Leadership

November 2, 2018

Role Models: Who is looking up to you?

Do you have someone you look up to as a role model?  Did you, as you grew up? I know that I have had several.  There were teachers and professors, my grandfather, some colleagues and a boss or two over the years.  Role models play a big part in who we become as people and as leaders.photo of a penguin leading the flock

The dictionary defines “role model” as “a person who serves as an example of the values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with a role.”  That definition makes it clear that each of us lives as a role model every day.  People are always watching how we live our values. They notice how we step up to challenges or share glory and how we demonstrate gratitude.

Role models educate

NCAA Coach John Wooden said, “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.” Those are important words for leaders to take to heart. They apply to leaders in all walks, including both our professional and personal lives. Perhaps you are leading a company or a team or project for an organization. Maybe you are leading your family or you are a volunteer leader in your community. Or maybe you lead simply by showing up every day with a positive attitude,  doing your best, and encouraging those around you.

We are all role models

As leaders, we serve as role models for people who want to be like us, do like us, achieve like us. Actress Meryl Streep says that “being a role model is equal parts being who you actually are and what people hope you will be.”

We are living in a time that calls for strong, positive role models. We have to remember that people are watching us as we go about our lives. They see us on social media or watch us as we interact in the workplace. They notice when we speak up and when we stay silent.

November is National Inspirational Role Models Month. It is a good time to reflect on who we want to be and who we want the people we lead to see us being.

If we can help you or someone on your team become a stronger leader, manager,  or influential role model, contact us.

September 7, 2018

Do you still ask questions?

Most parents will be able to relate to this story.  When our daughter, Rynn, was young, it felt like her favorite thing to do was to ask us questions.  At the top of her questions list (the ones that would sometimes push us to our limits) were “Why?” and “What is your favorite….?”.

It sometimes felt like she was working hard to try my patience. In reality, what Rynn was doing was using questions to sort and test all of the information that was coming at her. I am sad to say that there were days when I squashed her questioning. I limited her right to ask me my favorite anything for the rest of the day. Or I told her she had used up her quotient of “why” questions.  By and large, I think we attempted to answer most of her questions, even if it was only to say, “I don’t know” (a perfectly acceptable answer, by the way).

Comedian George Carlin said, “Don’t just teach your children to read; teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”

We stop asking questions

Somewhere along the line, we stop asking questions. We become hesitant because we are afraid we will “look stupid.” How often have you sat in a conference or a team meeting and didn’t ask the question that was floating around in your mind?  Sometimes you got lucky. A brave soul asked your burning question for you. But sometimes, no one did. When that happened, you walked away without the clarification or information you wanted.

Questions are critical thinking

Questioning is the heart of critical thinking. Through questioning, we explore issues. We evaluate alternatives and possible solutions. It is by questioning that we find new solutions to old problems.

At the beginning of our training sessions, we encourage questions. We repeat the cliché, “The only stupid question is the one that doesn’t get asked.”  And we really mean that. We want people to clarify and even challenge the material we are offering so that it becomes truly useful to them.

In our workshop on critical thinking, we teach that curiosity is the first of four skills fundamental to critical thinking, along with flexibility, awareness, and common sense. To underscore the importance of questions, we give participants a topic and ask them to create a list of questions about it. As they complete the task, we see heads nodding and eyes lighting up over the long list of questions they create.

Albert Einsten said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning.” To encourage critical thinking on your team, you have to encourage curiosity, and that means creating a safe space for questioning.

Critical thinking is one of the skills we teach to build strong managers and teams.  Let us know how we can help you.

August 6, 2018

Do you know your leadership style?

When you search the phrase “leadership styles” on the Internet, you get a lot of hits.  There is a lot of information on what that means, how many there are, and which are the best.  There are suggestions on how to determine your style.  But do you really have a leadership style? Do you really only lead one way?

How we lead is one of the topics we cover in our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp.  Too often, in thinking what it means to be a leader, we look at leaders we admire and try to emulate them. At Ignite Succeed, we don’t really buy into that.  Let me explain why.

