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.

Ways to market your value at work

Even with all the assessments, scorecards and performance reviews, there appears to be a growing chasm between performance and perception.

Just recently, 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.”

He’s right. Since most of us will change jobs 11 times in our lifetime, the employee has become, what Daniel Pink calls in his book by the same title, a member of the Free Agent Nation.

In such a world, the employee/employer relationship is based less on loyalty and more on projects that begin and end, much like how temporary workers and small businesses operate with their clients. Add to that virtual meetings, e-mail-addiction and the increasing speed of work and you get a growing distance between the value people create and the perceptions others have of that work.

In some distant fantasyland called the Good Old Days, business leaders had more time to understand and appreciate the full value of their employees. Sure the employee/employer relationship had its own challenges back then, but chaos, uncertainty and the speed of change didn’t create a super-race of multi-taskers who can’t sit still and take full notice of those around them.

Today, we’re in what Thomas H. Davenport, expert in business process innovation, calls the “attention economy.” Get noticed; good for you. Don’t; good luck.

That brings me back to the question Tom asked: “How do I ‘manage up’ when I’m so focused on keeping my head down on my work?”

Treat your work like you would a small business owner. In addition to your external customers, get to know the needs, whims and concerns of your internal customers, namely, your employees, peers, and most importantly, your boss.

What goals do your boss have for her department? How are those goals measured? What expectations does he have of you?

I asked Tom to ask his boss two additional questions: “What three things should I do that will provide great value to the department and to our working relationship? What three things would I do that would severely damage your impression of me?”

Next, no news is not always good news. In a communication vacuum your boss will fill the void. Your job is to fill those voids with stories and impressions that accurately paint the picture of your performance and the value you provide to the organization.

So shift your work priorities to match those of your boss, schedule regular meetings to provide updates, send e-mails, consistently, sharing your latest successes and setbacks.

Why share setbacks? No one likes surprises. Sooner or later, mistakes will be known. Be upfront with your setback and share how you will remedy the issue. No one expects perfection. But pro-active problem solves are well respected.

Lastly, you’re allowed to brag if you give credit to others.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International. He can be reached at 623-444-2164 or missionfacilitators.com

Employees need to be their own PR agency

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.”

He’s right. Since most of us will change jobs 11 times in our lifetime, the employee has become, what Daniel Pink calls in his book by the same title, a member of the Free Agent Nation. In such a world the employee / employer relationship is based less on loyalty and more on projects that begin and end; much like how temporary workers and small businesses operate with their clients. Add to that, virtual meetings, email-addiction and the increasing speed of work, you get a growing distance between the value people create and the perceptions others have of that work.

In some distant fantasyland called the Good Old Days, business leaders had more time to understand and appreciate the full value of their employees. Sure the employee / employer relationship had its own challenges back then, but chaos, uncertainty and the speed of change didn’t create a super-race of multi-taskers who can’t sit still and take full notice of those around them. Today, we’re in what Thomas H. Davenport, expert in business process innovation, calls the ‘attention economy”. Get noticed; good for you. Don’t; good luck.

Which brings up the question Tom asked: “How do I ‘manage up’ when I’m so focused on keeping my head down on my work?

Treat your work like you would a small business owner. In addition to your external customers, get to know the needs, whims and concerns of your internal customers, namely, your employees, peers, and most importantly, your boss. What goals do your boss have for her department? How are those goals measured? What expectations does he have of you? I asked Tom to ask his boss two additional questions: “What three things should I do that will provide great value to the department and to our working relationship? What three things would I do that would severely damage your impression of me?

Next, no news is not always good news. In a communication-vacuum your boss will fill the void. Your job is to fill those voids with stories and impressions that accurately paint the picture of your performance and the value you provide to the organization. So, shift your work priorities to match those of your boss, schedule regular meetings to provide updates, send emails, consistently, sharing your latest successes and setbacks. Why share setbacks? No one likes surprises. Sooner or later mistakes will be known. Be up front with your setback, and share how you will remedy the issue. No one expects perfection. But pro-active problem solves are well respected. Lastly, you’re allowed to brag if you give credit to others.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International. He can be reached at 623.444.2164 or www.missionfacilitators.com

Learn to lead by leading self

As I boarded the first of three flights from Atlanta to Bangkok my only thought was how I was going to best serve my client. Traveling internationally had become routine. Little did I know that the teacher would become the student and I would be served up lessons I could never have seen coming.

