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

10 Ways to Prevent Talent from Walking Out the Door

Many of us have those very talented friends and colleagues that are always being pursued by other organizations  – Some leave; some don’t.  Companies are often taken by surprise when the announcement comes that someone they idolized leaves for another opportunity.

In asking those that leave, many of these have rung true….“As you reflect upon the past few years, what missed opportunities did they have to retain you?”  

  1. Believe a paycheck is a retention tool. A paycheck, alone, won’t make someone stay.
  2. Act like retention is only HR’s job.  People don’t quit their company, they quit their managers and colleagues.  Retention is everyone’s job.
  3. Think you know what’s best for your employee’s career.  Employees, too, should have a say in how their career develops.
  4. Ignore the importance of culture.  If organizational values only exist on a fancy wall poster, culture isn’t being minded.
  5. Not offer professional development.  Learning doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.  It just needs to happen.
  6. Fail to develop career paths. Career growth doesn’t mean climbing the corporate ladder.  It means helping people feel like they’re progressing in their profession.
  7. Don’t tell people they matter. Employees need to feel like they count.  Small things add up.
  8. Ignore the little things.  Every employer knows your birthday, start date, and other odds and ends about you.   If they don’t use this personal information to make you feel valued, they’re missing out on easy opportunities to engage you.
  9. Fail to keep pace with workforce trends.  If software is outdated, the dress code doesn’t make sense, and there’s not a lot of focus on the workplace experience, then your business needs to catch up with the rest of the world and develop modern workforce practices.
  10. Treat your top talent like everyone else.  If you’ve got superstars, they deserve superstar treatment.  (Not diva treatment, they just need special attention so they’re developed for future opportunities.)

We know that work is a relationship between an employer (and leader) and an employee.  For any relationship to work, both have to be committed and put their best foot forward.

List first seen in a blog post from Lead Star, September 2019

Attitude or IQ, which is more important to your success?

When it comes to success, we have often been taught the value of IQ through test-taking and traditional education focus.

Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent her entire career studying attitude and performance, and her latest study shows that your attitude is a better predictor of your success than your IQ.

Dweck focuses on two core attitudes: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

Fixed mindset – you believe you are who you are and cannot change. Often leaving you feeling hopeless and overwhelmed when faced with a challenge that is more than you believe you can handle.

Growth mindset – you believe you can improve with effort.   With this attitude, most outperform because they embrace challenges and an opportunity to learn.

Many believe having an ability, like being smart, inspires confidence. It does, but only while the going is easy. The deciding factor in life is how you handle setbacks and challenges. People with a growth mindset embrace setbacks as learning opportunities.

According to Dweck, success in life is all about how you deal with failure. She describes the approach to failure of people with the growth mindset this way,

“Failure is information—we label it a failure, but it’s more like, ‘This didn’t work, and I’m a problem solver, so I’ll try something else.'”

Thankfully, your mindset is something you can change and grow.  Below are strategies that will help you do just that:

  1. Move beyond helpless. After a failure or being stuck, we can feel helpless. The key is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down and stay stuck.
  2. Be passionate.What you lack in talent, you can make up for in passion – driving your unrelenting pursuit of excellence.
  3. Take action.This helps eliminate fear and anxiety which can be paralyzing and the best way to overcome them is to take action.
  4. Expect results.  This keeps you motivated.  If you don’t think you will succeed, you may become discourages or not even try.
  5. Be flexible.Embrace adversity as a means for improvement, as opposed to something that sets you back.
  6. Don’t complain when things don’t go your way.This can become a habit!  A growth mindset looks for the opportunity.

What are some ways you encourage others (or yourself) to move from a fixed to a growth mindset?

 

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

3 Key Ways to Prevent Miscommunication

A wise man once said, communication makes friends; a lack of communication makes enemies. Our words have power!  We all know communication is important, and yet effective communication can be a battle for individuals, teams, and organizations. Communication is the gateway to clarity, which ultimately gets the right things done.

As Alan Schaefer, Branding People Together states, “to ensure we have clarity, we must consider how we share and process information. Most of us have experienced a scenario where you have a meeting with one or several people. You have a robust, or at least what appears to be forward-moving, conversation. You break the metaphorical huddle and go running whatever plays you understand to be correct. You come back together and people are so off course that you have a twilight-zone moment of disbelief wondering, Was the other person in the same conversation as the rest of us?”

