The Technology of Management Is an Insult to Your Intelligence

by Josh Allan Dykstra

I was hanging out with a friend for coffee, making small talk about their work, when it hit me. It felt like someone had physically flicked their finger and smacked me right between my eyebrows, even though no one had touched me. In that instant something “clicked” in my brain—and it all happened because my friend innocently said a phrase I’d heard a million times before, something to the effect of:

“Yeah, I’ll just have to check with my boss about that.”

It’s a simple, seemingly innocuous phrase that probably gets spoken countless times every day in various parts of the world.

But this time it hurt me. These words felt somehow… gross, offensive. I felt insulted for my friend.

“Why?” you may ask.

Because for the situation we were discussing, my friend knew exactly what to do. We talked about it at length. They had thoughtfully processed the options, they’d consulted the appropriate people to get other viewpoints, they were the person closest to the work, and they clearly knew what decision needed to be made.

But they couldn’t make that decision without checking with a “boss.”

In today’s marketplace, we often wonder why our organizations are too slow, too bureaucratic, and too paralyzed. We wonder why they’re not agile enough, not responsive enough, and just not able to keep up with the constant changes we feel all around us. In that moment with my friend, it occurred to me that the answer has been sitting right in front of our faces—we just don’t see it because it’s taking the form of statements we’ve all heard a million times.

“I’ll have to clear that with my manager.”

“I need to check with my boss.”

“My manager will have to sign off on that.”

How “normal” are these statements? I suspect most of us don’t think twice when we hear them—or when we say them ourselves.

But we need to transform the way we think about this.

The idea that people need to be “managed” is inherently an insulting and dehumanizing one. The very notion that you somehow need a “manager” to tell you what to do when you get to work is a blatant affront to your intelligence. We just don’t think about it this way because we’ve been swimming in the water of a world that treats “managers” as normal for the past century or more.

But it is NOT normal.

It’s not normal for you to need someone to tell you what to do or approve the decisions you make—you are a fully functioning adult with a perfectly capable brain in your head.

A brain that makes thousands of decisions every day without a manager, I might add.

As my friend Doug says (I’m going to paraphrase)—you don’t have a “manager” to tell you what clothes to wear when you go out on Saturday night. You don’t have a “manager” to tell you when to get married or have babies. You don’t have a “manager” to tell you what route to take to work. But then suddenly when you cross the threshold of your office building, what happens? Your brain just falls out of your head? Do you suddenly become as functionally capable as, say, a bag of rocks?

Of course you don’t. But the technology of management—and let’s be very clear, this is a technology that was invented—is designed to treat you like your brain has been removed.

I was in a workshop with a client the other day, a successful technology company. During one of the activities, I overheard one of the participants say something like “The main problem is that we aren’t masters of our own destiny.” Then another person added: “I have a manager who has a manger who has a manager who has a manger who reports to the VP.”

If that’s the case, I’d say you are definitely NOT in control of much, if any, of your destiny.

As the session went on, it became clearer and clearer to me how much of a disservice we’ve done to these amazing people by teaching them about “management”—this toxic idea has infected them like a disease, to the point where they’ve all started to believethat they aren’t smart enough or capable enough to make decisions on their own.

Occasionally in the workshop I’d see moments of intense clarity and a flash of awareness when someone uncovered a solution that ought to happen—but their light would be quickly snuffed out by the realization that their fix would never survive the perilous journey through five layers of “managers.”

We ask our people to be brilliant problem solvers, but instead we’ve taught them to be something else: mostly-deflated humans whose default response has become learned helplessness.

“Management” is the opposite of what these smart, capable, brilliant people need. What they really need is for said “management” to frankly get the hell out of the way so they can do their jobs and make the decisions they need to make.

Like my friend over coffee, they already know exactly what to do; their managers are just mucking up their ability to do it.

Without a manager, would you bounce ideas off other people and get collaborative input? Absolutely! Would you make sure you’re pulling in the the right experts to give you the insight you need on the issue at hand? Of course! But do you need a “boss” to then make that decision for you? Please; that’s just ridiculous.

For the sake of our humanity and the productivity of our organizations, this absurdity needs to stop—and it won’t until we start seeing “management” as the insult to your intelligence that it actually is.

