The AdultLeader Blog

“Here We Go Again”…OR…”I Get To Go Again!!!” A Leadership Choice.

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 in AdultLeader, Leadership, The Brain | 492 comments

“Here we go again”…OR…”I get to go again!!!” Which one feels better? I received the “here we go again” from a client as a reaction to my wishing them a great 2014. It got me thinking about how our initial reaction offers us an opportunity to examine the expectations and assumptions we hold about our future day, week, year, meeting, etc… Without realizing it, expectations and assumptions are running in the background. They have an effect on how we feel right now and how we approach what is next – 2014 in this case. If unexamined and not challenged when they fail to create positive anticipation, we risk not bringing our best selves or AdultLeader to our future. An eye roll or a grimace usually accompanies “here we go again” and indicates that we’re not really looking forward to what is next. We are letting the inertia of previous experience create or reinforce expectations and assumptions about our future. This may be exacerbated by our brain’s tendency to focus more on the negatives, and to forget the positives. According to Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, our brains are incentivized toward seeing the negative. I know I would rather approach 2014 and every day, week and meeting with the feeling of “I get to go again!!!”  And I don’t always at the first pass. According to Dr. Hanson, deliberately looking for the positive just kind of levels the playing field. A feeling of positive anticipation or excitement helps us bring our best to what is next with an energy and attitude that is more likely to help make our goals and dreams happen. It’s a choice to expect that a positive outcome is possible. When we make this choice, we feel more powerful and in charge. We eliminate the feeling of powerlessness that goes along with the inertia of those unexamined expectations and assumptions. We no longer have to walk around unwittingly thinking we will repeat the past It takes vigilance for me to choose to expect, assume, and think in ways that create excitement and positive anticipation for what’s next. I have to work at it, and it isn’t always easy. It takes practice. We can choose to be mindful of our expectations and assumptions and to create a new vision or narrative for 2014, tomorrow, next week, or our next meeting. As leaders we need to create a narrative that makes sense of the challenges and negatives we face, includes what has worked in the past, anticipates the opportunities before us, and recognizes that the past does not have to repeat itself. We can write and speak a future that inspires, so that we all “can’t wait to go again” with you. What’s your vision or narrative for your 2014? for tomorrow, for next week or for your next meeting? Does it excite and fill you and your people with positive anticipation about what is next? Is it the future you want to create for you? for your organization? Take a moment and send your comments and questions. If you were reminded of something, learned something, or questioned something, taking a moment to write it down will ground your observation and may...

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Are You Sending the Message You Want?

Posted by on Nov 5, 2013 in AdultLeader Practices, Leadership | 3,437 comments

You are always sending a message. What you do or don’t do, say or don’t say, follow up on or don’t follow up on sends a message to others – staff, peers, bosses, clients, loved ones… The message will create a perception of who you are, what is important to you, what you think about yourself, and what you think about them. If you take a moment to consider what perception might be created and check if this is congruent with the perception you would like to create, then you might reconsider. As a leader, am I sending the message I want (a message likely to create the perception I want with staff, peers, bosses, clients, loved ones)? This is a great question to ask as you go through your day and make choices about how you prioritize and spend your time. The cumulative effect of your choices will contribute to creating your leadership brand with others. If that matters, then interrupt what you are about to do without thinking, and ask yourself the following questions: 1. What message am I sending by doing or not doing this, saying or not saying this, following up on or not following up on this? 2. What message do I want to send? Or what message is it important for me to send? 3. What effect will my choice have on my leadership brand? Take a moment and send your comments and questions. If you were reminded of something, learned something, or questioned something, taking a moment to write it down will ground your observation and may inspire some future action. WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement at the end of the article: © 2013 Stephen Carr Associates, Inc. Stephen Carr is a successful, Boston-based Executive Leadership Coach. He can be found at AND...

