8 Quick Tips to Dodge Burnout

To perform their best, leaders must nurture their minds and bodies.

Twenty years ago, the sudden emergence of ESPN’s daily poker broadcasting sparked global debate. How does card playing merit coverage, given the absence of spherical objects and sweaty high-fives? The emerging consensus that cards, chess, and spelling all qualify made sense to me only when I returned to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines an athlete as “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises… requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.” Like chess, leading change requires stamina and takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Leadership’s daily demands create a high-stress work environment. In a December survey, 76% of workers reported burnout. These challenges are especially prominent among leaders, and even pre-date the pandemic: school principals, for example, are nearly twice as likely to experience stress symptoms than the general population. Managing change daily on tight timelines requires nonstop communication, often with overstretched team members and stakeholders. The work requires the pace of a sprint for the duration of a marathon.

For both athletes and leaders, sustaining performance throughout an intense season requires careful planning and consistent execution. For their part, leaders need good mental acuity and energy to support decision-making. Leaders benefit from a comprehensive plan that parallels the holistic benefits of an athlete’s support system.

These 8 strategies create the foundation for optimal leadership performance:

1. Be clear on your priorities.

Fulfilling a leadership role requires clear vision not only for the organization but also for yourself. What is most important in your life? What do you want to drive toward, and why? How do these priorities compare with your role’s goals? Alignment between what your personal mission and your daily professional experiences is essential for fulfillment and for preventing or mitigating burnout. 

2. Fuel your mind and body.

What you eat directly impacts the quality of your thinking. Intentionality here is especially important, as high stress levels can lead to cortisol hormone spikes, which increase appetite and emotional eating behaviors. As a school leader, I often skipped meals due to a busy schedule and forgot to drink water; on other days, I chose to eat something on the go. Processed foods are low in nutrient density; consuming foods dense with nutrients — such as seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables — and sufficient water is essential for brain activity. Slowing down lets your body absorb the nutrients in your food. If you make time to sit, connect with other humans in a relaxed environment, and chew your food fully, your brain serves you better.

3. Exercise sustainably.

Athletes must move their bodies to promote recovery and strong performance. Leaders typically fall short in one of two ways. Many don’t move enough; twenty minutes of light exercise can trigger the release of serotonin, which makes you feel more focused, emotionally stable, happier, and calmer. The movement need not be extreme: walking helps you think, improves your mood, and helps you sleep better.

If you have developed an exercise habit, evaluate whether it is supporting your goals. When an intense fitness class leaves you nauseous, exhausted, or injured, how does that help you? High intensity work, in fact, can promote brain fog. Is that actually what you want to do before your strategic planning session?  The ideal is somewhere in the middle. A balance of resistance training and aerobic work appropriate for your capacity and skills will best support you. Strength training has been found to improve sleep and cognition and to alleviate anxiety and depression.

4. Sleep.

For all humans, sleep is one of the most important things you can do, yet most Americans don’t get enough. Being underslept correlates with poorer decision-making and health. The really hard part is that, when you’re sleep deprived, your brain does not realize how sleep deprived it is. Take steps to ensure you are getting the sleep you need. Wind-down routines leading to a dark, cool bedroom help you bring your best self the next day.

5. Balance work and rest. 

It’s important to think about balancing work with rest and recovery, both in the short and long term: day, week, month, year. Most people enter unsustainable professional stretches, whether driven by a new project, understaffing, or significant disruption to work conditions. The rate of work at these times must be balanced by rest in order to avoid burnout. Periodic pushes may be unavoidable, but they must be balanced with rest and recovery. Don’t throw yourself out as the starting pitcher every day all year. Build a full bullpen by empowering your team around you. There’s a reason why leagues track player minutes and throw counts precisely. You have to periodize to avoid overuse and burnout. Conventional schedules allocate time for you to rest: use your nights, weekends, and vacations to unplug and recover. 

6. Regulate your emotions.

Athletes are able to regulate their emotions to bring out their best performance. Emotional stability brings out the best performance in you and your team. Practicing mindfulness, noticing your emotions in the moment, breathing, and building awareness of specific emotions all support your ability to lead. After practicing these strategies for your own emotional health, consider creating pathways to support your team in doing the same. Cultivating a space in which people feel safe to continually improve starts with you. 

