Values Eat Strategy for Lunch

December 6, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Let’s pick up where we last left off.

In my most recent article The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It), I advanced the not-so- radical notion that values matter – a lot. So why exactly do values matter? Let’s dig in.

Values drive culture…

Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive brand identity…

Brand values reflect the very essence of a brand. There is no better example of that than Apple. ‘Think Different’ is a value not a strategy. Being ‘iconoclastic’ is a value not a strategy. Innovation is a core value not a strategy. Of all the big companies, Apple is famously subpar on its philanthropy. That was also a value (or rather a lack of value) driven by Steve Jobs.

Values drive engagement…

When a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Values struggle to survive in a culture which is over-managed and under-led.People are motivated by meaning and purpose which is derived from values. Without this, they have nothing to cling to and their engagement goes down over time. Values help us lean our ladder against a building. Values are embedded in the vision that keeps us climbing to the top. Now imagine having nothing to lean your ladder against. That feeling is the same as working in an environment without values.

Values drive decisions…

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values.  Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. I pursued graduate school because I value education. You don’t even know this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values drive behavior…

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values drive success…

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know when what success looks like for you?  Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. And when you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea.

One Final Word…

Given the importance of values, I am always amazed that most people and organizations coast without any consideration of values. They just flap in the wind of endless strategy setting sessions. At best, they make the mistake of picking core values out of thin air and trying to fit them into their organization. As if values could be purchased off the shelf in a “one size fits all” fashion.

Here, I do suggest a radical change. Instead of describing or discovering your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social and ideal seeking behaviors. Providing you give people a mechanism to co-create the values, you’ll create an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allow positive feelings to emerge in turn. You’ll create unity. Cultural change will happen, and soon. There is no choice. At the heart of that cultural change will be a new-found leadership emerging from the ranks, and that leadership will use the springboard of rediscovering lost values to take them where they need to go.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful and/or if it helped you think a little more deeply about a topic, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Unleashing Mindset and Mechanism: Why You Need Both To Succeed

November 28, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” ~ Wayne Dyer

How We Work…

As human beings, we have two basic kinds of capabilities that must work together to advance our progress: knowing and doing or what I call mindset and mechanism.

Mindset includes learning, discipline, work ethic, transparency, commitment, being proactive, how we orientate towards growth and development, how we make decisions, and how we plan for the future. We plan and make decisions largely based on using past experience to judge the future. Mindset is about readiness. Readiness for opportunity, readiness for change.

Mindset is how you view the world.

Mechanism includes execution, action, methodology, tactics, deployment of resources, mastery of skills, goal setting and adjustment. That means establishing goals, following a plan, and then adjusting it according to both reality and perception. Mechanism is about competency and consistency. Competency to implement solutions consistently.

Mechanism is how you act in the world.

The unity of mindset and mechanism are the pillars that uphold everything else.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.

How Teams Work…

People, by nature, have the ability to know and do well. Success is about developing the right mindset and providing the right mechanisms. Then, stepping out of the way and trusting people to do their jobs.

From a team perspective, mindset comes in the form of motivation, buy-in, commitment, and synergy. Mechanism comes in the form of methods and tools the team can adopt and deploy to execute.

Everyone is involved in the planning, and everyone is involved in the execution.

After some time of working in this way, the team becomes proactive and synergized. The managers begin to let go of command and control.

In the old way, the leaders handled the knowing and followers the doing. When mindset and mechanism are separated, plans and decisions are made by a supervisor and tasks are done by lower level staff. Tasks are assigned without full involvement of the team. People don’t see the big picture, have less opportunity for personal development, and can’t feel achievement and growth. They aren’t engaged. They aren’t motivated.

Alternatively, the plan is made by team. Decisions are made by the team. The manager is only a facilitator. The team has the authority to decide how to carry out the project. The team feels empowered and they have buy-in to the process. They can see the big picture, they can volunteer for tasks that interest them (which helps their personal development), and they can feel a sense of achievement from their day-to-day decision making and implementation. They are given the tools to execute on their ambitions.

Old ways won’t open new doors. It is this unity of mindset and mechanism  that releases the team’s full potential and your own.

This is the key to transformation.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

November 15, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Getting angry is okay so long as you get angry for the right reason with the right person to the right degree using the right words with the right tone of voice and appropriate language.” ~ Aristotle

People throw this word around a lot. Leadership. “Thank you for your leadership,” they say. You’re welcome. But what leadership are you talking about? I put paper in the copier today. That’s not leadership. When you designate the word leadership to the smallest of efforts, you demean the word. I never understand it.

Let’s face it. Leadership is hard work. As a leader, people across your organization are looking at you, your actions, your moods and your behaviors as a guide. Leaders can set the tone for success. They can also set the tone for failure. Their energy can impact their team and their organization — with positive as well as negative results. Studies show that how you act can directly impact how your team acts. All good leaders know that shared behaviors create unity and united teams are happier, more productive, and more successful.