Josh Allan Dykstra is a recognized thought leader on the future of work and company culture design. He is the CEO of Strengthscope U.S., the exclusive U.S. provider of the world’s most energizing workplace assessment, and his articles and ideas have been featured by Fast Company, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and Business Insider. He’s also the Co-Founder of Forte, a consulting group that helps organizations and leaders leverage the power of a strong culture, and The Work Revolution, a movement/advocacy group that promotes life-giving work environments for everyone. His eclectic work background includes projects with organizations like Apple, Sony, Genentech, Microsoft, HTC, and USC as well as startups and nonprofits. He holds an MBA in Executive Leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his latest book, Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck, is available on Amazon.com.

Why should CEOs, leaders, founders care about “purpose”?

When I joined the workforce 28 years ago, we were not supposed to talk about creating meaning at work. We were just lucky enough to have a job to pay the bills. I still tried to find purpose in what I do. How was I contributing to humanity and my society through my work besides making money? While I was working at IBM, I figured out it was “bringing top notch technology to my customers so that they could serve their clients better.” It was a real purpose, but it was not a good match for me. I had to find my purpose in life and align it with what I do; so I decided to quit my well-paying job. I became the black sheep; back then nobody around me was interested in expressing purpose through work.

I am thrilled to witness this is changing now. There are so many thought leaders, studies, and resources that talk about “purpose through work.”

Why is “purpose” so important?

First of all, at an individual level, finding and living your purpose is the highest form of fulfillment which is more lasting than happiness. Studies now show there are three tiers of happiness:

1) Pleasure – chasing next high; hard to maintain

2) Passion – flow; peak performance; time flies by

3) Higher purpose – being part of something bigger than yourself

(Source: The book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh)

So if we aim for ultimate fulfillment in life, it is imperative that we look at what we do on a daily basis and see the purpose in it. Bryan Dik, Ph.D. and Ryan D Duffy, Ph.D. have great examples in their book Make Your Job a Calling, like Bryce’s story. Bryce is a STOP sign flagger, and he sees the purpose in what he does which may look like a very tedious job to others. He says “I keep people safe with my job and love it because it matters.”

When we align our purpose and express it through our job, we don’t feel like we are “working” anymore. “When we operate from a strong sense of what we are called to do, then we are not as the saying goes simply making a living, we are making a life” as Richard Leider and David Shapiro explain in their book Work Reimagined.

Why should organizations care about purpose?

1. A strong sense of purpose beyond financial success is very crucial for millennials, and they are the biggest part of the workforce now. If they are our present and future employees, we have to pay attention to what matters to them the most.

2. As Josh Bersin (Principal at Bersin by Deloitte) explained at the Annual Human Culture Conference in October 2016, purpose is one of the top 5 factors impacting culture today. 2 out of 3 millennials state their organization’s purpose is a reason why they chose to work there. In organizational cultures without perceived purpose, only one out of five millennials is satisfied at work.

3. Companies who are more purposeful are doing much better with their bottom lines too. It is very understandable; if you work fulfilling your purpose, your productivity and your engagement will improve. Percentage of non-purpose led companies that showed drop in revenue is 42% while percentage of purpose-led companies that showed positive growth is 85%.

4. As consumers, our buying behavior has changed: we care where we spend our money. We want our transactions to be a reflection of our values. Organizations with a clear purpose, a humanized environment, and a sense of serving their communities win our hearts faster. The Soul of the Money by Lynne Twist is the best book I read that examines our attitudes about money.

5. Values, purpose, and passion are becoming the differentiating factors both for professionals and organizations. Many tasks that require IQ are taken over by computers and robots, but we need the emotional intelligence piece to make teams work as Daniel Pink’s brilliant book A Whole New Mind explains in much further detail.

6. 87% believe companies perform best over time if their purpose goes beyond profit. “The clear articulation of a resonating purpose plays a major role in driving an organizational culture of disruptive innovation. Employees in innovative companies want to continuously and actively innovate…Their passion is nurtured through a strong, believable and clearly stated organizational purpose – one that creates greater engagement than purely economic ones. Money alone can only motivate employees so much.”

So the way we work is disrupted. We mostly owe it to millennials, visionary leaders and also companies that laid off many of their accomplished and well-performing people. Why do I include the companies to this list? Because laying off made these hardworking people think twice about what matters in life. They began questioning the status quo that was accepted for 150+ years: “Is it worth working so hard for a job that I don’t like to pay the bills or should I bring more meaning to my work?” Their children were watching too. They saw too many of their parents getting laid off even if they stayed loyal and worked very hard. These kids watching are the millennials. Of course, they will push for change after what they witnessed. Nobody can blame them for asking the right questions earlier in life.

