Welcome to Smart2Smarter


In Smart2Smarter, learn to develop the seven SMARTER career skills and build emotional and social connections to bring your humanity into the workplace. Cynthia Kivland shares her wisdom in a practical format giving leaders, employees, students, coaches, EAP counselors or consultants the knowledge, tools and actions needed to thrive – not just survive – in the global workplace.

SMARTER Skills combine the passion of the heart with the intellect of the brain and the reciprocity of relationships. Each chapter includes activities to master the following seven SMARTER career skills:

  • Self: Do your emotions strengthen or derail your personal best?
  • Mastery: Can you master emotions, thoughts and actions to move forward?
  • Attraction: Are you attracting an environment that ignites your own and others’ personal best?
  • Resilience: Are you able to adapt, reinvent and renew during a change or setback?
  • Tolerance: Do you accept, acknowledge and appreciate your own and others’ humanity?
  • Evolve: Do you seek opportunities to innovate, initiate and improve yourself, your company and community?
  • Reciprocity: Are you able to teach and be taught, lead and be lead, receive and give?

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Why Smart Leaders Fail…And Those They Lead LEAVE

A Pattern of Leadership Blunders
eployeeleavingWhy have some very smart executives and leaders failed in recent years, bringing down whole companies and countries, costing billions of dollars, and causing incredible losses to shareholders, customers, citizens and employees? What can be learned to avoid such huge failures?  Recent corporate scandals and bankruptcies reveal that some CEOs fail on such a scale that they bring the company down with them. Enron, Webvan, GM, WorldCom, RIM, and Tyco are examples. CEOs at GM, Motorola, Rite Aid, Mattel, Quaker, and Saatchi & Saatchi have led their companies to the brink of collapse at one time. These companies were led by executives with stellar track records of previous success.  CEOs are now lasting just 7.6 years in office on a global average, down from 9.5 years in 1995, according to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Two out of every five new CEOs fail in the first 18 months (HBR, January 2005).

“We live and work in a world where organizational failure is endemic—but where frank, comprehensive dissections of those failures are still woefully infrequent; where success is too easily celebrated and failures are too quickly forgotten; where short-term earnings and publicity concerns block us from confronting— much less, learning from—our stumbles and our blunders.” —Jena McGregor, Fast Company Magazine, February 2005.
While the corporate cultures of failed businesses vary widely, there are visible patterns of similarity.  Click here to read or download the entire article.



Permanent link to this article: http://smart2smarter.com/why-smart-leaders-fail-and-those-they-lead-leave/

The New Leadership “It” Factor Emotional Presence

Emotional intelligence is essential to increase awareness of your executive presence.  Self-awareness challenges a leader to reflect on the hard truths:  “Is my executive presence inspiring purposeful action?  Is my presence mobilizing others to perform above and beyond effort?  Is my presence creating a culture that doesn’t just do good work, but does good work with and for others?

Whether you call it charisma, confidence or compelling leadership, executive presence is the new corporate “it” factor. Many people assume it’s about showmanship, charm, unabashed confidence and smooth speaking skills, but this only scratches the surface.

The concept of presence is nebulous for most people, but we all have it to a degree—and we know it when we see it in others. But most of us are unsure of how to increase our presence or mentor it in others.

We’re talking about more than making a great first impression. Presence is multifaceted, builds over time, and is reflected in everything you say, feel and do, and as a leader- what others say, feel and do! It’s applicable to non-executive positions, as well as your personal life and team/community involvement. In fact, presence benefits all aspects of your life.

What is Executive Presence?

In today’s competitive, global work environment, executive presence can make or break your ability to influence others during periods of uncertainty and change. It encourages people to seek you out and opens doors. The thing to remember is that introverts and extroverts can cultivate executive presence, regardless of position or level of power. It has less to do with becoming someone you’re not; rather, it’s about becoming more of who you already are.

Organizations are feverishly seeking individuals with presence whose potential can be developed, partly because of the heightened responsibilities of self-managed teams and work groups. People are being evaluated for presence in numerous routine business situations, including hiring, promotions, performance reviews and compensation bonuses.

