Food For Thought Friday

💡 We are what we remember.

💡 The most valuable thing you have is your attention.

💡 You can’t prepare for the future if you don’t remember the past.

💡 The great obstacle in life is often ourselves.

💡 Who are You? What do you do? Who do you do it for? Why do you do it?

💡 Your direction is more important than your speed.

💡 Failing is a byproduct of trying to succeed

💡 How are you helping others grow?

💡 Everybody is an expert in something.

💡 All experiences are individual no matter how similar they may seem.

Image: Fabrik Brands

Core Qualities

Our core qualities are effortless. It’s partly nature and nurture. They color what we see, how we behave, our interactions, etc. If we can express these core qualities in our work and daily life, we probably feel good. In actuality, it may be difficult not to exude these qualities.

What comes along with our core qualities? Consequences.

⚠ The first consequence is our pitfall. Too much of something good can have an adverse effect. If determination is our core quality, pushiness may be our pitfall.

⚠ The second is our challenge. Not being pushy requires patience. Interestingly, we often look for our challenge outside of ourselves (E.g., A patient partner).

⚠ The third is too much of our challenge becomes our allergy. Some people are so incredibly patient it may come across as passiveness. Determined people are allergic to passiveness.

The Core Quadrant can help us understand our idiosyncrasies.

For example, if your child or mate is your challenge, the consequence is that they are also your allergy.

Being able to identify and look beyond what unnerves us helps us see the beauty and value of others.

Adapted: Daniel Ofman – YouTube

Who Are You?

How well do you know you?

How well do you know other people?

Who are you?

In business, you may talk about your role (I’m a consultant). In life, you may talk about your role (I’m a mother).

Quick exercise: Describe yourself with a one-word adjective that starts with the same sound of your first name. I’ll go first, Radiant Ramona.

Now, the image we see of ourselves is not always the image the rest of the world sees.

Understanding how we are wired and the impact it has on other people requires operating from a conscious level. Too often, we navigate life on a subconscious level, making assumptions without getting to know the otherness of the other.

We have millions of patterns in our subconscious brain that determine how we interact with others. If we don’t challenge them through consciousness, things happen to us. We think we have no control over it, but we do.

We can have a new thought, at any time, about anything in our lives that we would like to be different. It starts with knowing you, knowing others, and understanding how to adapt and connect.

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ~Carl Jung

Adapted: Scott Schwefel | TEDxBrookings

Speak Up

How often do we say what we think?

What is the risk if we do?

Many people feel they will be judged or face consequences if they say something that goes against popular opinion.

So they offer up something politically correct or adopt a code of silence.

👉 How does this play out in the workplace?

Imagine having a manager who notoriously assigns pressure-filled deadlines. Team members are stressed but are hesitant to speak up because the manager’s philosophy is those who cannot handle the pressure don’t belong in the role. Silence makes the situation worse. Team members feel powerless, and complaining becomes commonplace.

When we don’t speak up, it can give the appearance of approval.

There are certainly times when we should be silent, but other times when we need to get out of our comfort zones and say something.

Adapted: FS Brain Food No. 388

Commitment

Dear Leaders and Managers,

Are you committed to creating a culture of trust and collaboration?

If you answered yes, when was the last time you asked your team members:

✔ What are two to three things I can do differently to improve my leadership?

✔ How can I make our working relationship more effective?

✔ How are things going for you since we last spoke?

✔ What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?

✔ How can I support you?

✔ How’s the morale around you?

✔ How aligned do you feel with the company mission, vision, values?

✔ What is the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

✔ Are we providing enough growth opportunities for your role? If not, what’s missing?

✔ What’s something you want the C-Suite to know about you?

✔ What is one thing about our product or service you would improve?

We depend on people to help move our companies forward. When there is an absence of trust and collaboration, people are less willing to come together and often make disappointing progress.

It makes sense to have an authentic curiosity about the people we are delegating responsibilities to and to provide a safe environment to give/receive genuine constructive feedback.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Our greatest enemy can be our thinking.

💡 You’re only as good as your worse day.

💡 Don’t look for excuses not to be kind.

💡 The busiest people often make the worst decisions.

💡 Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility.

💡 The discipline to listen when you feel like talking is underrated.

💡 Are you investing time with the right people and priorities?

💡 Expertise is not a weapon to wield. It’s a resource to share.

💡 A shift in mentality is a shift in life.

💡 Thinking better requires carving out time to think.

Image: Merrimack Valley Magazine

Accountability

Imagine a world with no accountability.

😱 That’s a pretty scary thought!

In a business environment, how do we create the conditions for holding our team members accountable?

✔ Clear Communication – How many times have we misinterpreted the meaning of what someone said and vice versa? Asking open-ended questions, listening actively, and ensuring agreement on the topic, helps reduce risk and strengthens the relationship with team members.

✔ Consequences – One size does not fit all. Take the time to understand the drivers and motivators of each team member. Establish clear expectations in writing to avoid reactive behavior. E.g., Cut costs by (%) in the marketing department by (date). Identify checkpoints to monitor progress and offer support as needed.

✔ Focus on Facts and Observable Behavior – Providing feedback is an intricate process. E.g., During today’s meeting, I observed in your presentation that your sales calculations were off, and you were unable to answer questions on one of the slides. As a result, we will have to postpone making a final decision until next week. What can you do to ensure we have the correct information?

What are some ways you hold other’s accountable?

Unintended Consequences

As we advance in life, leadership, and innovation, we encounter unintended consequences.

Consider the advent of social media. It enables us to connect with others at rapid speed, market to larger audiences, and stay abreast of users’ activity.

❌ Unintended Consequences: Increase in mental health issues, less meaningful engagement, and the inability to develop deeper connections.

Similarly, digital technology has made information more accessible.

❌ Unintended Consequences: Rampant misinformation, unequal access, limited governance, and increased cyber attacks.

Now, imagine being a new leader in an organization confronted with a global pandemic. Not only is there pressure to perform in the new role, but there is also pressure to respond to the pandemic’s impact.

What happens if the leader makes hasty decisions without listening to the opinions of experts, exercise good critical judgment, and analyze the long-term impact on the organization?

❌ Unintended Consequences: Loss of top performers, lack of structure, low employee morale, and unhappy clients.

When unintended consequences are favorable to the organization, everyone wins. When the consequences are unfavorable, they can have far-reaching ramifications. As leaders, we have to act prudently.

Dreams Unfulfilled

We have all spent time with people who talk about the amazing things they plan to do.

Yet, it never seems to come to fruition.

It is not because their heart isn’t in the right place, or their sole intent is to deceive you.

More often, they are letting themselves down.

Many dreams go unfulfilled because we are waiting for the ideal conditions before taking action.

If we wait until we think we are sure of the outcome, we won’t accomplish much.

Rather than seek to change too much at once, appreciate the mini victories along the way.

Buildings are built brick by brick, books are written word by word, and pennies add up.

Taking action is the most critical step toward success.

Otherwise, it may be another amazing story about the things that never happened.

Negative, Positive, Facts

Many people have a hard time seeing things from another perspective.

It’s also human nature to see the negative before we see the positive.

For those who see the positive first, congratulations!

If only it stopped there.

