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Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Knowledge of human relationships no longer belongs only to the psychology crowd. It belongs to all of us. Every leader or emerging leader in today’s workplace needs to look below the surface and answer the age old question when someone shoots himself in the foot “Why did he just do what he did?” We need to know why she just put her foot in her mouth. Why they have “egg” on their faces. If you are ever to deal with office politics (and that takes place whether you are in a traditional corporation, an entrepreneurial start-up, a family firm, or a non-profit association) you better get a handle on what makes people tick. FIRST, look inside. That’s right. Look at what flips your lid, what sets your blood boiling, what makes you madder than hell. Once you can begin to name the people and situations that get you hopping mad you can decide what to do about them. NEXT, pay attention to those around you. How do they respond when someone sets their teeth on edge, when they feel torn to shreds, when they feel like a knife was shoved in their back? Once you have learned to look at the interactions that occur in all human relationships and figured out how to decode the mixed messages that are always at the heart of office politics you become the real leader you have always wanted to be. That’s right! Learn to see how behavior patterns you learned (and everyone else has also) in your original organization, the family play out at work and you are in the driver’s seat....

Leadership and “It’s All About Me”

  Think about a moment when someone is judging a situation that seems untenable and you think “What did I do to make this so awful?”   Happens to the best of us; happens to all of us. What is the best way to handle the emotions that bubble up? Many become “the stuffers” and let the unpleasant feelings gurgle and gnaw at the solar plexus right above the stomach. That is why anti-acids are such great over the counter sellers.   Others of us point the finger of blame at the situation. “The blamers” always have a chorus of “It’s the weather, it’s the economy, it’s the government, it’s the product”, and, when all else fails, “it’s my mother.”   Then there are “the yellers” who will attack and defend in loud voices to stop the conversation. No one can get a word in edgewise or otherwise and the situation stays stagnant for lack of real dialogue.   One of my colleagues, a woman I greatly respect who is a core a leader to follow, shared with me what had happened earlier that day. The project she headed was stalled. It really was not “her fault”, although she was the project leader. The outsource company had too many silos and the communication route was blocked at every turn.   She called and called. She emailed and emailed. Weeks were going by and there was no resolution. She contacted the vice president, the CEO, nada.    Her boss was frustrated. They had a pow- wow. Nerves were frayed. Yet, they were able to push through and come up with...

Bad Behavior at Home, School, Work

Image by ihtatho via Flickr Bullying is an art form not dissimilar to caring. It takes persistence, practice, and purpose.   What does that really mean? It means that all behaviors become patterned responses if we do them consistently. There is a law in neurology, Hebb’s Law that states “neurons that fire together wire together”. So, if we practice it enough, if we see it modeled enough and then practice it, we become it!   The present stir around bullying in schools is good. It raises the conflict to an important level of awareness. That is the beginning of an important dialogue. Now, how do we handle this issue?   “Don’t Bring It to Work” shows how the behavior patterns hard wired (after years of practice) become our knee jerk responses. Those who become deniers will ignore conflict at home, at school, in the workplace. Those who see it and find conflict too difficult to handle are the avoiders, the “gotta go” folks who will find a safe place far from the bullying.   What we need to consider is how a persecutor/bully picks his or her victims, is there something in the victim that says I have not learned to stand up for myself, it is not safe. What is the interaction?  And then the interaction leads to the rescuers and the pleasers who want to jump in and either save the victim or side with the bully. This type of conflict is so obvious in all schools and workplaces.   The film “Grease” is a great example. Remember Rizzo? She is that great example of the fact...

Leadership and Sankofa Mapping

Ever get annoyed with someone and say, usually with indignation “Who do you think you are?” There is a new television series by that name that gives the question a whole new meaning.   Image via Wikipedia Last Friday there was an opportunity to look more deeply into the life of American football legend Emmitt Smith than just how he has done on the ball field or how well he could strut his stuff on Dancing with the Stars.   He became a much fuller human being who permitted us to go on the journey with him into his past and the past of his ancestors. As Smith took a journey through genealogical records it brought to light what we know, yet rarely think about, that the past is ever here in some way in the present.   One odd “coincidence” was that Smith’s family records from long ago were in a document book, number 22. He exclaimed when he saw that “The number 22 is the number on my football jersey.” It may mean nothing, yet, of all the number combinations in the world, it is fascinating that this is the one that belongs to him.   I was thrilled to see what we teach in our Total Leadership Connections Program is going main stream. In our program we have a deep belief that all leaders need to know themselves as fully as possible, to be self aware at the core level. So, we have our participants complete a Sankofa Map, similar to a family tree to find the patterns handed from one generation to the next.  ...

Stretch Goals and Human Relationships

There was an excellent article by renowned leadership expert Michael Maccoby in the Washington Post  about the upside and downside of “stretch goals”.   The Olympics, a perfect example of watching individuals and teams push themselves, motivated by the desire to achieve greatness. What Maccoby suggested is that we need to look at the fine line between going toward a vision that is possible and one that can ultimately turn sour.   Thinking about the concept of stretch goals, my mind wandered to some of the costs for the moment of fame standing on the podium to get one of the three medals. I thought about one of the coaches who gave up being with his family to train the children of other people to greatness.   It brought to mind a day many years ago when my daughter had a roommate post-college who had been an athlete in the Olympic Games. She was a beautiful young woman with the strong and lithe body of a swimmer.   It was during the summer Olympics, and we had turned on the television to watch those who were competing for greatness. Diana walked into the room, sat down for a brief moment and then excused herself.   Later that evening she shared the pain and upset she had experienced in training and how her life had been so buttoned down with stretch goals she had no life outside of training and competing.   Her anger began to subside as she talked. We heard about the back story to competing for success as children. She would teach her children to swim, to...

Real Leaders Practice Safe Stress ™

  Stress and anxiety have been at the boiling point for the last year, and depending where you live, the weather has been the proverbial icing on the cake.   As a leader in a company, your health is vital to keep the engines of your business revved and going smoothly. Sadly, when stress hits the hot button, most of us forget about eating right, sleeping soundly and exercising regularly.   More and more, usually fit executives are putting on weight, which can drive insulin levels up, causing worries about diabetes. Grabbing that handful of pretzels or peanuts for lunch or feasting on cold pizza day after day, you increase the chances of higher blood pressure.   Research indicates that losing your job can send your health spiraling downwards. Even more complicated is the fact that those whose jobs are safe feel the impact and also are having cardiac and other stress-related symptoms.   Eating, sleeping, exercise; most executives know what to do, and in easier times, do it. So, what can we learn from these complex times? The first question is: how do we maintain a healthy attitude?   Attitude is the driver!  And attitude is more complex that just having a positive outlook. It means learning how to stay in the “Safe Stress Zone™ ” and learning how to create a work setting that is not too extreme in being too flexible or too rigid. In “Don’t Bring It to Work”  there are tips and tools for leaders to create a balanced setting for your workforce.   You can also send an e-mail to maryjane@ceoptions.com, and we...