Civility at Work & Beyond

December 6, 2023

The workplace continues to evolve as hybrid models enable working from home while maintaining optimal productivity. Yet there is definitely a cost to remote communication and collaboration—no matter how effective are the tools we can use.

This cost to communication and collaboration may be due to an overall lower level of trust or respect. It could also be because there is now an alarming lack of civility throughout our lives.

Look no further than our representatives in congress to see how dysfunctional our so-called leaders have become. Cable news programs are less about conveying news and information so viewers can draw their own conclusions than partisan battles that are all about dramatic one-upmanship to keep viewers tuned in. Social media is rampant with vitriol that clearly fails to deliver Mark Zuckerberg’s mission to “give people the capacity to form communities and bring the globe closer together.”

We are actually moving further apart because we are talking over each other, failing to fully listen, seeking only confirming data that supports our perspective, and generally choosing to stay within the confines of our own tribes.

Civility is the deliberate practice of treating others with courtesy and politeness, yet many people are choosing not to do so. A Harvard Business Review study found that 98% of employees have experienced incivility at work. Half of the participants reported that they were treaded badly at least once a week.

This lack of civility can show up in the workplace in various forms:

  • Passive-aggressive communication
  • Failing to assume positive intent with email messages
  • Not giving others the benefit of the doubt
  • Keeping the camera off in a Teams meeting
  • Miserable performance feedback meetings

These things can all contribute to a lack of engagement, poor performance, lower productivity, and greater turnover.

Our behavior in the workplace may be a reflection in how we behave in our personal lives, and I suggest this needs to change. Showing general kindness and compassion to others—regardless of whether we know them—can make both you and others feel better.

When I reflect on random acts of kindness and compassion in my own life, there were so many times where I received a helping hand, generosity, and comfort. But two acts I performed continue to stick with me as I felt so much joy in initiating these actions:

  • Many years ago, while visiting a sick loved one in the hospital, I was unable to leave the parking garage as the woman in front of me didn’t have cash to pay for her parking. I gave her $5 and, although she asked for my address with the promise of paying me back, I held no assurances. I simply felt good about my ability to help someone, who very likely was also visiting a sick loved one. A thoughtful card with the money arrived a few days later.
  • While walking across a bridge near my home, I witnessed a young woman lift a leg across the railing with the intent to jump off. I quickly crossed the street, put my hand on her shoulder and engaged her in a conversation to prevent her from jumping. Several other people assisted in helping this troubled woman, and before long the police arrived who I’d like to believe provided greater assistance. It was a powerful moment that lifted my spirits on how I as well as several other strangers all engaged to be helpful.

In the workplace, communication and collaboration can improve via greater kindness and compassion by practicing giving others the benefit of the doubt, assuming positive intent, listening with our full attention, and delivering critical feedback while demonstrating care.

Make it a point to behave with kindness and compassion throughout your life. Practice and encourage more of this in your workplace. Both you and others will feel better and you will help make your workplace and our world a more civil and peaceful place.  

The Greatness of Gratitude

November 10, 2023

This is the time of year my thoughts turn to being thankful for the abundance in my life. It is the Thanksgiving holiday, of course, but November is also the month I’ve suffered great tragedy and loss in my life. Through this tragedy and loss, however, I’ve been able to find grace and a focus on what I have rather than what I’ve lost.

As I’ve written about previously, Thanksgiving is the time of year when we are reminded to express our gratitude, yet certainly shouldn’t be limited to only this time of a year.

In fact, many studies have found that having a grateful outlook and regularly expressing gratitude to others has positive effects on our emotional health as well as our relationships. Some studies have further discovered that our physical health can also benefit by expressing gratitude.

“Gratitude heals, energizes and changes lives,” says psychologist Robert A. Emmons. “It is the prism through which we view life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness, and grace.”

Some studies asked participants to write letters of thanks or list positive things in their lives. The effects of those acts revealed mental health benefits such as reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, increased self-esteem, and overall greater satisfaction with life.

What is especially profound is that not only does this expression of gratitude improve the well-being of the giver and receiver, but it may also be good for those who simply witness it. Observing an act of gratitude between people can cause the one watching to feel warmth towards the others.

Here are some suggested ways to express gratitude:

  • Write a handwritten note of thanks to people you are grateful for. This can have a dramatic effect as it is so rarely done in this age of electronic communication.
  • Thank your direct reports and colleagues for their contributions. Be specific on what you are grateful for as this dramatically improves its impact.
  • Perform random acts of kindness: use your turn signal when changing lanes or making a turn, open or hold a door for a stranger, simply make eye contact and smile when passing someone on the street.
  • Write down what you are grateful for each night before going to sleep. This will help you sleep better and improve your outlook in the morning.
  • Create a gratitude jar and provide slips of paper where you can easily write down what you’re grateful for and drop it in the jar. Watching the contents grow will continually remind you of the abundance in your life.
  • Catch yourself when you find you’re feeling jealous of others’ good fortune. Avoid comparing yourself to others by limiting your time on social media.
  • Remember to appreciate what you have rather than what you lack. This could be your health, family, friends, job, or your freedom.
  • Take a walk in nature and be grateful for all that cannot be adequately simulated by technology: Physically moving your body, breathing fresh air, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of all that surrounds you.

Regardless of how you express gratitude, find ways to do it regularly as this will sustain your good health and well-being.

“I think the benefits of gratitude activities truly unfold through long-term habits,” said Joel Wong, a professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University’s School of Education. Dr. Wong has a list of 100 questions as prompts for expressing gratitude. These include both micro and macro gratitude questions, as well as those that are interpersonal and redemptive.

The greatness of expressing gratitude is how simple and meaningful it can be. It’s good for your health. It doesn’t cost anything. It will likely improve your relationships. And expressing gratitude may benefit even those witnessing it from the sidelines. Be grateful for yourself and for others.

Reform Necessary to Remain Informed

October 31, 2023

Maintaining a democracy requires citizens who are engaged in contributing to the health and vitality of the country. At a minimum, this means following the news to best understand the issues and concerns, and then voting in federal, state, and local elections.

Although participation soared in the U.S. 2020 election—nearly 63% of voting age people cast ballots—this democracy is far behind many others. According to Pew Research Center, compared with turnout among voting-age population in 49 other countries, the U.S. was 31st.

Perhaps low participation in voting is at least partially due to the challenge of being well informed. Newspapers are struggling to remain viable as people are often choosing to learn about the issues of the day from the internet or social media.

The internet, of course, makes it possible to find “evidence” for just about anything you want to believe. This is why I have so much trouble when I hear people with conspiracy theories say they don’t trust the media and do their own research. This “research” is often collected from unreliable sources and not based on verifiable facts, but on opinions that are backed by random and often disparate supportive information.

Social media was identified as a primary source for news for as many as half of Americans. This is obviously alarming: whether it’s climate change, Covid vaccines, wars in Ukraine or Gaza, you can’t rely on social media platforms for the truth. But as news is slowly disaggregated from companies like Meta and Google, the question becomes where will people go to stay informed?

Perhaps the workplace is a new place where we can learn civics. In Germany, companies are launching seminars on civics and democratic principles—the importance of voting and recognizing the dangers of disinformation, conspiracy theories and hate speech—as a way to ensure healthier relationships at work as well as society as a whole.

These Business Council for Democracy workshops are hoping to fill the gaps in employees’ knowledge of the democratic system, including digital civic culture. The programs hope to help people recognize and question conspiracy theories and disinformation, and also reinforce personal responsibility and resilience.

Twitter was once a beacon of great hope for citizen journalists to report on events as they happened. The Arab Spring uprising was a pivotal moment for the platform. Now Elon Musk has run afoul of the European Union’s Digital Services Act that requires social media platforms to restrict misinformation and other violative content within the union’s 27 nations.

The value of X is now less than half of what it was when Musk acquired it as it’s lost both users and advertisers. In its new incarnation, Elon Musk now wants to make X into an everything app.

What if instead of relying on “everything apps” there were more dedicated social media apps we could actually trust and rely on for specific information? Rather than companies seeking to profit merely from eyeballs and stickiness, there could be a financial model built upon either ads, subscriptions, or some combination.

  • Imagine opening your news app and finding strictly verifiable facts in context that helps you understand events of the day? Or at least provide a useful filter such as Snopes or FactCheck to immediately check on what you read or hear. USA Facts app?  
  • Sports fanatics are currently X’s most loyal users representing 42 percent of the X audience, according to the platform. What if there was an app strictly designed for athletes and fans that would enable focus and community. The Athletic are you listening?
  • A pop culture app could dominate all things celebrated in the entertainment world and be designed to follow artists, musicians, actors, etc.

This should not be exclusively tied to apps, but could include podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and other emerging technologies to keep us informed without the deceit and bile. Certainly, we need to beware of artificial intelligence and all that can go wrong.

I suspect there are many reasons why what I’m suggesting won’t work, but there’s got to be an opportunity to reform the way we stay informed. This country depends on all citizens being knowledgeable about current events and engaged in voting so that our democracy remains.

Rethinking Retirement

October 18, 2023

I have reached the age where many of my siblings, friends and colleagues either left the workforce or are headed in the direction of what we call retirement. But this is not your parent’s retirement as people today are living longer than ever and looking to remain active, healthy, useful and, in many cases, engaged in work long after retirement age.

Many factors could be at play here as our longer lifespans have fueled our desire to remain relevant. For many people, fishing, golfing, travelling, and hanging with the grandchildren are no longer fulfilling on their own. Whether it’s about identity or purpose, many want to further contribute, give back, be of service.

According to a report titled The New Age of Aging, based on a nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults with more than 900 adults age 50+, here are five key insights:

  1. The demographic makeup of the U.S. is turning upside down as older adults will soon outnumber youth under 18 for the for the first time in our history.
  2. The definition of “old” has been pushed back by twenty years, driven by a new breed of older adults. People over 60 are now more active, open-minded, and curious, and far less rigid and isolated than previous generations.  
  3. Seventy-one percent of today’s modern elders, adults 65+, say the best time of their life is right now or in front of them.
  4. We need to re-imagine purposeful roles for older adults, as 83% of adults 65+ say it’s more important to feel “useful” rather than “youthful” in their retirement years.
  5. There is a need and desire to better match our healthspans to our lifespans.

The survey found that a majority of today’s retirees and pre-retirees say they want both work and retirement: full-time, part-time, or cycling in and out of work. Flex-work, remote-work, sabbaticals, and paid leave should no longer be restricted to younger workers. And keeping older adults working could fuel economic growth and promote greater lifelong financial security.

Age Wave further uncovered five keys to thriving in this longevity:

  1. Actively take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.
  2. Build and nurture strong relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.
  3. Maintain a clear sense of purpose and pursue meaningful involvements.
  4. Be willing to course-correct as needed to achieve your dreams throughout life.
  5. Commit to saving and investing for lifelong financial security.

A sense of purpose and connection to others enhances your well-being and can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and stroke. On the other hand, loneliness can be more deadly than cigarette smoking.

Purpose can be found in many ways as people choose to volunteer time and expertise to organizations or causes that are most meaningful to them. Consider joining an organization like Third Act where you can contribute your time to protecting our planet.

Try replacing the notion of “aging” with “longevity.” Rather than ask an elderly person how old they are, ask them how many years they have lived. You get the same answer, but I think this may signal a recognition of what they have accomplished rather than simply endured.

Regardless, whether you are in you 65, 55, 45, or even younger, the sooner you rethink retirement, the sooner you’ll be prepared to make the most of it when it arrives.

Feedforward Follows Feedback

September 27, 2023

As Millennials and Generation Z people continue to make-up a larger portion of the workforce, it’s important to evolve in how we interact and communicate. Performance reviews, for example, are largely conducted annually to deliver and hear feedback based on past performance. Feedforward is focused on future performance and about what’s next rather than what’s been.

Ideally, feedforward should follow any feedback so the person receiving the information has an immediate opportunity to course correct. This is important to all of us, but especially for those in younger generations.

While most people dislike giving or receiving feedback, feedforward information (when welcome) can be satisfying to both giver and receiver. That’s because feedforward information is based on learning, possibility, and future performance. It’s less personal and more about what the right behavior looks like going forward.

In my coaching practice, gathering and providing 360 feedback is extremely helpful for me to better understand how my clients show up at work. It provides a baseline for where they are at this time in their career. However, this is only a starting point. Effective coaching is also about providing a prescription for the path ahead. It’s about laying out a plan and help implementing that plan for how to acquire new skills, practice different behaviors and essentially improve how to better show up as leaders. That’s feedforward.

Much of coaching is rooted in helping individuals understand what they should continue doing, start doing, and stop doing based on what will help them grow as leaders. Using feedback for understanding what is and feedforward for what can be is essential for this growth.

Feedforward delivery should not be limited only to coaches as every manager and leader can and should provide this kind of direction and support to their direct reports. It is not punitive based on past performance, but directive and supportive based on what is possible and necessary.

The classic feedback sandwich comprised of giving praise, then criticism, followed by more praise can often leave employees confused and irritated. On the other hand, feedforward information enables direct reports to listen attentively and take immediate action because it’s not sandwiched around a criticism.

While feedback is often vague or too general, feedforward is specific and actionable. Feedback is likely focused on a mistake or failure, and feedforward is without criticism or judgment. And while feedback can be static as it is about a particular point in time, feedforward is about bringing about motivation for positive change.

It is ultimately the combination of providing feedback and feedforward that enables employees to thrive. That’s because it helps people learn what they should continue doing, stop doing, and start doing in a direct and supportive manner.

Perhaps most important, feedback and feedforward should not be delivered only on an annual basis at a performance review. Instead, it should be delivered as quickly as possible to provide immediate benefits. Because people are generally more comfortable providing and receiving feedforward information, this should make it much easier and less intimidating than once a year.

Incorporate feedforward in your regular feedback sessions with your direct reports because this is good for them, good for you and good for the organization.

Success in Behavioral Change

September 14, 2023

Bringing about behavioral change is often at the root of what it means to successfully lead others. This is because leading often requires helping shift the way people act to produce the desired results. Helping others to change their behavior is not always easy, but you can certainly grow to be more successful at it.

Much of my coaching work begins with data gathering where I ask probing questions of my client and the people they work with and around. This fact finding begins the process of more fully understanding the strengths and opportunities for my client to grow in their leadership.

This inquiry often reveals my client needs to improve their ability to actively listen, demonstrate empathy, build rapport, and effectively influence to bring about behavioral change in how they lead. Turns out these are the very components of the Behavioral Change Stairway Model developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to negotiate with violent felons.

The FBI hostage negotiation techniques can be just as helpful for leaders to bring about a change in the behavior in those they lead. These techniques need to be conducted in the following order so let’s look at them in detail.

  1. Actively Listen – Seek first to understand, then to be understood as author Stephen Covey wrote years ago. It’s about making the other person feel heard. And truly listen for both what is said and what is not said.
  2. Show Empathy – Join with the other person to demonstrate that you are not there to judge but to help support them as they face this situation. Put yourself in their shoes so that you can really feel and relate to them and their predicament.  
  3. Build Rapport – When rapport is present, the other person also feels your empathy, which leads to greater trust. Try to create an equal give-and-take between the two of you despite the power dynamic that is always present between a boss and employee.  
  4. Create Influence – With trust you have now earned the right to begin to offer solutions to a problem and/or recommend a course of action.   
  5. Initiate Behavioral Change – The previous four steps enable the action of initiating behavior change. Once this is initiated, it is then necessary for you to encourage and support so the change is sustained.

Demonstrating that you care personally can bring about change in a professional setting. This is true in our professional lives just as it is in our personal lives. As a leader, you need to appeal to both thoughts and feelings to change people’s behavior.

“It’s a road map for satisfying people’s social-emotional needs that nudges them toward a solution drawing on their cognitive abilities,” according to Ethan Kross, author of the book Chatter: The voice in our head, why it matters, and how to harness it. “While law-enforcement negotiators are naturally trying to defuse dangerous situations and arrest criminals, their work bears some similarities to coaching someone we care about through a problem. In both cases, there is a person who can benefit from the right kind of verbal support.”

Succeeding with behavioral change is vital for leaders. Following the steps in the Behavioral Change Stairway Model developed by the FBI for dealing with hostages can make leaders in organizations successful with bringing about behavioral change with their employees too.

Success in Working Remotely

August 31, 2023

Now that fulltime and hybrid remote work will continue as the new normal for many employees, it’s important to make this is successful for both workers and employers. This means adopting best practices for maximizing productivity and engagement, without sacrificing health and wellbeing.

Ever since the pandemic began there’s been lots of advice about how to set up a home office to make remote work most effective. Adopting the right technology was paramount as was carving out a quiet space in your home.

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that remote workers are actually more productive than their office workers because they are less likely to take time off and quit. Another study found that employees who work remotely save up to $4,500 annually on commuting costs.

However, one of the challenges in working remotely has to do with the loneliness or alienation that comes from no longer being around colleagues. This should not be minimized as two important elements of job satisfaction have to do with a positive relationship with your boss and whether you have a best friend at work. These relationships are maintained and strengthened when you’re interacting in person. Whenever you are in the office, you should maximize face time with these important relationships.

Here are other best practices for success when working remotely:

  • Discipline – Maintain a routine and act as if you are in the office to maintain consistency in your productivity. Although you have greater flexibility, demonstrate that you can be relied upon at the times when your boss and colleagues expect you to be.
  • Boundaries – Intentionally separate work from the rest of your life as much as possible by clarifying with family or housemates when you are working and when you are not. Maintain those boundaries and perhaps take a walk after work to help you transition.
  • Communication – Be more intentional and frequent in your communication with colleagues to ensure you are continually aligned with them. And use the right medium for your messages depending on what works best.
  • Professionalism – Dress appropriately for your workplace and practice online meeting etiquette to ensure your online presence demonstrates you are in work mode. Limit distractions so you can stay focused whether you are on camera or not.
  • Accountability – Ensure that you deliver what you are charged with delivering. And continually seek clarity around what is your responsibility as well as your priorities.
  • Health & Wellbeing – Since you are not commuting, you are likely not moving around as much and you may need to be more intentional about your health. Schedule time at the gym, go for a walk with a friend, eat and sleep right. Be intentional about keeping your mind and body fit.
  • Feedback Loop – Since you’re not in the office as much, it’s vital to know if your virtual presence is demonstrating your value. Continually check in with those you work with directly as well as your boss to ensure you are meeting their expectations.

As a manager of remote workers, you should also seek feedback from your direct reports to ensure they are getting the direction and support they need. Schedule your one-to-one meetings in person whenever possible and focus on maintaining a trusted relationship to drive performance and engagement.

Success in working remotely will ensure you don’t have to return to fulltime work in the office again. It is therefore important to demonstrate your remote work is beneficial to both you and your company.

Leadership includes Managing Others

August 19, 2023

Many leaders assume the people they lead no longer need to be managed. That somehow managing others at the executive level isn’t necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One might argue that you should manage things and lead people. While there is truth in this, leading people requires the ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute to an organization’s success. This includes managing them effectively.

Maybe you believe that once someone reaches an executive level, he or she no longer requires any oversight. There shouldn’t be further need for direction or support. For example, as a leader, do you believe:

  • Providing individual guidance and coaching people is beneath you or not worth your time?
  • You should be able to trust your direct reports to manage themselves?
  • Not knowing what your direct reports are doing keeps you from micromanaging them?

If you answered yes to these questions, then your motive for leading may be off. This is according to Patrick Lencioni, author of The Motive: Why so many leaders abdicate their most important responsibilities.

“You can either rethink your role and get more involved in coaching them around their work,” writes Lencioni, “or accept that they will often fail to meet your expectations and become misaligned with the goals of the team.”

The fact is leaders do need to manage others in the most effective manner using an approach that includes clear communication, true collaboration, and a coaching mentality. It means navigating effectively in between completely hands-off and micromanaging.

Lencioni says managing others is ultimately about helping them set the general direction of their work, ensuring that it is aligned with and understood by their peers, and staying informed enough to identify potential obstacles and problems to improve themselves behaviorally to make it more likely that they will succeed.

In his book, Lencioni describes what he calls reward-centered leadership, which is based on the belief that “being a leader is the reward for hard work; therefore, the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable, free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane, unpleasant, or uncomfortable.” This motive for leading is mis-guided as it doesn’t provide the work necessary for the organization to thrive.

On the other hand, responsibility-centered leadership is based on the “belief that being a leader is a responsibility; therefore, the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).” This motive is grounded in the notion that there are requirements of leadership that fall outside of what one prefers to do and that needs to be done anyway.

Managing others is vital to leading effectively and one of the five omissions of those who are reward-centric leaders, according to Lencioni. The other four omissions are developing the leadership team, having difficult and uncomfortable conversations, running great team meetings, and communicating constantly and repetitively to employees. All of these may be avoided, outsourced, or simply ignored by a leader at the organization’s peril.

Managing subordinates and ensuring that they manage theirs is central to being an effective executive. Effectively managing others is one of the elements that enable a leader to rise in an organization and this should continue no matter how high one rises. In fact, the higher one rises, the more they should recognize that it is the people around him or her that determines the success of the organization. These people require effective managing.

Embrace Debate for Sound Decisions

July 21, 2023

So often the decision-making process in the workplace can be difficult to navigate. Sometimes it’s due to simply not knowing whether the decision is made democratically or by a single person. Regardless, to make sound decisions it’s important to embrace debate among all the stakeholders able to contribute.

Leaders who practice debate in decision making not only help lead to better outcomes, but also more fully engage employees and maximize their potential.

In her book, Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, author Liz Wiseman describes Multipliers as those who “use intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities of people around them. They inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results that surpass expectations.”

Wiseman further defines Talent Magnets as those who attract talented people and use them to their fullest capacity. Unlike Empire Builders, who she describes as those who hoard resources and underutilize talent, Talent Magnets enable people to work at their highest point of contribution. These Multipliers attract the best talent because people flock to work for them.

Multipliers are those who have the right people to assist in making tough decisions, and it is therefore incumbent upon them to engage this talent in the decision-making process.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do,” wrote Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs: His Own Words and Wisdom. “We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

To practice effective debate making with your team, Wiseman describes three practices to reach sound decisions that fully engage people. These are:

  1. Frame the Issue
    1. The question: What is the decision to be made?
    1. The why: Why is this an important questions to answer?
    1. The who: Who will be involved in making the decision?
    1. The how: How will the final decision be made?
  • Spark the Debate
    • Engaging – Ask a provocative question to get everyone involved
    • Comprehension – Seek assurance that everyone understands what’s at stake
    • Fact based – Opinions are not wrong, but facts should carry more weight
    • Educational – Encourage learning throughout the process
  • Drive a Sound Decision
    • Reclarify the decision-making process
    • Make the decision
    • Communicate the decision and the rationale for it

This debate making process will lead to better outcomes no matter who and how the decision is ultimately made. It also has the added benefit of fully engaging employees and optimizing their talent and expertise, so they feel more valued and appreciated.

Make sound decisions by framing the issue and sparking the debate so that your organization and people continue to thrive.     

ABG: Always Be Growing

July 9, 2023

Many professionals finish their undergraduate or master’s degree and conclude they can rely on that institutional knowledge alone to thrive in their careers. Yet those most likely to reach personal and professional goals are always growing and learning.

This includes not only book (articles, podcast, lectures, TED Talks, etc.) learning, but also experiential learning that is available to you all the time. This means learning from setbacks by making changes, so you don’t repeat mistake in the future. It means continually taking a “beginner’s mind” perspective so that you remain curious and open to innovation and ideas.

A huge part of this continual growth comes from knowing yourself so that you can continually recognize where you are in relation to where you want to be. Welcome both positive and critical feedback as information to help you better understand how you’re showing up.

“Become the world’s greatest expert on yourself so that you can become the very best version of yourself.” This is the advice of Greg Harden, author of the book Stay Sane in an Insane World. Harden, the executive director of athletic counseling at the University of Michigan, has a track record of working with high profile athletes including Tom Brady, Desmond Howard, Charles Woodson, Michael Phelps and many others, who were able to use his advice to reach incredible athletic goals.

Harden’s guidance includes the idea that you should practice, train, and rehearse by giving one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time. “Because if you make this your mindset, then on your absolutely worst day,” he writes, “you’re still going to be better than the average person on their best day.” Harden sees no shortcut to greatness.

This doesn’t apply only to Olympic and professional athletes. Giving one hundred percent one hundred percent of the time can be applied to everything we do on or off the field.

And all too often we can be our own worst enemy by being overly critical when we should practice self-love and self-acceptance. By doing so, we’re more likely to welcome the opportunities we face every day to learn and grow.

According to Harden, it is our attitudes and behaviors that can either support or detract from our growth. We should recognize that:

  • Self-defeating attitudes and behaviors hold you back from reaching your goals.

while . . .

  • Self-supporting attitudes and behaviors help you cultivate reaching your goals.

All too often our self-talk is critical or dismissive of our efforts. This can undermine our ability to grow. Instead, we should treat ourselves the way we would counsel and support a close friend or family member. We should be compassionate and supportive.

“Become the very best friend you ever had in your life, because your very best friend has to be you,” writes Harden.  

To always be growing means taking this advice and using it to assist you. Reduce your self-defeating attitudes and behaviors; embrace your self-supporting ones. Be your own very best friend and give one hundred percent one hundred percent of the time. Do so and you will always be growing and reaching your goals.

The Value of Values

June 22, 2023

My teenage daughter recently spoke to me about an ethical dilemma she was facing—reconciling the fact that a musical artist, whose songs she greatly enjoys has been accused of sexual misconduct. Can she still listen to his music (although not purchasing “merch” and attending concerts) while still holding true to her values?

This is increasingly becoming a concern for all consumers as we can often choose products and services from companies that align with our values and avoid those that don’t. But where do we draw the line, and can we count on what companies reveal to us?

Companies throughout the country are attempting to demonstrate their ability to maintain profitability while aligning their values with those of their customers and employees. Many companies have taken on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives yet find it challenging to make this more than simply checking a box and adding new words to their website.

As I wrote about in a previous blog post, organizational values need to be consistent between what is outward facing to customers and what is practiced internally by employees. These are the core values an organization currently holds as opposed to aspirational values that it is seeking to reach.

Just shy of 90 years after the USA declared independence with the promise that all men are created equal, the last enslaved Black Americans were informed that they are free. It would be another 156 years before Juneteenth officially became a federal holiday as this recent development coincided with nationwide protests following the police killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Companies today are attempting to deal with many social concerns very differently. Oil companies find they can no longer stand on the sidelines denying our climate crisis. But many are simply  “greenwashing” to appear like they are acting in the best interests of the planet when it’s clear that they are not. Greenwashing is not new as it started in the 1960s when hotels asked their guests to reuse towels to help save the environment. Clearly these hotels were saving money on laundry costs yet never passed this savings on to their guests.

Both Target and Bud Light have faced boycotts over their marketing efforts toward the LGBTQ community. Last month Bud Light’s sales were down 23% and Target’s share price dropped 20%, although this may be partially due to concerns over inflation. Other companies such as Kohl’s, Southwest Airlines and Lego are also facing heat for their advertising and promotions of Pride events. Clearly, customers have an impact.

To what extent should we as consumers, employees and shareholders hold corporations responsible for matching our core values? That is, of course, an individual’s decision, but our decisions can collectively have a huge influence on how corporations conduct themselves.

If these organizational values are important to where you shop, work, and invest, then it’s important to determine whether the values they publish are core values versus merely aspirational ones. It’s also important to understand whether what they preach squares with what they practice.

While it’s difficult for companies to thread the needle regarding maximizing profits with societal concerns, I believe it is exactly what we should demand from them.

Even Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman wrote that “. . . there is one and only one social responsibility of business to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays in the rules of the game, which is to say, engage in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.”

It is our responsibility to hold companies accountable when in their efforts to increase profits they break rules, build a monopoly, or seek to deceive us. If we choose not to hold them accountable for this and our government does not regulate them, it is our collective peril.

Making the Most of Feedback

June 4, 2023

[This is an excerpt from my book Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace, which is currently available at Amazon and wherever you buy books. It was previously posted in March 2021, but seems appropriate to post again as a good reminder.]

Leading others in the workplace requires a combination of successfully receiving and giving feedback. At a very basic level, receiving feedback is about learning what you are perceived as doing well and should continue doing; understanding what you should not do and stop doing; and learning what you don’t currently do, but should begin doing.

Similarly, to give feedback effectively, you need to state what the other person is doing well and encourage them to continue; inform them of what they should not be doing and redirect as necessary; and communicate what they need to begin doing in order to be more effective in their role. Effectively receiving and giving feedback are essential in every career, but especially when seeking to lead by example.

It’s important to look at the feedback you receive as a gift by valuing the perspectives others have for how they see you showing up in the workplace. Ideally, this would come in the form of a 360-degree feedback appraisal, so you can learn how you are perceived by people up, down and across the organization. This collective perspective provides an overall picture in how you show up. It may differ from how you perceive yourself, yet this helps you gain an external perspective to increase your overall self-awareness.

When a comment is from one individual, you should see it as an opinion; when it is from two, you should treat it as a trend; and when it is from three or more people, you should view it as factual and especially important to consider.

Don’t dismiss the positive comments as these represent your strengths that helped you reach where you are today. Embrace this positive feedback and own it as part of your overall reputation and personal brand. Receiving feedback effectively means you are able to hear and accept both positive and critical information without dismissing, overreacting or becoming defensive. Developing self-awareness is based not only on how well you can accurately see yourself, but also on how aware you are of how others see you. This can come only through feedback from others. And it’s vital you are able to receive it well, determine what it means for you, and choose to act where appropriate in order to bring about any necessary changes to help you grow.

Getting feedback can be difficult in many workplaces because it may not be embedded into a performance evaluation process. Many companies that deploy annual performance appraisals find them dreaded by both supervisors and employees, which further undermines the potential for success in receiving useful feedback.

The best organizations deliver feedback as often as quarterly in order to course correct and pivot more quickly. This enables tighter communication, so employees can more immediately take corrective action and continually improve. The 360-degree feedback method can be especially helpful, but may not be used throughout your organization or used consistently. Regardless, top-performing leaders are those who regularly seek out feedback on their performance, according to Tasha Eurich in her book Insight: The Surprising Truth about how others see us, how we see ourselves, and why the answers matter more than we think.

“If anything, we are socially and professionally rewarded for seeking critical feedback,” says Eurich. “Leaders who do are seen as more effective, not just by their bosses, but by their peers and employees.” It’s important that you get the feedback you need in order to succeed in your role and throughout your career. Just as importantly, you need to receive it with a growth mindset so you can take appropriate action on what you get.

“If we can receive feedback with grace, reflect on it with courage, and respond to it with purpose, we are capable of unearthing unimaginable insights from the most unlikely of places,” she says.

The 3R Model

Eurich developed the 3R Model on how to best stay in control regarding surprising or difficult feedback. Using this 3R Model enables you to receive, reflect upon and respond to such feedback effectively.

  • Receive – Mine the insight potential by seeking specificity on where the particular behavior shows up and examples of when it was seen.
  • Reflect – How well do you understand the feedback? How will it affect your well-being? What affect will it have on your long-term workplace success?
  • Respond – Do you want to act on this feedback, and if so, how? Can you develop and communicate a plan for how you will go about this action?

Feedback should not be taken as judgment, but only as information that can be helpful to your growth.

“When faced with feedback in an area that plays into our self-limiting beliefs,” says Eurich, “merely taking a few minutes to remind ourselves of another important aspect of our identity than the one being threatened shores up our ‘psychological immune system.’” Using the 3R Model will help you make the most of the critical feedback you receive.

If you can be courageous enough to seek feedback, be sure you are also capable of receiving it well, reflecting on what it means, and responding in a way that helps you to grow.

Trusted Leadership

May 12, 2023

Leaders are those who can be trusted. Sounds obvious but there are far too many examples of leaders in business and politics who fabricate, deceive, omit, obfuscate, or otherwise stretch fact into fiction.

As someone who thoroughly appreciates fiction in the form of novels, short stories, movies and so many streaming series, I know that verisimilitude is essential. Verisimilitude basically means “similarity to the truth,” and writers and filmmakers use a form of verisimilitude to give stories the appearance of truth to keep the reader or viewer engaged.

That’s because verisimilitude is necessary to suspend our belief and follow a character in his or her world. It is vital for the story to appear believable. Cultural verisimilitude shows up in the context of reality in the real world. For example, novels can accurately describe the real world—regardless of historical time and place.

Writers and filmmakers can make us laugh, cry, smile, or frown because of verisimilitude. We willingly except this because we want to be entertained.

When the appearance of truth is used to deceive, confuse, and otherwise manipulate us to act or vote in a particular way, it can be highly destructive. Whether it’s former President Donald Trump claiming “fake news” regarding any number of the many transgressions and lies he’s committed throughout his life or Howard Schultz, the ex-CEO of Starbucks, claiming falsely that the company has never once broken labor laws during its anti-union campaign, they are seeking to deceive us.

While public relations officers, media consultants, cable news pundits, social media commenters, and other spin doctors seek to further the deception, it’s up to each of us to seek out the truth—no matter how difficult it can be.

I consider myself a very trusting person in that I go into most situations where I trust what I’m reading, seeing, or hearing. However, when I learn that a person, organization, or entity is guilty of deception, they lose credibility for me and need to regain my trust before I’ll take them at their word again.

According to the EY Global Integrity Report 2022, there is a widening gap between higher levels of integrity awareness and lowering standards, as well as between the confidence in integrity standards displayed by companies’ leadership ranks and their employees. Yet 97% of respondents say they agree that integrity is important.

Why do we say integrity is important, yet we allow ourselves to be manipulated by people who are clearly not being honest?

Social media no doubt contributes greatly to a lack of trust. (I removed myself from both Facebook and Twitter long ago for this reason as well as others.) Social media certainly didn’t succeed in creating community and perhaps is only contributing to a nationwide loneliness epidemic. If someone you know is primarily getting their news from social media, there’s a good reason to be dubious in what they then tell you to be true.

If we are truly a nation of laws where someone is innocent until proven guilty, then we must also demand justice when someone is found guilty by a jury of his or her peers. Verisimilitude should be used for entertainment, but not for leading organizations or people. We should demand that our leaders are trustworthy. And we should hold them accountable for their actions and we should no longer support them when they lie to us. Perhaps most importantly, we should demand justice when they commit a crime

Multiplying Upwards

April 23, 2023

The best bosses raise the leadership capacity of those around them. They motivate direct reports to deliver more than they thought possible and help them grow to be more effective doing so. These multipliers also work up and across the organization to spread their impact.

On the flip side, there are bosses who diminish others’ contributions and reduce their commitment and engagement. These leaders drain intelligence, energy, and capability from the people around them. They always need to be the smartest ones in the room, according to Liz Wiseman, author of the book Multipliers: How the best leaders make everyone smarter, who calls these people diminishers as they diminish talent and commitment.

While diminishers say “People will never figure this out without me,” multipliers say “People are smart and can figure it out.”

Apple’s co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs may have been speaking of multipliers when he stated: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

If you are fortunate to work for a multiplier, count yourself lucky and do what you can to continually nurture this relationship. These people amplify the intelligence and capabilities of others and inspire employees to stretch themselves to deliver results surpassing expectations. Multipliers multiply their impact on others. You would be wise to follow their example.

Even if you don’t report directly to a diminisher, you probably know some inside your organization. They are likely more interested in building an empire than building the talent in others. Rather than attract talented people and use them to their fullest capacity, diminishers make big promises, but underutilize and reduce their engagement.

Working for a diminisher can be difficult but it doesn’t have to diminish your career. You just need a plan for how to work with them.

According to Wiseman, diminishers want to be valued for their intelligence and ideas. Many are desperate for it. In many ways, diminishers need multipliers to help them be successful. When diminishers feel smart, valued, heard, included, and trusted, they are more likely to trust in return.

Wiseman suggest the following ways to help move your contribution forward with those otherwise good people who fail at being a good boss. When you work for a diminisher, you can multiply up.

  1. Exploit your boss’s strengths. Instead of trying to change your boss, focus on trying to utilize his or her knowledge and skills in service of the work you’re doing. Don’t give up ownership but use his or her capabilities at key milestones and in ways they can be helpful.
  2. Give them a user’s guide. Broadcast your capabilities and help your colleagues pick up the signal. Or you can simply tell people what you are good at and how you can be best used. If you want to work at your highest point of contribution, you need to let people know your value.
  3. Listen to learn. Diminishers want to be heard and remember you can learn something from anyone. Look for common ground and ask questions that help your boss weigh both the upsides and downsides of his or her ideas.
  4. Admit your mistakes. Talk frankly about mistakes and what you’ve learned from them. This demonstrates accountability, which can bring greater trust.
  5. Sign up for a stretch. Let your boss know when you’re ready and able to take on a new challenge above and beyond the scope of your role. Or ask your manager what work you can take off his or her plate.
  6. Invite them to the party. Invite your diminisher boss to your team meetings to witness your brilliance as well as to contribute while not allowing them to take control of the meeting.

Rather than continually battle with your diminisher boss, seek ways to improve the relationship so that it works better. This is about exercising your multiplier behavior by multiplying upwards.

Leading Your Boss

April 11, 2023

If you’re like most people, you have a boss who greatly influences your job satisfaction, learning and development, career advancement and overall well-being in the workplace. And it is your responsibility to lead your boss to make this relationship work best.

Your boss is very likely the gatekeeper for continued growth and promotion opportunities. In fact, according to a McKinsey study, the relationship with your boss is two times more critical for career success than any other workplace relationship. No one has greater direct impact over your career other than you.

In the same way you shouldn’t leave your health up to your doctor, don’t leave job satisfaction and career advancement entirely up to your boss. Accepting this means doing what you can to make this a solid and successful partnership.

Working from home during the pandemic likely shifted how you interact with your colleagues and direct supervisor. With a return to the office at least part of the time, you should choose to make the most of in-person one-on-one time with your boss.

Managing upward is not about sucking up or simply doing what you are told. It is not about being totally deferential nor is it about resisting all the time. Leading your boss means building a solid partnership to benefit them, yourself, and the organization.

“Being held in high regard by your boss is one of the most powerful forms of influence and visibility you can wield,” writes Scott Mautz in his book Leading from the Middle: A playbook for managers to influence up, down, and across the organization. Mautz provides a step-by-step method proven with over 30 years of research and experience on how to build a solid partnership with your boss. These steps include:

  1. Nature Before Nurture – This is about understanding that this relationship is interdependent between the two of you. Your boss needs you and you need your boss.
  2. Understand the Asks – What does success look like?  What goals are important and why? What should I start, stop, and continue doing to succeed? Are my priorities consistent with yours?
  3. Style Awareness – You are responsible for adjusting your style to your boss. Things such as decision-making, conflict, formality, behavior, and others need to be evaluated on how well yours align with your boss.
  4. Get Personal – Express interest in them by seeking to understand their motivations, pressures, aspirations, superpowers, pet peeves, etc. to build rapport, and then reward their candor with discretion to build and maintain trust.
  5. Your House in Order – Manage yourself well by ensuring that you are managing your team and your work well. This includes delivering results, knowing the business, and ensure you’re bringing the attitude you want reciprocated.
  6. Purposeful Support – “The support you offer should be intentional about the why and how to make your spirit of servitude more meaningful,” says Mautz. These include providing information, capacity, decision-making, problem solving and advocating to foster a strong partnership with your boss.

Each of these steps is essential and shouldn’t be glossed over as they are integral to making yourself a true thought partner and confidant with your boss. The stronger this partnership, the greater will be your influence and opportunities to grow and thrive.  

Leadership Begins with Integrity

March 30, 2023

Think of an outstanding leader. He or she is likely charismatic, effective and a great communicator. And no matter who you’re thinking of, this leader very likely demonstrates integrity as part of their character. Without integrity, there can be no great leader.

Leadership takes many forms and is defined in different ways. But to become a great leader, there needs to be a foundation of integrity above and beyond all else.

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway with a current net worth of $104 billion, has had a long and successful career demonstrating integrity. He also promises to give away 99 percent of his fortune to philanthropic causes.

“We look for three things when we hire people,” said Buffett. “We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don’t have the latter, the first two will kill you, because if you’re going to get someone without integrity, you want them lazy and dumb.” In other words, don’t hire anyone without integrity.

Integrity is about the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It’s about doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Those with integrity are the people you want to surround yourself with—both in the workplace and in your personal life.

When I was interviewed for one of my first professional jobs, the president of the company told me he was looking for two characteristics in the people they hire: integrity and a sense of urgency. Years later, after leaving the company, I discovered how rare it was to find both characteristics in the people I worked with at other companies.

Many use the word “integrity” indiscriminately when describing the values that are important to them or to spice up their resume. But integrity is less about what people claim in words and more about what they demonstrate in their behavior. “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do,” wrote James Baldwin. Your actions speak louder than your words, as the saying goes.

The best leaders are those who continually demonstrate integrity in the way they conduct themselves and they demand it in those they hire.

Integrity is revealed in character traits such as being responsible, honest, respectful, and trustworthy. It shows up in expressing gratitude for other people.

Those with integrity, model it by:

  • Taking responsibility for their actions
  • Treating everyone with respect
  • Seeking to learn at every opportunity
  • Remaining humble regardless of their position
  • Being accountable always
  • Helping others without expecting something in return

Think of leaders in your own workplace. Do they model this behavior? The ones who do are those you should emulate if you want to continue to grow as a leader yourself. If you can’t find someone within your company, seek to find one in another company who you can model yourself after. And maybe consider moving on to another company where you’ll find leaders with integrity.

In the workplace, you can demonstrate your own integrity by:

  • Doing what you say you will do—be dependable and follow through on your commitments.
  • Communicating in a way that is transparent and true to your word.
  • Owning up to your mistakes and holding yourself accountable.

These three things will help you to grow in your leadership capacity. They will also help you demonstrate that you are a person with integrity. And nothing will propel your career more than demonstrating integrity in all your behavior.

Managers Focus on Direction

March 15, 2023

With the recent layoffs of thousands of employees at high tech companies including Meta, Google, Microsoft and Twitter, managers may want to sharpen their focus to ensure others see their value. Though managers may have been let go not because of anything they did or not done, it’s always helpful to continue growing to be more effective.

Some may believe that these and other companies are simply trimming the fat. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, who recently announced cutting 10,000 workers in addition to the 11,000 laid off last November, says this is going to be their “year of efficiency.” Does this imply he has been at fault for leading his company inefficiently?

These layoffs are largely at the expense of middle managers spread throughout organizations. Many might consider that those in between executives pointing the direction and individual contributors doing the work there is simply a layer of bureaucracy. But these supervisors, managers, and directors are actually who direct the work and are largely responsible for employee engagement, which ultimately determines productivity.

In Russ Laraway’s book, When They Win, You Win: Being a great manager is simpler than you think, he says workers need clear expectations, the autonomy to craft and pursue their agendas, support to achieve success, and help thinking about their careers. Laraway says managers must therefore provide three things: direction, coaching and career.

Regarding direction, a manager’s job is less about setting direction and more about ensuring that direction is set. Laraway says this direction framework ensures the team is aligned through a combination to both long-term and short-term elements.

Long-Term: Purpose & Vision

Essential to any manager’s success is ensuring they provide their people long-term direction with purpose and vision. Clear purpose means people know why they are doing the work—beyond the paycheck. This purpose can increase engagement because it appeals more to intrinsic rather than extrinsic interests.

Vision provides the future state you’re working towards. It is about articulating where you are going with the work. Without this, it’s far too easy for people to not work together towards a common goal. By aligning vision and purpose means your people have a clear reason for doing the work.

Short-Term: OKRs & Prioritization

Equally important, managers must ensure they provide the short-term elements of OKRs (objectives and key results) and prioritization. According to John Doerr, author of Measure What Matters, objectives define what we seek to achieve, and the key results are how those top priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions and within a set time frame. OKRs can help focus effort and foster coordination in a team and throughout an organization.

Too many workplaces have a lack of prioritization necessary to make progress, and nothing impedes progress more than people having too many or conflicting priorities. Successful managers need to be ruthless with clarity around priorities so there is no misunderstanding. This means that as a manager these priorities are clear to you so you can align your people and enable their continual progress.

Managers have always been in a tough spot by being in the middle and susceptible to layoffs due to the ups and downs of companies. It is therefore important to ensure your value by directing your people with purpose, vision, OKRs and prioritization. Focus on directing to emphasize your value.

Best Practices in a Return to the Workplace

February 28, 2023

The pandemic made it necessary for many of us to work from home and various technologies made that possible. For a number of tasks, our productivity increased. Now that it seems safe to work side-by-side again, many are resisting and it’s time to install best practices in returning to the workplace.

Many businesses are offering a hybrid model to bring forward lessons learned while working from home. These include flexibility in when the work gets done, recognizing the advantage of reduced commuting time, acknowledging the value of more focus time. Of course, this last one depended on who else was in the home and whether Zoom meetings dominated one’s schedule.

Benefits for our returning to the office at least part of the week can include maintaining connections with others, building a solid reputation founded on who we are and how we show up, and strengthening relationships to help foster greater collaboration now and networking throughout our careers. Finally, our overall health and well-being. Social media and the pandemic have led to further isolation. Don’t dismiss the value in real-time interactions.

If a hybrid model of working partly in the office and partly at home are likely to become the new normal, it would make sense to derive best practices for such a model. For example, a hybrid model can be effective if it addresses proximity bias, maximizes social opportunities, and capitalizes on remote innovation opportunities.

Proximity Bias

During the pandemic none of us were more proximal to the boss. When we return to the office in a hybrid model, we should ensure that those physically closer to those in power are not given an unfair advantage for promotions. Both the worker and the boss need to recognize that proximity bias may not be intentional but can certainly play a role in who gets promoted. Workers need to show up more fully when in the office and engaging as fully as possible when working from home. Bosses need to recognize those who produce results and not merely those who are physically present.

Social Opportunities

The last thing you want when seeking to bring an employee back into the workplace is to have her spend all day on Zoom with colleagues working from home. This was the case for someone told to do an internship in the office because of the opportunities to learn and grow from co-workers. But those co-workers never came into the office. It’s important to organize days when team members will all be in the office and prioritize opportunities to collaborate in the same physical space rather than stare at a computer screen. Be intentional in spending meaningful time with co-workers so that you can optimize your time in the office for collaborating, building trust and rapport, and generally working effectively together.


Remote Innovation

Let’s face it: companies want and need to innovate to stay competitive. The trouble is that innovation is hard to come by under the best of circumstances, but don’t rule out this coming when working remotely. Insight and inspiration can come from anywhere and at any time and very often this happens outside of the office. If companies encourage the flexibility in taking mid-day walks and endorse daydreaming during breaks from tasks, this could very well provide the spark needed for new ideas and opportunities that lead to vital innovation. Workers should optimize focus time for getting things accomplished when working remotely. They should also allow for divergent thinking and allow for creative inspiration.

People returning to the office at least part of the time can result in higher engagement, increased trust, better communication, and a feeling of belonging. These qualitative results are difficult to measure but shouldn’t be minimized as they are vital to higher productivity. It’s important to take what we’ve learned from working remotely and bring the best practices into a hybrid model that benefits both employees and employers.

Purpose, Then Respect

February 13, 2023

Leaders with a clear sense of purpose are far more likely to be effective and gain the respect of those they lead. Seeking to gain respect prior to communicating a clear sense of purpose is misguided and unlikely to succeed.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece titled “Men Need Purpose more than ‘Respect,’” David French wrote about the crisis in the rise in suicides, drug overdoses and education achievement gaps for men in America. Some men claim they feel disrespected because women are not treating them the way men were back in the 1950s. French contends that men need to find purpose before they can find respect. And that this “quest for respect can sometimes undermine the sense of purpose that will help make them whole.”

“What men need is not for others to do things for them, wrote French. “They need to do things for others: for spouses, for children, for family and friends and colleagues.” 

I couldn’t help but think how this idea of purpose before respect applies to both men and women in leadership positions in the workplace. You can’t get hired or promoted into a leadership position and simply demand respect. Respect needs to be earned. Unless you’re in the military or another government position where respect is more of a command, it’s necessary to demonstrate that you are worthy of respect in all your interactions.

To do this it takes an ability to clearly articulate where you are going and instill confidence in people that you are the right person to lead them. The way you show up can greatly determine your influence. How you show up includes your integrity, humility, empathy, and communication style. By articulating your purpose and modeling the behaviors you want to see in your people, you are acting in a way others will then respect.

“Virtuous purpose is worth more than any other person’s conditional and unreliable respect,” continues French. “It is rooted in service and sacrifice, not entitlement. What we do for others is infinitely more rewarding than what we ask them to do for us.”

This is essentially the model of servant leadership, which was first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in an essay he wrote in 1970. Servant leadership is grounded in the belief that the most effective leaders strive to serve others rather than accrue power or take control. These others can be customers, partners, fellow employees, or the community.  

Leaders who demonstrate servant leadership include such luminaries as Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s hard to imagine any of these great leaders without a clear sense of purpose.

Whether you are in a leadership position now or striving to get into one, keep in mind that respect needs to be earned. It won’t come automatically with a new job title. Instead, you need to model the behaviors that deserve respect, and then articulate a sense of purpose so people feel you can effectively lead them. When others feel you are an effective leader, you will receive well-earned respect.

Leadership is Jacinda Ardern

January 27, 2023

So often I write about corporate leaders who deliver bottom-line results to meet shareholder expectations, while demonstrating leadership principles that respect employees and customers. Today I want to highlight a politician who during her tenure demonstrated extraordinary leadership and elevated what is possible in this time of political turmoil.

In 2017 at the age of 37, Jacinda Ardern became the youngest prime minister in New Zealand’s history, and this week she resigned because she said it was time.

“I’m leaving because with such a privileged role comes responsibility,” Ardern said in her announcement. “The responsibility to know when you are the right person to lead and also when you are not. I know what this job takes. And I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

She certainly faced headwinds due to New Zealand’s economic turndown, but the abuse and threats she received had to weigh into her decision. Ardern also had a baby while in office and she stated wanting to be more involved in her daughter’s life was important as well.

“For my part, I want you to know that my overwhelming experience in this job—of New Zealand and New Zealanders, has been one of love, empathy and kindness,” she said. “That is what the majority of New Zealand has shown to me.”

Ardern accomplished a great deal while in office including:

  • Delivered a world-leading response to COVID-19 by closing New Zealand’s borders
  • Promoted unity and compassion after the March 2019 mosque terrorist attack
  • Introduced key policies to lift the wellbeing of children and families
  • Introduced a new public holiday to celebrate Matarik—the start of the Māori New Year
  • Took action on climate change by leading towards a zero carbon future
  • Launched New Zealand’s first Wellbeing Budget
  • Being the first prime minister to march in a Pride parade
  • Fought to close the gender pay gap

What I find most remarkable is what she stated in her final address regarding her legacy perhaps pointing to a direction other world leaders should take.

“I hope I leave New Zealanders with a belief that you can be kind, but strong, empathetic but decisive, optimistic but focused. And that you can be your own kind of leader – one who knows when it’s time to go,” Ardern said.

I can think of many world leaders who should take this to heart when weighing how to lead a country and when to exit a political career. The majority of U.S. citizens reported in a recent poll that they would prefer a candidate other than Joe Biden or Donald Trump to run for President in 2024. Even my 92-year-old mother can’t see how an octogenarian or septuagenarian can have enough left in the tank for such an important job.  

“Women know when to step down … their egos are lower,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the World Trade Organization Director-General. She went on to say that Ardern set an example by stepping down after giving her best.

Jacinda Ardern is a remarkable leader. I’m hopeful more men and women will follow her exemplary leadership.

All About Managers

January 6, 2023

The CEO is where we typically focus when we evaluate a particular company, which makes sense given that this is the leader with the biggest impact on the organization’s success or failure—at least in terms of profitability. However, when it comes to getting work done and employees being engaged, it’s all about managers.

Managers are the ones who execute the strategy, deliver products or services, and ensure that the overall objectives are carried out. Managers are also the ones with the biggest impact on employees and greatly determine whether they are fully engaged or not.

According to a 2017 Gallop report titled “State of the Global Workplace,” companies in the top quartile in employee engagement deliver 17 percent better productivity and 21 percent more profitability than those in the bottom. To improve employee engagement, look no further than the manager.

Former managing director for Gallup’s Global Leadership Advisory, Larry Emond, said “the manager explains 70 percent of engagement.” Better engagement is a function of better management, and worse engagement is a function of worse management.

“People need clear expectations, the autonomy to craft and pursue their agendas, support to achieve success, and help thinking about their careers,” writes Russ Laraway in his book When They Win, You Win: Being a great manager is simpler than you think. “Three important words managers use that demonstrate they care about the people: time, help, success. Take time to help people be more successful.”

According to Laraway, managers must provide three things: direction, coaching and career. By focusing on helping their people win, managers win too.

Direction – Setting the direction anchors the team to an aligned result through a combination of purpose and vision (long-term), and OKRs and ruthless prioritization (short-term). Setting direction ensures people know both the what and the why things need to get done, provides clear measures for what results look like, and a shared understanding of the most important tasks of the day, week, or quarter.

Coaching – Coaching is about encouraging people to change what’s not working and continue doing what is working. The first involves giving feedback in a way that is supportive; the second involves helping people explicitly understand what they have done well so they can do more of it. Neither of these should be considered micro-managing but instead are about keeping a close eye on what is happening to immediately correct when things go off-track and to encourage and praise when things are going well.

Career – Managers should do more than help employees succeed in the job at hand. They must also assist people in discovering a long-term vision for their careers and show them what actions they can take right now that enables tangible progress toward it. In doing so, managers can show employees that they care for them above and beyond the immediate work and current organization. Managers can demonstrate that they value their people more than simply as employees.

Laraway, a former executive at Google and Twitter as well as co-founder and COO at Radical Candor, says managers whose teams are most engaged, and whose organizations produce the best results, are able to systematically:

  • Create a culture of candor
  • Actively prioritize
  • Respond to ideas and concerns
  • Establish explicit expectations
  • Support growth and development

All of these are likely to increase engagement because they extend beyond typical company perks or benefits. They are about the behavior of managers leading the work.

To improve any company, look no further than the managers within it. Hiring and retaining the best managers makes business sense because good managers are those who develop engaged employees resulting in measurably superior results.

Living an Intentional Life

December 26, 2022

With the coming of a new year, this is the perfect time to take greater control of your life and career. This is not limited to signing up for a new round of exercise or diet programs but living a more intentional life by being proactive and taking responsibility for the progress in reaching your goals.

Many may believe there is little to do to control their life and career, and this is certainly true for some. Most of us, however, have a great deal of agency for steering the direction we want our lives to go. Intentionality means accepting, embracing, and exerting this agency.

I’m embarrassed to say this, but throughout my twenties and thirties I was merely a passenger on the passages in much of my life and career—simply waiting for an enticing offer, opportunity, or path to present itself. Yet I now see that when I am intentional about my daily decisions and choices, this can lead to the most beneficial outcomes.

Such decisions included pursuing a master’s degree in applied behavioral science, starting my own coaching and consulting business, and writing this bi-weekly blog for more than 15 years that led to business opportunities as well as writing a book on emotional intelligence. In my personal life, I chose to ride a bicycle across the country twice, climb to the summits of Washington’s three highest mountains and continue telemark skiing into my sixties.

Each of these accomplishments required consistently planning and working to reach them and would not have happened without being intentional in my pursuit.

Choosing to be intentional about your life and career means you are proactive. This doesn’t mean you control everything, but you are no longer passive and simply hoping to reach what you want to achieve. It means you have a clear goal or north star, yet you can be influenced and inspired by supporting opportunities and take advantage of them when they arise.

Intentionality means taking responsibility for your progress through discipline and persistence. It is also about holding yourself accountable.

It’s especially important to Identify and stay true to your values as they can serve as guardrails to inform you of when you stray from what is most important.

Accept that short term pain can lead to long term gain and reaching your goal is even more satisfying when you have worked hard to attain it.

Roman philosopher Seneca once stated, “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Certainly, luck plays a part in reaching any goal, so it’s important to prepare for the opportunities that are certain to come about. This means being more intentional in your daily decisions.

Make this new year more intentional by identifying what you want, aligning it with your values and who you are, and then being proactive and persistent to reach your goals. By this time next year, I’m certain your intentionality will bring you closer to what you want in your life and career. Happy New Year!

Team Advantage of Strategic Offsites

December 8, 2022

On the cusp of a new year many organizations are currently scheduling offsites for senior executives to review strategic goals and devise execution plans for the coming year. Healthy organizations who encourage their leaders to embrace each other as vital teammates will be the most successful.

All too often offsites fail to deliver solid results because leaders bring forth plans that are focused on individuals and their departments. This can inadvertently reward silo building and allow for competition of resources that ultimately undermines company-wide success. Rather than building a unified team and doing what’s right for the organization, individual egos, reputations, and ambitions become the primary focus.

Any successful strategic offsite should begin with ensuring everyone feels psychologically safe to speak freely. Each person should trust that they can do the right thing for the right reasons. And all participants ought to feel like they are an important component of a highly functional team, and that the organization will succeed only with everyone working effectively together.

Before beginning any offsite, ensure that there is a foundation of trust and rapport. If this needs to be established or strengthened, this should be the number one priority. Though it takes time and energy, and some may see it as unnecessary, nothing is more important. Without trust, there can be little progress.

Vulnerability should also be encouraged and modeled by the most senior leader so others can show up more fully and authentically. This will set the tone for how everyone shows up.

In his book, The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, author Patrick Lencioni recommends a Team Effectiveness Exercise that can be especially helpful.

“Do this at the end of an off-site meeting once there is a decent foundation of trust,” writes Lencioni. “If team members aren’t capable of being vulnerable with one another, there is no point in doing it.”

Team Effectiveness Exercise

  1. Have each person write down one thing that each of the other team members does that makes the team better. It should be the biggest strength as it pertains to the impact on the group. Not technical skills but the way they behave when the team is together that makes the team stronger.

  2. Do the same thing except this time focus on one aspect of each person that sometimes hurts the team. Provide 10 to 15 minutes for this.

  3. Beginning with the leader, go around the room asking everyone to report on the person’s one positive characteristic. Let the person respond after everyone has finished. Now go around again offering the one characteristic that the person needs to work on. Allow for a reaction after everyone has gone. Then do this for the next person until everyone is complete. Should take only about 10 minutes per person.

This type of exercise requires trust and psychological safety to execute well. It can dramatically strengthen a team by making each member feel more supported by and accountable to the others on the team.

“The greatest impact is the realization on the part of leadership team members that holding one another accountable is a survivable and productive activity, and it will make them likely to continue doing it going forward,” continues Lencioni.

Lencioni does an excellent job of illustrating this in his earlier book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which I highly recommend.

Plan on making your next strategic offsite meeting one that is focused on the team. The whole truly can be greater than the sum of its parts, but requires ensuring there is psychological safety, trust, and rapport. And it means the courage to be vulnerable with each other for the sake of strengthening your relationships and team performance.

Gratitude Giving

November 23, 2022

It’s the time of year when we are reminded to give thanks. This often means breaking bread with friends and family to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives.

Thanksgiving has become less about being grateful and more about watching football, planning a Black Friday shopping strategy, eating too much, and joining extended family and friends you may often dread due to heightened stress over divisive opinions shared all too freely.

It’s been said that when you are looking to grow, you should compare yourself with who you were yesterday rather than with someone else. Unfortunately, one of the bigger problems with social media is that users often post their most glamorous words and photos, and this can make others feel inferior because—consciously or unconsciously—we do compare ourselves with others.

Expressing gratitude can help refocus on what we have instead of what we lack. This simple act can build greater confidence and acceptance.

All too frequently we tend to focus on problem solving rather than appreciative inquiry. We look for what’s wrong rather than what’s right. We search for the flaws that somehow overpowers what is without flaw. We notice and are critical of the cracks in everything, but fail to appreciate as Leonard Cohen so artfully put it, that’s how the light gets in.

In psychology research, gratitude has been strongly associated with greater happiness because it helps people feel more positive emotions, improves their mental and physical health, enables them to deal with stress and build stronger relationships.

For me and my family, the past several months have been particularly challenging. After a lifetime of taking my physical health for granted, I came face to face with concerns that no longer allow for this. The loss of loved ones reminds me of my own mortality and that it’s important to make the most of the time I have left with the ones I love most.

It’s also a reminder to give thanks. By appreciating and showing gratitude for all that I have, I can shift from a focus of scarcity to one of abundance. I can express to myself and others what I value and what truly matters. Sharing gratitude means I can be fully present to what I have.

Here are some very simple ways to regularly express gratitude:

  • Do it in person with the people who mean the most to you. By intentionally sharing your appreciation for each of them, this will bring you even closer together.
  • Write a heartfelt letter or email to express your appreciation for people in the workplace or friends and family far away. Like an old fashioned thank you card, a personalized message is extremely beneficial and will be savored by those who receive it.
  • Before falling asleep at the end of each day, make a mental note of five things you’re grateful for. This can be as simple as your partner, your health, your job, or whatever you appreciate today. You’ll end up sleeping deeper and rest more fully.  

Thank you for reading this and thank you for your continued connection. I value you and appreciate your thoughts and impressions. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.