How Asking Questions Strengthens Your Team

Effective Questions Help You Motivate, Coach, Mentor, Challenge, Engage, Discover, Understand and Improve

So often leaders feel they need to tell their employees what to do and answer all their questions. This can cause them to miss valuable opportunities to help teach and develop their people. By asking your people to come up with their own solutions, you let them struggle which causes greater learning and learning retention.  By asking questions and for input in meetings and on proposed initiatives, you get great feedback which may improve outcomes and avoid mistakes. You also increase engagement. Telling people what to do causes them to be less engaged. If what you tell them does not work and they are not bought in, they blame the leader instead of taking ownership.  Asking questions helps reduce emotions during conflict and challenging conversations by engaging the logic center of your brain. Learning the art of effective open ended questioning will help you be a more effective leader. Take time to learn this skill today!

Another really effective tool for getting the information you need is “help me understand…” or “please give me a specific example…” You can ask about thought process, how confident some is about a decision, how they made a decision, or why they took a specific action, etc. This is especially helpful when you are frustrated with someone and you want to ask “why did you do that?” Instead, take a calm and curious approach. You may find the the decision or action was exactly what was called for and you will maintain a professionalism the ensures the confidence and trust of your team.

When Being Too Smart Hurts You

Is being too smart getting in your way of being more effective as a leader?

In his article “Leadership that Gets Results” (Harvard Business Review, March-April, 2000), Daniel Goleman reported on studies, which rated emotional intelligence as a predictor of success in business as more significant than intelligence and technical skill. He states, “New research suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of distinct leadership styles—each in the right measure, at just the right time. Such flexibility is tough to put into action, but it pays off in performance. And better yet, it can be learned.”

Do you know someone who was a good employee who was promoted to a supervisor or manager and failed at that position? Think about why they were not successful. Typically it is because they lack the skills required to manage people which are different from the skills required to manage a task. How well do you balance your tasks and the people you manage or report to? Balancing tasks and relationships requires emotional intelligence. Our knowledge and technical skill can only take us so far. It is usually what gets us hired. However, it is our emotional intelligence that gets us promoted or fired.

Most of us understand that emotional intelligence is important. We have heard of it, yet just knowing about emotional intelligence does not make us emotionally intelligent. Talent Smart surveyed 500,000 people around the world about their emotional intelligence in business. Only 36% were able to identify their emotions as they happened. This means, most of us are controlled by emotions and are unaware of how to handle them effectively. Perhaps you have worked with some of them, perhaps you are one of them.

Why do so many have low emotional intelligence? I believe it is because we are conditioned to be right. We judge ourselves by how right we are or how smart we are. We are rewarded for being smart, for having the correct answer. Relying only on intelligence and wanting to be right might work if we all worked alone and never with a team.  As a leader, how do you get things done? You get things done through other people’s efforts. You must be aware of how to accomplish goals by creating engagement and teamwork.

There is nothing wrong with intelligence unless it is getting in your way from being an effective leader. The research suggests, the smarter you are, the less effective you may be in a leadership role when you are unaware of the impact of your emotions. It does not matter how smart we are when our emotions take over. Author Malcom Gladwell argues dedication and practice opposed to raw intelligence are the most crucial determinants of success. If you want to improve as a leader, please read, “Cure For The CEO Disease”  Remember, unlike IQ, EQ can be learned.

Improvement takes constant effort. Success to you!

Disengagement And The “Love What You Do” Myth

5 Dynamics of Increased Engagement

Diseangaged Employees

I am not sure how many times I have heard the saying, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” (Marc Anthony) If you are like me, you have heard this or something like it a bunch. When I heard this, I felt inspired to search for what I love, because after all, I don’t like to work! My life experience, and the experience of some very successful people I know, has taught me this philosophy is costing business, relationships and families dearly.

Have you ever had an employee that you were so excited to hire and it didn’t turn out well? Have you been the employee and starting a job with so much hope and enthusiasm only to find out it was not what you thought or expected? Have you experienced team members who became disengaged, frustrated, or angry and left?

Have you ever been in a relationship that started of with great promise? You found your soul mate, only to realize that initial feeling was not sustainable? When this happens, many leave their current partner and go off in search of the ideal they thought they found the last time. This cycle can be repeated again and again searching for the perfect ideal.

What is going on here? According to Gallup, 70% of employees are disengaged. Disengagement caused by unrealized expectations is the problem. Well-meaning parents and other mentors in our life want to inspire and encourage us. They tell us how great we are. They tell us we deserve the best things and the best people in our life. They tell us to follow our passion. They tell us we will be most successful when follow our passion. You want to believe this. I want to believe this! Who wouldn’t want to believe this?!

