How To Solve More Problems As A Leader

7 Steps For A More Productive Team

One of the problems I see with leaders is they solve too many problems. Wait…you just said this article is about solving MORE problems, not that I am solving too many! That is right. Sometimes we get so solution oriented, and so bottom-line obsessed, we actually make more work for ourselves. You may be sabotaging your ability to be productive when your team members come to rely on your genius and acumen instead of developing their own. They pass the ball to you to make the game winning shot because they have confidence in you and also, because they lack confidence in themselves.

Many managers I know are overwhelmed with day-to-day responsibilities. They spend much of their time fighting fires or going from one crisis to the next. When they do spend the time to plan, they rarely implement those plans; instead they go hastily back to their frenetic problem solving ways. Worse, they spend very little time developing the capacity of their teams. They may abdicate employee development to HR or a training course. It is time to get off the hamster wheel of crisis management! To become more productive and efficient, start investing time to develop the skills and abilities of your team members.

One of the most important tasks of leadership is to elevate the leadership capacity and problem solving skills of our teams. Managers may intellectually understand this is true, however, the following may be some reasons they don’t change:

  1. Managers are addicted to being needed:
    There is something satisfying about being the “go to person”. Some managers believe that making themselves indispensable may provide job security.
  2. Managers don’t know better:
    They have been taught their whole life to take action. They have been told what to do by parents, teachers, coaches, professors, military leaders, past bosses and more. They may have learned habits of tell and do. Because telling or dictating is a poor way to get people to act, employees of today may fall short of the “dictator’s” expectations. This reinforces the manager’s belief that his people are incapable and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
  3. Lack of trust:
    When manager’s lack trust in the ability of direct reports to solve problems or take on greater responsibility, they actually stunt their employee’s growth. This leads to only assigning tasks they are “certain” they can handle. I believe people can accomplish much more than we give them credit for. By not challenging our people, we ensure their dependence on us and keep ourselves on the hamster week. I discuss the importance of giving your people stretch assignments in How To Prepare Your Next Generation of Leaders. Giving your team members opportunities to grow means getting out of your comfort zone and their comfort zone. Let me give you an example: My son’s both play volleyball for their high school. One plays varsity and one Jr. varsity. The Jr. Varsity coach has begun a rotation only relying on a few starters. In practice, he only focuses on starters. In tough games, only this group plays and they get tired after a while and make mistakes. However, since the coach does not have confidence in the ability of the other players, he only plays the same few. While this groups ability increases, the ability of the rest of the team begins to atrophy’. The coach’s dependence on the group of starters actually increases his dependence on them. At first this is great for the starters. But they soon feel tremendous pressure to perform and with very little respite, their performance begins to diminish.
  4. Control obsession:
    Managers may be controlling in how they want things done. When team members are given authority to solve problems on their own, they may take a different approach than the manager.
  5. Confused good boss syndrome:
    Some manager’s may actually think they are being kind by bailing their team members out. They may shoulder more work thinking they are protecting their team.
  6. Managers are busy:
    They think they don’t have the time to invest in their people. They hope they figure it out on their own. After all, isn’t that what you did? What worked for you and your generation, will probably not work today. There are to many options for our employees. If they do not get what they need and want from you, they can easily get it somewhere else. The revolving door of employees adds to the lack of time managers have to train and develop. Hiring new employees takes a lot of time. Not to mention the extra work required filling the vacancies of employees who quit or were terminated.
  7. Talent hoarding:
    According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, one reason some managers don’t elevate, develop and encourage some of their top performers is to keep them on the team. It is called talent hoarding. This natural tendency to hold on to top performers will back fire and hurt the business. If these employees are not given an opportunity to grow and develop with you, they will go somewhere else. You will be forced to replace them.

Whatever the reason you are not developing your team, stop it. You will only disengage your employees. People usually perform to the level of expectation. If your expectations are low, they are probably being met, though not to your satisfaction. You then will probably shoulder more responsibility until you become at least frustrated, or worse, exhausted and burned out. And finally you may take drastic measures like quit, or fire the people you feel are making your life miserable.

I am convinced the employees we hire do not take a job hoping they will be underutilized and hoping they will underperform. They join us with hopes and expectations of learning and growing and contributing. Here are some ways to help you enable your team members to be productive:

  1. Believe they can do more:
    Always believe in the potential of your employees. You just have to figure out how to enable their potential. That comes from taking personal responsibility for their development and not blaming them for your failure to support and train them.
  2. Refuse to solve every problem your employees encounter:
    When they come to you asking for help, ask them to come up with at least two ideas for how they would handle it. You may be surprised with the solutions they find. If the solutions are not good, give encouraging feedback. This is how they learn. Repeat the process often.
  3. Brainstorm together:
    This is an effective process when stakes are high and margin for error is small. Take opportunities to work on problems together. Make sure you give your employees space in these sessions to come up with ideas. Discuss the merits of ideas and come to a decision together.
  4. Praise your team members for their efforts:
    Let them know when they do well. Make sure they are not just hearing from you when they make a mistake. When you encourage them for initiative and perseverance, you will get more of that behavior.
  5. Be willing to let your people fail:
    People often learn the most from failure. If you trust your people are doing their very best, you know they do not purposely want to create problems.
  6. Take a close look at how you may be contributing to the problem:
    The culture of your team enables the results you are achieving. The culture of your team is a reflection of your leadership. Be willing to work on yourself. Learn how you may be getting in your own way as a leader. Learn how to ask better questions that engage and encourage versus being a teller or dictator. Learn how to create an environment of trust where people work to solve problems, go the extra mile and help each other out.
  7. Make time to teach them:
    In addition to your coaching and instruction, give them opportunities to develop their skills and talents through in house and external training programs.

