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Inspiration for Leaders

Words of Inspiration for Leadership: Optimism and Resiliency

When I think of optimism and resiliency in people, I think of our “greatest generation” and people like Louis Zamperini. Zamperini faces extraordinary trauma, as depicted in the book Unbroken, and he has leadership lessons for all of us. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, Unbroken, you must add it to your list.

Zamperini’s story is unbelievable that one person could survive so much and live a healthy life to age 97.  He was born in 1917, and he competed in the 1936 Olympics as a champion distance runner, and then joined the American Air Force at the outbreak of the second world war. In May 1943, his plane was shot down over the South Pacific, killing eight of the eleven crew and leaving Zamperini and two others stranded in a tiny life raft. Enduring the loss of their friend Mac from starvation, machine gun fire from passing Japanese bombers and shark attacks, Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips held out for 47 days.

Louis Zamperini

When they finally reached the Marshall Islands, both were too weak to stand. Little did they know, that their struggle had only just begun. They were rescued by a Japanese warship and sent to various concentration camps, where they suffered sadistic beatings and threats of death daily until their release in August 1945.

In an interview for CBS, Zamperini said, “They took great joy in telling us we were going to be executed. They would always go through the motions, gesturing with samurai swords and so forth. So every morning we woke up thinking, well this is it.”

The physical and psychological trauma that Zamperini endured was unbearable, and most of us can’t imagine. He did return home and suffer from some depression and nightmares. But he went on to start a new career as a motivational speaker promoting the power of forgiveness.

You may never experience what Zamperini went through, but there are days when you feel like you are being attacked, surrounded by sharks and need someone to help you. In business and life, rapid change is the normal and it comes in waves, hurricanes and now in “bomb cyclones”. Today, leaders and their organizations are forced to address increasingly complex challenges as well as grow with uncertainty.  Speed and agility are not the only edge.  The need for effective leaders that are resilient, optimistic and emotionally intelligent is more important than ever.

The definition of optimism: The hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.

The definition of resilience: The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Our leaders need to learn and understand better how to be resilient and optimistic especially when they are facing pressure and challenges.

Alvin Toffler

 Alvin Toffler famously said:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Our view of the world and daily attitudes and behaviors are learned patterns to which Toffler’s insight applies with earnestness — the capacity to “learn, unlearn, and relearn” emotional behaviors and psychological patterns will be the edge leaders need to survive and thrive in this ever-changing crazy world.

How do you learn to be resilient and unlearn bad behaviors in this ever-changing world? You take time to be self-aware and understand how to think like an optimist.  Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism,  is an expert on optimism, and he shares his study on how humans and animals become passive when they experience failure and feel like they have no control.  His study reveals that we start to expect failure again and develop “learned helplessness.”

His study goes on to reveal, there was a third of the researched group of animals and people who experienced continuous failures who never become helpless. Seligman attributed this to optimism.  According to Seligman, “Over 15 years of study, my colleagues and I discovered that the answer is optimism. We developed questionnaires and analyzed the content of verbatim speech and writing to assess “explanatory style” as optimistic or pessimistic. We discovered that people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable (“It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.”). That suggested how we might immunize people against learned helplessness, against depression and anxiety, and against giving up after failure: by teaching them to think like optimists.”

It is a good time to have a healthy dose of optimism whether you are struggling with your business, managing and motivating your team, negative politics, economics, finance, relationship setbacks, parenting challenges, health issues or an overall feeling that life is not turning out the way you thought it would.  Sometimes, we need to change the lens that is viewing our present moment and future and ask a few questions about our own level of optimism and how we are managing difficult situations and daily setbacks. How would Louis Zamperini view this problem and what would his attitude be?

Here is how optimists view the world:

  1. Was it me or something outside of me?
    Optimists believe it is something outside of them.
  2. Will it affect everything I do?
    No, optimist believe it will be short-lived not long-lasting.
  3. Will I change my game and adapt and do something different?
    Yes – changing your game is the answer. Optimists don’t give up.

Louis Zamperini never gave up! He continued to be an optimist until the day he died.  We can all learn from his story and from the research of Martin Seligman on optimism. Remind yourself when things are tough and the pressure is on, we have the capacity to be resilient and optimistic and don’t let anyone change your mind or influence you negatively.

To learn more, check out my blog post on Why Self-Esteem is Critical to Successful Leadership.

Are you looking for a great eBook? Check out Achievers newest eBook highlighting 3 ways to make recognition an everyday event.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 5-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

Develop Strong Self-Esteem

Why Self-Esteem Is Critical to Successful Leadership

I was at the ACE conference hosted by Achievers in San Francisco a few years ago, and the keynote speaker was Dan Harris, a correspondent for ABC News, an anchor for Nightline and co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America and author of the book, 10% Happier. I didn’t know much about Dan except for the title of his book, and I had seen him on the news. I thought he was going to share his personal success story and how he became so accomplished in news media and found his 10% of happiness through his work. But then, he started to tell his story and silenced the audience as he revealed a very vulnerable personal experience with panic attacks. He even showed a video of himself having a panic attack on live television. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to replay in front of hundreds of people. He went on to admit that he tried to self-medicate with legal drugs and then illegal drugs and finally discovered the power of meditation. His talk was fascinating to me. This reminded me that many people labeled “workaholics” or “overachievers” might have challenges with self-esteem. And it made me question, “When is their success good enough?”

