What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Such a Challenge?

What Is Self-Care and Why Is It Such a Challenge?This blog is a companion to an interview with Dr. Deborah Zucker on Voice America Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations on September 27 focusing on the importance of building and sustaining vitality for leaders. It was written by Deborah who is the founder of Vital Medicine.

“Self-Care” is a big buzzword today in the health community. There are many books and professionals offering quick and easy tips for better “self-care”. But, I’m going to suggest something here that may seem kind of radical.

Self-care isn’t about the list of things you are supposed to do to be healthy, or about keeping up with the new health fads or latest scientific theories. Self-care isn’t about battling yourself into submission to satisfy the agendas of your inner critic.

Self-care is about a fundamental orientation toward the self that is rooted in kindness and compassion.

It is about nourishing all of who you are. And at its foundation, it is about your capacity to truly love and honor yourself and your life.

As wonderful as all this sounds, true self-care is far from easy. The spiritual teacher Adyashanti in his book, Falling into Grace, tells his students,

“The person you’ll have the hardest time opening to and truly loving without reserve is yourself. Once you can do that, you can love the whole universe unconditionally.”

So don’t be surprised if self-care doesn’t come naturally, or if you have unexpected and irrational resistance to doing it. We all have baggage, wounds, traumas, and beliefs that keep us from being able to turn toward ourselves with the level of kindness, compassion, and loving care that we may easily be able to extend toward others.

I’ve found that learning how to face and embrace those resistant parts of ourselves is foundational to having an empowered relationship with our own self-care. Issues like shame, self-judgment, and self-sabotage are rarely talked about in most conversations about health. And yet they are critical. We can’t ignore them if we wish to discover and live in our innate vitality and thriving health.

If we are unable to turn toward ourselves with loving care, how can we expect to be able to sustain life-giving habit changes?

It’s also hard to follow through with something that we’re not fully invested in. For example, I was recently talking with a new client who had the intention to integrate more movement into her life. She excitedly told me that she thought she had a great strategy. Since she had to be up early to take her daughter to school, she would just go straight to work and use the gym there before starting her work day. When I asked her what kinds of movement she loved to do, she listed going for long bike rides, hiking, walking with friends, and going to yoga or Pilates classes. When I pointed out that the gym wasn’t on her list, she admitted that she actually hates going to the gym. We laughed about how her strategy probably wouldn’t last so long! We were then able to come up with a better way to follow through on her intention for more movement by doing things she actually loves to do.

Inquiry Questions:

I invite you now, as you begin or re-establish your self-care journey, to explore what all of this means for you. Grab your journal, find a cozy place to sit, and take some time to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How might you embrace an orientation to your self-care that is truly rooted in deep care—full of self-kindness, self-compassion, and self-love?
  • What are some of the areas of resistance, self-judgment, and self-sabotage that have been enmeshed with your “self-care” journey that you can focus on uncovering, discovering, and embracing more fully?
  • What is one thing that you can do differently, starting today to bring more ease to your self-care journey?

By shifting how we approach our self-care we can slowly and gently learn how to honor and love ourselves into our most vibrant, alive potential. It’s an orientation of mindful self-responsibility in your health journey—one that is not harsh, mean, or judgmental, but instead is rooted in love and kindness, as well as gentle, nurturing care.

About the Author

Dr. Deborah Zucker is a naturopathic physician, transformational health coach, and author of The Vitality Map: A Guide to Deep Health, Joyful Self-Care, and Resilient Well Being. Her holistic approach to healthcare focuses on helping mindful, compassionate people to love, nourish, and heal themselves on every level so that they can unleash their gifts and service to the world. As the founder of Vital Medicine, she offers many virtual and retreat-based programs. She holds a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University where she has also served as adjunct faculty, and is a graduate and past mentor of the Generating Transformative Change program in Integral Leadership at Pacific Integral.

Leaders: Are You Examining Your Mistakes To Prevent Future Failures?

Leaders: Are You Examining Your Mistakes To Prevent Future Failures? How often do you limit your success because you make assumptions or use outdated behaviors that once served your success but are no longer effective? Are you rigorously examining what you do and how you do it to continually improve yourself as a leader?

I was on a call this week with a colleague recounting a few minor communication issues. The foundation of these issues was that he thought he was clear and the other person consistently misunderstood. Both are competent people but they “speak different languages” based on their significantly different professional experiences and now they work for the same organization. Individually the miscommunications were minor so I never brought them up. However, as time passed the minor miscommunications accumulated into a major issue that needed to be addressed. On my part, I was making assumptions. Assumptions are things that we suppose, either verbally or through our behavior, to be factual but are not actually in evidence. I believed there were limitations about the work that were not true for him. As I look back at the disconnects over the years, there is a theme to my assumptions. For me, the assumption is something like: they are way too ______ (busy, important, successful, etc.) to have time for me. How often have I allowed this assumption to interfere with my success?

