Envision Versus Division: Which Will You Choose?

In your organization, you have a choice. You can envision something bigger than yourself that others can rally together around. Or you can cut things down to size and try to divide, because you’re afraid of hoping for something bigger.

When you have a mindset to envision, you unite people around a common cause. You share in the responsibility and in the credit. You inspire others to “step up to the plate” and challenge themselves. You include people who bring different skills and experiences to the effort. You motivate everyone to achieve something great, and you focus them on what is truly important.

When we divide, we separate people into “us” and “them.” This restricts what we’re able to do, because “we” don’t want “them” to show “us” up. So, things become very political and begin to alienate people from the team and the organization’s goals. This can deflate any energy and determination our teammates had, which makes our whole organization weaker.

Envision-versus-divisionThink about whether you support a culture that ENVISIONS or one that is DIVISIVE.

Why is it so easy for us to lose sight of how counterproductive divisiveness can be in our work environment?



How to Deal with Your Insecurities

In my previous post, I outlined an approach for dealing with insecure leaders or coworkers. Of course, it’s hard to do this for someone else when your own insecurities are controlling you. So, maybe it’s better to start with our own “stuff.”

Our insecurities can hold us back at work and at home. When we feel threatened or uncertain, we can act out in ways that hurt ourselves and others we care about. We sabotage our own efforts and erode the trust of friends and colleagues. How can we manage our insecurities and avoid destructive behavior?

Some of the same steps I stated before can be helpful. Here’s a quick summary from last week’s article:

Dig Deeper

Know thyself. Understanding your personality through an index like the 9 Domains, the DISC Model or Myers Briggs Personality Types can help you know when you are operating in a stress behavior. (The Birkman Method is another more advanced / thorough tool for the workplace.)

Give Complements

Surround yourself with people who balance out weaknesses and strengths.

Follow Up

Check back on your progress. Without checks and balances, it is easy to fall back into old habits and veer off course.

What else can you do to deal with YOUR insecurities?

  1. Keep a Log
    Notice when you act out in unhealthy ways at work (e.g. avoiding responsibility, blaming others, becoming territorial, procrastinating, claiming someone else’s reward). Next time you do, write yourself a note. Describe what was happening and how you felt. Keep a log of these incidents and look for patterns. Do they occur around deadlines or when work is added to your plate? Maybe it happens when you are confused or when your requirements are not clear.  Some people may exhibit stress behavior when they feel alone, or when they feel others are ganging up against them. (Here’s a list of common causes of workplace stress)
  2. Get a Reality Check
    Once you’ve identified the source of your insecurity, you can ask yourself whether it fits with reality. Do you actually miss deadlines or just worry about it? Is there really no one who will help you with your full plate? Can you not ask for clarity on expectations?Ask a trusted friend or coworker for their perspective. You may be putting unneeded pressure or expectations on yourself. You may discover what you are worried about isn’t even happening. And if it is happening, it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. By worrying about missing a deadline, you start micromanaging and interrupt other people’s work. They can’t get their work done because of the interruptions and you end up missing your deadline.
  3. Be Patient
    Lifelong habits are hard to break. So don’t expect to “cure” yourself. You will likely fall back into your old routines. The trick is to be aware of yourself and to manage your reactions. Give yourself (and others) the grace to fail, and the courage to try again. This process takes time, but can be more fulfilling if you’re patient with yourself.

Do you know your tendencies? Are you doing anything to manage your insecurities? If you don’t take intentional action, you’re unlikely to improve your behavior and more likely to hamper your own success.

This is not exhaustive and you may have other thoughts or suggestions. Feel free to share your comments below.

How to Deal with an Insecure Leader

Insecure-LeaderYou probably get along with most people in your life. But it probably doesn’t take long to think of someone who challenges you in a negative way and makes your life difficult. These folks don’t just wake up and scheme about making you miserable. It’s more likely they are trying to do what they feel is right, but because of some insecurity they sometimes will exhibit unhealthy behavior – which can affect you.

We all deal with insecurity at different points in our lives and careers. It’s challenging enough to deal with our own “stuff,” but we’re often in an environment that requires us to deal with other people’s insecurities as well. Compound these internal and external factors and you can see why offices, homes and little league baseball can be a breeding ground for drama and conflict.

When reacting to stress or difficulties, your boss or colleague may start acting out from their insecurity. What are some signs of insecurity? 

  1. Pointing fingers at others’ mistakes (even insignificant errors)
  2. Whining and complaining
  3. Taking all the credit
  4. Drawing attention to their plight
  5. Withdrawing from any interaction
  6. Becoming indecisive
  7. Ramping up activity needlessly
  8. Being domineering and/or territorial
  9. Getting stuck or paralyzed

So, how do you deal with an insecure leader (or coworker)?


One way is to respond to their actions.

