Followership – 4 Tips to be a Great Team Player
These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you've got great teamwork skills.

Followership – 4 Tips to be a Great Team Player

In our last post, we talked about how managers can understand Millennials, as well as build strong working relationships with them. Working relationships and respect are a two-way street. This week we’ll talk about how to be a great follower and team player. This is important for everyone, no matter what generation. Whether you’re Millennial, Boomer or Gen X, these tips are going to help you be a great team player. Even if you own your own business, you are still responsive to customers, clients, and possibly even investors. These four tips will help you show really good followership, which is the core of great leadership, as well as show that you’ve got great teamwork skills.

Followership Tip #1 – Know Your Organization’s Mission

We all get really head-down sometimes working on our tasks. Sometimes we divert in a direction that’s not really productive because we’ve lost focus on our mission. We focus so much on details, we forget we’re serving a larger purpose. That’s why we’re part of a team, to achieve something that we couldn’t do on our own. Recognize what your organization’s mission is. Focus your efforts on enhancing that mission. Don’t be afraid to speak up if an idea doesn’t align with the mission. Work with the people around you to ensure all your ideas and efforts serve your organization’s mission.

Followership Tip #2 – Know What Your Boss is Held Accountable For

Do you know how your organization measures your team for success? You may all be working towards a stated mission, but your team leader might be accountable for things outside of what your awareness. Your boss’s boss may be measuring the success of your team and your leader on other factors. What is your boss held accountable for? It may not just be what’s going on your team. Understand the metrics used to measure your team. Keep track of the metrics that senior leadership uses to measure success for the whole organization. You will learn how your leadership makes decisions as well as how to present your ideas so they will be well received.

Followership Tip #2 – Show Initiative

There’s always a lot of tasks to do in any organization. We all appreciate the people who step up and do them. Those people show strong leadership potential and we select them to be team leaders in the future. Find uncompleted tasks and do them. Don’t worry if it’s not in your job description. Or put together a small team inside your team to get it done. This comes back to what your boss is held accountable for. If there are things that are falling by the wayside, show some initiative and get them done. Show senior leadership you’ll be a great leader by exhibiting good followership.

Followership Tip #4 – Present Fully Formed Ideas

Last week we talked about how leaders should be coaching and mentoring young Millennials to fully form ideas before presenting them. Ask for mentoring and coaching, but also try to meet your boss halfway. Be as thorough as you can when you put together ideas to pitch to your boss. Recognize what the impacts will be, not just to you, but to your team as a whole. Also, consider impacts to other stakeholders outside of your team. Define those impacts in terms of money, time or any other important metrics, as well as solicit the perspectives of others. Talk with the other teams and find out how your proposal will impact them. Will they support your proposal? Bring all the relevant information and perspectives together and present it in a clear and easily understandable format. This will help you make a very strong case for your idea to your boss.

Followership is the core of leadership. In the Air Force, we worked very hard to create great followers that understood the principles of good leadership and became great leaders later on. and I hope that works for you too. Next time you want to propose something to your boss use these tips to make a strong case. Show initiative and put together a really well thought out plan. By meeting your boss halfway, you’ll have more conversations about great ideas, instead of just getting quick yes or no answers.

One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look at opportunities that come from the way millennials look at the world.

Managing Millennials – 4 Tips for Leading Millennials

We’ve heard a lot about the “millennial problem” lately and there is no shortage of opinions on it. My first experience working with millennials was in the Air Force in the mid-2000s. That was a bit different situation than dealing with it in a civilian environment. Despite the differences, we found some successful leadership principles that can help with managing millennials in the civilian world too. One piece of general advice is not to think of leading and managing millennials as a problem. Instead, look for opportunities that come from the way millennials view the world. How can that mindset benefit your team? If you lead millennials or are millennial and you have a different experience, I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to learn from your experience if you have different advice and share it with other leaders.

Managing Millennials Tip #1 – Recognize What Millennials Want

Millennials really want 3 things when it comes to their career and life in general. They want to be heard, to participate in the decision-making process and for their work to have meaning. This isn’t unique to millennials. Pretty much everyone in every generation wants these things in their work experience.