One of the key themes of Innovative Leadership is building self-awareness and self-management, both key elements of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness and self-management enable us to build strong, trusting relationships. Leaders are leaders because they have shown the ability to gain other’s trust. If leaders are not self-aware, they run the risk of breaking that trust by seeming duplicative, conniving, or – even worse – complacent. I recommend the following questions to help you to become aware of your behaviors and begin making changes:

  1. What is my contribution to this situation?
  2. Is there a pattern or theme across a range of relationships or is it unique to my relationship with a particular person?
  3. What can I change within myself to improve this specific situation?
  4. What can/should I change within myself to improve in all situations?
  5. What conversation do I have with the other person to restore the balance in the relationship? Does this include a request for them to adjust their behavior?
  6. Are my other relationships impacted by the same behavior? Should I have a similar conversation about misunderstandings to restore balance?
  7. How to I monitor my success in behavior change? Who gives me feedback?

We all make assumptions that sometimes result in behaviors that drive situations to unintended outcomes. It takes courage to look in the mirror and take ownership of our assumptions – especially if our assumptions are deep-seated and we have a significant opportunity to improve. One of the traits of strong leaders is that they challenge and examine their assumptions with the spirit of a scientist to identify opportunities to improve.

Reflection questions for you to consider:

  • Are you evaluating yourself and your interactions in a way that will allow you to continually improve?
  • Will you use this process to improve your interactions?

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute., is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Building Leadership Success- Using Assessment Results to Increase Effectiveness

This Leadership developmentblog is a companion to the interview series with Christopher and Sheila Cooke on the VoiceAmerica Business Leadership show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.” This four-part series, “Leaders Building Self-Awareness by Stepping Through the Worldview Membrane: Learning to Engage Your Organization,” begins July 12. The second interview is a conversation that talks about spotting the patterns, talking to two accomplished leaders who took the LeaderView Assessment about their results and how to interpret them to build on their success. This conversation includes a discussion on how their specific data helps them discover their leadership strengths and biases.

As we listen to the leaders, Carla and Jim talk about their development goals, I wanted to provide companion information to leaders who are following along. If you take the LeaderView Assessment, you will receive an interpretation manual as part of the package. Following is the development process we use in the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Workbook series.

Innovative Leadership development process

Research since the late 1970’s has shown that such biases are actually the basis of your leadership strengths. Through a process of assessment and self-discovery, leaders build self-awareness, learn what it means to step through the worldview membrane, and learn how to dramatically increase engagement in their organisations.

After taking the LeaderView Assessment, and others you might find valuable such as the Metcalf & Associates assessments for resilience and innovative leadership, along with integrating information from other sources such as performance appraisals it is time to synthesize what you have learned about yourself. We recommend using a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats worksheet (SWOT) shown below. We invite you to complete your own SWOT analysis. Keep in mind that your strengths and weaknesses tie back to your vision for yourself from last week’s post.

 

Strengths

What sets you apart from most other people?

Opportunities

What opportunities are open to those who have these strengths? How do these strengths enable me to accomplish my vision?

 

 

Weaknesses

What do you need to improve to accomplish my vision?

Threats

Do you have weaknesses that need to be addressed before you can move forward?   Do any of these pose an immediate threat such as losing your job? Do any of them pose a threat to me accomplishing my vision?

 

 

 

We are very excited to share the step by step process using the LeaderView assessment and feedback with you, our readers and listeners. You can now get the value of the expert coaching of Christopher and Sheila and also listen into two very accomplished leaders. To take the LeaderView Assessment, just log onto the site created for the show and purchase the assessment to follow along. You will get an interpretation and planning manual also. The assessment cost including 2 participants giving 360 feedback is $40.80 which is a 20% discount off the normal rate. You can also learn more about the show layout at the website.

What do your assessment results tell you about yourself? This assessment and evaluation process is designed to help you increase your self-awareness and enable you to more accurately identify opportunities your strengths provide as well as development requirements for areas that are either weaknesses or threats. These results along with your answers to reflection questions provided in the next blog post in this series serve as the foundation for your development plan.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

 

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

Developing Leadership Self-Awareness Using Assessments

Self-Awareness1This blog is a companion to the four-part interview series, “Leaders Building Self-awareness by Stepping Through the Worldview Membrane: Learning to Engage your Organization,” with Christopher and Sheila Cooke on the VoiceAmerica Business Leadership show “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations,” begins July 12. The first interview is a conversation about personal freedom and flow, and how they used the online LeaderView Self-Assessment to build it. This conversation includes a discussion of how the assessment helps leaders discover their leadership strengths and biases. This blog is a companion to the interview series.

This model and approach are pulled from the Innovative Leadership Workbook for Emerging Leaders. Before moving to the assessment, I wanted to provide a post on how we use assessments in the leadership development process. The process shown below suggests that the first part of the development process involves creating a compelling vision for yourself for your future. If you don’t have one, we recommend using the information in this post as the foundation for assessment and analysis.

Metcalf Graphic 07102016

 

To validate your vision, we find that reading futurist publications in specific industries is helpful. The role of the futurist is to evaluate current trends and build possible scenarios for how the future might unfold. By building on your capacities for leadership, you can use these scenarios as part of your planning process to provide insight into overall societal trends, ensure that you are well prepared for the potential impact of ever-changing business conditions, and suggest imminent scenarios that help you navigate those trends effectively.

