Living the Values at Work

Living the Values at Work

I have built a career by tieing my work ethics, leadership priorities, and expectations around company values. Sometimes it was easy as others were aligned, to begin with, sometimes I was a hero as I entered a bad culture that desperately wanted change, and other times I was painted as the villain as I asked others to embrace change and held people accountable to how they did their work. 

Living the Values at your organization isn’t always easy, but it certainly is rewarding long term and had always helped me accelerate my own career opportunities along the way. 

Learn the Values and their place in the organization


When it comes to your organization’s values, dig in and get an understanding of what they are. The popular way that many companies express their values these are often through single words (empowerment, creativity, trust, service, etc). Although 1 or 2-word values are easier to remember, they really don’t say much or give real clarity to what they mean. Look for supporting documentation that unpacks what each one means to get a true sense of what the organization stands for. 

Once you gain that understanding, commit them to memory and look at how the company integrates (or doesn’t) the Values into programming, pay practices, and accountability. In other words, do they truly stand on their Values, or are they something that people look at during their orientation and never revisit?  Regardless of which side your company falls in putting its Values into action, understanding and aligning to the Values will help you stand out and accelerate your career. 

Make the Values your calling card


Forward-thinking companies will often refer to work that you accomplish in two ways: The What – Your level of performance as it relates to your job description and The How – How you accomplish your goals. It’s always encouraging to see companies that go all-in on the how with some even going as far as to say that they are equally important in evaluating their people and their ability to do more on the team. 

The How is all about Living the Values. As you continue to lean into how you carry yourself and your alignment with the company’s overall values, you’ll begin to build a reputation, and a very good one, that then becomes your calling card. People know what you expect when you enter the room and the high standard that you bring with you and those that you influence. 

Living the Values accelerates your career


If you put individuals side-by-side that are equally skilled, what would make you choose one over the other? If you’ve got a hiring leader that is worth following, they will always choose the person that is strong in how they get their work done. Here are some ways that Living the Values accelerates your career. 

You build stronger working relationships: It doesn’t matter whether you are an introvert or an extravert, a person that Lives the Values in the workplace will always have better relationships than someone that does not. You’ll be known as a partner, colleague, and friend to an ever-growing extended network across the organization. If you’ve company doesn’t emphasize your Values as it should, then people may not make the connection, but they will know that there is something different about you and that they just enjoy being around and working with you. Your life will be easier as you have people with different skills to help support you and your work that relies on others’ involvement will be easier to arrive at positive conclusions. 

You’ll likely become a connector for others: It’s been said that a person that is a connector (Someone who makes networking connections for others) advances the quickest in an organization. it’s one thing to develop people in a silo, and quite a different thing to connect people together in order to make their work-life more effective or even to help them advance their own journey.

The strength here is from leveraging those working relationships in a way that brings value to everyone. Your values will lead you to do this in an unselfish way. You’ll give away great talent for the betterment of the organization, it will help keep any leadership ego in check, and you’ll naturally lead in a more servant leadership-like way. (EP 131 Characteristics of Servant Leadership & EP 132 Servant Leadership in Action for more)

You will be a role model for others to follow: I love being a culture champion. It’s so rewarding to see how teams blossom and thrive as they collectively embrace a shared positive culture. As I grew in my journey from an individual contributor to a leader of many, I took pride in being able to be a role model for others and influencing change for the better. 

If you are in a tough culture, be a beacon of light for others by how you lead yourself. If you lead others, model the behaviors that you expect of them. When you say to them to Live the Values, they need to see what that looks like and means in the real working world.  Many people strive to leave a lasting legacy behind them. It’s a sense of larger purpose in what we do. You can accomplish that in a larger and more meaningful way as you model those values for others to follow. 

You’ll be given more influence and responsibility: Those that lead themselves by the company’s values will almost always attract more influence power and additional responsibility. This is a great way for you to have a chance to shine in an authentic way that can help others.

For those Baton Carriers that are in their sweet spot and don’t want to (and shouldn’t) continue advancing, know that more influence and responsibility is a good thing for you as well. Remember that you know your limits (Ep 140 for help here) and share those if you feel like you are being stretched too thin. 

Lean into the Values as you lead yourself on your career journey. Your team will thrive, you’ll continue on an upward trajectory of your choosing and you’ll leave a lasting impact behind you. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Inclusive Leadership – Part 2

Inclusive Leadership – Part 2

Check out part one here!

The journey to becoming more inclusive is so rewarding on a personal level. There is personal joy and satisfaction as you see yourself grow and mature and this area is typically ripe for personal and professional growth.  

Today we are going to focus on actions that you can take as an individual and as a team to ensure that everyone feels valued and has a voice, feel valued, and want to stay around for a long time. 

Actions to take as an inclusive leader


It’s hard to have an inclusive team if you are an inclusive leader yourself. Even if you are that type of leader, your leadership will fall flat unless others see, feel, and understand it from you. Here are some personal actions to take as an inclusive leader. 

  • Seek out differences. Curiosity is a trait that many organizations look for in great leaders. It shows that they have a growth mindset and are unlikely to fall into a sense of arrival in their career. Curiosity also lowers overall risk across the leadership board. Get to know those that are on the edge of your network. Spend time with those that you interact with quite a bit, but don’t know so well. Look for the quiet ones in the room and take time to understand their perspective. Seek out individuals that are different that you to gain a larger worldview. 

  • Be present and tell your story. To lead a potentially large change, you need to be present in that change. You’ll gain more buy-in from those that you are looking to convince if they see that you are invested and involved yourself. Tell a compelling story and why it is important to you. Share the impact that your own personal journey has had on you and share the success stories of others (If they are ok with that) to help others see the vision. 

  • Understand your own inclusive shadow. Being an inclusive leader holds little value if you are the only one that thinks you are inclusive. Seek feedback from those that are different from you in their opinion. Do they see you as an advocate and supporter? Check-in with those that you trust and value as well. Doing this helps you find those blind spots that you have. It’s like you are both underestimating and overestimating different parts of how you lead yourself and others. 

  • Learn your impact. At the end of the day, what is your impact on others? Are you being emulated by others? Do you see some effort or behavior change that you didn’t see before? Are you being welcomed into more diverse groups that you were not previously a part of? Are people looking for your direction when it comes to inclusion? Seek a mentor or advisor on who to keep improving. 

Whether you are trying to change a small team or a very complex organization, you are more of an influence than you often give yourself credit for. Strengthen your own leadership skills in this area, so that you can lift others up. 

Actions to take as an inclusive team and organization


Thinking about your current state around inclusion may be daunting as you think about future possibilities. Start small. Here are some actions that you can take to help your people, team, and organization be more inclusive. 

  • Recognize that it is a journey, not a race. When you tackle inclusion, you are taking others through a journey where they likely will need to challenge their own biases and self-awareness. That’s a huge change in and of itself, without even considering the programmatic, and potential policy changes that need to be made. Keep at it and don’t get discouraged by early setbacks. 

  • Include the most impactful leaders. Many people automatically assume that the top leaders are the most impactful. They are in terms of strategy, but your middle managers are the ones that bring that strategy to life. Prioritize these leaders as you begin the journey. Include them in the process and leverage this group for advocates and early adopters. This will increase your likelihood of lasting change and accelerate your efforts toward your goal. 

  • Leverage data to tell your story. I absolutely love using data to tell the story of what the opportunity is and to celebrate the progress that has been made around an issue. Leaders can often rely on their perception or feelings when it comes to inclusion, “I feel like we are a pretty inclusive group and everyone is treated the same and welcome.” Dig in and gather data on the current state of the team. The data will often write the story itself around what the opportunities are. Be sure to listen to the show today for some examples of how to leverage data in a real way when storytelling. 

  • Pay attention to diverse associates and customers. Your diverse population has a higher likelihood of leaving the team when they don’t feel like they belong and are being heard. Tap into their life experience and their professional experience in the organization to understand what some of those nuanced and obvious points are that the group needs to work on. Also including them on the journey assures them that you aren’t simply paying lip service to change, but that you are truly invested in a new future together. 

Being a more inclusive leader has several benefits. You’ll be a more effective leader, the legacy you leave behind will be stronger and your company will be more relevant and profitable as a result. Take the steps today to help others become wildly successful in their roles. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

Inclusive Leader – Part 1

I’ve had the honor to be a part of some really great life-changing projects, events, and situations in my career. When asked about my proudest moments as a leader the stories typically go down a road of inclusion and helping break barriers for others to succeed in new ways. I simply love helping others meet and exceed their own personal and professional expectations. 

