Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Speaking Up vs. Silence

"What would you do if you heard a rumor that a co-worker was on drugs or had a drinking problem?” Recently at dinner with friends there were many “What if” or “What would you do” questions tossed around. The first about a chemical dependency was one of them. Another was “What would you do if you heard some news that affected a client, a family member or a colleague, that hadn’t been shared with that individual yet? Would you tell him/her, even if it was good news?”

We polled the table and it seems women would say something and men wouldn’t. Interesting don’t you think?

In my world, where I hear decisions as they’re being made, these decisions directly affect my clients lives, whether it’s a posting abroad, a promotion or a political appointment. I cannot say a word for various reasons, one being a confidentiality issue as everything shared with me or in front of me remains confidential by virtue of the ethics of my profession among other things. Secondly if for any reason any information would leak out, they might lose the appointment and that wouldn’t be good news for anyone.

Still, for example, if you knew your spouse was going to find out something life altering, a promotion, a transfer etc before he or she knew of it, and it also impacted your life, what would you do? Would you say something or wait for official notification? The last question that was asked was, “If you hadn’t said anything would you fess up to having known it beforehand?” That’s probably the biggest dilemma of all as it might affect the level of trust between the two of you. Or would it perhaps strengthen it?

A dilemma for many; black and white for others. Many had a very hard time with this, more with finding out someone close to them knew and didn’t say anything, even when it was fantastic news. They felt betrayed.

If you were in this position, would you do and why? Your answers will help many people in this position and, perhaps, you yourself if you become faced with this same issue at some point in your life.

Donna Karlin

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

What People Want

Are you inspiring your staff or motivating them one task, one project at a time? One is sustainable and energizing and the other is task oriented and expensive energy. There have been many studies undertaken over the years to look at employee retention, growth of rising stars, employee satisfaction and morale etc, and most of them generate the same conclusions. Studies look at why morale might be low and how this organizational culture might enable poor staff retention. It’s just as important to look at what’s being done to counteract and reverse those trends as it is to study the dynamics and reactions because of them.

In symposia, conferences and around board room tables we are continually delving into what people wanted from their workplace relationships. It goes beyond levels of position to the impact of cultural differences, gender, age and intensity of workload.

The similarities of the 'new staffers' and the 'almost ready to retire staffers' is quite amazing actually. Among other things, what both age groups want is respect.

If morale is low, what are the ramifications? Is there a mass exodus, and if so, how long would anyone want to work for an organization with such massive turnover? You’re always back to square one starting over as you train and retrain new people. However it’s not enough to do these studies and then park the results, even the reasons behind what those results are showing. People take jobs because of people and they leave jobs because of people.

As an Executive Shadow Coach™ I look at trends, cultures, and organizational climate, however it’s not the organization but the individuals within these organizations that create change and make the difference. What are the behaviors that aren’t serving them? Is leadership trying to motivate staff or inspire them to do their best all the time? There is a huge difference between motivating and inspiring. The first comes from an external influence such as perhaps a raise, a bonus or award or even to meet stiff deadlines.

Motivating is expensive energy. Inspiring one to be their best, do their best and recognize and speak to their and each other’s best brings a whole new level of energy to an organization. Take for example a policy that shows staff “I caught you doing something good”. It’s not about a prize or bonus but recognition that people have noticed an individual or group’s good work, creativity, effectiveness and leadership. Don’t you think staff will want to do their best on a regular basis they know people are paying attention? That’s not task oriented, it’s fundamental changes in ‘ways of being’ and communicating. For some, what they crave the most is hearing the words "Thank you".

Donna Karlin

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ignorance Can Be a Good Thing

How many times have you heard “Knowledge is power”? Knowledge can also kill your power.

One of the most difficult roadblocks to get past with my clients is when they become successful. Many many years ago I used to do an exercise with my clients on SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and tangible). They used to set short term and long term goals. When they reached their half way point, way too often they would back off and plateau. This wasn’t the kind of plateau that George Leonard speaks about when he says you achieve mastery while plateauing; it’s the kind of plateau where you hit a brick wall and start regressing because something inside you says “I never thought I’d ever get this far. Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead and not press my luck”. Sound familiar?

Luck has nothing to do with it. My clients achieve success because of hard work, determination and an energy that won’t get them down. Sometimes the process can bring you down and sometimes too much information can stop you dead as well. What do you have to pay attention to and what shouldn't you pay attention to?

I’m not stating this is the only way to go and that it would work for the masses (caveat ahead of time). For years I’ve been asked about my business plan. “What is your 5 or 10 year business plan so you can measure your success against it?” How many set goals for themselves that seem realistic but they’re sidetracked, make new decisions to go in a different direction or decide they wanted to make new choices in their lives? Then along come friends, colleagues and family members who ask “Whatever ever happened to….?” and self-confidence flies out the window as you find yourself making excuses as to why you’re not already successful.

How many set goals and plans for themselves and miss incredible opportunities along the way? If I had stuck to “the plan” half of the amazing opportunities that have presented themselves over the years would have been tossed aside or completely ignored.

Starting out, many who are now successful leaders didn’t necessarily have all the knowledge they needed to start a company or dive into a profession but their passions guided them there. As they didn’t gather the data or speak to so called experts who would tell them it couldn’t happen, it didn’t occur to them that it couldn’t happen. Rather they knew they would do all they needed to do to make things happen.

When I broke away from being an associate with a large national company I didn’t look for all the data that would back up why I would fail on my own. I didn’t look at statistics or gather reams of information. What I did do was listen to what the needs were of the people around me and figure out what I could do to meet those needs and then some. For me, ignorance with regards to the business piece of my practice was bliss and because of that every year I reach a new high in my work and my life.

You could either look at all the ‘why nots’ or say “Why not?” Choice is yours. Next time you have the opportunity to meet with someone successful in their field, ask them how much was planned and how much just happened. And if you’d like to share some of that with us, great. We’d love to hear!

Donna Karlin

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