Archive for the ‘Team Building & Development’ Category

team-building-quintessential-leaderTeam-building is one of greatest challenges that quintessential leaders face. I believe this is because quintessential leaders do something that most people in leadership positions don’t do: they actually build a team thoughtfully and carefully, looking for individuals who will both complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses and who will be able to work together well and gel to form an integrated whole that can move forward successfully together. (more…)

How people approach leadership responsibilities mattersHow people in leadership positions approach the responsibilities of leading their teams is just as important as what they should be doing to fulfill those responsibilities.

Whether people in leadership positions are subjective or objective in their approach determines whether they are quintessential leaders or unquintessential leaders.

Let’s talk first about what being subjective and being objective means. (more…)

Modern Hiring ProcessThere are a gazillion fancy catch phrases in the Human Resources world-that-exists-unto-itself that describe the hiring process. Talent Aquisition is my least favorite (as if people are inanimate commodities that are bought from or sold to the lowest bidder – although that can seem like the crux of a modern employment search).

But in the end, the process is still, despite all the automated keyword vetting that allows the cream of the crop to get overlooked because some programmer (who doesn’t know anything but coding) is doing the vetting instead of a live human being, essentially to find a person to fill a position.

But today’s hiring process is a mess. So many extraneous and nonsensical layers have been built into the hiring process that the actual person hiring and the actual person they should be hiring have less of a chance to connect in person with each other than we do of seeing Halley’s Comet again in our lifetime. 

This is unquintessential leadership on steroids. Whatever “genius” thought this was a good idea was clueless about teams, team-building, and quintessential leadership. 

By taking the control of the process out of the hands of the people directly responsible for building teams, the current hiring methodology limits (and eliminates) viable – and, in some cases, the best – choices that would be considered without all the filtering layers now in place.

And, yet, because unquintessential leadership is the norm in most organizations, the very people who have built this Frankenstein of a system complain loudly and frequently about how hard it is to find good candidates and qualified candidates to fill their open positions.

The reality is those candidates exist, but the hiring process in its current iteration makes it next to impossible to find them. 


Because instead of depending, as quintessential leaders do, on their own eyes, their own ears, their own evaluation skills, and on their own intuition to spot strong soft skills and a good fit for existing teams, these unquintessential leaders have outsourced the most important function of building an organization to programmers, recruiting mills, and generic Human Resources departments, instead of doing this essential work, start to finish, themselves.

They don’t realize, to their detriment, that while you can quantify many aspects of organization-building – and, therefore, relegate it to people who don’t know anything about it, but can follow an if-then-else logic sequence that’s defined for them – you can’t quantify people.

And most organizations have forgotten that their most valuable resources are people: living, breathing, thinking, creating humans with personalities, skills, talents, strengths and potential that can’t be assessed or utilized without a direct human-to-human relationship.

Let’s look at the current hiring process and see why it exemplifies unquintessential leadership.

Major Online Job BoardsThe hiring process usually starts with digital job boards.

Most of the job boards, frankly, are a joke, even if a job-seeker uses keywords and date filters. Monster is the worst at just throwing out the most random and irrelevant search results you can imagine, no matter what parameters it’s given. Careerbuilder isn’t much better. Dice is pretty iffy as well. And LinkedIn ranks in the bottom of the tier as well. 

Indeed is probably the best of the job boards, but their search results aren’t all that great either. And it’s always a bit disconcerting to see job titles that spell “Manager” as “Manger” and other similar typos.

Once a prospective candidate has what has to pass for maybe-related search results, then the online application begins.

Alice Cooper did a song called “Welcome to My Nightmare.” Job applicants should consider playing this on an endless loop while they are applying for jobs, because this part is a nightmare.

It’s important to remember that this process happens with every single job that an applicant applies for. It is enough to make the most sane among us go stark-raving mad.

There is no standard for digital employment applications.

Almost all of them require setting up an account and creating a password just to get into the application. 

While most systems ask the applicant to upload a resume, almost none of the systems automatically populate the application form with the information on the resume. The applicant has to manually fill in everything.

