I recently had the pleasure to be invited to be the keynote speaker for the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Women in Business Leadership Conference (“Women Redefining Business”) where the keynote message was about communication, connection and courage as a pathway to Professional Intimacy: The Key to Sustainable Leadership.
The breakout session piggybacked on how business owners can leverage stress by learning how to have authentic conversations with their employees in order to avoid entrepreneurial burn out.
When I give this talk, I usually ask the audience for a raise of hands if they consider stress a problem for them at work (i.e., negative effect on productivity, experience physical stress-related symptoms and relationship problems like irritability).
When the audience is predominantly male, only about 30% of the men in the audience raise their hands.
This audience was 98% female, and about 80% of the audience raised said “Yes!” to is stress a problem for you at work.
Why such a large difference between men and women?
According to research published by the the American Psychological Association on gender and stress:
” … Men and women report different reactions to stress, both physically and mentally. They attempt to manage stress in very different ways and also perceive their ability to do so — and the things that stand in their way — in markedly different ways. Findings suggest that while women are more likely to report physical symptoms associated with stress, they are doing a better job connecting with others in their lives and, at times, these connections are important to their stress management strategies.”
The bottom line is whether you are a man or a woman, an entrepreneur, a senior manager or CEO, your unrecognized and untreated stress could quickly be the end of your career, your relationships and quite possibly your life as long as you ignore the symptoms or refuse to change your behavior.
While work/life balance is a good solution, I’m not convinced it’s the only solution. There is another most surprising solution, that can be executed at work just about any time of the day and there’s zero financial cost.
A process I have developed over many years of working with highly successful business people whose steps are backed by scientific research and will reduce stress and prevent burn out. Simply stated, you can execute the steps in quick and simple conversations and relationships at work. I call it “Professional Intimacy: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader (one who is built to last for the long haul).
There are three simple steps to Professional Intimacy … (a special thank you to Heather Martinez, who crafted the Story Map of my Keynote )
1. Connection – Know the answer to these four questions asked by Kevin Cashman, Author of Leadership from the Inside Out:
Who Am I? Where Am I Going? Why Am I Going There? and I’ll add Who is Going With Me?
2. Curiosity – When it comes to brain science, the truth is the same chemicals that are involved in a fearful are also involved when we feel curious or excited. What’s the difference? The story I tell myself to explain the situation, why it’s happening and what’ll be the result. Asking better questions when it comes to making meaning of my environment will result in my responding rather than automatically reacting because I’ve assumed the worst case scenario (which is likely not the case, anyhow).
3. Communicate – Have the courage to communicate you care when it comes to your team. Be a real human being, not some ivory-tower-untouchable-walk-on-water-CXO. Vulnerability, letting people see you sweat, showing your emotions (I didn’t say wear your heart on your sleeve), asking someone “How are you doing? What do you need right now?” when they appear to be having a rough day. Oh yes, then shut up and listen … the most important part. Doing this will build trust and respect, which will go both ways. Try it, I dare you.
If you would like more information on how you can reduce, manage or leverage stress and avoid burning up or burning out in your career by using the 3 Key Principals of Professional Intimacy, join me for a free webinar replay available for two more days: You can get more information or register here to get immediate access: Free Webinar “What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Leadership Stress: Myths & Solutions” – This full video is packed with practical strategies to reduce stress and feel happier and more satisfied at work AND a special announcement at the end!
The words you choose as a leader, or in any position of influence, shape the identity of others and as a result their decisions and actions. Successful business owners and senior managers, are able to communicate in a way that is authentic and inspiring, not only shaping positive results, but also creating an environment where employees feel satisfied, happy and excited to come to work each day. This article is written for senior leaders who happen to be women. However, my executive coaching clients who are of the male persuasion tell me they (sometimes secretly) find this advice extraordinarily relevant and helpful when it comes to being a successful, Sustainable Leader.
It’s common knowledge in business what is required in order to be considered a “strong leader” or “respected boss”, however leaders who are women find the ingredients to be a successful leader somewhat, ok extraordinarily, hypocritical.
Do any of these Rules You Need to Follow To Be a Respected Leader sound familiar? If you have ever followed them mindlessly, no worries, because what’s admitted here stays here, okay?
“Leave your feelings at the door when you come to work …”
“Don’t let them see you sweat …”
“Strong men are authoritative. Strong men are respected. You need to act like a man to get respect around here. Oh, and by the way, when you act like a “strong man” you will be called a b***h!”
Wait, keep following these rules and it will get worse, not better …
Did I mention the stress you will feel as a result of pretending or faking it … “acting as if” how you are showing up is who you really are and is in alignment with what you believe you need to be…to be successful?
