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Friday, April 02nd, 2010 | Author:
confidently controlling your reactions

confidently controlling your reactions

Ok, so in Part 1 of the “Do NOT Control Your Emotions” series we discussed the critical need to leave your emotions fully connected because they serve as your instrument panel on the journey of life.  But if you aren’t going to control your emotions, how then can you possibly hope to get along with people and conduct yourself as a productive member of a civil society?

The key is to use your emotions to direct your actions while staying calm and in control during flight. If a pilot flew a plane the way most of us use our emotions it would be one jarring, frightening flight full of airsick passengers.  OMG!  We’re tilting left, FULL RIGHT RUDDER!  OH NO! We’re losing speed! FULL THROTTLE! CRAP, we’re spinning right, FULL LEFT RUDDER!

The problem is not in the instruments, the problem is that the pilot is treating every little input as a full on emergency, and applying maximum corrections to every variance.  Nobody wants to fly in a plane with a hamfisted captain.  Flying a plane requires careful consideration of the instruments, good judgment, and subtle application of control.

Well, guess what.  Nobody wants to fly through life with someone who over reacts to their emotions.  And as we said before, you shouldn’t turn the emotions off because nobody wants to fly with a pilot who’s likely to fly directly into a mountain either.

So what should you do?

The answer is the same as for a commercial pilot:  You should pay full attention to your emotions as they are the indicator of the conditions you are flying through.  But you have to learn to interpret them carefully in order to understand the true meaning behind them.  Then you have to exercise good judgment in your chosen actions.  And you should develop subtle control and finesse in implementing your chosen actions.

Consider your emotions carefully to learn what they are telling you

Every time you have an emotional reaction to something, positive or negative, it is telling you something about yourself and the world around you.  The trick is to figure out just what it is telling you, so you can take appropriate action.

If you find that your emotions are not giving you an accurate picture of reality, then you need to develop and evolve your emotional instruments until they are giving you a reasonably accurate picture of reality.

This is done with behaviorist methods, i.e. by practice and repetition.

Developing good judgment in responding to emotions

Once you have trained your emotional responses to give you valuable accurate information about the world around you, you then have to develop good judgment in choosing the best actions to take based on your accurate perception of events.

This required not only an accurate version of what you know, but also an accurate version of what you don’t know, of what context may be missing, of what assumptions you are making, of the relevance that the missing items may have on your interpretation, and the likelihood that the information you do have is both complete and definitive.

This judgment is developed by using your emotional reactions as trigger points to initiate closer examinations of the key issues involved in choosing a course of action.

Developing subtlety and finesse in taking action

Once you have chosen a reasonable course of action, you have to develop subtlety and finesse in being able to implement the actions you have chosen.  This includes the ability to communicate clearly, effectively, and sometimes persuasively, while still adhering to principles and beliefs by which you guide your life.

This is accomplished by practicing the specific skills that you value the most over and over until you become quite good at them.

These three concepts may seem vague and not very helpful, but the 52 Week Program teaches specifically how to achieve them, and guides you through exercises to reinforce these critical skills.

Stay Tuned for Part 3, Changing your Emotional Responses.

Don’t forget to join our mailing list to stay updated on new articles, and with news about the development and availability of the 52 Week Program.

Saturday, March 13th, 2010 | Author:


It is actually very simple:  Leadership is executive management, or management of management.  Leadership is the executive task, while management is the administrative task.  To illustrate with an analogy:  Management is administering Execution as in blocking and tackling, while Leadership is Building the Team and Developing the Play Book.

Basically, management is all the things you need to administer to keep a business running.  It is organizing processes, looking after finances, minimizing risks, administering details, and handling the day to day operations and operational difficulties.  Management is everything you absolutely need to make a business operate.  Without good management, a business will stumble around drunkenly, fall down from time to time, and possibly even break its neck.  With good management a company will survive.  Leadership is the management of that management process.  In that absence of good management, leadership builds it.

Then building on top of good management, leadership adds team building (at all levels of an organization), vision, and executive direction.

This is a simple concept, but for a variety of reasons, the whole world wants to make it seem complicated.

For one thing:  Business leadership is not a quality that is limited to only executive management

The qualities of leadership don’t start in the executive office.  Rather they start with individuals and how they approach everyday life.  You don’t have to be in business to be a leader.  And you can’t be an effective leader of others unless you are an effective leader of yourself.  The show “Undercover Boss” recently had Larry O’Donnell working side by side with the rank and file employees.  Without going into all the details, you can observe self leadership in the one very self directed, self motivated, porta-pot cleaning employee.  You can bet that if you promote him to the first level of management that he would understand how to build the skills and attitude that the workers need to be successful.

For another thing:  Leadership is not limited to business management

Even someone who is self employed with no employees still has need of leadership. The army of one still has to figure out what battles to fight, where to be and when to be there, what skills are the most critical ones to develop, and on and on and on.  The leadership task of team building doesn’t fall away just because you have a team of one.  In fact, the opposite is true:  It is more important than ever that you figure out how to invest in the human resources of your army of one, because there is nobody else around to do it!  Granted your team building is easier without the personality issues in a team of many, but the requirement itself still exists.

Yet one more thing:  We don’t have a set of certified credentials to qualify someone as a leader

Unfortunately, we have a long and rich history of teaching management as business administration and not as leadership.  This has lead to a large population of credentialed professionals who consider themselves leaders, but who have actually had very little leadership focus in their education and experience.  We don’t have an army of credentialed professionals running around with MBL (Masters of Business Leadership) degrees.  We have an army of credentialed business administration professionals instead.

Combine this with the fact that actual leadership training is a fragmented discipline with thousands of self certified experts (not to label them as arrogant, it’s just that there is no other kind of certification!) and each expert is teaching their own personal brand, flavor, and subset of the subject.  You have leadership experts coming from a religious framework.  You have leadership experts teaching from a sports perspective.   You have military leaders, leaders who have been successful in business, and on and on.  The only thing you don’t have is any common curriculum that is accredited for making one a leader!

So the credentialed professional managers, the MBAs, really don’t even have a clear program for leadership.  Plus, the lack of leadership curriculum means that the MBA certification is still the highest available.  They are left with no clear path to follow, and no clear indication of whether they are managers or leaders.  So of course they declare themselves leaders.

Finally:  Leadership is separating the executive task from the administrative task

But what is the Executive task and how does it differ from the Administrative task?

The executive task can best be described as fixing an entire type of problem, rather than fixing the individual problem.  This is not to say that administrators and managers shouldn’t be expected to look for, recognize, and correct the type of problem.  Leadership can and should be encouraged, taught, and rewarded in every single member of a team, from top to bottom.

Back to the Waste Management example, Larry O’Donnell is showing great potential as a leader.  However, is he fixing the type of problem or is he fixing the specific problem?  Assuming the entire exercise isn’t just a PR ploy, let’s consider a comment from the CBS website about his episode of the show.

kellibrooke noted: Anyone see a problem with how he handled Jaclyn’s situation? Her position required way too much work and she didn’t make enough money to keep her home. So… instead of realizing that her current job didn’t pay enough for all the work she did… He made her into one of him. Put her on salary, made her a management employee. That’s awesome for her… but what about her ‘replacement’ that she is supposed to hire? That person will be in the same boat as Jaclyn was. I’m happy for Jaclyn but the real issue is the job itself and the fact that people can’t support their families and keep their homes based on the wages he’s handing out to non-management employees. She’ll now be eligible for bonuses….what about the people he saw picking up trash and cleaning the johns….where are their bonuses??

Herein lies the real question:  Is Larry O’Donnell a great leader?  Or is he a great administrator?  He certainly fixed the individual problem.  Time will tell if he can address the type of problem as a whole.

Category: Leadership  | Tags: , , , ,  | 26 Comments
Monday, February 08th, 2010 | Author:
Resisting Peer Pressure

Resisting Peer Pressure

Of course, many will quickly respond that no, you should always tell the truth. But just as quick to respond are the legions of people that would lie just a little bit in order to spare someone’s feelings.

While the battle between should and shouldn’t will continue to rage for future generations, we can probably all agree that even if you should in theory always tell the truth, not every battle need be fought today. As Gramma used to say: discretion is the better part of valor.

While we (in the US) use the word elegant as a proxy for glamorous, the French use it to indicate a developed social grace, what we would call a certain je ne sais quoi. Here in America we don’t really have a common word, or even a common phrase that is used for this quality. Which is probably why we use the French term for “duh, I dunno” to describe it.

While I can say “social grace” and you probably get some idea what I mean, it’s not a concept frequently discussed or very well defined in our culture. I’m not sure if our lack of a word reflects our lack of value for social grace in general, or if our lack of social grace reflects our lack of a word and a national dialog on the matter. Regardless, it is an often overlooked quality and the essential ingredient in any recipe for maintaining your integrity and staying true to your beliefs. It is that elegant middle ground between tactless and spineless that so few seem to master.

Yet, even without a clearly defined concept, each of us knows at least one person that somehow seems to float above the petty and the meaningless, radiating an aura of grace, blending connectedness, and tact, while never straying far from their core beliefs. When in doubt, imagine what this person would do. Imagine how they would handle the situation that you are facing.

So getting back to our original question, yes, you should tell truth but yes you should also be as respectful as possible and spare the feelings of others from unnecessary bruising. There are many techniques you can develop that will help you avoid having to lie while still being respectful and elegant.

One valuable technique is to reverse a request for affirmation with a gently probing (yet sensitive) question. For example, a close friend asks you “was I wrong to bla bla” and you feel compelled to say “oh no, of course not” even though you know your friend was in the wrong. The challenge here is to be honest while not undermining either your friend or your friendship. By reversing with a question, you can disagree gently, and give your friend a chance to explore their error. For example, you could say “I dunno, I know you’re sensitive to bla bla’s games… but did it require that strong of a response?” Here you are reaffirming your friend’s source of offense, while neither supporting nor rejecting the validity of what was done.

The signal that you should have picked up on above was when you felt compelled. That pressure, whether a friend seeking affirmation or peer pressure in a group, is a sure sign than your integrity is about to be compromised. Often the same approach can be applied successfully. Namely, agree with the feelings and question without quite disagreeing with the actions.

Sometimes an alternative could be to agree with the actions reluctantly, while pointing out that there may be other points of view. Or you could point out that if the roles were reversed, you doubt that the opinions would stay the same. And if pointing it out seems a little strong, you could ask if rather than state that.

While there are countless techniques you can employ to deflect the pressure to lie, they all have one thing in common: they all can be employed to preserve your integrity in the face of a complex reality.