05 October, 2014

Showing empathy in your leadership

By Dan McCarthy

Empathy among corporate managers is in short supply, according to a survey of more than 600 employees by talent mobility consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison. The survey found that 58% of managers fail to show the right level of understanding toward their employees.

“Empathy isn’t a weakness, but fundamental to good management,” said Kristen Leverone, senior vice president for Lee Hecht Harrison’s Global Talent Development Practice. “It means being able to understand and relate to others’ feelings. After all, if a supervisor or manager can’t tune into the feelings of employees, it’s going to be very difficult to motivate or engage them. The survey seems to have struck a chord, and the findings should raise concerns for management.”

What is empathy? It’s an understanding of someone else’s world, and showing the person that you understand.

Empathy is not agreement — and it’s not sympathy (“oh, you poor thing”) — it’s simply understanding something from the other person’s perspective.

So how can you be a more empathetic leader? Here are five ways:

1. Get to know your employees.
How well do you really know your employees? Try this test: take out a piece of paper, and for each employee, see if you can name their spouse or significant other, names of their kids, where they live, where they went to college and where their parents live.

If you came up with a lot of blanks, I’d recommend spending a little more time in your one-on-ones asking and sharing before you jump right into status reports. It’s how relationships and trust are built, and demonstrates that you are interested and care.

2. One-on-ones?
You are having regular one-one-ones with each of your employees, aren’t you? If you’re not, its kind and hard to be empathetic if you don’t have a clue what your employees are doing.

3. Show interest in your employee’s day-to-day work.
A lot of managers like to think of themselves as big-picture managers, with little interest in knowing the gory details of every aspect of their employee’s jobs. While no employee wants to be micro-managed, employees do appreciate it when their managers show an interest and appreciation for what they do. Who knows, you might even learn something.

4. Listen — and respond with empathy.
Responding with empathy means letting your employee know you heard and understood both what they said, as well as how they feel. It’s harder than it sounds, and will take some practice, but people will appreciate even the clumsiest of efforts.

Example: “So Jane, let me see if I understand — you’ve been frustrated at the lack of support that you are getting from IT? Is that is?”

Listening not only shows people you care, and that you “get it”, it also often allows people to solve their own problems, just from being able to talk it out with someone.

5. Lend a hand.
Lending a hand, removing roadblocks, providing support and/or resources — that’s what managers are supposed to do, right? When someone is having a problem, they are stuck, or just can’t figure it out on their own; “Figure it out, that’s what you’re paid to do” isn’t very empathetic. You may not come right and say that, but you may be coming across that way.

I had the opportunity to listen to a CEO talk about his company culture at a presentation lately. He took a lot of pride in making sure he knew every employee’s name (about 300 employees), and liked to wander around chatting with each of them, asking about their jobs, their families, etc.

During one of these chats, one of his plant managers let him know that his son had been recently arrested — he made a stupid mistake. Needless to say, this was weighing heavily on the manager’s mind. The CEO asked him if he had an attorney — and he didn’t. That day, the CEO found an attorney for him and paid for it. Turns out the CEO had a similar experience with his own son.

While this may be an extreme example of empathy and lending a hand, can you imagine the impact that gesture had on that plant manager’s commitment to his company and his motivation? Priceless.

About the author: Dan McCarthy is the director of Executive Development Programs at the University of New Hampshire. He writes the award-winning leadership development blog Great Leadership and is consistently ranked as one of the top digital influencers in leadership and talent management. He’s a regular contributor to SmartBrief and a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce Advisory Board. E-mail McCarthy.

Source Courtesy: http://smartblogs.com/

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Ten silly management games

By Dan McCarthy 

Most managers are rationale, logical, practical problem solvers when they first get promoted. Then, through organizational conditioning, they learn to play silly games. They are like the frog in a pan of boiling water. The change is so gradual; these silly games eventually begin to feel like “real world management.”

