A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

A Good Customer Experience Suggests Evidence of Good Leadership

When’s the last time you had a standout customer experience?

Can you say you’ve had a personable on-line shopping experience recently?

How confident are you that your team’s service is what you’d want it to be, consistently?

Read on to find ideas for improving interactions in your workplace – whether customer service or inner-office. Two recent experiences I had with the same company suggests they have a customer-oriented culture and emotional intelligence leadership.

I drink tea, historically lots of it, morning, noon and night. About 4 years ago I started drinking decaffeinated tea as the caffeine was causing problems with my system (not sleep thankfully). I did taste-test comparisons, I researched what methodology they used to decaffeinate the tea and of course considered cost and availability. My favourite became Brew Tea Co – an English company founded in 2012 by @Aideen and @Phil.

Customer Experience

Being a loyal customer, I have a regular subscription where my loose tea arrives automatically. Last month I adjusted my delivery to arrive sooner, unfortunately the transaction wasn’t possible, “said it couldn’t be processed with my card details.” I hadn’t changed the card so didn’t know what the problem was. I emailed them and got a prompt and empathetic reply from “Team Awesome.” Yup, that’s their email name. Sets the bar high, predisposes recipients potentially to that experience and can be risky.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

My various interactions with this company were consistently personable, that indicates that there is something in the culture or ‘organizational system’ creating the consistency.

1. Immediate Empathy to My Problem. The first line was an apology, saying they were sorry. At this point we had no idea if the issue was of their making or mine. Right off the bat they said sorry I was having a problem and asked how they could help.

2. Prompt, Positive, Passionate. I figured out that problem was caused by my bank suspecting fraud, nothing to do with Brew Team Co at all. I proceed to do the online transaction and they reached out to me and confirmed it had gone through this time. They followed me through the transaction because, yes, they wanted my business and knew I wanted their tea.

3. Knowing When Enough is Enough. Part of having good customer service is to know when it’s enough and when it’s too much. I have a regular subscription for tea delivery and they rarely email me, which is a good thing. They know people are deluged with stuff and they keep it to what is necessary.

4. Pre-Emptive Communication. My last interaction with them was an email offering me a discount on my next order as they had had a processing problem on their end and hadn’t gotten the recent orders out within the timeframe indicated (24 hours). I had no idea there was a delay, I would not have noticed a one-day delivery lag, and I’m a regular subscriber. They proactively communicated a potential delay and offered me a discount knowing I’m a somewhat guaranteed customer.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership is not a role or a position – everyone in any position can be a leader. The front-line staff of any organization need to be leaders:

• They need to lead themselves. An example, when a customer complains, is frustrated, maybe yells, a customer service rep needs to remain calm, listen, empathize with the customer. This takes a lot of self-management, to not take the criticism personally, to not get defensive, to engage in a way that diffuses the situation.

• They need to lead the customer experience as they are the “experts” in the product or service and in the process the company uses and ideally the most knowledgeable about what their customers need.

The definition of ‘experience’ is an event or occurrence which leaves an impression on someone. Impressions happen when we are touched by something or someone; they are made by influencing emotions. To create experiences for customers or colleagues in the workplace, employees need to be aware and able to manage emotions.

Brew Tea Co has made an impression on me – I trust them, I feel valued, like they care about having my business, and I enjoy their product immensely.

How confident are you about managing emotions?

Do you want to improve the ‘experiences’ your organization creates?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help your people create great interpersonal experiences.

Photo by YURI MANEI from Pexels

: A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

A Tangible Example of Emotional Intelligence in Real Life

Wondering what cricket can tell you about improving team performance?
Want to understand how “emotional intelligence” actually works in IRL?
Need actually phrases and tactics of how to “DO” emotional intelligence?

If you hate sports or don’t understand cricket, read on. There are leadership lessons for you to learn, even from bad examples of emotional intelligence on a sports field.

Last month the England Cricket Team played a Test match with India over 5 days. Spoiler alert, England were posed to win going into the final day until 1 hour of behaviour over 7 hours of play derailed them resulting in a draw. This isn’t just me saying it, Derek Pringle, sports journalist, summed it up as “England were puerile and it totally ruined their chances.” FYI for non-native English speakers, puerile means childish or immature. You could call some of their behaviour childish and I would say they were not operating with emotional intelligence. This is commonplace in many sports teams, organizations, businesses and even families.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

On that last day of play, the captain, Joe Root, had a poor showing at bat just after tea (gotta love a sport with a tea break I say). What I’m going to say is speculation as I wasn’t there and don’t know Joe Root. My speculation is based on what I’ve seen and heard over decades of organizational experience.

I assume he was disappointed in his batting performance. The team might have been frustrated they weren’t further ahead. They might have been anxious or worrying that Root’s at bat didn’t edge them close enough. There could have been some lingering resentment from the previous day when the Indian bowler (the person throwing the ball) bounced the ball in such a way to hit an England batter a few times. After that, England’s bowlers appeared to lose composure or forget their strengths or choose to change tactics and target the Indian batter’s head, hitting his helmet twice. Reactions were emotive across and between both teams. Please note there are many possibilities to what might have been going on in peoples’ heads and hearts – I name a few hear to illustrate. This illustrates the importance of recognizing that lots might be going on, and you probably don’t know for sure, so get curious, but I’m jumping ahead.

