Leadership Intuition: Learning To Listen To Your Gut

Intuition

Several years ago my strategic partner and good friend Hugh Massie, Founder and CEO of DNA Behavior International, mentioned that he was learning to trust his gut instincts more.

This caught my attention since he is a CPA by training and a very results-oriented, rational person.

Then as I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, I learned about this idea of the “second mind,” as he called it. Gladwell raised the visibility of the power of intuition, but I suspect that it was only for a short time for most people.

Using Intuition

Last summer at the National Speakers Association Convention, I met a leadership consultant who was building her speaking platform around the idea that leaders (who have mostly been trained like engineers to trust rationality and disregard feelings) needed to learn to use their intuition more to make better decisions.

Just recently I read another impressive book, THE WAY OF THE SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed and was interested to see that author Mark Divine, a former CPA and Navy SEAL, made instinct (awareness of gut feelings) a major theme of the book.

His proposition is that leaders should train like Navy SEALS to intentionally use both rational (conscious mind) and instinctive (drawing from the unconscious mind) inputs to make the best decisions.

Albert Einstein didn’t read Blink, and he certainly wasn’t a Navy SEAL, but evidently he discovered this related theory early on, saying this:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

I’m seeing a pattern from these different points on the topic of intuition, so let’s explore it a bit deeper.

Examining the Gift of Intuition

Intuition is about listening to your subconscious mind (gut instincts) to pull forward information and feelings that you’ve accumulated over a lifetime. Warriors have to rely on instinct, using every possible sense from outside and every stirring from inside to stay alive.

Having a good visual memory for shapes and landforms is crucial for a military pilot. Being able to store and recall patterns of logic and information is important for an entrepreneur or business person.

Emotional memory is probably the strongest memory that we have, and it’s also the one most quickly accessed. Emotional memory is the one we feel in our gut, and it helps us access the gigabytes of memory stored in our subconscious faster than any processor yet made.

“So, intuition is this stream of awareness that flows from our subconscious to our conscious, but it requires our tuning in to hear the signal.”

Can It Be Learned?

Can intuition be learned? The short answer is yes, but the issue is whether you will develop your awareness and then allow intuition to move from your gut to your mind. It’s not a problem when data is tagged with emotions; it’s ready for quick retrieval and usually easy to access. At other times, it’s as simple as stopping to ask yourself this:

“What is my gut telling me about this—what is my intuition?”

Sometimes data needed for intuition needs help in getting to our awareness, and this situation is where we have to be more intentional about accessing it. It usually means taking time to shut down our rational thinking and reflect usually in a quiet setting away from distractions. Sounds a lot like meditation and prayer, doesn’t it? I believe it’s very similar and can be the same.

Reflecting, waiting, and listening with our feelings for insight is a practice used by wise people throughout the history of civilization.

And it has become a lost art in our increasingly fast-paced society.

If we ignore or fail to cultivate the intuitive half of our decision-making abilities, we become less than our best as leaders and merely rely on the facts at hand.

My Experience With Intuition

I think that I’m a very logical and rational person, but I’ve also been blessed with a gift for patterns and a good memory. In recent years I’ve learned to value what these gifts reveal to me and trust my intuition more.

I do have to be careful about not jumping to conclusions with too little rational information, but overall I’m feeling more confident in my decision-making and greater commitment to execution.

What about you? What has been your experience? How often do you integrate your intuition in your decision-making? Why do you believe that some leaders ignore or don’t develop their intuitive abilities when it would produce better results and greater success? Please share your thoughts and comments.

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——————–
Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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On Leadership, Employee Morale and The Joy of Ketchup

The Joy of Ketchup

My father has always been a picky eater. He doesn’t like bold flavors at all, so we did not have the joy of trying different foods as kids. He liked things to be overcooked and unfortunately for us, that meant the rest of us had to eat our dinners that way too.

He would cook steaks so well that they were tough to chew. I didn’t know how good a steak could be because ours were tough and burned.

The Joy of Ketchup

Ketchup is a wonderful invention. It was created to enhance the flavor quality of certain foods, but wasn’t ever intended to be used with every item on your plate. But in our house, it was a necessity!

The only way to make some of Dad’s overcooked food palatable was to cover it with ketchup.

We put it on overcooked steak, mashed potatoes, and even the plain white rice he would cook! What was intended to be an enhancement to the dinner experience became a necessity in order to hide the underlying fact that the food was terrible.

