Time ManagementPosted on March 8, 2020

Justin Clark, MBA

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Leaders are generally high-performing employees. After all, how else did they become a leader? For this reason, many leaders might fail to see opportunities for improvement in their time management. Furthermore, many may have habits, routines, or processes that work against effective time management.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Benjamin Franklin famously said that lost time is never found again.

As leaders, we should all take time to pause and think about that. Time…the unit we use to mark our days, to measure our years; it is a finite thing.

We can’t make more of it.

We can’t slow it down.

We can’t work fast enough to stay ahead of it.

As leaders we are tasked with producing organizational results. We develop measures of success for everything. What is our measure of success for how we use our time? Do we narrowly view this through the lens of workplace productivity or do we broaden our perspective to include the success of an integrated work and personal life?

I am inviting you into a journey. For me, it’s a journey into an area where I struggle greatly. It is a journey to more effective use of my time; both professionally and personally. I hope you’ll see value in it and join me each week.

How can you do it?

Put time in perspective.
We build new buildings and bigger teams when the demand for service outpaces our ability to supply it. It’s how things work. When we need more of something, we figure out how to get it. Time is different than any other resource. We can’t make more of it. We have to protect what we have and allocate it strategically to be the best version of oursevles.

Count your time.
24 hours in a day.
168 hours in a week.
61,320 hours in a year.

While we all understand that there are standard measurements for time, most of us struggle to measure if we are allocating it successfully? Throughout this series, we will look at how to better allocate our time and see if those changes in behavior lead to measurable improvements in performance.

Be open minded.
I have already had my toes stepped on in researching this topic. I am sure that isn’t going to change as I work through this series. I want to encourage you to be open minded on this journey to better time management. Many of us have routines and habits that likely aren’t the best uses of our time. Perhaps it is a meeting that should be shorter (or shouldn’t happen at all), a task that should be delegated, or a habit that feeds unproductive habits.

Stay tuned and plugged into the conversation as we look at tips for how to prioritize our time and install habits that keep us on track. 


Courage: Practice ResiliencePosted on March 1, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

The sure-fire way to learn resilience is to fail often.  That sounds so fun, doesn’t it?  When we can maturely reframe failing, we realize that failing allows us to learn something so we can perform better the next time.  However, more often, leaders “armor up” with perfectionism, where failing is a weakness and one for which leaders should feel shame.   Fear of failure is a barrier to taking risks that could lead to trying new things or having tough conversations. 

What is the case for doing it anyway?

When my step-daughter was learning gymnastics skills, one of the first tactics she was taught was how to fall without getting seriously hurt.  The coach made it clear that she WOULD fall, and it would DEFINITELY hurt, but she shared the positions to place her body in during a fall that would have the least chance for injury. Because of Miranda’s training, she was able to continue to perform increasingly risky skills. At the same time, she knew how to take the hit without injury when the inevitable fall would occur.  This preparation for falling (failing) is something I have not done well enough for myself or other leaders I serve with throughout my career…but I must.  Rather than continually intervening or putting bubble wrap around ourselves or our team, we must actively coach each other through failing and the tips for dusting off and going “all in” for another round.

How can you do it? 

Open yourself to the “reckoning.” When something happens, emotion kicks in gear first.  Emotions engage before rational thought and behavior.  Practicing for resilience requires us to be more aware of our feelings.  We need to be more curious about what the emotions are, why we are experiencing them (what was the hook), how our body “feels” them, or reacts.  At SOMC, we teach leaders to write down our feelings when we realize their presence and use a simple question/answer format to document the experience.  This exercise helps us recognize emotions and their impact on behavior so that we can learn and prepare ourselves for future, similar situations.

Be mindful of your stories. In the absence of data, we will ALWAYS make up stories.  When we are struggling, it is the human brain’s default position to come up with a story that makes sense of what is happening.   This story gives our brain information on how best to self-protect.  Robert Burton explains that our brains reward us with dopamine when we recognize or complete patterns.  Our brains are wired to fill in the gaps of reality with our own stories for a dose of pleasure.  We must be aware of this natural tendency and clarify our stories with other dispassionate leaders before we continue to react.  When we have the courage to own our story, we get to practice resilience by re-writing the ending.  

Join the resilience revolution. The word revolution might sound a bit extreme, but I believe that we need a resilience revolution in our workplace…in our world today.  Choosing authenticity and worthiness is an act of resistance that can be both terrifying and gratifying at the same time.  I am committed to becoming more resilient and sharing what I learn with anyone else who is willing to learn with me.  I will mess up.  I will regress.  And…I will have successes as a result of learning from those failures. We have lots of challenges ahead of us in our organization. Still, I am confident that when we fall, with practice, we will have the courage to dust ourselves off and try again.

