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Category Archive: CEO Mindset

Play, Minecraft and Better Leadership

play, minecraft, leadershipWhile I have written a lot about how the CEO Mindset supports better management of stress and relationships with others, the inclusion of play has been neglected. Certainly downtime can include meditation and breathing, reading a good book or chatting with friends and family. And yet, play is an underrated way of refreshing yourself and even honing skills you can use in your leadership and management.

Lessons from Minecraft

My kids have been playing Minecraft for some time now and they talked me into playing with them. While I have not built anything  even close to elaborate, I am enjoying playing with my kids as well as creating in my own worlds. If you are not familiar with Minecraft, it is a sandbox game in which you can create your own structures and even worlds by playing by yourself or with others. You use resources and tools to do everything from building a simple house, farming, exploring, magic and, in certain modes, fight monsters. It gets as sophisticated as your imagination allows.

The one thing I have discovered in every Minecraft world that I have played is that preparation is everything, particularly in Survival mode (in Survival mode, you have to find or craft what you need or want and monsters are an ever-present danger). Here are some of the things I’ve noticed while playing the game:

  • Timing- With only 10 minutes of daytime, you have to think about what you are going to do and when. Nighttime is dark, even without the monsters on. Like time boxing your business quarter’s objectives, you have to think about your overall strategies and goals and act accordingly.
  • The unexpected- It is a very dynamic game with all sort of things moving in the background. Sometimes the unexpected is hazardous while other times it is serendipitous. Like the business environment, you have to remain alert for both opportunities and risks.
  • Limitations- Minecraft works in a system of blocks so you have to build things in squares and rectangles. There are also the moments when you don’t have enough of a particular item. Small to mid-sized businesses have to think around limitations such as limited capital and other resources frequently.
  • Awareness of inventory– Knowing what supplies and tools you have makes building and exploring more manageable. It also supports the planning process of when to go get more of a particular resource or craft new tools. This aspect is applicable to your business, even if you are leading a business that offers services.
  •  Imagination- In Minecraft, you start in a brand-new world and you can make it into anything. Perhaps you want to build a simple farm or an elaborate palace. Either way, it starts with a vision of what your world will ultimately be. Even in established businesses, there is a moment when it is time to renew or change direction. The vision in your strategic plan starts in your imagination.

Simply put, Minecraft can be another way to practice skills you use in your business without the responsibility that comes with leading a business.

Minecraft and beyond

It is easy to underestimate how important play is to our ability to lead others. On the face of it, you might think that it is a waste of time. It does not make money nor does it get mundane tasks done. It does not even seem terribly inspiring. However recent trends and research are highlighting that adults need to engage in plain old fun. There are concerns that we are creating more emotional difficulties or handicapping innovation by limiting how much our children and adults play. You may have even heard of the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” We sharpen our mindsets and abilities while having fun. If we go beyond Minecraft and other video games, we really see that play (sports, recreational activities, hobbies, etc) is a cornerstone to how leaders manage their power stress, understand their world, test themselves and let their imaginations run wild.

The business environment offers us many challenges. Building our ability to be flexible, creative and healthy is crucial to effective leadership.  Play, whether is it Minecraft or something else, is another valid way to nourish the CEO Mindset and lead our organizations better.

 What have you learned from Minecraft?

What kind of play do you engage in?

 

 

 

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Beware the Mid-Year Urge To Revamp Your Strategic Plan

Leaders Evaluate Idea FirstHard to believe we are looking at the second half of 2015! That means it is time to review your strategic plan and your business plan.

Not a multi-day, multi-hour exercise

The mid-year review is not like the process you go through when you are setting up your strategic plan for the year. In the yearly planning process, you are looking at a longer horizon since it includes where you are going to be in three to five years. Within the overall strategic plan, there is a section for the year-long goals and aspirations. This is the part that you are reviewing in the mid-year meeting. The information from the living business plan lets you know if everything is on target.

Temptation lurks here

 Part of the role of CEO is to keep an eye out for opportunities. It is likely that as you go forward with your growth plan, you spot possibilities. The other side of this is when targets are not being met and it seems as if the plan is not working. One temptation is to chase the possibilities. The other temptation is to ditch the plan and make a new one.

