Lead Through Strengths

This Episode’s Focus on Strengths

Today's episode includes an interview with Kim Ades, president and founder of Frame of Mind Coaching. You'll get some insights about how your strengths come out (or get hidden) based on your mindset.  She also helps you see how your ability to thrive in your strengths is shaped by the way you're interpreting the world.

What You’ll Learn In This Episode 

You'll learn several different tools to help you move beyond your current way of looking at the world around you. These ideas move you toward a life that's not as limited by your internal biases and traditional thought patterns.

- Notice What Works To Get More Of What Works. Kim says that to find what you are really good at, you need to look at all the clues around you. Look at when you are actually in the zone. This is when you are at your highest peak, focused, putting forth your best effort, and highly productive. In other words, look at where you're enjoying yourself!

- Write It Down. She highly recommends journaling for several reasons: 1) it shows you how how your thinking impacts your results over time 2) it gives you a sense of how you react over a series of circumstances so you can spot your patterns of behavior that aren't obvious to you, 3) journaling helps you to separate you from your thoughts. Kim stresses that we are not our thoughts; thoughts are things that momentarily pass us by. Looking at things from a distance gives you a better perspective.

- Get Clear On Your Triggers. Understanding your patterns of behavior in certain circumstances will enable you to see things that trigger your default responses.

- Decide How To Respond. The behaviors of others that trigger strong responses in you can lead to judgments about things that may or may not be true. If you know your triggers in advance you can decide what you're letting them mean to you.

- Do Something With The Trends. It's important to look back at your journal entries to find your patterns and triggers so that you can limit your judgments that interfere with team success.

Kim has a surprise for those who listen to the show. She poses three questions during the interview. If you submit the answers to Kim, she'll assign one of her coaches to review insights about your answers by phone. How cool is that? Answering these questions will help you explore what's getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

The last thing Lisa and Kim address in this interview is values, both the values you live and the values you'd like to incorporate. They are two different categories. Kim believes that your highest values always come with contradictory consequences. For example, take an employee who sees a teammate not finishing his part of a project. She jumps in to finish it because she makes the assumption that no one else will. She also assumes her customers would otherwise suffer because the product wouldn't go to market. Her value of taking care of customers is important, yet adding these tasks to her already packed workload will hinder her overall performance (and therefore customer satisfaction).

Can you see an example like this in your life? Do you have a belief that no one else will jump in when a ball is dropped? If yes, are you showing a lack of faith in your team? This is an example we see in our StrengthsFinder training as well. Often someone who leads with the Responsibility talent theme will take on extra work to save a project, only to find himself drowning and struggling to meet deadlines because of the extra workload. This vicious cycle leads to burnout, or it makes you feel like your values are getting nurtured and insulted at the same time.

To understand what your values and beliefs really are, ask yourself two questions: 1) What do I believe to be true about myself? 2) Is it the absolute truth? The answer to the second question will help you create a little wiggle room. That way you can question some of the assumptions you're making and spot patterns in your thinking that you want to change. 

Go Live Your Talents

Remember, using your strengths every day at work makes you a stronger performer. If you’re always focused on fixing your team’s weaknesses, you’re choosing the path of most resistance. Go claim your talents and share them with the world!

Read The Full Conversation:

Lisa Cummings: Today you're going to get some insights about how your strengths come out or even get hidden based on your mindset and how you're interpreting the world. Your guest owns a business called frame of mind coaching. She works with leaders internationally to help them improve performance by managing and even reacting better to their thoughts, reacting differently, and hey, for those of you who think that it's a time-luxury to get to your strengths by working on your thinking, Hey, she lives a busy life as a company president and a mother of five kids at the same time. So busy is not an excuse this time to skip this stuff and maybe we'll get to chat about some of the fun of working with leaders internationally because that global element is one of my very favorite things about business. So Kim Ades, welcome to the show.

Kim Ades: Thank you very much. I'm very much looking forward to this conversation.

Lisa Cummings: I've heard you talking about “seeing what you can't see” and I often find that people have trouble seeing their own strengths and I kind of find it that usually they know they're good at that thing, but they don't think that it's anything special. They assume everyone can do it, so it must not be valuable and actually everyone can't do that thing easily. So how do you suggest people find what they're great at?

Kim Ades: I think that people leave clues, right? And, if we look back at where they succeeded or what people tell them, or more importantly than that, were they enjoying themselves and just in a flow and a state of flow and you've ever heard of the term just kind of “I'm in the zone.” There are clues to be found when you're in the zone, when you're in the zone, you're working at your highest peak, you are focused or concentrated. You're enjoying yourself and you're probably putting out your best productivity or effort. And so if you look at moments when you're in the zone or strengths will most probably lie there.

