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28 August 2010

Extend Your Time Management Skills to Your Leadership Actions

Reference: Personal Branding Interview: Jim Kouzes
By Dan Schawbel
Personal Branding Network
Posted August 26th, 2010 at 2:26 pm

You can learn leadership, and you can apply your personal skills to it.

According to Jim Kouzes, a professor at Santa Clara University and an award-winning, best-selling author, Leadership is not about who you are or where you come from. It’s about what you do. He identifies five leading behaviors:
  • Clarify values and set the example.
  • Envision and enlist others in a positive future.
  • Search for opportunities, experiment, and learn from the experiments.
  • Foster collaboration and support action.
  • Celebrate contributions, values, and victories.
Kouzes recommends formulating one's values, just as one would do for time and life management (see previous entries to this blog). He then recommends conducting a dialog with the team to define work-related values of each person and then identifying the common values. When the team agrees to hold itself to the common values, trust builds and a team culture forms.

For time and life management, one identifies life goals and short-term goals that influence the priorities of long-term and short-term activities. Kouzes states that leaders share and encourage a long-term perspective with their teams. He recommends monthly team meetings to discuss issues and developments that might affect the business. Expanding members' perspectives can lead to innovation. This also establishes common priorities and goals toward which members can work; and seeing your task as part of a larger goal adds motivation.

Kouzes emphasizes that leadership must focus on building and supporting others. This goes back to values. To quote the most famous, totally unknown writer in the world (me), The greatness of a man lies not in what he accomplishes for himself, but in what he accomplishes for others. This extends to the team, as well. When each member of a team focuses on building up and empowering the other members, each person receives knowledge and empowerment from multiple directions. The team leads itself as a growing, synergistic front to any problem or competitor.

Asked about changes in leadership theory, Kouzes points out a shift from command-and-control to serve-and-support leadership. This principle goes wayyy back. For example, two millennia ago, Jesus taught on several occasions,
You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)
Some people can take directions and immediately act on them with all their strength. As a product of my generation, I need more. I need to know that the directions favor my own interests or at least the common good. "American values" recognize that government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, and that the governed has a right to overthrow leadership that undercuts the common good. Even the American military has found greater success with motivating followers by establishing trust and common goals.

This ties back to the concept in time and life management, that knowing why and feeling in control by connecting values and goals to tasks motivates voluntary focus and performance. What works in time and life management also works in leadership.

Whaddya know, I'm learning some transferable skills!

18 August 2010

Improving Self Confidence

Asma Zaineb. 
CommLab India. 
August 17, 2010, 05:34 AM

This entry original posted 18 August 2010, revised 25 August 2010.

We all differ in motivations, what lacked in our upbringing, what challenges have tripped us, or what chemicals our brains lack, have in surplus, or metabolize incorrectly. Different remedies, therefore, might build self esteem for different people. At the end of any method, though, success leads to self confidence.

Many who do not have confidence issues think that in only takes success to build self confidence. Pep talks about "believing in yourself" sound trite, frustrating people who lack the inner knowledge or belief that they can succeed. The discouraged may try but then lack the confidence to perform with excellence. They may succeed but then see only the flaws in their product or service. They might even rejoice in their success but then lose that joy after viewing their "success" in light of a long track record of what they perceive as a downward spiral of failure, mediocrity, and growing obsolescence. How do you establish that which has eroded to nothing?

This discussion takes a more sympathetic approach. It identifies some ways to lower perceived barriers to success and to increase the drive to attack or bypass those barriers.

Do not let the many suggestions get in the way; pick what sounds right for you and try it. Also, be patient with yourself and allow yourself to build desired traits gradually. It took you a lifetime to get this far; don't expect change overnight.

Before addressing self confidence, one needs to distinguish between lacking self confidence and being lazy. Doing the most important but more challenging task requires exertion and sometimes pain. The lazy mind prefers the comforts of non-productive behavior or of easier tasks. Lazy minds can use insecurity as an excuse and blow it out of proportion. How to deal with one's own laziness is off topic here, but recognizing it is an obvious first step.

(Continued after the caution.)
Caution: A lack of self confidence may link to depression. Depression can have a lot of causes such as upbringing, genetics, diet, abnormal sleep, or side effects of medications. It goes beyond mere discouragement. You may not be able to will yourself happy, affirm your way out of it, or wait it out. Don't let any person or any thought embarrass you out of seeking help. It's not your fault. You don't need to be a hero and live through the pain. If you think a lack of self confidence might link to depression, get professional help.

Start with your primary care physician to check for physical causes. If your doctor recommends further action such as visting a sleep clinic, dietician, psychiatrist, or counselor, do it. Maybe you just need to change some habits or a prescription. Maybe you need antidepressants. You don't have to choose between living with the pain, self-medicating, or escapism. You know the long term cost far exceeds the short term cost of treatment. And you know you are worth it.

Zaineb, the author of the linked article, gives some good advice but lacks consistent logic. You almost know what to expect after reading the title. He advises,

 o Prepare. Good. We each have the opportunity through study and hands-on practice to become an expert at what we wish to do. Knowledge is power, power becomes success, and success becomes confidence.

 o Know your desires and goals. Eh, so-so. Zaineb says, set your own criteria for success rather than duplicating others' goals. There's a lot more to be said about goals that I'll say elsewhere.

 o Emphasize your body posture. Good. In Psychology 101, I learned that feelings often follow behavior; so the same advice applies to how you talk about yourself. Humility and self-deprecating humor may charm and endear, but it traps those lacking self confidence. In addition to Zaineb's suggestions about posture, smile at yourself in the mirror while getting ready. Smile at everybody you see. Smile and act glad to see everybody you meet. Smiles are contagious, and you might just catch it back.

 o Overcome your fear. Zaineb offers nothing about what this implies. I may have addressed it below.

 o Teach yourself to be happy. Zaineb tritely advises us to list our positive attributes to remind us that we are special and unique. Being special and unique does not give me confidence, however. Having some strengths does not mean that I have all the strengths that I need to accomplish a victory. Zaineb should instead focus on using affirmations and on how, to some degree, we can choose our moods.

 o Observe others. Good, although Zaineb unnecessarily limits this bit of advice to public speaking. Speechifyin' ain't the only task what needs confidence.

 o Believe in your abilities. Huh? The cure for not believing in my abilities is to believe in my abilities?

 o Examine your past failures. Good, but very poorly written. Mr. Zaineb contradicts himself and fractures logic by saying that we should forget the past, and therefore should examine past failures to gain experience (insight would be a better word choice). Perhaps he means, Learn from failure and then leave it in the past. To reinforce this, consider starting a journal titled, "I Learned Something Today," and inside the back cover, start a list of questions and subjects to study, with stars next to the really important subjects.

Motivation. One also needs to distinguish between insecurities and having insufficient motivation to overcome insecurities. To gain motivation, I recommend listing one's life goals, identifying the values that lie behind those goals, and planning the activities, especially the activities in which one lacks confidence, that will accomplish those goals. Don't include just the positives; include the negatives, too. Consider what you want to avoid and what will happen if you let your insecurity stop you from even trying. Keeping in mind the goal-based value of an activity will often motivate one to act and to strive despite insecurities.

Character. Courage is the will to do right, even when it will cause us pain. Honor is the pride that motivates and results from the exercise of courage. In America, many people have pride, but few have honor. For proof, one need only look at divorce rates, the low age of teenage sexuality, and the saturation of political speech with dishonesty. Character can motivate us to do what we need to do even when we lack confidence. Sometimes only character can move us to achieve the successes that will build our self confidence. Try not because you will succeed, but because it is right to try; or as Lt. Worf would say, because it is honorable.

Opposition. One writer stated that his mother always told him, "You can't do anything right. You'll never make anything of yourself." I sometimes hear echos of my foster mom crying, "Richard, you're so destructive!" after I broke plate. A successful lawyer told me, "there are plenty of people out there who try to kick your teeth in everyday - and sometimes it gets to you and you start thinking the problem is 'you', hence the depression. It's a very petty, political world out there - some people can't stand the fact that other people do things well and get the glory - but they don't realize 'Blowing out someone else's candle doesn't make their candle glow any brighter!' ...some people, or all of us at various times, may think 'the whole world is against us.'"

The writer mentioned above used two approaches to overcoming a lack of self confidence due to opposition. First, he worked even harder to prove his mother wrong. This is close to the stereotypical Type A personality who obsesses about his work in a subconscious bid for his father's approval. Second, the writer chose to recall the encouragement of a loving aunt rather than the discouragement from his mother. He intentionally thought about positive experiences and turned childhood opposition into motivation that led to a successful and rewarding career.

Alignment of activities to goals. This goes back to goal-setting and planning. (See my previous entry on Driving Your Time Management.) I will assume you know your goals. Consider whether, in practice, you really pursue your goals. You might execute your to-do list in the wrong order of priorities, or you might even work in the wrong occupation. In a variation on this, a boss or a team member mis-employs himself by performing tasks for which another team member has better skills. Focusing on less important tasks and trying to do a job for which you have the wrong aptitudes or preferences can fast-track you to failure; and failure destroys self confidence. Doing what you were made to do will lead to loving what you do. Self confidence will become less of a barrier, and success will boost self confidence.

Your goal-related activities include more than the tasks you need to get done. They also include preparation, study, and experience. Do you think you left studying behind when you graduated? Ha! Schools gave you a foundation for learning your job. It gave you basic knowledge on which to build a lifetime of learning and the skills to acquire the real-life knowledge you will need. Whatever you do, study and practice to become the expert at what you wish to do.

Lower expectations. As Zaineb points out, unrealistic expectations can erode self confidence, but not everybody, as he implies, gets their criteria for success from others. As a perfectionist who competes against himself, I have learned that I cannot exclude failure and imperfection from my human condition. We must expect shortcomings and pay attention to what goes wrong. A setback is not a failure that shames us; it is an empowering lesson. Prepare better and correct unprofitable tendencies. Think about how many drives it takes to carry a football down the field to score in a typical Superbowl. Or think about how many pitches are received for each home-run hit in baseball. Then step up to the plate again.

Network. Having an accepting, encouraging friend can help if you don't tend to isolate yourself. Don't worry about the number of your friends; you have found a gem if you find just one true friend who sticks by you. Reward your friends by focusing on their problems, by making their lives easier, by encouraging them. What gives you your lasting worth is not what friends do for you, but what you do for others. (Reminds one of JFK!) When you need them, hopefully, they'll be there for you.

Look for a mentor, someone with a teaching, encouraging spirit. Don't limit your search. One of my mentors ranked lower on the career ladder than me; yet he taught me some of the most important lessons in life. You will probably have to try relationships with several people before you will find one that works. One might coach your people skills while another coaches your technical skills and another coaches your spirit. As life goes, you will have many mentors at different times.

For supervisors and coworkers: David Paul, PhD, found that employees respond with greater productivity when they receive a balance of respect, regard, and reward. Respect values people for their abilities, attributes, and achievements, and we usually offer respect by default until it is earned or found to be unwarranted. Regard values the person because of their character, uniqueness, and abilities. It implies a more personal connection. Reward consists of the reinforcement offered, from acknowledgment, praise, or thoughtful, constructive criticism, to increased privileges, responsibility, or take-home pay. Don't forget the reward of demonstrated care -- such as persuading a depressed employee to seek medical help. Different people respond to different rewards. Besides encouraging certain behaviors, respect, regard, and reward can boost self confidence.

A great venue to grow self-confidence is Toastmasters International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging members and supporting their growth in speaking and leadership. Virtually every city has them as do many places of business. You can visit as many times as you like to see if it appeals to you.

Caution yourself against demanding too much time and attention. Nobody enjoys helping whiny, self-righteous, self-centered people, and they cannot help you if you drag them down. Reward your mentor by demonstrating progress in achievements and in attitude.

Self worth. Feeling poorly about yourself can spill over into self confidence, so do something different that raises your self worth. Find a place to volunteer. Make a game of complimenting people. Look for people in need and then help them without being asked. Find ways to pipe oxygen to others' candles, and you will find your own candle burning brighter, too. His candle burns brighter, who lights another's candle.

The Big Why. What motivates you? Aligning your goals and tasks your Big Why, your internal, emotional carrot-and-stick, can drive you through any barriers that low self-esteem creates. (See my previous entry on Driving Your Time Management.)

Affirmations. Affirmations work for many people. For others, they're just fun. Steven Covey, I think, said that one habit of successful people is that they lie to themselves a little bet to encourage themselves. Affirmations remind you of behaviors you want to adopt, such as learning, perspective, choosing the most important tasks, or focusing on serving others. Choosing to act out those behaviors begins to create habits, and habits become attributes.

Practice affirmations. Write them on calendars, make your own 8-1/2x11 poster, carry them around on 3x5 cards to repeat and memorize throughout the day. Read motivational books, listen to motivational recordings, study time management. Take steps to counter the negativity in the world and the negativity that has taken root within us.

I'll list any that you send me, but you should seek other sources for more and better examples. One person offered, More wag, less bark (source unknown). A dog's bark often signals insecurity, so I think it means, set aside your insecurity. Act happier and more friendly, and you will become happier and more confident.

I wrote the following one for you:
Affirmation for *****, in which I lack confidence: 
I will try to ***** as an experiment so I can learn how to better prepare for it. I will use what I learn to train or study and to determine the right decisions and steps that lead closer to success. I will repeat this process until I succeed because, when I succeed, I will be rewarded by ____________ and will avoid ___________.
Thanks to authors mentioned in previous posts. Thanks to LinkedIn Quotivate members Dennis James Deegan, CTM, Steven Weinrieb, Esq., Ray Burchett, Jennifer McGinnis, and W Samantha Newman.

04 August 2010

Values and Value-based Resumes

In a discussion on LinkedIn, a poster confused value statements in resumes with statements about values. I included the post after my comments (below) because he made some excellent points.

A value-based (not values-based) resume addresses exactly what the poster said. I do not know who started the use of value statements, but they appear to have taken a lesson from marketing: Instead of just telling the customer (the hiring manager) the products' specifications (your skills and experiences), show him how hiring you will relieve his headaches, make his office sparkle, and put money in his pocket.

Have you met somebody who bored you by talking about nothing but themself? Most job seekers still use self-centered objectives and static lists (or even worse, paragraphs!) to identify all the mundane things they were supposed to have done. In contrast, a value-base resume stands out by letting the hiring manager know that you are the labor-saving, money-making machine that makes him the envy of his corporate neighbors.

Several tactics will help hiring managers see you as the product they can't live without:
  • Replace the heading, Objectives, with the title of the position you want. This starts to give you a "brand," creating a mental image of you in the coveted job. It also helps you focus on the job, making it easier to tailor your resume.
  • Replace the statement of your objectives with a statement about how you will make your employer the one that smiles like "Bob" when he walks around the office. For example, from one version of my wife's resume:
Events Manager
  • Events facilitator with training and experience in successfully planning and coordinating events attended by up to 10,000 guests.
  • Leads with passion for the mission, flexibility, respect for coworkers and guests, and exemplary ethics.
  • Tailor your experience to the opening. Cut out irrelevant tasks. You're going to need the room.
  • Tweak tasks into accomplishments by adding results that draw a mental picture of your value. For example:
Facilitated successful church and civic events with attendance up to 10,000 and guests such as Phillips, Craig & Dean, the Heritage Singers, and Oliver North.
It is not ironic that I used the most verbiage for a single word, Objective. Using the job title molds the reader's first impression of you and renders unnecessary the old practice of saying, "My objective is to [blah blah blah me me me]." Your resume has mere seconds to grab readers' attention before they move to the next sheet in the stack, so don't waste their time with superfluous labels and statements of the obvious.

Applying the 80/20 rule, 80% of their impression of you will come from the first 20% of their reading. Accordingly, conveying at least 80% of your value in the first 20% of your resume.

The bottom line is that most hiring managers choose someone based on confidence that the candidate will deliver value corresponding to their level of experience and training that meets the hiring manager's need, AND based on perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position. Fit is based, in part, on the degree of alignment that a candidate presents himself or herself.

The poster offered excellent advice except with respect to values. As he stated, "hiring managers choose someone based on... perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position." Many corporations, especially those that deal with the central government, stress values. Issues such as ethics, compliance with government regulations, and teamwork can spell success or failure, so you need to say something about how you will support your employer as a good corporate citizen.
Most hiring managers, especially but not exclusively in the secular world, are utilitarian when it comes to hiring rather than values-based. In other words, as a hiring manager do I have confidence that you can do the job better than other candidates? Will you ease my work burden or create more work for me to do? Values, when they are considered at all in hiring, are in reality lower down the chain. The key to your question is to put yourself in a hiring manager's shoes. As a hiring manager what would you look for when sifting through a hundred resumes?

95% of what a hiring manager cares about is a candidate's relevant experience and education to a particular job opening. Everything else, including an objective or value statement, is secondary at best. That being said, if I was to rank objective or value statement, objective would be higher. However, objective should not be a generic statement such as, "Marketing position in a high quality company that values its employees." The objective should be customized to your target job and organization, such as, "Marketing Assistant at Nike." This demonstrates that you want a specific job in a specific company. If you are unsure whether a particular job opening exists in an organization, I advise omitting the objective altogether.

As a hiring manager I want to know that a candidate wants my job opportunity and my organization. I'm less interested in candidates that submit resumes in what I perceive as mass distribution.

The bottom line is that most hiring managers choose someone based on confidence that the candidate will deliver value corresponding to their level of experience and training that meets the hiring manager's need, AND based on perception that the candidate is a good fit for their work environment and position. Fit is based, in part, on the degree of alignment that a candidate presents himself or herself.

Values can be presented with impact when they are incorporated into a cover letter or as measurable performance in a resume. But that's another discussion.