Guest Post: Self Leadership—Challenging Assumed Constraints


John:  This week’s guest post is a real treat for three very good reasons:

  1. Susan Fowler is one of my favorite leadership authors.  If you are not already familiar with her work, become so … quickly.  A blurb at the end has a link to some of her best work.
  2. The topic of this guest post is “Assumed Constraints”.  When you finish reading this, you will know why this is an important self leadership topic and a bit about how to avoid falling into self-limiting traps.
  3. This is a nifty way to introduce yet another engaging title from the One-Minute Manager powerhouse.  Read it and some older and very valuable thinking will appear, along with some freshly updated leadership thinking … all in an easy-read, deceptively simple story that will add value to your leadership journey … if you pay attention and use it.

I will have more to say about this exciting new title later.  For now, just sit back and enjoy …

Self Leadership—Challenging Assumed Constraints

Originally Posted on 5/4/17: https://leaderchat.org/2017/05/04/self-leadership-challenging-assumed-constraints/

The negative, almost nasty, comment to one of my LinkedIn posts bugged me. I spent 30 minutes formulating a clever response and then, another 30 minutes trying to figure out how to post it. I could see the man’s comment in my notifications, but when I clicked “check it out” or “join the conversation,” I couldn’t find his comment. In pure frustration, I reached out for help from my Millennial social media guru, Kristin.

Her email back to me: You clicked the correct links to respond. I checked the links as well, and I also logged into your profile to look for the comment notification. It appears that he deleted his comment!

She had come to a plausible conclusion that I hadn’t even considered! I am supposed to be a subject matter expert on self leadership, yet I fell prey to an assumed constraint. I held an assumption that I was woefully ignorant when it comes to social media and incapable of solving the problem. I let that belief limit my openness to another possibility—such as, the man deleted his comment.

We fall prey to insidious assumed constraints every day. The way we internalize facts influences our beliefs that shape our intentions, which ultimately leads to our behavior.

Virtually raise your hand if your manager makes more money than you do. Nod your head knowingly if your manager has more position power than you do. Now consider how these facts influence your beliefs about the workplace, shape your intentions, and ultimately determine your behavior—and your relationship with your manager.

  • Comparing my manager’s power and income to my own, I may conclude: I don’t have the power or ability to affect change. This belief leads me to watch painfully as changes happen to me without my input or participation.
  • I may believe that my manager should know when I need more direction for achieving my goal. This belief causes me to wait for her to provide me with an action plan and the resources I need.
  • Even sadder, maybe I believe my boss should know what I need, but is so self-absorbed, she doesn’t even notice. This belief leads me to resent my manager and sabotage the relationship because I don’t trust she has my best interests at heart.

Assumed constraints are beliefs that limit our experience. Self leadership demands the acknowledgement, exploration, and reframing of assumed constraints.

Challenging assumed constraints by flipping them into statements that lead to positive action is an essential mindset of a self leader. For example, what if I took the assumed constraint about power and flipped it? I believe I have the power and ability to affect change. This statement is more likely to lead to productive behavior, such as proactive problem solving or selling my solutions.

The flipped assumed constraint also leads to an exploration of power: What types of power do I have and how can I use my points of power to proactively achieve my goals and make greater contributions to others?

Research provides evidence that self leadership competencies can be learnedand that organizations would be better served by focusing budgets and training employees on self leadership. But learning the skillset also requires cultivating a mindset to challenge assumed constraints, activate your points of power, and be proactive.

Thinking about my assumed constraint for responding to comments on LinkedIn, I take heart that I proactively reached out to a subject matter expert using my relationship power. I feel confident that the next time I find myself frustrated over social media (probably sometime within the next hour or so), I will challenge my assumed constraints by mindfully exploring solutions I wouldn’t have considered before receiving Kristin’s insight. Then, if I really am stymied, I will reach out for direction and support.

Self Leadership is having the mindset and skillset for getting what you need to succeed. For true self leaders, accepting responsibility and taking initiative for the quality of your work and life experience is a continuous pursuit of learning, growing, and achieving. It is the saga that never ends.