Emulating leadership styles

Let’s say that in choosing who I want to lead like, I look to the past and choose Abraham Lincoln or Queen Victoria.  Or I choose someone more current day, like Angela Merkel or Colin Powell. Each of these leaders (and many others I could have chosen) have individual strengths and skills that make them strong leaders. But the thing is, those were their strengths and skills, developed in their culture through their experiences. The strengths and skills work for each of them based on their individual personalities, beliefs, and values.

I didn’t grow up during the American Civil War or in 19th century England.  I didn’t grow up as a German woman or as a black man. My life experiences and opportunities, my culture and challenges, are vastly different from those leaders, just as your experiences, opportunities, challenges, and culture are different from mine. Does that mean that we can’t learn from history? We absolutely can.  But we must  always put things in a personal context. We need to look at how we lead based on our individual strengths, skills, experiences, values, goals, and intentions.

Leadership and emotional intelligence

To individualize leadership styles, we use the framework that emotional intelligence guru Daniel Goleman has outlined in his book Primal Leadership. Goleman defines six styles of leadership based on 25 emotional intelligence characteristics.  These six styles create a leadership toolkit from which leaders choose depending on what they are trying to achieve.  For example, if a leader needs to rally a team to make a big change, the leader needs to inspire the team to follow, to achieve, to rally round.  Goleman identifies that as a Visionary leadership style.  He outlines five specific emotional intelligence skills required to use that style effectively: inspiration, self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy, and transparency.

Goleman’s six leadership styles — visionary, democratic, coaching, affiliative, pace-setting, and commanding — are divided into resonant and dissonant styles.  The four resonant styles (visionary, democratic, coaching, affiliative) are ones that employees feel positive about, they resonant with them.  The two dissonant styles (pace setting and commanding) can have a negative impact on employees, that is, cause dissonance, if they are used improperly. Pace setting, for example, is used to drive a well-developed team toward a short-term goal. It should only be used for short durations or you risk burning employees out.

How leadership styles can fail

I remember working for a pace-setting boss.  It was the go-to style in his limited toolkit. There were never any down times. Everything required working at a frenetic pace, and everyone stayed at a virtual point of exhaustion.  I didn’t stay in that job too long because I didn’t want to live my life at that pace. That leader was missing some of the key characteristics of the pace-setting style: empathy, collaboration, and communication. Don’t get me wrong. I am goal driven, an achiever, and like to excel.  But I also want the opportunity to learn new things, stretch my skills, and have new experiences.  It’s hard for those things to happen under a pace-setting leader.

Understanding when to use each of these leadership styles, and even more, knowing which of them come naturally to you and which don’t, is a great way to strengthen yourself as a leader. For the styles that don’t come naturally to you, you can work to develop the underlying emotional intelligence competencies that will enable you to use that style effectively.

This is an important piece of our boot camp and of our manager training workshops. We love watching the lights go on in people’s eyes as they begin to understand where they are and where they want to go as leaders. Reach out to us if type of information would make you or your employees stronger.  We have a boot camp in September, or we can bring this training to you.

July 9, 2018

Set priorities to manage your overwhelming to do list

You know the saying: If everything is important, nothing is important. That has never been more true than it is today. We are living in an overwhelmed society with lots of conflicting priorities. We continue to be asked to do more and more in less and less time.  Technology helps. But it also creates part of the difficulty.

We are in constant communication with every aspect of our lives. We have our “to do” list or lists at our fingertips wherever we are, always there, always ready for another item or 10 to be added.  We have task lists in our electronic calendars, reminders and notes on our phones. Some of us even maintain physical paper lists just so we can have the physical pleasure of checking off something when it is actually done.

With all of this coming at us, sometimes – no, often – we forget to take the time to really look at the growing list and refine it.  What do I mean? We need to really examine our growing lists of tasks frequently and set priorities. We need to see which ones absolutely must be completed by us right now and which can wait a bit, which ones can be delegated, and which ones just be shoved off the list altogether.