Leadership Lessons:

RESILIENCE – Increased resilience would have helped England during this last day of play. Resilience means the ability to bounce back after disappointment or step backs. The speed of being able to bounce back can be a game changer (literally for England’s Root).

How to be more resilient – Be self-aware enough to know what might trigger or derail you. What things (people, situations) throw you off your stride? An example for me is if two people in a group training I’m providing start talking among themselves, that CAN derail me, make me more concerned about what they are talking about, then what I’m doing with the rest of the group. Because I know that, it rarely knocks me off my game. Knowing what might upset you beforehand helps you see it before or just as it’s happening, to then be able to tell yourself “oh, I’m being triggered”. Beforehand, decide how you want to “be” in those situations and then in those moments choose what you’ve predefined. A post-it note on your monitor to remind you of how you want to be is helpful.

REACTIONS – Humans react to things, full stop. As much as we say business is rational, emotions are present all the time, even in offices and in virtual settings. Employers want the emotions of loyalty, commitment, positivity, excitement, gratitude, and many more. Employers and most humans don’t want the “negative” emotions of disappointment, unhappiness, overwhelm, anger, frustration, resentment or sadness. We can’t have it both ways.

How to handle reactions or emotions – Just as we can be triggered or derailed by situations and people, other people can be too. And they can also be triggered by what we do or say potentially. Best way to handle both our own and others’ emotions is to breath. When there’s time you can get curious by asking what are you feeling? What’s going on for you? I sense you might be frustrated, what’s happening? Naming an emotion can often diffuse it or at least clarify it for further exploration – much more productive than avoiding it as the person will still feel it. If there’s not time, such as on a cricket pitch mid-game, help point people to who they are when they are being their best and/or to what the goal is. For the cricketers it might have been for Root to: remind the bowlers of their what they had done well yesterday (“probing a good line and length to take advantage of cloud cover and an uneven pitch” according to Pringle); or what their strengths are; or that the goal/winning is in sight, they need to put aside any frustrations and be smart about how they play this to win (and then give them specific behaviours); or give them a positive mindset to hold (that was maybe discussed in training) such as “we are better than arguing on the pitch, let’s be the winning team we can be by playing how we can play”; or maybe set out an aspiration which could be asking “what would Ben Stokes expect or want for us now in order to win?” (Stokes is a star England cricketer who is on a break for mental health attention).

STEPPING UP – Yes, the captain of the sports team is the captain. The manager of a group at work is the manager. And a leader can be anyone who is present – both literally and emotionally (in the meeting, focused the moment/being present). By definition, a leader is someone who sees what needs to be done and rallies people towards that vision or goal. There could be a number of leaders in any situation, the leader is the one who sees what shift needs to happen to perform better and influences others towards it. Leadership is not a title, it’s the fact of having followers, people who choose to follow your direction hence leaders giving big direction (company vision or department goals) and leaders giving “small” direction (what’s needed right now, in an interaction, to get the most of out people in a way that’s mutually satisfying to achieve the task at hand).

How to be a leader, no matter your position – If there’s tension, anyone in the room can say “I sense we might need a break, how about we reconvene in 10 minutes after a breath of fresh air or glass of water?” Alternately, really courageous leadership would be pointing out the tension and getting curious about what’s happening for people. To do this type of courageous leadership requires trust amongst the team. Anyone can make any of the suggestions listed in the above ‘How to handle reactions or emotions.’ Any of the England team could have stepped in and said, “what do we need to do right now to win this?” Leaders often don’t have all the answers, they often have the best questions to unleash peoples’ potential to deal with the issue at hand.

In the case of this Test match and many meetings I’ve been involved in and heard about, keeping one’s head is paramount. That’s emotional intelligence. It doesn’t mean denying an emotion or feeling, it means knowing and managing yourself and your responses so that you can be aware of others’ feelings and manage your interaction with them to achieve the desired result. A captain exhibiting emotional intelligence would have recognized he was disappointed in himself for few runs; realized his bowlers were not using the tactics that had been successful up-to-now (maybe because of frustration or anger); rallied his team at any number of points in this 90-minute time span to focus them on their strengths, who they are when they are at their best and point them to the goal of winning.

Which of these leadership lessons matters most to you?

When have you seen such emotionally intelligent leadership? In sports or business?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to help yourself and others keep your head in the game to win.

Photo by Patrick Case from Pexels

Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Leadership Lessons of Gareth Southgate, Past the Waistcoat

Who’s a great leader? This is a question I’m often asked by random people when I say I’m a leadership coach and author. One recent example I cite is Gareth Southgate, the manager of the England national football (soccer) team. England’s advancement to the final of the Euro 2020/1 played last month brought his leadership to the forefront, their loss taught us more. He’s famous for wearing waistcoats on the sidelines, and his leadership is more than what you see on the surface.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Leadership is the ability to excite others to perform towards a wanted vision or objective. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and be aware and able to manage the emotions of others thereby handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. Combine the two and it’s about behaving in a way that has you understanding what motivates others to influence them to achieve the necessary performance.

