Developing new leaders; enhancing current leadership skills.

Constructive Feedback through This Medium Isn’t Caring and Can Be Misconstrued…

I started touring colleges this past week with my oldest son, a high schooler who’s pretty curious about the whole college experience.

I was excited about the first college we toured; I felt it suited him perfectly. We’d watched a few videos on YouTube about the school and its programs, as well as attended a virtual tour. When we got there, the first impression of the institution was solid but, within minutes, I hate to say it, the cracks in the veneer began to show.

I won’t go into details (discretion is the better form of valor), but I will say that I went from a huge fan of the college to a critical evaluator of the institute and its programs.

I started to write an email to admissions to let them know a few of my gripes, quips, and disappointments. Once the note was complete, and before I hit “send,” I re-read what I wrote and decided to hit delete. My note felt snarky and the tone just didn’t seem right. The feedback I wanted to share didn’t seem helpful and it just wasn’t meant for an email.

I opted for a phone call instead. Rather than a one-sided note flung through cyberspace, I felt that a conversation would be a better medium – it’d convey my respect, interest in helping improve the admissions process, and share helpful insight into my observations. (The call’s scheduled for this week.)

This brings me to the point of this email. I know many of us like to share feedback with others via email. I get it entirely – it feels safer to articulate our words in text and hit send than to have a face-to-face where conflict or disagreement might ensue. But have you ever thought that constructive feedback through this medium isn’t caring and can be misconstrued?

Here’s the deal – email is great for admin. You’ll need, though, either a phone call or a face-to-face when the following criteria apply:

  • You have to say something that could be taken the wrong way
  • You have critical/constructive feedback to deliver
  • There are stakes involved in the dialogue
  • You don’t want what you intend to put in writing to be printed and/or forwarded
  • The other person might feel disrespected if you don’t talk to them directly

Delivering feedback in this manner can be difficult … I know. Sometimes it’s hard to follow my own advice. But there are times when we have to remind ourselves that we’re leaders. Leaders do the hard stuff because they recognize that when things are uncomfortable, they’re stretching, growing, and probably doing the right thing.

Written by Angie Morgan via Leadstar. Visit Leadstar to read the full article.

6 Tips to Help Your Team Burn Bright Instead of Burning Out

Organizational leaders may say they are committed to employee well-being, but unintentional messages and behaviors can signal otherwise, leading employees at all levels to default to their draining routines. How we leverage time and calendars can be a powerful, reinforcing message around valuing resilience and recharge.

Six ideas to get started are:

  1. Create a daily ‘away from the office’ routine — for example, during lunchtime — to set boundaries and manage expectations.
  2. Send no email after 7 p.m. local time or opt to use “delay send.”
  3. Walk as part of your meetings. If possible, skip the video in exchange for an old-school phone call and walk while talking. Build movement into your meetings, pausing every 60 minutes or so for everyone to take a brief stroll or stretch.
  4. Consider no-meeting Fridays. If that’s too bold, start with no-meeting Friday afternoons.
  5. Schedule shorter meetings to allow for a rejuvenating “commute” between video calls and meetings. For example, 25 instead of 30 minutes…or 50 instead of 60 minutes.
  6. Surprise and delight! Give a Friday off, an extra PTO day, or another reward that makes sense for your organization.

Sustained, peak performance is achievable when individuals and organizations prioritize intentional recharging. Burnout is not an inevitable phase of our work life, nor a badge of honor to wear. With intention and attention, we can create the conditions for ourselves and our employees to burn bright.

What are ways you help your employees burn bright?  I would enjoy reading.  Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

Excerpts from Chieflearningofficer, February 2021

8 Ways to Develop Millennial Leaders

Millennials are working their way into management and leadership positions. In fact, by 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce. They have a unique opportunity to learn critical things from previous generations that have tenured leadership experience under their belts.

