“Bud Did It!” – Life of a Leader and Essential Conversations | RSA Learning
Posted on May 30th, 2020
Our daughter was about three years old when visiting family in California. At one point, Stephanie did something, and when asked about it, she proclaimed,” Bud did it.” Bud being the dog who lived outside. Throughout the entire week, “Bud” was the common culprit.
Bud is easy to blame—he is the mysterious person or dog who makes appearances in performance conversations to deflect ownership of actions. As a leader early in my career, the thought of addressing employee performance problems scared me. How could I have performance conversations with employees who had done their jobs for more than twenty years when I had been there for less than one year? I did not feel I had the experience or confidence to direct these conversations. Instead, I found myself being led by the employees in these conversations to:
• “It was someone else’s fault.”
• “Joe does the same thing, and you don’t have a problem with it.”
• “I’m not sure you (meaning me) understand how it is really done here.”
Note the employees deflected their responsibility for the action or issue. Too often, I conceded to their position since I was uncomfortable with the silence, delivering bad news, and/or handling the anger of people who were upset with me for addressing the issue. I knew I needed to change my approach.
What it takes to address “Bud” in conversations
First, I had to acknowledge my role as a leader included having essential conversations with employees to address their accountability, performance, and ownership of actions. Having essential conversations is more specific and tied to individual employees more than saying I do performance evaluations annually.
Then, like most new leaders, I had a defining moment that shoved me in the right direction. I remember finding my voice with one employee who threw everyone, including the kitchen sink, under the bus instead of owning her actions. That day, I found the courage to coach and have a corrective conversation with this employee. At that time, I also recognized I was not fair to the other employees by giving someone the license to speak poorly of their coworkers. As a leader, I had to own the direction of the conversation.
Crucial Conversations, a book written by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, and Switzler presents content, a format, and practice exercises to grow your essential conversation skills. I like to switch the word essential for their word crucial. Essential describes the conversation as being absolutely necessary and part of my required role as a leader. I shifted my mindset.
As I thought more about my performance, I realized that I was good at having conversations with employees, however, I did avoid entering the challenging zone. In retrospect, employees probably had to figure out how they were performing since I did not consistently let them know. I had to find my voice, develop confidence, and grow my essential conversation skills through practice, observation, and feedback to get better. I also learned that building trust and positive relationships is key to success.
What I learned in more than 30 years of essential conversations:
The fear of having the conversation was usually worse than having the essential conversation.
Essential conversations are an extension of trust and positive relationships that I build each day. Some tips I have learned:
• Recognize that there are two sides to every story. Allow employees to be heard and share their solutions or ideas.
• Employees want to be part of the process.
• In the conversation, show respect. Treat the person as you would want to be treated in a similar circumstance or how you would want a member of your family treated.
• Separate the person from the behavior. Too often, the person and the behavior are blended, which causes bias.
• Make conversation with employees a part of an everyday routine. Learn their stories and what is important to them. Share what they do well, show appreciation for their work. Communicating only problems or things to fix is not a long-term strategy for growing performance.
• When positive relationships exist, the tone of the conversation and acceptance of the feedback improves in essential conversations.
Direct the path of the conversation and its outcomes.
• Assume positive intent by the employee and create a safe space for the conversation.
• Be curious and ask questions. Do not assume you know the answer or their motivation. Ask what questions instead of why. What happened is better than why did you that? Think through questions to ask in advance to be better prepared.
• Direct the conversation and its path consistently back to the employee and the issue at hand. Hold the reins, and do not let the employee confuse the content or meaning by blaming others or yourself.
I found this statement worked most times – “I want to make sure I understand your actions or fill in the blank. Then I would clarify their actions, performance, and impact through added questions and statements like “Tell me more about …”.
• Likewise, do not introduce Bud in conversations yourself. Be accountable and own the information you share. Do not blame other managers or people as the reason for meeting or follow up.
• Be present in the conversation. Be prepared to be wrong in your assessment of the situation.
• Follow your organization’s guidelines for employee counseling and documentation. Seek feedback from other seasoned leaders or human resources partners when faced with challenging situations.
• Ensure you have clearly described employee expectations, required changes in behaviors, and next steps so that employee understands.
• Do what you say you were going to do for the next steps—consistency and follow-through matters.
• Offer employees the opportunity and support required to correct their behavior and/or improve performance. When you are fair, consistent, and provide the necessary support, disciplinary action is a result of the employee’s behavior, performance, or actions.
After more than thirty years and what seems like thousands of essential conversations, I became more confident, a better listener, showed more courage, could redirect “Bud” moments, and became more empathetic to what the employee feels. Navigating essential conversations is always a work in progress. Feelings and emotions often make an appearance and can affect the conversation even for the most seasoned leaders. I found I learned something about the employee or myself from every essential conversation.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I have an essential conversation I have been putting off? What is holding me back? What could be the “shove” I need to hold a productive essential conversation?
2. Think back to a recent essential conversation. What did I do well? What could I have done differently? How can I apply this learning to a future essential conversation?
3. How well did I listen when an employee shared their concerns with me? Did I listen for the whole story and not just hear what I wanted to hear?
Action and Reflection
Commit time this week to:
1. During your daily employee rounds, what can you learn about employees, their development needs, or confidence boosters? What opportunities can you provide to better support them?
2. Practice low stakes conversations with others – at home with your family, your friends, or your peers at work. These build confidence for essential conversations.
Day to Day Leadership – New Standards Self Reflection | RSA Learning
Posted on May 15th, 2020
Self-reflection is a powerful tool to shift your thinking. Use these activities as self-reflection prompts.
