Blog

Guard Your Heart

A year into the pandemic, we’re reminded of how important it is to guard your heart. Here we mean our metaphysical heart, our sacred center. Parker Palmer said it beautifully: “I’m using the word ‘heart’ as they did in ancient times, when it didn’t merely mean the emotions, as it tends to mean today. It meant that center in the human self where everything comes together—where will and intellect and values and feeling and intuition and vision all converge. It meant the source of one’s integrity.” So many of us these days have suffered anxieties, losses, hardship, or tragedies. All

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Are You Playing the Long Game?

These days it’s easy to fall into the trap of playing the short game. Our culture is geared toward it. With our devices, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat. We swipe and scroll. We get fidgety with a few seconds of down-time. The power of the long game is astonishing, but the short game is alluring. We see it in many realms. We see it in business. Clayton Christensen noted, “If you study the root causes of business disasters, over and over you’ll find a predisposition toward endeavors that offer immediate gratification.” We see it in startups. Steve

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Designing Your Work for Flow

  We’ve all heard of flow—that remarkable state of being in the zone and operating at our best. Many of us have experienced it. But what exactly is it? And how do we get into it? First, we note that the deep concentration and absorption associated with flow is becoming much harder to attain these days with all our alluring devices and their dopamine-driving distractions. Just when we need it most, it’s becoming more and more elusive. Complete Absorption Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychology professor now at Claremont Graduate University, has dedicated much of his life to studying flow. In his

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Leadership and Psychological Safety in Teams

The problems in far too many organizations today are legion: Unproductive, boring meetings Astonishing amounts of wasted time Avoidance of sensitive issues Lack of full engagement Reluctance to provide candid, constructive feedback Political games and hidden agendas Sound familiar? The effects are far-reaching, from low quality work to employee turnover. According to a Corporate Executive Board study, “Nearly half of all executive teams fail to receive negative news that is material to firm performance in a timely manner because employees are afraid of being tainted by the bad news,” and only “19% of executive teams are always promptly informed of

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Founder-Venture Fit for Entrepreneurs

With startups, many people focus on what entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen calls “product/market fit”: “being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” It’s a great point, and too many ventures fail or founder because they never find it. But not nearly enough attention is paid to what I call “founder/venture fit”: when the venture matches well with the founder’s (or co-founders’) knowledge, strengths, passions, and values. Some have written about similar ideas—“founder-market fit” or “founder fit”—but too many aspiring entrepreneurs miss this critical point. Serial entrepreneur and investor Brad Feld wrote: “I’ve come to

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What Is Your Quest?

What is your quest? Where are you going? And why? What quest are you on in your life and work? In days long gone, there were many quests. For Power. Glory. Riches. Discoveries. Love. Beauty. Truth. Peace and quiet. These days, our quests have changed, but we still have them. Quests for success. Recognition. Wealth. Happiness. For many of us, our quest is a bit of an ego trip. It’s all about me, and what I want, or deserve, so that I can look good, feel good, and get validation from others. The quest is fueled by an ethic of

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How to Give Effective Feedback—A Communication Superpower

Giving effective feedback is a powerful skill. When done well, it can be a big performance booster. When done poorly, a disaster bringing fear, discomfort, and resentment. At its best, feedback is a great gift that can build trust and respect. At its worst, a spiral to anguish and despair. So tread carefully. According to decades of research from Dr. John Hattie (2008), feedback is among the most powerful influences on levels of achievement.* “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” –Bill Gates Unfortunately, few people have learned how to give effective feedback or

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The Power of Empathy in Leadership

These days, we ask much of our leaders. Organizations and governments are under great pressures to perform, and these days leaders are responsible for crisis management during a pandemic with its attendant economic destruction and social and emotional anxiety. More and more we are realizing that empathy is a powerful aspect of leading well. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from their frame of reference (i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another person’s position). Researchers have identified several types of empathy: Cognitive empathy is the capacity to understand someone’s mental state. Emotional

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The Importance of Integrity in Leadership

Leadership involves so many difficult challenges and exceptional behaviors and mindsets. These days, we ask much of our leaders. When I ask workers to quickly name the qualities that arise in their minds when they hear the word “leader,” I am instantly assaulted by a barrage of words: vision, charisma, confidence, clarity, responsibility, results, judgment, emotional intelligence, coach, and much more. What is the most important aspect of leadership? Have you thought about that? In my view, the most important aspect of leadership is integrity, because everything else leaders do flows from it (or its absence), followed by the courage to uphold it. Warren

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The Importance of Trust in Leadership

There are many ways to think about leadership. For some, as we have seen, it is about control or power. For others, it is about achievement or recognition. For others, thankfully, it is about people and service, along with higher purpose and positive impact. Since leadership by definition involves a relationship between leaders and followers—and, more precisely, an influence relationship—it begs the question of trust. One may be able to command, control, or deceive at some point or for some time, but for an enduring relationship of constrictive influence, trust must be present. Trust is a firm belief in the reliability or

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The Importance of Credibility in Leadership

Credibility: the quality of being worthy of belief and trust Credibility, which flows from character and competence, is one of the most essential aspects of leadership. High credibility is a tremendous asset for leaders seeking to achieve exceptional performance and positive impacts. Low credibility is devastating. Credible leaders are straight with people, even about hard topics. They walk the talk and practice what they preach. They do what they say they will do and follow through on promises. Think about what you have wanted from your leaders, parents, teachers, and coaches over the years. Think of the impact that credible leaders

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The Root Cause of Ethical Failings (and Our Political Dysfunction)

Scandals. Fraud. Abuse of power. Greed. Corruption. Tax evasion. Coverups. Once rare occurrences, coming back to haunt us every decade or so, these are now front and center in our daily lives and our daily news cycle. We see them in government, in business, and even in nonprofits and some religious organizations. It seems as if we are in a race to the bottom. While these challenges and failings have always been with us, we are not particularly well equipped to deal with them, in part because we fail to understand their root causes—and to hack away at them. Enter

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The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes or a seasoned leader looking to upgrade or renew. 1. Why are you leading? Is it for prestige? The title? Money? Power? Perquisites? Is it to prove something, or impress others? In truth, several of these may be drivers for you, but the key issue is whether

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The Problem of Bad Leaders – and Why People Keep Following Them

With a pandemic and all of its attendant human suffering, with economic devastation and so much loss of livelihood and dignity, with painful but overdue and much-needed conversations about structural and systematic racial injustice and inequity, and with so much division, disdain, and distrust, we need good leadership more than ever. Not because it is a cure-all, but because it is a prerequisite for stemming the crises, healing the wounds, and getting us moving in the right direction. Not just leadership at one level, but leadership at all levels of society and organizations. Not top-down, but leadership all around. Yet

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CHRO – Become Your Organization’s Chief Culture Officer

Today’s Human Resources (HR) leader has a wonderful opportunity to make an important strategic contribution: Become your organization’s Chief Culture Officer. If your CEO already acts as the Chief Culture Officer, great. Then you can be his or her Chief Culture Execution Officer. But most CHROs aren’t that fortunate, and you may need some ammunition to persuade the CEO that focusing on building culture can be a source of competitive advantage: Researchers have found a “strong relationship between constructive organizational cultures and financial performance.” (Source: Eric Sanders and Robert Cooke, “Financial Returns from Organizational Culture Improvement: Translating ‘Soft’ Changes into

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