What a year it has been! COVID-19 feels like it has been around forever at this point, but it was just a year ago when countries across the world began to lockdown. Since then the job market has tanked, civil unrest and protests began to happen across the globe and natural disasters were a constant news item.
Numerous reports and studies have shown our collective outlook and morale fell off a cliff over the last 12 months. Here are some tips to become miserable.
We’ve talked at length in the past about the pull and power of isolation. For many, our way of work has totally changed and as a result, we are more isolated than we ever have been. Prolonged isolation is not good for you mentally, emotionally, or spiritually.
Be intentional in your week to have time where you interact with others in some fashion. Even if that means turning on your camera during video calls and getting out where you can see some people. (walk in the park, grocery shopping, etc) Get out there and reconnect to the world the best that you can.
Frame circumstances in a “Why me?” format
These types of people think that the world is against them. Traffic is always bad, they can’t catch a break and if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. When you are at the end of your rope it’s easy to latch on to this idea and thought. I know that I have before during times that I have reached that point.
The “Why me” state of mind really is just that….it’s a state of mind. Everybody has unforeseen things and circumstances happen to them, but it’s how you handle it and approach it that makes all the difference. Approach each circumstance with positive intent and what you can do you quickly overcome what’s before you. Not so much what you can’t do, but instead what you can do in the situation.
Why mes also seem to see more bad things happen to them because they are looking for them and are very sensitive to them. It’s like a model of a car that you suddenly see around town after you bought that same model. You didn’t see them before because you didn’t have the awareness or were looking for them. Give your mind and emotions and break by letting go of the search for unfortunate things that pop up in your week, both big and small.
Eat much, move little
Well, I can say that this one got me over the COVID year. I had dropped quite a bit of weight and was preparing for my favorite race of the summer and then it was canceled. For about 3 months, I stopped running and starting eating….everything! It took a good bit of effort to get back on track and I still go back and forth some of my progress here.
Here is another example of changing work and habits that impacted us over the last year. We just stopped getting out of the house nearly as much as before and as a result, stopped moving.
Find some time throughout your day to take a few short breaks to get up and move around. Go for a walk during lunch. Spend some time outside at night and in the evenings. Go on a campout. Whatever that looks like for you, get and move some. Your stress will go down and you’ll feel better on several different levels.
Simply be miserable by not changing. You may be saying that you are miserable because of all the changes that have happened in the last year! I hear you, what I am saying is to continue to change and adapt to your new environment.
Find ways to push yourself to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This year I have taken up learning morse code and have a plan to get back where I want to be physically while continuing to lead in civic areas across my city. There is nothing worse than putting yourself in a tough spot and then resigning yourself to your situation. You change instead of sitting and waiting for the circumstances to change.
Being miserable is easy. Take the four tips above and you’ll be well of your way. We all have a choice when determining our own level of satisfaction. Choose to keep pushing forward even when it’s tough or you don’t know the direction.
Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided. -Sophie Scholl
Scholl grew up in Nazi Germany where she began passively resisting the teaching and programs as early as 13-years-old and through a small group of friends eventually lead a passive resistance movement centered around the philosophy that was a counterpoint to the Nazi propaganda machine. She held true to her beliefs as she was eventually caught and executed for high treason at the age of 21.
Sophie Scholl is a powerful example of integrity, accountability, and passion and she modeled several leadership characteristics that we can learn from today.
She leaned into her talents to contribute to the right cause
Scholl was no warrior. Rather than trying to defect to the Allied side during WWII, she leaned into her talents to make an impact where she was. She and a small group of friends began a passive resistance movement against the Nazi regime by writing articles and distributing leaflets around central Germany and the local university. The group and publication became known as the White Rose and several publications were distributed during the summer of 1942
What difference can you make? It’s sometimes hard to see how we as individuals can impact large-scale issues like climate change, racism, and false narratives. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the enormity of the situation look at your skills and talents. What are you great at or love to do and how can you use that skill and passion to contribute in some way?
The White Rose was a group of 5 kids and young adults who wrote, printed and distributed the material. During the spike in Black Lives Matter protests in the Spring of 2020, a high schooler in the Atlanta suburbs organized his own protests that saw hundreds of people unite from all walks of life. Don’t underestimate the level of impact that you can have on others.
She spoke up at a time that mattered
As time continues to separate the most current generation from at atrocities of the Nazis and the circumstances that led to WWII, people sometimes assume that the whole country backed the misguided values and mission of the Nazi leadership. That was certainly not the case. Sophie Scholl was one of many citizens in the country that voiced their concern and call to resist as the regime expanded across Europe.
Groupthink is the way of making decisions that discourage individualization and creativity. It has destroyed organizations, toppled governments and in the age of social media, led to people taking up sides with groups that they never should have been a part of.
Speak up to share your opinion in group meetings and gatherings. We conduct talent calibrations where leaders discuss their team with their peers and supervisor and talk about each individual’s performance and potential and we always learn new things about people in each session because we encourage everyone in the room to share their insight and dealings with the person currently being discussed. We can put up blinders when it comes to our people and as we lead strategically in both our personal and professional life.
Be intentional to break up groupthink if you see it manifesting itself on your team and have the courage to step up and make your voice heard.
She was brave and accountable
Sholl and the rest of the White Rose were arrested for distributing the sixth leaflet at the University of Munich on February 18th, 1943. The group was making a run of dropping off the sixth leaflet through the main building on campus. They had a suitcase full of the printings and left stacks outside the classes so the students would find them after class was over. Sophie found a few remaining copies still in the suitcase and threw them from the top floor down into the atrium. This unplanned action was observed by the university maintenance man, who reported them to the Gestapo
They were arrested and taken into custody where the interrogator initially thought that Scholl was innocent. After her brother confessed, Sophie assumed full responsibility in order to protect the rest of the White Rose. The Gestapo moved quickly in the case. In just 4 days after the arrest, the group was put on trial, found guilty, and were executed by guillotine.
Scholl could have easily denied her involvement and may have gotten away free, but instead, she took responsibility and it ultimately cost her her life. Accountability is not always about life and death consequences, but your integrity and word do hold value. What is your word worth to those around you? (EP 179)
Your team, family, and friends are counting on you to hold onto your integrity. If you believe in something, be willing to stand up for the idea or value during tough times. Instead of lashing out when standing up for your value and position, own your stance, and present it in a caring and empathetic way.
A few interesting facts
The sixth leaflet that was being distributed when the White Rose was arrested, was smuggled out of Germany and made it back to the UK. They in turn mass-produced the document and airdropped it over Germany.
The school where the White Rose was caught is called Ludwig Maximilians University and is still in existence. Today a memorial to the group sits outside the main building that they were caught at.
Although not as widely known in the US, Scholl is much more recognized in Europe. Her legacy lives on in several films, literature, plays, and music.
Sophie was one of six siblings. Her sister Elisabeth married Sophie’s long-term boyfriend after her execution and lived 100 years nearly to the day. She passed away on Feb 28, 2020.
Lean into your talent and passion to leverage your values to impact others. Follow your conscience as you break up group think, own your intentions, and embrace accountability for yourself and others.
The real way to gain happiness is to give it to others. -Lord Robert Baden-Powell
Robert Baden-Powell is the father of the scouting movement that eventually grew to be the largest and most significant youth movement of the 20th century. Millions of scouts owe at least some of their success to principles and lessons that they learned in the scouting program as a youth.