Social Intelligence (SI) is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for strengthening your leadership and your team.

In his book Resonate: The Art of Connecting, Daniel Goleman defines social intelligence leadership as the ability to:

1.      Discern how people feel and why,

2.      Express appropriate concern, and

3.      Interact skillfully to encourage positive states of thinking.

SI opens your eyes to how you come across to others and how your team’s behaviors can clue you in to what they want and need from you. Most importantly, SI helps you bridge the two for a successful, collaborative team that achieves excellence.

As leaders, we have to ask ourselves:

1.      What tone am I setting?

2.      How are my actions inspiring my team?

3.      How am I managing my emotions in tough situations?

4.      How do I influence others?

5.      How do I motivate others?

6.      How do I encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries?

As organizational leaders worry about the appalling low percentage of people who feel engaged in their work, academics are trying to understand what causes an increase in engagement.

They are finding that team members’ perception of shared personal vision, shared positive mood, and perceived organizational support (POS) have a direct, positive association on the members’ degree of organizational engagement.

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have come up with a way to measure an executive’s social intelligence and help him or her develop a plan for improving it. The seven key skills they focus on are more than just theory … more than just boosting your “people skills” — they’re about learning and understanding how people behave both individually and as a group. Listed here are each of the qualities followed by some of the questions they use to assess them:

1.      Empathy – Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?  Are you sensitive to others’ needs?

2.      Attunement – Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel? Are you attuned to others’ moods?

3.      Organizational Awareness – Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization? Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?

4.      Influence – Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests? Do you get support from key people?

5.      Developing Others Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring? Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?

6.      Inspiration – Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, and foster a positive emotional tone? Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?

7.      Teamwork – Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?  Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

So, what do socially intelligent leaders do?

They Empathize. A key component of building trust with others is empathy and trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. When employees believe that their leaders are honest, open and transparent, they are much more likely to trust their decisions. Empathetic leaders are aware of another’s feelings and understand how those feelings affect their needs. Empathy means you can appreciate what another person is going through, whether they agree with them or can relate to them or not.

They Listen. When colleagues express frustration, a socially intelligent leader knows how to listen carefully, empathize, and take measures to help improve conditions.

They Support. Socially intelligent leaders know how to provide emotional support to a colleague in distress. Goleman’s research shows that paying attention to someone’s concerns, actually allows that person to process them faster, shortening the time spent marinating in negative feelings.

They Care. Employees want to feel like they are cared about on a personal level. A socially intelligent leader will take the time to ask about an employee’s personal life. Employees feel valued when leadership shows an interest. Period.

They Engage. The socially intelligent leader observes her employees to find out what they do best. She talks to them about what aspects of their job they enjoy the most. She taps into and leverages the instincts and skills her employees have. This creates a win-win as she is able to reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, and employees grow increasingly inspired and confident about their work, skills, and talents. Moreover, they feel appreciated, that someone has their best interests in mind.

They Communicate. They are direct, but sensitive. They realize that communication is essential. If they sees performance slipping, they won’t wait very long to talk about it. They never dodge the truth, nor do they hang onto or hoard company information that could help their employees. They are not threatened by their employees’ knowledge. Quite the opposite, they encourage it.

They Collaborate. People actually expect their leaders to work for the group’s collective best interests as opposed to their own. Duh! They expect their leaders to help them solve problems and to help make their team experience more enriching. It even means helping make their career more rewarding by providing resources and reassurances of support to help them attain their goals and objectives.

A Final Word…

Leaders who emphasize social intelligence drive increased productivity and engagement encouraging employees to stay with their companies. They affect people’s abilities to perform at their best. Socially intelligent leaders recognize that emotions have a ripple effect and therefore uphold their responsibility to maintain a positive environment. They are engaged and as engaged leaders, they are in synch with their team and they are the glue helping to keep the team together. Some may argue that ultimately the evaluation of effective leadership performance is a subjective task that is based on the individual’s unique personal preferences. However, the traits highlighted above show a consistent correlation between specific behavior and employees’ perception of their leaders. These traits are closely related to the basic psychological profile of humans, which can also be applied to many other relationships in life.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

9 Life and Leadership Lessons From the Three Little Pigs

November 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” ~ Henry Ford

The story of “The Three Little Pigs” was one of my favorite childhood stories. The central idea behind this tale, that taking the time to perform a task the right way is prudent, and that shortcuts are a false economy, has been adopted by many work organizations since the book was initially published in 1849. Here are a few other lessons we can learn from this famed fable:

1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The first two pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig labored in the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the big bad wolf.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The first two pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the big bad wolf. They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

3.      Plan strategically – While it can be argued that all three pigs created a plan for the future – the first pigs made plans that were ultimately unsustainable. A straw house or even a stick house would not stand up against a hurricane.  Disaster preparedness was not part of their plan. The first two, could not delay the gratification of leisure time. The third little pig, on the other hand, did some future planning and decided to build a house that could withstand any future scenario, including a big bad wolf.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – The first two pigs never anticipated the big bad wolf. The third pig seemed to take all things into consideration in his choice of building materials. He was prepared when the unexpected happened. As the saying goes: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” By considering every possible scenario, you can build a stronger house.

