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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dare to Dream

Rick, a friend of mine, is a chief of police. While on a trip to North Dakota with his father-in-law, the both of them visited a museum in Fargo that housed a full-scale Viking ship! Here’s the story in a nutshell from their Web site:
In 1971, Robert Asp, a guidance councilor at Moorhead Jr. High School, began his dream to build a Viking ship and sail it to Oslo Norway. Asp built the Hjemkomst in a former potato warehouse in Hawley, MN that he rented in 1974. Six years later, Robert Asp sailed his ship on Lake Superior. He died of Leukemia in December of that year. In the summer of 1982, Robert Asp’s family and friends sailed the Hjemkomst 6100 miles from Duluth, MN to Bergen, Norway where they arrived on July 19,1982.
Learn about the voyage, including the storm 500 miles from New York that created a crack in the hull nearly 14 feet long that almost caused the crew to head back to North America. See how the crew lived during the 72-day voyage.
Feel the massive ship; touch the water-worn wood. You will see why it symbolizes the Center's theme, "Dare to Dream."
How many of us would take on such a journey? I’m not sure who the bigger hero is—Robert or his family. But notice that it only takes one man with a dream to inspire others toward the same dream—the essence of leadership.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ministers as Leaders of Change

One of the smartest leaders I ever met was a guy called Sam. We had a chance recently to talk, and I asked him about the kind of leadership experiences he had as a minister. While he was able to rattle of several, I found the following to be particularly interesting and kind of a leadership signature of Sam.

He was placed into a ministry in which one lay member had taken over much control of the church. Sam wanted to make changes without alienating this very powerful member. So, each year Sam would find someone who wanted to take over one of the tasks from the lay leader. Then Sam would go to this strong headed leader and ask him if he would relinquish just one area in order to let this other church member participate, get more engaged. The conscientious leader agreed to these small concessions until after 12 years the transformation had taken place—without anger or acrimony. Sam said, “ I never thought I’d stay for 12 years!” Some change just takes time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Emotional Social Effectiveness for Leaders

A Coach’s Guide to Emotional Intelligence: Strategies for Developing Successful Leaders
By James Bradford Terrell and Marcia Hughes with contributions from Julio Olalla, Terrie Lupberger and G. Lee Salmon

This book teaches coaches how to use the same approach that experienced FBI agents employ when interviewing witnesses, victims, or even criminals: Look well beyond the surface of the conversation at the person’s language, emotion, and body language (somatics). I particularly liked the authors’ framing their key focus as Emotional Social Effectiveness—because it is more than emotional intelligence (which sounds both high-brow and out of touch). The authors also introduce five critical techniques, which resonated with me as an executive coach and former FBI agent. Here they are with my personal interpretation of what they mean in a nutshell:
1. Value Self—Respect and trust ourselves
2. Value Others—Respect and trust others
3. Responsive Awareness—Be aware and act wisely
4. Courage—Do the right thing
5. Authentic Success—Balance meaning with achievement

The book not only provides a sound theoretical explanation of each of these techniques, but it also offers a number of concrete examples and case studies. I especially liked the chapter, “Coaching to Enhance, Develop, and Strengthen Emotional and Social Competencies in Government Leaders” by contributing author Lee Salmon (Federal Consulting Group, U.S. Department of Treasury). I only wish that this book had been around when I was teaching and coaching at the FBI Academy in a previous career. It would have helped me and my internal clients a great deal.

I felt like this book was an important read for me as an executive coach and will serve as a great reference book for the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Leaders Who Incite Emotional Calming or Emotional Rioting

Watch a young child (a toddler), fall, and you’ll witness something that happens in business all the time. The child immediately looks at the mother, father, or guardian. If the caretaker expresses mild concern, even a kind of lightheartedness—assuming it was not a major accident—then the child gets up, dusts off and heads for the original destination. However, if the caretaker reacts in a highly charged emotional way (perhaps by making a very distressed face or exclaiming something in a high pitched, fearful voice) the child will often start crying, in an attempt to match and react to the emotion coming toward him or her.

Leaders have an invisible megaphone permanently attached to their voice box. This unseen amplifier is called positional authority. We are all wired to listen to authority with much greater intensity than similar words coming from a colleague. Of course there are exceptions to this, say when you don’t trust your boss or don’t know the situation well. But on the whole, leaders have their voices amplified without ever intending to do so. Therefore, in uncertain times if a leader passes down the emotion from above, with the same intensity it came down to him or her just by passing it down the line, it intensifies the message.

So, it’s important for leaders to learn how to deflect, not ignore much of which comes down from above. Uncertain economical times like these are a perfect example. Investment advisors or bankers who calm people’s fears are far more likely to have clients who make good, rational decisions. Whereas, advisors, who are anxious themselves, will exacerbate already skittish investors, who might well make poorer (stress-induced) decisions.

Leaders can cause emotional calm or potentially emotional riots
just by the way they pass down information through their invisible microphones.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Leadership: Attitude and Aptitude

Motivational speaker and sales training guru, Zig Ziglar once said: “It is your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude.” Recently in a new book, The Breakthrough Company by Keith McFarland, one CEO said that he hired for attitude and then trained aptitude. Both of these quotes struck home for me because too frequently, we read a resume that includes entries referring to Princeton and Yale and Harvard or Stanford Business School—along with McKinsey or Booz Allen, and we go gaga—a bit like an intellectual love at first sight. The candidate interviews well, is bright, personable and shining. But some months later, we see a poisonous attitude seep into the culture and when we track it back to our superstar, we try to re-train them…educate them into a new attitude. Hard stuff. I’m not saying it can’t be done or that we shouldn’t try. Certainly executive coaches can help. But wouldn’t it be easier in the long run to hire attitude? In many cases, you can train aptitude.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hovering Helicopters and Leadership

When I was a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps and heading for Vietnam, I was studying artillery at Fort Sill Oklahoma. I had made a friend, an Army helicopter pilot, who was also a student in my artillery class, which was taught by a an arrogant (I’m ashamed to say) Marine Corps Captain. This instructor tended to berate people in a kind of demeaning way: “What, you can’t understand that simple equation?” One day the arrogant instructor said something demeaning to my Army friend, who had been a decorated pilot in Vietnam. The pilot just looked up and asked:

“Hey, Captain, can you hover?”

