A sense of purpose is vital to the success of any business. It allows you to stand out from the pack. It gives you direction through even the stormiest of weather. It creates a consistent culture for people to work in.

But to see these benefits you have to communicate that purpose. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than a hollow statement of intent, or at best something shared by the people at the top of the business.

Who to Reach

Whether it’s inspiring design, fast travel or just providing a smooth administrative service, the purpose of your business needs to be communicated to two distinct groups of people – your employees and your potential customers.

For employees, understanding that sense of purpose gives motivation and focus to their work. As your business becomes more complex, as rules and procedures gain a life of their own, it’s important to be able to cut through the complexities from time to time, to point at your core purpose and ask ‘are we serving that need?’

Communicating purpose to potential customers is about selling your services or products to them as individuals. Mass advertising is a dying beast. To draw in modern customers you need to reach out not with generalities but with something specific, something that directly interests the right people.

Selecting Your Audience

When it comes to employees, you know who you’re communicating your purpose to, and that’s everyone. Every single employee in your company needs to understand your purpose. If your purpose is sound but it’s one they can’t get behind then that’s a recruitment problem, not a communication one. So communicate your purpose to everyone.

For potential customers this is more complicated, but fortunately modern marketing has the answers.

Start by narrowing down who you’re interested in. Look at the data around your market. If your purpose is to provide the latest clothing trends as quickly as possible then you want to communicate that to millennials, as millennial men spend twice as much on clothing as their predecessors, while millennial women buy a third more clothing than those who came before. On the other hand, if your aim is high quality clothes that last then you want to reach a different market.

Narrow your focus as much as you can. Don’t look for the biggest audience, but for the one most interested in your purpose – that’s how you’ll make the most impact.

Communicating Clearly

No matter how grand your purpose, no matter how carefully chosen your audience, your purpose won’t be understood unless you communicate it clearly.

Communication is arguably the most important skillin the world today. The rise and rise of public relations firms, advertising agencies and communication courses proves that. The greatest innovation of our age, the Internet, exists to communicate more quickly and efficiently.

Cutting through the jargon is central to good communication. You understand the language of your sector in a way that your customers may not. You understand the language of management and business in a way your employees don’t. You need to get your purpose across in ways these groups will understand.

So spend the time and money to improve communication skills across your organization, and to ensure that your communications are expressed in terms suitable for your chosen audience. You need to be clear and appropriate in your choices, reaching millennials in the language of millennials, business leaders in the language of business leaders.

For your purpose to have meaning it needs to reach people, both inside and outside your business. That means finding the right people to approach, and the right language to approach them in. Only then will your purpose spread and come to life.

ANTHEM Divi Child Theme

If you’re just starting out in your career, or you’re in the middle of changing careers, then one of the most important things you can do is to understand your own motivation. Not just to accept the things that you’re told you should find motivating, whether they’re inspiring words or big cash bonuses, but what’s really important to you. It’ll help you strive harder, understand what motivates others, and find a path that can satisfy you.

Living for Satisfaction

In principle, we all like the idea that we aren’t motivated by material rewards alone. When we’re not telling ourselves that there’s more to life than material success, we have Hollywood to remind us of the same idea. Like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, we all want to seize the day.

But this is more than just a piece of pop culture romanticism. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, first published in 1943, showed how human beings have many different types of needs, and it is only by meeting the higher needs, those of acceptance and creativity, that we will find satisfaction.

Material wants are universal – various combinations of more money for less time worked.

This was demonstrated in a career context in Frederick Herzberg’s seminal study of employee motivation, ‘One More Time’. Herzberg showed that having enough money and a comfortable place to work helps reduce dissatisfaction, but what really motivates us, what makes us feel satisfied, is meeting those higher needs. It’s finding the challenges that interest us and living up to them.

Working for Satisfaction

But if that’s the case then why do we so often use material rewards – wages, holidays, bonuses – when trying to increase motivation? And why do we focus on them when choosing jobs to apply for?

