Category Archives: Book Review

Guest Post by Shelly Francis – The Courage to Choose Wisely

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Today’s post is offered by Shelly L. Francis, her latest book The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity identifies key ingredients needed to cultivate courage in personal and professional aspects of life. The common thread throughout her career has been bringing to light best-kept secrets — technology, services, resources, ideas — while bringing people together to facilitate collective impact and good work. 

The following is an excerpt from “The Courage Way”:

Greg, whom we met in chapter 8, faced a difficult time as a business owner in the years following the 2008 recession. “I was constantly stretched by the reality of living through ’08, ’09, ’10, when the economy was so tough. Wanting to keep the company healthy and profitable and also care for the workforce I care so deeply about, as so many things are shifting . . . Talk about tension.”

In his business organizing corporate meetings and incentive trips, Greg wanted his employees to be as productive as possible and to enjoy what they did—because when they did, it showed. “We clearly are in business to assist clients at a high level of excellence. But what do we do internally for the people here who give the best hours of their day, year after year, to this work so that they feel engaged and know that they’re cared about? That’s what kept me awake during those lean years.”

Of course his employees knew the economy was in a rough spot, but they didn’t know the extent of Greg’s concern. “I was torn between not wanting, but wanting to share a little bit of that tension. And I wanted to demonstrate that I believed in them, as individuals, and that I had confidence that we would get through it.”

Greg was faced with many difficult decisions affecting the bottom line, including rapidly escalating health insurance costs. Although the company covered the employee portion, Greg was aware that the big increase in premium costs meant that many employees were not purchasing additional coverage for their spouses and children. With significant price differences among plan options, he could have made a swift unilateral decision to select the least expensive plan. But Greg chose a different path that aligned with his and the company’s stated values to always relate in an open, honest, direct, and caring manner.

He wanted to bring people from different departments together and have a conversation about choosing a health insurance plan, so he sent out materials for his staff to read in advance, with questions to reflect on as well. Greg explained in advance that when they all came together to talk, they would listen to each other share about how plan options might impact families or spouses. He told them, “We’re not just going to dive in to which plan do we want, but we are going to spend some time looking at the whole person you bring to the room and the other whole people in the room. We’re not always aware of what’s going on for one another. I might make difference choices if I know more.”

On the day of the meeting, people had individual time to reflect and write down their thoughts. Next, they sat together in smaller groups where they could safely share a little bit aloud and hear the questions that others were asking. “By the time the discussion moved back to the larger group, the rough edges of thought were gone, and the collective truth was more well defined,” Greg said.

Greg noted how helpful it was for everyone to prepare for speaking honestly to each other. He watched as people stepped out of their own context and saw a bigger picture. He could see them realizing the ways that different health plans would affect others. As they shared their stories, they began to see that maybe another option would be better for all of them as a whole.

In the end, the decision was Greg’s, but the staff supported his choice because they had heard one another’s concerns and understood Greg’s convictions. e process increased their personal regard and respect for each other as human beings, which is essential to building more relational trust (as we discussed in chapter 4).

Greg recognizes that people become more invested and engaged as employees when they reflect on their own choices and attitudes. By offering a reflective process to his staff that honored their wholeness and trusted their capacity for empathy and dialogue, Greg increased the chances that their own internal plumb lines would guide them, which enhanced their sense of commitment to and fulfillment in their work. But it all started with Greg’s internal choice to lead with integrity.

A man or woman becomes fully human onlyby his or her choices. People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions require courage.

—Rollo May

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Shelly L. Francis has been the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since mid-2012. Before coming to the Center, Shelly directed trade marketing and publicity for multi-media publisher Sounds True, Inc. Her career has spanned international program management, web design, corporate communications, trade journals, and software manuals.

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Getting Off to a Fast Start – Guest Post by Mark Miller

Mark Miller is an accomplished leadership author whose day job is as puts it “selling chicken.”

As Vice President of High Performance Leadership for Chick-Fil-A, Mark knows what it tskes to make and duplicate leaders throughout a large organization. he has a passion for developing and teaching, and his new book that released earlier this year, Leaders Made Here, continnues on that path to leadeship development that Mark started many years ago. We appreciate his sharing his wisdom and insight with us today.

Originally published on GreatLeadersServe.com

Leaders face obstacles daily, and often, we may not even think much about it. Challenges are just part of what we do. But what about a new leader, what issues does he or she face? What mistakes do you see new leaders make that could be avoided?

 

The following issues are often contributing factors when you see a new leader have a false start…

 

No vision – Leadership always begins with a picture of the future. People expect their leaders to have a destination in mind. Our followers have many questions for us even if we are new… “What are we trying to accomplish? What are we trying to become? Why does it matter?” As soon as possible, begin to paint a picture of the future. A partially formed vision is better than no vision at all.