Being inclusive not only accelerates your career, it also enhances your business and elevates others in the process.  Today, we’ll dive into a couple of different ways to think about inclusion, how to care for it, and some of the common traits that are found in these types of leaders. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of demographics


The initial place that many people go to when they think about diversity is demographics. This can be a great starting point for a larger journey for you, your team, and your organization. 

From a forward-facing perspective, your team should mirror the customers and community that you are serving. Reflect on those two groups. Does your team look similar or do you have some work to do? I once had a leader that recognized the gap on their team but didn’t know how to fill it. They weren’t getting a diverse group of people coming in on their application process. My advice to them was to connect with that community of people and meet them where they are instead of expecting them just to show up at your door. Mix up your recruiting efforts; how you publicize an opening and change your approach. 

From an inward-facing perspective, look at the make-up of the team or organization. are there more women at the bottom of the chain and more men at the top? At what point does the dynamic flip? Run the same exercise from a cultural perspective. It can be an extremely eye-opening exercise that brings some strong data points as you begin to tell the story of the journey that needs to be taken. 

Inclusive leaders think about diversity in terms of inclusiveness


An inclusive leader knows that being fully inclusive is more than a photo-op, or just getting the right mix of people on board. It’s the power of diversity of thought that really pushes productivity, creativity, and retention rates forward. Companies that rate high in diversity of thought also lower their risk of turnover by 30% (Deloitte Study 2018).  

In order to foster, nurture, and grow an environment of inclusiveness, focus on these four things:

  1. Fairness and Respect: People need to know that they will be respected in their work and that their opinion matters. They also don’t want to see signs of favoritism in projects or teams. People want to feel like they have an equal chance to be wildly successful in their roles. 
  2. Feeling like they are valued and belong: Associates won’t stick around long if they don’t feel like they can be their true authentic self. It’s not good for them or for your team if they feel like they have to put on a face or hide who they are. They desire to showcase their unique self and feel a part of the larger team. 
  3. Safety: In order for your people to be their most innovative, vulnerable, and open they need to feel safe. They desire a sense that what they share will not be used against them, impact them in a negative way, and are supported to openly share. 
  4. Empowered to grow: Once they feel safe, and respected and they know that they are valued, helping them gain a true sense of empowerment and then supporting that empowerment into real action is the next step on the journey. 

Combining the sightline to demographics with the power of diversity of thought makes for a compelling team that will be highly effective and one that others will want to be a part of. 

Traits of an inclusive leader


All great inclusive leaders share some common traits among them. Here are some areas to think about as you work to become more inclusive. 

  • Curiosity: Curiosity in a leader is a great all-around trait to have because it ensures that they stay relevant as times change and have a personal and professional growth mindset. Curiosity leads an inclusive leader to seek out different ideas and experiences from others. 

  • Cultural Intelligence: This is an understanding that your worldview is not the same as others and the ability to seek other perspectives for a larger understanding. I recently saw this in action at a local government meeting where one group dismissed another’s concerns. They felt that since the subject at hand wasn’t offensive to them, then by default it shouldn’t be offensive to anyone else. It was an obvious show of a lack of cultural intelligence. 

  • Collaboration: This leader is aware of gaps in representation and is proactive to help fill those holes in meetings and projects. Are the right people at the table?

  • Commitment: Being an inclusive leader often requires a culture change, and that is something that takes time. These leaders are committed to a long-term vision, instead of seeing it as a check-the-box project that you move away from. 

  • Courage: Along with commitment comes courage. It will take courage to step in a call out a situation, the current landscape, or have a difficult conversation with a co-worker. 

  • Self-Awareness: We all have biases. Have the self-awareness to know what some of those are or where you have a tendency to let your guard down or go on auto-pilot is important to lower those blind spots. 

Self-evaluation time! On a scale of 1-5, how would you rank yourself in each one? (Some categories may be difficult to self-evaluate) Ask a close partner or advisor about how they would rank you in each category to get a good understanding of opportunities for your own personal growth. 

No matter where you are in your career or organization, you can become an inclusive leader and have a lasting impact on others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

3 Common Leadership Mistakes

3 Common Leadership Mistakes

Another year is almost in the books! Hopefully, this week has been one where you’ve been able to take a little time for yourself as you gear up for a new year of both personal and professional growth. 

I always find the new year to be a great marker in which to set some of my own goals and evaluate how I did the past year. It keeps me on track to never waste a moment even during pandemic times.  Maybe you do the same (or should start setting some goals). Here are some common mistakes that leaders make that may help you form some ideas for goals for yourself and your team. 

Underestimating (or forgetting) the power of culture


Culture is everything. It dictates who you are, who you do the work that you do and it’s what makes you unique compared to your competitors. As obvious as that is, many leaders fail to link culture to strategy as they communicate to their team. Putting your culture and value top of mind certainly helps to keep it connected in communication. When I was a multi-state operations leader, I had all of my locations say the mission statement together before each shift. It felt odd at first, but it quickly got to the point where it felt weird not saying it at gatherings. 

Today in the healthcare field, I’m always looking for ways to naturally input our values into the conversation to draw in focus and alignment in what we do and how we accomplish our goals. 

Take the approach that works best for your team, just be sure to link your strategy back to your guiding principles so that your team understands why they are doing it and how they so go about accomplishing the goal. Drawing culture and strategy together makes it easier for your team to be successful and do their job well. 

Talking about an individual instead of talking to them


One of the common themes that I discuss with leaders, no matter their leadership level, is coaching. Leaders typically have no problem at all talking about their employees. Whether it’s by gossip or just trying to get something off their chest, they’ll openly share their frustrations and ideas on improvements with others. 

Good leaders muster up the managerial courage to have difficult conversations with others because, at the end of the day, that person needs the feedback that you have otherwise they will never improve. (Ep 322) 

It’s also important to instill that direct approach in your team as well in order to strengthen your culture and team dynamic. Just as you may want to go to others with your grievances, your people will want to come to you with theirs. Instead of acting as a constant intermediary, encourage your people to connect with each other directly with their concerns and feedback.  Doing so builds up trust within your team and frees your time up for other productive things. 

Overly depend on the physical


Culture (and leadership) can be misunderstood. When learning about a leader’s disposition towards servant leadership or the culture of their team, the person will often share about physical items. They are sharing the What instead of the How. 

What examples: Bringing in a food truck for lunch, creating a game room or ping pong table space, or hosting a potluck during the holidays. 

How examples: How you prioritize your time and people, stories of helping one another, going above and beyond for your customer, and how you show care while holding others accountable. 

You may look at that list and say, “Wait a minute. I’m a good leader and I do things like the What examples all the time for my people.” That’s great, but culture should hang on the what alone. Even a terrible boss can order in donuts every now and then. 

Having an authentic culture has everything to do with your interactions with others as you all do your daily work. Sometimes leaders lean in too hard on the rewards without investing in How people lead themselves and work with others. 

Failing to invest (Bonus tip!)


We’ve closed out every podcast for over seven years with the same catchphrase, “Invest in yourself to develop others”.  It’s important to continue to invest in both yourself and your team and your business to ensure culture and priorities stick. Often times leaders will throw a little bit of money at an idea, concept, or strategy and then call it good. Think of a diversity and inclusion strategy. A leader may see that it is important and then see some people to course and move on. That strategy is not likely to have a long-lasting impact on just one event. 

Think of how you invest in others and yourself as just that…..an investment. You’ve wouldn’t expect to retire from a one-time investment of $100. You add in a little bit each check through your career and then by the time you retire you have a nice little cushion on money waiting for you. You’ve got to keep that same intentionally as your push out new initiatives and priorities. Keep investing in communication, education, and connection for yourself and those you serve. 

All of our mistakes today hold a common theme of culture. Overcome these common mistakes that leaders make that impact their teams in ways that they may never truly fully realize. Lock into and invest in a strong culture to see your people thrive and your business goals increase. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Call Them In Not Out

Call Them In Not Out

There are some people that are really good at calling others out. They masterfully slay their opponents with clever comebacks and pointed wit.  It’s also popular. A subreddit called r/murderedbywords has over 2.5 million members where users share their best putdowns and callouts. 

The rise of calling people out isn’t given to just those with keyboard courage either. Look at the rise in popularity of the “Karen” videos; ladies that lose their cool while trying to belittle or call someone out. 

The problem with calling people out in leadership is that it serves no positive purpose in the end. The sense of winning, or dopamine hit, quickly wanes, and you are left with a relationship that is fractured. 

Calling people out isn’t always aggressive


Excluding others in our communication is not always done with intention. Sometimes it can be done through colloquials, jokes, or passing comments. I’ve interacted with leaders that felt that bringing attention to what they feel are light-hearted comments was unfair and overly sensitive. 