Thinking shortcuts could interfere with effective decision making

It cannot be said enough…do your homework. We have a tendency to seek out information that corresponds with our thinking. While it does work in our favor because we can filter through the noise and get the data we need. It can also work against us when we allow ourselves to discount information because it does not fit in with our beliefs.

There are a few ways you can circumvent this so you and your team can make a grounded decision:

    • Involve your team. Have someone else do the research on your great idea. Another set of eyes, particularly from one of your team members, is a good way to sift through your own biases and hear what is possible and probable.
    • Do a quick pros and cons list. This can be a useful way to find out what you know and don’t know. It highlights if you have enough capital, in-house expertise and resources. By keeping it quick, it supports telling yourself the truth and what needs more research.
    • Know what your siren’s call sounds like.We all have areas that get us excited. It might be working internationally, noticing market trends, certain subjects that are our expertise or something else that you would love to do more of. Like Odysseus, tie yourself to your mast by reminding yourself that there is an agreed-upon plan in place. This also prevents you  from undermining your team.
    • Use a coach or mentor. Conversations with either a coach or mentor can help you hear your thinking. Plus you get the added bonus of questions that provoke deeper thinking.

Most small to mid-sized businesses do not have the level of capital, talent or other resources to go off the plan without running the risk of harming or even killing themselves. The idea may end up having merit and fits with the overall strategic plan. On the other hand, it might be simply the heat of the moment and adding some logic to the decision process illuminates this.

Creativity and science

Leaders who are creative foster the same in their organizations. It is a bit like the scientific process. Your idea is like a hypothesis. The testing part is much like running a scientific experiment. The four suggestions above show if the idea is possible and fits in with the overall direction of the company. The idea is to not stop seeking out new possibilities or even making necessary adjustments. It is simply to keep the temptation of revamping the year-long strategic plan simply based on a gut response.

*Image from Fotolia by densismagilov

 

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CEO Mindset-Could You Kill Your Darlings?

strategic sacrifice, business, CEO MindsetSmall businesses are often touted as being nimble or agile in their response to market and industry changes. And this is true to an extent as long as the decision maker(s) are willing to manage their uncertainty and be honest with themselves.  For many leaders and their teams, it means asking difficult questions and risking conflict.

*Jane and the darlings

One of my clients (we’ll call her Jane although that is not her real name) has recently taken on the role of CEO in her family’s manufacturing company. The company is currently experiencing a slowdown despite having products that sell well. Jane wants to steer the company away from the piecemeal approach they have taken with e-commerce and target specific customer segments that are more likely to be profitable and play to the company’s current strengths.  In a recent team meeting, the response was mixed. On one hand, the company could use the revenue. On the other hand, the current e-commerce strategy  does not produce predictable sales. It  ties up energy and resources that could be devoted to marketing to more specific customer segments who are more likely to create sustainable revenues. And yet…there is an emotional attachment to this e-commerce approach.

But that is not all. Part of the team has been invested in landing a major distributor in their industry. The big win will make a huge difference in the bottom line. There has been some connection made but nothing concrete. It is so tantalizing to continue to approach this big distributor.

Maybe the darlings have to go

Jane’s dilemma is guiding the team to take a hard look at the current ecommerce strategy and the not-quite relationship with the big distributor and ask if it is really worth the small percentage of income it produces or the hope of income. It is not the information. In black and white, it is clear that focusing only on specific target customer segments will position the company better and increase revenues. The team has to decide whether sacrificing either the ecommerce part of the business, letting go of the uncertain relationship with the big distributor or both are the best strategic choices.

In John R. Bell’s book, Do Less, Better: The Power of Strategic Sacrifice In a Complex World, he writes about making short-term strategic sacrifices to set the stage for long-term growth and sustainability. In fact, he writes about how he had to eliminate a line of products (a money-making one, in fact!) to simplify and focus his company’s growth during a turnaround. A gutsy move that paid off!  While logically one might see how a particular course of action is not producing a certain result, there is still the emotional side with which to contend. The catch here is that making a gutsy move is one choice and could be the best choice but it is also the scariest and most uncertain. This emotional stuff is where most of us get stuck.

