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Blind Spots: Do you have them or do they have you?

BC Challege graphic

If you’re not working in earshot from others, try out this tongue twister – it’s a formidable intro to acquiring a crucial leadership skill: 

I slit a sheet, a sheet, I slit.
Upon a slitted sheet, I sit.

This article is indeed about leadership and not about perfect pronunciation. Let me explain. A while ago, I noticed that people around me started to develop a serious lisp. It started with family members and spread to clients and colleagues, and I almost wondered if there was something like a speech bug going around that was contagious.

I kept those puzzling observations to myself but when my husband muddled his “s”s during a dinner conversation, I couldn’t contain myself and blurted: “What is going on with everyone around me starting to lisp all of a sudden?” I earned surprised looks. “What are you talking about?” “Why is everyone slurring their s’s?” More befuddled looks around the dinner table. And denial! I asked the family to say one of my favorite tongue twisters and there! There it wath! Like thomething from a thlapthtick movie!

After much discussion, research, and a trip to a specialist, the diagnosis was confirmed: People around me did not suddenly develop speech impediments. It was me! I had lost 50% of my mid- to high-range frequency hearing in one ear, and I could no longer easily distinguish between “s” and “f” sounds.

The coach in me said “duh!!”

How unlikely was it that the rest of the world was “all wrong” and I was perfect? Why didn’t I check in with myself to see whether the issue was maybe ME? My ENT specialist explained that hearing loss usually happens gradually, and the brain does an excellent job compensating until a certain threshold is crossed and the hearing gap can no longer be closed. The hearing becomes muddled and strained. Meanwhile, the listener is trying to make sense of this new sensation, often looking for external explanations, unable and perhaps unwilling to figure out what is really going on. A perfect example of a true blind spot.

Blind spots: Do you have them or do they have you?

Blind spots in a car hide a part of the driver’s field of vision. Since any objects inside those blind spots are not visible, a driver may act as if they are not there at all, such as pulling in front of a car that was traveling in the rear blind spot. When we talk about psychological blind spots, we refer to the inability to see perspectives other than those directly apparent to us. 

Princeton University psychologist Emily Pronin created the term bias blind spot. It refers to our inability to realize our own cognitive biases and it represents our tendency to think that we are less biased than others. We think we see things in an objective and rational way, while others have a biased judgment. Our ability to recognize and adapt our way of thinking and acting is thereby limited. We typically do not have problems recognizing blindspots in others, which indicates that it is not a matter of ignorance but rather of a motivated ignorance. We choose – more or less consciously – not to know more, not to deepen, not to understand, and to protect the image that we have formed of ourselves.

A blind spot may prevent us from assessing facts appropriately, which can lead to making ill-informed decisions or taking action that clashes with what others deem to be appropriate from their perspective. 

If you find yourself having similar challenges with a range of different people, it may indicate a pattern that is worth your special attention. If the frequency of those incidents increases, or if a pattern extends to a growing number of people, consider that you may be experiencing a response loop of a blind spot behavior – yours!

What can you do when you suspect a blind spot in your life?

Become a diver! 

Scuba Diver with gear, hands making heart sign

  • Describe: What do I see in an objective, factual way?
  • Interpret: What do I think about what I have described?
  • Verify: What do others think? Is my interpretation accurate?
  • Evaluate: How do I assess what I think and others think?
  • Resolve: Explore your options and take control over your action.

 

How self-aware are YOU? How often do you pause and re-assess whether it is them or you? Who would be a valuable person to have on your blind spot detection team? 

Increase your self-awareness and your ability to reveal blind spots!

  1. Pause and see if you can think of challenges or surprising encounters that you are experiencing on a recurring basis.
  2. What is happening in those situations? What is your initial interpretation?
  3. What role do you usually play in those situations and how might you be contributing to an outcome that may not be ideal?
  4. Who can give you an objective perspective on the situation?

Go DIVE more often!

Happy ending to one of my blind spots: I am the proud wearer of a super cool hearing aid with magic powers, and I can now hear the world crystal clear!

Q4 Recalibration – Reconnect With Your Core Values

I shared with my email subscribers that I had an experience last month that jolted me back to my core values. You can read about it here. But why wait for a jolting experience to remind yourself of your core values? We are about to enter the last quarter of 2019 – a great time to recalibrate and re-engage with why you do what you do. 

