I came home recently from seeing a play to a slew of texts from friends commenting on the viral “me too” campaign that took over Facebook. Since I hadn’t seen it yet, I went on my feed and began to scroll only to find friends I had known for years posting two simple words: “me too.” That is when it hit me. After more than 25 years in the workforce, of course I have encountered inappropriate sexual advances at work. Along with most of the women I know, and more than a few of the men as well. Basically, “me too.” Not all harrasment is sexual. Harvey Weinstein, for example, was known for using abusive language and having screaming tirades. I also thought about how, even with all my training, I am sometimes at a loss for what to say when I feel impinged upon. I decided to ask some experts to give their best phrases to halt harassment in its tracks. Click the below link to read what they had to say.
One of the great things about the global economy is that it leads to meetings and conferences in locations far and wide. In between the marketing meetings and business opportunities, many groups are looking for an activity that combines experiencing the culture, seeing the city, and improving team spirit. Here are a few short, easy, and fun team-building activities to consider on your next business trip abroad. This article originally appeared on Inc.com.
Many, if not most, are surprised to learn just how necessary it is for them to create a strong CEO brand in their new role as the chief brand ambassador of their companies. Those who do catch on, realize that creating a CEO brand is a powerful way to position their leadership and build the brand of the business. Here are three important ways to pursue your personal brand as a new CEO. This article originally appeared on Inc.com.
I recently attended yet another in a long series of professional time management & productivity workshops I have been to over the course of my career. And while each has its own spin, they all promote some version of the same holy grail of an efficient work life: be focused, be persistent–and above all, be on time.
So it was with pleasant surprise that I read Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman’s new book A Mind at Play (Simon & Schuster). The book chronicles the story of Dr. Claude Shannon, a modest, quirky mathematician and engineer who was one of the founders of the information revolution, and arguably one of the lesser-known geniuses of the 20th century.
While you might not know Shannon’s name–you have benefited from his work. That’s because Dr. Shannon developed the idea of the “bit,” and it’s these millions of bits traveling through space that make this blog post possible.
Shannon wasn’t just a brilliant math mind, he was also a unicyclist, an inventor, a juggler, a stock picker, a gambler, a chess player, a pilot, and the co-creator of the world’s first wearable device. He was someone who passionately followed his interests, wherever they led him, and he built a life out of doing what he loved. It’s a life that has a lot to teach us about the prevailing wisdom of productivity, and why we just may have it all wrong.
Here are a few of the unconventional (and even counterintuitive) lessons from this 20th century genius:
In his graduate school days, Shannon would find himself in the middle of working on some thorny math problem, and rather than double down and focus even harder, he would step away–and play the clarinet. Later in his life, Shannon would come into his office and spend the morning engrossed in long games of chess or juggling.
He’s not the only one who used the distraction strategy. Albert Einstein would famously play the violin as a way of working through some challenging physics problems, and Darwin took long walks.
These breaks, as it turns out, are part of brilliance. Top-level minds treat their mental capacity the way a sprinter treats his muscles: with brief bursts of activity, followed by periods of rest. Today’s science confirms our instinct to pause after intense work. But geniuses like Shannon, Darwin, and Einstein knew it well before the experts proved it.
The right distraction (often considered a dirty word in the world of work) might just provide the important break you need, before your next eureka moment.
Be an amateur.
Dr. Claude Shannon had a PhD from MIT, worked at the hypercompetitive Bell Laboratories, and ended his career with a dual appointment in MIT’s world-renowned math and engineering departments. He won nearly every major prize in his field and was given the National Medal of Science by President Lyndon Johnson.
And yet, for all his professional accolades, Shannon was comfortable being something that we too often take for granted: an amateur.Shannon was “an amateur unicyclist” and “an amateur juggler,” and could often be found tinkering away at his home, building things from scratch such as a robotic mouse that could navigate a maze.