Emotionally smart organizations help all employees cultivate presence by learning to amplify qualities of character that win trust. Providing small group forums can help to shape a culture of character throughout the organization, by encouraging leaders to reflect on their life experiences and identify the leadership lessons that have defined them. Storytelling is a powerful tool to use within small group forums to learn habits that project a positive emotional presence.  Three of the best books I recommend to my coaching clients on executive presence are:

  1. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, by Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern (Penguin Group, 2004)
  2. The Power of Presence: Unlock Your Potential to Influence and Engage Others, by Kristi Hedges (Amacom, 2012)
  3. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (HarperBusiness, 2014)

How Your Organization Can Develop  with Presence

Since executive presence is the new thing to have, leaders often ask in my coaching practice – So what is it, exactly?

Presence: Often referred to as “bearing,” presence incorporates a range of verbal and nonverbal patterns (one’s appearance, posture, vocal quality, subtle movements)—a whole collection of signals that others process into an evaluative impression of a person. —Karl Albrecht, Social IntelligenceThe New Science of success (Pfeiffer, 2009)

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder, and CEO of the Center for Talent Innovation, surveyed 4,000 college-educated professionals (including 268 senior executives) to find out what coworkers and bosses look for when evaluating executive presence.

Three criteria proved critical:

  1. How you act (gravitas): 67%
  2. How you speak (communication): 28%
  3. How you look (appearance): 5%

Gravitas signals intellectual expertise, but also confidence and credibility. Senior executives picked projecting confidence and grace under fire as presence’s most important qualities.

You communicate authority through your speaking skills and ability to command a room, the top presence picks by senior leaders. Eye contact matters enormously, according to executives surveyed, as does one’s voice, bearing and body language.

Research from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that colleagues size up your competence, likability, and trustworthiness in 250 milliseconds, based simply on looks.  First impressions matter, of course, but after that, it’s up to you to fill in the rest of the story by exuding executive presence.

Applied to leadership, we generally think of presence as commanding others’ attention. This is only one outcome, and it’s superficial at best.

“For us, presence is the ability to connect authentically with the thoughts and feelings of others, in order to motivate and inspire them toward a desired outcome.” ~ Lubar and Halpern, in Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire

Today’s self-managed organization recognizes that all the competence and wisdom doesn’t matter unless you can connect authentically to motivate and inspire others -for the greater good.

Develop Presence from the Inside out

Presence starts from the inside out, which means starting with self-awareness.  Otherwise, you’re creating window dressing. Presence is about cultivating a magnetism that unites others to work toward common goals—a skill that is hard but can be learned, practiced and improved. Improvement requires you to shift your mindset, develop new behaviors and leave your comfort zone of safe habits.

Presence comes from within. Your mindset creates the platform from which you speak, act and express emotions. Effective leaders must be confident, energetic, empathic, inspirational, credible and authentic. Mentors can provide feedback on how you’re perceived.  This requires taking a hard look at yourself. As Kristi Hedges writes in The Power of Presence:

“Executive presence begins in your head. It resides in how you think about yourself, your abilities, your environment, and your potential.”

Presence is paying mindful attention to how you “show up” and go about your day.  Emotional self-management challenges you to look inside first, by asking each day “How will I”

  • Connect with people?
  • Express your feelings?
  • Listen?
  • Be vulnerable?
  • Behave authentically?
  • Inspire others?


In the work I do coaching leaders, and specifically healthcare executives, I often start with three core areas to build and broaden a leader’s presence: Intention, Connection, and Inspiration.

Intentions drive and create an executive presence.   I encourage self-managed teams to examine thought patterns, habits, assumptions and actions.

  • Which core values and guiding purpose truly matter (for me, for the organization)?
  • Who do I intend to be (as an individual, as a member of the organization, profession)?
  • How do I intend to contribute?
  • What will I do now? What will I do next?

Then, I suggest development on connection skills. At the core of any relationship is the connection you have with others. The relationship you have with others determines how effectively you’ll influence them toward desired outcomes. If you foster trust and empathy in your relationships, you’ll no doubt build higher-quality connections.