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership – Gareth Southgate

I could write pages and pages about Gareth Southgate’s leadership. He exhibits so many qualities of a conscious or emotionally intelligent leader. Here are 4 key attributes and an example of behaviours he’s done that illustrate those traits.

Leadership Lessons

Here are just a few of the many leadership lessons from Gareth:

Vulnerable and transparent. For those who don’t know, Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick himself as a player that sent England out of Euro 1996. This probably ‘forced’ vulnerability on him. Few leaders ‘fail’ so publicly. He has acknowledged the criticism directed at him of being ‘too soft’ to win. He has actually spoken openly about it which might feel contrary to the defensiveness many of us might feel about judgements of us. He said, “I was not ruthless enough to be a top player. Some people will say I have that problem to be a top manager, that’s an area I need to keep developing…I ask myself ‘What are we prepared to sacrifice to win?’ It’s a big question” for leaders. By sharing his development area he’s taken power away from his detractors, shows his players everyone has something to work on and can access his empathy. Being vulnerable as a leader allows others to risk, be brave, push themselves outside their comfort zone – all necessary for success.

Empowering the team players, not his team. As he said in a recent interview with Mercedes F1 boss, Toto Wolff, “We can’t kick the ball for them. On the pitch they have to make their own decisions, react to the momentum of the game, help each other. If everything is controlled by a ‘Svengali on the side’, how are they going to be able to react in the moment that really matter for winning in the way we want them to?” He talks about responsibility being with the players, about preparing them to react in the way that promotes winning. He talks of trusting the players, giving them increasing levels of responsibility so they grow, developing them as people not just players, like “we do with our children.” If you listen to him speak, he rarely says ‘I’ when speaking of the team, the players and the accomplishments, it’s usually WE.

Taking responsibility thereby having peoples’ backs. The one place I’ve heard Gareth say ‘I’ is when he takes responsibility for mistakes. He does not blame others. After the final game, which ended in missed goals during a shootout by some young English players, some commentators blamed the players who missed scoring for having volunteered when they didn’t deliver the result. Gareth quickly said he had chosen which players would be in the shootout, he explained his rationale for choosing them and saying he had faith in them. He takes responsibility for his decisions, allowing his players to deal with their own grief rather than having to deal with the media reaction as well. When players trust their manager, they are willing to do more, their self-belief grows and we know that positivity motivates and leads to better performance versus fear which breeds doubt, caution, inaction and mistakes. He took responsibility in 1996 and he took responsibility now for his decisions and actions.

Reflection and recovery. In the interviews the morning after the final, Gareth was asked ‘What Next?’ He answered, “I don’t think now is an appropriate time to think about anything… to lead your country in these tournaments takes its toll and I need a break now”. He said it was time to reflect and rest. Rarely do you hear a leader talk of needing a break and a rest. He understands that the leader’s well-being plays a strong part in success. A leader is like an athlete, their mind and body need to be kept in optimal condition to produce the desired results. Exercise, energy, and rest are key to sustaining success. Additionally, he is very reflective on his decisions and behaviours, not just reflecting on the win or loss. This demonstrates a growth mindset which is proven to deliver improvements, learnings and innovation.

Gareth Southgate’s leadership has earned him respect from his team members and with many fans. Additionally, he’s led the England team to better results than they’ve had in the past. And he’s increased the sale of waistcoats!

Which of these leadership skills matters most to you?
When have you experienced such emotionally intelligent leadership?
Who do you celebrate as an inspiring leader?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your leadership, and how to motivate and inspire others.

Leadership Lessons from The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Leadership Lessons from The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Did you watch The Olympics?

Have you, or more likely your child, been inspired to take up BMX, wall climbing or skateboarding?

The Olympics always entertains, informs and inspires me!  It’s not just the actual competitive activity that I find captivating, it’s the journey that led the participant to the Olympics that intrigues me.  Being the ‘doer,’ achievement-oriented person that I am, I’ve often struggled with the notion that the journey is as important, if not more, than the destination and the Olympian stories are a good reminder.

Here are 4 journeys that also teach great leadership lessons.

Britain’s Tom Dean, swimmer, contracted Covid-19 not once but twice leading up to the Olympics, the last time in January, 6 months before he was to race in the 200-metre freestyle.  Now, you might think it didn’t affect him much as he’s young and in great shape.  Unfortunately, it did; sore lungs, sluggish cardio and continuous coughing impacted his physical ability combined with quarantining stopped any training.  He went on to win the gold medal, which was a surprise for Team GB.

The Lesson: resilience, the ability to bounce back from set-backs, is both physical and mental.  He credited his coach for calming him down, waylaying the fears and building his        confidence to overcome and compete again.

 

Simone Biles participation in the Olympics has been controversial unfortunately.  The American gymnast bowed out of the women’s team final after her first vault due to reported ‘mental issue’.  As she explained more honestly, she wasn’t having fun, was having the “twisties” meaning she was spatially disoriented which meant she could have seriously injured herself and jeopardized the medal for the USA and her teammates who had worked so hard.

