Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Virtue of Humility

Guest post by Ron Wallace:

When you envision the best boss you ever worked for, what character trait comes to mind? Determination? Integrity? Maybe optimism? What about humility? Contrary to popular opinion, humility is not a sign of weakness -- it is discipline and strength personified.

In my more than 40 years of working at UPS International, the values that UPS holds dear became second nature to me and the company’s culture of "we, not me" has inspired generations of employees to create one of the most remarkable corporations the world has ever seen. The loyalty UPSers display towards one another, and the company brand, is legendary. How is this possible in this day and age you might ask? It's because UPS's leaders are humble and servant-minded. There exists a knowledge of accountability to others, and to the entire organization, that many companies simply don't have because their leaders are more focused on themselves than their people.

Humility is the character trait that enables us to win the hearts of our team members and build a truly high performance team. In many opinion polls, integrity is often the stated as the highest valued trait.  And while it is a necessary one to have, a humble person who shows genuine concern for the welfare of their team members is far more likely to gain their unbridled support.

The problem with the virtue of humility is that as soon as you think you have attained it, you have probably lost it. For most, the battle with pride is a difficult one that is fought daily, but cultivating a humble spirit is essential if to becoming a truly great leader.

A humble leader won't flaunt their position or power. At UPS, it is common for a car washer or delivery driver to be on a first name basis with the CEO and our other corporate executives. The company has a level of mutual respect, even admiration, for everyone in the organization. This translates into trust, and trust is the cornerstone of great teams.

Servant leaders are rare, but everyone has it within them to become one by honestly assessing their motives and getting their heart right. A humble leader doesn't grab for power or a position, rather their influence increases when they serve others first.
Ron Wallace is the author of Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver: Delivering a Culture of We, Not Me. Over a career of nearly 40 years, Wallace went from a UPS driver to the president of UPS International, where he was responsible for the operations of UPS in more than 200 countries and led more than 60,000 employees. Now retired, he continues to serve on numerous boards and foundations, owns several businesses and real estate developments and is the author of several books.
For more information about Wallace and Leadership Lessons from a UPS Driver please visit,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Dos and Don’t of Managing Office Characters

Guest post by Judy Nelson

Let’s face it, every office has, at least, one character. If they’re harmless and carry their load, most coworkers tolerate characters or even protect them. If they’re abrasive and add to the burden of others, coworkers don’t—and you might have a tricky situation on your hands. There are important Dos and Don’ts as the manager of a character that can have significant consequences for your organization.

Who are these characters? The behavior that designates character status varies. Maybe they are a loner or a hermit, walking through the hallways looking down, making limited or no eye contact with coworkers. Some characters are loud talkers; some characters have a twitch; some blurt things out at strange and often inappropriate times. Or maybe their behavior is best summarized by an often uttered phrase like, “That’s just George.”

(And if you are thinking your workplace doesn’t have any of these characters…well, I have some bad news for you about your role at the office!)

If you are the manager of a character whose failing performance and odd behavior is creating a “situation” what do you do? Proceed with caution. Here are some important Dos and Don’t to consider:


ü  Model 100% professionalism. As a manager, your job is to keep the peace and protect the rights of your team. This means that you should limit your intervention to what applies to the professional atmosphere of the office.

ü  Separate personal from professional. Your actions should address only what affects individual performance and productivity.

ü  Get answers to important questions before proceeding. Keep the focus on the behavior and its effect on the individual’s work. Consider the following:

·         Does the behavior prevent the person from doing his or her job?

·         Does the behavior inhibit the person from effective participation on the team?

·         Is the behavior something the individual can correct?

ü  Have a plan for improvement that focuses on behavior and performance only. Again, zero in on the job-related, detrimental impacts of the character’s behavior. Specify the needed corrections, a timeline for requested improvement, and offer assistance to help them meet their goals. Also, clearly communicate the consequences if the behavior doesn’t improve.

ü  Document, Document, Document. A written account of any incident or intervention will never be a bad thing to have on file.


ü  Don’t try to make everyone be friends. Interpersonal relationships are not your area. Ostensibly everyone involved should be a grown up!

ü  Don’t participate in the marginalization of the individual. Ostensibly, you should also be a grown up!

ü  Don’t try to diagnose the individual. It is NOT your role to determine the mental health or illness of a colleague, and it could subject you to charges of slander. It IS your role to focus on performance and to help the individual do his or her job. You are not a therapist or a medical professional, so don’t diagnose. And even if you are professionally trained in these areas, you are not the character’s therapist or medical professional, so you still shouldn’t diagnose.

ü  Don’t try to go it alone if you aren’t sure what the law is. Certain behavioral situations such as those where a medical condition might be involved require professional consultation before taking action. If the person is, in fact, suffering mental or emotional challenges, you need advice about proper accommodation requirements. If you have a Human Resources department, lean on their expertise. Otherwise, I recommend an outside party well-versed in the particulars.

Managing a character has its problems to be sure, but there are also possible rewards. Throughout history, the greatest innovators and problem-solving artists of their time were people considered odd or eccentric. Your office character could well be the salvation of your organization one day.

My mother always said, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.” That’s also true of organizations. It takes all kinds of people to make your team. Our job as the manager is to treat all members of our team with respect, professionalism and decency.

What would you add to the lists of Dos and Don’ts? We’d all love to hear your insight in the comments below.

@CoachJudyNelson has golfed with presidents, been heckled by famous comedians, and researched insurance policies for riding elephants on behalf of Zsa Zsa Gábor. As a former CEO, Judy has been a Certified Professional Coach since 2006 and assists leaders and career seekers to develop and reach stretch goals. Her new book, Intentional Leadership (Motivational Press, 2016) debuts later this year.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Get a Specific “SIP”

Guest post by Karissa Thacker
What is your current specific self-improvement project? Is it specific? Is it measurable? Is it clear? I have taken a coaching tip from Mark Zuckerberg, the boy wonder and CEO of Facebook, and have committed myself to one self-improvement project for this entire year. Every year, Zuckerberg makes a public pledge to improve himself in one very specific way. This year, he is running 365 miles. In 2014, he wrote daily thank you notes. In 2013, he met someone new every day. Every year, he has a specific self-improvement project, or a “SIP.”
In contrast to Zuckerberg, we psychologists tend to think much smaller, and go for 30-day commitments from ourselves and other people. The whole life and work thing seems to be going pretty well for Zuckerberg, so maybe he is right.
In my case, I’ve committed myself to mindfulness meditation first thing every morning this year. I have missed three days so far, one of them this morning. I overslept due to too much Oscar watching. I know, weak excuse. But in the words of Tal Ben Shahar, I am going to give myself permission to be human. I will refrain from beating myself up mentally. I have learned that beating myself up mentally about missing one day seems to lower the probability that I will return to practice the next day. But I will return to my commitment tomorrow because I have accepted that I am not going to be perfect. Falling off the wagon and getting back on sooner rather than later is core to ultimately being successful with any self-improvement project.
To be sure, we all feel a bit overwhelmed at times with our self-help, self-improvement culture. Part of the problem is that we have too many options and chatter. How do we sort through it all and commit? Despite all of our apps and devices to measure our steps, are we actually becoming more evolved as humans and as leaders? It seems that we all talk, read, and think about developing ourselves more than we actually do it.
Becoming a better leader is essentially a self-improvement project. As an executive coach, I am reminded every day that whether a project succeeds or fails comes down to my client’s willingness to experiment and try new things. If the client is willing to take on a new behavioral experiment within the first couple of meetings, we will likely be successful. If not, we usually wind up wasting each other’s time, or achieving mediocre results at best.
Making these self-improvement projects intrinsically rewarding is the secret to success. On a practical level, intrinsic rewards are not usually immediate or flashy. Receiving a gold medal or a promotion are examples of external rewards that are obvious, flashy, and give us an immediate rush. But what do the intrinsic gold medals look like? We cannot see intrinsic rewards as we can extrinsic rewards.  But we can feel intrinsic rewards. So the important question is how do intrinsic gold medals feel? This set of feelings is much more subtle. Think of intrinsic rewards as quiet background music that you will not notice if you are engaged in a conversation. Tuning into intrinsic rewards requires knowing what you really want, what is important to you, and why.  When you behave in alignment with what is really important to you, positive feelings happen. Doing the things that are really important to you and purposeful are intrinsically rewarding.   But, our brains are wired to focus on what is right in front of us not what is deep within us.  We need tools and practices to help us notice the intrinsic rewards that are happening within us. 
One of the ways to notice intrinsic rewards is to write with a pen or pencil for three to five minutes. Let’s say you commit to running 365 miles. It is a Tuesday and you run one mile. Immediately after the run, write down what you are feeling for three minutes. In my case, I write down exactly what I feel after my morning mindfulness practice a couple of times a week. It helps me get in touch with the positive feelings about my discipline that are happening in there but I would not otherwise notice. By tuning into and noting those positive feelings I’m much more likely to stay committed and get back on track if I miss a day here or there.  
Okay. Decision time. What is it that you know you need to work on? Commit yourself to a specific, clear, and measurable SIP. Get going now! And plug into the power of intrinsic rewards. You don’t have to take on the whole year from the get-go—give it a try for a week first. Think of it as a 7-day challenge.
Karissa Thacker is founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions Inc., a management training and consulting firm dedicated to elevating people to reach their highest potential and career satisfaction. She is the author of The Art of Authenticity: Tools To Become An Authentic Leader And Your Best Self (Wiley). For more information visit

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Would a Balanced Feminine-Masculine Leadership Style Produce Superior Results?

Guest post from Muna Jawhary:

One of the main reasons why women don’t thrive in business as much as men is because work organisations still rely on masculine standards, including in leadership. Long working hours and face time were designed for people without care responsibilities, which traditionally was men. And although women are no longer a minority at work, this standard is still held by most businesses as the gold standard. The leadership style that goes with this rigid way of organising work is command and control.

So could a more balanced feminine-masculine leadership style enhance women’s chances of success? And would more women at the top bring superior results to the business?

Let me first make a distinction between men and masculine and women and feminine. When we say masculine we automatically assume we’re talking about men, and the same is true of the feminine and women. But this is a big mistake. We have traditionally brought up boys to be masculine only and girls to be feminine only, because there used to be a clear distinction between women’s and men’s roles in society. Feminine attributes were repressed in boys to enable them to leave home and work as adult men, and masculine attributes where repressed in girls, to enable them to stay home and care for the children as adult women. 

The distinction between women’s and men’s roles nowadays if far more blurred, and both sexes need the whole feminine-masculine spectrum of attributes, what is sometimes called androgyny, to maximise their ability to respond to a wider array of roles and situations. Indeed, since women’s involvement in work intensified in the 1980s, their masculine traits have been on the rise. 

To make the workplace as hospitable to women’s success as it is to men’s, we need to bring in feminine standards of work and leadership, to balance the already existing masculine standards. One example of a feminine standard that would counter balance the rigid long hour standard is work flexibility, which would enhance women’s chances of pursuing a career wholeheartedly, as well as invite more men to share equally in care responsibilities, a necessary condition in levelling the playing field for women and men.

But how does a balanced feminine-masculine leadership style look like?

The essential difference between masculine and feminine styles in general is the masculine’s focus on the self and the feminine’s focus on others. Therefore, the feminine aspect of leadership would be to inspire, motivate and empower employees, and to be more their mentor than their boss. Instead of being squarely focused on profit, leaders would focus on people too and be committed to unleashing their potential, to fulfil the organisation’s goals.

This style of leadership is close to what is in known as transformational leadership. Transformational leaders establish themselves as role models, by gaining their followers’ trust and confidence. They mentor and empower their subordinates and encourage them to develop their potential in order to contribute more effectively to their organisation. This is compared with command and control style, also called transactional, which appeals to subordinates’ self-interest by establishing an exchange relationship with them.

In terms of tasks’ management, transactional leaders clarify subordinates’ responsibilities, reward them for meeting objectives and correct them when they fail. Transformational
leaders on the other hand motivate their followers through a variety of mechanisms, including:

1) connecting followers’ individual identity to the collective identity of the organisation;

2) allowing followers to take greater ownership of their work; and

3) aligning followers with tasks that match their skill set to enhance their performance (see Eagly and others, in ‘Psychological Bulletin’, 2003, issue 129, pp569-591).

A study by Judge and Piccolo (in ‘The Journal of Applied Psychology’, 2004, issue 89, pp755-768) tested the relationship between leadership styles and measures of leaders’ effectiveness and found that transformational leadership was associated with greater effectiveness. Rohmann and Rowold study (in ‘Equal Opportunities International’, 2009, issue 28, pp545-560) found female leaders to be more transformational, and men more transactional leaders, and that female leaders were more effective than their male counterparts.

Lastly, a study by Kark and others (in ‘The Leadership Quarterly’, 2012, issue 23, pp620-640) looked at the relationship between managers' perceived femininity, masculinity and androgyny (a balanced mix of femininity and masculinity) and their leadership effectiveness. Effectiveness was measured in terms of: 1) the degree to which the leadership is considered transformational, and 2) the degree to which staff identify with their leaders. They found that among both male and female leaders, androgyny was more strongly related to transformational leadership and followers' identification with leaders than non-androgyny . 

Another support for the superiority of combining the masculine with the feminine in leadership teams comes from studies that have linked higher representation of women in leadership to better performance. For example, a Catalyst study done in 2004 found that companies in the top quartile of representing women among their executives had substantially better financial performance than the companies in the bottom quartiles. Another study related the percentage of women in the top management teams of companies in fortune 1000 to their financial performance from 1998 to 2000. After controlling for company size and industry performance, they found that companies with a larger percentage of women had better financial performance. Similar studies of large US companies have revealed a positive relationship between the percentage of women on boards of directors and financial performance in the 1990s (studies mentioned in Eagly and Carli’s book ‘Through the Labyrinth’, 2007).

Rather than reflecting the superiority of women’s leadership style, these studies show how the presence of a more balanced feminine-masculine leadership can improve a company’s results. This is because, as stated above, female leaders tend to be more transformational and men more transactional leaders, and therefore increasing their representation in decision making leads to superior results. Also, since girls in our societies are still brought up to be considerably more feminine than boys and boys more masculine than girls, increasing women’s representation at the top is akin to balancing masculine traits and standards with more feminine traits and standard. 

In aggregate, these studies strongly suggest that a balanced feminine-masculine leadership style would not only help in bringing more parity between women and men but it would also help the organisation achieve superior results.
Muna Jawhary has been addressing sex equality in a refreshingly new way that is both engaging and solution oriented. She is particularly focused on finding ways and means to achieving equality in the workplace. Prior to that, Muna had a successful career as an economist, having worked as an analyst in the City of London and as an international consultant to the UN, giving advice on economic policy in developing countries. In addition to writing and blogging, Muna regularly engages in public speaking and coaching businesses and individuals. Follow Muna twitter
Muna’s new book is Women and False Choice, the Truth about Sexism: How to Fight Sexism in the Workplace.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Psychological Swagger: Four Signs you Lead with it

Guest post from Dr. Rob Fazio:

Leading is not a science, it’s an art, influenced by science. An art that when you get it right, gets things done and magnifies the best in people during tough times.

 In leadership, arrogance is telling people you’re awesome, and confidence is giving other people the opportunity to feel and act awesome. This brings us to psychological swagger, a learnable skill that’s part of the secret sauce of successful leadership.

Swagger plays a key role in the business world and can make or break your path to success. Psychological swagger includes both what people see and what you see in yourself. Psychological swagger is lubrication for influence and here are four signs to you have it.

1. You know when to give up.

Knowing when enough is enough saves you from drowning in little tasks. Ask these questions to see if something is worth hanging onto or letting go. Is this something I enjoy? Will this lead to long-term value? Will this build my brand? If you have a yes to all three of these questions, it’s a no brainer, game on. If you said no to one of these questions, think through the costs of your time and emotional energy. If you said no to two or more of these questions, it’s time focus on something more worth your while.

2. You put doubts in your doubts.

Doubt can be like slamming on the brakes or hitting the gas. This philosophy comes from renowned psychologist Dr. Al Petitpas. In his work, he teaches athletes the power of realizing that your mind can convince you of something that is dead wrong. An example of this would be the leader who gets caught up in asking the wrong questions, like “Why isn’t anyone doing what I need them to do?” If you ask bad questions you will get bad answers. A better question to ask yourself when in doubt is “What if I’m wrong and people are trying to do what I want them to do, but we just need to improve our communication? The key is to question yourself when you question yourself.

3. You know when to NOT listen.

We are bombarded with constant content. If we’re not careful the messages we hear create our path forward. We have all internalized messages since childhood. Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all Freud on you, but the truth is, we have a choice of what to listen to and what to ignore. Feedback is helpful but you need to differentiate what messages may be holding you back.

The key is to become aware of messages that create barriers, and take action. I call them barrier beliefs. They are not facts, just messages we have the choice to listen to or not. Just the other day I was talking with an executive who believed he wasn’t good at strategy. When we talked further, it turned out that he was actually very strategic, but just became intimidated when asked to be “strategic.”

Identify what you have heard throughout your life that created barrier beliefs. Ask yourself, “Where did I learn this?” What can I do to break free from this limitation?” The more you focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t do, the more successful you will be.

4. You bounce back.

Anyone a fan of the show “Shark Tank?” I am. I enjoy the game within the game. It’s not about money; it’s about presence and persuasion. The entrepreneurs who do the best are the ones that can take a hit and bounce back. Many of these people have put their heart and soul into their dream and can be cut down in a one liner by Mr. Wonderful – the Simon Cowell of “Shark Tank.”  Powerful and influential people are going to knock you down, it’s just another opportunity to get up.

I had the opportunity to advise someone who started a private equity firm and got thrown out of his own fund. You can imagine how challenging that would be. He picked himself up, learned from his mistakes and became the head of an even larger fund. People, who know failure is feedback and temporary, learn and move on.

At a recent speaking engagement I was asked to teach mental toughness and sport psychology strategies. I ended my talk with a photo of a bear and discussed potential reactions to being in crisis. That had impact, but what happened next had more impact. NFL Hall of Famer, Ronnie Lott, walked out. He removed his four Super Bowl rings and told everyone to pass them around. Then he said, “Well, about that bear, I would just knock it out!” In seconds, Ronnie had taught what I had spent an hour teaching because what he said and how he said it had swagger. I realized as he continued teaching, that’s how Ronnie played the game – both on and off the field – with confidence, focus and swagger. At the day’s end when Ronnie was asked why he is so comfortable passing out his Super Bowl rings to strangers, he responded, “I still have one good hit left.”

If you have not already, find your psychological swagger. Identify what makes you confident and believe in yourself. I am not saying you need to walk around and be arrogant. I am saying every great leader embraces their own version of courage and confidence. When you know what makes you confident or makes you quiver, you set your direction rather than letting other people push you in a direction. People can sense your psychological swagger and that’s how they determine if you are a leader worth following. Swagger on!

You can learn more about whether or not you lead with psychological swagger by reading more on success in my new book, Simple is the New Smart.

Rob Fazio, Ph.D., is an executive advisor, sport psychologist, crisis consultant, keynote speaker, and nonprofit leader who is passionate about helping people simplify success and move forward fast in their lives and careers. For more information, visit

Monday, March 28, 2016

“Dealing with your Manager” and Other Work Advice for College Students

I’ve been asked by our Career Services office to deliver a one hour workshop in a couple weeks for our business school juniors, seniors, and MBAs.
Even though I happen to work at the University of New Hampshire, most of my career has been dedicated to helping aspiring and current managers’ development.

So other than having given advice to my two daughters, I’ll be way out of my element.

For the MBAs, most of whom have been in the workforce a few years, I might have a receptive audience and even a few ounces of credibility. But for the 20-21 year olds, what could I possibly say that they’re going to
A. Believe

B. Remember
C. Use to make a positive difference in their early careers?

D. Put their smartphones down to listen too?
I’ve got a LOT of stuff to draw from that I’ve written over the years – way too much for an hour.

I'm planning to draw from the “best of” collection below. 
Which ones from the list would you suggest that I use? Or, what advice do you have for college students to prepare them to deal with managers (or other workplace tips)?

Please leave a comment and wish me luck!
Stuff I’ve written for Great Leadership:
How to Discuss a Problem with Your Manager

10 Tips for Having 1 on 1 Meetings with Your Boss

Career Advice: parts 1-5 (a five part post I wrote in 2010)

Stuff I’ve written for
How to Manage Up

10 Surefire Ways to Annoy Your Manager (I’m pretty good at this one!)

What is a “High Potential”?

How to Ask for a Promotion (I’ll defer to my friend and career expert Alison Doyle for this one)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Are You a Winning Coach?

Guest post by Mark Moses

Great leadership today lives at the cross section of productivity, management, coaching, psychology, and interpersonal relationship skills. As leaders, we get caught up in new strategies to inspire our teams or build collaborative management structures. But at the heart of great leadership is the most important duty of a leader, which is to run a healthy company.

If your profitability or cash flow are suffering, your employees can’t collaborate or be inspired. If your products aren’t selling, no amount of leadership coaching will make your firm successful. As a leader, first and foremost, it's your job to run your business well. In my work coaching world’s top CEOs, I use a variety of techniques to help my clients increase profitability in their businesses. However, there is one exercise that without exception brings game-changing results: the scoreboard exercise.

What Are Your Goal Posts?

Leaders today measure everything from website visits, to outbound call volume, to service turnaround time, to customer satisfaction scores. While it’s worthwhile to measure the key performance indicators that drive profitability, prioritizing those metrics is also important.

I coach my clients to focus on the single action that delivers the results that are most important to their company. What really drives success for their business? Which one action is the most critical? What are their goal posts? I ask clients to be very clear on what success looks like and how points are scored for their business.
In choosing your goal posts, be sure to select a leading indicator of the health of your company. While most of us measure new business, revenue, or sales, those metrics are actually lagging indicators. By the time sales are down, things have been going wrong for a while and take time to turn around. Consider the events that precede sales for your team. Are they prospect meetings? Speaking engagements? Business development efforts? Setting your goal posts is about identifying the one most powerful leading indicator for your firm.

Make it a Team Effort

Gather your team to choose the goal posts together. By making the exercise a group effort, the plan becomes the design of the whole team, not just the leader. This is an important step, because when your team members set the goals for their own performance, they become naturally accountable.

Ask questions to help your team identify the most important leading indicator. Then, define as a group the specific score that separates winning from losing. Finally, parse out how many of the activity per quarter, per week, and per day drive the result you’re after. Agree as a team to set your agreed-upon score as the top priority. This way, when distractions come up, team members will gently guide each other back towards the goal posts.

Create a Scoreboard

Once you’ve identified the top leading indicator of the success, treat it like the scoreboard in a football game. While your team may have played great defense or run a couple good plays, the scoreboard is what determines the outcome. Display the scoreboard where the entire group can see it on a daily basis and hold each team member accountable for their performance towards the goal.

Follow Up and Celebrate

Once you have your scoreboard in place, assess progress on a weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis. You’ll be surprised how well your team will perform once their scoreboard is featured for all to see with the buzzer looming.
Review performance on time and reward your star players. Make a point to celebrate success with your team. Most of my clients are amazed when winning becomes easy once their scoreboard is in place. When your team’s effort and priorities are focused towards one specific goal, winning becomes inevitable. And that is what being a great leader is really about.

About Mark Moses:
Mark Moses is the Founding Partner of CEO Coaching International and the Amazon Bestselling author of Make Big Happen. His firm coaches over 100 of the world's top high-growth entrepreneurs and CEO's on how to dramatically grow their revenues and profits, implement the most effective strategies, becoming better leaders, grow their people, build accountability systems, and elevate their own performance. Mark has won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award and the Blue Chip Enterprise award for overcoming adversity. His last company ranked #1 Fastest-Growing Company in Los Angeles as well as #10 on the Inc. 500 of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. He has completed 12 full distance Ironman Triathlons including the Hawaii Ironman World Championship 5 times.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How Mindfulness Rewires Your Brain to Be More Innovative

Guest post from Matt Tenney

There is much debate over the question of whether innovative people are born as innovators, or if innovation is something that is trainable. I'm convinced that we can actually change our brains in ways that help us to be more innovative, and that a simple practice called mindfulness can help us do exactly that.
The Key Traits of an Innovator

One important element of understanding the key traits of an innovator is realizing that an innovator may not necessarily be the "creative type." Although many people use the words creative and innovative as synonyms, the two are actually quite distinct. Creativity simply refers to the generation of new ideas. An innovation is something that actually disrupts the status quo. It is an idea that has been turned into a reality that is somehow disrupting other current realities.
With this understanding, we see that a person doesn't need to be creative to be an innovator. An innovator could take an idea that someone else had, but decided not to act on, and make the effort to transform that idea into a reality that disrupts the status quo. A well-known example of this is Bill Gates. Gates didn't create disk operating system (DOS). He bought it from the people who created it and then applied their idea to bring Microsoft software to market.

Thus, a good working definition of an innovator is "a person who is able to bring to reality a useful idea that actually disrupts the status quo." This definition makes it much easier to define the characteristics of a successful innovator. We simply need to ask, "What type of person is most likely to bring to reality a useful idea that actually disrupts the status quo?"
Two key traits of a person who can innovate according to the definition above are:

  • Empathy
  • Willingness to disrupt the status quo
Empathy is important for two reasons. First, understanding the needs of others helps determine whether or not an idea will be useful and worth the energy to develop. Second, understanding the needs of the team members with whom we work is essential for advancing an idea, and may even be the most important factor for advancing an idea within an organization.

Assuming an idea would be useful to others, we must be willing to challenge the status quo and stick with that idea despite initial opposition. According to the fascinating research of Dr. Prince of the Perth Leadership Institute, the reason most people don't innovate is that they are subject to a cognitive bias known as the status quo bias. As you would likely intuit, a person with a strong status quo bias is very unlikely to challenge the status quo. They feel very uncomfortable rocking the proverbial boat. Thus, one important element of being an innovator is being free from the effects of the status quo bias.
How Mindfulness Changes the Brain for Innovation

Neuroscientists have discovered that when we make the shift to being mindful, we actually change the active neural networks in the brain, moving away from the default mode network, which is associated with habitual, self-referential thought patterns. This shift away from habitual thinking is what frees us up from the constraints of cognitive biases, like the status quo bias.
When we are mindfully aware of our thought patterns, we're more likely to see, right in the present moment, our habitual ways of acting and deciding, which allows us to do something different. For instance, we might notice a tendency to shy away from challenging the status quo and instead take action on a disruptive idea.

Research in behavioral science has shown that a small amount of mindfulness training improves empathy. Neuroscience research conducted at Harvard showed that people who trained in mindfulness for eight weeks actually changed the physical structure of their brains in areas associated with self-awareness and empathy.
You Can Begin Practicing Without Adding to Your Schedule

Being mindful simply means that we shift from being caught up in thinking to being aware of thinking. Most of us are already doing this many times each day. We just don't often do it intentionally, and we don't sustain it for very long.
Practicing mindfulness means that we intentionally become mindful and practice sustaining it for longer periods of time. We don't have to add anything to our schedules to do this. It's something we can practice during almost any of our daily activities. When done in mindfulness, even something as simple as brushing our teeth can become an opportunity to rewire our brains to be more innovative.

Author Bio:
Matt Tenney is the author of The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule. Through keynote speeches and training programs, he works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary, long-term business outcomes -- and live more fulfilling lives -- as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery and more effectively serving and inspiring greatness in the people around them. Matt's clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, The Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities. Follow the author on Twitter.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Engaging your Team: The Science of Inspiring Others to Give their All

Guest post from Suzanne Bates:

When I started my first career in television news so many years ago, the term “employee engagement” had been invented.  But it was irrelevant to me. I was jazzed about going to work every day.  Nobody had to give me a speech about going above and beyond.  I worked hard, stayed late, and gave my all, because I was on a mission to excel in my career and do something that mattered.  I’m willing to bet you felt the same way about your first job.

Along the way on that career path, most of us run into mediocre bosses and learn to work around them.  We all get it—a bad boss can be demotivating.  When we become the boss, we have a pretty fresh perspective on what people want from us.  We wanted it from our bosses—to know they care about our careers, are going to give us chances to succeed, value our opinions, and make us feel like our work matters and is connected to a greater good.
Why isn’t it easier to be that person?
I’ll tell you what—it wasn’t until I started a company and became the CEO that I realized the problem.  It isn’t lack of good intention.  As my company grew, I really didn’t always know how people saw me.  I wanted to do the right things but didn’t appreciate how my words and actions were getting translated at times.
Now, putting on my hat as a coach to other leaders, what our team decided to do is solve for this.  We committed to a research project to help us understand the science of executive presence.  Working with senior leaders around the world, we knew that they had the same problem—perceptions didn’t always match their intentions.   

The project we undertook was successful in that we were able to take a deep, broad look at research to identify the qualities of a leader that engage, align, inspire, and move people to act.  We call this executive presence, and it’s about influence and impact.  There has never been science around this, or a way to measure it, until now.  It was called an “X factor”– people said they know it when they saw it, but they always seemed to struggle to capture what “it” is.

Trough piloting the model and assessment in many global companies, we were able to show how  the qualities of executive presence track with employee engagement.  Our clients around the world are talking about this more and more.  It’s a pressing issue. 

Let’s face it. We’re all choking on published reports on employee engagement.  Gallup reports only 35% of managers are engaged in their jobs.  A Towers Watson finds that only 55% of employees agree that their top management provides effective leadership.  Dale Carnegie Training’s employee engagement study estimates 80% of employees who are dissatisfied by their managers are disengaged.           

Message received.  We’re smart people, leaders.  We can figure this out.

The first thing we need to do is stop surveying and start supporting managers.  Give managers a plan to do something.  We all know that this isn’t just about being “nicer.”  There are 15 qualities of leadership that are directly connected to engaging and inspiring others.

A solution to the employee engagement isn’t just nice to have.  Surveys discourage managers.  The reports land like a thud on their desks, and they don’t know what to do about it.  If you get dinged with a bad score, you feel disappointed… and vulnerable.  You want to do something—you just aren’t sure what.  

The solution is to provide each manager with his or her own roadmap, because there’s probably a slightly different issue for every manager.  Employee engagement isn’t a paint-by-numbers solution handed down from Human Resources.  Each leader needs to learn how to engage his or her team in an authentic way.

What we have learned is that by providing leaders with specific, measurable data on their strengths and opportunities to develop, they can and do improve.  The data, in the hands of a good coach and mentor, helps them create an actionable path forward.  We suggest they focus on just a couple of key areas.   

There are 15 qualities we know matter to engaging people and driving organizational performance. They fall into three categories, Character, Substance and Style:

            The Character qualities are fundamental—without these a leader cannot build trust with others.  People want to work for an ethical leader who follows through on promises (Integrity), one they feel they know and connect to (Authenticity), who cares about their career (Concern), makes room for their ideas (Humility), and is calm in a reassuring way (Restraint).

The Substance qualities earn us credibility with the people who work for us.  We do this by providing an inspiring picture of the future (Vision), understanding their thoughts and motivations (Resonance), being cool in a crisis (Composure), owning outcomes and making tough calls (Confidence), and helping everybody focus on what’s important (Practical Wisdom). 

Style matters, because it’s how we get others to get things done.  It’s the energy and vitality we bring into the room (Appearance), the way we get people organized and make clear what needs to happen next (Intentionality), get everybody’s voices heard (Inclusiveness), create a good quality and quantity of two-way communication (Interactivity), and have the tact to get sticky issues on the table and make them discussable (Assertiveness).

Nobody has every one of these 15 qualities in spades.  We all can improve.  We can leverage our strengths and get better in the gap areas.  It’s all about having the information and asking for help from trusted advisors that enables us to make progress.

The hopeful message is that it isn’t hard to do something meaningful.  All of these qualities can be improved.  Simple changes can make a big difference.  This is not an intractable problem.  Every leader can contribute to creating a culture where people are ready to go above and beyond.

Author bio:

Suzanne Bates is CEO of Bates, a leadership communications consulting firm with global clients.  Suzanne is an advisor to top CEOs, and speaks around the world.  She’s the author of five books including her latest, All the Leader You Can Be: The Science of Achieving Extraordinary Executive Presence (McGraw-Hill, March 2016).  To take a complimentary, pre-assessment survey, please go to

Monday, March 7, 2016

Should a Woman Act More Like a Man to Succeed at Work?

New DDI research explores leadership differences between men and women and makes the case for gender diversity in the workplace.

Pittsburgh — Women comprise more than half the workforce. Yet, less than 20 percent of C-suite executives are women and only five percent of CEOs are women. To help answer why there are not more women in the top ranks of leadership, scientists at Development Dimensions International (DDI), the global leadership development consultancy, released two research studies aimed at finding the answers. The first, Ready-Now Leaders: Cultivating Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business Challenges by DDI and The Conference Board, identifies “confidence” as one of the few but significant leadership differences between the sexes. The research also provides a snapshot view and analysis of gender diversity across countries and industries. DDI’s High-Resolution Leadership study reviewed true assessment data from 10,000 global leaders and found no difference in the battle of the sexes for leadership skills.  Men and women equally qualified in business drivers around hard- and soft-business skills—with neither gender scoring high.  However, the study did identify three personality differences—inquisitiveness, sensitivity and impulsiveness—between the two sexes.

To get ahead, should a woman act more like a man at work? “The quick answer is no—except when it comes to confidence,” said Tacy M. Byham, Ph.D., DDI CEO. “Women need to do a better job of declaring themselves and becoming their own advocates—speaking and acting confidently and mentally promoting themselves to a future-focused role.  With this mindset, our own behaviors change. And, a woman’s impact is strengthened and improves her ability to get that seat at the table.” Combined findings from the research include:

Fact 1: Women are less confident and less likely to rate themselves as highly effective leaders compared to men. Men highly self-rate their own leadership skills and their ability to tackle management and business challenges. 
Only 30 percent of women rate themselves in the top 10 percent of leaders, in comparison to 37 percent of men. At the senior level, 63 percent of men rate themselves as highly-effective leaders compared to only 49 percent of women. Women were less likely to have completed international assignments, to have led across countries or geographically dispersed teams, all of which make up important development opportunities. Leaders who had access to global and more visible experiences are more likely to advance.

Fact 2: Business drivers comparing men and women yield no significant differences. Business drivers examined include: Building high-performance cultures; engaging employees; cultivating a customer-focused culture; creating alignment and accountability; enhancing organizational talent; building strategic partnerships and relationships, driving process innovation and driving efficiency. “The reality is we tend to focus too much on differences which are actually few and far between,” said Richard S. Wellins, Ph.D., DDI Senior Vice President and study co-author. “The disparity in gender diversity has little to do with competence levels.”

Fact 3: Considerable personality gaps exist between the sexes in inquisitiveness, sensitivity and impulsiveness. The research shows that men are 16 percent more inquisitive than women, possibly due to their tendency to gravitate towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers that reinforce inquiry. Women are interpersonally more sensitive than men (13 percent more), which can be an advantage in cultures where leaders are valued for demeanor and interactions with others. Men also score as more impulsive than women (11 percent more) which could result from the reinforced “just do it” attitude where women are nurtured with the outlook “don’t do it unless you can do it right.”

Fact 4: Organizations with a greater percentage of women in leadership roles perform better financially. Organizations in the top 20 percent of financial performers have 37 percent of their leaders as women. “When it comes to leadership, gender shouldn’t be an issue, but it is—a business issue,” said Byham. “Encouraging gender diversity in leadership ranks leads to more diversity of thought prompting improved problem solving and increased business benefits.” Organizations with women in at least 30 percent of leadership roles are 12 times more likely to be in the top 20 percent of financial performers. Organizations in the bottom 20 percent have only 19 percent of their leaders as women. “DDI research shows that when women occupy top leadership spots it pays dividends to the bottom-line in the form of increased revenue and profits,” said Byham.

Fact 5: The United States ranks fourth globally in percentage of women leaders. Across the globe, women comprise a lower proportion of leadership roles than their workforce presence, falling short of men by 20 percent. DDI’s Ready-Now Leaders: Cultivating Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business Challenges survey asked 1,528 global HR executives to provide the percentage of their organizations’ leaders that were women. The Philippines placed first with 51 percent of its leaders as women, followed by Thailand at 39 percent. Canada took third place at 37 percent with the U.S. lagging behind in fourth place with 36 percent of its leaders as women. Increasing gender diversity has become an economic priority in countries such as Japan that placed last with 10 percent of its leaders as women. With an increase in Japan’s female employment rate, the country’s workforce would expand by more than eight million people—and its GDP would grow by as much as 13 percent.* Cultural and socioeconomic factors impact the role of women in the workplace. Australia and German are addressing these shortages with legal quotas—further evidence that the need for gender diversity has far greater implications beyond business practices. Whether or not government intervention impacts these numbers, the data indicates that businesses with a sufficient supply of women leaders will continue to be more competitive.

Fact 6: The lowest number of women in leadership roles are in the consumer products, transportation services, computer software, technology, chemicals, energy and utilities, construction, industrial manufacturing and automotive and transport industries (15 to 30 percent of leaders are women). Industries with the highest have more female-dominated workforces and include health care, education and retail industries (43 to 47 percent of leaders are women).Industries with a moderate representation of women leaders include: food, banking and telecommunications services. The number of women employed and leading in an industry influences the opportunities for women to advance and develop and has implications for the future. Industries with shortages of women in leadership suffer due to fewer role models and mentors to provide encouragement and guidance to encourage younger generations into leadership roles.

Want more women in leadership roles? Implement these seven practices which have been shown to make a difference driving diversity. “But remember, to be successful, happy, and fulfilled at work and in life, it’s less about acting more like a man or more like a woman,” said Byham. “It is about becoming a best-ever version of yourself.”

  1. Make sure your leaders have high-quality development plans.
  2. Implement a formal process for identifying global/multinational leaders.
  3. Give managers who fail to develop their leaders a negative consequence.
  4. Ensure that an up-to-date status of leadership talent capability across the organization is available.
  5. Use validation tests and simulations for making leadership promotion and selection decisions to prevent bias.
  6. Incorporate formal programs to ensure smooth leadership transitions at all levels. (Female representation tends to be greater at lower levels.)
  7. Provide time for leaders to practice key skills with their managers and receive feedback.
*Goldman Sachs. (2014) Womenomics 4.0: Time to Walk the Talk.

About the research:

Global Leadership Forecast 2014 l 2015, Ready-Now Leaders: Cultivating Women in Leadership to Meet Tomorrow’s Business Challenges, produced by DDI and The Conference Board includes survey responses from 13,124 leaders; 1,528 global human resource executives; and 2031 participating organizations. The record-breaking size of the participant pool gave us sufficient sample sizes so that we could look at our findings from many points of view and dissect findings based on diverse perspectives spanning leaders and HR professionals, four leader levels, gender, 48 countries across all regions, 32 major industry categories and multinationals versus local corporations.

High-Resolution Leadership report provides both a telescopic and microscopic lens on what drives great leadership performance, and, ultimately, business performance. The data is based on real behaviors observed in DDI’s assessment centers during “day in a life” leadership simulations and the research represents more than a decade of details from more than 15,000 candidates being considered for leadership roles ranging from frontline to the C-suite, representing over 300 organizations across 20 industries in 18 countries. The 18 findings in the High-Resolution Leadership report draw a very clear picture of what makes a great leader, what leadership skills predict better business metrics, and which personal attributes and skill patterns influence leader success as they move higher. 

About Development Dimensions International (DDI)
DDI is a global human resources consultancy specializing in leadership assessment and development.  We help companies transform the way they hire, promote and develop their leaders at every organizational level. Clients include half of the Fortune 500 and multinationals doing business across a vast array of industries from Berlin to Bangalore. We serve clients from 42 offices.
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