Mars Venus on Strong Leadership

Mars Venus firmly believes leaders are not born. They are molded by mentors they respect that have been, in turn, trained and guided by their mentors. A leader is created and the whole process starts inside the most dangerous place you’ll ever encounter  your own mind. How can you become a strong leader who inspires others, drives people toward excellence, holds people accountable, and instills a sense of trust?

Mars Venus teaches what makes a great leader. Here are some things you can do to become the leader you’ve always wanted to be:

1. Control yourself. Mars Venus teaches the art of self control.  Every great leader in history has had to become a master of self-discipline and willpower in order to stay focused on the big picture. If you don’t have a goal or the drive to achieve it, you can’t lead others to attain theirs.

• Follow through in everything you do. As challenging as it may be, you need to be disciplined enough to be where you need to be, when you need to be there, whether you want to or not. By being strong in your resolve and resisting temptation to give up, you are setting an example for others to live up to.

• Choose your emotional response to a situation carefully. Sometimes you’ll need to practice the art of silencing your inner thoughts when they’re not appropriate in order to set a positive example.

2. Project your goals. Mars Venus believes if the people you’re leading don’t completely understand the deeper meaning in their work, they won’t share your vision or work ethic. Every step of the way, communicate with your team to make sure they’re on the same wavelength and know what you expect of them.

• Get your team involved in the planning process and the implementation of your ideas. This gives everyone a greater sense of ownership toward the end result. 3. Praise highly and criticize constructively. The way you praise and criticize others can make all the difference in being able to lead effectively.

• Make sure you publicly praise the people who do excellent work for you. You’ll give the person a sense of accomplishment and the drive to do even better.

• When someone does something wrong, offer constructive criticism and do it privately. Suggest solutions on how they can improve and take the time to answer any questions. They’ll accept your input more willingly if they know it’s done to help and not to harm.

4. Know your people. You can’t truly lead a group of people unless you truly understand their hopes, dreams, struggles, pains, and goals. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing unless you have a true sense of the people you’re working with.

• Talk to your team and get to know them. Getting to know each other on a personal level will strengthen the bond between you. They’ll want to do better for you because you’re more than just a “boss.”  Mars Venus suggest having simple periodic group gatherings such as lunch in order to get to know and understand each other.

• Be their leader, first, and their friend second. You’re their leader and that means that you have to make difficult decisions from time to time. These decisions cannot be affected by personal relationships.

5. Make the hard call. There are times when you have to bite the bullet and make some unpleasant decisions. Firing, demoting, and holding people accountable for their actions can be very hard at times. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to handle these matters. Regardless of where your leadership role takes you, believe that you can be a strong leader.

Remember that in order to lead others, you must be disciplined yourself. After all, your actions will speak louder than anything you can say. In order to gain the respect of others, strive to lead by example in every area of your life. When you follow these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a true leader!

Mars Venus on how to Hire Stellar Employees with the Four Hour Format

What helps employers find better employees?  Mars Venus realizes some employers may be utilizing monster, google searches, and checking out potential employees Facebook profiles to find better qualified candidates. Here’s a new way of hiring for your company that you may not have been aware of thus far, but is more time-efficient and cost-effective. Mars Venus explains, if you don’t change your hiring process system, then you’ll just get more of what you’ve already gotten. Here’s a proven recruiting and induction system on how to get the cream of the crop. The four hour format is based on the following four principles:

(1)    Attracting a large pool of applicants allows a greater likelihood to find the right person.

(2)    Utilizing multiple levels of screening, less time will be wasted on lengthy interviews with under-qualified applicants.

(3)    Observing a shortening list of applicants performing essentials of the position in real-time eliminates being surprised on the first day with an applicant’s actual vs. referenced performance.

(4)    Assessing a short list of applicants helps ensure you’re making an appropriate match.

If you hire a person on the first meeting, I guarantee you it will not be the same person in 2 weeks. You’re taking a risk. You really are calling on Lady Luck and the luck of the draw if you base your decision on the 1st interview. Typically, you show the best version of yourself when you first meet someone. How about after meeting someone for the fourth time? The 4 step process requires applicants to show up 4 times. Those able to follow through and are consistent in their demeanor are the ones who really want the job. You are not necessarily looking for the right or wrong person, the 4 hour format allows you to just get more of a feel for the person.

Mars Venus has devised a  4 hour format is designed to give 1 hour meetings over 4 times with 1 or 2 days in between.

Step 1

The first time you meet is in a group. (Don’t tell applicants beforehand that it is a group interview.) The first meeting let’s you see how they interact with other people as you identify their personality profile, and what the job entails. Near the end have an impromptu stand up session where applicants tell the group why they should be hired over everyone else. A typical group is about 8-10 applicants. Companies often require group work, and this meeting is designed to weed out people who do not like that environment, or are unable to work in a group.

Step 2

The next meeting one to two days later is  1-on-1 deeper, job expectations, what they’ll do with the pay, show up on time a second time, wear same professional clothing about 50%, 15 in room 10 to next step. Or only 1.

