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Leadership, Mindfulness and Practical Enlightment

leadership, mindfulness, meditation, CEO MindsetThis post is from this month’s newsletter and since this topic has been cropping up in my writing, in the Twitter chat,  KaizenBiz and in my newsletter, I thought I would share it with you as well. In a conversation over the last few days on Twitter, it seems that many people are wondering just how to deepen themselves as leaders as well as cope with the stress of leading a business in a quick change environment. What if we took Peter Bregman’s suggestion in this HBR Blog Network post and treated laughter as a business metric? Is there an ROI for meditating or simply being in the moment?

Where is the stillness?

For many of us, it is the start of winter and it’s easy to become more like a hibernating bear with the longer hours of darkness. Perhaps that’s why I get a kick out of the Christmas lights and public holiday displays. These shiny, twinkly and even gaudy lights are moments of child-like fun. Standing in the morning or evening darkness in the still, quiet (yes, even in a city) air is an invitation to look around and up. Perhaps you notice the stars or the stark branches against a dark sky? This moment of stillness is mindfulness. There is nothing else but this moment…and you are here.

More than just the latest leadership craze 

Meditation and mindfulness are very popular right now in leadership circles.You may have heard of people like Bill Clinton, Bill Ford, Rupert Murdoch or Marc Benioff are active meditators. Nelson Mandela who recently died has talked about how meditating changed and supported how he was able to lead South Africa as it started its transition away from apartheid. And there is good reason for this. While it is easy to dismiss it as some woo-hoo or fluffy stuff, there is ample research pointing out how even 15 minutes can ease chronic pain, stress and inflammation. For leaders, there are additional benefits increased focus, creativity, composure, memory and agility of response) that you would use multiple times during a typical day.

Doesn’t have to be transcendental either

There are many reasons why people do not develop the habit of meditation. For some, it is difficult to sit still or maybe a particular style isn’t quite “right.” If you can breathe, you can meditate. It is that simple. Try an experiment, breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth for 5 minutes  What do you notice about your body? Your mood? Many people report feeling quieter and energized at the same time. And that’s just 5 minutes. Others find that eating something and really paying attention to the color(s), smell, appearance and feel of the food provides a similar response. I’ve even had clients describe walking or running as the way they quiet their minds and return to the office ready for whatever is on their desk.

Enlightenment can be practical

Leadership is largely an art and based on our mindsets. There are plenty of posts telling us how to identify a bad boss and none of us want to be that person. If you’ve read my other writings about the CEO MIndset, you know that there is an emotional life to running your business. Try an experiment…every day for 1 week, simply breathe deeply in and out for 5 minutes while sitting comfortably with your feet on the floor. Put a timer on, if it helps. Notice how you feel immediately afterwards and then also notice how you feel later in the day. If, after a week, you notice a positive difference, maybe it’s time to make it a regular part of your day.

While leadership fads come and go, meditation and mindfulness are practices that stand the test of time.  It might even enhance your executive presence and inspire your staff. At the very least, it will support you as you develop the CEO Mindset and grow your business.

If this is an area of interest and  you would like to see a webinar, in-person event or an individual consultation regarding meditation, mindfulness and the CEO Mindset, please let me know. Plus, if this post piqued your curiosity (there are other goodies as well) and you would like to subscribe to the Key Notes newsletter, please fill in the form on the upper left of this page.

I wish everyone a lovely and relaxing holiday season and may you have the best year yet in 2014!
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Giving Thanks Is a Hidden Leadership Tool

Thanks, gratitude, emotional intelligence, leadershipWith all of the recent interest in emotional intelligence and leadership, it is easy to wonder just what the fuss is about. When you break down mindfulness, you discover that it is simply focusing your attention to where you are and what you are doing at this moment. Break it down even further and couple that with this week’s  US holiday of Thanksgiving and you discover that one of the elements of emotional intelligence, gratitude,  can deepen your ability to lead more effectively.

Gratitude is a “chosen attitude”

With the human tendency to pay more attention to the negative, it can be hard to see positives. However, recent research has made some interesting discoveries about gratitude.

  • Better ability to ride out negative events
  • Energizing
  • Able to help others or access compassion more easily
  • Exemplifies emotional maturity
  • Helps access mindfulness more easily
  • Promotes physical health

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. According to Richard Emmons, researcher and author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, gratitude is both a cognitive and emotional process. Indeed, gratitude doesn’t work unless both are activated. Gratitude gets its power to influence our behavior when we choose to use it.

