Coaching a Bad Attitude (Part 5)

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coaching cycle

In part 1 of Coaching a Bad Attitude, we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every single employee. Often, employees with bad attitudes are also people who hold onto knowledge and power. A manual ensures that no one’s daily actions are a mystery, which means that everyone can be let go if necessary.

In part 2, we discussed the importance of the coach having a positive attitude. Leaders are responsible for helping their employees create success. If we get adversarial with employees, we are ensuring a battle during the coaching.

In part 3, we talked about limiting the conversation to observable behaviors. Proving a bad attitude can be a difficult thing.

In part 4, we outlined the best way to have a coaching session, by using the Coaching Dialogue Outline.

It’s important to note that coaching is not a one-and-done deal; coaching is an ongoing process. The cycle actually starts with observation. We watch our employees and notice what they are doing well and what they could improve on. We are great leaders, so we always comment specifically on the good things in a positive way. Areas of improvement are the topics of coaching.

It’s hard to miss a bad attitude, but it’s important to remember that we are looking for specific behaviors that lead us to believe an employee has a bad attitude. We must have specific, observable behaviors to discuss.

We set up a time to talk and follow the Coaching Dialogue Outline. You can download the outline here. At the end of the conversation, we agree. It’s really important for the next phase of coaching that the agreement be in writing. We can summarize our agreement and then email it to the employee.

We could start the email with: I want to make sure that we are both clear about what we agreed to in our coaching session. A summary is below. Please let me know if I’ve forgotten anything or if you feel that something is not right.

Then say something positive about the coaching session and optimistic for the future.

It is imperative that we pester the employee until we get a response. We must have written confirmation of the employee’s agreement to change his or her behavior. Resend the email if necessary, and ask for confirmation. If that doesn’t work, print the email, hand it to the employee, stand there while he or she reads it, and then get a signature.

People can be slippery and claim not to have understood or not to have agreed to what was discussed in the coaching session. People with bad attitudes are often adept at dodging accountability. Do not let that happen. All is lost if we don’t get written confirmation of our agreement.

The next stage of coaching is action. It’s imperative that we follow through on anything we committed to do. How can we expect employees to adhere to our agreements if we don’t? Now is also when the employee will change his or her behavior. We both put what we agreed to during the coaching session into action.

Now we are back to observing. This time we know exactly what we are looking for as far as acceptable behavior. If the employee makes a positive change, yay! We want to be sure to comment on each and every good thing that we see him or her do. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. However, it’s rarely a one-and-done with a bad attitude.

Usually, we’ve got to go through the coaching cycle again. We observe that the behavior hasn’t changed or that the employee is expressing the bad attitude in new ways. Then we start the cycle again. We coach using the Coaching Dialogue Outline, we get written confirmation of our agreement, and then everyone acts as agreed upon.

So, how long do we continue in the coaching cycle? In workshops, I have people guess how many times we should go around before giving up. The most popular answer that I get is three, but the answer is not a number. We go around the coaching cycle until we lose hope. When we feel certain that there is no point in going around one more time, it’s time to leave the coaching cycle and begin the organization’s official termination policy. It’s essential to get HR involved at this point and do exactly as we are told. HR will be grateful for your documentation of the coaching process.

Lots of leaders have trouble letting an employee go. It’s particularly troubling to terminate an employee who does a good job but has a bad attitude. Know that we are freeing the person to find a job that is better suited to his or her talents and abilities.

Also know that a bad attitude is toxic. One person can destroy the motivation and morale of a team. One person’s bad attitude can also create a lot of turnover, which is quite expensive. Studies show that it costs between 50-90% of an employee’s annual salary to find and train a replacement.

In the end, it’s up to the employees to change bad attitudes and negative behaviors. Some just can’t do it. They are too ingrained in their thought patterns and don’t want to see and do life differently. It is their choice – and our choice not to tolerate behavior that affects productivity, efficiency, positivity, morale, and turnover.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

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Coaching a Bad Attitude (Part 4)

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Conversation outline for coaching

In part 1 of Coaching a Bad Attitude, we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every single employee. Often, employees with bad attitudes are also people who hold onto knowledge and power. A manual ensures that no one’s daily actions are a mystery, which means that everyone can be let go if necessary.