Step 3

Two to three days later do an on-site screening of your leads (test drive). This is where they meet the rest of the team 1 on 3. Mars Venus suggests at this time each of your team members can ask questions to assess if the applicant is qualified, and if the dynamics are there to work within your organization. Identify what 3 things are absolutely essential for this applicant to do well? Then test drive candidates to complete 2 to 4 hour trial of top 3 responsibilities/tasks of positions. De-brief on-site screening (test drive) with candidates. Include your existing team members in review of candidate performance.  At this meeting see again if the applicants are presenting themselves as the same person as on the first meeting. Do they consistently show up on time? Are they courteous? Are they still dressing professionally? Develop your short list of candidates (around 2-4).

Step 4

This is the actual final interview and hire. If the applicant has shown up all 4 times, if the applicant has been on time all 4 times, the applicant has been wearing professional clothing each time, they have been presenting themselves the same. Then the last man standing wants the job for the right reason. Use open-ended vs. close-ended questioning: “what have you…, how have you…” to uncover actual past experience pertaining to skill set and tasks required for your position. Use the same questions for all interviewees, then rate the response 1-5 and record comments. Rank short list according to preferences, then check references of top choice.  There are several websites offering pre-employment Test that will facilitate the process.  Then negotiate salary and make an offer by completing the hiring agreement/contract.

Mars Venus Believes if you follow this process to the letter and you will hire qualified employees that stand up to the test of time. Try this system if what you have been doing to hire candidates has not worked for you in the past. Close the door at step 1 if the applicant is not able to abide by your expectations.

Inspiring vs. Motivating Employees

We have all worked with an employee who seems to be beating to their own drum. They are either out of step with the rest of the company’s climate, or completely off target. How many of us have tried to motivate this employee to get with the program? How many have written it off as not their problem? How many of us have tried to motivate this employee and failed spectacularly? Do we know the difference between motivating and inspiring others? And, did you know that what inspires a male, generally does not inspire a female? Mars Venus Coaching explains how men and women’s communication styles are different, but equal. When you understand these dynamics, then you are able to tap into and help people draw out their potential like never before, because you are speaking to their heart when you speak their same language at the same time you inspire them to greatness.

Let’s first address the difference between motivation and inspiration. When you attempt to motivate others, the motivation comes from outside an individual. Basically, you can motivate anyone to do small things faster. However, when you are externally driving a person to work more or faster, the effect lasts as long as the motivation lasts and is short-lived at best. As a leader in order to inspire an employee to greatness and to develop into their best self requires a little more time and patience as you focus on educating them to draw out their own conclusion. When you push-in or force someone to be something they are not, the result is short-lived. The etymology of the word education is derived from the Latin, educare, which means “bring up.” Educare is related to educere “bring out,” “bring forth what is within,” “bring out potential” and ducere “to lead.” Therefore, when you are in the act of educating someone in this sense, you are inspiring them to be the best they can be. This is the process to unlock intrinsic motivation for the person to keep excelling according to their own will.

Now that you understand the difference between motivating and inspiring an employee, let’s look at the different ways you would do this for a man verses a woman. The key lies in the “why,” and the way in which you find out a person’s why depends on their gender, because men and women are socially taught different ways to communicate their preferences. If you can identify why a person would want to motivate themselves to be more productive, then you are able to unlock this process of drawing out potential for them. Inspiration to increase their capabilities will then become internal.

A large majority of the challenges we experience across gender begin with the different ways the gender’s use language to communicate. The words we use (or don’t), and the meanings we attach to those words affect how we view each other. Sometimes we use exactly the same words but attach completely different meanings to them. The easiest way to remember the difference is the preference for men to use “I” and women to use “we” when speaking. Women’s communication style is from a point of inclusion, because they are socialized to be inclusive, i.e. maintain harmony; and consequently, women tend to use “we” when speaking. Men, however, are socialized for independence and tend to exclusively use “I” when speaking.

To Inspire Men:
Promote Yourself
Avoid Tag Endings
Be Direct and Concise
Make Acknowledgements Direct and Simple

To Inspire Women:
Build Rapport
Avoid Monopolizing the Conversation
Respect her Abilities
Involve, Do Not Lecture
Be Precise and Specific with Praise

Remember, the best way to help someone become self-motivated, and therefore inspired to bring forth their own potential is to tap into the “why” behind what they are doing. When we are cognizant of the different dialect men and women use, then we are able to communicate in a manner where the other person is comfortable. You can then focus on the underlying “why” reasons behind why people perform the way they do. When you are able to identify what you like, and praise what you would like to be repeated—you are coming from a place rewarding positive behavior. And, everyone likes to be told what they are good at, not what they could do better.

Mars Venus Explains the Man Cave

It's not a couch.  It's a MAN CAVE.

It’s not a couch. It’s a MAN CAVE

Couch time, A Right time for Men ?

We live in a world right now that is fast paced. The leaps technology makes in just a year are staggering, aren’t they? How many people have just one email anymore? How many people use their cell phones not only to talk, but to text, email, use GPS, surf the internet, listen to music, and schedule appointments? How many people were using Nooks or iPads last year in March verses this year? What about using Twitter, Linked In, and Facebook accounts? I first read Dr. John Gray’s best-selling relationship book, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus back in 1992, when I was 11 years old. I understand men needing cave time backwards and forwards. Or so I thought until our recent family vacation began with a 15 hour trip (including 2 car rides and 3 flights/2 layovers) that quickly turned into an ultra-marathon 20 hour trip to include all the above with 3 delayed flights, high winds, and a snow storm to navigate through…and then the next day our toddler on our 6 year anniversary threw up on Mommy, and only Mommy, seven times! Remember I said I understood cave time? Turns out the more important factor is implementing this concept ESPECIALLY when the going gets tougher.