Here are eight pieces of wisdom that are essential for new leaders (and, if you are not a millennial, ask yourself if these tips could apply to you too):

  1. Know what it means to be a leader. As a leader, you have a great amount of influence on those who report to you. How can you use that influence to help others improve? Frequently check in with your team and ask how you can help them. Understand that leadership isn’t all about you and strive to use your influence to serve others.
  2. Develop your soft skills. Growing as a leader is a long-term journey and so is developing your soft skills. Key soft skills include emotional intelligence, empathy, communication, and problem-solving. It’s important to be aware of yourself and how you engage with others. Set up feedback systems to learn and bring awareness to your blind spots. Get a coach who can help develop your weak areas.
  3. Embrace failure. As a leader, it can be especially challenging to admit to falling short on a project or goal. Leadership requires having the courage to take ownership, especially of your mistakes. Great leaders view failure as an opportunity for growth. Having a fear of failure can hold leaders back from taking risks that may propel the organization to the next level.
  4. Be clear. Without clarity, your team may feel like they are working through a fog. They don’t know what to do to achieve the missions or goals of the organization. They may also have a difficult time embracing change, which is imperative for growth. Teams need clarity on purpose, priorities, process, performance, and problem-solving. Check-in with your team to see where they may need more clarity.
  5. Seek diversity. To be innovative, you need to have lots of ideas. If you are homogeneous in your decision making, you will have gaps in your strategy. Seek to gain insights from people of all backgrounds and build a team with multiple perspectives.
  6. Delegate, but don’t micromanage. New managers often struggle to let go of old tasks and expect people to approach opportunities the same way they did. Be mindful to let go of old responsibilities and fight the urge to think ‘it’ll be easier if I just do it’. Allow the people below you to grow.
  7. Put in place a system of accountability. Now, more than ever, millennials are pushing for flexibility and remote work opportunities. However, there needs to be some structure for measuring performance and productivity. Clear accountability consists of mutually agreed upon expectations, definitions for meeting those expectations, how expectations can be measured and monitored, and, importantly, how to communicate along the way so there are no surprises.
  8. Be a student. Leadership and learning go together. Pay attention to those around you. Learn as much as you can about your people so you can lead them to the best of your ability. Be a student to the leaders before you and learn from their mistakes and wisdom.

Leadership is a life-long journey that builds with each generation. Be a learner. Be aware. Be intentional about your influence. Implement what you learn along the way and pay it forward. Be a leader worth following.

Excerpt sourced from Leadercast.com

3 Reasons to Invest in Online Leadership Training

While the pandemic has created many unknowns, there is one thing we know for sure: businesses and organizations will face more disruptive changes in the next year than they have in the past 20. The way we lead cannot stay the same as the environment around us changes.

Leadership development and training and are essential for organizations to stay competitive and thrive. With travel and group restrictions, training programs have been halted, leaving HR leaders to deal with the fallout from pay cuts, furloughs, and eliminations. As we learn how to change and recover from the pandemic crisis, organizations are rethinking their development strategies and turning towards an online platform.

Companies waiting for the return of in-person leadership training risk falling behind companies that continue to grow their skills using other methods. In fact, market research from the Center for Creative Leadership report that 82% of organizations feel investing in leadership training gives them an advantage over competitors.

While online learning is not new, this method of developmental delivery has skyrocketed in popularity. But not everyone’s on board. Organizations without previous experience with online training may remain skeptical of the advantages of online learning. Others may have had a subpar experience with online deliveries in the past and prefer face-to-face training as a result.  However, organizations cannot afford to wait for in-person development programs to resume. Online learning is here to stay, and these programs can create similar engagement and results as in-person programs.

There are many advantages to online leadership development.

  1. According to market research from the Center for Creative Leadership, satisfaction with virtual leadership development equals that of face-to-face training.  At Aha! Leadership, we have found our online classes have similar scores as in-person workshops as well.
  2. We’ve also seen similar positive results for learning objectives and achievements.
  3. Both formats deliver an engaging experience and include the same effective elements as our in-person training, with breakout rooms, polling, quality videos, etc. 
  4. In addition to the high impact of online training, virtual leadership development programs are easily scalable to be delivered to a number of leaders.
  5. Virtual training programs are also convenient for organizations and leaders, allowing them to participate from anywhere in the world without additional travel expenses.

Online leadership development joins the remote workplace in growing with the current times and challenges. At Aha! Leadership, we seek to help you navigate these times with effective and impactful training that generates the results your organization is looking for!

