Brenda's Blog

All articles from the 'Self-Leadership' Category

COVID-19 challenge: How to lead remotely, maintain productivity, and avoid “social isolation”

Corporate clients across the world are working from home due to quarantine or as a part of their company’s Business Continuity Plans. Without the conveniences of a “real” office and having no in-person interactions with colleagues, working from home can present leadership challenges and take a hit on productivity. It can also leave you feeling a bit “isolated.”

Below are some actions Executive Coaching clients are taking to successfully lead organizations from remote locations.

I’d love to hear additional suggestions you have for this list. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

  • Honor your regular work rhythm: Establish work hours at home as per your norm.
  • Clarify up front with key colleagues and team members how you will communicate while working remotely. Which medium works best based on what you are trying to accomplish? Phone, video, WhatsApp/texting, emails…?
  • If you do choose to email team members, send a few points in one note, rather than sending an email each time something comes to mind.
  • Avoid “complete” isolation—stay as connected as you can by liaising with at least two people per day via phone or video.
  • Designate a specific space in your living quarters where you will work.
  • Have open, honest conversations with household members to establish “new rules of the game,” asking their help to honor your workspace and allow you to have focus time while you are there.
  • Thank your family/household members at the end of each day for having given you that focus time and for respecting boundaries. (*If you want to learn more about the importance of thanking and acknowledging others, read fellow coaches Chester Elton’s and Adrian Gostick’s new book called Leading with Gratitude.)
  • To keep things personal, set up a rotating “virtual coffee meeting”: you and a colleague each grab a coffee in your respective locations, then get on a video call together. Rotate your virtual coffee buddies regularly, inviting one or two key team members per day. Make sure to talk about things outside of work, too.
  • Build a sense of “we’re in this together.” Take advantage of today’s great video chat capabilities (Zoom, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, etc.) and host a full-team meeting once every 2-3 days.
  • Ask team members to share photos of their at-home work environments, and provide tips and tricks to make each other’s home work spaces better. This helps to build bridges and improve engagement (and have a bit of fun) when everyone is working from different locations.

A Surprising Antidote for Fear During Times of Turmoil

In the midst of today’s world—in the face of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) and so much uncertainty—it’s easy to fall into a place of fear. After all, 24 hours a day, the media is sharing with us the horrifying details of how tens of thousands of people all across the world are being negatively impacting, both at work and at home. My heartfelt empathy goes out to everyone who has been affected by what is happening today.

It’s not unusual to fall into fear when something so “unknown” rears its head, and I don’t want to dismiss the realities of what people are facing. At the same time, I’d like to challenge us all to think about this in a slightly different way.

“You want me to embrace what in the face of fear?”

In my years of coaching clients who are experiencing high levels of stress, fear, and anxiety, there is one surprising yet guaranteed antidote to help during times of turmoil: be grateful.

“How could I possibly be grateful at this moment in time?” That is not an unusual response when going through rough patches.

But, whenever anything arises in life that causes you angst, or anxiety, I encourage you to pause and remember one thing: there are numerous things to be grateful for, even though it may not seem so at the time.

To give you a sense of what I mean, watch this short video, below, and then let me know what you think.

In my upcoming book—The Forgotten Choice—I’ll be sharing much more about fear, the role it plays for us in life and at work, and the best solution for getting out of fear. Stay tuned as I look forward to sharing more in upcoming blog posts.

In the meantime, the next time you see someone who’s on the front lines of what’s going on in the world today, putting themselves in harm’s way for the greater good, I encourage you to pause and take a moment to thank them for their efforts.

Stay safe, stay grateful, and I wish you good health throughout the rest of this year –

Here’s to YOU™!

What is the true test of inspirational leadership?

It’s easy to be a great leader during “good times,” when things are running smoothly. But below is what I believe is the true test of inspirational leadership. What do YOU™ think?

Could this one simple question turn YOUR goals into reality, too?

I send you my very best wishes for a wonderful beginning to a bright, new decade. Just think what the next 10 years will bring! We live in exciting times, for sure.

