Invest in Building Relationships

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“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”—Pablo Picasso

I like to reflect at year-end and set goals for the following year. I set aspirations in many areas including: career, professional development, health, material, psychological, spiritual, family, community and creativity. At one time I had over 20 pages of goals. Now I try to make it simpler so I can be open to what emerges and not have to be so hard on myself. One area I am focusing on and encouraging my coaching clients to consider in goal setting is building relationships.

My executive clients often say they are too busy for building and maintaining relationships. They work long hours with big commitments and pressures. They barely have enough time for family and essentials. I certainly can relate. Given the volatility and uncertainty we face these days it feels like cultivating friendships and community can be last on the list. But should it be?

While we feel pressured, it is relationships that foster well-being and innovation.  Sebastian Junger in his book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, found that American soldiers in Afghanistan experienced a sense of well-being when living and working in community. The same soldiers experienced isolation after deployment. Many said they missed the connection.  Junger makes the case that humans lived and worked together in close-knit social groups or tribes for hundreds of thousands of years and we value and thrive with connections of support. In our modern society, we have fewer chances of helping one another and many feel divided and even depressed. These divisions have become even larger in recent years.

When there are disasters such as floods, fires and other calamities, we see that people come together and help and support one another. After 9/11, people in New York City reported feeling more connected. The murder rate actually went down. We as humans are wired for collaboration and supporting each other. Research shows that urban wealthy women in North America experience more isolation and depression than rural women in Nigeria.  While the women in Nigeria are poorer, they have more social support and connections.   

There are many research studies showing the health benefits of human connection.  At the end of our lives, we reflect more on our connections than other achievements.

One way I have built strong supportive relationships is joining groups of peers for reflection and support of one another. I have built lasting friendships with peers while we support one another in achieving goals.  We have learned a lot professionally and experienced the power of connection. I have facilitated peer learning and coaching groups across the globe and people always report that the relationships formed are meaningful and supportive.  In addition, because of the diverse experiences and backgrounds learning, innovation and creativity are a natural outcome.

I encourage you to make building relationships and connection a goal this year.

Contact us any time.

Appreciative Leadership

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“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.”—Seneca

In my work with leaders, I emphasize the importance of creating an environment in which people feel a sense of openness and respect, where people can engage in meaningful conversations and can explore diverse perspectives and be innovative. Emotions are contagious and leaders benefit from being aware of their disposition and how they influence others. One of the simplest ways to create a positive and productive environment is to build the habit of gratitude.

During the holidays, people are more apt to recall what they are grateful for. Making it a daily practice is even more powerful. Most successful leaders are problem solvers and implementers of solutions and are quick to identify what is not working. It takes a different stance to embrace gratitude.

When we are able to reflect and actually experience the sensation of gratefulness, we encounter more openness to possibilities and others sense this energy.

Research shows that being grateful has multiple benefits.  People report greater well-being when they appreciate what they have.  There are clear physical and mental health benefits. Those who are grateful experience deeper relationships and less stress.  It’s hard to argue against building the habit of noticing and being grateful and showing appreciation.

People often suggest having a journal to collect what you are grateful for. I have adopted the simple habit of reflecting on what I am grateful for about my day as I go to sleep.  I have noticed that connecting with people seems to bring me my greatest joy. I have also noticed and appreciate how much I do have and how fortunate I am. It becomes a cycle. The more I am grateful, the more I seem to be grateful for.  This sure beats my old pattern of reflecting on all I had not done and all I needed to do.  Oh, by the way, research shows that people who adopt the habit of gratitude sleep better too.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

Encourage Conversations

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“Conversation is food for the soul.”—Mexican Proverb

Julie, a staff member of an executive, complained that another business unit was not cooperating and satisfying corporate requirements. What would you do if you were Julie’s manager? Do you speak with your peer, the head of the other area, or do you support Julie in having a conversation with her peer?  Either or both could be appropriate depending on the issue and the greater context.

Somewhere a conversation is needed. Often, I find that challenges my clients are experiencing are because those above are not aligned and are not having open-minded conversations. I once facilitated an agreement meeting between heads of a corporate function and a key business unit. They had been fighting for a while and the business unit had actually duplicated the corporate function in many ways to avoid contact. However, they were stuck and not able to solve an important business problem.  After some work with them we were able to get to the core issue and resolve the technical issue and enhance their relationship. However, we discovered that their leaders were misaligned and there were many ramifications.  After I facilitated a conversation with the top leaders, they were able to make progress and gained significant market share.

While conversations need to happen at the senior-most levels, I believe a role of a leader is to encourage team members to have meaningful and open-minded conversations. After some coaching, Julie did have the conversation with her peer. She was able to resolve the issue at her level. This was more efficient for Julie and her boss and others in the organization.

