S5E26: Off-Key: Learning To Listen To Avoid Tone-Deaf Leadership

“Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful.” Peter Margaritis

This is an excerpt from the book, Off Script: Mastering the Art of Business Improvisation.

Leadership is not about self-promotion, being the center of attention, talking as much as you can, speaking in the third person, always being right, even when you’re wrong, disrespecting others, or being a narcissist. However, in some organizations, these traits are viewed as effective leadership skills, which is the slippery slope to the leaders and potentially the organization’s demise.”

The one skill that helps to save people’s careers and organizations is the art of listening. Leadership is all about becoming a better listener. Leadership is all about listening to understand versus listening to respond. Listening to understand means you genuinely want to understand what is being said to you directly, in the room as you participate in a meeting, or while attending a presentation as an audience member. When you listen to understand, you park your ideas and biases somewhere else, and you go out of your way to eliminate all distractions while listening.

When you’re exhibiting the kind of listening skills worthy of a true leader, you suspend your judgment, set your ego aside to focus on listening to what the other person is trying to communicate, and you do so all the while managing your emotions. When you are “listening to respond” rather than “listening to understand,” you aren’t fully listening to what is being said. We can all strengthen our listening skills if we work on them daily.

Leaders of organizations tend to be controlling, but the ability to let things go and see where the journey takes us can be more powerful. Improv exercises teach us practical skills that can be applied in moments when the gameplay is the furthest thing from our minds. They can teach you and your team how to be better communicators and leaders. When practiced often, these improv games give you muscle memory of how to behave in real-world situations.

S5E22: Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Organization

“By injecting humor and levity into our work lives, we give ourselves an opportunity for human connection.” Peter Margaritis

According to some recent research, adding more laughter to the workplace helps improve the organization’s culture. Humor allows people to cope with stress and build relationships and is associated with intelligence and creativity.

Workplace humor is about a positive, light-hearted, open attitude and a playful mindset. One of the best ways to create a competitive advantage is to create a culture that embraces laughter. By injecting humor and levity into our work lives, we give ourselves an opportunity for human connection —something so easily lost in today’s pandemic weary and technology-driven world.

Humor has not been seen as a top leadership characteristic but rather a secondary leadership behavior. However, there is more research evidence that humor should be one of the top leadership behaviors. Incorporating humor into your company culture isn’t that easy, but well worth it. It is essential to understand your own company culture when it comes to humor in the workplace and bring it in a way that fits and enhances the culture and the people.

There is a delicate balance between creating a culture that embraces humor and developing leadership that learns how to use humor to strengthen the organization, and it’s well worth the effort.

S5E21: Burn Ladders Build Bridges with Dr. Alan Patterson

“The idea of burning the ladder is a shifting mindset, and building bridges is the action that creates opportunities to build relationships.’ Dr. Alan Patterson

My guests today are Dr. Alan Patterson and Jenny Knuth. Alan has more than three decades of international business experience. In 2006, he formed Mentore, a consulting practice specializing in leadership and organizational development. Many global and national businesses and organizations have tapped his expertise, including Anheuser Busch, Biogen, Federal Reserve Bank, Johnson and Johnson, Hewlett Packard, Major League Baseball, and the United States Navy. He’s the author of ‘Leader evolution: From Technical Expertise to Strategic Leadership.’ In addition, Alan has been a college lecturer and frequent presenter at several state and national conferences. He released his new book ‘Burn ladders, Build Bridges: Pursuing Work with Meaning and Purpose,’ on May 6 of this year, and can be found on Amazon. Jenny, Dr. Alan’s marketing person, also joins us in our conversation.

While working with my clients, I realized that there is blind faith in career progression and that people were on this treadmill that inherently held that someone else would decide for them the next step. Despite the need for such judgments, it is evident that devastation has taken place because people have become very limited, thus the need for a better concept and a better mindset.

Many people feel like the moves they need to make are out of their control, and I beg to differ. There’s a lot within your control, but the approach has to be different. If you’re looking for meaning and purpose, you’re not going to find it on the ladder. That meaning and purpose comes through meeting and working with people.

It’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to who is a ladder burner. However, the people you find on the edge of the organizations have created these multiple relationships across the organization. So people that speak up have this broader view of their job and are looking to make a difference would be characterized as ladder burners.