Leading when there is a new standard | RSA Learning
Posted on May 1st, 2020
COVID-19 has changed the landscape of our lives personally and professionally. Many of these changes will have lasting impacts. Face masks in public will be the new standard for the immediate future, and most people are anxiously awaiting giving a long overdue hug to family members and friends when it is safe to do so. Six months ago, did Ford Motor Company employees even know what a ventilator was? Yet, they are producing them on their production lines just a few months later. New ways of life and work were required to fight this pandemic.
What was commonplace – sitting in a bustling employee cafeteria, attending a conference, movie, or sporting event was no longer an option. Stories of kindness and community took on new meaning in the US culture, which is based heavily on personal connection.
People and businesses adapted and accomplished things no one thought possible. It was refreshing to see American ingenuity tackling PPE and COVID-19 testing challenges and businesses pitching in to support healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines. Outside of healthcare and first responders, how many people knew about N-95 masks and PPE before February?
During this time, companies shifted their business models to:
• support the changing needs caused by the pandemic – virtual work, changing products or services produced based on NEW needs, changing workflows in essential businesses for physical distance
• remain relevant with more limited sales opportunities – online and pickup ordering in restaurants, direct product shipping to customer homes
• be socially responsible – following established guidelines when work could no longer be accommodated in a way to support physical distancing, or giving back to those in need
Change happened – companies and individuals were forced to respond quickly whether they were ready or not.
These thoughts bring me to an experience I had last summer in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My sister and I visited a local yarn store. As we parked, we noticed a medical marijuana dispensary next to the yarn store. The dispensaries were relatively new to the Midwest at the time, and we both paused and considered the juxtaposition of a new standard.
It was interesting to watch the expressions of the yarn shoppers who stopped, paused, and considered the store next door. The juxtaposition of new expectations and, in this case, laws help you grow and adapt because some new knowledge, practice, or acceptance is needed to move forward. Moments of pause force reflection –the first stage in self-awareness and growth.
Reflection accurately described what we observed that afternoon. Because it was different, people noticed and recognized that the world had changed. Sometimes, different is the kick in the pants needed to grow and develop and become better – whether as a person, an employee, a business, a parent, a child, or a leader.
COVID-19 has been a kick in the pants, but it also provided juxtaposition to see things differently. Adaptation was not a choice – it was a given. The last eight weeks have pushed most people beyond their normal expectations.
While no one wished for COVID -19, what will stand out is how people responded. How did you grow, develop, and adapt during this time? How did you innovate and what will you do differently as a result of the required changes? What did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about your team? Life will not return to “commonplace” since our experience is now different. Some of the adapted processes are improvements over previous options. These will stick.
What will the future hold, and how can you and your team best deliver against the new standard? You must shift and balance the pressing needs of today and provide yourself time and space to think strategically about your operating model long term.
It will be key to build both capability and capacity in the programs and services offered to create a more agile model. Consider your technology and its connection to customers and your operation, workforce skills, and operating models as you build capability. What will be required? Contemplate your physical or virtual space, the equipment used, and the technology platform for capacity. What does your new operating model need for the planned capacity?
While the future is unknown, COVID-19 forced change, which normally could have taken years to accomplish. Leverage relationships, business partners, and ongoing learning to build innovation, capacity, and capability to take advantage of new opportunities. Who can provide key support to your team to ramp down or ramp up operations allowing you time to think beyond today’s needs? Or what support might you need to pivot to new or adjacent services?
As John Maxwell said, “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Are you ready to innovate, grow, and take advantage of new opportunities?
Ask yourself these questions and write down what you learned over the past eight weeks. Consider juxtaposition – what is different and how you can use that to your advantage.
• What changes are required in your business and service model to remain safe, relevant, and stronger in capability and capacity?
• What will change based upon your lessons learned?
• What may never return?
• How well-positioned are you and your team tackle the new standard?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• Take care of yourself and your team. Take time to energize, so you are thinking at your best.
• Notice changes in other industries. Consider how you can apply this to your business model.
• Sketch out an idea for a new and improved operating model at three months, six months, and one year. Start to work with your team on shifts in your business model, building capability and capacity. This sketch is your commitment to shifting to a different gear.
Day to Day Leadership – Gratitude Journaling | RSA Learning
Posted on April 14th, 2020
Gratitude journaling is a proven way to handle stress. Finding things going right each day might be the motivation you need to continue.
These gratitude journal notes will also strengthen your spirit in the future as a reminder of what you accomplished despite the challenges.
Healthcare Heroes | RSA Learning
Posted on April 1st, 2020
There are natural-born leaders. In crises, they step up, remain calm, exude confidence, manage the emotions of others, don’t take “time-outs,” nor blame others for the current situation.
Natural-born leaders are plentiful in healthcare. As unsung heroes, they routinely work for the benefit of others despite a cost to themselves. These natural-born leaders don’t seek fame or glory but rather excel in doing what is right and being human, extending care and concern to those they encounter. The recent COVID crisis has upended life as we know it in the United States and has stressed our healthcare system well beyond its intended capacity.
At Ruck Shockey, we want to honor and recognize our healthcare partners. We know them as amazing individuals personally and have had the opportunity to experience their selflessness firsthand over many years. We appreciate their commitment, creativity, and determination to see things through. We want to extend our gratitude to these unsung heroes who are bravely caring for others.
Reach out to one of your healthcare heroes and let them know they matter. Can you find a way to make a difference for them? Winnie the Pooh uses his friends, gratitude, positive thinking, empathy, acceptance, and his honeypot to fortify his journey. May your human kindness enrich your healthcare hero’s journey during this challenging time.
