Intentional Questions to Ask Your Team for Your Best Year Yet

Intentional Questions to Ask Your Team for Your Best Year Yet

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

January 2023

May your 2023 be off to a strong and fulfilling start! I’ve never been a fan of resolutions – they have a tendency to set most people up for failure. Why? Because most resolutions are lofty, not specific enough and oftentimes, many folks are not motivated to do the work to achieve the results they want. Let’s take a look at two examples – one personal and one professional.  

Consider a popular well-being resolution to get in better shape. Sure, it’s a positive and noble pursuit, but most people who want to lose weight or get in better shape, give up because they don’t set specific goals, they’re not motivated to do the hard work to achieve results, and may not have an accountability partner. Ambition then fizzles out because results are not being achieved quickly enough or at all.  

In the workplace, many leaders want to grow their organizations and scale to a level higher than the previous year. Again, it’s a positive and noble goal, but without specific strategies, motivation to do the work to grow, acquiring necessary skills and utilizing an accountability partner, results will likely fall flat.  

As we usher in 2023, I propose that you set intentions to achieve your goals for the year. Choosing just a few goals is more realistic and I’ve always been a fan of the “3 Big Rocks” method to use as a roadmap for strategic intentionality. Click here if you’re not familiar with the Big Rocks time management tool. Too many goals will dilute your efforts and make it less likely that you succeed in any area. Doing less to achieve more is very effective! Also, give the boot to multi-tasking too because it’s passe and as ineffective as workaholism and perfectionism. 

“It turns out multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking. They’re terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they’re terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized; and they’re terrible at switching from one task to another.”
— Dr. Clifford Nass, Stanford University

To become a stronger leader and achieve more within your organization, I invite you to use the 6-question process to achieve alignment with your team. Notice the intentionality in these questions and how they will help you gain useful insight to develop specific strategies. This process was created by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, world-renown executive coach and author, who incidentally, was paid for his high-ticket engagements only when executives made positive gains. Dr. Goldsmith is handsomely paid by the way, so we know his approach and systems work! 

Six questions process to achieve alignment

Ask your team: 

  1. Where are we going? Where do you think we should be going?
  2. Where are you going? Where would you like to be going?
  3. Here’s what I think you’re doing well… Then, what do you think you’re doing well or what are you proud of?
  4. What are your suggestions for the future? If you were your coach, what suggestions might you have for yourself?
  5. How can I help?
  6. Here’s what I want to improve. What ideas do you have for me in this area? 

Give these questions a try and record the feedback you receive, so you may establish specific, realistic strategies. These strategies will help you nurture your 3 Big Rocks for the year and pave the way for the outcomes you desire. Intentionality in your questioning helps to achieve alignment and results. These questions are also great to use in your regular check-ins with your team and by far, much more effective than time-consuming, dreaded performance reviews.

If you’re ready to take your performance and well-being to the next level, let’s connect to discuss your intentions. Schedule your complimentary strategy session here: 

Variations on a Theme of Losing Top Talent and How to Course Correct

Variations on a Theme of Losing Top Talent and How to Course Correct  

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

December 2022

You’ve probably heard or read about variations on how most employees quit their bosses, not organizations. I’ve heard statistics as high as 80% as the main reason employees move on. Recent variations on this theme include the volume of employees who are leaving in droves, aka the “Great Resignation,” doing the absolute minimum of job requirements to get by (“quiet quitting”), and now there’s a new variation coming along as women leave leadership positions at rates higher than ever CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON “THE GREAT BREAK-UP”.

The bleeding of top talent must stop if organizations are going to survive, let alone thrive. Consider the cost of replacing top talent ranging from 30-50% for entry-level employees and reaching as high as 400% for highly-specialized executive-level leadership.  

If organizations are going to innovate and grow, now is the time to heed saving money, as well as generating revenue. And saving money can lead to making more money!

