Are You A Solution?

In our work with individuals and teams, we’re often approached for help when someone is considering a job change or asking for a promotion. One of the first questions we ask in these conversations is, “How are you a solution for the team, department, or organization?”

When considering a career change or asking for a promotion, you’ll have the greatest success when you consider the fact that organizations look to hire or promote people when they have a pain point or a problem to solve. If the company was fine as is, they wouldn’t have the role available!

So, if you’re considering a next step in your career, ask yourself this same question.

How am I a solution for this team,
department, or organization?

The power of this question is that it forces you to get specific to answer it. It’s not, “How am I a solution for any job?”

You’re asking the question about this specific job, at this point in time, and in this organization. “Am I a solution to their pain points?”

This week spend some time thinking about what you’d be excited to do next in your career and consider how you are, or can become, the solution an organization seeks.

You’ll want to think about the skills and strengths you have that you’re passionate about using, and how your unique combination of those skills and strengths will help you stand out.

We are championing your success!

If you’d like support in thinking about how your
unique combination of skills and strengths
will help you stand out, contact us today.

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Accelerate Your Success

Stepping into a leadership role can be exciting while also intimidating! In our work with new leaders we’re often asked, “What’s the one thing I can do to accelerate my success?”

While there are many things that go into leadership success, there’s one thing that we believe is a game changer, and it often comes as a surprise because it’s seen as passive.

The one thing you can do
to accelerate your leadership success
is to listen deeply to others.

Often, when we say this to new leaders, they’re confused because they tend to think that their new role requires them to tell people what to do and then make sure they do it.

Of course, there are times when that’s exactly what a leader needs to do, but the most profoundly successful leaders have shaped how we here at Carpenter Smith Consulting have come to define leadership:

Leadership is the willingness to influence your world
 and the willingness to be influenced by your world,
regardless of your role or title.

So, yes, it’s important to learn how to influence your world and not just stand back with arms crossed waiting for someone to fix things. You’ll have greater impact as a new leader if you demonstrate that you’re willing to be influenced by those around you. And that all starts with deep listening.

Deep listening means working to understand the perspective of the other person so that you understand their experience to the best of your ability.

Listening and being influenced by the thinking of others is not about giving up your power, it’s about understanding that leadership—at its core—is about aligning people behind a shared vision to move forward toward success.

People who believe you respect and value
their experience and perspective 

will be more apt to work with you to create success.

As a new leader, spend time with your team, your colleagues, and your managers asking them about:

    • their vision for success
    • the obstacles that stand in the way of success
    • their current thinking about how they can get around those obstacles to live closer to their vision

    This will give you an incredible amount of information about what you need to do to create success and to influence them in the process.

    This week, whether you’re a new leader or a seasoned one, notice if you’re leaning too heavily on the influence side of the equation. Consider who you need to listen deeply to and who you need to be influenced by to move the departmental or organizational agenda forward.

    Whether you’re a new manager, a seasoned leader,
    or the owner of your own company, if you’d like support
    to accelerate your success, contact us today
    about our executive coaching.

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Honoring Their Nature

Many of you reported that sharing our puppy-training experiences helped you to more deeply understand how complex and nuanced it is to lead and manage people, and that simplifying it by thinking about puppies helped you in your leadership.

This week, we’re talking about working with
natural behaviors to achieve stellar results.

Again, it’s easier to think about this with dogs because their breeds are so obvious; yet, we humans are as different from one another as dogs of different breeds. As people, it can be hard to remember that our unique inherent natures make us quite diverse.

As you may recall, our model for this series is a young Havanese, a breed that originated in Havana, Cuba, and was bred for sitting on laps and looking cute. They do that well.

At 12–15 pounds, Havanese love their people and are happy to sit and snuggle. Compare that with a Border Collie that typically weighs 31–42 pounds and was bred to control and gather sheep in the UK. If you have a small apartment and a consuming job, you might do better to have a Havanese that will sit easily with you in the evenings, rather than a Border Collie, a working dog, who will be agitated and restless because he or she hasn’t run and worked all day.

