3 Tips for Successfully Leading Your Team Back to the Office

Reopening and going back to your workplace does not mean going ‘back to normal’– the workplace post-pandemic has forever changed.  Here are some Situational Leadership strategies that will leaders navigate “re-boarding” the new processes and expectations for how people will return to the workplace.

1. Reflect and Recalibrate. Businesses had to react almost immediately to adjust with the demands of the pandemic. Now is the time to reflect on the lessons learned and the new strategies that can be applied in the plan towards reopening.

  • Send a short reflection survey to your team to get feedback on specific processes that worked well and those that didn’t to decide which practices to continue moving forward.
  • Use targeted, purposeful survey questions to help your team members identify the next normal.

2. Assess the Current State. Businesses refined and created new solutions and procedures to perform their jobs during the pandemic.

  • Now, to get an assessment of the current state, identify and prioritize team members’ tasks.
  • Take time to determine skills and specific tasks that are now essential due to the changing work environment. Look for ways to leverage support, mentoring and delegation within the team.

3. Engage to Manage the Movement. If you haven’t already implemented 1:1 coaching practices, now is the time to do so. This coaching is vital to help team members navigate the fear that accompanies a changing environment.

  • Establishing proactive communication is essential to cultivate trust and personal connection.
  • Encourage your team to be accountable to their own performance and establish touchpoints to discuss current priorities, their status and what they need from you. Compare lists and develop a plan for direction and support.

What is one adjustment you can make, something to stop doing or start doing, to increase your effectiveness as a coach?

Repurposed from Situational.com

5 Ways to Prevent Miscommunication from Infiltrating Your Team

Words matter and words can be misunderstood. You can break a heart or start a war simply based on the words you choose. We know communication is important – Especially now, as are working remote and stress levels are high.

Remember, everyone processes information differently. This gets into some pretty nutty areas of neuroscience and behavior. For those of you who use DiSC to aid your communications, attached is a refresher overview of how each style is wired.  

For those that are not familiar with DiSC, knowing someone’s DiSC style helps us communicate better with them.  For example, some people are good at active listening, while others are not. How we absorb and digest information is a factor as well. Some process information visually, while others process through sound or touch. Lastly, perception based on what we want to hear versus what’s said is also a huge factor.  

Conversations can easily be misinterpreted because of a combination of bad communication habits: people are hurried when they speak; they’re distracted and not actively listening; or they simply have a lack of understanding or context to what is being said.

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to miscommunication? Here are 5 steps:


1. Make sure everyone involved understands and realizes that misinterpretations are human nature. We’re all guilty of it. Just because you told someone something, doesn’t mean they got it. 


2. Be aware of yourself and others. The more you know about yourself and those with whom you’re communicating, the more effective you will be in disseminating information to ensure you are aligned with someone else. This is especially helpful for aligning with people who are wired differently than you or who come from a very different background where their understanding of something could have a wildly different meaning from what you meant. 


3. At the end of a conversation with someone, repeat what you heard. This allows for feedback on whether you understood the message in the way the speaker intended. You will be amazed by how many times the other person will say, “No, I didn’t mean that. I meant…”  You will save time by taking this simple step to being tactically aligned.


4. Leave a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to go over next steps. Allow for questions to provide further clarity or context for those who need it. This is especially important if a lot of different topics or ideas were discussed. Context shifting is a heavy task for our brains, so the more topics, the greater chance there is for tactical dissonance.


5. Account for the digital age we live in and be mindful of how you’re delivering your message.  Email is best used to spread information, like recapping action items after a meeting or sharing attachments others need, NOT for in-depth communication. This means no debating, convincing or critiquing via email—save that for face-to-face communication.

The good news is, I truly believe that our new working environment will help us develop stronger communication skills if we slow down and use this time to focus on improving the quality of our messages.

Source Excerpts from Leadercast March 2020

Two Mood-Changing Actions

The way we feel can be triggered by outside events.

And that can change how we act.

And the way we act can reinforce how we feel.

Of course, the opposite is true as well, and far more in our active control.

How we act always changes how we feel.

Two mood-changing actions:

1. This is a perfect moment for upskilling. For a sprint in learning something difficult to learn. Not because a teacher or a leader made us do it, but because we chose to. Not only do we get to keep that skill forever, but the act of taking control and expending the effort will change our mood.

  • My upskilling focus?  Continuing to add skills and practice conducting activities for our interactive virtual learning experience sessions. 

