Do You “Run Toward the Roar”?

roar, face fearsWhen was the last time you got out of your “comfort zone”? Here’s a story, from storyteller Michael Meade, about the fact that seeking safety might be costing you something:

On the ancient savannas life pours forth in the form of teeming, feeding herds. Nearby, lions wait in anticipation of the hunt. They send the oldest and weakest member of the pride away from the hunting pack.

Having lost most of its teeth, ITS ROAR IS FAR GREATER THAN ITS ABILITY TO BITE.
The old one goes off and settles in the grass across from where the hungry lions wait.

As the herds enter the area between the hunting pack and the old lion, the old lion begins to roar mightily. Upon hearing the fearful roar most of the herd turn and flee from the source of the fear.

They run wildly in the opposite direction. Of course, they run right to where the strongest lions of the group wait in the tall grass for dinner to arrive.

“RUN TOWARDS THE ROAR,” the old people used to tell the young ones.

When faced with great danger run towards the roaring, for there you will find some safety and a way through.

Sometimes the greatest safety comes from going to where the fear seems to originate. Amidst the roaring of the threatened and troubled world, surprising ways to begin it all again may wait to be found.

Michael Meade, Excerpted from his book, The World Behind the World

What you can take away from this story:

1. Running towards what appears “safe” can be deceiving and lead to its own kind of trouble.
2. Run towards what scares you.

Look for those situations and circumstances that scare the crap out of you. You will never know your true talents and gifts if you don’t face what you fear to test yourself.

3. Things almost always seem worse in your head than they turn out to be.

Once you identify those fears, move beyond your comfort zone to face them. What you originally feared could end up being an elderly, toothless lion that can’t hurt you and is only a distraction.

4. By facing your fears, you find out what you can truly do and what’s possible.

And with each successive time you venture out toward a “scary” adventure, you’ll find that you are safe and capable. At the worst, you might fail but you’ll find out where you stand and what you have to learn. Then, at least you can figure out a way through to what you want.

And in all likelihood, you’ll live to venture out another day.

Which current “roar” are you avoiding? How might you test it to see if it really has teeth?

 

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 leaders they are meant to be while maximizing the “people side” of business. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Learning from Challenges: Harvesting Lessons from the Underworld

underworld, initiation, self-awarenessInitiations are cycles of physical or psychological separation, ordeal, and return that we encounter throughout our lives. When we fully integrate the lessons from these experiences, we develop as people and leaders. (See a previous article on initiations) However, if during or upon returning from an initiation cycle, you fail to reflect on the ordeal, you are likely to repeat similar fact patterns with similar people. As a leader, it’s imperative that you learn from these initiatory cycles to become the best person/ leader you can be.

In the story of Persephone’s abduction into the Underworld, she starts the story as a young maiden, known as Kore/Persephone (Kore meaning “young girl”). During her time in the Underworld while separated from her mother Demeter, she knows that if she eats anything there, she will be stuck in the Underworld for eternity. She refused to eat anything while she’s there until Hermes brokers her release. It’s not until she knows she’s going back to her mother that she eats a few pomegranate seeds.

When she sets foot back on earth, the world bursts into bloom, and from there on, Persephone is known as the Queen of the Underworld (no longer Kore). Additionally, Homer wrote that Hecate, known for her wisdom, walked before and after her. This can be interpreted to mean that Persephone had wisdom upon her return that she hadn’t had before her abduction/descent.

Upon her return, Persephone admits to Demeter that she did indeed eat a few pomegranate seeds. This ties her to the Underworld for eternity. Thereafter, she must return for a few months each year.

Self-Awareness from Initiations

Like Persephone, when you return from an underworld initiation, you will have ingested and digested “seeds” of new learning and realization that tie you to the experience. With new insights and wisdom from the experience, you can incorporate that wisdom to become a renewed and better leader.

For each initiatory experience, you can choose to accept, ingest, and digest these “seeds” of insight and wisdom to further your return/reintegration from the circumstance by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What role did I play in that situation?
  • How did I contribute to the difficulty?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What was that situation trying to tell me about myself?
  • What is the opportunity for me now?
  • What can I practice or do differently when similar situations happen?

There will be more challenges ahead, more initiations, as if each were designed to help you grow as a leader. But if you don’t take time to reflect on the “seeds” you can take away from each initiatory experience, you may stay stuck in the underworld, repeating the same unpleasant pattern.

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 at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Learning from Challenges: Initiation as a Leadership Tool

self-awareness, intitiationHave you worked for companies with similar undesirable corporate cultures? Have you tended to work with the same type of people who have characteristics that drive you crazy? It might be time to look at these patterns more closely to learn more about yourself. Timeless principles as highlighted in ancient mythologies can help put your experiences into a larger psychological and cosmological context. Doing so, allows you to make sense of your personal experiences and patterns and further your development as a leader.