Did you know when men experience more stressors in their life, their body gives out little signals telling them to stop, sit down, relax, and do nothing? As women we scratch our heads, beat our chests, complain, yell, cajole, and constantly question why the first thing the guys in our life do when the pressure is building is to shift gears, disconnect, and go into a zone or nothing box where frankly women are not allowed. When women get more stressed out, we do the opposite of sitting, because our to-do list keeps growing, as our brain works even harder to make sure everyone and everything is taken care of. For women the most important thing we can do to reduce stress is to connect with others by talking things out and emoting. It’s how our bodies are designed to respond to stress!

When we interrupt a man during his cave time his stress level increases, because we are not giving him time to replenish his testosterone. When men tune out, want to listen in to their favorite sport’s team scores, fall asleep on the couch, or just plain sit down to sit and do nothing….it is their body’s physiological response to how a man’s body increases the stress-reducing hormone testosterone.

It is hard enough adjusting a toddler to time zone changes, on top of having food poisoning. Unwittingly I kept piling on demands. As we were negotiating gym schedules, fitting in time at the hot springs, time with grandma, and time with our friends vacationing with us—my husband jokingly said one of the things he most looks forward to on vacation is uninterrupted time to read. What this really translates to is uninterrupted time for my hubby to replenish his testosterone. When I’m attentive to his needs, then he is able to replenish his store of testosterone, and thereby reduce his stress. And believe me, after the first two days of travel and re-adjustment and non-stop go, this statement from him is priceless. He is the epitome of patience, so when he gave me this gem, the least I could do was ensure he got his reading time! If he is less stressed out, then he becomes more attentive to my needs. As the “nurturer” and “care-giver” in the family, I have to remind myself daily to make sure I do not interrupt my husband in his cave.

When I allow my husband to tinker in his cave, or do nothing he replenishes his stress-busting stores so he can help out at home and with the kids faster than if I jumped on him when I needed relief myself to begin replenishing my stress-reducing hormone, oxytocin.

It sounds counter-intuitive; however, it is inversely proportional to how much help I receive in growing our son, tending to running a family, and investing in our relationship. When I allow him this uninterrupted time to relax his muscles by sitting and reading, he is able to replenish his testosterone quicker, than if I interrupted or bugged him to help me out the second he walks in the door from work, or the second I begin to get overwhelmed about the stressors of traveling with a toddler, dealing with delayed flights, making sure reservations are not cancelled due to our delayed arrival at our destination, and uncertainties if our luggage will show up at the same time as we do! For some guys it may be watching a favorite TV show, surfing the internet, reading the newspaper, or tinkering on a hobby—or all the above…but, by allowing him this time to unwind and rest his muscles, I am actually investing in the longevity and well-being of our marriage. When I allow him to do this, and I make this time sacred for him, then he is able to rejuvenate, and give back to the needs I require to both reduce my stress, but more importantly receive his help—whether this is being a good provider, helping out around the house, or being heard when I need to talk out my day.

Lyndsay Katauskas, MEd

Mars Venus Coaching

Corporate Media Relations

 

One Easy Way To Reduce Workplace Stress And Enhance Productivity

One Easy Way To Reduce Workplace Stress And Enhance Productivity

Think Stress Free

Victor Lipman, Contributor Forbes 6/5/12

It’s always pleasant (if rare) to find a management tactic that works well and is also easy and even fun. Over the course of my career – both as an employee and a manager – the best way I found to reduce stress and improve productivity was simple: to exercise at midday.

Everyone has his or her own biorhythms, but I found and observed energy and concentration often flagging toward midday. And also noted considerably renewed energy and productivity following a lunchtime workout.

These aren’t simply my own idiosyncratic observations. Numerous studies link exercise to mood elevation and productivity enhancement, as well as more collaborative and tolerant behavior. The benefits of exercise are copiously well documented; the trick is effectively integrating a regular exercise program into a conservative or restrictive work environment.

What form of exercise works best? My answer’s simple: Whatever you like and can easily do in or near the workplace. For me it was usually a 3-mile run. All I needed was a change of clothes and a shower. Many I managed liked weightlifting, walking, aerobics classes, yoga, Spinning and so on. (Personal aside: The only form of exercise that was clearly not for me was Spinning. First, it looks wicked hard. Second, I exercised at least partly to take a break from people barking at me, so the last thing I wanted while taking a break from people barking at me was other people barking at me.)

Here are six common reasons why people can’t or don’t exercise at work, and ways to easily overcome them.
I don’t have time. Sure you do. It may take you 15 minutes longer than a normal lunch hour (maybe even 30 if you have to go a little farther to get to a facility), so work 15 (or 30) minutes later. Chances are in those extra 15 minutes you’ll be more energized and productive than if you hadn’t exercised in the first place.
My boss won’t let me. Tell him or her (nicely) to get with the program. Note info above – data shows exercise enhances productivity, reduces stress, and improves collaboration. Ask for a chance to demonstrate the results, and be sure to over-deliver when providing them.