 

Too few questions – The majority of leaders, new and seasoned, ask too few questions. This is extremely dangerous for the new leader. He or she may make countless bad assumptions that could be avoided with some carefully crafted questions: What are the biggest opportunities around here? What’s your favorite, and least favorite, thing about working here? Etc. 

 

Insufficient context – The likelihood of this being a major issue for the new leader is in direct proportion to the number of questions he/she asks. What you don’t know can hurt you. Lack of context can make a leader look incompetent and out of touch. As a new leader, you are trying to build credibility and trust. You don’t have any chips to burn.

 

Moving too fast – or too slow – This one is tricky. Every situation is different. And, every situation demands its own pace. If you move too fast, the odds of a disaster escalate. When you move too quickly, you are at risk of missing the context and making bad decisions. The flip side – if you move too slowly, many will question your courage, competence and your leadership. Trust your instincts and remember… Progress is always preceded by change.

 

Trying to make everyone happy – This is a curse every leader must face and defeat. If you are a new leader, you are probably hypersensitive on this issue. You really do want people to like you – most human beings share a degree of this sentiment. However, leaders know to succumb to this desire dooms your leadership from the beginning. Your goal is not to make people angry – it is to lead with all diligence. If you work to make everyone happy, you’ll work yourself out of a job.

If you are a new leader, congratulations! Get ready for a fast start. 

 

What mistakes do you see new leaders make?

Mark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs.

Guest Post by Dr. Larry Senn – The Movie In Our Minds

Today’s post is authored by Dr. Larry Senn, a well-known consultant and whose latest book The Mood Elevator takes a personal application towards leadership. In it, Dr. Senn defines the various moods we encounter and how those moods interact within ourselves as we interact with others.

Senn shares with us today how our minds play that key role in shaping our moods, our interactions, and our influence.

 

Whether we realize it or not, all day every day, we have a movie/dialogue going on inside of our heads. No, we’re not crazy, we just have a narrator inside of our heads helping us make sense of the world as we encounter it.

In his book, Untethered Soul, author Michael Singer describes a typical example of a conversation we might have in our head before going to sleep.

“What am I doing? I can’t go to sleep yet. I forgot to call Fred. I remembered in the car but I didn’t call. If I don’t call now…oh wait it’s too late. I shouldn’t call him now. I don’t even know why I thought about it. I need to fall asleep. Oh shoot, now I can’t fall asleep. I’m not tired anymore. But I have a big day tomorrow, and I have to get up early.”

Sound familiar? This voice is constant and constantly fills our heads with stories, stories that many times are far from the reality of the situation. This movie we create in our head is how we can plummet from the top of the Mood Elevator to the bottom, when absolutely nothing in our outside world has changed.

 

Look at the story of Deborah from the book, The Mood Elevator. Awhile back Senn-Delaney hired a new consultant named Deborah. Shortly after Deb was hired, I invited her on a sales call with me at a major utility company close to where she lived. I thought it would be good to give her a chance to hear how we presented ourselves to a prospective client, and it might yield some work with her in her hometown. I didn’t think much of it, but a few months later, Deb told me how this very innocent invitation sent her into a horror movie in her head.

A sales call with the chairman of my new company?! But I’m so new. I’m just getting to know Senn Delaney. What if I perform badly? I’m not a salesperson; I’m a consultant. What if I say something stupid? I could get fired! That would look awful on my résumé. I took a risk leaving my long-time employer, and I can’t go back now. What if I can’t get another job? My oldest child won’t be able to start college. I could lose my house.

Nothing about Deb’s life had changed, yet she was already envisioning herself losing her house. It’s important to note that the feelings resulting from the horror movies in our heads are as strong as if the reality were true. Deb felt as frightened from the movie in her head as if she actually did lose her job. These movies have a very powerful effect on our moods and where we are on the Mood Elevator. In reality, the meeting went quite differently than Deb’s movie predicted. The three of us hit it off very well, we got the client and Deb had some work in her hometown to launch her career with us.

Deb’s story is far from unique, we all do this on a very regular basis. We get mad at someone in our minds, picture how we’re going to confront that person, and then find out they didn’t even do it. Or we picture in our minds how we’re going to fail at a project and then it goes extremely well. Regardless of the movie we’re playing in our mind – the important thing is to have an awareness that what is going on inside our head isn’t necessarily reality. Even more importantly, when the movie in our head is a scary one, our thinking is typically faulty and unreliable so by all means we must mistrust our thinking and not act until the movie is over, until we have our bearings back.

Think about when you’re watching a real movie. You sit in the darkened theater, caught up in the drama and the suspense; the music is playing, and the special effects are making your adrenaline flow. But consciously you know it’s just a movie. You know that if it gets too scary, you can go buy popcorn. When you learn to treat your mental movies like real movies, your thinking will have less power over you and as a result you can spend more time up the Mood Elevator.

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About Dr. Larry Senn

Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator (August 2017), the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator. You can learn more about Larry and his work at his website, www.themoodelevator.com.

(images: themoodelevator.com)

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