The intersection with leadership

Recent leadership research keeps coming back to the best leaders being the most emotionally intelligent. Gratitude reinforces the most basic pieces of emotional intelligence by combining both internal awareness of your emotional life with the external awareness of how we interact and experience other people. Appreciation of what is in your life is a way of opening yourself is certainly an aspect of the CEO Mindset. But there is a transformational piece that is a direct link to your leadership.

  • Saying thank you to particular people for their performance encourages loyalty and good will
  • The  positive attitude demonstrates resilience and the ability to tolerate positive and negative events competently
  • Helps remove the “white noise” of our lives and work so you can think clearly about how you want to lead and where you want your organization to go
  • Keeps you open to listening to positive and negative feedback so you continually learn how to lead better

 What will you give thanks for?

See for yourself how gratitude can be transforming. Keep a gratitude journal everyday by writing down three things you are grateful for. They can be anything from thanking someone for telling you how you are doing a lousy job to acknowledging the beautiful sunset you saw on your commute home. Find out how you aren’t as stressed by negative events. Make someone’s day by thanking them for his/her hard work on a specific task. Increased loyalty, positivity and productivity are pretty good outcomes if you are willing to cultivate gratitude into your daily schedule.

 How will this add to your leadership?

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The 15 Reasons Leaders Fail Their Small To Mid-Sized Businesses

Leaders, Small to Mid-Sized Businesses, LeadershipI’ve recently wrote about confidence and turnarounds which is certainly the toughest road any business leader can be on. But, to be fair, not everyone is is desperate straits with their small to mid-sized business. In talking with my clients and prospects, I’ve noticed that there are things that we do that make our work and leadership far more difficult than it has to be.

The 15 reasons (in no particular order)

  1. Keeping the business plan in our heads
  2. Too satisfied with progress of company and stop leading
  3. Not delegating enough
  4. Staying too tied into the day-to-day operations
  5. Avoiding difficult conversations
  6. Refusing to adapt to new circumstances and/or technology
  7. Procrastination
  8. Unclear vision or direction
  9. Feeling like you have to continue on a particular path, even if it is not working (sunk cost fallacy)
  10. Inconsistent communication skills
  11. Stop being curious
  12. Want to be liked more than anything else
  13. Avoiding fiscal oversight and responsibility
  14. Responding to too many crises and not stepping back to plan ahead
  15. Lack of personal and professional development

Did you see anything you might need to change?

It is safe to say that we don’t intentionally get in our own way or prevent others from doing their jobs. Sometimes we get into bad habits due to having a long career or simply not taking the time to reflect on who we are and where we are as people. So take a moment and look at the list. If you recognize something you’re doing, ask yourself if you want to stop. If you do want to stop, come up with an action to take or find someone who will help you adapt to something that works for you.

Wishing you every success!

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, executive coach and trainer who guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to be comfortable in their own skin. Change can be growing your business, expanding in the US or adapting to a new leadership roles. Visit my Services page to see how we can work together or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

 

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More On CEO Mindset – The “Right” Habits & Less Ego-Driven Leadership

CEO Mindset, leadership, habits, leaders, Tweak Your Biz, KaizenBizAs some of the regular readers of this blog know, I blog on Tweak Your Biz and KaizenBiz as well. If you have missed my latest posts there, here they are:

Becoming CEO Of Your Small Business Means Finding “Right” Habits

For many successful small to mid-sized business owners, having the CEO Mindset is everything. While I’ve talked about how small business owners (even sole proprietors/ sole traders) are really CEO’s of their companies on Tweak  Your Biz and here, this is just the beginning.

Every day there are things we do or don’t do that influence the direction and pace of business growth. A lot of this is much more internal than it might seem at first glance. One area that is written about quite  a lot is the habits or common behaviors of  famous business leaders.  Reading these posts leads you to believe that if you just did these things, you would be successful. My post isn’t one of those posts. Often what is left out is the work and the business leaders did to find the “right” habits that work for them. So, before you think “if only I did X”, remember they had to do the work of finding what works for them. Becoming CEO of your small business means finding your “right” habits.

 

Is It Feminine Leadership We Crave Or Less Ego-Driven Leadership?

Once a week, I have the pleasure of leading a chat on Twitter called #KaizenBiz. (Shameless plug here: Every Friday at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9amPT and all are welcome) If you are not familiar with this chat, we take business topics and apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding. This past Friday (August 16, 2013), we looked at The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule the Future and the ongoing global conversation about gender, traits and leadership.  There is a perspective that the lack of women in executive roles contributed to the organizational failures that triggered the global recession.

Is there a female style of leadership? A male style?  Are people wrong in their rejection of so many men in decision-making roles as found in recent surveys? Could it be more likely that highly effective leaders of both genders exhibit the same traits? Read this post and add your thoughts.