How many of these silly management games do you play? More importantly, do you have the courage to speak up and stop the insanity?

We’ll start with some silly budgeting games:

1.      “Use it or lose it budgeting.” This is when you are getting close to the end of the year and your budget is running under your forecast. In previous years, when you under spent, your next year’s budget was set based on that year’s actual. So, in order not to have your budget cut again, you go on a shopping spree — buying stuff you really don’t need or stocking up just in case you might need it.
2.     “Lowballing your forecast.” This one is kind of the opposite of No. 1. In this game, the idea if to “sandbag,” or undercommit to what you think you can actually do. That way, then the powers above ask you to increase your goal, you know you can do it. Then, you look even better for exceeding your target.
3.     “The shell game.” This is when orders are given to cut expenses in one category, i.e., travel, so you increase spending in another catalog, i.e., conferences, and bury the costs. Or, management says to reduce money spent on postage, so you spend more money on bike couriers. There is a net gain of zero, perhaps even an increase in spending.

Human resources’ silly games (a category with infinite possibilities!):

4.     “Pass the trash.” This is when you “encourage” an underperforming employee to apply for other jobs within the company. When you are asked for a reference, you give glowing reviews, or use code word phrases like “Oh, Wally is a great guy! He just needs an opportunity to leverage his skills in a new environment more suited to his strengths.”
5.     “A warm body is better than no body.” Hiring freezes bring out a lot of silly management gamesmanship. This one is when you have an underperforming employee, but you won’t take action because you’re afraid you won’t be able to replace the headcount. So the rest of your employees get to suffer the consequences.
6.     “Gladiators.” This is when you ask two employees to work on the same problem. Let ‘em duke it out and let the best solution emerge!

Organizational silly games:

7.      Risk” (empire building). “Risk” is the game of conquest, where one army invades another country and captures the land in order to build up an empire. I’ve heard managers also call this game “a land grab.” The idea is to lobby to your boss and anyone that will listen that your department can do the other department’s job better than they can, so you should take it over.
8.     “Shaking the bird cage.” Some employees call frequent, questionable reorganizations “shaking up the bird cage.” You get a lot of noisy chaos and ruffled feathers flying, and at the end of the day, the same bunch are sitting on different perches, albeit a little dizzy from all of the cage-rattling. Nothing else seems to change.

Strategy silly games:

9.     “Trivial Pursuit.” This is when the company has no strategy, so the manager keeps everyone busy fighting day-today fires, jumping from one hot priority to the next.
10. “Clue.” This is when the company does have a strategy, but it’s such a secret or so high level and vague that the manager has to guess what it is or make up their own.

How about you? Any to add to the list?

Source Courtesy: http://smartblogs.com/

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07 September, 2014

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action



Simon Sinek presents a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with a golden circle and the question "Why?" His examples include Apple, Martin Luther King, and the Wright brothers -- and as a counterpoint Tivo, which (until a recent court victory that tripled its stock price) appeared to be struggling.


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David Kelley: How to build your creative confidence



Is your school or workplace divided into "creatives" versus practical people? Yet surely, David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few. Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create... (From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.)