5.      Know your limits– The big bad wolf thought he was invincible. His bravado and ego were boosted by his early successes. He easily blew down the house of straw, and the house of sticks, though a little harder to blow down, was still no match for his lungs. But when he came across the house of bricks, he fell short. He had failed to assess the situation properly, and therefore, used his resources up on trying to do the impossible.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. The wolf pursued the three pigs even though he wore himself out trying to blow down the house of bricks. He should have stopped while he was ahead and focused on easier prey. But greed got the better of him and he continued his pursuit which landed him in hot water, or hot oil, depending on which version you read.

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The first two pigs were more interested fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. They paid a dear price for their inability to delay gratification. But the third pig knew that some extra effort and austerity in the present, would lead to greater prosperity in the future.

8.      Be philanthropic – The third pig spent the time and effort to build a house from bricks and mortar. While his brothers were enjoying a leisurely existence, he was busy working away building a strong house. In the end, both of the lazy brothers found refuge in the sturdy home of their more practical brother in the versions where the pigs manage to escape the wolf. Just because he was the smarter of the three, did not mean he would thumb his nose at them and leave them in the cold. The third pig was a role model for empathy and understanding.

9.      Be Patient – The third little pig is nothing if not patient, a somewhat unrecognized virtue in leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in the case of our protagonist, a house, takes time. In his wisdom, the third little pig was deliberate and patient and his reward for his patience was to get away with his life.

There are more than just construction lessons to be learned from the three little pigs. These little characters can teach a lot about life and survival and their personalities reflect their outlook on the world. These lessons are prudent and practical and can be found in many of the writings of the greatest business minds in history – yet everything you need to know, you were probably taught in preschool.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A

The Most Powerful Self Improvement Strategy Ever

November 1, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Sometimes, only paper will listen to you.” ~ Anonymous

There is only one person who you can be truly honest with and who can truly be honest with you.

You know who that it is. It’s you.

Did you get a passive-aggressive, condescending, or downright hostile email today? Did a client or colleague go off on you for something that was out of your control? Were you just a hot mess?

There’s little value in going through experiences, both good and bad, if you can’t learn from them. So, whether you totally nailed a client meeting or stumbled your way through a presentation you were wholly unprepared for, you have to take note of the lessons you learned. By writing down what you’ve been through, noting what worked and what didn’t, and analyzing what might help you in the future, you’ll set yourself up for much greater success.

There’s no more perfect place to vent your workplace frustrations than in the privacy of your own journal. In fact, sometimes that’s the only place you should be venting your frustrations! I don’t mean to say that you should keep all negative feelings and experiences bottled up inside.

But getting some of the little, day-to-day stuff off your chest, privately, is often the most therapeutic and safe way to move past your dissatisfaction.

So, instead of firing off that nasty email, in your journal, jot down the response you really wanted to send to that colleague or client. Read it a few more times if you want, then let it go.

Here is what else you can do:

1.      Find your ‘Why’

Writing requires you to think through your ‘why’. When you sit down behind a blank computer screen or sheet of paper and begin to write out what you accomplished during the day, you are forced to think through your process on a deeper level. The discipline forces you to answer the difficult questions of “why,” or “why not?” The answers to these questions are not just helpful as you move forward to repeat successes and avoid mistakes; they can be therapeutic as well. As Simon says: we have to Start With Why.This is a great way to find your passion or to find your purpose.

2.      Set Goals

Keeping a journal requires you to think about goals. The importance of committing what you want to achieve to paper cannot be overstated. It is a simple process, but it pays great dividends. Writing out our goals provides the opportunity to articulate them clearly and makes their achievement appear closer. A journal serves as a permanent record of your progress. Success can be quickly forgotten. And when it is, it becomes easy to get frustrated with your pursuit. As with any pursuit, there are times you’ll want to throw in the towel despite all the invested effort and energy. During those moments, it is helpful to look back and be reminded of the milestones you’ve hit and the things you’ve achieved, no matter how small, that have incrementally moved you closer to your goals.

3.      Track Your Progress

Keeping a journal naturally forces you to track your progress and to spell out your next steps. A journal proves you have solved problems in the past. Whatever types of goals you are chasing, be they physical, career, spiritual or personal, not every step in your pursuit is going to be easy. The things that are most worth pursuing never are. At some point, you’ll be required to overcome adversity and challenge. Where you will find motivation and strength is in your own written word of overcoming it in the past. This is where you’ll see the history of your own resilience.  It is difficult to look back without also looking forward. As a result, when you journal, you naturally begin to look forward. And the next steps, inevitably, become easier to see.