2. And this is the perfect moment for generous connection. Going way beyond the news of the day, we have the chance to create intimate digital interactions that last.

  • How are we creating connection at Aha! Leadership remotely?  We are holding virtual coffee breaks.   We are designating 20 minutes for casual conversation via video chat.  We are celebrating wins, exchanging personal updates and even sharing a funny meme or two.  It provides us the positive connection people crave. 
  • Who says you can’t have cake with coffee?  Our intern turned 20 years old this week and here is a picture of us celebrating with her virtually…pajamas and all!  While it may not be her ideal way to celebrate her new decade, I am sure it will be one she will retell fondly for years to come.  A little coordination with a family member for the surprise went a long way!

It’s a significant posture shift, one which might change who you see when you look in the mirror.

We might not be able to do anything about external events, but we have control over our actions. Sometimes, it’s hard to stare right into that opportunity, because it comes with a lot of responsibility.

As leaders of our teams, our families, people are watching….what can we model?  What will you learn today? Who will you teach?

Warmly, 

Judy Rathwell, Project Manager-Aha! Leadership

Excerpt from Seth Godin Blog  3.23.20

Giving Thanks Will Make You a Better Leader

For many people, “thanks-giving” is a tradition that happens around the dinner table once a year. But research suggests that leaders should encourage gratitude in the workplace year-round.

The Science of Gratitude:  Gratitude can be defined as a positive emotion felt after receiving something valuable. And science has shown that people who are grateful feel happier. They have an improved sense of well-being, higher self-esteem, experience less depression and anxiety, and they also sleep better.

The Gratitude Gap in the Workplace:  Despite its compelling benefits, expressing gratitude doesn’t always happen at work. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 80% of employees say they would be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

So why is there a gratitude gap in the workplace? Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant believes it’s because people don’t like to admit they need help at work, and many believe thanking someone means admitting you couldn’t do it all on your own.

How to Be More Grateful

Ready to reap gratitude’s many benefits? Luckily, you don’t need any fancy tools or advanced degrees. Here are 3 simple exercises that have been scientifically proven to boost your gratitude levels.

  1. Send a note expressing your gratitude. Writing a letter thanking someone for the positive impact he or she has had in your life is a great way to boost your gratitude. Or, send a text, if you prefer. Take out your phone right now (if it’s not out already), and send a simple text to someone you’re grateful to have in your life and let them know that you are thinking of them.
  2. Keep a gratitude journal – or even just a list. Keeping a journal of people and things for which you’re grateful can increase your feelings of gratitude. If you’re not the journaling type, don’t worry; making a short list works, too. Just jot down 3 things you’re grateful for on a Post-It note. Stick it somewhere you’ll see it often, and refresh it weekly.
  3. Take time for reflection. Simply reflecting on the many aspects of your job — large and small — for which you’re grateful can boost gratitude levels. These might include supportive work relationships, sacrifices or contributions that others have made for you, advantages or opportunities, or gratitude for the opportunity to have your job in general. Going on a short “gratitude walk” is a great way to take time out for this reflection.

 How to Increase Gratitude in the Workplace

  1. Offer thank-you cards. During his tenure at Campbell Soup, then-CEO Doug Conant wrote 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes to his employees. This practice, along with others, has been credited with how he created a culture of gratitude and turned around a struggling company. Do 30,000 letters seem daunting? Take a page out of Mark Zuckerberg’s playbook and aim for just one a day. To encourage others to do the same, emulate Starbucks and offer unlimited company thank-you cards for employees to use.
  2. Make a gratitude wall. Create a designated space for employees to share shout-outs and words of thanks. This can be a wall, a whiteboard, a flip chart in a common area…be creative! A public, anonymous display of gratitude is a great way to introduce gratitude into the workplace culture and keep employees feeling appreciated.
  3. Start meetings with gratitude. A simple way to cultivate gratitude at work is to begin meetings by sharing a short statement of appreciation (remember the difference this made in the fundraising center study!). Or, if you want to take this approach to the next level, try having everyone in the meeting share one thing they’re grateful for — it makes a great icebreaker.
  4. When things go wrong, count your blessings. It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well. But gratitude can have an even bigger impact if you’re going through a rough patch. So, next time something goes wrong at work, see if you can find the silver lining. What did you learn from the experience? What opportunity did it offer you? Share these insights with your team. Being able to be truly grateful during times of challenge and change is a great way to stop negative rumination spirals and get people motivated and energized.
  5. Be grateful for people, not performance. Sometimes, gratitude initiatives can feel like old recognition programs warmed over. To avoid this feeling, focus on social worth and think about how people have made a difference. Give thanks for people’s willingness, enthusiasm, commitment, or efforts — not their impact on the bottom line.
  6. Customize your thanks-giving. Practicing gratitude requires thinking about how specific people like to be thanked, and tailoring your gratitude accordingly. Thanking a very shy person at the global quarterly meeting might come across more like punishment than recognition.
  7. Be specific in your gratitude. Saying “thanks for being awesome” doesn’t have the same impact as “thank you for always getting to meetings 5 minutes early to set up the projector; I know that our meetings wouldn’t go as well if we didn’t have you.
  8. Don’t fake it. Authenticity and vulnerability are key parts of gratitude. If you can’t think of anything you’re truly grateful for, don’t try to fake it. Most people can tell when thanks isn’t heartfelt, and fake gratitude is probably worse than none at all.