 

Thank you

Thank you for taking a look at these posts, commenting, sharing or simply thinking about them. I look forward to sharing more posts next month.

 

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Great Leaders Develop Via Relationships with Self and Others

I saw an interesting tweet from Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak on Twitter) yesterday.

“Find harmony within yourself before looking for alignment with others.”

It caught my attention and I thought, hmm…wouldn’t that mean you might spend not so much time with people? So I tweeted back, ” I saw your tip about finding harmony. Wouldn’t that be lifelong quest? Not sure can’t happen in tandem”

Most people spend a good portion or all of their lives seeking to understand themselves better. Leadership is a relational journey. It can be a journey to get to a position where you are in a one-up position over others. That may not be the most pro-social relationship but it does exist. For others, the key is being compassionate and competent in having the difficult conversations.

Great leadership comes from developing one’s maturity. Things like developing patience and knowing that one’s outlook and mood can encourage or limit the productivity and morale of the staff. But the more I think about it, the more it seems that time and experience season us as leaders. We see our foibles and warts when we bounce off other people. But it isn’t necessarily a negative. Sure, in the moment, it might be an unpleasant lesson about ourselves. But we wouldn’t see things so clearly without people stopping us in our tracks.

Managing conflict may be the greatest test of how leaders manage relationships. Click here to read more »

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A Tale of Two Managements

Okay, I may have taken some liberties with the English language and with Mr. Dickens’ fine book title.

Grocery and managementBackground story

There are these two grocery stores that I shop at each week. One is your basic store. There are very few gourmet type foods, no electronic scanners to use at your cart and the prices are lower. The other grocery store I shop in has more variety in produce, ready-to-eat foods, exotic foods and some technological stuff for customers to use while shopping. Since I have family members with food restrictions, I have to go where the food is.

These stores are completely different. But the most outstanding feature is how the managers and employees interact. In the first store, I’ve seen managers walking around the store and chatting with people stocking the shelves. The employees are welcoming, helpful and move quickly to serve their customers. In the second store, I’ve seen managers avoid speaking to employees and be critical of their performance. The employees barely make eye contact with customers and move so slowly that you just know they are paid hourly. Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct an food order when they’ve give me the wrong amount or the wrong item.

You can learn a lot about management while shopping Click here to read more »

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Can You Be Trusted?

There is a world of difference between managing a business and leading a business. You probably know this already. Even when you’re a sole proprietor or a small shop, you still switch hats between manager and leader. You want to have systems in place to avoid getting too panicky or too complacent. But maybe we’re missing a more important question?

Should you be the CEO (even if de facto) of your business?

It’s tempting for some to say “but I’m not a CEO“, particularly when you run a very small business. But that’s just shortsighted. You’re already setting the stage with your vision, your pace and emphasis on certain initiatives. The thing that may be missing here is trust.

Trust or no movement forward

No matter how much experience you have as a leader, trust plays a major role in how far your people will go with you. In such difficult economic times as we’ve experienced over the last four years, you need that trust to be strong. Given that change is an integral piece of the “new normal”, what resistance is present in your organization?

Trust is earned and some styles of leadership depend on it more than others. However, trust is not easily rewarded. Sure, just having a certain position gives you the basic level from most people.Titles do that.

So, you have to ask yourself, am I demonstrating…

  • consistency in my words and actions?
  • consideration for others’ schedules and abilities?
  • respect for others when I have requests and directives?
  • honesty in how I present myself?
  • that I believe I have a good team in my staff?

 No movement forward if you haven’t built more than a baseline of trust

You probably have your own war stories of working for someone that you could trust to be harsh, confusing or just plain infuriating. How did this affect your productivity? Don’t be that guy! You already know how it feels. And it’s important to remember that how people perceive that you “feel” is what determines the level of trust you’re given.

What do you notice creates breakdowns in the day-to-day tasks?

What do you do that makes you a trustworthy leader?

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Could Your Business Suffer a Brain Drain?

Low employee engagementLast week I attended a local chapter meeting of the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) and had a very interesting conversation with a V.P. of Training of a local company. She was telling me how her company is discussing how to prevent talent (the employees) from leaving in large numbers as the economy starts to pick up. At least anecdotally, I’m hearing some anxiety about how much more employees will tolerate and what it will take for them to stay.

Is there anything to this worry?

There is a lot of data out there from Price Waterhouse Cooper, CLC Human Resources and Gallup about how employees are not happy campers in their organizations. Whether it has to do with being underemployed or a  high potential employee, there seem to be people who are checking out the job market and seeing if it’s the right time to jump ship. With economists forecasting that the US economy will improve, there may be turbulence in many companies as people seek new positions that fit their wants and needs more. However, it is also true that, globally, economic forecasts are not as rosy. It is possible that there may be pockets of employees ditching their jobs for greener pastures depending on the local economy.

