To be a successful administrator, basic operational savvy is necessary.  But to be a successful leader, you must also master human savvy. For example, Joe worked his way up through the financial ranks and had mastered three of the major skills of internal operational savvy:

  • Setting high performance standards.
  • Project management.
  • Financial soundness.

Joe’s teams met their goals within budget and deadlines.

But Joe was always passed over for promotions to leadership.  Why?  Basic operational savvy isn’t enough to make leaders even partially successful.

To read the rest of this article from the Memphis Business Journal, see: Leaders who ignore the human element will fail http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2007/10/01/smallb4.html

When I explained to Joe that he was missing the human savvy I’ll describe below, he said he couldn’t change.  He had strength of character and responded successfully to the ups and downs, and the challenges of business.  But he said he was an introvert.  He could achieve high performance in operational areas but it wasn’t his personality to excel in people areas.

Joe’s response is nonsense.  He doesn’t need to become an extrovert or develop the personality of an archetypal used-car salesman.  But if he wants to advance his career, he does need to master his innate human savvy—the universal human attributes for empathy and sympathy, for knowing what makes people tick, and for transmitting and enhancing passion and dedication.

Joe’s progress was halting when he was simply memorizing lists of how-to’s.  But his learning took off when he modeled himself after the subject of one of the best leadership books, “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Joe saw himself as having a personality similar to Lincoln: a melancholy introvert who could come out of his shell to make human contact.  Lincoln’s human savvy was a crucial component of his success.  Joe resolved, “If Lincoln could do it, so can I.”  Joe drove himself to use Lincoln as his guide and to learn what Lincoln learned.

One of the important personal skills Joe learned was critical listening.  Instead of listening only to the dictionary definitions of words, he trained himself to hear “the message behind the message.”

That essential information taught him what concerns other people have and what they really want.  Joe used what he learned in order to connect with his team on an emotional level, so he could help them dedicate to their mission.

Lincoln said that the most important task of a leader, once he has finally decided on a course of action, is to educate people so they are inspired to proceed on that course.  Lincoln used insightful comparisons and memorable stories to transfuse people with his vision, dedication and perseverance.  Joe realized that appropriate stories have an emotional impact greater than the effects of logical arguments.

Like Lincoln did, Joe can now tell memorable stories of his team’s effort and progress.  His staff is now enthused to achieve team and personal goals in the face of challenges that demand their best.

Joe also sets high behavioral standards and holds his staff accountable for behavior that reflects good attitudes.  He’s stopped bullies and even had some success getting difficult messages across to abusive, toxic staffHis best workers are happier now that he’s weeded out the slackers and bad apples.

Now his superiors say:

Many people teach basic operational savvy as if it’s all that’s necessary for leadership success.  But good administrators aren’t necessarily good leaders.  Basic operational savvy is necessary, but it’s not enough. Leadership success is more all or none.  You can succeed only if you master human savvy.

High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior.  You can learn to:

All tactics are situational.  Expert coaching and consulting can help you create and implement a plan that fits you and your organization.

Negative, bullying, abusive self-talk can corrode your spirit, sap your strength, ruin your focus and destroy your courage.  Looking at yourself with hostile eyes and talking to yourself with that old critical, perfectionistic, never-pleased voice can be demoralizing and debilitating.  Constant repetition of all your imperfections, mistakes, faults, failures and character flaws can lead you down the path toward isolation, depression and suicide.  Don’t believe it? Think of some examples of relentless self-bullying:

  • The abused wife who accepts her husband’s excuses and justifications that his verbal or physical beatings are her fault. She’s to blame for his failures; she’s never good enough.  If only she were adequate, he wouldn’t be so nasty, vicious and violent.  If she talks to herself with his voice, she’ll never leave.  If she accepts the guilt and shame she’ll keep trying to please him, but she’ll never succeed.  She convinces herself she’ll never make it on her own so she stays and endures more brutality.
  • The kids bullied at school who tell themselves that they’ll never be good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough or loved. They think it’s their fault they get harassed, teased, taunted and emotionally and physically bullied.  They give in to bullies.  If their nagging, hostile, abusive voices convince them that there’s no hope for a better future, they become the next Phoebe Prince, Tyler Clementi or other young suicides.
  • The people harassed at work who’re told they’re dumb, ugly, the wrong color, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. They’re made the butt of jokes and threats; their work ideas are stolen; they’re belittled, ostracized, shamed and passed over for promotions.  If their self-critical voices convince them to give up, their spirits will die.  They won’t be able to summon the will, determination or perseverance to fight back.  They’ll feel overwhelmed and unable to learn the skills they need to protect and defend themselves.
  • The kids who think the deck is stacked against them. Their parents have treated them badly or one or both have blamed or abandoned them.  If they convince themselves they’re stupid and not loveable, they’ll give up.  They’ll accept bullying; their own and from other kids.  They shuffle through life, putting themselves down, defeating their efforts before they’ve really begun.  They lose their fighting spirits; the spirit that will struggle against the conditions and vicissitudes of life in order to make great lives for themselves.

Kids who’ve turned off their engines look and act dull and listless; as if they’ve given up already.  You can almost hear their constant inner, self-dialogue.  They’re so distracted by the destructive IMAX Theater in their minds that they can’t pay attention to what’s happening around them.  Their attention is captured by all the putdowns and listing of all their failures, the magnifying of the problems they face, the making of insurmountable mountains out of molehills, the diminishing of each skill or success, the magnifying of each imperfection.  They’re not resilient; the smallest adversity defeats them.  Happiness is fleeting; bitterness and depression is their lot.  Anything good they get is never enough, never satisfying, never brings joy.

Alternatively, they use their engines, often ferociously, to blame their parents and try to beat them into submission, to extract material possessions and guilt, to vent their hatred of themselves and the world onto their parents or onto the one parent who stays and tries to help them.  They bite every hand that’s offered to them.  They fight against teachers and against learning a skill that might make them financially and physically independent.  They explode with sarcasm and rage in response to the slightest nudging.  What a waste.

All the help offered them seems to bounce off.  They won’t accept what’s offered because that hyper-critical, judgmental voice knows better.

They have no inner strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience.  They feel helpless and that their situation is hopeless.  They may go down the path to being victims for life.  Their self-confidence and self-esteem may be destroyed.  Anxiety, stress, guilt, negativity and self-mutilation may be stimulated.  They move easily toward isolation, depression and suicide.  Nothing will help them until they turn their engines on again.

Compare them to the kids with great engines; always active and alert, always wanting to learn, willing to face and overcome challenges, seeking risk and reward, capable of overcoming adversity.  They have tremendous drive to live and to succeed.

These spirited kids with great engines can tax your patience almost beyond its limits, but the reward is so apparent.  They’ll make something wonderful of their lives.  They won’t give up.  They won’t be defeated by defeats.

Our job as parents with these spirited kids is clear: help them develop great steering wheels so they can direct themselves to fulfill the promise of their great engines in worthy endeavors.  Whatever direction they travel, they’ll go with passion, intensity and joy.  They’ll overcome setbacks by continuing on with renewed effort.  As Coach John Wooden said, “Hustle can make up for a lot of mistakes.”

There is no formula to save kids who turn off their engines.  Even when you know every detail of their history, there is no formula.  There’s only the continued presenting to them of encouragement and opportunity.  Sometimes a mentor or coach is crucial, sometimes a small success that’s a surprise, sometimes an example of someone else’s life will catch their attention.

We know that attempts to improve their steering wheel won’t help.  No lectures about being better, kinder, gentler people will help.  The beginning of a new life for them is the miracle of starting their engines.  Then they grab opportunities for themselves.  Then we can help them with their steering wheels.

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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With the showings of “Race to Nowhere,” and the publicity surrounding “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua, many people are excited by the debate about whether kids are being pressured too much to get perfect grades in school and to be perfect in extra-curricular activities.  The assumption in these debates is that if we talk and reason enough, if we listen to the kids’ feelings and the parents fears and hopes we’ll figure out just the right balance. That can be a fun debate if someone else is providing the food and drinks, but I think these are the wrong considerations based on the wrong assumptions.