Lastly, research shows that whether you’re an absolute novice or gratitude guru, everyone can reap the positive benefits of giving and receiving thanks. So, get out there and start encouraging more gratitude in the workplace!

Article Excerpt from the Center of Creative Leadership 2019

5 Damaging Effects Micromanagers Have On Your Team – Do you have one on your team?

Leadership is an action that empowers people – not micromanagement.  Are you or your managers leading in a way that creates a culture of trust?  Often some managers believe they must have a hand in everything or they will lose control.   Yet it is counterproductive.  This behavior breeds mistrust among their direct reports and trust is the foundation for successful relationships, employee engagement and boosting the bottom line.

 “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” ― Steve Jobs

As Brigette Hyacinth, author of The Future of Leadership: Rise of Automation, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, shares micromanagement results in 5 damaging effects to your team:

  1. Decreased Productivity – When a manager is constantly looking over their employees’ shoulders, it can lead to a lot of second-guessing and paranoia, and ultimately leads to dependent employees.
  2. Reduced Innovation – When employees feel like their ideas are invalid or live in constant fear of criticism, it’s eventually going to take a toll on creativity. In cultures where risk-taking is punished, employees will not dare to take the initiative. Why think outside the box when your manager is only going to shoot down your ideas and tell you to do it their way?
  3. Lower Morale – Employees want the feeling of autonomy. If employees cannot make decisions at all without their manager’s input, they will feel suffocated. Employees that are constantly made to feel they can’t do anything right may try harder for a while, but will eventually stop trying at all. The effects of this will be evident in falling employee engagement levels.
  4. High Staff Turnover – Most people don’t take well to being micromanaged. When talented employees are micromanaged, they often do one thing; quit. No one likes to come to work every day and feel they are walking into a penitentiary with their every move being monitored.
  5. Loss of Trust – Micromanagement will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of trust. It demotivates and demoralizes employees. Your staff will no longer see you as a manager, but an oppressor whose only job is to make their working experience miserable.

Micromanagement sucks the life out of employees, fosters anxiety and creates a high-stress work environment. If you hired someone, it means you believe they are capable of doing the job, then trust them to get it done. A high level of trust between managers and employees defines the best workplaces and drives overall company performance. When you empower employees, you promote vested interest in the company.

 If you want results:  Select the right people, provide them with the proper training, tools and support, and then give them room to get the job done!

Interested in learning more about how to build trust?  Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

The Missing Piece to Making Meetings More Effective

Meetings.  The word can solicit strong feelings about their value and level of effectiveness.  Regardless of how you feel about them, meetings are an essential part of most organizations.  Many of us practice the standard guidelines for creating a good meeting: creating a clear agenda/meeting objective, keeping time, recapping action items, inviting the right people, etc.

So how can meetings be more engaging and productive?  What’s missing? 

Knowing your audience’s personality style is often the missing piece.

 A personality assessment like EverythingDiSC® can help bridge the gap between employees and optimal workplace communication.  For example:

  • Consider that D-styles prefer meetings with minimal small talk and an agenda that everyone sticks to.
  • Allow i-styles to flourish by allowing them to express personal opinions and have open discussions with others.
  • To ensure S-styles feel comfortable, provide them with your meeting’s outline or agenda in advance so they can prepare.
  • Remember that C-styles don’t do well with making big decisions when they feel rushed or pressured.

These are some of the elements of how knowing your communication style and that of your other meeting participants can make for more effective meetings.

