Steven's Own Words

People Never Change Around Here!

People Never Change Around Here!

Turns out that’s not quite true. In fact, people can change quite dramatically. Recently, I read about a psychological study on people in their 70’s. If any generic group would be set in their ways, surely it would be those people past retirement, yes? So this is what researchers did: The year was 1979, but the researchers set up a house to look like it was 1959 – the décor, the radio, the tv, the shows playing on the radio and tv…everything was set to look and feel like 1959. Then, they put a group of 70-somethings into this home and told them to go and live for five days as if it were 1959 — as if they were whatever age they were in 1959. When you talk about your family, talk about them as they were in 1959. When you discuss politics, discuss the politics of 1959. Watch the shows and dance to the music of 1959…   And they did.   Now, when they entered the house, they were in varying levels of health. Some used canes and couldn’t carry their own bags; others had heart or vision issues or high blood pressure. The catch for these five days was that they were told they would receive no support from the facilitators. If they had canes and couldn’t carry their bags upstairs, they had to figure it out — carry one shirt at a time if you must, they were told. They just had to manage. For five days — just five days. Can you guess what happened? Remarkable and measurable improvement was made with ALL residents! Some who entered with canes walked out on their own accord! There was physical and mental improvement...
The Flexible Oak

The Flexible Oak

Unconditional Presence: The Oak Tree was an article last week from one of my favorite newsletters, The Daily Groove by Scott Noelle.  Noelle is an amazing Parent Coach — and oh, how I wish I could be the parent he writes about!   As a leadership coach, however, his article today really caught me. On the one hand I agree completely, especially in the context and spirit with which it was written.  Oh, to be that rooted, that grounded, that confident in one’s position!  As a parent, it has great value and gives your children a solid, safe & stable foundation to push against. The question I began asking myself, however, is whether this translates equally to leadership. After all, doesn’t leadership call on us to be flexible — at least on some level? Even if, as a leader, I am not “standing against you,” or taking your behavior personally, if someone runs into us, into our vision, into our ‘leadership,” we don’t want to damage them in any way. We don’t want them to get hurt. When is it right for a leader to be solid like an Oak Tree — and when should we be more flexible, bending with the influence of your team, of lessons learned, or of direct challenges? Leadership challenges us to walk a weird and fine line between a solid oak standing powerfully in its position, and the flexibility that allows you, your team, and your organization to adapt. After all, Darwin taught us: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” What does it look like for you to be a solid, flexible, and adaptable oak? It’s a tough question. If you want to work on...
Do You Have Permission To Fail?

Do You Have Permission To Fail?

Have you heard this one? If you can’t give yourself permission to fail, you can’t give yourself permission to succeed.   Put another way: If you’re unwilling to be wrong, you can’t be right. The amount of times this has shown up in my life, and the lives of my clients this past week, has been remarkable. We’ve become such protectionists, wanting to protect ourselves from harm and embarrassment, and in doing so we hold ourselves back. There is no way you can be your very best and show up for those you lead in the most powerful and meaningful way if you are unwilling to be the whole and real you: warts, beauty marks; stumbles, high jumps; mistakes, wins and all. It’s vulnerable, I know. What will people think if I blow it? Will I lose the respect of my team? Will they laugh? …Maybe. So what?   As long as we refuse to give ourselves permission to be wrong and make mistakes, we’re swimming with an anchor around our neck. We will never go as far or as fast as we could without it, and worse — it wears us out prematurely. What I have found working with my clients is how our behavior can dictate, or at least influence, how others experience our shortcomings. If we are willing to laugh with them, see the shortcomings as stepping stones, learning moments, and opportunities to grow, the odds are others will, too. And in turn, they will become more willing to risk great things knowing that failure has an upside. However, if we are beaten down, embarrassed, self-conscious, and judging ourselves unworthy, the odds are: they will, too.   Remember, being whole and owning all of us, our wins and our mistakes, isn’t a sign of weakness —...
How To Have Those Tough Conversations