4.      Envision the Future

This is the point at which you can use the work you’re doing now and what you’ve done in the past to envision what you want to do (and can do!) in the future. In The How of Happiness , researcher and professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky says that spending 20 minutes each day writing a narrative description of your “best possible future self” can help cultivate optimism and an overall sense of happiness. This exercise, which involves “considering your most important, deeply held goals and picturing that they will be achieved” is a valuable workplace exercise as well. Instead of becoming stuck in your routine, think (and write) about opportunities you see for growth. Then use this narrative to help build a road map. Ask yourself: Now that I know where I want to go, how can I get there? What resources do I need? What obstacles might I face? And who can support me in this journey?

5.      Track Feedback

It may feel a little self-absorbed, but there’s no better place to keep track of the compliments and praise as well as constructive feedback you’ve received than in your personal journal. The value of this is twofold: First, it allows you to quickly remember the great things people have said about you when you need to provide a testimonial of your work. It acts as a quick and easy morale boost on days that seem harder than others. Second, it gives you repeated patterns of behavior and habit that you can work on to self improve. If you’re being praised at work, it’s likely because you did something right. This is a great feedback loop and reinforcing mechanism. Relish it! If you’re doing less well, it gives you information on specific areas you need to improve. See it as your daily debrief with your self!

6.      Keep Yourself Accountable

As you script your journey, a bonus benefit is that you find accountability ― not to the written word, but to yourself. It is truly difficult to lie to your journal. Your past successes and perseverance will compel you forward. But only if you can see the record of this success, can you see how far you’ve come, how much you have left to accomplish, and why giving up would be foolish. Your journal is your story. It is your account of moving from Point A to Point B. And rightly shared, it can inspire others to do the same.

Getting Started

1.      Commit to writing every day. The intention of sitting to write every day will compel your mind to manufacture and recognize progress. It is a bold plan. And you’ll likely miss days. But don’t let that stop you. Commit again to write the next day.

2.       Care more about substance and less about style. Write for yourself, not for others. As you do, write with the truest goal of putting onto paper your thoughts and action. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar if those things tend to bog you down. Your goal is not to get an “A.” Your goal is to articulate progress.

3.      Don’t be motivated by length. There are some days where you’ll be motivated to write much. Others days, only a little.

We’ve all gotten good at sharing publicly—we post our thoughts on public forums, share them at lunch across from our favorite co-workers, and tweet them out to the world. But by sharing your career experiences and your thoughts in a private space, you’re in a better position to analyze your profession, reflect upon your experiences and goals, and plan for next steps as you grow in your career. I hope you’ll start writing today!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Create An Effective Coaching Partnership with Lasting Impact

October 31, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Partnership is not a posture but a process – a continuous process that grows stronger each year as we devote ourselves to common tasks.” ~ John F. Kennedy

First of all…

Coaching is not just about techniques and structure. Coaching is about developing an effective partnership with your coachee. If the partnership is missing, no amount of technique, however expert will help. The partnership is there as a formal part of the structure because coaching is successful when you have the commitment and cooperation of your coachee to help them learn a new task or skills, or to improve a particular area of their work.

Coaching is about bringing out what the coachee already knows. But there are times when coaching may require you to give feedback. Feedback is best offered in a non-judgmental way, and offered as an opinion. A coach may need to provide two types of feedback. The first type is if the coachee’s ideas are off course. The second type is if their method of approach or behavior is inhibiting their ability to succeed.

However…

Coaching is not about ‘fixing’ people. A lot of people react negatively to advice or suggestions. Often advice and ideas are rejected because the recipient feels no ownership of them and sees this as threatening or as imposed solutions. Aim to ensure that your coachee has exhausted his or her own ideas before you volunteer yours. In this way your suggestions will be seen as additional thoughts. You don’t always have to have additional ideas. In many cases your coachee may come up with all or more options than you would have considered; in which case a word of praise is a better tool at your disposal.

And most of all…

Coaching is about asking powerful open questions and actively listening to the responses.

Asking questions and active listening are the key skills necessary for coaching. There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

1. Clarifying questions.

2. Creative questions.

3. Process questions.

Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Powerful questions go a long way to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

The bottom line is…

Coaching is a combination of structure and empathy. In order to meet the coaching objectives, be they about leadership, career transitions, or building skills, the art of coaching lies in the ability to manage the human dimensions of the coaching relationship. This takes a foundation of trust, credibility, and authentic relationship. The coaching partnership realizes lasting impact as a result of this foundation, which is built over time. The more trust the coach can generate, the more the coachee can accomplish. Success shouldn’t be measured by how well the coachee performs while the coach is there to help, but rather by sustainable behavioral change long after the coach is gone.

Independence from the coach is the ultimate goal.

