Mar 082016

To Better Survive Office Politics, Learn Chess.

We are in the middle of political season. Some might say we have been for over a year. I know, it doesn’t seem to end. It seems like when an election cycle is over, it immediately starts all over again. No pause or break in the rhetoric.

Politics exists in organizations as well, though it normally doesn’t have anything to do with presidential or congressional races. But just like politicians, people in organizations have strong egos, constituencies, empire driven personalities, agendas, issues and rivalries. This can cause many traps and dead ends for those who are not politically savvy and don’t know or don’t recognize the political maze or understand which way to turn.

So how can you navigate this political minefield so that you can survive the process and still maintain your ethics and principles? Learn chess.

Chess is a mind game, and so is office politics. Chess is about learning to be prepared for the moves your opponent might take. Knowing who is out to checkmate you is important for survival in office politics. Unless you have won them over, everyone in the office is your opponent, so don’t let your guard down. Learning how to think and gauge your next step is important, and chess teaches you those lessons.

Staying out of office politics is not your option. You may try to avoid it, but developing political competence is not a matter of choice. You should become competent in handling it. When you do, you can climb further and get more done without damaging your reputation and resorting to unethical or questionable behavior.

It is a rare organization where politics barely exists. When there is competition or scarce resources, you’ll find it. It may take time to recognize it, but when you do it’s important you take appropriate action to minimize the impact it can have on you and your career. What’s important is that you make office politics work for you and use it positively.

An article earlier this year in listed some points on how to survive and master organizational politics. In summary, they are:

1.   Find out who the real influencers are, who is respected and who the “brains” behind the organization are.

2.   All organizations have informal networks, so find out who gets along, who is involved in interpersonal conflict, and who doesn’t get along with others.

3.   Build relationships. Know which relationships work and build your network accordingly to make the most of it.

4.   Neutralize negative people. Get to know potential enemies and always be careful of what you say around them. Learn what their motives are and try to counteract their impact.

5.   Govern you own behavior. Don’t pass on gossip and get sucked into arguments. Be positive and maintain your integrity.

Positive or negative, it happens. Young workers often make the mistake of thinking that understanding office politics is not important or necessary.  By the time they start to see the threat, valuable time has been lost. When they become a threat to others, things can change.  If they have failed to develop skills in dealing with organizational politics, they can get left behind.

The company Charity Water, a nonprofit on a mission to bring clean drinking water to every person on the planet, has a “no white lies” policy; those tiny lies many of us tell without a second thought are fire-able offenses under their leadership.

What is important for you is to model apolitical behavior, and reward those who do the same.

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” – Pericles (495-429 BC) Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens.

Feb 092016

Can a Smiley Face Tell Management How Employees Feel?

A company’s culture can influence employee satisfaction, burnout, teamwork, and absenteeism. Studies show that emotions can have a significant impact on how people perform, how engaged they are at work, how creative they are, how committed they are to the organization, and even how they make decisions. Positive emotions are associated with better performance; negative emotions usually lead to negative outcomes.

Many leaders tend to underestimate or ignore what shapes a company’s culture. That can be a mistake because all organizations have an emotional culture, which can range from elation to suppression.

Is it possible to measure your employees’ emotional state? Yes, it is. How can you measure it? How about a smiley face? The employees of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings press a button as they leave the lobby at the end of the day to indicate their emotions. They can choose a smiley face if they felt happy at work that day, a frowny face if they felt sad, or a button in-between.Smiley Faces - Transparent

Why is this important? Because organizations have emotions. Many companies recognize and manage this by incorporating emotions and fun in their corporate culture. Southwest Airlines is probably one that most people recognize as a company that shows love and caring for its employees and its customers. Their employees have fun while they work, and it permeates the organization.

The emotional climate of an organization can be readily apparent. What does it tell you if you see an absence of smiles and welcoming comments? The next time you check into a hotel, notice how you are greeted. Does the staff make you feel welcome? Do they remember your name when you walk through the lobby later in the evening? Notice how co-workers treat each other. What do their facial expressions tell you? Also notice if they are pleasant, upbeat, and collegial towards each other.  It can be a sign of a well-trained staff.

