Positive Leadership has also been recognised as a Top 50 Leadership Expert to Follow on Twitter.

Follow us on Twitter @posleadership


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Boost Morale and Engagement in the Current Economy

The recession has led to a widespread loss of employee engagement that could cripple organisations even as the economy heads into recovery, according to Jon Gordon, author of The Shark and the Goldfish: Positive Ways to Thrive During Waves of Change.

“Even if companies haven’t literally lost their employees, many have lost them psychologically,” said Gordon. “And if leaders don’t strive to change that — to create a positive culture that energises people — there will be dire consequences.”

Tired of working more hours for less pay under the threat of termination, many workers have mentally checked out of their jobs, he said. They are simply doing what they need to in order to hang on until something better comes along.

A recent study by the Workforce Institute at Kronos found in organisations that have experienced layoffs, 40 per cent of employees report their productivity has suffered. Of that 40 per cent, two-thirds think morale has been negatively impacted and they aren’t as motivated as before.

“For leaders, now is the time to improve your company’s culture and get inside your employees’ heads,” said Gordon. “You need to personally make sure that your company is a place where people want to work. You can allow the current economy to crush your morale, confidence and spirit, or you can choose to proactively shape your organisation into one that is positive, resilient, and prepared to take on challenges.

The following nine strategies will help leaders boost morale and engagement in the current economy:

1. Focus on people, not numbers. Leaders need to take a step back and remember their company isn’t what shows up in the finance department’s spreadsheets — it’s the finance people themselves, and the HR department, and the salespeople, and support staff. Ultimately, an organisation’s failure or success is determined by the moods, innovation, energy, thoughts, and behaviors of the people who work there, said Gordon.

2. Model good behaviour. Leaders set the tone for how employees respond to almost every situation. They can inspire, or they can extinguish. Whatever an organisation expects from its people, it must also expect from the senior leadership.

"Now is not a time to be barricaded in your office. Now is a time to be in the trenches with your people, leading, working, and building a successful future," said Gordon.

3. Practice positive leadership. And no, "positive leadership" doesn't simply mean the absence of overt negativity. It means remaining purposeful in the face of adversity. While it's important to acknowledge the obstacles your organisation is facing, don't dwell on them in meetings or in individual conversations, and don't bring up bad news before you've pointed out one or two things that are going well. Instead of being disappointed by where you are, optimistically focus on where you are going.

"Right now, negativity and fear are probably knocking your people off balance," Gordon points out. "It's a scientifically proven fact that the nature of our thoughts affects our lives in tangible ways. I firmly believe that if you think your best days are behind you, they are. However, if you think your best days are ahead of you, they are.
Therefore, it's time to regroup, refocus, and unite your people to create a winning mindset, culture and positive team environment. Remember, culture drives behaviour. You win in the office first. Then you win in the marketplace. With a winning team you create strength on the inside that can withstand the negativity, naysayers, and adversity on the outside.
"While it’s important to acknowledge the obstacles an organisation is facing, don’t dwell on them in meetings or in individual conversations, and don’t bring up bad news before pointing out one or two things that are going well.
4. Fill the void. In the absence of clear and positive communication, people start to assume the worst, and they will act accordingly. Leaders should personally meet with employees and continually communicate through town hall meetings and face-to-face meetings, said Gordon.

5. Tell energy vampires, “It’s time to get on the bus…or off the bus.” No matter how many pep talks leaders give or good behaviours they model, their efforts won’t go far unless everyone is on the same page.
“Once you’ve identified the naysayers on your team, gently approach them and give them a chance to get on the bus and share in a positive vision,” Gordon advises. “However, if these energy vampires refuse to get on board, then you must get them off the bus.”

6. Forbid complaining. Successful organisations with great cultures focus on solutions, not on complaints, said Gordon. Let employees know they are not allowed to complain unless they also offer solutions.

7. Teach employees to be heroes, not victims. Both heroes and victims get knocked down, but heroes get back up while victims simply give up. Remind employees they have a significant influence over how things turn out.

8. Focus on the small wins. When leaders focus on small wins, the team gains the confidence to go after and create the big wins, said Gordon.

9. Make sure you have sharks in key positions. When the economy was thriving, it didn’t matter as much if key employees turned in a mediocre performance. Now, it's important to figure out which people display the characteristics of driven, go-get-’em “nice sharks,” and which are “goldfish,” or more natural relationship managers.

“Your sharks are the people you need in sales or business-driving positions,” Gordon suggests. “Your goldfish, or relationship managers, are better suited to answering phones, taking orders, and cultivating customer goodwill. People who aren’t in the right positions won’t thrive—and your organisation will constantly find itself struggling.”

Positive Leadership Limited - What We Do

Positive Leadership Limited is a strategic leadership consulting firm, serving clients based mainly in the UK and USA.

Positive Leadership Limited delivers advisory and business consulting services which:

• assist the leaders of organisations facing change, identify, develop and implement strategies designed to maximise the positive financial and human impact of such high pressure events; and

• help organisations develop the leaders of today and tomorrow.