We don’t have a Fitness Center. It’s great if your company has one, but no knockout if you don’t. Sometimes all you need is a shower. Or you can go to a nearby gym or club. Often your company can get a corporate discount, a trade that helps both teams.
I won’t have time to eat lunch. Nonsense. Eat lunch at your desk while working following your workout. I did it productively for decades. I ate a cheese sandwich or a peanut butter sandwich (fortunately I have a limitless capacity for monk-like culinary boredom), plus an apple or an orange. The main criterion for my lunch was that it could be prepared literally within one minute – no kidding – at about 9 p.m. the night before.

My hair will be a mess. Don’t be too hard enough on yourself. I’m sure your hair actually looks a lot better than you think it does. Note to employees: Of course you’ll use common sense here – no triathlon workouts right before Board presentations. Note to managers: Offer (as appropriate to your environment) flexibility of casual dress and appearance. Your employees will appreciate you for it and likely reward you with loyalty and diligence.

My CEO doesn’t believe in exercise in the workplace. Hey, this is 2012. I’m as old school and dinosaurish as they come and I’ve been exercising at work since the 1970s. Note to CEOs: You’ll gain in employee engagement. You’ll gain in recruiting. You may gain in reduced absenteeism and health care costs (though that’s usually harder to document). Plus, dedicated exercisers/athletes tend to be highly disciplined individuals and fine employees. It’ll make your company a cooler happier place.

One final thought: The ability to exercise at work is a benefit and privilege, so you can’t abuse it – all expected work still has to get done. Otherwise, any straight-thinking manager will – and should – pull the plug quickly. But it shouldn’t come to that. Well-managed exercise programs improve the quality of worklife for employees and management alike. And that’s the bottom line. I’d write more, but I’ve got to go for a run.

An Introvert’s Guide to Networking

ForbesWoman 11/28/2011 @ 11:33AM

Throughout college, I was the “shy girl.” I often wondered why it was hard for me to open up to strangers and attend social events after a long day at school. But I was so used to being labeled as “shy” that I never thought of changing it—it was just my identity.

Finally, at my first job, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and a light bulb went off: I’m an introvert. I realized that there are many benefits of having my personality type—we introverts tend to be reflective and have close relationships, to name a couple—and I became proud of who I was.

But being an introvert makes some things difficult. It’s hard to be open and let strangers into your life. Small talk doesn’t come easy, and it’s hard work to establish rapport with new people. And that means things like attending networking events and meeting new people—crucial elements of the job search—can be pretty intimidating.

I’ve picked up a few tips and habits over the years that have helped me navigate the social side of my career. Do I get excited about being in a big room full of strangers to meet? Not so much. But it’s not so bad anymore, either. Here’s how I handle it:

1. Prepare
Before you head into your next social event, spend a few minutes thinking about what you want to learn from others. Have a few questions ready to ask new people, such as “How did you get started in your career?” or “What are you passionate about?” If being put on the spot makes you nervous, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with writing questions down and practicing ahead of time. Also think about what you want to share about yourself—you can’t rely on another person to carry the conversation for you!

2. Find a Conference Buddy
You don’t always have to go at it alone—having a buddy can make large events much less intimidating. So bring a colleague or friend to your next networking event or conference. If you do have to fly solo, try to reach out and make just one connection. That way, you’ll have someone to sit with during lunch breaks and someone to wave hello to and introduce to others. And you’ll probably be surprised at how much fun you’ll have!

3. Be That Person
Remember that most people in the room at any given networking event feel the same way you do: scared to death. So, instead of dwelling on how scary it is to start a conversation, think about how by doing so you’ll be helping other people feel more comfortable. Maybe that girl alone at the table doesn’t know anyone either and is just hoping that someone will come talk to her. Be that person! (“Have you been to this before?” is always a great opening line.)

4. Be Present
Once you do start a conversation, it can be tough to relax if you’re continuously worried about what to say next and what the other person is thinking. So try shifting the focus to your new acquaintance, instead. Ask lots of questions and practice your listening skills!

5. Smile
You don’t always have to initiate—but if you’re hiding against the wall with your arms crossed over your chest, you’re not giving off a very approachable vibe, either. So try to relax, smile, and look as warm and casual as you can—it’ll open the door for someone to walk up to you and start the conversation.

6. Challenge Yourself
This year, I took on a networking challenge—I met with four people I knew and four people I didn’t know every month. Through these connections, I’ve already gotten an interview and many referrals—not to mention my new found confidence and a clearer sense of direction in my career. Even if you don’t go this far, think about how you can challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone just a little bit. It might have unexpected—and great—results.

This article was originally published at The Daily Muse and Forbes

10 Steps To Happiness At Work

Here’s a pop quiz for anyone who’s miserable at work. Which action has the biggest chance of improving your happiness? (A) Getting a promotion, (B) seeing your professional nemesis move to the Mongolia office, (C) focusing on the positive aspects of your job and trying to ignore the negative or (D) quitting in a fit of anger and landing your dream job elsewhere?

Sorry, says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The answer is none of the above. To achieve greater happiness on the job, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont.

