Thursday, July 31, 2008

Locus of Control: Self-Management across the Continuum

Based on Julian Rotter's work in the late 1950's, Locus of Control is about peoples' perceptions about why they do the things they do and, by extension, why things are the way they are - at work, and in life:

  • The more we believe that our behavior is guided by fate, luck, or other external circumstances, the more of an external Locus of Control it can be said we have.
  • Conversely, the more we believe that our behavior is guided by our personal decisions and efforts, the more of an internal Locus of Control we can say we have.

(Did you notice how I used "it" when defining external, and "we" when defining internal?! Sometimes, the basis of one's Locus of Control can be that subtle.)

Now typically, coaches don't spend a lot of time on the "Why?" question - let alone findings that come from observing therapy patients, as did Rotter's. But Locus of Control is an important concept to understand if we want to truly maximize our potential.

What's important to realize, and as the chart indicates below, is that one's Locus of Control is not fixed or unmovable; actually, it's more of a point on a line - a point that routinely shifts, quite radically at times, depending on issue and circumstance.

Locus of Control continuumSo rarely does someone always embrace an external Locus or Control. Rarely does someone always embrace an internal Locus of Control, either.

And therein lies the power of the notion, because: If your Locus of Control can shift without you realizing it, it can also be made to shift because you realize it.

  • Feeling that everyone (and everything) is working against you? Shifting to more of an internal Locus of Control will help you be a bit more assertive and/or realize it's time to take a more decisive action to move things meaningfully forward.
  • Blaming yourself when things go wrong - even when they're not your fault? Shifting to more of an external Locus of Control will help you accept that certain circumstances (and failings) really are out of your control and it's really okay to give yourself a break every now-and-again.
  • Struggling in a personal relationship that's not working no matter what you do? Shifting to more of an external Locus of Control will help you request that the other person step-it-up a notch or two, as well, and not just leave it all for you to do.
  • Sensing you're not in a good mood much of the time? Shifting to more of an internal Locus of Control will help you accept responsibility for the state of your mood and do something enjoyable to chipper yourself up a bit.

Locus of Control is no panacea - it's more just a way to explain the "why?" behind the "what?". But it's also a great way to help become more conscious and purposeful of what you do, say, and believe - all keys to effective self-management ... and success.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Low-Cost Employee Motivation

Some things stand the test of time. One example is a December 2006 article called, 20 Low-Cost Employee Perks, from Entrepreneur.com. Here's some of what it says [and some comments from me]:
  • Family days. For those times when the kids have a half day of school or a snow day, family days allow employees to take a day off without having to use up vacation or sick days. [Don't forget that life outside of the job - theirs, or yours!]
  • Computer discounts. Buying in bulk typically allows a business to get good prices on computers and peripherals. [And how about extending the savings to employee' friends and families so they can benefit, too?]
  • Movie days. A group movie outing or free movie passes can be a pleasant perk. For the sake of variety, you might also consider an outing to see a community theater group. [I've given packs of movie passes to employees' spouses as a thanks for, and in recognition of, them letting their significant others work all those extra hours.]
  • Free car washes. The latest in "express exterior" car washes costs around $5 per wash, meaning for $100, you could give 20 employees a shiny car every few months.
  • Continental breakfasts. They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch, so serve a free breakfast once or twice a week. Bagels, muffins, coffee and similar fare make for a nice way to start the day. [Discount coupons at the local coffee shop is a nice touch, too.]

What are some of the things you do to treat your employees right?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Air Cover: Getting Support from the Big Boss

Scenario: You need to do something that you just know a coworker, Mary, is not going to like. She'll dislike it so much, she'll likely go over your head to to complain about it.

So how can you increase the probability that you'll get the 'air cover' and support you need from the Big Boss?

By bringing your boss up-to-speed before you roll out your plan so s/he can comfortably say, "Yes, I know of, and approved, the approach taken."
Can't get your boss to approve your plan exactly as is? Then just tweak it a bit so that you can.

Then, play it out: Tell Mary. Let her complain to your boss's boss. (You can't stop her, anyway.) Watch as your boss's boss asks your boss, "What's this all about?" Then, see how:
  • If your boss can speak intelligently about your plan, you'll likely be supported by the Big Boss; and
  • If your boss cannot speak intelligently about your plan, you'll likely get overruled.
It's not just about how good your idea is; it's about how well your boss supports it when it's ultimately challenged.

End of story. Try it yourself and see.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Measuring Executive Presence

How you measure your Executive Presence - by achievement, or by attendance?!