The Ketchup of the Workplace

There once was a company called Lomo Ralé Inc. The culture was very fragmented at there:

  • Departments worked in silos
  • Management dictated decisions rather than collaborating with employees
  • The people were both over-worked and under-equipped
  • The environment was a stressful place for employees

As a result of these conditions, employees only gave the effort that they were required to give. There was no reason to give any extra effort. For most of the frontline employees at Lomo Ralé, the company seemed to drain the life out of them.

Then the CEO had read an expert’s book about what incentive awards could do to morale in the office. She gathered her executive team together and came up with a program that would allow the employees to take short breaks in order to to play games and also provide them with plaques and other awards for strong performance.

She was convinced that this would fix the morale issue.

Short Shelf Life

The program was implemented quickly and there was an immediate boost to energy level in the office. Employees smiled more and seemed to actually enjoy themselves. That feeling slowly faded over time because the games and awards didn’t change the underlying work conditions.

Employees still did not feel like the managers had their best interests in mind. Decisions were still dictated downward. The “steak” of the company was still overcooked. The “ketchup” that management had thrown on top was only a mask for what was really underneath.

Cooking a Better Steak

The situation at Lomo Ralé is an all-to-common occurrence.  Managers throw a bunch of “ketchup” on top of a burnt “steak” and wonder why the best people in the organization leave.

For sustained performance, leaders have to cook a better steak – they have to provide a better environment for their people.

Turning Around a Culture

As John Maxwell said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s up to you to make the change for your people, no matter where you are in the organization.

Here are some tips for turning around the culture of your organization.

  1. Value your people. People don’t leave organizations, they leave companies because of people. Be the leader that they know you value them. Spend time with your people. Learn about their personal lives (within reason, of course). Stand up for them if they have a suggestion for an improved process. Be their champion and they will champion you. Nothing keeps a stressed group of people together better than people they know value them.
  2. Include your people in the change. Have discussionswith your people to find out what they would do to improve productivity and morale. Take the best of their ideas and do everything in your power to make them happen. Recognize them for their contributions. If they see that they can make a difference, they will want to continue making a difference.
  3. Develop your people. Not many people want to be stuck without hope of improving. Be a proponent of additional training, special projects, and other ways to help your people develop. Their improvement will only boost the team’s capabilities.

So how much ketchup have your employees been putting on what you have been serving up? Have you known that your cooking might be up to par? What can you do to change the recipe of your leadership so that people start loving what you serve? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————–
Rich Bishop

Rich Bishop is President of Bishop Coaching & Consulting Group
He takes a hands-on approach to your Development through Coaching & Training
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Leaders: Filling the Talent Pool

Filling the Talent Pool

Leaders: Are You Serving Wine In The Office?

A while back the following question was asked by one of my team members who had resigned and I was trying to retain him:

“Are you serving wine in the office?”

He was a great performer with never-say-die attitude that used to inspire the entire team. His question certainly did make me think, but at that time I didn’t consider it to be an important one in the perspective of employee retention.

A Change of Perspective

Now I realize that he was simply asking some important questions:

  • Do you know what I need?
  • Whether organization can meet my needs?
  • What recommendations my manager is authorized to make?
  • What can be done by senior management & HR for a person without making exceptions?
  • What exceptions can be made for a performer like me?

My suggestion to the managers in my team has been to understand these questions and be prepared with the answers before discussing anything with the employee. Direct the employee to senior managers or HR guys to get answers for the questions you can’t answer or don’t have answers for.

Many of us make the common mistakes while negotiating with the people in order to retain them and we repeat the same mistakes again and again! Here are some of the common mistakes:

Common Mistakes in Trying to Retain Employees

Here are some of the common mistakes that leaders make when trying to retain employees:

Not ready with answers to above mentioned questions

Many managers (myself included!) have this instinct for contributing in a crisis situation without preparation. My recommendation is to understand the cause of the resignation first and then prepare well before trying to retain the employee.

Comparing the skill & performance with peers at the same (or even higher) level

Managers do this to boost the ego of the person and to highlight his/her importance. This might work sometimes that too with average performers but smarter guys always know about their real performance level and standing in a team.

At the end of it, manager loses respect in front of the team – I can tell you that such conversations travel at a higher speed than light and you can’t hide it!

