Thursday, August 31, 2017

5 Tips to Increase Workplace Engagement

Guest post by Naphtali Hoff:

The statistics about worker disengagement are staggering. We read all the time about how workplace engagement levels are low here in the U.S. and even lower around the world. Loss of productivity is estimated to cost employers hundreds of millions of dollars annually, if not billions. And it all stems from how disconnected folks feel from the people working around them, the work that they do each day, and the purpose that it serves to them and to others.
Workplace connection results in many benefits, including stronger communication, greater synergy, enhanced anticipation of others’ needs and worries / concerns, and, last but certainly not least, increased worker engagement. When we feel connected, we operate with a sense of purpose and utilize our many talents and abilities to advance that purpose, consciously as well as subconsciously.  

The need for connection at work is perhaps stronger today than ever before. It has become an expectation, especially amongst younger workers, that the workplace be a source of meaning and intention, not just a place at which to collect a paycheck.
Ironically, the technological communication that has become the hallmark of Millennials – texting, social media, and the like, even when in close physical proximity – has in many ways served to connect us only superficially, leaving us hungry for the deep, meaningful and fulfilling linkage that only direct, interpersonal communication with real emotion sharing can achieve.

Without question, it falls on the boss to create a culture that promotes engagement through modeling, messaging, and educating. The following are tips to help leaders create an engaging workplace that gets the most out of its workers.  
1. Create a clear vision

Leaders have the responsibility to be visionaries. Particularly in today’s uber-competitive marketplace, it is more critical than ever for leaders to understand their roles as storytellers and dream weavers in order to inspire continued motivation, creativity and growth.  

There are four things to keep in mind when communicating a vision. One, a vision should be simple, vivid, impactful and repeatable. Simple means that the meaning is plain and uncomplicated. When President Kennedy presented a vision for the space program, he did not indulge in complex verbiage. He kept things simple. The goal is to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade (1960’s). Though he did not live to see it, the steps of Neil Armstrong made his dream a reality.
Two, a compelling vision is vivid. Metaphor, analogy, and example all serve as excellent ways through which to crystalize the objective.

Three, visions should be impactful and include big ideas. Big ideas are what get people excited. People want to feel motivated about coming to work and doing their jobs. They want to feel that what they do matters.
Finally, visions should be repeatable. Distill them to but a few words, a catchy slogan, jingle or mnemonic. The idea should be able to be spread by anyone to anyone. In this way, they are kept front and center in people’s minds and have the greatest impact.

2. Make people feel valued
Workplace morale rises when workers feel that their efforts are valued (oral acknowledgments are good, written notes and goodies are even better) and they are given a chance to shine. They also begin to see their work as part of a bigger effort, which adds to their feeling of belonging.
3. Communicate clearly and often
People are more engaged when they are in regular touch with their superiors and peers and receive valuable information that helps them do their jobs and stay connected to the goings-on around them. 
4. Give them a voice
Close the circle by making communication two-way. Give your people the chance to have their voices heard, in (depending on your company size) town halls, small group meetings or one-to-one conversations. Also use surveys and similar data collection tools to gather feedback.   
5. Make room for mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable, especially when we ask our people to leave their comfort zones to learn new skills and take on new projects. Communicate that effort is most important and that so long as your people are making their best efforts, mistakes will not only be tolerated but even valued.

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) became an executive coach and organizational consultant following a career as an educator and school administrator. Read his blog at and his new leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Building a Culture of Appreciation

Guest post by Paul White:

Great leaders understand the value of showing appreciation to those whom they are leading.  They realize, by building a culture where all team members feel valued and actively support one another, the goals of the organization will be reached more efficiently and not at the expense of wearing out all who are involved.
Misguided leaders believe supporting and encouraging employees is a waste of time.  As a result, they wind up spending a lot of time and energy replacing key team members and trying to resolve innumerable petty conflicts and complaints which siphon off resources needed to accomplish their goals.

