Learned Helplessness

Reading social media today I came across an article on Learned Helplessness.  You need to google it to get a full understanding however it really struck me how this might happen to our teams.

The article I read was about horses and how they often begin to ignore pain and other stressors simply because they can’t get away.

As leaders we often want our teams to work a certain way.  We want to push them into a behavior that makes sense to us, the leader!  We either can’t or don’t want to deal with behavior that seems outside of our norm.

We punish, belittle, even use sarcasm to get behavior we want.  By doing this we often make our team become numb to their own pain.  Now there are behaviors that do not go well when working with a team, however by using punishment we often get to our results faster and with little work on our part!

Take the horse for example, Duke doesn’t like pressure.  (Pressure for horses means bad things and they react to that pressure). Horses also don’t like things they can’t process.  Noises, shifts in their vision all cause them to spook.  It is our job to get the horse to trust us to keep them safe.  We do this by exposing them to these pressures and noises and by showing them that we are keeping them safe.  We want them to trust us!  However, some people use other methods to train their horses.  They punish them, they leave them tied tightly to force the spook out of them. Horses who are trained this way learn they can’t escape and eventually become really good horses on the outside but they are no longer horses on the inside!

As leaders are we doing this to our teams? Are we tying them down to simply get behavior we want instead of teaching them to trust us.  Teaching our team to trust us means we have to make difficult decisions, we have to stand up to our leadership for our teams.  We then often have to go back to our teams and tell them we failed.  We have to show that we aren’t perfect and that is a hard thing to do!

Think about this as you lead your teams, what if you were honest with them!  What if you told them the truth that you spoke up at the last meeting but you were turned down. Or that you feel that the decision is a good one for the organization and that you support it even if it means something bad for the team?

When someone on your team works in a way that is different or in a way that maybe needs improvement, try understanding why they work that way and getting them to trust you that your way might be better?

Being a good leader isn’t about forcing people into a mold it’s about getting them to trust you and know that you have their best interest at heart!!

Good Leaders…..

Lead!  They lead, but not only do they lead they DO! When you think about some of the best leaders you have seen in your life and in history they all have 1 thing in common, they DO! They don’t just talk, they DO!  They lead by example!

This doesn’t mean they solve your problems, it doesn’t mean they jump in and make the issue go away it means they HELP!

When I started in my current industry my boss was notorious for asking did you look it up?  Did you try to recreate it?  It furstrated me to no end because more often than not I had NOT done those things!  I wanted him to solve the problem for me, because I knew he had the answer!  The problem was he wanted ME to find the answer not just have it handed to me!!

As a leader I have learned that this frustrates most of us, we want to have our problems solved quickly and easily and often without work on our part, however this isn’t always the best for our team!  Yes as the leader you have the answer, no that doesn’t mean you should solve all the problems!!

Ask questions, ask what problem solving techniques your team has used and acknowledge that you sense their frustration and that you will help them get to the right answer!  Now if you have a screaming mad client you may have to jump in and solve the problem, because that could get ugly quickly! Most of the time though we don’t have a screaming client, we have a frustrated team member.

Today instead of simply solving the problem, ask questions see if your team has tried to solve the problem and offer ideas on where they might find the answers!

Then take your team out for drinks because you are ALL going to need it after!!

Do what you love!!

Leaders, how many days do you go home and think I just can’t do this again?  I can’t make myself go through another day!  Then you remember the mortgage and the car payments, and the kids and all the other bills that need to be paid and you do it again.

Not all of us love our jobs, and I would guess some of us down right dislike it alot!!  As leaders we put ourselves out there, we support our teams we strive to be better and we sometimes forget that we need to find something that feeds our soul!

This doesn’t have to be your job, in fact it’s OK to not be but there has to be something that you do that you love!  For my amazing husband it’s greeting new people at our church.  He has a sixth sense for new people like seriously can smell them from inside the building!  He takes great pride in welcoming them and then having me meet them later!  This and coaching are 2 things that he loves more than most anything else!

For me, welcoming people at church is OK, it’s not something I love, I’ll do it but it doesn’t make me smile.  Today I did the thing that makes me smile. I rode a horse!  For an hour all I could think about was sitting in the saddle and attempting to steer. (I am still learning so doing more than 1 thing at a time is still really tough!) My smile was huge! I felt joy like I haven’t felt in a very long time!

