Steven's Own Words

Don’t Keep Us In The Dark

Don’t Keep Us In The Dark

There is a ‘leadership’ mindset out there which always leaves me flummoxed. I cannot understand why anybody, much less a leader of an organization hoping to be successful, would adhere to it. And yet, it is a mindset nearly as ubiquitous as any other: the unwillingness of leaders to articulate and explain what they do, the decisions they make, and why they they made them. This bad habit leaves everyone in the dark, fearful and speculating about the whys and what might happen next — rather than practically and effectively preparing for what will happen next. It’s happening everywhere, and it’s driving organizations insane. Leaders will make big changes without telling their employees why. Rather than address these stressful issues, leaders just remain silent. This is not real leadership. This is cowardly, a fear of transparency. Real leadership is about lifting people up to a higher possibility; it’s not about creating a culture of confusion that leaves your team wondering and speculating about what they think you mean, without the clarity and understanding of what you actually mean. This behavior is the antithesis of leadership. If you’re going to build an organization of highly motivated, deeply engaged, collaborative, communicative, willing to go above and beyond team — you can’t keep them in the dark and feed them bullshit. Take, for instance, when someone is let go: it creates fear, doubt, and worry in those left behind. Put simply, their safety is at risk. They are left in survival mode, which effectively means not-working-well mode. It fosters rumors, distraction, and hostility that could easily be eliminated by a simple act of communication, clarification, and articulation of intention! Trust your team; be willing to be vulnerable,...
Negotiation Is Not About Winning

Negotiation Is Not About Winning

Since we’re on a streak with posts on “negotiation,” I thought it essential to point out a lesson I learned in one of the titular books on the subject, “Getting To Yes,” written in the 80’s by two Harvard professors. This is the most powerful lesson I took away from their wisdom: If you want to succeed at negotiation, you’ve got to be able to state your opponent’s position better than your opponent. Not only does this strategy give us a leg up rhetorically, it actually gets to the heart of what negotiation is all about: finding common ground. Finding something you can both agree on. Using this strategy, you can actually understand where your ‘opponent’ is coming from, and move forward with empathy — rather than simply a dogged determination to ‘win.’ All of us feel the same way: “That the other person just can’t see it the way I see it. If they only knew, they wouldn’t argue like this.” Incumbent upon us is the responsibility to do that research for the opponent, to actually reach that level of understanding of their position, not in order to out-argue them — but in order to more deeply understand and empathize with them. If you go into that level of learning with the mindset of undermining their perspective, you’re missing the point entirely. Nelson Mandela said, “If you speak to a person in a language they understand, you speak to their head. But if you speak to a person in their language, you speak to their heart.” If you want to find common ground in negotiation, you have to speak to their heart. You have to actually see things the way they see them....
Negotiation Means Defining Your Measurements

Negotiation Means Defining Your Measurements

Like we saw a few weeks ago, there inevitably will come a time in your career when you’ll have to convince someone else — to change their mind. This is sales; this is, essentially, negotiation. When my client wanted to convince her boss to hire a co-leader team, instead of just one leader, she had to negotiate. And what she learned is that negotiation will always go more smoothly if you can define your own measurements. When her boss said, “Co-leadership doesn’t work,” part of what he was saying was, I have no evidence and I don’t know how to measure it. Not only does she have to explain why it could work — she had to design the measurements to define what ‘working’ really meant. How would they know this new method was successful? What metrics would they use? Less turnover? Higher profit? Employee satisfaction? And over what period of time? How long was long enough? The same goes for any negotiation, really. If you want a pay raise, define your measurements of success. How have you contributed to the company? What metrics show your own growth and that of your team? This is what negotiating is: not trying to convince someone you’re right, but showing them with clear evidence the measurements that prove you’re right. The unfortunate truth, as Anias Nin taught us, is that we don’t see the world as it is — we see the world as we are. Therefore, they may be looking west for an answer when it’s standing a few yards behind them jumping up and down — but they haven’t turned east to see it. They may be simply missing a new dawn coming over the horizon, and it’s...
Sales, Sales, Everything is Sales — Including Leadership

