Enjoy Kevin Ciccotti's latest Recommended Reads for improving leadership skills:
WARNING: Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the AppleTV show, Ted Lasso, this article contains some spoilers.
One of the pleasant surprises for me this year has been the AppleTV show Ted Lasso. I have watched with delight this fish-out-of-water story of an American small-time college football coach who is hired to coach an English Premier League Soccer team. Did I say he knows absolutely nothing about soccer? Yeah, so there’s that.
Jason Sudekis plays the title character, and his comedic timing and delivery are near flawless. But that’s not what really stayed with me as I continued to watch season one unfold. It was the undeniable leadership lessons contained in the show. These are the lessons that made the biggest impression on me.
Be authentic. Being authentic means being aligned. I am who I say I am. It doesn’t mean people will automatically like you. But it does mean they might actually feel as though they know you. And that is a critical component when you are seeking to build relationships and instill trust.
Throughout his interactions with the team, ownership, the press, and local fans, Ted is unmistakably and awkwardly authentic. His “aw, shucks” homespun style comes through along with his unbridled optimism. And it completely gets on the nerves of everyone around him. But Ted stays true to himself, gradually peeling back more layers so that people see beyond the exterior and begin to see more – his heart.
“Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world.” – Adam Grant
Brené Brown writes about the importance of authenticity, and says, “Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable… even when it’s hard, even when we’re wrestling with the shame and fear of not being good enough.”
The reason why it is important to be authentic and vulnerable is because it can ultimately make you feel more understood. But what good is being understood by others if the thing they are “understanding” isn't even your true self?
Reward effort, not just results. This is a recurring theme as the season progresses, mainly because Ted is managing a team of seeming underperformers. So much so that we learn if they don’t win enough games, they are going to be “relegated,” meaning they will be demoted to a lower division for lack of performance. In the world of British soccer, it is the most unkind and humiliating of circumstances.
In an early episode, Ted is overseeing practice and one of his players, Sam Obisanya, makes a critical mistake for which he berates himself. Ted pulls him aside to talk with him, and this is what ensues:
“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing." -Eugene Delacroix
In today’s world of performance-based initiatives and reward systems, this type of guidance might seem counter to the way we’ve been taught to correct unwanted outcomes. We’re taught, “find a problem, fix a problem,” which causes us to take a short-term view of success. Ted is in it for the long haul, and he wants to develop his players to become their best selves on and off the field. He knows that there is almost nothing he can say to Sam that is worse than what he’s already saying to himself. So instead of piling on, Ted chooses to find the lesson, and in doing so he preserves Sam’s sense of self and helps grow his confidence.
Surround yourself with people who know more than you. When Ted arrives in England, he knows little to nothing about the sport he’s about to be coaching. Undeterred, he realizes that he doesn’t have all the answers and that he will have to lean on others for support as he navigates the situation.
His assistant, Coach Beard (played brilliantly by co-writer Brendan Hunt), has been Lasso’s trusty sidekick throughout his coaching years, and he pours himself into learning as much as he can about the sport. And Ted has no problem deferring to his knowledge and expertise throughout the season, even allowing the equipment manager, Nate, to help design plays and give the pre-game speech.
It’s the same with any team – they need to know that there is a future worth working toward. And they need to know that you believe in that future. Otherwise, what are they working for? If you’re optimistic about the future, they will be too. If you’re anxious and pessimistic, you can bet they’ll feel the same.
There are many more leadership lessons sprinkled throughout this show, so if you have the opportunity, I encourage you to watch it and look for them. At the very least, I believe you’ll be entertained, and at most you just might learn some valuable lessons that can help you become a better leader.
What are your thoughts? What are the biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned from watching Ted Lasso? Share them here, because that’s how we all benefit and learn from each other.
One of the keys to not only surviving, but thriving in the world, is resilience. And these days who couldn’t use a little more of that? But what constitutes resilience, and how exactly can we cultivate a bit more to help deal with all the uncertainty of 2020? I mean, come on already! Global pandemic, economic devastation, and racial tensions beyond anything we’ve seen since the 1960’s. If this isn’t a call for us to become more resilient, then I don’t know what is.
Let’s take a look at three keys to cultivating more resilience in your life and leadership.
The first key is known as reframing. We are creatures of meaning, and we assign meaning to everything that happens to us (and around us) in life. The truth is, nothing has any meaning except the meaning that you give it. And whatever meaning you give to an event becomes your experience. By reframing, you are creating a new meaning for life’s events and providing yourself with the opportunity to find a more empowering meaning for the things that occur.
