Love Is as Love Does

George sat in my (Dr. Cloud’s) office, despondent. His wife, Janet, whom he loved deeply, had just moved out because he had lost another job. A very talented person, George seemed to have everything he needed for success. But he had lost several good jobs because of his irresponsibility and inability to follow through. Bosses loved the talent but hated the performance. And after several family disruptions because of his failures, Janet had had enough. “I love her so much,” George said to me. “Doesn’t she see that?” “I believe that you love her,” I said. “But in reality, I don’t think that she does. All she sees is the effect your behavior has had on her and the children, and she asks herself, ‘How can he love us and treat us this way?’ You cannot just love someone and not deliver. Love without the fruits of love is really not love in the end. She feels very unloved because of what you have put her through.” If George was to have a chance of winning Janet back, it would not come through one more empty promise. He needed to develop boundaries to gain the self-control that would make him... Continue Reading »

How to Regain Positive Momentum in the Midst of Negative Circumstances

I (Dr. Cloud) was addressing an organization in the aftermath of a financial meltdown. We discussed why so many people were feeling down, defeated, and unable to perform at the levels they were used to. (It is amazing how just knowing that there is a reason for why you feel the way you do can be helpful. I wanted them to know that they weren’t crazy.) But then, I heard the words that I never want to hear… “So, what you are telling us is that we are basically screwed,” an attendee said. “We are just going to feel this way until the economy is different. This is just the new normal.” “Yes, you are right,” I said. “This has become the new normal. And that is exactly your problem.” “What do you mean?” she asked. “Your creative drives, the energy that you summon to go out and win, have shut down,” I said. “You feel that since you can’t control the economy, you can’t control anything. And now that you have been feeling that way for a while, your brain has tricked you into thinking that that is the way it really is, that there is nothing you can... Continue Reading »

Feedback Is the “Breakfast of Champions”

Business management expert Ken Blanchard says that feedback is the “breakfast of champions.” Indeed, learning how we are doing and how to do better are keys to great performance. In fact, the best performance situations are when we are getting the most immediate feedback, which is from the task itself, as flow researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has found. The problem tends to occur at the moment when we actually get the feedback, either from other people or from the outcomes themselves. That is when our leadership character shows itself. While Blanchard gets it exactly right about the kind of breakfast we need, truth is that not everyone has the same appetite for breakfast. Some people wake up and really want it, while it makes others sick to their stomachs. Some are allergic to feedback. They set boundaries against constructive criticism. Brain research shows that feedback can do funny things to us if we see it as a danger or a put-down. We go into the “moving away” or “moving against” mode of fight-or-flight. The brain gets biochemically goofy. That is why you see people get so defensive and go to great lengths to fight any feedback. But remember, fight-or-flight only comes when... Continue Reading »

Nice Guys Don’t Finish Last

The Power of the Other

I (Dr. Cloud) had a very interesting conversation recently with a leader who accomplishes a lot and is very driven and effective. I have always been a fan of his work. We were working on a project together, and he made a reference to a particular work habit of his, logging almost every thought he has about his work into a very complicated matrix in a journal, and I asked him about it. Nothing wrong with carrying a little book around and jotting down good ideas when they come. But this was much more; it was obsessive. He said, “I think it’s probably part of my anxiety disorder.” I inquired more, and he told me that he had been managing a significant anxiety disorder for some time and had relied on a number of tricks and habits to keep it in check. As I listened, I couldn’t help being moved by how much effort it must cost and how distressing it must be for him to manage this condition. I also couldn’t help wondering how much better his life and work could be if he didn’t have to do all that. The psychologist in me had to speak up. “So,... Continue Reading »

The Secret Ingredients to Stellar Performance

Jack Nicklaus is the greatest golfer the world has ever known. His record of major wins is unsurpassed, even years after his last victory. Winning eighteen major tournaments is a record that is likely to stand for a long time. For those of you who are not golfers, that is the equivalent of more Super Bowls, World Series, heavyweight championships, tennis Grand Slams, or any other sports crown won by a single person or team. If you’re not a sports person, just call it the Oscars and think Katharine Hepburn. Of all of his feats, one stands out to me (Dr. Henry Cloud). It was in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. On the seventeenth hole, he faced what he described as a howling wind, a 218-yard shot, and a three-stroke lead, which on a hole like that could quickly disappear. What happened? He hit the shot. The ball hit the flagstick and fell a few inches from the hole. Birdie! And a locked-up U.S. Open victory. (Google it. You will watch it several times.) In a career spanning so many years and so many victories, why does that one shot stand out to me above all others? Here’s the rest of the story. Nicklaus has described what happened in that historic moment.... Continue Reading »