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.

What to Do When Someone Speaks Their Truth to Your Power

communication, leadershipSpeaking truth to power is something Americans believe in wholeheartedly. We love historical examples of the Founding Fathers sending a message to King George and of reformers like Martin Luther King, Jr. Americans revel in the stories of investigative journalists and whistle blowers who call out the hidden misdeeds of corporations and governments.

However, what do you do when you are the person in power on the receiving end of someone else’s truth? It’s not easy to hear a customer, employee or board member’s negative opinion of a decision you made or an action you took. However, you are not an absolute ruler. With leadership comes the responsibility to account for your decisions and actions and to deepen relationships by being trustworthy.

With that, here are some things to keep in mind for times when someone speaks their truth to your power:

1.    Put your ego aside.

Most of your actions and decisions aren’t about you personally anyway; they are or should be done for the good of your organization.  For this reason avoid getting defensive because you took criticism personally. Sometimes, another’s critique is more about himself than it is about the action you took. One way to avoid getting defensive is to . . .

2. Listen for commitment.

Be respectful, humble and vulnerable enough to hold the space for the other person to say what they have to say.  And as they speak, give them the benefit of the doubt by listening for what positive principles or values they are committed to in the end. By focusing intently for the core idea the other is communicating to you, it’s very possible you will be able to identify common ground.

3.  As an on-going process, consider creating the position of “fool” or “devil’s advocate”.

Your direct reports and other employees know where their bread is buttered.This can create a situation where they don’t speak up for fear of losing your favor or their jobs. Take a cue from indigenous cultures that have the role of the sacred clown and medieval monarchs who had court jesters or fools. It was their job to entertain and to enforce the rules of the group by highlighting what was proper and what was not, even by sometimes poking fun at others, including a King or Queen.

Alternatively, you can invite an outside observer, like a coach or consultant, to get a bead on the inconsistencies others notice but don’t voice aloud.

4.    Create a process that allows observations to move from the “bottom”, up to leadership levels.

Front line employees are often the first to see the disconnect between the company’s “walk” and its “talk”. A process that allows issues and opinions to bubble up and to be addressed could be as general as a survey, or it could include periodic forums where employees interface with leadership to discuss the impact leadership decisions make in practical terms.

Hearing the “truth” that someone else is living need not feel like an attack. Instead, it can be a great opportunity to find out how your intentions are translating into others’ reality.

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: bethstrathman.com.

3 Tips for Taking Control of Your Attention

attention, listeningBemoaning the maddening busy-ness of your workweek? Why do you feel you have to be constantly connected to incoming input?

You’ve done it or seen others do it: constantly texting (probably multiple conversations at once), emailing, browsing, gaming, or talking on the phone.  To what end?  There is no way that ANYONE has that much they NEED to engage with throughout their waking hours. Maybe it has to do anxiety that constantly taps your shoulder, making you believe you must be on the lookout for real time problems or new opportunities or risk missing out on something important.

I call it “rocking chair” behavior: you’re moving, but you’re not going anywhere.

Just because you have the technology that provides a constant stream of information doesn’t mean you should or must stay at the end of its tether.  You are deluding yourself into believing that everything that is reported in a 24/7 culture is relevant or important for your survival and success.

It’s not.  Most of it is simply noise.
“Life . . . is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth

You are hard-wired to perk up at anything perceived as “negative” in the environment for your own self-preservation.  However, in today’s world, this caveman threat response is working overtime. Your residual reptilian brain equates almost everything you encounter in the modern world with a wild animal attack. Consequently, the constant assault of 21st century information translates into a stream of perceived survival threats, creating feelings of overwhelm and locking you in a constant threat response.  Contrary to the benefit you thought you were getting by drinking in all this data, the resulting chronic threat response actually decreases your thinking capacity and narrows your focus instead of expanding it.

Just stop it.

I’m not advocating burying your head in the sand to avoid what requires your attention.  Simply, become smarter about where you put your attention.  Have the courage to pull yourself loose from the constant stream of input focus on what is really important.  Become intentional about what information you allow into your awareness, then consciously and deliberately determine what to do with it.

 “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”  — Lao Tzu

Here are 3 suggestions for uncoupling yourself from the barrage of input and deliberately attending to what matters:

1. Set an intention

. . . an intention to stop getting sucked in by each piece of information coming your way and the temptation to respond immediately to it.  The earth won’t stop spinning if you don’t immediately text someone back or allow a phone call to go to voicemail.  And no one will hate you.  Others are probably surprised that you are so available most of the time anyway.  (Try not watching TV or streaming news for a week.  You’ll be surprised on how much you DIDN’T miss out on.)

2. Set boundaries with yourself and others

. . . about what you respond to and when.  When do you choose to be most available to respond immediately to texts and phone calls?  What times throughout the day do you choose to return emails? What times of day do you choose not to respond immediately to phone calls, email, or texts?  What is the definition of an “emergency” that will justify an interruption and trigger an immediate response from you?  To whom do you choose to always respond immediately — Boss? Parent? Child? Spouse? Bookie?

