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I have seen many rising leaders attach, or closely align themselves to an executive they report to and become the executives “right-hand-man”. While doing so can be very helpful to a rising leader, especially if the executive is respected and successful, doing so comes with risk.
So, what does that “attachment” or alignment look like? From the outsider’s perspective, there are behaviors that can give the perceptions of close alignment between a boss and direct report. Some behaviors are more obvious. Attending most meetings together. Consistently sitting next to each other (when we’re in the office). Always agreeing without questions or critical thinking. Continuously referring and deferring to each other. And the obvious “brown-nosing”.
Some behaviors are more subtle but can be just as impactful. If the boss and direct report are known to socialize a lot or spend time with each other’s families. Sharing inside jokes, or nonverbal cues of acknowledgement or agreement. Appearing to have a dependency on each other for decisions and/or support.
Why is it risky to align too much with a boss or another leader? Perceptions and assumptions based on those perceptions has a lot to do with it. By aligning or attaching ourselves too much to another leader, it can appear as a lack of confidence to stand on our own. Others may make assumptions about our opinions, actions or decisions based on what the other leader does. Assumed loyalties to one leader could hurt the trust of other leaders. When that leader leaves, the incumbent may not trust us.
Following the old adage, we are judged by the company we keep. If the leader we’re close to falls out of favor for any reason, it could impact the perceptions of ourselves. If the leader we’re closely aligned with is accused of bad behavior, we could be implicated, as well. I’ve seen this happen more than once and it happens all the time in politics. I’ve seen executives lose their jobs for the bad behaviors of their bosses or leaders they were closely aligned with. Those bad behaviors have included sex or racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and the misuse of company funds. Even if we were not involved, there could be assumptions made that we had knowledge of the bad behavior and didn’t report it.
So, how do we show appropriate, functional alignment with our bosses or another leader and avoid any perceptions and the possible pitfalls of being too aligned? Here are some suggestions:
- Don’t spend too much time together in the office (when we’re back in the office)
- Be discreet about any socializing or relationships with each other’s’ families
- Show your independence by having your own thoughts, opinions, ideas and decisions
- Be comfortable with disagreeing with the boss or leader, and communicate it in appropriate ways
- Use your own voice without having to reference your boss. For example, communicate decisions without having to say “the boss wants it this way”
- Don’t “brown nose” with an overuse of accolades, agreements, flattery and favors
- Don’t ride someone else’s coat tails. It will undermine your abilities and leadership.
Have you ever heard anyone complain about getting too much positive feedback? Probably not. Have you ever heard anyone complain about not getting enough? Probably. It’s a common complaint in most companies. Employees don’t feel like they get enough positive feedback. One could argue employees aren’t getting enough constructive feedback either, and in many cases I would agree, but for this discussion we are putting a spotlight on positive feedback.
The power of positive feedback is often underestimated. Some people thrive on positive feedback and it’s a big motivator for them, which helps with employee retention. At a more practical level, positive feedback, when provided with context, reinforces the work or behavior the company wants to see repeated. It’s a way of identifying good, great or exceptional work and what people are doing right and should continue doing.
The power of positive feedback also extends beyond the boss-employee relationship. There is opportunity to provide positive feedback to peers, employees in other chains of command, and even bosses. Who wouldn’t want to hear some positive feedback? I have worked with many business owners and c-suite executives that are yearning for positive feedback so they know what the employees appreciate about them, what they did or what they are doing.
Positive feedback adds a positive vibe not only to the person receiving it, but to the person providing it, as well. It feels good not only to receive positive feedback, but to give it, too. Imagine if everyone in an organization took some time every day to provide positive feedback to at least one other person. That could influence not only the morale and culture of the organization, but the productivity, too, as people are more motivated and know how to do a good job!
Here is a guide for providing effective positive feedback.
- Be specific about the feedback. “Good job” is not good enough. Be clear about what, specifically, was done well.
- Provide it as soon as possible.
- Consider the audience and circumstances. Some people prefer accolades given in private, others like to have an audience. Under some circumstances providing feedback in front of others provides an example and reinforcement for good work.
- Be aware of the needs of the individual. Some people need more positive feedback than others for motivation.
- Be authentic about the feedback.
- Don’t undermine the positive feedback by adding a “but…”.
Providing positive feedback is often not top-of-mind or considered a priority with everything else that needs to get done, which is why it falls by the wayside. Unfortunately, that leads to many missed opportunities. With a little thought and very little planning, it can become a great leadership tool and the results can be significant for morale and productivity.
