• Successful Leaders Don’t Lead in Isolation (0) June 8, 2018Bradley Ann Morgan

    In a company retreat last quarter, we heard the lament of three newly promoted leaders that it truly is ‘lonely at the top’. All three had been with this biotech startup since the beginning of the company; and, looked forward to the day when they were in positions of influence. Now that the time had arrived, one of them said, “Outside of team meetings, you know what I hear in my office? Crickets. Unless I actively walk out among the cubicles for conversation, I feel like I’m in exile. I didn’t think leadership would be so isolating.”

    Even Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, stated in an interview with The Washington Post, “My job can be lonely. I’m not looking for any sympathy. CEOs don’t need any sympathy. I’m still happy, even on the days when the job seems isolated from rest of the world.” This type of situation exists not only in biotech, but in many of the hardware and software engineering companies, as well as, customer service, retail giants, and power energy suppliers. Why does this exist?

    Let’s identify the separation between isolation and solitude. Isolation is the occurrence of being physically or emotionally separated from other people. Solitude is different in that it is usually obtained by choice. Often you will hear of folks retreating from cell phone or technology use to rejuvenate themselves or think through an approaching personal or professional decision.

    Following is not the complete program we developed, but are some of the strategies we designed for them:
    • Acknowledge when they are feeling ‘burnt out’. Identify when internal energies are low, and they are feeling high emotional stress. Find time to talk with mentors and peers about how they had originally arrived into the company. Identify that they still have strong foundational values that are separate from their job performance. Remind each other to not surrender to conformity with the Aristotelian logic, stating that people are meant to be conditioned and written upon like blank chalkboards.
    • Effective leaders leave the vacuum of their offices by circulating among different departments. They can exchange best practices, helping improve working techniques. And, they shouldn’t appear at the same time every day or every week. Consequently, they won’t see the old predictable routines to problem solving. ‘Walk about’ leaders let others be brilliant too.
    • Leaders can conduct listening sessions, where they talk with lower-level teams (without their bosses being present) about corporate conditions, customer transactions; and, how to employ new strategies. They also can conduct town halls, where employees ask questions and engage in meaningful conversations. By creating various listening events leaders can use un-sifted information to influence their decision making.
    • Flexibility of leaders to be receptive in analyzing the exact situations their teams are facing is paramount. They do not become angry about the circumstances now but use their positive presence to motivate and revitalize their teams to do the impossible. Frequently, it is the leader that presents the team’s strategies to finance meetings or review boards explaining how they will overcome obstacles; and, make the case for more finances or resources. That leader is the champion of how to coordinate company tradeoffs and timelines.

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  • Respect and Honor for Our Veterans (0) May 25, 2018Bradley Ann Morgan

    Isn’t it a great occurrence now that many of our neighborhoods are becoming an integration of generations? On my very own street are five generations. The residents range from WWII, the Silent Gen, the Boomers, Gen X, and now a new couple from the Millenniums. What’s also wonderful is that monthly, they get together for ‘Happy Hour’ sharing and exchanging their experiences along with their continued personal goals. In last month’s soiree our local hero, who survived the Burma Road in WWII, shared his secrets to successful aging. He said, “My keystone to positive aging with dignity is staying connected to today’s events. And even though my grandchildren think I have passed my prime, I make it a point to be able to converse with them, and my peer group, on what is vital to today’s political & social environments. As long as I’m still living, I still matter!”

    Yes, they matter. How great it is to honor those that have served in the military and those that are currently serving. We can break with tradition about the thoughts of aging and past military service by being unwilling to settle for disparaging remarks about our veterans that are positively aging.

    This Memorial Day, don’t hesitate to show your respect for our deserving military service men and women by posting an American flag, participating in community events, or even BBQs with the neighborhood. My therapy dog and I will be visiting the veterans recovering in rehab facilities. Do whatever you think appropriate and be proud of it!

