Do You Need to Stop This Trust-Breaking Pattern?

Are you a nice boss?

Maybe too nice?

Does this sound remotely familiar? Ninety-five percent of the time you show your confidence in your team’s judgment and initiative by giving them a lot of latitude. You know most people chafe at being micromanaged, and you swore you’d never be that kind of boss.

But you also notice that the rules get bent a little too far a little too often.

You feel disrespected, and despite your best efforts to stay true to your anti-micromanager philosophy, you find yourself at a breaking point. You’re resentful. Maybe a little passive-aggressive. Or you might be the boomerang-blowup type, putting your now-cowering team into lockdown. And then everybody feels discouraged, agitated and undermined.

Worse, you feel ineffective and you worry your team no longer trusts you, or likes you. So you cycle back into leniency, and after a couple of awkward days, things start to normalize.

Until the rule-bending, foot-dragging and frustration starts up again.

What if you could forever change your trust-breaking pattern of extremes?

James, a manager at an accounting firm, did just that when he signed up for my new Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session.

  • an in-depth 30-minute online assessment
  • a professional review of assessment results
  • a private 75-minute phone session to develop effective strategies to begin using immediately

In less than 2 hours, James understood how his well-intended flexibility was tying him in knots of niceness, and thanks to his Jump-Start Session, he walked away with a practical and thoughtful strategy for untangling the knots.

How James Used His Strengths to Nix Trust-Breaking Patterns &
Build an Accountable, Respectful Team

James saw that his boss’s unrelenting focus on the bottom line led to staff burnout and disengagement because they felt like replaceable cogs in a machine. James’s antidote was to compensate by doing everything he could to be the opposite, to be the nice boss.

But he was the too nice boss.

  • He had a perpetually open door.
  • He bought lunch for the office.
  • He corrected people’s work for them.
  • He approved multiple requests for flex-time.
  • He looked the other way when deadlines were missed.

Sooner or later, James would begin to feel taken advantage of, and when he switched gears and tried to enforce the rules, his staff ignored him and refused to do what he asked. He was left with disappointment and a nagging worry that his staff would quit because they didn’t like him.

In his Jump-Start Session, James and I discovered that two of his best-of-self strengths, kindness and love of learning, were the keys to creating a new approach to his leadership.

Now James uses his innate kindness constructively.

  • He holds staff members accountable for deadlines.
  • He points out when the quality of their work needs improvement.
  • He takes time to guide staff members as they learn new skills.
  • He gives recognition to people’s best efforts when he meets with them.

James is building up the reserves of trust in his staff – and they in him.

To keep his own momentum moving forward, every day at the close of business, he asks, “What I am learning about how I am leading now? How can I use this tomorrow?”

Start Writing Your Success Story
By Scheduling Your Unleash Your Strengths Jump-Start Session Today

Stop trust-breaking patterns. Anchor your leadership in your strengths. Lead with confidence.

Sign up in the next 20 days to get my special pricing of $147 (a $250 value).

Jump in now! Scheduling for my Jump-Start Sessions ends March 31 and won’t be offered again until midsummer.

schedule my session button

Here’s to the best in you,

dmd-sig-200-transparent

PS: Here’s what James says about his new approach: “I now understand how my strengths interrelate and I found a way to use my two key strengths. Creating opportunities for my staff to be accountable shows I believe in and value them, and that makes things better for everyone.” James C.

PPS: Next week I’ll share my own story of how using best-of-self strengths transformed my career and birthed a business


70% of people are checked out at work, are you?

I am fascinated by how people answer the question, “What do you do?”  Think about it.

I bet your job immediately came to mind.  That’s true for almost everyone I meet. As if a position on an organizational chart is the primary defining characteristic about you.

But you are so much more than a position on an organizational chart.

Even if you spend a lot of time with/at/for work.  Getting a job. Learning the job. Keeping the job. Building a business. Planning for the business. Commuting to and from work. Taking work home.

You are still not your work.

And we- individual people as a whole- don’t do a very good job making the most of the mind-boggling amount of time given to work.

Turns out neither do most of the businesses in the US.

Work: Engaging or Soul Sucking

Only 30% of the US workforce is engaged with work*. If you work with passion and feel a profound connection to your company you are in this group.

On the other hand 52% of you are not engaged at work*- you’ve checked out and you’re clock-watching.

  • It stinks to feel you are going through the motions with no room to grow.
  • Feeling your best traits and skill are ignored at work is deflating.

More disconcerting 18% of you are actively disengaged* you are so unhappy at work you take it out on everyone in the office.

  • Being around colleagues so miserable at work they undermine progress, is soul sucking -for you the miserable- and everyone else.
  • Plus that attitude and actions are infectious poisoning the other parts of your life.

