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Don’t Let Stress Kill Your Dreams—and Other Lessons from a Shipbuilder

Orcas Island

Photo by Chris Cook

This is a story about Robert—and all of us. Robert moved to the West Coast without a dime in his pocket. Over the next 30 years, he became mayor of a major city and owner of a successful shipbuilding business.

At only 48 years of age, Robert was told the stress of his work had taken a toll on his health—and he had 1 year to live. Robert gave up politics and sold his shipbuilding business for what would be $60 million today. He moved to Orcas Island with his family and retired. More about Robert later …

The Trouble with Stress

Many workplaces have unconsciously developed a culture of stress. The most common cause of stress in the workplace is extensive overtime—too much work. This results from cuts in staffing, a fear of being laid off and pressure to meet ever-rising job expectations without a corresponding increase in compensation, recognition or job satisfaction.

If you are a business owner or manage a team of employees, do you know the negative impacts of a stressed-out employee or work team? According to the US Bureau of Labor, stress costs US business more than $400 billion annually. This manifests in a high rate of employee turnover, overuse of sick time, lower productivity, less creativity and poor customer service. So you’d better be on the lookout for stressed-out employees.

Rick Hughes, a lead advisor for the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy lists these 10 warning signs.

Stressed-out employees:

  1. Take more time off work than usual—sick leave or vacation.
  2. Have increased use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs (prescription and illegal).
  3. Exhibit greater irritability, poor concentration and reduced productivity.
  4. Have deteriorating personal or work relationships, including bullying behaviors.
  5. Are more emotional, moody or over-reactive to what others say.
  6. Start to behave differently—in a way that’s out of the norm.
  7. Have a change in eating and sleep patterns.
  8. Exhibit physical reactions such as sweating, palpitations and increased blood pressure.
  9. Feel negative, depressed and anxious most of the time.
  10. Feel trapped or frustrated … and believe there’s no solution.

Cascade Campground SignIf you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to take action. That means shifting from a culture of stress to a culture of engagement and productivity. Talk to the employee and get to the root cause. Then make changes to counteract the stressors. It may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s not nearly as expensive as doing nothing.

What if you are an employee and you think you might be experiencing a level of stress beyond that which is healthy?

Here are five ways you can combat stress:

  1. Get moving! Start with a basic exercise program—even if it’s just a short walk during a morning break. You’ll feel better and have a clearer head.
  2. Kiss your kids. Kiss your partner. (No, not your business partner—your life partner!) Creating a sense of connectedness releases endorphins—the counter-agent to stress.
  3. Get to know your fellow workers. Creating a sense of belonging in the workplace makes for a happier, more supportive environment.
  4. Have a cup of tea. Scientists at University College London noted that people who drank black tea four times a day for six weeks had lower levels of cortisol after a stressful task than those who drank a caffeinated fruit beverage.
  5. Reflect on what you value. By getting in touch with what’s really important to you, you are better able to make decisions that resonate—in other words, make yourself feel good instead of bad. You’ll find the “small stuff” doesn’t stress you out as much.

Lesson from Robert

KayakingBack to Robert, the man given just a year to live because of the toll stress had taken on his body. He is a real person. His name was Robert Moran. In 1875, at age 18, the penniless Robert moved from New York to Seattle. Over the next three decades, he created a successful shipbuilding business, became mayor of Seattle, rebuilt it after the Great Seattle Fire and also rebuilt his shipbuilding business. (That would cause a bit of stress, huh?)

After being given a year to live, he and his family moved to Orcas Island off the coast of Washington. He lived there another 38 years! Grateful for a new lease on life, he donated 2,700 acres of land to the state of Washington for preservation—one of the country’s first state parks. He wanted others to enjoy the health benefits of spending time in nature. Today we know the land as Moran State Park, the largest public forestland in the San Juan Islands and home to old-growth forest.

Do you have important things you still want to accomplish in this life? Don’t let stress kill your dreams. Capiche can help you implement the changes necessary to do away with stress—both in your life and your company culture. Let me know what is stressing you out, and let’s fix it. Just call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us to get started.

Wednesday
26
August 2015
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10 Ways to Make Your Employees Hate You—and Your Company

Mean Boss Yelling at Employee
Narcissistic. Rude. Insensitive. Arrogant. Something tells me you wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who matches this description, much less work for them.

