Get to the Core of Your Values

As the “Facebook Papers” continue to unfold showing us the fundamental gaps in Facebook’s values one can wonder if they uphold their values or, rather, if their values revolve around making more money and connections regardless of political turmoil or damage to the users. Are the teams functioning at top capacity with the whistleblowing? Is the company reassessing what they stand for? 

When leading teams, empathy, integrity, and trust are vital. A shared set of values will create a strong and productive team. When someone compromises the values, the team struggles to trust and produce ethical results. 

One of the leadership teams that I belonged to as a junior leader had two senior leaders with large personalities who leaned toward the negative side. I dubbed the meetings the “Tammy and Tim Show” because the meetings were no longer about the agenda, about the organization’s vision or mission, or even about developing solutions to the problems. We wasted hours throughout the years listening to Tammy and Tim grieve about their problems. Do you have a Tammy and/or Tim? Do you struggle to get the meetings back on track? If we had upheld our team’s core values and meeting norms of “start on time/end on time, collaboration, and sticking to the agenda” this wouldn’t have happened and the meetings would have been more productive and less dysfunctional. 

Action steps to getting to the core of your values: 

  • Stick to your values. The people in your life will have a better understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why you do the things you do.

“Our values should be so crystallized in our minds, so infallible, so precious and clear and unassailable, that they don’t feel like a choice—they are simply a definition of who we are in our lives.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Don’t have “crystallized” values? Get some. Use this simple formula: What + Definition + So That. Identify the value, define it, and the results/outcomes from it. For example: Respect + Treat everyone with dignity + so that each person feels that they can contribute their best and most authentic selves. Then share your values with your employees, friends, and family. This will help hold you accountable. 

  • Uphold your organization’s values. If the values are archaic, change them. If you don’t agree with them and can’t change them then you need to ask yourself if the company is a right fit for you.

“Daring leaders who live into their values are never silent about hard things.” ~ Brene Brown.

  • Lean into your values every day to obtain a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t accomplish anything else throughout the day, at least you can say that you upheld your values.

  • Get to know and foster your employee’s values. If family is important to them, honor that. If open communication is one of their values, then communicate with them. This is yet another way to empathize with your employees and create a sense of belonging within your organization.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!

laura.colbert@strategicleadersacademy.com

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Efficacy

Thursday Thoughts No. 13 (10/21/21)

When teachers believe they can positively influence student learning through their collective actions, the students succeed at a rate almost four times faster than an average school year. This shared belief is called Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE). A renowned researcher, John Hattie, and his team conducted meta-analyses on millions of students across the globe. They quantitatively measure influences on student achievement. Collective Teacher Efficacy is one of the most effective influences on student achievement; more so than socioeconomic factors, study time, teacher feedback, and student’s prior knowledge, to name a few. According to Jenni Donoho, a leading expert, teachers with CTE show greater effort and persistence, willingness to try new teaching approaches, and attend more closely to struggling students’ needs.

I heard a story about a student who was not doing well in school. He struggled to pass his classes and did not seem to have much of a future. When he got his SAT scores back, he received 1400, which was enough to be accepted into college regardless of his high school transcript. That student went to college and successfully completed his first year. Shortly thereafter, he found out that the SAT issued him the wrong score. His actual score was much lower and reflected that of his K-12 career. When asked how he succeeded his first year in college, he responded that he finally believed in himself and his ability to succeed—something he had never possessed before.

This student’s story is a perfect example of self-efficacy, which is the belief in oneself to execute the desired outcome. Let’s take CTE and self-efficacy and coin the phrase “Collective Efficacy.”

This phenomenon can be transposed into business leadership. This is your ability to build a strong team, a supportive network, and the ability to push your organization to new heights. When you have cheerleaders and people who fully believe in your ability to achieve your dreams, you’re unstoppable.

Take a look at the model below. The Success Mindset model includes capacity, confidence, action, and results. If the word “low” precedes the words on the cycle, one can expect poor results. Inversely, if the word “high” precedes the words on the cycle, you can expect big results.

The key is helping people believe in themselves and have the confidence to take action.

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Take time to reflect on the efficacy in your life:

You:

  • Do you believe in yourself? Why? Why not?
  • Do you have a supportive network of colleagues and friends?
  • Does your trusted advisor believe in you? If not, it might be time to find someone who does.
  • Who helps you gain the confidence to take action and get results?
  • Do you let unsolicited feedback and negative comments get you down? See my past newsletter to combat this common deflator.

