Raising your score with these five simple tools for any employee or leader.

Raising your score!

(Follow-up to email “So you think you're a 5?”)

by Todd Mitchem - #DisruptionEffect

In my last blog‒“So you think you’re a 5?”‒I included a survey pertaining to your work performance. If you chose to take the survey and took ownership of your survey results, you have started your personal growth in a positive direction. Today, I wanted to give you some tools to help raise your own score, instead of waiting on others to guide you.

When I work with companies to bring out the best in their teams and leaders, I start with an assessment.  After all, in order to truly grow we all need feedback from those around us; especially our team, so that we can begin to understand what WE need to improve to get the most from ourselves.  What I have learned is that unless you do an incredible amount of self-reflective work on your past, your conditioning, and all the things causing you to act in certain ways, you will be subject to your unconscious, perpetually reactive behaviors.  These ingrained ways of being inadvertently cause you the most stress as it relates to your work and how you operate.

Once an assessment is complete, I turn to a learning tool that will bring out the key challenges the entire group is experiencing.  Using a short 2-4 hour program containing some type of experiential learning, I work with each person in the group to truly figure out their challenges, while helping them see and feel the impact of their dysfunction in a controlled and safe environment.

Next I go to work.  After figuring out everyone's challenges, I coach them to success in a one-on-one fashion.  This process is very important, as I utilize actual real-world and real-time examples as they unfold and pertain to the leader’s areas of improvement.  For example, in one-on-one sessions with a leader who has difficulty holding her team accountable, I will work with her to leverage real-life situations, where the task is to hold her team to greater accountability. After the situational exercise, I evaluate how well she performed and hit her targets. While discussing her choices and answers, I also guide her to success using the same tools I will give you below.  With small, weekly adjustments, a new way of operating is born and it actually sticks.  Unlike typical “learning” programs, this three-step process actually works.

Keep in mind, over my years in this arena, I have heard and seen it all.  From leaders who tell me they are “fine” and need absolutely no help, to the ones who are clear they need help and just don’t know how to change. I have coached all types.  During sessions in the third phase of coaching, I have had leaders cry, scream, and laugh, all in the course of one session of coaching. The irony is that people who offer the most resistance, the ego-driven leaders, are usually the ones who need the most guidance.  Eventually I break through to what needs to be changed and get them where they need to be.  Hopefully these lessons and skills can benefit you as well.

Since you have already taken the self-assessment from my last message (see here to review), let this next phase serve as the impetus for change. Below are the same top five competencies again and this time I have added tools to help you raise your score so you improve at developing yourself as a leader and an individual contributor.

Todd's Top Five Competencies with Tools

1    Ability to Communicate and Share Vision – Being a clear communicator and taking responsibility for a message to be received clearly.  You demonstrate this when you take responsibility for mutual understanding.

The next time you don’t understand or they don’t understand, YOU take the initiative and ask for clarity.

Tool: To improve your score in this area, take a situation this week, any situation where you are struggling to communicate or understand another person on your team.  Now, I want you to look at the situation from both perspectives.  First, are you blaming the other person for the communication breakdown?  Often we blame the other person for our lack of understanding and say things like, “THEY need to communicate better.”  Remember this, the responsibility for communication clarity is one that falls on both of you.

If you don’t understand their communication, that is as much your fault as theirs.  You have lost the big picture.  You need to understand that what is most important is something I call Dual Clarity.  This simply means we both understand each other.  Your homework is to seek more clarity when talking with this person.  The next time you don’t understand or they don’t understand, YOU take the initiative and ask for clarity.  Ask them to define their meanings of words, or repeat what you heard them saying and ask if that is accurate.  The big picture here is YOU take responsibility for the Dual Clarity that must occur and you don’t stop the conversation until EVERYONE understands each other. This may take longer than usual to convey a message but, in the long run, this will become second nature for all participants and yield clear and concise communication. Taking ownership of your behavior means that if the other person walks away not having clarity, it is as much your fault as theirs.

