Assume Positive Intent

Want a Powerful Team? Assume Positive Intent

As a leader, what does it mean to assume positive intent? It means that no matter what someone says or does, we assume that they are doing their best, and we model this behavior for others to take on themselves.

This may sound like a lofty, and perhaps even risky intention when working with teams because it’s not a natural practice for most of us.  Frequently, people are socialized from a young age not to trust others or to be suspicious of true (mal) intent.  Leaders however, know that to truly lead they can only harness the power of teams through trust and personal empowerment.  Both of which are actualized by starting with the assumption of positive intent toward the team members themselves.

The truth is, leading cohesive and productive teams is about building relationships which in turn brings meaning and joy into our lives.  In order to develop those relationships and consequently strong teams, we must choose to assume the best in people.  If we are leading consciously, this has lasting positive effects on everyone around us.

Why Leading With Positive Intent Matters

We all make mistakes, and how we make meaning of them is what’s most important. Typically, we judge ourselves based on circumstances (“I wasn’t given enough notice” or “It was a busy day”) and we judge others based on their character (“He doesn’t care,” “She’s ignorant,” or “It’s all their fault”). The problem is, we behave off our own set of assumptions regardless of their truth.

As a leader, team building starts with your intention. Too often, our intentions go unchecked and we react and make quick assumptions out of our conscious awareness.

Intentions lead to behaviors. Behaviors lead to habits. Collective habits lead to culture. Culture informs your team.

Assuming Negative Intent Doesn’t Serve You

When we assume negative intent in others (whether conscious or not) we react with defensiveness. When we’re defensive, we stop listening, which cuts us off from learning, growing, and developing ourselves and our team in an impactful manner.  Think of it this way, if a leader assumes their team isn’t trying their hardest to succeed, there is little to be gained by listening to them.  However, if a leader believes the team is invested and making every effort to meet their goals, this is an enormous opportunity to think creatively and develop dynamic new processes.  Both the leader and the team benefit exponentially.

There will be times when actual negative intent from an individual we lead displays itself, but if we commit to assuming the best and we don’t jump to conclusions, we allow that person to grow. We take what we’ve learned from that experience and inform how we proceed with that person in that situation. It’s crucial not to assign negative intent to all situations, or worse, to everyone else.

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Leadership and letting go

Letting Go is the Secret to Effective Leadership

Let go. Loosen up a little. Just relax.

Letting Go in Leadership…Really?

How many times do we hear phrases like the above on a daily basis? It seems they’ve become ubiquitous in our fast-paced, always-on world – so much so that we often overlook their deeper meaning, particularly when it comes to leadership.

But isn’t letting go like giving up?” is a common question I hear. Truth be told, many of us struggle to make a connection between the concept of letting go and how it can inspire impactful leadership.

It can even seem counterproductive, especially in metrics-driven workplace cultures focused on “tightening the grip” and “cracking the whip” to achieve results at any cost.

Letting Go in Action (yes, it actually works)

An HBR article aptly titled “Leading by Letting Go” takes us through the story of how Jim Bush transformed American Express’s service operations over a decade ago. Here are some of the key points this article puts out:

Although American Express was considered to have excellent customer service even at that time, it was using the traditional “command-and-control” model at company call centers. This meant a focus on reducing costs, lowering call time averages, and emphasizing metrics and stats.

But Bush had a different vision. Instead of focusing purely on a financial perspective, he saw a model where real relationships between company and customer were built. In turn, this would be a major factor in setting American Express apart from its competitors, while driving future growth and increasing profits.

Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it? But there was just one major obstacle getting in the way: scripts, metrics, and endless company rules and regulations. Somehow all of that didn’t lend itself to building meaningful, caring relationships with customers.

Impactful Leaders Don’t Give Up – They Let Go

Like any impactful leader, Bush wasn’t one to give up. Well, maybe he was – but not in the way you might think. He let go, ditching the worn-out call scripts and the constant focus on averages and stats.

And he didn’t stop there.

