Three Things Leaders Can Still Learn from JFK November 20 2013 one response
The coverage this week of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy is a stark reminder of the impact his life and death had on the United States and the world. With the perspective of fifty years, it’s easy to argue for or against Kennedy’s strengths and weaknesses. It’s easy to debate what he did or didn’t accomplish. You may think he was a great president or you may not.
Still, on this anniversary of his death, I would argue there are still some things that leaders can learn from JFK. Here (with links to JFK videos that illustrate the points) are three things that I think leaders can still learn from John F. Kennedy.
A Tale of Two Speeches November 13 2013 no responses
Not to get all Dickensian on you but it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That was the case at a conference I attended recently. To accommodate the schedules of two high powered CEOs who agreed to speak during the lunch session, the meeting organizers scheduled two keynote addresses during the meal.
That’s a risky agenda move but one that could work if both speakers rock the house. Unfortunately that was not the case. The first speaker was awesome. The second speaker was just awesomely bad. So bad, in fact, that after 30 minutes I just couldn’t stand it anymore and slipped out the back door of the ballroom. It turned out I wasn’t alone. There were other terrible speech refugees hanging around waiting for the next session to start.
One of them was a guy I had met earlier in the day. We both exchanged knowing looks which indicated why we were both standing in the lobby. I asked him, “Why do you think the first speaker was so great and we’re standing out here to escape from the second one?”
Here’s what we came up with. Consider it a list of things to do and not to do when you’re asked to give a presentation.
The Six Roots of Healthy Leadership November 1 2013 no responses
If you’re a leader who’s feeling continually pulled from pillar to post, you’ll want to check out the new book, Grounded: How Leaders Stay Rooted in an Uncertain World by Bob Rosen.
In a recent conversation with Bob, we talked about the research he’s done in more than 20 years as an organizational psychologist and advisor to senior executives. Grounded is the summation of all he’s learned.
Bob has concluded that grounded leaders have deep roots in six important domains of health:
In the brief interview that accompanies this post, Bob and I talk more about those roots and how leaders can pursue three activities – self awareness, self development and self care – to strengthen them.
Listen in and share what you think in a comment. What do you do to stay grounded as a leader?
Three Ways Leaders Build (or Break) Trust October 30 2013 one response
It’s a bad sign when a leader gets to the point where both friends and foes are asking, “What did he know and when did he know it?” That’s where President Obama is this week with lots of questions being raised about what and when he knew about big problems with the Healthcare.gov website launch and more than five years of NSA eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone conversations.
While I don’t take pleasure in writing this, my guess is the questions being raised over the past couple of weeks mark the end of the President’s ability to get much done during the remainder of his term. The healthcare and Merkel stories both get down to whether or not Obama can be trusted. Which, by the way, is not at all the same thing as whether or not he is telling the truth. That may be part of it, but it’s definitely not all of it.
The problems the President is experiencing now are representative of the interplay of three critical ways that leaders either build or break trust with their followers. These three factors, first articulated by the linguist Fernando Flores, don’t just apply to top government leaders or big business leaders. They apply to any leader from moms and dads raising their kids to small business owners serving their customers to the leader of the Free World.
They’re three simple, one word ideas that are easy to understand and remember. They’re critical for leaders that want to build trust and not break it. Here they are:
Mindful Mondays: What’s Your Saber Tooth Tiger? October 14 2013 2 responses
Let’s play caveman or cavewoman. You’re walking along, minding your own business, when all of the sudden you spy a saber tooth tiger lurking around the next big rock. At that moment, the part of your brain called the amygdala activates your fight or flight response. Adrenalin and other neurochemicals and hormones surge through your body as you make split second decisions about standing your ground or getting out of there as fast as you possibly can.
That kind of response is very helpful when a saber tooth tiger appears in front of you. It helps keep you alive. As I wrote about earlier this year, however, it’s less useful when you’re facing stressful but less life threatening stimuli in modern day life. The same fight or flight response that can save your life in an actual emergency can leave you feeling angry, frustrated, depleted and overwhelmed if it gets stuck in the on position. Your decision making and leadership effectiveness suffer as a result.
One way to avoid that is to understand what your saber tooth tigers are. What I mean by that is understanding and recognizing the things that typically set you off. If you know the kinds of situations or conversations that send you into fight or flight mode, you can take steps to mindfully lessen their impact.
By recognizing and naming your triggers (or tigers), you can proactively prepare yourself to productively deal with them. Proactive preparation could look like a lot of things. Putting the situation into perspective, investigating alternatives or pushing your reset button by taking some deep breaths or a walk are all examples of things you can do to stay productive when you’re triggered.
The key, though, is to know your triggers. When one of those tigers presents itself, that can be your cue to prepare yourself to stay productive.
What are your saber tooth tigers? What are the typical kinds of situations or conversations that trigger your fight or flight response? Name them and claim them!
