Confessions of a Perfectionist

I haven’t written a blog post in over two months. I want to write something from my heart - something that will grab your attention and lead you to share this blog with all of your friends. If I’m honest, I want more than that. I want you and your friends to hire my team and I.

So it feels like I have to be authentic, relevant, and insightful. I’ve filled myself with a perfectionistic pressure, creating a level of expectation that I cannot meet. So, yes. It’s been two months. I hid behind busyness when I needed to just be vulnerable, real, and let you in.

What is perfectionism?

Perfectionism is an attempt to control or manage ourselves, others, and others' perceptions of us - and it often thrives on intangible goals. In the workplace, perfectionism can be a chronic source of stress that actually leads to procrastination and a lack of productivity. When we are worried about accomplishing intangible goals, we tend to bypass or dismiss the attainable ones that lead to progress. In an attempt to be perceived as productive and successful, we then mask our procrastination with busyness. The hardest part of perfectionism is the drive to stay hidden instead of risk being vulnerable and seen.

The first goal, then, is to recognize the presence of perfectionism in our lives and become aware of its' impact on ourselves, our work, and our relationships.

  • As a leader, how often have you hid behind busyness instead of letting your team or others in?
  • How much have you let perfectionism get in the way of connection?

Next, we can choose to be vulnerable, let our flaws be seen, and let trusted people into our perfectionism and the fear that drives it.

  • What would happen if you let your team into the insecure places of your heart?
  • What if they joined you and felt a freedom to be real with you as well?

Finally, we can choose to see it as an opportunity for growth, shared human experience, and connection with our team.

  • What would it be like to see your team come alive, engage, and accept you right where you are?
  • What would it be like to become an agent for real change where your team knows they can be human at work?

No need for them to hide, manipulate or front that they have it together. No need to live in fear of being exposed. Every team member will know that they can be who they are and be accepted, wanted and pushed to be their best self.

Ultimately, cultivating authentic relationships is the key to building healthy teams and organizational cultures.

In authentic relationships, trust soars and people can easily see your strengths and know how to leverage them for the good of all. In teams that value authenticity, politics are at a minimum, engagement is high, turnover is low, people produce more and go about their work with far less confusion.

It feels risky to be real. Yet when someone in the room risks being real, the rest of us admire them and feel a pull to be real as well.

Someone has to start that. You as the leader are the best one to start.

Chew On This:

  • What step will you take to be real today?

 

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

 

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

 

Lessons I Learned in 2017

It’s the last blog of 2017 for me.  It was a fantastic year, filled with many huge changes (to be discussed in a future blog post), and some valuable lessons for my team and me. At the end of a year, we take time to reflect on what has worked well, where there is room to grow, and what lessons we hope to carry over into the new year. Here are four valuable lessons from 2017: 1. Ask what your team expects of you regularly.

This year we’ve grown to a team of six (part-time and full-time) and are probably going to add a seventh in the next couple of months.  The growth has felt organic, more focused on the relationship than revenue.  We genuinely like being around each other and working together.

Recently, we outlined ways in which our work relationship would go.  We defined in a general way what the expectation for each member’s role is.  However, I wished I had asked each of them what they expected of me.

The team has shown great appreciation for what I have given, but I also learned that some of how I was trying to help were not as useful.  It was incredibly freeing to hear that I did not have to do as much.

I also saw that as time went on and we engaged different projects, I needed consistently to ask, “What do you expect from me as you engage this project?” I had tended to assume (and you know what happens when you ass-u-me), and I needed a clear understanding of expectations.

2. Sharpen the interpersonal dynamics as you go.

Another lesson learned is to actively clear any issues in interpersonal team dynamics as you go.  Since our team gets along so well with each other, what we needed to clear were tweaks, not major issues.  But even these tweaks were valuable.

Talking about how we experience one another has helped us to make personal shifts.  Capturing things in the moment helped us to notice that the dynamic of what was happening in ourselves was at play.  That awareness created great personal growth for us.

Also, it has been helpful to share what things, when we do them, really foster better relational dynamics.  So saying “When you did X, I felt engaged and alive” is the kind of statement that helped us understand what to do more for each other.

3. Diversify client base sooner.

Our largest client had crept up to 35% of revenue.  While we love working with them, 35% felt uncomfortable.  This year we took more active strides to diversify the client base than we ever had.  Carving out time to get out there and network has helped us to grow and to learn things from companies that have benefited all our clients.  I wish I had not sacrificed business development as much as I have for the immediate work that was presented.  Moreover, I wish I had hired faster so that I could spend more time developing the business.

