5 Mindsets that Contribute to Poor Results

5 Mindsets that Contribute to Poor Results

Whether you are a new leader or manager who is starting a new business, your mindset and those of your people are integral to the success of your endeavors. Why? Because your mindset influences your people’s performance.
Mindsets grow out of life’s experiences and the assumptions that you make over a period of time. Coupled with your expectations in any given situation, your mindset influences how you treat and deal with others. Your mindset can either help or hinder the situation, especially in strenuous or challenging circumstances.
The following five specific mindsets may cause you and others to behave in unproductive ways that diminish results and stifle your ability to work well with others:
  • To be right, not wrong
  • To be respected, not disrespected
  • To be in control, not out of control
  • To be appreciated, not unappreciated
  • To be safe, not unsafe 
Because what you think determines what you do and say, it is important to understand how your thinking affects your results. These mindsets, taken to the extreme, usually result in the exclusion of others and can have disastrous effects on your ability to learn, inspire, lead, and collaborate with others.
To be right, not wrong
All of us have known someone who believes they are never wrong. Being “right” instead of “wrong” is a prestigious and powerful position. This mindset is an expression of one’s feelings about their competence or capability. Because some people define their self-worth according to their performance, such individuals have a difficult time accepting any other viewpoint but their own.
Impact: Someone who always has to be right may engage in demeaning or belittling behavior, such as using put downs to discredit others. They may refuse to consider other viewpoints, collaborate or cooperate with others. The challenge in thinking you are right is that you may not see the complete view of the situation and make decisions based on your partial perceptions alone.
What to do: Are you doing all the talking? Start asking more than telling. Invite others to offer a contrary option, to share their ideas and experience. Listen, and then listen some more. Realize that others may know more or understand something that you cannot afford to miss.
To be respected, not disrespected
People expect to be treated with dignity and respect both in word and in deed. Once someone has been disrespected, they usually continue to interpret the other person’s words and actions in the worst possible way. They tend to take everything personally.
Impact: People who feel disrespected are not motivated, so they do the bare minimum to get by. Using demeaning language or references is threatening. It’s also important to note that people who observe disrespectful behavior will be affected just as much as if they had been the one who was disrespected. Disrespectful behavior usually ends up creating a lot of negativity in the workplace such as distrust, gossip, uncertainty and suspicion. This becomes a huge emotional distraction to everyone and can seriously impact the morale of your team. You can ill-afford to be disrespectful.
What to do: One of the easiest ways to create respect is to ask questions. However, the key is listening to people’s answers and responding to their questions and concerns. Being inclusive of everyone is also a great way to demonstrate respect for one another.
To be in control, not out of control
Being in control is an illusion. The only person you are really in control of is yourself, and even that’s questionable. This mindset is an expression of power and authority. Unfortunately, some leaders believe that the only way to get others to meet their expectations is to control, micromanage, or manipulate their actions.
Impact: Leaders who are controlling are interested in getting things done, but it has to look the way they think it should look. They want what they want when they want it. They are not interested in contribution, collaboration, learning or discovery to improve results. This behavior turns their people into “good soldiers.” Such behavior leads to people not taking initiative, but waiting to be told what to do so they “get it right.” Controlling behavior leads to employee frustration and contempt which results in a negative culture.
What to do: Set clear expectations for performance. Determine project milestones and specific measures that you want people to meet, then allow them the autonomy to work and be accountable for their success. If priorities change, clearly and quickly communicate the new direction and set parameters for performance success.
To be appreciated, not unappreciated
Everyone wants to know that they are valued for the contribution they make to their enterprise. This mindset may cause people to constantly second-guess what they are doing if they never are acknowledged or appreciated. Over time, they tend to stop trying for excellence and do just enough to get by.
Impact: When I have studied the effects of appreciation in organizations, I have often heard people say, “No news is good news.” When I hear this, I cringe because it tells me two things: first, that people rarely, if ever, receive appreciation for a job well done, and second, the only time people hear anything is generally when they have messed up or not met expectations. The lack of appreciation may lead those who are insecure to constantly fish for compliments in order to validate themselves and their work. Such behavior may end up creating a lot of drama and feelings of resentment in others.
What to do: Look for people who are doing the right things, and then express appreciation for what they do. Praise people in private or in public as is appropriate. Say “thank you” when such appreciation is sincerely warranted.
To be safe, not unsafe 
This mindset pertains to physical, emotional and financial safety. In the workplace, people want to know that there is a degree of predictability that they will have a job tomorrow. If there is general speculation about the organization’s success or the lack thereof, then people’s imaginations run wild as everyone makes negative assumptions.
Impact: In the absence of safety, people spend time and emotional energy wondering what the lack of information means to them. Almost always, they assume the worst. If not corrected, this mindset will lead to a decline in productivity and a decrease in morale.
What to do: Communicate clearly and often. Remember that people don’t understand an issue until they have heard the message seven times. Focus on communication quality and frequency to be successful. Explore with individuals what they know and what they don’t know, and then formulate a communication plan accordingly. And, when good or great things happen, share those events and stories frequently with the masses.
All of us at some time or another operate out of these particular mindsets, either as a leader or a follower. When you are not getting the results you want, stop and evaluate your thinking and the behavior generating the results you are getting. Reflect upon the types of conversations you are holding and identify how you are involving others in the day-to-day process of accomplishing your goals. Taking some time to watch for and identify mindsets will set you on a deliberate path to success.
10 Statements Not to Make to Millennials

