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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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5 Ways to Help Your Team Be Open to Change

More than 90% of CEOs believe their companies will change more in the next five years than they did in the last five. Having a workforce that’s ready and able to harness that change will make the difference between success and failure.

Leaders at every level need to embrace and model how to engage in and affect change. Personal leadership and engagement, however, is not enough. For change to be operationalized, you need to inspire your team to be creative and enable them to innovate. But innovation only happens when people are able to work in the gray space — where ambiguity is okay and business principles, rather than hard and fast rules, apply.

Here are five daily practices you can put in place to inspire and enable your team to become change makers:

Tell stories about others who moved beyond the status quo. Asking people to work in the gray space often creates uncertainty. They need reassurance that moving into uncertainty can create positive results. Success stories provide tangible, memorable examples of what moving beyond the status quo looks like. To craft a compelling story, ask yourself:

What is meaningful and important to the people I’m working with now? What is the core idea I want them to take away? What essential parts of the story invite them to come along on the journey?

For example, early in my career, I was leading a part of a project that aimed to transform the patient care delivery model in a hospital. To design key parts of the new delivery model, we were asking a cross-section of staff to work in design teams. This had never been asked of them before and they were nervous. We gathered the 50 people together in the hospital auditorium to introduce them to the project and their role in it. I knew they were nervous about what was being asked of them, so we closed the kick-off with a scene from Dead Poet’s Society, where Robin Williams asks his students to stand on their desks and see the world differently. The scene ends with Williams telling a student, “Don’t think that I don’t know this assignment scares the hell out of you.” Afterwards, a nurse walked up to me and said, “How did you know that is me?” We talked and I shared my confidence in how much her knowledge and experience was going to help her with this task. She went on to be one of the highest contributors to the design effort.

Ultimately, your stories should share a common message — it’s okay to step up and out. Powerful stories create psychological safety, letting people know that making change is good and will be rewarded. Share how the individual(s) in the story, as well as the company, benefitted from stepping into the gray space.

Create dialogue, inviting others to ask questions and share emotions, experiences, and insights. Change stirs up emotional responses that often cause people to pull back rather than to lean in. Inspiring and enabling your team to affect change requires having conversations that move people from reaction to action. Try having 30-minute meetings to discuss both the emotions related to change and the actions participants can take to affect change. I call these “listening posts.” Listening posts were originally facilities that monitored radio and microwave signals to analyze their content. Like that original definition, your listening post can help you understand key information, and can help others take action. Listening posts consist of:

Table setting: Define the purpose of the meeting for your team. Encourage them to discuss how change is affecting them. For example, “We’re here to talk about the change we are experiencing and understand how it’s impacting you personally and us as a team.” Invite everyone to define actions that the group will take to influence how change is happening. Listening: Encourage individuals to start the conversation by sharing their experiences by using metaphors or adjectives. This gives them a safe way to talk about emotions. Share your metaphor first to break the ice. For example, you may feel like a juggler trying to keep all the balls in the air. Share that with your team. As people share their metaphors, remember to listen for who is dissenting or significantly challenged by the change. The voice of the outlier can provide key insights. Consolidating: Ask the team what common themes they are hearing. Use questions like, “What does it seem like we all have in common? What is different for each of us?” Summarize key themes and confirm what you’ve heard. Acting: Identify actions. These ideas need to come from the team, with you as the facilitator. Ask questions like, “What do we control or can we influence?” “How do we want to change this?” “What role will each of you play in making this happen?”

Ask “what if?” questions in one-on-one and team meetings. This is your opportunity to help your team be bold. Don’t ask what-ifs that only look at slightly different solutions or behaviors. Role model testing the boundaries — what are the guardrails and how can you push up against them?  Questions like “What if we were all freelancers? How would we think about this?” “What if we built this process from scratch?” or “What if our lead product suddenly became obsolete?” push people to think boldly. People may be unsure just how far they can push at first. Recognize and reward initial steps and continue to ask for more. Reinforce ideas by saying “That’s a great idea. Let’s push that idea even further.” Or “That’s a good start. We need to be asking ourselves these questions continually.” This will reinforce the message that being a change-maker should be the norm, not the exception.

Set expectations that everyone (including yourself) should acknowledge, and take responsibilities for mistakes. And then, treat mistakes as opportunities for learning and growth. Michael Alter, former president at Sure Payroll, made making and acknowledging mistakes a core to operationalizing their business strategy. When he joined the company, he needed employees to become change-makers and take more risks to meet accelerated growth goals. After trying personal stories, analogies, and other techniques without enough success, he formalized failure. He created the “Best New Mistakes” competition, rewarding employees for providing the most unique and interesting mistakes. Rules included that employees could only nominate themselves and it had to be a new mistake. Entries were discussed, and prizes were given at company meetings. Six years later, it was still one of their most innovative learning initiatives.

 

Champion cross-boundary collaboration and networks to open up thinking and gain new perspectives. To become change makers, your team needs to hear a variety of voices and get a variety of perspectives. Urge them to work across boundaries by asking questions like:  

Who else do we need to involve? What other parts of the organization could help with this? Who has perspective on this topic/issue/area that we don’t or can’t have? How should we connect with them? What can I do to help create that connection?

Organizations that succeed are no longer the ones that change top-down, or where innovation is expected only from certain people or roles. Winning teams build change agility into the heart of their culture. That’s why change leadership is no longer just something you do. It’s a large part of who you are. And that means building “change muscle memory” in yourself and your teams. These five everyday practices are a great way to start.

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Beyond count & comparison - Measuring performance outcomes

If machines are going to do all the repetitive, boring tasks and leave humans to do only creative work, performance management has to be redesigned to measure creative work and creativity.

Work is an outcome of the collaborative effort of humans and machines. This is not surprising nor unknown, however, just to highlight how work is a collaborative effort, we can take the example of algorithms that help stock exchanges buy and sell at lightning speed or the case of Alibaba that launched its biggest sale on Singles Day in Nov 2018 with their warehouse equipped with 700 robots who supported a handful of humans. Alibaba ended up selling products worth more than $30 billion on that day in a 24-hour period — a feat that could not have achieved by humans alone.

Machines augment us, our ‘human’ capabilities at the workplace, and even in our personal lives. For example, we routinely pull out calculators or use spreadsheets to do the work had we been using the old-fashioned notebook. And while we delegate our menial and repetitive jobs to the machines, and dedicate ourselves to only do the creative work, the concepts of productivity and performance need to be reevaluated and redesigned, especially performance management that has to be renewed to measure creative work and creativity.

Beyond count and compare

But creative work cannot be measured in numbers – this is a qualitative aspect not quantitative. To design performance metrics for creative work can be a huge challenge as millions of managers across the world, who still face difficulty evaluating the performance of remote workers, have to be taught how to evaluate what can’t be counted. 

It is easy to measure outcomes when they are concrete. The number of widgets produced by one worker can be compared against norms to determine how much they need to be paid. It is easy to compare one sales person’s outcomes to another. You simply need to count and compare. Most managers still manage performance by counting and comparing. But we use Performance Management systems that do not address the intangible elements like trust, teamwork and collaboration. Performance management systems have not evolved beyond count and compare.

Performance is a human process

Guidance is a pre-requisite to reaching a goal. A manager has to play the role of a coach and a skill-builder rather than be just a weighing scale, figuratively speaking. Work is getting increasingly complex that needs multiple viewpoints and collaboration beyond silos. It is time to measure the intangible elements underlying performance. Count and compare is at loggerheads with workplace behaviors like collaboration and creativity. Managers often focus on tangible measures to appear objective. Employees care about “fairness” and equity. Weak managers often keep noise levels low by distributing rewards equally. 

If all that matters is the results, then a machine could keep score. Why do you need a manager to evaluate performance? The role of the manager is to not just measure and judge output; it is to build skills that will help the employee to do the current role better, prepare for more complex roles in future, and be a better organizational citizen.

Intangibles matter

Intangibles can be measured through the value they create or erode. Take two areas where intangibles matter:

Reputation of the organization

The modern enterprise is built on intangible measures like reputation, behaviors at work etc. Google had to let go, Andy Rubin, the “Father of Android” because of inappropriate behavior. When the terms of severance became public, it led to 20,000 Google employees walking out in protest and leading Google to kill its policy of forced arbitration.

From Input to Value Creation or Erosion

Elon Musk creates value with his ideas and erodes it with a single tweet. Even today, training departments are measured on archaic and meaningless measures like number of training days or the number of employees “covered” even for soft skills like collaboration and creativity. A student from an art college can reproduce a painting by a master. The role of the manager is to turn that employee into an original artist who goes beyond replication.   

Learn from the 'Mad Men'

Advertising agencies are judged on two parameters. The clients evaluate them on the impact they had on the additional sales and trust in the brand. The peers compete on the number of awards won. The industry judges the agency on the thought leadership and breakthrough thinking. The senior leaders are judged on the number of awards the team members have won under their leadership.

If work is going to be all about creative output, maybe it is time for performance management to be designed along with people who have figured out how to evaluate and nurture creativity – the mad men. 

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The Key to Building High-Impact Teams

Individuals work differently alone versus in groups. Here’s how to make them the most effective.

According to new research from Bersin by Deloitte, the best organizations are redefining their talent practices to be centered on teams, instead of around hierarchies. Leading companies are 4.5 times more likely to practice effective teamwork and collaboration when they dedicate a larger share of resources to building and supporting teams that drive business performance.

But what does a high-performing team look like, exactly, and how can leaders design great teams?

It’s far too easy for teams to become ineffective. In 1913, the French agricultural engineering professor Max Ringelmann first discovered “social loafing.” He noticed students competing in a rope pulling contest exerted less force as individuals as each team grew larger. In other words, when people work in groups, they don’t put in as much individual effort.

Too often, teams fall into a groupthink trap. Decisions are frequently made by the same, most vocal person. Teams repeatedly drift toward a particular idea, and they fail to recognize contradictory information or better solutions.

The key to avoiding these pitfalls lies in communication. High-impact teams must have deep, rather than shallow, conversations. Too often when people talk about work, they use high-level abstractions like “be creative” or “do your best.” But effective team conversations are far more specific. Always be clear on what the defined goals, norms and roles are within the team.

If you want a team member to be more open and engaged, do not tell them simply to “speak up.” Instead, consider posing these questions: do we know our purpose? Are we being bold? Are we being specific? Have we answered the question, “what’s in it for me?” Have we answered the question, “what’s in it for the organization?”

Creating high-impact teams is about finding the right balance between me and we.

It’s important to remember that whenever people come together, a culture is formed. It’s what humans do. Creating and maintaining that culture must be intentional and thoughtful.

Howard Schultz, former CEO and executive chairman of Starbucks, often refers to his successful chain of coffee shops as a “third place.” Starbucks, he likes to think, is a place beyond home and work where people can think, talk and collaborate. The former “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno’s “third place” was a restaurant where, as a young comedian, he frequently gathered with other struggling entertainers for lunch every day. It was there, making his friends laugh, that he discovered his brand of comedy.

Designing great teams requires creating the atmosphere of a so-called third place. It’s about forming a culture where people can share ideas and communicate freely — and help each other improve bit by bit each day.

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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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The 5 Cs: 5 Essential Qualities That Define Great Leadership

Want to be a stronger leader? Build a stronger team on these five principles.

Many leaders focus on upward movement within their organization, deciding ways they can ascend the ranks in their company. However, fighting hard to get to the top doesn’t necessarily make for a strong leader. There’s another approach you can take to improve your leadership skills that is more rewarding and far less lonely: surrounding yourself with great people. But how do you find and cultivate strong workers?

According to the 2018 Gallup Employee Engagement report, only 34 percent of people in the U.S. are engaged in their work. Although this number is quite low, you may be surprised to learn that this is the highest percentage in the history of Gallup’s employee engagement reporting. The number of disengaged workers has reached an all-time low of 13 percent. Despite these record-breaking statistics, U.S. employees’ lack of engagement can have disastrous impacts on the success of their organizations. Perhaps these figures are a direct result of poor leadership.

To inspire engagement and effectiveness in their employees, leaders should look within, asking themselves the following questions:

How clear and communicative are you as a leader? What is your leadership style? Do you practice what you preach? Do you keep the promises you make?

First and foremost, a good leader establishes an important foundation of credibility and trust. When people trust you, you can inspire their engagement and loyalty in the company; this is critical when the organization faces challenges and you need to rally the team to success. Effective leaders can build strong teams on these five principles, the five Cs of great leadership:

1. Collaborate

It may be satisfying to be able to complete a project on your own. However, those who try to juggle a considerable amount of work by themselves often result in failure. Competent leaders understand the importance of working with a team to complete tasks both large and small. To encourage collaboration among your team, you should be able to delegate. Having work completed by other members of your team doesn’t mean getting items off your own plate. You will likely need to look over the finished product, after all. Instead, collaboration can vastly improve the quality of the product your team is creating. You know what they say: “Two heads are better than one.”

2. Communicate

Strong leaders should motivate and instruct the people on their teams. If they are not skilled communicators, they may have trouble getting messages across to their teams. When speaking with your employees or delegating tasks, be sure to give them clear direction. You should always be willing to answer questions that may arise if the employees are having trouble comprehending complex instructions. Make time to meet with your staff to speak with them and check on their progress to ensure success.

3. (Be) Candid

Being honest sounds fundamental to being a great leader, yet many people often hold back what they’d really like to say to avoid hurting someone’s feeling. Instead of helping the problem, this can hurt it. When important statements go unsaid, no one on the team can learn from their mistakes. This will cause them to make the same mistakes over and over, not knowing that what they are doing is incorrect.

When correcting employees’ mistakes, you need to figure out a way to approach the issue in a constructive – not harsh – way. Approach the critiques as a form of self-improvement, coaching rather than correcting.

4. Connected

Effective leaders understand the value of feedback, on both the giving and receiving end. As managers, we likely have information to share with our employees about their individual performances. Provide regular check-ins with employees to measure their success. A quarterly one-on-one isn’t enough to keep your team on track. Meet individually with your staff members consistently to reinforce their hard work, provide feedback on areas in which they can improve and explain both short- and long-term goals for team metrics.

It is just as important to encourage your employees to offer you feedback as it is to lend it to them. When your employees are encouraged to express their opinion, they feel that their voices are important and their ideas are valued. When employees feel useful, they are more likely to stay engaged. Make sure to listen to the feedback you receive and follow through with their requests and suggestions. Getting criticism can be difficult, but make sure you stay off the defensive and thank your employee for their honesty.

5. Care

Exceptional leaders are empathetic, caring for their staff members, not just the work they do. Employees want to feel valued. Make sure you ask them about their life. What do they enjoy? How is their family doing? Did they find time to relax on their recent vacation? Work isn’t everything, and employees feel a sense of loyalty when their leader cares about them as a person, not just as a workhorse.

Invoking Change in Your Organization

Great leaders typically attribute their success to the strong individuals on their teams. Look to the people who work with you and for you. When they respect their leader and feel that their voice is valuable to the organization, they are likely to feel engaged in their work. As leaders, we are only as good as our people. Forging strong relationships with our teams pays off in corporate morale as well as overall performance. Use the five Cs every day and you may notice an improvement in attitudes and results among your team members.

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4 reasons leaders should be able to do any job at the company (even the entry level ones)

Despite the hardships, the great thing about doing the dirty work is that as you grow and scale your teams, you have a fundamental understanding of every aspect of what it takes to run your business–because you’ve done it all.

When people think of leaders who carry the illustrious title of CEO, they might envision someone who sits in a plush office all day, looks out of a big window, and has a personal assistant to bring them coffee. (By the way, did you say you wanted that with sugar and cream, or just hot and gently stirred?)

However, most successful CEOs, both with established brands or startups, will tell you very quickly that this couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality, many successful leaders have had to roll up their sleeves to get into the “grit and grime” of hard work in order to grow their companies. It’s those menial tasks, the stuff no else wants to do, even the downright dirty work, that helped them achieve the level of success they now enjoy.

As a veteran startup leader, I have yet to see a successful company with leadership that wasn’t afraid to put on a hard hat, throw on some work boots, and get right into the weeds of the most “unenjoyable” tasks that were required for them to sustain or grow their business.

Take me, for example. When I first started Newchip, I was sleeping in a 100-ish-square-foot office (henceforth called the closet) that I leased while renting out my apartment on Airbnb to pay the bills for the office and to meet payroll. It just made more sense since I was at the office nonstop anyway (Hey, if Elon could do it, so could I). However, living at an office was no walk in the park because I had to make it without certain amenities that naturally come with the comforts of home. And while I definitely missed having a real bed, warm showers, and a full kitchen (mostly, my bed), I also realized that this sacrifice was necessary in order to build my company with the limited resources I had at the time.

Ironically, even as my company started to grow, and I was able to staff up, there were still many times that I was found in the muck and mire of cleaning up the conference room after meetings, sweeping the office floors to keep the place tidy for the next investor’s meeting, and yes, even taking out the trash. How’s that for stroking your ego?

This is why it’s so important to understand that leadership can often come with highs and lows. For example: Picture a day in which you were finally able to land millions of dollars from some of your key investors. (It’s time to celebrate, right?) But also on this same day, you have to throw on some jeans, grab a T-shirt from the drawer, and head right back to the office to make your own copies, send over your own paperwork, and order a pizza just so you have something to eat after a long day.

Despite the hardships, the great thing about doing the dirty work is that as you grow and scale your teams, you have a fundamental understanding of every aspect of what it takes to run your business–because you’ve done it all. With this in mind, here are four great reasons not to be afraid of doing the dirty work:

IT SHOWS HUMILITY

If it needs to get done and you are the only one with the bandwidth to do it, then be willing to it take on, regardless of how big or small. At the end of the day, it shows that you’re willing and able to pitch in wherever needed. It also shows humility and creates an atmosphere for excellent teamwork. By demonstrating that there’s no task that’s beneath you, you’ll inspire loyalty that can never be earned otherwise. Even if it’s just serving as an extra set of hands during a busy time or taking over for an employee who needs a quick 15-minute break, employees who see you contribute in these small but significant ways will be much more willing to do the same themselves.

IT TAKES THE FOCUS OFF YOUR TITLE

Leadership isn’t about seniority, rank, or entitlement. In fact, great leaders don’t care about any of those things. Launching a business takes vision, resourcefulness, determination, and a willingness to get down and dirty. A strong leader doesn’t just tell their team how to work, a strong leader models this behavior in everything they do–whether it’s an elevated task like creating the company’s big vision or day-to-day things like working alongside service reps to help them answer phone calls.

IT IDENTIFIES ROADBLOCKS AND PAIN POINTS

As a leader, your time is immensely valuable and it’s also in short supply. This is especially true during the phase of scaling your business. During this time, you have to have a good pulse on all the areas of your business so you can easily identify the gaps and friction points. Being in the trenches is a good way to accomplish this.

If you have a customer service problem, handle the matter yourself. This allows you to learn about any rough spots firsthand. If you have a supply challenge, take the time to dig into the details yourself so you can determine the best solution. You will gain a fundamental understanding of how to make things operate more smoothly, which will, in turn, support long-term sustainable growth.

IT HELPS YOU SWEAT

You can’t build a successful business without sweat equity. For the CEO, this usually means actual sweat. That’s true for companies in every industry, from tech to finance to food. You simply have to use your elbow grease. Even genius developers and programmers have found themselves not only coding software programs but also poring over financial statements or managing invoices at 2 a.m.

While this is very time consuming, it allows you and your dedicated team to handle multiple job functions in-house without extra cash compensation, as a way to save costs while you grow your organization. In the end, this will all pay off.

Doing the dirty work isn’t always fun but it can provide you with some very valuable insights and personal growth opportunities along the way. Running a successful organization requires you to be ready to dive in and do whatever it takes to keep your team moving forward.

 

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How do You improve accountability

Leaders can improve organizational accountability — and drive better top-line results — by understanding the critical relationship between how employees think and how they act.

It’s true that optimizing operations and re-imagining your business strategy can help organizations see better top-line results. Unfortunately, these approaches often fall short because they only address employee behaviors, and not the underlying mindsets that drive these behaviors.

Ensuring sustained success requires a more challenging proposition: improving accountability in the workplace. 

Accountability, according to the New York Times bestseller The Oz Principle, is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary to achieve desired results.” In alignment with this definition, achieving true accountability in the workplace depends on every employee’s personal and proactive commitment to delivering on team and organization-wide objectives. 

So how do you, as a leader, improve accountability across your organization — and in turn, drive better topline results?

Build Around Key Results 

According to the results of our Workplace Accountability Study, 9 out of 10 senior executive teams do not effectively clarify their organizations’ top priorities — leaving employees with a vague sense of direction and little understanding of how their daily actions impact organizational performance.

To compound this issue, nearly 85% of employees say that their company’s priorities are constantly shifting. One month, the company’s focus may be driving sales, while the next it may be funneling resources into better product development. When priorities regularly change, employees do not feel a sense of connection to the overall mission of the organization — and are thus are more likely to disengage from their work, hindering productivity on the whole.

Before leaders can effectively improve accountability in the workplace and lift top-line results, they must ensure that every employee knows exactly what objectives they are working towards. When employees are given clear targets and are able to see how their everyday duties contribute to the success or failure of Key Results — the three to five top-line results that the organization must deliver on in order to achieve success — they feel a deeper sense of purpose and pride in their work.

As such, it is the leadership team’s responsibility to identify and clarify the organization’s Key Results. These results should be communicated and reinforced across the organization by leaders at every level, guaranteeing that each and every employee understands and feels connected to the company’s primary objectives.

Master The Results Pyramid

Even if leaders have clearly defined and articulated the organization’s Key Results, they may not be able to improve accountability in the workplace until they understand the causal relationship between every employee’s experiences, beliefs, and actions.

According to the evidence-based Partners In Leadership model known as The Results Pyramid®, experiences shape personal beliefs, which in turn, influence actions. Finally, actions drive results — whether good or bad. As such, bolstering top-line results begins at the bottom layers of the pyramid: by purposefully shaping employees’ experiences and beliefs.

Take this example: a major healthcare organization was experiencing a worrying rate of medical errors and near-misses due to operational inconsistencies. In an attempt to curb these high error rates, the organization introduced a new initiative requiring two layers of patient name and treatment verification. This regulation created a new experience for intake employees by introducing a new step into their workflow.

In turn, the initiative promoted the cultural belief of patient safety by stressing the importance of verifying patient information. By following the new initiative and integrating the belief of safety into her daily work, a practitioner was able to catch a near-miss when one patient — who shared the same name as another patient — was called in for the wrong treatment. Because the practitioner took action to verify the patient’s full name and treatment plan, she was able to avoid a potentially dangerous mistake and achieve better healthcare safety results for the organization.

