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Monday, August 21, 2017

ACT Before You Think!?

Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader by Herminia Ibarra (HBR Press, 2015), reviewed by Steve Gladis


Overview:  Act before you think!  Not exactly the advice we might give our kids, but sage advice that the author, Herminia Ibarra, offers her readers based on her myth-shattering research about career transition. Leaders need to act—experiment their way into leadership—and not overthink it. Social science research shows us that people change their minds only after changing their
behavior. We think of ourselves as writers, runners, lovers only after we’ve acted—written, run and loved. And becoming a leader from the outside in helps generate the author’s slogan: Outsight comes from action—by redefining your job, your network, yourself. Regarding leadership, we act like a leader when we offer new ideas, network with new people to reach goals, and make contributions beyond our expertise. To become a better lder, we must stretch. And, when we’re in transition, reflection should always follow action, not the other way around. By contrast, too much insight reflects on internal knowledge, past experience and thought—too much of which can get you stuck in the past. Rather, advancing your leadership emerges from your acts first, then your thoughts and reflections.
1.      The “Outsight Principle.” A rapidly changing world calls for an adaptive, do-it-yourself (DIY) transition. Not waiting for your organization to step up, but taking charge of your own leadership development makes sense. Called the “outsight principle,” the author’s revelation says that we need to act against habit and follow a three-pronged strategy: 1. Work on your job—try new ways at work; 2. Work on your network—meet new people; and, 3. Work on yourself--connect and engage with people in new ways.
2.      Redefine Your Job. We tend to stick with what we’re good at because it feels good—and we’re also lazy! Nearly 60% of leaders spend time in meetings—getting bogged down. Shifting from driving day-to-day results to becoming more strategic is how leaders advance.  But that shift isn’t easy, and we like easy—staying with who and what we know. Getting off the “dance floor” and onto the “balcony” forces managers to see their job in a more strategic way. To evolve, leaders must act as bridges between diverse groups, envision new ideas, engage with people and embody/become the change they want to see. To do these things, leaders need to get more involved in outside projects, carve out more time for strategic work, and communicate their purpose—their “why.”
3.      Network Across and Out. Getting strategic things done demands that leaders become better networked with stakeholders (both lateral and vertical) to sell ideas, identify trends, and compete for resources. To develop, leaders also need to know how to do new things (get new tasks done), which often requires help—coaching, mentoring, encouragement. Thus, expanding networks to more strategic levels and well beyond their current tactical levels makes sense.  In one study, managers rated external training (outside networking) as far more valuable than their boss in developing them as a leader—reinforcing the do-it-yourself (DIY) model of transition. Leaders need three kinds of networks: Personal (to develop yourself); operational (to get things done); and strategic (to get to the next level). And, leveraging between networks leads to synergy. Critical components of a good network are breadth (diverse), connectivity (links between groups), and dynamic (evolving).  But we tend to network with people who are like ourselves—an evolutionary instinct. In fact, at the beginning of any job interview, finding something in common with the interviewer dramatically increases the chances of getting to the next level. Thus, the more diverse, dynamic and wide a network, the better.
4.      Be More Playful with Your Self. Talk to any successful person and they’ve either felt or are feeling like a fraud. So common is this phenomenon that it’s been called “the imposter syndrome.” Often, we get trapped into this situation because when you step up to leadership, the position feels new, weird. Experimenting with new behaviors helps us role play as we adapt to new identities—which can feel less authentic. However, who we were in the past is not who we might become. Three ways to play/experiment:  draw from other leaders, focus on learning, and rewrite your story.
5.      Stepping Up. Evolving into the next-level leader is not a single event but a process over time.  Transition is never a linear, straightforward process—more a bunch of false starts and readjustments. It’s a lot like going to buy a pair of running shoes. You try them on, test drive them on a treadmill or around the store first. Who you are as a leader isn’t preconceived but conceived of testing, failing and trying again. According to Daniel Levinson, we go through transition (3 years) and stability periods (7 years). We tend to incrementally change in stability periods and make bigger changes in our transition phases. There are five stages when stepping into transition as a leader: 1. Disconfirmation—a gap between where you are and want to be; 2. Simple Addition—adding and testing out new roles and behaviors; 3. Complication—setbacks that happen along the transition; 4. Course Correction—reflection on new endeavors and impact; 5. Internalization—confirming your new identity and sticking with changes. Bottom Line: To become a leader, act first, then think and reflect on it. Change how you work, who you hang around with and how you express yourself. In his commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” So, stepping out and trying/acting into leadership may not immediately make perfect sense, but one day it will form a coherent narrative if we stay true to our quest to become a better leader.
6.      More Good Stuff Inside: Check out these nuggets: The Outsight Graphic (p. 11); Is Your Work Environment Telling You It’s Time to Change (p.19); A Network Audit (p. 73); What’s Wrong with Your Network (p.102); The Big Questions (p. 102); Are you in a Career-Building Period or in a Career-Transitioning Period? (p. 179).