How do you relate to the individuals with whom you’re charged to motivate and inspire? What’s the quality of your conversations? Do you take time to get to know them? Do you encourage them to speak up?

I recommend a small group approach to develop positive emotional presence, where groups of 8 individuals step out of their comfort zone and learn emotional intelligent social interaction habits that make others feel good about themselves and great about interacting with you!  When organizations or communities create processes and protocols that build and sustain a psychologically safe environment, that leads to higher self-awareness, deeper connections, and authentic compassion.

Winning over hearts and minds requires a nuanced approach to each individual. There is no time-saving ways to accomplish this, nor should you do it simply because “it’s good for business or your career” Authentically connecting is to “feel” the pulse of the culture or individual by connecting first from the heart.

Leaders who intentionally invest time and space to foster positive, connections are rare. The reality is that few leaders listen with intent and empathy about what are the core values and guiding “light” of themselves and their employees. Leader’s emotional presence is influenced by how often you invest your time, energy and enthusiasm on lifting others up, instead of elevating your own status.

Cynthia M. Kivland is a Board Certified Coach, Master Career Counselor, ACHE Leadership Program Faculty, and International Expert and author on the impact of emotions on organzaitnal culutre, leadership presence and career significance.. She is Founder/President of Smart2Smarter Institue.

Permanent link to this article: http://smart2smarter.com/the-new-leadership-it-factor-emotional-presence/

Measuring Team Engagement

MeasuringIn my first article, “Are you a Connected Member” I discussed how you can learn to be a better team member and help your work group be effective.  I shared that it may seem unlikely that there could be anything new to learn about what makes teams effective, but there is.  In the article I shared that every team is a unique social unit. The quality of members’ social interactions —both intra-team and inter-team — determines project success or failure. Each member contributes to group outcomes — and some more so than others.

How do we know that social sensitivity outweighs all other factors in team effectiveness? Scientists are using new technology to measure the degree of social interaction in organizations.

Professor Alex Pentland’s Human Dynamic Lab at MIT invented a sociometric badge, worn on people’s clothing. It has the technology to measure the tone of voice a person uses, whether people are facing one another while talking, how much they gesture, how much they talk, listen, and interrupt one another.

A sociometer doesn’t record the words people say, as they are determined irrelevant in measures of interactions. Here are some of their findings:

  1. Successful team members generate a large number of ideas in short contributions to conversations. No one goes on for great length.
  2. They engage in “dense interactions;” that is, they alternate between advancing their own ideas and responding to the contributions of others with “good,” “right,” “what?” and other short comments that signal consensus on an idea’s value, good or bad.
  3. Successful members contribute ideas and reactions, taking turns more or less equally, ensuring a wide diversity of ideas.

The above findings are embedded in the SEMCO Group Emotional Intelligence program offered by The Liautaud Institute, in which I am Chief Learning Officer. These three elements of interaction are more important than any other factor in explaining excellent performance of the best teams. In fact, they were about as important as all the other factors — individual intelligence, technical skills, members’ personalities and anything else — combined.

Team-Based Social Interactions

Human interaction in teams is so powerful that increasing it just a little improves group performance a lot. Here’s a case study, reported in Geoff Golvin’s book, Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will (Portfolio, 2015):

In a Bank of America call center of 3,000 employees, productivity vastly improved simply by changing the schedule of break times so that workers spent more time together socially. When the bank switched to aligned team breaks, productivity rose and turnover fell. Performance improved as workers had more time to interact with each other. The bank estimated a savings of $15 million a year.

In my work at The Liautaud Institute, I’ve seen companies spend a lot of money to try to boost performance. However, the above example of how aligning breaks so that more team members can interact socially does the trick. It didn’t cost a penny, and it saved $15 million in turnover and lost productivity.  The SEMCO group program (Systemic Empowerment Communites) serves three biogenic human needs:

Membership:  the need to be part of something bigger than oneself Connection

Empowerment:  the need to innovate and improve one’s work environment, job or careerContribution

Meaning/Purpose:  the need to end the day feeling you made a difference aligned with your Purpose

Groups that completed the SEMCO program showed an average 23%increse in group emotional intelligence, higher engagement scores and higher social attractiveness.  Yes, positive social interactions do yield bottom line results!

