Teach your team how to disrupt

Disruption is keeping executives awake at night: How to handle market curve balls that come out of nowhere? How to plan for the future when your product, service or supply chain is obsolete today? How to allocate resources, train, and develop people for jobs you can’t even imagine yet?

People smarter than I have declared there’s no silver bullet for dealing with disruption. But, as you break down silos, adopt agile innovation strategies, employ enterprise risk management or business continuity management, and seize the white space, consider what research is proving may be the bronze bullet for dealing with disruption: proactive self leaders, those who have the mindset and skill set to get what they need to succeed.

Consider these recent findings:

  • The essential factor for the success of an organizational initiative is the proactive behavior of self leaders.
  • Employees with proactive self leadership skills are more likely to accept responsibility, take initiative, generate ideas, problem solve, job craft, ask for feedback, hold themselves accountable, execute strategy, understand their needs, and ask for help when appropriate.
  • Proactive behavior is teachable.

If you want innovation and agility, enlist the individual contributors on the front lines of the battlefield. But focusing on training individual contributors requires a shift in priorities -- from a single focus on leadership training to a broadened approach that includes developing the folks on the other side of the equation.

Here are three ways to begin teaching your individual contributors the skills of proactive self leadership.

1. Set goals together.

Communicate what the organization needs to operate at an elevated level, and then collaborate on how the individual can best contribute. Help individuals to accept responsibility for the quality of their goals by teaching them how to…

  • Seek clarity if a goal isn’t specific, measurable, time-bound or trackable.
  • Negotiate if a goal isn’t attainable, relevant or fair.
  • Reframe if a goal isn’t optimally motivated to them.

You may be surprised to discover when people see what’s needed for the organization to succeed and are asked what part they want to play, they set and commit to higher goals than if you hand them their marching orders.

2. Diagnose their own level of development.

A primary role of a leader is to develop their direct reports. That means being able to diagnose an individual’s competence and commitment related to their goal. All leaders should be encouraged to do just that. But, the best person to evaluate their level of competence and commitment toward an outcome is the person themselves.

Expand your leadership training to teach individuals how to acknowledge their own skill and ability to complete a task or goal. Teach them how to gauge their own confidence and motivation to achieve the goal.

Partnering takes two equals sharing their insights. It’s hard to be agile when one side of the partnership is lacking the ability to effectively contribute.

3. Initiate proactive conversation.

Teach individual contributors to use the powerful “I need” statement to get just-in-time leadership.

Research shows that feedback is far more effective when asked for. People are more likely to take action on problems they’ve helped solve. Take the guesswork out of what an individual contributor needs to succeed by encouraging proactive conversations asking for direction and support. Imagine an employee who manages up: “I understand what’s expected of me, but since I’m new to this goal, I need more direction on how to do it and an action plan for how to proceed.”

There may be no silver bullet for dealing with disruption and constant change, but transforming individual contributors into proactive self leaders may be the bronze bullet that gives everyone a better fighting chance.

 

Susan Fowler is the co-author of the newly revised "Self Leadership and The One Minute Manager" with Ken Blanchard and Laurence Hawkins, and lead developer of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Self Leadership product line. She is also the author of the bestseller "Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work… and What Does." Fowler is a senior consulting partner at The Ken Blanchard Cos. and a professor in the Master of Science in Executive Leadership Program at the University of San Diego.

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Why most CEOs lack emotional intelligence

As I looked into Igor’s face, it was imperative that I accurately interpret his reaction to my words. Emotional intelligence is not taught at the FBI Academy, but it was essential for me to understand the difference between anxiety and sadness when interviewing people like Igor. I needed to know whether I could trust him to help me in my investigation.

You may never need to interview an individual whom you suspect of being a foreign spy. It is possible, however, that you will need to impress a new client or calm down an frustrated customer.

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize and accurately interpret what is going on with colleagues, employees and clients. As a leader, you need to excel at handling confict, and the need for this skill grows more important as you climb the ladder of success.

Can you tell if a team member is frustrated? Or, if they angry? It’s an important distinction because frustration happens when people feel blocked from achieving a goal. Whereas anger is a response to a perceived wrong done to them or to another. Yet too often leaders, managers, and supervisors cannot tell the difference.

Top level executives lead the pack when it comes to being direct and assertive, but research suggests that emotional intelligence diminishes as they move up the corporate ladder. Emotional intelligence scores from this study indicate a decline as people move above middle management—with CEOs having the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workplace!