The investment of time you make in developing your team will come back to you. You will see your direct reports shouldering more and more of the responsibility you now carry. As they do this, your trust in them will increase. As you give them more responsibility, their capabilities will grow. The only way for you to grow is to help others grow. As that happens, the ability of the team to get stuff done increases. What if one of the people you develop does so well, they get promoted off the team? Be happy for them. Change is part of life. Train their replacement and become known for the leader who elevates and develops other leaders.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: Leadership Is About Impact Not Intention; How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders; Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leaders With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

 

How To Prepare Your Next Generation Of Leaders

Stretch Assignments in Succession Planning

Many business leaders are frustrated in fulfilling their succession plans. They perceive a lack of energy and voracity demonstrated by their designated successors. This perceived lack of motivation probably isn’t so much a demonstration of disinterest, but rather an illustration of limited developmental opportunities. How can we bridge this gap? The best way to develop successors is with stretch assignments. Learning through struggle and confidence building exercises will encourage the development of key skills and capabilities required to demonstrate their leadership readiness. By following the suggestions listed below, leaders can effectively stretch, develop and prepare their team to continue the leader’s’ legacy with confidence.

Step 1: Identifying shortcomings:

There are two kinds of shortcomings you need to assess: 1) Individual skills gaps, and 2) organizational requirements. Development opportunities will illustrate a mix of organizational requirements (the company needs ‘X’ project to be done), and individual requirements (the individual needs to build/develop/practice ‘X’ skills required by this task to personally achieve new levels of performance.) Optimal organizational development opportunities might include shorter-term, high intensity projects that spawn into long-term impacts. Additionally, these tasks should allow for the individual to exercise authoritative/collaborative decision-making, and perform strategic decision making skills while working visibly with other key players.

Step 2: Provide tools, resources and basic instructions:

Discuss the stretch assignment with your team/employee. Be sure to illuminate the opportunity to “see what you’re made of” to both internal leadership and external customers. Describe the impact of the end product – what is your vision for accomplishing this task? Then, provide the tools, resources and basic requirements to the individual/team to get things done.

Step 3: Empower through delegated authority and accountability:

When providing a “stretch assignment”, it’s critically important that leaders enable the individuals to make their own decisions/assessments. As they are held accountable for their actions, the struggle and strife will help long-term learning occur.

Step 4: Step Back:

Although your leadership engagement throughout the process will be available, it should only be available from a mentor perspective – when requested, and even then – in a coaching, not consulting, capacity. When asked for help, leaders can provide strategic considerations, understanding consequences, and seeing second and third degree influences of actions while reaffirming the project vision. Ultimately, the goal throughout this assignment is autonomy – empowering people to step-up, take action, and figure things out by themselves. This may be challenging for highly involved managers, but the autonomy, authority, accountability and empowerment throughout this process will enable employees to truly demonstrate and stretch their skill sets while fulfilling an organizational need in the process.

Step 5: Celebrate the struggle, success and achievement:

Following completion of key project milestones or the final assignment deliverables, positive feedback on successes is critical. During challenging assignments, praise the perseverance and determination to overcome. Celebrate the successes to reinforce those skills that were demonstrated through the endeavor. Share this achievement with others to encourage additional positive reinforcement. This positive reinforcement solidifies the lessons learned through struggle, and further builds confidence that will be applied to follow-on projects.

Although this may sound like all optimism and theory, the actual stretch assignment will likely be a substantial struggle – making or breaking the individual. Failure is most certainly an option – but through careful guidance, encouragement and mentorship together you can create something truly great while building skills and confidence in the process. Why take the risk of failure? Because struggle sparks learning & confidence, further building candidates to fill the role and legacy you left behind. After all, if it was easy, anyone could do it. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also be interested in the following articles: Increase Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science; How To Create Success From Failure; How To Get Your People To Change Today; Cure For The CEO Disease

How To Get Your People To Change Today

I talk to executives almost daily about problems they have with their employees. Employees seem to do what they want to do. In a few cases it is defiance. In most cases these problems are caused by a lack of effective leadership. Many managers have no idea how train, mentor, and motivate their people to do the job well or they complain they are too busy.

If you think you are too busy to spend the necessary time to develop your people correctly, they will learn how things are really done in your organization from someone else. Most managers and supervisors are promoted because they are usually the best employees at their specific job. Problems often arise when an employee does a good job and is promoted. The skills that made the employee great do not always translate to being an effective manager or leader. Leading and managing other people who do the job, is very different than doing the job.

A lack of management skill is a big part of the problem. I recently met with a rising tech company in Massachusetts. They had many bright young employees they recruited from Harvard, MIT, Boston College and more. I learned they had a strong focus on creating a vibrant culture. To measure their progress, they conduct a quarterly employee survey. They find much that is positive. However, the number one employee complaint is that managers have no idea what they are doing. Employees want to do a great job. They want to make a difference in what they do. They want to learn and grow. They want to have pride in their company and what they do.