What Makes Work Engaging

People who use their strengths every day are 6-times more likely to be engaged with work (Gallup 2013).

How GREAT would it feel to be able to use your best-of-self traits (the singular constellation of skills and strengths, experiences and quirks that make you who you are) every day at the place where you spend the majority of your waking hours?

Awesome. It is awesome.

Leaders and managers who create environments where their employees’ best-of-self traits are used 10 hours a week can practically eliminate active disengagement and can double the number workers who are engaged.

There’s Hope If You Want To Do Something About It

Ideally you (and everyone else) are in a workplace that is a honest-to-goodness, strengths based environment.

And there is hope even if you aren’t.

The trick is to expand your possibilities to use your best-of-self traits . . . regardless of circumstances.

The magic of the trick is expanding your possibilities even when your stretch is small. It’s the stretch that matters.

Over the next couple of weeks I will share stories of real people stretching how they use their best-of-self strengths (or helping their employees to) and what happens.

*State of the American Workplace, Gallup 2013. It’s bedtime reading for me, so you don’t have to read it!

THE Task of Leadership, Outgrowing Problems

“The greatest and most important problems of life are all in a certain sense insoluble…. They can never be solved, but only outgrown…. This ‘outgrowing’, as I formerly called it, on further experience was seen to consist in a new level of consciousness. Some higher or wider interest arose on the person’s horizon, and through this widening of view, the insoluble problem lost its urgency. It was not solved logically in its own terms, but faded out when confronted with a new and stronger life-tendency.” (Carl Jung, 1931)

Over the past three years I have been working with several groups of professionals in several States to infuse some core Coaching skills and approaches to their work facilitating change and being leaders in their organizations. One of the areas we explore is Appreciative Inquiry. David Cooperrider and his colleagues in the Department of Organizational Behavior at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, developed Appreciative Inquiry as a transformational change process for organizations and groups.

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) does not focus on weaknesses and problems to fix. Instead clients are encouraged to acknowledge strengths and imagine possibilities in order to rise above and outgrow their problems.

AI does not hide from the negative but instead asks:

  • What is working?
  • What is missing?
  • What do you want more of?
  • What are you most proud of regarding your work?
  • What is your image of what topic at hand ought to be that is creating the gap between present and what is wanted?
  • What do you know to be true when your work is at its finest and most effective level?

I love the idea of transcending and out growing problems, by working through strengths. To strategically consider what strengths are already in place within both the organization, (business or whole system), and how to best leverage them to make things even better.

Here is some of what I have seen happen by infusing this deliberate attention on what is working:

  • Staff are better able to apply their existing skills and more quickly incorporate new information in a rapidly changing environment.
  • The quality of interactions with colleagues and employees, especially ones my clients supervise, are improved and result in more effective actions.
  • The degree of accountability and follow through by all stakeholders has increased.
  • More quickly able to target areas of concerns and think through them in order to solve them before they become problems.

To be part of helping others develop their ability to effectively lead others by helping to improve the quality of everyone’s thinking is absolutely inspiring. Because I can see Peter Drucker’s statement “…the task of leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant” come to life.

All rights reserved@2013

Deirdre Danahar works with busy, creative, professionals who are looking to shift from what feels chaotic, disjointed or frustrating to a calm productive, spirited life.  People she works with come away knowing how to do their best work without sacrificing their quality of life. She is the owner of InMotion Consulting & Coaching, LLC, based in Jackson, MS. Reach her at deirdre@inmotioncc.com or 601-362-8288.

Make A Life and A Living

“There is no user manual for the rest of your life”, said my friend Virgilio Guardado.  Once you finish school, be that high school, college or graduate school most of us ask “Now what? Just exactly what I am supposed to do next?” Heck some of us ask that much later, when we are thinking about the next step in our lives. You make it up as you go along, pulling from the reference points and insights you encounter along the way.

We all say we make to make a life, the best life that I can. But how do you go about doing that? And what exactly does that mean? Making a life is when you invest in all the important aspects of living, that includes having an income, while embracing what feeds your soul, enriches your experience, nurtures your ability to mature and cultivate wisdom, makes you smile, laugh, and cry. It is a full-blooded, full-bodied journey that unfolds overtime.  Making a living is just that, earning an income that supports your ability to feed, shelter and cloth yourself and perhaps those you care for too.  In this go-go-go world it is easy to be swept up making a living and forget to make a life.

What I wish someone told me when I was younger, or that I had really listened when they did, about making life not just a living, are the eleven insights below.