The Need
Many, many workplaces (or departments) are characterized by disrespect, a lack of trust, cynicism, apathy, condescension, gossiping, and an overall negativism – which lead to low productivity.  Why is there such a theme of negativity and despair in most workplaces?  Because people want to be appreciated for what they do at work.  But, unfortunately, most people don’t feel appreciated at work. And the evidence is almost overwhelming. 

Sixty-five percent of employees report they have not received any recognition or appreciation for a job well done in the past 12 months.  Job satisfaction ratings continue to be low and Gallup reports only 30% of employees are truly engaged in their work.  Some polls show that over 80% of employees report being bored at work.  Of those who leave their employment voluntarily, 79% report one of the primary reasons they leave is because they don’t feel appreciated (and they rarely leave just for more money.)  Conversely, a global survey of over 200,000 employees found that the #1 reason employees enjoy their work is when they feel appreciated for what they do.
The False Knight in Shining Armor

Employee recognition programs were supposed to be the knight that saves the day.  And these programs have proliferated to the point that HR firms report that between 85–90 percent of all businesses have some form of employee recognition program.

Good reasons exist for the focus on employee recognition. In the early days of recognition, employees were rewarded for work well done and for reaching established, measurable goals. Problems developed, however, when higher-level managers saw the benefits (in terms of profitability) to the company, and they began to create more and more ways to incentivize (and recognize) employees to “do more.” This essentially became a classic example of the belief that “if ‘some’ is good, ‘more’ should be better, and ‘a lot’ should be great!

The result is that the many employee recognition programs have been developed in ways that make recognition empty and meaningless. They have become mechanical, impersonal, generic and viewed as inauthentic. The three most common responses I hear when I talk to employees about their employee recognition program are apathy (“Yea, I guess we do. I don’t go any more”), sarcasm (“What a joke! Everyone gets the same certificate and gift card”) and cynicism (“They don’t give a rip about us – it is all to make them look good.”)
Authentic Appreciation

Fortunately, an alternative exists for leaders – learning how to communicate authentic appreciation to your team members in ways that meaningful and viewed as being genuine.  We have found the following key components to authentic appreciation:

Appreciation focuses on performance plus the character qualities of the team member and their intrinsic value as a person. As a result, team members can be valued and receive appreciation even when they don't perform well. (Anyone else made a mistake lately?)
Appreciation has dual objectives: to improve performance but also to support and encourage the person.   Team members often need a word or action of encouragement especially when they aren't performing at their best because of other issues going on in their lives.

The goal of appreciation is what is good for the company and what is good for the person. If a colleague communicates authentic appreciation it is based in a foundational concern for the individual (which may mean helping them find a position that is a better match for them than their current role.)
Appreciation requires more than behavior, it requires "heart attitude". This is really the difficult part of appreciation - it has to be genuine and from the heart. You can't fake it.

Appreciation can be communicated in any direction. One of the exciting lessons I've learned is that colleagues want to know how to encourage and support one another. Appreciation can be expressed from anyone to anyone else in the organization.
Building a Culture Isn’t Easy

Developing new behaviors for ourselves is clearly possible (although not always easy), and creating new ways of relating between colleagues can also be done (again, often with time and concerted effort).  Building a new culture, however, takes a dramatically higher level of vision, commitment and duration.  But it can be (and is being) done!
Here are the key components for changing a workplace culture:

 - Share the vision of where you want to go and the end result desired;

 - Communicate the foundational principles of the culture you want to become;

 - Repeat the information multiple times, in multiple places, in multiple ways;

 - Provide the resources needed (information, tools, time) to implement the concepts;

 - Give practical action steps individuals can take and the opportunity to practice

 - Create and use visual / graphic reminders and short symbolic sayings as reminders;

 - Structure activities into existing individual and group processes;

 - Celebrate your new values and priorities - if possible, incorporate food and music;

 - Set boundaries on your priorities, which will require saying ‘no’ to other good things.

