leadership

How To Effectively Deal With Anxiety In 15 Minutes or Less

One of the top struggles for leaders is learning how to manage their anxiety. As a leader, you carry an incredible amount of responsibility. You have people counting on you. You want to continue to grow and excel, and you want to have an impact. Given the complexity of the obstacles before a leader, their anxiety can often go through the roof.  However, they know that they are being watched carefully, by those who report to them, peers, and those they themselves are accountable to.  Consequently, many try to stuff their anxiety. They “act as if” everything is okay, finding the silver lining in whatever it is they are going through, and waiting till no one is around to allow themselves to fully feel the anxiety that is just under the surface.

Studies have shown that some amount of anxiety can actually help performance.  However, many times anxiety can get so strong that it works against us.  We are not able to generate solutions. We may find ourselves unable to fall asleep, or we wake up in the middle of the night and are unable to fall back asleep. Or we may start stress-eating, or stress-fasting.  Perhaps we are not fully present in meetings, or are not hearing our direct reports when they really need us.  Anxiety can take different guises.

I want to offer a simple, tangible tool to decrease your anxiety in the workplace (and in your personal life!).

Do you want to deal effectively with your anxiety in 15 minutes or less?

Download this Excel spreadsheet and I will walk you through a way to do just that. Afterwards, I will give you an example of how I used it to overcome one of my worst recurring anxieties.

Looking at the worksheet, follow me along. You need to be detailed in columns B-F.  The more details, the more you should feel your anxiety being impacted as you go from column to column.

Column A: The date when you are doing this exercise for the anxiety you are currently facing (no details here :-)

Column B: Write in detail the absolute worst case scenario that could arise from the situation that is currently making you anxious.  Describe the factors that make this the worst case scenario, and write what you would feel if that scenario arose.  Do not hold back on details in this column.  You know you are doing a great job if your anxiety picks up, or you can clearly recognize that your anxiety would be horribly higher if that worst case scenario were to happen.  Once you feel that, immediately go to column C.

Column C: Write what good options can come if the absolute worst case scenario happened.  If you did a good job in column B, it should be hard to think of more than one good thing that could come from that worst case scenario.  This is where you have to break down the question by relating it to specific parts of life.  In other words, what good could come....

  • Vocationally
  • Relationally
  • Emotionally
  • Mentally
  • Financially
  • Spiritually
  • Physically
  • For each person directly impacted from the scenario
  • For loved ones
  • For your team
  • For your overall organization
  • Etc.

You know you can stop thinking of options when the edge has been taken off the anxiety and you are starting to feel hope.  You probably still feel anxious, but it has gone down a couple of notches and you can begin to see a way forward.  Then go to Column D.

Column D: Describe the actual scenario you find yourself in.  Once again, you want to state the facts of what you feel along with what you would feel about the facts.  You need to be detailed here.  Really describe it until you can taste it.

Column E: Generate options for what good things can come from Column D.  Since you have found options through the worst case scenario, you should see options for column E.  Literally, you can copy and paste many of the ones from Column C, but here you will get more specific about what you’re actually facing.  You need to keep generating options until you feel hope and your anxiety has gone down tremendously.

My Personal Success Story

Here is a template for what this exercise could look like.  It is a bit embarrassing for me to share this, but it proves how well this tool works.

I used to write business plans for a living and, with the exception of two years of my life, I have always run my own business.  I went to business school and studied business cycles.  So you would think that I would not get overly anxious about the down side of the business cycle in a calendar year.

Yet, despite all of the evidence that shows how predictable the down time is, and even more, the clear evidence that things pick up at about the same time every year, I used to get really anxious during the downtime of the business cycle.

My wife would always look at me and say, “It was like this last year” or “This year is not as bad as last year." And sure enough, things would start to turn around. But year after year, I lived with anxiety.

So if you have the What Good Could Come From This? spreadsheet up, let me walk you through what has put a permanent stop to this recurring anxiety.

A few years ago, I wrote the date in Column A.

Then in Column B, I wrote out the absolute worst case scenario that could come from the downtime in the business cycle.  Here is what I wrote:

During a down business cycle, not just 20-25% of clients drop, but all drop.  As much as I try to generate income for my family, we wind up losing all of our assets, including our house.  Then my wife, my kids, and my in-laws are forced to live under a bridge.  I would see them suffering and feel guilty, ashamed, desperate, isolated.  I would believe it was all my fault that this scenario happened and I would feel crushed by it.

When I got to Column C, I could hardly think of one good thing that could come from the worst case scenario.  So I focused on what good could come in different parts of my life.  Here is what I saw, and I wrote:

Any time I have gone through a career change, a better option has emerged. It could happen again in just the same way. My wife and I have always been tight during hard times - this one could be the same.  I could get more time with my kids.  My in-laws are incredibly gracious and resourceful.  They would help brainstorm ideas. I would be walking a lot more so I would be in better shape.  If I lost all my assets, then anything that gets added would be better financially.  I would have more time to think and get creative.  I could even get positive about this situation if I saw good things come.  It would teach me to be mentally resilient.  I could see people at my church help us in unexpected ways.  God and I could get tighter and I could see Him act in unexpected ways.  Those on my team could find other opportunities.  They are gifted and resourceful as well.  Or they would brainstorm options with me and our company could emerge better than ever.

At that point, I started to feel a little better and had a little hope, so I jumped to Column D.  I described the actual scenario as follows:

There are only two times of the year when the business cycle is lower.  Just as summer is starting there is a brief 10-15% drop. It lasts a couple of weeks and then picks up again, especially with more training gigs.  Then, a week before Thanksgiving through the second or third week in January, there is a 20-25% drop.  Although I get really anxious during this time, all that happens is that we eat out less and we dip into savings a little.  But I get really anxious and believe that it is going to dry up.  I get clouded, don't make the most of the time I have, stay down despite others noting that we experience this drop every year. The holidays help but I am still somewhat distracted.

