Building Trust with Transparency

Transparency is one of the best ways to build trust with your team. Here’s how:

Explain the company’s strategic initiatives, short/long term goals, deadlines and the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Do not assume your team understands your reasoning behind these objectives or that they understand how their roles specifically support these initiatives.

Share relevant financials along with explanations. Just because the company is bringing in money, doesn’t mean it’s time for pay increases!  The more your employees know about the company’s financial goals, plans, priorities, challenges and opportunities the more buy-in you’ll get from them.

In your leadership meetings encourage a ten minute How I Did It segment. An employee is invited to share a triumph – how their killer solution to a vexing problem saved the company time, money and/or valuable customers. Triumphant employees earn modest rewards like a gift card or an afternoon off.

If an employee intends to depart or is laid off, make their exit a friendly one. It’s never a good idea to burn bridges or leave on sour terms. Bad news travels faster than good news. Explain honestly to the group the general reason for the person’s departure w/o revealing personal details. If the departure was caused by some undercurrent issue, take action to address the issue immediately.

Encourage questions, concerns, fears, and new ideas at Monday morning coffee meetings and Friday team lunches. Give updates on projects. Come up with jolting questions that spark conversation and new ideas like: If you were the competition, how would you put us out of business?  Encourage the participation of the less chatty employees by welcoming their ideas in writing. Encourage them to contribute relevant articles, new books, podcasts etc.

Everyone makes mistakes, and some errors are more costly than others.  Encourage early reporting of errors. Help your employee to move as soon as possible from guilt and shame mode to solution mode. As a leader, admit the mistakes you make and what you’ll do to correct them.

Founders and other members of the leadership team can offer open door office hours for more private conversations.

Make clear to your customers what your team is up to and what directions you are moving to improve the customer experience. Create opportunities and venues for gathering customer feedback. Continually ask them how you or your product or service would make them happier customers. Show eagerness to hear about what they don’t like.

Finally, when staff come to you with an idea, a complaint, a problem or a solution, let them know they have been heard! It is a very common employee complaint. (See my October Mindful Communication Minute Newsletter on this topic coming out soon)

Entrepreneurship and Servant Leadership Don’t Jibe

I’m coaching a founder (I’ll refer to her as Pam) who is on the fence. Pam hired an able team of designers and artists to create “thinking games” for children. But, she is toying with the idea of managing her business by blending in and serving her team versus leading them in the traditional sense. Pam wants to provide “Servant Leadership,” a popular 21st century management model. In this model the founder assigns roles and tasks to subordinates, and then offers support, such as researching, stocking supplies and running their errands. Mmm…sounds like she wants her subordinates to run the show? Pam is seeking coaching because investors are getting antsy. Abiding by the servant model, she’s having a hard time motivating her team to move forward and meet crucial deadlines. Her startup is in stuck mode and here’s why:

When a founder is taken up with ground level activities, the role of the leader is diminished. A founder needs to have some level of detachment from his subordinates to pursue opportunities for the business, brainstorm ideas and make the tough decisions. This bit of healthy distance from employees allows the founder to articulate the vision and provide direction to employees.

When employees see their founder catering to their needs in an extreme manner, they are less likely to view him or her as an authoritative figure. If problems arise and the servant manager needs to switch to a more authoritative leadership role, entitled employees have a hard time meeting the new expectations independently.

Servant leadership de-motivates employees. It’s is like a parent bailing out his child by constantly stepping into to fix things or to do the homework for the child. When employees think their founder will unconditionally and non-judgmentally resolve issues that arise, it’s easy to take it easy and let quality and performance slip.

A happy ending: After several months of a frustrating, but well-meaning stint of Servant Leadership, I encouraged Pam to take a vote and see how her team wanted her to lead. Not surprising, they voted to have Pam resume her role as leader. They voted to exchange the freedom and nurturing for increased productivity and direction that would give them a sense of fulfillment at the end of a week. Most of them missed the “good stress” associated meeting a deadline and taking responsibility. Her team declared that returning to “real leadership” was better for them and for the future of the company.

Need help leading in a way that maximizes cooperation and teamwork without becoming a servant to your team?  Contact me at [email protected]   

Conversations Take Their Toll

Hurtful conversations that bring on feelings of anger and resentment are telling you “things must change.” These feelings are killing you, literally. There’s a song from my favorite musical, A Little Night Music called “Every Day a Little Death.” If you listen to the words, you’ll know why I’m writing this. Holding on to bad feelings, fueling that fire within you by re-playing who has done you wrong and why, gradually accumulates to cause mental and physical deterioration. Repeated mental rehearsal of the wrongdoing may be the root of your aches and pains. Research claims that cardiac disease, certain cancers, skeletal health, drug and alcohol use have their roots in the endless looping of hurt you permit yourself to re-live every day. Jealousy, disappointment and worry, the kind that you can feel in your chest, your gut and your limbs, takes their toll on your health.