Both breeds can be taught to sit with you in the evening while you work, but it will definitely be easier for the Havanese than the Border Collie. The Border Collie, with its energy, stamina, and drive, will often seem to “get in trouble,” even though it’s only doing what is true to its nature—herding others and taking control.

Consider the nature of the individuals on your team
or in your office as you think about how
to help them develop their skills.

When you have a job that calls for attention to detail, consider who has a natural affinity to detail. When you have a job that requires a lot of emotional intelligence, consider someone who does this naturally.

Of course, there will be times when you need to help someone develop a skill that isn’t exactly inherent in their nature. Just remember that they’ll need more practice to develop their skill and, from time to time, they may need to return to basics to get back on track.

You will always be most successful as a leader and manager when you trust that each individual is different. These differences can be the key to success if you take the time to understand them, work with them, and reward them.

We humans are complex with diverse behaviors and abilities.

If you’d like support to create greater team success by working with and honoring your employees’ natural behaviors, let us know.

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Determining Shared Success

Welcome to the second-to-last week in our series, What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing. This week we’re talking about the importance of determining what success looks like and then building toward it.

Moving a puppy toward success is a process using small steps. Consider trying to get a puppy to use a pee pad or waiting to go outside to go.

When dogs are young there are a lot of challenges. They’re physically immature and they don’t really know the cues when they need to go. They live in the moment, so really have to pee when the need arises and don’t have time to make it to the appropriate spot—and they don’t really know that they shouldn’t use a rug or floor as a bathroom.

To begin the process, you need to know what you want as a family. In this case, you want the puppy to go to the back door, bark when it needs to pee, and then do so in the backyard.

Next, identify the small steps that will get you to that behavior. These small steps establish what success looks like for the puppy and moves her toward the desired behavior. But more importantly, all members of the family are working toward this same behavior.

Everyone is on board with the desired outcome of the pup going out the back door to pee in the yard, and begins to help the puppy move in that direction.

Only when you know what success looks like
can you effectively work toward it.

As we write this, we’ve just come from a meeting with an executive team that’s in turmoil. We were asked to help them navigate their challenges and help them get aligned behind a shared vision.

To start that meeting, we asked the 7 team members to spend a few minutes individually writing their answers to the question, “What does success look like on this issue?”

When they were done writing, we had each individual walk to the front of the room and post their answers. The results were stunning in that there was almost no overlap across the team about what success looked like.

Each individual stated their definition of success with clarity and conviction, so there was no shortage of ideas—just no clear way to define what shared success looked like as a team.

Each member of the team was heading in the direction they thought was right, but it wasn’t a shared vision, so they weren’t getting anywhere constructive. It would be like one member of the family taking the puppy out the front door to pee while the other is focusing on getting her out the back door. The poor puppy has no idea where she should pee!

This week, consider the things that you, your team, your department, or your organization are working on and ask yourself, “Do we really have a clear, shared definition of what success looks like?” If not, you’re probably finding it challenging to make headway toward those goals.

Finding the shared vision that can be supported by the whole team is critical to successful behaviors.

If you’re struggling to define the shared vision let us knowWe would be delighted to help you move toward success.

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Recognizing the Good in the Bad

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the similarities between puppy training and leading a team. If you haven’t had a chance to read those previous posts, you can access them here:

There are many levels and nuances to good behaviors and problem behaviors, so we’re going to take a look at these a little closer today.

When a puppy is doing something bad, it usually results in a negative outcome. For example: when a puppy chews on a blanket, the blanket will wind up with a hole and the puppy will wind up with a tummy ache. Most people would agree this is a bad result.

As we’ve mentioned, good and problem behaviors are a little more nuanced with humans.

It’s challenging and messy (and possible!),
to get positive results even when the behavior is “bad”.

Let us explain. We worked with a client who had a high-performing staff member named Julie. Julie’s behavior was often easygoing and collaborative, but when met with a deadline she kicked into high stress, anxiety, and was resistant to input.