“You are braver than you believe and stronger and smarter than you think.“ A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
Day to Day Leadership Activities to Boost Results Orientation | RSA Learning
Posted on March 17th, 2020
5 Tactics Leaders Use to Achieve Results and Enhanced Performance | RSA Learning
Posted on March 2nd, 2020
Everyone loves a story when the underdog wins. The movies, Rudy, Rocky, Miracle, Hoosier, and Remember the Titans capture what is best in competition and performance given overwhelming odds. If you are a reader, I’d recommend The Boys in the Boat – Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. These stories captivate and challenge the common perception that those with the best talent always win. What allowed those with lesser talent and fewer resources to overcome? There are some common themes that run through these stories – strong coaches and team leaders, grit and perseverance, belief in oneself and the team, teamwork, and alignment.
As a leader, you will be evaluated for your ability to achieve results. Results orientation is a mindset, and, if you have it, you keep your eye on the prize, so to speak – you know and track the goals and outcomes you need to meet. You understand and clarify the expectations of your stakeholders – your bosses and customers and can navigate challenges as expectations shift. People and teams with the skill not only see the end goal but can breakdown the goal into manageable steps to execute and deliver and align the team and work to accomplish the goal. A results orientation mindset is also fortified with effort and resilience traits like those listed above.
Tactic #1: You know and track the goals and outcomes you need to meet
You make sure that you have identified the metrics, that they are measurable, and you track and post your progress. You become a cheerleader and help others see a pathway to stronger results. You celebrate wins, progress, individual and team accomplishments along the way. You coach others through rough spots and help others gain confidence in their skills.
Tactic #2: You understand the expectations of your stakeholders and can navigate changes in expectations
You clarify outcomes, goals, priorities, deadlines, and expectations for yourself and your team with your leader. You dig deeper than the surface to understand the intent and direction for your services. You can navigate changes in the environment – when leaders, finances, and system/process changes impact your work. You work collaboratively with your leader to adjust you and your team’s outcomes and goals.
Tactic #3: You can breakdown the goal into manageable steps to execute and deliver results
You can evaluate systems and processes that are impacting performance. With the team, you can identify steps to more sustainable practices for improved outcomes. You anticipate problems that you might face in implementation and you collaborate with the team for resolution. You recognize small steps can make a difference in performance.
Tactic #4: You align the team and work to accomplish the goals and outcomes
You direct employees and the work (products and services) for successful execution balancing priorities to achieve outcomes. You foster accountable people and processes and promote consistency in performance each day. You prioritize time each day to deal with longer term issues instead of only focusing on the burning issues of today.
Tactic #5: You and your team demonstrate effort at a high level
You and your team exhibit effort – both mental toughness and a physical drive to push forward for the benefit of your customer and the organization. You can achieve results despite obstacles. You can bounce back from failure or rejection. Effort is the extra mile that can separate performance.
Rudy, Rocky, the US hockey team, the basketball team in Hoosiers, the football team in Remember the Titans, and the 1936 US rowing team found ways to surpass everyone’s expectations. The work was hard, the challenges tough, but the rewards were plenty when they beat the odds, championed their outcome, and delivered results. They were invested in the effort and consistently went the extra mile digging deep within themselves cultivating new skills and fortifying their confidence learning more from challenge than comfort. They demonstrated that strong performance didn’t just happen. It was planned for, practiced, aligned and evaluated consistently.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I do my best today to achieve results?
• What did I do well?
• What do I need to do differently?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• Clarify expectations, goals, and outcomes and track results
• Identify a small action you can take with your team to improve outcomes. What steps do you need to take to make this change happen?
• Reward an employee who demonstrates effort at a high level. What were the outcomes achieved as a result of his/her effort?
Day to Day Leadership Activities to Engage Employees | RSA Learning
Posted on February 16th, 2020
Comfortable is different for everyone – How can leaders respond? | RSA Learning
Posted on February 6th, 2020
One day as I was out running errands, I was waiting at the stoplight when a runner passed by wearing khaki shorts, a belt, black socks and running shoes. I thought to myself, “How can running in khaki shorts and a belt be comfortable? “ But, in this case, I was viewing the runner, through my eyes and perception without considering his motivation. What I took away from the experience is that comfortable is different for everyone. Each person defines their priorities and processes that add value or work for them. This experience got me thinking and wondering about what motivates people. As I dug a little deeper, I discovered Richard Ryan and Edward Deci’s work on motivation and self-determination theory summarized in the American Psychologist journal in 2000.
Motivation has been described as energy, direction, persistence and resourcefulness— the ability to navigate many means to an end when someone is determined to do so. What motivates people to do more, be more, and try more? Ryan and Deci note three factors, autonomy, relatedness, and competence that appear essential in pushing people into growth and development as well as promoting personal wellbeing. People can be motivated from within themselves (intrinsic) or use external motivation (rewards) to push forward.
Choice, acknowledging their own feelings, and opportunities for self- direction were directly related to autonomy in their 1995 study. In the case of the runner, he made decisions and choices that suited him and his outcomes for the day. He was comfortable with his choices but mine would be different. That is the essence of motivation. Each person is motivated differently to achieve yet we frequently apply a one size fits all model limiting choice or autonomy as we engage or develop employees.
Relatedness has been expressed as the need to care about and be cared about by others. Relatedness also provides the context for the work, situation, or group. It’s the realization that people are connected and want to find meaning, purpose, and respect (and/or love) in those they interact with and the companies they work for. People choose to follow and engage others when there is strong relatedness. Relatedness is that level comfort others need from people and their workplace. How often do we expect employees to follow directions without having the broader context of care, concern, or context?