Successful entrepreneurs, experts, and businesspeople often feel the pressure to be successful in all parts of their lives. But one lesson from Shannon’s genius is his willingness to not be a genius–his willingness to try and test and play.
Walk away from your successes.
Shannon experienced a brief flash of fame after the publication of his seminal work on information theory in 1948. Life Magazine wanted him. He was put on national television. He even got a spread in Vogue magazine. If he wanted to, Shannon could have ridden the wave of his popularity for a long time.
But instead, he wrote a 350-word piece letting his colleagues know that things had gotten out of hand. A document–that flies totally in the face of Shannon’s self-interest. Shannon took it even one step further: He walked away from the field of information theory almost entirely and pursued other lines of research and inquiry. That decision led to some of the most imaginative, out-of-the-box work he ever produced.
How often do we feel the pressure to repeat ourselves, doing the same thing, the same way, for years, just because we are good (or great) at it? Shannon’s brilliance shows us that we shouldn’t be afraid to walk away. Our best work might just be right around the corner.
A Mind at Play show us that you don’t need to be a genius to learn from a genius. Claude Shannon’s inventive, vibrant life demonstrates how vital the act of play can be to making the most of work.
According to a recent Gallup World Poll, a lot of people around the globe hate their job–and specifically their boss. In fact, the survey found that only 15 percent of the one billion full-time employees worldwide are engaged. In the U.S., roughly 30 percent are engaged, but that still leaves 70 percent of Americans unhappy campers when Monday morning rolls around.
As a management and marketing consultant, I always find myself asking why when I read those kinds of startling stats. I’ve found one clear explanation–and some ideas about what to do about it–in Liz Wiseman’s newly updated and revised book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.
“The most intelligent leaders, really smart, capable people, don’t always engender intelligence in those around them,” says Wiseman.
One of the contributing factors to this is that executive presence is often defined as having a big energy. Think of the iconic image of the strong CEO giving a speech while waving his or her arms around and pacing the stage like a panther to command respect and attention.
Wiseman, who has spent more than a decade studying effective leadership, calls these executive scene-stealers “diminishers” and points out that when they walk into a room, it often goes quiet. Why? Because their employees know that the leader has to be the smartest person in the room.
Wiseman jokes that anyone who has ever worked for even a week knows the type. But it’s not funny when you consider that Wiseman’s research shows that under diminishers, people work at 50 percent of their capability.
“Staff want to play it safe,” says Wiseman, “so they hold back and say, ‘You know what? He’s got it all figured out. Let’s let him do his thing.’ They end up becoming more spectators rather than true followers.”
Be a multiplier, not a diminisher.
Wiseman, who was fascinated by this dynamic, wanted to know why it was that such a super-smart person was not able to end up building an equally smart team. At the same time, she identified a different group of smart leaders that she calls “multipliers.” These executives were equally as intelligent as their suppressive counterparts, but they used their smarts in a very different way.
Wiseman likens the smarts style of these leaders to being a floor for sharp thinking, rather than a ceiling.
Learn to spot raging versus accidental diminishers.
There are leaders who have such a strong brand that they end up consuming all the oxygen in the room and suffocating other people with their bigness–and apparently they like it that way. Wiseman calls these folks “raging diminishers,” and their hidden (or not so hidden) feeling is “I don’t really want you to think. I’ll do the thinking for us.”
“What I find much more interesting is not the raging diminisher,” says Wiseman, “but the accidental diminisher. This is the executive who genuinely wants other people to be big and to do their best thinking and work.”
The path to the accidental diminisher is often more subtle. It begins when the leader becomes the go-to person everyone relies on for answers. Eventually, the people around the leader get weaker.
“I had this one boss who was brilliant at talking with customers,” says Wiseman. “We would get in a room together with a customer, and–even though I’m not shy–I deferred to him. I felt like he could always do just a little bit better of a job than I could, and I was pleased to let him do that.”