The Lesson: authenticity, passion, transparency, purpose.  True leaders know themselves, their strengths and limitations.  They are connected to their purpose, WHY they do what they do.  Great leaders are authentic, being true to themselves, rather than a character or façade and take responsibility and own their decisions.  She has been criticized  by many for bowing out, and she stands by her decision.

 

Welsh middle weight boxer, Lauren Price, was adopted at the age of 3 days by her grandparents as her parents were unable to care for her.  At eight it became her dream to go to the Olympics after seeing Dame Kelly Holmes compete.  Price didn’t know the sport at the time, she’s accomplished in football (soccer), kickboxing and taekwondo until she decided on boxing.  She is the first Welsh female boxer to even compete at the Olympics.  Her beloved grandfather and advocate passed away in December, not seeing her win Team GB’s final medal of the tournament, a gold.  When she won she pointed up to the sky, acknowledging his presence.  As her grandmother always says, “reach for the moon, if you fall short you’ll land in the stars.”

The Lesson: support, someone having your back, role models, drive.  Leaders never operate in a vacuum, they aren’t a one-person show.  They have a network of people supporting           them, many out of the limelight, and can range from profession support to friends and family.

 

Lastly, Matt Richards, another GB swimmer, was so worried about not training with the pools closed for lockdown, his parents bought a massive paddling pool to keep training.  It measured 5 x 3 meters, hardly big enough for a 100-metre swimmer.  He tethered himself to the garage with a bungee cord attached to a harness to “swim” in a stationary position.  It took a few attempts to get the tension right, once having the harness detach and hurl into his back.  This training kept is body fit and acclimatized to the water and most importantly kept his sanity as he identifies himself as a swimmer and couldn’t image not being in water.

The Lesson: adaptability, agility, good habits, determination.  When faced with an obstacle, leaders are agile, adapting to the situation to maximize their performance, determined to achieve their purpose.  Additionally, research shows that consistent, good habits around many activities such as exercise, sleep, and diet will yield good results.

These are just four stories, I’m sure every Olympian has a journey to share from which we could all learn as they strive to be among the best in the world.

What are your stories of inspiration from the Olympics?

What lessons could you apply to your leadership or life?

Maybe you just want to try wall climbing?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore your passions, leadership or inspiration.

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Coaching Client Cath’s Confidence Success Story

Cath* is a returning client. Lucky me. I first coached her years ago as she was wanting to get a more senior role. She didn’t get the promotion in her organization while we worked together. She did get the higher role in another organization afterwards due to her perseverance and increasing confidence in interviewing.

Her Situation

She is the director of a quasi-NGO reporting to a board or panel of overseers. She had issues being clear in setting expectations and giving negative performance feedback so the panel authorized coaching for her. Like many people I work with, she struggled with having what most people call “difficult conversations.” Many people worry about giving “negative” feedback to others for fear of doing it wrong, hurting someone, making a mistake and facing emotions from the recipient that the leader couldn’t/didn’t want to handle.

Her Work

The coaching focused on three areas: her leadership style, her confidence and her focus.

1. Leadership Style:

• What is leadership? This seems like an obvious question and it’s the question I always start with no matter the coaching topic. Defining the topic is key to clarity. My definition of leadership is about motivating and empowering people to achieve your desired outcome.

• What is her leadership style? Most coachees struggle with this question as they find it hard to articulate. How do you motivate people, set direction and implement palns?

• What leaders does she admire? It’s always helpful to identify people that do what you want to do well. Observing others is a great way to learn what works well and what doesn’t.

2. Confidence:

• What is confidence? Clarifying the definition again.

• Remember a time you felt really confident, personally or professionally. Where do you feel that confident feeling in your body? Once you know what confidence feels like in your body you can recreate it when you need it.

• I challenged her to notice when she is or does good things and write them down. Specifically, everyday write down (yes, writing by hand to embed it) 3 things about yourself for which you are proud. This builds the confidence muscle just as reps in the gym build strong muscles.

3. Focus:

• What was her focus as a leader? Her focus was on her direct reports and how to engaged and empower them.

• Where did she want to start? She choose to start with being clearer with her direct reports in terms of her expectations about the work and how they do the work.

What did she need to do that? She needed training as she didn’t know how to give feedback. She hadn’t seen good role models of this. She hadn’t been trained on this despite holding a senior position. I gave her a copy of my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, which explains how to give positive and construction feedback. This is a template that Cath used a lot for giving feedback using the COIN model, here. We role-played specific scenarios. She practiced with her staff between the coaching sessions, noticed the impact, tried again, all the time persevering through the discomfort.

Her Result

Near the end of the coaching, Cath informed me that her bosses might want some feedback from me about her progress. This is something as a coach I don’t do. The coachee’s progress is assessed by the coachee and the organization with me sometimes facilitating that discussion. What happens in the coaching is confidential. I would only say something if the coachee didn’t show up to the sessions, I was worried that they might be of harm to themselves or someone else or were engaging in something illegal.

She had her performance review in front of the board and my input was not required.

The performance of the organization over the last year (exceeding financial targets), the results of the external reviews (surpassing expectations) and how she was in her interactions with them (a confident leader) was a testament to her progress.

As one of them said, “How you are is all the evidence we need of the coaching working.”

 

Want your boss to rave about your performance?