“The exact attributes of what you are looking for do not exist in any job,” says Rao, who taught “Creativity and Personal Mastery,” one of the most sought after courses at Columbia Business School.

He believes that the single biggest obstacle to workplace happiness is the belief that we are prisoners of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to us. To change your job, he says, you must change the way you think about it. “We create our own experience,” he insists. He relies heavily on Eastern spirituality and draws from many wisdom traditions. “The knowledge that we are responsible for living the life we have is our most powerful tool.”

Rather than encourage people to focus on “positive thinking,” Rao wants to banish the whole notion of good and bad events. “‘When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade’ assumes that you have been given a lemon and that a lemon is bad for you,” he says. “I’m saying, first of all, if you’ve been given a lemon, is that a bad thing? You can train yourself to say, ‘OK, this happened,’ rather than label it as bad.” If you think of events that occurred 10 years ago and seemed bad at the time, he says, you’ll realize that many of those events led to something positive. He recalls a former student who was fired from his job and received a healthy severance deal. Six months later the company ran into trouble and all the remaining staffers lost their jobs without receiving a dime. The fired employee actually came out ahead.

Rao believes that in order to be happy in the workplace, you need to move from personal ambition to “greater vision” ambition. “Personal ambition is ‘I want to be CEO,’” he says. “Greater vision ambition is, ‘I want to lead this company so that people want to work here.’” He says that ambition hinders happiness as long as people employ an “if/then” model: If I get the promotion, then I will be happy. Rao says that a healthier and happier perspective is to think “I have a grand vision and I will try my best to make it work. If I succeed, wonderful. If not, wonderful. My purpose is to give it the best I’ve got.’”

If happiness comes only from within, then how can you tell if you really are in a legitimately bad situation, as opposed just needing to reframe the way you look at it? Rao says it’s better to make a change from a positive place than from a point of anger. “You should make a change from the place of being grateful for your experience but ready to make a change and continue to grow.”

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he still may succeed in less tangible ways or land an even better job down the road. “They may rise later in the shootout,” says Rao. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

To achieve greater happiness at work, you don’t need your boss to stop calling you at night. You don’t need to make more money. You don’t need to follow your dream of being a sommelier, or running a B&B in Vermont. So says Srikumar Rao, the author of Happiness at Work. The biggest obstacle to happiness is simply your belief that you’re the prisoner of circumstance, powerless before the things that happen to you, he says. “We create our own experience,” he adds. Here are 10 steps to happiness at work, drawn from his recommendations.

Avoid “good” and “bad” labels

When something bad happens, don’t beat yourself up, says Rao. Instead, when you make an error, be aware of it without passing judgment. “Do what you have to do, but don’t surrender your calmness and sense of peace.”

Practice “extreme resilience”

Rao defines “extreme resilience” as the ability to recover fast from adversity. “You spend much time in needless, fruitless self-recrimination and blaming others,” he writes. “You go on pointless guilt trips and make excuses that you know are fatuous. If you’re resilient, you recover and go on to do great things.” (He also says that if you fully take his advice to avoid “bad thing” labels, you don’t have to practice resilience at all.)

Let go of grudges

Rao says that a key to being happy at work is to let go of grudges. “Consciously drop the past,” he writes. “It’s hard, but with practice you will get the hang of it.”

Don’t waste time being jealous

“When you’re jealous you’re saying that the universe is limited and there’s not enough success in it for me,” says Rao. “Instead, be happy, because whatever happened to him will happen to you in your current job or at another company.”

Find passion in you, not in your job

Sure, you can fantasize about a dream job that pays you well and allows you to do some kind of social good, work with brilliant and likable colleagues and still be home in time for dinner. But Rao warns against searching for that perfect position, or even believing that it exists. Instead, he advocates changing how you think about your current situation. For example, instead of thinking of yourself as a human resources manager at a bank, identify yourself as someone who helps other bank employees provide for their families, take advantage of their benefits and save for the future.

Picture yourself 10 years ago and 10 years from now

“Most problems that kept you awake ten years ago have disappeared,” says Rao. “Much of what troubles you today will also vanish. Realizing this truth will help you gain perspective.”

Banish the “if/then” model of happiness

Rao says that many of us rely on a flawed “if/then” model for happiness. If we become CEO, then we’ll be happy. If we make a six-figure salary, then we’ll be happy. “There is nothing that you have to get, do or be in order to be happy,” he writes.

Invest in the process, not the outcome

“Outcomes are totally beyond your control,” Rao writes. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment if you focus too much on what you hope to achieve rather than how you plan to get there.

Think about other people

Even in corporate America, where so much of work is every man for him or herself, Rao advocates inhabiting an “other-centered universe.” If the nice guy gets passed over for a promotion, he may still succeed in less tangible ways. “He may rise later in the shootout,” Rao says. “I’m challenging the assumption that you need to be a dog-eat-dog person to survive in a corporate environment.”

Swap multitasking for mindfulness

Rao thinks that multitasking gets in the way of happiness. “Multitasking simply means that you do many things badly and take much more time at it,” he writes. He recommends instead working on tasks for 20-minute intervals that you gradually increase to two-hour spans. Turn off any electronic gadgets that can be a distraction. He claims that with practice, you’ll be able to accomplish much more and with less effort.

