Monthly Archives: June, 2015

Are You Caught in an Ego Trap?

If you watch, you will see a number of articles popping up dealing with some version of this issue: “does a great leader have to be something of a jerk?”

Such articles have usually referred to Steve Jobs, and these days Elon Musk is creeping into the conversation. And both of these leaders had/have pretty high JQs (Jerk Quotients).

But, I think it is a pretty big mistake to even have this conversation. It is certainly a dumb idea to say “since Steve Jobs was something of a jerk, then I will be more of a jerk, and thus, maybe more successful.” In my opinion, it doesn’t quite work that way. I think Steve Jobs, and maybe Elon Musk, were just superior leaders, who also happened to have high JQs.Seinfeld

In other words, maybe being a jerk, or not being a jerk, has little to do with actual success.

Yes…, not being a jerk has plenty to do with building a workplace that people want to be a part of. Although, truth be told, the people who “survived” Steve Jobs, and the people who “survive” Elon Musk, seem to be pretty loyal. They generally believe that they got more accomplished than they could have/would have, because of the unswerving focus of these leaders.

I think that leaders who succeed have qualities unrelated to the JQ spectrum. Mainly, they have an uncanny ability to sense what people really want/need, and then they have the equally uncanny ability to marshal teams and resources to turn that into reality.

Let’s put it this way: there are some jerks who are great leaders, and plenty of jerks who are not at all much of a leader. And, there are some really “nice” (i.e., high EQ) people who do not lead very well, and a few who do.

In other words, great leaders are rare, regardless of their EQ and JQ.

Ego vs. EQBut, let’s pretend that you would like to be successful, while lowering your JQ. In other words, let’s imagine that you want to be a good leader, a successful leader, and not much of a jerk. (A worthy goal, in my opinion).  Here’s a little help from the book Ego vs. EQ: How Top Leaders Beat 8 Ego Traps with Emotional Intelligence by Jen Shirkani.

First, a key quote/excerpt from this book — part of Ego Trap 1 (see below):

It’s easy to end up at the top of your organization with certain blind spots that fewer and fewer people are willing to call to your attention….
Maybe people have tried to give you feedback, only to see you ultimately ignore it. So they stop. (emphasis added).

“Blind spots that fewer people are willing to call to your attention.”

That’s a nice way to say that:

you do have blind spots
nobody is willing to call you on them
partly because
you are unwilling to let anyone call you on them.

In other words, you are not just blind regarding your own blind spots, you are also deaf when it comes to listening to correctives. In other words, you are something of a jerk, and you don’t own up to it; you don’t even listen to anyone willing to tell you about your problem. Thus, guaranteeing a lower EQ, and a higher JQ.nph

So… whatever else your job is, the closer you get to the top of any hierarchy, the more important it is to put someone (maybe more than one such someone) into your inner circle to tell you the truth. And then, you have to listen to their warnings and correctives, and do something with what they have the courage to tell you. Otherwise, your JQ goes up while your EQ goes down.

Here are all 8 Ego Traps from the book Ego vs. EQ.  You might want to read them carefully; they set quite a challenging agenda for the leader. And then read the book for a deeper dive into these 8 ego traps. Here they are:

Ego Trap 1: Ignoring feedback you don’t like
Ego Trap 2: Believing your technical skills trump your leadership skills
Ego Trap 3: Surrounding yourself with more of you
Ego Trap 4: Not letting go of control
Ego Trap 5: Being blind to your downstream impact
Ego Trap 6: Underestimating how much you are being watched
Ego Trap 7: Losing touch with the frontline experience
Ego Trap 8: Relapsing back to your old ways

But, as with most genuine challenges, it always starts with Step One: “Hello, my name is ____, and I admit…”

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Compassion in Your Community

June 17, 2015 was a sad day in American history, with the slaying of nine members of the Charleston community as a result of a gunman at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. While each family mourns the loss of their loved ones, the rest of the country struggles with the questions that remain from the tragedy, including a question of ongoing racism and segregation in our country.

