Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

Strengthen Your Workplace Teams

As a leader, what is your strategy to strengthen your workplace teams? The way we live and work has changed tremendously over the past nine months. In many organizations, this shift occurred in a matter of weeks, if not days. As leaders offered greater flexibility, employees quickly adapted to new demands and learned and improved their skills. Organizations that have proven to be most resilient moved to or expanded their online capacities and reconfigured their supply chain and delivery options. Simultaneously, they improved their diversity, equity, and inclusion outcomes. Their ability to respond quickly has ensured continuity, and in some cases, increased productivity. But we’re not out of the woods. All leaders and employees will need to continue to strengthen their organization. As McKinsey & Company reported in October 2020, “corporate stress is now at the same point as it was in the 2009 trough, arriving in only months versus two years.” Employees will look to their leaders to help them adapt, and while some are well-prepared with knowledge, experience, and a leadership style that inspires others to achieve real solutions, many lack what it takes to overcome the challenges ahead. Why? Sustainability In Times of Crisis Traditionally, in times of crisis organizations have relied on a conservative, by-the-book leadership style, and as McKinsey writes, three specific attributes of resilience: margin improvement, revenue growth, and optionality (retained additional optional investment opportunities). But the divisions and polarization that exist today require a vision, strategy, and the social/emotional intelligence to engage all employees and improve workers’ job satisfaction. According to a September 2020 report by McKinsey, “Because of the connection between... read more
A Legacy that Endures

A Legacy that Endures

As a leader, how will your legacy measure up? Your leadership legacy matters. It motivates people in the way they think and behave, today, and in the future. A lasting legacy sets a course: it adds value, creates positive meaning, and empowers others to carry on—with or without you. Thousands of entrepreneurs have taken early retirement over the last year, many without a clear succession plan. Some of the vacancies have been temporarily filled by former employees or next-generation relatives, while others remain open. History reveals it is not uncommon for crisis to create or accelerate significant changes at the top. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, more than 2,000 CEOs of publicly-traded companies were replaced, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Legacies at Risk Based on the succession planning research of Yo-Jud Cheng , Boris Groysberg and Paul Healy, Harvard Business Review (May 2020): 63% of private companies do not have a CEO succession contingency plan in place 69% of companies with less than $50 million in annual revenues lack a plan The need for a succession plan is often more acute in small firms, especially start-ups According to the researchers, 45% of all the U.S. companies they surveyed do not have a contingency plan for CEO succession, and 46% do not have an effective plan process for CEO succession. The industries most at risk include Health care (61% without a CEO succession contingency plan), Media (61%) IT and telecom (59%), and Consumer staples (53%). Creating a lasting legacy is no easy feat. Those who succeed develop other executives: they understand what it takes for a successful leader to... read more
Leading Through Mistakes

Leading Through Mistakes

Business leaders today are not exempt from making mistakes. While we like to believe their judgment is getting better, certain behaviors make them vulnerable to err, such as mindset failures,  delusions, mismanagement, and patterns of unsuccessful (or poor) behavior. Our wishful thinking, denial, and other forms of avoidance often prevent us from seeing their errors—or the mistakes we make. We live in a celebrity culture where leaders, and especially CEOs, are expected to be perfect examples. They are held up as icons. We don’t like to admit they have flaws, or that the traits that make them special can also lead to failure. To be sure, we crave heroic leaders who we can look up to and derive a sense of safety and security. We can’t do this when we see their flaws, so we contribute to the heroic myth and enable the leader to plunge full steam ahead, right or wrong. We must abandon this hero-worship. There is a fine line between right and wrong, and like all humans, leaders are capable of swinging back and forth. They can be great leaders and fallible human beings. When great leaders make a mistake, when they realize they were wrong, they take appropriate action. So why don’t some leaders admit when they have made a mistake? Fear of Mistakes Fear of mistakes remains a common challenge for leaders today. This fear fuels our drive to avoid losing face, at all costs. But the truth is, admission of error does less to harm our credibility than ongoing denial. According to social psychologist Adam Fetterman, “When we do see someone admit that... read more
Develop Your Mental Game

Develop Your Mental Game

As a leader, how is your mental game? Consider today’s outstanding athletes, such as those who recently participated in the U.S. Open. It’s impressive to see these leaders excel in their field; they are really amazing! Not unlike today’s outstanding business leaders and managers, they overcome obstacles, deal with set-backs and persevere to the end. After watching a game or two it’s easy to take their impressive skills for granted. After all, they make it look so easy. And then they make a clear mistake. Such was the case for one such player: with a single swat, he unintentionally hit a ball at a line judge, and was disqualified. How can such a well-trained, highly-skilled and disciplined leader make such a mistake? He got caught in a momentary lapse of un-mindfulness, distracted and fueled by frustration. And it happens to the best of us. We lose our clarity and focus. Clarity and Focus Clarity is knowing exactly what you want to achieve as a leader: your vision. Focus is knowing and doing the actions required to get you there. Great leaders do the right thing, right now. How? First, they develop a clear mental picture of their intention. Then, they make a conscious choice to commit to and pursue that intention. And last, but certainly not least, they develop strategies for protecting their intention against distracting feelings or emotions, like boredom and frustration. Just like great athletes, great business leaders take purposeful action to preserve and strengthen their mental abilities. After all, leaders who work on their brain fitness are less prone to errors. They understand that clarity and... read more
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Because Better is Better

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Because Better is Better

How does your organization approach diversity, equity, and inclusion? While many leaders believe they have taken adequate steps to correct or avoid inequalities in the workplace with policies, promotion, and training, all too often we hear about employees who experience some form of exclusion or inequity, including lack of promotion, outright harassment, and even worse. Being excluded at work is not fun. Even in times when most people are working remotely, being left out can intensify a sense of alienation, which impacts our happiness and performance. This is even more critical for small businesses: according to a 2019 survey, 52% of small businesses report labor quality as their biggest challenge. Imagine, then, the impact when co-workers and leaders ignore an ongoing problem. What if the exclusion(s) were due to your ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation? How do you address diversity, equity and inclusion problems in your organization? Social psychologist and researcher Robert Livingston, author of The Conversation: How Seeking and Speaking the Truth About Racism Can Radically Transform Individuals and Organizations, (Random House 2021) writes in the September-October 2020 issue of Harvard Business Review that the real challenge is not figuring out what to do, it’s our willingness. We’re able, but unwilling. Perhaps it’s a bit of both. Trickle-Up Diversity The concept that diversity will trickle up to the C-level suites is fundamentally flawed. According to research conducted between September and November 2019 by Mercer, Caucasians fill 64% of entry level positions and 85% of top executive positions, demonstrating a promotion and equity gap. “The representation of people of color (both men and women) decreases incrementally as career levels... read more
A Shift to Self-Employment

A Shift to Self-Employment

Is self-employment right for you? Is now the best time to start your own business? Questions like these are common right now. And the answer is: definitely, maybe. Regardless of the type of business, self-employment isn’t for everyone. It requires passion, know how, and opportunity. It requires strategy and great timing. And it takes resources. To be sure, there are many pros and cons to consider: With unemployment claims at 30MM in the U.S. and unemployment dropping to 10.2% (16.5% factoring in part-time employees), there is still a lot of volatility in the market. In the months of March and April the US economy lost more than 21MM jobs, and in May, June, and July, regained 9.3MM (about half of jobs lost). While this upward trend is good news, the question remains, what happens next? A lot depends on three things: The virus: While scientists are making great progress toward a vaccine, the number of new cases continues to grow. Consumer confidence and behavior: Some experts speculate that many people used the $1200 US stimulus check to pay-down debt, rather than stimulate the economy with new purchases. The government’s response: At the time of this writing, the U.S. government has not reached a consensus on a second stimulus bill. Of course, this is really only a piece of the puzzle in response to a global pandemic. For the unemployed, with no indication of a work return date, now is a great time to explore possibilities. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, when people have a greater amount of time to find the right position (with the security... read more
A Call for Interdependence

A Call for Interdependence

Today’s business leaders face incredible pressure to anticipate, adapt, and produce. Unfortunately, ongoing uncertainty and increasing demands cause many to fall into the trap of over-management. And it’s not uncommon: when a system crumbles and a new one is not yet fixed in place, we get a lot of chaos and confusion. Figuring out what’s next is not easy for business and organizational leaders. What are the questions they need to be asking in order to find clarity? How do they find a new vision, when there is ongoing uncertainty about any return to former norms? What leaders need is a balance of independence and interdependence. They need to focus on economics and management issues, as well as how they respond to social, technological, cultural, political, environmental, and religious issues. Childcare, education, and working remotely have a tremendous impact on how they do business. Meeting after meeting leaves workers with very little time to actually do the work and complete assignments as agreed. We need to rethink our previous assumptions about how we do business, and where we are going. What we have known about the past and assumed about the present is no longer sufficient to prepare for the future. Effective leadership requires a balance of interdependence and independence. Interdependence versus Independence Is your attitude about individualism based on your social class? According to research published in 2017 by the Harvard Business Review, yes. But, it may also be shaped by your geography. Colin Woodward, author of American Nations (Penguin Group, 2011), writes that our attitudes about interdependence and independence stem from eleven distinct regional cultures in North... read more
Confrontations that Create a Win-Win-Win

Confrontations that Create a Win-Win-Win

What has been your experience with confrontations? When did you last initiate one? Confronting someone for their behavior today is no easy feat, especially when emotions are easily triggered and opinions vary. When expectations are left unmet—including protocol infractions, civil disobedience, illegal behavior and everything in between—frustration, lack of accountability, and broken relationships become the norm. But those who foster positive confrontations can create win-win-win solutions. If you’re like many of the people I speak with, you likely avoid confrontations. And I don’t blame you: we don’t want to make matters worse. But, when we say nothing, we perpetuate the problem (and in some cases, become co-conspirators.) What if we could make a positive difference? Most of us are not highly skilled in win-win-win confrontation. We feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Instead, we can learn and practice positive confrontations: address the issue in a way that supports the wellbeing of self, others, and the relationship between the two. Calculating Risks and Rewards in Confrontations Conflicts can range from disappointments (i.e. someone not meeting our expectations) to micro aggressions, to outright dangerous and/or illegal behavior. And yet, we are often hesitant to say anything. Why is that? Our willingness to speak up changes based on what’s at stake.  In general, most of our daily conflicts boil down to: Priority or value differences Behavior or communication style differences Inequality (or perceived inequality) In Crucial Accountability (McGraw-Hill Education, 2013), authors Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler share their 30+ years study on confrontations.  When they asked people why they remained (or became) silent in the... read more
How is Your Organization Fighting Racism?

How is Your Organization Fighting Racism?

How is your organization fighting racism? A 2017 analysis of racial discrimination revealed no improvement in hiring over time. With all the diversity training and education we have received, how can this be? To understand the collective dimensions of racism, and how different groups of colors get set-up differently, is a life-long process. Different groups have different experiences, and it’s important to learn those histories. All people who are not perceived as white continue to experience racism. They experience it in shared ways, and in ways that are unique to their group, and their position to whiteness. However, there is something profoundly anti-black in our culture. It cuts across all groups, and is a form of state sanctioned discrimination. You see, racism isn’t just about being racist. And it’s not something that just bad people do. Racism is a system of oppression—intentionally or not. And it hurts everyone. Today, most organizations offer diversity training. But we need to move beyond this. We need to learn how to listen better, learn better, and take better action to correct the systems that support racism. Ultimately, this will strengthen our businesses, those we serve, and our entire society. But most importantly, it’s the right thing to do. Black lives matter.  Key Terms for Open Discussions In her book, White Fragility, (Beacon Press, 2018), Dr. Robin DiAngelo shares her research and experiences regarding racism, and how white people often inadvertently maintain racial inequality. You see, often times, when our assumptions about race are challenged, our reactions are counterproductive. Instead, we can learn to identify these responses and engage in open discussions where we... read more
Finding a New Pace

Finding a New Pace

How has the pandemic affected your pace? Even the best of the best have experienced challenges in finding their new pace at work. Focus and concentration have been more of a challenge for leaders, managers, and employees. And it’s no surprise: our sense of time has been distorted. Two factors explain this phenomenon: Feeling stuck in a holding pattern Loss of flow Feeling stuck is not unusual for those who remain at home, or have yet to return to their previous work environment. Research in anthropology and psychology has found that when we are unable to structure or manipulate our experience of time—when our temporal agency is deprived—we feel stuck in the present. Dr. Felix Ringel, an anthropologist of time at Durham University in England, refers to this as enforced presentism, a term first defined by fellow anthropologist Jane Guyer. And for those who do not know when (or if) they can return to work, enforced presentism continues to alter their perception of time. Fear also alters our perception of time. According to Dr. Sylvie Droit-Volet, PsyD, who has conducted extensive research on emotions and time, threatening stimuli can distort our internal sense of the passage of time. In Subjective Time (The MIT Press 2014), Droit-Volet points to two significant contributors that distort our internal clock: Changes in internal states in response to the effects of drugs or external stimuli (such as a crisis) Attentional processes: when we pay less attention to time, we experience a temporal shortening effect Leaders, executives, and managers in situations of great pressure work with qualified coaches on self-management strategies. They focus on four psychological... read more

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