3 Common obstacles that prevent us from strategic sacrifices

We have certain cognitive biases that create blinders and they are fueled by emotions. You may have even noticed them in yourself and called them mental blocks. They are the same thing. We experience a moment when we simply cannot conceive of another way.

  • Sunk cost fallacy. I’ve written about this one before but it has a way of convincing us to continue a product line or a course of action simply because we have invested so much time, money and/or energy. There is a sense that “I gotta see this through” even when it is obviously unsustainable.
  • Don’t want to get it wrong. Also known as loss aversion. We actually perceive loss in similar ways to how we perceive physical pain. It is much more difficult to let go of something that is almost working. It is even more difficult to let go of something that is working. Pruning away certain revenue lines might feel painfully risky.
  • Overconfidence.   You may have too much faith in yourself and/or your team so you follow the path that nothing much has to change and it is just a hiccup. Simply put,  you (or your team) disregard new information because it does fit your mindset. Another client of mine has a tendency to tell me that he has led his company through turbulent times before and balks when I suggest that there are different circumstances in the current situation that need to be taken into account.

It is not that people want to make bad or shortsighted decisions. When it comes to getting rid of something you are emotionally invested in, it is tricky to circumvent our habitual thinking.

Do you kill your darlings or hold onto them?

Your emotions are going to play a role in how you choose whether a product line or service is terminated even if it is clearly time to stop and determine what still fits the business goals and the current vision. There may be products or services that were the lifeblood for the company in the early days or they may have taken so much energy, time and resources that you want  them to pay you back.  They could be the pet project of someone high up in the company. It may even simply be inertia that keeps certain products or services in place. Think of those as a kind of “we’ve always had them and people still buy them.” All of these become your darlings over time. Another thing that keeps people  holding onto their darlings is the feeling that any revenue is better than no revenue during turbulent times.

Some questions to get you started in evaluating your darlings

The most natural time to have these conversations is during your quarterly reviews. You are already evaluating the progress of the business goals. Another time that makes sense is when you are beginning a transition of some kind.

  • What are the darlings in our products and services?
  • How much does each one contribute to current business goals?
  • Why are we still offering them?
  • If we didn’t have them, what would the company be offering instead?
  • What emotions and thoughts do you notice when you ask these questions?
  • What actions do we need to take now?

The discussion these questions should prompt will not be comfortable. Remember we put an emotional investment into these particular products and services. Our fears of change, failure, success, consequences and punishment as well as potentially disappointing or angering others are triggered when we start to critically think about the darlings. However, without even asking the questions, you may be stifling innovation and inviting stagnation. Sure, there is a risk of alienating someone or even choosing the wrong action. Leaders who use the CEO Mindset tolerate the discomfort and consciously choose what stays and what goes.

What would you do if you were Jane and her team?

How have you examined your darlings? What was the result?

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Feel Like You Have No Time? Try These 6 Tactics

Managing your time when your day is filled with meetings, work on specific projects, business development and the inevitable interruptions is one of  the biggest challenges my clients report. All of  the leaders I coach are the CEO-type person in their small to mid-sized company so the demands on their time and energy are simply part of the day-to-Task Management, organization, leadersday experience. They often discover that it is not really about managing their time but more about managing the tasks.

When everything is important, where do you begin?

Leading a company comes with certain responsibilities. It is no secret that time is limited and there is plenty to do. Instead of managing your time, think about managing your tasks. It is a good time to use the CEO Mindset© and note what are true priorities, opportunities to delegate and what needs to be postponed no matter how exciting it seems at the time.

Living example

Matt (not his real name) is the president of his small company. They do a combination of research for private companies and governmental agencies plus develop products from their research. On any given day, Matt could be contributing his technical expertise, meeting with potential investors, overseeing the project managers, following up with the manufacturing of prototypes, meeting with customers or dealing with the administrative parts of small company. The list goes on and on.

One of Matt’s challenges is that he is not a natural checklist kind of guy. He certainly is aware that organizing his time makes a difference to his direct reports and to the financial growth of the business. A part of our coaching has been to find his best method that balance his natural tendencies with getting his work done.

Does Matt’s story sound familiar?