Tip – Set aside (and schedule) 10 minutes a day or week to think about what someone – anyone – did particularly well that day or week and take a moment to give them the feedback. It doesn’t have to be someone in your organization. It can be a peer or even a boss. Imagine the impact to the morale and culture of an organization where everyone took the time to think about and provide authentic positive feedback on a regular basis.
Now, more than ever, we could all use some positive vibes and the need for positive feedback is even greater. The remote workforce has lead to fewer opportunities to provide positive feedback which, pre-pandemic, often happened right after a meeting or in a hallway. And as we rush from call to call, the feedback gets forgotten. The younger and newer employees are at an even greater disadvantage as they are losing the opportunities to observe workplace behaviors and nuances that help them learn.
Unsolicited positive feedback is not only an inexpensive way of motivating employees, but reinforces good work and behavior, and can positively influence a culture in significant ways.
by Karen Lindsey
I grew up around and started my career in a corporate environment. My dad was a CEO of a billion-dollar aerospace company and I rose the leadership ranks in large media and entertainment companies. I witnessed from my dad and the executives I worked with then experienced myself the stress, weight, and isolation of having to make difficult decisions with far-reaching impacts on organizations and individuals. While others may be involved in the decision-making process, often the final decision came down to one person.
I married someone with a different perspective. He is the founder and owner of a multi-million-dollar transportation business and software business he built from the ground up. He feels even more isolated with no other executives in his company to bounce ideas off of or participate in his higher-level, strategic decision-making. It all falls on him. He complained early in our relationship that as a business owner he doesn’t get any strategic input, feedback, or inspiration from others. He hasn’t had a boss or peers in over 30 years.
A leader doesn’t have to be at the top of an organization to feel lonely. Many leaders don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, concerns, ideas or feelings for a variety of reasons. They could be dealing with a highly confidential situation that restricts their ability to share. They may not feel comfortable sharing for fear of perceptions of weakness. They may not trust others in their organization well enough. They may not feel they have a resource with enough knowledge to understand the circumstances.
Being a lonely leader is not the best scenario for leaders or for their organizations. A leader can be more effective when they have someone to provide unbiased feedback, a “mirror” to help the leader see how their behavior and decisions may be landing on others, and tools to help a leader continue to grow and develop, and be the best they can be. A leader can make better and more confident decisions when they have someone to bounce them off of and provide new or different perspectives. A leader can enjoy leadership more with a confidant and sounding board that helps the leader play at the top of their game, and when leaders play at the top of their game, the whole organization benefits from it.
You don’t have to be a lonely leader. A qualified executive coach can be that confidant, resource and partner for you. For more information see www.lindseyresources.com or contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How would you like your own personal executive or leadership coach that understands the leadership challenges you face and how to navigate them; that knows how to leverage your strengths and shore up your weaknesses; that provides ongoing confidential support and a sounding board for making decisions; and holds you accountable to your goals. These and more are what an experienced and certified executive coach does.
Whether you’re an experienced and successful executive stuck in a rut or looking for a new opportunity, or an up-and-coming executive looking to develop your leadership skills; an executive coach can build a custom, personal growth plan to help you create and reach your goals while providing support and real-time guidance. You’ll learn how to incorporate critical leadership skills into your daily lives and make lasting behavioral changes.
There are many great leadership programs and classes out there with insightful assessments and compelling content. Unfortunately, once participants leave the program or class the content gets unused or forgotten. The challenge to powerful and inspiring leadership is applying the critical leadership skills to your world, consistently. Coaches bridge that gap between learning effective leadership practices and applying them to the individual leader’s environment, habits and behaviors.
Here are some examples of topics for executive coaching:
- Development of High-Potential Executives
- Effective Communication
- Time & Energy Management
- Executive Presence
- Strategic Thinking
- Technical Experts as Leaders
- Female Executives in Male Dominated Environments
- Building Teamwork and Relationships
Here are some results experienced from working with an executive coach:
- Development of Long-Term Skills and Behaviors
- Improved Individual and Organizational Performance
- Increased Productivity and Output from Individuals and Teams
- Reduced Stress
- Elections to the Board
- New Responsibilities and Opportunities
- Increased Pay
- Executive Retention
- Improved Teamwork and Morale
- Reduced Employee Turnover
When looking to hire an executive coach, look for one with leadership experience and education, and an executive coaching certification from a reputable university or organization. Then interview them to determine comfort level and fit. For more information check out www.lindseyresources.com or email Karen@lindseyresources.com.
by Karen (Ewing) Lindsey
Leading a company, organization and people from home can be more challenging and add more risk. Communication can be tougher and the lack of visibility up, down and sideways can make it more difficult to coordinate work and manage expectations. These challenges can lead to misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and costly errors. Here are some tips to help mitigate those challenges and risks.