“Now we have to walk on eggshells all the time?” was a response I received once when I shared this idea. It’s not that you have to walk on eggshells and not have any fun at work, it’s more focused on being mindful of the words you say and how they impact others. 

Instead of calling people out and excluding them, you’d be better served to call people in and include them not only to build a better team but also to lift up and inspire people on a personal level. 

Call them in with benevolence


A benevolent person is one that truly wishes others well and shows a high level of kindness with those that they interact with. Take that same approach in your conversations with others. Show respect and kindness to others as you communicate formally and informally while holding true to the company’s standards and values. 

When people don’t feel psychologically safe, they throw up barriers and remain guarded and disconnected. By taking a benevolent approach, you help the person feel safe and as a result, are more open to feedback. Create a climate that makes people feel ok to be vulnerable, and builds mutual respect and care with each other.  You certainly don’t model aspirational leadership qualities when you don’t care what the other person feels or thinks about what you have to say. 

Call them in with understanding


Empathy. It’s a trait that is easier talked about than put into action. To be empathic, you have to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and in order to do that you’ve got to have a solid understanding of the facts of the situation and the feelings/values of the person involved. Put all of your efforts into listening to the person and the situation. It’s one thing to know that your words hurt or have a negative impact on someone, but it’s entirely different to understand why those words hurt. You can’t fully grow in empathy until your build a true understanding. 

Call them in with curiosity and learning


It can be easy to pre-judge someone and come into a conversation with a predetermined disposition or destination that you think the conversation is going to go. You may even be correct whether it’s true or not!  You can unknowingly lead a conversation in a way that guides it to your own bias, or it can stop you from being fully open to hearing what the other person has to say. 

Take a curiosity-driven approach instead. Lead with the what and how and learn all you can about the person, or situation and discover the root cause. 

You can also learn a lot from how others interact with you. When someone calls you out (because someone will inevitably will) first, react in a positive way; don’t return fire, instead thank them for their feedback. Second, end the conversation in the best way possible. Third, decide how you are going to take the feedback and interaction. Should you apply what they said, dismiss the feedback or pull out certain parts that may be the most relevant?

Call them in with action


Actions really do speak louder than words. Once you’ve got grown in your learning and understanding, it’s up to you to put your new knowledge to use. Slow down and show others how you’ve grown as a leader and person by being respectful, accurate, and clear in your communication.  Your actions will be a behavior that others will model and it also solidifies what you expect in others. 

Be a person that calls people in. People will be drawn to you and your leadership. The change will be easier to navigate, team building moves more quickly and your results will only get better. There are no downsides to being intentional about including everyone that is in your personal and professional life. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Interview Responses that Fool No One

Interview Responses that Fool No One

I have been a part of some really bad interviews in my days, but I will say for the most part people want to put their best foot forward and show the best version of themselves when they are in the interview process. It’s part first impression, expertise, good storytelling/communication, and embodying the role to some degree. We talked before about ways to ace the interview (EP 113 & EP 217)

It’s fairly common for a hiring manager to run across someone who has a list of canned responses that they spew out on command. That’s exactly what an interviewer doesn’t want; they want to see your true authentic self in order to determine if you are qualified and a good fit for the role. That’s why some off-the-wall and downright crazy questions sometimes come up in interviews. They want to catch you off guard and see how you really react.  

Here are some common responses from candidates that fool no one during the interview. 

Making it all about you – the ego trap


According to a TopInterview survey, two of the most hated qualities during the interview process are dishonesty and a sense of entitlement (or arrogance).  it can be tempting to lean a little extra into your story and embellish the facts or overexaggerate your role in getting a team accomplishment. 

All the interviewer has to do is dig a little deeper with follow-up questions and your story can quickly fall apart and you now have lost a large amount of credibility with the other person. The interview may still go on, but you’re likely done in the interviewer’s mind. 

Instead of falling into the temptation to please your ego or overly impress the person, share what you actually did on the team or the accomplishment/project and what the impact was. What’s even better is if you also share what you learned during the process. What did you take away to make you even better for the next opportunity? This works much better than trying to dig yourself out of a self-created hole. 

Answer the question directly and authentically instead of dodging and redirecting to a different story that is all about you. Highlight your team and give them credit during your time with the person. 

“I get along with everyone”


More and more people are using behavioral interviewing as they assess new candidates. (It’s our recommended approach to hiring with companies that we have worked with). People want to understand how you work with others; how you address conflict, personality differences, and other interpersonal barriers that we all face on a regular basis. 

Have some stories and be ready to show how you dealt with customer issues, team issues, and conflict resolution. Responding to these types of questions with something along the lines of, “I get along with everyone,” sends off caution signals to the person interviewing you. They may see you as non-confrontational or lacking in self-awareness.

There is not a person on Earth that gets along with everyone! Think about the role you are applying for and potential personal situations that may come up in that position. Then recall back to your past experiences and try to draw some similarities in situations. (Does the job face a customer? Does it lead people?) Customer service is customer service regardless of industry. The same goes for leadership. How you lead people and handle conflict is universal across the board. 

Non-answers 


It’s a classic interview question: “What do you need to work on?” or “What are your weaknesses?” It’s also a question that gets the vaguest answers and non-answers. It’s an internal conflict, right? You want to shine during the interview and not give the person a reason to pass you over. Non-answers, easy-outs, and vague responses only frustrate the interviewer. It shows the other person either you aren’t being real or you lack self-awareness with your answer in a non-committed way. 

Instead of lying to yourself and others by saying you have nothing to work on, have a list of three things that you need to continue to work on and refine in your own life. If you share two with authenticity, you can ask if they want to hear more and they’ll typically stop you, thank you, and move on. On the other hand, if you are non-committal then you are opening yourself up to further exploration. 

Also, avoid trying to sneak in strength as a weakness, “I work too hard,” or “I’m too committed” These responses add no value to your time with the interviewer. 

“This is my dream job”


We are all in on finding your job. (Ep 228 – 231) Remember that your job might be your job for now as you progress in your career to your ultimate goal. Avoid going into every company interview telling them how this is your dream role, especially if it’s for an entry-level role. The interviewer will either dismiss the statement, think you are full of it, or that you don’t have aspirations to do more for yourself. 

Speak to the aspects of the job that you are looking forward to, and what you are hoping to learn and contribute in the role. This will come across more authentically. 

While it may not be your dream job, it may be your dream organization. Be mindful here. It’s absolutely appropriate to share why you connect with the organization and your desire to serve there, with the desire for a long career with them. It’s not in your best interest to share that you are looking to just get your foot in the door. The interviewer doesn’t want to have to fill the role again in 6 months as you try to job-hop inside the organization. 

Lean into our interview best practices and avoid these common interview mistakes that hurt more than help. You’ll have a great conversation that reflects well on you as a result. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Protect your people from themselves

Protect your people from themselves

Have you ever known someone who leaves a great opportunity only to flounder and as a result never bounces back to a level that they were before? Perhaps they are the type to jump headfirst into the newest financial fad without thinking through the implications. Maybe they are constantly job hopping instead of taking time to plan out a true career journey. 

There are times when we all could have benefitted from a person helping us see the larger picture before making a foolish or rash decision.  Here are some ways that you can help protect your people from themselves when they need it most. 

Keep a close connection when they are struggling


Sometimes it is quite easy to see when someone is struggling in their work or personal life. They act out, they may lower their level of care for themselves and others, or they may begin cutting themselves off from critical relationships among other signs. For others, the signs are much more subtle. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “I didn’t know that they were struggling or had an issue,” until it was too late. 

  • Find the right balance: Are you figuratively smothering the person or do you need to be even more present with them? It’s hard to tell at times, and the level of connection needed can change depending on what the root cause of the other person’s struggle is. Adding to the complexity is the fact that we all need different amounts of quiet and space to process. Some great activities that always help include – taking care of some of their daily tasks, helping them get a change of scenery, and providing them with extra support. Make sure that the person is open to the help first. 

  • Listen or problem-solve?: Being there for someone will typically fall into one of two categories: helping them problem-solve through the situation or simply being present and available for the person. A great strategy here, for both home and work, is to just ask the question, “Do you want me to help problem-solve, or do you need a good listener right now?” This gives the person an opportunity to share what their need is and a clear direction for you during the conversation.  

Fill in the blanks


A person may believe that they are making good decisions or acting in a way that props themselves up for success, or at a minimum, helps them move away from a situation that is not good for them. In reality, they may be unknowingly setting themselves up for failure.

Ever make a poor choice because you later learned that you were missing critical information? People have created irreversible harm to their relationships and careers because they were acting on skewed or incomplete information. 

  • Help your people see and understand the bigger picture. Speaking in anecdotes and what-ifs only can cause more confusion which leads to further disengagement down the path of a decision that can have unintended consequences on their career. 

