The Power of Thank You

gratitude

As we move toward Thanksgiving, my thoughts are turning to gratitude. I question whether we show enough of it in the workplace. We often think that because someone is ‘doing his job’ he doesn’t need or want to know that we appreciate the value he is providing, the results achieved, or the extra effort given. That’s not to say that we should be showing appreciation or praise for everything someone does. Work is not an 8 year old’s soccer team where “everyone is a winner.” However, a simple thank you can garner immense returns.

Think about the last time someone gave you a genuine thank you or compliment on your work when you were not expecting or asking for it. How did you feel? What did it do to your relationship with that person? If you had two competing demands from the person who said “thank you” and someone else, who were you more likely to move to the top of you list (assuming that all things are equal, like the other person is not your boss or the CEO or someone else who trumps everyone else)?

Effective leaders recognize the contributions others make. They recognize that others achieve the results for which the leader may receive credit. They know that without others they are unable to achieve many goals.

Let me publicly thank a few people who have supported my success this year:

* Thank you to my assistant Diane who has helped me make order out of chaos, helped me put process in place and given me the time to focus on those areas where I add value to my clients.
*Thank you to my husband and family who, even when I doubt myself, have no doubt in the value of the work that I do.
* Thank you to my clients who put the trust in me to help them achieve their goals and to move performance forward in their organizations.
* Thank you to all of you who have so generously let me know that you find value in the words I put on this page every week and that you appreciate finding it in your email.

Happy Thanksgiving!

What Was Your Most Authentic Moment Today?

authenticity sign

 

Two recent HBR articles provide two different views on what it means to be authentic. In “The Authenticity Paradox” Herminia Ibarra notes that too simplistic an interpretation of authenticity is a hindrance to effective leadership. In order to grow and develop as a leader, one has to try on behaviors and attitudes that may not come naturally and, therefore, feel less than authentic. “Discovering Your Authentic Leader” looks at the role of your life story, self-awareness, acting on your values and principles and balancing your internal and external motivators in authentic leadership.

My view of authenticity tends to be more aligned with the second article. Being authentic isn’t about saying and doing whatever you feel like because it feels right to you, which the first article suggests is the simple view of authenticity. It’s about bringing the uniqueness of yourself to situations, acknowledging the others in the situation and their uniqueness, and appropriately using your individual perspective, values, knowledge, abilities and skills in the moment. As I say in Getting Real, it means knowing who you are as a leader then taking actions and having the interactions that allow you to make a real impact. I see many people who leave their authentic self at the door because they believe they need to be someone else to be successful at work.

As you go through your day today, think about your most authentic moment. When were you bringing your particular uniqueness to a situation and what happened? How did it feel? Did you respect others’ uniqueness? What was the result? How can you make that happen more often?

Why Engagement Isn’t Just About Soft Stuff

Employee Engagement

If you’re serious about improving performance and driving growth, focus on how happy and engaged your people are. That may seem mamby pamby, but there is growing evidence that it’s not such soft stuff.

Here are a couple of Gallup statistics to consider:

  • Actively disengaged employees erode an organization’s bottom line.  Within the U.S. workforce, Gallup estimates this cost to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity alone.
  • Engaged work groups show higher productivity, fewer safety incidents, lower absenteeism and are more profitable than disengaged work groups.  Their research shows that engaged organizations have 3.9 times the earnings per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in the same industry. (Gallop statistics)

Now the question is. “What really drives engagement?” Teresa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor, and Steven Kramer researched that question. What they determined is that of all the events that engage people at work, the single most important is simply making progress doing meaningful work. In a September 4, 2011, New York Times article, Amabile and Kramer note, “As long as workers experience their labor as meaningful, progress is often followed by joy and excitement about work.” Interestingly, this positive “’inner work life“ (as the researchers call it) has a profound impact on creativity, productivity, commitment, and collegiality.

