Different industries require subtle differences in style and how leaders impact their teams and results. As part of our occasional series chatting with industry leaders, we recently spoke with engineer and senior leader, Wes Davis. His story is an interesting one, with Wes focusing much of his time and development on the topic of leadership within engineering, rather than simply learning and applying the technical aspects.
Do you fear that you will eventually be discovered as a fraud and you might get found out at any minute? Then you are experiencing something often referred to as imposter syndrome which stems from a sense of inadequacy, despite objectively being competent. You may never fully overcome these feelings, however, there are opportunities to better balance your thinking and self-perception.
In the last few years we’ve recognised that we probably haven’t had the opportunity to feel the benefit of many of the things that we take joy from. Covid has really challenged our opportunity to find joy in our life.
We’re really talking about those things that are present in our life already…and the opportunities exist. But, if we’re not actively looking for them, and we’re not seeking them, sometimes they can pass us by.
I was recently asked to speak at an Aged Care Forum on the topic of ‘Joy and its Link to Self-Care’. This is a great theme. One that we don’t speak enough about, so it was a lovely opportunity to discuss a topic that is important, yet not commonly sought out in business circles.
Listen to my thoughts below about how joy can be found anywhere and our need to actively seek it. It is not passive. Joy does not occur through blind hope. It can be discovered and created, if you take the time to be mindful of the many joyful moments that occur every day…even the small things.
Read my related blog: Your Roles, Your Time, Your Choices
Themes such as understanding the difference between an internal and external locus of control. Delving into how important socialisation, being with others and relationships are for all of us. I also discuss how perspective relates to joy. These themes and others are covered with the intention that there may be opportunity for the discovery of more joy.
The invitation to expand on and share my thoughts with such a large group of attendees was appreciated. The possibility that one or more participants might apply some of their learning in practice is exciting. You may also find value in the key points highlighted. This may lead to more joy for you and others…and that’s never a bad thing.
We all have multiple roles, responsibilities and relationships, both in and out of the workplace. Understanding how your various roles interact and affect each other can make a genuine difference in your life.
“It’s all about the levers”, I said. My client looked at me like I had gone barmy. “Maybe you are feeling an imbalance and that you are having to compromise your core values and some of the things that matter most to you”, I suggested. I knew this would require a little more explanation and detail. Once we discussed the topic further, however, it became clearer I was hitting the mark with my coachee.
Since this discussion some years ago, it is now even more evident how important this concept is to almost all of us. Attitude, prioritisation and self-awareness are always critical attributes and skills, even more so at the moment. This blog will explain the concept of choice, time and our various and many roles. A concept that has resonated and contributed to many of my client’s satisfaction, sense of control and comfort as it may for you.
We all have levers in our lives. What does this actually mean?
There is logic to the concept of levers. Each of your roles can be thought of as a separate, yet interconnected lever. Each role could be as a parent, employee, boss, friend, hobby or member of the local sports team as examples. In fact, it could be any aspect of your life that is important to you and you dedicate time to. Consider each role as being represented by a single lever.
Each lever can be adjusted, as required, aligned to how much time, effort and mental energy you dedicate to it.
Each adjustment is also reflective of how much importance you place on the role at that particular point in time. These focus tweaks are often in response to a perceived or real need to better balance your life or respond to some other stimulus. This can be either extrinsic (i.e. originating externally) or intrinsic (i.e. driven from within). The tweak may be required because of the needs of others. Maybe someone close to you expresses frustration or disappointment that you are not spending enough time with them. Or, you may recognise this need for change yourself.
Possibly you are spending too much time at work. Maybe you feel this yourself or there is pressure from your spouse and family to be home more or earlier. Or, you have stopped going to the gym, or taking regular walks and your fitness and mental well-being are negatively impacted. Is it that you recognise that your friends are being neglected? The triggers can arise from anywhere and are generally feeling-based. They can also be managed and influenced.
No matter the trigger, it often feels like something is missing or there is an imbalance in your life.
We all have the same amount of time to spend or allocate to our many roles. However, this time is finite – it has limits. The choices about where to spend this time and allocate to your many roles has a direct and ongoing influence on your overall satisfaction and contentment. It also impacts those you care about the most.
At this point, it is worth looking at where you are prioritising your time and whether this balance works for or against you. Referencing the great work of Stew Friedman, this 4-Way Views assessment will give you clarity regarding where you spend your time and satisfaction as a result.
Let’s extend the concept. I mentioned earlier that each of your roles can be thought of as a separate lever, yet are interconnected. This is true, however every time you adjust a lever or aspect of your life, all your other levers or roles are also impacted. Each lever is connected via an imaginary cable. It is often a small adjustment of maybe 5-10%. Deciding to spend more time at home, for example, will have a natural and direct impact on all of your other levers or roles. To add time and energy to one role, there is a reduction of focus and time in one or more of your other roles. Remember, your time is finite. That’s why your choices and what you prioritise are so important. There are 2 key elements to consider.