  • There may be circumstances when you can’t share fully for a number of reasons. In this circumstance, let them know that you aren’t able to share any information at the current time, but give them a timeline of when you’ll follow up with them. Mark the time commitment in your calendar so that you don’t forget to re-engage on the topic. 

Give them a chance to share their struggles


Providing the person the psychologically safe space to openly share their struggles is important. There is a high likelihood that the person firmly believes that some of their needs are not being met by the team or organization. Give them a chance to express their frustration and share what their needs or aspirations are. What you learn here may give you an easy path to set things right. 

Give them a way back


Let’s say the person is a wonderful contribution to your team, but they end up moving on. Let them know that they will have a place on your team if they ever change their mind.  Over the years, I’ve spoken to several people who left an organization, only to return. Their loyalty and appreciation are nearly always higher as a result. Be sure to help them work through any embarrassment that they may feel as they re-onboard with the team. 

We should always want the best for those on our teams, and that sometimes means letting them move on to bigger and better things. In those times when a person may be making a hasty decision, move in to provide extra support to help prevent them from making a move that they will later regret. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Prepare Your Successor Today

Prepare Your Successor Today

Whether you have a business or you are looking to forward your personal career, it pays to have a plan in place. Finding your replacement before it’s needed is essential in order to keep continuity in the business and work, but it also requires you to let go of some ego and even perhaps overcome some fear and trust issues. 

A Harris poll found that 60% of small business owners had no succession plan in place. I study by Wilmington Trust further affirms the data, finding 58% of small business owners with no succession plans. The gap isn’t just a challenge for small businesses, many national and global organizations lack a true plan for leadership succession. 

Capabilities of today vs needs for the future


The saying, “What got you here, won’t get you where you want to go,” is certainly true when it comes to succession planning.  Just because someone is very productive and efficient at the role that is currently in, doesn’t automatically mean that they will be great at the next level. 

As you look for that next leader on your team, think about the skills that they currently have against the ones that they will need in order to be successful. Each time a person crosses a threshold from one level of leadership to another, it requires them to reconfigure their skills in order to have continued success. 

Think about a phenomenal individual contributor. They may be incredible at what they do, but they’ll need to let go of certain passion projects/tasks and learn to delegate and prioritize their time differently in order to be a leader. As they progress in their career to lead other leaders, they’ll need to change again in what they focus on, how they communicate, and spend their personal time. 

Identify and spend time with your future leader to prepare for those key skills and changes in behavior before the opportunity arises. 

Test it and realistically access


Once you figure out those key skills and attributes to develop the person around you, it’s good to test out their learnings. Here are a few ways that you can test their growth and readiness:

  • Run hypotheticals: Present real-world scenarios and talk through how they would go about navigating the challenge. You can add a sense of urgency by condensing timelines, and/or temporarily taking away resources to understand how they adapt to the environment. Give the person meaningful feedback after they complete the scenario. This is a great safe way to role-play unique and challenging parts of the role with someone. 

  • Extend some authority: There’s very little that someone do that can’t be ultimately fixed. Extend some authority to the person, so that they can get an understanding of responsibility, try it on, and provide others with a glimpse of what the person is capable of. Start small in scale, time, and impact level and add on as the person shows more comfortability and delivers on the result. 

  • Give them exposure to other parts of the business: Often when a person moves up, it means that they will be interfacing with a new area of the business. Perhaps they would take on more financial responsibility or perhaps take in a whole new segment of the business. Give them opportunities to explore those new areas early, so that they have comfortability and knowledge around them as they grow their business acumen. 

As you add in these scenarios and situations to prepare them for the next level, give them real and honest feedback along the way. It serves them and your people better when aren’t afraid to shy away from difficult conversations and coaching moments. 

During the development phase, you and the other person may realize that they are currently in their sweet spot in the career, and promoting them would do both the person involved and the team a disservice. Rest assured that learning this information, doesn’t mean that you’ve wasted effort. Quite the contrary! You’ve saved an employee from going into a job that they wouldn’t enjoy and you have saved time and money spent in replacing one or both roles. Through the process, you’ve also increased the knowledge and experience of the person that will serve them well in the role that they are currently in. 

Run the two-up exercise on yourself


Now that you’ve got some idea of succession development with your people, it’s time to put your strategy to the test to see how well you have future-proofed your key positions.  

Run the succession exercise with yourself or your leader(s): The exercise is simple enough, you simply start at the top of the team and ask the hypothetical, “This is now gone, who’s next?” You then work your way down your proverbial organizational ladder from there to check where your opportunities are. It’s not uncommon to have segments that are well-prepared for and others that are in obvious need of attention. 

Once you have built in a good layer of succession and development on your ladder take the exercise to the next level by going two-deep on the roles that you are planning succession around.  We’ve seen on countless occasions where this has real-world implications and payoff. Have you ever seen a leader leave and then the 2nd in command leave not long afterward? It happens! Going two deep on succession provides you with a natural level of protection when two drop (or promote) within a small timeframe. 

Embrace your succession planning efforts to take your team’s development and your own potential to the next level. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Can you Turn into a Bad Boss?

Can you Turn into a Bad Boss?

“Great people are hard to find.” It’s a statement you hear a lot with hiring managers and talent acquisition friends. We had a listener question that flipped the dynamic by talking about how hard it was to find a great boss while asking the question, “Is it possible for a good person to turn into a bad boss?”

The answer is that even great leaders can find themselves becoming a bad boss if they aren’t mindful of it. While I think there are a number of reasons why people end up at this point, from being promoted too soon, to not being equipped to handle the soft skills of leadership, or personal disengagement, very few people start out with the intention of being a bad boss to others. 

So how do people get to this point?

It’s often a subtle and long journey, and the person can miss that they’ve strayed off of the right path. Here are some things to look for to help determine if you becoming a bad leader. 

Signs that you may be a bad leader

Are people bailing on you? The Great Resignation aside, have you been seeing an uptick in people leaving the organization lately? It’s said that people quit bosses, not companies and that is largely correct. While the counterargument is that it is all about money does hold some weight, especially for entry-level jobs, it becomes less of a factor for higher levels in the organization. 

If you have people leaving, especially abruptly, it likely means that they have hit their breaking point and have given up on their role. This is a strong indicator that your leadership is at play in their decision to seek employment elsewhere. 

How comfortable are people around you? We’ve all been there. It’s the feeling of having to walk on eggshells because you don’t know what will set the other person off. That feeling and dynamic can cause you to have anxiety or feel fearful to be truthful with the other person. 

How are people acting when they are around you? Are they timid to share any constructive criticism or questions about directions or a project? If so you may have a toxic environment at play where the team feels like it has to hide in the shadows in order to survive the day. If you are unsure about the hesitation of your team to share honestly, throw out a really bad idea and see what their reaction is. If there is no hesitation or pushback, you may have a team that fears giving their honest opinion. 

Who carries the trophy? When it comes to the success of your team, who is the one that is recognized for their accomplishments? Do you find yourself holding the proverbial trophy after the team wins and taking credit for all of the success? It’s an easy trap to fall into. We discussed the ego trap in the 7 deadly sins of leadership with Jennifer Thornton (EP 257

Employees can quickly see when you make the direction about yourself and can feel unappreciated as a result. it doesn’t always have to be at the big milestones wins either; are you the speaker for the group when it comes time to present to the senior leaders or clients? Are you the face of the job when all the others are the ones that did the hard work? 

Recognize how much of the spotlight you take in both the big and small parts of your and your team’s work. 

Tips to get back on track


Maybe you see yourself in a bit of the examples above. Know that hope is not lost. Just as you had a journey or experiences that led you to where you are today, you can also take a journey back to great leadership that includes and engages others in a meaningful way. 

Take the “No More” approach. We’ve talked before about the no-more approach before. It’s the idea that as you reflect back on past bad experiences that you’ve had with other bosses or companies that you commit to people under your leadership will never have that bad experience again. It’s a great way to make the best of bad leadership situations. 

Are there things that you are doing or ways that you are currently leading that need a “No More” correction? If so, commit to it and begin righting the experience of others immediately. These are often behavioral on your part so they take little discussion or debate with others to implement. 

Commit to an encouraging word a day. For most people, it takes being intentional in order to lift people up and encourage them. Try starting small by recognizing and encouraging one person a day. If you need some ideas on ways you can encourage others you can check out:

Acknowledge what others know. Your people know when you are a bad boss. instead of hiding behind new initiatives and commitments, own up to your growth opportunities and explain to them your commitment to do better. This will show them that you have an authentic desire to change, and it will keep you accountable to take the steps necessary to head in the right direction. 