This example demonstrates that when leaders build experiences and beliefs that support their desired results, they are able to effectively cultivate higher levels of accountability in the workplace and ultimately, deliver on Key Results.

Maximize Accountability in the Workplace

When leaders clearly establish Key Results and understand the critical importance of the Results Pyramid®, they are prepared to improve accountability in the workplace.

Taking the cue of the healthcare organization that introduced new initiatives to shape cultural beliefs that in turn propelled meaningful action toward Key Results, leaders must focus on creating new experiences for employees. Whether it be a new set of regulations or an organization-wide training series, the experience must be purposefully designed to improve employees’ abilities to recognize the gaps between existing and desired results, take psychological ownership of the problems and potential solutions, employ creative problem-solving to close critical gaps, and fulfill their promise to deliver on Key Results.

 

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Building high-performance teams of a successful organization

Various discussions and studies on the subject across the globe have outlined the ways one can effectively build and deploy such teams. However, in the midst of technological advancements, an increasing number of remote workers and the need for partnerships, the topic demands a deeper understanding.

Increasing competition and focus on building innovation led competencies within organizations demand effective, efficient and high-quality delivery. High performing teams (HPT) are identified within businesses to drive this objective efficiently. HPTs outperform all expectations and achieve superior business results for a given organization and mark an area of utmost importance in building organizational structures. Various discussions and studies on the subject across the globe have outlined the ways one can effectively build and deploy such teams. However, in the midst of technological advancements, an increasing number of remote workers and the need for partnerships, the topic demands a deeper understanding. 

High performing teams or HPTs constitute individual strengths combined with the right leadership to deliver high-quality results aligned to business objectives. HPTs are generally formed with highly skilled professionals from cross-functional areas and focus on achieving a common business goal. Organizations need HPTs for specialized projects that require an efficient task force to perform result driven business. HPTs are also efficient in supporting process change within the business with their multidirectional communication abilities and skill sharing. 

HPTs are equipped to set in organizational/process changes and foster a culture of result driven performance across levels with continuous engagement with other teams. While companies largely perceive the need for HPTs for specific projects, they can also be used for year-round development within the enterprise. It, however, is up to a company to determine how long such teams are required to function.

Depending on the nature and scale of the business, one or more HPTs may be required within an organization. Creating interdependencies within teams with specialized tasks assigned to each member is only the first step towards success. Each team must be led by competent business heads with stellar leadership skills.

Capable leaders can streamline timely process delivery and simultaneously identify and resolve issues to ensure smooth functioning of the team as one. Team leaders should also focus on ‘inspiring’ than just driving business goals. They should carve out individual strengths and potential of each member and encourage them to stretch beyond boundaries. Building synergies and a cooperative environment are also very crucial for HPTs to perform as expected. 

Let us look at 5 key characteristics that HPTs must have and work upon within the team to deliver clear, tangible and efficient results.

Integrity & mutual respect: Teams can perform better if there is a mutual understanding of challenges and potentials alike. Every person is a high performing individual with specific skills and delivery routines. Therefore, mutual respect towards each other’s work and capabilities will enhance the quality of bond amongst members and create opportunities for feedback and capacity building. Taking on a challenge as a single entity and the will to deliver the best solution is powered by the value of integrity. Clear communication: An open channel of communication between team members and with team leader is crucial to building an understanding of common goals and team vision. Exchange of feedback: Treating each member as an asset to the team and exchanging feedback in an assertive, constructive manner is significant in building an environment of collaboration. If the team’s agenda is to innovate, members should be able to ask questions and challenge existing processes if they have a solution/way to do something in a better way than how it’s defined by the processes. Decision making: There needs be a clear set of rules defining how decisions will be taken in a team, whether unanimously as a democratic process or by the leader. The rules should be clearly conveyed to each member and agreed upon to avoid loss of time in the process. Set eyes on the collective mission: Embarking on a collective mission helps HPTs to stay on the path. Team members perform better when they see beyond their individual workloads and believe in working for the purpose of the team. Focusing on completion of a project causes efficiencies to be channelized in the right direction.

According to a McKinsey Report published in 2017, when members of a top performing team work together towards a common vision and achieving a common goal, the likelihood of having above-median financial performance increases by 1.9 times. The report also stated that employees are five times more productive when working in an HPT than in an average team. Building an HPT is one of the proven business efficiency techniques organizations are rapidly adapting to nowadays. Smart organizations are already speaking about the importance of building HPTs to tackle high-stake challenges. Many of them have already incorporated HPT training as a best practice. As the world moves to more complex business functions with concentrated competition in each vertical, HPTs are providing the answer to achieving business excellence.

   

 

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Comment Why on-the-job training is not enough

For too long now, organisations have expected employees to learn management skills on the job. And they do – but it's not without an inevitable period of 'settling in', as uncertain managers try to take the reins for the first time. 

These new managers have often worked their way up the ranks, finding themselves in the role almost by accident. They are probably technically strong, know the organisation well, and are eager to succeed, but they have little or no management experience. 

With limited guidance, they often have to figure it out for themselves, but the time spent finding their feet is a huge productivity drain for businesses. And now, at a time when many organisations are facing unstable conditions, it makes a big difference. 

Management skills are essential for navigating change, especially at a time of significant uncertainty. The UK's organisations must be primed to seize the opportunities, overcome the challenges and remain competitive – and without strong managers, who are able to act decisively and communicate effectively, they may struggle.

Old dogs, new tricks

But the UK has a chronic shortage of higher-level skills, particularly in management and leadership – and with a supply and demand issue it can be expensive to buy them in from elsewhere. So, instead, many organisations promote deserving candidates internally – this is how accidental managers are made.

The most important management skills can be tricky to learn on the job – particularly people management, finance or change management. Even the most senior, experienced employees will undoubtedly require top-up training at some point in their careers, particularly when taking up a management or leadership role. So why not invest in formal management training for these workers? 

And organisations that pay the apprenticeship levy already have access to funding to pay for this formal training via apprenticeships. There are a number of suitable qualifications out there, such as the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, which is designed to provide higher-level management skills to companies that need them. 

From May 2019, organisations will start to lose access to their funds. While any absorbed funding will be re-invested into skills and apprenticeships by the government, employers who have not used their funding could miss out on an opportunity to plug their own skills gaps.

Retention and engagement

For many employers, the risk of losing the skills they develop and the return on their investment is a significant deterrent to offering formal training. However, organisations that do invest in their managers will not only recognise the impact on productivity and agility, they will also see the benefits of enhanced retention and engagement among those they train. 

A commitment to work-based training makes employees feel valued, and this, along with the time to complete the apprenticeship increases retention rates and loyalty. In addition to this, apprentices are more engaged, and are able to start putting their new skills into practice right from the start, which means the organisation can reap the benefits even before training is complete.

So, the benefits of investing in formal training for managers are clear. It allows organisations to achieve the best of both worlds: cherry-picking the best industry expertise, increasing retention of their best workers and providing promising employees with the ability to lead and navigate the changes on the horizon. 

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Inclusive Leadership Boosts Organizational Performance

When leaders are inclusive of diverse workers, their companies could see higher profits.

Inclusive leadership focuses on creating a culture where differences are valued and appreciated, contrasting opinions and perspectives are encouraged and employees have a sense of both uniqueness and belonging. Research has shown that organizations with leaders that facilitate inclusive cultures tend to have employees who contribute more, stay longer, make better decisions, collaborate more effectively, perform better and are more engaged, innovative and motivated.
Organizations that have inclusive cultures are also twice as likely to meet or exceed their financial target, as well as six times more likely to be innovative and anticipate change, according to Bersin’s 2017 research on building an inclusive culture.

Our recent research further supports the notion that inclusive leadership increases an inclusive culture, as well as the notion that diversity does not always lead to inclusion. Through a survey of employees from 156 of the 250 organizations on the Forbes “America’s Best Employers for Diversity” list, we found that inclusive leadership highly correlated with inclusive culture.

Diversity is Necessary, But Not Sufficient 

Today’s organizations already have some of the basic building blocks of creating inclusive cultures. The most important of these is having diversity in the workforce. Diversity, simply put, is all the ways in which employees differ. These differences can include a wide range and combination of factors: gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, national origin, cultural background, sexual orientation, political affiliation, education, experience, socio-economic background, personality, tenure and work style.

Proponents of workforce diversity advocated for the many benefits of having the “right mix” of employees, including increased productivity, engagement, job satisfaction and innovation. As such, most organizations have focused on achieving workforce diversity through a variety of initiatives over the past few decades. Many have been successful in increasing diversity, albeit primarily focused on racial/ethnic and gender diversity. Unfortunately, the expected benefits did not always materialize and in some cases had the opposite effect. For example, some organizations that increased diversity without creating a more inclusive work environment experienced lower productivity, engagement and job satisfaction due to employees from diverse backgrounds feeling alienated and their contributions unappreciated.

It was soon realized that simply having a diverse workforce was not enough. Organizations neglected to realize that there is an ongoing process required to integrate, manage and nurture employees in a way that facilitates the benefits of diversity. This process is known as inclusion. Put another way, diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.

What Inclusive Leaders Do (And Don’t Do) 

Inclusive leadership encompasses five main aspects of a leader’s approach to working with others in the organization. At a high level, inclusive leaders are supportive, equitable, entrusting, encouraging and enabling.

These five facets of inclusive leadership are interrelated and often lead to one another depending on the environment. In other words, all facets must be present to some extent, but may vary in degree for different situations. These aspects are key not only for interactions with those employees who report directly to the leader, but also to others with whom the leader must influence in order for his or her team to be successful. The table below provides examples of the “do’s and don’ts” for each facet of inclusive leadership.

Becoming a more inclusive leader is an ongoing process, but there are three main steps to start you on that path. First, evaluate where you stand on the inclusive leadership continuum. Seeking feedback and/or completing a 360 appraisal of your on-the-job behaviors that are related to inclusive leadership would provide you with data of how others perceive your inclusive leadership skills (or lack thereof).

The Path to Inclusive Leadership

Next, identify areas for development based on that feedback. These areas should not all be those where the most improvement is needed, as it is just as important to maximize your strengths (i.e., going from good to great). If you have more than five areas of development (as most will), focus on a few areas at a time. Don’t try to do it all at once.

Third, create an action plan that includes development activities on the job as well as e-learning or other more traditional learning programs. Sharing the plan with others will only help reinforce your commitment to becoming a more inclusive leader. Finally, don’t forget to build in some personal rewards for meeting objectives.

As you travel down the inclusive leadership development path, you will notice a profound difference in interactions with others. Coworkers who barely said a word to you in the past may become your best source of new and innovative ideas. Direct reports will likely become more willing to go above and beyond and become more motivated and engaged in the work they do. Your team’s level of collaboration and quality of decision making is likely to rise to levels higher than ever before. As an inclusive leader, all of this is possible, but you have to take the first step.

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How to Engage Your Multigenerational Workforce through Learning and Development

At a time when Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z are all working together under the same roof, how can organizations leverage individual generations’ strengths to drive better business performance? In this wide-ranging conversation with Annice Joseph of SAP, we explore how organizations can leverage learning and development initiatives to cater to specific generational needs to improve morale, engagement and performance. 

For the first time in history, we have five generations working together in the workplace – traditionalists (born before 1945), to Baby Boomers (born between 1946 to 1964), Gen X (1965 to early 1980s), Millennials (early 1980s to mid ‘90s), and Gen Z (mid ‘90s to early ‘00s). This generational diversity presents organizations with a wide range of challenges (and opportunities).

Speaking exclusively to HR Technologist about the key challenges of having a multigenerational workforce under the same roof, Annice Joseph, Global Lead for Cross-Generational Intelligence at SAP, says, “There is a general lack of awareness when it comes to multi-generational differences and commonalities. Stereotypes can hinder transparent communication and have the grave potential to harm team productivity. Acting based on assumptions and ignoring commonalities between generations can deteriorate from team bonds and negatively affect collaboration, cooperation and camaraderie.”

To manage a workforce spanning multiple generations, organizations must help each generation understand the other and overcome barriers of ageism, unconscious bias and pre-conceived expectations. Building a culture of continuous learning helps break these barriers, boost morale and improve engagement and performance. 

“Inclusion for all is something that organizations should actively seek to enable in their environments as it is a way to bring people together.  One way to advocate for inclusion between generations is for leaders to encourage new employees to integrate with one another – for example, conducting open and appreciative communication within teams, aligning on goals and reserving time for knowledge transfer. By addressing challenges, surfacing unconscious bias, seeking communication and awareness and creating a community of trust and respect – leaders can play a large part in cultivating an inclusive culture,” adds Joseph.

Multigenerational learning helps employees of different generations collaborate better, and grow and learn from one another. Learning and development programs like mentoring and job shadowing are crucial to leveraging the skills and knowledge of workers across generations. Business leaders like former CEO of GE, Jack Welch, advocated methods like reverse mentoring all the way back in the ‘90s to help older generations learn IT and computer skills from their younger colleagues.

Today, major organizations like SAP, Xerox, Microsoft and IBM have rolled out reverse mentoring programs to encourage multigenerational collaboration, communication and knowledge sharing. One of the biggest advantages of reverse mentoring is that it helps build confidence in younger employees and inspires older generations to learn about new technologies, tools and digital strategies – all of which helps improve business outcomes.

3 Best Practices for Improving Multigenerational Learning:

Each generation has unique learning preferences as well as specific motivators for engaging in the learning process, largely shaped by the educational system, learning methods used at the time they were in school, along with available technologies and popular culture.

To build a productive multi-generational workforce, organizations must take proactive steps to address unique learning needs. “Today, the need for learning by itself is no longer a one-time effort, it is a continuous and comprehensive process. Understanding that today’s workforce is multi-generational, it is crucial that learning is inclusive of all generations – starting from the very beginning at the onboarding process,” Joseph opines.

She has identified three best practices that drive significant improvements in learning effectiveness, especially when taking generational differences into account:

1.Personalizing the learning experience

Personalized learning pathways improve retention and application of new knowledge and skills on the job. This approach considers various learning styles, and an employee’s habitual mode of learning. “The first thing organizations need to do is address the learning needs of specific generations. Companies need to ensure that these needs are recognized and considered at all stages of strategic career planning and project transitions. Also, of importance, today, learning is also not limited to course and institutional learning but extends to more interactive learning including e-learning like onboarding apps, gamification and podcasts,” says Joseph.

2.Embracing agile learning methods Agile learning methods focus on speed, flexibility and collaboration to drive better learning outcomes. Learning KPIs like ‘time-to-proficiency’ have become top priorities for organizations everywhere. Joseph believes that, “in addition to learning being a continuous process, it is also important to be agile when accommodating all learning styles. To be successful, organizations need to create environments where people can un-learn, learn and re-learn. For example, SAP takes into careful consideration all generations represented in its workforce and caters to their unique needs. For example, SAP’s newest employees receive a self-driven, interactive onboarding app (very different than a traditional classroom learning setting). In some cases, SAP offers a combination of e-learning and face-to-face instruction to ensure onboarding is respectful and inclusive of all generations.”

Combining learning technologies with complex cognitive needs are a great way to create agile learning models that can meaningfully engage generationally diverse employees with learning goals.

3.Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning methods have been recognized as one of the most effective methods to foster a culture of continuous learning. With segment-leading organizations already having deployed learning programs that encourage learning between generations, the trend is only set to grow. By shifting the collective mindset at work so different generations see each other as partners, they can all benefit from the mix of fresh ideas, fresh insights, tempered with experience and wisdom.

For organizations, providing a healthy mix of all three best practices outlined above is the best route to ensure greater learning efficiency and engagement for all generations.

Our bonus tip is: Ask your employees how they’d like to learn. Sometimes, a simple survey can help your organization save time and money when creating a multigenerational learning plan. After all, despite the differences, employees across generations have more in common than most organizations realize.

Annice shares four common denominators of employee happiness across generations:

Recognition: Employees from every generation want to be treated with respect and trust when it comes to the work they do. When people are valued for the work they bring to the table, it makes them happier, more motivated and engaged. Compensation: It makes sense that this is a commonly cited factor for employee job satisfaction because all generations seek financial stability and security. Despite the economic conditions of the world they grew up in, all generations seek to be compensated fairly. Therefore, it’s important for employers to reward their employees monetarily, as well as praise them for their achievements. Flexibility: Employers need to be conscious of meeting and suiting the changing needs and demands of employees in different life stages. Flexibility is a major commonality across generations. Employees like to have a choice of when, where and how they can do their work to the best of their abilities. Accessibility: Lastly, to deliver on promises of respect, fiscal rewards and flexibility, organizations need to give all generation access to the proper technology and tools. To support the operational needs of an inclusive, multi-generational culture, this piece is essential.

In conclusion, organizations must embrace the commonalities across generations to deliver targeted learning and professional development programs in ways that suits every learner’s style, and helps employees overcome the prejudices they may even unconsciously harbor about other generations. 

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How Managers Can Prevent Their Teams from Burning Out

No organization wants to burn out its employees. And yet, according to new research, companies’ efforts to prevent prolonged stress among their staffs are falling short.

When Deloitte recently surveyed 1,000 full-time employees in the United States, we found that that 77% had experienced burnout at their current jobs, and more than half said they’d felt it more than once.  This was true even though 87% of respondents said they “have passion for their job.” In fact, among those highly engaged workers, 64% said they were frequently stressed. At the same time, nearly seven in ten people (69%) told us they feel their employer “does not do enough to minimize burnout,” while one in five (21%)—told us they don’t believe their employer offers any stress-reduction programs.

What more can organizations do?  Our survey pointed to a few potentially powerful interventions.

Encourage real weekends and holidays. Burnout happens when people aren’t given enough time to disconnect, rest, focus on other aspects of life and recharge. Unfortunately, nearly 30% of our survey respondents told us they “consistently work long hours on weekends.” Less than half (43%) said they use all of their vacation days. Even those that do might still check email or take phone calls, instead of making a clean break from the office. When we asked why, the top reason cited was, “I worry that issues would arise if I was away from my work,” followed by not being able to meet deadlines or manager expectations.

This is why it’s so important for leaders to create an environment where taking time off is not only allowed but championed.  German auto manufacturer Daimler set a bold example when it launched its “Mail on Holiday” program that autodeletes an employee’s incoming emails while on vacation so they can fully disconnect. The sender is then notified that the email has been deleted and given the option to reach out to a colleague or resend the email when the employee is back in the office.

Expand wellness programs and benefits. When we asked people what sorts of benefits their organizations did offer to help reduce burnout, between 28% and 32% cited family leave, “flexible work options,” or employee assistance programs. That’s a good start, but our survey respondents had many other suggestions, including office health and wellness programs and paid time off for “mental health” or recuperation days. Tonya Slawinski, director of education and training at the Employee Assistance Professionals Association, notes that some companies are now offering stress management training to employees in an effort to preempt burnout.  “It’s hard to teach the techniques to someone who’s already under tremendous stress. It’s important to have the programs in place, so when employees do begin to feel challenged, they have options for resources to turn to.”

One example comes from Aetna, which provides free yoga and meditation classes, on-site fitness centers, nutritious food options, and financial incentives for healthy living to its 50,000 employees. CEO Mark Bertolini — who in 2001 struggled through the stress of his son’s cancer diagnosis and in 2004 had to recover from his own near-death skiing accident — is a vocal proponent of these initiatives, setting an example for staff.  Employees won’t take advantage of the above benefits unless they see leaders doing so themselves. A separate Deloitte survey on workplace well-being and employee engagement found that nearly 40% of respondents said if they saw their direct managers and senior leadership prioritizing personal commitments over work, they would feel more comfortable doing the same.

Create a culture of recognition. Three in 10 of our survey respondents cited “lack of support or recognition from leadership” as fueling their burnout.  One way to fix that?  By encouraging people to simply say “thank you” when reports, colleagues and even bosses do their jobs well. Research shows that companies with high-recognition cultures benefit from less turnover and better performance, probably in part because the environments feel less stressful, or the expressions of gratitude enable people to better cope with the demands they face.

Organizations can also say thank you in bigger ways:  Last year, Deloitte U.S. announced a year-end shutdown for all employees. This “collective disconnect” between Christmas and New Year’s not only recognized employees for their hard work but also, because everyone was off at the same time, eliminated any potential guilt or fear about letting colleagues down. In February, to celebrate the 200th birthday of William Welch Deloitte, the company repeated the thank-you with another collective week off.

Stress is inevitable in the workplace and in life. But it doesn’t have to be pervasive. Organizations can and should play a more active role in preventing burnout.

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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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4 Ways Leaders Can Protect Their Time and Empower Their Teams

We know that controlling what we pay attention to is the key to living an intentional life.  According to an informal poll of my clients, one of the biggest impediments to attention management is “O.P.P.” — other people’s problems. This is a particular problem for my clients in leadership who find it difficult to disconnect from their team, even for short periods. The primary reasons they give for this constant availability are that they “don’t want to be the bottleneck that holds up important work,” and they want to be available to make decisions and mentor their staff through problems.

So in this article, I want to take a deeper dive into learning to control your environment. When leaders’ time is constantly in demand from staff, they report they have too little time remaining to engage in what might be their most important role — “reflective thinking time.” This is time to look ahead, consider different paths, play out different scenarios, and generally be visionaries for the organization. And even worse, the constant distraction undermines their very capacity for being reflective, by eroding their attention span and crowding out “slow thinking” with “fast thinking.”

How can leaders create the time and space to think and get important work done, while still being mentors and enabling the team to keep their work moving forward? I arm my clients with four strategies that help them find this balance.

Mentor in hindsight. Mentoring is an important role of leadership and helps to groom employees to advance within the organization. However, they learn much less when advice is given on the front end than they do when they have the opportunity to experience their own successes and failures and discuss them with their boss later.

Try opening scheduled discussions with staff by saying, “What problems or challenges did you face this week, and how did you deal with them? … And how well did that work out for you?”

If you’re concerned about how team members can identify what kinds of issues they can solve on their own and what they should bring to you, consider the next strategy.

Create boundaries for decision-making. Sometimes, it’s hard for employees to determine what they should handle on their own and what is outside the scope of their responsibilities. This problem is alleviated when all employees know exactly what their ultimate role in the company is and when it’s acceptable for them to make mistakes within that role.

An added benefit of this clarity is creative thinking in unusual circumstances that can’t be predicted. For example, Zappos customer service staff know that their ultimate role is to create a WOW experience for their customers, and when they make decisions based on that motivation, they’ll be praised and not scolded. An example of this is the legendary customer service of Zappos that results in things like flower delivery and pizza research, but also generates free press, loyal customers, and organizational success.