Speaking of times… It’s that time of the year again — when we set goals for what we want to achieve.

Unfortunately, according to research by the University of Scranton, a staggering 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals never actually achieve them. What’s behind that sobering statistic?

As my next book will share (more on that in future blogposts), goal achievement is often perceived as “difficult” in our minds, and so we usually prove ourselves right – and it does become difficult!

But what if we’re overthinking this? What if the keys to success in goal achievement are actually much simpler than we make them out to be?

To kick off this new year, I’m sharing in this blog post what I believe to be two foundational keys to success in achieving anything you want. I honestly believe that, if you follow these two simple suggestions below, you can absolutely, positively obtain whatever it is you set out to achieve. And that’s my money-back guarantee (you didn’t pay for this, did you?) 🙂

Two Keys to Success in Goal Achievement

You’ve set your sights on a goal you want to achieve in 2020. Well done! But in the back of your mind, you know you’ve failed in the past, so … how can you make sure this year’s goal turns out differently?

Below are two simple yet profound keys to help you take a goal and turn it into reality:

Key #1: Practice “Implementation Intention.” In this 2.5-minute video, I will share a fascinating technique which helped the British rowing team win the 2000 Olympics. It came down to one simple question which helped this team achieve something that Britain hadn’t done since 1912. How can you apply this idea to help YOU™ achieve what you want in the coming year?

Key #2: Enlist an “Accountability Buddy.”  I also recommend enlisting an “accountability buddy” to hold you bound and focused on reaching your goal. This could be a colleague, friend, spouse, or external coach who helps keep you on track.

Not convinced of the value of an accountability partner? One study released by Dominican University of California found that people were 33% more successful in reaching their stated goals when they sent weekly updates to a boss or colleague.

Even more telling: In his book, It’s Not About the Money, Bob Proctor quotes a Brigham Young University study about people trying to change some aspect of their lives. He reports: 

  • Those who stated, “That’s a good idea,” had only a 10% chance of actually making a change.
  • Those who committed and said, “I’ll do it,” had a 25% chance of making a change.
  • Those who said when they would take action showed a 40% chance of making a change.
  • Those who set a specific plan of how to do it had a 50% chance of making a change.
  • Those who committed to someone else that they would do it had a 60% chance of making a change.
  • And those who set a specific time to share their progress with someone else had a 95% chance of making a change. 

Your accountability partnership has the best chance of succeeding if you reciprocate and help the other person achieve his or her goals as well. Make a schedule with due dates for tasks, and as you work toward completing each specific one, check in with your accountability partner to stay motivated. On a regular basis, ask what the other needs from you, and be sure you know the best ways to motivate each other. If you come across challenges or obstacles on your way to your goals, talk openly about them.

In the meantime, celebrate together when you meet your goals, congratulate yourselves on your progress, and keep at it. With each step you take, you’ll strengthen your self-leadership and further build your Executive Leadership Brand.

Do keep me posted on how you are doing with your 2020 goal achievement!

How to demonstrate good self-leadership during the year-end holiday season: Create your own “holiday-season mantra!”

To celebrate year-end holidays, millions of people around the globe will soon be traveling to reconnect with loved ones. Whether the trip is just across town or half-way around the world, reunions with friends and family can make this time of year a time of joy, laughter, and peace — or just the opposite.  Crowded airports, increased traffic, the stress of meeting expectations, and the lack of sleep can lead us to react in ways we regret later, and/or to do or say things we wish we hadn’t.

How can you get through this year-end holiday season in a way that you will look back on and be proud of? Here’s a fun, powerful, yet simple way to do just that:

Fast forward in your mind to the end of your holiday season, days or weeks from now (depending upon how long you’ll be gone)… think of the time when you are getting ready to say goodbye to the friends, family, and loved ones you have visited. Perhaps in your mind you are in your car, backing out of the driveway of your host’s home, or maybe you are waving goodbye as you walk toward the airport gate to catch your return flight.