Most things in life have three sides: An upside (positive side), a downside (negative side), and the facts.

We can correlate this to the phrase “There are three sides to a story.” My side. Your side. The Truth.

Whether you start on the negative side or positive side of the spectrum, it would be wise to use the facts as a go-between.

There are many uncertainties in life. The goal is to accept things as they are at the moment.

Acceptance does not equate to weakness, conformity, or mediocrity. It is an opportunity to exercise critical thinking to identify the three sides of a situation and how to best address it.

We all have a choice of how we respond to events in our lives. For example, if someone pays you a compliment, you can choose whether to be flattered or offended. The individual’s intent introduces the third side of the scenario.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Reputations are fragile. One incident of bad behavior lingers indefinitely.

💡 Chasing after the perfect solution leads to paralysis.

💡 Compliment and complement people more.

💡 Our greatest challenge is the mindset of people.

💡 Discipline is more reliable than motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting.

💡 We’re all biased to our own personal history.

💡 Imagine what would happen if we focused on what we like vs. what we don’t like.

💡 What is the cost of not doing something right?

💡 When you show up, bring all of you. Be exceptional.

💡 Happiness is an inside job.

Who’s Watching You?

How does it feel to be observed regularly?

Each swipe of our plastic credit/debit card.

Every request to our voice command speaker.

Our internet/social media behavior.

Cell phone GPS tracking and access to our data.

Home security cameras.

Malicious tracking for the sole purpose of defrauding us.

And the list goes on.

It’s quite interesting that leaders forget that their team members are tracking them too.

They’re tracking whether they live up to the mission, vision, values of the organization.

Whether they exhibit the behaviors they command of the team.

Whether they say what they mean and mean what they say.

And the list goes on.

Studies have shown that people tend to improve their behavior when they know that they are being watched.

Perhaps.

What would you stand for if you knew no one was watching or judging you?

If Only I Had A Clone

Have you ever thought about cloning yourself?

As a business owner or leader within an organization, it’s something to be considered.

Cloning yourself is not suggesting you find a replica of you.

It means developing a pipeline of new leaders with complementary skills.

If something unexpected happened to you, would your operation run efficiently or become chaotic?

Think about it, when a team’s starter player gets hurt, players are groomed to step in at a moment’s notice.

The coach and fans expect a similar level of performance from the player coming off the bench.

All players on the team are scouted, hired, trained, and fully prepared to move into action.

The goal should be the same for leaders. Your talent should be well-equipped to lead in your absence.

If sustainable systems are not in place and talent is not developed, you create a bottleneck.

Bottlenecks hinder growth.

Think long-term.

Just like the coach and its team, leadership bench strength is critical for adapting to challenges and opportunities presented at any given moment.

It All Starts With You

I took this picture approximately eight years ago in Los Angeles, CA.

The caption “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” immediately got my attention.

While this sign is an advertisement for a musical, it is also something we’re all familiar with: Our innate desire to change others.

Since taking this picture, I’ve changed States, mates, and professions.

Along with these changes came lessons learned and opportunities gained.

More importantly, I acknowledge that I am a common denominator.

Maybe we wouldn’t have to work so hard trying to change others if we first change ourselves.

Maybe we should let go of our version of who we think others should be.

Have you ever noticed how people complain about the weather, yet, they have no control over it?

Have you ever witnessed someone having a hard time letting go of the past when there is no way to recover it?

Do you realize that we cannot change the fact that change is inevitable?

Can you meaningfully help others if you can’t help yourself?

Change starts with you.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him… We need not wait to see what others do.” ~ Gandhi

Success

One of my favorite quotes is: “All that we are is a result of all that we have thought, the mind is everything, what we think, we become.” ~ Buddha.

Mindsets play a significant role in how we navigate life. While we are encouraged not to compare ourselves to others, there are characteristics that successful people exhibit that can be to our benefit.

Self-Motivation – Successful people are emotionally connected and determined to bring their vision to life. They intuitively adapt to difficult situations and don’t wait around for supervisory instruction. They are excited about their goals and driven to achieve them.

Accountability – Successful people don’t make excuses for bad decisions. They focus less on people’s opinions and more on finding solutions. They respect the truth vs. sugarcoating.

Cognitive Ability – Successful people break problems down to extract the critical components. This enhances their ability for future planning, resource allocation, and problem-solving.

Emotionally Neutral – Successful people remain unaffected by surface-level emotions directed at them. They are not easily derailed by criticism, nor seek validation or affirmation from others.

Self-Belief – Successful people develop skills needed and maintain a mindset that reinforces achievement at every level.

Adapted from: Barrett Riddleberger

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Good listeners ask good questions.

💡 The root of all desire is to be and to belong.

💡 If you’re not seeking approval, they have no power.

💡 The right solution is expensive. The wrong solution costs a fortune.

💡 What you see depends on your perspective.

💡 Grow through what you don’t know and outgrow what no longer fits you.

💡 You don’t need more time, you need more focus.

💡 Most people never feel successful enough.

💡 Cultivate a reputation for being dependable.

💡 Why do you enjoy what you enjoy?

Decisions

Have you ever become exhausted from watching people and listening to their opinions? That’s where critical thinking comes into play. There is a lot to be learned from others. The key differentiator is making informed decisions. We naturally gravitate to the beliefs that are similar to ours. We will even go out of our way to support these beliefs.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this. In doing so, there are questions it would be wise to take into consideration.

𝟏. What am I supporting today, to build a better tomorrow?
𝟐. Am I doing what’s right in the grander scheme of things?
𝟑. In what ways does this information create value?
𝟒. Is this helping me make a difference? And, for whom does this make a difference?
𝟓. How does this inspire others to do more?
𝟔. Do I care? In what way?
𝟕. What would the world look like if there were identical representations of me?
𝟖. How would I feel on the receiving end?
𝟗. Am I holding myself up to the same standards that I hold others accountable?
𝟏𝟎. Do I show empathy and compassion for others that are not like me?

When all else fails, ask yourself:

🌟 What skeletons do I have in my closet that would contradict all that I advocate for and preach?

Blind Spots

What do blind spots cost you?

From a driving perspective, it can cost you an accident and higher insurance rates.

From a leadership perspective, it can cost you a career and put your organization at risk.

Everyone has blind spots, no matter how self-aware we think we are. Think about it. When we ask others to describe us, it tends to lean more towards the positive (e.g., empathetic, resourceful, adaptable, etc.).

What do we often do with the unsolicited negative descriptions of us (e.g., arrogant, selfish, bossy, etc.)? We chalk it up to the messenger being out of their mind.

If different individuals use the same unfavorable words to describe you, there’s a high probability it is a blind spot.

We often view ourselves differently than others. Imagine my surprise after completing a 360 Assessment. Areas I wished to improve were ranked as strengths by others. Whereas, areas I felt more comfortable with revealed that some tweaking could be to my benefit.

Some leaders take for granted that being in business for a significant period, means they are doing everything right. When in reality, they are often one disruption away from closing their doors.

Blind spot leadership ultimately costs team performance, customers, and future growth.

Graph: Tech in Common

Mindset

Imagine riding down the highway knowingly exceeding the speed limit, and out of nowhere, a cop signals you to pull over. Do you immediately get upset? Do you offer up an excuse? Or, do you accept full responsibility for the speeding ticket the cop later hands you?

