Resiliency Skills for Leaders – Part 1

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There has been much written about personal renewal. These include a variety of personal habits, health oriented skills, and stress reduction techniques. Leadership and management are very difficult, and the reserve needed from day to day is significant. Personal renewal is certainly necessary, but it is not sufficient when we consider organizational constraints and barriers.

BARRIERS
1. Multiple time sensitive demands
2. Phone calls
3. Commitments
4. Personnel or Customer problems

The need to be creative, present for others, and ready to fight “fires” within the organization can be enormous. The leader can find themselves operating from survival mode, or avoidance mode. Neither option is a preferable method and can lead to organizational drift.

RESILIENCY SKILLS
Invest consistently
Investing in others within the workplace is good for you and your employees. There is no replacement for compassion, empathy, concern and providing recognition to others for the good that is happening in the organization. Connecting, engaging, supporting, and learning from others and recognizing others, can be uplifting. The more you uplift, the more you can be lifted.

Take time to reflect
From what you’ve learned and connected with, comes the need to find a quiet place to reflect. The banter of noise, multiple disruptions, and interference does little to integrate what you are now. In order to know where you want to be, you have to reflect on where you are.

Avoid being mired in petty issues
Keeping the big picture in front of you despite the noise and interference of competing problems is a key skill to maintaining focus. Putting small issues aside, getting closure on potential distractions is a key skill and one that bypasses issues, rather than letting them control the path that is being set.

Write about what you’ve learned
Leaders that write, and reflect – and “crunch” ideas have the potential toward resiliency and personal growth. They not only reflect, but put their goals in clearer perspective. If you integrate your insights at the end of the day, your next day will be more informed.

Maintain a routine
Changes are a given, but maintaining a consistent routine is critical to dealing with the ebb and flow of a given day. Maintaining a structure that is flexible, yet adds some predictability can impact how you approach new issues that seek to derail your day.

Resiliency is a process – it requires constant development. It requires meeting problems, using skill reserves you develop, and getting closure on residual issues.

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Creating More Impact with Your Staff – The Performance Review

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Performance reviews, individual supervision, group reviews can vary in how they are conducted with your staff. Organizations vary.

Individual staff (and groups) have a right to know where they stand at any given moment in the process of their work. Keeping your appraisals until the “yearly review”, or waiting until a problem develops to supply corrective action is the wrong way to do supervisory reviews.

It might appear overbearing to meet regularly with an employee, however the most supportive thing to do is have a transparent discussion with your staff members in the “here and now” and at predictable and regular points.

Reasons why regular reviews are good
There are several reasons why meeting regularly with your staff is a good idea. Several include:

1. A staff member knows where they stand – there are no secrets.

2. Regular development can occur which helps the employee make course adjustments.

3. What is expected, and what is happening can be reviewed now – not later.

4. Institutional values can be discussed, incorporated, and developed.

5. Staff knows you care, and that you are not being critical.

6. Helps build cohesion, retention of employees, and morale.

A Method for Doing Regular Reviews
Preferably reviews should be twice monthly, but can be weekly. They don’t have to be long protracted meetings, and they should have a positive, proactive and helpful atmosphere surrounding them. There are never punitive or critical remarks made. Everything said is transparent. Honesty is the best policy.

The Staff Member Creates the Agenda for the Review
The best review is one where the employee or staff member comes prepared to discuss the issues important to their work. A general outline path can be prescribed by the manager, but it is important that the employee own the outline, and set the topics that are to be discussed. The outline can consist of the following:

Accomplishments
Challenges
Areas of Proposed Development
Project Status/Progress

New Employees Need Mentored
A new employee may need further coaching in the process. Oftentimes, those least experienced in their jobs won’t know the questions to ask, or the material to bring forth. Examples and coaching may be necessary to help the staff member know how to think about their work.

Connection and Engagement is the Key
The overall process should only take about a half hour, but it is a good accountability for both the staff member and manager. These reviews are seen as ways to connect with the leader, and the leader has an obligation to serve and provide guidance where necessary. Importantly, it allows the staff member the opportunity to take initiative, showcase accomplishments, and honestly discuss problems they are having with their jobs or their experience. Opportunities to improve, and change path can be done on an ongoing basis, and more radical corrective action is unnecessary.

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The Anatomy of a Choice

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Stephen Covey once said there were three constants in life: Change, Principles, and Choice. The underlying idea of his works was to help others match the right kinds of choices, to their personal vision, mission or governing value network. In doing that we could derive effectiveness in the variety of roles in our lives.

Yet for most of us, choice is the hardest variable. In today’s highly information driven society with its infinite number of personal choices we could make, choices are hard. Even if we have carefully crafted our personal mission, values and roles in our lives, choices are hard, especially when there are competing ones. Beyond this, is how there are so many issues that act on us. Even important roles can collide, and choices can be difficult.

Beyond these challenges is the fact that we can make a choice, but to follow through and see the choice through takes fortitude. The hardest part of a choice may not be the competing nature of paths we can take, but the bridge that needs crossed to implement the choice.

