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How to Stop Selling Your Ideas and Start Enrolling People in Them

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 06:45

Think about the last time you made a big purchase like a car, a major appliance or a mattress. With the possible exception of the car, there’s a pretty good chance you bought the product online after reading a lot of customer reviews. Why was that the case? Of course, one reason is that Amazon and other online retailers make it really easy to buy things online. Another likely reason is that you would do anything to avoid an aggressive sales pitch at the dealership or the store.

There are very few of us who like to be sold to. It feels insincere and competitive because our interests rarely align with that of the sales person. A win for you is great value for your money. Unless the incentives are thoughtfully considered, a win for the salesperson is to maximize the money you spend. Making a major purchase in this kind of scenario is usually a stress-inducing experience.

Even though most of us don’t like to be sold to, many of us regularly engage in selling our ideas or initiatives at work. And how effective is that? All too often, the answer is, “Not very.” I was recently reminded of a better way to make progress on your most important priorities – don’t sell, enroll.

That idea comes from Donagh Herlihy who, when I interviewed him for the first edition of The Next Level back in 2005, was the CIO for Avon. These days, Donagh is the chief technology officer for the restaurant company, Bloomin’ Brands. I’ve been reading through my interviews with him and other executives for the third edition of The Next Level that’s coming out this Fall. He offers a lot of wisdom on the difference between selling and enrolling in this quote from the book:

“One thing I constantly coach people on is enrolling others.  Your job as an executive is not to sell ideas; it’s to enroll people in ideas.  People get kind of resistant to being sold a strategy.  The way to go is to bring them in early, enroll them, get them engaged and then there is no need for salesmanship.”

Here are five simple steps you can take to act on Herlihy’s advice about why you should quit selling and start enrolling:

Involve Others Early – True enrollment requires trust. You build trust by bringing people in early. I used to have a boss who insisted that my peers and I not spring ideas on her that had been “grown in a dark closet like mushrooms.” What she was looking for was the opportunity to influence the big initiatives before they became fully baked. If she wasn’t involved or at least aware early on, she didn’t buy what we were selling. Involvement is the first step to enrollment.

Receive More Than You Transmit – As a communicator, you can either be a transmitter or a receiver. If all you want to do is sell your ideas, go ahead and transmit away. If you want to enroll people in your ideas, put more emphasis on receiving. Ask open ended questions that give your colleagues space to think out loud and share what is most important to them. Show that you’re processing what they’re sharing. Incorporate their needs and ideas into yours. That’s another behavior that builds the trust that enrollment requires.

Look for Mutual Interests – Life and business don’t have to be win/lose propositions. Look for the win/win opportunities that come from identifying mutual interests. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?” and then verify or improve upon your idea through collaborative conversations.

Share What You Know – Don’t play your cards close to your vest. Share what you know and put it out there. You’ll either influence your colleagues’ thinking or you’ll learn what their concerns are (or both).

Create a Shared Vision – Co-create a shared vision of the future that connects with people’s sense of purpose. Work with your colleagues to sketch out a picture of what the future looks like when you implement your improved-upon idea.

You may have noticed that these steps lead to more of a collaborative approach to leadership than a heroic approach. It requires more patience but yields more sustainable and meaningful results.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

How Do You Score on the Business Stress-O-Meter?

Tue, 03/06/2018 - 03:40

Earlier this year, I was talking with an executive coaching client about everything that was going on at once in his business life. The short and incomplete list included integrating an acquired company, moving his company’s headquarters to a new location, the annual planning process and addressing some significant new competitive threats. After hearing his list, I said to him that it reminded me of that list of stressful life events where you add up the scores of each event that is going on in your life to determine how much stress you’re dealing with.

That stressful life events list is called the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory. It was developed in 1967 by two psychiatrists (unsurprisingly named Holmes and Rahe) who analyzed the coincidence of stressful life events with the health outcomes of 5,000 of their patients. If you score more than 300 points on the inventory, the research shows you have about an 80% chance of a stress-induced health breakdown in the next two years.

When you read through their list of life events through the lens of 2018, you realize how much the world and society has changed since 1967. For instance, one of the factors they listed was a spouse beginning or ceasing work outside the home. Of course, two income families were a lot less common in 1967 than they are today. Another observation about their list is almost all of their stressful life events involve a change in circumstances. Since their inventory was developed in 1967, there’s nothing on the list about the chronic stress that’s generated from 24/7 connectivity through smartphones and other devices. (Someone way more qualified than me should update the Holmes-Rahe Inventory to reflect life in the early 21st century. Just putting it out there.)

Still, it’s an interesting list and got me thinking about what would a business-life stress inventory look like? So, I started with the following events from the Holmes-Rahe and tweaked them a little bit to reflect the way business is done in 2018. Check how many apply to you and add up your points:

So, what was your score? If you checked off every item, you’d be up to 297 points and likely headed for a stress-induced health breakdown. And, of course, since it’s 2018 and not 1967, there are probably a number of other high-point items that you could add that aren’t on the list. If you scored higher than you think is healthy, I have some short-term and long-term advice. First, for the long-term, start working on changing the circumstances you can influence. What is probably more important in the short-term (and the long-term, too, for that matter), is that you establish some simple routines to mitigate the physiological and psychological impact of working in a high-stress environment. Three routines you can start right now that are easy to do and will make a positive difference are breathing, stretching and walking. This post I wrote in 2013 explains why each of them are so effective and how to get started.

