Self-talk is not often covered as a leadership topic, but Erika Andersen cites it as one of the most important skills to master.
Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a firm that focuses on leader readiness. She’s the author of three other books: Leading So People Will Follow, Being Strategic, and Growing Great Employees. All of her books are full of actionable advice from her three decades of advising and coaching executives.
I recently spoke with her about her tips to manage our internal conversations.
Leadership Tip: listening and mastering self-talk are critical skills for leaders.
Let’s talk about managing your self-talk. How important is managing self-talk?
Critically important. If I had to name the two most valuable skills I’ve learned over the past thirty years, I’d pick listening and managing my self-talk. It’s enormously powerful to be able to recognize and shift how you’re talking to yourself about yourself and your circumstances. It allows you to have much more control over how you respond to what happens within you and around you.
You give 4 steps to managing it: Recognize. Record. Rethink. Repeat.
Yes, here’s how it works:
Recognize: In order to manage your self-talk, you have to “hear” it. Unless you’re aware of this internal monologue, it’s impossible to change it. For instance, let’s say you’re feeling incurious about something you need to learn. You notice your mental voice saying, This is so boring – I can’t possibly focus on this enough to learn it. Once you start attending to the voice in your head, and recognizing what it’s saying, you can begin to do something about it.
Success Tip: writing down your self-talk is a key part of managing it.
Most people don’t realize how easy it is to derail a career or to lose a job. Adding to the problem is that it is possible that your career has stalled without your knowledge, an unexpected plateau because of something you don’t know about. Maybe it’s because you’ve been labeled impulsive or not seen as a team player.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to pause and assess where you are so you can get back on track.
Carter Cast knows this firsthand. In a terrific new book, The Right and Wrong Stuff: How Brilliant Careers Are Made and Unmade, Carter sheds light on what causes careers to derail and others to soar. His advice is practical and actionable. Carter is a professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, a former CEO, and a venture capitalist. I recently asked him to share some of his perspective.
Korn Ferry Research: people who overstate their abilities in 360-degree assessments are 6.2 times more likely to derail than those with accurate self-awareness
Would you share your own story of career derailment?
Back when Bill Clinton was president and I was a marketing manager within PepsiCo’s Frito Lay division, I found myself sitting in my boss Mike’s office for my annual performance review. I worried as he started the preamble, which was along the lines of, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.” Mike didn’t bury the lead for long—soon he came right out and told me that senior management considered me unpromotable, which meant I was no longer on the fast track at Frito-Lay. He laid out a list of my offenses, littering his examples with words like “uncooperative,” “resistant to feedback from authority figures,” and “unmanageable.” He described my behavior in various situations, repeatedly pointing out times I circumnavigated the established processes and procedures and ignored the chain of command for the sake of expediency, or the times I quietly ignored his feedback and chose to do things my own way.
Thirty painful minutes later, as he was wrapping up, when Mike asked if I had anything to say for myself, I simply asked if I was being fired. (It sure felt like it.) He said, “No, but I don’t want you to work in my group any longer. You’ll need to look for another marketing position within the company.”
Eventually I found another boss and team to work with, but it was a humbling experience because as I talked to prospective bosses, I learned that I had a reputation problem. I was considered “difficult to manage.” I realized I lacked the self-awareness needed to change my behavior right away, so I went about doing so. I identified the circumstances that triggered my disruptive behavior (e.g. sitting in ponderous process meetings; being managed tightly by a very “participative” boss; being talked at by a verbose senior manager), and I steadily began to develop practical methods to better self-regulate and curb my tendency toward stupid, unnecessary insubordination. Over time, I was again considered to be a promotable employee, but it took a couple years to climb out of hole I’d dug for myself.
Career Fact: half to two-thirds of all managers will be fired, demoted, or plateau at some point.
Your story highlights negative feedback, and I was intrigued that you actually called your boss and had him give it to you again! How do you coach individuals to hear negative feedback and use it in the best way possible?
I must be a glutton for punishment. (I was a swimmer, so I’m fairly certain.) Yes, twenty years later, I called my old boss Mike to get some quotes for the book. And he gave them to me. Yikes. Even after all these years, when he spoke to me, about me circa 1995, I felt a wave of queasiness! Thirty-three year old Carter needed some tough love.
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.
It grabbed my attention when it appeared on my desk at work. Someone entered my office for a meeting and I said, “As you enter, claim your magnificence!” I laughed and couldn’t wait to dive into the book.
Author Kelley Kosow, life coach and CEO, shares her insights on how to live from the inside out. I followed up with her to talk about her research and work.
“Everything that we need is inside us.” –Kelley Kosow
The integrity advantage is a way of life. It is based on living from the inside out, learning to trust and value yourself, and being honest and authentic with yourself and others. Predicated on the concept of wholeness and integration, it advocates embracing all of who you are and everything that has transpired in your life – the good, bad and ugly – so that you can operate from wholeness instead of lack, truth instead fear, and in the light of your grandest desires instead of paralyzed by feelings of doubt.
