Gratitude: The X Factor For Engagement

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85% of people around the world are not engaged or are actively disengaged with their work. (Gallup December, 2017). The result is a $7 trillion loss in productivity worldwide. Sadly, this trend has been holding steady for more than 20 years.

It seems that everything in the world economy has changed except how leaders continue to miss the opportunity to engage people.

Gratitude: Could this possibly make a difference?

Yes.

What we desire and need as human beings in order to be engaged at work is to be respected, offered the opportunity to learn and grow and to be thanked for our contributions. Consider this:

  • Over 6 million people have watched Brother David Stendl Rast’s TED Talk on Gratitude.
  •  20,654,524 candles of gratitude have been lit from 194 countries through Brother David’s organization called A Network For Grateful Living.
  • The brightest minds in science, literature, medicine and the arts all express a deep understanding of the mystery, wonder and necessity of bringing our hearts and thankfulness to our every endeavor in order to unlock the fullness of human potential.

Indeed, we hunger for gratitude and we intuitively know that in a workplace where it is practiced, a more civilized, creative and thriving world will prevail. And yet, the research tells us that leaders worldwide are ignoring this inner wisdom and failing to engage the hearts and full commitment of their teams.

Curiosity, creativity and innovation are all human experiences that come from the integration of heart and mind. In organization life, we often forget this and we work only from the neck up, with our minds. Over-investing in rational thought and intellect is a great folly for leaders and is an epidemic in global leadership as we see from this multi-decade pattern of dismal engagement numbers. It is an approach to leadership where the primary mode of operation is believing that the mind provides the only road to solutions and results. It is an over-emphasis on tasks with not enough focus on people and expressing appreciation to those people  through which all things happen.

When we do this, we leave behind our potential genius and our ability to unlock the genius of others. The result of which is a lack of engagement and, subsequently, results that are a fraction of what they could be.

Another Program Is Not The Answer

Gratefulness is a powerful tool for building extraordinary and engaged teams. We don’t need another program to raise engagement. We need to coach leaders to lead with gratitude and reward them for doing so.

To be grateful leaders means we are paying attention to our people and to what is happening right now and to the opportunity in every moment. We are comfortable with ambiguity and, therefore, we are allowing ourselves to be surprised by ideas, people and situations. We are listening and responding. We are focused on others, not on ourselves.  We are operating with complete faith that in doing so, the results will come, and they do.

Grateful Leadership Behaviors

When we demonstrate grateful leadership we:

  1. Ask questions that help people learn to find answers as opposed to giving them the answers.
  2. We operate from a place of curiosity, not judgement.
  3. We act as catalysts and coaches to unlock potential, not as commanders and controllers to drive the execution of our own ideas.
  4.  We see ambiguity as the opportunity for innovation and for developing our confidence and that of our teams in finding the best solutions in previously unchartered waters.
  5. We never stop looking for the potential within people and every day do our best to unlock it one person at a time.
  6. We lead with reverence which exhibits itself as showing deep respect for others.
  7. We regularly thank people for their efforts.

Daily Practices To Develop Grateful Leadership Skill

Leading with gratitude is not difficult but it requires practice in order to bring the necessary balance to the dynamic between mind and heart. Here are some ways to develop your ability to lead with gratefulness:

  • Start every day being thankful that you are alive.
  • Practice paying attention to each moment and each person.
  • Every day express appreciation to your team.
  • Slow down, look around. Let the wonders of the world, be it nature, science, literature or art penetrate your heart.
  • At the end of each day write down one thing that you have done as a leader to leave the day better than it was when you entered it.
  • Subscribe to a gratitude website like A Network For Grateful Living and get daily messages that remind and inspire you.

If you want to work with these practices, try rating yourself on a scale of 1-5 (1=I don’t do this and 5= I consistently do this) on each of the 7 grateful leadership behaviors listed above. Set goals and action plans to improve. Utilize at least one of the daily practices suggested and then rescore yourself in 30, 60 and 90 days. Take note of how your practices help increase the engagement of your team and, wonderfully, your own happiness as a leader.

