Scariest Part of Leadership

The scariest part of leadership is letting go of control and trusting others to do the right things and make the right decisions. The concept of control underpins hierarchical organizations – the person above controls the actions and decisions of the persons below. This structure has been used for millennia by military, religious, and commercial organizations. These people are managers; they “manage” persons and other resources.

But what if a leader, instead of insisting on detailed control, does something entirely different? What if a leader co-creates the vision and mission, and goals and objectives and strategies, with his or her people? What if a leader then turns them loose to be as great as they can be, and supports them as they try new ideas? What if a leader gives a prize annually for the best new idea that failed? What would that type of organization be like? Unstoppable. Because in that organization, each individual will feel supported and challenged to be all they can be. They will bring everything they’ve got to work every day. And they will collaborate with colleagues to create programs, products, and services that delight customers and increase profits.

So what’s so scary about this? The leader has to give up the illusion of control. It’s an illusion, because we can only truly control those things over which we have one more degree of freedom, which we obviously do not have with fellow humans. However, our society expects and even demands that leaders “be in control” of their company or department. So the leader needs to change from creating controls to insure proper behavior, to instead being effective at inspiring people and nurturing guiding principles.

This transition is a little like learning how to float and swim. When I was younger I was deathly afraid of the water; I would stand in a corner of the swimming pool and shiver. My parents insisted that I take swimming classes. I finally decided to quit fighting the water and trust it to hold me up. It was scary, but it worked! I got hooked on swimming and even earned my lifeguard certificate. Once a leader quits controlling the employees and trusts them to help the organization thrive, they get hooked on the results AND the process – the only question they ask is why they didn’t do this sooner.

I welcome your feedback

Gary Langenwalter

Stopping our Negative Self-Talk

I’ve been struggling the last couple of weeks with negative chatter in my head. I’ve always been a bit perfectionistic and have set-up quite the high bar which makes it fairly easy to not make the mark. When I receive constructive feedback, even though I desire it, it hits me very emotionally. Then I started trying to figure out where that came from.

My fear of abandonment at a very early age caused me to try to fit in at all costs. Be the funniest, the smartest, most accommodating & collaborative. At the same time I was always seeking external approval. What a setup! Trying to please all those people, all the time. Very exhausting. So, my value relied not on my own self-worth, but how others’ saw me. But now at least I’m more aware and working on myself. But it is a long-term journey.

So, what are some of the causes of this negative self-talk chatter? Four ways emotions are created:

1. Chemicals we consume directly affect our brain.

2. Hormones in the body – 30+ hormones that support the brain function.

3. Damages to the brain – due to an accident or impact.

4. Self-talk and pictures we make up in our brain – our internal dial.

Another interesting fact:

1. 65% to 75% of all emotions are created because of the self-talk and the mental images we create inside our minds.

How does this apply to businesses? Why as manager should I be concerned with my employees negative self-talk? Because you as the primary motivator and leader can directly impact some of this. Think about it. Employees, as any normal human being, desire feedback on how they’re doing? Could they do their jobs any better? And you as their manager, provide them with constructive feedback & hopefully, some effective coaching. Often because there’s not enough time in the day…and we don’t take adequate time to think about what we want to convey to our employees. But even taking 5 minutes before you have some feedback for someone will help you get a little clearer.

And most likely, you have your own issues with negative self-talk. So, what better way to address this issue by working on yourself first. So, following are some suggestions to begin the process:

1. Begin by watching and paying attention to you internal dialogue and negative and positive dial.

2. Become aware of your “negative” thinking pattern or patterns.

3. When you start thinking negative thoughts check in with yourself and try to understand why you are thinking this way – take time to be in the moment of what is happening around you that is triggering this negative self-talk or chatter.

4. Take steps to clear the chatter – talk to someone, write it down in a personal journal, stop what you are doing at that moment and start something new, fresh, positive, etc.

Good luck with staying on the positive path!

Greg Sievers

Getting Buy-In

My favorite definition of diplomacy: “the art of letting someone else have your way.” For most of us, that’s a necessary skill in our work and in our personal lives. The real art, however, is in having someone else WANT TO do something – that’s buy-in.

Telling the boss what to do qualifies as a CLM (Career Limiting Move). Ditto for our peers – they can derail our careers if they choose. And although it’s easy to tell the people who report to us what to do, getting their buy-in will improve their performance (and thereby help our careers as well).

The art of achieving buy-in rests in asking the question from the other person’s viewpoint – What’s In It For Me? Why should they want to do what I want them to? Answering that question requires me to put myself in their shoes, to understand what they want, and then to be willing to use my resources to help them achieve their goals.

Buy-in can work with almost anybody, anywhere, and any time. With subordinates, peers, and bosses. It works best, however, when the other party is also interested in creating a win/win.

Buy-in is invitational. It deepens relationship, fosters a spirit of co-creating, demonstrates power sharing. It directly contrasts to the typical power-over, command-and-control behavior that permeates so many of our organizations. It is one small, but powerful, step toward a healthier organization.

Gary Langenwalter

Work for Free?

If you stopped paying your employees, how many would continue to work for you?

Yes, I know that they appreciate being paid, and most do not have the luxury of working for no pay. But let’s ignore that for a moment, and ask the question again: If you were not able to pay your employees, what would you do in order to attract and retain volunteers to keep your organization going?

Peter Drucker has said that not-for-profit organizations are the leading edge of leadership, because leaders in those organizations have to lead people much more effectively, since a large part of their workforce is volunteer. Volunteers work for an organization because they are attracted to the vision and mission and purpose, and because they are treated with respect.

To be truly revolutionary, you could ask your employees why they work for you. Hint: most people do not work primarily for the money. Most people could find another job making roughly the same income. Why do they stay with you?

And then ask them what they would like to see changed to make their work experience more meaningful.

However, be aware that the mere act of asking these questions raises expectations on the part of the employees, so before you ask them, you’ll need to be committed to do something with their answers.

GloryBee, in Eugene, has a formal process of asking each employee a series of questions like this (outside of the performance review). The dialogue between employee and supervisor has 9 questions, each of which is answered by the employee and the supervisor. The first question is, “What made you choose GloryBee as your employer?” The form is posted in the Ideas section of our website.

If you stopped paying your employees, how many would continue to work for you?

Gary Langenwalter

Secret of Employee Engagement

Many organizations are trying to improve employee engagement. Unfortunately, almost all of them are starting with an invalid assumption. They try to engage employees through a variety of methods, but their underlying assumption is that employees should be passionate about helping the organization achieve its goals. Period. As if achieving the organization’s goals is actually the primary passion of each employee. If they were to try to sell their products and services to the customers using the same mentality, they would fail.

What actually works is this: have a representative group of people from all levels and functions of the organization jointly create a culture that values the employees’ passion and purpose as well as the organization’s mission and goals. To be really radical, the organization could be open to revising its vision and mission to integrate the passion and purpose of its employees into its products and services. Such an organization does not have to worry about “motivating” its employees, or “engaging” its employees. They will be fully engaged and powerfully motivated, because the organization reflects their own personal values.

What’s going on in your organization that’s causing engagement?  What’s going on that causes disengagement?  I’d love to hear from you.

Gary Langenwalter, Managing Partner

Portland Consulting Group