Unfortunately, when you pretend to feel one way and act another, you will quickly be perceived by others as distant, inauthentic and untrustworthy. Probably not what you are going for … Find out how to break the rules with professionalism and be an authentic woman leader: Read more over at ManagingAmericans.com[sharebox5_no_border] [/sharebox5_no_border]
My first opportunity to consciously stand up for my professional and philosophical beliefs about Professional Intimacy occurred in 1994. In the last year of my Master’s program, my thesis involved research on the process of creating a successful business partnership.
Using Appreciative Inquiry, our process resulted in a model of a synergistic triangle consisting of three equally key ingredients, where 1 + 1 = 3 (I was never good at math, but this makes sense … read on):
In the early 1990′s the unspoken, unwritten rule in the business world was “Don’t Talk About Relationships, feelings or any of the soft, fluffy stuff humans were made of when delivering leadership or management training or when speaking to businesses, managers or executive leaders about improving productivity or performance. I was directed to leave that stuff at the door and talk about “real” skills. Don’t feel … just get to work!
I followed this advice for a while and felt my hands (and credibility) were tied behind my back.
Then I ignoring that advice. After 12 years in business, our design resulted in not only building our own successful business and partnership, but also served as a model for our clients to build sustainable partnerships.
Through the process of developing Professional Intimacy as defined in my thesis in 1994 and even to this day, I continued to learn and grow both intra-personally and inter-personally as a result.
The truth is this: We learn and grow in relationship, not in isolation. Following the old rule and disregarding the complex and dynamic relationship systems we create through all of our relationships, however brief, is ridiculous.
Here’s the point: My thesis was nominated for publication in the college journal … an honor, for sure. However, the committee stated it would only be considered for publication only if I changed the title.
They objected to the phrase I used to symbolize our design for a successful business partnership: Professional Intimacy.
Because sexual harassment in the workplace was such a touchy (pun intended) topic in the early 90′s, the committee frowned upon my use of the phrase in the title. I stood my ground on principle because even though the rule was “Don’t talk about RELATIONSHIPS and WORK in the same sentence.” I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) in good conscience back down. Besides, I have a strong oppositional reflex.
I ran across the dusty, bound thesis years later and wondered …
“Did I do the right thing in standing up for my values?”
“Would my career path have changed had I decided to belly up?”
“Would I have been able to help more people sooner?”
I suppose I’ll never know… What would you have done?
PS. Check out Chapter 19: “Professional Intimacy: The key to being a Sustainable Leader” in the book “The Character Based Leader: Instigating a leadership revolution one person at a time” on Amazon or your favorite bookseller.
Congratulations on your new position! Your climb to the top is well deserved. But when the shine wears off, you soon may be faced with a HUGE problem for which you were not prepared:
Your biggest challenge is not mastering the technical aspects of your job. That’s the easy part.
The biggest challenge you (and one you may find you have the least control over which has the biggest impact on your success) is your team’s ability to work together with ease.
Because people bring their stress, negativity and sometimes difficult personalities to work, they can’t just leave their emotions at the door when they come to work.
And, you can’t do it either. Emotions are contagious!
#1: Emotions are contagious! Literally. The human brain contains “mirror neurons” which are like antennae for emotion (e-motion = energy in motion).
Strategy #1: When you find the person you are talking to beginning to get “stressed out” (i.e., holding their breath, raising their voice, tensing their jaw or fists) ….
When you are truly listening to the other person and get a response you were not going for or are surprised about (their frustration, for example), use the steps above to “Check in and check it out…” Then, listen again to their response (what they thought they heard you say will not be what you meant). Don’t see this as your opportunity to get angry, just take a “re-do” and say, “Okay, you heard me say (blah blah blah), can I say it differently?” Asking permission seldom gets a “no” so you will likely get a “yes.” Then rephrase your statement and move forward.
What is your best advice to new senior managers when it comes to turning conflict into consensus?
Your ability to address, manage and eliminate conflict will have a direct impact on your team’s ability to have confidence and to put their unquestioned trust you and your leadership skills.
And a few might even be taking bets on how long you last … You need these skills.
Click the link below for more information (and the first 20 fast action takers get extra bonuses and audios!)
To Your Sustainable Leadership!
PS. Post your comments and best advice below for newly hired or recently promoted senior managers who are experiencing an undercurrent of conflict in their new team[sharebox5_no_border] [/sharebox5_no_border]
It was interesting to see the negative, almost painful in some cases, visceral reaction so many people had when remembering their worst boss.
Great Bosses & Horrible Bosses
For just a moment, remember your favorite boss. You know, the one you said
you would follow anywhere if he or she ever left the company. The boss for whom you came in early and stayed late for to meet a promised project deadline. How would you describe his or her overall mood? How did you feel when you were working for him or her?
