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Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the November–December 1974 issue of HBR and has been one of the publication’s two best-selling reprints ever.

Why is it that managers are typically running out of time while their subordinates are typically running out of work? Here we shall explore the meaning of management time as it relates to the interaction between managers and their bosses, their peers, and their subordinates.

Specifically, we shall deal with three kinds of management time:

Boss-imposed time—used to accomplish those activities that the boss requires and that the manager cannot disregard without direct and swift penalty.

System-imposed time—used to accommodate requests from peers for active support. Neglecting these requests will also result in penalties, though not always as direct or swift.

Self-imposed time—used to do those things that the manager originates or agrees to do. A certain portion of this kind of time, however, will be taken by subordinates and is called subordinate-imposed time. The remaining portion will be the manager’s own and is called discretionary time. Self-imposed time is not subject to penalty since neither the boss nor the system can discipline the manager for not doing what they didn’t know he had intended to do in the first place.

To accommodate those demands, managers need to control the timing and the content of what they do. Since what their bosses and the system impose on them are subject to penalty, managers cannot tamper with those requirements. Thus their self-imposed time becomes their major area of concern.

Managers should try to increase the discretionary component of their self-imposed time by minimizing or doing away with the subordinate component. They will then use the added increment to get better control over their boss-imposed and system-imposed activities. Most managers spend much more time dealing with subordinates’ problems than they even faintly realize. Hence we shall use the monkey-on-the-back metaphor to examine how subordinate-imposed time comes into being and what the superior can do about it.

Where Is the Monkey?

Let us imagine that a manager is walking down the hall and that he notices one of his subordinates, Jones, coming his way. When the two meet, Jones greets the manager with, “Good morning. By the way, we’ve got a problem. You see….” As Jones continues, the manager recognizes in this problem the two characteristics common to all the problems his subordinates gratuitously bring to his attention. Namely, the manager knows (a) enough to get involved, but (b) not enough to make the on-the-spot decision expected of him. Eventually, the manager says, “So glad you brought this up. I’m in a rush right now. Meanwhile, let me think about it, and I’ll let you know.” Then he and Jones part company.

Let us analyze what just happened. Before the two of them met, on whose back was the “monkey”? The subordinate’s. After they parted, on whose back was it? The manager’s. Subordinate-imposed time begins the moment a monkey successfully leaps from the back of a subordinate to the back of his or her superior and does not end until the monkey is returned to its proper owner for care and feeding. In accepting the monkey, the manager has voluntarily assumed a position subordinate to his subordinate. That is, he has allowed Jones to make him her subordinate by doing two things a subordinate is generally expected to do for a boss—the manager has accepted a responsibility from his subordinate, and the manager has promised her a progress report.

The subordinate, to make sure the manager does not miss this point, will later stick her head in the manager’s office and cheerily query, “How’s it coming?” (This is called supervision.)  

Or let us imagine in concluding a conference with Johnson, another subordinate, the manager’s parting words are, “Fine. Send me a memo on that.”

Let us analyze this one. The monkey is now on the subordinate’s back because the next move is his, but it is poised for a leap. Watch that monkey. Johnson dutifully writes the requested memo and drops it in his out-basket. Shortly thereafter, the manager plucks it from his in-basket and reads it. Whose move is it now? The manager’s. If he does not make that move soon, he will get a follow-up memo from the subordinate. (This is another form of supervision.) The longer the manager delays, the more frustrated the subordinate will become (he’ll be spinning his wheels) and the more guilty the manager will feel (his backlog of subordinate-imposed time will be mounting).

Or suppose once again that at a meeting with a third subordinate, Smith, the manager agrees to provide all the necessary backing for a public relations proposal he has just asked Smith to develop. The manager’s parting words to her are, “Just let me know how I can help.”

Now let us analyze this. Again the monkey is initially on the subordinate’s back. But for how long? Smith realizes that she cannot let the manager “know” until her proposal has the manager’s approval. And from experience, she also realizes that her proposal will likely be sitting in the manager’s briefcase for weeks before he eventually gets to it. Who’s really got the monkey? Who will be checking up on whom? Wheel spinning and bottlenecking are well on their way again.

A fourth subordinate, Reed, has just been transferred from another part of the company so that he can launch and eventually manage a newly created business venture. The manager has said they should get together soon to hammer out a set of objectives for the new job, adding, “I will draw up an initial draft for discussion with you.”

Let us analyze this one, too. The subordinate has the new job (by formal assignment) and the full responsibility (by formal delegation), but the manager has the next move. Until he makes it, he will have the monkey, and the subordinate will be immobilized.

Why does all of this happen? Because in each instance the manager and the subordinate assume at the outset, wittingly or unwittingly, that the matter under consideration is a joint problem. The monkey in each case begins its career astride both their backs. All it has to do is move the wrong leg, and—presto!—the subordinate deftly disappears. The manager is thus left with another acquisition for his menagerie. Of course, monkeys can be trained not to move the wrong leg. But it is easier to prevent them from straddling backs in the first place.

Who Is Working for Whom?

Let us suppose that these same four subordinates are so thoughtful and considerate of their superior’s time that they take pains to allow no more than three monkeys to leap from each of their backs to his in any one day. In a five-day week, the manager will have picked up 60 screaming monkeys—far too many to do anything about them individually. So he spends his subordinate-imposed time juggling his “priorities.”

Late Friday afternoon, the manager is in his office with the door closed for privacy so he can contemplate the situation, while his subordinates are waiting outside to get their last chance before the weekend to remind him that he will have to “fish or cut bait.” Imagine what they are saying to one another about the manager as they wait: “What a bottleneck. He just can’t make up his mind. How anyone ever got that high up in our company without being able to make a decision we’ll never know.”

Worst of all, the reason the manager cannot make any of these “next moves” is that his time is almost entirely eaten up by meeting his own boss-imposed and system-imposed requirements. To control those tasks, he needs discretionary time that is in turn denied him when he is preoccupied with all these monkeys. The manager is caught in a vicious circle. But time is a-wasting (an understatement). The manager calls his secretary on the intercom and instructs her to tell his subordinates that he won’t be able to see them until Monday morning. At 7 pm, he drives home, intending with firm resolve to return to the office tomorrow to get caught up over the weekend. He returns bright and early the next day only to see, on the nearest green of the golf course across from his office window, a foursome. Guess who?

That does it. He now knows who is really working for whom. Moreover, he now sees that if he actually accomplishes during this weekend what he came to accomplish, his subordinates’ morale will go up so sharply that they will each raise the limit on the number of monkeys they will let jump from their backs to his. In short, he now sees, with the clarity of a revelation on a mountaintop, that the more he gets caught up, the more he will fall behind.

The manager can now see, with the clarity of a revelation on a mountaintop, that the more he gets caught up, the more he will fall behind.

He leaves the office with the speed of a person running away from a plague. His plan? To get caught up on something else he hasn’t had time for in years: a weekend with his family. (This is one of the many varieties of discretionary time.)

Sunday night he enjoys ten hours of sweet, untroubled slumber, because he has clear-cut plans for Monday. He is going to get rid of his subordinate-imposed time. In exchange, he will get an equal amount of discretionary time, part of which he will spend with his subordinates to make sure that they learn the difficult but rewarding managerial art called “The Care and Feeding of Monkeys.”

The manager will also have plenty of discretionary time left over for getting control of the timing and the content not only of his boss-imposed time but also of his system-imposed time. It may take months, but compared with the way things have been, the rewards will be enormous. His ultimate objective is to manage his time.

Getting Rid of the Monkeys

The manager returns to the office Monday morning just late enough so that his four subordinates have collected outside his office waiting to see him about their monkeys. He calls them in one by one. The purpose of each interview is to take a monkey, place it on the desk between them, and figure out together how the next move might conceivably be the subordinate’s. For certain monkeys, that will take some doing. The subordinate’s next move may be so elusive that the manager may decide—just for now—merely to let the monkey sleep on the subordinate’s back overnight and have him or her return with it at an appointed time the next morning to continue the joint quest for a more substantive move by the subordinate. (Monkeys sleep just as soundly overnight on subordinates’ backs as they do on superiors’.)

As each subordinate leaves the office, the manager is rewarded by the sight of a monkey leaving his office on the subordinate’s back. For the next 24 hours, the subordinate will not be waiting for the manager; instead, the manager will be waiting for the subordinate.

Later, as if to remind himself that there is no law against his engaging in a constructive exercise in the interim, the manager strolls by the subordinate’s office, sticks his head in the door, and cheerily asks, “How’s it coming?” (The time consumed in doing this is discretionary for the manager and boss imposed for the subordinate.)

In accepting the monkey, the manager has voluntarily assumed a position subordinate to his subordinate.

When the subordinate (with the monkey on his or her back) and the manager meet at the appointed hour the next day, the manager explains the ground rules in words to this effect:

“At no time while I am helping you with this or any other problem will your problem become my problem. The instant your problem becomes mine, you no longer have a problem. I cannot help a person who hasn’t got a problem.

“When this meeting is over, the problem will leave this office exactly the way it came in—on your back. You may ask my help at any appointed time, and we will make a joint determination of what the next move will be and which of us will make it.

“In those rare instances where the next move turns out to be mine, you and I will determine it together. I will not make any move alone.”

The manager follows this same line of thought with each subordinate until about 11 am, when he realizes that he doesn’t have to close his door. His monkeys are gone. They will return—but by appointment only. His calendar will assure this.

Transferring the Initiative

What we have been driving at in this monkey-on-the-back analogy is that managers can transfer initiative back to their subordinates and keep it there. We have tried to highlight a truism as obvious as it is subtle: namely, before developing initiative in subordinates, the manager must see to it that they have the initiative. Once the manager takes it back, he will no longer have it and he can kiss his discretionary time good-bye. It will all revert to subordinate-imposed time.

Nor can the manager and the subordinate effectively have the same initiative at the same time. The opener, “Boss, we’ve got a problem,” implies this duality and represents, as noted earlier, a monkey astride two backs, which is a very bad way to start a monkey on its career. Let us, therefore, take a few moments to examine what we call “The Anatomy of Managerial Initiative.”

There are five degrees of initiative that the manager can exercise in relation to the boss and to the system:

1. wait until told (lowest initiative);

2. ask what to do;

3. recommend, then take resulting action;

4. act, but advise at once;

5. and act on own, then routinely report (highest initiative).

Clearly, the manager should be professional enough not to indulge in initiatives 1 and 2 in relation either to the boss or to the system. A manager who uses initiative 1 has no control over either the timing or the content of boss-imposed or system-imposed time and thereby forfeits any right to complain about what he or she is told to do or when. The manager who uses initiative 2 has control over the timing but not over the content. Initiatives 3, 4, and 5 leave the manager in control of both, with the greatest amount of control being exercised at level 5.

In relation to subordinates, the manager’s job is twofold. First, to outlaw the use of initiatives 1 and 2, thus giving subordinates no choice but to learn and master “Completed Staff Work.” Second, to see that for each problem leaving his or her office there is an agreed-upon level of initiative assigned to it, in addition to an agreed-upon time and place for the next manager-subordinate conference. The latter should be duly noted on the manager’s calendar.

The Care and Feeding of Monkeys

To further clarify our analogy between the monkey on the back and the processes of assigning and controlling, we shall refer briefly to the manager’s appointment schedule, which calls for five hard-and-fast rules governing the “Care and Feeding of Monkeys.” (Violation of these rules will cost discretionary time.)

Rule 1.

Monkeys should be fed or shot. Otherwise, they will starve to death, and the manager will waste valuable time on postmortems or attempted resurrections.

Rule 2.

The monkey population should be kept below the maximum number the manager has time to feed. Subordinates will find time to work as many monkeys as he or she finds time to feed, but no more. It shouldn’t take more than five to 15 minutes to feed a properly maintained monkey.

Rule 3.

Monkeys should be fed by appointment only. The manager should not have to hunt down starving monkeys and feed them on a catch-as-catch-can basis.

Rule 4.

Monkeys should be fed face-to-face or by telephone, but never by mail. (Remember—with mail, the next move will be the manager’s.) Documentation may add to the feeding process, but it cannot take the place of feeding.

Rule 5.

Every monkey should have an assigned next feeding time and degree of initiative. These may be revised at any time by mutual consent but never allowed to become vague or indefinite. Otherwise, the monkey will either starve to death or wind up on the manager’s back.

“Get control over the timing and content of what you do” is appropriate advice for managing time. The first order of business is for the manager to enlarge his or her discretionary time by eliminating subordinate-imposed time. The second is for the manager to use a portion of this newfound discretionary time to see to it that each subordinate actually has the initiative and applies it. The third is for the manager to use another portion of the increased discretionary time to get and keep control of the timing and content of both boss-imposed and system-imposed time. All these steps will increase the manager’s leverage and enable the value of each hour spent in managing management time to multiply without theoretical limit.

(A version of this article appeared in the November–December 1999 issue of Harvard Business Review.)


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9 Things Passionate People Do Differently

Do you have enough passion in your life? Passion is the difference between playing the piano and being a pianist; it’s who you are, not just what you do. Passion makes you leap out of bed in the morning, eager to start your day.

Dr. Arielle Bonneville-Roussy at the University of Quebec has studied passion more than anyone, and he asserts that passion is self-defining. According to Vallerand, “Passion is a strong inclination towards a self-defining activity that people love, that they consider important, and in which they devote significant amounts of time and energy.”


“Passion is the genesis of genius..”   –Galileo


It’s important to note that passion doesn’t require expertise—although there is a correlation, it’s not a given. Vallerand and two other researchers studied 187 musicians and found that those who focused on perfecting their performance—what Vallerand calls “mastery”—developed a higher level of expertise than those who focused on merely being better than other musicians. If passion defines you, it makes sense that your personal best will be about you and no one else.

So what does passion look and feel like? A great way to understand passion is to consider what makes passionate people different from everybody else.

1. Passionate people are obsessed. Put simply, passionate people are obsessed with their muse, and I don’t mean that in an unhealthy OCD sort of way. I’m talking about a positive, healthy obsession, the kind that inspired the quote, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” No matter what else is going on, their thoughts keep returning to their passion. Not because they feel burdened and pressured by it, but because they’re just so dang excited about it. They’re obsessed with their muse because it inspires them and makes them happy.

2. They don’t waste time. You won’t find passionate people wandering around a park all afternoon playing Pokemon Go. They don’t have time to be bothered with things that don’t matter or things that just kill time. They devote every minute available to their passion, and it’s not a sacrifice, because there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.

3. They’re optimistic. Passionate people are always focused on what can be rather than what is. They’re always chasing their next goal with the unwavering belief that they’ll achieve it. You know how it feels when you’re looking forward to a really special event? Passionate people feel like that every day.

4. They’re early risers. Passionate people are far too eager to dive into their days to sleep in. It’s not that they don’t like to sleep; they’d just much rather be pursuing their passion. When the rooster crows, their minds are flooded with ideas and excitement for the day ahead.

5. They’re willing to take big risks. How much you want something is reflected in how much you’re willing to risk. Nobody is going to lay it all on the line for something they’re only mildly interested in. Passionate people, on the other hand, are willing to risk it all.

6. They only have one speed—full tilt. Passionate people don’t do anything half-heartedly. If they’re going, they’re going full tilt until they cross the finish line or crash. If they’re relaxed and still, they’re relaxed and still. There’s no in between.

7. They talk about their passions all the time. Again, we’re talking about people whose passions are inseparable from who they are, and you couldn’t form much of a relationship with them if they couldn’t be real about who they are, right? It’s not that they don’t understand that you don’t share their obsession; they just can’t help themselves. If they acted differently, they’d be playing a role rather than being authentic.

8. They’re highly excitable. You know those people who probably wouldn’t get excited if an alien spaceship landed in their front yard? Yeah, that’s not how passionate people operate. It’s not that they’re never calm, or even bored. It’s just that it takes less to get them excited, so they get excited more frequently and stay excited longer. One theory is that they devote their energy to just one or two things, so they make more progress, and that momentum fuels their excitement.

9. They’re all about their work. Passionate people don’t worry about work/life balance. Their work is who they are, and there’s no separating the two. It’s what they breathe, live, and eat, so there’s no such thing as leaving it at the office. Asking them to do that is tantamount to asking them to deny who they are. And they’re OK with that because there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing.

Bringing It All Together

Now that you know what separates passionate people from everybody else, do you think you have enough passion in your life?

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Why Telling is Not Good Enough: 3 Benefits of Connecting Language and Behavior

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” All too often, leaders fall for this illusion, believing that if they said it, then the message has been both heard and understood. Some leaders deepen the illusion by believing that they have also gained agreement about how to think and act.

Over 30 years of leading, observing and developing leaders and teams, we have come to recognize that telling is not good enough. Leaders today should move away from an over-reliance on the one-sided communication that is characteristic of “command and control” to the language and behavior of connecting.

Jack Eckerd, founder of Eckerd drugstores, modeled the value of having collective, inclusive, open and reciprocal communications. He knew that such connecting language and behavior would help him make better decisions and give him greater and sustained influence. He was often heard inviting new leaders, indeed all employees, to speak up, to connect and to fully participate in the conversation. He would say, “I am paying you for your expertise and perspective, not to recite mine. I know what I know and think. What I need to know is what you know and think.”

Consider the following benefits you gain when you move from telling to connecting.

1. Secure Enlistment, Not Just Compliance.

The use of command and control language may foster compliance at the expense of engagement or commitment. Leaders who use position power, and who are strong-willed communicators, can bend the will of others to comply with their wishes. Such speakers take a position and demand or push that position often without any consideration of what others want, need, know or believe. Since compliance does not require agreement or foster ownership, it can be hard to sustain in the face of new or contradictory information, barriers to the desired outcome, or competing priorities.

The use of connecting language (e.g., collective pronouns and inclusive statements) and connecting (i.e., open and reciprocal) behavior fosters the development of commitment and shared accountability. Leaders create connections by balancing advocacy for their own position with active inquiry of the ideas, beliefs, needs and recommendations of others. They enlist, rather than command, first by learning, second by considering, and finally by integrating those ideas and beliefs into their own thinking.

When others believe their needs and beliefs matter and that their knowledge and insights can make a difference, they are enlisted. When they are enlisted, their intrinsic motivation will enlist them to integrate new information, find ways around barriers and resolve competing priorities.

2. Increase Initiative, Not Dependency.

Leaders who insist that employees do only – and exactly – as they are told limit them to doing only what the leader declares to be right and true. This “telling” can create a dependency that reduces initiative, innovation, risk-taking and collective problem-solving. It teaches others to wait for answers, to wait for information or to wait for direction. If the leader is unavailable when action is needed, no action is taken. People cease making decisions.

Most organizations cannot afford to have employees waiting to be told. Instead, they need employees who understand that their purpose in the organization is greater than a list of tasks on a job description. Connecting leaders invite employees to share and test their ideas, to look for opportunities to make a difference, and to resolve problems they discover. Connecting leaders use collective pronouns and engage in collective problem-solving. These leader behaviors increase initiative, not dependency.

3. Know More, Not Less.

Leaders who only “tell” are information-blind. They operate under the false premise that asking others is not necessary, because they already have the best information and all the required information. They fail to seek or listen to the information that others know. They never learn the brutal facts that others have discovered. They make decisions blind to options, perspectives, feelings and facts that might have led to a more effective, innovative or otherwise better decision.

By connecting with people who know things they do not know, or who may interpret shared information differently, leaders can access and evaluate relevant insights and information. Leaders who practice open and reciprocal communication learn more, know more and consider more and are, therefore, better equipped to make the complex decisions with which they are charged.

We invite you to connect with us. Like Jack Eckerd, we know what we know, and we would love to learn what you know. We look forward to learning the benefits you have gained through the use of connecting language and behavior. Tweet us @ConnectedLead and @TrainingIndustr.


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Five ways AI will enable lifelong learning and transform the workplace

Over the last few weeks, the Labour Party has raised the prospect of a National Education Service in the UK. As well as creating fierce political debate, this has brought mainstream attention to the idea of 'cradle-to-grave' learning – continuous education and training throughout peoples’ working lives. 

It is a much-needed discussion. Beyond the political machinations, the spectre of the artificial intelligence revolution looms high in discussions on the future of work. Media column inches have been combining images of Elon Musk and The Terminator to underline, without too much subtlety, that AI is going to take our jobs and render humans superfluous. 

Beyond the tabloid hyperbole, it is important to recognise that artificial intelligence-driven automation means that the pace at which workers’ skills and knowledge will become obsolete is going to accelerate.

As a result, 'always-on' continuous learning will become increasingly critical. There is an air of serendipity in the fact that, while artificial intelligence is the root cause of this disruption, it is also the solution for navigating it. 

Here are five critical ways in which AI will provide the enabling technology to make lifelong career learning a working reality:

Powering careers by developing smart training plans

AI can already help learners and thus L&D professionals discover new training content relevant to their individual training needs.

AI is able to analyse what is available through existing online learning systems and wider sources from video platforms such as Youtube and Vimeo to online learning and teaching marketplaces such as LinkedIn Learning, and make intelligent decisions based on what will help individual learners most.

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you

AI offers improved cradle-to-grave learning because it does not approach education with a fixed mindset. As a result, it will help instil what noted educational psychiatrist Carol Dweck calls a 'growth mindset' in everybody. 

Instead of seeing employees’ current performance in digesting and internalising training and then categorising them on their perceived abilities, machine learning algorithms will begin to understand employees’ own patterns of learning and tailor future content and encouragements to how they learn best.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI.

The knock-on effect will be a new generation in the workforce with the confidence that they can grow and develop. This not only creates a more confident workforce but, potentially, a more productive one, an enormous potential productivity boost to the economy.

AI virtual coach 

Imagine all that personalisation and assistance described above delivered via a responsive voice assistant that learns and speaks to each employee in the most beneficial way based on their personality, interests and training needs.

Learners will soon interact with an AI assistant embedded in various elearning platforms that recognises and responds in their spoken language making proactive, tailored suggestions and autonomously offers advice, guidance and coaching.

In future, AI-powered virtual coaches will be better able to understand variation in human sounds and tone and thus able to recognise signs of frustration or excitement, enabling learning and development programmes to be even further optimised to individuals’ needs and abilities.

A universe of high quality content

This is likely the hardest element to swallow as people involved in training, but AI will also automate content creation.

We can all accept that there are limits to the amount of high quality training material we are able to produce (hence why there’s a lot of bad material out there!) AI content creation engines will analyse an instructional article and then automatically produce a new learning asset by combining the text, additional reputable sources and video clips derived from previously published content.

Through detailed analytics of user engagement and response to created content, the algorithms will also learn what works best in content creation and optimise course content at the individual user level. 

Unleashing untapped human potential

Perhaps the most critical way in which AI will enable lifelong learning is by unleashing the potential of the human L&D professionals. AI’s first significant disruption to existing practices will be to reduce the rote administrative tasks that currently dominate L&D professionals’ to-do-lists.

The countless hours spent at desks compiling course catalogues or reviewing unstructured data such as open question feedback will be freed up by AI. 

This will enable practitioners to spend more time considering the needs and skillsets of learners, the strategic training requirements of a business and developing new and creative approaches to learning for the future. Thinking creatively and strategically will become a premium and will lead to better enterprise training programmes.  

AI is anticipated to be as big a transformation to the economy and society as the industrial revolution 250 years ago. L&D professionals must expect disruption via automation, but they need to harness it and be active in helping workers be truly adaptable and equipped to upskill in step with rapid change. There has never have been a more important or inspiring time to be involved in workplace training.  

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Reskilling future workers: who’s responsible?

From switchboard operator to film projectionist, three industrial revolutions down and we’ve already seen many jobs wiped from the face of the Earth. Emerging technology is rapidly dispensing P45s, pink slips or termination letters to the next round of workers. More than half the global labour force will need to start reskilling and reinventing how they earn a living in the next five years, according to the World Economic Forum. Millions of roles will be lost, equally many more will be created.

The average person entering the workforce in 2030 will have to plan to reboot their skills eight to ten times throughout their working life

As the job landscape evolves, so does uncertainty over the expertise that will be needed. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict the skills which organisations will need in the future, so reskilling has become more important,” says Lizzie Crowley, skills adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

So who’s responsible for the skills reboot? Government, individuals, industry and businesses all must play a part in a successful transition into new, yet to be developed, jobs. Our workplace ecosystem will also need to pull together to make employment function properly in the rapidly digitalised global economy.

“Future employment is one of the hottest topics of our time,” says Thomas Frey, senior futurist and executive director of the DaVinci Institute. Here’s a look at who’s accountable.

WORKERS: are employees responsible for reskilling themselves?

Individuals must acknowledge the inevitable changes that are happening. In the 21st century, the responsibility is shifting to workers, more than any other group. Personal employability will be a key driver in the future.

“We are entering a new paradigm where people are now in charge of their own employability; that’s a huge disruption,” says Jean-Marc Tassetto, ex-head of Google France and co-founder of Coorpacademy. “We used to think employers, unions or government were in charge of reskilling. It no longer works that way.”

Employment in the age of rapid automation relies heavily on continual skills development, especially as more traditional roles become augmented by new tech. “The individual has to be willing to take the first step and embrace change. If workers want to future-proof their careers, they need to evolve,” says Chris Gray, brand leader at Manpower UK.

It will be less about what people already know and more about their capacity to learn, be agile and evolve, redefining their roles in the process. Jobs will be defined by what value workers offer up and produce for a company, rather than job titles and backsides on seats.

“The new skills required to embrace these rapidly emerging technologies is creating a widespread talent shortage already,” says Mr Gray. This is where lifelong learning becomes crucial, so workers can easily adapt to subsequent waves of disruption.

“By 2030, the largest company on the internet, larger than Google, Apple and Facebook, will be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet. Education remains the largest online opportunity that nobody has cracked the code for yet,” says the DaVinci Institute’s Mr Frey.

EMPLOYERS: invest in reskilling initiatives or risk losing talent

Here is a dire warning for business: if you don’t invest in the right environment for lifelong learning and upskilling, employees will go elsewhere. With a bottleneck in the talent pipeline, attracting and retaining the best people will be crucial.

“We are entering an unusually creative period of human history. Those who embrace this kind of change will prosper and companies that study and embrace this fluid ‘jobscape’ will build flourishing enterprises in the years ahead,” says Mr Frey.

It doesn’t help that each new deployment of tech, each shift in business down the digitised pathway, creates a new requirement for retraining. “The accelerated pace of innovation and diffusion of technologies will constantly require new skills,” says Olga Strietska-Ilina, senior skills and employability specialist at the International Labour Organization.

Businesses will need greater foresight and to invest heavily, realising that pumping money into training today will drive a return on investment tomorrow. “Employers must prepare themselves for changes in the world of work by putting learning and development opportunities right at the heart of their organisation,” says the CIPD’s Ms Crowley.

It is certainly the time of the CLO, the chief learning officer, to shine in every organisation. “The key change is that training now becomes strategic. It’s also about the impact training will have on the overall competitiveness of an organisation, which was not the case a few years ago,” says Mr Tassetto at Coorpacademy.

GOVERNMENT: reskilling projects can future-proof the UK workforce

Those in power have a vital role to play in the coming years. Governments can set the tone for upskilling workforces and moving whole economies up the value chain. France, for example, supports learning through a personal training account, which works like healthcare provision. This entitlement allows people to upskill; language and IT courses have been the most popular. This scheme guarantees time away from work to reskill.

Governments beware: it doesn’t help that the fourth industrial revolution, with its focus on emerging technologies, has the potential to peripheralise low-skilled and unskilled work. This is where policies and law-making can really make a difference.

“There’s little evidence of any workforce planning by the UK government for future impact. There is definitely a problem with precarious contract work, where organisations transfer the risks of employment, careers and skills development away from the core and on to workers,” says Professor Adrian Madden from the University of Greenwich’s Business School.

Certainly, public funding will be crucial. Reskilling and upskilling needs sizeable investment from government, including tax breaks, co-financing with private organisations, grants and incentives, as well as a functioning system of skills recognition in the digitalised era.

“Specific training measures will have to address all this, as well as disadvantaged groups. If this does not happen, the risk is there will be a new digital divide and growing inequality. Access to newly created technology-oriented jobs largely depends on access to education and reskilling opportunities,” says the International Labour Organization’s Ms Strietska-Ilina.

INDUSTRY: sector-specific skills guidance will be essential in the future

Industry bodies, along with education establishments, also have to step up to the mark when it comes to skilling the next generation of workers. “There needs to be a combined effort to provide industry-specific guidance on the skills that will be in most demand, so workers can decide on the options that are right for them,” says Manpower UK’s Mr Gray.

In each sector of the economy and in academia, establishments and organisations should be adjusting how they teach the future workforce, so they offer up skills that are relevant to the digitalised era. The education system needs to be fit for purpose.

This will also involve reorganising systems of study and training, so they are more receptive to learning throughout life and funded accordingly. Front-loading young people with a single lifetime qualification will no longer be effective.

“The average person entering the workforce in 2030 will have to plan to reboot their skills eight to ten times throughout their working life. Reskilling needs to become super-efficient,” says Mr Frey.

“The skills that will be most in demand in the future will also be some of the hardest to train: resilience, resourcefulness and flexibility. In addition, having a solid understanding of how to better manage the encroaching demands of our online existence with skills such as distraction and tech management, relationship management, opportunity management, and just staying relevant.”

There’s a lot of work to be done.

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Employee Centred Learning & Development: A Model for the Modern Workplace

I have written extensively about how my 11 year longitudinal study into learning tools shows that more and more individuals are doing a lot to learn for themselves – by Googling what they need, by watching YouTube to get quick answers to their performance problems, by building a professional network of people from whom they can learn on an ongoing basis, as well as signing up for Web courses or MOOCs if they want to learn something more formally.

And this is very important, because nowadays everyone needs to be an independent lifelong learner – it’s no longer enough to rely on being educated or trained to do a job to last a whole career. Everyone needs to take it upon themselves to self-improve and self-develop in the new and evolving world of work where jobs are changing all the time – and where there is no such thing as a job for life.

Furthermore, organizations need workers to be self-sufficient lifelong learners too – that is people who are constantly discovering new things – new ideas, new thinking, new resources – and bring what they learn into the organisation, so that others can benefit from them too. In fact, this is the only way to build a true “learning culture“ or “learning organisation” – otherwise you simply have a training culture.

Although many L&D departments are making great efforts to modernize their training activities – i.e .by creating shorter, more visual, more social, more flexible, and more accessible resources – in order to offer similar experiences that people chose to have on the Web – this is not enough. In this fast changing world of work, L&D are finding it increasingly difficult just to cater for everyone’s current needs, let alone prepare them for the future.

And as the power of the individual grows, modern employees want more flexibility and autonomy in how they work and learn. We are now in the Age of the Individual.

Whilst many L&D professionals do recognise this, they just don’t know how to enable and support continuous independent learning, and more often than not try to force-fit it it into the traditional training model – by trying to capture and manage everything in some sort of central enterprise learning management system or “learning platform”. Whereas an enterprise platform might be relevant to keep track of (mandatory) corporate training, it is just not appropriate to use it to try to manage an individual’s professional learning.

In other words, the traditional, top down, one-size-fits-all, command-and-control approach to workplace learning – which organizations have been using for more than 100 years – is just not up to the new world of work. What it requires is a new workplace learning model.

The Employee-Centred Learning & Development (ECLD) Model – turns everything on its head. Here an employee’s professional learning and development lies at the very centre of the model. It is something they organise in a privately owned learning space and evidence in a privately owned digital portfolio. It is the role of their manager to enable the growth and development of all the members of his/her whole team, and the role of L&D to work with both managers and individuals to support all this – as summarised on the diagram below.

When the focus is on helping individuals become fully successful, they feel valued and this in turn leads to higher levels of engagement and performance, which leads to achievement of organisational goals. As a consequence, everyone wins – employees, managers as well as other stakeholders.

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5 Tips On How To Manage Former Peers

It's one of the classic management challenges: one day you were an employee and one of the group...and the next day you're promoted into management and have authority over the group.

How do you handle it? How do you balance the need to exert managerial authority with the desire to maintain the friendships and positive relationships you've developed?

It's almost always a delicate situation. There's no magic formula for success, but there are some general guidelines to keep in mind. Here are five of them.