“I think we build resilience to prepare for whatever adversity we'll face. And we all face some adversity - we're all living some form of Option B.” – Sheryl Sandberg
As we navigate this global pandemic so many of us have been negatively impacted on multiple levels. For example, the feeling of isolation being created by sheltering in place and social distancing is enough to make even the most introverted of us beg for some form of social interaction. But how do you interpret this situation? Take a moment to check in and get clear on how you’re framing this in your own mind.
What is the story you’re telling yourself about this? What are your thoughts? I know that for me, being a very social person, the shelter in place and social distancing created a sense of separation and isolation that I hadn’t felt in years, or maybe ever on this level. I felt lonely, sad, and I realized I was telling myself I was powerless to do anything about it.
Here is my reframe: I have the opportunity to build stronger relationships than ever with my kids, my friends, and myself. This is an opportunity to get really clear on the most important things in life. For me, relationships are the foundation of a fulfilling and meaningful life.
So I’ve spent time working on those relationships, and have benefitted from it immensely. It wouldn’t have happened in the same way had I not challenged my own assumptions about the situation. That reframe alone has helped me to feel more in control of myself, my thoughts, my actions, and ultimately my leadership and life.
“When it comes to our collective health, how we deal with the multiple crises and problems around us also depends on the power of context - in other words, our resilience.” – Arianna Huffington
One of the truths I remind my clients of all the time is, “Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.” We become attached to our thoughts, and many times we fail to actually examine them. Is this true? Does thinking this thought help me to face the day? Does thinking this thought make me more resilient, or less so? Start looking to reframe your thoughts, and challenge the meaning you give to the things that occur throughout your day. I am certain you will discover that many times you’re simply operating on autopilot, thinking a certain way because “that’s how you’ve always done it.” Learn to ask yourself, “What else could this mean?” And seek a more empowering meaning.
The second key is compassion. This can be a tricky one. I’m noticing a very distinct lack of compassion all around me as the world continues to be impacted by the ongoing crisis. People are losing patience with each other and with all of the rules and regulations being enforced.
“Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” – Nelson Mandela
Cultivating compassion means understanding and wishing to alleviate the suffering of others. It’s a non-judgmental approach to life’s disappointments, and provides us with the ability to move forward in a conscious and loving fashion. Being compassionate means I am not seeking only my own needs, but also considering the needs of others. And when things go poorly, as they inevitably will, it means not taking offense but rather seeking understanding and if necessary, forgiveness.
The most difficult part just might be that true compassion begins with extending it to yourself. How adept are you at doing that? What do you say to yourself when you make the inevitable mistake or misstep? If you have a difficult time extending compassion to yourself when you fall, it certainly will not be any easier when others disappoint you.
By adding compassion to your daily practices, you become more peaceful and less angry, more patient and less stressed, more forgiving and less defensive. And all of these things contribute to building more resilience.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
The third key is optimism. I’ve written previously about optimism versus pessimism, and one of my core beliefs is that optimism is the engine that drives creativity, innovation, and achievement. Optimism is the ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of adversity and to remain hopeful despite setbacks. However, it is not simply believing that everything will turn out for the best no matter what. That is magical thinking.
“Resilience isn't a single skill. It's a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.” – Jean Chatzky
The psychologist Martin Seligman, widely recognized as the father of the positive psychology movement, says there are 3 major attitudes that distinguish the optimist from the pessimist. The first is that they tend to view adversity as temporary events. The bad times certainly won’t last forever. It’s a momentary setback, a blip on the screen, and it won’t prevent them from achieving their aim. It merely will delay it.
Second, they tend to see the misfortune as pertaining to a specific situation. It’s not “more of the same” doom and gloom that pervades their life. And third, they don’t tend to shoulder all the blame for the event. They look for causes, including potential external causes and they take those into consideration.
Having a sense of optimism makes you more likely to forge ahead in the face of challenges, and provides the fuel required to keep going when things get difficult. Without it you will be at the mercy of your emotions, and that is never a good place to operate from.
So work on these three areas, and see how much more resilient you can become. The simple fact is that once this crisis is over, there will be another… and another… and you get the idea. Building the skill of resilience will not make you impervious to life’s challenges, but it will provide you with enough armor to withstand the challenges and come out the other side feeling calmer, stronger, and more confident in your ability to weather the storm.
2019 has been filled with momentum and growth
It has been a pleasure to train hundreds of members of businesses and organizations across the country.
Working closely with all levels of an operation is an honor. I get to challenge leaders to dig deep, removing old habits and renewing their spirit for the company. I get to share the basic but complex tenets of human psychology, and practice under pressure with the day-to-day operators. Whether working with a receptionist or a fire fighter, the lessons revolve around finding better and easier connections with the people we serve each day.
I am abundantly grateful for the opportunity to serve my clients and their companies and organizations.