2    Hold Self and Others Accountable – Taking ownership over success as well as failure. You demonstrate this when you make a mistake and take full ownership over your part of the failure.

Tool: This week I want you to think about and write down a circumstance where you failed to take ownership over something in your past.  This is deeply personal and may involve a personal situation, so I DO NOT encourage you to share these.  This section of your development should only be shared with yourself or perhaps a coach in your professional world, if you have one.  Part of the challenge of modern leadership is that leaders want to hold “others” accountable without really talking about their own responsibilities or missteps.  Another part of ownership is taking full responsibility for your behavior.

We all make a misstep from time to time.  Sometimes those missteps inadvertently hurt others.  The key is NOT to make fewer mistakes, but to OWN your mistakes, demonstrate your accountability and never be afraid to exhibit your humility.

The exercise I do want you to practice, however, is one where you admit to someone, anyone, that you made a mistake and take ownership over it.  One of the best turnarounds I ever coached was a leader who admitted to his entire team that one of his decisions‒one that cost the department layoffs and a loss in revenue‒was solely his mistake.  He didn’t just admit it to his team but also to his COO.  This level of accountability and honesty resulted in more respect from his team and his boss. His team rallied around him, took their results to stratospheric heights and he became one of the most trusted leaders in the company.  Now that is leadership.

3    Authenticity – Being real and genuine with the team. You demonstrate this by speaking conversationally and allowing your guard to drop.

Tool: Ego is the assassin of authenticity. Why?  Because your ego fights to be right.  It is that false sense of self that is always putting up a guard, dressing you a certain way and making sure people see you in a certain way, even if you are completely opposite.  Ego is the demon that always needs to be fed. If you are always trying to win an argument, that is ego.  If you always need to be right...ego.  This tool is simple because it means evicting your ego.  You can begin accomplishing this by simply catching yourself this week.  If you witness yourself fighting to win an argument, immediately ask yourself, “What am I trying to win?” Then pivot your response to learn about the other person’s perspective and clarity of the situation. (Remember #1 above.)  By seeking to learn more about the other person’s opinion, you are softening the need to win.

To engage your more authentic self, you can now state your position in a way that works to guide the person not to your need to win, but rather your softer need to gain clarity.  Often when you are more authentic, a level of compassion and kindness arises that people enjoy.  Solutions, perhaps even one you never thought of, emerge.

4    Executional Brilliance – Keeping your energy focused, and your activities focused on the same goal, executing on a goal. You demonstrate this by not allowing your tasks to be viewed as the achievement, but rather the actual completed goal as the achievement.

Tool: Ahh.  The challenge of activity vs. actual achievement.  For this simple tool I want you, instead of making a huge list of “to dos,” to write down one goal this week.  Just one.  For this to be a real goal it should not be an activity.  For example, if I want to acquire three more clients this week, I do not write down a goal of sending three new emails and proposals.  Those are activities.  Instead I write my goal as “I want to secure three more clients this week,” then write all of the activities that will help me achieve it; for example “send out nine emails, call ten potential clients, research other companies that may need what our company offers, etc.”  I write those activities under the goal.  However, even when all of the activities are completed, that is not brilliant execution. To be truly brilliant from an execution standpoint is to meet or exceed the goal. So, you have completed all of the activities under the goal you selected, but if you actually have not gotten the three clients, the goal has not been achieved. Just remember you are not done until the goal is met.  That is execution brilliance.  Remember what Yoda said, “Do or do not; there is no try.”  Attempting or completing activities is trying.  Trying is useless.  Do it.  Complete it and get to the goal.  

