Tag Archives: leadership

Casting Your Confidence Net

Four Strategies to Manage Self-Doubt

By Dr. David Chinsky

confidence net

Even when leaders are clear about where they want to take their teams, pushback from colleagues, combined with self-doubts, can cause them to become paralyzed at the point of action. Clarity without confidence is an ineffective formula for success.

All leaders are subject to resisters and critics—some external and some internal. Let’s look at some examples of external pushback that some of the world’s biggest innovators needed to overcome to achieve their dreams.

When Akio Morita, then chairman of Sony, proposed manufacturing a tape player that didn’t record, he was met with a tremendous amount of resistance. His critics questioned why someone would purchase a recorder that didn’t record. Sony was known for tape recorders that recorded and played.

Despite the heavy criticism, Morita pushed ahead, resulting in the Sony Walkman, a product that met with universal acclaim and ended up being a precursor to the iPod and other mp3 players that came later. Had it not been for Morita’s persistence in the face of opposition, who knows if we would have seen the iPod as early as we did.

Another example of a leader with a vision was Fred Smith, founder of FedEx. When Smith was selling his idea of delivering packages “absolutely, positively overnight”, critics were quick to point out that major airlines would already be doing this if there was a market for this service. We all know the phenomenal success of FedEx, and its several competitors that emerged later, and this success is due largely to the willingness of Smith to go against the mainstream thinking of the time that this was not likely to be a profitable venture.

Leaders, at times, need to take leaps of faith, particularly when they have thought through their ideas and believe passionately in what they are pursuing. There will always be naysayers, and when we vest too much authority in their claims, we risk missing out on the tangible benefits that result when decisive actions are pursued despite the strong pushback that pioneers often confront.

While external pushback can be powerful, it is often your own self-doubt that prevents you from moving forward. You may have noticed that the bolder your vision is, and the bigger your plans are, the louder these inner critics often become. In reality, the presence of these saboteurs often serves as confirmation that you are not playing small.

Some of the common “inner voices” we hear, if we are honest with ourselves, include:

“You Don’t Know What You’re Doing”

“You’re Not Up to This”

“You Won’t Succeed”

“You’ll Look Like a Fool”

“No one Will Support You”

These self-doubts are normal and come with the territory of leading others into the future. Instead of focusing on eliminating these doubts, a better approach is to simply manage them. Here are four strategies that you will find helpful in managing self-doubt:

  • Be aware of negative self-talk, and get good at recognizing it as distinct from your true intent. Recognize these voices as “normal” for successful people taking on big projects.
  • Consider alternative perspectives or different ways of looking at the same situation. Acknowledge and act on your power to choose how you will think. If you are thinking, “I will fail at this”, consider how the alternative “I will succeed at this”, might cause you to choose a different path. Often, we can’t know whether we will succeed or fail before trying. Henry Ford was correct when he said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
  • Ignore your self-doubts once they have been exposed for the imposters they are.
  • Don’t panic, and know that everything can look like a failure in the middle.

Keeping our doubts in check will naturally contribute to greater confidence. A way to reinforce that confidence is to construct a Confidence Net comprising a repertoire of positive habits that buffer you from the onslaught of both external and internal pushbacks. These habits, when performed consistently, feed our confidence, and provide us with the ability to remain focused on our plans, despite the noise all around us.

When asked what personal habits contribute to greater confidence, many leaders point to regular exercise, daily prayer or meditation, positive affirmations and even a power outfit.

Like safety nets, designed as insurance to help people through life’s shocks and stresses, such as those created by illness, unemployment or job displacement, a Confidence Net is your very own personal structure to mitigate the effect, and lower the volume, of your inner voices or self-doubts.

Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness, a celebrated speaker, and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly twenty years in executive leadership positions at the Ford Motor Company, Nestle and Thomson Reuters, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. For more information on Dr. David Chinsky, please visit: www.FitLeadersAcademy.com.

