A Spoonful of Sugar

A Spoonful of SugarRaise your hand if you have ever started off a conversation to offer difficult feedback by giving a compliment.  I can literally hear the rustle of thousands of hands being raised.  We’ve all done it.  No one wants to see pain inflicted on another human being.  We put ourselves in their shoes, and feel the agony of knowing we didn’t live up to a standard.

But on the other hand, we don’t put ourselves in their shoes completely.  Let’s try on your shoes for a moment.  You might not want to hear how you’d disappointed someone, but what other things might be in your head when someone approaches you with a suspiciously nervous start to a conversation? Continue reading

Inspiring Through Stories

Inspiring Through Stories“The adventures first,” said the Gryphon in an impatient tone, “explanations take such a dreadful time.”  – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Think about the people who have most inspired you. What was it that stimulated your enthusiasm, your passion, your connection to their message?  Chances are it was a story that made a connection for you. I watched recently with amazement at the connection between an 80-year-old man and a 12-year-old boy as the older man told his story of life in Europe during World War II. The boy went on to characterize that man as a hero. Continue reading

Yes You Can

Yes You CanAs hurricanes played out in the US over the past weeks, heartwarming stories also emerged about people who took the initiative to help others, even risking their own health and well-being to be of service to those who needed their aid.  There was a 13-year-old boy who floated an air mattress around his neighborhood, rescuing neighbors.  And a nun who got out a chain saw to get a tree off someone’s car.

But heroism doesn’t need to be big or risky.  In fact, the simplest of acts can be the most meaningful when people need it the most.  Again and again, in the face of fears and tears, people called and texted each other, and when the water receded, what stood out for the survivors were the messages that said, “Yes, you can.  You are capable.  You are resilient.  I believe in you.” Continue reading

Hearken Ye…..

Hearken YeIn the September 12 New York Times, OpEd columnist David Brooks wrote a refreshingly apolitical opinion piece that is a worthwhile reflection on aspects of leadership that are as pertinent today as they were in the stories that formed the Old Testament.  It’s worth a read for this reason alone. Continue reading

The Impossible Dream

The Impossible Dream“Tilting at windmills” – a phrase made famous by the off-kilter actions of knight-errant Don Quixote in ‘Man of La Mancha’ – signifies a misdirected idealism.  Indeed, crazy Don Quixote saw the beautiful in everything, no matter how much trouble it got him into, no matter how others derided his optimism. Continue reading

Decision-Making Fast and Slow

Decision-Making Fast and SlowDecisions can be relatively inconsequential, but when they are tough ones, one of the complexities leaders face is how quickly they need to make the decision.  As illustrated in last week’s blog post about James Comey’s many decision points, sometimes you have more time to develop good assessments, and other times you don’t.
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Beware the Handy Emotions

DecisionToo much of a good thing is too much of a good thing.  That applies to everything in life, doesn’t it?  Lovely red wine that’s healthy for the body can become too much red wine that causes accidents.  Overdone exercise can become a cause of injuries.  Doting on children can lead to irresponsible adults.  The balance is always difficult.

And so it is with the advice to extend your emotions as a leader.  On balance, wonderful things happen when you operate from your best emotional self in the tricky interpersonal relationships that are the crux of leadership.  And yet, we can’t take for granted that just ‘more of’ means ‘better’. Continue reading

The Taboo of Anger

angry and furious announcement - businessman spitting fireAnger is one of the most powerful emotions in the human repertoire.  It drives people to collective action, as in the civil rights movement and the recent election, and also in sports – have you seen the New Zealand rugby team the All Blacks perform their ritual haka before each game?  But anger can be destructive as well.  It can generate hurt feelings, damaged relationships, divisiveness, anxiety, inaction or outsized reactions, and in extreme situations, irreparable ruin of people or property.  That potential for damage and conflict makes it a feared emotion. Continue reading

Managing the ‘New Leader Expectations’ Trap

Young creative manager feeling the pressure“I’ve only been in my new role two months, and already I’m totally overwhelmed,” gasped Audrey. “Everyone wants a piece of me. And I can’t possibly live up to all their expectations!”

Audrey was a strong player in the organization when she took on her new role. She had done some impressive work in her previous assignments, and when she took on the leadership of a business unit with some problems, expectations of her were outsized. Everyone from her boss to her employees to her business partners was looking for major change in the twinkle of an eye. And Audrey felt an obligation to respond glowingly. After all, this was why she’d been promoted into this role, and it could be her career-breakout position. Continue reading

Taking the Lead or Playing to Please

Taking the Lead or Playing to PleaseIt’s a brand new role. No one else has been here before. You have the opportunity to make a real mark. And here is where you face your first dilemma as the leader of this newly identified role. How is my success being assessed?  For that matter, even if it’s not a new role, a leader coming into a role new to her (or him), often realizes the difficulty of understanding how success in the role will be determined.

And one of the easiest ways to address the dilemma is to work hard to please the people who are most influential in determining your success. But that may not equate to the long-term success you’re looking for in your reputation as a leader. Continue reading