From a very young age, millennials have been encouraged to pursue their dreams. They were also much more included in decision-making with their families. This is far different from my experience growing up as a Generation Xer. Older generations were raised differently as well. We “paid our dues” in the workplace before we got a seat at the big table. Millennials view this differently and this can create that generational tension. We shouldn’t assign any blame here, just recognize the different mindset. Recognizing that millennials want the same thing as every generation does, but have a different mindset on how to get there, goes a long way towards building a strong team relationship with millennials.

Managing Millennials Tip #2 – Be Flexible Where You Can

Millennials love flexibility especially when it comes to schedule and being able to use the latest technology. Look for opportunities to be flexible on how your team does work. It’s important to maintain the standards of excellence that your organization demands. For example, who cares when your team is in the office if they can do the work remotely? What events or activities do they really need to be present for? Where you can, let your millennial team members experiment with new tech, new methods, and alternate schedules. Enforce deadlines and standards on work products even as you give them new freedom.

Managing Millennials Tip #3 – Give Millennials Objectives, Not Tasks

Give your millennials problems to solve and let them figure out how to do it. As above, set clear standards that their results have to meet. Identify any legal or regulatory frameworks they must stay within and let them work inside that framework. If you’re new to letting your team have this much freedom, schedule in a few vector checks. These checks let your team update you before they proceed and are a great opportunity to give them further guidance.

Managing Millennials Tip #4 – Be a Coach and Mentor

Here at Evil Genius Leadership we believe one of our most important jobs as a leader is to develop the leaders coming up behind us. It’s especially important with millennials who are looking to have a coaching and mentor relationship with you. Sometimes a team member will have an idea for an improvement. Often it’s not quite fully formed or doesn’t take into account the whole situation. Rather than just saying no, sit down and discuss how they can make their proposal stronger. We all had mentors who took the time to invest in us. We should do the same for our team members.

You may recognize that these tips are all basic good leadership principles. We were talking about these ideas 20 to 30 years ago before millennials ever entered the workforce. As I said earlier, if you’re leading millennials, or are a millennial, and you have a different experience, leave us a comment and let’s continue the discussion. I’d love to hear what you think and refine these tips to make them valuable to even more people. Rather than looking at this as a “millennial problem” let’s just recognize that every generation comes with its own worldview. If we follow good leadership principles we can get past the tension from differing worldviews.

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind.

Rest and Relaxation – 4 Vacation Tips for Leaders

People who are really driven often struggle to get rest and relaxation. This week I’m on spring break from my MBA program and really looking forward to it. I’ve planned a few fun activities for myself and friends. I also have a few things I’d like to accomplish for my business with the downtime. Like a lot of people with big goals, I sometimes forget that a break is about resting and recharging. Sometimes I have a hard time getting my mind off of work.  I’m using these four tips this week to help me relax instead of falling back into work habits. I want to come back to school next week refreshed instead of more stressed out. These tips will help you too if you have a hard time leaving work behind when you go on vacation.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #1 – Prep your Team

The first tip happens before you even leave for your vacation. Make sure you know who is handling each of your responsibilities before you go and make sure they know! Look them in the eye and get a positive handoff. Give them any background they need to have.  Make sure they know where to find any information they might need to make a decision. Spell out how much authority they have to make decisions while you’re gone and what should wait until you get back. (for more on this see our Delegation video) Also, make sure they know how to reach you in an emergency. It’s probably a good idea to discuss what you think a real emergency is. You don’t want them calling you over every little thing that pops up.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #2 – Commit to Fun Activities

Commit yourself to fun activities during your time off. This is really important if you’re like me and find your mind wandering back to work. Before your vacation starts, pick a few things that you really want to do and commit to doing them. Put them on the calendar, or pay in advance for them if that helps you follow through. If I don’t make that commitment to myself, I’ll just let each day come and go. I’ll kind of putter around and do regular things and at the end of my vacation, I’ll wonder where the time went. For this week I’m doing some day trips and have some other fun meetups with friends planned. I’m more committed when I involve other people. If you have a hard time committing, Ask a  friend or family member to join you.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #3 – Cut the Cord