The Top 6 Leadership Competencies Everyone Should Know & Grow

By Dr. Steve Yacovelli

If you turn to most organizations—including your own—you’ll likely be able to list out the “core values” that anyone within the workplace should embody. Look in the break room, on the annual performance appraisal, or maybe on some cool tchotchke given out at an annual workplace event; you’ll see things like “integrity,” “teamwork,” and “customer focus” listed. This is the social contract that anyone working for that organization should abide by.
Regardless of what your organizational values are, it’s showing time again—especially in today’s modern workplace—that Thehave an awesome handle on most of them.

“But I’m Not a Leader!”

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute: you say ‘leader,’ but I’m not a leader.” Shenanigans! A “leader” really is anyone who needs to influence and, well, lead within the organization. That could be a department head leading a corporate function, a project manager leading a team to accomplish a goal, an individual contributor with no formal leadership authority but still needs to get their stuff done—everyone within today’s workplace is indeed a leader one way or another.

In short: if you’re in a work situation where you need to interact with co-workers, bosses, direct reports, or customers, then guess what, friend? Congrats … you’re a leader!

Why These Six Competencies?

There’s been a lot conversation about what are “the right” competencies that someone serious about their own leadership development should focus on. But when you look at the field, the latest books on the topic, and what experts “out there” are focusing their energy, it’s really these six:

  • Being Authentic
  • Having Leadership Courage
  • Leveraging Empathy
  • Using Inclusive Communication
  • Building Relationships
  • Shaping Culture

What’s interesting about the six areas is that they are very intertwined. For example: being your authentic self as a leader requires having courage; building relationships requires effective communication skills, etc. So, while we’re looking at these six leadership competencies one at a time, they really wonderfully interconnect to make up the whole leadership you.

Let’s explore these Top Six.

1. Being Authentic

A smart leader is one who’s authentic: they conduct business as their true selves (and not just a company “talking head”), they are truthful, and have self-awareness of their skills and abilities; they know what they bring to the table as well as where they lack competence. Nothing erodes trust (your ultimate goal as a leader) by being insincere and fake. Authentic leaders are genuine.

2. Having Leadership Courage

Leadership courage isn’t that action hero kind of courage, but it’s being brave enough to do the right thing, even if it’s against the majority (or your bosses or customers). Having courage allows you to not get stuck in a rut, but to try new things, be innovative, have those more challenging conversations, ask “why are we doing it this way?” and be able to speak up and put yourself out there.

3. Leveraging Empathy

A leader who leverages empathy puts themselves in other people’s shoes. They think about situations from not just their own position but that of the other person. Smart leaders know that emotions and logic both play a part in the modern workplace, and they are open to listening and learning about the context of others within their team.

Effective communication leading to leadership success. Click To Tweet

4. Inclusive Communication

So much can be said about effective communication leading to leadership success, but let’s focus on just one aspect: effective listening. Smart leaders who engage in effective listening show respect and that they are paying attention to the speaker. Leveraging effective listening allows team members to not just be heard but feel that you as the leader are present and paying attention. As the saying goes you do have two ears and one mouth for a reason—you should be listening twice as much as you speak.

5. Building Relationships

Psst: Here’s a big, giant, crazy secret: building relationships leads to leadership success. It’s not to say the other leadership competencies aren’t important, but if you focus on building relationships using some of the other competencies here (like effective communication and being authentic), you can accomplish anything. Work gets done when you leverage your relationships (and doing so builds trust … there’s that “t” word again).

6. Shaping Culture

As a smart leader, you’ll want to shape and influence your organizational culture for the better (this is sometimes called “change management”). How can you do this? Through ensuring the six parts of a true change management program are in place:

  • mobilize an active and visible executive sponsor (that could be you!)
  • dedicate someone(s) to manage the change process
  • apply a structured approach and process to the change
  • engage with team members and encourage their participation, communicate frequently and openly
  • integrate and engage with effective project management best practices.