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Categories: Blogs

Do You “Have To” or Do You “Get To”?

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 05:58

What do you notice about your thought process when you’re about to start something that’s difficult or intimidating? Is your inner monologue helpful or hurtful? Here’s a hint – your self-talk is highly predictive of the result you’re going to get.

There’s a simple mental shift you can make that almost guarantees a better result when you have to do something you’re not totally excited about or find a little bit scary. Instead of telling yourself, “I have to do this thing,” say to yourself, “I get to do this thing.”

As I’ve written here before, I learned this little trick years ago from speaking coach Dr. Nick Morgan when he was helping me prepare for the biggest speech I’d ever given up to that point. It was a keynote to a 1,000 people at the Washington Hilton with production values that were through the roof. Spot lights, teleprompters, the works. When you’re walking from the green room to the stage at the Hilton, you walk through a hallway that is filled with pictures of every U.S. President who has ever given a speech there. It’s an intimidating setting to say the least.

Fortunately for me, Nick knew the venue from personal experience and gave me some critical advice for when I was sitting in the green room waiting to go on. He told me to skip past the idea that I had to go give a big speech and instead focus on the idea that I get to go share my ideas with a 1,000 people who could benefit from them. That simple shift made all the difference. I was actually excited to take the stage that day.

I’ve used that “have to”/”get to” distinction ever since when I’m facing a potentially intimidating situation. A few years ago, for instance, I gave another big speech to a conference in Mexico City where many of the 1,000 plus people were getting simultaneous translation in Spanish as I delivered my speech in English. Again, thinking “get to” instead of “have to” was the key to a good experience for both me and the audience. Thanks to the “get to” mindset, my energy and confidence levels were both high and matched up well with the room.

Today, I’m working on revisions and additions to the upcoming 3rd edition of my first book, The Next Level. A few weeks ago, I caught myself thinking that I “have to” do a bunch of line edits that were going to feel like tedious work. After a good night’s sleep, I woke up with the “get to” perspective. Sure, doing line edits isn’t the most fun thing in the world but the bigger and more important picture with the 3rd edition is that I get to share with my readers so many cool new things I’ve learned from working with great leaders in the eight years since the 2nd edition was released. Once I locked back into the “get to” mindset, the project really took off for me and my creativity and energy soared. (And I can’t wait for you to see the 3rd edition this Fall – I think you’re going to love it!)

So, what is it for you – “have to” or “get to”? What’s on your to-do list right now that could benefit from making the “have to”/”get to” shift? One way to shift your thinking is to focus on the people who are going to benefit from what you’re working on. Consider the difference your work is going to make for them and how it will change their lives for the better. When you develop that mental picture shifting to the “get to” mindset just seems natural.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

Leaders Focus on the Trends, Not the Data Points

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 12:17

In some organizations, this is the time of year where individual performance from the previous year is summarized and communicated in annual reviews. (Which, by the way, is an abysmal practice that does nothing to develop people and has at least an 80% chance of causing them to feel disengaged.)

One of the reasons annual performance reviews suck so much is that they too often deal in data points, not trends. Too many managers don’t provide meaningful performance feedback on a real-time basis so when performance review time rolls around (as it always and predictably does), they find themselves scrambling for points to make in the review conversation. That’s where the data points come in. In the absence of any meaningful thought or preparation, whatever happened recently suddenly becomes a trend. That meeting you nailed? Good job on that – you had a great year! That presentation you muffed? You know, I’m not sure you’re really a good fit for us.

Here’s the thing. A data point does not a trend make. A data point is exactly that – it’s a data point, not a trend. Lots of data points observed and documented over time? Now, that’s a trend.

In the absence of observed behaviors over time, data points are just snapshots of whether someone was having a good day or a bad day at any given point in time. It’s the same dynamic with feedback solicited from others. If you talk to 12 people and 11 of them agree and the other one disagrees, pay attention to the 11, not the one.

You may think I’m off on a rant here (you might be right), but there’s a reason I am. All too often, I talk with an executive who focuses on the most recent thing that happened with one of their directs and, from that one data point, they extrapolate a trend that demands action. When I hear this happening, my favorite question to ask the executive is, “Is that a data point or a trend?” Nine times out of ten, they’ll stop, think about it and tell me it’s just a data point.

They call it the recency effect for a reason. A data point does not a trend make. It’s a cognitive bias. Don’t fall for it. Great leaders assess on the trends, not the data points.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

What You Can Learn About Self-Observation and Self-Improvement from Kevin Durant

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 12:31

If you pay any attention at all to sports, you’ve probably noticed that the Golden State Warriors are a really good basketball team. So good, in fact, that four of their five starters are playing in the NBA All-Star Game next month. With Steph Curry and Kevin Durant leading the team and (my idol) Steve Kerr coaching, Golden State is so good that it’s been reported that other teams in the league are suffering from Warriors Derangement Syndrome.