The Abduction of Persephone

One timeless principle or idea is Underworld initiation. For the ancient Greeks, the Underworld was the domain of the god Hades, who ruled over the souls of the dead. In 6th grade, you probably heard the story of Hades abducting the youthful maiden, Persephone, causing her mother goddess Demeter to stop the plants from growing. Persephone remained with Hades in the Underworld until the god Hermes brokered a deal for her return. But before she left to go back to her mother, Persephone ate a few pomegranate seeds. This meant she had to return to the Underworld from then on for a few months of each year. This accounted for the reason for the seasons.

The psychological interpretation of Persephone’s experience in the Underworld by Carl Jung and others gives a broad framework to use as a leadership self-reflection tool: initiation.

You might think of initiation as a ceremony that marks entrance into a life stage or a group, like baptism or joining a sorority. However, you go through many initiations throughout your life, large and small, whether or not you celebrate them. In fact, you undergo psychological initiations throughout your life during challenging or difficult incidents and new life phases that test or stretch your limits.

Phases of Initiation

As with the ceremonial initiations you celebrate, these psychological “underworld” initiations have 3 main phases: departure, ordeal, and return/reintegration. During departure, you either willingly or unwillingly find yourself in a situation where you experience a change in yourself or your circumstances. Next, you go through an “ordeal” within this new situation that differs from what has been “normal” for you thus far. The ordeal can be anywhere from mildly irritating to downright awful. Eventually, things return to normal or get “better”, giving you the opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been, reintegrate yourself using lessons from the “ordeal”.

As an example, you may have worked with someone who was challenging. Your interactions with this challenging person represent a separation from what you usually experience (getting along with most people) and an entrance into a different “world” (of bad relationship). Next, with this challenging person, there is probably at least one aspect that makes the relationship hard, or an ordeal, so your usual ways of relating don’t work. You might feel frustrated or irritated or some other negative emotion while in the ordeal. At some point, the ordeal of this relationship ends, and you return to a more “normal” circumstance, whether or not that person remains part of your experience.

The beauty of these “underworld” initiations is that they offer you an opportunity for self-reflection. Through this opportunity, you can examine and learn more about yourself, and use that to decide who you really want to be as a leader.

What recent or notable “initiations” have you experienced? Read a related article for ways to gain insights from such experiences.

 

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 at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

Set Your Ego Aside to Admit a Bad Hire

Have you ever hired an employee who behaves badly soon after starting work and found yourself flummoxed with disappointment, disbelief, and maybe even shame? When one of your recent hires displays inappropriate conduct, creates dissension, or proves to be a poor performer, don’t wait for things to get better or try to “save face”.

Here are 3 tips for getting over it and admitting the mistake:

1. Don’t ignore the problem.

You teach people how to treat you. So, if you ignore the poor conduct or performance, you’ll send the message that you’re OK with it even if you’re not. It will not stop on its own. Additionally, you run the risk of losing the respect of the rest of your team. The problem will not correct itself. Bring the problem to the employee’s attention.

2. Take Responsibility.

If after talking to the employee about the issue(s), things don’t improve satisfactorily, chalk it up to the imprecision of your selection process then cut bait if warranted. Most hiring processes are no better than the flip of coin, and even applying all the best hiring practices, it’s still not a perfect science. There is no nobility in trying to shove a square peg into a round hole. Take responsibility for hiring someone who wasn’t a fit.

3. Get Advice and Assistance.

When it’s evident that the new hire isn’t going to work out, don’t think you have to go it alone. Work with HR or your company attorney to ensure you’ve been fair and followed your company’s policies and applicable law.

The reality is that most people at least attempt to put their best feet forward in the first months on the job. If someone is a jerk or a poor performer within the first 6 months, that is a red flag. Things are not likely to improve. Hiring people is time-consuming, and it’s frustrating when your selection doesn’t work out. Admit the mistake and take appropriate action, so you can find a better fit sooner rather than later.

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.

5 Timeless Leadership Principles from the Ancient World

Cleopatra leadership

 

 

While most examples of leadership throughout history reflect the military prowess of masculine-dominant, patriarchal cultures, here are a few timeless principles of leadership from the Ancient World that are still valued in business in the 21st century.

Alexander the Great

After leading the Macedonians to a long-fought victory over Darius III and his Persians, Alexander drove his army to exhaustion. Contrary to wiser counsel, Alexander continued his ambitious attempt to expand his conquests to the east and died attempting to enter the city of Babylon. (It’s theorized that he died of malaria, which he may have contracted trying to enter Babylon via swamp land on the west side of the city.)