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Focus On The Positive For Increased Effectiveness

Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in AdultLeader Practices, Leadership, The Brain | 19 comments

Focusing on the positive is more than just positive thinking, and it is not about avoiding or ignoring the negatives or problems. • It is about strengthening the foundation of the organization by focusing on the successes, wins, strengths, and talents of individuals and teams. • It is about reducing the stress, anxiety, and general organizational unhappiness that limits our human ability to make good decisions, deal with everyday challenges, be creative and innovative, and learn and grow together. • It is about making us all happier and improving employee engagement. • It is a way for leaders to help overcome the natural tendency of the brain to focus on the negative. “According to Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist, a member of U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center’s advisory board, and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative, which can make us feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives.” He says we have “brains that are incentivized toward seeing the negative… so deliberately looking for the positive… just kind of levels the playing field.” (From How to Build a Happier Brain in The Atlantic by Julie Beck). If this is true, then leaders have a responsibility to increase focus on the positive in order to reduce stress, anxiety, and general organizational unhappiness and increase employee engagement. There is a real opportunity if we look at the results of some recent studies on employee engagement: • A recent Towers Watson survey indicated that nearly two–thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result. • Dale Carnegie and MSW did a study showing that 29% of the workforce is engaged, 45% are not engaged, and 26% are actively disengaged. • According to Gallup, over 23 million U.S. workers are actively disengaged. Focusing on the positive is certainly not the only answer to improving employee engagement. Even if all that happened was to shift your own habits toward a more positive outlook, think of how that might affect your decisions, interactions, communications, and influence. Here are 3 things you can do to focus on the positive and strengthen your team or organization: 1. Provide real acknowledgment to individuals and teams. Do this often, both formally and informally. This is more than just a pat on the back for a job well done. It is a statement that specifically identifies the positive result. Follow this by naming the strengths, qualities, and behaviors that were exhibited, and the resulting impact on the situation, team or organization. 2. Debrief initiatives, projects, and team and organizational results. Do this more formally. Identify what worked and went well, whether or not it was completely successful. • What did we accomplish? • Who was involved? • How well did we work together across the team or organization? • Highlight the strengths, positive qualities, and positive behaviors that were exhibited by the individuals and team(s) involved. • Debrief the processes and communication that worked. You may want to define best practices. • Follow this by debriefing what didn’t work so well and what needs to improve. Be specific. • Define next steps. What...

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You Are Not Your Thoughts

Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in AdultLeader Practices, The Mind | 17 comments

Are you your thoughts? Most of us probably hope not. The National Science Foundation reports that humans have 12-50,000 thoughts per day. Except for you deep thinkers out there, the vast majority of these thoughts are nonsense. “Most of them are not facts but evaluations and judgments entwined with emotions—some positive and helpful (I’ve worked hard and I can ace this presentation; This issue is worth speaking up about; The new VP seems approachable), others negative and less so (He’s purposely ignoring me; I’m going to make a fool of myself; I’m a fake).” (From their recent article in the Harvard Business review, Emotional Agility, Susan David and Christina Congleton). It is estimated that for most of us, 70-80% of our thoughts are negative. These negative thoughts limit us. Most of us share some or all of these challenges at one time or another: feeling overwhelmed, indecisive, or fearful; experiencing lack of focus or procrastination; acting out emotionally. In our executive coaching conversations, my clients usually discover that it is their thoughts that have gotten the better of them, causing them to be stuck or less effective than they are capable of being. It is easy to identify with our familiar and repetitive thoughts. We believe them as facts and they are not. We react in that familiar and repetitive way. When we can step back and more objectively look at the situation or challenge, we can choose to respond in a way that is more likely to represent the leader we want to be and to accomplish the result we would like. Dr. Dan Siegel says … “Objectivity permits us to have a thought or feeling and not become swept away by it. It recruits the ability of the mind to be aware that its present activities – our thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs, and intentions – are temporary and, moreover, that they are not the totality of who are. They are not our identity.” As leaders, you can develop this ability of your mind through: 1. Practice – being mindful that you are not your thoughts. “I am having this thought about…” 2. Becoming more consciously aware of your identity, values, natural strengths and positive qualities. If you are not your thoughts, then who are you? What does the evidence suggest? Who is noticing that you are having a thought? 3. Recognizing and being OK with your imperfections. “I don’t have to do everything well and perfect. In fact, it is impossible.” Developing the ability to separate who you are from your thoughts is not as simple as making these statements or answering these questions. It comes from increasing your self-awareness, and with practice, improving your leadership ability to step back and be more objective and practical about the situation or challenge before you. Please feel free to send your comments and questions. WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR E-ZINE, BLOG, OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete statement at the end of the article: © 2013 Stephen Carr Associates, Inc. Stephen Carr is a successful, Boston-based Executive Leadership Coach. He can be found at AND...