While he turned out to be an inspiring leader, he started out just as many of us do, trying to find his place in leadership and the world.
He chased his Calling only to find it somewhere else
Baden-Powell seemed to always be chasing his Calling as a young adult. He was a serviceman in the English Army, serving as a scout, spy, and several different leadership roles. He was also a prolific writer and wrote many books wrapped around hunting and military characters. Throughout most of Baden-Powell’s career he thought that if he had combat experience, he would be validated in his leadership.
He got that experience in South Africa while his troops defended a small town of Mafeking from over 7000 Boers for 217 days and the age of 43. Baden-Powell finally got the acclimation and respect from his peers following the event, but it was the campaign itself that was the beginning of his true Calling. He found a passion for developing youth in Mafeking by creating the Mafeking Cadet Corps to take care of the smaller tasks around town.
As you chase your own Calling (Ep 161) Be willing aware of the changing environment around you. What’s changed around you? How have you changed over the years? Do you have new passions or talents that you didn’t have several years ago? Callings can change…and maybe you aren’t following your lasting Calling, but your Calling for now. Be willing to let go of or use the old to help move towards future growth and impact.
He was a leader who thought about the future
During his last military assignment, Baden-Powell attended the annual Boys Bridge drill ceremony in Glasglow. Here William Smith, founder of the youth group, asked Baden-Powell to rewrite his book Aides for Scouting for a younger audience. This spurred him to publish articles and magazines about the topic and he hosted the first scouting campout. He was truly inspired to help future generations develop their character and skill to become great citizens and leaders.
Time has a way of tempting us to focus on the here and now and not worry about the future. Let the future worry about itself! That train of thought and behavior costs people relationships, careers, and happiness among other things. As a society, we are currently dealing with the impact of climate change, inflation, and debt loads in part because of past generations. Clean up the past and pave a way for the future.
Understand what’s important to those around you and help support them in turning their dreams and goals into a reality. Leverage your network, resources, and time to build up others to greatness.
Always take care of your future self. Do something today that helps you when you wake up in the morning. I thank my past self all the time for taking care of me. I’ve also got to continue paying it forward as well.
Slow down to reflect on what’s truly important today and what is just a distraction at the moment. We waste a lot of time and energy on things that simply won’t matter in a few years from now. Focus that energy on things that will carry you forward instead.
His communication started from where the other person was
“See things from the boy’s point of view.”
Baden-Powell was often quoted in his teaching about leading from the perspective of the boy. The program would only be successful when it met the youth where they were and instilled leadership and citizenship principles on their terms. As he expanded the scouting program over the years to younger and older children, he was mindful to adapt the material to the child’s changing needs and wants as they grew up.
“Can we not interpret our adult wisdom into the language of boyhood?”
Sometimes we have a tendency to start our communication from our point of view, but Baden-Powell knew that it was essential to start from the other person’s position and life stage in order to connect a message. How often from the other person’s perspective and work to guide and inform them instead of starting from a distant point and trying to pull the people to you?
Your success rate in communicating vision and change will increase as you think about your audience first and work from there in crafting your strategy and message. I doubt scouting would have taken off it was a bunch of formal meetings and lessons as opposed to learning activities, camping, and other outdoor adventures.
A few interesting facts
In 2019 Boy Scouts of America controversially began allowing girls to participate in the program. Powell himself was supportive of girls in scouting. Over 8,000 had joined in 1910. He later convinced his sister Agnes to organize their own movement. It was called the Girl Guides.
In some countries in Asia, Scouting is an official institution and is run with firm military discipline, as opposed to the laid-back, volunteer-parent atmosphere seen in the US. While there are general understandings and shared values, how the program administered varies by country.
Earning your Eagle Scout badge has its privileges. You get an automatic promotion in the military when you enlist in the US military, as well as special discounts, scholarships, and other benefits that follow you for the rest of your life.
11 of the 12 people that have walked on the moon were Eagle Scouts.
Continue to chase your purpose while building yourself and others towards the future and communicate in a way that connects with your audience.
Trust is the most highly valued commodity when it comes to relationship building, both in your personal and professional life. Your level of comfortability, authenticity, and transparency are all heavily influenced by your level of trust in someone. So how do we react when someone breaks our trust?
Lean into self-management during the moment
Self-management is a part of emotional intelligence is all about how you act, react, or don’t respond at all to people and situations. You’ll especially want to strengthen and lean into your self-management skills in heat of the moment when you’ve found out that there has been a break in trust.
Think of breaking trust like accidentally dropping a mug and breaking it. It was fine just a second ago and now it’s in pieces on the floor. Having poor self-management would be like you stomping on the mug and breaking it even further rather than taking a moment and starting to clean up. How you react at the moment can cause further damage or can re-direct the conversation on what positive steps can be taken next.
Take some time to heal and reflect
No one should expect a larger break in trust to be immediately forgiven. There is likely a lot of hurt, questions about other topics you trusted the person with, and now a reluctance to continue to trust that person.
It’s ok to take some time for yourself and give yourself and the other person time to reflect on what the break-in trust was and why it happened. Schedule time together to continue the conversation after you’ve had a chance to look at the issue holistically.
Be willing to forgive and move forward
There are going to be times when someone breaks your trust and either they won’t admit it or won’t be willing to apologize for what they have done. As hard as it may be, you’ll need to get to a point, eventually, where you are willing to forgive the person and move on.
I had an earth-shattering break in trust in my father that led us to not speaking for several years. After I accepted that he wasn’t going to apologize, I found myself looking for closure. I reached out and we cleared the air and this led to us starting to rebuild our relationship. That same year he passed away suddenly. I am so thankful that we were able to reconnect and begin to move past the issue.
You never know when the dynamic of a relationship will dramatically shift. Take it from me, letting go and forgiving someone is much more powerful than holding on to anger and resentment.
Give them another chance
I’m not advocating that you immediately give the person back all the trust and respect you had for them prior to the incident. Instead, give them small chances to rebuilt trust and earn the right to get back to the point that they previously were with you.
Even though they are the ones at fault, you have the power to allow them to rebuild a mutually respectful relationship again.
Make a better tomorrow. -ZH
Maybe you have broken trust with someone. Be sure to check out our podcast- Betrayal of Trust (EP 47)to hear actions that you can take to earn someone’s trust back
The term “culture fit” is used with increasing frequency as more companies and teams begin to actually live out their values. In prior decades those values often hung on the walls of the office but never held true meaning. Today they are used to focus their employees and are used as a gateway to secure the newest generation of workers entering the workforce.
But what culture is fit anyway? Many hiring managers and recruiters use the term generically when finding a reason not to bring on someone. Are you looking for someone that truly matches your culture and values or are you looking for someone that you would want to hang out with?
Focus on the right match
Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, shares several stories on how the company was successful in its early days of scaling up by looking for the right matches in unconventional places instead of staying in the traditional lanes of recruiting and culture fit.
As I look back on my career, some of the best hires that I’ve had have come from unconventional places. Sometimes it was from a totally different industry and other times it was from a vastly different personal journey. Focus on what the person values as well as their problem-solving ability and teachability. If those are aligned you are likely going to have an unstoppable team member join the group.
On the flip side, I’ve hired some people that I thought would be a great fit personality-wise that ended up disappointing me both in their performance and their potential. Take the time to ensure that match is solid before advancing a future teammate.