Do difficult conversations worry you?

Do you want to feel more comfortable giving feedback?

Use this great template that Cath uses a lot for giving feedback, here, or get in touch to arrange your complimentary coaching session here. 

 

*name and identifying details have been changed to preserve client confidentiality

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

Have an Ambition Lurking in Your Mind? Don’t Procrastinate.

Have an Ambition Lurking in Your Mind? Don’t Procrastinate.

Kicking yourself for not learning a new language during lockdown?

Have a dream, goal or ambition sitting on the back burner? Or the back of your mind?

Have you ever had a dream and wondered ‘what if’?

“Don’t procrastinate” is a wish for you, not an order or accusation.

I sit here a couple of weeks from the (virtual) Business Book Awards ceremony shaking my head that I actually have a book out let alone being a finalist in the Business Self-Development category.

Two years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. I had an idea, no know-how and little actual motivation or ambition to write a book. I hummed and hawed, thought a lot about it and did nothing. And less than two years later my book exists (Soft Skills HARD RESULTS).

There was no magic wand to get me from there to here. I didn’t all of a sudden feel motivated. It was a lotta luck, getting help and some self-awareness of works for me.
If you’re doubting yourself, wondering what if and giving up before you’ve started, don’t, you can do it too. That doubt is false. No matter how composed someone appears on the outside, like ducks they are madly flapping their feet under the surface to make progress.

How to Achieve Your Goals?

Imagine it might be possible. What would that be like? How would it feel? Feed the flicker of possibility before extinguishing it. Write a list of pros if it were to happen. Make a collage of what success looks like. A client yesterday said she diagrams the ideal state for her of her idea. Create a picture of success, dream it, our imaginations are powerful. Do this at a head and heart level – intellectually and emotionally.

Figure out what works for you. Does structure help you assess something? What helps you get things done in your life? Enact those things for your dream. Does accountability to others work for you? If so, find or create structure, be accountable to a buddy. I signed up for a 10-day book proposal writing challenge to actually see if there was a book idea in me because structure and accountability work for me.

Start with micro steps. What’s one thing that would progress your ambition? If learning a new language is on your list, a baby step would be downloading the language app, Duolingo. Another step would be to do a 4-minute lesson on the app.

Project yourself far into the future. Imagine you are 80-100 years old looking back on your life. What will you have wanted to achieve? How does this dream or ambition fit with the legacy you want to leave? Will you regret not having tried?
Seek out like-minded people. Find people who have the same passion or dream. Surround yourself with people on the same journey for the support, learning and companionship. Want to run a marathon? Join a running club. Download a podcast and training schedule. Learning from others that are either experts or ahead of you on the journey is an easier way to proceed.

Go public. Tell other people about your hope or dream. Firstly, by you saying it to someone else it’s no longer just living in your mind. And secondly, stating things to others creates accountability to delivery on what you said.

Make a plan. Having an objective, ambition or dream is great, we call than an outcome goal. Create some process goals to support that outcome. If you want to run a marathon – finishing the marathon is the outcome goal. Running consistently 3x a week is a process goal. You can often control the process more so than the outcome.
Make friends with discomfort. As you pursue a dream you might get scared, feel overwhelmed or doubt yourself. That’s ok. Everyone feels that way when we are going outside our comfort zones.

It’s natural to feel uncertain when pursuing something new. You’ve probably felt this on a new job, on becoming a parent, or learning a new hobby or sport. And you got over it.

Enjoy it! You are making steps to create your ideal life or at least pursue a dream. Enjoy it.

What is Failure?

The definition of failure is lack of success, not meeting a desired or intended objective. I think I disagree. Failure is not even trying. I like Thomas Edison’s quote “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The younger generation talks of pivoting; when you hit an obstacle, pivot to an alternate path to make progress. Your journey and progress do not have to be linear, most things in our lives aren’t linear and are still successful and fulfilling.

I have a whole chapter in my book entitled Living a Life of No Regrets. If you think you might regret letting go of your dream, ambition or potential goal, then don’t let go.

What one thing would you love to try?

Are you curious to investigate your ambition, even just a bit?

Read more of my journey about following my ‘hint of an aspiration’ by clicking here.

Why it’s Okay to Show Emotion (and even Cry) at Work

Why it’s Okay to Show Emotion (and even Cry) at Work.

Organizations, and if we believe stereotypes male bosses, often hold the belief that people should leave their emotions at the door when they come to work. Some leaders say business is logical, factual, and shouldn’t be personal. In working with countless organizations on leadership development and coaching hundreds of clients the truth is that organizations want and need emotions at work. The key is which and how to manage them.

Truth of Emotions at Work

When leaders tell me they don’t want emotions at work I ask, “you want them to leave ambition, loyalty, trust, calm and inspiration at the door?” Usually not. Organizations want those emotions and others (happy, grateful, practical), they just don’t want the ‘difficult or uncomfortable’ ones.

Crying at Work

Emotions such as extreme anger in terms of outbursts and sadness or frustration especially if expressed in tears are the ones people don’t want as they don’t know how to deal with them. We aren’t taught emotional literacy in school like we are taught language and numerical literacy. Hence, not knowing what they are (is loyalty an emotion? Yes) or how to be with them.