What to Do When the S**t Hits the Fan October 9 2013 one response
Two acknowledgments to begin this post. First, this is a family friendly blog so when I say “the s**t hits the fan,” you know what I mean. Second, everyone has times when the s**t hits the fan.
If you’re a leader, s**t hitting the fan could look like a breakdown in your team. It could like not delivering for a customer on a key commitment. It could look like the challenge of keeping everyone focused and motivated under very challenging conditions. It could look like any of the above becoming public and snowballing into epic proportions before you even recognize that it has. The possibilities are endless, really, and because they are you’re guaranteed to have s**t hits the fan moments.
Like so many things in life, the key is how you respond when the fan is hit. While your mileage and circumstances may vary, here are three tried and true steps on what to do when the s**t hits the fan.
Mindful Mondays Video: The Break You Carry With You October 7 2013 no responses
If you’re like most of the leaders I work with, your calendar is racked and stacked, your inbox is full and your smartphone is always buzzing. It’s pretty hard to show up mindfully when all of that is going on. You need to take a break, but how do you find the time?
The good news is that a short break can make a big difference and you carry all the tools you need to take one around with you all day long. It’s your breath, but it only helps if you breathe the right way. Yeah, I know; you’ve been breathing all your life and have, obviously, done it somewhat successfully. But if you’re going to get the mindful benefits of breathing, you probably have to do it a little differently than you’ve been doing it.
What do you do to create short breaks that help you be a more mindful leader?
How to Promote Yourself and Still Respect Yourself October 4 2013 no responses
In a world where there is more and more information competing for everyone’s attention, it’s important to make sure you stay relevant. If you’re a leader in a large organization, this is especially important because your team’s success depends on how good a job you do as their Chief Marketing Officer. As I’ve written here before, the work doesn’t speak for itself, you have to speak for the work.
That’s what leadership and career expert Dan Schwabel teaches you how to do in his new book, Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success. Dan is a particular expert in the millennial generation and has made it his mission to help members of that cohort be accountable for their careers and take charge of their lives.
I spoke with Dan recently about his book and asked him for his top three ideas on how leaders can promote their work without, as Dan says, coming off like “a self-promotional jerk.” Whether you’re a millennial or not, Dan offers some very important advice which you can hear in the brief interview that accompanies this post.
What are your thoughts? Does the work speak for itself or do you have to speak for the work? If it’s the latter, how do you promote yourself and still respect yourself?
Mindful Mondays: Elephant or Chicken? September 30 2013 one response
A client who frequently travels internationally told me a fascinating story recently.
My client is a regular visitor to Africa and told me about a safari tour guide he met in Botswana. This guide is so skilled and experienced at what he does that he can approach an 18,000 pound bull elephant with no fear of being charged. The guide and the elephant go eye to eye. The guests get great pics and the guide does it again on the next safari. He is at one with his environment.
A few years ago, the guide was invited to attend a conference in Washington, DC. He stayed at a hotel in DC that was right across a very busy street from a KFC restaurant. There are KFC’s in Botswana and the guide is a huge fan of their chicken. He desperately wanted to go across the DC street for some KFC but could not figure out how to get through six lanes of traffic safely. It was a terrifying and frustrating situation for him.
After a couple of days, a bell man at the hotel taught the guide how to use the crosswalk to get to the other side of the street. The guide had never seen a crosswalk. But, the problem was solved and it was KFC for dinner.
I’m fascinated by my client’s story about the guide. He’s so comfortable in his environment on the plains of Botswana that he regularly does things that most of us can’t imagine. And we’re so comfortable in ours, that we do things that the guide can’t imagine.
It’s all about perspective. Where you stand depends on where you sit.
On this Mindful Monday, why not give some attention to the things you’re so comfortable doing that you don’t even realize you’re doing them? There may be some opportunities there for learning something new. What are you noticing?
Disappointment Sucks. So, Now What? September 27 2013 8 responses
Yesterday I found what is already one of my all time favorite New Yorker cartoons. I pulled the current issue out of the mailbox, started flipping through it and saw the classic guy on a therapist’s couch. The caption was “I did seize the day. But then it seized me back and used some kind of jujitsu move to flip me on my ass.”
I laughed out loud as I read it because I had just spent the day getting back up after getting flipped on my ass. Early in the morning, I’d gotten some critical feedback I didn’t expect on an important project. I was really disappointed. Disappointed with my performance, disappointed with my misperception and disappointed with the recognition that something that I thought was working well actually wasn’t.
Disappointment is a fact of life. Unless you’re on Facebook where, unless a pet or a relative has died, everything is always sunny, in real world land, disappointment happens.
Disappointment sucks. It can bring you down. As a leader, you can’t afford to stay there very long. You’ve got to get back up and bring everyone else along with you.
How do you do it? Here are four steps that may work for you (And by you, I mean me. I’m working on taking my own advice.) :