By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
“Asking for help” * can be seen be leaders as a sign of weakness and lack of competence. Here are five reasons to consider flipping that perspective:
*I am talking about authentically asking for help when a leader feels their own skills, resources, experience etc. are not sufficient
1. Promotes Innovation and Creativity:
Leaders want new ideas, systems, products, and processes brought forward. The problem is these same leaders often neglect to recognize that their culture rejects vulnerability e.g. risk taking, making mistakes or even failing along the way. Last I checked, failure has always been a prerequisite to innovation. And, creativity without some messiness is not likely to be very creative.
Asking for help is a step into vulnerability. Brene Brown, in her extensive corporate work around vulnerability points out that you can’t get innovation and creativity without making it ok to be vulnerable:
“We want innovation but we have no tolerance for risk or vulnerability–and vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity... If we want people to come to us and say “Hey, I don’t really understand this and I want to understand it, I need some help,” then we have to model that behavior.”
2. Enhances Accountability:
Holding folks accountable in a way that enhances performance is a tough nut to crack for many leaders. Accountability in its most mission oriented form means ownership. When a leader authentically asks for help, an invitation to collaborate is extended. The giver of help becomes actively invested in the outcome as a co-creator of that outcome – they give a damn about the results. The stage is set for the creation of Steven Covey’s sixth habit, Synergize.
“When people begin to interact together genuinely, and they're open to each other's influence, they begin to gain new insight. The capability of inventing new approaches is increased exponentially because of differences.”
Asking for help shapes cultures that promote shared ownership.When I “own” my work, I am more likely to be highly accountable to it.
3. Drives Motivation:
We are in the knowledge worker age. As Daniel Pink’s research shows, the desire for “mastery and purpose” are two key contributors to knowledge worker motivation. A leader that asks for help opens both doors at once. When a leader asks for help they recognize a way forward based on my command of the issue at hand (mastery), and they bring me into the fold of meaningful contribution (purpose).
4. Increases Engagement:
U.S. employee engagement is at around 32% as measured by Gallup. According to Gallup, “Workplace recognition…. makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.”
I don’t know about you, but if my boss authentically reached out to me for help, I’d take that as positive recognition.
5. Creates a Self-Reinforcing Feedback Loop:
The adage “it’s better to give than to receive” is supported by neuroscience. Oxytocin and Dopamine, the human bonding and feel good chemicals, increase when you give to someone else. This suggests that “giving” help may create the conditions for a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop. When a leader asks for and receives help the conditions are ripe for “YES, more of that!”
And, what leader doesn’t want more innovation, creativity, accountability, motivation, and engagement within their organization!
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
I am a recovering “Hyper-Achiever.”
Shirzad Chamine, author of Positive Intelligence, defines “the Hyper-Achiever” this way: Highly focused on external success, leading to unsustainable workaholic tendencies and loss of touch with deeper emotional and relationship needs.”
Hyper-Achievers tend to “shun feelings” and may “feel empty and depressed inside, but don’t linger there.” They “don’t like dwelling in feelings for too long” as they are a distraction from achieving goals.
I’ve observed that there is an emotion that surfaces repeatedly for Hyper-Achievers: Overwhelm. Sure, folks like us tend to bounce out of overwhelm by plunging into the nearest achievable goal we can find. The paradox is that this reflexive, unconscious, default tendency to achieve for the sake of achieving often leads to a return to overwhelm. And, overwhelm results in NOT achieving goals.
Our very belief that dwelling in our feelings distracts us from our goals creates a powerful emotion that distracts us from our goals!
Here are a few tips to help you break the achievement-overwhelm cycle and bring some peace and joy into your life. Disclaimer: If you are a Hyper-Achiever, the following is some tough love.
Did you just cringe at the words “peace and joy?” Be honest with yourself. Are “peace and joy” something to be found over the achievement rainbow? How’s that journey going?
Ready to try a different path?
First, the next time you start feeling overwhelmed, don’t try to achieve anything. Take 15 minutes (I know there is so much you could be getting done!) and notice what it’s like to feel overwhelmed. Simply notice. Notice your breath, how your body feels, what you see, hear, smell. Notice your thoughts and let them go. Just be with the overwhelmed feeling without trying to do anything to fix it. Notice how you feel after 15 minutes. If you’re feeling a bit more peaceful, that’s ok!! Purposeful, as opposed to knee-jerk, goal achievement that doesn’t end in overwhelm is much more likely from this space.
