Tag Archives: leadership

Adaptability in leadership

How to Coach for Adaptability in Leadership

Coaching new school principals, I have come to appreciate the hidden emotional costs to leadership promotion. If I don’t support my leaders to adapt emotionally to their new roles, they are more likely to hit a wall when adapting to the skills of their new job.

Consider Janet. As an assistant principal, she turns every task into gold because of her work ethic, intelligence, instructional expertise, and organizational skills. She earns considerable credibility with her team, and so is a no-brainer successor when her principal decides to move on.

Six months later, Janet is struggling. She works extremely hard and everyone appreciates her level of commitment, but the school is not humming. She is both angered and confused by a growing resistance to the student culture system among the upper grade teachers, and blames the teachers when student discipline begins to slip. There is dissension among the leadership team on how to manage these challenges. She is surprised by what she sees as the weakness of many of her team members, and so finds it easier to take on student challenges herself. And yet, for the first time, she is missing deadlines and dropping balls. How can she get to the adult issues when student challenges take up so much of her time?

I see multiple entry points to coaching Janet, but most will treat the symptoms rather than the disease. If I choose to attack technical skills such as meeting facilitation, difficult conversations or even personal organization, I miss the fact that Janet has failed to adapt to her new position at an emotional level.

Adapting Starts with Self-Awareness

Because leaders like Janet begin a perpetual sprint from the moment they are offered their new job, few take the time to ground themselves emotionally in what is happening to them. William Bridge’s Transitions (1980) is an excellent place to start building Emotional Self-Awareness because it emphasizes that all change processes—no matter how positive—begin with endings and loss. Janet and I begin our work by reading chapter one and talking about endings. I ask her some combination of these questions:

Even when transitions are positive ones, there’s loss. How does Bridge’s theory of endings help you make sense of your principal transition experience so far? What have you lost or had to let go of already? How do you think this has affected you emotionally? To what extent have you been able to let go? What do you think is getting in your way?

Once Janet gets the idea about letting go, she needs help identifying the kinds of things that will get in her way if she doesn’t let go. Charan’s The Leadership Pipeline (2000) is a great place to start. I connect our endings conversation to exploring what’s getting in the way with this quote:

The highest-performing people, especially, are reluctant to change; they want to keep doing the activities that made them successful. As a result, people make the job transition from individual contributor to manager without making a behavioral or value-based transition. In effect, they become managers without accepting the requirements.

Chapter one offers concrete behaviors and values that get in the way of leaders adapting to new stages of leadership. Janet begins to see how her strength as a “doer” is holding her back from leading through others. My job at this point is to help Janet become aware of the values connected to her work up to this point, and then support her to make a conscious choice to shift them. Even when the choice is made, it takes time to unpack the habits, relationships, loyalties, and even character traits that are all pieces of Janet’s former strength.

Self Managing Through the Micro-Moments

Janet will confront countless micro-moments of challenge that are in fact opportunities to shift her deeply ingrained behaviors. Tomorrow she will be drawn to a challenging teacher-student interaction as she walks down the hallway. She can choose to jump in and solve the problem, call the behavioral support staff whose job it is to support teachers, or let the teacher manage his own challenge. Being aware—of the choice and of the emotions and values at play—is the first step. Then, Janet needs some strategies to help her choose new behaviors.

At this point, Janet and I do some aspirational thinking. I learned from Boyatzis’s Intentional Change Model (2006) that exploring the ideal opens Janet’s mind to possibilities that will likely yield effective self-management strategies. As we focus on a specific micro-moment—reactively or proactively—I say to her:

Imagine at this moment that you are able to lead masterfully through others. How would you get yourself to do it? You see that teacher struggling with that student! What do you do with your emotions and desire to jump in? What do you think or do that keeps you from engaging?

Deeply exploring this moment of opportunity allows Janet to identify some things she can do to manage her emotions and her old values and habits, and leverage new ones. She articulates a reminder that her inner coach will chant (“Remember, you are the only person that can lead this school. How many other people can do this work right now?”). She practices taking two deep breaths to ground herself in the moment. She makes a plan to engage her trusted assistant principal as an accountability partner. Janet keeps these strategies on a note-card that she tapes to the back of her iPad. We reflect on application over time, revising strategies as we learn what works, until Janet is consistently making strong choices about the work that she takes on or delegates to other staff.

