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Find your voice at work March 4, 2013

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Uncategorized.
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How do you find that unique quality that will take you to the next level? Writers, singers, and speakers often talk about finding your voice. Voice is that special thing that differentiates you. One of the judges on the hit TV show The Voice once said, “I am listening for something unique.” He means someone who has skills and talent, but has found something defining. In professions we also have a defining quality, a Voice. But how do you find it?

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Thanks to Grant@http://www.flickr.com/people/visual_dichotomy/

Professionals tend to develop along a predictable course. They start as novices. Then they gain skills and expose talents. As these skills and talents develop they slowly move from apprentice to journeyman skill level. As journeymen, they start to specialize. These specialities are what I would call their professional Voice.

To develop your Voice you need to experience. There is no shortcut to development. Shortcuts are invariably routes that lead only back to the beginning. Here are some suggestions to help you find you profession Voice:

1. Go with the flow
Chase whatever your boss puts in front of you as hard as you can. A good boss is invaluable to developing your Voice for three reasons:
A. It is their job to make the best use of you.
Their broader experience and different perspective helps them identify where your skills are maximized. You may say that he gives you difficult stuff to do. What you don’t know is that others find that task impossible. Over time, that impossible task becomes easy to you, and bang, you have a specialization.
B. It is their job to broaden you.
A good boss is always looking for additional skills and options for their people. Thus, they will have you try new things and see where you excel.
C. It is their job to keep you engaged.
Ultimately keeping a good employee is priority number one. Yes, your boss may stretch you with new experiences. He may use you to achieve the tasks you are good at. But what he’s really looking for is what do you love. If he can find something that you are good at and love, he’s found something special.
2. Ask for responsibility
The biggest mistake young employees make is in pursuing money. Money always follows responsibility. Bosses who don’t take care of their highly responsible employees have problems because they cannot retain them. I won’t go as far as to say that you should never ask for money, but it’s very close to never.
Ask for responsibility. It changes your manager’s focus from managing you to developing you. It increases their trust. Additional responsibility of any type can help develop your personal skill-set.
3. Self Examine and create a strategy for weaknesses
In the end, you have to assess your own experiences. Your boss can be a great sounding board, but you really need to look at yourself. What is the personal skill set you bring to the table? Where are you weak? How do you deal with those weaknesses. Can you train them? Can you avoid them? What work roles fit you best? If you are strong in leadership but poor in details, you may be more suited for a managerial position. If you hate politics but love to see results you may find the individual contributor roles more to your liking. Keep in mind, that manager or contributor, highly skilled people are well paid and can lead. Don’t take the manager path, if your Voice is in contribution.

4. Self Examine and seek experiences that sharpen your key skills and broaden your skill base.
Ultimately your Voice is more about what you are strong in than what you are weak in. That is what will define your career. Once you’ve determined your strengths, make them stronger. You can do this through experience and training in strength areas. Don’t just do the work. That is easy and will not let you grow. You need to analyze it and figure out what you can do better.
Also, broaden your skill sets on the edges. If one part of your professional voice is you are great at keeping disgruntled clients from escalating. The next step may be to become great at turning them around and making them happy. Perhaps, it’s about how to keep disgruntled peers from blowing up. Search the edges of your skill-set for other things you can develop.

As your Voice develops you will find that senior staff and your managers rely on you more and give you more leeway in your specialty. That is the reward of finding your special Voice. Freedom.


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How to Leash a Lion and Harness His Strength July 8, 2012

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Leadership.
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The lion, the king of beasts, is a terribly viscous fighter. They are enormously strong, determined, and driven to win every fight. A high D (or Driven) personality type is represented by the lion.

Thanks to Vi O’Walker on Flickr Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vi-photos/

High D

Superpowers:

1. Confidence (even when they are wrong.) – A D’s confidence can be so strong and overwhelming that it can literally override all objections and move a person or group of people in the direction the D desires.

2. Fighting – No other personality type can stand against the verbal assault of a charging lion.

3. Prioritization and Delegation – Understanding their place in the world, they can immediately discard the unimportant or assign it to others.

4. Traditional Leadership – The confidence and aggressiveness of a D positions them ideally for traditional leadership roles,

Weaknesses:

1. No Brain-Mouth filter – They are direct, which can be interpreted as rude or at least discounting social norms. They generally don’t violate norms on purpose, they don’t recognize they exist.

2. Total Task/Goal Orientation – They can discount the harm they do to people in order to complete a task.

3. Short Term Focus – Due to their confidence and natural power, D’s expect to be able to fix problems in short order and often grow frustrated when solutions must occur over time.

4. Intimidation – Ds will often inadvertently miss good advice from teammates who are intimidated by their aggressiveness.

