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The danger of acting in a cautious and politically correct way

In a previous blog “Five necessary areas for improvement of your team,” I outlined 5 areas that most teams need to step up in. In this blog, I want to elaborate on the first area: Boldness and Courage.

Most leadership teams avoid the tough, uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s giving honest, direct and critical feedback and coaching to others, or making difficult decisions about budgets, resources and other areas that affect power and status – the common tendency is to take the safe, easy way out.

Even when managers and team members attempt to say what’s really on their minds, a lack of courage often leads to things being said in such a diplomatic and sugarcoated way that the impact of the message is lost in its tepid delivery. And while diplomacy may allow team members to address some problems efficiently at times, critical issues demand an energy, passion and direction that cannot be gained from adherence to cautious, “be careful” behavior.

Although some may deny this to be the case, I strongly believe that 95% of the challenges, problems and dysfunction existing within teams are due to team members simply being afraid, hesitant, or resigned to have the hard conversations.

Even at the highest levels, I frequently see leaders being reluctant to rock the boat with their peers or boss, as they may be viewed as petty or make themselves vulnerable out of a concern or fear of negative consequences.

In other times, leaders and team members are so convinced nothing will come of any heroic efforts that they succumb to the pervasive mindset of, “Why stick my neck out?” and its political adaptive maneuver, “Pick your battles.”

To top it off, leadership teams caught in the courage conundrum don’t acknowledge that it’s the lack of willingness to speak up that leads to failures and issues. Instead, they blame various circumstances by using excuses such as:

We have conflicting priorities.

There is not enough time to get done what we need to do.

We can’t succeed because another department isn’t doing their job.

We don’t have enough resources to get done what we want to do.

Can you relate to any of this? To be sure, please answer the following questions about your team’s dynamic:

Planning:

Do team members make tentative and contingent commitments by saying yes and agreeing to decisions they are not fully resolved about?

Do team members go off and do their own version of the commitment made, and then blame circumstances when they fail to produce their part of the commitment?

Do team members try to escape accountability by saying, “I was never fully on board with this in the first place”?

Conversations:

Do team members tolerate confusion and misunderstanding in the discussion stages and then use those as justifications when things don’t get done?

Do people see that things are going to break down, but still they don’t say anything about it?

Do team members have concerns about their colleagues’, or leader’s sincerity and/or effectiveness, but they don’t confront them?

Do team members hear others make commitments that they know are not going to happen, but they don’t speak up or hold others accountable?

Meetings:

Do team members know that there is an elephant in the room but still they not address it?

Does their “yes” not mean yes, and their “no” not mean no?

Are their promises empty?

Do team members sit in the meeting, choosing what they say or don’t say based on what is safe and politically correct?

Are people aware that there is no real alignment or agreement, but no one says it?

Relationships:

Do team members engage in undermining conversations about their fellow members or their departments, rather than confronting colleagues on the issues?

Do people talk about themselves as team players, smile in the strategic meetings, and then go behind their colleagues’ backs to badmouth them?

Do team members promote themselves and their careers at the expense of others?

Energy:

When things don’t work, do team members spend more time making sure everyone knows “it’s not their fault” than actually trying to fix the problem?

Do team members copy everyone on emails just to protect themselves and “cover their behinds?”

Is there a lack of, or insufficient, results or progress?

Are team members always looking over their shoulders and suspicious of the others’ agendas?

If you answered most or all of these questions with a YES, your team has an opportunity to become stronger. If so, you aren’t alone. As I said before, most team members avoid difficult discussions. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

In a future post, I will share more about what you can do to make your team dynamic more authentic and courageous.

Photo by: Valery Kenski

What is the source of your personal energy? Part 1

People often ask me how I maintain such a high level of energy in my life all the time. The questions that often follow are “what are you on?” or “is it something in your drink?”

Well, I do take vitamins and I do love to drink a lot of water and green tea. However, I am quite sure they are not the source of my high energy.

High energy comes naturally to me, partly because of my personality, but mostly because of a few practices and ways of being that I have adopted, internalized and integrated into my life. They are:

  1. Maintaining a physical lifestyle that supports wellbeing and high energy.
  2. Having a positive, optimistic and empowering outlook to everything.
  3. Making sure all my relationships are in communication and complete.
  4. Being clear about who I am and what my higher purpose is.

I meet people all the time who have different personalities and styles than I do but are also naturally highly energetic.

I believe that when we live life the “right way” people naturally have a lot of personal energy.

So, I want to share my thoughts and experiences about the source of personal energy. In this blog, I am focusing on the first practice that directly affects our level of our personal energy. In future blogs I’ll elaborate on the other practices.

Practice One: Maintain a physical lifestyle that supports wellbeing and high energy.