To get started…

1.      Establish ground rules for the relationship.

2.      Ensure buy-in.

3.      Secure commitment.

4.      Establish a definition of success for the relationship

5.      Agree on frequency and method of communication.

6.      Have a plan for progress checks to know when the coaching relationship is over or when it needs to be re-evaluated.

And a final word…

Coaching is about intentions, understanding, engagement, and lasting impact. The coach must have a clear understanding of what needs to be worked on by first developing a thorough understanding of the context, and then focusing on behaviors that produce desired outcomes. Body language and the emotional intelligence to be able to read it are just as important as the coaching format or structure. The coach must demonstrate genuine interest through eye contact, posture and attentiveness. The self-awareness and emotional intelligence of the coach is as important as that of the coachee.

Therein lies the symbiotic relationship between the two – the ultimate success of which is measured by the results achieved in partnership.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

Top 10 Tips to Master Emotional Competency

October 27, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”~Winston Churchill

1.      Accurate Self-Assessment

It all starts with self knowledge. So, go here now and see what personality profile you fit best. I’ve done this test multitude of times over a number of years with coaching clients and I would say it’s 90% accurate. If you haven’t done one before, it will give you incredible actionable insight. If you have, then compare it with this one and look for commonalities. That’s probably as close to an objective assessment as you’ll get.

2.      Emotional Awareness

Emotional awareness is a key to leading a happier and more fulfilling life. The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself,” requires us to know how we feel in different situations. If you haven’t already, read Daniel Goldman’s bestselling book on Emotional Intelligence, do so. Increasing your awareness of your own feelings is the first step towards furthering the development of your Emotional Intelligence.

3.      Self-Confidence

There are some bedrock rules to self-confidence. Reframe negative thoughts. Learn to handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way. Don’t fall victim to the comparison trap. While you’re at it, don’t be a victim. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Take this self-esteem test to learn more about your own perception of self.

4. Resilience

Resilience is simply defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity. Resilience is a skill. Like a muscle, it will grow stronger the more you work it. This means developing and practicing strong coping skills, a healthy perspective, relentless optimism and good self care.  It also means managing stress and being proactive and anticipating challenges. Here is an excellent piece in ‘How to Build Resilience in Midlife.’

5.      Mindfulness

Yes I know: buzz word du jour – but that doesn’t negate its importance. This is the state of being actively open and attentive to the present moment. Instead of thinking about the past or worrying about the future, be present in the here and now. What could be wrong with that? The difficulty is sustaining the practice. Meditate, do yoga or just be attentive to your breathing. Little practices each day will help enormously. The next time you are confronted by your snarky boss, go Zen. Instead of overreacting, bring your attention to your physical body. Scan your body from head to toe and consciously try to let any tension slip away.  After that, bring your attention to your breathing. Breath gently.  Now respond without ego and with compassion. See what happens. If it’s good enough for his Holiness, it’s good enough for you.

6. Empathy

I have a popular article on empathy which explores this theme in the context of leadership and you can read that here.  But in short, here is what you need to know. Empathy is, at its simplest, awareness of the feelings and emotions of other people. It is not the same as sympathy. It is a key element of emotional intelligence because it is how we understand what others are experiencing and therefore allows us to act on their needs and concerns.  Researchers have identified three types of empathy:

  • Cognitive empathy: Understanding someone’s thoughts and emotions, in a very rational, rather than emotional sense.
  • Emotional empathy: The ability to relate to someone else’s feelings, so that you literally feel them too.
  • Compassionate empathy: Understanding someone’s feelings, and taking appropriate action to help.

7.      Social Bonds

I am always amazed at how much time people spend in the gym to look good externally but how little time they spend comparatively on building social bonds. Ironically, social media has spurred an epidemic of social isolation with proven drastic mental health consequences. Further evidence from a decades-long study shows that loneliness has detrimental outcomes as powerful as smoking and alcoholism. So, the next time your friends or colleagues invite you out for coffee or a meal, take them up on it. That next line of code or whatever you are doing can wait. Human beings are social animals and a strong social support system is key to an emotionally healthy life.

8.      Collaboration and Cooperation

In my training exercises, I sometimes use the improv technique of Yes, And. Unless you are currently a monk in a cave, your work is not a one-person show. That means collaboration, engagement and cooperation with others. This exercise forces people to avoid rejecting other team members ideas and instead to build upon them. “Yes, And” is the opposite of “No, But,” which is what I hear most on the shop floor.

9.      Service orientation

The Dali Lama believes that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. The servant leader is a popular model for leadership.  One of the key differences between a more traditional model of leadership and servant leadership is that the latter is a bottom-up approach, whereas the former is more top-down. The servant leader is servant first invested in the growth and development of others. What is exciting about servant leadership is that by putting others first, we find deeper fulfillment in ourselves.