5. Laziness – Like the great male lion the D represents, they will let others do the hunting. When confronted with something distasteful, they can appear lazy.

Key Phrase: “That’s not my problem.”

A D can be a great blessing. They are natural leaders and like to get things done. They also can be mean, aggressive, rule breakers. The stereotypical angry, screaming boss is a D.

Dealing with Ds
The key to dealing with a D is to remember that they are all about success. Ultimately they want to win. This is true of all Ds. The only question is what they think success is. So if you need to deal with a D talk in terms of how they can be successful (or more successful). Also remember they decide quickly and are very confident in their decisions. Don’t try to show them they are wrong. You will not win that argument. Once you become the opposition they will be set against you.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy
Differences also occur between emotionally healthy and unhealthy Ds. Healthy Ds are strong. Unhealthy Ds are angry. Thus the image of the angry, screaming boss is created. A D generally gets this way due to stress built up over a long time and insufficient internal fortitude (generally reflecting a spiritual problem). An unhealthy D is, in a word, a bully. With unhealthy Ds, avoidance is the best policy. They will emotionally maul everyone around them.

Ds as employees
To groom your lion for big things three items are critical. You must teach them:

  • to see relationships as a goal
  • to pull others into their decision making process
  • to be patient and to let processes work.

The first is most critical. If a D has set relationships as a success criteria, they will actively pursue success in this area. They need practical advice. For instance a D does not typically think to greet someone they need something from. They just demand it. If you are not a D it may seem odd or rude to you but they literally do not register social niceties. They do consider success all the time, however. The thought process of a properly trained D goes something like this.

The boss indicates that if I start with a greeting and ask how the persons day is going I will be more successful getting what I want. I will also move towards my goal of establishing a relationship with this person. Good. Now that that is done, I can ask what I really want to ask.

Note, the D doesn’t really care. A D rarely will. Don’t be offended. If you need help, Ds will move mountains for you, but they don’t want to talk about the small stuff. Talking niceties is a pure discipline for them.

The second part is more critical as Ds move into leadership. Ds make decisions quicker and better than any other personality type if they have sufficient information. The problem is untrained Ds rarely have anywhere near sufficient information when making decisions. Their “I” compatriots have tremendous insights on people and organizations. The Ss and Cs have deep analytical insights. If you can convince the D that these are resources for him to tap into, the quality of his decisions will increase greatly. Also, as a positive side effect, the people he includes will become more tolerant of the D’s directness.

The third hard lesson for Ds is patience. Ds are used to making things happen through sheer force of will. They are impatient. The biggest, most important goals, however, take time. Sometimes they take a lot of time. An effective D needs to learn to be a river, not a tidal wave.

Do you have any interesting stories about Ds?
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How to change your life for the better with Personality Profiling. July 1, 2012

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Leadership, Personality.
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Short of salvation, one of the most powerful, life altering experiences I have gone through was my discovery and training in personality profiling. Personality Profiling is a set of concepts that give you a deep understanding of your own and others psyches. It can be used to guide personal development, enhance communication, drive conflict resolution, and interact with difficult people.

What is this marvelous thing? Personality profiling is about recognizing the 4 major personality types of human beings, how they interact, and how they understand the world. It has been around for a long time. Hippocrates and the Bible both address the concept. If you have worked with Myers-Briggs or DiSC you have brushed on the topic.  The problem, however, with most modern and corporate training on these subjects is that it only focuses on one aspect of Personality Profiling, self-knowledge. In my opinion, the real sweets come from understanding others. With sufficient clarity on the motives of others, you can improve every relationship in your life.

Above is a chart showing the 4 basic personality types. For each I have listed the DiSC classification, the corresponding biblical animal, the associated Greco-Roman medical term, and a stereotypical position where you might find that personality.

For the purpose of this blog I will mostly use the DiSC terminology as it is short notation and is taught in some companies. People tend to be a mix of personality types but have 1 or 2 dominant traits. You learn to recognize them. High Ds are direct, dominant, and driven. High I’s are loud, intense, and excited. They are the life of a party. You just tend to like High Ss. They are quiet and warm and can talk to anyone. High Cs are precise experts. They are the perfectionists and the people who “know stuff”. They tend to be quiet and intense.

But those of different personality types tend to misunderstand one another. The Driven D sees the S as lazy while the S despairs that the high D is concerned only with success and crushes all the poor souls in their way. High I’s want everyone to be happy and excited. To the C, who sees with great detail and precision all the problems around them, the I seems to be a whimsical idiot. The I sees the C as a party-pooping scrooge.

Furthermore, each personality has its own strengths, its own weaknesses, and its own values. For instance, the D values completion of goals above all else. The I has trouble staying focused on a task to completion. The S fears conflict and avoids confrontation. The C is only satisfied with perfection. Only by understanding these fundamental characteristics can a leader successfully utilize, develop, and motivate his people.