Courageous Leaders Don’t Make Excuses…They Apologize

Erika Andersen, Contributor  Forbes 6/5/12

I’ve been thinking about the power of apology lately.  I’ve been noticing that the people for whom I have the most respect don’t hesitate to say “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry I…”  On the other hand, the people I have the hardest time respecting seem constitutionally unable to take responsibility for their own mistakes.  Even when they try, it comes out sounding like “I may have been partly at fault, but…” or “It may seem that I was wrong, but…”  They just can’t do it.

Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage.  It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection.  It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.

I just today read a great article here on Forbes about this very topic called Creative Leadership: Humility and Being Wrong.  The authors, Doug Guthrie and Sudhir Venkatesh, make a really clear and well-reasoned case for the positive power of admitting and apologizing for one’s mistakes.  At one point in the article, they note that:

“We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weaknesses and mistakes. This view is flawed. It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can also be a powerful tool for leaders—actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organizational life.”

I couldn’t agree more. Followers look to see whether a leader is courageous before they’ll fully accept that person’s leadership.  If they see courage (and taking full responsibility for actions and admitting and apologizing for mistakes are two of the five key indicators of courage), it feels safe to ‘sign up.’ People need courageous leaders in order to feel there’s someone to make the tough calls and to take responsibility for them – they need to know that the buck truly does stop with the leader. With a courageous leader, people feel protected – not that they’re helpless, but they know the person in charge really has their back.

And courage begets courage: your followers are more likely to make their own tough decisions and to take responsibility for them when you model that behavior.  You have their backs – so they’re much more likely to have yours.

Because so many of us have a hard time apologizing, I thought it might be helpful to have an ‘apology primer.’  Here you go:

  • I’m sorry: this is the core of a genuine apology.  “I’m sorry.” or “I apologize.”  It’s the stake in the ground to communicate that you truly regret your behavior and wish you had acted differently. No apology is complete without this.
  • Stay in the first person:  Many, perhaps most, apologies run off the rails at this point, when the apologizer shifts into the second person, e.g., “I’m sorry….you didn’t understand me.” Or “I’m sorry….you feel that way.” Suddenly, you’re no longer apologizing for your actions; you’re telling the other person that you regret their actions or feelings.  A true apology sounds like, “I’m sorry I….” or “I’m sorry we…”
  • Don’t equivocate:  Once you said what you regret about your actions or words, don’t water it down with excuses.  That can blow the whole thing.  The former manager of my apartment building once said to me, “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit, but you have to understand we’ve got hundreds of tenants.”  I definitely didn’t feel apologized to – in fact, I felt he was telling me I was being inconsiderate to hold him accountable!  Just let the apology stand on its own. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit.
  • Say how you’ll fix it.  This seals the deal.  If you genuinely regret your words or actions, you’ll to commit to changing. This needs to be simple, feasible and specific. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit. We’ll have an answer to you by this Friday.”
  • Do it. I know some people who don’t have a hard time apologizing, but seem to have a hard time following through on their apologies. If you apologize and say you’re going to behave differently, and then don’t – it’s actually worse than not having apologized in the first place. When you don’t follow through, people question not only your courage, but also your trustworthiness.

So there you have it.  Next time you’re clearly in the wrong, take deep breath, put aside your self-justification, your excuses, your blame, your defensiveness, and simply apologize. Being courageous in this way is generally scary in anticipation. But it feels great once you’ve done it….to you, and to those you lead.

9 Ways to Boost Your Confidence at Work

Daily Muse, Contributor, ForbesWoman 11/02/2011

I recently started my own freelance writing business, so, in fact, I no longer answer to a “boss.”

But, for nearly two decades, I did—and I had bosses that intimidated me to the core, I held positions in which I questioned my skills almost daily, and I took on responsibilities that I was certain would expose me as a neophyte.

And even now, as a brand-new entrepreneur with new clients, prospecting targets, and niche markets that are altogether unfamiliar, I still sometimes deal with feelings of inadequacy and a lack of confidence on the job.

And I know I’m not so unusual: For many women, feeling insecure at work is a constant struggle. But, it’s also a major obstacle to achieving our professional dreams and realizing our full potential. So, ladies, we’ve got to get over it.

The good news is, it’s possible. If you need a confidence boost in your day-to-day routine, check out these tried-and-true tips. You’ll bolster your sense of assurance, come off more poised, and kick some butt in the workplace, too.

1. Ask Questions

Not knowing everything—whether that’s because you’re new on the job or have incomplete information—can make you feel insecure and lead to a lack confidence. But remember that (no matter what stage you’re at in your career) you’re never going to have all the answers. So don’t be shy about asking questions, especially when you’re feeling uncertain or insecure. Instead, arm yourself with the information you need to do your job well by asking for it.

2. Be Curious

Curiosity not only sends the message that you’re ambitious and eager to learn, it also positions you well to interface with more people and take on new projects. So don’t just do the work that comes easily. Try something new, something that scares you just a wee bit—whether that’s asking your boss to lead the next client meeting or learning HTML. You’ll emerge more confident and empowered than if you stick to what you already know.

