what am I afraid of?’ I bet the average successful person can tell you they’ve failed so much more than they’ve had success. I’ve had far more failures than I’ve had successes. With every commercial I’ve gotten, there were 200 I didn’t get. You have to go after what you are afraid of”. -Kevin Sorbo

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” —Helen Keller

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” —Henry Ford

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” —Rosa Parks

“Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” —Napoleon Hill

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” —Nelson Mandela

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” —Marie Curie

“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” —Bear Grylls

“Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” —Babe Ruth

“Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?” —Confucius

“Action cures fear, inaction creates terror.” —Douglas Horton

“Do the thing you fear and keep doing it… that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.” —Dale Carnegie

“Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Face your doubts. Master your fears”. –Jeffrey R. Holland

“Don’t take counsel from your fears”. –James E. Faust

“No one likes to fail [but] we mortals do not become champions without making mistakes”. –Dieter F. Uchtdorf

“Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward”. –St. Paul

Face your fears!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Learn From Mistakes; The Results Killing Virus; Silence Your Saboteur

Learn From Mistakes

The best companies allow employees to experiment and make mistakes. In many organizational cultures, innovation is discouraged when leadership doesn’t encourage risk taking. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Managers who do not empower employees to take risks to avoid consequences of their actions will depress learning and development. Many people avoid taking risks because they don’t want to experiences consequences. Others make mistakes and don’t learn when they look to avoid consequences.

The same principle applies in our personal lives. I haven’t always made great decisions, though I accept responsibility for and learn from my mistakes. At one point, I started a business without doing my due diligence or consulting my wife, who wisely was against the idea. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. Experiencing the consequences of our actions can be a catalyst for change.

Failing to take responsibility and ownership for our decisions can be very costly. We lose the opportunity to learn and grow. I had a friend who was losing his home a couple of years ago. In his case, he decided to stop paying his mortgage when the value of his home fell below what he owed. Many people did this expecting a bailout from the government. When he was complaining about why the president wasn’t doing enough to help him, I interrupted him and told him his blaming was preventing him from finding another solution. He was being a victim. Experiencing the consequences of our actions is incentive to quickly learn and change course. I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. When we take personal responsibility, we change our behavior and our outcomes, creating opportunities to learn, grow, and change. It all starts with choosing our response, and learning from the consequences of our choices.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

The Results Killing Virus

Are your results being impacted by an infectious disease? Science has proven that attitudes are literally catching like a virus. We live in a society where avoiding responsibility (non-responsibility) and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Do you allow your mood to be determined by how others treat you? Do you feel others cause you to be offended or frustrated. If you do, you are probably infected with the highly contagious blame disease.

Blaming is often associated with strong emotional feelings. Author Daniel Goleman writes, “…emotions are contagious. We ‘catch’ strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so can come down with the emotional equivalent of a cold.” (Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence) American Psychiatrist, Daniel Stern, says our minds are continually interacting through a type of neural WiFi. (Daniel Stern, The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, 2004, p. 76) Parents blame teachers for low test scores, teachers blame parents for unruly children, employees blame their bosses when work gets too hard, and citizens blame the government for their economic woes and more.

When we think our problems are externally caused, it reduces our power! It causes us to focus on who to blame rather than on finding a solution and changing our circumstances. If we believe our problems are external, then we are at the mercy of those external conditions. For some people this is convenient. It gives them a ready made excuse when things go wrong. Taking personal responsibility is a much more difficult doctrine. True, some circumstances are beyond our control. I will discuss how to approach those in future articles. Let’s inoculate you from the blame virus.

Stop the spread of blame today!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

The Problem With Pressure

Do you ever struggle with all you are required to do, balancing life and career? When things are overwhelming, you start to create patterned responses or habits of thought and behavior that can hold you back in effectively fulfilling your duties. The mind rebels and wants to keep you safe in a comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt, it deletes, distorts and simplifies information. When this happens it limits your ability to respond effectively, or to change your approach if necessary.

Put another way, our ability to think clearly is diminished under pressure. The brain will revert to behavior that is most comfortable. Some of you may become belligerent and aggressive. Others can’t stop talking and may become sarcastic. Others avoid conflict and procrastinate. Some become obstinate as their need to be right causes them to dig their heels in. These patterned responses may show up unexpectedly and at/or inconvenient times. Some of your patterned responses have been developed over a life time and are very strong.