Finally, competence breeds confidence. And confidence breeds competence. Much like the chicken or the egg, which comes first? As a person’s skills increase, they are motivated to continue. When they don’t feel accomplished, growth stalls and motivation fades. As leaders, what do you do to help people gain competence and confidence for their role today while also considering their growth needs for the future? Leaders can push employees to grow and learn but need to recognize how far the employee’s comfort zone can be pushed.
As a leader, it is important to remember that comfortable is different for everyone. How can you provide a level of autonomy, relatedness, and competence your employees need to achieve, grow, and thrive?
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I do my best today to provide more autonomy to others’ in the workplace? What held me back? What held them back?
• How well did I listen and show care to employees? What held me back?
• How well did I connect employees to the context, purpose, or meaning for their work? Did it stick? Why or why not? What could I do differently?
• What did I do today/this week to improve someone’s competence or confidence? What opportunities did I miss that I could have been turned into learning/confidence building?
Action and Reflection
Commit time this week to:
• Listen to employees as they talk about job frustration. Are any of these related to autonomy? Are there ways you could provide some individual choices to help them better connect? What steps would need to be in place for this to safely occur?
• Spend time with someone who wants to learn/grow/or develop. What can you do to help them achieve their goals? Investment pays off for both the giver and the receiver.
Day to Day Leadership – Accomplish(ment) Review | RSA Learning
Posted on January 17th, 2020
Why a Daily Accomplish List Beats a To-Do List For Leadership Outcomes. | RSA Learning
Posted on January 5th, 2020
Each new year brings a fresh start and New Year’s resolutions. These resolutions are a promise or commitment for the coming year frequently tied to self-improvement, family connection, or a faith journey as examples. These resolutions appear as a list of things that people want to achieve – exercise at least three times per week, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, send each member of my family a birthday card this year. They are quantifiable. You feel good when you can measure, evaluate, and complete the list.
Think about the headlines you read each day—top 10 ways to be more productive, 8 things to make you smarter, 3 things to avoid at all costs. You get the gist. Did you become more productive or smarter because you completed the “list”? How do you measure, evaluate, or quantify if you have accomplished anything? Have you changed your behaviors or skills to impact your outcomes?
Work isn’t measured by completing tasks on a list. Work is a living a breathing organism that exists in a broader context. What are the bigger picture goals you are measured against? How do you define those goals on a daily task list and connect the tasks to your outcomes? What do you need to accomplish each day? For most people, this means changing how you think about your daily to-do or task list.
How can you transition from daily tasks to accomplishments to shift your behavior and performance?
Your habits control how you work and live. You follow a structure or routine that has worked for you in the past. Your work process becomes an unconscious habit. You don’t have to think about it – your work becomes automatic. So, shifting from task to accomplish lists does require changes in mindset and self-reflection, especially for those of you who are incredible achievers, the master “listers.”
Merriam Webster defines accomplishment in three ways which are important considerations –
1. The act or fact of accomplishing something COMPLETION
2. Something that has been accomplished ACHIEVEMENT
3. A quality or ability equipping one for society EQUIP
COMPLETION of an item on a task list is easy to measure. You got it done; now you can move on to other things. ACHIEVEMENT reflects the quality of work and the broader connection to other things. Achievement as a word has a more positive connotation than completion. Achievement signifies focus, effort or planning. The word EQUIP behind the third definition serves as a reminder to transform or equip you, your team, process, products or services for successful outcomes. What knowledge, skills, abilities, work process, technology (as examples) must occur to make your goals a reality?
A daily accomplish list should satisfy all three components – completion, achievement, and equip(ment).
What are the high priority tasks I need to complete on my accomplish list today? High priority tasks include more than today’s urgent needs. High priority tasks consider look-ahead or future based needs. Urgent tasks must be completed, but the key to accomplishment is making time for high priority tasks as well.
What work do I need to achieve to make a difference tomorrow, in a week, or a year? What is the quality and context of the work required for success? Achievement requires focus, effort, and planning. What should be added to your accomplish list today that allows you to be proactive, critically think, or complete planning required for achievement?
Finally, how can you best equip yourself, your team, or your work process to accomplish goals? What knowledge, skills, or abilities to you need to grow in you or your team to achieve the bigger goals? What new processes, technology, or customer engagement opportunities do you need to develop to deliver outcomes? Include items on your accomplish list that move the capabilities of you and your team or enhance the products and services you provide to customers.
Ask yourself these questions as you self-reflect each day:
• Did I do my best today to accomplish?
• What did I complete? What did I achieve? How did I equip myself, the team, the work, products or services for success?
• What did I do well?
• What choices did I make today that impacted my accomplishments?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• Connect goals, outcomes, and targets to timing and work to accomplish.
• What items must be accomplished to equip the team to achieve outcomes? Knowledge, skills, behaviors, the abilities of myself/team or changes to work, technology, products, and services
• What work do I need to achieve to make a difference tomorrow, in a week, or a year?
• How can I translate high priority work from equip and achieve planning to daily accomplish lists for completion?
Shifting your mindset to an accomplish list from a daily task list allows you to keep the big picture front and center. You can more easily connect the dots from a list of things to do to a list of things that are important for accomplishment to occur. Thoughtfully spend time each day considering your accomplish list identifying what is vital to complete, achieve, or equip to deliver outcomes.
Day to Day Leadership Activities to Foster Collaboration | RSA Learning
Posted on December 17th, 2019
Consider using these activities to foster a collaborative culture.