Be sensitive to the situation.  But don't let it paralyze you.  Sure, it's a bit of an unnatural circumstance, and it does require delicacy in dealing with former peers who may be resentful or have hurt feelings because they didn't get the job that you did. Use your good interpersonal skills to try to thoughtfully maintain positive relationships as you become more comfortable with having managerial control.

Establish credibility. This is Job One.  As the saying goes, "nothing succeeds like success" -- and if you begin to take successful actions that show you know your stuff and your management clearly made the right decision in giving you the job -- that's the best way to be be seen as legit in the role. Establishing credibility is foundational. It's the building block for all that follows. It's "table stakes," as we were fond of saying in the corporate world, but it shows you belong at the table.

Be scrupulously fair. Fairness is essential. Given the potential tangle of prior friendships and relationships and the emotional minefield they can pose, being perceived as scrupulously fair to all is mission-critical.  It helps build your credibility and show you belong in the role.  

Listen to what your team has to say. Listening is one of those "soft" undervalued management traits. In the aggregate, managers tend to do too much talking and not enough listening. As a new manager it's important you get an accurate "read" on the environment. How your team is responding to you, especially given the dynamics at play. Being a good listener will help you navigate these potentially tricky waters

Respect not friendship is the endgame. That's ultimately how you want to be perceived here: respected as a highly capable manager by the people who had perhaps initially doubted you. Much as it may sound difficult, don't worry too much about "friendships" per se. Too-close friendships can get in the way of effective management. They can lead to perceptions of favoritism and impede the taking of necessary corrective actions.

Once you earn the full managerial respect of your former peers, it shows you're well on the way to succeeding in the new role.

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Want to Become a Great Leader? Work to Acquire These 8 Simple Qualities

Not everyone is cut out to be a leader.

Some entrepreneurs, CEOs, and even middle managers confuse leadership with the title next to their name. They think just because they're "in charge," people will rally behind them, listen to them, and heed their every command. But the truth is, it's very easy to become a "leader" in terms of acquiring responsibilities. What's far more difficult is becoming a credible, trusted leader who is loved by everyone. 

So, what makes a terrific leader?

1. Walking the walk

The best kinds of leaders lead by example. The worst kinds of leaders live by the phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do."


This is especially true for leaders who feel they don't need to become truly knowledgable about the organization they are leading. For example, some executives or managers don't prioritize becoming experts of the industry they're in, and instead lean on their title as a way to avoid digging into the hard work. This behavior then leads to a poorly balanced team dynamic, and people begin to see the leader as lazy and hierarchical. 

2. Earning your stripes--not showing them off.

Leadership is something you have to earn, day in and day out.

Your title is not something you flaunt. In fact, the moment you have to lean on your title in order to get people to listen, you've started down a difficult path. People respect leaders that show up and continue to prove they are worth following--not leaders who expect everyone else around them to work harder than they're willing to work themselves.

3. Being open, honest, and trustworthy.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a leader is breaking someone's trust.

Especially if you're at the helm of an organization, you're going to run into scenarios where people will come to you to share how they're feeling, or issues they're experiencing within the company. It's your job to treat those conversations carefully, make the person feel heard but respect the fact they came to you and you alone. Don't go sharing that individual's issues with one of their peers in the company. That's a fast track to breaking trust you've built in the past.

4. Doing what you say you're going to do.

If you say you're going to give everyone a raise, then you better give everyone a raise (or, very honestly, explain why you weren't able to deliver on this promise).


I have a few stories about this in my book, All In. One of the big mistakes young leaders make is painting these wildly imaginative futures for their employees, never once considering what will happen when, two years later, all those employees want to know why none of it came to fruition.

The best thing you can do when leading a team, a department, or an organization is stay true to your word. So, if you think there's a chance you won't be able to deliver on the promises you're making, don't make them in the first place.

5. Aim for the moon, and be clear about how you're going to get there.

Nobody likes following a leader whose mission is to do things "pretty well."

As a leader, you have to ride the careful line of setting realistic goals for yourself and your company, while simultaneously choosing goals worth getting excited about. Contrary to popular belief, employees really do want to work hard and be part of building something special. 

Don't be afraid to share the grand vision.

6. Learn to control your emotions.

To protect the culture of your company, you have to master the art of remaining calm during periods of high stress.

When you react emotionally--to an individual, to a conflict, or to a massive threat to your business--you are showing the people around you that it's alright for them to react emotionally as well. This is not the kind of team dynamic you want to encourage.

Instead, try to see these moments as opportunities to exemplify patience, understanding, focus. While everyone else is feeling stressed, show them another way of dealing with problems.

7. Be decisive.

One of the worst qualities a leader could possess is a habit of indecisiveness. 


It's a pattern that's easy to fall into: you say the words, "Let me think about it," and then before the day has even ended, you've suddenly got 10 different things you've decided to postpone and "think about." But deep in your gut, you almost always know what decision needs to be made. There's no reason to postpone it.

8. Educate yourself--constantly.

Some people become leaders because they are brilliant, talented, and have a knack for constantly educating themselves.

And then they stop.

They reach a point of authority, they hit a plateau, and they decide they know everything there is to know--and become complacent as a result. Trust me, you don't want to become the sort of leader that suddenly realizes you've fallen behind the growth curve. 

In order to stay at the forefront, you have to keep educating yourself. 

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The Next Time You Want to Complain at Work, Do This Instead

I looked at my watch. It was 3:20pm. I had been on the phone for over an hour, almost all of that time listening to Frank*, a senior manager at Jambo, a technology company, complain about his boss, Brandon. Jambo is a company I know well — I have many ongoing relationships there from when I used to work with their CEO — but they are not, currently, a client. In other words, I wasn’t soliciting complaints or asking for feedback.

“He’s so scattered,” Frank griped about Brandon, “He’ll waltz into a meeting — late, mind you — and share his most recent idea, which is often a complete distraction from our current plan. Totally ignoring our agenda. And then he’ll micromanage everything we do, reorganizing our work — though we’re still accountable for the stuff he’s ignoring. And that’s not the worst. The worst is he’s completely clueless. He thinks he’s great. At yesterday’s meeting . . .”

This was not the only complaining I heard from people at Jambo. Earlier that week I had spoken to several others, as well as a few members of the Board. And they weren’t just complaining about Brandon — they were complaining about each other as well.

I also spoke directly with Brandon who, just as Frank said, thought of himself as a very strong leader. Meanwhile, he had a mouthful of complaints about Frank and some of the other staff. He also complained about the Board.

I added up all the time I’d spent listening to people at Jambo complain about each other that week: 3 hours and 45 minutes. And that was just the time they spent complaining to me.

This is, unfortunately, not unusual. My friend, the legendary executive coach Marshall Goldsmith, interviewed more than 200 of his clients and what he discovered matched previous research he read, but found hard to believe: “a majority of employees spend 10 or more hours per month complaining — or listening to others complain — about their bosses or upper management. Even more amazing, almost a third spend 20 hours or more per month doing so.”

And that doesn’t even include the complaining they do about their peers and employees. Which would be hard to believe if not for the fact that, if you pay attention to what you experience during your day, you’d find it’s pretty accurate.

Imagine the productivity gain of reducing all those complaining hours.

Why do we complain about other people?

Because it feels (really) good, requires minimal risk, and it’s easy.

Here’s what happens: Someone annoys us. We’re dissatisfied with how they’re behaving. Maybe we’re angry, frustrated, or threatened. Those feelings build up as energy in our bodies, literally creating physical discomfort (that’s why we call them feelings — because we actually, physically, feel them).

When we complain about someone else, the uncomfortable feelings begin to dissipate because complaining releases the pent up energy. That’s why we say things like “I’m venting” or “I’m blowing off steam” (But, as we’ll see in a moment, that dissipation doesn’t just release the energy, it spreads it, which actually makes it grow).

Additionally, when we complain to people who seem to agree with us — and we almost always complain to people who seem to agree with us — we solicit comfort, camaraderie, connection, support, and justification, which counteracts the bad feelings with some fresh, new good ones.

Complaining changes the balance of negative/positive energy and, for a brief moment at least, we feel better. It’s actually a pretty reliable process. Addictive even.

Which is the problem (beyond even the wasted time): Like just about all addictions, we’re feeding the spin of a destructive, never-ending cycle. The release of pressure — the good feeling — is ephemeral. In fact, the more we complain, the more likely the frustration, over time, will increase.

Here’s why: when we release the pent up energy by complaining, we’re releasing it sideways. We almost never complain directly to the person who is catalyzing our complaints, we complain to our friends and families. We’re not having direct conversations to solve a problem, we’re seeking allies. We’re not identifying actions that could help, we’re, almost literally, blowing off steam.

Why is complaining such a bad move?

Complaining creates a number of dysfunctional side effects (again, beyond the time wasted): It creates factions, prevents or delays — because it replaces — productive engagement, reinforces and strengthens dissatisfaction, riles up others, breaks trust, and, potentially, makes the complainer appear negative. We become the cancer we’re complaining about; the negative influence that seeps into the culture.

Worse, our complaining amplifies the destructiveness and annoyance of the initial frustration about which we’re complaining.

Think about it: someone yells in a meeting. Then you go to the next meeting (where no one is yelling) and you complain about the person who just yelled. Now other people, who weren’t at the initial meeting, feel the impact of the yelling and get upset about it too. Encouraged by their support, your brief, momentary release transforms into righteous indignation and, becoming even more incensed, you experience the initial uncomfortable feelings all over again.

In other words, while the energy dissipates, it expands. The amount of time you spend thinking about it extends for hours, sometimes days and weeks. And you’ve multiplied the people who are also thinking and talking about it.

Meanwhile, our complaining improves, precisely, nothing.

In fact, that might be the biggest problem: Complaining is a violent move to inaction. It replaces the need to act. If instead of complaining, we allowed ourselves to feel the energy without needing to dissipate it immediately — which requires what I call emotional courage — then we could put that energy to good use. We could channel it so it doesn’t leak out sideways.

In other words, let the uncomfortable feeling you have — the one that would otherwise lead you to complain — lead you to take a productive action.

What’s a better move when we feel like complaining?

Go ahead and complain. Just do it directly — and thoughtfully — to the person who is the cause of your complaints.

Talk to the person who yelled in the meeting. If that person doesn’t listen, talk to their boss. If you don’t like that idea, then, when it actually happens, say “Hold on. Let’s respect each other in this conversation.” If you missed the opportunity in the moment, then meet with them afterwards and say, “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”

That, of course, also takes emotional courage. It’s a scary, more risky thing to do. But it’s why it’s worth developing your emotional courage — because, while scary, it’s far more likely to be highly productive. It holds the potential for changing the thing that’s the problem in the first place. And rather than become the negative influence, you become the leader.

If you want to brave this route, let your urge to complain be the trigger that drives you to take action in the moment (or, if you missed the moment, then shortly after): Notice the adrenaline spike or the can-you-believe-that-just-happened feeling (e.g., someone yelling in a meeting). Breathe and feel your feelings about the situation so that they don’t overwhelm you or shut you down. Notice that you can stay grounded even in difficult situations (e.g., feel, without reacting). Understand the part about what’s actually happening that is complain-worthy (e.g., it’s not okay to yell and disrespect others in a meeting). Decide what you can do to draw a boundary, ask someone to shift their behavior, or otherwise improve the situation (e.g., “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”) Follow through on your idea (e.g., actually say: “Please let’s respect each other in our conversations.”)

It’s not nearly as easy as complaining. But it will be far more productive and valuable.

But wait, you might protest, the whole reason I’m complaining is that I’m powerless in this situation. I can’t tell the person to be respectful because they’re my boss.

You may be right. It’s true that most people complain because they feel powerless.

It’s also true that most people have more power in a situation than they believe they have, even with their boss. And, just maybe, it could be worth the risk to say something. You could say “I see that you’re very angry and I can feel how it’s shutting me down. Can we go a little more gently here?”

It’s a risk. Because the person may blow up even more.

Or it may gain you their respect and, in one sentence, change the direction of the leader and the organization. And transform what could have become weeks of complaining into a moment of productive engagement.

More than once I have seen someone gain the respect of everyone in the room because they were courageous enough to be direct — caringly, compassionately, and truthfully. And almost always, everyone is surprised by the offending person’s response, who, almost always, was more open to the feedback then they thought. Not always. But almost always.

Let complaining — and the feeling that leads to complaining — be the red flag that it should be: something wrong is happening and you are probably not powerless to do something about it.

That’s what happened at Jambo, when Frank shifted from complaining to acting and told Brandon about the impact he was having. At first Brandon was defensive, but soon enough he began to ask questions and realized that he had a blind spot for how he was impacting the team.

It won’t always work like that, but you may be surprised how often it will.

*Names and some details changed for privacy

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6 Unexpected Signs You're a Much Better Leader Than You Think

Charisma? Drive? Passion? Not exactly.

Think for a moment about the most effective boss that you've ever work with in your life. As you look back, ponder for a moment what made that individual stand out? What characteristics made them special?

Was it charisma? Drive? Enthusiasm? The ability to motivate?  Whatever the case, exemplary leaders that stand out today -- perhaps those in etched in your memory -- have been talked about for decades in the literature and best-sellers. They're often referred to as "servant leaders," "transformational leaders," or "conscious leaders."


Under the guidance of such leaders, people often give twice the effort as opposed to more command-and-control leadership styles.

So what exactly is it about them that will release discretionary effort in others and across the enterprise?

Through my research and observations over the years, it comes down to several factors. For the sake of length, I'll narrow it down to six key behaviors for this piece. 

By the way, as you read further, these six behaviors will inform you of whether you're a much better leader than you give yourself credit.

1.  You help create meaningful work.

Research states that "work" is one of the top things that give people a meaningful life. One 2003 study of 25 top companies in the world set out to discover what attracts and retains top performers. They found that employees in those companies felt their work was valuable -- it gave them significance and purpose, and it made them feel that they mattered and that they were doing something that was worthwhile or important. In turn, it's been found that how we feel about our work not only fuel business outcomes like productivity and profitability, it also lowers stress and causes less burnout.

2. You let others shine.  

Perhaps you've worked for a self-serving leader? Typically, they need to be in the spotlight to keep their inflated ego fed. On the flip side, the most remarkable servant leaders don't need the glory; they understand what they've achieved. They don't seek validation, because true validation comes from within. They stand back and celebrate other people's accomplishments; they let others shine and give them credit for the success of the job, which helps boost the confidence of others. 

3. You lead from your heart.

More than ever, we are faced with business challenges that call for higher levels of innovation, knowledge, and soft skills. So when leaders operate from a place of integrity, honesty, and compassion (matters of the heart), they gain the trust of their team members. Yes, they are still tough and hold others accountable for performance, excellence, and results, but people feel safe in their presence. 

4. You meet the needs of others.

Great leaders are cognizant of what's needed to keep their most valued team members motivated and engaged in their work. They ask themselves questions like:

Do my employees know what is expected of them at work? Do my employees have the opportunity to do what they do best every day? Have my top performers received recognition or praise for doing good work? Do I, or does someone at work, encourage employees' personal and professional development? 5. You give and receive feedback regularly.

In a casual interview a few years ago, Elon Musk dropped one of the best quotes in regards to improving oneself:


"I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice -- constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself."

The feedback loop is unquestionably part of every leader's growing process. In trusted teams, negative and constructive feedback will stretch a leader (and team members) to learn new things. Managers also win the hearts of their people by being open and sharing plans for the future, communicating important things to their people, and fostering a transparent culture of giving and receiving feedback on no less than a weekly basis. 

6. You share your power.

Instead of leveraging their positional power for personal gain, self-promotion, or demands for special privileges, great leaders put people in positions of leadership to stretch their growth and develop new strengths and roles for them. In essence, they are able to share their power because they're in it for their people and want to see them win. By sharing power and releasing control, great leaders actually gain real power. Employees are more loyal, more committed, and they unleash discretionary effort beyond what is expected of them. This is all possible because they work for selfless leaders with a keen interest in their people's growth and success. It's really a win-win-win -- the leader wins, the employees win, and the company wins.

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9 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Won’t Do

My last article, How Successful People Stay Calm, really struck a nerve. It was one of the most popular pieces in the 12-year history of the TalentSmart newsletter, and it has been read more than a million times on my Forbes blog.

The trick is that managing your emotions is as much about what you won’t do as it is about what you will do. TalentSmart has tested more than a million people, so I went back to the data to uncover the kinds of things that emotionally intelligent people are careful to avoid in order to keep themselves calm, content, and in control. They consciously avoid these behaviors because they are tempting and easy to fall into if one isn’t careful.

While the list that follows isn’t exhaustive, it presents nine key things that you can avoid in order to increase your emotional intelligence.

1. They Won’t Let Anyone Limit Their Joy

When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them.

While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

2. They Won’t Forget

Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Emotionally intelligent people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.

3. They Won’t Die in the Fight

Emotionally intelligent people know how important it is to live to fight another day. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.

4. They Won’t Prioritize Perfection

Emotionally intelligent people won’t set perfection as their target because they know it doesn’t exist. Human beings, by our very nature, are fallible. When perfection is your goal, you’re always left with a nagging sense of failure, and you end up spending your time lamenting what you failed to accomplish and what you should have done differently instead of enjoying what you were able to achieve.

5. They Won’t Live in the Past

Failure can erode your self-confidence and make it hard to believe you’ll achieve a better outcome in the future. Most of the time, failure results from taking risks and trying to achieve something that isn’t easy. Emotionally intelligent people know that success lies in their ability to rise in the face of failure, and they can’t do this when they’re living in the past. Anything worth achieving is going to require you to take some risks, and you can’t allow failure to stop you from believing in your ability to succeed. When you live in the past, that is exactly what happens, and your past becomes your present, preventing you from moving forward.

6. They Won’t Dwell on Problems

Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems that you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinders performance. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Emotionally intelligent people won’t dwell on problems because they know they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They Won’t Hang Around Negative People

Complainers are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid getting drawn in only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. Think of it this way: if a person were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix a problem. The complainer will then either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.

8. They Won’t Hold Grudges

The negative emotions that come with holding onto a grudge are actually a stress response. Just thinking about the event involved sends your body into fight-or-flight mode. When a threat is imminent, this reaction is essential to your survival, but when a threat is ancient history, holding onto that stress wreaks havoc on your body and can have devastating health consequences over time. In fact, researchers at Emory University have shown that holding onto stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease. Holding onto a grudge means you’re holding onto stress, and emotionally intelligent people know to avoid this at all costs. Learning to let go of a grudge will not only make you feel better now but can also improve your health.

9. They Won’t Say Yes Unless They Really Want To

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3 Transitions Even the Best Leaders Struggle With


We love to read about the dynamics of success. We study it, celebrate it, and try to emulate how successful leaders rise to the top. I’m no different: I’ve spent my career helping executives succeed, either through coaching and development or assessments of their strengths and opportunity areas to identify the development work they need to do to take their careers to the next level. But even as I’m drawn to success stories, I have found that the greatest lessons come from examining failure.

For instance, my last research effort looked into how elite executives make a successful transition to the C-suite. As I worked through the interviews, I found that executives whose careers had been derailed shared many commonalities. Specifically, I found that C-suite executives are vulnerable to career failure when they are in the midst of one of three common transition scenarios.

1.The leap into leadership. The transition to the top team is demanding, with 50% to 60% of executives failing within the first 18 months of being promoted or hired. For instance, Gil Amelio was Apple’s CEO for less than a year in 1997, and General Motors’ chief human resources officer decamped in 2018 after just eight months in the job.

For some, this high-profile leadership transition is more than they bargain for. They are unprepared for the frantic pace or they lack the requisite big-picture perspective. (Sixty-one percent of executives can’t meet the strategic challenges they face in senior leadership.) This is an especially common risk for leapfrog leaders — executives one or two steps down in the organization who skip levels when they are elevated a top spot. But even the most seasoned executives have little transparency into looming team dysfunction or insurmountable challenges until they are actually in the role.

One veteran executive I know accepted a job reporting to the CEO only to find that her functional area had been mismanaged and was in serious financial disarray. She started to turn around its performance in year one, but her reporting structure was altered mid-stream, and she found herself accountable to the CFO. The new situation left her feeling “micromanaged,” and she moved on two years later.

The single best thing a new executive can do to avoid a brief tenure is to actively pursue feedback. Most undergo rigorous executive assessments prior to receiving an offer, but soon they are too occupied with the demands of the job to be introspective. Many benefit from in-depth 360-degree reviews at six to eight months and then again at 18 months. One division president I interviewed learned in her 360s that board members were skeptical of her abilities. To her credit, she did the difficult work of getting to know the board members better and put together a plan to actively win them over.

Overall, knowing the areas others think you need to grow allows you to get the support you need — executive coaching, finding a peer-mentor, or adjusting your team to round out your development areas. It also helps you assess whether you are fitting onto the culture or if you need to strengthen key relationships internally and externally.

2. The organizational transition. I would argue that nearly every organization today is either considering or enacting a transformation of some type. Even in this “change is the new normal” reality, high stakes transformations are highly risky for executives who fail to reinvent the organization or themselves fast enough.

Mergers, for instance, create instant overlap in executive roles, and redundant leaders can be swept out in waves. Just as often, leaders fail to read the tea leaves before a surprise executive succession and are left vulnerable when their allies exit. But by far the biggest derailer for executives during this transition is misinterpreting the need for change or getting on the wrong side of it. For example, Durk Jager stepped down as CEO of Proctor & Gamble in 2000, just a year and a half into the job, after roiling P&G’s conservative culture by taking on “too much change too fast.” More often, leaders are too slow to act or unwilling to get on board as a change effort gets underway. In 2009, for instance, GM removed its CEO, Fritz Henderson, because he was not enough of a change agent.

To survive organizational and industry shifts, leaders need to get ahead of change. They need to think about where they fit into the new order and find a way to have an impact. They also must overcommunicate with the CEO or board to make it clear where they stand on the need for change and how they will lead its implementation.

3.The pinnacle paradox. The last tricky transition that derails executives is the career pinnacle. C-suite leaders are at the apex of their careers. They have competed for years and achieved what they have been striving for: a spot on the top team. As a result, many experience a type of paradox: They are working harder than ever to succeed, but they don’t know what’s next in their career. In time, this uncertainty, combined with job stress, can lead to burnout. Executives I have coached sometimes hit the ceiling and feel “stuck” at the top. Whether they experience burnout or move on for another reason, the average tenure of C-suite leaders has been declining in recent years. According to one study, the median tenure for CEOs at large-cap companies is five years. The tenure for CMOs is even less: 42 months, according to Spencer Stuart.

Executives can take steps to either extend their tenure or prepare for what’s next in their career. As part of that, they need to rethink their relationship with sponsors. At this stage in their career lifecycle they may not need sponsors to create new opportunities for them, but they do need advocates, supportive peers, and career role models. C-suite executives can move on to lead in other organizations or they may eventually retire and do board work. Others may find like-minded partners and investors to launch their own venture. I’ve worked with younger executives, as well, who accept global assignments or move down in the organization to gain new experience — they move down with a plan to move up again later in a different functional role. Regardless of their future plan, C-suite executives who surround themselves with support and have a clear vision of their future, are more likely continue to succeed.

The capacity for reinvention is the single-most-important career attribute for executives today. Successful reinvention may look different for each of us, but if we do not attempt it, we are sure to fail.

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Good Mentors Help You Work Through Strong Emotions

When I was 25, during my annual review my (male) boss confirmed lots of positive things, such as how I exceeded my $26 million goal in sales. But he ended the meeting with his one big negative: “You need to smile more.” I was stunned. He explained that all the senior executives perceived my lack of smiling negatively.

Admittedly, I was rather intense and competitive early in my career, but apparently this smiling thing could derail my next promotion. At the time I didn’t realize that as a professional woman I was facing a classic double-bind dilemma — the trade-off women encounter where they can be perceived as either warm or competent, but not both.

The problem was I didn’t have anyone to talk to about this situation. I needed someone to help me process this feedback, put it into context, and figure out a way forward. I needed a mentor, coach, or friend who could create a safe space to provide what researchers call holding behaviors.

Boston University’s Bill Kahn introduced managers to the idea of holding environments as a nurturing space to allow adults who experience strong emotions that are “disturbing, upsetting, or anxiety provoking” to safely interpret and express them. Researchers suggest a developmental network, more commonly known as a board of personal advisers, can provide this function for developing leaders at work. Recently, Belle Rose Ragins of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and colleagues found that holding behaviors provided by a mentor at work can buffer the effects of ambient racial discrimination — “the knowledge or awareness of discrimination aimed at others in the workplace.”

For those of us looking to support our valued colleagues, there are three holding behaviors needed to create this safe space.

Containment. Be present to create space for your colleague to slow down and process what happened. Ask questions to help them share emotions, have compassion, and be accessible. This first step is essential to ensure that your colleague does not act impulsively. (Often the first reaction to an upsetting situation or to any negative feedback may not be the most productive.)

Empathetic acknowledgment. Provide empathy and validation that enhances the person’s positive sense of self and enables them to function during times of high stress. Empathy requires the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s shoes and to validate their experience. This is particularly important when that experience is shocking or has the person questioning their sense of self.

Enabling perspective. Help the person make sense of the situation and interpret it in order to take appropriate action. They may need to take action individually or to build a coalition of support. Your role is to support them in making effective choices.

At this historic time in our workplaces, when women and men are finding the courage to come forward with their challenging experiences, let each of us find the courage in ourselves to learn to hold space for our coworkers, mentees, and friends. We owe it to each other to learn these skills and help one another move forward to create environments where we are all valued and respected.

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Focusing on Importance And Suppressing Urgency is The Secret to Mastering Your Time and Getting More Done

Oliver Emberton once said, “The secret to mastering your time is to systematically focus on importance and suppress urgency.”

It’s profound and so true.

Urgency wrecks productivity.

Urgent but unimportant tasks are major distractions.

Last-minute distractions are not necessarily priorities.

Sometimes important tasks stare you right in the face, but you neglect them and respond to urgent but unimportant things.

You need to reverse that. It’s one the only ways to master your time.

Your ability to distinguish urgent and important tasks has a lot to do with your success.

Important tasks are things that contribute to your long-term mission, values, and goals. Separating these differences is simple enough to do once, but doing so continually can be tough.

Jory MacKay of Crew explains:

Urgent tasks are tasks that have to be dealt with immediately. These are things like phone calls, tasks with impending deadlines, and situations where you have to respond quickly. Responding to an email, when you have to do it, is usually an urgent task. Important tasks are tasks that contribute to long-term missions and goals. These are things like that book you want to write, the presentation you’d like to make for a promotion, and the company you plan on starting. The problem is that important tasks usually get trumped by urgent tasks. Don’t be available all the time

Time is the raw material of productivity and creativity. Time, not money, is your most valuable asset. Invest your asset. There are 168 hours every week.Let that sink in for a moment. That is a monumental amount of time. Where could it possibly go? Or better still where are you spending all those hours?

In his book, “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, David Allen says, “If you don’t pay appropriate attention to what has your attention, it will take more of your attention than it deserves.”

According to David “You are the captain of your own ship; the more you act from that perspective, the better things will go for you.”

Ultra-productive people focus on getting a lot done with every minute they have at their disposal. Allocate time to each task you need to get done every day. And don’t get distracted by everything other’s expect you to do.

“You can’t let other people set your agenda in life” says Warren Buffett.

Each task of the day should be attainable, realistic, and time-bound. And most importantly every task should advance your goals for the day, week or month.The time constraint will push you to focus and be more efficient.

Stephen Covey once said: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.”

But here’s the thing: making good use of your time isn’t always easy.

Preston Ni M.S.B.A. of Psychology Today recommends you separate obligatory time from discretionary time.

“In your day planner, block out all the times when you’re committed to others to be at a certain place at a certain time, such as meetings, conferences, and other appointments. What’s not your obligatory time is your discretionary time. This is the time you can manage.” says Preston. Your super connected habit is wasting your time

We’re subjected to thousands of distractions throughout the day. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that you can be distracted simply by hearing or feeling your phone vibrate, even if you don’t pick it up. Try putting your phone out of sight (and touch) for 10 minutes of uninterrupted productivity.

Modern technology has evolved to exploit our urgency addiction: email, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, and more will fight to distract you constantly.

Turn off all your notifications. Choose to check these things when you have time to be distracted — say, during a break from work — and work through them together, saving time.

It’s not easy but once you build the good habit of turning off notifications, you can actually get to work and be more productive.

Schedule your priorities and stick to them.

Treat your highest priorities like flights you have to catch: give them a set time in advance and say no to anything that would stop you making your flight.

It pays to unplug.

If you can be reached via smartphone, email, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, you’re way too available and all these outlets are possible connections that can distract you from your purpose.

Disconnect and watch as your productivity improve.

Your smartphone might be the biggest productivity killer of all time. Most people just can’t put the phone away. If your phone is connected online, the temptation to stay updated about almost everything is very high. If you can, put down that phone (or power it off) for a while when in the office and witness the effect that can have on your level of productivity.

Don’t take on too much “One of the greatest resources people cannot mobilize themselves is that they try to accomplish great things. Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction.” — Nido Qubein

It is easy to get excited with goals and try to take on too much but if you do, you’ll be spending your energy all over the place.

The basic principle of success is to focus. It is what makes the differencebetween those who are successful and those who are not, regardless of how much talent, resource, and energy that they have.

The most accomplished and well-known people in history were known for something unique to them. Einstein pursued the theory of relativity like his whole life depended on it.

Relativity is one of the most famous scientific theories of the 20th century. Mozart was incredibly passionate about music. He was the very best for many generations before and after him. Even today, is there a second musician who could match his genius?

Spend most of your time on the right things and the rest takes care of itself.It’snot enough to just ‘work hard’. Hard work is not necessarily a bad thing. But hard work can be a waste of your life when it’s thrown at the wrong things.Decide what is good for you in the long term, and pursue it with all you’ve got.

Each time you have something extra to do or an additional goal to pursue, you further split your power. Less is more

The key to focusing on the essentials in life and at work is to limit yourself to an arbitrary but small number of things, forcing yourself to focus on the important stuff and eliminate all else.

In “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” Greg McKeown writes:

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

When you are doing too much at a time, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly interrupted, constantly distracted. Do less, clear away distractions, single-task, and get more done.

When you do too much, your work is spread thinner, you have lower quality, and people won’t spread your work like they should. By doing less, you can create something remarkable. Something incredible worth sharing.

Start today — pick what you think is most essential, clear some space, and just work on your most important measurable and attainable goals whilst you make time for urgent but unimportant tasks.

Prioritizing and optimizing your time during the day will give you more time to focus on what matters, getting more accomplished in a lesser amount of time.

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One Behavior Separates The Successful From The Average

A certain farmer had become old and ready to pass his farm down to one of his two sons. When he brought his sons together to speak about it, he told them: The farm will go to the younger son.

The older son was furious! “What are you talking about?!” he fumed.

The father sat patiently, thinking.

“Okay,” the father said, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

The older son shortly returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale.”

The father graciously thanked the older son for his work. He then turned to the younger son and said, “I need you to do something for me. We need more stocks. Will you go to Cibi’s farm and see if he has any cows for sale?”

The younger son did as he was asked. A short while later, he returned and reported, “Father, Cibi has 6 cows for sale. Each cow will cost 2,000 rupees. If we are thinking about buying more than 6 cows, Cibi said he would be willing to reduce the price 100 rupees. Cibi also said they are getting special jersey cows next week if we aren’t in a hurry, it may be good to wait. However, if we need the cows urgently, Cibi said he could deliver the cows tomorrow.”

The father graciously thanked the younger son for his work. He then turned to the older son and said, “That’s why your younger brother is getting the farm.”

Successful People Initiate

Most people only do what they are asked, doing only the minimum requirement. They need specific instructions on most things they do.

Conversely, those who become successful are anxiously engaged in a good cause. They don’t need to be managed in all things. They don’t just do the job, they do it right and complete. They also influence the direction for how certain ideas and projects go.

Most importantly, those who become successful initiate. They reach out to people, ask questions, make recommendations, offer to help, and pitch their ideas.

Being successful requires being proactive and not waiting for life to come to you. It means you’re on offense, not defense. You’re active, not passive.

In every organization, there are a select few employees who would be difficult to replace. For the most part, most people are like the older son in the story. Most people could be easily replaced. Most people are passive and reactive. They require specific instructions. They need to be governed and managed in all things.

