Author: Saeed

Expertise: Training • Facilitation • Coaching • Strategic Planning • Grant Writing • Public Speaking • Communications • Fundraising • Branding • Marketing • Visual Storytelling

4 Things Leaders Can’t Ignore About Organizational Culture

January 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“DENIAL = WHAT I THINK – THE FACTS” ~ Unknown

In my 30 years of work, I have come to the conclusion that the impact of corporate culture and leadership on talent management, productivity and organizational success, cannot be ignored. Yet, all too often it is. In a nutshell organizational culture refers to the beliefs and values that influence the attitudes and behavior of the employees. I have never seen a successful organization where organizational culture, leadership behavior and job satisfaction of employees did not work hand-in-hand. Here are 4 ways that leadership and culture work in tandem to either facilitate or impede organizational success:

1. Organizational Culture = Leadership Values + Priorities

The culture is, ultimately, a reflection of the values of those leading the organization. If your values as a leader are to be inclusive and give everyone a voice, this will be reflected in the way you manage meetings. If you value work-life balance, your employees are likely benefiting from this through specific programs you have implemented. The core values of an organization begin with its leadership, which will then evolve to a leadership style. When leadership is able to consistently communicate and promote the organizational ethos, values, and priorities to employees, their acknowledgement and acceptance of it can influence their work behavior and attitudes.

2. Organizational Culture = Performance + Productivity

The level of work satisfaction with their jobs and the level of team satisfaction can have a powerful impact on individual performance. Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. Your people are your greatest asset. The cornerstone of all relationships, on or off the job, is trust. When trust is lacking, individuals and teams cannot succeed. Fairness, honesty, recognition, openness, transparency, and effective communication are the hallmarks of a trusting workplace culture.

3. Organizational Culture = Innovation + Creativity

Companies such as Google, Samsung, and Apple often rank high in studies that evaluate most innovative cultures. That is because these companies approach innovation as a byproduct of culture rooted in experimentation and risk taking. For example, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin famously encourage their employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google believing that this empowers employees to be more creative and innovative. As such, innovation and creativity is intentionally built into the fabric of the corporate culture.

4. Organizational Culture = Employee Satisfaction + Engagement

This last one is perhaps the most important. The culture within an organization plays a large role in whether the company is providing a happy and healthy environment in which to work. When the interaction between leaders and their people is constructive, employees will make a greater contribution to team communication and collaboration, and will also be encouraged to accomplish the mission and objectives assigned by the organization, thereby enhancing job satisfaction and engagement.

A Final Word

A two-dimensional model of leadership that focuses on the concern for people and production has been used for many years in organizational development research and management training. Although leadership and organizational culture constructs have been studied, the relationship between leadership values, culture, worker satisfaction, engagement and performance is still not well understood. This is worthy of the attention of leaders so that they can modify their behavior in order to maintain a good mutual relationship with their employees, improving their working attitude and, reducing work conflict, increasing productivity and improving the stories they tell.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How to Get Stuff Done

January 17, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ~ Mark Twain

The frog in the quote above is the things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do. We all have them. We all struggle with productivity. We all struggle with efficiency. Time is a finite resource and we can’t get more of it. So, the only way around this problem is to use our time better.

Planning ahead is key. So is starting. Above all, taking action and over thinking is what moves the ball forward.

If you’re a maladaptive perfectionist or a procrastinator who is always holding out for perfection, you might spend a lot of time stuck in this mode. Just pick your frog and eat it without thinking too much about it. Don’t confuse activity with efficiency. Being busy all day is not the same as being productive. The most effective way to be productive is to build effective habits and routines and execute them with military-like discipline.

eisenhower-boxOrganize Your Tasks

First things first, organize. Get a birds-eye-view. In order to get an overview of your tasks you can use a method such as the Eisenhower Box Technique to divide your to-do list in 4 categories:

 

 

  • Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
  • Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.

Now that you know what needs to get done, here are a few of my favorite ways to get stuff done:

Set it up for Success

One of the greatest barriers to productivity is not having a plan. Many of us want to exercise in the morning but never take our idea beyond that initial thought to set our self up for success. If you want to exercise in the morning, make a mental note before going to bed that you’re going to go for a run first thing when you wake up.  Take out your running shoes and clothes and put them by the door. Get your iPod ready with your favorite playlist or audio book too. Then, once you wake up, you’ll remember the first task on your list for the day and have everything you need right at your fingertips to do it.