Over-committing the role/designation/compensation

At times we become too passionate to retain the employee and tend to over commit. Sometimes managers are not even authorized to commit change of designation/compensation but still commit. It is dangerous, because quite often organizations don’t agree to making exceptions unless person is too critical or strategic for the larger organization.

It is a good practice to recommend a change of role. If there is one already which suits this person, go ahead and recommend.

If you don’t have a role for a true performer, try to create one. You’ll not only have a successful retention case but will also have a motivated employee.

Avoid assuring or recommending anything like designation/compensation change without having a prior approval. Otherwise employee would expect a change because you discussed it with him/her. I have faced situations where person took the resignation back and mentioned the reason as ‘promotion or salary change commitment made by my manager’ and senior management was in red as they had no clue about the promise made by manager.

This is very difficult situation to be in; and

  • If HR/management disagrees, manager loses credibility. Organization may lose two guys (employee & manager) in place of one
  • If HR/management agrees, this becomes a bigger problem for the organization as employee may quote in the public about ‘resignation as a successful tool’ to negotiate on promotion/compensation. Even the managers (including the successful one whose team member got promoted!) will quote this as an example in future
  • In any case, people will question the ‘fairness’ in the organization

Changing the reporting manager quickly

A lot of resignations happen due to ‘my manager does not understand/like me’ phenomenon. Changing the assignment (hence the manager) works well for retaining good guys, but if you make the change quickly you will face a bigger problem. Change in assignment is typically done by higher level of managers along with HR.

They shouldn’t commit a quick change and it should be done by taking the reporting manager in confidence about the proposed change. Well thought transition plan should come from the manager. Employee will be able to get the objective & importance of transition.

Offering the wrong role

Sometimes managers offer the roles to employees that are not meant for them. I might have an important & vacant role, and a performer who has just resigned. I play the role of a mathematician and a manager who likes the employee and hence I offer this position to him/her.

Mathematically, the position is filled and I feel proud to have managed a problem. And three months later, I crib about retaining a person who was not worth it!

By the way I was able to retain my guy at that time!

So what are some of the mistakes that you might have made in trying to retain a valuable employee? What are some of the successes you have had? I would love to hear your thoughts on best practices!

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———————
Madan Mewari

Madan Mewari is the Global Head for Delivery and Operations of eDynamic LLC
He has lot of experience in building large & high performance teams
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Startup Success: The 7 Most Common Mistakes New Entrepreneurial Leaders Make

Entrepreneurs bring a lot of self-confidence to the table. Most abandon careers, often lucrative careers, at which they excelled to become their own bosses. This is generally a boon to their young business.

However, their high confidence levels and competence at their previous careers can lead them to make a number of common, avoidable mistakes.

Here are a few to watch out for.

The 7 Most Common Mistakes New Entrepreneurial Leaders Make

1) Not Delegating

Many, if not most, entrepreneurial ventures start out as one-person operations. The entrepreneur does everything, from bookkeeping and marketing to product development. Once the business reaches a point where more staff can be brought in, a lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to let go of managing every detail; they insist on doing or rechecking everything.

This approach, no matter how understandable, is a waste of employee time. Even worse, though, it’s wasted time the entrepreneur could better spend on developing new products, making new industry contacts or closing new deals. One of the best pieces of advice on delegating comes from Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Media.

He said,

“The trick is to start promoting from within on day one. I’m not just referring to moving people to new positions, but giving all employees enough flexibility to take on new responsibilities within their current jobs.”

2) Avoiding Professional Financial Advice

Entrepreneurs frequently attempt to manage their finances themselves, and often with disastrous results. Unless the entrepreneur happens to be an accountant starting a company, startup owners shouldn’t try to manage their own finances. A good accountant can keep a startup on the right side of tax payments and help develop a coherent salary strategy.

3) Failing to Diversify

It’s easy for entrepreneurs to develop tunnel vision about their product or service offering. They spend vast amounts of time thinking about, refining, and pitching it. That hyper-focus, while advantageous in the beginning, can work against a startup after it gets established. Frequently there are opportunities to diversify products and services into closely related areas. One such company that managed to avoid this pitfall is Vivint.

The company started as a home security company. Vivint reviews and customer insights pushed the company to expand into home automation, home energy management and then into home solar power. Each move followed logically, or built on the experience, from the one before. Allow your company to evolve to what the customer needs, and you’ll ensure success in the years to come.