The answer to that question is subjective, and is often left unanswered for years because of feelings of low self-esteem. The actual definition of self-esteem is confidence and satisfaction in oneself. You may be very successful, and still have low self-esteem because you are comparing yourself to someone else and unsatisfied with your results.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Low self-esteem is a funny thing. It shows up in successful people as much as it does in someone we deem as lazy. It also impacts the celebration of success – did we really earn it or deserve it or was it a bit of luck and good timing? On the other hand, a high level of self-esteem can turn into narcissism. Some people who have an excessively high self-regard may experience challenges in relationships and empathy. They may feel the need to put someone else down so they can feel better about themselves.

Low self-esteem is observed in very boisterous personalities and the timid are rarely heard from individuals. Someone could be covering up or overcompensating for low self-esteem by being the loudest in the room while others have a fear of uttering a single word in a crowd.

Low self-esteem is even seen in sports and physical appearance. A low self-esteem may be an overweight individual who doesn’t spend much time on appearance or style, or it may be a perfectly fit individual who is obsessed with body image and outer appearance. It is an odd thing that is not easily discoverable until you really get to know someone.

High self-esteem is not created by receiving praise all the time or listening to motivational talks, but it is built in having connections with others and realizing that setbacks are opportunities to grow, allowing us to have more empathy for others who are struggling. It is about finding confidence and satisfaction in our lives and our accomplishments and knowing when to silence the negative critic.

Self-esteem is a foundational competency of emotional intelligence (EI) skills. Research reveals a link between positive emotional intelligence with high self-esteem, and lower EI is related to depression and stressful behavior.

How Does High Self-Esteem Show up in a Leader?

High self-esteem is found in someone who is not threatened by other ideas. People with high self-esteem have no problem in empowering others and encouraging them to be their best. A leader with low self-esteem can often be controlling and a micro-manager, and someone who doesn’t act in ways that encourage growth and opportunity for others. They often take credit for other people’s work. A high self-esteem leader is often referred to as a servant leader, someone who puts the organization first and is the most committed to its team. This type of leader is concerned about accomplishing team goals and success and not personal gains.

If you have challenges with low self-esteem or a negative voice in your head – what can you do? Here are some suggestions for improving self-esteem:

  1. Stop listening to a negative inner narrative that says you are not good enough – because you are.
  2. Identify what is the worst-case scenario if you were to move forward and take a risk and do something outside of your comfort zone. For example – speak up or offer a different perspective or question an existing program.  Would someone ridicule you or say you are stupid?  Even if they do, what does that say about that person?  Are they working from a high self-esteem?
  3. Speak confidently – join toast masters or a group that teaches you better speaking skills. The more you do it, the better you will become.
  4. Be open to feedback without becoming defensive. If someone offers you constructive feedback they usually have a good intention, and view it is an opportunity for growth.
  5. Practice your “Power Pose” before presenting to a group and increase your testosterone levels by up to 20 % while decreasing stress hormone cortisol by 25%.
  6. Be compassionate to yourself. Practice appreciation for the good things you have in your life, even if they are small. Be kinder to yourself, and imagine if it was someone else speaking to you the way you are speaking to yourself, would you let them get away with it?

Remember, not everything you think is a true picture of reality. Question the critic and be open to new ways of thinking. Continue to practice EI skills because they really make a difference.

Check out my other guest posts for The Engage Blog here. And make sure to sign up for my 2018 public workshops. My first workshop is February 9, 2018 so don’t miss out and register now.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

 

great communicator

Voice, Value, Feedback – The “Must Try” Communication Tool Driving Employee Engagement

Does anyone truly look forward to their annual performance review?  Leaders don’t enjoy preparing them and employees dread attending them.  According to HR analyst and industry thought leader Josh Bersin, “More than 70% of all organizations dislike the process they have, and I have yet to talk with an employee or manager who likes it at all (one client calls it a ‘soul-crushing’ exercise).” That’s why many leading organizations such as Accenture, Adobe, Gap, GE, Goldman Sachs and Microsoft all recently announced that they are remodeling this “soul-crushing exercise” and moving to something altogether new.

The most important adjustments to the classic performance review cycle are an increasing emphasis on constant feedback and a concerted effort to frame constructive feedback in more human terms.  According to a SHRM article by Dana Wilkie, “Among the changes: eliminating all numeric scales; doing away with “forced” or “stacked” rankings that create competition among employees; and replacing the once-a-year appraisal with ongoing feedback on a worker’s performance throughout the year.” This philosophical shift in the way criticism is dispensed wasn’t conjured up out of thin air. There is a practical reason behind the need for immediate feedback (and praise). As stated in an article in the March 2017 issue of Fortune magazine, “One big reason for the shift: Today’s companies now change strategy so often that annual performance reviews can be moot by the time they’ve completed them.”