Firstly, it is important that you have enough levers.
I have seen many examples where a person has only 2 or 3 roles. These may be work and home, for example. This is a challenge when work or home is not providing positive input or going well. Devastating when both are not going well. Additional roles (maybe 7-8) provide alternatives and options to fulfill your life when one or more roles are not as positive as you would like. I am not suggesting that there is an ‘ideal’ specific number of roles. We are all different and have a variety of needs, capacities and preferences. However, like most things in life, too few or too many are extremes and offer more challenge than your individual, optimum number of roles.
Challenges and difficulties in life are common. How you react and respond to these challenges is critical.
No one lives the perfect life where all of their roles are being fulfilled at the same time. Having enough roles and different levers to adjust and provide a sense of balance is one of the keys. Not work-life balance, but a more holistic and psychologically fullfilling balance. However, it is possible to have too many roles.
Stretching yourself thin and trying to meet the needs of around 10 or more roles can also be a challenge. Imagine trying to fulfill a dozen roles and the allocation of time required? To be fair, I have seen this done. However, the strong relationships and capability to manage this time and roles effectively is rare.
Perspective and resilience are very important traits, particularly in today’s world. Taking control of your time and various roles and consciously adjusting your ‘levers’ as required, can make a significant difference to how resilient you are and in seeing life more clearly. One of the many insights I have learned when coaching and mentoring hundreds of clients over the last decade continues to resonate. Those who struggle with life generally, often do not have enough levers and/or feel they have little choice in what is happening in their life. They see things as happening ‘to’ them, not ‘with’ them. Being in control is not about being controlling. Control is about you – this is good. Being controlling is more about you and others – this is often misplaced and damaging.
Understand your own levers. Reflect on your many roles.
What roles do you have? Where are you spending most time?
Where could you spend more or less time that would suit you better?
Do you feel happiness and satisfaction with this mix? What can you do to find a better and more rewarding balance across all of your roles?
What will you do to feel you are in control and on most days feel happy with what you give and what you receive?
For the most part, you have the same choices, time and ability to influence your life as other people do theirs. Thinking about what you are compromising and what gives you the most joy will lead to change and greater satisfaction. Taking action as appropriate to adjust your levers adds value and lets you meet your core values.
Your life, your choice!
Listening effectively is a key cog in effective leadership and building trusted relationships. We have all been exposed to those people and managers who do not listen well. In each case this distracted, disrespectful moment of poor communication is frustrating and does little to develop trust, respect and a willingness to open up and share your real thoughts.
However, many of us believe we are better at communicating well than we are. It is worth checking yourself and reviewing how others may see you and your communication capability in reality.
The ability to ask questions to discover and engage, when combined with effective listening skills are two of the most integral facets of effective communication. In a blog I wrote previously along similar themes, titled Communicate Effectively to Influence and Lead, I introduced the concept of different levels of communication. Both blogs highlight the opportunities and risks of good communication, explaining key stages and actions you can take to become an improved communicator. Interestingly, a Harvard Business Review (1) article I read recently highlights the various levels in a different context, relating to listening in particular.
Chances are you think you’re a good listener. People’s appraisal of their listening ability is much like their assessment of their driving skills, in that the great bulk of adults think they’re above average. In our experience, most people think good listening comes down to doing three things:
- Not talking when others are speaking
- Letting others know you’re listening through facial expressions and verbal sounds (“Mmm-hmm”)
- Being able to repeat what others have said, practically word-for-word
In fact, much management advice on listening suggests doing these very things – encouraging listeners to remain quiet, nod and “mm-hmm” encouragingly, and then repeat back to the talker something like, “So, let me make sure I understand. What you’re saying is…” However, recent research that we conducted suggests that these behaviors fall far short of describing good listening skills.
We analyzed data describing the behavior of 3,492 participants in a development program designed to help managers become better coaches. As part of this program, their coaching skills were assessed by others in 360-degree assessments. We identified those who were perceived as being the most effective listeners (the top 5%). We then compared the best listeners to the average of all other people in the data set and identified the 20 items showing the largest significant difference. With those results in hand we identified the differences between great and average listeners and analyzed the data to determine what characteristics their colleagues identified as the behaviors that made them outstanding listeners.
We found some surprising conclusions, along with some qualities we expected to hear. We grouped them into four main findings:
- Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks. To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehended it well enough to want additional information. Good listening was consistently seen as a two-way dialog, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.
- Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem. The best listeners made the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners made the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening was characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences could be discussed openly.
- Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation. In these interactions, feedback flowed smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners were seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.
- Good listeners tended to make suggestions. Good listening invariably included some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)
While many of us have thought of being a good listener being like a sponge that accurately absorbs what the other person is saying, instead, what these findings show is that good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking. They make you feel better not merely passively absorbing, but by actively supporting. This lets you gain energy and height, just like someone jumping on a trampoline.