In part 2, we discussed the importance of the coach having a positive attitude. Leaders are responsible for helping their employees create success. If we get adversarial with employees, we are ensuring a battle during the coaching.

In part 3, we talked about limiting the conversation to observable behaviors. Proving a bad attitude can be a difficult thing.

Now we are going to outline the best way to have a coaching session by using the Coaching Dialogue Outline. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

1. Before the Discussion. We’ve already talked about this step. We want to bring in a positive attitude and be clear on the outcome that we want from the coaching. Before the coaching session, we also want to consider what the challenges might be for the employee. Generally, the obstacles are ability, resources, or attitude.

For employees with bad attitudes, the root cause may be that they don’t have the resources that they need to perform their jobs. If so, that’s something that we can fix as leaders. Perhaps they don’t have the needed skills and abilities for the job. If it’s a training issue, that one is also on us to fix.

It’s important to consider possible reasons for the bad attitude, but it’s imperative that we don’t make assumptions.

Here’s a summary:

  • Consider ability, resources, and attitude
  • Intentionally create a safe space for the coaching by having a positive and helpful attitude
  • Clearly define the desired outcome

 2. Opening. In this step, we are face-to-face with the employee, and we are telling them what we want to talk about. It’s important to let your positive attitude and intention to be helpful shine out during this step. We can use the CAR format to help us stick to observable behaviors and business-based results.

This is a good time to remind the employee and ourselves that this is a dialogue, not a diatribe. As leaders, we need to do more asking than telling. We are problem-solving together with the employee, not telling the employee what he or she needs to be doing.

Here’s a summary:

  • Use the CAR (circumstance, action, result) format as a good objective opening
  • Emphasize that this is a dialogue

3. Discover and Share. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP! When we skip this step, we miss the information that we need to solve the problems and overcome the challenges.

We, as leaders, want to make no assumptions and put all our preconceived notions aside. During this phase, we pretend like we know nothing and get really curious about what is going on. Remember, we hold onto our positive attitude while asking thoughtful questions.

If we enter the discussion with an open mind, we are listening carefully and willing to change our minds about a situation. It is possible that the employee has a brilliant suggestion. We must put our egos aside and listen without trying to “win.” We all win when our employees are successful.

Lastly, the conversation must include both facts and feelings. One way to bring feelings into the conversation is to name the feelings that we see and watch the employee’s response. For example, I could say, “Henrietta, it seems like this topic annoys you.” It could also be that she is fearful, upset, feeling disrespected, etc. If we don’t get it right, they will let us know, but we are getting to the heart of an issue when we discuss the feeling part of it.

Here is a summary:

  • Set all assumptions and preconceptions aside, and listen without judging
  • Be open to influence
  • Share information clearly without trying to “win”
  • Include a discussion of both facts and feelings

Here are some possible questions to ask:

  • What obstacles are you facing?
  • What feelings are present?
  • Have you faced a challenge like this before? If so, how did you deal with it?
  • Do you see any patterns here?
  • If circumstances were perfect, what would the situation look like? Is there a way to create those circumstances?

4. Develop solutions. This is the brainstorming step. We start by creating as many crazy solutions as possible. In the beginning, we sideline any reality checks. It’s fun! We are asking our employee to get creative.

Then we start discussing the possible solutions that we’ve created, with an eye to what is realistic. Someone’s job might be a lot easier if we hired an assistant for him or her. However, that might not be the best solution for the organization. It can be helpful to discuss the difference between what is best for the employee and what is best for the team, group, or organization. They aren’t always the same.

Maybe we can’t hire an assistant. Are there other ways to remove some responsibilities from the employee if he or she is truly overwhelmed? Sometimes great solutions begin with outrageous ideas.