There are several organizations providing very effective views into the future. One that we regularly reference is The Arlington Institute (TAI), founded in 1989 by futurist John L. Petersen. It is a nonprofit research institute that specializes in thinking about global futures and creating conditions to influence rapid, positive change. They encourage systemic, non-linear approaches to planning and believe that effective thinking about the future is enhanced by applying emerging technology. TAI strives to be an effective agent of advancement by creating intellectual frameworks and toolsets for understanding the transition in which we are living.

Once you develop (or refine) your vision, it is time to examine your strengths and development opportunities. This step will help you refine and clarify those strengths and weaknesses. In the interview series, we will be walking through the assessment process using the LeaderView assessment tool set. Once you take the assessment, you will then decide which areas you would like to improve by building on what you already do well and addressing weaknesses. Your approach to development will depend on the assessment results and what you need to be and do to accomplish your vision while living your values

We recommend using a general guideline that focuses 80 percent of your effort on building your existing strengths and 20 percent on addressing weaker areas. Though this a general approximation, the 80/20 rule is a directional one stemming from the belief that you are already successful and have simply taken the opportunity to further advance and refine your capabilities. If you find serious deficiencies, it will be important to address them quickly.

It is important to combine your vision with a firm understanding of your current performance, abilities, and personality type. The data will help you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and also clarify how others see you. By looking at your vision in conjunction with your assessment results, you should have the data required (or a solid start) to determine the gap between your current state (based on assessment data) and your vision.

Now to focus on the assessment process. One of the major values of using objective assessments is to uncover unconscious biases—our way of seeing the world that we believe is innate and shared by others is actually unique to each of us. These biases influence all that you do. Research since the late 1970’s has shown that such biases are actually the basis of your leadership strengths. Through a process of assessment and self-discovery, leaders build self-awareness, learn what it means to step through the worldview membrane, and learn how to dramatically increase engagement in their organizations.

So, now to the interview series. This four-part series that will walk you through the process of taking the LeaderView assessment, interpreting it, and getting feedback from others as the foundation to support leadership behavioral change. After explaining the assessment tool and flow of the four-part series, the Cookes introduce two participants, Carla Morelli and Jim Svagerko, both accomplished leaders who took the assessment and share their development process with listeners. This conversation includes their discovery of how “adaptive intelligences,” or how we adapt to challenges we face, influence all that they think, say, and do. Morelli and Svagerko gain insight into the leadership signature they are next naturally growing into as well as appreciating the richness of their natural leadership, learning, emotional, organizational, decision-making, relationship, creative, and motivational biases. This process allows them to “listen in” to discussions with actual leaders discussing their development process.

LeaderView Bundle Assessment

We are very excited to share the step-by-step process of assessment and feedback with you, our readers and listeners. You can now get the value of the expert coaching of Christopher and Sheila and also listen into two very accomplished leaders. To take the LeaderView Assessment, just log onto the site created for the show and purchase the assessment to follow along. In addition, you will get an interpretation and planning manual. The assessment cost, including two participants giving 360 feedback, is $40.80 which is a 20 percent discount off the normal rate. You can also learn more about the show layout at the website.

Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach who brings thirty years of business experience to provide high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with the strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

In addition to working as an executive advisor, Maureen designs and teaches MBA classes in Leadership and Organizational Transformation. She is also the host of an international radio show focusing on innovative leadership, and the author of an award-winning book series on Innovative Leadership, including the Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, winner of a 2014 International Book Award.

 

Developing Emotional Intelligence: Are You Listening Actively?

This post is written by Kara Rising, an associate at Metcalf & Associates who specializes in coaching emerging leaders. 

 

A couple of weeks ago a few friends and I went to the Chamber Escape Room here in Columbus, Ohio. This live, interactive experience is essentially inspired by computer escape games. You and 11 other people are escorted into a room, a tape is played, and then you work together to solve riddles and puzzles. Oh, and you only have 45 minutes to find the key to unlock the door and escape. It. Was. Awesome! Even though many of us had never met before, we managed to work together, and solved the puzzle with 10 minutes left to spare! I was impressed.

Playing this game highlighted how critically important communication is to getting along in life and in business. How were we able to solve the puzzles when, according to the game organizers, 50% of groups don’t even make it out of the room? What does this statistic tell us about lack of communication and problem solving skills? I think our group was successful because we all communicated openly and cooperatively.

The sad truth is that the Chamber Escape Room percentage is an accurate depiction of how we communicate in daily life. Many of us don’t communicate well. Why? How is it that for the millions of years that humans have been around we still suck at it? While I might not be able to answer why, I have an insight into how we can be better about communicating. It starts with listening.

How many of you believe you are good listeners? I bet most of us think we are decent – or at least average – at listening. The truth is most of us stink. In their article in The Harvard Business Review, Listening To People, Ralph Nichols and Leonard Stevens provided some pretty surprising stats. One states that A University of Michigan study of thousands of students and business professionals found only a 50% retention of information immediately after it was communicated to them – no matter how carefully the participants judged themselves to be listening. Now this might be simply because our brains just can’t store that much information all of the time. However, this is also because of a great lack of attention and training into this skill that we do daily.