In the year-end hustle and bustle, I challenge you to take account of the gifts you have received in 2019, and the gifts you would like to share in 2020.
I appreciate you taking the time to connect with me here, and look forward to connecting more in 2020!
One of the things I’ve noticed about myself over the years is that I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time solving problems that I don’t actually have. You too? What the hell is that about, and more importantly, why do we do that?
One of the biggest contributors to this dilemma is our propensity to look at the way things are, and to think that they should somehow be different. Only we don’t tend to do it in a constructive way. We become attached to our “shoulds.” It happens to us far more than we’d probably like to admit.
We say things like, “It shouldn’t be so cold, it should be warmer,” or “He shouldn’t talk to me like that, he should apologize,” or “I shouldn’t feel this way, I should be happier.” Our minds craft an alternate reality that is the way things should be if they were the way we wanted them.
I hear this type of statement from my clients all the time when we’re coaching around leadership initiatives. We may be discussing a project they’re working on, and I’ll hear them say something like, “We should be further along on this project,” or, “This person should be working harder on my project.” Here’s the thing, when you become attached to the way things should be, you are actually resisting the way things are. And in that resistance, you create your own suffering.
And if that isn’t bad enough, think about this – you will respond to people and the world around you based on those expectations, those beliefs about how things should be. It can’t be any other way. We act based on what and how we think. I said this to one of my clients the other day – and I actually thought it was quite brilliant, if I do say so myself – “You cannot out-behave your thinking.” Yup. Pretty insightful, right? I know! I thought so, too!
When you’re holding on to a should be, you are not seeing what is. And in your conversation with the other person(s), you may not be telling them what you’re thinking, but I promise you it’s in the room and affecting your conversation. You may be more terse than usual or there will be an edge to your voice. And when we are speaking to others from a place that is disingenuous or not forthcoming, they will feel it. They might not know exactly what’s going on, but this will create distrust because there’s something that isn’t being said.
“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in while, or the light won't come in.” – Alan Alda
Listen, I’m not saying that you can’t want things to be better, different. It’s in the attachment to the way we want things to be that we experience discontent, pain, and eventually suffering. We’re actually fighting reality, and as self-help author and teacher Byron Katie would say, “You can continue to fight reality all you want. You’re only going to lose 100% of the time.”
So what do we do, then, when things aren’t the way we want them to be? Am I suggesting that we simply give in, accept the unacceptable, and go on our merry way? Nope. Not at all. I’m not that fatalistic. Here’s what I am saying – don’t be attached to your ideas about how things should be. Instead, be more intentional about how you use your thoughts. Here is a framework to help you when you find yourself wrestling with your shoulds.
First, ask yourself, “Is this true?” Can I absolutely know that this is true? Can I say with absolute certainty that this person should be working harder on my project? What other things am I not seeing? Are there obstacles, challenges, or could they be overwhelmed with the amount of work they have to do? What might I not know, see, or realize? Be more intentional in investigating your thoughts.
“If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes our assumptions and preconceived notions are wrong, and therefore, our interpretation of events is incorrect. This causes us to overreact, to take things personally, or to judge people unfairly.” – Elizabeth Thornton
Second, ask, “What part of this do I control?” Do I have any control over how hard someone else works? Is that my business or is it theirs? Are they meeting expectations or not? (That is a better measure of performance than a subjective and nebulous “should be working harder.”) If it’s something I don’t control, then what is my role in creating change in this area? Is there a resource I can look to?
Third, and maybe most important, “How would I feel or respond if I were to let go of this thought?” This one question is where freedom lies. Freedom from judgment, pain, and suffering. Remember, you cannot out-behave your thinking. (Yes, I know I said it again, but it’s just so relevant. Deal with it.) If I were to let go of this “should be,” then I might actually be free to see things more as they are, rather than through a lens of disappointment, anger, or pain. It’s in your clinging to the should that pain and suffering occur. Then, when I interact with this person, that underlying discontent will not affect my conversation, creating distrust. If I let go of my attachment to how things should be, I have the ability to rise above the trivial and see the meaningful.
In conclusion, as someone once said to me, “Stop ‘shoulding’ all over yourself!” I know, not a pretty picture. But that is exactly what we do when we become attached to how things should be. It’s time to be more intentional with your thoughts. If things are not the way you wish them to be, great. Ask, “If I could change this situation, what would I want it to look like?” Then, identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be. Formulate your strategy and get to work. That is far more productive and will result in a much higher probability of success than simply living in the world of “should be.”
Let me know your thoughts on this! When you observe your own patterns, where are you stuck in the land of “should be?” It’s time to learn a new, productive, and far less painful way to deal with change.
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work