The Costs to Employees

Mean bosses can wreck your work life—and your health. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers author Robert M. Sapolsky informs us that intermittent stressors like incivility in the workplace not only take a toll on our psychological well-being but also our physiological state.

This kind of chronic stress spikes our glucocorticoid levels, compromising our immune system and ultimately leading to a bevy of health problems ranging from ulcers to heart disease, diabetes to cancer. It also makes us hungry and fat.

Women in one decade-long study, for example, were 38% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event when subjected to job stress.

The Costs to Business

Misery and poor health are the costs to employees. According to Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, authors of Harvard Business Review article “The Price of Incivility,” the annual cost to an organization can reach the millions.

Why? When the authors polled 800 leaders and employees across 17 industries, they discovered employees responded to incivility in the workplace by:

  • Purposefully slacking off (48%)
  • Spending as little time as possible at work (47%)
  • Producing poorer-quality results (38%)
  • Taking time off due to anxiety about a specific experience (80%) or to avoid encountering an uncivil boss or colleague (63%)
  • Performing worse (66%)
  • Feeling less committed to the organization (78%)
  • Quitting their job (12%)
  • Treating customers poorly (25%)

Boorish Behavior

So what exactly are the emotionally unintelligent behaviors that trigger these responses in employees?

Christine Porath continues her exploration of incivility in The New York Times article “No Time to Be Nice at Work,” identifying the following rude actions as most frequently cited in a recent survey (ordered by frequency):

  • Interrupting others
  • Judging those perceived as different
  • Not listening to opinions
  • Giving oneself the most appealing task and allotting the tough ones to others
  • Not communicating critical details
  • Lacking standard courtesies (no “please”s or “thank-you”s)
  • Being condescending
  • Taking more credit than is due
  • Using foul language
  • Belittling people

A Failure to Communicate

An Interact/Harris Poll of 1,000 US workers revealed 91% of employees felt flawed communication was at the root of poor leadership.

Lou Solomon documents these cardinal communication sins in her Harvard Business Review article “The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders.”

Below are the issues pinpointed by survey participants, ranked according to percentage:

  • Failure to recognize employee accomplishments (63%). As we explored in our series on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (see part 1 and part 2), bosses who fail to acknowledge employees’ efforts cause them to feel unappreciated. This leads to burnout, resentment, and a decline in performance.
  • Failure to give clear guidance (57%). Vague or ambiguous directions often reveal the leader’s own incompetence and lack of clarity about the project. How can leaders effectively guide a team when they can’t even articulate their goals?
  • Failure to meet with subordinates (52%). Leaders who don’t take the time to meet with their employees lose a crucial opportunity for connection. Employees do not trust aloof managers.
  • Not bothering to talk to employees (51%). Just as lack of communication is one of the predictors of a failed relationship, so is it an indicator of ineffective leadership.
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work (47%). A boss who claims ownership of employees’ ideas undermines motivation and sows mistrust.
  • Failure to provide constructive criticism (39%). Poor managers tend to insult an employee rather than clearly identifying issues and outlining substantive feedback.
  • Not learning the names of their employees (36%). Why should an employee care about a leader’s objectives when that leader can’t even be bothered to learn her name?
  • Avoiding voice-to-voice contact (34%). Managers who are unavailable to their employees via in-person or phone meetings create a further sense of disconnection.
  • Not getting to know employees (23%). When leaders don’t take the time to chat with employees about non-work topics, employees feel as if their personal lives—and by extension, they themselves—don’t matter to their boss.

Your Stories

What are some of the emotionally unintelligent behaviors you’ve observed in leaders? I’d love to hear about your experiences with bosses from hell. On the flip side, I’d also love to hear about your experiences with bosses from heaven. We can learn from both.

Curious How You Can Change Your Workplace?

Give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us. I’m happy to assess your situation and help you develop a plan to improve your work situation.

Tuesday
28
July 2015
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Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula = EI + Coaching

Happy, Successful Leader with Emotional Intelligence
What will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58% more effective at your job and rank you with 90% of top performers? If you’ve been following this blog, you can probably guess.

Yep, that’s right. Emotional intelligence.