Sales, Sales, Everything is Sales — Including Leadership

If you see sales as manipulation, the title of this article may make you bristle.However, if you see sales as service, it will make perfect sense. Rather than the art of convincing people to do things they don’t want to do, real sales is the art of matching product with need. In order to do that, an effective sales person must first understand the need — perhaps better than the prospect — and if that need can’t be met, great sales people build a relationship and help the prospect figure out their options. Oversimplified? Perhaps, but accurate nonetheless. Last week, we talked about how one woman wanted to change her superior’s mind. One thing I noticed from our conversation was that, when I suggested this was a ‘sales’ problem,’ it really put her on her heels. She did public service work and most definitely did not see herself as a salesperson, and therefore did not see this as a sales problem. But as you will recall, that’s exactly what it was. Her superior had a problem: how to put the right leader in the organization in a manner that would succeed. She had the perfect solution, but the prospect couldn’t make the connection — until she “sold” it. Here’s the thing we want to remember about leadership, at all levels: leading means taking on different roles. Leading means filling different shoes. Leading means being what you need to be when people need you to be it. And sometimes that can feel jarring or uncomfortable, especially if it goes against the identity we hold for ourselves. If you don’t come from a sales background, it can be challenging to see yourself as such, but notice...
6 Ways To Change Someone’s Mind

6 Ways To Change Someone’s Mind

What do you do when you feel a need to change someone’s mind and they’re resistant?  After all, people don’t change — right?  Meghan was in just this predicament.  Real and significant change was needed and no one was willing to see it. As an interim director she was asked to right a ship gone askew when the previous Director was, shall we say, “made available to industry.”  To Meghan it was clear the traditional top-down hierarchy failed to serve both the organization as a whole, and the person in the top position. In fact, the current hierarchical structure had literally never been successful, and yet, here they were, about to do what they had always done, setting themselves up to get what they always got — failure. The board liaison, even though he was generally a reasonable guy, was afraid to take the risk of change. “There’s no evidence your way will work,” he said.  “Perhaps,” She replied (though he’s not wholly accurate) “but there’s ample evidence the old way won’t.”    “Hmmm.  You’ve got 48 hours to put together your best case.” So she and I sat down to layout her options.   Dale Carnegie taught us ‘A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still,’  Real buy-in changes the heart, the head and the actions of an individual, and we wanted all three. We wanted this man to buy in willingly — because mere acquiescence has no buy-in, no commitment, and causes them to step aside waiting for failure rather than engaging to assure success. We wanted success, buy-in and active engagement.  So I asked her, “Has this guy ever changed his mind in the past, about other...
An Exercise In Interpretation

An Exercise In Interpretation

Last week, we talked about how to avoid misinterpretation. This week, I want to share with you an exercise that can really drive that point home — and help you and your team understand this cognitive dissonance. Have your whole team (yourself included) write down the first ten words you think of when you hear the word “partnership.” Give yourself about 2 mins to force speed, and to get the first words that come to mind without overthinking. Once your lists are completed, have everyone turn to a partner (preferably the one they didn’t cheat from) and compare their lists to see how many words are exactly the same. Not sort of the same; not once explained how you interpret them they’re similar; but exactly the same. I do this frequently in my team facilitations, workshops and conferences, and I’ve never once seen a pair who had all ten words the same. In fact, the highest match I’ve ever seen is 5 or 6 words, but I could count those pairs on the fingers of one hand with fingers left over. In fact, it’s not unusual to have a third or half of my audience having NO matching words at all. What does that tell you? Ask your team; the question solicits some interesting responses. The bottom line is: we all interpret words differently. For instance, some people think of ‘partner’ as a business partner; some people think in terms of life partner or personal relationships; some words are emotionally oriented, others are much more pragmatic. But there are always differences. Even if we’re generally pretty aligned, we all have subtle (or not-so-subtle) variations in our perception of the word and the world. Those variations can lead to big misunderstandings; think of that classic railroad picture,...
What To Do When You’re Blindsided By Misinterpretation

What To Do When You’re Blindsided By Misinterpretation

Here’s a sentence you don’t hear very often: Turns out Nixon was right! Not about all things, of course — but when he said “I know you think you know exactly what you thought I meant to say. But what you fail to realize is what you heard was not what I meant at all.”  I think he nailed a core human truth to the wall. Recently, I was working with a client who facilitated a difficult policy shift between management and labor, and when all was said and done, both sides seemed like they had a clear understanding of the change. He felt he exhibited great leadership and facilitated a healthy dialogue and debate, and the outcome was effective. And it was — up and until the point it wasn’t.  Soon after this powerful demonstration of communication and collaboration, he learned that the two sides had significantly different interpretations of the conclusion. What his team proceeded to implement was not what management had intended — and now everyone was off track and, frankly, frustrated. What do they do now? What do we do when such a clear miscommunication throws off our team dynamics and objectives? First things first: ask the important question. “When was the last time you were all really, truly, on the same page about the topic?” I asked my client. He had to think about it for a moment, but soon he nodded. “I can name the exact moment,” he said confidently. “Excellent!” I said. “So now you know where to go back to!”  If you can name the moment of divergence, the last time you were all on the same page — and do so confidently...
How To Change Your Perspective In A Minute