-Adapted from  EverythingDiSC® blog July 11, 2019

Why Keeping Commitments is Critical to Your Influence

When we think of someone with integrity, we think of someone we can count on to come through on what they promise. Unfortunately, that’s not always a safe bet today.

Over the last several years I’ve noticed a change in the way we use the word integrity. The word used to mean staying true to your word—even if it’s difficult, inconvenient, or expensive. But today I hear more and more people using the word as if it means being true to themselves—even if that means leaving someone else to clean up the mess.

This might look like a win if we’re trying to save ourselves from difficulty and discomfort, but it will come back to bite us in the end. Nothing destroys our credibility faster than bailing on a commitment.

Why is integrity so important?

  1. Trust depends on integrity. If people can’t rely on your word, they won’t trust you. They may extend some grace, but eventually, people will doubt and disbelieve.
  2. Influence depends on trust. People will refuse the influence of leaders they distrust. Just look at how this plays out in politics or the media. We follow people we trust.
  3. Impact depends on influence. You can’t make the impact you want unless you can influence others and shift their behavior.

Now think of other relationships: marriage, parenting, church, whatever. The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us. If we’re not true to our words, that means our relationships will be as unreliable as we are.

“The strength of our relationships is measured by how much people can count on us.” – Michael Hyatt, Author

Create Accountability—Reignite Your 1:1 Meetings

Great 1:1 meetings drive accountability by continuously keeping top priorities, top priorities.

 

If you feel that your one-on-ones aren’t especially useful, then it’s time to improve your process. I truly find that 1:1’s are the single most important meetings of my week. It helps me set expectations, communicate priorities, and listen to the struggles/challenges that each person on my team is having.  When done well, 1:1’s drive engagement and accountability.

 

Trap: Don’t get caught by the misconception that 1:1’s are just another meeting or that the “open door” policy is better.  I truly believe by focusing 30 min of time each week on each of your direct reports, you will free up hours of meetings by delegating decision making power, and eliminate last-minute fire drills by getting ahead of problems before they blow up while results by motive each person to stay focused on your team’s top priorities.  When done well you will also reduce email and phone calls because both of you have a predetermined weekly time to talk through or share key information.

 

How to create more effective 1:1 meetings

1-Recurring, scheduled meetings:  Weekly, bi-weekly depending on your role/business.

2-Brief – 30 minutes.  It may look like this:

15-20 min:  Progress on goals and priorities

  • Progress should be reviewed for each goal; share with your leader any issues or blockers they may need to help with to ensure that the target will be achieved.

5 min:  Share recent accomplishments – ask for feedback

  • Ask for feedback from your leader. Any good work or praiseworthy behavior should be recognized and encouraged. Be open to it. It is a gift!

5-10 min:  Development and open-ended Communication

  • Leave this open in the agenda – where does your leader need help? It may be an opportunity!!
  • What are you working to further your career development? Discuss ideas.

3-Location:  Consider having your one on one meeting outside or out of the office – the change of venue can contribute to a more relaxed session.

4-Timing:  Consider the timing for the recurring meeting.  4pm on Friday is not ideal for a focused conversation about your career development.

5-Commit to your 1 to 1 meeting – make it a priority: The first thing you need to do is make your one on one meeting a priority. It’s easy to skip meetings, so schedule a recurring calendar event each week to ensure the appropriate time is set aside.

6-Establish the 1:1 Meeting Agenda Format:  Setting a mutually agreeable agenda allows the both participants to show up prepared and with aligned expectations.

7-Prepare so you can look forward, not backward:  Thoughtful preparation. If you submit your template to your leader the day before your one on one meeting, each will arrive at the meeting knowing what will be discussed and allow you to spend the bulk of your time looking to the future, brainstorming, creating action items, and connecting personally.

8-Focus on you and your projects and development:  Avoid discussing other employees’ work during your time together, unless it’s specifically applicable to the conversation.

Leadership Aha! – The Power of Networking, It’s Easier Than You Think

You’ve no doubt heard it a million times: Career advancement is as much about who you know as what you know—and that’s exactly why being a powerful networker is so important.

And mastering this crucial skill requires more than just schmoozing over cheese platters and exchanging business cards. There’s actually an art to it. True networking in its purest form, it’s about people enjoying other people, communicating passions and connecting with others who share those passions.

It’s about listening, figuring out what others need and connecting them with people you think can help, without any designs for personal gain. The most successful networkers build genuine relationships and give more than they receive.

