Monday, July 26, 2010

Change is Contagious. How Do You Lead Them Through It?

Good morning and Happy Monday. I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

Change happens all around us all the time and we are designed as human beings to be adaptable, but there are several factors that will make it easier to adapt and well… more difficult. How do you as a Contagious Leader™ err on the side of making it easier for those you have the privilege of leading? Here are a few techniques you can put into place immediately.

First, recognize that there is only a small percentage of the population who is comfortable with and capable of doing what we so often recommend, which is “check your emotions at the door”. For many, the concept of compartmentalizing strong emotions and saving them to be dealt with another time or on another day is just foreign. Most people, including many of those I suspect you lead, carry their emotions with them wherever they go and when you request that they ignore them for a while, you create a conflict of internal magnitude that can often make things worse. Instead, recognize that this is difficult or impossible for some and allow for a bit of time where one can freely share and discuss emotions. I used to call it a 30 minute vent session.

Secondly, there are phases of transition that one will experience when adapting to change and almost always the first phase involves resistance. Just know that it exists and recognize it as temporary. If you instead focus on the resistance and try everything you know how to do in an attempt to get someone to come out of resistance faster, you provide more ammunition for them to stay there. Accept that resistance is phase 1, not necessarily a permanent response over which a big deal is warranted.

And finally, in times of change, seek out resources that will help both you and those you lead overcome what is coming. A book called “Managing Transitions” by Mr. William Bridges, has been a long time companion tool of mine in times of change. Also, in many cases, the CORE® Profile we use and the training we provide, is considered a prerequisite to times of change, increasing participants awareness of who they are and how they will react to any perceived stress. Other tools and resources include anything that will improve your clarity of communication on what change is coming. Develop the skills to communicate clearly and thoroughly during times of change so that you don’t leave out critical pieces of information. Information left out is like a fill in the blank test we used to get in grade school and in the absence of knowing the correct answer, people will literally make up an answer and hope it is correct. This is where rumors come from and how they spread. I don’t know an answer, so I make one up, then I tell three colleagues, wait to hear it come back to me from someone I didn’t tell and whala, peanut butter sandwiches… I now have validation that what I made up must be true because I’ve heard it from someone else! Instead, be the leader who leaves no blank empty.
Change is part of what makes us who we are and makes us better, stronger, and more resilient. Contagious Leaders™ face and lead through times of change with that idea in mind.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday and of course, stay contagious!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Contagious Leaders Hire Slow, Fire Fast

Good morning and Happy Monday. I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

If you’ve had an open job for a while and find that you’re doing the extra work that the person in that vacancy could be doing, then there’s a real strong temptation to find the nearest breathing human being and put them in that job. I think we’ve all done it. In fact, I think at one time I envisioned holding up a mirror to someone’s mouth in the interview. If they fogged it, they got the job.

Let’s just say this is a baaaaad plan. If you hire someone fast, without checking references or without making sure they have not only the skill, but the attitude to do what you need them to do and do it well in the near future, all you are doing is adding to your workload. Add to this the reality that in your office, someone may need a congressional order to be fired and you are truly asking for trouble.

Instead be slower to hire. Screen your candidates carefully. Ask them in the interview to tell you stories of instances in which they have done what you know will be their responsibilities. The stories of their experiences are more difficult to make up, far more revealing, and will get you greater quality of information than something as brilliant as “Tell me about your weaknesses.” Clearly I don’t like that question, but it’s only because it is the one lied about the most. If someone says “I’m a workaholic” or “I’m a perfectionist” and they’re calling it a weakness then they’re telling you what you want to hear. Well, that or I’m in big trouble!

Okay, moving on, when you take careful time and diligent consideration to make sure that you have right person in the job or the right person on the bus, as Jim Collins says, then you will have the next 2 weeks to 2 months to devote to training so that they have the greatest chance of success. Sometimes it’s a gut instinct, sometimes it’s a personal referral and sometimes it’s a resume out of the stack. But any of those rushed through the process of making sure they have the right attitude AND skill, will likely back fire on what you intended to be a solution to a job opening problem. And if, in fact, you’ve made the mistake of hiring that wrong person, get them out of there as soon as possible. You know it’s not a good fit, and usually so do they so why prolong the inevitable. Free them up for new opportunities to grow elsewhere and free up your time to focus on the search once again. In fact, my experience has shown that prolonged time in the wrong position will result in setting a precedent. An employee might resist being let go if they’ve been there long enough for you to stew on the problem, but not say anything. They might tell you they are surprised you are letting them go and might even create more problems down the road. The best policy is to take a longer time to hire than you might like so you make sure you’ve made the right decision. And much like we mentioned in last week’s Monday Moment – hiring someone is one of those decisions that if made under stress, often results in a bad decision.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, Stay Contagious!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Find your Sunday Mentality