  • Know who you are and be secure in that knowledge, especially if you are out of the mainstream. You don’t need to be dogmatic nor do you need to conform solely to fit in. We need the outliers to share a unique perspective, innovate, or offer a different approach.
  • Be courageous moving forward on your path. What happens along the way is not between you and the naysayers.  It is between you, your conscience and your spiritual reference.
  • You are making a life, not just a living.  Work-life balance is a process of making intentional decisions each day about what is best for you overall.
  • Careers are built over the course of time as you have experiences and develop skills that enrich you. Do more than you were asked.  Doing enough work to get by does not build a platform from which you continue to grow.
  • Remain teachable and find someone who will be frank with you. Take advantage of the opportunities to learn from experienced members of your industry.
  • Be scrappy; take a risk and when you do be confident not cocky.
  • Respect should be freely given to all; trust must be earned each day.
  • Be proud of what you bring to your work and world, and look for what others bring too.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  • Be passionate about something. It’s what drives and gives you the energy to keep going when you are stuck in a rut, need to learn something new or just feel mediocre.
  • Back-up and forgive yourself when you doubt your abilities, then try again.
Thanks Virgilio Guardado, Kasey Perry, Tashmia Prowell, Bryant Ryan, Nicole Kemp, Mom and Dad, for sharing your ideas with me.
Portions of this article originally appeared in BOOM Jackson, Summer 2012.
Deirdre Danahar©2012, All rights reserved

Creating a Productive Workplace

A great workplace has an inviting environment that goes beyond the desks, paint and windows. It has boundaries that foster a productive climate where people are valued for their attributes, roles suit individuals’ signature strengths and people’s potential is cultivated. The established boundaries eliminate distractions and confusion regarding what needs to be done, by when, how and by whom. The results are great work, done in a timely manner, consistently.  Plus, people find solutions to office problems instead of just complaining and they might bring cookies on Friday because they enjoy working together. They become a dynamic team.

An effective leader understands that professional boundaries are an extension of personal boundaries within a formal setting where there are shared goals to be accomplished. The goals are the source of both individual and team motivation.  Without appropriate boundaries employees and supervisors may confuse workplace relationships with personal relationships. Certainly workplace relationships can develop into personal relationships over time. But most of the time interaction with supervisors, colleagues clients and customers stops at the end of the work day. Setting professional boundaries is much easier when a relationship is viewed as formal rather than casual.

An effective leader also understands that failing to define boundaries, having no boundaries, or inappropriately rigid boundaries can have an adverse impact on their business and employees.  Some boundaries, however, need to be firm, for example, lying, stealing, or verbally or physically abusing others is never allowed. When professional boundaries and priorities have been clearly defined, it’s very likely that a group can function effectively, even in the absence of its leader. If everyone on your team understands what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, then team members will feel grounded in their roles.

Professional boundaries can be defined by a job description that clearly outlines specific duties responsibilities and reporting relationships. However, many times job descriptions define responsibilities in broad general terms. Professional boundaries become clearly defined when you answer these questions:

  • Who gives you your assignments?
  • To whom do you report?
  • Who gives you feedback?
  • Who sets your work priorities?
  • How are your company and client personal information kept secure?
  • Do you know how to treat all staff members fairly without positive or negative feelings influencing your decisions?

The responsibility to set a solid foundation falls upon the leader however every team member plays a role in creating a smooth functioning organization. Each team member is responsible to be willing to speak up to a colleague or supervisor and clearly define their issue and help find a resolution that works for everyone.

Professional boundaries are best set by carefully negotiating them in an open discussion about responsibilities, goals, and priorities prior to launching a new project or beginning a starting a new job. Here are three core skill areas to help you get started:

1. Know your limits: what you can do well within the allotted timeframe.
Do not exaggerate your ability by overselling it. Give accurate estimates. Delivering a good product on time improves your credibility, missing deadlines or delivering a substandard product hurts your reputation.

2. Tactfully and openly communicate about goals and limitations.
Do not undersell or misrepresent your ability. This prevents you from demonstrating your professional skills and could affect your career advancement. Highlight what you can and will do. Ask for help when it’s needed to ensure good quality work. Actively engage in problem solving and don’t complain about the problem.  Ask for feedback when it is not forthcoming.

3. Be available to discuss differences and reach agreements.
Honestly reflect back your understanding of the other person’s needs, interests, and concerns. Attempt to negotiate win-win solutions.

This article originally appeared BOOM Jackson.

Deirdre Danahar © 2012, All rights reserved.

Strung Out Like Holiday Lights: 12 Tips to Stop Stressing and Start Enjoying the Holidays

The holiday season is full swing now, the office parties are being booked, the holiday cards written and the lights are strung. Feeling more burnt out than last year’s mini-lights?  Balancing your personal needs and professional responsibilities all while meeting family demands challenges the most focused, calm and organized person. For most people the holidays includes too much time fighting traffic, spending way too much on our credit cards, entertaining relatives and clients and pretending to be thrilled when we receive yet another “unfortunate holiday sweater”.  For those who do not ordinarily feel stressed under the pressure of events or deadlines, the holidays can still play havoc with our lives.  Good cheer can quickly turn into too much do and feel more like a time of obligation than a time of celebration. So what can we do? The good news is you don’t have to let stress or outside pressures ruin your holidays. Plan for stress just like you plan ahead for any calamity you want to avoid.