Of course, there are different levels of listening. Not every conversation requires the highest levels of listening, but many conversations would benefit from greater focus and listening skill. Consider which level of listening you’d like to aim for:
Level 1: The listener creates a safe environment in which difficult, complex, or emotional issues can be discussed.
Level 2: The listener clears away distractions like phones and laptops, focusing attention on the other person and making appropriate eye-contact. (This behavior not only affects how you are perceived as the listener; it immediately influences the listener’s own attitudes and inner feelings. Acting the part changes how you feel inside. This in turn makes you a better listener.)
Level 3: The listener seeks to understand the substance of what the other person is saying. They capture ideas, ask questions, and restate issues to confirm that their understanding is correct.
Level 4: The listener observes nonbverbal cues, such as facial expressions, perspiration, respiration rates, gestures, posture, and numerous other subtle body language signals. It is estimated that 80% of what we communicate comes from these signals. It sounds strange to some, but you listen with your eyes as well as your ears.
Level 5: The listener increasingly understands the other person’s emotions and feelings about the topic at hand, and identifies and acknowledges them. The listener empathizes with and validates those feelings in a supportive, nonjudgmental way.
Level 6: The listener asks questions that clarify assumptions the other person holds and helps the other person to see the issue in a new light. This could include the listener injecting some thoughts and ideas about the topic that could be useful to the other person. However, good listeners never highjack the conversation so that they or their issues become the subject of the discussion.
Each of the levels builds on the others; thus, if you’ve been criticized (for example) for offering solutions rather than listening, it may mean you need to attend to some of the other levels (such as clearing away distractions or empathizing) before your proffered suggestions can be appreciated.
We suspect that in being a good listener, most of us are more likely to stop short rather than go too far. Our hope is that this research will help by providing a new perspective on listening. We hope those who labor under an illusion of superiority about their listening skills will see where they really stand. We also hope the common perception that good listening is mainly about acting like an absorbent sponge will wane. Finally, we hope all will see that the highest and best form of listening comes in playing the same role for the other person that a trampoline plays for a child. It gives energy, acceleration, height and amplification. These are the hallmarks of great listening.
Self-esteem can be a challenge for many. These difficulties have been heightened over the last year or so as we deal with the impacts and effects of Covid-19 and related restrictions. It has challenged how many of us see ourselves. However, it is possible to manage and build your self-esteem and subsequently, genuine confidence.
The term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. In other words, how much you appreciate and like yourself. It involves a variety of beliefs about yourself, such as the appraisal of your own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviors. It can play a significant role in your motivation and success throughout your life.
Low self-esteem may hold you back from succeeding at school or work because you don’t believe yourself to be capable of success.
By contrast, having a healthy self-esteem can help you achieve because you navigate life with a positive, assertive attitude and believe you can accomplish your goals. (1) It is normal to have doubts on occasion. How often and to what degree these doubts surface is the issue and can have a negative affect on how you view yourself.
Self-esteem begins to form in early childhood – factors of influence include:
- Your thoughts and perceptions
- How other people react to you
- Experiences at home, school, work and in the community
- Illness, disability or injury
- Role and status in society
- Media messages (4)
In summary, low self-esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of oneself, judging or evaluating oneself negatively, and placing a general negative value on oneself as a person.
People with low self-esteem usually have deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These beliefs are often taken as facts or truths about their identity, rather than being recognised as opinions they hold about themselves.
- Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself.
- Everyone lacks confidence occasionally but people with low self-esteem are unhappy or unsatisfied with themselves most of the time.
- It takes attention and daily practice to improve how you see you and feel about yourself. (3)
It is important to know that low self-esteem is a common problem for many people in our society – so you are not alone.
Low self-esteem can occur as part of a current problem (such as depression), or as a result of other problems (such as chronic illness, relationship problems) or it can be a problem in itself. Either way, the good news is that you can take steps towards developing more healthy self-esteem. (2)
How we handle situations, good or bad, and what we learn from them are important factors. More and more of my clients are confusing mistakes for failure. The following real-life example may provide additional context.
Some years ago one of my coaching clients contacted me with a problem in his life. We had stopped formally working together the previous year, however he turned to me for help in response to a situation he was trying to manage.
Long story, short, my client had found himself several thousand dollars in debt based on multiple payments made on an online game, somewhat knowingly but also, naively. He was embarrassed and overwhelmed.
This outcome had really shaken his confidence and self-worth. He didn’t know how to overcome the negative feelings about himself. Although initially disappointed, thankfully his wife was very supportive.
The relevant point in this story is that my client was feeling ashamed. In fact, he used the word shame, which was a trigger for our discussion. Although there was much more to our conversation, I helped him see that his actions were a mistake or error, not a point of failure.
Mistakes and failure are not the same thing. Mistakes are part of being human. They are common and genuine opportunities to reflect and learn how to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. In reality, failure is the act of repeating the same mistake, not the single error itself.
