Sustainability: the capacity to endure; to conserve resources; built to last.
A Sustainable Leader is resilient and an agile learner, built to last through uncertain and rapidly changing economic conditions.
A Sustainable Leader intentionally develops the potential in others, so they too can develop into exceptional leaders who can carry through the company’s mission and vision.
“In today’s fast-paced, high-demand and global business environment, being a Sustainable Leader™ who can stay focused, think creatively, easily manage stress and emotions, communicate effectively and set the standard in their organization will make the difference between a healthy, thriving and resilient company and an ineffective or worse, a non-existent one.” – Christina Haxton, CEO & Founder, Sustainable Leadership, Inc.
What steps does your company take to ensure it’s leaders and managers are Sustainable Leaders?
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.
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!).
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(Original post written for LeadChangeGroup Blog by Christina Haxton, MA LMFT)
“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):
(Originally written and published for the LeadChange Blog)
Leaders: How are your people skills? The better question is “How would your team describe your people skills?” While you may be able to acknowledge this is an area you could use some improvement, setting “soft skill” goals may feel like trying to grab a handful of jello.
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If you were my client and I asked, “Do you have your goals to be a better leader (or communicator) clearly defined, written down and measurable?” I will probably hear your eyes roll into the back of their head. Perhaps you may have set goals in the past and not achieved lasting change. Not because you lacked understanding or even desire to change, but because of failure to follow Steps #2 and #3 of the change process. (Click here to read Step #1 and #2 and #3 in the previous post on Leadership, Frogs & Goals).
Understanding alone is overrated. We’ve all decided taking action is a good idea. But we are still sitting on the log. Change requires ACTION. Understanding or having the awareness of why your sarcastic tone is caustic , or why you should quit smoking, drinking too much is a necessary first step, after you announce your intention to change to others, you must now jump off the log.
The key to making lasting behavioral change is simple: small actions over a period of time result in SIGNIFICANT LONG TERM CHANGE. You’re not perfect; you are going to slip up. When you do, ACKNOWLEDGE IT OUT LOUD and MOVE FORWARD.
#1. Small change counts more than you think. While you may think you have a problem finishing something, I will propose you may actually have a STARTING problem instead. Here’s your challenge: Can you do anything for 5 minutes? Sure you can, so start there.
Here are a few idea starters: Walk, ride a bike, stretch, meditate, breathe, listen deeply, play with your kids, hang out with your partner with your cell phone off, plan a goal or project with paper and pencil, organize your desk. Try doing whatever “it” is for 5 minutes (because if you can’t do something for 5 minutes, trust me, you have bigger problems).
Make an appointment with yourself and put it in the calendar to do one or two times a week for the first week and build slowly. Exercise, quitting smoking, practice being a better listener all lend themselves to the “Do it for 5 minutes” strategy. Preparing your taxes is another. Yes, you have a few months, but what difference will it make if you start now with 5 minutes a week? April 14th might just be a more relaxing day! Like shampoo: Rinse, lather, repeat.
Then, repeat Step #1: Ask. Ask again by following up with the family, friends (and if you really want to be transparent include your staff) and ask “How am I doing?” Then LISTEN. Say “Thank you” in response to their answers. As Marshall Goldsmith says, we can’t go wrong if we respond with a genuine “Thank you” to any information, negative or positive, someone offers us.
Why should I ask again? Two reasons. Ask others with the intention of to simply gather information, as if you are on your own personal recognizance mission. Because you will use what you hear people say to accomplish two things:
#1. To adjust course. Like a pilot in an airplane getting feedback from the instrument panel who is flying from New York to Los Angeles, simply adjust what you are doing, a little to the left, a little to the right, toward your destination. Just view it as information, not right or wrong, good or bad, no big deal. Adjust course as needed.
#2. To build trust. Remember how I said this step is critical? Here’s why … by announcing publically your are human and are working on improving yourself and by following up and asking “How am I doing with ______?” and really listening to their response, you will build trust by showing you really care. That is as long as you do really care, because when you are genuine it is FELT. If you don’t really care, well, that’s palpable, too. If you really don’t care, don’t ask.
AAA: The key to becoming a Sustainable Leader and exceeding your personal development goals.
If you truly desire to be an exceptional leader of people, you will earn more trust by following up with this step exactly as written, than with anything else you ever have the guts to do, which is be human.
So if two frogs were sitting on a log, and you were one of the frogs, and you decide to jump off, what’s the answer now?