We want our employees to solve their own problems if possible. They will be more likely to follow through on their own ideas than ours. Also, they know more about their own situation and abilities. As much as possible, we want them to create the solutions.

Here is a summary:

  • Brainstorm as many solutions as possible, without limitation
  • Then discuss options in terms of what is best for the team, group, or organization
  • Allow the employee to come up with as much as possible

5. Agree. We’ve done all the hard parts now. This step is just ensuring that we and the employee are on the same page. We want to capture what we’ve decided in writing. The summary below captures the things to consider in this step.

Here’s a summary:

  • End the discussion with an action plan and summary
  • Ensure that the employee creates and/or supports the action plan as much as possible
  • Connect the action plan with the initial desired outcome
  • Consider ability, resources, and attitude
  • Make sure the action plan is SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound)

6. Close. And we are done! The last thing to do is to check in with the employee to see how he or she is feeling. Ideally, they are positive and excited about moving forward with the plan. That might be a bit much to hope for when coaching employees with a bad attitude, but we can express confidence in their ability to move forward and follow the plan. It’s a good time to remind them of the positive business outcomes that everyone will receive as a result in the change in behavior.

Here’s the summary:

  • Check the relationship
  • Express confidence in agreement and employee
  • Summarize the benefits of the behavior change

The conversation is complete, but the coaching is far from done. Next time we will discuss the bigger picture – the Coaching Cycle.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

Coaching a Bad Attitude (part 3)

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CAR STP feedback 550 px

In part 1 of Coaching a Bad Attitude, we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every single employee. Often, employees with bad attitudes are also people who hold onto knowledge and power. A manual ensures that no one’s daily actions are a mystery, which means that everyone can be let go if necessary.

In part 2, we discussed the importance of the coach having a positive attitude. Leaders are responsible for helping their employees create success. If we get adversarial with employees, we are ensuring a battle during the coaching.

So now the job manual is done, and we have the proper attitude. The next thing to consider when planning to coach an employee with a bad attitude is, “What is the outcome that I am looking for?”

Most people immediately answer, “I want him or her to have a good attitude!” However, discussing the attitude itself is usually counterproductive. If you sit down to coach me and say, “You need to change your attitude,” my response would be, “What attitude? I don’t have an attitude. You have an attitude!” And we are off and running in a conversation that runs in circles.

We want to discuss the specific behaviors that lead us to believe that the person has a bad attitude. Is there a lot of eye-rolling and negative body language going on? Discuss that! Are there foot-dragging and bad-mouthing behaviors? Discuss the specific behavior that you want to change. It’s the behaviors associated with a bad attitude that we can prove and discuss.

Observable behaviors are facts that a person cannot deny. We want to give specific instances of when a person behaved in a way that was detrimental to productivity, efficiency, or morale. There is a formula that we can use to help us stay on track. It’s called a CAR, which stands for Circumstance, Action, and Result.

We start with Circumstance by describing what was going on when the person displayed the specific behavior that we want to see changed. For example, let’s say that we have an employee named Henrietta who rolls her eyes at what other people say during meetings. We could start with “I want to discuss your reaction to Joan’s comments during our staff meeting last week.” We’ve told the person exactly when and where the behavior happened.

Next, we want to name the specific Action that Henrietta did. We might say, “When Joan suggested that we change the way we process paperwork, you rolled your eyes.” By the way, eye-rolling is totally unacceptable behavior. Next, we are going to explain why.

We explain the detrimental results that come from eye-rolling. It could go like this: “When you roll your eyes, it looks to all of us like you are disapproving of what has been said, which makes people hesitant to speak up. It’s important for the team’s success that everyone feels free to share ideas and even disagree.” We could go on to mention Google’s Project Aristotle and how essential psychological safety is to the creation of a successful team. We are great leaders, so we are sure to have mentioned this before.

We might also say that the eye-rolling doesn’t let us know why Henrietta disagrees. We want to remind her that we value her perspective and want to hear it. We want to hear what Henrietta thinks, but we want her to say it in a respectful way. Now would be a good time to remind Henrietta of our Designed Alliance, which states that we speak to each other respectfully even when we disagree. We are fantastic leaders, so we are sure to have created a Designed Alliance with our team.