They go beyond thinking, “What’s in it for me?” to ask “How can I help?”   This is applies to both formal networking events as well as in our one-on-one conversation with another person.

So you have the desire to network?  Below are ways to network successfully and have fun doing it.

  1. Start networking before you need it. Networking when you have no ulterior motive, you can begin to build relationships and a reputation for being generous rather than self-serving.
  2. Have a plan – of who you are. Since every person has value, it’s essential that you know what yours is. Get clear on what talents, strengths, skill sets and connections you can bring to the table.  Map out what you want to talk about, particularly how you may be able to help other people, either now or in the future.
  3. Have a plan – Schedule time.  Aside from formal networking events, think about who you would like to reach out weekly, monthly, etc. and make a plan to do it.  Set time for lunch or send an article that is relevant to something they are interested in – show interest.
  4. Deepen Your Network Pool.  Birds of a feather flock together – the more similar someone is to you, the more comfortable it feels to connect.   We tend to hang out with people like ourselves—the same gender, ethnicity and academic background, etc., yet diversity is key to growing a strong personal network. So seek relationships with totally different people who can introduce you to brand-new social clusters.
  5. Never dismiss anyone as unimportant.  Make it your mission to discover the value in each person you talk to. Ask questions and listen with interest. Don’t make the mistake of discounting people due to their titles – they may have valuable connections or knowledge you’d never learn about if you’d dismissed them. Then, when the conversation ends, remember what that person has to offer.  This will help you in the next bullet.
  6. Forget your personal agenda and connect the dots.  While you may be tempted to network just to land a job or talk to people you normally wouldn’t have access to, that’s a mistake. Instead, make it your goal to be open, friendly and honest, and to forge connections between people who may be able to help each other. Generosity is an attractive quality and it’s something special that people will remember about you.
  7. Figure out how you can be useful. Before any conversation ends, be sure to ask, “How can I help you?” Because it’s done so rarely, you may encounter a surprised look, but it will most likely be accompanied by an appreciative smile.   People will remember you as helpful and in turn may be more apt to help you in the future.
  8. Follow up and follow through. If you told someone you’d get in touch with them, do it and reaffirm your intent to assist in any way you can. It takes no more than a minute to shoot off an email to introduce two people you want to connect. They can take it from there and do the work — just enjoy being the bridge. Little things like that mean a lot to people.
  9. Believe in the power of networking.  When you believe that the true value of networking lies in helping others and you do your part, you’ll soon discover magic happening all around you. The beauty of this approach is that you never know when that magic may cast its spell on you.

 

What are those areas you would like to expand or learn more about?  Are there events you could attend?  Or someone new to have lunch with?  The more you do it, the easier (and more enjoyable) it becomes.

 

 

Excerpts from Secrets from Power Networking Pros, Forbes 2014

 

How to Build Rapport

Why is building rapport vital in leadership?

As John C. Maxwell once said, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Rapport is defined as a close and harmonious relationship in which the people understand each other’s feelings or ideas and communicate well with each other (Websters). Building rapport and engaging people takes practice and much of it is based on intuition.  Below are some tips:

  1. Make a memorable impression.  Dress appropriately for the occasion, smile, make eye contact and show enthusiasm for what you doing – when you enjoy what you do, it shows.
  2. Be genuine.  “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”- Oscar Wilde.  You are unique with special gifts and talents – use them. not try to mimic something you are not.
  3. Show interest in hearing what others are thinking.  Ask questions.  Don’t think of a reply while the other person is talking; it limits hearing what is being said.  Be people-focused, not self-focused.
  4. Find common ground.  Use open-ended questions to discover sincere, common experiences or ways to connect based on similar interests.
  5. It’s all in the name!  Remember the other person’s name and use it in the conversation.  It’s a powerful word to the other person.
  6. Consider asking for help with a simple, non-invasive request.  People feel naturally connected to those that ask for help.
  7. Give genuine compliments.  This can go a long way towards building rapport and people appreciate it.
  8. Mirror body language.  Subtly mimicking same posture and body movements, gestures, and facial expressions helps build rapport by appearing in agreement or in support with the other person.
  9. Lose the ego.  Avoid correcting people or saying anything that could be interpreted as one-upmanship.
  10. Consider small gifts.  When people are offered something whether a physical token or with time and support, they often feel the desire to help you in return , or are more receptive to what you have to say.
  11. Have a positive attitude – this helps ensure the other person walks away feeling better for having talked with you.

How are you going to practice building rapport today?  Practice, practice, practice … makes perfect.