Read more on this topic, including research bolstering my argument in my most recent article in Emotional Intelligence Magazine:  How to Repair Quiet Quitting and the Great Resignation in the Workplace

“Do something today for which your future self will thank you” 

P.S. On the topic of variations on a theme – here’s one of my absolute favorites – Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. At about 15:42 minutes is the most gorgeous and luscious melody. To all of my clients – it’s great for some advanced PQ reps to listen for as many instrumental voices as possible! CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

If you’re stuck or would like to bat around some ideas, let’s connect. Schedule your complimentary strategy session here: 

Navigating Through a “Storm” – Necessary Steps to Manage Change

Navigating Through a “Storm” — Necessary Steps to Manage Change  

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

November 2022

“Something has to die in order for something else to live.” – Danny Ceballos, CEO of Unleashed Consulting

Consider my colleague’s quote above. It’s a bit extreme, right? And yet, when it comes to change management of any kind, there’s a lot of truth to his wisdom that may be applied in organizations and in your personal life. 

Enduring change of any kind means letting go of something else. And letting go indicates there is a loss that is occurring on some level. Loss typically involves grieving. And grief involves honor and love for something/someone else. It can be quite difficult to navigate through change without an awareness and acceptance of emotions. Failure to process the thoughts and feelings that you or your team members are experiencing will result in more resistance and less recovery. This is when change management turns sour in an organization or when an individual is unable to bounce back from the loss. That which we resist persists.

Let’s use the recent example of my home flooding from a storm surge caused by Hurricane Ian. Like so many in my community, I’ve lost comfort, security, and the reliability of things and systems that my family and I built from 20 years of putting our stamp of ‘love’ into our home. Being displaced from our home means letting go of what we created. To embrace the future and the next steps, we must let go of former things and systems if we are going to move on and recover. Letting go requires awareness, acceptance, and processing of the range of emotions that at times, have been consuming. 

And then there’s the global implication. Our community is grieving collectively because without choice and beyond our control, the change that has resulted from the storm has wreaked havoc and devastation that will be felt for years. My family was fortunate compared to many who lost everything or even worse, lost loved ones.  

And so, I realized in my example, that change, letting go, and loss, require navigating through the 5 stages of grieving. Here’s an example:

Denial – No way this is happening, not to me! We’re not going to have our home flood.

Anger – Why the $*&# did this happen, I don’t deserve this *&#%!

Depression – Can show up as fatigue, crying, despair, or general sadness about letting go

Bargaining – Maybe if I ________, then __________ will happen instead.

Acceptance – Initial peace sets in and clarity, even focus of next steps falls into place. Initial next steps are made, indicating recovery has begun. 

Emotions as we all know can be messy. Navigating through emotions in the stages above may not necessarily happen in a linear way. Some of the stages might be skipped or there may also be some vacillating between stages, especially when one emotion is not recognized and honored for long enough. 

These stages also apply to organizational change and how leaders respond accordingly. One hot topic is hybrid work since many employees have resisted a complete return to the office. It’s interesting because, at the beginning of lockdown, most employees were far from enamored with the concept of work from home (WFH). And they grieved the change – the loss of going into the office where they had things like physical boundaries. Two years since the introduction of WFH, many employees have thrived and demonstrated successful acclimation, evident through project/task completion. And now, there’s the grieving associated with the return to the office. The return to the office and all the reflecting that happened during the pandemic is what has spawned the Great Resignation and more recently – quiet quitting – which is doing the bare minimum of job requirements. 

So how does recovery happen so change is embraced and converted as successfully as possible? It requires awareness, acceptance, and processing of emotions as they occur. This may include one or more of the 5 stages associated with grieving. An awareness of emotions, sensations, thoughts, and feelings needs to be acknowledged. It is sitting with an emotion and acknowledging it. Sitting with and accepting an emotion is the only way to move up the ladder of emotion to a more manageable level. For example, moving from anger to frustration first requires awareness and acceptance to process anger.  

Extreme examples will likely require more time to progress up the ladder of emotions. In this case, patience is indeed a necessary virtue. Slowing down to speed up progress, is imminent. Applying deep listening and empathy will likely be part of the steps to help resistant employees. A consultant may shrink some of the change, and help walk you through awareness, acceptance, and the steps to successfully navigate change. 