Set priorities

If prioritizing your tasks sounds like just one more thing to add to your to do list, let me assure you that this one has great value. You can do it fairly easily by using an Urgent/Important matrix.

Draw a grid with four squares, two rows and two columns. Along the top, write “urgent” over the left column and “not urgent” over the right column.  Along the left side, write “important” beside the top row and “not important” beside the bottom row.

Now take the top 10 things on your To Do list and begin placing them in these four categories on the grid:

  • Box 1, top left: Urgent & Important
  • Box 2, top right: Not urgent & Important
  • Box 3, bottom left: Not important & Urgent
  • Box 4, bottom right: Not important & Not urgent

Once you have divided your tasks into these four categories, here is what you have decided.

  • Tasks in Box 1: You should do those now.
  • Tasks in Box 2: You can decide when to do those.
  • Tasks in Box 3: You should delegate those.
  • Tasks in Box 4: You don’t need to do these at all. Delete them.

Once you have categorized your first 10, continue the process with your remaining tasks. Completing this process will dramatically increase your level of productivity.

Using the Urgent/Important matrix is one of the skills we teach in our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp and in our Managing Productivity workshop.  It is a powerful tool for individuals and teams. If you like this, check out our website for information on the boot camp and our Great Managers workshops where you will get even more tools to improve your performance as a manager and leader.

May 2, 2018

3 ways managers can reduce employee stress

At a local meeting of human resources professionals last month, I talked briefly about the links between workplace stress and employee disengagement. It is incredible when you realize that in the U.S., the combination of these two conditions costs companies nearly a TRILLION dollars annually. Yep, a trillion dollars annually. That’s lost productivity, sick days, employee turnover, and more.

I can absolutely think of places where I have worked that had both high levels of stress and disengaged employees marking time, just begging for the day to end. It’s oppressive to work in a culture like that. I remember dreading to go to in the morning. I remember having difficulty shaking off the negativity when I got home at night. And I remember the mingled feelings of relief and joy when I found a new job.

That’s no way to live. As a manager, there are things you can do, even in difficult cultures, to ensure that your employees are not just marking time until they find that next job. Three things employees will tell you that they need from you to help them engage are:

  • Talk to me. Every employee, every person, wants to feel like they matter. Making sure they do is an important job for a manager. If I asked you right now, would you know the birthdays of your immediate reports? Their work anniversary dates? Would you know what they do at work that makes them fulfilled? What they do that they would really like to pass on to someone else? What they consider to be their strengths? Their weaknesses? Would you know if they are struggling with something, whether it is personal or professional? If you do, you learned most of that by talking to them. And I guarantee your employee knows you care.
  • Motivate me. Yes, you can motivate employees. Sure, they need to develop and demonstrate self-motivation. I hope you know your employees well enough to recognize it that lags, because that is something you want to talk about. Aside from that, employees are also motivated externally. A few, and only a few, are motivated by money, or more specifically, by getting ROI. Others are motivated by having power, while some want the ability to serve others. Some people are absolutely motivated by their surroundings and having positive experiences. Then there are those who are lifelong learners and thrive on knowledge. Finally, there are those for whom structure, process, and systemization are what it is all about. If you talk to your employees enough (see #1), or observe the kind of environment they establish for themselves, you’ll see these different motivational values come into play.
  • Make a plan with me. A key factor in workplace stress is job security. That means a lot more to employees than just knowing that they aren’t about to be fired. It also means knowing that they have a way to grow: skills, experience, and financially. As the manager, it’s your job work with your employees to develop their career path. This means knowing their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations. And to do that, I refer you back to item #1.

I hope you caught onto the fact that connecting with your employees is about the best stress reliever there is. Connection to their manager, their co-workers, and yes, the company and its mission is key to bringing down stress levels and raising up levels of engagement.