In the fullness of life’s demands, your core values keep you grounded and help with focus or refocus. My core values are love and the potential for transformation into a brighter future. Those core values are what motivates and drives my own leadership journey and what fuels my work

I am currently pursuing further education and am working with some colleagues on a brand new service that I can’t wait to share with you. Deciding to dive into this new venture was risky given all the other responsibilities on my plate. With my core values serving as a compass for my business decisions, I am confident that I am on the right path. My values are the foundation of my approach to professional and personal decisions. They help me face challenges and find creative solutions. They bridge what is important to me as an individual with what is important to me as a leader. They make me a powerful thought partner and compassionate facilitator and coach.

 “Caring and compassion needs to be a value and not a program to have a positive impact in the workplace.”

~Rachel Druckenmiller

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REFLECTION & ACTION

 What values lie at the core of YOUR life?

  • How do you express them in your work/life?
  • How much room do you give them to inform your decisions?
  • How often do you pause and calibrate your actions with your values?
     

 I invite you to reconnect with your values!

  • Write down your core values on a post-it note and place it somewhere where you can see it frequently. 
  • Ask colleagues, clients and family members what their personal core values are, what makes those important to them and how they apply their values to the work they do.
  • When you get ready for an important presentation, meeting or decision, pause for a minute, connect with your values and set your intentions for a positive outcome.

Being connected with your values and taking action in harmony with those values will lead to authenticity and self-confident, congruent decision making. I can’t wait to hear how this challenge re-engages you with what you do on an every day basis as well. Find me on LinkedIn here or schedule a discovery call today to talk about your findings! 

Be Contagious and Start an Epidemic

This month’s challenge to my email subscribers was to start an epidemic – in a really good way. I am hoping to trigger a wave of goodwill. I am imagining 1000 people in my network spreading positive intentions and an uplifting mood, infecting 10 people with a good bug, who will then pass it on to 10 others. Soon, there will be a ripple effect that can be felt around the world. Can you picture that? Doesn’t that sound and feel amazing?

 An uplifting mood can be exquisitely contagious when it is passed on through an unexpected act of kindness, a simple but personal expression of gratitude, a recognition of potential or an acknowledgement of a unique talent that is not obvious to everyone. What these gestures communicate is that you truly see the individual, that you personally care and that you attribute value to that person. And that is what we all deeply crave for: being seen, being valued and being able to contribute positively. We all need human connection, love that bridges differences, and appreciation that points to a deeper purpose so we feel that we belong.

 If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.  

Mother Teresa

 All it takes is paying attention to the people around you, noticing them and being creative in connecting with them on a personal level – and be it just for a brief moment.

 If you need a little kick-start for boosting your own mood and connecting to awe and wonder, watch one of my favorite leadership clips about gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg:  

Positivity ChallengeGratitude: The Short Film by Louie Schwartzberg from ecodads on Vimeo.

Now that you are inspired, here are a few mini challenges to get you started: 

  • Engage in and log 10 unexpected acts of kindness and notice what happens.
  • Express your gratitude for another person with a specific comment. 
  • Let others know what blossoming potential or underappreciated talent you see in them.

Since sending out this challenge, I have received a few stories from my subscribers and clients about spreading positivity: 

“I praised my admin assistant during an all staff meeting for putting together a rather complex project chart that will be distributed to senior leadership. She received several positive feedback comments afterwards and had a noticeably cheerful way of interacting for several days afterwards. I realized how often I take exceptional work for granted in my field and will express positive appreciation for excellent work more often in the future.” Senior Leader in Technology Company

“The challenge made me more aware of the quality and intentionality of my interactions with other people. I found myself making more eye contact and being more present and less hurried in the moment when I tried to just connect with the people around me. It actually made mundane interactions more fun, like buy coffee at the coffee shop or saying good morning to the receptionist and greeting her by name. Funny how paying attention to the positive things in life lifted my own mood.” Manager at Local Government 

“We have a challenging person on our team and most people avoid talking with her. I made a point to stop at her desk at least once every week over the last 3 weeks, asked her a question and just listened to her for a couple of minutes. I think she is very lonely. I am not sure if she noticed my efforts but I feel better when I see her now and it feels less tense with her.” Manager at Non-profit Organization

 

Are you ready to get involved in making the world a better place for a moment or maybe even longer?

  

REFLECTION & ACTION

  • What is your dominant mood? How do you express that?
  • How do other people’s moods impact you?
  • What can you do for yourself to lift your mood?
  • What do you notice when you assume positive intent in others under all circumstances?
  • What emotions do you want people to feel when they encounter you?
  • What actions can you take to invite those feelings?

 

Questions about this exercise or other leadership capacity building practices?

Contact me via email or even better, schedule a free Discovery Coaching Call with me! I love talking with people!