Cut the cord from your workplace and leave your laptop and phone behind. And if you can’t do that, make some time during the day that’s electronics free. Checking email and messages will keep you focused on work and won’t let your body and mind recharge. If you use your phone in your personal life, log out of your work email accounts to avoid distraction. There are apps you can try that will block certain apps when you choose. You can have your phone to take great pictures and post on social media while avoiding those work emails.

Rest and Relaxation Tip #4 – It’s Okay to Learn a Little

Your time off doesn’t have to be frivolous. It’s okay to do a little personal development on your vacation, but don’t let it take away from enjoying time with family and friends. Read that new leadership book you’ve been wanting to while you’re sitting on the beach or by the pool. Don’t focus too much on it. Put it down when it’s time to go do those fun activities you’ve committed yourself to.

I know it sounds a little crazy to put so much thought into how to relax. There are a lot of us who will gravitate back to business if there isn’t anyone to remind us to let go. If you’re like me, these 4 tips will help you stay present and engaged with your family and friends as you all enjoy some well-deserved rest and relaxation!

Managing up isn't just about getting our boss to accept our proposals. We need to build trust that we will act in the best interest of the organization.

Managing Up – 3 Tips for Managing Your Boss

Often, as leaders, we get wrapped up in day-to-day problems and leading our own team. We sometimes forget how important managing up is. We need to build strong relationships with our boss and our boss’s boss in order to lead effectively.

Effective leaders do more than just manage their team. They build strong working relationships their leadership up the chain. Managing up isn’t just about getting the boss to accept our proposals. We need to build trust that we will act in the best interest of the organization.

When I was a young Air Force Captain, I was working on a project and had to go see the Wing Commander. I had put together a few options but wasn’t really sure which one to choose. I went to the meeting and asked him what he wanted to do. He looked at me and said, “Jason I’m a Colonel, you’re a captain. You’re the project officer. Figure it out.” He then explained that he wasn’t trying to be harsh, but rather that he trusted me. As the expert, I should be recommending to him what the best alternative is. That experience taught me what managing up is all about. Bring solutions to the boss instead of just bringing problems or questions.

Managing Up Tip #1 – Bring Solutions, Not Problems

Effective leaders will go to the boss and present the problem, their thought process and their preferred solution along with several alternatives. Go to your boss with some solutions in mind. Don’t just bring more problems. The boss already has plenty of problems on his plate, we don’t need to bring him more. You show initiative by providing several solutions and build trust by showing that you have the best interests organization at heart.

Managing Up Tip #2 – Solve Your Boss’s Problems

Don’t just solve your own problems. Solve your boss’s problems. When you talk to the boss about a problem and how you’re going to solve it, think about the way your boss thinks about it. Consider their concerns they have across all of the groups they manage, not just your team. Also, be aware of the requirements that are placed on your boss from above. If you can solve your boss’s problems they know they have one, you’re effectively managing up. Your boss is going to trust you and see that you have that initiative to accomplish the mission and do what’s right for the organization.

Managing Up Tip #3 – The One Challenge Rule

What if your boss completely shuts you down on the solution you presented? That happens sometimes and we need to deal with it tactfully. In this case, you can use the one challenge rule to effectively manage up. You don’t want to argue with your boss over the right thing to do. After the decision, if you believe they are making a mistake, take one opportunity to say so. Lay out your case respectfully and calmly in a logical way. The boss may change their mind or decide to go with the original decision. Either way, you made your case and the boss will respect that you tried to do the right thing for the organization. Once the decision is made, go execute according to the boss’s guidance even if you didn’t get your way.

Next time you’re getting ready to pitch one of your ideas to your boss even further up the chain, think about these three tips before you go into the meeting. Remember, we’re trying to build a strong working relationship with our boss and all of the leaders in our organization. We want to build trust by showing them that we’re focused on our mission as well as what’s in the best interest of the organization.

Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

Chain of Command – 3 Tips to Make it Work for You

Following the chain of command can be slow and painful, but there are some advantages. When you understand the chain of command, you can use those experiences to improve your own leadership skills.

While I was in the Air Force one of my assignments was rapid prototyping and testing of new capabilities. It was exciting and rewarding, but there was a lot of risk. We had to go through a lot of levels in the chain of command to get approval for our projects. When I first started this job, it was incredibly frustrating. But I learned over time that I was getting huge benefits by working through the chain of command. That experience forced me to understand the needs and interests of each leader in the chain. If you feel like you’re hitting your head against the wall with your chain of command, here are three things to consider of how it benefits your career instead of feeling like its holding you back.

Chain of Command Benefit #1: Improve Your Critical Thinking

Bosses ask a lot of questions and it can be kind of annoying sometimes. They ask these questions because they have concerns you may not be aware of. Answering these questions helps us get to the best optimal solution for the organization. It may not be the best or most convenient solution for you, but listening carefully to their questions and answering them thoroughly will set you up for success. Keep track of the questions that certain decision makers in your chain, or even out of your chain, ask. Chances are they ask the same ones over and over again because the same concern comes up on every project. If you already have a good idea what questions they will ask when you bring your next project, you can address it thoroughly in your first presentation to them and solve their problem before they even know they have one.

Chain of Command Benefit #2: Build Strong Relationships

When anticipating the questions your chain of command may ask, you may wonder how to get those answers? Building relationships with other parts of your organization will help you gather the information you need. To successfully navigate your chain of command for approval you’ll want to get the perspective of the other departments on how your proposal will affect others. Addressing all of those issues is daunting, but you can get the answers from people who work with them daily. Get out there, make friends with people in other departments. As you’re working on your proposal, talk about it with them. See if it causes any problems in their department. Ask how they can be fixed and if they can support that solution. Now, when you approach your chain of command, you can show that you understand the perspective of others and you’re working with them on the solution.

Chain of Command Benefit #3: Prepare Yourself to be a Boss

Developing your critical thinking and building these relationships provides a third benefit. All this effort and experience is preparing you to be a boss someday. Learning about the problems that the leaders up your chain have gets you thinking about them today and how you might solve them if you were in their position. Having the relationships with other departments already in place will smooth your transition into a position of more responsibility.

So those are the 3 ways you can think about how working through your chain of command benefits you instead of thinking of it as a burden. This still applied even if you don’t plan to stay in your current company forever. If you change jobs you’ll still have the critical thinking and relationship building skills that will help you be one of the great leaders of tomorrow!

 

If you feel something is holding you back, you could be doing it to yourself. Here are three ways to overcome what’s holding you back.

What’s Holding You Back – 3 Tips to Break Through

Often we feel like we could achieve more if we could just break through the barriers in front of us. A lot of times though we’re the ones placing those barriers. If you feel something is holding you back, you could be doing it to yourself. Here are three ways to overcome what’s holding you back.

What’s Holding You Back – Fear of Failure

One of the biggest things that holds us back is fear of failure or fear of rejection. What we often forget is that failure is often one of our best teachers. Fear of rejection and fear of failure has been a recurring theme in my life. It showed up in my business where I wouldn’t go out and actively ask people to be my clients. I was afraid they would say no and that kept me from asking. The first step was to stop worrying about it and make the ask. I don’t want to give the impression that this has completely gone away. These fears still stick with me sometimes and I must dig deep to find courage sometimes, but it does get easier.

If you’re holding yourself back because of fear of failure of rejection, it’s important to go make that ask, Be polite and professional to the person you are asking. If they say no, it’s not personal and has more to do with them than you. And if anyone takes real offense, they were probably not the right person for you to go forward with anyway.