Slowing your new leader down to reflect on endings, loss and surrendering strengths that no longer serve them is worth it. This coaching will save you weeks or months in new skill acquisition.

Recommended reading:

Our new series of primers was created by bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, along with fellow thought leaders in EI, research, and leadership development.

The primers focus on the competencies of Emotional and Social Intelligence in leadership. You can find the first 3 in the series available now: Emotional Self-Awareness, Emotional Self-Control, and Adaptability.

Leader Mindfulness

The Role of Leader Mindfulness in Emotional Self-Control

Leader Mindfulness

The Role of Leader Mindfulness in Emotional Self-Control

by Matthew Lippincott

In my last article, I shared how the head of strategy and business development for one of the largest organizations in the world used mindfulness to help develop greater Emotional Self-Awareness. In my conversation with her, she also explained how this improvement provided her with insight that she used to more effectively manage her feelings and behaviors. This was just one example from my research with 42 senior and executive leaders on the influence of mindfulness on their leadership careers at a total of 83 global organizations.

In my study, I collected extensive descriptions of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency of Emotional Self-Control. I also found evidence of this Competency in the  participants through transcript analysis utilizing the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis.

What is Emotional Self-Control?

Emotional Self-Control relates to your ability to control impulsive behavior and not give in to negative emotions or be overly reactive in stressful situations. It is also identified by examples of appropriate action and your ability to remain positive in workplace interactions. As is the case with the other eleven ESCI Competencies, Emotional Self-Control has also been empirically linked to increased leadership performance.

How Improved Emotional Self-Control Impacts Leadership

The leaders I interviewed all provided in-depth examples of mindfulness contributing to the development of Emotional Self-Control. For example, “…before [mindfulness] I would have jumped on a pretty extreme emotional personal roller coaster with her, and viewed everything very, very personally,” and “I’ve learned to rely on my mindfulness to…back off on things…in Corporate America, there are plenty of instances where you just need to let things go.”

Mindfulness is especially helpful with the development of Emotional Self-Control because of the heightened self-observation capability it enables.

This cultivates awareness of the sequence of internal events that occur as you process sensory input (sometimes referred to as stream of consciousness) such as reactions, associations, and judgments that ultimately make up your experiences.

More importantly, developing awareness of this process leads to a more functional understanding of the way your feelings influence the quality of your interactions with others.

In this same context, leaders described improved Emotional Self-Control as having a profoundly positive effect on leadership results, such as:

  • Significant improvement in team engagement
  • Reduction of emotionally influenced bias
  • Less interpersonal conflict
  • More effective management of problems and crises

Emotional Self-Control Improves Communication

The previous types of results begin to occur as you assume more responsibility for the outcome of your communications efforts. A behavioral health solution manager supporting over 60,000 employees for a major hospital network gave an example of this, saying: “Instead of just becoming reactive, maybe being judgmental, I’m more inclined to say to myself, well, are you really sure if you understand what her motive is? What do you think might be going on with this person?… And being more aware of that enables me to respond in a way that’s more effective.”

The interrelationship between mindful, Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control enables the development of an accurate and honest understanding of the way your behaviors are received by others. This is especially powerful in the context of how you would apply various leadership strategies, since many strategies link leader success to follower engagement. This includes whether others fully understand what you are trying to communicate, and their willingness to contribute to your success. From that standpoint, you will realize great value from continuously refining your ability to honestly assess if others align with your intentions, and making sure that your emotions are not interfering with this activity.

During our discussions, leaders shared the importance of being able to understand how their habits of thought, biases, and reactions influenced feelings that were potentially detrimental to their leadership effectiveness. More importantly, they described their transformation into more effective leaders by using this personal insight as a catalyst for change. For instance: “…those situations would arouse rage in me…but now I can see it coming up…and ignore it,” and “…you don’t want to cling to your values forever, if it’s not gonna help the situation… If you want to move forward you have to let go to do that”

Improving Critical Leadership Skills

Leaders described Emotional Self-Control as a real-time capability to observe and manage the way they react to what is happening in their environment. They credited this as contributing to improving their personal leadership capabilities, including:

  • Faster cognitive recovery from stressful experiences
  • Greater ability to accept unsatisfactory circumstances and move forward
  • Improved management of depression and anxiety
  • Increased workplace productivity

A story told by a senior leader at a well-known global accounting firm helps illustrate this process of development. Her initial mindfulness practice helped her recognize something she had been unaware of for years—the negative way in which others reacted to her in meetings. Once she had made the connection between these reactions and unsatisfactory outcomes, she began to actively observe her interaction with others.