3. Clarify the purpose and current vision of success

. . . for yourself and your organization.  Knowing this, you’ll know what information is relevant to attend to.

At bottom, you must have the courage to choose.  Choose what you allow into your world.  The rest can remain noise.

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.

You Versus Your Management Role

management roleI once worked with an elementary school principal had learned from credible sources that this long-term substitute was a fairly regular user of marijuana.

The principal pondered, “This isn’t a problem, is it?  I mean, I haven’t really seen her smoke pot. She’s a great employee – she’s here on time every day, the students like her, and she’s doing a good job.  I mean, there’s nothing I can do, right?  I would be violating her employment rights if I told her she couldn’t work here any longer, right?”

Heavy sigh.  Obviously, this school principal was trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to address the situation.  (I mean, really . . . how many of us know someone who smokes a little weed from time to time.)  I knew I had to offer this principal a quick lesson on the difference between his personal boundaries and those required of him as school principal.

When you accept a job in any organization, you are not paid simply to show up and be your sweet little ol’ self; rather, you are paid to step into a role that serves the organization.  Moreover, in a management or other leadership position, you are paid to represent the interests of the company.  I like to think of it as literally stepping into a suit of clothing that represents the position.  For example, this individual was required to step into the role of “manager” or “school principal”.  Sounds simple enough.

When stepping into a managerial role, it can be really easy to make the transition from yourself as “individual person” to “manager”. But  your personal values, beliefs and ways of operating must align to a great degree with those required in the work role.  The rub comes when your personal values, beliefs, and ways of operating are either more expansive or restrictive than those required of your company and/or role.

This is where this school principal was having a hard time:  He saw this substitute teacher as a “good employee”, so why would the school district care about whether or not she smoked pot at home.  After all, weren’t dependable employees hard to come by?  Why would he need to do anything as long as the substitute wasn’t bringing pot into the workplace?

In short, he was looking at the situation using his more “open” personal values and beliefs, instead of viewing the situation through the lens required of his position as school principal (which dictated that he enforce the school district’s drug policy along with the public policy consideration of holding those working with students to a higher standard than the average Joe).

How easy is it for you to accept and live by the values and beliefs of your company?  As a manager or leader in your company, are you aware of your responsibility to represent the company’s interests even if you don’t fully agree with them?  When you hire new employees (management or otherwise), how do you determine whether or not there is alignment between their personal values and beliefs and those of the company?  And how does your company convey its expectations to managers about carrying out the role as company representative?

 

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 about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Do You Have What It Takes to Lead Others?

what it takes to leadIt happens every day. Someone is put in the position of managing people for the first time and finds it is daunting and very different from what they expected. If this happened to you, you might have been completely unprepared for what it takes to lead other people. Just being the one in charge coupled with their own sparkling personality was supposed to make you a “hit” with your team, wasn’t it?

Au contraire, mon frere.

What does it take to lead employees in the workplace successfully? In addition to skills you can learn (how to interview, how to address behavior and performance issues, how to communicate better, etc.), it takes a couple of other qualities that usually come with maturity and are not always easily acquired:

1. Self-Awareness.

To maintain your composure under stressful situations at work (and at home), you must be aware of your underlying assumptions about people and work, your motivations, your own hot buttons, your talents, and your limitations. A tall order, I know, but without this basic awareness, you are prone to react (and over-react) to situations at work without producing the results you desire. In fact, without self-awareness, you’ll probably make the same mistakes over and over, producing exactly the opposite of what you desire. Becoming a manager is a great experience for learning these things about yourself. If you aren’t already self-aware, leading others will help you increase your self-awareness, but you have to be willing to recognize and own your “stuff”.

2. Balanced Ego.

You also must be self-aware enough to realize that even though you would like to believe you “deserved” the promotion to manager, the workplace is not always about merit. Maybe there are others who would be as good or an even better manager, but you were in the right place at the right time to be selected. Realize this, have some humility about it, and keep focusing on your own growth as a person to enhance your growth as a supervisor of people.

3. Appropriate and Flexible Boundaries.

Having flexible boundaries means you decide what to let into “your space” and what to keep out. Good but flexible boundaries make you resistant to influences that will get in the way of your ability to function as a healthy manager. As you understand your role as manager, you should come to understand that your role is to get the best out of those who work with you while enforcing all the rules of the organization. (Sometimes that means you will not be the most popular person around. You have to be OK with that.) As you create professional boundaries with your employees, you are establishing the ground rules for how you will behave and others are to behave around you. Having flexible boundaries means . . .

  • You build trust with your employees as you maintain confidences; are firm, fair, and consistent in your dealings with others; and admit when you make a mistake.
  • You understand that you and your employees have roles to play and that the decisions made and the actions taken at work are not designed to personally favor you or another individual.
  • You do not make decisions out of pity for others or just so your employees will like you.
  • You hold yourself and your employees accountable for expected performance and behavior in the workplace based on the business objectives for your work group.
4. Compassion.