Increasing employee engagement and reducing workplace stress are two ways we work with companies. We do that by building more self-aware leaders which in turn makes stronger leaders and managers. Does your company need some help?


Susanne Dalton Dupes is a training and communications specialist and co-founder of Ignite Succeed. You can Susanne by phone at 865-896-9665 or by email at Susanne@IgniteSucceed.com.

March 1, 2018

Why Lizzie?

Every June at the Ignite Women’s Leadership Summit, a deserving woman becomes the recipient of the Lizzie Crozier French Women’s Leadership Award, or The Lizzie.  Who is Lizzie French and why is there an award named for her?

Residents of East Tennessee may be familiar with the Woman Suffrage Memorial on Knoxville’s Market Square. The statue is three women suffragists, one for each of Tennessee’s three grand divisions. Lizzie, a Knoxville native, represents East Tennessee and stands at the front of the statue.

Lizzie was born in 1851 and grew up with four sisters and in a house filled with books. Her politician father encouraged his daughters to read, to be educated, and to speak up.  When Lizzie was 21, she married William French. They had a son, also named William, but within 18 months of their marriage, Lizzie became a widow and single mother.  She never remarried.

Neither that great loss, or the challenge of being a single mother, stopped Lizzie.  She was a woman who saw a need and filled it, saw injustice and challenged it. Throughout her life, Lizzie broke barriers, exemplified great courage, and became a woman of “firsts.” The Lizzie is designed to commemorate her courage, her activism, and her determination.

Lizzie traveled a lot, gathering ideas for reform and improvement. In her mid 30s, she established the Ossoli Circle, a literary and charitable organization that was also Tennessee’s first women’s club. Around the same time, she and her sisters reopened the East Tennessee Female Institute where she served as principal for five years. When the Institute lost its lease, Lizzie refocused her energies into political activism.

Between 1889 and 1892, Lizzie led the successful charge to make the University of Tennessee a co-ed institution. She also established the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union, whose goal was to promote social reform. That group advocated for the City of Knoxville to name a police matron to oversee female inmates and keep them separate from male inmates.  As an advocate for this reform, Lizzie became the first woman to speak before the City Council. The outcome was that Knoxville was the first city in the South to create this position. Later, Lizzie stepped before the Tennessee General Assembly (the first woman to do so) to successfully advocate for a separate prison for women and children.

In 1912, as the first woman to address the Tennessee Bar Association, Lizzie gave a fiery speech challenging the state’s legal bias toward women. She was extremely active in the suffrage movement and served as president of the Tennessee Suffrage Association, leading women to write letters-to the editor of newspapers across the state. In 1923, three years after women won the right to vote, Lizzie became the first woman to run for Knoxville City Council, but she was not successful.

When she was 75-years-old, Lizzie travelled to Washington D.C. with a two-fold purpose. One was to ensure that a bill supporting working women was introduced to Congress. The other was to help furnish a Tennessee Room for the National Women’s Party. Lizzie died during her trip to D.C. and is today buried in Knoxville’s Old Gray Cemetery.

Lizzie Crozier French was a role model, a tireless advocate, and a courageous, forward-thinking woman who loved her community.  No wonder there is a statue and also a woman’s leadership award that honor her.

November 8, 2017

Self Aware Leaders

We are in our last week of our Rising Stars Women’s Leadership Boot Camp.  As in our previous boot camps, we have a group of amazing women.  It is four intense Fridays filled with education, useful tools, self assessments, coaching, comradery, ah-ha moments and fun.

In the picture we all have our thinking hats on as we talk through critical thinking, which was the second session in the Power and Influence Day.  The purpose of critical thinking is not to be right, but to gather and assess the right information. The four characteristics of critical thinking are:

  • Curiosity
  • Awareness
  • Flexibility
  • Common Sense

Consciously demonstrating these four characteristics will help you to improve your skills. A leader with good critical thinking skills will be able to avoid the common mistakes of rationalization, emotional thinking, bias and tunnel vision. Stress and urgent timelines can often make these mistakes every day occurrences, but when you have a tool like the value/effort grid to take you through the critical thinking process, you become a more aware and objective leader.

