I am a fan of Food Network’s Chopped® cooking show. I am an even bigger Chopped Junior™ fan.
I am amazed at the skill and creativity of the Chopped chefs in taking a mass of ingredients (some of which are very foreign to me) and combining them into a dish that is edible and, in fact, enjoyable.
But of course, this would astound me for my motto is “give me a recipe or give me take-out!”
I am even more amazed at the pre-teen chefs competing on Chopped Junior. Did I even know how to boil water at the age of 11?
Beyond the creative cooking skills, these young people provide us with behavioral lessons to apply both at work and at home.
First of all – the Chopped Junior contestants offer their help freely – to each other – during the heat of battle.
The other day, one contestant had plated her entree round and had time to spare. She noticed another contestant was struggling and may not have completed her plating. She offered to help. Help was accepted and plating was completed within the time limit. The judges noticed the kind gesture.
On Chopped, you rarely see a contestant digging in to help others. In some cases, I have even seen contestants refuse to give an extra ingredient that they have on their table to a fellow contestant in need.
Secondly, the Chopped Junior contestants encourage each other.
At the end of each round, the eliminated contestant will hug or shake hands with his/her competitors. Whereas on Chopped, you see the chopped contestant leave the area without a glance at his/her competitors.
Third, the Chopped Junior contestants see failure as a learning opportunity.
Each Chopped Junior contestant speaks to the lessons they have learned and the value of the experience as they leave the studio. Whereas on Chopped, you often hear the competitors saying that they know better than the judges and that their dish was, indeed, superior. They believe they were wrongly chopped!
Why the vast difference? Is it due to the “dangling carrot” of the $10,000 prize to the winner? The Chopped contestants are planning to use their winnings for their livelihood. The Chopped Junior contestants covet the Chef’s jacket while their winnings will go into their college fund.
As we often see, a scarcity mentality leads to behaviors unbecoming to adults.
Maybe it is time for all of us “all-knowing grownups” to take a lesson from these 11- and 12-year old aspiring chefs? Maybe it is time for us to respond to our life’s situations with the maturity and composure of the Chopped Junior contestants?
- Offer help freely.
- Encourage each other.
- See failure as a learning opportunity.
Exercising these simple lessons could very well result in all of us being winners, regardless of our chosen path!
Wow – how time flies! Another year is close to completion. As always, I look forward to sharing with you some of my favorite reads and websites. Hope you enjoy this year’s entries. And let us know your favorites from 2014.
Happy Reading and Happy Leading!
How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value through the Science of Fascination, Sally Hogshead. New York: Harper Collins, 2014.
Those of you familiar with my website and my blog have heard me extol the many virtues of Sally Hoghead’s How the World Sees You and the Fascination Advantage® system. This book’s impact on its readers is phenomenal.
“Your personality is your natural weapon against distraction, competition, and commoditization. The more value you add, the less you have to compete on price, and the less likely you are to become a commodity.”
This book changes perspectives. I have seen evidence of individuals using their Fascination Advantage® to re-sculpt their lives. The difference (and level of fulfillment) is indeed fascinating.
The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. New York: HarperCollins, 2014.
As you know, I spend a lot of time working with clients in the area of emotional intelligence. During our Simmons Survey debriefs, we talk about confidence and its effect on relationships and effectiveness. Kay and Shipman’s research is an adjunct to these conversations as it investigates the subject of confidence and our ability to expand our behaviors in that area.
In essence, confidence is a choice. Yes, our genes do play a part. But confidence grows through “hard work, substantial risk, determined persistence, and sometimes bitter failure.”
“Confidence, ultimately, is the characteristic that distinguishes those who imagine from those who do.”
To all women, give yourself the gift of confidence by reading this book. (Kay and Shipman also have a free online Confidence Quiz. Take this quiz to measure your confidence level.) The authors prove that our brains can be rewired to be more confident. So please invest in yourself, your future, and then pass this inheritance on to your daughters.
