We Have Strategies for Everything Except This

We Have Strategies for Everything Except This

Have you ever noticed that in business, we have strategies for everything — everything, that is, except people? Think about it. Most leaders will sit down and thoughtfully design all kinds of strategies with their team: goals, growth, skillset, compensation plans…everything EXCEPT the team dynamic. Because that’s a tough conversation to have. How do we get along? What kind of culture/team do we want? How do we want to handle conflict? What language do we use? How do we want to feel about each other? All that touchy-feely stuff is something teams often avoid. But outside of the business world, it’s exactly those types of conversations that make great relationships. It’s only with our healthiest, most successful relationships that we talk about what we need, or how we communicate. We debrief after an argument with our significant other: When you said this, I felt this. We tell our friends we’d rather they didn’t say this or that. But we don’t do that in a business setting. Instead, we tend to interpret what we experienced and think we know what it meant. If someone said XX, he meant YY. We’re sure! We don’t take into account that in that circumstance the behavior might have been and outlier. It might not be who they really who they are. Businesses need to talk about people, because businesses are made up of people. Get a strategy for your team dynamic, and all those other strategies? They’ll thrive all the more.  Photo by Natalie...
You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Last week a client said something fascinating: He said he didn’t really know his people. Prior to our work together, that is. A little context: He was the manager of a team he invited me to be a part of to help facilitate communication and improve functionality. Now that the work is successfully completed, he admitted to me in the debrief that, he came into the work believing he knew his team inside and out. He thought that he knew who would say what, and that our work was really just a forum for them to say it — to vent. He thought he knew pretty much everything they were going to say. It turned out, he told me, that he was very wrong. He was surprised to find that he didn’t know his people as well as he thought — and said, “that was a fantastic discovery!” Such a discovery opens you up for a wealth of new connections and interactions, because once you realize that you don’t know your people as well as you thought, then you can start to see them with genuine curiosity. We often operate from this premise that we know people. We think, “I’m a ‘people person.’ I read people really well.” We might even have evidence to support that. But in long term, I can pretty much guarantee — we’re not as good as we think we are. Which is why we need to ask more questions and come at all relationships — especially with those we’re leading — with a spirit of insatiable curiosity. Only then will you really be able to see them, understand them, and lead them to...
You Can’t Choose Success

You Can’t Choose Success

I heard John Mayer in an interview once make a brilliant statement: “The problem with success,” he said, “is that success justifies every stupid decision we’ve ever made.”The irony of some success is it doesn’t always come as a result of good choices. It’s like that old saying that good judgement comes from experience, but most experience comes from bad judgement. We want to believe that success is a by-product of doing everything right. It’s just not. Some success is the result of careful work and focused discipline. Some success comes as a fluke out of nowhere. Some success comes from the benevolence of others. And some success comes unjustly — to us, when it should have gone to someone else. Some failure comes as a result of our mistakes. Some failure comes as a fluke, out of nowhere. Some failure comes from the mistakes of others. And some comes to us unjustly. So since it’s clear that our success or failure is not necessarily the result of our choices, should we just give up? Grow cynical? Stop trying? Of course not. Because even though our choices might not affect our success in the way that we want, they always, without fail, 100% of the time, affect something else: Our person. Our Being. Who we are becoming, how we are showing up. Who we are is a result of our choices. Success or failure is connected, but only tangentially. And who you are decides how you’ll face that success or that failure — and in the end, that’s really the only thing that...
Leadership: A Skill or an Art?

Leadership: A Skill or an Art?

A lot of people seem to operate under the assumption that Leadership is an Art — that it’s an intuitive action and should therefore come naturally. That great leaders are ‘born’ with the skill to lead, just lying dormant within them until they come across a team. It’s an interesting take, considering how much discipline art itself actually requires. Ask any professional artist, in fact, and they’ll likely tell you that natural talent is only a small piece of the pie — discipline and perseverance have a much bigger effect on your artistic success in the long run. In any medium, art is a skill you must study and learn. Sure, some people are born with more natural talent than others — but talent can only get you so far, and it certainly isn’t the be-all, end-all. So the idea that art has to come naturally is as off-base for the writer, painter or musician as it is for leadership. A true leader needs training, needs to learn, needs to grow. It’s not going to just come magically. What’s more, we need to practice in the real world; we need to get it wrong, and make it better. The more you lead, and do your best to lead well, the better a leader you’ll become. It can be learned. Yes, some people are born already good at it, sure, but for most of us it’s a constant need to keep ourselves in check. And that’s a good thing — we should always want to improve, and it’s important to know that we can. Leadership is as much skill as it is intuition. Are you...
One Simple Step To Turn Your Office Culture Around

One Simple Step To Turn Your Office Culture Around

I once worked with a team that was — and there’s no gentle way to put this — highly dysfunctional. Most of the team was unhappy and in conflict with the manager, who couldn’t really see the problem. When I asked the manager about the problems the team had listed, he simply said, “Those problems don’t exist.” I asked him to elaborate, and he gave his side of the story. “It’s a startup,” he explained. “We’re building the ship as we sail it, so yeah, everyone’s busting their ass; it’s stressful, I know, everyone wants it to be more fun, but they signed up for this knowing it was an entrepreneurial adventure. All they really want is for it to be more fun!” Having heard both sides of the story, I was shocked. “It’s all about the fun?” I thought to myself. “Are you sure about that?” I asked. “Is that really the issue? Is it that simple?” He shrugged. “Sure! I mean, I guess. I mean, think so. Maybe.” It is amazing to me how often we operate on an assumption that makes perfect sense in our head, that the evidence from our perspective and bias totally supports — only to find out later we were off the mark, solving the wrong problem, judging people for truths that aren’t theirs. And we rarely think to verify. So I challenged the manger to make sure, to verify — to ask specific questions, to understand what his team really needed to thrive, what they really wanted. Specific questions like: “Help me understand your perception of our culture. How do you see this team?” “What’s the biggest obstacle to our success?” “How do you...