Wise leaders will accept that it takes time to change a culture – both a commitment of daily and weekly time, but also continuing to work on the goal over a period of time.  Those leaders who remain committed to the goal then will experience the incredible benefits of their perseverance – a vibrant, functional and positive workplace!

Paul White, Ph.D. is a psychologist and consultant who ‘makes work relationships work’.  He is the author of The Vibrant Workplace: Overcoming the Obstacles to Building a Culture of Appreciation and co-author of the best-selling The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace. About The Vibrant Workplace: Any workplace can be healthy. It just takes knowledge of the issues and skills to navigate them, which is exactly what this book provides. Readers will be equipped to successfully overhaul their workplace environment and infuse it with authentic appreciation.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Cost of Employee Absenteeism

The reasons employees may be absent from work are varied and many but the bottom line is, absenteeism has a larger cost associated with it than many people realize. In the United States on a yearly basis, absenteeism costs companies just under $3000 per salaried employee, while the cost is just under $4000 per hourly paid worker. These cumulative costs can become quite significant, which means companies really should look into implementing systems which help them to keep track of work force absences and attendance, so that they can effectively put measures in place to stem the effects or adequately fill the gaps with less significant cost.

Why Absenteeism?
While it is expected that workers will at some point be absent from work through scheduled time off, as with vacation leave or departmental days, there are also unexpected instances. It is the latter which makes planning more challenging, especially when the length of time away is not known or cannot be determined. Sick days or other eventualities such as when a worker needs to stay home to care for an ailing child or personal business, are among the reasons for unscheduled absences. There is also absence associated with unfavourable weather such as during blizzards and snow days. Employees may also opt to take time away from work because they may be experiencing undue stress on the job, may be dissatisfied with the job or may take time off to facilitate a job hunt.

Partial absences which also impact a company financially occur when an employee shows up substantially late for work, takes long lunch breaks, or asks to leave early. In these situations, one off partial absences will not be so significant, but sustained and habitual behaviour certainly will.
The Effects of Absenteeism

All of these instances create situations where other employees may be required to fill the gaps for the business to function smoothly. As a result, over time work generally becomes necessary for damage control, which inevitably increases the payroll bill, while the absent employee will still need to be paid although not on the job.
The effect continues with a drop in productivity because of the reduced staff complement and restriction in the scope of operation of a department. This is especially felt when the missing employee is highly skilled or plays a critical role within the company. Workers who are not as well equipped with the particular skill sets required may be given the responsibility of attending to those functions. Here is where a drop in efficiency will be seen, because they cannot move at the preferred pace and may not necessarily possess all the know-how required to do an effective job.

The ripple effect continues with the remaining members of the work force who are required to fill the gaps becoming over extended and feeling stressed and exhausted due to the increased demands from work. This may give rise to a greater number of unscheduled absences in the future due to these workers too needing time away to rejuvenate themselves. A possible spin off may result in high turnovers, another yet future possible outcome.
What Can Be Done To Help Control Absenteeism?

To prevent a possible work case scenario as hinted at from the outset, companies can look into implementing systems which will afford them greater control in terms of workforce management. There are several approaches which can be applied to these situations.
Workforce Management of Time Tracking Software

Time and attendance systems help employers to keep track of the hours worked by each employee and also monitor attendance trends. These systems create great transparency as they allow employees to be able to see their total entitlements, how much they have already taken and what they have remaining at any given point in time. Some systems can also be customized to send out alerts when there are irregularities or even have a feature which allows a points and incident log to let managers, supervisors and employees know their standing. There are many obvious benefits to this solution.
Employee Incentive Programs for Attendance

Some companies have opted to implement an incentive program to encourage consistent attendance. Allowing extra scheduled time off earned for no absences during a particular time frame has proven to be an effective perk. Some companies have chosen to implement measures which will cater to the overall well-being of their employees through wellness programs. While initially costly, the long-term benefits are well worth it.
Raising Awareness of the Paid Time off Policy