Fortunately, there are ways you can improve your existing (or non-existing) skills. Here is a list of the Do’s and Don’ts of listening to help you listen more effectively.

Do

  1. Practice training your brain to use your internal thinking effectively. It’s easy for us to start mentally wandering off during a conversation- if the speaker is too slow, we judge the content to be uninteresting or a word triggered a memory or thought. By the time we even realized that we have wandered off, we’ve missed a significant portion of what the speaker is saying. To avoid this, practice reading for ideas, emotions or meaning that is spoken (or perhaps unspoken) within the conversation.
  2. Periodically summarize what has already been said in your head so that you can recall more easily when you then do it out loud.Paraphrase what the speaker has said. This is where summarizing in your head will come in handy. Do not parrot what the person has said- that’s not true listening and comprehension, that’s just memorization.
  3. Ask the question “did I get that right?”Once you are done paraphrasing what you heard the speaker say, ask if you heard him or her correctly. Not only does this communicate that you are interested in understanding what is being said but it also gives the speaker the chance to correct anything you heard that was incorrect. This helps eliminate problems in the future.
  4. Give verbal and physical cues that you are listeningFor example, nodding your head or the occasional (but not frequent) “mmhmm” or “interesting
  5. Put away all distractionsTurn away from your computer, put your phone away, stop writing and face the speaker

Don’t

  1. Fidget. Not only is it a distraction but it communicates you are bored or anxious with what the person is saying. Even if you are a natural mover, try to curb your inner energy and stay still.
  2. InterruptSometimes you want to jump in on the conversation to clarify or argue a point the person just said- please refrain.
  3. Get defensiveListen with an open mind to what is being said- perhaps there is some truth in the content that can be used to improve your skills as a leader. Even if you feel there is no truth, arguing will stall the conversation and keep resolution from being achieved.
  4. Jump to judgmentsWhether it is about the content you are hearing or about the person speaking, do not make judgments. Not only is this good practice for listening, but it is also good practice for everyday life. Keep in mind sometimes even positive judgments can be harmful.
  5. Change subjectsHave you ever had someone ask you a question, you answer and then that person fails to acknowledge your answer but asks another question or begins to talk about something unrelated? I can tell you it communicates that what you have to say is insignificant- regardless of the person’s intent. Save it for the natural conclusion of the conversation.

Many studies and polls have found that having effective communication skills is the number one thing employers look for in hiring and promoting. If within the four parts of communication we write 9% of the time, read 16%, speak 30% and listen 45%, it stands to reason that we should focus more efforts on being better at listening. Not only will this help you succeed at work, but it will help you succeed in leadership and in your personal life. Sounds like a no brainer! Now go out and be good listeners!

Stepping Into The Smoke: Developing Emotional Intelligence- Empathy

This post is written by Kara Rising, associate and Emerging Leader Coach at Innovative Leadership Institute.

 

I want to start off this blog entry with two statements about empathy I believe to be true:

  1. Empathy is absolutely the most important skill to have if you are ever going to interact with people at work
  2. Even those of us who are not “warm and fuzzy” can become good at developing empathy.

I believe I am living proof of number two. Besides sharing my journey to developing empathy, I will share the five simple tips I’ve used to develop empathic responding, so you use them too.

I’ve received this feedback in the past:

  • Your personality is like a punch in the face.
  •  People either absolutely love you or they absolutely hate you.
  •  You’re kind of an intense and direct person.
  •  You have a short fuse.

These are not qualities you would want in a therapist or coach, so it’s interesting I even went into coaching in the first place! However, through education and experience in working with people, I have  effectively beat the insensitivity out of me – for the most part! Now, instead of challenging people, my first response is to empathize. This has changed how I view myself, and the comments I hear from others. So, even if you are known as a gruff manager who scares people, you too can learn to empathize and to be more effective. You just have to overcome your aversion to emotions.

Most of us are born with a capacity for empathy, some more than others, but it is also a skill that can be developed. Empathy is simply the ability for us to experience and understand the emotions of another person (although to a lesser degree). Empathy is the foundation of relationships. It is what allows us to connect with others, and is our greatest asset in communicating with co-workers, supervisors and subordinates.

No matter what type of a leader you are, if you can’t develop your empathy capacity you will not be able to develop your leadership capacity. Before I go on to explain some tips on empathy, I want to share an analogy my father once shared that has been one of the most helpful description of empathy.

You and your spouse are standing around a campfire. Suddenly the wind changes directions and the smoke begins to blow directly into your spouse’s face. He or she starts coughing, sputtering and commenting on how awful it is. (Now, at this point of the analogy I usually ask my clients, “What would you do in this situation?” And almost 100% of the time I get the same answer: “I’d tell my spouse to move!” Keeping in mind that this is an analogy to prove a point so therefore a bit exaggerated, I would then tell them that in terms of empathy that would not be considered the best response. Ok, now back to the analogy.) As you are watching your spouse cough in the direct line of smoke, you decide to step into the smoke and begin coughing, sputtering, and remark, “Gosh, this DOES suck. Why don’t we move to the other side of the fire?” The two of you move from the smoke and continue to have an enjoyable evening.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is a bit over the top for teaching’s sake, but it demonstrates an excellent point about empathy: you can’t help a person to move without first getting into the smoke too. People desire to feel understood and to feel there is someone who can relate to them. Without such it feels condescending and isolating.

