In Search of Authentic Leaders

Employees at all organizational levels seek meaning and fulfillment at work. Most are willing to work hard for authentic, trustworthy leaders.
Sadly, employee morale is at an all-time low. A 2013 Gallup poll found that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work and psychologically committed to their jobs.
People are not easily fooled or quick to offer their loyalty, which explains why inauthentic leaders struggle to hire and retain exceptional staffers.
Authentic leaders have mastered three key skills: clear vision, formulating sound strategies and finding approaches that inspire others to act. To join this elite club, you must align people around a common purpose and set of values. As they perform at peak levels, they’ll know precisely what’s expected of them.
Three Problems with Authenticity
While virtually every leader has a sense of what “authenticity” means, few know how to develop it as a skill. To complicate matters, being authentic in today’s rapidly evolving global marketplace has its share of challenges.
A too-rigid view of oneself can be an obstacle to leading effectively. Three common leadership pitfalls include:

  1. 1. Being true to yourself. Which self? Depending on your role and the context, you show up differently. You grow and shift with experience and evolve into new roles. How can you be authentic to a future self that is uncertain and unformed?
  2. 2. Maintaining strict coherence between what you feel and what you say or do. You lose credibility as a leader if you disclose everything you think and feel, especially when you’re unproven.
  3. 3. Making values-based decisions. When you move into a bigger role, values shaped by past experiences can misguide you. In the face of new challenges, old decisions may produce authentic, but wrong, behaviors that fail to suit new situations.

Frame Your Life Stories
The journey to authentic leadership begins with understanding your life story, which provides a context for your experiences. Your story is powered by experiences that can help you inspire others and influence them to follow your lead.
That said, life stories are not always pretty. While most of us can reframe negative experiences in a positive light, authenticity requires us to face up to our mistakes and failures. An honest appraisal may prove uncomfortable, but it’s necessary for self-improvement. It also paves the way for authenticity and resilience.
Practice Your Values and Principles
The values that form the basis for authentic leadership are derived from your beliefs and convictions, but you cannot truly know them until they’re tested under pressure.
Leadership principles are values translated into action. Without action that supports your stated values, you cannot be authentic. The hard decisions you make reflect what you truly value.
Balance Your Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations
If you’re like most leaders, you may be reluctant to admit that you measure your success against the outside world’s parameters. You enjoy the recognition and status that come with promotions and financial rewards.
But intrinsic motivations are derived from your life’s meaning and purpose. They’re closely linked to your life story and how you frame it (i.e., personal growth, helping other people develop, social causes, making a difference in the world).
Authenticity requires you to balance your desire for external validation with the intrinsic motivations that provide fulfillment at work.
Build Your Support Team
Authentic leaders build extraordinary support teams to help them stay on course. Team members provide counsel in times of uncertainty, offer extra assistance in difficult times and share in celebrations of success.
Support teams consist of spouses and families, close friends and colleagues, and mentors and coaches. Leaders must give as much to their supporters as they receive from them. Only then can mutually beneficial relationships develop.
Develop as an Authentic Leader
In “Your Development as an Authentic Leader” (Harvard Business Review, February 2007), Bill George, Peter Sims, Andrew N. McLean and Diana Mayer urge leaders to ask themselves the following questions:
1. Which people and experiences in your early life had the greatest impact on you?

2. Which tools do you use to become self-aware?
What is your authentic self?
In which moments do you say to yourself, “This is the real me?”
3. Name your most deeply held values.
Where did they come from?
Have your values changed significantly since your childhood?
How do your values inform your actions?
4. What motivates you extrinsically?
What are your intrinsic motivations?
How do you balance extrinsic and intrinsic motivations?
5. What kind of support team do you have?
How can your support team make you a more authentic leader?
How should you diversify your team to broaden your perspective?
6. Is your life integrated?
Are you able to be the same person in all aspects of your life (personal, work, family and community)?
If not, what’s holding you back?
7. What does authenticity mean in your life?
Are you a more effective leader when you behave authentically?
Have you ever paid a price for your authenticity? Was it worth it?
8. What steps can you take today, tomorrow and over the next year to develop authentic leadership?
Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts and heads. They establish long-term, meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They know who they are.
Ultimately, superior results over a sustained period make for an authentic leader. It may be possible to drive short-term outcomes without being authentic, but authentic leadership is the only way we know to create sustainable long-term results.
 

The Under-Management Epidemic

Are you part of the under management epidemic, or are you a truly engaged manager?
A recent survey reports 9 out of 10 managers are providing insufficient oversight – a problem that consultant Bruce Tulgan calls the “under-management epidemic.”
Ten years ago, research from Rainmaker Thinking, Inc., confirmed an epidemic of workplace under-management. The firm’s ongoing study reveals that under-managing remains rampant. A full 90% of all leaders and managers do not provide direct reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching.
Under-managing occurs when leaders with supervisory authority fail to regularly and consistently provide employees with five vital management basics:

  1. Clear statements of broad performance requirements and specific expectations
  2. Support and guidance regarding resources necessary to meet requirements and expectations
  3. Accurate monitoring, measurement and documentation of individuals’ actual performance
  4. Regular candid feedback about actual performance
  5. Rewards and penalties distributed in proportion to actual performance

Managers report several reasons for failing to provide consistent management basics (in decreasing order):

  1. Lack of time (largely due to non-managerial responsibilities and increased spans of control)
  2. Lack of sufficient training in the best practices, tools and techniques of effective supervision, management and leadership
  3. Lack of sufficient resources and support – a function of increased productivity requirements and tight budgets
  4. Constantly changing priorities
  5. Logistical constraints (i.e., remote locations, different schedules, language or cultural barriers)

Energy and Time Drains
Here’s how most managers spend their time:

  1. Attending Too Many Mediocre Meetings. If you’re like most managers, your No. 1 time suck is meetings.
    • o People fill seats without any purpose. Then they sit there, waiting for something to come up that falls within their domain. They’d rather be productively working.
    • o Meetings seldom foster accountability. It’s too easy to hide in a meeting, shirk responsibility, blame others and divert attention.
    • o Poor meeting preparation and agenda planning encourage mediocre meetings.
  2. Dealing with a Tidal Wave of Email. So much of our email is unnecessary, duplicative and sloppy.
    • Train your people to spot the messages on which you should be copied.
    • Make sure they address an email to you directly when critical information is in play.
    • Until you give them guidelines, people will automatically copy you on every message and generate a ton of useless emails. Never forget that a 15-minute, high-substance personal conversation trumps a barrage of emails.
  3. Touching Base, Checking in and Chit-Chatting.Limit face-to-face conversations to high-substance content. Stay on topic with questions like:
    • What are you doing? How are you doing it? What steps are you taking?
    • Let me see what you’ve got so far.
    • What’s next?
    • How long will that take?
  4. Interrupting and Being Interrupted.When something pops into your head, write it down and save it for your next scheduled conversation. You don’t like interruptions; the same applies to your staff.5. Reviewing Dashboard Metrics with Employees and Conducting Formal Reviews. While most reviews are highly structured, they often focus on outcomes – not on what people can actually control. Provide immediate feedback, whenever possible.

“High Structure”/”Substance”
Tulgan advises managers to set aside an hour a day to hold conversations with three to four employees (about 15 minutes per person). Be sure to have a well-organized agenda. Additionally:

    • Prepare in advance. Make sure your direct reports prepare, as well.
    • Follow a regular, yet personalized, format for each employee.
    • Start with top priorities, open questions and any work in progress.
    • Consider holding these conversations while standing or walking, as appropriate. Use a clipboard to make notes and maintain your focus.
    • Don’t do all the talking. Recognize the value of listening.
    • Don’t let anyone go more than two weeks without meeting.

Make sure content is immediately relevant and specific to each person/situation. This is where many managers miss the boat. As stated earlier, pre-planning is key. Follow these guidelines:

    • Regularly remind each person of broad performance standards.
    • Turn best practices into standard operating procedures; teach them to everyone.
    • Use plans and step-by-step checklists, whenever possible.
    • Focus on concrete actions within each employee’s control.
    • Monitor, measure and document in writing each individual’s performance.
    • Follow up. Provide regular, candid, coaching-style feedback.
    • Follow through with real consequences and rewards based on how performance relates to expectations.

High-structure/-substance conversations provide a clear window into employee problems before they become crises. Engaged managers use this tool to learn what’s really going on. Doing so each day, starting with a minimum of 1 hour, will prevent potential challenges from exploding into fires.
Use these conversations to identify and memorialize any negative behaviors. Be sure to:

  1. Pinpoint problem language, tones and gestures.
  2. Connect behaviors to tangible work outcomes.
  3. Reference performance requirements or best practices from which negative behaviors deviate.
  4. Suggest replacement behaviors, and have the employee commit to trying them.
  5. Continue to follow up in future conversations.

If any of your people complain during your meetings, ask them to provide solutions to the problems they see. Have them prepare an executive summary that covers key points:

    • Here’s the issue.
    • These are the options.
    • This is the option I propose.
    • This is why my option is best for the business.
    • Here’s what it would cost (money, time, people, other resources).
    • This is where we could get the resources.
    • This is what the plan would look like.
    • Here’s the role I propose for myself in executing that plan.

Productivity and quality improve almost immediately when leaders, managers, and supervisors begin spending time daily in one-on-one conversations to provide vital management basics.

Mental Toughness for Success

Few of us wake up in the morning with the intention of being a hero. Instead, we hope to get by without any major stumbling blocks and aim to do what is expected of us.
It’s only when confronted with obstacles that threaten to derail our routines and plans that we don the armor and go into battle. As they say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
Here’s something to think about: What if we’re missing opportunities to get what we want – and help others get what they want – by not seeing the obstacles early enough?
Successful people don’t limit their worldview. They aren’t imprisoned in their mind by circumstances. They see a universe of possibilities. They don’t want to simply “get by”, but rather they use mental toughness to ask for more, no matter the barriers.
What Is Mental Toughness?
Some people think that mental toughness is the ability to plow through circumstances without being affected by emotions or feelings. When it comes to success, however, high performers know that the key is to identify, control, and manage emotions, both their own and others’.
“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind ‘ you could call it “character in action”. – Vince Lombardi
Mental toughness means perceiving, understanding, using, and managing feelings. When you are aware and curious about emotions, you are sensitive to others’ needs. This puts you in a stronger position to sort out negative from positive feelings and make better decisions.
Wikipedia describes mental toughness as a collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances and emerge without losing confidence.
Only within the past ten years has scientific research attempted a formal definition of mental toughness as a psychological construct.
Dr. Jim Loehr of the Human Performance Institute, in his book The New Toughness Training for Sports, defined mental toughness as “the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your talent and skill regardless of competitive circumstances.”

Self-Awareness Required

Self-awareness is the ability to accurately perceive your own emotions. To be successful, you must stay alert to emotions in order to manage behavior in various contexts.
It’s not enough to be aware; mental toughness means you are both willing and able to tolerate the discomfort of negative feelings.

“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” ~ Lao Tzu

You don’t need to spend time discovering the deep dark secrets of your inner world but rather developing an honest understanding of what makes you tick.
Mental toughness strengthens your ability to distinguish positive emotions from negative ones. Then you can choose to express feelings appropriately in a way that connects with other people, their needs, and desired outcomes.
When you become more sensitive to feelings, you can do three things:
1. Identify what creates stress
2. Pinpoint what motivates positive behavior
3. Listen and talk in ways that resolve conflicts rather than escalate them

Also Required: Self-Discipline

Self-discipline is not an attitude of harshness; instead it requires inner strength to choose what you will make a priority. To become competent in your field, you’ll have to study, practice, make mistakes, and find new ways to solve problems. This means you have to persist until you find a path that works successfully.

In terms of instilling the values of mental toughness and work ethic, discipline is the gift that keeps on giving. ~ William Baldwin

As a result, you create authentic skills you can rely upon when confronted by obstacles. This is how you build mental toughness and strength to do things better, more confidently.