Just yesterday I was with an executive team of a $50 million division of a $570 million company that is working on culture change. Their efforts have had some success but not to the degree they desired. A few of the managers actually admitted to the CEO they did not know how to implement the behavior change initiatives they had committed to. This was the main reason they were not moving forward as desired. They knew why they needed to change culture and they agreed with the initiatives. They just needed more focused direction on how and what they needed to do.

The following is a 5 step coaching process to help your employees change behavior:

The process is called I.H.O.T. or “I have observed…” is a coaching methodology to facilitate changes needed to achieve a goal or handle an issue. The coaching conversation has several steps I will outline here.

  1. Define the problematic behavior:

    “Sarah, in the past week I have observed that you have been more than 30 minutes late on three occasions.” Or, “I have asked you here to discuss…..” Avoid labels and just focus on the behavior. It is important the employee acknowledges their behavior before you move to the next step.

  2. Discuss possible causes:

    Ask open-ended questions to understand what is happening. Using, how, what, where, when, and who will help you get the information you need. Some other open-ended questions are “please explain….” or “please help me understand….” Most managers go right into solution mode when there is a problem. Instead, ask questions and listen.

  3. Discuss possible solutions:

    Do not suggest a solution. Ask your employee for possible solutions. If you give a solution and the employee does not have success with your approach, they blame you. You take away their accountability. If it is their idea, there will be greater buy-in and accountability. If their solution is acceptable to you, ask when they will make the change, “by when will you accomplish this…. etc.” If it is not acceptable, ask what else they can do until you are satisfied. Finally, ask how they would like you to help them.

  4. Agree on solution:

    Determine an implementation plan.

  5. Follow-up:

    It absolutely crucial you follow-up with the employee by the time specified for them to complete the behavior. Inspect what you expect. When they have made the change, recognize their efforts. Tell them they are doing a good job and improvement is being made. You may also follow-up before the deadline to ask them how they are doing and provide any needed support.

Most employees want to do the right thing and will appreciate a coaching approach if it is sincere and focused on helping them solve a problem or improve. If the employee is not open to coaching, they probably will not admit to the behavior problem in step 1. In this case you need to determine quickly if they are right for your organization.

Spend the time necessary to train, coach and mentor your people. It always takes less time in the long run. For those managers who claim to be so busy, what could be more important than the development and engagement of your people? If your people were doing what you hired them to do, would you have more time? Schedule time in your busy day to do the things that matter most and enjoy the positive results. If you find it hard to find more time in the day, look for a future article on how to find more time in your day and why employees don’t do what you need them to do.

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

Related topics: Disengagement And The “Love What You Do Myth”; Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; One Reason A Healthy Culture Is Essential; The Power Of Accountability;

How To Improve Your Leadership Under Pressure

Have you ever lost your cool in way that had negative consequences? Have you ever read/misread a comment from a subordinate and completely over-reacted in your immediate response? Have you ever sent and email meticulously expressing your indignation in response to a co-workers email or actions only to regret it later? I have. In most cases, your response has a negative impact on the individual and, by association, your team. Your effectiveness and reputation as a leader is determined by how you perform under pressure. The Greek philosopher Epicurus said, “Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” That reputation will either magnify or diminish the productivity of your team.

Let me give you a painful personal experience. Several years ago, I was working for a leadership development company. There had been several major leadership changes since I had joined the company. At the time, I was meeting with the third CEO the company had employed in the 4 years I’d been there. The company was struggling during the last great recession, like many companies. I had been asked to help increase sales. My new title, which was company specific, meant nothing to potential clients.

To help our business growth, the CEO asked if I would change it and use the title of Associate Vice President. I had not sought the change, but felt it would help develop new business. Shortly after this meeting, the CEO was fired. We operated for several months after that with no CEO. One day, I was working in my office and I heard our senior HR Director, who had been with the company for almost 20 years, talking to employees outside my office. “Did you hear that Spencer changed his title to assistant Vice President? Can you believe it?!” This went on for a few minutes and she came into my office and began to express her displeasure with what she thought to be a self-serving power grab on my part. She said, “Why did you change your title to Assistant Vice President, are you ashamed of the other title?” I said the new title was actually Associate Vice President and I was not ashamed of the old title. I was doing my best to stay calm.

She continued, “Why don’t you just call yourself President, we don’t have one of those?” She finally left my office and I was doing my best to not get fully hijacked and angry. As she left my office, she began calling out to other sales people on the sales floor. “HEY DAVE, WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR TITLE TO BE?” By this time, I had left my desk and was standing in the doorway of my office watching this happen. Finally, I had had enough! Her behavior was absolutely inappropriate. I felt I HAD to address the injustice. I walked up to her and we began to argue. I knew she was a confident tough woman with many years of experience and not intimidated. I felt justified in addressing the situation directly and powerfully!

Her behavior, however inappropriate, did not justify my confronting her on the sales floor where several other employees looked on in horror. We were supposed to be two examples of leadership, motivation and enthusiasm. What they got instead was discomfort and a loss of respect for both of us.