How To Change Your Perspective In A Minute

Let’s face it: you can’t control the world, no matter how badly you want to. You often can’t even control your circumstances. But you can control your perspective. Well, in theory. Unfortunately, far too many of us fall into insanity doing the same thing from the same perspective over and over again expecting different results, no matter how much we know nothing will change. Why?  Because we see what we see. In psychology there’s a term for it: Availability Heuristics. They’re mental shortcuts that help us make decisions and process information quickly and easily. Most of the time these Availability Heuristics are awesome; they allow us to think on our feet, access risk, and filter choices. But sometimes, many times, they can also create ruts, cause us to see what we’ve always seen without questioning, challenging, or re-verifying that the conclusion is still accurate and in our best interest. So then what?! If it’s time to shift to a new perspective that achieves a better result because the old, dead-end views are causing more problems than they’re worth, try this: Use your house as a Perspectives-Incubator. First, name your issue. Let’s say you think your boss is getting in the way of your career growth. Clearly the dominant perspective is that your boss is an impediment, or at the very least, not on your side, yes? In fact, I bet you have plenty of evidence to support it. But that’s just one perspective, so let’s find a new one. To do so, quite literally, move to a different room in the house and ask, what would the perspective be from this room? Kitchen:  Kitchens are gathering places. Name me a...
Be Honest With Yourself — I Dare You!

Be Honest With Yourself — I Dare You!

When was the last time you truly looked at yourself in the mirror, both literally and metaphorically? The last time you took a long hard look at yourself, and acknowledged your truths? All of them: The good. The bad. The happy. The sad. The weird and the magnificent. I heard a morning DJ say today that he never looks at himself in the mirror — from the shower to the robe without passing a reflection — and he avoids looking at himself at all costs, looking at only his hair or his teeth as he grooms individual parts. Aside from the fact that this was way too much information to know about one’s morning DJ, I realized how often I have heard a version of that from clients. One woman was so unhappy with her weight she refused to look at herself in the mirror, or the eye. A high-powered business man so dissatisfied with his personal relationships couldn’t bring himself to talk about them with any depth or meaning, so he stuck to work for the longest time. Too many people don’t want to acknowledge their truth, fearing it’s more than they can bear, confident they wouldn’t like it if they saw it in all its glory, or named it with words. But what does this kind of honesty, this kind of acknowledgement with oneself, even look like? As weird as it sounds, it can look like standing naked in front of a mirror until you have the courage to truly look, and honestly see yourself (and here’s the catch) without judgement. It can look like witnessing a situation around you, and separating the circumstances and rationalizations — until you can see yourself for who you really...
Earning Tomorrow’s Eyes: When You’re Forced Into Early Retirement

Earning Tomorrow’s Eyes: When You’re Forced Into Early Retirement

So, you’ve been forced into “early retirement,” eh? Well, my first piece of advice comes from the immortal words of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”: Don’t Panic! It is distinctly likely that you are raging with one or more emotions: anger, frustration, sadness, disappointment, joy, worry, excitement, fear, anxiety, numbness, doubt — to name just a few. Whatever it is, start with genuine permission to feel it all, deep into your soul, all the way down to your toes. Let it serve you, inform you, empower you and relax you, because when you resist it, whatever the emotion is, it will cause you to tense up — question everything — judge yourself unfairly — and judge the person who “retired” you even more unfairly! Or worse, it will give away your power, create weakness, cloud your vision and fog your mind. And who the heck wants that!? Instead, feel it all. Give yourself enough space to truly separate. Remember, just because the power got shut down on the ginormous cruise ship of your life, the HMS Career, that doesn’t mean it stops right away — it still has serious emotional inertia pushing it in the same direction. You will continue to see things the way you’ve always seen them, thinking and feeling about them the way you’ve always thought and felt. It’s impossible to have a new, clear, and creative thought just yet, while stuck in the emotional thick of it. Give yourself time to separate from that momentum. Give the ship time to slow down so you can steer the HMS Career in a new direction. Oh, and Breath. Slowly.  Deliberately. William Bridges in his quintessential book Transitions calls...

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