Nearly 30 years ago the social psychologist Phil Shaver and colleagues found that people can reliably distinguish among 135 emotions. The most basic are joy, love, anger, fear, and sadness. Such things as special outings, celebrations, and rewards all support the emotional culture of an organization.

Niko Niko ( is an app the tracks emotions. This app makes it fun and easy to capture your mood throughout the day. Powerful analytics enable your team to know how everyone is feeling, creating an open, honest, positive environment for peak performance.

An article by Beatriz Arantes, a psychologist and senior researcher at Steelcase, stated that organizations need to consider much more than just the physical health of employees; they need to take a holistic approach to well-being. The article also mentioned three ways an organization can create environments that support positive emotions and help build productive, collaborative, and creative workers. They are:

1.   Encourage a sense of belonging
2.   Help people see their worth
3.   Encourage engagement by promoting mindfulness

Emotional culture should be supported at all levels, but it starts at the top. Top management models it. They have to practice it and understand that emotions they express at work reflect the culture. Employees need to know what is expected of them, and incorporate it into the performance management system. You can measure it on inclusiveness, welcoming, approachable, and positive behaviors.

As Michael Margolis stated, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change a culture, change the stories.”

Jan 122016

Why Being a Coach is Like Being a Sculptor

I am entering my tenth year of coaching this month. Many times I have been asked, “What do you do?” When I answered, “I’m a coach,” people would respond, “Oh, what sport?” I would tell them that I wasn’t a sports coach, but that I coached executives, teams, and aspiring leaders. The typical response would then be, “Oh, you’re like a consultant.”

I explain to them that there is a difference between how a consultant helps clients and how a coach helps clients. The difference is like that between a painter and a sculptor.  Let me explain.

When a painter paints, he or she creates beauty. When a sculptor sculpts, he or she creates beauty, but in a different way. Yet they both add value.

A painter starts with a blank canvas and adds different colors and shapes, using his or her own style and strokes to create a final product. It is their creation of beauty.

A sculptor starts with a product and develops its potential and strengths. Ironwood Eagle TransparentA sculptor doesn’t add anything; he/she brings out the natural beauty that lies within. It’s like a piece of wood.  It could just be laying in the desert until a sculptor sees its potential, working with it and developing its natural beauty from within. Like this ironwood carving of an eagle, it was once just a piece of wood.

That’s what I do as a coach; I help people develop their leadership and team skills by helping them develop the strengths and potential that’s within them. Consultants paint, coaches sculpt. I’m a sculptor.

You hire valued employees because you realize their potential. Are you getting that full potential from them? If you’re not, what can you do to bring out their best?

Give them the gift of coaching, because it will help them create change that leads to desired results. Coaching opens windows of opportunities to help individuals realize their full potential.

A coach starts with a client’s natural strengths as a foundation and shapes, molds and fashions them with artistry and precision—transforming their management and leadership skills into the best they can be. A coach’s tools are powerful questions, assessments and listening skills.

Coaching is not an answer to discipline: it’s an avenue for growth and development for employees who need a little help in overcoming obstacles and achieving their potential.

If you lead or are a member of a team in your organization, the coaching process is also about adding value. Do you have a team, or a simply a group of people? A group is people working in isolation. There is no input from other members; each does their own thing; there is little collaboration; and there is no opportunity to learn from each other.

A team is a group of people with a common goal that works together to fulfill their mission. If people are working in a healthy environment, it is truly a team. There is trust, creativity, common understandings and common goals. They are bonded to a common vision.

Team coaching is a way to get your team to work at its optimum, to function smoothly and effectively. Instead of individual coaching, the team is coached in a team environment. Team coaching helps the team set its own goals so they become more productive and get along better as a team. It’s a team process.

Think of what would be possible if your team was functioning at an optimal level, “firing on all cylinders,” all the parts performing efficiently and effectively.

I work with organizations that value their employees by providing resources and tools to make them more productive. I do this by coaching individuals to discover their strengths, and coaching teams to be more productive and positive.

Individual coaching and team coaching are investments that benefit your employees and your organization, because coaching helps improve performance and adds to the bottom line.

I welcome the opportunity to help your valued employees and/or your teams reach their optimal level of performance. How soon can we start?