I pointed out to my client that doing something ‘wrong’ can be defined as a mistake. It does not make you a bad person and is nothing to be ashamed about. Shame is the feeling that you are inherently bad, rather than a sense of having made an error. Maintaining the right perspective is key.
In this instance, my client was able to take action and rectify his debts and situation once he gained a more valid perspective of the issue and options. As a result, ultimately his self-esteem improved through taking ownership of the situation and resolving the issue. Each of us is confronted with challenges and opportunities every day which could or do provide the platform for developing self-esteem.
If he had not identified and applied actions, the situation would have likely spiraled out of control and continued to damage his self-esteem. How we view these moments in life and our self-talk has a significant bearing on how we feel about ourselves overall.
When we take action and own situations, we feel good about our contributions and the outcomes. When we acknowledge this, it feels good and has a positive impact on how we view ourselves.
Interestingly, our self-esteem is either gradually built or diminished through our perspective and actions.
Alternatively, when there is a lack of ownership, accountability and reflection about how to improve ourselves and the situations, there is a tendency to be self-critical. When this avoidance is consistent, our self-esteem declines.
These increases and declines in self-esteem and self-worth occur gradually. I often describe it as .01% impact in each situation, either negative or positive. Clearly then, it takes many, many opportunities and actions to affect our overall self-esteem one way or the other.
Relationships with those close to you — parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important contacts — are important to your self-esteem. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you’ve received from these people over time.
Yet, without consistent and conscious reflection, acknowledgment and action our tendency is to see the perceived risk and failure rather than the real risk and benefits. Innately, many people are more half-glass empty than full. But, this attitude and thought-process can be changed.
If you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased or devalued by others, you’re more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem. But past experiences and relationships don’t have to be your destiny. Your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact — and these thoughts are within your control.
If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, working on changing that can help you develop a more balanced, accurate view of yourself. (4)
If your relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. Oddly perhaps, this includes your relationship with yourself!
There are some simple ways to tell if you have healthy self-esteem:
- Avoid dwelling on past, negative experiences
- Express your needs
- Feel confident
- Have a positive outlook on life
- Say “no” when you want to
- See overall strengths and weaknesses and accept them.
You may need to work on how you perceive yourself if you tend to experience these common problems:
- A belief that others are better than you
- You find it difficult expressing your needs
- Too much focus on your weaknesses
- Frequently experience feelings such as shame, depression, or anxiety
- A negative outlook on life
- An intense fear of failure
- Trouble accepting positive feedback
- Trouble saying “no”
- Regularly put other people’s needs before your own
- You struggle with confidence. (1)
The Centre for Clinical Interventions offers an excellent model that may assist in assessing your current state and potential areas of focus and action. (2)
Click on the image below to open a worksheet containing additional, related information.
Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn’t about blowing your own horn. It’s about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all. (4)
Seeking help from relevant professionals is recommended, if required. However, for most of us it is possible to take action to change how you perceive yourself and to gradually build a positive self-esteem. Acknowledgment and honesty are the first steps, followed closely by regular reflection and action. These are steps we can all take…what have you got to lose and consider what you might gain?
Resources and References:
To communicate well, is to be understood and to understand. Communication is key to effective leadership. In fact, it is integral in much of our lives. Anecdotally, experience has consistently demonstrated that most issues in business are, at least in part, caused by poor communication.
Are there different levels of communication effectiveness?
In recent years whilst coaching, I have developed a concept regarding the effectiveness of communication. It highlights the need for depth in conversation. To verbally communicate well provides meaning and purpose. It allows for understanding and often, clarity and context. Purpose influences action and improvement. Unfortunately, many managers do not develop this skill to the level required.
Ultimately, our relationships are better for the higher levels of trust and the investment this provides for future communication opportunities.
Essentially, we can communicate at various levels of depth. However, most business communication (and that at home too!) often occurs at a moderate and superficial level, at best. I would describe this as a level 1 or 2 type of communication. Our goal is to develop the skill and capability to flex to level 3 and 4, where relevant. To communicate at level 5 takes quite a bit of practice, but is worth the effort and investment.
To communicate effectively we need to move beyond the superficial, to greater depths.
This is particularly important when leading people. The goal is to be heard and understood. Critically, this is as important for your team member or colleague in return. This is achieved when both parties invest in gaining a mutual understanding.
As I have highlighted in previous blogs, the skills of asking the right question at the right time and effective listening are two of the most important leadership attributes to develop.
There are certain situations in our life that call for us to dig deep and talk about what is really important to us. When the stakes are high it is important that we communicate effectively, if we are misunderstood in these important moments it can cause much pain and confusion. When we wish to build trust in a relationship, or when we want to be sure we are really heard, things go much better if we can communicate what we want to say fully and authentically. In reality this is no small thing to achieve and it requires both courage and vulnerability.
We often communicate only half of what is really going on for us.