Notable highlights of the key changes Bush made include:

  • Updated the service rep title to customer care professional and gave them business cards, increased their salary and introduced more flexible hours.
  • Developed a 4-part system designed to motivate customer service professionals to take the initiative to provide a high quality customer service experience.
  • A key component of his system involved the concept of letting go, in keeping with his vision of building authentic relationships with customers and with staff. Although customer care professionals were well-trained in company policies and products, when it came to handling calls, they got to choose what they talked about – free of any scripts.

For anyone remotely familiar with American Express, the results of Bush’s leadership remain evident to this day: J.D. Power often ranks American Express “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Credit Card Companies.”

Now It’s Your Turn…3 Ways to Let Go

1- Deepen your relationships. Among the key ingredients to a formula for successfully letting go, trust is at the very top. Here’s how to build trust in your relationships with team members. When we feel a stronger sense of trust, it makes it easier to let go.

Keys to effective leadership

When you set up a system that enables you to let go with confidence — to trust your employees to exercise their own judgment and learn from their experience — employees can become both self-directing and self-correcting. They become inspired, energetic, and enthusiastic. And the experience they deliver to customers is likely to be far better than anything you could ever control.

Rob Markey in HBR

2- Ditch destructive habits. Leadership is a continual process of learning and self-growth. We must be willing to take an honest look within to identify habits and behaviors that are not serving our highest good. Some common ones? Not listening, micromanaging, and overlooking important feedback.

This isn’t a once-and-you’re-done quick task – it’s an ever-evolving introspective journey. Once we recognize habits that aren’t helpful, what’s the next step? You guessed it: letting go of them. Turn to this article on going below the waterline for greater insight.

3- Be your true Self. When we’re grounded in who we are and strongly aligned with our core values, we can truly let our authentic selves shine. A side benefit? As we become more comfortable in our own skin, we’ll be in a better place to more easily let go. These authentic leadership tips will inspire you.

Bringing transparency into our everyday leadership activities gives us the opportunity to let our authentic selves shine in all that we do. As we become more transparent, we’re more likely to build cohesive, interactive teams that are willing to take on additional responsibility and to contribute to the greater good.

Today, try letting go…even just a little bit 🙂 I bet you’ll find it’s one of the best-kept leadership secrets yet.

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Self-Reflection

Want to Lead with Greater Ease? Start with Self-Reflection.

Self awareness is the ability to take an honest look at your life without any attachment to it being right or wrong, good or bad.”

Debbie Ford

What’s the foundation for extraordinary leadership that leaves a lasting impact?

Self-reflection.

Far from being selfish, self-reflection allows us to explore ourselves more deeply – or as Inc.com author Jacob Morgan asserts, “Before you can lead other people, you have to learn how to lead yourself.”

The Many Benefits of Self-Reflection

Leaders – or anyone who consciously engages in a practice of self-reflection – can expect to enjoy many benefits:

  • Stronger clarity and confidence when making decisions

  • More effective, productive communications with others

  • A deeper understanding of our thoughts, moods, and behaviors

  • Ability to tap into our highest potential with greater ease

  • A sense of groundedness and connection in work and life

As most leaders know all too well, it can be incredibly easy to get so caught up in the rapid pace of modern life with its seemingly endless parade of responsibilities that we put self-reflection on the back burner.

When this happens, we lose touch with ourselves and our ability to lead with authenticity.

Leadership strategies

It’s Time to Get BOLDLY Honest – With Ourselves.

When is the best time to practice self-reflection? That’s a question only you can answer, but here’s a great hint from Forbes contributor Naz Beheshti: “It is in the times where you feel that you cannot find enough time that reflection will prove most useful.

Self-reflection is all about getting radically honest with ourselves, getting clear on what our values are, and asking the right questions to provoke a deeper, inner contemplation. “Radical honesty would require us to stand fully in our truth,” suggests Beheshti.

There is no right or wrong time to engage in a practice of self-reflection. Rather, finding what works for you and doing it consistently is key.

Some people may find it most effective to self-reflect first thing in the morning, before the hectic pace of the day gets underway and a greater sense of clarity is present. Others may prefer to bring closure to a busy day with a quiet time of self-reflection before retiring for the evening.