The answer is that it is easy. Material wants are universal – various combinations of more money for less time worked. But real motivators, the things we are passionate about, are harder to identify, and so, harder to meet. They are intrinsic to us as people, hard to measure, and in many cases unique to us as individual human beings. For employers, trying to understand those needs for hundreds of people is a logistical challenge. For employees it is something even harder – it is a deep psychological challenge.

It may mean accepting financial limitations for a more rewarding job, or uprooting your life to follow your dream. But it is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself.

Your own Satisfaction

Working out what satisfies you can be scary. It involves a great deal of self-reflection and a willingness to challenge expectations, both of which are difficult to do. It may not be what your partner, family or peers think should motivate you. It may mean accepting financial limitations for a more rewarding job, or uprooting your life to follow your dream. But it is the best thing you can possibly do for yourself.

We live to satisfy our higher needs. As Nobel winning economist Edmund Phelps has pointed out it is by meeting those higher needs, finding greater challenges, that we thrive economically. Following the motivations others expect of you may seem like the easy path, but it is the path to dissatisfaction and mediocrity. By looking deep inside yourself, finding the work you find rewarding, the challenges you want to face, you can find your true motivation. And you can inspire others to find theirs.
Image credit: rudall30 / 123RF Stock Photo

The Spark

Demanding the impossible                       

“Be a realist, demand the impossible.” Protest graffiti, Paris, May 1968

It is all too easy to accept others’ definitions of achievement. To get caught up in other people’s aims and ambitions. To take others’ priorities as read.

This is the road to disaster. To throwing all your energy into goals you don’t really care about, growing tired and disillusioned, working with less and less energy at something you don’t love. If you’ve ever spent your days watching the clock, wishing the hours away until you can go home, then you know that feeling.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Learning from others, not imitating them

In the spring of 1968 France was thrown into turmoil. Not content to accept the aims given them by politicians and old-fashioned business leaders, students and workers rose in protest. They could see a different future for themselves and their country, and the demands they made, freedoms considered unthinkable by the establishment, transformed the country and led to the downfall of the government.

The world can change.

Steve Jobs built Apple on technologies and practices that were unimaginable to his competitors. The idea that our personal and working futures lay with computers. That we could carry our music collection in our pocket. That the most sophisticated technology in the world could be designed around the principle of simplicity. He created his own sense of achievement and succeeded on his terms.

Business can change.

Every small business owner, every entrepreneur, every consultant and free-lancer you’ve ever talked with started out working for someone else. Then they worked out what they wanted for themselves and they set out to do it.

You can change.

Finding your own aim

Choosing your own goal and working towards it is hard work, but it is infinitely more satisfying than the alternative. Happiness comes from meeting goals we find fulfilling, and you’ll never do that while they aren’t your own goals.

Look at what you value, what really matters to you. Whatever it is, there’s a job to be found or to be created in that field.

Rising to the challenge

Many of us struggle to define what we want to achieve. In that case look at the things that are wrong around you. The places in business, in politics, in your community where the right goals just aren’t being achieved. Look at those places and ask yourself what people are treating as valuable, what they are treating as success. Then ask what you think success should look like, what would be of real value in that area, and work towards it. You’ll have found an achievement that you really value.

Don’t shy away from the difficult challenges. The greatest, most fulfilling successes come from taking the path less followed, from finding things that challenge you and solving them. Satisfaction comes not from accepting our limits but from pushing them.

But always remember, work towards the things that you care about, even when others say that they are impossible. Maybe they are impossible within their world view, but yours is broader. You can see the change you want to be. You can make it happen.

Define your own success.

Demand the impossible.

Neuroscience of Leadership

The Neuroscience of Leadership

Elon Musk. Steve Jobs. Mark Zuckerburg. Three names that spell wealth, leadership and success. But what is about these leaders – and many others like them – that stands them apart from the crowd? Is it drive? Destiny? Intelligence? Perhaps it is a combination of all three, but perhaps it is something fundamentally different.