Unless you want to be among the 80% of low-EQ employees classed as “bottom performers,” it’s time to discover how you can accelerate your career and become a better leader by developing your emotional intelligence.

Studies show those with average IQs outshine their highest-IQ counterparts 70% of the time because of their EQ.

Whereas IQ and personality are static elements of your makeup, you can always increase your emotional intelligence (thanks to the wonders of neuroplasticity)—and doing so will make a surprising difference in both your life and work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In a recent Forbes article, bestselling coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and cofounder of Talent Smart Travis Bradberry describes the two primary competencies and four core skills that make up emotional intelligence.

Personal Competence

This first competency comprises self-awareness (observation) and self-management (actions). Your observation skills, sensitivity and ability to control your emotions come into play here. How conscious are you of your emotions, and how accurate are your self-perceptions? Do you practice mindfulness to remain aware of your emotions, and are you able to take a step back and regulate them when needed? How malleable are you, and can you transform a negative emotion into a positive action?

Social Competence

This competency focuses on social awareness (observation) and relationship management (actions), mapping the reflection and regulation required for personal competence to social situations and relationships. How well do you understand the motives, actions and moods of those around you? Do you intuitively sense people’s emotions and accurately perceive their intentions? Can you use these perceptions to navigate relationships and communicate successfully?

What’s Your EQ?

In an Inc. article, Bradberry outlines 18 key indicators of highly developed emotional intelligence.

Here are a few questions to help you explore your EQ and see how you well you meet Bradberry’s criteria:

  • Do you use a rich range of vocabulary when describing your and others’ emotions? The better you can articulate emotions, the better you can understand and thus manage those emotions.
  • Are you curious about people? Curiosity is a marker of empathy, and it also suggests a natural willingness to listen.
  • Do you welcome change? When your reaction to change is governed by openness and adaptability rather than fear, you will float rather than flounder in the face of transformation.
  • Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? If you have a clear sense of your gifts and blind spots, you can leverage your strengths to your advantage while minimizing the impact of your weaknesses.
  • How well can you judge people’s character? This quality is critical to building and leading a successful team.

Ready to Develop Your EI?

Becoming aware of the significance of emotional intelligence is the first step. The second is actively seeking to improve it.

It’s sometimes difficult to objectively evaluate your EI, particularly if you’re one of the many high potentials and middle managers who need to develop this area before they can rise to greatness. Even those who have already achieved success may have difficulty connecting with their employees in meaningful and effective ways.

No matter where you’re at on the EQ scale, you can always benefit from honing your EI. According to Bradberry, “every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary.”

But monetary rewards are only the beginning. Possessing self-understanding and the ability to control your emotions will give you a greater sense of purpose, peace and well-being. Developing a deeper rapport with your colleagues and employees will increase your effectiveness, their productivity and everyone’s happiness.

The Time Is Now

A co-active leadership coach like Chris Cook can accurately assess your EQ, identify ways to improve your emotional intelligence and give you the tools to do so. Chris will nudge you gently but firmly toward outcomes, holding you accountable while inspiring personal and professional growth.

To schedule a complimentary phone, Skype or in-person consultation with Chris, call 541.601.0114, email chris@capiche.us or complete our Contact form today.

Tuesday
14
July 2015
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The Rock or the Rebel? How Learning Agility Can Make or Break Your Company

Businessman Climbing a Staircase of Books

Your company is expanding into India, and you’ve got to hire a CEO to head up the new branch. What qualities do you look for?

Do you select the candidate with the solid academic credentials, proven track record and cautious yet consistently successful approach? Or do you go with the wildcard—the rogue leader who questions authority, circumvents convention and takes risks, even though they may fail?

A recent Harvard Business Review article by J.P. Flaum and Becky Winkler says you should go with the rebel.

Why? Because the sure thing may not turn out to be so sure when thrown into an unfamiliar context. Leaders who easily achieve success with known variables may find their formulas don’t work so well when those variables change. Unaccustomed to failure, they may react defensively, sending the company into a tailspin while struggling to cope with the unexpected.

The wildcard, on the other hand, embraces challenge. She’s not afraid to take strategic risks because she doesn’t fear failure—instead of crumbling, she bounces back stronger, learning from her mistakes and adapting accordingly. She may be harder to govern, but she listens to her team, reflects, and recalibrates when circumstances demand—and this learning agility is the bellwether of success.

