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!!

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!!

Be a Beginner!

beginner tuskey dressage

(Photo cred to Tuskey Dressage)

Why is it we always want to jump to the end of everything!  We don’t allow ourselves OR our teams to learn.  This is something that has been causing quite a bit of conversation in our family lately.  We are meeting with alot of young people who are struggling because they don’t know what they want to be an so many companies are requiring them to be an expert before they start!

Most of us who are in our 40’s and older started at companies and were taught the skills we needed to do the jobs.  We didn’t ‘know’ everything when we started, fewer and fewer organizations are allowing people to grow into jobs.  This can be both good and bad as it often means that you are missing out on someone who might be really good at the job if you gave them a few months to learn!

As leaders we often follow this mentality as well with our teams, we expect people to be instantly good leaders and forget that we didn’t start off knowing what we know.  We had to learn and grow into our positions!

What IF (stay with me here), what if we found someone who seemed to have some skills and we invested in them?  Taught them how to be a good leader, how to lead a team, how to handle conflicts?  Taught them the skills they needed to be good leaders and then allowed them to expand their leadership skills in small but impact-full ways? Mentoring another member of the team or leading a small project?  Not only could we guide but they would have the chance to learn!

Today your exercise is to find someone on your team who you think might make a good leader.  Setup a meeting with them and then help them find small ways they can lead within your organization.  Allow them to fail, allow them to succeed and guide them along the way!  I promise you, you won’t be disappointed!

Vision Casting

Most of us middle to low level managers feel that vision casting is something that those higher on the food chain should be managing.  We don’t feel like we have a vision to cast and we couldn’t be more wrong!

Often those of us in this role actually get the vision being cast from our upper level managers AND we understand how it impacts our teams. It is our job to make sure our teams get it.  Most of the time our teams don’t understand how what they do has any effect on the bottom line of the organization. They may feel that their contributions can’t have any real impact, however they have a huge impact on the bottom line!

Yesterday at volleyball a parent came up to me to say how thankful she was that I was coaching.  My energy really impacted her daughter and she wanted to say thank you for what I was doing.  I am an assistant on a 5th/6th team.  I am not a coach, I am not directly impacting the program but my leadership is making a difference on that 1 child whose parent will share that impact with other parents.  My actions impact the bottom line.

It is our job as leaders to make sure our teams know how their actions impact everyone.  It doesn’t matter if their job is to bring the team lunch or interact with the customers directly what they do matters and as leaders it is our job to make sure they know that!

You maybe wondering how bringing the team lunch impacts the client, well anyone whose seen an angry, hungry co-worker knows that feeding them helps!  However what if you thought of it this way, the lunch that you are providing to that team allows them to spend more time working out a serious customer facing issue.  Because they had lunch together they were able to solve a problem that is costing the company money. The lunch you brought solved that problem!

Leaders, we need to be able to cast that vision for our team and continue to cast it.  There is an old saying that vision leaks. It’s like carrying our a heavy bucket of water.  Every step we take some water falls out.  If we won’t refill the bucket eventually it’s going to be empty.  When our teams run out of vision they may start to lack focus and wonder why do they have to bring people lunch!

Sometimes others bump the bucket and cause water to fall out.  People say things in the heat of the moment that causes the water to spill out. It is our job to refill that bucket!  Reminding our team that what they are doing not only matters but has a positive impact on the organizations bottom line ensures that they see the importance in their jobs!

Today, think about the impact your team as on the organization! You may have to be creative in thinking about it.  Write down 3 or 4 ways what your team does makes the organization better and then share those ways with your team!

It’s the little things…

We don’t know the outcome of things that we do or say.  2 years ago we went to see Beauty and the Beast at a small theater in downtown Naperville.  What was funny was that we had to change our show because Nicole was sick and we couldn’t make the original show.  Tony called the theater and explained the issue and they swapped our seats out. We didn’t know this theater company but we were impressed with their flexibility and understanding

The next week we saw an amazing performance, prior to the show the producer and director came out and explained a little about their program and about their kids program.  I asked Nicole if she wanted to try the kids program – always up for something she said yes!

2 VERY short years later, we’ve done several camps, participated in 2 shows – with 1 coming up and another audition in December.

We had no idea when we went to Beauty and the Beast that we would not only fall in love with a theater company, but we’d bring along several friends!

You see as leaders we don’t always know what effect our words or actions will have.  The bible tells us we don’t always see the seeds we plant grow.  We also don’t always see the thorns that we plant either!

Our words and actions are powerful.  What we do and say can have a long lasting impact on others.  We must always be aware of that!  Because we are the influencers of this world and WE can have the most impact.  This is true for everyone!  Today be an influencer of good!  Say HI to the person at the store, chat with someone about how life is going, brag about a service or organization that you truly love!  It’s not hard, and you never know what impact you might have.