In attempts to understand – for want of a better expression – The X Factor of these leaders, scientists have begun to delve deeper into the inner workings of the brain and have started to explore the neuroscience of leadership. Could it be that these successful leader’s brains simply operate in a different way to the rest of us? Is there a way to train yourself to think as they think? To act as they act? All pertinent questions that this short article will look to answer…

Modern Science and Neuroleadership

In 2009, David Rock conceptualized Neuroleadership – which describes the application of neuroscience to leadership development; management training; change management education and consulting; and coaching – in his seminal publication Your Brain At Work.

Whilst still in it’s infancy, the field of neuroleadership has continued to progress since Rock’s book hit the shelves. In fact, today, a whole scientific journal dedicated to the subject exists. Through innovative research, neuroscience has begun to map neural pathways between human interaction and effective leadership, and assist in unlocking the power of neuroplasticity (abandoning the neuropathways you are currently stuck in) and unleashing your brain’s innate agility and resilience.

Employing Neuroleadership Techniques

Despite rapidly advancing scientific research, neuroleadership techniques are comparatively simple to adopt in practice.

The first aspect of neuroleadership to consider, is body language. This may sound simple, it is somewhat obvious to have open and encouraging body language when communicating with a team. However, the influence of body language on the message being communicated is vast. It is in fact so extensive, that studies by Alexander Pentland revealed that good leaders can be distinguished from body language and signals alone, without having to know exactly what is being said. Taking the time to focus on is being said with the body is therefore arguably more important than perfecting a speech on a word by word basis.

A further technique, is more complex in nature, and requires a recalibration of emotional regulation. Our brain has just one braking system, and as such it grounds us physically, mentally and emotionally. However, this system can be trained by subjecting it to emotional events. Perhaps one reason behind the success of many of the great leaders of today have come from less than ideal origins, take the adoption of Steve Jobs as just one example.

Just like with a physical brake, the braking centre of the brain reduces force when activated. So, in the case of emotions these emotions become less intense. Increasing the braking capacity of your brain means that you can decrease the intensity of your emotions and conserve the brain power for rational and deliberate thinking – or in other terms, concentrate and lead more effectively.

Going With Your Gut

Malcolm Gladwell, a renowned Canadian journalist and author, published Blink in January, 2005. Blink is a book that focuses on the power of the human subconscious and how we can harness that power in our everyday lives.

Gladwell postulates the ability of “thin slicing”, which refers to using our initial reactions to a person, behaviour or situation, and how listening to that reaction can achieve greater results than gathering information over longer time periods.

Take the example of John Gottman, a psychologist working on marital relationships. Gottman can predict (with unerring accuracy) the health of two individuals marriage and whether they will “go the distance” from observing a one hour conversation between the two.

Gladwell also pays homage to FACS (Facial Action Coding System), conceptualized by Swedish anatomist Carl-Herman Hjortsjö, and further developed by the American duo Paul Ekman and Joseph Hager. FACS relates to identifying micro-changes in facial expressions to gather information about how people are reacting to your ideas and proposals. Learning to recognise these changes can create distinct advantages in business scenarios.

The reading of people, communication and expressions are invaluable skills in the business world, and utilizing these split decisions is prominent in business leaders who later state they “had a hunch” or “went with their gut”. Split decisions can result in huge profits, just look at Michael Burry and his big short on the US housing market before its crash in 2008.

Change Will Come, Be Ready

The field of neuroleadership and neuroscience will continue to advance. In just a short space of time, the field has generated a unique journal of publication, post graduate education programmes and an annual summit hosted by The Neuroleadership Institute.

Adapting to change is no mean feat. In fact, our brains often perceive change as a threat, and as such, are unwilling to accept it.

However, gaining a head start in understanding this new and exciting field of research could be key to becoming one of the great leaders of tomorrow. Change will come, and as Henry Kissinger said “The job of a leader is to get his/her people from where they are to where they have not yet been”.