Leadership is about conversations. All day long leaders need to engage in conversations to inspire others and support alignment toward a compelling vision. In addition, leaders need to give feedback and support and resolve issues.  Open-minded conversations are essential for success and like any skill require practice. Leaders need to create a culture where respectful conversations are the norm.

Are you engaging in open-minded conversations today and encouraging your team members to do the same?

Contact us anytime.

 

 

Are You Creating Psychological Safety with your Team?

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“Psychological safety describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.”  — Amy Edmondson

A manager said angrily to her staff member, “This work is not up to par. Don’t you know how to put together a decent presentation?” Clearly, she was agitated that she did not receive a draft that would serve her needs and she had several other pressing deadlines. However, her tone and manner of giving feedback demeaned her team member and caused the team member to feel uncertain. The two did not have a real conversation. At first the team member tried to defend her work. “This is what you said you wanted.”

While she knew that her manager often seemed to change her mind, she felt humiliated and angry and as a result, did not really hear the changes her manager suggested. She was too flooded with stress and she lost her sense of confidence. Instead, she talked about her boss to colleagues. She was looking for empathy and understanding. Instead, they shared their own stories of receiving negative feedback. In a short while the atmosphere of the team became negative. The next version of the presentation that the colleague gave to her manager did not meet her boss’ expectations. Now the boss was complaining about the inadequacies of the team member to her colleagues and other members of the team. The spiral was in place and continued to go downhill.

In this situation, the staff member began complaining about her boss to others outside the department and word filtered back to HR and the boss. Emotions are contagious and the climate of the team declined. Eventually the team member sought out a different role. This team lacked psychological safety. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation. The manager and the team member did not intend to be difficult or cause harm and both were skilled and worked hard. Both manager and the team member reacted to stress and both regretted the energy required to deal with the aftermath.  Both would benefit from knowing how to manage their reactions and being able to successfully engage in an open-minded conversation to give and receive feedback. Being open-minded and able to manage ourselves and engage in conversations are critical for success these days.

Google conducted a comprehensive study of 180 teams to analyze the critical ingredients of high performing teams. The study identified psychological safety as the most important factor. If team members felt comfortable asking for constructive feedback and exploring divergent views with one another, they experienced a greater sense of trust and openness. These teams were more productive too.

It is critical to take steps to ensure that your teams are experiencing psychological safety. You can do so by adapting an open mindset and having meaningful conversations with each other. You can agree on norms for how the team will operate. For example, how you will handle disagreements and create a positive climate.  It is important to assume positive intent and respect that people generally desire to do well. Yet we each have different strengths and different views of what is important. When we make assumptions without testing them, we invariably create a negative spiral without our desired results.

What steps are you taking today to create more psychological safety in your teams?

Contact us at any time at www.Potentials.com.

Stop for a Moment

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“It’s not only moving that creates new starting points. Sometimes all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective, an opening of the mind, an intentional pause and reset, or a new route to start to see new options and new possibilities.” –Kristin Armstrong

If you are like me and my executive clients, it seems like we are moving at a fast pace. There are always many things on our plate and minds. We have more to do than is possible and we often feel like we are falling short of our goals.  We feel we need to run faster, yet we need to stop—at least for a moment.  

By noticing our spinning and rushing, we can stop and shift to become grounded and centered, and then harness more energy to achieve our goals and make a difference for others. Our emotions are contagious and others pick up on our anxiety and stress. When we can pause, feel our feet on the ground, take a breath and recall all that is working, we will be better able to support others and be more effective.

Develop a stopping strategy that works for you. One executive reconnects with her love of music and sings a song which brings her back to the present and puts her in an appreciative mood.  Another takes a walk and feels his feet on the ground and experiences being present.  Another puts on her head-phones and does a guided meditation to leave behind the stress of the office. One leader recalls her children and their connection with gratitude and that puts things into perspective for her. Find a quick path from the stress of the day to being at ease. You will be a stronger person and leader.

Identify a quick way to move from stress to ease. What works for you? Contact us anytime.

Are You Empathetic as a Leader During Challenging Times?

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“When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.” –Stephen Covey

A leader in a large organization told me that she and her team were experiencing malaise and frustration. The organization had a new person at the top with a new vision. This new strategy translated into a different emphasis on their part of the business and they were expected to practically double their outcome without additional resources. To make matters worse, a few key people on the team had recently left the organization.

I worked to give the leader empathy first. It was a difficult situation and each person on the team was handling the stress differently.  After calming down, the leader realized that she needed to support her team. She decided to gather them together and share with them her own frustration with the system yet her excitement about what they could create. However, she needed to find a way to first regain her own energy and vision to support the team.  Once she managed her own fears and frustration through our conversation, she was able to focus on the team. She realized that she needed to give her team members empathy and provide them the space they needed to express their emotions.

