Improving My Leadership Vision

Is it really worth the process?

My oldest grandson got glasses for the first time this week. It was really fun to observe him seeing the world around him more clearly and more vivid than ever before. He was so excited to see all the way across the family to the little daily chart for school that is taped to the laundry room door. He could read it without having to get up and walk across the room.

I think that I am down to my last pair of contact lenses. It may be worth checking my travel ditty bag for an emergency pair. But, I need to go to the optometrist and get my eyes checked. And that is one of my least favorite activities in the world.

A visit to the optometrist

I have worn glasses since very early in elementary school and I still have trouble with — “Is it better on #1, or #2? Is it better here, or here”? The doctor would flip a dial and ask me over and over again until I finally just made up an answer. I would say emphatically that #2 was better and he would turn a dial, flip a knob and ask the question again. Argh!

At first, I think about the aggravation of going to the optometrist. And then I begin to think about how great it is to be able to see clearly. Suddenly, I am reminded that it is worthwhile to go through the process of choosing between #1 and #2 about 27 times until they can get my new prescription and new contact lenses.

Reflecting on last week’s article

There was a lot of feedback from last week’s article on blind spots. And so, I guess I am just following the optical theme a little more to see where it takes me. In other words, I am wondering what we are willing to do in order to improve our leadership vision? 

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Blind Spots — We all have them

How does the Emotionally Agile Leader deal with them?

Blind spots. We all have them. Yes, even YOU have them. For many of us, these blind spots are related to those traits or behaviors of those that we hold most dear. For some, they are about areas of our own traits and behaviors.

What is a “blind spot?”

An optometrist would tell you that it is a scotoma. It is a small area that exists where no vision is present. One of these occurs naturally in every person because the light-sensitive layer – the retina – is not continuous. There is a tiny gap in the retina where the optic nerve, which takes the visual information to the brain, leaves the eye. We are not normally aware of this blind spot because the brain “ignores” this small patch of missing information and “fills in” the area with other information that the brain knows about whatever is the field of vision. Pretty cool, huh?

What does it have to do with leadership and emotional agility?

As leaders, we all have certain areas within our leadership scope that we do not see with the ease and accuracy with which we see other areas. As I said at the outset, many times the blind spot is that young leader that we are mentoring that is getting on the nerves of every other person on the team. But, because we have developed a great deal of affection for them, we may not see some of the rough edges that everyone else sees. It is in our blind spot and we don’t even know that it is there because we don’t “see” it.

Likewise, the same can be said of our own behaviors. We have a habit or a behavior that is so ingrained us that we assume that it is normal and that everyone else accepts it as normal. Maybe we interrupt others when they are talking. We don’t think we are interrupting, we just have this really important and relevant thing to share and we just can’t help but blurt it out. Everyone else in the meeting cringes or just stops contributing because they don’t like being interrupted and we don’t even realize that we have hurt them and stifled their participation.

How do we fix it?

The first step is to be open to the possibility, and reality, that we have blind spots. Once we do, then we become open to determining where they are and how to fix them. Here are some ways to fix them:

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EI’s Most Challenging Relationships

Friends that sometimes make you want to scream!

I had the opportunity to speak recently to a group of senior level staff and leaders from various organizations. My topic was “E.I. for the Job Seeker.” And it took the basic tenets of EI/EQ and applied them to those in a career transition.

The speech was well-received. (At least I think it was.) Questions and answer times at the end of any presentation can be challenging for the presenter. You never know what someone will ask. And there is always that one person in the audience that wants to play “Stump the Band.” All the folks born after the 30 year run of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show ended in 1992 may need to look up the “Stump the Band” reference.

Up, Down, Sideways

One of the questions posed can be paraphrased as such: “What relationship is hardest to manage — with your boss, with your staff, or with your peers?”

It did not take me long to respond that it is the peer relationships that can be the most challenging in most environments. Here is why.

Upward Facing Relationships – These are defined by my desire to understand and to satisfy the requirements established by my boss. The more I understand them, the clearer they are to me, and the higher my chances of succeeding because of that understanding and clarity.

Downward Facing Relationships – These are defined by my desire to communicate the goals and objectives that I have received through the upward facing relationship. Once communicated and understood, I can establish accountability and checkpoints along the way that will gauge our success.

Sideways Relationships – Here is where the difficulty arises for so many. Because they are peer relationships, they often lack the structure and lines of accountability that exist in the other two relationships. The lack thereof can sometimes lead to behaviors that would be tolerated or even considered in the other two relationships. And that is why they can be so difficult.

How do we define these “sideways” relationships?

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A Need for New Founding Fathers

Today is about more than buying mattresses or new cars

Today is “President’s Day.” Today we honor some of the founding “fathers” of our nation. I feel like calling them the founding “leaders” today. I think that sounds appropriate, don’t you?