The particulars may vary from one leader to another but the experience is still often reported. It is easy for everything to feel important. There are many important tasks that need to be done. So you could fill your time with trying to do them all. Or you could do something more organized and focused. Productivity is less about time and more about working smart.

  • The Pomodoro Method- This is a simple method of focusing on a task needs only one piece of equipment…a timer. Set your timer for 20-25 minutes and simply focus on one task or one part of task. When the timer sounds, you end there or set the timer for another 20-25 minutes and resume your task. Great for working around those interruptions and meetings!
  • Be absolutely strict with setting priority tasks- Not everything has to be done in one week nor even in the current month. Identify what is truly a high priority task and focus your plan on that. You can follow this by moving other items up the priority list as tasks are completed.
  • Delegate, delegate, delegate- This cannot be said enough to leaders of small to mid-sized businesses (I’ve written about this before). You have been a hands-on person because you had to be but your company needs something different now. Identify which tasks you must do or are best suited for and give the rest to the appropriate team or staff member. Take it from one of my clients, you don’t have to be only person who knows where to find the Ice-Melt.
  • Apps on your smartphone, tablet or laptop- There are some great tools out there like Trello, Asana or EverNote that provide ways to track your tasks and tasks assigned to others.
  • Use a sticky note with 3-5 daily (or even weekly) tasks- Sometimes handwriting your list is a more effective reminder than an app. The downside to using an app is that it can be out of sight, out of mind. Using a sticky note to your laptop or some other prominent place is a visual reminder and the act of writing can be a memory aid as well.
  • Use a task log like the CEO Mindset© Task Management Log- Kudos to Matt for inspiring this tool! It is also a handwritten way to keep yourself on task. This month-long organizer enables the user to keep track of both the tasks you are responsible for and any tasks assigned to a member of your team or staff. To use the log, you write in all of the tasks you are organizing. Then you note who is designated to complete the task, if you have to provide an accountability check in and check if it is due this week, next week or by the end of the month. There is a final category which denotes when the task is completed. Post this somewhere highly visible so it is a visual reminder. You can download a version of the CEO Mindset Task Management Log here.

As with all of the tools, avoid biting off more than you can actually manage. They are all about setting priorities. When everything is important, you must identify which things are more important than others. Another caveat is the number of tasks you assign yourself. Just this week, Matt identified 8 things on his weekly list. When I asked him about them, he explained that four of them were simple progress updates. Most of the time ( and most of us) manage three to five priority tasks per week. Whenever possible, set up tasks into chunks of work so you can easily work on something and walk away when necessary.

Less about time management and more about task management

This cannot be said enough. Choose a tool that makes sense to you (modify it if it helps) and make it a practice. Matt has discovered that he is much more focused and clear about what tasks he must do. He has also discovered more clarity about what can be delegated. Another plus for Matt is that it has strengthened his ability to see what is on the short term horizon so deadlines not surprise him. Growing a small to mid-sized business takes concentration and effective decision making. Using a tool that supports better task management will support you staying fresh, alert and organized.

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5 Reasons Delegation Is So Hard For Leaders

business owners, leaders, difficulty with delegationYou have probably thought about delegating some of your work to others. Maybe you have had these thoughts:

“I don’t time to train someone to do this right now.”

“It would be quicker if I did it.”

“I’ll just have to fix what he did later.”

“But they won’t do it like me.”

Sound familiar? In my last post, I asked if you were developing the right skills. Since that post, people have mentioned how challenging they find delegation. Or course, the first step is to notice that you are trying to do too much or even doing things that are simply not necessary for you.

The hurdle for many a business owner

For business owners and executives, one of the key realizations is that there are different kinds of demands on your attention and time as the business grows in revenue and sophistication. And it is hard to know what to delegate, when to delegate and to whom. This difficulty stems from our thinking and feelings about our identity, fairness, perception and a host of other things. Yet, as Gene Marks points out in his post, not delegating creates a handicap for both you and your organization.

