5 Ways to Bolster Confidence During Chaos

confidence

Ever lose your confidence? The world is never stable. Physics teaches that everything moves toward maximum entropy (disorder or
randomness).

That means, there is always something churning and arising that can upset the current balance. When you finally come to the realization that things are “off”, the so-called chaos could have been in the works for a while before you noticed it.

Thus, when you finally notice the disorder, randomness, or chaos, it can knock you off your game. The trick is to maintain your composure and your confidence to make the necessary adjustments and re-calibrate.

So, how can you feel and telegraph the steady confidence your employees need so they don’t get spooked like a herd of wild bison?

Here are 5 tips on how to create and maintain a confident demeanor that quells uncertainty in yourself and more importantly in your employee ranks:

1. Keep a supportive mindset and confident bearing.

You are where you need to be. Don’t psych yourself out. It’s easy to let your inner critic berate you. Turn the inner critic on its head by looking for how it’s trying to serve you. Like a nagging parent who wants you to succeed, what is the good intention of the inner critic and its negative criticisms?

Additionally, you can boost your confidence by following the power posing research of Amy Cuddy, which indicated that 2 minutes of adopting a “superhero” pose led to a 20% increase in subjects feeling more powerful/confident.

2. Do rely on others to bolster confidence.

As a successful person, you might tend to think you have to put the whole company on your shoulders and carry it forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have a host of people who can cut through the chaos with you. You may not know everything but you can rely on others around you to shore up your weaknesses. Upgrade your network if necessary, too.

3. Toggle between forest (big picture) and the trees (details).

When an obstacle or problem arises, recognize it but then pan out and re-focus on the big picture, to gain perspective on where that obstacle fits within the grand scheme of things and to gain flexibility of response. With perspective comes confidence.

4. Spend 20% of your time on work directly affecting your big picture goals.

Remember the Pareto Principle: 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your results. Calendar the high-value activities that have a direct line of sight to your company goals. Then, execute those high-value activities in baby steps each day to move your goals forward. In other words, don’t try to eat the elephant all at once.

5. Take risks by following the data AND your gut.

You build confidence by being true to yourself in light of the data and seeing it pay off. This happens most noticeably when you weigh the pertinent information and take action based on your own sense of things. Then, go for it. Don’t worry — failure can build your confidence when you learn from your experience and use that learning to try again.

Confidence is an important leadership attribute and is critical during times of uncertainty. It’s your role to project the confidence necessary to create a sense of “all is well” in your employees. It does need to be tempered with humility. In other words, there is a difference between confidence and cockiness. But having the wisdom of other smart people, good data, a “can-do” attitude, and the discipline to focus on high-value daily work is how you exude and continue to build your own confidence and the confidence of your staff.

 

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.

“Just Kidding”: Handling Passive Aggressive Employees

passive aggressiveWe laugh at passive aggressive behavior on sitcoms, tune in for more on reality TV, and read the snarkiness on social media. Nonetheless, it’s no laughing matter in the workplace.

Passive aggressive behavior includes actions, inactions, and comments intended to do harm but is indirect. People who exhibit passive aggressive behaviors also tend to feel helpless or powerless in their lives, and use their passive aggressiveness as a way to cope.

Examples include: forgetting to do things, not following through, spreading rumors, giving the silent treatment, making sarcastic comments intended to send a message, and complaining about others to everyone but the person himself. In short, passive aggressiveness boils down to presenting yourself one way and behaving another to intentionally “stick it” to someone else.

On an individual level, passive aggressiveness increases uncertainty, leads to poor self-esteem and poor working relationships, and consequently, leads to lower trust, increased stress, and lower productivity. On a companywide basis, it can slow down decision-making and the execution of important initiatives.

Unfortunately, many managers are uncertain how to address this type of behavior because it seems so petty and elusive. Here, are a few tips for creating a workplace with minimal passive aggressiveness:

Expect and model forthright communication.

To avoid allowing passive aggressive behavior in your company, make sure you are a role model of healthy, respectful disagreement with curiosity about other perspectives. You can do this in a public way in your meetings by setting ground rules and behavioral norms about having full discussions in meetings where everyone is expected to contribute and acknowledging the sensitivity or contention of some issues as well as the importance of discussing those issues openly.

Highlight minority or dissenting perspectives and opinions.