If you follow this train of logic, it’s not a surprise that pretty soon Wiseman’s boss was doing all the hard work, while she got to the point where she didn’t even really offer input. The problem was not that Wiseman’s boss was saying, “No, Liz; I will handle this.” Instead, he became an accidental diminisher. “I just became lazy because he was so good,” says Wiseman.
Evaluate your actions.
So what’s a well-intended leader to do? Wiseman says it’s mostly a function of awareness and learning to use your strengths judiciously. It comes down to asking yourself:
- Does my behavior create a platform for other people to go big?
- Is this the moment for me to be big?
- Am I overplaying my strengths?
Is the effort to become aware of, and let go of, the reins worth it? Wiseman’s research showed that when executives switch from diminishing to multiplying mode, they get a twofold increase in staff effectiveness and productivity.
So take a page from the best leaders’ playbook: Go forth and shut up. Sometimes, it’s the smartest thing to do.
Even in small and medium size businesses executive development is all the rage these days. Case in point: According to the 2016 ICF Global Coaching Study, total annual revenue from executive coaching in North America was up 35.2 percent from 2011 to 2015.
Likewise, the 2015 Training Magazine Industry Report showed that for three years running, 29 percent of organizations surveyed said management/supervisory training will receive more funding than the year before.
That same training industry report highlighted that the highest priorities were increasing the effectiveness of training programs followed by reducing costs, improving efficiency, and measuring the impact of these training programs.
To keep your executive development program on track, keep the following four things in mind:
1. Don’t mistake a survey for a strategy.
Too many businesses conduct 360 interviews on their executives and call it a day. While a survey about leadership strengths (and areas for improvement) is a good starting point, it’s not the road map needed for an executive development program. A holistic program includes:
- An assessment.
- A 6-12 month plan for improvement with specific goals and defined projects.
- Measurable outcomes, both subjective and objective.
- A coach, mentor or other individual who can help guide the process.
2. Do define development.
Too often companies put executives through an executive development program aimed at creating a hodgepodge of positive virtues, such as being a good listener, empowering others, and being a fair and concerned mentor and coach. While these may form the foundation of executive development, the devil is in the details.
Specifically defining the attitudes, capabilities, and skills you are looking for from your leaders helps ensure success for both the individual and your company. For example, instead of improving listening skills, make the goal an increased ability to effectively lead a brainstorming session where there are vast differences of opinion present in the group.
3. Don’t force people to participate.
In an ideal world, every manager in your business would be knocking down your door begging for personal development. While this does occasionally happen, it’s not the norm.
However, given the opportunity, many managers will find the idea of an executive development program exciting. For those who don’t, forcing them to participate will likely backfire and create even more resistance.
The best path is to show how the prospective program could personally benefit the individual; explain why you are offering it and what’s involved. Then let them choose to participate or not — with no negative consequence if they decide to decline.
Even for the holdouts, seeing their peers pass them by in terms of growth and development often serves as a powerful motivator to eventually change their minds and jump in.
4. Consider calling in outside experts.
While you, or your HR staff, may have the capability to create and deliver an executive development program, there is a case to be made for bringing in some help from the outside.
The opportunity for objective feedback, a safe place to share feelings, and an unbiased perspective can greatly enhance the benefit individuals receive from an executive development program. In addition to bringing in an executive coach or trainer who specializes in this, there are a whole slew of off-site personal growth and mastery programs available.
I’ve personally participated in several of these in my career, and I’ve been so impressed that I’ve served as a consultant or board member for a few more. There are a wide range of programs out there, and which one you choose depends greatly on time, cost, location, and desired outcomes. If you’re looking for a place to dramatically improve your or your staff’s leadership skills, as a starting point, consider The Hoffman Process, Learning as Leadership, and The Strozzi Institute.
Executive coach, company mentor, off-site program, or in-house training — regardless of the path, the key to a productive executive development program is a genuine commitment.