Benefits matter

At least in the US, the rising costs with health benefits has certainly cause some unhappiness according to Gallup. That pesky work-life relationship rears its head in this category. People need to know that they will be treated with respect with how much out-of-pocket expenses they are responsible for. Benefits like vacation time and retirement plans matter as does how much on-the-job stress employees must put up with.

Leadership disconnected

If you visit Glassdoor.com, you can read reviews of what it’s like to work for specific companies. Sadly, you see a lot of complaints that work schedules are too taxing and that management is too caught up in the bureaucracy of the company. Sure, it’s easy to pick on large corporations which have behemoth bureaucracies. However, this can happen in small to mid-sized companies as well. For some organizations, there is a clash between “old” business practices and “new” practices. When the organizational leadership takes pride in not understanding social networking or using cloud computing or telecommuting, workers feel like they’re being treated as tools and not people. There are many trends that are emerging that are challenging leaders in organizations of all sizes (check out those mentioned in the  Hay Group Leadership 2030 research). Not paying attention to research, avoiding self-development and ignoring opportunities to involve employees in planning is tantamount to saying, ” go ahead and leave, we don’t need you.”

What else matters?

According to a recent OfficeTeam survey, 27% of workers reported that having opportunities to learn and grow encouraged engagement. While ASTD reports an upswing in how training is funded and used in organizations, this is still an category that gets cut when the economic environment is inhospitable. However, even in global trend research, training and development played a role in employee engagement.

However, it isn’t simply reducing one’s skills gap that engaged employees. The ability to further one’s career within the organization was a key piece. This is where organizations can lose their high potential employees. If you can’t move out of your position, then logically, it would make sense to go somewhere else to achieve your career and life goals.

Current trends are showing a downward direction in people leaving their organizations

There is still an immense challenge that organizations of all sizes face in making sure they keep employee engagement high. It’s more than a paycheck that workers desire. This is good news for  businesses with more limited resources. Dan Pink, in his book, Drive, focused on purpose, meaning and autonomy. At the end of the day, your employees want to be treated as grown ups with perspectives and skills that are necessary to your organization’s success.

What do you believe turns people off the most?

What trends do you believe decision-makers need to pay attention to the most?

*Join us in the this discussion on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, January 27, 2012 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT . We’d love to have your observations and opinions!

 

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Do Your Business Goals Contain Your Wisdom and Trust?

wisdom, trust and your business goalsHave you ever caught a glimmer of how wise and remarkable a person you truly are? The experience can be disorienting, upsetting, humbling or awe-inspiring. It shows up in your work, your play, your leadership, truly in all aspects of who you are. And yet, there is such temptation to downplay what skills, talents and values we bring with us.

Perhaps your distractions are really upriver

There were two men sitting by a river when they  saw someone float by in the water thrashing and calling for help. One of the men jumped in and saved the person. Next thing they knew, another person floated by thrashing and screaming for help. Again, one of the men jumped in and saved this person as well. To their great surprise and consternation, more and more people coming down the river and needed help. After both men were catching their breath after saving these people, one man turned to the other and said, “We better get some help if more people come down the river.” The other man replied, “We better go upriver and see who is throwing them in.”

Loads of data to analyze and competing ideas to include in your business goals

It’s easy to get caught up in ideas or wishes of how we want things to be. There are so many priorities and distractions that we may forget to go upriver and see for ourselves. For yourself, you can use a Wheel of Life (WheelofLife PDF) which allows you to rate all aspects of your life. If you want to rate your performance as a leader of your business, you can use the Management/Leader Wheel (MgtLdrWheel PDF). These tools are great ways to get a snapshot of where you are in your life.

For your business, you can do a SWOT analysis,  PESTEL analysis or pore over your financial statements with charts and graphs galore. And you should. Otherwise you may as well be shooting darts at balloons. The key thing with getting the right information is checking out what is real.

What does wisdom or trust have to do with it?

It doesn’t have to be any fancy woo-hoo stuff to be wise. Consider how many times you follow a “feeling” or trust your instincts. When you’re leading during times of great change or just facing a challenging set of circumstances, it isn’t always clear what is your best choice. If you have a team to help you design a strategic plan, you already have a separate set of eyes and ears to interpret data with you. However, you still have to trust yourself (and them) to steer the business in the “right” direction.