Some systems have twenty or more screens to go through to actually complete an application for submission. Some retain the application information and some require an applicant to re-enter everything all over again for each new job being applied for. 

When the job applicant finally gets through this process and actually submits an application, then they wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. 

Apparently most job applications go to Never Never Land, because applicants don’t hear anything ever on 99% of them.

The 1% that job applicants do hear back on take various forms and are as infinitely frustrating as the 99% that they don’t hear anything back on.

The 1% shakes out like this:

  1. Immediate autobot email that says Human Resources has carefully reviewed the applicant’s qualifications, and while they’re impressive, Human Resources has decided to pursue other more qualified candidates. In other words, our program glanced at your stuff and decided you suck.
  2. For the most part, if a recruiter calls, it is a shiny-happy recruiter (remember, they get paid for every applicant they place) that calls and chats Recruiter Processfor 30 minutes with the applicant and promises to get back to them. Applicants will grow old waiting for that next phone call.
  3. In rare cases, a serious recruiter will call, then Skype, and then tell the applicant they will get their paperwork to the person hiring and will be in touch with the applicant when they hear something back. This ends up, for the most part, being another situation in which the applicant will grow old waiting for the return phone call.
  4. Even more rare, somebody at the hiring company will email the applicant with a one-line question, like “Are you willing to relocate?” or “What are your salary requirements?” Apparently, when the applicant responds their responses go to some sort of email dead zone, because that’s the last the applicant hears about the position.
  5. And in the rarest of cases, after the applicant jumps through a myriad of convoluted hoops, they finally get an interview with the hiring company.

The unquintessential leadership continues into the interview process, in most cases. As I’ve discussed before most people hiring aren’t exactly sure what they are hiring for. These are the same people who end up interviewing for a position they’re nebulous on themselves.

Once in a blue moon, the interviewer is a quintessential leader and the process works. However, blue moons are rare and so are interviewers who are quintessential leaders.

Generally, these unquintessential leaders can’t communicate well or effectively.

Poor Interviewing SkillsInstead of leading the conversation, they expect the applicant to do all the work. Pulling any concrete information out of these interviewers is next to impossible. Questions that the applicant asks are either deflected or answered in such vague terms that the interviewer might as well have not answered.

It may not be uncomfortable for the interviewer, but any job applicant worth their salt will have a high level of discomfort, as they sit there and ask themselves, “Why am I here?”

And the odds are extremely high that the applicant won’t get hired, which is probably for the best, because if somebody can’t even lead an interview, they certainly can’t lead a team. But, again, it’s frustrating.

The whole hiring process is replete with endless frustration. It’s demoralizing. And it seems to be designed to favor the survival of the fittest – only those who don’t quit until something finally breaks seem to be the winners.

Ask anybody who’s been through it and finally found employment, though, if they feel like a winner. The answer, because job applicants are the losers just about all of the time in the hiring process, will be “No.”

Besides all the unquintessential leadership involved in the current hiring process, the biggest problem throughout the process is communication. No communication. Delayed communication. Iffy communication. Vague communication. Wrong communication.

Quintessential leaders put a high premium on excellent communication, clear communication, correct communication, and prompt communication. That is a core component of life, of team-building, and of hiring.

Quintessential leaders also forgo the multilayered, inefficient, and dysfunctional current trend of hiring. They don’t let anyone or anything get between themselves and potential team members.

Because they know what they are looking for and they know that they will know it when they see it, quintessential leaders will do all the legwork, from advertising a position to filling the position, hands-on and by themselves (they will involve their teams in peer interviews when applicants come in, though, because the team’s input is an important part of the decision-making process).

This is the best and most effective way to hire people and, despite the unquintessential leader’s excuse that they don’t have time to do that, it is the most productive, long-term, time that quintessential leaders can spend to build their teams for productivity, for success, and for profitability.

Is your organization a mess when it comes to hiring?

Is the hiring process so convoluted that it takes forever to get a new team member on board and when they finally get there, everybody realizes it was bad hire?