Friday, August 11, 2017

Talk Like TED--How to improve your public speaking

Overview: Using a host of TED Talks, Carmine Gallo offers a powerful
argument for how to deliver public presentations. Having taught speech for over 20 years and being a former speechwriter, I can highly recommend this book. Gallo suggests speaking with emotion and passion; telling compelling, relevant stories; having a conversation with the audience; teaching something new; inserting show-stopping elements; using situational and personal humor; and, delivering information in short 10-minute segments punctuated by soft breaks—stories, pictures, videos.

1.  Unleash the Master Within: Find a unique passion in your material to supercharge your presentation. You have to inspire yourself first, then others will follow. Passion and inspiration spread like a good virus. The author translates passion into a question: What makes your heart sing? And then, how do you incorporate that into your profession and your presentations. Passionate business leaders are more creative, set higher goals, show more persistence and have better performance than their peers. In fact, the more you speak on a topic you’re passionate about, the more your brain develops. Charisma and passion are related. Charismatic people smile more and generate more energy than others. In short, charisma and passion lead to positive emotions in self and eventually to mood contagion in others.

2.  Master the Art of Storytelling: Using stories to engage your audience is the way to break down audience resistance and to connect them to your central theme, making it both comprehensible and memorable. Using Bryan Stevenson’s TED Talk about social justice, Gallo demonstrates how personal stories woven into the narrative engage the audience. Good presenters use a blend of facts and analysis combined with artful storytelling. Three types of stories: relevant personal stories, relevant stories of others, and success or failures of brands—especially ones that have an unexpected result or lesson learned. To get quoted in the media, tell a story of vulnerability in your speech.

3.  Have a Conversation: “It takes practice to appear natural,” explains this chapter. Deep practice with an eye toward looking as if you’re having a personal conversation with the audience —as you might with a friend—takes rehearsal. Such comfort only comes with practice and emotional rapport with the audience. “Authenticity doesn’t happen naturally.” One way is to get early feedback. Practice with less intimidating audiences, offer presentations for a reduced fee or even free—just to get the practice.

4.  Teach Me Something New—Be Novel: We’re hard wired to learn something new. Our brains are always on the lookout for new information—mainly to figure out whether it’s threatening or not. So, reveal “new” and helpful information to attract people to your speech. Advancing to the next level of a video game or learning new information triggers the chemical dopamine—the brain’s “save” button. “New” excites the brain which wants to learn how to survive, and dopamine flips that switch on—and it’s addictive. Just watch any kid playing a video game. If you can explain your BIG new idea in a tweet, you probably really understand it and can teach it to others. What is the one thing you want people to remember after you talk?

5.  Deliver Jaw-Dropping Moments: Emotional experiences of fear get seared into our lasting memory. You can do this in your speech. Emotions cause the amygdala to access the visual cortex to collect detailed info and then secrete dopamine that enhances memory—it’s like a post-it note to the brain to remember this whole experience. September 11 is a difficult but perfect example. People remember where they were when they heard about it because that day is seared into their memory. Use very concrete examples, charged with emotions, if you want people to remember them. We persuade when we grab a person’s head and heart—logic and emotion.

6.  Lighten Up: Humor breaks down defenses, makes you seem more human and more trustworthy. The brain loves humor because it provides a twist—novelty. Higher ranking people in a group are more likely to use humor. It’s also an “ingratiation tactic” that allows acceptance into a group. Humorous people are regarded as considerate, intelligent and emotionally stable—among other positive traits. In business, humor deflects criticism, relieves tension, and can communicate tough messages. But, avoid telling jokes—a difficult task. Raise humor through personal anecdotal stories that get a smile or chuckle from the group.

7.  Stick to the 18-Minute TED Talk Rule: People can only absorb so much. That’s why TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. Longer talks require soft breaks (stories, videos, demos) about every 10 minutes—otherwise audiences get “cognitive backlog” which can make them overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious, even angry. Also, willpower is a limited commodity, which gets drained with too many decisions. The lack of glucose—caused by the brain doing too much thinking—causes a drop in willpower. Brain cells are energy hogs—requiring twice as much energy (and glucose) as other parts of the body.
8.  Paint a Mental Picture: The brain craves stimulation and loves and learns from multisensory stimulation—auditory, visual and kinesthetic. People remember more when they see, hear and experience information.  These connections are a lot stronger than each independently. And this is especially true with people with no or low prior knowledge—clients, students, and the general public—to whom you are explaining a new concept. Vision trumps all the senses, so focus on the visual. The author uses Al Gore’s now famous speech on climate change as a perfect example of how to integrate visual, audio and other breaks to help the audience understand the complex nature of the subject.

