Author: Dean Newlund

Great leaders architect moments

Great leaders architect moments. Their energy, focus, and agility, attracts others to experience what they experience. Like a full breath during a walk in the forest, or relaxed shoulders when entering a stained glass cathedral, a physiological reaction takes place when we’re around positive, inspiring, soothing, and grounded leaders.

Davis, an architecture and design firm based in Phoenix and Chicago, says it well in an upcoming company video about the influence of space:4053455099_a7797a808d

“We shape the building, then the building shapes us. Anyone can design a structure. We design the moment.”

Truly great leaders design moments, but before they reach this transcendent and rare level of influence, they pass through three supporting stages.

First, strategic plans, clear goals, solid measurement systems, continuous improvement plans, and sound corporate structures provide the brick and mortar of their leadership.

Next, the leader’s own derailers need to be managed. The techniques found in emotional intelligence, crucial conversations, meeting management, closed-loop feedback, and active listening are first and foremost designed to manage the leaders’ tendencies and impulses to behave ineffectively. These interpersonal skills, needed for complying to company norms, are the walls and ceilings of great leadership.

Lastly, leaders who intentionally decide how they want to be BEFORE the start the annual review, team meeting, or management update rally their energy to create a confident, calm, clear, and compassionate focus. These rare leaders decide to see the best in others, even when the evidence proves otherwise. They know people respond the way they’re treated. They remain agile; able to read verbal and non-verbal cues, and are quick to adjust their approach. This is the interior design of their leadership structure.

Great leaders attract others because they show us what we want to be, can be, and will be when we decide and align our energy, focus, and agility in the direction of our highest and greatest good.

Great leaders architect moments.

How can I be better at conflict?

I seldom pause a television show to rewind back to a line delivered by a character just so I can write it down; but tonight I did.  The eldest daughter in Madame Secretary commented on a college protest about a mutual agreement between a mining company and cd5a5c_8a3c38cacc974c80b132684b08722b35.jpg_256the Peruvian government that seemed disproportionately angry. The line about the college-age protesters that got me to reach for the rewind button on the clicker was:

“They grew up thinking that all conflict is injustice. That’s what you get for giving everyone a trophy for showing up.”

I see many opportunities for teamwork, leadership, innovation, collaboration, healthy cultures, quality products, and sustained value to customers get derailed by the inability of employees and leaders to engage in healthy conflict.  Ineffective conflict management is like a kink in a hose that stops or slows down the flow of water.

In many situations, conflict becomes its own character in our drama. It is separate from us, and this demon can only be dealt with in one of two ways:  turn away and avoid it, or attack it with aggression.  Take a look at your own situation.  Have you noticed any of your colleagues avoiding conflict by pretending to be nice to your face but later gossiping behind your back? Or look at politics these days. It’s a place for temper tantrums – a cathartic expression of anger – not a forum to exchange and debate ideas. Like junk food, the hunger behind the conflict is never satisfied.  As author Jacob Needleman says, we are a society starved for ideas.  Conflict has become an injustice to avoid or destroy.

“That’s what you get for giving everyone a trophy for showing up.

When we blur the lines between winner and loser, when reality is not aligned with our desires, we remove the opportunity to manage the conflict we feel inside ourselves. When my kid gets a trophy for participating in soccer, the joys of winning or the pain of losing a game are overshadowed by entitlement.  Achievement and its opposite, failure, are neither experienced nor valued. When conflict does show up at our front door, we’re so unfamiliar with how to greet it, we overreact with avoidance or aggression.

Conflict is good. It teaches us self-reliance, confidence, ingenuity, and self-respect.  All battles are a battle with the self.  When we learn how to face and overcome those internal conflicts, we see others with a new level of compassion and understanding.  “I understand you because I have experienced my own conflict. I see myself in you.”

Good leaders are losers

El-Dorado-Womens-TennisMy friend Anton, who is Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health, and I were prepping for an upcoming team-development event when he shared the name of his presentation for this event: Good leaders are losers. This oxymoronic title provoked the question: Why? Aren’t good leaders winners? Isn’t the point of leadership based on the goal to create successful employees, teams, and organizations?