Simple Self-Reflection Practices to Incorporate into Your Life

Need some inspiration to get started? Try any of these simple strategies to discover which ones most resonate with you…

1- Start a journal. Spending time in the solitude of self-reflection can be just the springboard we need to take effective action when we feel ready. And journaling is one of the best strategies we can use to increase our self-awareness. Do an entire brain dump or just scribble down a few thoughts – you might be surprised at the big insights you gain from this age-old practice.Self-reflection in leadership

2- Try a little gratitude. Gratitude isn’t just a feel-good strategy – it has proven benefits, backed by science. Consistent expressions of gratitude actually alter the molecular structure of our brains, enhancing our levels of both happiness and health. This is one simple practice you’ll want to make a part of your everyday life!

3- Ask questions. Indeed, self-reflection involves getting radically honest. When we take a step back from the constant activity of the day, we can ask deeper (and sometimes difficult) questions, like: What are my values? Did I live in alignment with them today? What is my “why”? What legacy do I want to leave as a leader?

4- Infuse self-care. Self-care isn’t self-indulgent; instead, it can become the foundation of a virtuous circle around you: the kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you will likely be to others. The more they receive kindness, the more they can give it to themselves and others. And so on. Think about it: it all starts with you.

Self-Reflection5- Challenge convention. If you’ve followed my blogs for any length of time, you know that I’m not afraid to go against the grain when the situation dictates. That’s where the whole “radically honest” part of self-reflection comes in. When we’re willing to “get real” with ourselves, we sometimes uncover things we were completely unaware of.

At times, the insights we receive as a result of self-reflection may surprise us. They may call for us to challenge conventional wisdom, to go against a common mindset. And that’s a wonderful thing!

It was John F. Kennedy who once said: “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

May we all integrate a strong practice of self-reflection into our daily lives so we too, can get BOLDLY honest, challenge convention, and lead with greater ease…and lasting impact.

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Self Care Strategies

7 Simple Self-Care Strategies for Leaders to Infuse Today

Self-care. The term has become so ubiquitous that many of us overlook just how important it really is. For leaders in particular, effectively infusing self-care practices into our daily lives can have a tremendously positive impact that radiates out into our world.

In order to create well-being in their workforce, leaders must create a culture where self-care is encouraged and enhanced. This is most effective when top leadership models the behavior they want to see in their organization.”

Monica Thakrar in Forbes

Without further ado, let’s get started with 7 easy self-care strategies to help you live – and lead – with a greater impact and deeper sense of fulfillment:

Self care for leaders#1 – Redefine what self-care means to you. Have you been holding on to a rigid definition of what self-care means? What is your personal concept of self-care? Self-care is so much more than sipping a cup of hot tea or enjoying yoga a few times each week. By challenging how we think of self-care, we open up to building a deeper connection to ourselves. Think of self-care from a whole perspective, encompassing physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

#2 – Infuse self-care into your everyday life. Too often, we put unneeded pressure on ourselves. Shift your focus for short periods from one of “must do” to “ahhh, simply be.” Notice the spacious feeling that arises from within when you loosen up for a little while. (Feels good, doesn’t it?) Taking these short breaks throughout our day can enliven our energy and help us to return to regular tasks with a sense of renewal and joy.

#3 – Keep company with supportive people. It may be a new concept to think of self-care as having anything to do with other people…but it does. HBR author Amy Jen Su calls healthy, supportive relationships a vital part of self-care. “Take notice of who feeds your energy and who drains it,” she suggests. Also become aware of the people in your life who nurture your soul and encourage growth. Which brings us to our next two important self-care strategies…

#4 – Set your boundaries and learn to say “no.” Cutting back on your obligations can help you lower your stress levels while boosting your confidence, too. Say “yes” to taking care of yourself and “no” to all the things in your life that are not serving your highest good. Need some easy pointers? Check out this helpful article on Psychology Today fittingly called 10 Tips for Setting Boundaries and Feeling Better.

#5- Stay accountable. Accountability is critical in all areas of leadership – and yes, even in self-care. Think about a time when you were working on an intense project. You were going to take that break … but did it happen? Or did you just push through without taking your own needs into consideration? It can be easy to neglect our own needs, which makes staying accountable to self-care key. Check in with yourself throughout the day.

