What is ‘trending’ in Leadership?

My next several blog postings will be addressing some the innovative thinking in leadership development. To start, let me set the stage for why there is a shift in thinking around leadership skills.

The landscape within which organizations operate is ever changing, volatile and unpredictable.  This evolving environment requires new and diverse leadership skills that are currently being addressed by methodologies that have not kept up with this complex, morphing landscape.  The discussion about leadership has shifted from who leaders are to, as Petrie [2014] describes it, a “development challenge-the process of how to grow ‘bigger’ minds.”

Part of this ‘bigger mind’ is moving from ‘individual’ to ‘collective’ leadership. It is the recognition that anyone in the organization can [and should!] act in a leadership capacity.  By learning the essential ‘collaborating’ and ‘influencing’ skills, leaders will gain the needed diverse perspectives to more effectively identify/solve problems and make decisions.

In my work with organizations, I have seen the shift from ‘individual’ to ‘collective’ leadership slowly evolve. I have worked with senior leaders who have struggled with it because it addresses the ever present issues of empowerment and accountability. Those leaders who have worked with me have successfully made this shift resulting in their abilities to more effectively identify/solve problems and in their organizations becoming more change resilient.

Want to learn more? Contact me and let’s explore what this new leadership paradigm can mean for you and your organization!

Culture and Conversation

What is the relationship between the Culture of an organization and Conversation?  Plenty!!!

Dr. Jim Harter, of the Gallup organization, concludes from his extensive employee engagement research that “Most people come to work well intentioned and only turn sour when their basic needs aren’t being met. You have to get the basics right if you want great engagement…..the data proves it, doing what’s right for people proves to be right for the organization.” [http://tinyurl.com/krbeyrs]

In my opinion great engagement leads to a dynamic, positive organizational culture.  Conversations are the single most important tool organizations have for maximizing employee engagement. In fact, Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations, claims “conversations are the workhorses of organizations”. Conversations are the way ‘things get done’.

This idea leads me to these questions:

What kind of conversations are happening inside your organization?

Are the conversations advancing the relationships needed to fully engage your employees and thus, move your organization forward?

The quality of these conversations does indeed define your organization’s ‘culture’!

If you would like to assess how conversation is viewed in your organization, contact me!

Transparency Part II

I often hear leaders speak about the relationship between employee autonomy and organizational success. There are studies that certainly support this idea! In defining autonomy, Fierce Inc. [2012] says that it is the “freedom to make appropriate decisions that ensures employees remain focused and engaged.” The Fierce [2012] study of 800 participants revealed that almost 50% of respondents identify the most beneficial organizational practices as those which  encourage accountability, development and individual empowerment within the organization.

Organizational transparency is required if employee autonomy is going to be successful. In my opinion, a part of the transparency ‘equation’ is a dynamic ‘feedback loop’. I know from my consulting that the only thing worse than not requesting feedback is receiving it and then not acting on it. It is in the area of feedback solicitation/action that I believe, organizations can improve their overall productivity.  The gap between employee desire to provide feedback and the belief that he/she will be heard is striking. Fierce [2012] found that 70% of study respondents said they would candidly approach decision makers if they felt a company practice needed to be re-evaluated or adjusted.  However, when it comes to following through on this feedback, less than one third believed their company was willing to change practices based on their input and feedback. The final statistic from this study is sobering: while 98% of respondents believe a leader’s decision making process should include input from the people impacted by the decision, a full 40% feel leaders and decision makers continuously fail to ask.

How can transparency in your organization be improved?  Contact me and let’s explore this topic together!

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…..how 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 [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!


A Lesson on “The Present”

As I move into this new year, my focus continues to be on truly living ‘in the moment’. Recently,  I had a real ‘wake up call’ about being present that will stay with me for a long time…..

My hairdresser gives a tremendous scalp/face massage when she shampoos my hair-it is one of the reasons why I go to her. I went to my hair appointment last week with great anticipation!  She lead me to the shampoo chair and within seconds of her starting the scalp massage, my monkey mind took over…….it wasn’t until she was rinsing my hair that I realized I had m-i-s-s-e-d the entire experience…my brain went into over drive and I had deprived myself of this nurturing moment!  *Sigh*…..

The bad news is I have to wait five weeks to have another one. The good news?  I will have another opportunity and you can bet I will have an entirely different experience!

What about you? What present moments have you missed because of mental preoccupation?

Join me in enjoying the present moment: an important secret to living a fulfilling life!






Change Management: Method to the Madness!!

In my conversations with organizational clients, I have discovered that the ‘rapid change’ now the new ‘normal’ in their lives, is viewed as an amorphous thing that is difficult to define let alone manage.  Managing change can be as complex as it is necessary. Here are two approaches that may simplify the change management discussion: The “What” and the “How”.

The “What” is a specific change management framework/infrastructure that , when adopted, is integrated into every organizational change strategy. These frameworks typically have assessments,  planning steps, specific tasks related to each step and tools for measuring outcomes.

The “How” refers to the strategic communication critical for actually implementing the “What”. These advanced communication skills focus on transparency and authenticity while developing/ preserving the relationships essential for change implementation.

How important is partnering the “What” with the “How”?  Research has demonstrated that the success or failure of change initiatives is almost entirely dependent on effective communication.  My own client experience supports these findings and as a result, I will only consult with organizations that are willing to do both the What and the How!

What about your organization?  If you are ready to achieve success with managing change, let’s talk!


The Future of Conversation

I had the unique opportunity to hear Brian David Johnson, Futurist for Intel, last evening and I am thrilled that I did!  The key question he addressed was “How do we change the future?”  The answer he provided was both optimistic and affirming: We change the future by changing the story we tell ourselves about the future we will live in.  The future is indeed made by US– and we need to create a vision for ourselves of what that future will look like: what do we want and what do we want to avoid?

He went on to say that creating that vision requires listening and conversation: learning from others, particularly the younger generation. This point underscores the critical importance of effective conversation skills.

I invite you to join me Sept 4-5 for Fierce Conversations: a foundational, hands one workshop that will introduce you to transformational ideas and principles that will shift your basic understanding of conversations and the power they hold in leadership, relationships and results. This workshop is based on the work of Susan Scott’s breakthrough book: Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time.

Contact me for further information!  Are you ready to “get Fierce”???