To become a trusted leader, communicate with compassion and try to connect personally with team members, writes Christina Haxton, who offers a three-step process for becoming a more empathetic leader. The first step is to reflect on your own personality to strengthen your emotional intelligence, she writes.
Read all three steps here:
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If you are a leader in your organization (and anyone who makes a difference can be a leader), what if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in another person’s self-image. What difference could you make today?
Common sense and now recent discoveries in brain science of social intelligence research, proves it: It is within a conversation in a relationship we learn and grow and our minds are shaped (ideally) to become more of who we are supposed to be. However, in many conversations we end up feeling criticized, deflated and unmotivated. Especially if that conversation happens with the boss or where there is an imbalance of power, as in a leader vs. direct report relationship.
Let’s make this practical and now take it a step further. We communicate through language (verbal, non-verbal). Stay with me now … In our conversations we influence and change our minds and subsequently our neural connections. When new neural networks and connections in our brain are made, due to neuroplasticity, our self-identity is constantly shaped and re-shaped and in turn we influence the self-identity of others. Oh, and many of us are in contact with more people and have more conversations with people at work … therefore many opportunities to create positive, constructive neural connections in not only their brain, but our own.
ScienceDaily (2010-08-27) — In the first study of its kind, researchers have found compelling evidence that our best and worst experiences in life are likely to involve not individual accomplishments, but interaction with other people and the fulfillment of an urge for social connection.
What if you were to notice opportunities to make a positive difference in someone else’s brain … what difference could you make today? Go ahead, I dare you.
Do you wonder why leadership training programs fail to prepare leaders of today for tomorrow’s challenges? The survey says …. “Avoid 5 Fail Points in Leadership Training” Download or listen now to the webinar on how to avoid wasting time and money on your personal or company’s leadership training and three key strategies to make your coaching or leadership development program truly pay off for the leader, for constituents and for the entire organization.
The bottom line is developing Sustainable Leaders: Developing authentic leaders happens from the inside out and from the outside in … for more information go to Sustainable Leadership, Inc.
1. To identify the strengths and fail points in Leadership Development initiatives, with a special interest in identifying the challenges faced by newly promoted Senior Leaders (recent research states over 40% of newly promoted executives quit or get fired within the first 18 months in their new position).
2. To begin to identify practical solutions for the fail points in Leadership Development programs or initiatives for today’s leaders, especially newly promoted executives and senior leaders.
3. To use the responses to develop a value-filled, evidence-based Sustainable Leaders Development & Mastermind group for Senior Leaders who are highly motivated to drive positive change in themselves, others and in the organization by learning practical, effective and sustainable interpersonal and communication skills, and develop themselves as a leader from the inside out.
SUMMARY SO FAR: While the number of survey responses is not (yet) statistically significant, it appears there are definitely “themes” or gap areas emerging, that when filled, will allow a leader to full fill his or her responsibilities more easily, feel more satisfied in their role and harness the power of their own potential as well as others, to facilitate organizational change, to continue to develop inter-personally as well as intra-personally to achieve ongoing growth and sustainability in self and others.
(At Least) 3 Fail Points in Leadership Training:
1. Please Understand Me – One fail point reflects a need for leaders to master a significantly higher level of interpersonal and communication skills (i.e., Emotional Intelligence) and the skills to better and more deeply understand people’s motivators and drivers to gain cooperation and support to get the job done quickly and easily. Not to mention understanding one’s own beliefs, motivators/drivers and the infinite ways we will attempt to avoid pain (our behavior is a result of our feelings which is a result of B.S. – which is a topic of a whole other thread, I’m sure).
2. Leaders don’t exist in a vacuum – Another fail point is “training” the individual in a one day workshop (yes, I’m being sarcastic, but this is a HUGE waste of time, money and resources) and sending him back to the office to effect change inevitably fails. Minimally, this strategy fails to take into consideration the homeostasis of the system (i.e. culture) as well as the basic dynamics of the “rules of engagement” in human relationships and communication.
3. Lonely at the the top – The survey also indicated a significant desire for leaders do network and exchange solutions and ideas in conversations with other like-minded senior leaders. “It’s a great tool, but how do I use it in real life?” I use a “What? So What? Now What?” approach which has been a very helpful framework for my clients to use to go from knowing something, to doing it to being it AND transferring the learning for lasting change. “A fool with a tool is still a fool.” I love it.
To take the brief 8 question survey and participate in the tele-forum to discuss the results and begin to identify solutions for the fail points in developing leaders today, go to Sustainable Leader’s Survey
Thank you and keep posting your insights, resources and questions!