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Speakers by Carmine Gallo (St. Martin’s Press, 2014) reviewed by Steve Gladis, September 2016.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

How to Scientifically Make Life Changes that Stick


Overview: Dieters won’t stick to diets, patients won’t take their meds, and businesses can’t get customers to stay with them. Why? Personality, heredity, or just bad luck? It’s hard to “stick with it”— for things like diet, sleep, exercise, and whatever else is important to you—unless you construct a process around “it.”  Sean Young’s research and practice have identified seven forces or principles behind lasting change. He uses the mnemonic S-C-I-E-N-C-E to help us remember these forces: Stepladders (small steps can lead to big changes); Community (we’re pack animals, and follow the herd); Important (things must matter to us); Easy (we do ‘easy’ first); Neurohacks (we act ourselves into change); Captivating (we all like a wow factor); and, Engrained (repetition deepens habits in our brains).  Young then shows how these 7 forces can be applied selectively to alter three key behaviors (the ABCs): Automatic, Burning, and Common problems. Using stories, studies, and statistics, the author drives home his process for making lasting changes. Author: Sean Young is a professor at UCLA and director of the Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Predictive Technology. 

1.  Stepladders: Great journeys begin with the first step. Starting small makes a big difference. Not overwhelming people with huge first steps is critical. Take a small step, reflect, take the next one. Too much planning can become a barrier. Focus on smaller steps and goals, not dreams, to avoid being overwhelmed and disappointed by failure. It’s all about the “power of the incremental.” Rewarding yourself more frequently with small-step wins motivates you to keep trying—conditions the brain with regular dopamine releases. 

2.  Community: Despite thinking we’re fiercely independent, we follow the crowd—like the social, pack animals we are. Social connections offer us support and competition that can lead to healthy change. Communities share common characteristics, beliefs and cultures. Facebook is an example of how community forms and gets reinforced by likes, comments and shares. Here are 6 ingredients of good community: Trust, fitting in, self-worth, social pull, reward, feeling empowered. Connecting and contributing foster community. In social media, it might be as simple as inviting a connection and “liking” or commenting on posts. 

3.  Important: For us to continue doing something, it must be important to us. If a product does not solve a problem, customers won’t keep using it. The three top things that are important to people are money, social connections, and health. Being socially connected makes us more likely to do things. When we belong to CrossFit or Weight Watchers, the activity gets more important to us, so we follow through. Understanding what’s important to someone opens the door to them. 

4.  Easy: Make it easy for people to do, and they’ll do it. Learn how to remove barriers to make it easier for people to comply. You can control the environment (start dieting by keeping no junk food in the house); limit choices (keep choices to only a few—too many confuses people); or, draw a roadmap (show people the path to take and they will take it). 

5.  Neurohacks: We don’t think ourselves into change, we act our way into change and our minds follow. Using neurohacks, mental tricks, can help immensely. If you want to start loving your wife or husband even more, change your password to “I¬¬_love_my_wife.” Want to become kinder? Go out and practice kindness. Neurohacks work because people want to be consistent with their actions and self-image. For example, just physically smiling starts to make you feel and think more positively. And how you speak about self and others affects how you think about yourself and others. 

6.  Captivating: Making activities or products game-like, fun, and rewarding ensures they will be captivating and sticky. People will keep doing things if they’re rewarded for doing them—clipping coupons is a great example. We approach rewards and avoid punishment—mostly. To make things captivating: Make it fun; use carrots, not sticks; money is not the best reward; and, make the activity rewarding by setting reasonable goals. Rewards programs work because people envision what they might do in the future—even though many never do. Look at how many airline bonus miles go unused every year.

7.  Engrained: Routines to instill habits make change happen. Repetition creates rewards in the brain. Our brains are designed to make things easy and routine, because it saves energy. The brain remembers, adapts, engrains and changes to retain information it needs to remember to survive. It’s why babies remember their mother’s voice and respond positively to it. Repeating key behaviors, every day, at a particular place and time, engrains it on the brain. Conversely, we need diversity in schools; otherwise, kids get used to seeing only one skin color (similar to them) as safe and others as potential threats. 

8. The ABCs of Behavior: Specific problems require specific tools. Thus, you may use some of the seven tools with certain types of problems and other sets with another problem. Here are three specific, potential problems.  Automatic Behaviors: We all have behaviors that we’re unaware of—thus hard to change. To change such unconscious, automatic and deeply engrained behaviors, use easy and engrained tools. Drinking too much soda? Keep a bottle of water on your desk—not soda. On a diet? Keep processed foods out of the house. Burning Behaviors: These are urges or bad habits we’re aware of but can’t seem to stop. Smoking, playing video games, checking emails, and others. Make easy the things that you want to do, and hard if you want to stop them.  Limit time on videos or turn off email—set a timer to check. Common Behaviors: Many people try to get started on a fitness program. Doing it alone makes it tough. But add a fitness or weight-loss buddy to your life and watch things start to change. 