Have regular meetings with direct reports and designated times for others. Your team will want time with you, and you should be available to them, for mentoring and other reasons. This is where the philosophy of an “open door policy” originated. The mistake frequently made is that this is often interpreted as “open all the time.” The original intent is to have times when you are accessible to your staff, but not necessarily any time, all the time.

Instead, reliably dedicate time on your calendar every week for each of your direct reports. If they feel empowered to make decisions on their own, and they understand how far their responsibilities extend and what they need your help for, they will then be more likely to hold their questions and issues to discuss at your weekly meeting. This not only empowers them, it also results in you being interrupted less often.

If you’re in senior leadership, and your organization isn’t too large to logically prohibit this, you should also dedicate time to interact with those who have one or more layers of managers in between you and them. This could be done using “office hours,” where you designate some time periodically when you are available for “drop-ins.” It’s good for morale and engagement when employees feel like they have (reasonable) access to “their boss’s boss.” Or if you want more control over their access to you, another way to do this is via  “management by walking around.”

Be available less often. Think of those times when you’ve been working but away from your email for extended periods, like while you are attending an off-site meeting or conference. And when you get back to it, you’ve likely had a series of emails from one or more members of your team in a progression similar to this:

(Oldest message) “Hey boss, I know you’re out of the office today but we’re having this issue we’d like to discuss with you…” (Next message) “I guess you’re still tied up but if you can squeeze in a minute to call the office…” (Last message) “Never mind, we figured it out…”

The lesson here is that if the boss is unavailable more often, the team figures things out on their own more often. This allows them to grow in their positions, and it minimizes the interruptions the leaders face.

This situation illuminates other problems (besides distraction) that arise when leaders are “too available” to the team. For example, when staff is constantly bringing questions and problems to the boss, and the boss provides answers and solutions, this can create the unintentional consequence of the team becoming disempowered (or lazy). It reinforces the behavior loop of “questions/problems arise; I bring them to my boss; my boss provides answers/solutions.” This can suggest to the team, “These problems are beyond the scope of your responsibilities, and so you are correct in bringing them to me,” even when this really isn’t the case.

If, instead, the boss rebuffs the interruption with some variation of, “I trust your judgment,” then the team will feel empowered and will grow in their positions — and ultimately interrupt the boss less.

Now, at this point when I’m delivering a leadership session, someone in the audience invariably interjects, “I think you’re right; that’s why I tell my team, “don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions!” My response is that if your staff has identified a problem and has the solution, why do they need to come to you at all? Let them deal with the issue on their own, and then “mentor in hindsight.”

For leaders to effectively manage attention, you need to be able to balance interruptions with availability to your team. Employing these four strategies is a step on the path to the ultimate goal of attention management: the opportunity to achieve more of the results that are significant to you, and also have undistracted thinking time, so that you can be the visionary thinker that your leadership position demands.

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Leadership 4.0: Embracing the weQ trend

The sharing economy, weQ, cooperation, co-creation, and community are key principles of weQuality trends. In the midst of a social cultural change, new principles are created for our working world. The enormous upheaval is readily visible.

Digitization has created three new facts.

• Participation (weQ) is possible in a way that has never previously existed.
• A new generation of people is becoming less and less socialized.
• The global economy is a multi-dimensional playing field on which players and markets quickly emerge (and disappear).

How can a leadership culture look like in the weQ world of tomorrow?

In “From the IQ to the weQ - 3 of the toughest challenges for our working world,” Oxford Leadership gave you the answer to the three most important challenges for our economy. From our work with decision-makers in the business world, we can confirm that the leadership culture in companies has to change; the majority of executives agree: 77 percent of executives welcome a change in their leadership culture. 

At the same time, however, these same leaders still believe there is a long way to go; they themselves hardly feel able to implement this new leadership culture. With the agreement that change is necessary, the question is how? The straight-forward answer is that good leadership can endure open-ended co-creative processes.

As experts in management development, Oxford Leadership sees three guiding principles for future learning in a management context that should be based on all the methods and tools of choice: mindfulness before abilities, focus on what works, and changing priorities.

Principle 1 - Mindsets not Skillsets

What makes leadership inefficient in today’s economy is not a lack of skills. It is the combination of a constantly changing environment coupled with a transfixed mental attitude (being trapped in non-changing thought patterns). This is a balancing act that cannot be successful.

A lot of management learning has been geared to teaching or expanding skills (like active listening, giving good feedback, etc.). However, social change requires rapid personal development as teams are exposed to new ideas beyond common concepts. Challenges evolved to far exceed management “craftwork” to now encompass ideological adaptability and mental elasticity.

The co-creative community culture of the weQ takes a high learning flexibility for granted. People have to be able to adjust continuously and quickly to new things. This means a high degree of aptitude to changes. The future of learning in the economy will focus less on the expansion of skills, more on the expansion of thought and mindset.

Principle 2 - Focus on what works

Warren Buffet always tells the story about his first encounter with Bill Gates. While attending a party, everyone at their table was asked to define their one secret to success. According to Buffett, both men gave the same answer: I know how to focus on the essentials. 

If you look at the learning landscape in the economic environment, it is easy to see that it is not focused - especially on innovative forms of working and leadership. Many executive programs and management trainings resemble a buffet with different tools, techniques, and methods that do not really merge into common contemporary applications.

By shifting the focus to making sustainable progress, creating headway in new thinking structures, and inspiring teams to make changes together, it can make a tremendous difference for the company. However, a question still remains: What works in the context of weQ with omnipresent changes to deserve focus?

Principle 3 - Prioritize differently

When things are difficult, we cannot afford to waste time and energy. We are well advised to focus on the levers that lead us to real development. Starting in mindset, recognizing the need for efficient focus, and then understanding that the networked complex world of the digital age requires more relationship management than process management brings success.

People who observe their thoughts and emotions objectively without evaluation struggle to understand that they are always controlled by old patterns of thought. The brain was trained one way and will work that same way until consciously retrained. As we focus on our inner processes and reflective thinking, the more we can influence them with less energy, so more energy can be used for clarity about the present situation.

Therefore, it is recommended to first work on one’s own personality in order to be able to shape relationships - both new as well as existing ones. Time for reflection and mindfulness is the objective. Observing your own perceptions, emotions, and thoughts is recommended for our everyday hectic life.

Moving forward

Many executives and managers describe in personal talks that they find too little reflection time in the hustle and bustle of everyday life in order to think ahead. It is important to look very critically at this point: whoever cannot lead himself should not lead others.

This result in “being present” with renewed clarity inside and then inevitably for the outside. That’s when the possibility to surf with the social cultural change after Peter Kruse and the upheavals take place — the IQ, then EQ, and now as a guide to the weQ.

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What's on Deck For Your Professional Development?

As an entrepreneur or professional, you may ask yourself, how are my employees and I getting better each day? Even if you can answer that because you have a detailed professional development plan to grow your team and yourself, it’s important to know how this space changing.

Professional development (PD) is learning to earn or maintain professional credentials. Endeavors range from academic degrees to formal coursework, conferences and informal learning opportunities situated in practice. PD has unique approaches to learning including coaching, consultation, communities of practice, mentoring, lesson study, reflection and certification.

When I think of professional development, I think of it in two complementary ways: What is the new learning you need to acquire? Who are the people you need to connect with and surround yourself with?

Career trajectory improves when you synchronize the answers to these two questions. When you obtain new knowledge, develop or fortify a skill and compound that with the right connections, your career will improve.

Technology changes professional development.

Michael Croft, founder and CEO of Volute, is pioneering a new answer to this question as his company changes the way professional development is delivered. 

“Professional Development requires new digital approaches due to the intensive and collaborative nature of PD training and most current digital platforms as current approaches are fundamentally flawed in their ability to support PD approaches at the speed of business,” Croft says.

Volute has developed a new delivery method for PD by way of an open marketplace of digital learning tools contributed by universities around the world. With Volute, traditional learning content and delivery becomes interactive and social, with connected elements that feel like games. Learning is delivered in timely chunks, relevant to your objectives.

“Executive education training is the perfect catalyst for this innovation and change in PD delivery because your audience includes thought leaders who support our global economy. The style of executive learning is different. It’s geared towards power-packed bursts of learning that can accommodate the rapid pace and time constraints of busy executives,” says Croft whose firm has offices in Providence and New York City, with plans for new offices in Madrid and Sao Paolo. 

Croft’s vision is to grow Volute as a universal marketplace of the best PD training and delivery ideas from thought leaders worldwide. Universities and companies are contributing their unique teaching methods as digital tools that can be mixed and matched and connected like LEGO® bricks. This creates personalized learning experiences that deliver the right information exactly when you need it. These tools immerse the learner in business situation. The sharing economy fostered by the Volute model allows learners to be exposed to diverse PD solutions to better prepare them for domestic and international challenges. 

Your network changes your growth trajectory.

Another question you need to ask is who are the people I am meeting and developing relationships with? The answer to that is becoming increasingly relevant in someone’s professional development planning. Being intentional in finding professionals who can provide business perspective and can introduce you to others should also be a key part of your PD growth strategy. Your ecosystem of talent can be as impactful to your professional development as learning content and its delivery.

Entrepreneurs and professionals looking to grow themselves and expand their businesses should spend an equal amount of time formulating an executable connection plan as a new learning plan.

 

Schedule “networking building time” into your daily or weekly routine by carving out calendar space to reflect on the people you need to be connecting with and then searching for mutual connections. Create real-world relationships by planning meetups when you cross paths or for more advanced relationships, a train ride or flight may be needed.

When scheduling a meeting with a new contact, be sure to create proper expectations of the agenda. The agenda can be as simple as a personal and industry introduction, followed by a few specific questions to get perspective on the businesses and industries, and learning about any ways one can help the other's business. 

It is best to come prepared with a “two-way street connection list.” First, create a list of three to five contacts that you know personally that you believe this new person may benefit from meeting. Also, through your research, you should have a good understanding of who they’re connected to. Present a list of contacts to them to see if they are comfortable introducing you to the people you feel you should also be meeting. Specificity of who you’d like to be introduced to will be more effective than having the person “recall” names in their network that you should be meeting. 

If the agenda and expectation of the meeting was set properly, the transition to networking and using your connection lists will be very simple. For example: “As I shared when I reached out to you, I wanted to take the remaining time of our meeting today to network. After researching your business, I think you should be meeting the following people in my network, and I am open to introducing you to others that aren’t on this list.”

Followed by, “I also did some research on a few professionals that you are connected to see if you would be comfortable making an introduction.”

Your network must support who you want to become.

In addition to networking, the use of a consultant or coach can be a catalyst to enhancing your career, if done correctly. Coaching can help with new learning and with the new connections you want to build. According to an international coaching federation, between 2011 and 2016 there has been a 25 percent increase in the number of coaches with the largest category being leadership coaching. This industry continues to grow, with an average hourly fee of approximately $300 for those coaches with at least 10 years experience. 

Most entrepreneurs and professionals can best grow themselves and potentially profits, by hiring a coach or consultant to gain new perspectives and brainpower. A consultant can also help you keep up with the disruptions in your industry that may be coming down the road as well as industry insights and competitive advantages. 

Mike Ertz of Ertz Consulting says, “The most difficult employee we have to manage is ourselves. We have a hard time seeing our blind-spots and getting out of our way. That’s where a coach can help.”    

Ertz feels that it’s important for people to understand the difference between a coach and a consultant. He says a coach is someone who can help a client find within him- or herself what that person wants and is capable of doing; focuses on performance, development and discipline. A consultant on the other hand is someone who provides expertise, analysis, and solutions; someone with subject matter knowledge who provides advice and recommendations within a defined scope of work.

Ertz goes on, “I see that people don’t know how to hire a coach. They should follow a three-step process where you do a self-assessment, interview multiple coaches based on that self-assessment and then negotiate a shared endgame.” There are many questions you should ask before hiring a consultant.

Ertz concludes, “Sustainable growth requires adding mind-share. When you can’t build it fast enough inside, you buy it outside. Entrepreneurs must surround themselves with people who think differently than they do. You hire outside consultants because they wake up every day thinking about several businesses, not just yours.”

As businesses continue to be disrupted, it is important to understand how professional development is changing and how you can capitalize on these changes. You must learn what else you need to know and who else needs to know you.

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The Best Professional Development Advice Ever

Our culture is obsessed with self-improvement, personal productivity, and professional development. It’s an enormous fad and, for the most part, an enormous waste of time. Precious time. Time you could and should be spending actually developing your career and grooming yourself to achieve great things.

Listen carefully and I’ll let you in on a little secret. Personal improvement and professional development doesn’t come from classes, books, blogs, TED videos, or feel-good inspirational stories, quotes, parables and platitude. It comes from experience.

Experience is the best teacher. Always is and always has been. On the job experience in the real world. Getting your hands dirty and your feet wet. Observing how things are done, right or wrong, then trying it on your own. Trial and error. That’s the secret to all learning. It’s also the secret to making it big in this world.

I bet you didn’t know that there are a handful of American companies that have one thing in common: They consistently breed great leaders. Besides developing a constant stream of talent to fill their own executive ranks, companies like General Electric, Procter & Gamble, IBM, McKinsey, Honeywell, American Express and Intel breed entrepreneurs and executives that go on to found and lead hundreds of companies.  

GE and P&G alone turned out Intuit founder Scott Cook, AOL founder Steve Case, former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer, H-P and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney, Home Depot CEO Frank Blake and dozens of other ridiculously successful business leaders. 

The way they do it is mostly hands-on, on-the job experience, along with some mentoring and coaching. That’s the model used to develop most of America’s business stars.   

Truth is, most successful entrepreneurs don’t just walk out of a dorm room into a garage and, presto, a great company is born. They worked somewhere first and, in many if not most cases, spent a good many years being groomed before opportunity knocked or the innovative light bulb in their heads turned on. 

As for the rest – those that make it on their own right out of the gate – they don’t just sit around, read and watch videos. They dive right in and get to work. They go with what works, learn from their mistakes and get some mentoring along the way. Again, the method is the same: on-the-job experience with some mentoring.  

Look at it this way. You know the old adage, “Feed someone fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime?” That is sound logic there, but it doesn’t apply to entrepreneurialism.

Instead, what you do is show that same guy where the lake is and say good luck. If he’s hungry, he’ll get right to work. If he’s smart, he’ll figure out how to get those fish. And once he’s mastered that, he’ll take them back where he came from and make a fortune selling them to all the hungry people … including the guy that teaches fishing.  

That’s how real innovators and entrepreneurs are born. So quit messing around and get to work, get some experience, and develop yourself. I’m sure you’ll kick butt. If you’re meant to be an entrepreneur, that’s all the inspiration you’ll need. No kidding. 

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3 Tips for Keeping Calm

We are all faced with challenges in our day to day live that can cause us to become distressed. When something causes tension, it eases us up to make more irrational and less responsible choices and actions. To help reduce negative outcomes from a distressed response, there are many things we can try to calm and relax ourselves.
Different methods work for different people but it’s a good idea to try all of these to see which helps you as a person the most.

1. Cold Water

Cold water has extreme power. They say that a cold shower increases alertness, immunity and circulation and even stimulate weight loss. Other benefits include the short term ease of stress and relief of depression.
Not only are cold showers recommended by many, but there are other methods we can use when a cold shower is not available – such as when we are at work.
Another technique to try is plunging your face into a sink of cold water and holding your breath under water for 30 seconds. This triggers a life-saving reaction in your body and causes your blood vessels to narrow, your heart rate to decrease and your remaining oxygen gets diverted to all your vital organs. All of this created a great distraction from external stressors, creating a calming effect.

2. Breathing Exercises

A well proven and trusted method of stress relief comes from the control of our breathing. To slow down your heart rate in stressful situations focus on slowing down your breathings, not deepen them, and focus on inhaling and exhaling for 6 seconds each for up to two minutes.
There are many other breathing exercises you can use, each focus on timing your breathing for an amount of time. This helps distract your mind from stressors and focus on the thing keeping you alive.

3. Let It Pass

A good thing to understand is that it is completely natural to get agitated and to have a mixed variation of emotions. If we supress emotions that we fear, it can have a significantly worse outcome than if we let it pass.
Like mountains or waves, our emotions arrive with us and form into a peak before releasing and reducing back down again. By allowing ourselves to reach the peak point of the emotion we can then let it pass, without building it up to a much larger peak.

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6 Ways Successful Teams Are Built To Last

 

It takes great leadership to build great teams. Leaders who are not  afraid to course correct, make the difficult decisions and establish standards of performance that are constantly  being met – and improving at all times.   Whether in the workplace, professional sports,  or your local community, team building requires a keen understanding of people, their strengths and what gets them excited to work with others.   Team building requires the management of egos and their constant demands for attention and recognition – not always warranted.   Team building is both an art and a science and the leader who can consistently build high performance teams is worth their weight in gold.  

History has shown us that it takes a special kind of leader with unique competencies and skills to successfully build great companies and teams.  In the sports world, the late John Wooden set the standard for great coaches, leading UCLA to 10 NCAA national basketball championships in a 12-year period — seven in a row.   His success was so iconic, Wooden created his own “Pyramid for Success” to help others excel through his proven wisdom. In the business world, we can look to Jack Welsh,  who was the Chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. According to Wikipedia, the company's value rose 4000% during his tenure.  In 2006 Welch's net worth was estimated at $720 million and in 2009, he launched the Jack Welsh Management Institute  at Strayer University.

Building companies requires the know-how to build long-lasting teams.   This is why most managers never become leaders and why most leaders never reach the highest pinnacle of leadership success.   It requires the ability to master the “art of people” and knowing how to maneuver hundreds (if not thousands) of people at the right place and at the right time.  It means knowing how each person thinks and how to best utilize their competencies rightly at all times.  It’s playing a continuous chess match – knowing that every wrong move that is made can cost the company hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars (just ask BP and Enron).

As you evaluate the sustainability of the team(s) you lead and its real impact on the organization you serve, here are six ways successful teams are built to last:

1.       Be Aware of How You Work

As the leader of the team, you must be extremely aware of your leadership style and techniques.   Are they as effective as you think?  How well are they accepted by the team you are attempting to  lead?  Evaluate yourself and be critical about where you can improve, especially in areas that will benefit those whom you are a leading.

Though you may be in-charge, how you work may not be appreciated by those who work for you.   You may have  good intentions, but make sure you hold yourself accountable to course-correct and modify your approach if necessary to assure that you’re leading from a position of strength and respectability.

Be your own boss.  Be flexible.  Know who you are as a leader.

2.       Get to Know the Rest of the Team

Much like you need to hold yourself accountable for your actions to assure you maximize performance and results, you must make the time to get to know your team and encourage camaraderie.   In my “emotional intelligence blog,” I discuss the importance of caring, understanding the needs of your team and embracing differences and helping your colleagues experience their significance.  In this case, gathering intelligence means learning what defines the strengths and capabilities of your team –  the real assets that each member brings to the table, those they leave behind and those  yet to be developed.

All great leaders know exactly what buttons to push and when to push them.  They are experts at activating the talent that surrounds them.  They are equally as effective at matching unique areas of subject matter expertise and / or competencies to solve  problems and seek new solutions.

Fully knowing your team means that you have invested the time to understand how they are wired to think and what is required to motivate them to excel beyond what is expected from them.

Think of your team as puzzle pieces that can be placed together in a variety of ways.

3.       Clearly Define Roles & Responsibilities

When you successfully complete step 2, you can then more effectively and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of those on your team.  Now, don’t assume this is an easy step;  in fact, you’ll often find that people’s ideal roles  lie outside their job descriptions.

Each of your team member’s responsibilities must be interconnected and dependent upon one another.    This is not unlike team sports, where some players are known as “system players” – meaning that, although they may not be the most talented person on the team,  they know how to work best within the “system.”    This is why you must have a keen eye for talent that can evaluate people not  only on their ability to play a particular role – but even more so on whether they fit the workplace culture (the system) and  will be a team player.

For example, I once inherited an employee who wasn’t very good at his specific job.  Instead of firing him, I took the time to get to know him and utilized his natural talents as a strategic facilitator who could keep all of the moving parts within the department in proper alignment and in lock-step communication.   This person helped our team operate more efficiently and saved the company money by avoiding the bad decisions they previously made because of miscommunications.  He was eventually promoted into a special projects manager role.

A team should operate as a mosaic whose unique strengths and differences convert into a powerful united force.  

4.       Be Proactive with Feedback

Feedback is the key to assuring any team is staying on track, but more importantly that it is improving each day.   Feedback should be proactive and constant.   Many leaders are prone to wait until a problem occurs before they give feedback.

Feedback is simply the art of great communication.  It should be something that is part of one’s natural dialogue.  Feedback can be both formal and informal.    In fact, if it becomes too structured and stiff, it becomes difficult for the feedback to be authentic and impactful.

Remember that every team is different, with its own unique nuances and dynamics.  Treat them as such.  No cookie-cutter approach is allowed.   Allow proactive feedback to serve as your team’s greatest enabler for continuous improvement.

Take the time to remind someone of how and what they can be doing better.  Learn from them. Don’t complicate the process of constructive feedback.  Feedback is two-way communication.

5.       Acknowledge and Reward

With proactive feedback comes acknowledgement and reward.  People love recognition, but are most appreciative of respect.   Take the time to give your teammates the proper accolades they have earned and deserve.   I have seen too many leaders take performance for granted because they don’t believe that one should be rewarded for “doing their job.”

At a time when people want to feel as if they are making a difference, be a thoughtful leader and reassure your team that you are paying attention to their efforts.   Being genuine in your recognition and respect goes a long way towards building loyalty and trust.  It organically ignites extra effort!

When people are acknowledged, their work brings them greater satisfaction and becomes more purposeful.  

6.       Always Celebrate Success

At a time when uncertainty is being dealt with each day, you must take the time to celebrate success.    This goes beyond acknowledgment – this is about taking a step-back and reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you have learned throughout the journey.

In today’s fast-paced, rapidly changing world of work, people are not taking enough time to understand why they were successful and how their success reverberated and positively impacted those around them.    I have seen leaders fall into the trap of self-aggrandizement – because of what their teams accomplished – rather than celebrating the success stories that in many cases required tremendous effort,  sacrifice and perseverance.

Celebration is a short-lived activity.  Don’t ignore it.  Take the time to live in the moment and remember what allowed you to cross the finish line.

Leaders are only as successful as their teams and the great ones know  that with the right team dynamics, decisions and diverse personalities, everyone wins in the end.