Next, connect to what’s important to you. What’s the bigger-picture reason you are running around trying to get all of these things done anyway? Write it down. Say what you write down out loud. Imagine you’ve achieved that. Notice how that feels.
Now, start writing down your “to-do’s.” Organize these tasks into categories that make sense to you. Be sure to include a “delegate” and “ask for help” category. Don’t let that feeling that you should be able to “do it all” stop you.
Finally, what on your list is most connected to achieving your bigger picture purpose? Begin there. Set aside a chunk of time for the sole purpose of working on that.
At the end of that time, notice how you feel. Chances are you won’t be feeling overwhelmed.
Lastly, ask yourself, “What would be possible from achieving from this purposeful space more often?
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
Fear is one of the two most powerful emotions we have. The other is Love. When we are consumed by Fear, we fight, flee, or freeze. There is a heaviness, a closing down, a rejecting. When we are led by Love we tend towards “Being With.” There is a lightness, an openness, a welcoming.
We often consider these emotions to live in very different places within us. And, sometimes they are.
Unless, they’re not.
Art Shirk, an icon in the field of leadership development, passed away last week. With his passing, he challenged, and in so doing, anchored himself in all of us who are blessed to have known him
“In lieu of flowers, Art wants each person to do something you have been afraid of without worrying about success or failure.” His anchor and his challenge.
What if we looked at Fear as an ally of Love? What would be possible from that place? I’m not referring to the fear that saves our lives in the face of a real and present danger. Nor, am I referring to infatuation or longing masquerading as Love.
I am talking about the fear that stands between us and the impact we want to have in the world, the kind of life we really want to lead. And, I am talking about the kind of Love that is about fiercely connecting to where your heart is reaching and what your gut is telling you is the next right thing to do.
In this kind of space, the magic of life itself thrives, creates, and brings forth magnificence. Connecting here IS WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT. Art Shirk lived his life in this space. And, sometimes it was messy. And, sometimes it was divine. And, most often, I glean from his writings, it was both.
Avoiding a difficult conversation with a colleague, boss, friend? Not going after the business or clients you want because you fear you’re not good enough? Wanting yet unwilling to unleash the strength of vulnerability because you’re afraid you’ll be perceived as weak?
Where is fear standing between where you are and where you want to be?
Feel that fear…. stay with it…. don’t run, shut down, or fight it. Don’t greet fear with fear. Welcome it….be with it…. turn up the volume…. breathe deeply...Greet Fear with Love. And, allow fear to fiercely connect you to where your heart is reaching and what your gut is telling you is the next right thing to do.
So, Go there… TODAY…NOW. Follow your Fear. It’s the gateway to the only kind of success that matters. Success built on a foundation of what really matter. Success built on a foundation of Love.
Me? I love bringing folks together doing good work into conversations that matter. I’ve got some butterflies going right now. Fear is telling me to call the leader of a highly respected statewide organization that wants my help; not to wait for the yet to be received follow up email.
I’ve got a call to make…You?
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
With all the palpable inattention to the emotional component of employee engagement, it is no wonder that it remains stuck around 30% despite billions spent on the issue. Marshall Goldsmith wondered about this and puts forth an admirable reframe of the problem in his latest book, Triggers. Goldsmith argues that there is an overreliance on programs that emphasize what the company can do for the employee to improve engagement.
His approach involves asking the employee to take personal responsibility for his or her own engagement and get off the blame and complain hamster wheel. I greatly appreciate his approach and have used it in my corporate trainings.
And, Goldsmith leaves out what I believe to be a critical factor necessary to moving the employee engagement dial, the emotional stake of the employee. Within a relatively healthy corporate culture, the exercises Goldsmith offers to help employees take personal responsibility for their own engagement can be effective. However, within a corporate culture defined by silos, poor communication, and poor alignment around a shared vision and mission, the taking personal responsibility model will likely gain little traction.
