People are Not Problems to be Solved

by Dr. Nicole Price

Many leaders are promoted to leadership because they are amazing problem solvers as individual contributors. In fact, when asked, no fewer than half of all leaders say that they are rewarded for problem solving even in their current roles. The challenge with this disposition to problem solving is that people are not problems to be solved.

Ron Heifetz, author and expert in this area, helps leaders approach people challenges — including the ways in which we communicate — in “adaptive” ways. This change in mindset is important because when seeking to improve the way teams communicate, leaders have to use different methods than the ones employed with technical challenges like problem solving. As we look to handle more difficult conversations, we have to honor basic human dynamics such as internal biases, emotional triggers, different approaches to conflict and communication in general.

In the difficult conversations session at Bloch, we will discuss ways to approach conversation issues that are not always easily identified. We will also explore how to use some conventional tools (that we know about but don’t always use) to stay engaged in difficult conversations. Choosing to do otherwise is wrought with consequences for our organizations and for us as individuals.

Adaptive challenges like improving the ways you and others communicate does not come with the Cliff Notes manual. It will take time. It will take practice. It will require evaluating your beliefs and some of the underlying beliefs (mental models) of others in order to move the needle in this space for us collectively.

We can start by working on our ability to have these difficult conversations. There are some tools for talking when the stakes are high. Joseph Grenny, Susan Scott and Byron Katie have shared many of them with us.

Come and explore why we avoid using those tools and ways to overcome those obstacles.

Nicole’s next Bloch Executive Seminar is Developing Your Executive Presence & Expanding Your Career on March 3-4, 2021. Register to attend her session and view other seminars to support your professional development at Bloch Executive Education.

About the Author:

Nicole Price, Ed.D., understands that if leadership is anything, it is personal, and that everyone can be a great leader. So she gets personal. Nicole’s transparency allows others to learn from her mistakes and helps them avoid the same pitfalls. Through leadership development, coaching, consulting, keynotes, and other resources, Nicole encourages and enables others to live their lives in excellence. Her energetic and engaging sessions leave participants with strategies and specific tools that they can apply right away.

6 Tips to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to be aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others, then use the information to manage yourself to build strong relationships. While you need to be technically proficient at what you do — whether you are an architect, attorney, engineer or business executive — it’s your emotional intelligence skills that will boost your ability to be successful. Oh, and it can help you improve relationships with family and others.

Here are 6 practical tips to improve your EQ:

1. Be “in the moment”

It’s so easy in our over-scheduled, high tech world to continually multi-task. Research is showing that we can become addicted to looking at our cell phones constantly.  How often do you look at your phone when you are with others?  Are you really “in the moment?”  Ignore the urge to multi-task and stay tuned in with what you are doing NOW.  Be there with others using all your senses and your brain.  It might be surprising what you learn!  You may find that conversations go more quickly when you are tuned in rather than distracted – thereby actually saving yourself time!

2. Recharge during the day

Find a way to take a break during your day and get away from the meetings and your office.  This may mean going for a 10-minute walk outside.  Maybe it’s just walking around the office and talking with people about non-work related topics.  Or perhaps its closing your office door and closing your eyes to meditate and relax.  Figure out what works for you and make it a daily habit.  It can help calm and re-energize you for what you face the rest of the day.

3. Pause

Before speaking, particularly in an emotionally or frustrating situation at work, simply pause or count to ten.  Allowing yourself some space may avoid an emotional outburst and instead give you a chance to craft a more productive response.

4. Do a 360 assessment

A 360 assessment allows you to receive feedback from your subordinates, your peers, and your boss.  These ratings can be compared to your self-rating to identify areas of consistency as well as outliers.  You can identify strengths and also areas for improvement.  This will give you insight into how others perceive you in order to build your self- awareness, the foundation of EQ.

5. Be Grateful

This sounds corny yet when you are grateful it puts you in a positive mind-set.  Try it… write down three things you are grateful for each morning, or prior to attending a meeting.  It is nearly impossible to then be stressed out and on edge once you do this.  This calming influence can help you control negative emotions thought the day and help you handle adversity.

6. Smile and Laugh More

Neurotransmitters called endorphins and the chemicals dopamine and serotonin are released when you smile. These are triggered by the movements of the muscles in your face, which is interpreted by your brain, which in turn releases these chemicals. Endorphins are responsible for making us feel happy, and they also help lower stress levels.  The release of endorphins reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol.  So have fun and get benefits in return!