The important question is what can we find that will be so attractive to each individual child that they’ll drive themselves to learn and master themselves and the subject.  That is; they’ll be so excited, they’ll become relentless in their pursuit of mastery in that subject.  They’ll develop determination and self-discipline.  And maybe they’ll continue with that subject all their lives or maybe they’ll move on to a different one.

In a sense, the pressure will come from the inside.  Except that since there’s such joy in being possessed by our own drive and desire we don’t feel pressure; we feel relentless resolve and determination to struggle and struggle until we succeed.

We know the truth when we look at our employees and co-workers.  We recognize the go-getters who are inspired from the inside.  They don’t require intensive motivation to want to excel, although recognition and rewards are nice.  That drive for excellence, that zest and passion for accomplishment is catching.

The corollary of course is what do we, as adults, have that draws us with the same passion and intensity?  I hope there’s something and I hope it never ends.

There’s an archetypal story of Teddy Roosevelt (I believe) going to pay homage to Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his 90s, before the great man died.  When he enters, he sees Holmes reading Plato.  Knowing Holmes age and impending death, Roosevelt asks, “Why are you reading Plato?”  Holmes answers, “To improve my mind.”

Another example of the opposite is a person who, at age 45, said she didn’t need to learn anything more in her life.  She knew enough to make it the rest of the way.  So she kept trudging in her rut the rest of the way.  Where’s the excitement and joy in that?

Distinguish between what’s worthy of your life’s energy and what wastes it.  Then do it with passion and intensity, with joy and wonder.  What could be a better use of your time and energy?

If your children are the targets of bullies and school officials who aren’t protecting them, you need to take charge.  With expert coaching and consulting, we can become strong and skilled enough to overcome principals and other officials who won’t do what’s right.  We can plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.

How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” and “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids,” have many examples of children and adults commanding themselves and then stopping bullies.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

Sometimes toxic parents think they have us over a barrel even after we’ve grown up, gotten physically and financially independent, and started our own family.  They count on our loyalty to some ideal of “family” no matter how badly they treated and still treat us.  They count on our self-bullying and guilt.  They count on us still trying to jump through their hoops to win their love and approval...  They count on our fear that they’ll manipulate the rest of the family into thinking we’re ungrateful and bad.  And they often count on our enduring the verbal and emotional abuse so we can inherit our share of their fortune. Of course, I’m talking about those toxic parents who are still blaming everything on us and abusing us because “It’s your fault” or “You are selfish, ungrateful and don’t deserve any better” or “It’s your duty to do what they want in their old age.”  They’re the toxic parents who know our every weakness and sensitivity, and still poke them hard when they want too; still find fault with every little thing we do; still compare us unfavorably to someone else or to their standards; still criticize, belittle and harass us and our spouse and our children in public or they’re the sneaky ones who criticize, demean and denigrate us in private but pretend they love us in public so everyone thinks they’re wonderful, loving parents.

Of course, we’ve tried everything we can think of, but the negativity, harassment, criticism, blame, shame, bullying and abuse haven’t stopped.  We’ve tried to do exactly what they want, but it’s never enough.  We’ve apologized and pleaded with them to stop, but that just makes them act nastier.  We’ve gotten angry and threatened not to see them, but they broke down in such tears of distress we felt guilty or they blamed on us even more or they acted nice for a few minutes but, when we relaxed, they attacked us more about something different they didn’t like.

So what can we do now?