It is time to follow the transformation happening in the workplace and embrace being purposeful. We know in our hearts this is very much needed after watching too many people having their souls crushed at work and witnessing the consequences of many organizations not having any purpose other than making a profit.

We did not come here to have a job that we don’t like, to build a business solely to maximize profit at the expense of our people or to express our purpose only with what we do on weekends. Purpose is our natural driving force; it can be practiced in all parts of life, and it is a pull we cannot ignore so that we can all thrive.

Brooke Erol is an advisor, a speaker, and an author who is interested in future of work and how organizations can thrive in this new world. She works with executive teams to increase employee engagement, lower turnover rates, and hire the right people based on both culture and job-fit using a three-phase methodology that uses Emotional Intelligence practices.  She is the author of Create a Life You Love. Her purpose in life is to help as many individuals and organizations as possible to find their purpose and actualize it. You can connect with Brooke on her website or on Twitter (@boerol1).

Becoming ‘Future Fit’ Enough to Co-create Today’s Workplace

“I am a human cyborg!” declared a manager to a colleague of mine. Though the statement was meant to confirm that there was no place for emotion in the managers’ world, at least in that company’s culture, in today’s world it means you are easily replaced by a robot. The assumption that the brain rules and emotions aren’t a part of decision-making or leadership is facing redundancy as fresh awareness embraces emotions as the platform for engagement and performance. But traditionally managed workplaces are designed on the assumption that emotional control (or is it repression?) supports logical rational reasoning. That is an illusion and not the only one blurring a clear view of reality. For leaders and companies facing uncertainty and an unpredictable future, fear of fear itself will mark the weakest link. So what is involved in becoming fit as new technologies or conditions demand immediate response?

On the path before you and every company is not a mere tweak in thinking. It is a mind-expanding journey that walks you through the badlands, as business forecaster Nancy O’Hara -Devereux so aptly described it in her 2004 book Navigating the Badlands. The ‘badlands’ are here and they lead to ‘good-lands’ providing growth and expansion is selected over fear and contraction. If you’ve ever overcome adversity or invested in your spiritual development you are better prepared than many.

Two qualities distinguish those who would see themselves as conscious aware sentient leaders distinct from the cyborg variety of human in business workplaces:

1) They bring more than their brain to work, engaging foresight, intuition and their creative spirit and,

2) They are insatiably curious with an open mind to learning and a persistent determination to break through stiff and fixed thoughts constraining flexibility and limiting knowledge.

A practical guide to the changing context of business and what it means to you is Future Fit , a workbook providing managers, emerging leaders and decision makers context and steps plus countless examples of companies embarking on the murky zone of transformation. Author Giles Hutchins has synthesized the work inside developing leadership consciousness, providing an arc of transformation both individuals and organizations can follow. No matter what lens you use to filter or interpret reality, you’ll find your lens wider after reading the book, even if you only read some of it.

Future Fit bridges yesterday’s worn out logic to a broader perception with the effect that you’ll have a much better chance of seeing what lies ahead. That’s a good thing since functioning successful in today’s world of complexity means using disruption to advantage to innovate and co-create the why, what, and how of work. The author articulately and successfully brings together a practical overview of the steps to attain a more responsible and higher level of leadership acumen. By advancing your consciousness and mindset you, collectively with others, gain the power to transform the company mission to a higher purpose that benefits all.

Sustainable businesses recognize they are part of an inter-related ecosystem and so put people before process knowing both agility and performance power is found in people. Decisions are made accordingly.

Would your company thrive if it considered the health of society in all decisions?

The touchstones for fitness cover seven modules:

Module 1: Metamorphosis in the Midst– “Flourishing future-fit business requires us to go beyond the surface and symptomatic into transforming mind-sets at deep and partly unconscious levels.”

Module 2: Firm of the Future“…firms of the future apply living-systems logic to thrive in the volatile times ahead.”

Module 3: Shifting Logic– “Shifting our ingrained acculturated logic both personally and organizationally is no mean feat. The good news is that this shift is nothing more and nothing less than an opening up to who we truly are, resulting in more alive, creative, convivial, compassionate enterprises.”