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How To Make Hard Choices



--by Ruth Chang, syndicated from ted.com, Sep 06, 2014
Think of a hard choice you'll face in the near future. It might be between two careers -- artist and accountant -- or places to live -- the city or the country -- or even between two people to marry -- you could marry Betty or you could marry Lolita. Or it might be a choice about whether to have children, to have an ailing parent move in with you, to raise your child in a religion that your partner lives by but leaves you cold. Or whether to donate your life's savings to charity.
Chances are, the hard choice you thought of was something big, something momentous, something that matters to you. Hard choices seem to be occasions for agonizing, hand-wringing, the gnashing of teeth. But I think we've misunderstood hard choices and the role they play in our lives. Understanding hard choices uncovers a hidden power each of us possesses.
What makes a choice hard is the way the alternatives relate. In any easy choice, one alternative is better than the other. In a hard choice, one alternative is better in some ways, the other alternative is better in other ways, and neither is better than the other overall. You agonize over whether to stay in your current job in the city or uproot your life for more challenging work in the country because staying is better in some ways, moving is better in others, and neither is better than the other overall.
We shouldn't think that all hard choices are big. Let's say you're deciding what to have for breakfast. You could have high fiber bran cereal or a chocolate donut. Suppose what matters in the choice is tastiness and healthfulness. The cereal is better for you, the donut tastes way better, but neither is better than the other overall, a hard choice. Realizing that small choices can also be hard may make big hard choices seem less intractable. After all, we manage to figure out what to have for breakfast, so maybe we can figure out whether to stay in the city or uproot for the new job in the country.
We also shouldn't think that hard choices are hard because we are stupid. When I graduated from college, I couldn't decide between two careers, philosophy and law. I really loved philosophy. There are amazing things you can learn as a philosopher, and all from the comfort of an armchair. But I came from a modest immigrant family where my idea of luxury was having a pork tongue and jelly sandwich in my school lunchbox, so the thought of spending my whole life sitting around in armchairs just thinking, well, that struck me as the height of extravagance and frivolity. So I got out my yellow pad, I drew a line down the middle, and I tried my best to think of the reasons for and against each alternative. I remember thinking to myself, if only I knew what my life in each career would be like. If only God or Netflix would send me a DVD of my two possible future careers, I'd be set. I'd compare them side by side, I'd see that one was better, and the choice would be easy.
But I got no DVD, and because I couldn't figure out which was better, I did what many of us do in hard choices: I took the safest option. Fear of being an unemployed philosopher led me to become a lawyer, and as I discovered, lawyering didn't quite fit. It wasn't who I was. So now I'm a philosopher, and I study hard choices, and I can tell you that fear of the unknown, while a common motivational default in dealing with hard choices, rests on a misconception of them. It's a mistake to think that in hard choices, one alternative really is better than the other, but we're too stupid to know which, and since we don't know which, we might as well take the least risky option. Even taking two alternatives side by side with full information, a choice can still be hard. Hard choices are hard not because of us or our ignorance; they're hard because there is no best option.
Now, if there's no best option, if the scales don't tip in favor of one alternative over another, then surely the alternatives must be equally good. So maybe the right thing to say in hard choices is that they're between equally good options. That can't be right. If alternatives are equally good, you should just flip a coin between them, and it seems a mistake to think, here's how you should decide between careers, places to live, people to marry: Flip a coin.
There's another reason for thinking that hard choices aren't choices between equally good options. Suppose you have a choice between two jobs: you could be an investment banker or a graphic artist. There are a variety of things that matter in such a choice, like the excitement of the work, achieving financial security, having time to raise a family, and so on. Maybe the artist's career puts you on the cutting edge of new forms of pictorial expression. Maybe the banking career puts you on the cutting edge of new forms of financial manipulation. Imagine the two jobs however you like so that neither is better than the other.
Now suppose we improve one of them a bit. Suppose the bank, wooing you, adds 500 dollars a month to your salary. Does the extra money now make the banking job better than the artist one? Not necessarily. A higher salary makes the banking job better than it was before, but it might not be enough to make being a banker better than being an artist. But if an improvement in one of the jobs doesn't make it better than the other, then the two original jobs could not have been equally good. If you start with two things that are equally good, and you improve one of them, it now must be better than the other. That's not the case with options in hard choices.