  1. For the sake of peace and quiet in the whole family, we could keep trying to endure the abuse while begging them to stop.  After all, we never know; if we only kept trying, if we only did enough, they might change.  Also, they might leave us in the will.  And it’d be our fault if we quit too soon.  Many people fly low until they have children and see their toxic parents either criticizing and emotionally abusing their children or belittling and criticizing them while being sweet to the grandchildren.
  2. We might continue objecting and arguing; enduring our frustration and anger.  Usually this tactic repeats endlessly and often spirals out of control.  Relentlessly toxic parents won’t admit they’re wrong and give up.  Eventually they’ll escalate and cut us out of the will.
  3. We might try withdrawing for a while; not seeing them, telling them we won’t return emails and calls, and then carrying through.  People usually shift from the first two tactics to this one when they see the effect of their toxic parents on their own children.  This tactic sometimes convinces nasty, mean, bullying parents that they’d better change their ways or they’ll lose contact with their grandchildren.  But the relentlessly toxic parents don’t care.  They’re sure they’re fine and they’re sure they’ll win if they push hard enough, like they’ve always won in the past.  So they don’t change and we go back to arguing or we give up or we finally respond more firmly.
  4. The next step is to withdraw for a long time, maybe forever – no contact.  It’s sad but we have to protect the family we’re creating from our own predatory parents.  It’s usually both scary and very exciting.  Most people, despite any guilt they feel, also feel a huge surge of relief, as if a giant weight or a fire-breathing dragon has been removed from their shoulders.  Our spouse and children may celebrate.  Get out of town, go on a vacation, turn the phones and email off.

What to expect and how to respond?

  1. They’ll attack when we withdraw.  Expect them to make angry calls and send hostile emails.  Save these on an external drive or a cheap recorder before deleting them.  They want to engage us, so do not engage endlessly and fruitlessly; no return calls or emails, no hateful or vindictive responses.  We’ve only gotten to this point because they haven’t changed after many approaches and warnings.  We might have to change our phone numbers to unlisted ones and change our email addresses.
  2. They’ll rally the extended family.  Prepare by making cue cards of what to say; no excuses or justifications.  Just tell the family what you said and did, and what you plan.  Ask them not to intervene.  Tell them we’d like to see them but only if our toxic parents are not present.  We’re sorry they’re caught in the middle but that’s life.  They do have to choose who to believe and what behavior to support.  Be prepared to withdraw from anyone who attacks or interferes.
  3. They’ll disinherit us.  When they can’t manipulate us through love, blame, shame and guilt, they’ll try greed.  If we don’t do what our toxic parents want right now, they’ll cut us out of the will.  Don’t be a slave to greed; it’s a deadly sin.  If we want to have a bully-free family life, we’ll have to make it on our own.  The real benefit is not merely ending the brutality, it’s the strength of character and the skills we gain when we make decisions for ourselves and chart our own course in the world.  We’ll end the negativity, stress, anxiety and depression usually caused by toxic parents.  We’ll develop the strength, courage, determination, perseverance and resilience we all need to make wonderful lives.  We’ll be able to express our passion and joy without cringing, waiting for the next blow to fall.
  4. We’ll have an empty space in our lives.  Even more than the empty physical space we’ll now have at the times when we used to get together with our toxic parents, we’ll have a huge mental and emotional space.  How many hours have we wasted thinking about our parents, worrying about the next episode, dreading what might happen next, agonizing over what to do.  We don’t have to do that any more.  Of course, being weaned from an old habit takes a little time.  We must be gentle with ourselves.  Focus on the freedom we now have.  Now we can think about the things we want to think about; not about pain and suffering, not about past failures.  Now we have space to bring into our lives people who will be part of the tribe of our heart and spirit.
  5. Our children will wonder why.  Tell the kids in a way that’s age appropriate.  Are we protecting them from the verbal abuse of their toxic grandparents or from lies that paint us as bad people?  They’ll want to know what’s going to stay the same.  Will they have fun, celebrate holidays, get presents, have extended family?

The most important lessons we offer our children are not through books and lectures.  Those are important, but the most important ones are the ones they see in our behavior when we’re models of behavior we want them to learn.

Be a model for them of someone who protects himself and them from anyone who would target them, even someone who’s close by blood.  Being close by behavior counts more than blood.  Show them not to be victimized even by blood relations.

Show them to how to be the hero of their lives.

With expert coaching and consulting, we can look at individual situations and plan tactics that are appropriate to us and to the situation.  We can overcome the voices of our fears and self-bullying.  We can overcome childhood rules to endure whatever bullying and abuse our toxic parents dish out simply because they’re our parents.  We can become strong and skilled enough to stop bullies in their tracks – even if those bullies are blood relatives. “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks” has many examples of children and adults getting over their early training and freeing themselves from toxic relationships.  For more personalized coaching call me at 877-8Bullies (877-828-5543).