Dec 082015

Can You Keep Your Composure or Do You Lose Control?

Composure in a leader is reflected in their attitude, body language, and overall presence. It’s about a calm or tranquil state, self-possession, tranquility, and serenity, especially of the mind.

Our emotions are designed to help us cope with emergencies and threats.  When we get emotional, our heart pumps faster and our blood pressure increases. We feel more energy because our body releases glucose into our bloodstream. Our body gains energy and strength, our eyes dilate to take in more light, and our breathing rate increases to get more oxygen to our brain and muscles.

Once the emotional response is triggered, it has to run its course. If no threat follows the trigger, it can last 45-60 seconds. That’s why many people count to 10 before reacting. The problem is people usually respond in one of three ways:

Fight – we can choose to fight (argue or respond)
Flight – we can flee (calmly shut down and exit)
Freeze – our emotions are shut down, leaving us speechless

Before I provide you with some ways to keep your composure, I thought it would be fun and interesting to mention some popular similes that come to mind about keeping our composure. Like “cool as a cucumber.”

Cool as a cucumber. This simile refers to being calm, cool and collected. Cucumbers have long been used in salads and relished for their refreshing, cooling quality.

Cool your jets. This one means to relax, calm down and take it easy. It is an extension of “cool it.” The jets may refer to the jet engines of a plane, which get extremely hot before takeoff, and are thus comparable to the feverishly excited condition of an individual to whom a negative remark has been addressed.

Count to 10. Take a deep breath, calm down, and pause and consider before acting impulsively. This common expression is often used by someone who is violently angry and about to lose his/her temper. It is also a warning to another person to behave in a certain manner or suffer the consequences when the counter reaches “10.”

Keep your shirt on. Refers to stay calm, keep cool and don’t get worked up. Men usually remove their shirts before engaging in a fistfight, hence the expression.

Leaders today need to show more composure than ever before. Having the ability to show poise and patience minimizes the impact and uncertainty of the situation. How leaders respond to growing pressures indicates their leadership preparedness, maturity and acumen.

Instead of panicking, a leader needs to see the opportunity it can present. Leadership requires us to quickly detect the causes of adversity and solve them immediately. Crisis can result when composure is missing. As a leader you have to avoid signs of immaturity or lack of preparedness that can make your employees feel unsafe and unsecure.

Here are some ways to maintain leadership composure during those pressure -packed moments.

1.    Don’t allow your emotions to get in the way. Don’t yell or get animated. Show emotional control so that even your body language doesn’t give your emotions away.

Write down the last 25 times you have lost your composure. What caused the situation? Group these events by trigger, such as a certain person, money, authority, criticism, etc. Consider each group and determine a more mature response. Then mentally and physically rehearse it, trying to decrease the number of times you lose our composure.

2.    Don’t take it personal. Do you become vengeful, sarcastic or angry? These emotions may be satisfying on a temporary basis, but they will backfire in the long run. If someone attacks you, rephrase it as an attack on the problem. Ask them what they would do in your shoes. Play out what could happen if their position was accepted. Let the other side vent and blow off steam, but don’t react.

When you take things personally it makes it more difficult to maintain your composure. If you take things personally it creates more office noise and escalates the politics around you.

3.    Be deliberate and fearless. You need to take quick action. Solutions first, understanding second. Define the problem, ask clarifying questions, restate the problem and throw out solutions for debate. Then decide.

When leaders project confidence, it is instilled in others. If you begin to fear adverse circumstances, you become vulnerable. This can make it difficult to act rationally and objectively. If you panic, you will lose focus and could mentally freeze.

4.    Act like you’ve been there before. Show that you’ve been thru the process before. Show an executive presence by approaching the matter at hand with elegance and grace. If you are patient and show a calm demeanor, you will soothe frustrations and ease the hardships and anxiety others are experiencing.

The best leaders remain calm, cool and in control. This enables them to step back, evaluate the situation they are dealing with, and face the problems head on in the best frame of mind.

Nov 102015

Who Are You Following and Why?

There are some people who are so respected for their leadership that they have a following of men and women who want to be a part of their team. People respect them so much that they will leave a job, change a career or close a business to go work for that gifted leader.