Compassion is the ability to understand what someone else might be experiencing. It’s the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Compassion allows you to meet others where they are and assist them as they move to where they need to be based on what the work requires. In general, I think the more self-awareness one has, the more their compassion for others increases.

Becoming a manager/leader will be challenging and rewarding. Instead of validating your talent and wonderfulness, it is a wake-up call and a growth opportunity for most. Enjoy!

Copyright – Beth Strathman 2011-2018
All rights reserved

Don’t Believe Everything You Think

beliefsThroughout my career, I have learned that much of what is thought, is only in your own head and is not necessarily true.  Yep.  Humans make up a lot of stuff about the world. But creating clarity of thought comes only if you decrease the amount of our own interference with the information you take in.

The brain has been described as a pattern-making machine.  It looks for patterns everywhere (even where there aren’t any).  You have many THOUGHTS that come together in patterns, which eventually form BELIEFS about everything.  And although you like to think of yourself as a rational, logical being, you typically don’t investigate the objective TRUTH of those THOUGHTS and BELIEFS. In fact, most of our beliefs were formed before you were 7 years old.

Based on the way the brain is designed, the more you practice a belief, the more you see it in the world around you.  And if you don’t examine what is going through your mind, you can end up making decisions about or reacting to situations and people in ways that can look wacky to others and that don’t serve you in the long run.

In other words, you have filters in place that color what you see, hear, and experience. The more you use these “filters”, the stronger the neural connections become around a belief. In turn, these “filters” shape how we interpret our experiences.

To get clearer about your interpretation of things around you, become aware of a few of the negative thoughts or beliefs you hold about a situation or another individual at work.  Something for which you don’t have much of a factual basis.  Own up to the fact that the stories you tell yourself are often merely your interpretation of what happened and may not fully describe the entire situation.

Explore processes like The Work by Byron Katie  to help you question beliefs that especially cause you to react negatively with frustration, sadness, or anger.

As a leader, question a negative belief you have about someone at work.  Is it true?

 

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 as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
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Self-Awareness Leads to Accountability

reflectionAs a leader, you are a role model of accountability.  So what does it take for you to hold yourself accountable?  To check how accountable you are as a leader, consider reflecting on the following questions for each (important) interaction you have:

Q1: What did I do that worked/didn’t work?  Why?

Take stock of your actions/reactions. Be honest with yourself.  If there was conflict or disappointment within the situation, resist the temptation to vindicate yourself.  Even if you think you were justified in whatever you did or didn’t do, what could you have done differently to decrease the conflict or increase the satisfaction with the situation for  yourself and others involved?

Q2: What do my actions/reactions tell me about myself?  What patterns do I see?

Reflecting on how you responded or reacted helps you to spot patterns that can lead to personal insights about what’s driving your reactions (motivation, fears, and desires).  Becoming aware of these deeper aspects of yourself and the behavioral patterns that emerge allows you to catch yourself in the act next time (or even before you act/react next time). This allows you to interject conscious thought to interrupt what might be a behavioral pattern that isn’t working for you. The split second it takes to think about what you are getting ready to do or say, allows you to exercise choice – the choice to stay stuck in our unconscious patterns or to consciously create new solutions without reacting unconsciously.

Q3: What excuses did I make (in my head or out loud) for bad results or failures?

Identify the “story” you tell yourself. What does this story say about the beliefs you have about yourself or others? Are those beliefs necessarily true?  When you examine the stories you tell yourself, you might just find that your reactions are based on unfounded beliefs about the situation. When you unpack those unfounded beliefs, you might find that they aren’t that true. Yet, they can cause you a lot of anger or stress.  In other words, you might not want to believe everything you think!

Q4: What did I do that might be part of my typical behavioral patterns?

Do you habitually tune out or retreat when stressed?  Do you often come across as overly-critical of others?  Do you consciously or unconsciously intimidate others?  No matter your behavioral patterns, you’re probably doing unto others what you don’t want done to you.  Be aware of these patterns and how they shape your interactions with others.

Q5: Who do I want to be? How do I want to come across instead? 

Once you’ve identified behavioral patterns that aren’t serving you, try an alternative way of responding.  Instead of frequently pushing yourself beyond your limits, what would happen if you took a breather once in a while or take a day off for fun?  Instead of fearing you’ll disappoint others, what if you said “no” more often or tried voicing concerns?  Instead of appearing intimidating, what would happen if you conceded a point to someone else without trying to justify yourself or let them “win”? Letting go of your usual way of being and doing is a practice that can help you realize that your typical maladaptive behaviors may have served you when you were younger, but they just might be getting in the way today.

Use these questions to raise your self-awareness. When you do, you’ll become more accountable to yourself and to your team. The more you model what real accountability is, the more likely your employees are to own their results without excuse, too.

 

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 as they evolve into the leader they are meant to become and learn to maximize the people side of business. Learn more about her at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Follow Beth:
YouTube: Firebrand Consulting LLC
LinkedIn: /company/firebrand-consulting-llc or /in/bethstrathman
Facebook: /firebrandleadershipconsulting