How To Have Those Tough Conversations

We talked last week about accountability, but what happens when someone fails to live up to their end of the bargain and it’s time for “the tough conversation?” Ouch! A client of mine got a new job a couple months back, that, in many respects, was exactly what she asked for: Management Responsibility. It’s incredibly exciting; she loves the role and she’s building a proactive sales department out of a team that largely saw themselves as order-takers. But as much as she loves the job, one of those team members has proven to be…well…difficult. He doesn’t support the team, he fails to follow through on commitments, his CRM records are woefully out of date, and worst of all, clients and prospects have begun sending emails about his behavior and how they do not want to work with him. No one else in the company has ever received such an email — and he’s gotten three. Now, for someone who is kind and caring, who has given him the benefit of the doubt, who has worked hard to educate him to the benefits of the new systems and to understand his perspective, who’s tried to be creative on how to engage him in a manner that aligns with his values…this is hard to take. He resists accountability and proclaims the numbers should speak for themselves, but unfortunately, his numbers are silent and under performing everyone else on the team. And he still refuses to change course! How do you bring up issues like that? How do you talk to someone who isn’t living up to their expectations or their responsibilities? Three steps...
Accountability Scares the CRAP Out of Us!

Accountability Scares the CRAP Out of Us!

I’ve recently started meeting with an accountability partner, and it’s got me thinking: Setting goals we can be held accountable to is a surprisingly difficult task. In fact, one of my newest clients made an interesting comment on the topic: “If I keep my goals ‘squishy’ and undefined, no one can hold me accountable.” It’s true, isn’t it? The more specific you get, the more obvious it is to those around you if you miss the mark. I can relate to that. That’s why I need an accountability partner! I need to be called out on my “squishiness” and held to a more effective and empowering standard. This is what gets in the way: in order for accountability to work and have value, it requires us to be seen, which is an intensely difficult and vulnerable feeling for most people. Isn’t that why public speaking is our greatest fear in America? You are wholly, vulnerably seen. If you stutter, stammer, misspeak, or mess up in any way, everyone can see it. Because you’re visible. How does that old saying go? “Better to remain silent, and let people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Without precise goals, expectations, and objectives, people can’t prove we’re foolish. But the moment we get specific and let other people in on the details, we’re vulnerable. What if we fall short? What if we mess up? What if we can’t do it? We open ourselves up to that judgement running rampant in our culture. It’s truly one of biggest obstacles keeping a lot of people from getting serious...
Why The CVI?

Why The CVI?

Last week we mentioned the CVI, and I thought we should take a moment to talk about it. For those of you who might be wondering, the Core Values Index is a powerful assessment that cuts to the core of who you are as a person by measuring exactly what you value. This isn’t about the classic values we learn in Sunday school; these are the deeper values that define who we are, and govern our decision making and the way we show up in the world. They are largely unconscious to most of us — that is, until they are named. That’s the power of this tool. In naming our values and conflict strategies it gives us language and understanding — language and understanding that leads to problem solving, creativity, and deeper, healthier relationships, both personally and professionally. We’re often lacking in those areas because we don’t understand WHY we make the decisions we do; we don’t have a deep enough grasp of what really motivates us, or our peers. Once that is understood, the connection and changes that take place are incredible. I’ve watched marriages come back from the brink of collapse, hostile team environments shift into compatible, efficient engines, and career trajectories fly forward. Once you have the language to communicate, those scary conversations become manageable. Those repeating cycles suddenly make sense. And you are suddenly much more able to make changes in your own life. I encourage you to take either the comprehensive or the limited results free test and see what it tells you. Then call me — and we can explore options for...
Making A Well-Rounded Team