Sheila Madden works as an executive coaching supporting leaders in technology, healthcare, non-profits and higher education.

Copyright 2018 Sheila Madden, Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved.

How To Hire The Right Person Every Time!

Female Woman Sitting At Interview

The two most expensive decisions a leader makes are hiring and firing. Guess which costs more?

Firing.

If you look at the expense budget of any organization you will see that the cost of people is usually 60% or more, which is huge. But the price of firing bad hires is actually staggering. It can run anywhere from 2-3X the person’s annual salary. That includes time for interviewing, on-boarding, training, lost productivity (of the hire, their boss, peers/colleagues, HR), impacts to customer relationships, not to mention the morale, trust and engagement hits as well as exposure to legal issues. In this Forbes article, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, said that bad hiring decisions cost them “well over $100M.”

But this article isn’t about the cost of bad hires, it is about avoiding bad hires by having a process that will help you make more right decisions than wrong.

What Gets In The Way?

During my career, I have lead recruiting organizations for companies ranging from the Fortune 500 to start ups. I have been responsible for thousands of hires from the C-suite down to entry level positions. From my experience, there are the 3 things that I have seen that get in the way of making the right hiring decisions:

Impatience:  Hiring managers are usually in too big a hurry, and why is that? Because there isn’t a systemic process for constantly harvesting relationships with top talent so that there is a pipeline to turn to when the need arises. Far too often, especially with startups, when they aren’t hiring they get rid of their recruiters. Big mistake. Good recruiters are worth their weight in gold because they are constantly searching for talent on your behalf, whether you are hiring or not. It is all about building ongoing relationships. But if you do have to start from scratch, take the time you need to get it right. You may have to slow down to finish fast.

Naivete: Too many hiring managers don’t understand that a disciplined, repeatable process for hiring is crucial to making the right hire decisions consistently and ultimately to the organization’s success. We don’t develop products and services without a disciplined approach, why on earth should we hire without one?

Over Confidence: Many hiring mangers pride themselves on having a good “gut feel” for the right people and say they will know the right person when they see and talk with them. That is a crap shoot. The fact is, the people you are interviewing are very, very good at presenting their best side and navigating questions about those odd gaps in employment history or job hopping that doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. There is way too much to lose here, so be humble. Trust but verify. Use a quantitative as well as a qualitative process to be sure.

10 Things you can do that will help you hire the right person every time:

  1. Define your value proposition so that you can describe it in a way that candidates can self-select. No need to embellish or sell which only increases your risk of making a mistake. Be honest. The worst thing that can happen to a candidate or a company is to find out that someone oversold themselves or the opportunity. It leads to disappointment and, more importantly, a breach of trust. It is a no win on all sides. Define your value proposition so that it attracts to you the people you want and need.
  2. Define the job. Not just the duties of the job but talk about the relationships, the stakeholders, the outcomes expected, the challenges the opportunities. Make sure people know what the day to day will be like so that they, and you, can determine if they will thrive in the role. Sugar coating is disastrous.
  3. Define the technical and behavioral success components and weight their importance. When we keep these elements in our head, they all seem equal when they are not and we run the risk of letting something that isn’t as important to success overshadow something that is.
  4. Develop behavioral questions to use in interviews to understand what people have actually done relative to your criteria, not what they think they would do. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Plus, asking people to walk you through what they have actually done helps you assess how they think and how they manage challenges.
  5. Rate the candidate against criteria you have weighted in terms of their importance, determine where the gaps are and if they are manageable/coachable given the timeline for deliverables.
  6. Divide the key success factors among the interviewers and have everyone probe specific areas. This is basically getting a 360- degree view of the candidate. If you all ask the same things the candidate will get better as the day goes on and sound brilliant to the last interviewer. Mix it up, get to know the whole of the person.
  7. Have a homework assignment or a white-boarding where the final candidate comes in and does actual work with the team to see if how they think and behave is consistent with what you think you know so far in the interview process. Throw in some major curve balls to test them under stress or to test areas that are still a question in your mind.
  8. Hiring manager and recruiter together hold an interview team debrief (in person or by phone, but not based on ratings entered into an applicant tracking system) to get the 360-degree read on the candidate. Look for consistencies and inconsistencies. Validate and verify what you think you know.
  9. Hiring manager do reference checks and use behavioral questions when talking with references. Use questions like this: “We think so and so is a good fit but suspect that xyz may be new for him/her. Does that resonate with your experience? What was something you had to coach them through and how quickly did they learn, what was their attitude, etc.?” Many companies have recruiting do reference checks or don’t do them at all. I believe this is a huge mistake. The hiring managers should do them. You can get a ton of intelligence about what it will be like to manage the person. Plus, as the hiring manager, you are the one ultimately responsible for the decision. Take every opportunity to make sure you are right. More importantly, with a good reference check conversation, you will have the opportunity to jump start your new employee’s success and research shows that the more effective the on-boarding, the faster one becomes productive. Verify and validate what you think you already know. The other HUGE upside here is that it is an opportunity to expand your talent network by meeting other smart successful professionals.
  10. Be GREAT at interviewing. Make the whole process a two-way conversation and exploration. don’t sell; rather, talk to see if it is a good fit for both parties. If it is the right thing, no one needs to sell, the synergy sells itself. For more details on how to rock the interview, here is a blog that will guide you.

