Brainstorm: A useless and agonizing affair leaders use to torture their employee.
The scenario: Upper management suggests it is time to come up with new ideas. No one at the top is really open to new ideas, though. It’s an exercise that seems more habit than a real desire for change. Regardless, everyone goes through the motions.
The session starts with an innovative thought tentatively thrown out by a brave soul. The idea is shot down before it has a chance. Another courageous individual tosses their idea into the middle of the room. It lands with a thud as no one willing to attach their ego to it either. Everyone is fearful of the ramifications of speaking up.
As the 2nd idea also is quickly rejected, the remainder of the participants close up. The energy in the room turns sour. Participants doodle on their paper while the facilitator asks a 2nd and 3rd time for any other ideas. Everyone avoids eye contact.
The session ends with pretty much the same thing going to happen as it always has and everyone leaves bitter with the whole process.
Leaders need to find a way to generate new ideas
Whether you have been the one averting your eyes or the one trying to pull teeth from your team to get new ideas, you know the pain of trying to get an open generative dialogue going. Old fashioned brainstorming does not work.
Learn to ask the right questions
Leaders need to find a different way. That new way is about asking questions. But not just any question. You must as the right kind of question.
First start with your own reflection time
Spend a bit of time really considering what you want out of the gathering. Your individual reflection time is most effective when you wildly get curious. Questioning invites introspection. Go within first.
Curiosity is the desire to learn or find out something.
That means it starts from a place of not knowing. For a leader, it can be uncomfortable to admit we don’t know. It can feel like weakness.
Admitting you do not know exhibits strength in leadership.
Opening up to curiosity shows a willingness to grow and develop. Inquisitiveness can lead to uncovering new answers, different techniques, and more effective processes.
Acting like a 2-year old
Asking the right questions starts with being really curious, just like a two-year-old.
Second, decide on the direction you want to go
Consider what questions you need to ask the team that will take you in the direction you desire.
Questions point us in a direction so craft your questions carefully
The question you ask sends you and your team in search of answers. Ensure your question is pointing you in the way of progress or the route you want to go.
Consider these questions. Notice the you go right away.
In this situation, the direction you want to go not down the path of feeling like a failure. Preferably you want to move towards successful weight loss. The questions you ask must direct you there. The 2nd question is the one that will do that.
Next, start with the right questions
I reiterate, it’s important to start with the right questions. This example of different questions sends you in different directions around team building.
The first question leads to finger pointing and once again, shame and embarrassment.
The second has the potential to build up and strengthen what is working.
Take it one step further and ask this question
These 2nd two questions sent you in search of solutions that will take you to your ideal vision of an effective team.
Ask the powerful questions
Asking powerful questions of yourself and within your team can lead to the exploration of territory you have never been to before. This exploration can have you pry open opportunities you didn’t see before. These new opportunities have the potential to make you more efficient, successful and have more fun at work. Are you willing to go there?
Consider a particularly frustrating challenge you are currently dealing with. What 3 new questions can you ask yourself and/or your team that would invoke new insights taking you in the precise direction you want to be going?
When was the last time you blocked off time in your schedule, simply to think?
Do you just randomly fit thinking in whenever you seem to find the time? More likely, you are similar to most people. That is, you layer thinking over whatever else you are doing? Rather than proactively reflecting, most of us randomly think when our minds settle enough, like in the shower.
Strong leadership comes when the leader learns from the past. Leaders that appreciate the lessons in their life are better able to apply them and subsequently have greater success. In order to do that, they must take the conscious time to reflect.
Insomnia hit me
At 12:30 am, I turned on the lamp in my office, snuggled into my chair with my soft leopard print blanket and pulled out my journal. I had trouble sleeping last night and after an hour of tossing and turning, I ultimately got up to do a bit more reflection rather than jumbled fretting and worrying.
Sleeplessness is telling me something
Insomnia is something that occasionally creeps into my slumber. I have learned to address it by trying first to push myself to stop worrying. I try to keep bringing myself back to focusing on my breathing. When that doesn’t settle me down, I know to get up and more consciously sort out what is going on inside of me.
I decided to let me thoughts fall onto the paper
Last night as I started to journal my thoughts, they rambled on in crazy tangents and illegible emotional asides. I allowed the messiness both in the grammar and in the cursive. I just let the words tumble out onto the pages releasing thoughts and emotions.
Suddenly I had my awakening moment
When I journal like this, there is usually a turning point for me. Something finally releases. I have an epiphany, an “ah ha” moment or something becomes clearer. Last night the insight came when I had the urge to reach out to a friend whom I haven’t talked with in a while.
I realized my friend wasn't so helpful
This friend, I knew would console me, give me a little pep talk and then send me on my way. Sounds like a great friend, right? True, if I am only looking to stay right where I am, this friend a great person to have around. However, she has never really held me accountable to be my full self. She cheers me on, but only to a point. She is afraid to step up and do some really amazing work and consequently she has trouble encouraging others to do the same.
The truth comes out
What was happening for me last night is that I am getting anxious about the launch of the next round of my Women with Grit course. Not only is the course is an updated version of work I’ve done but is taking my work to a whole new level. And that is scary!
What I was doing last night was making a big mess in my head
I was doing this all of this crazy worrying and subconsciously allowing it to hold me back. The thought that triggered me to realize this all was thinking about reaching out to the friend. But not just any friend, I was reaching out to a friend who would help me hold back.
I don't like moving out of my comfort zone
Reflection allowed my to see that my insomnia was an upper limit problem. As soon as I move outside of my comfort zone, stretching my self-perceived limits, I try to get back there fast. We all do it. But reflection helped me to see what I was doing. It also helped me to decide to not do that anymore and to keep moving in the direction of the next level of success for me.
When have you had an epiphany?
Think back to your own ah-ha moments. You have likely have had times when you’ve become aware of when you were doing something that was not getting you where you wanted. It could be that you realized said something that was the catalyst for a nasty argument that could have been alleviated. Here are some other examples of when you may have had a sudden awareness.
Increased awareness makes the difference
Increased awareness like these valuable perceptions can really help you to avoid similar occurrences from striking repeatedly. First, though, you must have the conscious thoughts, then second, you must do something with the wisdom gleaned from contemplation.
But, do you schedule time to become more aware?
The difficulty is that many of us don’t plan time to think. We simply rush through our hurried days without slowing down to consider consequences, implications and lessons learned.
Make reflection part of your daily routine
When you do slow down and make reflection a regular part of your day, you will begin to notice differences in how you feel and how you lead. You will not be beating your head against the same challenge, in the same way, repeatedly
Here are 3 ways to add reflection time to your day
1) Schedule time to reflect
Schedule 5 minutes to start then work you way up to 20 minutes a day. This might be 10 minutes after lunch and 10 minutes towards the end of your day. Make the meeting with yourself as important as a meeting with anyone else. Put it actually in your day timer or scheduling system.
2) Pay attention to how your body reacted
Your body knows before you do. Your stomach grumbles before you head says, “I’m hungry”. Your back aches before you mind realizes you need to stretch and your heart swells before you say “I love you”. Your body is speaking to you.
The same is true with the challenges we face on a day-to-day basis. Your body stiffened this morning when that certain person walked in. You got a headache shortly after a conversation about a certain topic. You got red in the face when you had to answer that one awkward question. But what did this all mean? And what can you do to prevent it from happening again?
3) Write your lessons down
Think about what you’ve learned. Become more aware of how your body is connected to thoughts and how those thoughts are connected to your experience. Then write it down. When you write down your lesson, is sinks in more and helps your various learning styles really lock it in.
Learn your lessons
Your leadership strengthens when you pause to reflect and recognize lessons gifted to you each day. Growth comes when you are aware and active in the application of the lessons learned. Strong leaders grow themselves and their teams in this way.
When can you schedule 10 minutes into your schedule that will allow you to think without interruption?
Last month I posted 3 blogs and videos all about family that were pretty popular. For easy reference, here they all are.
Are you a believer?
I mean, do you believe in yourself?
What you tell yourself about yourself, is 99.9% true. That means if you believe you have the ability, you will. If you don’t believe, it’s game over.
Your attitude about yourself shows up in your leadership also. If you assume you will have a positive impact on your team, you will. If you think they are going to resist you all the way, then oh honey, are in for a nasty ride!
I didn't think I could blog
A few years ago, I decided to blog. I’d write an article here or there. I started a few different blogs to try and find “my voice.” I wasn’t sure though how successful I’d be at it. Some days I felt like a fraud and wouldn’t blog for weeks. I questioned my ability and let my perfectionism get in the way. I wasn’t very good at blogging for a long while.