Mix personalities for the best teams
On the surface, it may seem like you want to align the personalities of the people with the leader for the best results. A study from Harvard Business Review suggests that the opposite may be true. Introverted leaders were more effective at leading extroverts and extroverts were better fits for leading introverts.
Introverted leaders were more likely to greenlight and support extroverts’ out-of-the-box thinking and ideas. Think about the dynamics here for a moment. A great introverted leader is reflective, thoughtful, strategic, and likely has good self-awareness. It brings balance to the extroverted team member’s approach and the introverted leader leverages the talents and passions of others that they don’t have. When an extravert leads another extravert, they will sometimes compete for ideas, are more likely to push their own perspective, and may want more oversight into a project.
My most successful teams were ones that were built very intentionally around bringing in other personality types, backgrounds, and life perspectives. We all held the same core values desire to meet our goals, but it wasn’t too uncommon for people on the team to have different reasons for wanting to get there.
Check your culture
It’s good from time to time to step back and check your culture. Is your culture different from your values or mission? Is your culture wrapped around a personality type instead of a philosophical way on how you go about your business?
I hear the phrase, “We want good, high energy, people” often when I’m helping a leader or group build, or rebuild, a team. While great people are what we are all looking for, starting with a preconceived notion of what that person looks and acts like only limits your ability to find someone that truly fits the role.
If you’ve seen the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, you know that that company’s culture is such a part of the movie that is its own character in the film. Driven solely by behaviors and personalities as opposed to the right fit.
Avoid letting “culture fit” drive additional bias as you bring on new people. Your business and team will benefit as you bring in people that match your values while having a different perspective.
Colin Hunter is an Author, Mentor, Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Potential Squared, an international business that specializes in creating playgrounds to disrupt the way people are led. Three areas of focus include: Building Leadership Capabilities, Strengthening Functional Capabilities, and guiding Innovative Cultures.
Colin generates a lasting professional impact with those he works with and is renowned for being what they and he calls refreshingly direct, lighting inspirational fires to drive change. He facilitates, mentors, and coaches individuals and teams in the areas of leadership presence, personal brand, change leadership, innovation, strategic dialogue, creating board-level influence, and earning a seat at the executive table. With the use of actors, cutting-edge virtual realities, and a new leadership framework, clients have shown award-winning differences in the ways they lead. Colin prides himself by practicing what he preaches with being wrong more and learning fast from it.
Stress is something that we all deal with on a daily basis. It’s not a matter of if you have stress today, it’s more a matter of how much stress you have today. Your body, mind, and effectiveness begin to take a hit as the scales begin to tip into unhealthy levels. You’ll need to be able to identify how stress manifests itself in you and then ways to bring it back into balance so that you can remain healthy and effective for yourself and others.
Signs that you may have too much stress
Your body is and will communicate to you when you are feeling too much stress. There may be times that your mind discounts just how much you are carrying, but the body will always tell you the truth. Here are some signs that you are carrying too much stress:
You are more irritable, you anger more easily or you have restlessness.
Decision quality decreases. You may begin to make more mistakes or bad decisions
You have a feeling of being overwhelmed, unable to focus, or unmotivated
Your frame of mind begins to change. You may feel like a less positive person or your outlook and demeanor begins to change.
Your body will also give you physical clues that you are under stress. For me, my left eye begins to twitch. It started when I was in my early 20s and running a business. It honestly freaked me out at the time because I thought that there was something seriously wrong with me. Today, it acts as an alarm to tell me I’m starting to redline my stress levels.
Tips to manage stress
There is not a magic pill that you can take to wipe away and reduce the stress in your life. It’s often a combination of a number of small things that get you back in a healthy balance
Cut the noise. There are other things in your life that are adding stress to you that you can easily cut off without much impact. Too much time reading the news, the things that you look at on the internet, or our social media apps can be adding unrecognized stress to your life. Look at what media you are consuming on a daily basis and re-evaluate how much you take in.
Stress is not all bad
Stress is not totally bad. Stress in the right doses is actually helpful for you. It pushes your sense of urgency, creativity, and ability to get the job done. Instead of spending all of your energy on eliminating all stress, pick out a few of the tips above to put some balance in your life, and keep moving forward.
Remember that you do need some stress, just not all of it.
Recognize stress as it begins to reach unhealthy levels and begin putting activities and behaviors in place to help mitigate the impact. Also, be on the lookout for stress in those around you. As you see it grow in others, pull them aside, and offer your insight and assistance. You may be a catalyst for a positive change in a person’s life.
Competition handled correctly can be a huge motivator and call to action in both your professional and personal life. Look at NASA who is seeing a massive resurgence and breakthroughs as it pushes further into space exploration. Break down all the science and it comes down to one strategy for them: competition.
NASA has held competitions for everything from rocket delivery systems to space toilets. They win by getting the best solution to the challenges that they face in their mission, while individuals and teams grow in innovation, knowledge, and experience in new and exciting ways.
Competiton can originate in many forms
Think about your life or your organization and you can probably find many different types of examples of how the competition helped to push you and others to be better. There are several places to start as you build competition for yourself.
Performing against others – This is probably the area that most people think of when it comes to competition. All sporting events are about competing against an individual or team. In the business world, a great example is the space race happening between companies in the U.S.
Time – Sometimes it’s not about how high you can run up the score, but how you can perform a set timeline or how quickly you can complete a task or project. Time is a great way to push you and your team to innovation, progress, and new growth. It’s also a competitor that never sleeps!
Efficiency – Again instead of a score, this competition is all about being the least wasteful, or most effective. What’s the best way to carry out the task or complete the project?
Quality – Sometimes the winner is not about who cranks out the most, but who delivers a better product or experience. You’ll see this type of competition in the business world when it relates to customer satisfaction scores, employee net promoter scores, and other sentiment grounded reports.
Become a master at situational awareness
One of the lessons from COVID-19 was that those that were able to weather the proverbial storm did so because they were adaptable, but also because they could see what their competitors were doing and reacted accordingly. Just as you can learn from best practices in what your completion is doing, there are just as many lessons in what they are struggling in.
Dig into the whys of both ends of the spectrum. What is making them successful and why are they struggling? Learn the lessons from both and look to your unique talents, perspective, and gifts to see how you can improve upon the ideas.
Handle internal competition the right way
Internal competition has a bad reputation at times because it’s often not handled right. You can turn teammates into enemies and the mentality from a collective group to individual success if you don’t create the right environment here.
Be mindful as you create scenarios that lead to internal competition to ensure that you are rewarding your best talent while keeping the team dynamic strong and healthy.
Embrace competition as you make you and your team better leaders in your field while building teamwork towards a shared goal.
People think about different things when it comes to the power of persuasion depending on your life stage. For teens and young adults, it may be focused on social media influencers, while adults may think of salespeople, politicians, or the pushy person in the office.
No matter your opinion or perspective, persuasion will be an important soft skill in your leadership toolbox. You’ll need to be able to think on your feet and deliver your message that connects with others in order to get your points and ideas across.
Connect to the person’s values
Think about the person or audience that you are talking to to take stock of what is important to them. What do they value, enjoy, and appreciate? What do they not like, trust, or are indifferent towards? Lean into that perspective to start from where the other person is instead of trying to pull them over to your side.