If you follow these precepts, your hiring will be more predictable, accurate, consistent and cost effective.
Copyright 2017 Sheila Madden, Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved.

Napa Fires Offer Powerful Lesson on Leadership, Courage and Connection

 

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Napa Fire near Atlas Peak, October 2017

 

A client of mine lives near Atlas Peak in Napa. He and his family were evacuated during the horrific fires that descended upon the Napa Valley recently. When they returned to their home, miraculously, the raging fire had stopped 150 feet from his home.

A friend of his wasn’t so lucky.

My client and several friends gathered for safety at another family’s house after they had all been evacuated. One friend was devastated when he and his wife told the others that his family’s home and winery were literally in the line of fire and that he was certain their home would be lost. Their children were in the next room waiting helplessly.

My client and his friends and their families sat quietly for a while, all stunned by what was happening. The sorrow for this family’s loss was just about to consume them when my client and his buddies looked at their friend, his wife and kids and back to each other and said, “Hell, no, it isn’t going to take your house. Let’s go fight it!”

The wind was blowing at 70 mph, flames were jumping wildly across the landscape. Propane tanks were whistling and exploding without warning throughout the area. Flames shot up through unseen wells.

These men, bonded by love, friendship and a deep connection to the land, gathered with plows, chainsaws, buckets, hacksaws. They descended on their friend’s property and began to fight to put the fire out. The firefighters told them they were on their own.

They worked relentlessly and courageously into the night. The tall burning eucalyptus trees across the property rained fire down on their heads. There was no power, no cell service and no lights other than the surreal and ethereal glow coming from other homes that were on fire in the area. One of them fell into a well and when he was rescued, got right back to work, despite injury. They plowed motes to create fire breaks, they cut away burning trees and shrubs and stumps that threated to spread and destroy the home. My client was in tennis shoes and shorts. The ground was so hot it melted the bottom of his shoes, but he kept on. They carried five-gallon buckets of water in each hand and repeatedly filled and poured water onto the fire. They all continued working for many hours straight until they successfully stopped the fire.

Relieved and exhausted, they returned to the friend’s house where they had all gathered earlier in safety. They didn’t get much rest, though, as they soon found out that the fire had restarted. They returned for another several hours of battling until at last, and for certain, they had saved the home.