Twenty four hours of flying later, blurry-eyed from lack of sleep I checked into my Bangkok hotel, hailed a cab and high-tailed it down to the Grand Palace for my only opportunity of site seeing on this trip. I had seen other Palaces, like Versailles, testament of power and wealth. But this place, with its temple, gold roofs and statues of Buddha was more a reminder that inner peace and outer peace are mirrors to one another. The place made you want to sit, observe and take a deep breath. Lesson one: A leader cannot bring peace and harmony to his or her team until they cultivate that within. I pondered that during my cab ride how many companies would be better run, how many customers and communities better served if leaders mastered themselves before leading others.

A week later I had missed my flight to Hong Kong. Stuck in the Airport I called my travel agent back in the States. Julia had found me another flight that was to leave in seven hours. She stayed up well past 1:00 am her time in order to be assured I made it safely on my new flight. Upon my return I sent her a Bonzai tree with the note: “You made a bad experience exceptional”. Lesson two: Leaders who take great pleasure in serving others leave a lasting impression. We want to follow those who help others. Setting a direction, making the tough calls, coordinating the work of others is an important part of leadership. But an authentic leader is all about service.

A few days later, in Hong Kong, I walked down to the Admiralty protest site at the exact moment they were televising on huge screens results of the first talks between the protest leaders and the government. Serveral thousand people quietly sat watching the news reports. Tents in perfect rows lined the streets. Artwork and food and water stations turned a four-lane road into a neighborhood of sorts. Hong Kong was the spark of China’s economic boom when the British gave it back to China. Now economic self-determination was giving birth for a desire for political self-determination. Lesson three: A core need for all of us is autonomy. We’re willing to follow others, engage in debate, and even sacrifice for the good of others. But we must have a say in how and what we do. Great leaders never forget to engage those in decisions that effect how and what they do.

On the flight home I reflected: Learning how to lead others starts by leading oneself, service is the ultimate goal behind leading and people are more apt to follow you if you give them autonomy over how they do their work.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc., He can be reached at 623.444.2164 or www.missionfacilitators.com

Companies should understand the impact of stress on the workplace.

In an average week I may interact with 15-40 clients in my role as an executive coach and strategic facilitator, and it seems that everyone has been experiencing the same thing; increasing levels of stress. One person I talked to last week admitted being addicted to stress as a way to fill some emptiness. “What am I suppose to do when I have nothing to do?”, he asked.

As I look beyond the efforts of companies to engage employees, develop their leaders, provide service to their customers and create innovative solutions it becomes apparent that all of these well-intended efforts are being held back or even derailed by negative stress. In order to survive and thrive in the 21st century we need to be more aware of the effects of stress on people and how to reverse it.

As Stephen Covey said in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, companies that push employees harder to increase output, without taking the time to examine and improve the process, create a cycle of diminishing returns. New ideas for improvement happen during reflection, and if employees are so harried and taxed, they don’t have the energy or motivation to do this important “thought work”.

According to an article by Dr. Kevin Flemming, more that 60% of work absences in the United States were attributed to psychological stress and other related issues. This cost American companies: $57 billion.

And if stressed-out employees alienate customers what happens when they aren’t overly stressed? According to a study by Frederick Reichheld and W. Earl Sasser, a 5 percent reduction in customer defection translates into anywhere from a 30 percent to an 85 percent increase in corporate profitability.

So if I step back from my own stress and do this reflective “thought work” Covey talks about, I wonder what part of negative stress is self-imposed? In our efforts to pursue our “unalienable Right to happiness” do we need to re-discover what really makes us happy? Are we trying to find happiness in the wrong places and is our unmet need for happiness the cause for some of our stress? Jacob Needlemen thinks so in his book The American Soul when he asserts we often seek happiness through the acquisition of things. “Materialism is a disease of the mind”, he says, “starved for ideas about our inner and outer world.”

Individually we need to remind ourselves of what truly makes us happy: Probably not cars, furniture and shoes but family, friends, adventure, learning and play. And by spending as little as 20 percent of our time doing what we love to do we reduce the risk of burnout. Having a balanced life also needs as much importance as finishing projects at work.

Companies need to place employee stress on their risk management radar. It is hurting the bottom line, strangling innovation and derailing all the great ideas that come out of strategic planning sessions. Movement forward cannot be achieved without addressing the stress that is holding us back.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com

Stretch yourself to get skills for career growth

The first question I was asked during my first day of college was “what’s your major?” I thought the purpose of college was to explore ideas not limit options. I was given a college advisor who got the unenviable assignment of dealing with us misfits he labeled “undecided.” The pressure to specialize extends into business as well. We get trained and hired to be electricians, teachers, nurses and restaurant managers. Being a specialist gets the job. But growing a career requires a diverse set of skills and attitudes.

