Can I Overuse My Leadership “Strengths?”

In executive coaching, we spend considerable time helping clients build awareness about their range and capabilities as leaders.

A foundational element of that work is helping clients make meaning of their long-held understanding of the ideas around “Strengths” and “Weaknesses.”

The lens we use instead focuses on the idea of “well-developed,” and “less-developed” capabilities and attributes. A recent blog by my colleague Lisa McNeill so eloquently described those concepts.

Each of us has many well-developed sides. One example may be an ability by some leaders to speak and make their voices heard. For others, it may well seem to be almost the opposite, with attributes of listening and appreciative inquiry.

So, too, do each of us have less-developed sides that we can explore in coaching to help expand our range. The person who commonly uses the well-developed ability to speak can use choice, for instance, to include pausing and listening. The well-developed listener can expand their range to include expressing themselves more. It takes awareness and practice to expand their range as leaders. And it also takes an appreciation that they need not give up the “well-developed” attributes – just know when they are using – or overusing – them and choose to move towards their less-developed capabilities.

It is often a revelation for individuals to realize that the appreciation of where they are “well-developed” are attributes like muscles that serve them and that adding other muscles – the “less-developed” capabilities – expand their range.

Consider this: I once worked with a client who described himself as “stubborn.” He characterized it for me as a weakness. Through a series of questions, I asked if being stubborn had served him in any way. He admitted that he was not the type to give up on a project or in working to develop a subordinate.

“And how would you call that a weakness?” I asked.

“Well, I guess it isn’t always that way,” he said.

We explored more together and it emerged for the client that being stubborn had served him throughout his career. He was the person who saw things through to their completion. He had devoted countless hours towards the success of his company. His well-developed “stubbornness” was the grit and determination of a leader.

In our sessions, he realized, too, that at times his stubbornness had come at some personal expense.

“When did that happen?” I questioned.

“Well, sometimes I just don’t give up, even when I know the project is a dead end.”

“Anything else? I asked.

“Sometimes it is hard on my family as I work all night long to complete an assignment.”

Then he admitted: “And there are times I don’t accept an idea that differs from my own.”

Such moments can serve as breakthroughs for a client, as they realize that their well-developed sides serve them, but, if overused or if they become habitual, can stop serving them or even cost them.

As Gestalt coaches, we often use the concept of “polarities.” Using the example of the “stubborn” client, I invited him to think of a polarity related to that attribute. His answer: “flexibility,” along with “receptivity,” and “openness.” I asked him how he would “glide” between his stubborn side and his flexible one. Neither side was good or bad, strong or weak – they were both attributes that could assist him in his leadership style and personal interactions with those around him.

Throughout the next few sessions, the client spoke about how he wanted to “try” using both his well-developed and less-developed sides. His practice with a new capability grew through his own intentions and choices he would make working with others. He became skilled at reading a situation and knowing when to use his already-developed “stubborn” side, along with his developing “flexible” one. He became more adept the more he practiced and reflected on his success in our sessions together.

Working with clients as a coach teaches me more than I can relate, and it serves me in helping leaders throughout the world. Expanding our range is a worthy goal for all of us – and appreciating our own “well-developed” sides is such a great first step!

This article originally appeared on Bostonexecutivecoaches.com.

ATD NYC Volunteer Spotlight – gothamCulture’s Kate Gerasimova

Kate Gerasimova gothamCulture Senior Associate

By Rosemary Okoiti, ATD NYC

1. What three words describe you and why?

Empathetic: I always make a good effort to make sure I’m considering the other person and the other side of the story. This is one of the reasons I love human-centered design so much as well. 

Ambitious and driven: If I set my mind on something, it would be extremely hard to get me off that road. I have a high inspiration for myself which comes with higher standards. Knowing this about myself helps me realize when to let things go and be more agile. 

Versatile: I am curious about a lot of things and have a wide range of interests, psychology, design innovation, learning, art, business, tennis, biking, and the list continues. I once was going to major in math and law.  Read More…

High-Potential Programs Can Help Some Employees And Hurt Others. Here’s How We Can Design A Fairer System

High-Potential Program

By  and 

Companies invest in high potential programs with the goal of developing their star employees into future leaders. As exciting as these programs seem, poorly designed versions of them might cause more harm than good. While there is no secret recipe for a high potential program, here are three ideas to keep in mind when designing your company’s program to ensure it is effective and fair:

1. Companies that invest in high potential programs financially outperform their competitors.1

High potential programs sit in talent management, a practice that focuses on identifying and developing the ‘A players’— those who have the highest leadership potential and are of great interest to companies — with the potential to fill future leadership roles.2 This segmentation of the workforce allows companies to achieve their business objectives and motivates those labeled as high potential A players to strive and thrive. After tracking 300 organizations across 31 countries over 7 years, researchers found that investment in high potential programs correlated with better financial performance.1

These programs are not faultless, however. Regardless of intention, high potential programs can alienate the B players who make 80-85% of the workforce,3 leading to demotivation, a decrease in productivity and engagement,4 and even at times, higher turnover.5 Read More…

Podcast: Storytelling in the Age of Disruption

gothamCulture Podcast

In this episode, Shawn Overcast interviews Michael Margolis, CEO of Storied, a strategic messaging firm that specializes in the story of disruption and innovation. He is also the author of a new book titled Story 10x: Turn the Impossible Into the Inevitable.

Organizations in every industry, across the globe, are experiencing perhaps the greatest disruption of our time, with the pandemic COVID-19. We haven’t experienced a public health or economic disruption of this scale in our lifetimes. And yet, (strike this – over the past 20 years), individuals and the organizations that we work in have been no stranger to the experience of serial disruptions. Whether that be the way (italicize to emphasize these words) we work – through advancements in technology, where we work – with the continued expansion of globalization, and with whom we work – and the growing workforce demographic to include 3-4 generations working side-by-side. Michael discusses strategies for how leaders can “meet the moment” and evolve their narrative. In this podcast, we learn practical ways to move our teams and organizations from the story of the past to the story of the future, by first recognizing and reflecting on what comes with the place of ‘no story’ – the place of in between.