Perfectionism: A Well Known Killer at Work

The last couple of First Friday Challenges I presented to my subscriber base focused on Bravery and Resilience. This month, I took a closer look at a common creativity and innovation killer: Perfectionism. In her book bird by bird, a delightful read about writing and life, author Anne Lamott calls it out as a major cause for writer’s block and plain old drab:

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better that you, and have a lot more fun while they are doing it.”

I see perfectionism getting in the way of many efforts and opportunities beyond creative writing. Perfectionism keeps you from experimenting. It will stop you from starting something when you are not certain that the outcome will be anything like the idea that you hold in your mind.

Perfectionism is a myth that asserts itself in several ways. These myths tell the story of “not ready yet” and “not good enough”. It focuses on flaws and lack. It is a bravery, resilience, creativity and joy killer.

So let go of it already!

Perfectionism shown on a ruler

Easier said than done you say? Well, let’s explore the myths that perfectionism perpetuates and begin rooting it out of our daily lives:

1. The Myth of Permanence

Perfectionism lures you into thinking that your efforts are watched and judged by everyone around you. In reality, the majority of our imperfections or imperfect actions will hardly be noticed, will be easily laid to rest, or they are things that can be edited, updated, or improved at a later date or with the next rendition. The important thing is to do something and get moving towards a goal.

Remembering that nothing is permanent and that taking a first step, even if wobbly, is better than waiting for perfect. Taking a shaky first try will set your creative juices flowing, allow you to tap into greater creativity, and ultimately enjoy better results!

2. The Myth of Success or Failure

Perfectionism blinds you to the spectrum between success and failure. Like other all-or-nothing ways of thinking, it highlights the extreme options with nothing in-between! Even worse, the tendency is to believe that the odds are slanted significantly in the failure direction. Of course you procrastinate – who wants to fast track towards failure?

The truth is that there is always room for improvement no matter how amazing your first effort is. Because we are constantly learning and growing, when we look at past efforts the desire to update can be strong! Some things aren’t even worth your time to fret about. Other things can be considered valuable learning experiences that can be mined for valuable insights. Take the time and energy to figure out which is which – let go what needs to be let go and learn from what can be improved.

3. The Myth of Getting Respect or Approval

If you’re struggling with perfectionism, it can also be a signal that you value the opinions of others more than what is healthy for you. It can seem logical that you need to present a polished and perfect appearance for others to accept your leadership. However, it has generally been my experience that people are attracted to authenticity and vulnerability not perfection. As a leader, a mask of perfectionism can have the effect of making you unapproachable to your team. Of course, you want to remain professional but putting up a fake front of perfection will not promote your reputation in your team nor does it create a safe space for them to take risks and be creative.

4. The Myth of Everyone Else Has It All Figured Out

This one is more common than you might guess, especially among leaders. It is closely related to Impostor Syndrome as well – the idea that everyone else got where they are by merit, but you’re just lucky and don’t really deserve to be there! It fills you with the internal pressure to make sure you do everything correctly so no one finds you out. The truth is that very few leaders feel 100% confident all of the time. Comparing yourself to another leader will always lead to self-doubt and will hamper your own and your organization’s growth.

Have you gotten pulled into believing any of these Perfectionist Myths?

How do you see them playing into those internal voices that say you are “not ready yet” or “not good enough?”

I invite you to challenge perfectionism in your life and in your leadership with a simple and concrete action:

Give yourself a finite amount of time to work on a big project. Once the time is up, send whatever you have to a colleague or business ally for feedback, no matter where you are in the process.

Would you like access to more leadership capacity building practices? Contact me here or even better, schedule a free Discovery Coaching Call with me! I love talking with people!

Employees as Consumers

Employee Experience 2

What is it like to work in YOUR organization?

How are you stacking up against other organizations competing for the same talent pool?

Last week, I attended an interesting event hosted by HR Alliance DCCreate an Engaging Employee Experience presented by Shaara Roman and Jennifer Ives. Captivated by a talk about organizational culture and HR strategies, I was taken by surprise by a compelling argument for organizations to shift their thinking and strategy around hiring and staff retention strategies towards seeing employees and job seekers as consumers.

Let me unpack that bold statement: The generational demograhic of the labor market is changing considerably with already more than a third of the current workforce being comprised of Millennials, defined as (34-22-year old) and Gen Zs (21 years and younger as of 2015). Those age groups in particular are looking for personal career development options, a good fit for their individual talents around purposeful work, and they want the organizational culture of their place of work to be compatible with their personal values.

 Labor Force Statistics

With further diminishing job security and dwindling employment benefits, the younger workforce generations generally feel little loyalty towards the companies they work for. More than half of the younger workforce is looking for opportunities to work for themselves. Furthermore, as highlighted in a previous post, 75% of all employees are disengaged and are one foot out the door at any given time, looking for more appealing job opportunties with the help of employee experience-transparent jobsites such as glassdoor.com.