10.  Optimism

With growing evidence that optimists live longer, happier lives, I am not sure what anyone gets of out being pessimistic, except early onset of heart disease. If you are prone to negativity, find quick distractions you can use when you realize you’re stuck on the same negative thought. It is possible to develop an optimistic world view through practice. A grateful mindset is a good start. Think about the long arc of your life when considering your success and not just the setbacks you may feel at the moment. Minimize your exposure to negative people and negative influences. Hang out with optimistic people. You are, after all, the average of the five people closest to you.

Conclusion

What if you incorporated these items as daily habits? I have seen from my coaching clients how this has a profound effect on the quality of work and life. You will reap both immediate and long-term benefits and you will begin to feel more fulfilled. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, flaws, limitations and malfunctions, mobilize your resources  so that these qualities become part of your attitude and flow each and every day. What do you have to lose?

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Performance is Personal Before it is Organizational

October 25, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The best results come when you reduce emotion and increase communication.” ~ Unknown

How good are the relationships that you have with your colleagues?

I’ve seen it time and time again. The issues that impede organizational progress the most are the people relationship issues – not the subject matter or the content of the work itself.

That’s because in the world of work, it’s about relationships, relationships, relationships.

Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. Your people are your greatest asset. They can just as easily become your greatest liability.

It is people who must be empowered to act.

It is people who must collaborate and communicate.

It is people that must understand and embrace the mission.

Most importantly, it is the people who must develop productive working relationships to advance that mission.

Generally, there are two types of work-based relationships:

  1. Relationships between or among co-workers (peer-peer and team based)
  2. Relations between boss and subordinate

Ideally, these relationships should be positive and productive. So why do so many work related relationships fail?

  1. Lack of Trust

The cornerstone of all relationships, on or off the job, is trust. When trust is lacking, individuals and teams cannot succeed. Fairness, honesty, recognition, openness, transparency, and effective communication are the hallmarks of a trusting work environment. Trust or the lack of it has major motivating implications. Trust is a lubricant for loyalty. People want to perform their best for those they trust. That means creating a level of trust to foster mutual feedback. It also means creating an atmosphere where team members are no reticent about approaching on another to resolve conflict.

  1. Resolving Conflicts

Toxic colleagues and bosses. Different agendas or interests. Different values. Personality clashes. Lack of communication or poor communication that leads to misunderstandings is a reliable culprit for conflict. The sources of conflict in the work place are many. One of the most important skills people need to learn is how to resolve conflicts effectively. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and understanding of self and others.  Unless colleagues understand and accept their own and each other’s approach to work and problem-solving, their own strengths and limitations, conflict will occur. Avoiding conflict is often the default method for dealing with it. This does not, however, make it go away. Rather it pushes the conflict underground, only to have it resurface in a new form. By actively resolving conflict when it occurs, we can create a more positive work environment for everyone.

  1. Ego is the Enemy  

In his excellent book Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday makes the point that while many successful people also have oversized egos (Muhammad Ali, Steve Jobs, and Donald Trump to name a few), their ego is also a constant source of disruption. In addition to the workplace and public controversies they suffer, there are private costs of ego that we never see. How much more successful would these people be if their egos didn’t cause them so many unnecessary problems. We must learn to detach ourselves personally from the events and activities of the work day. While challenging, we must strive to maintain perspective and not allow ourselves to get emotionally sucked in to our work or the personalities of those we work with. Even if we don’t like someone, we can find room to respect them for the work they do.

  1. Toxic Emotions

A common refrain for people who lose it at work is: “I am too passionate.” Passion is a red herring. What humans require in our ascent to success is purpose and realism. Purpose, is passion with boundaries. Realism is detachment and perspective. There is also a big difference between intention and impact – what people are trying to say and what we hear. Emotions and personal experiences, as well as tone and body language, can warp the intended meaning of what we say or hear people say. Try to listen and consider words and ideas thoroughly and dispassionately before forming your next thought. Negative emotions are like a virus – they can spread and suck the oxygen out of a room or a meeting. No one wants to be around a person who adds negativity to a group. When your emotions are triggered, intervene to interrupt the cycle. The longer you wait, the deeper you get sucked into the negative thinking and the more readily it spreads. Perfectly talented people are often left behind because of their inability to manage emotions at work.

How to Build Better Working Relationships

One technique I teach my coaching clients to develop stronger and more positive working relationships is relationship mapping. The best way to begin building authentic relationships is to map out your current relationships. Sit down with a piece of paper and plot out each person you have a relationship with at work. Do a quick assessment of those relationships by asking yourself some key questions:

  1. Do you know what motivates the person on your map?
  2.  Do you know their priorities?
  3. Do you know their preferred work style?
  4. Do you know anything about them personally? Their challenges and struggles?
  5. If for some reason you dislike the person, could you develop empathy or compassion for them?
  6. Is your current relationship positive, neutral, or negative with that person?
  7. If it is negative then ask yourself, “What could happen if this relationship continues to be negative? Could it threaten me or my job?”

