Thursday, May 14, 2015
There are many things that strong leaders believe, think and do. Below you find some of them that I found to be true in my 25 year workshop and coaching practice in Europe and the U.S. With huge gratitude for the many hundreds of clients who taught me what strong leadership looks like.
1. Strong leaders don’t feel the need to have all the answers, to know it all, to be the smartest in the room. They do not feel the need to be the super hero. They DO collect the smartest people for their teams, they DO ask all the right (and often less obvious) questions and they DO honor people who are smart and choose smart, and they are great at connecting dots where others can not. Strong leaders know they can’t do it alone.
2. Strong leaders are excellent active listeners, focusing in the here-and-now on what is being said and what is being communicated in other ways than with words. And if they DO talk, they are brief, clear, consistent, truthful. If they DO talk they make abundant use of stories to share their vision and experiences and to engage their people and connect with their hearts.
3. Strong leaders act with integrity and demonstrate that it is safe to share not just success stories but also misjudgments, failure, and doubts. They keep important conversations in the room. Because they can be trusted and are perceived to be honest and fair, they make hallway and water cooler conversations redundant.
4. Strong leaders welcome dissidents, devils advocates, “against the grain” thinkers, and people who challenge them otherwise, because they know they need this kind of thinking and these types of conversations to prevent self-deception, confirmation bias, tunnel vision and all that other horrible stuff that prevents new ideas, unusual solutions, and fresh perspectives to emerge. They know they or their ideas don’t need to be liked all the time as long as they are respected and seen as acting with integrity.
5. Strong leaders know how to combine confidence and presence with humility and gratitude, which for many is a difficult balancing act. The Harvard Business Review Daily Stat on March 6, 2015 reported the following: “Highly regarded CEOs are nearly 6 times more likely than less highly regarded chief executives to be described as “humble” (34% versus 6%), according to a survey of more than 1,750 executives in 19 markets worldwide. Yet only about a quarter of the survey’s respondents say the description fits their own CEOs. The research, sponsored by public relations firm Weber Shandwick, also shows that nearly half of a company’s corporate reputation and market value is attributable to its CEO’s reputation.” Leslie Gaines-Ross writes on HBR.org
In what areas can you strengthen your leadership?
Monday, May 11, 2015
Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg popularized walking meetings as a way to strengthen work relationships while improving health. If you conduct a walking meeting, focus on the topic improves and the usual distractions go down. Moving increases blood flow to the brain and it stimulates creativity and integrative thinking. And of course we all know walking is better for your back and it helps manage your weight.
For those who are still reluctant, thinking this is more a transient hype than anything else, there is research to back this all up. On April 23, 2014 the Stanford News reported on a study that found that walking boosts creative inspiration. The research included four experiments with 176 college students and other adults. They had to complete tasks commonly used by researchers to gauge creative thinking. Participants were placed in different conditions: walking indoors on a treadmill or sitting indoors – both facing a blank wall – and walking outdoors or sitting outdoors while being pushed in a wheelchair – both along a pre-determined path on the Stanford campus. Researchers put seated participants in a wheelchair outside to present the same kind of visual movement as walking. Three of the experiments relied on a "divergent thinking" creativity test. The overwhelming majority of the participants in these three experiments were more creative while walking than sitting, the study found. In one of the experiments, participants were tested indoors – first while sitting, then while walking on a treadmill. The creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking, according to the study. You find more information on: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html
Emily Peck, writing in the Huffington Post on April 9, 2015, adds: “Walking helps break down formalities, relaxes inhibitions and fosters camaraderie between colleagues - and less eye contact can fuel more personal conversation. Meeting on the go also minimizes distractions - no phones, email, texts, colleagues interrupting you.”
As reported on CNN on March 20, 2013 (http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/business/walking-meetings/) “Jack Groppel, vice president of consulting group Wellness & Prevention, owned by Johnson & Johnson, has advocated a program that calls for standing up and walking around in the workplace for one or two minutes about every half hour, a process that he says would increase productivity. Groppel says when workers start moving, it triggers a slight raise in heart rate for the first minute or two, meaning more oxygen is getting to the brain. "What we did find in the studies that we did, after 90 days of doing this, people felt increased amounts of energy, they felt increased focus, they felt improved engagement," he says.”
In my coaching practice I have for many years suggested walking meetings and increasingly used them myself for one-on-one conversations, especially when the topic is delicate or tensions are expected to be high. Physical activity releases tension through your body’s activity and the neutral meeting grounds are generally an easier environment to discuss matters than either person’s office or HR’s office for that matter.
One website for more tips on walking meetings: http://www.feetfirst.org/walk-and-maps/walking-meetings
And an interesting TED talk on walking meetings by Nilofer Merchant, who calls sitting the smoking or our generation: http://www.ted.com/talks/nilofer_merchant_got_a_meeting_take_a_walk?language=en
I urge you: Get up and walk. Benefit from Walk & Talk Meetings.