Talent Archive

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Strategic Complimenting

Change the World - Compliment SomeoneWhen I advocated using compliments strategically, Diana asked:

Why do you have to use compliments “strategically” and not be spontaneously?

The short answer is the same as with any kind of introspection, thought or planning for an endeavor: it can be more effective, enjoyable and enlightening. Aren’t we often appreciative when someone put thought and effort into determining a gift especially pleasing to us? A compliment is a gift. Does thought or spontaneity really detract from gifts? Does amount of time and effort spent?

Compliments though serve many purposes. Not only do they serve as niceties making our worlds pleasant, but they serve as appreciators, morale boosters, relationship builders, influencers, performance enhancers, talent developers and confidence reinforcers. We give thought to the right compensation plans and the right developmental plans, so it follows that thought about the right compliments in follow up and management activities can help too.

We often hear, “catch someone doing something right.” Shouldn’t we invest time identifying that right behavior is and a good compliment to encourage it? A compliment isn’t just a spontaneous nicety. It can be a deeply felt, deeply considered and deeply personalized tool demonstrating that we’ve actually thought about what makes persons unique, special and effective in our enterprises. It expresses we are attending to and contemplating their existence. They are real and important.

One time, someone was going through some hard times, so I wrote something for her. She thanked me, liked it and found it helpful. Then, she said something that stuck with me. “Mike, what I appreciate most is that you spent time thinking about me and my situation.”

Some gifts require thought, planning and strategizing. Some compliments do too. Many can’t even give compliments let alone think about them. Don’t underestimate the power of thoughtfulness.

 

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Danger of Humbleness

By Mike Lehr
Wisdom Sun

The Sun doesn’t know how bright it is.

Michelle Held (Twitter), an entrepreneur who helps businesses develop corporate pro-social presences and mentors nonprofit start-ups, prompted this post. She requested elaboration on how people misinterpret others not telling the truth as lying after reading, “Why Employees Lie Even When the Truth is Better.”

The truth is not necessarily clear. It often varies depending upon perspective and talent, thus making it vague and unbelievable many times. Yet, when it’s clear to us and not others, it’s easy for us to view them negatively.

Much of this stems from what I call the downside or danger of humbleness. It’s when we discount our talents so much that we believe it’s easy for others to do, think, understand, see, remember and feel what we do. For instance, Michelle noted that she “once read that people with exceptional memories tend to think others lie” because they don’t understand how others could forget.

Culturally, we’re taught humbleness is a virtue, bragging and showing off frowned upon. As a result, it’s easy to believe our talents commonplace. It just boils down to hard work, nothing special. It becomes easy to say when people can’t:

  • Do what we do, they’re lazy
  • Think what we think, they’re not concentrating
  • Understand what we understand, they’re being obstinate
  • See what we see, they’re dismissing us
  • Remember what we remember, they’re lying
  • Feel what we feel, they’re being mean

I often use the analogy, “the sun doesn’t know how bright it is.” Darkness doesn’t exist for it. All it sees is its own brightness. Thinking our talents commonplace prejudices our assessments of others by forcing them to live in our light, producing exactly what humbleness should avoid: gross exaggeration of our self-view.

They’re not lying. They’re just unable to see truth as we see it.

 

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Perfectionism, Austin, Texas

Perfection is implementing, completing. It’s reaching for the sky and getting there.

Done! Finished!

Perfectionism can be problematical, often preventing completion of projects as Farah Mash attests to in a tweet regarding Creators vs. Pruners: Personality Typing. As Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write in “The Confidence Gap” (The Atlantic, May 2014 edition), perfectionism also infects confidence, and “study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives.”

In overcoming perfectionism, the first step is realizing it’s a strength not a problem. The Five Factor Model of personality typing would say perfectionists have heavy doses of conscientiousness, well serving jobs requiring meticulousness, self-discipline and dependability.