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Use Frustration to Challenge Yourself as a Leader

Posted by on Oct 22, 2013 in AdultLeader, AdultLeader Practices, Leadership | 35 comments

Experiencing frustration is common to all of us. Frustration is an emotion. It is also internal feedback that alerts us to the opportunity for change. I hear about the frustration my clients experience in their workplace on a regular basis – my direct reports are not doing what they need to, my organization isn’t changing to support my idea, my boss is not providing the kind of leadership we need, and the list goes on. I’m sure you can add to it. Frustration is an emotion. Human beings experience this emotion. In fact, it is unavoidable, so let’s let it be OK and then move on to use it. Frustration is internal feedback from you to you. It is you alerting you to the opportunity to think about the current situation in a new way that is more congruent with your AdultLeader. If you allow yourself to think about the situation in a new way, then you open the possibility for new ideas about how to handle it in a new way. What new behavior or action can you use to potentially accomplish a different result; one that might ease your frustration, one that might allow you to know that you have given your best effort, one that might actually move you closer to the result you want? Frustration can be welcomed as an opportunity to Close The Leadership Gap. This is the gap between where you are experiencing frustration because of your beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations, and assumptions (what you think is right and true) AND your leadership potential (which is limitless and full of possibilities). When you are willing to leverage your unique strengths, skills, and experiences with self-knowledge, purpose and commitment, it becomes possible to take a shot at a different approach to the current frustrating situation. It feels good to be the AdultLeader when you choose to act instead of being a victim to the situation. The positive emotion you experience is also internal feedback from you to you. You experience it when you chose to Close the Leadership Gap by acting on your leadership potential. What is a current frustrating situation you want to have an impact on? Frustrating situations will continue to show up for you. You get to choose if you are willing to welcome the challenge. You can be the victim or you can act. It can seem easier to make it necessary for the others or the situation to change. It’s not. It is just frustrating. When you look at it this way, you don’t really have a choice. Please feel free to send your comments and...

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A Goal Is a Catalyst for Becoming More Than You Are Today

Posted by on Sep 24, 2013 in AdultLeader Practices, Leadership | 15 comments

We all want or need to achieve goals and results. Results are important for our organizations, our teams, and us. We could argue that our jobs, finances, opportunities, and satisfaction are all dependent on our effectiveness at getting results and accomplishing goals. Maybe what matters more than the result itself is who we, our teams, and our organizations need to become in order to achieve this result. What new skills and knowledge do we need? What relationships do we need to manage more effectively? What risks do we need to be willing to take? What do we need to do differently than we have ever done before in order to achieve this result or goal? Our focus on getting a result or accomplishing a goal is the catalyst for change, for becoming more of who we are capable of becoming as an individual, a team, and/or an organization. The more conscious we are about defining what the change needs to be or recognize what change occurred, the more leverage we have for sustainable change, growth, and success. 1. At the start of the process, we can define who we need to become along with defining the result or goal. This creates deeper meaning, defines our aspiration, and sets us on the path to the result or goal with more purpose and energy. 2. After we have accomplished the result or goal, we can debrief who we have become. This is an opportunity for acknowledgement and appreciation. We can also codify what has changed and define best practices for the future. 3. If we didn’t accomplish the result or goal, we can debrief what happened. What worked? What didn’t work? What do we need to do differently or focus on next time so we increase our likelihood of success? By observing and acknowledging the change and growth that has occurred, we can transform how we think about ourselves as individuals, teams and/or organizations. We can then take on new and bigger challenges with a firmer foundation and more confidence in our ability to successfully reach our goals and celebrate who we are becoming along the way. My best to you. Please feel free to send your comments and...