About a year ago, things really started changing
As I grew myself, I was watching successful bloggers, I began to also get really clear on the impact I wanted to have on leaders. It was then that I knew. I knew I could be a blogger. I knew I could do this. I believed.
Once I really got that in my head, I got serious about learning
I read lots of other blogs. I watched how they did it. I learned about successful blogging. I did training on writing. I practiced. I got it in my head that I could blog. I just needed to figure out how. So I got busy figuring out the"how" part of blogging. Now, I am a consistent, successful blogger who’s making you think differently about yourself, how you show up in this world and the impact you can have on others.
I simply decided in my head
I decided I could do it, the same way you can choose something you want to do and just decide that you will do it. It is all in your mind. It is your mindset. It is the belief you have. Your mindset is your attitude about a particular thing. This inner certainty you have about something sets in motion your ability to succeed with it or not.
There are two mindsets we have. The first is a fixed mindset, the second a growth mindset.
Researcher Carol Dweck describes the difference in mindsets as follows:
“People with a fixed mindset believe that their traits are just givens. They have a certain amount of brains and talent and nothing can change that. If they have a lot, they’re all set, but if they don’t... So people in this mindset worry about their traits and how adequate they are. They have something to prove to themselves and others.”
“People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, see their qualities as things that can be developed through their dedication and effort. Sure they’re happy if they’re brainy or talented, but that’s just the starting point. They understand that no one has ever accomplished great things—not Mozart, Darwin, or Michael Jordan—without years of passionate practice and learning.”
What are you mastering?
If you remember last week’s blog about the need to spend considerable time mastering something, in fact, 10,000 hours mastering something, you’ll understand the need for a growth mindset. We need to believe we are capable of growing and developing before we will invest the time.
Are you letting things get you stuck?
But many of us have these beliefs, actually these voices in our head, which keep us fixed or stuck. We don’t seriously believe that we have the capability, so we keep ourselves right where we are at.
If you are a true leader, you are a learner
Leaders know that the path to success and impact is continual growth. They know that it is about internal development and outward change. Impactful leaders study and watch themselves. They learn about what works, how they tick and are constantly aware of how they are impacting others. Strong leaders require a strong growth mindset. They need to be totally on top of those nagging little voices that might tell them otherwise.
Here at the 3 steps you need to do to develop the growth mindset
1) Listen to those voices.
Get used to hearing yourself talk. Specifically, listen for the declarations that never leave your mouth. It is your thoughts that have the biggest impact on your life. Start to listen to where you tell yourself you can’t do something. Notice when you say you are not good enough or that it will never change. Those are the subtle messages that you need to really notice and get rid of.
2) Recognize you have a choice
The next important step is realizing you are the only one in your head. Honestly. No one is in there telling you what to think. You are the only one inside your mind. You have a choice. You can keep it going on autopilot, with the voices that knock you down. Instead, you can realize that you have a choice and begin to change the messaging going on. It is up to you.
3) Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice
When you choose to take control, it's time to get bossy. Talk back to the Debbie Downer. Tell the pessimistic voice to grow up and see what is possible. Tell Negative Nelly she’s not needed anymore.
4) Take growth mindset action
Then step into action. Failures are simply lessons. Setbacks are challenging you to see if you really mean it. You will continue to be faced with tests. But when you notice that it is about learning and growing, you will see the tests with anticipation rather than dread. "Bring it on" becomes the new mantra. Instead of the inner voices beating you up, they are cheering you on.
You get to choose what is going on in your mind
If you want to be an extraordinary leader and lead a prosperous life, then adopting a growth mindset will get you there quickest. Do let the voices in your mind run your life, just make sure they are the voices that encourage you to keep on growing for the rest of your life.
What negative mantra in your mind do you need to get rid of? What will you replace it with?
If you have been at your job for a while, let’s say about 10 years, you should be an expert. The question is, what have you become an expert at?
My training changed over the years
I worked in my field for over 24 years. As a Child and Youth Care Worker, the first part of my career was doing frontline work with youth and families. It wasn’t long before I moved into introductory supervisory positions and then, following that, into managing programs and staff over a large geographical area. I certainly learned a lot over my career.
Initially, I learned a lot about discipline
As a Family Support Worker, I was teaching parenting skills, so I needed to help those parents manage their kids. I studied material on I messages, reflective listening and natural and logical consequences. I added to my repertoire skills in teaching adults so that I could accelerate the learning for the distressed parents I was supporting.