Initiate change

Avoiding the Destructive Effect of Cognitive Dissonance in Your Business

Psychological health isn’t just the concern of psychiatrists. A good leader is aware of the psychological health of the business she runs and the way that affects behavior within the business. One of the biggest psychological threats to running an efficient, effective business is cognitive dissonance.

What is Cognitive Dissonance?

Identified in the 1950s by psychologist Leon Festinger, cognitive dissonance is vital to understanding how people change their attitudes and behavior.

Festinger realized that people sometimes find themselves holding conflicting attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, and that these conflicts make us uncomfortable. This discomfort, called cognitive dissonance, motivates us to make changes to avoid it. But we don’t always recognize why we are uncomfortable, and as a result the desperate desire to overcome cognitive dissonance can lead to counter-productive changes.

Make sure image matches reality, and no one will waste mental energy straining to match the unmatchable.

Making Sense of the World

I once worked with an organization that sent out sensitive documents. Because of the nature of the work, when post was returned it couldn’t just be binned and the recipient removed from the mailing list. They had to make every effort to contact the person.

The procedure to do this was originally created before e-mail and social media were widespread. These therefore played little part in contacting recipients. Staff found themselves using a process they knew was unwieldy and old-fashioned, which created cognitive dissonance. They valued modernity and efficiency, behaving in another way subconsciously caused distress.

For a long time, they weren’t able to change the process. So, to avoid cognitive dissonance, they came up with ways to make sense of what they were doing. By the time they were given the freedom to make changes, they had convinced themselves that they had a legal obligation to act in the way that they did, because otherwise they were acting against their values. Dislodging this idea became a stumbling block to improvement for the business.

Cognitive dissonance can motivate people to change the way they work. But if they aren’t aware of what’s going on it can instead lead to irrational behavior and the invention of justifications for things that should be changed.

If consciously recognized, inconsistencies can motivate change. If not, they lead to cognitive dissonance and all the trouble it brings.

Avoiding Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance can never be entirely avoided – it’s part of how we think. That said, you and the people you lead will be more effective if you can reduce dissonance, avoiding the stress it creates and allowing you to think more rationally about your work.

How do you do this?

Walk the Walk

Inconsistency between your company’s values and its behavior will create a great deal of dissonance for employees, as they are forced to follow procedures that run against the values they’re told to uphold. So if you’re going to say you value creativity then let people being creative; if you say you value diversity then be diverse; if you say you value quality over speed then don’t rush people.

Match Image to Reality

The same goes for the relationship between your organization’s public image and the reality of your work. Some people are comfortable presenting one image of their work while acting completely differently behind the scenes, but for employees with integrity that means dissonance at every turn. Don’t pretend to the world that you’re a fun-loving company if your ethos is really about serious work, or that you value customer feedback if you’re already set on a specific course. Let image match reality and no-one will waste their mental energy straining to match the unmatchable.

Effort in the Right Area

The more effort people put into something, the more they will tend to believe in it. So make sure that your employees are focused, as far as possible, on core tasks and values that express the purpose of your business. This way, their work and their supposed purpose will match, and that work will make them comfortably more committed to those values.

Research, Don’t Explain Away

Any time someone asks why you do something as a business, there’s a risk that you’ll give a knee-jerk reaction based on cognitive dissonance, looking for the most obvious way to make sense of the world rather than checking reality. The worst part is, you won’t even realize that you’re doing it.

So don’t give the first answer that comes into your head. Go away, check the facts, and then come back with the real explanation. If that explanation proves a poor justification for your processes, then maybe it’s time to change.

Accept Inconsistency

Avoiding cognitive dissonance is all about creating consistency, but that doesn’t mean that you should go into denial about inconsistency. Circumstances change and so do businesses. Sometimes inconsistencies will develop, and if you become defensive about this then you’ll end up explaining them away instead of fixing them. Encourage yourself and those you lead to look out for inconsistencies, to accept their existence, and to look for ways to fix rather than explain them.