It is important to follow our passions and interests. It certainly makes life better. However, take caution about “never working a day in your life.” A quote by the singer Toni Braxton adds balance to the Marc Anthony quote: “To do what you love can sometimes be stressful.” We need to be prepared to handle the adversity and challenges of life that will surely come. What happens when things don’t work out like you planned? How do you react when things don’t go your way? I know that this has happened in my life and in the lives of almost everyone I know. We have had jobs and careers were we were following our passion and doing what we loved. However, even in these circumstances, we all had to do things we were not excited about, that felt like work.

Many of the youth today and our current workforce are not equipped to handle the challenging environments of business. They have not learned how to work. They are not prepared to handle the disappointments of relationships. Many give up when things don’t go the way they had expected. They may quit a job or relationship. Or worse, they stay and are miserable. It is how we behave in these challenging times which defines individuals as leaders, and as dedicated spouses and significant others. Many who are not equipped to handle disappointment show up in a way that is detrimental to the business or to the relationship.

The point here is not that we can’t pursue our ideal and passions; it is that we learn how to manage our disappointments, challenges and setbacks. There are definitely valid reasons to leave personal or work relationships. There are also many relationships that can be saved, improved, and become deeply fulfilling when we fight through the storms.

Five dynamics of increased engagement.

  1. Create a great culture:

    When ranking job satisfaction., 72% of respondents indicated that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was “very important”. This was the top contributor to overall employee satisfaction. This ranked higher than pay and benefits. Hiring and HR professionals must ensure their workplace culture and employee engagement strategies are of equal importance to compensation, benefits and other responsibilities. Here is an additional reason to develop a great culture!

  2. Be honest: 

    64% of employees rated trusting their senior management as the second most important contributor to job satisfaction. (SHRM, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Study, 2015) Be open about the way it really is at your company. Don’t paint the picture that everything is perfect. Let candidates know there are challenges. The pay received is based on work, which requires effort. Being honest will help develop trust with leadership and narrow the gap between expectation and reality, which are necessary ingredients of employee engagement.

  3. Hire for behavior, train for skill:

    Find the people who are willing to be flexible and fight through adversity. Use effective tools, these will help remove the frustration of hiring by helping you, better match people to jobs. There are effective tools to create accurate job models based on your best performers and input from management. With the correct application of these tools, you will more effectively attract the best candidates. These tools will also help hiring managers ask the right questions to find the best possible person for the job. When you effectively match people to positions, you will strengthen the culture, increase employee engagement, increase productivity and reduce turnover and waste.

  4. Provide the right praise:  

    Many of the younger generation, coming in to the work place, do not know how to respond well to adversity and criticism. Many are part of a generation, which have been praised by well-meaning parents who told them how smart and talented they are. Sporting programs meaning to boost self-esteem may also be contributing to the problem by providing awards for kids who just show up. The result is well stated by the psychologist, Carol Dweck, “many can’t function without getting a sticker for their every move.” (Mindset, Carol Dweck, 2006) Employers are perpetuating the problem through recognition programs to support these employees who need constant reassurance and can’t take criticism. The alternative is to praise for taking initiative, for commitment, for overcoming a setback, for learning something new.

  5. Develop your people:

    Organizations that dedicate a portion of their budget to professional development send a message that they invest in their employees. Additional benefits of professional development include personal development and greater opportunities for career advancement. Although employees continue to place value on professional development opportunities, fewer organizations are investing in these types of benefits. (Society for Human Resource Management, 2014. Workplace Visions: Trends in Workplace Professional Development. Issue 3)
 As more and more of the experienced workforce retire, developing employees becomes more necessary. Employees are more likely to be engaged when they feel their employers are invested in helping them develop their careers.

Implementing these suggestions takes commitment. The payoff will be worth the investment!

Silence Your Saboteur!

Learn How We Derail Our Goals And Steps To Get Back On Track

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with a personal coach. I learned how I (and others) self-sabotage when working towards our goals. In my initial meetings through various processes, my coach discovered my values and goals in several areas of my life. Subsequently, I would meet with her weekly on the telephone and discuss how I was doing in my business and in my personal life. I would report on my progress toward achieving my various goals. Through this process, I discovered a saboteur that would show up from time to time and stop or slow my progress towards my goals. This saboteur was no foreign or domestic terrorist. This saboteur was grown much closer to home.