Making A Well-Rounded Team

My editor is heading to New York City for a vacation, and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the time my in-laws took us and my girls there for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My youngest, Leah, absolutely loved it; that was years ago and she talks about NYC to this day. She just seemed connected to the chaos and the bustle. My oldest, on the other hand — well, she enjoyed the trip, but not in the same way — and she doesn’t find herself longing for the city in the same way. She’s ready for the next adventure. These two sisters have very different values. One of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face, if you hope to start an organization or business, is how to connect to your members individually. It’s easy to resonate with the people who agree with you; but how do you meet the others where they’re at, giving them what they need to connect? The challenge is not to find an experience that serves everyone, but to find a way to connect individually with the things they value. Remember — individuals are not well rounded. Teams are well-rounded. So as leaders, we want the diversity of opinion and value on our team; the question is how do you harness its power? I use an assessment called the Core Values Index, and all of my clients use it to see how their teams are balanced. Most teams really aren’t — they’re skewed in one way or another. But one of my teams is made up of an almost exactly equal balance of values,...
Under Construction

Under Construction

My house desperately needs a new roof and a new paint job. And a new furnace. And a new dishwasher… 🙂 So we’re in the process of refinancing in order to pull out some of its equity for the repairs. I live in Portland, so since there are only about twelve sunny days a year, there’s a limited window of time in which you can actually book a roofer or a painter — after all, that impending Oregon liquid sunshine is always looming. But here’s the catch I discovered: no refinance will ever be approved if your house is in any way, shape, or form under construction. So I can’t start the construction — or even book a team — until the refinance has gone through. As the summer rapidly dwindles away, the timing is getting more challenging by the day. It’s an ironic and frustrating cycle. I’m missing out on opportunities for roofers as my window of time starts to shrink. And it got me thinking: how many opportunities do we miss as leaders because we ignore the people who are ‘under construction’? Who are more of a risk? Who are being remodeled because their industry dissolved and they are in the process of rebuilding themselves for a new trade, figuring out how to adapt their skills and gifts to a market that can’t yet see their value? They always say it’s easier to get a job when you already have a job, but how many excellent candidates are lost in that shuffle, simply because they appear on the outside to be outdated or incomplete? In so many...
The Individual Vs. The Team

The Individual Vs. The Team

I recently read this article about a new school in Sweden. This school is built from the ground up to rethink learning to truly engage the learner at an individualistic level. And there is one line in this article that really caught me: “We don’t want a school for all. We want a school for each and every one. There’s a big difference.” I love that! Can you see the difference? Many schools are for all. Everyone’s welcome. That is, if they’re willing to adapt to the environment, not rock the boat, and play by the rules. How many organizations make the same mistake? New hires are totally welcome here, as long as you mold to fit our design perfectly. This is a team environment, right? We’re in this together — and as we have been told for time immemorial, there is no “I” in team, right? Let’s be honest: That saying is crap. There are as many ‘I’s in team as there are individuals on that team, because a team is made up of nothing but INDIVIDUALS. Therefore, for the team to thrive, those individuals have to thrive. And that’s what this Swedish school does so well. In the end, it could be argued that Leadership has less to do with creating an environment into which people can fit, and a great deal more to do with creating an environment within which people can thrive, grow, test, challenge, learn and evolve. Inspire better individuals, and you create better teams. Are you leading for all, or leading for each and every one? There really is a big...
Can You See The Possibilities?

Can You See The Possibilities?

I remember, way back in the day, I was working for a software company, selling scheduling technology to colleges and universities. At one point, I was talking to a prospect whose entire team was, unfortunately, attached to an incredibly obsolete, home grown program. If it weren’t for ancient hardware being replaced, I’m not sure they ever would have looked at new software at all. But their change came with pain and resistance — because everyone loved what they had. It was theirs, they built it, they knew it, it was comfortable, familiar and personal. And while it was true that our technology could replace what they had and upgrade it in amazing ways, that didn’t seem to matter. They didn’t want to lose what they had; they didn’t want to give up the comfort of the familiar. Last week, we talked about how easy it is to get caught up in the sorrow of what we’re losing and completely miss the joy and possibility of what we can gain. Humans have tendency to look at anything different as bad. As I spoke with the school, they were so focused on what they were losing, they were unable to see what they could have gained. So, I took a different approach. I asked them about everything they loved and were afraid of losing. They were able to tell me what their beloved software did and everything they loved about it. Truth be told, it was amazing on so many levels — especially when you consider the platform it was built upon and its age. From there, it was all too natural for me to shift...

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