What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn), Seth Godin. Canada: The Domino Project, 2014.
Seth Godin excels at pushing us to fail, to be thirsty, and to act. His latest book continues this momentum. In Godin-style, the examples he uses guide you through overcoming fear.
He begins with his “broken escalator theory” – a paralyzing event for two executives (and a metaphor for how we all become stuck). Throughout this enjoyable read, the reader sees that choices are always available.
“Either you’re the creator or you’re the audience. Either you’re waiting your turn or you’re taking it.”
“Tips, tricks, and downloads for getting things done.”
This eclectic site provides the researcher with information in a variety of categories such as communication, personal finance, psychology, health, and do-it-yourself instructions. With regular contributors and guest submissions, the site is a fun and informative place to visit.
“This is the moment when you make things click.”
We have all suffered through “death by PowerPoint”. Prezi will revitalize you and reincarnate your presentations. Give yourself the gift of designing your next presentation using the Prezi site. From big picture to detail view, the creator is able to easily display interrelated concepts. Easy to use and cloud-based so you may sync your presentation across your communication devices.
Bye-bye, PowerPoint. Hello, Prezi!
Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite
“Every great movement in the world starts with a tiny group of people who simply refuse to accept a situation.”
Without question, Richard Branson is infinitely interesting. From his entrepreneurial accomplishments to his innovative solutions to his giving spirit, he entertains and inspires. Virgin Unite is Branson’s philanthropic arm. The blog posts cover topics on leadership and advocacy, business innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Step outside of your immediate surroundings and join the global community. Regardless of your interests, Branson will mesmerize you with his passion and vision.
What books, websites, and blogs, impacted you this year? Please share in the comment section below.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
I strongly believe that leadership is not a consequence of position, but rather an outcome of behavior. Last month, I witnessed leadership behavior at its finest. The leaders I met were not executives of organizations or managers of teams. They were individuals living a lesson learned through hardship and suffering. I would like to share with you the stories of two inspiring gentlemen. My hope is that we can practice the lesson illustrated by these two men and share this lesson with others.
I had the opportunity to spend some time in South Africa during the last two weeks of September. What a spectacular experience – from the Cape of Good Hope to the Karongwe Game Reserve. Commanding vistas of the South Atlantic Ocean from Table Mountain in Cape Town to the nearness of each of the Big Five as we traveled the Lowveld. As I have returned home, many memories live in my mind. But there are two people we met who inspired me through their leadership behaviors and attitudes.
Our group of travelers first met Joe Schaffers on a sunny Saturday morning. As one of the guides at the District Six museum in Cape Town, Mr. Schaffers described the forced removal of thousands of people from their homes. This removal, during the Apartheid era, was solely based on the color of one’s skin.
Later that morning, we traveled to Robben Island and met Zozo. Lulamile Zozo Madolo was our guide through the maximum security prison cells of that isolated island, best known for its housing of Nelson Mandela, again during the Apartheid years.
Both Mr. Schaffers and Mr. Madolo described that time of segregation and turmoil, hatred and violence. The story of Apartheid is startling (and very similar to our American civil rights struggles). But listening to these gentlemen was an experience to remember. Their descriptions were from the first person perspective. Both of these gentlemen were victims of the very scenes they were describing. Mr. Schaffers and his family were removed from District Six and relocated to the Hanover Park area, north of Cape Town. Mr. Madolo was a prisoner at Robben Island; incarcerated, from 1977 until his release in 1982, in that same maximum-security compound we visited. These gentlemen were describing history – a very personal history.
What touched me the most was the manner in which these gentlemen spoke. Neither expressed anger or hatred or vengeance against those who had arbitrarily taken away their freedoms. They described the time – factually and without blame. These gentlemen were not victims. They were historians. They were observers of a philosophy that chose to discriminate based on the color of one’s skin and not the color of one’s blood. For as Mr. Schaffers told us, he is pretty sure that if a finger of a white, colored, and black were pricked, the blood from each would be the same color – red.
