Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hear the Smart Zone Secret

I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Steve Gardner, CEO of FIVE STAR Speakers and Trainers, for their Ask the Expert program. FIVE STAR Speakers and Trainers is a full service, international, speakers bureau that has been in business for over 20 years and works with meeting planners to find the best speakers in the industry for events. Their Ask the Expert program asks some of the leading best-selling authors, speakers & experts in their industry about some great tips & advice they could share with you - so I was excited to be included!

Click here to hear my interview - it's about 20 minutes long and I discuss how to change your life with just 2 little words, how to be solution oriented instead of problem focused and how to stay in the Smart Zone. Keep listening until then end because I even reveal the Smart Zone secret!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How to Get to the Core of Ethics on the Job

"Rules cannot take the place of character."
Alan Greenspan

Recently I had an ethical dilemma. I went to our local PetSmart with my kids and our Golden Retriever Sophie. We found a new leash to replace the one that Sophie chewed on which now looked like it needed to be buried. So proud, we put the new leash on Sophie in the store and proceeded to get a few other things - enough that we needed a cart. After the cashier rang up our purchases, we paid and headed to the car. As I drove out of the parking lot, it occurred to me that she didn't realize that the leash was a purchase. We had left the store without paying for the leash! Even though it was inconvenient, we were in a hurry, and it would have been easier to just drive home, I turned around and all of us went inside and brought it to the cashier's attention and paid for the leash. Maintaining ethical standards is critical to staying in the Smart Zone.

A recent Gallup poll revealed how people rate the honesty and ethical standards of different professions. Nurses rated highest on the ethical scale with grade school teachers coming in a close second. Lowest on the scale were lobbyists and car salesman. Click here to see how other professions rated.

Harvard professor Howard Gardner has stated that it is more difficult for business people to keep an ethical mind than other professions. Mainly because in business there is not as much structure and the only goal is to make money and not break the law while doing so.

A little more alarming is a recent Junior Achievement/Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey that reports nearly 40% of teens surveyed said it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or behave violently to succeed. We have to wonder if these students will make the right decisions as adults when they face ethical challenges on the job.

Consider the following rationalizations for using unethical behavior at work:
  • No one will know. Who is going to know you stuck an extra ream of office paper in your briefcase?
  • It's not hurting anyone. I bet baseball player Barry Bonds felt that taking steroids wasn't hurting anyone. I'm sure track star Marion Jones felt the same way.
  • Everyone does it. I remember my mom saying, "If Julie jumped off a bridge would you?" One of my clients recently told me of her first experience as an intern when her coworkers explained how to "pad" her expense report to make up for low intern salary.

Here are 4 Smart Moves for addressing the core of individual ethics:

  1. Focus on Character: Most ethics training in companies focuses on rule compliance and not on clarifying values and fostering individual integrity. In Michael Josephson's book, Making Ethical Decisions, he describes Six Pillars as the basis of ethical decisions and the foundation of well-lived lives. The Six Pillars are: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
  2. Look for Humility. According to Stephen M.R. Covey, a humble person is more concerned about what is right than about being right. And we all remember in Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, that the Level 5 leader has "extreme personal humility." Being humble doesn't mean you are a wimp. It means you put principles ahead of your personal ego. You don't get caught up in win-lose power plays.
  3. Be Congruent. In other words, walk your talk. Make sure your behavior and intent are the same. If you are a manager, then don't say, "My company values family time" and then demand long working hours and weekends for you and your employees to get the job done.
  4. Watch Out for Moral Disengagement. This takes place when people behave in a way they wouldn't normally behave without feeling guilty. For example, lying to business competitors may be called "strategic." Or, "My boss told me to do it" is an excuse for shifting moral accountability to a superior. People with a high degree of empathy are less likely to morally disengage. Click here to read my blog post on How to Lead with Empathy.

Running an ethical business begins with the individual character of each person. Staying true to core values will make your company more profitable and help you stay in the Smart Zone.

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    How to Build a Platform of Trust

    Now that summer is right in front of us, it is nice to be outside in the Texas heat, watch the kids play, and lose track of time. We have a swing in a tree in our front yard and at night kids gather and push each other. Our son Sam, who is now 8, is the trickster. He likes to go fast, hang upside down, and freak us all out with his aerobatic stunts. He trusts that he won't get hurt and that the branch will hold him as he twists and turns going as high as he can. Remember what it was like to have free flowing trust?

    Trust is one of the most important components in building a Smart Zone community. Without trust, the benefits of building high EQ cannot be sustained, and the strategies that lead to productivity will be sabotaged. Trust provides the platform for productivity, efficiency and for Working in the Smart Zone.

    The platform of Trust is attainable in any relationship at work and at home, and there are also ways to keep it steady and strong. The following Smart Moves can strengthen the platform of Trust and allow you to Work in the Smart Zone:

    • Address and right the wrongs. Blaming others is one of the fastest ways to burn yourself in the trust department. Passing the buck shows that you lack integrity. Do what is necessary, even when it inconveniences you. If it's your responsibility, fix it. We see this all the time especially in the political arena. Watch Scott McClellan's interview from this morning on the Today Show about his new book.

    • Be loyal to others when they're not present. At work, your alliances may change, and someone who's your peer today could be your supervisor or manager tomorrow. People will trust you when they have confidence that you can be trusted when they're not present, and that may not happen until they experience you behind the backs of others. Don't gossip, don't speak for other people, and encourage communication between two people instead of triangulating yourself into the communication of others. In this world of technology, there are many ways to maintain healthy alliances to build trust. Click here for my handout on trust.