Perhaps you are reading this and thinking of all the ways you would have responded more appropriately. When I was no longer in the frustrating moment, and thinking clearly, I too could think of so many better responses. The key is to be able to do this when you are in in the foxholes and trenches of daily business.

Think of challenges you currently face. Maybe the challenges are recurring. The way you respond to things that happen determines your outcomes. When you are under pressure your ability to think clearly is impaired. There are ways to manage this. Under these conditions, you may not be getting the results you intend. In these situations, different leaders may react differently causing different challenges. The following are some examples of challenging behaviors under pressure:

  1. Some leaders may intimidate others because of their intensity. Their demanding nature can divide people and teams. Inflexible and controlling behavior can lead to unrealistic expectations. These leaders can be overly sensitive to being disrespected or embarrassed. They constantly think about what they want to say next, instead of truly listening.
  2. Some leaders may find difficulty focusing under pressure. They may have a compulsive need to be heard and popular, basing decisions on personal benefit, rather than what is expedient. This is fueled by a fear of embarrassment or rejection, which is exaggerated under pressure.
  3. Other leaders may avoid conflict. They sometimes procrastinate managing and/or terminating difficult relationships or making difficult decisions. Their indecision causes pain for the whole team.
  4. Another leader may get paralyzed by perfectionism, or be overly critical. They may fear being caught without the answer, focusing on what can go wrong.

These are just a few examples of your behavioral blind spots.

Scholars of leadership studies and organizational consultants, Warren Bennis and Robert J. Thomas have been researching what makes an effective leader. They have concluded, “…the skills required to conquer adversity and emerge stronger and more committed than ever are the same ones that make for extraordinary leaders.” (The Crucibles of Leadership, Harvard Business Review, September, 2002)

Here are some things, which can help you avoid my earlier mistakes and become a stronger more effective leader:

When you find yourself in moments of tension, you may experience an amygdala hijack, which I won’t explain in detail here. In short, fight or flight takes over and your ability to reason is seriously impaired. Your behavior and decisions are controlled by your limbic system (emotions), instead of your neo-cortex (logic). This is why we can repeat the same poor behavior again, and again. Here are a few suggestions to regain control of your neo-cortex and overcome your challenging behavior:

  1. Interrupt your pattern:

    Interrupt your episode. Break your typical pattern. Focus on something else or walk away. Walking away is meant to be a temporary solution. Some people are actually good at walking away; the problem is they don’t address the issue. When you walk away, plan a time to reconvene with the person or people you were meeting with to address the situation more powerfully and effectively. Think of a child having a temper tantrum. Perhaps you asked your small child to get dressed and they start kicking and screaming. Interrupt that pattern by saying something like “What is your favorite flavor of ice-cream?” Or, “Where did you put your favorite toy?” This will interrupt their episode and function to reengage the logic center of their brain. The same can work for you. Find a way to interrupt yourself. Just getting up and moving away can help. If you are having difficulty staying in control of your emotions, ask if you can get back together in a couple of hours or the next day.

  1. Oxygenate:

    Just breathe, when you are frustrated or angry, notice you are probably not breathing. Oxygen breaks down the hormones, which are released when you are frustrated, angry or upset such as adrenaline, and the stress hormone cortisol. Learn how to diaphragmatically breathe. Slow down and breathe deeply. It takes 3-4 hours to completely clear these hormones from your system. As a leader, you don’t have the luxury of this recovery time. When you breathe deeply, you will interrupt your pattern, and you can help reduce the hormones from your bloodstream in 15-20 minutes. Cortisol increases your heart rate and hardens arteries. If allowed to persist, it can cause hypertension and heart disease and a suppressed immune system. It also causes weight gain and belly fat. Think of how often in a day you may be getting frustrated angry or upset. In addition to impairing your ability to lead effectively and make good decisions, you are negatively impacting your health, and hurting your team/effectiveness. Learn to recognize when you are not breathing and breathe deeply and slowly.

  1. Strengthen feelings of gratitude:

    This is a step that you may consider touchy feely, however, it can have a powerfully positive impact. You could be may be grateful for the birth of a child, an enduring relationship, or help you received during a difficult time, etc. Gratitude is a very strong emotion and can counter negative feelings and emotions. However, you need to identify something you are so grateful for that you will feel a change of emotion immediately. If it is not working, you need to identify a more powerful event.

    Let me share my gratitude story: When I was 18, my mother was diagnosed with bone cancer. This was a follow-up to breast cancer she had ten years earlier. This time the doctors gave her six months to live. She was single, a mother of four, and a schoolteacher. When she gathered the family to share the news, she declared that we would live as normally as we could. In a few months, when I turned 19, we were planning for me to leave and serve an 18-month mission that was an important part of my faith. When I left, it was very difficult, I did not know if I would see my mother again. I was called to serve in Rome, Italy. Sharing my faith with the good people of Italy was not easy. I would write to my mother and complain how hard it was. She encouraged me to love the people more. In her letters to me, she never complained of her pain. She was always encouraging.

