Tag Archives: Leadership

Leading with Presence

 

three rows of birds on wire with one bird on its own leading with presence Driving to an appointment the other day, I went to make a right turn and couldn’t help but notice the people in each of the cars lined up waiting to turn left.  One woman had a forlorn expression, and her head drooped over her steering wheel.  The woman in the car behind her revealed a smile and an upward glance that seemed full of joy and anticipation.  The face of the man in the car behind her was twisted up and his shoulders appeared to be close to his ears.  His eyes were locked onto his blackberry, which he held in his free hand.

I smiled as I realized that I could relate to each of these people.  I could have been any of them at any given time.  And then the thought occurred to me that I could be any one of them as the day progressed.  Which would I choose?  The answer to that question could very well determine the quality of my entire day, and could also quite likely impact the quality of the day of those around me as well.

Every once in a while when I go out running I see a little old man riding a beach cruiser.  In the dawn hours, as the sun begins to rise above the horizon, the light on his handlebars shines brightly.  He is kind of a round man with short, fuzzy white hair and bright blue eyes.  He pedals his bicycle so slowly that it is a wonder they both don’t just fall over.  But what is most striking about him is that he is always smiling.

Every time I see this man, rain or shine, it seems he has something to be happy about.  And his smile isn’t just the polite grin that people often flash as they enter each other’s space.  It is the kind that comes from a deep satisfaction and wonderment with life.  The little light on his bicycle shines brightly at the crack of dawn, but the radiance around him is even more vibrant.  I find myself hoping to see him on my morning runs and experiencing a wave of joy and delight every time I do – feeling lighter and happier just for the experience of having crossed his path.  His presence alone is truly inspiring.

I think emanating a positive presence is one of the most crucial things leaders can do for people.  And to have this kind of influence and effect on others, you don’t have to have a fancy title, a bunch of people reporting to you, or even be a part of an organization at all.  People pick up, consciously and subconsciously on the energy we emanate – and for better or worse, those we spend a lot of time around will often align themselves with it.  True leaders – in any setting or vocation – are consciously aware of the tone they set through their own presence.  They use it to uplift and inspire others, seeing the brilliance of everyone and everything around them and always reflecting it back. 

I wonder whether that little man on the beach cruiser has any idea of how profoundly he has affected me.  And I wonder if you realize the effect you can have on the lives of everyone around you as well…  maybe without even having to say a word.

“We can do more good by being good, than in any other way.”     

~ Rowland Hill

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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What Does the Disruption of Higher Education Have to Do with Business and Leadership?

Did you know that research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and Stanford Research Center has all concluded that 85 percent of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills and people skills? And 18 months after being hired, 54 percent were discharged, and in 89 percent of cases it was because of attitude rather than skill.

In a 2013 study, 93 percent of employers agreed that candidates who demonstrate a capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems are more important than their undergraduate major.

According to a 2016 survey of employers, the skill cited as most desirable in recent college graduates is the very human quality of “leadership.” More than 80 percent of respondents said they looked for evidence of leadership on candidates’ resumes followed by “ability to work in a team,” at nearly 79 percent. Written communication and problem solving came in at 70 percent. Technical skills ranked in the middle of the survey, below strong work ethic and initiative.

But in an annual survey by Express Employment conducted in April of 2017, employers were asked to rank 20 factors they consider when making hiring decisions. Consistent with the results of the past several years, education was ranked dead last.

Similarly, in their 2011 study, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that “at least” 45 percent of the undergraduates they surveyed showed “exceedingly small or empirically nonexistent” gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication during their first two years in college. After four years, 36 percent of their sample still showed no improvement at all. It was said, “They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master.”

What do these studies have in common?

They all point to the attributes necessary to thrive in business today – attributes that appear to be lacking in many college graduates, and qualities that in my experience tend to differentiate the best leaders from all the rest.

These statistics are all quoted in a new book called Leveraged Learning: The Age of Opportunity for Lifelong Learners and Experts with Something to Teach, written by one of my mentors, Danny Iny, who I believe is a brilliant visionary. In this ground-breaking work, Danny addresses the problems prevalent in higher education today that are leading to a major disruption – one that brings opportunities for lifelong learners as well as experts who have something to teach.

He’s posting the entire book online for free, and you can go read it now.

Most business leaders have engaged in learning outside of their college degree programs, whether for specialization, or to learn to increase their personal and professional effectiveness.

The problem is not all programs are alike. There is a glut of them available, and many are simply a firehose of information that scratches the surface and often feels like a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t lead to any lasting change (let alone transfer of knowledge).

When I sought to create a program that would allow me to teach the concepts I wrote about in The Pinocchio Principle: Becoming a Real Leader in a manner that would allow people to truly integrate them into their leadership and their lives, I turned to Danny Iny to ensure that I could create something that would be different than anything else that is out there – something transformational.

I wanted to create an experience that would allow people to cultivate the kind of qualities that aren’t often taught in business school (or most schools for that matter), but that are vital to leadership effectiveness:

  • How to rekindle the passion, meaning and joy in your work (and life) that will allow you to truly inspire and energize your workplace to bring their very best to everything they do
  • How to minimize the stress, pressure and overwhelm that comes with being a high achiever – without sacrificing performance
  • How to make a bigger impact and contribution in a way that is aligned with who you really are and help others to do the same
  • How to improve your ability to lead and influence others toward lasting change
  • How to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity
  • How to bounce back from setbacks or disappointments (and leverage the experience in ways that will get you further than you could have without them)

Danny Iny is a wizard when it comes to helping people learn and create the kinds of programs that deliver on their promises. If you are in an organization that designs and delivers training programs for your people (or your customers), I highly recommend checking out Danny’s book to gain insight on how to do that in the most impactful and effective manner.

And if you are a high achieving executive who would benefit by learning to minimize stress, pressure and overwhelm so you can access your authentic leadership genius, I’ll be offering my next iteration of my leadership development program early next year, and opening enrollment in the next few months.

More on that coming soon…

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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The Weak Side of a Strength

a chain being held together to represent a weak side of a strength

 

I often conduct 360 feedback interviews for my coaching clients, which entail interviewing an assortment of people including their bosses, employees, customers, and peers to find out what the client’s perceived strengths and areas of opportunity are.  It almost never fails that the areas that get in the way of people’s effectiveness and continued success are in some way strengths overdone.

The best listeners often get so wrapped up in passively listening to others that they forget to talk or to bring their views to the forefront.  Those who have the admirable quality of being direct and letting others know where they stand can fall prey to delivering messages with a little too much force and not enough tact.  Optimism can become naiveté, and realism can become pessimism.  Thinking big can lead to overlooking the details, and those who are known for their precision are often criticized for missing the bigger picture.

Think about your unique strengths. 

What happens when you turn the volume level on them up too high?  A big part of sidestepping our pitfalls is simply becoming aware of them.  Without that, you will never know what you do not know and your strengths overdone will become your blind spots.  But when you observe yourself with awareness, you can recognize the areas that can be fine tuned and take action to keep yourself from falling into patterns that are unproductive and ineffective.

Lead with our strengths.

They are an essential part of our leadership and the uniqueness we bring to it.  It is important for us to find work that is aligned with these strengths (and to do the same for our people).  But we cannot allow our strengths to become crutches.  When we over rely on them, we are blocking other parts of ourselves that need expression.

We can begin to balance this out by recognizing others who have strengths that compliment our own and appreciating what we can learn from them.  And we can stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zone in an effort to explore parts of ourselves that do not regularly come to the table.  The more we practice these new behaviors, the better we will be able to employ them.

 

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


First Name:

Last name:

Email:








Supercharge Your Summer: Three Strategies for Vacationing that Replenish You and Skyrocket Your Performance

 

We all know we need vacations.frustrated man feels the need for a vacation to replenish

Time to rest and recuperate, enjoy our loved ones, and have some fun. But all too often, vacation creates stress for high performing executives who dread coming back to loads of email and other work that has piled up, and spend their time away preoccupied and worried about what’s happening at the office or getting sucked into email and phone calls.

It’s not uncommon to come back from vacation feeling like you need another vacation.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you approach your vacation with the same level of thoughtfulness and intention that you do with any project you undertake, you can create experiences that not only revitalize yourself and enable you to reach a new level of performance, but also increase the strength and effectiveness of your organization.

Here are three strategies for accomplishing this:

(1) Make the decision to completely disconnect.

We all know our electronic devices need to be recharged to work properly.

And it’s a no brainer that they charge more efficiently when we are not using them. However, we often fail to grasp that to replenish our energy, creativity, resilience, determination and focus – we too need to go offline.

It is often our underlying (and unexamined) assumptions that keep us from truly relaxing.

We are conditioned to believe that the harder we work, the more successful we will be, and that taking our eyes off the ball (even for a day, let alone a week or more) can lead to things spiraling out of control. As a result, many of us have a hard time letting go. We approach our vacations with one foot in and one foot back in the office, checking our phones and becoming preoccupied with work. In this state of mind it’s easy to get sucked back in to anything that appears to be less than optimal.

Few of us realize that this belief itself is the problem.

It is often the assumption that we cannot afford to let go that leads to most the stress, pressure and overwhelm we encounter when we return from our much-needed breaks. Like our cell phones, which are constantly searching for a signal and downloading messages, we too are expending energy even as we try to recharge it. In addition, this belief leads us to become far more susceptible to distractions that take us away from what we are doing in the moment. It also keeps us from doing the preparation necessary to ensure that others can handle things without us while we are away.

Once you realize this underlying belief is the culprit, you can substitute it with a new truth.

Chances are that voice in your head that compels you to check your phone will continue to speak. But when you begin to see the fallacy in that assumption as well as the pain it creates, it doesn’t have as much of a hold on you. You can begin to entertain the possibility that disconnecting will truly serve you (and your organization) and act in ways that make that true. And when you fully commit to a vacation that allows you to go offline, you are better able to prepare in ways that make that possible, which leads to the next strategy.

(2) Prepare people in your organization to handle things in your absence.

Most executives would benefit by delegating and empowering others more in general.

Often senior leaders find themselves unable to act strategically because they get bogged down in operational tasks that they really shouldn’t be involved in. So, creating a plan to prepare others to run things in your absence will yield dividends for you (and your organization) long after your vacation is over.

Take some time to identify what is most likely to hijack your relaxation, and plan accordingly.

Identify people in your organization whose skill, experience and passion are a good match for things you would normally handle yourself. Then take the steps necessary to bring them up to speed and put them in charge while you are away. Create and communicate guidelines that will help them know what to do in situations that would cause you the greatest stress, so they can make solid decisions without you. Taking these steps not only helps ensure consistency and effectiveness while you are away but also develops key players on your team that, given the right opportunities, can make a bigger impact.

When you return, follow up to help your people integrate what they have learned and build on it.

In addition to increasing their own capability, their fresh perspective may yield insights into how things can be handled more effectively in the future. Additionally, the confidence you place in your staff can go a long way in making them feel valued and appreciated. As a result, you’ll open doors to new levels of performance that benefit your entire organization.

(3) Set and communicate boundaries and expectations in advance.

Most of us are accustomed to setting up automated “out of office” messages in our mailboxes.

But we often fail to communicate and manage expectations in advance. As a result, people can feel caught off guard and demanding of your time while you are away. Or, you can feel inclined to respond to something that really isn’t all that urgent, out of fear of damaging a relationship or letting a ball drop.

Take the time to talk with others about your intention to completely disconnect while you are away.

Make it clear that you do not intend to check email or handle phone calls. Remind them of the guidelines you’ve set on what to do in your absence. And clarify your intention to use this time to replenish your reserves so that upon your return you can more effectively serve them.

When clients understand that you have taken steps to ensure they will be well cared for and know who in your organization to contact for what, they are much less inclined to interrupt you. If you discuss in advance what things can be done before and while you are gone and what is better delayed until your return, you will be able to leave with the peace of mind that everyone is on the same page.

Don’t underestimate the power of your example.

Leaders set the tone in organizations more by what they do than what they say. And if you interrupt your vacations to get involved in work, others are likely to feel compelled to follow suit. As a result, the energy of your team wanes, tempers flare, and performance begins to decline. People work harder than ever but don’t seem to get a lot done, or they burn out altogether.

When you apply these strategies, you’ll exercise true leadership – showing others how to truly revitalize themselves and their performance by modeling it yourself.

If you are interested in more strategies, approaches and tips for revitalizing yourself and your organization, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.

Implications for Real Leaders

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.

To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


First Name:

Last name:

Email:








Three Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Trying to Influence Others — and What to Do Instead

Diane Bolden | Phoenix, Arizona Executive Leadership Coach

 

When my daughter was eleven years old, she handed me a piece of paper one Friday afternoon. Across the top of the page written in hot pink were the words “Why You Should Let Me Have a Friend Over Tonight.”

Beneath the heading, in various bright colors adorned with hearts and smiley faces were five or six bullet points meticulously printed with the most perfect of penmanship. One of them said “I’ll share my super sour gummy worms with you,” and another promised “we will only make a little mess.”

While I was impressed with my daughter’s effort and artistic flair, I made a mental note that at some point I ought to help her with her negotiating skills. I winced as I recalled the last time I tried one of her super sour gummy worms, whose pungent flavor immediately led me to regret the decision as soon as I put it in my mouth — and then again hours later when most of it was still stuck to my teeth.

You wouldn’t expect a senior executive to have the same errors in judgment in an attempt at persuasion. And yet, often even the most professional of people make similar blunders. Today I’ll cover three of the most common mistakes people make in their attempts to influence others:

(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value

(2) Overlooking the importance of objections

(3) Talking more than listening

Let’s talk about making invalid assumptions about what people value.

This was my lovely daughter’s critical error. While her offer to share super sour gummy worms may have been very compelling to her thirteen year old brother, it was actually rather repulsive to me. In her precious little mind, everyone loves those squishy sweet treats. It never occurred to her that wasn’t universally true.

And professional people often make this mistake as well. Not with gummy worms, but with questions of value.

One of my clients, Jan, learned the importance of checking her assumptions after pitching a proposal to senior executives with the argument that her program would allow employee satisfaction and morale to increase, leading to a happier workplace and less interdepartmental conflict.

While these were certainly attributes of a program she worked very hard to develop — and benefits that were quite meaningful to her — her audience was far more interested in financial gain than employee satisfaction.

Did she have to completely revamp her program to get their support? Absolutely not. She simply needed to amend her case to show the return on investment her program would generate after factoring in lower absenteeism and turnover rates, increased productivity, and reduced waste.

“Treat everyone the way you want to be treated,” we are taught from an early age. But unfortunately, not everyone values the same things. A better adage might be, “find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.”

Unfortunately, understanding what people value isn’t always enough to cinch the deal — even when it appears that you have agreement. Let’s move on to the next most common mistake, overlooking the importance of objections.

Why is it important to surface objections?

Things are moving along well. You see heads nodding. It seems you are gaining the support of most the people sitting around the table. Wouldn’t surfacing objections at this point throw a monkey wrench in the works? Why allow people who are already with you to be swayed by people who have dissenting opinions?

The problem with those head nods is that you don’t really know exactly what people are agreeing with. They might be on the same page when it comes to the way you described the problem that needs to be solved. But not necessarily on board with your solution.

They may agree with part of your solution, but not all of it. They may be nodding their heads because their peers are doing that, and they feel compelled to follow suit.

The problem with partial agreement is that it usually only gets you part of the way there.

That may not be the case if all you are negotiating for is a onetime event — as in the case of my daughter. But more often than not, what executives really need is ongoing support and commitment. Sure, they want to get their program funded, their product launched, or their order filled.

But in order to have lasting success, they need champions within the organization, people who are committed to their projects, and customers that will continue to place more orders. And that takes more than a simple head nod or even a signed contract.

Partial agreement falls apart when things get difficult. People don’t follow through. Your calls stop being returned. Your funding gets pulled. And you are left scratching your head wondering what happened.

Those people who aren’t nodding their heads in agreement could be worth their weight in gold. But only if you get them to talk.

This leads us to the third mistake many executives make in their attempts to influence others: talking more than listening. Anytime people are being pitched with a proposal, a call to action, a request for support or funds or business, there will be concerns and skepticism.

Often these reservations don’t get voiced. Instead, people adopt a “wait and see attitude.” But the questions rattling around at the back of their minds may very well be valid — and if you knew what they were, you could take steps to address them and sidestep potential pitfalls you would otherwise unwittingly fall into.

So, the first step is to intentionally encourage people to voice their dissent. They could very well tell you something you really need to know. And if you acknowledge that they may see something important that you may not be aware of, you are sending a message that you value and respect them and care enough about them to address what they care about.

When your audience takes you up on your invitation to share their concerns and reservations, it is more important than ever to resist the temptation to talk and listen instead.

But many executives don’t do that. They figure a stronger argument is required. More data. Sexier examples. Better stories. Increased persuasion. So, they tell, and they sell while their audience feels less and less understood and slowly slips away.

When you feel the inclination to begin defending your case, hold your tongue and get curious instead. Ask for more details. Recap what they’ve said to be sure you heard them correctly. Paraphrase what you think is most important to them.

Continue asking clarifying questions until you begin to see things from their perspective. Because when you do, you will earn their trust.

You may have to rework your proposal. It may not be the reaction you were hoping for. But you have won for yourself the chance to truly gain the support you endeavored to secure — and when you take the steps to listen and respond to the concerns of your most important stakeholders, you increase the chances that the support you have just won will stand the test of time.

Let’s recap the most common mistakes executives make when attempting to influence — and what to do instead.

(1) Making invalid assumptions about what people value. Instead, recognize that not everyone likes the same thing you do. Find out what is most important to the people around you and make an effort to respect their preferences.

(2) Overlooking the importance of objections. Instead, realize that objections help you recognize what your audience cares most about and gives you an opportunity to deliver it. It earns you trust, respect and ultimately, their support.

(3) Talking more than listening. Resist the temptation to diffuse your audience’s objections and concerns with more information, telling and selling. Instead, probe to get a better understanding of what they really need and take steps to deliver it.

Influencing others is about more than crafting a polished presentation and a bulletproof case for action. You will get much further if you treat the art of influence more like a dance with your audience than a performance in front of them.

Invite them in and get them to participate. Listen to their needs, their desires, their concerns and their recommendations. Take action to address what they consider to be most important.

And whatever you do, please don’t offer anyone super sour gummy worms.

The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for executives at all levels of organizations large and small to voice their ideas, concerns and suggestions in a way that can move their businesses forward.  For more on why this is so vital right now, as well as how you can advance your own ideas while inspiring and empowering others to do the same, sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.


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Creating an Inspired Workplace: 3 Examples to Light Your Way



As an executive coach, I work with leaders in both large and small organizations – who are passionate about creating inspired workplaces.

They aren’t sure how to do it. They aren’t sure peoplDianeBolden_FB_08.28.17e will respond favorably. They aren’t sure it will work at all.

They want to break the unspoken, unwritten rules of organizations that say…

  • …that the version of yourself you bring to work is different than who you are at home.
  • …that work is a place where you do what your boss says and don’t ask a lot of questions.
  • …that you have to suck it up when what you are tasked to do doesn’t jive with who you are.
  • …that you have to keep your head down and just make it through the day, the week, the month, the year and collect your paycheck regularly enough to feed your family and make ends meet.

These leaders inspire me.

They have come to a place where they know there has to be more to life than just going through the motions, getting through the day, doing what’s required, going home and turning on the TV until the next day comes. They want more for themselves and they want more for their people.

Some of them are in organizations with traditional structures and old paradigms.

Not intentionally designed to limit people, but born of cultures that despite the latest management trends and empowerment classes on possibility thinking and shared vision still reward command and control, lead to power plays and foster the idea that if you don’t watch your back you could get stabbed.

One of my clients was discouraged by his boss from getting too close to his subordinates.

He was told doing so could cause him to lose his “edge” with them. He was told he may not be viewed as a leader if his people know too much about him and see him as a real person with fears and dreams and idiosyncrasies and humor.

But he knows that kind of leadership won’t unlock the potential in his organization. He knows that won’t light people up. He knows that won’t foster trust. He knows that isn’t what makes people go the extra mile when they are already tired and beaten. And he’s sick of playing that game.

So he’s trying something new. He’s sharing more of himself. More of his vision. More of his hopes and concerns and experiences for better or worse. He is encouraging dialogue. He’s asking what people think and sticking around long enough to hear (and really listen to) what they have to say. He is helping them find ways to breathe life into their greatest ideas and visions. And he is learning to get out of the way and trade the illusion of control for embracing possibilities that lead people (including himself) to enter into and navigate through uncertainty.

Another client is getting ready to engage his leadership team in ways that they aren’t used to.

He wants to roll out a whole new paradigm of doing things. And he is quite aware that words like “increasing shareholder value,” “fostering excellence” and “exceeding customer expectations” – while good concepts, tend to make people’s eyes glaze over and dismiss what is being said as the latest corporate speak, rah rah, Dilbert like rant.

He realizes that he needs to get very clear about what he sees as possible for his organization and all the people in it. He needs to be able to distinguish what they are moving away from and moving toward and find out what they think is important and what it will take to get them there.

He wants to encourage dissention and constructive disagreement. He knows that if they don’t voice their concerns and questions and hesitations to him, they will do it with each other in a way that could invoke fear and resistance and squash the seeds of possibility as they begin to germinate and grow. He knows that a silent room doesn’t mean everyone agrees. He has the courage to delve underneath the surface to find out what’s really going on – even, and perhaps especially if it means they don’t agree with anything he is saying.

A third client heads up an organization already known as the very best at what they do.

They have customers lining up at the door. They have been recognized in their community as the go to for what they do. They are well respected in their industry. And yet, they are burned out. They are overwhelmed and just trying to make it through the day. Things fall through the cracks. Important details get overlooked.

And my client has run around fixing things as they break, preventing undesirable consequences and instituting practices that keep the organization profitable, efficient and effective. But his partners haven’t embraced them – in fact, in some cases they even harbor resentment. He knows he cannot create an inspired workplace singlehandedly. But he realizes his partners aren’t inspired – and that no amount of talking at them will get them there. So he is slowing down and beginning to have authentic conversations with each of them.

He wants to connect with them as people, to see what they believe in, what they are passionate about, what they want to create together, and what they think needs to be done to make it fly. He is opening himself up to their criticism, their doubts, their worries and also hoping to hear about their dreams. He doesn’t know if it is going to work. He isn’t sure how to begin these conversations, or whether people will really engage with him. But he is willing to do it anyway.

This is the essence of true leadership.

Some call it conscious leadership. It is the ability to authentically engage with people in the workplace in a way that promotes shared value, meaning and purpose and leads them to work together in service to something greater than themselves. It requires courage, patience, faith, trust, intuition, and self awareness.

And I salute them.

 

Creating an inspired workplace and exercising conscious leadership is something that doesn’t happen overnight. If you are interested learning about approaches and strategies for building an engaged, enthusiastic work culture that leads to high performance without burning people out in the process (starting with yourself), check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.  Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

The Masterpiece in the Marble: 3 Steps to Unearth Your Best Work

DianeBolden_FB_08.21.17

 

We’ve all been to a lot of classes – whether on leadership or related subjects – where we sit passively and listen to someone teach us things from a workbook or a power point presentation. Some of these classes infuse us with new ideas and inspirations, and others do not. Either way, the chief challenge is coming back to our daily work and implementing what we have learned. Class or no class, putting into practice the ideas and insights we get on a daily basis is a challenge. It is a challenge because it calls for us to integrate them into a way of doing things that we have established for ourselves over a long period of time.

To change, grow or improve in any way, we must consciously look at ourselves.

We need to look at both what is working and what is not. Often we are so accustomed to running from project to project and meeting to meeting, that we aren’t even aware of the dynamics at play under the surface. This frenetic approach leads to a pattern of similar results, similar experiences, and inevitably similar frustrations, and often the feeling that there has to be more to it than this.

There is.

The truth is, you already possess within you the core essentials you need to be successful. 

The question is, are you using them?  And are you using them to the best of your ability?  If the answer is no, it doesn’t matter how many new tools you acquire or methodologies you learn.  Our chief challenge is not to continue looking to others for solutions and answers, but instead to take the time to tap that part of ourselves that remains our purest potential.  The prerequisite for being an effective leader of others is to learn to lead ourselves.

Michelangelo once said “The masterpiece is already in the marble.”

The same is true for each of us. Our chief task as leaders is to chip away at the stuff that surrounds the masterpiece. What stuff? You may ask. The habits, patterns and approaches you’ve been utilizing over the years that are no longer getting you the results you want. And the inaccurate beliefs, assumptions and doubts you have about yourself, others, and what is generally possible in any given situation. These are the major factors that keep you from unearthing your best work.

So how do you chip the away at the extraneous?

The part that is especially challenging for people is that they often don’t even realize they are operating from a mindset that isn’t serving them. They may recognize the results they’re getting aren’t what they’d like without necessarily realizing that the core issue lies within them. And the tricky thing is that until you recognize that the mindset you have isn’t serving you, you will continue to make decisions and attempt to solve problems operating within the very frame of mind that is keeping you from seeing the outcomes you want.

Here are some steps you can take to shift into a way of thinking that allows you to bring out your very best – and in the process help others to do the same.

The first step is to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY.

The next time you have an experience that doesn’t go the way you’d like it to, replay it in your mind and try to identify the role you played in it –not only with your actions (or lack of action) but also your thoughts – what you were believing at the time, where your focus was, and how others reacted to you. Ask yourself what you would do differently next time. Then envision what that would look like and feel like if you were to have the same situation, but a more favorable response. In this way, you can allow your experiences to teach and mold you into something better – even the ones that are less than optimal.

The second step is to PAY ATTENTION.

You are bound to fall into old patterns again and again, but the more you become aware of them, the less compelling they become. At first you may not catch yourself until after the fact, but over time you will find you can interrupt the cycle sooner, until finally you are able to head it off at the pass and choose a different response altogether.

The third step is to IDENTIFY WITH THE MASTERPIECE, NOT THE MARBLE.

You are not your thoughts, your patterns or your habits. You are much bigger than that. Once you are aware of how those things are operating in your life, you free yourself up to choose new ones. Rather than chipping away at the marble, you will begin to grow from within it, busting through the constraints that no longer hold you captive. Instead of dwelling on your limitations, focus on your strengths. Instead of putting your attention on the things you don’t want to see, begin identifying with what you do want and recognize that you have the ability to achieve it.

As you begin to clear the debris from your view, you will see things in a whole different light – including those around you that you have the opportunity to lead. These folks are far more likely to take their cues from your action than your words. And when you begin to help them identify with their masterpieces as you have learned to do, there is nothing you cannot achieve.

If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

Igniting the Spark & Fanning the Flames: 3 Critical Steps to Inspiring Others

DianeBolden_FB_08.14.17

 

When was the last time you were really inspired?

Can you recall what you were doing? What you were thinking about? How you felt? What was it that inspired you? And what did you end up doing as a result?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could replicate the feeling of inspiration and translate it into measurable results any time you wanted to? As a leader, your chief mission is to bring out the best in others and focus their unique talent, style, energy and passion into the creation and achievement of something that serves a greater good. The ability to inspire and motivate is critical. But what is it exactly that makes a leader inspiring – and more importantly how can leaders facilitate others to take inspired action?

STEP 1: Before you can be inspiring, you must be inspired.

Chances are the last time you became inspired, you were not feeling stress, anxiety, worry or overwhelm. And it probably didn’t happen because someone told you to do it. The greatest creations and most significant accomplishments of our time started with a single thought that most likely originated when the minds that conceived them were relatively quiet. It is not uncommon to hear inventors, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, leaders and others say that ideas such as these seemed to originate from a source greater than themselves – and that the most inspiring of these thoughts was in service to a greater good.

The voice of inspiration often starts as a small still whisper that competes for our attention among all the other things we think we need to be doing.   How will you quiet yourself for a few moments today and elevate your attention from problems to possibilities so you can hear what it is telling you?

STEP 2: Before you can truly bring out the best in others, you must start with yourself.

Every one of us has faults and weaknesses. But we also have unique combinations of talent, energy, style and passion that mingle together to form vast pools of possibility. You are capable of far more than you ever dreamed or realized is possible and so is everyone around you. These core qualities lie deep within us waiting to be tapped and harnessed.

True strength is not boastful or proud but rather quietly confident and unassuming. It is also incredibly engaging and uplifting. When you shift your focus from your doubts and fears to your strengths and abilities, you will see the way to rise. And in doing so, you will allow others to do the same. As you focus on people’s true potential and treat them as though they are capable of achieving it, they will prove you right – often surprising and delighting themselves in the process. The ability to do this is one of the marks of a true leader.

STEP 3:   Remember to block and tackle.

Getting people to focus on possibilities and believe in themselves is a huge part of exercising inspired leadership, but it won’t get you all the way there. To leverage people’s strengths and make the most of emerging opportunities, inspiration must at some point turn into ACTION. The trouble is, somewhere along the way our egos have a tendency to try to steal the show. Being fear based, the ego would have us occupy ourselves with doubt, skepticism and anxiety over the potential for failure and any corresponding loss of power, prestige or approval.

This is where MOTIVATION comes in. Motivation is about getting people to move. And sometimes you have to remove barriers that are in front of people before they can do that. Obstacles could be physical, organizational or mental. Good leaders are instrumental in detecting and removing them, whether they are in the form of skill deficiency, inadequate equipment or resources, or a lack of confidence.

You can soothe the clamors of the ego by mitigating risk, increasing the odds of success, and helping others to recognize what they have to gain as a result of exerting the effort necessary to succeed. With the parking brake removed, action and results can begin to accelerate.

In every organization, in every person, and in every moment, there lies possibility and untapped potential. What will you do to recognize it and apply it toward something remarkable?

If you are interested in additional strategies for inspiring and motivating yourself and others to higher levels of performance and impact – as well as greater fulfillment both on and off the job, check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group IntensiveRegistration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!

Does Your Work Life Need Resuscitating?

Diane Bolden - Executive Leadership Coach in Phoenix, Arizona.

 

I have always been amazed by the number of people who seem to think of work as something of a necessary evil — simply what must be done to earn a paycheck. For so many who toil through their workday, the primary goal is to make it to the weekend so they can really live. Going through the motions, working side by side with others whose hearts and minds they seldom truly connect with, they withhold the very parts of themselves that make them come alive.

For some work wasn’t always a grind.

Many began their careers ignited with passion and optimism, only to find that their flames began to flicker as they encountered obstacle after obstacle that kept them from achieving what they believed would be success. Succumbing to the unwritten rules of the organizations and other environments they found themselves in, which suggested they needed to act or think in a certain way to get ahead, they may have slowly sold out on their dreams and relegated themselves to quiet complacency.

Many of us were not brought up to expect that work would (or should) be fun or gratifying.

That’s why they call it work, we may have been told. As a result, we may have never really expected much from our careers or professional lives. And as the saying goes, life has a way of living up to our expectations. In just about every corporation, nonprofit or other organization, you will find people in jobs that do not ignite their talents and passions. Some remain dormant in those jobs because they fear that if they pursue their hearts’ desires, they won’t be able to put food on their tables. Many don’t realize that there might be a better alternative.

Most of us have learned how to turn ourselves on and off at will.

It’s something we often do to spare ourselves the pain of disappointment or frustration — or to maintain what we have come to believe is a professional demeanor. It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are very different at work than they are at home. Those golden parts of ourselves that we think we are protecting suffer when we do not let them breathe and interact in the very realms that provide us opportunities to learn more about who we are and what we are here to do in the world.

We miss the chance to become a part of something greater than ourselves.

And the organizations and communities we are a part of miss out on the unique contribution each of us has the potential to make. We can no longer afford to fragment ourselves in this way, denying the fulfillment of our secret dreams and downplaying the insights we have about what we can do to make life better — for ourselves, and everyone around us.

As more and more of us feel the pain that accompanies the denial of our spirits, we start to realize that the time has come for us to bring the totality of who we are to what we do, no matter our vocation, title or role.

We are beginning to awaken to our unique calls to service, creativity and innovation.

As we find ways to unleash our distinctive talents and passions at work, we will significantly increase the quality of our own lives, as well as the lives of everyone around us. Corporations that take steps to create environments that allow people to thrive will be met with rich rewards as ingenuity pours forth in ways that lead to increased profit and market share – as well as the creation of self-sustaining cultures that inspire people to sustain success by doing what they do best.

There are people among us who have the ability to snap us out of our trances.

They show us how to liberate ourselves from states of quiet desperation and help us bring more of who we truly are to everything that we do. They can do this for others because they have done it for themselves.

They are called leaders.

You may be one of them.  And if you are, the world needs you now more than ever.

If you are interested in answering the call to lead yourself and others, and learn approaches to help you connect with your own unique path in a way that reinvigorates your own life and that of everyone around you, I invite you to check out The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive. Registration for the fall program is now open. Enroll by 9/1 with the code EARLYBIRD2 to take advantage of the early bird discount!Diane Bolden - Executive Leadership Coach in Phoenix, Arizona.

3 Fears That Keep Leaders From Playing a Bigger Game

Phoenix Executive Leadership Coach Diane Bolden.

 

You’ve just been promoted. The excellent work you have been recognized for has landed you a new job with expanded responsibility and significance. Perhaps you lead an organization of other talented professionals who now look to you for guidance and support. Maybe you are a leader of leaders.

The game you were playing just got bigger – and so did the playing field.

And your role has changed. What earned you this promotion will not be enough to allow you to succeed in your new role. In fact, if you continue to do what you did before, you may actually sabotage your newfound success.

You have gone from player to coach — or perhaps manager/owner. And if you jump back into the game, no one will be there to call the shots, to develop the talent, to create a strategy to advance the standing of the team, to gain the supporters and funding that will allow the team to continue to play.

Yet despite these consequences, you — like many leaders faced with similar opportunities — may have difficulty with the transition. You may have fears:

  • Fear than no one can do things as well (or better)
  • Fear of becoming obsolete
  • Fear of failure

Let’s talk about each of these, starting with the first one…

Fear that no one can do things as well (or better)

The problem with this fear is that it is actually well-founded. Chances are, especially if you are at the top of your field, very few will be able to do the job as well as or better than you can. But that doesn’t mean you should be doing it for them — or even along with them.

And yet you will be tempted to. Especially when the stakes are high. Or when things get extremely busy and it seems like targets will not be met if you don’t jump in or take over altogether. You may hover over people, micromanaging them or smothering them with well-intentioned guidance.

But your very fear that things will fall through the cracks may well cause that which you most want to avoid. Maybe not in the short term. In the short term, you may revel in your ability to keep the balls from dropping and save the day. But as more and more begins to be added to your plate, your problem of not having people who are skilled enough to take the baton will be even greater than it was before.

Worse yet, you will have conditioned the very people you need to develop to become dependent on you and quite comfortable performing at much less than their true capacity. In the meantime, the bigger, more strategic work that you have graduated to will be piling up and fairly significant opportunities will pass you by.

Your people may well be on a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning. They won’t get everything right. And they may resist taking on the responsibilities you used to perform. But you need to transition from performer to coach.

Give them opportunities to try things out. Let them make mistakes. Then help them to learn from those mistakes and perfect their craft. And do the same for yourself in your new role.

This leads us to the second common fear that keeps leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of becoming obsolete

It’s not necessarily a rational fear. After all, leaders who are on the brink of playing a bigger game have plenty to do. They have a whole new role to fill. But that doesn’t stop people from worrying at some level that if they teach and empower others to do what got them accolades and attention that they will somehow lose their edge and fade into obscurity.

Often when people have performed a certain role or become masterful at a particular skill, it can become infused with their very identity. And until they have performed in their new role for awhile and become accustomed to the different kinds of activities and opportunities that it brings, they are likely to continue to identify with their old role. Which may lead them to wonder, “if I’m not that anymore, who am I?”

This ambiguity and lack of role clarity can send people back to what they know is comfortable and familiar, even when they have outgrown it. And even when going back there isn’t in their best interest (or the best interest of those they lead.)

To counteract this, it is important to fully grasp the opportunities and possibilities that playing a bigger game brings. It allows you to go from being immersed in the game with a view limited from one point on the playing field to seeing the game from several different angles. You can evaluate each player’s contribution and the way they work together.

You can change the way the game is played — and in some cases, even change the rules. But only if you free yourself up from the myriad of tasks that will always be there beckoning you to come back into the operational and out of the strategic. And the lure of the old role becomes even more enticing when you factor in the next fear that keeps many leaders from playing a bigger game.

Fear of failure 

When you go from executing the plays to determining what those plays should be, you enter unchartered territory. First off, it is likely something you won’t have a lot of experience doing. And when you don’t have a lot of experience doing something, it is uncomfortable.

You may not be very good at it in the beginning. It will be messy. You will second-guess yourself. And you will likely miss being able to do your work with the same level of confidence and ease that you did before.

It will feel a lot like going from being a senior to becoming a freshman again.

Second, the very nature of being a strategic player will require you to navigate through uncertainty and ambiguity. You will be called on to blaze a trail where none previously existed. While this can be incredibly exciting and invigorating, it can also be somewhat daunting and stressful.

And when the pressure gets high, you may find it incredibly tempting to get sucked back into doing things you shouldn’t be doing anymore. Things you can check off your list and feel a sense of accomplishment from. Things that restore your confidence and give you the illusion of being in control. Things that would be better delegated to others. Or not done at all.

So when that happens, you need to remind yourself that whatever you did that allowed you to rise to new heights wasn’t likely something that always came easily to you. You had to start somewhere and struggle in the beginning before you began to gain competence and confidence. But you stuck with it and gradually got better and better. And you can do that again now.

Leadership is about “going before” others. Your new promotion will require that you wade through your fear, your discomfort, your resistance and your uncertainty to find within you the core of your true potential and act from it. And as you do so, by your very example, you will lead others to grow, expand, push their limits and play a bigger game as well.

Playing a bigger game often brings pressure and anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. You can make a bigger impact without running yourself ragged – and enjoy the process along the way. The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive will show you how. Though the spring program is now full, you can get on the waiting list for priority access to the fall program, kicking off in September. For more information, visit The Real Leader’s Guide to Freedom & Flow Group Intensive.