Have the Right Tools

The right tools are critical to getting stuff done. Let’s say you’re going on a business trip. Yes, it’s great that you can read emails on your phone, but I doubt you’re going to type out a report on it. So by simply investing in an iPad and keyboard cover, you can multiply your productivity while on the road. I use my cell for all it’s worth so I recently invested in an external battery pack so I don’t have to walk around airports looking for charging stations. Portable MiFi devices can also come in handy. If there’s some item that will help you work better, think of it as a tool in your arsenal.

Set a Deadline

Timeboxing is a technique that encourages you to focus on time rather than tasks. The premise of the principle is simple. Having more time does not mean more productivity. Think about it: When you have all afternoon to finish a task, you’ll take all afternoon to do it. You’ll make fridge runs, go  for coffee breaks, check email or social media here and there, and do other things that are wasting your time. Studies have shown that putting limits on your time to complete a task actually increases the speed of your work. Such deadlines improve your focus and enhance creativity. Time limits are particularly effective because they force you to ignore distractions and prioritize work. Time limits force you to dive in and power through. This is concentrated time and not the false promise of multi-tasking your way into productivity. Once you complete one task, you can switch to the next and timebox that one accordingly. We each have peak productivity periods. Mine is early in the morning. My brain is freshest. My thoughts are crisp. By the end of the day, I’m pretty well fried. So I know that I’ll do my best thinking work between 5-7 AM. It is now 6:31 AM. The critical rule of timeboxing is that work should stop at the end of the timebox and progress should be evaluated to know if the goal has been met. Setting a timer is an effective way to do this, especially if you can see (or hear!) it counting down. Get a big old-fashioned LED or wind-up one to put on your desk, and you’ll have a constant reminder that your “deadline” is approaching. Shorter sprints, by the way, are best because your brain is able to focus on any given task for up to two hours (after which it needs a 20-30 minute break to recharge).

Have an Accountability Partner

Having an accountability buddy helps you get your work done better and faster. Whether it’s having a running buddy for your exercise routine or a team mate at work, the social facilitation of having someone who encourages you when you feel discouraged or someone who shares some of your goals gives you a competitive edge. You need someone nearby to help you keep pace, expect you to keep going, and celebrate with when you’ve made it to the end. The back and forth and inspiration you can get from an accountability buddy is especially good for powering through work you don’t enjoy. So, find a colleague and see if you can hunker down in a conference room one afternoon and power through your work together.  There’s certainly a time for quiet, deep thinking work, a time for working more loosely without a deadline, and a time for solo work. But when you have something that is a challenge or a stretch for your own current capacity, there is nothing like having an accountability buddy.

Bundle  Your Work

In life and work, there are things we like to do and things we don’t like to do. Research suggests that combining the things we want to do, with the things we should do, could be a way to get more stuff done. The so called ‘temptation bundling’ technique says to simultaneously combine two differing, but complementary, activities. The theory is that pairing a thing you like with something you don’t like, will give you a greater incentive to do something you might be putting off. For example, listen to an audio book (something I like) while I run (something I despise). The benefit is derived from simultaneity. The risk is associating your enjoyment of the task you like by pairing it with something unpleasant. I may no longer like audio books after I try this and I end up avoiding both. Nonetheless, the technique is premised on finding tasks that complement each other, and perhaps even work better, when combined. Although sustainability is a question for further study with this technique, we can’t magically become more productive so applying new methods to see what works is worth the effort.

A Final Word

It’s important to note that these aren’t the only strategies or strategies to use all the time for productivity. They are best practices and we have to experiment to see what works best for each of us and when to apply which technique. The bottom line however is that developing lifelong habits of productivity is what leads to success. The business world rewards those who produce results—not those who are simply busy. It is worth your time and effort therefore, to learn the habit of diving directly into major tasks and work steadily and tenaciously until that task is completed. If you regularly set priorities and get important tasks done quickly and efficiently, you’ll be recognized as an effective and productive member of the team or entrepreneur who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk.