Members of the black community have mentioned in news articles that other races cannot understand what they endure. I used to think that if I did not make decisions based on socioeconomic issues, then I was not acting in a discriminatory manner. Through others, I have realized that there are so many behavioral and emotional choices that I make each day due to my own socioeconomic status and I cannot duplicate the emotional reaction that those choices evoke in someone else.

As a member of my community, I have struggled with what I can do to help. With the guidance of leaders in my community, I have come to realize that the first, most necessary action we can take to help in the struggle, is show compassion.

Compassion is defined as a response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. The word is derived from a Latin word with the meaning to love together with.

Compass3_(PSF)Compassion is comprised of the word compass. Do you remember using a compass in middle school math class? A compass is a tool that draws circles or arcs by adjusting the radius between two points and is utilized in mathematics and navigation. To use the tool, you place the end of a tool on one point and the other end of the tool on the other point and the compass determines the connection in between the two points. That is what compassion is—a connection between two points that navigates your actions.

While you may not be able to understand how those in your community are suffering, stay emotionally connected to your community and respond with compassion when they hurt. Take the lead and find the connection between two entities in your community, show compassion, and use the connections and your compassion to navigate your actions.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Learning Takes Time

Maybe because I have spent a lot of years reading and studying…

It seems that the pressure is growing stronger by the day to make quick decisions, read many, many short items, and rush from task to task…

Maybe I am defensive. My formal education is in the “Humanities.” The Humanities is in the mode of “we better defend our existence” these days. At times, I envy those STEM folks. They learn tangible lessons; how to use math, how to code. I didn’t learn such tangible lessons. In fact, I never liked the classes I had to take in my graduate work in “statistics.” I should have – but I didn’t.

I remember especially one professor whose exams were open-ended essay questions. We had to write – a lot! And, though there were certain points we had to cover to make the grade, we really had to demonstrate that we had learned how to think about some pretty good and big questions and issues…

Anyway, I wonder if our modern educational path is leaving such behind, and that it might be hurting us in some way.

I thought of this as I read this article: “The Decline of the American Actor – Why the under-40 generation of American leading men is struggling—and what to do about it” by Terrence Rafferty from The Atlantic. He starts it this way:

Is it time for American actors to take a hard look in the mirror? Earlier this year Michael Douglas mused darkly to a magazine interviewer, “I think we have a little crisis going on amongst our young actors at this point,” and Spike Lee, commenting on the “invasion” of black British actors, had some pithy observations on the subject, too: “You want talented people,” he said, and British actors’ “training is very proper, whereas some of these other brothers and sisters, you know, they come in here, and they don’t got that training.” Douglas and Lee, just like the rest of us who go to the movies, are a tad puzzled about why so many good American roles have been going to English, Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Australian, and Canadian actors. The phenomenon may have reached its unignorable peak in last year’s docudrama Selma: the parts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King, Governor George Wallace, and President Lyndon B. Johnson were all played by Brits.


The British are coming!

Read the full article. He basically makes the case that the modern young American actors (primarily the men) are skipping the needed steps (years of these steps) in training.

OutliersI thought of key business books I have read. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and his popularization of the 10,000 hour rule. And then, the needed “next read” to Outliers, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. Mr. Colvin demonstrates that just any old 10,000 hours isn’t enough. It requires 10,000 hours of disciplined, deliberate practice – working on something for the purpose of getting better at it. (A careful reading of Gladwell would show that he fully agrees with this. In other words, 10,000 hours does not make you the best. But the right 10,000 hours gives you a decent shot at being really, really good!).

I think of one of my professional pursuits. I present synopses of business books. I guess in order to save folks time – so they can “learn quickly.” So, I feel a little guilty about this. I wish that we could just sit in silence, for quite a few hours, read the books, then talk about the key stories, the key lessons, and takeaways.

But, these days, the 15 minute version of the synopsis seems too long for some people. I’m now getting e-mails with fast-paced graphics about 4 minutes in length, promising to teach me the essence of a book in 4 minutes. My 15 minute version seems excrutiatingly slow to some people – so “yesterday.”

