Steven's Own Words

Change Is Easy

Change is easy, right? Ok, you go first! I love that line because, as we all know, we always feel like it’s the other person who needs to change first. You don’t trust that they will change, too, if you go first, so you want them to go first so you can j̶u̶d̶g̶e̶ I mean, trust them. That’s part of what makes it really hard being a manager. When there’s a problem, your name comes up! It’s easy for employees to lay blame on you for any problems happening in the office. And sure, relationships are a two-way street. It can feel unfair when that team judgement lands on you. But guess what? If anything is going to change, it’s your role to move first, to build that trust, to take that risk. That’s part of being a leader. Being a leader is a huge amount of work. No question. You are required to be different. You are required to be more patient, ask better questions & positively engage with people, even if they can’t — or won’t. If someone’s going to change a negative situation, it’s you. You can hope that someone else will step up, but you can’t bank on it. Employees may not think they have the authority or influence, and they may not. They may not be aware of the boundaries or might be worried about losing their job. When something needs to change, it’s our opportunity as leaders, in the words of Gandhi, to be the change. You are just as human as the rest of the team, just as nervous or afraid of making a mistake, perhaps. And...

With All Due Respect To NIKE

Are you running from something? Or towards something? Too often we’re running away, trying to escape — but our problems keep following us!  Like that person who goes from one bad relationship to another with no loss of emotion, or those that seem to have terrible job after terrible job. But what are the chances that they could have that many bad jobs (or relationships)? There’s got to be a common theme, a common denominator. If you’re in this situation, I hate to break it to you: the common denominator is YOU. We tend to take our problems with us. So if you want a different result, you have to take a different action. But how can you change your perspective? How can you build a habit of considering new ideas and making more powerful decisions? Well, take a lesson from Socrates. There are three elements to how we engage with and show up in our life; there’s what we think, how we feel and what we do. Pick one, change some aspect of it and see what you get. Then change another part and explore again. Not every change will yield the desired result, but some will.Otherwise, if you just keep thinking, feeling and doing the same things over and over again, nothing will ever change, right?  Here’s the full Socrates quote: If you always do what you’ve always done, You will always get what you always got. If you always get what you always got, You will always think what you’ve always thought. If you always think what you’ve always thought, You will always feel what you’ve always felt. If...

Adding a Child Won’t Fix It

Have you ever heard one of those heartbreaking stories where a couple struggling with their relationship suddenly decides to have children — thinking it will bring them closer together? How often does that work out well? Yeah — it’s a terrible strategy that virtually never works. And yet millions of couples have done it! Kids can’t automatically make your marriage better. In fact, kids often reveal the weaknesses in your relationship, and almost inevitably make things harder. After all, the Army has nothing on parenting being the toughest job you’ll ever love. We do the same thing in our careers. When frustrated, unhappy, or disrespected in their job, I have watched many decide to “have a baby” — in other words, take on a huge responsibility in order to prove to themselves or their superiors that they’re committed. Sometimes this strategy works; but very rarely is a great new work experience or a wonderful marriage forged in the flames of this “new child.” Far more often, a stressed system exposed to an even greater stress breaks under the pressure, and there are almost always innocent bystanders harmed in the process. Employees or clients will suffer if you are unable to meet your new or old commitments, just like a broken marriage hurts children, family, and friends. If your job is causing you stress or self-doubt, adding to your pile of responsibilities is not the solution. Instead, work to connect with the job and responsibilities you have now.  Name the problem accurately, identify where, when or how you are feeling disrespected or invisible or devalued — whatever the real issue is. Seek help.Perhaps...

Would You Be Crazy To Say ‘No?’