Closing

Being a smart and effective leader isn’t easy, and there’s so much you can do to either start or continue to grow as a leader. But, by focusing on these six competencies as a starting point, you will not only “amp up” your own leadership effectiveness, but you’ll also improve the performance of those around you and your organization. And—added bonus—that makes the workplace just a little more enjoyable for everyone. Now that you know, go grow.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC, a learning and development, leadership, change management, and diversity and consulting firm based in Orlando, FL, USA, with affiliates across the globe. With over twenty-five years’ experience, Steve is a rare breed that understands the power of using academic theory and applying it to the “real” world for better results. His latest book, Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle is available June 2019. www.topdoglearning.biz.

10 Commandments for the Inspirational Leader: The Foundation of Business Solutions

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele-your personal brand

There are so many theories in leadership ranging from vision to self-awareness to service. The simplest way to develop your leadership skills is to have a work ethic mixed with a solid foundation of core values.

Inspirational leaders have commandments they work and live by. Commandments, or guidelines, lay the critical foundation for the development of leadership and business solutions.

All of you have your own commandments that you work and live by. These Ten Commandments will work as a guidebook to inspire your staff, increase workplace morale, and lay the foundation for a successful company.

1. Be truthful

Any leader aspiring to greatness must do two things all the time—listen and tell the truth. Inspirational leaders own up to their mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. Do not blame others for your error. And when someone comes up with a brilliant idea, give credit where credit is due. Do not take credit for the idea. You will be respected by your team.

2. Be consistent

Leaders are always performing like an actor on a stage. You must consistently and authentically act out your part in front of your audiences. You must lead with high energy, all day, every day. You must protect your personal brand.

3.Be empathetic

To start using empathy more effectively, put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Then validate the other person’s perspective and examine your own attitude. Perhaps you are more concerned with being right rather than finding a solution or accepting others as they are. Listen with your heart to determine what the other person feels.

4.Be generous

Business and personal relationships are everything. Every relationship needs to be a two-way street. However, before a relationship can be formed, you need to give with zero expectation of receiving anything.

5. Be strong

Inspirational leaders bring a light to someone’s life. You become the message of hope and encouragement to your staff. Encouragement comes from focusing on the strength of another person to drive their motivation and perform at a higher level which adds value to the organization and your personal brand.

6.Be articulate

Effective leaders put words together based on the thoughts and needs of others. You must create the whole story out of words you have collected. Inspirational leaders are able to articulate and clarify what many of us have been thinking on the subject for a long time. Inspirational leaders seek and inspire excellence, not perfectionism. Go out there and learn so that you can return to your team members and inspire a culture of learning and accountability.

7. Be approachable

Are you accessible? Do you have appropriate body language? How you appear to others is key to being an inspirational leader. Some people have a fear of authority, but it is your responsibility to remove the barriers and establish an environment of trust. By using proper verbal communication and listening skills, you will become much more approachable and inspirational. You are in control of how approachable you are.

Your name can open and close doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority. Click To Tweet

8. Be a brand champion

If you are passionate about a common interest, you create a very attractive personal style of interaction, and inspire your team to become involved and take an interest in you. They become a brand champion, a supporter, and a cheerleader of sorts for you. In return, you become a brand champion for them. Because we share a bond, we naturally support one another no matter the situation because of our passion. Remember, passionate people are attuned to the five senses, taste, touch, scent, sound, and sight. Passion for a common purpose brings people and ignites warmth.

9. Be a genuine spirit

Talk to people—listen to what they have to say and what they actually mean. Sometimes those two can be completely different things. There is a beautiful story in everyone, so listen intently with an open mind; try to add value to the conversation wherever you can. Everyone has a gift—bring the best out of everyone. Among many other lessons of the heart, Leo Buscaglia reminds us “love is open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.” Remember, some people are unreasonable and self-centered….love them anyway. Inspire them. Bring the best out of them.

10. Be credible

Reputation is about earning credibility, not expecting it. You must work hard at building credibility so others are confident about doing business with you. One way to earn credibility is to keep your promises. Another way is to be honest. Actions speak louder than words. If you are credible and honest, your personal brand will sell naturally. So make your brand work for you. Most people agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s reputation and his or her success. How effectively you represent yourself in public often determines what you will accomplish in your life. Your name can open….and close….doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority.