As I listened to these two gentlemen, I marveled at the calmness in their tone. They had lost so much – but to listen to them, they had gained more. A May 2012 Smithsonian magazine article quotes Mr. Madolo as saying, “Our leader, Nelson Mandela, taught us not to take revenge on our enemies. And because of this today we are free, free, free.”
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
– Nelson Mandela, spoken upon release from prison
Let’s pause to reflect on the teachings of Stephen R. Covey and his first of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Be Proactive. Those individuals who excel in building a life full of promise, hope, and effectiveness are those who see life as a lesson – with our experiences as our teachers. To not repeat history, one must learn from it. Good and bad are our instructors. But to focus on the bad will only weaken one’s mind and reduce one’s power. The challenge is to be an observer and not a victim.
Remember Dr. Covey’s “space between the stimulus and response”? That is the space that allows for Dr. Frankl’s freedom to choose. At times, our limbic system kicks in before our prefrontal cortex has the opportunity to exercise its rational response. As you well know, when that happens, our response becomes less effective than it could be. But if we train ourselves, if we practice using that thoughtful muscle, is this not the essence of emotional intelligence? As we learn about ourselves, learn to manage ourselves, and subsequently learn about others and how to manage our relationships, aren’t we successful when we take the role of an observer? A victim is a target – whereas an observer is one who takes control of the outcome.
The November 2013 Harvard Business Review “Emotional Agility” article written by Susan David and Christina Congleton lists steps as to how one can separate self from negative thoughts and patterns. One of the suggestions is to “act on your values”.
“When you unhook yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you expand your choices. You can decide to act in a way that aligns with your values.”
What is the leadership lesson I take from this experience?
“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.”
– Nelson Mandela
Look at Apartheid. Look at the Holocaust. Look at all of the other examples of segregation, ethnic cleansing and genocide. Those that led, and lead, these outrages exhibit a total lack of emotional intelligence. For once, may we step outside of ourselves and realize that this is a collaborative world?
Don’t think it is out of your hands. For it is not. We each serve as role models and have the opportunity to inspire others to do as we do. No blame. No pity. No hate.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela
I gladly offer my utmost admiration to Mr. Schaffers and Mr. Madolo, along with Mr. Mandela and the many others who suffered the same fates yet responded with dignity and grace. Thank you for this very humbling experience.
I am always looking for tools that will help increase one’s self-awareness. Through the years I have worked with a variety of diagnostics – both self-report and multi-rater. Many of these I use today as part of my leadership coaching practice. One of my favorites – used for hiring, developmental, and leadership insight – is the Simmons Personal Survey.
What does it measure?
The Simmons Survey provides incredible insight into the respondent’s approach to change, risk-taking, customer service, and team building. Specifically, the assessment reports the respondent’s placement on a 0-10 scale with regard to 13 different characteristics related to emotional intelligence.
As in many assessments of this sort, there is no right or wrong. The power of the Simmons is that it adds to your self-awareness and gives you insight as to where you reside on each of these scales. Regardless of placement, one can adapt his/her behavior to exhibit more or less of the characteristic.
What are the uses?
The tool is a multi-purpose tool.
Hiring and Job Fit
My first introduction to the Simmons Personal Survey in 2002 focused on the incorporation of this tool into the hiring process. What great insight we gained – allowing hiring managers to have one more piece of data about their final candidates. The candidates’ data, in part, answered the question: is there a fit between the candidate’s characteristics and the requirements of the job?
It quickly became clear to us that this tool was also useful for internal development. Is there a characteristic or two that is getting in the way of a team member’s ability to build relationships? This diagnostic directed us toward the specific developmental need.
And then finally, as we looked to the future and building leaders for “tomorrow”, the survey told us who had a head start on becoming the “emotionally intelligent leader”? Through the survey data, we were able to identify who leads, who follows, and who commands. We had a clearer view of those with leadership potential.