Emotional competency is a major component of mental toughness. Leaders who are mentally tough are able to manage their emotions so negative ones don’t control their behavior and thoughts. While mentally tough leaders experience bad moods and impulses like everyone else, they do not act upon them without thinking them through.

People feel before they think, so leaders who constantly react to their emotional states never develop the discipline to allow their thoughts to moderate their emotions.

Here’s a closer look at why CEOs lack emotional intelligence and what can be done to enhance it.

Workaholism has become a desireable lifestyle

A new prosperity gospel has sprung up that believes there is no higher calling than starting your own business. The catch is this: To succeed, you must be willing to give up everything. This charge is led by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, who tells his followers they shouldn’t avoid working 18-hour days.

I was brought up to believe in the virtue of hard work. It’s got me to where I am today, but to create a lifestyle based on values like money and success is shallow. It is devoid of meaningful relationships or family life. It’s a madness that permeates the C-suite—“I’ll become rich and successful or die trying.”

Because of our focus on tasks, entrepreneurs often don’t have the time to develop the emotional intelligence they need take their success to the next level.

How to make it work for you: Find a trusted friend or family member and have them ask you this question: Are you are willing to give up your youth, sleep, vacations, health, family, or morals for this job? Think long and hard about your answers because it is possible to succeed without working yourself to death.

Outsized ego

As we climb the ladder of success, egos can grow. We are proud of the strides we’ve made, and we should be. While ego may be part of what drives us, we should never give it more than what it deserves.

Ego traps talented professionals. Executive leaders reach a point where the only opinion that matters is their own. They stop listening. They stop learning and this is where ego becomes a trap for suckers. Once you stop being curious about yourself and others, you stop seeing the world as it really is.

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that "reading other people" would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that "understanding myself" would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Emotionally competent leaders do not let their ego keep them from recognizing their weaknesses. In fact, they know it’s essential to find ways to manage these weaknesses so they can focus on building upon their strengths.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

How to make it work for you: If you’ve made it to the top, you should be too smart to fall into the ego trap so there is no one to blame but yourself. The good news is it’s easy to get out of this trap. All you need to do is suck up a little humility and start to be as concerned about the needs of others as you are with your own.

Pressure to have all the answers

Executive leaders are paid the big bucks to have all the answers. When the stakes are high, successful people maintain their poise and perform. But pressure situations can either empower or imprison; we all know what it’s like to have the perfect answer pop into our head 20 minutes after an important conversation.

There are people who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to say. Faced with an uncooperative employee, an angry customer or a tense negotiation with a competitor, they are confident in their response. They remain calm and don’t get upset.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to wait until their emotions pass so they can chose their response rather than react with gut feelings.

How to make it work for you: Train yourself to perform while under presssure. Mental toughness is the ability to be resilient in uncomfortable conditions:

  1. Experiment. Always have a petri dish in your life that is full of experiences and situations where you are experimenting with the answer.
  2. Welcome failure. When you are constantly confronting situations where you don’t know the answer, the chances are greater that you will fail. Learn to fail well so you can approach the situation in smarter ways the next time.
  3. Reframe. Interpret your pressure in a positive way by reframing the way you look at it. Instead of saying “I don’t know the answer,” replace it with “I may not know the answer right now, but I will find it.” Your brain will interpret pressure in a new way if you reframe the question and use positive words.
  4. Move into your discomfort zone. Too often we fine tune our skills in non-pressure situations. We don’t know how we’ll respond when placed in a real pressure situation, so seek out opportunities—yes, it will be unpleasant—where you are out of your comfort zone.
  5. Practice under less-than-perfect conditions. You know by now that the world is not perfect so stop pretending that it is. Practice in imperfect conditions where there are lots of interruptions, disturbances, and surprises. This will help you land on your feet when in real situations where you are confronted with the unknown and the unexpected.

Lack of feedback

It’s true that it’s lonely at the top. Executive leaders have fewer opportunities for honest and constructive feedback. Managers and staff further down the food chain are hesitant to give feedback to senior colleagues.

As a result, many executive leaders find themselves confused about their performance and how to develop the skills they need. They are often isolated from constructive criticism because subordinates do not want to risk offending the boss.

Emotionally intelligence leaders who are aware of and acknowledge their weaknesses will hire good people to surround them. When the stress is high, they can depend on the people around them to compliment their strengths and counter their weaknesses.

How to make it work for you: To cultivate the feedback you need, interview at least five of your direct reports and others around you. Ask this question: “What advice would you offer to help me improve my effectiveness?” Try to listen with open and ears and a closed mouth.

