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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Moving Beyond Survive to Thrive and Win at Work

According to Randstad’s 2009 World of Work survey, 83% of workers surveyed  feel fortunate to have a job.

While this sentiment might simply be an expression of gratitude for some, it is just as likely that this response reflects a distinct undertone of survival mentality – just grateful, just thankful, just fortunate. This is probably not too surprising a conclusion after the economic turmoil of the past 18 months.

However, it is important to undertsand the impact of survival mentality on a business. Survival mentality tends to put people into a defensive mode – a reactive and protective stance. When employees are in survival mode, they are constantly looking over their shoulders or in the proverbial rearview mirror for the other shoe to drop. The impact is lower productivity and less focus on the job.

Adding to the premiss of a survival mentality is fear. The same survey also revealed that 52 percent fear for their economic well-being! This response alone provides a clear picture of the roller coaster of emotions that employees bring into the workplace. Couple fear with a steady diet of predominately negative news – job losses, dwindling consumer confidence, institutions in financial turmoil, recession – and the recipe is the same: lower productivity and less focus on the job at hand.

So, in anticipation of a steady recovery out of recession, albeit into an even more competitive business environment, how do leaders help employees get from 'survive' to 'thrive and win' with the swirling of negativity all around? What can leaders do to encourage the language of an environment that thrives and wins? How can leaders facilitate or create a workforce that has a forward-looking, windshield outlook instead of a rearview mirror viewpoint? The answer is communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

  • Tell them all that you can tell them. Paranoia is a killer! During a tough time at work, silence is NOT golden and no news is NOT good news! When employers leave ‘dead air’ in the workplace instead of open communication lines, paranoia will set in; and with paranoia comes the survival mentality. There is always something that can be communicated to the workforce even if it is ‘no decisions have been made, but we are working on it’. While there will always be information and news that cannot be shared, make sure to share what you can. This communication helps to keep employees from wondering what just happened and what might happen next. Over communicate during a tough time and be as transparent as possible to keep your employees informed.

  • Pay close attention to your top performers. Often times, we assume that our best employees already know that they are the best and that they must know how important they are to the company. Wrong. How many times has your company been surprised by the exit of a key performer after it was too late to convince him or her to stay? Even the most confident performers can have doubtful moments during a tough economic time. Sales, results, growth and profit can all be down for even the best performers so it’s critical for your most important employees to know (for sure) that they are valued and why they are valued. This can be as simple as a personal conversation that discusses the employee’s value and seeks to discover what is most important to them at the moment. Bottom line: make sure the employees you value most know that they are valued.

  • Be clear about why some are gone and why some are still here. Honesty is the best policy. You may think that you are saving face for those who have been let go, but while you may soften the blow (very temporarily, by the way) of those who exit, you could be doing damage to the perceptions of those who are left. If every layoff brings a company line of ‘it was just a business necessity’, those who survive the layoff may NOT know why they are still around. You know what comes next…they are ‘just grateful’ to have a job. Consider instead communicating specifics around why decisions were made and what impact those decisions will have on those who remain. Of course you can customise the reasons for your situation, but the key is telling employees why they are still here and why they are valuable to the company. That alone can encourage employees to look forward for the next goal without feeling a sense of guilt or speculating as to why some are gone.

  • Avoid credibility killers. When talking with employees, you are representing the company as a leader. Avoid using phrases like ‘the company’ or ‘upper management’ – they are surefire credibility killers. Another quick credibility killer is ‘the boss and I really think you need to get your game together’. Every time you bring someone else into the room for a tough conversation (literally or figuratively), it may make the conversation easier for you, and you may even think it softens the blow, but consider how you instantly demote yourself when you relegate the decision to someone higher up. You may even inadvertently communicate that you are not the leader your position suggests you should be.

  • Focus on the goals and be clear about the role. Find a common destination or a shared goal that is guaranteed to get employees looking forward, through the windshield. Then get all employees moving in the same direction toward the goal by establishing clear roles and expectations for each employee. Again, this focus will get your employees looking forward and help each employee be clear about what they bring to the table.

For more, see - http://www.us.randstad.com/documents/2009WorldofWork.pdf

What is Mental Toughness?


Some Thoughts On How To Be Mentally Tough under Pressure

  • When you face a setback, think of it as a defining moment that will lead to a future accomplishment.
  • When you encounter adversity, remember, the best don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it’s not a dead end but a detour to something greater and better.
  • When you face negative people, know that the key to life is to stay positive in the face of negativity, not in the absence of it. After all, everyone will have to overcome negativity to define themselves and create their success.
  • When you face the naysayer’s, remember the people who believed in you and spoke positive words to you.
  • When you face critics, remember to tune them out and focus only on being the best you can be.
  • When you fear, trust. Let your faith be greater than your doubt.
  • When you fail, find the lesson in it, and then recall a time when you have succeeded.
  • When you head into battle, visualise success.
  • When you are thinking about the past or worrying about the future, instead focus your energy on the present moment. The now is where your power is the greatest.
  • When you want to complain, instead identify a solution.
  • When you are tired and drained, remember to never, never, never give up. Finish strong in everything you do.
  • Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t.
  • When you’re in a high-pressure situation and the game is on the line, and everyone is watching you, remember to smile, have fun, and enjoy it. Life is short; you only live once. You have nothing to lose. Seize the moment.


