Don’t Be A Victim Of Circumstances

As an executive coach it’s profoundly interesting to me how the way we express ourselves either provides venues for improvement or constricts us, by blinding us to existing options. Most of us, when faced with aspects outside our control tend to express ourselves by shifting responsibility to these very aspects. Let me give you a familiar example to illustrate this point.

You’re sitting in a meeting and someone arrives late. The person (let’s call him Jack) enters the room and promptly excuses himself: “Sorry for being late. Traffic was terrible.” (or “My previous meeting ran over and I couldn’t leave.”)

Whose fault is it that Jack arrived late? The traffic, of course.

Whose fault is it NOT? Not Jack’s, of course.

Given such conditions, when will Jack stop being late? When there’s no traffic, of course.

What control does Jack have over the traffic? None whatsoever.

So, whenever we use an excuse like this, we position ourselves as innocent victims of circumstances. What usually blindsides us is that our excuses are usually true. There really was heavy traffic, or the previous meeting really ran over. We usually use such arguments because they exonerate us from the consequences of the occurrence. But there’s a steep price that we pay whenever we use such arguments.

The price we pay for using arguments that exonerate us from guilt is our ability to intervene, to change the outcome of the situation. As Fred Kofman says, “the price we pay for innocence is impotence”. We remain impotent in the face of these external circumstances. In fact, there will always be things that we do not control (like the heavy traffic), but it is within our grasp to decide how we shall respond to these circumstances. We can choose our behavior.

How will you choose to respond to such circumstances? Who will you choose to be? Will you be a victim or will you be an active participant in your personal and professional life?

When we arrive late at a meeting, it’s not really because of the traffic (although there might have been traffic). It’s because we made a choice to sleep in those extra minutes, or because we chose to take route A instead of route B, or because we chose that it was worth it to spend those extra minutes with our kids in the morning. That’s ok! But it is a choice. Owning up to those choices is what makes us alive, responsible and valuable.

So, what might be a better way of expressing ourselves in such situations?

Well, in the above example of arriving late to a meeting, here are some possibilities.

“Sorry for being late! I didn’t account for the heavy traffic.” or “My previous meeting was running late and I decided to spend a few extra minutes in there to make sure we closed the issue.”

What’s so different with these expressions? There is a subject in those sentences. We’re owning the responsibility, and we’re also allowing ourselves to be a part of the solution. Here’s how we become part of the solution.

“My previous meeting was running late and I decided to spend a few extra minutes in there to make sure we closed the issue. So If you can stay a few minutes longer, I’ll be happy to address all your questions. If not, I’ll be available to schedule a follow-up meeting at your convenience”. This doesn’t guarantee that our customer or our coworker will agree to it, but we’ll be responsible for our choices, our actions and for whatever comes out of them – both good and bad.

Further reading:

New Article: A New Outlook On Failure

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“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

– J. K. Rowling

Failure is a vital part of our own growth as individuals and as a society. However, as a society, we collectively shun the fundamental part that it plays in our development and consequently, as individuals, we often look at failure as something to be penalized.

It is common for us – part of our nature – to confuse the things we do with who we are as a person. This is particularly dangerous when it comes to failure, as there’s the risk of starting to consider ourselves as Failures when we’re not successful – and of course, no one is successful all the time. Failure, just as success, is fleeting. Just as you’re not in a permanent state of bliss, you’re not in a permanent state of success nor failure.

Considering ourselves Failures, or considering others Failures causes us to become blind to opportunities for change. We become defensive, focusing on proven methods and on what is known to work and we leave no room for creativity, ingenuity and innovation. We often self-sabotage through procrastination, excessive anxiety or an inability to follow through with our goals, which might lead to low self-esteem or self-confidence, thinking we’ll “never be good enough to take on that job”.

In a downturn market, as the rate of failing businesses and unemployment soar, it is fundamental to be able to overcome failures and capitalize on them to build your success. The thing about failure is that you can decide how you look at it. You can choose to look at failure as the “end of the world” or as the learning experience that it often is. These lessons are very important; they’re how we grow, and how we keep from making that same mistake again.

Continue to the full article.

New Article: Tuckman’s Model of Team Development and Dynamics

Team255

“Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing."

– Warren Bennis, Ph.D., "On Becoming a Leader"

Effective teamwork is fundamental in today’s world, more so in the modern business world where, for most companies today, the physical barriers of office space – even the almighty cubicle – have practically disappeared to give way to open floor plans set up to maximize group interaction. However, as you’ll know from the teams you have belonged to or led, new teams do not perform at high levels right from the start. Building a team takes time as the team evolves from a bunch of strangers to a united group with a common goal.

Whether your team is a temporary working group, a virtual team or a newly-formed, permanent team, understanding the stages they’ll go through in this journey, will help you create a more integrated, productive and performing team.