What practical strategies have you tried in your career to build resilience? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Braving TrustPosted on February 23, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Charles Feltman, in The Thin Book of Trust, defines trust as “choosing to risk something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.”  And he describes distrust as “what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).”  When you read those two definitions, it is easy to see why talking about trust is so difficult.  Most leaders want to believe that we are trustworthy, even though some of us struggle to trust others.   Those who struggle with trust, or don’t have the tools to talk about it directly with the other person involved, oven then turn to talk about people instead of to them.  When we are not specific and direct about our issues that concern trust, we risk wasting a great deal of time getting to resolution with our colleagues.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together.  According to research conducted by the Great Places to Work Institute, trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.  When leaders ignore trust issues, it is usually at the expense of the leader’s performance, AND the team’s and organization’s success.  Leaders can encourage the building of trust capital with the team through their consistent BRAVING behaviors (see below).  These specific behaviors, identified by research completed by Brene Brown, demonstrate a leader’s courage to extend and build trust within their team.

How can you do it? 

Respect BOUNDARIES.  Leaders demonstrating trust respect the boundaries of others.  When they are unsure whether or not something is ok or not, trustworthy leaders ask and clarify. 

Be RELIABLE. Trustworthy leaders do what they say they will do.  AT work, this means they are aware of their competencies and limitations so that they do not over-promise.  Leaders braving trust also work toward balancing their competing priorities so that they can deliver on their commitments.

Hold yourself ACCOUNTABLE. Leaders who lead with trust own their mistakes, apologize, and make amends.

VAULT.  Trustworthy leaders don’t share information or experiences that are not theirs to share.  These leaders clarify upfront if something cannot be kept confidential (i.e., effects the organization) so that ground rules are established.

Demonstrate INTEGRITY. Trustworthy leaders chose courage over comfort, and choose right over what is fun, fast or easy.  Integrity is choosing to practice values over merely professing them.

Practice NONJUDGMENT. Those who lead with trust create an environment in which each person can ask for and discuss what they need without the fear of judgment.

Share GENEROSITY. Trustworthy leaders extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intention, words, and actions of others.

In your experience, what additional leadership behaviors build a trust environment within the team? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Live Into Your ValuesPosted on February 16, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Values are principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life.  In other words, a value is a way of being or believing that we hold most important.  Most leaders rarely focus on values because they do not make the investment of time and hard work it takes to identify their values.   Awareness or identification is only the first step.  Leaders also often fail to live out their values in their daily lives because of either a lack of courage to stand behind their core principles or to demonstrate the behaviors that align with their values.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leaders with courage live into their values and are never silent about the hard things.  Courageous leaders are extraordinarily clear about their primary values and do more than profess them.  Courageous leaders live into their values by practicing them and making sure that their intentions, words, thoughts and behaviors align with their values.  Organizations need leaders to speak up and show up when things are tough.  When leaders are crystal clear about the values they hold, they are more willing to take actions that are uncomfortable or daring because of their beliefs and for what is right. 

How can you do it? 

Identify YOUR values. The first step to living into your values is to identify what is most important to you.  You can’t stay aligned with values if you haven’t spent any time getting curious about and naming what you care about most.  Sometimes it helps to see a list of sample values to get you started.  Keep working your list until you have narrowed down to the smallest amount possible – your core values.  These are the values you lean on when things are tough at home and work.  These are the few values that are the light that guides you out of the dark. 

Specify the behaviors that “live” each value. You can’t just profess your values, you must be intentional about what behaviors represent your values in action.  Take each value and define three or four behaviors that support the value and 3-4 “slippery behaviors.”  These behaviors are those you are tempted to do even if they are counter to each value. 

Share your values. Take the opportunity to share your core values with members of your team and support people in your life.  This openness extends trust to those closest to you and invites them to be there for you when you are living your values…and challenge you when you are not.  Post your values somewhere you can see them every day to remind you of what is important.  Regardless of how a “rumble” might turn out, give yourself some self-compassion when you stood up for your values.

