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Tips and Examples for Effective Personalized Leadership Training


Tips and Examples for Effective Personalized Leadership Training

Managing complexity, change, and strategic thinking are the most common leadership development competencies. No doubt you have spent multiple training hours on implementing frameworks and off-the-shelf solutions to help your teams be more effective. 

How did you define success? Were you able to measure a change in behavior and the impact on your bottom line?

I propose that while many existing courses about "Time Management", "Deal with Change", and "Embrace Ambiguity" have their rightful place in the Organizational Development curriculum, they're missing one crucial element: customization. 

No, I'm not talking about branding it to your company by slapping your logo on the slides. I mean actually customizing actionable implementation tips to the individual leader. 


By using Personality Type knowledge. 

"Oh my gosh, we have so many personalities among our leaders, I wouldn't know where to begin or how to get all of them under one hat. No way we can please everyone!"

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing takes the guesswork out of it for you. 

"That's fine and dandy, but we need our leaders to commit to company goals; all root for the same goal; be team-players, you know?"

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing will improve inner- and inter-team communication and collaboration. 

"Sounds great, but we've already committed to a program and can't really switch horses right now."

Lucky you - the solution I'm proposing works well as a stand-alone and can also be used to enhance existing programs. 

Enough teasing, drumroll please: welcome to Matrix Insights.

This brand new online platform provides in-depth personal profiles, comparison between Types, and Development Areas for each Type.

For example, "Breakthrough Leadership Skills" often come down to

  1. Dealing with Ambiguity and Paradox
  2. Managing Change and Complexity
  3. Strategic Agility

Every high-potential needs these skills to be successful. Traditionally, companies provide time management resources and operational management trainings for support. These are great and have their rightful place in leadership development, but I for one know that the same training class has different effects on its participants, and personality type is one of the deciding factors. 

To accelerate learnings from traditional trainings and make them stick better, faster, Matrix Insights provides Type-specific action items to practice building these skills. 

As such, Matrix Insights access can be added on top of existing programs to enhance content retention and engagement at the time of need, and it also makes an effective basis for one-on-one or group coaching. 

Here's an example using ESTJ and ENFJ leaders side by side.

ESTJ leaders have natural talents for organization, efficiency, and practicality. To develop the three skills mentioned above, here's a personalized approach:

Dealing with Ambiguity & Paradox
ESTJs like to rely on tried and true strategies when dealing with situations. They like to perfect what already works well and that does not always open the door for considerations to new choices. When faced with ambiguous situations, evaluate the tried and true options for responding and identify a couple of new ways to approach the problem at hand. Find others who can provide a significantly different view of the situation and who can suggest new tactics for addressing the presenting ambiguity.

Reduce ambiguity by declaring the A1.
Clarifying priorities by sorting associated tasks, identifying areas of needed information, and designating tasks by As, Bs, and Cs, where A is most important to C low importance. Even in the face of ambiguity or paradoxical uncertainty, knowing the A1--even if it is just for the day--is a clear step forward. Make a plan to revise the priorities over the course of several weeks when dealing with a complex problem as conditions will change and the current A1 may drop off the plate. Humans are galvanized around a priority and it is doubly so for ESTJs, so declare some.

Managing Change and Complexity for ESTJs
Who can provide you with alternative interpretations of information in change?  
Typically ESTJs are eager to take efficient action and to take care of the “to do list” as quickly as possible.  To do so, ESTJs need to confidently take action based on the information they have, which as a general rule, they have vetted and decided is worth their attention.  Herein lies the potential problem--speed and bias.  ESTJs can improve their management of change if they do not assume that everyone has the same perspective and if they actively solicit views from others on the change under consideration.  In fact, make a list of all of those individuals who typically see things differently from you and seek out their perspectives.  What and how will they interpret some of the messages that you are contemplating providing during change can be useful to consider.  They may even provide you with tips for making the messages clearer and more useful.

What rules of thumb make dealing with complexity easier?
ESTJs are naturals at finding “rules of thumb” to make sense of and act on situations.  Usually, their approach to complexity is to break it into smaller units of information and respond in a more tactical manner; however, this may not serve them well in terms of understanding the layers of dynamics in a situation nor will it clarify how to manage those dynamics that haven’t been fully recognized.  Usually, ESTJs have had enough experience with an array of situations that they have a useful set of heuristics or pragmatic tips for addressing similar situations in the future.  There is value in creating a  “tactics log” to identify the most typical ways to manage change and to enrich this list, ask others for their short rules for various complex situations.  