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Your Challenge as a Leader Is to Find Strength in Differences. Here's How

Wouldn't it be nice if the world was made up only of people who are just like us, who like us, and who think exactly the way we do?

Well, no. Because (1) we'd be wasting iconic truisms like "opposites attract," and (2) it would be monumentally boring, and (3) it would be just plain un-American.

Anyone in a leadership position ought to have as a goal--especially here in the U.S. with our national holiday coming up--to be an instrument of unity, not division. And the reality is, we here in the United States are very far from united as a country. Our "team spirit" is in trouble.

Our challenge as citizens is to find ways to understand and work things out with people we don't agree with--people who may be very different from ourselves. Here are three commitments you should make to do just that, helping not only to create a united workplace but also a united country.

Accept that people have differences. The fact that they may not be just like you does not make them wrong.

Think about how many competing ideas and strong leaders the Founding Fathers had to bring together. As Ben Franklin put it, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately." On a less graphic level, that's what we do as business leaders every day.

Think about how our country stuck together after the Civil War, despite enormous differences that led to taking up arms, and striving to rebuild "with malice toward none; with charity for all," in Lincoln's words. Never take that for granted, and use that as your model.

Those of us in leadership roles are intimately familiar with how un-alike people can be. Of course, we want what's good for the enterprise (corporation, organization, project), and that means we need to build teamwork and group unity.

But if we're dealing with a bunch of different ages, races, genders, personality types, and personal agendas--and wildly different political affiliations these days--how do we make it work? That's why businesses need leaders. This is not an autopilot situation, nor should it be. Roll up your sleeves and become the collaborator and example you want others to be.

Support those who need it the most, because the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Along the way, leaders come across "land mines"--people who can't handle change, who take out their personal unhappiness on the group, who rub each other the wrong way and need to be handled; even those who are unable to just keep up with the program.

Find ways to give extra attention to those who need it, pull attention away from those who shouldn't be encouraged in their negativity, and reward team spirit so it becomes the common theme. It's a matter of knowing the whole is greater and better than the sum of its parts, even when the parts are a little mismatched and don't seem to fit together.

Realize that the best results come when your love of others is genuine.

Work things out with people (that means listening to them) in a spirit of love and understanding, even--especially--when it's really hard. You're not only being a force for unity and understanding because it's profitable. It's also because you care. If you don't, stop calling yourself a leader.

But why do you care? Why do you truly, deeply want people to understand one another? Sure, you want the business to run smoothly and not get sidetracked by endless emotional drama. 

But also because it's the right thing to do. Read my article about a "culture of love" in the workplace, in which I tell the story of a Florida shipping company that chose to help a customer in dire straits, just because it was right. That's the spirit to strive for.

There's no better time than the Fourth of July, our most joyful national holiday, to reflect on what it means to be an American and what we are called upon to do in relation to our fellow citizens. As I described in my book Greater Than Yourself, "This isn't about your position or title, it's about your human being-ness."

Think about your children or family members and the unconditional love you feel for them. Now challenge yourself to apply that same spirit of acceptance and love to people who do not look or act like you.

 

A commitment to unity will make your business soar; it will make our country work better.

And that's the flag we all want to fly all year round.

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If You Want Your Team to be Successful Stop Treating Them like Kids

Leading is like parenting — everybody thinks they do a much better job than they actually do.

There’s a definite gap between how most executives assess themselves and how their direct reports do. Leaders and their teams seem to be watching two different movies.

What you give is what you get.

Organizations want employees to become more mature, accountable, and to drive change — yet their policies and rules treat people as kids.

My point is not to point fingers, but to invite reflection. Without realizing it, many executives act as Helicopter bosses: they have good intentions, but their need to control and protect their people doesn’t allow them to grow.

It’s time for leadership to grow up “Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” — John Wilmot

There’s a tension that keeps repeating over and over — when things don’t go well; there’s a tendency to blame it on ‘the people.’

I help organizations build a culture of change — to become more experimental, innovative, and adaptive. When I kick-off a project, I receive a brief from senior executives. Most of the times, the diagnosis focuses on how their teams are not performing as they should.

The company is trying to push change forward, but people’s behaviors and mindsets are — supposedly — getting in the way. While the description is not necessarily wrong, it’s far from being accurate. Afterward, when we interview the broader team, we get to listen to the other side of the story.

Both stories are right and wrong at the same time.

Driving change is not about taking sides, but a collective experience. Don’t expect people to change if your rules stay the same.

Addressing this gap with my clients, I’ve come to a simple realization. Most senior executives believe they are good at delegating and inspiring people based on a different standard — a paternalist leadership style they learned from their bosses decades ago.

Delegation and freedom ain’t what they used to be.

Today’s environment requires removing the boundaries between leaders and ‘the rest.’ People expect a more transparent, experimental, and participatory culture. Those words need to be understood through a 21st Century lens.

Leadership is about co-creation — people want to be an active contributor, not just a passive implementer. Your team wishes to be treated as equals, not as kids.

Stop planning, start experimenting “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.” — Aldous Huxley

We live in an uncertain, volatile, and fast-changing era. However, most senior executives were trained to manage organizations in a predictable world.

Most companies keep thinking on annual cycles. Annual planning, employee performance reviews, and promotions, to name a few are based on a 12-month period. We need to become better at adapting rather than at anticipating. As Susan Peters, GE’s head of human resources: “The world isn’t really on an annual cycle anymore for anything.”

The same applies to organizational structure or policies. They were written when things were supposedly predictable — organizations wanted to control how things should be done.

That model operated under the assumption that leaders knew better. They were in charge of making strategic decisions and then persuade others to follow.

However, a top-down approach is ineffective. Every person in a team is a sensor. They can detect problems and opportunities; every member can develop new ideas, information or ways to operate.

The future is uncertain. Modern leaders must be humble and vulnerable enough to admit they don’t have all the answers — least to say that they can predict what will happen tomorrow. Rather than being stuck in ‘best practices,’ organizations need to promote an experimental mindset.

Rules and processes must constantly be challenged and improved.

We must stop treating people as children; and let them actively participate, design, and influence how the company operates. Trial and error is not an option. Your team needs more room to experiment, make mistakes, adapt, and evolve.

Five ways to start treating people like adults

Here are some ways to unleash the leader within your team by treating them as such and not as doers. There are not meant to be comprehensive or perfect, but rather to get you started.

1. Rules that enable rather than forbid

On a previous article, I discussed how companies need to shift from a “Culture of Scarcity” to one of abundance. That requires a new approach to rules and policies.

Most companies have rules that are based on a command and controlmentality that was originated in the Industrial Revolution. Managers had to supervise that people showed up, did their job, and followed the policies.

The problem with the command and control approach is that it doesn’t promote trust. Rules control how and what people should do, rather than enable them to act freely and do what they believe is best for the company.

Also, corporate rules tend to be one-way. Employees are supposed to clock in and out but are expected to reply to work emails during the weekend.

Netflix unlimited vacation policy is the opposite — rather than tracking time; it focuses on performance. When a culture is built around accountability; people behave like adults — there’s no need to cheat.

2. Delegate decision-making rather than tasks

I have yet to hear a senior executive acknowledging that he/ she is not good at delegating.

The problem is that they task people with managing projects, but don’t delegate decision-making. No matter how empowered a team is; in the end, they always need their boss’ approval.

Real delegation includes full accountability, to be responsible for both actions and repercussions. You can start by encouraging your team to make decisions in small doses.

‘Safe-to-try’ decisions are an excellent contribution from Holacracy, a self-management system. It moves teams into action rather than waiting for the perfect solution or for the boss to chime in.

Think of ‘safe-to-try’ as a Litmus test. To accept or reject a proposal there are two questions the team should consider:

“Will this decision move the team backward?” “Will the proposal, if implemented, cause harm which can not be mitigated promptly?”

There’s always time to course correct. Let the team adjust their path based on actual feedback instead of hypothesis based on fear or anticipation.

3. Trust people’s criteria over the process

Organizations that prioritize processes over results end encouraging politics rather than accountability.

Zappos gives its employees freedom to follow their own criteria versus telling them what’s right or wrong. An employee can send a new pair of shoes free of charge to a bride who’s shoes never showed up without asking anyone for permission. Solving the client’s problem is priority number one — employees use their best judgment rather than follow a rigid process.

Do you encourage your team to follow or break the rules?

What is it most important? To get the job done or to follow the process? Rules shouldn’t limit your team’s ability to perform their job. Breaking rules is not bad when it’s done with a purpose — here’s a method to do so.

4. Encourage failure rather than protectionism

Helicopter bosses are not just micromanagers — they tend to be overprotective too. Trying to avoid the team from getting hurt, they can cause more damage.

Teams need to make mistakes to learn and grow. At Nixon McInnes, a social media company, the Church of Fail is a monthly ritual. Employees are invited to stand and confess their mistakes and are wildly applauded for doing so.

Does your organization punish mistakes or encourage people to learn from them?

Embracing mistakes promotes transparency and experimentation. Everyone makes mistakes — publicly acknowledging them ensures that people can learn from them and that others won’t make the same one. Also, mistakes are a means to an end — action is always better than inaction.

5. Provide challenges rather than direction

People want to be challenged so that they can give their best. However, more than 3/4 of the workforce believe their bosses don’t motivate them to unleash their true potential.

Most senior managers tend to define the path rather than letting their team members find the solution. They provide unsolicited advice instead of challenging people with questions.

When work is organized around projects, people’s responsibilities become repetitive and predictable; thus, decreasing excitement and engagement.

Facebook engineers decide what they want to work on. They can make changes to the website without asking for permission.

Assign challenges rather than tasks. It’s more interesting to be in charge of “How can we inspire and educate our clients?” than to be the “monthly newsletter manager.” A challenge invites people to improve their game, not just to continue playing the same way.

 

Leadership requires a new standard — invite your team to co-create how your organization works and operates. Encourage people to experiment and fail, to break the rules with a purpose, to make decisions, and to prioritize results over processes.

Freedom drives accountability — contrary to public belief, the more freedom people get, the more engaged and committed they are.

Your team is constituted by responsible adults who should be trusted. They don’t need to be controlled. What you give is what you get.

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To Everyone Who Asks For ‘Just A Little’ Of Your Time: Here’s What It Costs To Say Yes

To the person who emailed me this morning with a perfectly nice request,

I’m sorry to say the answer is no.

You didn’t do anything wrong. You were perfectly respectful and within your rights to ask about arranging a time for a meeting (or was it for a phone call or about setting a date for that project we discussed, I don’t recall).

The problem isn’t you. There is something wrong with me.

I have a form of anorexia.

Don’t be alarmed. It’s not serious, though I take it quite seriously. Because it’s probably the only form that’s healthy. In fact, I think it’s the secret to my success.

I have calendar anorexia.

I want as absolutely little in my calendar as possible. I’m meticulous about it. Whatever the least amount possible I can have in my calendar without killing my career — that’s what I want.

To be clear, this isn’t some nonsense about not putting things in the calendar, like someone who says they’re on a diet but eats a lot. This is about committing to and scheduling next to nothing on a daily and weekly basis.

Want to set up a quick call to chat? Should we have coffee next week? Let’s get together to discuss?

Nope, nope, nope.

I could, but I just can’t.

Even if they are serious opportunities, even if it will only take 15 minutes, even if it’s something that everyone else does, I’d like to avoid it.

Of course, I’m not perfect at this. I succumb, like everyone else in the modern world (so if you think I’m being a hypocrite, I am…and that’s why I really have to say no this time). There’s stuff I have to do and that stuff has to be scheduled. There are requirements for work and for basic civility. But even then…

When I pull up my phone, click the day’s date and see too many little boxes of time blocked off, I get very nervous. What is all this? Where did all my time go? What about my day? Why did I agree to any of this again? (The answer is usually because it was really far away and I thought it would magically work itself out.)

And then the most fearful question: How will I be able to write?

I want two or three things in there at most. The rest is for me. The rest is not allowed to be scheduled. And if it is scheduled, it better be because I’m getting paid or I really, really wanted to do it. Everything else is for suckers.

Paul Graham has a famous essay about managers vs makers. There are two ways to run your life, he says. Managers know that their day is divided up in pieces for meetings, calls, and administrative tasks. Makers, on the other hand, need to have large blocks of uninterrupted, unscheduled time to do what they do. To create and think.

When people ask how I manage to get so much writing done, my anorexia is the answer. Same goes for how I’ve managed to keep a healthy relationshipand how I manage to exercise and read. I keep a maker’s schedule because I believe that anything else is anathema to deep work or creativity.

Early in one’s creative career, this is relatively easy. Mostly because no one really wants much of your time. But as you achieve any measure of success in your field, this changes. It’s not a malicious thing. It’s actually an enormous compliment and a validation of your hard work.

But the result is that you have more opportunities and responsibilities that can reasonably be accommodated. And how you choose to respond to this determines the course of your career (and in my opinion, your personal sanity and happiness).

In Ego is the Enemy, I tell a story about George Marshall. While he was cabinet member in the Truman administration, he was asked to sit for an official portrait. Though I’m sure he did what he could to get out of it, for whatever reason, Marshall was unable to. So he went, on several days, to sit for the artist, spending who knows how many hours still as…well…a portrait. On the final day, the artist informed Marshall that the portrait was complete. Marshall quickly got up, thanked him and began to walk out the door. The artist was surprised. He’d just spent all this time sitting, didn’t he want to at least see the painting?

The answer was no. Marshall didn’t want to spend one second more than he had to. He definitely didn’t care what he looked like in some picture.

I always thought it was strange to hear actors complain about the two weeks of media they had to do to promote their movies. Who doesn’t like publicity? Isn’t that the whole perk of being famous? But then, over the last few years, I started to understand. These interviews were a major time and energy suck. It’s disrupting their life — a life where the rest of the time, they make their own schedule. Worse, it’s to do something repetitive and unfulfilling, answering the same questions over and over again, asked by people who usually haven’t even seen their work.

When I ranted about podcasts last year, it was in part, my own realization of the same idea. The podcast is fun for the person making it. For the person agreeing to be on it, that’s an hour of their time they’re giving up. Both sides seem to fundamentally miss the magnitude of that imposition. But one is selfish if they point it out, or refuse to play along, except on their own terms. And so most don’t.

Seneca writes that if all the geniuses in history were to get together, none would be able explain our baffling relationship with time. He says,

No person would give up even an inch of their estate, and the slightest dispute with a neighbor can mean hell to pay; yet we easily let others encroach on our lives — worse, we often pave the way for those who will take it over. No person hands out their money to passers-by, but to how many do each of us hand out our lives! We’re tight-fisted with property and money, yet think too little of wasting time, the one thing about which we should all be the toughest misers.

You can only hand so many hours of your day over to other people before there is none left. Even if there are some left, you may have lost the clarity, the energy and the capacity to do anything with them.

The goal in my impossible, perfectionist calendar-anorexic mind is that one day I’ll have enough control and discipline that there will be no distinction in my schedule between a weekday and a weekend. Every day will be Saturday. Will feel like a Saturday. No interruptions. No feeling like this or that must be because someone else wants it to be. All white space in the calendar. Free. Productive.

It’s in that mindset and that lifestyle that I do my best work. So I do my best to recreate it however possible, that is, in modern life where one has a job, obligations, and responsibilities. However many times I have to say no, or things I have to miss out on to make that happen.

But even anorexia fails as a metaphor. Because food, once consumed, can be burned off. Even Seneca’s property metaphor fails too. Property can be regained, money can be re-earned.

Time? Time is our most irreplaceable asset — we cannot buy more of it. We cannot get a second of it back. We can only hope to waste as little as possible. Yet somehow we treat it as most renewable of all resources.

So if you’re asking if we can chat or get together. The answer is no.

I’m sorry. But I have this condition.

I hope you can understand.

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5 Benefits Of Collaboration In The Workplace

Business collaboration in the workplace is a vital factor when thinking about any thriving and effective company. When you break down what is collaboration in the workplace, it’s simple; it comes down to your employees utilising unified communication tools and collaboration technology in order to work together as an effective team.

While some benefits of collaboration will be restricted to certain industries or companies, most are there for all workplaces to enjoy. Effective business collaboration will enable every member of your company to work towards a successful future far more easily; no matter how complex or specialised a sector your company may operate in.

We’ve laid out five benefits of collaboration that you have to know about and should start taking advantage of as soon as possible. Read on to learn more or head over to our Workplace page to see more of our blogs. Alternatively, take a look at one of our previous posts to find out how you can avoid common collaboration mistakes.

Faster innovation and a better realisation of company goals

Fully utilising the diverse and varied experience of every one of your employees is precisely what will drive innovation at your company. And, fast-paced innovation is what’s going to take your company well beyond its existing goals.

An effective business collaboration model is hugely valuable as it will help to keep your team up-to-date on projects, developments and opportunities, and any issues that may be holding progress back. While there may be times that individual work is preferable, providing the tools for your employees to collaborate as and when they need to will greatly reduce project times.

The tools to help millennials succeed are already here 

There’s no denying the inevitable change that’s to come; millennials will make up the vast majority of your workforce. So, what’s the best method for getting the most out of this tech-savvy generation?

The answer lies in the collaborative technology that’s already available as well as the many products currently in development. Technology is an ordinary part of daily life for millennials and this makes adopting new technology far easier for them and more cost effective for your company.

Yes, there are industry-specific tools and programs designed for business collaboration, but many already exist in the public domain. For example, Skype and FaceTime are widely used and can be easily adopted for use in your workplace.

New hires can quickly inherit valuable knowledge

Getting your new hires up to speed with the way your company operates and in-progress projects is vital for delivering ROI. Thankfully, one of the benefits of collaboration revolves around how new employees can ask questions to company veterans as easily as they can be answered.

However, it’s the not just the handing down of knowledge that’s beneficial. By fostering mentorships through the use of collaborative technology, your long-term employees can gain inspiration from new hires. If you’re looking to avoid stagnation when it comes to innovation at your company then this shouldn’t be overlooked.

Business collaboration builds trust among your employees

Building trust among your employees is a crucial factor in overcoming obstacles when trying to achieve your business aims. Of course, it goes without saying that there will be some disputes between employees but a proper business collaboration model will enable them to be resolved.

By fostering this kind of environment in your workplace you can allow innovative ideas to be voiced freely and built upon by others. As cross-department projects are becoming far more common and simpler to organise this benefit shouldn’t be overlooked.

Unsurprisingly, the greatest teams draw on the skills of every member and share responsibility for failures as well as successes. At the end of the day, you want your employees to be utilising their expertise to their full capacity and what better way is there to do this than by building trust though collaboration.

Working becomes far more flexible

Flexible working schedules are a huge selling point for many jobseekers in today’s world. However, it’s not only that a flexible working schedule can greatly improve employee satisfaction; there’s also a huge benefit when it comes to business collaboration.

Thanks to the increased sophistication of mobile and tablet devices, remote, real-time collaboration between employees is more practical than ever before. This is an ideal solution for businesses that operate on a global scale or those that take on the services of freelancers for various roles.

Are you still thinking about what is collaboration in the workplace? To learn more about business collaboration, please contact us now.  Alternatively, you can find out exactly how Saxons can help your business to collaborate more effectively by visiting the Business Connectivity page now.

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Your team doesn’t work for you. You work for them.

When I worked at Trilogy, one of my fellow managers seemed to have a brutal case of absenteeism. He was never at his desk. Even more concerning, when I did see him he seemed to be doing random things — talking to one person, going for coffee with another, or maybe just standing around and looking at people.

Yet his teams performed excellently. I wondered if luck bestowed him with a pack of A-players, enabling him get by doing nothing as a manager.

I thought he was hopeless, but then I discovered something powerful: he spent all his time helping people. Those ostensibly random activities were his way of unblocking his team and paving their way to success.

I changed my own behaviour. I started to work for my team and carried that practice throughout my career. Whether I manage five (as I did at first) or 300 (as I did at Xtreme Labs), I help people do their jobs. I volunteer for the unpopular jobs. When my people are blocked, I work as hard as I can to unblock them.

To an outsider, it might look like I’m doing nothing. But the value accruing to the company is tremendous. There are four main reasons:

Your people need a threshold level of responsibility to get creative Your people need missions and authority to reach peak productivity You are in the best position to unblock people This is how your people learn — and how you learn 1) Your people need a threshold level of responsibility to get creative “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” — Kurt Vonnegut

In order for someone to do her best work, she needs to feel and understand the problem. She’ll never grow wings if she’s never forced to fly.

The conflict and struggle of fixing one’s own problems is the key to creativity. This is why people should work for themselves and ask for help from managers when they need it. This is the opposite of what most people think (people work for managers and ask for help from below when they need it). As a manager, your job is to unblock people by getting your hands dirty, showing them who to ask for help, or asking for help a level up — from your own manager.

This way, the company benefits by having far more people working on creative solutions to problems. Command-and-control works for organizations like the army, but not for knowledge workers. You need each of your people to spread their wings.

2) Your people need missions and authority to reach peak productivity “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” — Toni Morrison

Your people have to shed their chains to do good work. A typical manager might give her subordinate a task and micromanage until it looks like they want. I prefer to ask my people to build something that solves the pain.

For example, I asked one of our Helpful product designers, Novia, to help solve a pain: some users want to use the app but they won’t use their phones. The mission was to build web functionality for everything in our app. Her output looked nothing like I expected, but it was fantastic.

Roger Martin calls this the “Choice Cascade” — choices cascade down the org chart and fall to the people that actually do the work.

Missions alone, however, are not enough. Your people need to have the authority to accomplish their missions. Even if you think the output should look different, they need to be able to say “no.” Saying “no” is a skill, and like all other skills, it has to be nurtured. I encourage and reward people who defend their points of view.

For example, I gave Shawn, another Helpful product designer, a specific feature suggestions. When I didn’t see it in the app, I repeated it five more times. Eventually, I asked, “Why isn’t that in the product?” He replied, “I know you’ve told me many times, but I don’t agree with you.” He has the final say. I am just one voice.

3) You are in the best position to unblock people “In most cases you will have more context than I will about a [technical] decision, but come to me when you’re blocked and I’ll unblock you. That’s my job.”

As a manager, you understand who knows what, who’s done what, and who owns what. By virtue of that alone, you know how to get help for your people.

At Xtreme, I spent a lot of my time learning about people. This way, I could help people quickly. My team called me “air traffic control.” My task as air traffic control was to unblock people (making sure there were no crashes), but not micromanaging (how to fly the plane).

4) This is how your people learn — and how you learn “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” — Richard Branson

As a manager, your job is not to prevent people from making mistakes. Don’t worry about mistakes. In reality, there are extremely few catastrophic mistakes that people can make.

