Leadership

Powerless Communication?

Earlier this year I shared the thesis of a workshop I designed and facilitated for the Robert Toigo Foundation Groundbreakers Women in Leadership conference…Confident AND Collaborative Communication. I explored the challenge of balancing confident and collaborative styles that allow us to share our unique perspectives with confidence, while maintaining the ability to engage others through collaboration.

The session was very well received and the Robert Toigo Foundation has asked me to facilitate a similar session in 2015 for young professionals of color on their way to top MBA programs. As I continue to explore the topic in preparation for the upcoming session, I discovered the concept of powerless communication in Adam Grant’s book Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Check out previous blog posts including Givers, Takers and Matchers and The Secret Sauce of Successful Giving for more information about this thought-provoking book.

Grant’s thesis on the subject of communication is that powerless communication is more effective than powerful communication, with a few exceptions detailed below. Powerless communication techniques include asking questions, talking tentatively, showing vulnerability, and seeking advice. Powerful communication includes offering answers, talking boldly, displaying strength and sharing one’s own point of view. Through powerless communication, he argues, we are able to make stronger connections, build trust, and persuade and negotiate more successfully. The positive outcomes of powerless communication include better collaboration, building stronger networks, and ultimately garnering greater influence.

So while I advocate for balancing confident (powerful) with collaborative (powerless) communication, Grant would argue that powerless communication is almost always more effective. The exceptions he suggests are (1) when you really are incompetent regarding a particular subject, in which case powerless communication will reinforce your lack of knowledge, whereas powerful speak will make you appear more competent, […]

The Secret Sauce of Successful Giving

Earlier this month in the posting Givers, Takers and Matchers, I shared with you that I was reading a book called Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. I had only completed the first few chapters and had learned that the social style that correlates most with success is giver. The twist was that givers are also the least successful. The open question to be revealed upon further reading was…what separates the two? What is the secret sauce? Having completed the book, I can now reveal the answer!

Without knowing it, I was stumbling upon the answer when I wrote, “Being purely selfless alone does not for success make.” In fact, being purely selfless is exactly what lands a giver at the bottom of the success ladder. Unsuccessful givers are termed “selfless givers” by author Grant and are distinguished from successful givers who are termed “otherish givers.” Otherish givers work in service of others AND in their own self interest, versus selfless givers who focus only on others at the expense of their own self interest.

Otherish givers focus on creating win-win outcomes. They are adept at expanding the pie because they can see the other’s perspective and create value for all. Otherish givers are trusting until they have reason not too be, empathetic when appropriate, and advocate for their needs as well as those of others. Finally, they are not afraid to ask for help and build networks so that they are not always carrying the burden alone.

Because they lack a healthy dose of self interest, selfless givers can be too trusting, empathetic and timid. They can end up exhausted and burnt out because they are uncomfortable receiving support. They can also be taken advantage […]

Givers, Takers and Matchers

 

I am currently reading a book called Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success.  I am only a couple of chapters in, but the premise being explored is fascinating…and even before knowing how it unfolds, I want to introduce you to this fascinating work.

The author, Adam Grant, describes three types of people:  givers, takers and matchers.  Givers tend to be focused on others more than their own needs; takers like to get more than they give; and matchers give and take based upon the principle of fair exchange.   The research correlating these social styles with success finds that the most AND the least successful people are givers.  What I have not yet learned is what differentiates the successful givers from those that find themselves at the bottom of the success ladder.  This will be revealed as I continue reading.

I am reminded of my posting on September 17 last year asking What Kind of  Leader Do You Want To Be?  The leadership styles discussed in that posting, based upon the work of Pastor Bill Hybels from the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, are two — legacy leaders who are much like givers, and hirelings who are much like takers.

