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

5 Reasons Why Teleconferencing is Draining Your Energy & What to Do About It

For a lot of us, the current situation we are in means we are spending a lot of time working from home and in video meetings. But why do virtual meetings seem more tiring than in person ones?

  1. We miss out on non-verbal communication. We pay attention to the facial expressions, gestures, and tone of others and respond accordingly. During in-person meetings, this processing is automatic. However, video chat requires we devote significant energy and attention to pick up on non-verbal cues.
  2. What’s going on in the background? We feel anxious about our new workspace and how it appears to our colleagues. We worry our kids, partners or parents could walk in at any moment. We also focus more of our attention on the backgrounds of others. The environment where meetings are held is also very important to our processing. We attribute certain meetings to specific rooms and adjust our behavior accordingly.
  3. No more in-passing small talk. In-person, we often meet people on the way to a meeting and have time for small talk and catching up before the meeting starts. On video, it’s all business right from the start.
  4. Watching ourselves is stressful. The heightened focus on facial cues and the ability to see ourselves has proven very stressful. Viewing negative facial expressions can intensify those feelings and emotions in ourselves and others.
  5. Silence is awkward. Silence in real-life meetings is normal and provides rhythm. However, over video, we don’t know if the other person is listening or frozen. Silence makes us anxious about technology and lagging connections.

So, how can we reduce fatigue?

Experts suggest limiting video calls to only the essentials. Additionally, turning your camera off or your screen to the side can make the call less tiring.

Restructuring meetings may also be helpful. Try introducing a shared document in addition to the video call. Make time at the beginning of the meeting for small talk and catch-ups. Check-in on the well-being of others.

Lastly, building in transition periods can help us adjust. Try stretching or doing some exercise before a video meeting. We need buffers to allow our minds to transition our focus from one thing to the next.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change” -Wayne D. Dyer

What is this Discomfort? 5 Stages of Grief and How to Handle It

Grief.  Naming our thoughts and feelings are arguably the first important step in managing them. David Kessler, an expert on grief, and the founder of grief.com has a lot to say about what we all may be experiencing right now.

The world has changed, and we know its temporary, although it doesn’t feel that way. We know things will be different. We fear the loss of normalcy, the economic toll, and loss of connection. It’s all hitting us, and we are collectively grieving. We may be feeling something called anticipatory grief.

Anticipatory grief is when we don’t know what the future holds. We know a storm is coming, but we don’t know how or when. This grief is confusing because it breaks our sense of safety. This is a common feeling in individuals or groups, but now, we are all collectively feeling it.

Understanding the stages of grief is a good place to start when learning how to manage it. The stages are not linear and don’t always happen in this order.

  • There’s denial, when we think the virus won’t affect us.
  • Then anger, where we may feel upset about our lost jobs and freedoms.
  • There’s bargaining, where we rationalize if we isolate for a short time, everything will return back to normal.
  • There’s also sadness, where we may experience intense feelings regarding the unknown ending of the virus.
  • Finally, there’s acceptance, where we recognize this is happening, and figure out how to adapt.

Acceptance is where the power lies, and we begin to focus on what we can control. Anticipatory grief takes our minds out of the present and into the imagination of the worst-case scenario. We need to learn how to find balance in the things we are thinking of and let go of what we cannot control. The goal is not to ignore our feelings, but to regain control over them.

It’s important we acknowledge what we are going through. We sometimes miss the mark and tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can, and should, stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. It’s absurd to think we shouldn’t feel grief right now. Let yourself feel the grief and keep going.

Repurposed from HBR.org, Scott Berinato

How to Teach Decision-Making to Your Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better Quality Sleep = Better Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Tips for Effective Emails

Email is a communication currency that can lose its value very quickly if not used appropriately.

We “hear” what is being said through our senses, so when we can’t see verbal cues or hear someone speak, there is a greater chance for miscommunication.  Working from home as a ‘new normal’ for many makes our email communication clarity even more critical.

To ensure your email communications are clear, we outlined the following: 

  1. Include a clear, direct subject line.   Examples include:   “New Meeting Date,” “Quick question about your presentation,” or “Suggestions for the proposal.” People often decide whether to open an email based on the subject line, so ensure yours is clear what it contains.
  2. Think twice before hitting ‘reply all.’ Refrain from hitting “reply all” unless you think everyone on the list needs to receive the email.  IF you do copy everyone, write why you are doing so – outline why the person (s) were included. 
  3. Include your auto signature. This allows your email recipient to easily contact you, in case they want to call you in reply.
  4. Use professional salutations“Hey you guys,” “Yo,” etc .  While the email may have a relaxed tone, you should still address an email professionally.
  5. Use exclamation points sparingly.  If you choose to use an exclamation point, we recommend using one to convey excitement.  If overused, you can appear too emotional/immature.
  6. Be cautious with humor.  This is one where it can get lost in translation without the right audio tone and/or facial expression.  This is best left for in-person or videoconferences.
  7. Factor in different cultures speak and write differently.  Tailor your message to the receiver’s cultural background or how well you know them.
  8. Reply to your emails.  This includes when the email was accidentally sent to you, especially if the sender is expecting a reply. Or if you were “copied” on it, you should let them know that you are intending Cathy to respond if directed to Cathy and Cathy is better equipped to handle.    Example:  “Cathy, I will assume you will reply to Joe on this issue.”
  9. Proofread every message.  Don’t rely on spell-checkers. Read and re-read your email a few times, preferably aloud, before sending it off.  Grammarly is a free tool that helps with grammar beyond email spellchecks.
  10. Add the email address last.  It is easy to hit “send” by mistake before finishing your message.  This will save a lot of headaches as you compose and proofread your message first.
  11. Double-check that you’ve selected the correct recipient.  Pay extra attention when typing a name from your address book on the email’s “To” line especially since it may autofill similar names.
  12. Nothing is confidential—so compose your emails accordingly.  Every electronic message leaves a trail.

5 Ways to Prevent Miscommunication from Infiltrating Your Team

Words matter and words can be misunderstood. You can break a heart or start a war simply based on the words you choose. We know communication is important – Especially now, as are working remote and stress levels are high.

Remember, everyone processes information differently. This gets into some pretty nutty areas of neuroscience and behavior. For those of you who use DiSC to aid your communications, attached is a refresher overview of how each style is wired.  

For those that are not familiar with DiSC, knowing someone’s DiSC style helps us communicate better with them.  For example, some people are good at active listening, while others are not. How we absorb and digest information is a factor as well. Some process information visually, while others process through sound or touch. Lastly, perception based on what we want to hear versus what’s said is also a huge factor.  

Conversations can easily be misinterpreted because of a combination of bad communication habits: people are hurried when they speak; they’re distracted and not actively listening; or they simply have a lack of understanding or context to what is being said.

So how do you prevent your team from falling prey to miscommunication? Here are 5 steps:


1. Make sure everyone involved understands and realizes that misinterpretations are human nature. We’re all guilty of it. Just because you told someone something, doesn’t mean they got it. 


2. Be aware of yourself and others. The more you know about yourself and those with whom you’re communicating, the more effective you will be in disseminating information to ensure you are aligned with someone else. This is especially helpful for aligning with people who are wired differently than you or who come from a very different background where their understanding of something could have a wildly different meaning from what you meant. 


3. At the end of a conversation with someone, repeat what you heard. This allows 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…”  You will save time by taking this simple step to being tactically aligned.


4. Leave a few minutes at the end of a conversation or meeting to go over next steps. Allow for questions to provide further clarity or context for those who need it. This is especially important if a lot of different topics or ideas were discussed. Context shifting is a heavy task for our brains, so the more topics, the greater chance there is for tactical dissonance.


5. Account for the digital age we live in and be mindful of how you’re delivering your message.  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.

The good news is, I truly believe that our new working environment will help us develop stronger communication skills if we slow down and use this time to focus on improving the quality of our messages.

Source Excerpts from Leadercast March 2020

5 Strategies for Adapting to Change

We have been forced to change the way we live and work. Most of us are working remotely and spending more time together than we ever imagined with those who share our home. We cannot avoid this change (crisis) in our lives. Our government has mandated “social-distancing” and implemented numerous Executive Orders to shelter in place. 

While not everyone has been impacted by a tragic loss of life to COVID-19, everyone is experiencing some level of loss right now. 

Perhaps it is the loss of income or your job. Perhaps your child may be missing out on the final days of their senior year in high school or college. You may be feeling the loss of quality time with important people in your life or missing anticipated events like a wedding or graduation. Big or small, these losses can feel overwhelming. 

How are you adapting to the changes (losses) in your life?

We cannot avoid unexpected events or crises, but we can use these moments to challenge ourselves to grow.  Stepping outside of your comfort zone is where the “magic” happens…where you stretch yourself and achieve something you never thought possible!  

Here are 5 ways to help you adapt:

1. Change Your Mindset – The Choice is Yours! 

We cannot control the events of change in our life, but we can control how we react to the impact that these events have on our lives. The more you use your power of choice and the more you focus your mindset on positively adapting to change, the more resilient you will be to dealing with the impact that change will bring to your life.

2. Find Your Purpose

Take time each day to plan for tomorrow. What three things will you accomplish? Define your purpose. Purpose and meaning in life give you the courage to step out of your comfort zone – which is where you will find incredible opportunities for growth and improvement.

3. Let Go 

Let go of your missed opportunities and regret things you did or did not do. You cannot change the past.  All you can do is change the future.   A simple exercise to deal with regrets is to write each one on a piece of paper. 

Then, burn them. As they disappear into ashes, out loud say goodbye to them. It is a very simple but effective way of dealing with the pile of regrets that you have collected in your lives. Use those ashes as fertilizer for a new plant or flower and watch how your past lessons can grow into something beautiful.

4. Face Your Fears

Change is scary and it is all about stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown. Train your mind to do the things that scare you by getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Make a list of scary things that you would like to do but have been too afraid to try them. Put a plan in place and then go do them! (Refer to #2)

5. Focus on Balance and Health

When you live a balanced and healthy life, you improve your resilience to the disruptions in your life. Find positive ways to deal with the stress you face each day. The key is that you commit to activities that enable you to be resilient, optimistic, physically and mentally fit to successful work through the impact that change can bring to your life.

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Benard Shaw

Sourced from an article: Adapting to Change: Why It Matters and How to Do It by Kathryn Sandford)

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!   

Sincerely,
 
Robyn Marcotte
Founder and CEO, Aha!  Leadership
Robyn.marcotte@ahaleadership.com

“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

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.”