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday. So, any of my non-U.S. readers can take a quick nap. But come back toward the end for the leadership application. Traditionally, it is celebrated on the third Monday in February. It was originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington. The one most known as a Founding Father. And, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the U.S. federal government.

Just a little history

Many years ago, it was celebrated on February 22nd — George Washington’s actual day of birth. However, the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was relocated on the calendar as part of the U.S. Congress’s 1971 Uniform Monday Holiday Act in an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s hard-working citizens. While a few states still honor the actual individual days honoring the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Presidents’ Day is now seen as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

I will resist the temptation to comment on individual presidents that I liked or disliked. That would

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Lead Big or Lead Small

Leadership Lessons from an Afternoon at Monster Jam

Sometimes leading small is really leading big.

It is human nature for most folks, when given a choice, to choose the big piece of pie instead of the smaller piece. Leaders are no different. There are some really great books out there that talk about servant leadership and one with the title, Leaders Eat Last. It was inspired by an interview between Simon Sinek and Lt. Gen. George Flynn, USMC Ret.

In that interview, Sinek asked Flynn to try and summarize what made the Marine Corps leadership style unique among the various branches of the military. Flynn said it was quite simple; it was because “Officers eat last”. This concept is both fundamental and intentional. And it exemplifies what makes the Marine Corps such an extraordinarily tight-knit unit. In chow-halls all across the globe Marines line up for their food each day with the most junior ranking Marines getting their food and eating first. Their officers eat last.

Just like in the pivotal courtroom seen in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, you will not find this procedure in the Marine Corps handbook. Nor is it communicated at roll call. It’s just the way that Marine leadership teaches responsibility from recruit class to recruit class and into the rank and file of the Marine Corps.

So what does this have to do with leading big or small?

We go back to human nature. And we go back to some of the common personality traits of leaders. They are usually not shy and reclusive. And they have no problem standing up for themselves or their people. And they usually have substantial egos. And they are generally motivated to succeed. Those are not bad traits. But they also tend to want to grow and leader bigger and bigger teams and seek to influence on a larger scale when offered the chance.

I am still not sure what this has to do with leading big or small!

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Emotional Intelligence

A Primer or a Refresher? 

I have not always been a “reader”. Most of my reading over the years has been to my children and grandchildren. It is only in the last several years that I acquired any taste for books. And my tastes in reading material vary widely. But several years ago, I had a book suggested to me by a fellow leadership coach. He recommended the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. Immediately I started using this book with many of my leadership coaching clients and I think it is worthy to provide a primer to the uninitiated or a refresher with the broader Leadership Voices audience.

The book has a foreword by Patrick Lencioni. Many of you will recognize him as the author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team and Death by Meeting. If you are into great titles, those are a couple of great ones. As Lencioni proclaims in the foreword, he’s no expert in this field, but he sees everyday how critical a skill it is to have and he’s so enthusiastic about this book because it’s the first he’s read that actually shows you how to increase your EQ and apply it in your personal and professional life.

The opening chapter deals with Emotional Intelligence (EI) and your Emotional Quotient (EQ) and compares and contrasts it with the more well-known IQ. The chapter describes what EQ is and what it isn’t. For example, a lot of people mistakenly think that EQ is a part of your personality. To the contrary, EQ is separate from your personality, just as it is separate from your intellect, or IQ. It begins to build your understanding of emotions by showing what the five core emotions look like in varying degrees of intensity. Next, the team of Bradberry and Greaves explain research studies that illustrate how important EQ is in daily living. They show how your EQ impacts things like your tolerance for change, how you manage stress, and even how much money you make.

What Emotional Intelligence Looks Like: Understanding the Four Skills

The book introduces and explains Daniel Goleman’s four EQ skills: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management. Beyond a conceptual description of the skills, the book provides detailed vignettes showing examples of real people who are high or low in each of the skills.

To truly improve your ability in the four emotional intelligence skills, you need to better understand each skill and what it looks like in action.

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Are You a House Cut or a Chair Cut?

Leadership Lessons from the Barber Shop

I got a haircut today. Are you excited to hear that news? At this stage of my life it takes about 3 minutes and, according to the pair of Vietnamese that cut my hair, I am “easy money.” They laugh and say that every time I come by for a haircut. They tease with one another about who will get to cut my hair because I am so easy to do and they think I am a big tipper.

Several years ago I gave up on dealing with my hair. What hair that I had left was not, nor had ever been, very cooperative. On calm days it tended to want to go wherever it wanted despite the lotions and potions that I piled on it to keep it down. And on a windy day, it went wherever the wind blew. So, one day, I asked my barber to make a suggestion. She suggested that I just go to a “#1 razor guard, cut it really short and be done with it. I did it and I loved it.

