Archive for category Career Sustainability

Adaptive Leadership: Giving Feedback you don’t want to, but need to.

Effective leadership (like coaching) is about creating awareness for others. Helping them see something that will create value for them. Feedback has become a term that most leaders and their subordinates have confused with “coaching”. Giving Feedback is not coaching. Feedback is an invaluable tool and skill that when used correctly can literally change the trajectory of a person or business. And it should always come with implicit or explicit permission and trust from the person receiving it.

Feedback is the means to an end and not the end itself. Just because you deliver some feedback or information to another doesn’t mean that action will follow. Great feedback can help the other person know how your perspective is grounded in observation and data. Data is not necessarily truth and that becomes a real part of where the breakdown in feedback begins. If you treat it as truth to be bestowed rather than information to inform the other person’s awareness then you have taken their power away right from the start.

It is important you have the relationship and the awareness of the goals and values of the other person in mind. This becomes very important because it establishes relevance and power for what you have to say. You are grounded in their aspirations and abilities. You know their dreams and can see how giving them a “snapshot” or reflection could advance their agenda first. The goal is to help them see what their choices are and not telling them what to make of it. They own the interpretation and decisions.

You must trust that people, when supported in a conversation, can make a decision. Trusting another person to take responsibility for their own decisions is not easily done by a majority of corporate managers and leaders. I know this to be true because I have years of experience working in this environment and working with adults in these systems. Managers and leaders must be adaptive in nature to the situation. Effective feedback in its truest value is relevant to situational and aspirational points in a person’s life and career moments.

When we don’t trust someone to find their own answers…what does that mean? It could mean a host of things on the surface. It may be that we don’t understand how powerful it is to let someone “stew in their own juices”. We don’t like to be present during internal conflict or struggle. Let’s get on with it and fix it is often our tactic. Make it better with a bandaid of something less than complete candor. What if the feedback is so difficult that the person might get mad, become emotional, or worse yet lose their sense of identity? What if it questions the very essence of how they see themselves in their work and life?

There might actually some very subtle issues going on with person giving the feedback that you may have not thought about. The following could be a partial list of questions for leaders to contemplate on before holding a conversation.

  • Are you so programmed and gripped by the idea that as a manager and leader that you should have “THE ANSWER”?
  • Is it possible that the outcome is something you may not have any control over?
  • Do you really have grounded information and perspective or is it really just hearsay and opinion based on feelings?
  • What is your real commitment to the “other” that you are about to give feedback to?
  • When you don’t hold the conversation and delay it, what are you waiting for and why are you conflicted?
  • Lastly, do you trust yourself and can you take of ownership the information and your problems?

Again, like in my last post this is all connected to reinforcing a culture of being responsible. You have the opportunity to be a role mode and ambassador for responsibility. When you step up and give feedback in a timely and grounded fashion you are being an Adaptive Leader. Adaptive Leadership doesn’t know what is on the other side of a feedback session and is open to the feedback you might receive in turn. You trust yourself to be who you need to be for that person and to stay anchored in your commitment to them. Regardless if you know the answers.

If you trust someone to be responsible they will act accordingly. It is well worth the risk to allow someone to take your expectations of them and own their pathway to the end result. A key take away on this post on Adaptive Leadership could stated simply by the following sentence. When we don’t trust ourselves we find it very difficult to trust others. Letting go of the result and living in the moment with the process requires a lot of adaptation and courage. It is a choice that is at the core of being an Adaptive Leader.

Vision and trusting the future to unfold for those you lead is not always easy. It is a different way of being for many who have people leadership responsibilities. Your intentions must be born from a clear sense of expectations not only of others, but of you most of all. When you don’t hold difficult or challenging conversations you must question your real commitment to the other person. Feedback really is not about them it is about you. Step in, let go, and let it flow.

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Adaptive Leaders: Decision making and Problem solving

There is one constant in leadership and that is decision making or problem solving.

  • Careers are built upon the timely and risky decisions a leader (or team of leaders) make.
  • Careers are destroyed or derailed based on timely and risky decisions a leader (or team of leaders) makes.
  • And to complicate things even further, the above statements are true for the decision that a leader doesn’t make.