Tips to Build Mental Toughness

A good book on the subject is Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths by LaRae Quy.
1. Identify your emotional hot buttons. Knowing who or what pushes our buttons and when it happens is critical to developing the ability to control a situation. This awareness allows you to carefully choose your actions and words, thus avoiding unproductive behaviors that sabotage success.
a. Notice your emotions as they arise, both positive and negative, without judging. Simply observe them with curiosity.
b. Slow yourself down with deep breathing so the fast, emotional brain doesn’t overtake the slower, rational brain.
c. Pinpoint the circumstances that produce emotional reactions. This awareness will enable you to calibrate your reactions in future situations.
2. Observe others as well as yourself. Notice emotions in other people. Becoming a keen observer of behavior is critical to understanding others. Ask questions to find out more about how others think, react, and choose priorities. But remember:
a. Everyone’s different. Simply observe and inquire.
b. There are no right or wrong reactions; allow people their uniqueness.
c. Observe, inquire, and learn without an agenda. Do not judge.
d. Cultivate and express a curiosity about life and other people.
3. Don’t settle into complacency. Success seduces us into becoming set in our ways. We love routine and we readily accept assumptions. Don’t let your comfort zone turn into a limiting barrier. Stretch and challenge your habits. Always ask questions, such as “What if”. Try new things.
4. Express gratitude as a power emotion. Nothing resolves conflicts and energizes people more than appreciation, yet most of us don’t express it enough. We have a negativity bias and are too quick to point out flaws in both others and ourselves.
Mental toughness must be built on a solid foundation of emotional intelligence, self-awareness, discipline, and positive social relationships.

Motivate without Overmanaging

Many business leaders have lost sight of what motivates people at work. In fact, some companies haven’t updated their incentive practices in years, which means they’re probably struggling to create and – sustain high – performing teams.
Companies continue to ignore the obvious: Offering incentives and rewards is less effective than tapping into truly meaningful intrinsic motivation. Leaders operate on old assumptions about motivation despite a wealth of well-documented scientific evidence.
The old “carrot-and-stick” mentality actually inhibits employees from seeking creative solutions, partly because they focus on attaining rewards instead of solving problems. Review the most notorious business failures, and you’ll find that company leaders focused on rewarding short-term results at the expense of sustaining success. Effective motivation requires you to offer opportunities that satisfy three basic human needs:
1. Autonomy
2. Relatedness
3. Competence
This approach is far from new. Social scientists have grasped what motivates people for more than 60 years. But managers continue to use the carrot/stick model with incentive programs. Regardless of gender, race, culture or generation, the reality is clear: Are you satisfying your people’s psychological needs?
I’m reading Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work – and What Does: The New Science of Leading, Energizing, and Engaging by consultant Susan Fowler. The book serves as a good reminder that managers must periodically review their motivational techniques to recapture their leadership mojo.

The Motivational Trifecta

1. Autonomy
“Autonomy is our human need to perceive we have choices. It is our need to feel that what we are doing is of our own volition. It is our perception that we are the source of our actions.” ~ Fowler
As adults, we never lose our need for autonomy. Productivity significantly increases for blue-collar workers in manufacturing plants when they are given the ability to stop the line. So does the productivity of white-collar workers in major investment banks who report a high sense of autonomy.
But when managers become too involved in coaching, encouraging and pushing people to be productive, they can actually undermine perceived autonomy. It’s a fine line that requires Goldilocks management: just the right amount.
2. Relatedness
Relatedness is defined as our need to care about, and be cared for by, others. “It is our need to feel connected to others without concerns about ulterior motives,” Fowler notes. “It is our need to feel that we are contributing to something greater than ourselves.”
In 1924, Western Electric conducted one of the first studies on workplace behaviors at Hawthorne Works, a plant located just outside of Chicago. Researchers found that workers were more productive when they knew they were being observed and were included in social interactions. George Elton Mayo described this as a positive emotional effect stemming from workers’ awareness of a sympathetic, interested observer.
We are social animals. When offered opportunities to work together, as in teams, our engagement and productivity increase. We thrive on connection. Think about it: We spend an enormous percentage of our time at work, getting ready for work, preparing for meetings and presentations, and thinking about what we’re going to say or do. Some experts estimate we spend 75 percent of our waking hours focused on work. If our relationship needs go unmet at work, we’re unlikely to compensate outside the workplace.
Leaders have enormous opportunities to help their people find meaning in workplace interpersonal experiences. If you make the mistake of applying pressure to perform without regarding how people feel, they’ll likely interpret your actions as self- serving. This never works. Your staff will instead disconnect and disengage.
3. Competence: Lessons from Monkeys

“Competence is our need to feel effective at meeting everyday challenges and opportunities. It is demonstrating skill over time. It is feeling a sense of growth and flourishing.” ~ Fowler

In 1949, psychologist Harry Harlow placed puzzles in monkeys’ cages and was surprised to find that the primates successfully solved them. Harlow saw no logical reason for them to do so. So, what motivated them? The answer is threefold:

  • The monkeys’ survival didn’t depend on solving the puzzles.
  • They didn’t receive any rewards, nor avoid any punishments, for their work.
  • They solved the puzzles because they had a desire to do so.

As to their motivation, Harlow offered a novel theory: “The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward.” That is, the monkeys performed because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it, and the joy of the task served as its own reward.
Further experiments found that offering external rewards to solve these puzzles didn’t improve performance. In fact, rewards disrupted task completion. This led Harlow to identify a third motivational drive:
1. The first drive for behaviors is survival. We drink, eat and copulate to ensure our survival.
2. The second drive is to seek rewards and avoid punishment.
3. The third drive is intrinsic: to achieve internal satisfaction.

What Motivates People?