Initiation always involves some degree of risk. You’re putting yourself out there and there is a chance you could fail.

Conversely, doing only what you’re told entails no risk and carries no responsibility. It’s playing safe.


Are you an initiator? You absolutely can be.

But if not, one thing is for certain: Life isn’t going to wait for you.

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Dispelling the myths of social learning

Whether we realise it or not, we are wired for social learning. From babies learning how to speak by imitating others to adults discovering how to put up wallpaper on YouTube, social learning is the main way in which we acquire and pass on knowledge.

But, when it comes to business, social learning is not happening as effectively in the office as it does outside of work in our everyday life. In our rapidly evolving, on demand society, this is something that businesses need to change if they want to develop the workforce required to drive their present and future success.

The myths holding organisations back 

One of the things holding organisations back from effectively leveraging social learning as part of their learning and development (L&D) strategies is the sheer number of myths about social learning that are prevalent in business. So, the first step to being able to use social learning to its full potential, is recognising these myths and misconceptions that are prevalent in business, including that social learning:

Happens organically. Technically this is true as we start learning socially from the moment we are born, but optimal social learning needs to be encouraged and facilitated through carefully constructed L&D strategies. Requires technology. In today’s digital environment, with a wealth of educational videos, podcasts and forums, it’s easy to assume that social learning can only happen through technology. But while it often does, it’s not the only way. Can’t be measured. Research has revealed that 83% of people don’t measure the effectiveness of social learning, but it absolutely can be.

How to unlock social sharing:

Now that you understand these misconceptions, it’s time to find out how to actually unlock the potential of social learning in practice.

Make sure people feel safe to share

While making sure individuals feel safe and comfortable in sharing information and experiences might sound obvious, it’s incredibly important. Especially as failing – and particularly sharing these failures with colleagues - is a key part of social learning.

One good way of creating an environment that is conducive to this is by encouraging people, and especially leaders, to test out new ideas and share examples of when things didn’t go to plan.

Look at what’s rewarded

Just as some might be reluctant to share perceived failures, many people also think that their value lies in their knowledge, encouraging some to keep this close to their chest. But as knowledge is power for most organisations, you should ensure that sharing it with others is valued and recognised as equal to individual achievements.

Giving out ‘sharing secrets to success’ awards is one way to encourage a culture of sharing learning.

Don’t start with a digital platform

As mentioned earlier, social learning is not all about technology. So, it’s important that you don’t centre your social learning strategy around a digital platform, but rather think of the wider learning system and how to support this, part of which might be through a digital platform.

To create a system that really adds value, keep asking questions such as: what are people’s real day-to-day needs? And what are they hungry to learn about in our company and for their career? Then, design the platform around the answers.

Rethink how you prove impact 

Whilst quantifying value and proving return on investment is not straight forward with social learning strategies, it is possible (and often an important part of getting senior management bought in to the programme).

It’s all about thinking differently in terms of how you measure engagement and use qualitative data, by, for example, collecting stories of personal change in video blogs or learning diaries.

If you can’t change a lot, tweak a little

Finally, don’t feel disheartened if your social learning strategy feels a long way off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so just keep the concept of social learning in mind when planning your next intervention and constantly look for ways in which you can create more opportunities to facilitate it.

Social sharing – the future of learning 

In today’s world, learning is no longer simply about enabling individuals to learn fast, but in addition it’s about unleashing the ideas, knowledge and experience of entire communities, to not just boost performance but enable the whole organisation to grow and learn in real-time.

Looking out for beliefs that might be holding organisations back from leveraging social learning, and thinking about the different ways in which to encourage it, is key to reaping these benefits.

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Reading the Room Before a Meeting or Presentation


In every conversation at work, there’s the explicit discussion happening — the words being spoken out loud — and the tacit one. To be successful in most organizations, it’s important to understand the underlying conversations and reactions that people in the room are having. But if you aren’t picking up on those subtle cues, how can you learn to do so? What signals should you be looking for? And what can you do to influence the unspoken dynamics?

What the Experts Say
“Knowing how to read between the lines is a critical workplace skill,” says Annie McKee, a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of How to Be Happy at Work.“You need to understand other people — what they want, what they don’t want, their fears, hopes, dreams, and motivations,” she says. “This builds trust. And trust is fundamental to getting things done.” In addition, you must be aware of your effect on others, according to Karen Dillon, coauthor of How Will You Measure Your Life? “You need to be constantly assessing how other people are responding to you,” she says. “Some people find this easy and intuitive. For others, it’s a challenge.” The good news is that this skill can be learned. Here are some ways how.

The best way to read a room is to pay close attention to people — and not just what they’re saying. “If you’re relying [solely] on their words, you’re only getting half the picture,” McKee says. Upon entering a meeting, she recommends, do “a quick scan of the individuals,” noting “who’s next to whom, who’s smiling, who’s not, who’s standing, who’s sitting, and how much space is between people.” Next, try to pick up on “the almost invisible clues on how people are feeling” by looking carefully at “their facial expressions, posture, and body language.” Be on the lookout for “quick microexpressions” such as “fleeting smiles, raised eyebrows, or even tiny frowns.” Vigilant observation will give you the information you need to interpret group dynamics. Dillon recommends identifying role models to further improve your social awareness. “Think of people you admire who are great at reading the room,” she says. “Isolate the things they do and try to emulate those.”

Control how much you talk
You can’t observe if you’re spending most of your time talking. You need to listen, Dillon says. “Be conscious of how much you are saying.” Whether you’re in a room with a large group of people, a small group, or you’re speaking with a colleague one-on-one, she advises taking frequent pauses “to really think about what the other person is saying” and watching out for the nonverbal cues. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk; there is “no shame” in silence. When the conversation is more intimate, Dillon says, you must strive to “make the other person feel heard.” Be present. Be engaged. Make eye contact. “Position yourself so that you’re not inviting others to butt into your conversation. Help the other people feel confident that you are all in the moment together.” After the other person says something, paraphrase what they said to indicate that you’re paying attention. Similarly, “if the other person doesn’t seem to be hearing what you’re saying, and you start to realize that you’re talking at them, you should ask a question,” she adds. Try open-ended questions such as “What do you think about…?” or, “What are the consequences of…?” or, “Have you experienced this?” The answers to these questions help you uncover what’s really going on.

Interpret your observations
Once you’ve “tuned into the emotions and energy in the room,” you can “try to make sense of what you think you know,” McKee says. She recommends “generating multiple hypotheses about what’s going on.” Consider the people in the group more broadly and reflect on the possible reasons for their individual and collective emotional states. “What’s happening in their lives? What’s going on in their jobs? What do you know about these people?” If you don’t know much, this can be tricky, but you can still come up with hypotheses for what’s motivating people. At the same time, you shouldn’t project your feelings onto the group. “Keep your emotions in check,” McKee says, adding that this is a feat that “takes tremendous skill and self-control.” If, say, the room is reverberating tension, don’t let yourself “be hijacked by negative energy, and don’t give in to your natural inclination to be frightened and angry.” Remember, too, that the emotions you perceive are not personal. “It probably doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

Check your hypotheses
When you’ve developed a few explanations for what’s going on in the room, check your understanding. You can do this by continuing to gather further information — though you should continue to be open to what you’re seeing and sensing so that you don’t fall prey to confirmation bias. You can also ask people directly, in private, McKee says. When you’re in one-on-one conversations, you might say something like, “In the meeting I saw you furrow your brow when discussion turned to the xyz project — how do you feel about it?” Most likely, your colleagues will be pleased you noticed, she says. When you make note of people’s feelings and reactions, they “feel attended to.” Another tactic McKee suggests is talking with a trusted colleague, mentor, or coach. “Talk about what you’ve observed — not in a gossipy way, but as a learning opportunity,” she says. “You want someone else to check ideas with” so that you can say, “What do you think is going on with that colleague? Or that coalition?”

Put your perceptions into practice
If in the midst of a meeting or interaction, you notice that things are getting tense or heated, you can “take the opportunity to shift the emotional reality of the room,” McKee says. “Use humor,” she adds. “Or empathize with the group — make them feel okay.” She recommends determining who in the room has “the most social or hierarchical capital” and then focusing on getting that person on your side. “It could be a person who has the most seniority, or the person who others are sitting closest to. It could be the person who’s telling jokes and has the ability to lighten the mood.” Keep an eye out “for any positive signals” — the executive in the corner who’s smiling, for instance — and concentrate on those. Importantly, continue to pay attention to what’s not being said. “Most people are just waiting to talk,” she says. As a result, “we may catch most of the words, but we miss the music.”

Principles to Remember


Consider the people in the room more broadly and reflect on the possible reasons for their individual and collective emotional states. Look for microexpressions such as fleeting smiles or raised eyebrows. These offer clues to group dynamics and individual emotions. Isolate the behaviors that your socially aware role model exhibits and try to emulate them.


Be distracted. Maintain eye contact and be present and engaged in conversations with others. Make it all about you. Ask open-ended questions to help you uncover what’s really going on. Allow yourself to be hijacked by a room’s negative energy. Keep your emotions in check and do what you can to shift the emotional reality of the room.  

Case Study #1: Pay attention to people’s body language and facial expressions
As the chief human resources officer at Prosek Partners, the global PR company, Karen Niovitch Davis has a good deal of experience reading rooms. “I’ve had a 20+ year career in HR,” she says. “A lot of what I do is about trying to really understand what people are saying when they are not actually saying it.”

Every week, she attends a management meeting at Prosek for senior vice presidents, managing directors, and partners. The company’s CEO leads the meeting, and Karen, because of her role, is often aware of what’s on the agenda.

“Since some of the things that we discuss are sensitive or controversial, I am often prepping for how my colleagues will react,” Karen says.

Recently, for instance, the CEO announced that the company would be expanding and that it had signed a lease for more space in the building. Certain employees and teams would be moving to another floor.

Karen paid close attention to her colleagues’ body language and facial expressions to gauge their reactions. She was prepared for a mixed bag. “I knew everyone in the room was thinking: What does this mean for me? What does this mean for my team? Are we all going to have to move?” she says. “That’s human nature.”

Many of her colleagues seemed “genuinely pleased” by the news, she recalls. “They were excited because the move means we are growing.”

Others, however, gave off a decidedly different vibe. Some people’s faces went blank; others visibly frowned. One — we’ll call her Jane — looked down and scribbled a note to a colleague sitting next to her.

Karen assumed that Jane wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of moving. She thought about what she already knew about Jane. “She does not like to change her routine,” Karen notes.

Shortly after the meeting ended, Karen approached Jane. She told her that it seemed that she was unhappy about the move. “I wanted to make sure she knew I noticed her,” Karen says.

Jane appreciated that Karen noticed. “She said, ‘I don’t want to move because I like where my desk is now,’” Karen says. “She told me that she didn’t want to say anything in the meeting because she didn’t want to come off as not a team player.”

Karen listened attentively to Jane’s reasoning. She empathized with her and asked her open-ended questions about her concerns. She wanted to make sure Jane felt heard. “I told her that the office would be an exact replica of our current space and that the views would be better,” she says.

But Jane was not swayed by the argument. “I told her we would work something out so she would not have to move,” Karen says.

Case Study #2: Don’t assume you know how other people feel — ask them
Heather Anderson, an executive mentor at Vistage International, the San Diego–based advisory and executive coaching organization, says that she often speaks to her clients about the importance of social intelligence. “Emotions contain data,” she says. “I tell them that the emotional data they receive in their team meetings, their one-on-ones, and their client calls are just as important to their end game as anything else.”

She speaks from experience. Recently, Heather ran a meeting for one of her peer-to-peer coaching groups at Vistage. One of the agenda items was to provide feedback to one of the newer members — we’ll call her Susan. These meetings happen regularly; their purpose “is to challenge each other to be better leaders.”

“People are candid in these meetings and it can feel harsh if you’re on the receiving end — particularly when it’s your first time,” Heather says. “It’s intimidating.”

Heather first scanned the room to gauge the temperature; it wasn’t particularly tense, but she could tell that Susan was nervous. Next, she listened carefully to what others said. The comments were “frank,” and it wasn’t particularly positive.

She paid close attention to Susan’s body language. “I could see the look of surprise and fear on Susan’s face,” she says. “She shrunk in her chair and her shoulders dropped.”

Heather empathized with Susan’s emotions and reflected on what was happening. “I thought she felt threatened,” Heather says. “I wondered, ‘Should we soften our words?’”

To be sure, she asked Susan how she felt. “I said, ‘How are you feeling? What is it like to get this feedback?’”

Susan surprised her. “She said, ‘Wow. This is intense, but this is exactly what I signed up for.’”

Heather realized that she had projected some of her own feelings onto Susan. “I expected her to feel a certain way,” she says, “but you can’t assume you know.”

Later, Heather asked Susan how she planned to use the feedback she received during the meeting. “Susan was able to recite very specific action items, and she talked enthusiastically about the things she wanted to do and changes she wanted to make,” Heather says.

Heather plans to follow up with Susan in a few weeks.

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50 Practices for Leaders to Build Trust

First and foremost, leaders are trust makers!

One of the most common questions I’m asked, especially by technical experts who are making the transition from individual contributors to managers and leaders of people and teams, is how to build trust.

This article offers 50 behavioural practices to do so.

But, first I will put trust in context by explaining briefly what it is, why it is so critical for leaders, and how it can be measured. 

What is trust?

Trust is the level of confidence others (your team members, associates or stakeholders) have in you.

It relates to your team members’ willingness to make themselves vulnerable and be open with you, and their expectation that you will consider their interests in their absence.

Trust is the result of your team members’ assessment of your intentions, character, integrity, and competence.


Why is trust so critical for leaders?

Trust, along with your teams’ perceptions of the degree to which you fulfil their expectations and how fair you are to them, is a critical ingredient to establishing your credibility as a leader.

Credibility is the foundation of effective leadership. It’s the link between your Self-leadership and your Leadership Impact, as depicted in the image below. 

How can you measure trust?

While asking someone whether they trust you may be good enough in everyday conversation, it’s an inaccurate way to measure it for the purpose of research into leadership coaching. 

This is because trust is a multidimensional construct that, as I mentioned above, involves team member’s assessment of your intentions, character, integrity, and competence.

This also means that trust needs to be measured in a way that goes beyond providing a YES/NO answer, as when asking a closed question or using a nominal scale.

Imagine, for example, that someone says to you that they don’t trust you. Wouldn’t it be useful to know why that’s actually case so, you could do something about it?        

To fully understand trust and measure it, trust needs to be unpacked and quantified in terms of its degree or intensity. The best way to do this is by asking your team members, for example, to respond to the following seven statements using an interval scale from 1 to 5, as depicted in the table below.

  Fifty Practices/Behaviours for Leaders to Build and Sustain Trust

Following from the above, the various practices or behaviours to build trust can be grouped into the following four dimensions:

1)   Go beyond self-interest for the good of your team and those you lead.

2)   Make others proud to be associated with you.

3)   Act in ways that build others’ respect for you.

4)   Display a sense of power and confidence.

1) Go beyond self-interest for the good of the team (10 practices) Allow others to voice their opinions and ideas. Encourage your team members/associates to approach you with their concerns. Support your team’s promising ideas and help to implement them. Look at the other side of issues/arguments before defending your own. When tempted to judge someone, ask yourself, “How would I feel if I were in that person’s shoes?” Always demonstrate a collaborative spirit and be willing to compromise by giving something up. Be open to the suggestions of others by being receptive and flexible while keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them or do what they want you to do.       Think of people you know who go beyond self-interest for the good of the team and model what are they do. Never use information unfairly to gain advantage. Never display favouritism within your team.  2) Make others proud to be associated with you (14 practices) Always be respectful, courteous and polite. Treat your team members’/associates’ confidences as honest, valid and genuine.  Avoid judging others by remembering that all ideas have value (never judge a book by its cover). Allow others to express their frustrations, anger or discontent appropriately, and help them to resolve their issues constructively. Always be open to hearing all sides of an issue. Regulate your emotions and control your actions until you have demonstrated to the other person that you understand them/their perspective. Develop a relaxed and attentive approach so that your team members don’t feel controlled or overpowered by your strong opinions. Never gossip or listen to the gossips of others (what you consent to, you reinforce). Always focus on your team members’/associates’ strengths and good qualities, rather than their weaknesses, deficiencies or shortcomings.  Never dwell on negative experiences; learn from them and move on.     Don’t fuel heated conversations. Be the voice of reason. During initial meetings especially, present a friendly, positive and optimistic attitude rather than appearing to be distracted by ‘more important things’ such as checking your emails or phone messages – no multitasking! When working with your team, emphasise what is the “right thing to do” in terms of the interest of the team as whole unit. In difficult situations or when the going gets tough, evoke the memory of a good friend, mentor, boss or hero to anchor yourself and retain your poise.   3) Act in ways that build others' respect for you (14 practices) Consider and treat conflict to be over ideas, approaches and perspectives, not people. Express your desire for a resolution that is acceptable to everyone in the team. Look for small opportunities to build trust by getting to know people, making acquaintances with less familiar team members or associates either through small talk over coffee or by extending an informal lunch invitation. Never criticise anyone in public – regardless of whether they are present not. Never bully or belittle others, or blame them when things go wrong. Never lecture or patronise others. Give credit to others when credit is due. If you don’t know something when asked, say so openly without fear of being exposed by pretending that you do, even if you or others believe you’re expected to know the answer.  Be a mentor or a coach to those who show potential and who you believe could benefit from it. Always provide timely, constructive and useful feedback. Encourage and assist others in setting their goals – including their career goals – and help them to identify the skills/resources they need to achieve them. Help others to identify and develop their strengths. Remove obstacles that may hinder your team’s efforts, performance and success.    Challenge your team/associates to exceed their own expectations and become the best they can be. 4) Display inner power, self-assurance and confidence (12 practices) Acknowledge the opinions of your team members without backing off when you’re convinced of the merits, collective benefits and validity of your point of view. Remember that everyone will not agree with you on everything all the time.   Be willing to respectfully confront others (without blaming) when you believe they have made an error. Be proactive by initiating discussions that may feel uncomfortable but need to be addressed (e.g. performance-related or sensitive issues). Never abuse your power or authority. Stand up for others when they need support or have been treated unfairly or victimised. When challenged or provoked, don’t back-down. Instead, re-state your position clearly to make sure your team/associates understand your perspective. If you’re affronted, insulted or abused, don’t become defensive or retaliate. Demonstrate emotional detachment and be assertive by stating how you expect to be treated instead. If necessary, vent your negative feelings later with someone you trust (e.g. friend, mentor or coach).    Always be respectful and work professionally with people you don’t like.  Do your best in attempting to turn around or restore any relationships with tensions or a history of conflict. Seize moments to demonstrate vulnerability by sharing some of your failures or past mistakes and the lessons learned. Doing so not only demonstrates that you’re human, it’s also a testimony your self-awareness, self-acceptance and courage. Always be the role model you would like to be seen as by others.    

I guarantee you that by consistently applying the behaviours outlined above, you will build your levels of trust and significantly elevate your credibility as a leader. 

In fact, I’m confident to say that, even if you only apply 50% of these behaviours you will still get great results.

My suggestion is that you choose a handful of them and focus on them until they become habits.

Of course, a more accurate and effective way to do this would be to take the Leadership Results® survey, which produces a comprehensive and detailed results report. 

In any case, the overall idea is to apply such behaviours over time and monitor progress until they become immovable habits.

Good luck!

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Mentoring: How does it impact your business?

Most businesses will have some form of training or coaching in place, whether this is internal or provided by a third party, but mentoring could be much more appropriate in guiding members of staff in the right direction, giving employees the necessary skills and qualities needed to mould them into the perfect worker for the organisation.

Mentoring isn’t intended to replace traditional training methods, but is designed to work with learning programmes to better provide the mentee with the knowledge and skills to reach the objectives set.

Employee mentoring might not be something that you implement in your organisation but it’s a method of informal training that yields real benefits for all parties involved, from the mentee up through the mentor and ultimately enhancing the business as a whole.

So, what exactly are the benefits of mentoring and how will it affect your business?

Individual goals

Unlike traditional training methods where delegates learn the same objectives as everyone else, mentoring offers the chance for participants to work with their mentor, agree what they want to achieve through the programme, and to set targets to work towards, whether this is to improve within work or resolving personal issues.

"By applying staff resources into a mentoring scheme you not only help with their professional life but also offer the opportunity for close bonds to develop within the team."

Depending on the level of those involved in the sessions a variety of topics could arise for discussion, by either pre-planning objectives to reach or making them as you go along the mentor must be able to adapt to each individual’s needs. Working with and gaining the trust of colleagues is the only way these goals will be achieved.

Professional and personal development

Mentoring offers both professional and personal development, with the individuals involved maintaining a strong relationship with each other. The mentor and mentee will often have regular informal meetings to discuss work problems, personal issues, and generally catch-up.

As well as the development of the mentee, this process also offers the chance for the mentor to grow alongside; developing new leadership and training skills through the time spent with each individual, subtly altering the style required to bring the best out of them.

Knowledge transferred from senior staff

At the core of the mentoring relationship is a transfer of knowledge, experience and a base relationship to build upon. As a mentor it’s your responsibility to continue this process, passing on your experiences and guidance to junior members of staff, providing an insight into the business and the industry as a whole.

It’s said that 80% of all learning is informal, and mentoring works this way too – you are entering into a professional relationship, but too much formality will hamper the effectiveness of the sessions and result in the experience being a waste of time and resources for all involved.

Greater staff engagement and retention

Staff morale is an ever-present concern for employers, maintaining a happy, motivated team is key to business success. By applying staff resources into a mentoring scheme you not only help with their professional life but also offer the opportunity for close bonds to develop within the team.

With staff morale boosted, employees can work with the knowledge they’re with an organisation that cares for them, reducing staff turnover, saving money from recruitment drives and offering the ability to grow an organic team of skilled workers.

Bring remote workers into the fold

In the digital age more and more people are choosing to work from home or at a remote office, a key aspect of mentoring is the relationships that can bloom from the experience for both the mentor and the mentee. With Skype, Google Hangouts and a variety of other free, online communication tools it’s becoming easier to maintain a mentoring culture, including remote workers.

Mentoring works best face to face, VOIP innovations such as Skype allow remote mentoring but all efforts should be made to bring the mentor and mentee together. Especially in situations where personal issues are to be discussed, being together can help people open up to conversations that may be easy to brush aside when sat miles apart.

As with all aspects of business nothing can be planned with the exact same outcomes, each unique operational structure within every organisation ensures it’s impossible to provide a catch-all guide to mentoring. As a training manager it’s up to you to decide which aspects to bring into play, one to one sessions or group mentoring? How beneficial would a scheduled remote mentoring day be to your employees?

The benefits of mentoring speak for themselves, harbouring a team of like-minded individuals, supported by the mentorship of senior team members leads to a combined upturn in employee spirit and a tangible rise in business affairs.

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The Value of a Business Mentor

our friends and family, the online gurus, publications, and even casual acquaintances can provide you with a steady flow of information regarding news, industry developments, and opportunities. Industry analysts, consultants, employees, and good networking contacts can share their expert knowledge with you regarding particular situations and needs you may encounter. 

But only a business mentor can truly share wisdom with you on an ongoing basis—in a manner that can have a directly positive impact on the growth of your business over time.

The generic business advice you'll get from online publications will only go so far, and a good business mentor picks up right where that leaves off.

A business mentor is someone with more entrepreneurial business experience than you, who serves as a trusted confidante over an extended period of time, usually free of charge. 

Does this sound a little too good to be true? Well, first and foremost, being a business mentor to an up-and-coming entrepreneur is a great way of giving back to their community, and to society at large when their advice and guidance can have a measurable impact helping their mentees.

Many business mentors may advise people in order to develop their skills as a teacher, manager, strategist, or consultant. And a true mentorship relationship also works in both directions—your mentor gets to learn about new ideas, strategies and tactics from you, just as you'll learn timeless wisdom from them.

But whatever the benefits to the mentor, the benefits to you, the entrepreneur, are even greater. Here are five key benefits of finding a business mentor sooner rather than later once you get your company off the ground.

1. Where else are you going to turn?

Once you launch into your own business, there's no boss to turn to for advice or direction when you're in a pinch—maybe not even any employees on your team yet.

You're probably flying solo, but you don't have to be. Everybody needs a good reliable sounding board, second opinion, and sometimes just emotional support when the times get tough (which they will).

2. They've "been there and done that". 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of finding a business mentor is that you can learn from their previous mistakes and successes. Your mentor doesn't need to have experience in your particular industry, though it helps if they do—so that you're maximizing your opportunities to leverage key relationships. They don't have to be up on the latest trends or technology—you've got other sources for that. Your mentor's role is to share with you lessons from their experience in the hopes that you can learn them quickly and easily.

3. It's (usually) free.

If you're on a tight budget, that's a major factor. While good coaches and consultants may be able to offer some things that a mentor doesn't, it almost always comes at a price, usually of several hundred dollars (or more) each month. Mentors, though, are readily available free of charge through a number of organizations, such as SCORE(Service Corps Of Retired Executives) and many other groups. But plan on at least treating your mentor to lunch or coffee when you meet together.

4. Expand your social network.

Your mentor, being an experienced businessperson, is likely to have an extensive network, and can offer you access to far more senior decision-makers than you currently have. And they will be far more willing to open that network up to you than some casual acquaintance from a networking meeting.

5. A trusted, long-term relationship.

Your mentor has no ulterior motive—no service or product to sell you. That combined with their experience creates a good foundation for trust. And as the relationship develops over time, that trust can grow even stronger. Also, your time with them becomes more and more efficient as they become more and more familiar with you and your business.

As you can see, the rewards are potentially great to bringing on a business mentor, and the risk is non-existent.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by finding a good mentor. Every entrepreneur should have one.

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7 Reasons You Need a Mentor for Entrepreneurial Success

Mentors. They've been there, done that and have seen it all. Yet, a woeful number of entrepreneurs start their careers without one. In an age where instant gratification is glorified, it's unsurprising that many entrepreneurs and young founders do not seek out a mentor as hard as they try to find a co-founder.

While arguments abound on why entrepreneurs do not need mentors but should only follow their own instincts and gut feelings, most successful tech titans have founders who had mentors. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs. Jobs was mentored by Mike Markkula -- an early investor and executive at Apple. And Eric Schmidt mentored Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google.

Like most startup founders, I didn't start with a mentor. I got into the industry and had to look up to someone who is well known in the field. This is not as effective as working hard to get a mentor to guide you while you run your business -- but it's better than nothing. Having been in business for more than seven years, I've realized the importance of having a business mentor.

Here are seven reasons having a mentor is important.

1. Gain experience not shared in books.

Experience is a very expensive asset -- yet it's crucial to business success. There's only so much about a person's experience you can gain from books. It's an unstated truth that most authors do not feel comfortable revealing everything about themselves in books. Some personal experiences may be too intimate to be shared, yet how they dealt with it can help an inexperienced entrepreneur's career.

Mentorship is one guaranteed way to gain experience from others.

2. You're more likely to succeed with a mentor.

Research and surveys prove that having a mentor is important to success. In a 2013 executive coaching survey, 80 percent of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. In another research by Sage, 93 percent of startups admit that mentorship is instrumental to success.

Your chances of success in life and in business can be amplified by having the right mentor. The valuable connections, timely advice, occasional checks -- together with the spiritual and moral guidance you will gain from having a mentor -- will literarily leapfrog you to success.

3. Network opportunities.

Aside the fact that investors trust startups who are recommended by their friends, a successful mentor has an unlimited network of people who can benefit your career. Since they are already invested in your success, it only makes sense for them to let you tap into their network of people when the need arises.

This is an opportunity you cannot tap into if you do not have a mentor.

4. A mentor gives you reassurance.

It has been proven by research that a quality mentorship has a powerful positive effect on young entrepreneurs. Having someone who practically guides you and shares your worries with you -- often placating your fears with their years of experience -- keeps you reassured that you'll be successful.

Self-confidence is very important to success as entrepreneurs. A 2014 Telegraph report revealed that having a high self-confidence contributes significantly to career success -- more so than talent and competence. Mentors have the capacity to help young founders tap into their self-confidence and see every challenge as an opportunity.

5. A mentor will help you stay in business longer.

When you imagine the number of businesses that fail, you'd wish a lot of business owners had mentors. According to SBA, 30 percent of new businesses may not survive past the first 24 months, and 50 percent of those may not make it past five years. However, 70 percent of mentored businesses survive longer than 5 years.

6. A mentor will help you develop stronger EQ.

Does maturity bring about a higher EQ in entrepreneurs? Emotional intelligence is crucial to entrepreneurial success. When a young entrepreneur has a more mature and successful mentor who advises them, they are likely to have greater control over their emotions.


We all know that a quick way to make a business fail is to mix it with emotions or make crucial decisions based on emotional feelings. Situations like this can be curbed as mentors will help show you how to react in given instances.

A story on Business Insider reveals how Schmidt worked with then inexperienced Page to manage the affairs of running a fledgling startup. An inexperienced CEO often makes decisions based on emotions, but one with a mentor like Schmidt is able to overcome critical hurdles by making smart decisive judgments.

7. Encouragement.

Enduring the consequences of failure on your own can set you back and impact your productivity. In hard times, having a mentor will help you keep your head high. Young entrepreneurs often deal with depression when they are unable to meet their goals and expectations. The impact of depression on entrepreneurs is often underreported. But entrepreneurs without mentors bear the brunt the most.

A mentor who has experienced the highs and lows of running a business is in the perfect position to give positive and soothing words of advice to you when things refuse to go your way. And not only do they have the right words to share, they would also have ideas to help you navigate your way to success.

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Managers Can’t Be Great Coaches All by Themselves

In a utopian corporate world, managers lavish a constant stream of feedback on their direct reports. This is necessary, the thinking goes, because organizations and responsibilities are changing rapidly, requiring employees to constantly upgrade their skills. Indeed, the desire for frequent discussions about development is one reason many companies are moving away from annual performance reviews: A yearly conversation isn’t enough.

In the real world, though, constant coaching is rare. Managers face too many demands and too much time pressure, and working with subordinates to develop skills tends to slip to the bottom of the to-do list. One survey of HR leaders found that they expect managers to spend 36% of their time developing subordinates, but a survey of managers showed that the actual amount averages just 9%—and even that may sound unrealistically high to many direct reports.

It turns out that 9% shouldn’t be alarming, however, because when it comes to coaching, more isn’t necessarily better.

To understand how managers can do a better job of providing the coaching and development up-and-coming talent needs, researchers at Gartner surveyed 7,300 employees and managers across a variety of industries; they followed up by interviewing more than 100 HR executives and surveying another 225. Their focus: What are the best managers doing to develop employees in today’s busy work environment?

After coding 90 variables, the researchers identified four distinct coaching profiles:

Teacher Managers coach employees on the basis of their own knowledge and experience, providing advice-oriented feedback and personally directing development. Many have expertise in technical fields and spent years as individual contributors before working their way into managerial roles.

Always-on Managers provide continual coaching, stay on top of employees’ development, and give feedback across a range of skills. Their behaviors closely align with what HR professionals typically idealize. These managers may appear to be the most dedicated of the four types to upgrading their employees’ skills—they treat it as a daily part of their job.

Connector Managers give targeted feedback in their areas of expertise; otherwise, they connect employees with others on the team or elsewhere in the organization who are better suited to the task. They spend more time than the other three types assessing the skills, needs, and interests of their employees, and they recognize that many skills are best taught by people other than themselves.

Cheerleader Managers take a hands-off approach, delivering positive feedback and putting employees in charge of their own development. They are available and supportive, but they aren’t as proactive as the other types of managers when it comes to developing employees’ skills.


The four types are more or less evenly distributed within organizations, regardless of industry. The most common type, Cheerleaders, accounts for 29% of managers, while the least common, Teachers, accounts for 22%. The revelations in the research relate not to the prevalence of the various styles but to the impact each has on employee performance.

The first surprise: Whether a manager spends 36% or 9% of her time on employee development doesn’t seem to matter. “There is very little correlation between time spent coaching and employee performance,” says Jaime Roca, one of Gartner’s practice leaders for human resources. “It’s less about the quantity and more about the quality.”


The second surprise: Those hypervigilant Always-on Managers are doing more harm than good. “We thought that category would perform the best, so this really surprised us,” Roca says. In fact, employees coached by Always-on Managers performed worse than those coached by the other types—and were the only category whose performance diminished as a result of coaching.