Traditionally, corporations have opted for the kowtower over the renegade—a pattern that frequently produces catastrophic results.

Case in Point: Apple

Take Apple, for example. Go back to 1985, when the Board is faced with a choice between Steve Jobs and CEO John Sculley, who had been specifically directed to “contain” Jobs and his cavalier tendency to lavish resources on new product ideas. The Board chose Sculley, and 13 years later, Sculley left the company $200 million in debt. Sure, Apple still had $2 billion in cash, but their reputation was on the decline along with profits, and it wasn’t until they brought Jobs back in 1997 that Apple’s brand, stock prices and profitability began to soar again.

What the Board had feared in Jobs is precisely what made him such a triumphant leader: he was daring, original, flexible and resilient—in other words, he was learning-agile.

What Is Learning Agility?

Researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership and Teachers College, Columbia University say learning-agile leaders are “continually able to jettison skills, perspectives and ideas that are no longer relevant and learn new ones that are.”

Flaum and Winkler summarize the findings on learning agility as “a mind-set and corresponding collection of practices that allow leaders to continually develop, grow and utilize new strategies that will equip them for the increasingly complex problems they face in their organizations.”

The researchers found that the single defining characteristic of non–learning-agile individuals is defensiveness. People who fear change, resist new experiences and respond negatively to critiques or challenges lack the resilience necessary to grow and, subsequently, learn.

Learning-agile leaders, on the other hand, solicit feedback and evolve to integrate what they’ve learned. This kind of emotional intelligence requires listening skills, empathy, imagination and humility.

See the white paper Learning About Learning Agility for more details.

Key Behaviors

Four key behaviors are associated with learning agility:

  • Innovation: People who think different are the revolutionaries who will change the course of your company’s history. You want the wave-makers and the earth-shakers—they’re the ones who are going to launch your organization to success.
  • Performance: The learning-agile cope marvelously with stress, adversity and uncharted territory. They don’t shatter when failure occurs but instead respond with elasticity and grace, deftly changing tack and perfecting a strategy based on what they’ve learned.
  • Reflection: This, again, is where emotional intelligence comes in, specifically self-awareness, according to studies by Green Peak Partners identifying this as the top predictor of success in executive leaders. This quality enables the learning-agile to self-assess, seek feedback and modify their behavior.
  • Risk: Learning-agile individuals don’t take foolhardy risks, but they also don’t let fear or caution prevent them from seizing opportunity. They welcome new experiences and constantly seek out ways to stretch themselves and their team. They court failure, knowing they will always learn from it and do better in future. Like the phoenix rising from its ashes, the learning-agile person grows more confident, resilient and astute with each stumble.

The Connection Between Emotional Intelligence and Learning Agility

In their 1990 article “Emotional Intelligence,” Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer define EI as “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

Flaum and Winkler suggest self-monitoring and managing your emotions both require learning agility, making it crucial to emotional intelligence. They also connect it to superior listening skills.

Do You Want to Become More Learning-Agile?

A coach can help you learn how to innovate, perform, reflect and take risks that will stretch you as well as showing you how to shed obstructive qualities like defensiveness.

Contact Chris Cook at 541.601.0114 or chris@capiche.us to explore how her leadership coaching services can hone your learning agility, emotional intelligence and effectiveness as both a leader and a human being.

Tuesday
23
June 2015
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“Let Me Not Die While I Am Still Alive.”

Stormy Sky Clouds
And other lessons from an untimely death.

I think I have a lot in common with 391,833 other Facebook users. I don’t want anyone to miss the essence of Sheryl Sandberg’s message from June 3 sharing her feelings and realizations from the 30-day religious mourning period following her husband’s unexpected death.

My thoughts keep going back to her Facebook post on losing her husband, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg. What she shared can make us all stronger, more emotionally intelligent and better parents, children and friends.

She now understands the one-line prayer, “Let me not die while I am still alive,” shared by her childhood friend, now a rabbi.

She understands that “when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”

And empathy—Sheryl shines a new light on the power of empathy. In the past, she would have thought exhibiting empathy would look something like trying to reassure someone things would get better or—as many of us do—to put a silver lining on it, “Well, at least you had a great marriage for 11 years,” or “Thank goodness you have your children.”