Our advisory and consulting services include: leadership advice in the areas of business strategy, M&A, capital raising, talent development and performing under pressure; and leadership consulting in the areas of coaching, mentoring, executive education and training. We draw extensively on lessons from the elite sporting environment in the work we do.

Positive Leadership Limited shares global best practice and thought leadership with its clients and builds the awareness and reach of its client focused 'game plan for winning' through various channels, including its online presence at http://positiveleadershiplimited.blogspot.com/  and http://www.positiveleadership.co.uk/  and through public speaking and writing.


The Power of Mentoring

John Wooden is the most successful coach in NCAA history, having led the UCLA Bruins to 665 victories and ten championships in the years leading up to 1975.

Coach Wooden, who has served as a mentor to so many through his timeless teaching, turns 99 years young on October 14th. Coach Wooden, selected by his peers as the Greatest Coach of All Time in a recent survey by The Sporting News, encourages all of us to never stop learning and to teach others with that same passion.

After eight books, many of them bestsellers, A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring is the one closest to John Wooden’s heart: a moving and inspirational guide to the power of mentorship. The first half focuses on the people who helped foster the values that carried Wooden through an incredibly successful and famously principled career, including his college coach, his wife, Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Teresa. The second half is built around interviews with some of the many people he mentored over the years, including Kareem Abdul- Jabbar, Bill Walton, fellow coaches, family members, and even a middle school coach in Canada. Their testimony takes readers inside the lessons Wooden taught to generations of players, bringing out the very best in them not just as athletes but as human beings. In all, it’s an inspiring primer on how to achieve success without sacrificing principles, and on how to build one of the most productive and rewarding relationships available to any athlete, businessperson, teacher, or parent: that of mentor and protégé.

The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership

The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership (JB Warren Bennis Series), by Steven B. Sample, the President of the University of Southern California, was released in October 2001.

A contrarian leader, as defined by Sample, is one who sees situations from his own unique point of view and who finds genuinely new solutions to the challenges facing his organisation.

The Contrarian's Guide is a distillation of Sample's decades as a university president, director of corporate boards, civic leader, inventor, and professor. In this book Sample explodes many romanticised views of leadership and presents profound leadership lessons that combine a masterful survey of history with rich insights from personal experience.

Sample uses USC's explosive recent growth as a case study in contrarian leadership, noting how bold and unconventional choices helped USC become a world leader in the fields of communication and multimedia technologies, earn national recognition for its innovative community partnerships, and solidify its status as one of the nation's leading research universities.

Among his counterintuitive lessons:
  • Never make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
  • Think gray. Don't form opinions if you don't have to.
  • Think free. Move several steps beyond traditional brainstorming.
  • Listen first, talk later. And when you listen, do so artfully.
  • Shoot your own horse. Don’t force others to do your dirty work.
  • The best leaders don't keep up with the popular media and the trades.
  • Know what hill you are willing to die on—and keep its exact location to yourself.
  • Know the all–important difference between being leader and doing leader.
  • You can’t copy your way to the top.


Is It Possible To Motivate Everyone?

At the basis of motivation is the why of human behaviour. The fact that there are so many methods used to encourage people to put forth their best effort, speaks to the complexity of the issue. But can everyone be motivated? The simple answer is no. You can’t successfully motivate everyone. And some might say you can’t motivate anyone. Motivation is an internal process. Much is dependent on an individual’s concept of themselves and their interpretation of the environment or situation they find themselves in.

In Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!, author Suzanne Bates reminds us that “you can inspire people to discover their own motivation. If you communicate effectively and connect people with purpose, they will feel the spark that motivates them.”

Additionally, she writes, “By consistently communicating purpose with passion, you attract the right people with the right talent, skills, and motivation. The right people come into your orbit; those who aren’t right will move on.”

At the same time, Bates does offer a caution. Throwing your hands up and acting on the assumption that you cannot motivate everyone can actually damage motivation further. This assumption was “true in boom times, when organizations were bloated and some people you hired were marginal. Those days are over. Now that companies have downsized and are arguably leaner and meaner with the best talent, this is a damaging assumption. It is a leader’s responsibility to motivate employees. It’s time to stop blaming employees, and start looking to leaders to ignite the spark.”

Listen to the author:


Surviving Tomorrow's Challenges

The World Business Forum that took place in New York last week was definitely the place to be to pick up advice on leadership, and how you and your company can be best positioned for what's in store through the end of the current crisis we're in, and on into recovery.

The two-day event featured a wide array of leaders from the worlds of business, politics and academia: President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker, and he was amply supported by a cast that included the likes of T. Boone Pickens, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, management guru Gary Hamel, economist Jeffrey Sachs (who just happens to advise President Obama), and many more.