What does an emotionally intelligent leader look like on the Simmons Survey?
First of all – the emotionally intelligent leader has plenty of emotional energy. My Simmons Personal Survey mentor, Wes Crane, compares the energy scale to a car engine – 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder, or that high-powered V-8. Energy provides one with the capacity to accomplish leadership tasks. So the more energy (the more powerful engine) one has, the easier he/she is able to concentrate on the specific leadership tasks at hand.
Another indicator is optimism. In a past Leadership Elements blog post, I pointed to the importance of “The Power of Positive”. A realistic sense of optimism is key. Not a rose-colored glasses view – but a positive outlook – a real sense of hope.
Emotionally intelligent leaders are risk takers (courage) and change agents. They are team builders and collaborative decision makers (direction). (But – don’t ever think that an emotionally intelligent leader cannot make a unilateral decision in the face of crisis. However, the preferred method is collaborative problem solving.)
Emotionally intelligent leaders are “just right” in the areas of tolerance and assertiveness. Not too pushy – and not a pushover. These leaders seem to have a sense of when to assert – and, in fact, do so in ways that attract followers as opposed to repel them.
Does the Simmons Survey tell me if I am emotionally intelligent?
I believe one of the complexities surrounding emotional intelligence is the “have it or don’t have it” dichotomy. Emotional intelligence is not an on-off proposition. It is a matter of degrees. And, it is a matter of whether one wishes to exercise this intelligence.
The number one tenet of emotional intelligence is self-awareness. So – as long as you know where you measure, you can self-manage these behaviors to reflect an emotionally intelligent person.
Want to try out the Simmons Personal Survey? Want to discuss how this tool may be used in your organization? Contact me and we can get started.
Which is it … “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty”? Do you say “Yes” more than “No”? Talk of “opportunities” as opposed to “challenges”? If so, then you may be exercising a very important leadership trait … optimism. (Or as I like to call it, the “power of positive.”)
Research has shown that optimism plays a key role in effective leadership.
How often are we faced with this scenario?
You are a dedicated employee of Company X. You arrive at the office on Monday morning to a company-wide meeting. The President stands in front of you and your colleagues and says, “We are doomed.” He goes on to talk about the soft market and the down economy and the company’s technological inferiority, etc., etc., etc.
How do you feel? My guess is that you are probably not saying, “Hold on … I can’t wait to get to my desk and conquer the world!!!!” My guess is that you are saying, “Hold on … I can’t wait to get to my desk and work on my resume!!!”
Leaders – what type of environment are you creating? One that spells pessimistic doom and gloom? One that unrealistically looks at everything through rose-colored glasses? Or – one that communicates hope, positivity, and “will do” attitudes? Realistic optimism is key. Let’s see the world as half-full – for every challenge is an opportunity.
Adele Lynn, in The EQ Difference, writes that overcoming obstacles and maintaining optimism is essential to emotional intelligence. The leadership voice of influence is one of optimism. Stephen R. Covey, in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, says that we all should “see every problem as an opportunity to exercise creative energy.” Wouldn’t you rather be on a team that is focused on looking at problems differently … being creative … experiencing success – together?
Good news! Optimism can be developed.
1. Use positive words.
Listen to yourself. Do you use negative words? No – not – never – nothing – none … or derivatives thereof?
Several years ago I had the honor of working with Dr. Vincent Covello, Director of the Center for Risk Communication. We were working with government personnel on the nuances associated with high-concern/low-trust communication. Dr. Covello always emphasized his Negative Dominance (1N=3P) rule – for every one negative spoken, one must counter with three positives. In times of stress, our minds are so attuned to finding the negative. Without an overabundance of positives, we dwell on the “worst-case scenario” and totally ignore the positive.
So – challenge your vocabulary. Corral your self-talk. Say “can” instead of “can’t”. Say “will” instead of “won’t”. Say “I choose to …” instead of “I have to …”. Reframe your thoughts and reframe your self-talk. Think positive. Face it … optimism is a mindset.