Then when I got to Column E, it was much easier to generate options for what good could come from the actual scenario.  Here is what I wrote:

  • Vocationally - I have time to do what I don't get enough time to do (i.e. business development, train the team, get ahead on blogs, get trained on the things that will advance clients, take a longer vacation, etc.)
  • Relationally - I can take advantage of the situation and spend more time with my wife and kids.  It would be great to hang more with friends.
  • Emotionally - I can rest up more and do a better job at processing my own emotions.
  • Physically - I can work out more--go after more FitBit Workweek Hustles and beat top competitors.
  • Financially - I can review how my company and family spend money, and eliminate where we are wasting money or find better, more economical ways to accomplish what we want to accomplish.
  • Mentally - I can dream more, focus on gratitude more, do more brain games, even get unplugged more.
  • Spiritually - I can up the times I spend connecting to God in ways that have been meaningful.  My wife and I can take an extra weekend away right in the middle of the holiday rushes.  The kids and I can do more fun things.  The team and I could also do a fun holiday party.  Our company can volunteer and help others.

By the time I was done, I felt great.

I’ve found that in order to experience what I did, you have to give Columns B-E lots of detail, especially in the emotional description of what you could feel (if the worst case scenario happened) or what you are currently feeling (from the actual case scenario).  Then you have to generate lots of options in Column E.

You are going to feel so much hope if you do a good job of generating options.  Capture that hope in Column F.  So I wrote:

I feel hopeful and alive.  I feel free.

The very next year, not only did I not have fear going into the biggest drop in the cycle, but I was looking forward to all the things I would do that would move the needle forward.

Clients who have used this tool share that after they have used it a few times, when they face the next anxious moment and open up the spreadsheet, in the process of scrolling down to the next free row, they don’t even have to write anything because the reminder of how they felt hope when using this tool has led them to feel hope about the current situation.

Moreover, clients have shared that eventually, they begin to feel hope when they just see the spreadsheet in their Finder window.

What’s been freaky to hear is that some clients who were diagnosed with an Anxiety Disorder and were being medicated for it, have had their meds reduced, and a few have even gotten off anxiety meds completely.

Genuinely hoping this tool pays as many dividends for you as it has for them and for me.

Chew On This:

  • What would remind you to use the What Good Could Come From This tool the next time you feel anxious?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

What To Do When Joining a Pre-Existing Team as the New Leader

You just got promoted, or maybe you just took a leadership position in a new company. Regardless, you will probably find yourself leading a pre-existing team. Team members know each other well, but you are the new one on the team.

Here are a few tips that clients have found to be universal principles of success for this scenario.

Building Rapport and Establishing Trust

1. Get to know your team well.

The faster you can build a connection with each member of the team, the more you will understand each other. You will build trust. You and your team members will discover how to leverage each other's strengths and contain one another's weaknesses.  More than that, you will be building a foundation for bringing the team to the next level.

2. Learn who the influencers in the company are.

In whatever organization you are in, there are certain people who have tremendous influence. Many times it is the leaders, but often you may discover that there is an administrative assistant who seems to hold a lot of influence.  Don't forget that each team has a member who is not the leader, but who wields a lot of sway over the others on the team.  As early as you can, you want to be actively building relationships with those people. Influencers can help you bust through obstacles. They can catalyze other relationships for you. Influencers also help with that next promotion. But even more than that, they will help you master the role you are in. Get to know who they are and build relationships with them.

3. Go through Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, for yourself, your team, and if possible, with your boss.

One of the first things you will need to understand is what is the most important part of your role, your team’s role, and your boss’ role. This book will help you do just that.  The more you, your team, and your boss are focused on the most important part of your roles, the more you all will move to the next level.

4. Find a base hit that is at the core of your role, your team’s role, or your boss’ role and fulfill it within 90 days.

Many start in a new role and just want to observe.  Others start, but they want to make a big grand slam home run right away.

In most cases, I've discovered that the clients who deliver base hits are the ones who win over their stakeholders and fellow associates.

Look for something that’s important in your role, your team’s overall role, or your boss’ role, where a base hit can be created.

If you can consistently deliver base hits, you will achieve remarkable results for you and your team.

Be sure to have one completed within the first 90 days so that it influences the perception people have of you.

5. Observe, observe, observe.

You will probably need to become a student for awhile, learning from your team members, peers, and boss how to accomplish meaningful actions.

You need to get the lay of the land first. If you try to make big bold moves right away, you may not realize until it’s too late that the big bold move was a colossal mistake because it did not fit the way the team or department works.

People tend to struggle with change. They want to build trust with you before things become massively different. Give them a chance to do that, and you will see how much more buy-in you will get.

Congratulations on landing the new position. You have the competence to pull off what you were hired to do. Now it is time to apply some principles and emotional intelligence to build relationships and set a foundation for major impact.

Enjoy the ride.

Chew On This:

  • What can you do to know your team better?

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of an organizational effectiveness company

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

A Path To Real Clarity for Your Business

Chris Kisley, President and CEO of Life Long Leadership, recently came to my office and sat with me as we answered the Six Core Questions for Organizational Clarity from Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage for my company.

  1. Why do we exist? (Core purpose)
  2. How do we behave? (What are our values?)
  3. What do we do? (Business definition)
  4. How will we succeed? (A collection of intentional, purposeful and unique decisions a company or team makes to give itself the best chance to maximize success)
  5.    What is most important right now? (Thematic Goal – every organization, if it wants to create a sense of alignment and focus, must have a single top priority within a given period of time.)
  6. Who must do what?

Mind you, we’ve been working on these for several weeks, but now it was time to nail the answers down.