Sheryl says it’s all about truth. “Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, ‘My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am?’ When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”

She also learned that resilience can be learned. Her friend Adam M. Grant taught her about the three components that create resilience: “Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word ‘sorry.’ To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.”

Thanks for sharing, Sheryl. We’ve looked up to you as a highly successful female executive and bestselling author. Your book, Lean In, inspired us women to get out there and claim our place in the world of business. Your recent Facebook post inspires us and teaches us how important it is to choose meaning and life, impart empathy and learn to be resilient. How are you today?

Links to other articles and blogs on Sheryl’s post can be found at The New York Times.

Tuesday
09
June 2015
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What’s the Best Blend of Mentoring and Coaching?

Mentee Artwork (Orange Fields Green Mountains with Lamb)

All artwork by a girl Chris mentored for five years as part of the Soroptimist Strong Girls Strong Women program

Coaching and mentoring are close to my heart. Now a certified coach, I am fortunate to be in contact with a mentor I have had since my senior year in college over three decades ago. A retired journalist and professor, she is an author, a woman of great wisdom—and still my mentor.

Because of my experience in mentoring, coaching training and work with leaders related to emotional intelligence, I have been asked to lead a workshop at the University of New Mexico’s Mentoring Institute Annual Conference this year. The topic is “Developing Excellence in Leadership and Coaching—for Mentors.”

This blog post features an interview about that workshop.

Interview with Chris Cook

In this edition of Mentoring and Coaching Monthly, you will find an interview with 2016 Pre-Conference Workshop leader Chris Cook. Her workshop, “Developing Excellence in Leadership and Coaching—for Mentors,” is sure to have something for everyone.

Mentee Artwork (Girl in Mixed Media)Q: Can you describe your background? How did you get into mentoring?

A: My background includes 30+ years in marketing for professional services, higher education, nonprofits and other businesses. A few years ago, I earned a master in management degree, and in the process I found positive psychology. I loved it! I found a way to mesh marketing and positive psychology in work that focuses on helping organizations develop and live their brand. There’s a lot of coaching involved—and some mentoring.

For coaching, I trained at the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and at CRR Global, and I am certified by the International Coaches Federation. I work with a variety of individuals and organizations.

I am both a mentor and a coach. Actually, coaching and mentoring are very close. There is a distinction though. Mentors work with mentees who want to learn the skills and knowledge their mentors have developed to further their life goals. Coaches work with clients to help them discover their greatest purpose, passion and values and to help them lead/live intentionally—in resonant choice.

As a mentor and a coach, I’ve found there are times in which you need to be one and not the other. Part of this workshop is to help mentors learn how and when to use skills that come from the coaching profession to augment their mentoring skills.

Mentee Artwork (Bird Collage)Q: What else can those attending your workshop expect?

A: They can expect 3+ hours of hands-on, experiential learning. I will share tools I have used over the years, and we will practice and talk about ways to use them in different situations. I expect the participants will learn as much from each other as they will from me!

Q: Without giving too much away, can you describe the co-active coaching model and the relationship systems model?

A: The co-active coaching model was developed by Karen Kimsey-House and Henry Kimsey-House—two pioneers in the coaching world and cofounders of the Coaches Training Institute. It emphasizes a partnership between the client and the coach, and it also promotes a combination of deepening understanding (co) and forwarding the action (active).

The relationship systems model I use is based on work by Marita Fridjhon and Faith Fuller, the cofounders of CRR Global. The premise is that we are all in relationship—with ourselves, our partners, teams, organizations, etc. Here we coach the system, not the individuals.

Both coaching methods have been used around the world and in nearly every type of organization with nearly every kind of person.

Mentee Artwork (Composition in Yellow)
Q: Do you believe that everyone has the potential for creativity?

A: One of the most basic premises of coaching using these methods is that we believe the people/systems are naturally intelligent and creative and resourceful.

Q: What constitutes an effective leader/coach?

A: There are several skills that are critical—mostly based on having highly developed emotional intelligence. The good part is EI can be learned. It can be developed. It’s not like IQ, which you are born with a level and that’s the level where it remains.

Q: Is an effective leader born, or can anyone learn to lead effectively?