Over thirty years ago, two leaders and authors, James Kouzes and Barry Posner, wanted to understand the characteristics, traits and values that people look for in a person they would willingly follow.

They sent a questionnaire to several hundred business and government leaders. They received over 200 different values, traits and characteristics that people look for in a person they would follow. Using content analysis and independent judges, they narrowed the list to the 20 you see below.

Before you read further, review the list and pick seven characteristics that you look for in a leader you admire, someone you would follow willingly because you want to, not because you have to. There are no wrong answers.

Independent                      Determined                      Imaginative
Self-Controlled                   Ambitious                        Inspiring
Broad-Minded                    Cooperative                      Honest
Straightforward                  Forward Looking               Fair-Minded
Mature                              Caring                              Loyal
Competent                        Courageous                      Dependable
Intelligent                                                                 Supportive

If you selected your seven, you just took the survey. If you haven’t picked your seven, do it now before you read further.

From the list, they developed a survey and have administered it to well over 100,000 people around the globe. The one-page survey asks people to select seven qualities, from the 20, they most look for in a leader they would “willingly” follow.

The survey was first published in 1987 and has been continuously updated. Subsequent surveys and results were published in 1995, 2002, 2007 and 2012.

The results of the survey have been strikingly similar. Which means that what people look for in a leader has remained the same over the past two decades. Four characteristics have been the top four every time the survey was conducted. One has been the top vote getter every time. Here are the top four of the most recent survey, published in 2012. They appear in reverse order.

  1. Inspiring. What inspires people can be subjective, but one common element about leaders who inspire is their presence. Leaders awaken us to new possibilities and can transform us. Leaders who inspire are a bit of a cheerleader. It involves positive talk, empowering others to act, sharing knowledge, and enabling creativity. It can’t be willed – it happens. Inspiration comes from the heart. One CEO’s message to his employees was “Bring your heart to work.”
  1. Competent. Leadership competencies are skills and behaviors that contribute to superior performance. They include managing change, solving problems and making decisions. Competent leaders have a positive track record and get things done. They know their industry, their company and the operations of their company.
  1. Forward-Looking. An idealistic vision motivates us. We want our leaders to take us toward something consequential and noble. People will follow those who can articulate where they are taking the company, and subsequently its employees. Good leaders create a vision, articulate it and own it passionately.
  1. Honest. We want our leaders to be honest, to tell us their values and show their integrity. If we follow leaders who are dishonest, it is a reflection on us. Honesty is the most important leadership characteristic. Honesty is about integrity and character. It is about knowing right from wrong and not misleading others.

Embedded in these characteristics is the natural thing we all do as humans: communicate. When we have the opportunity and responsibility to lead, communicating effectively is essential. Effective communication is vital in your journey to leadership success.

Practicing these characteristics and communicating them effectively will help you develop a cadre of individuals who will follow you.

Oct 132015

Are You Listening to Me, Or Are You Just Hearing Me?

Generally when people communicate it is a two way conversation – one talking and the other listening. Certainly the talking part is easier to acknowledge and identify, but listening is a more difficult process. To have an effective conversation takes active listening skills, which can be very difficult.
When you see two people talking at the same time, you know that they are not listening to each other. Listening is half of a successful conversation – you take turns talking and you take turns listening. This is what makes great communication.

In any relationship, it is important to create a comfortable communication environment. We can accomplish this using the Theory of Reciprocity. The Theory of Reciprocity is a powerful weapon of influence as well. Since many of our communication intentions are to influence someone or something, reciprocation can help accomplish our goal when communicating.
The Rule of Reciprocation says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us. If a person listens to you, by virtue of the reciprocity rule, you will feel obligated to listen to them.

Habit 5 of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is: Seek first to understand then to be understood. In Habit 5, Covey seeks to change the way we interact with people by changing the way we listen to them. He stresses that we need to be non-judgmental and not make assumptions. In order to reach a win/win situation and be able to influence people and outcomes, we need to understand the other person first.