Biggest Collaboration Mistakes Leaders Make and Ways to Fix Them | RSA Learning
Posted on December 3rd, 2019
Lions are the natural leaders in their animal kingdom. They are powerful, ferocious, protective, and brave. It’s unusual to discuss lions as collaborators. Yet, lions exhibit collaboration and teamwork for the benefit of the pack. Lions typically live in groups of 10 to 15 called a pride. Lionesses, female lions, do most of the hunting for the pride while the male lion protects and defends the group from predators. As a pride, they navigate the wilds of the kingdom to survive.
The Lion King, a Disney movie, compares good and bad leadership and showcases the impact of collaboration. In the movie, Simba is a new cub born to Mufasa, the king of the lion kingdom and Sarabi, his wife. Simba is being groomed to become the new King.
The movie captures the collapse of the lion kingdom after Scar, a jealous and self-serving lion, kills his brother Mufasa, the wise, benevolent, and proud leader of the Pride and their home, the Pridelands. Scar is jealous that Simba, Mufasa’s cub, is being groomed to take over as king. After Mufasa’s death, Scar made Simba believe he was responsible for his father’s death. Simba runs away to live a life where he’s not responsible for others.
Once Scar has taken over leading the pride, his focus is on serving his interests in the short term, overhunting their homelands, creating a dark, deserted, and barren Pridelands. He ignored feedback and excluded members of the pride from decision making about their well
being. Scar struck secret deals with the hyenas, the evil group living in the nearby elephant graveyard creating conflict.
Thankfully, a chance meeting between Simba and his childhood friend, Nala, wakes up the leader in Simba. Simba and Nala collaborate with Simba’s friends, Timon and Pumbaa, to overtake Scar and successfully regain the Pridelands. The story features the impact of collaboration, ownership, and love in defeating Scar, a weak and abusive leader who led through fear, lies, and self-interest. Unfortunately, these same Scar behaviors can occur in the workplace, creating a toxic culture when:
• people are excluded,
• their voices aren’t heard
• there is no tolerance for difference
• leaders serve their own interests and
• leaders aren’t trusted.
How can a leader foster collaboration and capture the collective experience of the group to achieve innovative ideas and solutions?
Leaders who are committed to collaboration build an inclusive culture where members are welcomed and are comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas. These leaders are dedicated to the team or group and can put others’ needs ahead of their own. They establish trust with others and are role models for character, connection, competence, courage, and consistent performance. If the team or group doesn’t trust the leader, collaboration suffers. Leader behavior matters and sets the stage for positive collaboration.
Have you evaluated your trust metric? How willing are people to follow your lead? Some examples: Do you do what you say you are going to do, do the right thing when others aren’t, actively invest in people and value them as a person, have the courage to make difficult decisions, and perform quality and consistent work? Ensure you are delivering on the 5 C’s to set a strong foundation and practice active, advanced listening to comprehend the true meaning behind the words. Active listening is essential to build an inclusive culture.
Consider trying these activities to improve your active listening skills:
• Listen to a conversation without saying anything. Follow the words, nonverbal gestures, and values shared between those in the conversation. What is different in your comprehension when you weren’t preparing to respond?
• Self-reflect and seek feedback after a challenging conversation. Immediately afterward, write down the primary message you heard. What did another person hear? Do they match? Frequently, you can miss significant points in a conversation when it doesn’t agree with your opinion.
Collaborative leaders also navigate common derailers to group performance, including:
• resolving conflict
• balancing time and quality outputs
• processing the emotions of others brought on by change
• addressing individual team member performance or behavior
• having the courage to make challenging decisions when needed.
Navigating common derailers takes confidence, courage, and commitment. You must be able to use your voice productively to keep the group on track.
Consider trying these activities to build your confidence using your voice when the risk is low:
• Make it a goal to share your opinion in different group meetings. Anticipate common discussion points in meetings, gather your thoughts, and write them down so you are more confident in your delivery.
• Address a situation you are experiencing with a coworker with whom you have a good relationship. Can you share feedback and the impact on their actions on performance? How did you do? What might you do differently?
A commitment to collaboration and team performance will yield stronger results than the individual contributions of many. Effective collaboration takes time and focused practice from leaders. Experience is a worthy teacher in addition to seeking advice from others, gathering feedback, self-reflection, and pre-planning for collaboration and projects. Your measuring stick for collaboration is progress, not perfection. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you learn and apply these skills.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I do my best today to welcome and include others to a group?
• How well did I listen, gather, and include diverse opinions from the group in our work?
• Have I effectively addressed conflict or performance issues impacting the group?
Action and Reflection
Commit time this week to:
• Seek input and opinions from at least three members of a group about a work topic. What did you learn? How can you apply this information?
• Shadow a leader or project leader whose skills you admire in group discussion. Ask them questions about how they prepare and observe the tools and tactics they use to guide discussions. Can you add these to your toolkit?
Day to Day Leadership – Building Empathy Exercises | RSA Learning
Posted on November 13th, 2019
Can you make a difference for someone today using one of these activities?
Empathy in Action – Why it’s Needed in Leadership | RSA Learning
Posted on October 31st, 2019
Have you ever slowed down enough to truly observe people and their interactions with others? If you haven’t, you might miss the nuances of many people who are accomplished at demonstrating empathy. Dictionary.com defines empathy as …” identifying with and experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of another.” For those who demonstrate empathy, they transition from “I” focused needs and seek to understand the other person’s perspective.
