The Gift of Feedback

Feedback is a gift. It is an opportunity for personal development and, ultimately, leadership development. And, it is hard; Very hard. I am not sure which is harder, giving feedback or accepting it. Recently I was with a small group of fellow coaches, several of us long-tenured, and we were discussing this very topic. We spent a couple of hours working with each other to improve our skills at both. I mention long-tenured, as a reminder to myself, that no matter how skilled we think we are at this, it is hard, and requires constant practice. Following are the reminders I heard. When giving feedback: Start from a place of care, ask yourself what outcome you want to achieve from the feedback, and get clear that you really believe that outcome is possible, i.e., is the person capable of the behavior change you want to see? You can earn trust with truthful, specific, positive feedback (TSP as speaker, Michael Allosso, calls it). When giving constructive...
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It’s Not About Color, Or Is it?

I've spent a lot of time this past week talking about racism. The conversations began with wondering why, the murder of George Floyd last week sparked protests nationwide when the killing of Eric Garner, in 2014 did not. Then when the looting began, the conversation turned to one about fear. As a teenager in 1968, when protestors were attacked by the police during the democratic convention and later at universities, I felt solidarity. Friends tell me their teenage and young adult children feel similarly now.   For me, today, it is more complicated. It's a conversation about the increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots. It's a conversation about violence. And, as I have come to realize, most importantly, it is a conversation about racism.  As a country, we are reluctant to talk about race and even more unwilling to talk about racism. And yet we must if we are ever to understand our fellow Americans. When the...
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Introvert or Extrovert: Who Makes the Better Leader?

Extroversion is the dominant style in the United States. As a result, we sometimes confuse leadership with charisma. Yet, research shows that not only are 40%-50% of CEO's introverts, some of the more "famous" CEOs are also introverts, including Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Charles Schwab and Steve Spielberg.  Amongst entrepreneurs, the numbers are higher. Why? Because entrepreneurs frequently are the expert at their chosen business and experts most often are introverts. So what does this mean? First, recognize that extroversion/introversion isn't binary. Most leaders tend toward one style or the other. Leadership, by its very nature, doesn't attract people who live in extremes. As with all style differences, start by celebrating and leveraging the differences in style. While other factors come into play in style differences, the key difference between introverts and extroverts is where they draw their energy.  Both introverts and extroverts seek input. Introverts tend to ask for feedback and then "go within" to think things over and make a decision. One thing to keep...
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With Diversity, Comes Diversity

What does this statement even mean? Homogeneous groups have similar backgrounds, preferences and personality styles. Often homogeneous groups are homegrown with few additions from "outside."Diverse groups, on the other hand, may differ in traditional ways, i.e., gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual preference. Members may also differ in terms of their personality styles and backgrounds. Finally, a group's diversity may come from changes in membership as outsiders join and integrate into the existing culture. Diverse leadership teams are hard...they are harder to build, unlikely to come to a consensus, and are more likely to have conflict. So, why bother? Because... they are harder to build, are unlikely to come to a consensus and are more likely to have conflict, they make better decisions. Research studies prove this out. And, diverse groups only work when they can come together as an integrated team. The word integration is rarely used today in the context of a diversity conversation. It harkens back to the 1970s...
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Gratitude for Clean Toilets that Flush

I spent most of December in Vietnam and Cambodia, an experience that had a profound impact I am still processing. We were fortunate to find a Hanoi based travel agent who created a truly local experience. While we stayed in fine hotels, most of which had all the features of western hotels, the rest of our experience was local. And local included local “WCs,” as they called them in Vietnam. While I’ve traveled to places before where I had to buy toilet paper on the way in and follow unfamiliar toilet customs, this is the first time these experiences were daily and throughout the day. Except for our hotel and one or two tourist restaurants, our guides took us to local places. We sometimes visited people’s homes and were graciously allowed to use their facilities. We loved Vietnam; it’s a colorful, dynamic, high energy place. The growth is palpable. Hanoi maintains the charm of its history while becoming more modern. It...
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Consensus Gives You Beige

When a leader asks for input and then makes a decision, the result is vivid color, i.e. a better decision. It is a better decision for several reasons. First and foremost, your team feels valued when they are asked to participate in the decision process. Second, there is value in the wisdom of crowds; many times the group will surface ideas that the leader hasn't thought about. As a leadership coach and Vistage Master Chair, I see this happen each month during the executive sessions I lead with CEOs. This, of course, is why 23,000+ people around the world are members - we understand the value of seeking input. Where it all goes awry, is when we seek consensus instead of input. With consensus, all the colors get mixed resulting in a dull beige, i.e. a mediocre, watered-down decision. Sometimes this may be okay when the goal is more about participation that it is about making decisions. The key is being mindful of your...
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Is your company divided between the “creatives” versus the “practical” people?

Do you divide your team into "creatives" and " practical" people? If so, are you missing out on the creative ideas of the other half? If you ask David Kelley, one of the founders of IDEO, and winner of countless innovation awards he will say yes. David maintains that human beings are naturally creative and it is fear of judgment that stifles creativity in most of us. He asks, what might happen if we were to overcome that fear of judgment and unleash our creativity? Perhaps the secret lies in what psychologist Albert Bandura calls guided mastery - a process whereby we identify a fear or phobia and by forcing ourselves to overcome that fear, we release our creative abilities. How might you as a leader create an environment that enables your employees to build their creative confidence? Perhaps a simple starting place is with more legitimate brainstorming - following the brainstorming rules - no idea is a bad idea! If you want to...
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Trust Your Gut For the No

Often when we are buyers, we find someone or something we like and then work to find data (experience, accomplishments, etc.) to convince ourselves why this person or this product is something we should buy. When it comes to interviewing for key candidates, Vistage speaker, Barry Deutsch recommends we take a more structured approach to interviewing to improve our hiring success. He recommends we start the process first by clearly defining the success factors for the role and then asking the candidate to tell us stories about how they have achieved this success in the past and how they will do it for us. It dawned on me recently that this approach works in many (most?) situations when we are buyers. After all, when we are hiring, we are buyers. So, am I saying no gut at all? All data? No. Absolutely, there is a gut to every decision we make, and in most situations, especially when we are buyers, trust your gut...
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That’s Not What I Meant

In my work as a leadership coach and peer advisory board chair, I am constantly reminded that despite the fact that we are all the same species, with many characteristics in common, we truly do see the world differently. We expect this to be so when we interact with people who speak a different language than we do. In these situations, most of us have a heightened awareness of our differences and most of us realize we need to pause, think about what the norms are for the other person, think about what we have learned about their culture and modify our interaction and our behavior accordingly. An easy example is how we exchange business cards. In the U.S., we simply toss our card on the table. In Japan, a business card is "presented"; held in two hands and a formal exchange takes place. Yet, when dealing with people who speak our same language, we often forget to pause. I remember...
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It’s All About Style

There are lots of tools available for assessing personality style, and each has its nuance. Stripping away the nuance, with few exceptions, the assessments produce a matrix of 4 primary personality styles. These styles result from an understanding of extroversion vs. introversion, the relationship of each to detail orientation; and then adding to this, a person's proclivity to focus on an outcome or to seek harmony. In my experience, no matter what your leadership role, knowing and understanding your own style and that of each person you work with is the key to achieving the results you want. I had a conversation recently with a friend that drove this home for me once again.  My friend is an advisor to the CEO of a large company. This company is in the midst of a reorganization, and my friend is struggling with one of the leaders of the new organization.  As we talked through the situation, it became clear to both of us that the root cause of her challenge is style.  She...
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