Through careful reflection on these experiences she began to see the relationship between her emotional states and the efficacy of her communication. This realization helped her understand the importance of focusing on Emotional Self-Control in the context of cultivating stronger and more effective relationships in the workplace. Through dutiful practice she succeeded in changing her interpersonal behaviors and reported improvement in the quality of her interaction with others: “…people started remarking about it…said, ‘You know what, how come you don’t get angry at all?’”

The Takeaway

In this and many other similar examples, the leaders I interviewed reported that Emotional Self-Control minimized the interference of negative emotional reactions with leadership activities. This improvement then created the opportunity for leaders to engage with others in a more meaningful and effective way. Obtaining these results required ongoing refinement of Emotional Self-Control, which helped leaders with intentional cultivation of other Competencies as well.

In my next article, I will discuss the relationship between mindful leadership and another Competency, Adaptability.

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about how to apply these concepts at work? Our newly released Primers provide a concise overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies of Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control, as well as an overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model itself.

The Primers are created by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, with several fellow thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research, including Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard J. Davidson, and George Kohlrieser.

Emotional-Self-Control

Emotional Self-Control: A Leader’s Perspective on Staying Cool Under Pressure

 

According to Daniel Goleman, Emotional Self-Control is “the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check, to maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions… staying clear-headed and calm.”

Self-management and control are necessary components of the leader’s tool kit. It’s not so much about trying to muzzle yourself as it is about understanding your role as a leader.

Here’s how Emotional Self-Control emerged in my experience:

Years ago, as a newly minted manager at IBM, I was blessed with an insight into what this means both for the organization and myself. I was promoted to management because I was good at doing things. It’s the same in every business where I’ve worked. Generally, those who are the best at doing the work get recognized and when there is a need for managers they are selected because of their ability as “doer’s.”

In my case, I took over a financial planning department at an IBM semi-conductor plant in Essex, Vermont. The manager I replaced was a hard and dedicated worker, often putting in fifty to sixty hours a week; however, his work was largely transactional, and reactive. We did as we were told under his management and took few risks. Having taken over his department, I found myself sitting at my desk one evening wondering what I was supposed to do and trying to understand exactly what it meant to manage and lead a department of skilled financial analysts, some with far more experience than me.

I could feel the beginnings of panic, a tightening in my chest and a strong feeling that I should be doing something. But what? As I sat with my feelings, I suddenly understood. My job wasn’t at all what I thought it was. My job was to hold the anxiety for my department, for my team.

What does it mean to “hold the anxiety?”

Holding the anxiety involves engaging your Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control so that you can see the difference between your “doer” self and your “being” self. When you don’t have the ability to “do,” your anxiety can increase and you may feel motivated not to feel your feelings, but to push them on to your employees and co-workers. This can manifest itself in many forms. Micromanagement or other controlling behaviors are often at the top of the list. It is easy to rationalize our behaviors. But consider an alternative approach: if you choose to allow your anxiety and fear to take over and you micromanage or control your team, you miss the opportunity to develop your own self-awareness and effectiveness as a leader, and also miss out on the opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with your team. You may never really see what great work they can do, instead believing they need you to make decisions for them. They will then wait for your direction before making decisions and moving forward because they don’t feel trusted. But developing decision-making abilities in others is key to good leadership.

In “holding the anxiety,” you create space for them to learn and grow and ultimately increase the capacity of your team.

Applying Emotional Self-Control in the real world

It is a very delicate balance. Those above you in the hierarchy may be acting out their own anxieties from various pressures. This is where Emotional Self-Awareness and Self-Control are critical. You can listen to what your boss wants, feel the feelings you have, hold them, and then calmly talk to your team about what needs to be done and engage them in creating the proper result by listening, guiding, coaching, and leading.