Eat in a healthy and nurturing way: There are so many different types of eating regimes that work. And, there are also many that don’t work. The secret is to find the healthy eating habit that works for you and stick to it. Never put yourself in a situation that you feel deprived of food. Find the eating habits that you could enjoy for the rest of your life. If your eating habits make you gain weight all the time, they are the wrong habits. In contrast, if your eating habits make you lose too much weight or make you feel faint, those are the wrong ones, too. Lastly, make sure your eating habits feed your body, but also make sure they feed your soul. If you love how you eat so you could do it for the rest of your life and it is keeping your body in good shape and form – you probably have a winner!

Exercise on a regular basis: Again, there are so many different styles of exercise that work – from running, to weight lifting, to cycling to yoga. Find the one that appeals to you and make it an integral part of your life. If you are injuring yourself all the time, adjust or change your exercise regime or intensity. I was a passionate runner for most of my life until I got injured and couldn’t continue to run. I was devastated, as running had a meditative and spiritual effect on me. It also fueled my life with a lot of energy. My wife introduced me to Ashtanga Yoga and at first I reluctantly took it on. But, fortunately, I fell madly in love with it and I am today as passionate and obsessive about it as I was about running.

Manage your body weight and other health parameters: There are different schools of thought about body fat, weight-to-height ratios, BMI and other health parameters. I use some of them but I am not an expert in these, nor am I a doctor or healthcare professional. I also don’t weigh myself very often. What I do know, however is that when I love how my body feels and looks, and how my clothes fit me, I have much more energy than when I feel sluggish, bloated, overweight or bursting at the seams.

A physically healthy lifestyle is very basic, however it is very powerful, and when adhered to it really works! Unfortunately, many people, even though they understand its importance, and want this, they don’t live this way.

I hear so many people say things like: “I am addicted to carbs and sweets” or “I am not the exercising type.” Neither statements are factual or true. To be rigorous, they are disempowering conversations that people entertain and buy into. The good news is that with the right amount of commitment anyone can invent new, more empowering and supportive paradigms.

I have found from my own experience that when I maintain a physical lifestyle and body that supports my commitments in life, I naturally have a lot of energy all the time.

I was recently standing in line to board a plane and a gentleman beside me had a T-shirt on that said “Everyone wants to be famous, but no one is willing to do the work.” I chuckled and thought to myself “there is so much truth in that!”

If you replace the word “famous” with “healthy” or “energized,” the logic is still true. The conclusion is clear – if you want to have high energy in your life naturally and all the time – do what works!

Do you know where you really live? It could change your life.

Often, people do not pay enough attention to what they say—both publicly and privately. Whether positive or negative, people don’t seem to understand the immense consequences of what they say or think.

I believe most people would agree that positive, optimistic and encouraging conversations uplift and empower their spirits and psyches, whereas negative, cynical conversations have the opposite effect.

However, there is more to the story. What we say and think also have significant repercussions on our overall wellbeing. Certain conversations give us energy while others suck the energy out of us. Have you noticed that some days you are tired at 10am in the morning and other days you are full of energy at 10pm at night?

That is not a coincidence.

Most of the time, our level of energy is not a function of how many hours we slept the night before…or even how hard we worked during the day. In fact, some mornings we jump out of bed full of vitality even when we only slept a few hours. And, some nights we are wide awake even after a long day of hard work.

Our energy, mood and spirit are all shaped by the conversations and thoughts we entertain and dwell in. In fact, we live more in our conversational environment then in our physical environments.

Let me illustrate:

Have you ever been on a conference call while commuting to or from work on the highway and suddenly had a shocking realization that for the previous 20 minutes you were completely not present to what was occurring on the road in front of you?

Have you even taken time off with the intention and desire to fully disengage from work and rejuvenate, but you just couldn’t relax and let go because some issue or interaction at work was still irritating, upsetting and consuming your attention and soul?

We don’t litter, trash or neglect our physical environment because we know that we live in it. But, we do tend to litter, trash and neglect our conversational habitat.

If you accept this premise, you should be more inclined to better care for and manage your conversational environment. You dwell in your conversations so make sure that the conversations you surround yourself with are positive and empowering. Make sure they support, represent and honor who you are.

Here are a few practical things you could do immediately to achieve this:

  1. Don’t participate or initiate gossip, especially when their focus is trashing other people that have a part in your life. Gossip may be valid, but it NEVER makes a difference.
  2. Have the courage to address issues with people quickly, directly and productively. Don’t let issues fester.
  3. Make requests and ask for things instead of complaining about things.
  4. Apologize and clean up your mess when you misbehave. Swallow your pride and don’t let your ego get in the way.
  5. Always have something to look forward to; a goal, project, milestone or event that you are working on that excites you in the present.
  6. Express gratitude, acknowledge and thank people around you every day, especially the people in your personal and professional environment that you respect and love. Don’t be lazy or stingy about that.
  7. Be thankful and count your blessings every day.