Alexander teaches us that great leaders inspire others with vision and strategic execution of that vision without making about themselves (ego).

Augustus Caesar (Octavian)

Especially in the early days of his reign, Augustus was not one to allow his enemies to get the better of him. He was ruthless in getting rid of those who didn’t fully support him after his uncle Julius Caesar’s demise, including Marc Antony. But as things settled in, Augustus understood the importance of keeping Rome running efficiently and effectively without the need for the drama of constant conquest. Thus began the Pax Romana.

Augustus teaches us that responsible administration is as important as flashy achievements.

Cleopatra

Strategic, intelligent and worldly, Cleopatra kept her focus on Egypt and what would be best for the Egyptian people, even if that meant creating an alliance with Rome, Egypt’s nemesis and the superpower of its day. In fact, Cleopatra was the first Ptolemy to learn the Egyptian language, which shows the importance of identifying with her people. She worked hard to maintain Egypt’s independence from Rome by creating strategic relationships with Eastern countries from Arabia to India.

Cleopatra teaches us to focus on what’s best strategically and out of responsibility for the entity or people you lead.

Leonidas

Leonidas led a force of about 1500 Greeks (300 of whom were Leonidas’ own Spartans) who stayed behind to guard the rest of the retreating Greek army from the Persian advance at Thermopylae. Most of this remaining Greek force was killed, including Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.

Leonidas teaches us that a leader must be willing to sacrifice short-term gain to achieve the long-term objective.

Hannibal

Hannibal ate, slept, and fought with his men and embodied the strength and stamina he expected his troops to maintain even while they were camped in the Alps during the harsh winter without adequate shelter and provisions.

Hannibal teaches us that leaders “go first”. Whatever you expect of your employees and company as a whole, you must be the leading example and role model for it.

Boudicca

Boudicca sought revenge against the Romans after they disregarded her deceased husband’s will and usurped his kingdom, disinheriting his wife and daughters. After 3 decisive victories against the Romans with her Celtic rebel forces, she pressed on, despite the fact her army was worn out and hungry. Although she had superior numbers, the Romans strategically chose a battleground that worked to their advantage. Driven by revenge, Boudicca attacked anyway and lost.

Boudicca teaches us to temper single-minded passion or heightened emotion with a measured, rational assessment of a situation.

While the context of life thousands of years ago was vastly different from that of the 21st century, ancient leaders exhibited timeless principles that still serve leaders today:
1. Have a compelling vision and execute it effectively without a focus on your own ego.
2. Build trust with employees and customers through consistent day-to-day administration.
3. Serve the greater good and know that strategically you may need to sacrifice in the short-term for long-term gain.
4. Leaders go first.
5. Balance heightened emotion like revenge or unbridled passion with reasoned judgment to avoid unnecessary risks.

 

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 women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

8 Traits That Make You Untrustworthy

lack of trust

You would think that because people spend roughly 1/3 of their time at work, the workplace would be a critical venue for establishing trust. Yet, the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that only 49% of employees think CEOs are very or extremely credible. Along the same lines, a recent HBR article on trust at work reported that only 46% of employees place “a great deal of trust” in their employers, and 15% report “very little” or “no trust at all.”

No wonder work is stressful. If employees are spending a good deal of time in a place where there is at least some distrust, you know they are diverting time and energy to activities to create safety and security that hedge against their lack of trust, instead of putting that time and energy towards innovating and otherwise doing their jobs.

Here’s what you’re doing to make your employees see you as untrustworthy:

 

1. You are Unpredictable.

When people can’t count on what you stand for or on the processes or criteria that govern how decisions are made in our company, they don’t trust you. Create certainty to combat your employees’ wary reptilian and avoid being erratic by switching the fundamental principles or values that guide your behavior and don’t be wishy-washy. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and follow up on the things you commit to doing.

2. You Are Incompetent.

When you don’t have the basic background and knowledge to make good judgment calls, your team will not have faith in you. Cultivate your personal knowledge and abilities instead by educating yourself on issues and concepts or asking others to enlighten you in your area of responsibility. You don’t need to be THE expert, but you need to be competent enough.

“Trust in institutions and their license to operate is no longer automatically granted on the basis of hierarchy or title, rather in today’s world, trust must be earned.” — Richard Edelman, President/CEO of Edelman, a communications/marketing firm

3. You Have a Hidden Agenda.

If others believe you aren’t being upfront about what you think or why you think it, they will definitely be leery of you. Instead, become more transparent by explaining your underlying assumptions and rationale for the opinions you hold and stances you take and do it in a way that is the company’s best interests – not your own.