Twenty years passed before psychologist Edward Deci, now a professor at the University of Rochester, followed up on Harlow’s studies.
In 1969, he ran a series of experiments that showed students lost intrinsic interest in an activity when money was offered as an external reward. These results surprised many behavioral scientists. Although rewards can deliver a short-term boost, the effect wears off. Even worse, rewards can reduce a person’s longer-term motivation to continue a project.
Deci and Richard Ryan later expanded on the earlier studies. Their Self-Determination Theory proposed three main intrinsic needs involved in self- determination, each of which is universal, innate and psychological:
1. Competence
2. Autonomy
3. Psychological relatedness
Deci proposed that human beings have an inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn. Unlike drives (for thirst, food and sex), these needs are never completely satisfied. Even after we attain degrees of competency, autonomy and relatedness, we still want more.
Trying to motivate people with the promise of rewards simply doesn’t work. You cannot impose growth, learning and meaning upon people; they must find it for themselves. But you can promote a learning environment that doesn’t undermine people’s sense of competence.

Motivating without Micromanaging

Most managers want to motivate people to peak- performance, but their approach often backfires. In their fervent desire to teach people what they know to be true (after all, it worked to get them promoted to management, right?), some managers enthusiastically over-manage.
Over-management can manifest as micromanagement. When you tell staffers what to do, how to do it, when to do it and why your way is better, you undermine their ability to think for themselves. Instead of enjoying some control over the way they work, they begin to feel powerless and controlled. They many even start to doubt their competency. Their relationship with you deteriorates, as it is now based on compliance and conformity.
Managers who micromanage destroy any chance for their people to find meaning and fulfillment at work. Your staff’s basic psychological needs for autonomy, relatedness and competency remain unfulfilled, prompting them to withdraw and disengage.

The Domino Effect

Mess with one and the others fall like dominoes.
Don’t make the mistake of believing your people lack motivation. People want to learn, grow, enjoy work, be productive and make a contribution. They want to enjoy relationships at work. It’s human nature.
When our psychological needs are satisfied, we experience positive energy, vitality and a sense of well-being. We strive for more. You’ve likely experienced this with your hobbies. No one needs to tell you to engage in something you enjoy; you do it because you derive pleasure from it.

Motivational Conversations

Boost employee commitment by conducting a motivational outlook conversation. Ask your people to identify what motivates them to do their work. Your goal is to help them identify motivating factors that have maximum impact and create optimum energy.
Most people identify several reasons for working: from the external (money or status) to the internal (finding meaning, acting on one’s values and ideals, aspiring to a higher purpose). Fowler adds the following:
1. Inherence: I enjoy doing this.
2. Integration: Work helps me fulfill my purpose as a leader.
3. Alignment: I value developing people.
She also cites negative motivational outlooks:
4. Imposition: I have to; it’s my job.
5. Externalization: It’s what I’m paid to do.
6. Disinterest: I’d rather be doing something else.
Start to regard motivation as a skill – one that can be learned, acquired, encouraged and sustained. Each of us can choose our motivation.
Motivational conversations help people discover different reasons for doing their work. Once they pinpoint their current motivations, they can work toward finding their internal motivations – ideally, those that relate to their values.
It may take several conversations for staffers to deliver their best work through values they truly care about. You can help them see the bigger picture and connect the dots to feeling valued.
Remember: People are already motivated. You can provide a culture that encourages higher levels. Don’t succumb to organizational systems that favor driving over thriving. It doesn’t have to be that way.

How Well Do You Know Yourself

Do You Know Yourself Well?
How well do you think you know yourself? Self-awareness is key to success in work, life, and relationships.
Knowing yourself, and knowing the forces that affect the people who work for you, holds the key to being a successful leader.” ~ Kenneth M. Settel, MD, Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, CEO Psychology: Who Rises, Who Falls and Why (RosettaBooks, 2012)
Many of us know our character strengths, and over time have worked to develop them. At the same time, not being cognizant of our weaknesses can blindside our success.
The very character traits that peg you as having high potential may prevent you from making it to the finish line. Every strength has a downside when carried to the extreme. Self-awareness can prevent self-sabotage.
The Pitfalls of Strengths
Here are a few examples of personality traits with both their positive and negative sides from Dr. Rick Brinkman in his book Dealing with People You Can’t Stand.
You probably have a sense of your personal talents and liabilities. Learning how to leverage them – amplifying your strengths while minimizing your weaknesses – sets the stage for good interpersonal relationships. You’ll become less vulnerable and less sensitive to criticism.
Even the strongest, most talented people have flaws. Each of us is driven by conscious and unconscious forces that must be channeled into positive outcomes, so its important to seek personal development opportunities at every stage of your life. You won’t gain self-knowledge in a vacuum, so consider working with a mentor or experienced coach.
Here’s the challenge: if you were to sit down and write out your personality traits and then list a couple of ways they show up as a strength and as a weakness, would you be able to do it? Do you know yourself well?
We have self-centered minds which get us into plenty of trouble. If we do not come to understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness which is our greatest blessingis also our downfall.~ Joko Beck, author
Open and Closed Mindsets
Eminent psychologist and human intelligence expert Howard Gardner (Extraordinary Minds, 1997) points out that exceptional people have a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. They have open minds and are willing to take in feedback about their own deficiencies so they can improve themselves and their organizational performance.
People with a closed mindset, on the other hand, take in only the information that supports their views, and they’re more concerned with appearing superior and right. As a result, they easily distort information so they’ll look good.
Carol Dweck, PhD, an expert in motivation and personality psychology (Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, 2006), has discovered that mindset is not just a minor personality quirk. It creates our whole mental worldview and determines whether we become optimistic or pessimistic. It shapes our goals and attitudes toward work and relationships, and it ultimately predicts whether we will fulfill our potential.
Everyone has one of two basic mindsets:

  1. 1. One mindset is open to growth and learning, believing one can always do better.
  2. 2. The closed mindset is entrenched in the belief that natural talents and abilities predetermine success.