What’s Holding You Back – Not Asking For Help

A lot of times we don’t ask for help because we’re afraid of being judged or of being vulnerable in front of someone we respect. When I started my company, I was afraid that people wouldn’t think I was good at running a business if I asked for help. But there were skills like marketing and sales that I needed some help with. Twenty years in the Air Force didn’t prepare me for those aspects of business. And the only way I was going to learn was to ask for help. I asked for help and improved my business.

If you feel like you need help in a certain area, the best thing you can do is ask someone. Most people want to help others when they can. Just about everyone loves sharing their expertise if we have reasonable expectations for them. If you need help, find someone knowledgeable and ask specific questions about your problem. Apply their advice and see what results come about for you.

What’s Holding You Back – Negative Self-Talk

The stories that we tell ourselves about who we are and the world around us have a great deal of influence over our attitudes and behavior. Our imaginations are very powerful and can serve us well, but they can also run away from us. Many people tell themselves, “I’m not good enough”, “I’ll never be able to do that” or “I don’t belong here”. I engaged in this kind of negative self-talk for many years. This created beliefs that strained the relationships in both my personal and professional life.

If you tell yourself these kinds of negative stories, you can remedy the situation by separating facts from beliefs. What worked for me was taking a piece of paper and making 2 columns, one for beliefs and one for facts. I wrote down the beliefs I had held on to for so many years and then the facts that went along with that situation. What I found out was that when I looked at the cold hard facts on paper in front of me, the beliefs and feelings I had for so long just could not be supported by the facts.

I will be honest with you, getting past these barriers is not easy. It doesn’t change overnight and still takes a conscious effort. If you feel like you’re being held back look at these three areas and see if you’re the one holding yourself back instead of some outside force. Give these tips a try. Even if they don’t unlock whatever problem you’re facing right away, I promise that you’ll feel better about yourself.

Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

Employee Motivation

One of the reasons we wanted to become leaders was so that we could take on challenges we couldn’t achieve by ourselves. Employee motivation is a challenge for every leader. So how do we get our team members to do things that need to be done without being told?

This week we’re answering a question from Pete. He says, “One thing I’m dealing with right now is trying to motivate people who don’t show initiative.”  To help Pete out with this issue, I’m going to give 4 tips for employee motivation.

Employee Motivation Tip #1 – Understand the Psychology

First, it’s important to remember the psychology of motivation. We need to understand the concepts of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Everyone is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated to some degree. Extrinsic motivation is motivation by external rewards, whether that’s money, a bonus, time off or whatever the individual desires. Intrinsic motivation is the rewards that comes internally from feeling the satisfaction of doing a job well done. As a leader, you need to understand how each of your team members is motivated and in what proportion. This will require getting to know each team member! Once you know what makes them tick, you can use that knowledge to your advantage when applying the other three tips.

Employee Motivation Tip #2 – Appeal to Intrinsic Motivation

Taking advantage of intrinsic motivation is tricky. You now know more about your team, their hopes and dreams, likes and dislikes. You can use that information to get excite them. Everyone has something they want to see done better in their workplace. Encourage your team members to talk about improvements they would like to see. When you overhear them talking to each other, challenge them to follow through on their ideas.

Employee Motivation Tip #3 – Use Your Resources

To use extrinsic motivation, Use the resources you have. You may not have money for bonuses, but almost every organization has a recognition program. If you don’t, create one. Make initiative a heavily weighted criteria when giving out awards if you can. Get creative. Time off, work from home, flexible schedules, whatever you can think of. Remember, that to incentivize any behavior, the incentive structure has to match what you say you value. If you want to incentivize initiative, recognition and rewards have to reflect that. You can’t give out awards for BLANK and not recognize the people who took initiative to try to make positive change.

Employee Motivation Tip #4 – Build a Culture

Finally, and probably most importantly, we need to be sure that we are setting up a culture on our team that fosters and rewards initiative. This requires some honest introspection on our part as the leader. When our team members show initiative, how do we react? Our reactions, both conscious and subconscious, verbal and non-verbal have a lot to do with how our team will behave in the future. Patience and open-mindedness are key here. If their work is acceptable but not the way you prefer it was done, you have to find ways to build on their work without shutting it down.

