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.

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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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.

5 Tips to Avoid Tripping When Stepping In To Someone Else’s Shoes

confident, leaderAssuming a new leadership role on the heels of a well-respected predecessor can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Regardless of the circumstances, the challenge is to be authentic while assisting others through the transition from the former leader’s style to yours. Remember that people can accept change if you focus on the nuts and bolts of the transition from Point A to Point B. When you are that Point B, consider the following tips to avoid tripping when stepping into someone else’s shoes:

Be Patient.

A large ship doesn’t turn on a dime and neither will some people’s loyalty in your new situation. In most situations, plan on taking anywhere from 6 months to a year to understand the issues and culture that you have inherited without feeling like you must make changes immediately. (If the board hired you to make drastic changes immediately lest the company go under, well, that’s a different kettle of fish.)

“Lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at you.”                 –David Brinkley

Build Relationships.

A large part of what you can focus on during your first year, is to get to know others and allow them to get to know you. You might meet individually with board members, colleagues, and direct reports. Small group lunches, town halls, and just walking around with incidental chats are ways to meet a larger number of employees who are more removed from your immediate sphere of influence.

Focus on the Big Picture.

During the transition period to your new brand of leadership, stay focused on “why” the company exists, “why” your position exists, and on the company’s mission. This will keep you from getting caught up in potential drama of other people’s issues around the transition.

Serve Others First.

Another way to avoid getting caught up in your own as well as other people’s “stuff” is to orient yourself to what those around you need from you to remain productive. Focus on the service your customers expect and need. Also, ensure your employees and especially your direct reports have what they need to keep things moving forward. And don’t be stingy with the “thank yous” and acknowledgement for jobs well done.

Don’t Take Things Personally.

Be ready to be compared to your predecessor – a lot. Put your ego aside. This is simply one way people are communicating that they are noticing the differences and coming to terms with them. Deal with this by focusing on what you can actually control within your sphere of Influence. For example, you cannot completely control what others think and do: some people will leave; some will stay; and new people will join. People have to make their own decisions about their individual preferences and loyalties. Assuming you’re being forthright, authentic, above board and respectful, let it go.

Over time, the company will acclimate to you and you will adjust to it. And eventually, you will be a part of the status quo as though you had been there forever.

 

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.


This post was inspired by a conversation with Stephanie Wright of the Murray Area Chamber of Commerce in Murray, Utah.

5 Ways to Hone Your Executive Thinking Skills

decision-makingWe are educated. We are modern human beings. We make decisions every day. How inaccurate and incomplete can our thinking be?

I always thought I was a good at logical thinking. Then I went to law school. Law school taught me how to think through an issue more effectively by applying a disciplined structure to analyze facts, to make arguments, and to create consistency in the decisions made.

Your personality type influences how you think. You might shoot from the hip for a fast resolution and clean up any mess later (“ready-fire-aim”); or maybe you delay making decisions or solving problems due to “analysis paralysis” or because you don’t want to upset others; or maybe you make decisions to please others without really addressing or resolving the core issue.

Research now shows that emotions are integral in the decision-making process, but it is still important to be able to analyze and reflect on data, information, and experience to choose the best solution or decision possible and to think about your own thinking. To that end, use these basic decision-making and problem-solving tools to collect, analyze, and play with data to make better decisions.

1. Pro/Con List

Ben Franklin famously wrote about his use of a Pro/Con List. His method involved making 2 lists: pros of an issue on the left and the cons on the right. Next, give weight to each item on the list, maybe using a scale of 1 to 3. Next, Franklin described cancelling out single or multiple items on either side of equal weight (e.g., 2 pros each with a weight of 1 (totaling 2) can be cancelled by 1 con with a weight of 2). Then, see if either side ends up with more items remaining. An interesting comment by Franklin shows that once he went through his analysis, he gave himself another day or so to see if anything else can to mind that he should consider before moving forward.

“Too many problem solving sessions become a battlegrounds where decisions are made based on power rather than intelligence.”–Meg Wheatley


2. SWOT or SOAR

Either a SWOT or SOAR grid is designed to collect and evaluate information about a current situation. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Or you can use SOAR from Appreciative Inquiry which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results. Collecting the data in either of these formats will aid analysis and tee you up to form an action plan.SWOT

3. Pareto Analysis

Also known as the 80/20 rule, Pareto principle holds that 20% of “inputs” is producing 80% of the desired or undesired outputs. For example: Which products or services are producing 80% of company revenue? Once you collect basic data, this video shows you how to set up a Pareto chart in a spreadsheet.

4. Impact vs. Probability Risk Assessment

This tool is used to assess the possible risks you face. First list all possible threats. Next, using a numeric scale (say, 1 to 10), assess the probability that the threat will occur. Then, assign a value for how great the impact will be if the threat occurs. (Cost is a frequently used measure for impact.) Finally, multiply the probability and the impact numbers to get the “risk” number.

5. Fishbone Diagram

Allows you to determine the root cause of a particular effect. You can use other areas to explore in addition to the ones listed below. For each “cause”, ask what might be contributing to the effect. Then, use the “5 Whys” process get to secondary, tertiary, etc. causes.

Fishbone Diagram

Honing your ability to collect and analyze data helps you choose the best framework for your thought process when making big decisions and solving problems for your company. Don’t forget to use these tried and true models to explore situations in your business.

Other tools to explore:

Six Thinking Hats
Pugh Matrix
Process Maps
Polarity Diagram
Scientific Method

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.