 

LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. Quy is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Why most CEOs lack emotional intelligence

As I looked into Igor’s face, it was imperative that I accurately interpret his reaction to my words. Emotional intelligence is not taught at the FBI Academy, but it was essential for me to understand the difference between anxiety and sadness when interviewing people like Igor. I needed to know whether I could trust him to help me in my investigation.

You may never need to interview an individual whom you suspect of being a foreign spy. It is possible, however, that you will need to impress a new client or calm down an frustrated customer.

Emotional intelligence allows you to recognize and accurately interpret what is going on with colleagues, employees and clients. As a leader, you need to excel at handling confict, and the need for this skill grows more important as you climb the ladder of success.

Can you tell if a team member is frustrated? Or, if they angry? It’s an important distinction because frustration happens when people feel blocked from achieving a goal. Whereas anger is a response to a perceived wrong done to them or to another. Yet too often leaders, managers, and supervisors cannot tell the difference.

Top level executives lead the pack when it comes to being direct and assertive, but research suggests that emotional intelligence diminishes as they move up the corporate ladder. Emotional intelligence scores from this study indicate a decline as people move above middle management—with CEOs having the lowest emotional intelligence scores in the workplace!

Emotional competency is a major component of mental toughness. Leaders who are mentally tough are able to manage their emotions so negative ones don’t control their behavior and thoughts. While mentally tough leaders experience bad moods and impulses like everyone else, they do not act upon them without thinking them through.

People feel before they think, so leaders who constantly react to their emotional states never develop the discipline to allow their thoughts to moderate their emotions.

Here’s a closer look at why CEOs lack emotional intelligence and what can be done to enhance it.

Workaholism has become a desireable lifestyle

A new prosperity gospel has sprung up that believes there is no higher calling than starting your own business. The catch is this: To succeed, you must be willing to give up everything. This charge is led by entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk, who tells his followers they shouldn’t avoid working 18-hour days.

I was brought up to believe in the virtue of hard work. It’s got me to where I am today, but to create a lifestyle based on values like money and success is shallow. It is devoid of meaningful relationships or family life. It’s a madness that permeates the C-suite—“I’ll become rich and successful or die trying.”

Because of our focus on tasks, entrepreneurs often don’t have the time to develop the emotional intelligence they need take their success to the next level.

How to make it work for you: Find a trusted friend or family member and have them ask you this question: Are you are willing to give up your youth, sleep, vacations, health, family, or morals for this job? Think long and hard about your answers because it is possible to succeed without working yourself to death.

Outsized ego

As we climb the ladder of success, egos can grow. We are proud of the strides we’ve made, and we should be. While ego may be part of what drives us, we should never give it more than what it deserves.

Ego traps talented professionals. Executive leaders reach a point where the only opinion that matters is their own. They stop listening. They stop learning and this is where ego becomes a trap for suckers. Once you stop being curious about yourself and others, you stop seeing the world as it really is.

The first thing I learned as an FBI agent was that "reading other people" would be essential if I hoped to live long enough to retire from my job. The second thing I learned was that "understanding myself" would be critical if I wanted to predict my response when confronted with the unknown.

Emotionally competent leaders do not let their ego keep them from recognizing their weaknesses. In fact, they know it’s essential to find ways to manage these weaknesses so they can focus on building upon their strengths.

Ignorance of your competition makes you vulnerable; ignorance of yourself makes you stupid.

How to make it work for you: If you’ve made it to the top, you should be too smart to fall into the ego trap so there is no one to blame but yourself. The good news is it’s easy to get out of this trap. All you need to do is suck up a little humility and start to be as concerned about the needs of others as you are with your own.

Pressure to have all the answers

Executive leaders are paid the big bucks to have all the answers. When the stakes are high, successful people maintain their poise and perform. But pressure situations can either empower or imprison; we all know what it’s like to have the perfect answer pop into our head 20 minutes after an important conversation.

There are people who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to say. Faced with an uncooperative employee, an angry customer or a tense negotiation with a competitor, they are confident in their response. They remain calm and don’t get upset.

Leaders with high emotional intelligence have the ability to wait until their emotions pass so they can chose their response rather than react with gut feelings.