    Towards the end of my mission, my mother was still living. However, she took a turn for the worse and I was called home to help. At twenty years of age, I was assigned to be the executor of my mother’s estate. I came home on a Thursday and doctors thought she would not survive the weekend. She turned out to live another six months. This was a tender mercy. I cannot think about these experiences without incredible gratitude. My feelings of gratitude cause my feelings of frustration and anger instantly dissipate. The key is to practice gratitude daily so, it can be easily retrieved in moments of tension.

  1. Seek information:

    When you feel hijacked, learn to ask open-ended questions to learn more about the situation. Here are a few examples: “Help me understand….”, “What is the source, or cause of…”, “How can we more effectively….”, “What are the potential outcomes of….”. When you ask open-ended questions, you are engaging the logic center of your brain. This helps to interrupt patterned responses (yours and others) to improve your outcomes.

  2. Understand your blind spots:

    As a leader, you must take the time to understand your behavioral tendencies. I am sure you have had behavioral surveys and 360 reviews in your career. What did you do with the information? Maybe you were impressed with the accuracy, laughed, and blithely filed the report away with the rest of your behavioral assessments. You must take the time to understand what to do with the information. Maximize your strengths and learn what to do about the behavior, which is holding you, back. If you have read any of my other articles about emotional intelligence, I have recommended getting a behavioral survey. Take it to the next step. Work with a certified professional or coach to help you understand the ramifications of your behavior.

If your behavior as a leader has had an impact you did not intend like I have, there is hope. Learning how to be a more effective leader in moments of tension takes some work and practice. Practice the behaviors and responses you desire when you are calm. Do not get discouraged if you do not respond the way you practiced. Keep working at it. The benefits to your reputation as a leader are unbelievable. You will be creating an environment, and culture, where your team, your employees and your direct reports will thrive and be more productive. Your heart will also thank you.

Let us help you improve your emotional intelligence and your leadership under pressure. Click here to take our leadership and communciation behavioral assessment and a schedule a free analysis.

For more information on the subject you consider the following articles: What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?; One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence…; How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team; Cure For The CEO Disease

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

What Is Innattentional Blindness Costing You?

Have you ever gone to a movie when the theater was packed and you scanned the theater for open seats? You finally find them and take your seats. After the movie, you run into some friends who happened to be at the same show. They said they had two seats next to them and were waving at you when you came in, but you did not seem them? Or perhaps you were watching your favorite sports team on TV and you did not notice your significant other asking for your help. Have you ever been so focused on something that you missed what was going on around you?

This phenomenon is called innattentional blindness, and was first discovered by Ulric Niesser, known as the “father of cognitive psychology”, at Cornell University in the 1970’s. It is also known as perceptual blindness and occurs when an individual fails to perceive or recognize an unplanned stimulus clearly in their field of vision. When we are focused on something specific, it is possible to miss other plainly visible details that may appear.

Niesser’s experiments gained interest and popularity in the following decades. Harvard Psychologists, Daniel J. Simons and Christopher F. Chabris tested his experiments further. Their findings are reported in their article, Gorillas in our midst: sustained inattentional blindness for dynamic events. The research points out we are missing a great deal of what is happening all around us. They have since written a book about their findings, The Invisible Gorilla.

When I first saw the monkey business video, I was focusing on a specific task and I completely missed the man in gorilla suit who appeared on the screen for a full 9 seconds and pounded his chest. I was happy to learn that I am not the only blind casualty of this psychology experiment. About 50% of people, under the same conditions, do not see the gorilla. So what does this have to do with you and I? This implies, that to our detriment, we miss a great deal of what goes on around us. I work with many hard charging, results oriented, get it done now, professionals. These are certainly good qualities, but they come with cost, if we are not careful. Just as with the above example; of someone not noticing their partner while watching a sporting event, it is possible for us to not see how we are impacting important people, in our business, by our narrow focus.

As a CEO, I remember I was so focused on accomplishing a particular task, that I gave my administrative assistant some assignments, almost unconsciously. I failed to notice she was under tremendous stress because we had multiple clients in the office, she was supporting. At the end of the day, I could see more clearly and recognized that I had created a great deal of stress for my good employee. She was not about to tell me no for several reasons: My position power as CEO made it hard for her to say something like, “now is not a good time” or “can I complete these tomorrow?” Additionally, she was generally conflict avoidant, a behavior I knew to be a part of her behavioral traits and personality profile.

At the end of the day, I apologized to her because I wanted her to be a happy engaged employee. I did not WANT to put her under unnecessary stress. She was working hard and helping our customers. What I asked for was important, but it surely could have waited for a day. I was just hyper focused on getting things done; I did not notice the impact of my focus. The apology was accepted, yet how often do we repeat the same behavior. What happens to our team member’s engagement when the leaders poor behavior is repeated again and again? Employees become disengaged. They lose trust in leadership and the culture is weakened.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to get the job done (results). However, we can never get everything we need done alone. We must enlist the help of our team. We get so much more done when we have a team that is engaged and motivated. Leaders who have developed relationships of trust most easily achieve this condition. To get our desired results, we must also pay attention to relationships. Some leaders seem to have a natural talent for this. Some leaders can spend too much time on relationships, sometimes at the expense of results. The best leaders learn how to effectively balance tasks and relationships.

