Here are 5 things that successful leaders know about leadership that make us want to follow them:
Continue reading → 5 Things Successful Leaders Know That Make Us Want To Follow Them
(photo from Onbeing.org)
We lost a great American legend this week. Mary Oliver, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning Poet died Thursday at age 83.
Mary Oliver made poetry accessible. She opened up the world of poetry to many of us by writing with exquisitely descriptive language about nature and life. She wrote in ways that make sense, touch hearts and ignite the imagination. Her work was both simple and mystical. Reading her poems you feel that you are right there with her on her walks through the woods and you experience, as she did so profoundly, the sanctity of this earth. And as she muses about life in her writing, as the reader it is as if you are having an intimate conversation with a very wise friend.
One of her very famous lines: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” is from her poem, A Summer Day. It is a study in mindfulness and a challenge to every reader to awaken to the preciousness of life and the need for intentionality in our endeavor to achieve a fully lived life.
A Summer Day
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
How to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Her Instructions for living:
1. Pay attention.
2. Be astonished.
3. Tell about it.
She did many readings but rarely any interviews. Krista Tippett, on the podcast OnBeing was able to interview her three years ago. It is a rare and beautiful conversation. You can read it here, or download it to listen. https://onbeing.org/programs/mary-oliver-listening-to-the-world/
Another of her famous poems is Wild Geese, which begins with:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”
In our busy lives we can often get caught up in the roles we play, be it leader, parent, sister et al and forget the person who we are. We can take people and life for granted and forget to appreciate the richness of every moment in which we are alive. Great poetry, certainly that of Mary Oliver, gives us the opportunity to slow down and transcend our human foibles in order to touch the very best in ourselves and in others.
To live a life with this type of presence, gratitude and wonder was exactly what Mary Oliver did and she blessed the world with fifty years of poetry to help us do the same.
“When Death Comes”:
“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.”
She most certainly did not simply visit this world. She has profoundly changed if for the better.
Thank you, blessed one. RIP .
Copyright 2019 Sheila Madden, Madden Coaching & Consulting
Is there anyone reading this who would not like to be calmer, more composed, influential and level headed, especially in difficult situations? Mindfulness can get you there.
Mindfulness is your ticket to sustained equanimity, happiness and success as a leader and a person.
What is it exactly?
At its most basic level, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention in a way that creates space for insight. Insight is critical for success because it is where transformative ideas, products and services get created. This is the bedrock of your organization’s success.
But mindfulness leads to more than these material results. It opens the pathway to wisdom, compassion and, dare I use the 4 letter “L” word, love. And hey, couldn’t we use more of this right now?
Why Does It Matter Now More Than Ever?
Here are just two reasons:
1. There are unlimited benefits of technology and social media but there are also staggering unintended outcomes that we are now beginning to understand more fully: Huge increases in narcissism, rapid declines in empathy and compassion, isolation, challenges in creating meaningful relationships, increased ADD and ADHD to name a few. Mindfulness practice is a powerful and fast acting antidote for these consequences and one that is available to us all for free. Leaders everywhere (formal and informal) are in a position to expand people’s awareness of this solution and of encouraging and facilitating the practice of mindfulness in the workplace where we spend so much of our time and lives.
2. We are in a time of domestic and world- wide turbulence of various kinds (political, social, economic, environmental) and this has many people emotionally triggered. When we’re triggered we are out of balance and reactive. Reactivity perpetuates animosity, fear and anxiety. If we don’t have a way of regaining and maintaining balance from the inside out, we can’t be part of the solutions for these challenges. In fact, we perpetuate them. Leaders don’t just lead strategy and execution. We set the tone emotionally for our organizations. Our teams will do as we do, act as we act and show up as we show up. Doing it mindfully is critical for setting the standards of leading with respect and integrity and compassion. This, as we have seen in countless research projects, will lead to better financial and organization performance. Subsequently, it also leads to levels of cooperation that allow for problem solving of the most profound kind for the world.
What can you do NOW?
We each have to find our pathway to mindfulness. Here are some options and resources to consider:
1. Yoga that is spiritually based not exercise based.
2. Mindful Meditation: Meditation is NOT about eliminating your thoughts. It is about catching yourself more and more quickly when you mind becomes a runaway train and returning to the moment. It is a direct retraining of the brain. The push notification tech world we are all living in has fractured our attention to the moment. Mindfulness fixes this.
a. Read or listen on YouTube to some of the great teachers to understand more (Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzberg, Jon Kabat- Zinn)
b. Practice the old-fashioned way: sit and breathe.
c. Use Meditation apps:
Insight Timer: my favorite. The largest free library of meditations (Over 10,000) It also has talks and music and a huge base of worldwide teachers
Headspace: Good for beginners with lots of guided meditations and classes
Calm: Good for experienced meditators and also provides breathing exercises, visualization and guided sleep stories.