As an inspirational leader do you have commandments that you work and live by? What do they look like?

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit: https://micheleandco.com.

The 3 Values of Great Leaders

Are You a V.I.P. Leader?

By John Waid

John Waid-the best leaders

Leadership is an overused word. There are a lot of managers in companies, but very few leaders. Even the ones that call themselves leaders possess attributes that leave much to be desired. Great leaders have a few qualities that make them special and make the companies they lead extraordinary for people and profits.

So what is the definition of leadership? Great leaders are not the people that you’re forced to follow; they are the ones that you want to follow. Great leaders are humble, care more about others than themselves and know that it’s not about the leader, it’s about the followers. Most of the best leaders have a dream and turn that dream into reality with others.

So what’s in the DNA of great leaders and what values do they stand for? What makes them V.I.P.’s?

Best leaders know that if they do not put their people before profits they will make fewer profits; and so they are loved by their people, not feared. Click To Tweet

Values: Value Lies in The Values

The great leaders know that they are responsible for establishing the culture of the company. As a matter of fact, the great leaders know that culture is their number one responsibility and work on it daily.

Let’s say that you take over a company that has been in business for 100 years, is currently about to go bankrupt, and has almost 100,000 people? What do you do first?

Most people would analyze the strategy and probably change it. What happens if the 100,000 people do not believe in the new strategy? Will you be successful?

Others would change the strategy and when that didn’t work, they would focus on restructuring. Maybe a Chapter 11 will be their saving grace. But if that doesn’t work? Then, of course it was not the leader’s fault; it was because the people did not execute the strategy and then did not work well in the new structure.

The best leaders would analyze what the company was doing well when it was successful and see how they could replicate it. Most companies had a founder and beliefs that people followed that made the company successful. The best leaders work on the values and behaviors of the people and make sure they worked on the culture first. Because without the people knowing and living the values that you stand for you may be doomed on getting people to follow you.

So the best leaders work on culture first and have unique values that they all know and they train on; and it is at the core of how they hire, fire, and promote.

So what are some things you can do today that would make you a better leader?

  1.  Select or pare down your values to one to three values (no more than that) that are unique to what makes you successful.
  2. Define how these values should be lived down to details like “Our people smile with teeth.”
  3. Hire, fire and promote for these behaviors and make sure to hire people who already believe in them as they are more likely to do what you are going to ask them to do anyway. Emphasize and train the specific behaviors in detail. Success or failure in companies is all about people and how they behave.

Leaders should work on Why—Culture First through values and daily behaviors, How—Structure second through coaches and paying attention to how to serve the customers, and What—Strategy third through managers. Identify your sustainable competitive advantages and when they will be executed to produce results and profits. The best leaders are also master communicators.

Inspiration: Inspire on Purpose

Great leaders make sure that everyone knows, is inspired by, and lives the purpose of why they are there. Many of the great leaders talk about the purpose of the company often and make sure that everyone cares about why they are there in the first place.

People in companies don’t get frustrated necessarily by what they do, they get burned-out because they don’t know why they do it or don’t like who they are doing it for. Purpose-driven companies continually outperform companies that lack purpose.

Do you have a purpose, other than making money for why your company exists? Define this transcendent or noble purpose by:

  1.  Talk about why you are in business. What is the ultimate outcome if you do great work? Who will it benefit?
  2. Decide what your purpose will be—some made up examples are “We Believe in Better Living”, “We Help People Be Better”, “We Inspire, Inspiration”
  3. Communicate a inspire people to live the purpose daily.

Leaders can inspire on purpose if they have a purpose. Make sure that you develop a purpose that others are willing to follow voluntarily.

People: Be in the People Business

The best leaders realize that if you do not put people before profits you will make fewer profits. The leaders that connect with the frontline and have the support of the people that make the money are the ones that people are willing to follow voluntarily.