Let me give a personal example of balancing task and relationship. I have five children and I want a great relationship with each of my children. I also enjoy having a clean house and order especially when I come home after a long day at work. It just so happens, that some of my kids come home from school and immediately take off their shoes and socks. They just leave them where they are, which is usually on the family room floor. If I am just focused on the task when I come home, I see the socks and the first thing I say to my son, “why are your shoes and socks on the floor again?! Go put them away!” He gets up after rolling his eyes and takes his things stomping out of the room. When he returns, I want now focus on the relationship. I ask, “How was your day? How did your math test go?” My efforts at relationship building are not well received. My son is no mood to talk to me now.

Let me change the scenario. I come home tired, and I notice the socks and shoes on the floor. Instead of immediately focusing on the task of creating order, and a clean house, I focus on the relationship I want with my son. I ask him about his day and math test. I ask him how volleyball practice went and if the girl he asked to the prom responded to his proposal. We have a great conversation. I then turn my attention to the socks and shoes and say, “where are those supposed to be?” he says, “Away.” I say, “go take care of that please.” In this scenario, the outcome is so much greater. I have strengthened the relationship and improved household order. You can have both, and in the long run, balancing both is so much more effective and rewarding.

If you are like me, and get too focused on “task”, there is hope. You can improve your awareness and perceptional limitations. It takes a desire to improve your self-awareness. Improving your emotional intelligence will be a great help. Some of the suggestions I have given in other articles about emotional intelligence will apply here and some are unique. (See links at the end of the article.)

5 Suggestions To Improve Your Vision:

  1. Think about the end result:

    Sometimes in our rush to get things done, we may not think about the consequences of our actions and behavior. Slow down a little and think about the outcomes. We may still be innattentionally blind to some of the outcomes even when we slow down, however, this practice will help us to improve more and more over time.

  2. Change your focus:

    I find that if I am watching TV and focused on a sporting event and my wife talks to me, I may not hear her. I have learned to stop, disengage in what I am doing, and focus on her. The benefits of this to my relationship should be obvious.

  1. Schedule time to focus:

    As a busy executive, I am often focused on important tasks. If you are like me, you get many interruptions throughout your day. People constantly stop by my office with “got a minute?” situations. Several problems arise in these situations. Possibly, you ignore them because you are so focused, and they leave disappointed. Or you keep doing what you are doing and pay only partial attention to what is needed. You miss important details and send a message the employees concerns and the employee is not important. Maybe, you continually stop what you are doing, to focus on the needs of your employees, because you value the relationship. This can cause your own tasks to suffer.

    A better option is to let your team member know they are important. Tell them you want to give them the time they deserve, however, right now is not a good time, unless it is an emergency. You schedule time when you can give your complete attention to their concerns. You can effectively balance task and relationship.

  2. Identify your blind spots:

    Become aware of when you have blind spots. When you are talking on your cell phone, watching TV, in a stressful situation, giving a presentation, managing a project, etc. Our behavior in these situations is often predictable and tied to our preferred behavioral traits. Knowing your behavioral trait patterns will help you identify your blind spots. Use a behavioral assessment you trust and work with a trusted advisor to help you understand the implications of your behavior traits.

  3. Be vulnerable:

    Give others permission to give you feedback on what you may be missing. In order to see what we are missing, it is helpful to understand situations where this occurs. This help will come to you when you encourage feedback and avoid being defensive. That takes admitting you may occasionally miss things and it requires a willingness to improve.

The cost of not improving your vision is great. When you are so focused on the task, much is missed. We can miss changes in competitive landscape. Changes in market conditions. We can miss changes in our employee’s engagement. We miss opportunities to strengthen and improve important relationships with our team, clients, family, and friends. We miss areas in our behavior, which may be holding us back from being as successful and happy as we want to be.

Related Topics: Cure For The CEO Disease, How To Defeat The Fog of War in Business, One Reason We Struggle With Emotional Intelligence, Is The Fundamental Attribution Error Destroying Your Team?

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

How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.

One Reason a Healthy Culture is Essential

Are you having a hard time attracting the best talent? Here is one reason and one thing that will help.

Act As If…Today!!!

Experience the fulfillment and happiness of achieving your future goals, your new year’s resolutions TODAY!

Over the years I have learned a principle of success called “act as if”. Believe, think, act, dress, talk and feel like someone who has already achieved success. The idea is to begin to program your subconscious to find ways to help you achieve the success or goals you desire. William James considered by some to be the father of psychology said, “If you want a quality, act as if you have it.” The famous Jack Canfield writes about this principle in his book “The Success Principles”.

It is fascinating how powerful our thoughts are. I heard of a study that looked at why college students drink. Several students reported they drank so they could be more sociable, outgoing and fun. They thought the alcohol helped them to achieve these goals. The experiment divided students into two groups, one with alcohol and the other group were told they were getting alcohol when in fact the drinks where non-alcoholic. The first group with alcohol behaved how you might expect at a college party. The second group, surprisingly, behaved very much the same. Participants laughed and socialized and even behaved as if they were inebriated. The point is; they did not need the alcohol to be outgoing, fun and sociable. They just needed to think they were those things and they were.

If you want to get a promotion at work, start behaving in a way expected of those in the desired position. This will make it easier for management to believe you have the ability to do the job and may help you get the promotion. If you want to lose weight, behave like people who are healthier. If you see yourself as healthy, you will put down the doughnuts and begin eating better and exercising more. As a result, you will lose weight and be healthier. Visualize the success you desire and begin behaving today as if you had achieved the success.

Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, “You’ll See It When You Believe It”. Do you believe this or do you believe the more common maxim, “I’ll believe it when I see it”? If you prefer the scientific method to a principle of faith, consider how many people successful in business, sports, or life believed they would achieve before the evidence of that success appeared. Muhammad Ali said, “I am the greatest. I said that before I even knew I was.”

Perhaps you want more scientific proof that faith works. Within two decades of Einstein discovering his theory of relativity, Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg made a similarly profound discovery. The units that make up the atom act in a much unexpected way. The mere act of observing atomic particles influenced the way they behaved. Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes. Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says “thoughts are things.”

The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test groups influences the outcome of the experiment. You probably behave differently when your boss is watching or your employees behave different when you are watching.

Acting as if, does not mean you have all the answers or know everything you want to know. It means you believe you will know in the future. Several years ago I was consulting for Larry Miller Theater’s in Salt Lake City. I was working for the late, highly successful businessman Larry Miller. He developed one of the largest car dealership operations in the country. He owned the Utah Jazz NBA team and other businesses. My office was right next to the Utah Jazz offices. I was hired to help provide expertise on the IMAX theater Larry was building at his Megaplex development in Sandy, Utah. This was a new venture for him at the time. Larry was very financially successful. I was a consultant with no such wealth. Despite our financial disparity, Larry wanted to learn everything he could from me.

I love the quote, “When you come to a point you have no need to impress anybody, your freedom will begin.” Larry did not need to impress me. He wanted to learn from me, which I believe helped him have more success in his venture. The characteristics exhibited by Larry did not begin when he was successful. They started before and continued on after.

Act as if you are already successful and you will see success come to you. Here are some of the behaviors successful people I know demonstrate. I will be working hard to “Act as if”, with these suggestions in 2016, WILL YOU?

  1. Acknowledge other people’s ideas and contribution:

    Successful people are confident enough to not be threatened by brilliant contributions of others. Always look to lift others up. This in no way will hold you back. Celebrate others successes. Recognizing others good work and contribution builds trust and respect. This will make it easier to get through tough times with team members it will also help them listen when you have to correct or discipline them.

  2. Apologize for offenses and mistakes quickly:

    Be willing to admit when you make mistakes. No one is perfect. Even the most successful leaders make mistakes. Hiding your mistakes will only make things worse. If you have caused offense, address the situation as soon as possible. You want as much help as possible on the way to your goals. Unfortunately, we are often our own biggest stumbling block. Showing humility will get you back on track faster than ignoring or covering up.

  3. Listen:

    When you are talking, you are not learning.

  4. Speak well of others:

    If you truly do not like someone, take advice from Abraham Lincoln who said, “I don’t like that person. I must get to know them better.” You cannot lift yourself by tearing others down.

  5. Be honest:

    The most successful people I know have high levels of integrity. Always tell the truth. This does not mean we have to be harsh and critical as some popular politicians of our day. I have the most respect for successful people who tell it like it is with dignity and respect.

  6. Ask questions:

    This is one of the fastest ways to success. It requires you to think and listen, two habits of highly successful people. Click here to learn more about this.

  7. Be interested:

    Care about others. Most people are not successful by themselves. They mostly receive the help, mentorship, labor, effort and support of others. Show you care about others and they just might be willing to help you more.

  8. Be in the moment:

    Enjoy today while you are striving for future success. I have heard people say, “never be satisfied”. I believe a better approach is to be constantly improving. Too many of us miss the benefits of being happy with who we are and where we are today. A fear of complacency may be fueling this. Remember successful people, from our perspective, have arrived. They enjoy the fruits of their success. They also enjoyed it along the way. If your eye is always looking to the horizon, you never arrive. Worse, you miss what is happening in your life now. Enjoying today is not complacency. By all means, strive. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

Waiting until you are successful to demonstrate these behaviors will slow your efforts to achieve them. Start today. Act as if. Enjoy the ride!

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “The Power of Accountability”, “Silence Your Saboteur”

The Power of Accountability

5 Steps to Achieve the Outcomes You Desire Through Greater Responsibility

There is great power in being accountable, which means being responsible or answerable, to yourself, your family, your employees, your employer, your faith, your cause, etc. In this article accountability and responsibility are interchangeable. Being accountable will help you be more fulfilled at work and in your personal life. Interested? Often we think the key to being fulfilled is dependent on external circumstances. External circumstance may include: Being treated fairly by management, or ownership; competent direct reports; efficient systems and processes; and positive culture, etc.

Although these external circumstances are desirable and can help with satisfaction and fulfillment, they are not the answer. Fulfillment comes when we begin to take responsibility for all outcomes in our work and life. Each of us has the power to choose how we will think and act regardless of external circumstance.

Steven Covey said, “Responsibility is the ability to choose your response.” Recognizing we create outcomes, by choosing our response to the events in our lives, is empowering. Take a moment to look in the mirror and catalogue what you have achieved in your life so far. The results you are experiencing in your career, your happiness and the quality of your relationships come from the thoughts and actions of the person looking back at you! Sounds too simple? The concept is simple but difficult in practice.