So now we've got a puzzle. We've got two jobs. Neither is better than the other, nor are they equally good. So how are we supposed to choose? Something seems to have gone wrong here. Maybe the choice itself is problematic and comparison is impossible. But that can't be right. It's not like we're trying to choose between two things that can't be compared. We're weighing the merits of two jobs, after all, not the merits of the number nine and a plate of fried eggs. A comparison of the overall merits of two jobs is something we can make, and one we often do make.
I think the puzzle arises because of an unreflective assumption we make about value. We unwittingly assume that values like justice, beauty, kindness, are akin to scientific quantities, like length, mass and weight. Take any comparative question not involving value, such as which of two suitcases is heavier. There are only three possibilities. The weight of one is greater, lesser or equal to the weight of the other. Properties like weight can be represented by real numbers -- one, two, three and so on -- and there are only three possible comparisons between any two real numbers. One number is greater, lesser, or equal to the other. Not so with values. As post-Enlightenment creatures, we tend to assume that scientific thinking holds the key to everything of importance in our world, but the world of value is different from the world of science. The stuff of the one world can be quantified by real numbers. The stuff of the other world can't. We shouldn't assume that the world of is, of lengths and weights, has the same structure as the world of ought, of what we should do.
So if what matters to us -- a child's delight, the love you have for your partner — can't be represented by real numbers, then there's no reason to believe that in choice, there are only three possibilities -- that one alternative is better, worse or equal to the other. We need to introduce a new, fourth relation beyond being better, worse or equal, that describes what's going on in hard choices. I like to say that the alternatives are "on a par." When alternatives are on a par, it may matter very much which you choose, but one alternative isn't better than the other. Rather, the alternatives are in the same neighborhood of value, in the same league of value, while at the same time being very different in kind of value. That's why the choice is hard.
Understanding hard choices in this way uncovers something about ourselves we didn't know. Each of us has the power to create reasons. Imagine a world in which every choice you face is an easy choice, that is, there's always a best alternative. If there's a best alternative, then that's the one you should choose, because part of being rational is doing the better thing rather than the worse thing, choosing what you have most reason to choose. In such a world, we'd have most reason to wear black socks instead of pink socks, to eat cereal instead of donuts, to live in the city rather than the country, to marry Betty instead of Lolita. A world full of only easy choices would enslave us to reasons. When you think about it, it's nuts to believe that the reasons given to you dictated that you had most reason to pursue the exact hobbies you do, to live in the exact house you do, to work at the exact job you do. Instead, you faced alternatives that were on a par, hard choices, and you made reasons for yourself to choose that hobby, that house and that job. When alternatives are on a par, the reasons given to us, the ones that determine whether we're making a mistake, are silent as to what to do. It's here, in the space of hard choices, that we get to exercise our normative power, the power to create reasons for yourself, to make yourself into the kind of person for whom country living is preferable to the urban life.
When we choose between options that are on a par, we can do something really rather remarkable. We can put our very selves behind an option. Here's where I stand. Here's who I am. I am for banking. I am for chocolate donuts. This response in hard choices is a rational response, but it's not dictated by reasons given to us. Rather, it's supported by reasons created by us. When we create reasons for ourselves to become this kind of person rather than that, we wholeheartedly become the people that we are. You might say that we become the authors of our own lives.
So when we face hard choices, we shouldn't beat our head against a wall trying to figure out which alternative is better. There is no best alternative. Instead of looking for reasons out there, we should be looking for reasons in here: Who am I to be? You might decide to be a pink sock-wearing, cereal-loving, country-living banker, and I might decide to be a black sock-wearing, urban, donut-loving artist. What we do in hard choices is very much up to each of us.
Now, people who don't exercise their normative powers in hard choices are drifters. We all know people like that. I drifted into being a lawyer. I didn't put my agency behind lawyering. I wasn't for lawyering. Drifters allow the world to write the story of their lives. They let mechanisms of reward and punishment -- pats on the head, fear, the easiness of an option — to determine what they do. So the lesson of hard choices reflect on what you can put your agency behind, on what you can be for, and through hard choices, become that person.
Far from being sources of agony and dread, hard choices are precious opportunities for us to celebrate what is special about the human condition, that the reasons that govern our choices as correct or incorrect sometimes run out, and it is here, in the space of hard choices, that we have the power to create reasons for ourselves to become the distinctive people that we are. And that's why hard choices are not a curse but a godsend.

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