Author: necoaching

Charisma and Leadership

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charismaThere is almost the assumption that to be an effective leader one also needs to be charismatic; this larger than life character who fills the room and people just instinctively want to follow. To most this makes sense although people like Jim Collins would claim that humility, which might be viewed at the other end of the spectrum, is more key to effective leadership.

In reading the book Leadership Charisma by Deiric McCann, the author points to some interesting perspective on the importance of charisma and leadership effectiveness. Charisma, he stresses, is about how one behaves and this is something we can choose to do, or not. In other words it can be learned, practiced and mastered. The author purports that charisma might be slightly misunderstood but, that when applied appropriately, can lead to a very high level of leadership effectiveness. In support of this McCann proposes a Leadership Charisma Model that follows this 4 step process:

1. Make a decision to become a charismatic leader by “assimilating the behaviors that typify a charismatic leader.”
2. Build a foundation for your charisma – though much can be learned, there are some natural traits such as confidence and self-belief that are essential foundation blocks. This is aided by “a clear sense of purpose and forward motion”.
3. Fine tune your physical charisma – translate what you are thinking and feeling into how you outwardly present yourself via physical appearance, body language, and general connection with other people.
4. Create a Charismatic Leader’s Persona – this requires that leaders possess the energy and enthusiasm, and an “irrepressible and highly attractive optimism”; this is the ongoing fuel source.

This is certainly an interesting perspective and in some respects taps into many aspects of Emotional Intelligence. Clearly, when one considers an effective charismatic leader, from an introspective point of view, they must possess a high level of self-awareness. But equally important is their ability to connect effectively with others and communicate in a manner that people feel heard and want to follow.

In the current presidential campaign, it would seem that candidates appear charismatic to those who follow them and are despised by those who don’t. To be truly charismatic, you are admired and respected by all, even though not everybody needs to agree with what you say or do. Nelson Mandela was charismatic, even his captors and those who supported apartheid would agree to that, and they too eventually came round in the end. Is charisma truly a choice? You can decide that.

Lessons from a Marathon Run

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runningOn Apr 18th I had the honor of running in the 120th Boston Marathon. This was my first and perhaps my last, but nonetheless, it was a unique experience that one can garner many life lessons from. For most the idea of even running 26.2 miles seems ridiculous and, truthfully, that was my sentiment 6 months before the race. Then circumstances collided and the opportunity to cross something off the “might never happen” bucket list came to fruition. Interestingly, in doing this there was a sequence of events that emerged unwittingly which could be assigned to any project being undertaken, whether personally or professionally. These involved the following:

1. Plan – I had 4 months to prepare for something I had never done before but at least I had the consolation of knowing that many others had successfully mastered it. Through research and speaking with other experienced runners I came up with a plan that was reasonable and provided the necessary confidence that I could do this.

2. Practice – whenever we encounter something new, we have to start slowly and allow both the body and the mind to adjust and get used to this different regime. By following a plan and building incrementally along the way, everything progressed well.

3. Setbacks – in pushing my body to new limits, there was no knowing how it might respond and, it did. Only four weeks into my training regime, I pulled a muscle in my calf. Training stopped and in order to get back on track I had to do somethings that was less than ideal in preparing for a marathon – rest. Doubt began to set in as I required 3 weeks to pass before I could continue the training regime. But I dealt with the setback, got back into training and everything else proceeded according to plan.

4. Execution – eventually the big day arrived upon which the previous 4 months efforts would all be judged. How would my body react, what would be going through my mind and, most of all, will I be able to finish the 26.2 mile course? It all started very well.

5. Completion – no matter what, I was determined to finish. I had gone through 18 miles of the race when my calves began to cramp up (that setback again!!). The more I ran the more they hurt, and I still had 8 miles to go. In my mind I concluded that without compromising my health, I could still walk 8 miles in 2 hours and finish the race in less than 5. While many ran passed me during this time, I persevered and finished in 4 hours and 54 minutes.

