If You’re Not Weird, You’re Not Doing It Right

unique, weirdIn today’s world, few people embrace being known for being “weird”. Originally, however, being weird simply meant you were uniquely yourself.

Our modern word, “weird”, has its roots in Norse mythology and which evolved into the Old English word, “wyrd”, referring to what one would grow into or become. In the ancient world, the Norse had the idea that the Norns (akin to the 3 Fates from Ancient Greece), determined each human’s fate and destiny at birth. In other words, each person had their own “wyrd” or fate – the qualities, characteristics, perspective, and conditions of life that made them unique. (See my previous posts on “fate” and “destiny”.)

A related idea is that of “genius”. Originally, Latin word “genius”, referred to a guardian spirit. The Greeks and Romans believed each person had such a “spirit” or energy inside. In fact, the tradition of celebrating birthdays came from Ancient Rome and was really a celebration of the person’s inner spirit/genius. Thus, you can think of yourself as though you have a special spirit or guidance inside that encourages you to be you — with a fate or wyrd  like no other.

This timeless perspective teaches that you are meant to be uniquely yourself and only you really know who that is. However, in  modern times, it’s tough to listen to and give credence to your inner wyrd and genius. With well-meaning friends and families and a modern culture that continually telegraphs all the ways you should be or ought to be, it can be a lonely job connecting and listening to your inner wyrd and genius. But to feel that sense of fulfillment that most people seek, make it your main job to connect with what’s inside you — that inner wyrd-ness — that makes you more of who you really are. For, there is the idea, that if you don’t express the uniqueness you add to the world, you will never become yourself and the world will be deprived of your wyrd genius.

So, as you set out to be the best and most authentic leader you can be, it’s a good thing to improve your basic leadership skills. But at the center of it all, you can only become the leader you’re meant to be, when you bring your unique genius and your wyrd-ness to the forefront. I say, “Go forth and be weird!”

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

How to Avoid Being Misunderstood

misunderstoodDo you feel misunderstood by your direct reports or colleagues? Do they think you’re an ogre when you’re really fun and fair? Or maybe they think you’re a pushover when you’re really purposeful and committed.

There might be a disconnect between what you intend and how you’re coming across. Here are four ways avoid misunderstandings by closing any gap between your intentions and your actual impact on others.Get clear about what you want to happen. Conventional wisdom says that we are on auto-pilot about 95% of the time. Which means we are consciously thinking about or aware of what we are doing very little during the day.

  • Get clear. Know what you want to accomplish before you go into a meeting, have a conversation with a co-worker, or work on a project. Ask yourself what you want to get out your time spent.
  • State your intentions. Based on the outcome you want to create, state your intentions out loud, especially when interacting with others. By doing so when going into a meeting or conversation, you are not leaving to chance how the other person will interpret what you say or do.
  • Ask for the other person’s perspective first. As a leader, when you speak, your words carry weight, and that weight often shuts down others who are further down the food chain. Additionally, listening first will give you a chance to tune in to the other’s perspective.
  • Seek to reconcile different perspectives. With a clearly stated intention and after sharing perspectives, you will have a better understanding of how the different perspectives overlap or don’t. Revisit your intention again, and ask for how you can move forward by using what most important from each perspective.

By consciously focusing on a clear intention and being open with your perspective, you can create conditions that allow others to “see” you for who you are.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they are meant to become. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

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Leadership Development: Using Your Fate as a Clue to Your Destiny

impactYou encounter leadership problems or challenges all the time. Did you ever notice that they end up being the exact circumstances you need in order to evolve as a person and a leader? You may have issues with people who don’t respond to you as you’d like. You might experience frustrations with initiatives that don’t go as planned. Whenever there is a “rub” that bothers you, it often shows you something about yourself now and who you can become. It is as though these leadership challenges are put in your path as part of your fate.

Fate: Past and Present

In Ancient Greece, the well-known mythology of the Three Fates explained why life unfolded as it did. Lachesis was the Fate who drew the lots, giving each person certain characteristics and conditions along with a plot line for their life. Clotho spun the thread of each person’s life into the larger tapestry of time, giving each human a “twist of fate”. And Atropos decided how each human life would end and presided at the finish to cut the thread of life.

Today, we often use the terms “fate” and “destiny” interchangeably, but these terms can be thought of as two different things. According to mythologist and storyteller, Michael Meade, “fate” is all of the limitations and challenges we encounter throughout our lives (conditions along the path); while “destiny” is our purpose or the ultimate contribution we make to the world (the destination).

Using Your Fate to Achieve Your Destiny

This distinction is key. Reflecting on your fate allows you to examine your past experience (your fate thus far) to maximize the impact you can have now while increasing your potential for achieving your destiny or potential.

So, if you find yourself repeatedly encountering the same frustrating situations, you could think of the irritation as your “fate” poking you to take a look at things more closely. Maybe there are characteristics you could change or evolve further. Maybe there are new ways of thinking that could emerge from those particular circumstances. Often in leadership, we are asked to reflect by looking inward to question our approach, to throw off old patterns, and to step into new learning that will better serve us and those around us.