I had declared I really wanted to achieve certain financial goals. When I didn’t achieve these goals as expected, I would become frustrated. This caused me to push harder to achieve my goal. You might be thinking, “bravo Spencer, push on!” What I found was the harder I pushed the further I would get from my goal. I would become cranky and curt with co-workers and loved ones. In these moments, my way of being was blocking me from achieving my goals. My coach asked me to give my sabotaging behavior a name so I could recognize it when it showed up.

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Captain Insano

The purpose of this exercise was to help me identify my saboteur. I worked to understand what my saboteur would sound like when he talked. I identified his fears and more importantly, his values. I needed to understand how the saboteur’s values would hijack and terrorize my declared values for his values. The name I gave my saboteur was Captain Insano, made famous by Adam Sandler’s “Water Boy”. In the movie, Captain Insano is a wrestler who the Water Boy idolizes. He offers his services to Captain Insano through a nationally televised fan show. When captain Insano learns the Water Boy is 31 years old, he maniacally laughs at him in front of the TV audience. In this moment his vulnerability is exposed, and his hopes and dreams of working with his idol have been sabotaged.Block What you think

After this original inspiration for the name of my saboteur, I learned that the Urban Dictionary defines “Captain Insano” as an individual who may or may not be at fault for their habitual stupidity due to their bi-polar nature and lack of general common sense. My saboteur would show up at vulnerable times and stop me in my tracks. Many of us construct saboteurs as a self-protection mechanism. Most often they protect us in an awkward way. They will say to us, “stay where you are at, it is more comfortable here!” “It is okay to be mediocre because not as many demands and expectations are made of you!” In a relationship, a saboteur might tell us to avoid taking a chance so we won’t get hurt.

When I declared I wanted to write a book. Captain Insano showed up and asks, “what have you got to say that people want read?” He convinces me I am neither interesting nor unique. When I became CEO of a company that had been struggling, I would hear Captain Insano tell me the fight I was experiencing was not one I could win. He said I should just give up and not put myself through unnecessary pain and misery. He told me I deserved to be successful and perhaps that could be achieved elsewhere. He justified for me why it was okay to give up and give in. If you are like me and want to achieve your goals, it is time to stop the saboteur inside your head for good.

Steps to defeat your merciless saboteur:

  1. Identify your saboteur:

    Notice when you feel frustrated, angry, sarcastic, dismissive, afraid, unmotivated or upset. Your specific block to success could be fear of failure, fear of success, conflict avoidance, verbally attacking others, steamrolling others, need to be right, focus on problems, inability to say no, controlling, inflexible, have to work too hard, need to be liked, fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection, overly skeptical, overly agreeable, analysis paralysis, critical, procrastination and many more. Consider asking someone you trust for help identifying your self-sabotaging behaviors.

  2. Name your saboteur:

    Notice what is happening when the above negative feelings arise. Begin to understand what situations give your saboteur power. Recognizing that you are recognizing will help you regain control of your thoughts and behaviors. Naming your saboteur will help you to not take yourself so seriously and become more objective about your behavior.

  3. Focus on the outcomes of success you have declared:

    When you hear the saboteur talking negatively in your ear, Block focus-on-where-you-want-to-go-not-on-what-you-fearstate the outcome you desire. For example, when Captain Insano tells me no one wants to read or hear what I want to say, I tell myself “people are interested in what I have to say. I have ability to influence people to achieve positive results.” As I focus on these positive statements, I hear the saboteur less and I begin to program my subconscious thoughts to start supporting my goals declared by my conscious thoughts.Block celebrate-what-youve-accomplished-but-raise-the-bar-a-little-higher-each-time-you-succeed-mia-hamm

  4. Celebrate your progress:

    Recognize that you are making improvement. If your saboteur is strong, understand it will take time to defeat and be kind to yourself. You may have years of practice listening to your saboteur. Avoid letting your saboteur talk bad about you. When you start to notice any improvement, it is okay to cheer yourself on. Gain confidence with each small victory and keep moving forward, even after a challenging time where you may have taken a step or two back to your old habits.

  5. Get out of your comfort zone:

    Look for opportunities to get outside of your comfort zone. This is where you will learn new empowering behaviors. Recognize the conversations with your saboteur are designed to keep you in your comfort zone. When that happens, you will not move towards your goals. Do something uncomfortable everyday. Call a new prospect, ask for help that you need, get up and give a presentation, etc.

  6. Breathe:

    When you are frustrated upset or angry, often during these moments you are not breathing effectively and the lack of oxygen encourages your saboteur. Slow down and breath. Oxygen helps Captain Insano fall asleep.

As I have gotten control of my saboteur, my results have dramatically improved. He still shows up from time to time. I am more equipped to deal with him. As a result, I feel much happier and more confident.