Next, I studied management skills
It wasn’t long however, before I was experimenting with Excel, trying to grasp time sheets and acquiring skills to run staff meetings. I pursued the finer art of not only how to find things in policy manuals but how to write a new policy when needed. Later in my career, I discovered the craft of writing proposals.
I was doing a lot of practice of getting along with others
A theme through all of this was that I was learning about relationships. In my 9-5 work, but also as a wife, mother and community member, I was learning to manage relationships. Many times I certainly was not very good at handling interactions though. It was a process of self-discovery, skill attainment and patience. A number of my eventual insights about effective relationships came through trial and error.
I was becoming an expert in leading.
All of my experience, training and practice was about leading myself, leading others, leading programs and leading in a community. It is now what I know and do well, in fact, very well. I have become what you might call, masterful at leading. Not only do I do it daily in all aspects of my life, I coach others to excel at leadership. I love it and continue to work hard at excelling at it.
Being an expert should matter a lot to you too
See, here is the thing; my guess is that you want to make a difference. I suspect that you’re tired of getting home at the end of the day and feeling exhausted and drained. I hear the frustration from people about looking back over their day and being sadly aware that they achieved nothing of significance. It was another day of putting out fires and dealing with office politics.
Meaning and significance comes from doing something worth doing
If you want to feel like you are doing something worthwhile each day, it’s important to get clear on what you need to do to achieve that. It’s essential then to become very skilled at it. You will want to be adept, savvy and brilliant, at what matters most, so that you can make the difference you want to. When you do, you still may come home at the end of the day tired, but it will be with a bit of a smile on your face, knowing that your energy exertion was for a good cause!
What is an expert?
Studies have been done that show was that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. It takes 10,000 hours to invest into learning to be an amazing concert pianist, a star athlete or a stellar computer programmer. 10,000 hours equates to about two hours and 45 minutes a day for 10 years. That’s a lot of practice.
You are already practicing every day
You put it in at least 2 to 3 hours a day of time into your craft. Yes, your job as a craft. Yes, you are becoming a master at what you do. If you keep going along this path, you’ll be really good at something, you just may not have chosen what you’re going to be really good at. As I said earlier, if you aren’t careful, you will be a master at dancing in office drama.
Be intentional about what you are becoming a master at
You must get really clear on what is you want to achieve over time. Is it to become an exceptional social worker? Is it to be the expert in a certain disability? Do you want to be a master at managing others or leading others? Do you want the expert at program growth and development? Where do you want to excel? Where do you want to be seen as a leader in your field?
Three steps to becoming an expert
1) Decide what you want to be an expert in.
Take some time to look at the aspects of your job that you really enjoy. Look back to peak moments that you have had in your career. Also, look at what gives you the most fulfillment and enjoy. Imagine it’s 10 years from now, what do you want to be spending most of your time doing? By getting clear on what it is that you want to be focusing on you will find more opportunities to do that.
2) Consider what it will take to become that kind of an expert
When you look at what is it that you want to become an expert in, then take some time to consider what formal and informal training you will need to do that. Is there of course you can take, a book you can read or are there videos on the Internet that you could watch that might help you? Also, consider what practice you will need to do. Just like learning to play a sport and running drills, the skills that you’re mastering as a professional we’ll also require practice. Consider where you will need to get that practice. For example, you might want to join Toastmasters so that you can practice your public speaking skills.
3) Take the first steps to following the plan
Once you’ve determined what you want to master and what you will need to do to master that, then determine the steps that you will need to follow. It might be read a book, take a course or join a community group. Perhaps the next step might be asking your organization to fund training. The first step might also be reorganizing your day to find time to do it. Figure out the next step and don't delay in taking it!
Become the master, expert or respected leader in your field
We are all practicing every day to become something. We are all working hard to learn hone, to excel at certain skills. If we are not careful what we are honing is overwhelmed, boredom and getting caught up in office politics. Are you going to spend the next 10 years becoming more masterful have not enjoying life? Or will you spend the next 10 years following your passion, your heart and learning to do more of what you love and a really good at? If you choose the second option, I dare you to take one giant leap today towards becoming an expert at that.
What are you becoming an expert at and what do you need to do to get there?
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Women leaders often hit a point where they find themselves in over their heads and wondering if they have what it takes to lead.