As Harvard’s award winning change management guru John Kotter says,
“You need to show people something that addresses their anxieties, that accepts their anger, that is credible in a very gut-level sense, and that evokes faith in the vision… People change what they do less because they are given an analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.”
Yes, there is no doubt that the failure of employee engagement programs is in part due to not guiding employees to take more responsibility for their own engagement as Goldsmith suggests. And, taking responsibility needs to matter to the employee. If the employee doesn’t give a damn about all of this, nothing will change.
Again, Kotter adds some insight,
“Motivation and inspiration energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one's life, and the ability to live up to one's ideals. Such feelings touch us deeply and elicit a powerful response.”
Similarly, Daniel Pink, author of the best seller, Drive, argues that healthy organizational cultures are defined by the degree to which they offer employees, “autonomy, mastery, and purpose.”
Such a culture requires courageous leadership willing to get to the heart of what matters to their employees. This means sitting down with them and being vulnerable. Having authentic conversations that welcome their input. Extending trust. And, requiring strict accountability around expected performance.
Employees are people. People cannot be expected to take more responsibility for their own engagement in the absence of an engaging culture. And, that is the responsibility of the organization beginning with its leaders.
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
Problems to solve are like reporters in the White House press corps, address one and thirty others start waving their hands. Only when the Press Secretary walks away from the podium, do the hands stop waving.
Certainly, as Steven Covey teaches us, there is value in attending to problems that are “Urgent and Important.” He also taught us that getting caught up in the “Urgent and Not Important” is a barrier to success.
Like the White House Press Secretary that lingers at the podium too long, if you stay focused on solving problems, you will become consumed by them. Being caught in what I call the “problem solving trap” disconnects you from becoming what Robert Fritz calls, “the predominant creative force in your own life.”
If we spend all our time living in a problem-solving paradigm, we become reactionary slaves to outside circumstances, choosing to address “Urgent and Not Important” problems in deference to creating the life, business, or organization we really want. Fritz goes on to explain, “A person adopting this strategy does not take action to create what he or she wants…(but) takes action only to reduce the pressure that is synthetically manufactured by visions of negative consequences.” “What we really want,” gets ignored as we spend all our time working to solve problems to avoid the perceived negative consequences of not solving them.
The path forward to getting what you really want for your life, business, or organization moves through Covey’s “Not-Urgent and Important” domain. Here, the more relevant question to ask is, “Am I being the predominant creative force in my life?” And, this is about making the conscious choice to spend some time with a blank page, take a stand for what you really want, and then start filling that page with choices that lead to action around what matters most.
By Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC
Many leaders struggle with holding the members of their team accountable. Once the hard truth in step one is addressed, the next steps come much easier.
1) LOOK IN THE MIRROR to identify the one person whose lack of accountability is having the most negative impact. Make good eye contact. The person looking back at you needs a good dose of personal responsibility.
There is something for which you are responsible, able to respond to, that you are avoiding or ignoring. Have you found yourself blaming and complaining lately? How’s it working? That gnawing in your gut, knot in your throat, and flush in your face are all signaling that YOU can and must RESPOND!
So, listen to what your body is telling you and move on to step two.
2) MAKE A DISTINCTION between reactive behavior that is challenging your expectations and proactive behavior that is supporting your expectations. Reactive behavior might have you feeling like a babysitter taking care of kids from hell who repeatedly spit in your face. Proactive behavior should have you feeling like a teacher or coach eager to work with someone that has great potential. Take a moment to look for and digest the distinction. Gauge how you are feeling. Your response to each needs to be markedly different to be effective.
After making this distinction, it’s time to lead.
3) DO LEAD, DON’T BABYSIT. The team member who is repeatedly late needs to be put on a fast track behavior improvement plan and let go quickly if this doesn’t work. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW VALUABLE THIS PERSON IS IN OTHER AREAS! Would you keep this same “valuable” person around if they repeatedly spit in your face? Think about it. There’s not much difference. That’s why you’re feeling the way you do by keeping them around.
The team member that is overly eager to implement a new workflow policy improving efficiency in her department while creating a bottleneck somewhere else deserves a different response. Help her to see what she didn’t. Praise her proactive alignment with the mission. Grow a leader. Don’t let her “mistake” cause you to squash the very qualities you want your people to develop.