As you pull out of the driveway or as your hosts catch the last glimpse of you heading into the jetway, those loved ones turn to each other and say, “Wow, this year, he was really _______, ________, and ________!” or “She was so _______ this season!” What five positive adjectives or descriptive words would you want them to use to describe YOU at the end of this holiday time?

Take a moment to really reflect on the five descriptive words you would like to “own” by the end of this festive season. For example, you might choose words like happy, calm, quietly confident, peaceful, fun, enjoyable, pleasant, helpful, supportive, loving…”  Pick whatever five words resonate with you the most.

Throughout your entire holiday season, keep these five words in the forefront of your mind, day in and day out, from morning to night. Make them your “holiday season mantra.” Write them down and keep them in your pocket, purse, or anywhere you might see them regularly.  Write them on the inside of your hand or on your arm, under the sleeve of your shirt. Heck – you can even sing them to a favorite holiday tune, if you want! Whatever you do to remind yourself, the goal is to keep them top of mind at all times.

Once those words are chosen and you are keeping them at the forefront of your conscious, now begin to “embody” those five words.  How do you do that? By reflecting those fives words through the core activities you do each and every day that most communicate your brand:  the way you Act, React, Look, Sound, and Think. (Remember:  a brand is not communicated by what you say you want to be, but by what you do.)

As you take an action, ask yourself, “Am I acting like someone who is ‘calm’ would act?” “Is this reaction consistent with my goal of ‘peaceful’?” “Does how I look communicate ‘confidence’?” “Is what I am about to say in line with someone who would be described as ‘helpful and supportive’?” “Am I thinking like someone who embodies the word ‘loving’?”

Watch yourself like a hawk! Your goal is to be 100% consistent with those five words in all that you do, say, and think.  That’s how you create the brand for yourself you want during the holidays… and beyond.

What happens if you reach a boiling point, have a melt-down, or blow up at someone?  Don’t beat yourself up!  Judging yourself will just cause more angst and frustration. Simply apologize to yourself and others with authenticity, review your words one more time, and choose again. Building a brand for yourself is a journey – your goal is to be as consistent as possible, so just keep at it!

Remember: What you think is what you get.  Keep your desired five words top of mind, and have fun with this holiday experiment!

By the way, I would love to hear your five-word choices and to learn about the outcomes of your “holiday mantra challenge.” Please send me an email at Brenda@BrendaBence.com and let me know how it goes!

How to avoid losing your job to artificial intelligence

I had many great takeaways from attending the 2019 Thinkers50 event last month! Here is one of the quotes that stood out for me. Would you agree?

How well do YOU™ score on this inspiring leadership quiz?

I recently attending a showing of the hit musical Hamilton, in which there is a scene where the lead character (Alexander Hamilton), Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison are all in a private room, having a secret dinner meeting. Out of that meeting came the decision for the capital city of the United States to be situated on the Potomac River – clearly an important and historic moment.

The musical dramatizes the event with a song called “The Room Where It Happens” which highlights how important it was to have been in that room, since those leaders were the only three people who knew exactly what  occurred. This has spurred a new phrase used today: You must “be in the room” in order to be in the know.

In mid-November, I was myself fortunate enough to “be in the room where it happened” – a room of a different kind. I attended the Thinkers50 event in London, a biennial event which honors the best leadership and management thinkers in the world. I was honored and humbled to be recognized as a World Leader in Coaching, along with some of the best and brightest minds in this professional. It was truly an inspiring time.

At the Thinkers50 event speaking with New York Times bestselling author Subir Chowdhury

Even though I was in the room where it happened, I don’t want to keep anything I learned “secret!” I want to share with you my key learnings from the event, which I am doing, below. For fun, I have turned my key takeaways into a “quiz” of sorts – hopefully an engaging way for you to gain some potentially eye-opening information related to today’s leadership and management practices. Have fun!

How well do YOU™ score on this inspiring leadership quiz?

Here are some of my key takeaways from the Thinkers50 2019 event, in quiz form.  (Scroll to the bottom for answers.)