The leader’s role, then, is to help people make progress — remove obstacles, provide support, recognize progress, and provide feedback on what’s not working. Unfortunately, almost all managers don’t see making progress as a compelling motivator. When Amabile and Kramer asked 669 managers from around the world to rank five employee motivators, they ranked “supporting progress” dead last. Ninety-five percent of these leaders failed to recognize that progress in meaningful work is a far more important motivator than raises and bonuses.

When was the last time you talked about any of this with your people? Probably not recently. Conversations with our teams are usually about financial results, how many deals are about to close, or where someone is in a project.

Next time you are trying to create motivating environment, don’t automatically think about traditional rewards. Think about whether your people feel like they are moving up the trail or if they feel like their pushing a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back down on them.

Then ask yourself how you can bring more of of a sense of progress to the work and the workplace.

Do Your Company’s Values Make Sense

Core Values
On websites or internal company portals and communities, there is a tab or tile that says “Our Values”.  They are there for everyone to see when and if they choose to look at them.  We use them to inform prospective employees, our current team, and business partners about who we are and what we’re about. Yet, according to a recent PwC survey, 63% of CEO’s want to increase communication to stakeholders about values and purpose.
Before jumping into another communication plan full of town hall meetings, email blasts, etc. to get the word out about your organization’s values, I encourage leaders to take a step back and look at how else they are communicating or not communicating the values.

Do your values make sense?  Many of you will look and say, “Of course they do.”  However, if your actions and the way you run the business are saying one thing and the words are saying another, then the answer is no, they don’t. These questions can help you decide if your reality is meeting the aspirations of your values.

  • How well have they been integrated into your business strategy?  Can your stakeholders see how the values are playing out in your business strategy.  When someone looks at TOMS or Life Is Good’s business strategies, their is no doubt what their values are.
  • Do you look for them in who and how you hire?  It’s one thing to say that you have certain corporate values.  It’s another to overtly make them part of your hiring and onboarding process.
  • Can I see them in the way you manage talent?  Nothing kills the credibility of a value statement more quickly than saying, for example, that we value collaboration, innovative thinking, and the power of great ideas only to then promote and recognize the people who get results while completely disregarding your stated values.
  • Are they part of our decision making?  When tough decisions need to get made, are the values one of the key factors considered?
You see, it’s one thing to say what you value.  It’s another to make them come alive.

Tic, toc, tic, toc — Getting Beyond Time Wasters

Time Wasters

I don’t know about you but the first half of the year has flown by for me.  Time has a way of doing that, moving quickly.  So, it’s important that we use our time well. Here are three tips for making the best use of your time:

1) Weigh urgency and importance.  We all have things in life that need our immediate attention.  We also have things that are important for us to achieve the outcomes we desire.  They are not always the same thing.  If something is urgent and important, it usually gets our time. However, if it’s important and not urgent it is very easy to not give it the time it needs. Take a look at how you’re using your time.  Are the things taking up your time urgent? important? urgent and important? or urgent and unimportant.  If too many are in the last category, you probably feel frustrated.  Recalibrate and determine how to move those things off your plate and make more room for the important and not urgent.

2) Build mental breaks into your day.  If you don’t build in mental breaks, you become less effective. And more prone to get distracted by Facebook, fantasy football or your text alerts.  However, if you know you will be taking break to get your electronic fix, you can spend time truly focusing on what needs to be done rather telling yourself ‘I’ll only take a minute to check…’ Research shows it takes 25 minutes for us to completely refocus after an interruption. So that ‘minute’ becomes more like 30.

3) Create blocks of time for just you.  When you lead other people or work in a team, it’s easy to have your time become booked with meeting after meeting or for people to continually stop in because of your open door policy.  All of us have work that needs our undivided attention.  Build times into your calendar that are sacred so you can focus on that work.  Let your team members and other people who may need to know that at a certain time, you’re going to be in your office (or cubicle) with the door (or imaginary door) closed so that you can focus on work that needs your undivided attention.  Ask them to please not disturb you unless absolutely necessary.  Then close your door and get to work!
Cheers!
Edith

Change Your Attitude

change your attitude

Anyone will tell you that attitude can make up for other things that may be lacking when it comes to success.  Carol Dweck’s most recent research shows that attitude is a more effective predictor of success than IQ.  However, what makes a difference is not whether you are Mary Sunshine, alway arriving with a smile and a spring in your step or Sam Schlubbum who greets interactions with a stoic face and isn’t excited about too much of anything.