How have you identified your values and how do you attempt to live into them in your daily life?  Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Lead with Grounded ConfidencePosted on February 9, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Effective leaders demonstrate both the willingness and courage to negotiate “the gray.”  This requires us to navigate the ambiguity of paradoxes and opposites we are faced with in almost every leadership decision: thinking long-term and short-term, having a big heart and making tough decisions, thinking big and starting small, optimism and realism.  When leaders lack the confidence or courage to lead in the gray, “all or nothing” thinking and decision making is easier and less risky.  This protective armor allows the leader to hide out and avoid the tough stuff that produces the most effective results.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

According to Brene Brown, grounded confidence is “the messy process of learning and unlearning, practicing and failing, and surviving misses.”  This type of confidence is not the posturing built on bologna.  Grounded confidence is authentic, built on self-awareness and PRACTICE.  In tough conversations, hard meetings, and emotionally charged decision making leaders need the grounded confidence to (1) stay true to their values, (2) respond rather than react emotionally, and (3) operate from self-awareness, not self-protection when navigating the discomfort of “gray.”

How can you do it? 

Build confident “rumble” skills. As much as we hate to admit it, easy learning doesn’t build strong skills.  The athlete or musician puts in hours of practice on the basics before even attempting to perform.  Building confidence in managing the gray takes learning that is effortful and uncomfortable enough to hurt our brain for a while.  We have to “feel the burn” and practice so much that our brains have “muscle memory” to enter and manage the tough situation on auto-pilot.

Remain curious. Curiosity, the desire to know and learn, frees our brains from predefined outcomes or confines.  Leaders may not have the courage to engage in tough conversations because they cannot control the path or the outcome.  Reframing with curiosity gives the leader confidence to ask questions to learn more when entering a tough conversation.  Rumble starters such as “I’m curious about,” “Help me understand,” “I’m wondering about,” “Tell me why this doesn’t work for you,” are useful curiosity primers to build confidence in engaging others in a tough interaction.

Practice.  Practice.  Practice. Confidence, especially in vulnerable situations, can only be built through repetitive practice.  Engage in opportunities, like Leadership Rounds, to put yourself out there.  Practice sharing a mistake or tough situation you managed and be open to the feedback of your colleagues.  Roll play with a peer a difficult conversation and discuss options for managing the flow of the interaction.  Act.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Building grounded confidence is a process of trial and error.

What strategies have you used in your leadership career to build confidence? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Empathy – The Shame AntidotePosted on February 2, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Empathy is the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.  Empathy requires the individual sharing it to connect and be “present” without judgment.  The openness and vulnerability empathy needs for effectiveness can be uncomfortable or awkward for some leaders.  It is much easier to slip into sympathy, giving advice or judgment disguised as concern, than to “be there” where others need us.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Empathy is one of the critical elements of cultures that are built on connection and trust.  If we strive for the kind of workplace that takes risks and fails graciously, then practicing empathy skills in leadership is essential.  It is easy to withdraw from empathy by hiding behind the belief that it’s impossible to empathize with someone who is going through something we have never experienced.  Empathy is not about connecting with the experience, rather the emotions underneath the experience.  Where I struggle is resisting the urge to try and fix things for the other, because I want the hurt to go away and for the situation to be better.  But empathy is NOT jumping into the hole with someone who is struggling and taking on their problems to fix.  There would be two people in the hole then! HA!  Below are some behaviors we can practice as leaders to improve our empathy skills.

How can you do it? 

Practice “perspective-taking.” One of the mistakes we make with empathy is that we believe we can take our lenses off and look through the lenses of someone else.  Nope.  Those lenses are stuck as they part of who we are.  What we can practice is honoring people’s perspectives as truth, even when they are different than ours.  Perspective-taking requires us to be open to learning and willing to meet people where they are, not where we believe they should be.

Practice being nonjudgmental. This behavior is tough to do, as most of us (if we are honest) enjoy judging at some level.  According to Brene Brown, there are two ways to predict when we are going to judge: (1) we judge in areas where we are most susceptible to shame, and (2) we judge people who are doing worse than we are in those areas. We must be more aware of where we are most vulnerable to shame and focus energy on working on our confidence in those areas.  Grounded confidence allows us to let go of judgment.

Practice understanding and communicating an understanding of the other’s feelings. Understanding other’s emotions cannot happen effectively if we are not comfortable with our feelings. Practice writing down the feelings we experience in tough situations (we do this in Leadership Case Studies at SOMC).  The more we can identify our feelings, the easier it may be to recognize them in others.  Communicating understanding can be tough because we may get it wrong.  Start with the phrase “what I hear you saying is…” and be willing to stay curious with the individual until you get it right.