One of the biggest reasons it is hard to be personally accountable has to do with how our brains operate. The brain is designed to keep us safe. Sometimes, it can interpret discomfort the same way as physical danger. Many of our life experiences conspire against us. How we were rewarded, how we were punished and how we react when a situation is overwhelming creates strong neural pathways in our brains. These then create patterned responses. These habits of thought and behavior that can hold us back. We may say things like, “this is just the way I am.” Or we blame our ancestry: “I am Latin”, or “I am German”, or “I am Irish”. In moments of tension or when we feel overwhelmed, the mind rebels and wants to keep us in our comfort zone. It gives in to fear and doubt. It will delete, distort and simplify information to keep us safe. When this happens we limit our ability to respond effectively.

We live in a society where avoiding responsibility and placing blame is deeply rooted in our culture. Science has proven that attitudes can literally catch and spread like a virus. This can infect all of us. Blaming is an infectious 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.

So how do we overcome our own physiology and social influence to start being more accountable? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Power in Purpose:

    The first step of being 100% accountable is to get clear about what is important to you. What do you value?Values represent our guiding principles and influence our attitudes and how we act. I used to think identifying values was just a good idea. Then I learned what happens when behavior is truly aligned with what we say we want. There are several processes to help you determine your values. A good coach can help you identify these.Take responsibility for the things that are most important to you. How does this give you power? If you allow life to happen to you, it will fill up with trivial activities. I hear others and myself from time to time say, “I am too busy!” Make time for the things you value most. It will energize you. It will force you to be more efficient and effective. You are practicing taking back power over your life.If you believe family is important, schedule family events first. Twice a week my son has volleyball games at 5pm. I want to be there to support him. That means I schedule time to attend his games and adjust work hours earlier.

    Having a purpose in your life gives you power. As you look back at your days and weeks you have made time for the most important things in your life. You will have a greater sense of satisfaction as you exercise more power and control over your life.

  2. Be the Cause:

    Forget blame. Be accountable even when things that go wrong which are not your fault. Recognize you make mistakes. When you are willing to shoulder more responsibility, more opportunity will come your way. Be the cause means you recognize your results are caused by your actions. It is the law of the harvest. You reap what you sow.

    The Newtonian physics law of cause and effect is very applicable in our lives. What is cause and effect? I can’t say this enough…you are the cause. Believing this gives you power. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”The truth is that no matter what challenges or stimulus we experience, we have time to choose our response. When we have created conditioned thought patterns, that space is milliseconds, yet there is a space.Viktor Frankl lost his entire family in the Nazi concentration camps. In the camps, everything was taken from him, EXCEPT the one thing he and you and I have that can never be taken, choice of what we think.

  3. Fail Forward:

    learn from your mistakes: I haven’t always made great decisions. At one point, I started a business without having done my due diligence. 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. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued.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. This will cause us to remain stuck in our current situation. The more we think like this, the less power we have to change our circumstances.This thought from Viktor Frankl applies: “When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change our selves.” This is the heart of accountability.

  4. Learn up:

    Learn from those who have the ability to teach you something. Kids in school often would rather listen to their classmates and friends rather than to the teacher who could help them learn up. A great example of this principle is John Wooden, the most winning Basketball Coach in NCAA history. He won ten NCAA championships in 12 years at UCLA. A record, which has not been broken yet! He began winning in his late 50’s!!! He said “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” This is a man who understands we are never finished growing!

    We have all heard knowledge is power. I believe taking responsibility to increase our abilities to act and then taking action and being accountable for those actions is power. Think about the cost and impotence of being ignorant. Alvin Toffler said, “The Illiterate of the future are not those who can’t read or write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Can you afford to not be responsible for your constant learning and development? Find mentors, experts and coaches who can help you learn up.

  5. Choose your thoughts wisely:

    David O. McKay said, “Your thoughts are the architects of your destiny.” What you read, watch and listen to will create positive or negative thoughts leading to positive or negative patterned responses which will lead to outcomes.Everything in the world is made of Atoms. Atoms are made of energy. Energy is made out of thought. This has enormous implications for the power of your thoughts. Your thoughts determine your results in business and in your personal life. Napoleon Hill says, “thoughts are things.” Sounds nice, but do you believe it?Perhaps you have heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The science behind the self-fulfilling prophecy is intriguing. Dutch physicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg discovered the mere act of observing sub-atomic particles influenced the way they behaved (Heisenberg Principle). Meaning our thoughts influence matter. Thought is what the universe is made of. Matter and energy are two of the forms that thought takes.The Heisenberg principle has been applied in psychology. We know that just observing people in test group’s influences the outcome of the experiment. Your employees probably behave differently when you are watching. You may behave differently when your boss is watching.

The power of accountability is about recognizing that choosing to take responsibility for the results in our lives gives us power. It gives us power to take more responsibility, which gives us more opportunity. Choosing to be accountable causes us to avoid making excuses and blaming external circumstances. When we blame external circumstances for the results in our lives, we become victims. When we think the cause of our problems is external, we may not change and grow to get a different result. We don’t have power to change the economy, our boss, our partner, etc. We do, however, have power to change ourselves. When we understand this, we have the power to change our circumstances and results.

The author Spencer Horn is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”, “Silence Your Saboteur