4) Trying to Please Everyone

Almost no product or service is right for every customer, yet startups often try to build products and services for everyone. In the long run, this approach leaves customers cold. A fully-fledged piece of enterprise resource planning software meant for large corporations is probably not the right software for a small business, and vice versa.

The entrepreneur that focuses on a specific target market and builds for that market stands a much better chance of making actual sales.

5) Rushing the Hiring Process

When it comes time to hire, entrepreneurs often take the first qualified person that applies. The reasons can seem very pragmatic. For example, the company needs someone for X process to free up the rest of the team to focus on business development.

While the business might get lucky with an ideal hire, rushed hires often wind up a bad fit for the company.

Startup organizational structures tend toward the horizontal. Someone steeped in the vertical structures common in established corporations may find the transition difficult and prove more disruptive than helpful. Taking the time to find the right personality, even if that personality comes with less experience, usually pays off in less stress and more productivity.

6) Launching Too Late

Trying to perfect the product before launching gives competitors time to put out a similar, less sophisticated product and capture an unassailable portion of the market share. Eric Ries, author of “The Lean Startup,” advocates for building and releasing the most minimal possible version of the product, soliciting customer feedback and refining based on that feedback.

While this approach works best with software, startups can apply it to other products. The company can always improve an existing product, but only one company launches first. Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, offers similar advice. As he told Kissmetrics, if you’re not embarrassed by the way your company looks when you first launch, then you are late to launch.

7) Ignoring Advice from Other Entrepreneurial Leaders

Everyone offers opinions, but some opinions matter more than others. Ignoring the advice of established entrepreneurs, or not seeking their advice at all, puts a new entrepreneur at a competitive disadvantage. Building up a support system of other entrepreneurs and business mentors creates a place to vent, bounce ideas and learn vicariously.

Entrepreneurs, out of overconfidence or inexperience, make a number of common mistakes. Those mistakes range from the annoying to the disastrous. By avoiding these common mistakes, the entrepreneur positions a startup for a much better chance of success.

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———————
Robert Cordray

Robert Cordray is a freelance writer with over 20 years of business experience
He does the occasional business consult to help increase employee morale
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5 Sacrifices A Leader Must Make

Sacrifice

You may believe that as a leader your job is relatively easy, where you simply watch over and manage the behaviour of your employees; this is not so. As a leader, you have a number of responsibilities including not only watching over your employees but ensuring that they manage their work effectively and that they are happy.

It’s also part of your job to make sacrifices for the company and for those that work below you.

Not all of these sacrifices have to be extravagant or draw attention to your person, but they have to be made for the right reasons.

5 Sacrifices A Leader Must Make

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sac·ri·fice [ sákrə f̄̀ss ]

  1. giving up of something valued: a giving up of something valuable or important for somebody or something else considered to be of more value or importance

——————————————————————-

1) Sacrificing Time and Energy

Giving both your time and energy in order to help others and the company that you work for is a sacrifice that all excellent leaders make. This is an important sacrifice because you cannot regain the time or energy that you have expended; once you’ve given them to somebody else they become lost to you. By giving your time and energy it also means that you are working hard towards not only your future, but that of your colleagues and employees too.

2) Ambition

Another sacrifice that is often made by a leader in times of need is that of their own ambition. By prioritising the needs of others including your employees, you leave less time for you to focus on yourself; any parent will understand this situation completely and the same applies to any leader.

To truly look after your workforce, you must focus on their every need to ensure their productivity. By helping those around you to succeed, you may have to sacrifice personal pursuits but these actions will always have a positive effect going forward.

3) Authority

As a leader there will come a time within your job when you are asked to sacrifice your absolute authority in order to let others progress and develop the skills that are needed to reach a higher position. Giving up authority can be difficult and threatening but it is important for your workforce to feel that they are progressing and learning new skills.

4) Benefits

As a leader it’s your duty to protect those around you and ensure their happiness; even in times of difficulty and instability. If your company is suffering from temporary financial instability (as many have during the recession), as a leader you should set the example by forgoing any bonuses and if necessary taking a pay cut. An excellent leader would never ask of anything from their employees that they aren’t willing to do themselves.

5) Relationships

As a decision-maker, you will understand that you may not always be liked or favoured for making the right decisions. For example, if you feel that an individual is not pulling their weight and fails to heed your warnings, you may find that your only solution is to remove this person from your team.