What are other practice steps you have taken to improve your empathy skills? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Practice Shame ResiliencePosted on January 26, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

(1/26/20)

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Over the past three weeks, this blog has been exploring the types of emotional armor we wear in leadership to protect ourselves.  The big kahuna that most armor is donned for is shame.  Shame is an intense feeling derived from the belief that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy.  Nothing threatens our ego like the potential of feeling shame, or the “never good enough” emotion.  And even though we all experience it (unless you are a sociopath, Ha!), most leaders are afraid to talk about it.  The more we avoid owning and talking about shame, the more control it has over our lives and our leadership behavior. 

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Since avoiding this primitive emotion is virtually impossible, effective leaders should practice shame resilience.  Shame resilience is the ability to (1) be authentic when we experience shame, (2) move through that experience without sacrificing our values, and (3) end the experience with more courage and connection to others than when we started.   In other words, increasing our awareness and practicing empathy are the only real antidotes to shame.   

How can you do it? 

Recognize shame and understand its triggers. Shame is often hidden in the framework of an organization.  The behavioral cues of shame show up at work in various forms: perfectionism, gossip, blaming, teasing, comparison, and back-channeling.   When shame is at work in a culture, you may see team members (or yourself) (1) “moving away” or withdrawing, self-silencing, (2) “moving toward” or seeking to appease and please, (3) “moving against” or trying to gain power over others.   These are all self-protection or armored behaviors.  Be aware of these symptoms and challenge yourself to remember that you are not alone and push to see the whole picture of what is happening.

Practice self-compassion. When you sense a “shame trigger,” go easy on yourself.  When you model self-compassion, it shows those you lead that you are quick to forgive and slow to blame.  This shame resilience practice will model a healthy way to manage this emotion and encourage the thickening of our skin.

Give those you serve a way out with dignity. This is a practice that not only works when shame is at play in a situation, but it is a guiding principle I aim for whenever possible.  As described above, shame in the workplace does not bring out the best in any of us.  When there is misbehavior, rather than dishing out more “shame,” I try to remember the human behind the behavior.  If there is a way to allow the team member to get out of a tough situation with dignity (a corrective conversation, termination, etc.), my goal is to try that first.  I am not always perfect with this shame resilience technique, but when I can facilitate this, the outcome is almost always a win-win for all involved.

What other “shame resilience” techniques have you used with success in your leadership experience? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Ditch the Armor (Part III)Posted on January 19, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

As we have discussed over the past few weeks, protective leadership armor can take many forms and can impact teams in different ways.  The last grouping of armor we have not yet explored are those that fall into the category of “control.”  I hear this word often from leaders, whether it be a desire to control an outcome or control the people with whom they work.  The insecurity created by being accountable drives this armor of control behaviors.   

What is the case for doing it anyway?

Leadership control behaviors can negatively impact a team, preventing the team from speaking up and having the confidence to lead from where they are.  Control armor can take the form of behaviors that demonstrate “power over” others.  This behavior does not inspire our team to work with us for a solution.  Instead, it reinforces a negative hierarchy that there is a powerful and powerless.  When leaders are not self-aware enough about the strengths they bring to a team, they may lead by jumping into roles to try to prove their worth.  This could help dissolution members of a high-performance team.  The lowest form of control behavior is leading with fear and uncertainty.  Leaders use this control tactic lord scarcity and uncertainty over their team so that they can be the ones to deliver easy answers and a common enemy to blame.

How can you do it? 

Re-frame power to “power with” versus “power over.” Martin Luther King defined power as the ability to achieve a purpose and effect change.   How leaders use power is what makes it good or bad.  Re-frame your thoughts about power to “power with” versus “power over.”.  Power “with” is leading to build collective strength and multiply individuals’ talents. 

Know the value your leadership brings the team. Get clear on your strengths and the strengths that each member brings to the team.  This clarity allows for each member of the team to know who is best at what and to trust the delegation of work for the good of the team.  Once everyone understands their value, no one needs to hustle for their worth at the expense of the team.

Acknowledge and normalize fear and uncertainty. Rather than using fear to control, it is the ethical thing to do in an uncertain situation to acknowledge fear within our team.   During times of discomfort, effective leaders commit to telling the truth and keeping the team informed whenever new information is available and is accessible to answer questions.