If we want our team members to show initiative we have to show them that their efforts won’t be wasted. We need to get to know them as people and what makes them tick. As leaders we have to encourage them to follow-up on their ideas and we also need to use our resources to recognize and reward them appropriately. Most important we need to show that we are open to the things that they show initiative on. Even if it’s not the most important thing on our list or the outcome isn’t perfect.  We must appreciate our team members’ effort if we want them to show initiative. Keep doing that and your team members will keep taking on new challenges without you having to ask them to!

Lately we’ve heard a lot about how practicing gratitude can benefit our lives as well as those around us. I know from personal experience that being grateful for the things we have can be difficult. It’s hard to focus on gratitude when we’re overwhelmed with everything that life throws at us. That’s why it’s important to bring gratitude to the front of our mind with a daily practice. Making time for this practice and will help us develop a strong habit until it's second nature to us.

Practicing Gratitude

Thanksgiving is coming up this week and we all have a lot to be thankful for. Personally I’m thankful for my family, my friends, the great people I get to partner with on business ventures, and the nice life I have here in Las Vegas. Lately we’ve heard a lot about how practicing gratitude can benefit our lives as well as those around us. I know from personal experience that being grateful for the things we have can be difficult. It’s hard to focus on gratitude when we’re overwhelmed with everything that life throws at us. That’s why it’s important to bring gratitude to the front of our mind with a daily practice. Making time for this practice and will help us develop a strong habit until it’s second nature to us.

Practicing Gratitude: The Benefits

There are a lot of benefits to practicing gratitude. It makes us feel better about ourselves and it improves our relationships with other people. Amy Morin wrote in Psychology Today about 7 ways that gratitude benefits us:

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships

    Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or send a thank-you note to that colleague who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

  • Gratitude improves physical health

    Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health. They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

  • Gratitude improves psychological health

  • Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression

    Grateful people are more likely to behave in a pro-social manner, even when others behave less kindly, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

  • Grateful people sleep better

    Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

  • Gratitude improves self-esteem

    A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athletes’ self-esteem, an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs—a major factor in reduced self-esteem—grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

  • Gratitude increases mental strength 

    For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.

Practicing Gratitude: One Method

Now that you know the benefits of gratitude it’s time to develop your own daily gratitude practice. What works for someone else, may not work for you. It’s important to set yourself up for success by choosing a routine that works for you. Rather than just provide a list, I’ll tell you about my daily practice. You can generate your own ideas from there.

My daily gratitude practice starts just about as soon as I wake up. After I take the dog out to play for a few minutes. I meditate in my favorite chair to get myself in a calm and open frame of mind. As soon as I’m done, before I even get up from the chair, I open my journal. I write down three things that I’m grateful for. Sometimes I’m grateful for the people in my life. It could be something I’ve learned, an experience, or that it’s a really nice day out. I follow-up what I’m grateful for with writing out some personal goals that would make today a really great day. After that I close my journal and start my day!

At the end of the day, write down three things that happened that were really amazing. Since I’m not perfect, I also write down at least one thing that I could have improved upon. I’ve been doing this for about two years now. It really helps me focus on what’s important instead of dwelling on little things that frustrate or annoy me.

Practicing Gratitude: Tips for Building Your Practice

Now that you have an example to work on, it’s time to go build your own gratitude practice. There’s a reason we call it practicing gratitude. It doesn’t happen automatically. Just like an athlete or musician who practices every day, we need to commit to our practice as well.

There are a few things to keep in mind whenever embarking on a new journey like this one. First, research tells us it takes most of us 45 to 60 days to build a habit. To experience the benefits of practicing gratitude, commit to practice through the new year until it becomes second nature. Also, a practice like this works best if we do it every day. If that seems overwhelming to you or hard to commit to, try starting with 3 days a week. Keep adding a day each week until you’re up to every day. Finally, building a habit also works best if we do our practice at the same time every day. If your schedule is highly variable, blocking out time each day can help build the habit too.