4. You Come Across as Fake.

Whether you’re trying to be a super hero, a brown-noser, or are just too good to be true, if others can’t relate to you human-to-human, you won’t have their trust. Instead be genuine by owning up to your failings and to the fact that you don’t have all the answers.

5. You’re Clueless.

When your attention is elsewhere instead of on your area of responsibility, people don’t trust that you know what’s going on. Combat cluelessness by keeping your eye on the ball and focusing on issues and trends in the industry, your profession, and most certainly in your company.

6. You Have a Big Ego.

You think only you can save the day or have the answers. Broaden your perspective to avoid being immersed in own your world or focused only on your own prowess or needs and wants. Make it a practice to seek out differing points of view and explore their assumptions and backgrounds that led them to their conclusions.

7. You Live in Your Own Little World.

Foster better relationships with others to build trust. Connect with others in your company at all levels. This means you need to ask questions about their experiences and thoughts on an issue then listen to them and appreciate where they are coming from. You’ll be more likely to build more trusting relationships when people see you and interact with you.

8. You Don’t Acknowledge the Work of Others.

If you don’t recognize the contributions made by every level of employee in your company, you miss out on a big opportunity to show that you are indeed clued in and understand the impact that is made throughout your company every day. When people understand you really “see” what they are doing, they learn to trust that you are minding the store.

Ultimately, trust starts with each person, and as with most things, leaders get to go first. So, start with yourself and see how you can create more of the following in your company and become a more trustworthy and all-round better person in the process.

 

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 women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their companies by gaining greater focus, self-awareness and influence with their teams.  Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.

The Insider’s Guide to Employee Motivation

employee motivation

Often, it can feel as though you are only one who cares and is willing to do the “heavy lifting” in your company. So, how do you get your employees to care enough to work hard like you and treat customers with care like you do?

Well the research has been around for decades, actually almost 100 years, but for some reason you might be fighting it. What seems to be the case is that your employees are already motivated to get out of bed each morning and do something they love. That’s called “intrinsic” motivation. You know, but might not want to admit, that you don’t motivate anyone but yourself, so stop trying to “make” your employees do things. (Want to see your employees go passive aggressive really fast? Try to put your thumb on them to control them. They’ll subvert you every time – and with smiles on their faces pretending to conform to your wishes.)

“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” — Dwight Eisenhower

Alfie Kohn in his book Punished by Rewards, reviewed decades of research that showed that Skinnerian behaviorism might work well on dogs and birds, but really doesn’t work on people. He boiled down what gets employees revved up to: Content (say over what they do), Control (say over how they do it), and Collaboration (be able to work with others to get it done). Daniel Pink did a similar review of the research in his book Drive, summing up the salient factors as Autonomy (self-direction), Mastery (develop and hone talent), and Purpose (have a really impactful reason for why they do the work).

In the late 1960s, an actual researcher, Frederick Herzberg concluded there were two factors required to keep people happy and productive, companies needed to (1) get rid of “dissatisfiers”, like bad policies, bad supervisors and unfair pay that caused employees to gripe about work, then (2) build in “satisfiers”, like meaningful work that gave employees a sense of responsibility and provided job opportunities appreciation, recognition and continued skill development.

So what can you do to unleash your employees’ natural intrinsic motivation?

First, set your ego aside.

Have you examined your abilities as a leader? Are you someone who others want to follow or work for? Or maybe your ego comes into play when you hire or promote people and they don’t work out. Are you willing to admit your mistake and let them go or move them back to a position that fits their skills and temperament?

Same goes for making sure that the company culture you created is not squelching your employees’ natural inclination to do something great. Make sure you don’t have restrictive or nonsensical policies, procedures, or pay structures that may be administered inconsistent or unfairly.

Second, focus on building relationships.

To build relationships with your direct reports. You should do things like:

  • Take stock their talents, current performance level, and long-term potential. This helps to determine what trajectory each employee is on — promotion, move to another position, redeploy, monitor more closely, etc.
  • Treat your people like people, not cogs or machines. Get to know them personally to a certain degree.
  • Appreciate their talents and the roles they might play in your company: devil’s advocate, trickster, historian, herald of danger ahead.
  • Set and communicate clear expectations for each direct report, tied to company goals
  • Acknowledge contributions made and note where they need to contribute more, better, or more often.Determine frequency and type of feedback they to hear from you.
  • Acknowledge their good work and willingness to go the extra mile when it happens. A simple thank you is good enough usually.
  • Reward them for their performance and commitment.
  • Develop their skills and competence.

As Zig Ziglar said, “You don’t build a business – you build people then the people build the business.” Spend time building your people, and their motivation will shine through.

 

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 women in leadership who want to have more positive impact within their organizations by gaining greater focus, self-awareness, and influence with their teams. Learn more at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.