• Read AN AMERICAN TURKEY IN LONDON

    Leadership

    AN AMERICAN TURKEY IN LONDON

    A tribute to culture shock and why it never pays to make too many assumptions, because ASSume makes a ‘you know what’ out of u and me… For this weeks blog I’m doing something a little different as a tribute to Thanksgiving, and sharing a funny, creative piece I wrote a number of years back about living in the UK. My first Thanksgiving there I attempted to cook a massive turkey in an ill-equipped British kitchen. When I read the piece the other day, it reminded me that culture shock is indeed very real, and how our assumptions can often get the better of us. A perfect theme for a leadership blog, as we often jump up the “ladder of inference” to our detriment. I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I enjoyed writing it! The Most Difficult Task The most difficult task I’ve ever taken on, despite scaling the misty summit of Kilimanjaro and even ascending the higher passes of Everest, was cooking a Thanksgiving turkey in a tiny, ill-equipped English kitchen. To be fair, it was a rather large turkey. Much larger than I’d anticipated when I placed the order. Still relatively new to the UK, my mental kilo to pound conversion math was frankly a bit shoddy.    My first Thanksgiving in England was a bust. I’d been living in the UK only a couple of weeks, and having no friends, my English boyfriend Gareth took pity on me and hastily invited his mate Paul over to our little flat in Surbiton, a suburb of London. Paul brought his girlfriend Nikki, a tall, anorexic-looking woman with razor sharp features and a wry, forced smile. The feast was held in the living room, which had been rearranged to create some resemblance of a dining area. We dined over bland, half cooked Brussel sprouts, as Gareth insisted that I salted food too much, and a couple of anemic Cornish game hens. I learned that day, turkey just wasn’t “done” in the UK. If you really were, as they say, “mad keen” to have it, you went down to the butcher shop and placed an order many weeks in advance.  Luckily there was plenty of booze, which Gareth and I didn’t hesitate to indulge in. Paul joined us in the liberations as Gareth and I proceeded to tell the drunken and somewhat inappropriate love story of our first meeting on a crowed Grecian beach while Paul appeared interested and Nikki pretended to be, as she pushed her food around on her plate and took polite sips of prosecco. A few hours later, we bade them adieu, and I was rather proud of my first makeshift British dinner party. I asked Gareth to call them again for another meetup, but he never heard back. This year was going to be different But this year was going to be different. To start off with, I had real friends. Not just people I vaguely knew from the office or Gareth’s friends who […]

    November 23, 2022

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    16.5 min read

  • Read Silence Really Is Golden

    Leadership

    Silence Really Is Golden

    Yesterday I was teaching a leadership class, and we got into an interesting conversation about zoom, and given the fact that so much happens in the virtual world now the question was:  How do you effectively engage with people in a virtual environment and create meaningful connection? My leaders were voicing their frustrations about the lack of “real” connection in the virtual world, and how you get team members who are on the quieter side to speak up, to participate, to engage, particularly in a group setting. “I’m often looking at a screen of black boxes with people’s names.  I ask if there are any questions when I’m finished sharing my thoughts, and it’s just crickets.  And then I just move on to the next item.”  The scary sound of silence The dreaded sound of silence.  The awkwardness of it.  I remember when I first started facilitating, I was afraid of it.  What if I ask a question and it doesn’t land?  What if the participants aren’t getting it?  What if they think I’m a fool who has no idea what she’s talking about?  When I first started out, I tended to rush through the content, because awkward silence was scary.  I would fill it with my worst fears about my performance.  I would imagine folks were thinking horrible things about me, the material, or the learning experience.  I was afraid of silence.  And to be frank, I think most people are. We’re not used to silence We live in a busy world, full of notifications, full of ims and dings and the next thread on slack to respond to.  It’s not often you hear silence .  I doubt we’re even used to it anymore.  There’s often a tv playing in the background in the airport, the radio or podcast we listen to in the car, even in my old office in Houston CNN was always running on the monitor in the background.  Noise is everywhere. Silence is a gift And then another participant in my class shared something interesting.  “You know, my manager brought me in the other day to facilitate a team session for a group that he warned me in advance was often quiet.  He told me they probably wouldn’t have any questions.  They wouldn’t engage.  So I thought hard about how to approach them to get a different result.  I started off the session slowly and methodically and told them that I’m comfortable with silence.  I’m not in a rush, we can take all the time we need for this experience.  And then I sat back and patiently waited. And the questions kept coming, 8 in total, when they’ve never asked one before.” The story didn’t surprise me.  Probably the hardest thing for me to learn over the years as a facilitator of learning was to embrace silence.  To learn to love it, and to use it like Erika did in this story effectively.  Because the truth of the matter is, there is magic in silence […]

    October 28, 2022

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    4.2 min read

  • Read What really motivates your team?  Hint:  It’s not money.