Now, let’s say the reason you were putting the pedal to the metal is that you were rushing to be on time for a meeting. You arrive at the meeting late, and human nature wants to provide a reason why. Depending on the audience, you may blame it on getting a ticket en route, or if you choose not to divulge your business, you may blame it on the traffic. Either way, the blame continues.

Blaming people or circumstances is easy. Taking responsibility, not so much. There is a saying that when you point the finger at others, three fingers point back at you.

When unfortunate events happen to you, how do you react? How does your mindset play into it?

A passive mindset is an assumption that life happens to you, and you’re not responsible.

An active mindset means you take ownership and are responsible for the things you control.

Adapted from FS (Farnam Street)

Out On A Limb

One of my Facebook connections posted a photo of Alex Honnold standing on the ‘Thank God Ledge’ in Yosemite National Park. It reminded me of when I belly-crawled my way through a section of the Sedona Mountains, knowing that one false move wouldn’t end well for anyone. As I inched my way forward, I silently prayed that everyone in my group stayed in sync and, I refused to look down.

Going out on a limb for someone or something can be a terrifying feat. And as leaders, we are tasked with taking our team, the organization, and ourselves to new heights. Rarely, do our team want to leave the comforts of what they’ve come to know, to venture into uncertain territory that is risky or scary.

It takes courage to go out on a limb and can be paralyzing to even the best leaders. Moreover, as a leader, we often have to go first. But what is the risk if we don’t? If we don’t grow or transform our business, we fail. This pandemic has proven that.

A motivating factor in the workplace is a sense of accomplishment. And that’s what I felt once I made it to the top of the mountain. Taking a chance on something new can lead to great rewards. Calculated risks often overshadow the uneasiness we may feel on the road to meaningful change.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 What size is your leadership (S, M, L, XL, or One Size Fits All)?

💡 Think critically about what you see, hear, and witness.

💡 Who and what do you gravitate to? Why?

💡 Character is revealed when pressure is applied.

💡 Many imagine. Few execute.

💡 What you “don’t want” and “don’t like” is not a meaningful contribution.

💡 Gratitude is an attitude and a powerful influence over behavior.

💡 Who can tell your story better than you?

💡 Your response defines who you really are in other people’s eyes.

💡 Consistency beats intensity.

My Mission Is…

Throughout my career, I have helped many entrepreneurs fine-tune their business plans. I am also in the process of developing my own. As we all know, it is common practice for organizations to develop mission statements to provide employees a clear purpose.

If you take an honest assessment of your mission statement, does it unify, direct, and inspire employees to spend a significant part of their day fighting for your cause? As a leader, do you embody the mission?

Mission statements are more than just a public relations exercise.

Consider this one: “The Company’s primary objective is to maximize long-term stockholder value while adhering to the laws of the jurisdictions in which it operates and at all times observing the highest ethical standards.”

Shouldn’t all organizations strive for this? Does this mission statement motivate people to get out of their bed, sacrifice wages at times, and help them understand their role in achieving a collective goal?

When the mission, vision, and values of the organization fail to align with an employee’s value system, conflict arises.

While organizations are adapting to the economic challenge of a lifetime, now is the time to reevaluate your mission statements with renewed relevance.

Graphic: Nonprofit Hub

Perception or Reality

When we hear statements like:

“Why is this happening to me?”
“This isn’t fair.”
“This can’t be true.”
“It shouldn’t be this way.”
“Story of my life.”

Someone’s perception or expectation is not meeting reality. What are your options at that moment? As the late Maya Angelou once said, “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

We all see reality through a personal lens shaped by our beliefs, culture, religion, experiences, etc. And our perception of reality often dictates our behavior. When we refuse to allow any flexibility in our attitude, we close our minds to possibility and sometimes the truth. Self-defeating statements don’t change the situation. It only makes the experience more painful.

Old Dog, New Tricks

A year ago, I welcomed a four-year-old (32 in human years) untrained Yorkshire Terrier into our family. It has not been the smoothest transition, but we have made great strides. There is an adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that doesn’t hold up well if the old dog wants to learn.

Growth is possible for everyone, no matter their age. We cannot define people by their past, and their history is not always a predictor of their future. We must let go of unrealistic expectations, which isn’t easy to do. I have gone from my home smelling like potpourri throughout, to the smell of dog urine in unexpected places. Yet, I am appreciative of the continued progress our Yorkie makes with consistent training.

Leadership is about enabling the full potential in others regardless the age or history. In this era of longevity, making assumptions about the learning capabilities of a multi-generational workforce is a mistake. You can teach an old dog new tricks. Be realistic that it may take a little longer than a young dog. But, once that old dog learns, it’s there for the long-term.

Uncertainty

I, like many others, have had to regroup from the changes that 2020 has brought about. Finding ways to balance the unpredictability of my career and the “new normal” called chaos is not for the faint of heart. Despite the challenges, I realize that inaction is a waste of time and will get you nowhere fast.

When we overanalyze and fight for never-changing security, we stop experiencing the full array of choices life has to offer during our journey. Many of us have an obsessive desire to know what is happening now and what tomorrow will bring. Wondering what the future holds is a tough question at any age. Instead of trying to figure it all out, get comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty.

There is an ancient Japanese Philosophy called Wabi-Sabi. It is a mindset that embraces the unpredictability of life, and it teaches us to celebrate the way things are instead of how it should be.

Life is unpredictable. And that’s okay. Embrace it. When nothing is certain, everything is possible! Our plans for tomorrow, next month, or next year may not unfold as we expect. But it is imperative to take action and keep moving forward.

Illustration: The Ready

Food For Thought Friday

💡 The only thing we can count on is what we do today.

💡 If you think there is only one way to do something, you lose.

💡 Your greatest accomplishment may be helping people accomplish great things.

💡 Your greatest failure may be preventing others from achieving greatness.

💡 Your inner attitude does not have to reflect your outward circumstance.

💡 Patience is the hardest when we need it the most.

💡 The most extraordinary experience you will ever have involves you.

💡 Leadership is a way of being, not just something we do.

💡 You cannot learn from a mistake you do not acknowledge making.

💡 What would you do in a world with no constraints?

Leader or Follower

A common misconception is that you are either a leader or a follower. The reality is that we all lead in some way (influence) and we all follow something or someone (religion, etc.).

Operationally, you will always have someone to report to, no matter where you are in the food chain. Corporate culture is pretty straightforward: entry-level employees reports to a supervisor, supervisors reports to a manager, managers reports to an executive, executives reports to a senior executive, and the CEO reports to the board or other key stakeholders.

In our effort to master the skills of leadership, we tend to lose sight that there is more to the leadership equation. For leaders to lead, they need exceptional talent and the ability to attract followers. They also need to master the art of humbly following others.

Being a good follower teaches us how to value the contributions others make, as well as develop our emotional intelligence. It doesn’t matter how many followers we have. We still share the same vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and struggles as other human beings.