New Beginnings: How to Gain Credibility in a New Role Without Slaughtering Sacred Cows

Sacred CowWhether you were recently promoted to a leadership position for the first time, or you are a seasoned leader hired into a new company, stepping into a new role is exciting . . . and it can also be fraught with landmines and interpersonal dynamics you never dreamed of. If you transition to your new role thoughtfully, you increase your odds of making a great impression on others, avoiding critical errors that come from underestimating the power of corporate culture, and laying the foundation for getting results later on.

The biggest tendency is to jump right in to show how good you are, regaling others with your knowledge or solving problems that you can’t wait to address. Unfortunately, those who have been around awhile might see things different and might even take offense at all of your new-fangled ideas.

Unless you were hired into a desperate situation with the expectation that you would clean house from Day 1, you would be wise to ease in to your new role and be a bit circumspect. For the first three to six months, here are 6 things to do or keep in mind when you are the new kid on the block:

1. Take it slowly.

Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You don’t have to “fix” everything you see that is wrong (in your eyes) all at once (unless that’s why you were hired). Let people get to know you first. Slowing down also allows you to more fully understand why things are the way they are. If you rush to make changes, you’re sure to step on toes that you can’t afford to offend.

2. Clarify what will make you “successful”.

To do this, look at what would make you successful based on the role, what your boss is looking for from you, and what you want to personally accomplish long- and short-term to be successful.

3. Make your boss shine.

Need I say more? It’s always good to make your boss look good, so what can you do in your new role to support your boss’s agenda?

4. Foster a relationship with each direct report.

The better your team knows you as a person, the easier it is for them to put your ideas and suggestions into context. Get to know what’s important to them and for their careers. They will already have trust in you and know you have their best interests at heart.

5. Don’t risk being labeled an “outsider” from the get-go.

Align with the company’s values and behavioral expectations. Figure out how things get done. Get a feel for the sacred cows, pet peeves, superstars, and outsiders. In short, adapt to your new surroundings. You can point out when and if the company doesn’t “walk its talk” later once others know and trust you.

6. Observe and uncover issues without solving them immediately.

Especially in your area of responsibility, get to know other players, learn about current and on-going issues, and just listen and observe. Spot patterns, learn the history of things, and tune into where there are alliances and feuds. Quietly hypothesize about root causes and possible solutions.

Sometimes less is more, and that seems to be apt when starting a new role (and especially in a new company). Ease into your job in the first 3-6 months and let the company adjust to you before you attempt to impact the new culture. Once you are a better-known quantity and accepted as part of the group, you’ll have the credibility to voice your observations, concerns, and solutions and have them taken seriously.

 

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  atfirebrandconsultingllc.com.

Why Confrontation is the Secret Ingredient of Success

anger; confrontationYou dream of working easily and seamlessly with colleagues with little or no contention.  Who really wants to work in a contentious environment? Surprisingly, little or no disagreement/conflict is a sign that your group is not as good as you think.  When there is little if any open disagreement about matters of importance (mission, values, projects, and goals), your nice and easy culture is in trouble of complacency and of becoming irrelevant.  The group becomes vulnerable to “group think” without the ability to thoroughly vet ideas and does not adapt quickly and strategically to changing conditions nor does it evolve rapidly enough to face handled new challenges. And you know without little outward disagreement your colleagues are expressing disagreement and discontent out of the light of day among themselves.

“Easy” working relationships and interactions tend to be superficial, Stepford-type communications that present a good face while hiding what you and your colleagues really think and feel. When you don’t express your real thoughts and concerns, interactions in the workplace are coated with the waxy build-up of unvoiced concerns, resentments, passive-aggressive behavior, disengaged employees, gossip, and scapegoating others.  This sets you up for poor decisions based on untested beliefs and untried assumptions, which in turn increases stress, smothers innovation, derails growth, and allows incompetence to go unaddressed.

The result is a toxic culture with low trust even though you and your colleagues are outwardly nice to each other while putting down each other behind your backs.

The secret to turning this around? Confrontation.

Whoa!  You have been raised to be non-confrontational.  How can confrontation be good?  Confrontation can be done in a respectful way where the emphasis is on really digging into the content of what others are proposing rather than attacking others personally.

Confrontation doesn’t need to be loud and forceful. It isn’t about making someone else wrong while you are right nor is it about winning.  Instead, confrontation done right is about using the data that is known to question a process, a decision, an opinion, performance or behavior. Confrontation done right highlights other possible perspectives or interpretations without demeaning others. By confronting the completeness and interpretation of existing data, you stand a greater chance of having deeper, more meaningful discussions while de-personalizing the issue at hand.

Disagreement is natural when interacting with others because we don’t all think, believe, or act the same.  Sadly, whether you’re trying to be PC or whether boat-rocking in general makes you queasy, the idea of confrontation gets a bad rap, mostly because you have seen it done badly for so long.  The typical scene that pops into your head when hearing the word “confrontation” probably involves someone losing her cool by yelling, pounding a fist on a table, and/or even throwing something. That’s not the type of confrontation that is productive.

Handled appropriately, confrontation done right allows a department, work group, business unit, or team to vet differing opinions, ideas, and assumptions, which leads to greater clarity before a course of action is chosen.  The result?  A collegial climate in which you feel you can be transparent and vulnerable because the focus is on the good of the group rather than on protecting your ego by looking like a hero. Healthy confrontation creates an atmosphere where people are willing to forego the short-term relief of staying in a familiar rut in favor of long-term, meaningful impacts that will enable your company to adapt and thrive.

And that is why confrontation is the secret to your success.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman is the advisor for senior leaders who get an edge on the competition by staying sharp and adaptable to increase productivity and profitability. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.