Steven's Own Words

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...

What Do You Say To Someone Who’s Lost A Loved One?

We talked about losing a favorite boss last week and a reader asked: I know this last article was about a favorite boss taking a new job elsewhere, but what do you do when it’s more serious than that? What do you do or say to someone who’s lost a loved one? I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t even play one on TV, so I won’t pretend to know something I don’t about the emotions and psychological state of one in mourning. What I will say is this: in my experience and learning, surprisingly, one of the worst things you can say are those instinctual words: “If there’s anything I can do, let me know.” And, I believe, it has a lot to do with what we’ve been discussing in these recent blogs: the power of choice and being conscious of what you are looking for. When we don’t know what to say and we simply offer “If there’s anything I can do, let me know,” we have placed the burden of choice and decision making on them to figure out how you can help. It puts you in a passive, at mercy, role, and the grieving person in the decision making, problem solving, active role; and that’s the last thing you likely intend to do. Instead, be specific. Say what you can and are willing to do to help. Offer to cook a meal every week, mow their lawn every Saturday like their spouse did, drive their kids to school, grocery shop…whatever it is, offer that. In specifics. Then they don’t have to feel like they are burdening you by asking for help, or feeling pressure...

Losing A Favorite Boss

One of the most powerful effects on your experience of work is an amazing boss. So losing that boss can feel…pretty awful.  So what should you do when a beloved boss moves on?  My first reaction is: you never know what you’re gonna get. For all you know, the next boss will be just as wonderful!  My second reaction is: Have you put your name in the hat? If you’re interested in the position, go for it! You’ve got the relationship. Take advantage! Have your beloved boss put a good word in for you before they leave. Help prompt them on your greatness so they help put your best foot forward. Ask them for pointers about how you can look better for management. Seek to understand language, or expectations, or the kinds of challenges they face at their level so you understand what talents are really needed.  Even if you don’t get the position, you will be looking your best when you meet the new boss.  If they’re already gone and you’re not eligible for or interested in their old job, ask them why they’re leaving. They might love the company and have an offer they can’t refuse — or they might suggest that this company is not the best, and you shouldn’t plan to stay long term. Whatever it is, get the insight. Plus, if you know what that new boss is going to walk into, you can better prepare for how to can support them. If you can think about how you can be of value to the incoming boss, you’re instantly forming a bond, and setting yourself up to be...

The Problem With Conflict

Relationship expert and author John Gottman says 69% of all conflict is unresolvable — That’s the bad news. The good news: Conflict doesn’t have to undermine relationships — professional or personal. The simple reason so much conflict is unresolvable is that it touches on who we are as people, and we are unwilling to give up who we are as people, especially when it comes to what we value and how we see the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Conflict is different for everyone; one conflict is trivial and solvable in one relationship and monumental and unsolvable in another. But, just because a conflict remains unsolved, doesn’t mean it has to cause an impasse or be negative. The difference between unsolvable healthy conflict and unsolvable unhealthy conflict that undermines relationships is how you treat each other in the process. Think about it this way: every business problem is a people problem. And in the end, the problem is never that people made a mistake; the problem is how others react to and are affected by those mistakes. Do they become wedges driving people apart, kicking up the dust of judgements, grudge and distrust? Or do they become opportunities to solve a problem, figure out how to connect on a more human level, and build increasing trust?  We live in a culture that wants to feel no pain. In fact, we live in a culture that will do just about anything to avoid pain and discomfort. We don’t want the awkwardness of disagreement — or even the discomfort of fluctuating temperatures, for that matter. But guess what? Temperatures fluctuate. We feel...

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