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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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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Leaders and Accountability

If you are the leader, you may be the CAO

What is a “CAO?” That would be a “Chief Accountability Officer.” And you probably won’t find one in the C-suite of your organization. But there probably ought to be one. In fact, accountability is one of the key functions of a leader when the leader has other leaders who report to them from an administrative perspective.

A History Lesson

For those of you who are lovers of history, you will know or remember that President Harry S Truman had a sign on his Oval Office desk that read: “The Buck Stops Here.” It meant that he accepted responsibility and that he was accountable for all the decisions of his administration. He accepted them for his entire administration. President Truman’s stand still exists in a few organizations today but, unfortunately, it is the exception rather than the rule.

More than Personal Accountability

But my point today is not about accepting personal responsibility. The point I want to make today is that if YOU are a leader, you have a responsibility to hold those around you accountable for their actions or inactions. I am fairly sure that President Truman didn’t let his Cabinet and the rest of his administration run wild and then accept the responsibility and any blame for their actions. That would not be good leadership. He realized that he was ultimately accountable. But, I am sure that he worked with his Cabinet Secretaries and the rest of his administration and that he had expectations of his administration.

The Chief Accountability Officer

What is my role as a leader when it comes to accountability of those who I lead? First of all, accountability for your team does not happen in a vacuum. There are many factors that must be present in order for accountability to be the norm rather than the exception.

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Perception and Clarity 

The importance of clarity over perception

One of my favorite individuals to listen to on the radio when I am driving around is a conservative talk radio host by the name of Dennis Prager. Even if you do not agree with his political persuasion, you have to respect his emphasis on, and value of, clarity over agreement.

This resonates more and more with me the older that I get. There was a time when an argument must lead to agreement, surrender, or acquiescence by my opponent. These days, I am much more willing to accept the possibility of disagreeing agreeably. I just need to ensure that there is clarity and that I am both understanding others and being understood.

All of that aside, I really would like to deal with the issue of clarity and perception. Specifically, it is important to have clarity around our self-perception when we are leaders.

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Sticks and Stones 

What I “think” about it really matters

How many of you remember growing up and playing on the playground? What did you say when someone said something mean or hurtful to you? Maybe you said what many children have said when you repeated a little saying.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Oh, how I wish that were true. As we have gotten older, we have realized that words hurt more than the sticks and the stones. In fact, I heard a person say one time that “it is not what you think about me or even say about me that hurts me. It is what I think about what you think about me or say about me that hurts me.” What they are saying is that it is my perception about something that drives my behaviors.

What does this have to do with leadership?

I am working on some “appendix material” for my upcoming book. And I am working on a leadership development resource for 1-on-1 mentoring. I am working on the issue of self-awareness or self-perception. My focus for that section is on how we perceive ourselves, how others perceive us, and how we perceive that others perceive us. This can almost become a carnival house of mirrors scenario where that loop can become almost infinite. So, let’s not go that far.

Psychologists often use words like self-perception, other perception, and meta-perception. They indicate that we can be good or bad at each the of perception. I love alliteration. It helps me cement a concept in my mind. So, I am modifying their words to help me get a better grip on them and their leadership implications. So, I will use Self-Perception, Social-Perception, and Circular-Perception.

Self-Perception is simply a matter of how you see yourself. Our role as leadership mentors is to help our protégés to help them really see themselves as they are. And not just as they perceive themselves or even as others perceive them to be. Let’s face it. Very few of us are “black belts” at self-awareness. mentors must never come across as having become too much of an expert in this regard.

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Sleepless Nights and Too Much Sunshine

What I learned from trying to teach my children to sleep through the night.

I remember when our children were very young. One woke up laughing, the other, not so much. For those of you who know my family, I will leave you to guess which child responded with laughter and which responded with tears.

And I remember trying to teach them to sleep through the night. (Of course, I also remember setting up a borrowed video camera and recording our first born while he slept. Pretty exciting video, isn’t it?  But we were brand new parents.) But the process of training them to sleep through the night and go back to sleep when their little bodies awoke in the middle of the night was hard. There was a huge part of me that wanted to just pick them up and bring them into our bed and snuggle.  It seemed that between my wife and I, only one of us would have the strength to deal with the crying.  One of us would begin to cave in and the other would be strong.  Then the roles would reverse.  And on it went for days and days until we finally made it through the night.