What strategies have you used with success that helped you positively re-frame “control” in your leadership role? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Ditch the Armor (Part II)Posted on January 12, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Other forms of armor in leadership that are not as obvious, but could have adverse effects on a team’s high performance, are the self-protection behaviors of being “right,” cynicism/sarcasm, and criticism.  These protection behaviors are challenging to let go of because they provide a false sense of self-esteem – “I am right, “I am witty,” and “I can pick apart obvious problems.”  If you have been rewarded in the past for being the person who always knows the answers or has the best comebacks, then these protection behaviors can become the “go-to” when under stress or when being challenged.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

A high-performance team will not have the confidence to learn or speak up with new ideas if the leader of that team regularly deploys this type of protective armor.  Having always to be the “knower” or the “right” one is defensive and posturing.  This type of armored leadership can stifle the flow of new ideas on a team.    The armored leadership of cynicism (or its relative, sarcasm) can often leave behind hurt, confusion and resentment among teams if misunderstood or unchecked.  Criticism often arises from feelings of fear and unworthiness.  This behavior is identified as leadership armor because it shifts the spotlight off of the leader and onto someone or something else, allowing the leader’s brain to feel safe and “better than.” 

How can you do it? 

Aim to “get it right” versus “be right.” Actively practice curiosity.  Stephen Covey’s 5th habit of effectiveness is to “seek first to understand before seeking to be understood.”  Rather than leading with the desire to answer everything for your team, lead with questions.  The more input we can encourage when facing an issue, the better our chances are at a practical solution and an engaged team.  

Model clarity and kindness. It is hard to admit that sarcasm and cynicism are a form of armor that I use.  When I learned that the word sarcasm is from the Greek word sarkazein, meaning “to tear flesh,” I said, “ouch.”   Remember that being clear is kind.  If we have something to say, let’s not hide behind a sarcastic remark.  Be straight with your team.

Focus on making contributions instead of criticizing. At the end of each day, aim to have contributed more than you have criticized.  Before picking apart another’s idea, contribute a few of your own.  Be aware of languishing in “nostalgia” as it may be perceived as a resistance to try or a criticism of new ideas.

What are some additional strategies you have used with success to minimize these self-protection behaviors? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


Courage: Ditch the Armor (Part I)Posted on January 5, 2020

Vicki Noel, MLHR, SHRM-SPC, SPHR

Why are leaders hesitant to focus on this?

Having a teenage son, I have had the pleasure of watching every Marvel movie known to humankind.   Every superhero and villain has some version of armor to protect themselves from harm.  While there is rarely a threat of “physical” danger in our organizations, leaders who allow their feelings of fear, uncertainty, or discomfort to call the shots are at risk of responding with protective armor.  When “armored up,” a leader closes themselves off from options, limits their openness to new ideas, and dulls their curiosity for learning and taking risks…and their teams will follow their lead.

What is the case for doing it anyway?

A high-performance team cannot thrive if the leader of that team hides under their protective armor.  Armored leadership fosters an environment where only “perfection” (not excellence) is acceptable, which creates a culture where the team is afraid to fail and take risks.  Armored leadership is putting scarcity into action (“only so many good things can happen before bad, so armor up”), which squanders the joy out of work.  Armored leadership aims to stay safe, or “numb,” to the effects of discomfort by tuning out or hiding from change.  Teams in this environment stall out, get bored, and coast through work without clear goals or challenges.  As a part of our New Year’s resolutions, let’s commit to ditching our armor.

How can you do it? 

Model healthy failure. Perfectionism is not the same as self-improvement or growth; it is about trying to earn approval. To avoid this type of armor and promote an environment where teams can speak up and accept failure, leaders must model healthy failure.  Talk openly about failures you have had in the past and what you learned from them.  When you have made a mistake, admit it to your team and apologize.  When you fail, be kind to yourself; when members of your team try something and fail, demonstrate grace and acceptance.

Practice gratitude and celebrate progress. Armored leaders hesitate to celebrate milestones or recognize others until they are “safe,” or sure everything will work.  Our teams need a “little somethin’” on occasion, or “food” as I refer to it often.  Examples of leading with gratitude include sending a personal note/text of encouragement or holding a department huddle of thanks when the team made it through a tough situation or incrementally improved a result.  Every person/team is different concerning recognition, so know your audience. 

Define options and set a course. Sometimes leaders are uncertain what to do and they stall out or “numb” for armor protection.  One way to ditch this armor is just to start a list of options.  There are ALWAYS options for next steps, even though none of them might be good.  Engage your team in brainstorming options.  You do not have to have all of the answers.  Try SOMETHING.  Take a step.     

What are strategies you have used with success to model healthy failure, celebrate achievements, or getting out of a stall? Log on and join the conversation at www.somc.org/leadership.  We learn best from each other’s experiences.


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