We’ve discussed a similar idea in Leading Tenured Employees. I had no problem creating buy-in from leaders that were younger in an organization that I was leading, but struggled to pull tenured leaders along. Once I understood that the different values and motivations for people later in their career, I was able to craft my message in a way that saw many of them willing to step in to change.
People are more polarized in opinions than ever. Connect the message to the person’s values to help them see how the idea or proposal aligns with what they hold in high regard.
Create impact with your stories
Storytelling is a powerful tool in helping get your point across to others. Stories are so strong, that they can cause a person to discount facts to the contrary of the idea or topic. Look at the rise of conspiracy theories, flat earthers, and how smart people get pulled into a world of deceit. Many of the entry points are rooted in stories; a personal story that someone relates to, a story that makes just enough sense, or a personal account about an experience. (Be sure to use your stories for good!)
There is a reason why I tell so many stories on the podcast and when I coach others. It’s what people remember. Connect a great story to your point so that a person can visualize the concept, or even better, visualize themselves in the situation that you are talking about.
Science and facts are your allies
I know I just said that storytelling can discount facts, but facts and science wins people over, especially in business, on a daily basis. Leverage research, studies, and facts to present your case. This will certainly help if the person is not totally bought into the idea and shows that are coming in with more than just a personal opinion.
Anything that you can frame up in a scientific or facts based way will make your idea more convincing to others.
Be confident in your approach. Work to lower the amounts of “I think” and “I believe” and just state the idea. If you think the idea is going to work say “This gets us to where we need to be,” instead of, “I believe that this solution will help us reach our goal.” It’s subtle, but it will help get your point across in a more impactful way.
Just as in most things in life, have a balance here. Be confident, but not cocky. You don’t want to turn off your audience by your level of overconfidence, otherwise, they will never listen to your message in the first place.
Be persuasive with others by starting from where they are. Be confident and bring both facts and great stories to connect with your audience.
I like to think of myself as a fairly observant person. Whether that’s the details in the way someone dresses, their body language in an interaction, or the general surroundings, I enjoy the finer details on what’s going on around me.
Having good observation skills wasn’t just a fun hobby. Those skills served me very well as an operational leader for a large company and in the consulting that I’ve done over the years.
Honing in your observation skills can bring your business, team, and personal career to the next level.
As with any other skill that you are looking to learn or upgrade, you’ve got to start slow. Slow down your walking speed, talking speed, and even your drive time to give yourself a chance to soak in the details of your surroundings.
As you slow down, look around more with purpose. What do you see that you hadn’t noticed before? What subtle signs are your co-workers giving you in their nonverbals? What needs attention around the office (or home) that you hadn’t seen before?
As you get better at this skill, you can do it with a degree of speed, but slowing down will always help you.
Become a people watcher
Pre-COVID, this was one of my favorite things to do at restaurants, outdoor events, or just out and about with others. Growing your observation skills of people will help you pick out the nuances of what people are doing around you or how they are communicating in ways that they don’t even realize.
Some common things to look for:
How are they dressed?
What mannerisms do they have? Any quirks?
How do they carry themselves? You can make an assessment of their own level of care and attention to detail by the effort they put into themselves.
How formal or informal are they when they interact with others?
Do they act differently around certain people?
What their typical energy level? This can help you get an early gauge of a problem when you see this change.
Make a game of it in your personal outings
I used to hate grocery shopping, but during the pandemic, it was my only real time to be around people. I began to look forward to it every week because it gave me a chance to get out a keep my observation skills sharp.
Who is wearing a mask? What type of mask are they wearing? Who was going the wrong way down the aisle? What were people buying? How are people interacting with others? What did the store look like? Was there a theme on what was sold out? What were the employees doing?
As my wife and I would come out of the store we would sometimes quiz each other, “Did you notice…..” There has always been something for us to talk about when we were observant enough to pick up on all the details around us.
Strengthening your observation skills can provide you with several benefits that impact your team, your career, and your business.
The details of your business that faces a customer/client will always stay fresh, crips, and updated. Just as you can become nose-blind to things, you can be blinded to details in an environment that you are constantly in.
You will begin to pick up on co-worker and employee issues earlier and will have a chance to address them before they escalate.
The details in your personal work will increase and raise the overall quality and value of your output.
Being more observant about others will help you learn (and affirm) the behaviors that you want when you interact with others.
Stay observant and the opportunities to stand out from the crowd will begin to make themselves apparent to you.
The old saying of “prove me wrong” was used a lot when I was growing up. The thought and motivation behind the statement is to get the other person to step up and prove your idea, ability, or skills.
As I grew in my own leadership I found that statement inherently flawed. When I wanted my people to step up, I lead with the statement, “Prove me right.” One word makes a huge difference.
Starting in a positive place
When you tell someone to prove you wrong, you are starting out from a negative perspective. You’re saying, “I’d don’t believe in you or your ability to show me otherwise.” This motivator may have worked a generation or two ago, but no one today wants to work for someone that doesn’t believe in them.
Turning the phrase around is still challenging to the other person. “Prove me right,” says that, “Look I believe in you, maybe more than you do, now go validate my trust and belief in your ability.”
Starting out in a positive place as a person tackles a challenge is a valuable boost of energy to get them going.
Encourage them along the way
A leader with a prove me right attitude checks in with their people and see how they are doing to meet their goal. They will support the person through advice, guidance, mentoring, and offering resources for the person to hit that challenge and goal.
Be mindful to check in periodically with the person you offered the challenge to. Make sure that they are staying on track and provide a good environment where they can be transparent with the struggles and questions that they have. If they feel like you are going to be judgemental, not open to listening, or dismissive then they will not open up to you.
A prove me wrong mindset leader waits around until the project deadline is up before they re-engage. This person is going to hit you with, “I told you so,” or a degree of skepticism before they acknowledge your win.
Validate and celebrate
Regardless of the outcome celebrate the effort that the person or team put in to meet the challenge or goal. Maybe they blew away everyone’s’ expectations. Celebrate big with them and point out individual achievements in front of the whole team or a group of people. Perhaps they fell well short of the goal. Take time to celebrate the progress that was made and look back to assess what impacted the final result and what the team could have done differently. Avoid signaling out a person and instead focus on the activities, behaviors, and outside factors that came into play.
Why bother making the distinction?
The difference in the two statements and mindsets is only one word, but you can see how differently they impact your team.
Be intentional in every word that you use when motivating your team. While you may not give it much thought, the wrong word or phrase can linger in a team member’s mind long after you’ve moved on. If you find yourself later regretting what you say, slow down, prepare more ahead of time and stick to your general script.
If you find yourself too scripted, think more in terms of guardrails and step out of your comfort zone to be a little more flexible and authentic in your conversations with others.
Lead your people with the right attitude that lifts them up rather than forcing them to prove their worth to gain your attention. They will perform better, stay longer, and perhaps one day contribute at levels that neither one thought was possible.
I really admire boxers for their dedication and commitment to reaching a goal. Think about all that goes into a fight that can last as little as a minute long. They thoroughly watch what they eat months ahead of time, They are constantly training, and they sacrifice other non-essential items that distract them from the upcoming fight.
From the prep, to the fight and recovery; a good boxer can teach us a thing or two about leadership.
They are constantly improving and preparing
Watch any boxing movie and the vast majority of the time of the film is focused on the training and planning as opposed to the actual fights. A boxer quickly loses their standing and reputation when they stop furthering their experience.