My client was modest and reflective as he told me this story. He said none of them thought twice about fighting the fire even though none were trained to do so. They never even considered the very real possibility of being injured. He said their anger at the fire fueled them. They refused to let it beat them. They channeled their anger in the most productive way possible. They joined together: friends, neighbors, fellow human beings. And as crazy as the experience was, he said it was a powerful experience, one of purpose and connection. In addition to saving his friend’s house, throughout the week as others were fighting to save their homes, he met neighbors whom he hadn’t met before. The “old timers” who had lived in the country for years taught him ways to protect his home and property. The tragedy created new bonds and brought a profound sense of community and shared purpose.

In the last sixty days we have witnessed an unnerving number of heart-wrenching catastrophes and we have heard similar stories of people helping others selflessly and without hesitation. I wept when I read the account of the woman in Las Vegas who held the hand of another concert goer whom she did not know, as he died. He did not die alone, she would not let him.

What is it that causes us to forget that we are inextricably connected to one another and need each other for survival in this world? It is so ironic that bias, judgement and hatred, which I believe all have their genesis in fear, fall completely away when we are scared for real, scared for our lives. Why does it take extreme situations for us to remember our common humanity and recognize the vulnerability present in every single one of us?

If there is any good that can come out of the tragedies and madness that is so pervasive right now in the U.S. and the world, perhaps it is an awareness that we can no longer fool ourselves into thinking that we are safe and that we can manage as stand-alone islands, merely co-existing with others. We cannot survive alone. We need each other, not just our families, friends and neighbors. We need each other across the globe. And not just in times of crisis. And not just because of economic and other interdependencies. I believe there is a universal soul of humanity and that soul is in desperate need of connection and of ongoing care and feeding.

Let’s be like my client and his friends in their refusal to let their buddy’s house burn down. Let’s daily make a point of showing our respect and love for others and refuse to accept anything less. Let’s look for ways to be nice, thoughtful, united and caring, especially when we disagree about issues. Let’s put our smart phones away for a while and make a point of talking to each other and building relationships. Let’s start each day with a grateful heart and intentionally share that heart with others in any way that we can. And then, let’s take measure of how it changes us. I’m betting it will be for the better. How about you?

Copyright 2017 Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

Stop Bullies and Jerks At Work With This One Question

The bullies and jerks at work are people who are running scared. They attack and try to keep you off balance so that you don’t notice that they are off balance and insecure as all hell. They are wounded and they don’t understand it or why they feel the way they do.

It is not your job to fix them but it is your job to set your own boundaries (think of boundaries as STOP signs) and standards of how you choose to be treated and how you will treat others. It is also your job to respectfully call out those who do violate your boundaries and standards. But be careful here. Do it according to your own values and standards of civility. The jerks and bullies gain power and momentum when they trigger you and you respond just like them. You might feel entitled to lash out because people like this have shown complete disregard for your values. But all you do when you react instead of respond is let the jerks win the day.

The most effective leaders practice and exercise self-management. They know what triggers them and who triggers them (self-awareness) and they have well-developed ways to neutralize the trigger so that they can respond from a place of balance. (self-management) Their measured responses teach the bully and others present how things should be done.

Try this. Approach with genuine curiosity and the desire to inform and correct, not slam back.

Next time someone is being a jerk to you or someone else, respond right away (don’t wait or let it go on because it builds strength). Simply ask in a strong and balanced voice “Excuse me, but do you hear how hostile and degrading your words and tone of voice are right now?”

Wait for them to answer.

If they don’t answer, follow up with, “Seriously, I am genuinely asking you, can you hear it?”

Wait for them to answer. 

If the answer is “No” then say what is true for you. Something like, “Well you’re being harsh and using language like (insert language) that is insulting and it is impossible to hear anything constructive in your message. I would appreciate you taking that language and tone out of it and tell me what you are really trying to say.”

If they answer “Yes” then ask for the same thing. Something like, “Good. Please stop it. I am willing to hear what you have to say but I need you to say it with respect.”

The reason bullying and being a jerk at work is getting to be an epidemic is because those who act this way spur our anger or embarrassment or whatever and we go into defensive mode. The second this happens we have lost our power and influence and most important, our ability to stop the behavior.

