Gratitude is Important in Difficult Times

Many things this year have been different than we’ve expected. It’s been a year of constant stressors, changes, and adjustments we never thought we’d have to make. I think we can all agree—it’s been a really difficult year.

And it’s okay for gratitude to look a bit different this year too. Although expressing gratitude is something we know we should do, being thankful in difficult seasons is easier said than done. One place we can start is by calling out the disappointment. It’s okay to be upset that this holiday season doesn’t look like we thought it would. It’s okay to feel the weight of the changes we’ve been through this year. From validating and acknowledging what exists inside us, we can begin to expand our minds to see the good.

  • What are some positive unexpected things that have come out of this year?
  • In what ways did you grow, adapt, or change for the better?
  • What blessings have you experienced?

I am incredibly blessed and thankful for all of you. Thank you all for being with us during a difficult year. For your willingness to learn and your openness to new ideas and training. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your passionate stories. Thank you for challenging us to grow with you. We have learned so much from your strength and watching you lead others through this unexpected time.

Thank you all and Happy Thanksgiving!

Robyn Marcotte, Founder and CEO, Aha! Leadership

Why Advice Doesn’t Work

Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of The Advice Trap, writes why it’s important for leaders to silence their “Advice Monsters”, start listening and get curious. Michael states that the “Advice Trap” is the pattern of behavior where we give out answers more than we listen. He says advice doesn’t really work anymore for 3 reasons:

1. What you think is the problem isn’t the real problem. People talk about the problems that are on the forefront of their minds. It’s their ‘best guess’ at what the real problem is. Challenges arise when we try to give advice for the symptom, rather than the real problem.

2. Our advice isn’t as good as we think it is. And is usually based on our experience.  We have a cognitive bias. Advice is our best guess; however, we think we are better at giving advice then we actually are.

3. Giving advice is not the best form of leadership. Think through your intent for giving advice.  Is it more important for you to be right and have the best idea?  Or to provide someone else with the opportunity to come up with their own idea and take ownership of it?

Michael challenges leaders to resist giving the answer as long as possible until it is the right moment. There is a right moment to give advice – it is best to take pause and determine when that is…and why you are giving it.

Repurposed from

Trust Powers Productivity and Reveals Gaps

Trust fuels productivity. The key to having a productive organization is having a trusting organization.

  • Trust says:  “I think you are smart enough to know what to do and how to do it, and if you screw up, I think you’ll tell me and then fix it.”
  • Trust says:  “If there is a gap between what I expect and what I experience, I believe you’re smart enough to know how to fix it and tell me if you are not”.

That is the true culture of trust and when it’s established, it’s contagious.

It’s equally important to recognize what trust is not.

  • Trust is not a culture where team members are constantly trying to figure out what the leader would do.
  • Trust is not trying to please your boss. Trust requires teams to spend time doing what is best for the organization. In a culture of trust, employees are hired because they are trusted to get the job done. If mistakes are made, they are trusted to take ownership and fix them.

A culture of trust attracts trustworthy people. The secret to driving out untrustworthy people is to trust them. By assuming the best, the quicker people who aren’t the best will surface. This may seem counterintuitive, but by micromanaging and harboring an untrustworthy culture, the longer untrustworthy people can hide. Great people don’t want to work in this type of environment. Great, trustworthy people want to work in an environment where they are trusted to get the job done and take ownership of their mistakes.

In a quote from the book by Jim Collins, “How the Mighty Fall”, he writes “The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you might have made a hiring mistake.” If this problem is not addressed first and foremost, it may result in a culture of distrust in the team and the organization.

Repurposed from Leadercast

5 Ways to Lead through Ambiguity

More than ever, we are faced with VUCA times!  VUCA stands for…

Volatile – ever-changing

Uncertain – we can’t predict the future

Complex – there are many interconnected factors

Ambiguous – there are many interpretations

These are the conditions we find ourselves in these unprecedented times. Consider for a moment amid all that is COVID-19 that the last thing we want from anybody we look to for leadership right now is social distance. Physical distance—absolutely! Social distance—absolutely not!

What can we do as leaders, colleagues, employees, to help ourselves and others through this?