How to make it work for you: Train yourself to perform while under presssure. Mental toughness is the ability to be resilient in uncomfortable conditions:

  1. Experiment. Always have a petri dish in your life that is full of experiences and situations where you are experimenting with the answer.
  2. Welcome failure. When you are constantly confronting situations where you don’t know the answer, the chances are greater that you will fail. Learn to fail well so you can approach the situation in smarter ways the next time.
  3. Reframe. Interpret your pressure in a positive way by reframing the way you look at it. Instead of saying “I don’t know the answer,” replace it with “I may not know the answer right now, but I will find it.” Your brain will interpret pressure in a new way if you reframe the question and use positive words.
  4. Move into your discomfort zone. Too often we fine tune our skills in non-pressure situations. We don’t know how we’ll respond when placed in a real pressure situation, so seek out opportunities—yes, it will be unpleasant—where you are out of your comfort zone.
  5. Practice under less-than-perfect conditions. You know by now that the world is not perfect so stop pretending that it is. Practice in imperfect conditions where there are lots of interruptions, disturbances, and surprises. This will help you land on your feet when in real situations where you are confronted with the unknown and the unexpected.

Lack of feedback

It’s true that it’s lonely at the top. Executive leaders have fewer opportunities for honest and constructive feedback. Managers and staff further down the food chain are hesitant to give feedback to senior colleagues.

As a result, many executive leaders find themselves confused about their performance and how to develop the skills they need. They are often isolated from constructive criticism because subordinates do not want to risk offending the boss.

Emotionally intelligence leaders who are aware of and acknowledge their weaknesses will hire good people to surround them. When the stress is high, they can depend on the people around them to compliment their strengths and counter their weaknesses.

How to make it work for you: To cultivate the feedback you need, interview at least five of your direct reports and others around you. Ask this question: “What advice would you offer to help me improve my effectiveness?” Try to listen with open and ears and a closed mouth.

 

LaRae Quy was an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent for 24 years. She exposed foreign spies and recruited them to work for the U.S. government. As an FBI agent, she developed the mental toughness to survive in environments of risk, uncertainty, and deception. Quy is the author of “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths.” If you’d like to find out if you are mentally tough, get her free 45-question Mental Toughness Assessment. Follow her on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

This CEO’s marriage of ice cream and architecture

Lead Human
SmartBrief illustration

This is the latest in a series called Lead Human, which features interviews and profiles conducted by Elliot Begoun in search of answers to the question "What is it like to be a leader?"

After leaving her architectural job at Disney in 2009, Natasha Case founded Coolhaus with her friend Freya Estreller.

They launched their architecturally inspired ice cream sandwich company at the Coachella Music Festival, selling ice cream sandwiches to a crowd of 100,000 festivalgoers out of a nearly inoperable postal van. After Coachella, social media caught fire, and they quickly built a loyal and enthusiastic following in the Los Angeles foodie community. Since then, Case has received a host of awards and honors including being named a Forbes “30 Under 30” in food and beverage, Zagat’s 30 under 30 and LinkedIn’s “10 Under 35” for food and leisure. Coolhaus’ pre-packaged ice cream sandwiches, hand-dipped bars, and hand-packed pints can be found in more than 6,000 stores nationwide.

In her role as CEO of Coolhaus, Case is involved with everything from new product development to design, in addition to ensuring that Coolhaus remains on top of its game as it continues to expand and grow.

When I spoke with Case, she told me about why she is so passionate about architecture and the way that influences Coolhaus. She discussed what she hopes to accomplish with the brand and how leading a company the right way is so important to ongoing success.

Why are you doing this crazy thing?

She explained to me that she really had two reasons.

“When we started, our early brand mission was to make architecture more fun and accessible through food. My background is in design and architecture. I wanted to make sure that the ideas that we were talking about, were very much able to translate to the public.”

“I think what really speaks to our brand and what we’re doing here, is taking something like ice cream and folding the really cool visual components of design and architecture into that. We’re making a great product that anyone can appreciate and enjoy. Not just a niche of people who are already aware of the design stuff we think is so cool.”

“That dovetails nicely into number two, which is that we are interested in making something undeniably great. Make it very, very cool and engaging, and really use the product to tell the story of who we are and what we’re all about.”

Why ice cream?

“Ice cream is such a great, great product. It has a nostalgia. It has so much ability for experimentation. It’s fun and engaging. It should be the best it can possibly be. And that’s our mission at Coolhaus.”

“Ice cream is the ultimate unifier. It speaks to so many people. There’s so many memories and so much meaning encoded in it and that emotional side just really appealed to me. On a personal level, I grew up eating ice cream every day, basically, and I love it.”

“Ice cream lends itself very well to experimentation. We wanted to make a brand that pushed the envelope, do something different and ice cream was just a great fit for that.”