When reflecting on your “fate” to date, look back on your experiences thus far and take notice of the following:

  • People who were hugely influential to you;
  • People who showed up randomly or “out of the blue” to provide guidance or assistance;
  • Odd or surprising twists that put you in certain places or positions;
  • Odd events that might not even make sense yet;
  • Themes that keep coming up (whether or not you’ve figured out what to do with them yet); and
  • Situations that, at the time, seemed negative, but that turned out best in the long run.

As you look backward, what sense can you make of any of it? What clues does this emerging story provide for where you might go next? What kind of support or new learning would benefit you as you forge ahead?

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with corporate leaders who want to enhance their leadership abilities to drive bottom-line results. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

6 Behaviors That Move You from “Pretender” to “Leader”

It’s very easy to go along, get along, with the fear that if you really showed others who you are and what you really believed about your company’s current strategy and tactics, others would question your loyalty or competence. To be grounded and sure of yourself, however, you need to be authentic about who you are. Here are six behaviors that will move you from being an inauthentic “pretender” to a true leader:

Know Your Motives for Leading. There are many reasons for taking on a leadership position. What are yours? Reflect on the underlying fears and/or aspirations that drove you to accept a leadership role. Look at how these underlying (and even hidden) motivations have shaped the difference you strive to make as a leader. Being aware of your personal leadership “why” will serve as a compass to guide you when the going gets tough.

Give Constructive Feedback. Without being a jerk, a true leader is expected to give feedback that serves the good of the company by providing opportunities to improve. At times, however, you might find yourself withholding constructive feedback from a colleague or direct report simply to avoid an uncomfortable situation. Remember: there is no movement without friction. Go back to your leadership “why” and see whether remaining silent serves the company and everyone else involved.

Engage in Disagreement. As with giving feedback, you may be able to help resolve an issue but are avoiding it. If you find yourself avoiding a situation, examine your reasons for steering clear of the potential conflict. If you determine the avoidance isn’t serving you or the company in the long run, determine the most appropriate and respectful way to address it. Also help co-workers and team members who don’t work well together move through past issues or conflicts.

Share an Alternate Opinion. A true leader speaks up when concerned about the direction the company is going. When you think it’s heading in the wrong direction, you must express your point of view as effectively as possible. Whether or not, the company alters its path based on your opinion is not the point. It’s the fact that you didn’t act like a sheep and spoke up when you believed it was warranted.

Bolster Professional Relationships with Authenticity. The higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more important building and maintaining relationships becomes. Often relationships are weak because you have not been open and honest about the way the relationship is working (more conflict avoidance). Find ways to strengthen those relationships by revealing your real assumptions and beliefs about important issues that come up.

Amplify Misaligned Mission and Company Action. When your company doesn’t walk its collective talk about its mission and values, weigh the cost of going along, rather than highlighting the disconnects. Determine what you can do to encourage your company to bring its “walk” and “talk” into alignment.

You’re a “leader” not an “avoider”. Stop pretending to agree and step forward into the uncomfortable space where motives, thoughts, and opinions differ. Lead out to acknowledge and resolve issues for the good of your company.


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You can, as long as you include this information with it:

Beth Strathman works with leaders who are willing and courageous enough to shake up business as usual by understanding themselves, aligning their businesses, and expressing ideas clearly. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Beyond the “Big Speech”: Daily Communication Habits Boost Leadership Presence and Impact

team; working in groups; leading groupsThe fact of the matter is that most leaders spend a tiny fraction of their time giving huge public speeches. Instead, leadership happens moment by moment, person by person, both through words and deeds. There are hundreds of moments like these every day. Each moment sends messages that can ripple throughout your company, with impact that you may or may not intend.

If  you want a better match between your intent and impact, to earn the right to lead, and to demonstrate true leadership presence, it makes sense to work on how you show up in each of these moments throughout the day.

Specifically, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What messages do I send based on HOW I spend my time?
  • What messages do I send based on the people WITH WHOM I spend my time?
  • What messages do I send based on how I allocate resources?
  • Am I authentic when I speak, or do I come across as manipulative and even dishonest?
  • Do my deeds match my words and what we say our company stands for?
  • Who get my praise? my criticism?
  • What behaviors or results am I tolerating that I shouldn’t be tolerating, and what messages am I sending as a result?

How well you present at those “big speeches” is something to consider. However, it’s not even close to what really makes a difference — when you communicate every minute of every day as a leader.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders who want to confidently become the leader they are meant to become to be as they maximize the “people side” of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Is Your Company Culture “Incognito”?

 Incognito:  with your true identity kept secret.
Merriam-Webster.com

lack of trustIn 2013, the Miami Dolphins released Richie Incognito after an investigation concluded that he bullied and made racial slurs against a teammate. Although the sport recognized Incognito as a top player, he had a history of a explosive emotional outbursts and “dirty play” against other players, coaches, and fans.