Many leaders could accomplish more if they became aware of their need for personal growth and development for themselves and others. “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Aristotle

Knowledge vs. Experience

The internet provides us with vasts amounts of information, but does it help us truly understand? Information overload doesn’t result in more wisdom. If anything, the opposite occurs – information without the proper context and interpretation only muddles our understanding.

There’s a difference between knowledge and experience. Obtaining knowledge requires some sensory input: reading, watching, listening, and touching. In contrast, experience comes with time, exposure, and practice.

For example, we may recognize a written language just by looking at the characters, but we will not understand it unless we take time to study it and put it to use.

We may also know something intellectually, but our intuitive thoughts, feelings, and emotions can cloud our understanding and shortchange our experience.

Chinese philosopher Confucius sums it up well: “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

Illustration: Hugh MacLeod / Gapingvoid

Personality

Human behavior can prove to be a mystery which is one of many reasons that personality assessments are becoming increasingly commonplace. If you’ve ever taken one, you may have been surprised by some of its findings. While these instruments are helpful, they are not a perfect science.

Issues with personality testing arise when companies use them to

👎 Deny employment.

👎 Deny promotions.

👎 Label others as one thing or another.

👎 Excuse unbecoming behavior.

👎 Measure the skill set of others.

Today’s workforce is experiencing a shift in identities. Not only is it one of the most diverse in our nation’s history, but it is also causing us to rethink the effectiveness of different types of assessments as it relates to unconscious bias, a multi-generational workforce, and new social norms.

The results of an assessment should not overpower proven results, verified references, and years of successful experience. Assessments provide us useful information, not make us bad people. Someone with an outgoing personality doesn’t mean they’re going to be best suited in sales. An introvert may be just as successful because they’re generally more inclined to listen – which is a critical trait in sales.

It’s worth noting that assessments have their place in organizational management. They offer a framework for helping us understand more about others, how we approach certain situations, and our preferred management style.

For example, the DISC model represents:

➩ Dominance (Red) – How you respond to problems and challenges.

➩ Influence (Yellow) – How you influence others to your point of view.

➩ Steadiness (Green) – How you respond to the pace of the environment.

➩ Compliance (Blue) – How you respond to rules and procedures set by others.


How could you benefit from better understanding your behavioral preference and its impact on others?

Ambition

Ambition is a mighty quality that motivates us to reach beyond what is considered possible. Whether we recognize it or not, many people are quietly ambitious. Some have internal ambition where they strive for personal success (e.g., entrepreneurship), and others are externally focused, where they strive for collective success (e.g., organizational growth).

While ambition has its ugly side, it is an essential ingredient for success. To better understand the nature of your desire, ask yourself:

1. Purpose. What is the motivation behind what you desire to achieve? E.g., Money, power, honor, helping others)

2. Vision. What do you aspire to achieve within a reasonable time frame?

3. Metrics. How will you measure how you are progressing towards your vision?

4. Priorities. What actions will you take in pursuit of your vision?

5. Promise. How will you hold yourself accountable?

6. Values. What guiding principles dictate how you accomplish your vision in good times and bad?

7. Behaviors. How will you act day-to-day and in the long-term to implement your vision and live up to your values?

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Where you are today is a direct result of a decision you have or have not made.

💡 Don’t be an “if” thinker. Be a “how” thinker.

💡 Honesty provides others freedom of choice.

💡 Is the source of the problem internal or external?

💡 How you see yourself is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

💡 Naysayers are good at what they do and never cease at their work.

💡 Wanting to make everyone happy is a setup for disappointment.

💡 There is no timeline as to when you should have everything figured out in life.

💡 You don’t need a prestigious title to perform a significant role.

💡 Where there is ignorance, society does not advance.

Gratitude

A few weeks back, I was in line at a fast-food restaurant. When I reached the drive-thru window, the cashier informed me that my order was paid for by the passenger ahead of me. When I looked up to give thanks, the driver had already pulled off.

Small gestures have long-term impacts, and we often take these acts of kindness for granted.

Many of us are familiar with the term pay it forward. So much of life is about giving, receiving, and repaying. It could be something as simple as holding the door open for another. There have been occasions when I have done so, and the individuals failed to visually or verbally acknowledge it. These rare instances don’t deter me from living a life of gratitude. It just reveals that some people are not comfortable with openly expressing it for one reason or another. Paying it forward does not come with conditions.

Just imagine a world without gratitude. There would be no meaningful relationships, medical science, technological advancements, nature’s architecture, or a plethora of other luxuries we experience.

Human happiness is dependent on gratitude. It enables us to receive and motivates us to return the kindness. Challenge yourself to pay it forward and watch how your life unfolds.

Life Lessons Continued

Part 2 of 2: Practical lessons that stand the test of time. What lessons can you add to the list?

16. The more you know, the less you fear.

17. Don’t let weeds grow around your dreams.

18. Think twice before deciding not to charge for your work. People often have less value for something given to them for free.

19. Remember that ignorance is expensive.

20. When declaring your rights, don’t forget your responsibilities.

21. Everyone you meet wears an invisible sign that reads “see me” and “hear me.”

22. Life’s changes rarely give warning.

23. Never let the odds keep you from pursuing what your heart desires.

24. Every age brings new opportunities.

25. Never underestimate the influence of the people you have allowed in your life.

26. Stand out from the crowd.

27. Don’t expect different results from the same behavior.

28. Question your prejudices.

29. See detours as an opportunity to experience new things.

30. Don’t live with the brakes engaged.


Adapted from Life’s Little Instruction Book

Life Lessons

With so many shifts happening throughout the world, there are some things that withstand the test of time: Life’s Lessons. What lessons can you add to the list? Part 1 of 2.

1. Choose work that is in harmony with your values.
2. Commit yourself to constant self-improvement.
3. Don’t waste time grieving over past mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
4. Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health, and love.
5. Live your life as an exclamation, not an explanation.
6. Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in a harbor is safe, but in time, it’s bottom will rotten out.
7. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
8. Take charge of your attitude. Don’t let someone else choose it for you.
9. Start meetings on time regardless of who’s missing.
10. Improve your performance by improving your attitude.
11. Every person that you meet knows something you don’t; learn from them.
12. Do not expect others to listen to your advice and ignore your example
13. Do the right thing, regardless of what others think.
14. Give as much attention to what is positive in your life as you do the challenges.
15. Don’t dismiss a good idea simply because you don’t like the source.


Adapted from Life’s Little Instruction Book

Delegation Gone Wrong

There is an assumption that delegating is simply turning something over to someone else and suddenly being free from that responsibility. Delegation is not about dumping tasks on others. There is an art to it. Here are nine delegation mindsets to avoid.

1. Being too possessive.

“This is my baby” “I’m the most qualified person for this task” and “He/She doesn’t take it as seriously as I do.”, are some of the countless arguments for avoiding delegation. For managers, this attitude is especially harmful as they get trapped in their day-to-day business, losing time for strategic thinking or other issues. Transferring relevant tasks saves time and motivates teams to deliver excellent work.

Delegating is sometimes letting go of the idea of perfection. The thought that when you do it yourself, it will be better quality and get delivered faster, does not help your team grow.