3. Accept that Everyone Makes Mistakes

If you always need to be perfect, you’ll always feel inadequate: that standard is wholly unattainable. Everyone makes mistakes on the job. You will too, and that’s okay—you’ll learn from them, and you’ll move on. Plus, once you let go of the need to be perfect, you free yourself to take risks and take on new responsibilities.

4. Go Above and Beyond

With each new assignment, think of ways you can knock the ball out of the park. Can you suggest new ideas, clients, or products? Make a process easier or more streamlined? Or even just get the report on your boss’ desk three days early? You’ll feel better about yourself if you go the extra mile—and you’ll probably get some good feedback from others, too.

5. Ask for Feedback

Don’t wait to be told that your work stinks or shines—ask for feedback along the way. Doing so demonstrates that you care about your work and want to succeed in your job. Plus, instead of anxiously wondering what you’re doing wrong, you’ll gain a better sense of your performance, your strengths, and your areas for improvement.

6. Find Supportive Allies

Seek out positive co-workers and mentors who support you, who boost you up when you’re feeling down, and who can help you succeed in your job and within the company. There are always naysayers and jealous types who want to see you fail, but if you reach out to enough people, you’re sure to find a critical mass who have your back.

7. Look the Part

Turns out, there’s some truth to the old adage, “fake it until you make it.” Dressing well, having good posture, being friendly, and making eye contact with people will all give the impression that you’re confident and in control. And when the rest of the world thinks you’re self-assured, you’ll start believing it, too. So smile, stand up straight, and yeah, go ahead and treat yourself to that new blazer.

8. Trust Your Gut

If you feel that you work isn’t getting you where you want to go, it’s sure to impact your frame of mind and sense of confidence. So be really honest with yourself about your personal goals and expectations, and make sure that you’re being true to them. If you find that you’re not able to use your talents to their fullest or your job isn’t putting you on the right track for your career, think about how to change your situation—whether it’s having a discussion with your boss or looking for a new gig.

9. Celebrate Your Achievements

If you’ve received an amazing performance review or nailed the client meeting you’ve been stressing over, celebrate—you deserve it! Acknowledging those successes and rewarding yourself will remind you how great you really are—and there’s no greater confidence boost than a job well done.

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

Mike Myatt, Contributor Forbes 4/4/12

It is simply impossible to become a great leader without being a great communicator. I hope you noticed the previous sentence didn’t refer to being a great talker – big difference. The key to becoming a skillful communicator is rarely found in what has been taught in the world of academia. From our earliest days in the classroom we are trained to focus on enunciation, vocabulary, presence, delivery, grammar, syntax and the like. In other words, we are taught to focus on ourselves. While I don’t mean to belittle these things as they’re important to learn, it’s the more subtle elements of communication rarely taught in the classroom (the elements that focus on others), which leaders desperately need to learn. It is the ability to develop a keen external awareness that separates the truly great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others. In today’s column I’ll share a few of the communication traits, which if used consistently, will help you achieve better communication results.

I don’t believe it comes as any great surprise that most leaders spend the overwhelming majority of their time each day in some type of an interpersonal situation. I also don’t believe it comes as a great shock that a large number of organizational problems occur as a result of poor communications. It is precisely this paradox that underscores the need for leaders to focus on becoming great communicators. Effective communication is an essential component of professional success whether it is at the interpersonal, inter-group, intra-group, organizational, or external level. While developing an understanding of great communication skills is easier than one might think, being able to appropriately draw upon said skills when the chips are down is not always as easy as one might hope for.

Skills acquired and/or knowledge gained are only valuable to the extent they can be practically applied when called for. The number one thing great communicators have in common is they possess a heightened sense of situational and contextual awareness. The best communicators are great listeners and astute in their observations. Great communicators are skilled at reading a person/group by sensing the moods, dynamics, attitudes, values and concerns of those being communicated with. Not only do they read their environment well, but they possess the uncanny ability to adapt their messaging to said environment without missing a beat. The message is not about the messenger; it has nothing to do with messenger; it is however 100% about meeting the needs and the expectations of those you’re communicating with.

So, how do you know when your skills have matured to the point that you’ve become an excellent communicator? The answer is you’ll have reached the point where your interactions with others consistently use the following ten principles:

 

1. Speak not with a forked tongue: In most cases, people just won’t open up those they don’t trust. When people have a sense a leader is worthy of their trust they will invest time and take risks in ways they would not if their leader had a reputation built upon poor character or lack of integrity. While you can attempt to demand trust, it rarely works. Trust is best created by earning it with right acting, thinking, and decisioning. Keep in mind that people will forgive many things where trust exists, but will rarely forgive anything where trust is absent.

2. Get personal: There is great truth in the axiom that states: “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Classic business theory tells leaders to stay at arms length. I say stay at arm’s length if you want to remain in the dark receiving only highly sanitized versions of the truth. If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with people you’ll never know what’s really on their mind until it’s too late to do anything about it.

3. Get specific: Specificity is better than Ambiguity 11 times out of 10: Learn to communicate with clarity. Simple and concise is always better than complicated and confusing. Time has never been a more precious commodity than it is in today’s marketplace. It is critical you know how to cut to the chase and hit the high points, and that you expect the same from others. Without understanding the value of brevity and clarity it is unlikely that you’ll ever be afforded the opportunity to get to the granular level as people will tune you out long before you ever get there. Your goal is to weed out the superfluous and to make your words count.

