Tag Archives: Growth

2017 Crack the Leadership Code Summit

Are you familiar with the Crack the Leadership Code summit? Hosted by executive coach and organizational psychologist Michelle Pizer, this annual event is a great opportunity to learn practical and inspiring ways to become a better leader and thrive in your career.

The Summit is an online event running from May 22 – June 4, 2017 and is free if you register by May 21st.

For the upcoming 2017 Summit, I am honored to participate along with 30 others leadership experts, including New York Times bestselling authors; TedTalkers; and contributors to the Harvard Business Review, Inc, and Forbes. We’ll be discussing such topics as:

  • How to create a compelling vision
  • How to inspire your team to aspire for themselves
  • How to create a personal culture of leadership
  • How to manage your personal brand and craft your professional story
  • Fueling your courage and confidence as a woman leader
  • How to use social media to your advantage

Interviews are posted every day for the two-week event and are available for only 72 hours after they are released.

Click here to register and learn more.

Hope to see you there!

Are You Weird Enough? Three Ways to Stand Out

This article was originally published on lifehack.org.

On the infinite list of traits that make people successful leaders, there’s one that is too often overlooked—being weird. Why do we disregard the power that comes from being different? It is time to embrace what makes us weird and incorporate it into our lives.

To be labeled a weirdo should be synonymous with being an innovator, a thought leader, an entrepreneur. It is weird to see something and think, “I can make that better.” It is weird to contemplate a solution for a plan that seems to be working just fine. It is weird to speak out against popular opinion with a new, contradictory idea. These are not things “normal” people do.

To make weird a part of our company culture, it helps to specify what we’re talking about. Being weird is not about bucking the norm simply for the sake of being different or seeking attention. Anyone can wear unusual clothes or ironically play a kazoo. In fact, if you start any initiative with the thought, “Yeah, this is gonna be weird,” then you are missing the point.

I never set out to be weird. It was always other people who called me weird.—Frank Zappa

The intent of embracing your weirdness is to unleash the unconventional thoughts you are already having. We all have an inner drive to accomplish goals that are daring and innovative and progressive. However embracing your weirdness is more than feeling this inner drive; it involves putting action behind your thoughts. If you’re ready to take on this challenge, here are three practices to get you started:

#1 Acknowledge that you have issues

I had a mentor who started meetings with each person stating their “issues.” This lighthearted exercise was intended to break down social barriers and generate social cohesion. When I was asked this in my first week on the job, I said that I don’t have issues. The room laughed knowing that we all have issues.

These issues are the individual quirks that make us different. It can include something as simple as your predilection for starting every day singing a Neil Diamond song or your ability to quote every line from The Big Lebowski or that you’ve watched so much Walking Dead you create an emergency exit strategy whenever entering a room… or maybe that’s just me.

Where’s your will to be weird?—Jim Morrison

The point is that we must own our weirdness before we have leverage it. Admittedly, this can be an uncomfortable exercise—it’s engrained in us since childhood that weirdness is a bad thing. Just keep reminding yourself that people who blend it, do not stand out.

#2 Stop being boring

If this sounds too easy, that’s because it is. You can actively will yourself into being weirder simply by making the effort to be more interesting. A few suggestions:

  • watch less TV, or at least watch a greater variety of shows
  • do not list “checking your social media” as a hobby
  • try different restaurants
  • engage in substantive conversations, and do not talk about the weather… ever!
  • create a bucket list of things to do, new skills to learn, and places to go
  • stray from mainstream media
  • engage in one remarkable activity every weekend (or at least every month)
  • stop expecting to be entertained by others
  • and stop expecting others to do all talking

It’s good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way.—Tim Burton

#3 Be the CWO (Chief Weird Officer)

Once you’ve embraced your weirdness, it’s time to strengthen it throughout your organization. Leaders must make an exerted effort to structure their team in a way that nurtures the weird so people can more fully reveal and utilize their talents. This includes fostering a work environment that negates the social stigmas that stifle offbeat creativity. Where imperfection is not just allowed, but encouraged as a means of development and learning. Where sameness is not tolerated. Where speaking up is incentivized, even when they’re wrong.

To bring out the weirdness, leaders can also help those on their team find their niche. In her book Stand Out, esteemed strategy consultant Dorie Clark discussed the need to be recognized as an authority or expert through a strong professional reputation. This can happen by expanding your focus, but more often weirdness is tapped by “niching down” or narrowing focus on a topic. If the leader exposes team members to a plethora of opportunities to learn and grow, they can find their niche and “weird out” on it.

I always encourage young people who ask me for advice to be themselves. Whatever is weird about you, whatever weird thing you do to crack up your siblings, that other people at school maybe say, ‘Man, you’re weird,’ that’s the most valuable thing you have. Because if you try to homogenize yourself and act like other people on television or other people in the audition room, then you’re taking away your weirdness.—Nick Offerman

Being weird means putting yourself out there. This involves a degree of vulnerability and a willingness to take on risk. “Normal” people stifle these insecurities; that’s what makes them normal. But those who embrace their weirdness are eager to break through the “we’ve always done it that way” mindset. It may feel lonely at times, but it is ultimately more fulfilling and leads to bigger results. As they say, “Go weird or go home.”

