Optimism: Your Secret Weapon in 2020!

 

As an optimist myself, I know first-hand the power of optimism and the benefits it has on all areas of life.

Highly effective, optimistic leaders have a transforming effect on their teams: they have the gift of being able to convince others that they can achieve levels of performance beyond what they thought possible. They move others from being stuck with “how things are done around here” and help them see “how things could be done better.”

Consider, as well, the reverse. Those who have a pessimistic outlook typically approach changes to the status quo with the familiar: “We tried this before”, “It won’t work”, or “It will never fly.” Such individuals often label themselves as “devil’s advocate.” How can someone who has a pessimistic outlook embrace change over the safety of the known?

Countless studies have shown that people with an optimistic outlook have healthier relationships, enjoy better mental and physical health and live longer.

So, where does optimism come from? Is it something we are born with or is it learned? For some lucky individuals, like me, being optimistic comes naturally. The good news is that, for those who don’t have it naturally, optimism is an attitude that can be learned and practiced. Here are some strategies to consider in your journey to becoming more optimistic or in helping someone else who suffers from pessimism:

  1. Avoid negative environments. If this is not realistic, make every effort to seek the company of positive individuals in your organization.
  2. Celebrate your strengths. The key to high achievement and happiness is to play out your strengths, not correct your weaknesses. Focus on what you do well.
  3. Take care of your spiritual and emotional well-being by reading inspirational material on a daily basis.
  4. Manage or ignore what you cannot change. When faced with setbacks, identify what you can change and proactively try to find ways to do something about it.
  5. Learn to reframe. This involved deliberately shifting perspective and looking for the hidden positive in a negative situation: the proverbial silver lining.
  6. Adapt your language and outlook. Consider how a simple shift in the language you use can make a difference in your outlook: do you frequently say: “yes, but….” in response to your constituents’ suggestions? The “but” automatically negates anything you have said in the beginning part of the sentence. A simple shift to “yes, and…” might make a positive difference.
  7. Focus outside yourself, on important people in your life, on pursuits and projects that fire you up.
  8. Nurture a culture of optimism when you are in charge of other people at work. Expect people to succeed. Even when they occasionally fail to achieve what they set out to do, encourage them so that they can tackle the next challenge. A simple: “I know you’ll do better the next time” can have very positive effects.
  9. Cultivate spontaneity. Getting out of your comfort zone by being spontaneous helps to develop your optimistic muscle, as spontaneity essentially involves an expectation of having a positive experience.

You can do it! Make this part of your growth plan for 2020 and see how contagious your optimism can be! Practice seeing the opportunity.

I would enjoy hearing your stories – connect with us on LinkedIn or email me at robyn.marcotte@ahaleadership.com

Robyn Marcotte

CEO and Founder, Aha! Leadership

Winston Churchill had a reason for saying: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

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

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?

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

Challenge: Touch Emails Only Once – 2 Easy Tips

Let’s be honest. How many times do you read the same email message over and over again?  Guess what? The information hasn’t changed. You’re just procrastinating.

I have a personal rule: I will only read each message once, then take the appropriate action. The goal is “Inbox: 0” every day. Now, honestly, I don’t do it every day.

I do it almost every day, and I always keep my emails under a hundred. But I have met people who have thousands of emails in their inbox—with hundreds, sometimes even more than a thousand, unread. This is not helpful. Not only is it potentially bad for your personal brand, it also makes email far more time-consuming than it needs to be.

The key is not to get bogged down, to keep moving, to deal with each email message once and only once. The way you do this is to start by asking, is this email actionable? Does somebody expect me to do something with this email, or is it asking me to do something?

  • If no, there are three possibilities;
  • If yes, there are three different possibilities.

These are taken from David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done. And this summary will help you deal specifically with your email.

TIP 1: HOW TO PROCESS NON-ACTIONABLE EMAIL

If the answer to the question ‘Is this email actionable?’ is NO, then you have three options.

  • Delete it. Yes, there really is a delete key when it comes to email. My own philosophy is if it’s really important, somebody else somewhere in the world has a copy.
  • Add it to you Someday/Maybe list. If I don’t want to lose the idea but there’s nothing to do with it just yet, I can drag it into Evernote or a saved folder and return to it another time.
  • File it. When in doubt, file. Why? Because you can always get back to it if need be, and it really doesn’t take up a lot of space. Here is what’s important: I use one and only one folder for my filing. It’s called “Processed Email.” The reason I do this is because it keeps me from getting distracted and wasting time. The moment I have to start answering questions like, “Where am I going to file this? This is about Project X from Client Y, so do I file it in Project X? Or do I file it under Client Y? What if it’s about two projects? Do I make a copy and put a copy in each folder?” It can become very complex very quickly. And that means time down the drain. Instead, I just put it all in one folder and let the software do the searching when I need to find that message. I can get back to almost any message in a matter of seconds. It takes less time than me having to remember what folder I filed it in. But what if the email is actionable?

 

TIP 2: HOW TO PROCESS ACTIONABLE EMAIL

  • Just do it. Here is where I use David Allen’s two-minute rule. If you can take care of the action in two minutes or less, why even take the time to put it in your task list? You run the risk of losing it, not getting back to it, or not being as responsive as you’d like to be. So just go ahead and do it.
  • Defer it. It may need to get done, but it doesn’t need to get done now. So go ahead and put it on your calendar, create a reminder, but defer the action until a later time. You can drag the email to Processed and set a reminder in a task manager like Basecamp. You can also drag the email into Evernote or Notes and add a reminder. Email apps like Dropbox’s Mailbox let you defer emails with a swipe or place it on a todo list. However you manage it, the thing is to get it out of your email inbox.
  • Delegate it. I am preaching to myself here, by the way. I’m kind of a control freak, and I have this unspoken assumption that nobody can do it as well as I can do it. But the simple truth is that we’re not always the best person to handle every task. You probably have other people on your team more competent than you at one task or another. They may be colleagues. They could be contractors.

 

Recommended Resource: Robyn Marcotte’s note:   One of our favorite Podcasts is Michael Hyatt’s Lead to Win

Check it out here:  https://michaelhyatt.com/leadtowin/

 

Source: Excerpt From Michael Hyatt’s “How To Shave 10 Hours Off Your Work Week”

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