Lately, example after example of a leader or star performer with a long history of “bad” conduct have come to light, showing time after time, that company boards, leaders, and practices dismissed it, enabled it, and allowed it. It highlights the conundrum that many companies face: How to balance the equation when a leader or star performer gets results but behaves badly and counter to your stated company values.

“Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch”

Culture is those shared norms, assumptions, experiences, and beliefs that distinguish your company from others. Peter Drucker’s quote, “Culture eats strategy for lunch,” underscores how influential a company culture is.

The question is, is the company culture you describe in your mission, vision, and values, the same culture that shows up in your workplace every day? In short, is your company or team culture evident  . . . or is it “incognito”?

As a leader, whether formal or informal, you must go first. You reinforce and redefine cultural norms based on how you act, what you pay attention to, what you praise and reinforce in others, and how you react when challenges occur. In spite of what you say about who you are as a company, is there an unwritten assumption that the ability to produce excellent results will “hide a multitude of sins”? At least for your leaders and top performers.

All employees — especially leaders and top performers —  must be held to the same behavioral standards as everyone else; otherwise, employees get a mixed message. This muddies the waters about what is expected for how they should treat co-workers and what kind of treatment they should expect in return. If the stated culture isn’t evident in how people work together, such a mixed message can signal to employees that it’s “everyone for himself”, which leads to a lack of the necessary trust and team camaraderie.

If your leaders and superstars are not displaying the kind of behavior that reinforces your team culture on a consistent basis, what are you prepared to do about it?

Postscript on Incognito

After being released by the Dolphins, the Bills signed Richie Incognito in 2015, where he has been elected to the ProBowl each year since (2015-2018). In 2017, an opposing player accused Incognito of using racial slurs. After an investigation, the NFL is not expected to impose any consequences.

 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with leaders to maximize the “people side” of business and evolve into the leader they want to become. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Don’t Rely on Employment At Will

Most managers operate under the delusion that the concept of “employment at will” will save their bacon when they don’t want to mess with an employee anymore.  Just fire them.  Done.  After all, that’s what employment “at will” is all about right?

Wrong.

It’s true that, in general, “employment at will” means that either the employer or the employee can end the work relationship for any reason or . . . no reason at all . . . as long it there wasn’t an illegal reason.  Just like that.  You can be free to work with other employers.

The main idea behind “employment at will” is that neither party is required to continue working together for a specific amount of time.  And you’re thinking, so what? Isn’t that how it’s always been?

Nope.

Employment at will evolved in the 1870’s, when laissez faire capitalism was starting to gather steam.  Before this time most employment relationships were presumed to be for a year at a time.  There was no quitting after a few weeks because you got a better offer. The doctrine of “employment at will” simply eliminated the presumption of a one-year employment term, allowing worker and employer to end the relationship whenever it didn’t suit either any longer.

Today in many states, “employment at will” has qualifiers.  In Utah, “employment at will” is still subject to notions of fairness regarding the reason an employment relationship ends.  In Utah, when you terminate an employee, the decision is subject to 3 notions of fairness, including (1) whether there was an implied contract (like making explicit verbal or written promises to an employee about job security) , (2) an implied covenant of “good faith and fair dealing” (aka requiring “just cause” to let someone go), or (3) whether the termination violates explicit, well-establish public policy (e.g., you can’t fire someone just because they filed a workers’ comp claim).

So, the next time, you’re fed up and just want to make an employee go away, hoping “employment at will” will be the reason.  Think again.  Here are 4 suggestions for laying groundwork just in case you end up firing someone:

1.            Have an “employment at will” statement in your employee handbook or employee policies.  Make sure all employees receive a copy of the handbook or policies when they are hired.

2.            Be honest with an employee about how he is not meeting your expectations.

3.            Don’t delay in addressing employee issues, thinking they will go away on their own.  They won’t.

4.            Talk to the employee in private about the issue(s).  AND summarize this conversation in the form of a memo of understanding (on company letterhead & dated) that clearly states the issue and what the employee is expected to do to conform to your expectations or to company policy.

5.            If the problem persists, issue a written warning to the employee(on company letterhead & dated), re-stating the problem , when you addressed it before with him, and noting that it is a serious matter that the employee must correct.  State in the warning that the employee will be “subject to discipline, up to and including dismissal”, if he doesn’t correct the problem.  Get the employee’s signature on this warning or at least have someone witness that you gave him the written warning if he refuses to sign it (and some employees will refuse to sign).

If the employee doesn’t correct the problem after getting a warning, you could discipline with an unpaid suspension or even termination.

With this basic documentation in place, an employer has a good chance of prevailing on an unemployment claim or even a workplace discrimination claim these basic with documents, showing the employee knew there was a problem and failed to correct it.

Nothing is a sure bet when dealing with employees. But don’t rely on “employment at will” as your only reason for terminating an employee.