Archive for February, 2010

Good Morning beautiful Marsha!

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

My daughter, Kelly had her first school experience at age three. (I won’t tell you what she did the first day that made me afraid they would kick her out and she wouldn’t even graduate from Nursery School!)

As they do at most nursery schools, she had a music teacher who came in every day with a guitar and sang with the kids. Kelly adored her. I do have talents, but leading 4-year-olds in song is not among them, so when it came time for her birthday party I asked Marsha if she would come and entertain the kids.

Marsha came. This was the first time I had ever met Marsha in person. She quickly arranged all fifteen 4- years-olds in a circle and sat down on the grass with them and her guitar. She folded her sandaled feet under her long skirt. Her long, slightly greasy hair fell over her glasses and she started to play beautiful music with her somewhat chubby and very pale fingers.

Then the learning happened. Marsha said, “Good morning beautiful children!”  15 four-year-olds in unison responded, “Good morning beautiful Marsha!”

For a split second I wanted to laugh. She had obviously taught these kids to respond this way. Marsha was extremely talented, but beautiful, no. That is not a word anyone would use to describe her physically.

That was when I realized how stupid (& ugly) I was at that moment and how smart (and beautiful) Marsha was.

I learned:
• People will see you based on what you put out to them- It’s the lesson of confidence. Display your belief in yourself and others are very likely to believe in you as well!
• When you treat others as “beautiful”, they will return the favor- Its a simple lesson that has far reaching impact. Look for the value in people and it will be there. And it’s always beautiful.

Thank you beautiful Marsha for two wonderful life lessons that I think about to this day! And a lot of days have passed since Kelly almost got kicked out of nursery school. She is about to graduate from College and head off to get her doctorate.

Thank you also beautiful Marsha, for your role in Kelly’s confidence in herself.

Recovery from: When a great leader goes bad…2

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

In my last blog I talked about the intense power of stress on our interaction skills and how the higher our cognitive ability, the greater the impact. I talked about Jake the genius, a leader who had lost his ability to motivate and positively impact the behavior of his team during this stressful, leaner business environment.

Our brainpower—or cognitive ability– to think, innovate and motivate can get severely squeezed by the stress of the work environment or issues at home. What results is so much “noise” in the thinking part of our brains, that we are literally paralyzed cognitively. We find that we can’t use logic, display productive emotions and empathize-three critical components of effective communication. While crippled by our limited brainpower, we communicate the wrong things to our staff—demotivating messages, confusing body language, and uncontrolled emotion.

Biologically this reaction to stress is the same for each of us. So the Jake scenario has occurred repeatedly during the past year to the detriment of leaders, their staff and the results of their organizations.

Changing biologically directed and negative responses takes conscious effort on our part. But it can be done. Here’s a plan for leaders who find themselves in this situation.

How to recover—

1. Admit your own “bad” behavior- Sorry for the analogy, but like an alcoholic at the first AA meeting, admitting is the first step.
2. Apologize sincerely to those affected- Explain that you have a sense of what you have been like, and that you recognize it couldn’t have been fun for any of them. No “buts” or excuses!
3. Ask for their thoughts. Listen intently- by looking them in the eyes, taking notes, and paraphrasing what they say.
4. Ask for their help in noticing improvement-when more motivating behaviors occur again. Ask them to focus less on if you screw up, and more when you’re “awesome.”
5. Put a conscious plan in place- Keep a written log for yourself so you are consciously tracking helpful, supportive behavior. Being aware of our progress gives us the autonomy we need to continue to build on our success.

Know that because we are all human, you may “fall off the wagon” from time to time. Recovering your strong leader status is not about perfection.

Good Luck and cheers! Here’s to hoping my next blog is, “When a temporarily bad leader gets great again!”