When I talk to successful and well-respected leaders, one of the most common traits that they look for in other leaders is the act of being a continual learner. On the flip side, I’ve seen and coached many leaders that plateaued in their careers. At some point, they had a sense of arrival and stopped pushing their personal expertise and lost the desire to continue to change.
If there is one trait or ability that I would recommend to keep sharp, it’s this one. Being a continual learner feeds so many other aspects of your leadership. It keeps you agile against a constantly shifting environment, helps you stay relevant, and helps you relate better to others.
They know how to dodge a punch
Boxers practice dodging punches just as push as they do on focusing on their hitting skills. It doesn’t matter how hard you hit if you are constantly taking punches too. While you might not be in a physical fight on a regular basis, there’s a good likelihood that you face verbal and emotional fights on the regular.
Some people easily fall into these traps and find themselves in fights that they know that they shouldn’t be in. Dodging these proverbial punches heavily ties back into our EQ series.
Self-management – Ok, you got hit, now what? How you react here makes all the difference. A good boxer knows that they are going to get hit and have to keep dodging if they are going to be successful. Understand your hot buttons and work to control those in the heat of the moment.
Social awareness – Boxers learn to quickly pick up on the non-verbal cues of their opponents in order to react quickly and last longer in the fight. Hone in on the social cues around you to anticipate when things are about to take a turn for the worse. How does the room feel? What is the demeanor of the people around you? Who is not acting like their normal self?
The ability to dodge a proverbial punch can save you and the other person from a painful interaction.
They get back up after a defeat
We get knocked down in life. Sometimes it may be a smaller thing like feeling down and disappointed with someone close to you, to something big as suddenly losing your job or a family member.
A boxer with any worth doesn’t quit and walk away after their first defeat. They take time to re-assess the fight and then work to heal and start training again. Don’t give up because you have had a setback, no matter how big or small it may be. Take time if needed to heal mentally, emotionally, or spiritually and then get back on the road to recovery and growth.
Put the work in ahead of time, be agile in the moment, and take care of yourself along the way.
As a kid, you may have loved playing with magnifying glasses. As an adult, you may need one to function a little better! Whether digital or in the analog world magnifying glasses are something that we can take for granted but can teach us a thing or two about leadership and life.
It obviously magnifies
The primary function of a magnifying glass is its ability to help you see things better, bigger, and clearer. Think about your team, those you work with, and your friends and family. As a leader, you should magnify their lives in many ways.
Magnify their talents and general awesomeness: Showcase, call out and recognize the talents, skills, and accomplishments. This helps your team feel more confident in their role and creates more personal buy-in to your leadership. Take time in the real and in virtual meetings to highlight and celebrate others. This is also a great way to model the behavior that you want to see in those you interact with on a daily basis.
Help others see themselves: We speak often about the power behind strong emotional intelligence. The foundation of EQ is self-awareness and it’s also an area that many leaders struggle in without even knowing it. Do your part to help others see aspects of themselves and how they come across to others. Take an empathetic and caring approach so that the person accepts the feedback well.
Use your talents to magnify the situation: You have unique talents, abilities, and skill sets that others don’t. Leverage those skills to show others the bigger picture and impact of what’s going on around them. If you are great at technology, you may bring up how a project impacts a system and explain the larger implications. In your personal life, you may use your talents to help a person learn a new skill or to understand a situation better.
It can be used to bring the heat
When focused under the right conditions, a magnifying glass can literally bring the heat. Certain types of magnifying glasses can even start a fire with enough precision.
In Facelifts, overhauls, and funerals we talk about the need to assess your life and situation and make adjustments accordingly. Shrubs and plants can be pruned so that they grow healthier, fuller, and stronger, Burn out the dead parts of your life and your leadership so that you can continue to grow.
As a leader, you have the responsibility to help others excel in their role and meet their career aspirations. This often means helping them refine their own ways and behaviors in order to make it to the next step in their career. Bring the heat when needed in a concentrated way. You don’t want to come in and scorch the earth! Be precise and intentional in your approach.
It magnifies only what you want it to
Most magnifying glasses are relatively small and while they are great at doing what they do, it only works where you point it.
Make sure that you are magnifying the right things in your life. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and then have a confirmation bias to affirm the negative situations currently happening to you. For example, maybe you got reassigned to remote work during the pandemic and didn’t like it. You missed your friends, the perks of the office, and getting out of the house. If you keep magnifying the downside, your confirmation bias will only keep bringing out negative things that catch your attention.
Be aware of your current mental and emotional state. Are you focusing on the right areas? It very well could be different depending on what aspect of your life you are looking at. Maybe work is going well, but you’re struggling in a personal relationship. Move your focus when needed and point it in a positive direction. There is enough negativity out there as is, without us needing to overfocus on it.
Focus on the right things, bring out the best in your team, and be willing to burn away the things holding you back.
I’ll admit that I am an awful card player. Even though I would get destroyed in a high-stakes game, I have always admired the tenacity, mental fortitude, and the surprising complex mental game happening underneath the cards in the players’ hands.
There are several things that we can learn from poker players to help strengthen our own leadership and teams.
Learn to read people well
A professional poker player becomes an artist when it comes to reading other people’s body language or “tells”. From the vein on your neck that moves as your heartbeat increases to abnormal eye movements and fidgeting, a great poker player picks up on the smallest nuances to get an understanding of what’s going on in your head.
We talked before about the power of body language. Just as there is power in how you exhibit and leverage your body language in communication, there is also power in how you correctly observe and assess other people’s body language. Slow down and take time to observe others. We’ll cover how to grow your observation skills in the upcoming episode: Growing Your Observation Skills.
Having a strong ability to grow your observation skills, can help you fully access the situation at hand, what the true undercurrent of the conversation is, and potentially address the root cause of an issue before it worsens.
Strengthen your Self-Management skills
In addition to great observation skills, a solid poker player also has to have strong self-management skills. Just as you are observing others, those same people are also observing you. Being able to control yourself in stressful and high stakes situations is essential if you want to keep your money.
As you learn to strengthen your self-management skills reflect on past experiences and seek to find and understand what your “tic” is. I know a leader that begins to shake his leg in the chair when he’s frustrated. Others roll their shoulders as they tighten up with stress, and breathe differently when they are upset. If you aren’t sure what your tells are to others, ask those that are close to you and are fairly observant. They can give you the extra insight to understand how you are communicating with others without even knowing it.
Be a risk-taker and be willing to fold
Poker players are certainly risk-takers. In fact, every hand that they play has some level of risk involved, because they don’t have all the information at the table. If they did, it really wouldn’t be a fun game. As a leader, you’ve also got to be a solid risk-taker. Without risk, you won’t change and without change, you won’t be relevant in the future. See examples: Sears, Blockbuster, K-mart, and others. Lean into risk and step out of your comfort zone to grow.
As one player takes a risk in order to push another player or to learn their body language, they also know when it’s time to fold and walk away.
Let go of emotional attachments to processes, projects, and even people sometimes, so that you can let go of things that aren’t healthy for you or your team. Outside of the emotional aspect, people have a tendency to hang on too long just out of stubbornness. They don’t want to feel like a loser or that their way is antiquated. Help those people see the why behind the change and provide them with tangible steps to get from point A to point B. Then schedule regular check-ins to help support the person.
Be the poker player in your leadership and life; learn the full story that the people around you are telling, have strong self-management, and take some risks. You’ll begin to realize that a deck of cards can be a start to becoming an artist when it comes to engaging with others.