If we are to truly communicate then we need to share all of who we are, not just selected parts of ourselves. The parts that tend to get left out in communication are the things that may make us vulnerable to the other, or cause us some shame or discomfort. Yet these are the very parts of ourselves that we need to share…it is necessary to express these things if we want true communication to flow. (1)
The diagram below extends this concept. The 5 levels of effective communication mentioned already are described in further detail. The goal is to develop your communication skills to at least Level 3.
Why does it matter to communicate effectively?
The benefits of developing your communicating skills are many. Through practice, when we communicate well, there is feeling of power and influence.
It’s easy to get stuck in poor communication habits, speaking or reacting impulsively rather than supportively. But any uncomfortable feelings raised in a difficult conversation can be a short-term inconvenience for a long-term gain if you talk in an honest, open manner.
Supportive communication improves your relationships by focusing on empathy and mindfulness, and it can also help increase positive emotions such as joy, hope, peace, gratitude and love. The body responds to these emotions by reducing stress hormones and increasing endorphins, also known as “feel good” chemicals. Over time, these effects can cause positive changes in mindset and creativity, as well as increase immune function and longevity. (2)
A significant amount of my time when coaching people focuses on their ability to communicate effectively. Effective communication is a skill, attribute and outcome.
The opportunity to invest in your communication skills is one that you must grab with both hands if you want to be a more effective influencer, manager, leader and human. It is difficult to think of a more relevant time in recent history where effective communication has been more important.
Consider the information and model detailed in this blog and assess your own skills and importantly, your actions. All of us have the opportunity to improve our communication. The benefits are clear. Making the choice to do so…well, that is up to you.
References and Resources
Related Blogs By Steve @CoachStation
As an effective leader, one of the key skills to develop is the ability to ask questions. More specifically, to ask the right question at the right time. The key benefits of mastering this skillset are the additional perspective gained and the reduction in assumptions. This has power within leadership as it ensures you take into account other people’s perspective as well as your own.
To lead is to influence. To influence, understand…to understand, ask.
There is a connection between gaining perspective and displaying empathy, one of the cornerstone leadership traits. When you understand what someone else values; why they have said or done what they have; and/or their background, there is a likelihood of greater influence. This stems from less negative judgment and a willingness to see a situation beyond your own lens or perspective. In other words, stepping into someone else’s shoes and looking back at you…empathy. The risk of a lack of perspective and making assumptions are many.
Primarily when you attempt to influence solely from your own beliefs and views, in its extreme, is coercion.
This is damaging and unsustainable, both relationally and practically. Few people will willingly follow you when you are more concerned about your own perspective and values, without taking into account theirs.
Related: Life Choices – The Decision Tree
Removing assumptions through improved understanding provides a more solid basis for strength in your relationships. Many people will respect the fact that you are bothering to consider their views. Taking it a step further and doing something with this information, adds to the potential for aligning values and building depth in your relationships. This is connecting at a different level.
For me, there’s great value in recognizing different perspectives in conversations because these enable us to hear and react to things very differently.
One of my close friends often says: “Change how a situation occurs to you, change how you will respond to the situation.” What is the distinction between perspective and reality? There are a lot of fun expressions around this topic. The easiest one is “my perspective is my reality,” but is this really true? Or is there a difference between the two?
Perspective is the way individuals see the world. It comes from their personal point of view and is shaped by life experiences, values, their current state of mind, the assumptions they bring into a situation, and a whole lot of other things. Reality can be different things. We can easily say that my perspective is my reality. There is truth to that statement. When we look at the shared reality of an event, though, the more perspectives you get, the closer to reality you get. As a leader, do you consider your own perspective as reality? (1)
The other aspect of perspective, is how we respond to situations. We have developed a process that has assisted many of our coachees and clients to gain perspective and a better balance regarding their own reactions.
The Perspective Scaling Process is a very useful tool and mindset to assist in finding an appropriate balance between immediate emotional responses and logical reactions.
To use this resource effectively, you need to establish a scale based on your own judgments first. Once established and with practice, all situations and moments can be quickly assessed against your initial scaling. Rarely is the situation actually as significant as your first emotional response would assume. That is how the process works. It finds a balance between your initial emotional response and places a sense of practical, logical thought to the moment. Let me explain the process.
The Perspective Scaling Process works on a 1 – 100 set of values, where 1 represents a very small incident or situation with next to no lasting impact. An example could be a paper-cut. A 100 would be the most damaging and worst outcome or scenario you could think of. Most people consider losing all of their family members in an accident as an extreme, yet relevant example.
Once you have set scale situations at either end relevant to you, work backwards by roughly 10 point increments and consider what situations would apply for each number.
A 90 may be losing an individual family member; an 80 a reasonably major car accident with lasting injuries; a 70 could be a divorce; a 60 based on being made redundant at work etc. Once you reach 20 your scale should be reflective of those things that occur more commonly and with a lesser impact. Single-figure circumstances should be things that have no lasting impact at all, possibly more frustrating than serious.