“Learn fast” seems to be today’s mantra.catspeedread

I remember a Mad Magazine graphic from my early years. It was a drawing of Grandma in her kitchen. Flour and sugar and pie crust are everywhere, including on her face, her apron, on the floor… She is pulling a beautiful cherry pie out of the oven. It looked delicious! But, her face was furious at the words coming over her kitchen radio. An announcer was promoting buying the latest frozen pie, to pop in the oven, and cook in just a short time. The tag line: “Better than Grandma could ever make.”

Learning takes time. There is no “pop in the oven for an hour and get all that you need” shortcut. Learning takes work, serious thinking, and lots of time devoted to the process.

I do realize that many jobs allow little such time for such learning work. But, I think that may be hurting us in ways that we can’t and don’t quite yet understand.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Working Together is Success

This week, my college roommate contacted me about a presentation that she was creating for her staff about teamwork and she wanted to see if I still had a picture from our collegiate women’s rowing days. If you know my stature; yes, I was a coxswain for my team. photo

Before joining the rowing team, my complete knowledge of rowing stemmed from “TEAMWORK” posters with quotes such as, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.” However, I had never stopped to think about why a rowing scull has become such an iconic symbol of teamwork.

In my opinion, rowing is the ultimate team sport. First of all, it is very important where you position each member of the team. You want your lighter, less forceful rowers in the front of the boat and the heavier and more dominant rowers in the back of the boat to project the boat forward with as much speed as possible.

The scull is completely balanced when each rower is in the exact same position at the same time while holding their oar at the exact same height and angle. If a single rower holds their oar at a different height, the boat leans to the side. If a single rower pushes the oar into the water at a different time than the other rowers, the projection from the stroke is lessened. If a single rower holds their oar at a slightly different angle as the oar hits the water, the stroke is weakened and the likelihood that the oar will create a balance issue increases. These technical components separate the winners by milliseconds.

Teamwork in this sport is defined by the dedication of rowers to each other. From the physical inertia that this sport demands to the mental strength to master the synchronizing rowing, each member of the scull has a purpose and a responsibility to the team. There is not a single winner in this sport – it is a true commitment of the entire team to persevere to the finish line. The result of this perseverance is a beautiful, synchronized gliding motion across the water.

In organizations, we utilize the word teamwork for anything and everything. But, how many of your actions directly impact your colleague on your team? If you have eight members of your executive team, do you have eight messages being relayed to the organization or do you have a single message? Do you have your team positioned in the correct part of your boat to project your organization forward?

Try spending some time analyzing the technical aspects of your team operations. Are you coming together and operating as a dedicated and committed team? Will your current team persevere with physical and mental strength to cross the finish line together?

When I hear the teamwork quotes now, they have a stronger impact.

Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Maybe Employee Engagement is all About The Right Hire, from start-to-finish

Let’s do a little cross-discipline thinking.

One of the hot business topics, for quite some time, is this: how do we got more-engaged employees?

There are books on employee engagement, and plenty of suggestions on how to get, and keep, your employees more engaged. It’s a good and noble pursuit. The current numbers are clear (from this source – google it, and these numbers are pretty much confirmed in other surveys):

29% of workers are engaged
45% of workers are not engaged
and 26% of workers are actively disengaged. (These will really do you in!).

And, by all indications, these numbers are not budging much. They are not increasing. And that’s not good, because the higher the level of engagement, the happier, more diligent, more productive the workers.

So… about that cross-discipline thinking…

Here’s one of my takeaways from the book The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns by Sasha Issenberg (New York: Crown victory-labPublishing. 2012). It’s about winning elections.

Identify the folks who would be your folks, and remind them to:

  • do what they “promised” to do
  • do what they would do anyway if they just were simply to do it…
  • do what their peers (people who matter to them!) would applaud
  • avoid doing what their peers would look down on.