4. Focus on the leave-behinds not the take-aways: The best communicators are not only skilled at learning and gathering information while communicating, they are also adept at transferring ideas, aligning expectations, inspiring action, and spreading their vision. The key is to approach each interaction with a servant’s heart. When you truly focus on contributing more than receiving you will have accomplished the goal. Even though this may seem counter-intuitive, by intensely focusing on the other party’s wants, needs & desires, you’ll learn far more than you ever would by focusing on your agenda.

5. Have an open mind: I’ve often said that the rigidity of a closed mind is the single greatest limiting factor of new opportunities. A leader takes their game to a whole new level the minute they willingly seek out those who hold dissenting opinions and opposing positions with the goal not of convincing them to change their minds, but with the goal of understanding what’s on their mind. I’m always amazed at how many people are truly fearful of opposing views, when what they should be is genuinely curious and interested. Open dialogs with those who confront you, challenge you, stretch you, and develop you. Remember that it’s not the opinion that matters, but rather the willingness to discuss it with an open mind and learn.

6. Shut-up and listen: Great leaders know when to dial it up, dial it down, and dial it off (mostly down and off). Simply broadcasting your message ad nauseum will not have the same result as engaging in meaningful conversation, but this assumes that you understand that the greatest form of discourse takes place within a conversation, and not a lecture or a monologue. When you reach that point in your life where the light bulb goes off, and you begin to understand that knowledge is not gained by flapping your lips, but by removing your ear wax, you have taken the first step to becoming a skilled communicator.

7. Replace ego with empathy: I have long advised leaders not to let their ego write checks that their talent can’t cash. When candor is communicated with empathy & caring and not the prideful arrogance of an over inflated ego good things begin to happen. Empathetic communicators display a level of authenticity and transparency that is not present with those who choose to communicate behind the carefully crafted facade propped-up by a very fragile ego. Understanding the this communication principle is what helps turn anger into respect and doubt into trust.

8. Read between the lines: Take a moment and reflect back on any great leader that comes to mind… you’ll find they are very adept at reading between the lines. They have the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase the volume of rhetoric. Rather astute leaders know that there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by filibustering. In this age of instant communication, everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind that they fail to realize everything to be gained from the minds of others. Keep your eyes & ears open and your mouth shut and you’ll be amazed at how your level or organizational awareness is raised.

9. When you speak, know what you’re talking about: Develop a technical command over your subject matter. If you don’t possess subject matter expertise, few people will give you the time of day. Most successful people have little interest in listening to those individuals who cannot add value to a situation or topic, but force themselves into a conversation just to hear themselves speak. The fake it until you make it days have long since passed, and for most people I know fast and slick equals not credible. You’ve all heard the saying “it’s not what you say, but how you say it that matters,” and while there is surely an element of truth in that statement, I’m here to tell you that it matters very much what you say. Good communicators address both the “what” and “how” aspects of messaging so they don’t fall prey to becoming the smooth talker who leaves people with the impression of form over substance.

10. Speak to groups as individuals: Leaders don’t always have the luxury of speaking to individuals in an intimate setting. Great communicators can tailor a message such that they can speak to 10 people in a conference room or 10,000 people in an auditorium and have them feel as if they were speaking directly to each one of them as an individual. Knowing how to work a room and establish credibility, trust, and rapport are keys to successful interactions.

11. Bonus – Be prepared to change the message if needed:  Another component of communications strategy that is rarely discussed is how to prevent a message from going bad, and what to do when does. It’s called being prepared and developing a contingency plan. Again, you must keep in mind that for successful interactions to occur, your objective must be in alignment with those you are communicating with. If your expertise, empathy, clarity, etc. don’t have the desired effect, which by the way is very rare, you need to be able to make an impact by changing things up on the fly. Use great questions, humor, stories, analogies, relevant data, and where needed, bold statements to help connect and engender the confidence and trust that it takes for people to want to engage. While it is sometimes necessary to “Shock and Awe” this tactic should be reserved as a last resort.

Don’t assume someone is ready to have a particular conversation with you just because you’re ready to have the conversation with them. Spending time paving the way for a productive conversation is far better than coming off as the proverbial bull in a china shop. Furthermore, you cannot assume anyone knows where you’re coming from if you don’t tell them. I never ceased to be amazed at how many people assume everyone knows what they want to occur without ever finding it necessary to communicate their objective. If you fail to justify your message with knowledge, business logic, reason, empathy etc., you will find that said message will likely fall on deaf ears needing reinforcement or clarification afterward.

Bottom line – The leadership lesson here is whenever you have a message to communicate (either directly, or indirectly through a third party) make sure said message is true & correct, well reasoned, and substantiated by solid business logic that is specific, consistent, clear and accurate. Spending a little extra time on the front-end of the messaging curve will likely save you from considerable aggravation and brain damage on the back-end. Most importantly of all, keep in mind that communication is not about you, your opinions, your positions or your circumstances. It’s about helping others by meeting their needs, understanding their concerns, and adding value to their world. Do these things and you’ll drastically reduce the number of communications problems you’ll experience moving forward.