The means utilizing the Human Resources department to ensure that all workers are fully aware of the paid time off work policy, gaining knowledge of their entitlements and the applicable sanctions associated with persistent breaches.
Employers know that absences are unavoidable due to any number of reasons -scheduled or unscheduled. Taking measures to stem the effects of habitual absences on the remaining employees and the company’s bottom line is the most prudent course of action.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Leaders Can’t Execute Strategy

Guest post from Robin Speculand:

Leaders across the world have been taught how to plan but not how to execute. Every university offering a business degree has on their faculty a professor teaching strategy but almost none have a professor teaching its execution.

This has left a skills gap among today’s leaders that heavily contributes to the downfall of company attempts to execute their strategy, resulting in loss of market and shareholder value. I call this the “Strategy Execution Skills Gap”.

What’s required to execute strategy has not been taught in the classroom. Change management, which is taught, has been the default approach for strategy execution, but it is a subset of execution and more importantly does not work for implementing corporate strategy. If it did we would not have such a high failure rate. Recently my company published our latest research on how companies execute that revealed 67% fail.

If too much emphasis is placed on strategy compared with execution by the leadership, then it leads to lower levels of performance because they become occupied with crafting it rather than executing it. High performance comes from striking the right balance between crafting strategy and executing it. For this to happen companies need to invest in closing the Strategy Execution Skills Gap. Paul Leinwand, Cesare Mainardi and Art Kleiner stated in their 2015 Harvard Business Review article that only 8% of leaders are effective at both creating good strategies and executing them.

It’s essential for organizations to bridge the Strategy Execution Skills Gap by providing leaders with the new thinking and approach that is required to correct the high failure rate. For example, Oracle has made 100 acquisitions during a recent five-year period. To support the organization’s leaders to execute the strategy and bridge the gap, it conducted a program called Leading to Win in Asia Pacific and focused on collaboration and learning the skills of execution.

What leaders require is the understanding and the tools. There are only a few options such as Palladium Execution Premium Process™ (XPP) developed by Drs. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton and their Palladium associates. John Kotter offers the “8 Step Process for Leading Change”. I offer the Three Broad Themes of Execution and the Implementation Compassframework.

Introducing the Three Broad Themes of Execution

Since 2000 my research and client work has allowed me to review the practices of companies and speak to leaders around the world. I discovered they were struggling to translate strategy into the right actions. My research revealed that in successful executions leaders identified three common broad themes present throughout the journey of translating the strategy into action. These themes provided the structure and enabled leaders to communicate the strategy. They also inspired the right actions and created traction throughout the implementation journey.

The Three Broad Themes of Execution are:

1. Create Awareness
2. Build Excellence
3. Follow Through

1. Create Awareness
Leaders know that creating an awareness of the new strategy among employees is important, but they tend to be weak at doing it because many equate building awareness with giving a speech, attending meetings, or sending emails. Ironically, they spend months and sometimes years crafting the strategy, and then they take only a short time to explain to their people the Biz Case, the reason the organization must transform. They expect them to act on the execution with the same commitment, drive and passion they have. This “disconnect” harms the execution before it even starts.

From my latest research, I discovered that only 5% of people can articulate their own organization’s strategy. Creating awareness largely overcomes this.

2. Build Excellence
Once people have an awareness of why the organization is transforming, why they should participate in the execution, what their new role is and what actions they should take, it’s imperative to Build Excellence. Far too often after a strategy launch, people go back to “business as usual” within a few months. There simply hasn’t been enough engagement.
To Build Excellence and ensure traction, it’s critical to communicate what’s working, including the lessons learned. Sharing best practices and conveying next steps are also requirements. To ensure the new strategy is being tracked properly, the measures must be reviewed and changed when required. Because an organization’s culture drives the way the execution happens, all aspects of its culture need to be examined.
Building engagement also requires empowering people to change/innovate their work processes. By definition, when you launch a new strategy, you’re asking people to work differently. Therefore, the people on the ground need to be empowered to remove obsolete processes and initiate improvements.
3. Follow Through
Once engagement is built, how do you maintain and sustain the momentum? After all, Excellence in Execution doesn’t happen in a few weeks or months; it takes years. Leaders keep the fire of enthusiasm alive by funneling the flames with regular reinforcement and review.