10 Statements Not to Make to Millennials

I recently had the opportunity to attend a team meeting where the manager was giving feedback to his team of 30 millennials who worked for him in a local catering business. I remember some of my supervisors in the past saying the same type of things to me. His statements brought back a flood of memories and reminded me how ineffective such statements can be.
Whether making the following statements occurs out of frustration for the current situation or to express dissatisfaction, you should know that using the following language does not improve the situation, nor does it improve your relationship with your people or help them achieve the desired results.
If you want the performance and motivation of your people to improve, avoid using the following statements to people of any age:
1. That will never work! Don’t be so sure. If you took some time to explore the person’s resistance to what you are asking them to do or to identify what isn’t working, you might find out that there is a better way to do what you are asking them to do. Millennials aren’t stuck in the past, in fact, they like to look for ways to improve and come up with new and innovative ways of doing things. You want to foster, rather than stifle, their creativity.
2. Quit whining and complaining about everything. You must remember that negative statements are really indicative of positive values that are being violated in some way. If a person is complaining, you want to understand what is behind the negative and identify the value that is at issue. You might find that their value is your value, and that some attention needs to be given to improving whatever is frustrating them. Once you can identify what is challenging the millennial, you can address it. Millennials want to understand how what they do adds value to the organization’s goals. If they can’t see or understand that, they don’t feel like they are making a difference.
3. Don’t question me–just do what you are told.  It’s important to remember that questions aren’t a bad thing. Perhaps what you are asking them to do, isn’t clear or they need more information, so that is why they are asking. It’s quite possible this manager saw the questions that he was being asked as a challenge to his authority, rather than an honest expression of curiosity. The statement above really does more to shut people down rather than encourage engagement and participation. Open communication and sincere feedback is important to millennials, so allow their questions to be asked and answered as a means to improve their performance.
4. You need to be here on time. This may be a challenge for millennials who don’t often adhere to fixed parameters in the way things are done. You will need to make a case for commitment and punctually and help them understand how their disregard of a specific time impacts the work, the team, and the goals you are trying to achieve. Once they have the big picture and how they contribute to that, you may have more success with a fixed-time commitment.
5. You don’t know what hard work is. Such a statement might be interpreted as, “You are lazy,” or “You are so spoiled!” This statement could apply to almost any generational group. People seem to struggle with taking the initiative to do things outside the parameters of their “normal” work. They may fear that their extra efforts won’t be noticed or appreciated, or they worry about making a mistake. No matter who you are dealing with, you cannot assume that they understand what it means to go the extra mile or be proactive unless you define and encourage it. You will have to teach, mentor, reinforce, and applaud the behaviors that you want people to enact.
6. You don’t know what you are doing! That very well may be true, but to make such a statement does not improve the person’s performance. Take time to understand why the person is doing what they are doing, and then make the needed adjustments. It may be that they are understanding and trying to address a challenge of which you are unaware. If you don’t take the time to explore the thinking behind the behavior producing undesirable results, you can yell all you want, but that still might not change their behavior. Help individuals to understand with absolute clarity what you expect them to do, and then recognize and reward that behavior when you see it. Remember that people positively respond to encouragement, not to being belittled or demeaned.
7. You are way too stressed out. If a person becomes emotional to the point that they can’t function, you would do well to understand the source of that stress. Perfectionists become stressed because they feel like they can never measure up or get things right. You might be contributing to that stress if you have not clearly defined expectations and directions for performance. Explore the source of a person’s stress and help them to manage it, rather than complaining about it and making it worse.
8. Because I said so! Millennials like to understand why. Making such a statement infers that they should just do what you are telling them without understanding the rationale or reasoning behind your requests. Such behavior will likely prompt more questions than you want to hear or shut them down completely, which may add to your frustration. Let go of your expectations that everyone that works for you will behave exactly as you would behave.  Help people understand why you are asking them to do what you need them to do. It will save you time and improve performance.
9. You are taking too long to do this. If you find yourself saying this, then perhaps you should ask if you have clearly identified how long a task should take, or if you have plainly outlined the steps to be followed to complete a given task. Take the time to explore a person’s thinking rather than blaming them for taking too long and not understanding what barriers to performance they encountered.
10. I don’t want to be your friend. Millennials like to have personal relationships with people who can mentor and appreciate them. Making such a statement roughly says, “I am not interested in you as a person.” Take the time to get to know your younger employees. Encourage them and look for opportunities for them to grow and develop. Someone who works with a manager who isn’t interested in a respectful relationship will soon look for other opportunities to forge relationships that are more rewarding.
Taking the time to understand your millennial employees’ thinking, challenges, behaviors, and aspirations will help you to manage them more effectively. Doing so will also ensure their success as well as yours while creating respect and building the quality of your relationships.
10 Tips to Help You Get More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t