Why Leaders Should Be More Like Ebenezer Scrooge: A Five Step Process

a_christmas_carolThe story of Ebenezer Scrooge is one of my favorite holiday traditions. As much as I’d like to say that I read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol every year, in truth I read it once, really liked it, and have since made a ritual of watching Scrooged with Bill Murray. With every viewing of this movie plus the multitude of other renditions, I wonder why calling someone a “Scrooge” is such a bad thing.

As leaders, we should strive to be Scrooges. If this sounds wrong that’s because you are focusing on the pre-Christmas Ebenezer. That guy is a selfish, egotistical miser who says things like, “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be…buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” But this is not the message of A Christmas Carol, it is simply the beginning.

A Christmas Carol is the story of self-improvement. It’s about learning from your past, having foresight into your future, and making the changes necessary in the present. This is not a feel-good self-affirmation; it’s a motivator to introspectively pick apart our flaws and work towards becoming a better person.

We can’t be forced to change our ways. There is no Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come to serve as a catalyst for evolving. Our fate will not be on display to pressure us into an epiphany. All we have is inner drive. Unfortunately, the determination to change is not enough; our bad habits are too embedded into our psyche. Therefore, according to Prochaska and DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model, we need to follow these five steps to make positive behavioral changes that stick.

  1. Precontemplation. In this first stage, we are Scrooge on December 23rd–making a change has been the farthest thing from our mind. The signs have been all around us, but we’ve fought or just ignored them.
  2. Contemplation. In this stage we’ve begun to think about the need to change a behavior. The impetus is different for everyone. For some it takes a particular event to wake us up, like Scrooge’s surprise visit from his deceased business partner Jacob Marley. For others it involves years of deliberation.
  3. Determination. Now we begin to mentally prepare for action. While Scrooge woke up on Christmas morning with a new outlook on life, we may download a new calendar app or buy running shoes. This stage involves mapping out our plan of attack and scheduling a start date. This culmination of willpower is the resolve to change and the fuel needed to attain your goals.
  4. Action. Time to activate your plan. Give Bob Cratchit a raise. Get medical assistance for Tiny Tim. Start moving!
  5. Maintenance. Day 1 of a new behavior is easy; true change takes persistence. Scrooge wasn’t just a more virtuous person on December 25th. As the book states, “Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more… He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man…” Maintenance involves continuing to chase your goal every day, with every decision, and every deed. It requires that we uphold a high life-condition where our changed belief continues to manifest as action. Create short milestones so you can appreciate the sense of accomplishment and reward yourself along the way.

Want to be a better leader? Be a Scrooge—remain in a constant state of self-improvement. Want to be a better leader? Be a Jacob Marley—guide others towards elevating their skills and performance. And if you really want to be a better leader, be a Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-to-Come—foster a culture where people can learn from their mistakes, understand the repercussions, and make changes before its too late. Or say, “Ba-Hum-Bug” and suffer the consequences.

Do You Know Your Redshirts? How to Avoid Becoming a Star Trek Captain

start trek red shirtI was recently meeting with a leadership committee tasked with overseeing a layoff. It was a grim room filled with apprehension and resentment. No one was happy to make these difficult choices, but it was understood that a reduction in force was the last available option to save the company.

The committee’s conversations were analytically based, as if de-personalizing the decisions would make them easier. Human resources did a nice job preparing quantitative research complete with charts and graphs. Performance (division, department, and employee) was summarized on spreadsheets without identifiers to allow for unbiased analyses. And everyone was armed with a calculator to crunch the numbers. It was at this moment when I began empathizing with Captain Kirk—we were both responsible for choosing the “redshirts” undertaking their last expedition.

If you are not familiar with the term redshirt, it is commonly used by Star Trek fans when referring to the characters dressed in a red uniform. It seems that anyone wearing red has a higher fatality rate than other characters on the show. This is not just conjecture. When SiteLogic crunched the numbers, they found that 13.7% of the crew died during Star Trek’s three-year televised mission; and of those who died, 73% were redshirts.

By comparing real-life layoffs to the fictional deaths of USS Enterprise staff, I am not trying to minimize how awful is it to be laid off, nor am I undercutting the immense pressure leaders are under when implementing an initiative that will negatively impact so many people. What I recognized sitting with that committee through hours of discussions is how easy is can be to begin thinking of employees as anonymous redshirts.

Redshirting the workforce may sound callous, but let’s consider it from the leader’s viewpoint. How many people can a leader really be expected to know? In a smaller company, you should be acquainted with everyone, however as the populace grows into the hundreds and then thousands, no one can realistically maintain a relationship with each person. Throw in satellite offices and a swelling organizational hierarchy and the once start-up now feels beyond one leader’s control.

My advice is to avoid the apathy associated with accepting others as redshirts. They are not expendable, even if Star Trek treats them as such. Your redshirts are responsible for getting the work done. Unlike the layers of management, redshirts touch your product and maintain relations with your customers. Their value (and your ability to make sure they feel valued) is a primary competitive advantage for the lasting success of your organization.

Being unfamiliar with every employee doesn’t excuse you from continuing to make an attempt. This direct contact not only gives you candid insights in the culture, but also provides you the opportunity to tap undiscovered potential and unearth the many ways your organization can be improved from the people with firsthand access to the processes.

You may read this and decide to uphold your redshirt practices. Be warned. If you choose to use them as a disposable first line of offense, it is only a matter of time until they grasp the stigma associated with the redshirt. Engagement will plummet, productivity will suffer, and turnover will spike faster than a Tribble reproduces.