A client of mine has been offered a position with a company that would nearly triple his already six figure income. And on the surface, who wouldn’t want that?  It’s a LOT of money. The problem is, he’d have to move to a city he doesn’t want to live in, doing work that he doesn’t truly love, for a company he has very little respect for.  It forced us to evaluate a career opportunity in a slightly different way. What would you do? A lot of people seem to say ‘yes’ to any and every promotion, no matter what it means and without serious consideration. And when it’s accompanied by a significant raise it’s near impossible to say no. But is that really the best thing for you? What if you’re thriving right now because of your current environment? What if the greener grass you see is plastic, and while your current job may be a bit old or rote, are you willing to give up what would be necessary to give up in order to take the new opportunity?  Will the change in environment really help you succeed — or will it pull you back? Will it get you where you want to go long term? Will you like who you will become in that new role and/or company? If you were to write the script for a perfect job that defined every aspect; work environment, purpose, personal impact, impact on the world, co-workers, flexibility, pay, benefits, personal life, stress levels, challenge, respect, opportunity for growth, and so forth, how does this new position really measure up?  If it only checks the...

Tools Don’t Build Masterpieces, People Do… With Tools

I seem to be on a CVI kick,  so let’s go back to my comment a couple weeks ago about the CVI being a tool. I recently asked a group what they thought of the CVI. The first person to respond said, “I think it’s crap, a waste of our time.” “Wholesale & completely?” I asked. “Maybe not wholesale and completely, but yeah, pretty much.” Suddenly, heads started nodding. Some people thought it was absolutely amazing — but the general consensus among much of the room was that it was OK at best. “Oh, thank God,” I said. “Thanks for getting that out of the way so early. I almost completely agree with you. I’ve resisted assessments my entire career because my general thought of assessments is that they’re boxes. Once someone knows your ‘color,’ your ‘letters’ it’s too easy to put you a box and say ‘now I know you’, but they don’t. They only know an idea of you. One tiny thing among countless other things. “I use the CVI as a tool, not an answer,” I told them. “A tool to help us ask the bigger, better question. And then, when we have conflict, we’ll pull out the CVI and see if that tool helps us again. If it does, cool.  If not, put it away.” It’s a tool. The beautiful part about a tool is, the tool’s not the product. The tool’s what you use to build the product. We get a chop saw in order to create bookshelves and homes. But it’s just a tool; it’s not the shelves or the house itself. For me, that’s an empowering reality...

A Core Values Leadership Case Study

Let’s dive into the CVI a little bit more. Here’s a case study in the CVI: Take a leader who’s a Merchant/Builder, which simply means their highest value is relationship and making deep, honest connections with people; and their secondary value is the confidence that they know how and what to do to have the greatest positive impact on a situation. In this case, the leader really wanted to show up as his Merchant self in the workplace; he wants to respect relationships, make real connection, respect the values of others, operate from that place of love/truth… all that. That’s who he wants to be. Problem is, in this particular situation, he keeps showing up like a Builder; confident, knowing what to do, and willing to take action. That realization — that he was showing up as a Builder — depressed him; he saw it as a negative. He wants to be a Merchant, but was naturally leaning into a Builder, and he judges himself negatively for that. The real growth happened when he was able to to flip the judgment into genuine power — the real value of the Builder: to accept that he is showing up in a positive, powerful way, that he really does know what to do and his confidence was empowering to the team to step up and THAT’S OKAY. Builders get a bad rap, because their negative conflict strategy —  intimidation — is so feared. He doesn’t want to be aggressive and intimidating! But once he realized that he was being a Builder, guess what? He could access the POSITIVE side, too! Which leads us to a better...

The Questions Are SO Often Better Than The Answers

We talked about the posture of learning last week, and some of the conversations I have been having around that theme is about asking a better question, and how one does that in real time. Let me go back to my favorite assessment tool, the CVI, for some insights.  Remember, I don’t see assessments as magical, I see them as tools to be used when appropriate and set aside when not. The CVI is a powerful tool that has become invaluable for my clients in this area of asking a better question. Most assessments are used to put people in a box, the CVI teaches us how to better show up as a powerful, positive influence regardless of that box.  Think about it this way: if we’re experiencing someone who’s intimidating, and is using a lot of “I” language: “I know this,” “I think that,” “trust me,” they are likely operating from what the CVI would call their Builder value. Because of their intimidating nature, we can also see their Builder value is being dishonored and they are operating within a conflict strategy. If you stop there, you have a valuable piece of information about them. In fact, you have an answer: “that’s a Builder in their conflict strategy.” But that’s not what the CVI is about. In fact, the CVI isn’t about them at all, it’s about YOU. So it pushes us to ask a better question: “What can I do to have the greatest positive impact on the situation before me?” Now that’s a powerful question. So why stop there? Ask: how can I engage their Builder in positive way? They’re feeling...