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to the telephone game? Below are three ways to prevent miscommunication:

  1. Use the right format –Email? Phone?  Face to face?  We tend to default to email a lot!  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.
  2. Know Yourself and Others. The more you know about yourself and those you’re communicating with, the more effective you will be. This is especially helpful with people who are wired differently than you.
  3. Repeat and Recap.  At the end of a conversation, repeat what you heard, allowing 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…”   This includes recapping next steps if applicable.

The good news is, like anything else, you can build your communication skills and become a skilled communicator that’s productive and clear.  You are what you repeatedly do.

 Are you known as a skilled communicator?

5 Steps for Challenging the Status Quo

“Well, that’s just how we do things here… It’s how we’ve always done it… It’s best that you don’t rock the boat…”

Have you ever heard these dismissive responses when you or your colleagues have suggested changing things in the workplace? Change is always met with some resistance – just ask any visionary.

Anyone Can Challenge the Status Quo

Even when we know something should be different, we don’t always have the courage to take action. And when we do, we risk our ideas falling on deaf ears, or being overruled or ignored. These five approaches can help increase your chances of success when considering challenging to the status quo.

  1. Ask the Right Questions

If you keep asking yourself “why” when you’re following a process or regular course of action, you’ve likely identified something to be improved.

If that’s the case, ask yourself and other people questions, in order to fully understand why things are being done in a particular way. There may be good reasons that you’re unaware of, or maybe it is just because “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Listen carefully – their answers may lead to further questions, problems or solutions that you hadn’t considered.

  1. Prioritize Your Ideas

Perhaps you have a whole list of ideas that you’d like to implement. If so, it’s important to pick your battles. Being passionate about change is admirable, but rattling off new ideas every day will see people start to tune out, and your best ideas may get lost among the lesser ones.

For maximum impact, pick the ones that are most relevant and likely to succeed. Choose wisely; take time for self-reflection and factor in some personal brainstorming.

  1. Gather Allies

If you’re planning to challenge long-standing attitudes or processes, it can help to have people on your side!

Multiple perspectives can help creativity to blossom. You won’t be the only person in the office with ideas, and you might inspire others to speak up with theirs. You’ll gather allies who can support you if you meet resistance, either face-on or behind your back.

Remember, collaboration is the key to success, so it’s important to put your ego aside.

  1. Perfect Your Pitch

There’s a fine line between firm reasoning and antagonism, and change is a scary and therefore touchy subject for some people. If you’re too forceful, you risk people shutting off, and perhaps shutting down your idea before you even had the chance to sell it to them. Be sensitive to other people’s points of view. Listen to what they have to say and be clear about what’s at risk and what will be improved by your idea.

Keep your pitch short and snappy, and leave plenty of time for discussion and questions. Be sure to choose the right moment too.

  1. Keep Calm and Persevere

If you don’t succeed straight away, don’t let exhaustion, anger or stress get the better of you. It’s important not to let failures get you down. Learn from the experience and focus on turning negative emotions around. Some ideas can take a while to come to fruition.

Have you ever challenged the status quo? How did you approach it? What was the outcome? Would you do anything differently next time?

Source: Mindtools, Faye Bradshaw April 2019

An Individualized Approach to Developing Your Employees

“No matter how much success you’re having, you cannot continue working together if you can’t communicate” –James Cameron

Managers play a critical role in developing the people on their teams. Without strong leaders and a strategic management plan, people often become complacent or feel unfulfilled and “stuck” in their jobs. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. recently shared A Winning Approach to Employee Development, making it personalized to the individual by noting the following for each direct report:

  • Individualized assessments of the employee’s potential
  • Employee’s career and development goals
  • Identifying employee’s motivators. Such as do they appreciate acts of service (helping them)? Gifts (coffee cards, lunch certificates)? Quality time (regular meetings, going out to lunch together)? Words of affirmation? Etc.
  • Identifying the employee’s preferred work personality style (DiSC)

Curious about how to tailor your development approach to the employee’s preferred work styles using DiSC?  Here are some simple ways to get started:

  • For D-style employees, consider development opportunities that have the potential for impressive results, as success is typically their bottom line. Review the big picture with them and encourage them to come up with appropriate long-term goals.
  • When working with i-styles, allow them to lead small groups, as they thrive in a collaborative environment. Help them stay focused by pointing out the negative consequences of not taking enough time to develop skills with deliberate effort. 
  • For developing S-style team members, be mindful to push them gently to grow and develop—slow and steady tends to win with them. Show them that they have what it takes to work autonomously, and don’t be afraid to offer constructive feedback when necessary. 
  • With C-styles, try putting development opportunities into clear, well-organized framework. Make sure that these independent and logic-driven employees see the drawbacks of always playing it safe, and remind them to fill you in on their progress.