The researchers identified three main reasons for Always-on Managers’ negative effect on performance. First, although these managers believe that more coaching is better, the continual stream of feedback they offer can be overwhelming and detrimental. (The Gartner team compares them to so-called helicopter parents, whose close oversight hampers children’s ability to develop independence.) Second, because they spend less time assessing what skills employees need to upgrade, they tend to coach on topics that are less relevant to employees’ real needs. Third, they are so focused on personally coaching their employees that they often fail to recognize the limits of their own expertise, so they may try to teach skills they haven’t sufficiently mastered themselves. “That last one is a killer—the manager doesn’t actually know the solution to whatever the problem is, and he’s essentially winging it and providing misguided information,” Roca says.

When the researchers dove deep into the connection between coaching style and employee performance, they found a clear winner: Connectors. The employees of these managers are three times as likely as subordinates of the other types to be high performers.

To understand how Connectors work, consider this analogy from the world of sports: A professional tennis player’s coach may be the most important voice guiding the player’s development, but she may bring in other experts—for strength training, nutrition, and specialized skills such as serves, lobs, and backhands—instead of trying to teach everything herself. Despite this outsourcing, the coach remains deeply involved, identifying expertise, facilitating introductions, and monitoring progress.

Encouraging managers to adopt Connector behaviors may require a shift in mindset. “Historically, being a manager is about being directive and telling people what to do,” Roca says. “Being a Connector is more about asking the right questions, providing tailored feedback, and helping employees make a connection to a colleague who can help them.” The most difficult part is often self-knowledge and candor: Being a Connector requires a manager to recognize that he’s not qualified to teach a certain skill and to admit that deficiency to a subordinate. “That isn’t something that comes naturally,” Roca says.

To get started, the researchers say, managers should focus less on the frequency of their developmental conversations with employees and more on depth and quality. Do you really understand your employees’ aspirations and the skills needed to develop in that direction? Next, instead of talking about development only one-on-one, open the conversations up to the team. Encourage colleagues to coach one another, and point out people who have specific skills that others could benefit from learning. Then broaden the scope, encouraging subordinates to connect with colleagues across the organization who might help them gain skills they can’t learn from teammates.

For employees, one message from this research is that you’re better off working for a Connector than for one of the other types. So how can you recognize whether someone is in that category—ideally before accepting a position? Roca suggests asking your prospective boss about his coaching style and discreetly talking with his current direct reports about how he works to upgrade subordinates’ skills.

For managers and subordinates, the research should redirect attention from the frequency of developmental conversations to the quality of interactions and the route taken to help employees gain skills. Says Roca: “The big takeaway is that when it comes to coaching employees, being a Connector is how you win.”

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Strengthening Employee Engagement Through Coaching

In many organizations, workplace coaching has found its way to the forefront of the employee engagement challenge. It is no secret that one of the most important (if not the most important) relationships in an organization is the one between manager and direct report. To accept this truth is to also acknowledge that this relationship is a significant determinate of employee engagement.

What is really meant by employee engagement, and what are the factors that contribute to it? This question can and often does have a variety of answers, depending on which research is chosen as a point of reference. Gallup, Inc., a historically noted and respected authority on the impact of human factors on workplace performance, published research in 2013 to provide greater insight into what contributes to high and low employee engagement, the cost of poor engagement, and strategies to help businesses address and resolve their engagement issues. There were several noteworthy findings from this study, but three stand out as solidly making the case for workplace coaching as both “good business” and a “leadership mandate”:

To leaders, Gallup chairman CEO Jim Clifton says, “The single biggest decision you make in your job – bigger than all of the rest – is who you name manager … When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision. Not compensation, not benefits – nothing.” Engagement has a greater impact on performance than corporate policies and perks. Seven in 10 American workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.

What are the obvious consequences to organizations saddled with poor engagement? For one, the bottom line: Companies with a high percentage of workers who do not feel connected to their work, their managers or their employer take a substantial financial blow to productivity, customer satisfaction and overall profitability.

Secondly, today’s business environment requires that companies innovate faster than ever just to stay relevant and in existence. Low employee engagement, demonstrated by low morale and motivation, negatively impacts an organization’s ability to consistently and rapidly turn out high-quality, new products that both differentiate and reinforce competitive advantage.

So, how does workplace coaching fit into this dilemma? Coaching is not a panacea for all that’s wrong in organizational life or “the” fix to low or poor employee engagement. Workplace coaching, however, has gained prominence as one strategy for strengthening manager/employee relationships, which is a big step toward improving employee engagement.

In organizations, there are multiple workplace coaching strategies at play. Executive coaching is often used when a senior or high-ranking leader stands to benefit from working with a professionally trained external coach on a specific issue or challenge. Often, executive coaches are secured to help leaders grow and gain strength in a specific area, clarify purpose and goals, or to improve self-awareness.

Performance coaching tends to focus on fixing a problem or issue related to performance. These conversations, though crucial, are often difficult for both employee and manager. Taking a coaching approach can help to remove some of the discomfort. Additionally, when delivering performance coaching, it’s not good to take a one-size-fits- all approach. Tailor these conversations to the level of the employee performance: high performer, middle (or average), or low performer. Based on level, the conversations should be very different.

Coaching for Development

Coaching for development can be the big game-changer. When done well, it is a huge step toward strengthening the relationship between manager and employee. When this relationship is solid, employees, according to research, tend to be more engaged, feel valued and take greater pride in their work, all of which can lead to higher levels of productivity and stronger bottom-line results.

What does coaching for development look like? A prerequisite to any effective coaching relationship is mutual trust and respect. Once they are established, coaching for development starts with the manager’s becoming curious about what’s important to the employee. It’s about asking questions, not telling and supporting, not driving. It’s also important to let the employee guide developmental conversations, with the manager asking thoughtful, powerful questions that open the door to greater exploration of the employee’s needs and wants.

Another aspect of coaching for development is for managers to give employees the latitude to openly express themselves without judgement as they detail their concerns, frustrations, successes and opportunities. Positive reinforcement is always good, and negativity should be eliminated.

A huge benefit of developmental coaching and making coaching part of managers’ leadership arsenal is that managers need not have the answers, nor should they feel responsible for defining another’s path. As a manager, this should be very liberating. Coaching for development is about partnering with and empowering employees to frame their own future and visualizing and evaluating multiple options, knowing that their manager is a willing cheerleader and partial enabler of their success.

Coaching is a reciprocal engagement between two parties. When one wins, the achievement can cascade from the employee to the bottom line. The volume of research around this subject, and publicly available data that provides the benefits of coaching, should leave no doubt that managerial coaching is good business. Leaders who can transition to becoming a great coach can transform employee engagement and, potentially, bottom-line results.

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Why companies choose for digital coaching in the 21st century

Many companies make use of professional coaching for their employees. Having well performing, healthy and happy employees is the key to success for them. In this article you will read why companies in the 21stcentury choose for digital coaching instead of traditional coaching on location.

The most common reason for companies to hire a coach is to help their employees with leadership development and stress reduction.  The first category is a no-brainer: the ability to attract, keep and develop leadership is one of the most important challenges for organisations. And leadership coaching is a tailored, effective method to do so.

The latter category, stress reduction, is somewhat of a newcomer. This is due to the fact that the majority of sick leave by employees is the result of stress or even burnout. With an average period of absence of 53 days, stress related absence is often extremely costly. One case of 53 days costs €20.000*. So prevention is better than cure, and that is why companies often take effective measures when early stress symptoms appear.

How do companies normally find the right coach for their employees?

Many companies work with large providers of coaching services. These often offer coaching in a traditional way. Coaching services offered are costly. It is not uncommon in the coaching industry that the rates multiply by 2 when the customer is business to business (B2B) compared to business to consumer (B2C). Often coaching providers work with standard packages. An example of a common standard package is 6 or 7 coaching sessions of 1.5 hours, spread out over 6 months, price €1.800 per employee, or even more. Quality of the coaching is good in general, but the way it is offered does not always fit the need of the modern employee.

So, is there an alternative? Yes. 

A 21st century alternative is to make use of a digital coaching platform and offer coaching over video chat to employees.

What are the advantages of digital coaching services?

The employee can choose the best coach for him or her, in despite of location. In a global company, he can choose the famous sales coach that already has coached the New York – based colleagues. The coaching can take place whenever, wherever the employee wants. It is even possible to schedule the coaching session before or after working hours, so it does not have impact on employee productivity. It is possible to offer a flexible coaching package. If, for example a short 15 min check-up between 2 longer coaching sessions would be beneficial, it is very easy to set this up in a digital environment. So it is tailored to the needs of the employee.  The same result may be reached in a shorter period compared to a coaching session on location. This is because there are less distractions in the digital meeting room. And last but not least… the coaching is in general less costly. There is no travel time and travel cost, leading to a lower rate.

Is there a trend towards digital coaching? 

Definitely. Employees are already used to make use of digital applications. Often they work partly from home and their employer has implemented Het Nieuwe Werken (The New Way of Working).  So they already know how to interact over solutions such as video conference and video chat. Taking part in digital coaching sessions is not a big step for them.

That is why more and more companies are looking for a more affordable and future proof alternative to traditional coaching services. Large companies such as Air France KLM and PostNL already have started to work with a digital coaching platform. Many other companies are looking for alternatives to their traditional coaching solution.  It’s just a matter of time J.

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How can you develop your leaders with executive coaching?

Executive coaching can be a powerful contributor to help you address organisational change and talent development goals in your business, using real-life challenges to develop your leaders. Mary Pratt speaks to renowned coach, Frank Wagner, and CEO of business services company Tanfeeth, Suhail Bin Tarraf, to find out their perspectives.

Quite often, organisations see executive coaching and day-to-day coaching as fixed means to a specific end. Sometimes they are viewed as a way to tackle ‘difficult’ leaders, as a support for weaker ones, or indeed to address a ‘problem’ that goes way beyond one person.

However, I believe that coaching should become a way of life within an organisation in all job families with direct leadership and championing from HR and all senior management, not just handballing to a third party as a project only for handpicked individuals.

One line that has stuck with me throughout my career is that ‘people are not made perfect’. Just because your new talent director can boast an array of successes from their previous business doesn’t mean that they’ll be successful in your business. Too often I have heard the words “they are not right for us” and my question has always been “have you coached them?” Most of the time, the answer is “no”.

Coaching not only helps the individual, but also the organisation itself, but ensuring you can measure the coaching success is critical to demonstrate true ROI. With this approach, the right executive coach can become not only a catalyst for personal change and growth, where learning is more fluid and organic than textbook solutions, but also a great support for the wider business in understanding how to work together for the best collective outcome.

The coach perspective

Frank Wagner is a leadership/behaviour coach who executes the principles and practices of Marshall Goldsmith, recognised as the top authority in this branch of coaching worldwide. Marshall and Frank go way back to the time they attained PhDs together at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Marshall also entrusted Frank to design and oversee the training of coaches in the Stakeholder Centred Coaching methodology he uses with top leaders.

He says: “When you look back in history, coaching is certainly not something new. The role of a coach has a long tradition. What’s new is the breadth of coaching taking place today and the expected growth in the future. In the field of executive and leadership coaching, interest is high globally. Given HR’s role in attracting and developing talent, the appropriate use of coaches is one practice that can help brand the organisation and speed up the development of talent.

“The first question to ask is what type of coach is needed? Most of the best coaches are specialists – they do not do everything. For instance, Marshall Goldsmith is recognised around the world as the top leadership coach; my expertise is in leadership behaviour. My background and experience equips me to help leaders achieve a positive, long-term improvement in a behaviour. If the need is something other than behaviour, I am unqualified to help. The good news is there are other types of coaches far better equipped to help serve the need.

“Once the qualifications for a coach are clear, the selection of the right person is not as simple a decision as you might think. A simplistic approach is to have the leader interview coaches to find the one that has the right ‘chemistry’ with the leader. This is often useful as having a high level of trust between a leader and a coach is beneficial to the process of working to improve a leader’s skill set. Yet often a coach with the right chemistry is not the best one for the leader.

“Generally, coaching should include at least three fundamental components. First, a clear, desired end result or goal for the coaching engagement. What is the outcome expected from this coaching? Second, the coach should be qualified to assist the leader in working towards this specific objective. Is this the right coach that will increase the likelihood of success? Thirdly, there should be a way to measure the results. Was there a successful conclusion based on the time, energy and expense? As long as these three criteria are met, coaching will likely add value to both the leader and the organisation.

“When considering the start and end of a coaching engagement, the setting of the goal and the gathering of evidence that the goal was achieved, it is sometimes the case that the best coach is not the one who has the ‘best chemistry’ with the person who needs a coach. But sometimes it is. The HR function that adds value is one that acts accountable to the effective use of coaching and has documented evidence that the investment in coaching is paying for itself in the short-term and continues to earn dividends in the long-term.

The CEO perspective

Suhail Bin Tarraf leads a 2,000-strong team at Tanfeeth, which includes an executive committee comprising industry leaders. He is responsible for delivering Tanfeeth’s strategic plan and managing all of its operations to achieve sustainable growth and profitability. His commitment is to ensure Tanfeeth is a values-based business that invests heavily in its people and operates with a ‘lean’ culture to deliver efficiency and quality improvements.

What did you set out to accomplish by seeking an executive coach? 
Taking on the CEO role at Tanfeeth, I had to take personal accountability for my development and deepen my self-awareness. I took a straight-lined look at my strengths and weaknesses to pursue the training needed to condition my leadership style and hone my professional acumen.

I went back to university to sharpen my hard skills in operations and finance. However, I turned to executive coaching to polish my soft skills. I had to learn how to communicate my change story, to role model the behaviours, culture and values I wanted practised across the organisation. I had the knowledge and industry experience; I needed to learn how to cast vision, motivate, and direct my people through a combination of character and behaviour styles channelled via effective communication.

What was the process?
I went to a boot camp in 2010 to learn how to achieve my mammoth target of creating a company from scratch in an industry that didn’t exist in the region. Andy Eichfeld, of McKinsey & Co, was running the programme and afterwards I asked him if he’d be interested in coaching me. I told him about my idea and how I wanted to go about it.

He asked me one question: “How long will it take you to create Tanfeeth?” My answer: “A year!” He smiled and said: “Let’s talk when you have set up the company.” In the end, I did set up the company within a year and Andy coached me on the ins-and-outs of creating a performance culture and delivering customer excellence through lean management.

And the result?
Coaching allowed me to fine-tune my vision and leadership style for the business: to empower and motivate staff, improve my communication and listening skills, harnessing my confidence and imparting resolute purpose. I found that there was no “right way” or “wrong way” to head a company, one size doesn’t fit all. It had to be natural to me and within my comfort level. I was always capable in my actions and the results I delivered, but coaching helped me work on the way I do it. I was referred to Genet Jeanjean for communication coaching, who provided me with insight into the manner in which I related to my people, the importance of body language, smiling and tone. It also taught me how to develop an exciting blend of enthusiasm and a bottom-lining management approach.

Why did ‘you’ achieve the results you did?
When I came to Tanfeeth as CEO, I set the strategy, created the mission and values, and laid down a concrete operating model tailored to our business. I built the culture, and empowered and motivated employees through investing in in-house talent and development. This was done in partnership with a robust team and having the right people in the right places. This led to significant business impacts: we reached a team of 2,200 people in four years, broke even in the second year, and decreased attrition from 40% to 15%, while increasing customer satisfaction by 40%.

What did you learn from the experience?
I learnt to be balanced with a “sustain and gain” ethos but stayed true to my natural style of leadership. I am always working to refine and develop myself to achieve valuable impact. For example, throughout my professional career I have been assertive and push my teams. As CEO, I learnt how to listen, build relationships, and take decisions in stride; I give my teams the space to innovate and grow. Everything goes back to the people and how you manage them. I shape decisions around the needs of my people and the demands of the organisation, which relies greatly on transparent performance culture.

What will you do going forward in your career?
I created a company from scratch and a business that did not previously exist within the region. I believe that Tanfeeth will leave a lasting mark in the business service industry in the UAE. Moving forward, I would like to tackle the existing challenges found in a UAE public sector that is criticised for being tied up in bureaucratic red tape. I would like to assume leadership of a public sector company and transform it into an efficient operational platform with excellent service delivery.

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Team Building Chatbots – The Future of Executive Coaching?

As recently reported in New Scientist magazine, innovative chatbot software created by London HR company Saberr is helping team members communicate better. Called CoachBot, it assesses workplace dynamics, ‘listens’ to people’s complaints and puts forward ways to help make teams more productive.

Coachbot is under trial by the NHS and ten other British businesses as we write. The Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, a mental health specialist, is trialling the software over 12 months with a test group of 30 employees to find out whether it can improve patient outcomes, as well as enhance employees feelings about how effective their team is. So is chatbot tech the way forward for executive coaching? Or is it a flash in the pan?

How does it work?

You kick things off by saying ‘hello’ to the chatbot, which asks individuals who they are and what they do in their roles. Then you spend ten minutes identifying problems. CoachBot quizzes staff about things like whether their team is productive, and whether team members trust each other. If it calculates that morale isn’t as good as it could be, the software suggests activities to make the team work better, solutions bedded in proven management science, stuff like board games and innovative ways to hold meetings.

  What are the advantages and limitations of CoachBot?

Some advantages are clear. CoachBot saves money and time by reducing the time out needed for traditional staff formal training sessions. And it could be ideally placed to identify basic issues before they grow into real problems. But while early results seem promising, the software is actually pretty limited.

One of an executive coach’s key skills is listening, but not only to the words people say. As you know if you’ve read any of our listening-led posts, it’s a whole lot subtler than that. Humans are hard-wired for connection. We do emotional listening, picking up on the emotional health of a group or individual. We take body language into account too, and we’re skilled at examining the body language of every team member at once to pin down a group’s overall dynamic.

CoachBot can’t do any of this, nor is it likely to in the foreseeable future. The fact is, despite all the media hype about Artificial Intelligence, it’s something no AI can do yet, and there’s no sign of such a high level of electronic-emotional synergy on the horizon.

There are also ‘Big Brother’ type concerns, since the bot could end up forcing employees to record every move they make, every feeling they have, every problem they encounter, something that plenty of people would see as more sinister than helpful.

When you might use a CoachBot  

Some people might initially feel more at ease chatting to software than a fellow human, finding it easier to express problems to software that isn’t in itself judgmental. That might be a good use for this kind of software – a way to identify potential team building issues early without spending money on an executive coach or having to send your people off on long, expensive training courses. CoachBot could also be used as an idea generator, delivering a basic team building foundation to work on.

If the problems the AI encounters can’t be solved by interaction through tailored board games or changing the way team members interact at meetings, then it would be time to bring in an executive coach. Someone who would apply the right levels of emotional texture, depth, sensitivity and intelligence to the matter at hand. Someone who would work closely with people on an emotional level to bring about a clear understanding of why things went wrong, and provide carefully tailored tools to help them make things work better.

It’s early days, of course, but it doesn’t look like CoachBot and similar innovations will be replacing human executive coaches any time soon. There will always be a place for human interaction and conversations but CoachBot is pioneering the introduction of another potentially additional and interesting angle to the world of business coaching and team building.

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Future Outlook In Executive Coaching

The Outlook for Executive Coaches for the future is bright!

Coaching is a growing industry.  Worldwide, companies spend about $1 billion each year on executive coaches–people who work one-on-one with managers to help them better perform their jobs. The high demand for coaches is based on the fact that coaches can immensely increase the productivity of entire organizations

An executive coach helps managers, executives, and staff members to improve organizational effectiveness through inquiry and dialogue. When managers are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, they are better able to communicate with and motivate staff members. The executive coach’s job is to assist new and seasoned managers alike as they learn to leverage their innate skillsets in more effective ways.

Executive Coaching can be lucrative earning $200 – $400 an hour on average and sometimes higher, according to a survey of 480 coaches.

Biggest Obstacles Facing Executive Coaching:

Coaching Skills and Ethical Practices

When asked to identify the biggest obstacle for coaching over the next 12 months, both internal and external coaches indicated that professional coaches who lack sufficient coaching skills, training, and experience needed to support and challenge leaders could be a downfall for the profession.  They indicated the need for both external and internal coaches to have a solid coaching background gained from a recognized coaching training certification program and demonstrated proven coaching ethics.
Coaches also felt that market place confusion about inconsistent coaching practices, over market saturation – too many unqualified people hanging out their coaching shingle, underpricing – coaches charging undercharging just to get the work, competing services – “I do it” all mentality, and over regulation of the field of coaching are some of their biggest concerns.
Level of Support

Some of the obstacles that concern coaches when working with clients is the level of support provided by Senior Leaders and the Individual’s Boss, while 77% of external coaches, 63% of internal coaches and 70% of organizations believe that reviewing action planning with a boss is part of the coaching process, only 34% of leaders feel this important. It appears that the most common type of senior leadership support is utilization of coaching and integration into the culture.  Gaining senior leader involvement in the entire coaching process is to the success of the coaching program.

While coaching continues to gain traction at the most senior levels in the organization, there is still work to be done to show support for coaching, especially since C-level executives of the organization do not always work with a coach themselves.

Measuring Impact of Coaching and Link to Business Results

Some of the common methods used to measuring the impact of coaching are based on a satisfaction level rating, 1. the leader rates their own progress (55% – 79%), 2. The leader’s boss assesses their progress (27% – 54%) and 3. Measuring business impact -only 34% organizations indicated they measured the impact or effectiveness of coaching. While leaders seem to believe that executive coaching is being linked to business results more often than the other three rater groups, with 31% think it is done regularly.

The process of measuring the impact of the coaching needs to improve.  Using quantitative data level 4 evaluation – impact on the business and organization, and individual’s job performance would greatly improve current measurement practices.

Greatest Opportunities for Executive Coaching

Executive coaching is expected to continue to grow according to responses to a question about expected trends in coaching. The majority of organizations (77%) agreed that the use of coaching will increase.  Coaches were even more positive, with 91% of internal coaches and 92% of external coaches expecting an increase.

·       When coaches were asked to identify the greatest opportunity for coaching over the next 12 months, they indicated that now organizations are realizing the increased benefits of coaching.
·       In a recent survey, indicated a high likelihood that the use of executive coaching will increase (77% of organizations, 92% of internal coaches and 91% of external coaches).

Benefits of Coaching

Even executives are beginning to see the benefit of Executive coaching as a tool for career advancement. Human resources professionals and career counselors say that in the last several years, more high-level executives (those making more than $150,000) have turned to executive coaches and professional résumé writers. They see it as a way to gain an edge in self-marketing. An executive coach may administer self-inventory tests, conduct videotaped interviews, practice negotiating strategies and offer general career advice. Perhaps most important, they offer support and motivation during a job search that can easily last two to six months, or longer, for those seeking six-figure salaries.
Leadership Development

Companies recognize the importance of excellent leadership and are investing in executive coaching to develop this within their employees. 2012 leadership development remained the #1 reason for hiring a coach demonstrating a clear purpose for executive coaching.  Having an Executive Presence makes a surprising debut as the #2 reason for coaching. This is a new coaching specialty and is something to consider for the future.

A 2012 survey showed that 48 percent of organizations planned to invest in executive coaching over the next 12 months, and this investment is expected to increase over the next three years. Companies are increasingly aware of the need for a system that helps drive change and keeps their organization competitive and executive coaching is the best way to help a leadership team manage the human side of business during these transitions.

Difference Between Internal and External Coaches

Responses for internal and external coaches show some clear differences. External coaches have many more years of coaching experience than internal coaches. Internal coaches were more likely to have shorter assignments (3 months or less) and external coaches to have longer engagements (9 or 12 month assignments). There is also a difference in the engagement itself, with external coaches using more assessments and coaching activities (e.g., shadowing) than internal coaches.

Measuring the Impact 

The number of organizations who are measuring the impact of coaching has increased dramatically in the past seven years. In the current study, about half of the organizations link executive coaching work to business results either regularly or occasionally, up from only 7% in 2005.

Linking Coaching to Leadership Development and Talent Management 

As organizations continue to develop leadership development and talent management initiatives, coaching is becoming a more prevalent component of these programs. Leadership Development and Talent Management executives are often asked to demonstrate the value of coaching, and as a result look for ways to link the coaching efforts to their strategies.

The most common response was that coaching efforts are being integrated into leader development strategy/Individual Development Plans, as indicated by 80% of organizations, 75% of internal coaches and 82% of external coaches. In addition, coaching is used in succession planning, according to 57% of organizations, 39% of internal coaches and 42% of external coaches.

External coaches reported using these means of linking coaching efforts to leadership development and talent management with greater frequency than internal coaches and organizations.

Perception of Coaching

As coaching continues to grow and develop into a known industry, it is interesting to monitor the perceptions of coaching within organizations. The majority of organizations, leaders, and external coaches (60% for each rater group) said that coaching is either only or mostly seen as a positive investment in high potential leaders. Internal coaches rated these responses a little lower, with 52% selecting these responses.

There were a surprisingly high percentage of respondents who indicated that coaching is seen as both remedial for performance problems and a positive investment in high potential leaders. Organizations, internal and external coaches selected this over 40% of the time (44%, 46%, and 47% respectively), while Senior Leaders chose this answer only 26% of the time. Clearly there is a difference in perception in usage of executive coaching.


Executive coaching will continue to play an important role in growing and sustaining great organizations as the need to develop leaders to their full potential increases. Coaching provides an opportunity to help people develop to their full capacity and to think about situations in innovative and creative ways. It provides the means for moving leaders beyond the way they have always done things to a new way of approaching problems and finding solutions.

As demonstrated in the current study, the coaching industry is growing at a rapid rate. With this growth, the field of coaching and its effectiveness is viewed positively by organizations. However, several areas of concern need to be further studied as to the credentialing and experience of both internal and external coaches; linking coaching to business results and leadership development; and measuring the outcomes of the coaching relationship, coaching outcomes, and performance more objectively. Although, the field of Executive Coaching is gaining in popularity as a tool for onboarding new leaders, supporting high potentials, and developing executives, the need to create an Executive coaching strategy tied to Leadership development strategies and Human Resources strategies and supported by the C- Suite still provides opportunities for the future success of Executive Coaching.

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Mentoring Women Is Not About Trying to “Rescue” Them

We know that male mentors and sponsors are essential for helping talented women get ahead. When women are mentored by men, they make more money, receive more promotions, and report greater satisfaction with their career trajectories. Although advantageous for all employees, mentoring is particularly helpful to women for addressing the myriad barriers to career advancement. But in the wake of the #MeToo Movement there are growing whispers among some men that it just isn’t safe to mentor women. We’ve also heard from some men who are having the opposite reaction, determining to mentor and “save” more women. While we applaud their good intentions, this attitude is also unlikely to have the results they want.

Let’s just start by saying the obvious: of course men should mentor women. It’s wrong (and illegal) to exclude half the population. But taking a save-the-day approach won’t work very well, either. Even the standard mentoring approach of the mentor as all-knowing guru, dispensing knowledge, implies a hierarchical, one-way relationship that can frame men who mentor women as champions, heroes, even rescuers. In this model, the mentor shares wisdom, throws down challenges, and when necessary, protects his protégé from all malignant forces in the organization.  Enter the chivalrous knight-damsel in distress archetype. As Jennifer de Vries has astutely observed, painting male allies and mentors as heroic rescuers actually strengthens the gendered status quo, inadvertently reinforcing male positional power while framing women as ill-prepared for serious leadership roles.

So what’s a decent guy to do? Happily, there is a promising alternative to the traditional, hierarchical, unidirectional mentoring model. We call it reciprocal mentoring. Cross-gender reciprocal mentorships are essentially partnerships in which men and women play complementary roles leading to career and personal development for both parties, and ultimately, greater gender equality in the workplace.

In her research on reciprocal mentorship, Belle Rose Ragins discovered that mentorships with the greatest life-long impact are more mutual. In these relationships, there is greater fluidity in expertise between members. Although mentors, by definition, have more experience in the profession, mentees bring their own insights, life experiences, and talents to the table. Mentors in these high-quality partnerships value and are influenced by their mentee’s perspective.

By entering mentoring connections with real humility and curiosity, male mentors may find that they learn more about the experiences of women in their organization, diversify their networks and enhance their interpersonal skills. For example, many of the male mentors in our interviews on cross-gender mentoring relationships concluded that they learned and benefitted more than their female mentees.

High-impact reciprocal mentorships have some distinctive elements. Here are some characteristics that define the best mentorships between women and men:

Mutual listening and affirmation: In high-quality mentoring, both members learn and grow from the relationship. There is fluid expertise between members. This requires men to keep an open mind, maintain a learning orientation, and recognize that expertise may shift depending on the specific mentoring episode or phase of the mentorship. Generous listening, avoiding assumptions, and patiently drawing out the other person’s authentic self and genuine aspirations are hallmarks of reciprocal mentorships. Humility: Truly transformational mentors are humble. They recognize that their own vulnerability and imperfection serves as an empowering model, levels the playing field, and opens the door to building their own empathy and wisdom. Although it can be a challenge for senior men to check their egos at the door, demonstrate transparency about what they don’t know, and express real curiosity about a mentee’s unique experience in the workplace, such humility is a key reciprocal mentoring skill. Shared power: Genuine reciprocity requires even high-ranking mentors to reject hierarchy and emphasize power-sharing. Acutely aware of privilege conferred by gender and race, men in reciprocal mentorships are deliberate about sharing social capital, including influence, information, knowledge, and support with mentees. An extended range of mentoring outcomes: Reciprocal mentorship partners are interested in helping one another find success beyond mere career advancement and compensation. Less tangible but equally salient mentoring conversations may center on concerns such as professional identity, work-family integration, and personal confidence. The finest reciprocal mentors are interested in helping mentees hone things such as self-efficacy, emotional intelligence and resilience in the face of stress.

Inclusive leaders are learning that women (and men) perform better, advance faster, and choose to stay in their organizations when they have effective mentors and sponsors. And because women report a preference for less hierarchy and more reciprocity in their mentorships, companies are doing more to develop and equip reciprocal mentoring pairs.

As one example, Greatheart Consulting has launched a Reciprocal Mentoring Lab, an approach to advancing high-performing women and equipping gender-savvy men. In Greatheart’s Lab, new or existing cross-gender mentoring teams join several other teams for two days of intensive learning and reciprocal skill development. The goal is to create strong schemas or mental maps for reciprocal cross-gender mentorship that can then be exported back to the dyad’s organization, ultimately serving to change the mentoring culture.

Ultimately, any mentoring program for women must address organizational and cultural change. Sure, strong mentorships may help women to overcome individual challenges with the existing organizational hierarchy and power dynamics. However, unless mentors also target the workplace status quo, biases and stereotypes will continue to reinforce gender inequities. Promoting a mentoring culture where talented men and women engage in reciprocal developmental connections may finally create change agents and allies capable of truly moving the dial on gender inclusion.

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3 Ways to Make a Big Impact with 360-Degree Assessments

For decades, organizations have relied on 360-degree feedback assessments to support leadership development. The surveys help individuals build self-awareness, determine their strengths, and understand where they need to improve.

But that’s just the beginning of what feedback data can do. When you step back and view the results you’ve gathered in new and broader ways, your HR team can elevate its role and get much more out of its feedback investment.                                                                                                                   

Here are 3 examples of how you can use 360-degree assessment data to produce transformative results for your business.  

3 Ways 360 Assessments Can Help Your Business 1. Benchmark Your Company’s Leadership Competencies

Thousands and thousands of 360-degree assessments have been administered over the years. And that means assessment providers have a lot of valuable data they can aggregate, analyze, and share with you. You can see what leaders around the globe have to say about competencies critical to the success of their business. You can drill down and review results by country, job function, business sector, or other points of comparison. You can even determine which leader behaviors are most likely to derail a career.

What can you do with this information? Compare it to assessment data from your own company to see how your leaders stack up. Are they lagging behind others in your industry in key competencies? Are there areas where they are outperforming their peers and giving your firm a competitive advantage?

Use these new insights to craft a more meaningful development roadmap for your business and to build top-down support.  

2. Identify Hidden Barriers Holding Your Business Back

To be an effective HR business partner, you sometimes need to play detective. When the HR team for a high-tech company administered a 360-degree feedback survey for the CEO and his direct reports, one result stood out — while other scores were stellar, the entire executive team got rock-bottom marks for its ability to remove barriers that impeded effective teamwork.  