The second step is realizing any strength can be a weakness, perfectionism is not alone. Aggressiveness becomes impatience, determination becomes stubbornness, and rationality becomes insensitivity. This leads to the third step: use strength to overcome weakness by using it wisely. A gift mindlessly given to all is no longer a gift.

The fourth step defines perfectionism for the task at hand, thus forcing conscientiousness to focus on the task’s important elements. For instance, perfectionism isn’t any mistakes. Perfectionism is completion, it’s implementing knowledge. It’s having the perfect understanding that:

  • Some cannot justify their existence unless they criticize our work
  • Most cannot even see our mistakes
  • Responses are extremely difficult to predict

Fifth, employ the most perfect, enduring and effective learning process in human history: trial and err. Trial means test. In other words, no doing, no mistakes, no learning, how perfect is that?

Finally, realize school does not reflect life. “Do overs” exist, and contain huge money especially if labeled “new.” Software companies are notorious for getting us to “upgrade” to do-over software because they left out vital features in prior versions.

So, as for today, make a dozen mistakes, learn from them and have a perfect day.

 

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Attack Weaknesses

Figure #1

One morning I joined a sales person on her sales calls. At lunch, she asked what I thought. I told her. She paused and then said, “Okay, you’ve told me all the good stuff. Now tell me the bad.” We’ve all undergone brainwashing: in order to improve we focus on correcting weaknesses while neglecting strengths to overcome them.

Long ago, I pruned the lead branch on a small tree reaching for the sky. Over the years, a branch sprouted below my cut and sharply turned upward, again heading for the sky. Rather than cut it again, I watched to see what would happen to the stub I had left. As that new branch grew thicker and reached ever closer to the sky, it engulfed the stub. Eventually, it faded completely as the new branch swallowed it. Wanting to grow upward, it didn’t do so from the cut where it was weak but rather from where it was strong.

The Germans’ blitzkrieg strategy in World War II, focused on attacking from where they were strong, not weak. While concentrating their forces to overwhelm at the point of attack, they left other areas exposed. They could not succeed by eliminating every weakness. They bypassed enemy strengths, engulfed them and choked supply lines causing resistance to fade.

Focusing on Strengths: Bypass, Engulf & Fade

Figure #2: Focusing on Strengths
Bypass Weaknesses, Engulf & Fade

Traditional developmental methods of focusing to correct weaknesses is unnatural and is not what nature intended (Figure #1). Any idiot can identify our weaknesses; it takes wisdom to see how our strengths can engulf them so they fade as problems (Figure #2). If we’re not a dynamic speaker but know our subject, focus on delivering exceptional content and examples rather than entertainment and humor.

Thus, the question is not, “How do I correct the weakness?” but rather, “How do I use my strengths to overcome them?”

 

A resource that might help identify strengths: StrengthsFinders 2.0 by Tom Rath.

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This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Placebo Management

Placebo ManagementIn discussing his performance review me, a friend indicated his employer thought he needed confidence. So, I asked, “What are they going to do to help develop that?” Dumbfounded, he shrugged his shoulders.

Isn’t it ironic that we talk about building confidences of soldiers, athletes, musicians and actors but not employees?  As mentioned in a previous post, the movie Top Gun is a classic discussion of confidence’s importance. Yet, while we give much time to planning and developing skills and education, we don’t with confidence. Every post in this series helps to change that. I call it placebo management because it focuses on intangibles that can alter our perspectives, performances and results.

In doing this, here is the critical question: If I had a very short opportunity with an employee, what would I:

Ideally, this should occur when the employee approaches us as spontaneity and informality makes the opportunity more impactive. It’s very impactive to work these points in answers to employees’ questions. We can usually work in with various conversational techniques without having employees feeling we are taking control of the interaction they initiated. We can also encourage such interactions by making ourselves available through “management by walking around” activities and periodic “how are you doing” phone calls.

In this way, just as we turn a house into a home, we will turn a place of work into a source of confidence.