Does the choice come down to making do with somebody who is not the right fit just to have a body or to leave a position open and go through the whole time-intensive, convoluted hiring process again, with no guarantee that the results will be different the next time around?

For those of us striving to be quintessential leaders, this is unacceptable. We need to take back our team-building responsibilities, no matter how much of our own time we have to invest. It’s that important.

What are we going to do about it?

More importantly, what are you personally going to do about it?





Narcissus Falling In Love With HimselfEntitlement and the narcissism epidemic is something that all of us as quintessential leaders have to deal with today. But where we have to deal with that may surprise us.

I’ve just finished reading Living in the Age of Entitlement: The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D. and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D.

Since the beginning of the entitlement/narcissism epidemic that started in the 1970’s, with the “me” generation that the Baby Boomers of the 1960’s morphed into, it has exploded as the Baby Boomers have moved from young adulthood to now being senior citizens. The mess they have left in their tsunami wake as revolutionaries is the mess that we, in subsequent generations, have not only inherited but have also adapted to in many respects. Parents, since then, have been the cultivators of narcissistic children from birth, and society and culture pick up that ball and carriy it after children are old enough to go to daycare or go to school.

Before the 1970’s, entitlement and narcissism were rare in the general population. It was confined to the ranks of royalty and celebrities, but even in those ranks, it was not across the board.

I think knowing that was why I was surprised by the saying that Aibeelene, in the novel The Help (published in 2011), repeats again and again to Mae Mobley: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” This is completely out of character for anybody to say in the world of 1963 Jackson, Mississippi – or anywhere else for that matter.

And yet this is an excellent example of how deeply rooted entitlement and narcissism are in our culture, in our society, and in ourselves. While this phrase would have never been uttered by anyone in 1963, by 2011, an equivalent of it would be a mainstay in the mouths of almost every parent and every elementary school teacher in the United States.

it's-all-about-meAlthough I have been keenly aware for quite some time of the “it’s all about me” attitude and belief that is everywhere in society today and is seemingly more overtly prevalent among the Millennials, there were incidents discussed in Living in the Age of Entitlement: The Narcissism Epidemic that surprised even me as to how early this indoctrination starts and how all of us, including Gen Xer’s like me and my generation (whose most recent parallel generation was the Lost Generation of the 1920’s) can be (and most have been) affected by it to one degree or another.

Narcissism is an epidemic in our society because it has infected every part of our lives and it has changed us in fundamental ways. Not all of us, but most of us. And that affects us as quintessential leaders because we’re not immune to the infection, and it affects the teams that we lead.

However, the one thing that should not be affected – and we have to get rid of any traces of the entitlement infection that we may have acquired along the way for this to be authentic, genuine, and effective – is how we lead.

If you have not yet read Building Trust and Being Trustworthy, I strongly urge you to read it. The must-have traits to build trust and be trustworthy are the core of quintessential leadership and they are the complete antithesis of – and the antidote to – entitlement and narcissism.

So you’re reading this and thinking “I don’t think I’m entitled and I’m certainly not a narcissist! I don’t need to read this because it doesn’t apply to me.” 

Keep reading. You are in for enlightenment if you are brave enough and honest enough to go on. And with enlightenment comes understanding and with understanding comes the potential to change. The choice to change is individual. And that’s on you. And that’s on me.

While not every person who feels entitled is a full-blown narcissist, most of American society has absorbed many of the narcissistic components of entitlement without even being aware of it. Everything in our culture is narcissistic and feeds our sense of entitlement if we don’t recognize it and consciously reject it.

Recognition is the first step to fighting the narcissism infection in our own lives. Pay attention to advertising (all forms of media). The underlying message is always “You’re special and you deserve this.” That idea of specialness and I’m owed this takes root and it begins the process of narcissism infection.

The reality, however, is that if everyone is special, then no one is special because the word “special” – which denotes being exceptional, unusual, singular, uncommon, notable, noteworthy, remarkable, and outstanding – loses its meaning.