Here are some practical tips on how to respond empathically:

    1. Don’t interrupt

Allow the person to express emotions fully before responding. I know it’s hard sometimes to bite your tongue and keep quiet- but it’s a must if the person is to feel understood and heard (and then be open to listening to you).

    2. Keep appropriate eye contact

Everyone knows when someone isn’t paying attention and thinking of other things. Keep your attention and focus on them while they speak, i. It shows you respect them and what they have to say.

     3. Do NOT give advice

Nothing shuts someone down faster than getting unsolicited advice when he or she he or she did not ask for it and just wanted to connect. After you feel you have empathized appropriately and the person was able to fully express himself or herself him or herself, you can then ask if you can offer advice- but understand the person is allowed to say no.

     4. Respond by acknowledging the emotion expressed, or if you are really good, unexpressed.

A simple formula to follow when you are just practicing is this: “You feel ______ because ______”. Be careful how you use this, it could easily be interpreted as mocking if not done well. Try practicing this at home or with a friend first before attempting this in more difficult situations. If you have average empathy skills, you can “read between the lines” and also begin to pull out emotions that haven’t been said and empathize with those.

      5. Resist the urge to help.

This is a hard one- we want to reduce the other’s suffering but also want to reduce our own internal emotional reaction to the other person’s emotions. However, as helpful as you may think you are being, you are not. Resist the urge and just listen and respond with empathy statements.

 

Practice this at home periodically. Be a scientist and observe how the dynamics change within your relationships when you practice more empathic responding. Once you have a firmer handle on how to appropriately respond with empathy, you can then translate that into your working environment. Developing this skill in the workplace will help you grow and connect with your employees while simultaneously engaging them. I hope that you can use these tips to be even better leaders than you were yesterday.

 

Using Spiritual Intelligence to Improve Leadership

Today’s post is by guest Steve Sphar, owner of Owner at SteveSphar Consulting. Steve is certified in a spiritual intelligence assessment framework created by Cindy Wigglesworth. He describes that beyond emotional intelligence we develop spiritual intelligence and how this framework can be used to improve leadership.

A Leader’s Most Important Job   What is a leader’s most important job?  Stated simply, it is to create a high performing organization.  Whatever else we might desire in a leader, if she isn’t able to produce this result, not much else matters.

What’s more, a leader has to be able to do this sustainably over the long term.  It does not serve the organization if a leader continuously works at a frantic pace at the expense of her own energy.

At one level of thinking, these two factors appear to pose a trade-off.   Given the pressures and complexity of modern business, it can seem that creating a high performing company requires a leader to apply more effort, work more hours, manage more things and take on more stress.  To pursue excellence appears to imply that the leader must exhaust all of her available energy in the struggle to keep on top of things.

A False Choice   But I think this is a false choice.  While leaders certainly have to work hard, I do not believe high performance must come at the cost of fatigue and burnout. Professional success does not have to come at the price of your personal life; in fact, I deeply believe that high performance and deep personal satisfaction go together.  At the optimum level of leadership, you cannot have one without the other.

I believe there is a set of skills that increases a leader’s effectiveness to create high performing organizations AND helps them maintain resilience in the face of stress.  These skills develop a leader’s ability to stay connected to his or her source of meaning and purpose and to activate this connection in others.  This capacity is called Spiritual Intelligence, and it can be measured and developed with practice.

Spiritual Intelligence – The Skills Beyond Emotional Intelligence   Every leader recognizes the importance of emotional intelligence in the business world.  If you can’t establish and enhance your relationships with others, you have no chance of creating high performance.  This is a simple fact that is now universally accepted, yet it is remarkable to think that this was not the case just a few short years ago.

It was not until Daniel Goleman published his groundbreaking book in 1995, “Emotional Intelligence,” that we had a framework for discussing and understanding the importance of emotions in the workplace.  Before then, it was common to be told to “check your emotions at the door.”  A leader saying this today would be seen as backward, unsophisticated, and not ready for high level leadership positions.

The importance of emotions and interpersonal relationships was always there, and good leaders knew that the ability to create effective relationships was critical.  But before Goleman’s book, there was no easily accessible language that allowed leaders to understand and use emotional intelligence.  Goleman’s gift to the business world was to explain the complex landscape of emotions with a framework that allowed people to harness the power of emotional intelligence.

The same is true for spiritual intelligence.

Spiritual intelligence is a set of skills that connect people to their own source of meaning, purpose, and ethics.  Stated differently, you could call this source one’s higher self, or the better angels of our nature.  As with emotional intelligence, savvy business leaders know that these spiritual qualities are important to success.  Think of these characteristics any company would want:

  • Employees who are highly engaged
  • A workplace with less ego-induced drama
  • A strong commitment to the company mission
  • A culture of high ethics
  • People who work hard but with less stress

Although these qualities are important to creating high performance, there has not been a good framework to help us navigate the skills of spiritual intelligence.