Your Employees:

  • How can you instill a sense of collective efficacy within your employees?
  • Do you believe in them?
  • Do you build them up?
  • Do you give them the capacity to foster their own self-efficacy by allowing your employees to solve their own problems and take ownership of their work?
  • Do your actions, beliefs, and words model collective efficacy at work?

Your community:

  • Do you believe in your kids? Your significant other? Your family? Your spiritual institutions? Your neighborhood? Your volunteer organizations?
  • How can you build others up around you instead of using words and actions to tear them down?

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!

laura.colbert@strategicleadersacademy.com

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Renovate

Thursday Thoughts No. 12 (10/14/21)

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, renovation means to restore to a former better state. As my husband and I finish up the large job of residing our house and replacing all the windows, I can’t help but think of the parallels between this job and that of leadership―where one should strive to become the best version of oneself and to build an organization that allows their employees to do the same―to reach their best “state.”

With three young children, it’s hard for my husband and me to find time for ourselves. Renovating homes―this being our third―has become something we both love to do together. Just like any team, there are growing pains, communication breakdowns, and assumptions that can lead to frustration. Regardless, we are better together because of our shared interests. Here are a few things we’ve learned: 

  1. There need to be compromises – It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong or when the other person knows more than you. The sooner you put your ego aside, open your heart and mind to others’ opinions, and understand that their ideas are valuable, the process becomes more freeing and collaborative. Remember, empathy and vulnerability lead to stronger leadership.
  2. Communication, communication, communication – When my husband and I were moving the box that held our garage door, he tilted his head in a diagonal direction and said,  “Lay it this way.” I started laughing and said, “Honey, I have no idea which direction your head is implying.” The more that we communicate, the better the outcome, and the quicker the results. Are you making assumptions or jumping to conclusions? Are your employees? Think about how you can create more clarity through communication.
  3. There are hidden obstacles around every bend. As leaders, we constantly need to innovate and adapt. Removing the 50-year-old siding has left my husband and me scratching our heads at the randomness left underneath. The rotted holes needed to be fortified, the missing insulation had to be filled, and the hodgepodge siding needed to be streamlined. Similarly, in business, leadership is about building your employees up, streamlining processes, and creating a clear picture of where your organization is headed.
  4. Working interdependently leads to better results. When my husband called me out of the office to lift the 300 pound 10×5 foot window into its home, I almost laughed at the absurdity. There was no easy way to lift this window with its straight lines and minimum edges for grip. Through our collaborative problem-solving, we figured out how to maneuver the window up and onto chairs and then over into its final resting place. Without our collective brainpower, we almost gave up. As an organization, know that you are better when you work as a whole instead of in silos.
  5. The end result is beautiful when executed patiently and to the best of your ability. Things are not built overnight. Life’s nuances, hiccups, and demands are never-ending. Be patient and always do your best. If it is your best, then you should be proud. Perfection is a fallacy. 

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!

laura.colbert@strategicleadersacademy.com

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Resilience

Thursday Thoughts No. 11 (10/7/21)

Picture this: You’re on the precipice of sleep. Your brain is wandering in and out of consciousness and all of a sudden you remember that thing that happened today and your heart starts racing, your mind replays that stressful situation, and you’re jolted awake. You think, “Dang! I was so close to falling asleep.” Listen, I’m human. In fact, I’m a pretty sensitive human. I have allowed those thoughts and feelings to penetrate my pseudo-awake state, but now I am able to flush them out with what I’ve learned about resiliency.

Not too long ago, I reached an all-time low and my resiliency tank was running on empty. I wasn’t able to recover from the difficulties in my life. Imagine a whole pumpkin. As time went on, every negative situation was akin to another scraping from inside the pumpkin. I was being carved out. Eventually, I had a fake jack-o-lantern smile etched into my pumpkin-like face, and I was completely empty on the inside—even the candlewick was burned to the bottom. My passion, zest, and love for the job were simply gone.

Here’s what I’ve learned about resiliency and how it can be applied in the future.

First, find a healthy OUTLET. Long ago, I learned that one of my best coping mechanisms is to verbalize my anxieties. I full-heartedly believe that is why I gave my very first presentation about my experience in Iraq 16 years ago. It was my self-induced therapy session with 80 audience members acting as my therapists. I also love physical activity—walks, runs, home demolition—to name a few. What’s your OUTLET? Is it healthy? If not, how can you change that?