As an example, I was asked to consult to an employee of a large software company. I’ll call her “Lynn.”  Lynn’s boss, the finance manager, was dealing with many personal problems. Feeling sorry for her boss, Lynn agreed to her boss’s inconvenient and non-work related requests despite having a pile of her own work. The CEO, unaware of the manager’s issues, complained that Lynn wasn’t getting her assignments completed on time. Lynn began having mysterious abdominal and back problems requiring two hospitalizations. Test after test was negative. Lynn confessed, “All my life I let others take advantage of me. I never wanted to hurt their feelings, so I put aside myself and put them first. I was angry and resentful.”  She had many of these looping, resentment-laden conversations over the years with herself, which she believed led her to sickness. With coaching, however, her inner conversations began to change. Lynn learned to be okay with saying “no” and politely refusing to submit to unreasonable requests. Instead, she offered options and other solutions which satisfied her need to be helpful. Feeling more confident and in control, Lynn’s health is making a change for the better.

You can reverse these “little deaths.”  When the anger and resentment seep into your mind, have a mental escape plan ready. Change the conversation within immediately. Do something health-promoting: review your gratitude list, take a brisk walk, listen to a podcast or do something nice for someone. Taking some immediate action, making a rapid and positive shift, weakens the circuit of resentment and strengthens a path of self-regulation. Lynn goes on to say, “…in applying this practice, when I’m reminded of a past hurt, I no longer feel my heart beating and my stomach churning. The dialogue is dimmer. I observe it like a bystander from across the street. I can choose a different way of responding and my body listens.”

How effective is your communication with yourself? How fluently can you change the subject, pick better words, speak the truth and listen to your intuitive voice?  For more mindful communication tips visit www.MindfulCommunication.com or write to me at [email protected]             

 

Managing Drama in Your Startup

According to a new book, No Ego by business consultant Cy Wakeman, the average worker spends 2.5 hours per day distracted by drama! We’ve all experienced varying degrees of workplace drama in other jobs – personal losses, power struggles, insubordination, office gossip and petty arguments.  Until you start a business of your own, you may not be aware of how significantly drama can hurt your bottom line. How to manage workplace drama is not typically noted in the founder’s play book. If no drama has spiked in your startup thus far, good for you, but unless you’re working with robots, it’s inevitable.

The usual sources of drama in a startup can be traced to hires without proper job descriptions, under-performing or disgruntled employees, changes in procedures, slow periods and accelerated periods where the company has to scale up quickly. Another source of drama is the life of the employee. Just as employees bring the work stress home with them, employees bring their home traumas to work. Let me address some solutions the “trauma to drama” variety.

Most CEOs want to create an open, caring work environment where people look forward to coming to work. The workplace  may be the only safe and inspiriting environment in some people’s lives.  I support mindful listening as a way to understand an employee who is experiencing personal problems outside of work. Listening wholeheartedly to an employee can help you gauge the intensity and duration of the situation so as to come up with solutions that will prevent company losses. It is the responsibility of the employee, not the employer, to ultimately solve his/her personal problems. It must be made clear that work is not a counseling center or a rehab. His or her fellow employees are not being paid to be social workers. Allowances such as a more flexible schedule, an extended lunch hour or such accommodations are appropriate. A business may have to find some temporary coverage, and if possible, the employee may need to train the temp. Your HR department may assist in finding counselors or support groups. But, I suggest that a business set in advance, reasonable limits to these assists. Meet with your staff and talk about what to do if such drama erupts.

More to come on workplace drama in future blogs.

Are you the frequent victim or the instigator of drama at your workplace? Being one or the other could cost you your job or your career. If that’s you, let’s discuss! [email protected]      

A Tale That Could Be Your Truth

Over the years I have studied procrastination and its roots. For many of my clients, procrastination is an affliction that rivals the fear of public speaking. Getting started and following through on difficult, overwhelming and intimidating tasks no matter how much you may want to accomplish them can be tough. You need a powerful thought, a mind hack that immediately gets you in gear.