Now, remember the boss you would never work for again in a million years. The boss you worked really hard to avoid being in the same room with for longer than necessary. The boss you had when hiding under your desk or in your closet was not beneath you. How would you describe his or her overall mood? How did you feel when you were around him or her?
Surprised? Probably not. Now, here’s the tough question:
If I walked in the front door of your office or showed up at your next team meeting, how would I describe the mood of the people who work for you?
Neural Wi-Fi: Peas & the Interpersonal Neurobiology of Leadership
Pretend for a moment you are spoon feeding peas to a baby sitting in a high chair. What do you do? As you are putting the spoon to her lips, what do you subconsciously do with your mouth (whether you like smooshed peas or not) … You got it, you OPEN your mouth and make an aaahhhh sound, in a sometimes desperate attempt to get her to do the same. Why? It works most of the time. Instinct. Mirror neurons.
The truth is, recent research in brain science proves that for humans (and I’ll add chimps and horses), emotions are actually contagious because of mirror neurons. The short explanation is mirror neurons in our brains are responsible for our “catching” the mood of other people without realizing it. Add to that fascinating fact that our brains are prediction machines and constantly are making connections to predict the future based on our past experiences. Your grumpy boss could be in a good mood on Friday, however your brain won’t realize it and will automatically predict (or believe), he’s his usually grumpy self.
E-motion = Energy in Motion
Why does this matter for leaders, bosses or other people of influence? If you can believe that your mood is reflected in the mood of your team, you may or may not like what you see in the “mirror.”
What? … So What?… NOW WHAT?
While you may read this and understand or you are reading it for the first time and think Wow! that makes sense, what’s the “So What?” Understanding is overrated. It does not automatically lead to action or doing anything differently tomorrow. Unless you make a commitment to take action and the more accountable you are publicly the greater the odds you harness the action potential of your Aha! moment and transfer it into action. Feel free to consider using the ACE approach to change:
1. Awareness: Notice your mood. Notice the mood of others. Label the feeling (without judgement is the key).
2. Choice: How do you like what you see in the mirror? If it’s what you want, keep going. If it’s not what you want, what choices do you have in the moment?
3. Execution: What is one small action you are willing to take in that moment? You don’t have to effect change on anything, just take action to make it different.
4. Repeat #1 What information did you gather? What choice do you want to make now? What action will you take next? Just like directions on shampoo, rinse, lather and repeat.
Accountability: What are you willing to do in the next 24 hours to recognize and change the effect you have on the people in your company? If you have the courage, feel free to post your commitment in the Comment box below. (If you are not quite that brave, feel free to email me directly. All responses are strictly confidential!).
[sharebox4 sharetext=”Share This Page”] [/sharebox4]
(Original post written for LeadChangeGroup Blog by Christina Haxton, MA LMFT)
Answer: Two frogs.
Why? The same reason only 3% of the population set and actually achieve their goals or maintain positive, well-intentioned change in the first place. The frog missed three critical steps of Achieving his Goal: Ask, Announce, Act (and Ask again).
The frog understood WHY it was a good idea to jump off, because he was an intelligent, high achieving, upwardly mobile frog. He understood there were more opportunities and freedom if he left the comfort of the log. While the frog understood why, and although he did decide … he didn’t take action.
What about accountability and following up? Perhaps if the first frog told the second frog he was going to jump off, he would have followed through on his promise and lived happily ever after. Does this story sound familiar? Whoops, wrong story. That’s enough about frogs …Now let’s make the story relevant.
Leaders and Learning: Which skills are more critical to your success strategic skills or soft skills?
“Almost 50% of newly hired or newly promoted leaders quit or get fired before their 18 month anniversary …” (Hint: The majority of failure is not a result of lack of business savvy or technical skills, but a lack of interpersonal or communication skills.)
… and another statistic:
“The divorce rate in the US is around 50% …” As a marriage counselor for 14 years, I will also bet the reason is the same … lack of effective communication skills by one or both people.
Question: Which is easier for you to achieve: your company’s strategic goals or your soft skills or interpersonal goals? “What are ‘personal development goals’ and why would I, Mr. or Ms. Super Successful CEO need them?” you ask?
Because you don’t want to be a statistic.
By lack of interpersonal or soft skills I mean the inability to manage your emotions. You, who growl and snap when your assistant forgets an important detail about a meeting. You, the exhausted Senior VP who feels like you start your day in at a jog and feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time 8 pm rolls around. You, the up and coming leader who promised your son you’d get home in time to see him play baseball and you missed it again. Yes, you, the human part of the executive equation.