10 Tips to Help You Get More of What You Want and Less of What You Don’t

Recently I was sitting with a group of leaders who were discussing how difficult it can be to talk about what matters most, particularly when others don’t share your view. One woman who had been quiet for quite some time, broke her silence and proffered, “Perhaps we don’t share what is really important or meaningful to us because we engage in behavior that gets in our way.” The conversation quickly turned to people sharing examples of how their behavior had negatively impacted the very results they were trying to create.

As the conversation progressed, I took note of the behavioral challenges that seemed to be most common. Consider the questions below to help you reflect on the effectiveness of your behavior as you interact with others.

1. Are you so entrenched in your perspective that you don’t hear what others are saying? Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to set your ideas aside and consider the ideas of others. Taking the time to consider other points of view not only creates an opportunity for you to share your views, but also helps you understand whether or not your ideas are sound.

2. Do you really listen when others are speaking? There are any number of reasons that people don’t listen. Sometimes we listen to assess whether others agree with us or not. Sometimes we are just more interested in our own thoughts or preoccupations than we are with what others have to say. Sometimes we are too busy thinking about what we should say next or how we might disagree. Whatever the reason, people can sense when you are not present in a conversation. Your lack of attention will likely be interpreted as a lack of respect or interest in what others have to offer. This usually leads to people shutting down or disengaging from the conversation.

3. Do you push too hard to get the thing that you want? Sometimes when our proposals or ideas appear to fall on deaf ears, rather than stop and explore a disagreement or other perspectives, we push harder to make our viewpoint known. Ironically the passion and exuberance with which we express our point of view creates more resistance than contribution and collaboration from others. Our push creates pushback from others which may turn into a competition to determine who is right and who is wrong. Emotions will then likely take over, leading to a downward spiral that will not end well.

4. Do you assume that you know better or that you are always right? Having this particular mindset is disastrous for a leader, and yet it is one of the most common complaints that I hear from teams about their manager. When the leader always has to be right, people tend to quit speaking up and sharing their ideas, or worse, they just wait to be told what to do rather than taking an active and collaborative role in working with the members of their team. It’s easier to give up than to be told their ideas are stupid, impractical, ill-informed, or simply won’t work.