My client went on to do this. And she helped her team to reconnect to their compelling vision. They aligned on their mission again and this provided them with a renewed vigor. A lot of energy is gained when we recall our vision and purpose.

Renewed vigor led to looking for solutions. How could they meet their new goals? How could they ask for more resources or feel comfortable with doing their best and not meeting the unrealistic goals?  In this case, they were able to speak and collaborate with another leader and team and receive help toward their goal. My client emerged with new energy herself and the satisfaction of seeing her team mobilize to achieve a compelling vision.

A leader must recognize her emotions and calm down in order to support her team in expressing their emotions, which opens the doors of possibilities and solutions. Then it is useful to share and develop together a compelling vision that is motivating and leads to the removal of obstacles and gaining support. It is not easy to be a leader, but it is rewarding.

Are you managing yourself, supporting your team by giving them empathy, sharing a compelling vision and solving challenges together?  How is it going?

Feel free to contact us to learn more about using the OASIS moves in leadership positions to provide empathy and reinvigorate your team.

Notice What is Working Well

pablo (31)It is our nature to notice what is not working and what we don’t have. We are wired with a negativity bias and we naturally find the black spot, flaw or error. Unfortunately, we can easily fall in the pattern of pointing out mistakes and problems.  Life can often seem like a big problem. Of course, there are always going to be challenges and suffering. It is our human condition.

On the other hand, there are always many things that are going well too. We can train ourselves to see and appreciate more of these things. It makes life more interesting and enjoyable.

I noticed that I was correcting my teenager. I wanted to be a good mother and make sure she had skills for success. While my intention was positive, she took it as criticism. I tried instead to start noticing what she was doing well and the list way surpassed my concerns about being late or playing games on her iPhone or watching too many shows.  I started sharing the positives I noticed and she seemed to do more of those behaviors.  In addition, our relationship improved and our interactions were far more pleasant.

I also realized that I was pointing out to myself what I was not doing adequately and how it made me feel. I tried noticing what I was doing well, like I did for my daughter, and found it much more satisfying.

My executive clients also benefited from the simple act of noticing what was going well and what they were doing well. It takes some practice to change our habitual pattern.

Try an experiment of noticing what is going well and what you are doing well. Let me know what you are experiencing.

What is the Cost of Not Having a Vision Conversation?

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“Vision animates, inspires, transforms purpose into action.” — Warren Bennis

One of the most important investments you can make in yourself and your team is to clarify your personal vision and that of your team or organization. I have supported many teams with this process. It takes some effort to become aligned but the shared vision supports decision-making and also saves energy by averting conflicts that arise from misalignment.

I recall one of my first roles working in an organization. All the members of the division had a different vision for the organization. There were many conflicts as a result–so much wasted energy and a lack of productivity. People were literally initiating projects that were serving different goals.

Sometime people are focused solely on profit as their only goal. However, research reported by Harvard Business Analytics declares, “Those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.”  In fact, the most profitable companies are not those most focused on profit. This is not a new finding. Collins and Porras reported in the book, “Built to Last” in 1994 that companies with a guiding purpose returned six times more to shareholders than comparative organizations that were primarily driven by profits.  In addition, the World Economic Forum found that businesses that have a clear purpose-driven focus outperform those who do not 14 to 1. So there is much compelling research to support the power of a vision in driving outcomes.  There are many other benefits too. There is more engagement, alignment and fun as people work collectively toward a meaningful future.

A key component of a leader is to encourage people to work toward a shared vision and to communicate frequently to support mission or goal alignment and achievement.  Ideally, individual visions are aligned with organizational visions in order to realize potential.

To create alignment and a shared vision, leaders need to promote mind opening conversations. Team members need to feel heard and need to share empathy in order to create a compelling vision that can drive choices and behavior.  Leaders with the skills to foster such conversations quickly experience the benefits.

I worked with an organization where each of the leaders was creating programs and materials for the field members. Without a shared vision, there was overlap and confusion that led to polarization between the field and the headquarters. After open conversation with the team, they developed a shared vision and were able to save millions of dollars and serve the field offices in a cohesive way and ultimately gain market share with their clients.

What is your personal vision and your team or organization’s vision?  What is your vision for your community and our society?  What can you do to support dialogue to create a shared vision?  

I would love to hear your vision and views on having conversations to create shared visions.