Strategic Agility
Action plan inclusive of speculative outcomes?
Make a list of five hypothetical adjustments on a product or service regarding how this product or service might look in ten years given social, technological, and economic changes. Speculate based on a few hunches and create a elevator sales pitch on each of the five hypotheticals. Discuss your explorations with a colleague and examine how this kind of process can aid strategic thinking.

Found a way to explore trends?
More often than not ESTJs require more data points than intuitive types before reporting that a trend exists. Practice projecting a trend based on three data points rather than having a large set of data to create a prediction. One of the challenges of ESTJs is to learn to create a possible trend based on a few data points so with this tip, practice the stretch.

Leaders with ENFJ preferences, by contrast, have innate abilities for empathy, mentoring, and maintaining harmony. Obviously, they would approach the three skills from a completely different angle:

Dealing with Ambiguity and Paradox
Looking for the perfect outcome?
Even though it is clear that there are no perfect solutions ENFJs often look for them. In a psychological “feedback loop” built into their type dynamic, ENFJs “see” possible solutions which are “evaluated” and found unacceptable. This prompts more interest in finding better solutions. It is important to become aware of this and to break the pattern. Create a list of the mission critical criteria to use in evaluating the available data and outlined options. This will enable ENFJs to identify what is sufficient and effective.

Energy levels unusually high?
ENFJs find that they become more energized by solving complex problems and ambiguity usually makes things much more complex. A very important strategy for keeping all this in perspective is to make note of the energy level and evaluate how this is serving you at the time. There is a good chance that taking time out and meditating--even for a few minutes--will introduce a relaxation response which has the benefit of encouraging focus and directing attention that leads to finding a successful response to the situation at hand. 

Managing Change and Complexity
Use empathy to help drive change?
ENFJs have a knack for understanding what others are experiencing.  This ability can benefit their change management tactics by tapping into the needs of others and stepping into other perspectives on the change that is to be implemented.  While such empathetic “sight” might not change the decisions in change, it can inform how best to communicate, what to anticipate, and how to respond to others finding the change difficult. 

Using cues to go with the flow in complex situations?
Complex situations are in a state of flux--the greater the complexity, the more energy is in the system where the complexity resides.  ENFJs can quickly ascertain the complexity of situations and in their passion to help contribute to improving things, they may bypass some key clues.  A useful question to ask yourself is: What factors am I emphasizing and what might I see in the situation if I changed emphasis?  What methods of monitoring shifts in the situation have I put in place? How are you observing or monitoring the primary movers, influencers, and doers in the situation?

Strategic Agility
Why the urge to decide clips your agile considerations.
Being strategically agile means being able to flex with new information or new insights. ENFJs are wired to decide and move forward, whether or not the situation requires it. When in this mode, ENFJs spend energy on deciding and acting on what is believed to be the best strategic plan at the moment. This inoculates ENFJs from paying attention to new emerging ideas. Create a strategy log or journal in which you can keep your ideas and sketch out possibilities.

Cutting loose from the values anchor.
Like other NFs, ENFJs seek to take action and make recommendations on options that align with values and ideals. This creates a drag on new energy and on agile considerations that may emerge. One of the ways to manage this is to be unambiguous about the top five values on which you based your decisions. The clearer you are about those values, the easier it is to contract choices and measure the impact on the current choice and to ask what other choices can be pursued that value those not able to attend.



Drawing a Pig

Sorry, couldn't decide, they're all showing different angles and are just too darn cute! Thanks, Google Images. :-)

Sorry, couldn't decide, they're all showing different angles and are just too darn cute!
Thanks, Google Images. :-)

Following from yesterday's post, an exercise we did during Pauline's session was drawing a pig.  

I'm going to give you a few moments to find a piece of paper, and take a pen or pencil to it now. 

Go ahead.  

All done?  

This is a fun little exercise to show how your drawing might represent your leadership style.  

If you draw your pig at the top of the page, you're likely optimistic and positive. The middle page is more factual or realistic, and if your swine is at the bottom of the page, oh my, you're a pessimist.  

If your big is facing left, you're likely friendly and traditional. If it looks straight ahead, well, you're a direct kinda guy. Facing right means you're probably innovative (and perhaps left-handed).  

Now, how much detail does your pig possess? More detail equals analytical, cautious, and suspicious tendencies. Broad strokes are a sign for emotions and risk-taking.  