In the next four posts I will examine each of the 4 fundamental personality types, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I will also discuss how to develop the personality type, how they can best be utilized, and how to manage their idiosyncrasies.

If you find this information interesting and want to do a deep dive into Personality Profiling and it’s extensions I would suggest you go to this site Liberty Church Audio and download and listen to the “Personality” series. This series of sermons, combined with my years of personal experience, is the source for much of the information I have around Personality Profiling. The material on the site is awesome.

What do you think about Personality Profiling?
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Leaders Don’t Type Angry – How to avoid email disasters. June 24, 2012

Posted by thefieldgeneral in Uncategorized.
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Once I sent an angry email to Veggie Tales. Yes, the wonderful cartoon guys who enchant children with bible stories told by talking vegetables. I hope that some sort of glitch caused that email to never arrive. I suspect, however, that Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber would love to give me a piece of their mind.

The fast pace world of email and text is here and it will not be going away any time soon. Decisions, arguments, and accusations fly real-time, 24/7, across the globe. How does a leader remain effective in a world where split second decisions are locked in computer systems forever?

If you want to have effective, disaster free emails, three main things are required:
1. Email Structure: Should be brief and reviewed.
2. Email Delivery: Leave out Humor and arguments. Deliver bad news personally.
3. Crisis Emails: Need to be reported early and clearly.

Email Structure:
Make Emails what they are. Emails are Memo’s not letters. That means that emails should be short and to the point.
• Try to use simple words if possible. I once sent an email to my staff complaining that we were ignorant of a certain process. There was an uproar as people objected to me calling them stupid. If I’d said I was concerned because people didn’t know the process, it would have been just as effective and would have missed the mess.

• Avoid abbreviations unless the memo is for internal use only. People may not know your alphabet soup.

• Always spell check your emails. It’s a single click and nothing says sloppy like an obvious misspelling in an email.

• Always re-read your emails. Re-reading your emails can point out grammar errors and word drops that your busy fingers missed while you were typing.

• Questions to senior leaders – Keep them extra short.
The more senior the leader, the shorter your emails need to be. When I was younger, I often needed to request information from a Senior Vice President. This principal was made very clear. I could predict response time fairly accurately to be 1 week for every 2 sentences of the email. If the email ever exceeded 6 sentences, the email was lost in the abyss and was never returned.

• Information emails to senior leaders – Layering.
To provide digestible information to senior leaders use information layering. Keep your initial analysis very brief 2-4 sentences. Reserve 2 sentences to explain that deeper dives into the analysis are provided further down in the email. Then provide a bunch of space between the initial message and the deeper analysis. Managers triage their email, and an email with a lot of text will often get saved for later analysis. This is when it vanishes into the email abyss.

Email Delivery: Keep Emails from becoming professional embarrassments.

• Do not email someone who doesn’t know you personally or professionally. Get introduced first unless the issue is critical or you are soliciting. Emails from unknowns are easier to misinterpret and are often misdirected.

• No humor or arguments in emails.

o Emails lack emotional clarity. More than 90% of communication is verbal or tonal. All of this is lacking in an email. Thus an email intending gest can be taken as an insult. An argument intended to be logical and analytical can be taken as angry.
o They last forever. Anything poorly stated is there forever.
o People tend to attach the worst possible emotion to emails. I’ve known at least 2 co-workers I think are best classified as “robots”, no emotion. None-the-less, I have heard numerous complaints about emails from these two that were everything from harsh to sarcastic. In every case, divorced from the wrongly placed emotion, the emails were fine.

• For bad news always pick up the phone.
o Most “bad news” items are complex. Calling gives the receiver a chance to clarify questions with you before they escalate or make an uninformed decision.
o Symbolically sending an email when something bad happens means one of 3 things.
I am too busy to call you. (Translated: Do not approach me for clarification before acting, you cannot reach me anyway. This is a great way to increase you escalations to senior management.)
I’m afraid to tell you in person. (Translated: I’m a wimp who either doesn’t have the authority to help or is afraid you will beat me up.)
I cannot reach you. This is a legitimate reason to email. Your email should also mention why you did not call.
o Always recap the bad news phone call with an email. Now that you have short circuited many of the problems above, document what was said.

Crisis Emails:Act appropriately with Crisis emails

• Report early. Colin Powell remarks “if you ask yourself should I call someone, the answer is generally yes and 5 minutes ago.” The rule is the same for email. I understand the hesitancy; we want to keep noise down with our superiors. If your boss gets blindsided, however, it’s going to be far worse.

Describe an email that you wish you had back or had sent earlier, and how you could have handled it better.
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