Intentionally, ask those who hold an unpopular perspective to talk about their assumptions underlying their viewpoint and about the implications that will follow if their solution is or isn’t followed. By doing this, it makes it easier to craft a final decision that might accommodate differing perspectives. You can also troubleshoot the decision the group finally makes but anticipating what might go wrong. This allows those who see the weaknesses of the decision to be able to contribute.

Call it like you see it.

When passive aggressive body language, humor, gossip, or complaints about others come to your attention, you must acknowledge the behavior and dig a little deeper to find out what’s behind the behavior. Voicing concern that the person is choosing an indirect way of bringing up the issue is a place to start. Then, ask questions about why they chose an indirect way of settling the issue versus addressing the issue head on. You can then guide them to use more appropriate ways of interacting with others to get what they ultimately want.

Passive aggressive behavior is probably more common than appropriately assertive behavior and can be one of the most destructive elements to a healthy company culture. This is certainly one time when being “nice” won’t work out for your company in the long run.

 

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.

Transform Workplace Drama from Spectacle to Productivity

workplace dramaWe love our drama. Ancient Romans loved the tension and spectacle of the Colosseum with its combat to the death involving gladiators and beasts, nail-biting chariot races, and extravagant displays of sea warfare. Today, we have the tension and spectacle of reality TV, involving the emotional combat of one-up-man-ship, betrayal, and dashed hopes. It seems a natural aspect of the human condition. It’s no wonder, then, that drama comes naturally to your employees.

You know employees are caught up in drama when they aren’t focused on the overall goals your company is working to achieve. Instead, they hone in on what others are doing or not doing to bug them or to get in their way. In short, they are focused on the weeds instead of on the big picture. They delight in gossip, complaining, blaming, shaming, and explaining – mostly after not being forthcoming when the time was right, such as in meetings regarding the work and its progress.

 

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”
― Seán O’Casey

Drama includes people who find themselves playing three standard roles: Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer. These were identified by Dr. Stephen Karpman in the 1960s. In spite of their good intentions, a person in the Victim role sees himself as powerless and put-upon; a person in Persecutor role sees himself as the only person doing things right, coming across as blaming and overbearing; and a person in the Rescuer role believes he must save the Victim who is not capable of doing so himself. Together, people in these roles can go for years, blaming each other and focusing on what each is doing wrong, instead of looking at their own contributions to the dramatics that play out.

According to David Emerald, the transformation from spectacle to productivity occurs when (1) the “Victim” refocuses on the general outcome they want to create and determine a way forward; (2) the “Rescuer” reframes the “Victim” as capable of solving his own problems; or (3) the “Persecutor” clarifies his intentions and shifts to supporting the “Victim’s” capabilities.

As a leader in your company, it’s up to you to create the conditions that discourage drama as a spectacle of complaining and blaming and, instead, encourage trust, ownership, and choice that leads to working together more productively without fear. This requires many things including the expectation that people will feel the trust required to be open and explore issues through deeper conversations that center around questions for which you don’t know the answer. (Judith Glaser would call these Level III Co-Creative conversations. See Lead Like Nobody’s Business blog and podcast with Julio Garreaud from 6/7/2016.)

Questions that could be part of these types of deeper conversations might include:

  • How do you see it?
  • What are the implications of what we are doing with respect to X?
  • What have we been assuming that might not be accurate?
  • How can we . . . ?
  • What if . . . ?
  • What might you do to achieve your original intention?

Think about how frequently these questions are used in your meetings and interactions . . . . Imagine what could happen for your company if you intentionally opened up some room for your employees to explore together possibilities for their work instead of allowing them to stay stuck in their own myopic, dramatic role.

 

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.

Ironically, Collaboration Makes Your Company More Competitive

collaborationIt used to be that leading a successful company was all about withholding knowledge, hording power, and smashing the competition. More and more, however, leaders today are called upon to be more collaborative – sometimes even with their competition.

Typical Corporate Structure Impedes Collaboration

“Collaboration” might sound like a wimpy term to some. In fact, it is typically viewed as a more feminine virtue. Yet, the costs of poor collaboration are concrete and even painful.

Ask General Motors about its non-collaborative (“competitive”), “silo-ed” culture that led to a defective ignition switch, which cost the company at least $2.7 billion dollars in repairs, rework, replacement part, and lawsuits. A consulting report concluded that the cause of the defect stemmed from a silo-based culture that covered up issues and did not collaborate well.