Module 4: Personal Gnosis – “Transforming our organizations and improving our world starts with each of us taking personal responsibility for how we are relating with reality, the intention and attention we hold, and the way in which we relate with, lead and inspire others. This is the front-line in forming our firms of the future.”

Module 5: Organizational Gnosis – “Our prevalent corporate culture is inured in yesterday’s logic, enslaving ourselves, our teams and organizations in ways that undermine our humanity. The good news is that in opening up to a regenerative logic, our workplaces, relationships and cultures become purposeful, passionate, compassionate and creative places, enhancing our natural potential.”

Module 6: Leading Across the Threshold – “Amid increasing complexity, the journey toward a firm of the future requires multiple thresholds to be crossed, asking each of us to be conscious, courageous and compassionate leaders, leading from our heart while using our head.”

Module 7: Alchemy – Alchemy refers to the integration of the masculine and feminine essence that resides in each person regardless of gender and is expressed through organizational focus and interaction. It is the integration that replaces the separation observable in traditional workplaces. Siloes are made of separation; integration is the foundation to co-create, innovate collectively and across disciplines.

The underlying intent of Future Fit is about regenerative business referring to the idea that companies actually “creating the conditions conducive for life to flourish.” This is the opposite of traditional thinking where companies follow self-interest and singular benefit to, for instance, a return to shareholders at the expense of societal and environmental health.

Do regenerative companies exist? Indeed they do or at least those that are in a league by themselves aspire to achieve that goal. These companies left CSR behind a long time ago along with anything else that isn’t an integral part of how they think and make decisions. Nothing is bolted on for appearances sake. Regenerative business works with the entire system – the living system- as Joseph Bragdon describes in Companies That Mimic Life. Regenerative business also fits nicely within the circular economy resulting in boosted profit for companies savvy to the value of bringing input costs down to zero. It is just smart business. Recognition of the company as an ecosystem and living system is woven throughout the pages of Future Fit ultimately leading directly back to the evolution of human consciousness. The source and heart of leadership and a company’s future are rooted in the evolution of leadership consciousness. And that starts with you. Each person embarks on a personal journey of self-realization leading to fulfillment.

The road ahead is an exciting process of reinventing yourself in order to redesign the company to be fit for today’s challenges. Oddly enough, the solutions to the future lie in fundamentally simple principles. Grow yourself and everything else can then grow with you and through you. Exciting times we are in! Are you ready?

Dawna Jones is an organizational designer, speaker and workshop leader delivering insights, developing leadership consciousness (mindset) and decision-making skills fit for uncertainty. She sees the entire system and so supports internal change initiatives by observing the deep dynamics directing success. Her knowledge of complex system dynamics enables application of fresh and sticky approaches to transforming business workplaces and decision-making. Contact Dawna through LinkedIn or directly at www.FromInsightToAction.com

It’s Time to Stop Managing People!

by Bill Sanders, Principal and Sr. Consultant with Roebling Strauss

Have you ever felt “managed?” How would you describe the feeling? When I ask clients and their employees this, I usually get words like ‘manipulated,’ ‘controlled,’ ‘coerced’ and ‘sold.’ I can’t recall ever receiving a positive synonym as a response.

And yet we wonder why we have 68% of the U.S. workforce disengaged. The better question, based on prevailing management mindsets, is how did we end up with 32% of the workforce engaged at all?

After all, if employees are being manipulated, controlled, coerced and sold for 40-50 hours or more each week of their lives, how to they manage to engage in anything other than gossip, depression, boredom and stress?

Networks are Surpassing Hierarchies

We’ve had both hierarchy and networks within companies since the first three-person firm. The network has primarily served to grease the gears of the hierarchy. The network is no longer an end run around the communication system; it is the communication system. The network is no longer about getting a one-off favor from another department; it is getting work done with that department every day. (For and in-depth look at where this is leading, see my GWC colleague Rod Collins’ book Wiki Management.)

If we want to maximize our employees’ potential, and thus our department and company’s potential, we are going to have to adapt to this new reality. One of the first things that needs to change is our mindsets.

Lead People, Manage Things

One of the first mindsets we’ll need to change is about what it means to be a manager. I firmly believe that you can only manage things, not people. Things have no agency, no agenda, no independent will. You can push things, replace things, and force things to serve in ways that were not intended and the result is either it worked, or it didn’t.

People do have agency, agendas, and free wills; along with goals, dreams, worries, responsibilities, hopes, and emotions. You can push, replace and force them as well, but even when you reach your goals, the result is damage. Damage to the relationship, to morale, to trust.

