leadership incorporated blog

March 6, 2011

When leaders don’t know they don’t know.

One evening (about 15 years ago), my infant son who’d been playing quietly with building blocks suddenly began to scream. I looked up to see that he had grabbed a handful of his own hair and was pulling as hard as he could. The harder he pulled the louder he screamed. He couldn’t see the connection between what he was doing and the pain he was feeling.

I see this in business all the time.

This week, I coached the leader of an organization who thinks everyone around him is stabbing him in the back. He is suing one client. He has just terminated another. He’s fired one employee and thinks the rest of the staff are taking advantage. He recently stormed out of a professional association because he felt ripped off.

I see him entering new relationships already angry and expecting the worst. As a result, he doesn’t communicate well. He is so worried that he is not going to get his fair share, that he ensures he doesn’t get what he needs. At the first hint things aren’t going his way, he blows a gasket. He feels he’s given and given and he isn’t going to give anymore.

The best clients experience him as angry and demanding and back away from doing business with him. Retention of clients and staff is a problem.

He goes through his life and work screaming and screaming — not realizing that he has the power to change what he’s doing and get different results.

Before we judge him too harshly, let’s be honest. We’ve all had times when we’ve had a metaphorical fistful of our own hair in hand and haven’t made the connection that we are causing our own pain.

We are particularly vulnerable to this in stressful times, during change and even growth — when we are overwhelmed, exhausted, scared, frustrated, depleted, and low on resources.

Here are a bunch of TO DOs — and a few TO DON’Ts — that can turn it around:

TO DON’T: Ask “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?” This question tends to keep us stuck and feeling and acting like victims.

TO DO: Ask “What might I be doing to cause this?” And “What could I do differently to produce a different result?” It might seem subtle, but there is a huge difference!

TO DON’T: Blame others or yourself, even if wrongs have been done. Blame doesn’t get us anywhere.

TO DO: Take responsibility for creating the results you want and need to see.

TO DON’T: Give in to the urge to hyperbolize. Even though it may feel like it, it’s just not true that NOTHING is going right. Or that EVERYONE is against us.

TO DO: Turn your focus to what is working. See how you can leverage that.

TO DO: Remind yourself of your vision and purpose

TO DO: Prioritize

TO DO: Get your focus off yourself and onto being of service to others

TO DO: Find the opportunity in the crisis.

TO DO: Control what you can, let go of what you can’t.

TO DO: Laugh. At yourself. At the situation. Find the humor. Trust me, it’s always there. And finding it makes a real difference.

TO DO: Go outside, take a walk and clear your mind

TO DO: Remember what’s really important

TO DO: Breathe

TO DO: Delegate

TO DO: Ask for help

Finally, here’s an exercise that can help you to spot where you may be part of the problem. Simply answer the following questions:

  1. Identify the undesired results you are currently experiencing. Be specific.
  2. Do you truly want to change the results you are getting in this area?
  3. Are you willing to be completely honest with yourself?
  4. Flip it:  Imagine you WANT TO create these results, how would you go about it? Make a list. Go for volume. Have a sense of humor. Ask others.Brainstorm every possible way you could create the results you are currently getting.
  5. Now look to see what on this list you may be doing — intentionally or unintentionally.
  6. Now that you see your situation in a fresh way, turn it around and brainstorm ways to create the successful results you actually want.

Feel free to let me know how it goes.

Wishing you an inspired week.

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October 4, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: 6 ways to get your innovation wheels turning

Recently I’ve had the great honor of working with a brilliant client who is the head of R&D in an organization that develops and manufactures medical devices. I’m supporting him in creating a culture of innovation in his company. So I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about innovation lately.

There are plenty of thought leaders out there who will tell you that innovation has become more essential than ever to the survival of every organization. All you have to do is look at the rate of change happening in virtually every field to know that if you aren’t riding the wave, you will be left behind. People’s needs are changing. Fast. And not only will your current competition be working hard to beat you to the solutions, new businesses will spring up with new ideas as well.

Change is the new status quo and innovation is the vehicle that allows you to ride that change.

Now, when most people talk about innovation they mean changes in their products or services. Innovation can also refer to your methods of delivering that product or service. Or your ways of getting and keeping business. Or the way you approach virtually any aspect of your business model. And innovations can be suggested by or inspired by anyone inside or outside your business…not just the “creative” people.

So the first thing to do to get your innovation wheels turning is open your mind, break through any limiting thoughts and broaden your description of what innovation might mean for you.

By the way, innovation is a relevant concept even if you’re in transition right now. Because the old ways of looking for work don’t work anymore. Those who are open to creating new approaches will prevail. (For more on this, visit http://www.layoffbounceback.com.)

Whether you are a solopreneur, or leading people in a global conglomerate that employs millions, the basic principles for encouraging innovation are the same:

1. Articulate your desire to innovate and your reasons why. Don’t just assume that anyone (including yourself) will automatically shift into a state of innovation without encouragement, reminders or connection to the vision. Put it in writing. Speak it frequently.

2. Create space. Innovation doesn’t like to be crowded. Schedule empty time for yourself and your people to allow the kind of thinking that leads to innovation.

3. Encourage failure. And then drop the word “failure” from your vocabulary. Failure = Learning. Learning leads to new approaches. New approaches lead to…you guessed it.

4. Reward new thinking, whether it moves forward or not. Don’t forget to reward yourself as well as others! Make new thinking synonymous with success and you will have many more new ideas to build success with.

5. Encourage play. Play is critical to innovation. It relaxes the mind and encourages new pathways for thought. Provide yourself and your people with the tools that encourage play. This might look like paper and markers, clay, building blocks. It might also look like a field trip to an art museum or other places where you can be inspired by the ways others have thought outside of their boxes.

Try something new this week and feel free to let me know how it goes.

June 3, 2009

Devastating Mistakes Businesses Make in This Economy: #3

Forgetting that current employees are the ones who will deliver future success. Studies show that after a reduction, there is a predictable and significant decrease in productivity. Errors and mistakes increase. Morale declines while conflict and tension rise. Customer service drops which leads directly to drops in client retention. Yet, most companies do little or nothing to support their retained employees — instead demanding more, and requiring they take on tasks and responsibilities for which they may have no training….and all for less reward. Hardly a recipe for motivation or corporate recovery.

Solution: Offer customized group workshops, individual coaching and other programs that value, empower and support employees through the transition. These may include but aren’t limited to: the opportunity to process feelings resulting from the layoff or current conditions, development of time and stress management skills, communication skills, and  specific customer service and sales training that solves the problems posed by current economic conditions.

June 1, 2009

Devastating mistakes businesses make in today’s economy: #1

Cutting with a blowtorch instead of a laser. In the epidemic rush to cut staff, it’s shortsighted to let essential talent go. As a result, over 50% of workforce adjustments do not achieve their intended objectives. Too often, the company finds itself without the resources to recover and build for the future.

Solution: Think before you cut. Don’t automatically assume that a layoff is the best way to reduce operating costs. And don’t offer incentives for leaving. The best people will go, knowing they can find other work. The weakest will remain.

Sharon Rich is the founder of Leadership Incorporated and Layoff BounceBack. Her companies offer coaching and training programs designed to empower organizations and individuals in transition to create successful futures.

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