Reference from the Center for Creative Leadership

3 Ways to Be an Influential Leader

Leadership provides the opportunity to influence others. It is a great joy, but also an incredible responsibility. Influence is the ability to move others from where they are now into something new. However, influence is not a one-way transaction. We are influencing others and being influenced on a daily basis. When we race through life distracted and busy, we forfeit the opportunity to intentionally influence others. Thus, we must be intentional about what we take in and how we impact those around us.

People are always tuned in and observing our actions, words, and attitudes whether we realize it or not. We can choose intentional influence, and whether our influence is positive or negative.

As leaders, we cannot settle for influence that is good enough. Great opportunities and exceptional work are never born from settling for good enough. So, how do we have influence that far surpasses good-enough thinking?

1. Make the choice to be a positive influence. Great leaders understand that influence is equally as important as reputation. Reputation precedes us, and it creates an expectation of what is to come from you. Influence generates reputation and is what’s left behind after others interact with you. It’s the piece of you that you leave with others and the sentence that comes to mind when others think of you. Having a positive impact and leaving others with a positive sentiment is a conscious choice.

2. Accept responsibility for your influence. Good leaders understand their ability to influence others. Great leaders go beyond this and also accept responsibility for what is influencing them. They guard their intake and are vigilant about how they are being influenced. They are intentional about their inner circles and what information they consume. This is critical because, ultimately, we give out what we take in. We reproduce what we are.

3. Aspire to inspire. Great leaders are inspiring, especially during challenging times. They are able to bring out the best in others and instill hope that draws people in. Great leaders are equally inspiring as they are inspired themselves. They know the purpose that drives them and tap into their mission to motivate others.

Influence is a two-way street. How others pour into you will dictate how you pour into others. Being intentional about your influence takes you, and those around you, from good enough to great.

Sourced from Kevin Brown at leadercast.com

Leadership is influence. Nothing more. Nothing less. – John Maxwell

How to Address Poor Performance and Improve Ability and Motivation

For every hundred men hacking away at the branches of a diseased tree, only one will stop to inspect the roots -Chinese Proverb

Are individual members of your team performing less well than you’d hoped for? How do you get them to improve their performance?

First, understand that performance is a function of both ability and motivation. It takes both to do a job well. So, before you address poor performance, you have to diagnose if it’s a lack of ability or low motivation.

Tips for addressing ability

  1. Resupply. Does your team member have what they need to get the job done? Ask them about additional resources. Listen for points causing frustration. Give the individual space to take responsibility and share their perspective.
  2. Retrain. Provide additional training to individuals lacking specific skills. It’s important to keep employees’ skills current to cure poor performance.
  3. Refit. If the first two steps aren’t curing the problem, consider refitting the job to the person. Are there components of the job that could be reassigned and new tasks for them to take on?
  4. Reassign. Consider reassigning the poor performer to another role. Is there another job within the company that would suit them better? Remember, this is not a punishment tactic, but a shift in skills and tasks.
  5. Release. As a final option, you may need to let the employee go. Sometimes there are not opportunities for refitting and reassignment within the organization. In these cases, the best decision may be for the individual to find other work.

Tips for improving motivation

  1. Set performance goals. Goal setting is an important aspect of performance improvement. Employees need to understand what’s expected of them and agree on the actions they must take to improve.
  2. Performance assistance. Once you’ve set performance goals, support your team member by reassessing their progress, providing necessary training, or additional resources. Encourage cooperation and assistance from other team members.
  3. Performance feedback. It’s important for the individual to understand where they stand in their performance and long-term expectations. Consider providing timely feedback, being open and honest, and encourage individuals with a reward system.

It’s important that you and the team member discuss and agree on the plan for improvement. Set specific goals with timelines and dates by which goals should be achieved. Monitor progress according to the tips above for improving ability and motivation. Goal setting, feedback and a supportive environment are necessary for improving poor performance. 

Source:  MindTools

5 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Re-entry Anxiety

As many states are set to reopen, employers are developing new procedures to keep their teams and customers safe. While this includes a lot of logistical planning, the physical well-being of employees is not the only thing to consider. Employees will have different emotional and psychological responses to these changes. Regrettably, mental and emotional health is discussed less frequently.

Anxiety is a natural reaction to an uncertain future. Employees not only worry about their physical safety but their job security as well. If employers don’t help manage this anxiety in their employees, it will affect engagement and productivity.