Julie’s boss came to us and said that despite offering her guidance to “not take it so seriously,” she seemed to get more anxious and impatient.

We all have different ways of working, and this woman’s method was to put all of the pressure on herself to accomplish tasks perfectly. When approached by her boss with suggestions and solutions, the situation escalated instead of becoming less stressful.

In this scenario, the output of the work isn’t being called into question—no chewed-up blanket. In fact, the finished work is quite good. What we’re looking at is the negative behaviors that kick in while she’s doing good work.

One option is to ignore bad behaviors when she’s on a deadline trusting that she’ll sort out her level of anxiety on her own—she gets to be anxious and stressed as long she’s getting the job done well and she isn’t sucking others into her stress.

If the quality of her work declines or if she’s keeping others from being successful because she’s imposing her stress onto them, you’ll need to intervene.

Another option is to praise her during those moments of relative minimum stress so that she starts to notice when she’s less stressed. Saying something like, “I admire your devotion to the project. You seem to have a little headspace at the moment, so let’s connect and see how I can support you.”

She may not recognize when her stress levels are on the rise. People can often disconnect themselves from intense feelings and, as a result, they may not be fully aware of their impact on others.

One of the hardest parts of managing others is to know when to intervene and when to let people work things out on their own.

Humans tend to provide feedback around negative behaviors when, in fact, providing feedback around positive behaviors is far more productive in the long run.

We humans are complex and messy! And there are, of course, many more nuances. If you’re finding that you’d like some support in developing your team, let us know.

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Keep Noticing Good Behaviors

These past three weeks, we’ve been sharing a series called What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing. We began the first week with an overview. The second week we discussed Rewarding the Right Behaviors, and last week we discussed Ignoring Problem Behaviors.

This week, we’ll focus on another powerful learning that leaders and managers can take from puppy training—growing in your ability to notice the behaviors you want to reward.

When you first get a puppy, it’s easy to be very attentive since you’re working hard to enjoy them while managing biting, wetting and soiling the house, chewing on your furniture, shoes, and rugs. It’s pretty clear what behaviors you want to reward and those you want to ignore during those first weeks.

As time goes on, you start to relax your vigilance and let yourself get involved with the various demands of your life. It’s at this point that some of the more destructive behaviors happen—not because the puppy has changed but because you’ve relaxed and have turned your attention to other things.

Similarly, when you’re working with an employee on a specific behavior, you’re at first very vigilant and clear about what you’re trying to reward and ignore; but over time, you go back to your work and forget to keep tabs on their new behavior.

When you want someone to change a behavior you need to continue to give them information about their success, otherwise they’ll revert back to old patterns.

Habits are tough to break,
even when we decide we want to break them.

So, if you find that an employee was at first doing quite well with a behavior change and then things went south after several weeks, start paying attention once again. Acknowledge the individual when they’re doing the behavior you want.

Rewarding the right behavior means looking for it,
and not just looking for what’s wrong.

As we’ve said in earlier posts, our brains are hardwired to see what’s wrong; that’s just biology. Therefore, teaching yourself to keep your eyes open for what’s working—noticing behaviors that lead to success—takes discipline and patience.

This week, revisit the behavior changes you established a couple of weeks ago and check back in.

    • Has the change continued?
    • Could you offer more acknowledgment to keep the change on track?

Don’t be stingy with your praise. When someone is doing something well, go all out and share your enthusiasm for their success!

We know that all of this is much more nuanced
in real life, so if you’d like support in
creating greater success in your team,
contact us today.

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Ignoring Problem Behaviors

The past two weeks, we’ve been sharing a series called What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managingand last week we talked about Rewarding the Right Behaviors.

This week, we’re talking about another powerful learning that leaders and managers can take from puppy training—ignoring challenging behaviors unless they’re creating other problems.

What we’ve discovered about this ignoring thing is that it’s much, much harder than one would expect. We’ve all become quite adept at noticing what’s wrong and reacting to it either verbally or nonverbally—neither of which is ignoring it.

Let’s look at a common dynamic people get into with their new puppy, and while doing exactly what they believe will be effective, they instead are rewarding problem behavior.

When learning to walk on a leash, a puppy will commonly pull on their leash to run ahead or go in a different direction. Most of us instantly pull back to “gain control;” so the puppy—who believes you are playing—gets engaged by the pulling and pulls harder because it feels a bit like tug. And, puppies love tug.

Most of us will do this over and over and, without intending to, we’ve now taught them that when they pull on their leash, we are playing tug and, therefore, they should pull harder.

So, what do you do? 

The only way to communicate how to walk on a leash with a puppy is to reward the right behavior and ignore the problem behavior which, in this case, means that when they pull, you stand still and do nothing. The puppy gets to walk when the leash is somewhat loose.

Now this is really hard to do because, at first, every time they pull, you need to stop, stand motionless (they get nothing for pulling) until they move in a way that puts some slack in the leash. For us humans, this is both frustrating and boring. It will take a bit of time (and you may have to repeat it from time to time when they forget); yet, once they learn that with the right behavior they get to move forward, you will have a dog who walks easily on a leash.

The same thing happens with people you’re leading and managing.

So, using our example from last week of the new employee who is so excited about his role and often interrupts when others are speaking, we’d recommend you ignore that behavior. Look down, write a note to yourself, continue on with whatever you were saying. Ignore it.

At the same time, use the tool we described last week and watch for those times he does the “right” behavior—he’s respectful to colleagues when they’re speaking, actively listens, and waits until they have finished to give his thoughts. When that happens, you say warmly, “Thanks for waiting until they finished speaking. I know you’re excited to share your point of view!” And then continue on with the conversation.

Ignoring means not getting mad,
making a face, or rolling your eyes.

Ignoring interruptions, like ignoring the puppy, is focused on not engaging around the problem behavior but only around steps to the successful behavior.

New behaviors are adopted when they’re recognized and rewarded. Punishment and criticism will lead to compliance which is different then true growth. And, if he was doing something truly egregious, you would certainly need to intervene in the moment and you would expect a change to occur.

This week, explore ignoring an irritating but not destructive behavior while watching for a positive behavior that you would like to see expand in its place, and rewarding that.

We know that all of this is much more nuanced
in real life, so if you’d like support in
creating greater success in your team,
contact us today.

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Rewarding the Right Behaviors

Last week we started a series on What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and ManagingThis week we’re doing a deeper dive on rewarding the right behaviors.

If you’re like most people, you may think, “Rewarding the right behaviors – duh, of course!”

Unfortunately, rewarding the right behaviors in puppies and in people is trickier than you think. It begins with defining what, exactly, are the “right” behaviors.

Let’s look at a couple of examples to help demonstrate what makes this so hard:

Imagine coming home after work to a puppy that’s delighted to see you—jumping, wagging, and wild. You haven’t had someone this excited to see you all day!

It’s so tempting to rush in and pet her, talk to her, and get pretty energized and excited yourself. What’s better than having a puppy thrilled to see you! Right? Well . . .

Sadly, while it’s thrilling to be so loved, you’re teaching the puppy that this is how they should treat people who come in the door. Yet, if the person coming in the door is a small child, someone who is terrified of dogs, or an elder, this is not at all what you want her to do.

The “right” behavior for greeting people is for the puppy to sit and wait for them to greet her as they feel comfortable and safe. Catching puppies doing the “right” thing means defining, looking for, and shaping the behaviors that will make them a dog who is respectful and a pet who they love to get close to.

Same is true of people.

Take, for example, the new employee who is so excited about his role that he interrupts when others are speaking and consistently gets the team off track and down rabbit holes. He’s clearly trying to pitch in wherever he can. While his intentions are good, his lack of awareness about what is going on and how to contribute in ways that are helpful is hurting the team’s productivity.