It’s never too late to turn around your leadership reputation no matter how far you’ve strayed. With time, commitment, and a humble attitude you can bounce back to your former glory. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

4 Mistakes that Impact Your Likability

4 Mistakes that Impact Your Likability

Everyone wants to be liked and validated by others in some form or fashion. From a young leader all the way to a tenured executive, our actions and behaviors can be driven by the desire to be liked. 

In our quest for validation, we can sometimes make some common mistakes that work against us. Here are 4 common mistakes that impact your liability and how you can address them for your personal success. 

#1 You talk too much


Talking and listening can be an internal push and pull for people as they navigate conversations with others. People love to talk and share about themselves and a quick way to be more likable is to listen much more than you talk when you connect with others. 

That intentionality in listening can create tension in the brain. It’s simultaneously focusing energy on paying attention while also alerting you to spots in the conversation to add your story, perspective, or other items to the conversation. 

When you let the balance between listening and talking tip far into simply talking, you can quickly become less likable with others. They may see you as self-focused, uncaring, or not receptive to feedback. 

#2 You ask too many questions


“Why?” It’s the question that nearly every parent of an over-curious child tires of hearing. There is a reason why the root-cause exercise is called the “5 Whys Technique” and not the 30 Whys Technique. 

Asking questions and showing general interest in another person is great. It’s one of the secrets that we recommend to help make you more approachable and likable with others. Just like anything else in life, you can take the questioning too far and wear out your welcome in a hurry. 

I’ve known several well-intentioned people over the years that have sabotaged themselves to various degrees by asking too many questions. Think back to the parent and child example; The parent is usually happy and even excited to engage with a little one when they ask a question in order to learn. It’s the continued line of questions that ends up getting the best of a parent and causes them to lose their composure. 

Be aware of how much you are questioning others. If you see their engagement drop off as you further seek to understand, know that it is a sign to wrap it up. Continuing to ask questions further lowers your chance to get an authentic answer and adds to the impression that a person has about you. 

#3 Weak storytelling


There is power in a good story. (EP 124) If you’ve ever been to a conference or religious service, you have a higher likelihood of remembering a personal story that they told instead of all three points that they presented at the time. 

Storytelling that is not compelling serves the interest of the teller more than the audience or is overly canned can turn your audience off. 

The story is not good: A good story should be one that the person can relate to on a personal level, short enough that they could tell it to someone else, and include something memorable enough that they could recall it a day later. Hone your stories and try them out with people you trust to figure out if it’s good enough or if it should be tweaked or outright discarded. 

Serve the audience not yourself: Last year we did a show about Micheal Scott from the show the Office (EP 289). Later in the series, Micheal quits and goes back to tell his staff about it. They are super excited because Micheal finally has a story worth hearing and they are interested in how things went down. Instead of starting at the point that immediately leads up to the interaction, Michael starts out with every little mundane part of his day. He loved the attention, but his audience hated all the filler. Know what your audience wants the hear and cut the fat that only serves your own ego. 

Expand your story collection: No doubt, people love an awesome story. They may even like it a second time. If they hear it several times, it loses power and actually can hurt your likability with others. The story will start to come across as insincere and inauthentic. Remember where and when you have shared stories with you aren’t constantly repeating yourself. 

#4 Debating others


It seems we’ve come into a love/hate relationship with debating others. Think about the pandemic, vaccine, political and social issues that have rocked the world in the last 2 years and it feels likely everyone is debating each other. I love what Benjamin Franklin said about this topic over 200 years ago. 

Say whatever you will, they’ll be sure to contradict you; and if you give reasons for your opinion, however just they may be or modestly proposed, you throw the other person into rage and passion. Though they may be unacquainted with the topic, and you are a master of it, it doesn’t matter. The more ignorant they are, the more sure they are in their standpoint. 

Well doesn’t that just describe a social media post you ran across in the last couple of days? Be willing to lose the argument to win the person  (EP 116) and not hurt your reputation in the process. 

You can grow your charm and charisma (EP 227). Listen to what others have to say and don’t expose their shortcoming. Be mindful of these traps that can hurt your likability and help have more enjoyable conversations with others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Help the team become problem solvers

Help the team become problem solvers

If you’ve got a problem, yo, I’ll solve it…
Vanilla Ice

No truer words can be said from one of the early 90s’ most iconic rap stars. We all have to deal with problems on a regular basis both in our personal and professional lives. It’s often said that a leader’s main job is to be a problem solver. You’re hired to fix problems that pop up in your business. While it’s a little bit more complex than that, you would do well to equip your teams to be great problem-solvers themselves. 

Helping your team increase their problem-solving skills helps them be more efficient in their job, increases their level of satisfaction in their role, reduces stress and uncertainty, and lightens your load as a leader. 

Help them change their mindset


We all have a tendency to avoid things that we don’t like, and this is one of the reasons why we put off problems that need to be solved, or we don’t address them in the right way. While changing someone’s mindset on anything takes time, you can be successful in altering their perception of the problems that are ahead of them. 

Help them:

  • Help them see problems as opportunities. Help your team see that problems are inevitable. It’s part of life and business, no matter how well we plan. Helping them with this understanding will assist them in becoming more open-minded when a problem occurs. 

  • Don’t linger on the implications of the problem too long. We can sometimes spend too much time focusing on the impact of the problem instead of focusing on the problem itself. For instance, you may have left your wallet at home and you begin focusing on how it’s going to impact and ruin the rest of your day. Instead, focus on what you need to do to get yourself fixed up for the rest of the day and keep moving forward. On the podcast, I share a story about realizing I didn’t have my wallet when I arrived at a hotel during a week-long trip with no means to get back home. It was a week of problem-solving for sure!

  • Make a list of worst-case scenarios. Sometimes it’s helpful just to see that the problem is just not as bad as you thought it was. Doing this will help you think objectively as you face an issue and begin problem-solving. In my wallet story, I realized quickly that I couldn’t linger on the issue and thinking of the worst-case scenarios actually helped reroute my thinking into some out-of-the-box ideas that successfully got me through the trip and back home. 

  • Focus on improvement. Help your team by helping them focus on what they can improve on to eliminate or minimize the problem going forward. Perhaps it’s a change in policy, additional training, or altering a process. For my wallet situation, I began the phone-wallet-keys check on myself before moving to a different location.  

Answer questions with questions when possible


One of my tried and true ways to help people grow in their problem-solving ability is to answer questions with my own reflective question in order for them to start thinking through things for themselves. 

Example:

Team member – “How do I handle this customer issue?”

Leader – “How do you think we should handle it?”

After hearing their strategy, affirm their answer or coach to redirect them towards the right solution. Sometimes lower problem-solving ability comes from lower levels of confidence in the job, not feeling equipped to handle the problem, or they don’t feel like they have the authority to address the question or scenario. This tactic in coaching helps strengthen and solidify all of those areas. 

Coaching by asking questions instead of always providing answers is very effective, but it takes more time. If the situation is dire, or of high urgency, fix the problem and then debrief afterward to help them see how they could have navigated the situation. 

Run chessboarding exercises


In Finding Leadership in Chess (EP 290) we talk about the chessboarding exercise.  It’s an activity that you can complete with others that centers around hypothetical scenarios that are rooted in reality and how you would respond to the situation. 

This is a great exercise to run with your team as you help them increase their problem-solving skills. It forces the person to think critically and strategically in order to overcome the change successfully. One of the best parts? You get to talk it through with no consequence since it’s hypothetical. Learning without the cleanup! 

Good problem-solving skills will serve you and your team well. Spend time honing in those abilities to become more effective and less stressed where you are. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Tips to Support Your Teams Mental Well-Being

Tips to Support Your Teams Mental Well-Being

We’ve all felt the lasting impact of the last few years. A study confirmed it, we’ve gotten more stressed and feel a high level of anxiety these days. 

In order to keep people engaged and have them stick around, it’s important for you as a leader to be mindful of your team’s stress levels and well-being.  While serious treatment for mental health concerns needs to stay with the professionals, there are actions that you can take to help support and care for your team. 

Keep a high-touch communication cadence


The saying “Out of sight, out of mind” is certainly true. Think about your personal goals, desires, and best intentions. Without intentionality to keep them in front of you, they end up falling to the wayside and become missed opportunities and disappointments. That’s one of the reasons we recommend whiteboards, apps, and/or smaller physical capture points to catalog your goals, both short and long-term. 

Think of your employees in the same way, if they are working remotely or in a different location, they are in danger of being left behind and feeling disconnected from their work and from those that they work with. 