We can’t all be special. In fact, we’re not all special. And, yet, that underlying notion of being special is rampant in our society. What this message of being special does is separate us from each other and it turns a blind eye to the fact that we, humanity, you and I, have much, much more in common than we have that makes us different. 

The idea of being special also causes us to think better of ourselves than we should and certainly exalts our opinions of ourselves compared to other people to dizzying heights. And because we’re inherently superior, in our own minds, to all the other lowly humans on the planet, we simultaneously turn our all attention completely to ourselves and expect the other 7+ billion people on the planet to turn all their attention to us too.

I doubt many of us are aware of how this narcissistic tendency has taken hold in our lives because we have absorbed the subliminal and not-so-subliminal messages that our culture throws at us at every turn. 

But I’m asking us to take the time to examine our lives and see where we’ve become narcissistic and entitled in our own lives.

As quintessential leaders – and as I’ve said before, we all lead a team or teams somewhere in our lives, as parents, as teachers, as athletic coaches, as pastors, as organizational leaders, as team leaders in an organizational setting, so this applies to all of us – we must be aware of how much this has infected our own lives and make an immediate and diligent effort to eradicate it, not only from ourselves, but also from our teams.

Nowhere is the narcissism epidemic more visible and more prevalent than on social media. That’s the first place that I suggest that each of us goes to examine ourselves because the volume and content of our social media accounts will give us a pretty good indication of how much entitlement and narcissism we’ve acquired in our own thinking and our own beliefs. 

Examples are constant updates that try to garner attention to ourselves, whether they are a non-ending stream of selfies or things that draw attention to us personally, or they are cryptic one or two-word messages like “Confused…” or “Sad…” or “SMH (shaking my head)…” or “Oh, bother!” that literally scream out “I need attention. I need an audience. Come talk to me. NOW!” 

Or they are simply a blow-by-blow account of every little part of our normal, ordinary, mundane, and, for the most part, boring lives, which is an unconscious way of saying “my normal, ordinary, mundane, and, for the most part, boring life is so important that you all need to know about it and pay attention to it.” In other words, my life and I are special.

If you have not read my three-part book review series on Michael Harris’ The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, please take some time to do that because digital technology and our constant connection to it plays a vital role in the widespread, across generational lines, infection of entitlement and narcissism in our society and in our culture. 

awesome special or narcissism?
This idea of specialness is insidious. 
These two images with this paragraph look harmless enough, right? And, yet, what is the real message here? You’re special. And being special means that the rules don’t apply to self-esteem or narcissism?you. You’re above correction, you’re your own person, you deserve the best, and you deserve everything you want whenever you want it just because you want it. You don’t have to cooperate with anyone. You don’t have to think about anybody but yourself.

And, if things don’t go right for you, well, everybody else is the problem, because it can’t possibly be such an awesome, wonderful, special, fabulous, spectacular, nobody-else-in-the-world-like-you, pinnacle-of-all-the-best-that-defines-humanity person that you are.

Writing that last paragraph made me queasy. But I think my queasiness comes from a realization that what that paragraph says is not far from the truth of how the majority of people see themselves in U.S. culture and society. That majority may include you and me.

And the sad reality is that it’s not true. 

So how do we as quintessential leaders eradicate entitlement and narcissism from ourselves and from our teams? This will be one of the the most daunting processes, I suspect, that we will undertake. But undertake it we must.

We have to recognize how entitlement (and narcissism) manifests itself.

Entitled people believe self-admiration is very important (and necessary). Entitled people also believe that self-expression (“I should be allowed to say whatever I want to say, however I want to say it, whenever I want to say it, wherever I want to say it.”) is necessary to establish their identities. Entitled people don’t recognize limits or boundaries.

Entitled people believe that just showing up is praiseworthy (think of little kids on a sports team with a losing season because they either stank as players or they were too distracted to play getting trophies just like the teams that were good and actually played the sport – it happens all the time), and that any effort (we all know someone who always says “But, I worked SO hard…” while they either never actually complete anything or what they do is so lousy that it has to be redone – by someone else – all over again) is deserving of recognition whether it produces anything good or not.