- Provide Crystal Clear Expectations. Providing clear expectations is part of the job as a leader and all leaders know that. Still, surprisingly, many don’t do it well. In my practice as an executive coach, this is one skill that often needs refinement. It is often taken for granted and over time can get sloppy with important details missing which leads to inefficiencies and expectations not being met. When delegating and providing expectations, make sure the scope is clear including the parameters (what’s included and what’s not included), level of detail, and formality of the end product (nice presentation, bullet-pointed notes, or a rough idea). Provide the background for the assignment including why it is needed, what it will be used for, and who the audience will be. This will make it easier for those doing the work to make assumptions and judgments more closely aligned with what is needed. Finally, the deadline should be agreed upon, specific, and crystal clear. “ASAP” is not clear enough. If the expectations others have of you aren’t clear enough, get clarity. Ask questions to get the information you need to successfully meet the expectations others have of you. Working from a distance makes it even more important to get and provide complete and clear expectations.
- When in doubt, Communicate. While we’re working from home, we’re missing the hallways conversations, side discussions before a meeting begins, and drive-by spontaneous communication, all of which helps the informal flow of information and ideas that can add value in an organization. After every meeting and every conversation ask yourself what needs to be communicated, when, and to whom. Keep notes to help you remember to share information. Consider a communication plan that layouts how, what, and by whom communication will be disseminated. If you’re not sure if something got communicated, do it again.
- Reinforce the Vision. Many are forced to, or better yet, have the opportunity to work more independently being isolated working from home. Now more than ever we have to count on the people in the organization to make some decisions on their own. By constantly reinforcing your vision (hopefully you have one, if not, ready my book J) you help ensure the decisions that are being made and work that is being done supports the vision of your organization.
- Manage Meetings. Being so distant to one another right now might create an urge to schedule more meetings just to stay connected and stay in touch. Now with so many video conferencing options available it makes it even easier to schedule meetings and see each other. This can be a good thing but, like most things, too much of it can become a bad thing. We can get so over-scheduled with meetings we can’t get our work done and get fried by the end of each day. Often, we somewhat mindlessly follow our schedule of meetings without considering how important each meeting is to attend. Be very thoughtful about the meetings you schedule and attend. Balance the need for meetings as a method of communication against the time commitment needed from those being invited. Give even closer consideration to the need for each meeting, how long each should last (don’t just assume 1 hour), the agenda, and who should attend.
- Support. These are stressful times personally and professionally. Emotional intelligence skills are needed more than ever. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and acting based on those feelings. Give yourself a break when you need it and ask for help or support. Pay attention to how others might be feeling and adjust your behavior to provide the empathy and support needed. We’re all in this together.
by Karen Lindsey
While many of us are getting used to working from home and, quite frankly, spending so much time at home, the change is providing us some unique opportunities. Not only are we being given the chance to consider what’s important to us, we have opportunities to invest in ourselves and our families, and do things we’ve never had the time to do. Just the removal of commutes for some of us can give us an extra hour or more of time every day we haven’t had before. Here are some suggestions of things to consider to create your own silver lining and make something good of the social distancing and unusual circumstances we are now in. Below the ideas are some suggestions to make them happen.
- Stay connected and get reconnected. Many of us are already enjoying this new trend in virtual happy hours. I’ve gotten to see and hang out with some dear friends across the country I haven’t seen in years. Keep connected with your local friends you can’t physically be with now and think about those you haven’t seen in a while and would love to spend some time with. What a great way to help prevent the feeling of social isolation and give us something to look forward to while we’re stuck at home.
- Make memories. I remember growing up in Ohio the blizzard of 1978. When I look back on it, I have fond memories and feelings of nostalgia. I’m sure my mom’s memories are quite different. My dad was stuck out of town and I learned later my mom was terrified about caring for 3 kids on her own. As we’re dealing with challenges of COVID19, I’m thinking about how to create memories for my 11-year-old son. When he’s older I want him to be able to look back on this time with fondness as he remembers the fun things we did and deeper connections we made together while stuck at home. Consider building or creating something together as a family, doing puzzles, sharing fun research on common interests, bake together, take nature hikes, do something for a charity…the ideas are limitless. Pick a few.