People with open mindsets believe they can always learn more, do more, and improve. They are confident, yet humble enough to work harder to expand their potential. They accept criticism as important feedback, not as a personal insult.
People with closed mindsets believe their innate talents rather than hard work will lead them to succeed.
They constantly seek validation of their worth and want to be right, instead of demonstrating an interest in accepting feedback and a willingness to make changes or adjustments.
If you have an open mindset, you know your talents can be nurtured and that great abilities improve over time. This is the path to opportunity – and success. On the other hand, if you find it difficult to accept and learn from criticism, you might be operating with a closed mindset.
How to Expand Self-Awareness
It’s hard to know how you come across to others if you don’t ask for feedback, which requires taking a risk and feeling vulnerable. With a growth mindset, however, you can open yourself to learning through conversations with trusted peers, a mentor, or a coach.
Here are areas that merit exploring in order to expand your awareness of how you respond to situations:

  • Emotions:
    • o How do you handle emotions, both your own and others’?
    • o Do you know your “hot buttons”?
    • o Are you aware of your feelings as they arise?
    • o How well do you pick up on the feelings of others?
    • o Situations:
    • o How well can you read situations, climates, contexts?
    • o Are you able to grasp the nature of a problem and analyze key points?
    • o How curious are you about things you don’t know much about?
    • o Failure:
    • o How well do you handle your own and others? mistakes?
    • o How do you assign blame?
    • o Are you open to hearing feedback?
    • o Do you play devil’s advocate, willingly examining your assumptions?
    • o Can you own your responsibility in a problem?
    • o Ego:
    • o Do you try to keep your ego in check?
    • o Do you encourage the success of others?
    • o Do you express gratitude regularly?
    • o Do you try to express more positive thoughts than negative ones?
    • o Are you neither too harsh nor too lax with yourself?
    • o Do you try to suspend judgment of other people, places, and things?

Self-awareness requires sensitivity to both inner and outer realities, knowing full well you can never perceive things without your own biases and filters. By keeping a growth mindset, you can ask the questions needed to listen and learn.
 

Leading With Trust

Leading with Trust:
Principles and Practice

A Watson Wyatt Worldwide study of 12,750 U.S. workers in all major industries found that companies with high trust levels outperform their low-trust counterparts by 186 percent.
In a 2011 Maritz survey, only seven percent of more than 90,000 employees worldwide said they trust their senior leaders to look out for their best interests. It’s not just a problem for rank-and-file employees. Roughly half of all managers distrust their leaders, according to a Golin Harris survey of 450 executives at 30 global companies.
Despite the importance of trust, few leaders give it the focus it deserves. Misunderstood as a nebulous “feeling”, trust is earned through consistent, positive behaviors practiced over time.
Two of the best books on this important topic are:

  1. 1. The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2001), by leadership consultants David Maister, Charles Green and Robert Galford
  2. 2. The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, 2011), by Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe.

5 Trust-Building Skills
Trustworthy leaders practice and master five key abilities:
1. Listen Well
Most leaders use their listening skills to gather information. But listening is a critical tool for connecting with others, building relationships and strengthening influence. You must pay attention, be empathic and let others know you understand them.
2. Partner
Partnership involves collaborating (not competing), committing to fairness, balancing assertiveness and cooperation, dealing with disagreements, and sharing responsibility for successes and failures.
3. Improvise
Things don’t always go as planned. Glitches and challenges can be “moments of truth” that require rational and emotional flexibility. Leaders are stretched at times, but your ability to handle moments of truth determines your trustworthiness.
4. Take Risks
Trust cannot exist without taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. Every risk you take builds trust. Leaders must be courageous enough to overcome their fears and confront challenging situations with curiosity and authenticity.
5. Know Yourself
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to delegate and collaborate more effectively. Work with a trusted mentor or executive coach to identify blind spots that impede self-knowledge.
3 Common Blind Spots
The traits that make you a strong leader may inadvertently interfere with building self-awareness and trusting relationships. Consider these common blind spots:

  • You don’t realize the extent of your need to be liked. How often do you avoid saying or doing something because it might be unpopular?
  • You’ve underestimated the intensity of your internal drive to achieve. Results-oriented leaders habitually move too quickly from fully listening to pushing for commitments.
  • You overlook your discomfort with feeling unprepared. Leaders aren’t clairvoyant and don’t have all the answers. This uneasiness may prevent you from engaging in collaboration and depending on others.

4 Components of Trust
Four key components contribute to your overall trustworthiness.

  1. 1. Credibility (the realm of words): Our level of expertise and how we present our knowledge determine our credibility. When we study facts and complete analytical research, we build up our credibility. We boost credibility in our business conversations by:
  1. a) Developing formidable expertise in our industry
  2. b) Staying current with industry trends and business news
  3. c) Offering our point of view (when we have one)
  4. d) Being willing to say “I don’t know” when this is an honest answer
  5. e) Expressing passion for our areas of expertise
  6. f) Communicating with self-assurance (a firm handshake, direct eye contact, a confident air)
  1. 2. Reliability (the realm of actions): Do you fulfill the promises you make? Do you deliver on your commitments? Reliability is built over time, but it can be destroyed in a second. Boost your reliability with consistency, predictability and certainty:
  1. a) State expectations up front. Regularly reinforce them.
  2. b) Make lots of small promises, and consistently follow through on them.
  3. c) Be prompt.
  4. d) Communicate if you fall behind. Take responsibility for delays.
  5. e) Respect organizational norms and culture.
  1. 3. Intimacy (the realm of emotions): It’s easy to keep a professional distance in our interactions, but the “all-business” leader rarely gets ahead. The problem with intimacy is that the word carries a connotation of closeness that isn’t appropriate at work. In reality, intimacy refers to your willingness to share appropriate information about the things that truly matter.

Boost intimacy by sharing personal experiences and values. Learn to:

  1. a) Listen beyond the words. Pick up on tone, emotion and mood. Acknowledge these elements aloud.
  2. b) Tell people what you really appreciate about them. Don’t keep it to yourself!
  3. c) Use people’s names in conversations.
  4. d) Share something personal about yourself. This makes you more human and interesting.
  1. 4. Self-Orientation (the realm of motives): Without doubt, we are all self-motivated to a degree. But we also want what’s best for others, the company or the team. How often do you speak about yourself: your wants, needs, goals and priorities? Are you oriented toward finding win-win solutions that take others’ needs into account?

When trust breaks down, excess self-orientation is usually to blame. You can lower your level of self-orientation in relationships by:

  1. a) Taking time to find the best solution
  2. b) Sharing time, resources and ideas
  3. c) Asking lots of questions from a place of curiosity and figuring out your partner’s definition of success
  4. d) Negotiating for a true win-win
  5. e) Listening even when it’s uncomfortable to be silent
  6. f) Speaking hard truths, even when it’s awkward
  7. g) Giving your partner the credit for ideas and achievements

Understanding your quirks and weaknesses allows you to rein in your ego and increase your trustworthiness.
 