Always take a moment to allow yourself to simply “be” and connect with your self-awareness, but don’t project it onto the team. You won’t always be successful. Sometimes we do project, but when you do if you can own it and recognize your projection you will continue to build a trusting relationship with your team and demonstrate your true strengths as a leader.

Fear is a motivational and destructive force in business. No one wants to fail. If we can understand and own our own fears and not project them on others, we will discover that engaged team members are far more creative and productive than frightened ones.

Victor Morrison has diverse management experience, including Financial Operations Manager for IBM, CFO of Finance for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, CEO of Elan Ski and Snowboard Company for North America, President of American Flatbread, and recently as CEO of Dr. Hauschka Skin Care for the US and Mexico. Victor also works locally as a management consultant, focusing on sustainable business strategy development and executive management coaching. Victor has also been an occasional Adjunct Business Professor in Green Mountain College’s Sustainable MBA Program, teaching classes in People Management, Sustainable Business Strategy, and Finance.  

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about how to apply these concepts at work? Our newly released Primers provide a concise overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competencies of Emotional Self-Awareness and Emotional Self-Control, as well as an overview of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model itself.

The Primers are created by Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman, with several fellow thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research, including Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard J. Davidson, and George Kohlrieser.

 

mindful self-awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership (New Research)

mindful self awareness leadership research

Mindful Self-Awareness as the Basis for Effective Leadership

By Matthew Lippincott

“Just being in a present, more calm place of mind I think that it’s easier to see what’s really important and what’s not…I definitely think [mindfulness] had a huge, positive impact on my success, there’s no question about that.”

– General counsel for a leading global health products corporation

In 2016 I completed the first known study to examine the impact of mindfulness on leadership effectiveness. The study included interviews with 42 senior and executive leaders, documenting reports of the influence of mindfulness on their leadership careers at a total of 83 global organizations. All of the participants had completed mindfulness training, and incorporated that knowledge into their daily leadership activity. I also used the Emotional and Social Competency Inventory (ESCI) Model developed by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis to identify the presence of Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies that have been empirically linked to increased leadership performance.

What is Mindfulness? How is it related to Self-Awareness?

Mindfulness has been studied in clinical, military, professional sports, and corporate settings for more than 30 years. This research has associated mindfulness with a significant number of benefits, including increased employee job performance ratings and reduction in stress and anxiety. Neuroimaging has also been used to investigate the effect of mindfulness, indicating a change to the brain’s physical structure and functioning relating to reasoning, inhibition, and decision-making.

Scholars agree that mindfulness is a state of consciousness consisting of awareness and attention.

Also referred to as a form of meta awareness, mindfulness is comprised of:

  1. Clear focus of attention on the present moment, including experience and events.
  2. Ability to change the level of non-judgmental attention.
  3. Awareness of shifting attention between the inner self and the outer world.

The easiest way to understand mindfulness experientially is to focus all of your attention on your thoughts, feelings, and actions as they occur.

For example, mindful self-awareness can be practiced by actively observing yourself when communicating with others. This includes your reactions to verbal and non-verbal forms of communication, and the way those reactions influence your responses. This type of awareness also contributes to Emotional Self-Control, as summarized by a participant who heads strategy and business development for one of the highest ranked global 2000 companies: “I can really compact the quality of awareness, and look at the emotions coming and going just in front of me. And not be swept away by them.”

Mindfulness training will strengthen Emotional Self-Awareness, the first Competency of the ESCI model, which falls under the domain of Self-Awareness. Emotional Self-Awareness is our ability to recognize our emotions, how our experience affects our feelings, and discern the relationship between how we are feeling and our actions. In this context, mindfulness enhances your self-awareness capabilities by helping you develop the ability to monitor and understand emotions as they arise.

Awareness and understanding of your feelings is key.

Developing Emotional Self-Awareness is a crucial first step in effective leadership because it lays the foundation upon which the other eleven Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies are built. We can’t develop skills like Emotional Self-Control, Empathy, or Teamwork unless we are coming from a place of Emotional Self-Awareness. It gives leaders the necessary information about themselves and the effectiveness of their interactions so that they can monitor their emotions and manage their behaviors accordingly.