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An Understanding of Implicit Memory Has Real Implications for Self-Awareness in Leaders

Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 in AdultLeader, Executive Coaching, Leadership | 103 comments

Implicit memory is a type of memory in which previous experiences aid in the performance of a task without conscious awareness of these previous experiences. Schacter, D. L. (1987). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 13, 501-518. . We have all reacted unreasonably or unproductively and seen others do the same. An understanding of implicit memory has real implications for self-awareness in leaders. This understanding can help us manage our own behavior and help us avoid being sucked into reacting to someone else’s unreasonable behavior. “What’s crucial to understand about implicit memory — especially when it comes to our kids and their fears and frustrations–is that implicit memories cause us to form expectations about the way the world works, based on our previous experiences. Because neurons that fire together wire together, we create mental models based on what’s gone on in the past. This is because implicit memory creates something called “priming” in which the brain readies itself to respond in a certain way.” From Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., The Whole-Brain Child Our brain is designed to react based on previous and repeated experiences. We form mental models for making sense of the world based on implicit memory. We recognize these mental models as our beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations, and assumptions. Implicit memory helps us run on automatic pilot and to react without thought. Sometimes this is great, like in an emergency, or when we are running late for work. Sometimes it is not so great, like when we find ourselves reacting unreasonably or unproductively (again). To develop as leaders, we need to increase our conscious awareness of the existence of the mental models we created from implicit memory so we can evaluate their effectiveness. Or just to realize they exist and are likely not helpful in the present moment.  Rather than react, we want to be better able to consciously choose to respond in order to get the results we want and be the leader and/or parent we want to be. This is about training our minds through our awareness to intervene and interrupt the reactions led by our brains. In my executive coaching, I use the Results Accelerator™  to help my clients expand awareness of their mental models, or systems (beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations, and assumption), so they can more consciously and effectively choose how they will respond and lead. Leadership is not a position. It is the expression of our best and most capable selves. Leadership is a choice. My best to you. Please feel free to send your comments and...

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Leaders are Responsible for Constructing a Narrative That Inspires

Posted by on Sep 12, 2013 in Leadership | 0 comments

The senior leaders of an organization recently shared with me that they were facing a challenge in motivating themselves to engage with the changes that were happening in their industry. Through coaching, they came to realize that they did not have a narrative for themselves that allowed them to make sense of these changes in a positive way. The story they were telling themselves was frustrating and demoralizing. It prevented them from showing up as effective leaders. They began to create a new narrative that got them excited again. It helped them to remember what they loved about the work they did. It inspired them to recognize their role in making the decisions that were necessary to move their organization forward. This new story would help them help their people to make sense of the changes, to understand their roles in managing the changes, and to know that they had leaders who were energized to move the organization forward. I shared one of my favorites quotes with them to underline what they were doing by creating this new narrative. “As I considered the importance of language and how human beings interact with the world, it struck me that in many ways the development of language was like the discovery of fire – it was such an incredible primordial force. I had always thought that we used language to describe the world – now I was seeing that this is not the case. To the contrary, it is through language that we create the world, because it’s nothing until we describe it. And when we describe it, we create distinctions that govern our actions. To put it another way, we do not describe the world we see, but we see the world we describe…” found on page 178 in Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership written by Joseph Jaworski. They came to understand that they were replacing a narrative that would keep them stuck in the past with a narrative that could create a new future for them and their organization. Ask yourself… What is the narrative you are telling about your circumstances? Is it energizing and inspiring? If not, what is a new narrative that will move you, others, and/or your organization forward? What is the story of the future you want to create? You get to choose. Please feel free to send your comments and...