    Leadership

    What really motivates your team?  Hint:  It’s not money.

    It’s not the things we often point to “I’d never thought to think about what motivates the people on my team,” a leadership participant of mine said recently on a course I was delivering.  Interestingly we often think we know, so we don’t bother to do any deep reflection on this question.  More money.  More kudos for the things we do.  More power, perhaps a promotion, advancing another rung on the org chart. These are the typical answers I hear when I ask that question.  The reality is different.  Let’s take money first, that’s the one I hear most often.  Despite what you might think, money isn’t a motivator for people.  However, it can be a de-motivator if pay is not fair or up to market rate.  It’s what organizational psychologists often refer to as a hygiene factor.  Once people are paid at market rate, an increase in pay does very little to affect an employee’s overall level of engagement or motivation. I see this quite often in my career coaching practice.  Folks will come to me for career coaching and say things like, “They offered me a bunch more money to stay, and I was excited for about a week.  And now I want to leave again.” The 4 Key Drivers of Motivation So, money isn’t the answer to the question.  But if it’s not money, then what is?  Motivation really boils down to 4 key things that in my experience, often get overlooked at a managerial level.  And this is worth paying attention to considering Gallup has estimated that 70% of the reason an employee quits their job has to do with their boss: Purpose:  How connected am I to my work?  Is it serving a higher purpose?  Is it creating tangible value?  How is my work serving my values? That feeling of connection, that sense of purpose in what you do is valuable.  And it’s the number one thing that people want when they come to me for career coaching, particularly when they’re looking to transition their career.  I hear all the time lack of purpose or connection to something.  As a manager, your job is to help people see that their work matters.  To help connect the dots and help your team see their contribution to the bigger picture. Recognition:  To what extent is my work and contribution valued by others?  How is my work recognized?  Is it in a way that is meaningful to me? The interesting thing about recognition is that it can look very different to different people.  It might be in public.  It might be in private.  The point is that as a manager, it helps to ask to understand how your people like to receive it.  Cultural influences can also affect this, I remember back to when I worked in the UK.  I noticed that most Brits shied away from public recognition, like in a team meeting or a team setting.  Whereas we Americans often like our horn to be tooted […]

    October 20, 2022

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    4.4 min read

  • Read How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    Leadership

    How to Say No…without sounding like a jerk

    The last few weeks I’ve taught a number of courses on time and priority management for busy professionals.  One topic that often comes up is the matter of saying no at the office.  I often wonder if it’s because I’m based in the South, where we place a special emphasis on “being nice” and “sugar coating” things.  And yet it comes up over and over again no matter what part of the US or world I’m working in.  Questions like: How do I say no to a colleague who needs help, especially one that I like?  Or what about a stakeholder who always thinks their deliverable is the most important and is constantly trying to add extra tasks to my already full plate? Our mindset around saying no is Key I often hear concerns about guilt and what will other people think about me if I don’t help them.  There are a lot of folks that inadvertently fall into the approval seeking trap.  Many of us never develop the strong boundaries in childhood that we need to get us through life, and it rears its ugly head as we get older.  And it really is a trap.  When you’re stuck in it, you often experience what I call the “Plight of the Martyr,” where you’re constantly solving problems that are urgent for others but ultimately not important to you.  And your key priorities fall to the wayside as a result.  Think about that continuous improvement project that you’re constantly putting on the back burner.  Or perhaps you’re wanting to get back in shape and find yourself sitting at your desk toiling away on an urgent deliverable for someone else and decide to skip that yoga class yet again.  What’s interesting is that for some people (myself now included) saying no is not super difficult.  When I ask folks who have an easier time why that is the case, they often explain that they value their time.  They realize their deliverables and priorities are just as important as others.  They also recognize that taking the monkey constantly off another person’s back isn’t a great way for them to learn.  That is itself is an interesting reframe, because we often believe we are helping but in many instances, we could be hindering the growth and development of the person asking the favor. Ultimately it comes down to judgement.  We do live in a society where reciprocity is valued, and it might make sense to say yes to a request when you recognize you might need a favor down the line.  However, if you decide that saying no is the right option, then consider the following technique as a viable option that could save you heaps of valuable time. Use the AIM Framework to say no A – Acknowledge the request.  “I can really tell you’re in a bind and I know how important this report is to you and your team.”  When we acknowledge we are in effect repeating back that we’ve […]