So what’s your marathon? What do you wish to achieve but haven’t started? Inevitably, you most likely will find yourself going through a similar process to what I did; and it worked!

Ability to Learn

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learning 4Much has been written concerning how people learn best. We all grow up with the traditional classroom environment with typically 30 kids per teacher and when college emerges there can be 300 students per teacher. Though there is considerable debate as to the effectiveness of this, there are other factors to be considered that go beyond the simple student teacher ratio.

People also have different learning styles. So within a class of, whether 30 or 300, there are those who learn best by listening (auditory), or by observing (visual) or by doing (kinesthetic). Of late another style has emerged, which is perhaps influenced by rapid technological advancements and the infinite availability of information, and this is logic. Some people now are instantly processing what is being learned and this is being filtered relative to its logic to them.

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Erika Anderson has put forward another angle relative to learning effectiveness. She proposes that there are proactive and, ironically, learned ways that you can become much more receptive and prepare the mind to receive new material. Her findings suggest the following as key attributes of individuals with a keen appetite to learn.

1. Aspiration – see the positive (rather than the typical negative) and aspiration levels raise
2. Self-Awareness – recognize within yourself the need for additional learning and be open to feedback from other relative to this
3. Curiosity – tap into your inner child where learning was fun and helped to fill in the gaps
4. Vulnerability – acknowledge that you don’t know everything, and are willing to learn

However you slice and dice it, learning has as much to do with who you are as the recipient and perhaps less to do with the teacher. By taking responsibility for how you take on new information, the experience will become much more enjoyable, more likely to be practiced and, most importantly, effect meaningful change in your personal and/or professional life.

The Value of Professional Development

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According to Dan Pink in his book, Drive, there are three components to driving motivation within employees, namely Purpose, Mastery and Autonomy. He argues that essentially people want to understand how their role fits into the overall goal of the business, they need the skills to do it and finally they flourish when given the freedom to execute.

Purpose and Autonomy are pretty self explanatory so let’s explore Mastery in some further detail. Mastery does not imply that you must be the best or that you have nothing further to learn. Rather mastery is viewed as a journey; it is this pursuit of constant learning that enables you to adapt to changing circumstances and ultimately strive towards constant improvement. The more common term to this is ongoing professional development.

Many organizations are looking for ways to enhance the levels of contribution of their employees and ongoing professional development is certainly a key component of this. But when is training right and what are some of the pitfalls? Here are a few tips.

  • Developmental opportunities should be driven firmly by organization needs. It should not be perceived as an employee benefit or to meet a training hour goal.
  • Accountability of the trainee should be built in. This can be in the form of a project submission or an exam but something that ensures that there is means of measuring commitment and retention of what has been learned.
  • The integration of the learning back into the organization cannot be overlooked (though it is often forgotten). When people go back to their busy responsibilities what accommodations are being made to practice their new skills?

If these are followed or used as criteria for training, the thorny issue of what is Return on Investment lessens. In truth training can rarely be assessed in such tangible forms as money, but if its benefits can be demonstrated through improved processes, behaviors and / or activities, then this will become an acceptable alternative.

So rather than asking what will be the ROI, simply ask what will be different as a result of this training and how will we know. If you get an acceptable answer. then the training is right.

 

 

Help Yourself by Helping Others

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teamwork 2In a recent Harvard Business Review article by Cassie Mogilner of UPenn’s Wharton School, the hypothesis presented suggested that the more you spend time helping others, the more productive you actually become. This of course is counter intuitive, as surely time consumed helping other people is time taken away from what you should be doing yourself. However human behavior very often defies logic. The case that is being made suggests that by helping others in small ways you feel more fulfilled and time actually appears to become more expansive to complete what you need to do.

This is quite similar to an earlier piece of research whereby people who spent money helping others were much happier than those who spent it on themselves. If you feel good and energized you are more likely to be engaged and therefore committed to whatever you have to do. It feeds the old mantra that those who help others are also helping themselves.

