You walk into class and take your seat in a large lecture hall. It’s only the second week of law school and your senses remain on heightened alert. You’ve been warned about this particular class. The professor is known as tough. He sees his role as weeding out the students who are smart but cannot make it in the courtroom. Fail his class and you’re out.
Perhaps even more importantly, he runs the class like a courtroom. He will question you as if you were an attorney fighting for your client’s life. You watched what he did to one student in the last class, reducing the student to an emotional mess.
You’re determined not to show weakness. You’ve prepared and studied like never before.
Whether you want to motivate yourself or others, there are motivators at the core of every action. Knowing what is driving you and others is critically important.
Recently, I saw Greg McEvilly’s talk on motivation. Greg suggests that fear and love are the twin drivers of most actions. Greg is the CEO of KAMMOK, a company that sells outdoor equipment specializing in hammocks. In graduate school, he began to ask questions about motivation and behavior. Why is it that people behave the way they do? Even more important, Greg studied his own actions and thought about the definition of the words love and fear.
Leaders must regularly reach inside and draw courage to accomplish difficult goals. Leadership is a daily practice to become your best self and help others along the way.
So explains Shelly Francis in her new book, The Courage Way: Leading and Living with Integrity. Shelly has plenty of experience in her methods having served as the marketing and communications director at the Center for Courage & Renewal since 2012. The Center has over 5,000 participants in their programs each year.
I recently asked Shelly to share her views on courage and leadership.
“People attain worth and dignity by the multitude of decisions they make from day to day. These decisions take courage.” -Rollo May
You talk about different types of courage. Why is courage at work so vitally important?
The five types of courage I describe include physical, moral, social, creative, and collective courage. The first four were named by psychologist Rollo May in his 1974 book, The Courage to Create. Even without more detail, I bet you can begin to imagine a workplace situation calling for each type of courage.
So many hours of our days are spent in the workplace—and we want those hours to matter, and we want to find meaning and purpose in our work. That trend manifests itself in each of the types of courage described in the book.
It takes physical courage to set healthy boundaries and practices for sustaining your energy rather than succumbing to burnout and overwork. In doing so, though, you risk being seen as weak or uncommitted.
It takes moral courage to speak truth to power, like we’re seeing with people sharing their stories of sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace, or reporting unfair business practices. But again, you risk losing your job, your privacy, retaliation, and so on.
It takes social courage to show up with your whole self, to risk sharing your best ideas, to risk being wrong, to be vulnerable and honest about acknowledging your limitations, or to risk asking for help (like you did in a recent blog, Skip).
It takes courage to be innovative in the commonly used sense of “creative,” the courage to risk and fail and try again. But what about the courage to create a culture where people can truly flourish? Yet again, to go against the status quo and try new ways of “being and doing” at work can be risky.
Collective courage is what we need most—people working together with integrity, commitment, and a capacity to cross lines of difference. Without such courage, we risk complex, volatile issues getting even worse. We risk missing a chance to make things better.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.
Building rapport with yourself is not often mentioned as a skill important to leadership, but it should be at the top of the list.
Christine Comaford is a serial entrepreneur who has built and sold five companies. She’s a columnist for Forbes, the bestselling author of SmartTribes and Rules for Renegades, and a leadership coach. Her latest book, Power Your Tribe: Create Resilient Teams in Turbulent Times shows you how to bring a tribe together to tackle challenges.
Know Who You Are
Why is it important to increase rapport with yourself?
Knowing who we are, what makes us tick, what triggers us is essential in order to lead effectively. To do this we must become more emotionally intelligent. There are two aspects of emotional intelligence: 1) Personal Competence: where we understand what we’re feeling and how to regulate/navigate our emotions and 2) Social Competence: where we discern what others may be feeling and how to navigate their feelings. Personal Competence is a precursor to Social Competence. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more we understand our feelings and can navigate them, the more we can respond to what is happening outside of us versus compulsively reacting. The greater the rapport we have with ourselves, the more curious and compassionate we can become with others and their, at times, challenging behaviors.
Most business leaders are focused on growing their business or their profits. They focus on the numbers, on market share, on strategy. But there’s growing evidence that focusing on employee happiness is the key to creating sustainable success. Not only do I agree, but I’ve experienced this first hand in the companies I have had the privilege to lead. If you help employees increase their fulfillment, express their unique gifts, and live out their purpose, you will fuel happiness and see dramatically improved results.
The evidence to support this focus on happiness is masterfully compiled in Jennifer Moss’ book, Unlocking Happiness at Work. She distills decades of research and data and then lays out an actionable book with immediate guidance to leaders. If you want to ensure your team thrives, this book is a must-read. Jennifer is the co-founder of Plasticity Labs, committed to supporting people on their path to happiness. She and her co-founders were named Innovators of the Year by Canadian Business Magazine. I recently spoke with her about her findings.
