Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Identify Your Destructive FeelingsPosted on August 18, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Every leader’s brain is skilled at creating compelling feelings and in convincing the leader that those feelings are normal, justified, and the result of external circumstances. Most leaders take their feelings and these assumptions for granted and then do what they feel like doing without pausing to consider their feelings may be leading them astray.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Identifying your destructive feelings, while reminding yourself that only your brain can create them, is the place you want to start on your journey to becoming a more emotionally intelligent leader. You should start here because your destructive feelings, particularly unpleasant ones, are easy to recognize. When you begin pulling at the string of your feelings, you will eventually get to the beliefs that triggered them and the behaviors those feelings urged.

How can you do it?

  1. When you realize you are emotionally aroused, write your feelings down immediately. If you put it off, you will tend to forget how you felt. Other feelings generated by your brain will take their place, and your opportunity to learn from them may be permanently lost.
  2. Don’t judge your feelings. Just write them down. This is sometimes challenging since you may feel embarrassed or ashamed about how you felt. Write those feelings down too.
  3. Use technology. Dictate a voice memo or type a few words into OneNote on your smart phone. This will allow you to return to these feelings from any device in front of you. Pen and paper will work, but they are more time consuming and harder to retain and organize.
  4. Review a Leadership Case Study (LCS). Here are some examples of the destructive feelings I experienced and recorded in the “Stuck in a Rut” Leadership Case Study (LCS) I introduced earlier in this blog series. I felt embarrassed when I realized I was still in the same old passive learning rut. I felt remorseful that I had subjected my colleagues to such inept conference speakers. I felt ashamed that I had invested organizational resources for so little return on investment. I felt disappointed after having expended so much time and energy in business travel. I felt disgusted that, with all my years of experience, I had evidently learned so little. I felt guilty that I had not thought this decision through better.

How have you captured your destructive feelings?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Embrace the Cognitive Behavioral Leadership ModelPosted on August 11, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

The Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL) model goes against the grain. This model demands humility, reflection and self-discipline. It does not permit leaders to throw temper tantrums and blame others. CBL requires a level of emotional intelligence that many leaders have not mastered. And with so many immature and angry leaders rising to exalted positions of authority where they abuse their power by bullying others, mindless leaders naturally conclude that this is the way leaders are supposed to behave.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

A mountain of evidence now supports the conclusion that people are more engaged and productive when they work in the positive and respectful environments created by servant leaders. And servant leaders always embrace the principles of CBL whether they realize it or not. Emotionally intelligent leaders instinctively realize that an emotionally chaotic workplace undermines teamwork and stifles innovation.

How can you do it?

  1. Understand the model. The CBL model is both simple and complex. It is as simple as adding items to your grocery list and checking them off. It is as complex as the human brain. And the human brain is the most complex thing we know of in the universe. CBL only requires leaders to ask and answer a few questions. The questions are simple. Finding the answers and changing what you believe and how you behave is a lot harder. Here are the questions that are the foundation of the CBL model:
  2. What happened? Take a few minutes to write down what occurred. Stick to the facts and keep your emotions and editorial comments out of it.
  3. How did I feel? Your feelings are easy to recognize if you reflect on the situation promptly and if you are willing to accept your feelings nonjudgmentally.
  4. What did I do? Your strong feelings compelled you to behave in certain ways. If you reacted impulsively based on your emotions, you may have made some leadership mistakes. You almost certainly didn’t behave as well as you might have had you waited until you calmed down.
  5. What beliefs caused me to feel and behave this way? Answering this question is much harder. This is because our beliefs are mostly unconscious. Based on our experience and training, our brains naturally adopt a variety of beliefs and then use them to create our feelings, which then compel us to behave in predictable ways. Most leaders figure out what they believe by asking themselves what they must have believed to have felt and behaved the way they did. When they identify their underlying beliefs, leaders quickly realize their beliefs are often misguided, mistaken, destructive and just plain wrong. This powerful insight is the engine that drives change, strengthens emotional maturity, and ultimately, fosters leadership growth.
  6. What might I have done differently? With the aid of dispassionate hindsight, you will usually conclude that there are some things you would have done differently.
  7. What beliefs do I need to modify to change how I will feel and behave in the future? This is where the emotionally intelligent leader strikes gold. When you realize you can choose what to believe and that you can reprogram your brain with these more accurate beliefs, it is a life-changing moment. Every leader who achieves this will wonder why it took so long to figure this out. And that leader will wonder why every leader in the world wouldn’t want to embrace this powerful CBL model.
  8. When I change what I believe and how I behave, how will I feel? Your feelings will be the last thing to change, but this will be a welcome change when it occurs. You will feel less stressed and frustrated. You will enjoy your work and your life more. And you will decrease your risk of professional burnout.