Here are five things that employers can use as a framework to build re-entry plans and assess progress in their employees:

  1. Make employee’s well-being your top priority. Employees want reassurance that their companies will put people first. Companies are offering more support to frontline workers and more paid sick days. Addressing employee concerns and remaining committed to their health and safety, especially during difficult times, goes a long way.
  2. Be transparent. Employees want regular, timely updates with transparent information from their employers. Open two-way information is critical for employers to deal with the economic impact of the current pandemic. Organizations that are involved with their team and engage in ongoing dialogue will be better prepared for these difficult conversations.
  3. Take action to implement public health measures. According to the CDC recommendations, employers should: extensively clean and sanitize work areas, encourage sick employees to stay home and implement flexible sick-leave policies, promote personal hygiene, provide protective equipment, and screen employees before entering the workplace. Employees need to know what measures will be implemented and how they will be enforced. They need to be reassured that steps are being taken and measures will be updated as situations evolve.
  4. Train leaders and managers to support employees. Leaders and managers will shoulder much of the responsibility when returning to the workplace. Some companies are holding ‘re-entry training” to discuss topics such as dealing with ambiguity, building personal resilience, developing emotional intelligence, and leading hybrid teams. Managers will need to be familiar with signs of emotional distress and regularly check in with their staff.
  5. Offer flexibility. The large-scale work-from-home environment has demonstrated that work can be flexible and change with the environment. As workplaces reopen, leaders should expect pressure to maintain flexibility, particularly from employees with children and sick family members.

In efforts to keep employees physically safe, employers also need to consider the impact of the current pandemic on psychological health. Growing anxiety with re-entry will impact health and work performance. Taking interest and addressing this anxiety will help companies cope with this transition and perform better in the long run.

I would enjoy hearing what you are doing to help alleviate “re-entry” anxiety – email me at robyn@ahaleadership.com

Repurposed from  Harvard Business Review

How to Teach Decision-Making to Your Team

As a leader your team must understand what you want to be done – it is just as important for them to understand why you’re making the decision you are, which means occasionally having ‘why’ chats about the decisions that are being made.

Your role as a leader is to develop the team to be able to tackle new and more challenging work, which means you don’t want them to know just what you expect of them but also the why you’re making the decisions you are so that they can learn how to think about the work, not just what to think about the work. 

Practice sharing how to think about the work. The goal is to develop each member of your team to be able to make similar decisions when the context changes. If you teach them what to do, you’re only teaching them something very contextual. In this specific circumstance, here’s the decision you should make. However, when you teach them how you think about it and why you’re making the decisions you are, you’re equipping them to be able to make decisions for themselves in other circumstances when the context is changed.

Action Steps – How to walk others through your thought process on a key decision.

  1. Frame up the decision that needs to be made.
  2. Share which variables you considered.
  3. Talk through the key reasons that made the decision you made. The key is explaining how and why each variable is critical in this situation.

Ultimately your goal is to teach your team how to think vs. tell them what to do. This takes time and the payback is magical!

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together” – African Proverb

Better Quality Sleep = Better Leader

What do Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Arianna Huffington, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos have in common?  Beyond being some of the most well-known country and business leaders, they share the belief that adequate rest and sleep is vital to being able to lead and perform their best.   

Sleep positively impacts our human capacities that are most important for leadership effectiveness:

  • creative problem-solving,
  • interpersonal savvy,
  • sound decision-making,
  • self-awareness, making connections and inferences
  • and higher energy and lower stress

Bottom line…well-rested leaders have better cognitive functions. Who wouldn’t want to work with a leader like that?

Unfortunately, 42% of leaders get fewer than 6 hours of shut-eye a night versus the recommended minimum of 7-8 for optimal repair and performance according to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership.

Organizations need leaders with the skills and capacities to engage others, steer through challenges and manage change and complexity—which is why they provide development opportunities, training, and career experiences.  But for leaders to be high performers, on top of their game, and functioning at their very best—consistently—they need sleep, too.  Click here for ways to improve your sleep from wellness expert, Andrea Cassell.

Need a mask? We can help! We teamed up with our local church to supply masks to assisted living homes and elderly care facilities. To date, this team has supplied over 2500 masks to those in need. We also care about you and your family, so if you need masks, please let us know – We are happy to help. We are in this together! Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

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