A Different View of Management

I believe our responsibility as managers is to manage the work, not the workers. We are there to prioritize the work, remove obstacles, obtain necessary resources, provide air-cover, and increase the capacity, knowledge, and experience of the individuals on the team. We are there to help design the most effective processes and deploy the most effective tools.

The two-way street that was the Employer/Employee social contract is over. The vast majority of people working in private industry are not going to work 40 years for the same company and retire with a reasonable pension.

The next generation is due for even more uncertainty and turbulence in the job market. Employees entering the workforce today are going to change industries multiple times, not just jobs. If we want to stay competitive, relevant, and attract and retain the best talent, it’s high time that we as owners, executives and managers begin creating a new two-way street. We need a new contract focused on the overall health of the organization, not just the bottom line.

Responding to the Trends

We are going to have to stop treating people as fungible. We are going to have to stop promoting people into management positions with no training because that’s the only way we can justify giving them a raise. We are going to have to stop treating people as objects.

We are going to have to develop new tools and processes to drive real performance. We are going to have to develop new mental models of what it means to be a manager, to be a leader, to be a team member. We are going to have to reprogram our processes, rewards, and culture to adapt to the new reality.

Or, one day soon we are going to find ourselves wandering down the street with our proverbial white file box of personal desktop items and our red Swingline stapler wondering what happened.

Bill Sanders is Principal and Sr. Consultant with Roebling Strauss, a operational strategy consultancy that specializes in delivering dramatic improvements in organizational effectiveness, and Lead Link of the Finance Circle for Great Work Cultures, a community dedicated to creating a new norm for work cultures that optimize worker effectiveness and human happiness. Connect with Bill on twitter at @technacea.

Everyday Courage in Organizations

 

When you think about courage at work, what comes to mind? Maybe it is fire fighters going into a crumbling, burning building to rescue people. Or our armed services deployed overseas, facing the threat of injury or death every day. Or even a pilot safely landing a plane on the Hudson River in critical conditions.

For me, the first image that comes to mind is taking one of the first flights back from New York to home in San Francisco after 9/11/2001. For a few days, no flights had taken off from New York as experts raced to understand and adapt to a new threat of items in our day to day experiences being weaponized. Throughout the flight, all passengers were told to stay in their seats. This wasn’t a recommendation, as it sometimes feels today. We were being closely watched by the multiple air marshals on the flight. After the plane safely landed, the flight crew hugged each other, the tension and relief evident on their faces.

These are examples of physical courage. Although most of us do not have working conditions that place us in harm’s way on a daily basis, we can recognize and appreciate the courage of those who do.

A simple working definition of courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one”. If we are being honest (or self-aware), what scares us goes well beyond the threat of physical harm. Indeed, psychological fear is probably much more prevalent for most of us than fear for our physical safety. Let’s call managing this fear and moving ahead anyway “Everyday Courage”.

One of the ways that we have the opportunity to experience and enact Everyday Courage is in standing up for our values. Bullying is all too prevalent in our organizations, as it is too in other parts of our society. In fact, 20 years of studies by Christine Porath and others suggest that 99% of people have either experienced or witnessed incivility in the workplace. Taking a stand against toxic behaviors – whether toward ourselves or others – is an important and inspiring form of Everyday Courage.

We also express Everyday Courage in what we stand for, not just what we stand against. When we take action to create change without authority, we can often be entering into psychologically threatening territory. It is likely that all of us have experienced being excited about an idea we have had, that we think will really help a colleague, our team or organization, or other stakeholders. It is equally likely that we have experienced our idea being rejected. In some cases, we may also have had our wrists slapped for making the effort. Stepping on invisible landmines in organizational politics can be treacherous!

It is not pleasant to experience these mini (and sometimes not-so-mini) electric shocks from the organizational system. It is tempting to internalize them as a message to stop trying to make a difference. After all, as any parent or leader knows, we humans respond to pleasure and pain as we learn behaviors. We learn to do what earns us pleasure (or praise, or a bonus, or intrinsic satisfaction), and we learn to avoid what brings us pain (or criticism, or rejection). I believe that this cycle is a significant contributor to so many people checking out at work. Sure, they show up, but they stop trying to make a difference. Or, worse still, they ally with those knocking down the folks who are still trying. Because it is so much easier (i.e. Requires much less psychological courage) to be a Monday morning quarterback than the guy (or girl) on the field trying make plays.