Despite the wide range of backgrounds and specialties of each of the speakers, several key themes emerged over the course of the two days that are likely to affect how business is conducted in the coming years. Of those, the top three were as follows:
  • The need for greater transparency
  • The need to realize our interconnectedness with the rest of the world—and not only on economic issues
  • Energy: sustainability and independence
Likely, none of those will come as a surprise to anyone who's spent any time reading about business recently, much less leading one, but as speaker Patrick Lencioni pointed out on day one of the event, there's no harm in over-communicating, especially where key challenges to our way of life are involved.


Of the three issues listed above, it may seem odd that greater transparency is listed first, but there's good reason for that. Of all the leaders who addressed the need for transparency, none nailed the scope of the challenge quite as well as PricewaterhouseCoopers Chairman Dennis Nally. In his eyes, economic recovery is linked to the issue of trust: people, companies and governments all need to be able to trust each other. Without that, says Nally, everyone remains fearful, and normal economic activity and growth can't resume. His solution: greater transparency, especially in terms of adherence to financial reporting standards. Everything else—global recovery, the ability to invest in alternative energies, job growth—therefore springs from the issue of transparency.


The question of interconnectedness is another that was addressed by many speakers but nailed by one: President Bill Clinton. Outlining a scenario where unsold condos in Florida and the South of France had a knock-on effect that could be realized as far away as a manufacturing facility in Vietnam (no home sales meaning no income for discretionary spending on imported manufactured goods), he declared that "divorce is not an option" from the rest of the global economy. Thus, as we seek to recover and get stronger, it's important to realize that we're all in this together; the days where American prosperity led to prosperity around the world are fading. Now, American prosperity depends on relationships—and prosperity—in other countries.

The energy question

The one area where all participants were in agreement is that energy is going to be one of the main drivers of growth in coming years. The reasons are simple: oil is finite and becoming ever more expensive; carbon reduction is a necessary goal; national security depends on ending or greatly reducing reliance on foreign energy sources. Thus, alternative sources are the way forward. T. Boone Pickens used his platform at the Forum to reaffirm his pledge that he will deliver an energy plan for America, focused on natural gas—"the only natural resource in America that will move an 18 wheeler."

All told, perhaps the most striking analysis of the challenges facing us—and the nature of the changes that may have to come—was offered by Jeffrey Sachs, who opined that “markets can’t solve the problems.” The reason? “These are problems that require markets and public policy working hand in hand.” Drawing together all of the themes touched on so far, he commented that “we need a new approach to the planet”—one where “global cooperation lies at the center” of everything we do, and where we “put people first rather than the powerful interests.”

Whether or not you agree with Sachs' take on the road to a solution, the challenges are pretty much there for all to see. While they represent a difficult road ahead, there are also sure to be opportunities in each of them. Staying nimble enough to benefit from those—and to negotiate the changes we're sure to see—is going to be the key to surviving in business in the coming years.

How Much Do You Trust Your Leader?

How much do you trust your leader? Rate them against the six dimensions of trust, and compare results with your colleagues:


Why Do Some Leaders Succeed and Some Fail?

Tough economic times seem to bring out the best and worst of leaders. Why the difference? The answer may lie in the style of leadership. Powerful leaders distinguish themselves by their capacity to inspire people to action and enroll them as change agents in organisations. Powerful leaders could also be called transformational leaders, and they are very different than authoritarian or transactional leaders who rely on control, dominance, and reward and punishment to get employees to perform.

Jim Collins describes the powerful leader as a Level 5 Leader, which is based on the idea that respect for people, selflessness and a strong commitment to achieve results, bring out the best in subordinates. Level 5 leaders are a paradoxical blend of fierce will and personal humility. They are ambitious for their organisations, but rarely allow their ego to be an obstacle for the success of their organisation.

In an excellent scholarly article by Dr. Stephen Long in the Business Leadership Review in July, 2009, he points out that growing a business during a recession is the ultimate test of leadership, citing companies such as Proctor and Gamble, G.E., Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft as depression or recession start-ups.

Long proposes that the essential component for leadership success is a leadership style that is powerful but not authoritarian, arguing that the way leaders manage their people has a direct impact on how their team performs. Powerful or transformational leaders create the "will to work effectively and collaboratively--not because employees are coerced, but because they are committed," Long suggests.

Powerful leaders are creative and systemic thinkers, whereas authoritarian leaders rely primarily on logic and linear thinking, "which leads to reasons not to do." Long describes the behaviour of powerful leaders as being able to successfully manage the paradox of change and stability, and being able to construct a mental reality for followers that may not yet exist.

The psychological state of people during tough economic times can be driven by fear and anxiety. These emotions often prevent authoritarian leaders from seeing reality or taking advantage of new opportunities. Authoritarian leaders can be victims of their own emotional roller-coaster of cycles of good and bad times which spreads to followers, whereas powerful leaders have much higher levels of emotional intelligence and display a calm evenness in their behaviour.

Powerful leaders recognise that authoritarian control will not get followers to commit to any initiative during tough economic times, Long argues. People resist being controlled and want to accomplish something meaningful through collaboration.

Finally, it's not enough that the CEO exhibit a powerful leadership style. It means that this style of leadership needs to be developed throughout the organisation so the organisation can not just survive, but flourish.