Nobody understood the discrepancy. What barriers were getting in the way of teamwork? And what wasn’t being done to remove them?

Though the feedback was submitted anonymously, HR specialists were able to analyze the results by job title. They found the negative ratings came from division directors reporting directly to the executive team. They decided to do a bit of sleuthing and conducted confidential interviews to see what they could uncover.

They quickly found the issue. A new billing system the executive team launched and loved was proving to be a real nightmare — actually making it difficult for clients to pay the company for its products and services. Instead of getting important work done, directors were spending many hours on the phone trying to keep angry customers from jumping ship. Everyone blamed the executive team for an unworkable process that was causing nothing but grief.

The information uncovered led to a rapid course correction and solidified HR’s position at the leadership table.

Are there issues in your own company that are hiding in plain sight? Look closely at cumulative 360-degree feedback data to see where it might lead you. You may develop insights that benefit your business in unexpected ways.

3. Build a Leadership Funnel to Take Your Company into the Future

There is no doubt that 360-degree feedback can be invaluable to individuals. But the same assessment data can make an even broader impact. It can show you which leaders are best equipped to bring your company’s strategic goals and objectives to life.

An important first step is to work with your executive team to identify the competencies and behaviors most critical to future success. You can use what you learn to build your bench strength, guide future hiring decisions, and begin to determine which leaders might be ready to step into a broader role.

We support a global consulting firm that routinely uses assessments in this way. HR executives administer 360-degree feedback surveys as part of a development program for managers on the partner track. The company pays special attention to scores on key competencies vital to its future — especially those impacting the development of long-lasting client relationships.

“The survey itself plays an important role in setting direction,” says Craig Chappelow, senior faculty who managed CCL’s assessment portfolio in the Americas for nearly 2 decades. “Managers know which competencies and behaviors they need to master to move up because they see them on the survey. It’s a classic case of getting what you measure.”

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Why you’re not finding Flow at work (and what to do about it)

Why do some days drag on, every minute feeling like an hour while our to-do list remains intact. While others seem to fly by with task after tasking being ticked off without breaking a sweat?

The answer is Flow — the state of mind where we’re so focused, so disciplined, and so in tune with our abilities, that the world around us disappears and the work feels like it’s doing itself.

Artists call it a visit from the muse. Athletes call it being in the zone. Whatever you want to name it, I’m sure you want more of it in your life. Yet Flow is elusive. It’s not like we can schedule slipping into a transcendental state of effortless work.

But by understanding the conditions and qualities necessary to find Flow, we can give ourselves a better chance of slipping into it every single day.

First up, what exactly is Flow?

The idea of Flow was first proposed by positive psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in the 70s.

After speaking with professionals across fields, from artists to academics, Csíkszentmihályi noted how they would become “so immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity that we lose sense of space and time.”

However, this state was more than just a skilled professional doing their well-honed craft. Flow seemed to only be triggered when a specific set of criteria were met:

A clear set of goals Immediate feedback on what you’re doing Balance between the perceived challenge of the task and your abilities

In other words, it’s not just being good at a task. It’s pushing your skills just beyond their breaking point while receiving and reacting to continuous feedback. As Steven Kotler describes it in his book, Rise of the Superman, Flow is “high-speed problem solving; it’s being swept away by the river of ultimate performance.”

Think of a skier flying down a difficult run. Their technique and training is being pushed to the limit while they react to the changing situation around them. It’s not the strenuous hit-your-head-against-the-wall kind of problem solving, but an effortless connection between skill and challenge.

Why you’re not finding Flow at work

For most of us, this sounds like a dream. Walk into your workplace, put your well-honed skills to the test and complete good work without even realizing it.

But Flow is elusive. Like most dream-like states, the second you realize where you are it disappears.

Worse than that, the conditions that make Flow possible are the same as the ones that make it so elusive in the workplace.

Most modern work environments weren’t designed with Flow in mind.

In fact, it often feels like they were designed with the exact opposite in mind.

The processes, policies, and busy work that fills our days has eroded the foundation that once held Flow up:

Most jobs today don’t have a clear goal. Unlike a championship skier whose goal it is to make it down a run as fast as possible, you probably don’t walk into your workspace every day with a clear, single-minded goal. Feedback can be elusive, unhelpful, and inadequate. The pace of work has increased, and it’s hard for people to spend time thinking deeply and giving clear and actionable feedback. Again, this is no individual’s fault. The person you’re waiting for feedback from might be waiting for their own feedback, or is so busy with other work they can’t take the time to put it together. Your skills aren’t well matched to the available challenges of the job.Either you’re mismatched, or you’re not given the freedom to take on challenges that would put you in a state of Flow. There’s a lack of control over when and how you work. And even worse, the rhythm of the day is dictated by others, leaving you always on the edge of interruption. Your job is too stable (i.e. boring). There’s no challenge or opportunity to step out of your comfort zone.

Sure, this sounds bad. But it’s not hopeless.

Flow is still possible even in the busiest of workplaces. Like meditation, which requires patience, practice, and discipline, Flow can be found when the same level of commitment. By understanding what triggers our states of Flow, we can find ways to bring more of it into our workday.

Here’s a few good places to start:

If your time management is getting in the way of finding Flow, check out our Short Guide To Finding Focus and Overcoming Distractions.

1. Take more risks to push your mind beyond its comfort zone

Flow only happens when we get out of our comfort zone. But this is where it gets a bit tricky. Not enough challenge and risk and you’re bored. Too much, and your mind enters anxiety mode. Instead, you need to know your limitations and consciously push past them.

These don’t have to be physical risks either. As Kotler explains in Rise of the Superman, “the brain can’t tell the difference between physical consequences and emotional risks.”

Speak up at a meeting. Share creative ideas. Approach your boss or leader and tell them your opinion when it feels awkward. Push yourself beyond your emotional comfort zone.

“In Silicon Valley, the idea is to fail fast or fail forward,” says Kotler.

“If you’re not giving employees space to fail, you’re not giving them space to risk. Move fast and break things. Engage in rapid experimentation. High consequences will drive Flow and you get further faster.” 2. Use deliberate practice to get better and battle boredom

Flow is dependent on having a certain level of mastery over your skills. At least enough to understand when things are going well and be able to adjust on the fly when they’re not.

However, when we do the same task over and over, it becomes monotonous, leaving us unable to push and develop our skills and find Flow in the process.

One answer to this is to engage in what’s called “deliberate practice.” Rather than simply going through the motions, deliberate practice is working in a way that is segmented, purposeful, and systematic.

As we get better at a skill at work it becomes easier to let small errors slip or miss daily opportunities to get better. Which leads to boredom — the enemy of Flow.

How this works in practice is actually pretty simple:

Take an activity you do regularly Break it down into segments Go through each segment systematically and look for ways to get better

Whenever you find yourself slipping into complacency or habit, ask why? How can you do this one piece of the task better? Even 1% better every day can help you find Flow.

3. Use job crafting to connect your work to a clear purpose or intention

When he originally wrote about Flow, Csikszentmihályi argued that the main reason we can’t find Flow at work is because our goals aren’t clear. While some tasks may fit into a larger plan or purpose, most individual workers don’t see where or how they do.

We’ve written about finding meaningful work in the past and how one of the best techniques you can use to imbue your current job with purpose is through job crafting.

In its basic form, job crafting consists of looking at your job at multiple levels — task, relationships, identity — and adjusting each one to find more purpose.

For example, you could adjust your daily tasks to include more challenging ones. Deepen your relationships with people inside or outside your department. Or change your job title to be more aligned with what you see as your most important work.

Each of these is a small way to bring more purpose into your daily tasks and help you find Flow more easily.

4. Get your self control in check and block Flow-killing distractions

Flow depends on being able to do focused work for long periods of time without interruption. Which is pretty much impossible in a lot of workplaces.

However, to find Flow, you need to be able to exercise control over your focusand attention, rather than let them be passively determined by external forces.

There’s no shortcut to this ability. You simply need to practice, be aware of where your mind is going, and try to limit your vulnerability to distraction. As Leo Babauta explains on his blog Zen Habits:

“This takes practice. You need to start on your chosen task and keep your focus on it for as long as you can. At first, many people will have difficulty, if they’re used to constantly switching between tasks.” “But keep trying, and keep bringing your focus back to your task. You’ll get better. And if you can keep your focus on that task, with no distractions, and if your task has been chosen well (something you love, something important, and something challenging), you should lose yourself in Flow.” 5. Push yourself to learn new skills and get feedback

Flow is all about challenge. And few workplaces will actively try to help you push your skills. Rather, it can feel like we’re cogs in a machine, going through the process to make the beast move.

However, like we’ve said before, Flow is all about challenge and hard work. As Csikszentmihalyi explains in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience:

“The best moments occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile … in the long run optimal experiences add up to a sense of mastery — or perhaps better, a sense of participation in determining the content of life — that comes as close to what is usually meant by happiness as anything else we can conceivably imagine.”

If you want to find Flow, you can’t just sit idly back or feel content in doing your part. You need to actively push and search for opportunities for growth and challenge.

Lastly, while Flow is a solo experience, Csikszentmihalyi has said that limited feedback can reduce motivation and prevent opportunities for Flow.

Actively seek out feedback on the work you’re doing and use a tool like RescueTime to track your time spent on challenging tasks to make sure you’re putting in the kind of difficult work that triggers states of Flow.

Flow isn’t just about doing more work. When we enter a state of Flow, we’re more likely to be happier, feel more accomplished, and get better at our jobs. It’s not a shortcut to hitting a deadline, but a path towards truly meaningful work.

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How to Become World-Class at Anything

When I was 16, I performed relatively poorly in my GCSE exams, exams which every kid in the UK takes. Having missed most of my classes, and barely studied, I received a D in math and an F for French (which I think is funny). I’m a little embarrassed to even write about this, and I’ll try to redeem myself by letting you know that four of my nine grades were C: for physics, biology, English language, and English literature. Any small success I had was basically down to luck, and it was terrifying to take those exams with no preparation. It’s only in the last few years that I stopped having nightmares about it.

This is when I hit rock-bottom, a pivot point at which I decided to turn my life around. I studied hard until I was 18, got into a relatively good “red-brick” university (the University of Reading, pronounced “redding”), and ended up with a first-class honors degree in electronic engineering. I also went on to get a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Stanford, one of the top universities in the world, and to become a world-class computer processor designer and architect. I’m the inventor of at least ten patents in the field. All of this is not to brag (well, maybe a little), but to show how significantly I was able to turn my life around, and so qualify what I am about to write next: persistence is the most important skill that you can acquire. Now I’ll explain why.

By the time I was 16, the headmaster (principal) of my school had decided, because I had been performing so poorly, that I did not have an academic temperament. In fact, as I later proved, the problems were unrelated to my ability to handle academic subjects; they were emotional and social. Because of this, he recommended that I go to a technical college, and study for a vocational qualification. I went to Brooklands Technical College in Weybridge, and I studied (trained) to get a B.Tech National Diploma in engineering. I’m so grateful that I took this unusual path. I learned to solder electronic components to boards and to weld pieces of metal together using both oxygen-acetyline and electric arc. I learned to use machine tools to turn, drill, and mill blocks of metal into useful things. I programmed computer-controlled milling machines to repeatably carve precise shapes out of metal. I learned to run high-level programs on a mainframe, and also to program micro-controllers in low-level assembly language. For my final project, at 18, I designed and built an analog audio mixer, including custom-etched printed circuit boards and a custom case. Even though I went on to become a Chartered Engineer, I started with the training of a technician. I’m very grateful to the college and to my teachers there, and also to my headmaster for sending me down the “wrong” path.

The one that I feel the most gratitude for was my math teacher. I haven’t been able to find her name in my records. She had a very strong Northern accent, and would pronounce syllabus as “silly boose.” She started out by defining terms clearly. I remember her writing on the blackboard that she used the abbreviation “+ve” to mean positive and “-ve” to mean negative. She was an extraordinary teacher, and took the time to slow down and explain things carefully. She made sure that her students understood thoroughly before moving on, and she was clearly very interested in what she was teaching. She was very motivational, warm, and understanding. If you know her name or can put me in contact with her, please let me know.

She re-taught me everything I needed to know in math, up to and including what I would need in undergraduate level engineering at university, especially calculus. It was really hard at the beginning. I understood so little, and I felt totally incompetent. But this is where the persistence paid off. I bought thick books of engineering math problems, and I worked through the problems one-by-one. Sometimes I stayed up all night solving these math problems. I discovered that as my competence increased, my confidence also increased, and so did my natural excitement about math. The more excited I got, the more effortlessly I applied myself to practice. I got distinctions in my math subjects, and mostly distinctions for all the other subjects on my course. I also went back and took my math GCSE, with absolutely no revision, and I got a B. I didn’t get an A only because there were some topics on the exam that I had never spent any time on; I think that set theory was one of those topics.

This is the nature of mastery: the better we get, the better we’re able to get. To practice something intensely, we have to be passionate about it. To be passionate about something, we need to have some level of competence or mastery. This means that we always start out as beginners in a catch-22 situation. It’s hard to be motivated to apply ourselves fully when we’re so incompetent, but we can’t get competent and benefit from natural, intrinsic motivation, until we have developed some level of competence.

The saving grace is wisdom. I know, from long experience, that if I want to get good at anything, I have to decide, with a strong determination, to apply myself to developing a seed of mastery in it. Once that seed has started to sprout, I know that I will become increasingly naturally engaged with the subject or skill. You may already know this from your own experience, and perhaps reading about it here will give you more confidence to act on that wisdom. Or perhaps this is a new idea for you, and now you’re getting to learn from all of what I’ve been through, without having to perform as many life experiments.

Speaking of math, this seems to be the principle that automatically underlies the superiority of Asian children in math. According to Matthew Syed in the book Bounce, Asian children have an automatic advantage in math that is baked into the languages they speak. In most Asian languages, spoken numbers are composed simply, as in three-hundred-one-ten-four (for 314), compared with three-hundred-and-fourteen in English. Also, all the numbers from zero to nine in most Asian languages are represented by one syllable each. English has seven (two syllables), plus all the other anomalous number words like eleven, twelve, seventeen, twenty, ninety, etc, plus multi-syllable words like hundred, thousand, and million. In Mandarin Chinese, 314 is sān bǎi yī shí sì (written as 三百一十四; five syllables; three hundred, one ten, four) This language simplicity translates into easy mental arithmetic for small children, which quickly gives them a higher base confidence and competence with math than comparably-aged non-Asian children. That competence and confidence feeds a cascade of growing mastery in math.

Rather than sitting around waiting to die so that we can be reincarnated as Asian children, we can proactively bootstrap the process of learning and mastery any time we want. We can use the planning and abstract thinking faculties of our highly evolved neocortices to trick our less evolved parts, such as our important emotional system, into coming along with us on the path to mastery. You can do this at any age, from sixteen to sixty. Here are some tricks you can use to bootstrap mastery.

Practice at the same time every day

I’m pretty good at writing now, and I’m getting better. I practice every day from around 6:30 am until roughly 8:00 am. I get up and I practice during that time. I also produce a lot of high quality content in that time. It’s easy for me to do this now, because I have a lot of competence, and I find it extremely enjoyable to write. I know it would have been even easier for me to get here quickly if I had followed a schedule like this earlier.

There are also several subjects that I am studying, including quantum physics and deep learning (which is related to artificial intelligence). My time to focus on these subjects is when I get home from work. The first thing I do is watch a lecture, or read part of a book, or do some coding. I increasingly look forward to that time every day.

Practice for a minimum amount of time each day

Setting a lower limit on the amount of time you will spend on mastering a given skill helps you to quickly bootstrap enough competence that it will become self-sustaining. As some point, you will no longer be able to stop yourself from practicing, and sometimes you will have to force yourself to stop practicing. To begin with, however, a big part of bootstrapping is to decide on a minimum amount of time, and then stick to it. I recommend using my life bootstrapping system to help with this.

One of the challenges with this is figuring out how to keep going for the set amount of time. A classic example is with writing, where people get stuck and don’t know what to write. To release any form of creative blockage like this, I recommend doing morning pages, as taught by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. This involves writing out (reporting) your stream-of-consciousness for a set period of time, and without stopping. If you’re stuck then you write about being stuck. If you hate morning pages, then you write about hating morning pages. Morning pages is a generic way of unblocking creative flow. In general, if you’re struggling with how to keep going with any project, then you have to trust that there is some way forward, and spend effort and time looking for it. That effort and time is actually part of the process of moving towards mastery in your chosen area.

Look for little wins

Learn to notice and appreciate micro-mastery. These are tiny little things that you achieve which are like bricks in a building. You might read a chapter in a book and realize that you thoroughly applied yourself to understanding it, and so you managed to understand more of it than you had expected. You might construct a particularly skillful sentence about sentience and then celebrate your cerebrum with alternating alliteration. You might persist in practice through a challenging period, or achieve one tiny part of a skill, even if you then seemed to have “lost” it again (it’s always there, getting stronger).

The more you focus on what is working, and on what you appreciate, the more of it you will have. Find the mastery you already have, and enjoy and appreciate it. Your positive attitude towards that seed of mastery will nourish it and it will grow, blossom, and transform into full-blown, world-class mastery.

Understand that learning is exponential

Many processes in the natural world follow an exponential growth trajectory, and learning and mastery seem to as well. This is probably because at each stage future development is informed by all previous development. So the amount that you learn on day ten will not be the same as the amount you learned on day one, it will be more.

Also, in the early stages of learning a new skill, the gains are often not large enough to produce clearly visible results. You might just be beginning to understand a concept, and, though you cannot even articulate it to yourself, that piece of learning will form part of the foundation upon which all of your future development rests.

This kind of tiny but exponential early growth, growth that is hard to even perceive, is the foundation of mastery. This is the growth that we need to trust is there, and continue to develop and build upon until it unexpectedly pops into visibility one day. Just knowing about this is going to help you to persist.

Focus on the process, not the outcome

Intrinsic motivation is a desire to perform an action simply because it is enjoyable. Most actions lead to desired or undesired outcomes, and we can be motivated to perform actions in an attempt to obtain a desired outcome or to prevent an undesired outcome. However, the most satisfying way to live life is to enjoy the process from moment-to-moment. This is another way of saying that the ultimate goal of life is to focus on the process, and not on the outcome.

This is the root teaching of many spiritual traditions, including, most clearly, the Bhagavad Gita: “You have the right to work only, but never to its fruits.

Let not the fruits of action be your motive, nor let your attachment be to inaction.” This is often considered to apply to meditation practice, but it applies to everything. This is generic wisdom, capturing a fundamental principle of life. The only thing we have is the present moment, and all of our power lies in where we direct our attention right now.

It turns out that mastery is characterized by this process orientation. Anyone who is world-class at anything is 100% focused on the process of what they are doing, while they are doing it. They don’t do it because they expect to get some positive outcome from doing it. They are in flow, and they are fully committed. They are motivated only by the deep joy of merging and becoming one with the object of their mastery, whether that is the sensation of the breath in their nostrils, or the feeling of the brush moving over the canvas.

By practicing focusing on the process, and therefore turning the attention away from any anticipated end result, we not only commandeer all of our conscious attention and power, enabling it to be harnessed for the production of an optimal outcome, but we also maximize learning. In the process, we are bootstrapping the pathway to mastery by acting “as if” we are already masters. We engage with the process, at whatever level of mastery we have attained, as a master would. A master steps in and engages fully with whatever is present.

A great example of this principle is Salman Khan, the creator of Khan Academy. He is a master teacher, perhaps one of the best in the world. It’s possible to see him in action just by watching one of his videos on a relatively simple subject. Notice how he fully engages with the topic with deep interest. He is demonstrating beginner’s mind. He is teaching by learning. He is re-teaching himself as he teaches. I’m sure that he became a master teacher by teaching himself before he taught others.


Persistence is key. Keep persisting and refer back to this article to stay on track.

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11 Things Organized and Productive People Do Every Day

We often confuse being productive with working as fast as we can, every second of the day. We fear that slowing down to get organized will kill our productivity, but the facts suggest otherwise:

The average office employee spends over one hour each day just looking for things. The average U.S. executive spends six weeks per year searching through messy desks and disorganized files for misplaced information. 23% of adults say they’re late paying their bills because they lose them.

Being disorganized is costly, in terms of both money and time. But if you can convince yourself to slow down and get organized, the ROI will shock you.

“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.”
– Benjamin Franklin

While Benjamin Franklin’s estimation is overstated, spending time getting organized is still a valuable investment. Experts estimate that every hour spent in planning and organizing saves three to four hours of time that would otherwise be wasted.

There’s a reason why people who are the calmest and least stressed are the ones who get the most done—they understand the importance of organization, and they’ve adapted their habits accordingly. The good news is that you can become more organized and productive too, just by emulating the habits that they rely on.

1. They don’t let their desks get cluttered. You may think you know exactly where, and in which stack of paper, you can find a particular document. But you’re kidding yourself if you don’t think you’d be more productive with a clean and organized desk. Just the act of organizing the stuff on your desk helps you organize it in your mind. In addition, research conducted at Princeton University revealed that the more our brains are bombarded by the competing stimuli on a cluttered desk, the less we’re able to focus. And this wasn’t just subjective evidence; they were able to see the difference in MRIs of the subjects’ brain activity.

2. They never touch things twice. Organized and productive people never put anything in a holding pattern, because touching things twice is a huge time-waster. Don’t save an e-mail or a phone call to deal with later. As soon as something gets your attention, you should act on it, delegate it, or delete it.

3. They don’t respond to e-mails as they arrive. Productive people don’t allow their e?mail to be a constant interruption. In addition to checking their e-mail on a schedule, they take advantage of features that prioritize messages by sender. They set alerts for their most important vendors and their best customers, and they save the rest until they reach a stopping point in their work. Some people even set up an autoresponder that lets senders know when they’ll be checking their e-mail again.

4. They work from a single to-do list. Remember the days when people used to buy those expensive, leather-bound planners and fill them up with a to-do list color-coded by priority? Those might seem a bit old school now, but no one can deny that it was effective. Why were those planners effective? They reminded us how important it is to keep a single to-do list. When you consolidate everything into one list, you always know where to look, and you can stop wasting time trying to remember which list has the information you need.

5. They have a high level of self-awareness. Highly productive and organized people have a clear sense of who they are. They know their weaknesses, and they put organizational structures in place to overcome them. If they tend to let meetings run too long, they set a timer. If they have trouble keeping meetings productive, they make an agenda. If they forget to check their voicemail in the morning, they set a reminder. The details don’t matter; what’s important is that they think carefully and use specific aids and routines that work with their organizational weaknesses.

6. They make time for lunch. We’ve all been there—you’re head-down busy, and by the time you look up, it’s way past lunchtime. You end up either going without, or grabbing a donut or a bag of chips from the snack machine. Both are really bad ideas. The donut will give you an energy boost for about 20 minutes, but after that, your focus will drop like a rock. As far as skipping meals, not only does it affect your concentration, productivity, and problem-solving skills, it also affects your waistline—and not in the way you might expect. Research from Ohio State University shows that the weight you lose by skipping meals is muscle weight that you regain later as fat.

7. They eat frogs. “Eating a frog” is the best antidote for procrastination; ultra-productive people start each morning with this tasty “treat.” In other words, they do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list first, before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.

8. They tidy up at the end of each day. The best remedy for clutter is to set aside about 10 minutes at the end of each day to organize your desk. Although we know that it’s best to touch things only once, we’ve all stopped halfway through a task because the phone rang or somebody stopped by to chat. You really can’t prevent such things, but you can end the day by resolving all of the things you left half-finished.

9. They plan their days the night before. Organized and productive people go to bed each night, secure in the knowledge of what they’ll accomplish the following day. They get their priorities straight the night before, so that once the day starts, they’re less likely to get distracted by the “tyranny of the urgent”—those little fires that pop up and get in the way of their real priorities.

10. They make full use of technology. There’s been a lot said about how modern technology extends the work day, making it so that we’re always on the clock. While that may be true, technology can also make us more productive. Whether it’s setting up an e?mail filter to keep your inbox spam-free, or using an app like Evernote to organize information you’re going to need again, technology isn’t always bad. Used properly, it can save a lot of time.

11. They don’t ignore their snail mail. For this one, we go back to the “touch it once” philosophy. For most of us, there’s not a lot of snail mail these days that we actually look forward to. But ignoring it can cause problems, especially when it comes to things like bills and tax notifications. Just go ahead and open it, and take care of it as soon as it arrives; otherwise, you’ll end up digging under the sofa cushions searching for that overdue bill.

Bringing It All Together

Every minute you spend looking for something you misplaced, or trying to remember what you’re supposed to do next, will harm your productivity. That, in turn, eats into your career potential. The good news is that there are many tools you can use to stay organized and productive, and so even the most disorganized among us can put a system in place to keep us in check.

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5 Research-Based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination

Chances are that at this very moment you’re procrastinating on something. Maybe you’re even reading this article to do so.

A while back, I took a year to experiment with every piece of personal productivity advice I could find. In becoming hyperaware of how I spent my time, I noticed something: I procrastinated a lot more often than I had originally thought. In one time log I kept, I found that over the course of one week, I spent six hours putting off tasks — and that’s just the procrastination that was apparent from my time log.

This got me thinking: why do we procrastinate, even though we know it’s against our best interests? How can we overcome it, preferably without hating ourselves or the techniques we use in the process?

To answer these questions, I spoke to researchers, and spent time digging through dozens of academic journal articles. The advice I gathered became the foundation for part of my book and, fortunately, I discovered that a lot of it works.

Why we procrastinate

One of the first things I learned was that procrastination is a human condition. About 95% of people admit to putting off work, according to Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation. And I’d argue the remaining 5% are lying.

As for the phenomenon of putting stuff off, it’s “a purely visceral, emotional reaction to something we don’t want to do,” says Tim Pychyl, author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. The more averse you find a task, the more likely you are to procrastinate.

In his research, Pychyl identifies a set of seven triggers that make a task seem more averse. Bring to mind something you’re putting off right now — you’ll probably find that task has many, if not all, of the characteristics that Pychyl discovered makes a task procrastination-worthy:

Boring Frustrating Difficult Ambiguous Unstructured Not intrinsically rewarding (i.e., you don’t find the process fun) Lacking in personal meaning

On a neurological level, procrastination is not the slightest bit logical — it’s the result of the emotional part of your brain, your limbic system, strong-arming the reasonable, rational part of your brain, your prefrontal cortex. The logical part of your brain surrenders the moment you choose Facebook over work, or decide to binge another episode of House of Cards when you get home.

But there’s a way you can give the logical side of your brain the upper hand. When you notice an approaching showdown between logic and emotion, resist the impulse to procrastinate. Here are the best ways I’ve discovered in my research to do that.

Reverse the procrastination triggers. Consider which of Pychyl’s seven procrastination triggers are set off by an activity you’re dreading. Then try to think differently about the task, making the idea of completing it more attractive.

Take writing a quarterly report. If you find this boring, you can turn it into a game: see how many words you can crank out in a 20-minute time period. Or if you find a work task ambiguous and unstructured, create a workflow that lays out the exact steps you and your team should follow each month to get it done.

Work within your resistance level. When a task sets off procrastination triggers, we resist doing it. But just how resistant are we?

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Larry Kim’s leadership secret everyone should know.

“I once worked at a company where the leadership was very aggressive, causing a ripple effect where everyone was very defensive,” Larry tells us. 

“Employees were constantly looking to blame others when things went badly and were very reluctant to take risks.”

Larry Kim, as is all too common, once worked in a toxic environment with bad company culture. Since then, he’s gained some valuable insights on what it takes to build and maintain good company culture.

Today, Larry Kim is CEO of Mobile Monkey, Founder of WordStream, Inc. Magazine Columnist and Editor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship with over 200k followers. Since 2004, Larry has worked in SaaS, Venture Capital, Market Consulting and built his own entrepreneurial visions.

Back when Larry worked in this particularly negative company culture, he observed what ended up being “a vicious cycle that alienated productive employees who would eventually quit as a result of dissatisfaction.” 

But the problem wasn’t that this company only managed to hire aggressive employees. New employees were actually unknowingly adopting this unproductive company culture from their leaders. 

The influence leaders had on company culture stuck with Larry as he went on to build two successful entrepreneurial ventures and advise on countless more.

“Employees take cues from the top.”

When Larry Kim founded WordStream, he noticed new employees would show up wearing business attire but within a few weeks, it would devolve to cargo pants and flip-flops. 

“But why?” we asked.

Larry had an unconventional leadership story to share with us.

He conducted an office experiment where he would dress in business attire, everyday for several months. The intention? To see how much he can change his company’s culture.

Sure enough, within a few months of Larry’s shift in office attire, the rest of the company gradually started dressing more formal again.

Larry realized that leaders can make define changes by demonstrating company values by example. 

“Employees take cues from the top,” he tells us.

But at the end of the day, employees always hold the power to decide whether or not to take cues from the top. Employees that don’t agree with values demonstrated by leadership usually end up leaving the company. 

“Culture is largely a reflection of the people you recruit.” 

—Larry Kim

So while Larry discovered how to drive change with employees that shared similar values—by leading from the top—this approach ultimately didn’t retain all talent. Larry needed a way to recruit employees that fit the company culture from the get-go.

Retaining the best talent.

Retaining top talent comes hand in hand with how you recruit.

But what’s an effective way to recruit employees that are less likely to leave?

“As early as possible, it’s important to settle in on your company core values,” Larry tells us. “In this way, hiring managers can figure out which candidates are a good culture fit and we are more likely to retain top talent.”

Larry used this proactive recruiting approach at Mobile Monkey, following his time building WordStream.

He also devised a plan to keep these valuable employees engaged once they were recruited. Each department at Mobile Monkey nominated a member to represent them in an internal committee. This committee would go on to compile feedback from their departments in order to come up with engaging company activities. 

This experience draws on one of the most important lessons Larry shared with us from his experiences of both culture successes and failures. As a leader, it’s important to lead from the top, but a sustainable culture is always employee driven.

Lead from the top.

You’re always going to be leading by example whether you like it or not.

“Serious leaders understand that both by design and default, they’re always leading by example.”

—Michael Schrage, Researcher at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business

That being said, it comes down to your leadership style and actions that ultimately determine how you lead by example. 

One effective way, as Larry advised, is making the change from the top because the rest of the organization is always taking cues.

Leading from the top has helped Larry build company cultures that lower barriers to entry to having the toughest conversations and making the change. Employees found their time at work much more fulfilling and stayed with the company because their leader continues to be a walking example of the expectations that have been set out for everyone.

It’s a journey that starts with you, the leader. Demonstrating from the top, what it’s like to work in your team that recruits top talent and ultimately retains them.

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How to build successful work teams

Here are some tips which can help work teams to experience success.

Why do so many organizations think that teams and teamwork is important to their success?  A team gets together with different people having different goals and becomes a cohesive whole.  When a team becomes successful, it funnels the energy of the team members towards the good of an organization.

A team comprises different kinds of people and it can be very tough and challenging to build a successful collaboration around this. People carry their opinions, knowledge, values, education, past work experience, upbringing, life and work goals to the table.  But teamwork can be taught and developed.  Here are some tips and ideas. 

The team understands the goals

Everyone in the team is on the same page regarding the mission, vision, aspirations and goals of the team and the organization.  The direction and expectations of the team are crystal clear and they are prepared to be accountable regarding the outcome.


Team members trust each other and are comfortable in taking reasonable risks.  Nobody is punished for disagreeing; disagreements are expected and appreciated.


Communication is open, honest and respectful. People are allowed to express their opinions, thoughts and possible solutions to problems.  Team members should feel that they are being listened to by their colleagues, rather than being snubbed when they are speaking.

A sense of belonging

A sense of deep commitment to the group’s decisions and actions is experienced.  The feeling of belonging to the team is enhanced and reinforced, when everybody is involved in building relationships together.  

Uniqueness is appreciated

Differences of team members are taken advantage of and the uniqueness of everyone is celebrated.  The more a team brings out divergent points of view that are well presented and thoughtful and are supported with facts and opinions, the better it is for the team and the organization.

Creativity and Innovation

Creativity in trying something new and exciting, improving a process or reaching a goal is appreciated, encouraged and expected.  No idea is “too dumb” or shot down because “it has already been tried before and it did not work”.  Brainstorming for ideas brings out unusual and bizarre concepts that might just work.