Key Findings of the Study

Analysis of my study data revealed a variety of improvements being attributed to mindfulness:

  1. Significant, positive impact on leadership effectiveness, supported by extensive examples of workplace results.
  2. All 12 of the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies linked to leadership performance were identified in each of the participants.
  3. Reports that mindfulness enhanced cognitive function and recognition of how emotions influence mental performance and behaviors.

The study produced a significant amount of data relating to organizational leadership development as well, highlights of which include:

  • 98% of participants described a transformation of their fundamental understanding of what effective leadership is.
  • 79% of participants reported stronger interpersonal relationships resulting from greater authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability in their interactions with others.
  • Extensive indications of enduring (trait) behavioral changes, which is supported by the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model.

The results of this study also align with other research indicating that improvements to leadership effectiveness may be achieved more quickly and with a higher rate of success through the incorporation of formal mindfulness training. This is partially due to the role of mindfulness in enhancing Emotional Self-Awareness and the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competencies. This complementary relationship helps leaders to identify what types of behaviors are required for specific situations, and also strengthens their ability to determine whether or not those behaviors are effective.

The scientific basis for these improvements is believed to be based upon repeated activation of neural networks through training focused on developing self-observation capabilities.

For example, neuroscience studies indicate that mindfulness may change the way neural networks connect with each other. Researchers also indicate that these changes may contribute to an improved capacity for activation of regions of the brain associated with more effective situational stress response and adaptability via neuroplasticity. These changes may improve your ability to activate regions of your brain that help you respond to stressful situations.

Mindfulness Training is More Accessible Than Ever

A quality mindfulness training program will typically last at least 8 weeks with a minimum commitment of 30-40 minutes a day. This time requirement is likely related to the fact that changes to neural networks require repetition in order to take hold. Online and print-based home study options exist, as do a growing number of apps that help deliver training more conveniently.

Takeaways for Personal Application

So how can you develop mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness in order to become a more effective leader? Committing to the completion of a mindfulness training program administered by a certified individual or organization is the fastest and most reliable way to experience these benefits. In fact, the use of mindfulness in the workplace can begin shortly after training starts, so enrollment in a quality program is also the fastest way to start experiencing results.

There is variability in the quality of programs so a safe bet is to look for programs based on the proven and highly regarded Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Extensive instructor training and certification programs have been in place for years. This means that you should have no difficulty finding courses being designed and delivered by credentialed experts with in-depth experience.

Many of the leaders I interviewed also specifically mentioned that they regretted having “dabbled” with mindfulness training and not completed a full-length program earlier in their careers. When discussing this topic, leaders associated full-length training with a variety of professional benefits, summarized as: “I’ve found mindfulness to be incredibly powerful and incredibly useful,” and “[mindfulness] has provided me a tool or a set of tools to be more effective as a leader.”

What to Expect

The process of mindfulness training includes exercises that will lead you to experience a mindful state early in the training. A well-developed program, delivered by a credentialed instructor, will also help you more effectively apply the training to your environment. Once the core skill set has been developed you will be able to use the techniques intentionally. A consultant specializing in board-level strategic advisement I interviewed said “Before I go into a meeting with a client or a client group, I’ll stop. I’ll make sure that I just don’t rush in. I’ll check in, do some breathing, check in with myself. Set my intention for going into a meeting.”

You will also develop the ability to use mindfulness in response to unplanned, situation-dictated requirements. Different techniques are used for different purposes by each individual. This was best summarized by the founder of a 25-year-old, leading global consulting firm as: “for me the important part of the practice is sort of the daily integration that happens throughout the day, any number of times.”

The more you can incorporate deliberate and improvised mindfulness practices into your daily routines, the more you will begin to experience the positive results associated with mindful self-awareness. These results are based on how you use your new insights into the effects of your thoughts and feelings on your workplace behaviors. Therefore, in my next article, I’ll share findings from my study relating to how mindfulness and Emotional Self-Awareness relate to the Emotional and Social Intelligence Competency of Emotional Self-Control.