How have you used CBL principles to enhance your leadership effectiveness?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Accept That You Are the ProblemPosted on August 4, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

The brain works overtime to convince its human that she is a lot better than she really is. Leaders are easily seduced by their brains’ efforts to convince them that they are special. After all, doesn’t being selected as a leader mean that the leader is better than everyone else?

What is the case for doing it anyway?

No. Based on our traits and behaviors, we leaders are distributed on a bell curve just like everyone else. A few of us are exceptional, and a few of us are truly awful. Most of us are more-or-less average. But this is not a cause for alarm. A group of average people working together as an effective team can achieve great outcomes. But you will never achieve greatness as a leader by blaming others when things go wrong.

How can you do it?

  1. Change what you believe. The best leaders realize it is not their circumstances, but their reactions to them that determines whether a leader succeeds or fails.
  2. Take responsibility for how you feel. Contrary to the common claim, other people can’t make you feel one way or another. Only your brain can do that.
  3. Take the blame. The leader is always to blame. When others don’t behave as they should, it’s because the leader didn’t select the right people for the team, didn’t clarify his expectations, or didn’t hold people accountable for meeting those expectations. Then too, if you don’t accept responsibility for the problem, you can’t solve it. So, it’s always the leader’s fault.

How have you solved a leadership problem by taking responsibility for it?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Describe Exactly What HappenedPosted on July 28, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Well, what happened is usually embarrassing. Leaders don’t enjoy feeling embarrassed and sharing their mortification publicly. And truth be told, speaking openly about one’s leadership mistakes would be a career-limiting error in many organizational leadership cultures. If the executives in a company have deluded themselves that they don’t make mistakes, no one else had better make any either. Everyone knows this is nonsense but, sadly, nonsense often rules at the office.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Write down a simple description of what happened. Stick to the facts. Save how you felt, what you thought and how you behaved for later. It’s important to get this part of the Leadership Case Study (LCS) right. Share your version with the other participants in the event to make sure that you have not already begun “spinning” reality to diminish your discomfort and your responsibility for what happened. Brains are very good at doing that.

How can you do it?

  1. Relate the facts of the case in as few words as possible. Those who are hoping to learn from your experience want to know what happened, but they don’t have time to read or listen to a transcript.
  2. Review a Leadership Case Study (LCS). Here is an example of how I described what happened in the LCS, “Stuck in a Rut,” which I will use as an example throughout this blog series. I worked with two colleagues to arrange for five members of the SOMC Leadership Coaching Group to attend a two-day workshop on leadership strengths in New York. This was the best conference we could find, and it appeared to support our desired outcome to understand ourselves and our fellow leaders better. As the workshop got underway, my misgivings grew. The first speaker was an unpleasant fellow whom I suspected would rub my colleagues the wrong way. Moreover, the sessions were too basic; this delayed our efforts to find a way to integrate more robust leadership development into the SOMC culture. When I checked with my colleagues at lunch, they confirmed my suspicions that I had made a serious leadership mistake. We decided to suffer through the afternoon before deciding about whether to attend the second day. At the end of the first day, the decision was unanimous. We would leave the conference and find a place to work on this material in a more productive way in our hotel. We succeeded to a remarkable degree. While everyone who had attended previous similar conferences agreed that this was the most challenging and exhausting business trip they had ever taken, it was also the most productive. Afterward, we concluded we had worked together to transform my leadership failure into a powerful learning opportunity.

How have you written and benefited from presenting an LCS?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Describe the Ideal Leadership SolutionPosted on July 21, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

Sometimes, leaders can’t figure out what the solution is. More often, they know exactly what the solution is, but they are reluctant to face it. They realize that the solution to every leader’s problem usually involves the leader doing something the leader doesn’t feel like doing. And leaders’ brains are programmed the way every other human’s brain is programmed. We really don’t want to do what we don’t feel like doing.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The sooner you identify the solution, face up to what you need to do and then do it, the quicker you can learn from the problem and make the changes that will decrease the odds the same problem will recur in the future. Use your uncomfortable dread to motivate you to stretch and grow as a leader instead of cowering in fear that you will fail. So, what? That’s what leaders do.

How can you do it?