Your job is to set a tone that making mistakes is okay — as long as people learn from them. Make your own mistakes. Bring a mindset of learning to everything. Explicitly call it out: “I thought that X was right, but turns out I was wrong and Y is better.”

I learned that you have to be explicitly and emphatically advertise your own mistakes. At Pivotal, I once called someone by the wrong name and a colleague said, “Woah, you make mistakes!” I was floored, ”Do you think I never make mistakes?” My mistake was to not showcase my mistakes.

This helps people get rid of their fear — again unleashing autonomy and creativity.

Two Cautions 1. You can very sparingly say “no”

Success for a manager sometimes requires saying “no.” Some of your creative people will sometimes create output that just won’t jive (with other departments, with the company vision, or with other team members). Your duty to the company may require you to put a bullet in such projects. Do it quickly and without remorse. As a manager, you have to be decisive — your team will appreciate it. Just use your bullets wisely — saying “no” should never become a habit.

For example, I will not budge in my stance pair programming. I believe so strongly in the benefits of pairing that I simply will not allow engineers to code alone. I often say that, if you don’t like pair programming, you don’t have to work at Helpful.

2. Don’t create a leaning monolith

When you have large numbers of people all working to advance their mission, you increase the risk of colossal failure. They might build a huge monolith only to have it fail in an unexpected way. To mitigate this risk, be agile (ship, test, iterate).

At Helpful, everyone (not just our engineers) demos every Friday. This means nobody can work on something for more than a few days without another person seeing their output.

Friday demos also force people to think in terms of short-term output. It’s okay to demo something that’s broken, as long as it’s moving in the right direction each week. Be hard on the process, not the people.

Another way to avoid creating a monolith is to time box activities. For example, one of our Helpers wanted to create a new analytics report. I know that analytics can take a lot of time, so I said, “Sure, but don’t spend more than one day on it.” This forced him to hone in on the few most valuable metrics, create a lightweight report, and move on.

Conclusion: Your org chart is upside-down. Flip it.

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The 12 Signs: How to know when you’re slowly but surely becoming a bad manager

No one sets out to become a bad boss. Yet, slowly but surely, it’s easy to become the bad manager we all dread.

Times are stressful. You’re trying to make things happen. You notice your team isn’t as engaged as they should be. You can feel your patience getting shorter and shorter. You feel stuck and exasperated about leading your team. The more you do, the worse it seems to get.

Then, a sinking feeling hits you: You might be becoming a bad manager.

I’ve had that sinking feeling in my own stomach before, too. Especially in the early days of running Know Your Company, I was plagued with self-doubt. “Am I doing this right?” I wondered. “Am I falling into the trap of doing things that I’ve hated in other bosses?”

Since then, I recognized the early signs of a bad manager — the kind of manager I dreaded working for. Now, I’d like to share these signs with you, so you can hopefully avoid these pitfalls and get back on track to being the good manager you want to be.

Sign #1: You think an employee “should already know that.”

When you’re a leader, you benefit from having all the information. Yet we forget that the rest of the team does not have that same information. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that employees “should already know that.” Instead, consider why your team doesn’t have the information they need, and own that shortcoming yourself. Good leaders know it’s on themselves to make sure the team knows what they need to know.

Sign #2: You find yourself saying “No” more often than “Why not?” or “Could this work later?”

In times of uncertainty, we as leaders have a bias against creativity. A great leader understands this, and adjusts for this bias. She knows that good ideas and suggestions take many forms — and saying “no” to something right away could be shortchanging your team. Not to mention, it’s demoralizing for your team to always have their ideas constantly turned down. Consider: Are you becoming a bad manager because you’re too closed off to new ideas?

Sign #3: You ask an employee to stay late without staying late yourself.

True leadership starts with walking the walk. Our actions set the example for our team. So if you ask someone to stay late at the office, but you don’t stay late yourself — that’s not a small, trivial thing. It’s a statement to your employee that you don’t value them or their time. Reexamine if you’re modeling the behavior yourself that you’d like your employees to exhibit.

Sign #4: You feel like you’re irreplaceable and are the only person who can do a certain part of the job.

Feeling like you’re irreplaceable isn’t a badge of honor — it can be your greatest downfall as a leader. Why? It’s often the reason we micromanage others or don’t delegate projects. When we accept that others can do parts of our job better than us, we are more willing to share responsibility, delegate tasks, and not breathe down our team’s neck. Wil Reynolds, Founder of SEER Interactive, has admitted how he’s fallen victim to this himself.

Sign #5: You think asking certain questions can be dangerous or a giant waste of time.

You’re worried that asking what an employee thinks about your benefits or compensation package are just huge distractions. While in the short-term this may feel like the case, the reality is that employees have feedback for you already, whether or not you ask about them. So by not asking questions, you’re simply letting a problem fester. If you want to be a good leader, you’ll gather the courage to ask questions and hear answers you may not want to hear. It’s better than not knowing the answer at all.

Sign #6: You think emotions have no place in the workplace.

Emotions are facts — the way we feel about our work affect how well we do our work. So we must accept our team’s emotions, just as we do our financials or design projects. Work is often seen as a logical, rational place, so considering people’s emotions can feel burdensome and complicated. But great leaders embrace that their team will feel a range of emotions, and that’s part of the day-to-day process of working together.

Sign #7: You think doing something yourself is easier because you can’t trust anyone else to get it done right.

Your reluctance to hand things off to your team is a telling sign that you’re slipping into becoming a bad manager. A great leader knows that the crux of teamwork is equipping others with the ability to do things right and trusting that they will. As the African proverb goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Sign #8: You think some people deserve your trust more than others — and you act on those hunches.

Few things turn a manager from good to bad as quickly as playing favorites. As unwilling as you might be to even call your actions “playing favorites,” the fact that you give some people on your team more leeway or grace than others is a recipe for resentment. Fairness is a critical trait of the best leaders.

Sign #9: You feel that you need your team to be close by or in the office in order for people to get work done.

You might find it strangely comforting to see an employee in front of a computer, at the office. That means they’re being productive, right? What a farce that is. Watching people get work done doesn’t mean the work actually gets done. Realize that your desire for proof of the work, instead of caring about the result, is a crutch and an attempt to control others. If anything, your desire to see people doing work is a burden to your team.

Sign #10: You think that if an employee has a problem, issue, question, or concern, they’ll simply come to you with it.

Open door policies in companies simply don’t work. We forget is that there is an inherent power dynamic when we’re the manager. When we’re “the boss,”we’re seen as the ones “in control” and with power. As a result, an employee is concerned with how she’ll come across to you, if you’ll treat her differently, or even fire her. There’s no incentive for her to be honest with you, if it’s not what you want to hear. So you’ve got to ask what problems, issues, or questions your team might have — you can’t expect them to come to you.

Sign #11: You “test” employees to make sure they’re prepared and working hard.

You catch yourself asking questions during meetings just to “make sure employees are paying attention.” Or, you assign small tasks just to make sure your team “is on their toes.” Stop. Trying to “test” your employees is counterproductive. You’re draining their morale, not building it up. If you’re ever tempted to try to test your employees — resist the urge. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel the urge to test them? What am I not doing to create an environment where they can perform their best?”

Sign #12: You spend more time thinking about trying to eliminate distractions in the workplace than trying to give people a reason to feel excited about coming to work.

As a manager, it’s tempting to focus on what your team should stop doing. They should stop taking such long lunches, or stop wasting time on Facebook. Rather, the best managers take an opposite approach: They focus on what they can to give their team so they feel motivated and engaged. For instance, instead of being preoccupied with how long your team’s coffee breaks are, consider, have you made it clear how their work is connected to the bigger picture?

All of us as leaders have fallen victim to one of these 12 signs, at one time or another. The key is to recognize it, when it happens. Don’t give yourself excuses for why it did. And don’t beat yourself up about it, either! Simply accept it, decide what you’d like to do differently, and move forward.

Being a good manager is hard for everyone. I only hope learning these 12 signs can help you, as much as it did me.

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How To Manage The Four Strong Personalities You See In Meetings

We've all got our quirks, and most of us bring strengths and some weaknesses to the teams to which we belong. But there are four strong personalities that stand out for their ability, both positively and negatively, to impact team dynamics, especially when it comes to meetings.

There are the 'Challengers,' the big idea people who love going against convention. This is the person who blurts out mid meeting "This is a stupid idea. I've got something better we can try instead." Challengers can deliver the great idea that unsticks a team's thinking, but when the team has been developing that other idea for six weeks or even six months, and some team members are deeply invested in the work that's already been done, or if there are detail-oriented people also on the team whose brains scramble when the Challenger tries to blow everything up, team dynamics can quickly sour.

The 'Analyzers' are the content experts. Analyzers don't know everything, but what they do know, they know extremely well. When a team is dealing with a challenge that matches the Analyzer's area of expertise, you're seconds away from all the latest data and research that can help you solve the problem. But when the team focus strays from the Analyzer's areas of expertise, they get bored, lose interest, often affecting a dismissive attitude that can drag down other team members.

The "get it done" people or 'Implementers' are great on the operational side so go ahead and put them in charge of tactical plans, deadlines and workflows. But Implementers can get so caught up in the logistics of asking "but is that idea feasible?" that they inhibit team innovation.

Finally, there are the team-harmony focused 'Collaborators.' Say, for example, an Implementer is playing devil's advocate to a Challenger's big idea and a fight is about to ignite. The Collaborator is the person who jumps in and says, "You know, Pat, that was a really smart idea, but let's just take a minute to talk to Chris about whether or not we really have a chance to make this work." Collaborators are great at smoothing out the rough patches, but they can also take collaboration and consensus building to an extreme that hinders team progress.

The best team managers know how to utilize the strengths these four strong personalities while mitigating their weaknesses and the negative impact they have on the team. The following are a few techniques to help create productive and engaging meetings for everyone on the team.

1. Structure and planning is required to mobilize the talents of all four personality types in team meetings. Use a Statement of Achievement for every meeting that requires answering: As a result of this meeting, participants will ____. We will accomplish this by/through ____. If you can't answer the question, postpone until you can. Read this Forbes article on using a Statement of Achievement to save 17 minutes per meeting.

2. Create a cogent meeting agenda that clearly identifies 1) the meeting topic, 2) why this topic is on the agenda, 3) what the meeting hopes to accomplish and 4) how participants should prepare. Prevent the distraction of over populating your core team by using your agenda to identify who can, and cannot, add value to the meeting. For each participant you're considering, ask, "what special insight or power does this person have that I need to succeed?" and "Is this meeting the best way to access that insight or power?" It may be more productive to meet with some team members outside the meeting. For example, you can assign Analyzers the role of resource team, outside experts you only bring in when their expertise is needed.

3. Establish how decisions will be reached up front. There are four basic decision-making models: Power-based: "Let's take a vote to decide," Rights-based: "Let's let a third party outside expert (the boss, a book, an answer key) decide," Interest-based: "I'll meet you half way" (includes consensus or bargaining) and Relational: "I don't want to get into a fight so I will just let you have it your way." If using Power-Based, define this up front and stay committed to the established rules.

4. Equalize the room by picking a focal point, a central issue presented on a SMART Board, whiteboard or flip chart instead of everyone turning and squaring off to each other across the table. Get the input of quieter team members (and tone down strong personalities like Challengers and Analytics) using the Nominal Group Technique where everyone writes down their individual ideas (e.g. "should we raise our prices?") and passes them up to a leader to sort and share. Learn more about the Nominal Group Technique in this Forbes article.

Another way to encourage the sharing of ideas is to go around the room and ask: "How would you answer someone who asked about the other ideas we considered but didn't choose?" "Are there any circumstances under which our current decision won't work?" and "If you could create a solution from scratch, would this be it?"

5. End every meeting with a Decision Grid that asks all team members: What are you personally going to achieve and by when? Making the results transparent encourages accountability.

6. Finally, get the input of your team to improve meetings by occasionally asking three end of meeting assessment questions: #1: "How well did we meet our Statement of Achievement?" If the feedback is negative, rethink the reasons you are having meetings and how well you are focusing meetings on selected objectives. #2: "What's one thing you'd like to see more of?" The flipside, of course, is: What's one thing you'd like to see less of? These two questions will really get people talking and involved. # 3: "What's your takeaway?" This can be part of your Decision Grid or it can be a separate item, but make sure that everybody is clearly articulating "Here's what I'm responsible for."

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How to Stop Micromanaging Your Team

Micromanaging is a hard habit to break. You may downplay your propensities by labeling yourself a “control freak” or by claiming that you just like to keep close tabs on your team, but those are poor excuses for excessive meddling. What can you do to give your people the space they need to succeed and learn? How should you prioritize what matters? And how do you get comfortable stepping back?

What the Experts Say
If you’re the kind of boss who lasers in on details, prefers to be cc’ed on emails, and is rarely satisfied with your team’s work, then—there’s no kind way to say this—you’re a micromanager. “For the sake of your team, you need to stop,” says Muriel Maignan Wilkins, coauthor of Own the Room and managing partner of Paravis Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm. “Micromanaging dents your team’s morale by establishing a tone of mistrust—and it limits your team’s capacity to grow,” she says. It also hampers your ability to focus on what’s really important, adds Karen Dillon, author of the HBR Guide to Office Politics. “If your mind is filled with the micro-level details of a number of jobs, there’s no room for big picture thoughts,” she says. As hard as it may be to change your ways, the “challenge is one that will pay off in the long run,” says Jennifer Chatman, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. “There may be a few failures as your team learns to step up, but ultimately they will perform much, much better with greater accountability and less interference.” Here are some pointers on how to let go.

Reflect on your behavior
The first step is to develop an awareness of why you micromanage. “You need to understand where this is coming from,” says Dillon. “Most likely it’s because of some insecurity—you’re afraid it will reflect badly on you if your team doesn’t do something exactly the way you would do it or you’re worried you’ll look out of touch if you’re not immersed in the details, so you overcompensate,” she says. Wilkins recommends “asking yourself: what excuses am I using to micromanage?” Common justifications include: “It will save time if I do it myself.” Or “Too much is at stake to allow this to go wrong.” She advises focusing on “the reasons why you should not micromanage”—it’s bad for your team as they don’t learn and grow—“and the benefits you’d derive if you stopped,” chiefly more time to do your own job.

Get feedback
“Often there is a significant disconnect between what leaders intend and what the team is actually experiencing,” says Chatman. You may merely suspect you have a problem while your team members are already annoyed by your constant hovering “Feedback is essential to see how significant the issue is.” To get a handle on what your direct reports really thinkand whether it lines up with your intentions, she recommends “undertaking a cross-evaluation assessment.” Gather confidential data from your people—or better yet, have a third party do it—and aggregate those results so employees know you can’t find out exactly who said what. What you hear may be sobering, “but it’s critical to understanding the broader patterns and reactions and the impact [your micromanaging has] on your team,” she says.

Prioritize what matters—and what doesn’t
“A good manager trains and delegates,” says Dillon, and you can’t do that if you’re taking on everything—regardless of how important the task is—yourself. Start by determining what work is critical for you to be involved in (e.g. strategic planning) and what items are less important (e.g. proofreading the presentation). Wilkins suggests looking at your to do list “to determine which low-hanging fruit you can pass on to a team member.” You should also highlight the priorities on your list, meaning “the big ticket items where you truly add value,” and ensure you are “spending most of your energy” on those, she adds. Remember, says Chatman, “Micromanaging displaces the real work of leaders, which is developing and articulating a compelling and strategically relevant vision for your team.”

 

Talk to your team
Once you’ve determined your priorities, the next step is communicating them to your team, says Dillon. “Have a conversation about the things that really matter to you—the things that they’ll need to seek your guidance and approval on—so your direct reports can get ahead of your anxiety,” she says. Tell them how you’d like to be kept in the loop and how often they should provide status updates. “Be explicit with your direct reports about the level of detail you will engage in,” adds Wilkins. At the same time, enlist their help in making sure you don’t fall back into your old micromanaging ways. Chatman suggests: “Tell them you are trying to work on this” and ask targeted questions such as: How can I help you best? Are there things I can do differently? Are our overall objectives clear to you and do you feel you have the support and resources to accomplish them?

Step back slowly
Fighting your micromanaging impulses might be hard at first so pull back slowly. You need to get comfortable, too. “Do a test run on a project that is a bit less urgent and give your team full accountability and see how it goes,” Chatman says. “Recognize that your way is not the only, or even necessarily, the best way.” The acid test of leadership, she says, “is how well the team does when you’re gone.” Another way to ease out of micromanaging is to discretely seek feedback from other coworkers about how your team is operating, says Dillon. “Ask a colleague you trust: ‘How’s that project going?’” The answer will provide valuable information, says Dillon. “You may feel better knowing that everything is fine, or you may realize you pulled back too much.” In the latter case, you need to “find a way [to support the work] that doesn’t involve peering over your employees’ shoulders.”

Build trust
Because your team members are used to you not trusting them, they may want to come to you for approval before taking charge of a project. “Acknowledge this is a growth opportunity for the person and say that you know in your heart of hearts he or she will rise to the challenge,” says Dillon. This is more than a pep talk. You’re in effect “giving your employee the psychological power to lead.” Making sure your team members know you trust them and have faith in their abilities is actually “very simple,” says Wilkins. “Tell them so. Say, ‘I fully trust you can make this decision.’” And then, “walk the talk,” she says. Don’t excessively scrutinize. Don’t insist on being cc’d on every email. And don’t renege on your vote of confidence. “Let them do it and don’t back pedal and change everything they did.”

And if things don’t go exactly as you’d like, try your hardest not to overact. Take a breath; go for a walk; do whatever you need to do to come “back from that agitated micro-managerial moment,” says Dillon. After all, does it really matter if the memo isn’t formatted exactly to your liking? “For most things, nothing is so bad it can’t be corrected.”

Know your employees’ limitations
“Some people will over correct by pulling away too much; but it’s smart to give appropriate support,” says Dillon. “Talk about how you will help them problem solve and how you’ll support them” even if you’re not deeply involved in a particular project or task. At the same time, keeping a closer eye on certain projects or certain employees is sometimes warranted, she adds. If “your report is junior,” say, or “not yet ready to be trusted,” you will need to keep close tabs on her work. Similarly, says Wilkins, “when the deliverable is urgent and high stakes” it may make sense to intervene or ask to be kept regularly apprised of things. “In this case, it’s helpful if you explain to the person why you are being so hands on,” she says. “You should also give feedback to the employee and coach them, so they can complete the task on their own over time.”

Principles to Remember

Do:

Ask yourself why you micromanage and reflect on your need for control Refine your to do list by prioritizing the tasks and projects that matter most to you Talk to your team about how you’d like to be kept apprised of their progress

Don’t:

Renege on your vote of confidence—tell your reports you trust them and let them do their jobs Overact when things don’t go exactly as you’d like them to—take a breath and figure out a way to correct the situation if it’s truly necessary Go too far—you don’t want to become a hands-off boss

Case Study #1: Clarify your priorities
Jordan Fliegel, the founder and CEO, of CoachUp—the Boston-based startup that connects athletes with private coaches, learned to deal with his micromanaging tendencies after a bad experience early in the life of his company.

It was fall 2013—CoachUp’s second year of business. The company’s summer interns had completed a big blogging project, and CoachUp’s content team was responsible for editing the posts and tagging them for maximal search engine optimization. Given that the company was experimenting with blogs for the first time and the fact that Jordan is a formidable writer in his own right, he says he “felt attached to the project.”

The content team, however, was not moving fast enough on the project. He figured it would be easier and faster if he did it himself. “I took me three weekends to finish the work.”

When he presented the completed product to his team, his employees responded with a mixture of annoyance and puzzlement. “Their reaction was, was this really the most important or high-impact thing you could have been doing with your time? And, if you really thought this project was that important you should have told us,” he recalls.

Jordan understood that by completing the project he had, in effect, been doing other people’s jobs—which is a sure way to “undermine their creativity and drive,” he says.

He now knows to be more explicit about his reasons when he’s delegating certain tasks. “I realize that if I want something to get done, I need to explain the context and the return on investment to the team,” he says. “If there’s pushback—meaning that the team disagrees that it should be a priority—there can be a debate. But I shouldn’t shy away from saying what I think needs to get done.”

He attributes his earlier meddling to his newbie CEO status. “I hadn’t had a lot of experience managing people at that point,” he says. “And as the founder, I was used to doing everything myself. It was hard to let go. When it’s your business—your baby—you want to be involved.”

Today, Jordan is much more hands-off and tries to focus on “working on the business and not in it.”

Case Study #2: Explain why you’re being hands on
Mike Faith, the founder and CEO of Headsets.com, the San Francisco-based headset supplier, says that sometimes micromanaging can be a necessary part of leadership—especially when it comes to training new hires. “I’ve come to the conclusion based on experience that I need to stay close to new employees early on to give encouragement, correction, and learning,” he says. “I can’t let the fear of being called a micromanager prevent me from staying close at first.”

 

Mike is explicit about his management style with new recruits. “It’s important that they know what to expect. I tell them ‘I am going to check in with you early and often’ and then I follow through and do just that. Once they reach a level of confidence and competence, I am more comfortable pulling back.”

This policy occasionally applies to longtime executives, too. Recently, Mike and his VP of Marketing embarked on a big new project related to how Headsets.com handles online advertising. His VP will handle the day-to-day operations of the project, but Mike has a keen interest in its progress. “I told him that for now, we’re going to stay close to each other and learn as we go. I will be checking in with him daily, and I want him to be checking in with me,” he says.

Mike told his VP that the constant need for status updates wouldn’t be required forever. “I told him that once we get the hang of it and we’re hitting our numbers, we’ll check in with each other monthly or just as needed. There is no perfect recipe or perfect formula,” he says.

Mike also offered his support. “I told him that I had confidence he can do it,” he says. “I said: ‘We are going to try our damndest, and I’ve got your back.”

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8 tips for when you fear age bias in the workplace

I see a trend in the American workforce and as a coach struggle with how to make sense of it. This week alone one of my clients was terminated, one was put on a 90-day Performance Improvement Plan that is likely to end in termination, and another had his compensation decreased by $100,000. I find it no accident that the ages of these three people respectfully are 56, 57 and 61.

In many ways, our culture does not value the seasoned wisdom of decades of experience or appreciate the dedication of years of service. Companies see that they can replace “aging” employees with younger people they can pay less. It’s as if they feel “younger” energy will bring more innovation and greater results at a lower cost. They feel the aging employee’s mindset is outdated and that they can’t keep up with technology. That is just plain and simply — Age Bias — and short-sighted.