Good morning and Happy Monday. I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

It was actually Sunday when I recorded this so maybe we should call it a Sunday Moment. I only say that because today’s message is about what I call a “Sunday mentality”. For me, Sundays are a day of rest, relaxation, recreation or re-creation, and downtime. No matter how many activities I may have on a Sunday, there is always a more relaxed mindset on that day more so than any other day. Yet, even if I am just relaxing or visiting with friends, I find that my creative juices are also flowing at a much higher level and faster rate when I’m in that relaxed so called “Sunday mentality”. Perhaps you’ll find value in locating your Sunday mentality, or even more so, see the value in the thought leader you’ll become when you take a moment to relax regularly.

This week when, or if, you find yourself a bit tense, a bit stressed, or even somewhat contagiously negative, take a moment to locate your Sunday mentality. I’ve tried it and it really works. Breathe deep, drop your shoulders, and take a moment. Imagine how relaxed you feel on the weekends when email slows down and calls come to a halt or, if you work through your weekends, some other time when that is the case for you. Even five minutes of closing your eyes and just listening to the sound of your own breathe will make a world of difference in your blood pressure.

Okay, so am I going to start teaching Yoga classes next? Hmmm… likely not. But here’s what I know. Even the hardest working, most focused, highly dedicated and accomplished Contagious Leaders will find themselves in a place from time to time where decisions should not be made. They get stressed, overwhelmed, maybe even frustrated. And it is these very leaders who are usually the least likely to give themselves permission to take a break. You really can’t run on fumes and M&Ms, at 900 miles per hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And as a special note, that problem that is causing you stress will be resolved faster, more creatively and with a solution you’ll feel better about, in that Sunday Mentality moment. The moment calms you down and in many cases, will help you determine what to do next. Plus, if you tell those you lead that they have to have balance or take time for themselves, at least finding a moment of relaxed Sunday Mentality won’t slow you down too much, and you can say as you do, instead of just telling others to do as you say, not as you do.

In fact, what you are you doing now? Maybe it’s time for a Sunday Mentality moment? Now, wait a minute if you’ve downloaded this to your phone and you are listening to it traffic, get to the parking garage before you go closing the eyes. Got it? Also, be careful of the other Sunday Mentality which is the feeling of dread of going to work on Monday. If it’s worth dreading, it’s worth doing something about.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great week and of course, Stay contagious!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bad Day Remedies: Turn Blues into Bowls of Cherries

Good morning and Happy Monday. I’m Monica Wofford and this is your Monday Moment.

We’ve all heard the phrase “life is bowl of cherries” and truthfully, I know some days it feels like that bowl of cherries got dumped upside down on your head. However, keep in mind that when you are in a contagious Leadership position, your mood is equally contagious as your actions.

How you feel could mean the difference between employees seeing you as someone who rode their broom into work or someone they can approach with a need, question, or great news. In fact, it happened to me just the other day. I was tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed and it showed and no one talked to me for the rest of the day. Eek! So how do you turn the blues or bummed out or stressed out moods into one that really reflects a more positive, approachable outlook?

Well, the first step is a rather simple one and in fact you may laugh: think about something else. Yes, I just said think about something else. When you are dogmatically focused on the bad stuff in your world that is all you see and the radar system, so to speak, in your brain seeks out more crummy stuff because that is what your focus is telling your brain is important. So, pretend you have “something shiny syndrome” and shift your attention to something else, preferably more pleasing. Go sniff some roses, perhaps.

Secondly, write down all those things that you appreciate about whatever is bothering you. Again, it sounds simple, but why “over-complicate” matters. Do the simple steps and if they don’t’ work, then come back to me and I’ll give you complicated assignments. Physically writing down what you appreciate about the person making your life difficult or the situation you just encountered that irked your nerves will help you to have a contagious sense of appreciation, greater control over your emotions and more contagious confidence™ about your ability to handle anything else you come across.

Finally, stop for a moment and listen to yourself. Sometimes we get carried away with the “woe is me’s” and once the downward spiral starts, it gains momentum. Stop, breathe, and take stock of what you are really saying. Listen for extreme language like “every one, every time, always, never” etc, and then question what you are saying. Does this, whatever it is, really happen every single day? Really? The doubt you infuse in what you are hearing yourself say will lessen the blow of your thoughts and likely begin to change your mood.

The blues are a bummer. Frustration is not your friend. And though no one is saying you need to go out and attach Pom-Poms to your body today, it is important to realize that when you are bummed, down or stressed out, others notice and your productivity goes down and your relationships suffer. It’s all contagious, you know.

I’m Monica Wofford and that’s your Monday Moment. Have a great Monday and of course, stay contagious!