Help others make connections

I was sitting in one of my favorite Starbucks yesterday when one of the Barista's asked me what I do. When I described my work, she introduced me to another Barista who is finishing up her degree in Communications at the University of Arizona. We talked for a couple of minutes. As we did, I remembered a friend of mine who works in a major corporation in the very area this Barista is interested in pursuing.

I asked the Barista for her email address, and emailed my friend, introducing the Barista and wondering if their might be intership possibilites for her in the company. There may or may not be. Who knows...

The point is, however, that a connection was made. And that, is so important. If there's one thing we can do to help others, it's open up our connections to them (when appropraite). I'm not talking here about creating unrealistic expectations, but simply making an introduction full of potential. What comes of it is not the issue. Although, the better we are at making the connections, the more likely something will come of it.

We live in a world of possibility. Often those possibilities are contained inside two people we know. Our role in "potenlializing" that possibility may be to make the introduction and step aside. Don't worry; when you do this, it's amazing how the opportunities come back your way without much effort. When you give, the universe has a way of giving back.

Help others make connections2008-08-27T07:26:50+00:00

Hillary’s speech and recognizing everyone in the house like they were a BFF

OK, so I'm not really picking on Hillary Clinton here; she just reminded me.

Why does every politician have to begin and end their speech with the "walkabout?" I guess it's not really the waving to the masses that bothers me, but the look of utter surprise when the candidates spot their BFF in the crowd. And of course, each candidate has about 200 BFF's in the crowd. Each time they spot one, their faces light up like they had NO IDEA that the BFF would be in the crowd.

Spotting the BFF, the politician's face portrays a message of utter surprise and deep friendship:  "OH MY GOSH, I see you; how are you? What a surprise to see you here... Let's do coffee REAL soon OK?"

With so much emphasis on authenticity, I'm not sure the "BFF move" really helps.

Hillary’s speech and recognizing everyone in the house like they were a BFF2008-08-27T06:48:42+00:00

Developing smart emotions

The last couple of posts have been about developing smart emotions. Here's something to do that will help you get started at both examining and developing smart emotions.

Ask, for feedback but make sure you really want it.

For the next couple of weeks, try and enter the vantage point of the team members you lead. After an encounter with a team member, ask yourself what your leadership breath might have smelled like to him or her. Or, if your culture is already free enough, ASK HIM OR HER. Go back to your team or certain individuals and ask them what the experience is like when you breathe on them. Are they generally inspired or deflated?

Now, you don’t have to take their answer as gospel. Sometimes team members receive good breath in negative ways. Of course, you must sometimes filter these kinds of comments. However, you should never dismiss them outright. Listen. Learn how your breath, your soul, is coming across to your organization. Then learn the language of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) in order to keep your breath fresh and your organizational leadership vital.

The biggest danger in asking for feedback is that it can cause strain on the team. Leaders are notoriously fragile when it comes to feedback. Team members are notoriously one dimensional in their feedback (meaning they tend to blame the leader for most problems). If feedback is simply going to cause more issues, then get a facilitator to help, or work on building security in yourself, and trust on the team.

Developing smart emotions2008-08-21T16:24:00+00:00

More on smart emotions

Our leadership breath is directly related to our emotional intelligence. The more we breathe in fear, guilt, insecurity, and anger, the more we’ll breathe out, as leaders, reactivity, manipulation, rigidity or spinelessness. People will avoid close contact with us because the aroma is so hard to handle.

If, however, we breathe in flexibility, curiosity, authenticity and originality, then out will come inspiration, freedom, energy and trust. It really comes down to this: breathe in, breathe out. The way in which leaders forms his or her own soul (breathe in), by God’s grace, is what they have to offer their teams and organizations (breathe out).

Here’s a flexible equation to remember: I. E. Q. + L. I. = O. E. (see below)

Individual Emotional Quotient + Leadership Influence = Organizational Effectiveness.