Lisa Cummings: I love that. Okay. So this makes me think of journaling because I know you're big on that. Give us a little bit on your perspective on journaling. Why do it and how could you use that to spot your strengths?

Kim Ades: Well, I use journaling heavily with my clients, so I coach high end executives and what I do is I look at how their thinking impacts the results and so we have phone calls and we record our phone calls and we asked people to listen to them, to their themselves, to hear how they show up the language they use, the stories they tell, etc. But then in between every call we ask them to (journal) every single day. And so what we do is we give them a question and they answer the question. The question goes back to their coach. I have a team of coaches and the coach reads and responds. So there's this back and forth dialogue going on every single day. And so the purpose of journaling in this case is to really get a sense of how a person thinks across a different series of circumstances. And our job as coaches is to start to pick up the patterns, the patterns of thought, the patterns of belief, the patterns of perspective values, the triggers that people have.

Kim Ades: And so what is journaling for? The journaling is to capture the stories that allow you to go back and pick up the patterns. It's a process where you can unload and so a lot of times people can't sleep at night because they have all these thoughts turning around in their brain. And journaling allows you to put it down and then pick it up later and review it. The other thing that journaling does is it allows you to separate yourself from your thoughts. We often believe that we are our thoughts, but we're not. Thoughts are kind of like things-are clouds floating by and we are actually separate from us. they don't have to inhabit us. And if we can put them down and look at them from a little bit of a distance, we gain massive perspective. And so for executives who are interested in strategic advantage, there's no greater strategic advantage then to understand how your thinking is affecting your results or your outcomes. And journaling is a venue for making that happen.

Lisa Cummings: There are so many good pieces to plug into.One, I love the consistency of it because if people want to grow the fact that you're interacting with them consistently over time, that's beautiful. And then your concept of triggers and the story you're telling yourself, you made me think of this situation. Alright, I'm looking back and I'm totally going to fib on myself. But about 10 years ago, I remember having a direct report on my team. She was a manager and I had concluded that she didn't like salespeople based on her behaviors. That's the interpretation I made. And what would happen was when they didn't get her the data she needed to serve customers fully, she would use this phrase and she would say, garbage in, garbage out, garbage in, garbage out, and that's all she would say. So over and over again, this thing drove me nuts.

Lisa Cummings: It became a real trigger for me. Super hot button and it's funny, even this day today saying the story, I can feel it in my body of frustration by telling the story and I felt like she was telling the salespeople that they weren't being accountable to gathering the right data, but she was doing it effectively, but ironically she wasn't being accountable to the client because she wasn't solving the problem. She just kept repeating the same phrase to kind of throw it in their face. It drove me nuts, but looking back, I realize it was a trigger for me and my mindset about her approach was getting in the way of me being a good manager and a good supporter for her. So talk about situations like that where think you're dealing with a difficult person. I thought I was dealing with her as a difficult person. Yet really your mindset and your interpretation needs its own spring cleaning of those triggers.

Kim Ades: Well, what happens is we do interpret other people's behavior and their words and their language all the time and that affects how we respond and how we react. And part of the issue is that we forget what we want, and so if we think about a game of basketball, for example, and your defending your or you're trying to block the opposition and you grabbed the ball, usually you're facing the wrong direction in what you need to do is you got to turn around and make sure you're facing the right net but we forget about that. We forget about the game and we forget about the goal when we're interacting with someone like a direct report or someone like that, or even a colleague in an organization. When we interpret what they say, we decide that they're wrong. We get defensive, we use it as a trigger. We grabbed the ball and we forget to turn around. And so and so. What does that mean? That means that in your case, what is it that you really wanted from her?

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I wanted her to find a way to show the sales team what it would look like when, you know, maybe provide a model, hey, this person always brings really great data. And, to go to that person and say, how did you decide it was important to go get it? I wanted her to solve the problem and find some people who were doing it right and use them as a model. I wanted her to dig in and understand why those who weren't doing it, why they didn't think it was important and I felt like instead of trying to solve the problem, she just came up with this catchphrase and used it as a block.

Kim Ades: And so what you wanted to do was help her achieve her goal. And what interfered was that one phrase that had you not even wanting to help her achieve her goal. Right? Because your opinion of her, your experience of her was taped it, you know, you said you had a physical reaction even just now. And so that's what happens: is that we get in our own way. You got in your way of helping her. She got in her way of helping the salespeople get what she needed them to get. And so there's this big, huge, massive trickle-down effect. Now, in the case of a lot of senior professionals, executives, managers, if they can apply this concept, assume positive intent, what does she want? She wants to succeed, and she wants her team to succeed so you know, here's how you help them succeed. Let me show you.