Try to pinpoint what you are anxious about, what gets under your skin. Are you feeling stressed because you’re not going to be able to fulfill your children’s gift requests? Are you chaffing over the weight gain that seems to be a part of the season? Are you and your spouse wrangling over holiday expenses? Are you feeling left out because your friends are enjoying the season and you’re not?  Are you responding to invitations from a place of joy or from duty?  Are you wondering how to keep your boundaries and mind intact, when you cannot avoid someone who pushes your buttons?

Use these 12 tips to make a plan stop stressing (or griping about) the holidays and start enjoying them. These tied and true tips for will help keep your spirits up and your blood pressure down amid all the hullaballoo and stress.

  1.  Magical realism, use it wisely. Carefully examine your thoughts and expectations for the holiday season. Try not to drive yourself crazy planning the “perfect party “ or finding “the perfect gift”. There is no perfect holiday, but there are magical memories and magical moment yet to be shared.   Those lovely fantasies that play out in, books the movies, and on TV are just that fantasies. Go ahead and make your holiday as beautiful as you want, but remember at the core of each of those fantasies is a theme of sharing, fellowship and connection that transcends any decorating triumph.
  2.  Be gentle with yourself and others. There is no perfection in when family dynamics are involved.  Families have many configurations these days and it can be confusing. For separated families, the question is” Which parent or grandparents will we be with for Christmas, for New Years?” Another common issue is when a gathering becomes an arena for sibling rivalry, along with a desire for long-standing recognition and approval. And if you find that you cannot resist trying to change the attitude and behavior of the parent (sibling or child) that “makes you crazy,” patterns which have resisted influence attempts for decades…you might just want to leave. Family is complicated, and messy and wonderful. The holidays’ heighten each of these things. The best strategy is often to be as realistic and compassionate with yourself and others.
  3.  Say No. Prioritize the social, business and other events on your calendar. There is no hard and fast rule that all the celebrating and well wishing must be done before Dec. 31. You can bring over into the New Year if you wish. My husband and I have our personal Christmas celebration at the New Year, after all the traveling to visit family is done, the cookies made, and the New year’s ball drops we save a little of the magic of the season for us.
  4.  Gratitude and giving back. Doing something for someone else, like collecting coats for people in need, volunteering your time and talents at a nursing facility can help keep things in perspective. That can be just thing when the holidays start to rub you the wrong way and heck might just set the tone for how you operate in the year to come.
  5.  Take a time out. If your buttons are pushed, step away, firmly, politely. You can say something along the lines of: “I am not able to continue this conversation right now, so I am going to excuse myself.” If you have never done this before, it becomes easier after the first time.
  6.  Hydrate, and not just with adult beverages.  A stiff glass of eggnog can be a good way to toast the holiday, but don’t go overboard. Too much alcohol will only add to your stress.  Plus, the change in weather and the drier indoor air impact hydration so to does the amount of sugar we eat.  Dehydration can make you cranky and frankly ill. So drink your fill of water each and every. Try adding one more glass to your normal intake.
  7.  Timing. Decide ahead of time how long you will spend at an event. It is much easier to maintain boundaries after you have set them.
  8.  Be impeccable with your word, meaning take the time to think before your speak. Taken from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, this can be a real lifesaver. Speak with integrity.  Will you regret what you say later? Use the power of your words in the direction of affections, truth and respect.
  9.  Simplify. Easier said than done, I know, but try. Cut down on the number of gifts exchanged and instead try to create some experiences and memories. When it comes to kids and families this can be a bit challenging, but one of best gifts my sister and her family received was a “game night”: a board game and two types of popcorn.
  10.  Quality over quantity. The delights of the holiday food are tempting. The cakes! The cookies! The Hot Toddies! Deciding to enjoy the bounty of the season is fine, you can also decide ahead of time how much to indulge and stick too it, making the indulgence even more delicious.
  11.  Remember you are only responsible for yourself, your actions and reactions. You are not responsible someone else’s actions or reactions.
  12.  Frolic and play. Exercise is a great stress reliever.  Instead of watching Elf or It’s a Wonderful Life, for the 57th time, grab your kids, favorite cousins, or neighbors and go for a brisk walk. Walking will burn off calories and it is good for your heart. And heart is what this season is about at its core.

Deirdre M. Danahar, MSW, MPH, LCSW, is a personal coach and consultant for people with executive level responsibilities and entrepreneurial spirits.  She owns InMotion Consulting and Coaching, LLC, based in Jackson, MS.