One of the most common mistakes we can make is to confuse “hearing” and “listening.” Hearing is merely noting that someone is speaking. Listening is more difficult, and it can take considerable effort to constantly pay attention, interpret and remember what was heard. Hearing is passive; listening is active. We must strive to understand the other person, or we can’t help or influence the situation because we won’t be able to see the world through their eyes. Active listening is about hearing the words and identifying feelings with the words.
Baylor University issued a paper that states that the human brain is capable of handling a speaking rate six times that of the average speaker. Thus the listener must focus on the speaker by tuning out distractions.

The paper offers seven suggestions to improve active listening skills.

  1. Make eye contact: This will help us focus and reduce the chance of distraction.
  2. Exhibit affirmative nods and appropriate facial expressions: The effective speaker shows signs of being interested. Our non-verbal expressions can convey active listening.
  3. Avoid distracting actions or gestures: Don’t look away from the speaker at other people, play with pens, shuffle papers or the like. This makes the speaker feel the listener is not interested in what is being said.
  4. Ask questions: Questions help ensure clarification of what is being said.
  5. Paraphrase: This technique allows the listener to verify that the message was received correctly.
  6. Avoid interrupting the speaker: Allow the speaker to complete his or her thoughts before responding, and do not anticipate what he/she will say.
  7. Don’t talk too much: An active listener recognizes that it is impossible to talk and listen acutely at the same time.

As Steven Covey so clearly states, empathic listening is what we can aim for to having meaningful conversations. It gives the other person an emotional boost. Empathic listening isn’t about agreeing with the other person, it is about understanding them emotionally, behaviorally, physically and intellectually.

Listening is a learnable skill. Yet it is not typically taught along with other communication skills. Listening is a very important and useful method of communication. We have to be aware of how we listen and work hard at being effective at it.

Sep 082015

What’s Your Roadmap to Creativity?

Fostering an organizational environment that supports and nurtures creativity doesn’t have to be difficult. Some organizational leaders don’t know how to unleash individual talents; others know how to unleash creativity so that the results are useful and cohesive. Unleashing people’s talents and creativity brings about new ideas, products and solutions. When we don’t unleash the “genius” within people it can result in chaos and inhibit problem solving for the good of the organization and its employees.

Companies try many different ways to inspire creativity, but many don’t know how. What’s important is to remove the constraints that prevent people from being creative. If we expect perfection and are not getting out of our comfort zone, or are simply relying on past experiences, then we may never break free of our restraints.

We should not let fear enter the workplace. Fear will make us run, hide and try to remove ourselves from the threat. If we instill fear in the workplace, people will become more concerned about protecting themselves than working on finding the best solutions.

Fear causes paralysis and creates a chilling effect on creativity. Because many of us tend to be restrained, cautious, conservative, and don’t want to look foolish, our creativity becomes frozen. Many times we don’t know how to lift the restraints that fear brings upon us.

Sometimes it’s best to create a little discomfort to get an edge. Some people call it creative-discomfort. Discomfort puts us on edge in a way that makes us want to move, to act, and to want to be creative. Our team will be more effective if they can ask “what if?” or “is this the best way?” A team that wants to be innovative and creative should be able to collaborate, experiment and integrate different scenarios to finding solutions.

We can try different remedies, like thinking outside the box, thinking out loud, brainstorming, storyboarding, and nominal group techniques. Whatever you try, there are some key steps you can take to lead the way to more creativity.

First you have to create trust. Creating a sense of trust will allow your employees to take bigger risks and gives them the room to work creatively.

You also have to start with good communications. Good communication skills are a must. Everyone needs to know what is expected and how it plays into the team’s ultimate goal. Open channels of communication can help foster trust and clarity.

Ongoing reassessment is important as well. Review what’s happening. Do things have to be changed? If so, where, when and to what extent? Reassessing will help us check our progress and our processes. It can give us the flexibility to try new things and continue to improve.

Being creative should give you the freedom to come up with your best ideas on what to do. Come up with the ideas first, then put the structure to it later. Testing your creative ideas is no different than how you treat any other alternative, testing and making changes as you go along. The big difference is how the ideas are generated.

At the end of the day, you’ll discover what works for your team. The results will be a better, more productive team and a better place to work.

Aug 112015

Does Your Team Cooperate, Coordinate or Collaborate?