    • Be clear with expectations and hold people accountable. When supervising people, be deliberate about the outcomes you are expecting and when possible, make them measurable. Set timelines so you can hold people accountable and monitor whether or not they have the self-management skills to hold themselves accountable.

    • Build your self-regard. Self-regard is how you see yourself and how others see you. It is very different than self-esteem. Your self-regard is what lets people know whether they can trust you to accept feedback, manage criticism, and be honest with them in return.

    • Be predictable, caring, and faithful. When you're predictable, others begin to see that you are consistent. When you're genuinely caring, others will trust you and see you as compassionate and invested in them. When you're faithful, you build loyalty, which is the result of a trusting relationship.

    • Demonstrate respect for those you work with. One-sided respect in relationships is temporary and delicate, yet over time it builds into respect that is reciprocal.

    • Follow through on your commitments. People can smell insincerity when a commitment is not followed through. When someone gets the reputation that he or she can't be trusted to do as they say, they face a hard uphill climb.

    • Be the same in public and in private. Some people are better at acting than others. It's better to be transparent than to be fake. When people can count on you being the same in private as you are in public, they'll trust you to be who you say you are. They'll also trust that what you say today will be consistent with what you say tomorrow.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    How to Lead with Empathy

    I have to admit something that is so out of character. I did something I would NEVER do. I signed up for a credit card at Super Target just so I could get money back from my purchase that day. Jennifer, the sales clerk, was in her Smart Zone™ – working to the best of her ability emotionally, behaviorally, and intellectually. While she was scanning my items at the checkout counter she showed empathy.

    Jennifer, and other sales people like her, is a top performing sales clerk. I know why. Top performing sales clerks are 12 times more productive than those at the bottom and 85% more productive than an average performer. About 1/3 of this difference is due to technical skill and cognitive ability while 2/3 is due to emotional competence. (Goleman, 1998). The success of my purchase that day wasn’t because it was Super Target. It could have been Wal-Mart or Neiman’s. It was about Jennifer. Are you like Jennifer? Do you have a “Jennifer” on your team?

    Here is the story: It was the first cold day of the season and Jennifer noticed that I was buying jeans for our boys. Jennifer told me she too bought new jeans for her kids recently because their jeans were too short. My kids had the same problem! We talked some more and I felt like Jennifer and I were living the same life. She seemed to get it. When she told me she could save me $15, I felt like she was doing me a favor. It was like she was on my side. She was relying on her emotional competency. When another sales person tells me she can save me 10% on my purchase, they are not talking my language. They are relying on technical or cognitive ability. I can’t “feel” 10% but I can touch and spend $15.

    Jennifer showed empathy. Empathy is the awareness of the feelings, needs and concerns of others. Research in the 1970s and 1980s suggested that there was a negative correlation between positions of authority and empathetic abilities. But this attitude is no longer effective for organizations. We work in a team-oriented business culture requiring group cooperation. Empathy enables us to strengthen relationships, pick up early warning signs and recognize opportunities to influence others.

    Many may feel that showing empathy weakens your authority. In some cases this is true. A lawyer showing empathy for opposing council will not strengthen his case. At times it is necessary to talk straight and hold someone accountable rather than empathize.

    Sympathy can be mistaken for empathy. Sympathy is when you feel compassion for someone – but these are your feelings. Sympathy does not focus on what other’s are feeling. Keeping this in mind, People in the Smart Zone™ lead with empathy. Here are 5 smart tips for how to lead with empathy:

    • Listen well. Listening is an art and has a financial impact. Studies show that physicians who listen to their patients for at least 3 minutes significantly reduce malpractice lawsuits against them. Jennifer listened and she was able to speak my language. When we are anxious to make a sale or get our point across we are less likely to listen well. The next time someone objects to what you are saying resist the urge to defend your point and try responding with these words, “You’re absolutely right, I should consider that.”

    • Don’t be fake. Have integrity. Understanding someone’s point of view doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. In business negotiations when we understand how the other party feels it doesn’t mean we give in. It simply means we can be more skillful in our negotiation and minimize resentment and ill will. Jennifer was genuine.

    • No “one uppers.” Try not to project your feelings onto others. It is human nature to respond to someone else’s problem with an experience we have had. To lead with empathy we must hear out what others are saying without sharing a personal story to “one-up” theirs. Jennifer didn’t go on and on about her children’s situation. She made the customer important.

    • You don’t have to solve it. Just acknowledging someone’s problem or point of view is sometimes all that needs to be done. Whether or not you solve the problem, just showing concern and making a goodwill effort to make things better does some good emotionally. Jennifer felt my pain.

    • Watch out for empathy distress. Sometimes called “compassion fatigue,” empathy distress is where people suffer from someone else’s pain and suffering. Medical and social services workers are especially prone to this as are customer service representatives who deal with unhappy customers all day. Even in an office environment when a co-worker is faced with being laid off we may begin to feel the anxiety and stress for them. To combat empathy distress, stay open to your feelings and don’t blame yourself for negative outcomes of others. Jennifer doesn’t overdo it. She clearly knows the boundary.

    Take this quick empathy quiz. Draw the letter “E” on your forehead.

    Based on a study by Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Northwestern University, if you drew the “E” where you can read it but it is backwards to others (see image) then you are less likely to consider the viewpoints of others. But if you drew the “E” backward to you but legible to others then you are more likely to consider other’s viewpoints.

    Oh, yeah. You know what I later found out about Jennifer? She used to work at Disney World. She was Snow White. To be Snow White you have to be in your Smart Zone™ and be able to show Empathy. Jennifer shows Empathy - the awareness of the feelings, needs and concerns of others. Snow White sold me jeans that day and saved me money. She made me feel like a winner. Does Snow White work in your organization?