Tell us a bit about your background. Why did you decide to form your own leadership training company?
After a successful career as a marriage and family therapist, I was promoted to my first management position in the 1980s. I quickly discovered that the ways we were instructed to manage employees weren’t working. Ditching the traditional management-employee shtick, I began using the research-based, positive psychology philosophies I had found effective with clients in private practice.
I feel like so much of what we’ve done in leadership and HR is completely off track. It’s disconnected from spiritual beliefs, science, and self-reflection. If you live according to the natural order of the universe, you are responsible for yourself and your happiness in the world. Most business processes don’t respect that. They keep people from natural consequences. When I talk to people about changing their thinking, it gives them energy when they realize that there’s a different possibility. It gives them hope. They want to learn more.
Eventually, these common-sense management practices became “Reality-Based” Leadership. Soon, the employees on my team were more motivated, adapted easily to change, delivered better results, and emanated on-the-job happiness.
These positive results were the springboard to my current passion and career: helping companies integrate Reality-Based practices into their everyday work lives to drive improved outcomes. I established my business, Reality-Based Leadership in 2001 and focus on consulting, training, and speaking. I have also published two books.
What are some of the most common problems facing many companies today, regardless of the industry that they’re in?
In our newest research via The Futures Company, I found that the average employee spends two hours and twenty minutes per day in drama. That’s over two hours per day lost to emotional waste in the workplace! For many organizations today, I can’t think of a more profound impact on the bottom line then the ability to eradicate two hours per day per headcount of waste from the workplace.
Leadership can actually be the process by which this waste can be eliminated. This is an unimaginable ROI for any effort, let alone for leadership. I am confident that Reality-Based Leadership can absolutely restore the competitive advantage to a workplace while enhancing engagement and creating innovative collaborative environments that will lead to even greater results in the future.
What exactly is “Reality-Based Leadership,” and how does it differ from more conventional leadership approaches?
Reality-Based Leaders can change mindsets and cultivate accountability instead of trying to perfect circumstances. They refuse to argue with the reality of their circumstances and teach their followers to do the same.�
A Reality-Based Leader quickly and radically accepts the reality of any situation so they can take action and make decisions that conserve precious team energy and then focus that energy instead on delivering results. Reality-Based Leaders anticipate future change, welcome it, and then capitalize on the opportunity it presents without drama or defense. They are bulletproof. �
Reality-Based Leaders deliver results without the drama, chaos, and politicking that has become far too common in our workplaces today. They develop people who consistently make results happen no matter how challenging the times may be.�
Since your site urges people to “ditch the drama,” what exactly does that mean in practice?
Being Reality-Based is all about ditching the drama because most of the drama in our lives has nothing to do with reality. It’s the story we make up about reality. For instance, if my boss asks me a question, I think, “He’s micromanaging me, checking up on me.” The reality is my boss asked me a question. The rest is a story I made up. When people let go of their self-manufactured drama, they are able to use those two hours a day for productivity, and they are happier because their morale is not affected by the stories they make up about their circumstances.�
My message to people is this: quit believing everything you think. Step back and question what you think. When you run into a problem at work, don’t assume your coworkers are incompetent or undermining you. Ask: “What do I know for sure?” What’s left are the facts. Then ask, “What could I do next to add value?” Look for ways to solve the problem and contribute. That way, you eliminate all the energy that goes into drama. Employees aren’t exhausted because of their jobs, but rather because of self-manufactured drama.
What are some ways that a leader can help empower his or her employees and increase their accountability?
To help this skill set evolve and further develop, encourage the following among your team.
1. Embrace Challenges
Experiencing projects, assignments, and tasks that have a significant risk of failure and call employees out of their comfort zones will enhance the learning and development of new and less developed competencies. This process forces the individual to quickly find what worked and what didn’t. From there, they can adapt and move forward.
2. Experienced Accountability
Being held accountable on a consistent basis by people and processes molds the mindset of internal accountability. Over time, the concept that one’s results are a product of their own actions is reinforced and solidified as a belief.�
3. Consistent and Regular Feedback
Regular developmental and performance feedback from a credible source helps employees understand and internalize how their specific behaviors and choices are contributing to their results. However, the feedback must be rigorous, consistent, and ongoing to be effective.�
Engaging in regular self-reflection and introspection about one’s progress is critical. The focus of self-reflection is to account for one’s role in the results of their life and extract the lessons that will empower a different response in the future. Methods of self-reflection include meditation and journaling.�
Once this is achieved, you will have created a workforce that is resilient, committed to results, accepting of the consequences of their actions (good and bad) and continuously learning. Not only will they raise the bar for everyone around them, but they will also make great things happen for your business as well.
Since you wrote a book about workplace rules, could you name one rule that a company can change or implement today that will help its employees to succeed in their work?
Improve personal accountability by getting real about the true value of an employee. Many organizations are only measuring performance, which doesn’t always translate into business results.
Current Performance + Future Potential – Emotional Expensiveness = Employee Value
Current Performance – Is this employee truly meeting expectations? Are they consistently delivering results? Do they provide value each and every day? Are you still giving them credit for what they did last year or in the past decade?
Future Potential – What are the odds that this employee will be a great player in the future? Do they seek out new challenges? Do they keep up with trends in their profession and the industry? Will they be relevant to your company in five years?
Emotional Expense – Finally, you must offset any value derived from the employee with the “emotional cost” of the relationship to the organization. After you spend time together with this employee, ask yourself, “Is my energy heightened or drained? Am I working harder on this employee’s success than they are? Does this employee relationship take energy that, if conserved, would create something far greater for the team or company? Does this employee say “yes” to ideas and requests? Do they handle change with excitement or resistance?”
What are some of the main challenges for leaders in the future, and how will Reality-Based Leadership help address those challenges?
Old leadership beliefs are expensive. There is a growing awareness of leaders’ coaching strategies and their connection to productivity, so leadership practices are a serious and critical economic issue. At Reality-Based Leadership, we coach leaders to sustain readiness by picking up where most change management stops: accelerating action past the point of awareness and acceptance. After awareness, leaders should seek willingness, and work quickly with those who are willing and committed to changing circumstances. After willingness, seek advocates – those who work alongside you and bring others into alignment with the organization.
Next, they should seek active participants who clear a path so the change can and will work, and don’t remain stuck in reasons why it can’t. Finally, savvy companies embrace drivers who are proactively scouting trends, game-changing strategies, and areas so the organization can achieve its full potential. �
If we favor preference over potential and keeping people comfortable, we kill competitive advantage. It lets us feel good temporarily, but it inhibits our future success. As an HR leadership driver, think beyond change management philosophies that talk about net change and tying the future to the past – it only reinforces attachment. The future is now, and thriving in our reality requires a relentless focus on “what’s next.” A driver that advocates business readiness realizes that it’s a mindset that is cultivated – because without that mindset, every change will be difficult.
Need more information about Matt Walker Adventure? Contact him today!