  1. State the obvious solution in the fewest words possible. If you are honest with yourself, the solution will usually be obvious. Your initial uncertainty is typically a result of your facing up to what you know you need to do.
  2. Ask for help. If you really don’t know the solution to your problem, ask one of your colleagues. You know from your own experience that you can see the solutions to others’ problems a lot easier than you can see your own.
  3. Review a Leadership Case Study (LCS). Here is how I stated the solution to the problem I described in the previous post: We will learn how to recognize we are in a rut, how to get out and stay out of them—then we will.

How have you described the solution to one of your leadership problems in a way that enabled you to begin solving it?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): Describe Your Leadership ProblemPosted on July 14, 2019

Why are leaders hesitant to do this?

When leaders are questioned directly, they will readily admit that they have problems every day. But they are not eager to discuss them. Many leaders, particularly new leaders, mistakenly believe they should be able to solve all their problems and, therefore, not have any. Most leaders are particularly hesitant to admit their mistakes and leadership failures. To make matters even worse, many leaders believe that even asking for help is a sign of weakness.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

The truth is, making mistakes is what leaders do best. The only way you can avoid making mistakes is to do nothing, and this is the worst kind of leadership failure. You cannot avoid problems, nor can you solve all of them. But you can learn from them. Your first step in learning from a problem is to define it clearly.

How can you do it?

  1. Describe the problem in one simple sentence. Forcing yourself to use the fewest words possible will help you focus on essential elements of the problem instead of veering into unhelpful speculation and explanation.
  2. Consult detached colleagues. When you are upset, you usually cannot see the problem as clearly as those who are emotionally detached. Such colleagues can help you figure out the real problem. What you believe is the problem when you are overwrought often turns out not to be the real problem at all.
  3. Here is the way I described one of my recurring leadership problems. We naturally fall into wasteful ruts in our lives and work, and we are inclined to mindlessly plod along in them. I will work through this SOMC Leadership Case Study (LCS) in the following series of blog posts to demonstrate how leaders can use the Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL) model to lead more effectively and decrease the stress in their professional lives.

How have you described a leadership problem in a way that helped you solve it?


Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL): An IntroductionPosted on July 7, 2019

Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA

This blog series introduces a new, practical perspective on leadership, the Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) Cognitive Behavioral Leadership (CBL) model. Developed and implemented in the real world of a community hospital in a challenging rural environment, this model is based on the emerging research from cognitive science laboratories around the world, behavioral economics, and the evidence-based cognitive therapies, which have proven so effective in enabling people with all sorts of unpleasant feelings, disruptive behaviors, and mistaken beliefs to change the way they think, behave and, consequently, the way they feel. While most leaders do not suffer from mental disorders and this model does not aim to provide “leader therapy,” most sophisticated leaders will immediately recognize the utility of using the research findings that support this model to lead others more effectively and to reduce the stress in their professional and personal lives.

In the blog posts that follow, I will provide a basic overview of the CBL model that we have designed and implemented at SOMC, and demonstrate its effectiveness in enabling thoughtful leaders to deal more effectively with those daily challenges that leave so many of them feeling anxious, depressed and burned out. Including this model in your leadership toolbox and using it to manage your feelings and behaviors better will make a big difference in your professional life. Most leaders who have put it to use report that their personal lives improve, too.

While the SOMC CBL model offers a helpful perspective and some effective mental strategies based on how the human brain works, applying this model is not easy. It demands a high level of emotional intelligence, considerable willpower and the self-discipline to do what needs to be done despite how you feel. Bullies, the emotionally immature, and those who are chronically angry and proud of it will reject this model out of hand. Those who persist in blaming others for how they feel and behave will come up with all kinds of reasons why “this won’t work for me.” When you hear leaders use that hackneyed phrase, what they really mean is, “I am not willing to do what it will take to make this work.” But the best leaders will see the value of this model right away and start changing what they believe, how they behave, and how they feel. As a result, they will become more effective leaders.


Effective Communication: Summary of Effective StrategiesPosted on June 30, 2019

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CMPE

What are some effective communication strategies?

  • Clarify your communication expectations. Clarifying what you and your team expect with communication is the foundation of effective communication.  You cannot meet expectations until you know what they are.
  • Communicate through documentation. Documenting critical conversations is an excellent way to recap important information and to confirm in writing mutual understanding.
  • Follow up and close the loop. Our teams wants us to respond when they have questions or concerns. When your team brings you an issue, be sure to follow up with them and provide closure of the issue.
  • Communicate by listening. Effective communication requires careful listening.  If we don’t listen to our teams, we will miss things or make assumptions, and our response will not be as effective.
  • Clarify your intent. Clarifying the intent of our communication helps to set the tone of what to expect from us and our team’s role.
  • Be aware of nonverbal communication. Nonverbals communicate a message, so be aware of yours and be cognizant of others’ nonverbal cues.
  • Be transparent with your communication. Don’t hold back if possible. Providing your team with straightforward feedback and clear communication about what’s happening helps to build trust.
  • Send regular updates. You can’t always reach everyone on your team on a regular basis. Regular and consistent updates help to provide information to the team and keep them informed.
  • Manage conflict directly. Directly communicate through conflict and your team will be confident you will handle issues and keep them informed of progress.
  • Be persuasive. Share the why behind decisions and next steps.  Seek input and respond to it.  We all must persuade our teams to complete tasks and projects to achieve results for the organization.