Take a moment to think about the role of a CEO

No matter what your title actually is, you are doing the job of a CEO. Here are the basic responsibilities:

  • Sets the vision and tone of what “X Company” is all about
  • Designs and explains the strategy of how the business will develop and grow over time
  • Seeks out the talent to make the above happen
  • Keeps everyone accountable to the stated business goals Makes sure that revenues (and even profits) are healthy

Essentially, your job is to lead and manage. When you have been one of the primary people responsible for the products or services and looking after the day-to-day operations, the adjustment to a different role is not necessarily clean or clear. Yet, without delegating mindfully, it is much more challenging to be adept at leading, managing and thinking ahead to how the company can grow and respond to the marketplace.

Reasons delegation is so hard for leaders

That’s all well and good, you might say. We know that delegating certain aspects of our work is key to becoming more successful. But that is our rational side talking and…well, that isn’t always running the show. If we look at the statements I wrote in the beginning of this post, what is underneath all that? Beliefs that may have been true at one point or were never true but have sunk into the backs of our  minds and influencing our decisions.

  • Being busy means I’m doing work– This belief confuses the idea that serving your customers or creating the product or service is the only way you can justify your existence. You’re not shirking; simply shifting gears to do other tasks that are important to the business goals.
  • Asking for help or expertise is a sign of weakness– First off, it is humanly impossible to know everything. Secondly, you hired talented people to be your team and/or staff. Leverage their capabilities.
  • Need/Desire for control- This isn’t always articulated clearly. However, most business owners/ executives have a long history of making things happen with their own skill and determination. A company will not be successful if the leader micromanages how things get done. Providing planned accountability is a better way to allay your own anxiety and support the work.
  • Lack of faith/trust- This is more common with leaders new to their positions. It is understandable that you want to minimize the risk of having someone else do the work. However, your team/staff will pick up the message that you don’t believe they are good enough. Take the time to train and mentor your team so they understand both the culture and brand of your business.
  • Past experience– It may seem disconnected but our childhood experiences can often influence our leadership and work styles. It is not so uncommon to carry a belief that you are responsible because you were the eldest child, you need to contain things because you had an alcoholic parent or that you need to prove you are good enough. These things can influence how we interact, trust and assign responsibilities to others.

 These are five reasons why delegation is so challenging and there are more. The main thing here is to ask yourself what is driving your reluctance to delegate.

Have a conversation with yourself

Listening to your thoughts and feelings can give you information about whether you are listening your irrational side. If it is one of the reasons listed above, get as explicit as possible with your belief. How true is it? Why is it true? It may even be worth having a conversation with a mentor or a coach. The best CEOs know self-awareness prevents a lot of unnecessary stress. Becoming clear with why delegation feels so difficult supports your growth as leader and manager.

Aside from weaknesses in a team member’s skill set, what are other reasons why business owners/ executives struggle with delegation?

Related posts:

5 Tips For Better Delegation

Managing the Small Business Owner: Control, Influence and Limitations

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

 

 Image: ©Lucien_3D/Fotolia

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CEO Mindset: Are You Developing the Right Skills?

How do business owners/ executives encourage or even inspire their team without being a good model? According to a recent survey conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, only 9% of their executive respondents chose “practices self-development” as their primary skill a leader needs. Becoming CEO of your small organization is a process of learning and developing as you understand your changing role, the roles of your team members and how the business works relies heavily on your ability to develop yourself. New challenges crop up all the time. Self-development is happening, one way or another.

James* (not his real name) is typical of many small business leaders. He was telling me in a coaching session that he was having difficulty moving out of his typical “I’m one of the team” style to one where he is out of the office meeting potential partners, looking at possible acquisitions and prospective higher level customers. He is excited about where the company is going but he is feeling a little strange supporting his team as they become the safety net for current customers and day-to-day operations. James, like a lot of blossoming CEOs, is discovering that his communications skills need some enhancing so his focus is on identifying his expectations, how he influences the corporate culture through his actions and words and making sure his messages are clear.

Is self-development misunderstood?

You may have read that meditation is the latest leadership and management “thing.” It is easy to imagine that self-development is only about deepening your self-understanding through some sort of esoteric process. However, it is something you can do on a daily basis that goes beyond the latest fad or even deep self-exploration. The kinds of skills needed by business owners/ executives often depends on the company’s growth plan. Like many of my clients, James is learning how to delegate some of his responsibilities to particular team members. To accomplish this, he had to identify his beliefs about where he fits into his organization, how he trusts his team and determining the strengths and weaknesses of his team and staff. This is all self-development (and he is learning quite a lot about himself along the way).