Executive development taken on to make a check in the box of good leadership behavior wastes your money and your managers’ time. But when embraced as a true path to company excellence and personal development, the benefits reaped by both the individual and the business usually go well beyond the price paid.
Sexual harassment, temper tantrums, a ruthlessly aggressive corporate culture and disgruntled drivers. These are just a few of the plethora of problems facing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. So much so that after a heated exchange with an Uber driver that went viral in May of this year, Kalanick publicly declared, “This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help, and I intend to get it.”
But executive intervention may not have come hard or fast enough for the CEO, who as of this week is on track for a leave of absence. The bigger story here, however, (beyond the Uber debacle itself) is the underlying issue of toxic bosses — a problem not limited to large companies but equally rampant in many small businesses and start-ups, as well.
In one study from the University of Manchester’s Business School, researcher Abigail Phillips found that leaders who show narcissistic tendencies and have a strong desire for power are often lacking in empathy, a toxic combination which can result in those individuals:
- Taking credit for the work of others
- Being overly critical
- Behaving aggressively
“In short,” says Phillips, “bad bosses have unhappy and dissatisfied employees who seek to ‘get their own back’ on the company.” Specifically, the research showed that working for a toxic boss can result in:
- Lower job satisfaction
- High levels of clinical depression
- Counterproductive workplace behavior
- Increased workplace bullying
And the impact of toxic bosses is not just limited to the internal workings of the organization but can have dramatic consequences for a corporation’s reputation as well.
Toxic bosses are bad for business.
One study, reported on in the Harvard Business Review by Stanford Professors David Larcker and Brian Tayan, found that the impact of bad boss behavior on company standing was dramatic. In the reported incidents that Larcker and Tayan studied, the specific story of bad behavior was cited in more than 250 news stories each, on average. In addition, the CEOs’ behaviors were still being referenced online up to an average of almost 5 years after the initial incident occurred.
A flood of frustration.
OK, so I think we can all agree at this point — toxic bosses, bad. But how do you make sure the strain and stress of the job isn’t overcoming your naturally jovial nature and turning you into a tyrant? Anna Maravelas, author of How to Reduce Workplace Conflict and Stress, says the place to start is by identifying when you are experiencing the neurobiological state of flooding.
“Flooding is when our body becomes awash with adrenalin and cortisol,” says Maravelas. “The stress and pressure of the workplace can lead to a flight or fight response in reaction to frustration and make otherwise good people into toxic bosses.” Maravelas says that the walnut-sized amygdala part of the brain lights up during flooding and interferes with analytical thinking, memory and even hearing. The key to halting this tidal wave of hormonally induced bad behavior is to pay attention to the little pause that happens in between the time when something happens and we react.
3 possible responses
According to Maravelas, there are three habitual thinking responses:
- Blaming the other person or situation. For example, you are waiting in line at the local deli, anxiously looking at your watch, worrying about being on time to your next meeting with a new prospective client. You find yourself thinking, “What is wrong with these morons? Could they move any slower?” This type of response inflames the flooding response and can lead to inappropriate expressions of anger.
- Blaming yourself. You are standing in the same line at the local deli worried about being late, but saying to yourself, “I always do this. I am such an idiot. I should have left earlier; now I am going to be late.” This type of response is reactive and focuses the anger inward, and it often leads to depression.
- Curiosity and problem solving. There you are in the same line, finding yourself concerned about being on time for your next meeting. What you are saying to yourself is, “I know this clerk is doing the best he can, and they are short staffed. I’m here at peak time. Is it worth it to wait? Should I just leave or text and say I may be late?” This type of response allows for the greatest degree of problem solving and is an antidote to flooding.
“The first and second responses blame either another person, a [NM2] system or yourself,” says Maravelas. “The third response generates curiosity and humility and looks for data.” All three responses become cognitive habits — unconscious or not — and can be changed with practice and by working backward. “If you are flooded, it’s likely that it’s because of something you are saying to yourself,” says Maravelas. “Go upstream and identify what triggered your sense of anger, hopelessness, etc., and change what you are saying to yourself to be more organized around the third response — curiosity and problem solving,” she says.