After you’ve chosen leadership over babysitting, check your ego.
4) MAKE IT ABOUT THE MESSAGE NOT THE MESSENGER. Be about the vision and mission not your frustrated, angry, offended ego. It’s fine to say you’re frustrated, just don’t BE FRUSTRATED. Don’t let the accountability conversation get diluted by becoming about your attitude. Ground the conversation in why the accountability you are expecting is important to the organization. Those that care, will raise their accountability game. Those that don’t, won’t. Rebuild your team around those that care.
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
I’m not a fan of hearing folks blame outcomes on how positive or negative a person’s thinking is.
There is no doubt that positivity plays a key role in achieving our big goals. Here’s the rub. It doesn’t get you anywhere without courageous action. That is, doing something outside of your comfort zone.
Yes, a positive mindset is important, and it does not on its own determine anything. The idea that simply repeating positive affirmations will somehow by itself produce opportunities and results provides false hope.
As Robert Fritz says in The Path of Least Resistance,
“Positive thinking is a willpower strategy designed to help people exert their will over themselves as a kind of self-manipulation…There is no need to control yourself…You have a natural inclination toward creating what you most truly want…. There are no inner forces you must overcome, only inner forces that might be aligned organically as part of the creative process. This is not programming yourself, but rather working with all of the forces in play-including the forces you may not especially like.”
Fritz is a critic of using positive thinking and affirmations as tools for change. Repeating “I have all the confidence I need to move forward” when the truth is “my fear is holding me back” is telling myself a lie. And, lies don’t help move us forward. In fact, a key component of Fritz’s model for creating the life you want is grounded in a sober assessment of life as it actually is; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
A positive mindset doesn’t involve telling ourselves lies about our current reality. It does involve choosing to be inspired by the life we want to create. This inspiration provides the foundation to plant one foot and just enough light to guide the other foot into taking the next step towards creating what we want.
The “Positive” in Positive Action means getting our head around the fact that we can as Fritz says, “Learn to become the creative force in your own life.” The “Action” means taking steps forward without having to know exactly how we’re going to get to where we want to be.
In fact, it’s not possible to accurately map the whole thing out ahead of time. As you act, you will bump into a world that will have its say.
The “world’s say” is feedback: YES, MORE OF THAT! Or NO, NOT THAT! Letting the feedback be our guide (not our excuse for giving up), we reconnect to our vision, plant one foot, and step with the other. In this way, we are engaging the power of Positive Action.
Positive Action means choosing to be in the process of continuously creating the life we want. And, it’s not about “willing” it that way by telling ourselves things that aren’t true. It’s about honestly acknowledging and accepting all of who and where we are.
And, from that place of truth, it’s about giving a damn enough to do something about the life we want to create.
By Howard Stanten MPT, CPCC
I have, for the most part, eliminated the “B” word from my vocabulary. Being in the business of helping people become extraordinary leaders of themselves and others, I tend to cringe when I hear folks using this word. It’s like adding a self-limiting asterisk to something important, meaningful, and worthwhile.
The “B” word is a weapon used by our inner critic. This critic likes to hide in the bushes. And, just when you’re getting good and ready to take some courageous leadership-affirming action, out it jumps in all its two-fisted distorted glory waving brightly colored neon signs painted with the “B” word…in capital letters.
Well, I for one, have had enough. And, you should too. Why? Because words matter. Words make up the stories we tell about ourselves. These stories guide our actions. If our stories are full of the “B” word, the inner critic wins. We stay safe and…. small. We certainly do not develop as a leader.
And, there is hope. Literally, hope is in the word “And.”
Unlike the “B” word, “And” is expansive, inclusive, and full of possibility. “And” helps us to tell ourselves the story of moving forward. For leaders, “And” offers inspiration while the “B” word offers limitation.
Consider this leadership example: “I very much want to delegate more, but I am afraid of losing control.” Vs. “I very much want to delegate more, and I am afraid of losing control.”
Both sentences begin with a clear vision for action. The first sentence has a defeatist, limiting tone. “Delegating more” isn’t likely to happen. The second sentence creates the space for “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.” A quality that most successful, inspirational leaders have.