A ladder climber puts themselves in the middle of their universe, but it is about how they can help ladder burners and is never about themselves. The idea of burning the ladder is a shifting mindset, and building bridges is the action that creates opportunities to build relationships.

Click to Download the Full Transcript PDF

S5EP18: Optimizing Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional Intelligence helps you connect with your feelings, turning that into action, and making informed decisions about what matters most to you.” Peter Margaritis

To succeed in the highly competitive world of financial consulting, accounting professionals must possess the right mix of technical experience and soft skills, or think of them as power skills, or better yet, emotional intelligence — EI. EI plays an increasingly significant role in today’s business environment. Therefore, you must optimize your EI to improve your bottom line and increase your organization’s job satisfaction, engagement, and retention rates.

EI is the ability to understand, use and manage your own emotion in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. EI helps build stronger relationships, succeed at work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you connect with your feelings, turn that into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

The four components of EI are defined as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Self-awareness entails how you understand your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Self-management refers to controlling and managing yourself and your feelings, resources, and abilities.

 In social awareness, you assess whether or not you recognize the emotions in others. It is about reading the emotional landscape and responding with empathy. Social awareness skills will help us understand professionalism in the workplace and make it easier to share information, communicate, and collaborate with others. Social awareness is a fundamental part of creating relationships with the people we work with and the customers and clients we need to build our businesses.

When we understand the top three elements of EI and apply them correctly, CPAs can begin to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well on a team and manage conflict. Improving your EI requires that managers first understand how people feel about their jobs and help them to improve morale.

Three main elements, empowerment, meaningful work, and recognition, can drive and engage workers to stick around even when they’re unhappy with their pay or leadership. However, disengaged employees are three times more likely than engaged ones who quit within six months, resulting in a loss of productivity and cost amounting up to $3 million per year.

Improvisation plays a critical role in EI. In business, life, and sports, EI separates high performers from mediocre and average performers. Improvisation is the ability to adapt to change. It is the yes and philosophy of improv and EI leadership. This skill is also crucial for career development. Improvisation allows people who may not have a natural knack for talking themselves out of trouble to get creative by thinking on their feet.

Think about how you build an EI culture in your organization from start to finish. The first thing is to hire people skilled at managing their emotions and reading those of others and then develop a culture that promotes the skills, so employees see the value in developing EI.

S5 E17: Strengths of Running a Collective Intelligence Workshop with Rod Collins

“In rapidly changing times, dexterity to speed is your key to adaptability.” Rod Collins

In today’s episode, we are joined by Rod Collins, a returning guest. Rod’s initial episode was released on February 14th, 2022. The topic of conversation was ‘The Benefits of Flat Organizational Structures.’ Today, our discussion focuses on the strengths of running a collective intelligence workshop when you’re trying to solve problems or coming up with new ideas. If you have not listened to the earlier recording, I highly suggest giving it a listen and then following up with this episode.

Rod is a leading expert on digital transformation in the future of business. He is the host of The Thinking Differently podcast on the C-suite Radio Network, where he explores how technological innovations continue to transform the rules of how successful businesses. Rod is a regular blog contributor on Substack and the author of Wiki Management, a revolutionary new model for a rapidly changing and collaborative world, highlighting the innovative tools and practices used by a new breed of business leaders to sustain extraordinary performance in a world reshaped by digital disruption. Rod is the former chief operating executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee program, one of the nation’s largest and most successful business alliances. Under his leadership, the business experienced the most significant five-year growth period in its 60-year history.

A collective intelligence workshop gets a microcosm of the business in the room. Everybody who would touch on the business’s project, process, and initiative must be in the meeting room. We come up with a way to develop good ideas where we put them into groups to discuss their ideas. At the end of the sessions, each table reports the vision they have settled on. As a decision-maker in a rapidly changing world, you want the best picture, which helps move things along.

After identifying the ideas, we open them up to agreements and disagreements because we want creative energy. The members are also allowed to present their grievances to uncover unknowns that always mess up projects. By having the whole system in the room, things get to be handled in real-time and rapidly, and it helps to drive unanimous consensus.

In rapidly changing times, dexterity to speed is your key to adaptability. My experience is that collective intelligence is more significant than one person providing answers, and frequently this is the power of a network. 

Click to Download the Full Transcript PDF