Emotions as Data

The idea that some emotions are welcome and some not highlights the belief that some emotions are good, and some are bad. Emotions are just sensations and data. Fear is good sometimes as It alerts us to danger. Anxiety is the belief something might hurt us, but we don’t know what, so it is good to keep us vigilant. Tears might be good to indicate passion/commitment or overwhelm and potential burnout. Many people report crying when frustrated at work. There are no good or bad emotions; they are just present. The key is how to use that data to improve your effectiveness in achieving the organization’s agenda.

Crying at Work

Crying in some work environments might cause others to think you are weak. Articulating verbally that you are frustrated, having the emotion below the surface in your voice for authenticity, can be very powerful. This is why storytelling can be so effective in motivating and inspiring people; it conveys and evokes emotion.
Depending on your environment if you feel the need to cry, do it in private. If you do cry in public, name it, what’s the emotion that prompted the tears. Be comfortable being with your own emotions and teach others with your example of how to be with them. Reassure the other person that you don’t need them to do anything with the tears, potentially you need them to do something about the situation if applicable.

Managing Emotions at Work

The key is understanding your emotions and eventually others’ emotions. What are the emotions telling you? How does that serve the work? What emotions do you want others to feel? What can you do or say to or how can you be with them to create that feeling? This is what can build trust, passion and loyalty. What emotion is someone feeling about a request you’ve made? Sensing this (or asking) will help you know how to influence them better.
It’s how you express emotions at work, how you influence others to feel and sense how others are feeling that is key to building your credibility, effectiveness and having the impact you want.

Do your emotions help you at work?

Do other people’s emotions throw you?

Click on the various free resources I offer on my website that I’ve listed here:

Gratitude Template

Creating Better Interactions

Giving Feedback Template

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore managing your, and others’, emotional responses further.

Photo by Liza Summer from Pexels

How to Deal with Poorly Delivered Negative Feedback at Work

How to Deal with Negative Feedback (Ouch) at Work

No matter how well you perform at work everyone experiences receiving negative feedback (or at least they would in a learning or continuous improvement environment). Technically, feedback is feedback, we judge it as being positive or negative. All feedback, even positive feedback or the things we do well, is about improving ourselves even if that means continuing to do the good things we do.

Negative feedback can hurt. Our ego can be sensitive. It can go further and trigger feelings of shame or ‘not being good enough’ as some of my coaching clients experience. If negative feedback affects you in that way, then pay close attention to the BEFORE tips below to better prepare yourself (and consider working with a coach or therapist to get to the root of the issue).

Here are things you can do BEFORE, DURING and AFTER receiving the feedback (any feedback actually, positive or constructive).

BEFORE Getting any Feedback

1. Change your mindset about negative feedback. Think of it as constructive or developmental; meant to help you improve or be more effective (even if it’s delivered to you in a clumsy, less-than-ideal manner). Yes, this is a bit of mental gymnastics. Often, it’s said that feedback is a gift (imagine a beautifully wrapped box) think of it that way so when it comes you have that visual to ground you in the positive.

2. Identify what feedback would you give yourself. Proactively think about the areas you could improve to increase your effectiveness right now. Chances are you know the feedback others would probably give you (and sometimes we’re tougher on ourselves than others would be). What would you advise yourself to do differently to improve? How could some of your strengths help you make those improvements?

3. Reflect on your past experiences of receiving feedback. What did you think and how did you feel? What was it about that feedback that caused you to feel that way? What did it remind you of in your past? What did you tell yourself about that feedback? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider their perspective in giving you that feedback? It can often be what we imagine or assume about the feedback that threatens us, more than the feedback itself.

DURING the Feedback Itself

1. Listen. Breathe. Listen. Listen to understand not to respond or defend. Breath while you are listening to stay present and not become reactive. Try to understand what the other person is saying. My executive coaching clients find simply nodding signals listening and buys them time to compose themselves and put their attention on what’s being said rather than the icky feeling inside.

2. Ask questions to understand better. As Stephen Covey, the famous educator, businessman and author said decades ago, seek first to understand before being understood. Ask them to repeat it again (in case you didn’t hear it the first time because you were listening to the little voices in your head defending yourself). Ask for specific examples to help you understand. Ask, in a curious tone, questions about what they see or hear you doing that’s impeding your performance such as:

• What behaviours am I doing that aren’t effective?

• What am I saying that has that impact?

• What specifically would you suggest I do or say?

• How should I do or say it differently to improve?

These types of questions can even help people that are poor at giving feedback to be better.

3. Acknowledge having heard the feedback. Restate what you have heard so you can confirm you’ve received it as intended. Tell the other person you will go away and consider how to act on their feedback. Depending on the feedback, the situation and the individual who said it to you, you might want to say you will come back to them to talk it through further or share your improvements. Say thank you (even if it’s thanking them for just caring about your performance!).