4. Allow myself to be me, sooner, and not try to do it like everyone else.

Typically, coaching meetings are 1 hour long.  Early in 2017, a client had only 30 minutes, but we found that we did as much work in that 30min meeting as we had done in 60mins.  So I started experimenting with other clients and found the same thing.  Consistently they told me that they loved the “laser coaching” better than the 60min meetings.

There are plenty of coaches who use the laser coaching style.  I am built for it. I am more focused, think faster, ask better questions, and am not afraid to say hard things.  My clients are also more focused, come in prepared, can process what’s going on, and are much quicker to develop great plans for the issues they came to the meeting to resolve. They leave empowered, engaged, and eager to implement.  Moreover, the cost of laser sessions is less to them.  Win-Win all the way around.

As more and more clients chose the laser style of coaching, I wondered what had stopped me from doing this sooner?  Then it hit me: without realizing it, I had been following the example of some coaches whom I greatly admired.  They would never even consider having 30min meetings rather than 60min meetings.

They are great at what they do, but I needed to set myself up to do my best work, even if it is not in their style.

How about you?  What were the lessons you learned in 2017? I encourage you to sit with your team and explore these questions:

  • What has worked in 2017?
  • What are growth areas for 2018?
  • How will you measure this growth?
  • What are specific goals for each member within your team?
  • How can you help each other in reaching those goals?

I would love to hear from you and compare.

Have a fantastic holiday season! Looking forward to connecting in the new year.

Chew On This:

  • How can you perform your role in a way that is most you?
  • How can your team learn from this year and encourage each other in the new year?

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

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.

8 Tools to Help You Manage a Layoff

I am currently working with two different companies that are going through significant changes. They are outsourcing some of their work, eliminating the roles of some employees. The leaders want to handle these situations really well.  They care about the displaced employees and want to ensure a proper fit for them moving forward. Laying off an employee is no easy task. Confusion, anger, and even denial are some of the reactions that often greet a layoff. Working with these companies, I began thinking through tools that can aid in the lay off process. Here are 8 helpful tips to help you manage layoffs:

1. Have a Clear Mindset

  • Know that all eyes are watching how this is done, and it is important to have a clear mindset as you approach the layoff process.

2. Establish Healthy Principles

  • Communicate transparently and often:
    • People know when things are not going well. We often don’t give them enough credit, and attempt to hide the full picture. Instead, it’s important to be honest with the people who will be impacted.
    • Next, set clear goals with the given resources. Share market data and competitive information.
    • Don’t lie or be unrealistically upbeat before the layoff.
    • Answer the most critical question right away, then offer support.
      • People first, and most critically, want to know if there is bad news ahead. Answer that first. They will not be able to think clearly and listen through options with that question looming over their minds.
      • Then, support them with a discussion of the competition, market forces, or the financial environment. Take the time to talk through options with them.

3. Never delegate the pain:

  • Most people are loyal to their manager first, then to their companies.
    • The news needs to come from the manager directly.
    • The manager needs to be prepared to be there for the dismissed employee.

4. “Dismiss others as you would have them dismiss you.”

  • Practice empathy towards your employee. Empathy involves sitting with others in their current emotions and letting them feel understood.
    • Some common emotions felt during a layoff include:
      • Humiliation, anxiety, fear, and anger
      • An underlying emotion is the experience of shame: where they doubt that they are good enough.
    • Major concerns in the midst of a layoff are:
      • How do I leave the premises with some semblance of self-respect and with the information and materials I may need to help me in my job search?
      • What will I tell my significant other/family/friends etc.?
      • How will I afford to stay afloat now that I am unemployed?
  • Dismiss with dignity.
    • Deliver the message in private and face-to-face:
      • Do the dismissal before or after work so they don’t feel paraded around.
      • For most, avoid letting someone go on Friday because they will stew and could get worse. Also they will want to be able to reach out for advice or effectively start the job hunting process
      • For others, Friday is great because they need to decompress and can use the free time to do so.
      • Make the termination meeting quick and humane.
        • It should be done with the manager leading the conversation but it is also important to have another person in the room, such as HR.
        • If there is any concern, for safety make sure security is close by.
        • Within the first 30 seconds, state that their position has been eliminated.
          • “Sales have been down at the company and tough staffing choices had to be made.  It is with great regret that I must tell you that the company has decided to eliminate your position.”
        • Don’t get into messy personal discussions or say anything that can haunt you later.
      • Along with empathy, active listening is key. Give them a space to voice their emotions, concerns, and frustrations. Connect with them through the use of empathy statements, such as, “I hear you saying that you feel shocked and afraid, and I imagine that this is really hard for you.”
      • Along those lines, give them time to react in safe environment.
        • Some may need to vent
        • Some may need time to think
        • Some need facts and explanations
        • Your role in this is to provide a space free of judgment, where they can feel safe to express themselves.
      • Give them what they need to move to a stable, emotional keel.
      • Then as quickly as possible, move them towards thinking about their own future and not about the company.
        • They should feel that you want to help them succeed in the future.