5. Do you allow your negative emotions to determine what you say, do, or think in the moment? We frequently become emotionally reactive when our expectations are violated. When we don’t get what we want, our “hot” emotions replace our rationality and negatively influence our behavior. If you allow your emotions to rule your behavior, they may be contributing to results you don’t wish to create.

6. Does your desire to play it safe or to be comfortably secure hinder your ability to be vulnerable and connect with others? Sometimes our fear of the unknown or perceived negative consequences keeps us from speaking up and sharing what needs to be said. If you find yourself frustrated with the direction that your leader or team seems to be headed, recognize that your feelings can serve as a wonderful cue that it is time to speak up. Our inability or unwillingness to engage contributes to our results.

7. Do you avoid heart-felt expressions of appreciation or gratitude? Acknowledging others for their contributions is one of the easiest ways to build relationships and reinforce their positive efforts. Nevertheless, many are reluctant to share what they define to be “too personal.” Expressing sincere and specific appreciation says to others, “I noticed what you did and I value your contribution.”

8. Do you take the time to reflect and focus on what matters most? Sometimes we become so busy and pressed to finish the current project or the next item on our to-do list that we lose sight of what is most important. Taking some quiet time to reflect on your thoughts and examine your behavior will allow you to assess if you are getting the results that you say you really want.

9. Are you empathetic and understanding of others? Often we become so set on what we want and need that we don’t stop to consider what is going on with others. Do people have what they need to achieve the desired results?  Do they have input or feedback about how the results could best be achieved?  If things aren’t going well, do we stop to find out why? It is important to realize that everyone is rational from their point of view. Rather than assuming that people don’t know what they are doing or are deliberately making mistakes, we ought to slow down and ask more questions and really listen to their answers.

10. Are you blind to your own behavior? Because we do not see ourselves the way we are seen, we don’t usually realize how our behavior impacts others. We communicate in many ways that have an impact on others: tone of voice, word choice, intensity, inflection, body language, emotions, and communication style. Pay close attention to how others are responding to you: whether they engage or seem intimidated, share their thoughts and feelings freely, or only speak when absolutely necessary. Do they move toward or away from you, seek you out or avoid you?  These reactions can tell you how you are being perceived.

As you ponder and truthfully answer the previous questions, you will increase awareness of your behavior and allow yourself to make needed course corrections so you can avoid getting in your own way.

Many of these tips have their roots in emotional intelligence. Improving your emotional intelligence can increase your ability to communicate and impact your productivity.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

When You Are Attacked, Why Do You Attack Back?

Six Questions for Uncovering the Source of Your Negative Emotional Reactions

I was recently teaching a class on emotional intelligence when a participant proclaimed, “If you could just help me understand why I attack others when they attack me, this class would be worthwhile.” The challenge in learning to improve our emotional intelligence is twofold: First, your negative emotional reactions are only the tip of the iceberg—they are symptomatic of something that is going on in your subconscious. Second, surfacing and understanding your thinking and the past experience you may unknowingly use to support your perspective is not easy because it requires in-depth self-examination.

To become more emotionally intelligent, you must recognize your negative emotional reactions and then take deliberate steps to uncover what is hidden behind your feelings. Negative or “hot” emotional reaction usually represents the violation of a personal value—something that is important to you. It is your perception of loss that leads you to become defensive as you interact with others.

To surface causes that may be hidden from your view, formulate a few “question-answer” sentence stems. Start with what seems to be the most obvious question. After you answer that, use that answer to formulate the next question to explore your thinking more deeply.

For example, let’s say that you start with the question, “Why do I attack when I think someone is attacking me?” You might answer this question with “I attack because I am afraid of looking bad.” Then take that answer to formulate a sentence stem like this: “I am afraid of looking bad because….” Finishing this sentence as many times as you can, and you will begin to surface the thinking behind your emotion.

When doing this exercise, really push yourself to complete the sentence. I like to do this exercise by writing my answers on paper. This allows me to review what I have written later and look for any common themes. This approach also allows me to challenge the accuracy of the thinking that may be fueling my emotional reactions.