Size also matters: the bigger you've drawn the ears, the better a listener you probably are. And those with big tails have great sex lives, apparently.*

*Use this exercise with your teams at your own peril! We had a lot of fun with it though. 



How Leaders Communicate


How Leaders Communicate

Toastmasters - "Where Leaders are Made" - is an organization that's been helping people improve communication skills since the 1920s. I've been a member since 2008 and always recommend it to expats arriving in the States. Weekly meetings with a group of people dedicated to developing their public speaking and presentation ability can help expats not only advance at work and be seen as a leader, it's also a good first source for budding friendships. 

The following are some notes I took during a presentation by Toastmasters' past international president, Pauline Shirley, DTM. 

"If clothes make the man or the woman, then certainly communications make the leader." 

Leaders are Inclusive

Don't treat your teams like exclusive circles where only a certain few have access - you may be cutting off dramatically valuable and creative input from "outsiders".  

Leaders Praise

Everybody likes to hear about a job well done. Some cultures are more comfortable with one-on-one praise, some delight in open recognition. Either way - mention the things that are going well and right, the things you want to see more of.  

Leaders Share Energy

Positive energy, motivation, and enthusiasm makes things happen. Sometimes leaders have to find the silver lining and share the excitement so it can spill over to the team. Be that light, and if necessary, fake it 'til you feel it.  

Leaders Critique

Supportive, constructive feedback works on improving the situation or task, never the person. Pointing out flaws is helpful for the end-goal, be that employee engagement or happy customers. Allow your team to make mistakes, learn from them, and help them rise to the next level.  

Leaders Seek Out The Best

Especially in a volunteer organization like Toastmasters, this advice has come in handy many times. Don't wait for volunteers or give orders: approach the person you've been watching and tell them why you think they are the right person for the task you have in mind.  

Leaders Use Positive Reframing

Yes, a spade is a spade. But as leaders, you receive attention, and it is important to mind your vocabulary.  

Leaders Use the Phone

as well as face-to-face meetings. They don't just rely on impersonal short email messages to get things done. Every communication channel has its uses, but face-to-face - even through video conferencing - still gets the most done.  

Leaders are Humble

Toastmasters is promoting the concept of Service Leadership. Coming from an attitude of "how can I help others?" rewards leaders with feelings of satisfaction and confidence. That means leaders facilitate the credit for the team, and don't take the accolades for themselves. 


Image by The Old Brit, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



The SCARF® Model for Leadership - 3.0

Hello! Thanks for visiting and please enjoy the free info below! 

Just fyi, you can find me over at from now on, where I'm making custom lettering and calligraphy. 

This archive will be discontinued next month. 

PET scan, public domain, by Jens Langner

PET scan, public domain, by Jens Langner

In SCARF: a brain-based model for collaborating with and influencing others, David Rock presents findings from various social neuroscience studies. Two emerging themes stand out:

Firstly, that much of our motivation driving social behavior is governed by an overarching organizing principle of minimizing threat and maximizing reward (Gordon, 2000). Secondly, that (…) social needs are treated in much the same way in the brain as the need for food and water. (Lieberman and Eisenberger, 2008)

If you have time to read the whole piece, I recommend it.

In brief, the brain’s threat or “avoid” response results in increased levels of stress hormones like cortisol. When stressed, you are not able to think clearly, because the region of your brain that deals with executive functions like reasoning, linear processing, or even creative problem solving (pre-frontal cortex) doesn’t receive enough oxygen or glucose. Instead, you are more likely to generalize and play it safe (activating the amygdala, part of the older limbic brain structure also handling instinctive fight-or-flight responses).

The brain’s reward or “approach” response results in increased levels of happy hormones like oxytocin and dopamine. When rewarded, you feel engaged and motivated. You feel safe, joyful, and are more likely to see alternative options to problem solving and take risks.

The SCARF® model explains how the following five concepts affect our experiences with other people:

  • Status (how important are you compared to others)
  • Certainty (how well can you predict the future)
  • Autonomy (how much control do you have over certain events)
  • Relatedness (how safe and connected do you feel with others)
  • Fairness (how fair are your social interactions)

Rock explains that leaders can do the following things to reduce threat and increase reward for each aspect:

Adapted from David Rock's paper

Adapted from David Rock's paper

As with many other models or leadership frameworks, the limitation I see is that they were conceived and probably tested from a uniquely Western, if not even limited United States point-of-view.