In other words, engaged voters vote. And you don’t get voters to vote for your candidate by converting the other candidate’s voters, nor by convincing the undecided. No, you get your voters by finding your voters, and reminding them to put their intentions into practice.

So… what if employee engagement is similar?  What if it is not about converting the not-engaged, but instead, identifying the potential employees who are likely to be engaged from day one, and hiring those people, and only those people?

I think that may be a (the!) great, big, important key.

Oh sure, the company can do things to increase and enhance employee engagement – for those so inclined to be fully engaged to begin with. But for those who show up at work to collect a check and then get out of there as quickly as possible, maybe doing the least amount of work possible, then the cause may be close to hopeless to begin with.

Oh, there may be a few stories of success – “this person was not engaged at all, and now look at how engaged he/she is” — but , for the most part… not so much.

So, maybe employee engagement starts with, and really depends on, hiring the most-likely-to be-engaged workers to begin with.

That’s what I’m thinking today, anyway…

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

The Leadership Feeling

I have been fortunate to work for and with great city management leaders. My career was given a start by a city manager after I told him that I had no idea what he was talking about during the interview. Then, there was the city manager that challenged me professionally and gave me my first big promotion and the city manager who literally tiled my kitchen floor and comforted us during a concerning pregnancy.

There are numerous other examples from leaders from within our profession who have taken the time to invest in me, my family, and my career. Whether career advice or encouragement in passing from leaders and colleagues, or the gift of years of advice, encouragement, and challenges from my mentors, this profession has generally been very friendly and focused on the betterment of local government and the future leaders for local government.

Last week, May 28th marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of the legendary Maya Angelou, an American author, poet, and actress. Ms. Angelou’s career spanned more than fifty years. She was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and spent time with national and world leaders.

In honor of her passing, I read some of her more famous quotes from various works and speeches. One stuck with me:

People will forget what you said,

People will forget what you did,

But people will never forget

How you made them feel.

As leaders, we often get caught up building a persona that we think leaders should possess or finding the words that we think leaders should use. At the end of the day, it is not about what you say or what you do; it is about how you make others feel.

So, take time to mentor the future generation of local government. Take time to get to know your employees. Take time to show that you care about your citizens. Take time.

When your career is completed, you will have developed future leaders, impacted your organization, and bettered your city.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

Misunderstanding Comes Easy

Now you may be asking yourself, if even married couples can’t understand each other – and if even the President of the United States, with his
team of communications professionals, doesn’t come across the way he intends to—what hope do I have of ever getting my boss to see my potential, or my colleague to see how hard I work?

Heidi Grant Halverson, No One Understands You and What to Do About It

As I presented my synopsis of No One Understands You and What to Do About It by Heidi Grant Halverson, I asked everyone to take out a pen, and write this prominently on their handout:

Misunderstanding comes naturally.
Understanding takes work.

I think Why No One Understands You is one of the more important books I have presented lately. Because, everyone – everyone I know, in every arena, including… me – has trouble communicating their thoughts and intentions clearly, and has equal trouble understanding communications from others.

And, this difficulty leads to far more than hurt feelings (although, it does lead to that) – it leads to lost business, lost productivity, lost opportunity.

Why so much misunderstanding? Here are some of the reasons identified in the book:

  1. You really are hard to understand.
  2. The Transparency Illusion – we assume we made our intentions clear when we spoke. We did not.
  3. Your actions are a matter of interpretation.
  4. People do not give enough attention to the task of understanding the other person.
  5. Confirmation Bias — when other people look at you, they see what they expect to see. Psychologists call this 
confirmation bias (for more on this topic, read this 16% post from April—Ditching the Dissonance). 
  6. The Primacy Effect — our early impressions of a person can hold far too much weight and can lead us astray when 
they paint an inaccurate picture. Psychologists refer to this as the primacy effect; a perceiver’s first impression of 
you is likely to be a lasting impression and to influence how he or she interprets everything else about you.
  7. Stereotypes — At its most basic, stereotyping is a form of categorization—something human brains have evolved to 
do swiftly and automatically.
  8. The Halo Effect — The tendency to assume that someone possesses other positive qualities from the presence of a 
single, powerful positive quality is called the halo effect.
  9. The False-Consensus Effect — Other people think and feel what I think and feel. …It takes a lot of work to get it right. 
But a lot of work is the last thing the cognitive miser wants to do.
  10. We are all “Cognitive Misers” — spending as little of our mental energy as we have to in order to get the job done.