Similarly, many companies operate in silos and do not communicate effectively across spans of control. In some cases, if a manager in one silo needs something from a manager in another silo, the company’s formality requires her to send a request up her chain of command to her Vice President, who then reaches across the company to another Vice President, who in turn goes down the chain of command to the manager, and so on. This form of communication is extremely slow and subject to miscommunication. Add matrix-ed relationships  to this, where employees strive to serve multiple masters, balancing multiple roles and competing interests. Yeow!

Emphasis on Technical Skills Can Stifle Collaboration

Think about the highly skilled employees in companies within technical industries, who spent years learning a technical function. Often, their companies have not encouraged them to learn the nuanced interpersonal skills required to collaborate on teams. As a result they are not as effective at relating to others, conveying their ideas with impact, getting what they want, or helping others achieve their goals. Therefore, teams in these industries may not perform as well as they could. This results in stalled projects. Ironically, when you multiply this effect across the company — especially when teams have to work cross-functionally — the negative results from a lack of collaboration can hurt a company’s competitive position.

Fostering Collaboration Is Imperative

As companies become more complex, collaboration becomes a core skill that every leader, team, and business unit must have. In some cases, this means you must structure your company to make collaboration easier. In other cases, it means encouraging manager and employees to acquire new skills, attitudes, and behaviors.

Also, leadership today requires you to enhance your own collaboration skills to get what you want from those inside your company and external partners, like suppliers, vendors, regulatory agencies, and customers. Either way, you become a role model for collaboration, setting the example for the types of collaborative interactions you expect from your employees.

When you use collaboration wisely and well, you gain easier cooperation, more information, and greater facility to reach your targets. In short, you become more competitive.

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.

Be the Bigger Person When Receiving Feedback

feedbackGiving quality feedback in a respectful way can be hard. Receiving feedback in a respectful way is even harder. (Even receiving positive feedback for some is difficult.) After receiving negative feedback in particular do you notice you have heightened negative emotions or niggling thoughts that linger long afterwards? That just shows you care.

When I refer to feedback, I mean any information that is given to you about your own behavior, communication, or performance that is intended to make you aware of how you impacted someone else – whether good or bad. However, I’ll focus on receiving negative feedback, which feels harder to swallow.

 

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”
Bill Gates

As a business leader, you probably find yourself being the formal giver of feedback more often than a formal receiver of it. Still, there are many opportunities to receive feedback. You can solicit feedback from individuals, via employee surveys, or through a 360-degree feedback process. You may also receive unsolicited feedback from anyone you work with.

Positioning yourself as a good receiver of feedback can be very powerful for you personally and as a role model for your company. It really boils down to being the “bigger” person when receiving feedback.

If possible, you can practice receiving feedback on your terms by creating the best conditions possible to get feedback. These are situations where you have a lot of control by choosing the following: (1) the specific feedback you want (2) a non-threatening setting in which to receive the feedback, (3) and people who respect and trust to provide the feedback. Even under these conditions, it can still be hard to receive negative feedback, but these might be the best conditions for practicing the following tips for receiving unsolicited, negative feedback:

1. Keep your ego in check.

Even if you are high up the food chain, you aren’t perfect and are not above making improvements. To avoid getting your ego too involved, frame the intentions of the feedback giver in the best possible light. What are their good intentions for giving you feedback?

2. Keep your power in check.

Be aware of any power differential in your relationship with the feedback giver, especially if you have more positional power. It’s important to keep emotions down, or you risk having a chilling effect on getting future feedback. If you feel yourself getting angry, defensive, snarky, or deflecting blame back on the other person, this can be magnified by your power. Or heightened emotions may d really be signaling your insecurity around the feedback topic.

3. Gauge your intention vs. impact.

Based on the feedback, how big is the gap between how you thought you were coming across and the impact you had on others? For most feedback, this the heart of the matter, or the point of the feedback. Take stock. It is, however, harder to gauge if you don’t respect the person’s opinion.

4. Accept the feedback graciously.

To do this, be quiet and listen without arguing. Avoid minimizing the person’s opinion, turning the tables on them to give THEM feedback, or disputing the feedback. Maintain neutral facial expressions and body language, and at the end, simply thank the person for their input. You may ask clarifying questions if necessary to understand the circumstances, or you may ask for specific tips you could employ to do better next time.