So what if I have two frogs you ask. As Twain said: “If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

It’s About Action Not Ideas: Why Inertia and Emotions are Your Enemy

January 16, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Ideas not coupled with action never become bigger than the brain cells they occupied.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

You may be married to your great ideas. You may think that it’s your great idea that will change the world or create your next business success. I am here to tell you that you are wrong.

The success of you, your team, your company or your community is reliant on one thing and one thing only: your commitment to action.

As evidence, please consider the work of Bill Gross. Bill founded the technology incubator IdeaLab in 1996. Since its founding, they have created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs and acquisitions.

Naturally, Bill has had a unique vantage point on why some companies succeed where others fail. He analyzed the companies founded by IdeaLab and ranked each company on a scale of 1-10 on 5 factors:

·        Idea

·        Team/Execution

·        Business Model

·        Funding

·        Timing

Timing beat out all other factors with Team/Execution coming in a close second. Here is how things looked:

·        Timing (42%)

·        Team/Execution (32%)

·        Idea (28%)

·        Business Model (24%)

·        Funding (14%)

Inertia (and Emotions) are the Enemy

Raymond Albert “Ray” Kroc took over the budding fast food burger chain from the McDonald brothers in 1954 and turned it into a nationwide and eventually global franchise. As he liked to say, the two most important requirements for major success are: “first, being in the right place at the right time, and second, doing something about it.”

You recognize this pattern. You are frustrated at work or with some aspect of your life. An idea comes into your head and you get incredibly excited. Your passions are stirred. You have found a way out. Your new idea rises to the top of your to-do list. But after a while, after thought, research and reflection, it starts getting pushed back down again.

As Gregg Krech writes in his book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, the problem with this approach to motivation is that it’s far too hung up on the importance of being excited about the idea –  on the emotional surge that results in a temporary rush of motivation that comes from believing we are about to change the world or to change our lives for good –  and that eventually gives way to actually doing the less glamorous work needed to advance the idea. The alternative is to stop riding the tide of emotions and do stuff anyway.

“The only way to really deal with the problem of excitement,” Krech writes, “is to stop becoming dependent on it.”

A final word…

All this doesn’t mean resigning yourself to a relationship or job you hate; it just means not relying on excitement, or the avoidance of discomfort, to decide on your next move. It means being a doer rather than a thinker. It means stop procrastinating while you hold out for perfection. It means slaying the fear dragon. Fear of success or failure. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of what others will think of you. It is action, not ideas, that contains the power to dissolve your fears. Non-action is exhausting. Non-action is de-motivating.

Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t overthink. Make a commitment, create momentum and embrace the power of doing something ‘NOW.’

After all, it’s what you do after the excitement fades that defines who you are.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The 4 Pillars of Leadership Effectiveness

January 11, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“You don’t build a business. You build people. The people then build the business.” ~ Unknown

Leaders have numerous issues competing for their attention. And great leaders know how to focus their attention and how to direct the attention of others to what matters most. Indeed, the ability to focus attention is my favorite definition of leadership.

But what should leaders focus on? In over 30 years of leadership experience, I have narrowed this down to 4 key pillars, without which, it would be difficult to support an effective organization. They are as follows:

1.      Employee Well-Being and Engagement

Your people are your greatest asset. Above all, they should be healthy and happy. To maintain a high performance environment, you have to ensure that employee morale and engagement is high.  Your ability to develop people and motivate them will drive results and keep people engaged. Most people want to work in a dynamic environment where they feel they can thrive. They want to grow personally and professionally through training, coaching, and exposure to new ideas, people and situations. Therefore, you need to promote personal development that leads to additional opportunities for team members. Your top role is to inspire and engage people. If you don’t engage your teams, your organizational well-being will suffer. Finally, make sure your employees are cared for and can attend to their personal lives while they are helping build up your business.

2.      Employee Productivity and Goal Setting

Next, you must make sure that you challenge and stretch your employees. You must set expectations that will help you reach your goals for the company. You have to be on top of the short term goals and how they fit with your long term aspirations. Individual goals must be in alignment with company vision. A lack of alignment in this area will have an impact on performance levels as well as a person’s level of engagement. Set your employees up so they can be their most productive. This does not mean extract out of them an 8 hour day. This is the most simplistic interpretation of productivity. Give your employees productivity tools and hacks. Train them and build their capacity for productivity. Help them manage time, energy, focus and attention. Make sure your internal processes are not bottlenecking decisions or hampering their forward progress.