Teams that function effectively are an integral part of, and essential to, an organization’s success. When teams function well, they demonstrate productivity and positivity. Productivity helps the team accomplish tasks and reach objectives. Positivity focuses on interrelations between team members and the tone and spirit of the team. This takes cooperation, coordination and collaboration, with collaboration being the most important.

ESI International previously released a report showing that less than one-third of teams effectively drive project success. The report showed that sixty-five percent of workers believe that their organization’s project performance would improve if their teams worked more collaboratively.

Often the words cooperation, coordination and collaboration are used to describe effective teamwork. The problem is that most workers use these words interchangeably, which dilutes their meaning.

All three are important, and all three involve some type of teamwork. But they are not the same. Depending on what they intend to accomplish, they may rely more on cooperation and coordination than collaboration.

Cooperation occurs when individuals exchange relevant information and resources in support of each other’s goals rather than a shared goal. When cooperation occurs, something new may be achieved, but it typically comes from the individual, not a collective team effort.

Coordination occurs when resources and information are shared so each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. However, in coordination, nothing new is created.

Collaboration involves working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. The important phrase is “shared vision.” The most important process is to get people to work on the same goals. Collaboration is not an individual effort. Something new is created and the glue is the “shared vision.”

A team’s success or failure at collaborating is reflective of the philosophy of the top executives in the organization. If executives support social relationships and demonstrate collaborative behavior themselves, employees will experience interactions with leaders and colleagues as something valuable.

If there is good communication and an exchange of ideas, a sense of community among employees can be created. The behavior of leadership on a daily basis can be a significant factor on how cooperative teams are prepared to be.

Can we build collaboration in a team or organization? Yes we can. In an article for Forbes, Carol Kinsey Goman, an international speaker and body language coach, provides us with eight tips we can use to build collaboration in a team or organization:

  1. Realize that silos can kill your business. Silo mentality is a mindset present when certain departments or sectors do not wish to share information with others in the same company.
  2. Build your collaboration strategy around the “human element.” Collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimizing an organization’s experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behavior of people throughout an organization.
  3. Use collaboration as an organizational change strategy. Regardless of how creative, smart and savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t transform an organization, department or team without the brain power and commitment of others.
  4. Make visioning a team sport.Today’s most successful leaders guide their organizations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision.
  5. Utilize diversity in problem solving.Team members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored.
  6. Help people develop relationships.Give your team time to get to know one another, to discover each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants.
  7. Focus on building trust. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honored. It is the glue that holds together any group.
  8. Watch your body language. To show that you are receptive to other people’s ideas, uncross your arms and legs. Place your feet flat on the floor and use open palm gestures (which is a body language display inviting others into the conversation).

While a communal spirit can develop spontaneously, Human Resources can play a critical role in cultivating it by sponsoring group events and activities that encourage collaborative actions.

Strengthening your organization’s collaboration capacity is a long term investment. It means building relationships and trust and developing a culture in which senior leaders are role models.

Why not develop an inclusive environment that energizes teams, values creativity and makes the work environment productive and engaging? Our Team Coaching Program can provide a baseline for your team and a map to move forward. In the end, it is the team that decides the course direction for the journey ahead. Call us to see how we can help.

Jul 142015

You May Know WHAT You Do and HOW, But Do You Know WHY?

I have just finished reading Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why. The message of WHY is about a way leaders can think, act, and communicate that gives them the ability to inspire those around them.

Most business owners, when asked why their customers are their customers, will say it’s because of superior quality, price, features, or service. In reality, they don’t really know why their customers are their customers. A scary thought because almost every product or service available today can be bought from someone else for about the same price, about the same quality, about the same features, and about the same level of service.

Sinek contends that there are only two ways to influence human behavior: manipulate it or inspire it. Manipulation may lead to a transaction, but not loyalty. If we don’t build loyal customers, we will provide a sale or service one time, and that may be it. Loyal customers matter most, especially in tough times. Manipulation works, but that doesn’t make it right. There is an alternative.

Sinek contends that inspiring leaders think, act, and communicate in the same way, which is opposite of the rest of us. How they do it is by following a natural golden pattern he calls The Golden Circle.