Coolhaus, is that a play on or an homage to Bauhaus architecture?

Exactly. We say it’s a triple-entendre. You’ve got the Bauhaus element, which is one of my favorite design movements because it is so broad-thinking. It’s about lifestyle. It’s about sculpture and painting and architecture. And, it’s named after one of my favorite architects, Rem Koolhaas. Again, a very out-of-the-box, interdisciplinary thinker.”

“This one’s a little bit of a stretch, but you can say the sandwich kind of looks like tiny, little, cold houses with the ice cream walls and cookie for a floor and roof. So, triple entendre.”

Natasha Case
Case (photo provided by Coolhaus)

What’s the key to growing the brand?

“The number one thing to me is always culture. In any enterprise. It’s what I always go back to. Keeping the culture exciting so your people stay engaged, positive, passionate. That’s within your team and your audience. So, making sure you know your audience and making sure that you’re interacting with them, that they’re really feeling engaged with your brand. That’s the most important thing when it comes to keeping a brand strong.”

Case added that another key component is "quality control. Staying on top of everything about the product, every aspect of it, to make sure it is what it’s supposed to be.”

What lessons have you learned?

“A huge part of the learning process for me has been learning to manage people and learning how to interact with people. You must be patient with yourself. You need to let time go by and you need to grow up and grow into that role. You need to figure out who you want to be as a manager.”

“And, obviously, it’s always challenging financially, especially in the grocery business. It can be such a shakedown. Trying to say no to just straight-out pay-to-play situations, like in so many grocery stores, where they just want you to buy shelf space. You should really commit to your principles and believe in your product and what you’re doing and trust that you will get into those stores based on consumer demand, on merit. But, it’s very, very tough.”

What advice would you offer budding entrepreneurs?

“Keep thinking big. Try to get your business to a place where you’re working on it, not just in it.”

Case went on to offer these bits of wisdom:

  • “Hire people who are better than you at the elements of the business where you are weak.”
  • “Get a minimum viable product going and then always keep innovating and improving what you’re working on. It’s not a static thing. Keep evolving.”

She wrapped up our interview by saying, “Nurturing a brand is almost like a spiritual practice or religion. Like a cult but not in like a creepy way. People want to be part of the club and our club is not about exclusivity. It’s very inclusive.”

 

Like the Lead Human interviews? Leave us your email and we’ll send you audio excerpts, pictures, and all kinds of cool stuff. Get your bonus materials here.

Elliot Begoun is the principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on accelerating the growth of emerging food and beverage brands. He helps clients gain distribution, build velocity, and win share of stomach. His articles appear in publications such as the Huffington Post, SmartBrief, and Food Dive.

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have a dairy industry email, one of more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

Have you ever considered starting your own business?

SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 220,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.

Have you ever considered starting your own business?

  • Yes, I’ve started my own business and currently run it : 24.6%
  • Yes, I’ve thought about it but never made the leap: 52.8%
  • No, I’ve never seriously considered starting a business: 22.5%

Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. A long time ago I heard a quote that stated “an entrepreneur is the only person I know who’s willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” It’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re one of the 53% of people who have considered running your own business but haven’t made the leap, be sure to seek out real-world perspectives on what it takes to run your own firm. The challenges are numerous and you’ll be tested well beyond your expectations. That said, the rewards can be tremendous – ranging from control over your schedule, financial benefits, and job satisfaction. If you’re seriously considering taking the leap, an informed perspective can help you see how far you’ll really have to jump.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS. Before launching his own company, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He's the author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."

Projecting confidence: Here are 5 words and phrases to avoid

When the opportunity arises to speak, we all want to make the most of the opportunity. It is important to speak with authority in a timely manner while still using carefully considered words.

It seems a tricky situation, speaking up and still appearing confident while saying something unrehearsed. If you’re struggling in this kind of situation, read on to learn about the types of words and phrases you should avoid when you want to project confidence.

Confidence comes with practice, so don’t just wait for occasions to come along. Instead, work on banishing the following words and phrases from your everyday discussions, and practice your confident communication at every opportunity.

Avoid: Filler words

Noise words, including “umm,” “uh” and “like” indicate you're not exactly sure what you're going to say next, which makes you sound less confident. Often, they are perceived as someone stalling for time, or worse, attempting to “hold the floor” and prevent others from talking while they scramble for what to say.