I’ve always been a fan of weekly one-on-ones, even when I led remote teams across a large geographical area, I kept a cadence of check-ins with my direct reports. The pandemic pushed me to change my communication style in order to meet changing needs. I no longer have scheduled one-on-ones, but put quite a bit of effort into connecting multiple times a week in both formal and informal settings. This has helped with a list of things not building up and makes the conversation cadence feel like we are in an office setting without actually being in the same space. 

High touch doesn’t mean quick and shallow communications. Is it appropriate sometimes? Yes, but include meaningful and deeper conversations as well. 

Some prompts to get you started:

  • How are you feeling about your workload?  Do you have enough time to get everything done?
  • How do you feel at the start and end of your day or week? (Good question to gauge burnout)
  • How can I support you or your work?
  • How are you staying connected to others?

Help your people’s well-being by making sure that they feel informed, included, and appreciated. 

Cue into the nonverbal and physical clues
We know that there is power in non-verbal communication (EP 186). People that are struggling with stress, anxiety, and uncertainty will often show signs of distress, it’s just a matter of you as a leader being attentive enough to pick up on the clues. 

Look for changes in behavior that can include:

  • Wanting to, or outright avoiding group gatherings, both in-person and virtual. 
  • Showing signs of fatigue, aches, pains, and changes in energy level. 
  • Becoming overly passive, or losing and sense of engagement.
  • Showing nervousness, irritability, and restlessness. 
  • A drop in the level of communication

As a leader, you make it easier for your people to share when you are attentive and engaged with them on a personal level. They see your attentiveness and will open up more to you. On the other hand, they also know when you aren’t paying attention and will volunteer less information and articulate less on issues and struggles. 

Allow them time to refocus, decompress and reframe


Overall, I think people are harder on themselves than they should be. I know that I am. I have a tendency to try to push through physical pain, burnout, or setbacks.

Pushing for progress is always a great approach right? Well maybe not. I had years of built of injuries from running because I kept pushing through them all and tried to quickly fix things so I could continue on. I took the pandemic time to try something new…. rest. It took a long time, but my foot, knee, and hip issues all eventually resolved themselves. Even my back started feeling better and survived a big house move. 

When you identify that a person needs some time to focus on their well-being, don’t wait for them to ask for time. Be proactive and help them get the time to take care of themself. 

  • Keep track of their vacation cadence. Encourage them to take time off and get away from work. 
  • Help spread their workload to help ease their stress. 
  • Look for efficiencies in work to help them eliminate time wasters.
  • Partner together for ways that they can delegate some work to others. 
  • Model and demonstrate how you decompress and refocus your life. 

Encourage and affirm your people that is ok to take that time needed for them to take care of themselves. Your team shouldn’t foster a culture where an individual considers it a badge of honor when they go long times without taking a break from work. The work will always be there, but the employee won’t if they reach a high level of burnout. 

An employee’s well-being is equally owned between themselves and their leader. They should prioritize their own health and mental well-being and the leader should remain committed to supporting their well-being through their experience at work. Be an impactful leader by starting small and having the intentionality to support your team. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Alternatives to “How are you”

Alternatives to “How are you”

“How are you?” It’s a worn-out question that is part of a transactional greeting in many cultures. It’s even often said with no expectation for a real answer and when a real answer is given, it can often throw off the person that asked the question in the first place.

“How are you?” -You

“Honestly….not good” – The other person

“oh, ahhh… What’s going on?” – You (Meanwhile your mind is trying to grasp why the person answered you and what you are going to do next)

We can do better to have authentic greetings and conversation starters with others. Here are some tips and ideas to get you started in a few different circumstances depending on your level of relationship with the other person. 

Great for everyone


No matter the circumstance or the level of the relationship, here are some good starters that you can use in your greeting.

What’s been keeping you busy?
I love this one because it’s inquisitive, requires a response, opens a door to all kinds of other conversations and it is non-intrusive. 

What’s been the highlight of your day so far?
This kicks off the conversation in a positive way. It prompts the person to take a moment to reflect on how things have been going that day and the responses that are given are typically ways to connect with the person in a meaningful way. 

What’s something that you are excited about?
This is a great one for people that you are meeting for the first time because it truly allows for answers from all over the place. They may hit you back with something at work, their personal life, their favorite TV show going on right now, and even things coming up in the near future. 

For those that you already have a rapport with 
These are great conversation starters and greetings that work well when you have at least a little rapport with the other person. Maybe awkward for someone that you’ve never met, but not too intrusive for those you know. 

What have you been cooking?
We all love food. (And you can even find leadership in it PTB XXX) Sure food is about providing nutrition to our bodies, but it can also be a social event. 

How are your spirits today?
A twist on How’s it going. This one will likely throw the person off for a second because they aren’t used to hearing this question, but once they take in the question, they’ll likely respond with something true and real.

What’s been challenging lately?
While this one has a chance to be less positive than others, it does give the other person a chance to share how they’ve overcome something recently. If they do share a challenge that they are going through and it lands a little less optimistic, this gives you a chance to follow up with some encouragement, compassion, and care. 

Reconnecting with those you have a strong relationship with


There are lots of reasons we fall out of consistent touch with someone even without a years-long pandemic. These greetings and conversation starters dive right into an authentic and meaningful conversation

What have you learned lately?
For someone you are meeting for the first time, this may seem like an interview question. For the person that you’ve known a long time, it’s a question that shows your care and continued curiosity with the other person. 

Tell me about something exciting that’s happened to you since the last time we were together.
This one gives the other person a chance to brag about themselves or share some great news to accelerate the conversation. This one is wide open as well for responses from their professional or personal life. 

Tell me something that you’ve been grateful for lately. 
This one takes a more reflective approach and can touch on challenges that they may have faced that they normally wouldn’t just come out and say.  This goes straight for the heart of the other person. 

Elevate your greeting and conversation starter game by trying out different questions that get the conversation going in a memorable way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Tips to strengthen your critical thinking

Tips to strengthen your critical thinking

No matter what you do, the ability to think critically will serve you well.  Good critical thinking skills push you to think about things objectively and without bias and consider different perspectives. 

While critical thinking is an important skill, it’s not one that can be taught through an instruction manual. That’s why some leaders struggle in passing on critical thinking skills to other people. Some follow the, “You got it or you don’t” mentality when it comes to this area. 

Similarly to working out to get your muscles stronger, you can exercise your critical thinking in order to strengthen it for further success. 

Work through an idea outside of your preferred medium


We all have different learning styles – Visual, Kinesthetic (Touch), and Auditory. For example, let’s say you may love to learn by doing, touching, and trying it yourself. That’s probably how you like to think through problems and situations as well. 

Try expressing yourself, and your thought process in a medium you don’t normally fall into to help your critical thinking. Normally hands-on? Try drawing it out on a chart, writing it out, or capturing a brainstorming session. Forcing your brain to engage differently will help you look at situations in a different way. 

Put your idea through the kid test


People sometimes challenge a complicated idea or process that needs to be simplified by asking, “Could you explain this to a child and they understand you?” 

Challenge your thought process and communication by putting it through this simplicity lens. If you have a chance to share your thought or idea with a young person, even better. No doubt, they are going to give you some honest insight and poke holes in things that you didn’t think about before. 

For more help in this area check out show 254: Communicating the technical to non-technical people

Break into new content and experts


We all have our comfort areas when it comes to content, creators, and experts. I’ve interacted with many leaders that follow certain thought leaders almost religiously; Simon Senick fanatics, John Maxwell junkies, Cy Wakeman groupies. All three are great leaders, but it’s helpful to break out and get a different perspective. 

I always give a few book and podcast suggestions when people say Passing the Baton is their main source for leadership material. While I’m honored by the kind words, I think it’s healthy to get multiple perspectives on a topic and then let you make the idea your own. 

Learn from others


Ask five people how they approach the same problem and you may well get five different answers back. Most everyone takes their own unique path in some way in order to arrive at a conclusion. 

Use other people’s uniqueness to your advantage. Ask them about their thought process. How did they come to that conclusion? What else did they consider when thinking about the problem at hand? You’ll likely get a fresh idea and perspective that you can take with you for future use.  Expand your thought processes by understanding others. 

Play with brain teasers and ethical dilemma scenarios


Brain teasers are a great way to get the mind working on a problem from different angles. Running ethical dilemmas like the trolley dilemma and other scenarios that force you to think about both sides of an equation and the advantages and consequences of both sides. 

These ethical exercises don’t always have to be a serious trot down psychological either. Have fun with them. There is now even a party game wrapped around the concept. 

Stretch and grow your critical thinking skills through a number of working exercises. Growing this skill will serve you well in the moment as well as when you see that proverbial trolley coming down the tracks. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Self-Compassion in Leadership

Self-Compassion in Leadership

Leaders may be one of the groups in the workplace that need the most self-compassion. Think about our servant leadership model; it’s all about serving and putting others above yourself. (Ep 131, 132) By leading through your values and giving everything away to others, you fail to give yourself that same level of care that you afford others. 