5. Give them practical tools moving forward. Severance Package must be vetted by an employment lawyer. An appropriate severance package is:

  • Clear on what it offers
  • Includes the date it must be signed off by
  • Provides conditions on which it can be revoked
    • Provide outplacement consulting as part of the severance which helps to mitigate potential liability.
      • Most people who are in the process of getting laid off are thinking, what do I do now? Few have resumes at hand.
      • Providing outplacement consulting sends a message to the dismissed employee and the remaining employees that you are treating the ex-employee as a human being, not a line item on the budget.
      • Then, direct them to the outplacement immediately.
    • Allow them to come back to the office on a weekend or evening to get their valuables and/or return company property like laptop and smartphone to minimize embarrassment.

6. Give them the best chance to transition successfully by focusing on the person’s needs.

7. Have an exit interview with the terminated employee so you can grow.

  • Assess how will they represent the firm after they’ve been let go.

8. Have a town hall meeting for those who survive the cut.

  • Know that you are going to lose a lot productivity the day the layoff happens (and possibly more days).
  • Address the core questions of: What is the company’s future? Are there more layoffs coming? How will their jobs change? What are the expectations/goals now? Will they have to do two jobs?
  • The doubts start with their role and then expand outward to their team and then the company overall. Be honest, clear, and available to your employees.

 

Chew On This:

  • What areas of a layoff seem particularly challenging to you?
  • How can you improve your layoff strategy?

 

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.

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.

How to Lead Your Team Through Personal Change

A client, let’s call her Liz, made a huge transformation.  Putting it mildly, she used to have an anger management issue.  She was the executive that you never wanted as a boss.  At times, she would be super nice and seem like she was your best friend, but if you crossed her or screwed something up that embarrassed her, she could be brutal. After we worked together for about a year, everyone began noticing a remarkable change.  Frankly, it was a change that happened faster than most.  To be clear, she made the change. She took the change process very seriously. She had great desire and she really embraced the coaching process.

After the year was up, she noticed that some people with whom she had not had much contact were still walking on eggshells around her.  They were unaware of her change.

Here is what I saw her do that helped others to trust the change:

1. Explain the change.

When she saw people were walking on eggshells with her, she would explain that she had gone through a change because she had worked on the anger issue.  She would not go into a lot of details, but a simple acknowledgement went far.

2. Apologize for the previous behaviors.

She then apologized for the role she had played in leading the person to walk on eggshells.  She said things like, “At times I was out of control, overly brutal, and completely unempathetic.  I was like a bull seeing red.  I am sorry for the impact I had on you.”

3. Be patient as they speak while they are still on guard.

As she noticed that people were still on edge, even after her explanation and apology, she showed a great deal of patience.  She shared with me, “Eventually they will know that the change is real.  In the meantime, I just need to stay the course.”

4. Slightly soften tone to convey that you are going to be calm.

When she noticed that they were getting on edge, especially if they made a mistake, she softened up more by adjusting her tone and body language.

When you soften your tone and relax, people start to reflect that posture. That helps them to lose the edge.  She also did a great job assuring them that she would remain calm and that they were going to fix the problem together.

5. Take them out to lunch or coffee so they can experience the new you.

She took a few key people out to lunch or coffee outside of the office.  This helped them to experience her in a different setting.  It was really important for them to see that she was authentic.  If something happened that she felt angry about, she expressed it; but she also shared what she does with the anger to bring it down.

What is hard to remember when you make a real transformation is that other people have to adjust to your change.

Unfortunately, when you make a real change, others can become uncomfortable around you, especially when the change is a positive one.

