Archive for April, 2012

Empowering You and Your Team by Focusing on Leading with Intention

As some of you know, I’ve taken my first steps into the world of running by joining a beginner’s clinic specifically aimed at training for an upcoming 5K race. Over the weeks that we’ve been training, we’ve increased our running times from a mix of one- and two-minute walk/run cycles to cycles that have us repeatedly running three and four minutes at a time.  We’ve also changed our routes, incorporating varying terrain like hills, turns and gradual slopes. All of these give us an opportunity to exceed our current capacities and reach ones of greater endurance and pace. As I mentioned in my earlier blog, I’m engaging my beginner’s mind as I run. I’m not out to prove anything (even to myself), and I’m not trying to solve any problem.  I’m out to finish, and, along the journey,  to see what I notice about myself as I build up my endurance and capacity to run. My intention is simply to create a new energy for myself.

A webinar that I’m currently taking, The Empowerment Dynamic (or TED), teaches us about shifts in our mindsets when we set our intentions on what we want, on creating something rather than solving a problem or focusing on what we don’t want. When we shift to an intention of creating something we want, we choose – personally choose – an energy and orientation on an outcome of “I Can Do It” rather than “I’m not as fast|able|agile as the gal or guy in front of me.” It may seem small, yet applying this to my running changes everything – my relationship with myself and my running goal, my relationship and conversation with other runners, and my relationship with how I perceive myself. I’m not focused on whether or not I’m the slowest one in the pack; rather my mindset is focused on bringing into being a newly created identity and outcome – I am a runner.

I experienced a breakthrough at our last clinic: I noticed that after the first two cycles of ”run three, walk two”, that I was not as tired or out of breath as I was the week before. Keeping with my slow and deliberate pace, I psyched myself to keep going to the next tree, then to the next crosswalk, and on and on. I wasn’t gasping for breath and my body wasn’t screaming to stop. The pace that I had developed for myself was serving me well.  I was doing it!

My new practice of running and the new habits I’m forming in the process have moved me beyond where I was a month ago. These are clearly baby steps that I’m taking (I’m not signing up for a marathon anytime too soon!) and I am setting my intention on an outcome – to finish the 5K race. My mindset is focused on what I want rather than what I don’t want. This is a subtle and powerful shift and distinction. What I’ve done, simply put, is to empower myself, to act as a leader for myself by focusing on the positive outcomes I want, and creating the intentions and energy to make those outcomes real. I’m realizing, too, that these ideas can strengthen the leaders I work with.  All leaders can benefit from such an approach, one that focuses on a “can do” mindset for yourself and your team members.

Try this over the next week. See how you might shift the language and your outlook on how you engage with your employees and teams. Where might you instill a “can do” mindset in your conversations? Ask them “what do we want” rather than “what don’t we want”, see what you notice, and comment back. I’ll be curious what breakthroughs you might experience!

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Three Easy Steps to Hiring the Right Leader

Thanks this week go to our Guest Blogger, Robin Eichert of PeopleSense Consulting, for this thoughtful and interesting article.

I wish I could tell you that every person I ever hired worked out perfectly. They didn’t.

There were some great hiring decisions I made when I was managing boatloads of people, and also some wonderful outcomes when I’ve been a part of a hiring team. But, unfortunately, there have been a few notable flops as well.

Sometimes I could tell after a few days, other times it took a few months, but in the general scheme of things, it didn’t take long before I knew I had made a mistake.

We all know how critical a decision it is when we bring a new person on to a leadership team. Of course we expect high levels of skill and competence in their area of expertise, but even that can easily be misjudged, especially if we only go by the information they provide about their past experiences. Just because someone has been a CEO at a company before doesn’t necessarily mean they were a good one.

When we hire into a management role, we don’t usually plan for the same generous ramp-up time that we do in entry-level or middle-management roles, either. We expect leaders to hit the ground running, making changes that will turn around big issues that we’ve been struggling with, either because the last person in the role wasn’t successful or our growth demands new expertise.

There is a lot resting on this new person’s shoulders from Day One—and yours, too, if you make the wrong choice.

What makes it so hard to get the hiring decision right?

There are a number of factors, but I believe the most common reason for failure when hiring at the executive level is that the person doesn’t fit the culture of the organization. We move too quickly when we get absorbed in all they say they are capable of doing, or we make a decision because we genuinely like the person sitting across the table. We fail to explore how they achieved their results, what methods or systems they used, and then evaluate if that approach will be effective in our culture.