Instead: Ask and listen

The art of being a confident communicator begins with listening. Instead of thinking about what you're going to say next, truly listen to what the other person is saying, take a moment to consider their ideas and then formulate a clear and confident response. Ask questions in meetings to encourage more detail, different angles or another idea. Listen to the answers and then speak. Your response will be better informed, tighter and more confident, not to mention more appreciated by those whose input you sought.

Avoid: Weak words

“Usually,” “sometimes” and “probably” are weak words in a professional context. It tells the audience you're not certain what you're saying is true and are hedging your bets, just in case you're wrong.

Instead: Project conviction

If you want to project confidence, add the word “definitely” to your vocabulary. Communicate that you are 100% certain in your statements.

Avoid: Overused terms

Phrases like “state of the art” and “cutting edge” used to be reserved for truly ground breaking innovation. Today, these terms are used so often in marketing copy they've completely lost their impact. Similarly, people are fond of throwing around the concept of “thinking outside the box” so frequently that it barely means anything anymore. Using these tired terms may even take away from what you’re communicating, making your message seem derivative or something they’ve heard before.

Instead: Clear communication

Often when we grasp at a tired phrase, we’re trying to use a type of shorthand to convey an idea to our audience. Resist the urge and think about what you’re really trying to communicate. Use your own words to describe how or why something is new, or innovative, or an unconventional idea. Chances are, doing so will better inform others anyway.

Avoid: Tasteless phrases

It bears thinking about the origin of a phrase before using it, even if you have heard others utter it many times before. Dark and unpleasant histories are sometimes conjured by their use -- “drinking the kool-aid” and “opening the kimono” are two such phrases. The last thing you need is to make your audience inwardly cringe. If you aren’t certain of the origin of a popular phrase or cultural reference, steer clear.

Instead: Use simple terms

Witty phrases and complex language may make you feel smarter, but that won’t help you connect with your audience. Speak plainly and describe exactly what you mean. Listeners will appreciate clear and concise language that doesn’t require cultural or historical context. Being easily understood will gain you a competitive advantage.

Avoid: Made-up words

English is an ever-evolving language and terms that simply didn’t exist 10 years before do make their way into the common lexicon, eventually. Be wary, however, of jumping on board with trendy terms to describe your thoughts and opinions. Not all words become dictionary material; many quickly become overused or seen as attention-seeking, passé or ill-informed, not to mention dangerous if you aren’t sure of the origin or meaning.

Instead: Know your audience

It can distract your listeners if you use terms or phrases that annoy them or make them wince when misused. Suddenly, their minds are whirling away on a single word, or an obscure reference, instead of concentrating on what you’re saying. Stick to clear, concise language and words you know well. Know your audience and avoid distracting them from your message.

Confident communication takes practice. Work on listening, questioning and giving considered, clear responses at every opportunity. Don’t forget to make these habits part of your everyday interactions – it will help you when the pressure is on to speak up in a larger group or with your boss. Be assertive in your actions and decisive in your decision-making. You will be sure to present as a powerful, polished and confident person.

 

Joel Garfinkle conducts executive leadership coaching. He recently developed a step-by-step Executive Presence Program for a vice president focusing on how she could convey more confidence and command respect. After six months, she learned to radiate gravitas, act with authority and communicate with power. Joel has written seven books, including "Getting Ahead." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now."

If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.

 

Managers need to have a strong heart

"If you want to manage more effectively, you need to be present and accountable."

That adage gets to the heart of a key theme of "Kitchen Confidential," Anthony Bourdain’s memoir about learning to cook and learning to manage a kitchen, sometimes effectively and sometimes disastrously.

Here are a few lessons that translate well to management in any field -- food or sport or even government.

  • Know your trade. A chef prepares the day in advance and stays on his feet much of the day. One mistake and you will disappoint some diner.
  • Know what your people expect of you. Restaurants make headlines due to the chef. They stay in business to the hard work of everyone in the operation, from the general manager to the busboy and dishwasher.
  • Know that your mistakes are opportunities to learn. Be humble when you screw up. Learn from the good example as well as successful operations of others. Pay attention and learn from the best people around you.
  • Know the risks. You must love what you do, but you must also surround yourself with people better and more capable than yourself.

Learning management from the example of others is no shortcut to the top, but when you pay attention to people who have paid their dues, you may save yourself a step or two on the ladder to your success.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2017, Trust Across America named him a Top Thought Leader in Trust for the fourth consecutive year. Global Gurus ranked John No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named John to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

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3 interviewing mistakes smart managers routinely make

As a manager, recruiting, interviewing, selecting and hiring talent may be among your most valuable contributions to the organization.