You rely on thread every day, whether you realize it or not. Yes, the obvious example is your clothing, but think about other subtle items that you count on like seatbelts, most books, and other items in your daily life.
Today we’ll look at how we can model that purpose of thread and become better leaders ourselves.
It connects things together
Thread’s number 1 purpose is to connect things together.
Be the thread by connecting people across your network. Build continuity between groups in your work environment. Help make a connection for someone who is trying to find a job. I find a lot of joy and value in being able to a part of someone’s story by helping them connect with the right people/resource.
Subordinates of connected leaders are three times as likely to be high performing employees!
If done right, you won’t even notice it
My father was my scout leader growing up and he also sewed all of the patches on our uniforms. The patches were on there but it wasn’t pretty. Thread mostly matched the patch and it was sloppy at best. His goal was to get the patch on there and didn’t hold a lot of value on the finer details of how it looked. His sewing did the job, but sometimes the sew job brought more attention to itself than the actual award did.
Being a great connector means that there will be many times when you are essential to success, but should not have the spotlight. Set ego aside and let others have the spotlight. The whole project or goal may have hinged on how you helped them connect to the people and resources that they needed, It doesn’t matter. In the long term, you’ll gain more equity in your team when you equip for success and then move out of the way rather than equipping and then holding up the trophy at the end.
Now that I’m back in scouts leading my son, I take our uniforms to a professional that uses a machine and invisible thread. It looks great and you can’t even see how it’s sewed on.
The more it’s used the stronger it becomes
I’ve had to do some crazy sewing for some of the costumes at Disney running events. There are never instructions, just crazy ideas to turn into reality. There are times where 1 pass of thread wouldn’t work to secure the two pieces….there were times when 5 passes wouldn’t do it! Every pass always makes the bond a little stronger. You just keep going until you get the desired look and strength.
A one-and-done connection with someone might be good, but it will weaken over time and certainly won’t hold up against stress and wear and tear. Invest time in your connections and network, especially those that are important to you. Not all of your connections with others should be at a 10, just ensure that you are making the extras touches and passes with those that you care about and those that you want to get to know and support more.
Be the thread for others. Be a leader that connects people to others, do it well without hogging the spotlight and be present enough to keep those relationships solid.
Zack Hudson: Well, welcome to the Passing the Baton leadership podcast. So glad to have you with us today Sir!
Tim Spiker: Zack, thanks a lot. Looking forward to talking with you and with your audience.
ZH: Yeah, I’m looking forward to sharing your story. I’m actually reading your book The Only Leaders Worth Following and I’m looking forward to diving into it, but before we do, why don’t you let Baton Carriers know just a little bit about your journey.
TS: I’ll tell you the story about how I started in the in this leadership development space. I was waiting tables at a restaurant in St. Louis, Mo (which is in the center of the United States for the international listeners) and I was invited to do it open house for a marketing company. I found a couple of things when I was getting ready to study marketing in grad school and I thought there would probably be free meal there.
I got there and there was an open seat in the middle of the room. I thought it would be a little presentation, so I took the seat in middle of the room….and that turned out to be very important. Because I found out about 3 minutes in that I was at a recruiting event for an MLM company, and they wanted me to sell water purifiers to all my family and friends.
And I’ve got nothing against MLM companies, but I wasn’t interested. But what happened just after that effort, is that I realized what was going on and started talking about what means to be an employee
It was such a dark cloud of doom and gloom, and I just sat there with everyone else in the presentation and I just thought it didn’t have to be that way.
How come when somebody says, “What’s it like to work for Zack?”
Why can’t that answer be, “You can’t believe the results we’re producing.”
“I can’t believe how much I’m growing.”
“I can’t believe the wholeness of my life and my family is a part of this in a meaningful way.”
Why couldn’t that be the answer?
That idea launched me on my leadership journey to learn as much about leadership as I could.
ZH: So tell me some things that you are excited about doing these days.
TS: We ran into some research in number of years ago and ultimately with the group I was working with, I figured I’m not going to be able to speak freely because an unusual message, and we’re not going to be able to do that freely inside a consulting firm or even inside a company’s leadership development team. About seven years ago we took the plunge and went out and created an organization.
What we’re excited about doing is bringing this unexpected message and an unconventional method to the marketplace. It’s just been a real joy over the last seven years.
ZH: I’m currently reading your book The Only Leaders Worth Following and really appreciate the whole concept of the book, which is that ¾ of your leadership effectiveness comes from who you are and not what you do.
So why is that number important to consider as we look at our own growth and how we invest in others?
TS: Well, investment really is the is the keyword. When I say 3/4 of your effectiveness as a leader comes from who you are, not what you do. It kind of sounds like I stuck my finger in the air one day and that’s not actually what happened.
This number is from hard statistical research that I got a chance to be a part of a number of years ago, and so it’s so critical when you look at that data and then you think about how we invest in leadership development across the globe.
Are we really investing 3/4 of our dollars and our energy and our time in becoming more well developed from the inside out? (I will say it’s not even close to that ratio honestly) Knowing the data becomes important if we want to be efficient and effective in order to take that 3/4 ratio into heart.
ZH: I have a operations background so when I was trying to sell leadership programs it was always about showing the numbers and money besides just the soft and warm and fuzzies behind leadership. We were able to get some programs built out by showing the value. I think that ¾ number is very relevant in showing the true context around the focus of leadership the way it should be rather than the way we approach it sometimes.
Let’s dive in the Who of Leadership. The first concept you talk about here is Others Focused. Tell us a bit about this as well as some tips on how we can begin to strengthen this in our own leadership walk.
TS: At a certain level it’s pretty simple. It starts with the idea of even though I’m in the position of leadership, do I think that this is all about me and my enrichment in my next step? My promotion, and my accomplishments? Or am I showing up as somebody who is about the people around me that I’m influencing daily?
The others focused concept is that it is not about my ego, my bank account, or my advancement. It’s about the people that I am bringing along with me.
That’s what it means to be Other Focused.
ZH: What are some ways that maybe we’ve been caught up and we become…. Maybe I don’t know that self-centered is the right word, but that’s what I’m gonna go with right now that turn it from more of focusing on ourselves to be more focused on others.
TS: Yeah, I think it’s fine to self say, self-centered and honestly using words like self-centeredness, is why we started the company, so that we can freely talk about those things because most of the business and consulting world know these things exist, but they don’t want to openly talk about it.
You know some of the ways that we combat that sort of thing is just being exposed to the concept that the very best leaders that most of us have followed are generous with their time.
They talk about people who told them the truth, even when it was hard. But they did it in a way that showed that they cared about them. They weren’t trying to abuse them. There is story after story about leaders or other focused around us, and one of the things that we work on in a pretty specific way around this is the idea of being curious.
“Am I a curious leader?” We got to expand that idea out from intellectual curiosity to the people around us.
How do they see things?
How do they feel about things?
What are their perspectives?
Use this simple phrase when engaging with others:
“Tell me more about that.”
Whether you are a leader, or practicing for when you will be a leader, there is an exercise that you can do here.
Twice a day for seven days, (14 times this week) I’m going to say, “Tell me more about that.”
I’d say about 98% of the time when I use that phrase, I learn at least an edge of something that I didn’t know previously. It may be just a perspective or an idea that somebody else has that I didn’t know about. That improves relationships and it gives me more information as a leader. Time and time again, leaders tell me that they struggle because they have so much imperfect information.