A: I believe people can learn emotional intelligence, and, with that, they can learn leadership skills and tools. The competencies of EI—self-awareness, self-regulation/motivation, empathy and relationship awareness—are the foundation to all relationships. Leaders set the stage for how the relationship—or organization—will work together.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to those entering into a leadership position?

A: Find a mentor and get a coach. There’s nothing like having someone help you through a transition, help you grow in a new role and help you develop your own leadership style. Plus, it’s true when they say, “It’s lonely at the top.” A mentor and a coach will be your ally, and they will hold you accountable to take the steps to maximize your potential.

Thursday
28
May 2015
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A Walk Down Memory Lane: Or Why I Love Positive Psychology

Sunshine Yellow Flower

My students in the Working with Emotional Intelligence class at Southern Oregon University recently presented on an emotional intelligence (EI) topic they wanted to know more about. I was delighted at the number who picked a positive psychology topic. That’s what I chose four years ago when I took an EI class as part of my Master in Management program. That got me thinking back …

Here’s how my thesis began: Previous business bestsellers (e.g., One Minute Manager, Who Moved My Cheese, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) may have offered good advice, and while much of this advice is intuitive, it was not based on research.

PsyCap

Research has demonstrated that specific psychological states contribute to an organization’s success. Developed by Fred Luthans, the premise of Psychological Capital (or PsyCap) is that a company can enhance its leadership, employee development and performance by developing four psychological states in its employees: hope, confidence [efficacy], optimism and resiliency. PsyCap is something that can be cultivated and can have a profound effect on an organization’s bottom line (Luthans, Avolio, Avey & Norman, 2007).

PsyCap is an individual’s positive state of psychological development characterized by the four constructs of:

  1. Hope: persevering toward goals and making adjustments along the way to succeed
  2. Confidence [efficacy]: taking on and putting in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks
  3. Optimism: feeling positive about succeeding now and in the future
  4. Resiliency: the ability to sustain and bounce back from problems and adversity to attain success (Avey, Luthans, Smith & Palmer, 2010)

PsyCap is made up of the combination of all four states because together they can predict performance outcomes more accurately than any single one (Avey, et al., 2010).

Outcomes

Through his research, Luthans confirmed that these states can be learned and the outcomes measured. He worked with a well-known Silicon Valley high-tech firm, where 75 engineering managers participated in PsyCap training. After subtracting the cost of the training and the engineers’ time, the calculated return on investment was 270% (Hope, Optimism and Other Business Assets, 2007).

Increasing Your PsyCap

I appreciate my students pointing me back to my PsyCap roots, and I love that I am able to use this research to help people and organizations around the Rogue Valley and beyond. If your organization would benefit from greater PsyCap, give me a call at 541.601.0114. Let’s see how successful you can be!

References

Avey, J., Luthans, F., Smith, R., & Palmer, N. (2010). Impact of positive psychological capital on employee well-being over time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 15(1), 17–28. doi:10.1037/a0016998.

Hope, optimism, and other business assets: Q&A with Fred Luthans. (2007, January 11). Gallup Management Journal. Retrieved from http://gmi.gallup.com.

Luthans, F., Avolio, B.J., Avey, J.B., & Norman, S.M. (2007, Autumn). Positive psychological capital: measurement and relationship with performance and satisfaction. Personnel Psychology, 60(3), 541–572. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00083.x.

Thursday
07
May 2015
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What I Like About You

What I Like About You Notes


Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. —Voltaire


How important is it to let people around you know what you value about them? Why would you bother? Why take the time?

A quick Google search offers about 615,000 reasons.

My answer: It’s essential if you are looking to energize, motivate, develop or lead.

In my Working with Emotional Intelligence class at Southern Oregon University the other night, we did a little exercise called What I Like About You. Yes, it was performed to the music of The Romantics, and the students loved it.

Here’s how it worked: everyone had a piece of paper taped to their backs. Students made their way around the room and wrote a few words on each of their fellows’ backs. The messages focused on what they like or appreciate about each other (only one “kick me”—written in jest, of course, as these guys have great senses of humor and camaraderie).

Why this exercise? Self-awareness is a key component to emotional intelligence, and sometimes it helps to check in with others. We don’t always see what others see in us. Usually, we see our warts and feel slow and earthbound, while others see the glimmer in our eyes and notice our ability to come up with creative ideas.