By communicating with our employees in the way they are wired/prefer, shows them we see and hear them – making them feel valued.  And that is a critical component to developing people.

Aha! Leadership is an authorized partner for Everything DiSC® and its tools and assessments.  If you would like to learn more about how we can help you or your employees, please email aha@ahaledership.com

3 Simple Changes That Will Improve Your Leadership Style

Leading a team is an art and a science.

Luckily, researchers at Google and Facebook have conducted extensive studies to determine the most effective leadership strategies, allowing us to tap into their data and discover the three simple changes that will improve the effectiveness and the performance of the teams you manage.

  1. Support your team, don’t lead them

Recently, leaders at Facebook shared some really fascinating strategies that they use. It all starts with a critical mentality shift.

Managers don’t “lead” teams at Facebook, they “support” them. Here’s one thing you can do to immediately increase your effectiveness with your team…Stop saying you “lead” a team.

“Whenever you are about to say “the team I lead,”  catch yourself and shift your attention.”  – Mel Robbins

Instead, teach yourself to say you support a team. This one-word shift, from lead to support, alters how you view your role as a leader and changes everything.

Try it for one week. Whenever you are about to say “the team I lead,” catch yourself and shift your attention. Never doubt that it’s the smallest changes that make the biggest impact—even something as simple as changing one word.

  1. Encourage and welcome escalation

A study found that 85 percent of employees are withholding critical feedback from their bosses.

We only do what we feel like. And if people at work feel like they’ll get in trouble if they come to you with an issue, or that it’s futile, they won’t come.

Without open and transparent communication, there is little room for innovation, collaboration, and engagement with your employees.

A few years ago, Google embarked on an initiative to study hundreds of internal teams and figure out why some teams rock and others fail.

As Google crunched the data, a concept called “psychological safety” emerged and it is one of the most important things their leaders now focus on creating. It means you operate in a manner that people feel safe coming to you with problems, challenges, and improvements.

There are two simple things you can do that create psychological safety. First, encourage and welcome escalation and concerns by showing appreciation when it happens. Second, ensure that everyone talks in meetings.

  1. Everyone’s opinion matters

Remember, your job isn’t to lead the team, but rather to support them. And that means removing the obstacles that are in your team’s way. One of the biggest obstacles you can remove is the fact that many of your team members are holding themselves back.

You are going to make sure that everyone talks and contributes in meetings.

Whenever you hold a meeting, try this:

  • Make a list of everyone attending.
  • Place a check mark next to people’s names when they talk.
  • As the same extroverts start to speak again, engage the “quiet people” by asking them for their input.

By giving someone a push to become more visible and showing interest in their inputs, you are making them know that they matter. Through this experiment, meetings will spur collaboration and open communication.

As a leader, if you pay attention to these few things, you’ll not only increase your effectiveness—you’ll be changing the way your team works together.

 

Source:  Mel Robbins, Author and Speaker

“The 5 Second Rule”

 

Why Is Change So Hard?

We all have strengths and weaknesses. The best way to improve upon our weakness is to practice a new behavior, right? Practice practice practice. But how easy is that?

The answer is not as easy as you may think. We are creatures of habit; habits we aren’t even aware of. This is why change is so hard for many of us. We can learn a new behavior, sure, but how quickly…and when does it stick?

What steps should we take to sustain changed behavior?

  • Be VERY specific on the habit you would like to create (which may also be stopping a certain behavior).
  • Understand the reason why you want to change. What are the benefits to be derived from this changed behavior?
  • Create a plan of action and STICK WITH IT! Consistency is key. Stay committed to your plan.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Our brain creates pathways for behavior. We need to repeat and repeat and repeat to create new pathways.
  • Expect resistance from your body, from your moods, added stress. This is your natural resistance to creating new pathways. Don’t give up!
  • One day, and you won’t know when and where, your behavior change will become your new habit.

If you are interested in further readings on creating habits, here are some excellent books on the topic:

  • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (name one of the best books of the year by NY Times)
  • Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results
  • 23 Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Get Results in Your Life

“Our actions change our minds, our minds can change our behaviors and our behavior can change the outcomes.”
–Manish Abraham