This is only a small section of what we cover in the four week boot camp. The feedback we have received consistently from attendees is that they become more self aware. A more self aware individual makes a better leader!

Come join us in February 2018 for our next Boot Camp!

August 22, 2017

Do You Suffer from Built-In Bias?

I wish I could tell you that I don’t have biases. But as hard as I have worked, there are still some that sneak out of my subconscious sometimes. I am appalled when I find myself about to tell my grandson not to do something “like a girl.” Like that’s a bad thing.

I was raised in a big family in the 60s and 70s. My older brother played football and got lots of attention for that. My sisters and I excelled in academics (he refused to do the work), and we were VERY involved in clubs and groups. But we didn’t play football. So by college, I was pretty sensitized to the whole “girls can do as well as boys” stuff.Photo of young girls playing

Or so I thought. Recently, I was watching a episodeof the Graham Norton Show with Rachel Weisz. She was about to hit a punching bag (as were the Olympic heavyweight champion and actor Martin Freeman). But before she did that, she noted that she should take off her heels so she wouldn’t “hit like a girl.” I caught it pretty quickly.

Do I think Rachel Weisz has an issue with gender equality? I don’t know her, but I’d guess not. I think she fell victim to built-in bias, those subconscious things we’ve learned along the way that are hidden in our brains, waiting for us to stop paying attention so they can sneak out of our mouths without us thinking about their deeper meaning.

I know that I am working hard with my five-year old twin granddaughters not to chastise them for being “bossy” (OK, you should meet the older twin) and to be clear that they sometimes do bad things instead of saying that they are being “bad girls.”

Our words have power, especially as we raise that next generations of women. We should use that power to ensure that they have what they need to stand in their power and demand equality. Let’s keep them from developing these unconscious biases that I, and perhaps you, sometimes still deal with.

Join us at our Salons and book clubs as we talk about issues just like this.

July 17, 2017

How to Thrive in a Competitive World

There are FIVE things you can do to thrive in today’s competitive world. Of the five, there are some that come naturally and some that will have us stretch out of our comfort zones:

  1. Continue to Grow and Learn – You can do this by reading, getting more involved with peers, employees- keeping your eyes and ears open for opportunities.
  2. Find your Niche and Excel – So many women are good at so many things, sometimes it is difficult to find your niche. CREATE IT! Then excel in it – be the best.
  3. Focus on Communication – this is one of the skill sets we do a deep dive into in our Boot Camps. Communication is the key to being a great manager or leader.
  4. Expand Your Expectations and Horizons – expect more from yourself. Surround yourself with people that will push you and you can learn from.
  5. Focus on Yourself – invest in yourself (training, coaching, self care). Be that well-oiled machine- mentally and physically.

To learn more on all of these topics, look for our upcoming Boot Camp for Women Leaders starting October 20th and our Great Manager Series starting in September.

June 23, 2017

You’ve Gotta Try

In the mid 1800’s, Thomas Palmer wrote in The Teacher’s Manual, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” It was meant as an encouragement for school children to do their homework. Today, it has become a maxim to encourage people to step outside their comfort zones, to stretch themselves, to expand their abilities.

The willingness to try new things and to think new ideas, is at the heart of innovation. In his book, Start with Why, Simon Sinek writes about the difference between innovation and novelty, citing the constant evolution of computer features (novelty) versus the groundbreaking creation of the personal computer available to everyman (innovation).

Innovation comes from a willingness to try and fail. Companies that bring innovation have a culture that encourages employees to try, and recognizes that failure is simply an opportunity to learn. One of America’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison, knew the power of failure: “I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”

How does your culture treat failure? Do you reward employees for trying, or only for succeeding?

Helping organizations and teams create a culture that encourages growth is part of what we do. Let us know if we can help you.

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