And don’t forget that recognizing the good in someone only strengthens your own happiness.

Next time you have the chance to tell someone something you admire or appreciate about them, don’t be shy. You will both be better for it.

SOU’s Working with Emotional Intelligence class is part of an exciting new program called Innovation and Leadership. It’s a degree completion program for working adults.

Thursday
16
April 2015
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Why Businesses Fail—and Succeed

Adam Cuppy Presenting
Above: Adam Cuppy speaking on leadership (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Why do most businesses fail? Is it lack of resources? Poor marketing? Untrained employees? Or perhaps it’s their location—the company’s too far away from the epicenter of their industry, too under the radar to get noticed.

None of the above, according to Coding ZEAL co-founder Adam Cuppy. He thinks it’s because “their leadership is very poor.” His fellow founders Sean Culver and Trever Yarrish agree.

Drawing a diagram of a snow-capped mountain, Adam explains, “Leaders tend to think they need to … stand on top of the mountain. Reality is,” he continues, “they’re the one holding it up.”

Instead of being on a power trip, leaders should practice humility and service. By switching from proclaiming to listening, managers learn valuable truths from their employees, customers and the community.

Leaders can get stuck in a circular loop, asking and then answering their own questions. This is when stagnancy occurs.

The leader who stands on the top of the mountain “always has the answer.”

Coding ZEAL turns that model upside-down. “As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Adam. “The problem is that if it’s the same person that’s answering the question, you run into a dilemma because it’s not giving an opportunity to the other people in the organization to help you answer that.”

At Coding ZEAL, every new employee becomes a partner in a way. The structure is not flat, but it’s agile and encourages creative collaboration.

Hire for Culture

The three founding partners agree culture is crucial to their success. “We hire for culture fit and we hire for empathy and we hire for capacity,” says Adam. “You don’t hire for current talent necessarily. That actually becomes an added benefit.”

Coding skills and algorithms can be taught; empathy, zealotry and excitement must come from within.

We’ve blogged about the centrality of culture to authentic branding in past articles such as Creating Your Brand from the Inside Out: Why Your Culture Comes First, and Coding ZEAL is yet one more successful example of this principle in action.

Growth

“We are only limited by our perceived constraints,” says Adam.

That optimistic philosophy has paid off. “We’re at a point now that is super exciting and fun,” says Adam. “It feels we’re constantly bursting at the seams. We’re always in that catch-22 of capacity being maxed out and needing to hire more people.”

Good leadership involves finding that sweet spot between too many and too few employees. You don’t want to grow so quickly that the culture becomes diluted, nor do you want to grow so slowly that your employees become overworked.

Pair Programming
Above: Coding ZEAL developers pair programming (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

Pair Programming

Guided by Kent Beck’s extreme programming (XP) principles, Coding ZEAL developers practice pair programming. Not only does this allow veteran programmers to mentor newer employees, but when two minds focus on a task, they can spot and resolve problems far more quickly.

“Randy is bringing his expertise to the table, Sean’s bringing his expertise to the table, and where they overlap, greatness happens,” says Adam. “Where they don’t overlap, the other one’s learning.”

By investing in skill-building and education, Coding ZEAL is laying the groundwork for happier, and thus more productive, employees.

Code Occasions

“People are everything, you have to rock everybody’s world,” says Adam.

Knowing how mentally taxing coding all day is, Adam notes, “It’s imperative that there be developer happiness.”

Coding ZEAL leaders recognize that for their programmers, “much of that happiness has to focus around … mental space,” Adam says.

That is why they came up with the idea of code occasions. Coding ZEAL actually pays for its developers to go off and play, to create and imagine and implement their own ideas in a fresh and stimulating environment with one or two coworkers.

“It’s the inspiration, that cross-pollination,” says Adam, “that’s huge in everything we do.”

Employee Happiness

Coding ZEAL T-ShirtWhen you have happy, fulfilled employees whose creativity is stretched and nourished, the company flourishes, too.

Driven by a superhuman enthusiasm, Coding ZEAL developers gladly devote hours of intense focus to deliver products that exceed customer expectations. For them, this isn’t a job; it’s a calling.

By cultivating employee happiness, Coding ZEAL leaders enjoy unbridled loyalty from their programmers, whose emotional connection with the company results in sentiments like, “I will show up on the weekends if I have to. I will do what I have to because I have this vision driving my ambition,” explains Adam.