Here are a number of questions you might consider answering if you wish to explore the source of your negative emotional reactions:

1. Why do I attack back? It is human nature that when we are attacked, we instinctively feel like we need to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, attacking back does not help us to understand why the person is attacking us in the first place. Once you have sounded the thinking that is behind your own reactive behavior, you may realize that your thinking in a given situation is incomplete or inaccurate—which in turn allows you to explore the other person’s thinking and feelings by asking questions.

2. What am I trying to protect? This is a great question because it is a natural response to feel that when someone attacks you, they are trying to take something from you. A similar question might also be, “What am I afraid of losing?” Whatever question you choose to explore can help you identify your personal perception of loss. Then you can ask yourself if the loss you perceive is real or only imagined.

3. When do I not feel safe? This question allows you to identify a particular situation, perhaps with a particular person. Once you answer the question, you will need to further explore your answer by finishing the sentence stem of “I do not feel safe when.… because….” The aim here is to surface the reason behind the feeling of a lack of safety.

4. How did I get into this cycle? Sometimes our feelings are a result of interpretations we make in recurring situations. For example, if every time I sing in public, my friends laugh at me and tell me I am a lousy singer, I might formulate a negative perception of my singing ability, and a whole host of negative feelings about being ridiculed by my friends. If you can identify what events led to the negative thinking and the feelings associated with the event, you may be able to select a more positive interpretation and accompanying feeling. Please note: if you can identify one piece of data that runs contrary to what you believe about yourself or the situation, then you must be open to the possibility that your perception is inaccurate!

5. What wounds do people attack? Maybe people are not actually attacking specific wounds, but answering the question allows you to identify wounds that you may have and not be aware of. Our “wounds” are really nothing more than a perceived deficiency in ourselves. For example, if I always perceive that the things people do and say indicate that they do not respect me, then I must recognize that respect is something I value. And I just might be inaccurately seeing the actions of others as a measure of disrespect when no disrespect was intended.

Once you surface your wound, you are free to challenge your perception and the accuracy of your thinking. If you do not know whether a person is being disrespectful, then you must suspend your thinking or hold a conversation to check out the assumptions you are holding onto.

6. What negative beliefs do I hold about myself? Answering this question and then creating a sentence stem to surface what you believe is not likeable about yourself will help you to identify how others may push your “hot” buttons.

For example, let’s say that I don’t like that I am not always dependable. When I finish the sentence stem, “I am not dependable because …, I identify a number wonderful excuses—some true and some not—for why I am not dependable. When others confront my lack of dependability, I may react defensively because even though I am attempting to be more dependable their feedback reinforces that I am not what I would hope to be.

Returning to the original situation, I gave the class participant the simple sentence, “I attack when attacked because….” to finish. He came to class the next day having completed the sentence over 50 times. When I asked him what he learned, he laughed and said that he was able to not only identify the source of his own defensiveness, but also surface some very illogical and irrational conclusions that his subconscious was using to fuel his emotional reactions.

Becoming more emotionally intelligent is a worthwhile endeavor for anyone who works with or manages others. Being able to understand the source of your feelings and to challenge the accuracy of those feelings will help you to navigate your interpersonal interactions more effectively while increasing your emotional intelligence.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.

10 Tips When Onboarding to a New Leadership Position

10 Tips When Onboarding to a New Leadership Position

I was recently visiting with a potential client, and at the close of our conversation, I asked her if there was something I could do to help her. She indicated that there were so many new leaders entering their organization that she wished she had a list of principles or concepts that she could give to them that would help them assimilate and become effective as quickly as possible.

Because changing leadership often brings challenges, I would suggest 10 best practices to strengthen your leadership capacity and improve the quality and speed of your results.

1. Clarify the Expectations of Your Manager.Knowing what your manager expects and how those expectations contribute to the desired results will help you align your expectations and your team’s. This will insure that everyone clearly understands how their assigned tasks contribute to the organization’s goals. Because leaders are often afraid to tell their subordinates that they are not meeting their expectations, pushing for clarity keeps you from having to read your manager’s mind and forces the manager to be clear about what they want.