People Leadership

1. Only ____% of people make natural managers, according to Gallup.

A. 10%

B. 20%

C. 30%

D. 40%

2. What percentage of people in the UK say that they would accept less pay to get a new boss?

A. 23%

B. 30%

C. 48%

D. 54%

3. What do people want most on the job?

A. A friendly work environment

B. The ability to work independently

C. A good salary

D. A deep sense of purpose in their work

Organizational Transformation

4. What percentage of transformation intentions fail?

A. 25%

B. 40%

C. 65%

D. 70%

5. What is the single biggest obstacle to transformation?

A. Employees must embrace the change.

B. Leadership of the organization

C. Lack of expertise

D. The cost involved in transformation

6. Unless ______ transforms, the organization won’t transform.

A. The workforce

B. The culture

C. Top leadership

D. The hiring process

Senior Leadership Findings

7. The higher up in the organization you are, the more ____________ you are.

A. Unhappy and deluded

B. Stressed and deluded

C. Optimistically deluded

D. Overworked and deluded

8. Ask yourself as a senior leader: True or False? “My thinking has been challenged in the last five working days.” (If not, there is a likelihood that you are not creating an open enough environment for employees to raise up issues and allow change to take place.)

9. What is the “Superiority Illusion?”

A. When you believe you are superior to other employees

B. When you are promoted to lead an organization

C. When you think you are better at something than others think you are

D. When you believe you can outperform your colleagues

A few additional comments made / learnings gained from Thinkers50 that I feel are worth sharing: 

  • At work, organizations try to “fix” employees who are quiet. Instead, try fixing the system so that quiet employees are heard.
  • The act of speaking up is relational-you will speak up when you feel you have a relationship that supports speaking up.

From the CEO of Haier (Zhang Ruimin):

  • Shareholders cannot create value, only employees can. So put employees first – focus your leadership attention there.
  • Compliments about your product are in fact compliments about the “experience” of your product.
  • What is the best way to avoid losing your job to artificial intelligence? Be a good human being.

Answers to the Inspiring Leadership Quiz

1.A 2.C 3.D 4.D 5.A 6.C 7.C 8.(It depends on you, as a leader.) 9.C

A message of gratitude

Having lived overseas for the past 25 years, I believe that one of the greatest American exports is its Thanksgiving holiday. Gratitude is a universal language, so I enjoy seeing this tradition enjoyed all across the world. It’s a wonderful time to acknowledge friends, family, clients, and work colleagues. This Thanksgiving, I am particularly grateful to my husband, Daniel, for his ongoing support. (He joined me last week at the Thinkers50 gathering in London, where I received an award as a World Leader in Coaching).

I am consistently amazed at Singapore’s efficiency!

I am consistently amazed at Singapore’s efficiency! I left our house at 10:25 p.m. tonight, arrived at Changi Airport Terminal 3, checked in, went to the lounge, ate a quick bite, accessed the lounge WiFi, and logged into a Zoom video call with my book editor in the U.S. – all by 11 p.m.! Such a business-friendly city Singapore is.

It’s never too late for an inspiring leader to do “this”

It’s never too late for an inspiring leader to do whatCelebrate wins! 

Years of working with executives has taught me that, unfortunately, we don’t celebrate successes as often as we could.  A few years ago, that learning prompted me to write an article called “The Top 10 Reasons Why Leaders Should Celebrate Wins.”  It was printed in dozens of media outlets around the world, and it was even picked up by bestselling author Guy Kawasaki, who featured it in his book called Enchantment. It’s become such a popular article that I decided to turn it into a short-duration video.

Many leaders wait until it’s the end of the calendar or fiscal year to celebrate successes. But not celebrating more frequently is a lost opportunity for both you as an inspiring leader, and for your team / the people you work with.

Click below to watch my video that shares the top reasons to celebrate wins. I hope you enjoy this gentle reminder of the importance of recognizing successes both for yourself and for others. How will YOU™ celebrate wins between now and the end of the year?