Start now to defeat your saboteur. Achieve the success you deserve! If you feel you are getting stuck, work with an expert who can help you, do it today! Remember…Block insanoThe author Spencer Horn, is President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. You may also enjoy these additional articles: “The Help You Need To Achieve Your Resolutions”,“The Power of Accountability;” “Act As If Today”

Cure For The CEO Disease

4 Steps To Overcome CEO Behaviors That Erode Culture

Do you know a CEO or top executive that is unaware of their impact or overestimates their abilities? Leaders who are out of touch with the truth about how they “show up” is all too common. This phenomenon is what Daniel Goleman calls the “CEO disease”. Goleman reports…”the higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be.” (Primal Leadership, Pg. 92, Daniel Goleman (2002)).  The problem is that as a leader climbs the organization, the less feedback he or she receives. According to James Conway and Allen Huffcutt, who analyzed 177 separate studies that assessed more than 28,000 managers, found these managers were not receiving consistent feedback on their performance. The lack of feedback problem is reported to be more acute for leaders who are women or belong to a minority. (See Peggy Stuart, “What Does the Glass Ceiling Cost You?” Personnel Journal 71, no. 11 (1992): 70-80).

The predominance of the CEO disease has a large negative impact on cultures of businesses all over the world. When leaders drive negative emotions within their organization, they erode the foundation of a culture that enables people to excel. Leaders who are aware of their impact and work to drive positive emotions will conversely strengthen the culture that enables people to excel.

Four steps to cure the CEO disease:

  1. Recognize That You Can Change:

    Many leaders have the mistaken opinion that they need to be accepted for who they are, because after years of habits and behavior they can’t change. The latest neuroscience has destroyed the myth that we can’t change. We maintain neuroplasticity until we die, meaning, we can make changes to how we think and behave. American author and futurist, Alvin Toffler, says “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

  2. Create A Safe Environment:

    Create an environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback. Some people fail to give feedback because they fear punishment or the leader’s wrath if they dissent. Some only give positive feedback because they do not want to be labeled negative or going against the party line. Some are afraid to give feedback because they don’t want to upset others or hurt their feelings. By creating this environment, CEO’s and managers will get a more accurate finger on the pulse of their organization. Understand that all feedback you receive is subjective. Each leader gets to determine what to do with the feedback they receive. Knowing what people really think is always better than ignorance.

  3. Increase Self-Awareness:

    Be willing to take a 100% honest look at yourself. Many executives work with coaches to improve their self-awareness. Consider participating in a 360 review. This can provide a valuable roadmap for behavior change. Work with great training and development organizations who will provide you with a safe environment to strengthen your leadership competencies. These environments should push you out of your comfort zone to learn and grow. When we are out of comfort zone, our most challenging leadership behaviors surface and a skilled facilitator will help accelerate awareness and behavior change.

  4. Persist:

    Recognize the process of becoming an effective leader is a lifelong pursuit. Even the most effective leaders recognize they can make improvements. For the best leaders, making minor adjustments and behavior improvements sets a powerful example for the team and will pay dividends on the emotional and cultural health of the organization which will translate to better financial results.

For more information on how to cure your CEO disease, call Spencer Horn Solutions today 702-807-4698 www.spencerhornsolutions.com

The Importance of Values

I have always believed in having values. Values are the ideals, customs, institutions, etc., of a society toward which the people of the group feel are important such as cleanliness, freedom, respect, service, integrity or education.

Unlike belief systems, which I believe must be regularly examined and updated, I believe values must remain constant if they are to be an effective tool. The Northern star is valuable to navigators because it remains consistently fixed in the heavens. It is a tool that provides accurate direction when needed no matter where the person is located;it is a constant in a world full of variables.

So how does this apply to you and me? perhaps you adhere to a set of values that guide your behaviors. I have found that when I have made decisions consistent with my values, I have had success and feel generally satisfied.

In the past few years I have also found great benefits from following a set of values in business decision-making. You may be saying, “Spencer you must be slow, of course that makes sense.” You may be correct, yet my experience is that most companies have a published set of values that may be found on their walls or in their employee handbooks. The problem is, that is usually where the values stay; looked at once and collecting dust.

Companies spend a great deal of time and money defining values that are important to them. The challenge seems to be in behaving in harmony with those values. I have experienced first hand how behaving and making decision in alignment with your stated values improves employee satisfaction, and just as importantly it improves efficiency and productivity. Not only is behaving in alignment with your stated values the right thing to do, it will benefit your bottom line. Following the constant guidance of positive values will lead us inexorably to the destination we desire.