7. Learn.

Elite athletes stay on top only by getting better each day. Modern teams have improved in recent years by drawing upon new sources of information, such as video and data analytics. Leaders, too, must intentionally seek out ways to learn. Dedicate time to reflect daily on what went well and what didn’t. Actively solicit feedback from your coach and your colleagues, and show your team how you have incorporated their opinions. Creating a culture in which your team learns starts with you.

8. Build habits and routines.

40% of our behaviors are habitual. Busy schedules do not allow for daily conscious choices in prioritization, rest, nutrition, movement, learning, and emotional regulation. Building consistent routines in each of these domains is essential to bringing your best each day. In the long run, consistency outperforms short, intensive bursts.

We receive and internalize complex messages about our bodies and our work. Optimizing for leadership performance requires aligning professional and personal visions with habits. As with professional sports, leading change requires discipline around the clock to maximize your results.

Source: Leading Well, Leaders as Athletes

3 Things Your Future Employees Want (and What You Can Do About it…)

When it comes to what talent management in the future might look like, a 2020 study points to three defining priorities among knowledge workers.

The last year has forever changed the way employees view and approach work, but one thing holds true: Businesses that want to attract and retain the talent they need to move forward must understand the top priorities of their future workforce. They must embrace new, flexible work models and cultivate a workforce that can design their own careers. Employees want to determine when and where they work. They want to work with a diverse team. They want to be measured on the value they deliver, not the volume they deliver. And they expect to be given the space and trust they need to do their very best work, wherever they happen to be. Companies that understand and embrace these wants and needs will not only boost the motivation and engagement of their existing workers, but will gain the attention of the brightest new recruits and take their business to new heights.

1. Employees overwhelmingly expect flexible options.

According to the study, 88% of knowledge workers say that when searching for a new position, they will look for one that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location. Also 83% predict that in response to the global skilled talent shortage, companies will leverage flexible work models to reach out to suitable candidates no matter where they live — yet, only 66% of HR directors feel the same. What’s more:

  • 76% of the workers polled believe that employees will be more likely to prioritize lifestyle (family and personal interests) over proximity to work, and will pursue jobs in locations where they can focus on both — even if it means taking a pay cut.
  • 83% of employees think that workers will be more likely to move out of cities and other urban locations if they can work remotely for a majority of the time, creating new work hubs in rural areas.

In order to position themselves to win in the future, companies will need to meet employees where they are.

2. Employees want to re-imagine how productivity is measured.

In the future, companies will need to rethink how they measure productivity because traditional metrics — and views that real work can’t get done outside the office — will no longer cut it. According to the study, today’s employees want to be measured on the value they deliver, not the volume. And they expect to be given the space and trust they need to do their very best work, wherever they happen to be.

  • 86% of employees said they would prefer to work for a company that prioritizes outcomes over output. What does this mean? New employees want to work for a company that cares less about the qualified work output they are able to produce, and more about the impact they can deliver to the business in a holistic sense.
  • But there is a gap here, with just 69% of HR directors saying that their company currently operates in this way, and only half of HR directors saying that their organization would be more productive as a whole if employees felt that their employer/senior management team trusted them to get the job done without monitoring their progress.

Forward-thinking companies will focus on closing this gap, and will design people-centric experiences that give employees the space they need to unlock their full potential and deliver transformative results.

3. Employees want to work with a diverse team.

One thing on which both employees and managers seem to agree? Employees want to work for a company that prioritizes diversity.

  • 86% of employees and 66% of HR directors assert that a diverse workforce will become even more important as roles, skills, and company requirements change over time.
  • Honest, accessible metrics around your diversity progress and remaining gaps are critical to ensuring that efforts to build a diverse team are measurable, targeted, and impactful.

Takeaway for Leaders

What should the major takeaways be for business leaders when it comes to the implications of these findings?

1. See the forest through the trees.

Without the restriction of location, business leaders must look at their recruiting from a broader lens and expand the potential to attract employees who can boost an organization’s creativity and productivity.

They might, for instance, dip into untapped pools of talent such as the “home force” and bring back parents who’ve put their careers on hold to care for children, or people who left jobs to tend to aging relatives. It could also mean looking to Baby Boomers who’ve retired, but who still want to work a few hours per week. And it could mean enlisting more part-time, contract, and gig workers — who make up a larger percentage of the workforce than ever — to take on more hours. And, of course, it means looking for global talent that may reside anywhere.