Your Personal Presence: Appearances Matter

It’s often the little things that count. Like it or not, first impressions matter. Our human brains size up people in less than 250 milliseconds. While character and communication skills are key, you won’t influence the people you wish to if your appearance telegraphs that you’re clueless.
Whether you’re an executive up for promotion, an employee seeking more responsibilities, or a parent involved in community or team activities, how you look will open doors and put you in play.
There’s a connection between looking good and feeling capable. When we look our best, we feel confident. And research shows there’s also a big link between our appearance and whether we are perceived as competent or not.
People who look attractive and well-groomed are perceived by others as more capable, likable, and even more trustworthy.
It’s not surprising, however, that colleagues, mentors, and even your best friends are reluctant to give feedback on how you should improve your wardrobe, hair, and grooming. Advice on appearances is difficult for anyone to give, even with best interests at heart. At work, it’s even more perilous to critique appearances, especially to women and minorities.
Surveys can offer some guidelines as to what senior leaders expect. Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 268 executives and interviewed 4,000 college-educated adults on executive presence, including appearance.
According to senior leaders, there are five aspects comprising good appearance:

  1. 1. Being polished and groomed
  2. 2. Being physically attractive, fit, slim
  3. 3. Simple, stylish clothes that position you for your next job
  4. 4. Being tall
  5. 5. Being youthful and vigorous

Polish and Grooming
More than a third of surveyed executives considered polish and grooming the most vital to one’s personal presence, ahead of physical attractiveness (less than a fifth). It’s not your body type, height, or weight that matters most. It’s what you do with what you’ve got.
Anyone can improve his or her looks through better grooming habits. While dress standards vary, good grooming signals discipline, competency, good health, and that you care.
In a study at Harvard Medical School, judgments about a woman’s competence, likeability, and trustworthiness were affected by how much makeup she wore. The more makeup worn, the higher the women were rated.
When you make an effort to look polished, you signal to others that you see them as worth your time and investment. It telegraphs that you take your work seriously. Senior leaders say that failure to come through on the grooming front signals either poor judgment or lack of discipline.
Rules of Engagement
Achieving polish comes down to minimizing distractions from your skill sets, the message you’re trying to convey, and the changes you want to influence.
While the specifics of dress, makeup, hair, and grooming vary according to geographical and industry contexts, always make sure your appearance focuses the audience on your competencies rather than act as a potential distraction.
Women need to avoid dressing in any way that draws attention to their sexuality, yet without appearing frumpy. Men need to be aware of group standards for their gender – how formally or informally do others in their audience dress? Is a suit and tie the norm, or will a polo shirt and slacks suffice?
At the same time, each individual needs to be authentic and not just copy others. When you wear clothes that feel uncomfortable, it detracts from your internal confidence.
Attractiveness Counts
There’s a lot of research that proves that intrinsically attractive people have an easier time:

  • They get hired more often
  • They earn more (taller people earn $789 more per inch per year)
  • They fare better in justice court sentencing
  • Attractive candidates get more votes
  • Attractive students get more attention from teachers

The fact that beautiful people earn more can be attributed to three things:

  1. 1. They are more confident (in 20% of cases).
  2. 2. They are considered more competent by employers (although a wrong assumption in 30% of cases).
  3. 3. They have communication and social skills that enable them to interact well (in 50% of cases).

Image Matters
The good news is that polish and grooming can enhance your perceived attractiveness. It doesn’t take genetic re-engineering, or money, or plastic surgery. To be perceived taller, you can stand tall, walk tall, and sit tall by adjusting your posture and using larger gestures.
Carefully observe those you know who make the best of their appearance. Ask them what they do. What are their rules for choosing wardrobe or makeup? What are the taboos?
Good Packaging
When choosing a product in a store, our eyes are drawn to packaging that’s well-designed yet useful in that it tells us what to expect. Our exterior selves are no different, albeit more complex. Think about the image you want to project and start with the end in mind.
In addition to wardrobe, consider all the accessories that complete the picture: your notebook, writing instruments, briefcases. When you open up your carrying case, is it messy and unorganized? Does it take too long for you to find a necessary file?
Even your desk and workspace fill out the impression you make on others. If you have a meeting at work, how do others see you based on your visible organizational skills? What do your personal items communicate? Personal presence extends to your surroundings, even your car if you have to give someone a ride.

“The “little” things can make a big difference in landing a job, getting a promotion, winning a contract, or leading an organization through change.”
– Dianna Booher, Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader

When was the last time you updated your “look”? You’d be surprised how much it influences how you are perceived. You can make a better first and lasting impression, and it all starts with appearance.
 

Executive Presence

Leading with Intention, Connection and Inspiration

Whether you call it charisma, confidence or compelling leadership, executive presence is the new corporate “it” factor.
We’re talking about more than making a great first impression. Presence is multifaceted, builds over time, and is reflected in everything you say, feel and do.
In today’s competitive business environment, executive presence can make or break your ability to influence others during periods of uncertainty and change. It encourages people to seek you out and opens doors.
The concept of presence is nebulous for most people, but we all have it to a degree – and we know it when we see it in others. But most of us are unsure of how to increase our presence and develop it in others. Many people assume it’s about showmanship, charm, unabashed confidence and smooth speaking skills, but this only scratches the surface.