Susan FowlerABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work … And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of by-lined articles, peer-reviewed research, and six books, including the newly revised bestselling Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs, such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more information, visit SusanFowler.com

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Guest Post: Excerpt from The New Leadership Literacies by Bob Johansen


ME:  Anyone who is paying attention knows that the older and even more current theories of leadership need updating to meet the leadership challenges of our digital, connected, and very VUCA world now and into our future.

Below is a short excerpt from one of the best books to address leadership going forward that I have found.  Check it out and see if the writing style and perceptive comments intrigue you.  If so, read the whole book and let me know what you think.

Below:  An excerpt from The New Leadership Literacies, 2017

Leap into the Future

by Bob Johansen

We think we are connected today, but the next ten years will be a period of explosive connectivity, with asymmetric upheaval and very few patterns of change that will be clear or predictable. In this future world of dramatically amplified digital connectivity, anything that can be distributed will be distributed. Most leaders—and most organizations—aren’t ready for this future.

We are on a twisting path toward—but never quite reaching—distributed everything, a path that will be characterized by increasing speed, frequency, scope, and scale of disruption.

Young leaders and aspiring leaders will be more ready for the distributed future than adults. Many young people are in a blended reality world already with constant mobile online filters for the physical world. They are on online, unless they are off. For most adult leaders, we are offline—unless we are on. Quaintly, some leaders today still say they “log on” to the internet. Do we really need to capitalize the word “internet” any longer? I think not and this is the first book I’ve written where I’m not capitalizing internet. It is pervasive already, but this is just the beginning.

Leadership will have to be much more distributed in this future, but most organizations and most leaders are not ready. The tired practices of leadership for centralized organizations will be brittle in a future world that is not only decentralized but also distributed. Firm structures of hierarchy will give way to shape-shifting organizational foundations. There will be enduring leadership qualities like strength, humility, and trust, but the new world of distributed everything will require new literacies of leading. This book will help organizations prepare for the future.

It’s too late to catch up, but it’s a great time to leapfrog. The five new leadership literacies I introduce in this book will show current and future leaders how to take the leap to the future by learning.

 

About Bob Johansen:

Bob Johansen is a distinguished fellow with the Institute for the Future in Silicon Valley. For more than 30 years, Bob has helped organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future, including corporations such as P&G, Walmart, McKinsey, United Rentals, and Syngenta, as well as major universities and nonprofits.

The author or co-author of ten books, Bob is a frequent keynote speaker. His best-selling book Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present was selected as one of the top business books of 2007. His latest book is The New Leadership Literacies: Thriving in a Future of Extreme Disruption and Distributed Everything discusses five new leadership literacies—combinations of disciplines, practices, and worldviews—that will be needed to thrive in a VUCA world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. 

 

Labor Day Reflections


talia_running_hamster_wheel_800_clr_20952.pngBest wishes for a Happy Labor Day, especially to all those laborers who are NOT on holiday this weekend.  

Our concept of work seems to have changed significantly over the years.  I know fewer folks who are in a standard 9 To 5 type of job and more who are employed in increasingly 24/7 roles.  This probably has to do some with the infection of personal portable technology that both fascinates and aggravates many of us on a regular basis, but  I do not think that is all.

We seem consumed by work, to a much larger degree than folks in other cultures.  If our country was doing really well in most or many societal indicators, this would be a confirmation of our strong work ethic.  However, we are not number one or even highly ranked in many cases … healthcare accessibility remains an issue, our country is torn and conflicted over many social and economic questions, and I sense a general malaise.

Not being pessimistic, but I am a realist … we are working hard, but do not seem to have much to show for it, other than trinkets (electronic gadgets, shiny cars, overpriced houses, and temporarily satisfying vacations and parties).  I am talking about real emotional fulfillment, which seems unreachable for some.

I am also not providing any links to statistical support or learned papers on the issue.   These are just my perceptions and intuition based on living, working., and paying attention.

So with that said, and while many of us barbecue and relax by the pool sipping our ice-cold beers … why not take a moment or two to consider what and why we labor.

Why do we do whatever it is we do to earn our living?

What do we derive from doing this, aside from a paycheck?

What else might we possibly get from our labors?