I invite you to get intentional about this. Start substituting “And” when you notice your inner critic waving the “B” word sign. Notice how “AND” makes you feel. Listen for the “B” word being used by others. Imagine what it would sound like with an “And” instead. And, if you’re brave enough, ask them to do the exercise. Ask them how they feel.
As we fill our stories with more and more “Ands” and less and less “B” words, we start to tell ourselves a more courageous version of our story. AND, this helps us become the leaders we want to be.
By Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC
Far too many leaders and business owners are spending their days (and nights) fixing or telling someone else how to fix problems.
Then, the next problem clears it throat and calls to be fixed.
The leaders and entrepreneurs I work with often find themselves caught in the trap of working in their organization, company, or business vs. working on it. Result: Lots of movement and no one steering the ship. No one at the helm carrying a strategic vision or working on business development means a high likelihood of hitting a rock or getting grounded.
In my view, developing the leadership capacity of others should be at or near the top of every leader’s to do list. Ironically, this doesn’t involve “doing” as much it involves “Being With.”“Being with” is a capacity that slows down the process of “fixing the problem.” It is a capacity that provides an opportunity to notice, name, and call forth the leadership qualities of someone else. When a leader or owner fixes or tells someone else how to fix a problem, some short-term time may be saved, and an opportunity to grow a leader is lost.
Peeling back the onion, lack of time is rarely the real roadblock. Lack of trust often is. Instead of trust, there is fear that someone is going to make a mistake or fail.
The irony is you’ll never get to the big picture business planning and development activities if you don’t make the time to grow leaders. This means slowing down enough to notice, name, call forth, and develop the leadership qualities in others. And, this means accepting (even encouraging) mistakes as a necessary part of the process. I’m not referring to unprofessional mistakes like being late for a key meeting. Rather, mistakes that are the result of taking risks, initiative, and bold action.
The next time you find yourself saying, “It’s easier to just do it myself.” Take a deep breath and get wildly curious about the leadership qualities and potential of those around you. Make the time to Be With your people. Extend some trust. Maybe even talk about the time you took a bold swing and…. missed…and learned.
Then, send them off with a problem to be fixed that will grow them as a leader…..and get you back behind the steering wheel.
By Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC
There is a longing, from some, for the days when workers “valued a job, because it was a job.” A yearning for that magical time and place, somewhere lost in the past, where “hard work,” loyalty,” and being “satisfied with a day’s pay, for a day’s work” was enough. The lament usually includes, “Young people today just don’t have the same work ethic we used to have. It’s near impossible to find good workers.”
Well, I ain’t buyin’ it. I don’t dispute the fact that many business owners are struggling with finding and retaining hard working, loyal employees. It’s the perspective that “millennials are lazy, entitled, and selfish” that I challenge.
Daniel Pink, in his best seller Drive, explains that today’s workers are craving “autonomy, mastery, and purpose” and that many employers are missing the boat on this. Gallup polling reinforces this argument. It is true that only 29% of millennials are engaged at work (below the 33% average of all U.S. employees.) And, it is also true that WHEN MILLENNIALS ARE ENGAGED, they are 26% MORE LIKELY to be loyal to their current employer than those who are disengaged. Increasing engagement, and loyalty, is all about tapping into what Millennials crave.
Engagement is a two-way street and non-millennial age employers would be wise to take a look in the mirror and ask, “How am I contributing to the “work ethic, loyalty” perspective I hold? Then ask, “How can I ‘be’ different and ‘do’ things differently to get the results I want.”
Millennials are offering loyalty to those willing to understand what makes them tick; an opportunity to grow, an employer that cares about their professional goals, and a job that means something beyond a paycheck.
Business owners have a choice. Learn what motivates and fulfills their potential workforce or flounder in a sea of blame and complain.
There are 53,500,000 Millennials making up over one-third of the U.S workforce today. The hard truth is that a boatload of blaming and complaining is no match for that reality. A dose of self-reflection and some pro-active, focused strategic planning can go a long way towards creating today what might be otherwise misperceived as having been irretrievably lost to the past.
Howard Stanten MPT,CPCC is an Executive Leadership and Professional