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  • Old Values Not Serving You Now? (0) May 2, 2018Bradley Ann Morgan

    When you’re driving in slow traffic do you find yourself wondering why you’ve made specific life choices. Do you find yourself in the endless cycle of ‘why did I or didn’t I’? Sometimes these choices are made in convention with your culture, community or family expectations, or even due to your spiritual faith. We find that most people make decisions according to a few “core values.” however, many have never taken the time to articulate those principles.
    We are all complex beings holding a various set of core values, not just those that are academic or corporate related. If think you represent only a finite set of core values, the following categories might re-start your thinking cycle. Consider where your deep views rest on: Patriotic Convictions, Importance of grandparents and relatives, Intellectual growth, Financial ethics, Respect for others, Moral worldview, and Reverence for any higher source.
    As we progress on our aging journey, having families, becoming a political advocate, assuming social responsibility; and, assuring environmental safety for generations to come, our outlook may shift or radically change from those you previously held. And in all transitions, this is a natural part of your life’s journey, explore without guilt.
    If you’re evaluating where you stand today with core values, ask yourself:
    • What are your top 5 core values or most empowering beliefs today? Are they significantly different than those you were reared under? Do you practice these in your decision making today?
    • Are you still living with core values from the past that make your decisions non-congruent with who you truly are today? Do you suffer guilt over ‘breaking out’ of the family or social practices in pursuing your life’s direction? What would be the benefits and consequences of pursuing your “life’s” direction when it breaks out of the family’s or generally accepted social practices?
    • When you don’t get the results you want from your actions, what standards are you making your decisions by, family tradition, invisible community rules, conformity to certain organizations, etc.?
    • If you continue to pass authority to outdated core values what do you envision your future to look like? What mood does this place you in resignation, resentfulness, apathy, sadness?

    “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.” Francis Bacon

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  • What Are Your Social Contracts? (0) April 14, 2018Bradley Ann Morgan

    Isn’t it interesting that the word, “social‟ appears almost daily in CNN news, business magazines, and certainly networking sites such as, Facebook and LinkedIn. There are numerous uses of this word combined with other words, for example, social media, social engagement, social bonding, social justice, social relations, and social skills. It seems evident that our contemporary society, maybe even globally, has become very conscious of how we interact and collectively co-exist with all other living organisms. We view this as a thoughtful step in the advancement of emotional awareness and how we interrelate with others. This then, has led us to ask, what are your social contracts with family, friends, communities; and, workplace relationships‟? What do we mean by social contracts? Our definition includes these areas of focus:

    The awareness of your engagement in each of these circles, and how you conduct yourself within each circle.

    How you bond into each of these social circles. Bonding is the interactive process of attachment for family members, as well as, sincere friends. Bonding can also spring from working synergies found in intense development from startup companies or the service of comrades in the military or police forces. How you set internal boundaries for yourself and how you respect this person, or this group’s boundaries for meaningful exchanges. Deep decisions of what is important to protect as core values can be decided together as to what all parties believe they deserve as respectful behavior.

    Some psychologists have used a similar term, personal engagement. The first scholar to define personal engagement was W.A. Kahn, as the “harnessing of organization members’ selves to their work roles: in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, emotionally and mentally during role performances”.
    How do you establish and maintain your social contracts? Use these guidelines in your areas of interest:

    • In the workplace, establish priorities so each individual knows they are not performing just, “busy work‟ and there will be no redundant procedures. Whatever final outcome the group is destined to deliver will be more productive when the competentices of each person are tapped and targeted to the end result. Whether family, friends, or a workplace agreement, be open to explore differences and establish working boundaries that honor all involved, especially if the venture you’re involved with will take months or years to complete.

    • Use language that is action oriented. It is helpful to use personal stories to illustrate the degree of engagement you feel. Don’t hesitate to use “I‟ when you tell exceptional illustrations of your connectedness to the cause. You will find that stories that include words such as, “I did or we did‟, “I acted or we went‟, will go beyond your own interests, and tap some inner space for each person listening to you.

    • Be mindful of boundaries, yours and others. Be vocal about what you will do to respect other’s limits regarding engagement and culture or religious borders. All relationships are based on trust and honor, especially where collective work teams or business units need to work as a whole system. Be ready for disappointment. The future cannot be guaranteed even with the best of strategic plans. Be certain that fall back plans are in place so there will be no finger pointing when progress is temporarily derailed. Blame behavior will not be helpful to regroup and become an efficient organization.