Stick with It: A Scientifically Proven Process for Changing Your Life—for Good, by Sean Young (HarperCollins, 2017), reviewed by Steve Gladis, July 2017.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coaching Teams

High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and Coaches by Drs. Jacqueline Peters and Catherine Carr (FriesenPress, 2013), reviewed by Steve Gladis, April 2017. 


Overview: Only 1 of 5 teams is high performing, in part because team coaching has lacked a solid performance model—at least until now.  High-performance coaching is systematic and focused on the collective talents, strengths, and goals of the organization. First, the authors define the critical difference between a group and a team. A team is complementary, committed and, especially, interdependent. And a high-performance team hits or exceeds organizational goals they set for themselves. The authors set out several key elements. I’d call them the Key 3s. Three fundamental steps for a team: Assess stakeholder expectations; put a plan in place; measure progress and results. Three critical drivers for success: Team structure, team launch, and team coaching. Three times for best coaching impact: The beginning, middle, and end. And finally, three critical outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.

1. Team Coaching: Team and individual coaching are different animals. Only in the past decade has team coaching emerged as a sub-discipline of coaching. Moreover, systemic team coaching focuses on the leader, the team processes, and the team’s impact on stakeholders to transform performance of the team and the business. Typically, an external coach works with the leader, the team and, where needed, individuals on the team. Safety and trust are critical factors for high-performance teams. There are 6 phases of High Performance Team Coaching: Assessment, Design, Launch, Individual Coaching, Team Coaching, and Review.
2. Assessment & Design: Referring to Wageman’s research (2008), the authors cite three essential conditions (a real, defined team; compelling direction; and the right people). Also there are 3 enabling conditions (solid team structure, supportive organizational context, and competent team coaching). Teams need both essential and enabling conditions to be successful. The assessment phase determines the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps between the current and desired states. In general, the essential and enabling conditions that follow provide specific guidance for the first two phases of team coaching.
   a. Essential Conditions of Teams: 1) “Real” Teams have clear boundaries, defined membership, and strong interdependent goals; 2) Compelling direction gives teams a sense of purpose about their work and its impact on their stakeholders; 3) The right people are those with the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve the team’s goals.
   b. Enabling Conditions: 1) Solid team structure means clear roles, responsibilities, and working guidelines/agreements; 2) Supportive Organizational Context means that a team has resources to support its operation—time, talent, money; 3) Competent Team Coaching refers to coaches with experience in the discipline of team coaching.
3. Team Launch: New teams are launched, and established teams are relaunched to develop and/or refresh their mission and vision and establish a safe, cohesive unit. Led by competent team coaches, such launches are held offsite to focus teams on the purpose and the ground rules (working agreements) of the team. In essence, a team charter is formulated to keep the team on course, especially when things get rocky. If good rules aren’t established up front and adhered to, people will create them, ad hoc.  The authors provide a valuable, simple worksheet to help coaches and teams craft such a charter.
4. Individual Team Coaching: Coaching the team leader through this transitional period helps provide a valuable sounding board and guide to keep the team coaching and processes on track. In general, coaching is good both for the leader and also team members who might get stuck along the way. Coaching team members can be done by the team coach or an internal or external coach and/or, especially, peers. Peer coaching is easy to teach and implement as long as the team coach creates rules, especially around confidentiality, that lead to safety, truth telling and ultimately progress.
5. Ongoing Team Coaching: It may be best to have an external coach when launching a new team. Moreover, having that coach at least monitor the team’s progress in the middle and end of the engagement is critical. Sometimes the team leader will take over the reins after the team is up and running well. In many cases, the team coach provides regular, periodic coaching for the team and leader. Again, peer coaching is viewed as a key driver of employee engagement.  
6. Review of Learning and Successes: Reviewing a team’s progress periodically and then at its completion is a key factor for future team success. One of the coach’s jobs is to push the team to review their experiences (tasks, milestones, etc.) and reflect on their collective and personal learning during the team’s lifecycle. Worth noting—often this step is skipped by many teams, especially in the glow of completing a difficult task. Coaches and team leaders must vigilantly reflect on the team’s journey to ensure both the growth of team members and the organization. Excellent teams produce the following three outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.
7. Team Coaching Activities: Chapter 5 is a goldmine for coaches. The authors provide guidance to ensure that a series of key elements of the six-step team coaching process are followed. For example, in support of the assessment step, The Team Coaching Readiness Assessment provides a list of detailed questions to ask prior to coaching to ensure a greater chance of team success. Supporting the launch step, the Team Charter Page offers a simple, effective team summary including vision, mission, values, key goals, success measures and working agreements.

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