A person of integrity is someone whose life isn’t full of contradictions. They do as they say, and they say as they do. Who they are on the inside is who they are on the outside, and who they are on the outside is aligned with how they feel on the inside. They have declared what is important to them and who they want to be in this lifetime. The actions they take and choices they make are aligned with that declaration and reflect that they feel worthy and deserving to manifest that which they most desire.
Living in integrity is the ultimate advantage, because instead of trying to get it right, make it look right, or always being right, you are committed to living a life that feels right to you.
“A person of integrity is someone whose life isn’t full of contradictions.” –Kelley Kosow
When you read those two words, what comes to mind?
Words like: tough, decisive, driven, fearless, disciplined?
What can leaders learn from the SEALS?
Under incredible conditions, Navy SEALS prove their worth by getting the job done. When I meet a SEAL, I am intrigued because I know this is someone who is proven. Recently, when I had the opportunity to interview Brian “Iron Ed” Hiner, about his new book, First, Fast, Fearless: How to Lead Like a Navy SEAL, I knew I would walk away with many lessons I could apply in business and in life.
“When leadership is right, you really don’t see it any more.” -Ed Hiner
Becoming a NAVY SEAL means you have overcome all odds. What can corporate leaders learn from the selection process in terms of hiring and recruiting the very best team possible?
We have identified four major traits that we look for in a perspective SEAL candidate: physical courage, moral courage, problem solving, and what I call “teamability.” Physical courage is obvious, but moral courage does not rank far behind because we are an organization that relies heavily on trust and for our people to do the right thing for our country.
We also want SEALs to be problem solvers who thrive in what we call VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), an environment often referred to as the “fog of war.” In our Gallop polling, we discovered that chess players are almost four times more likely than non-chess players to successfully make it through Navy SEAL training; chess players are problem solvers, and the board is VUCA writ small.
The last trait that I call “teamability” is a person’s ability to lead and be led, who can move from team to team seamlessly.
The 4 Must-Have Traits of a SEAL
1: Physical courage.
2: Moral courage.
3: Problem solving.
The takeaway of this is that hiring and recruiting needs be very deliberate. Organizations that understand the critical traits they need in their employees, and actively recruit for these traits, will be more successful down the road. Obviously all organizations look for skills and experience, but oftentimes they overlook the fundamental traits they actually need to be the elite organization that they wish to be.
“Leadership is something you do with people, not to them.” -Ed Hiner
Could you cover teamability a little more and what that means? What methods do you employ to get people to put “mission before me.”
Teamability requires that leaders and team members put mission and team before their own personal interests. When people know that leaders are selflessly making decisions for the team to succeed, and protecting their people along the way, it sets the conditions for teamability. From the beginning of SEALs training we set conditions to reinforce this concept.
In some ways it’s like we turn the pyramid upside down and take care of the broader team mission first and work our way down to the individual. For example, after we finish a mission, we take care of the teams’ common gear first. Then we all split off to our smaller teams and take care of that gear and issues until we get to the individual. This applies to everyone on the team, rank doesn’t matter; the motto is mission before me. This applies everywhere in the SEAL Teams. During staff meetings SEAL Team issues get addressed first, then the smaller Task Unit issues and so forth. It’s a practiced ritual that develops teamability and mission focus. As for the leaders of team, the rank of importance is the Mission, the men and then me. When it’s time to shower and eat, leaders eat last.
When organizations depend on teamwork it’s critical for them to reward the teams that exhibit this trait. In the SEAL Teams your performance review is heavily skewed toward your teamability; we don’t just give it lip service. We reward the traits that we want, to be the elite organization that we need to be. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of just rewarding individual performance at the expense of critical traits that you need for overall mission success.
“Servant leadership means that the team is not about you.” -Ed Hiner
You say, “The biggest enemy of humility is our own ego, which is molded by our fears.” Talk about that interplay between fear and ego.
We are an organization of “Alpha males” and high performers, and it’s easy for individuals in any organization with high performers to fall in love with their own ideas and abilities. Elite teams perform at their best when their leaders are humble. It’s an outward indicator that the leader is willing not to fall in love with his or her own ideas but is instead willing to find the best direction for the mission and the team. When leaders are humble and act selflessly it builds trust, and trust is the invisible thread that holds all elite teams together. When this invisible thread is broken and leaders act in their own self-interest, and don’t engage the skills and talents of the team, results will suffer.
We all have fears, and those fears can contribute to shaping our personalities: fear of failure, not being intelligent, shame, etc. Humility is the antidote to those fears. Elite leaders are not worried about being right; they are focused on the cause-and-effect relationship to get results and accomplish the mission.
I’m not saying that people should completely get rid of their egos so that they dance naked in the halls; I’m saying divorce your ego, yet stay friends. Don’t let your ego run your life. As the saying goes, “Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they think of themselves less.”