    • Examine what the core of your engagement is for the effort at hand. Whatever driving principles you represent can be the initiative for other people to be involved in a single community or a single social effort. Don’t be afraid to state your core valves and acknowledge those of others.

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  • Finding Your ‘Flow’ Zone (0) March 31, 2018Bradley Ann Morgan

    Last year we worked with a nonprofit group that specifically hired new college grads for projects involving water management and watershed programs, including working papers as well as providing free research data to neighboring communities. As the project groups were not co-located, they engaged us to help each project team find their best ‘work summit window’; otherwise known as the ‘flow’. What is a flow zone or state?

    The flow state has been described by the world’s greatest thinkers as the most industrious and innovative state of mind in which to operate. Additionally, positive psychologists such as, Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., reason that achieving the flow state on a regular basis is a key component of harmony. In other words, learning how to enter the flow state you, or a team, can increase productivity, be more ingenious; and, be in higher spirits.

    As we were helping teams of people achieve their project goals, here are the directives we provided for each group (you can achieve the same results on an individual level using these same procedures):

    • Teams review their original understanding of deliverables, and dates, to reassign tasks or pursue an entirely new direction. They determine what elements still have value and what facets need to change to present a new structure to the senior board or governing body. They do not use blame behavior or finger pointing in their assessments knowing that it is not a respectable use of energy. They have conversations that will be used for execution, not produce resignation.
    • Teams should establish rules for eliminating distractions while engaged in the project. They often review the goals of the project before they begin the work at hand and reach agreement on how they will maintain concentration. Agreement can also include how emergencies or family incidents will be handled during the work period.
    • Team leaders need to be flexible in analyzing the exact situation, now. They do not give in to the weakness of becoming angry about the current situation. They know that a positive presence is required to motivate the team to produce what was previously thought to be unfeasible. They monitor the emotional state of the working members engaging in physical breaks when necessary such as, quick walks around the parking lot or a quick set of deep knee bends to relieve sluggishness.
    • Teams evaluate available resources and stabilize the effects of any vendors that may have not renewed contracts for supplies. They sometimes leave convention behind, using innovative thinking to address the current conditions. Often, innocent statements of the problem put folks into a creative space where no flawless solutions are presented, but a combination of thought that could be the steps to achievement. Think how our everyday world would be without WD-40. Norm Larsen originally designed it to repel water (water displacement) and prevent corrosion. Later it was found to have numerous household uses. Larsen was attempting to create a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles, by displacing standing water. Its name came from the first 39 formulas that were failures. Hence, WD-40.
    • Working teams do not allow others to drain energy from their targeted goals. They recognize that collective negative moods can be ‘catching’; and, they do not allow themselves to become passive victims of negative moods. Also, they do not engage in adversarial conversations. They know that dialogues such as these only cause others to become defensive, crushing further explorative processes.
    • We asked team members to not hold back their emotional connectedness to the project. People become energized by the vital force each of them presents and what they will risk to realize final success. The actress today, Eva Longoria, is relying on her emotional intensity to fuel campaigns for racial justice and empowerment for women.
    • They often study past failures. With each failure they gain priceless knowledge that will help them reassess what tools, delivery vehicles, or advisors that were not correct for the project. Even the industry giant, Kraft Foods, is changing their powdered Kool-Aid mix to liquid form, keeping Kool-Aid as a viable contender in the marketplace. According to Paul J. H. Schoemaker, CEO of Decision Strategies International Inc., “People may fear failure, but they fear the consequences of it even more. The performance culture really is in deep conflict with the learning culture. It’s an unusual leader who can balance these.” Be that leader for your team.
    • Let yourself, and team leaders, listen, not just ‘hear’ the speculation in others. True listening gives others permission to question options, challenge opinions; and, turn dilemmas into opportunities. When the fair practice of listening is in place, it is unsurprising that you will hear the heartfelt values of others. Frequently, you can gain new world views and help your team enter the flow zone.

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