  1. Defend yourself against criticism
  2. Pacify their complaints
  3. Placate to their ego
  4. Rescue them from themselves
  5. Guard the door until they’re ready to face the world again
  6. Make decisions on their behalf
  7. Help them spin their plates
  8. Walk on eggshells
  9. Wait patiently for them to get unstuck

Dig Deeper

Another way to deal with insecure people is to deal with the insecurity itself. Ask why they are acting the way they are. Just be sure to do it in a way that conveys you want to help them, not criticize them. Encourage them to talk to someone (a mentor, a coach, a friend, clergy, etc.) who can give them guidance and peace of mind. Help them see that facing their insecurity is better than letting it control them.

Understanding the differing personalities and their ways of operating is definitely helpful. The lists above follow the 9 Domains, but a basic understanding of the DISC Model or Myers Briggs Personality Types can help you recognize when others are operating out of insecurity or responding to stressors.

Give Complements

These aren’t compliments like, “Nice shirt.” or “Have you lost weight?” I’m talking about finding people who complement each other with different strengths and weaknesses. John Maxwell calls this “Developing a Complementary Friend”.

If your trusted friend also complements your insecurities and helps make up for some of your weaknesses, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming this problem.

Encourage insecure people to collaborate with people who complement them. Point out how they can help one another because of their differing styles. This can help make their differences a positive instead of a negative.

Follow Up

As with most things, making a one-time course correction doesn’t mean you’ll stay on target.  If you have addressed someone’s unhealthy behavior, follow up with them to check on progress. Make observations. Ask a few open-ended questions of colleagues. And ask the insecure individual how they feel it’s going. If they know you are checking back and will hold them accountable, they will be more aware of when they start slipping back into reacting to their insecurities.

Working with others is hardly ever neat and tidy. It can be a messy ordeal, especially when dealing with insecure people. But dig a little deeper, complement strengths and weaknesses, and follow up on progress. By doing this, you may find your workplace can be (in general) a healthier and happier place.

The Power You Have to Control Reality

Perception is reality. More specifically, YOUR perception is YOUR reality.

Understanding this is critical to how you view circumstances and your life in general. We do not interact directly with reality. We filter everything through our senses. We take the empirical evidence we see, hear, taste, smell and feel; then extract meaning from it. We determine that meaning based on our understanding of how the world works. This means our reality is largely created by combining what we sense with what we already understand. So, we take a limited sample of facts, blend it with our narrow story to create our perception of reality. PerceptionThis individualized recipe for reality explains why we have so many conflicting opinions. Conservative vs. liberal, Apple vs. Android, Yankees vs. Red Sox. If you listen to the arguments without having a bias yourself, the opposing viewpoints can sound convincing. At the same time, they present alternative realities that seem to be unable to coexist. When we recognize our perception of reality is based on the intersection of facts we know and the story we tell, we better understand how different people can have world views that are polar opposites.

Perceptions of RealitySo, the story you tell yourself has incredible power over your reality. You may be cast in your story as the victorious hero, the underdog against huge odds, the lovable fool, the helpful sidekick, an unlucky loser who can’t get a break, or even the villain. This story colors reality differently and affects how you see the world around you. By controlling the story you tell yourself, you gain power to influence the reality you experience.

We are pattern recognition “machines.”

No one has all the facts. We build the puzzle of reality with a small fraction of the actual puzzle pieces. The rest of the picture we fill in using the incredible human capacity for pattern recognition. For example – when you visit a hotel, you may find the toilet tissue has been folded. With just that bit of information, you fill in the gaps and create a story telling you the maid has been in the hotel room and has cleaned it since the last guest’s stay.

Al Seckel’s Ted talk shows how this pattern recognition skill can lead to misinterpretations. If we can be so wrong about small things like a pattern in a vase or the size and shape of a table, then we could conceivably be wrong about significant things as well.

The two children figures above are the same size.

Our perception of our lives could be misinterpreted just as easily. You may mistakenly think the world is out to get you when it would be much more helpful to believe others are cheering for your success. You may believe everything will fall apart if you’re not in control, but delegating to others would help you be more effective. Maybe you think pacifying someone who disagrees with you is your best option, but you would do better to stick to your guns even if it rocks the boat.

“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend or not.”
—Isabel Allende 

“Carpenters bend wood; fletchers bend arrows; wise men fashion themselves.”

“Make your life itself a creative work of art.”
—Mike Ray, The Highest Goal

The above quotes are from Tom Peter’s ebook, Radical Personal Development.

So, what do you do now?

  1. Get other perspectives.
    Find trusted advisors in your life you can use as sounding boards. These should not be people who completely agree with your worldview. Be willing to hear and consider opinions that may be in complete opposition to your own. Look for solutions created in unrelated industries or markets. You may find innovative solutions that have been applied in other areas will help you with your application. By getting other perspectives, you can obtain a 3-dimensional view of reality instead of your 2-dimensional perception.
  2. Step back.
    Take time to get some space from the work at hand. Spend some moments meditating and/or praying about  your perception of things. Take a walk or visit an art gallery. Do something that engages your body, but leaves your mind idle. Your subconscious may tap into answers hidden in the corner of your mind. Open yourself up to alternate possibilities and see if you receive any new insight.
  3. Craft the story you want your life to tell.
    Are you happy with the story your telling? If not, what do you want your story to be? Wrestle with this question and build an epic story worthy of your life’s work… because that’s exactly what it is. Your life’s work. In the end, if your story were a movie, you shouldn’t be left wanting a refund on your ticket.