2. Overwhelming people.

Take care not to delegate tasks that employees are over- or under-qualified to do. Challenging employees is motivating, but projects that overwhelm them make little sense. On the other hand, it’s okay to assign a task to someone overqualified from time to time. However, if it happens too often, it will be demotivating. Consider delegating to the person who’ll provide the best result or who wants to develop skills for the future. If you’re unsure who best meets these criteria, ask.

Dare to delegate the tasks employee likes to do. The return on learning is more rewarding when employees discover for themselves what they’re good at, instead of you telling them upfront. You might be surprised to uncover some hidden talents in your team.

3. Not officially responsible.

Once you’ve given someone responsibility or authority for a new project, everyone else should be made aware. Only then can employees act with determination. Letting them know they have your support, provides them the confidence to perform the task.

4. Unclear definition of a project.

When employees don’t know the objective or the framework of the assignment, it will be difficult for them to be efficient. Provide as much information as possible and agree on a schedule. Not all employees will tell you when there is a lack of clarity, so it may be helpful to ask what their next steps will be. Never send a task by email, post-it note, etc.

Delegating means setting clear goals and granting a flexible path to achieve those goals.

5. Constant meddling.

It can be challenging relinquishing control of a task. Refrain from micro-managing and expecting the job to be completed in the same manner you would do it. Otherwise, it shows a lack of trust and the ability to achieve good results.

6. Lack of positive control.

Although employees should work autonomously, the final responsibility is yours. Establish milestones for the project to ensure they’re advancing with the assignment and offer help to remove any obstacles.

A positive control is only possible with a clear briefing, set expectations, and SMART goals.

7. Passing on unpleasant activities.

Don’t fall into the trap of only passing on unpleasant tasks. Doing so gives the impression that you want to avoid grunt work. As a result, employees will feel misused because the transfer of small jobs implies that “Your working time is less valuable than mine.”

8. Waiting until the last minute.

The “I can do it myself” attitude can backfire when closing in on a deadline. Now you need help and risk abusing someone else’s time. When we rush through a task, we risk the quality of the finished product. Last-minute delegation creates frustration and is demotivating. Delegating tasks in advance allows employees to prepare.

9. Not giving feedback.

Don’t forget to give honest feedback when the task is complete. Feedback ensures that employees benefit and can develop skills in the future. Saying thank you also shows that you appreciate their commitment and work. These kinds of gestures make it more likely that they will want to work with you in the future.

Handling Performance Issues

Poor performance doesn’t just happen. There’s always an underlying cause. Most commonly, it’s due to a lack of motivation, ability, or personal reasons.

Addressing poor performance is one of the most delicate and impactful conversations you’re likely to have as a leader. Although confrontation can be uncomfortable, it’s unavoidable. Otherwise, you send a message to others that the behavior is acceptable.

How do you handle performance issues in your organization?

Here’s a scenario: Daniel has worked at Happy Clients for two years. And, during this period, he’s been a tremendous asset to the team. In the past few weeks, you have observed that he has not been performing up to standards and have been late to work on several occasions. Based on the latest monthly report, Daniel is also falling short of his production goals. Team members are increasingly complaining about his cranky attitude, and he has just shown up late for work again. It’s now time for a performance meeting.

How can you prepare for the meeting to help regain Daniel’s productivity and performance in a way that is respectful and encouraging?

Here is a 10-step approach to fixing performance problems:

1. Schedule a meeting. Send a calendar invite at least three days before the meeting. Include an agenda with the invitation. This provides employees sufficient time to prepare for the meeting.

  • Tip: Consider giving employees a heads up that you will be sending a meeting invite to discuss their performance. An out of the blue performance conversation may catch them off guard.

2. Start positive. Begin the conversation by providing positive feedback to create a more comfortable and relaxed setting. Motivate with encouraging words and avoid any mention of underperformance at this stage. Emotional confrontation helps nobody.

  • Tip: Try to provide as much positive feedback as possible. This helps to create balance when providing critical feedback later in the conversation.

3. Ask for a self-assessment. Ask if they agree with your evaluation and encourage them to rate their performance. Chances are, they’ll agree with your positive feedback during this self-assessment. This helps them see things more objectively, which is a step towards acknowledging underperformance. Above all, this invites them to raise any difficulties they may be having themselves, instead of you bringing it up.

  • Tip: There is a natural tendency for people to defend themselves as soon as they feel attacked. Highlight the positive aspects of their work so they see that they are valued.

4. Address the performance issue. If they’ve acknowledged their underperformance, encourage them to shed light on its causes. If they haven’t, you will need to set the stage. Start by mentioning a few observations and then let them tell their side of the story.

  • Tip: Let them do most of the talking at this stage and refrain from presenting your assumptions.

5. Keep it professional. The subject of the conversation should be about performance and behavior, not about the person. Voice any disappointment objectively. Avoid pointing out character flaws and placing blame. Otherwise, they could see this as a personal attack.

  • Tip: Maintain objectivity and do not stray into personal territory. If personal issues come up as a reason for their underperformance, gently prod to see if they want to reveal more.

6. Focus on the facts. When addressing their underperformance, articulate yourself clearly with concrete examples and proof. Come prepared with notes or reports that demonstrate their underperformance.

  • Tip: If the issue is goals-related, have the figures ready. If they are not complying with company policy, have the guidelines on hand.

7. Paint the bigger picture. Employees may not always realize how their performance can negatively impact their team or the organization. Draw the connection. Reestablish the organization’s mission, vision, and values and how their performance helps achieve this.

  • Tip: Establish the reasons for the performance meeting, why the performance is unacceptable, and what needs to be improved.

8. Respond to reasons given. Resistance in such conversations is not uncommon. Here are some possible scenarios and how to tackle them.

  • They disagree with your views. Take a step back and remain firm in your view. Schedule a follow-up meeting in a few days to give them time to think it over and get on the same page.
  • They blow off your observations with excuses. Get them to identify the external factors that are keeping them from performing and ask if they’ll be able to perform better with these factors out of the way.
  • They defend their performance with peer-comparison. If they justify their performance by comparing themselves with others and insist they’re not doing that badly, ask them to obtain quality feedback from internal/external clients and discuss them in the next session.

9. Establish next steps. Once they acknowledge they’ve been underperforming and agree with your assessment, establish a plan for change. Ask them to identify areas where there’s room for improvement and how they aim to achieve that. Highlight that the purpose of the meeting is to find solutions, and ask how you can support them to get back on track.

  • Tip: Set concrete goals and expectations for the future. Your final agreement should leave no room for misinterpretation. Don’t be disappointed if the solutions they suggest aren’t precise enough as they may need more time to reflect. Ask questions to prompt more concrete answers.

10. Chart the progress. Fixing performance problems isn’t a one-off event. One meeting may not be sufficient to diagnose the issue, let alone remedy it, so schedule a follow-up meeting to monitor progress. This also gives them time to reflect on the conversation and return to the next session with more insight. This is all part of the performance recovery process.

  • Tip: Throughout this process, encourage them, acknowledge any improvement, and congratulate them on their progress.

Leadership 101

I’ve spent many years in leadership roles and have had the honor of working with other leaders to enhance their effectiveness. Throughout this journey, a common theme has emerged. Leaders still struggle with basic principles.

1. Leadership is about empowering, encouraging, delegating, and accountability. If we do the work ourselves, there’s no need for others.