So what can you do to bolster Everyday Courage in your organization?

1. Give yourself – and others who try to make a positive difference – credit for your efforts. This is an act of Everyday Courage. By giving this behavior this label you are narrating a positive identity for yourself and others. In doing so you are bolstering the resilience needed to keep going even when you run into resistance.

2. Prepare yourself psychologically for the interaction. The father-son team of Robert and Ryan Quinn suggest asking yourself four questions to help enter the “fundamental state of leadership”. What is the result you want to create? What do other people think about this? Who would I be in this situation if I lived up to the standards I expect of others? What are 3-5 strategies I could employ here?

3. Build your skills at creating change without authority. When plotting how to advance your idea, my co-author Jerry Davis and I recommend you consider four factors: When to move ahead? Who are the allies I need on board? Why is this a good idea for the people (and organization) affected? How should we organize around this?

Thank you for everyday courage in making a positive difference in your organization and the world. You inspire me!

Chris White (@leadpositively, leadpositively.com) is managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations (@PositiveOrg) at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Resolve to Lead Differently

By Michael Edgley, Business Consultant and Facilitator, HPWP Consulting

At this time of year, many of us make New Year’s resolutions to live a healthier lifestyle, break bad habits or to develop better relationships. These are important changes to be sure, but with one third (or more) of our time invested at the office, what about resolving to be a better leader?

As Baby Boomers retire and Millennials become major contributors in the workforce, leaders must adapt. Successful leaders will need to create a culture where employees feel respected and valued and where they can contribute their best work every day.

Looking ahead to the new year, here are 5 ways leaders can take action to lead differently.

1. Redefine your role as a leader: In my work as a coach and trainer of a unique leadership approach, I find that leaders at all levels are spending the majority of their time on administrative and technical tasks and very little time leading. This reveals a focus on check-the-box activities and it’s an epidemic in leadership ranks. If you want to lead in a more meaningful way, start with establishing a new role for leadership.

Leaders should be focused on how to train, develop, coach, motivate and inspire team members to perform at their very best. Eighty percent of what a company does can be done equally as well by the competition, therefore your competitive advantage is the other 20% which is your people. Yet we don’t spend enough time developing them. We get so caught-up running the business that we overlook our most valuable asset, our people. When we focus on developing people, the result is improvement in every metric. Invest in your team and they will invest in you.

2. Engage and involve team members: Do you ever think or say things like “I wish the team were more engaged”, “If they would only do more” or “They only do enough to get by”? The question high performance leaders ask is “How can I involve the team to make our business better”?

I don’t know why, but as soon as you put a leadership title on someone they think they must control everything or have all the answers. The majority of the workforce is smart, trustworthy people who actually know the job better than their leader. The vast majority want to be successful and want the company to perform. When problems arise, it makes sense to turn to the team to find the solution.

Recently, I was helping a client achieve their goal of creating a high performance culture. Some initiatives were going well, but they were having trouble in two important areas—communication and team morale. The remedy was to create employee action teams with a specific and measurable charter to address these problems. Once the employee teams completed their assignments, not only did they come up with better solutions than what management would have, but they also wanted the next assignment they could work on.

Think of it like this: participation breeds commitment and commitment breeds success. When you involve people they are more likely to be committed to the success of the project versus just being compliant.

3. Communicate openly: In nearly every company where my team and I work, we ask what areas need to be improved. Communication is always in the top three. If you want to be a better leader, start with how you communicate and share information.

Traditional leaders tend to keep the team informed on a “need to know basis”, but this only keeps them guessing or making assumptions about what is really going on. In contrast, be open and direct with the real challenges and issues in the business—don’t keep secrets. When the team sees that you are open and honest with them, they will be more open and honest with you. Share information freely and as a result you will find that people will step up to help solve problems.

Several years ago, I was challenged with leading an operation that was struggling to be profitable. As I started to understand why, I noticed that there was no discipline around the dollars being spent compared to budget. As I met with the team, I found that no one was aware of the financial state of the organization. By having open and honest communication about the financial information with them, it changed the behavior of leaders and team members alike. As a result we took a struggling, non-profitable location to being profitable in less than a year.