2. Suspend judgment.
Anthony Tjan, a Harvard Business Review blogger, wrote July 2011 piece titled “Learning Optimism with the 24×3 Rule”. Tjan suggests that we practice a “willing suspension of disbelief” upon the introduction of a new idea, a new person, or a new “anything”.
When you hear an idea for the first time or you meet someone new, suspend your judgment for 24 seconds. Don’t even think anything negative – for 24 seconds. Then work to increase that “willing suspension of disbelief” or judgment to 24 minutes. Once you have trained yourself to withhold judgment for 24 minutes – work to make it 24 hours.
That break-in time permits your rational brain to take over and allows you to give careful consideration to the idea or the person. The break-in time provides you with the space to think positively (remember your self talk above) about how the idea might work or how the person you are meeting might add value to the project or team or relationship.
This can be done. It just takes practice. It takes awareness. It takes mid-course correction. For yes, we are humans … and we will make slips. However, each slip-reversal brings us much closer to our optimistic ideal.
3. Act as if …
“Act as if you can’t …” and guess what – you can’t. However, “act as if you can …”, then the world opens up. Act as if you are happy … you will smile. Act as if you have confidence … you will stand straighter. Act as if you can … and you will. Adele Lynn describes the “Act As If …” technique in The EQ Difference. Once again – we are testing our mindset.
My exercise passion is spinning – an hour-long cycling activity on a stationary bike in a dark room with great music and great friends. As I first began doing this in the fall of 2010, I would think, “Oh, I can’t do this today” or “Oh, I can’t continue through this song.” One morning – about two months in – a fellow spinner said to me, “You can do anything for 30 seconds.” And you know what – she was (and still is) right. So I act as if I am a sprinter or a hill-climber or a jumper. I act as if I can ride that bike like a true competitive cyclist … and I do … for 30 seconds – and then another 30 seconds beyond that – and another 30 seconds beyond that. Soon – the hour has flown by … and my optimism over that accomplishment boosts my day.
Lynn writes, “If you find yourself in a pattern of thinking that is destructive, the most significant way to change that pattern is to begin acting differently, even before you believe or feel like acting different. Thought will then follow your behavior.”
The best news yet … optimism is a life extender.
If none of this piece has resonated with you to this point … think of this. Research has shown that those with an optimistic outlook tend to outlive pessimists. Optimists are more adaptable, more resilient, have less stress, and better morale. In short … optimists live longer.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
Read More About It
- Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Fireside. 1989.
- Lynn, Adele. The EQ Difference: A Powerful Plan for Putting Emotional Intelligence to Work. New York, NY: AMACOM. 2005.
- McGinnis, Alan Loy. The Power of Optimism. New York, NY. Harper Collins. 1990.
“Too many leaders think they are adept at everything. Self-aware leaders know that they can’t possibly have the skills and knowledge to do it all. Instead, they are dynamic, adaptable, and emotionally intelligent.”
– Excerpted from HBR Management Tip “Be a Better Leader by Building Your Self-Awareness”, April 22, 2010
Have you ever given yourself the gift of self-reflection? Have you ever asked others to grant you the gift of feedback (both positive and negative, mind you)? And for those of you on the “feedback giving” end, have you ever realized that you are giving a gift … and as such, this gift should be as thoughtful and individual as an item you would purchase in a store?
Merriam-Webster defines self awareness as an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality. This awareness includes one’s traits, feelings, and behaviors. But I would add one more piece to this definition … and that is the awareness of the impact of one’s behaviors on others. Our singular internal view is only one piece of the puzzle.
A firm sense of self allows you to course-correct when needed. A firm sense of self allows you to prepare for and manage your responses. With self awareness comes the responsibility to actively manage oneself. (And then, as Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence theory would tell us, become socially aware and manage external relationships.) So being self aware is not enough. Once you know, it is your responsibility to do something about it. Self awareness is a critical piece of leadership and of followership.