Positive change can bring about a level of conviction in others, if they are not growing.  It can also bring doubt that the change is real which impacts the level of trust.

It is important to stay the course. It's also important to have people around you who will encourage you to stay the course, and even grow more.

Eventually people will adjust and, hopefully, enjoy the new you.

Chew On This:

  • If you are working towards transforming yourself, how can you prepare your team for the change?

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.

How To Turn Around A Bad Performance Review

It was so uncomfortable.  I was sitting in the room while a client I had recently met laid into one of his direct reports during a performance review, and it was painful. I could tell that both the boss and his direct report were nervous.  The boss revealed his nervousness through anger and an attempt to wield power.  The direct report was just nervous.  A couple of times his hands shook. He did not say much, but that only seemed to anger the boss more.  It was horrible to watch.

A few years later, I was asked to sit in on a performance review between another boss (once again my client) and a direct report with whom he wanted me to work. As in the first case, it was not a good review, but this direct report used an entirely different approach as she responded.

Here are 6 things she did really well:

1. Lowered her defenses. She viewed the review as the start of her comeback story.

When the boss came in with lower scores than she expected, she openly said something to the effect of, “These scores (performance review scores) are lower than what I thought.”  Then she leaned in, smiled slightly, and continued.  “I will listen to you so that I can make any and all changes to ensure that the next review is a big step up from here.”

Her boss smiled and said something to the effect of, “I am going to help you get there.”

It was obvious that she did not let the poor review go to her core.  In that is a huge lesson for us.  The truest you is not your performance.  If you can separate yourself from your performance, you can gain a lot of insights that will be effective in raising you to the next level.

When receiving negative feedback, it is easy to get defensive.  We can be so afraid of how an authority figure is perceiving us that we want to make excuses, or deflect the criticisms, in hopes of convincing the person that the perception we fear they have of us is not true.  But defensiveness usually makes things worse.

Instead, view a negative review as the start to your comeback story. (Everyone loves a comeback story.)  If you can see it as the start of your comeback story, then you will probably regulate your emotions well enough that you can gain clarity on what and how to improve.

2. Listened carefully to the feedback and repeated back/paraphrased what she was hearing.

She continued to lean forward slightly as she took notes on what her boss was saying. She used positive body language (i.e. nodding her head up and down) to connote that she wanted to receive the feedback and was taking it in.

She repeated back or paraphrased at times, which had the effect of engaging her boss so that they were aligned together against the problem, instead of her feeling like he was against her.

Anytime she was unclear about something her boss said, she would ask for clarity.

3. Searched for what is true.

It is easy during a bad performance review to pick apart what isn’t true.  However, if you do, you will miss a huge learning opportunity, which will, in turn, hinder you from being the person you were meant to be.

Focus on what parts are true.  Repeat back or paraphrase those parts.

If some aspects are not true, and these are important, ask how you could address these without sounding defensive.  For example, “XYZ is true. I will work on that. There are a couple of aspects of what you said that seem to be important, and I want to address those in a way that doesn’t lead you to believe that I am defensive. Should we set up a time to talk about those?”

4. Developed a plan and asked for a plan feedback time.

When the review ends, don’t forget to thank your boss.  As you probably know from personal experience, giving a negative review is tricky.

Let your boss know that you are going to develop a plan around the areas of concerns.  Inform your boss that you are open to hearing what, if anything, was not included that might be helpful for you to implement in order to grow in the areas you need to grow in.

Also be sure to ask your boss if you could gain feedback on the plan.  This will further align the two of you towards the common goal of helping you reach your potential.

When making the plan, be sure to create small tangible steps that will encourage you and empower you to continue to make the journey towards transformation.

5. Included mentors and coaches in the plan.

Be sure to ask, if you don’t know, who the people are who are excellent in your areas of weakness.  Contact them and see if they are willing to mentor you.  Hiring a coach could also be effective in helping you continue in your turnaround story.

6. Made sure that the feedback time was clear.

When you have the feedback time with your boss, make sure you are completely clear on any points they are making.

Be sure to mention that you are grateful for the opportunity to grow and that you are committed to making the changes.

A poor review doesn’t mean that you are bad.  It can actually be the start of something fantastic.  Having watched a few people get promoted within a year of a poor review has more than convinced me that the sooner we let go of our egos and embrace a humble posture, the faster we can continue the climb.

Chew On This:

  • What will help you to believe at a core level that you are not your performance?

 

 

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.