 

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This entry is part 10 of 10 in the series Psychopaths in Workplace

Psychopath & Sociopath The DifferencesPreviously, I recommended revisiting Emotional Intelligence (EI) as proposed by advocates of Daniel Goleman. That centered on empathy. This is on self-regulation, another of the five components of EI Goleman created. Again, looking at psychopaths relative to self-regulation illustrates legitimacy for revisiting the EI concept.

Imagine a sensitive person born with very intense emotions and another born psychopathic, with far fewer, if any, emotions. The psychopath has little to maintain, little to regulate. It’s much easier for the psychopath to self-regulate than the sensitive person. The psychopath won’t be moody or impulsive. Moreover, if the sensitive person is emotionally empathic, he will not only have to deal with his emotions but those of others (more). In other words, a psychopath could score very high in self-regulation, while the sensitive person very low.

High-EI people aren’t necessarily compassionate, sensitive or emotionally empathetic. They are social adept and persuasive. These require being intelligent about – not sensitive to – emotions (timestamp 0:33). Finally, EI is learnable, meaning bright psychopaths who weren’t born with the troublesome emotions of sensitive people could pick it up more easily. Throw in inconsistent definitions of psychopathy and empathy, and new discoveries about our brain, subconscious and intuition, and calls for upgrading EI are legitimate.

The impact to businesses is approaching EI from an accurate perspective. For instance, EI advocates are fond of saying, “High IQ will get you hired. But EI will get you promoted.” Since EI deals much with managing our relationships, this slogan could just be the intellectualization of “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”

Therefore, while EI might be great for careers, is it great for businesses? Will it foster the diversity and conflict necessary for innovative cultures or foster homogenous and compliant ones dominated by the persuasive?

 

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People prefer One over ManyFrequently, we warn ourselves against falling for the silver bullet. Problem is that it arrives in many forms, including in the form of star players or employees. They are the silver bullet incarnated.

We like to believe sports teams are bastions of optimal talent and team development, frequently citing them as models of excellence and team play. Nevertheless, humans run them and face all the psychological traps that the rest of us do. For example, Derek Thompson cites this finding in “The Savior Fallacy: Over-Betting on Star Players in Sports and Business” (The Atlantic, April 2014 edition) from the National Basketball Association (NBA):

The teams with the top three picks in any given draft are almost twice as likely to never make the playoffs within four years . . .

Translating to business and quoting Rakesh Khurana (“The Curse of the Superstar CEO”), Thompson continues:

Large companies’ fortunes are “varied, highly nuanced, almost frighteningly complex, and certainly beyond the power of even the most charismatic leader.”

To the NBA, Thompson says this means:

Almost every championship team going back three decades had not one but three above-average starters.

In other words, when it comes to developing a team, it’s not about one Great One but many above average ones. We can extend this though; it’s rarely, if ever, about finding the one key idea, person, solution or product. It’s about doing many little things right. That’s why we can anticipate problems if our companies are looking for the One rather than Many in solutions.

Still, we spend a fortune on silver bullets in all its forms, often because it’s simpler. That’s why KISS is for the stupid, so they can justify falling for every new silver bullet that arrives. Free lunches might not exist, but expensive ones abound.

 

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This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Three Key Emotional Triggers

Manifestation of NeedsEmotional recognition is the third key emotional trigger, and uniqueness is the nickname I ascribe to it. From the aspects of behavior, thought and emotion, mastery, expertise and talent respectively describe how people display them. Quality is another good overarching descriptor of this trigger. Very often bragging indicates emotional recognition could be a strong emotional trigger.

With uniqueness our behavior orients around mastering animals, people, machines, techniques, processes and other aspects of our physical world. Athletics involve mastering a sport.  Influencing or controlling the behaviors of others, aspects of leadership fall here too. Physical skills such as craftsmanship and art distinguish us especially if they net certifications or awards.