Now that you have established a ‘baseline’ it is important to keep referring back to the scale throughout the day, as situations occur. This is where the process comes into it own.
We quite regularly immediately respond to a moment or event in an overly emotional manner.
The challenge with primarily emotional responses, particularly when considering relationships is that it generally inflames a situation. It is out of proportion and is weighted too heavily to emotions, lesser to logic and pragmatism. An emotional response is quite normal and is part of being human. What may feel immediately is a ’50 or 60′, is quickly re-identified by applying the perspective scale as a lower number, commonly at a ’20’ or below. This ‘self-check’ then allows us to respond more appropriately and effectively.
Recognise that every emotion has a place. Having emotions is normal and expected. However, being overly-emotional on a consistent basis can be detrimental to your credibility, perception and effectiveness.
Learning to take control of immediate emotional responses is an important aspect of being emotionally intelligent. Through use of the perspective tool, you will strike a balance between the initial emotion-laden reaction and the purposeful logic that enables a balanced conversation and approach. With practice, you will be able to apply the Perspective Scaling Process within seconds. In fact, it is a great opportunity to pause and take a breath prior to responding.
Perspective is gained through understanding. That is, understanding of self and others. The most effective and simple way to improve understanding is to ask key questions. Positioning these questions in a way that makes it more about understanding and less about challenging perceptions take some of the heat out of the moment. It also demonstrates that you are listening to what has been said.
Depth in this skill come from paraphrasing and delving into the answers provided. This is what I call ‘layer 2 and 3 questioning’. Accepting the first response from someone generally provides little opportunity to truly understand. Without understanding, our assumptions commonly lead us to make incorrect decisions; see things only or primarily from our perspective or value-set; and similar, less effective responses.
When we see things primarily from our own perspective, it is difficult to genuinely influence others. Seeking understanding and caring about those closest to you, at work or home, builds trust, relationships and ability to influence.
How you demonstrate this care is up to you. However, taking the time to consider all views; seek understanding of what matters to you and others; providing appropriate context; and developing appropriate questioning skills are all ways to more meaningfully influence.
We show we care through our actions. What could you practice and do differently to more effectively influence those around you?
Don’t hesitate to contact CoachStation if you wish to discuss the Personal Values learning process or any other aspect of your development as a leader and person. We are always happy to meet new people and assist to improve capability and satisfaction.
Trust is the key to meaningful leadership, relationships and influence.
Most of us know this, but how do we develop trust in the workplace and at home?
It is fascinating to see people grow and develop. Like many in my industry, I do what I do because of a deep need to contribute and make a difference when coaching and mentoring. This continues to hold me in good stead as a coach, mentor and consultant. However, developing trusted relationships was also a core belief when I was leading people directly. Now, my goal is to help others learn why and how to apply these skills and attributes to influence and lead their team members.
One of my favourite and most effective tools relates to helping my clients understand their personal values. The process of prioritising an extensive set of value statements and words down to 20 primary and ultimately, 7 core values is always interesting.
A continuing trend is that trust forms a part of the vast majority of people’s primary values.
Based on many other personal and professional conversations, I am confident this is a consistent need for most people. Elements of trust that are identified throughout these discussions show that most people can feel whether trust exists. Fewer can explain specifically how it is built or established. At the end of my Personal Values workshops or coaching process, I ask participants to reflect and act upon several questions. One of the most important is:
How well do you establish and maintain a culture where most people get to fulfil this need most of the time? This is important if trust is so inherently important to so many people, including members of your own team.
I also ask that they reflect on all core values in a similar way. How regularly and effectively are your core values being met at work and at home? The answers to these questions can provide great insight into why things ‘feel’ as they do…both good and bad, positive and negative. Critically, it is what you do with this new learning that matters. However, trust is strengthened or weakened readily depending on your behaviours and demonstrated actions. What you do, what you say and how you say it has a bearing on how well you connect with people.
Connections with purpose and meaning build trust.
- Do What You Say You Will Do: This is the ultimate way to gain people’s trust. It means following through with what you say you will do.
- Trust & Nurture To Develop: To gain trust we need to trust others. It is a two-way street. We need to be patient and give them the time to grow and develop instead of forcing the issue.
- Do The Right Thing: Regardless of whether or not anyone is watching you, integrity cannot be compromised. It takes many years to establish your credibility, but it only takes a few minutes to ruin it.
- Care For Your People: Before we ask our people to do something for us, we must appeal to them and touch their heart.
- Serve Your People: When we serve our people, we ensure that their interest is taken into consideration. By doing so, we don’t focus on who gets the credit. Our focus shifts to getting the job done. (1)
When employees are not having their core needs and values met, they may look elsewhere.
A powerful way to establish trust is to employ one of the mind’s most basic mechanisms for determining loyalty: the perception of similarity. If you can make someone feel a link with you, his empathy for and willingness to cooperate with you will increase. (3) It is much easier to do this when you have a natural affiliation with someone. It may be a shared history; aligned values; similar belief systems, or other form of alignment. This link is key, but don’t think it can be easily faked.