What I like about Grant’s framework is that it is less black and white and underscores that the same seemingly positive orientation toward giving can have a positive or negative affect on ones success.  Being purely selfless alone does not for success make.  There is some other ingredient that makes it all work.  In addition, he isolates a third style, matchers, which according to his research describes most people.  Relatively fewer of us are singularly focused on others or self…but rather, more of us operate from a place of fairness and […]

What I learned over my Christmas vacation

This holiday season I found myself afflicted by a condition known as “TV binge-watching.”  I received the 5-season DVD set of The Wire, and from the first episode of season one to the final episode of season five, I was hooked.   Having completed all five seasons, I am now going back through the discs to replay the episodes that have commentary from the producers, directors, writers and actors.  I am fascinated to get a tour behind the scenes from those that deliver this magnificent body of work.There is so much to apply from The Wire to organizations, teams, leadership, culture, and performance.  I was curious to know if any universities were using The Wire and found that, although for a slightly different focus than organization development, The Kennedy School at Harvard uses the series as a case study on the urban inequality in America’s inner cities.There is one point that I would like to address that was raised in commentary by the writer of Episode Two in Season Three, Richard Price.  If you have not watched the series, in short, The Wire explores the drug war in the city of Baltimore, MD.  Across the five seasons the drug trade is examined through the lens of the police, port system, politics and government, educational system, and press, respectively.Each season is fraught with ideological, structural and interpersonal conflicts that the organizations, teams, and individuals must find a way to work through or past in service of achieving their goals.  Examples at the organizational level alone include the police vs. the drug syndicates, city vs. state government, and schools vs. the school board.The point Price makes is that part of what makes the series, and life, […]

Feedback is a Gift: There is No Such Thing as Negative Feedback!

 

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  One question I was recently asked, which I often get, and which I would like to eradicate, is “What is the best way to give negative feedback?”

In order for feedback to be valuable, we need to move away from the notion that feedback is “positive” or “negative.”  Feedback is either appreciative or constructive.  Appreciative feedback tells us what we are doing well and need to continue in order to be effective, and constructive feedback tells us what we need to change in order to be more effective.

Both forms of feedback are positive…meaning constructive and helpful.  Neither form is negative… meaning harmful, damaging or destructive.  Feedback should be none of those things.  Given this reframing that all feedback is positive, the question is how to deliver it, even the constructive feedback, in a manner that will be well received by the recipient.  Here are a few tips or best practices on how to deliver feedback.

Pair appreciative feedback with constructive feedback, in that order.  People are more willing to listen to the constructive feedback after hearing what they are doing well.

Deliver the constructive feedback using language like, “you could be even more effective if…” People are more willing to accept the constructive feedback if the language speaks to how they could be more effective, rather than how what they just did really sucked.

Give constructive feedback early.  If you give constructive feedback the first time you observe a less than desirable behavior, you have a better chance of helping to keep one incident from becoming a negative pattern of behavior.

Deliver feedback 1:1.  Providing feedback is a mini development conversation and developing and coaching employees is best done during 1:1 sessions rather than in team […]

Words Matter

I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last month and was profoundly inspired, both personally and professionally.  To learn more about this event, please visit the Willow Creek website.  I am dedicating several blog posts to my reflections following this thought-provoking experience.  Last week I asked the question, What kind of leader do you want to be?  One who is striving to leave a legacy, one who is striving for personal advancement and reward, or one who has stopped striving based upon the conclusion that there is nothing meaningful to strive for?

This week, I am reflecting on the power of word choice and the impact that a small word here or there can have on how we operate in the world.

“No yet vs. “No”

Erica Ariel Fox, author of Winning from Within, shared a story about a time when her young step-son was struggling to learn a new skill —tying sailing knots.  When she asked him, “Are you able to get those knots tied?” he responded, “Not yet.”  How many of us when asked if we are able to do something that we are struggling with would simply say “No.”  “No, I can’t tie the knots.”  “No, I can’t balance the budget.”  “No, I can’t find someone to fill the job.”

What if we replaced “No” with “Not yet.”  How much more hopeful does that sound?  “Not yet” leaves open the possibility that we will overcome whatever we are struggling with.  I can’t do it yet, but one day I will be able to.  It is just a question of time, energy, commitment, resources, practice, confidence….

“Get to” vs.”Have to”

This one is simple!  What if we approached every day by thinking, “Today I get to ______,” versus […]

What Kind Of a Leader Do You Want To Be?

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  After months of not blogging, I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last month and was profoundly inspired, both personally and professionally.  To learn more about this annual event please visit the Willow Creek website.  The next few blog posts will address topics on which I have been reflecting for the past few weeks.  The first installment of this set of musings asks the question, “What kind of leader do you want to be?

Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church characterizes two kinds of leaders.  Legacy Leaders act as owners and have a grand vision for what they want to achieve.  Legacy Leaders are working for the greater good, and are concerned with the gifts they will leave behind.