If poor leadership is why businesses fail, Adam’s, Sean’s and Trever’s empathetic leadership is why companies succeed.

To read more wisdom from Coding ZEAL founders, see our last article on the secret to exceeding customer expectations.

Wednesday
18
March 2015
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The Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations

Coding ZEAL Leaders
Above: Trever Yarrish, Sean Culver, and Adam Cuppy (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

What do coffee, code, and marketing have in common? For Adam Cuppy, Trever Yarrish and Sean Culver—founders of the wildly successful Coding ZEAL based here in Southern Oregon—it doesn’t matter what they have in common. What matters is the experience customers have while enjoying your product and interacting with your company.

“It’s not about the product you think you’re selling,” said Adam in a recent interview I conducted with him for The Southern Oregon Edge. “It really is about the relationships.… Ask yourself what is the experience you’re going to provide to the people that are going to consume it.”

In 2007, Yarrish and Cuppy left their stint as Dutch Bros. marketing and creative directors to create a marketing company in Grants Pass. Six years later, they partnered up again—this time joined by Sean Culver—to found a superhero-flavored development company in Medford.

Guided by the principle of zeal, the founders sought to “create an amazing experience.” Discussing the origin of the name “Zeal,” Adam says, “What I love about the name was I looked it up and it said ‘gross unadulterated enthusiasm.’ What’s more amazing and audacious than that? What says nothing about programming and everything about the experience? ‘Zeal’ does.”

Sure, the quality of your product matters, but what matters more is how you answer the question, “What am I going to do to blow people’s minds? What am I going to do make raving fans?”

And Coding ZEAL has done just that. With clients ranging from Mavenlink.com to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SilverCloud to Scratch-it.com, the company has seen 1400 percent annual growth since its launch.

Agility is at the heart of their success. “We’re an agile agency,” says Trever, “so when technology changes, we move where we need to move.”

This fluidity allows the company to focus on not only satisfying customers but on wowing them.

Coding ZEAL Customer Expectations Versus RealityTo illustrate this concept, Adam draws two columns, one representing customer expectations and the other reality, each with a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The customer relationship begins when expectations meet reality.

A customer usually starts by expecting an average experience—a 5, say. If you give them what they expect, no lasting impression will be made. If you give them a 4 or worse, you’ve not only lost the opportunity to build brand loyalty, but that customer may go on to complain publicly, leading to the loss of other potential customers.

“So instead what we’re going to do is they come in and they get a 7. They come in and we’re going to take an opportunity to blow their mind somehow, some way,” explains Adam.

But that’s just the beginning. Now that they’ve had a 7 experience, their expectations will change, and they’ll want a 7 again next time. So what do you have to do as a company? You up the ante. You give them an 8.

With each new interaction, you deliver an even better experience. Once a relationship is built, you just have to sustain that level of service. Even if a bump occurs along the path, the customer is going to be more forgiving because of the positive relationship you’ve established.

Using this model of expectation dilemmas, a company that consistently achieves between an 8 and a 10 discovers “this wonderful, wonderful thing,” says Trever. “Right there is the secret to success in forming loyalty.”

Empathy is key to continually exceeding customer expectations. “We are trying to always understand where you’re at, what you’re needs are, what’s most important to you,” says Trever.

At Coding ZEAL, questions drive the conversation. They don’t assume they know what customers want.

“As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Trever. “One of those questions can be, ‘So how can we speak to our customers more clearly? Where are our customers? Who can we service better every single day?’”

In the end, it’s all about that fundamental connection between two people. The company, the product—those are ephemeral. What the customer will go away remembering, what they will feel and think and what will impact their future buying decisions, occurs in that magical moment of interaction.

For Cuppy, Yarrish, Culver and their happy employees, zeal “is not just a word and it’s not just a logo. The excitement and energy that’s wrapped around our brand is real and authentic and we mean it,” says Adam. “Every day, it’s about waking up and feeling that level of excitement and reaching out with that intention, with the intention that we’re going to connect with our clients. We’re going to connect with each other. We’re going to connect with our culture, our environment.”

Our next post will explore Coding ZEAL’s insights into leadership and employee happiness.

Wednesday
04
March 2015
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