It’s essential to reinforce the right actions when they are taken. People who are early adopters of the execution need encouragement to take risks. When they don’t receive support, they stop doing the right things and momentum is lost.
Also, a regular review of the execution is necessary to provide feedback, make corrections, hold people accountable and keep all activity relevant. Excellence in Execution requires constant modifications to remain on target.

The bold areas above come together to make up the Implementation Compass - a framework for identifying the right actions, adopted by governments and companies. The strategy created is your organization’s map that shows where you are and where you want to go. The Compass shows you which actions to take to move toward your strategy in the right direction throughout the implementation journey. As a leader, you act as a guide showing people the best path to take. Combined, the Three Broad Themes of Execution and the Implementation Compass act as a bridge to cross the Strategy Execution Skills Gap.
Robin Speculand’s latest book is Excellence in Execution – HOW to Implement Your Strategy. A recognized pioneer and expert in strategy implementation, Robin Speculand is driven to transform strategy implementation globally by inspiring leaders to adopt a different approach. The founder and CEO of Bridges Business Consultancy Int, he created the Implementation Hub, the world’s first online portal dedicated to strategy implementation. His work begins as clients are crafting their strategy and starting to think about the implementation. This international bestselling author has sold more than 40,000 books worldwide and been featured on BBC, Channel News Asia and CNBC. Robin is a masterful event facilitator and an engaging keynote speaker. His work has been featured widely in the media, including BBC Global, Gulf Connoisseur, CNBC, Channel News Asia, Oman Observer, Sunday Telegraph and Financial Times.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Overcoming the “Feedback Trifecta” to Communicate Better as a Leader

Guest post from Angela Sebaly:

A recent Harvard Business Review article examined Shell Corporation’s adoption of an 18-month program designed to help the company’s offshore workers give and receive feedback before their upcoming deployment. With the help of an outside consultant, Shell’s experiment pushed the typically tight-lipped crew to talk about everything from what it was like for them growing up to what it was like working with each other.

The study found that the shift in how the men communicated with each other, especially with respect to their vulnerabilities, contributed to an 84% decline in Shell’s accident rates and the company's level of productivity in terms of numbers of barrels. Efficiency and reliability exceeded the industry's previous benchmark.

Think for a moment: Does your workplace’s culture encourage this sort of communication? Or does it unknowingly - and sometimes knowingly - promote avoidance of honest and open communications? Especially when it comes to giving and receiving constructive feedback?

Chances are, it’s the latter. 

This isn’t unusual. The most difficult and important feedback to give is usually the most necessary to hear and yet it largely goes undelivered. That’s because honest feedback is difficult -- even painful -- to give and to receive. It’s so much easier to shirk these uncomfortable situations by just avoiding them.

This dynamic shows up in organizations of all shapes and sizes. Though many managers and organizations struggle with providing feedback, I’ve been able to boil feedback problems down to three different categories -- what I like to call the “Feedback Trifecta”.  

In the Feedback Trifecta, the skills needed to give feedback are underdeveloped, leaders responsible for delivering the feedback lack the courage to do it, and the typical workplace environment unknowingly and sometimes knowingly promotes avoiding honest and open communication. And organizations pay for it, since avoidance merely causes problems to fester and resentment to grow. Teams and entire companies can become feedback-resistant, and will inevitably suffer. 

I discuss the Feedback Trifecta in more detail in my new book, The Courageous Leader.

No matter how you cut it, there will be pain when giving feedback because saying what needs to be said has consequences.  Thus, recognizing that feedback can cause pain, and accepting that pain, is essential to being able to provide it.