Practicing gratitude is a great way to find more peace and build stronger relationships with the people in our lives. It’s challenging develop a daily practice, but there are techniques we can use to set ourselves up for success. Even though practicing gratitude isn’t always easy, the benefits that come from putting the time in are worth the effort.

We’re getting to know ourselves better this month at Evil Genius Leadership and today we’re going to talk about personality testing, as well as personality types. There are a lot of different personality tests and a lot of opinions about personality testing in leadership development. Today we’ll look at how to use personality types to know ourselves better, as well as improve our relationships with other people.

Personality Types

We’re getting to know ourselves better this month at Evil Genius Leadership and today we’re going to talk about personality testing, as well as personality types. There are a lot of different personality tests and a lot of opinions about personality testing in leadership development. Today we’ll look at how to use personality types to know ourselves better, as well as improve our relationships with other people.

Personality Types and Personality Tests

Learning our personality type is a great way to get to know ourselves better while developing our leadership style. There are a lot of personality tests that can help us find out more. You can go online and find Meyers-Briggs tests, Big 5 tests, Color type tests, almost anything you can think of. Most of these tests use personality archetypes from Jungian psychology. If you’re looking for a free online test, you can go to psychcentral.com. Also, the personality trait definitions below are from their site.

Personality Types and Traits

When you take a personality test, you will find that most of these tests will show you how you score on a continuum of traits. The areas vary from test to test, but they’re almost always a combination of five traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience. Some tests may organize traits differently; for example, Meyers-Briggs tests align the traits on 4 continuums, but tell you the same information.

The 5 Personality Traits

  • Extraversion reflects a person’s preference for certain kinds of social situations, and how they like to behave in such situations. People high in extraversion are energetic and seek out the company of others. People low in extraversion — what some might call introverts — tend to be more quiet and reserved.
  • Agreeableness describes how we tend to interact with others, especially in terms of our altruism and friendliness. People who score higher in agreeableness tend to be more trusting, friendly and cooperative than others. People who score lower tend to be more aggressive and less cooperative.
  • Conscientiousness is how organized and persistent a person is in pursuing their goals. People who score high on this trait tend to be more methodical, well-organized and dutiful than others. People who score lower tend to be less careful, less focused and more likely to be distracted from tasks.
  • Neuroticism shows the tendency for a person to experience negative thoughts and feelings. People who score high on this trait tend to be more prone to insecurity and emotional distress. People who score lower tend to be more relaxed, less emotional and less prone to distress.
  • Openness to Experience indicates a person’s open-mindedness, and interest in culture and art. People who score high on this trait tend to be imaginative, creative, and to seek out cultural and educational experiences. People who score lower on this trait tend to be more down-to-earth, less interested in art and more practical in nature.

Interpreting Personality Test Results

Personality tests give you a score which will tell you how extroverted you are; how agreeable, etc. Looking at these scores together will give you an idea of how your personality traits work together to make you who you are. If your results don’t seem like they describe you accurately, ask someone who knows you really well to take a look. Sometimes it’s hard for us to accept our scores when we see them in black and white, but when someone we trust reminds us how we’ve approached life in the past, we can see a little more clearly.

In leadership, there’s no personality type or combination of traits that makes someone a better leader. Some research shows a very small correlation between extraversion and leadership ability, many of the greatest leaders in history would have qualified as introverts. So if you don’t score high on extraversion, you can still be a great leader.

Personality Types: Considerations for Ourselves and Others

The first thing to remember about personality types and personality tests is that they are not a psychological evaluation. They’re just a guide to give you some more understanding of your own personality. Next, it’s important that we use these tests to give us insight into our own personality and how we can grow to become great leaders. We shouldn’t put people in a box that limits their potential based on their personality type. It’s also important that we don’t use our personality type as an excuse to keep us in our comfort zone or let others on our team hide behind their personality type. I often hear  the excuse, “I’m not extroverted, I shouldn’t have to speak in public”. We shouldn’t let anyone, including ourselves, use this information as a crutch to avoid developing our skills.