Entitled people hold everybody accountable and responsible except themselves. If something goes wrong, it’s somebody else’s or something else’s fault. They are blameless and faultless.

Entitled people let other people do their “dirty work.”

I have a close friend who works at a university in a department that is responsible for auditing student records to determine who is eligible for graduation each semester and who is not.

She and her team email (several times) students who should be eligible for graduation but are missing classes they need to be able to graduate well in advance of their anticipated graduation date so the students can do what they need to graduate on time.

Every semester, just before – and I mean two or three days before – graduation, my friend and her team get tons of phone calls about why students aren’t going to graduate and why they should be allowed to graduate (because they “deserve it” is usually the reasoning). The majority of these phone calls, however, come from the parents of the students, not the students themselves. 

And more and more common are the stories of younger employees who bring their parents to their job interviews and have their parents call to request vacation time or to fight with a company that’s terminated them because they either couldn’t do the job or they actually didn’t show up.

And that leads to a final point about entitled people. Entitled people believe their time is more valuable than anyone else’s time and that life should conform to their schedule instead of them conforming to life’s schedules. 

As quintessential leaders, whether we see entitlement and narcissism in ourselves or in ourselves and our teams or just in our teams, we must proactively remove it and replace it with the opposite, which is humility.

We do this first by treating all people fairly, without preferential treatment and without favoritism. Sometimes this means that we take corrective action with team members who are not meeting organizational standards and/or performance standards.

But this corrective action develops as a coaching process that starts as soon as we recognize that issues exist. This is part of a comprehensive performance management system that most organizations don’t see nor use as a year-round tool to develop employees, which is the goal of quintessential leaders.

Most organizations, instead, use a single part of a performance management system once a year. This is in the form of a review (which, in many cases, is tied to a raise), without any action plans, improvement plans, and side-by-side monitoring and coaching beforehand, at the end of the business year to hit people over the head with regarding things they didn’t even realize were an issue or that they were being evaluated on. And that is detrimental all the way around and is not quintessential leadership.

Some entitled people won’t change, no matter what we do as coaches and mentors to try to help them. That’s the reality. The narcissism is too entrenched and too much a part of who and what they are for them to do and be anything else. And the end result is either they resign (they won’t be told what to do or have limits set on them) or we terminate them (they never even attempt to meet organizational and/or performance standards).

But some entitled people will change, and it’s up to us as quintessential leaders to help them in that process. It won’t always be a piece of cake for anybody involved, but commitment and diligence on both sides to the process and to the end results of the process will eventually bring about the desired results. I know because I’ve been involved in this kind of process several times, and I can tell you it is so worth it when both people are committed to making it happen.

Coach Dean Smith UNC Quintessential LeaderAnother thing that we as quintessential leaders need to do to counter the entitlement/narcissism epidemic is to model and foster cooperation and teamwork, instead of making individuals on our teams the center of the universe. The late Coach Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina did this with every team he coached and I discussed how this helped the 1982 team win the NCAA championship over Georgetown, which had a single “superstar,” Patrick Ewing.

We consciously build teams to bring different talents to the table, but no talent alone is any greater or any more important than any other talent. Without all the talents, the team wouldn’t exist and we could not accomplish anything. Therefore, we must model and demand respect for and among the team. While we recognize uniqueness where it exists, we must be careful not to equate uniqueness with specialness. They are not the same thing. 

And one of the most important things that we as quintessential leaders must do as an antidote to entitlement and/or narcissism is to let people fail in a safe environment, where failure equals an opportunity to learn and grow instead of equaling derision, at best, and termination, at worst.  

The greatest lessons we learn in life and our greatest periods of growth often come as a result of failure (sometimes it’s spectacular and sometimes it’s not). In this age of entitlement, failure is missing and, as a result, so are growth and life lessons we can’t learn exactly the same way any other way.  

Parents are now accustomed to swooping in to save their kids from failure by doing homework, calling the university to try to get their kids graduated, going on job interviews with them, and negotiating with employers for benefits or after termination. 