Imagine the pilot of your next flight: he has a goal of getting you safely from your city to the next. He also has a large group of activities.  A pilot does not “try” to get you safely to your destination, he does it.  Now imagine that the plane successfully takes off--that means the pilot has completed a list of take-off activities--and he feels satisfied and stops working.  He announces to the passengers, “Success! We took off and now I am going to take a break since I achieved that goal.  Good luck all.”  You see the pilot’s goal is not just to take off.  It’s actually a series of activities executed in a fashion that achieves the desired result in the end.  His real goal is landing the plane safely in the next city.  Until that goal is achieved, he has not achieved execution brilliance.  Neither have you, if you see your activities as goals.  Today, write one goal and then list the many activities that it will take to achieve.  Do not give up until your goal is met and you have the tangible results you wanted in the first place.

5    Honesty and Integrity – Fulfilling promises, building a team that is open, and creating an environment of integrity.  You demonstrate this daily by speaking the truth in kind ways and ensuring that what you say and promise to do...you actually do.

Tool: I believe everyone has found themselves in all of these situations at least once:  we tell the truth, part of the truth, or none of it (we lie). So when is the right time to tell the truth or a white lie? What I want you to work on with this tool is getting clear about what you are not honest about.

For example, I was coaching a team of leaders who were dealing with a core issue:  trust.  My job as their coach was to determine the reason for this “mistrust” and how it started.  I spent an hour a week with each leader, in addition to the assessments and learning modules for honesty and authenticity we implemented.  But I still couldn’t get to the heart of the mistrust.  Finally after two weeks of working with the team, I discovered the culprit.  

The issue was not based on any one person’s lack of honesty or integrity; it was based on the entire team’s.  In fact, the team had a history that was causing the mistrust, dishonest behaviors and overall lack of integrity.  That history did not involve anyone who currently worked on the team, but people who were at the company before them.  Here is what happened.  Eight years earlier, the team was actually two teams and had two different leaders.  Each leader had his own set of deceptive behavior which led to a feud between the teams.  Incidentally, these two leaders NO LONGER WORKED AT THE COMPANY!  But as the story goes, each time a new person was hired in either group, they were told not to trust the other group.  “We don’t trust them” and “We don’t like them” were the frequent phrases uttered over and over again.  This mistrust carried forward for eight years until the teams were merged and I began coaching.

In the end, I was able to bring the team together by demonstrating how the mistrust was based on a long history that was no longer valid.  That history needed to be changed and it needed to be changed immediately.  So we spent the next few months changing everyone's perception of the team and how they worked together.  I pushed the team to be honest with each other at every interaction.  I helped them call out passive-aggressive behavior and create more positive bonds.  When the second assessments were counted and improvements measured, the ENTIRE team of leaders and employees had trust scores that were off the charts in the positive.  This is the power of honesty and authenticity.  When you don’t utilize these elements, a virus can grow in your company’s culture.

To work on this specific attribute, I want you to list all the ways you are not completely in alignment with your team regarding honesty.  It is not time to tell everyone what those things are, just journal or mentally list the moments when you are not in alignment with an honest approach.  After listing an example of honesty and integrity misalignment, stop yourself and get to the truth. Ask yourself why it happened? And what can you do better next time to be aligned with the core values.  This is a practice that will help rewire your mind to think and act with integrity.  This is also the hardest category for everyone, even me, to overcome.  It takes practice and discipline.  Sometimes it also takes a merging of all of the other four competencies.  But humans are built for evolution.  We can change our thinking, our actions and improve our situations.

As a final thought for this week, remember we can only control one person, ourselves.  We have no control over others in the slightest.  Manipulation is not control.  So if you are practicing being a better person, leader or employee as outlined above, you are a “Disruptor.”   You are disrupting yourself and making a new, more educated and improved version.  This does not mean everyone will simply fall in line or love the new you.  It also does not mean everyone will forgive you if you made mistakes.  The goal should not be based on other people’s acceptance or approval.  The goal should be your personal improvement, changing and growing.  If you approach your team, a person from your past or anyone to whom you wish to demonstrate your newfound skills, don’t go in expecting them to react.  Only go in expecting yourself to change.  This will make your growth more powerful and turn you into a positive Disruptor.    

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