2. Don’t Come in “Hot.”If you have been hired to take on a leadership role, you were likely hired because of your experience, knowledge, and skills.  You may assume that the people you have been hired to lead aren’t capable, aren’t motivated, or aren’t good performers. This perception has likely been reinforced if the hiring manager has told you negative things about the team and the work that you are inheriting. Such a mindset may lead you to treat people in a patronizing and demeaning way. Taking the approach that you have to fix everything because no one else can is a recipe for disaster.

3. Establish Rapport.If you are new to the company or this group, it’s important to remember that likely no one knows you. Take the time to tell your story–be sure and relate your past experience, what contributed to your success, what you believe about working with people, and your purpose and vision for working with this team. Be sure and take time to learn about others, their expertise, their successes and struggles, and how they see the current challenges in achieving the desired outcomes.

4. Hold a Culture Conversation. This activity could be easily listed as a rapport-building activity because it establishes value for the individuals and their contributions. Ask questions about what people are supposed to do, what they actually do, and how they do what they do. You might also ask them to share their perspective by asking, “What is currently working? What is not working? What is your greatest pain or frustration?” And, “What could be done to improve the current challenges?” This conversation will provide you with important information while gaining the trust of your team and showing you value their expertise.

5. Don’t Hook Your Wagon to a Single Leader. Often when a new person is hired they isolate themselves by aligning their views solely with their manager. This usually results in the new leader adopting the same current attitudes and conclusions that their leader holds, likely leading to a limited view of the work at hand and your team. By identifying and networking with a number of different, effective leaders, you will gain a wider perspective and build valuable relationships and support for what you are trying to accomplish and achieve.   

6. Clarify Your Intention. If your intention is to make yourself look good or prove that you are the star, then you will likely shine the spotlight on yourself to the exclusion of others. Highlight what you are trying to achieve and deliberately spotlight the members of your team for their successes. In doing so, they will make you the star. People want to do great work.  As their leader you can help them unleash their ability to do their best work.

7. Communicate Clearly and Often. Ask a lot of questions and really listen to what people are telling you. People will often withhold what they truly think until they are assured that you sincerely want to hear their answers. If they respond in a way that is negative or emotional, ask more questions. Hidden behind the negativity and emotions is what is important to the individual. You must listen past complaints and negativity to what is in the hearts and minds of the people.

8. Build Your Credibility. Be candid, honest, and transparent. If you don’t know something, acknowledge it and then find the answer. Recognize mistakes and focus on learning and improving, setting the example for everyone to do the same. Keep your commitments, support others in their challenges, provide clear and accurate feedback, coach and mentor when needed, and acknowledge and celebrate people’s efforts and successes. 

9. Check People’s Alignment.Alignment is determined by asking the following three questions: 1) How aligned are you with the expectations and goals for your work?        2) How aligned are you with what we do here? And, 3) How aligned are you with how we do the work? You might follow each of these questions with this question: “On a scale of 1 to 10 how aligned are you with…?” If the individual’s assessment comes in lower than a “6”, then you might ask, “Why?” and, “What would it take to bring you up to a 10?” Taking the time to understand why a person’s perception of expectations, execution, and process may be less than desirable will tell you a lot about why your team gets the results that they do. Remember that we are perfectly positioned to get the results that we do. The challenge is to figure how our positioning yields our results.

10. Expect to be Interpreted Negatively. When a new leader arrives on the scene, it isn’t uncommon for people to interpret what they do or say negatively.  Change is often difficult for people. When they don’t have all the facts, it is natural for them to take things personally and assume the worst. Recognize that tendency and deliberately think through and plan your actions and messaging. To help prevent negative conclusions, communicate clearly and often and share positive perspectives of anything that you undertake.

Beginning a new job as a leader with a new team and new challenges may seem overwhelming at first. Taking the time to apply these tips will increase your understanding of the current challenges, engage your people, and increase the quality and effectiveness of your leadership.

Do you struggle with communicating effectively? Do you need to improve your emotional intelligence?

Join me for my complimentary webinar, “3 Must Know Principles for Increasing Your Emotional Intelligence.”

We will walk through practical ways to defuse defensiveness in others as well as yourself. You will learn the 5 values that create the majority of workplace challenges and disruptions.