People can see and feel any superficiality a mile off. Even if they can’t explain it.
Sometimes this is described as ‘just not feeling right’. When their is alignment is it often stated that it ‘simply feels like a strong connection’. This cannot always be easily explained or articulated. Yet, the feelings we have about others is powerful and drives many of our decisions, particularly surrounding our relationships.
First, leaders that place people ahead of profit (which leads to more profit, imagine that!) will work hard to promote trust. That means that they create an environment where risks are taken, where employees feel safe and motivated to exercise their creativity, communicate ideas openly, and provide input to major decisions without reprimand. Because there is trust there. But trust is a two-way street. So leaders trust and believe in the people that they lead as well. And when you value people by trusting them, you treat others with dignity and respect.
But trust in this social economy remains a baffling stigma. In 2014, the American Psychological Association published the findings on their Work and Well-Being Survey.
Nearly 1 in 4 workers say they don’t trust their employer and only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.
While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. But the great news is that workers who feel valued by their employer are more likely to be engaged in their work. In the survey results, employees were significantly more likely to report having high levels of energy, being strongly involved in their work, and just plain happy about what they do. Ninety-one percent were likely to say they are motivated to do their best (versus 37 percent who do not feel valued) and 85 percent were likely to recommend their employer to others (versus 15 percent of those who do not feel valued). (4)
It’s clear that a culture that feels valued, that promotes openness, honesty, transparency and trust are key to high-performance.
When considered as a sum of its parts, the Trust Equation (highlighted below) has much merit. I like the idea that the model highlights the four elements of who we are: words; actions; emotions; and, caring. Once understood there is greater potential to apply these elements and establish greater levels of trust in practice. Check yourself against the four criteria and see where you might be able to strengthen your trust-building skills.
Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies using its Employee Work Passion Assessment has found significant correlation between positive work intentions and a leader’s ability to build trust, use coaching behaviors, and create an engaging work environment. This environment includes high levels of Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Growth, Fairness, Collaboration, and Feedback, along with six other factors. (2)
I see trust being taken for granted in many workplaces. As with any relational aspect, it takes effort to develop trust.
I regularly state to my clients, “whether you like someone you lead is not the point”. As a leader you have little choice in making it all about who you like or dislike. In your leadership role you are obligated to influence, develop and assist your team members. In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of leadership is seeing improvement and growth in those who initially you may not have affiliated naturally with. Trust is built on many things. Moving beyond likeability to deeper traits such as respect and honesty influence trust more than simply being liked.
The Inc article highlighted in this blog makes several great points about engagement and trust. It is worth reading in full. I particularly appreciate the final paragraph which summarises the essence of valuing employees and building trust, described as the ‘most counter-intuitive part’.
More studies are coming out saying that if you trust and believe in your people first, and in return they reciprocate by believing in you as a leader, they will give their best work.
In other words, although conventional thinking says that people have to earn trust first, in healthy organizations, leaders who put high emphasis on meeting employees’ needs are willing to give trust to them first, and they give it as a gift even before it’s earned. Now that’s valuing people. (4)
As highlighted earlier, the question really is a simple one. Does the environment and culture you are building as a leader foster and develop trust in others and to be trusted yourself?
Take on the challenge of reviewing where trust sits for you. Reflecting on this is one great way to understand yourself and your team members better. It will also be a meaningful way to develop a deeper sense of trust and relationships in practice.
The ability and desire to focus on those areas of our lives that provide the greatest return can often be confusing. Change and growth comes first through understanding and acknowledgement.
When there is understanding, there is the potential for action.
Without understanding and action, it is too easy to continue to do what you have always done. That may of course be justified in your mind, but it rarely leads to progression, growth and development.
In almost every coaching and mentoring engagement I have taken on in recent years, my clients have struggled to understand the difference between inputs and outputs. In nearly every case, managers and leaders focus on the output, result or outcome and ignore the inputs. So, here’s the big tip:
You cannot change, influence or develop through focusing on a result only – understand the inputs and things that influence the result!
Don’t misunderstand my point. Results and outcomes matter enormously. Measuring our outputs and contributions is key to business. KPI’s, profits, budgets etc are critical to business…they just can’t be changed through themselves. Why? Well for three main reasons:
- They are historical, representing what has occurred in the past, hence cannot be changed.
- The inputs and things influencing and contributing to the result are what should be actioned and focused on because they can be changed.
- Very few people can directly translate the outcomes or result back into how they do what they do every day.
Let me provide more context. Most people, given the opportunity, can develop awareness for what they need to do and why it matters. The ‘how’ on the other hand is more difficult to determine on your own. Training will provide the background and broad knowledge. However, expecting the training participant to take this information and apply sustained change as a result, is difficult if not impossible minus follow-up and targeted support. Without reinforcement and personalisation, training has limited sustainable impact. By the way, I am a trainer and facilitator, so I am certainly not criticising training as a method of development in itself.