Perspective to make optimal decisions comes through the process of co-creation of potential scenarios and a preferred future with other professionals and those in their circle of influence. If the decisions that leaders make are often critically important and risky with high stakes; how does a leader make better decisions? Often there isn’t all the time or forward indication desired to make these important choices in a timely fashion and minimize the risk of making the wrong choices. Get all the perspective you can is the key.

Perspective comes through co-creation of a scenario and future with other leaders and those in their circle of influence. This is where a leader needs a sounding board made up of people they can engage quickly and gain some necessary insight. It is times like these that enlisting a professional business coach can pay huge dividends. Co-creation is not only effective, but a very sustainable problem solving method.

Adaptive leaders are not perfect…they are agile. It is during challenging times in life and business that we are faced with some seemingly impossible decisions or choices. Will this decision jeopardize my business in the short or long term? Do I stay with this career or do I throw “caution to the wind” and do the riskier thing? The point I want to get a across is that some decisions are not going to easily be “killed” by an answer. You don’t know until you move on a commitment as to what the true end result will be.

Sometimes there is a “right or wrong” answer that seems clear…only to find out later…you would like a “do over”…a second chance. I like the metaphor of a submarine and when you are under cover below the surface. You only have so many chances to get it right (decisions are your torpedoes in this case).  You had better make sure to “raise the periscope” before firing your torpedoes and do your very best to take it all in before you fire off all your assets.

Learning from tough decisions and failure can be the catalyst for your next chapter of personal and professional success. Regardless of the cost, a leader must redeem some value even if it is a tough, costly lesson. Adaptive leaders will make a bad choice and learn from it. They are resilient and abundantly confident. Their confidence lies in their ability to learn and less about “getting it right”.

Leaders need time to have reflection. This seems so intuitive and yet I find many business owners and leaders are so busy with business that they don’t have time to think. If you could only get a 5 minutes a day it is worth it to just stop and think. Being successful is more about learning and executing and less about being the brightest and richest. Slow down to speed up…it just may make you faster…and a better decision maker.

Next post….here’s a teaser.

  • Culture in an organization is what it is because of leadership conversations. Or said another way the culture of an organization is nurtured or destroyed by the conversations of its leaders.

©2011 The Heartwood Group, LLC

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Are you a Sustainable Leader?

Are you going through people in your business like a parent goes through napkins wiping up a two year old with an ice cream cone on a hot day at the St. Louis Zoo? It’s usually the best that leave first, especially in today’s economic climate. Wondering where all the employee candidates for your business or department are going to come from in the foreseeable future? That is another problem that plagues unsustainable leadership. Their business doesn’t attract candidates to them. Sustainable leaders have a line up and list of people just waiting in the wings.

Sustainability is so diversely defined that we tend to think about just the environment and natural resources.  We should be thinking about sustainable human resources and capital as leaders and owners of a business. You can’t begin to have a “sustainable” business without creating a leadership environment that encourages and nourishes people in their development. Leaders that sustain their people attract others to work for them. It often is the “mystery” thing that people are seduced by, but just can’t describe. Its really simple and essentially costs your business nothing.

There is an epidemic in organizations of treating adults like children. Leaders have become increasingly afraid of letting people take risks and make mistakes. In addition to lack of risk taking there is an unwillingness to have meaningful conversations with others that really demonstrate your sincerity and caring as a leader. This unsustainable leadership shows up in putting off tough conversations or talking behind peoples back to others. It allows the unsustainable  disease of entitlement to poison a workforce. People begin to think they are owed something and make it okay not to deliver on numbers or take off from work early.

AND equally as bad unsustainable leaders justify everything as…I could have but…I wanted to but…IF ONLY…  When a SUSTAINABLE LEADER steps up you feel it, you sense it, and you live for it. We are longing for the support and challenge of a mature adult who has taken charge of their own future. Not a fiercely  independent leader, but a leader fiercely dependent on tapping into the collective human spirit and energy of those individuals around them. They build a narrative that is compelling and is embodied in the character of each and every person.

You see—sustainable leaders BUILD SUSTAINABLE leaders. I think God knew that the human spirit was the one thing that truly is sustainable and limitless. It is the energy that can recreate itself exponentially when it is unleashed by your leadership. Do it….I dare you today to be more than you ever dreamed possible as a leader. To be more human and authentic then ever before.

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