Lisa Cummings: I love the concept of assume positive intent as well because I admit that over time, I started to let that color the assumptions about where she was coming from on things and I've seen it a lot in work places too. You just get down to the most basic watercooler talk situations. I remember having a team member who was concerned that people were talking about her in the office and when I asked her more about what made her think that it all came back to a situation where she was at her desk and she looked up and people were looking at her direction and giggling and in her mind it was that they were looking at her, making fun of her and she looked up and then she started avoiding them because she thought, oh, they were making fun of me behind my back. And in reality, once we unraveled all of what was going on, the people who were looking in her direction and making the face that she was interpreting, they weren't looking at her at all, they were looking past her at another situation and it's all about the meaning she made of it and then it colored her interactions with them after and then it affected their relationships. And over the course of a couple of weeks productivity's going downhill or not getting along. They're not collaborating and it's all over this one bad assumption.

Kim Ades: And so what you're really saying is we tell stories, we invent stories about what's going on around us and what it means. And we're doing that all the time. That's how we make sense of the world. You know, we need to have judgment. You know, if something bad is happening, if something dangerous is happening, we need to use our judgment. Unfortunately, often times we use our judgment, maybe at all times, we use our judgment as a protective mechanism. And that protective mechanisms sometimes has us interpreting things in a way that isn't true, isn't real. We make up stories.

Lisa Cummings: I'd like to talk about the stories that people make up about their careers, even in a bigger picture, like the frame of mind that they take on. I get story after story from people who they are looking up and they're far enough along in their career and it happens to people at all different times. I hear them in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties. They look up and they feel a little bit trapped and they say, this is not what I expected of me. I thought I would be somewhere else and now I have big kid bills or have responsibilities or I can't make a rash decision because kids are relying on me or whatever thing they're putting in the way and once you get there, obviously they know there's a block, but often they don't know that their mind is getting in the way, but how do you help people get that realization? How do you know that your mindset is holding you back in your career? What are some of the signs?

Kim Ades: Well, the only thing ever holding you back from anything is your mindset. How do you know your mindset is holding you back? It's always holding you back, is the only thing that holds you back. So now the question is what is my mindset doing? And so, you know, sometimes it's, I don't feel strong enough, I don't feel capable enough, I don't feel like I have the education or the experience and so, you know, we're talking about all the self-doubt that's there and really that fuels a lot of the feeling of being unable to make a decision about whether to move on or how to move on or how to move up. And sometimes a lot of people feel like they're victims. I was overlooked for a position, you know, they keep hiring someone else for these major higher-level positions, etc. And so what we want to do is help people understand what they believe to be true about themselves and how the world operates. Because the way you see the world is the way you live the world, is the way you experience the world.

Lisa Cummings: I think there's a lot to that and we've all had examples of so many times when you're living in what feels like a parallel universe with someone else, they're in the same room hearing the same conversation and they took away something totally different about it. So if we apply that concept to personal leadership, I know you focus a lot on self-awareness because it's all. Getting back to the mindset thing, what is one thing people can do to get a little bit more self-aware about how they show up at work? Finding the good, finding the bad, finding where their minds are on target and where it is not.

Kim Ades: Again, I'm a big believer in journaling, so if you're okay, I'm going to give your listeners an assignment. Is that cool?

Lisa Cummings: I think they love assignments.

Kim Ades: Okay, so here's the assignment. Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write these three questions down, their journaling questions and what I'm going to do is say to you that you fill this out and send it to me, I will assign a coach To you will read and review your questions with you over the phone in a coaching role. So why am I offering this? Because I know that your listeners will say that's cool and then they won't execute it, so those that do, it's a very small portion of the population, walk away with huge value. So here are your three questions: Question number one, what do I really, really want and why are there two reallys? Because it's not what somebody else really wants for you. It's not what you think you should have, but what did you authentically, genuinely want for yourself? What do you want? And it could be related to your career or not and why not? Because sometimes what you want is a little more time in your day and then you look at your career and say, hey, does this accommodate that? What do you really want? And it could be anything. It could be something tangible, it could be something intangible, it could be an emotion, it could be a state, it could be a relationship, it could be anything. So what do you really, really want?

Kim Ades: Question number two is: why do I want that thing? In other words, what would it mean to me if I had that and would I be okay if I never had that? Would I be happy with my life if I never had what I really, really want? And then question number three is so: why don't I have what I really, really want right now? What are all the reasons? What I will suggest to you is that number three question starts the journey of exploring your thinking and your beliefs about what's really getting in the way of you living, the kind of life you want to live, achieving the goals you want to achieve, getting the job you want to get, moving up in your career, having the relationships you want, being the type of parent you want. That one question is the beginning of your journey to really exploring what's getting in your way.