Golden CircleThe concept of The Golden Circle was inspired by the golden ratio – a simple mathematical formula that has fascinated mathematicians, biologists, architects, artists, musicians, and naturists since the beginning of history. The Golden Circle is an alternative perspective and shows how leaders are able to inspire action instead of manipulating people to act. It starts from the inside out. With Why.

Every single company knows WHAT they do. Some companies and people know HOW they do it. Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do it. WHY is not about making money, it’s about your purpose, cause, or belief. WHY does the company exist? WHY do you get up and go to work every day? And WHY should anyone care?

Most people go from the outside in: WHAT to HOW to WHY. For good reason – they know HOW they do something, but not WHY. Sinek provides a great example using Apple. He states that if Apple were like most other companies, their marketing message would move from the outside in, and it may sound like this:

We make great computers.
They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.
Wanna buy one?

This is not what inspiring leaders and companies do. Below is how Apple actually communicates, from the inside out.

Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.
We believe in thinking differently.
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our
products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
And we happen to make great computers.
Wanna buy one?

As you can see, the message starts with WHY, a purpose, cause, or belief that has nothing do with WHAT they do. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Leaders win hearts before minds because they start with WHY. The Golden Circle obeys the need for balance. Starting with WHY is just the beginning. Each of the pieces must be in balance and in the right order.

It all starts with Clarity. You have to know WHY you do what you do. Once you know WHY you do what you do, the question is HOW you will do it. A WHY is a belief, a HOW is the action, and the WHAT is the result of your actions. Your level of authenticity begins with the WHAT. Being authentic is important. People prefer to do business with authentic brands.

There is so much to learn about the Golden Circle and its concept. More than I can write in this newsletter. I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why, and suggest you view his TEDx video: How Leaders Inspire Action.

To quote Simon Sinek, “Leaders don’t have all the great ideas, they provide support for those who want to contribute. Leaders achieve very little by themselves; they inspire people to come together for the good of the group. Leaders never start with what needs to be done, leaders start with why we need to do things. Leaders inspire action.”

Jun 092015

Why Your Leadership Style May Not Be Effective

We are generally prone to get comfortable in using one leadership style for most situations. While it’s important to recognize which style we feel more comfortable with, that particular style may not serve us well all the time. What’s important to understand is that our style may not be effective at that given time, or for the situation we are facing.

When people ask me which leadership style is best, I tell them “It depends.” It depends on the situation and the people you are leading. It depends on the degree of control you feel you need to have over the people you’re leading. It depends on how much independence and freedom your team is prepared to handle. It depends on how much trust you have in the people you lead.

We typically have a way of leading that becomes our natural style, or one we prefer or gravitate to in a crisis. What’s important is to become familiar with different leadership styles and apply the one that works at a given time, in a given situation, for a specific team, or for specific persons.

Leadership, like leaders, comes in many different styles.  A landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study conducted by Daniel Goleman uncovered six specific leadership behaviors. It also determined their effect on the corporate culture and each style’s effect on bottom-line profitability.

In summary, below are the six leadership styles Coleman uncovered during the three-year study with over 3000 middle-level managers.

  1. The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do what I tell you.” The coercive style is most effective in times of crisis. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed. However, it should be avoided in almost every other case because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness. This style is the least effective.
  2. The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Come with me.” The authoritative style works best when the team needs a new vision or explicit guidance is not required. This style is the most effective.
  3. The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of belonging to the organization. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “People come first.” The affiliative style works best in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, or need to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  4. The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?” The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.
  5. The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn.
  6. The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do, now.” The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. This style should be used sparingly.

While executives may use the six leadership styles, only four of the six consistently have a positive effect on positivity and the productivity of the team. These two measurements are similar to The Team Diagnostic™ competencies measured in our team-coaching program. How a team produces and how a team gets along are key to having high performing teams. Some teams produce well but don’t get along; others get along but don’t produce.

If you master four or more of these leadership approaches– especially the authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching styles – you’ll have the best climate and business performance.

The most effective leaders match their style to fit the situation.

  • Follow Us

  • Keep In Touch

    Transition Execs, LLC
    (Cell) 602-568-5759