Look within

A successful team is able to look within and constantly want to improve itself in the areas of effort, strategy and talent.  The team holds regular review meetings to find out what is hindering its progress in moving forward and examining its processes and strategies.  

Resolving problems

Personality conflicts and clashes are not encouraged and team members do not pick sides in a disagreement.  A mutual resolution of problems and disagreements are worked upon.

Participative leadership

Leaders are visible and lead from the front while holding meetings, assigning tasks, recording decisions and commitments, holding team members accountable, assessing progress and providing direction to the team.

Decisions are made together

Team members support each other and carry out decisions together.  The commitment and progress of the team are well documented and communicated to all the people concerned.

If teams follow the above steps, success and rewards will definitely follow.  Relationships and the little things that happen on a daily basis are what usually undo a team.  Team members can achieve greatness if they can rise above these small challenges. 

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Research consistently shows that teams under-perform, despite all the extra resources they have. That's because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration.

Research consistently shows that teams under-perform, despite all the extra resources they have. That's because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration.

Lionel Messi sensationally declared that he will be retiring from international football after Argentina was defeated by Chile in the final match of the Copa America. Despite having a career that made him the FIFA World Player of the Year for five times, Messi has many times been critically evaluated by many. But the latest defeat was I guess “the last straw that broke the camel’s back”. 

I am not really writing about what led to Messi’s decision – the Internet is full of it. But what I am getting to is a more poignant question in an organizational context. Is winning or losing, a team effort or an individual effort? Or is winning more a matter of stellar performances of individuals? Do teams really work? 

I personally don’t feel teams work best. And there are others who believe that “the whole is greater than the sum of its apart”. But on the first note, J. Richard Hackman, the Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology at Harvard University and a leading expert on teams shares some insights on why teams do not work in an interview with HBR. He states that “Research consistently shows that teams underperform, despite all the extra resources they have. That’s because problems with coordination and motivation typically chip away at the benefits of collaboration. And even when you have a strong and cohesive team, it’s often in competition with other teams, and that dynamic can also get in the way of real progress. So you have two strikes against you right from the start, which is one reason why having a team is often worse than having no team at all.” So challenges related to motivation, collaboration and coherence damage team performance. 

But then, does it mean that winning lies on the shoulders of one single individual? What if the team is disengaged or poorly motivated? Does the leader need to take on the responsibility? What if the team leader is not recognized or there is lack of direction?

There is a plethora of reasons why teams don’t work, some of which are: Lack of clarity on the purpose: The Boss says something, the team understands something else. Unless and until there is a clear set of expectations from the top, the work can never be executed as a concerted effort. Clarity on the objectives is a must for the team to perform.
  Lack of authority or leadership: This is most often the case with flat organizations. You have teams but you don’t have an authority to which the team members are answerable to in case any project runs awry. People suffer in boss-less organizations.
  Challenges of coordination: Perceptions, actions, behaviors, are exclusive to people. Everyone is different. And each has his/her own ways of working. Expecting everyone to be aligned ‘always’ is unbefitting.
  Lack of supportive context: Teamwork is not about fostering interactions or resolving interpersonal conflicts. It is about collaborative effort to achieve a certain goal without letting personal preferences come in the way of executing work. And to enable this, team coaching is vital.
  Collective effort vs. individualism: At times, collective effort can sometimes subdue creativity and hinder people from putting across their own ideas when plans are being laid out. 

Teams do not become teams in essence just by calling it that. It takes more than just effort, and demands a convincing direction, empowering structures, encouraging organizations and coaching. 

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6 High-Performance Habits Only the Most Extraordinary People Share, Backed by Science

Incredibly successful -- and happy -- people consistently do six things. And you can too.

Why do some people succeed more quickly than others, and maintain that success over the course of decades? And out of that extremely small subset of people, why do some of them seem miserable, while others live happy lives?

Success and happiness: That's the combination we all hope to achieve. But the problem is, how do we become more successful and feel more fulfilled?

Brendon Burchard has spent 20 years answering that question, and in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, he provides the answers.

Brendon is the author of best-selling books like The Motivation Manifesto and The Millionaire Messenger, is a pioneer in online education (his videos have been viewed more than 100 million times, and more than one million people have taken his online courses), is a Top 100 most followed public figure on Facebook, and is the CEO of High Performance Institute.

Brendon's findings in High Performance Habits are based on extensive research, but, more important, he lays out practical, real-world ways you can adopt the six habits to use in your professional and personal lives.

I read an advance copy, and I promise it's one of the best books you'll read this year. So I spoke with Brendon to get a brief overview, in his words, of the six habits.

Here we go:

1. Seek clarity. 

High performers don't necessarily get clarity. Instead, they seek it more often than other people -- so they tend to find it and stay on their true path.

For example, successful people don't wait until New Year's to perform a self-evaluation and decide what changes they want to make.

I've worked with Oprah, and she starts every meeting by saying, "What is our intention for this meeting? What's important? What matters?"

High performers constantly seek clarity. That makes them better at sifting out distractions because they constantly refocus on what is important.

A simple approach to seeking clarity is to focus on four things: self, skills, social, and service. How do you want to describe your ideal self? How do you want to behave socially?What skills do you want to develop and demonstrate? What service do you want to provide?

Asking -- and answering -- those questions more often than other people will definitely give you an edge.

2. Generate energy.

Our research shows, unsurprisingly, that most people lose energy throughout the day. By 2 or 3 p.m. they're starting to flag, and many finish the day feeling wiped out.

But some people -- some extremely busy and productive people -- aren't wiped out.

What we found is that most people bleed out energy and intention in the transitions between tasks, between meetings, etc.

High performers have mastered their transitions. They're more likely to take a quick break, to close their eyes, to meditate -- to give themselves a short psychological break that releases their tension and focus from one activity so they are primed to take on the next.

They recharge themselves throughout the day, between activities -- it's as if they generateenergy throughout the day instead of losing it.

If you want to feel more energized and creative and be more effective at work -- and leave work with plenty of "oomph" to enjoy your personal life -- give your mind and body a break every 45 to 60 minutes. While that can sometimes be tough to do, whenever possible, plan your day in those chunks.

3. Raise necessity.

Before every major activity, high performers raise the psychological necessity regarding why it is important for them to perform well.

I was working with an Olympic gold medal sprinter. One day I said, "When you're lined up against all these other sprinters, and the difference in winning and losing is hundredths of a second, how do you know who is going to win?"

He said, "I would put my money on the person who says, 'I'm going to do this for my mom.'"

I've had similar conversations hundreds of times with the top 15 percent of high performers, and they all tell themselves why it's important for them to succeed at whatever they do that day. They all associate a deep sense of identity with performing with excellence. They don't just find meaning -- performing with excellence is so critical to their identity that it's almost like food and water.

Most people are scared to attach their identity to their performance. High performers are willing to put themselves out there and place their identities on the line. That's why we call it raising necessity: It's necessary for them to perform with excellence.

It's not a passion, it's not a preference, it's a necessity.

To raise necessity, always know whom you're doing it for. Ask yourself, out loud, "Who needs me to be on my A game right now?" When I sit down at the computer, I literally say, "Who needs me on my A game right now?" and it brings my focus back.

It could be your family, your team, your peers, your customers, your end users -- whomever it is that you have to perform well for. Speak your "why" to yourself, out loud.

To be a high performer, your job is to prime your mental ability to perform an activity well. To do that, you have to raise the necessity so you enter with a high level of intention, so you perform with excellence.

4. Increase productivity. 

High performers increase the outputs that matter. When Jobs came back to Apple, he stripped down the product line. Then he focused on increasing the quality of the products that remained.

That's what we all have to do: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

High performers are also more productive because they see five steps ahead, and align themselves to achieve each of those things.

That finding changed the way I look at almost every project I start. What are the five moves? What are the five major needle-moving moves that will get me there -- and what are not the major moves, so I know the distractions to avoid? What key skills do I have to develop to accomplish those moves?

For example, before I started developing online courses I didn't know anything about video. Technology wasn't a strength, speaking wasn't a strength, but I identified those skills as necessary for my long-term success, and I obsessively worked to develop them.

What's interesting is that many high performers didn't know they were thinking in five moves; they did it unconsciously. They didn't realize they consistently identified the absolute must-have skills for long-term success and became obsessed about gaining those skills. They just did it.

But you know, and now you can.

5. Develop influence. 

High performers develop influence by teaching people how to think and challenging them to grow.

Teach people how to think and you change their lives. High performers say things like, "Think of it this way" or "What if we approached it this way?" or "What do you think about this?" Over time, they train the people around them how to think -- because when you impact someone else's thoughts in a positive way, you have influence.

But that's not all they do. Think of an influential person in your life. Maybe a parent, a caregiver, a teacher -- choose someone who impacted you. They taught you how to think about yourself, or about others, or about the world, and they also challenged you to grow.

Why was this person so influential? They inspired you. How? They pushed you. How did they push you? They always told you to be your best.

High performers challenge the people they care about to grow. That's what makes the most difference where influence is concerned.

6. Demonstrate courage. 

We did a tremendous amount of research on courage, and we found that in the face of risk, hardship, judgment, the unknown, or even fear, high performers tend to do a couple of things.

First, they speak up for themselves. They share their truth and ambitions more often than other people do. They also speak up for other people more often than others do. In short, high performers are willing to share the truth about themselves.

Just as important, they "honor the struggle." They know struggling is a natural part of the process. That makes them more courageous, because they enter into a pursuit knowing it will be hard. They can handle the struggle because they expect it.

Sometimes they use different language to describe the phenomena. Some say they are "patient through the process." Others say they're "OK with other people doubting or judging them." But each of them has an almost reverence for the hardship: They honor the struggle as necessary to forge the kind of character that will help them deserve the outcome they desire.

Many people complain about the struggle. High performers don't. They're fine being in the weeds, getting muddy. They know that showing up, even when they're tired, will help make them the best.

Knowing that the process will be hard -- not just accepting that it will be hard but appreciating that working through the tough times is necessary for success -- makes them less afraid.

High performers have also identified someone to fight for. Early on, I assumed courage would come from, say, a mission to change the world -- from a broad-stroke purpose or meaning.

That's not the case. Courage comes from wanting to serve one person or one unit: wife, husband, family, a small group of people. The will to work through uncertainty or fear comes from wanting to serve someone who needs help.

If you want the courage to stay the course, to overcome obstacles, to honor the struggle, don't focus on changing the world. Decide who you're doing it for, and then work hard for them.

That will give you all the courage you need.


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The Most Effective Way to Lead Generation Z

Here is the leadership style that resonates best with Generation Z and three steps to execute it effectively.

Generation Z fact-checking their teachers and parents in real-time on their smartphone represents a clear shift in authority.

Because information is disseminated so widely in today's age of information, Generation Z doesn't consider parents or teachers as the authority, but, rather, they view the Internet as the authority.

Having access to an Internet-enabled supercomputer in the palm of their hand for most their life has caused Generation Z to problem-solve much differently than previous generations. They have become extremely resourceful and efficient at using the web to find and/or crowd-source the answers they need.

Generation Z will turn to Google, YouTube, or Alexa first for answers instead of their future managers. Therefore managers must adjust their approach and serve as a guide where they coach Generation Z through their self-directed learning, mistakes, and successes.

The most effective way to lead Generation Z is by coaching.

Why Coaching is the Best Leadership Style for Generation Z

Coaching is the leadership style that resonates best with Generation Z. Generation Z were raised in organized activities where they were consistently surrounded by coaches. They view coaching as the necessary supplement to their DIY work mentality.

Coaching prompts introspection where Generation Z must turn inward to discover the right answer. This self-reflection and self-evaluation process allows Generation Z to become more productive and dependent because they can apply their self-discovered solutions to similar situations they encounter in the future.

Coaching is also effective because it creates greater buy-in since the Generation Z employee is arriving at the solution either individually or collectively with the coach.

How to Lead Generation Z with Coaching

The most effective coaching happens when leaders prioritize curiosity over instruction. Resist the urge to give advice and instead give in to asking more questions. Be curious and follow these three steps to coach Generation Z to their full potential.

1. Be Timely

The closer coaching happens to the activity or learning, the better. Impact and transformation diminish as time grows between the coaching opportunity and the act of coaching. To ensure the best results, enable timely coaching by leveraging tools like Slack, 15Five, Loop, or by increasing the cadence of the coaching sessions.

AT&T recently ended their mid-year and end-of-year review processes in favor of equipping managers with Loop so that they can provide employees with more timely coaching. The elimination of the formal review process has enabled AT&T managers more time and freedom to coach employees.

2. Be Inquisitive

Asking questions is what makes coaching so transformational. But asking the right questions that elicit the appropriate self-evaluation is not easy and takes practice.

Michael Bungay Stanier, author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, has identified a list of powerful coaching questions. Next time you are coaching Generation Z, use these sequential questions to elicit responses and spur growth.

What's on your mind? And what else? What's the real challenge here for you? How can I help you? What was most useful or valuable here for you?

If you're at a loss of what to ask as a coach, use the simple phrase, "Tell me more."

3. Be Brief

Stanier believes effective coaching can be done in ten minutes or less. Brief interactions are important to Generation Z. In fact, 67 percent of Generation Z is comfortable with having their manager check in with them but only for five minutes or less.

Tackling one specific topic or challenge instead of covering multiple topics or projects will help keep the coaching sessions brief. Set a timer, have a walking or standing meeting, or schedule only ten minutes for the coaching conversation.

Practice these three coaching steps with your Generation Z workforce and be rewarded with a more engaged, developed, and loyal team.

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21 Things Bosses Say That Are Total Nonsense

How many have you heard (or suffered through)?

It's one thing if your boss uses certain words incorrectly, and looks kinda dumb. It's one thing if your boss describes himself (because it's always guys who do this) in a certain way, and looks kinda pretentious.

When that happens, you may roll your eyes. But what about when your boss says things that are total nonsense?


1. "I would like to give you a raise, but (insert any old nonsense here)."

Imagine you're sitting with your boss and he says, "I would like to give you a raise, but ... "

Do you walk away feeling good about yourself? After all, he really, really wants to give you a raise, but his hands are tied, so he can't.

That's like saying, "I don't want to fire you, but I have no choice." You're still fired. And you're still not getting a raise.

If the employee hasn't earned a raise, say why. If the company can't afford to increase salaries, explain why. But don't tell someone what you would do. If you're the boss, the only person you're trying to make feel better by saying that is yourself.

2. "This is probably not what you want to hear."

It sucks to hear bad news, no doubt. But when you say that something isn't what I want to hear, you shift the issue over to my side of the table. Somehow it's become my problem.

Don't shift. Explain why you made a decision. Explain the logic. Explain your reasoning.

I still may not want to hear it, but that way the focus remains on the issue and not on me.

3. "Let me check into that and get back to you."

How many times have the people who told you they would "check into that" actually gotten back to you?

Still trying to remember a time?

"I'll check into that" is a polite way of saying, "I have better things to do than talk about this."

If you do need to check into something, explain what you will do, when you will do it, and when you will follow up.

And then hold yourself to that commitment -- because to the employee, it is truly a commitment.

4. "I need to treat everyone equally."

Every employee is different. Some need a nudge. Others need confidence boosts. Others need a kick in the pants.

Some employees have earned greater freedom. Others have not.

Equal treatment is not always fair. People care a lot more when they know a reward or discipline is based on what is right, not just what is written.

5. "Work smarter, not harder."

What happens when you say that to me?

One: You imply I'm stupid. Two: You imply whatever I'm doing should take a lot less time and effort than it has been taking. And three: After you say it, I'm kinda pissed off.

If you know I can be more efficient, tell me how. If you know there's a better way, show me. If you think there's a better way but don't know what it is, say so. Admit you don't have the answer, and then ask me to help you figure it out.

Most important, recognize that sometimes the only thing to do is to work harder. So get off your butt and help me.

6. "There is no 'I' in 'team.'"

Sure there is. There are as many I's as team members. And those individuals -- the more "individual" the better -- serve to make the team stronger. The best teams are often a funky blend of the members' individual talents, perspectives, and goals.

If you want a team to achieve more, make sure each person feels she is forwarding not only the team's goals but also her own. Figure out how each member of the team can do both, instead of taking the lazy way out by simply repressing individuality in the pursuit of the collective.

7. "I guess it just wasn't meant to be."

Fate had nothing to do with it. Something went wrong. Figure out what it was and learn from it.

"It wasn't meant to be" places responsibility elsewhere.

"Let's figure out what we can do next time" is empowering and places the responsibility where it should be: on you.

8. "That's just Joe being Joe."

Typically used to explain away someone's poor behavior, like the top salesperson who treats people badly or the great engineer who is rude during meetings. The loose translation of this statement is, "Even though it's my job as a boss to address this issue, and I wouldn't let anyone else behave that way, I don't feel like dealing with it."

Maybe Joe is just being Joe, but Joe still needs to meet basic expectations, especially where his treatment of other people is concerned.

9. "We're in the middle of a paradigm shift."

Actually, we're experiencing a change you don't know how to deal with and "paradigm shift" sounds a lot better than "I have no idea what the (heck) is going on."

If you don't know, just say so. And ask for help.

10. "Perception is reality."

Yeah, yeah, I know: How I perceive something is my version of reality, no matter how wrong my perception may be.

But if other people perceive a reality differently from you, work to change that perception. Make reality the reality.

Besides, perceptions are fleeting. Reality lasts forever, or at least until a new reality comes along to replace it.

11. "(So and so) works for me."

Maybe it's just me, but I never like when bosses say, "Joe works for me," especially when Joe is within hearing distance.

Good bosses feel their employees work with them, not for them.

Great bosses feel they work for their employees; they feel their job is to serve, not to be served.

12. "Feel free to give me feedback."

You see and hear a similar line everywhere: websites, signs, meetings.

If you really do want feedback, don't be passive. Don't just make it "easy" for people to give you feedback. Go get it. Be active.


People who really want feedback take responsibility for getting it -- they don't wait to receive it.

13. "You need to square the circle."

I actually don't know what this is supposed to mean. A boss of mine used it all the time, and we just nodded.

14. "Let's do it now and apologize later."

This statement doesn't make you a bold, daring risk taker. It makes you someone who takes shortcuts. If the idea is good, people will rally around it. If they don't, the problem usually isn't them: It's you.

Don't take the easy way out. Describe what you want to do. Prove it makes sense. Get people behind you.

Then, whatever you do will have a much better chance of succeeding.

15. "Failure is not an option."

This one is often used by a leader who wants to shut down questions about a debatable decision or a seemingly impossible goal: "Listen, folks, failure is simply not an option." (Strikes table or podium with fist.)

Failure is always a possibility. Just because you say it isn't doesn't change that.

Don't reach for a platitude. Justify your decision. Answer the hard questions.

If you can't, maybe your decision isn't so wise after all.

16. "You're putting lipstick on a pig."

If I actually could, it would be quite an achievement.

17. "We need to pay attention to the optics."

Because if people figure out what we're really doing, how will that look?

18. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel."

I'm all for using a perfectly good wheel. But too often this statement is used to shut down new ideas, especially those that run counter to a boss's ideas.

After all, your wheel might turn out to be a better wheel, which means his wheel wasn't so great.

And he can't have that.

19. "We need to manage their expectations."

Because, you know, just telling them the truth might be a problem.

Even so. Tell the truth.

20. "We need to focus on adding value."

Shouldn't we have been doing that all along? Shouldn't everything we do provide value?

If it doesn't, why are we doing it?

21. "It is what it is."

Here's another shutdown statement. Usually, it means, "I'm too lazy to try to make it different, so for gosh sakes, stop talking about it."

"It is what it is" is only true if you take the easy way out by letting "it" remain "it."

Never let "it" remain "it" when "it" could be better.

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If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management Material

Skilled managers have never been more critical to the success of firms than they are today.  Not because employees can’t function without direction, but because managers play a vital role in talent management. Gone are the comprehensive career management systems and expectations of long-term employment that once functioned as the glue in the employer-employee contract.  In their place, the manager-employee dyad is the new building block of learning and development in firms.

Good managers attract candidates, drive performance, engagement and retention, and play a key role in maximizing employees’ contribution to the firm. Poor managers, by contrast, are a drag on all of the above.  They cost your firm a ton of money in turnover costs and missed opportunities for employee contribution, and they do more damage than you realize.

Job seekers from entry-level to executive are more concerned with opportunities for learning and development than any other aspect of a prospective job.  This makes perfect sense, since continuous learning is a key strategy for crafting a sustainable career.  The vast majority (some sources say as much as 90%) of learning and development takes place not in formal training programs, but rather on the job—through new challenges and developmental assignments, developmental feedback, conversations and mentoring.  Thus, employees’ direct managers are often their most important developers.  Consequently, job candidates’ top criterion is to work with people they respect and can learn from. From the candidate’s viewpoint, his or her prospective boss is the single most important individual in the firm.

Managers also have a big impact on turnover and retention. The number one reason employees quit their jobs is because of a poor quality relationship with their direct manager.  No one wants to work for a boss who doesn’t take an interest in their development, doesn’t help them deepen their skills and learn new ones, and doesn’t validate their contributions. This isn’t what departing employees tell HR during their exit interviews, of course.  After all, who wants to burn a bridge to a previous employer? Instead, they say they’re leaving because of a better opportunity elsewhere.  And so what happens is that organizations remain in the dark regarding how much damage their inept managers are doing.

Regardless of what else you expect from your managers, facilitating employee learning and development should be a non-negotiable competency.  Google’s famous people analytics team examined data from thousands of employee surveys and performance reviews to find out which behaviors characterize its most effective managers.  Coaching topped a list that also included helping with career development.  Research by Gallup has yielded similar results.  Work groups in which employees report that their supervisor (or someone else at work) cares about them as a person, talks to them about their career progress, encourages their development, and provides opportunities to learn and grow have lower turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, and better customer loyalty than work groups in which employees report that these developmental elements are scarce.   

Remember the Peter Principle?  The phrase refers to a process in which employees receive promotions as a reward for being competent in their current jobs, and they continue to rise through an organization’s ranks until they reach a level at which they are incompetent.  The predictable consequence of this pattern is that over time, an organization becomes heavily staffed by managers who are bad at their jobs.  Your organization cannot afford to let this happen.

Becoming a great developer of employees requires managers to expand their focus from “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members?” to “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members while helping them grow?”  Savvy managers know that doing well on the second part of the last question helps to answer the first. 

The best managers ask, “How can we harness employee strengths, interests and passions to create greater value for the firm?”  Systematically linking organizational performance and individual development goals in the search for learning opportunities and better ways to work is a hallmark of organizations where sustainable careers flourish. And this is not a question managers try to answer by themselves; instead, they discuss it regularly with their team members.

Here are several steps you can take to stimulate learning and development:

Share detailed information with your team about current operations across the firm.  Be transparent about the firm’s challenges and direction, including such things as changing customer expectations, new vendor relationships, early-stage strategic plans, and top leaders’ thinking regarding the potential impact of industry trends and economic conditions. Invite their questions, thinking and suggestions on these issues as well. Support the development of internal social networks that span functions and divisions in order to give employees broader understanding of the organization and help them spot opportunities to learn and to add value. Instead of a once-annual conversation about career goals at the time of the annual performance review, have frequent short conversations throughout the year regarding employees’ career goals and interests, which may not be self-evident. Regular career conversations help employees to refine their goals. With better understanding of their learning goals, you and your employees are in a better position to spot developmental opportunities. When planning your team’s work, ask employees to identify both how they can contribute and what they would like to learn. This gives employees the primary responsibility for clarifying what they want to learn and for proposing ways to incorporate on-the-job learning. It also helps to avoid having employees volunteer to perform only the tasks that they are already highly skilled at. Ask employees to report back periodically to you and fellow team members on what they have been learning and how they are using new skills and knowledge.

Keep in mind that in addition to helping employees develop and pursue meaningful learning goals, regular career conversations also help to mark progress in development. And they serve as a reminder of the organization’s commitment to employee learning, which in turn strengthens employee commitment.

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Seven Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success


Many employers sit their workers down once a year for a review. At that time, the employee finds out what they've been doing right or if there are areas in need of improvement. But what happens the other 364 days of the year?

Coaching is a different approach to developing employees' potential. With coaching, you provide your staff the opportunity to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling and mentoring. Rather than relying solely on a review schedule, you can support employees along the path to meeting their goals. Done in the right way, coaching is perceived as a roadmap for success and a benefit. Done incorrectly and employees may feel berated, unappreciated, even punished.

These seven steps, when followed, can help create a positive environment for providing feedback.


Step 1: Build a Relationship of Mutual Trust

The foundation of any coaching relationship is rooted in the manager's day-to-day relationship with the employee. Without some degree of trust, conducting an effective coaching meeting is impossible.

Step 2: Open the Meeting

In opening a coaching meeting, it's important for the manager to clarify, in a nonevaluative, nonaccusatory way, the specific reason the meeting was arranged. The key to this step is to restate -- in a friendly, nonjudgmental manner -- the meeting purpose that was first set when the appointment was scheduled.

Step 3: Get Agreement

Probably the most critical step in the coaching meeting process is getting the employee to agree verbally that a performance issue exists. Overlooking or avoiding the performance issue because you assume the employee understands its significance is a typical mistake of managers. To persuade an employee a performance issue exists, a manager must be able to define the nature of the issue and get the employee to recognize the consequences of not changing his or her behavior. To do this, you must specify the behavior and clarify the consequences.

The skill of specifying the behavior consists of three parts.

Cite specific examples of the performance issue.

Clarify your performance expectations in the situation.

Asks the employee for agreement on the issue.

The skill of clarifying consequences consists of two parts. You should:

Probe to get the employee to articulate his or her understanding of the consequences associated with the performance issue.

Ask the employee for agreement on the issue.

Step 4: Explore Alternatives

Next, explore ways the issue can be improved or corrected by encouraging the employee to identify alternative solutions. Avoid jumping in with your own alternatives, unless the employee is unable to think of any. Push for specific alternatives and not generalizations. Your goal in this step is not to choose an alternative, which is the next step, but to maximize the number of choices for the employee to consider and to discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

Step 5: Get a Commitment to Act

The next step is to help the employee choose an alternative. Don't make the choice for the employee. To accomplish this step, the manager must be sure to get a verbal commitment from the employee regarding what action will be taken and when it will be taken. Be sure to support the employee's choice and offer praise.

Step 6: Handle Excuses

Employee excuses may occur at any point during the coaching meeting. To handle excuses, rephrase the point by taking a comment or statement that was perceived by the employee to be blaming or accusatory and recast it as an encouragement for the employee to examine his or her behavior. Respond empathically to show support for the employee's situation and communicate an understanding of both the content and feeling of the employee's comment.

Step 7: Provide Feedback

Effective coaches understand the value and importance of giving continual performance feedback to their people, both positive and corrective.

There are a few critical things to remember when giving feedback to others. Feedback should:

Be timely. It should occur as soon as practical after the interaction, completion of the deliverable, or observation is made. Be specific. Statements like "You did a great job" or "You didn't take care of the clients' concerns very well" are too vague and don't give enough insight into the behavior you would like to see repeated or changed. Focus on the "what," not the "why." Avoid making the feedback seem as if it is a judgment. Begin with "I have observed..." or "I have seen..." and then refer to the behavior. Focus on behavior and not the person. Describe what you heard and saw and how those behaviors impact the team, client, etc. Use a sincere tone of voice. Avoid a tone that exhibits anger, frustration, disappointment or sarcasm.

Positive feedback strengthens performance. People will naturally go the extra mile when they feel recognized and appreciated. When corrective feedback is handled poorly, it will be a significant source of friction and conflict. When it is handled well, people will experience the positive effects and performance is strengthened.


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How A Top Psychologist Changed the Way I Approach My To-Do List

It's about way more than tasks.

The to-do list and the calendar are like square pegs and round holes. With the rare (or deadline-driven) exception, the time spent completing a task doesn’t fit into polite half-hour chunks. My expectation used to be that I could just drop tasks into my calendar, with the guarantee that those things would get done in the precisely allotted amount of time.

Then I realized that you can’t really schedule tasks at all.

This insight came courtesy of Georgia Tech organizational psychologist Howard Weiss, who I saw present at this year’s Association for Psychological Science conference in Boston. He’s come up with a better way to think about our time and productivity. To Weiss, the chunks of time you spend working on things are called performance episodes. They are bounded by time: if you are pulled into a meeting, have to answer an important email, or otherwise pulled off-task, then the episode is over. That’s why they’re so different from tasks, which can stretch on indefinitely: when you return to a project you started in the morning in the afternoon, that’s a new episode.

I find the distinction between tasks and episodes super illuminating for organizing (and protecting) my time. It rhymes with the essay by venture capitalist Paul Graham titled “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.” Graham emphasizes how managers’ schedules are separated into hour-long chunks. “The manager’s schedule is for bosses,” he writes. “It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.” A meeting with that potential hire, that team, that new client is governed by the clock, and (hopefully) wraps up on time. In the manager’s case, the performance episode, the task, and the calendar are all synced up.

But makers — writers, programmers, and the like — have tasks that don’t slot so neatly into hour-long chunks. I’ve learned not to panic when, mid-way through writing a story, I need to spend an hour doing additional research to add meaty evidence to a thinly argued point. My dev friends tell me they often need to spend an extra hour or two to dig into a bug, optimize performance, or edit code so that it’s easier to maintain longterm. These tasks are unruly in their complexity, and you can’t really predict when they’ll be complete, though deadlines will enforce their being done.

But because of the cognitive complexity of the stories and code that makers are making, interruptions — like the kind of a half hour check-in meeting — are deadly, because they shake up the Etch a Sketch of attention. It takes time to reacquaint yourself with the details of the task (once) at hand: one study found that it takes about 25 minutes to get back to on track after an interruption. Because of this, breaking up a task into too many performance episodes — if a maker’s day is getting peppered with meetings, for instance — caps just how enterprising you can be in a given day.

“Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all?” Graham writes. “Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.”

But time isn’t the only resource being used up in a given performance episode. Weiss was speaking at a symposium on the role that emotions play in our work lives.

If you have a bad meeting with your boss, that will sink your execution in the following episode, since your brain will naturally ruminate to try to make sense of the encounter. He calls this “attentional misallocation”: if you’re automatically thinking about bad meeting, an argument with your partner, or something really positive like a raise, those states draw your attention elsewhere, distracting from the episode. When you feel bad at work — whether it’s for a professional reason or not — it’s likely to distract from what you’re trying to get done.

Weiss says that the difference is maybe more obvious to workers than to researchers. “In organizational studies, it has traditionally been the case that researchers looked at the differences between people,” Weiss says. “That ignores all the variability that exists for each person over time — even LeBron James has a bad game.” By considering episodes, you’re able to think about productivity more clearly than saying a worker is engaged or disengaged, a good or a bad fit, high-performing or not. The task for us workers, then, is to protect our performance episodes, and do what we can to make the most of them.

“What influences how well you engage in the task during these performance episodes?” Weiss adds. “The attentional resources that you’re bringing to bear on the task that moment.” These are basic physiological things that the cult of busyness would pressure out of your day: eating, sleeping, and working out , since all of those help not only your decision making, but overall wellbeing.

What we need to do, then, is gain what Weiss calls a “meta awareness” of how our personal resources match our performance episodes, and how those episodes in turn match your schedule. For me, I’m finding that slotting my interviews with sources and meetings with colleagues in the early afternoon — say between 1 and 3 pm — allows me to serve the “manager” necessities of connecting with people while protecting my “maker” need for sustained performance episodes. That way, meetings aren’t breaking up the episodes, and more ambitious work is allowed to unfurl.

I’ve begun to appreciate that my to-do list doesn’t plug into my schedule neatly. Instead, it’s my job to understand how the components parts of a task can be pulled apart, and then matching my time and my energy to them. By filing the edges down just right, you can get square pegs to fit round holes.