“What?” asked the Captain instructor.

“Can you hover a helicopter?”

“NO!” exclaimed the Captain, at what must have seemed and irrelevant question.

“Then, I guess we’re even!” said my Army friend.

Not a bad thing to think about as a leader. We all have differing gifts. The trick it to recognize them and not put others down who don’t have the ones we might happen to have.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Persuasion--50 Ways

How to Be Persuasive
Excerpts from Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive

I've been a huge fan of Dr. Bob Cialdini for many years and have used his classic book Influence in university classes and courses for years. Now he has collaborated with colleagues Noah Goldstein, Ph.D. and Steve Martin (the Ph.D. not the comedian!). The new book, Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive is an excellent read for any student of the discipline and any business person who wants to improve business. Here are just a few examples:
1. Reciprocity: In one experiment a social scientist Randy Garner tested the effect of yellow 3M Post-it Notes. He sent out a survey and cover letter three different ways: one set of surveys contained a yellow sticky post-it on top of the cover letter with a handwritten note requesting completion on the sticky note; one set of surveys had a handwritten request only on the cover letter; the final set of surveys contained only the cover letter and survey, with no personalized note of any sort. The results: 75% survey completion rate for the first group (with the handwritten Post-It note); 48% return rate for the second group (with the handwritten note on the cover letter itself); and 36% with only the cover letter. I just bought more sticky notes!
2. Commitment/Consistency: Researcher Anthony Greenwald discovered that when people are asked whether they will engage in socially desirable behavior (such as, “Will you vote?”), they usually answer “yes.” Those people who answer yes tend to live up to their promise (remain consistent with their previous commitment) at much higher rates than those never asked. For example at one restaurant (where people notoriously are no shows despite reservations), one manager changed his request from "Please call if you have to cancel" to a direct question: "Will you please call if you have to cancel?" People always answered "Yes." The results are in: Just by asking the question versus getting people to answer yes (which they are compelled to in such socially desirable situations), the manager dropped his no-show rate from 30% to 10%--a huge revenue booster to be sure. Will you read my latest book The Journey of the Accidental Leader?
3. Consensus: In an experiment involving compliance of hotel guests used to measure the effect of social pressure or consensus, researchers (Goldstein, Cialdini, and Griskevicius) simply placed a sign in each hotel room asking guests to reuse towels for the sake of the environment. There was an immediate uptick in the number of people who cooperated. When the wording on the sign was altered to not only appeal to the environment but also that the majority of guests complied with this request, the compliance rate shot up 26%. Finally, when the sign was altered yet again, this time to say that not only did most guests reuse towels, but also that guests who had stayed in the very room being asked to ruse (direct peers), had in fact, recycled, the compliance rate shot up to 33%. Please recycle this paper after you read it!
4. Liking: Benjamin Franklin once wrote: ‘He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” Though this sounds counter-intuitive, it is not. Researchers (Jecker and Landy) conducted a study in which participants won money during the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, the researcher approached one group of winners and asked if they would be willing to return some of the money they’d won from the researcher because he had used much of his own personal money to run the experiment. The rest of the group was not asked. In a follow up survey, the group that was asked the favor rated the experimenter high than the un-asked members of the group. Bottom line message here: Ask people for help. Not only will you likely get a return for asking, but they’ll also like you more.
5. Authority: Everyone has experienced the effect of authority on influence. From bosses asking us to stay late to football coaches telling us to drop down and give them twenty push-ups and from products recommended by the American Medical Association to the advice given to us by our lawyers—authority helps us make up our minds quickly. In one experiment, the researchers (Pfeffer, Fong, Cialdini, and Portnoy) asked participants to play the role of senior editor for a book publisher dealing with an experienced author. The “senior editors” were asked to consider sizeable book advance for the author. The editors were divided into two groups: One group read positive comments about the author, which were made by the author himself. The second group read the identical comments made by the author’s agent. The result: the “editors” rated the author’s comments more favorably on every element of comparison, especially likability, when those comments were made by a third party (the agent) than by the author himself. Bob Cialdini and his colleagues have written a great book—I suggest strongly that you consider reading it!
6. Scarcity: Brian Ahearn of State Farm Insurance Company is responsible for recruiting new independent insurance agencies from across the country to partner with State Farm, thus giving State Farm expanded territorial coverage. And every year, Brian and his team send out recruitment letters with little direct success from the mailing. More recently, he decided to use the scarcity principle in his letter by using legitimate information about the offering. His new letter now includes that while they are looking for new partners, they were looking for only 42 firms nationally and that State Farm had already lined up 35 firms. His letter contained this sentence: ‘It’s our sincere hope that your agency will be one of the remaining agencies that we appoint before the year end.’ Within days, he began to get eager responses from agencies that did not want to lose out on the opportunity. Scarcity derived from legitimate information drives behavior.

That’s it, if you want more…lots more about persuasion, go to Amazon today buy the book: Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive( 2008, Free Press).

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