Eye-rolling is probably only one of the ways that Henrietta flies her bad attitude flag, but it’s best to deal with one behavior at a time. Pick the behavior that is most damaging to the morale and productivity of the team, and start there.

The CAR format is an excellent way to begin a coaching session, but it’s just the opening. We will talk about the rest of the process next time.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

Coaching a Bad Attitude (part 2)

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PEA 600 px

Last time we talked about the importance of having a job manual for every person in an organization to ensure that no one is indispensable. Many times, the person with the bad attitude is a star achiever who holds onto information tightly. We should all be replaceable and know it.

Before we start coaching someone, it’s important that we enter the dialogue with the right attitude because it creates a supportive container for the discussion. The container that we create determines the success or failure of the coaching.

As leaders, it is our job to help everyone be successful. We are not accountable for own actions alone. We can declare ourselves successes only if everyone who works for us can do the same. As we consider coaching someone, we want to remember that we aren’t trying to show them who’s boss or put that person in his or her place. We are trying to help them. A bad attitude can destroy a person’s career and damage a team’s morale. As leaders, we have an obligation to help everyone improve and perform their best, and that includes dealing with a bad attitude.

An adversarial attitude ensures that the coaching will fail. The person being coached gets defensive and doesn’t listen. The bad attitude will only increase. It creates a vicious cycle of negativity between the coach and the person being coached.

Envision the attitude problem as an object. When we have an adversarial attitude, the object is sitting on a small, square table between us and the other person. We are squaring off against each other with the problem between us. We want to move over to the other side of the table and face the object side-by-side. We want to face the problem or challenge together. This, of course, goes for all types of coaching and problem solving.

When I work with groups or people having challenges, I name the problem and then choose an object to represent it. The object can be anything – a water bottle, a piece of paper, a paperclip. I place it between them and then have us all move to one side. We all stand together shoulder-to-shoulder and look at the challenge. It’s amazing how much the personal dynamics change when we all stand together on one side of the challenge.

Being positive and helpful towards a person with a bad attitude is difficult, but effective leaders have the self-discipline to stay focused and keep the end goal in mind. Great leaders can put their egos aside and have an objective conversation without getting caught up in the negativity.

Next time we will talk about a few other things to do before the coaching session. However, the rest of the process depends on the leader bringing a positive perspective and attitude to the coaching.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

Coaching a Bad Attitude (part 1)

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Most, if not all, of my coaching clients face the challenge of an employee with a bad attitude. One person with a bad attitude can have an enormous negative impact on a team or group. It’s amazing how much trouble one person can create if they are hell-bent on constant complaining and criticism.

Many times, the complainers are darn good employees. They are knowledgeable and competent at their jobs. They are usually productive, and if it wasn’t for the attitude, they would be considered star performers.

These negative stars usually know that they are good and that the organization relies on them. In many instances, they consider themselves untouchable because of their value and knowledge. Let me assure both them and their leaders that they are expendable.

First, if you are a leader, and one person holds the keys to the kingdom in terms of organizational knowledge and power, change the situation. It’s not healthy. An organization must be able to function smoothly if something happens to one employee. Anyone one of us could be hit by a bus!

There should be a very detailed job description for each employee, including the leader. This description is like a manual that outlines the employee’s daily, weekly, monthly and yearly responsibilities. It would read like a checklist with descriptions. If I unexpectedly didn’t make it to work for a week, someone else would be able to pick up the job description manual and have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done.

Yes, creating these manuals is tedious and time-consuming, but well worth the effort. In addition to insurance that necessary things will get done should someone not show up, the manual adds needed transparency. As leaders, we have a very clear picture of how each employee spends his or her time, which allows us to ensure that the actions are ones that truly help the organization move forward with its mission.

The first step to dealing with an employee who has a negative attitude is to make sure the employee is not indispensable. Share the knowledge with detailed job descriptions, and cross-train as much as possible!