Released: May 20, 2020

 

How to Stay Creative While Working Remotely

When we meet in person, something absolutely magical happens. We look each other in the eye, share a story or two, then something may just click and we may even bond! Enforced remote environments for those of us that can stay home and work remotely may not seem as magical, but we can look at it as an opportunity to redesign the way we work and improve upon what doesn’t. We can begin by finding creative ways to do our work and incorporate it in each day. Read More…

Essential Leadership in the New World of Work

Since March, our world of work has changed more than any of us ever would have imagined. Now organizations are starting to explore a phased return to previous work arrangements. Last week I shared some thoughts on practices leaders should employ to help their teams successfully navigate their return.

But, for teams and organizations to thrive in the long run, leaders will need to embrace new skills and new ways of leading. And, while there are numerous areas you could focus on developing, here are three key capabilities that will help better prepare your team for future disruptions:

Authenticity – A recent literature review on team resilience suggests that team identity is a key enabler of teams that can successfully recover from disruption. Strong team identity requires a leader who engenders trust through authenticity. Authentic leaders are genuinely self-aware and inspire loyalty and trust by consistently being who they really are. And research has shown that authentic leadership is the single biggest predictor of employee satisfaction. As your team slowly returns to more typical ways of working, you have the opportunity to show up in a more authentic way. Practice openness and true humility. Be honest about the challenges and opportunities you are facing as a leader and as an organization. And, create a safe space for your team to do the same. Read More…

Former POW Shares Thoughts On Surviving And Thriving In Difficult Times

The last few months have fundamentally changed the way many people live their lives day-to-day. Over the last few weeks, in particular, I have noticed an increase in a variety of what might normally be considered “unhealthy” behavior during my interactions with people.

Some individuals seem to be taking one of three paths as they attempt to make sense of their new realities and as they come to grips with being thrust into a reality where they have limited control and where the situation is rapidly changing-

  1. Finding false hope. These people keep finding a date that they hang their hopes on when things will “return to normal”. The challenge is that every time one of those dates comes to pass and things have not returned to normal, they pick a new date, each time seeming to lose a piece of themselves.
  2. Losing hope altogether. These people really seem to be struggling. They seem consumed with every news story and conspiracy theory that they come across. They feel like the sky is falling and they are beginning to (or have) lost hope that things will get better.
  3. Finding resilience. The rest seem to acknowledge their new reality and face facts without losing hope that things will get better (a concept articulated by Admiral James Stockdale called the Stockdale Paradox). They don’t hang their hopes on the next date that things will be fine and they don’t fall into a pit of despair. It is these folks who seem to be best adapted to survive and thrive in environments where they have little control.

Read More…

Podcast: How to Survive and Thrive in Uncertain Times: Lessons from a former POW

gothamCulture Podcast

In this episode, Chris Cancialosi interviews Ralph Galati, former Air Force officer, and POW and Executive Director of JDog Foundation.

The loss of control and isolation that many people are feeling globally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is affecting them in a variety of ways. Some people seem to have lost hope while others seem to hold out unreasonable hope that things will “go back to normal” on a certain date only to be let down when their hopes aren’t realized. In this episode, we talk to Ralph Galati, former Air Force officer who found himself shot down over North Vietnam and who then served as a prisoner of war for 14 months before being freed. Ralph shares his perspective on what people may be feeling during this time and how to draw upon the internal and external resources you have to not only survive but to thrive in uncertain times.

Released: May 5, 2020

Faith and the Optimistic Stance

Faith is a word which elicits different thoughts and emotions for each of us.  For some, it is a sense of trusting others or implicitly knowing we are understood or respected.  For others, it can be the feeling that we will always be encouraged by our friends, colleagues and fellow travelers, especially in time of need.  And for many, like me, it is centered on a belief in a higher power.  Often, it is all of those things combined – and more.

Faith and optimism are intertwined.  One cannot truly believe that something positive will happen in the future without taking a metaphorical leap of faith that is centered in optimism.  Be it a soldier looking over in the foxhole at the man next to him or the coworker with whom you’ve worked for years – it takes faith and optimism to know that the other person will always have your back when the challenges – and battles – confront us.

My colleagues at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) have a wonderful perspective called the “Optimistic Stance.”  Their outlook says, “Gestalt takes a realistic view of the present and an optimistic view of the possible, preferring to work in the development of the potential within an individual or system rather than correcting them.”   In other words, they see each system, be they families, teams or much larger groups, as having inherent capabilities that can be appreciated and noticed.  Once they are pointed out, growth is unleashed, which serves every system. Read More…

Building Empathy To Address Critical Talent Gaps

organizational empathy

Talent challenges continue to be a priority for most agencies across the federal government. Frequent turnover, hard to fill roles, and shortages in mission-critical skill sets are all too common in most federal agencies.

There are countless strategies and approaches agency leaders can, and have, tried to address these complex challenges. But, building organizational empathy may be just the tool HR leaders need to make a near term impact.

Building organizational empathy is a strategic element for organizations trying to hire and retain top talent in an increasingly tight labor market. Research by the benefits technology firm, Business Solver in their State of Workplace Empathy report reveals that empathy is a key driver of retention, motivation, and productivity. More than 90% of employees surveyed indicated they were more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. In fact, respondents were even willing to trade off hours and pay in favor of increased empathy.

In an increasingly competitive talent environment, building a culture of empathy should be a key part of the people strategy in all organizations.

Read More…