Self Care Strategies#6 – Freshen your space. Have you ever noticed how our workspace seems to influence our mood and productivity? Your work area, asserts HBR author Amy Jen Su, “should feel like a reflection of your best self.” Truer words were never spoken. We all deserve a space to work and play that is free of excess clutter or energy that hinders our progress. Add special touches to your space, such as motivational images or small meaningful items that inspire positivity.

#7 – Inspire others to practice self-care. Leadership is all about the “we” – not the “me.” Two impactful things happen when we as leaders practice self-care. It’s often said that we cannot give from an empty cup; when we take care of our own needs, we’re better able to come back refreshed and energized – ready to share the best version of ourselves with the world. And the best part? We can then inspire others to enjoy the benefits of incorporating gentle self-care practices into their own lives. Think of it as a ripple effect of positivity…

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Intent-Based Leadership

Rev Up Your Team With Intent-Based Leadership

What would it look like if your team was motivated to succeed?

If your leadership empowered and inspired others to shine?

If you could use your vision as a leader to connect people?

How do you do it? Lead with intention.

As Leaders, We Must Be Aware of Our Intentions

“Intention is the engine that drives motivated employees, and leaders must remain aware of the intentions they carry into the office with their thoughts, actions and responses.”

William Craig, Forbes.com

Intention is a powerful word – and it’s even more influential when we infuse what it means into how we lead others. By definition, intention is:

  • a determination to act in a certain way : resolve
  • what one intends to do or bring about

In leadership and in life, intentions involve the heart and are therefore deeply rooted. Intentions are all about the process, your process – the “why” in your life, your way of living.

When we focus on our intentions, we’re keeping true to ourselves, our inner values, who we are at our core. It’s all about being present now – unlike goals that are something in the future.

Intentions keep you true to your Self and to your strongest yearnings.

Knowing this, it’s easy to see how critical setting (and being aware of) our intentions are in leadership.

Intent Based LeadershipBringing Intention into the Workplace

When we allow our intentions to guide the way we lead our team, some substantial benefits happen as a result:

  • Employees are empowered as a greater sense of trust is established.
  • Overall work culture is enhanced as people feel a deeper purpose.
  • Individual team members are also encouraged to develop to their full potential.

Seen from a bigger vantage point, these benefits come together to transform an organization, allowing it to establish a greater impact in the products and services it offers as well as the wider social impact it has.

Instead of seeing work as “just a paycheck” to pay the bills, intentions empower us to inspire our teams to find deeper meaning and purpose in their work life.

Intentions keep us connected to our inner core. They help us be more present in all that we do – and to bring our authenticity into every situation.

Lead With Intention to Motivate Your Team

Need a few pointers to lead with intention? Try these:

1- Consider the impact of your words. I’ve spoken a lot about the role of body language in leadership, but words are also important. For instance, you might replace “I” statements with ones that start with “We” instead.

2- Think acceptance, not authority. An impactful leader knows it’s not about “my way or the highway” authoritativeness. Rather, emphasize tolerance and acceptance; be open to new, innovative ideas.

3- Start the conversation about intention. It’s not all about getting everyone on board with your vision and yours alone – encourage employees to share their own unique visions and goals.

4- Set your intention beforehand. Ready to walk into your next meeting? Providing employee feedback? Set your intentions first – a practice that can guide you to stay present and grounded.

5- Define your leadership vision. It’s hard to lead others with intention without a clear image of your own vision. Follow the tips in this HBR article to develop your own captivating image of an achievable future.

Leadership intentionBOLD BONUS TIP: What’s one of the activities that takes up a lot of your time but often produces few measurable results? If you answered “meetings,” you’re not alone.

Optimize productivity by setting an intention to limit meetings to 20% of your time for the day or week. Why? “This creates a healthy balance for the creation of important work while remaining mindful and respectful of each professional’s time,” explains Forbes.com author William Craig.

Intentions Keep Us Grounded

From my own experience as a leader, my intentions keep me grounded. They serve as little prompts to check in with myself, to make sure I’m being kind to myself and to those in my life. They gently nudge me to ask the right questions when it feels like something has gone off track.

More than anything, intentions remind me that life is a journey, and that I’ll enjoy the ride by keeping true to myself. And if I’m not true to myself…if I am not loving the work that I do…why should anyone follow me?

Now, let us all boldly go forward and set our intentions for this day!

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