Teresa Wiseman, a nursing scholar, has identified four elements of empathy:
• to be able to see the world as others see it
• to be nonjudgmental
• to understand another’s feelings
• communicate the understanding of that person’s feelings.
Empathy can be confused with sympathy. Empathy is an understanding of the feelings of others, while sympathy is a show of care or concern for others during stressful times. Empathy means that you have taken the time to recognize people, their challenges, and want to understand their perspective without adding your opinion to the conversation. Empathy is about the other person.
Recently, I sat back and observed people on a 4-hour flight from Columbus to Las Vegas and recognized empathy in action in everyday routines.
Flyer #1 – A businessman helped a few people struggling to get their bags in the overhead storage compartments. He didn’t watch others struggle. Instead, he offered a hand. Do you?
Flyer #2 – On Southwest flights, there is no assigned seating, passengers covet front row, aisle, and window seats. Two of the last passengers to board the airplane were an elderly couple, and the husband had obvious medical issues. There was one front row middle seat available for him, but the only other seat available for the wife was at the rear of the plane. Flyer #2 offered her second-row aisle seat to the wife so the couple could be near each other while she moved to the far back of the plane in a middle seat. She wasn’t caught up in her own needs and recognized that there were others with a greater need and gave of herself for their benefit. Do you?
Flyer #3 patiently listened and discussed Ohio State football with an elderly gentleman sitting across the aisle from him. At a time when most want quiet on airplanes, flyer #3 took the time to engage the older man and continue the conversation because the elderly gentleman wanted to talk. He could have stopped the conversation but recognized that the gentleman appreciated the connection. Do you engage others when they have a need?
Why did these “flyers” give of themselves on this day? These people honor and value people and willingly viewed the situations from others’ perspectives and needs. They belong to a group of people I call helpers, high empathy people. Helpers natural tendency is to reach out to others and put others’ needs ahead of their own. These people create a better world for others. Unfortunately, they are also usually humble, so they don’t advertise their good deeds.
Why is empathy important for leaders?
Empathy helps leaders combat VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity present in today’s workplaces. VUCA stresses employees. Leaders must understand the needs, concerns, and perspectives of their team as the team tackles tough challenges. Employees are more likely to follow your lead if they feel heard, valued and appreciated. Empathy matters.
Soft skills such as communication, building relationships, and empathy are frequently ranked among the top skill gaps in leaders today. The pressures of work and outcomes have shifted many leaders to form transactional relationships with employees. Transactional leadership is focused on things, processes, and outcomes ahead of the needs of employees.
Empathy can be learned, but it takes practice to develop stronger skills. Start with everyday interactions with people like those described on the recent airline flight. Hone your skills and extend sincere empathy to create stronger connections at work. It is also helpful to watch for empathy behaviors in others at work. What would you see? Do you acknowledge and value those people who make the workplace better for everyone?
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I do my best today to show empathy?
• Did I have an opportunity to show empathy at work and not recognize it until later?
• Did I make a difference for at least one person today?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• Silently observe other’s empathy behaviors. What did you see?
• Acknowledge people who are the helpers that create a more empathetic workplace for others.
• Practice using empathy at least once each day.
At the end of the week, how do you feel? Most researchers have noted that when you give more of yourself, you feel better, improve your outlook, and search for new ways to give more of yourself. Giving is powerful and becomes part of your brand. Ask yourself, “Am I a helper?” If not, what can you do to change it?
Day to Day Leadership – Ideas to Jump Start Learning | RSA Learning
Posted on October 16th, 2019
How is what you already know limiting your leadership potential? | RSA Learning
Posted on October 3rd, 2019
George Siemens states, “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe.” The ability to learn and adapt to new environments; in other words, agility, is more important than what we currently know and believe. In today’s workplace, given the rate of change and uncertainty, learning agility is a key skill that leaders must possess.
Expertise accumulates as we develop in our careers. This expertise is necessary for peak job performance. However, this expertise can narrow our perspectives and weaken our ability to respond and learn in changing environments. Given the rate of change in our workplaces, it is more important to be able to learn new concepts and skills than remain comfortable in what we already know.
When you think of the word beach, I don’t know about you, but I see sand, waves, and people walking barefoot on the beach.
Have you ever been to Cobblestone Beach at Acadia National Park in Maine?
Now that you have seen Cobblestone Beach, have you changed your impression?
Too frequently, we know what we know, don’t dig deeper to learn new perspectives, or challenge ourselves to think differently.
How is Cobblestone Beach like what we already know? There are cresting waves, vibrating surf, and sunny, blue skies. We package this information quickly since it is already in our unconscious brain—it’s what we know. There’s no need to dig deeper.
But how is Cobblestone Beach different? Shoes would be a good option to navigate the rolling rocks, the sound of the surf is stronger, and the temperature is cooler.
Which impression is right? Neither — Cobblestone Beach is just different. Too often in learning, we seek right or wrong answers when the essential requirement is creating new meaning which integrates experience and learning taking pieces of both impressions.
Learning agility is about being curious, challenging our current knowledge, and making connections between random pieces of information.
The basis of learning agility is a growth mindset – one in which you view yourself as a work in progress and approach learning as a critical need in your ongoing leadership career growth. New college graduates can fall into the trap of wanting to step away from learning since they can be burned out from the cycle of learning and testing. However, the need to learn is equally strong for both new and seasoned leaders to continue to grow and adapt.
Ask yourself these questions –
• What was your last “aha” moment with learning, and why was it important to you?
• How do you learn best –by reading, doing, or watching others?
• Are you brave enough to share a different opinion based on your unique perspective?
• When was the last time you learned something new outside your usual responsibility?