A Healthy Business Under a Healthy Leader

By being aware of cognitive dissonance you can make yourself, your business and your employees more healthy. You can also ensure that the business is run in a rational way, relying on facts rather than fear and knee-jerk reactions. You’ll be a step ahead of the competition, and able to do better on your own terms.

Psychology isn’t just for psychologists. After all, we all have minds.

Master the Most Powerful Leadership Habit You Didn’t Know You Had

What was the latest habit you adopted? Was it reading every day for at least one hour? Quitting coffee forever? It’s simple to keep track of these types of routines. Let’s call them action habits. You start one day and if you are still doing it months later without thinking about it, you got yourself a new action habit.

But underneath this productivity, all of us have emotional habits that determine how we approach life’s situations. Whether it’s a positive situation, like landing a big client, or a negative one, like losing a big client, our emotional habits influence how we perceive the situation.

In the words of Kimerer L. LaMothe, Ph.D., people “develop a habit of responding to whatever happens to them from the same emotional place.” So our emotional responses can become habits just as our actions can. She goes on to say that “there are three primary emotions—fear, grief, and anger. But over time people come to rely on one emotional color as their baseline response to new information. So there are people who are fear-based, grief-based, or anger-based.”

In other words, it’s no longer about what happens to us, but how we are used to reacting about what happens to us.

The Nature of Habits – A Quick Recap

We all read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and if you haven’t, do yourself a favor and get it. We won’t go into the details, but let’s focus on the habit loop: cue, routine, and reward.

The more this loop repeats on a certain behavior or situation, the habit will get stronger as our brain adapts and creates a neural pathway to lock that habit in our normal behavior. This is how things become second nature. But none of this can happen unless there is a reward at the end of the loop.

So going back to Dr. Lamothe’s emotional responses—anger, fear and sadness—you might wonder how being angry, afraid or sad can be a reward that strengthens an emotional habit. The answer is simple. The reward isn’t in the emotion, but in the decision that came from the emotion. Here’s how that works:

Deciding In Fear

The reward of fear is security. By making decisions from a place of fear you avoid risks and gain a sense of security. So you might let that opportunity go because it posed a risk. Or you might decide not to push for that big ad campaign. The point isn’t whether you made the right decision or not. It’s the fact that deciding from fear gave you a sense of security. And that is a reward that reinforces the emotional habit of fear. There are people in your company that love feeling safe at the expense of being stuck. But your leadership can push your team forward.

Deciding in Anger

The reward of anger is control. It doesn’t mean you make decisions while upset. But angry decisions are aggressive and look to regain control of whatever went wrong. That is why managers snap at their employees or take over a department instead of trusting their team when things aren’t going well. There are people in your company that deeply resent being controlled, and others who feel more comfortable being controlled. Neither side of the coin is healthy. You want people to have the freedom to create a better place to work and ultimately a company that grows.

Deciding in Sadness

The reward of sadness is self-righteousness. This is the culture of pessimism and justification. When things go wrong, this habit will find ways to make excuses. The market is too saturated, the competition didn’t play fair, somebody screwed up, life is unfair. If you find a good reason to justify that obstacle, you will validate your misfortune. There are people in your company who prefer excuses over ownership. Your leadership can develop people who step up no matter the circumstances.

Better Emotional Habits

Businesses can thrive despite the most adverse circumstances. It’s possible that as you read this you thought “maybe this sounds like me, but it’s worked for me so far.” But what if these emotional habits are what’s stopping you and your company from the next big step. A better work culture starts with the small decisions, especially the ones taken in stressful situations.

Put simply, could it be that the reason why you react the way you do in stressful situations is just how you’re used to reacting? If so, it’s great news. Because you are no longer dealing with a lack of skill or a character issue. It’s only a habit. And habits can be transformed.

Develop Self-Awareness

Emotional habits speak in the form of thoughts. So being aware of your thoughts is a skill you need to master through your lifetime. This may sound mystical, but the most direct way to become aware of your thoughts is to think of yourself as someone else hearing yourself. But beware, not all your thoughts are true.