Four questions for self-development

Whether you are the sort of person who seeks out self-understanding on a deep level or not, there are probably skills that you would like to build up so you can be the best leader of your company. Frequently, the specific areas that a business owner/ executive targets for improvement are tied into the business goals. That saying from Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you won’t get you there” is a good reminder that each stage of your company will teach and enlighten you. Simply put, old behaviors don’t always get the same results and can even lead to failure. These four questions are a good conversation to have with yourself:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Why am I going there?
  • Who is going with me?

Becoming a leader is an evolutionary process. Discovering how your thinking and feeling grows and adapts over time makes it easier to notice which skills need attention. This is all part of the CEO Mindset.

Are you developing the right skills?

Embracing the role of CEO is often one of accepting that you are a steward. Sure, you might be a key part of business development or a sponsor of a potentially innovative product. But your role is more the Shaper than the  Actor.  The “right” skill for you may be accepting the role of steward and dropping role of  technical expert or it could be speaking less and listening more. The “right” skill may be improving your presentation skills so you can pitch effectively to investors or a more sophisticated customer. Identifying and learning the skills you need for the next stage of your business will support your team and staff staying focused on the business goals and doing what they do best.

Related posts: What Stories Do You Tell Yourself While Growing Your Business?

Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

 

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CEO Mindset: Be the Goose, Be a Better Leader

empathy, leaderWhat does being a goose have to do with being a great leader? Well, it starts with a story…

The Farmer and the Goose

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who had a flock of geese. One day a fox came into the yard where the geese lived and tried to snatch a goose. There was a terrible flurry of wings and beaks pecking at the fox. Eventually the fox was driven off but one goose was left with a broken wing. The farmer saw all of this and went to help the goose. But the goose kept hissing and running away from the farmer. After chasing the goose around and not catching it, the farmer asked, “how can I be the goose?”

Concerns and assumptions may interfere

There are times we avoid asking certain questions like “how can I be the goose?” because we think it is not becoming or appropriate. After all, generally being a goose is associated with foolishness. Also there are times when we feel disappointed in or angry with a team (or staff person’s) member’s behavior.  But at the same time, who will get things running smoothly again? Ultimately, it is our model that shows others what is expected. Asking ourselves to examine more closely why we are avoiding the difficult situation or people can highlight what concerns and assumptions are going on in our heads.

Great leaders are empathic

There is some confusion as to how an empathic leader behaves. Empathy is not sympathy or pity. It does not imply or state agreement. Empathy is putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and understanding his/her perspective. You do not even have to agree but acknowledging the other person can give you insight so you can identify the actual problem (which can be very different from what is being reported), if your vision and expectations are clearly communicated or the strengths and weaknesses of your team. While people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are lionized for being harsh, driven leaders, the statistics of disengaged workers (63% of workers worldwide are not engaged) is a wake up call for leaders in small and large companies. In a 2014 survey conducted by Lee Hecht Harrison, it was reported that 58% of managers fail to show understanding towards their employees.  And how many anecdotes have you heard about people enjoying their work but unable to tolerate the organizational culture?

How to “do” empathy?

As Henry Ford  once said, “The secret of success – if there is one – is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes, and to consider things from his or her point of view as well as your own. ” It is both easy and hard to do.

  • Quiet yourself- If you have a chatterbox in your head, you will remain focused on your opinions, assessments and thoughts.
  • Listen actively- Ask questions, reflect back what you heard, summarize both agreement and disagreement and request suggestions for resolving the issue

  • Watch the nonverbal cues- Eye contact, tone of voice, speed of speech, posture and choice of words are all hallmarks of how engaged the person is in a conversation. If something feels off, even if you cannot identify what, acknowledge the disconnect by stating, “I think I missed something here” or asking “do you have any additional concerns?”.
  • Lend a hand- Asking how you can help get a task done opens the door for conversation. Your team member may say he/she does not need the help but your offer lets them know you noticed.
  • Practice, practice, practice- Even the most empathic of us have off days or get distracted by the enormous amount of work and responsibility. If you are new to expressing empathy in a leadership role, it might feel awkward. No matter your experience level or stress level, empathy is improved with use.

