Monday, September 13, 2021

COVID-19 Has Changed Everything


COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our lives and changed everything!  We went from a booming economy to great uncertainty in what felt like a blink of an eye. We have seen illness, death, job loss, social unrest, increased anxiety, and a loss of normalcy in our lives. Let’s face it, we are all grieving over many things, including the sense of security many thought we possessed. This is the truth of it - the only things we can control are our own reactions and attitudes to what is put before us! 

As we start to wind down in 2021 and set our mind to a better 2022, I think we should seek to live out the universal commandment to love others.  The golden rule says, to treat each other as one wants to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in almost every religion and culture. 

No matter your faith perspective, there are seven key concepts to this principle:  to be patient, kind, trusting, truthful, unselfish, forgiving, and dedicated.  In this article I would like to explore three that are most needed right now:  being patient, kind, and trusting.   

It seems in 2021, we have lost our ability to have constructive conversations with those of opposing views and opinions.  This is a troubling trend. Disagreement does not have to equal conflict. With our words, we have the power to stop the negative dialogue offline and online. Let’s return to constructive dialogue. Remember to listen more and talk less. Engage in discussions that seek the truth, always try to find common ground, and in the end, be respectful.  

COVID is just downright depressing most of the time. Be more encouraging to family, friends, and those around us. You can do this by writing notes of encouragement or saying kind words for others. In turn, this kindness will impact you as well.

Years like 2021 make it harder to trust.  It is harder to trust our government leaders, to trust the future of our society, and to trust our own judgment. If you struggle with trust or having hope in the future, try to keep a broad viewpoint. I would encourage us all to remember there have been many times in history that seemed to have little hope. And yet, the world went back to thriving again. We will too.

Put patience, kindness, and trust into action in your life. 



Monday, August 30, 2021

When You Think of Leadership

 When you think of leadership what do you think of? Who do you think of?  

I think of a leader who can inspire a vision of the future and move others to it.  

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

According to the idea of transformational leadership, an effective leader is a person who does the following:

  1. Creates an inspiring vision of the future.

  2. Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.

  3. Manages delivery of the vision.

  4. Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.

Leadership brings together the skills needed to do these things. Let’s look at creating a vision for the future first. 

Creating an Inspiring Vision of the Future

In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you've achieved what you wanted to achieve.

To create a vision, leaders focus on an organization's strengths by using tools such as Porter's Five Forces, PEST Analysis, USP Analysis, Core Competence Analysis  and SWOT Analysis  to analyze their current situation. They think about how their industry is likely to evolve, and how their competitors are likely to behave. They look at how they can innovate successfully, and shape their businesses and their strategies to succeed in future marketplaces. And they test their visions with appropriate market research, and by assessing key risks using techniques.

Leadership is proactive – problem solving, looking ahead, and not being satisfied with things as they are.

Once they have developed their visions, leaders must make them compelling and convincing. A compelling vision is one that people can see, feel, understand, and embrace. Effective leaders provide a rich picture of what the future will look like when their visions have been realized. They tell inspiring stories, and explain their visions in ways that everyone can relate to. Leadership combines the analytical side of vision creation with the passion of shared values, creating something that's really meaningful to the people being led.



Monday, August 23, 2021

Taking Care of Your Tribe's Mental Health


In the world we live in, leaders must care about their team with mental health too. In the past, mental health was a very taboo subject everywhere—in the home, in schools, and especially in the “professional” workplace. The common misconception was that, if someone is experiencing mental health issues, they must be unstable, or volatile, or of unsound mind. 

This has all come into extreme focus in the last year and a half with the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, “at the end of March and in early April, [a] nonprofit organization, Mind Share Partners, conducted a study of global employees in partnership with Qualtrics and SAP. We found that the mental health of almost 42% of respondents had declined since the outbreak began.” 

Check in with your people. Show them that you care by consistently checking up on them in meaningful ways. Try to understand their context and the struggles they might be facing. Uncover those, and offer support in those areas. Just knowing that you’re there for them can make a huge difference. 

Be honest about the situation. As a leader, it’s typically a no-no to show fear to your team, but in cases like these, it helps your team when you as a leader can be vulnerable. Be honest about the struggles you’re facing as a company, and don’t sugarcoat things. However, make sure you infuse a spirit of hope into your messages, so that you’re “shooting from the hip” doesn’t turn into being a cynical realist. 

Be honest about YOUR feelings. You’re not impervious to emotions, and you’re certainly not impervious to stress. Show your team that you’re a real person, too, who is having difficulty in facing these issues. There is solidarity in knowing that people aren’t alone in suffering. It doesn’t make it hurt any less, but it helps to let your people know you’re in it together. 

Offer resources to your employees. Include in the health insurance plan options for mental healthcare providers. This also helps with the next point.

Open the dialogue. Let your people know it’s alright not to feel okay, and that there is no shame or stigma in that. Let everyone in the company know that resources are readily available to them and that they’re not alone. 

With these strategies, we can each try to be a little bit of a better, more empathetic boss, and make sure our employees are taken care of in their mental health.



Monday, August 16, 2021

Hiring and Leading During COVID-19


The hiring landscape has changed for leaders. 

Let’s take a look at what is happening in the employment sector of business. 

First, jobs are rebounding fast. Second, many jobs are going unfilled as workers try to avoid jobs that might put them at risk of contracting Covid-19. Third, many Americans are moving out of areas with the highest employment needs. Leaders today must go out of their way to try to attract talent.

After the Great Recession of the previous decade, we had hiring managers who expected candidates to bend over backwards for a role. These hiring managers became less accommodating, often asked potential recruits to go through additional rounds of interviews, and generally paid less interest to how job applicants perceived their process.  Often, they “got away” with this behavior because candidates were, indeed, desperate for an opportunity.

But several factors indicate that this downturn is different. And there are warning signs that leading this way may destroy considerable value for their firms.

The Covid job market is not like 2008, nor really like anything anyone has observed or seen since the birth of modern capitalism.

In classical business cycles, the number of openings decrease and the number of applicants increase, or vice versa. But this crisis is one of disequilibrium and structural change. Some industries and firms are devastated while others thrive, are unaffected, or have been able to rebound exceptionally quickly. The job market is experiencing something resembling an accelerated rate of a high rate of jobs disappearing and reappearing at the same time, mixed with an unusual economic downturn.

So leaders today must look at hiring and leading their teams in new ways. I would suggest they take the time to understand how much the right talent is worth. Calibrate this with how Covid is impacting talent availability for critical roles you are trying to fill. Go back to making candidates feel valuable.

Once you have your team, be the leader that also retains them. 



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Delegation and Empowerment

 The servant leaders I know have mastered the art of empowerment.

So how do you empower a team, not just delegate tasks to them?  In my experience, I learned the leader should delegate with these six behaviors:

  1. Offer Guidance - Give your teammates the training necessary; cast the vision and educate them on the purpose of the assignment. Understanding the context of their work will enable them to innovate and find alternate solutions to problems themselves. It's also likely you'll need to provide some course correction along the way.

  2. Provide Resources - Don't assume your team has the knowledge and access to get what they need. Your perspective, and perhaps position, may allow you to see more of the landscape; anticipate potential needs and acquire what's needed.

  3. Lay out the Timeline - Establish a deadline and milestones along the way for which the team will be accountable to you, with the understanding that ultimate accountability for success remains with you.

  4. Mitigate Barriers - Your team will encounter problems along the way. Issues with organizational processes; conflicts with other interests and internal friction are just a few of the realities your team may need you to address.

  5. Demonstrate Confidence - If you believe in your folks, they'll believe in themselves. Your team will also be keenly aware of how you feel about the value of the initiative and whether you are confident about success.

  6. Acknowledge and Support Efforts - Keep pace with your team's progress with appropriate recognition and reward along the way. Genuine and specific acknowledgement of milestone achievements will encourage more of them.

Without these six actions, any intended empowerment is really just delegation.

Once you've got empowerment down, you're striding easier down that now not-so-rocky path; you've got a handle on secure, self-confident leadership and you're turning the corner toward the golden milestone of true servant leadership.



Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Diversity - Why is it critical to your organization?

Promoting diversity is the first step to not just “tolerance” but true inclusion and acceptance. Through growing contact with, exposure to, and communication between people who are not like us, we can learn how to relate to difference in a way where difference doesn’t have to be a problem, a barrier, or a threat. And accidentally, we might also see that the people we assumed to be so different to us may actually have a lot more in common than they thought. Increasing familiarity with these differences (and commonalities) can shape and shift our perspectives, cultivate an acceptance that facilitates belonging, and diminish the misconceptions and prejudices that fuel discrimination.

If you experience diversity in your everyday life, you will have regular exposure to people, cultures, traditions, and practices that are unlike your own. Hopefully you will learn the skills to communicate and interact with communities, concepts, and belief systems that you are unfamiliar with and therefore gain a more worldly, balanced, and informed perspective. Not only will you enhance your own social development, but you will also increase your true understanding of the world. This will prepare you to be a part of a global society, whether you are traveling to a new country, working with people from diverse backgrounds, or just reading about events in the news that heavily impacts a population different than your own.

Hearing about another’s experience can shed light on a life different from your own and provide you a new perspective. When you contrast your struggles, needs, and values with someone else’s, you can really begin to comprehend where an individual is coming from and empathetically understand their attitudes, behaviours, and beliefs at a deeper level (through which you can more deeply understand your own). Perhaps talking to someone new will change your mind or challenge your values which on a subconscious level can seem scary for our brains, or the pay off for flexible thinking is a life where we get to see through many different lenses and experience the kaleidoscope that diversity of perspective has to offer.

To take your workplace and life to a whole new level, having diversity be a part of your plan will help you see things in a different way. 

Celebrate diversity! It helps you grow. 



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Employee Engagement - Part II


As a leader it’s tempting to believe one or more of the following half-truths. Each of these half-truths relies on the assumption that the people you lead know your intentions. And in the busy life of a leader that is a very tempting assumption. Unfortunately, they are half-truths – so you might have great intentions – your people will judge you by your actions and your engagement with them! 

Last week we talked about the first five half-truths, here are the rest:

Half Truth #6: My people understand that I give feedback when I can.

As a leader, you may feel like you’re too busy to give feedback. However, feedback is an important tool in demonstrating that you value your people. Leaders can increase engagement in the workplace by thinking of feedback as the norm, not the exception.

Half Truth #7: My people understand that I give coaching when I can.

Coaching your people is an invaluable experience for both yourself and them. However, it can be challenging for leaders to find the time to conduct formal coaching sessions. Instead of allowing coaching to fall by the wayside, it’s important to take advantage of real-time opportunities to coach.

Half Truth #8: My people understand that I make the decisions.

Your people will always expect you to make the final call on any decision. Even so, encouraging members of your team to step up and brainstorm winning ideas means that they will be more fully engaged in working towards the ultimate decision.

Half Truth #9: My people know they can trust me.

One of your most important goals as a leader is to consistently and intentionally increase trust between yourself and your team. Trust is hard to build but easy to break, which means that you can never assume you’re done working towards trust.

Half Truth #10: My people know that I’m here to help them.

From the perspective of your team, there’s a difference between knowing you exist as a resource and watching you actively look for ways to help. That might mean setting your people up for success with clients or putting in a good word when somebody’s up for promotion.

By letting go of these half-truths and instead focusing on intentional communication, leaders can tune in fully to their teams and promote high-level engagement.