Thanks goes out to Tim Ferris who recommended the book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. Of all the weird afterlife possibilities Eagleman suggests, there is one tale from the book that scares the livin’ daylights out of me. It makes me want to spring out of bed at an hour earlier, add another 20 pushups, learn to like wheat grass, and relentlessly tackle every task on my agenda. It’s this:  If you procrastinate and ignore your potential greatness, imagine that “after you die you are forced to live out your afterlife with annoying versions of who you could have been.” Yikes!

I think there is a strong likelihood of this. I believe that we are born with a wide array of potential talents for the purpose of making the world a better place. It would make a lot of sense, on judgment day, to be compared to what you could have been minus laziness, lacking a plan, or harping on irrational fears. I submit that entrepreneurs like you, people who build something from just an idea, have been awarded a unique opportunity (and a responsibility perhaps!) to make a difference in the world. If we put off doing things that a higher power has given us the chance to do, it’s like casting aside a precious gift.

Whether this prediction is true or not, why not make it YOUR truth? Before bedtime and when you wake up every day, imagine your ideal self in all aspects of your life.  How would you compare today’s performance with your potential performance? Without blame or shame, how can you get closer tomorrow? Therefore, if having to watch annoying versions of who you could have been is your fate, your best defense on Judgment Day will be: I Tried!

Having trouble creating that vision of your ideal self and making it happen? Let’s strengthen the likely culprits – your core skills and routines! Contact me at  [email protected] 

If Your Creativity Needs a Kick, Seek Unusual Sources

You may have your new product or service up and running, or you’re in the process of getting your new business off the ground. It’s frustrating to lack new ways to be competitive and for solving day-to-day problems.  We typically rely on our experience, knowledge, self-help books and the wisdom of industry leaders for solutions, but sometimes we have to get out of our closed circle of reference and seek “a refresh” from unexpected sources.

As a coach, it’s up to me to offer fresh eyes and new perspectives for my clients to explore. When I feel even close to getting bored with my usual strategies and tactics, I’m curiously drawn to books like The Men Who Changed the Course of American History, Tripping Over the Truth, Stories From Shakespeare, The Alchemist, or collections of mystery stories. Movies like Midnight in Paris or The Darkest Hour remind me, in contrasting ways, that it’s okay to listen to my gut, change my mind and inspire others to do the same. Any books or movies that have to do with discovery or attempts to solve difficult problems of all sorts should be on your list. Perhaps these books and movies won’t give you any direct answers or solutions, but they will add enlightening bits and pieces to what you already know and re-kindle your creative spark.

Need some fresh eyes to help solve a problem in your company? Get COREageous and contact me at [email protected]        

Pick Up the Pace on Sunday

This morning, as I rode my bike towards the last of three “nasty” hills (in COREageous-speak that translates into “wonderfully steep”), it reminded me of how important it is to build some momentum ahead of a challenge. If I wait to pick up the pace at the base of the hill, the climb is less forgiving. (Actually, “miserable” and “energy-sucking” are better descriptors.) It’s much smarter to get some speed going a quarter mile before the incline.

I use this experience to incite a mental shift from the weekend to the workweek. On Sundays, while most people hang around and dread Monday, with a Sunday ritual you can get ahead of the pack and cruise full speed ahead into the workweek. If you let the Sunday-Monday doldrums attack you, it will take Herculean effort to pump up your mood and meet your milestones for the week. I also share this Sunday ritual lecture with my college clients, the future entrepreneurs.

Even if you’re not a fitness nut, work with me here: Get up early Sunday while the house is quiet, hydrate and do some stretches. Read the news, check your phone, have a strong cup of coffee or tea. Enjoy a healthy breakfast with your family or a friend. Gather your gear, think about your route and air up the tires. Think about what you want to accomplish today. You’re warming up easy on the flats. Look over your plan. See the hill way in the distance? It’s comin’ fast. Listen to a motivational podcast or read an article from your industry. Gradually pick up the pace, 100 yards to go before the incline. With your intellectual energy piqued, your focus strong and your phone turned off – get to work. You’ve got this! Charge up that hill!

Pick up the pace on Sunday. It’ll be easy to keep that positive energy and determination going all week, without even breaking a sweat!

I’m eager to hear how the Sunday ritual is working for you! Please write me at [email protected]

Capture Ideas and Connect Better with Information on Paper

If you want to get your ideas out quickly, put them on paper. Research shows that you’ll process your thoughts and remember more when you draw or write them down. I’m not a fan of GAGs (Gadgets, Apps, Gimmicks) because by the time you find and launch a note-taking app you could have instantly secured your thought on paper. Besides, if you use a phone or computer to take notes, it’s easy to get distracted by other GAGs on your desktop.