As for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Maravelas says it’s probably a good idea for him to take a break. This way he can get some distance from the demands of the job and put the brakes on the flooding that’s leading to his bad boss behaviors.
Decades ago, when I was just beginning my journey as a management consultant, I had the good fortune to work with Liz Wiseman, who at the time was the Director of Learning and Development for Oracle. Since then she has gone on to found The Wiseman Group and author several best-selling books including the newly released 2nd edition of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.
One of the findings of Liz’s years of research is that just because a leader possesses a trait in abundance doesn’t mean that it’s contagious and that others around them pick it up in a positive way.
Are you the iconic optimistic leader?
One example Wiseman cites is the iconic optimistic leader. You know them — the positive can-do people who see possibilities and paths forward everywhere. These cheerful C-suite executives recognize the capability in others and themselves at every turn. Even when they take on something hard, they bring a can-do attitude in abundance.
“It’s like wearing one of those rubber wristbands, only it says, ‘I can do hard things,'” jokes Wiseman. “This observation comes not only from my years of research, but also from looking in the mirror,” says Wiseman.
A self-described “raging optimist,” Wiseman struggles with her own positivity. “I don’t have a lack of optimism; instead I struggle with too much,” explains Wiseman. She goes on to explain that her personal awareness about this dynamic came to her by surprise and with a sting. Here’s the story she tells…
“I’m working with a colleague on writing an article on a pretty tough piece of research and analysis for a prestigious academic journal. Towards the end of the project, my colleague pulls me aside and says, ‘Liz, I need you to stop saying that thing you say all the time.’ ‘What thing?’ I ask him. I really did not know what he was talking about.
“‘You say it all the time,’ he said. ‘It usually goes, “Hey, we can do this. We’ve got this.”‘
“Recognizing my own optimism, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I do say that all the time.’ ‘That is my way of saying that we’re smart and we can figure this out, that I have this belief in what we can do,’ I explain to him.
“‘Well, I need you to stop saying it.’ ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘This is good leadership. Optimism, we need that just to survive,’ I say. ‘The reason I need you to stop saying that is because what we are doing is hard; it’s really hard, Liz, and as my manager, I need you to acknowledge it.’
“In that moment I realized that my can-do, get-it-done personal brand was setting a pace that was making it really hard for other people to keep up with me.
“I came to the conclusion that sometimes my optimism — which is a gift — can also translate into processing a little too fast for other people. I need to give them time to process at their own speed.”
Dispense your executive presence in small but intense doses.
That personal experience, combined with her research and work with leaders, has led Wiseman to the conclusion that the really great leaders know how to dispense their executive presence in small, but intense, doses.
“When a leader is always on, they become white noise,” says Wiseman. That’s one of the ways executives end up as what Wiseman calls “accidental diminishers.” These are leaders who have an intention for their staff to be empowered but are so whipped up with positive energy all the time, they end up diminishing those around them. “They think their energy is infectious, but not only are they sucking up all the oxygen in the room, they are getting tuned out,” says Wiseman. “People around them are like, ‘You’re killing me with your energy. I’m dying here.'”
So what’s the enthusiastic and eager executive to do? Wiseman suggests two almost ridiculously easy (but highly effective) ways to rein in your energy, without losing your optimistic edge.
Practice the five-second rule.
After you ask a question, wait five seconds to give the person a chance to think. For many leaders, when no one answers immediately, the tendency is to want to answer themselves. Don’t. Some people are fast witted, quick to process and quick to answer, but not everyone. Not all forms of intelligence manifest themselves in speed.
Avoid rapid response.
Optimistic leaders are often quick to respond immediately to situations and take action, even if someone else on their team could handle it. Except in a case of immediate required response, try taking a hands-off stance for 24 hours.