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4 things I learned at the brink of quitting

Most of you do not know, but I have a slight obsession with obstacle course racing (you know, the Tough Mudder thing your buddy is doing? Yeah, that.) I have been racing in OCR events for the better part of 3 years now, and I can tell you that there are a few things I have learned from cold mornings filled with rain, hail and some seemingly never ending muddy trails.The purpose of obstacle course racing is to awaken the innate ability inside of you that has been lying dormant for too long. Thus, it makes logical sense that training for races like these requires at least a degree of discomfort, right? With that in mind I created a program for myself that intentionally places me before the fight-or-flight fork in the road by making it so obnoxiously hard that it is inevitable I will break down mentally, physically and spiritually. What’s more is that I have made the goal of these programs is to try and reach that breaking point before you even reach the midway point of the workout.You must be thinking I am insane right about now. Who would ever intentionally put themselves through this level of pain? Well, I’ll tell you. When you are capable of making yourself uncomfortable, you learn to control life from a perspective of clarity, confidence and passion. You increase your level of being.I put myself through this sort of training at least 5 times per week, each day harder than the last. The point of it all is to remove excuses and implement accountability. Sure, we can all hire a personal trainer to do this for us, but when you are capable of switching it on all by yourself, something changes.Every time I put myself through this training I seem to re-learn these 4 things, each time quicker than the last.

I. The mind always wins

Your mind will tell you absolutely everything you want it to in order for you to justify a decision. The unfortunate undertone of that last sentence is that we have reverted into auto-pilot and comfort mode and so our minds take us there with ease. Anything that can potentially bring discomfort our minds will tell us that it’s just not worth it! We’d rather be in our warm beds, watching Netflix or eating that greasy bag of potato chips, because it is comfortable, it is easy and it is justified.What I’ve learned from putting myself through the proverbial ringer is that there is no changing the fact that your mind will win. What you can change, though, is what that win consists of.Unless you are highly trained in the art of meditation you will never be able to switch your brain completely off, especially in times of trial and tribulation. But you will be able to switch its gears. I intentionally place myself in a position where I am begging myself to quit — but I don’t. I change the dynamic of the win in my head and visualize the reward of pushing through. To give you an indicator of what my training consists of, these thoughts happen at the conclusion of round 2. There are 5 rounds plus another 3 round circuit afterwards and either a long distance ruck, swim or run to finish it off. Sure, it is extremely uncomfortable and some have even said it is downright insane, but it works.To sum it up, I have found that it is possible to convince the brain that the real win is the struggle and not the comfort. I have achieved this through the struggle and it has given me the ability to break down mental barriers that used to stand mountain-high in front of me.

II. The body is capable of so much more than you think

Going with point one is this. Your mind will tell you when you are uncomfortable and that stopping or quitting is the best thing to do. When you shift gears in your mind you will notice that what your mind is telling you is nothing but a myth. You can get to 500 push-ups. You can run a marathon with blisters on your feet. You can do so many things your mind initially says you can’t or aren’t worth doing because of the discomfort the endeavor will bring. Knowing how capable the physical body is helps reaffirm that “you ain’t finished yet”.I have felt like packing it in plenty of times during my training (in reality it’s more like every time), but I quite simply don’t. I put my head down and I get after it. It is truly incredible what happens within the body and mind when you finally get to this point in your progression as a human being. We really are powerful creatures.

III. The value of a mantra (both good and bad)

This point ties the previous two together with a nice and sweaty bow. You see, at round 3 of my 5 round workouts, you better believe I am hurting. My breathing is weezy, my shirt is literally dripping with sweat and my mind is telling me that I am an idiot. Well, as a friend and member of my Awakening program (more on this at the end), has learned, it is here when you don’t need external motivation, but internal.A mantra serves you well here. You have a choice at every moment of discomfort — to either tell yourself you can or tell yourself you cannot do it. A mantra will help you along whatever path you want to go. I can sit in front of you while you complete 200 push ups and tell you “you can do it!” but that doesn’t shut your mind up. What does is replacing that negative crap seeping into your head with a mantra. The first time I put my friend through one of my workouts he nearly quit about half a dozen times. He is in good shape, but he simply could not get through the mental barrier that was slapping him in the face each medicine ball burpee he had to do. So, what did he do? He dug deep. Real deep. He replaced the “I am gassed” with a simple mantra “I have the strength of 10,000 men.” He crushed the final three rounds of the workout and the sprint training we did afterward. Yes, all with a blister on the ball of his right foot. The mind is the most powerful tool a human being has — use it to your advantage like he did.

IV. The importance of an internal fire

I have two kids at home, and sometimes this means limited sleep. They are not on my schedule- so if I put myself through a strenuous workout and one gets up for a bottle at 2am, I’ve got to be on point. You bet your bottom dollar I’m tired the next day, but should I treat this as an excuse or an opportunity? I think you know my answer at this point, but at times it is much harder than just going and doing it, as I emphasized before. Sometimes it is the fire inside that kicks you into overdrive and pushes you through.Sure, I could take an extra hour of sleep when they go down for a nap, or give the workout a skip for the day, but what does that teach me, my kids, my wife? It teaches us complacency in a tough and unforgiving world. I need to get up, show up and get things done — no excuses. On that 4th and 5th round, or on the final mile of a long run, I call on my Why and push harder than ever. Without my Why (I’m sure you can figure out what that is now) to call on, though, this becomes much easier said than done.When you are down, out and do not think you could go even a step further, call on your Why.Your spirit is rooted to this Why and when you are able to determine what that is, you will find it much easier to wake up at 2am after a 15 mile run, 100 burpees, 200 push ups, 150 pull ups and 200 crunches to look after your crying child. Excuses will become minimal and accountability will become everything. It is here you become who you were always destined to be.

In short, putting myself far beyond my comfort zone has taught me the power of the mind, body and spirit. It has also taught me that they interact very closely and deep inside your soul your purpose is longing to drive them forward. Get out of your own way and see what starts to happen in your life.

Should you follow a regiment like this? That’s up to you. I can show you inside mine, if you’d like. We are in the process of on-boarding members to The Emergence — a program and summit that removes the sugar-coated “I can do this attitude” and replaces it with real action, real growth and an emergence of your most authentic self. Pre-register for the program here.

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The 5 C's of Great Leaders

Want to be a stronger leader? Build a stronger team on these five principles.

Upward movement is a challenge, especially for women competing to ascend the ranks in a male-dominated company. Instead of fighting so hard to get to the top, there's another approach to becoming a great leader that is much more rewarding and less lonely: Surround yourself with great people.

But how do you find and cultivate great people?

Gallup 2016 Employee Engagement reports 70% of workers in the US are not engaged. That number becomes more discouraging worldwide where only 13% of workers feel engaged.

These figures are staggering and have a disastrous impact on organizational success, not to mention the effectiveness of leaders.

To inspire greatness in employees, leaders must look within. How clear and communicative are you as a leader? What is your leadership style? Do you practice what you preach? Keep the promises you make?

Many of us have experienced a boss who "speaks out both sides of his mouth," creating a culture of suspicion and mistrust that is detrimental to employee engagement. If people mistrust you as a leader, forget trying to convince anyone to act.

A great leader establishes an important foundation of credibility and trust. When people trust you, you inspire their loyalty--critical when challenges arise or when you need to rally the troops to success.

Strong leaders build strong teams on these five principles:

1. Collaborate

She who tries to move mountains by themselves, fails. Those that use a competent workforce (and perhaps some technology) wins.

2. Communicate

Give clear direction. Just because there is a job description does not mean people comprehend what needs to be done to reach results. Don't assume you and your employees are on the same page. Build check points and speak to them often to ensure success.

3. (Be) Candid

Being honest sounds fundamental to being a great leader, yet people often withhold what's really on their minds because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings. When important things go unsaid, no one on the team learns from the mistakes. Reinstate an employee's value by coaching them to be better through honest communication.

4. Connect

Establish the value of feedback--giving and sharing alike. As leaders, we may gather very little truthful feedback. If people feel their voice is important, their ideas valued, they are more likely to stay engaged. Make sure when you receive feedback, that you follow up on the feedback you receive. Even if you do not choose to act on it, let them know it was important and you value what they had to say.

5. Care

People want to feel valued. One way you can foster that is by asking them about their life. What do they enjoy? How is their family? Did they find time to relax on a recent vacation? Work is not everything in life, and people feel a sense of loyalty when a leader cares about them as a person, not just a workhorse.

Shaping Change

Time and again, great women leaders have attributed their success to the strong individuals and teams they are surrounded by. Creating a strong team starts with a leader investing their time. Look to your people. When they feel their voice is important to the organization and their leader, they are more engaged. As you connect with your people, know what motivates them, what they enjoy so that they know you care. As a leader, we are only as good as our people. Forging strong relationships early pays off throughout your career. Learn and use the 5C's every day, Collaborate, Communicate, (Be) Candid, Connect and Care.

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Six ways successful people stay calm in a crisis

It happens to the best of us. Things go off the rails at work, you witness someone on your team verbally explode because something isn’t working out in their favor, or after too much frustration, you have a meltdown of your own.

But before things go too far, here’s how to stay calm on days like these.

Don’t lose it

Losing your temper could wreck your career. You risk losing the standing you’ve attained so far: It tells your managers that you can’t be trusted with responsibility, and it tells your peers that you don’t have a handle on your own life. Plus, freaking out could make everything worse— not only for you, but also for your coworkers. When there’s a crisis, everyone needs to focus on the underlying problem and row in the same direction to fix it — not cater to your mood.

The hardest consequence: Even if you’re calm 99% of the time, people will always remember your one moment of losing control and it will erase most of your goodwill with them. The person yelling in the office may make some people afraid, but it will also always earn a measure of contempt.

So when you get wound up, acknowledge your emotion to yourself — “I am upset right now, and I have every right to be” — to get it out of the way and stop struggling with yourself. Then step back and think of your future, not just the present moment.

One key thing that many wise people teach students of meditation: if you’re reacting to everything, you will get stuck in your life because you can’t handle moving forward. If a simple challenge brings you to the brink of crying and fury, how do you plan to handle the larger challenges that go along with success? Start training yourself to meet challenges with aplomb instead of a tornado of emotion, and soon you’ll be moving forward to bigger and better opportunities.

Don’t try to take on others’ emotions

Emotions are as viral as illnesses. When we sit next to a happy person, we’re happy. When we sit next to a drama queen, we’re tossed around in the chaos too. Handling our own emotions in addition to other people’s is too much of a heavy lift for most people, especially at work.

While showing empathy and putting yourself in their shoes can help you put things into perspective and understand another point of view, assuming someone else’s emotional burden can hurt your productivity. It can be hard to set those boundaries, but it’s necessary: we absorb each other’s feelings.

Very often, when someone is upset about a work matter, there can be a tendency to want to cater to their distress. The best advice: don’t try to intervene if someone is lashing out while you’re around. It’s not your responsibility to fix someone else’s emotional state — and in fact, it can do harm. Don’t shrink from their anger, or cater to their ups and downs. If you’re in the same workplace, it means they’re just like you:  grown adults who should be trusted to manage their own emotions and be in charge of their own lives.

Judith Orloff, M.D., provides strategies for getting away from others’ bad emotions from her book, Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life, in a HuffPost article.

“First, ask yourself: Is the feeling mine or someone else’s? It could be both. If the emotion such as fear or anger is yours, gently confront what’s causing it on your own or with professional help. If not, try to pinpoint the obvious generator. For instance, if you’ve just watched a comedy, yet you came home from the movie theater feeling blue, you may have incorporated the depression of the people sitting beside you; in close proximity, ‘energy fields’ overlap. The same is true with going to a mall or packed concert,” Orloff writes.

Remember, it’s all in how you communicate

When you’re angry, there can be a tendency to be sarcastic for some people, or passive-aggressive for others. Be aware of the intentions and emotions you’re directing at other people. Not everyone is — or should be — understanding or accepting of anger, ranting, or silence. You don’t want to burn any bridges, especially if you don’t know the colleague well and they could carry reports of your behavior through the company.

Jacqueline Whitmore writes about the thinking through what you have to say before communicating in an Entrepreneur article.

“Once something comes out of your mouth, you can’t take it back. Saying hurtful or nasty things can be risky or dangerous to your professional reputation. It can also shatter your credibility. Watch what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. It’s best to confront someone in private, whenever possible,” Whitmore writes.

The obvious implications: don’t send flame emails, nasty messages on Slack or other internal messaging programs, or confront someone publicly where they may be humiliated. It will make you look terrible. If someone confronts you that way, just acknowledge what’s happening: “I see you’re angry right now, so it’s probably not the best time to address things. I’m heading out. Why don’t we take this up tomorrow and talk through our concerns?” Then walk away. When you stay in the presence of bad behavior, it’s can be taken as encouragement for it.

Focus on your breathing

Mindfulness meditation isn’t just about sitting in a room with your eyes closed. It can also take the form of walking or nearly any other activity. The only requirements are being present to your surrounding, calm breathing, and focus.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley provides advice on mindful breathing.

“Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath…” the site says.

Remove yourself from the situation

If you’re too heated, nothing good will happen. If you’re around someone who’s heated, it’s the same.

Get away from the irritation as soon as you can (and do some of that breathing). Stepping outside and clearing your head on a walk, or just doing a lap around another floor, can help take your mind off things and get your muscles moving again. To calm down quickly, use this easy trick: just think of the place where you’re happiest, and picture what that feels like. It will put you in a different frame of mind. You’ll be best when you’re thinking clearly and not clouded by adrenaline.

Think about what you can control

The bottom line is that we get distressed when we are trying to control things we can’t. Try not to waste too much of your precious time and energy worrying about things that are out of your hands. You don’t have to throw yourself in front of every work crisis with the idea of stopping it, or martyr yourself to a cause. Again, trust other people to do their part, and accept that they may do things differently than you do. The sooner you let go of what you can’t control, the sooner you can move forward, and get focused again.


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How 1% Performance Improvements Led to Olympic Gold

When Sir Dave Brailsford became head of British Cycling in 2002, the team had almost no record of success: British cycling had only won a single gold medal in its 76-year history. That quickly changed under Sir Dave’s leadership. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his squad won seven out of 10 gold medals available in track cycling, and they matched the achievement at the London Olympics four years later. Sir Dave now leads Britain’s first ever professional cycling team, which has won three of the last four Tour de France events.

Sir Dave, a former professional cycler who holds an MBA, applied a theory of marginal gains to cycling — he gambled that if the team broke down everything they could think of that goes into competing on a bike, and then improved each element by 1%, they would achieve a significant aggregated increase in performance.

I recently caught up with Sir Dave to learn more about his success in cycling and what lessons his experience holds for managers in other arenas. An edited version of our conversation follows.

HBR: Can you share some examples of your marginal gains approach?

Sir Dave: To give you a bit of background, when we first started out, the top of the Olympic podium seemed like a very long way away. Aiming for gold was too daunting. As an MBA, I had become fascinated with Kaizen and other process-improvement techniques. It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement through the aggregation of marginal gains. Forget about perfection; focus on progression, and compound the improvements.

By experimenting in a wind tunnel, we searched for small improvements to aerodynamics. By analyzing the mechanics area in the team truck, we discovered that dust was accumulating on the floor, undermining bike maintenance. So we painted the floor white, in order to spot any impurities. We hired a surgeon to teach our athletes about proper hand-washing so as to avoid illnesses during competition (we also decided not to shake any hands during the Olympics). We were precise about food preparation. We brought our own mattresses and pillows so our athletes could sleep in the same posture every night. We searched for small improvements everywhere and found countless opportunities. Taken together, we felt they gave us a competitive advantage.

HBR: What was the process for identifying these opportunities?

We had three pillars to our approach, which we called “the podium principles.” The first one was strategy. The second was human performance; we weren’t even thinking of cycling, but more about behavioral psychology and how to create an environment for optimum performance. The third principle was continuous improvement.

For strategy we analyzed the demand of each event and spent a lot of time trying to understand what it would take to win. So as just one example — what is the power needed off the line to get the start required to achieve a winning time, and how close is each athlete to being capable of generating that power? For this and other metrics, we looked at our best athletes and identified the gap between where they were and where they needed to be. And if it was a bridgeable gap we put a plan in place. But if it was not a bridgeable gap we had to be pretty ruthless — compassionate, but ruthless. Not all athletes are destined for the podium and we weren’t interested in fourth place.

And then we progressed with a brainstorm and tried to break down the optimal preparation for our athletes to eventually reach their peak. How would they need to train? What should their diet be, and so on. But the whole point about our approach is that it was meant to be continuous. We learned as we went.

Interestingly, when I moved from the track to the Tour de France, we didn’t get it right at all; our first few races were well below expectation. We took an honest look and realized that we had focused on the peas not the steak. We tried so hard with all the bells and whistles of marginal gains that our focus was too much on the periphery and not on the core. You have to identify the critical success factors and ensure they are in place, and then focus your improvements around them. That was a harsh lesson.

HBR: You’ve spoken elsewhere about how the success of marginal gains can be attributed to culture as much as anything else.

Perhaps the most powerful benefit is that it creates a contagious enthusiasm. Everyone starts looking for ways to improve. There’s something inherently rewarding about identifying marginal gains — the bonhomie is similar to a scavenger hunt. People want to identify opportunities and share them with the group.  Our team became a very positive place to be.

One caveat is that the whole marginal gains approach doesn’t work if only half the team buy in. In that case, the search for small improvements will cause resentment. If everyone is committed, in my experience it removes the fear of being singled out — there’s mutual accountability, which is the basis of great teamwork.

HBR: Do you think the marginal gains approach can prove as successful in other settings?

I do. Recently I met Britain’s cabinet secretary, who is our most senior civil servant. We discussed whether marginal gains could be applied to improve outcomes for our national health service. I think the British government is already very much clued in to novel management approaches. We have a “ministry of nudges,” and they stay very much on top of behavioral sciences and the like. I think there are ample opportunities in the corporate realm to apply the marginal gains approach, but I personally am more interested in how it can help public services.

HBR: Professional cycling has been plagued with doping scandals. How can we ensure athletes don’t look for an illegal advantage?

I moved from Olympic to professional cycling right when a major era of doping was coming to an end. But as we’ve seen in the car industry recently with the Volkswagen scandal and banking before that — when people compete, they will always look for an edge. And I think it’s naïve to hope that people will self-regulate. So there must be effective enforcement, in cycling as in any competitive arena.

But I can tell you from personal experience that you can satisfy this hunger to find an edge in legitimate, legal ways. If you make competitors feel that you’re giving them access to a uniquely effective performance program, if you give them access to the best training, the best nutrition, the best science and technology — it goes a long way to blunting their desire to find an illicit edge. People want to win. But they would prefer to win fair and square than win at all costs.

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To Be More Successful In Your Career -- Cultivate The Skill Of Mindfulness

Hearing the term “mindfulness” might conjure up a smiling guru sitting peacefully in a quiet, meditative posture. But mindfulness is no longer just for gurus. Mindfulness is a skill you can cultivate to help you be successful in your career.

A wide range of companies, including Intel, Google, Target, General Mills and Aetna, have embraced mindfulness programs, believing the courses will have a positive impact on their employees and on their bottom line.

Universities are also encouraging the practice of mindfulness. David Mick is a marketing professor at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce who teaches a “Wisdom and Well-Being” course that equips business students with philosophical concepts and mindfulness practices that can improve their professional and personal lives. Each week, students apply readings on philosophy and mindfulness to business cases and to their lives.

Professor Mick defines mindfulness as a present-oriented, non-judgmental state of being. “Your mind is not running to the future or ruminating on the past. You are in the moment, present in whatever conversation you are having or activity you are doing,” he says. “Secondly, you are nonjudgmental, which is very hard because being judgmental is almost built evolutionarily into who we are.”

Identify stressful situations and analyse your responses. Think about the last few weeks and identify three stressful events. Now, study how you responded to each of those events. Did you get angry? Did you avoid dealing with the incident? Did you take a deep breath and go for a walk outside to clear your mind?

Consider which behaviours helped you cope better with the stress than others. “Study your body’s response, because we tend to respond physically to stressful events,” Mick says. “When you are mindful of that, you can recognize stress, mitigate certain automatic responses and have more choice in how you respond.”

Benefit: The better you become at recognizing stressful situations, the more control you’ll have to choose the best way to respond.

Practice patience. There’s an old saying that “patience is a virtue” but in today’s hyper-paced, technology-driven work environment, there is a tendency to want instant gratification, even in decision-making.

While you might think making instant decisions will provide a competitive advantage, it isn’t always the case. “Sometimes sitting with a decision, seeking more information and finding new points of view is important,” Mick warns.

How can you practice patience? Mick recommends using the acronym “STOP” as a reminder — Stop, Take a breath, Observe and Proceed.

Benefit: Practicing patience will help you reframe situations to see the bigger picture and other viewpoints. You’ll make more informed decisions and give yourself time to analyse how your decisions will impact others before moving forward.

Cultivate humility. Professor Mick recommends reflecting on situations that have humbled you and distinguishing between what he calls “submissive humility” and “self-assured humility.”

Mahatma Gandhi is an example Mick uses of an iconic figure who was renowned for his wisdom and who was self-assuredly humble. “Reflecting on times you were humbled reminds you not to be submissive, but simply to realize that what we do not know dwarfs what we know.”

 Benefit: Practicing humility will help you accept who you are along with all your strengths and weaknesses. Humility will help you see others for who they are (without being judgmental) and curb overconfidence and arrogance.

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10 Habits of the Most Successful People

Are you doing what the most successful people do on a daily basis?

It only makes sense that many of the world's top companies are lead by the greatest leaders--Elon Musk, Arianna Huffington and Bill Gates, for example. It takes great leadership to create a world-changing vision and inspire the people necessary to execute on that vision. Both your personal success, and the success of your company, are based on your ability as a leader.

But how, as an entrepreneur, do you make the move from dreamer to leader? While many leaders possess innate leadership skills, the rest of us become great leaders by adopting the mindsets and habits that great leaders share.

Here's a list of habits and behaviors that remarkable leaders make a part of their daily life.

1. They put their customers first

Successful companies are run by leaders that put customers first, even ahead of profits. Confident leaders know that doing the right thing by their customers will result in great outcomes for their business. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a great example of this.

2. They know life's ultimate goal

The best leaders are not driven by external validation. Their ultimate goal is living a life of personal growth and fulfillment. They know that progress is made over time, and that they are works in progress themselves.

3. They live with integrity

Good leaders gain the trust and respect of their team members by consistently doing what they say, and saying what they do. Don't underestimate this point. Trust is everything when leading a team or company.

4. They're confident

Strong leaders are confident in their purpose and capabilities. They walk right to the edge of their comfort zones because they're confident in their ability to deliver.

5. They hire other leaders

Look next the most successful entrepreneurs and you'll see an elite team of talented leaders standing beside them. True leaders hire and train leaders, not simply someone who can fulfill the duties of a position.

6. They welcome feedback

The strongest leaders don't just listen to the opinions of their team members, they welcome them, knowing that in the long run extra input will lead to improvement.

7. They learn from mistakes

Good leaders acknowledge that everyone makes mistakes, even them. Whenever they make a misstep, they own it and find the gift in the experience.

8. They strive for self-growth

A good leader never stops looking for ways to improve, both as a leader and as a person. It's no surprise that many of the best leaders (Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah, etc.) are voracious readers. Here's a list of great books you should add to your collection.

9. They delegate

Good leaders aren't afraid to delegate projects or tasks. They give their employees the freedom to take on new challenges and create successes for the company. 

10. They value a strong company culture

You reap what you sow when it comes to company culture, which is why good leaders put in the time and effort to create a culture that uplifts employees and empowers them toward a shared goal.

Final Word

Try using this same approach and adopting these top behaviors as you become a better and more successful leader. Approach your development as a work in progress, making consistent improvements over time. Before too long, you'll look back and marvel at how far you've grown.

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The 9 questions that uncover the most surprising insights from employees

When’s the last time you had a one-on-one or performance review with an employee… and you learned something completely new?

Don’t think too hard :-) If you’re like most CEOs and managers, getting new, surprising insights from employees doesn’t happen very often. Oftentimes, when we’re asking for honest feedback, we simply receive a confirmation of what we want to hear.

We learn, “Oh okay, it seems like everything is fine” or “I already knew that was an issue, so it’s all good there.”

But what about the stuff you don’t know? How do you discern if an employee has an idea to improve the company that she hasn’t brought up yet? How do you figure out if an employee is frustrated with her manager? Or, how can you tell if she’s thinking about leaving?

That’s where we at Know Your Company come in. We’ve spent the past three years researching, writing and refining hundreds of questions across almost 300 companies with 15,000 employees in 15+ countries.

From our 312+Know Your Company questions, below are the best nine that we’ve found to yield the most interesting insights for companies…

#1: “Are you afraid of anything at work?”

Our findings: 67% of employees said, “Yes, I’m afraid of something at work” (753 employees answered this across 89 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This result caught me off guard (almost 70% of employees are afraid of something at work!) but it goes to show the importance of showing vulnerability as a leader and digging deep to uncover the areas of the company (or people in the company) that employees may feel intimidated by.

#2: “Have you seen something recently and thought to yourself ‘I wish we’d done that’?”

Our findings: 75% of employees said, “Yes, I’ve seen something recently, and thought to myself, ‘I wish we’d done that’” (1,338 employees answered this across 221 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Clearly, employees are noticing what competitors are doing and may have ideas for you to improve the business. Asking this question helps bring to light what those ideas are.

#3: “Is there something we should measure in the company that we currently don’t?”

Our findings: 78% of employees said, “Yes, there’s something we should measure in the company that we currently don’t” (286 employees answered this across 78 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This reveals a need to more closely examine the metrics we use to run our businesses, and ask employees if there’s anything not being measured that should be.

#4: “Is there any part of the company you wish you were able to interact with more?”

Our findings: 81% of employees said, “Yes, there’s a part of the company I wish I were able to interact with more” (507 employees answered this across 72 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. An overwhelming majority of the employees we surveyed feel silo-ed. By asking this question, you’ll learn exactly which parts of the company they’d like more interaction with, be it a specific department or office.

#5: “Are there any benefits we don’t offer that you’d like to see us offer?”

Our findings: 76% said “Yes, there are benefits we don’t offer that I’d like to see us offer” (1,807 employees answered this across 179 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. You may be thinking, “Ugh, of course most of my employees want more benefits”… However, what’s most revealing with this question is which benefits your employees are looking for. Many of the companies who asked this specific question have added key benefits that have helped retain employees, or even gotten rid of benefits no one is using. You never know unless you ask.

#6: “Is there an area outside your current role where you feel you could be contributing?”

Our findings: 76% of employees said, “Yes, there’s an area outside my current role where I feel I could be contributing” (814 employees answered this across 135 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This result is surprising, considering that most managers feel their employees are slammed and are already at capacity. Thus, this question all the more important to ask: You’ll learn very tactically where your employees want to contribute more to help push your business even further.

#7: “Is there anyone at the company you wish you could apprentice under for a few weeks?”

Our findings: 92% of employees said, “Yes, there’s someone at the company I wish I could apprentice under for a few weeks” (2,217 employees answered across 190 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. This shows how much employees crave learning and developing their skills — especially from others within the company. Asking this question will expose to you if this is similarly the case within your own company.

#8: “Have you seen someone here do great work that’s gone unnoticed?”

Our findings: 76% of employees said, “Yes, I’ve seen someone here do great work that’s gone unnoticed” (1,485 employees answered across 209 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Based off this data, it’s highly-likely that employees in your company may feel under-appreciated. The answers to this question can help you discover which exact projects or areas of the company that employees would like more gratitude and recognition shown in.

#9: “Are there things you don’t know about the company that you feel you should know?”

Our findings: 55% of employees said “Yes, there are things I don’t know about in my company that I feel like I should know” (3,197 employees answered this across 702 companies) when asked through Know Your Company. Employees want to know more about the company —the company’s vision, people’s roles, why certain policies exist, etc. When you ask this question, you quickly get to the core of what those things are.

How many of these 9 questions are you asking in your own company? The next time you go grab coffee with an employee or have a quarterly one-on-one, consider asking one (or all!) of these questions. I guarantee you’ll learn at least one insight that is completely new and surprising.

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A Sports Team Captain

Perhaps nowhere is the importance of good leadership as apparent as in a sports team. A good sports team captain can lead his team to success and recognition; and can help a moderate team play better; whereas, a weak captain with poor leadership skills can hinder a team’s chances of competing and bonding successfully.

Why Is A Good Sports Team Captain Important?

An analysis done by various coaches showed that although there are a variety of reasons why teams do not achieve their potential and ended their seasons early – such as injuries, conditioning, poor officiating and eligibility – there is main reason is lack of good leadership. And while leadership does come from coaches, the real leaders come from within the team itself so selecting a good team captain is vitally important.

Are You Sure You Want To Be A Sports Team Captain?

Being a sports team captain isn’t just about wearing the cap or being the boss or even just cheering your friends on. It requires a number of things including:

the desire to lead by example a passionate belief in team spirit the ability to handle the conflicts that invariably arise when a team is under pressure the desire to put more input in planning the team’s strategies the ability to handle problems which may arise in a fair and expedient manner (eg. disqualifications) the ability to behave professionally and responsibility despite personal feelings of frustration and anger a thorough knowledge of the rules of the game a desire to build relationships with other members of the team, in good times and bad the ability to handle the burden of being captain while still playing in the team the ability to inspire and motivate and raise team morale

If you are able to possess these qualities, then being a sports team captain can be one of the most rewarding leadership experiences you can have.

How Can I Be A Good Sports Team Captain?

Being a sports team captain is a great opportunity to develop the leadership traits that will help you succeed in your future career, whether this is as a sports athlete or in another field of work. But how can you know that you are providing good leadership?

Here are some tips to help coaches gain confidence in you and help you lead your team to success:

Take charge – don’t just rely on the coaches. For example, start the practice on time, even if the coaches are still getting ready or temporarily occupied elsewhere. Always do more than is expected – stay longer, run farther, play harder. Always take responsibility for your actions – don’t play the blame game. If you make a mistake or cause your team to lose out in some way, own up, face the consequences and move forward – you will be respected more than if you try to wriggle your way out with excuses. Lead your team by actions, not words. Anybody can talk – it is what they do that counts. Don’t put yourself above the rest of the team – just because you have the captain title does not mean that you should have any preferential treatment. A sports team captain is subject to the same rules and consequences as the rest of the team. See yourself as one of the team, otherwise there will be a division between yourself and your teammates.

In addition, continually try to be self-aware and improve your leadership skills. For example, think about the captains of various sports teams in the international arena and consider why they were chosen – was it because they are popular? The best player? Responsible? Honest? Dependable? A good listener? Motivating and inspiring? Remain calm and positive under pressure?

See how they lead by example and follow in their footsteps to become a great sports team captain yourself.

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The Doughnut Dilemma: What The Office Pastry Teaches About Behavioral Economics

If you want to understand human nature at work, start with a doughnut.

Place it on your desk. Then read the following warning.

Eating doughnuts or any other foods high in fat and sugar increases your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and other serious health issues.

Should you eat it?

Take your time. Think about all the bad things that could happen to your health if you made a habit of eating doughnuts. You do want to live to 90, right? You really shouldn’t eat it, and you know you shouldn’t.

Now see how long you can leave the doughnut without eating it.

If you feel your will failing, perhaps insults will help. Here’s what one one blogger wrote some years ago about the pastry.

I do not like doughnuts. Never have, never will, and with good reason. Among the myriad offensive foodstuffs enjoyed in this nation of atherosclerotic manatees stuffed prematurely and unnecessarily into grossly over-expanded stretch-pants, whirring around strip malls in motorized scooters, the doughnut has always been, and will always remain, particularly loathsome.

The doughnut is a delicacy of the dim — a favoured indulgence of those with a pedestrian palate and absolutely no understanding of how to run a cost-benefit analysis.

So run the cost-benefit analysis. Then look again at the doughnut, the yummy doughnut sitting right there, helpless.

Chances are, you failed fairly quickly. The warning did not dissuade you. The insult only insulted you. If your fate is to be a dim atherosclerotic manatee, at least you will be a dim atherosclerotic manatee happy from just having eaten that doughnut. The emotional part of your brain wanted the doughnut more than the logical part of your brain could persuade you not to eat it. So you ate it.

Welcome to behavioural economics.

To a classically trained economist, all the doughnut consumption makes little sense. For many decades, the prevailing theory of economics held that people were largely rational, that if they had enough information to make an informed decision about what was in their best interest, they would, in fact, make that kind of decision. Rational Man, he was called, or Homo Economicus. Behavioural economist Richard Thaler calls them “Econs” for short, “mythical creatures that populate economics textbooks.” What makes them mythical? “They solve any problem as well as an economist would.”