“How can I be the goose?”

Asking the question is the start of empathy. When you see a staff member struggling, you are like the farmer wanting to help the goose with the broken wing. As you go along, you may notice that some people respond well to questions about how the work is going while others may need to hear you tell them to take a break and refresh themselves. Empathy gives you a better sense of how your small business is functioning and lets your team (and staff) know you want them to be well and perform well.

 Related posts:

    How To Be the Sun When Leading Change

    Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships With Self and Others

    Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

 

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CEO Mindset: Are You Contagious?

CEO Mindset, emotional contagion, neuroscience, Imagine you start your day in a terrific mood. The birds are singing, the sun is shining and you are looking forward to today’s client meetings. Then, you meet the office curmudgeon on the way in and have a conversation. Suddenly, the day isn’t quite so wonderful or your work so engaging. What happened?

 You caught the bad mood

Yes, seriously. People have this ability to both sense and take on another person’s mood and it is called emotional contagion. It can work both positively and negatively. While this may seem a bit on the strange side, consider this. Humans are social animals so we have the ability to read both verbal and nonverbal cues. This includes empathy and other aspects of social connectedness. Research since the 1700’s has noted that people will unconsciously adopt the posture, tone of voice, facial expressions and other outward signs of emotions. It seems that the nonverbal cues, including micro-expressions, are the most powerful and we will mimic or synchronize ourselves to match another person.

Recent neuroscience research

Curiously, we have a section of our brain called the insular cortex (which is in the cerebral cortex which is located in the front of your brain) which is thought to be responsible for perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning and interpersonal connectedness.  Since our brains work so quickly, we are often unaware of how well we can both sense and blend ourselves in relation to another person’s behavior. Essentially, humans are wired to note both subtle and overt clues to begin, maintain and grow our social connectedness.

What does this mean for business owners and executives?

If you are a business owner and/or an executive, you are in a position of authority. Leaders create, by words and actions, the value system and preferred behaviors. With this authority, your staff and/or team watch you more. There is a much greater likelihood that you can infect your company with your moods. This can put you at odds for creating that warm and human-centered organization you imagine.

Try an experiment…for about one week, stop yourself 3 times every day and ask yourself,

  • What do I feel?
  • What am I doing?
  • How is my team/staff acting right now?
  • How is my team’s behavior reflecting my mood(s)?

Supporting your CEO Mindset

Noticing your own emotional state will help you determine if you are contagious in a positive or negative way. And reinforce your emotional and social intelligences. Using the CEO Mindset is more than understanding your role in your organization. It also facilitates how you understand the effect you have on your staff/team.

Are you contagious? And is it more positive or negative?

Related posts: Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightenment

                         Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

                         Using the CEO Mindset For Smarter Communication

 

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6 Ways SME Leader’s Role Changes When Growing Internationally

SME owner, leader, growing internationally, changeRemember what it was like when you first opened your business? You had a plan and goals. There was excitement and uncertainty. Your role then was probably very hands-on with everything. And here you are today. Maybe you have always had your eye on expanding internationally. Quite a few SME owners and executives of Irish based businesses tell me about the challenge of growing within Ireland and seeing the limits of strictly focusing on this national market. Thus, they look for markets in Europe, the UK or the US. But there is more than finding your target client in a new market. There are some ways that a leader’s role changes that may be unexpected, even when expanding internationally was the plan all along.

Most common role change for small to mid-sized leaders

  • Adventure4- Before any growth, there is some predictability to leading your company in its current size. Notice the thrill when you’re planning and implementing steps to grow your small to mid-sized business in another country
  • Delegator- This is essential to being able to focus on all the details needed to grow in a new market. It includes knowing what you are best at, the person(s) on your team with specific skills and developing trust in letting your team members do their jobs.
  • Communicator- With all the travel and meetings involved in growing your business in another country, it is important to clearly set your expectations for both the home office and the foreign office. Plus, regular check ins support your availability for our team’s questions, timely decisions and general relationship maintenance.
  • Newbie (Exposed to different ways to do business)- Meetings, schedules, meals, entertainment and communicating via email or phone can have minor to major differences. This is an opportunity to learn something that makes you better as leader and manager of your organization.
  • Start up status (2nd time around)- Go from being established with a reputation, credit and stability to start up status could make you feel off balance or frustrated.
  • Missing the familiar- Being in a different country can be both exciting and foreign. There are different smells, flavors, sights, sounds and behaviors.  It is not uncommon to feel homesick at times. Learn where to find food and expatriates to bridge the new with the familiar.