You see I was not control, I didn’t have to teach the other riders in the room. I had to focus on my horse and the horses around me but all I was responsible for was my horse and myself! I was doing the thing that feeds my soul!

This weekend take time to figure out what feeds your soul! As leaders we are no good to anyone if we aren’t taking care of ourselves!  So go feed your soul!!

ICNU Challenge

HI Everyone,

As we go into Thanksgiving and start to think about the things we are thankful for I want to challenge you to find things to be thankful for in your team!

We all have that 1 employee or co-worker who annoys us greatly!  And I say that in all honesty!  If we are honest with ourselves there is always someone who is different, thinks differently or comes at the job different and it frustrates us!

At one of my recent jobs I had someone on my team who worked 8 hours a day.  That’s it, no more no less!  I work in an industry where we are always very busy!!  You just have alot to do and you just keep going until it’s done.  It wasn’t until I learned how to motivate my employee and learned to understand how his life worked that I learned how to work with him in a way that was beneficial to all of us.

I had another team member who worked really well on the tough tasks but ask him to do something mundane and he struggled.  I learned that if I made sure he had a good combination of hard and normal.

Seeing and understanding what motivates the team and how what they do benefits the team and the organization will help you work with them!

Your challenge this week is to write down the 3 employees that frustrate you the most and then write down 3 things that make them a good employee.  What gifts do they bring to the organization and how can you use those to better your team!

Be Quirky

We have a horse, his name is Duke (he’s the icon for the site). He’s a 4yo Paint or Pinto.  He’s quirky!  Horses are bred for a few things, those include mental soundness, physical soundness and well color.  Paints are bred for color which makes things like mental and physical soundness to be a little off.

Being quirky as a leader is a good thing but it can be hard to take for people who are used to either leading with or being led by someone who is very straight and narrow.

This means that if you are one those of quirky leaders you may find it tough to get ahead and get noticed for being a good leader.  However, don’t let that stop you!  It is alot like a round peg in a square hole and someone may tell you it won’t work but it will!  You just have to find the right balance.

For Duke he struggles with what he can’t see and generally that is something behind him.  Oh and weird sounds, things he thinks are scary and walls, but hey he’s quirky!  However, he’s an amazing horse, it just takes someone to see past those quirks and see potential.

As leaders we have our quirks, however so do those around us!  Those quirks are what make them successful!  I worked with someone who never had a filter, if you did something wrong he’d tell you.  Then it was over!  He expected you were going to fix the error and there was never a grudge to carry! This was really hard for me at first because I don’t like negative feedback and I tend to believe that you are giving me this I must be a bad person.  However for him this was just his style.  He had his quirks!

We have 2 hurdles to overcome as quirky leaders (and EVERYONE is quirky).  The first is understanding if our quirks provide us a strength or a weakness. In my example above being afraid of conflict left me to always wonder if he was mad at me or I had done some great error.  I am having to learn that negative feedback isn’t a reflection on me as a person but an error that needs to be corrected.  Understanding what the quirk is and how it can work is great.

The next thing for me is to understand that this quirk is actually a GOOD thing because it can allow me to empathize with people who I am providing negative feedback to. I know that for me to hear this would really hurt, so I make sure they know that they bring some amazing gifts to the team however this one area needs some work.  I also make it about the error and not the person.  Often times you can say “wow I see that you are really working on a lot of projects right now and I can see how this error occurred, how can I help you with this?”

Understanding our team members quirks is the next thing to look at. I had a team member once who didn’t work more than 8 hours a day.  In my world NOONE works 8 hours, we work 12 14, 16, 18 we don’t do shift word!  And for the most part everyone understood that.  He didn’t get it, and at first I was so frustrated with him.  Why didn’t he want to work like everyone else ! Then I learned that he was quirky, he just didn’t see that as important. I learned that I had to ask him to work extra.  I had to set boundaries with him and indicate, this needs to be done today – however you can finish it at home.  I also provided incentives, if he worked late a few days and we weren’t busy I’d send him home early on a Friday.

Understanding his quirks allowed me to ensure my teams success without losing my mind!

Being quirky can be a great thing!  You just have to know how to manage that quirkiness!  For me it will be about teaching a 4 year old horse that his tail is NOT something to be afraid of and that the ground isn’t going to jump up and eat him!!