The answers to these questions can help you define your learning style and capacity –both important tools for staying relevant and able to adapt to the changing beach coastline or your work environment. Your current knowledge has a finite useful life unless you challenge your understanding. Your future success as a leader will be based on how well you learn and adapt rather than what you already know. Think about it – Is what you already know limiting your leadership potential?
What can you do this week to create new meaning?
Action and Reflection:
Commit 30 minutes this week to learning from another perspective. Some ideas:
Shadow someone in a similar role.
What are the similarities and differences in the approach? Do you achieve different outcomes? What can you apply?
Google search – a learner’s companion—find three brief articles on the same content area.
Read and review them. What are the similarities and differences? Can you combine any ideas into something you can use and apply?
Visit the library and head to the new release section. What are the current hot topics and trends you see?
Take one home – print, digital, or audiobook. Why did you choose this book? What insights to you hope to gain? Reading for enjoyment is acceptable!
Libraries are an excellent source of inspiration and can jumpstart learning for those who haven’t avidly practiced learning in a while.
Podcasts or TEDx video — Find two or three that interest you. What are the current hot topics and trends you see?
Discover an aha moment on one of the podcasts or videos. How can you apply it? Share the information you learned with someone else.
Each of us owns our learning and development. Push yourself to ask better questions, see things from different perspectives, and seek out new experiences and meanings to broaden your knowledge and relevance to advance your leadership potential.
Day to Day Leadership Ethical Choices Discussion Tool | RSA Learning
Posted on September 23rd, 2019
Ethics is about choices. Use these scenarios to generate discussion about decision making and expectations. Consider your organization’s values, code of conduct and ethics policies. Openly discuss these situations and determine considerations for your team when facing similar situations.
5 common reasons leaders breach ethics and codes of conduct | RSA Learning
Posted on September 11th, 2019
What happened to Enron, Wells Fargo, Volkswagen to name a few? These companies have become the poster companies for extreme failures in business ethics when they chose to alter accounting for positive gain, falsify company records, and conceal their actions. While their actions were egregious, each week the news continues to include new lists of companies and individuals who have committed serious ethics violations. It is a growing problem.
Common ethics violations include theft, fraud, conflict of interest, and/or actions meant to provide someone unfair advantage or gain over others. The definition of ethics by Google is “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or conducting of an activity.” Many companies create their own codes of conduct or ethics policies to ensure that leaders and other employees hold themselves to a specific set of standards and behaviors. Ethics is grounded in morality which Google defines as the “distinction between right/wrong or good/bad behavior.” Ethics and codes of conduct are about choice and decision making and the scale is right/wrong or good/bad. Ethical choices are not evaluated on a continuum where the choice is mostly right or only a little bad.
As a leader, you are faced with many decisions throughout the course of the day. It’s easy to go on auto-pilot and stop engaging your thinking brain for these choices. Instead, you may rationalize your choices based on the circumstances at hand creating your own set of rules and evaluation standards ignoring the absolutes of right/wrong and good/bad behavior. This situational morality frequently conflicts with ethical behavior.
Road construction provides good examples of drivers defining their own situational morality to justify the choices they make in frustrating circumstances. These reasons are the very same reasons leaders and others use to justify their choices in difficult situations. Have you used these reasons or seen others apply them as situational morality?
1. If this wasn’t happening, I’d do the right thing.
You are driving down the road on a bright summer day when you see the dreaded road construction signs. Immediately, your body responds with a groan and pre-emptive frustration. And when the words traffic delays expected are added, you are calculating the impact on you, today. You are strategizing how to get through the delay the fastest, and potentially, at the expense of other drivers. Your needs are more important at the moment. Are you the person who passes the other cars and cuts in front of them jumping the line when the road narrows a lane? You tell yourself, I’m usually a considerate driver but because of the road construction today, I need to jump ahead so I won’t be late.
For operations leaders, days are filled with situational adjustments. Things don’t go as planned, employees call in sick, equipment breaks, computer systems fail forcing leaders to make choices. If your focus is only on the immediate needs of today, you will lose sight of the impacts of your actions over time. Unfortunately, once you start blurring the lines of ethical choices, it becomes easier to continue the pattern and rationalize your choice based on the situation.
2. Other people are doing it.
Imagine the lane closure sign ½ mile ahead. You and other drivers are maneuvering positions – some waiting their turn and others jockeying to find a faster path. The faster path may mean speeding past others in the lane that will close and forcing others to let them merge back in. Once one person jumps the line, others will soon follow. Malcolm Gladwell describes this as the tipping point – where behaviors both good and bad can spread like viruses. For some reason, people feel safe if “others” are doing it and use this as an excuse to follow the others.
Think about some conversations you have had with employees. It might sound something like— “Why did you go on break 15 minutes early? To which the employee responds, “Sarah does it every day and no one says anything to her.” Accountability is a personal choice not tied to other’s actions. Just because someone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right.
3. No one will recognize me.
When you are stuck in traffic, it can be hard to recognize the driver through the glazed windows. This shield makes it easier for people to believe that no one will know, or no one will recognize them at the moment. Certainly, this anonymity makes it easier for people to jump the line, drive erratically, or use hand signals to communicate with other drivers. You tell yourself no one will know so I’m safe making these choices.
In fact, many ethics violations start when people believe they can conceal their actions – no one will know. The information frequently reaches the light of day from unknown sources and spreads quickly. As leaders, others model your behavior and they frequently see things you don’t think they do! Is your behavior role model ready? Are you prepared to have your actions broadcast for others to see?