Recommended Reading:

Interested in learning more about Emotional Self-Awareness? Our newly released Primer provides a concise overview of this Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency. It is co-written by several thought leaders in the field of emotional intelligence, leadership development, and research: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Vanessa Druskat, Richard Davidson, and George Kohlrieser. See the Primer here.

Self-aware-leader

How Self-Aware Are You As a Leader?

The first time I was held hostage, my self-awareness and ability to manage my emotions saved my life. After a psychotic man rushed at me and held a pair of scissors against my throat, I chose to talk rather than call for force to be used against him. I focused on each word, using them to build a connection and shift the man’s focus away from despair. In that moment, I had to communicate from my heart, not just my mind.

I am a trained hostage negotiator. Most leaders rarely face life-or-death situations like this that hinge on their self-awareness and their impact on someone else. However, many leaders regularly find themselves in positions where their ability to use self-knowledge and communicate well are crucial to effectively engaging other people to work toward a common goal. When you know what’s in your heart and can communicate it, you get engagement, authenticity, and a deeper bond.

Self-Awareness is Fundamental to Inspiring Leadership.

Self-awareness is the entry point to effective leadership. Just as in hostage negotiation, it is important for leaders to be aware of their impact on others. Yet many leaders have no idea of their negative impact. A key barrier is people’s own blind spots about themselves or their role in the organization. There can be big differences between how we evaluate ourselves and how other people see us. How can someone change if they don’t realize they have areas that need improvement? Good coaches and bosses help people confront the fact that they have blind spots that they need to change. Then the real change can begin.

How to Develop Self-Awareness

Once you’re aware that you have blind spots, how can you change? Reflection, meditation, and being able to ask yourself critical questions are key tools to cultivate self-awareness. What is getting a result or not getting a result? Can you label your emotions? Do you know when what you’re feeling is disappointment, anger, fear? Do you understand the real cause of these emotions? If so, you can begin to connect how that emotion is triggered, and how it impacts your work and life.

To really rewire the brain, it takes coaching and practice. In my High Performance Leadership programs, we see dramatic changes in people through this process, developing awareness particularly through group feedback. After a week of working together, the group tells you whether they’d like to have you as a boss or a colleague. I’ve seen senior leaders brought to tears, saying, “Now I know why my employees hate me. I hardly knew the people on the program, yet they identified behavior I wasn’t aware of.”

Ask yourself:

How can I get feedback about the impact I’m having? This type of feedback that a coach, mentor, or supportive colleague can offer is crucial to high performance. For example, maybe the feedback is that you’re using too many words when you talk or that you don’t speak up enough when you have something to contribute. Knowing that someone recognizes this in you can help you change these behaviors. When somebody gives you feedback, you can identify the issue and start to work toward change.

George Kohlrieser has forty years of experience as a hostage negotiator and a psychologist. He’s the Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at one of the world’s leading business schools, the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland. At IMD he created and directs the school’s flagship High Performance Leadership (HPL) program.

For more in-depth information on the Emotional and Social Intelligence Leadership Competency Model and how Emotional Self-Awareness impacts your work and life, see Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer.

To learn more about Emotional Intelligence in leadership from George Kohlrieser and Daniel Goleman, see The Competent Leader and Crucial Competence.

managing-expectations

Manage Expectations to Get Everyone on the Same Page

Have you ever worked with others without first making sure each person knew what everyone else expected? Without agreement about what is supposed to be delivered, by when, for how much, and by whom, you often experience unnecessary pain. Managing expectations—influencing the beliefs people have about something being the case in the future—avoids the pain and increases the likelihood of success. What do I mean by pain? Here’s an example.

Who Expects What?

The marketing team of a small software company planned a short video promoting their new app. Lisa drafted a script, then sent it for review by others in the firm. After review and editing, AJ would create visuals needed to accompany the script. AJ had arranged for a videographer to film the piece and actors to play the parts.

On the day of the final script deadline, the managers reviewing the script told Lisa they wouldn’t deliver their input until the next week. Frustrated, Lisa sent a message to the team about the delay.

Almost immediately, Lisa’s phone rang. She picked up the call and heard AJ yelling, “That’s unacceptable! We’re shooting the piece next week. We’ll miss the app release!”