Affording yourself self-compassion as a leader is essential for your personal and professional growth. Studies from around the world show self-compassion’s power to lower stress and anxiety while building resilience to successfully weather life’s challenges/.

Understanding your roadblocks to self-compassion


It’s important to have a good sense of what self-compassion is in order to get a firm understanding of how you can identify what’s holding you back. Self-compassion isn’t self-esteem. It’s not simply how you think about yourself, it’s really more about looking at yourself from the same perspective that you look at others. 

Here are some of the reasons and roadblocks that you may have in place that keep you from that perspective:

  • You may feel the need to be harder on yourself in order to lead at the highest level of valued-based leadership. 
  • You may feel like you don’t deserve the same break that you give others. 
  • You may not feel like you need the same compassion and care that you offer others. There may be a deep level of feeling like you are better than the other person without even knowing it. 
  • You may not see the disconnect because you don’t naturally reach out with care and compassion to others, so you don’t do so for yourself either. 

Mindfulness and Compassion together for success


Kristen Neff describes mindfulness and compassion as “two wings of a bird” working together to bring you to new heights. I love that visual and it really drives home the point that you can’t have one without the other. 

Mindfulness is the reflective focus that you have for yourself. You take in your thoughts and feelings without the extra baggage of judgment or condemnation. 

Without having a healthy mindfulness approach to yourself it’s hard to have self-compassion. Think about this; how can you be kind and show care to yourself if you constantly judging and putting yourself down?

Put it into action


Here are some ways that you can apply mindfulness and self-compassion in your life today. 

  • Be realistic with yourself. With all the competing priorities these days, you are going to fail and miss the mark. Understand that it’s ok. 
  • Be a friend to yourself. This doesn’t mean you have to be a narcissist. Instead of going to the extreme of making yourself the main character in everyone’s story, be mindful to think about yourself as you would a friend. What advice or guidance would you give them if they were in the same situation?
  • Take a mindfulness break. My latest smartwatch came with a mindfulness reminder app. At first, I took it as a distraction, but now I do take advantage of those reminders when I can. It’s helpful to refocus during those tough times, and great to be reflective and thankful during the good times. 

Self-compassion in leadership is a journey


Early in my leadership, I was extremely hard on myself and how I led others. If my leader came in and gave me some needed criticism and feedback, it would wreck me. The feedback was the right thing, but I would not give myself the same opportunities to learn and grow through missed expectations that I allowed for others. I’m certainly much better about it today. Criticism doesn’t destroy my day like it used to. That doesn’t mean that I have it all figured out or have it totally under control. I still get frustrated with myself when I shouldn’t and I  push my body too far instead of giving it the rest it needs.

Nobody’s perfect. Know that your self-compassion is a journey and not a destination. You’ll have off moments and days just like the rest of us. Understand that it’s a part of your growth process and be intentional in mindfulness and self-kindness when you hit those challenging moments. 

Your people need and deserve your care and compassion.  Give yourself the same level of care that you do others so that you can be and more effective leader, friend, and family member. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Lead fairly

Lead fairly

We sometimes think of fairness and equality as the same thing, and even with the best intentions, we will lead ineffectively, if we get the two confused. 

Equality is about being the same in quality, status, and value while being fair is your unbiased and impartial approach to people. Everyone deserves to be heard and invested in. In order to be truly fair, how you support and invest in others should be different for each person. 

Assess and dial into their individual needs


In order to lead fairly, you’ve got to have a good understanding of your team. You need to know them fairly well on a personal level and have a good grasp of what they excel at and what they need to work on in order to grow in their career. Some companies lean into talent calibrations that access performance and potential in order to highlight a person’s development needs. Great smaller companies often take the same approach but with more of a focus on one-on-ones to determine what the person’s needs are. 

Once you determine your people’s needs, you’ll find just how different they are. That’s ok! In order to lead fairly, you’ll need to invest in those needs which means you’ll approach people differently. For your high performer, you’ll likely give them stretch assignments, push their knowledge and expertise, and provide them a chance to grow their influence. For the low performer, it’s about equipping them to get back on track with expectations and standards. You may need to slow down and lead with more empathy here. Perhaps the lower performance has to do with a personal hardship that they are currently going through and need help to work through it. 

Don’t forget the top (or the middle) for the bottom 


As leaders, we are tasked with fixing problems in order to make our teams successful. It’s on us to see our goals come to life. As part of that charge, we sometimes over-focus on our lowest performers and problem children. What happens here, is that we leave our top performers alone because they are our best and are usually self-directed in their own personal leadership. 

Remember to be fair with your time. Your best people still need to see and hear from you. They want to feel valued in what they do and validated in the work outcomes that they produce. Leaving this group to themselves while you focus solely on your bottom people will lead to this group’s dis-engagement and will cause some of your best people to leave.

Rember your middle people as well! This group makes up the backbone of your larger team or organization. We need people in the middle. I call them the engine of the company because we need them to stay around a long time and they produce most of the work needed to hit our goals.  Be sure to check in with this group as well and make sure they feel valued and included. Just because they may not want to climb a ladder in additional responsibility, doesn’t mean that they should be neglected. 

Make yourself available to all


We know from unconscious bias (EP 284, 285) that we are drawn to people that we have an affinity for both because of shared personal interests and history as well as how they perform on the team. Understand while you may be spending time with everyone on your team, you make not be making yourself available to all of them. 

Build trust with everyone, so that they feel comfortable coming to you with a need. Lean into the power of active listening and let go of any preconceived notions that you may have about the person or the reason behind why they are there. Being fair in availability means that you are giving everyone a chance to be listened to. This may mean that you need to be creative in scheduling if don’t normally see a segment of your team or have a standard open block of time for drop-ins and questions. 

Fairness does not mean the same. In fact, if you treated everyone the same, it wouldn’t be fair to your team. Pull out and invest in those individual needs, make sure you are investing in all of your people, and that you are available to all of your team to connect and grow together. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

The power of vulnerability

The power of vulnerability

The strongest people in life are the ones that are comfortable saying ‘I don’t know.
-Patrick Lencioni

As a young boy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s there were plenty of heroes for kids to latch on to and look up to for leadership. While there were great leaders like Princess Leia, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, or even Optimus Prime, there was a lot of strength exhibited, but not too much vulnerability. 

Today, employees and customers are demanding transparency from organizations and leaders alike. Portraying an exaggerated level of strength and power will not connect in a lasting way. Leaders and companies can longer hide behind policies and procedures without relational consequences from others. 

So how should we leverage vulnerability in a way that feels real and authentic without giving everything away?

What is Vulnerability in leadership?


Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately lay all your transgressions, personal failings, and fears out there for all to see. It does mean that you should let others see those moments when appropriate. It’s letting people you see authentically navigate uncertainty. It’s exposing some emotion to let people see that you are real. It’s installing trust and taking a risk by sharing things about yourself and what you are going through. Vulnerability is about being true to yourself and allowing another person to see into your personal journey. 

How vulnerability impacts your life and those around you


Vulnerability is a sought out trait in personal and professional relationships. Here are some ways that it can impact you.

  • It can help lower turnover at work: People desire purpose and connectivity in the work that they do. (PTB 312: 4 ways to find purpose in work) The stronger the emotional tie that the employee has with their work, the less likely it is that they are going to go somewhere else. Leaning into your vulnerability furthers your connection with other employees in a meaningful way. Vulnerability makes it less about you and more about others, giving them a chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work. 

  • It paves the way for authentic relationships: Think about the relationships that you have that are deeper than a “How are you?” Most likely they are meaningful to you because they feel real. They are authentic. Vulnerability paves the way for those long-lasting authentic relationships. It’s really difficult for relationships to care deep meaning if there isn’t some layer of vulnerability being shown from both parties. 

  • It fast-tracks trust: Lots of companies exist with the sole purpose of providing teams and companies bonding experiences to build trust. A healthy level of vulnerability can fast-track trust just as quickly as a high ropes course or trust fall exercise. Being vulnerable with others shows them that there is a safe place to store their trust in you. 

  • It breaks down barriers to innovation and creativity: Both innovation and creativity can be a fickle and challenging thing to manifest in a team environment. You can make distractions and barriers smaller by being vulnerable and authentic with others. When you admit your mistakes and acknowledge that you don’t hold all the answers, it allows others to step in a new and exciting way. Leveraging vulnerability as a strength also helps you acknowledge others’ achievements and take your ego out of the equation. This of course only helps fuel more creativity. 