2. Human capital is our greatest asset. Disengaged employees impact our bottom line and chase our customers away. There are three checkpoints people must have to perform at their best: meaning, willingness, and ability.

3. Praise is often limited or misaligned. Everyone needs to feel valued and appreciated. Giving praise should be immediate, specific, genuine, and ongoing.

4. Budgeting time is a challenging feat. With more people working remotely, productivity management is more important than time management. Identify the behaviors that lead to productivity.

5. Lead by example. How are others referencing and reflecting you? Exemplary leadership is how values are born and behaviors formed.

6. Never take your role for granted. Understand your purpose. Believe in your mission. Become a better leader. Help others reach their full potential.

Attitude

1. Good values attract good people. Who you are is what you attract. If you want to attract better, do better.

2. Don’t lead by fear. It’s better to be respected than feared. Inspire others to become the best version of themselves. Show tough love when needed.

3. Call yourself a teacher. Actions speak louder than words. Invest your time and energy in helping others reach their full potential.

4. Emotion is your enemy. Uncontrollable emotions hold you captive and weaken your effectiveness.

5. It takes ten hands to make a basket. We are not put on this earth to only serve ourselves.

6. Little things make big things happen. Details matter. Have a vision, set a path.

7. Make each day your masterpiece. Be present, and give your best daily.

8. The carrot is mightier than the stick. Incentives and praise are more powerful than fear and punishment.

9. Make greatness attainable by all. Your legacy lives in the success of your followers.

10. Seek significant change. Dream big. Set your goals high. Never settle for the status quo.

11. Don’t look at the scoreboard. Instant gratification leads to short-term results. Keep your eye on the end-game.

12. Adversity is your asset. There are many opportunities in failure. Resist the temptation to blame.

Source: John Wooden

Food For Thought Friday

💡 There is always a backstory. Seek to understand it.

💡 Speaking the truth doesn’t mean saying the worse.

💡 The depth of the problem determines the value of the solution.

💡 Everything you learn will be accepted or dismissed based on your beliefs.

💡 You interpret yourself by your intentions. Others interpret you by your actions.

💡 Listen, and you will know what to ask.

💡 People close to you know you better than you think

💡 Every problem you have had in life involves the same person – you. Start there.

💡 Behind mediocrity is a critical conversation someone didn’t have.

💡 If everything were effortless, you would not learn anything. Celebrate the effort.

Exaggerated Beliefs

Throughout our lives, we are encouraged to love ourselves, to understand our worth, to be more confident, etc. At what point does this turn into overestimating our capabilities in certain areas? 

Many people would describe themselves as above average in intelligence, driving, and a variety of other skills. This level of confidence could be beneficial when we need a boost to get through our day. But, what and who, are we using as our measuring stick to come up with these exaggerated beliefs? It can be challenging judging our competence when there is not a set standard or definition.

Imagine going on a job interview. Most likely, you’re going to say you have what it takes to get the job done. But, are you sure? Your level of performance will eventually be revealed.

Many people often believe that they are better at their jobs than their colleagues. Not only can this be annoying, but it can lead to disastrous results.

The opposite occurs for those with extensive knowledge. They assume that everyone else is knowledgeable too, and tend to underestimate their abilities.

We can compensate our self-perceptions by asking others for advice and constructive feedback, as well as training and educating ourselves in the areas where there are deficiencies.

Effective Feedback

Effective feedback is a powerful tool. Think of the coach that pulls a player to the sidelines to give real-time feedback. The coach’s objective is to improve performance. The same goes for our team. Here are some ways to help your team welcome the feedback.

1. Ask permission. It makes a huge difference. E.g., “Can I share an observation with you?” Also, be mindful of when and where the feedback occurs.

2. Be specific. Use directly observed quotes and behaviors. E.g., “During our team meeting, you singled out Bob for not delivering the project on time. It was clear you were upset by the tone of your voice and body language. I recall you saying we can lose this account because you missed the deadline.”

3. Explain the impact. E.g., “When you get stressed, you show your frustration and talk angrily to the team. It can be demotivating.”

4. Wait and listen. What is the reaction? Be open-minded. There may be more to the story.

5. Suggest an alternative. Share a concrete behavior that could have a better impact. E.g., “Perhaps in this situation, you can take Bob aside and ask what happened, and how you can best support him and the team to prevent this from occurring in the future. We all make mistakes. The goal is to learn and grow from them.”

8 Stages of Change

Change is inevitable. So is the resistance to it. Unless of course, you hit the lottery for millions of dollars – then it is welcomed with outstretched arms, and maybe a “hallelujah” or two. Wouldn’t it be great if employees accepted organizational change as readily? 

To quickly demonstrate change, cross your arms. Now cross your arms again, this time changing your arms in the opposite position. How does it feel? Most likely, uncomfortable. If you trained yourself to cross your arms opposite of what you are accustomed to, you could condition yourself to make a permanent change. Consider what happened when COVID-19 appeared. People and organizations across the globe had to adapt to change quickly.

Change is a constant at every organization. Unfortunately, you rarely hear all employees exclaiming that they’re excited to be a part of it. Now imagine during your monthly meeting, Project Manager Chris, energetically presents a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Chris explains the many benefits of the new system to only encounter apprehension.

  • Why do we need this new software?
  • The current system works just fine.
  • Impossible! Whose idea was this?

The Eight Stages of Change

Many managers can probably relate to this experience. To grasp why people are generally resistant to change, let us look at how it is handled based on its origin.

  •  As initiators of change, we are proactive in introducing change.
  • As discoverers of change, we are reactive to changes presented to us. 

In this scenario, the discoverers are reacting to a change initiated by Chris. As they adapt, they’ll be going through eight different stages of change:

  1. Denial: This cannot be possible.
  2. Anger: This will not work out.
  3. Nostalgia: Everything will be different.
  4. Fear: What will it be like in the future?
  5. Negotiation: What advantages are there? How can we adapt?
  6. Decision: I can live with it.
  7. Readjustment: I would do it this way.
  8. Commitment: It works well. I like it.

Please note that change management is subjective. Not everyone spends an equal amount of time in each stage, nor does it always happen in the same order.

Given that, managers need to understand the different stages of the change curve to help their teams navigate the various stages efficiently.

The Challenges of Managing Change Well

A manager’s success depends on the success of his/her team. Change management should offer benefits for everyone involved as well as the organization as a whole. As a manager, here’s how to lead a team through change.

  • Understand that each stage is part of the natural process of change acceptance and assimilation.
  • Let each team member advance through the different stages at his/her own pace and in his/her way.
  • Personalize your approach and adapt your behavior according to the different stages your team members are experiencing. Do not expect commitment from a team member who is still in the denial stage.
  • Avoid shortcuts. Do not encourage your team members to skip a stage. Someone who’s rushed through stages in the change process may find it more challenging to reach or complete the decision stage, and may ultimately revert a step (or more).

This last point is crucial because people are not always transparent about how they feel. We may assume that someone is in the commitment stage when he/she may still be in the fear or nostalgia stage. What may seem like a shortcut, in the beginning, can be costly in the long run.

Managing Change Well in the Decision Stage

The manager’s behavior during the decision stage is vital to managing change well. The decision stage is where he/she must balance his/her role as a participative manager and an executive manager.