Everyone Has Expectations

Whenever a group works together, each person has expectations, whether they’re explicitly stated or not. With the promo video plan, roles were defined and deadlines were set. What wasn’t considered was uncertainty. Did the script reviewers understand the need for a hard-and-fast deadline? AJ certainly did.

Managing expectations is something we all do every day in real-world situations. The goal is to manage expectations to achieve success in whatever you do.

What Is Success?

Success is measured in how well you satisfy the people who have a stake in your performance. You satisfy them by setting and meeting rational and meaningful expectations – your own and those of all of the stakeholders. Managing expectations relies on blending a crisp analytical approach with the interpersonal skills needed to negotiate win-win understandings of the vision. Vision is just another term for expectations. The vision isn’t limited to just the nuts-and-bolts of what, when and how much, it includes the process to get to it – are people happy? Are relationships healthy? Is there a productive, sustainable flow?

Expectations Involve More Than Calm, Rational Thought

When expectations are not satisfied, the disappointment and discord can be disturbing and difficult to manage. When setting expectations, conflicts arise.

Interpersonal skills are crucial to effective expectations management. That’s why my new book, Managing Expectations: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Success, combines detailed information about both the process of expectations management and the use of mindfulness as a foundation for the relationship and communications management needed to set expectations and adjust them as reality dawns. I’ll talk more about mindfulness in future posts. For now, Mindfulness is purposely paying attention to the present moment.

How Do You Manage Expectations?

Expectations management is a five-step process to make sure that expectations are:

  • Rational – Can it be done given real world conditions?
  • Meaningful – Will it improve things – make more money, increase quality, make life better for the people involved, etc.? In other words, why do it?
  • Mutually understood – Do all the people involved have the same understanding of goals, objectives, and prevailing conditions?
  • Accepted by all those with a stake in the work – Does everyone agree that it can and should be done?

The five steps in the Expectations Management Cycle are:

  • Set expectations by eliciting and discussing objectives with key stakeholders
  • Plan the process that will achieve the objectives
  • Perform the work in accordance with the plan
  • Assess performance to determine if it is progressing according to plan and to determine if the plan is still accurate and realistic
  • Adapt to the current circumstances by making changes to the plan so you can maintain realistic expectations

Your Takeaway:

Do you and your teams suffer from unmanaged expectations? If you do and you are tired of avoidable arguments, disappointments, and complaints, then commit to action. Make sure you take the time and effort to set mutually understood, rational expectations before you deliver your results. Expectations set direction and are the criteria for measuring success.

Managing expectations is an essential component of project planning, and is most effective when done right at the beginning.

Learn more about managing expectations with mindfulness and strategy in my new book: Managing Expectations: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Success.

Two Key Skills for High-Performance Leadership

high performing leader presenting to colleagues at a work meeting

What does it take to be a high-performing leader? Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman explored this question with George Kohlrieser, Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD, while they discussed emotional intelligence and leadership.

Their conversation centered on the twelve emotional intelligence competencies many organizations recognize as being essential for effective leadership. Each competency focuses on a specific aspect of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, or relationship management.

Positive Outlook is a competency in the self-management domain. During their conversation, Professor Kohlrieser stressed the importance of positivity, saying leaders must be able to find and convey to others what is positive in any situation. Dr. Goleman described research that highlights ways leaders can learn to be more positive. Here is a brief section of that conversation:

If there is one constant in life and the work world, it is change. Along with being positive, effective leaders must be able to adjust to the changes they face each day. In this brief video clip, George Kohlrieser talks about positivity as an essential precursor to another emotional intelligence competency, Adaptability.

Positive Outlook and Adaptability are just two of the twelve emotional intelligence competencies of leaders who perform better than their peers. Research shows that leaders who score high in six or more of the emotional intelligence competencies are better able to create the conditions needed to improve performance in the groups they lead.

Oftentimes the result isn’t just better performance, but happier and less stressed teams. And who doesn’t want that?

Want to learn more about leadership and emotional intelligence?

Crucial Competence: Building Emotional and Social Leadership is a series of video conversations between Daniel Goleman and his colleagues, including Richard Boyatzis, Richard Davidson, Vanessa Druskat, and George Kohlrieser.

Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence is a collection of Daniel Goleman’s writings filled with advice for leaders on using emotional intelligence to enhance their performance.