Let’s face it: On your own, you can do little. But, working with and through experienced and capable team members, you dramatically magnify what’s possible. As a result, interviewing is a high-leverage skill that effective managers must master.

Unfortunately, in many organizations, this mission-critical activity doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Managers frequently find themselves making swift, pressured decisions just to find a "warm body" to fill an open slot. Others relinquish this vital responsibility to intuition, basing decisions on the heart rather than the head. And still others allow the process to languish as they engage in an unnecessarily lengthy quest for the perfect candidate, that elusive unicorn.

Field research with hundreds of managers throughout the US, Europe and Asia highlights the key interviewing mistakes that even smart managers find themselves making over and over again. The problem boils down to 3 Ps: preparation, processing and perspective.

Preparation

Managers routinely report that preparing for interviews -- if it happens at all -- gets short shrift. After all, they’re busy and each interview is a bit of a grab-bag. Managers know they’ll have to kiss a lot of frogs for every prince that’s out there. And, since an interview is ‘just a conversation’, there’s frequently the sense that "winging it" is acceptable.

But an interview is a highly concentrated, specialized conversation with the purpose of learning from another human being enough to make a decision that you both may live with for decades. Preparation is a wise trade-off for ensuring that actionable information is surfaced in a short timeframe to make such significant decisions.

Dedicating as little as 10 minutes to these three activities can drive dramatically different interviewing and hiring results.

  • Clarify what you’re looking for. To make the best use of the short time you have with a candidate, know in advance the specific skills, capabilities, experiences, relationships and cultural fit factors required for the job.
  • Review candidate materials. Perusing the application, resume, and social media resources in advance allows you to be more efficient. You won’t waste valuable time covering the same ground in the interview – but instead be able to take that knowledge to another level.
  • Identify a handful of focused, open-ended questions that will get people talking about what they’ve done relative to what you’re looking for. (And there are many online resources that offer question libraries from which to choose.) Having a questioning game plan allows you to focus your attention on candidate answers and teasing out details rather than figuring out your next question.

Processing

Another challenge many managers face is processing the information that’s revealed during an interview. It can frequently feel like drinking from a fire hose as candidates highlight their extensive successes and experience.

As a result, it helps to have a lens through which the information passes. Rather than going in with a blank page, exceptional interviewers enter the experience with a clear definition or picture of exceptional skills and performance.  Knowing "what good looks like" allows an interviewer to sift through the information shared and recognize, follow-up on and consider what’s most relevant.

Perspective

And finally, one of the biggest challenges managers and organizations face is one of perspective. In the past, when exceptional candidates outnumbered open positions, we looked at the interview as a tool for the organization. It wasn’t uncommon to encounter a "my way or the highway" approach to the process, with the accompanying sense that candidate was lucky to get an interview.

Today, however, the landscape has changed and the tables have turned. In a tighter labor market, candidates have more choice. Savvy organizations understand this shifting power dynamic and appreciate that they’re the lucky ones now. They’re adjusting their perspective to focus extensively on the candidate’s interview experience.

Steps are taken to connect more deeply and sell the candidate on the job -- versus that other way around -- knowing that while it may not lead to success with this particular person, it will enhance the organization’s talent brand. And this brand building happens interview by interview, interviewer by interviewer.

Preparing for an interview sets you up to be able to engage in a way that allows you to focus and process the information shared. And when you add the intention to provide an exceptional interviewing experience, you’ll distinguish your organization from every other one that might be competing for your next top performer.

 

Julie Winkle Giulioni is the author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want,” with Bev Kaye. Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about her consulting, speaking and blog atJulieWinkleGiulioni.com.

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The best approaches for remembering names at networking events

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

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Q. What's your best trick for remembering faces and names at networking events?

1. Use their name in the conversation

After someone tells you their name, try to incorporate it back into your conversation quickly so it locks in. It's best to look someone in the eyes when you're chatting, so make a mental note of their face and repeat their name back to yourself silently. -- Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40

2. Connect them to a visual image

Try to associate the two by creating a connection between the person you’re talking to with a visual image. If their name sounds like another word then connect it to a visual image. For an example, if their name is Mr. Smith, then connect their name to a granny smith apple. We tend to remember pictures better than words, so this will help trigger your memory when you recall the face or name. -- Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

3. Ask for the spelling

I always ask how people spell their name, by asking, “Jody, so is that with a ‘y’ or an ‘i?'” It works every time and people always appreciate it! I’ll even say, “John, is that with an ‘h’ or no ‘h?'" -- Brandon Dempsey, goBRANDgo!