When balancing these management styles, managers should ask themselves:

What risks are there for the team (and the company) if I’m not sufficiently assertive in the decision stage?

  • What stage will my team member revert to if I don’t manage the change process well?
  • What can I request from him/her?
  • Who makes the final decision?
  • What’s causing him/her to stall?

Sometimes the manager is also the discoverer of change and has to balance this situation by creating the right conditions for the team to accept and assimilate change in the best way possible.

Helping team members reach the decision stage and guiding them beyond it isn’t enough. Managers also have to be assertive. Otherwise, you risk team members:

  • Entering an endless loop of bouncing back and forth between stages without arriving at the decision stage. Doing so may be harmful to them and the organization.
  • Understanding that the decision to accept change lies with them. As a manager, you’re responsible for maintaining the balance of management and creating the optimal conditions for this acceptance.
  • Hindering the team’s progress. If a manager allows team members to stall, they will spend months jumping from stage to stage and may even sabotage – albeit unintentionally – the team’s efforts and progress. Watch out for those with a yes, but… attitude and those who fixate on the tiniest of issues. Through a desire to avoid confrontation, unassertive managers may unwittingly make an undesirable, negative impact.
  • Causing conflicts. This endless loop will inevitably lead them to be conflictive – with themselves, with the company, and perhaps even with their families due to a lack of control over the new reality. Their unacceptance will cause them to yearn for the old.

Leading Change from Within as an Exemplary Manager

Here’s another scenario.

Phil is a manager who has to inform his team about the Board’s decision to change the order control system. Here’s how he delivers the news:

The Board has decided to change the order control system. It seems pointless, but I have to implement it, so here we are.

This attitude isn’t uncommon from managers when addressing changes in the company – especially changes that weren’t initiated by them.

Managers are responsible for relaying messages of change. In doing so, not only are they discoverers of change, but they must also establish the right conditions for their teams to accept and digest this change as efficiently as possible.

Phil’s attitude is counter-productive, unmotivating, and not one of an exemplary manager. How can Phil expect his team to accept the change when he has vocalized his reluctance?

Managers are the first to experience the stages of change. As an exemplary manager, you must be comfortable in the commitment stage before informing your team of the change and guiding them through the process.

In other words, accept and guide change over yourself before exercising it over others.

Teamwork

Early in my career, I had an opportunity to participate in the Leadership Robins Region program. This 9-month program was designed using the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute curriculum. 

The first session required an overnight stay at Robins Air Force Base in preparation for the group’s leadership orientation and subsequent ROPES activities the following morning. There were 25 people in the group, and I was only familiar with one of them.

The goal of the first session was to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the team, learn how to communicate concisely and listen actively, as well as understand how each team member contributes to accomplishing the team mission.

The pictures reveal the importance of effective communication, the value of teamwork, and developing trust. These are some of the ingredients of exemplary leadership.

Other lessons worth noting:

* You cannot hold someone accountable for something you failed to teach.
* Everyone is both a teacher and a learner.
* Leadership skills can always be improved.

This program provided me the platform to gain critical experiences and broaden my knowledge across various industries – which has been instrumental in my career progression.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Any fool can make something complex. It takes skill to make things simple.

💡 Everyone has power. Many often let it go to waste.

💡 What happens to them if they listen to you?

💡 Getting to the next level may be about subtraction, not addition.

💡 Sometimes, the best advice is advice you don’t think you need.

💡 A person with priorities does what matters. A person without priorities does what is urgent.

💡 Things won’t change until you change.

💡 Want to help yourself? Help others.

💡 Want to make money? Give value.

💡 Want to find an idea? Look for a problem.

Cultural Feedback

Not until I started working for a global company and spending time in other countries did I realize how different me and my colleagues were when giving critical feedback. Communicating with colleagues from 25 countries can range from politically correct to outright shocking. Either way, it is never a dull moment. This article shed’s light on some of the cultural differences when giving feedback.

While my colleagues mean no harm and the intention of their message may be the same, the wrapping of the message changes. And, this wrapping has many different colors and textures. For example, my Dutch and German colleagues are more comfortable shooting straight. Whereas, my Asian colleagues prefer relationship orientated communication that preserves the reputation of their audience, even if that means the message is less clear.

Being an American, we are often stereotyped around the world for our directness. That is quite interesting because when it involves giving feedback, we typically opt for the sandwich approach: start with something positive, followed by the suggested improvement, then close with something else positive to soften the real feedback. If you used this same approach with my Dutch colleagues, they would do away with the carbs and give the meat alone. My Asian colleagues, on the other hand, would choose the vegetarian option.

It is fair to say that most of my European colleagues’ value directness. They view the American way of giving feedback as confusing and sometimes inauthentic and see no point in sugar-coating the conversation.

Based on the following scenario, this is an example of how different cultures would offer feedback: A colleague has asked you to review his/her report and provide your feedback. In your opinion, the management summary is excellent. However, the second chapter containing the analysis lacks structure and body. Keeping in mind that culture is multi-faceted, these examples are generalizations of cultural tendencies and quirks.

  •  A Dutch person will be direct, as honesty and transparency are key. The feedback would sound something like this: The analysis completely lacks structure and body.
  •  A German person will try to make a connection to a body of expertise or knowledge. The feedback would sound something like this: What are your findings from the analysis? Which approach did you use? It does not come across due to a lack of structure.
  •  An English person will wrap the feedback in a jacket of politeness, topped with a collar of indirectness. It would sound something like this: I would consider taking a look at the structure of the analysis. But that is just my opinion.
  •  An American person will focus more on the positive. The real feedback will be more of what is not said. Hence, it would sound something like: You did a particularly great job with the management summary.
  •  A French person tends to look for the rules or the standard the other person has deviated from, instead of addressing the behavior directly. The feedback would sound something like this: According to book X, the structure of analysis should be Y.
  •  An Asian (Chinese) person wants to help the receiver save face and may blur the message or avoid communicating feedback to the person altogether. Instead, they may give it to another colleague who they know will pass it on to the person in question, or they might address the issue of structure to the whole team. The feedback would sound something like this: As a team, we might benefit from learning the best way to structure an analysis report.

In our increasingly global world, most of us will come face-to-face with colleagues of different cultural backgrounds. Providing feedback goes beyond understanding another culture’s language and choice words. It has more to do with how directly the feedback is delivered. Remember, there is an art to giving feedback, which starts with understanding why you are giving it in the first place. Feedback is grounded in helping someone develop and improve, not to place blame.

We’re Always Selling

The word salespeople dream of is, YES! Reality is often different. Knowing what not to do in sales can help you get closer to the goal. 

1. Don’t justify. Making excuses (I was in a traffic jam) won’t help you gain trust. What you’re communicating is I’m a poor planner and don’t take our meeting seriously.

2. Don’t brag. There’s no correlation between the quality of your watch and the quality of your work. Instead of impressing the client, they may see you as insecure or needy.

3. Don’t play the savior. Positioning yourself as the hero can come across as arrogant, creating an imbalance in the relationship.

4. Don’t be too authentic. Making use of your personality is an indispensable component of sales success. Exaggerating authenticity can come across as stubborn and raise doubts about your trustworthiness.