    October 6, 2022

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    4.5 min read

  • Read What We Can Learn From Elizabeth

    Leadership

    What We Can Learn From Elizabeth

    It was a hot summer day in London, the day of my naturalization.  I trekked down to the registrar office in Wimbledon with a few friends, including the two that had sponsored me for citizenship.  It didn’t take long for the formalities, considering I’d paid the extra fee for the private ceremony.  I was the only one to be sworn in. “Do you swear allegiance to the Queen, all her heirs and all her successors?” the officiant asked. “I do.” And it was done.  I was officially a dual citizen. Then the officiant pressed a button, and the music to “God Save the Queen” boomed through the office.  My guests all stood up abruptly at attention as if on cue.   We sang loudly and somewhat awkwardly to a large cardboard cutout of Queen Elizabeth that stood in the office.  I have to admit I thought that was a bit weird.  But over time I’ve noticed the amazing quality that Elizabeth had to inspire reverence, even in the most unlikely of subjects. Americans have often had a strange fascination with the British monarchy.  We may view the concept as outdated and irrelevant, but then flock to the gossip that surrounds sagas like Charles and Diana, Harry and Megan and the antics of Prince Andrew. And yet, in the background, beyond the chaos and the drama, silently running for seventy years, was Queen Elizabeth.  There are many now that will write about her life as a way of honoring her, I don’t profess to know much about her. But I am intimately acquainted with her legacy.  And that’s the interesting thing about great leaders.  They leave one. great leaders know who they are These are questions I often ask when I’m facilitating a leadership development course.  Simple questions on the surface, but usually the most difficult to answer.  We’re often so caught up in the minutiae of the day, we don’t take the time to reflect: Who am I? What kind of leader do I want to be? What are my values? What is my mission and purpose in life? How do I want others to experience me? What legacy will I leave? I think Queen Elizabeth knew the answer to these questions.  And as a result, she showed up, year after year, with a stoic calmness, a beauty, a grace, a clear sense of duty, that was invaluable to her subjects in times of trouble. and more importantly, they know who they’re not A great leader brings people together in times of hardship, in times of stress, in times of confusion and conflict.  They’re able to do this not because they have some sort of magic formula that will make everything all right.  There is no such thing no matter how many leadership books you read or Ted Talks you watch that process to have the perfect pill.  Great leaders can do it because they’re grounded in their own sense of self-worth.  They know who they are and more importantly in the […]

    September 11, 2022

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    3.8 min read

  • Read Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    Authenticity, Leadership, Life Direction and Purpose, Mindfulness

    Your values matter in life and leadership.  Here’s why.

    A discussion about values can often seem like an artificial conversation.  It’s a nice to have, not a need to have, right?  Something I do once at a training course because the facilitator forces me to do it, and then I shove the paper they’re written on in a desk drawer and forget about it and go on with the rest of my business. Values can help or hinder our growth and development What’s interesting to understand about values is they can help us or hinder us.  And that might seem counterintuitive, because aren’t values a good thing?  The answer is, it depends.  Let’s say I value accuracy.  If I place too much emphasis on accuracy, I might find myself overworking reports, overworking data, to an extent that’s unnecessary for the task at hand.  Many of us trip ourselves up this way and forget the tried and tested 80/20 rule. One value that I tend to hear a lot from clients is trust.  Trust is an interesting one because we often gravitate towards it if we’ve been hurt in the past.  Maybe our parents got divorced and it eroded our trust in them.  Maybe a spouse or partner cheated on us, and the result was devastating, we can never trust again.  Maybe a business partner stole money from us, or a family member wronged us.  The list goes on and on. Based on these life experiences we then conclude that trust is the most important thing in any relationship, and we cling onto it for dear life.  We suspiciously look for signs that someone might be untrustworthy.  We fear that our worst nightmare will come true, and then it does.  We reinforce this idea by telling ourselves things like, “the only person I can trust is myself.” Fear based values versus conscious based values Don’t misunderstand me, it’s not wrong to value trust.  But it’s worth thinking about the relationship you have with your values.  Did I consciously choose to value trust because it’s important to me, or am I desperately clinging to this value out of fear?  And if I’m clinging to a value out of fear, how might that be blinding me?  How might I then be unconsciously creating the situation I fear? For years I clung to authenticity.  It was my biggest personal value.  And when I think about my personal history, that makes perfect sense.  I grew up in a household where conformity was valued, and I often felt like I could never be myself or loved for who I am.  I had to fight very hard for the right to just be myself.  I even prided myself at one point of being the proverbial black sheep of the family.  I was so concerned with losing my “authentic self” that it inadvertently blinded me to choices I might have liked but wouldn’t even consider because they seemed on the surface to be too conforming. A few years ago, I gave up authenticity as my most important […]

    August 11, 2022

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    3.9 min read