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What Do Frogs Have To Do with Brain-Based Leaders and Learning?

Riddle:  “Once upon a time, two frogs were sitting on a log in the middle of a lake, and one frog decided to jump off, how many frogs were left sitting on the log?

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!

 

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Leaders: Do you have the courage to jump?

(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).

Change is simple, but not always easy, unless you follow all three steps. And repeat.

Step #3: ACT

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.

Here’s how:

#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?

The 3 Step Triple Threat: Become an excellent communicator to be a better leader

AAA: The 3 Step Triple Threat… Ask, Announce, Act (Repeat)

(Part 2 of a 3 part series: What do frogs have to do with leadership and goals?)

Research shows only 3% of the population sets and puts their goals in writing.  Of those written goals, I will guess the majority is strategic goals and the minority is in the area of soft skills, specifically interpersonal and communication skills at work.  Why?  While strategic goals may be easier to measure, the interpersonal skills may contribute to leadership success.

Step #1: ASK

Take a poll, choose a goal and define success.  When it comes to how you can improve in the interpersonal department, ask someone who will tell you the truth, because your employees or colleagues may not, even if you do have the courage to ask them (courage is an advanced level skill, by the way).

All you will say in response to your questions is a genuine, “Thank you.”  No arguing, “yes, but” -ing or coming to your own defense.  Just shut up and listen.

  • Take a poll: Ask your family and a close friend or two the first question, “What are one or two areas where you see opportunities for my improvement?”
  • Chose a goal: You may get several different answers, so pick one that interests you, if possible.
  • Define success with the answers to the second question, “What will I be doing or saying that will be a sign to you I am making progress toward my goal?”  Why ask?  First, your close friends and family won’t lie to you because they don’t have anything to lose.  Second, what you think you should do isn’t nearly as important as what others perceive.  Odds are, if your family and friends come up with similar areas of improvement, your employees will agree, too.

Your action step:  What did you come up with after Step #1:  Ask?  Write it down, or better yet, post it below!

 Stay tuned for Step #2:  Announce … 

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