In her book, Ms. Halverson identifies two kinds of people:

#1 – The “Promotion-focused” People — eagerness
#2 – The “Prevention-focused” People – caution

And, she recommends how to “undo” a “bad” first impression – over-perform in the unexpected way!

  • e.g., If you’re always late, arrive one-hour early, consistently, for an extended period of time

And here are my lessons and takeaways from the book:

#1 — People will not understand you. Accept this – and work at being more “understandable.”
#2 — You will not understand other people. Accept this – and work at understanding other people much more accurately 
and effectively.
#3 — Every interaction carries baggage, requires understanding of context, and understanding of intent and purpose.
#4 — We really are perpetually comparing ourselves to others – accept this.
#5 — You really need to excel at communicating this: “You can trust me because: I am a person of empathy; and I am 
competent and can get things done.” 

#6 — Learn to apologize well. (You will make mistakes – even big ones).
#7 — Show some modesty (avoid arrogance; aim for humility, yet with appropriate self-confidence).
#8 — And, don’t forget/neglect the challenge of self-discovery and arriving at genuine (relatively accurate) self-knowledge.

If you interact with others, at home, at work, or anywhere else (and, obviously, you do), then this is the book you probably need at the top of your reading stack!

Or, to put it another way, this wasn’t just a book worthy of presenting at our First Friday Book Synopsis. I needed to read it. And now, if only I can put it into practice…

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Citizenship and Public Service Oath

This week has been filled with an unusual amount of sadness, hurt, and confusion. I have struggled with understanding the actions of others and the motivation behind public servants. In the midst of this struggle, I noticed a framed copy of an excerpt from the Oath of the Athenian City-State that I keep on my desk. This copy was a gift from ICMA when I graduated from the Leadership ICMA program a number of years ago and is a treasured reminder of public service and citizenship.

The original Oath of the Athenian City-State was required in ancient Athens to become a citizen. The exact text of the oath has a number of translations. A later version, the Ephebic Oath, was sworn by men upon entering their second year and final year of training at the military academy, in which graduation was required to attain citizenship. The oath states both military and civil responsibility to one’s city.

This oath is used by a number of public service organizations and is inscribed on the wall at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

The version on my desk reads:

We will ever strive for the ideals

and sacred things of the city,

both alone and with many;

We will unceasingly seek to quicken

the sense of public duty;

We will revere and obey the city’s laws;

We will transmit this city

not only not less,

but greater, better and more

beautiful than it

was transmitted to us. 

I cannot think of more eloquent words to describe public service and the true meaning of citizenship. These are the words of a true public servant and a true citizen. The words are also a good reminder of the meaning behind our careers in public service and our responsibilities to our city.

It’s also a great chance for us at SGR to say, “Thank you!” to all of you as public servants, whether elected officials or employees, for your service to us all. We’re proud to be your partners in holding high the greatest aspirations of public service.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

After the Flood

I live and work out of south central Texas, in a city on two rivers, not far from the Blanco and San Marcos Rivers. The San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers are my playground, as I participate in canoe races year-round held from the headwaters to the mouth, most notably, the Texas Water Safari. I teach canoe classes at Texas State University. If I ever had a “home away from home” designation to give, it would be for these rivers. I absolutely love being on the river, and those rivers specifically.

On Memorial Day weekend, those rivers raged. The Blanco River, which runs through the small town of Wimberley, then San Marcos (the fastest growing city in the nation), before it converges with the San Marcos River above Martindale, flowed at a reported 223,000 cubic feet per second. That’s 2.5 times the flow of Niagara Falls, I read in a report. As a frame of reference, “normal” flow for those rivers is 100-300 cfs on average. If you’ve seen the news reports, you’ve seen the devastation. As several folks have said, “we’ll never see the river look like it did before, in our lifetime.”