3 tips to access your wisdom while goal setting

1. Know what you do and don’t want. Sometimes it’s easier to identify what you don’t want. Negativity is easy. The more interesting list here is what you do want. Go on, what do you really want?

2. Your wisdom needs affirmation from hard cold evidence. When outside stuff challenges us, it stirs up our inside stuff. Make sure you include some way to measure the progress of your goals. If you plan on increasing your revenue by 25% by year’s end, write it down and check it regularly (quarterly is good). This will remind you that you know what you know.

3. Don’t go it alone. As the leader of your business (and your life), it’s a tough environment to do business in. It may be tempting to isolate or get busy with day to day stuff among other things. Use your team. They are an internal resource of your design. Having a confidant, mentor, coach or mastermind group can keep you in touch with your wisdom.

So,  what’s up your river?

What suggestions do you have for accessing your wisdom when setting goals for your business?

 

 *Join us on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog this Friday, January 6th at 12pm ET/5pm GMT/9am PT as we have our 2nd annual Goal Setting Convo. We’ll be exploring the topic of goal setting and declaring our top 2012 goals to one another.

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Culture’s Effect on Gender and Leadership

*This coming Monday, September 12th, I will guest moderating the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat during which we will discuss culture, gender and leadership. The #UsGuysChat will start at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. I hope you can join us and add your perspective to this conversation. This is part 2 of a discussion started in “Does Gender Matter In Business Leadership?”


If culture had nothing to do with gender and leadership, Lois Frankel wouldn’t have a job. Ms. Frankel is the author of the Nice Girls Don’t Get…” series.  Whether you agree or not with her recommendations about how women should act in the workplace, she highlights the cultural/gender tension embedded in the workplace. Let’s be very clear…there are expectations about men and women that are set in social norms exhibited in the workplace. In a recent meta-analysis from Northwestern University, it was noted that leadership is less tied to masculine qualities now but still women face two perceptual obstacles.Women and Leadership

  1. There is a prejudice that they are less able than their male leader counterparts.
  2. The personality characteristics of leadership are masculine and therefore inappropriate for women to exhibit.

Alice Eagly is quoted in this article about the study as saying, “Cultural stereotypes can make it seem that women do not have what it takes for important leadership roles, thereby adding to the barriers that women encounter in attaining roles that yield substantial power and authority.” Given all this, it can be challenging to find an authentic  leadership style and make gender as unimportant as the color of our hair.

You may be harboring stereotypes learned in childhood

Take a moment to consider your childhood years. Where did you grow up? What did you do during your playtime? What were you “allowed” to do? How were you parented? While the messages are less delineated now than say 30 years ago, girls and boys are acculturated to accept stereotypes as facts. If you aren’t sure about this observation, try arguing with a 4 year old about how girls can have short hair and still be girls. Have you ever noticed which toys are designed for boys or girls? Notice which ones are active versus passive. What colors are used to decorate the toys? How are movies marketed to boys or girls? It’s even possible that your national educational system may be more geared to favor one gender over another.

This stuff seeps into our belief system and stays there until we flush it out.

As  C.S. King has noted in her research, “…sex roles and gendered roles are institutionalized as a part of a culture and reflect important aspects of the culture itself.” If you come from a society with clearly defined roles for men and women, you may have to accept or reject which behaviors fit your leadership style. Indeed, not paying attention to where you come from could be a blind spot.

And yet, are things changing?

Just this week was the news about Carol Bartz and how she was fired by Yahoo. This is a woman who doesn’t mince words at all. Although there are some people writing about how she is a powerful female leader, there is far more commentary on her job title, her performance at Yahoo and how she revealed the process of being fired. In reading the comments on various posts, there are themes about how she is admired and bitterness that resulted from some of her decisions at Yahoo. There are very few comments about her gender.

It’s interesting to note that there is far more explicit research on women, culture and leadership than there is about men. There are some that would say that this is because men are considered the default for most of what we know about culture and leadership. Given the changes exhibited by both genders across the globe, this may be in flux.

To encourage more thought and discussion, consider these questions:

  1. How can we support each person to become an authentic leader and fit in an organization?
  2. What are real examples of women hitting obstacles because of patterns they adopted or organizational expectations?
  3. If women perceive “male” behaviors reflect poorly on them, how should they respond?
  4. Are there times to openly recognize gender style differences?
  5. Conversely, are there times to ignore gender style differences?
  6. Does Carol Bartz’s famous strident style exemplify ideal leadership? Is it different because of gender?

Please consider yourself invited to join in this conversation on the Twitter chat, #UsGuysChat on Monday, September 12th at 3pm ET/12pm PT/8pm BST. We’d love  to have you share your thoughts on this topic.


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