Surround yourself with a trusted NETWORK. As a Middle School Principal, I talked to my Associate Principal, my mentor, my husband, or my direct supervisor. I gave myself a place to process the stressors of the job and to gain perspective. Do you have trusted advisors who help you bounce back?

Lastly, hold true to your core VALUES. The values I hold dear are integrity, trust, and compassion. I know that if I live my life according to these values. I have ultimately done my best and I have to let any guilt or negative feelings go.

Still feel like you’re struggling with resiliency? Try these action steps:

  1. Rediscover the energy and passion for your work. If that means taking a step back from the latest hustle, redesigning your day-to-day habits, creating consistent routines to help you feel more grounded, or delegating the work that brings you down, do it.
  2. Use your own judgment or consult your trusted advisor to assess what is diminishing your elasticity to bounce back. You might have too much on your plate, you might be spinning your wheels on a mundane task, you might be doing the right thing at the wrong time, or vice versa.
  3. It takes courage and confidence to get back up and persevere. However, every time you do that, it gets easier and you add another notch of resiliency to your belt.
  4. Build strong morale during the good times so that you can lean on it during the bad. Moods can fluctuate but a strong culture and sustainable morale will help you and your organization boomerang back from misfortune.
  5. A sense of humor, play, and joy can work wonders.

Are you asking yourself, “How do I do this?” I can help!

laura.colbert@strategicleadersacademy.com

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Empathy and Retention

Thursday Thoughts No. 10 (9/30/21)

Forbes released an article on September 19, 2021, stating that empathy is the most important leadership skill. The greater the empathy, the greater the innovation, engagement, retention, inclusivity, and the ability to navigate the demands of work and life. Wow! That’s a jam-packed list of positive outcomes. Better yet, empathy reaps more empathy. You are in a leadership position, which comes with a huge responsibility in helping your employees to be their best selves. If you can’t empathize with them, how can you help them? 

Empathy can come in many forms. Be present, acknowledge their feelings and thoughts without one-upping them, ask questions, give eye contact, don’t mulit-task, be compassionate, and be both emotionally and cognitively open.

As a leader, I saw the outcome of my empathy and lack thereof. I  worked hard to create a safe place for my employees to feel heard and understood. I asked that the elephant be put on the table, that the conversation was solution-focused, and I listened to understand. The staff was appreciative that they could work in a building where they felt valued and cared for. 

I didn’t always get it right, though. Once the pandemic hit, I wanted to continue the exact same pre-pandemic trajectory. I was quick to stop complaints in mid-sentence―especially when those complaints were done in large teams. I wanted the team meetings to be focused, positive, and efficient so that the already overwhelmed staff could get back to their demanding jobs. My misstep was that the staff wanted to feel heard, validated, and built up. I created more of an us vs. them mentality by cutting them off. Thank goodness, I had a strong set of team leaders who shed some light on the situation and I was able to pivot into a more understanding role. 

Here’s the deal, leading with empathy is crucial. It’s not a weakness, it’s not catering to the millennials or the snowflakes, it is part of our evolving workplace. We keep talking about how the millennials have changed the way of business. Well, guess what? Gen Z is now entering the workforce. What impact do you think they will have on the way we run our businesses and the way we lead? 

Follow the R.E.T.E.N.T.I.O.N. steps to better empathize and hold on to your valuable employees: 

  • RESPECT – Give people your full attention when they speak. Keep in mind that constructive criticism and feedback can be done in a respectful way.
  • EMPATHIZE – Lend an ear, help problem-solve―hopefully giving your employees the agency to create solutions on their own thereafter, and listen to understand.
  • TRUST – Use compassion, integrity, and consistency. It will boost employee buy-in.
  • ENGAGE – Boost engagement by purposefully hiring employees to work within their passions and strengths so that they’ll enjoy what they do.
  • NORMS (rules of engagement) – Set reasonable expectations, stick to them, and ask that everyone assist in holding each other accountable.
  • TIME – Have patience, don’t overwork your employees, offer professional development opportunities. The more your employees grow, the more your business will grow.
  • INNOVATE – Allow your team to be creative. This will not only boost workplace satisfaction, but it will move your organization forward and it will give your employees a sense of belonging.
  • OPENLY PRAISE – Acknowledge, validate, and give positive feedback for work well done.
  • NEEDS – Offer assistance and understanding when needed. Be sure to treat mental health the same way you treat physical health. Burn-out can have much greater implications for your business’s productivity than a broken leg.

Most importantly, make sure your cup is full. It’s a great way to lead by example and only then can you offer your best self to help others.