By creating and studying a relationship map, you can pin point potential relationship land mines. Then, you can find strategies to avoid potential disaster.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

Passion Is A Unicorn. Purpose is A Lion!

October 20, 2017 •  7 minute read • by Saeed


“The lion is most handsome when he is looking for food.”

~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī (Persian: جلال‌الدین محمد رومی‎‎)

The internet guru industrial complex is replete with this dangerous piece of advice: Follow Your Passion.

We can credit this piece of modern wisdom to the late great Steve Jobs and his iconic 2005 commencement speech that spawned it. That speech has racked up 30 million views on YouTube – a clear indication of its popularity. 20 years earlier, mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell was also advocating for the same general formula for success when he said: Follow Your Bliss.

The irony is that when you study Jobs’ life you realize that he himself did not follow his passion. He stumbled into it.

The Problem With Passion

There are numerous other problems with the passion formula.

The most obvious one is that Follow Your Passion presupposes a pre-existing passion you can discover and then follow.

A second problem is that passion is regarded as a singular pursuit. But you may have several or many passions. This excludes all us multipotentialites out there.

It’s also dangerous advice for the nearly 50% of the global workforce who is frustrated, unhappy and unfulfilled.  How many of us have ever considered quitting your job to pursue our passion?

Answer: many.

I want to extinguish this curse from the lexicon of motivational speakers and bloggers everywhere. Short of that goal being met, I’d like to distinguish between passion and purpose.

Passion Vs. Purpose

Passion is a pink unicorn.

Purpose, on the other hand, is a more meaningful pursuit.

Because while you may have many passions, you only have one purpose.

So, how do you distinguish between passion and purpose?

Passion is defined as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.” This is hardly a stable or useful metric to base your pursuits on. Whether that’s life, career, or the broad, ambiguous, and definition-less concept of “success.”

On the other hand, purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.”

If passion is something you follow, then purpose is something that drives you.

Your purpose is your ‘Why’ behind it all. It is the deep reason for your existence.

In his great book,  “Ego is the Enemy,” Ryan Holiday warns us against passion. Passion, he says, is form over function, where purpose is function.

Purpose doesn’t cower in the face of failure.

Purpose isn’t sensitive to criticism or rejection.

Purpose doesn’t quit if things don’t go according to plan.

Passion on the other hand is fickle. It loses interest. It accepts defeat more readily. It is vulnerable to the judgment of others.

Passion does not have direction or reason. Purpose is single-minded.

Passion is for the amateurs. Purpose is for pros.

Let me put it like this: If you wanted to start a fire, you’d grab some logs and matches. To build a proper foundation of wood (purpose) for your flame (passion) you’d put tinder and smaller kindling at the bottom and larger fuel logs on the top. You will find that if your wood foundation isn’t right (your purpose), the fire will keep going out. You can toss in another match and keep stoking the flames (your passion) but your passion will keep burning out until you establish the right foundation. You get the idea. The two go hand-in-hand.

Finding Your Purpose

Instead of chasing the pink passion unicorn, I suggest people focus on finding a purpose—finding ways to leverage your passion and skills to fill a need in the world. Filling a need means providing value to others. Filling a need can run the gamut from creating useful iPhone apps to solving the world’s biggest social impact challenges such as poverty, education, health care, and climate change.

One exercise I’ve recommended to my coaching clients is to pretend they’re writing their own obituary – as if they’re telling the “greatest hits” version of their personal story: their values, their accomplishments and so on. To do this exercise, ask yourself:

  1. Why am I alive today?
  2. What do I want to accomplish with my life?
  3. Who will remember me when I pass from this world?
  4. What will I be most remembered for?

Brainstorm a bunch of stuff. Don’t be afraid to write down as many things as come to mind. Next, eliminate the unnecessary. What could you subtract from your list and still feel like “you” in your life? Finally, as you review your shortened list, see what’s glaring back at you? What refuses to be quiet? What’s the ONE thing you would do with your life if nothing could stop you? Your purpose is what is screaming at you from inside to be manifested.

As a final bit of checks and balances, ask yourself: Am I chasing this because I am proud and excited by this work? Or do I simply want to be impressive and well received by the world?

Do The Work

Once you’ve been able to identify your purpose, go at it with full force. Find it, grow it, and share it with the world. Triple down on the skills that actualize that purpose. Become the expert. Become the pro.

There is no secret formula to success. All there is to do is to systematically over a period of time (10,000 hours) build up a rare and valuable skill and then use that skill to take control of your working life and shift it into directions that resonate with who you are.

So go out there, practice, do and keep on doing until your skills and purpose are aligned and in harmony.

Stop worrying about finding your passion and–instead–actually do the things that excite you and make you feel alive. Your purpose will one day eclipse your passion.