In thoughts, uniqueness takes on the form of expertise. People seek our advice, approval and respect in our field. We are an authority, specialist or technician playing the role of advisor or consultant. We are preferred above others. Many times this is the result of knowledge, education and experience. The focus in on the mental aspect of our being.

Emotionally, uniqueness expresses itself as talent, something more innate than our developed mental aspects. When combined with mastery and expertise, it pushes us to the top of the best. When it comes alone, it’s usually distinctive aspects of personality which are not easily taught such as friendliness, empathy, courage, style, attitude, work ethic, beauty and more.  It’s about feeling special, unique or triumphant.

We can view uniqueness as the outcome of growth, being recognized for the outcome, the achievement. While all have need for this, some will interpret and emphasize their experiences more from this perspective than others by highlighting their skills, expertise and talents. Observations over the long run will form our conclusions.

What recognition, certifications and awards did someone recently share with you?

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You Fit, You're HiredAs algorithms, technology and sensors advance, we are discovering that hiring for fit rather than for talent runs further, deeper and more definable than we ever suspected. In fact, some people such as Don Peck in his article, “They’re Watching You at Work” (The Atlantic, December 2013 edition) are beginning to call current hiring practices as “dysfunctional.”

Among the researchers Peck cites is Lauren Rivera from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management in which she states in her abstract from Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms:

Employers sought candidates who were not only competent but also culturally similar to themselves in terms of leisure pursuits, experiences, and self-presentation styles. Concerns about shared culture were highly salient to employers and often outweighed concerns about productivity alone.

Granted, the idea of hiring for fit isn’t a secret, but its pervasiveness and dominance is. For example, Rivera found a correlation between the leisure pursuits, experiences and styles of hiring managers and candidates. In other words, given the leisure pursuits of both hiring manager and candidates, we can reasonably predict who will get the job. Common experiences also correlate. In other words, ex-athletes are more likely to hire ex-athletes, finance majors more likely to hire finance majors, managers with small company experience more likely to hire candidates with that experience.

In 2009, a colleague showed me the interviewing guide from a Fortune 500 company. It began with, “It’s important that we look for people able to work in our culture.”* After researching this, I began coaching candidates and networking groups that the interview’s objective is to demonstrate fit more than to showcase talent (speaking notes). That means assessing interviewers quickly and positioning themselves within the context of interviewers’ personalities and experiences.

How dominant is cultural fit in your world?

 

*Note: I have altered the specific wording for confidentiality reasons, but its spirit and location in the document remain true.

 

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AuthenticityThe truth about Authenticity, a currently popular leadership and career model, is that it must be employed subtly, even covertly.

Lisa Rosh (Yeshiva University) and Lynn Offermann (George Washington University) phrase it as “Be Yourself, but Carefully” (Harvard Business Review, October 2013 edition). It’s deeper still. Whether it’s Pink’s (more) “The Truth About Love” or Machiavelli The Prince, humans always have and always will have a realistic, pragmatic underbelly to their ideals requiring wise approaches. Authenticity is no different.

For instance, how pragmatic is it to assume that people will overlook the authenticity they dislike because they like authenticity itself? Maybe people just won’t like our authentic self. Yet, one devotee of Authenticity responded, “Authenticity helps you to like everyone.”  Is this real, authentic? We naturally associate with people like us and dangerous people exist at work. How do we know unconscious dislikes are not influencing us, perhaps pigeonholing people?

Authenticity often cites differences as communication challenges; that learning to tell our story better will address personality differences. Similarly, political parties and corporations often say they only need to tell their story better, not address intrinsic differences with the electorate or marketplace. Authenticity advocates us learning to fit our story and communications to the situation and person. Does this still mean though that we won’t like those who are like us any more than those who are different from us?

Yet, how is this different from a form of “playing of politics” – that is also used to circumvent or neutralize these differences – without losing the essence of who we are? This self-preservation seems to fit Authenticity’s intent. Could Authenticity then just be a euphemism for playing politics?

 

 

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