There are leaders that care about the money, others about the customers, and still others that care about people (starting with the employees). The best leaders care deeply about their employees and put them first, knowing that if the employees live the purpose and values (culture) then they will be great to customers and produce more profits.

The best leaders are loved by their people, not feared. They care about each one of them even more than they care about themselves. They know that they are the examples for how they want others to behave. The best ones eat in the employee cafeteria, spend time with the front line, and value them. These leaders are especially adept at communicating with actions before words.

Some ways to focus on people first are:

  1. No matter what industry you are in, you should become an expert in people; because if you think about it, you are in the people business. First, you need to understand your people and need to serve them so they can serve the customer. Most companies are strong in technical skills and weak in people skills.
  2. Train on people skills and benchmark internally and externally against the best in the business.
  3. Make your headquarters “the people headquarters” and make sure you focus on hiring for purpose and values. Make sure your leaders are humble and believe they are and know how to be in the people business.

Want to be the best leader? Become a V.I.P. leader who focuses on Values, Inspiration, and Purpose and you too will be a V.I.P for your employees, customers and the bottom line.

John Waid is the founder of C-3 Corporate Culture Consulting, a keynote speaker and author of the forthcoming book, Inspiring Isabella—A Little Story for Leaders About Culture-Driven Leaders. With a specialty and passion for corporate culture, sales and global business, John believes culture is the engine that drives companies to better results, higher morale, and increased profitability. An active speaker, trainer and subject matter expert, John Waid holds an enduring belief that corporate culture is the key to success for companies. For more information on John Waid, please visit: www.CorporateCultureConsulting.com.

The Gift of Feedback

7 Steps to Move from Confrontation to Conversation

By Dr. David Chinsky

David Chinsky-performance problem

Feedback is a gift that anchors your relationships in honesty. Everyone depends upon the feedback they receive to appreciate and reinforce their areas of strength, and to identify areas for personal and professional growth and development.

While there is no question that many people miss numerous opportunities to provide more frequent positive feedback that is specific, timely, and genuine, the bigger challenge for most people is providing constructive feedback that reduces the wall of defensiveness that often accompanies their feedback.

The seven-step constructive feedback process outlined below offers a framework that converts the typical constructive feedback confrontation into a more productive feedback conversation.

Develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Click To Tweet

The Seven-Step Process

Step 1: Describe the Performance Problem

Employees (or colleagues or bosses) must first understand the problem that you’re experiencing with them before they can be expected to improve. In this step, you should describe the actual performance and/or behavior and contrast it with the expected performance. To begin, simply describe the problem in a sentence or two. Remain as objective as possible and stick to one point—do not talk about multiple performance issues in the same feedback discussion.

Here’s an example:

“Tom, I’d like to talk with you because I’ve noticed that you’ve been late to four of our last five meetings.” That’s it. If you can’t describe the performance problem in 30 seconds or less, you don’t know what the problem is yourself. In Step 1, state the performance problem in a concise, simple-to-understand fashion. There should be no ambiguity as to why you’re having this conversation.

Step 2: Explain the Impact

During the typical feedback discussion, leaders often jump from the description of the problem directly to the development of an action plan. They want to know immediately what the employee is going to do to resolve the problem. To assure meaningful feedback conversations, employees must know how their behavior is impacting others. In this step, convey the unacceptable impact of the behavior, or the unacceptable performance, on colleagues, the organization and perhaps even the individual himself or herself.

Let’s go back to the previous example of Tom being late to meetings, as described in Step 1 above.

Step 2 would continue the conversation with: “When you are late, it causes us to have to stop what we’re doing while everyone acknowledges your late arrival, and this interrupts the momentum of our meeting and lowers our productivity.”

This second step is very important because many times the employee doesn’t even realize his behavior is causing a negative impact. If you don’t describe how his behavior affects others, he might quickly dismiss the problem, saying something like, “Yeah, so what’s your point? A lot of other people are late, too.” So, rather than just talking about the problem of being late, help him understand the impact he’s having by being late. It’s not just the lateness you’re talking about, it’s the diminished productivity, the lack of momentum, the interruption—and some might even say it’s the dishonoring of the punctuality of the other people who arrived on time.