Work to Repair Relationships When Possible

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“In any given situation, both personal and in professional life, I think that the process of restoring trust can be an enormously positive adventure because you can redeem yourself and create newness. For example, when you have a broken relationship with someone, you have to learn to acknowledge your role in it, apologize, and  have humility. Then you need to find a way to involve the person in a process of coming up with a new relationship.”—Stephen Covey

A client of mine who is in a leadership role is trying to implement a new focus in her company and a different way of working–changes which she believes will support her company and their clients. Now it’s just a matter of receiving the support and endorsement of her colleagues for her plan to be successful. What could be the roadblock here?

As we talked about how to gain support, she believed that she would not be successful. She was certain that a key person who would need to adapt the plan would simply never agree. It would not be about her idea; she knew that he would thwart the initiative because he did not like her. Fifteen years earlier, my client had worked with this person, and she had never felt included by him. Sour feelings built, and she eventually changed departments to avoid working with him. Meanwhile, he consistently gave her negative reviews on 360 surveys about her leadership abilities and style. My client conceded that she would not be able to win him over. In fact, she had not even actually spoken to him in many years despite their attending many of the same meetings and both being part of the management group.

My client is not alone. Often, people dislike others in their organizations and it causes great pain for the people involved and thwarts many positive outcomes. Often, the ill sentiments and behaviors are the result of misunderstandings, miscommunications, insecurities or a feeling of competition.

Ideally, it is useful to work on repairing relationships, especially when you are likely to work with the other person in the future. In organizations, people remember conflicts from the past or harbor ill feelings, and this limits them from moving up or forward in their company. In my experience, many people are not promoted simply because someone in senior management recalled an incident that happened years before involving the other person.  It can be hard to shake these negative perceptions.

The good news is that if you reach out to repair a relationship it is often possible to do so. My client was able to approach her nemesis and over time began to build trust. She started by receiving some empathy about the pain he caused her from her executive coach and reflecting on her role in their dynamic.  She began shifting from seeing him as evil and trying to understand his perspective. She worked on being more open to him. She started to acknowledge some of his statements in group meetings and even appreciating some of his actions. By being more positive and open to him, he started being more open to her.  Emotions are contagious and when we change how we see a situation we create space for new possibilities. The result? Her project was endorsed.

Who will it be worthwhile for you to bridge a relationship? Start with acknowledging your negative emotions and looking for your contribution to the situation. Work to look for what you can appreciate about the person and shift to being open.  Look for opportunities to acknowledge and give empathy to the other person.

Feel free to contact us to learn more about using the OASIS moves to help bridge relationships. www.Potentials.com

Are you Experiencing a Positive, Open Environment in Your Healthcare System?

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“Wanting a more positive environment isn’t enough. You need to do something, and it doesn’t require a great deal of effort or some huge change in the way you approach things.”—Tom Rath

We recently traveled to a summit at the Cleveland Clinic where 2,000 people from hospitals around the world gathered to discuss empathy and openness in the health sphere. How inspiring it was to witness a group of healthcare leaders and workers concerned about creating environments of openness, understanding, and respect in their workplaces!

Imagine a concentric circle of increasing positive impact.

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When the staff and medical teams at hospitals and clinics feel enthused by an engaging environment, their own feelings are projected outward and affect patients, patient families, visitors, and people who have never even been to the hospital but hear of the positive experience others have had there.

This impact is very tangible. I recently spoke with a client who told me she went to visit a patient in a hospital and she was so very impressed and touched by the security person and receptionist who welcomed her with friendly smiles and words. The respectful welcome was experienced at the nurse station also.  This seems small, right? And yet, she compared this experience to a previous one in which the hospital staff were not as welcoming. “If I ever get sick,” she said, “I’ll go to the hospital where I felt welcomed.”

The most effective advertisements are word-of mouth ones. When someone has a negative experience, they inform ten people, and those ten people inform ten more people, and pretty soon hundreds of people are aware of this negative experience. By contrast, the news of positive experiences may travel less, but such experiences are now so unique that even they travel.

How do we create a positive environment of respect in healthcare?

We have had successful experiences of creating positive cultures at health care systems and organizations across the globe.

We support people in widening their views of respect. Each person has a different definition of respect. We need to have conversations to understand what is most important to others.  Most of us don’t engage in such dialogue and believe our assumptions are accurate.  We have introduced OASIS Conversations which is a simple process of the five key moves that support connection.

The OASIS process is built on the value of giving empathy and cultivating an open mindset, which ultimately leads to refreshing conversations and meaningful connections with others. Hospitals are carefully evaluated and ranked, and the whole patient experience including interactions with hospital staff, nurses, and doctors factors into this ranking. Now more than ever it’s important to cultivate an engaging, oasis environment in these spaces.

Contact us to learn more about how to bring an oasis environment to your healthcare sphere. www.Potentials.com