There are three steps you can take to increase your odds of success. These steps aren’t difficult; it just takes discipline and commitment to the process.

  • Slow down. Hold multiple conversations with the candidate, even if on the phone, to explore different topics. Ask about the person’s past experiences, and listen carefully. Be curious about the types of projects they got involved in, understand the process they took to move it along, what results occurred, and what lessons were learned? Listen for realistic situations and honest recollections; be wary of sugar-coated stories where everything went right all the time.
  • Use assessments. Getting objective data absolutely helps you understand a candidate more thoroughly. None of us can uncover the nuances in a typical interview that you will learn from using a reliable, valid assessment instrument. There are great tools on the market; explore the ones that you feel comfortable with and that measure the areas that are important to you. Ask for reliability and validity scores from the publisher to ensure that you can trust the data.
  • Understand your organization’s culture. If you aren’t clear in your own mind what the important characteristics of your culture are, then you are destined to bring on someone that doesn’t fit it. For example, does your organization make decisions quickly without much involvement or discussion throughout the functional teams, or do changes in policy take time and consideration from multiple groups before moving ahead? Understand how the candidate’s natural style matches to your organization or you will introduce conflict and frustration before anyone gets on solid ground. You may want this hire to effect a change in your current methods, and that can work, too. But you have to know the starting point and where you’re headed.

Want to make the perfect choice every time? I wish I could tell you that you will.

Be thoughtful in your process, be curious about the other person, and understand what you want. Glaring differences will uncover themselves when you focus on the cultural fit between the candidate and your organization. Discovering that will be beneficial to everyone involved.

These are easy steps. Not foolproof. But what do you have to lose?

Robin Eichert is the Owner and Principle of PeopleSense Consulting LLC.  PeopleSense helps business leaders select and retain inspired employees who match the job and fit the culture of their organization. Together, we can create respectful, productive, and rewarding workplaces.

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Running With a Beginner’s Mind

Just recently I decided to pursue a new goal, something that, for me, is both a challenge and an opportunity.

Targeting my first 5K race may not seem like all that much, but I don’t run. Never. Not in high school or college, not for recreation, not for exercise. I have the shoes and some of the clothes, enough to get me through the chilly spring days, but that’s it. Still, I decided to go for it and joined a beginner’s running class that gathers twice-weekly for eight weeks, all in preparation for the race.

Last week was the first class, and we ran a little bit—one minute jogging, then a minute walking, back and forth like that for a few cycles. In subsequent sessions the walking intermezzos would shorten, while the periods of running would lengthen.

Did I mention I’d never run before?

I had forgotten how long a minute could be. I had a quick flash where, in my imagination, I collapsed into a heap and was carted off to the hospital, where someone encouraged my recovery with a whoopie pie and a cup of coffee while I, smiling through my caffeine-and-sugar euphoria, assumed it was all a dream.  That sounded really good after about the fourth run-walk cycle…

But I kept going—encouraged by three excellent, supportive running coaches. They reminded me (and others also just starting out; I wasn’t the only one) that we all came with goals, that we were all different, that we could achieve what we wanted and more. They’d run up next to us and remind us that we each had our own pace, telling us to hold on to that pace while we learned how to stretch our capacity for more from there. They told us to listen to our bodies and to be curious about what it’s telling us. Harder to breathe? Slow down. Sensing a cramp in my calf? Be sure you’re coming down on your feet correctly.

I began to heed their advice and listened in a way that was new for me. Since I’d never run before I became curious about my body’s responses to running: the way my lungs expanded in new ways, the way my legs muscles tensed and relaxed.

I soon turned to self-encouragement, urging a run to (at least) the next sign-post. I pushed, struggled, succeeded.  I realized that, as a beginner, I had a lot to learn about this new thing called “running.” Once I set my intention to learn, to respond to my pace, and to listen to my body’s triggers and cues, I began to enjoy the experience more. It became a lesson in discovery!

When we heard the shout of “FINAL WALK!” we all slowed down and headed back to the running store where we had begun. The coaches checked in with each of us, asked us how we felt and gave us each a “well done!” for finishing that day.  I headed home with a remembered appreciation for the “beginner’s mind,” that place from which we always start something new, something discoverable about ourselves.

As leaders, let’s remind ourselves to queue up our curiosity more and pay attention to our beginner’s mind. Our beginner’s mind may show us new ways of pacing ourselves as well as new ways of leading our teams. Our bodies and minds are intuitive and smart message transmitters, not just when we run, but also when we are in situations that are new or different.  What is yours telling you? What new triggers emerge from your beginner’s mind?

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