- Do something you’ve always wanted to do. How many times have you thought “I’ve always wanted to do that”? It could be learn a new language, learn to play an instrument, learn about wine, take a class of some kind, write…again, the options are limitless. There are so many resources and classes online you can do almost anything you’ve always wanted to do.
- Travel somewhere. Wait…what?! There are many virtual tours online you can take of museums, tours, zoos, etc. Check out somewhere new and perhaps research a future trip.
- Learn something new. What are you curious about and might want to do some pleasure research on? Perhaps it’s a subject like a time in history or kind of art, a skill like leadership, communication, cooking or something else creative. It could be a type of animal or place in the world you’re curious about. I, personally, have been enjoying watching more Ted Talks like I’ve wanted to for so long. You could even research a new career path you’ve been considering.
- Achieve a goal. What goals do you have that you haven’t been able to focus on? It could be a health goal like eating better or exercising more, pursuing a new career, spend more time with the family, something philanthropic. My son is underweight and we’ve been struggling to correct that while my husband and I are trying to lose weight. Being at home and doing more cooking and physical activities has helped us all make progress towards our goals.
- Get organized. Is your office, basement or garage a mess? Do you have clothes in your closet you’re never going to wear again? Do you have expired food in your pantry and freezer? Don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking about all that could get done. Take it one room and day at a time, and chip away at it. A lot of us have extra time on the weekends right now. Think about how good it will feel to have accomplished some organization during this time.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started in creating your own silver linings. There are only 2 because that’s all it takes to get started.
- Pick a couple. Don’t get overwhelmed by the number of options. Come up with a short list and pick 1 or 2 of those ideas to start. Consider how much time each might take and the value you or others might receive. Or just pick something fun and enjoy it.
- Make the time. If you don’t plan for and make the time, you could miss out on a fabulous opportunity while we’re spending time at home. Work/life balance has been difficult enough for many us as we’re constantly connected to work while at home. Working at home can make this even harder. Plan specific times of specific days to invest in yourself and your family. You’ll be so happy you did and you can get out and celebrate when these difficult times have passed.
Karen is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and author of “Leadership Breakthrough: Leadership Practices that Help Executives and Their Organizations Achieve Breakthrough Growth” www.lindseyresources.com
I have heard quite a few people express concern about gaining the “Quarantine 15” while working from home. The easy access to our favorite foods, higher levels of stress, and occasional boredom being stuck at home doesn’t help. Here are some easy tips to help control what we’re eating and prevent mindless eating that can creep up on us and lead to unwanted weight gain.
- Create a plan for the day. Start each day with a plan on what you’re going to eat and when. You can write it first thing in the morning or the night before. Include the 3 main healthy meals and 3 healthy snacks. Be specific and include how much of each food. Remember that protein sticks with you and keeps you fuller longer than carbohydrates. Research and consider how many calories you want to eat for the day. Your plan should be reasonable and doable. Then stick to your plan by only eating what you planned for. If you mess up and eat something not on your plan, don’t beat yourself up or give up, just switch it with something you had on your plan and keep trying.
- Eat something every 2-3 hours. This will prevent you from getting too hungry and mindlessly snacking. It will also help keep your blood sugars and metabolism stay steady throughout the day.
- Write down what you eat. You’ll be less likely to mindlessly snack if you have to write everything down. It also helps you keep within your targeted daily caloric consumption. There are many free easy apps (My Fitness Pal, My Net Diary) to help you track what you eat with bar code scans to make it even easier.
- Limit temptation. Don’t stock the items that are your biggest unhealthy temptations. If you must have them for others in your household, keep them out of sight.
- Build in a treat. When you’re planning your meals and snacks for the day, include something that’s a treat for you (as one of your snacks). Just limit the quantity if it’s something unhealthy or high in calories. (one cookie vs. a handful) and build it into your planned calories for the day. This will give you something to look forward to so watching what you eat won’t be so painful.
- Water only after 8:00pm. Food sitting in your belly at night is more likely to turn to unwanted fat.
- Find time to move. We often move at work much more than we realize, whether it’s to and from the car and/or meetings, up and down stairs, etc. Our movements are even more confined at home. Make and take the time to get your body moving. Take a walk, do an exercise video, walk the stairs in your home. Moving will help you physically and mentally.