I have an aversion to equation thinking when it comes to relational and organizational issues. So, maybe it would better to say that the left side of the equation will certainly enhance the right side. You may not see it work like an equation, but work it will. The leader who cares for her own soul and then learns how to express that soul to the organization in potent ways will enable the effectiveness of the organization in big and small ways. Or to stay with our metaphor: If you have good breath, people will want to be around you and will look for ways to pass your breath along to others. Soon an entire organization is breathing in and breathing out a kind of air that increases productivity, esprit de corps, team collaboration, innovation, and communal meaning.

More on smart emotions2008-08-20T20:16:09+00:00

Check your breath (moods)

What’s your breath like? Go ahead check it right now.

Oh, I don’t mean the condition of your physical breath as it comes out of your mouth; I mean your leadership breath. Yes, your leadership breath as it comes out of you.

Like our physical breath, we exhale attitudes, feelings and moods to those around us. As leaders, these vibes send powerful messages about our personal condition, our priorities and our confidence in those we lead. I’ve seen leaders with one exhale of their leadership breath completely demoralize a team. Conversely, I’ve seen leaders with good breath increase the vitality of the organization in exponential ways. 

Just like physical breath, our leadership breath can either invite or repel those near to us. Our breath can inspire others or send them looking for fresh air. We’ve all experienced a conversation with another person who has bad breath; onion breath comes to mind. In these situations, we do our best to stay out of the line of fire (no pun intended) without embarrassing the person with the unhappy odor.

Can you smell my next question coming?

Have you ever wondered if people are trying to stay away from your leadership breath? Here are a few questions to ask yourself and maybe your team in the next week or so:

What is the general experience my team has when they get a whiff of my leadership breath?

Is it stale?

Is it disgusting (the whole onion breath thing)?

Is it fresh and welcoming?

So what can we do to freshen our breath?  Stay Tuned.

Check your breath (moods)2008-08-19T09:49:51+00:00

Peer Transperancy

I saw an article on Business 2.0.'s website. The upshot of the article is about the next "big things" coming to the Internet--start up companies hoping to make a big difference in the days ahead. Here's one:
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CEO: Reman Child and Shawn Gupta (founders)
Disruption: Simple, straightforward financial planning

Disrupted: Today, makers of personal finance software. Tomorrow, the credit industry

Combine the utility of software like Quicken with the social power of Web 2.0, and you have Expensr - a free online service that tracks your budget and spending habits, then shows you how you're doing compared to your peers. "That's the idea behind the social network," says co-founder Shawn Gupta, "to help you do better by making you aware of what other people like you are doing."
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It's the last line of the description that intrigues me and it's a concept that we should all pay attention to.

Peer Transparency.

Not only can you use Expensr to manage your finances, but track how you're doing against your peers. Their aren't many things people hold closer than their finances. But in the new world of Web and Life 2.0, more and more zones of transparency are emerging. If you employee 20 something's this idea of transparency should change the way you lead. I'm not suggesting everyone should be involved in every decision or be privy to every piece of information. But, the youngest generation, entering the workforce feels like they should be "in the know." If you are operating under the older paradigm of "secrecy" and knowledge witholding, it will backfire.

The trick is to share and include, while helping young employees value necessary boundaries.

Peer Transperancy2008-08-13T08:18:56+00:00

Permission to fail can breed success

Here's a great article on Shawn Johnson, U.S. Olympic gymnast. The article details her coach giving her permission to fail.

From the article:

Shawn has the express permission of her coach, Liang Chow, to make mistakes.

And, in one of those great twists, it's precisely because she feels the freedom to make mistakes that she rarely makes big ones.

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The freedom to fail releases us from unhealthy pressure and perfectionist tendencies (which never take us to a good place). The freedom to fail can also drive innovative and courageous behavior. The best leaders create space for failure, not because failure is the expressed goal, but because it removes destructive emotional angst and increases the likelihood of personal (and organizational) success.

Permission to fail can breed success2008-08-11T13:47:40+00:00

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Written by Dave Fleming