Still, as good as they are, the Warriors aren’t perfect. For instance, some of the players on the team tend to draw more than their share of technical fouls. Techs are sort of expected from Draymond Green given his game. They’ve maybe been less expected from Kevin Durant but he’s lately moved towards the top of the charts on techs and has been ejected from four games this season for saying more to the officials than they were willing to hear.

Durant’s latest ejection came against the Knicks last week after he felt like he wasn’t getting the calls he was due and spoke up about it – loudly. In the post-game press conference, he calmly talked about why he thought he was right and the refs were wrong. That wouldn’t be much of a story except for what Durant said at practice the next day to a group of reporters. Here’s the quote:

“I wish I had handled that better obviously but it was kind of a heat-of-the-moment for me. I could be better. It was a great learning experience for me though… I wasn’t getting picked on last night. I was being a diva last night. I’ve got to just own up to it. I watched it when I got home. I was wondering why he was coming at me so hard but then I watched the plays I was like, ‘Yeah, I looked like a jerk out there.’ It was bad. Luckily, we won and we can move past it and I kind of owned up to it. I’ll be better next time.”

There’s a lot in that quote that any of us can learn about self-observation and owning it when we get it wrong. Let’s break it down.

First, Durant literally went back and watched the tape. When he did, he realized he had been wrong to react the way he did during the game.

Second, he was honest about what he saw and called himself out for all to hear.

Third, he viewed the episode and his review and reflection on it as a great learning experience – “I wasn’t getting picked on last night. I was being a diva last night.”

Fourth, he sounded sincere in his commitment to be better going forward. He built in some accountability for himself by talking through his lessons learned on the record.

One advantage that Durant has that most of us don’t is the opportunity to go back and watch himself on video. It’s probably a really good thing that most of us aren’t taped when we do our jobs, but if we had tapes to review, there’s likely a lot we could learn from the self-observation. In lieu of a video taping system, consider recruiting a few trusted colleagues to keep an eye on you at work and give it to you straight when they see you acting like a diva or a jerk. If and when you get that kind of feedback, take a few tips from Durant. Be honest with yourself and others about what happened and how you showed up. View it as a learning opportunity. Hold yourself accountable by owning your behavior and publicly committing to do better in the future.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

Five Quick Posts on How to Be Successful in 2018

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:31

Happy new year everyone! Here’s hoping that 2018 is everything you want it to be.

To give you some fuel for the journey, here are five quick posts about how to set yourself up for success this year. These posts cover strategies and tactics that have worked for both my clients and me so I’m confident they’ll work for you too.

For the big-picture, strategic point of view, take a look at these two posts on how creating your own Life GPS® can help you create the outcomes you want in the three big arenas of life: home, work and community:

How to Perform at Your Best This Year

What a Life GPS® Can Do for You This Year (This post includes a link to download a Life GPS® worksheet.)

When you’re ready to break things down into the small steps that lead to big results, check out these two posts on the tactics of making progress day-by-day and week-by-week:

Three Steps to Actually Change Yourself This Year

How Baby Steps Can Keep You on Track This Year

And, finally, if this is the year that you really intend to shake things up, read this post on Seven Ways to Play a Bigger Game This Year.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

Five Quick Posts to Get You Ready for Next Year

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 16:23

This is that wonderful week when things slow down and we do a little relaxing, reading and reflecting about what worked this year and changes we want to make for a successful next year.

In that spirit, I want to share five of my favorite posts from 2017 that offer simple, practical and immediately actionable ideas on leading and living at your best.

We’ll start with one of my most popular posts from this year, The Ten Behaviors of Strong Personal Leadership.

Then we’ll get some tactical tips for effective self-management with these three posts:

Finally, I’ll want to wrap up with some inspiration that can lead to action with What Great Leadership Looks Like. This one includes one of my favorite short videos of 2017.

Hope you enjoy and get some value from this 2017 recap. See you back here in 2018. Happy new year!

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs

Finding Your Extraordinary Story

Thu, 12/07/2017 - 04:30

It’s be written that, “We are the stories we tell ourselves.” If that’s the case, then we need to do all we can as leaders and people to make sure those stories are positive, powerful and extraordinary.

The guest of my latest author conversation, Maria van Hekken, has dedicated her life to helping others clarify the extraordinary story of their lives. A veteran leadership coach and faculty member of the leadership coaching program at Georgetown University, Maria is the author of the newly released book, Leading with Y.E.S.: A Practical Guide to Discovering and Living Your Extraordinary Story.

In my conversation with Maria, we talk about how to clarify and articulate your story, the impact that has on your leadership and her advice for getting started. I think you’ll enjoy the conversation and leave with some actionable takeaways. If you want to download free tools that can help you discover your own extraordinary story, visit Maria’s website.

If you liked what you read here, subscribe here to get my latest ideas on how to lead and live at your best.

Categories: Blogs