How to Up Your Inner Game of Leadership

How to Up Your Inner Game of Leadership

Wise leaders who want to adapt to rapidly shifting demands of business for the future, continually work with an executive coach to grow their inner game. The inner game of leadership is as important as mastering outer competencies, if not more. The “inner game” concept became popular 15 to 20 years ago. Sports coach and consultant Tim Gallwey coined the term in The Inner Game of Golf, The Inner Game of Tennis and The Inner Game of Work, and his ideas have proved to be timeless. Character strengths are key to any leader who wants to lead well. As such, to thrive, leaders should set both performance and learning goals, as I wrote about here. Every learning goal contributes to future performance. In a performance-driven culture, achievement is overestimated at the expense of learning. In my experience working with many executives, it’s not easy for leaders to set learning goals, as a bit of humility is necessary. Leaders must acknowledge the need to learn and grow, and clarify which goals have the most leverage. It can be potentially difficult to identify where and how learning will take place. Obviously, work itself provides the best laboratory. Cooperation from others is also needed. Here are some tips for setting learning goals as a leader. Ask yourself these questions to refine your goals: What do I need to learn to enhance my performance? Where and with whom can I ask questions and practice these skills? Who can help me? Which resources are available to me? How do I like to learn and grow? Follow these steps to expand your inner game: Set...
The Inner Mindset of an Effective Leader

The Inner Mindset of an Effective Leader

What distinguishes great leaders from their mediocre colleagues?  Leaders with a growth mindset use every challenge as a learning goal. Effective leaders set an inner mindset to learn from every challenge. Some leaders focus almost exclusively on performance. Others emphasize growth and learning, as well as results. In a horse race, put your money on the leader who defines both learning and performance goals. Many managers and leaders are performance-driven. They have lists of SMART goals that highlight what they intend to achieve each quarter, often involving numbers: Exceed sales results by 5%. Increase bonuses by 10% by year’s end. Improve team productivity by 25%. Increase shareholder value. Decrease customer complaints. In my coaching work with clients, such performance-driven leaders focus exclusively on the outer game. They judge their worth by whether they’ve achieved these goals, and they hold their people to the same standards. Unfortunately, these leaders are likely missing key factors that restrict their potential: a growth mindset and the ability to set and pursue learning goals for themselves and others. “The desire to learn is as fundamental to our being as the desire to survive and to enjoy.” ~ Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Work Learning goals include: Diminish feelings of stress. Enhance listening skills. Develop empathy skills. Improve coaching skills. Facilitate more cohesive team-building. Performance goals are, of course, necessary for achieving bottom-line results. But keep in mind that the bar is constantly being raised. How do you keep increasing your capacity to perform? If you cannot improve your capabilities, you’re unable to keep up. Learning goals represent the inner game you must work on...
Three Ways to Generate Self-Motivation

Three Ways to Generate Self-Motivation

Whether you’re the boss or working for one, the ability to self-motivate and be highly productive is increasingly important. In today’s competitive job market, you can’t expect to collect a paycheck for just showing up on time. In the 1980s, at least 90 % of people worked for someone else. That’s changed; about one-third of people in U.S. work for themselves, either fully self-employed or as part-time freelancers. In 2006 the Government Accountability Office produced a report that found that 31% of American workers were employed on some kind of contingent basis, including as freelancers, part-time, or temporary workers. According to a 2014 survey by the Freelancers Union together with freelance platform Elance-oDesk, 53 million Americans, or 34% of the population, qualify as freelancers. By 2020, more than 40 percent of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be freelancers, contractors, and temp workers according to a study conducted by software company Intuit. Regardless of employment status, successful people take the initiative, do whatever it takes, and go beyond minimal work requirements. They are self-motivated and able to find unique sources of energy that drive them to high performance. How can you generate self-motivation and energy on those days when you feel tired, overwhelmed, or perhaps even bored? How do you tap into your determination and drive? Isn’t All Motivation Self-motivation? Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior, the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior– as when we form habits. There are many perspectives on motivation theories, and working adults are familiar with rewards programs,...
The Inner Game of Leaders: Battle of the Two Selves

The Inner Game of Leaders: Battle of the Two Selves

In his books on the Inner Game, author Tim Gallwey introduces the idea of Self 1 and Self 2. These "selves" exist in everyone, whether we’re giving or receiving a message. Self 1 is the “big ego”: the know-it-all. Self 1 is judgmental, concerned with winning, being right and showing off. Self 2 is the wise one—the real human being with inherent potential, including the ability to learn, grow and enjoy life. When we act from Self 2, we are receptive and neutral. We observe and listen without any preconceived ideas. We are relaxed, focused, and able to take in and use information. We trust ourselves to make appropriate decisions. We extend trust to others because we act from a place of security and safety. Self 1 doesn’t trust. It acts from a place of insecurity and fear because it’s always judging itself and others, while focusing on being right and winning. Self 1 uses pressure and high standards to get the most out of itself and others. Because Self 1 doesn’t trust natural abilities, it’s critical and stressed. When coaching executives, I hear these two selves in evidence when clients share inner thoughts.  The Critical Voice Guess which "Self" interferes with high performance? In everything from sports and music to work and relationships, Self 1’s stress and anxiety prevent high-performance results. With worry and lost confidence, we think about too many things at once, we tighten up, and we hit the ball into the net. That which we fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s a vicious cycle—one that the inner game urges us to circumvent. Doing so involves...
Coach the Inner Game: Leading with the Right Stuff

Coach the Inner Game: Leading with the Right Stuff

In my work as a coach, I find that the stuff of character is the hardest, yet most significant, aspect of leadership development. Professional leadership coaching is the most effective way to approach leadership development, coupled with robust assessments and feedback surveys. Even the most conservative estimates show a five to seven times return on investment from leadership coaching (Price Waterhouse, ICF study). But coaching success depends on the relationship between leader and coach. The coaching relationship must provide a secure environment to explore character strengths and beliefs. Whether applied to sports or work, the inner game is where we begin to understand ourselves and make key changes. The concept is neither new nor particularly revolutionary, but based on a profound concept: focusing attention without judgment. When you learn to observe behavior (your own and others’) without criticism, you’ll start to see where change is possible. Removing judgment facilitates change. The Coach as Nonjudgmental Partner Communication skills, like listening and observing, are automatic and unconscious. Everyone knows how to do them. Yet, in my experience, we don’t always listen and observe well, without judgment—a requirement for achieving desirable outcomes from conversations. Leaders experience ineffective conversations all the time. When people don’t respond to their suggestions as delivered, they’re repeated louder or with different words. The outcome is resistance. I find that few people enjoy being told what to do, especially when the boss comes across as critical or judgmental. As a leader with authority, you’ll be perceived as controlling and dictatorial. It doesn’t matter how well intentioned you may be. What’s your opinion or experience? Have you worked with...