Until now.

A Framework for Spiritual Intelligence   What is spiritual intelligence?  In her award-winning book, “SQ21:  The Twenty One Skills of Spiritual Intelligence,” consultant and business coach Cindy Wigglesworth lays out an accessible framework that shows how to approach this complex topic in a business-friendly way.

She defines spiritual intelligence as the ability to behave with wisdom and compassion while maintaining inner and outer peace regardless of the situation.  She goes on to list 21 skills in four domains that can be developed through practice and allow one to increase their capacity for applying spiritual intelligence at work.

In this work-appropriate framework, the SQ21 model of spiritual skills is faith-neutral.  While people of any faith can adopt these ideas to enhance their spirituality, the model itself is independent of any particular religion or set of beliefs.  The principles of spiritual intelligence go beyond religion or specific beliefs.

At the core of the SQ21 model of spiritual intelligence is strengthening your ability to act from your higher self, however we each understand that concept.  The higher self is the source of our ethical, admirable and noble qualities.  It is a concept we can all recognize in ourselves:  we know when we are acting from our triggered or reactive self, and we know when we are acting from our noble, higher self.

Our higher self is the part of ourselves that sees the big picture, acts from a higher perspective, makes wise and compassionate decisions, adjusts to the ebb and flow of life, and is aligned with our values and life purpose.  When we act from this center, our business decisions are better and our stress is reduced.

The SQ21 model is a well researched framework for understanding the broad topics of spirituality and higher self.  It posits 21 specific skills that help us connect to our higher self.  The SQ21 model includes a validated instrument that allows one to self-assess one’s skills and select areas for development. The 21 spiritual intelligence skills are:

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The value of spiritual intelligence is increasingly being recognized by business leaders. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods states in the forward to the SQ21 book, “I love this book.  I haven’t just read it – I have studied it and practiced it.  I think the ideas in here are crucial for anyone who wants to grow wiser, more compassionate and to help create a better future.”

10 Steps for Using Leader Types to Become A More Authentic Leader

Innovative Leadership Leader TypeThis post is part 2 of a six part series on using Innovative Leadership approach to building authentic leadership. Last week’s post provided an overview.

Susan, a social service executive, tests as a loyalist using the Enneagram personality typing system. She is committed, reliable, hard-working, responsible, trustworthy, and security-oriented. Though she is cautious and has problems with self-doubt, she’s quite methodical and also passionate about the value her work provides to our community. She evaluates how her projects will impact the organization’s clients, her own children and future generations, and is focused on building the Board, infrastructure, systems and program required to promote a better future. These qualities make her an exceptional Executive Director. She’s an excellent “troubleshooter” and can foresee problems and foster cooperation, but Susan—often running on stress—can also become defensive, evasive, and anxious.

She focuses heavily on process and has sense of urgency issues which limit her ability to be an exceptional leader of people and projects. After taking the Enneagram assessment, she was able to identify her strengths and deficiencies. By understanding her authentic type and building on her strengths, she has improved her leadership ability. To augment her strengths, she also needed to build the capacities where she showed limitations—one of which was the capacity to be patient under stress. She started by trying small experiments in leading with patience that were appropriate for her work environment. She documented these experiments in a journal that allowed her to reflect on what was blocking his success as well as what was working well.

Over time she began to receive very positive feedback that these experiments were working, and her ability to be empathetic evolved into an authentic skill. While this may never be her strongest skill, she has made great progress in understanding what others need from her and developing the skills to relate more effectively. Her success is attributed to both hers willingness to learn about herself and also to take corrective action to address a gap in her skills and comfort level.

Susan is hardly alone in needing to expand her leadership capacities. All leaders must adapt and expand the way they lead, whether it’s to accommodate growth in their organization, a new position or a change in the community’s expectations, increasing leadership capacities is a critical need for leaders.

Part of the challenge in building authentic leadership is learning to leverage the clarity of your introspection. You can only be authentic if you understand who you truly are. Looking inside yourself and examining the makeup of your inner being enables you to function in a highly-grounded way, rather than operating from the innate biases of uninformed decision-making.

First and foremost, start by simply considering your disposition, tendencies, inclinations, and ways of being. Authentic leadership hinges on understanding the simple, native manner in which you show up in your life. One way to observe this is by examining key aspects of your inner being, often called Leader Type, which reflect a leader’s personality type. The leader personality type is an essential foundation of your personal makeup, critically influencing who you are as a leader and greatly shaping the effectiveness of your leadership. The ancient adage “know thyself” holds true as a crucial underpinning in leadership performance and a key tool to learn about your leadership type is through an assessment. We work with the Enneagram and recognize there are many very effective tools. We encourage leaders to create an environment in which people are given tacit permission to be themselves, allowing them to focus energy on their skills, rather than using that energy to fit into an alternate expectation. It also has the added benefit of aligning individuals with the culture of the overall group.

The focus of higher education, historically, have been on the value of hard skills and technical know-how, yet our experience shows the most important thing business, nonprofit management and public administration graduates need to learn as new leaders is self-awareness and the resulting ability to accept feedback and reduce denial in their perceptions of themselves and their actions.