2. Prioritize learning and development.

New business models sparked by the pandemic and changes in customer preferences and needs have given rise to new roles and opportunities for companies — and their employees — to grow. Upskilling and reskilling will be critical factor in capitalizing on them. As the study found:

  • 82% of employees and 62% of HR directors believe that workers will need to hone their current skills or acquire new ones at least once a year in order to maintain competitive advantage in a global job market.
  • HR directors believe that ensuring that an organization has the latest collaborative technology in place to enable agile learning is the most important factor in recruiting and retaining the best talent, and 88% of employees confirm this notion, saying that they look for this when searching for a new position.

It bears repeating: Organizations will need to prioritize reskilling and upskilling to attract and retain the talent they need to make their businesses grow. Those that do will not only boost the motivation of their existing workers, but will gain the attention of the brightest new recruits and position themselves to emerge from the pandemic not just where they were, but in a stronger, better position to move forward.

The last year has forever changed the way employees view and approach work, but one thing holds true: Businesses that want to attract and retain the talent they need to move forward must understand the top priorities of their future workforce. They must embrace new, flexible work models and cultivate a workforce that can design their own careers. In doing so, they will not only boost the motivation and engagement of their existing workers, but will gain the attention of the brightest new recruits and take their business to new heights.

Source: by Tim Minahan via Harvard Business Review

The Workplace Question of the Decade…

Does the boss buy your time or your productivity?

In the pre-industrial age, when we worked from home (“cottage industries”) workers got paid by the piece.

As we moved to factories, it shifted. Many workers preferred a reliable regular paycheck, and owners decided to profit by investing in productivity and keeping the upside. When new machines show up, the workers don’t get paid more, but the boss makes more.

Now, as work-from-home promises/threatens to become a norm for many knowledge workers, the question is back.

Some bosses are demanding workers return to the office, and some managers have spent the last year forcing people to endure endless zoom meetings. The mindset seems to be that if your time is what got purchased, the boss wants to be sure you’re spending all of that time at work on work, not, who knows, tending for an ill family member or something.

But as it gets easier to measure productivity and contribution, and as it gets easier to outsource any task that can be described clearly, there’s a fork in the road:

If we’re not buying or selling hours, what, exactly do we measure and how are we compensated for it? Are workers ready or open to getting a commission, a profit-share or a per-piece price? And if we’re not selling our time but our contribution, does that further self-center the culture?

And if we are buying and selling hours, how does that work when surveillance capitalism bumps into workers needing flexible schedules and the trust that it takes to develop leadership and creative contribution?

Is it okay with you, the boss, if one of your workers dramatically increases productivity through some outsourcing or tech shortcuts on their own nickel and then goes home at 2 pm every day?

Is it okay if you have another worker who works until midnight every night but doesn’t get nearly as much done?

What about a team of five deciding to skip most of their meetings, coordinate through a shared doc and put the time they save into going for a walk or thinking about the next breakthrough?

If it’s truly about what we produce, how many people on the team are aware of how much they produce? What would happen if they were?

The theory of the firm was based on two key assumptions: That workers needed to be in physical proximity to each other, and that communicating with and measuring outsiders was simply too expensive to scale. For a lot of knowledge work, neither is completely true any more, and so we have to reckon with what the right size of a ‘firm’ even is.

The very nature of the factory and employment is completely up in the air. Instead of bragging about how many employees a company has, how big the office is, how many folks are in any given meeting… some leaders may start optimizing for how few they need to get the work done.

Source: Seth Godin via Seth’s Blog

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.

The Counterintuitive Wisdom You Need to Get People to Embrace Change

Common wisdom in management science and practice has it that to build support for a change project, visionary leadership is needed to outline what is wrong with the current situation. By explaining how the envisioned change will result in a better and more appealing future, leaders can overcome resistance to change. But research, recently published in the Academy of Management Journal, leads us to add a very important caveat to this.

A root cause of resistance to change is that employees identify with and care for their organizations. People fear that after the change, the organization will no longer be the organization they value and identify with — and the higher the uncertainty surrounding the change, the more they anticipate such threats to the organizational identity they hold dear. Change leadership that emphasizes what is good about the envisioned change and bad about the current state of affairs typically fuels these fears because it signals that changes will be fundamental and far-reaching.

Counterintuitively, then, effective change leadership has to emphasize continuity — how what is central to “who we are” as an organization will be preserved, despite the uncertainty and changes on the horizon.

This is a straightforward and actionable notion that we put to the test in two studies. The first study was a survey of 209 employees and their supervisors from a number of organizations that announced organizational change plans (including relocations and business expansions, reorganizations, structural or technical changes, product changes, changes in leadership, and mergers). The focus was on how effective the leadership was in stimulating employee support for the change, measured through supervisor ratings of employee behavior. As predicted, results showed that leadership was more effective in building support for change the more that leaders also communicated a vision of continuity, because a vision of continuity instilled a sense of continuity of organizational identity in employees. These effects were larger when employees experienced more uncertainty at work (as measured by employee self-ratings).

In the second study, we tested the same idea using a laboratory experiment so that we could draw conclusions about causality. 208 business school students participated in the study, and the context was potential changes in the school’s curriculum. They received one of two messages allegedly from the dean of the business school. One conveyed a vision of change for the curriculum, and the other conveyed the same vision of change but also conveyed a vision of continuity of identity. Independent of which message they were exposed to, students received one of two versions of background information that suggested either low uncertainty or high uncertainty about change outcomes. We then assessed their sense of continuity of identity and their support for the change as expressed in actual behavior: help in drafting a letter to persuade other students to support the change. The results of this second study were similar to those of the first: Support for change was higher when the vision of change was accompanied by a vision of continuity, because in this case people’s sense of continuity of identity was higher. Again, the effects were stronger when uncertainty about the change was higher.

The implications of this research are straightforward. In overcoming resistance to change and building support for change, leaders need to communicate an appealing vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity. Unless they are able to ensure people that what defines the organization’s identity — “what makes us who we are” — will be preserved despite the changes, leaders may have to brace themselves for a wave of resistance.

Source: Harvard Business Review – by Merlijn Venus, Daan Stam, and Daan van Knippenberg

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

5 Ways to Improve Remote Performance Evaluation Discussions

As we enter a new year, organizations continue to adjust to the impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak, including an extension of work-from-home policies for many employees. As more time goes on between “what used to be” and “the new normal,” the need to establish updated procedures for employee-performance conversations has become imperative.

Employee performance conversations can be challenging for all involved, even without considerations related to working remotely during a pandemic. However, these conversations should still be a priority to ensure future productivity, maintain morale and let employees know you are invested in their performance as a member of the organization.

If your team is continuing with remote work, consider approaching performance conversations in a new way — thoughtfully, with compassion, and with a structured plan for mutually beneficial results.

Here are five ways to improve remote employee evaluations.

1-Check-in more often.

About three years ago, the University of Phoenix did away with annual performance reviews in favor of quarterly check-ins. It was a smart move then, and it makes even more sense now.

More frequent, structured conversations can help offset the lack of in-person connectivity that naturally occurs in an office setting. It also allows managers to gauge whether employees are receiving the support needed to complete tasks, meet objectives and succeed in their roles in their work-from-home environment.

These regular check-ins should be used to make sure that expectations are clearly understood and that progress is being made. Remember that in many cases, remote employees are likely not working straight through from 9 to 5 every day, so this measure no longer applies.

2-Be compassionate but firm.

Leadership in a time of uncertainty requires emotional intelligence. Every employee has challenges, some work-related and some not. From the stress of helping children with online learning to managing anxiety and depression to caring for an elderly parent, each stressor can affect an employee’s work.

Communicating with understanding lets employees know you care about their overall well-being and don’t view them as a cog in a machine. This does not mean employees should be absolved of expectations or responsibilities. It does mean you may have to think creatively and make adjustments to support their success.

For instance, managers may need to consider flexible deadlines instead of rigid ones for noncritical work or reallocate resources to see a project or assignment through to completion. Rather than changing expectations, find solutions to achieve goals. This ensures continuity for the organization and shows employees you value them. Your return on investment will be in loyalty from your employees.

3-Reflect on the past, but focus on the future.

Managers sometimes make the mistake of using performance conversations to look backward only, missing the opportunity to look forward. While evaluating an employee’s past performance is important, it shouldn’t be the sole focus of your conversation. The past can be instructive, but you cannot change it.

Instead, leverage past experiences as a way to create future successes. Performance conversations should be less about what happened during the past quarter and more about how to align to achieve success moving forward. A manager should leave a performance conversation knowing what the employee needs to effectively accomplish goals, and the employee should leave knowing the expectations. If you can effectively communicate on both ends, successful outcomes should follow.

4-Rethink your rating system.

Around the time we did away with annual reviews, UOPX also nixed the traditional rating system, such as “needs improvement, meets expectations,” etc.

Putting labels on employees does not add value. In fact, employees can become so focused on the performance review label that it distracts from what matters most in a performance conversation — setting the employee up for success.

The value is in the coaching and the feedback, not an arbitrary label or rating. That focus is even more important now as we balance the stresses of the pandemic.

5-Camera on or camera off?

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, I typically met with employees face-to-face for performance conversations, even if they telecommuted. There is value in seeing someone’s body language and hearing their tone of voice.

To personalize these conversations now, I prefer video calls to phone calls. It provides a sense of normalcy and allows for human connection. At the same time, I recognize that some employees may have reasons for keeping their camera off. In those situations, I always turn my camera on as the leader even if the employee feels more comfortable with their camera off. I want them to see they have my undivided attention.

While it may seem easier to delay performance conversations or even scrap them entirely, they are necessary now more than ever. Adjust your processes to best meet the needs of your employees, but do not do away with the opportunity to provide feedback and support for your team members.

Source:  Jeff Andes January 22, 2021, Chieflearningofficer.com

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

4 Ways to Encourage Others at Work…Use Your Words

The easiest way to have a positive impact on your colleagues is to tell them how much you value them. While supervisors and managers may try to use their words to encourage others, they often don’t do a great job. The good news is, using our words to encourage others is easily done, whether you are working onsite or remotely.

Here are a few simple tips to make your words of encouragement most effective and some common mistakes to avoid:

  1. Be personal and individualized. Statements of encouragement to a team are great, however, they are impersonal. Direct and specific communication to one person makes the affirmation more sincere.
  2. The more specific the better. One of the most common phrases team members don’t want to hear is “good job!”. The phrase is so generic it could be applied to any person at any time. Be sure to tell the employee specifically what you appreciate about them and their work.

Some specific suggestions:

  • Leave an encouraging voicemail.
  • Use sticky notes to write short messages of appreciation.
  • Recognize them during a meeting or conference call and give them an example of something they did well.
  • Tell them why what they did is important to you, the organization, or your clientele. While it may seem obvious why an employee’s work is valuable or desired, they often don’t understand the true impact of their actions. Framing encouragement in light of the big picture can make it more meaningful.
  • Keep in mind that words are not equally important to everyone. In a study with over 100,00 employees, less than 50% want appreciation through words. That tells us that 50% of employees want appreciation in ways other than words. Seek information from your employees regarding how they best experience encouragement and how receptive they are to other avenues of affirmation.

How do you encourage others at work?

Excerpt from Paul White from appreciationatwork.com

8 Tips for Effective Day-to-Day Communication

Although communication is vital, it often interrupts work flow. Valuing the time and attention of others when communicating is crucial. While keeping others in the loop is important, sharing everything is a distraction. That’s why it’s important to have effective methods for efficient communication.

  1. Utilize Chat Tools. A single centralized chat tool (Such as Slack or Teams) keeps everything together and is a central source for the entire company. Email is an important external tool but doesn’t always need to be used internally. Zoom and Skype are good tools and in-person meetings should be used more sparingly.
  2. “What did you work on today?” Automatically ask yourself and your team members “What did you work on today?”. Share the responses with the company. This creates loose accountability and strong reflection. Writing up what you accomplished every day is a great way to reflect on how you spent your time.
  3. “What will you be working on this week?” A good way to start the week is to create an automatic ask, “What will you be working on this week?” This is a chance for everyone to talk about and see the big picture. It sets your mind, and the mind of your team, up for the work ahead and allows everyone to see what’s happening.
  4. “Social questions”. Every few weeks, ask your team “What books are you reading?” Or “Try anything new lately?” Or “Anything inspire you lately?” Keep these questions optional and use them sparingly. These help to create dialogue about things people love and want to share with others. This is especially beneficial for remote teams.
  5. Reflect every 6 weeks. Every ~6 weeks, summarize the big picture accomplishments and detail the importance of your work. Highlight any challenges or difficulties. This can be a good reminder that, yes, sometimes things do go wrong. Reflect on the job well done and the progress made for the entire team or group.
  6. Project every 6 weeks. Rather than reflect, projections state what the team will accomplish in the coming weeks. The detail specific work for a specific group but can be useful for the entire company. These should be broad and don’t include too many details.
  7. Announcements. Occasionally, announcements need to be made. Whether it’s about a change in policy or reiterating an old one, these can be very beneficial. Sending out a written form of an announcement means everyone sees and hears the same information.
  8. Day to day communication requires context. Saying the right thing, in the wrong place and omitting important details, doubles the work and number of messages. Separate communication places should be set for each project, so nothing gets missed. Everything communicated relating to that project is in the same location. Communications should be attached to what they are referring to.

What has been working well with your team?  We would love to hear!  Email us at aha@ahaleadership.com

Excerpt from Basecamp

September…the New January

September offers a clean slate, a new start, and represents a new beginning. Although this September is unlike others before, it is still a change in season with different challenges and opportunities. Due to the disruption of the pandemic, more than ever we have resolutions and habits we want to start. While January is the start of a new year, September/Fall often feels like a good time to make some much-needed changes.

Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before, shares strategies of how to make and break habits. One helpful strategy is the “Strategy of the Clean Slate”. The pandemic has afforded us more time to evaluate our habits and behaviors and determine which ones are working for us and which ones may be holding us back. During times of big transition, old habits may be wiped away and we may be able to form new habits more easily. A change in personal relationships, surroundings such as moving to a new city, a life change like a new job or even minor changes like working in a new room can all offer a “clean slate” to develop new effective habits.

A previous research study has shown that 36% of people who were successful in making significant life changes in their career, education, or health behaviors, associated this success with a move to a new location. We want to take advantage of the start of a new season and take actionable steps toward change.

Take some time to consider: What new habits do I want to adopt this season? What old habits or behaviors could be holding me back from reaching my goals?

What one small, actionable step can I take this week to change or adopt a new habit?

Now is the time to make the changes we need the most.

Sourced from Gretchenrubin.com

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 Dos and Don’t for How to Lead with Respect

To gain respect, we must first give it. Respectful leadership takes us back to the basics. It is carrying ourselves with decency and treating others how they want to be treated. So, how do we lead with respect? Gregg Ward, author of The Respectful Leader: Seven Ways To Influence Without Intimidation, shares the dos and don’ts of respectful leadership: 

DO…

1. Be the first to respect. Respect is contagious. If leaders go out of their way to treat others with respect first, the people on the receiving end feel good because they were treated well. Those who receive this, then go on to treat others with respect. It is very powerful and infectious. This generates a culture of respect within the team and those who do not act respectfully will stand out and either modify their behavior or be pushed out. Holding people accountable for respectful behaviors generates productivity and partnerships. This does not mean that everyone walks on eggshells, it means that everyone follows the agreed-upon respectful norms. This behavior welcomes diversity and collaboration. 

2. Address disrespect immediately. Nipping disrespect in the bud early on is not always easy or comfortable. Molehills can become mountains quickly if disrespectful behaviors, even minor ones, are not addressed early on. As a leader, disrespectful behaviors can be addressed with what Gregg calls the SBI technique, which stands for situation, behavior, impact. For example, if an employee is consistently interrupting other team members during a meeting, after the meeting the leader should address this behavior noting the context, the behavior noticed, and the perceived impact of this behavior. Next, a request should be made for future behavior and how the team member can be held accountable. Defensiveness is normal in this stage, so empathy is vital from the leader. Additionally, these conversations should be private unless the entire group is involved in disrespectful behavior. 

3. Use a full-apology approach. If members on a team perceive the actions of the leader to be disrespectful, the same SBI approach can be used. The leader should fully apologize for the behavior by acknowledging the situation, the disrespect behavior, and the negative impact it had on the team or team member. Try not to rationalize, excuse the behavior, or use the word “but”. A genuine apology does not make excuses.  

DON’T…

1. Tolerate disrespect. The number one cause of disrespectful behavior in the workplace is stress. This is reflective of our actions and behavior. Respect helps people during stressful situations. Leaders should not tolerate disrespectful behaviors, especially during stressful periods. Maintaining respect while experiencing high-levels of stress, generates self-confidence, and reinforces the importance of respect within the team. This is not easy but is very powerful. 

2. Don’t be distracted. The biggest distraction when it comes to respectful leadership is our cellphones. Leaders can easily be distracted by others trying to communicate with them instead of the meeting in front of them. If leaders can’t focus on the meeting, it sends a message of disrespect to the team. Leaders cannot pay attention to others and external communication at the same time. 

Sustainable, respectful practices are really good for business and team productivity. The best leaders create an environment of respect, not only at work but also in life. 

Article source – leadercast.com

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

3 Tips for Successfully Leading Your Team Back to the Office

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repurposed from Situational.com

The Future Workforce – 8 Ways Today’s Crisis Will Change It

This year’s pandemic has created a universal shift and a subsequent ripple effect into relationships, education, technology, and importantly, the workforce.

The way we operate will forever change as the world transitions back to “normal”. The biggest changes will arguably affect the future of the workforce, Gen Z (those born after 1998). As they begin to enter the workforce, Gen Zers face challenges like no other generation before them, which will inevitably guide their decision making, behaviors and expectations. Just like 9/11 changed travel forever, this pandemic will change the workforce forever in eight major ways:

  1. Deeper dependence on technology. The world has made a dramatic shift from physical workspaces and in-person interactions to digital platforms and at-home workspaces. The new demand for technology, coupled with the technological-intelligence of Gen Z, will escalate the dependence on new technology in the workplace.
  2. Unconventional educational backgrounds. Over 290 million students around the world are impacted by school closures. Over 62 percent of students themselves report they would choose no college degree and unlimited internet access over a college degree and no internet access. Employers adapt as 90 percent say they are more open to accepting candidates without a four-year college degree. The value on higher education could erode for students, parents and employers as we know it.
  3. Entering careers sooner. There are more alternatives to a college education available now than ever before. Online certifications, digital portfolios and nano-degrees provide alternative learning and development. In fact, 62 percent of Gen Z report they are open to the idea of entering the workforce before completing a college degree.
  4. Enhanced value of learning and development. While Gen Z enters the workforce sooner, this will inevitably place emphasis on the employer to provide the necessary training for hard and soft skills. Employers who deliver learning that Gen Z uses, enjoys and applies will have the advantage.
  5. Revised view of employers. With remote working on the rise, work and life have fully merged. It’s becoming more difficult for Gen Z to distinguish where work stops, and life starts. Expect Gen Z to adapt by viewing employers as a means of support, wellness and education.
  6. Uncommon career paths. Gen Z workers are losing more work hours than any other demographic as 29 percent of Gen Z works have been put on leave. Given these numbers, Gen Z will experience diversification of income and participate more in gig jobs. As gig work becomes more accessible and lucrative, expect uncommon careers to be the future.
  7. Demand for emotionally intelligent leaders. Gen Z is the most anxious, stressed and lonely generation. After this time of uncertainty passes, Gen Z will look to their leaders for connection, assurance, and empathy delivered by emotionally intelligent leaders.
  8. Greater global unity. Not only is Gen Z more connected globally than any other generation, but they are also now experiencing a global health crisis. The number of Gen Zers who identify as a global citizen is likely to rise. The workforce will demand more diversity and inclusion from future leaders and employers.

Repurposed From entrepreneur.com

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change” – Albert Einstein

Listening is an Action – Will you Listen to Create Change?

Black Lives Matter 

At Aha! Leadership we stand in support with all humanity. In light of recent events, we unite with the black community and recognize that racism is real. 

Leaders must lead by being willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations that drive change. The next right step is to listen and learn. 

There is a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing happens when we’re able to recognize a sound. Listening happens when we put in the effort (action) to understand what it means.  And when we take action, change happens.

As a leader, ask yourself….

  • Are you willing to lead?
  • Are you willing to step into uncomfortable territory?  
  • Are you willing to really listen to others?  
  • Are you willing to act on what you learn? 

Being receptive and understanding others are key components to creating a respectful workplace. 

Please know, we are here to help your team listen, learn and create an inclusive workplace. 

Please email Stephanie Gibbons stephanie@ahaleadership.com or Robyn Marcotte robyn@ahaleadership.com.

“To understand and be understood – those are among life’s greatest gifts and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”   – Maria Papova, writer