Best Beach Reading List for Women in Leadership

woman-reading-at-beach

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to read more. For good reasons. It’s a fact: People who read books live longer. And truthfully, as I have said before, leadership development is a demanding field–one that requires staying abreast of new perspectives and learning from authors beyond our own particular industries.

Now that summer is here; I’m happy to say that I am enjoying my resolution and am eager to share some new book titles with you. So, as you throw your bathing suit and sunblock into that beach or pool carryall, consider adding one of the books I’ve suggested below, whether it’s to help uplevel your leadership abilities over the summer or to offset that summer blockbuster page-turner you just tucked in your bag.

1. Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Let’s start with this one: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart by Shane Snow. Managing high-performance teams is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I speak about in keynotes across the country. “Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.” Snow does an excellent job of walking the reader through the elements that cause a team to be high-performing instead of just a group of people who work together.

I appreciated Snow’s storytelling, which made the book an enjoyable read, and his insights based on history, business, neuroscience, and psychology. It’s a fabulous book, and I believe you’ll enjoy it.

2. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

Next up is Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura. In this Business Insider Best Book, Ventura describes the power of empathy, and how that quality may be what your company needs to connect, innovate, and grow. Ventura is an entrepreneur and the CEO of the award-winning strategy and design firm Sub Rosa. He has worked with brands like Google, Warby Parker, Nike, and General Electric, and organizations including the United Nations and the Obama administration.

In a world where we face the reality of digitalization and our increasing reliance on technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the need for soft skills like empathy is vital. Bear in mind that the people who program this technology upon which we depend come to the work with their biases–and those can easily be incorporated in the development and coding processes. One of the key skills for those of us in leadership is and will continue to be, emotional competence; the ability to empathize with, motivate, and engage our teams.

Applied Empathy provides the reader with a framework for building diverse teams that can be successful in our new global marketplace.

3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

Let’s change it up a bit with this next recommendation. Most of us run from one day to the next, frantically juggling the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam describes seven principles that time-free people have adopted. “Time-free?” you exclaim. Who would describe themselves as time-free in today’s hectic world? It turns out, plenty of people do because they embrace the seven almost counterintuitive principles outlined in Vanderkam’s book. Her book includes descriptions of “mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed.”

This book is packed with helpful information and examples of how people using these principles are learning to apply new thinking to formerly chaotic schedules and lives. I found several invaluable pointers in the book that I plan to use in my own life, and I suspect you may as well. Give it a read. I recommend it highly.

4. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is a book I often recommend to my coaching clients. Cuddy, who gave the second most popular TED Talk ever, writes about the differences between authentic and inauthentic behavior, and between social power and personal power.

At this point, your instinctive response may be like this one: “I don’t read self-help books,” writes Laura McNeal in a Goodreads review. “Metaphorically I’m a 17-year-old hearing that it would be better to start my homework on Saturday instead of Sunday night at eight. My inner voice screams, ‘I KNOOOOOOOOW.’ ” If so, read on: “I was in deep danger of switching from the Bold Self initiative to my default setting, which is Holden Caulfield at the end of his madman weekend in New York. And yet I kept reading, and it got to a point where I was curled up on the sofa with a highlighter in my hand….” McNeal gave the book four out of five stars in her review.

Cuddy describes the differences between powerless poses and powerful poses and recommends adopting confident power poses and body language until the reader can become her authentic best self.” As a social psychologist, Cuddy bases her work on her research and is considered a leader among ” ‘next generation’ authors and academics who are pioneering evidence-based approaches,” according to a review by Bridgette Beyers.

Try this one and then let me know how you enjoyed it, and whether you found it as helpful and inspiring as I have.

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Finally, I give you Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is Huffington’s account of how she manages the challenges of her career and raising her two daughters. It is an intensely personal book, one that begins by describing her “a-ha! moments” after her physical collapse upon falling and injuring herself due to exhaustion. Huffington points out the reality too many people discover the hard way: The dogged pursuit of money and power leads to stress and burnout and a lessening in the quality of our lives and our careers. Thrive provides the groundwork and a blueprint for revolutionizing the way we think, work, and live. I thought it was a fantastic book and I believe you will too.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

5 Ways Leaders Can Raise Their Emotional Intelligence (EI)

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If I asked you what qualities a great leader possesses, chances are you’d probably mention traits like intelligence, vision, and determination. But what about emotional intelligence (EI?) Research shows that softer qualities often identified as being part of one’s emotional intelligence, like being sensitive to others’ feelings and listening well are just as, if not more so, important. 

Theodore Roosevelt put it well when he said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Being able to care and tune in to other’s emotions as well as your own is defined as “Emotional Intelligence.” Having high emotional intelligence is key to being successful in life, including in the workplace, as it helps you relate to others. Consider the research of psychologist David Goleman at nearly 200 large, global companies in which he found that truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence. Other studies show a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, and performance.

How leaders can cultivate emotional intelligence 

1. Practice mindfulness. Meditate, do yoga, practice deep breathing. Do whatever you can to help open your heart, settle your mind, and relax. Research shows that the more you’re open to those that you lead, the more engaged they’ll be on projects and the more committed they’ll be to you. I actually do a yoga pose before some of my workshops that involves placing a yoga block in the center of my back and allowing my shoulders to fall back on either side. This helps me physically and mentally open my heart to those I’m working with for better engagement.