Dr. David Rock and Christine Cox, Ph.D also published SCARF® in 2012: updating the social neuroscience of collaborating with others. They propose using the model to evaluate emotional responses before, during, and after an event and added findings from more recent social neuroscience research. Some suggestions mention a cultural and personality-trait variations, e.g.

  • (…) the importance of status for an individual may be a basic personality trait and can influence social interactions even if he or she is not aware of it.
  • (…) Individual differences in various personality traits can also affect the way that people process and respond to uncertain and ambiguous situations.
  • (…) Across the globe, psychological prosperity (such as a sense of autonomy), as opposed to economic prosperity, better predicts feelings of well-being.
  • (…) It appears that the definition of in-group and out-group members is not limited to racial, ethnic, or political distinctions
  • (…) emotions are integral to judging fairness, and those judgments emerge over time through social experiences with others.

SCARF® "3.0"?

For the past five days, I’ve been blogging about the SCARF® model from a culture and personality Type perspective (note: trait and Type are not the same thing).

I propose to add future research studies to be controlled for – or at least take into consideration - these factors to give us a clearer understanding of how our brains work depending on Type and cultural environments.


Summary of my blog posts from the past 5 days

Summary of my blog posts from the past 5 days


Take that lump in your throat and run with it


Take that lump in your throat and run with it


We all need pick-me-ups once in a while. I hope you're filling your own happiness jars with numerous notes of noteworthy positive events in your life! I'm sharing my favorite encouraging inspiring women's quotes this week, maybe they'll inspire you, too. Below is an excerpt of Debbie Millman's address to the students at San Jose State. Honest, touching, poetic.

Every once in a while – often when we least expect it – we encounter someone more courageous, someone who chose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when luck has nothing to do with it. It is really all about their imagination; it is how they constructed the possibilities for their life.


Our abilities are only limited by our perceptions.


Perhaps what is truly known can’t be described or articulated by creativity or logic, science or art, but perhaps it can be described by the most authentic and meaningful combination of the two: poetry.

As Robert Frost wrote: a poem “begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is never a thought to begin with.”


Start with a big, fat lump in your throat and run with it.


Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not 2 weeks from now. Now.

If you have time, read the beautifully illustrated version here.

Image by Mark Winterbourne, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


Extra! What You as a Manager can do to promote Women Leaders


Extra! What You as a Manager can do to promote Women Leaders

You heard it here first!

  1. The baby boomer generation is retiring,
  2. taking much of their hard-earned knowledge and experience with them,
  3. leaving leadership holes in organizations across the world.
  4. Oh, and women have been earning more college degrees than men since 2009.

Wait, this isn't the first time you're hearing it? Well, what are you waiting for, then?

3 Things to Consider if you're a Manager looking to fill Leadership positions with Women 

1. The Bitch Factor

Many women still think they're in competition with other women in the office. Like there are only a limited number of "good jobs" out there, and if you have one of them, fight tooth and nail to defend it and not let any other women rise. I think Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In* referred to it as the "Queen Bee" effect - there can only be one, and she's often seen as dominating her worker drones.

Couple of points to note

a) I'd argue women shouldn't be promoted to fill a quota or boost your PR - promote them because they're the most qualified and capable to take your teams and projects to the next level. Saves you legal hassles in the long run. And it order to promote objectively, you have to:

b) Keep your prejudices in check. Spend some conscious cortical real-estate on questioning your opinion of the women in your office, and if those opinions might be based on cultural programming, like "men = nice cool competent dude and ambitious leader", "woman = nurturing mother or horrible iron lady". It'll be a difficult cycle to break and it'll take time, but keep at it.

c) Create an environment where there's open communication and a sense of security and opportunity for more than one woman to rise.

2. Are there enough mentors and role models?

There are tons of women to look up to and be inspired by. They span all ages and industries. Just think Mother Theresa or Indira Gandhi, Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel, Angelina Jolie or Julia Roberts, not to mention the women listed on Forbes' Most Powerful.

Still, I don't know about you, but they seem pretty far removed. Me, I like to know someone and have a closer relationship to help with the inspiration. Someone like the "elder" at my Toastmasters club, or the women stepping into those volunteer officer roles, or the new mentee who's just rearing to go give her first speech.

Can your top women spare an hour a month to hold luncheons? Or maybe an hour a quarter speaking to your local women's group?

Can you put practices in place where the top men mentor outstanding potential male and female talent? Doesn't have to be awkward between a senior man and an up-and-coming woman if mentoring is done during breakfast meetings instead of over dinner (another one of Lean In's brilliant practical suggestions).