3.      Innovation and Continuous Improvement

To compete in today’s environment, you have to free up your employees so they can innovate. You have a pool of creative talent in your organization. Trust me, you do. If you don’t see it, it’s because you have not learned to tap into it. Creativity plays a large role in high performance work environments. Leaders need foster creativity by continually focusing on ensuring and rewarding creative work. You also need to communicate that everyone plays a meaningful role in achieving the company vision through their own creativity. You need to ‘create’ an environment where team members have the confidence to voice their opinions and concerns. When people feel that their voice is heard, they will speak up more and take more risks. They will be more engaged and will feel that the role they play is important to the overall well-being and success of the company. The surest way to squash creativity is through micromanagement and a focus on things that matter least. People feed off of encouragement. Focus on what they do well. Find their strengths and help your employees triple down on them.

4.      Effective Operational Processes

The final key area of focus is process. You can’t have the other three without efficiency in the day to day operations of the company. A good process adds value. Internal process should never be a barrier to getting things done. This is accomplished through the establishment of tested and true internal processes and protocols and through continuous review and improvement of them. Performance will suffer without a solid foundation for how things are done and a clear directive for what is expected. Therefore, how you want things done and a timeframe for when tasks and projects are to be completed needs to be clearly communicated and mutually agreed upon. This discipline needs to be executed consistently. If you keep changing up your processes, you will demoralize your employees. Before implementing a process it needs to be well thought out and then you need to be open to adjustments and input on improvement as identified by your team. Provide a forum so they can voice their opinions, thoughts and ideas to continuously improve how things are done.

A Final Word…

The top four areas are not the only areas of focus for a leader. Strategy, communication, emotional intelligence and so forth are also exceedingly important areas deserving of a leader’s attention. But in my experience, the four areas above are the most important. They are the most essential because without these four being strongly in place, you cannot have anything else. Focusing on these four pillars will help to communicate expectations for employees, create further engagement, and improve performance efficiencies. Upon these four pillars, you can build skyscrapers.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Why Positive Feedback Doesn’t Always Motivate Better Performance

January 10, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Negative feedback can make us bitter or better.” ~ Robin Sharma

In reviewing performance, we are erroneously obsessed with progress. But evidence suggests that commitment, not progress is the motivational driver. I recently covered this topic in another post titled How Your Brain Sabotages Your Goals

But here, I want to come at essentially the same topic from a different angle.

The Cult of Positivity

The zeitgeist would have us be positive 24/7. It’s all around us. We shun negative people like the plague. Naturally, this fetish for all things positive has crept its way into the workplace. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with positivity. I am all for it. What I am against is bifurcated thinking.

That is to say:

Positive = Good.

Negative = Bad.

You see, as much as our cognitive self would like to organize the world in this way, our emotional self puts up resistance.

Let me explain.

Positive Vs. Negative Feedback

We’ve all had this experience. You set a fitness goal. You go at it like a beast. After some time, you look in the mirror or stand on the scale and see the results you were after. That’s positive feedback. This should keep you motivated to stay with the program and work out like an Olympic champ. But you don’t. To the contrary, you decide to reward yourself. Instead of being the fuel for your motivation, the positive feedback gives you license to slack off, to attack that piece of chocolate cake you know you should avoid.

Conversely, you stand on the scale and notice you’ve gained weight rather than losing even an ounce. That’s negative feedback. Because it’s negative, it should discourage you, right? But instead, you get mad realizing that more effort is required to meet your goal. You decide to add another mile to your run instead. In this example, it is the negative feedback that is the motivational driver.

What’s happening here?

The scientific community is actually divided on whether it is positive or negative feedback that fuels motivation. As the example above demonstrates, positive feedback is not always motivating just as negative feedback is not always discouraging. Rather, it is the emotional response you have to the feedback you receive about your goal progress, determines how you behave in the future. This is the key.

 The Issue of Perception

It has been said that perception is reality.

You see, the real problem with feedback is not whether it is positive or negative but whether it is perceived as being positive or negative. When you focus purely on whether the feedback you received from your supervisor was ‘positive’ or ‘negative,’ you can help lose the motivational and informational value of that feedback.