We will talk about how to coach a person with a negative attitude next time.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

Facing a Turtle Hurricane

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turtle 550 px

I have intended to write my blog for this week all day. Admittedly, I’ve been shoulding on myself. In my defense, I am in North Carolina, in the path of Florence. By the time you read this, the unknown will be known, and most of the event will be over.

However, right now I am tapping my foot and waiting on Florence. Someone on Facebook said that waiting for a hurricane is like being stalked by a turtle for four days. I so get that! I know that there is devastation out there, and I am on the edge of the band that could get 12-18” of rain and 60-80 MPH winds. I’ve determined that the waiting and the unknown are a huge distraction!

I began to think about what part of the situation is getting me agitated. I am not being urged to evacuate. I have water, food, candles, and flashlights. My iPad, iPhone, computer, and Kindle are fully charged. I am ready and am not worried about losing some electricity.

When I face a situation that I want to figure out, I start with the things that I know. I know that I am probably going to lose electricity. I know that it is going to rain a bunch. I know that it is going to get really windy. I am okay with all of those. I’ve faced rain, wind, and a lack of electricity many times. It’s familiar, and because I’ve done it before, I feel sure that I can do it again.

Then I move to what I don’t know. I am in my new condo, and I’ve never been through a big storm here. I am pretty sure that I don’t have leaks anywhere, but I don’t know for sure. I have not seen how water flows around my condo during a storm. My little condo and I have not survived a storm together, and I am not completely confident about its performance.

A lack of trust when facing a new situation or working with a new person is completely normal. We feel uncertain until we’ve had a chance to see everyone and everything in action. Trust isn’t given automatically; it’s earned. Once I’ve weathered this big storm in my condo, I will feel better about the next storm.

I also don’t know what to expect with 60 MPH winds. Will the roof blow off? Will all the trees fall? Is my beloved Honda Pilot named Amber in danger as she sits out in the open in front of my condo? Should I move her up the hill? Once the deluge starts, will it be too late? Once again, I will know the answer to all of those questions in the next 48 hours and be more comfortable the next time a storm blows in.

So what could I do about the unknowns? I could go knock on a neighbor’s door and ask if they’ve been through a storm here before. I could go online and read about past hurricanes’ effects on NC. (That was not a great idea. Twenty-six people died in 2016 in NC during Matthew. 680,00 people were without power.) Still, I’d rather be prepared.

The other thing that is getting me more agitated is The Weather Channel. I know they are making sure that people understand the dangers. (See notes on Matthew above.) However, the doomsaying has been going on for days. I look out my window, and it is still and sunny, yet I’m anxious because the meteorologists keep scaring me!

I just heard a Weather Channel person say, “It’s only going to get worse from here.” I feel sorry for them. They have to keep talking and keep me riled up while the turtle is stalking us all. A turtle really is a great metaphor. I can hear a Weather Channel person saying, “Look right here. You can see where the turtle’s right foot has moved slightly ahead of the left foot.” Honestly, it’s tough on all of us.

Of course, I could turn the TV off. I have for several extended periods today. When it’s off, I’m afraid that I’m missing something. What if the turtle finds a jet pack? What if it starts stalking someone else? (Sorry, South Carolina!) What if the turtle’s tornadic rabbit friend catches up and passes it? What if I miss some potentially LIFESAVING piece of information? Ack!

Yes, that’s all internal dialogue that I control. And yes, I’m working on controlling it. But the waiting and unknown are getting to me.

The best thing that I did today was go over to a friend’s house and help her hang some drapes. We chatted and laughed while we stuck the hooks in the pleats and then hoisted the heavy drapes up. Of course, reaching out to others is usually a good solution for whatever is going on. Everything feels bigger and scarier when we are alone. Even connection on Facebook makes me feel better.

What’s the learning here?