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Great Leadership Creates an Environment for Success

Posted by on Aug 30, 2013 in Leadership | 22 comments

I facilitated a session on leadership for a senior management team the other day. Here is some of what we talked about. Great leaders create an environment for success. We defined that environment it as one in which the members of an organization or team want to give of their best freely – ideas, energy, creativity, innovation. This list can go on to include any and all of the best qualities of our ideal colleagues and partners. What are some of the elements you might want to consider as you create your environment for success? • Respect for all human beings and as a starting point for all interactions • Consistency in the messages you send through your words and behavior. Are you managing your reactions and emotions? You are always conveying a message. • Positive Emotion can inspire you, others and your organization to change, to open to new possibilities, and to accomplish your desired results. Are you paying attention to your thoughts – beliefs, perceptions, expectations and assumptions? Your thoughts along with the emotion they create become your attitude. You get to choose your thoughts. • Focus is power. You get more of what you focus on. Focus on – What is working in your organization? What results do we want? What did she just do really well? What are you aspiring to create and/or to be known for? • Leveraging strengths as a foundation for addressing gaps and challenges. • Accountability. Commitment and job responsibilities matter. What are you doing to create and support accountability as a tool for growth and development? You may think that creating an environment for success is only for leaders of teams and organizations. It is also something you may want to do for yourself and those you care about. Ask yourself… 1. What strengths do you bring to creating an environment of success for you, others, and/or your organization? 2. What elements above are most challenging for you? 3. What one area would you like to focus on improving? What specifically will you do differently? What is a way for you to create some accountability for yourself? My best to you. Please feel free to send your comments and...

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Why Is It So Hard to Say No to the Boss?

Posted by on Aug 19, 2013 in AdultLeader, Executive Coaching | 18 comments

Because she’s the boss. If you say no, the boss might not like it. You might not get promoted. You might be fired. Your world might end. You might die. Perhaps this sounds a little irrational and extreme, but when I was willing to look closely at my own experience, I found it wasn’t so crazy after all. I am not talking about refusing to perform your job duties. I am suggesting that there may be times when you need to • say no or negotiate • express a contrary thought or idea. • manage a boundary between your personal life and work life I am talking about what adults may need to do as a matter of course to effectively manage their lives and careers. We forget that we were small versions of ourselves at one time, and depended on our parents for food, shelter, love and approval.  We depended on them for our very survival. If we said no or misbehaved, we were likely to be afraid that our survival was at risk.  Our parents were our first bosses. Our original family was the first organization we were a part of.  Our primary role in that organization was as an employee. Our parent(s) were the boss(es). Based on the specifics of our early experiences with authority, we came to certain conclusions about what we needed to be and do in order to survive and be successful. We practiced those thoughts and behaviors and they became a system. The system is made up of our beliefs, perceptions, habits, expectations and assumptions for relating to authority. I’ll use me as an example. My boss parent was angry and inconsistent. I never knew what I would encounter when I got home from school. I came to the conclusion that I needed to be very careful about what I shared and how I shared it. I needed to do whatever I could to make the boss happy. I learned that authority figures were to be feared and avoided. This became my system for relating to authority and was applied without realizing it when I engaged with a boss. I was a perfectionist and a workaholic. I was hesitant to say no or express my own thoughts and ideas if I thought they ran counter to what I thought the boss wanted. This was not a very successful or sustainable model for being a leader and a person with a life. This is where my AdultLeader came in. It is the self that realized that my system for relating to authority was not working to get me the results I wanted. I needed to develop a new system with new thoughts and behaviors in order to be a happier person and a more effective leader. 1. What is something you want to say no to, negotiate, or be or do differently with your boss or someone in authority? 2. How important on a scale of 1 to 10 is this to you? 3. What result do you think you will get if you are able to do this? Imagine what that would look and feel like for a minute 4. What will you as your AdultLeader do? My best to you. Please feel free to send your thoughts and...

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