Dr. Joe Siegler's Peak Leadership Blog

Welcome to Dr. Joe Siegler’s Leadership Blog! The blogs will be short and to the point. In general, we will post by 10 a.m on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We hope that on those days, you will look forward to brief inspirations, reflecting on leadership. We encourage you to reflect on the ideas raised and get inspired.
I realize that my ideas on leadership tend to stem from national or world news, journals, opinions, research, as well as my own thinking.  I plan on mining this broad field of sources for engaging blog topics.




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Class Act

(Tags: Leadership, Heroes)

This is not a partisan column, but there was a year, almost a decade past, when I spoke to the future president, Barack Obama, regularly.

Sometime before he received secret service protection, we belonged to the same gym in Chicago.  He and I both tended to work out late.  There were usually only a few people in the gym.  Mr. Obama was friendly, always said hello, and frequently asked about my executive coaching practice as I inquired about the events of his day. Even though he was already a senator, he was polite and engaged in our conversations.  One time I even got the nerve to tell him he was too easy on Condoleezza Rice while the two were on C-Span earlier that day.  He listened.

The last time I saw Barack Obama in real life was outside of the gym, near the entrance. I was sitting on a bench, talking on my cell to my now late father. The senator was walking toward me and greeted me.  I pointed to my phone and let him know I was speaking to my Dad. I quieted a voice inside that said, “Get off the phone and talk to the senator!” However, I thought it was important not to interrupt the call with my father.  Little did I know that I would not see the future president again in person. For soon after his greeting outside the gym, he virtually disappeared due to the secret service starting to manage his safety. It was rumored he still showed up at unexpected times to play basketball.

I now occasionally joke about how not exchanging contact information with then Senator Obama was my biggest mistake so far in business. What might have happened if we stayed in touch?  It’s an unknown scenario.  In the span of a single year, Barack Obama went on to be the most famous man on the planet.

I teach clients who are leading or growing businesses to “own” their accomplishments as well as their failures.  Failures are the scars and learning points of great leadership.  I worry more about a leader who says they have not made any mistakes or had any failures.

Humility is clearly my favorite quality a person can possess.  It is also a proven key ingredient of great leadership, along with competence. It relates to seeing oneself as equal to others—not better or worse.  Being humble steers one to naturally respect and value others.

David Brooks declares that he misses the president already [“I Miss Barack Obama” New York Times, Op-Ed, February 9, 2016].  He points out that unlike many of the president’s predecessors, Obama and his administration have been relatively free of scandal.  The president strongly demonstrates the qualities and performance of superior leadership. Mr. Brooks lists the president’s qualities as:  integrity, rectitude, humanity, the ability to attract like-minded team members, respect for others, sound decision-making, optimism, good manners, and elegance.

I say Mr. Obama deserves an amazing library.

He is truly a class act.


JS

 

Utilizing Positive Motivation of Leaders to Achieve Change

(Tags: Leadership, Performance)

Positivity may, in fact, be much more effective in increasing executive motivation than shaming.  My blog last Thursday discussed findings by Satel and Lillienfeld regarding how shaming can at times increase motivation.  The authors defined shame as the feeling that one has failed to live up to their own standards.  Miriam-Webster defines shame a little differently: “a painful emotion caused by a consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety”, which is closer to my definition: a feeling of being less than others. The authors’ definition of shame is actually a light form of shaming because telling someone “you may be disappointing yourself” can be experienced as more empathic than shaming. The fact is that the coaching and recovery fields have veered away from shaming because of research showing positivity is more effective in achieving change.

 

JS


 

A Little Shame is Helpful (Sometimes)

Most people assume shame is not healthy or even useful.  It must be an unpleasant emotion. The emotion frequently is experienced as feeling less than others. However, several studies have recently claimed that shame can be helpful at times. (Can Shame Be Useful?, Sally L. Satel and Scott O. Lilienfeld) Shame leads each of us to discover parameters for our behaviors; when we learn what is too much and what is too little.  The studies found that participants were more likely to engage in positive behaviors (like helping others or making amends) when they thought their past mistakes could be repaired.

 
Making analogies to terminal medical conditions may not be the best approach for helping others change maladaptive behaviors like addictions.  Shame can be a catalyst that can help people change when they really believe deep down that they can change.
 
So as a leader, when attempting to inspire your teams to high performance, experiment with combining just a touch of shame along with hope, affirmation, optimism, respect and the clear ability to change and succeed.
 
JS


A Paradoxical Finding: Procrastination Can Be a Good Thing

20% of adults report being chronic procrastinators. 80% of college students procrastinate, leading to last minute stress and sleep deprivation. With a new perspective, Adam Grant says that procrastination does decrease productivity, however, procrastination increases creativity (Step1: Procrastinate, New York Times, January 17, 2016, Adam Grant). In taking a casual survey, Jihae Shin found that supervisors rated procrastinators higher for creativity. Later, Professor Shin found that there was a 28% increase in creativity for procrastinators.
 
The increase in new ideas occurs when a procrastinator first postpones a task. Shin says that procrastination encourages divergent thinking. In the 1920’s, psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik found that people had a better memory for incomplete tasks than for complete ones. Thus, completing a task brings the creative process to a halt. A procrastinator’s creativity frequently blossoms because of their talent for postponing tasks. Famous procrastinators include Bill Clinton, Adam Sorkin, Steve Jobs, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others. I plead the fifth.
 
Procrastination doesn’t help if you wait until the absolute time limit. Anxiety can get too intense and then creativity is dimmed. Therefore, you suffer because you don’t have the time to be creative. So try putting off a task. Remember, creativity is greatest right after the task is first postponed. Take a few days to think and see where your thoughts go. Return to unfinished sentences, paragraphs, and projects a few days later. You may discover that you are full of ideas that improve your writing or project design. Remember that Adam Sorkin calls procrastination “thinking”. By the way, I carried this newspaper clipping around since January 17th… C’mon, really, I was thinking!
 
JS


Foster Resilience and then Handle Your Stress Better and Faster

When faced with stress or things that make us worried (i.e. something about ourselves, others, or the world, etc.), our heart rate increases, breathing gets short, and adrenaline rises in our blood stream. Some people find anxiety motivating to get tasks and projects completed. However, if people stay in the aroused state for too long then overall performance decreases.
 
Interesting research (Stressed? Listen to Your Body, Gretchen Reynolds, NY Times, January 19, 2016) reveals that resilient people, such as professional athletes, are able to reduce their arousal response more rapidly than others after the stress is over. The researchers hypothesize that people who pay attention to their bodies are better at achieving a calmer state quicker and more effectively. Trends in research reveal that exercise, in general, especially working out with weights, may be very helpful in achieving this healthy calm. Cardio and flexibility exercise may help with this as well.
 
JS


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