1. Follow the juice. That’s a coaching phrase that I also apply in workshops. If there are energy and enthusiasm behind a subject or topic, follow it! I could not get myself motivated to write about the topic I had chosen for this week, so I changed! I followed the juice and wrote about the thing that was uppermost in my mind and having an effect on my life.

Sometimes, we just have to do things that we don’t want to do. However, we can usually modify the task and take on a part that is less distasteful. For example, I have two boxes of miscellaneous stuff left to unpack. I can’t face doing them all at once, so I take breaks from other work and put away five things. In small doses it feels like a reverse scavenger hunt. I have to figure out where each little thing goes. Everything has to have a place! There is some juice behind everything having a place.

2. Reach out. Everything is less scary and daunting if you do it with someone else. My friend and I had a great time hanging drapes yesterday. After we hung the drapes, we moved the cars in her garage to make room for some outside stuff. We got the gas grill, trash cans, and potted plants in there. It didn’t take us long, and it was fun to do together.

My mom lived with us for 10 years before she died. She and I did some awful and easy tasks together. They were always fun because she was fun. We laughed through carrying heavy furniture and putting sheets on beds. It was all better when we were together. Positive people help in every way.

3. Minimize the negative. Of course, I need to know what is going on with the weather. Florence is a threat, as are tornadoes caused by Florence. However, I don’t have to stay plugged in all day. I have alerts set up on my phone so I don’t have to get caught up in the frenzy.

In life, there are lots of people with Weather Channel syndrome. They like to dwell on the terrible things that might happen and always expect the worst. First, don’t be one of these people. Second, stay away from them.

Keep in mind that newscasters’ goal is to get you riled up and keep you that way. It makes their numbers better. Small doses of news every day is a good idea.

4. Worrying doesn’t prevent anything. I am in my second day of writing now, and Florence has been significantly downgraded for us. Winds will top at 35 MPH, and expected rain is 8-12”. It’s good to prepared for the worst, but worrying about it only exhausts a person.

5. Check in. It’s always a good idea to check in with yourself when something is bothering you. It’s a good idea to start with solid facts that are provable. Don’t allow any assumptions to sneak onto the list. “We are all going to die” is an assumption. “We are probably going to lose power” is a fact.

The next step is to catalogue the unknown. Once you have the list, what can you research and move into the factual column? Some things are just unknown, and you have to wait for the answer, but we can usually minimize the list.

Lastly, check in with your emotions. What are you feeling, and why? Awareness is a huge first step. Once we know what and why we feel a certain way, we can usually do something to improve the situation. Sometimes it’s a values issue; we are not acting in alignment with our values. Sometimes, it’s the influence of outside negative influences. Whatever it is, we have to define it before we can deal with it.

The turtle is almost here. I am ready and calm. Really, that’s one of the great goals in life and a hallmark of a great leader.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

Expectation – Reality = Disappointment

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expectation-reality

At a high school reunion almost ten years ago, one of my brilliant classmates said, “Disappointment is the difference between our expectations and reality.” Obviously, the idea has stuck with me, and I’ve been reminded of it quite a bit lately.

In workshops, I ask if anyone has had a month that went according to plan. The answer is always laughter and some groaning. Then I ask who has had a week in the last few months that went smoothly and without surprises. I get some head shakes and mumbles. Then I ask if anyone has had one day in the last six months that went exactly as they planned it. Every now and then I get a hand in the air, but it’s very rare.

Even though our days rarely go without a glitch, we expect them to go perfectly  ̶  no forgotten items, no car trouble, full milk cartons, and no last-minute requirements or changes. It’s an unrealistic expectation, and we are constantly disappointed and annoyed. We end up tossing a lot of emotional pennies[LINK TO BLOG] at events that don’t deserve that much attention.

It’s more useful and productive to expect things to go wrong. I don’t mean we should adopt an Eeyore attitude of doom and gloom; it’s not healthy to expect everything to go wrong. We are looking for a healthy balance. If we spill something on a shirt, we can take a breath and recognize it as today’s glitch – not a super annoying personal attack. Accidents and mistakes are okay and normal.