I hope this gave you a little bit more insight into the traits that make up our personalities. We should never use this knowledge as an excuse for bad behavior or inaction. This helps us understand our resistance to doing what it takes to succeed. Just like we explored who we are, who we want to be and what we want out of life, knowing our personality type is another tool in our leadership toolbox that helps us know ourselves and develop our own unique leadership style.

The last fear that we're going to cover is the fear of saying no. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Saying No: Facing Fear

All through October we’ve been talking about the things that frighten us and how to face them. The last common fear that we’re going to cover is the fear of saying no. We all have it. This is one that I have a particularly hard time with. I hate to tell people no, but sometimes we have to in order to get the best outcome.

Why is it so hard for us to say no to people? Often we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or we’re afraid they won’t like us anymore. Saying no to our boss comes with some concern about how it will affect our career. The likelihood that someone will stop being our friend just because we said no to them is actually pretty small. Our real friends will understand if we can’t say yes to what they’re asking for. When we explain our reasons, they’re usually pretty cool with it.

As human beings we have empathy for those around us and we don’t want to hurt others feelings. We should consider though, will we be hurting that person more if we DON’T say no in this case? And when it comes to saying no to our boss, we could actually be hurting our company, department or our boss even more by holding back.

Saying No Scenario #1 – Peers

Have you ever had one of your peers ask, “Do you think this is a good idea?” Sometimes it’s not a good idea. The extreme cases are actually a little easier. “I’m going to stand in a bucket of water and hold on to these electric cables, do you think that’s a good idea?” That’s pretty easy to say no to. When the request is a little more nuanced it can be difficult to say no to our peers. We want them to like us. We want them to think we’re a team player and we want them to like us! How do we say no when our teammate has an idea that is not in the best interest of the team?

One way is to look back at our mission. Does this idea fit into that mission? Is it in the best interest of the team, the customer or the people we’re trying to serve? If the answer is no, that can be the basis for how to say no. You don’t have to limit yourself to just saying no. Thoughtful feedback to your coworker can get their idea more aligned with team goals.

Saying No Scenario #2 – As a Leader

Saying no if you’re the boss can be harder than it looks. Especially if you used to be on the team and then were promoted to being the boss. Looking  someone you used to work with in the eye and telling them what to do can be challenging.  Sometimes the people on your team will take actions or have ideas that you need to say no to. Just like with our peers, keeping the mission and best interest of the team in mind will help. Avoid being arbitrary about whose ideas you listen to and whose you reject. We want to evaluate suggestions and solutions based on merit, not on who brings them forward.

Sometimes you have access to information about the big picture that you should take into account when making your decisions. You may or may not choose to share this information depending on the situation. Don’t forget that one of our duties as a leader is to develop our team, so when you have to say no, keep giving that feedback on how that individual can make their idea or suggestion better so you can say yes in the future.

Saying No Scenario #3 – To our Boss

If saying no to our peers and our team is hard, saying no to our boss can be downright impossible. We owe it to our boss to ensure they have complete information or understanding of the impacts of a decision. We can ask, is this in alignment with our mission and in the best interest of the team? A lot of times the answer is maybe. Sometimes we have to pick our battles. If the decision won’t cause catastrophic failure or isn’t a clear violation of laws or regulations, maybe we let it go. If there will be a serious breakdown in accomplishing the mission or a clear conflict of our organizational core values, it’s time to speak up.

A technique that we’ve talked about before is the one challenge rule. The boss makes a decision, you speak up once to make sure that the boss has all the information. If the boss decides to go forward anyway, you said your peace and aired your objection. This may not result in the decision you wanted, but at least you tried to help your boss and your team accomplish their mission.

Saying No with Dignity and Respect

These are just a few examples of times you might need to say no to someone, but the principles are the same. When we do say no to someone, whether it is our peers, our team or our boss, we always want to do it with respect and dignity. Coming from a place of fear or anger can distort our message and break down relationships instead of making them stronger. We should always strive to build better connections with the people, even if it means telling them no.

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