3. Learn from great, successful leaders who practice mindfulness and compassionate leadership like Jeff Weiner, CEO LinkedIn:
4. Gratitude Practice. Gratitude brings us into the moment instantly. I am taking a Grateful Living e-Course with Grateful Living. Org They also have a ton of other resources including e-cards to spread gratitude.
5. Attend a Wisdom 2.0 Conference. This is a fabulous gathering the focus of which is how to live with technology without it swallowing us whole. Check it out. Coming to San Francisco March 2019
To lead means to have followers. Our great responsibility and privilege as leaders is to use our leadership intentionally for the good of our teams, organizations and for the world. Every single one of us can make a difference by leading by example and becoming more mindful, present and dedicated to unlocking the potential good within ourselves and others.
Copyright 2018, Sheila Madden. All Rights Reserved.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Do you know what kind of beauty takes your breath away? What beautiful thing or experience completely captures your imagination and makes you smile from the inside out, forget time and experience pure joy?
Leadership is a tough gig and for many it can become all-consuming. In our endeavor to be the best leaders we can be we can forget to take care of ourselves. The irony is that this one act of forgetfulness can lead to a slippery slope of exhaustion, frustration and even burnout and we end up becoming the monster leader we are trying not to be.
I write often about how leadership is other-focused, and it is, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t deliberately and regularly take time for nurturing ourselves. In fact, the more focused we are on others and unlocking their potential and that of our teams and organizations, the more we need to tend to ourselves first so that we are grounded and balanced and, thus, able to successfully tai chi our way through the inevitable leaderships challenges we face.
One fun way to do this is to take yourself on what Julia Cameron in the book The Artist Way calls an artist date. This is a personal field trip in search of beauty that feeds your soul, brings you joy and clears the cobwebs and clutter out of your head. The one rule is that it has to be real, not virtual. You have to leave your phone and computer behind and experience something physically.
It is quite extraordinary when you do. I have a set of Harvard Classics that are from 1917 that were my grandfather’s. He died before I was born so having his books is a way of connecting with him and reminding me that my love of literature has been passed down from generation to generation. I’ve read most of them but sometimes I just take one out of the book shelf to feel the soft leather cover and the delicate gold trimmed pages, to smell the scent of the years it holds and to let myself think about the genius held within each page…Austin, James, Dostoyevsky, Balzac.
So, whether it is nature, music, poetry, art, literature or any number of other things, seek it out at least once a week and experience the magic.
When you do, here are 5 ways the experience will make you a better leader:
Copyright 2018, Sheila Madden, Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved.
We live in a time when the standards of behavior expected in our leaders has been eroding, when our tolerance for human foible is more pronounced than our expectation for the execution of leadership duty with honor, intelligence and sensibility.
To lead is not easy and those who choose this path need to have a visceral understanding and respect for this fact. It requires one to have wisdom and insight in equal measure about themselves as well as about the issues they face and for those whom they serve. And make no mistake, whether elected, promoted or placed into leadership, the role is about service to others, not to oneself nor to one’s own ideas. This understanding and pledge of service is the first thing we must always expect from our leaders.
In a perfect world, leaders would hold themselves accountable to a set of admirable measures of behavior for themselves and others that bring out the best in humankind. But we do not live in a perfect world, nor are there any perfect people, so far as I know.
This means that we will falter. Leaders themselves will on occasion fail to set or meet high enough standards for themselves and in failing to do so will lower the bar for those around them and in particular, those younger and very impressionable future leaders who are always watching.
And equally so, those who follow will sometimes fail to hold their leaders accountable. We will become fatigued with having and holding our moral ground. We will get distracted by life, by death, by being human.
I believe that people are the most complex technology in the world and so in my coaching practice I like to keep tools and guidelines as simple as possible. With that in mind, here are 10 things we must always expect and require from our leaders:
Copyright 2018. Sheila Madden, CEO, Madden Coaching & Consulting. All Rights Reserved
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?
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:
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:
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:
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.
The two most expensive decisions a leader makes are hiring and firing. Guess which costs more?
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.