In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman, came up with the Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing model of group development. Tuckman maintained that these phases are necessary in order for a team to grow, as they face challenges, find solutions and plan work in order to deliver exceptional results. Tuckman’s model describes the path to high-performance through a staged development model to which Tuckman later added a fifth stage called "Adjourning” (in the 1970’s).

In short, the stages of Tuckman’s model are:

  • Forming –team members are introduced
  • Storming –the team transitions from “as is”to “to be”
  • Norming –the team reaches consensus on the “to be”process
  • Performing –the team has settled its relationships and expectations
  • Adjourning –the team shares the improved processes with others

Continue to the full article

New Article: Finding Your Core Values

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Values are the things that you believe are fundamentally important in the way you live and work. They are the foundation upon which your Self is built. They shape how you see the world and act as an internal compass that guides you in life. They shape how you interact with others.They determine your priorities (whether you’re conscious about it or not), and they shape the choices you make. They are the measures by which you judge yourself and they’re also the measures by which you judge others.

When your actions are coherent with your values, you feel peaceful with the choices you make even if the outcome of those choices is not positive. When some action or decision is not aligned with your values, you feel conflicted and remorseful.

Why Find Your Core Values?

This might seem like a rhetorical question, but in fact, it is quite important to understand the power and importance of core values. They are your foundation as a person, guiding your actions and your decisions. The stronger the foundation the better and greater the person you will be able to become.

Continue to the full article.

Stars and Teams

In all teams there are “star” players and there are “team” players. Both are essential to the success of a high performing team. Star players provide occasional moments of high intensity, energy and drive, where they can muster their single skills to overcome particularly difficult situations. The star players, however, are rarely “team” players. They are usually energized by the recognition of their individual accomplishments and usually have a hard time relinquishing control and delegating responsibility.

The “team” players, on the other hand, understand the value of collective strength and that the whole is, more often than not, greater than the sum of the parts. Team players will try to put everyone to work to achieve the best outcome. They are often overlooked as most attention is drawn to the star players, but are pivotal in consistently achieving results. They are usually the ones who create the conditions that allow star players to shine.

"I want employees who are ambitious, but not at the expense of everything else. It’s the ‘peacock’ issue: I don’t want 800 people saying, ‘Look at me.’ The employees I promote deliver results – and their colleagues want to work with them. An individual without the desire to enable colleagues is just that – an individual. Someone who’s passionate about helping others succeed is a leader."

Tracey Fellows, MD, Microsoft Australia

Here are a few of the personal characteristics I look for in candidates when I am building a team:

  • Reliable and accountable. Team players know that the team depends on each other, so they know that the other team members need to know they can count on them;
  • Committed. Team players are usually committed not only to their individual tasks but, most importantly, to the overall outcome;
  • Active Listener. Team players know how to listen. They know how to ask the right questions and how to engage in meaningful dialog without the need to “win” every argument;
  • Participative, shares openly and constructively. Team players intrinsically understand that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, so they proactively share knowledge and work constructively with others.
  • Cooperative, flexible. Team players easily adapt to changing conditions and usually take the initiative to cooperate with others to accomplish a task or help to solve problems;
  • Respectful and supportive. Above all, team players are respectful of other peoples’ opinions and of differing points of view not forcing their own ways or opinions on others. They influence, support and help to develop others. In time, I’ve seen many team members, who have exhibited several of these characteristics, take on bigger challenges and responsibilities and naturally become leadership figures within their own teams. The star players on those teams usually wanted to move on to become bigger and better star players on other teams.
    An interesting observation is that team players who excel at being team players, often become star players themselves,by exercising leadership skills like active listening or delegation, while still retaining their team player characteristics.My observations and personal experience suggest that people who are able to walk this fine line greatly accelerate their personal growth and career development.
    Consider, for a moment, how others see you and what behavior you exhibit in your relationships with co-workers and team mates. Are you a bright and shinning star on the rise or are you a solid and grounded team player? What do you value the most? The recognition of your individual accomplishments or the recognition of the accomplished job?

The Art Of Delegation

Check out the new article on Delegation in the articles section.

Topics discussed in the article include:

  • The Importance of delegation as a leadership tool
  • Common blockers to delegation
  • Choosing what to delegate and to whom
  • How to delegate effectively and productively
  • The inherent value of delegation for the individuals and the organization

Share your own thoughts and experiences on this article. How do you handle delegation? How do you choose someone to delegate work to? How do you reward a successful job?

Powell’s Rules

“Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of  management says is possible.”

– Colin Powell

I have seen Colin Powell’s leadership lessons some time ago, but frankly can’t recall why I never posted them.

Although I think that the “lessons” are insightful and reflect a man who seems to have a very head-on and assertive approach to people and leadership, I actually prefer the shorter “rules” version, which are very compact and directive.

Powell’s Rules

  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
  2. Get mad, then get over it.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
  4. It can be done!
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
  8. Check small things.
  9. Share credit.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Leadership Lessons

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