In this respect, he says, they are a lot like the Star Trek character Mr. Spock.

“I prefer the concrete, the graspable, the provable,” says Mr. Spock in one episode.

“You’d make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock,” responds Captain Kirk.

“That is very kind of you, Captain,” says Spock.

“We’ve evolved that the agents of the economy, as assumed by economists, have been getting smarter and smarter for the last 60 years,” Thaler said in a 2010 interview. “But human being are just as dumb as we always were, just as human.”

Real humans, he argues, are less like Mr. Spock than they are like Homer Simpson.

A behavioural economist knows that in any real-life environment, people will eat the doughnuts. Why? Forget about today’s office worker and think instead about his deepest ancestors. For them, the food supply was unreliable. Starvation was a constant risk, and sometimes the only meal available might be less like the giant doughnut taken on by Adam Richman in the TV show Man v. Food and more like the bugs eaten by Bear Grylls on Man vs. Wild. They might go weeks between a large, fatty kill, or finding ripe, sweet fruit. When they had these foods, survival might depend not just on eating, but on overeating calorie-rich foods.

So in many ways, we eat doughnuts today because somewhere deep in our brains we’re trying to store up calories for the coming famine, a famine that never comes because, unlike our ancestors, we have grocery stores, and fast food, and every week someone brings doughnuts rather than carrots and celery to the office. Try as leaders might to explain, warn, or incentivize toward what makes sense, people act as people have acted for tens of thousands of years.

“One of the unstated assumptions of economics is that people have perfect self-control because they choose just what they should choose. So, an ‘Econ’ never has a hangover, never needs to go on a diet because he eats just the right amount,” said Thaler. “It’s not that people are choosing to be fat. There’s a conflict there. One part of them wants to be thinner; another part of them reaches for the bag of potato chips. If we’re going to have a good model of that conflict, we have to face it head-on.”

The doughnut dilemma is one of hundreds of mismatches between the rational way people “should” react and way they actually do react in the workplace. Leaders who design choices in wellness programs, compensation plans, company mergers, performance ratings or dozens of other systems assuming too much rationality are destined to be disappointed. Such programs often fail as human nature kicks in and unintended consequences spring to life. For example:

• From a rational standpoint, employees should not need much recognition. The bi-weekly paycheck should be reinforcement enough. In practice, employees are strongly motivated by recognition, and recognition has proven to be a pivotal aspect of productivity-boosting engagement.

• Strictly rational employees would collaborate whenever the benefits outweigh the costs. In the real world, people have a strong friend-or-foe response, jumping in with people they trust while shunning or even extracting revenge on the people they dislike, even if both kinds of decisions are costly.

• In a logical world, everyone’s pay could be public knowledge. In reality, most people consider their pay a private matter, and, if the books were opened, the emotions of everyone making comparisons among themselves could bring a company to a virtual standstill and cause mass resignations.

But while human nature creates many managerial complications, it also brings many incredible upsides. A strictly rational person would not be motivated to design a wildly creative advertising campaign unless he was fairly certain it would get him more money or a shot at a promotion. A rational employee would not grind away week after week formulating a new medicine chiefly for the fulfilment of making the breakthrough. A rational employee would not form an inordinate attachment to a company because it’s a cool place to work, and could be lured away for a decent pay raise. In fact, real people work not just for pay, but for the emotional rewards, which leads to great customer service, inspiring design, incredible innovations and thousands of other accomplishments enriched by human nature rather than pure rationality.

The lesson for leaders and front-line managers is to build their employee value propositions around, not against, human nature — to create a company that appeals as much to employees’ emotions as it does to their rationality, to inspire and recognize and mentor and challenge and celebrate and pay attention to all the reasons why people will find an inspiring place to work as irresistible as they find a doughnut.

Rodd Wagner's – Forbes contributor -  latest book is Widgets: The 12 New Rules for Managing Your Employees As If They're Real People. His website is

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Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement

It typically takes ten years for science breakthroughs to influence real world applications.  The Incentive Research Foundation’s paper Using Behavioral Economics Insights in Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition: The Neuroscience aims to expedite this process. Offering practical C-suite takeaways, the IRF’s report describes some of the unifying behavioral economic principles connecting the powerful role of emotions in employee performance. 

As productive employees are more readily recognized as playing a vital role in maintaining a profitable business in today’s competitive marketplace, effective businesses now require a systematic, strategic use of motivation and recognition in practice. Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition (IRR) professionals help all business types design and implement motivation programs to improve productivity, performance, morale, and retention with their employees and channel partners.

Behavioral Economics
Behavioral economics proves to be a more useful tool than traditional economics in helping employers understand what actually motivates employees, because it recognizes the majority of human decision-making is emotional as opposed to rational. It integrates social, cognitive, and emotional factors to more fully explain human decision-making biases and challenges long-held traditional economics assumptions such as:

People tend to act rationally and in their own best interests when making decisions and Money is the most effective motivator of all employees

Behavioral economics helps explain why some incentives are more effective than others and how they can strategically apply these principles to their own businesses. 

Neuroeconomics provides an additional powerful layer of proof by exploring the biologic underpinning of decision-making. In many ways behavioral economics and neuroeconomics are like a tag team trying to wrestle neoclassical economics out of the ring for its failure to accurately capture how real human beings think and make decisions. 

Technological advances allowing researchers to probe the brain in unprecedented detail are powering an explosion in neuroeconomics research. For instance, brain-imaging technologies now allow us to see which brain areas are active during economic decision-making and which are not.

The most powerful neuroeconomics finding is that all forms of reward – monetary or otherwise – are processed in the brain’s master reward center, the striatum, and are experienced as rewarding feelings. For example, when research subjects are offered various forms of reward – ranging from their favorite food to a compliment to a monetary gift – neurons in this structure fire. This means rewarding employees intrinsically by treating them better or rewarding them extrinsically with money are treated equally in the brain, with both causing rewarding feelings emanating from the striatum and the dopamine reward system. This important finding is at the base of helping organizations craft more effective, rewarding environments. 

Using Emotional Reward Units to Craft a Rewarding Environment
Consider two employees, A and B. Both make the same monetary salary and benefits—let’s say $50,000. We will assume that this amount of pay creates positive feelings in the striatum equivalent to 10 emotional reward units, or ERUs. Employee A unfortunately works for a toxic manager who makes his life a nightmare. Employee A receives constant criticism, is threatened and disrespected, and never gets a kind word. The pain experienced by employee A creates a reward deduction of let’s say 5 ERUs. The emotional take home “pay” for employee A is therefore only 5 ERUs (10 ERUs–5 ERUs). 

Employee B is luckier. She works for an emotionally intelligent manager who understands human nature, takes a personal mentoring approach, believes in coaching employees and recognizing their achievements, and tries to encourage their development and success. Employee B loves coming to work and therefore gets a 5 ERU bonus on top of her monetary pay, which results in an emotional take home “pay” of 15 ERUs. 

Who do you think will want to work harder to meet the organization’s goals: the employee earning 5 ERUs or the one making 15 ERUs? The answer is obvious – the more rewarded employee will be more engaged and more productive. This is why considering engagement as a system, versus an individual intervention, is crucial to organizations. 

Applying Brain Principles for Better Business
As Nobel-prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman discussed in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, our brains form thoughts in two ways:

System 1: A fast, automatic, involuntary, subconscious system (sometimes called the old brain) which harnesses all of our life experiences to date and where decisions are initially made (and feelings emitted) within milliseconds of encountering a situation. For example, driving to work on “autopilot” without giving it much thought or getting a “gut feeling” about a situation.  System 2: The “conscious” system where we think about, deliberate, imagine, and analyze the world around us.  

It is most important to know that System 2 is more energy-intensive on the brain, so the brain therefore offloads as much work as possible to System 1. This is why after much deliberation we will select the easy, automatic solution because it ‘feels right.’ In sum, finding ways to work in tandem with System 1 can help us create more effective engagement solutions. Five examples are below:

The Associative Machine and Halo Effect: The associative machine takes all of the information we know about something (such as “bird”) and stores it under a filing for fast recall. If we come across something in an unfamiliar situation, the associative machine pulls up whatever facts it has in memory (wings, nest, egg) to instantly provide an explanation of the situation at hand and provide a feeling of confidence. For ease of processing, the brain will also combine and connect what it deems as relevant connected experiences – called the halo effect. This is how fuzzy, pink bunnies or dancing fruit can cause things as mundane as batteries and underwear to emit positive emotions within us. This holds true for the workplace as well. 

Implications: The more highly positive, emotional experiences, throughout the lifecycle of employment an organization offers from hiring to retirement, the more positive emotion one associates  with the company.

Emotional Stamps: Given the amount of information we must process each day, the fast part of our brain does much of our thinking. All of our memories are marked with an emotional stamp that controls their storage and retrieval. The stronger the emotional stamp, the easier the memory recall. 

Implications: Simply put, if we want people to remember things, we must tap emotions in some manner.

Frequency Bias: Our brains employ a frequency bias, which means ideas, thoughts, images, and awards that we see more frequently “feel” more familiar and therefore “feel” more positive. Hence, more frequently mentioned awards or destinations will have an automatic, emotional edge over the less-known alternatives. 

Implications: The more reward and recognition happens within an organization, the more often it will continue to happen and “feel” like a normal part of business. 

Temporal Bias: We remember short, peak emotional experiences more than average ones. This finding means at most, that short, highly impactful reward experiences may be more memorable and at least, that all reward experiences should conclude with the most emotional part of the event (or the big reveal) as the final portion. If it happens at the beginning of the day, quarter, year, or event, that time frame will be less likely to be perpetually stamped with the positive emotion. 

Implications: Meetings and incentive travel programs should always end on a high, emotional note. 

Harnessing Human Drives for Better Business

In Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, Harvard researchers Paul Lawrence and Nitin Nohria propose four social drives that complement our biologic drives and regulate virtually everything happening in the workplace. If we learn how to work in tandem with these productive drives, our companies will enjoy maximum productivity and our employees will experience maximum engagement in their work.

The social drives create pleasant and painful feelings that push and pull on us during the course of a typical workday, subtly encouraging us to inquire, invent, achieve, and cooperate as a corporate team. Based in neuroscience, psychology, anthropology, and biology, Nohria and Lawrence found they serve as motivational “hot buttons.” When pressed individually, motivation rises marginally, but when pressed all together motivation grows exponentially within an organization – causing even larger impacts to engagement, retention, and commitment. Reward and recognition provide organizations a powerful tool because, in a single intervention, they help activate all of these four drives: acquire, bond, innovate, and defend.

Drive to Acquire: Employees are driven to acquire tangible goods (money, property, cars) as well as intangible skills (expertise, new abilities) and status. Dopamine is released into the brain anytime we anticipate achieving a goal or we achieve it. Likewise, companies provide compensation to employees and want them to be competent, confident experts. Ideas on activating include:

Make goals clear with defined implications for achieving Train managers and each employee to recognize and reward positive, productive, aligned behaviors Set high, yet achievable, targets that are broken in to sub-goals, then reward their realization Make recognition public and provide status to recipients Provide rewards (tangible or intangible) as close as possible to the desired behavior Make recognition spontaneous, personal, and heartfelt (not on auto-pilot or auto-schedule) Provide down time after long periods of extensive effort to achieve a goal Provide tangible rewards to supplement intangible recognition from managers and peers Provide group goals and celebrations

Drive to Bond: Employees are driven to have authentic caring relationships not just with family and friends but with their workmates and supervisors (their tribe) and to experience the warm, friendly feelings that come with them. Humans are also the only creatures which bond to abstract concepts such as ‘team’ or ‘nation.’ Bonding is supported by the release of the neuropeptide oxytocin in the brain. Likewise, companies want employees to collaborate and cooperate as a team in order to solve difficult problems. Companies that provide rewards for group achievements are working harmoniously with the drive to bond. Ideas on activating include:

Have employees create online profiles that are socially available for all to see Create randomized dyads of employees and encourage mutual-mentoring where they work together to solve problems  Ensure each instance of reward and recognition has a face-to-face element

Drive to Innovate: Employees are naturally driven to learn about the world around them and create new thoughts, systems, process, relationships, and goods based on these discoveries. Studies show how opioid receptors in the brain help create a “Eureka Pleasure,” meaning it feels good to satiate curiosity, think up a new an idea, solve a difficult problem, or comprehend a difficult concept. Likewise, companies also want their employees to learn and innovate. Ideas on activating include: 

Give all employees at least a small amount of time to innovate within their sphere of knowledge Ensure each instance of reward or recognition helps the employee learn the exact behaviors that are valued and important to the organization Encourage managers to have an “open door” to hear new ideas Continue to encourage employees when an idea does not pan out Organize dedicated “skunkworks” teams to promote radical innovation

Drive to Defend: Employees are driven to feel safe and secure and to defend the objects, people, and ideas they hold dear. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is an active participant in activating our defensive mechanisms, causing us to feel irritated, frustrated, angry or scared when we believe a closely held relationship or our status is at risk. Likewise, organizations want to minimize the activation of this drive and the inherent stress and negativity that arises when employees are in active-defense mode. Ideas for mitigating this drive: 

Maintain openness and transparency in all communications regarding determination  of all organizational incentive and rewards Gather employee input on incentive, reward, and recognition efforts to ensure they are perceived as fair Remind employees often of their importance to the organization’s mission

If when collectively activated, these drives have a compounding effect, then well-executed organizational incentive, rewards, and recognition programs hold a crucial opportunity for organizations, since they present, in a single instance, the opportunity to hit on all four drives at onceIn a single instance of giving an employee a reward or recognition, the organization allows an employee to acquire status (and potentially good or services), to bond with their team or the person giving the recognition, to more deeply comprehend what is important to the organization, and to defend the very deeply held belief that he or she is good at what they do and has chosen the right organization for employment.

From studies on oxytocin to dopamine to the pre-frontal cortex, there is no shortage of emerging neuroeconomics research on what makes humans, and employees, tick.  By working in tandem with the brain, however – and considering concepts such as the associative machine, the halo effect, emotional reward units, and the four drives –businesses will craft organizations that are not only highly productive and competitive, but better for employees overall. 

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Lessons from a life coach: how to get what you want, now

Lessons from a life coach: how to get what you want, now

People turn to life coaching because they are unclear about the direction their life is going in, they feel there is something missing. It’s my job as a coach to help them work out what that something is, and how they can find it. All coaches have a series of tools at their disposal to help them do this, over the next few articles I’m going to be sharing some of these for you to use.

We all have secret worries and fears that we don’t want to share with our social circle but when you’re worried that your aspirations or goals will be judged by your closest friends you can start to hold yourself back. You might find yourself blocking your own goals. If you’ve started assuming that what you want simply isn’t possible, that you don’t deserve to go for it or that you should put others’ needs and desires before your own, then you’re probably not getting the most out of your life. Putting our needs behind those of others is something we do in all aspects of our lives. From work, to our families, to sex - we can get caught up in trying to please other people and ignore our own needs.

One way I ask clients to think bigger about what they want is through future-self exercises, these are exercises that encourage you to think as if you had already achieved what it is you’re working towards. This isn’t about being your ‘best’ or ‘perfect’ future self, God knows there is already so much pressure to be this. This is about giving yourself time to explore what’s possible and being really honest about what you want.

Here’s one exercise that I ask clients to do early on in coaching, it’s an effective way to clearly show what you need to do to achieve your goals. Write a letter and imagine where you want to be a year today. Imagine what your life looks like, what you’ve achieved and what you’ve had to do to get there. Then write a letter from your future self to your present self. You want this letter to resonate so here are three steps to getting it right:

Write down your goals and what your life looks like when you’re not tolerating it and you are completely happy and you’ve achieved everything you want to. You can be as creative as you like, you’re the only person who will read this so don’t hesitate to put in everything you want. When writing the letter take yourself out of your day to day environment and go somewhere that allows you to dream big. Go somewhere you find inspiring and beautiful to write the letter, take your time and write without editing or censoring. Don’t cross things out or start again, this isn’t about a writing competition, nobody is grading you on your grammar or the realism of your work. Don’t judge what you have written as good or bad, possible or impossible. It’s just what’s here right now. Holding back this judgement opens to the door to being honest with yourself about what really makes you happy, and what you really have to do to achieve it. When you read the letter back to yourself, we want for you to feel inspired and energized by what you have written – this doesn’t want to feel like pressure, more like hope.

Now you’ve completed the letter, there are a few things you can do to bring it alive. Keep it where you can see it regularly, and re-read it from time to time to remind yourself of your goals. You can break it down, maybe try splitting the year into quarters with goals for each month. Something I like to do is to share my letter with someone I trust – a coach or a close ally who will champion me and hold me accountable. And there’s a great website called – if you post your letter on there, you will get it sent back to your inbox in one year from the date you posted. Good luck and enjoy!


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5 Types of Music That Increase Your Productivity

Music has a way of permeating through empty corners and filling up environments with substance. It can help you relax, make you well up in tears, or feel alive.

But can it make you more productive?

We use music to set the tone of our environment and our mood, whether we’re unwinding after work or throwing a party. But in an age when many of us spend our time staring at a computer screen, music has also become a mode of escape from outside distractions or dull tasks.

So how useful is music when it comes to focusing on your work?

Let’s take a look at the science behind music and productivity.

Does Music Make You More Productive?

Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, does research on the effect of music listening on work performance. According to Dr. Lesiuk’s research, those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and had better ideas than those who didn’t overall.

But there are some types of music that worsen productivity. Several studieshave shown that popular music interferes with reading comprehension and information processing.

Based on these studies then, music can have a positive effect in your work. However, its effect on productivity depends on the situation and type of music.

So, What Type of Music Doesn’t Work?

When I work, I find it very hard to concentrate when people are talking. Similarly, listening to music with lyrics is almost as distracting.

It turns out I’m not alone. Music can be considered a form of multi-tasking, where the listener is switching back and forth between a task and the music, as opposed to the music simply playing a background role.

Once again, this depends on the type of music and the listener’s habits. Dr. Haake does research on music listening at work, and she identified certain factors that could determine whether music is distracting:

Complex musical structure. Songs with a more complex musical structure, such as Frank Zappa’s “Muffin Man” can be more distracting to listeners when compared to songs with a simple three-chord structure, such as John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. Lyrics. Lyrics can distract, as they cause you to focus on the message of the song and interrupt your train of thought. Listening habits. If someone is used to listening to music while working, it’s often more beneficial than distracting. The reverse is true as well. Difficulty of tasks. If a task requires more thought and focus, music can make it more difficult to work efficiently. Control. When music is imposed upon someone, it’s usually more distracting than if the person has a choice in the matter.

While it’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario, there are certain types of music that are better to listen to while you work. Let’s look at their effects and how they impact you.

What Type of Music Works? 1. Classical Music

When we think of classical music, composers such as Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel come up in our thoughts. In a study, seven out of eight radiologists found that baroque music increased mood and concentration on their work. If you’re looking for where to begin, try Vivaldi’s quick-tempo “Four Seasons”.

2. Nature Music

Listening to the sounds of nature can enhance cognitive function and concentration. Soothing sounds such as flowing water, rainfall, and rustling leaves work well, while jarring noises such as birdcalls and animal noises can be distracting.

3. Epic Music

Epic music can make you feel like you’re doing something grandiose to change the world. It empowers and lifts you up. So if you’re feeling tired and uninspired during your work, try listening to some epic music to give you that extra boost of motivation.

4. Video Game Music

Music from video games is a great choice because the compositions are specifically designed to enhance your gaming experience. After all, it’s pretty crucial you dodge that fire, or skillfully maneuver your way through hordes of enemies. For starters, try the Bastion soundtrack, or one of the SimCity soundtracks, to name a few.

5. Ambient soundtracks

If you’re feeling stressed out at work, give ambient music a try. As Brian Eno, creator of Music for Airports, says:

“Ambient music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.”

Other Types of Music

There’s a number of other types of music you can listen to during work, such as meditation music, blues, or jazz, to name a few. If you just want to get rid of your chatty coworkers or the nearby printer, use “white noise” to cancel them out.

Experiment and see what works. Soft and mellow may help you to focus on your work, while a high energy piece can keep you motivated.

And of course, there are those times when silence is golden.


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How To Look In The Mirror And See Greatness

We all doubt ourselves at one time or another. The temptation to believe that we are not enough or that we somehow “must” be so much more plagues us all.

We look in the mirror and see disappointment and our forever aging bodies. We have this so-called “ticking time bomb” of things we must get done today, tomorrow and in the years to come. We see our face in the mirror and try not to take a glimpse for too long.

We think that we are only worthy of truly looking at ourselves in the mirror when we have earned the recognition we believe we deserve. The goal posts always change, though, and we run the risk of never having the opportunity to look at ourselves and be proud of who we are.

We’re all becoming something each and every day. For the vast majority of us, I believe that we’re all becoming something special. We all have hopes and dreams, and we’re doing our best to achieve them.

For me, things started to change when I was able to look in the mirror and see greatness. Things changed when I was able to honestly believe that I was going to change the world in some meaningful way and that my life mattered.

This same experience that I have been lucky enough to have is something that I want for everyone. That’s why I wrote this article in the first place. I want you to know what that feeling is like when you look in the mirror and see how phenomenal you really are.

Here’s how to see greatness in yourself:

1. Ignore the voices “There are voices in your head that are there to make you survive”  

These voices tell you that it’s easier not to try or that you’re not ready. For you to see greatness, I want you to start ignoring them. I want you to question those voices like you were a police officer interrogating someone accused of murder.

These voices often lie to us and help us make comfortable decisions. What you should follow is your heart and your intuition.

Try ignoring the voices in your head for a while and see what it does to your life. I promise you that you’ll be surprised with the outcome.

2. Focus on your best trait

We all fall into the trap of focusing on our weaknesses. The truth is we can’t be good at everything so why bother trying to be. I’ve tried in my life to be good at so many things and failed. Instead of focusing on the failures, I’ve started focusing on my single best trait.

Right now, that’s writing inspirational articles to help people in their life. That’s what I believe I’m good at and that’s what seems to be resonating with people in my friendship group. Trying to put my attention into lots of different pursuits all at the same time hasn’t worked.

It’s the same with productivity. If you read every book ever written on productivity, you’ll see that there will be at least one part of the book dedicated to focusing on just a few things.

When you allow one of your strongest traits to get even stronger, you start to believe that you are great at something.

That one trait that has excelled beyond your others gives you a belief that maybe anything is possible. Once you experience this feeling with a single trait, the greatness feeling spreads to other areas of your life. It becomes a snowball effect.

3. Imagine you are like your heroes already

For a long time, I thought that my heroes were very different to me. I thought they had these superhuman lives that maybe were out of reach from an “average Joe” like myself.

As I got to know a few of these heroes, I realized that they are in fact not that much different to me. It’s the one percenters that they do slightly different to me that gives them all of their massive success.


Adopting the belief that you are already like your heroes changes your perspective. You begin to feel differently and like you’re significant. This significance can be turned into confidence that allows you to break through fear.

I’ve started to study my heroes and mimic their habits. Because I believe I can achieve the same as them, taking risks is now a given. Knowing that I’ll achieve my goals has become a must.

“You have to believe first before anyone else can start to believe in you”

How you feel about yourself matters. Those ridiculous insults you say to yourself are blocking the true person inside of you from escaping and unleashing all the passion, and talent that the world has to offer. You’re more talented and smarter than you think.

Your dreams are not impossible; all you have to do is believe.

4. Say “I Love Myself”

I read a book about a man who had lost it all including his very prosperous Silicon Valley startup. He thought his life was over and that the only thing he could do was commit suicide. Somehow he stumbled across the idea that if you look at yourself in the mirror and say “I Love Myself,” you can turn your life around.

He did this consistently every day, and now he’s written a best-selling book and gives talks all around the world about this simple life hack.

So I thought to myself “What the heck I should try this.” So I did, and the results were amazing. I started the day with more confidence, more energy and stopped focusing on my problems. I stopped thinking about the failed relationship I had just ended and focused on the idea that I am enough.


I’m not stupid, I’m not unlovable, I’m not insignificant, I’m just me. The same applies to you. I want you to take the challenge of looking at yourself every morning in the mirror and saying “I Love Myself.” At the start, it will feel like BS, but as you do it, the belief will build.

As you get to the next level, try and say “I Love Myself” with passion like you mean it. Embody the feeling of what it would be like if you really did love yourself. You’ll be surprised to learn at the end of this experiment that you can love yourself just the way you are.

This outcome then transcribes into the belief that your imperfections should be embraced. The things that you always thought were things to be ashamed of, actually make up who you are.

You’re not flawed; you’re just human. It’s amazing to learn as Daft Punk said it that we are “Human After All.”

Don’t forget that fact the next time you look in the mirror and feel anything but greatness. Start believing. Start manifesting. You are enough. You are great.

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How to be 1% Better Every Day (The Kaizen Approach to Self-improvement)

“Compounding is the greatest mathematical discovery of all time.” — Albert Einstein

The quest to become a better version of yourself often feels like a roller coaster ride. It’s hard. And it’s usually so uneven. You can end in failure. But life is a journey, not a marathon, so you always have another opportunity to restart and improve.

Many people practically look out for secrets, tricks, and hacks that will make EVERYTHING better right now. But unfortunately life doesn’t work that way. There are no “overnight successes”. Think of all the incredible people you truly admire. They didn’t succeed becasue of one giant move, but rather a series of small and consistent actions over time.

Stop aiming for radical personal change!

“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.” — Stephen Covey

A magic bullet cannot save you! You’ve got to embrace the process and enjoy it. You can’t escape the hard work it takes to get better. Every incredibly successful person you know today has been through the boring, mundane, time-tested process that eventually brings success. So, stop looking for “quick hacks” that bring faster results.

Instead of reading every self-improvement post for the one golden tip that will make you superhumanly efficient, focus on doing the actual work that needs to be done. You can inspire yourself to take action. The hard, long process is the only way though. You can’t achieve tremendous life success with a quick fix. Nobody gets it that easy.

Your big, audacious goals are not inspiring you!

“Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.” — Helmut Schmidt

Your attempt to be better usually ends in failure because you life-changing goals overwhelm you into inaction instead of inspiring you into action. Unrealistic goals make it insanely difficult to make any progress. You will get “stressed” over what is supposed to help you take action.

Your performance and ability to get things done is inextricably bound to brain performance. A big, audacious goal looks scary to your brain. And when your brain encounters scary, it goes into “freeze” mode. You don’t want that. If you constantly overstretch yourself, you will lose the required energy you need to take the necessary action to get better.

Setting a goal, no mater how simple is always the easy part. Everyone has goals. The real challenge is not determining if you want the result, but if you are willing to accept the sacrifices required to achieve your goals.

If you want to achieve your goals at all times, create a system that works. Instead of a goal, design a great system or process. That way, you will always win. Even when your short-term goals are achieved, your next goal won’t be a struggle. Having a system is what matters. Committing to the process makes a huge difference.

James Clear explains:

We place unnecessary stress on ourselves to lose weight or to succeed in business or to write a best-selling novel. Instead, you can keep things simple and reduce stress by focusing on the daily process and sticking to your schedule, rather than worrying about the big, life-changing goals. When you focus on the practice instead of the performance, you can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.

Self-improvement is not a destination!

“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily”— Mike Murdock

Learning should not end after formal education. Lifelong learning, the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge can enrich your life and make you a better person every day.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. You’re never done. Even if you have some success, and you want to maintain it, you have to keep doing the things you were doing that got you that success in the first place.

Your first step to improving your life and becoming the best version of your self won’t be easy. Nobody can promise you that things will be easy but they will get better. It pays to take a small action–any action–and grow from there. Remember, you are better off trying and crawling than anyone else who isn’t trying.

The Kaizen Approach and how it works

“Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin

Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement

It was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement.

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives.

The idea here is to focus on consistent improvements in your life, every day, not matter how small the step you take to be a better you than you were yesterday.

According to Brett and Kate McKay of The Art of Manliness:

“Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.

It might not seem like much, but those 1% improvements start compounding on each other. In the beginning, your improvements will be so small as to seem practically nonexistent. But gradually and ever so slowly, you’ll start to notice the improvements in your life. It may take months or even years, but the improvements will come if you just focus on consistently upping your game by 1%.”

Here is why Kaizen works

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” — John Wooden

The Kaizen approach is a reminder that all improvements must be maintained if we wish to secure consistent gains. Think of the smallest step you can take every day that would move you incrementally towards your goal.

Becoming 1% better every day is a simple, practical way to achieve big goals. 1% seems like a small amount. Yes, it is. It’s tiny. It’s easy. It’s doable. And it’s applicable in most things you want to do or accomplish.

It feels less intimidating and is more manageable. It might feel less exciting than chasing a huge win, but its results will be stronger and more sustainable.

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This Leadership Value Is the Most Important Trait of Any Successful Business

Culture reflects leadership. And one of the most essential components to leadership is to model the culture the company needs to succeed.

Success comes from good leadership--there's no argument there, but leaders are mainly in the driver's seat, navigating a route and steering the company towards success. However, no leader or company is going to get very far without a reliable engine to power it.

What's the engine? Your people. And whether you have a good or bad engine will determine how fast you'll get there or fail to get there at all--and that's where employee engagement comes into play.

When your people are engaged, the very best flows from them and the company's work will be done more effectively, efficiently, and with more success.

On the dark side of engagement, Gallup reported that actively disengaged employees costs the U.S. between $450 - $550 billion per year.

With figures like that, it should come as no surprise then that improving employee engagement is on the minds of leaders everywhere, raising the question, "How do I get my people more engaged?"

Fueling Employee Engagement

We've all experienced the standard approaches of companies trying to increase engagement through incentives, perks, compensation and rewards. But this form of "bribe 'em" engagement has very limited appeal and a short shelf-life.

What, then, increases employee engagement? In a word: Culture. Culture is the fuel for the organizational engine.

Companies with high levels of employee engagement tend to have organizational cultures where:

People take accountability for results. Employees are open and candid in respectful yet deliberate ways. People feel empowered to take ownership and find ways to overcome obstacles that inevitably arise.

These cultures typically provide purpose, foster innovation, and enjoy a healthy level of trust at all levels of the organization.

Culture Reflects Leadership

How can leaders manage culture and provide the right types of experiences that sustain the right culture over time?

One essential component is to model the very culture the company needs in order to succeed.

Turning back to Gallup, another study found that there is a trickle-down effect of employee engagement, known as a "mediation effect," which suggests that engagement cascades down from senior levels to the frontline.

Managers led by highly engaged executive teams are 39% more likely to be engaged than managers who are led by disengaged executive teams. Frontline employees led by highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged than those with less engaged managers.

How does this influence work? Leaders create experiences that foster beliefs among employees. Those beliefs determine what people choose to do and not do; how to show up in a staff meeting; what level of effort and ownership they'll demonstrate and how to interact with supervisors and direct reports.

When a leader models the behavior they want their people to demonstrate, people tend to follow suit--whether positive or negative. If a leader rules with an iron first, regardless of the short-term results this approach brings, it could lead to a toxic work environment, resulting in poor engagement at multiple levels.

If a leader leads with purpose, integrity, and accountability, people will experience this, inviting the right mindset and behaviors that flow from that thinking.

Modeling in this way is leading by example and creates expectations for others to follow.

Manage Culture to Fuel Engagement

We'd like to propose three tips for leaders to help shape culture and, ultimately, fuel engagement.

1. Model the Right Culture

Start by asking yourself: "What type of team and company culture engages me?" "What type of leader do I want to follow?" and "What is it about that leader's style that draws me in?"

Write down your thoughts and determine how and where you'll demonstrate those same traits.

2. Clarify Purpose at All Levels

Help your people understand the purpose of the organization, the team, and their own connection to the business results of the company by using tools such as storytelling and recognition to reinforce how the right actions impact company performance.

Water what you want to grow!

3. Make Feedback Real

Create a feedback-rich culture by inviting feedback that flows both up and down. Ask for feedback every day; even from people you normally wouldn't ask. Demonstrate that you want honesty through your own example of open and candid feedback exchanges.

Every person in an organization impacts engagement, but it's culture that truly fuels engagement, and culture is shaped by you and leaders at every level. By shaping the culture you want through modeling, purpose, and feedback, you'll increase engagement and fuel your company engine to accelerated performance.