In both these cases, it’s the power of the pause that creates the opportunity. It gives other people, who may not be so quick on the draw, a chance to comfortably formulate opinions and bring their own brand of optimism to the party — even if it’s a few decibels lower than yours.
To learn more about how you can be a multiplier, check out my podcast with author Liz Wiseman.
It can be lonely at the top. That’s why so many leaders seek out someone who can help them see things in a more objective light. In decades past, psychiatrists held this position — but admitting to seeing a shrink can still carry some stigma in the C-suite. Likewise, the counsel gained from conversations with subordinates, or even peers, can be tinged with political agenda. It’s for these reasons that the business of executive coaching has become such a significant staple of leadership development.
The huge increase in executive coaching has in some cases pushed out therapists who might have otherwise seen clients for similar reasons. At the same time, many counselors are getting their coaching license and moving into the traditional roles held by management consultants, mentors and executive coaches. In practice, both have a place, as they often contribute vastly different takes on the same situation.
So just who should you hire to soothe what ails you? The answer may depend on the source of your stress. I asked some business leaders and experts to weigh in on whom to see when, and for what.
Are you facing a company conflict, change or challenge?
If you’re experiencing C-suite conflict or a lack of leadership influence or feeling challenged by company change, you might try hiring a leadership coach. According to The Human Capital Institute, as many as 60 percent of American companies are using the services of executive coaches. But is this one-on-one instruction a worthwhile investment or a waste of time?
“I had a coach for the better part of a decade, and his ability to give me feedback and hold me accountable made a huge difference in how I developed as a leader,” says Brandon Black, coauthor of the new book Ego Free Leadership: Ending the Unconscious Habits that Hijack Your Business. “He was able to say things that others couldn’t because he wasn’t afraid of potential backlash,” “It’s critically important for leaders, to understand how they may be stalling innovation or creating unwanted dynamics and dysfunction,” says Black.
A formal engagement with a qualified coach can lead to a series of dynamic, confidential conversations that produce very positive consequences. The engagement may be growth-oriented — for example, helping an individual get up to speed quickly after a new promotion. Or it may be change-oriented, such as helping a high-potential individual retool their interpersonal skills so they are in a better position to be promoted.
One 2006 study from the Center for Creative Leadership found that of the 3,500 top executives surveyed, 88 percent said they highly value the mentor/coach relationship for career development. Among their top reasons for wanting a coach were.
- Assistance with leadership skills development
- Developing more vision for the company
- Team building and managing change
Are you facing a profoundly personal problem, choice or crisis?
But what about the darker side of leadership coaching? Some people take a weekend coaching workshop and then hang out a shingle declaring their readiness to sit down and help you deal with your deepest leadership issues.
Many researchers and theorists have cautioned that executive coaching is not a panacea. One leading article by psychologist Steven Berglas in the “Harvard Business Review” cited examples of coaches who lacked proper clinical training and insight, and therefore misdiagnosed coaching clients, leading to bad outcomes.
For example, Berglas describes one client who was assigned a coach to work on her “assertiveness,” when in fact she had deeper emotional and family issues that were impacting her performance and workplace relationships. The coaching that was focused on building her assertiveness was not helpful to her, and she subsequently sought the assistance of a psychotherapist.
In the final analysis, it may be your end-game goals that determine which way you go.
“Therapists are usually oriented around talking and going deeper with dialog. They are very effective at helping people identify patterns and get them from the past to the present,” explains Lolly Daskal, author of the new book The Leadership Gap: What Gets between You and Your Greatness.
“Coaches, on the other hand, often have a different mentality. They are more about creating an awareness that leads to action. Most coaches focus on getting you from the present to the future,” she says.
Whether you’re looking to make peace with your past or invent your future, a sit-down with someone savvy may be just what the doctor ordered.
To learn more about your leadership gap, check out my podcast with author Lolly Daskal.