With this in mind, I offer the following tips to for moving past avoidance and making feedback a constructive part of your team’s routine:

     Remember that the goal of feedback should be to encourage others and inspire their courage.
     Remember that feedback is crucial in moving us from one point to another in our work, relationships and lives.
     When giving feedback, say what needs to be said in way that enables others to hear it, with respect and concern for the person on the receiving end.
     When receiving feedback, honor the giver by appreciating his or her feedback
     When receiving feedback, remain in the role of receiver rather than victim
     When receiving feedback, let yourself mourn for what you have heard until you reach acceptance.

The tough consequence of giving feedback is that we can’t choose for the other person how they choose to hear our words. More importantly, we can’t choose for others what they choose to do with them. We don’t like that feedback leads to people we care about and work with avoiding us, holding grudges against us, and lashing out at us. We don’t like being the villain when they choose to be the victim. This is why giving feedback takes courage. The choice we have is to shy away from it, provide it haphazardly or give it skillfully and courageously.

About Angela Sebaly:

Angela Sebaly, author of The Courageous Leader (Wiley, spring 2017), is co-founder and CEO of the firm Personify Leadership, a training provider. Formerly the Vice President of Leadership Development for a global oil, gas and chemicals inspection company, Angela also serves as principle consultant for the firm Invested Leadership, a training provider.  An entrepreneur developing a global presence, Angela has been coaching, facilitating and leading teams and organizations for over two decades.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eight Ways Mentoring Brings Out the Leader in Your Employees

Guest post from Patty Alper

“Employees want to be part of something that is bigger than a company. The business culture is internally based, but the philanthropy is external. That volunteer ethos provides something more than a quarterly return on earnings . . . it stretches employees beyond their day-to-day job.”
 - Rick Luftglass, former director of The Pfizer Foundation’s education volunteer programs
Corporations have long known that their best employees are successful often because they have acquired skills beyond those needed to be an employee. In fact, the greatest managers and executives learn that skills to inspire and lead others do not naturally come from working as a subordinate. Rather, they come from testing out leadership skills in relationships with others.

Companies can let those skills develop on their own – e.g. through the growth of the individual as he or she is exposed to more work-based situations, and as he or she must resolve corporate problems and adjust to new organizational scenarios. But a company is remiss if it doesn’t actively challenge its employees by providing and encouraging these growth-developing opportunities outside of work.

In a recent study on business volunteerism and how it attracts, develops, and retains talent, Deloitte found that 92% of the people surveyed agreed that volunteering improves employees’ broader professional skill sets as well as adding to their leadership skills. As a matter of fact, they learned that 80% of active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles and grow their careers further as a result.

More specifically mentoring, is one of the best ways a company can grow its employees as leaders in many other tangible ways. Let’s review these in detail:

1. Mentoring teaches you to plan, to help others execute, and to be flexible--all traits of leadership. As a mentor to a class of students or to individuals, you need to be organized to fill your time productively. You will be potentially teaching a younger mentee applicable real world skill sets. Patience and precision in your communication will be required as you begin to educate a new learner.  Meanwhile, witnessing another take hold of a new idea requires your agility and empathy.  Ultimately, you begin to understand that your shared knowledge is received by others and how.

2. Mentoring hones your ability to think while you speak. As you become more comfortable presenting to classrooms of students, you will find that your dialogue is less rigid, and more conforming to how the conversation flows. You will start to reorganize your thoughts – and perhaps your entire presentation – based on how your students respond. Being flexible in your implementation and thinking as you “do,” are invaluable traits for a leader.

3. Mentoring positions you as the role model, and the mentees begin to model themselves after your behavior. This is an unparalleled way to learn how to be a leader. Since you represent the little-known business world to students, as a mentor, you think about how to model a successful business person. You think about your appearance, your language, and your style. You teach the mentees how to keep a cool head through obstacles, and how to design a strategy to overcome hurdles.