5. Don’t always agree. It is through positive confrontation and constructive triggering that we create value and discover underlying needs.

6. Be mindful after the close. Making statements like “I thought we would never agree” can create feelings of doubt and insecurity with the client.

7. The real work starts with YES. Invest the same energy after the close and deliver on what was promised to build a long-lasting client relationship.

A-Z Cheat Sheet for Boosting Team Engagement

Improving engagement is a challenge many leaders face. Imagine working at a company with 200 employees, each working 40 hours a week. Out of 8,000 hours per week, only 1,200 of those hours are coming from employees who are fully engaged. A company is only as good as the people working in it. So, how are you bringing out the best in them? 

Here’s a practical A to Z cheat-sheet for boosting team engagement.

Autonomy – Agree to clear targets and allow team members to choose the route to reach them. There are many ways to reach a destination. When you schedule check-ins ahead of time, the team is better prepared, the meetings are more productive, and you can offer support where needed. Whatever you do, avoid micromanaging.

Behavior – Lead by example. You’re the role model for your team, so be consistent in your words and actions. Also, hold people equally accountable. Showing favoritism negatively impacts employee morale.

Challenge – Provide opportunities for team members to stretch themselves. Even the top performer needs growth opportunities to avoid becoming bored in their role. Achieving something new provides tangible evidence of success.

Disengagement – You may send emails on the weekend without the expectation of team members responding. But, have you ever considered that someone may feel obliged to respond? It’s ok to write your emails over the weekend. Don’t hit the send button until Monday morning. Allowing people to disengage from work gives them a sense of work-life balance.

Empathy – Put yourself in other people’s shoes so you can gain a better understanding of what makes them tick. Then align your leadership style so that it best matches their personality. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone’s view. Just be open to listening because empathy increases trust and lets people know they are valued.

Flow – This is the mental state when we are fully absorbed in what we’re doing, and when enjoyment meets productivity. Don’t let workplace interruptions and fragmentations gain the upper hand. Provide extra space for silent work and reduce the number of meetings to those that are necessary.  

Give – Thoughtful feedback helps the team learn and grow. A rule of thumb: for every negative, give two positives. Build on the positive first (what went well), then provide points for improvement (what can be done differently).

Hello! and How are you? – Don’t skimp on the chit-chat. Talk about non-work-related topics from time to time. Doing so shows you have an interest in people beyond hitting targets. Work should not feel like a boot camp. Humans are emotional beings that want to be seen and heard.

Inspire – Knowing your team members, their interests, and stressors both personally and professionally, can help you meet them where they are to remove barriers and encourage optimal performance.

Jackal language – Trust is lost when you blame, criticize, judge, and demand. Non-violent communication is the best way to overcome conflict and move forward together. Try the language of the giraffe (the language of the heart that includes observing, connecting, feeling, and requesting).

Keep it short and simple – If you are unable to explain what you mean in a simple way, then go back to the drawing board until you get it right. Being vague leads to unproductive employees and creates unnecessary frustration.

Leadership lessons – There are a plethora of books and articles available on leadership. Until you put the insights into action and achieve the desired outcomes, that you become a leader. The same goes for swimming. You don’t become a swimmer until you are in the water applying the techniques learned. If you are not achieving the results you want, consider hiring a coach to help you practice new skills or kick old habits for the benefit of your team.

Meaningful work – We now have five generations in the workplace who are motivated by something different. Meaningful work has become center stage for many – exceeding salary and year-end bonuses in many instances. As a leader, what can you do to create a company culture and workplace environment that supports meaningful work for a multi-generational workforce?

Nonverbal communication – Nonverbal cues (body language, tone of voice, and gestures) are an essential part of effective communication. Make sure your nonverbal communication matches your verbal message.

Opportunities – Both burn-out and bore-out kill employee engagement. Consider opportunities for people to get involved in areas they might otherwise not have the chance to (E.g., new assignments, cross-organizational projects, etc.).

Perfectionism – Do you try to show a positive image of yourself by disguising or concealing negative behaviors? If so, this can be disastrous. People appreciate authentic leaders even if they have a few rough edges. What’s hidden, eventually comes to light. When this happens, it not only leads to poor results but also team frustration.

Questions – Ask open-ended questions to get to the root cause of a problem. Then find a mutually agreed solution to solve it.

Respect – We tend to prefer people who are similar to us. Just because you love the opera and your team member is a fan of heavy metal, does not mean you cannot learn from one another. Appreciate people for their differences.

Storytelling – What better way to help people understand an idea than by engaging both their hearts and minds? Storytelling helps change the way teams think, which is a critical step in shifting the way they act.                                                                  

Thumbs up – A compliment goes a long way. Unfortunately, giving praise does not come naturally to all leaders. People are more engaged when they know they are respected and valued. Tip: Be specific and authentic.

Understand – One size does not fit all. Appreciate the uniqueness of each of your team members. Communicate and reward in ways they are more receptive to understanding.

Values – Team members are more engaged when their values align with the company’s values, and both are working towards a common goal.

What do you propose? – Engage people by asking for their ideas and solutions.

X-factor – How are you helping your team become better? An X-factor in leadership is humility. In its broadest sense, humility is defined as self-awareness, appreciating the strengths and contributions of others, and having an openness to new ideas and feedback.

Yes, and – Instead of adopting a Yes, but approach (E.g., Yes, but how much will it cost?), try to react with a Yes, and attitude (Yes, and how much will it cost?). People tend to focus on the word that comes after Yes. “But” can sound like an objection. Whereas, “And” leaves room for opportunity.

Zig-zag: Ensure you and your team are ready to embrace change.

Food For Thought Friday

💡 Your greatest strength is your weakness.

💡 Arguing, debating, and pressuring, rarely produces desired outcomes.

💡 Who does what by when = progress.

💡 Being a leader of people requires a mindset shift.

💡 Sometimes dramatic change requires connections with new people.

💡 Every leader does not have a title. Every person with a title is not a leader.

💡 Angry people are transparent people.

💡 Business always throws us curveballs.

💡 Learn when to say no and let go.

💡 Waiting never gets the job done.

The Story I’m Telling Myself

There is a magic sentence resilient people have in common: “It’s the story I’m telling myself.” 

When something challenging happens to us, our brain, which is wired to protect us above all else, wants a story.

It understands story and narrative pattern and it says, “Give me a story so I can understand how to protect you.” And so….we make up these stories in our minds.

How can we be loved if we can’t let ourselves be seen (vulnerability).

We want it so bad, but we are so afraid to let ourselves be seen, and we’re so afraid to see people.

Vulnerability brings love, belonging, and joy.

The opposite of belonging is fitting in (acclimating). True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are.

Joy is the most vulnerable of all human emotions. We are so afraid that if we feel joy, something will come along and rip it away from us, and we will get sucker punched by pain, trauma, and loss. So in the midst of great things, we dress rehearse great tragedy.

Some people use vulnerability as a warning to start dress-rehearsing for bad things. Some of us use it as a reminder to be grateful.

Gratitude is the differentiator for joy. Which one will you choose?

Adapted from Brene Brown.
Graphic: raminnazer