Lisa Cummings: That's deep. I like it. I can tell just from the things that were going through my mind while you were saying the questions that even if they did nothing with the homework, if they just consider those questions, they're going to get some real insight into what's driving them and what they should focus on and really just making that pivot like you were talking about, to actually face the basket and figure out what they're aiming toward.

Kim Ades: Let me give you my email address so if you can send it's: kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.

Lisa Cummings: Perfect. I have to admit also, the other thing that kept going through my mind while I was listening to them was the Spice Girls song from way back when, “so tell me what you want, what you really, really want.”

Lisa Cummings: so there'll be sending you these emails, Spice Girl questions. Yeah. I think that's a cool lead and actually not the Spice Girls, but hey, Sporty Spice might be proud with these basketball references. You have a book, what you focus on grows and that is what I was thinking of while you were talking about facing the outcomes you're actually trying to get. I love the concept so much and one thing I do with people is try to help them focus just in the day to day work responsibilities, the smaller stuff, the situations that they want more of the tasks and responsibilities they want more of because if they can spend even three more minutes a day getting more in their strength zone and getting in the things that bring them energy, what you focus on grows, they're going to get known for that. They're going to get more of those opportunities. They're going to be able to attract more of that kind of work in their life. So when you're working with someone to help them focus on their talents like that and help those grow in their career, what are one or two actions you like to help them take to do that?

Kim Ades: So I'm a little bit backwards. Most coaching is around helping people take actions. for me, I want them not to take action for a bit. I want them to save their action for later because what I find is that when you take action that is not really aligned with your thinking, it doesn't really turn out well for you. That's what I find, so what I want to do with people before, or let's call this the action, I want them to really, really start to pay attention to the moments that create peaceful peace for them or ease versus the moments that created stress or tension. I want them to start to just track it so that would be the action for me, is paying attention to where you're feeling great and where you're not feeling right and then start to pay attention to the dialogue that runs through your mind in both scenarios. For some people that's extended meetings. For some people at certain meetings really with certain people really lift them up and once you start to collect that data, you start to learn what you want more of and what you want less of. I feel that a lot of people just don't know because they're not paying attention.

Lisa Cummings: Yeah, I think that's a really great idea. Just the idea that you're paying attention, it could be at a task or responsibility level, it could be at the people you're around level. I kind of like to go with the who, what, when, why. It's all that you know, who are you around, what kind of work are you doing? Where are you? I mean, for some it's even fueled or drained by being outdoors or indoors. Being around a lot of people are being alone. It's all of those kinds of scenarios where you just start paying attention and asking yourself what's the situation and then why does that make me feel excited or drained? The more they're willing to dig into it and watch the patterns, the more they're going to, the more insight they're going to pull.

Kim Ades: and if for some people it's something as simple as, I love my job, I hate the commute it’s killing me.

Lisa Cummings: Yes, and then figuring out is there a solution in that environment? So one last thing I'd like to talk about a little bit, his values, because as you were talking about some of the drains and life being in or out of alignment way early on in the conversation today, you mentioned something about values and my hypothesis is that some people are out of values alignment with something going on at work, whether it's overall a company culture or whether it's a manager and they just feel like it's not keeping them true to themselves, but I don't think it's always obvious and in your face. It's not necessarily some requests for them to have unethical behavior. That's really obvious. It's just something that grabs at them here and there and something's off, but they can't place it. So, what do you do to help people get in touch with the value side?

Kim Ades: It's an interesting thing right there. I think that there are two buckets of values, the values you live and the values you'd like to incorporate, the values you'd like to raise in a matter of importance. And so what I always want to do is look at the values people live. So for example, I was talking to a woman today and she was describing her marriage and she described how her husband is a very successful, business owner and that essentially, and she said, you know, I wake up early in the morning with him at five in the morning. I said, why? And she got quiet and said “be with him, to help him in whatever you know, she does it so that she can help him make breakfast or whatever that she does. But so her key value is to be of service to the people in her world.

Kim Ades: And that's the life she lives. However, in almost every case, our highest values, while we feel great when we're living them, they also have a counter effect. And in her case, it's self-sacrifice which ends up hurting her. So what we want to do always as look at how people are currently living their values, we always live our values and it could be that someone confronts you and what you do is you just stay quiet. Why? Because your value is not to be in conflict. You'd rather have a polite, nice exchange. And so when someone's attacking you, your decision is to withdraw and that's a reflection of your values, but that doesn't always serve you. And so what I find is that our highest value always comes with a contradictory effect. Always. So, I like to first just look at how do people actually express their values. You always do, and you always are.