So how does this translate into the world of work? Imagine an environment where everybody is extremely cooperative and helpful to each other; that sounds reasonable. Working as part of a team is one instant way that organizations can flourish; it forces these types of helping exchanges, even for the doubters. Or what about the leaders who claim they are too busy? This theory also supports them by encouraging more time spent helping and coaching their people. When they do, inevitably they feel much better.

People are by nature communal; they function best and at their optimal when interacting with others. By ensuring they function as part of a group and are afforded opportunities to continuously help others can only serve to improve overall levels of productivity and engagement within your organization.

ENERGY – Where Are You?

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energy 3Motivation can take on many forms from physical rewards and incentives (Extrinsic) to the more subtleties of recognition, fulfillment and general emotional satisfaction (Intrinsic). As human beings we don’t function or perform solely on motivation; we also need energy. But what do we mean by energy and how does it manifest itself in the workplace?

In this context energy is primarily sourced from our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors; essentially how we, as human beings, show up. Bruce Schneider of iPEC Coaching has done quite considerable research into this arena and he points to two major types of energy that are at opposite ends of a continuum.

1. Anabolic – this is positive energy and is characterized by constructive mindset intent on building relationships. This positivity is promoted through congruence with values and beliefs, and with a connection to personal purpose. Possibility is apparent and people in this space are active participants and want to achieve results. There is a contagion affect and people are attracted to those with this energetic state. At the highest level they have won the game before it starts; they know what they want and act appropriately and accordingly.

2. Catabolic – this type of energy is destructive and harmful to individuals and organizations. Apathy and anger are very apparent and there is a propensity for conflict and people being in the victim mode. This negativity causes people to disengage and, at best, passive which in turn fosters more catabolic energy. The attitude is defiance and total unwillingness to contribute as they feel they have no power, no choice and consequently no chance of success.

However, by virtue of these being driven by thoughts, beliefs and behaviors, they can be changed. Establishing self awareness around where you are at predominantly along this continuum is a great starting point. Even though we might have a predominant state, depending on circumstances, we also oscillate back and forth (good days and bad days!). However once this is better understood you can begin the process of moving to a place of choice and create action towards your desired state.

Volunteer Motivation

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volunteerAre you involved with volunteer work along with your regular career? If so, you will know that there are similarities, but also differences, when operating in these two environments. One significant factor that plays a key and varying role is motivation.

Within career work, one could very quickly point to the obvious motivators such as payment, career progression, status, etc. Closer consideration might offer a positive work environment, the challenge and job satisfaction. However you look at these extrinsic and intrinsic drivers, there is an external orientation in terms of what you receive and just as important, there is consequence to not delivering. Leadership also has significant leverage in this situation which also creates accountability leading to pretty significant contributions.

With volunteer work, people do this for varying reasons and the resultant motivation leads to different levels of commitment. Additionally, in conflict with this is the constant that everybody is doing it for free which then becomes a source of frustration because of the disparity of contributions. Because leadership has minimal leverage in this instance there can be a lot of complaints and this can give rise to dissatisfaction.

The solution lies in avoiding comparisons. Simply accept that volunteers align their commitment / contribution to their own motivation and then make the necessary choices. For some this will be a lot of work and for others not so much. However rather than viewing this as an anomaly or unfair, simply view it from the perspective that people are making conscious decisions to contribute at their own level, and they feel good about it.

Living the Life You Want

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work lifeRecently while reading a blog by Todd Henry, I was struck by the simplicity yet difficulty associated with identifying one’s life purpose and ultimately who you are. For many who are caught in the hustle of meeting everybody else’s expectations we very often forget about our own. Henry almost chides us that if we do not accept this challenge, it eventually can lead to a very sad conclusion where we “Die Empty” which is aptly the name of his book.

This question becomes even more complex when one considers this relative to who you are, professionally and personally. In a recent HBS article by Groysberg and Abrahams, they presented an article that questioned whether work life balance was even a possibility. They went one step further and suggested that the pursuit of this balance might actually prevent people from engaging meaningfully either at work or at home. From their research, they found that only those who are more deliberate and focused make the right choices and can therefore achieve balance.