NOTE:  Regular readers may have noticed a distinct lack of activity on this blog for the past year or so.  That is because I agreed to work with my wife in real estate … and selling houses is a “More Than Full-Time” job.   While it has ups and downs like any job, I have found being self-employed takes on a whole new meaning in this industry.

I will have more to say on the above and other work-related issues in future posts, which I aim to make more regularly.

Still chugging along doggedly in the Heartland …

John

Guest Post: The Mood Elevator by Larry Senn


We could all do with an increased ability to handle life and all that it throws at us more effectively.  One of the more comprehensive, but readable books of late which attempts to show us how to do exactly that is The Mood Elevator:  Take Charge of Your Feelings, Become a Better You by Larry Senn.

Larry writes clearly and comprehensively about the factors that influence our daily well-being and the importance of choice in how our days and nights go.  His perspectives are well-supported and valuable for application in both our professional lives and our personal arenas.

 In honor of the launch of this useful book this week, a guest post from the author is below.  If you find this helpful, you will love the whole book.  I will have more to say about its value to me later in the week.

HOW TO DEAL WITH DOWN DAYS

by Dr. Larry Senn

There are countless pointers, tools, and books on how to be happy- and rightfully so, we’d all love to be happy and at the top of our Mood Elevator all the time.

Unfortunately, being happy all the time is just not reality. We will all spend times in the emotional basement since having low moods is a natural and normal part of life.  Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom because we have the power of thought. This allows us to imagine the future, plan for things yet to come, muse about possibilities, and analyze and interpret everything that is going on around us.

That same power to imagine through thought can also cause to us to worry excessively and unnecessarily, experience periods of depression about real or imagined problems, have moments of paranoia based on our assumptions about other’s motives, be self-righteous and judgmental, and even experience fits of anger and rage.

Because we take this ride on the Mood Elevator every day, it’s important to also have some tools on how to do well when you’re “in the red”. It’s not a bad thing to be in a bad mood, but it’s best to minimize the damage you cause when you’re having “one of those days”.

The best thing to remember when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed is to remember that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Having the awareness that you’re not at your best will help you proceed with caution throughout your day. Imagine when you’re driving somewhere on a cold, icy road at night. You’ll do the drive, but you’ll proceed with caution. You’ll drive slowly, take turns gently, and leave plenty of space between you and any other drivers on the road.

Think about that same tactic the next off day you’re having. If possible, reschedule that meeting with your coworker you butt heads with. The reason it’s so important to proceed with caution when you’re in the lower mood states is because our thinking becomes very unreliable when we’re down there.

Have you ever said something to a friend or loved one in the heat of the moment that you wished you could take back? Have you ever hit the send button to transmit an email that you later realized was a terrible mistake? If either of these has happened to you, think back to the circumstances. Where were you on the Mood Elevator map when this occurred? Most likely, you were somewhere in the lower half.

Imagine these two scenarios that are common in our everyday life and how we might get ourselves in trouble if we don’t recognize that our thinking is unreliable.

The first is getting an email that “pushes our buttons”. It might be accusatory, aggressive, or downright rude. After reading it we drop down to irritation, anger, or anxiety and our instinct is to write an email back giving the person a piece of our mind. These are the kind of situations when we’ll likely regret what we write. An alternative solution would be to write an email, and instead of hitting send, hit save as draft. Wait at least a few hours. If possible wait 24 hours and come back to it once we’ve had some time to cool off. Chances are we’ll be happy we didn’t send it. And, we might be at a higher level on the Mood Elevator the next day and are capable of sending a much more effective email, with a much better outcome.

The second scenario is the common one of having a disagreement with your spouse. My wife and I first got together in the 1970’s, the era of the human potential movement. The conventional wisdom at the time was encapsulated in saying like, “Tell it like it is, let it all hang out, and don’t go to bed with anything left unsaid.” As a result, there were a few times we struggled unproductively until all hours of the night, fighting over issues that, in retrospect, were usually not worth the time and energy.

As we both started understanding how our minds worked, we decided to set a ground rule that we don’t take on any significant relationship issues when either one of us are in the lower Mood Elevator states. It might look something like this:

Larry: It looks like something is bothering you. Is it something you want to talk about?

