Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Call Dr. Stebbins today 503.957.6528

Archives for February 2015

I Don’t Know……

In my previous blog I addressed the leadership challenge of asking good questions. This posting’s theme poses an even larger challenge: saying “I don’t know”.  Leah Hager Cohen explores this topic in her book, I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance. She explains that our inability to admit we don’t know is driven by fear of embarrassment, disappointment and can often result in decision/actions leading to, as she describes it “a greater falsehood… easily we fall into a pattern of using deception as a shield against feeling uncomfortable.” Her research demonstrates the social, psychological and even biological triggers contributing to the evolution of this fear.

Cohen’s book does more than urge us to muster the courage to admit “I don’t know”. She offers a hopeful alternative path to the shame that most often accompanies such an admission. In her words: “For when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we increase the possibilities for true connection: with others, with new ideas, and with our deepest selves. So much becomes possible when we honor doubt.”

It is clear this issue can have a big impact on personal/professional relationships, as I have experienced.  The larger question I ask you to ponder: What happens when this fear of admitting ‘I don’t know’ becomes part of organizational culture?  This question naturally leads to a conversation around ‘organizational transparency’.

Stay Tuned!



Seeking Answers

Leaders are reluctant to ask the questions that will help them make better decisions or solve problems more efficiently/effectively-thus is the premise of a wonderful book I discovered some time ago: Leading with Questions by Michael Marquardt. Refuting the myth that asking questions is a sign of weak leadership, he argues that asking questions is “an underused management tool”.  I couldn’t agree more! I have observed leaders operating from the false assumption that because they hold the title of ‘leader’, they must have all the answers!

Not taking time to ask good questions results in missing a broader/more diverse perspective of a current issue…there is always more than ‘one right answer’! In addition, the ability to manage conflict is lessened. Research has shown that when all perspectives are shared with all parties participating in the conversation, common ground can be established.

The two most important benefits of asking good questions?  Becoming a better listener and increasing self awareness are key elements to effective leadership! Listening without judgment and truly gaining an understanding of others’ perspectives leads to self-reflection……and asking better questions….

Asking questions is a sign of strong leadership! Thus,when a leader asks me for advice on how to become more effective,I suggest he/she learn/use these two powerful words: What and How

5 More Tips for Successful Leadership

6. Invest in employees as you invest in yourself

*Their development is every bit as important as yours! Doing so will yield tremendous results for you, the employees and your organization both now and in the future

7.Increase employee engagement

*This single most important cost free action will increase retention, drive innovation, solve problems and improve the bottom line!

8. Maintain balance

* Your health, which is your greatest wealth, depends on it!

9. Model transparency and learn the skills to make it happen

* The costs related to lack of transparency in organizations are staggering both in terms of human capital and product/service…..transparency=organizational well being!

10.  HAVE FUN!

* If your work is not fun, find something that is…..your followers are watching!

So….how do these 10 Tips resonate with you? Contact me and let’s talk!

5 [of 10] Tips to Successful Leadership

1. Ask good questions

♦  Demonstrating curiosity gives you information you wouldn’t otherwise have!

 ♦ The words “How” and “What”can improve your decision making.

2. Be a proactive leader of change

♦ Learning to effectively manage change is the most critical leadership skill for the 21st century.

3. Pursue self-development

♦ Deepening personal awareness will improve emotional intelligence and increase emotional capital among employees.

4. Ask for help

♦ Simply because you can’t do it all yourself!

5. Pause for self-reflection

♦ Doing so renews energy and reignites passion.

Keep watching my blog for my next 5 “Tips to Successful Leadership”!

The Time Is Now!

I came away from the recent EDCO Annual Luncheon [Economic Development of Central Oregon] feeling inspired and hopeful! Alan Beaulieu of ITR Economics gave a very positive assessment of both the Oregon and the US economy.  Here are the major points he made to the 500 + audience members:

1. Implement growth strategies.

2. Find and eliminate bottlenecks

3. Plan for higher wages

4. Plan for higher energy costs in late 2015

5. Spend more on people and processes.

While all these points are significant, the last one really caught my eye. Now is definitely the time for organizations  to expand their work forces AND invest in professional development. I am well aware that training programs and other professional development activities are not viewed as ‘revenue producing’ and thus, are eliminated during economic hard times. Rather than argue this point, I encourage organizations to use this improving economy to strategically invest in work force development. The return on this investment is crucial for long term success:

  •   Retention which means that the hidden high cost of hiring is avoided
  •   A full internal  ‘pipeline’ of employees who can fill leadership positions
  •   Increased productivity which leads to:
  •   A healthy bottom line

What about your organization?  Contact me and let’s explore how investing in professional development can help your bottom line!


Change Management: An Ethical Perspective

I was heartened when I read a recent interview with Prosci’s lead researcher, Robert Stise. When asked why change management is important to him he responded:

“Change Management is not just a field; it’s an ethic about how you treat people as individuals. Yes, it can save you money, yes, it can help you meet deadlines, but if we can create a culture where organizations recognize their employees as individuals and can do a better job of helping those individuals through times of change, I  think that’s an incredible step forward.”

This quote beautifully summarizes what I also believe to be true: organizations have an ethical responsibility to view their employees as the single most important resource they have……businesses would not be successful or even exist were it not for their employees. Thus, when initiating any kind of organizational change, does it not make sense to engage employees as much as possible in the implementation of that change?  I have found that doing so results in higher quality/quantity of implementation strategies AND less resistance to the change itself.

Contact me and let’s talk about how your organization can create a more employee engaged culture… important element for successful change management.

Difficult Conversations: Sometimes I Gotta Have ‘Em!

I was interested in a recent Harvard Business Review article [1/9/15] entitled “How to Handle Difficult Conversations at Work.”   Rebecca Knight, the author, presents 8 suggestions for conducting a difficult conversation:

  • Change your mindset
  • Breathe
  • Plan but don’t script
  • Acknowledge your counterpart’s perspective
  • Be compassionate
  • Slow down and listen
  • Give something back
  • Reflect and Learn

I totally support these ideas and believe that a specific framework for putting them into action is important. I suggest using the Confrontation Conversation Model developed by Fierce, Inc. that is based on the work of Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations. While the title “Confrontation Conversation” may sound intimidating, I find it less so within the Fierce Conversation context. Consider the Three Transformational Ideas upon which the Confrontation Model is based:

Idea #1: “Our careers, companies,  personal relationships and our very lives succeed or fail, gradually then suddenly, one conversation at a time.”  The question is: What is the cost to us when we are unwilling or unable to have the conversations we need to have?  I know from my own experience that relationships gradually deteriorate over time.

Idea #2: “The conversation is the relationship” . This equation is simple: limiting conversations, limits relationships….whether business or personal!

Idea #3: “All conversations are with myself and sometimes they involve other people.”  It is amazing how our context or mindset frames how we interact with others….our context can work both for and against us!

So how do these ideas support you as you have those challenging conversations? Contact me for a free session on how these principles and the Fierce Confrontation Conversation Model can give you the skills for conducting those “sometimes-I-gotta-have ’em” conversations.