Tag Archive for: leadership

Dealing With Gossip – The Authentic Way

We’ve all been there. Criticizing someone who isn’t in the room. Badmouthing a colleague. Condemning our boss.
It’s called gossiping and means we disrespect a person in their absence.

What I’ve learned about gossip:

  1. It’s a defense against having the courage to be direct. It’s easier to deal with our anger towards someone by talking poorly about them when they aren’t present.
  2. It’s addictive. You can get a high from self-righteousness, especially when you get someone to listen to you.
  3. It erodes trust. Suppose we criticize our supervisor in a way we wouldn’t dare if they were present. What happens if we have a falling out and you see me speaking with that same supervisor?
  4. It eats away at your integrity. Being one way with one person and another way with another exposes dishonesty and insecurity and leads to disrespect.

Authenticity, when it comes to gossip, requires three decisions:

a) Decide you will be loyal in people’s absence. It will earn you self-respect, respect of your comrades, and will foster trust. If you want to retain those who are present, be loyal to those who are absent.

b) Decide to be direct with the person you are frustrated with or let it go because it’s not the right thing at the moment to bring it up directly with them.

c) Decide that self-respect that comes from integrity is more worthwhile than the superficial approval from preying on another person’s weaknesses.

When a person starts gossiping to you:

i) Empathize with their feelings, but tell them you don’t participate in gossip.

ii) Bring all the parties together (if you have a role to do so) to deal with the issue directly.

iii) Talk about positive things about the person in their absence.

iv) Apologize when you forget all this and get sucked back into the comfort and ease of gossip rather than the courage of your convictions.

v) Remember that all these principles and practices apply to personal and family relationships as much as they apply to relationships in the workplace.

Dealing with Disruption and Disorder – The Authentic Way

Disruption and disorder have always been a part of the human condition. This reality is often seen at a global level, as in the brutality of terrorism and war, and sometimes more personally, as in the sudden arrival of an illness, an injury, or a personal betrayal. Our work is to embrace times of great difficulty honestly and courageously through the lens of authenticity, allowing the pain to break us open so a stronger, wiser, and kinder self can emerge.

When faced with a global disruption or a personal tragedy, will you become a better person from the disturbance, or will you distract yourself and miss the growth opportunity? Will you use this time to develop your authenticity and connect more deeply with yourself and the world around you, or will you look for diversions to drown out your pain?

Specifically, how can disorder in the world or in our lives make us better people? Here are three simple strategies to resist the tendency to distract during times of disruption and instead take the road less traveled to deepen our authenticity.

Disconnect to connect. Periods of disruption lead to the allure of escapism, particularly the kind that technology can offer to alleviate emotional pain. Programs on our devices are designed to give us relief by drowning out grief. Does the escape these devices offer actually lead to greater well-being? We’d be hard pressed to claim these devices will pilot us into increased mental health.

Connect with your emotions. Binge watching shocking news is different than connecting with your own experience. Take time to ask yourself a few questions:

  • How are these atrocities affecting me? What is my own inner experience?
  • How do I respond to the endless images reminding us of the wars in the world?
  • How do I process the scenes of horror, the carnage in Israel, the Gaza, Ukraine?
  • How do I process the grief?

Last evening, I sat with a friend, who was putting her parents, who stayed with her in Canada over the summer, on a plane back to Israel. They are in their seventies and want to get home to do what they can. Sitting with this woman for just a few moments yesterday made the war more real to me. Connect to yourself. Connect to others. Let life touch you. Don’t let it consume you, but let it touch you, even briefly.

Clarify your values. In search of authenticity, I am inspired by the words of Brad Stulberg in his book, Master of Change, about how to navigate unavoidable upheaval; that a more sustainable response to change can be found in your core values:

When you feel the ground shifting underneath you, when you don’t know your next move, you can ask yourself, how might I move in the direction of my core values? … The portability of core values means that you can practice them in nearly all circumstances. Thus, they become a source of stability throughout change, forging the rugged boundaries in which your fluid sense of self can flow and evolve. Nothing can take your values away from you. They provide a rudder to steer you into the unknown.

There are times in our lives when we are on narrow roads. At those times, we are fools if we try to maintain our usual speed. Disruption is a time to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n when the world seems to be speeding up. Stop and get your bearings. Reset your compass. Clarify your values and renew your commitment to take the small actions that can make a big difference within your sphere of influence.

Value-driven responses are not as immediately enticing as a manic digital escape. These escapes, Cal Newport reminds us: inevitably reveal themselves to be transient and the emotions they’re obscuring eventually return. If you can resist the allure of the easy digital palliative and instead take on the heavier burden of meaningful action, a more lasting inner peace can be achieved.

ACCOUNTABILITY: It’s Not About Criticism. It’s About Clarity

In my role of board chair in a non-profit organization I’ve felt some strain the past few weeks. I’ve imagined that the executive director is unhappy with the board and am wondering whether we’re best serving this organization. An incredible board member who has been the glue holding the organization together since it’s inception is stepping down now that her tenure is up. I’ve been questioning if I’m able to fill her shoes. It’s stressful when you are unsure if you are meeting the expectations of the people who depend on you.

What I’m going to do this week is meet with the executive director and ask for help. We are going to discuss and negotiate what we expect from each other and how to best support each other. We will clarify how we define success in this organization, our agreements with each other, how to measure expected results, and what to do if either of us inadvertently gets off track. In short, we’re going to reset the compass of our relationship.

What we’re going to do is be accountable to each other. It’s not about blame or accusations or fault-finding or finger-pointing. It’s about ownership and clear agreements.