AFTER Getting Feedback

1. Consciously decide where to “take” the feedback. This tip relates back to the idea of feeling bad about ourselves when we receive negative feedback. There are different “lens” through which you can “see” the feedback. You can see it at a behavioural level (hence, why you ask them what they see or hear you doing, to focus them on giving you feedback about behaviours). At the other end, you can see it at an identity level, that you are a bad person or not good enough for the role. A useful structure to help assess where to take (and give) feedback is below. Its origins are from The Logical Levels, a tool or model in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) developed by coach, consultant and trainer Robert Dilts and Todd Epstein. Focus on receiving the feedback at the outer 3 levels and ask questions to get the feedback at those levels.

Copyright Anne Taylor, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, Practical Inspiration Publishing, London 2020

2. Decide what you will take on board. As with any gift, you can decide whether to receive it or not. Firstly, find the 2% truth in the feedback. You might not agree with anything the person is saying but often there is 2% truth in there somewhere. You had an impact, in the case of negative feedback, an ineffective impact. How that impact has been interpreted by the ‘giver of the feedback’ may not be entirely inaccurate. Putting your ego and self-doubt aside, what truth is in the feedback they are proposing? Secondly, decide if you will do anything with the feedback. Depending on the feedback, the situation and the giver of the feedback you need to consciously decide what’s best for you personally, for your performance and potentially your career. Lastly, if you decide all or some of it is relevant then develop a plan of action to improve it. You already have ideas from them when you asked what you could do differently to be more effective.

3. Follow up as necessary. You might want to follow up with the person that gave you the feedback to get more clarity by asking more questions. There is no harm in re-visiting it to understand more or to get suggestions on what to do better. You could also let them know what you are doing with the feedback, if anything. This very much depends on the situation, the feedback and who gave it. Some of the positives of doing this are: positively reinforcing that person to continue to give feedback, creating a feedback culture, showing you value them and their observations, and potentially having them think more highly of you as you take your impact seriously.

Remember, just as you might have struggled with receiving negative feedback others might too. Take that into consideration when you are giving feedback to others. Keep it focused on things they can change like behaviour, skills and capabilities. Don’t get personal, don’t give feedback at an identity level. Frame it as developmental and express your intention to help them improve their effectiveness. For more information on how to give feedback well see my blog, How to Give Constructive Feedback to Empower People.

What feedback would you like to address to improve your performance?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore feedback you’ve received and how you can become more effective, satisfied and successful.

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Why we feel zoom/video call fatigue & how to prevent it

Zoom Fatigue? What causes it and how to prevent it

Find you’re tired after a long day of video conferencing?

Noticing some dread at the prospect of jumping on another Teams meeting?

Zoom fatigue is a ‘thing’. We get tired of being on Zoom throughout a day. It’s not just from Zoom though, it’s from any video conferencing platform. Stanford University has conducted research¹ that concludes video conferencing is in fact wearing you out. Many office-based jobs have remote interactions that involve spending hours per day, even if not back-to-back, on video calls with others which will tire you out. The reasons in the research were from a psychological perspective, it’s about brain processing.

The researcher was quick to point out that this wasn’t meant to malign video conferencing, rather to educate and provide solutions so here goes:

Why does Zoom Fatigue Us?

1. Looking and Being Looked at.
We are looking at people almost continuously. People are looking at us almost continuously. Most people fear public speaking, often because of being scrutinized by others. It results in anxiety and fear. Yet video conferencing has turned us all into public speakers, even the audience members are “on show” or being looked at, potentially even when they are saying nothing. This means there can be an underlying sense of anxiety about being watched.

2. Disproportionate Head Sizes
That sounds weird I know. And if you are video conferencing with only one other person there’s a high likelihood their head appears on screen larger than in real life. Also, we usually only experience people that ‘close up’ if we know them intimately. It’s a closer sense of personal space then we would have with colleagues and strangers. Proximity often implies a force – either intimacy like romance or conflict with someone “in your face.” Our brain subconsciously processes this disparity and force versus what is ‘normal.’

3. Seeing Ourselves
It is not natural to stare at yourself in a mirror for long periods of time. That’s effectively what happens in many of the video conferencing platforms; our image is part of the view. It is tiring for our brains to continually process our own image. Other research does show that we are more judgmental or critical of ourselves when we see our image.

4. Restricted Mobility
Video conferencing restricts our physical movement as there is usually a fixed field of view for the camera. This is restrictive by definition. In-person meetings and audio calls allow more movement than video. Some emerging research is starting to show that cognition is better when we move.

5. Takes More Effort to Convey Messages
When we talk in-person it’s natural for our brain to subconsciously process body language and non-verbal cues and to project those non-verbal cues too. On video, we must consciously think about conveying those cues and transmit them. For example, in-person if we agree our head often nods in agreement without us having to think about it. On video, to ensure that agreement is conveyed through this medium we consciously decide to nod our head, maybe do a thumbs-up gesture towards the camera, maybe click on the ‘reaction button’ to say thumbs-up digitally and then we often want to check that our agreement was seen or received. That’s a lot of conscious thought. This brain processing is extra energy we do not have to expend in person, no wonder we are tired.

Top 10 Tips to Minimize or Prevent Zoom Fatigue:

1. Use audio only when appropriate. Just because we can video doesn’t mean we have to.

2. Do audio calls standing up, moving around or walking outdoors if possible occasionally.

3. Turn off your “self-view” if that’s an option on your video conferencing platform so you don’t see yourself. Or put a ‘post-it note’ over your image on the screen as another means of not looking at yourself.