On a personal note – I want to flex my optimism muscle for brighter days ahead. To borrow the wishes shared by a client after Hurricane Ian, practicing the characteristics of gratitude, flexibility, and patience has helped tremendously (thank S.L.!) The unwelcome change brought about by Hurricane Ian has required me to lean into my training in both Positive and Emotional Intelligence, and I’m thankful it has helped so much. And, coincidentally (or not), my temporary home happens to be on Brightside Court in the community where I’ll likely live for several months. I embrace it as a sign and wish all of my audience, whether you’re in Southwest Florida or elsewhere – peace and fulfillment as you navigate the storms that are an inevitable part of life at home, work, and everywhere in between.  

If you would like to learn more about how you may successfully navigate ‘storms’, let’s connect. Schedule your complimentary strategy session here: 

Your Jekyll and Hyde Brains

Your Jekyll and Hyde Brains

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

September 2022

If you watched the 1994 movie, Shawshank Redemption, you may remember the one character Brooks, who goes to extreme measures from long-term institutionalization that has instilled qualities of learned helplessness and learned hopelessness. Another character in the movie – Red, played by actor Morgan Freeman, displays similar behavior when he gives up on his chances of getting parole. Positive psychology jargon aside and so as not to be a spoiler alert if you haven’t seen this amazing film, allow me to cut to the chase.

We all have instances when we get triggered or allow our survivor brain to overtake the thrive, aka sage part of our brain. Our brains are akin to a case of Jekyll and Hyde; two very distinct and different renderings that appropriately, have self-fulfilling outcomes. The survival region of our brain is necessary for imminent physical dangers. It keeps us from walking into a street when traffic is crazy, but doesn’t serve us when an employee consistently fails to execute a task and we respond with judgmental accusations or interrogation. Our brains have not evolved rapidly enough to distinguish physical vs. psychological threats, yet more of our dangers now are of the latter type.  

Unfortunately, our survivor brain keeps us and our ego safe and comfortable. We “learn” to accept and fall victim to doing what is easy or familiar because a goal can seem too far from reach. The more the ‘easy’ behavior is chosen, the more Mr. Hyde appears, alluring behavior is reinforced, and the response becomes entrenched through neural pathways in our brain. As a result, the negatively motivated survival brain wins and so, goals are not achieved, potential is not achieved and helpless or hopeless feelings can become consuming.

Next, we have the thrive part of the brain where your sage power and Dr. Jekyll reside. 

The gap between vision and steps to achieving it may be far apart, even daunting. Add to it how the initial appeal can wear off when progress seems minimal or setbacks further reinforce the negativity that resides in the survival part of our brain. 

Although the character Brooks succumbs to the helpless and hopeless allure of his survival brain, Red’s outcome is much different when he reframes to take a different approach. And if you watched the film you may believe otherwise, so I challenge you to consider how Red liberated himself from pressure. Herein lies the power of the thrive portion of our brain; we can still win when we learn and regroup. And the outcome can be much more desirable. Intentionality, awareness, and consistent practice are critical in building up the neural pathways that will weaken your survival brain and build up the thrive part of your brain where sage wisdom and many more productive behaviors and characteristics reside. How?

Here are a few simple strategies that have worked for those who have accomplished great things and experienced more Dr. Jekyll moments:

1.  Practice consistent gratitude. Appreciation is like a muscle and grows with use. If we want to appreciate more and invite more appreciation (and joy) into our lives, it’s necessary to practice appreciation by showing gratitude. Done consistently (daily!), this is a fun activity you may do with team members, direct reports, and your kids, and when done frequently for a period of weeks, I am extremely confident you will experience more positive moments and facilitate more successful outcomes and results.

2.  Meditate or do some PQ reps (latter for those who have or will be going through the Positive Intelligence program) to zone in not out and become mindful of your being. Being drives doing and as Deepak Chopra likes to say – we are human beings. Slowing down to be intentional, fall back in love with that which is ordinary, and connecting with how your internal being drives your external doing will positively impact you and others.