Here’s another example, incorporating both Steps 1 and 2:

“Jen, I wanted to talk with you today because I’ve noticed that you are the first to dismiss the ideas of other members of our team. Before you ask questions and try to understand someone else’s position, you immediately go on the attack.”

That’s the problem, or Step 1, in 30 seconds or less. The impact might be stated as follows, in 30 seconds or less:

“When you are so quick to judge, it causes other members of the team to withdraw and withhold their input because they are afraid that when they speak you’re going to cut them off or give all the reasons why their idea is stupid. This works against the environment I’m trying to create where everyone feels comfortable sharing their unique perspectives.”

Step 3: Identify the Cause

Once you have described the problem and explained the impact, then you can work with the employee to identify the cause of the performance problem you described in Step 1.Don’t jump in and immediately propose what you believe is causing the problem. Let the employee take the lead here. Your job is to ask one good open-ended question that invites him to think about what might be causing his lateness—or what might be preventing her from listening before she shoots down a teammate’s idea.

The goal with this step is to develop a shared understanding about the situation and to identify causes of performance problems. Encourage the employee to discuss the performance from his or her point of view. Once you’ve asked your one open-ended Step 3 question, such as “What’s preventing you from getting to our meetings on time?” or “What is preventing you from asking questions first before becoming critical of others’ ideas?”, your job is to let “silence do the heavy lifting”. Do not give in to the temptation of answering this question for the other person. What you think may be causing the problem is not always the case.

Step 4: Develop an Action Plan

You will develop a more meaningful action plan once you’ve clearly described the problem, explained the impact and identified the cause. If you simply leap from performance problem to action plan, you’ll miss out on a lot of conversation that might help to customize the specific elements of an action plan.

In Step 4, you’re looking for the employee to tell you what he will commit to doing differently to ensure he’s able to get to meetings on time or what she will do to take time to listen first to her colleagues’ ideas before jumping in and being negative.

Step 4 leads to the identification of a solution, a time table for any follow-up actions and an action plan that is specific and measurable.

Step 5: Confirm Understanding

Before the conversation ends, ensure that both you and your employee are on the same page. This is an opportunity for you or the employee to summarize what was discussed, who has agreed to what, and when you expect these changes to occur. If there is any disconnect, you can identify it and resolve it during Step 5—not two weeks or a month down the road when you expect something to be done and then realize you misunderstood each other.

Step 6: Document the Conversation

Take a few minutes to document the conversation, even if this is the first time you’ve had to talk with an employee about an issue—and certainly if it’s the second time you’re having the same conversation. When you document the conversation you’ve had, you’ll have the information available should this develop into a more serious performance management issue.

Step 7: Follow Up to Ensure Satisfactory Performance

More than likely, you or your employee will make some kind of commitment during the feedback conversation. It’s incredibly important to follow up on these commitments. This helps you determine if the employee has actually improved or changed behavior. Your efforts are wasted if you don’t take the time to follow up as needed.

When these seven steps are performed in the order in which they are presented above, you will engage more confidently and effectively when the need arises to provide constructive feedback. In about a minute or less, you will have set up the conversation by describing the problem, explaining the impact and asking one good question to turn the conversation over to the person receiving your feedback. This will ensure that you maintain control of the beginning of these conversations when others may attempt to derail your efforts or move you off point

Dr. David Chinsky is the Founder of the Institute for Leadership Fitness, a celebrated speaker, and author of The Fit Leader’s Companion: A Down-to-Earth Guide for Sustainable Leadership Success. After spending nearly twenty years in executive leadership positions at the Ford Motor Company, Nestle and Thomson Reuters, he now focuses on preparing leaders to achieve their highest level of professional effectiveness and leadership fitness. For more information on Dr. David Chinsky, please visit: www.FitLeadersAcademy.com.