Awareness Leads to Better Leadership

Just because you have a thought it doesn’t mean it’s true. As we’ve seen, your thoughts are conditioned by habits, and some habits are harmful. So how do you know if you’re lying to yourself? You have to get used to asking yourself some questions.

Is this emotion proportional to the situation? Does this person I’m dealing with warrant this kind of reaction? Am I the kind of person who would react this way? Even better, when you think of the leader you are becoming, is this the kind of reaction you want to have?

As leaders, our success at work, at home and our personal life will be determined by how we manage our reactions to adversity. You can be the king of time and energy optimization but actions will only take you so far. In fact, focusing only on productivity can have negative consequences like, you guessed it, anxiety and fear.

Demanding the impossible

“Be a realist, demand the impossible.”

  • Protest graffiti, Paris, May 1968

It is all too easy to accept others’ definitions of achievement. To get caught up in other people’s aims and ambitions. To take others’ priorities as read.

This is the road to disaster. To throwing all your energy into goals you don’t really care about, growing tired and disillusioned, working with less and less energy at something you don’t love. If you’ve ever spent your days watching the clock, wishing the hours away until you can go home, then you know that feeling.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Learning from others, not imitating them

In the spring of 1968 France was thrown into turmoil. Not content to accept the aims given them by politicians and old-fashioned business leaders, students and workers rose in protest. They could see a different future for themselves and their country, and the demands they made, freedoms considered unthinkable by the establishment, transformed the country and led to the downfall of the government.

The world can change.

Steve Jobs built Apple on technologies and practices that were unimaginable to his competitors. The idea that our personal and working futures lay with computers. That we could carry our music collection in our pocket. That the most sophisticated technology in the world could be designed around the principle of simplicity. He created his own sense of achievement and succeeded on his terms.

Business can change.

Every small business owner, every entrepreneur, every consultant and free-lancer you’ve ever talked with started out working for someone else. Then they worked out what they wanted for themselves and they set out to do it.

You can change.

Finding your own aim

Choosing your own goal and working towards it is hard work, but it is infinitely more satisfying than the alternative. Happiness comes from meeting goals we find fulfilling, and you’ll never do that while they aren’t your own goals.

Look at what you value, what really matters to you. Whatever it is, there’s a job to be found or to be created in that field.

Rising to the challenge

Many of us struggle to define what we want to achieve. In that case look at the things that are wrong around you. The places in business, in politics, in your community where the right goals just aren’t being achieved. Look at those places and ask yourself what people are treating as valuable, what they are treating as success. Then ask what you think success should look like, what would be of real value in that area, and work towards it. You’ll have found an achievement that you really value.

Don’t shy away from the difficult challenges. The greatest, most fulfilling successes come from taking the path less followed, from finding things that challenge you and solving them. Satisfaction comes not from accepting our limits but from pushing them.

But always remember, work towards the things that you care about, even when others say that they are impossible. Maybe they are impossible within their world view, but yours is broader. You can see the change you want to be. You can make it happen.

Define your own success.

Demand the impossible.

Life Tree-More Human

Making your business more human

The human side of business is perhaps its most fragile element. That glimmer of personality and real consideration that makes us stand out as more than just products and processes is far too easily lost in the rush to make those products and processes better.

But making business more human is incredibly valuable, both in making work more enjoyable for you and your employees and in building relationships with customers. So how can we make a business more human?

Acknowledge the presence of people

Many of our products and decisions are made deliberately anonymous. The people crafting reports don’t sign their names to them, either because they will be officially signed off by a higher manager or because people fear taking responsibility for something that could go wrong. Decisions and products are presented to customers in abstract terms – ‘we made this’, ‘we have decided’, ‘the company has created…’

Of course this de-humanizes a business, because it fails to acknowledge that there are people creating these things. It can protect them from blame, but it also means that they never get the praise or acknowledgement they deserve, and that customers feel as if they are dealing with a faceless institution.