The key difference is whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset.  A growth mindset embraces challenges, persists in the face of setbacks, believes effort will lead to a level of mastery, and learns from criticism.  A fixed mindset,on the other hand, tends to avoid challenges, gives up easily, doesn’t believe effort will lead anywhere and ignores useful criticism. I’m sure we all know people who fit both of these descriptions.

If you’re stuck in a fixed mindset, don’t despair. Anyone can move into a growth mindset. The key is to start small. For example, when you’re faced with a challenge and ready to give up, decide to work at it for a few more minutes. Decide what you’re passionate about and find ways to incorporate more of that into your day. When the answer is no, don’t be afraid to try again. Countless successful people were rejected over and over again.

Watch the people around you this week.  Who is exhibiting a fixed mindset?  Who’s exhibiting a growth mindset?

Mindful Leadership

mindfulness

In a recent Huffington Post article, Harvard’s Bill George discusses the power of mindful leadership.  Mindfulness, according to George, is the practice of self-observation without judgment with a focus on our minds and inner voices. It allows you to center yourself, step away from the distractions of technology, deadlines, daily demands and become more fully present in your daily interactions. Mindful practices include meditation, journaling, jogging alone, and prayer. They are practices that allow you to become focused, more self-aware, and intentional in your actions.

One of my premises in Getting Real is that to be effective in this increasingly more complex world where leadership occurs, you need to be aware of who you are, why you are a leader and to work to understand who your people are and why they are doing what they do. Leaders need to be intentional about their actions and interactions and understand their impact on relationships and results.

About this time last year, I began integrating mindfulness practices into my life. It is an ongoing journey. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is being disciplined and integrating it into my life every day. It’s the same with being a mindful leader. We usually have the best of intentions. We plan on being present. We plan on being intentional with our actions and interactions. Still, we’re not always very good at it. However, if we keep working at it, results are significant. Click here to read about the impact of mindfulness.

Compelling Clarity 2016

Compelling Clarity 2012Earlier in my career, I was interviewing with the SVP of HR, the chief people officer, for a senior role in a large organization. He was still fresh to the company, having been there about 6 months. I asked him where the firm was going and what made him get up in the morning and go to work. He looked at me and with a shrug said “Edith, its insurance,” like it was the craziest question in the world. How silly to expect that a senior leader, six months into his job would be able to articulate a compelling picture of the place he worked. He had a golden opportunity to communicate his vision of what this organization was about and where it was going and he came up with nothing.

There was no second interview.

This story is not meant to reflect badly on the insurance company. I know plenty of executives in insurance companies who would answer that question very differently.

This SVP obviously wasn’t able to communicate a vision. Over the past 18 months, many of our organizations have been lacking in “the vision thing.” We’ve been focused on a lot of things that were important but that people perceive as negative — cutting costs, losing sales and revenues, reducing headcount. But as the recovery starts, we need to think about where we want to go from here, because it won’t be where we were before 2008.

Whether you are hiring to rebuild your team, developing employees, or trying to retain or more fully engage your talent, the first step for taking performance to the next level and creating competitive advantage is to develop Compelling Clarity. Compelling Clarity is about creating a vision and expectations that are so clear it is difficult to say ‘where are we going?’ or ‘what should I be doing? ‘and so compelling no one needs to ask ‘why am I doing this?’ Instead, they say ‘I need to be a part of this.’

Ask yourself these questions:

      • Where does my organization (or division or group or…) need to go?
      • Why are we going in that direction?
      • What will we look like a year from now?
      • What top priorities will get us there? 
      • How will we know we’re successful?
      • Why do I want to be part of this? Why should someone else want to be part of this?

If your answer is “I don’t know” to any of these you’re going to be less able to attract or retain top talent as you move forward. You’ll be appealing to people who want a job but not attractive to people who want to make an impact. Without a sense of where they’re going you’re people can’t perform at the high levels you need.