  1. Extend Trust – as we and our team members learn the new normal of working conditions, understand there will be a dip in performance at first.   The team will adjust and don’t assume they are not working if they don’t pick up the phone or respond to a ping immediately.  We did not expect this before when we were all in the office together, so extend it here even while captive at home. 
  2. Be vulnerable!  Let them know you have some anxiety too, but that you are there for them and believe in your team to get everyone through this.
  3. Set expectations daily/weekly, yet be flexible.  Team members may have uncertainty with priorities and what to focus on….and you have as well.  Discuss and help prioritize together – and be crystal clear on your expectations.  Let your team know you understand they may have distractions at home and that traditional ‘normal’ working hours may look different right now. 
  4. Stay connected!  Use a virtual tool and meet with your team and colleagues ‘face to face’ by conducting a video conference.  The impact of seeing your face is powerful to them feeling your support.
  5. Support each other…upward, downward and cross-functionally.  Connect with each other and share challenges and practices that are working for you and learn from others.  It’s easier than ever to be “silo’ed”.  Don’t let it happen.

As you have heard on the news, “we are in this together.”  Aha! Leadership is in this with you as well.  Reach out to us if there is any way we can support your team through this transition.

“Don’t GO through this adversity, GROW through this adversity!” – Darren Hardy

16 Tips for Effective Videoconferencing

As we acknowledge our ‘new normal’ for engaging in business, including working remotely, we want to help make your online meetings meaningful and productive with these tips for video conferencing.

1. Computer positioning. Position your computer back a little to create a shoulder/headshot view vs. face only, so everyone does not feel on top of each other.
2. Prop to eye level.  Prop your computer webcam up to eye level.  Try using a ream of paper under your laptop to position it up for web calls.
3. Turn on your video camera.  Humanize the meeting by turning on your camera so people can see you – and set the standard for others to do the same.  We are social creatures and this aids connection. 
4. Use a headset.  Use an external microphone or headset to eliminate background noise.
5. Hit mute.  When you’re not talking, hit mute.
6. Unclutter your background….position it for a less cluttered background.  Some services even allow you to blur your background.
7. Momentarily unshare if… you need to walk away, let the team know and unshare your screen for a moment.
8. Add a professional picture to your webinar profile, so if you are unable to share your screen, people can still see your smiling face.
9. Don’t sit with the window behind you. The glare is blinding for others.  A little effort on lighting goes a very long way.
10. Look at the camera.  When you’re talking, spend some time looking at the camera, not the screen. You’ll appear more earnest and honest this way.
11. When you’re talking, go slow. To ensure understanding while using this new medium for many.
12. Don’t walk if you’re using a phone. And if you’re using a laptop, put it on a desk/table and prop it to be eye level vs. on your lap. 
13. Organize yourself and materials before the meeting if you are hosting.  Have all your documents open that you will be sharing during the meeting so you can share your screen vs. scrolling through your computer folders while on the call.
14. Assign a partner to aid you as the meeting host. They can help with follow-up or aid people with technical issues or manage the webinar chat box so that it does not derail the rest of the participants.
15. Have an email/cell phone list of participants available if you need to email or provide information while on the call.
16. …and remember to SMILE!  It uplifts you and all during this social distancing time in our lives.

For many, working remotely is new and for others, it is not.  We all need to practice patience and empathy as we learn this ‘new normal’ together.

People want to connect and have a conversation. They don’t want to be talked to.  So remember to slow down, engage and talk with people. Connecting as human beings will add more value than making sure you get through all of your content.   

We, at Aha! Leadership, have been working remotely and conducting training in a webinar format for 10 years.  If we can help answer any questions or just want to pick our brain, please reach out to us.  We would be happy to be there for you!   

Robyn Marcotte
Founder and CEO, Aha!  Leadership

“The human has been working from home the last couple of days and every so often, they let me participate in the video calls.  All the other humans cheer when they see me.  I am the only thing holding their company together.”  — Dogs everywhere

6 Ways to Cultivate the Power of Respect

A little respect goes a long way.

In fact, when it comes to addressing conflict or tension, treating people with respect on a daily basis is one of the most helpful things a leader can do.

“At work and in our communities, we are often faced with uncertainty or tension around our differences,” says Center for Creative Leadership’s Kelly Hannum, co-author of our research on Leading Across Differences.