Failures in the workplace often mean delays (which mean that other projects get delayed and potential profits get delayed), more work for the team, and possible negative consequences for the team leader if a project misses a milestone or misses a completion deadline. 

Because of this, it’s tempting for people in leadership positions to want to swoop in and fix everything and save the day. As quintessential leaders, we can’t do that. We have to be willing to stand in the gap and take the heat for delays and setbacks so that our teams have a safe place to fail and to learn from those failures.  

We can never forget the bigger picture that we are in the process of developing quintessential leaders. And quintessentials leaders fail at times. They have to face it. They have to deal with it. And they have to learn how to recover from it.

The bottom line is that if someone has never been allowed to fail, they will never be successful at living life and they will certainly never be quintessential leaders.

Failure forces us to look at ourselves honestly. It forces us to change. And it forces us to get up and try again. And again. And again. In the process of trying over and over, growth occurs because our character gets sharpened, our perspective gets broadened, and our ability to think outside the box gets stronger. We think, we create, we innovate. And sometimes we simply take a leap of faith into the unknown because there are no other options available.

The other side of experiencing failure is that it creates empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, and mercy in us toward others when they are dealing with a failure. We can help them, we can encourage them, and we can support them, because we share a common bond with them. 

Entitled people don’t do this, by the way. They gloat over others’ failures and they use those failures to put themselves on an even higher pedestal. Entitled people also ridicule other’s failures and they broadcast those failures to as many people who will listen, often dismissing those who have failed as weak, negative, a drain on their lives, and not worth any effort because all they do is feel sorry for themselves.

When we see this, we’re looking at narcissism and entitlement square in the face. There is a complete lack of connection to anything that doesn’t make them feel good or feel special. Failure does neither.

Failure is not all doom and gloom all the time, but it has its moments and a lot of ups and downs as people who are actually trying to navigate through failures are looking for avenues to overcome those failures.

Like anything else in life, failure is a lot like success in that most of the roads you take end up being dead ends and you have to start over again, which can get real old real fast, to try to find those few roads that are not.

But the thing that entitled people will never know is that our failures ultimately strengthen us and they forge excellent character because they leave us no choice but to confront all the things we normally avoid, that we’re afraid of, that are way outside our comfort zones, and that compel us to make, sometimes, really hard choices about what’s important and what’s not in every aspect of our lives. 

So the questions I leave us – you and me – with are simple.

Are we part of the entitlement/narcissism epidemic?

If we have been infected with entitlement/narcissism, are we going to do anything about it?

If we are going to do something about it, then what are we going to do and when are we going to do it?

Talk is cheap, my friends. Actions always speak louder than words.

Why Personality Types Matter When Building TeamsImagine a world in which every other person alive is exactly like you in how they are: thinking, speaking, and doing. With your temperament, your strengths, and your weaknesses. With the same things that can make you irresistibly charming (let’s all, since this is fantasy, go ahead and pretend that we have at least one quality that people find charming about us) and obnoxiously annoying. Everywhere you turn, you see an exact clone of yourself.

Do this sound like a great dream or an awful nightmare?

For me, it’s an awful nightmare. (more…)

This is the 2nd part of the review of Michael Harris’ “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.”

As quintessential leaders, this not only affects us but the teams we lead. One of our roles as leaders is to model and coach our teams. If we’re constantly connected to technology, then that is the example we are setting for our teams.

And it’s devastatingly detrimental to us and to them.

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

information superhighway going gentle into that good nightThis is the second of a three-part series of reviews that I am writing on The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection written by Michael Harris in 2014.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael HarrisIn “Part 1 – ‘The End of Absence’ (Michael Harris) Book Review,” we looked at the definition of absence and how it relates to our quality of life.

We discussed how absence gives rise to critical thinking, problem-solving, short-term and long-term planning, concentrated focus, and creativity.

We also discussed the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of absence.

And, finally, we discussed how absence has been eroded by our constant connection to technology to the point that it is virtually extinct in our current society.

We discussed how this has dumbed down society as a whole and how susceptible that makes us to being controlled, manipulated, and deceived by technology.

And, finally, we looked at how much…

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