There will also be other times where you have to reject salary increases or defend requests for additional work hours to meet a deadline but by being the leader, you will sometimes have to play the villain.

Become Your Best Self

You may find that during your time as a leader, there are many other things that you must sacrifice in order to become the best leader that you can be. However, try to be fair at all times and don’t ever ask anything of your employee that you wouldn’t ask of yourself.

So, how do you feel about the idea that leaders must sacrifice in order to succeed? Do you think that if you reach a certain position or status that you no longer need to sacrifice? Or do you embrace the steps above and think that you will be more fulfilled if you learn these lessons and apply them? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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——————–
Georgina Stamp

Georgina Stewart works for Marble Hill Partners
She helps Organisations to Recruit for Executive Roles and Interim Management
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On Leadership, Commitment and Employee Engagement

Engaged Employees

A frequent complaint from supervisors is that an employee or team member should be doing something…but that they are not. And they state that when an employee is doing what they should be doing…it is being done incorrectly.

This is a source of great frustration to many supervisors!

Also, the managers wrestle with getting the supervisors to act like better leaders and deal effectively with their “errant” employees.

The Missing Ingredient

Organizations today are missing a critical ingredient important for their business success. The challenge is that they cannot purchase this important commodity. In fact, trying to acquire it with money and incentives usually has the opposite effect.

What is this cherished resource? Employee engagement; a sense of ownership.

When employees and team members feel ownership about their work, they respond with more positive motivation for the work they do. They also respond better to change and are able to make the necessary changes and successfully adapt.

The Right Partnership

Engagement and ownership are valued resources for any leader to have on their team. Organizations need employees to act as partners at work and as advocates for their employer away from work. Any business would benefit from having employees who can adapt to change.

Engaged employees understand the need for change, and do not resist changes.

This can often make the difference between success and failure for any project implementation.

Engaged employees typically:

  •  Are more receptive to new ideas
  •  Accept the need for change
  • Respond quickly to change
  • Support continuous improvement efforts
  •  Act as partners
  •  Take ownership of the industry away from work

Once the employees are fully engaged and feel ownership, organizations often see positive outcomes, including:

Increased business flexibility

·         Processes becomes changeable

·         Continuous improvement and problem prevention become the norm

Increased commitment

·         Employees can sustain positive motivation

·         Employees make positive contributions

Increased satisfaction

·         Workforce is more stable

·         Turn-over, hiring, and training costs are diminished

·         Employees are more satisfied

·         Supervisors have an easier job managing the employees

Improved business results

·         Management experiences a profitable balance sheet

3 Counter Trends

What makes it difficult to achieve the desired feelings of ownership?

Leigh Branham and Mark Hirschfeld, in their book Re-Engage: How America’s Best Places to Work Inspire Extra Effort in Extraordinary Times write about three counter trends in today’s work environments that can make it difficult for a supervisor to build a sense of ownership:

  1. Diseconomies of Scale—the larger a company becomes, the greater the opportunity for there to be disconnects between employees.
  2. Generational Diversity—we are seeing multiple generations working together. Although there are many advantages to this diversity, without strong leadership the team can fragment and loose engagement.
  3. Uncertain, Turbulent Times—uncertainty can cause fear and frustration in the absence of effective leadership communication.

Creating the Right Environment

It becomes the supervisor’s priority as the leader to respond to these workplace challenges and create an environment where ownership can flourish. Employees are engaged and productive and add value to the organization when the supervisor can create an environment in which they feel ownership and are positively motivated.

Where motivation is lacking, value is diminished and productivity, safety, and long-term success is limited.

Employees who feel ownership are able to adapt to change. They are in a state of mind where they are always “Ready for Change.” When change is resisted, opportunities are lost and productivity, safety, and long-term success are limited as well.

 A sense of ownership is critical to motivation both at work, and away from work.  Ownership is also important for dealing with change effectively.  That is, when an organization is change ready, the business benefits from changes that are planned, and those changes that are emergent.

So how is your organization fostering better environment for employee growth and productivity? What is being done to monitor employee engagement levels? What steps can you take as a leader to foster more commitment with the people that you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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———————–
Mark McCatty

Mark McCatty is Senior Consultant at Cornelius & Associates
He is a positive influence for Effective Personal and Organizational Leadership
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