Leading with Intention, Connection and Inspiration

Fortunately, a spate of new books do a good job of covering the topic. Three of the best ones are:

  1. 1. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, by Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern (Penguin Group, 2004)
  2. 2. The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, by Kristi Hedges (Amacom, 2012)
  3. 3. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (HarperBusiness, 2014)

Specific Criteria
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, surveyed 4,000 college-educated professionals (including 268 senior executives) to find out what coworkers and bosses look for when evaluating executive presence.
Three criteria proved critical:

  1. 1. How you act (gravitas): 67%
  2. 2. How you speak (communication): 28%
  3. 3. How you look (appearance): 5%

Gravitas signals intellectual expertise, but also confidence and credibility. Senior executives picked projecting confidence and grace under fire as presence’s most important qualities.
You communicate authority through your speaking skills and ability to command a room, the top presence picks by senior leaders. Eye contact matters enormously, according to executives surveyed, as do voice, bearing and body language.
The 5% importance attributed to appearance is misleading. Standards of appearance for leaders matter, but those being judged for executive presence already meet entry-level requirements. After that, polish and grooming contribute most.
Research from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that colleagues size up your competence, likability and trustworthiness in 250 milliseconds, based simply on looks.
First impressions matter, of course, but after that, it’s up to you to fill in the rest of the story by exuding executive presence. Your ongoing choices and actions (or lack thereof) have a considerable impact on your presence. Improvement requires you to shift your mindset, develop new behaviors and leave your comfort zone of safe habits.
An Inside Job
Presence comes from within. Your mindset creates the platform from which you speak, act and express emotions.
Begin by paying attention to how you “show up” and go about your day. How do you:

  • Connect with people?
  • Express your feelings?
  • Listen?
  • Behave?
  • Inspire others?

Next, clarify your intentions:

  • Which core values and guiding purpose truly matter (for you, for the company)?
  • Who do I intend to be (as an individual, as a member of the company)?
  • How do I intend to contribute?
  • What will I do now? What will I do next?

Intention, Connection, Inspiration
At the core of leadership is connection with others. The relationship you have with your subordinates determines how effectively you’ll influence them toward desired outcomes.
If you foster trust and empathy in your relationships, you’ll no doubt build higher-quality connections. But authentic connections can be tricky: Access to others is granted, and not automatically. A leadership position may ensure obedience (if you’re lucky), but it doesn’t guarantee trusted connections.
Winning over hearts and minds requires a nuanced approach to each individual. There are no time-saving ways to accomplish this, nor should you do it simply because it’s good for business.
Making individual connections is the only way to have a finger on the pulse of corporate culture and keep communication lines open.
The PRES Model of Leadership Presence
The three previously mentioned books offer different models for developing presence, albeit with some overlap.
Lubar and Halpern developed the “PRES” model in Leadership Presence:

  • P = Presence: the ability to be completely in the moment and flexible enough to handle the unexpected
  • R = Reaching Out: the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening and authentic connection
  • E = Expressiveness: the ability to express feelings and emotions appropriately by using all available means (words, voice, body, face) to deliver one congruent message
  • S = Self-Knowing: the ability to accept yourself, be authentic and reflect your values in your decisions and actions

These elements build upon each other and contribute to establishing overall presence. There are interior and exterior aspects for each component. Presence starts with mindset and radiates outward towards others.
Also important is what the PRES model is not:

  • Being Present – not pretentious
  • Reaching Out – not looking down
  • Being Expressive – not impressive
  • Being Self-Knowing – not self-absorbed

Self-knowledge separates leadership presence from self-centered charisma. You must understand your values and ensure your actions conform to them (words and deeds). Only then can you inspire others to act similarly.
 

Emotional Expressiveness for Leaders

“Great leaders move us. They ignite our passion and inspire the best in us. When we try to explain why they are so effective, we speak of strategy, vision or powerful ideas. But the reality is much more primal. Great leadership works through the emotions.” ~ Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, Primal Leadership (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

How well do the leaders in your organization express their emotions? What about you? Do you appropriately articulate your feelings? Do you use emotional expressiveness to persuade and inspire others?
Leaders are responsible for their organizations’ energy levels. While research has demonstrated a strong link among excitement, commitment and business results, many leaders stumble at emotional expressiveness. They hesitate to express both positive and negative emotions in an effort to maintain credibility, authority and gravitas. Consequently, they’re losing one of the best tools for achieving impact.

Emotional Intelligence

“The role of emotional maturity in leadership is crucial.”

~ Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern, Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire (Penguin Group, USA, 2004)
MBA programs don’t teach emotional expressiveness, although professors often address emotional intelligence as an important leadership quality.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your – and others’ – moods and emotions, and it’s a critical component of effective leadership. Leaders at all organizational levels must master:

  1. Appraisal and expression of emotions
  2. Use of emotion to enhance cognitive processes and decision-making
  3. The psychology of emotions
  4. Appropriate management of emotions

Every message has an emotional component, so leaders must learn to articulate and express their feelings. Mastering this objective inspires your team in five essential domains:

  1. Developing collective goals
  2. Instilling an appreciation of work’s importance
  3. Generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation and trust
  4. Encouraging flexibility in decision-making and change management
  5. Establishing and maintaining a meaningful organizational identity

Leaders create authentic relationships by expressing interest in their people and showing empathy. They must also learn to express their emotions publicly.

Myths about Emotions

When leaders communicate, they often focus on message clarity and overlook its important emotional component. To generate excitement, they need to master their emotional expressiveness.
But most leaders demonstrate resistance. They cling to long-standing assumptions that showing emotions:

  • Is unbecoming
  • Undermines authority
  • Reveals a lack of control
  • Conveys irrationality
  • Indicates weakness and vulnerability
  • Isn’t masculine (and is, therefore, too feminine)

Men in leadership positions don’t want to come across as dictatorial, angry or moody. Their female counterparts avoid showing emotions because they believe it plays into stereotypes about women being high-strung.

Does Your Head Overrule Your Heart?

In business, we’re highly respected for our sharp minds, to the extent that we frequently squelch our emotional voices.
Peter Bregman addresses this issue in “Don’t Let Your Head Attack Your Heart,” a July 2014 Harvard Business Review blog post:
We are trained and rewarded, in schools and in organizations, to lead with a fast, witty and critical mind. And it serves us well. The mind can be logical, clear, incisive and powerful. It perceives, positions, politics and protects. One of its many talents is to defend us from emotional vulnerability, which it does, at times, with jokes and quick repartee.
The heart, on the other hand, has no comebacks, no quips. Gentle, slow and unprotected, an open heart is easily attacked, especially by a frightened mind. And feelings scare the mind.
It’s no wonder that leaders become entrenched in a comfort zone of data, facts and ideas. But failure to show emotions makes leaders far less effective. Without recognizing our feelings, our ability to make wise decisions is impaired.