“Happiness is a habit. Cultivate it.” -Elbert Hubbard
Your family story is compelling and provides a personal backdrop to your research. Tell us about Jim’s accident and how it impacted you.
In 2009, my husband Jim and I were living in San Jose, California. At the time, Jim was a professional lacrosse player, former Gold Medalist for Team Canada, who’d played in the World Cup on four professional teams. Obviously, he was a high-performing athlete who’d spent his entire life competing. It was why we were so shocked when the firefighters had to knock down the door to pick him up, race him to the ER, and then within hours he was diagnosed with West Nile, Swine Flu and a post-viral illness, Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
The response to treating Jim was all about acting fast. He would essentially experience a rebooting of his immune system through a treatment known as immunoglobulin (IVIG) therapy. IVIG therapy is an antibody (immunoglobulin) mixture, given (in Jim’s case) intravenously to treat or prevent a variety of diseases including GBS. It is extracted via the plasma of 10,000-50,000 donors. For Jim, and for our family, the treatment would be life-saving.
This is when the physicians shared both the good and the bad news. Jim would live. But, he may not recover fully.
Ok, we swallowed that statement. But what did that mean?
You wake up and you’re feeling amazing. Then you spill something on your clothes at breakfast and get stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work. You realize you will be late for your first appointment, and your frustration grows by the minute.
Fast forward hours later, and you’re feeling great again.
Up and down. Down and Up.
How do you stop the wild mood swings?
“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” –Anonymous
CEO Forum Magazine dubbed him the “father of organizational culture” and thousands have attended his company’s training programs. Larry Senn is chairman and founder of Senn Delaney, a firm dedicated to helping organizations shape their culture. I recently spoke to him about his new book, The Mood Elevator: Take Charge of Your Feelings, Become a Better You.
He helps you understand your moods and gain control, limiting the time in the basement and helping you stay in the upper floors.
Develop a Healthy Response
The Mood Elevator. Unfortunately, all of us are experienced with the dramatic ride. What are some of the triggers that cause a sudden shift in floors?
Yes, to be human means we all ride the Mood Elevator. Since our thoughts create our moods, dramatic drops in mood come from big shifts in our thinking. We start our day in a great place and high mood after a morning run and a good breakfast. Then we open an email, and a colleague says he heard we may not be closing the deal we were counting on. Our mind starts to spin as we run through all the possible negative consequences of that happening. That creates feelings down the Mood Elevator like insecurity, worry, self-judgement and mild depression.
Things like that happen in major and minor ways as life comes at us. What’s interesting is how we each deal with circumstances can be very different. Another person might get the same email and go to curiosity, a much healthier level, first. “I wonder what that might be about or if it is even true – I’ll check it out.” They might also go to creative and resourceful and start to think about all the ways they can best secure the deal.
As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare
Would you comment on any career limitations and/or leadership problems you’ve seen due to leaders not having conscious control of their floor?
I have observed CEOs self-destruct as well as very smart and capable leaders ruin their careers and their marriages because they lacked emotional control and led from the lower floors of the Mood Elevator. I’ve also seen leaders become world class CEOs by learning how to better ride the Mood Elevator.
The reason is simple − our thinking is reliable and wise when in the higher mood states, while it is very unreliable in the lower floors. Anyone who has ever said something to a loved one they wished they could take back has experienced the phenomenon. We have very low emotional intelligence (EQ) when down the elevator. That means leaders can’t build great teams, create great cultures, be as creative or make good decisions from the lower floors of the elevator.
“We become what we think about all day long.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
You talk about the power to brake. What are a few ways we can slow, stop or resist our emotional impulses?
It all starts with learning to use your feelings as your guide. When we are self-aware, we can tell when we are worrying, angry, judgmental, self-righteous or depressed. We will all experience those feelings at times. Think about it like having to drive on an icy road at night. You may have to do it, but you proceed with caution. Delay big decisions, pause before putting your foot in your mouth, and tell yourself your thinking is likely to be flawed.
Copyright Larry Senn; Used by Permission
When unwanted things happen or people do things that don’t make sense to me, I have feelings of intensity. That’s my clue. What I find most helpful is to first pause, take a deep breath and center myself. Then I try to use what I call in the book the “brake” on the Mood Elevator. That break is shifting my thinking from judgement to curiosity. What am I missing here? Why might that have made sense to them in their thinking? What lesson can I learn from that? As I tell leaders in our off-sites, if they just lived more of their life in curiosity instead of judgment they would have a different experience of life and different results.
“Happiness is not the absence of problems-it’s the ability to deal with them” –Steve Maraboli