3. Is your organization dynamic?

I heard somewhere that the way Congress was set up to work was people would go in for two years, give their input, and then go back home to their actual jobs. I love that idea of keeping things fresh and having people from many different walks of life represented. Must have been a logistical nightmare. Nowadays, with career politicians, of course, this is no longer the case. But I can't help but wonder if this would be an effective model for innovation and leadership development in a business.

Take a team of four men and four women, each with supporting staff as necessary, and rotate them through cycles of being the leader in charge. If you knew you'd have to count on the collaboration and support of someone two years down the line, how would that impact your attitude?

Ok, that's probably a pipe dream, but the larger point remains: does your organization have an internal job board, and are women's applications equally as encouraged as men's? I'll write some more about relocation concerns tomorrow, so I'll let you think about that for now. Looking forward to your comments!

* (affiliate link)

Image by Silecyra, Flickr, Creative Commons License.


How to give and take feedback like a leader


How to give and take feedback like a leader

Today's lesson comes from the The West Wing, a TV show about White House staff and what they get up to.

The scene you'll find transcribed below, courtesy of is between the President Dr. Bartlet and his aid Toby. Wish I could show you a clip, but that would be illegal.

The observation here is this:

Great leaders ask for feedback, hear it, acknowledge it, and accept what's true.

Great team members provide feedback, even and especially if it's constructive, as a sign of respect.

And guess what: that makes you a leader, too. Taking responsibility.

When was the last time you reminded your boss of his shortcomings?

Takes courage, no doubt about it, but if it's the congruent thing to do, do it.

TOBY Was David Rosen your first choice for my job? BARTLET [looks away] Yes. TOBY Well, I'm glad we had this little talk, sir. I feel a lot better. Thank you, sir. [laughs] BARTLET We were up all night on that one, Toby. Me and Leo and Josh. They were screaming at me, 'Governor, for God's sakes, it's got to be Toby. It's got to be Toby.' When I held my ground, and we went to David Rosen, and Rosen said he wanted to take a partnership at Solomon Brothers, thank God... I couldn't live without you Toby. I mean it. I'd be in the tall grass. I'd be in the weeds... I know I disappoint you sometimes. I mean I can sense your disappointment. And I only get mad because I know you're right a lot of the times, but you are not the kid in the class with his hand up and whatever it was you said to C.J. You are a wise and brilliant man, Toby...

The other night when we were playing basketball, did you mean what you said? My demons were shouting down the better angels in my brain? TOBY Yes, sir. I did. BARTLET You think that's what's stopping me from greatness? TOBY Yes. BARTLET I suppose you're right.

TOBY Tell you what though, sir. In a battle between a President's

demons and his better angels, for the first time in a long while, I think we might just have ourselves a fair fight. BARTLET Thank you, Toby. [beat] Now, go away.

Image by Cliff, Flickr, Creative Commons License.



3 Tips to Get-Things-Going™

One of my favorite exercises in every workshop I facilitate is where participants get to share their unique viewpoint on their own preferences - what their strengths are, what their challenges are, how to best work with them, and how they're often misunderstood. During a recent workshop on Interaction Styles, here's what came out for the Get-Things-Going™ style:


  • Everyone agrees / happy


  • Lots of emotion
  • Want to please everyone

How to work with us:

  • Listen & breathe
  • Include everyone
  • Have buy in

Common misconception:

  • We're too soft, or too slow

This group of Get-Things-Going™ leaders received feedback from their colleagues in the form of appreciation of their strengths, and the advantages they bring to the team: harmony, motivation, and fun. We were also able to clarify that their influence is easily underrated, because it truly becomes evident only when they're not on the team, taking care of everyone. Without them, you'll miss the "glue", and projects may not run as smoothly.

To help you clarify if this may be your Interaction Style preference, or that of someone you live or work with, here's the Get-Things-Going™ pattern description taken from Dr. Berens' book:

The theme is persuading and involving others. They thrive in facilitator or catalyst roles and aim to inspire others to move to action, facilitating the process. Their focus is on interaction, often with an expressive style. They Get-Things-Going™ with upbeat energy, enthusiasm, or excitement, which can be contagious. Exploring options and possibilities, making preparations, discovering new ideas, and sharing insights are all ways they get people moving along. They want decisions to be participative and enthusiastic, with everyone involved and engaged.


Thanks to for the free pic!