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

We have discussed many reasons why leaders fail to focus on effective communication. We get busy, we communicate in our own way without considering how others may want to hear it, we make assumptions, we get tired, and that’s just a few of the reasons we don’t communicate as effectively as we should.  Communication struggles tend to be at the core of the majority of team dysfunction.  Failing to communicate effectively is a common issue and one in which we all fall short at times in our careers.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When we fail to communicate effectively, we risk our teams losing trust in us, we limit our ability to achieve organizational results, and we create extra work by failing to make our expectations and directions clear.  Communicating effectively also helps us to avoid confusion, frustration, and mishaps in the workplace. When our teams can count on us to communicate effectively, it builds trust and they are more likely to follow and support us in our pursuit of organizational results.

How can you do it?                       

  1. Take time to develop a plan. When you have a structured communication plan for your team, you are more likely to follow it.
  2. Execute your communication plan and strategies with consistency. Communicating consistently helps your team know they can count on you and helps to improve the output of your team.
  3. Re-evaluate and modify as needed. When one strategy stops working well, re-evaluate and try something new.  There are always different ways to communicate and to improve, so when one option fails, try, try again.

How do you plan to use these strategies to improve your communication to your team?


Effective Communication: Persuasive CommunicationPosted on June 23, 2019

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CMPE

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Many of us don’t even realize we are using persuasive communication.  We think if we tell someone to do something, they will just do it.  We may not think we need to be persuasive or should have to be persuasive with our teams.  But people are selling all of the time. When we begin to explain the why behind the task, the reasons, the purpose, the result we intend to achieve, we are engaging in persuasive communication.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

You cannot lead a team if the team will not follow you.  Building a cohesive team requires ethical persuasion.  If you want real buy in from your team, then you will need to share the compelling case behind the task, change, or process. In order to achieve results, you have to persuade your team that what you are suggesting is the process they should follow.  Achieving results is what actually makes you a leader and that requires honest and effective persuasive communication.

How can you do it?                          

  1. Build a compelling case. Include the facts, the why, the reasons behind the suggestion.  Make sure you are convinced before you attempt to convince others.
  2. Be honest if you are trying to persuade. Tell your team that you are attempting to convince them to follow a process.  Be up front about it. In order to engage in honorable persuasion, you should always inform the people you are trying to convince that you are selling in that moment.
  3. Answer questions and ask for additional input. After making your case, give your team time to ask questions and provide more information.  Since they are your key stakeholders and they are typically closely involved in the process, they may be able to provide information that will help you achieve even better results.

How do you engage in persuasive communication?


Effective Communication: Manage ConflictPosted on June 16, 2019

Kara Redoutey, MBA, CMPE & Kendall Stewart, MD

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Conflict happens all the time and most of us don’t enjoy it. Leaders avoid it like the plague. Conflict is uncomfortable. The most common strategy for dealing with conflict in the workplace is to ignore it if possible. If that is not possible, leaders use every excuse they can find to put off dealing with it. When they finally do handle the issue at hand, they usually make several errors and failing to clearly communicate during conflict management is one of those errors.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Communication is a key component of any conflict management process.  Clearly communicating your expectations, the plan or next steps, and seeking input from the team is a critical part of conflict resolution.  Utilize an effective conflict management process that works in your organizational culture. Create a checklist for yourself. When conflict occurs, follow that process. Do not wing it by just doing what feels right at the time. When managing conflict, you cannot trust your feelings. The key to managing conflict successfully is to do the right things in spite of how you feel. 

How can you do it?                        

  1. Communicate with the key stakeholders. Share what has happened right away.
  2. Ask for everyone to provide their statement or any critical information you and the team need to determine next steps. Seek the information you need from key stakeholders to ensure you can make the best decision at that time.
  3. Communicate with the key stakeholders. Once you have next steps or a decision, communicate the plan with the people it impacts.
  4. Document the plan and share it. Then hold the team accountable.

How do you use communication to help manage conflicts?


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