Let people’s names be associated with their work, like an artist signing their paintings. Many successful marketing campaigns are based on tying a personality to a product, so why not use the personalities you already have?

Take risks

Taking small risks can make a huge difference to the way people respond to us. They show courage, and they show humanity. They demonstrate a very human willingness to follow our instincts rather than the herd, to put ourselves out for others.

So don’t hide behind the shield of anonymity but take some risks. Create quirky products that fit the ethos and aesthetic of your company. Send the statistics expert to make the big presentation, instead of the senior manager he was going to brief. Acknowledge failures and set out how you will tackle them, even when you don’t have to admit that something went wrong.

Taking risks shows that you and your company have personality; they make you vulnerable if only for a moment, and they let people feel a sense of connection from the times when they too have been vulnerable. They are a great way to humanize a business, and to get past the stumbling blocks of unoriginal thinking.

Resist dehumanizing pressures

When peer pressure is applied to teenagers we consider it a bad thing, and we encourage them to resist. Yet when it affects businesses we treat it as just part of the market.

So many stores have given way to the pressure to make staff work at Thanksgiving that it becomes worthy of note when businesses don’t. But giving way to such a pressure dehumanizes your business, makes you look like you don’t care about your staff, about their feelings, about their leisure time and their families. The stores that resist this pressure lose out on some sales on the holiday weekend, but they make themselves more appealing to customers for the time when they’re open, the whole of the rest of the year. And by letting staff’s humanity override commercial concerns they create happier staff who will put in the extra effort when they are working.

So resist the pressure to ignore the humanity of your workforce. Take risks that reflect human concerns and that let customers see a vulnerable, considerate side. Acknowledge the presence of real people creating real products. It will make your business more human, show that it’s more human, and ultimately create better results.

Make Leadership Positive

There are a lot of negatives to working near the top of the pyramid. You have to deal with the morale problems, the disciplinary issues, the complaints and dips in performance that can set a business back and prove dispiriting for all involved.

It’s easy to let that negativity show, or to pass it on to those around you. But successful leadership comes from avoiding that dark path of least resistance, and learning to focus on the positives.

Show gratitude

When you’ve been working hard all day without anyone acknowledging your efforts, it can be hard to feel grateful and to show thanks. But gratitude in all its forms is important to leadership. If you feel bad when no one acknowledges your efforts then there’s all the more reason to acknowledge those of others.

Thank the people who work for you. Make that extra effort to get out from behind your desk and show your appreciation in person to someone who’s done something great for you. If you persist then the example you set will be passed on, and that gratitude will spread out through the organization, creating a positive atmosphere. It will even help in your relationships with suppliers, as they’re left with the positive feeling of dealing with a business that knows what they’re worth.

See opportunities

We will always face challenges and limitations. It’s in the nature of the world. If everything went perfectly then we wouldn’t have to work for it, and we’d probably wind up discontented even with that.

But just because we constantly face problems doesn’t mean we have to constantly focus on them. Doing so draws attention away from opportunities, something we also face all the time, and which are often connected to those very same problems.

We’ve all met people who are constantly focused on the negative, and felt how draining they can be to spend time with. So, as a leader, set an example by focusing on the opportunities and what can be gained from them. Instead of bringing down the people around you, lift them up, encouraging them to search for the potential in every situation and to focus on the positives themselves.

It’s easier to find the energy for work in a positive environment, and as a leader that environment is down to you.

Ditch excuses

This is what leadership ultimately boils down to – that the environment you work in is up to you, and you can’t make excuses when it doesn’t work out.

It’s easy to make those excuses, to find reasons not to do the things you want to do, or that you think are right. ‘It’s too difficult.’ ‘The board won’t like it.’ ‘Customers fear change.’

But if a decision is the right one then those really are nothing more than excuses, and you should shake them off. They will hold you back, giving you a reason not to make the decisions that are hard but ultimately rewarding.