- Find a partner. Find someone also trying eat well and not gain weight that you can partner with to hold each other accountable. Share your plans for the day, how well you did against your plans, and how you will make any adjustments to your plans going forward.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. These are stressful times and we’re all making significant changes to adjust to these unusual circumstances. We’re not just dealing with the shift to working from home, but also the uncertainties and worries for how long this will last, how we will be impacted in health and/or financially, and how to best care for ourselves and our families. The good news is in times of uncertainty and change, it’s human nature to look for routines and structure which helps us feel more in control. If you didn’t stick to your plan like you wanted to today, think of what you can and want to do tomorrow to make it better. And don’t give up!!
- Reward yourself. Help motivate yourself with a reward at the end of the day. Whether it’s a glass of wine (just add it to your plan and or diary), time to do your favorite thing like reading or a hobby, or extra TV time, just make sure it’s motivating to you and will feel like a reward when you earn it. At the end of the day consider how well you managed your day and whether you think you deserve the reward or not. If not, think of what you can do to help you be successful next time, and try again tomorrow.
Karen is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and author of “Leadership Breakthrough: Leadership Practices that Help Executives and Their Organizations Achieve Breakthrough Growth” www.lindseyresources.com
While some of us have some experience working from home, many are doing so for the first time, at least for such a long length of time. Staying productive while working at home can be a challenge. There are so many distractions and temptations at home that draw our attention. Keeping in mind that we lose up to 20 minutes of time for each distraction, we could be much less productive than we even realize. As an executive coach, I spend much of my time working from home. One of the many skills I coach executives on is how to be more efficient and effective.
- Create a goal for the day. Start each day with a list of things you want to get done or started for that day. Include phone calls to make or return, and emails to write or return. Include follow-ups on deliverables you’re expecting today or that are already late, and return correspondence you were expecting and haven’t received yet. Next prioritize that list based on how you want to tackle it for the day. If you’re concerned about over-eating while you’re home, decide in the morning what you will eat for each meal and snack, and when. Then stick to your plan.
- Create a schedule for the day. Decide which hours you will work and when you will take breaks to eat, stretch, walk, or handle a personal task.
- Create an “office” space. Designate a space for working so it feels like you’re going to an office and have the tools you need to help you be productive. Your chair and computer setup should be comfortable. Consider purchasing a headset to help with phone calls. If you will be doing video calls make sure you have appropriate lighting to be seen and you’re comfortable with the background.
- Limit distractions. Keep the TV off so it doesn’t tempt you to stop and watch. Turn off the visual and audible notifications for text messages, email messages, and voice messages. Designate specific times to listen to and respond to them.
- Build in breaks. At our places of employment, we often have the opportunities to walk around whether it’s to meetings, to a break room or even to the bathroom. Give yourself chances to get up, stretch, and move a bit.
- Create non-office hours. While the term “office hours” is typically used to let others know when we will be available in our offices, the opposite may be useful when working from home, especially when stuck at home with significant others and/or kids. Consider creating time when you will step out of the space you designated as your office and be available for them. This doesn’t mean 9-5. Consider the ages of any children or needs of the others in your home to determine how long you can go between non-office hours. Ask them not to disturb you while you’re in your “office”. This works well with my 10-year-old. He knows not to disturb me during meetings then I check in with him after each one.
- Make your own rules. Proactively create rules for yourself and how you will work from home and not get distracted. From 9-5 my rule is to focus on work. I don’t do personal tasks that can be done outside of my designated work hours. I don’t make personal phone calls during my work hours. Create practical and reasonable rules that work for you and stick to them.
- Find a partner. Find someone also trying to stay productive at home that you can partner with to hold each other accountable. Share your goals for the day, how well you did against your goals, and how you will make any adjustments to your goals or plans going forward.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. These are stressful times and we’re all making significant changes to adjust to these unusual circumstances. We’re not just dealing with the shift to working from home, but also the uncertainties and worries for how long this will last, how we will be impacted in health and/or financially, and how to best care for ourselves and our families. If you’re not working like a well-oiled machine right now, give yourself a break. If you weren’t as productive as you wanted to be today, think of what you can and want to do tomorrow to make it better. And don’t give up!!
- Reward yourself. Help motivate yourself with a reward at the end of the day. Whether it’s a glass of wine, time to do your favorite thing like reading or a hobby, or extra TV time, just make sure it’s motivating to your and will feel like a reward when you earn it. At the end of the day consider how well you managed your day and whether you think you deserve the reward or not. If not, think of what you can do to help you be successful next time, and try again tomorrow.
Karen is an executive coach, leadership development consultant and author of “Leadership Breakthrough: Leadership Practices that Help Executives and Their Organizations Achieve Breakthrough Growth.”
For help with Executive Coaching or Training, contact Karen today.