How many people have you met that make good intentional commitments or indicate verbally their intentions toward a choice, but fall short doing the choice? Probably everyone, including ourselves. It is very popular to make the choice, and it feels good because of the perceived accomplishment. The accomplishment of a choice is however the most important and critical step in any choice. Everyone can have good intentions when it is needed (see my article on “Organizational Codependency” elsewhere on this site). Making the choice stick is completely a different animal.

The Anatomy of a Choice

    When you’re planning to make a choice, consider the following elements:

    1. How realistically can I implement the choice?
    2. How many new steps will my choice make for me?
    3. The choice feels good, but doing the choice is like moving against a strong wind.
    4. How much work is involved in this choice?
    5. Who can help me get there, once I have made the choice.

    Of course the above sounds a lot like goals. A preferred definition of choice might be: What behaviors do I need to do? Choice are thoughts, but the behavior portion transitions the choice into action. Using the word goals is about as vague as choice. Without the operationalized behavioral steps and actions, movement will not occur. The anatomy of a choice is often a road to travel itself. It is also a lifelong pursuit of becoming and direction finding in your life.

Necessity Creates Focus

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The need to make change is often driven by necessity. In the worse case, a crisis may develop that creates the necessity to change. For some, without something pressing down on us, the movement toward necessary change could be delayed.

Ways that focus is delayed:
1.) We choose to avoid what is necessary

2.) To focus suggests that we have to take personal responsibility. We choose to deflect or blame others.

3.) We cover up the priority or necessity by focusing on things that don’t matter.

A necessity can either be a bother or an activating experience where progress is made. It is based on how we choose to proceed. A necessity can transform, or further debilitate, depending on how we approach problems. In the end, the choice is ours. Do we wish to transform ourselves and use our focus, or do we seek to avoid or deny the things necessary in our lives?

Don’t Expect Everyone to Meet Your Expectations

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Management intrinsically sets expectations – both of managers and those they lead. When expectations are present, there is the expectation that they will be met.

This is easier said than done. If you manage others with the rigid expectation that they will meet them, there is going to be disappointment.

The expectations of others need to include the potential that others will fall short – for example:

1. Falling short following policy
2. Character weaknesses
3. Not accepting supervision
4. Avoidance
5. Ethical missteps
6. Personal problems affecting workplace behavior

When you begin to accept the potential that others will fall short of expectations, you allow yourself to stay focused on the more important stuff. Mistakes or falling short is a part of human nature. Personalizing the actions of others is a sure fire way to stress, or most importantly, sidetrack your eye from the big picture.

Keeping Your Eye on the Big Picture
The way you work through a failed expectation is to realize that drift may occur.

1. Identify the program or policy drift
2. Acknowledge the self – correction with others
3. Examine your own motivations and expectations
4. Adjust your attitude with others- accept failures, insist on corrective behaviors in others
5. Provide supports, clarify your expectation

Finally, set future expectations in a way they are incrementally attainable with your team. Insure potential roadblocks are removed. The failed expectation could be your roadblock not your staff member’s. Keep an open mind that you may be setting the wrong or unclear expectation that is not matched with their current realities.

Organizational Definition of Codependency

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A corrosive threat to building teams is “Codependency.” A term used prominently within the addictions field, the behavior has wider meanings within leading individuals and teams. The basic idea of codependency in organizations is it defeats responsibility, initiative and the health of operations.

Codependency as “under functioning”
When team members are codependent, there is an imbalance in responsibility between members. Norms develop where doing the minimum is silently permitted. Unhealthy alliances develop, and fear of confronting the inequity or dysfunction in the team stifles the group.

Codependency as incompetence
Those that want to appear capable (but lack substance) hide behind a cloak of saying what is necessary or saying what they think others want to hear.

Codependence is fake acceptance
A distorted sense of acceptance occurs when the objective is agreed upon, but the words (commitment) does not match the results. The leader wants good results and accepts the stated intentions, that do not correspond to an individual team member’s actual behavior.

Codependence as rational lies
The use of rational lies (aka rationalization), itself is a form of team and individual betrayal. To avoid accountability a team member uses rationalization and excuses to avoid personal responsibility.

All these organizational definitions of codependency can be corrosive to objectives and the mission. Rampant codependency can significantly lead to human resource costs and deceased morale.

The Power of A Question

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When teams function best is when individual team members dare to ask questions of their leaders. To challenge indicates a commitment toward engagement, and a willingness to connect to the organization’s vision.

Questions suggest team engagement because:

1. It means the individual team member cares enough about their individual contribution.

2. Questions indicate that a team contributor is interested in doing rather than complaining.

3. New ideas might be imbedded in the question.

4. Through a question, the process of learning is occurring.

A leader should be very concerned with their team when people stop asking questions. It means that a member’s commitment is waning, a team member is not engaged with the vision, or the leader’s direction lacks clarity.

The worse case scenario when questioning is abandoned – is a sort of complacency where mediocrity is accepted and the program becomes a drifting entity.

Managers and leaders ought to encourage and welcome thoughtful questions by their teams. It’s the most reliable indicator regarding the health of an organization or program, including the teams that compose those areas.