5. Consider the feedback.

You don’t have to accept all feedback as true of helpful. Take time in the subsequent days or weeks to decide what feedback to accept or reject. You may want to test the feedback with others you trust or validate the feedback by noticing your behaviors in similar situations going forward.

6. Circle back to the person.

When you circle back, you do so in the spirit of letting them know you’ve been considering the feedback and to thank them again for their candor. You are not obligated to report on what you’re doing about it. Just touching base with them again lets them know there are no hard feelings and serves as a good model for receiving feedback without letting it adversely affect work relationship.

Finding out you’ve fallen short of someone’s expectations can be hard. It’s just an indication of the degree to which you do care about being the best you can be. However, you show your colleagues and employees how to be a great leader when you can practice what you preach and give feedback as good as you get it.

 

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.

How to Balance Accountability and Relationships

women in leadershipHow do you ensure a balance in your company between maintaining good relationships with employees AND holding them accountable when they fall short in their conduct or performance. In other words, how do we avoid allowing our compassion for an individual’s circumstances to completely overrule their individual accountability and vice versa.

It is not an “either/or”. It is indeed a balancing act between both: compassion for individuals and accountability to the group or company.

One side of continuum, a leader might set the tone that focuses on maintaining the employee relationship and possibly being too compassionate to the employee’s circumstances. When this happens, you hear management make excuses for why the employee failed and/or why they didn’t address it.

On the other side of the spectrum, a leader might set the tone that focuses on strict accountability with no excuses. This is a straight forward equation where individual employees will hear about it when their conduct or performance fails regardless of the conditions the employee was operating under.

To find the balance, leaders would do well to balance both accountability with compassion for the individual’s situation. This is the ability to recognize that each individual is accountable to perform to standard and to conduct themselves to company norms tempered with a consideration of the facts and circumstances, including whether the employee knew and understood expectations and had the control and capacity to perform or conduct themselves accordingly.

So who do you need to be to lead this balance? In a nutshell, you ensure mindful accountability when you lead from a place of intentionality, confidence, and calm.

Intentionality

This is behaving “on purpose”. Choosing your response in each moment rather than reacting with words, behavior or tone that shows you forgot who you are. It starts with being clear about your individual and company values and vision as well as the plan created to move company goals forward. When you are intentional, you constantly and consistently focus and re-focus others on the fundamental “why” and the “what” every day. If warranted, you may need to modify your plan, but only after intentional, thoughtful consideration of changing conditions, not as a knee jerk reaction.

Confidence

When you are confident, you come from a place of strength and assurance. Whatever your confidence level, you telegraph it with your body language, emotions, and tone of voice, even when you don’t say specific words about confidence. You carry yourself and engage in conversations as if to say, “I’ve got this. It’s under control.”

To show confidence, you must avoid broadcasting negative emotions in reaction to setbacks or uncertainty. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger, depression, anxiety, shame, hate, etc. are signs that you are not confident. In the animal world, negative energy is a sign of weakness, and since we are animals and have brain structures similar to other mammals, we are sensitive to someone’s state based on these negative emotions. When you emit negative emotion, you aren’t relying on your executive function, which is logical and analytical. Instead, you are coming from more primitive brain structures, and your workforce on a subconscious level is perceiving that you are not coming from a place of strength.

To come from a place of strength, you have to stay confident and steady, or in other words, balanced. (According to Amy Cuddy, you can increase feelings of confidence by changing your body language using the “Super Hero” pose – standing with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart with your hands on your hips.)

Calm

When you are calm you are able to remain centered no matter what is going on around you. This comes from a belief that things will work out in the end. To adopt a calmer disposition, remain in observation mode, taking in the things outside yourself but recognizing them for what they are – temporary events that will ebb and flow. Don’t get sucked in to the drama of the moment. Breathe deep, stay focused on the outcome you want, and keep others focused on the values and principles that are important. It helps to see the good intentions that others have underneath their words and actions, even when they come across wrong or falter in the actions.

Leadership is not a destination – it’s a journey. Your company is the perfect playground to learn more about yourself and your ability to create intentional accountability. You can have solid accountability in your company without compromising relationships. It’s up to you to model it by staying intentional, confident and calm regardless of the situations that arise.

 

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.