On its own and without reinforcement and personalisation, training rarely leads to meaningful action and change.
I am confident that many of you can think of times when you, your team or colleagues have attended training and not done anything different as a result. Crazily, I have even seen some managers send members of their team to the same training programs, year after year, expecting a different result. It rarely makes a difference. That is in fact, a very necessary focus of coaching and mentoring and a major part of the reason I now dedicate most of my time in this area.
My wife, Julie, and I have 3 daughters. Our middle daughter, Charli, plays netball. This year she has been selected in a representative team and will be playing in a State carnival in a few weeks. Based on recent conversations with the team coach, Hilary, I had the privilege in being invited to address the team and parents during one of the team training sessions recently. The key messages were delivered to 13 year old girls. I wanted to maintain their focus and take the opportunity to get them thinking differently. To challenge not only how they think, but where they focus time and energy. The link between netball and life was also highlighted. So, I related the core message to the theme of this blog.
The key is to understand and focus on the inputs, not the outputs.
Influence the many, many things that contribute to the result, not on the result itself.
Ultimately, I broke down the content to a key seven points. Of course, there are more topics that could be listed. However, I feel that the 7 themes highlighted are the baseline for development and growth. These topics and potential actions are as relevant to the young ladies who are in the rep netball team, as to people outside of sport. In fact, they are key to all of our lives in order to thrive (not just survive) in our modern world.
1. Self-Awareness: understanding who you are and how others see you is critical to your success. Too often we live in denial or fear about our performance, capabilities and how we are perceived. Perfection is not the goal. Improvement, increased self-esteem and continued growth are.
2. Communication: the ability to influence others; genuinely listen and understand; succinctly put across your views and thoughts; and, consistently ensure people believe what you say is important.
It is not only verbal skills, but also takes into account your ability to communicate through written means. Less obvious is your body language, pitch, tone, emotional levels and other contributors, but no less important.
3. Relationships: are one of the key inputs and cornerstones to satisfaction in life. In a work and sport context, this is not necessarily about developing friendships. It can be, but is more about building trust and respect, so that an honest and real conversation can be held and heard. Understanding what you value most and seeking insight into other’s values is one good way to develop depth in relationships.
4. Teamwork: has become even more relevant than in the past. Much of our learning, work environments; study and learning options are positioned within teams. The emphasis on individuals has reduced in recent years in the workplace, universities and other institutions. The focus on people collaborating and achieving more as a team, rather than individually, has become one of the big changes to how we operate. Your willingness and ability to meet that need will be one of the measurements of success.
Your ability to relate to others, influence, communicate and work collaboratively will define much of your success.
A very relevant point is to understand that diversity between people is good, when we take the time to understand the differences that exist. Understanding provides acceptance and acknowledgment. A lack of understanding often leads to assumption and negative judgment. It is the difference between thinking: “I wouldn’t do or say that, so you are wrong” to “I wouldn’t necessarily say or do that, however I know you well enough to understand your perspective”. It may feel like a subtle point, but in reality is a powerful difference in how people work together.
5. Capability and Competence: clearly a relevant input into your performance and perception relates to your ability to perform. Contribution to your team is reliant on continually developing competence, skills and capability in what you do.
6. Focus on Strengths: there is much greater opportunity for success when working from those areas that you are most interested, passionate and talented in. These are your strengths. We don’t have the opportunity to ignore our weaknesses or lesser talents. However, when you develop the areas that you care most deeply about and have natural ability in, your exponential growth is assured. Too often we are asked to focus solely on our weaknesses. These are the wrong inputs. Performance appraisals and other organisational tools are often designed this way. It is our role as leaders and people who care to make sure we talk about what is working well, not just the gaps and weaknesses. Strikingly, this type of emphasis assists us to build stronger relationships; trust; self-awareness and other elements detailed in this blog.
A shift in focus and mindset to develop talents into strengths can provide significantly greater returns.
7. Accountability and Action: the absolute key to improvement, growth and influencing the inputs. Willingness to be accountable for yourself and maintain a level of honesty in your own self-perception provides a platform for action. It is not enough to know more. It is always about what you do with this information. Practice does not make perfect. Practising the right thing, the right way leads to improvement and that is enough to enable growth. However, you must make a conscious choice and persist with your goals and actions for this to become more than good intention.
After the mini-workshop with the netball team I was talking with the coaching staff. It is fascinating how relevant these themes are for 13-year old girls and within the workplaces in our adult world. Interestingly, this points to the view that what works best for people, works best for people. Whether that is within families, workplaces, sporting teams or other situations where people congregate, the elements that provide comfort and growth remain similar.
The earlier that you develop and focus on the inputs that develop your self-awareness, relationships, confidence and self-esteem the more likely success will come your way…no matter how you measure success.