Good time to use the CEO Mindset

With the CEO Mindset, there is an awareness encompasses both you and your new environment. It is important to know how much you can handle in terms of going from one meeting to another, spending time at networking events and being away from home. There is also the part where you need to know any skills gaps regarding communication and delegation that you might have. There are a lot of details to keep track of and using the CEO Mindset allows you to be patient with yourself while you are exploring and learning. Your role will change. Others will treat you differently. You will see yourself differently. Be confident, do your preparation and enjoy the experience!

 Related post: 8 Tips for Expanding in the US For Irish Small Business  

 

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What Stories Do You Tell Yourself While Growing Your Business?

Two recent conversations with clients illuminated how incredibly powerful belief can be. Business owners and executives  with growing companies are faced with a myriad of details to review, problems to manage and decisions to make. And while it is easier to anticipate how much capital you might need or staffing changes, it often comes a surprise when uncomfortable emotions are triggered during the process.

fear, belief, CEO MindsetGrowth is change and change triggers emotional responses in all of us

It isn’t the passion or eagerness for the new direction that are at issue. It isn’t even that you are doing something wrong. It is the uncharted waters of growing your business that triggers the emotional response. Yes, other companies have grown successfully and you are putting the right pieces in order. The uncomfortable emotions may be

  • Doubt -Is this the best way to grow? Am I the right one to lead?
  • Confusion – Why are my partners expressing negativity? Why is my staff reluctant to adopt our new policies?
  • Apprehension – What’s going to happen next? Will we find the right customers?

This is not some sort of emotional collapse and you are a basket case. It is simply the process of adapting to a new way of doing business.

But let’s focus on you, the leader

Doubt and fear aren’t bad things or even to be avoided. They are simply emotional responses to the ambiguity present in the growth plan your business is following. You don’t know what the outcome will be. The deciding factor is what beliefs emerge with the emotions. For insecure leaders, it is common to start questioning your abilities (do I have what it takes? Can I inspire and lead my team?) or have old stories come up about how you are lacking in some way. Secure leaders (those who use the CEO Mindset) have learned their stories and exhibit more self-trust, tolerance of ambiguity and adept access to their emotional intelligence.

Key thing to remember

Doubt and fear are simply emotions and not reality. Take a moment to consider what you fear? Then ask yourself, “

  1. Why do I fear this?
  2. What am I expecting?
  3. Why am I expecting that outcome?

And keep asking yourself these three questions until you have the story clear in your head.

The story of fear and belief

It is not a question of fearlessness. (That might be a story you need to throw out because it creates an impossibility for many of us.) We cope with our experiences from childhood through adulthood by telling ourselves stories about who we are, how we ought to act and who we could be. In the intersection of fear and belief is the choice to tell the same story or change it in some way. I have had more than one client get an “a-ha” moment when they realized that their alcoholic parent or playground bully doesn’t get the last word on their ability to grow their business. Another client found he couldn’t create the culture he imagined when his company experienced a major financial crisis. Still another client had to leave a toxic business partnership to realize her potential. These moments were all based on old stories that had to be retold for my clients to embrace the CEO Mindset.

Go ahead

Feel the fear and the doubt. Ask yourself what is fueling these emotions. Then determine the truth or reality of your concerns. Are you fearing financial ruin? Well, if there isn’t enough capital, then that is real. If you fear that you are not up to leading your company as it grows, check to see if there is a skills gap or a confidence gap. Learn what you need to know and then practice. As someone once told  me, “With practice comes mastery…With mastery, comes the ability to do more.”

Fear can lead you to believe a lot of things. Clarify your stories and let go of what isn’t serving you well while you grow your business.

 *iStockphoto by Anson Lu

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