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AuthorBen Leichtling
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When is guilt bad; when is guilt good?  When is it a normal, healthy emotion and when is it harmful?  Most people try to answer these questions the wrong way.  And they forgot to consider how bullies try to use our guilt to harass and abuse us.  Most people analyze whether the guilt we feel in a particular situation is right, is what we should feel because we’re behaving or behaved badly, is normal because the average person should or would feel guilty for acting the same way. But let’s stand the approach on its head.

Let’s not judge the actions and situation by some external standards of right or wrong.  Instead, let’s look at guilt as if it’s a force for motivation, as if the purpose of guilt is to get us to do differently or better, as if we keep replaying the guilty feelings until we act to make things better, until we live up to our own standards.

When I think this way, the picture is much clearer.

  • For most people, “bad, unhealthy, useless” guilt then becomes a major form of “self-bullying” that’s a waste of time.  We’re not proud of ourselves.  We run ourselves down, beat ourselves up, feel ashamed and harm ourselves.  Or we cover up the guilt, declare ourselves innocent and blame the other person.  We become righteous and indignant; it’s not our fault.  Or we wallow publicly in guilt, looking for sympathy.  But we don’t do better.  We keep repeating the actions we feel guilty about.  Wallowing in guilt, perfectionism and continued self-bullying increases stress and leads to loss of confidence, low self-esteem and depression.  And, eventually, we may even get a thrill from self flagellation.  We’ll resent people who take the fun out of our misery.
  • “Good, healthy, effective” guilt leads us to do something productive.  We stop procrastinating, get over addictions, act better toward people, set boundaries we need, live up to our highest standards and make amends.  Some examples: we apologize for being nasty to our kids, spouse or partner and don’t do it again; we do the difficult chores at home or work that we’ve been avoiding; we give more generously to those in need; we pay our share; we return the stuff we’ve borrowed; we stop making sarcastic and catty remarks about our friends’ clothes, habits children and struggles to lose weight.  We know many specific situations in our own lives.
  • What if people don’t feel guilt when they should?  Looking with this perspective, we can see them as not motivated to change and as being aboveboard at it.  I can trust that they don’t have the standards I do.  Good.  Now I know that I have to protect myself against them.  Many bullies act ashamed and contrite.  They promise to change and they bring candy, flowers and sweet words.  I look at the behavior.  If they don’t change, I wish them well in their therapy and rehabilitation, but I won’t go on that roller coaster ride with them.  The pain is too much.  From them, I have to protect the island my kids and I live on.  I vote them off our island, no matter what the relationship and their suffering, promises and claims that I owe them so much that I should allow them to abuse and brutalize me.
  • How do bullies use our guilt?  Predators are always on the attack.  They try to get us to question the purity of our motives and past behavior.  Stealth bullies are especially effective at this.  Once we start questioning ourselves, our imperfections, self-doubt, negative self-talk, self-hatred and self-loathing will keep us stuck; weak and easy prey.  We won’t have the strength, courage and perseverance to stop them.  Before bullies would admit they need to change, they want us to waste our time trying to be perfect according to their standards.  For example, see the case studies of Carrie, Kathy and Ralph responding to guilt-tripping bullies in different situations in “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks.”
  • Guilt is over-rated as a motivating force.  When we’re kids, we all try guilt to get us to do what we don’t want to.  Then we become afraid that if we stop whipping ourselves, we’ll become lazy, immoral and unfeeling slugs and failures.  But as adults, we can transition to motivation strategies that depend on the desire to do what’s good and right, and makes us joyful.

Joining our highest standards to our passion creates a different one of us, gives us a different motivating force and creates a different world for us.  Yes, that’s a big change.  But it’s a change we’ve hungered for.

How different our worlds would be if we stood up for ourselves, our families and what’s right because we are passionate in service to our best and strongest, not ashamed and guilty of what we did wrong?