These tips seem simple, yet when used can be quite powerful.  Incorporate some or all of these into your workday and you may find that you are calmer and better able to manage your emotions in a productive way!


About the Author:

Joni Lindquist, MBA, CFP®, is a Principal and Career/Financial Coach at KHC Wealth Management.  After 20+ years in corporate America, Joni transitioned to a career focused on helping others advance in their business, career and life.  Through executive coaching, career coaching and financial planning; Joni assists corporate executives and their families in achieving their goals.

Brain over Belly: Experiments for Decision Making

America’s leading companies have been moving away from decisions based on intuition and towards data for more than a decade. Amazon, Google, Netflix and Facebook are constantly running experiments in an effort to make better decisions. Experiments are no longer the sole domain of scientists in labs. Today’s leading enterprises employ and master the science of experimentation to improve the art of decision-making.

The familiar scene has played out in 100s if not 1000s of television and cinematic performances:  the sage executive ponders strategic alternatives, running each meticulously through their “gut” filter. After a long pause, and some serious hand-wringing, the executive elects to go with their intuition. Cut to the next scene — a victory celebration — the “hunch” paid off and the company is reaping the financial benefits of the executive’s instincts.

Unfortunately, our business reality does not come with a team of screenplay writers and deterministic outcomes.  As managers and leaders, you are regularly positioned to make decision with uncertain outcomes. On many occasions our gut — which is really a heuristic model composed of a lifetime of decisions — is the only voice in the conversation. But what if there was another way? What if decisions could be informed by what a customer thinks instead of what you think?  What if there was a way to make better decisions?

Why Experiment?

Experiments connect decision-makers with actual customer behavior. Instead of sitting in an office guessing how customers will react to a change, experiments provide real client feedback. One of the greatest advantages to this approach is the ability for companies to fail small and succeed big!

Experiment Where

Companies have varying needs so there is no one single experiment that all companies need to try. That said, there are three areas all companies could experiment — and immediately improve the precision of their decision-making.

  1. Customer acquisition: Developing strategies to acquire new customers can be a frustrating process. Experiments can reduce frustration and improve an executive’s confidence the new strategy led to acquisition. For example, when Capital One wanted to test the ability of a free transfer promotion to acquire new credit card clients they used an experiment. Capital One randomly selected prospects, sent half the free transfer promotion offer and the other half the standard offer. The free transfer offered worked, they scaled to all prospects and the rest is history.
  2. Process improvement: For many businesses customers do not differentiate between service delivery and product quality. For entertainment giants like Netflix, this is most definitely the case. If the video stream is slow or interrupted, the product (movie or tv show) is diminished. To continuously improve Netflix continually attempts to improve the technology of video delivery. With each adjustment they run experiments that allow them to assess whether or not the adjustment has improved the customer experience.
  3. New product development: The problem with any new product is that is new and thus unproven. Experiments provide a tool to test a new product with customers, without leveraging the financial future of the business. Amazon has a long history of this approach to innovation.  In fact, many of these innovations have failed like Amazon auctions. Yet Amazon continues to grow and prosper because experiments enable Amazon to test the viability of an idea before sinking too many resources into its operation. This fail small approach allows them to test more innovations than most companies, which also allows them to win big more than most companies.

Lightbulb hangs in the foreground with more bulbs blurred in backgroundDon’t Lament…Experiment

Think about your work in the three areas above — customer acquisition, process improvement and new product development. How are you making decisions in each area currently? Have you had an experience where customer intelligence would have made for a better decision in each of these areas? Start small, select one tactical decision and design a simple experiment. You are sure to see how the decisions you make have increased precision.

Scott has spent the last several years working with nonprofit organizations, assisting them with program evaluation, market research, commercialization, business planning, strategic planning and board training. His primary research focus is social entrepreneurship and his work in this area has led to publication and several presentations at international and national academic conferences.


About the Author:

Scott Helm, director of the Bloch Executive MBA program, has spent the last several years working with nonprofit organizations, assisting them with program evaluation, market research, commercialization, business planning, strategic planning and board training. His primary research focus is social entrepreneurship and his work in this area has led to publication and several presentations at international and national academic conferences.