What is a beleaguered parent to do?

Should I scoop them up and feed them every time they cried? Should I bring them into our bed to sleep? There is a problem with that approach. They were growing bigger, and they no longer needed to eat every two to three hours, and it would ultimately hurt them and be bad for them if we allowed them to never establish a healthy sleep pattern. They needed sleep, I needed sleep. Heaven only knows that their mother needed sleep!

So, what is the beleaguered leader to do?

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I Didn’t Know It Was That Bad

The Power of Perspective

I Didn’t Know It Was That Bad

I got one of those lovely letters from the Homeowners Association that no one likes to receive. It told me that my driveway was too dirty. And it told me that I needed to clean my driveway. No, really. That is what it said. So, I borrowed a pressure washer from my son and set about the task of cleaning my driveway.

What I saw after the first spray of pressurized water hit the concrete was amazing. That first jet of water took off 19 years of accumulated dirt and gunk that had settled on it over the years. That first swath of high-pressure water took off that gunk and revealed concrete as it must have looked 19 years ago when it was poured and cured. To look at the concrete the day before would never have given me the hint that it was that “dirty.” In fact, I thought the HOA folks were a little crazy. But one look at the “clean” concrete next to the areas that I had not pressure washed yet showed that the concrete had indeed become very dark gray and almost black by comparison to the newly washed section.

This certainly gave me an interesting perspective on things. It made me a little self-reflective. What about my own life? Had I let it get dunked up with many years of accumulated dirt and grime? So, as a reference point, I left a little patch of concrete alone. I did not even get it wet. I wanted to leave it alone. That little dark patch on my driveway is a reminder of what the whole driveway looked like before the pressure washer hit it.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

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Waiting on the “Word”

What are you waiting to hear?

Waiting on the Word

As I arrived at the office today, parking spaces were plentiful. You could even find one close to the elevators in the parking garage. That can only mean one thing — Today is the day before a national holiday and many of the folks that are actually in the office today are just waiting on the “word.”

What “Word”?

We are waiting on the word “leave” from senior management that will say something like this: “Unless business reasons would make it otherwise imprudent, feel free to leave early this afternoon and begin to enjoy the July 4th holiday.” Those are the words everyone is waiting to hear. Days like today are the kinds of days that, unless you have something specific planned or are going to be out of town on vacation, it just doesn’t make sense to take the day off as a vacation today since it will be a short day anyway. Plus, you can be really productive in the time that you are there because there are only a handful of folks here and there are very few meetings that show up on your calendar. So, it is really a good day to get stuff done and get caught up on email or other administrative tasks that have slipped to the back burner lately. Like many others, I am just waiting for the word to come from our leader and I will exit with all due haste.

What is the Leadership Lesson here?

The leadership lesson is that from time to time we need to be asking ourselves about what message our followers may be waiting for. We need to ask ourself this question: “What ‘words’ are our followers waiting to hear from us?”

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When to Charge Ahead

And When to Leave it Alone

When to Charge Ahead

How do we determine when we are to charge ahead as leaders or leave it alone and deal with it another day?

Never put off until tomorrow . . . 

We have all been taught in elementary school that we should not put off until tomorrow a kindness that we can do today. But what about a tough decision that we must make as a leader? Is there ever a situation where we would want to put that off for another time down the road? 

When? That is the question!

When is it right to charge ahead and take the bull by the horns and lead in the midst of a difficult situation? And when is it right to stand back and leave the issue alone and take a more relaxed and non-confrontational approach? These are legitimate questions that I have wrestled with in my own mind for many years. I have been guilty of rushing in too hard, too fast, or too soon. And I have been equally guilty of ignoring or turning away from a situation that had a whole lot of downside and very little upside that would drain all of my mental or emotional energy.

The problem is in knowing when to charge ahead and seize the moment. And knowing when to relax and take a more measured approach to the issue that faces us.

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