4. Mentoring gives you confidence. As students model your behavior, and as your internal fears surprise you by turning into successes, you will naturally start to become more confident. This self-realized confidence will make all the difference in your career path – especially when you are presented with new scenarios in business, in which you will have to rely on your own intuition, confidence, and abilities to overcome.

5. Mentoring will prompt you to realize how far you have come, and how far you can bring mentees. As you continue to meet with your students, you will start to think, “Oh! I’ve been here before. I remember when I was their age …” And then you will start to consider how far you have come on your own journey. This will not only contribute to your confidence; it will also contribute to your appreciation of what mentoring brings to these students. In due time, you will see the ripple effect that your presence, your ideas, and your time has had on others. This contributes to a mentor’s new found empowerment.

6. Mentoring builds humility. As adults, we often focus on our achievements when discussing our careers with others. We are trained to tout our successes in our resumes, and to bring out the most hire-worthy aspects of our career during interviews. We might even use industry-specific words that sound like we really know our stuff. With students, however, this approach can be limiting, and even inauthentic. Students already know that certain times require a focus on the highlights, rather than the low points. But those aren’t what are interesting. Students are far more curious about the struggles and the bumps in the road. They want to hear how you thought you were defeated, and what you did next. And to best relate to the students, mentors will learn how to use the language the students speak. Bring the conversation to their level. When you think about the needs of your audience, you become a better leader.

7. Mentoring builds reliability. At one point, you may have been the “I’m-always-10-minutes-late” person. Or maybe you were the quintessential procrastinator. As a mentor, your inclination to be late or to procrastinate will diminish quickly. Before long you will learn how to structure your day accordingly because you will feel responsible to others who need you and who look up to you. What impact will your tardiness have to your mentee?  You will learn the value of being reliable to others.

8. Perhaps one of the most elusive, but also one of the most valuable skills, is learning how to listen better. As you grow in your mentorship, you will learn to listen more, and pick up on non-verbal cues. Eventually, you will communicate based on this feedback. A good mentor can take the pulse of the mentees as a dialogue progresses. He or she can learn how to gauge the interest of a class or an individual, and determine if a different tactic should be used. More importantly, a great mentor – and a great leader uses feedback to shape their communication and become even stronger and more effective. And the mentor learns a valuable asset for leadership.

As a mentor, you may feel you are learning these traits just so that you can “survive.” But before long, you will see that these traits also benefit you in the C-Suite. In this case, the “giving” does result in the “receiving.” I encourage you to join our cause at I am confident you will impact your life, by impacting others.

Patty Alper, author of Teach to Work: How a Mentor, a Mentee, and a Project Can Close the Skills Gap in America has been in the field of marketing, communications, and sales for thirty-five years. She's successfully served firms in the real estate, hospitality, finance, and non-profit sectors through her consulting practice, The Alper Portfolio Group, Inc. For eighteen years, she has been a trustee of the Alper Family Foundation. It is through her philanthropic giving that she became engaged with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and how she ultimately developed the "Adopt a Class" program. Alper was honored as the 2010 NFTE Philanthropist of the Year, DC region and currently sits on the National Board.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Effective Leadership Is Just Seven Questions Away

Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

Recently, I stepped into an elevator on the way to a meeting and noticed that the button you press to close the door quickly was much more worn than the one you press to keep the door open. You’ve probably done the same as me: jabbing the button to get the door closed so I can get ON with things. And it made me laugh, really, because it’s a delightful microcosm of how we’re always trying to rush things, big and small, in business and in life.

In our organizations, there’s a constant drumbeat of busyness. As a manager, it’s tempting to see your role as being to give advice and encourage action. That’s part of it, for sure. But I’ve discovered that to have more of an impact, to be what Peter Drucker would call “the effective executive,” managers and leaders need to stay curious a little longer and rush to action and advice a little slower. Less jabbing the “close door” button, more time thinking about which floor you’d like the elevator to take you to.