Tips to be more vulnerable with others


Being vulnerable to others can be difficult. Putting up a proverbial shield around yourself can make you feel protected. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. You may be unknowingly singling yourself out in a bad way from your peers and from the team that you serve. As competition heats up in business and in keeping great talent, it’s important to take small steps in order to be more vulnerable to others. 

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Whether you are stepping into a new role, or a new company it can be tempting to try to impress everyone. Drop the veil of perfection and let your guard down a little bit with others. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Have a great time while celebrating with others. 

  • Share your personal journey with others: Hopefully, you have a good sense of the personal areas that you need to work on to grow as a person and leader. If you don’t, ask your team, they certainly know what those areas are!  Even though they know your growth areas, it’s important for you to share those with others and tell them about your path to growth. It show’s your awareness of the topic and your willingness to discuss those with others will create a stronger personal bond. 

  • Admit your mistakes and check the ego: Easy to say and often harder to do, admitting to your mistakes with others is an important part of being vulnerable. It also helps keep your ego in check as well. If you struggle here, start small and keep yourself accountable as you grow to own up to larger mistakes. 

  • Continue to self-educate: A phrase my team uses often is “self-educate” This typically happens when one of us admits that we don’t know the answer yet to a challenge, but we commit to learning more and landing a positive outcome. I use this phrase just as much as everyone else! Acknowledge your knowledge limits and then be proactive in growing and learning. Something new and positive has always come out of the other end of one of these statements for us. 

Great leaders understand the power of vulnerability. That leverage that power, without manipulating it, to grow personal relationships, builds trust and long-term buy-in from their team, and helps themselves stand out from the competition. Be a servant leader that is vulnerable in your daily walk in order to lift others up. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

7th Anniversary show!

7th Anniversary show!

Thank you so much for listening to the show, whether today’s your first show or you have been with us from the beginning. Today, Zack, Neha, and Mike get together and discuss the past year, share some stories, preview some things coming in year 8 and answer listener questions from our mailbox!

4 Myths of leadership

4 Myths of leadership

Leadership is not some mythical art that you are either born with or not. There is no born leader. All great leaders are created through their willingness to continue learning, their behavior towards others, and their ability to think strategically to get the job done. 

Here are some common other leadership myths that you may have heard about or even experienced in your own leadership walk. 

The Position Myth

“I’m only the leader when I have the title.”

The Position Myth is one that new employees can find themselves falling into, but it also applies to people that are settled and content right where they are.

“I’m not a ‘leader’ so this doesn’t apply to me,” or “Nobody listens to me because I’m not the leader.”  One of the common themes throughout our years at Passing the Baton is that you are a leader no matter your title or position. 

You’ll always have at least one person in your life depending on your leadership…… look in the mirror, it’s you!  It’s highly like that you have others as well that look towards your leadership and don’t care about your title. Think of peers, family members, friends, and even your boss and their boss. They may lean on your leadership in different ways, but they are all counting on you. 

Those that fail to understand that leadership is about influence and not a position, typically don’t fare well with a formal leadership role. 

The Contentment Myth

“When I land at my aspirational role, I’ll be happy.”

The Contentment Myth is the horizon that “A” type leaders are always chasing. The idea is that you’ll slow down, and enjoy life once you realize a major career milestone. 

I got caught up in this myth during my own leadership walk. I had a level of leadership that I really wanted to reach with a singular focus. My family moved around quite a bit in the journey to reach that goal. Through hard work and the support of my teams and peers, I made it and became the 2nd youngest person ever to reach that role in a 100-year-old company.  I was finally content in my career. 

Not long after someone asked me what was I going to do next, and my answer of contentment was not good enough for them. 

“You move around every 2-3 years. Wait until you hit that mark, and we’ll see.” 

At 3 years, I was no longer content.  I broke the trap of the myth once I fully turned my contentment toward seeing others become successful in their own career aspirations. 

Slow down and enjoy the journey that you are currently on and let the destination comes when and if it does. You won’t miss special moments that are currently happening in your life, you will grow a larger appreciation for others, and you gain a higher level of satisfaction in your daily life in the process. 

The Freedom Myth

“Once I make it as a leader, I’ll be free to do what I want.” 

It’s easy to look up at the proverbial leadership ladder and think, “Why in the world are we doing this?” and “If I ever, land that job, I’ll finally be free of all this bureaucracy and will be free to make decisions to change this place.”

While it is quite possible to effect change as you step into a new role, you’ll probably lose more freedom than you get; or at a minimum trade-off levels of freedom in different areas of work and life. 

In the reverse pyramid style of servant leadership, the higher you go, to more people that you serve. That means you trade off more personal and professional freedom in order to meet the needs of others. 

Another way we sometimes can fall into the Freedom Myth is because as much as we may think we know about those above us, you never truly know the level of co-dependency, competing priorities, and responsibilities until you step into the role and live it out yourself. 

Often times the grass is not greener on the other side; it’s just a different type of grass. 

The All-or-Nothing Myth

“Why try if I can’t be the top person?”

If you can’t win then what’s the point of playing the game? Leadership is not an all-in or all-out philosophy. The “top” leader shouldn’t be any more important than a leader at any other level.  

Kindred at Home is the largest in-home and hospice care company in the U.S. and they know where their most valuable leaders are; the ones that lead the teams in the field that take direct care of their patients. Ask any executive and they will all say that the branch director is more important than them.  Even though the branch director may not be the top leader in the organization, they have a profound impact on the level of care for their patients at the local level. 

You don’t need to be at the top to make a difference. In keeping with the Kindred at Home example, I’ve seen numerous stories of people having a literally life-changing impact on others without carrying a formal leadership title. 

Make the most out of your influence right where you are. 

Leadership is a choice that you make. No titles, letters after your name or position, will ensure that people will follow you. Make the choice to lead yourself, your family, and your team well no matter your life or career stage. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Actions to Combat Burnout

Actions to Combat Burnout

Burnout can have a profound impact on your personal and professional life. When I begin to feel burnout, it shows in the things I love most. Projects and passions take a lot more effort and I find myself spinning my wheels instead of using my time to be fully effective. Burnout can happen to everyone, no matter your job, industry, age, or lifestyle. 

Last week we talked about the signs of burnout. Now that we know the indicators and causes of burnout, we’ll look at ways to combat it and begin the journey to recovery. 

Acknowledge it


It’s said that the first step in overcoming a problem, is first to admit that you have a problem. That is certainly the case in burnout. If you try to tough it out and lie to yourself that “everything is fine,” you’ll never be able to move to a healthier step. 

Acknowledging that you are facing burnout doesn’t make you a bad leader, an insufficient parent, or a poor student. It says you are human…. just like the rest of us. As a leader, it’s also important to step up and share this vulnerability with others on your team. It will help them support you, models healthy behavior, and is a good indicator for others to check their own level of burnout as well. 

Share that vulnerability with yourself and with others so that you can begin the recovery process. 

Make it a priority


After the acknowledgment, the next step is putting action behind your discovery.  

  • Look at your schedule and prioritize your time based on your recovery goal. What’s currently taking up space that is feeding your burnout? Take it in small steps instead of fully blowing up your week. Find small segments of time so you can invest in yourself, decompress and do something relaxing. 
  • Eat, Sleep and Be Mindful: How are you eating? When I start feeling burnout coming on, I notice that I start eating like garbage; snacking, and grazing all the time. Set a notification on your phone or other reminders to wrap your evening up earlier to get better rest. Finally, use mindfulness apps, websites, or activities that help you focus on breathing and lowering stress. 
  • Step away from the tech: It’s easy to get entangled in our personal technology, especially if you work from home, do hybrid work, or are currently in school.  Step away for tech-free breaks throughout the day or take a tech vacation, either partially by stepping away from some social media apps, games, etc or take a full-on tech vacation where you truly unplug and do something for yourself instead. 

Include others to help with recovery


While over time, you can recover from burnout alone, you can move through the phase much more quickly by including others in your journey and by clearing the way for others to have a clear path to get back on track as well. 

  • Empower and equip others to have hybrid work arrangements. Lean into flexible work and time off. Accommodate fully in and fully-remote workers if possible. 
  • Beef up (and take advantage of)  programs and offerings that encourage people to get out and do something different. Look for volunteering opportunities or other team well-being programs. 
  • Spend more time together that doesn’t have an agenda. Online meetings are very transactional in nature and people need social connections. 
  • Poll the team to discover ideas to refine good work-life rhythm. 
  • Reconnect with close friends and family members that you may have not seen in a while. Do something experiential together.

Prioritize health and happiness for yourself and others that you lead. Doing so will lead to continued joy in their workplace, empowerment to do great things, and a strong sense of purpose. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH