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Leadership Development, Ego Stroking, “Atta Boy’s”, and Truth Telling

Leadership Development, Ego Stroking, “Atta Boy’s”, and Truth Telling

I stood at the back of a fast food restaurant waiting for my colleague to get his coffee so we could sit in the summer weather when it isn’t even spring. My mind was in that “Thank God It’s Friday” mode when suddenly I found my ears circling around to eavesdrop on two employees. “I see you have your stupid smiling face on the wall as the employee of the month”. “Yeah, it’s such a bunch of bull”. “What did the manager say to you”? “He gave me a certificate and we had our picture taken for the national news bulletin. Not much else. We shook hands and he told me to keep up the good work. I wanted to ask what the good work was but he was gone before I could get a sentence together.” “Is that it?” “Yes, that’s it. My girlfriend came in and gave me a hug and some of my neighbors swatted me on the rump. I actually found the whole thing a bit over the top. It really means nothing; just looks good for the establishment. Did I learn anything? Nah”. I couldn’t resist. I went over and asked permission to ask a few questions. They shrugged and waited. What I wanted to know was what would have made a difference in receiving the employee of the month award. They both agreed that the ego stroking gets nauseating and it has no lasting effect. What they wanted was some truth telling about what they were good at and what they could do to grow since they obviously did not think their careers...

“HMD” to All Women and Men Who Have Birthed Anything

  A female executive I am coaching called me very early this morning and complained about how hard Sunday would be for her. My response was not super professional; all I said was “Huh?”   She then launched into a soliloquy about the fact that she had made a conscious decision not to have children and every Mother’s Day she had tons of people who would look at her with sad expressions and either ignore the whole idea that she was childless or make banal comments about overpopulation or the fact that many people have children who drive them crazy.   This year she decided to leave early for a conference so she would be on the road on Sunday, driving from here to there to prepare for the week off site without having to fend off annoying comments.   I stopped her before she would spiral down to more defending, explaining, or justifying her position. I asked a question that is what I call a pattern interrupt, the kind of question we teach in our “Total Leadership Connections” program.   Just a bit of learning here; these “P.I.” questions are meant to make individuals stop their downward spiral of negative thoughts and help them engage a different, hopefully more creative part of the brain to think new thought. These questions cannot be answered Yes or No and, like an arrow are meant to hit between the eyes.   “So, what have you birthed?” was my bull’s eye question. Her initial response was “Huh?” I asked again and added “There are so many ways to birth without a uterus,...

Leadership and The Velveteen Rabbit

  Anyone remember this really cool kids book? It came to mind yesterday when I was tired and felt “used up.” I complained to Herb, my husband with a litany of “blah blah blah, my hair, my face, wrinkles around my eyes, and more blah, blah, blah.”   He looked at me with his bemused smile and said “That’s all good, you are a velveteen rabbit, it’s what life is meant to be, to use us up before we exit this play called life.”   Not only did it not help, it made me madder. So, I did what any self respecting person would do, I look for some chocolate to sooth my troubled brow. Except, I’m on an amazing eating regime that is truly taking years and pounds from me; and there was no chocolate in sight.   So I got ready to use another ploy always in my back pocket; I would go shopping. And I did. I headed straight for the Barnes and Noble in town and got me a new copy of “The Velveteen Rabbit“.   I bought it, sat down with a cup of tea sweetened with the stevia I never leave home without (if you don’t know about stevia check it out; no calories, actually good for you and gives the taste buds a real lift).   The rabbit in this book is a stuffed and loved one that truly is used up, used up by the loving touch of its childhood owner. It should be on the reading list of every leadership development program, every executive education workshop. It made me stop...

Leadership and Early Adapters

The following video has gone viral and is lots of fun to watch. It teaches some good lessons about the “first follower” as a leader. These early adapters are visionaries in their own right, and help make a movement happen.   In the video, we are talking about dancing at the beach: lots of fun and freedom and spontaneity. I would like to present a question and would love responses from all who are thinking about the ethics of followership.                                 WHO ARE YOU WILLING TO FOLLOW????   We have become so addicted to sound bites and quick, short answers that depth is replaced by clever.   Think about it: dancing on the beach, sure, what the heck, it’s fun, fast and finished.   Now ponder something that has more staying power, more meat to it…….   Would you follow the leader if it polarizes and excludes?  And more importantly, when situations become murky and the movement becomes dissident, out of control, then what? Would you stand up and say “stop?”   Please send your answers to info@sylvialafair.com and receive a copy of my white paper on “Why It’s So Tough to...

Cultural Sensitivity

  As I was writing my Elegant Leadership blog about the poor choice of language from Michael Steele, of the Republican Party, I was reminded of a powerful scenario from a Leadership in Action program I led years ago.   There was a group of 24 business people from various organizations who gathered together for a week to understand leadership capabilities from an experiential perspective.   My husband Herb and I took the group through a variety of exercises in the Santa Fe area where we live. They were introduced to a variety of Native American teachers, and had the opportunity to do the ancient coil method of making pottery, drumming for long periods of time in a constant tapping manner, (what the Native Americans call connecting to the heart beat of mother earth), participating in a sweat lodge led by Felipe Ortega, an Apache who is both a superb potter, as well as a great teacher.   We then went up to the Taos Pueblo and met with Bernadette Roberts and spent time in her grandmother’s home where she told beautiful stories about her family, past and present.   It was an enriching experience that was capped when the entire group decided to spend a day helping Bernadette’s brother build his new home rather than go shopping in town. The next day we had a final “goodbye” circle. Here is where the power of people reaching out to people in a new and more meaningful way left its mark.   Each person had an opportunity to say what they had learned and what they would take back to...

Relationship Complexities at Work, Home, and in the Bedroom

We can thank Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and all the other guys who have been looking for love in all the wrong places. Or, have they?   Relationships are the most complex, most confusing, and most important part of what it means to be a human being. I am hoping that we have finally hit the wall looking at relationships through a superficial, selfish lens. Perhaps we can begin to look at what really matters in this interesting teen-decade of the century.   Think about it for a minute. When you were thirteen through nineteen, what were you looking for? What happened when hormones kicked in on a Saturday night at a high school or college party? Did the song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” play through your head the next day?   All relationships are based on interactions; they are a two or three or four party dynamic. And yet, even now with all the new research about the social aspects of the brain, about how we all connect with and change each other, there is still too much focus on the individual as the source and end point of relationships.   It just is not so! Tiger Woods behaved badly, most of us can agree on that. However, he did not do this in a vacuum. I don’t want to judge his wife, yet with my background as a family and marriage therapist, I know she was not an innocent bystander in the situation. There is always another side to tell, or as commentator Paul Harvey used to say “Now, the rest of the story”.   Perhaps...