By considering your perspective and adjusting your story, you may find that you have more power over reality than you realized. You can’t change facts so that you’re 5 inches taller or so your distant and rich uncle leaves you a million dollars tomorrow. But you can see yourself in a new way and realize that opportunities exist in every moment. At least, that’s the story I’m telling myself right now.

Why Your Hard Work Didn’t Pay Off

Dead LeavesYou redesigned your website… and your logo.

You wore all the right clothes, the client even complimented your taste.

You built a beautiful presentation. The pie chart on slide 17 was a work of art.

You used all the right buzzwords. The near-term impact of aligning communications at that level of granularity will offset any sunk cost incurred during the front end loading phase of the process.

You gave a truly inspiring speech to your employees. It was a stroke of genius to incorporate The Fault in Our Stars into your ending. Major Kleenex factor.

You marked off every box on your task list today.  √ OCD tendencies satisfied.

You journaled your thoughts for the day. Now your insecurities are documented.

So how come your hard work didn’t pay off?

Ask yourself a few simple questions:

“Did I solve any important problems today?”

“Did I add meaning to the world?”

“Did I do anything to make tomorrow better than today?”

Sometimes we get so occupied tending to foliage that we neglect the roots. You can paint dead leaves green, but they’ll still be dead.

4 Things People Don’t Trust About You

People-Dont-Trust-YouWe all want people to trust us. When you sense someone doesn’t trust you, you may feel disrespected or misunderstood. It’s easy to take this personally, but in reality others may not be questioning your character.

What are they questioning then?

Here are 4 things people don’t trust about you:

  1. Your Capacity
    If you’re seemingly overloaded and give others the perception that your workdays are a constant exercise in plate-spinning, it won’t instill confidence that you can fulfill any new responsibilities. When you promise something new, you may want to mention what you will be taking off your plate in order to keep that promise.
  2. Your Competence
    OK, this one can still feel personal, but lack of competence doesn’t mean you’re incompetent in the way that word implies. Lack of competence may simply mean a task is outside of your current skill set. You may consider training or delegating these tasks in order to reassure others you can be trusted to make sure it gets done.
  3. Your Personality
    This can also seem like a personal attack. There are a couple of things to remember. First, your personality is not the totality of who you are. It is an outward expression, which leads us to another point. This outward expression can be misunderstood. What you see as positive and outgoing may be interpreted as undiscriminating and careless. An awareness level understanding of a personality type index like Meyers Briggs (MBTI) may help you overcome personality miscommunications like this.
  4. Your Motives
    If your goals seem to compete with what others are trying to accomplish, then they may challenge your motives even when you offer assistance. This is where your group culture helps encourage an environment of trust. Does your culture encourage collaborative efforts, or does it reward those who only look out for themselves? Also, you may need to explain why you’re motivated to help. This may encourage others to trust you when they understand what you’re real motives are.

By making trust issues less personal, we can find practical ways to overcome distrust and gain support. We see it as less of an attack on our character and as more of an exercise in managing perceptions. Additionally, we can assess why we don’t trust others and decide whether or not our skepticism is merited.

Have you had issues being trusted or trusting others in these areas? Are there other things about people we seem to distrust?

2 Reasons Others Aren’t Helping You

Andrew-Carnegie-no-great-leader-does-it-himselfAre you trying to get things done and feel like others aren’t helping you?

The image above quotes Andrew Carnegie’s claim,

No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.

But maybe you don’t want to do it yourself. Perhaps you are willing to share credit. You just need some assistance, support or sharing of the load.

For example, you may be working hard to improve things at work. You’re putting in the effort, logging the hours, making the hard decisions. The problem is it seems others are content with status quo.

Is that because you’re the last bastion of a solid work ethic and esprit de corps? Not likely.

So, why aren’t others helping you? Here are 2 reasons:

  1. They don’t know.
    • They don’t know what you’re doing. Maybe you’re so busy DOING, that you’re not COMMUNICATING what you’re working on.
    • They don’t know you need help. You seem self-sufficient and don’t delegate or ask for help.
    • They don’t know how to help. You haven’t showed where their skills can be applied to best help you.
  2. They don’t care.
    • They don’t understand why your work is important.
    • They have no extrinsic motivation to help you. (rewards, acknowledgement, etc.)
    • The corporate culture doesn’t encourage helping others.

Of course the issue could be laziness, a lack of character or a general spirit of apathy (unlike the systemic issues above). But why worry about that, since you have virtually no control in those scenarios? Also, that’s probably not the case. It’s more likely that by addressing the 2 factors above, you’d greatly improve the odds that someone will help you in your efforts.

Do you feel like others don’t care or don’t know to help you?