Be ready to talk about your vision and gauge the reactions. After all, you don’t want to find yourself saying, with a shrug, “Edith, it’s…”

Who Are You, Really?

Personal brandThink about all the different leaders you’ve known. Now think of three words, maybe a short sentence, to describe each one. There may be one who was the company’s ‘go to guy.’ Maybe there was the one who was ‘good natured but inept’. Another could be ‘the one who wanted great people around’.

Each of these describes a brand. We hear the word brand thrown around a lot these days. Companies or products have a brand. We hear about our social media brand. We’re told to cultivate our brand. Whether we like it or not, each of us already has a brand that has been developed over the years by our words and actions.

A personal or leadership brand is important. It gives people a quick way to think about who you are, and what they can expect when interacting with you; or when asking you to get involved in a project, or asking you to take on a new role.

The question is how do you cultivate your brand? Some things to think about are:

  • Who are you, really? We all have things that we value. We all have strengths. Your brand should reflect who you really are. If it’s not genuine people will see that.
  • How do your actions reflect who you really are? If you say you are all about getting results but never create them, your actions don’t reflect that brand. Be careful of latching onto what you think others want to see.
  • Are you making yourself visible? Like it or not, organizations are not pure meritocracies. People have to have visibility to who you are and what you’re all about. Keeping your head down and just getting your work done is not all you need to be doing. Making others aware of what you’re doing and how that is adding value is important. Volunteer for projects that will allow you to highlight your brand. Engage in conversations with others to learn how they are adding value and letting them know what you are doing too. Step out of your zone. I know someone who had some perspectives on how her company was approaching diversity. She contacted an executive in her company about an article he wrote for an internal newsletter on the topic. He asked her to write an article sharing her views and soon she was put in charge of diversity for the company.

Create your personal branding action plan. Let people know who you are and the great things you’re doing.

 

 

Edith Onderick-Harvey is a recognized organizational and leadership development expert. She works with Fortune 500 firms, growing companies, and universities to design their organizations, develop their leaders and continually elevate performance.  She has been quoted in The New York Times, Human Resource Executive, CNN and is the author of the newly released book “Getting Real:  Strategies for Leadership in Today’s Innovation-Hungry, Time-Strapped, Multi-Tasking World of Work”

Just for a Moment…Listen

Active ListeningI listened to a TED Talk yesterday while I was on the elliptical (got to keep up with that New Year’s resolution). It was about how we are losing our ability to listen. As leaders or business owners we spend a lot of time talking. We are giving direction or input to our employees. We’re talking with customers. We’re talking with people at networking events. We spend a lot of time working on getting our story out there. This talk reminded me of how critical listening is for those of us who are leading others.

This week try to spend more time listening. Here are some ideas how to do that:

1. Open every conversation by asking the other person a question. This question should not be a perfunctory ‘how are you?”. Make it a question that is really about something. Focus on listening to the answer, not waiting for the other person to be done so you can get on to your real agenda.

2. When you have listened to what someone has to say, reflect or summarize. Anyone who has taken an active listening course knows that this is a technique to show the other person you are listening. I’m not suggesting it for that reason. Rather, by verbally saying what you’ve heard out loud, you are hearing it again and increasing the likelihood that you are actually listening to the words meaning.

3. Institute the ‘no multitasking’ rule during conversations. More and more I attend meetings where people think it is perfectly okay to have a laptop or smartphone in front of them so that they can multitask. This may sound efficient, but in reality it completely undermines the ability to listen and engage in what is going on. The human brain doesn’t work that way. It needs to be focused on what is being said. When you are visually looking at something, the sound becomes background noise. Most of the time, the person sending the text or email can wait for your reply.

4. Create listening posts. Create opportunities for others to have your undivided attention. Establish a regular time when you’ll be available for an individual or group to speak with you when you will give them complete, undivided attention. Make it immutable.

At the end of the week, assess the impact of your listening on your decision making, your relationships with your team and your awareness of what is happening in your organization.