4. I have a pressing problem and need to make a decision now.
You are speeding down the road late for an event when you encounter a road construction sign. You have an emotional reaction – perhaps it’s words, slamming your steering wheel, or yelling at someone in the car. Your thinking/rational brain has been left behind and fails to see the impact of your actions on others. You tell yourself that the need to resolve the situation quickly is the most important thing right now.
For leaders, every day has a pressing problem requiring your attention. Sometimes, the pressing issue can also be a personal need. In these cases, you react and these emotions, left unchecked, can lead to poor decision making and behavior choices. You lose sight of ethics and morality when driven by a gut reaction. Leaders must engage their thinking brain especially when stress, time pressures, and pressing needs threaten their ability to make an intentional, more thoughtful response that aligns with ethical choices.
5. I’ve waited long enough, you owe me.
Road construction can last a long time. Initially, you and other drivers follow the rules but, over time, become frustrated with the ongoing delays and find shortcuts around and through the construction zone. You can ignore posted safety warnings and speed limits thinking that you have invested enough of your time. You reason that others owe you for your commitment and, therefore, your workarounds are acceptable. Unfortunately, road construction isn’t played on a playing field and drivers will always lose in the short term (today) with the intent to gain in the long term.
Think about the ways, this reason is applied – I finished the project ahead of others, I skipped my lunch break each day this week, or I covered for another employee on leave. These are the words you use to justify the choices you make. Ethical choices are good/bad or right/wrong and don’t include a scorecard where you independently decide to “exchange” this for that.
Leaders run into challenges when they create their own situational morality when their own immediate needs become the driving force for decisions. Ethical conduct is a long-term commitment. Leaders must model the behaviors expected of others. When you find yourself justifying your behaviors using these reasons, use caution – you could be facing impending ethics dangers.
Leaders who successfully navigate ethics challenges employ a few strategies to bolster their integrity – “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” (Google)
Know and apply your organization’s values, code of conduct and ethics policies
Familiarize yourself so you can understand direction and guidelines for your choices and behaviors
Engage your thinking brain to override your gut reaction
Taking time and space necessary to think about the ethical impacts of your actions before making the choice/decision
Don’t isolate yourself and make ethical decisions independently
Being transparent with others about your choices provides a guardrail to help you stay in ethical boundaries
Phone a friend – seek advice, feedback and view things from others’ perspectives
Talking things through with others can point out flaws in your thinking if you are open and receptive to others’ opinions and feedback
Ask yourself these questions when faced with a challenging dilemma:
• If I viewed my actions from another person’s perspective, what would others’ say?
• Would I be comfortable if my actions were published on the front page of the local newspaper or shared publicly on social media?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• Reflect on your behaviors. Did you do your best each day to foster positive leader behaviors?
• Complete a Google search to identify the most common workplace ethics violations. What did you learn and how could you apply it to your role? You might be surprised to learn most aren’t massive ethics breaches you read about it in the news.
Day to Day Leadership – Relationship Building Action Ideas for Leaders | RSA Learning
Posted on August 18th, 2019
Do Leaders Get a Day Off? | RSA Learning
Posted on August 1st, 2019
Who doesn’t love a trip to the beach, a hike in the mountains, or traveling to a new city? So how do leaders build up their benefit time to plan for their time off? Seems simple, doesn’t it. Most companies offer vacation benefits, but I’m referring to leadership benefit time – that granted by employees to you, the leader, for your use. Leadership benefit time is virtual currency—reflecting your commitment to people, the team, and the organization.
When you have a positive leadership benefit time balance, employees:
• give you the benefit of the doubt when your actions would normally cause a withdrawal from your account
• recognize and reward your efforts by handling a sticky issue on their own
• be willing to hear you out on a controversial topic
• lastly, the freedom to take real vacation days because they sense your confidence in them.
They know you trust your team, their skills, abilities, and decisions.
A leader casts a shadow at all times—your behaviors and actions define you. What does your shadow say about you? Does your shadow form when light is shined on people creating a warm shadow or do you block light from reaching people and create a dark side shadow that is cold? Trust is the difference in a warm versus a cold shadow.
Trust is a foundational skill for leaders – employees trust that you have their best interest in mind, they trust that you are making the right decisions, they trust that you will handle them with care and concern, they trust that you are fair and inclusive and the list could go on. When trust exists, they support you as the leader and make deposits in your account.
Building trust using the 5 C’s –character, competence, courage, consistency, and connection is key. Each day people evaluate your leadership performance, rate your commitment, and make funding decisions. Withdrawals for poor leadership behaviors frequently have penalties attached — some actions carry a heftier price tag for recovery.
Review the deposit and withdrawal ledger to check your recent leadership credits and debits to your account.
Leadership benefit time is your day off – creating an easier path for you as a leader to achieve outcomes. But it does require paying close attention to your balance. You can increase your balance by actively taking steps each day to build better relationships, take ownership of your behaviors, and find ways to give back to those you serve.
Ask yourself these questions:
• Did I do my best today to make deposits in my leadership benefit time account?
• What did I do well?
• Why were withdrawals taken? What do I need to do differently?
Action and Reflection:
Commit time this week to:
• publicly acknowledge someone’s efforts and the difference it made
• *visit an employee or work area this week to touch base
• resolve an employee issue that needs your support
*Note the word visit which means to “go and see someone to spend time with.” Unfortunately, in today’s busy workplaces, this doesn’t happen often enough.
Welcome To The Ruck-Shockey Learning Blog!
Posted on June 5th, 2019
Delivering learning and talent development that is cost effective, easy to access and relevant in today’s workplace.