Accountability lies at the foundation of every good relationship. It’s meant to foster trust, decrease stress, build fulfilling connections, and get a grip on results that matter.

Five Ways Leaders Accidentally Create Dishonesty In Employees

Honesty is a key value for any organization. It sets the tone for the kind of culture you are committed to create. It provides consistency in behavior. And it builds loyalty and trust. Honesty is one of the most effective ways to establish the environment that will propel your organization to long-term success. As a leader, the importance you place on honesty can create a culture where your team members feel inspired, empowered, and validated.

Moral dishonesty, such as stealing, padding expense accounts, or lying about results can unfortunately be a part of an organization. More subtle and every bit as important, however, is psychological honesty.

  • What is the experience of your team members working in this organization?
  • Do people feel free to bring you their concerns, questions, or feedback without fear of reprisal?
  • How tense do people feel working around you?
  • Can people be honest with you about your leadership?
  • And how do you know if people are giving honest answers to these questions? How much are people on your team choosing to be merely polite rather being genuine?

Here are five ways leaders accidently create dishonesty in their team. I say accidently because no one sets out to create a dishonest work environment. Often, however, amid stress, demands, and particularly in a hybrid work environment where we may not be as connected to our team, we may inadvertently overlook some unintended consequences of our behavior.

  1. A lack of transparency with your team about why you made a decision. If you aren’t modeling honesty, it’s difficult to expect it.
  2. Unacknowledged stress, tension, and anxiety. It’s tough enough to be honest with your boss. But when you add emotional volatility to the mix, you are inserting a variable of instability which encourages being polite rather than genuine. It is for this reason that leaders must pay close attention to how they act and communicate. To create an honest workplace, you must attend to your inner state. Whether you see it or not, if you have unrecognised strain, tension, and anxiety, your team is likely going to hold back telling you the truth. Volatility breeds unpredictability. And unpredictability breeds dishonesty.
  3. Talking over people. When we interrupt others rather than sincerely listen, we give the message that we think we are smarter than they are, that they aren’t as valued, and aren’t needed. I, for one, am guilty of this when I’m feeling stressed, pushing for results, and forgetting about the importance of the people on my team.
  4. Ignoring people’s emotions. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore your team members’ feelings. This error often occurs when a leader is either unable to deal with their own emotions or are overly focused on tasks and results. The key here is empathy: you will succeed only when you care enough to attend to those around you. You are less likely to increase anxiety in others if you consider how your actions impact them. It’s your responsibility to be attentive to how people around you are doing.
  5. Defensiveness. This is the big one. If you ask for feedback in these areas, you need to let go of needing to be right to protect your ego. As Steve Covey used to say, “seek first to understand…” That is our work. When people have the courage to bring anything to our attention that creates discomfort in us, our responsibility is to resist the tendency to get defensive and to listen to understand.

In summary, positional leaders impact their employees’ stress and anxiety levels. What they say, feel, and do hugely influences their team’s physical and emotional well-being and how they respond. But sadly, far too few leaders are aware that they have this power. And many are overconfident in their leadership skills, creating a gap between their perceived and actual levels of competence. This explains why even well-meaning bosses may inadvertently contribute to high anxiety levels in their team members and how they inadvertently shut people down.

You can change people.

We’ve all heard the adage: “You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself.” While I get that it’s wasted energy to try to change others by pushing them or cajoling them, or attempting to control them, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change people.

If you sincerely care about a person and you give them consistent positive feedback, provide encouragement, listen and show genuine interest in what they are interested in, honestly value their input, find value in their work and contribution, and show up in their lives, I’ll promise that over time, they will change. Maybe not right away. But they will change. They will grow. They will become better people because of your influence.

And… if you spend time criticizing, disrespecting, discouraging, diminishing, and focusing on all the things that you don’t like about someone, the fault-finding and belittling will also change them. It’s hard to be around bitter, critical, negative people without taking some of that on.

Now that I reflect this, a question arises: Are we are actually “changing” another, or simply bringing the best out of them? In this light, I’m not sure we can even change ourselves. Perhaps, at best, all we can do is create the right conditions for our true, finest nature to be expressed.

And for simplicity sake, let’s assume we can change people. Maybe not without their consent, but don’t overlook the impact one person can have on another.

It’s Hard To Care About Others When You’re Stressed

Last week, I was presenting to a wonderful group of leaders. I arrived two hours early to ensure the technology would work. It turned out that the AV equipment provided at the venue wasn’t compatible with my computer. A stressful moment to say the least.

A recent study has determined that empathy originates in the anterior insular cortex, which is a different part of the brain that is activated when you’re stressed. I’m no neuroscientist, but my experience of being stressed about the AV equipment and its implications for my presentation made it difficult to be empathic with the guy from the venue who was trying to help me, was defensive, and knew nothing about technology.

His lack of people skills and my lack of empathy created a scenario that did not end well. My impatience led to a less than respectful exchange.

The irony of the situation was that I was presenting on Caring In The Workplace!

Upon reflection, here’s what I learned:

  1. When agitated, pause. Step back, go for a walk, call a friend, do whatever you need to do to get to a calm state. Agitation, irritability, and impatience never help a situation.
  2. Decide, when going into any stressful situation, that blame is a waste of time. Working on solutions rather than being angry about the problems is far more effective.
  3. Ensure you are clear about expectations and have a backup strategy. “This is what I need to make this project a success.” And, when life happens and everything falls apart, calmness and confidence arise from having a plan B.
  4. Accept your humanness and when you are wrong, and promptly admit it. I called the venue yesterday and apologized to the guy who was trying to be helpful that morning.