4. Take a selfie

Until name tags evolve to include a recent Facebook picture, we'll have to be creative about remembering names and faces. The best option is to take a selfie with your new friend or snap a photo of their business card for reference. You can post these to social media or simply make a note to yourself about who you've met and how to follow up (the whole reason you need to remember names!). -- Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems

5. Consider it to be considerate

Make an association and consider the person. When you put your attention on the person entirely that is in front of you, you make an association whether a place or person from your past or present, and then reinforce it by speaking the association aloud. This is an excellent trick and it is also considerate. It does not necessarily mean you are referring them to your own narrative, it helps you! -- Matthew Capala, Search Decoder

6. Exchange Linkedin or Twitter info

If you're having a good conversation with someone and want to keep in touch, exchange contact info! This may be just pulling out your phone and asking for their Twitter handle or LinkedIn info. -- Jared Atchison, WPForms

7. Ask for their card

Ask for their business card and jot down a note next to their name with something memorable about them. Make sure to ask them a unique question. That can be very helpful for remembering them the next time. -- Ben Lang, Spoke

8. Immediately put their information in your phone

I get their contact information and enter it immediately while talking with them so I have it for the next time. If I need to I scroll through my names to jog my memory at the next event before walking up to them to make sure I know who they are in advance of saying hello again. -- Murray Newlands, Sighted

9. Imagine them meeting someone else

The best strategy for remembering someone's name is making an association with someone who you already know or are familiar with. Think of ways in which this person actually looks or acts like someone who you know with the same name. Picture them together and "introduce" them to each other in your head. Once Anne has unknowingly met your cousin, you'll easily bring back the memory when needed. -- Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

6 tips for managing personal stress

“No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse.” — Randy Pausch, "The Last Lecture"

One of the greatest challenges for professionals is to leave behind their personal challenges when they enter the workplace. We all have a job to do, but when there are struggles at home or with family, such as illness, financial pressures or familial discord, it can be really difficult to hunker down and focus enough to get work done.

For leaders, situations such as these can be even more of a challenge. Not only are they responsible for their own work, but they must see to it that their workforce remains productive as well. Furthermore, leaders oftentimes feel compelled to put on a show of control if not invincibility as part of their leadership persona. Allowing for weakness to show, they feel, can greatly diminish the leadership stature that they so deeply value.

(The irony of such thinking is that while, as David Dotlich points out, great leaders are praised for their successes, “paradoxically, what makes good leaders great are the trials and tribulations of failure … Leaders who have endured adversity are most likely to be the ones with the resilience and resolve to succeed.”)

What can leaders do at times of difficulty in their personal lives to stay focused on what needs to be done at work and be present, in body and mind, for their people? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Label your emotion. The simple act of labeling our emotions reduces activity in the emotional brain and increases activity in the areas of the brain associated with focus and awareness. By labeling your emotions, you can better separate yourself from the experience and draft a clearer plan on how to handle it.
  2. Share what’s happening. Share your situation with a few close confidants who support you and can fill in for you as needed. Just knowing that others care about you can be extremely uplifting and can keep you going during difficult moments. Having people who can step in during your absence will help alleviate the burden and make sure that things move forward as needed.
  3. Increase your determination. Commit to working through your challenges and to not let them gain the upper hand. This determination will push you through the most challenging moments when you may otherwise be inclined to pull back. Keep a collection of inspirational quotes handy, such as:
    • “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements and impossibilities: It is this that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.” (Thomas Carlyle)
    • “The obstacle is the path.” (Zen proverb)
  4. Find the silver lining. In almost every difficult situation, there are silver linings, including considering how many others may have it worse. For example, if you’re struggling with a defiant child who is making poor decisions, consider how much worse off others may be in terms of their condition and disconnect.
  5. Reflect on how others did it. Life is filled with stories of “failures” who endured challenges yet went on to achieve great successes. People such as Thomas Edison (failed repeatedly to invent the light bulb), President Franklin Roosevelt (crippled by polio), Charles Schwab and Richard Branson (struggled in school due to dyslexia) and Oprah Winfrey (domestic abuse) all overcome personal challenges to achieve greatness.
  6. Consider your impact. As much as you are struggling, you are still needed by others. Your leadership, guidance, direction and support are critical elements in your organization and folks need you to be, well, you. Use such thinking to push yourself forward.

 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Check out his new leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog.

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