4. Minimize full-screen views when videoing with only 1-2 people.

5. Take a break from screens in general. When you get off a series of video meetings to have a break, refrain from picking up your phone to check messages or scroll social media.

6. Move more, both on video calls and in general. Distance yourself from the camera so you can stand up and move around more.

7. When in long video meetings ensure there are proper breaks built into the agenda.

8. Periodically in long video meetings, when appropriate, turn off your camera for even a minute or two to be audio only to ease the burden on your brain processing. It’s analogous to putting your car in idle for a moment.

9. Look away from the screen for a few minutes, literally turn away, beyond just switching the camera off, to minimize the amount of visual stimulation you are taking in.

10. Set ground rules with your team or those you interact with about when to use video and when not to in order to increase everyone’s energy and performance.

Do you want to be more energized and productive at work?

Do you want your team to feel and perform better?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader in times of remote working and video conferencing.

¹https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

 

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How HR Leaders (Anyone) can Build Trust in the Workplace

How HR Leaders, any Leader actually, can Build Trust in the Workplace

Trust has always been important in the workplace – among individuals, departments, functions and hierarchy. It’s now more important than ever as uncertainty is rampant in many aspects of both work and life. HR can both role model and lead the creation of a high trust culture. Anyone can impact trust – positively and negatively – through simple (maybe not all easy) daily behaviours.

What is Trust

According to Collins dictionary, trust is your belief that others are honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you. This definition encapsulates both trust and psychological safety described by Forbes. They describe trust as you are offering others the benefit of the doubt when you are being vulnerable. Whereas they say psychological safety is you believing others are extending the benefit of the doubt to you when you’re taking a risk.

A simple example of trust in the workplace is people doing what they say they are going to do. A colleague commits to doing a specific task for a project by a specific time and then does it.
A more nuanced example of trust is being able to disagree with a senior leader about a decision even in a group setting without the risk to your career or being ridiculed.

Benefits of Trust in the Workplace

There are obvious and less obvious benefits of high trust which apply in any relationship, not just those in the workplace. These benefits focus on the workplace:

  • Having different and dissenting opinions openly shared leads to better decision making.
  • Pointing out unconscious bias comments, patterns and decisions e.g. challenging potentially racist or sexist comments in a discussion, resulting in equality, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Transferring your efforts or resources to another groups’ project to serve the organization’s greater goals.
  • Improving mental wellbeing as emotions and stress are shared so better retention, fewer grievances, less absenteeism.
  • Feeling safe so energy can go towards doing the work rather than manipulating the political environment.
  • Taking risks and speaking out leads to more creativity, new ideas and better solutions.

How to Demonstrate Trust in the Workplace

These ideas apply to HR leaders, leaders across the organization and most people interacting with others in general.

    1. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”¹ Many people listen to respond thereby they often stop actively listening as they start to formulate their response. In my coach training listening was one of the first things we were taught. How to listen at many levels – to what the other person says, and doesn’t say, to their body language and energy, to your own intuition about their feelings. Don’t listen for listening sake, listen to learn, adapt and understand.
    2. Get curious – pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. A specific action for HR is to learn intimately about the business. This will help you position HR policies to support the business needs and to step truly into their shoes when you consider your initiatives and language. Encourage others to be curious too.
    3. Interrogate your own mindset – what are your feelings about risk, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid and making a mistake. Adopt a more supportive mindset for yourself, changing your internal dialogue to “if I make a mistake I’ll at least know and will learn from it.” Ask your team to become more self-aware too.
    4. Show you trust – take a risk and show vulnerability. Risk making a mistake or getting it wrong. Acknowledge when you don’t know something. Give your time, support or resources to “competing” initiatives. Be generous to others verbally, publicly and even use the words “I trust you” when warranted. Give others the benefit of the doubt.
    5. Act with integrity – do what you say you are going to do. If circumstances change communicate quickly and gain alignment to the impact of those changes. In the hardest HR situations act with the upmost integrity and with compassion. Examples are not tolerating gossip, or blame, any negativity in fact by calling it out respectfully in the moment. Not laughing at others or dismissing their ideas.
    6. Ask for feedback – and then listen and take it on board. This will show people you are engaged, care about the impact you have. This is also a great measure of how much trust there is in you or the organization. People will give helpful, constructive feedback when they trust you. Feedback might be vague or overly complimentary when they don’t feel safe to share.
    7. Encourage healthy conflict – disagreement and conflict are not bad especially when done respectfully and with the purpose of getting to the best solution, not just to ‘win.’ Practice asking questions that challenge someone’s idea in a way that shows respect. Think about debate rather than win/lose or judging right/wrong. Healthy debate leads to more thorough investigation and understanding.
    8. Own your mistakes – admit if you make a mistake or get something wrong. You can then talk about the learnings from those situations. This shows humility, builds trust and makes it safe for others to admit their mistakes. This means things don’t get hidden and continual improvement becomes possible.

What would be possible by increasing the trust in your team? The trust between people across different teams and functions?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

Endnotes:
¹ https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-5.html

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