How can you encourage more social interaction in your company? What’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you. I can be reached here cynthia@liautuadinstitute.com and on LinkedIn.





About the Author

Cynthia Kivland, Author and President Smart2Smarter Coaching, Training and Assessment Services has over twenty five years of accomplished career and leadership coaching experience working with very smart people, leaders and teams including MBA’s, military, scientists, CEO’s, and healthcare professionals. Join Cynthia’s Career and Workplace Resilience group on LinkedIn. To have a chat about emotional intelligence coaching, training and career resilience resources Contact Cynthia.

Permanent link to this article: http://smart2smarter.com/measuring-team-engagement/

Empathy in the Data Age

empathydefI’ve been thinking about my last blog post, Business Case for Empathy that discussed how workplaces need to demonstrate more empathy.  In the work I do coaching leaders and consulting with organizations, I often teach or coach on how to develop an emotionally smart and socially respectful and civil culture; especially in this “Need it Now Virtual Information Age”

Most organizations, and their leaders, spend more work time on data, than face-to-face employee or customer contact. It’s important to remember that we are intrinsically social animals, with an innate ability to sense what others are thinking and feeling.  We just need to design our leadership style and environment to engage in more people to people contact.

Late last century, four Italian neuroscientists discovered how the social brain works, and this discovery provided understanding and tools to increase and demonstrate empathy.  Giacomo Rizzolatti and his

colleagues at the University of Parma in Italy wanted to understand how our brains work when we take action.  The researchers studied the brains of monkeys.  One day as a neuroscientist picked up a peanut in the lab, a monkey watched him closely.  This monkey’s premotor neurons fired just as they had earlier when the monkey had picked up the peanut himself. This was new and the scientists could hardly believe what they had witnessed.  They called these special neurons as mirror neurons.


It’s mirror neurons that let us see the world through the eyes of other people and enables you to understand the meaning of other people’s actions. Mirrored neurons are the hard wiring behind empathy.   Empathy lets leaders “get a feel” of what’s going on with other people, what they feel and what they think. When leaders establish an empathic connection, it gives them that “sixth sense” mirrored neuron learning on what matters most to people, what motivates them and what they value. .


When leaders stay in face to face contact with colleagues, peers and customers, they have a better sense of what’s going on in the world.  And often, you’ll have an “edge” on competitors at spotting new opportunities and forging deeper relationships.

Large institutions often choose to rely on data, employee satisfaction surveys or market research for information on customer or staff experiences. They choose to lessen the amount of time in face-to-face interactions, critical to creating a mirrored neuron moment to reinforce, and often, strengthen the relationship. These leaders become emotionally distant from their customers’ and employee’s day-to-day needs, wants and dreams. In the words of Polish philosopher Alfred Korzybski, the map is not the territory.

Harley-Davidson is one notable exception, its office a shrine to the motorcycle culture the company helped create. Offices display photos, memorabilia and banners from rallies. Customers and employees ride together. Engineers, accountants and administrative staff acquire an intuitive understanding of the customers who buy their products.

Harley-Davidson’s leaders mandate that company executives spend measurable time on the streets with motorcycle riders. While many employees don’t ride, the company nonetheless instills its lifestyle and values. Empathy is a key element of this corporate strategy.

In many workplaces, however, this is not the case. Instead of opportunities to mingle with customers, employees, marketing and human resource departments rely on data to identify the demographical needs of their customers or staff. . They spend money and time monitoring web browsing history and the ads people select or choose to click, and based on that data, they make product and staff decisions.

How about in your place of work? In what ways are there missed opportunities to make an emotional connection with your team or customer? I’d love to hear from you.

Permanent link to this article: http://smart2smarter.com/empathy-in-the-data-age/

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