There are always excuses for not being more positive about work. ‘This problem isn’t going to go away.’ ‘I don’t have time to go around saying thank you.’ Those excuses will hold you back, and just as a positive example can spread from an influential leader, so too can this negative example.

Making excuses takes energy. Focusing on problems takes energy. So instead make a decision to turn that energy around, to turn it into gratitude, into opportunities, and into a better working environment.

Because you’re the leader, and that better environment can only come from you.

In Newsstands Now – Read our article in the February 2014 Edition of SHRM’s flagship publication, HR Magazine: ”Getting Employee Engagement from the Get-Go”

Employee engagement

Employee engagement—the act of getting employees to feel connected to, and enthusiastic about, their jobs—is vital to productivity. Engaged employees become engaged leaders who inspire those around them. To foster engagement, you must walk the talk: How you behave shows the truth of your company as much as, if not more than, what you say. And if you haven’t engaged people from the outset, you may have a more difficult time down the line.

Begin at the interview

By emphasizing how the company conducts its business and why that matters, managers help potential employees understand what they’re getting into. This gives interviewees the chance to withdraw if the corporate culture doesn’t appeal to them, or to shine if it does.

When joining a company that has an established brand, employees should come in with expectations that match the company’s and engage in its culture straight away.

Show, don’t tell

No matter what a manager says during recruitment, the interviewee will notice if there are nonverbal cues that don’t match up. If your recruitment process is formal, with multiple layers of screening, assessments and interviews, don’t say the culture is casual and flexible. If the culture is informal and collaborative, make sure the hiring process reflects that. Take a good look at your recruitment strategies. Do they reflect the kind of person the organization wants to attract?

Include an office tour as part of the process, to give recruits a chance to see if the office is quiet, with employees working solo, or if there is a lot of activity and loud discussion. Create opportunities for candidates to talk with employees as well as managers so they can see for themselves that your company is a great place to work.

Employees who are fully engaged in your business are likely to work harder and to act as ambassadors for your brand. But engagement can also ensure the longevity of your workforce by supporting retention. This is particularly vital as the economy picks up, when the first to leave are likely to be the most talented.

Welcome them to the club

Think about what happens when you meet new people socially. The experience of being introduced into a tight-knit group of friends can be alienating: Their close bond and inside jokes can make you feel excluded.

The same can happen in organizations. The richer and more engaging your workplace is, the more satisfying it will be for existing employees. But this also means new recruits are more likely to feel left out. As you induct people into the organization, make sure to help them settle in, join social outings and learn the intricacies of your corporate culture as well as the practicalities.

A company social media space, whether it’s an in-house design or a private space on an existing platform, can help to create connections within the organization. It’s a natural place to build mentor-mentee links, provide incentives for work and let employees update others on their progress. By connecting social systems with work progress and encouraging interaction, you can help make the workplace more than just a 9-to-5 grind.

Personalize things

As much as technology and social media can help people make connections, they can also hurt relationship-building. Put down the mobile devices and engage with new employees personally. Go to lunch. Find out what matters to the employee and then use that to tailor how you manage and reward her. Treating employees as replaceable cogs in a wheel is a sure way to demoralize and disengage them. Standard operating procedures, policies and structures are important, but so is knowing when to be flexible.

Just be careful to offer everyone this type of personalization, and be open about the process to avoid creating jealousy among existing employees.

Engagement can shift with workload, season and time of day. So don’t assume that the way you managed and rewarded an employee when she started will work a year or two later. Stay engaged with the process yourself, constantly looking for ways to update your approach.

Engaging employees can be very time-consuming. As a manager, you will need to find the right balance between the time you invest and the benefits of a more engaged workforce. If you use these techniques to fully engage your new employees, the time it takes for them to add value to the organization will drop dramatically. What you get back will be productive, positive employees who stick with you—priceless.

 

Read the complete article here (Link to HR Magazine Site)

Reprinted with  permission of the Society for Human Resource Management (www.shrm.org), Alexandria, VA, publisher of HR Magazine.

Image credit: blinkblink1 / 123RF Stock Photo