I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate Chris and her incredible gifts for combining the core of who I am with corporate business wisdom in order to help me steer my company in the right direction.

Whether you are running a company or a department in a company, answering the six questions will bring a level of clarity that you and your team have not seen yet.

I’d like to share some of the general takeaways from my time with her that I think might be valuable for you.

  1. Really understand who you are, using insights from those who are discerning and can articulate their perceptions of you.

Turning the windows in my office into writing boards, the first thing she wrote was my Myers-Briggs type (ENFJ) and my top five strengths from StrengthsFinder (1. Communication 2. Strategy 3. Empathy 4. Achiever 5. Developer).

She then turned to me and said, “As I have experienced you, you are a strong J.”  I was floored.  I had not seen myself that way at all.  As she explained the ways in which I come across as a strong J, I gained invaluable insight and understanding as to how I am coming across to others.

More than that, I started realizing that I was “trying to be” a low J because I love some of the qualities of P’s.

Feedback can feel intimadating and exposing, but when it comes from a trusted source who knows you and is for you, it can be paramount to your success.

  1. Know how you work best and get rid of the last vestiges of who you think you “should” be.

The insight from that first point above, coupled with my answers to Lencioni’s first three questions, showed her that I try to super-specialize.  “You keep trying to box yourself in,” she said.  “You need to be broader so you can have multiple avenues to get to what you want to do most. It makes sense that you want to box yourself in because, as a J, you want to know what box you fit in.”  Man, those words rang so, so true.

My mom is a strong P.  I admire her so much.  The way things come together for her, with her ability to put out fires quickly, and seamlessly adjust to change is almost magical.  It’s part of what makes her a top surgeon.

Growing up, I wanted to be like that.  However, that’s not how I was wired.  Consequently, like many of you, several years ago I had to make concerted efforts to be who I am and stop trying to be someone I wasn’t.  I had to embrace the fact that unless I am discussing something I am very familiar with, things just don’t fall in place for me like they do for her.

I kept holding on to being a low J.  But a shift has occurred.  I may not be as strong of a J as Chris shared with me, but her words have helped me to just be, and enjoy my own wiring.

How can you start to operate out of your more authentic self?

  1. Lead with your desires.

I am really fortunate in that I absolutely love what I do.  I love coaching individuals, groups and teams, but even more, I love delivering trainings.

When we were coming up with a list of the conferences where I should do my trainings, Chris asked me what I am passionate about.  “I’ve always loved innovation and technology,” I replied. “I might not know how the latest gadgets work, but I do love using them so much that usually I am an early adopter.”

Consequently, it turns out that my passion for innovation and for the leadership development trainings that I do are a natural fit for technology conferences.  Our new intern, Megan Koh, is already at work applying on my behalf to different tech conferences where I can train leaders.

What are your desires and how can you see them come to fruition in your business? What topic or problem stirs you the most? Begin brainstorming ways you can lead from your desires.

  1. Understand how your industry and target audience works.

In the leadership development industry, who I hire will influence my target audience.  I’ve dreamed of increasing the amount of trainings (or facilitations) I do to about 50% of my practice, then spending the rest of the time with individuals, groups and teams, and growing and developing my own team.

I thought I should hire more coaches to cover for the time I want to spend facilitating or training, but I learned from Chris that if I do that, I will get more coaching work.  Instead, I should be hiring more people who can train or facilitate.  Then I will get more training and facilitation work.

Make your hiring intentional to the audience you want to reach and the goals you want to pursue within your company.

  1. Know what you will not do.

When we got to the question, “How will we succeed?” we started off by making a list of what we will not do.  Seeing that list confirmed that I need to stay in my strike zone, and not take on things for which I am not best-suited, just to please my clients.

I was already saying, “No” a lot, but I believe I have the clarity now to say “No” to more.

You can start by making a list of “things you do” and “things you do not do” within your company. Talk with your team as you determine what is most essential for your overall productivity.

  1. Know that you will adjust your answers to the six core questions as you get deeper into your work.

When we finished, I felt incredibly clear on who my company is and, more specifically, how I was going to pursue what I want to pursue.  It was so comforting and relieving.  My stress levels dropped.

I felt like one of my twins in a playpen.  When my twin boys were crawling but not yet walking, they would often cry if they were on the floor.  But if my wife or I would put them in the playpen, they would be immediately comforted and begin having fun.

I now have clear direction, focus, and know how to utilize my time and resources.

One last thing Chris mentioned was that I need to remember that the clarity I have now will become even sharper as I get farther into fulfilling the plan.  In other words, I will be further tweaking my responses to the six core questions as I go.

I am really good with that insight.  Even though I prefer routine, I love having options to plug into the routine, especially when the routine starts feeling a little old.

Chew On This:

  • How can you begin walking through Lencioni’s six core questions for organizational clarity with a trusted source?
  • What question feels most challenging to answer and why?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that catalyzes the transformation of leaders’ lives.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

Combining a Strategic Mindset With Your Tactical Base

A few weeks ago, we discussed the marks of a master tactician. A tactician is project-oriented, fast-moving and responsible for the implementation of day-to-day tasks. We then dove into the marks of a master strategist.  A master strategist values taking time to think, processing through the long-term impact of decisions while considering the views of others. But any leader needs to be able to combine a strategic mindset with a tactical base.  This is a necessary skill if one wants to ascend to the Vice President role and above in a large company. If you are running a smaller business, you already know that you need both strategy and good tactical skills in order to succeed.

Here are ways to merge a strategic mindset with your tactical base:

1. Must develop a keen sense and drive for strategy and execution.

To advance, you must develop a keen sense and drive for both strategy and execution. It is not enough to merely see a need; you must have the skills and capability to carry that need out. One cannot exist without the other. Both must be nurtured, grown, and improved upon.

2. Know how to develop a strategic plan that encompasses your keen sense and drive for execution.

A strategic plan that doesn’t keep in mind how it will be executed is just a dream (See Marks of a Master Tactician for more details on the elements you will need to remember). While thinking long-term is crucial, it is important to be able to craft tangible, short-term objectives to move towards the overarching goal. A goal becomes muddied without specific steps to get there. Moreover, craft the plan to the strengths of the individuals who will be executing.  This will increase the likelihood of success.

3. Understand what competitors are up to and relay important competitor info up the chain as quickly as possible.

Part of the above plan will include understanding your competitors' strengths and weaknesses and how to position your company best in light of that knowledge.

4. Get buy-in from so many different parties.

Before executing a strategic plan, it is important to gain buy-in from other departments and teams. This buy-in could prove invaluable as you will probably need their help from time to time and they could also notice any blind spots in the plan that will help you to refine it.  As an aside, getting buy-in from different parties also helps to diffuse accountability.

5. Making sure that each person executing is clear on their role, the decisions they can make and what they are responsible for.

Sometimes you can come up with a brilliant strategic plan but if your team is not clear on their roles, what decisions they can make and what they will be accountable for that can lead to things being dropped and poor execution. This must be clear before the project starts.

6. Don’t second-guess plan once you start to execute.

Once all of the above is accomplished and you start to execute it, it is important that you don’t second-guess the plan.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t make some course-corrections as you receive feedback (see below) but it does mean that the overall direction won’t drastically change.  The larger your company is, the harder it will be to make a dramatic change.

7. Must assess the initial feedback after executing the strategy and make course-corrections on the fly.

As feedback comes in, you will start to spot trends, make subtle changes, and improve the tactics. However, the overall strategy should not change that much.  The course-corrections typically are about the tactics not the strategy.

8. Review, Refine, Review, Refine.

Continually review the strategic plan and refine it as you go.  It will help to sharpen the next strategic plan that you develop.

Chew On This:

  • How can you integrate both strategy and tactics to optimize your effectiveness in your role?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips business leaders to develop the teams that everyone wants to work for.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

The Mark of a Master Strategist

Master strategists are a rare breed of people.  They are able to play high level chess and make it look as simple as playing checkers. A few years ago, I started working with a vice president whose role was to head up a Latin American department for a Fortune 1000 company.  As we brainstormed different initiatives, he more than showed himself to be a master strategist.

As his coach, my job was to provide an environment where he could explore various options for resolving the issues he wanted to resolve.  As he answered questions, I learned so much about strategizing that I felt like I should pay him for letting me sit in on his “thinking time.”

If you want to become a master strategist, there are certain key disciplines to consider developing.  If you read last week’s blog, you will know that the insights on this blog and the next come from a team of very talented directors in a well known global company.

While being tactical is a practical, hands-on skill, strategy is a thinking skill.  One that can be grown and developed.

Certain personality types, especially INTJ’s, have a strong predisposition towards becoming master strategists, but the VP that I mentioned in the first paragraph, along with many other ISTJ or ESTJ VPs I’ve worked with, have grown from being master tacticians to developing a real knack for being strategic.

Here are the marks of a master strategist:

1. Master strategists free up time & then fiercely protect that time.

Strategists must have room in their schedule and mind to think.  They look for ways to block off even 15 mins just to think.

Once they free up time, they protect it, just like they would an important meeting. Time and space to brainstorm are not seen as a waste but as an essential part of success.

Without taking this first step seriously, they wouldn’t be able to move to upper levels of strategy.

2. They spend time with those who are also master strategists and those that are higher up than them.

Nothing beats being around the masters. They look around and find those who really get strategy and become a regular feature on their calendar. They ask if they can sit in on times when they are brainstorming strategies with their team and soak it all in. A master strategist surrounds himself with like-minded people.

3. They think long term.

Master strategists typically think long-term--3, 5 and even 10 years ahead. They consider how the events of today are going to impact that time frame. They think about other industry events and where they will be in the long term. In essence, they are futuristic, taking into account the long-term impact of their decisions.

4. They stay close to the company’s broader vision.

Master strategists pay close attention to the company’s broader vision and align strategies with it.  This is a great way to gain buy-in throughout the organization.

5. They cultivate different points of view.

Master strategists develop relationships with different departments so that they can get a feel for what they care about, how they think about it, the concerns and issues they have, what they consider to be successes and where they sense the future is headed.

In doing so, they are able to spot trends (see below) and think big picture.

6. They step back & spot trends.

As they get to know different departments, master strategists start to see certain themes that are consistent across the company. They see how others in the company think through things. They see things the way that higher-ups see them. But they also get a feel for what is going on in the front lines, which often the higher-ups don’t get to see as quickly as they might.

They also look at the data and see what the company wants to invest in over the long haul.

7. They plan ahead to take advantage of those trends.

Once they see the trends, they ask themselves how, in their specific role, they can take advantage of those trends.

They manage risks by first filling the facts box and sharing those facts with key executives; then, they can write a summary page so the executives know what they will be getting.

They must define what issues they are facing and be thorough with the process.

They need a robust fact base to make sure that they are solving for a real need.

Any alternatives should be fought about.

Strategic thinking is about asking the right questions: How will we win?  What is at stake?  How do you define success? What would the different departments say about this plan?

Master strategists think of all the angles so they can anticipate every question and plan for it with their team. They also make sure they are clear on what they need to execute their plan.

8. They foresee obstacles and plan ahead to overcome those obstacles.

Master strategists also consider the obstacles that are going to come.  Once they see the trends, they ask themselves what obstacles will naturally appear.

They take the list and decide how their team can best tackle those obstacles before they even arise.

9. They get validation and buy-in, paying close attention to feedback.

They consider who needs to buy in, thinking in terms of what the stakeholders value and how their plan fits in with those values.

As they implement their plan, they pay attention to the feedback they receive and make tweaks. They are aware of when it may be best to abandon the plan.

10. They anticipate the informational needs of their boss and boss’s boss.

Thinking in terms of what their boss and boss’ boss want to know to make decisions at their level, they may gain greater insights in how to think strategically.

Becoming a master strategist is easier for some than for others.  However, everyone can improve their strategic skills by recognizing the marks of a master stragetist.

 

Chew On This:

  • How can you become a more skilled strategist?
  • Who on your team embodies these strengths?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is President and CEO of a company that equips leaders to develop in-demand high-performing-teams.

7 Tips To Be Fully Present When You Have A Lot On Your Mind

I recently did a "Getting Things Done" workshop where the first exercise I had the team do was to list on a piece of paper all the things that were on their mind at that moment.... I asked them to be thorough. Then I asked them to think not just about work, but also what was going through their minds about home, family, hobbies, entertainment, etc. If it was on their mind, they needed to get it down on paper. They had only 10mins to do this brain dump.

The number of items each team member listed was between 13-28.

That’s a lot swirling in the head.  But these people were not unusual.  I bet if you took 10mins right now to do the same exercise, you would be in the same range.

How do you think all of those things swirling in the head impacts your ability to be fully present with a direct report, or fully present in a meeting?

Being fully present is an easy way to show someone, or a group, that you value them.  It is also a fantastic way to create impact.

But how can you be present when you have 13-28 big things on your mind?  How can you push them aside for a bit and focus on what is before you?

1. Brain dump.

Try the brain dump exercise I described above.  Just dump everything in your head onto a piece of paper.

Next to each item, quickly jot down the ideal outcome you want for that item.  Then write down the next action step that needs to be taken to achieve that outcome.

For more on this, check out Productivity Made Simple.

2. Schedule time to worry.

Maybe you don’t have time to list everything.  An impromptu meeting is about to happen and you need to be fully present.  A technique that has helped some people is to schedule a time to worry about the things that are on your mind.  Literally, put it on the calendar. (You can create a code phrase for it in case others look at your calendar.)  Don’t be surprised if, after you set the appointment, you find you can fully focus.

3. All distractions out of sight.

What distracts you when you are in a meeting?  Often it is a smartphone alerting you to a text or email.  Sometimes it is a call, or someone knocking on the door.

Make a list of the things that have prevented you from being fully present, then find a way to radically deal with them.

So for example, if your phone is the culprit, turn it off and put it in a desk drawer. Don’t let the smartphone run you.

Look at the other things that distract you.  What do you need to do to radically deal with them?

4. Set an alarm for the end of the meeting, or ask someone to knock on the door when five minutes are left.

Since your smartphone is away, have some sort of alarm that can go off 5mins before the meeting is scheduled to be over.

Another way to do that is to ask your assistant, or the next person who is meeting with you, to knock on the door five minutes before the meeting is scheduled to wrap up.

Five minutes should be sufficient time to capture the action steps from that meeting and close things up.

If you need more time and you choose to run late, let those who need to know how much time you think you’ll need, with some small buffer.

5. Deep breathing.

Now it’s time to take five deep breaths.  Get some oxygen to your brain.  Let yourself be present to your own breathing on the way in, and out.  This type of focusing will help you get into the right mind-space so that you can be fully present.

6. Look them in the eye.

When you get in front of the stakeholder or group, really focus on their eyes.  Make a connection with those who are before you.  See if you can pick up their emotions.  Allow yourself to mirror it for a moment.  Let yourself be with the person/group you are with.

7. Active listening.

Active listening techniques help you to be fully present.

Those who are masters at being present are those whom you want to spend more time with.  They lead you to feel motivated, engaged, and liked.  Learning to be fully present is also a great way to make sure you are communicating clearly with the person meeting with you, which can be a huge time saver. Being fully present is a gift, but by using these seven tips, you will find it is also a skill that can be developed.

Chew On This:

  • How many things are swirling in your head right now?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

8 Ways to Own Your Senior Leadership Presentation

If you are going to present to senior leaders, you need to understand that it is different from doing a presentation to your team or to peers. Senior leaders are focused on high-level decision making.  Consequently, your presentation needs to support them as they make these decisions.

Below are some tips that can be useful when presenting to senior leadership:

1. Over-Prepare.

When presenting to senior leaders, it is really important that you over-prepare.  Make sure you know not only the materials pertaining to the stated topic, but be prepared with any insights you have gained from looking at all the materials.

Make sure you anticipate their questions.  Think in terms of how the material they are presenting will help them make good high-level decisions.

Develop some thought leadership on the topic.  This can come in the form of insights that may not show up in the data you are presenting (personal insights you have gained from being closer to the front lines).   These are insights that they would not otherwise be exposed to.  A key insight would be what you foresee may be coming, based on the data and your connection to those closest to the front line.

2. Have one key message that you want to make sure they walk away with, and start with that message.

This can be the thought leadership point that we discussed above, especially if it answers the central question that senior leaders are asking.

If your presentation is based more on something you want from them, then the key message could be your request, tailored to what they value, so they can see the benefit of saying yes to your request.

Be sure to repeat this key message directly, or in a paraphrased version, during the presentation, and end with it.

3. Assume you have only half the time you were allotted. Oftentimes, presentations run long.  If you can do your presentation in half the time and still leave a lot of room for engagement, you will be seen as a winner.  You will notice senior leaders breathe a sigh of relief as you helped them get back on track.

Higher ups will look forward to your future presentations because they know you will be efficient with your words, and be able to convey a message in a fraction of the time.  This is a skill to be practiced and developed.

Be sure to have supplemental slides that you can access quickly in case they want more details from your shortened presentation.

4. Own the process.

How do the content, engagement format, and your co-presenters help move the discussion to simple, practical actions that won’t add to senior leaders’ workload?

You are responsible for all parts of your presentation.  You are responsible to move engagement towards action.  Just be certain the actions you want are simple and practical.  Senior leaders are highly busy.

You will need to be prepared for senior leaders to interrupt you and ask questions.  At other times, they will patiently hear all the details, and even ask for more.  You may not know ahead of time which way they will lean, so be prepared for either.

5. Start with a summary of the key points you have developed to meet their particular request for help.

This first slide could contain the key message you want them to walk away with, then short phrases to capture the bullet points.

Since I cannot share data about a specific company, I will give you the summary slide that I use when I do a workshop on Greg McKeown’s Essentialism.  You can adjust it for your presentations.

Some senior leaders like pithy or catchy quotes like the above; others will not.  It is really important that you tailor your deck to your audience.

Let the rest of the PowerPoint slides support this first key slide.  If your first slide is good, you may find that most of the time will be spent discussing the key points of this slide.  Take that as a positive sign.

Make sure that you lead with what is most important to senior leaders.  Since many of them will be Sensors on the MBTI, they typically will get heavily into the details of the first item and thus spend a considerably less time with the rest.  (So in the example slide above, senior leaders typically spend 40% of the time on the first quote.)

6. Focus on simple practical actions that don’t add to their already-heavy workload.

If the primary purpose of your presentation is to encourage senior leaders to take the specific actions you want them to take, then please lead with those simple action items. You can then build the rest of the presentation around those actions.

If your presentation is about relaying data and providing thought leadership from your perspective, then facilitate discussion around the simple action items they need to take to achieve the best results.  If you think about how much money is spent in everyone’s compensation package per presentation, the amount is staggering.  Senior leaders are often very busy, so it is hard to have them all in the room at one time. Your presentation time will be their time to brainstorm and make decisions.

7. Include a buffer of time for the unexpected 10%-25%, depending on your history for going over with that audience.  If it is a new audience, then focus on the overall time.

8. Once you complete the PowerPoint deck, prepare for the presentation by going through the slides with objective outsiders, not just with your co-presenters.

Have them not only give you feedback, but also ask you the toughest questions they can think of to help you prepare.

Presenting to senior leaders is different from presenting to peers and your team.  The focus for senior leaders is on high-level decision making.  The key is to orient the presentation so that it is efficient and facilitates brainstorming which will lead to simple action items.

Chew On This:

  • What is the main message you want senior leaders to walk away with from your next presentation to them?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

 

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

 

Establishing An Ownership Culture Within Your Team

I was in a meeting with my client (let’s call her Jane), one of her direct reports (let’s call her Martha), Martha’s coach, and someone from HR. As you have probably already guessed, it was one of those meetings. Weeks earlier, Jane had learned that Martha was gossiping about her to other people on the team.  How did she learn about it?  Not one, not two, but three people on Martha’s team had gone to Jane and shared how uncomfortable they felt around Martha.  All three shared how raw and wounded Martha seemed to them.  Two out of the three stated that the ongoing gossip was having a negative effect on the team.

Jane had tried to talk to Martha one-on-one.  She listened carefully, paraphrased what she heard, owned what she could own, but held firm on areas that were Martha’s responsibility. However, Martha refused to accept responsibility. Later, Jane shared with me that all she had gotten during that one-on-one was “defensiveness and political posturing.”  When the gossiping continued, Jane tried a couple of different ways to help mend the relationship between herself and Martha, but nothing worked.

Martha’s coach reached out to me and we, with permission from our respective clients, had an open dialogue as to how we could help them reconcile. Although our conversation was enlightening and productive, we closed the conversation realizing that Martha’s lack of desire to own responsibility and work for change would be an ongoing source of trouble.

The team Jane leads is a shining star in her company.  It wasn’t always that way.  When Jane started with the team she earned a 33% engagement score. (For those of you who don’t know, that is a terrible score. It shows how little the team felt motivated and empowered, or how little they enjoyed the work they were doing.)  Within two years that engagement score went up to 88% and in the third year it went up to 97%--a feat no other team in their company had ever accomplished in such a short time span.

Jane was feeling a lot of pressure to maintain the engagement score, and she feared that because of Martha’s clout with the team, the turnaround story of her team was being threatened.

So now we are all together in a room and HR is involved.

What happened?

Martha chose to sit at the head of the table.  Jane was to her left.  Martha’s coach was to her right.  HR was behind Jane.  I was behind Martha’s coach, but because of the angle of the table and the fact that I was sitting a little farther back than the man from HR, I could see everyone’s reactions as the conversation progressed.

Jane opened and tried to set the stage for a constructive conversation. She expressed gratitude to Martha, was humble, real, authentic, vulnerable, and owned the parts that she felt were off.  She also shared the steps she was taking and would be taking to correct those parts.

Martha kept interrupting.  Her voice was raised almost to the point of yelling. I am pretty sure if someone walked by the office, they could have heard, even though the door was closed.

The reactions from the observers in the room were really different.  At times, HR was shocked.  Martha’s coach was noticeably nervous, and at times she tried to interject to help Martha gain some emotional self-control.

I was really surprised that Martha was as brutal and brazen as she was in front of HR.

Despite everyone’s attempts, Martha refused to own any part of what she had done.  She blame shifted, minimized, rationalized and made excuses.

When it finally hit Martha that she may lose the leadership of her team, she offered to stop talking about Jane to her team and to work to mend the relationship.

However, although there were some superficial changes, the relationship between Martha and Jane never improved, and team members noticed that Martha’s decision-making, leadership, and engagement went into the tank.

Jane escalated steps to resolve the tension, but to no avail.  Martha saw the writing on the wall.  Three months later she took a different role in the company, which had nothing to do with Jane’s team.  A year later Martha’s role was eliminated and she started her own company.

The Role of Ownership

In short, Martha formed some destructive beliefs about Jane.  Despite solid evidence to the contrary, Martha became entrenched in those beliefs.

The more entrenched she became, the less she was able to hear Jane or anyone else on her team.

Having witnessed a few other situations like this, I can see one clear difference between those that were successfully reconciled and this one.  In the ones that were reconciled,  there was ownership.

Ownership takes place when you accept responsibility for your role in a problem and express it to those involved without trying to “market” yourself.  That is, there is no blame shifting, excuse making, minimizing, etc.  It can be as uncomplicated as saying, “I did X.”  Simple short sentences are often key.

The first step on the way to change is real ownership.  Ownership leads to humility.  Humility is key to being teachable.  When we are teachable, we can learn how to make the changes we need to make.

When someone owns what they did, they lower their guard and become vulnerable.  This can make ownership feel too risky.

However, when most people hear clear, authentic ownership, they feel hope.  That hope leads to a desire to protect and help the one who owned make the necessary changes.  Moreover, we want to forgive them.

I have seen some people not own and make changes, but I often wonder how deep those changes go. Sometimes the change seems superficial, made only because of the threat of loss.  It is more like a dam that is holding back water.  Once the threat is removed, the dam breaks and all the stored-up wrath floods not only the one who offended them, but their entire team as well.

This level of toxicity kills engagement and productivity, and impacts results.

Chew On This:

 

  • What do you need to own?  What short phrase captures what you need to own?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.

Forgiveness At the Executive Level

You give a lot of yourself in order to develop those on your team.  You’ve taken some hits for them, provided cover for them, and you have also shown them a lot of loyalty.  You take leading your team seriously.

So what happens when a team member betrays you?  What happens when you realize that the loyalty you thought was mutual isn’t there?

If you are not careful, you might start to over-lead with self-protection.  That is, you can protect yourself from being hurt again by giving less of yourself to your team.  Without realizing it, your passion, drive, and even desire to make an impact through your team can be crippled.

In order to do your best and develop a high performing team, you need to be fully engaged, willing to risk betrayal for the sake of developing others.

If you find yourself being too defensive or self-protective, and you can see that part of the reason was a betrayal, you need to learn to forgive.

What purpose does forgiveness serve?

Forgiveness satisfies the debt that the offense created.  If you can forgive the offense, you will stop thinking about it.  You will function out of a sense of wholeness and peace, not out of the sense of loss that the offense generated. You will see yourself become stronger than you’ve ever been, and more resilient than you thought you could be.

However, the sad reality is that most of us don’t really know what forgiveness means, much less know how to forgive.

What do you believe would happen if you fully forgave the one who hurt you?  Some believe that a part of forgiving is to treat the offense as if it did not matter.  Others believe that if they forgive, they have to be close to the person they forgave.  Some believe that if they forgive, they are actually enabling the other person to continue to repeat the behaviors that caused so much damage.  What if I told you that none of those things is what forgiveness is about?

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ to forgive is:

1a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital for

1b : to grant relief from payment of

2: to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon

Notice that forgiveness has nothing to do with reconciliation. Notice that it doesn’t even have to do with whether or not the offender has changed, whether or not they have asked you for forgiveness, or if they even want it.  In fact, the offender does not even need to be part of the process.

  • Forgiveness is not saying that what the offender did is okay.
  • Forgiveness is about you being free from the burden of the offense. It prevents more from being stolen from you than what the offensive act(s) already stole.
  • Forgiveness prevents you from closing off your heart and not letting anything in. When you close off your heart, not even good can come in.
  • Forgiveness prevents bitterness and a life that is utterly unfulfilling and frustrating.

Eventually, those who do not forgive isolate themselves as they perceive that more and more people are like their offender, and systematically remove them all from their lives.

But how do you forgive?

First, you need to know what you are forgiving. There is going to be a part that is obvious. For example, one of your directs, whom you poured yourself into, took a job with a competitor.  There are also going to be parts that are not as obvious. For example, you feel used and discarded.  You need to know both the obvious and the not-so-obvious parts.

Once you know what you need to forgive, we can use one of the following six options or a combination of them. Each one requires that you really chew, or thoroughly think it through, if it is going to help you fully forgive:

1) We can choose to pay down the debt ourselves. When we have not forgiven someone, our hearts often look for ways to get justice that are not appropriate. One way could be gossiping about the offender. Another could be just thinking about the offender in negative ways.

When we actively choose not to pursue inappropriate justice, it diminishes our feelings of vengeance.

The more we make that choice, the more we pay down the debt the offense created.

Eventually, we won’t even seek the inappropriate justice because forgiveness has happened.

2) Chew on what it would be like to have forgiven the offender. Dream here. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What would your life look like if I forgave the offender?
  • What would I think about instead of dwelling on the bitter scenes that come into my head?
  • What would my energy level be like if I released myself from the burden of carrying un-forgiveness?
  • What would my moods be like?

The more details you give to the answers to those questions, the more you will desire to forgive. The more you desire to forgive, the more likely you are to forgive.

3) Recognize that, in some cases, the offense is so big that no amount of justice can satisfy it. When the offense is great, nothing the offender can do will ever make up the loss created.  Furthermore, if the offense is great, no amount of vindictive actions on our part will assuage the injustice we feel.

So even if the person spent an entire lifetime trying to make it up, and we spent our entire lifetime being as vindictive as we could be, at the end of life we would feel like we had not begun to mitigate the offense. We would die bitter old people.

The more we chew on that, the more we will sense that our lack of forgiveness is a trap. Therefore, in order to keep ourselves from being trapped, we forgive.

4) Need to make the offender an equal. By refusing to forgive someone, we make ourselves a judge over that person. It leads to a one-up/one-down relationship.