And so these are two things that come out of being others-focused:
I’m interested in you.
It improves the relationship and improves the information.
ZH: Yeah, we’ve talked something similar here, Passing the Baton about how to become more likable with others and that’s one of the ideas that we share. Just asking questions and just being involved in the other person, not really sharing so much about yourself, because people like to talk about themselves, right?
And they walk away saying, “Tim was awesome!” but may not have said anything, you just asked questions the whole time.
TS: I’ve heard this phrase many times were like, “You’re so smart,” meanwhile you’re thinking to yourself, “I didn’t say anything.”
So just taking a genuine interest in others and fighting against that battle against self-interest. It’s going to be a battle for life that will never end but, it’s worth the fight because of the type of relationships and information that it produces.
ZH: So the next concept that we need to work in order to grow our Who of Leadership is called Inwardly Sound. Tell us about this idea here.
TS: One of the analogies I like to use with Inwardly Sound is to imagine that we’re going out on the ocean. We’re going to get out on this boat and we think about the hull of that boat. You want it to have integrity.
Essentially, we want to be able to take a beating and still be together. You want to be able to be able to survive waves and wind and weather of all kinds. You want to be able to count on it.
Take that same idea and apply it to a person. When somebody has integrity to the extent that I can count on them that when the challenges of work in life come at them, they’re not easily blown over. They can take a punch and continue because they’re clear and who they are. They are settled in here. They’re not insecure in seeking out everybody’s approval all the time.
They have that centeredness and subtleness about them. They are port in the storm to use another analogy around water, but not just because they’re a friend. I’m saying they are a port because they’ve done the work to understand who they are.
That’s a leader who’s inwardly sound.
ZH: I think focusing on the core who we are helps us be better leaders in the workplace and in our personal lives as well. What are some of the benefits for leaders that leverage the power of the “Who” they are in their leader?
TS: There’s a connection point here. When we become more inwardly sound and others focus, we become more trustworthy.
We trust the person who’s about us and not about themselves more than the person that is self-centered.
There is a deep connection between being trustworthy and engaging.
There’s a very direct connection between these two things. We’ve got 300 studies worldwide that connect engagement to performance. We discovered the who not what principle through this research, but this arc of leadership is what I’ve just been describing. The connections between Inwardly Sound and Others Focused to trustworthiness, to engagement and eventually to performance.
That’s why this matters so much in leadership.
ZH: Another analogy that I think of is trust is the key to a door. It’s hard to get in when the door’s locked and if trust is the key, without that it’s hard to get through to have engagement in a meaningful way.
TS: We do a little exercise with our clients where we read an email to them and we tell them to imagine it’s coming from a trustworthy person and not trustworthy person and then we ask them to rate their engagement afterward.
And Zack, we don’t change a single word in either email. It’s the exact same email.
On average with the groups that I work with, the average increase engagement by changing the trustworthiness of the leader is 275%.
ZH: Wow. Yeah, I can see I can see that.
TS: Imagine somebody you really trust is. And they say, “I’ve got a great opportunity for you,” and now imagine somebody you really don’t trust saying the same thing.
We see that totally differently, right?
ZH: That’s right, they’re like, “Hey, sit in the table in the middle of this conference room and have a free lunch on me. Trust me.”
TS: Yeah, that’s right.
So these is a big connection between trust and ultimately the results that we’re able to produce as leaders because of that discretionary effort of engagement.
ZH: I love the power that comes from being Inwardly Sound and Others Focused, so let’s break down a couple of misnomers as we start to wrap up our time today.
Isn’t others focuses the same as being customer centric?
TS: Oh man, I love this question because I’ve seen this go off the rails. Many times in this conversation, people will be repeating back Inwardly Sound and then they will say and “Outwardly Focused.”
And I’m like no, it’s Others Focused.
It’s about the people.
It’s important in business for us to be customer centric but customer centricity is a great strategy for many businesses, that’s exactly what it is. It’s a strategy.
if I’m just focused on customers and I’m not paying attention to the human beings around me that I’m actually leading then I’m not really an Others Focused leader. I’ve actually taken all of the personal sacrifice that goes into being Others Focused and just taken that out of the leadership equation and I’m not going to have that trust that we’re talking about, so there’s no problem.
Focus on your customers, sure, but being Others Focused is not about customer centricity. It’s about all the people that you’re leading in influence.
ZH: Alright, I will throw another one at you.
So all I have to be is Inwardly Sound and Others Focused and that’s it right? I’m going to be an exceptional leader after that. Is it that easy?
TS: It is not, but the What of leadership still matters. When you think about the What of leadership, think about vision and driving, culture, strategy, execution, and motivation.
The analogy that we use around this to see the connection between the Who and the What of Leadership is that of a tree.
The root system is the Who of Leadership. everything we see is the What of Leadership. When we say, “Who not what.” We’re not saying that the What of Leadership doesn’t matter. We’re e answering the question about what is the foundation of your leadership? Where does it begin?
It begins with the roots and ultimately impacts the What of leadership. We need to have a really healthy and effective What. So much of that is impacted by Who we are.
I’ll tell just a quick story to make the point.
If I’m in charge of strategy, but I am also an insecure proud, and non-curious leader. Imagine who I don’t have in the room to talk about strategy. I probably don’t include anyone who’s smarter than me. Imagine who I don’t listen to because I’m not humble. It’s about my ideas and if I’m not curious about other people’s ideas, we’re not engaging. So you see how Who impacts my ability to be a strategic thinker. That’s the connection between the two. What really matters and it’s deeply influenced by Who.
ZH: Thanks for hanging out with me today. I definitely recommend the book. Where can our listeners hang out with you, and where can they find the book?
TS: you can find the book on Amazon and all the other kinds of electronic resources there.
Online, you can find us at theonlyleaders.com if you’re interested, you can be a part of our contact list and all the things that normally go along with that, so I would love to have anybody join along with this from the leadership side who would like to be a part of it.
ZH: Thank you so much for being on the show with us and appreciate your time.
Empathy, Sympathy, and Pity. Besides a catchy title to a podcast, it’s three words and that have different meanings and that can get a leader tripped up and cost the leader personal credibility when they get these three confused.
The ability to understand and share the feelings of others.
We covered the topic of empathy in detail on previous shows and newsletters. Empathy is certainly the strongest of the three emotions. It requires a connection to the person and the situation and will also cause you to act in a caring and compassionate way.
Empathy is the gold mine for relational leadership. It allows you to quickly build trust with others to establish great working relationships that pay off. Acting on empathy also empowers the leader to connect with the team while holding on to strong expectations and standards.
As a young leader, I was very black and white. Either you met the standard and expectation on you didn’t. I thought that when someone had clear expectations and resources to get the job done and they didn’t then, it was on them. Growing in empathy helped me to begin mastering the grey areas of leadership. It allowed me to meet them where they were and then show them a path to their own greatness.
I’ve yet to meet a person that didn’t value a strong relationship with their leader where they felt valued and challenged to be their best.
An Affinity association or relationship between a person or thing where whatever affects one similarly affects the other.
Sympathy is a way to connect with others, but it usually means that the leader’s feeling is not as intense and the connection level is not as deep either.