In The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, I name seven questions that will help busy managers stay curious and lift their leadership game. Despite the title of the book, it isn’t about turning these managers into coaches. But it is about helping them be more coach-like, an underutilized leadership skill.

But Who Has the Time for That?

The greatest resistance that comes from this simple invitation — to stay curious longer, rush to action and advice a little more slowly — is, of course, the lack of time. Everyone’s busy, so surely the fastest thing to do is just tell them what to do.

There are three reasons giving advice can be a false economy. The first is that often you’re providing solutions to the wrong challenge. It’s a pretty good bet that the first challenge someone presents to you is not the real challenge. Rather, it’s a symptom, a best guess, a smoke screen, a half-baked solution, or something else — just not actually the real challenge.

Second, in nominating yourself as the source of all wisdom, you’re being trained by your people to do their work for them. You’re complicit in moving them away from being self-sufficient, confident, masterful and autonomous. You’re setting yourself up as the bottleneck and the road block.

And finally, if I may be blunt, your advice just isn’t as good as you think it is.

Here, then, are seven proven questions that will help you stay curious longer, rush to action and advice a little more slowly, and change the way you lead forever.

#1: The Kickstart Question: What’s on your mind?
The key to having a good conversation is getting off on the right foot. My first coaching question is called the Kickstart Question because it does just that — it kickstarts a conversation and accelerates it into interesting territory. It finds a sweet spot in being an open-ended question (You tell me what you want to talk about . . .) that encourages focus and gets us to the stuff that matters (. . . but let’s talk about something important).

#2: The AWE Question: And what else?
I believe that the AWE Question is the best coaching question in the world. We know that the first answer to a question is never the only answer, so asking this question draws out more from any coaching conversation — more wisdom, more possibilities. It also works as a self-management tool for you. If you’re asking this, you’re resisting the temptation to jump in and offer up solutions. This question keeps the elevator door open, so to speak.

#3: The Focus Question: What’s the real challenge here for you?
This question helps us get to the heart of an issue instead of immediately jumping in to solve an entirely different problem. The words “real” and “for you” have the power to provoke self-reflection and a deeper level of thought than does merely “What’s the challenge here?”

#4: The Foundation Question: What do you want?
This can be a difficult question to ask (and even more difficult to answer), but asking it can often get us to the heart of things. That’s because we don’t always know exactly what we want, even if at first we think we do. This question demands a clear answer — and forces you to come up with the best way to help, without jumping in and taking over.

#5: The Lazy Question: How can I help?
Once you know what the other person wants, the next step is asking how you might assist. This question invites the other person to make a clear request. In order for them to request something of you, they need to be clear about what they need. The question keeps you both curious and lazy — if you find out how exactly you can help, you’re less likely to spend time doing things you merely think people want you to do.

#6: The Strategic Question: If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?
If you have a hard time saying no, this question is for you. You’re not alone, of course. We’re all pretty good at saying yes, even though we’re already at full capacity. The result is that we’re failing to make as much difference as we’d hope on too many things. But to truly commit to something and make a difference, you’ve got to create space. And a “yes” is empty without a strong “no.” When you ask this question, you bring forth a promise to prioritize and make a commitment real.

#7: The Learning Question: What was most useful for you?
This is the perfect question to conclude a conversation. It’s not just about encouraging learning and development, though that does happen, but also about extracting the value from the conversation. People remember more when they find the answer themselves. Asking this question is an effortless way to reinforce what was discussed during the conversation.

Which Floor?

We’re all on an elevator, headed somewhere. It’s tempting to get those doors shut ASAP and hurry on. Don’t worry, the doors will shut soon enough. Meantime, use these seven questions to get clearer on exactly which floor you’d like arrive.

About Michael Bungay Stanier
Author of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Michael Bungay Stanier is the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. It is best known for its coaching programs, which give busy managers practical tools to coach in 10 minutes or less. Download free chapters of Michael’s latest book here.