The first step in taking more responsibility and control over your patterned responses is to identify your behavioral traits. The increased awareness will help you begin to make better choices. Take a few moments to complete a quality behavioral assessment of your choice. Or I invite you to complete ProScan, one of the best behavioral surveys available click here. The first one is my gift to you. To take this assessment, you must be willing to review the results with me. This allows us to discuss some ways you can reject your patterned responses which may be holding you back.

Choose your response for better outcomes!

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Improve Your Leadership Under PressureLeadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;

The Value of Your Values

How Living Your Values Increases Happiness & Power

The first step to taking 100% responsibility for the outcomes in your life is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value? Values represent our guiding principles, our broadest motivations. They are the attitudes and ideas we hold that influence how we act. This applies to individuals, organizations and societies. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned the power created when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. When we make time for the things we identify as most important, our satisfaction expands.

There are many kinds of values. To keep things simple I will mention two: Core Values and Aspirational Values. Unlike belief systems, which must be regularly examined and updated, core values must remain constant if they are to be an effective tool. For example, the northern star is valuable to navigators because it remains consistently fixed in the heavens. It is a tool that provides accurate direction when needed no matter where the person is located; it is a constant in a world full of variables.

Aspirational values are those behaviors, attitudes and characteristics that you are working towards. The distinction is important because of the impact on engagement. If you were to state innovation as a core value and your policies and the behavior of leadership do not reinforce or support this value, you will create cynicism and disengagement. You may reduce innovation because your most innovative employees may leave. However, if you state this as an aspirational value, you are more honest about the need to be more innovative. It will not create a false expectation that can come back to haunt you.

Companies spend a great deal of time and money defining values that are important to them. The challenge seems to be; behaving in harmony with those values. I have experienced first hand how making decisions and behaving in alignment with your stated values improves personal and employee satisfaction. Just as important, it improves efficiency and productivity. Not only is behaving in alignment with your stated values the right thing to do, it will benefit your bottom line. Following the constant guidance of positive values will lead you inexorably to the situation and outcome you desire.

Here are some ways to identify your values:

  1. What drives you crazy– Take a moment to identify what drives you crazy. Think about the opposite of that and you will identify what you value.
  2. A PEAK Experience –Think of a time in your life when you were excited, happy or fulfilled- Tell the story to someone and ask them to help you identify what you valued about those experiences.
  3. Suppressed Values – Things you long for but are not getting. (I love to be out in nature.)
  4. Invisible Values – These values are honored naturally, you do not think about them. Quirks (Have to have the pillows straight) Hugh Grant movies make me squirm. I don’t like to look foolish or stupid. I value being competent polished, etc.
  5. Must Haves – Look at what you must have in your life beyond food, shelter, and community.
  6. Obsessive Expression – Do you insist on honoring a value as a demand. Look for places you take a value to extreme. (The need to be right, to be in control, to avoid conflict at all cost, resistance to being managed or following rules, the need to work hard, focus on problems, worry, unrealistic expectations, overly sensitive to being embarrassed, thinking about what you will say vs. listening, compulsive need to be heard, needing to be liked, fear of rejection, indecisive, overly agreeable, deferring, overly skeptical, slow to trust, over planning, perfectionism, inflexible, constant need for variety, enjoying interruptions, need for autonomy and independence and more.) These can hold you back.
  7. Your Future Self – Think about who you wish to become or who you are becoming.

Identify and take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? When you allow life to happen to you, you take what comes. Your schedule is at the mercy of others and it will fill up with trivial activities and interruptions. I hear my clients say from time to time: “I am too busy…to exercise, or to socialize, or to enjoy some quiet time!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you, it will force you to be more efficient and effective. You will begin to take back power over your life. YOU get to decide where you will spend your time and energy. If family is important, schedule time for them. If work, making money, exercise and sports, family, friends, church, etc. are important to you, schedule time in your week for them. Schedule time with the people that are important to you.

Dr. Daniel Amen who is a brain disorder specialist who wrote “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life.” He says that we harness our brain’s power when we give it direction and vision. Having a purpose in your life aligned with your values gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks and you have made time for the most important things in your life, you will have a sense of satisfaction, happiness and power.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values