Although many companies are moving away from the annual performance review, there will always be a need for direct reports to measure how they are succeeding and growing in their current roles. To ensure success, employers must set clear performance expectations while providing feedback and encouragement. In fact, research shows that team members desire to feel valued, heard and even “loved.”

According to a Gallup article by Jim Harter and Amy Adkins “Managers account for up to 70% of variance in engagement and consistent communication is connected to higher engagement.” But given that no two people communicate alike, it should not be surprising that less than 1/3 of Americans are fully engaged in their work.

George Shaw

The real challenge is that most managers think they are great communicators, when in fact, most are not. This has helped create a notable communication gap between leaders and direct reports, leading to confusion and disengagement.

Dr. JP Pawliw- Fry of the Institute for Health and Human Potential explains this gap as, “A distinct pattern we see over and over again in the leadership development training programs we run: when leaders face a difficult conversation, a feedback conversation or a performance review, most cover 85, 90 or 92% of the content of what they want to say in the conversation, but a funny thing happens when they get to the more difficult part, what we call the Last 8%. When they hit this part of the conversation – where there are consequences to what they are saying – they start to notice that the other person is becoming more anxious and (because emotions are infectious) they themselves become more anxious.”

This research goes on to explain that when the employee being coached starts to feel nervous and becomes defensive, their leader reflects those feelings, and starts to doubt their own intuition regarding the employee participating in the performance review. This is typically the moment the leader hesitates when offering uninhibited feedback. While seemingly innocuous, the real problem is that the leader might believe they have offered genuine feedback when really, they probably failed to address the issues most critical to both the employee and company alike. The failure to explain the Last 8% leaves the other person unclear on expectations. It’s not surprising then that the employee makes the same mistake several months later, with the leader becoming more disappointed and frustrated.

If managers and leaders are fearful when addressing critical business issues with their direct reports, how can we facilitate a complete constructive feedback conversation, including the Last 8%? From a brain science perspective and utilizing emotional intelligence – EI– we can learn to communicate in a way that doesn’t stimulate the “fight or flight” response typical of defensive behavior.

The first step in effective communication is listening to the other person and validating his or her feelings, because they are valid, even if they are not obvious. This level of empathy is an absolute necessity if the other person is going to be open to receiving your constructive feedback. If you start giving feedback before they are ready, their response will likely be defensive, making them unwilling to receive it. When a person’s fight or flight mechanism is activated, research shows that there are real physiological effects. Perhaps they might not hear you because their heart rate is increasing and oxygen is flowing to larger muscles, away from the thinking brain.

When a person is confronted with criticism in a performance review, it can cause an automatic negative response. “This neural response is the same type of “brain hijack” that occurs when there is an imminent physical threat like a confrontation with a wild animal. It primes people for rapid reaction and aggressive movement. But it is ill-suited for the kind of thoughtful, reflective conversation that allows people to learn from a performance review. According to an article in Strategy + Business magazine titled “Kill Your Performance Rating” by David Rock, Josh Davis, and Beth Jones

Thankfully, there is an excellent constructive communication tool that can help us all avoid the automatic “fight or flight” response. It is called the Voice, Value, Feedback (VVF) Tool, and it provides a framework for a complete, courageous, feedback conversation that even includes the Last 8%.

  1. Give the other person a Voice – share why you are having this discussion. Clarify your intention for the meeting. Seek contribution not blame – “I realize I may have not communicated clearly…” then let them share their feelings for a  few minutes.
  2. Value the person you are having this discussion with and empathize with the difficulties your employees deal with on a daily basis. Phrases such as ”I understand it’s been tough. I don’t blame you for feeling that way”, can go a long way in showing your employee that you care what they have to say, and value their perspective when addressing issues.
  3. Offer your Feedback – “I appreciate you and here is what we need from you moving forward.“ Be specific about the behaviours you would like your direct report to exhibit and focus on the actual impact they have made on your organziation, not on intentions. If necessary, share instances of past and current behaviors that are not acceptable and hope they will address moving forward. State clearly what you want from them, so there is no question as to how they can improve in the future. Use  phrases such as “We need you to…” “We expect you to..” “This organization relies on you to. . .”
  4. End the conversation by reminding this person how you feel about their contributions to your team. Recognizing an employee for their loyalty, the value they have created, and their impact on the organization can reinforce their belief that they have the skills necessary to improve on perceived shortcomings mentioned during the review.

Currently, I am coaching several leaders who have incorporated the Voice, Value, Feedback communication tool into their culture, and the benefits are real. It is critical that leaders are fearlessly proactive in the difficult conversations that are required in order to keep their direct reports engaged and at their most productive. Most importantly, as leaders, we need to ask ourselves, “Are we really having the Last 8% of that constructive feedback conversation?”

For more information on the benefits of effective feedback, and more insight on the debate over real-time feedback versus annual reviews, check out: “Real-time feedback vs. annual reviews: A showdown”.

And if you’d like to learn more about measuring employee engagement, the How’s and the Why’s, download the eBook, Employee Engagement: Four Places to Start Measuring What Matters.

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About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 20 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 4-year old twins, Alex and Gia.