Keeping things in perspective can help in most situations. For example, I am currently moving into a condo. I never planned to live in a condo at this stage in my life. Reality is less than my lifelong expectations, and I’m mad about it. I am also disappointed. My resistance is causing me to use a lot more emotional pennies than is necessary.

I’ve been working to adjust my expectations. There is nothing wrong with my condo. It’s updated and cozy. It’s all the space that I need. By accepting my situation and lowering my expectations, I create more contentment and peace.

I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971):

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Our goal is to be wise enough to accept what we cannot change right now. I don’t plan to live in my little condo forever, and I am taking actions to change my situation. However, it’s the best place for me now. Accepting where I am now saves a lot of emotional energy that I can use to change those things that I can.

There is a need to maintain a balance of our expectations. I am not suggesting that we lower our expectations so far down that we are never disappointed because that would also diminish our drive to set stretch goals and challenge ourselves.

When leading others, wisdom and realistic expectations are essential. I’ve watched a plant manager have a meltdown and yell at an employee because a piece of machinery broke down. First, it wasn’t the employee’s fault. Second, machines break sometimes – even with proper maintenance. Third, being outraged at a glitch and the people dealing with it damages the relationships. Great leaders create positive relationships.

It’s way more productive to expect bad things to happen now and again. It’s better to think, “Well, here’s today’s mess. How can we clean it up?” Spend the emotional pennies on solving the problem, not being outraged that it’s messing with your plans and not meeting your expectation of a perfect day.

Serenity, courage, and wisdom can carry us a long way towards having a good day. Maybe not a perfect day, but a good one. It’s all in how we manage our expectations.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

 

 

Ask More Than Tell

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Most great leaders have a lot of experience and knowledge. They have figured out the best ways to do certain things, and they want to share that information with others because they want to help them. Those are good intentions but not always great leadership.

Our goal is to help other people to become great leaders, too. We don’t accomplish that by telling everyone how to do everything. They need to develop problem-solving abilities, try out solutions, and learn how to adjust when things don’t go as planned. Our job is to make that process as painless as possible.

In my leadership workshops on coaching employees, the participants practice by coaching each other on a real-life topic. I give the people being coached an index card and have them write “telling” on one end of it. Whenever the person coaching starts to “tell” rather than “ask,” they hold up the card.

I know from watching this exercise for more than a decade that it’s really, really difficult to ask more than tell. The telling cards get flashed pretty often. The people coaching struggle to come up with open-ended questions and often end up telling the other person what he or she needs to do to solve the issue.

We help by asking questions. Instead of immediately launching into a lecture about the right way to do a task, we want to ask some questions that will guide the person through some analysis.

Here are some possible questions to ask:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenge?
  • Have you ever faced anything like this before?
  • What would be the ideal outcome?
  • What do you think is the best way to proceed?
  •  What other factors do we need to take into account?

We become better at asking questions by practicing. One way to begin is to commit to asking at least three questions before offering any suggestions or advice. This structure helps us to get out of the habit of sending solutions immediately.

Asking three questions is a good thing to do in personal relationships, as well. One client transformed his relationship with his family by using this simple exercise.

As much as possible, we want to let people do things their way! It creates a sense of ownership, and the learning is much greater than if they are just following steps that we outline. It also increases the positivity of our relationships. The ability to create positive relationships is one of the hallmarks of great leadership.

For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

 

Question everything!

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It’s dangerous for leaders to accept assumptions as fact. Heck! We miss a lot if we don’t question things presented as absolute truth.

I realized that even conventional wisdom deserves to be questioned back in 1988 when my first child was born in Germany. American baby books insisted that submerging a baby in water before the umbilical cord came off could cause grave health effects. However, the German nurse dunked my son in a tub of water the day after he was born. I gasped!

She turned and asked me what was wrong. I explained that Americans don’t submerge babies until the umbilical cord falls off. She cocked an eyebrow at me and asked how we kept the umbilical cord clean. I told her that we swabbed it with alcohol – and she gasped. She said incredulously, “You put alcohol on babies?”