This speaks to the emerging deep recognition that leaders who are unable to manage their authentic personality quirks and biases, can derail the most progressive initiatives toward an organization’s sustainable success. The real goal is to understand who you are at your core, build on your strengths, and manage prejudice and idiosyncrasies.

Recommendations to improve your leadership authenticity using the focus on leader type:

  1. Take a personality type assessment;
  2. Learn about your type;
  3. Get input from others on what they think is most effective and least effective about your leadership style relative to your professional goals;
  4. Do a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) assessment to evaluate how your type maps to your work;
  5. Identify the strengths on which you can build, and the weaknesses and threats may interfere with your success;
  6. Create a development plan that includes defining daily practices to support development, including introspective routines;
  7. Seek assistance in accomplishing your plan and getting feedback from trusted others;
  8. Make the change you defined in your plan.

Your ability to use deep introspection relies on your development of, and a capacity for, self-understanding and self-awareness. Employing a deeper understanding of Leader Type for both yourself and others is a powerful tool to promote authentic leadership.

Next week’s blog post will focus on Developmental Perspective.

Maureen will be a presenting Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating how You Lead at the WELD Leadership conference on June 4, 2015 at Otterbein University in Columbus Ohio. Click for more information.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Five Steps to Building Authentic Leadership

CEOs biking to workLeadership guru, Warren Bennis, says: “letting the self emerge is the essential task of leaders. Indeed, leadership is, first and foremost, all about you. People often have a misguided notion that leadership is about everyone else. But if a leader hasn’t journeyed inside first to get clear on his or her values, strengths, passion and vision, their lack of authentic grounding will cause them to behave in inconsistent ways, eroding trust and undermining their leadership effectiveness.”

Bill is a highly-skilled leader. Self-aware, he makes a concerted effort to create an environment in which each of his team members can be their most effective at work. He has assembled a diverse staff with unique skills and a lot of idiosyncrasies, and he has worked hard to help this staff of stars come together as a cohesive team.
One morning he arrives to find an obviously upset employee, Michelle, sitting in his office. Michelle, who is clearly concerned about the condescending behavior of another colleague, suggests that the work environment Bill created is hostile and not supportive enough for her to do her best work. She feels belittled by her colleague and is seeking Bill’s support to ensure the office in which they work is conducive to delivering top quality service to their clients. As she leaves, Bill thinks about his leadership style. He asks himself if his style has created an environment that promotes a positive work environment for all employees. Is he allowing some people to treat others in a negative or unsupportive way? Is there anything he could do differently to promote a more productive and supportive environment? How can he create an environment that allows unique people to be themselves and, at the same time, work as a cohesive team? Bill’s instincts say he has created a positive environment but now he hears from a valued employee that he may not be doing as well as he thought. Fundamentally, the question becomes: Is Bill’s authentic leadership style supportive of organizational success? Does he need to refine his style or develop as a leader to be both authentic and create a positive environment?

These questions beg a new one: How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization?
Let’s start with a definition of authenticity from a recent Forbes article by Henry Doss: “Learning about yourself is perhaps the single most important outcome of a powerful educational experience. Self-awareness can lead to an ever-increasing authenticity, which in turn leads to powerful leadership abilities. Authenticity is not about ’accept me for what I am‘; authentic leaders are self-aware, willing to adapt and change and ’be who they are in service to others.’ Education should be a powerful process of increasing self-awareness, of coming to know yourself and of learning the intrinsic value of who you are as a human being. . . and then understanding the need for constant change, personal growth and learning for the rest of your life.” 

Innovative Leadership Model

Innovative Leadership Model

Let’s explore how the five elements of innovative leadership can help leaders become more authentic. By using the five key elements of the innovative leadership pyramid as described below, you become a more authentic and effective leader:

  1. Build your self-awareness by understanding your Leader Type.  Take an assessment to understand yourself; then, learn about your colleagues’ types. By knowing who you are and who they are, you can create an environment in which people are able to comfortably be themselves and create a common language where they understand one another. The balance of self-awareness and understanding others allows colleagues to be authentically who they and also aligned with the culture of the overall group.
  2. Understand your own Developmental Perspective (complexity of thinking, emotional intelligence, and behavior) and the perspectives of others allows you to take the perspective of many different people. By understanding the primary perspective of your colleagues and meeting them where they are, you are showing the highest degree of respect and appreciation. The golden rule of authentic leadership could be “treat people as they need to be treated to perform at their best.” Since we are all unique, and have different expectations, treating others as you want to be treated may create some significant problems for leaders.
  3. Enhancing Resilience includes developing a strong sense of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, and knowing your strengths and preferences. It also includes understanding others’ strengths and preferences, and demonstrating the flexibility to respond to another’s level appropriately. Developing emotional intelligence skills increases your leadership success.
  4. Applying Situational Analysis is the combination of understanding yourself and the organization. By using situational analysis, you are able to understand the balance between your values and the needs of the organization and act in a manner that attends to your authenticity while balancing the organization’s expectations and norms. This means you can read the situation quickly and respond accordingly. This does not mean you change your innate preference or act in a way that is not genuine, but rather in many cases learn to expand your repertoire of skills and behaviors. It is a bit like learning to swing forehand and backhand in tennis. You’ll continue to have preferences, but, by expanding your abilities, you can be both authentic and agile.
  5. Aligning Leadership Behaviors means behaving in a manner that is authentic to you, and appropriate to the organization and situations in which you find yourself. To do this well it means you need access to a broad range of behaviors and have the skills referenced in situational analysis to diagnose the organization’s requirements and your authentic style, and have the skills to balance both.