You can’t imagine the freedom came with that decision. I no longer had to wait in line for my particular barber that remembered how to cut my hair. I now was no longer what barbers call a ”Chair Cut”. I was now a “House Cut”. All I needed to tell whoever cut my hair was “#1 all over” and they would take it from there.

It is now simple.

It is now easy.

There is zero stress involved.

In fact, it has been liberating to some degree.

Now for the Leadership Application

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It Is Never Too Late To Be Encouraging Leaders

There Are Two Ways To Read That!

The English language can be a little tricky, can’t it? You can read the title of today’s article in two ways. You can read it as an admonition to us as followers that we should encourage our leaders. And that would be a great admonition and that would be a great article.

However, my purpose today is to view it from the obverse perspective. I want to admonish the leaders among us that we should be “encouragers” to those around us. And who doesn’t need a little encouragement?

Am I supposed to do that?

One of the most important tasks of a leader is to encourage his followers. Leaders often have to lead in the midst of difficult times and through tough circumstances. These times and circumstances weigh heavily on our team. And one of the things to which they will look to their leaders for is some form of encouragement.

Are you an encourager? 

Do you build your team up? Do you take pro-active steps to speak positive words to your team as they struggle with the tasks that you have given them? Or are you demeaning and demanding? When your team sees you approaching are they looking forward to what you are about to say? Or do they feel a sense of dread and foreboding in your presence and turn the other way and suddenly look too busy to speak to you?

If I were to make a list of those who need encouragement from me, as a father, I need to look no farther than my own home. It seems to me that daily life today is an assault on one’s self-esteem and confidence. Our kids’ schools are not very affirming to those who are not part of the “In” crowd. And, unfortunately, many of our churches are not much better. Many churches have the same “caste society” that the world employs. And if you are not part of the Worship Team or friends with the pastoral staff then you can go largely unnoticed. And our jobs have become so competitive in this still struggling economy that you may not find much encouragement there.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

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Leadership Culture

5 Signs That There is Not a Culture that Produces Leaders in Your Organization

The purpose of leadership in any organization is to advance the mission, vision, scope, or provide a return on an investment. It is the strong leaders in an organization who can take your mission farther, faster than trying to do it alone. Unfortunately, some organizations or senior managers (leaders) do not foster a leadership culture.

When this takes place, everyone and everything loses. The organization loses. The senior manager loses. The community loses. The investors lose. People lose. Everyone and everything loses.

There are many reasons for this. And I will not take time to deal with all of them here. But fear plays a huge role. Fear that they will get cast aside by the new leaders. Fear that they will not be able to compete against a younger and often a more energetic crowd.

But a leadership culture works both ways. Older leaders mentoring young leaders. And young leaders honoring and respecting older leaders who have paved the way to make their success possible.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to an organization about a particular leadership topic. Clearly, they are building a leadership culture. And I applaud them for doing so. But, what about your organization? Do you have a strong leadership culture? If not, consider the following signs and see if you recognize any of them in your organization.

The following are 5 Signs Your Organization Does Not Have A Strong Leadership Culture:

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#LeadershipStrong in 2018

Some Incredible Leadership Observations from Hurricane Harvey in 2017

For any who live in or around Houston, TX and the south Texas region, you will be aware that #HoustonStrong became the hashtag that dominated social media in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It came to represent the strength and resilience of folks of the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Texans are made of the same stuff that legends are made of. And Houstonians often feel that they are the caretakers of those legends. And there were some new legends that were created throughout the days of rain and the many days of rescue and recovery that followed.

For a few weeks that started in mid-August of this past year and lasted until the National Weather Service downgraded the hurricane on September 3, 2017, I had a front row seat for some inspiring leadership. Not that I was only an observer. Not at all. But, I watched some folks step up and lead in ways that you may not otherwise see without such a huge humanitarian crisis or catastrophic weather event that unleashes trillions and trillions of gallons of water on your city.

To put this storm in perspective you need to consider just a few numbers. In just a four-day period, many areas in and around Houston received more than 40 inches of rain as the storm system slowly meandered over our city and over southeastern Texas, causing catastrophic flooding. The highest recorded accumulation of 60.58 inches was not far from where my son, his wife, and their young son live. Hurricane Harvey was the wettest tropical storm on record in the United States. The resulting floods inundated hundreds of thousands of homes, displaced more than 30,000 people, and prompted more than 17,000 rescues.

It is against that backdrop that leadership took center stage. #HoustonStrong gave us #LeadershipStrong. And leadership talent was on display for all to see if you were looking for it. I was looking for it and I was not disappointed.

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