Whoever has the strongest momentum wins. Shift the momentum to respect with your response and behavior and the jerks and bullies lose their power.

Sheila Madden is CEO of Madden Coaching & Consulting. If you like this blog and want to receive more like it, please sign up on the right of this page.
Copyright 2017, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

How To Lead With Valor In Turbulent Times

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Moral outrage and vehement, yet peaceful,  disagreement are necessary and legitimate responses to anyone or anything that goes against the morals and values of a civilized world. What we must be mindful of is not allowing our fight against injustice to mirror the energy and behavior of that with which we disagree. If we do, we inadvertently give what we don’t want MORE momentum.
The most effective and memorable leaders have risen powerfully against what is unjust while personally demonstrating  civility and respect for humanity. This is what shifts the momentum to what is good and just.
The characteristics of such leaders include being:
·        Principled vs self-righteous
·        Definitive vs equivocal
·        Passionate vs violent
The minute we fall into the same patterns of incivility in our protests  against the lack of civility, we have lost our power to influence change and we have inadvertently fueled the momentum of the very thing we despise.
“Hatred and fear blind us. We no longer see each other. We only see the faces of monsters, and that gives us the courage to destroy each other. Thich Nhat Hanh
Perhaps the greatest challenge of leadership is in managing our own emotional reactions to violations of human values. But when we can do so, we are able to  seize the opportunity and  respond intentionally with our thoughts, words and actions.  Leading by example for what we stand for and what we are unwilling to compromise on, even when provoked, has great power. It teaches and empowers others to do the same, and most important, it disempowers opposing forces.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller
Let us take inspiration from and stand with the great leaders, famous and not famous,  who have come before us and to those we see modeling leadership character today. The best way to show our gratitude for their brave actions that have made our world better is to do our part every day. It is not necessary to play on a huge stage. It is only necessary that we use our every word and action to demonstrate our  uncompromising devotion to a world where love prevails and where the universal operating system upon which we exist is based on the dignity of all humanity.
Copyright 2017, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.

5 Things Successful Leaders Know That Make Us Want To Follow Them

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The amazing Dr. Maya Angelou understood the profound difference between management (what is done) and leadership (how things are done). She expressed it with her unique heart-full clarity when she said: “People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The #1 Crippling Behavior That Will Cause You Failure In Leadership and Life

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The one crippling behavior that will cause you failure in leadership and in life, (and by life, I mean as a partner, a parent, a friend etc.) is the lack of empathy.

Empathy, which is a cornerstone of emotional intelligence, specifically social awareness, is often misunderstood as sharing other people’s emotions and concerns and caring deeply about them. That innate caring and concern is more representative of compassion.
Continue reading → The #1 Crippling Behavior That Will Cause You Failure In Leadership and Life

6 Things Courageous Leaders Never Fail To Do

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90% of the problems that leaders face, and their subsequent solutions, are ambiguous, according to a study done by Korn Ferry/Lominger. To deal with this ambiguity requires spaciousness in thinking and being. It is not about always having the answer and proving to be the smartest person in the room. Rather, it requires having humility and respect for the responsibility of creating an environment where people can learn to  think, innovate and problem solve successfully while navigating through the unknown.
Continue reading → 6 Things Courageous Leaders Never Fail To Do

Kindness: The Surprising X Factor For Successful Leaders

dalailama

“My Religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”    The Dalai Lama

Kindness is a leadership characteristic that will deliver financial and humanitarian returns beyond imagination. It helps us create work environments that are based on trust and that allow people to express and experience meaning and purpose at work.
Continue reading → Kindness: The Surprising X Factor For Successful Leaders

5 Ways Super Successful Leaders Operate

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“I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” Albert Einstein

Einstein believed that God’s thoughts were accessible and that he could hear them if he got himself into a certain state of mind, the mind of imagination. When he said that imagination is more important than knowledge, my guess is that he came to that insight after he experienced what many of us have experienced: Knowledge can only take us so far.
Continue reading → 5 Ways Super Successful Leaders Operate