Jeff is a cardiologist and an emerging leader in a local hospital. He’s been successful treating patients and doing research. Now the organization he works for sees him as a future leader. But a 360-degree assessment reveals Jeff is weak in communication, setting a vision and collaborating and engaging with peers. As Marshall Goldsmith, a Harvard Business Review author and executive coach has said, what made you successful in the past will not be what makes you successful as a leader in the future.

Jeff is not alone. Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger say in the book “FYI: Learning Agility”: “Less than 30 percent of an organization’s high performers have the potential to rise to and succeed in broader senior-level, critical positions.” So what does Jeff do? How does he abandon being the expert and take on unfamiliar roles of collaborator, communicator and networker?

Know thyself. According to a 2010 Cornell University study, self-awareness was found to be the No. 1 predictor of executive success. For Jeff that means developing the ability and willingnessto learn from experience and subsequently apply that learning to new situations.

Expand the network. Jeff spent so many years focused on his clinical and research work his world now only consists of other cardiologists. He needs to know the needs and concerns of others outside his specialty and expand his network to areas he’s not the expert in, and by so doing, risk looking vulnerable.

Think Medici. The wealthy Medici family in Italy fueled the outpouring of knowledge, culture and ideas that flourished during the Renaissance. Financial support was a big contributing factor, but so was the intersection of artisans: Painters learned techniques from their interactions with sculptors; musicians came up with ideas by learning from actors. Jeff will gain insights by his interaction and learning from pediatricians and ophthalmologists, as well as marketers and finance managers. Learning from outside our industry or specialty increases the possibility for innovation and opportunities.

Market Me Inc. Jeff thinks his work will speak for itself. But what he doesn’t realize is everyone is too busy to fully understand and appreciate all the great things Jeff has done. He may wait a long time before someone taps him on his shoulder to indicate he’s been promoted. Instead, Jeff should send updates to leadership, actively pursue opportunities and initiate projects. Jeff needs to devote 5 percent of this time as the PR Agency for Jeff Inc.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com

Agility over specialization makes better leaders

The first question I was asked during my first day of college was “what’s your major?” I thought the purpose of college was to explore ideas not limit options. I was given a college advisor who got the unenviable assignment of dealing with us misfits he labeled “undecided”. The pressure to specialize extends into business as well. We get trained and hired to be electricians, teachers, nurses and restaurant managers. Being a specialist gets the job. But growing a career requires a diverse set of skills and attitudes.

Jeff is a cardiologist and an emerging leader in a local hospital. He’s been successful treating patients and doing research. Now the organization he works for sees him as a future leader. But a 360-degree assessment reveals Jeff is weak in communication, setting a vision and collaborating and engaging with peers. As Marshall Goldsmith, a noted Harvard Business Review author and executive coach has said, what made you successful in the past will not be what makes you successful as a leader in the future.
Jeff is not alone. Mike Lombardo and Bob Eichinger say in the book FYI: Learning Agility “Less than 30% of an organization’s high performers have the potential to rise to and succeed in broader senior-level, critical positions.” So what does Jeff do? How does he abandon being the expert and take on unfamiliar roles of collaborator, communicator and networker?

Know thyself. According to a 2010 Cornell University study, self-awareness was found to be the #1 predictor of executive success. For Jeff that means developing the ability and willingness to learn from experience, and subsequently apply that learning to new situations.

Expand the network. Jeff spent so many years focused on his clinical and research work his world now only consists of other cardiologists. He needs to know the needs and concerns of others outside his specialty and expand his network to areas he’s not the expert, and by so doing, risk looking vulnerable.

Think Medici. The wealthy Medici family in Italy fueled the outpouring of knowledge, culture and ideas that flourished during the Renaissance. Financial support was a big contributing factor, but so was the intersection of artisans: Painters learned new techniques from their interactions with sculptors; musicians came up with new ideas by learning from actors. Jeff will gain new insights by his interaction and learning from pediatricians and ophthalmologists, as well as marketers and finance managers. Learning from outside our industry or specialty increases the possibility for innovation and opportunities.

Market Me, Inc.. Jeff thinks his work will speak for itself. But what he doesn’t realize is everyone is too busy for them to fully understand and appreciate all the great things Jeff has done. He may wait a long time before someone taps him on his shoulder to indicate he’s been promoted. Instead, Jeff should send updates to leadership, actively pursue opportunities and initiate new projects. Jeff needs to devote 5% of this time as the PR Agency for Jeff, Inc.

Dean Newlund is CEO of Mission Facilitators International, Inc. He can be reached at www.missionfacilitators.com