2.  Reward yourself for effort not outcome. Similar to practicing appreciation is the kind and empathetic regard for yourself to focus on the courage you took, no matter how much or how little, to engage in behavior to move the needle. When you celebrate the effort, you will be more likely to act boldly again in the future because you are reinforcing the rationale for the behavior. Additionally, when you celebrate effort, rinse and repeat, you will more likely have a desirable outcome to also celebrate.

When we focus on quick fixes or strive for instant gratification, there is a tendency to “die before going into battle.”  And this is the reason that many leaders and people in general never achieve their greatest potential and dreams.

There are of course more strategies and exercises we may explore to weaken the survival part of your brain and reinforce the thrive part of your brain. If you’d like to do more than just survive, let’s connect to purge Mr. Hyde and reinforce Dr. Jekyll in your sage aka thrive brain. Click the button below to schedule your complimentary strategy session. 

What Mr. Rogers Can Teach Us About Empathy and Why it Matters

Your spouse regularly lashes out, frustrated over the temperature at home, and you engage in ongoing thermostat wars. At work, a project manager you supervise continually complains about software that doesn’t maintain her progress notes. A close friend continues to vent to you about how it’s difficult for her to commit to gathering when you propose limited options. Do you ever wonder why some people remain stuck sharing the same story over and over?

As Stephen Covey says, “Seek first to understand and then be understood.” This round-and-round dialogue may indicate a need for empathy. It’s difficult for us to move past a topic or issue or listen to others until we have felt heard. Empathy holds tremendous power in creating thriving relationships and is one of the most misunderstood and under-utilized EQ skills.

Dr. Brené Brown indicates that empathy is about understanding and connecting to the emotions around an experience. It is feeling with someone, not feeling for them; this is where empathy can be blurred with sympathy. Sympathy often involves pity for another person, which can be insulting as it implies we are outpacing in some way. Empathy does not involve pity and requires us to suspend all judgment of another’s viewpoint as being good or bad or seeing another’s feelings as being invalid. While we may disagree with why someone feels a certain way about a given situation, empathy teaches us to connect with shared emotions. I.e., “I, too, know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed, sad, etc.”

It’s this disconnect in understanding and acceptance that often leads to incivility, disrespect, and a lack of empathy, especially when controversial topics and strong belief systems are involved.

Developing Empathy:

We must first have deep empathy for ourselves before fully empathizing with another. This can be difficult, especially in cultures where it’s reinforced to first attend to the concern of others and suppress our feelings. We must be aware of, understand, and accept our feelings and emotions to fully understand and accept them in others.

Empathy creates a safe container for vulnerable communication. Vulnerability is powerful and is the currency of exchange to build trust and thriving relationships at home, work, and everywhere in our sphere of influence. It’s also necessary to apply a little two-step in conversation and spend some time to discover what is meaningful to others and motivates them so we know how to respond appropriately. The Platinum Rule teaches us to treat others as THEY want to be treated (not the cookie-cutter Golden Rule that most of us were taught growing up, which says we should do unto others as they would do unto us). Brené Brown also talks about putting ourselves in another’s shoes to connect to an emotion we’ve likely experienced, though maybe for a different situation. For example, if a friend loses their job, we can relate to the emotion of fear and disappointment even though we were never laid off or fired from a position.

Emulating Mr. Rogers

Due to his keen ability to empathize, Mr. Rogers was among the most highly respected and regarded TV personalities for decades. He makes a great ‘avatar’ for empathy because he treated everyone as a VIP and was diligent in his communication. Mr. Rogers reads, relates, and responds with ease and finesse, which segues to three strategies you may incorporate to elevate your empathy skills:

Read – Deep active listening is critical and needs to happen at a level attuned to the other party. “LISTEN,” rearranged, spells “SILENT.” Listening with the intent to respond is not effective and will shut down a healthy communication cycle. Suspend judgment. This is a time for learning. To quote Tom Chi, “Knowing is the enemy of learning.”