How can leaders be authentic and encourage others to do the same while concurrently meeting the needs of the overall team and organization? The innovative leadership model offers some support in identifying who you are so you understand what authentic is for you. From there, you will have a strong foundation to determine how to navigate the questions of authenticity and being a good organizational steward. This navigation is the art of leadership.

I will be a presenting Building Authentic Leadership by Innovating how You Lead at the WELD Leadership conference on June 4, 2015 at Otterbein University in Columbus Ohio. Click for more information.

To read more about Authentic Leadership, read the full paper published in Integral Leadership Review.

If you wonder about the image, it is from CEO bike to work day in Columbus, Ohio. This represents for me leaders who model their authentic values through their actions.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

6 Steps to Building Emotional Intelligence: Learn from Lincoln

Emotional IntelligenceWhen we consider what set Abraham Lincoln apart from so many other leaders, emotional intelligence is often noted. His behavior indicates that he was aware of his feelings and managed them well. I believe he understood that managing the feelings he expressed would impact the outcome he received. He had a broad range of emotions and used them as the situation required, not indiscriminately as he felt. His ability to “curate” his feelings to drive outcomes was – and still is – a rare skill that has become even more critical to leaders in today’s complex world.

Daniel Goleman wrote in the Harvard Business Review article, What Makes a Leader, ‘I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities;” that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader.’
Interestingly, we primarily teach leaders how to work. We don’t focus on who they are as people, but rather, on what they do. The average organization is full of “leaders” who are highly skilled in their functional roles but lack emotional intelligence.

As the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 describes, ‘Middle managers stand out, with the highest EQ scores in the workforce. But up beyond middle management, there is a steep downward trend in EQ scores. For the titles of director and above, scores descend faster than a snowboarder on a black diamond. CEOs, on average, have the lowest EQ scores in the workplace… Among executives, those with the highest EQ skills are the best performers. We’ve found that EQ skills are more important to job performance than any other leadership skill. The same holds true for every job title: those with the highest EQ scores within any position outperform their peers.’

So what is Emotional Intelligence?

Using the Emotional Intelligence 2.0 framework, emotional intelligence is comprised of four competencies; two are about relating and managing self, and two involve relating to others.

Emotional Intelligence

Personal and Social Competence
Leaders must manage themselves first. Since emotions are contagious, it is important to ensure that you, as a leader, are aware of your emotions and control them so the message you convey to others is one that motivates them to move forward irrespective of how you are feeling. Lincoln was a great example: when he became frustrated and, some even say, depressed with the progress of the emancipation proclamation, he expressed emotions that motivated his team to get the votes they needed.

The ability to manage emotions is particularly important to leaders as they navigate difficult projects. The leader has often been involved since inception, has worked to advance it every step of the way, and may be the first to become exhausted by the sheer amount of energy and emotion involved in creating forward momentum – setting the vision, getting people committed, allocating resources, and dealing with the inevitable issues that arise. Somewhere along the way, the leader will feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It is these times, particularly, where leaders must be clear about how they are feeling, why they feel that way, whether it needs to change, and whether there is value to sharing it. This insight enables them to ensure that what they ultimately convey is what constituents need – not simply what they feel.

It is important to balance authenticity with sharing feelings that will cause unnecessary stress in others. In Lincoln’s case, he would have been less effective if he shared his concerns. Rather he shared that he was a highly powerful man who made things happen. It is likely that he deeply questioned this statement in his more reflective moments. As you read this – you may be thinking I am talking about manipulating others – I am not. I am talking about walking the line between being authentic and managing relationships so I allow everyone to be as successful as possible at meeting the overall goal. If as a leader I share my deepest fears, I will disempower some people who need to believe their leader knows what to do and how to get there. For others, it will be important to share more authentically. The art is in knowing how much to share with each person or group.

Building emotional intelligence requires ongoing practice in each of the four areas of the graphic above, starting with self-awareness. To begin the practice of self-awareness, use the following process:
1. Develop a list of feelings – Emotional Intelligence 2.0 has a useful sample on p. 15.
2. Identify what you are feeling once a day during the work week; log it in a journal or spreadsheet that is easy to access.
3. At the end of the first month, identify trends you noticed and discuss with a trusted friend or colleague.
4. Get feedback from that person. Is s/he noticing the behavior that you logged?
5. Think about how you can use what you have learned about your feelings to manage them in a way that will contribute to your professional success. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 provides several self-awareness strategies (starting on p. 61) that are quite helpful as you begin this practice.
6. After you have developed the habit of self-awareness, move to the practice of self-management, followed by the social competence areas.

If you are interested in taking an emotional intelligence assessment, please contact us.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.