Defining powerful, impactful behavior
and recognizing / rewarding it,
will help you accelerate success
in your team, department, and organization.  

With puppies we can use a clicker and a treat, but with people it’s our words, recognition, and our warmth that are powerful rewards.

This week:

  • Identify someone you respect and value who you’d like to see develop a new skill or approach to something.
  • Get very clear in your mind about what that new approach will look like behaviorally.
  • Begin to observe this person more frequently, looking for times when they either do the behavior or take actions that could lead them to that behavior.
  • When you see it, say something that acknowledges them. You could say, “nicely done” or “impressive” or “that’s an approach we need more of”, then smile and walk away. Don’t add a lot of verbiage or add a “but, next time”—just recognize the “right” behavior with your words and warmth.
  • Do this several more times over the next few days or week.
  • See if you notice an increase in that behavior.

Remember, people don’t know what you want or expect from them unless you’re clear and provide a consistent message that they nailed it.

We recently met with a team who said to us, “We never know if what we’re doing is what our leader wants or doesn’t want, so we’ve given up trying.” Don’t let that be you!

If you’d like support in rewarding
the right behaviors with your team,
contact us today.

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What Puppy Training Can Teach You About Leading and Managing

Over the next few weeks we’re going to share our experience with training our puppy, Liesl. You see, puppy training—much like the understanding of leading and managing—has really changed over the past 10 – 15 years.

The current ideology around puppy training is built on positive psychology and the understanding that recognition and reward are stronger motivators than fear and criticism. This same knowledge is emerging in the leadership and manager literature.

Increasingly, the data suggests that people and puppies learn much more quickly when they know what you’re asking from them and are recognized when they do it. And, while that all sounds quite simple, we can assure you, it’s not. Not with puppies nor with people.

It requires:

  • Rewarding the right behaviors
  • Ignoring most of the others
  • Paying close enough attention to spot the right behaviors
  • Recognizing the natural differences between breed/people
  • Determining what success looks like and building toward it
  • Doing it over and over again, particularly with those behaviors that are not natural

Over the next six weeks we’ll be talking about each of these areas as they relate to puppy training and as they relate to leadership and management.

As humans, our brains are both quite different from
puppy brains and not so very different from puppy brains.

Like a puppy being distracted by a squirrel, most of us have had the experience of being very focused on a project that’s important to us and to our work and being totally derailed by the appearance of a pizza in the workplace. Or maybe that’s just us?

We’re excited to share this experience with you and to hear your thoughts.

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Your Why: The 5 Whys

Two weeks ago, in our post Why? we shared our answer to a recent question, “Why do you do what you do as consultants and coaches?” Then we asked you to consider your why.

Many people responded to that post asking for guidance on figuring out their why. So last week we offered you a series of questions to support you in Your Why: Survey Your World. This week we want to give you an additional option that you can use to explore your why.

The 5 Whys

A great way to get clear about your why is to use this simple, yet effective, “5 Whys Exercise”:

  • Start with a question to yourself like “Why have I created this life for myself?
    • Example: You might say something like “I’ve always wanted a blend of work and family.”
  • Then ask yourself the second why in response to your answer.
    • Example: “Why? Well, I believe that without both work and family I won’t be truly happy.”
  • Then ask yourself the third why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? There have been times in my life when I’ve had one or the other and it doesn’t bring me the richness that work AND family bring me.”
  • Then ask yourself the fourth why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? It really matters to me to contribute my skills and make a difference with a team, and to spend time with people who I love deeply and am creating a life with.”
  • Then ask yourself the fifth why in response to that answer.
    • Example: “Why? Hmmm, my why is to build deep, long-term relationships with family and friends, and to work in a setting where I can see how I contribute to the success of the department.”

As you can see, it really is a simple exercise but one with powerful results.

This week, play with the 5 Whys and let us know what you discover!

Naming and embracing your why can be helpful
in knowing what career path you’d like to take.
Let us know if you’d like our support.

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