What Anton shared was the story of young tennis pros. As soon as they make it to the big time and get the big sponsors, with it comes even more pressure to succeed. “At this point,” he said, “they often experience losing for the fist time. Many are so shocked and completely derailed by the experience of losing, they often never return to their former glory.”

Leaders in business are the same. I’ve seen it many times as I coach strong individual contributors to become leaders of many. What got them to be considered a leader no longer is needed when they are a leader. Technical or subject-matter-expert skills need to be replaced by coordination, delegation, employee development, conflict management, vision setting, and team building. It’s at this crucial point many leaders find they have a hard time losing.

We’ve all seen the historic references of people, like Lincoln, who rebounded after failure; but those reminders offer little comfort when we’re going through our own experience of losing.   Losing as growth, losing as a lesson, should be our attitude.  We should make hard-earned losing something to call out and celebrate.  Losing is tough in itself. It shouldn’t be tougher by the added disappointment and ridicule we get from others; but if they can learn from the lessons of losing, adopt new skills, and seek new help from people, this transition can lead to a transformation for the new leader.

So, the next time you lose at something, find the lesson to learn from, the courage to continue on the journey, and the attitude that all battles are ones we have with ourselves.

Download the complete Good leaders are losers white paper.

Why transform?

IMG_6672As I approach Salt Lake, I ask myself a basic question: why transform?

I’ve got plenty to do, I’m overall very happy, and my career has the right amount of challenge and fun. Why transform when “here” looks pretty good? Transformation can be stressful and require a tremendous amount of energy. Why would I want to subject myself to discomfort?

As I walk through the Salt Lake City airport awaiting my next flight, it becomes apparent to me that transformation that is intentional or what I’m I calling “Purposeful Transformation,” puts me in the driver’s seat. Yes, I can transform because my environment requires it by pushing me to respond to some external influence. This type of transformation is out of necessity. We are all about the doing, not about the design. We are asleep to the lessons of our personal growth.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to design my transformation. I would like to be in the driver’s seat of where I’m going. I’d like to visualize what my transformation looks like and use my focus and attention toward gathering the energy and resources to get there. I would rather design my future versus settle for what shows up.

Why transform?  Because choosing to, I design my future.

How good questions encourage innovation

The quality of how we make decisions, pursue opportunities, solve problems and develop new ideas is based on the quality of the questions we ask.   I’m reminded of a senior research investigator describing the most important part of his work, “Dean, it’s all in the quality of the question. The research, the breakthroughs, the drugs we produce to help patients is all based on the quality of our questions.”

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‘New Normal 2.0’ appears in Arizona Republic

An excerpt from The New Normal 2.0: Survive and Thrive in a New World appeared in the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic, April 14, 2013.  That was also the day our new website went live. Many heartfelt thanks for Julie Kuehl for her inspiration, professionalize and diligence.

Employees with Digital Influence Have Much to Offer

Since shifting from a manufacturing to information economy managers and leaders have seen their job descriptions and annual reviews include the phrase “The ability to influence others” – sometimes without authority. Developing trusting relationships combined with good communication skills and a healthy amount of emotional intelligence has helped manages and leaders sway opinion, gain consensus and collaborate on difficult issues.  

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The New Normal

There are times in history when conditions come together to create a large shift in economic, social and technological landscapes: The end of the Civil and second World Wars; the equal rights movement in the ’60’s the birth of the .com boom of the late ‘90s; and more recently the shift in the US political base come to mind. Although not always seen, what happens outside the walls of a business affects what goes on inside. To survive and thrive during these great times of change, leaders and their companies need to have their eyes and ears wide open to the trends affecting their businesses.

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Successfully Managing the Relationship with the Boss

Even with all the assessments, scorecards and performance reviews there appears to be a growing chasm between performance and perception. Why just yesterday a coaching client of mine – we’ll call him Tom – scratched his head when saying, “I thought my work would speak for itself. Now it appears, that in addition to my other roles, I need to be my own PR agency.”

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Non Verbal Techniques: Fake It Until You Become It

Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” — standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success.

Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions.  — from the TED Talks website

Watch her 20 minute talk here.

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