Sure, go ahead and laugh, but a lot of executives believe, to their (and their staff's) detriment, that "face" time is the answer. Playing the "visibility game" like that may give the illusion of working - and may sometimes even seem to work -, but:

True Executive Presence is not measured in minutes, but by one's impact.
That's not to say that visibility is irrelevant - being "seen" is a form of impact. But it's what you do when you're seen that matters more. Indeed, there are many ways that executives can have a significant impact:

  • some excel at thinking strategically
  • some excel at understanding the needs and wants of key stakeholders (customers, business partners, staff, bosses, competition, etc.)
  • some excel at conflict resolution and/or having difficult conversations
  • some excel at articulating the likely unintended consequences of a proposed action
  • some excel at creating contingency plans and fall-back processes
  • some excel with start-up opportunities
  • some excel at turnaround situations
  • some excel at being a great sounding-board to other executives
While this is surely not a comprehensive list, notice that "working hard" is nowhere to be found on it. That's not to say that working hard is not important. It's just to say, though, that as with being "seen", working hard is typically not enough. While they both may enable Executive Presence, Executive Presence is more about what results from your work, not just how much effort you put into it - or who happens to see you when.

Something else to consider the next time you're just showing up to be seen:
Idle minutes of visibility tend to decrease one's visibility and diminish one's credibility.
Why might I say that, I wonder?

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Friday, July 11, 2008

What do you know about your Energy Levels?

Had an interesting conversation with a former client yesterday – we got to talking about energy levels vis-à-vis time-o-day.

“I’m a morning guy," he said, "so I like to work out in the evening.”

Counter-intuitive thinking like that fascinates me. Turns out that although he likes to "hit it hard" at the gym, working out is relaxing for him - something he'll do anyway. So, he prefers to focus his high energy periods on work, rather than working out.

Now I consider myself pretty self-aware on a lot of levels, but I have to admit that I have only a very basic sense of how my energy level relates to time-o-day. For me, it seems to be more a function of what I’m doing, or planning to do, rather than when I'm doing it: If it’s "important" work, or fun, my energy tends to run high; if there’s not much on my plate, not much energy.

How about you? What do you know about how your energy operates?

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Deciphering Priorities

It goes by a variety of last names, but its first name is always the same:
  • "Another" Number One Priority
  • "Another" hot-hot one
  • "Another" just get 'er done
  • "Another" by-end-of-day deliverable
  • "Another" rush request
  • "Another" gotta do to-do
  • "Another" can't-wait task
  • "Another" small thing
  • "Another" request from on-high
  • "Another" oh, just one more thing before you go

Whatever name you know it by, your boss just gave you "Another" one - and you're fit to be tied. Oh well, that's life!

Oh, sure, you can just refuse it, but that's not a great strategy this time of year - especially it you haven't had your mid-year performance review yet.

So what to do? I like to ask two key questions:

Key Question #1: Do you want this done before, or after, that?

Most people know to ask the "What's the Priority?" question, but the problem with that is that it's really hard to say those words without sounding particularly defensive - or dismissive. Plus, when asked, its typical response is an equally dismissive and defensive, "They're both important."

But, by asking your boss if s/he wants this done "before, or after that", you're not challenging his/her right to move work through the system. You're not questioning his/her ability to push back on his/her boss. And you're not allowing it to be inferred hat you're so bad at time management that virtually anything out of the blue would likely send you into a tizzy, and undermine your credibility as a value-added contributor to the cause even more.

No, by asking your boss if s/he wants this done "before, or after that", you're showing you understand that some Number One Priorities, some hot-hot ones ... some get 'er dones ... etc., need to get done before others even if they weren't assigned to you in that same order. Too, it allows the boss the opportunity to consider which s/he would like completed first, which is a very helpful - for the both of you - to know.

Key Question #2: What's the minimum you need to make this work for you?

Here's how it works: There's what the boss wants ideally; there's what the boss can realistically work with; what would be minimally acceptable; and what falls short. Your goal in such situations, is to provide what's minimally acceptable ... and maybe a bit more, but only if it's easier to just include more, not because you have to include more.

Think it through: You're busy, overloaded, slammed ... whatever. Now is not the time to luxuriate in your perfectionistic tendencies - it's time to just get 'er done.

So how will you know when done is done? By knowing what's the minimum that your boss needs to make it work for him or her and working to achieve that, ASAP.
Need a metaphor for these particular busy spells? Okay, assignments are like toll booths. Your job is to provide exactly what's required ... no more ... and certainly not a penny less.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Validate your Assumptions when Talking with your Boss

When your boss says something that doesn't make sense to you, do you: (a) think s/he's wrong; or (b) think there might be more to the story than you already know?

Many choose (a). But even if your boss isn't what one might call a mental giant, it's a far better strategy to choose (b). Why? Because (b) might very well be the truth and to simply assume away that possibility is what one might call a 'career limiting' activity.

So rather than basking in the certainty of your assumptions, try validating them - early, and often. If it turns out that your boss is wrong, so be it. But at least you'll know for sure.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

8-Year Anniversary for GottaGettaCoach!

fireworks courtesy of www.selmanc.infoJuly 4, 2008 - GottaGettaCoach! is celebrating its 8th anniversary today - thank you to all for your continued support!

And a special thank you to everyone who's ever worked with me, or referred me as an Executive Coach, Management Coach, Leadership Coach, Personal Life Coach, Career Coach, Small Business Coach, or New Coach Mentor, to someone else.

Word-of-mouth recommendations is a truly powerful way for a small business to flourish. (As is doing a blog!)

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