It’s the Spiral Of Life — Not The Circle

One step forward, two steps back. Isn’t that what life feels like too often?  I make a little progress — and then life pulls me right back. I think I’m doing well, then bam! I make a mistake that undermines my progress — or worse, my confidence. It’s easy to think mistakes are not allowed. That learning is for the other guy, and for me, perfection and steady growth is the only outcome to prove my value and effectiveness. Rather than just learning from mistakes and moving on, too many of us get stuck in our heads. We place judgement on the ebb and flow because we think all ebbing is backtracking. Here’s the thing: it’s not. Sometimes that ebbing is the pulling back of the arrow against the bow. It’s looks like backwards motion and feels like tension, but in fact, it’s just building power. And that tension? Well, that’s the magical force that allows the arrow to fly to new heights and distances. Instead of seeing life as a circle where you are constantly circling back to where you began, see life as an upward 3D spiral. If you look down on it, yes, it looks like a two-dimensional circle. But from another perspective, you may be going ‘round and ‘round, but you’re climbing higher and higher as you do. While you may circle back again, feeling like you’ve taken one step back, you haven’t; you’re not in the same place. You’ve learned something, seen something, grokked something you hadn’t before. You’re now looking at that place from a slightly heightened position. If we can be conscious of this perspective, those moments of...

A Posture Of Learning

Often with leadership, we feel like we need to have all the answers. I am continually watching leaders shoot from the hip, often inaccurately, because they think they are supposed to know something as the leader — and if they don’t know the answer immediately off the top of their head, then they feel like they’re a failure. But what personal leadership really means is always being willing to not know something, and to be willing to find the answers or invite the wisdom of those around you. That’s a big difference, and in practice requires more humility, openness, and creativity. In short, it requires a posture of learning. For some reason, too many people keep thinking that not knowing = weakness. But the reality is we build stronger teams by getting people to engage. And if we take the approach that “I’m the boss, therefore I know,” then we’re behaving in a manner that says ‘Do what I say, your opinion doesn’t matter to me.’ That is not a culture of engagement; that’s a culture of unengaged followers, and usually unloyal ones at that. Why would they stay committed if they’re not engaged, or their expertise and wisdom is never being consulted; their cognitive muscle never being exercised?  A posture of learning says that ‘we’re all learning and growing through this together.’  It’s amazing what the power of a positive, inviting question can do to the depth of relationship. When you solve a problem together, you build commitment to follow through on that solution and a willingness to be held accountable to your progress and results. It builds dialogue and connection. That’s true leading: bringing a...

Why Protect The Porsche?

My oldest is driving now, which I still can’t figure out, because she was just four years old, like, yesterday! Recently she went to the grocery store for us (well, that’s a perk, I suppose). She did her shopping, went back to the car, and while waiting for traffic to clear so she could pull out of her parking space, she noticed a shopping cart rolling down the aisle, headed right for a parked Porsche! Being the good citizen that she is (and lover of cool cars), she hopped out of our Dart and ran after the cart to stop it — just in the nick of time. Phew! The fancy car was safe!  She put the cart away properly and onward she went. And I’m proud of her. I really am! But I couldn’t help but wonder, would she have had the same instinct if it were a minivan or an ‘85 Yugo in dent’s way? Personally, I believe she would, but she’s unique — and our overall culture doesn’t seem to operate that way. I’ve noticed in our society that our natural inclination is to protect expensive things, even if they’re not ours, and even if the owner could comfortably afford the repair. But we place a different judgement on less nice things, or old clunkers. What seems to happen too often is we judge the value of the person who own these less nice things. I’m not sure what my point is here; maybe it’s just tapping into one of my biggest pet peeves: shopping carts in parking lots. Or maybe it’s a metaphor for how much I wish there were more people...

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