Bernadette: No, not now. My thinking is not clear. If I need to talk about it, I’ll let you know later.

Using the Mood Elevator as your guide and not acting on low-level thoughts and impulses when you are feeling down is one of the key principles to doing less damage to yourself-and to others.

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.

 

Guest Post – The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness


I like authors that write with passion, intelligence, and even a dash of spunk …

Monica Worline and Jane Dutton have given us a rare gift.  Their new book Awakening Compasssion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations takes a fairly old discussion and updates it nicely.

While most managers have moved (hopefully) beyond Taylor’s concept that we are all just cogs in complex machines, we have not yet fully embraced the idea that we can work like we are playing some competitive team sport like soccer or football.  These authors dare to suggest that what we need is less macho and more femininity in the workplace.  That’s not near all they do, but that’s the direction they take us.  I like the journey.

For a sample of their writing and teaching skills, see the sample below:

 

The Best Reason for Leaders to Cultivate Mindfulness

Monica C. Worline and Jane E. Dutton

Workplaces often silence suffering. Usually the silence comes from fear. We are afraid that expressing suffering will seem unprofessional. We are afraid our difficult feelings will cause conflict or evoke harmful emotions in others. We are afraid of negative repercussions, or we don’t want to draw too much attention to ourselves.

But these fears that silence suffering also stifle compassion. And compassion matters at work. It is a portal to resilience, adaptability, innovation, and collaboration. Compassion helps people heal in the wake of tragedy and helps organizations bounce back after downturns in the market. Compassion is a key to engaging and retaining both employees and clients. So how can leaders who want these benefits in their organizations confront these fears and break the silence that keeps out compassion?

One answer is to become more mindful. While mindfulness has become popular recently because it helps us to manage stress, it has other benefits for leaders as well. And cultivating compassion may be the best reason of all to learn to practice more mindfulness as a leader.

Mindfulness is sometimes defined as an embodied awareness of what is changing from moment to moment. When we are mindful, we can see more of what is influencing us at subtle levels. We realize that we are being pulled by tides of fear, time pressure, hierarchy, and stigma that are barely recognizable in our conscious experience. But the pull of these tides is often strong enough to keep us silent. As we become more mindful of our own experience, we realize that others are caught in these tides as well. So, mindfulness helps cultivate compassion for ourselves and for others.

Mindfulness is often taught through practices such as observing oneself breathing, repeating a simple sound or phrase, or using visualization for systemic relaxation. These techniques help us see our active and jumpy mind for what it is, and help us get to the deeper benefits of more calm, less fear, and a greater capacity to remain present with others. When we are more mindful as leaders, we have the capacity to hear and witness suffering without losing our cool. We move toward compassion.

Mindfulness helps leaders cultivate compassion in another significant way. Research shows that people in positions of power are less attuned to the full humanity of others in lower status positions. That means it is easy for leaders to overlook suffering. Even if they care—leaders may simply be blinded by their position. Mindfulness helps leaders take off these blinders.

Mindful leaders use practices of reflection, meditation, breathing, prayer, dialogue, visualization or other tools to restore their awareness of the range of emotions and reactions people are bringing to work. One suggestion we offer in our book Awakening Compassion at Work is to repeat a phrase we learned from our colleague Peter Frost. Each time you are about to enter a conversation or launch a meeting, remind yourself: “There’s always pain in the room.” Once you see and feel the pain people are bringing to work, you will be able to break the silence and unlock the force of compassion in your organization.


For even more thoughtful information about compassion in the workplace, check out the  Awakening Compassion at Work blogsite

Monica Worline, PhD, is CEO of EnlivenWork. She is a research scientist at Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education and Executive Director of CompassionLab, the world’s leading research collaboratory focused on compassion at work.

Jane Dutton, PhD, is the Robert L. Kahn Distinguished University Professor of Business Administration and Psychology and cofounder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business. She has written over 100 articles and published 13 books, including Energize Your Workplace and How to Be a Positive Leader. She is also a \founding member of the CompassionLab.

Their new book, Awakening Compassion at Work, available now on Amazon, reveals why opening our eyes to the power of compassion is smart business.