Sympathy can get the best of leaders in a number of ways. For some leaders, sympathy leads to lowering their expectations or leading inconsistently across the team. This is especially true for leaders that aren’t balanced in their approach and are too relational in their leadership and relationship with the team. For some savvy employees, they will take advantage of this dynamic will turn you into an enabler to their inconsistent and bad behaviors.
For other leaders, they may feel sympathy, but then don’t know what to do with it. Do you ask if you can help? Do you just express it verbally and then try to awkwardly move on? I would suggest some type of action when you feel that sympathy for others. Don’t ask, because they may not feel comfortable asking for help or assistance. It can be a small gesture like a gift card to a restaurant so they don’t have to worry about cooking a meal to clearing out and covering a schedule so they have some time away.
Act on your sympathy towards others.
The feeling of sorrow and compassion caused by the suffering and misfortunes of others.
The definition itself doesn’t sound too bad, but pity often comes across as condescending. You can be seen as putting yourself on a pedestal, believing that you are better than someone else or that you feel sorry for them.
The feeling of pity often leads to inaction. You see it, recognize it and then keep moving on. Take the feeling of pity and then turn it through the lens of empathy. Route the feeling through a positive and healthy approach so that the other person feels valued and cared for during your interaction with them.
Pity is a feeling and emotion which means it isn’t bad. It’s just an emotion! How you act and react to that feeling is what can give someone a negative view of your personal behavior and beliefs.
It’s important to understand the differences between these three types of feelings and what your natural reaction are to them so that you can react appropriately when the situation occurs.
People hold on to long memories of how others treated, handled, and helped them when they needed it. Grow your self-awareness around these so that you can lead others well, become a model leader for others to follow, and turn tough situations in a positive direction.
Maybe you’ve worked for, or are currently working with, a seagull manager. You know the type; they fly in, make a mess all over everything, and then they are gone. In this management style, the person typically only shows up when a problem has arisen. They then come in with little understanding or context and then proceed to wreck productivity, morale, and progress.
Do you have a seagull manager? Here are some of their characteristics and how to handle them.
They come flying in, often out of nowhere
Have you ever fed one bird at the beach or park and suddenly you have a ton of birds around you? It’s like they just materialize out of thin air sometimes! Seagulls managers are the same way. They usually appear with little to no notice and are there because of a problem, either real or perceived by them as an issue.
Ready yourself by leaning into your emotional intelligence skills. The awareness about the behavior ahead of time will help you quickly prepare yourself when they suddenly show up. Have your self-management and social awareness skills high, so that you don’t overreact to the person in the situation that they are bringing. Letting your emotions get the best of you because you were unprepared will only compound the issue and interaction that you have with the leader.
They are loud and call attention to themselves
Seagulls are ridiculously loud for their size. Oftentimes your first indication that they are around is that you will hear them before you see all of them.
A seagull manager rarely slips in with little notice and gets out without attention. Instead, everyone knows that they are there and what their business is. They want you and everyone else to know that they are in charge and they are here to “fix” the issue at hand.
Redirect these people the best that you can. Move the conversation to a less populated area. Lower your speaking voice so they have to talk at a lower level use the environment around you to your advantage in order to lower the disruption.
They make a mess everywhere
Seagulls are messy. They poop everywhere and obviously don’t care what mess they make. Seagull managers act in the same way, verbally dumping negativity and critically charged comments. Some of these managers may even be a straight-up bully. Pushing the envelope in how they treat people in order to get the results that they want. Seagull managers don’t care either. It’s getting what they want at the cost of the people around them.
If the manager is acting unethically or against the company’s set values, you have an obligation to talk to someone about it. Partner with a good HR representative or a mentor to help you navigate that process with respect and empathy while holding to the standards that you and the organization have.
…And then they are gone
Just as suddenly as they are there, they disappear. You’re left with a mess to clean up and it’s likely that your whole day is shot as a result. Don’t worry though; they’ll be back for the next problem!
Pull your team together and focus on the positive moves that you make together to move the team and objective forward. Try to stay away from spending a bunch of time talking bad about the leader or what the leader just did with others. It’s a waste of energy that is not productive, besides, they all know that the person is a bad leader anyway.
Instead of letting the circumstance dominate your day, own the opportunity, and rally your team. One of the positives of a seagull leader is that your people will likely be much more committed and dedicated to your personal leadership because they see such a stark contrast in leadership styles.
Know the seagull manager and what their typical characteristics are. You can lessen their disruptions through good leadership and being mindful in the moment.
Everyone wants to be successful. Your definition of what that success looks likes varies from person to person, but we all want to be good at and succeed in the things that matter most to us. So if we define our own meaning of success, then why are so many people successful and still miserable?
Going beyond comparing your status level to others, chasing success too far can lead you right off a cliff and into valley filled with unhealthy mental thoughts, depression, and an unrealistic view of yourself. This valley makes you feel defeated when you are actually quite the opposite.
One more thing
As technology, people and society evolve, more people begin to have the “one more thing” mentality enter their system. It’s the chase for a healthy goal and then as soon as you meet that goal you chase after a new one or one that is a little further out. When we hit these goals, it stimulates the pleasure parts of our brains and we want another hit.
Drugs are an obvious example of continuing to come for more but look at areas like work and even hobbies like video games.
Your work can become a chase for recognition and promotions, “As soon as I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy.” It then happens and six months later you aren’t happy anymore. In video games, it’s the open worlds and carrot on a stick model in games that get people to play them in an unhealthy way. Open worlds like Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim, and others leave the game open so that there is always one more thing on the horizon without an endpoint. Fortnite is often criticized for its rewards system that keeps you hooked into playing the game.
Be sure to, “Stop and smell the rose,” during your journey. Appreciate and celebrate your achievement and success with those that are important to you. Have the self-awareness to know that you are chasing that one-more-thing mentality and build the willpower and commitment to change direction.
The poison in the well and unobtainable goals
Once we go down the one-more-thing path, we can take it a step further and start setting unobtainable goals. Often financially focused but they can be materialistic and status goals as well. (A certain size house, social status or following online). When you set these goals and you fail to meet them you begin to poison the rewards and pleasure parts of your brain.
You no longer feel satisfied with goals and accomplishments that once made you happy because you didn’t hit the unobtainable goal that you set out for yourself.
Have long term stretch goals but focus more on the short term goals to keep a healthy perspective. Make sure that they are realistic and obtainable with practical steps to get to where you want to go.
Change your goals
A healthy strategy may be to totally change your goals and priorities from time to time to keep you from going over the cliff. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this is likely one of the reasons why I do this in my own life.
I spent three years in the running world, where at one point I did over 40 races in a year and moved from not running at all to running a 50-mile race. I then drastically changed my focus to volunteering and professional development. It doesn’t mean I don’t run anymore, it just means I have changed my focus so it’s not a driving focus in my time and commitments right now. If I had continued to push it further at the time, it would have only been an unhealthy thing for me.
Set some good stretch goals that are realistic and commit to re-evaluating your interests and passions. Cleaning the palate with a different set of goals expands your experience in life and overall satisfaction. An example of this would be to set a stretch promotion goal. Once you get that promotion, stop to evaluate what goal you can set in a different part of your life. Perhaps its to expand your education, a travel goal or a goal to serve others in your city.
Success is a good thing until you chase it so hard that it becomes unhealthy. Use your circle of friends and family to keep you accountable and on the right track with your personal expectations. Don’t defeat yourself with unrealistic expectations of yourself. Enjoy the success that you have!