The same goes for using a paper calendar vs. an electronic calendar. Many of my hi-tech clients swear by the week-at-a-glance paper calendar book as a way to block off hunks of time and create a vista view of the week.  (See www.ata glance.com)

When reading something you care to remember, you’ll deep-process more of what you read if you annotate in pencil or write a note on a stickie. After you finish the book, skim through your annotations or collect your stickies to review those highlights. It’s so satisfying to remember what you read so you can have an intelligent conversation on the topic well after you put the book down. Keep your stickies together and put them in an envelope with the title on the front. It’s interesting, several months later, to open that envelope and refresh that information.

Be like Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson and Indra Nooyi and have paper and pen ready to jot down thoughts and brainstorm ideas anywhere you’d find yourself hanging out —by your bed, poolside, TV room etc. Keep a moleskin in your pocket or purse to write down ideas when you’re standing in line or getting a haircut. And, if by any chance that little piece of paper is swept off by a gust of wind, you’ll have a better chance of remembering what you wrote if you wrote it!

Leadership Is a Posture, Not Just a Position.

Leadership is a posture not just a postion by beckky shafirThat suggestion from Dr. John Izzo’s book Stepping Up should strike a chord in the minds of those who want to be more effective leaders. “Posturing” yourself as a leader is a way to inspire others by your actions. It includes how you choose your words, the sound of your voice, how deeply you listen, how you problem solve and respond to setbacks. The title of CEO means little if the person holding the position lacks the presence of a CEO. Currently, I’m working with a small business that is training managers to be leaders. I asked them to write down the traits that they aspire to and want to communicate to their direct reports. Interestingly, many of the traits listed are the traits these budding managers admired in the CEOs who came before them: direct talk, caring, efficient, organized, energetic, etc.

The Number One rule in Dr. Jordan Peterson’s book The 12 Rules of Life: An Antidote to Chaos is to “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.” Presenting yourself physically as confident and strong sends powerful messages to your team. More than an influential pose, good posture can change your mood and your physiology. Research shows that a strong physical posture releases a flurry of neurotransmitters, serotonin, for example. Standing up straight sends a message to your brain to release serotonin which mimics the effects of anti-depressant medication. You feel happier and get better sleep when your serotonin levels are high.

Start your day standing up straight with the intention to consistently demonstrate the leadership qualities you aspire to. Write them down and post them in a few different places as reminders. Watch how your behaviors shape the actions of your employees and, consequently, how your combined actions boost the bottom line.

Managing the Racing Mind

Managing the racing mind by Beckky ShafirEmotional regulation is the most important core skill. Regular meditation and a good sleep regimen, among other methods, foster the emotional competency needed for successful decision-making and execution. A common complaint among my entrepreneur clients is their struggle with “a racing mind.” A racing mind jumps from one thought to another at random, making it seemingly impossible to let go of fears and worries. Meditation, or attempts to fall asleep at a normal hour can be maddening. Perhaps this is why many folks keep the noise and distractions alive because “quiet” for them is a breeding ground for worry.

For a person suffering from anxiety or depression, worry finds an opening in a vacuum of quiet. Real concerns and irrational imaginings can flood your mind filling every nook and cranny with fear. If not managed, a mind out of control can lead to panic attacks, chronic insomnia and/ or depression. To naturally slow down your mind and steer it in a more positive direction, try these methods:

1) Before bedtime or prior to an attempt to meditate, write down all that’s bothering you. List the things you can control, and accept the ones you can’t control. Include any solutions to these problems. Putting them in writing helps you address them and move on, hopefully to less worrisome thoughts.

2) Have ready some “detours” for your mind when worry intrudes. In advance, create a gratitude list, an outline for your next blog, or prepare some mantra-like affirmations using your name, for example: Carole, everything is OK, or Tom, you’re doing the best you can; it’s all you can do.        

3) Repeat a favorite prayer over and over.

4) Shift to a breath pattern that takes up a lot of mental space. Choose a breathing pattern that requires enough focus to overwhelm negative thoughts: Lie on your back with one hand on your chest and another on your midsection. Inhale and exhale audibly through your nose for 3 slow counts in, hold your breath for 2 counts and breathe out for 4 slow counts. Feel your heart beat slow down as your midsection rises and falls.

What other ways have you found to calm your racing mind? Share them with me, anonymously if you wish, at [email protected] and I’ll post them for other founders to see. Let’s help each other weather the highs and low of entrepreneurship.     

 

 

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