From the organization’s perspective, successful hiring strategies, employee engagement and retention are essential factors for organizational success, especially in the professional services industry. Specialized jobs are very expensive to staff and a high employee turnover can cause serious project delays and blow deep holes in the budget.

The idea of viewing employees and potential hires like consumers with distinct behaviors, preferences and expectations makes sense and may be a sensible business practice for many organizations. Creating a positive employee experience is therefore becoming increasingly important for organizations looking for a competitive edge in today’s business climate. This does NOT mean high-end espresso machines, ping pong tables and nap rooms.

The most important employee experience differentiators are:

  • Inspiring Leadership + Empowering Culture
  • User-friendly Technology
  • Flexible, People-centric Workspaces

In response to changing employee expectations and upon seeing positive ROI upon investment in organizational culture improvement, traditional management models are being turned upside down and inside out. Performance management is shifting from formal annual review models to frequent informal feedback coupled with mentoring and coaching. Intrapreneurship, an entrepreneurial mindset within the organization, is encouraged and traditional top down management is taking a backseat to servant leadership approaches.

Companies will have to take an honest look at the attractiveness of their organizational culture if they are looking to hire and retain top talent in today’s competitive job market.

  • How does YOUR company measure up?
  • How are you relating to your staff?
  • What does your employee engagement strategy look like?

Butler Communication’s SOAR Leadership Lab gives you an opportunity to take a closer look at your leadership skills, to practice new communication patterns, to experiement with collaborative management styles and to strengthen your resilience and flexibility capacity.

Curious? Call me: 703-599-9079

Build Committed Relationships, Shape Engaging Culture,
Inspire Agile Action, Generate Extraordinary Results

With best wishes for bold and courageous culture shaping,

++++++++++++++++++

Friderike Butler

Chief Potential Catalyst 
​Leadership Development & Executive Coaching

How to Inquire About Corporate Culture

A client shared a great article about the importance of organizational culture awareness for job seekers as well as organizations wanting to attract top talent. Rather than asking hiring companies about the uniqueness of their organizations, the author Adam Grant suggests asking and listening for stories will reveal the organizational culture and the hidden shared beliefs that drive behaviors at a work place.

orgcult-300x278

Recently, I have been playing with 5 of Gerd Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimension indicators to see whether they may be useful to assess and compare organizational culture.

  1. Low or High Power Distance
    How accessible are the leaders in the organization and how do they relate to the frontline staff? How complex is the organizational structure? How short or long are reporting and project approval paths?
  2. Individualism vs. Collectivism
    How does your organization celebrate success, for the individual, the team and the organization? Are employees essentially competing against each other or is team effort valued over lone wolf mentalities?
  3. Uncertainty Avoidance
    How quickly are decisions made? How much information is required and how complex is the approval process for new initiatives? How risk averse is the organization?
  4. Masculinity vs. Femininity
    In a cultural context, Hofstede defines masculinity as “a preference in society for achievement, heroism, assertiveness and material rewards for success.” Femininity is defined as “a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak and quality of life.” (Weak in this context may mean a less experienced team member or a person requiring or simply benefiting from special accommodations.) While the labels may sound dated and may have to be modified to reflect the current climate for work place discourses, the concept of conquering versus integration is nevertheless an important marker for corporate culture and behavior.
  5. Long-term vs. Short-term Orientation
    Are traditions valued and implemented in long-range plans? Are quarterly results the main decision drivers? Is institutional knowledge valued or does the organization put innovation front and center?

Additional dimensions came to mind when inquiring about an organization’s culture that are not captured by Hofstede’s traditional culture model, which was original developed for national cultural assessments:

Learning Propensity
What does the on-boarding process look like? What does the organization do to encourage continuous learning at the organizational level as well as at the individual level? How are mistakes handled?

Generative vs. Critical Feedback
How do employees know that they are successful? How is feedback given and received in the organization? Is up-chain feedback encouraged? Is feedback used as a constructive personnel development tool or is it usually used to reprimand staff? An easy gauge is to ask whether employees are usually looking forward to receiving feedback and performance evaluations or if they dread it.

Level of Internal Cohesiveness
How would the front line staff answer these questions? The manager? The leader of the organization? Vastly differing responses indicate internal disconnects.

Why are these important considerations for job seekers? While salary and benefits are important to meet your needs for your life outside of your workplace, the company culture will be the driving factor for long-term job satisfaction and professional growth and most importantly, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (Peter Drucker) – every day and all the time.