Losing Touch - Power Diminishes Perception and Perspective

Thinking about recent problems in the banking sector, research just published by Kellogg School of Management suggests that people in power are prone to dismiss or, at the very least, misunderstand the viewpoints of those who lack authority. Such individuals anchor too heavily on their own perspectives and demonstrate a diminished ability to correctly perceive others’ perspectives.

The researchers offer the metaphor of driving a car to understand how power can be transformed into effective leadership. The agency of power is akin to pressing the accelerator pedal. Without acceleration, one is left standing still, unable to move forward. But one also needs a steering wheel to avoid crashing into obstacles along the way. Perspective-taking without agency is ineffective, and agency without perspective-taking is dangerous and irresponsible. Effective leaders require acceleration and prudent steering—power coupled with perspective-taking. The springboard of power combined with perspective-taking may be a particularly constructive force to develop socially responsible leaders.

For more, see - http://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/index.php/Kellogg/article/losing_touch

Four Things You Can Do to Become a Better Leader

Research clearly shows that transformational leaders - leaders who are positive, inspiring, and who empower and develop followers - are better leaders. They are more valued by followers and have higher performing teams. By working on the 4 key components of transformational leadership, we can all become better leaders (and better persons, in general).

1. Be a Positive Role Model. Set a positive example and don't ask others to do what you yourself are unwilling to do. Alexander the Great was a successful military leader who was adored by his troops, because Alexander was out in front leading the charge into battle.

2. Be Optimistic and Inspirational. Have a "can do" attitude, and use that attitude to motivate. Let followers know your positive vision for the work team or company and inspire them to achieve it.

3. Challenge, but Support. Transformational leaders challenge followers to be creative, innovative, and to take risks, and this is how they together achieve extraordinary results. But, it is critical to support innovation and risk-taking. Don't blame. Instead, use setbacks as positive learning experiences.

4. Listen to Followers and Be Genuinely Concerned. Research shows this may be most important. You can't be the type of leader who empowers and develops followers if you don't have genuine positive regard for your team members. You need to focus on their positive assets, be "in tune" with each member, and demonstrate that you care about each individual's performance and personal development.

OK, here's the "extra" factor: Be Honest and "Authentic" The truly exceptional leaders are straightforward, honest, and don't "play games." They don't use followers to achieve personal gains, but work together for mutually beneficial outcomes.

Being a great leader isn't easy, but we do know that these characteristics are the "recipe" for success.

The Qualities of an Influencer

Leadership is all about influence, not position. Leadership is a choice you make, not a place you sit. What are the qualities of an influencer?

INTEGRITY - builds relationships on trust.

NURTURING - cares about people as individuals.

FAITH - believes in people.

LISTENING - values what others have to say.

UNDERSTANDING - sees from their point of view.

ENLARGING - helps others become bigger.

NAVIGATING - assists others through difficulties.

CONNECTING - initiates positive relationships.

EMPOWERING - gives them the power to lead.

Inspiring Confidence - The Role of Visualisation

How do you inspire confidence in your team and yourself when you are facing challenges and things aren’t going well? How do you lift yourself and others up when you’ve been knocked down? And what do you do when self doubt rears its ugly head again and again?

Watch and listen to what basketball superstar, Michael Jordan has to say about mentally preparing for success:

As many elite athletes would attest to, one of the best ways to regain confidence is to recall past accomplishments and visualise success. Instead of focusing on your failures, you and your team can refocus on your successes. This breeds confidence, inspires hope and creates an expectation that you will once again be successful. After all, if you did it once then you can do it again.

This approach is not just for athletes. You can also do this at your school, in your business office, during a sales conference call or in any workplace. Inspire confidence in your team today. They need it more than you know.

Are You a Transformational Leader?

One of the most popular theories of leadership today is transformational leadership. What is a transformational leader? Originally focused on leaders who "transform" groups or organisations, transformational leaders focus on followers, motivating them to high levels of performance, and in the process, help followers develop their own leadership potential.

There are 4 components to transformational leadership, sometimes referred to as the 4 I's:
  • Idealized Influence (II) - the leader serves as an ideal role model for followers; the leader "walks the talk," and is admired for this.
  • Inspirational Motivation (IM) - Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate followers. Combined these first two I's are what constitute the transformational leader's charisma.
  • Individualized Consideration (IC) - Transformational leaders demonstrate genuine concern for the needs and feelings of followers. This personal attention to each follower is a key element in bringing out their very best efforts.
  • Intellectual Stimulation (IS) - the leader challenges followers to be innovative and creative. A common misunderstanding is that transformational leaders are "soft," but the truth is that they constantly challenge followers to higher levels of performance.
Research evidence clearly shows that groups led by transformational leaders have higher levels of performance and satisfaction than groups led by other types of leaders.

Why? Because transformational leaders hold positive expectations for followers, believing that they can do their best. As a result, they inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance and, transformational leaders focus on and care about followers and their personal needs and development.

See if you have transformational leadership qualities (Agree or Disagree).
  • 1. I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn't do myself.
  • 2. My followers would say that they know what I stand for.
  • 3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.
  • 4. My followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.
  • 5. My followers would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.
  • 6. Even though I could easily do a task myself, I delegate it to expand my followers' skills.
  • 7. Team creativity and innovation are the keys to success.. I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.
(Items 1 & 2 = II; 3 & 4 = IM; 5 & 6 = IC; 7 & 8 = IS)

To learn more about transformational leadership, read: Transformational Leadership