When I think of self awareness and our potential difficulty to acknowledge or accept who/what we are, I think of the “aha” moments that come from discussing two habits in the FranklinCovey 7 Habits of Highly Effective People workshops that I facilitate.
- First is Habit 1 – Be Proactive. The basic premise of this habit is that we all have a choice … at each and every moment … of how we will respond to any given situation. We are not a victim of our circumstances … we are a product of our choices. So one piece of self reflection is looking at those choices … and learning from them (as opposed to obsessing over the wisdom or lack thereof with regard to each choice) … and then orchestrating the repeat of the positive choices and the elimination of the negative, relationship-destroying choices.
- Then moving on to Covey’s Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind. This habit focuses on purpose and mission. The activity to uncover one’s true purpose is quite eye opening with regard to self awareness. The individual who chooses to truly reflect and not believe his/her (or others) own hype will produce a pathway formulated from true strengths and passions.
I often use the Simmons Management Systems’ Simmons Personal Survey to help individuals become self aware. As a tool to measure Emotional Intelligence, the survey report identifies one’s placement on 13 different scales. In addition, the survey compares the respondent’s view of self with the self-perception of how others view him/her. The importance of the survey results is found not in identifying the perfect level of emotional intelligence … but rather in peeling away all of our “excuses”, showing ourselves our behavioral tendencies, and then allowing us to come to terms with how we will manage these tendencies in the future. Self-management: THAT is the starting point of emotional intelligence.
Your reputation replaces your business card.
Does knowing yourself today foretell your future? When was the last time you asked about your reputation?
Robert Hogan, President of Hogan Assessment Systems, states that your present and past behavior is replicated in the future. So, the behaviors and actions one sees today serve as witness to the behaviors and actions of tomorrow. He talks about identity versus reputation: identity related to who you believe you are – and reputation related to who others say you are.
Hogan really has it right when he talks of identity and reputation. One without the other gives us an unbalanced view of ourselves. Who you are – and who others think you are – are both equal partners in establishing our sense of self. (Please note – I did not say sense of worth. Don’t let one half overtake the other … for that will bring about a warped sense of self.)
Daniel Gallagher and Joseph Costal just published a book titled The Self-Aware Leader: A Proven Model for Reinventing Yourself. In the book, the authors propose the concept of Profitable Imagination as the process of thinking differently – pushing from ordinary to extraordinary. One way to increase your profitable imagination is to be clear on your current value (as exemplified by the role you play on any certain project – leader, manager, facilitator, or producer) and then determine if this is the role that you want to play. Gallagher and Costal suggest that this awareness of role opens the door to self-reflection of one’s internal comfort scale. Is this what you want your value to be? If not, it is up to you to change it.
Ask, listen, reflect, and morph.
Warren Bennis, in his On Becoming a Leader chapter titled “Knowing Yourself”, frames self awareness by stating, “People begin to become leaders at that moment when they decide for themselves how to be.”
And how do you get to that point? Bennis summarizes the process with four lessons.
- You are your own best teacher.
- Accept responsibility. Blame no one.
- You can learn anything you want to learn.
- True understanding comes from reflecting on your experience.
So – do you practice these lessons? Do you have a clear picture of you – as a person? Do you know your strengths? Areas for improvement? Triggers?
To all leaders – your charge: ask, listen, reflect, and morph. This is the process of self awareness and reinvention. Go ahead – practice today!
“Knowledge of the self is the mother of all knowledge. So it is incumbent on me to know my self, to know it completely, to know its minutiae, its characteristics, its subtleties, and its very atoms.”
Read More About It:
- Bennis, Warren. On Becoming a Leader: The Leadership Classic. Philadelphia, PA: Basic Books. 2009.
- Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New, York, NY: Fireside. 1989.
- Gallagher, Daniel P. and Joseph Costal. The Self-Aware Leader: A Proven Model for Reinventing Yourself. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. 2012.
- Goleman, Daniel, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing. 2002.