What difference will it make when you have mastered the higher level communication and relationship skills that prevent these conflicts? You understand why personal skill development is important, may have decided to make a change, but are you ready to take action and jump off of the log?
What if you had a simple, 3 step brain-based learning strategy to make lasting, positive changes in your actions, your communication style or your interpersonal skills as easily as you develop and achieve your strategic company objectives for 2012? I said it was simple, I didn’t say it would be easy …
AAA: The Triple Threat Solution … 3 Simple Steps: Ask, Announce & Act (Repeat)
Step #1: Ask. Ask others what they see you can improve upon. After all, perception is reality and their perception of how you communicate rather than your perception of how you communicate matters most.
Step #2: Announce. Tell people what you are working on. This not only holds you more accountable for change, it also subconsciously invites people to look for and more likely notice the positive change you will be making.
Step #3: Act. Just do it. Look for opportunities to interrupt an old pattern. Try taking a few deep breaths next time you feel tense going into a meeting (holding our breath triggers Lizard Brain). Instead of saying “No” immediately to an idea proposed in a project meeting, take a moment and respond “Interesting, let’s consider that idea.”
Then, repeat #1: Ask. Remind others of what you are working on and then check in and ask “How am I doing?” Where are you inviting them to focus? Right. On what you are changing, because otherwise, people may not notice, allowing the negative things you say or do to stand out more automatically.
So, what are your waiting for? Jump!
[sharebox4 sharetext=”Share This Page”] [/sharebox4]
“The Neuroscience of Leadership Stress: Myths & Solutions for Busy Professionals, Managers & Executives”
“What Your Brain Wishes You Knew About Leadership Stress & 5 Simple Solutions to Successfully Do More With Less & Have Fun Doing It!”
We all experience stress and to a certain degree need it to be motivated into action. Left unchecked, even low levels of chronic stress will not only reduce your ability to solve problems and make decisions, your stress will reduce your team’s productivity and engagement. Click here to listen to the webinar replay (available for a limited time only):
Smart leaders plan their retirement from the company and their successor (a succession plan) well before the retirement party for the well-being of the organization and successful transition of leadership.
Yet many former executives fail to plan for their personal transition into retirement … more time with their spouse, their now almost grown children or simply going from 90 mph to a crawl on the freeway of life. It’s a bumpy ride, unless you’re prepared for re-entry …
If you are ready to take action on your personal transition plan, contact Christina.
Are you an emerging leader or newly promoted leader looking for a goal-setting strategy to make lasting, positive changes in your interpersonal or communication skills? Originally posted on Lead Change Blog
Step #2: ANNOUNCE
How many times have you promised yourself you’ll exercise today, start your diet tomorrow, finish writing that marketing plan by Friday (okay, that’s mine), only to “run out of time” and fail to keep your promise to yourself? All too often.
Now, how often do you make a business appointment with a client and fail to show up? Probably never.
Why is it we are willing to fail to follow through with commitments we make to ourselves, yet never in a million years would we “no show” for an appointment with a client or friend?
Here are two reasons: we are accountable to someone else and we want to avoid feeling embarrassed (or some other negative emotion). Accountability means we have some skin in the game … which can come in several different forms.
If money matters you will further increase the likelihood you will set and achieve your goals when you have a financial skin in the game. I have a business-coaching client who was required to improve his mental capacity, problem solving ability and focus to succeed in his next stage of business growth. However, he failed to follow through with an action step for three consecutive weeks. So we got creative and leveraged what was important to him … cold hard cash. Because of his financial and relational sense of responsibility, he never missed a coaching appointment with me, so he wrote me a check for his regular coaching session fee of $500.00. He said, “If I do this by next Tuesday, you give me back my check at our next session. If I don’t, no matter what the excuse, you cash the check and donate it to a local charity of your choice.” Another quality of his was he was very honest, however I could also verify whether he followed through or not.
What do you think happened? Right. He attended his class for several weeks in a row and now is in the routine. He also asked if I would keep the check in my file so he could keep it as a motivator to get other “someday goals” started.
Step #2: Announce publicly what you are working on and your specific plans to improve. In the next post, you’ll discover the secret of why this is the most important step.
If you aren’t yet ready to pick up the megaphone and make the public announcement, find a mentor, good friend or executive coach you can trust who will be honest with you yet who does not have anything to gain or lose by your action (or inaction).
Who will you ask to hold your feet to the fire? Contact me today to see if you are ready to take this next step.
Post your comments below (only if you have the courage to announce it publicly!)
What will it look like when you have skin in the game?
Stay tuned for the “how to” for Step #3: ACT[sharebox4 sharetext=”Share This Page”] [/sharebox4]