Hmmm. Two countries full of people with normal belly buttons – each insisting that their way was the only right way! Now, when someone tells me that something “has” to be done a certain way, I cock an eyebrow and say, “Are you sure?”

“Because it’s always been done this way” is a sure cue that it’s time to look around for other ideas, and so is “That can’t be done.” I’ve heard my share of both of those phrases. On one Army post, the hunting area bordered the playground. Disoriented bow hunters often came out of the woods and onto the play area. I went to talk with someone about it, and he said, “Mrs. Torrey, it’s always been that way.”

Hmmm. That doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. I told him as much and finished with, “Now that I have brought it to your attention, it is your responsibility if a child is hurt or killed.” He decided that the way it had always been done needn’t continue, and they backed up the borders of the hunting areas.

Great leaders are creative thinkers! They don’t get stuck in thinking ruts walked by millions of others. They try to see everything from fresh perspectives. They also don’t accept the status quo. If it’s not a good idea, it’s not a good idea no matter how long it’s been around.

As leaders, it’s important that we look at work and home life in new ways and ask ourselves some questions. What assumptions are we making about people and situations? If we don’t know something for a fact, then let’s get out there and question it. Let’s question everything! It’s the perspective of great leaders.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays

 

Cancel that order!

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My sister and I talked about a way to change thought patterns a while back. It’s a technique that I made up called Cancel that order! I talk about it at the beginning of my leadership series as a part of our emotional intelligence discussion. I was pleasantly surprised when my sister told me about using Cancel that order! and how it was helping her, her friends, my nephew, and his friends.

One of her friends called to chat while I was there, and she brought up Cancel that order! without any prompting from me. She said that none of that “positive thinking crap” worked for her but that Cancel that order! had helped her think more positively and also to gain more confidence.

Wow! It was humbling and fabulous feedback. I am so gratified when my coaching stuff really impacts people’s lives. However, the first person that I developed the technique for was me.

My mom was a worrier. She worried about money, her first grade students, and anyone driving. For a long time, I was a worrier, too.

Then I realized a couple of things. First, worrying about what may or may not happen is a huge emotional energy drain. Second, my worrying did not improve anyone’s chances of success or survival.

Worrying and negative self-talk are habits just like any other habit. We can change them with some effort. I designed a mental game to help me change my worrying ways. I pretended that every thought was a request for something that I wanted. When I thought about something, I was placing an order for it.

When I thought, “I am not going to have enough money this month,” I was placing an order for that to happen. Immediately I would think or say out loud, “Cancel that order!” Then I would replace the order with a new one: “I have plenty of money to make it through the month.”

The fancy, technical term for this is cognitive restructuring. Cognitive restructuring sounds like a hard and technical concept, but it’s not. It’s simply creating new thought habits and intentionally changing the way we think. It’s very powerful.

It isn’t always easy, but we can change our thinking patterns. Any time you catch yourself worrying and creating a worst-case scenario in your head, cancel that order! I actually clap my hands together when I am cancelling an order. Replace the negative thought with a thought about something that you want to happen or with an affirmation. Creating a positive internal dialogue makes life way less stressful.

Cancel that order! is very effective in dealing with negative self-talk. Pay attention to your thoughts. Anytime you hear yourself thinking that you aren’t enough in some way, cancel that order! If you walk to the closet thinking, “I don’t look good in any of my pants,” cancel that order! Replace it with what you want: “I look good in anything I put on.”

Changing our thoughts can’t magically change our reality. However, our reality will never change until we change our thoughts and beliefs. Cancel that order! is the first step in creating the life and environment that you desire.


For a little bit of fun (and free) leadership development, join 53 Leadership Challenges at KathyStoddardTorrey.com.

Want to go further with your professional development? Check out the courses offered at PositiveEffectLeadership.com.

If you are interested in taking your career to the next level quickly, contact me for a sample coaching session at KSTorrey@tapferconsulting.com. #PositiveEffectLeadership #LeadershipRules #KathySays