Lisa Cummings: I've had at least several events lately where people on the team had this deep sense of responsibility for the team, for each other, and they'll pick up a ball that they think is dropping because it looks like no one else is going to and they feel really responsible to the outcome that has been promised and keeping commitments is, you know, my honor is my word is one of those core values for them. But then the dark side is they're over committed. They start giving up their own life or taking care of themselves in order to meet these commitments. And then they're not meeting their commitments to themselves and then they, they're in the doom spiral on that. So then let's say you've noticed that. So, okay, they spotted that about themselves and they've done the reflection and they see that pattern in them and then what do you do to spot the queue and when it's happening. What do you do to break the pattern and get out of the habit? Because your values are going to drive your habits too.

Kim Ades: What I look at is the beliefs attached to that. So in your situation, the belief was someone's dropping the ball, it's my job to pick it up or you know, there's another belief that goes with it. I don't believe the others have the capacity or the capability to pick up the ball even though they've dropped it. I don't have faith in lighting. And so we try to address and identify the beliefs that are really getting them in trouble and trapping them and we try to challenge those beliefs so that they can say it's true. I am seeing the world through that lens and that lens isn't serving me or them. I'm not building leaders. I'm actually keeping us set this low level because I keep jumping in.

Lisa Cummings: That's great. And then do you find that people are able to go through their own belief systems to kind of figure out that thing alone? I mean, obviously I could say yes, fine, find a coach like Kim and she's going to be able to get to it really quickly. So that's the obvious one, but say they're, you know, maybe it's a peer accountability partner or they're trying to do it for themselves. How do you get to it when you're trying to get through your own belief system and know that you're going to muck up your own thinking,

Kim Ades: ask yourself the question, what do I believe to be true about this situation? And once you write all your beliefs, there they are. Is this true? I'll give you another example. I'm coaching a lawyer and so one of the things she wrote about her beliefs is that things work out better for other people, whether they do for me. And so the. So the question is, is that always true? Is that true? Is that an absolute truth? And that's the question you want ask, is that an absolute truth? No, it’s not the absolute truth, right? And so when we can start to just even create a little wiggle room in a belief, then what we're doing is we're creating another possibility of stepping in, right? We're creating another possibility. So in your case, the example of the gentleman who stepped in because someone was dropping the ball, well, if I don't step in and pick up the ball, nobody else will. What was that at an absolute truth? Is that true?

Lisa Cummings: And then he says, no, somebody else would. Or maybe they want to, but they don't know how. Or maybe they don't think it's their role…

Kim Ades: yep. Right. So what can you do to enable other people to set that? Right? So now the conversation changes

Lisa Cummings: and it changes from that one trapping to a lot of possibilities.

Kim Ades: Right? And so the question that you want to ask is, so list your beliefs, what do I believe to be true? And then is it the absolute truth

Lisa Cummings: I have a hunch that the answer is normally no.

Kim Ades: Often times it is no. And often times it is, they believe it's absolutely true. They still hold onto it for dear life. Right? Well, it is true. You know, sometimes they need to like when somebody holds onto something tightly, we need to kind of wedge their hands away from that idea.

Lisa Cummings: Good visual Kim. This is so deep and insightful. I love it. I know listeners will want to dig in a little bit more to your work. So what would be the best way to do that?

Kim Ades: Best way to do that is frameofmindcoaching.com on that website. I mean there's a lot of information, blogs, videos, all kinds of stuff, there, audios, but one of the most important things on that site is an assessment. And what that assessment does is it allows you to take a snapshot of what direction you're heading in. And I think before you think about making any change, you've got to understand where you're pointed is the single most important starting point for any personal development or leadership concept. Any change to take place, you got to know where you're starting. And so take the assessment and again, you'll be introduced to one of our coaches who will review the assessment with you. Very, very important and powerful first step.

Lisa Cummings: Thanks so much, Kim. I love the offer of that. So we'll link up to the site and the resources you mentioned and your book and I think everyone's going to appreciate that so much. And speaking of you guys, appreciating it, I also want to say I appreciate you the reader. Thanks for reading “Lead Through Strengths” and remember that using your strengths at work makes you a stronger performer at work. If you're always focused on fixing your weaknesses, you're probably choosing the path of most resistance. So claim your talents and share them with the world.

Direct download: 031-Kim_Ades.mp3
Category:careers -- posted at: 3:30am EDT