Employees see this coming. Organizations send people they have stereotyped subliminal messages of disapproval that lower their confidence and depletes their self-esteem, creating doubt in their worth. When someone carries this uncertainty in themselves their perceived under-performance usually becomes a self -fulfilling prophecy. When the end finally comes they are completely demoralized.

Companies forget that people in this age range taught themselves how to use a computer and every other form of technology and did not grow up with technology integrated into everything they learned. So when it comes to adaptability the aging worker has the market cornered. They have a work ethic eclipsed by no one and carry the least amount of entitlement of anyone in the workforce.

They don’t need any, let alone continual, feedback (for which companies are spending a fortune to implement internal coaching and other programs) to inspire their dedication to get the job done and they are loyal to a fault. They’ve lived through the cycles of economics, industries, and markets and can anticipate from experience. They aren’t afraid to pick up the phone and cold call someone in a way that results in new business. They can carry on a meaningful conversation with someone naturally because it’s how they built their portfolios before text messages and sound bites became the modus operandi.

So why don’t we harness the strengths of these seasoned professionals? Because we think they are not productive? As leaders, we haven’t spent time identifying how to modify their roles so these Jedis can mentor on how to connect, lead, sell, strategize. Instead, we just make cuts or spend fortunes on consultants, many who are good but more often steal our watches and tell us what time it is.

Let’s leverage the talents of these mavens as advisors, trainers, and leaders. Let’s not put them out to pasture. Other cultures don’t do this for a reason. It’s stupid and has no honor. Keep in mind EVERYONE will age. And then what will happen to YOU?

If you are in this age group here is some advice to position yourself to be invaluable:

1. Make sure you are working on things that are Measurable, Not Easily Transferable, New and Different, and Hold a High Learning Curve.

This includes relationship building, specific expertise, soft skills, leadership, strategic ability. If you aren’t, do so. If that means leaving the company or transferring to a different role — consider it before they can replace you with someone younger at half the cost.

2. Make sure you work for a company that LIVES the values that hand on the wall.

Define YOUR values. What is important to you? Do your values align with those of the company?

3. Find time to mentor others.

Share your expertise. Counsel people. Have an open door. Be the person no one wants to see let go.

4. When interviewing and get told, “You’re overqualified” have a response ready.

“I’ve spent my career with the pressures of corporate America. At this point, I am excited to find a role where I can put my expertise to work to actually accomplish something without the extrinsic noise.”

5. Know your transferable skills and apply for roles outside your comfort zone.

Consider new industries, roles, a smaller organization. Watch my free training “Three Ways To Move to the Next Level in Your Career” to learn how to define your transferable skills at here. Watch this and know all the things you are qualified to do that you hadn’t realized.

6. Define your strengths and be able to speak to how you have leveraged them for success.

Ask your friends and colleagues to define your strengths. Go online and take free strengths assessments. Build your self-awareness so you can be in a role that aligns with your talents.

7. Write down three people over the age of 55 who you admire.

Then list what you observe about them that draws you to them. What do you want to develop in yourself?

8. Separate your lifelong career accomplishments from the instance at hand.

Nothing negates all that you have done. Make a list of all that you are grateful for. No one can take that away from you.

As leaders let’s not stereotype. Aren’t our employees’ failures ultimately our failures as their leader? Embrace the expertise and wisdom of each employee individually so that you may place them in roles where they can feel fulfilled and benefit the company. Align their values with that of the organizations. Make sure they are in the right seat on the bus. Set them up with measurable goals so their value speaks for itself. Support them with productivity tools and professional development tailored to their individual needs. They will pay for themselves. They are good listeners, detail-oriented, punctual, dedicated, confident, focused, attentive and have advanced critical-thinking skills.

As individuals let’s remain open to learning new things, taking risks and opening our perspective on how to put our talents to good use. Seek out new opportunities to diversify skills.

The bus is bigger than you think. There is room for everyone. Let’s make room so top talent seeks our team as the best place to work because of our culture.

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Former Netflix Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord on how to embrace your power at work

Corporate America is known for specific kinds of standards, practices, and initiatives, but one person has thrown how organizations commonly operate today under the microscope.

Along with CEO Reed Hastings, former Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord helped develop the Netflix Culture Deck — a manifesto which helped define the culture and values of the company — which made waves through Silicon Valley. “It may well be the most important document ever to come out of the Valley,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg reportedly told GQ in an interview.

The original presentation racked up more than 17 million views since it was first published in 2009, and was updated in June 2017.

On the heels of the release of her new book, POWERFUL: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility,McCord spoke with Ladders News about what she learned during her 14 years at Netflix.

In the second of two parts, McCord discusses what employees can do to better themselves, and her time after leaving Netflix.

On the power that she says people already have:

“When you layer processes, permission, and policy on top of each other over and over and over again, and then you wonder why people don’t innovate or act independently, It’s because you took all their power away from them. That’s my whole thing, that’s why I named the book POWERFUL.”

On what can be gained from open debate and questioning authority:

“Some people translate open debate into, ‘She just wants to pit people against each other and watch them fight,’ and that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is that when we challenge each other’s assumptions, we often end up at a better conclusion in the end. … If I listen to you with the idea that I’m just going to disagree with you, and I don’t say, ‘Now, help me understand why you came to that conclusion. What are your facts? What’s your perspective? Where are you coming from?,’ then I’m not gonna be as informed as I can be and [won’t] make the best decision for the customer. So, the reason why I encourage debate is … on behalf of who you’re serving, not on behalf of who wins the argument. Tease out the best ideas.”

  On how employees should take control of their career development:

“You need to know what it is you love to do, that you’re extraordinarily good at doing, and make sure that’s what you’re doing. Pay attention to the business as it shifts and changes, because if you wait around for the company to decide on the next career move for you or whether or not you’re paid fairly … it’s not going to happen.”

“What I mean is a big shift away from, ‘The company should realize who I am and how wonderful I am, and take care of me, and realize that I need to pay attention to if I’m enjoying what I’m doing, and if I’m doing a great job at it.’ … I’m not sure [working hard is] as important of a part of the equation as we think it is. I’ve known people that have worked really, really hard; really, really long hours; and not gotten much done. And so, it’s more about what you accomplish than how hard you work because that’s what you take with you for the rest of your career.”

On people pursuing lifelong learning:

“I think that if you get up in the morning and you get ready to go to work and you say to yourself, ‘Ughh, I don’t wanna do this anymore, I hate my job,’ then do something about it. You know, diagnose it. What is it that’s missing?

“Are you still slugging away, doing the same thing over and over again and you’re bored? But there’s no challenge for somebody like you in the organization in the next year or so? Then do something about it, go talk to people. … Keep accomplishing things. Be aware of it. Have it be your problem, not somebody else’s problem.”

On ‘one company’s failure might be another company’s treasure’:

“It means, just constantly looking for another way to contribute to the world. Thinking about how you go to bed at night a better person than when you woke up. Or you contribute something. Again, it’s that same thing of proactively taking charge of your own life.”

On what she’s been up to since her departure from Netflix:

“As a part of working on the book, I did a lot of … speaking, and that’s really helped me hone the message that I want to send to the world. I left Netflix and I thought, ‘I’ll go out and see what everybody else is doing that’s kinda innovative in the world of work,’ and to be honest, I couldn’t find very much.

 

“I wanted to be able to kind of write … ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Culture’ … a way to start thinking about how to do things differently.”

On the impact her book has had:

“Somebody sent me a note and said, ‘I’m a 22-year HR professional, I’ve been doing this my whole life. I just finished reading your book. … I was finishing up in my office, my CEO came in and said, exasperatedly, ‘I guess it’s time for us to do the annual performance review again.’ She said, ‘You know, I just kind of turned [the book] over and looked at him and said, ‘not anymore.’ I thought he was gonna faint … Finally gave me the courage to try and rethink all of this.’ And I thought, ‘There it is, I’ve made it. That’s all I wanted.’ ”

On her favorite Netflix programming:

“Oh, it’s always what I’m currently watching. I go back with Netflix over 20 years now. So I mean, do I love Orange is the New Black? Oh, hell yeah. … Godless is my new thing now. When I travel from Europe or something, I download a whole season, and I binge the entire season on the plane. Tonight, I’m like, ‘Ooh, I wanna see the new Queer Eye.’ It’s impossible to have a favorite, I think.”

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'Management Is 10% Work And 90% People'

Or is it? That's an interesting way to put it.

The headline above was on my mind because of a note from a former colleague I received yesterday on LinkedIn. I'd recently written an article examining the role of empathy in management - How Important Is Empathy To Successful Management? - and he sent me this thoughtful comment:

"Great article. I once worked for a fantastic effective leader, who when I joined her organization shared her secret to success and said, 'Remember, it's only 10% work and 90% people.'"

The management balance

I'd be curious to know what others think about this "10/90" idea.

My own take? Management requires balance, to be sure. No doubt you need technical expertise (the 10% "work" component). Without the ability to demonstrate a solid level of competence in the field you're managing, you may well lack "street cred," which can impede your management success. You need the respect of those you manage, and part of that is earned by how well you know your business - whatever that may be.

 

 

But on the other hand you also need the "people" element, since management of course at its core is all about accomplishing work through others. Other people, that is. Not other cattle, dogs, cats or horses. But it does require a consistent level of working with other humans... collaborating, motivating, plain old forming productive working relationships. And making those humans willing to come back day after day and do the same thing all over again.

High tech, low touch 

It's no secret I tend to tilt to the "people management" side. Often in my own career I saw hires made who were heavy on technical competence and light on interpersonal skills, and usually this was a recipe for problems. When managers have difficulty relating well to the people they manage, it generally leads to issues with communication, recognition, motivation, morale... and ultimately productivity and retention.

 

So what are the right percentages in this 10% - 90% construct? Should they be 10-90... or perhaps 20-80, 30-70...or maybe even 5-95? That's probably an impossible question to answer. Other than to say I believe it would be above 50-50 (weighted more to the people side), it's pretty hard to be too precise one way or another. Depends on the nature of the job and the business.

But I do know that I 100% like this sentiment from Peter Drucker, often called the father of modern management.

"The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me," Mr. Drucker once wrote, "never say 'I.' And that's not because they have trained themselves not to say 'I.' They think 'we'; they think 'team.' They understand their job is to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don't sidestep it, but 'we' gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done."

The words may be a little different, it's true, but the sentiment seems to me very close to the "10-90" thinking of my former colleague's successful old manager.

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The Leadership Development Trends in 2018

We've been hearing a lot over the years about the "war for talent," "talent retention" and "talent management" as being the most critical issues for companies, and these problems don't seem to be going away. In fact, as global economies continue to evolve and grow, and processes and procedures become more and more automated, who and how we hire is even more important. Corporations, globally, are desperate for educated, solidly skilled and well-trained employees.

The problem is not all talent comes prepared with all the necessary skills to be successful. 

According to a study done by LinkedIn, 27 percent of North American businesses are going to spend more on internal learning programs in 2017. Specifically, the research showed that the subjects both small and large companies most want to focus on are 1) management and leadership skills, 2) technical skills and 3) career development.

Here's my take on what is most required, wanted and useful for companies today:

Management and Leadership Skills

Top management must continue to learn to inspire, motivate and empower their leadership teams. Listening to what's needed "on the ground," maybe even spending more time there, will give leaders the information they need to direct the company's mission. Spending time developing for the first time, or revisiting the firm's culture and values, allows leaders to standardize policies, systems, and best practices - particularly globally. And most importantly, communication is vital. The messages leadership sends virtually and in person are essential to creating a positive and productive atmosphere.

A leader doesn't have to be dynamic and charming--just highly communicative and transparent.

Understanding diversity, especially generations, culture, and gender will be a top priority in 2018. How do diverse cultures perceive leadership? Who's job is it to make decisions? How will the up and coming workforce relate to hierarchy, organizational structure, etc.? What kind of work lives do they see for themselves? And then there's gender. What types of organizations support more gender balance? How do we encourage more women to go for the top (if that's what they want)?

Technical Skills

With rapid advancements in digitalization, technical skills will, while still relevant, take a back seat to "soft skills." That means knowing "soft skills" (which I think are hard) will be even more critical for frontline managers and those new to management. Studies have shown that 47 percent of managers don't receive any training when they take a new leadership role. This lack of training can be especially detrimental to technical teams because now one of their leading techies just got promoted to management and suddenly their job shifts from expert to leading experts. If communication and delegation skills aren't in place, there could be a real lack of knowledge transfer.

Technical skills are still necessary today. A firm may need to invest in more extensive and specialized training to remain competitive in sourcing talent.Assessing an employee's abilities in critical thinking, analytical skills and the state of their technical experience is crucial to know what talent you can leverage and what training needs to be done. 

Career Development

A staggering 93 percent of managers feel they need training on how to coach their employees. Giving advice, mentoring, and delivering feedback are all routine aspects to management, but more and more direct reports need to take responsibility for solving problems, taking steps to action, and managing their own careers. Gone are the days of traditional career paths and step-by-step advancement. If a manager acts as a good coach, they not only take the pressure off of themselves to provide all the answers, avoid constant back and forth, they also empower their team to set and achieve their own goals - those that matter most to them.

My favorite model to use for coaching is the G.R.O.W. Model. Managers can easily learn and adapt this to their daily interactions with direct reports. The secret to coaching is to ask questions and reframe. As opposed to answering and solving. Marshall Goldsmith's book, Coaching for Leadership, is an excellent resource for coach training. Also, the book I'm coming out with this year - The New Global Manager- will give practical advice and share the best methods how to manage across diverse personalities, globally. Also on Twitter an excellent resource for understanding what managers and employees go through in the career development process is https://twitter.com/askamanager.

With the continuing need for superb talent, trained employees and excellent managers, learning programs need funding, strong attention to detail and expert instructional designers. The programs I have developed and run for organizations like SAP, LinkedIn, SpaceX, and SMA Solar are all focused on strong communication and interaction--the people skills we need both locally and globally.

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What leaders need to know about the future of teams

Team leaders will need the ability to create teams, get them performing effectively and then disband them on a positive note

Teams are set to play a critical role in the organisations of the future.The hierarchical structures of the past are giving way to agile teams that can respond quickly to new challenges and innovate at speed. Our recent research shows that 69% of managers now work with five or more teams and that 88% were responsible for at least one team. 

The emergence of working cultures where teams are increasingly virtual, and are formed and disbanded as priorities change, poses many challenges for team leaders, particularly those who have been used to working in more conventional environments. So how do managers need to respond to the changing nature of teams – and what can HR do to help equip them for the future?

The march of the Millennials

Generation Y employees will play a big part in the teams of the future, so it’s important for team leaders to understand how to get the best out of them. Our research shows that Millennials want challenging and interesting work, flexible working patterns and frequent praise. They want informal, friendly relationships with their managers, and for their bosses to share their knowledge and experience with them. They are digital natives who have grown up with technology, and expect to be able to use it to its fullest extent in the workplace. Much of this is alien to team leaders, who have grown up against a more hierarchical, slow-moving backdrop. HR needs to help line managers understand how they can maximise the potential of this key group of employees while at the same time integrating them successfully with the rest of the workforce.

Multi-generational teams

The typical team of the future will be made up not just of different cultures, but also different generations. Demographic changes, coupled with changes in pension legislation, mean that ‘Baby Boomer’ employees will be working well beyond traditional retirement age. The challenge for team leaders will be to get the generations working together harmoniously. Over-50s will need to adjust to new ways of working, embrace new technologies and come to terms with the fact they may be reporting to people from a less experienced, younger generation. Millennials will need to focus on developing relational and interpersonal skills so that they can work effectively with older colleagues and learn from their knowledge and experience. Developing strategies to help the generations learn from each other and finding ways to retain the skills of Baby Boomers, who often feel they lack voice and are overlooked in the workforce, will be a key task for HR going forward. 

New ways of working

The world is changing too quickly for us to be able to ignore the collective intelligence of the team. What this means is that the way teams work together and are led is set to change radically in the future. Instead of teams having a single leader every team member will have to develop the ability to both lead and follow. Team leaders and team members will have to develop their skills in areas such as facilitation, motivation and managing change. The ability for teams to learn on their feet is vital. The environment is changing quickly and the capacity of teams to learn new skills and adapt needs to keep pace. HR will need to find new ways of supporting the development of employees so that they are equipped with the skills to work successfully in teams in the future. 

Networks of teams

In the future it’s likely that everyone will have a network of teams to which they belong. Research suggests that already only 38% of companies are organised by function, so we will see more and more cross-functional, multi-cultural and virtual teams. Team leaders will have to develop the ability to create teams, get them performing effectively and then disband them on a positive note. They will also have to be skilful in their ability to collaborate, flex their style and relate to a wide range of people – and to equip their team members to do the same. Team-based rather than individual reward is also becoming more common. This is a highly emotional area that will demand a step change in attitude and approach and real skill on the part of the leader, as well as supportive development and reward strategies from HR. 

Building engagement

Engaged teams work more effectively. Research by Gallup shows that engaged employees have 22% higher productivity, 65% lower turnover and 41% fewer defects. At a time when employee engagement is at an all-time low, the challenge for team leaders will be how to keep team members engaged. People need to understand why what they do matters, and how it fits into the bigger picture. Leaders also need to make sure people feel valued and appreciated for their efforts and to show an active interest in team members, their aspirations and what drives them. HR has a critical role to play in helping create cultures where people feel that what they do matters. 

Fiona Dent is an adjunct professor and director of executive education at Ashridge Executive Education, part of Hult International Business School

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LEARNING IS EARNING in the national learning economy

Learning is Earning 2026:
the interactive forecasting game 

In conjunction with SXSWedu on March 8-9, 2016, Institute for the Future and ACT Foundation joined forces with students, workers, and educators across the country for Learning is Earning 2026—a 36-hour interactive forecasting experience that re-imagines the future of learning—a new reality where, instead of going into debt for a college degree, students are paid to learn. 

Jane McGonigal featured Learning is Earning 2026 in her SXSWedu Keynote, How to Think (and Learn) Like a Futurist, inviting everyone to contribute their forecasts around the future of learning and work to the game:

Immerse yourself in the world of 2026 ...

Players first immersed themselves in the world of 2026 by watching this short, provocative video illustrating a future where learning is earning, then people imagined their own stories of learning and earning in 2026 (check out the archived Learning is Earning 2026 game blog).

Learning is Earning: the forecast map

As fast as the world of work is changing—with the growth of online jobs, on-demand platforms, and even automation of white-collar jobs—so, too, are our educational institutions speeding toward a perhaps unrecognizable future. IFTF partnered with ACT Foundation to map this changing landscape where working, learning, and living all merge to create a new national learning economy. 

The map, called Learning Is Earning, takes us on a tour of the future forces shaping this new economy: learning commons, maker mindset, digital natives, coordination platforms, collaborative tools, human-machine symbiosis, and our decoding of the human brain. It then introduces us to the essential features of a world where learning and earning merge to create new kinds of lives. Four fictional working learners from the world of 2026 describe these lives as they tell us their stories of playing the game of life, of migrating platforms, and coming home to roost. 

The impetus for the Learning Is Earning map is the realization that more and more of today’s students are, in fact, working learners, many of whom are weaving diverse experiences in learning and working throughout their entire careers. The map explores the very different resources they will be tapping a decade from now, from continuous learning flows and digital-physical blends to dynamic reputations and algorithmic matching. This future is already unfolding today in innovations across the country and indeed across the globe. The Learning Is Earning map shows us the signals of change that are creating these new pathways for success, life satisfaction, and ultimately a thriving future economy.

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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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If You Multitask During Meetings, Your Team Will, Too

Managers have hard jobs. They coordinate the work of their teams, align this work with company goals, serve as a primary source of professional development for their employees, deliver results, and many other critical tasks (all while keeping people engaged). We’ve previously written about what great managers do differently, but even great managers are not fully aware of how their work habits can impact those they supervise. Our latest research allows us to begin quantifying how these habits can cause significant — and often undesirable — ripple effects.

The transition from individual contributor to manager expands the influence of a person’s work habits. The more senior they become, the more this influence is amplified. Unfortunately, managers typically have very limited visibility into what their own behaviors may be signaling to their team and how the team might be reacting. Microsoft Workplace Analytics allows us to analyze the digital signals from anonymized and aggregated data from meetings, email, HR, and other data sources to better understand these impacts. We’ve used this technology to study the behaviors of tens of thousands of managers in several large companies and found some consistent patterns.

This article outlines two common signals that manager work habits unintentionally send to their teams, their impact, and recommendations for lessening unintended consequences.

Working After Hours

This sends the signal, “When I’m on, you need to be too.” We’ve found a significant and consistent correlation between the amount of time managers send email and organize meetings after-hours (think late nights, weekends, etc.) and the amount of time their direct reports do the same.

In one Fortune 100 technology company, for example, we found that every hour that people managers spend after-hours translates to 20 minutes of additional direct report time spent after-hours. The numbers vary, but we’ve found significant correlations hold true for several other companies as well.

Analyzing Sunday night email patterns highlights one way this plays out. It’s not uncommon for people to get a head start on their week by catching up on Sunday evenings, and typically, people do this with no intention that email recipients will read or respond right away. Unfortunately, that’s often not what happens. Our analysis suggests that when managers start their work week on Sunday night, so do their direct reports.

 

Intentionally or not, managers that frequently work late nights are signaling an expectation of similar behavior to their teams, and their teams are responding in kind. This may not be a good thing. According to the General Social Survey, 48% of employees say that work sometimes or often interferes with family life; this habit is likely a strong contributing factor. The negative impacts are further illustrated by recent Gallup research concluding that “U.S. workers who email for work and who spend more hours working remotely outside of normal working hours are more likely to experience a substantial amount of stress on any given day than workers who do not exhibit these behaviors.”

What you should do: 

Talk to your team about expectations. Make it clear that just because you choose to work nights or weekends, you do not expect that of others. Be mindful of sending mixed signals such as encouraging people to go dark, then expecting immediate responses after hours. Authenticity and consistency are essential. When you’re processing emails at night, schedule them to go out in the morning or simply save them in a draft folder until the next day. Minimize the number of people on your distribution list. This is a good habit any time, but particularly after hours. As the scenario below demonstrates, the small step of reducing the number of people on an email chain has a dramatic impact on your organization.

 

Multitasking in Meetings

This sends the signal, “It’s OK to not pay attention.” Managers that frequently send emails during meetings are, according to our analysis, are 2.2 times more likely to have direct reports who also multi-task in meetings.

The ready explanation is that multi-tasking is a necessary survival strategy in days filled with back-to-back meetings. Yet the data does not bear this out: multi-tasking seems to be a choice or habit, not an inevitability. In the chart below, each dot represents a manager. The X axis in the number of hours they spend in meetings each week and the Y axis is the percentage of time they multi-task. This analysis shows a wide variance in the multi-tasking rates from 0% to over 70% that appear unrelated to the number of hours in meetings. Managers with 10-15 hours of meetings are just about as likely to multi-task as those with over 30 hours of meetings.

 

While multitasking can, at times, be an efficient way to work, most of us have had the experience of sitting next to the person busy clattering on their keyboard during a meeting. It’s distracting. And, ultimately, multitasking is task switching. When we shoot off a quick email during a meeting, we miss that part of the conversation. We – and others – may not even notice, but it means we have gaps in our understanding of what took place. That can lead to different interpretations of a decision, missed opportunities to provide critical guidance, or inconsistent follow through on action agreements. Beyond that, multitasking can signal to others that we don’t value their time or their contributions. When you and your entire team engages in this behavior, little good can come from it.

What you should do:

For a week or two, take note of when you multitask and why. If it is because you’re not essential to the purpose of the meeting, ask the meeting owner to remove you. Convert 60-minute meetings to 45 minutes. By shortening them, you get the dual benefit of a more focused discussion and an extra 15 minutes each hour to catch up on emails. Cluster your meetings during portions of the day or days of the week. That leaves chunks of time open for getting focused work done or being available to your team for a quick five-minute conversation that would otherwise turn into a complicated email thread or 30-minute meeting Take 10 minutes in your next staff meeting to discuss this with your direct reports. Make a shared commitment to show up more fully present to meetings for that week and debrief the experience in a subsequent staff meeting. Use video conferencing during web conference calls to reduce the temptation to multitask.

Every manager, even the best, can fall into the evening-emailing and multitasking-at-meetings traps. These behaviors may seem harmless on the surface, but our research shows that even the small things can have outsized effects on a team. Every leader should be cognizant of this when they’re about to check their email or hit “send” at all the wrong times.

         
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How to Build Trust with Colleagues You Rarely See

When you exchange pleasantries with a co-worker in the elevator, the two of you are building trust. When you stop by a colleague’s office and see their family photographs on a desk, you learn about that person’s life outside the office and, as a result, usually feel closer. Face-to-face meetings, office parties, and opportunities to socialize together after working hours can all contribute to the feeling that your fellow employees will be reliable in what they say and do and that they will act for the good of the team and the organization. You believe they are trustworthy because you’ve developed this feeling over time.

So how do you trust a co-worker you barely see in person? This is a particular challenge for global teams, where employees may only be in contact with one another over email at different times of the day and night.

With this in mind, there are two types of trust— swift trust and passable trust—that are useful to understand for people who work in global organizations. In addition, there are two types of knowledge —direct knowledge and reflected knowledge — employees must possess to make up for inevitable cultural and language differences that can hinder trust. Here’s how these categories break down, and how they work together.

Swift Trust. Swift trust is the notion that team members or co-workers can learn to swiftly trust one another from their very first interaction. People decide to trust one another immediately until proven otherwise — often because they have no other choice. Swift trust was first identified in flight teams and law enforcement teams who were brought together in crisis situations and expected to be working together for a limited amount of time. To effectively handle the nose-diving airplane or the threatening person wielding a gun, the team needed to trust one another immediately.

In addition to crisis situations, swift trust can be crucial for global teams, whose members are likely to originate from diverse cultures and countries, and who must immediately begin collaborating and coordinating.  Swift trust can develop early when managers endorse virtual team members during introductions by highlighting relevant or important experiences, or when team leaders explicitly set rules requiring frequent communication to reduce uncertainty and foster trust.

Passable Trust. Passable trust is a category that my colleague Paul Leonardi and I identifiedby looking at how employees behave online, especially on social media at work. Take, for example, a biologist named Marie. She sent a chat message to her colleague, Harry, about a new movie release, and then scrolling down his social media page, found that Harry had sent a message to Bruno about a new clinical trial. This piqued Marie’s interest. When she asked Harry about Bruno, Harry said Bruno was an expert on the subject. Next, Marie examined Bruno’s wall and spent time reading the messages that Bruno had exchanged with other company employees. From these conversations she deduced that Bruno was helpful and polite and most of all, trustworthy enough to contact with her questions. In other words, she had developed passable trust and felt comfortable reaching out to him.

Passable trust does not have to be complete or perfect. In contrast to swift trust, which is quickly established and may just as quickly evaporate when the job is done, passable trust can exist as a permanent state without anyone expecting that it must deepen or develop. The transparency of interactions on social media (work-related and non-work related) and the time spent messaging about personal information is enough. For global teams who communicate largely via electronic technology, passable trust is especially useful.

Both types of trust have their limits, however. For global teams, there are other factors besides geographical distance that complicate establishing and building trust with co-workers. Can you trust someone who, in addition to living in a far-away continent, speaks a language you can’t understand and sometimes behaves in ways that feel, to you, awkward or inappropriate? It’s easy to develop cultural stereotypes about your colleagues who originate in a different culture. Yet stereotyping handicaps trust building and instead leads to misunderstanding, resentment, and an unproductive “us versus them” dynamic.

To counter those tendencies, two additional means for building trust — direct knowledgeand reflected knowledge — are especially relevant for global teams.  Direct knowledge enhances your understanding of distant co-workers, be they geographically distant, culturally distant, or both, while reflected knowledge leads to feeling understood by distant co-workers.

Direct Knowledge. Direct knowledge is defined as learning about the personal characteristics and behavioral norms of distant colleagues. Learning that your teammate in France prefers to work uninterrupted when under pressure, or that your teammates in India use their tea breaks to actively collaborate are two examples of direct knowledge. One way to uncover this information is by allowing for unstructured structured time at the beginning or end of conference calls to encourage casual conversation. Another is to encourage your employees to travel to a distant collaborators’ site for a period of time.

Reflected Knowledge. Less obvious, but equally important for building trust among global teams is reflected knowledge, which is achieved by seeing the norms and behaviors of one’s own site through the lens of distant collaborators. My colleague Mark Mortenson and I identified reflected knowledge as a means for building understanding and trust. Here’s how this could play out:

Leah, a marketing manager from Tel Aviv, had always felt what she perceived as coldness from her colleagues who worked in the Danish office. At times, her direct questions over the phone were met with silence, which Leah found frustrating. In the Tel Aviv office, communication norms included a rough-and-tumble banter. If she said, “my four-year old daughter could do a better job than this!” to express dissatisfaction with a colleague’s subpar work, she knew her colleague would not be insulted.

However, Leah’s perceptions about communication norms changed after she spent time with her colleagues in the Danish office. There, she noticed that people spoke to each other quietly and politely. Interacting formally, to show respect for others, seemed to take priority. She saw an employee perform a shallow bow upon entering a supervisor’s office. In comparison, Leah felt loud and argumentative. She was able to see how her direct questions must have seemed aggressive or inappropriate to her Danish counterparts. She began to reflect on the norms of her home site: maybe they were too harsh with one another. Maybe they could treat each other with a little more respect. In any case, by the end of her visit, Leah felt closer and more able to trust her Danish colleagues — and had new ideas about how to run her own office to boot.

Trust is paramount for global teams, but it’s something you can’t force on people.  It’s a feeling that develops in various ways over time. That’s why it’s necessary to understand how different types of trust and knowledge can serve as the essential glue for global teams. This can not only improve teamwork and morale, but can deliver better results for organizations.

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7 Things Great Leaders Always Do (but Mere Managers Always Fear)

Are you a great leader or a mere manager?

When I think about the difference between great leaders and mere managers, I think back to a day when I put my foot in my mouth.

I was working as a lawyer for a giant government bureaucracy then. One of my bosses had a fancy title, but everyone referred to him simply as a "manager." One day, he was grumbling a bit about his role. He was caught in a sort of bureaucratic no man's land--uninvolved in the big policy decisions, but also no longer doing the fun part of our work (trying cases in court).

Without thinking, I said something like, "That's why I'd never want your job. Just because they call someone a manager doesn't mean they get to be a leader." 

This was a pretty stupid thing for me to say, but I still think my point was right. In some organizations, almost anyone can get promoted to management if they put in the time and play the right politics. Instead of trying to become a mere manager, therefore, why not aspire to become a great leader? Here are a few of the key differences:

1. A great leader connects daily work with great goals. A mere manager focuses only on the short-term.

It's easy to get caught focusing on things that are urgent, rather than important. A mere manager spends most energy on the daily grind, and harangues his people for not achieving short-term goals, regardless of their long-term importance.

A truly great leader on the other hand, could hardly care less about TPS reports, or whatever the equivalent is in his or her workplace (and probably has to work to hide his or her contempt for such bureaucratic goofiness). What matters most to him or her--it is what truly matters most.

2. A great leader thinks of people as people. A mere manager sees only titles or organizational charts.

If you catch yourself referring to people on your team by their job titles as often as by their names, beware--you're on the road to becoming more of a manager than a leader. A real leader thinks of people individually and holistically, and tries hard to understand strengths and weaknesses, goals and interests.

I saw this all too often in the military, for example, where great leaders grew to know their soldiers, and lesser leaders referred to them generically, either by their ranks or occupational specialties. There might be nothing less humanizing than to hear an officer refer to his troops as a bunch of "11-Bang-Bangs" (slang for "11-Bravo," which is in turn the bureaucratic designation for an infantry soldier).

3. A great leader wants to earn respect. A mere manager wants to be liked.

Great leaders aren't always the most likable people. In the long run, great leaders recognize that their job is to get people to do things the might not want to do, in order to achieve goals they want to achieve.

Contrast that with "mere managers," who either want to be liked or try to convince themselves that they don't care. Great leaders know that cordiality is necessary, but also that they might sometimes have to sacrifice short-term likability in favor of long-term respect.

4. A real leader is thrilled when team members achieve great things. A mere manager is threatened.

In the grand scheme of things, a mere manager doesn't have much. He or she hasn't aspired to enough in life, and has taken on a bureaucratic role. Yet that's all he or she has, and as a result, the fear of losing it can be overwhelming. Thus, when a team member outgrows her role, a manager worries first about being outshone.

A true leader, on the other hand, takes his or her team members' accomplishments as a point of pride, and recognizes that the mark of a great leader isn't creating followers--but instead developing other leaders.

5. A great leader empowers people with honesty and transparency. A mere manager parcels out information as if it costs him personally.

We've all seen likely this issue firsthand. A great leader understand that all else being equal, transparency shows respect for your team and helps them do good work.

A mere manager, however, fears that sharing information can be tantamount to giving up leverage. So he or she holds cards close to the vest--and undermines the team's performance in the process.

6. A great leader understands that if the team falls short, he is responsible. A mere manager blames the team.

Once more, it all comes down to fear. A mere manager hasn't actually earned anyone's respect, and so he or she is constantly afraid of losing power. If the team doesn't accomplish its goals, the mere manager is primarily concerned about losing his or her role on an organizational chart.

A true leader, on the other hand, recognizes that no matter why the team falls short, he or she is to blame. Even if he or she believes that a specific team member might have been the cause, the true leaders shoulders the blame and spurs the team to do better.

7. A great leader cares mainly about results. A mere manager is more concerned with process.

To be fair, some organizations' management positions are designed to protect processes, not to empower people. Still, if you're reading this, I'm going to assume that we have something in common, and that this kind of role holds little appeal for you. Seriously, who cares about process when the results are positive?

You might also realize that this puts you in the minority of leaders. Regardless, the main rule that a true leader lives by is that it's better to be resourceful, and that it's always easier to get forgiveness than permission.

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9 Things That Destroy Successful Teams

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another — from grammar school all the way up through to our careers: we’re placed into a new team to complete a project, and something just doesn’t click. 

Suddenly, a group of people who are ordinarily competent and diligent can’t seem to get anything done. Deadlines whiz past like the scenery outside a high speed train and projects sink toward failure.

Why is that?  What is it that turns teams into dysfunctional groups of people?  I’ve identified nine key factors that can turn an otherwise competent team into a sinking mess:

Ego. 

When someone’s ego is more important than the team, the project, or the goal, things break down quickly. This can happen when one person is more interested in “looking good” for the boss than getting the work done, when someone is always placing blame, or when someone feels and acts like they are too good to do the necessary work. 

Negative competition. 

Lighthearted competition can be a good thing, especially for certain kinds of teams. In a sales team, for example, individual members can be motivated by gamifying their work with a leaderboard or bonuses for high performance. But when competition goes too far, it can destroy a sense of teamwork and create a “you versus me” atmosphere that isn’t good for anyone. 

Poor communication. 

When the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it causes all sorts of problems: duplicate work, forgotten work, missed deadlines, etc. Communication is absolutely key to a team that works. 

Micromanagement. 

When employees have to get approval or sign-off on every single thing they do, it slows down the workflow considerably. Team leaders need to be able to trust employees to make the right choices, and employees need to feel comfortable asking for help when they need it. The right balance here is key. 

Criticism without praise. 

I’ve known managers in my career whose entire management philosophy was to criticise everything and rarely if ever dole out praise.  I think you can imagine how well that went over with their team. Constructive criticism (keyword: constructive) is vital to helping employees grow, but generous and well timed praise is also important for maintaining enthusiasm and morale. 

Unreasonable expectations. 

As a member of a team, nothing feels worse than the sinking feeling of knowing that you will never reach your targets, no matter how hard you work.  Goals that are a stretch and require a lot of the team are good, but goals that are way out of reach are depressing. It won’t make employees work harder; it will make them want to give up. 

Half-hearted work. 

Having one or more member of the team who only puts in half an effort — showing up late, leaving early, checking email all day, etc. — has a decidedly negative impact on the whole team. It’s important that everyone is putting in a full, equal effort. 

Stubbornness. 

When members of a team adopt a “my way or the highway” approach, no one benefits. When working in a team, everyone needs to be open to new ideas, new approaches, and experimentation — even, and perhaps especially, the leader. Just because you’ve always done it that way doesn’t mean that’s the best way to do it. 

Leading with emotions. 

Instinct, emotions, and gut feelings all have their place, but bringing emotions too much into the team can have a deleterious effect. A team member who always feels spurned when his idea isn’t chosen, who sees slights (real and imagined) in every interaction, or who takes home the stress and anxiety about a project may be bringing too many emotions into the workplace.

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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.

Trust

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

Communication

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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Emotional Agility

Sixteen thousand—that’s how many words we speak, on average, each day. So imagine how many unspoken ones course through our minds. Most of them are not facts but evaluations and judgments entwined with emotions—some positive and helpful (I’ve worked hard and I can ace this presentation; This issue is worth speaking up about; The new VP seems approachable), others negative and less so (He’s purposely ignoring me; I’m going to make a fool of myself; I’m a fake).

The prevailing wisdom says that difficult thoughts and feelings have no place at the office: Executives, and particularly leaders, should be either stoic or cheerful; they must project confidence and damp down any negativity bubbling up inside them. But that goes against basic biology. All healthy human beings have an inner stream of thoughts and feelings that include criticism, doubt, and fear. That’s just our minds doing the job they were designed to do: trying to anticipate and solve problems and avoid potential pitfalls.

In our people-strategy consulting practice advising companies around the world, we see leaders stumble not because they have undesirable thoughts and feelings—that’s inevitable—but because they get hooked by them, like fish caught on a line. This happens in one of two ways. They buy into the thoughts, treating them like facts (It was the same in my last job…I’ve been a failure my whole career), and avoid situations that evoke them (I’m not going to take on that new challenge). Or, usually at the behest of their supporters, they challenge the existence of the thoughts and try to rationalize them away (I shouldn’t have thoughts like this…I know I’m not a total failure), and perhaps force themselves into similar situations, even when those go against their core values and goals (Take on that new assignment—you’ve got to get over this). In either case, they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

This is a common problem, often perpetuated by popular self-management strategies. We regularly see executives with recurring emotional challenges at work—anxiety about priorities, jealousy of others’ success, fear of rejection, distress over perceived slights—who have devised techniques to “fix” them: positive affirmations, prioritized to-do lists, immersion in certain tasks. But when we ask how long the challenges have persisted, the answer might be 10 years, 20 years, or since childhood.

Clearly, those techniques don’t work—in fact, ample research shows that attempting to minimize or ignore thoughts and emotions serves only to amplify them. In a famous study led by the late Daniel Wegner, a Harvard professor, participants who were told to avoid thinking about white bears had trouble doing so; later, when the ban was lifted, they thought about white bears much more than the control group did. Anyone who has dreamed of chocolate cake and french fries while following a strict diet understands this phenomenon.

Effective leaders don’t buy into or try to suppress their inner experiences. Instead they approach them in a mindful, values-driven, and productive way—developing what we call emotional agility. In our complex, fast-changing knowledge economy, this ability to manage one’s thoughts and feelings is essential to business success. Numerous studies, from the University of London professor Frank Bond and others, show that emotional agility can help people alleviate stress, reduce errors, become more innovative, and improve job performance.

We’ve worked with leaders in various industries to build this critical skill, and here we offer four practices—adapted from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), originally developed by the University of Nevada psychologist Steven C. Hayes—that are designed to help you do the same: Recognize your patterns; label your thoughts and emotions; accept them; and act on your values.

Fish on a Line

Let’s start with two case studies. Cynthia is a senior corporate lawyer with two young children. She used to feel intense guilt about missed opportunities—both at the office, where her peers worked 80 hours a week while she worked 50, and at home, where she was often too distracted or tired to fully engage with her husband and children. One nagging voice in her head told her she’d have to be a better employee or risk career failure; another told her to be a better mother or risk neglecting her family. Cynthia wished that at least one of the voices would shut up. But neither would, and in response she failed to put up her hand for exciting new prospects at the office and compulsively checked messages on her phone during family dinners.

Jeffrey, a rising-star executive at a leading consumer goods company, had a different problem. Intelligent, talented, and ambitious, he was often angry—at bosses who disregarded his views, subordinates who didn’t follow orders, or colleagues who didn’t pull their weight. He had lost his temper several times at work and been warned to get it under control. But when he tried, he felt that he was shutting off a core part of his personality, and he became even angrier and more upset.

These smart, successful leaders were hooked by their negative thoughts and emotions. Cynthia was absorbed by guilt; Jeffrey was exploding with anger. Cynthia told the voices to go away; Jeffrey bottled his frustration. Both were trying to avoid the discomfort they felt. They were being controlled by their inner experience, attempting to control it, or switching between the two.

Getting Unhooked

Fortunately, both Cynthia and Jeffrey realized that they couldn’t go on—at least not successfully and happily—without more-effective inner strategies. We coached them to adopt the four practices:

Recognize your patterns.

The first step in developing emotional agility is to notice when you’ve been hooked by your thoughts and feelings. That’s hard to do, but there are certain telltale signs. One is that your thinking becomes rigid and repetitive. For example, Cynthia began to see that her self-recriminations played like a broken record, repeating the same messages over and over again. Another is that the story your mind is telling seems old, like a rerun of some past experience. Jeffrey noticed that his attitude toward certain colleagues (He’s incompetent; There’s no way I’m letting anyone speak to me like that) was quite familiar. In fact, he had experienced something similar in his previous job—and in the one before that. The source of trouble was not just Jeffrey’s environment but his own patterns of thought and feeling. You have to realize that you’re stuck before you can initiate change.

Leaders stumble when they are paying too much attention to their internal chatter and allowing it to sap important cognitive resources that could be put to better use.

Label your thoughts and emotions.

When you’re hooked, the attention you give your thoughts and feelings crowds your mind; there’s no room to examine them. One strategy that may help you consider your situation more objectively is the simple act of labeling. Just as you call a spade a spade, call a thought a thought and an emotion an emotion. I’m not doing enough at work or at home becomes I’m having the thought that I’m not doing enough at work or at home. Similarly, My coworker is wrong—he makes me so angry becomes I’m having the thought that my coworker is wrong, and I’m feeling anger. Labeling allows you to see your thoughts and feelings for what they are: transient sources of data that may or may not prove helpful. Humans are psychologically able to take this helicopter view of private experiences, and mounting scientific evidence shows that simple, straightforward mindfulness practice like this not only improves behavior and well-being but also promotes beneficial biological changes in the brain and at the cellular level. As Cynthia started to slow down and label her thoughts, the criticisms that had once pressed in on her like a dense fog became more like clouds passing through a blue sky.

Accept them.

The opposite of control is acceptance—not acting on every thought or resigning yourself to negativity but responding to your ideas and emotions with an open attitude, paying attention to them and letting yourself experience them. Take 10 deep breaths and notice what’s happening in the moment. This can bring relief, but it won’t necessarily make you feel good. In fact, you may realize just how upset you really are. The important thing is to show yourself (and others) some compassion and examine the reality of the situation. What’s going on—both internally and externally? When Jeffrey acknowledged and made room for his feelings of frustration and anger rather than rejecting them, quashing them, or taking them out on others, he began to notice their energetic quality. They were a signal that something important was at stake and that he needed to take productive action. Instead of yelling at people, he could make a clear request of a colleague or move swiftly on a pressing issue. The more Jeffrey accepted his anger and brought his curiosity to it, the more it seemed to support rather than undermine his leadership.

Act on your values.

When you unhook yourself from your difficult thoughts and emotions, you expand your choices. You can decide to act in a way that aligns with your values. We encourage leaders to focus on the concept of workability: Is your response going to serve you and your organization in the long term as well as the short term? Will it help you steer others in a direction that furthers your collective purpose? Are you taking a step toward being the leader you most want to be and living the life you most want to live? The mind’s thought stream flows endlessly, and emotions change like the weather, but values can be called on at any time, in any situation.

When Cynthia considered her values, she recognized how deeply committed she was to both her family and her work; she loved being with her children, but she also cared passionately about the pursuit of justice. Unhooked from her distracting and discouraging feelings of guilt, she resolved to be guided by her principles. She recognized how important it was to get home for dinner with her family every evening and to resist work interruptions during that time. But she also undertook to make a number of important business trips, some of which coincided with school events that she would have preferred to attend. Confident that her values, not solely her emotions, were guiding her, Cynthia finally found peace and fulfillment. It’s impossible to block out difficult thoughts and emotions. Effective leaders are mindful of their inner experiences but not caught in them. They know how to free up their internal resources and commit to actions that align with their values. Developing emotional agility is no quick fix—even those who, like Cynthia and Jeffrey, regularly practice the steps we’ve outlined here will often find themselves hooked. But over time, leaders who become increasingly adept at it are the ones most likely to thrive.

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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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7 Corporate Learning Challenges & Ways to Combat Them!

Learning plays a key role in engaging and retaining your top talent. Leading organizations are now seeing the value of building strategies to improve capabilities and engaging their talent, with one-third of companies reporting an increase in their learning budget.

Nowadays the pressure is on the L&D and OD functions to be the champions of building lasting relationships with employees and making learning stick. 

Let’s explore some of the challenges L&D and OD professionals are facing, and ways to address them:

1. Tracking learning activity

Learning professionals are struggling to identify capability gaps and track individual employees’ development. Multiple and disparate learning systems, difficulty capturing on-the-job learning, and lack of alignment with other talent systems is making tracking nearly impossible.

Combat by: Managing learning through a centralised, integrated talent management solution. This will enable visibility to make informed decisions regarding your talent and their needs, and provide a single and accurate view of analytics across your organization.

2. Demonstrating ROI

Without quantifiable results, it’s an uphill battle winning buy-in from senior leadership on the impact of learning.

Combat by: Capturing all information in a single system, supported by in-depth people analytics.  The ability to analyse learning data, report on key metrics and develop insights regarding bottom-line value will give HR and L&D a seat at the table.

3. Ensuring easy access to learning content

Millennials on average check their phones 9 times per hourThe challenge is therefore how to be where the learner is. We have progressed from being location- and time-bound to being available anytime an employee accesses a smartphone, tablet or laptopDo not get stuck in a time warp of traditional learning.

Combat by: There are more mobile devices than people on earth, so start building mobile-optimised content to engage modern learners! After all, 99% of mobile learners believe that mobile format enhanced their learning.

4. Developing new hires quickly and efficiently

It’s no secret that new hires can take a few months to get their heads above water.  90% of new employees make the decision to stay with an organization within the first six months. Learning needs to happen right from the beginning of their employee lifecycle.

Combat by:  Nurturing new hires from the get-go through a fully integrated onboarding process accelerates speed to competency and engages them from the start of their journey.

5. Building leadership bench-strength

The talent pool for highly skilled leaders is shrinking…  Leading organizations are recognising this, with 68% of CEOs saying they intended to increase their investment in leadership and talent development as a result of the global recession.

Combat by: Developing leadership internally and building leadership pipelines through formalised, and on-the-job learning and training to engage leaders by enabling them to see a future with your organization.

6. Employees’ attention to learning

Modern learners say they currently only spend 1% of their time at work on learning.  It’s a challenge to get modern learners to attend, actively participate, and complete assigned learning activities because of packed schedules with shorter time gaps between activities.

Combat by:  Introducing micro-learning and gamification to reinforce information absorption in a bite-sized, engaging, and entertaining way. With adult attention span by shorter than a GOLDFISH… 8 seconds vs 5 seconds… These learning methods make it enjoyable, as opposed to being a chore, and contribute significantly in driving higher participation levels.

7. Compliance in the workplace

No two days are the same in the compliance world with the ever-changing regulatory terrain causing many L&D headaches.

Combat by: Implementing and managing compliance learning through an integrated SCORM compliant LMS. When adaptations happen, they can easily and efficiently be replicated across the workforce to ensure that all learning requirement Ts are crossed and Is are dotted.

To create effective learning strategies to engage talent, learning needs to be efficiently managed, implemented and measured.  With technology evolving as rapidly as the learning landscape, learning professionals need to be able to ‘speak’ the language of technology.  This becomes more apparent when sourcing and selecting a robust solution to deliver an organization’s training and development needs.

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What Is Management Development?

You Can Do a Lot of Management Development On-the-Job.

Management development is the overall concept that describes the many ways in which organizations help employees develop their personal and organizational skills, either as managers in a management job or with an eventual management job in mind.

Organizations need a process for developing the skills of their managers as these employees direct and organize the work of all of your other employees. Additionally, if you want to retain your best managers and potential managers, most significant among their needs from work is the opportunity to continue their personal and professional growth and the growth of their careers.

When employees think of management development they are likely to think about university classes and MBA programs, consultant-led external training, and attendance at conferences, trade shows, workshops, and seminars. These are frequent ways in which employers invest time and money in developing their managers.

Most Management Development Does Not Involve External Class Attendance

However, most management development does not involve outside classes or professional trainers. It involves the employee's daily work, skill stretching assignments, leadership roles played, mentoring by a more senior manager, cross-training, and other developmental opportunities on-the-job.

Building the skills of managers through management development options is critical to the effective functioning of your organization. This is because of the power of a manager to impact the organization through his or her oversight of the work of other employees.

Especially middle managers are expected to communicate the company direction, goals, and vision to their reporting employees. Only comfortable business communicators are likely to perform their needed communication tasks effectively.

Yet senior company leaders depend on their communication because these senior leaders can't easily communicate with every employee themselves.

Managers are the key to employee retention and the main reason employees cite when they leave their current employer.

So, the need for management development is significant and can provide a significant payback.

Internal Management Development Advantages

Internal management development has advantages over external seminars and classes. It presents and reinforces needed skills and management techniques. It speaks a common language that people in your organization will understand—and gives them a common language that they can use with each other.

Internal management development is presented around your challenges and problems so it is customized for the people who attend. It is offered on your terms at your preferred times and at your preferred length.

Internal management development reinforces the organization's culture and addresses the norms and expectations of the manager's workplace. It incorporates familiar workplace examples and reinforces desired organization direction, values, and goals.

Done with care, internal management development also reinforces the application of the skills learned in training back in the workplace.

This significant ability to do the activities needed for training transfer to the workplace before, during, and after the training is all the justification you need to offer internal management development.

It can require weekly assignments, reading, and on-the-job training. Employees can work together in study groups outside of the actual training. You can also provide management development training as part of an ongoing, regularly-scheduled management meeting.

Management Development Options

An employer's training options are widespread and encompass many possibilities.

Management development can include such external opportunities as university classes, seminars, workshops, courses, conferences, and field trips. Employers can assist employees to pursue these options by paying for classes and seminars.

They can also offer tuition assistance for employees attending college or university classes and who plan to earn a degree.

Internal management development options abound and can include the following opportunities for employees' growth and ongoing development.

Management Development Content

These are the areas of content that management development training, either internal or external, should contain for your organization to function effectively. Your managers will benefit as will their reporting staff members and the organization as a whole.

In addition to skill development, management development is also an opportunity to teach your organization culture. The norms, rules, and expectations in your workplace are uniquely yours. Even experienced managers will benefit from training reminders in the expectations of your workplace culture and policies.

The focus of all aspects of management development is to enable managers to more effectively accomplish their job as managers. Don't miss your opportunity to have an impact on one of your most critical resources.

Your middle managers are the spokes that hold the wheel of your organization together. Help them become the best that they can be.

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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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Putting lifelong learning on the CEO agenda

In an open letter to business leaders, a Harvard Business School professor and a learning engineer at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative present an emphatic case to make learning a corporate priority.

If you are anything like most corporate leaders we know, you say (and mean) the right things when it comes to learning, such as “Our people are our most valuable asset, and their development is a top priority.” But if you are honest with yourself, you also know that your actions often emphasize financial over human capital, and you may leave it to individuals to find the learning opportunities they need. That worked, sort of, when people spent most of their time “doing” rather than “thinking,” “creating,” or “deciding.”

But times are changing. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are facilitating the automation of a growing number of “doing” tasks. Today’s AI-enabled, information-rich tools are increasingly able to handle jobs that in the past have been exclusively done by people—think tax returns, language translations, accounting, even some kinds of surgery. These shifts will produce massive disruptions to employment and hold enormous implications for you as a business leader.

Both of us are educators, with decades of experience working with businesses. We write this letter not to criticize but to make the case for why a new emphasis on lifelong learning is going to become increasingly central to your job: maximizing the value and impact of your organization.

We are not seers. Still, one thing is clear. In the future, more and more of your people will need to use complex cognitive skills for more and more of their time. Some are already comfortable with this; some are not. As stewards of your company’s value, you need to understand how to get your people ready—not because it’s a nice thing to do but because the competitive advantage of early adopters of advanced algorithms and robotics will rapidly diminish. Simply put, companies will differentiate themselves not just by having the tools but by how their people interact with those tools and make the complex decisions that they must make in the course of doing their work. The greater the use of information-rich tools, the more important the decisions are that are still made by people. That, in turn, increases the importance of continuous learning. Workers, managers, and executives need to keep up with the machines and be able to interpret their results.

Challenges ahead

You may be wondering if you can adapt to changing technology simply by finding new people who can do the new stuff. The answer is no. There is a kind of Moore’s law at work, in which the capacities of these information tools are doubling every couple of years or less. You can’t “fire and hire” your way to success if you have to turn over people every 9 to 18 months to bring in new skills.

There are other problems to keep in mind as well. One is that we live in a world where companies must adapt their strategies rapidly in response to competition, structural changes brought on by digitization, and counterintuitive insights revealed by advanced analytics. That means that the old split between strategy development and execution, if it ever made sense, is outmoded: organizations have to adapt continually, and therefore they have to learn while executing.

In that kind of world, the future of learning is not in the classroom. It’s in the field—finding ways to do better while doing the work. This won’t happen by chance. You need to model learning behaviors and invest in the development of learning processes and tools. You need to take an appropriately humble stand about the challenges ahead—for you as a leader and for your organization. There is simply no room for arrogance in a highly dynamic and uncertain world. You also need to create a psychologically safe environment in which people feel comfortable taking the risks that come with experimentation and practice; giving and receiving candid feedback; asking questions; and acknowledging failures. Learning must be built into every aspect of the organization.

Another inconvenient truth is that the education and training sector, historically, has not done well in terms of implementing evidence-based, iterative improvements in the learning processes and outcomes it emphasizes. Learning science does exist. It’s just not always, or even often, applied in the workplace. There is very little “learning engineering.”

As a senior leader, then, you have to rethink how to continuously improve the skills of your employees beyond conventional training and education. You need to insist on experimenting with new learning methods and look for approaches that are based on good evidence. And you need to identify and support learning leaders who are deeply connected to learning science and who can make the case for implementing the right measures.

‘Soft’ priorities

When we talk about learning, the emphasis is often on “hard” skills, such as coding, analytics, and data science. While these skills will be critical, they are only part of the story. The dynamics we described at the outset, in which information-rich tools become ubiquitous and people are a differentiator, paradoxically, increase the importance of such “soft” attributes as collaboration, empathy, and meaning making.

Collaboration

In most organizations, teamwork will be more important and valuable than ever. In both scientific discovery and commercial innovation, for example, the size of innovating teams has grown larger and the skills brought together are more diverse than ever. This is because, as knowledge expands, expertise both deepens and narrows—necessitating collaboration across fields to produce great results.

In a way that would have seemed far-fetched 20 years ago, building a car requires integrating cross-disciplinary expertise in artificial intelligence, computer science, advanced lighting, and materials, in addition to the classic automotive-engineering disciplines of design and manufacturing. Or consider the rescue of the Chilean miners in 2010. The miners themselves formed an extraordinary team to support their mutual survival. But they also needed the cross-disciplinary expertise of the team of above-ground rescuers who integrated expertise from geologists, engineers, physicians, and naval special forces.

Teamwork doesn’t necessarily mean collaborating within teams in the classic sense of bounded groups of people working together on specific tasks. Instead, it’s often about teaming—communicating and collaborating with people across boundaries, such as expertise or distance, spontaneously and continuously. Your people need to have, or develop, the skills for effective teamwork.

Empathy

Global marketplaces can threaten the ability to spontaneously empathize, especially when we cannot see other people’s faces—for example, in geographically dispersed workforces or through remote service encounters. Genuine human connections can be made, and broken, quickly. Customers and employees alike feel deep loyalty to organizations that treat them with respect.

To some extent, empathy can be taught—through perspective-taking exercises and through quick but profound exchanges between people. For that to happen, leaders at all levels of your organization have to be engaged and model the right behavior. This can start with something as simple as asking your managers to put themselves in the shoes of others in a given situation. Offer experiences where you can succeed only by practicing empathy. Some companies encourage this by requiring managers to work on the front lines—at the retail counter or on the factory floor—before putting on the white collar.

You also should monitor feedback blogs. Praise your staff, in public, when they get things right. Observe your customers and how they interact with your company. Use design-thinking tools such as empathy maps as a starting point for conceiving new products and features and for identifying customer pain points. In an era of customization, empathy matters more because it requires putting yourself in the minds of many different kinds of customers, not just the familiar ones for whom a product or service was designed.

Meaning making

Meaning making in the AI era starts with an appreciation of what machines can and cannot do. It may be possible, for example, for a machine to make certain kinds of diagnoses more accurately than a person can. But it will be up to nurses, doctors, and therapists to help patients understand the implications and manage the consequences. It’s the difference between knowledge and meaning.

The search for meaning informs many kinds of decisions: it could be a work challenge overcome, a way to advance a career, a resolution to a personal issue, or matters related to health and wellness. As information-rich tools help provide better solutions to complex situations, organizations will need to understand what matters for each person. Meaningfully connecting decisions, even those made by algorithms, to individual circumstances is likely to be the work of skilled people for a long time to come—if we prepare our organizations to think like this.

You, and your people, can all be meaning seekers and meaning makers. Tapping into this fundamental human quality is your best strategy for winning hearts and minds, within and without. And it’s also good for business. People who come to work believing that what they do matters—that in some small way it contributes to making the world a better place—are more committed to their organizations, more passionate about serving customers, and more resilient in the face of challenges. Good leaders have always played this role; when they don’t, people are more apt to act in ways that maximize self-interest and minimize effort. We would assert, though, that articulating the purpose of your organization (and evolving that message as technology and customer needs change) is about to become an even more crucial part of your job.

Hard results

Although the importance of “soft” skills may be growing, you should think about investments in learning and development in the same way you think about any investment: What is the value? How do I know I’m getting it? How can I make it more efficient? The only way to answer questions like these is to identify how employees’ decisions add value to the organization or subtract value from it. The costs and benefits of the decisions made by many high-volume, high-value, high-variability groups of employees, such as sales staff or project managers, are often unknown. It’s up to you to determine what measures matter, such as close rates or error costs; then you need to communicate these priorities. For example, tracking error rates for nurses—and the decisions that lead to them—and then taking action can translate into shorter hospital visits, fewer lawsuits, and better health outcomes. Once you have decided what metrics to track, four steps should follow:

First, find the best performers, and prepare to be amazed by how much more value they add with their decisions compared with the median performer. This sets a benchmark for the value that could be generated with the right training. (It can be large!) Second, analyze what these top performers decide and do. That’s not easy, because much of it is unconscious. Still, it is important to learn as much as possible. On that basis, ensure that best practices are the focus of training and development programs. One study of helicopter pilots, for example, found that the best ones had a specific, albeit unconscious, way of using their eyes during a landing. The study also found that novices could be easily taught to consciously approximate those same gaze directions—and thus reduce the rate of crashes in simulations. Third, with these targets in mind, insist on well-designed training, based on insights from learning science, and support high-quality evidence gathering about results. Getting a return is, after all, the point of any investment. You will want to compare the work of those who have had new training to that of others who have not and to look for material differences in value. Finally, commit to continuing this cycle of tracking expertise, improving training, and gathering evidence over time to make sure that you continue to capture value. Training is no longer a matter of “one and done,” if it ever was. Rapidly changing workplaces mean continuous improvement has to be the norm.

This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s going to become a competitive necessity. The rapid development of information-rich tools, together with the brisk pace of change in every facet of society, mean that the decisions and organizational roles left to people matter more than ever. You must therefore focus more, and spend more of your time, on upgrading your employees’ skills and mastering the collaboration, empathy, and meaning making that will help your organization thrive.

 

About the author(s)

Amy Edmondson is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School. Bror Saxberg is vice president of learning science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

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Feedback: You Need To Lead It

Practice is everything, right? Well, actually it’s nothing if you’re practicing the same wrong moves over and over again.

Feedback is a crucial element for success, and that is the crux of an enlightening new book called Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become and Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser.

While Boser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, shows how feedback can be applied to athletics, music and art, it’s the business aspect of this that is particularly fascinating. After all, most people are accustomed to the idea of a teacher or coach who is there to correct your mistakes. And we live in the era of Yelp where everything we consume is up for review. Criticism — corrective and otherwise — is everywhere.

But in the office? Usually it’s sink or swim with the occasional scheduled reviews from a superior.

Studies show, though, that a successful office encourages a culture of feedback at every level of the hierarchy, and not just at prescribed moments. A culture of feedback, where peers feel comfortable sharing, asking for and receiving analysis of their performance, even on a daily basis, really changes how an office operates.

Officevibe statistics strongly support the value of feedback: “four out of 10 workers are actively disengaged when they get little or no feedback;” 82% of employees appreciate positive and negative feedback; and 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week as opposed to 18% of low engagement employees.

But here’s the rub: You can’t just tell your employees to start doling out feedback and expect improvement. It’s one thing to tell someone what you like about how they handle their duties. It’s another to tell them they aren’t doing something quite right. In fact, if a lot of the latter is going on in your office, you might end up with a hostile environment.

According to Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School: “As I discovered in recent research I conducted with Paul Green of Harvard Business School and Brad Staats of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, people tend to move away from those who provide feedback that is more negative than their view of themselves. They do not listen to their advice and prefer to stop interacting with them altogether. It seems that people tend to strengthen their bonds with people who only see their positive qualities.”

Gino makes it clear that we only will improve if we’re willing to really hear others point out our weaknesses. Yes, that’s a difficult task, and it’s highly stressful to all involved.

But if you introduce your team to the concept gradually, it is possible to implement, even in an office that previously had no or very little open opportunities for such an exercise. Studies show that a team’s ability to collectively reflect upon team objectives, strategies and processes can improve learning, creativity and innovation. When peers feel comfortable sharing ideas, asking for help and receiving analysis of their performance, it changes how an office operates and what can be accomplished.

Creating a culture of feedback at every level of the hierarchy, and not at just prescribed moments between managers and employees, is critical in realizing these benefits. Start, for example, by pointing out an example of when you personally stumbled in giving feedback — that sends a big message that you are serious about changing behavior. I often tell people that when I first started giving feedback, I was too insensitive. For example, sometimes at Goldman Sachs I would see people in the hall and offer my opinions, without taking account of who else could hear. This often had the result you'd expect of triggering defensiveness. Once I realized this, I changed course: quietly ask employees first if they are up for a little constructive criticism. If they say yes — which invariably they do — dispense it in private. They were far more receptive to my suggestions in this scenario.

There are a lot more excellent tips out there on how to offer feedback — the nice kind and the tough variety — and how to receive it. In fact, first steps really involve offering them plentiful opportunities to run through the skill, such as an hour on “Feedback Fridays.” And ask yourself from time to time: What is the most valuable feedback I’ve received in the last year? Why was it so valuable? Maybe it's time to let that person know how valuable you found it. These practices, too, support a strong feedback culture.

Everything takes practice. And you as a leader need to provide the practice field.

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Analysing 70/20/10: can we make a difference to the 90% of learning that we can’t control?

70/20/10 is a hot topic. In this article Jo Ayoubi, CEO of Track Surveys, shines the spotlight on the 90% of the formula that the organisation can't control, and asks to what extent we can influence this in a positive way.

We’re all familiar with the 70/20/10 model of learning – it’s been around for some time, and has had something of a revival in the last couple of years.

Online learning, and the ability to share more and collaborate, has given us the ability to deliver more learning outside the classroom than ever before.

Yet there is still much debate around this model:

Is it prescriptive or descriptive? How flexible are the proportions? Does informal include self-directed learning, e-learning? How do we evaluate it, if indeed it’s even possible to do so? And where does the model leave L&D practitioners and their role?

Why does it matter?

Whilst it may be difficult to capture all this informal learning, it’s critical for us as L&D professionals to be aware of it, to promote it, and to include it in our learning strategies.

Informal learning and on-the-job training can be a much more direct way to link learning and performance, and provides a good opportunity for us to influence the success of individual and team performance.

Stuff is happening out there – but is it really learning?

Before we get into our role, here’s a thought: intuitively we know that a lot of what looks like learning goes on informally within the organisation all the time.

In their daily job, people pick up behaviours and ways of doing things from their managers, from each other, and from their own experience of what works and what doesn’t.

But is it all really learning?

A quick trip back to basics

Back to basics: 3 models for adult learning

Kolbs learning cycle

Kolbs cycle is simple and puts the key elements of adult learning into a repeating cycle of Experience, Observation, Conceptualising and Action.  

For learning to take place, says Kolb, we have to have something happen, step back and look at what happened, work out what really happened and why, and then act based on that reflection, which then feeds into our next experience.

So if there’s no reflection, or review, or discussion, or feedback, has learning really happened? Or are we going to just head off and do the same thing again? If so, have we learned anything?

Knowles’s Theory of adult learning theory:

Malcolm Knowles’s original theory of adult learning was effectively summarised and updated in 2002 by Merriam.

The key tenets are still the same:

Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their learning Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for learning activities Adults are most interested in learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their job or personal life Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented

Taking this as our model, it would appear that without involving people in discussion about their learning (again, a deliberate focus on what’s taking place), adults will not necessarily learn.

The experience and problem-centred approach can make on-the-job learning particularly effective if it’s done right.

Goal theory

Goal theory has been written about extensively and studies have repeatedly shown that goal setting and tracking can increase both motivation and achievement in learners.

Again we see how important it is to focus on what is being done, why and how it’s being done, and to consciously reflect and review what’s been learned.

In summary, learning happens at the intersection of these three models:

So what?

So here’s my idea: instead of worrying too much about the details of the 70/2010 model, we bring value in several key areas:

Creating a mindset in our organisation that focuses on goal-setting, feedback and reflection. If we can get those three areas of focus into as many workplace conversations as we can, we can support that informal learning and make it both more effective and more motivating – and we might even be able to start to measure it a bit more too, but more on that later. By training managers and their teams in the skills of feedback and goal setting, and helping them to build reflection into their daily conversations and meetings (rather than activities that are separate from their daily work) By putting some simple tools in place that (prompt) and allow managers and their teams to set and track the goals that are set, get feedback on those goals that can be easily recorded, and build in the ability and skills and opportunities to reflect, after a project, once a week, after contact with a customer or at a team meeting. We can build a culture of reflection, goal focus and feedback that will form the backbone of informal learning. We can then use the tools that support feedback and goal setting to link these activities to performance. 

Can we measure all this informal learning?

One of the issues around the 70/20 topic is how you measure all the informal learning that goes on.

Well, the simple answer is, we can’t measure the learning itself – what we can measure is the ongoing activities of goal-setting, feedback and reflection.

This may change our role in the organisation from course designers to enablers of informal learning – surely a key role in a 70/20/10 world.

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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.