The one-up/one-down relationship leads us to believe that we have the right to judge them, and so we don’t pursue forgiveness.

If, however, we note that there is something in our hearts that, if left unchecked, could cause damage comparable to the damage that was done against us, and if we “chew” by thinking through the logical implications of that, we start to see that the offender is not that much different from us.

It is easier to forgive someone who is “just like us” than someone who is beneath us.

5) Repeat to yourself in many different ways that you forgive the offender. Sometimes we need to say we forgive in different ways for the forgiveness to be released at a heart level. “I forgive Jim.” “I release myself from pursuing the justice I deserve from Jim.” “I choose to no longer try to make Jim pay for what he did to me.”

6) Write a forgiveness letter to the offender (you can choose to mail it or not). First take some time to understand your offender. What led them to do what they did against you?

Doing this will not minimize the harm they have done to you. Nor will it lead to excusing what they did. Instead, it will start to humanize the person.

Writing a letter in which you 1) express all the harm done to you, 2) attempt to understand what may have led to it, and 3) clearly declare that you hold nothing against the offender, can be cathartic and lead to forgiveness.

Some people choose to mail the letter, some save it, some decide to burn it.

I wish we could all forgive as easily as little kids seem to, but we can’t.  Know that forgiveness is going to be a process.

You know that you are done forgiving when you can think about it and it no longer feels raw.  I know that I have forgiven someone when I no longer randomly have an argument in my head with them.

Forgiveness brings about freedom.  It helps you to fully engage your team and do the work that you are best at, with joy.

Chew On This:

  • What would your leadership be like if you fully forgave?

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

You Won't Be Promoted Until You’ve Prepared Your Successor

preparingyoursuccessorTime and time again, talented, capable executives get passed up for promotions because there isn’t anyone to take their place. When speaking to their bosses I often hear things like, “I need her there... Who else can do what she does?” and “If he got promoted, it would leave a huge vacuum.”

We are coming to the end of a new year, a time when many of us are thinking about what goals we want to achieve in the new year.  One of the top goals I hear being expressed is to be promoted.

If that is your goal, then please consider which of your team members you will train to succeed you.  Also consider how you will train them.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Speak to your boss and key stakeholders about what they would like to see in the person who takes your role.

Your successor will need support from key stakeholders, including your boss, if the transition is going to be a success.  A conversation with them ahead of time will allow you to gain buy-in from them as they see the traits develop in the person you will be choosing.

2. Create a job description based on the reality of your role.

How much of the original job description is what you do day in and day out?  Writing a realistic job description will help your successor tremendously.

Be sure to focus on what is the most essential part of the role and what are the soft and hard skills necessary to succeed in the role.  Also emphasize the appropriate points which key stakeholders said they wanted.

A question I sometimes use with the executives I coach is, “If you could hire a more idealized version of yourself to take over your role, what characteristics would they have?” (BTW- your answers to that question are great for determining what goals to reach for while you yourself are in the role.)

3. Determine who will be your successor and get their buy-in.

After you have the job description, look at your team.  Who is likely to be able to match that description and exceed it?  It may not be the direct report who is excelling the most.  Be sure to think through who has the best potential to far exceed the job description.

Then go and see if that person is interested in being trained to take your role.

If you have a huge role that needs to be broken up (and your management supports that decision), then focus on a couple of successors.

If the best person to take over is not a part of the current team, be sure to keep your direct reports informed.  As you bring the new person in, help your direct reports understand your rationale, and explain how they can help the new leader succeed.

4. Train incrementally.

Give your potential successor opportunities to really stretch their skills.  Have them assume much more of a leadership role than they have had in specific projects.  Coach when necessary.  Then have times to debrief afterwards.

5. Create milestones.

Your successor will probably want to know when they will be viewed as being ready to assume the leadership role.  The more tangible you can make these milestones, the better.  This will help stakeholders to buy in even more.

6. Focus on the future.

Assume that the current problems your team is facing will be resolved, and that there will be new ones in the future.  What principles of problem solving does the team need to learn in order to make more effective decisions?

Moreover, think about where the overall organization is heading.  What are some key things your successor needs to know and do in order to align with the greater company’s focus?

7. Consider that your successor may not be a clone of you.

There are times when replicating yourself is advantageous, and there are times when having someone different from you take over is exactly what a team needs to move to higher levels of cohesion and performance.  What do the team and the overall organization need for this next step?

8. Communicate to your team early that a change is coming.

Knowledge of an imminent change can often lead people to fear the unknown.  You can minimize this fear by informing your team as soon as it is appropriate, to help them adjust.  Also, be clear about expectations, so that everyone knows what to count on.

9. Use job shadowing.

Your successor needs to know that they are being watched by those above the team members.  They need to learn to be the leader before they get the position.

Job shadowing will help them see a template in you.  If they are a different personality type than you are, and/or have different gifts than you do, then use some of the shadowing time to discuss how they would have handled things in their style.

10. Set your successor up for success.

Determine what win your successor could have before assuming their role that would help the team to fully embrace their leadership?

However you can set them up for success ahead of time will pay dividends in a smooth transition.

11. Offer to be a mentor/coach for awhile after they’ve assumed your role.

Some successors may not come to you as much as to others.  However, it will be great for them to know that you are there until they get their legs under them.

Succession is key to getting promoted.  When you have a replacement, your boss and others above you will look for opportunities for you.

If there isn’t someone to take your place, don’t be surprised if getting your next promotion is more difficult than you thought.

Chew On This:

  • If you could have a more idealized version of yourself take over your role, what characteristics would they have?

 

Ryan C. Bailey is an Executive Coach who helps business leaders develop in-demand high performing teams.

*This blog is an amalgamation of a few different clients.  No one single client is being singled out.