That’s why a key challenge for leaders is to help establish and nurture respectful relationships among many different groups.

3 Indicators of Respect

As part of her research, a survey of 3,041 individuals across 10 countries revealed that being respectful is not just helpful when addressing conflicts between groups; it’s also viewed as a critical leadership responsibility and is not as intuitive as people you may think.

Hannum identifies 3 key factors from the research that indicate what respect really means to people:

  1. Respect is about listening. People feel respected when they have been heard and understood. Being genuinely interested in and open to others strengthens relationships and builds trust. You don’t need to agree with or like the other person’s viewpoint. Taking the time to listen to someone’s experience, ideas, and perspectives is respectful, even if you choose another path.
  2. Respect isn’t the absence of disrespect. Eliminating active disrespect — such as rude, insulting, or devaluing words or behaviors — doesn’t create respect. Respect is an action: We show respect; we act respectfully; we speak with respect. “Leaders need to know that the absence of disrespect doesn’t have the same positive impact in resolving disagreement, conflict, or tension as does the presence of respect,” says Hannum.
  3. Respect is shown in many ways. The perception of respect is influenced by culture and family, peers, and social relationships. Status, power, and role all create the context in which respect is interpreted. Leaders need to take the time to understand how respect is given and received in cultures and groups other than the ones they think of as “normal.”

How to Cultivate Respect in Your Organization

You can help cultivate a climate of respect in the following ways:

  1. Exhibit an interest in and appreciation of others’ perspectives, knowledge, skills, and abilities.
  2. Express recognition and gratitude for the efforts and contributions of others.
  3. Openly communicate information about policies and procedures so everyone has access to and is operating with similar information.
  4. Clarify decision-making processes, and when appropriate, seek input into those processes.
  5. Take concerns seriously.
  6. If someone or a group feels “wronged,” seek to understand that perspective and offer a genuine apology if warranted.

At its core, respect is a continuous process of paying attention to people. We get into habits and make assumptions that, if unchecked, can lead to misunderstandings and ineffective behaviors.

Source: Article by Center for Creative Leadership 2020

6 Ways to Speak Like You Mean It

Repetition can be a useful communication tool, but if you find that you constantly needing to repeat yourself, your communication style may be to blame. By following the six part “speak like you mean it” framework you can spend less time repeating yourself, and more time on what matters.

  1. Be authentic. Be true to who you are when you communicate.
  2. Be clear. Think about the recipient, is your message clear to them?
  3. Use influence. What does your message mean for your team? Keep it relevant and influential to what’s going on now.
  4. Inspire. When your team member feels it, they’re more likely to be part of it.
  5. Use physical and vocal energy. Your body language and tone help you connect with your message recipient.
  6. Bring the conversation to life. Stories, anecdotes, and metaphors make the conversation more relatable.

By using this framework, you can get your message across most effectively. Staying on the same page with your team takes work, but speaking like you mean it can make things easier!

“If you aren’t authentic and people don’t feel that you’re being real, it’s a little bit like a dart hitting a dartboard, but there’s no point on it… you can’t connect with somebody who’s not real.”
— Melissa Gordon

Adapted from Leadercast.

28 Top Books to Get Ahead in 2018

28 Top Books to Get Ahead in 2018

2018 is an open book of possibilities, and it’s time to start reading! Reading is known to be one of the primary habits of ultra-successful people, and can open up a world of new ideas and new possibilities.

Start off the New Year right by resolving to read! Here is a list of 28 business books to add to your tablet (or your night stand):

  1. Outside Insight: Navigating a World Drowning in Data by Jørn Lyseggen
  2. Hug Your Haters by Jay Baer
  3. Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships by Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh
  4. Selling Vision by Lou Schachter and Rick Cheatam
  5. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.
  6. The Startup Hero’s Pledge by Tim Draper
  7. Leading Through the Turn: How a Journey Mindset Can Help Leaders Find Success and Significance by Elise Mitchell
  8. Surviving the Tech Storm: Strategy in Times of Technological Uncertainty by Nicklas Bergman
  9. Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing by Robert Glazer
  10. They Ask, You Answer by Marcus Sheridan
  11. Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao
  12. The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone by Brian Merchant
  13. Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
  14. You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth by Jen Sincero
  15. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
  16. Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong by Eric Barker
  17. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  18. Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies by Geoffrey West.
  19. The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams by Sam Walker.
  20. The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone
  21. Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins
  22. What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring
  23. Learn Better: Mastering the Skills for Success in Life, Business, and School, or, How to Become an Expert in Just About Anything by Ulrich Boser
  24. Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm by Christian Madsbjerg
  25. Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Greater Success by Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch, Sean Lynch and Frederick W. Smith
  26. The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach
  27. Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction by Derek Thompson
  28. Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention by John Ruhlin

That should get you started for a great year of exploring new ideas and experiencing new challenges!

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” – Amelia Earhart

10 Simple Tricks to Maximize Your Mental Strength

man reaching for sky

Great leaders stand out for their ability to disrupt the status quo. They have the courage to make bold moves, and to innovate new solutions to old problems. Where others see impenetrable barriers, they see challenges to overcome.

This knack for seizing opportunity when things look bleak is not an innate ability that a fortunate few are born with. Instead, it represents a mental strength that is built over time and economically used. Developing mental strength takes intention, focus, and daily practice; and so does spending your mental resources wisely. Start with these 10 practices to work out your mental muscles, and to make the most out of the mental energy you have:

  1. Establish goals: with each goal you achieve, you’ll gain more confidence in your ability to succeed.
  2. Set yourself up for success: Stop wasting your energy resisting temptation or trying to find the tools you need. Want to eat better? Stock your pantry with healthy food. Want to limit distractions? Place your phone in a drawer.
  3. Tolerate discomfort: Don’t let yourself use short-term solutions to address long term problems. Instead, taking care of things the right way the first time, can help you maintain your mental reserves.
  4. Reframe your negative thoughts: Replace overly pessimistic thoughts with more realistic expectations to help you stay on track. “This is too hard to do” becomes “I am going to have to figure out a different approach”.
  5. Seek balance between emotions and logic: You can confidently move forward with decisions when your emotions and logic are in sync. Strive for a balance that allows you to live compassionately and rationally.
  6. Work towards your purpose: Write out your personal mission statement to remind yourself why it’s important you keep going, and to help you spend your mental energy where it matters most.
  7. Look for reasons, not excuses: Acknowledge and face your mistakes so you can learn from them and avoid repeating them in the future; without wasting energy dwelling on them.
  8. Say no: When you’ve reached your limit, say no with confidence. Saying no to a new commitment honors your existing commitments and allows you to successfully fulfill them.
  9. Overcome procrastination: Recognize that there is no magic time in the future where you will suddenly want to do the undesirable task. You are as motivated to complete the task now as you ever will be. Start now, and get it done! The more your practice this, the easier it becomes.
  10. Take care of yourself physically: Getting enough sleep, and eating the right foods can ensure you have the reserves you need to keep going, even as things get tough!

“I attribute my success to this – I never gave or took any excuse” – Florence Nightingale

Be a Backpack Buddy and Aha! Leadership Will Match Your Donation

Girl picture backpack buddy

Be a Beacon of Hope! Reach Out to Support Low Income Students this School Year

The students who attend Beacon Elementary in Harper Woods are extraordinary leaders in the making! With the new school year on the horizon, many of Beacon’s students are facing a big challenge: starting the school year off right.

100% of Beacon’s students receive free and reduced lunch. This means all of the students who attend Beacon are provided breakfast, lunch, and a snack daily based on household income. Some of Beacon’s most vulnerable families struggle to provide the basic school supplies. That’s where you come in!

Members of Beacon’s staff are teaming up with Ward Church in Northville to provide 50 backpacks. Each backpack is chock full of the supplies one student needs to thrive this year! While any amount is appreciated, a gift of $25 gives one kid everything they need for the first day of school.

… AND for every child that one of our friends sponsor, Aha! Leadership will sponsor one in kind.

  • Donations can be made online and are tax deductible. Visit this link to make a donation.
  • In “select a designation”, please choose “Outreach Backpack Drive”

Together we can help develop future leaders!

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.” -Mother Teresa