11377133_10205909019018140_5788856711673681803_n - CopyI’ve spent days volunteering primarily in Martindale, a tiny town with massive destruction. I’ve worked directly with a dozen of the homeowners affected. My heart is so heavy for Lupe, Mario, Annette, Raquel, Pete, Fernando, Clavio, Paula and Tom, and the list goes on. We gutted their homes. We threw away memories and ruined tools, clothes and food. I did not want to write about the power of nature or how we can manage things in the face of disaster. I could not bring myself to write about something so hurt-filled. While there are lessons to be learned there, I was personally not ready to write about it, while we’re still knee-deep in mud and devastation, and still, this past Saturday, additional flash flooding.

However, Sunday afternoon, I stopped in to check on my new friends in downtown Martindale. The sun was finally out after weeks of 10411134_10205909018818135_782072148897933495_nrain. Flooring was being put in Lupe and Mario’s home. Angelica, their 8 year-old, gave me a big hug. There were smiles on everyone’s faces.

I will never forget the smiles. It was a completely different world at that point. 36 hours prior, when we arrived at their home, it was hard to know where to begin. “Just throw it all out,” Lupe told my crew. “I have a few boxes to save, but that’s it.” I walked past her at one point just standing there with tears running down her cheeks. Flash forward to Sunday. Their home is drying out. Friends have arrived to help install their plywood flooring. Lupe is offering my work partner and me things to eat and drink, hugging and laughing with us. Her attitude has had a 180 degree change, and that makes all the difference.11196301_10205909019298147_227404499577822679_n - Copy

There is so much to be thankful for. There is much to be happy for. We are alive. We have community. And the happiness we can find gives us the advantage to succeed.

If you’d like to make a donation to help the people of this flood-devastated area, please visit



Written by:
Heather Harrison
Development Manager

Back to Soft Skills

Krys Boyd, of Think on KERA in Dallas, interviewed Brent Iverson of UT Austin and John Sibert of UT Dallas on her program today. They are respected teachers at the University level, and are each contributors to the book The Little Orange Book: Short Lessons in Excellent Teaching (University of Texas Press). You can listen to the full interview here. Their expertise is in the sciences, but, notice this portion of the interview:  A caller called in to tell a story of a teacher from his college days — a teacher who failed in the human interaction department with his students. The two guests responded partly with these words:

How are my students perceiving me?
This applies to people… Not (just) professors, but people. How you interact with others, especially if you have some content models, impact their view of that content…

This goes back to a very basic concept of rhetorical effectiveness from Aristotle — the power of ethos. Ethos: the ethical appeal, the credibility of the speaker/messenger. And, at the heart of ethos is the notion that the teacher/speaker has the goodwill of the audience at heart.

This is from one of my earlier blog posts: Does Your Audience Find You Trustworthy? — 4 Components Of Ethos. From that blog post:

In one of the textbooks I use in my teaching, Public Speaking (8th Edition) by Michael Osborn, Suzanne Osborn, and Randall Osborn, they describe four components of ethos.  These are terrific.  Here they are, from the book, with my own take sprinkled in:

  • integrity – be trustworthy (ethical; honest; dependable)

  • competence – develop genuine expertise; know your subject well (informed; intelligent; well-prepared)

  • dynamism – raise the energy in the room whenever you speak (confident; decisive; enthusiastic)

  • goodwill – have the best interests of your audience at heart.  Always mean them well, never mean them harm.

Or…  to put it all in simple terms:

  • you can trust me
  • because I have prepared well
  • and, I believe this deeply enough to get excited about it – and I work hard to stay current
  • and I share this with you to help you succeed in your own pursuits.

Enter every speaking assignment with these components of ethos at the front of your mind, and you will become known as trustworthy – a person of good character, speaking well.

Goodwill; effective interactions. It always comes back to the soft skills, doesn’t it?

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

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