Relate – This might involve using more silence, asking powerful questions to extract more meaning, and using body language like a smile, hug, or leaning in. Mirroring body language can also be helpful if it’s not threatening because our neurons respond favorably to similar gestures—this happens naturally when we are genuinely engaged and shouldn’t be forced. Remember the platinum rule, so you are making your interaction about the other person and not your agenda. It can help to internalize the mantra that everyone has a story.

Paraphrasing and summarizing can help check that you fully understand and facilitate relating. Responses could include: “I hear you saying….,” or “That sucks that you didn’t get the promotion. Would you like to talk about it?”

Respond – This is relating at a higher level. After feeling with the person, it’s time to decide if there is more to learn. Perhaps ask if the other person would like to share more or if you feel equipped, ask if they would like some help to solve the challenge. But don’t go into problem-solving without asking permission first, as the other party may not want ideas. If they welcome the opportunity, batting around some ideas may provide some hope and initial peace. Finally, when some closure and peace have been restored, it can be helpful to redirect to a new topic. Possibilities may include saying, “I’m off to the water cooler” if you’re at work or “any interesting weekend plans?” which could apply to almost anyone. Or, it might be better to say nothing more and just let the other party stay in their space to process their thoughts and feelings. There is no cookie-cutter formula, and it is ok to experiment and even admit that you’re not quite sure how to respond.

Acknowledging and showing others’ thoughts and feelings matter helps stop the cycle of repeating stories so others can move beyond feeling stuck. Hearing what others are communicating intellectually and emotionally is empathy in practice. It helps to recognize communication verbally, through body language, and behaviorally. Empathy requires a genuine interest in the other person and applying the platinum rule. Remember what Mr. Rogers would do to slow down, deeply listen and treat everyone like a VIP. Get curious, ask questions, listen without judging and then check to be sure you understand and respond for some initial resolve. Life is too short for thermostat wars, misunderstood employees, and not making the most of our time on this planet with family and friends. Let’s change the dialogue to heal and transform our planet.

How to Become Part of the GREAT RETENTION

How to Become Part of the GREAT RETENTION

by Doni Landefeld, Ph.D. 

Advanced Certified Personal and Executive Coach
Certified Positive Intelligence Coach
EQ-i 2.0 and EQ360 Certified

June 2022

We’ve made the concept of Leadership into something bigger than it needs to be. The never-ending research, books, theories, programs and courses are testament to this. And week after week, the struggles of leading come up in my sessions with clients. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to have all the answers and certainly, I have had my share of “learning experiences” in different leadership roles. Though there are some things I know to be true and effective that have resulted in home runs (measured through engagement and fulfillment).

Everyone leads at some point or another in their sphere of influence at work, home or in their community. Mastery of personal leadership is of course critical. We can only go as far with others as we’re willing to be honest and open in our own awareness, acceptance and willingness to learn and grow. And there are some basics of leadership that transcend every situation and challenge to which I offer my basic definition of Leadership:   

Giving of ourselves to bring out the best in others for a positive outcome – Doni Landefeld

Leadership doesn’t need to be a big, scary, abstract, difficult concept. There are some basics that transcend time. Sometimes the old ways are the best.

Here are 10 basics you may incorporate immediately to get higher engagement and sustain happiness amongst your staff. It all begins with the mastery of personal leadership – giving of yourself to bring out the best in others…

Top 10: Ways to Lead by Example

Good leaders must lead by example. Through their actions, which are aligned with what they say, they become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of productive leadership. Here are 10 of the dozens of ways to lead by example.

  1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth.
  2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.
  3. Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.
  4. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary.
  5. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.
  6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems, instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more.
  7. Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.
  8. Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths.
  9. Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it!
  10. Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness in your company.

If you’re feeling stuck, curious, or might benefit from accountability and more ideas, let’s connect! Click the button below to schedule your complimentary strategy session and come to the call with a challenge or opportunity!