4. Show you believe in people by setting high expectations: At one time or another, most of us have been guilty of saying, “Just do the best you can”. When a project fails or a deadline is missed the response is “Well, I did the best I could”, which is exactly what we asked them to do. The reality is, people are capable of far more and when challenged, will do more. Far too often we expect the minimum performance or status quo. However, when you challenge people and convey your heartfelt belief in their abilities, they will rise to the occasion.

I was guilty of saying “Just do the best you can” not only to my team, but to my kids. I didn’t realize that my words were contradicting my true belief in their potential to be successful. As I began to challenge them and convey my belief in them, not only did they start to do better—they excelled. As they became successful, they had the desire to continue and were motivated by their accomplishments. It was a tough lesson to learn as a parent and a leader.

When you focus on your true purpose as a leader—to train, develop, coach, motivate and inspire—your expectations are far more than “Do the best you can” and your team will appreciate you for it.

5. Get to know your team: Every day we ask people to do remarkable things to make our organizations successful. We ask them to work extra hours, increase productivity, and meet daily goals while short-staffed. Too often, we do all this without really knowing them as a person. There is nothing that devalues a person more than feeling like they are just a number.

The people who work for us have real things going on in their lives outside of work. They have families, financial challenges, illness, and crises from time-to-time. If you want to be a more impactful leader and create a positive environment where people want to come to work, invest in getting to know your team. Find out who they are, what drives and motivates them, what goals they have and what things they enjoy doing outside of work. When people see that you care, they are willing to go to great lengths to support the company.

You can start this by having one-on-one meetings where team members talk about what is on their mind. It is not a meeting where leaders talk about what they want. This is an opportunity to listen and ask questions to get to know people on a deeper level, creating bonds of trust.

Being a leader is hard work. There are many different hats we wear on a daily basis while continually looking ahead at the things we can be doing to be better. You’re going to lead anyway, so why not lead in a way that brings you satisfaction, is more effective and builds up people around you? You can. So why not resolve to make the coming year great?

About the Author: Michael Edgley, Business Consultant and Facilitator at HPWP Consulting, has effectively lead teams for over 30 years with a focus on operational performance and workplace culture. He’s deeply committed to helping leaders achieve results by engaging team members.

What is a leader to do? Find the right questions.

by Patricia Lustig

If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.
~Albert Einstein

It’s a big mess out there. In fact, it is probably several messes, all inextricably linked. How does a leader make sense of it all? How do you find a way to navigate through the mess and make reasonable, robust decisions?

We are in the UK, yet the world is so interconnected that things like Brexit and President-Elect Trump affect everyone, no matter where we live. I was with the Board of a social enterprise (a regional housing association) during the two days pre-and post the US election, working on their strategy for the future. With the realization that Trump had been elected, the team surfaced on the post U.S. election morning looking like an animal caught in the headlights. The unthinkable had happened. What do we do now? What does it mean?

They looked at the work we had done on the previous day with a different perspective and considered what all this might mean to their stakeholders. What did the results of Brexit and the U.S. election mean to their current environment? In the first minutes of the morning after Trump’s win was announced, they touched on helplessness in the face of the unthinkable. Then their brand-new leader asked a question: “How might we find opportunities in this space? How might we do things differently? What if we weren’t JUST a housing association – what could we do that might be win/win?”

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Sustainable Motivation for New Year Resolutions

by Chris White

As this year winds down and the new year approaches, many of us are reflecting and setting new goals. Maybe we want to get a new job, or form closer relationships with partners, colleagues, or friends. Maybe we want to get more involved in helping our communities. Maybe we want to get fitter or healthier (this is mine, by the way… again…).

Our underlying motivation for these goals is crucially important in determining whether we will be stick with the pursuit of a goal or not. So often when setting goals, we focus on what we want to do and do not dig into why we want to do it. Yet it is this deeper self-reflection that drives sustained commitment to a new habit or behavior. Michelle Segar, a faculty associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizations, has called this process “finding the right why.”

So what is the right why? “People are more motivated by immediate rewards than they are by ones they have to wait to experience,” says Segar. In other words: when debating whether to lace up your running shoes, thinking about the endorphin rush coming your way in 30 minutes is often a more sustainable motivator than living a little longer in thirty years. This translates to organizational goals too. If you are considering organizing a team-building activity, focusing on how fun it will be may encourage better attendance than emphasizing that the group might experience less turnover or burnout next year.

Segar suggests four action steps to begin applying the Right Why to changes you want to make in 2017:

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