One Final Word

Realism and detachment are necessary. You have to be objective about how good you are, where you’re going and even detached from the outcome at times. You’ll never find out if you’re thrown off by the frustrations and setbacks that passion creates. If you don’t see the results soon enough, you may become flummoxed and give up.

People who are working hard to fill a need and solve the biggest problems are often compensated in the biggest ways, not just in financial terms, but also in terms of human satisfaction. Filling a need shifts the focus from you to others. It shifts the conversation from what you like to do (having a passion or hobby) to how you can be a valuable contributor in helping society fills its needs (having a purpose). This paradigm shift moves the frame of reference from the self to how we can help others. People become less self-absorbed and ironically, more likely to be genuinely happy.

Don’t you sometimes find that you’re happiest when you don’t think too much about how to become happy?

The good news is that there are a lot of big needs in this world to fill. Each of us has the unique skills to fill some subsets of these biggest needs.

How will you change the world?

I can’t wait to see.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

 

 

Emotionally Empathetic Leaders Excel at Everything

 

October 18, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Steven Covey

I saw a sign once that said “Everything starts with an ‘E’.

True, I thought, ‘everything’ starts with an ‘e’ but empathy starts with ‘u’ – (you).

In 1995, Daniel Goleman, argued the merits of social and emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy and their capacity to add value to many domains of life, from workplace effectiveness and leadership to health and relationships

In a recent article, Goleman defines empathy as ‘having the ability to sense others’ feelings and how they see things’ and the ability to take an active interest in their concerns.

When I ask my coaching clients what skills they want to work on as a leader, many identify empathy.

Why is this trait so important to leaders?

As a leader, job one is to influence others towards improvement and change.  There are usually a multitude of ways to get others to change. Effective leaders are able to do advanced thinking to know  which strategy will work best with which individuals. The ability to accurately predict how another person will react emotionally and behaviorally in a given set of circumstances is what empathetic leadership is all about. The better you are at this trait, the more accurate and successful you will be in figuring out the approach that will work when you want to influence others.

Research reported in Scientific American suggests that our levels of empathy – the ability to understand the feelings of others – are lower today than 30 years ago.

An increase in social isolation is one theory used to explain this finding.

The trouble is that when there is no empathy, when we don’t work to understand the needs of others, there is a significant loss of trust. This can have major implications for business where trust is essential for successful leadership and partnerships.

So what if you take a 360-degree assessment of your Emotional Intelligence Competences and find that you score low on empathy. Are you out of luck? Not at all.

While personality traits have a strong genetic component, are hard to “change” and tend to be very stable over time, every trait can be “managed.”

For example, one of my clients is very high on a trait called “Urgency”– a CEO of a successful start up – she tends to be much more impatient than most of the other people she leads. She’s always been that way, and the trait has served her well in some instances. But over the years, she has had to learn how to manage a tendency that can otherwise sabotage her leadership goals. First by becoming aware of it, and then by learning a set of mental strategies that have allowed her to be more mindful in how and when she expresses this trait.

Here’s what you need to work on if you want to be more empathetic as a leader:

1.      Develop self-awareness

Self awareness – the skill of perceiving and understanding your own emotions, is the starting point. There is no way around this. You must be able to identify and understand the impact of your feelings on your thoughts and decisions.  Many of us confuse thoughts to be the same as feelings. So when someone asks how do you feel about a project, you might respond, “I think we have a lot to do.” Or, we might not distinguish between related emotions, for example, between frustration and irritability or happiness and excitement. Developing this self-awareness is a fundamental step towards greater empathy.

2.      Develop awareness of others

Greater understanding of others leads to a greater understanding of how to engage, respond, motivate and connect with them in such a way that you are able to advance mutual goals. This social awareness is at the heart of interpersonal effectiveness. This awareness extends itself to understanding the politics within an organization and how to navigate them and the ability to serve others. Developing awareness of others means you carefully consider what people want, and plan to communicate with them in a way that is intended to meet that need.

3.      Learn to appreciate the major differences among people

One of the best examples of strong skills in empathy is people who have traveled or worked in multicultural environments. They have learned that the way they see and experience things is often different from others. People with little or no skills in empathy might have an intellectual awareness of these differences. However, until they actually experience these differences, their skills in empathy will probably remain quite limited. As Goleman says, empathetic executives are better at international  assignments because ‘they can quickly pick up on the unspoken norms for behavior and the mental models of that culture.’

Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be:

·        Self-Awareness

·        Self-Regulation

·        Social Awareness

·        Relationship Management

Great leaders understand the importance of social and emotional intelligence in an increasingly globalized, diverse and collaborative workplace. Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect while recognizing individual differences and uniqueness. Open communication plays an essential role in managing diversity as does building an awareness of social situations.

Get it wrong and you’ll be seen as uncaring and insensitive.

Get it right and you will be set up for success.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed