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.