Alternatively, Bill spoke of Hirelings, defined as people who work purely for personal material reward — ladder-climbers.  Hirelings, unlike Legacy Leaders, have no concern for leaving great gifts. but rather, only concern for receiving great gifts.

I suggest that there is a third kind of leader: the Lame Duck Leader.  Lame Duck most commonly refers to a political leader approaching the end of his or her term, but an alternate definition is someone who is in a game, cannot win, yet remains in the game.  Unlike a politician with term limits, a Lame Duck Leader is someone without term limits, who is not retiring or a short-termer waiting for his or her successor to take the reins.  This leader is simply coming to work everyday clocking in and out. This leader is neither building a legacy, nor lining his or her pockets, but is simply hanging on and hanging around.

As I reflect on these three kinds of leaders, I find it […]

Are you managing change or managing VUCA?

 

When I speak at a conference, I always find that I learn as much as I hopefully contribute.  Such is the case when I presented earlier this month at the Talent Management Alliance conference in Atlanta. GA.  The theme was Assessing and Developing High Potential Talent, and I found many of the other presentations to be informative and thought-provoking.

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One concept that I walked away with that was new to me was VUCA, an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the 1990s and derives from military vocabulary and has been subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, per Wikipedia.

What I like about VUCA is that it takes the concept of managing change to a whole new level.  It deconstructs the concept of change into multiple components which underscore the extent to which managing change is really managing multiple interconnected variables. First, there is the speed of change (velocity). Then there is the fact that despite the best strategic planning efforts, there remains significant unpredictability in what actually will occur (uncertainty).  Furthermore, every situation in today’s organizations has confounding issues (complexity), and there are multiple interpretations for most situations so that truth becomes hard to define (ambiguity).

So while today’s leaders may be better at managing change than they used to be, are they prepared to manage VUCA?

What do you think?
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Building A Culture One Coaching Conversation At A Time

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  For the past several weeks we have focused on some of the challenges and opportunities of leadership: the dark side of performance differentiation, how leaders show up during turbulent times, and how leaders can build culture through coaching.   This week I want to continue the discussion regarding how leaders build culture, focused more specifically on building a culture of personal accountability.

Culture has been defined as “how we do things around here and what we value.”  Leaders signal what they value by how they spend their time and what they focus on.  As such, I think the questions that leaders ask as they walk around and engage with employees are critical. Additionally, how they respond both in the moment, and over time, to what they hear during those walk abouts will influence culture.

One of the questions that leaders are taught to ask in order to show concern and to connect to the front line employee is “what can we do to make your job easier?” Maybe the question that leaders should be asking to drive cultures of ownership and accountability is “what are you doing to improve your ability to do your job, and how can I help?” Firstly, is it the job of a leader to make other people’s jobs easier?  Some jobs are tough! Secondly, is it the job of the leader to identify those things which will improve the ability of the employee to have impact and deliver value?  Finally, once employees have identified their needs, perhaps it is the job of the leader to wherever possible help them meet those needs.  And when it is not possible to deliver on what people have asked for, how can the leader coach others to accept […]

Great Leadership = Culture of High Performance?

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  The blogs for the last few weeks have been dedicated to questions about leadership, and the great impact that leaders have on driving performance excellence.  This week’s question is, “Does great leadership always lead to a culture of high performance or a magnetic culture, as Kevin Sheridan, author of Building A Magnetic Culture would say?”

Certainly a great leader has tremendous influence over the culture for a particular team or segment of the business…what some refer to as climate. But what if a great leader, who might create a great climate for his or her team, is operating with (1) unmotivated, low accountable people, or (2) within an organization that creates barriers to creating a high performing team or culture?
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Teams are made up of individuals, and all individuals are not created equal in terms of their commitment to be high performing and to deliver results. Even a great leader cannot motive people to perform if it is against their will to do so, as motivation is an internal drive that develops within a person and not from external drivers. Once someone is motivated or committed to perform, a great leader can (1) understand and leverage what motivates them, (2) create an environment or climate to make the most of their desire to contribute, (3) tie what motivates them to the needs of the business, (4) manage organizational roadblocks that will interfere with their ability to contribute and (5) reward those that are already committed and motivated to contribute and succeed (external reinforcement).

#5 above is the one that can create a dilemma for leaders, depending upon the corporate reward structure, and how much autonomy the individual leader has for allocating […]