Both these findings ultimately present a challenge relative to who you are and consequently the choices you have. Here are some possible strategies to consider that might help in terms of being deliberate and focused.

  • Get Clarity around what matters most to you. Consider doing some of the exercises suggested by Todd Henry in his blog.
  • Build Important Relationships of people that you know and respect that will provide you the necessary support.
  • Make Choices based on the knowledge you have and do so with conviction and to the best of your ability.
  • Take Responsibility for You because that’s what you can control. Do what you feel is right and accept the consequences.
  • Learn from Your Actions and see the positivity in the choices you make and the additional knowledge you have acquired as a result; there is no failure.
  • Trust the Process and adapt along the way, as appropriate.

Identifying who you are is a journey not a destination. It’s an evolving self discovery process that can provide great richness in terms of the type of person you are and / or want to become.

Life Lessons from Business Research

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An edition of the Harvard Business Review ran with a front cover piece which claimed, “We have studied 25,453 companies over 40 years to find the 3 Rules for Success”. Through this extensive research the authors, Raynor and Ahmed, concluded the following for making a company great:

1. Better before Cheaper – compete on differentiators rather than price
2. Revenue before Cost – prioritize growing revenue over reducing costs
3. There are no rules – change everything to follow Rules 1 and 2

This was a little disappointing as one might be expecting some earth shattering revelation but instead it was really only two rules and even these might appear pretty pedestrian to most. Without question there are sub elements to these two points that would speak to more obvious business drivers such as technology, innovation, leadership, marketing, customer knowledge, etc but perhaps these speak to the fundamental psychology and simplicity of business success.

So if business success can be viewed in such basic terms, how might it translate in a similar way to personal success? Perhaps the three rules might look something like the following:

1. Always do your best with what you have – optimization of your unique abilities and qualities are your key differentiators
2. Invest in your personal growth and development – seek out ways in which you continuously enhance your intellectual, physical and mental well being.
3. Simply take care of the above and everything else will be fine.

Perhaps the purpose of research is to make things simpler and maybe even confirm what we already knew. But business can often be quite the metaphor for life so if there is something that we can garner from this type of research in personal terms then so much the better.

Coaching – the Enabler of Learning?

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With such dramatic advances in technology, virtual learning is gaining more and more traction as being a cost efficient means of providing professional development to the masses. Universities and colleges have been at the forefront of this advance but now even entrepreneurial trainers can access such technologies in a cost efficient manner. Virtual learning unquestionably makes training accessible to many more people. Where organizations might have been prepared to send 20 people away for a two day program, they now can have 200 people access the same content online and very often at a much lower cost.

Notwithstanding, a debate still rages as to whether, on its own, virtual learning is truly an effectivetraining 2 mode with the general consensus favoring some form of blended delivery. Blended learning is a form of education that combines face-to-face classroom methods with computer-mediated activities. According to its proponents, the strategy creates a more integrated approach for both instructors and students.

However what is still somewhat elusive with any of these approaches is the application of what is being learned back in the workplace. Many training organizations do not allow for this and rather see this as being the responsibility of the individual or organization. The reality is that the job is only half done in the learning phase.

The overlooked component is translating these new skills and tools into enhancing an employee’s effectiveness on the job (in the real world). This is where coaching has a huge contribution to make and especially so if the learning is primarily virtual. This can be individual or group based but the fundamental benefits of supplementing with coaching for a period of time post the learning phase is that it:

  • Creates an expectation of doing something with the training such as practicing new skills, modifying behaviors, etc
  • Puts in place an action oriented support system
  • Provides accountability towards achieving certain goals or milestones
  • Ensures successful outcomes and benefits to the organization
  • Most importantly, it more visibly demonstrates the return on investment

Coaching is an enabler of learning. Without it the investment in the first place can be a big waste of time and money.