3 Basic Techniques

Lubar and Halpern offer three guidelines for developing expressiveness that inspires others, influences change and drives business results.
1. Generate Excitement
Creating excitement begins with showing enthusiasm and fighting the urge to suppress it. You’ll deepen your bond with others by revealing your humanity and vulnerability.
Anger, frustration and pain, when properly expressed, also bring us closer to one another. Never forget, however, that expressing emotion has a powerful effect, so think before you emote.
2. Put Nonverbal Cues to Work
While the words you choose play an important role in your message’s emotional impact, research tells us that facial and body cues may be even more significant.
Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, conducted studies that revealed:

  • Words account for only 7% of a speaker’s impact.
  • Vocal tone is responsible for 38%.
  • Body language trumps them both at an astounding 55%.

Despite these game-changing findings, most of us spend 99% of our time on crafting language when planning a presentation – and a mere 1% on how we’re going to convey our message.
You lose credibility when your face and body send different messages. You may not even be aware of your “tics”: unconscious movements or gestures that are out of sync with how you truly feel.
Speak from your core values to achieve alignment. If you’re struggling, consider hiring an experienced executive coach. The challenge is too important to ignore. Your overall leadership presence ultimately determines whether you’re perceived as a strong candidate for promotion.
3. Find and Express a Passionate
Purpose-Leaders generally try to explain or relay information. This very act lacks energy, passion and/or tension. Instead of using dry, colorless verbs to convey your point, substitute action words that carry emotional intensity.
For example, don’t “make an announcement to explain upcoming changes.” Instead, “challenge people to make some adjustments” or “overcome obstacles to success.” Focus on what truly matters: your passionate purpose.
Connect with your inner passions by asking yourself:

  • What am I fighting for?
  • What do others want?
  • What are the obstacles?Use your answers to choose verbs that capture your passionate purpose.

Never forget that every human interaction – from meetings and presentations to memos and face-to-face conversations – involves needs and desires, real or potential conflicts. These pivotal moments are opportunities to change minds and influence behavior. Your goal is to identify the desired change or problem to be overcome and invest it with energy and passion.

Time Management

Get Rid of Brain Clutter

Better time management isn’t the only solution to feeling overwhelmed. You may have a case of “brain clutter.”
When you’re feeling stressed and unproductive, your first instinct might be to look for a better system:

  • A better system to manage your time
  • A better system to manage your projects
  • A better system to manage your life

Before you blame the system, first check to see if you have excessive mental friction and brain clutter.
As Brigid Schulte explains in her book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, “Getting a handle on overwhelm was not just about creating more space and order on my calendar and in my office, but doing the same in my mind.”
Eliminating mental friction will create that space and order in your mind. Typical causes of mental friction include:

  1. Ambivalence, indecision and self-doubt
  2. Tolerations
  3. Unfinished projects
  4. Random mental clutter

Unclutter Your Brain

  1. Ambivalence and Indecision

In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, researcher Frenk van Harreveld discovered that “When ambivalence is high, choice is unpleasant because of the uncertainty about the consequences of the choice.”
All of that unpleasantness leads to procrastination. The simplest way to reduce ambivalence is to be very clear about what’s most important to you, and narrow it down to just a few priorities. When you aren’t constantly caught up between competing priorities, you have more energy to take action.
If you have multiple roles in your life, your priorities will shift throughout the day. Decide on your priorities for specific periods of time and you will increase focus and productivity. For example, choose one high-priority focus for your first hour of work, followed by 30 minutes of another priority, such as knocking things off your to-do list, or handling email.
When you’re clear about your priorities, you reduce the number of decisions in favor of automatic routines and processes. Making decisions in advance like this helps alleviate decision fatigue.
For example, when you know that you want to exercise each day, make a plan so that you don’t have to use precious decision-making capabilities to decide when, how, and where you’re going to do it.
2. Tolerations
Tolerations are those things that bug you, but not enough for you to do anything about. When they pop into your awareness, they start an inner dialogue that’s annoying. Tolerations could be as simple as a drawer that sticks or as major as an unsafe car you commute in every day.
To eliminate tolerations, first become aware of them. Make a list of everything that’s bugging you. Choose three things to fix or change this week. Set aside a specific amount of time each week to eliminate tolerations.
In addition, recognize that some tolerations can’t be fixed as much as they need to be accepted. Fix or change what you can, and choose to accept the rest.
3. Unfinished Projects
About 10 percent of the energy consumed in an average household is used by chargers and devices plugged in but not in use, simply waiting in standby mode. In fact, many electronics and appliances (such as your TV) will use more energy in the 20 or more hours per day they’re off, but still plugged in, than during the time that they’re actually on and in use.
Drifting from project to project without purposefully completing the task you’re working on is like leaving chargers and electronics plugged in – you are using mental energy to stay “plugged in.”
This doesn’t mean you have to keep going until everything is done, but the projects need to be paused and unplugged for now. While it’s fairly easy to know if a discrete task is complete, it can be more difficult to do for larger on-going projects. Choose a stopping point in advance.
5. Mental Clutter
This is the flotsam and jetsam of daily life that has no permanent home. It’s the things you need to do, the things you want to remember, the special dates, a funny story. It’s easier to keep a space neat when everything has a place. Same with your mind.
Have a calendar, a master to-do list and a place to jot down every random thing that pops into your mind that you want to remember. When you rely on your memory to keep track of your tasks and grocery list and someday projects, your brain quickly gets overwhelmed.
Get all of this information out of your head and onto paper or an electronic file. This frees up space to concentrate on the tasks that really matter to you.
Recognizing and reducing mental friction and brain clutter is a process. It doesn’t need to happen all at once to see immediate changes in productivity and feelings of energy. Change one small thing, then another.
As author Schulte learned, “Clearing the clutter in my head and the guilt that hung over every halfhearted decision has given me more peace of mind than any elaborate time management system.”

How can you start to declutter your brain today?