2. Be self-aware. Practicing mindfulness is the first step to being self-aware, that is, aware of your own emotions, what causes them, and how you react to them. Being self-aware allows you to know how you manage stress and pressure which is crucial when leading others. Without being tuned into your emotions, you may project stress or anger onto your team, confusing and disillusioning them. Leaders with self-awareness can develop skills that will help them manage their own emotions and respond effectively to situations that come up.

3. Be aware of others. The more self-awareness leaders have, the more they’ll be mindful of others’ emotions.  Emotionally intelligent leaders anticipate how people will react to certain situations and are proactive in responding. Before doing something, they think about how their actions might impact others. Then they help them deal with the effects.

4. Practice empathy. You can do this in a tactical way. Practice systemic listening. By this, I mean, when you’re talking with someone, summarize what you think you have heard. Ask probing open-ended questions, so they feel free to say whatever is on their mind. Also, let them know that you understand how they feel. When you listen in this way, you don’t just hear the information, you are engaging with it, experiencing it and it will help you relate better to those around you.

5. Be vulnerable. In that vein, be ready to share similar experiences. Explain what you went through before you got into this position and what you have learned. Vulnerabilities can promote connections and strengthen relationships. Think about some of the most durable bonds you have; I bet a lot of them are with people who know and share your vulnerabilities.

There are many ways to assess your emotional intelligence and get your baseline. Try this online quiz as a first step. By taking an assessment, you can find out your weaknesses and learn strategies to improve those areas. Doing this and practicing the tips above will no doubt help you be a better leader—and person.

A version of this post was first published on Lead Change Group.

Image: 123rf.com

3 Steps to Globalizing Leadership Development Programs

In January I wrote an article for Training Industry that addressed the importance of globalizing your leadership development programs. If you’re doing business in a global environment, you probably already know what is needed: Leaders with a global mindset who can lead international teams, conduct business across time zones and borders, think creatively, communicate cross-culturally, and leverage new technology.

These aren’t skills many of us learn naturally in the American workplace. More often, we develop them through trial and error, expatriate assignments, or customized training curricula. Moreover, research shows that many leadership development programs don’t prepare leaders with the skills they need to excel in a global environment—which is a puzzle, considering that increasing productivity and entering new markets top most companies’ wish lists.

Having said all of that, I’d like to share three essential steps that will help you globalize your organization’s leadership development program. Click here to read my article, 3 Steps to Globalizing Leadership Development Programs.

Need more information? Contact me.

3 Simple Skills Every Spectacular Leader Masters

three simple skills leadership

Even though being a leader today is complicatedthere are just three simple skills you need to master. Leadership today is complex, in part because our teams are global and virtual. Our hierarchies are flatter. Our environments are more collaborative.

And, there are so many different models of leadership to consider. Should you be compassionate? Should you be a serving leader? What’s the difference between the two?

It can be overwhelming to think about all the different ways one can lead and how to pick the best fit.

But there are three simple skills that all spectacular leaders demonstrate and you can too.

Be observant.

All fantastic leaders are able to assess the different ways their employees work and thrive. They look at their teams’ personalities, cultural backgrounds, even gender, to identify what approach will be most effective in engaging, motivating and bringing out the best in an employee.

For example, in the case of differing cultural backgrounds, if a team member is from Mexico or Japan where there’s commonly a distinct hierarchy, then a leader should know that he or she might need to ask this person if they need support or have issues. This is because in these cultures it’s often seen as disrespectful to bring up problems to a superior.

Alternatively, if a person is from a country like the U.S. or France, they’re most likely used to working in a flatter organizational structure and are accustomed to having autonomy in their work.

Create a feedback loop.

Leaders often cite giving feedback, especially the negative kind, as one of the toughest parts of their jobs. They don’t want to make their teams feel uncomfortable, hurt feelings, or impair relationships.

The way around this is to create a culture of feedback where the team views the practice as a positive for both the individual and the organization rather than something to be feared. Give both constructive and positive commentary on a regular basis.

But keep two things in mind–first, make sure you’re clear in your intention. Tell the recipient the purpose of your comments, whether it is to grow, improve their image, or protect them. Second, don’t talk about hearsay or feelings. Stick to observable facts.

Be an empowering coach.

Be a coach who empowers the team to better themselves. Ask questions, listen, and help your staff re-frame their answers so they can come up with solutions.

I like the GROW (Goals, Reality, Options, and Will) coaching model because it helps someone refine their goal, define their current situation, discover the different options of what to try, and then commit to a particular action. The coachee owns the answers and therefore is more engaged and committed to the outcome.

This strategy works especially well in flatter hierarchies and collaborative environments. The best coaching is used to empower and serve team members. It allows them to find answers themselves that might even be better than what you would have directed them to do.

While these three simple skills are seemingly basic, there are many different approaches and methods along with various workshops and programs.

But what it comes down to is the ability to be observant, listen, and have those effective and critical conversations in feedback and coaching. If you master these three simple skills, you’ll have a strong connection with your team and see them be more productive and successful. And, if you need working with your team, or developing your own leadership skills, contact me.

 A version of this post was first published on Inc.
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