In truth, both positive and negative feedback can be motivating. The deciding factor is your interpretation of the feedback received and how you make meaning of it. What I am saying here is that you do not have to be a victim of the feedback you receive. You have agency. You get to determine whether and how the feedback you receive is a motivating force or not.

All of this does not mean that managers should give up understanding how to give honest and constructive feedback. That’s a topic I’ve covered extensively here and here. I am suggesting however, that your ears should not just be tuned to the ‘positivity’ or ‘negativity’ of the message, but to the information contained in the message and how you, as an autonomous individual, choose to incorporate that information into your understanding and development of your future self.

Now, isn’t that a positive message?

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Survive and Thrive: Why Leaders Must Foster a Culture of Cooperation

January 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russell

The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in the next decade, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. The global middle class alone is set to grow from 2.5 billion people to 5 billion people in 2030.

Minimally, our rates of consumption will increase while our natural resources become more stressed. Business (and life) as usual is not sustainable. Competition and the mindset of self-interest is not sustainable.

The Social Instinct to Cooperate

Are people intuitively selfish or intuitively cooperative? Harvard researchers Rand, Greene and Nowak took up this challenge and drew a fascinating conclusion: People have an initial impulse to behave cooperatively but with continued reasoning, become more likely to behave selfishly. In other words, we have a natural instinct to cooperate but given time to think about it, our self-interest kicks in. This has wide reaching implications from our personal relationships to our team building efforts to our current political divide.

Carol Dweck has spent decades at Stanford studying how behaviors are affected by what she calls a growth mindset. In a nutshell, her research has shown that people who believe their intelligence can be developed do better in life vs. those that believe intelligence is fixed.

A Stanford-led research team of psychologists put that theory to test with one of the most entrenched conflicts in modern history. Israel and Palestine have lost untold decades and lives over disputed territories. The mutual distrust between the two groups means they can’t work cooperatively on solving their issues.

The researchers found that by teaching Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli teenagers that groups are generally capable of change—without ever mentioning a specific adversary— significantly improved their ability to cooperate. When the teenagers did not know about the political affiliation of the other, their perception and willingness to cooperate shifted significantly.

The Evolutionary Reason to Cooperate

Cooperation is not unique to humans. It’s not even unique to animals. Cooperation is part of nature. It starts at the cellular level. Life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, took over the planet by networking and cooperation, not by combat and competition. This is the hopeful conclusion of a small but vibrant renaissance in the scientific community around the concept of cooperation and networks.

The reason why is simple. According to evolutionary biologists, cooperation is one of the most important and beneficial behaviors on Earth. We literally would not be here without it.

Humans, plants, and animals are made up of cells that learned to cooperate long ago. Together they formed multi-cellular organisms, increasing each individual cell’s chances of replication and survival in the process. From these biological building blocks, cooperation prevails at every level of the animal kingdom: Ants that move in formation; mutual inter-species grooming rituals; small birds protecting each other from predators; bats that share food to survive; and humans who co-edit Wikipedia articles and form lines for the bathroom. These are all examples of cooperative behaviors that have evolved as a result of the benefit we inherit from their practice.

Cooperation at Work

Cooperation seems at odds with what many people assume are the basic forces of Darwinian evolution. After all, only the strongest survive.

At the most basic level, cooperation is best defined as individuals working together in order to create a benefit for an entire group. Working together had an evolutionary purpose in that it allowed our ancestors to form strong groups thereby fostering maximal survival. Cooperation leads to social cohesion. It leads to innovation.

But people will cooperate with one another even when they have nothing to gain. That’s called altruism. Altruistic behaviors are as natural to humans as are competitive ones. It’s just that under particular circumstances and given certain personality traits, one or the other will prevail.

That means leadership and culture have a huge role to play in fostering cooperation in the workplace. The main barrier to more companies getting on board is not an objection to the principles or potential outcomes of cooperation, but rather, inertia.

The competitive edge in any business can be enhanced when an employer is able to build up a highly motivated, dedicated and efficient team of employees to serve their customers. To have an effective workplace cooperation mechanism in place is one of the means to achieve this end. To foster a cooperation mindset, is the other. For workplace cooperation to be effective, leadership commitment is crucial. In my experience, many leaders consciously or unconsciously actually encourage behaviors that undermine cooperation.

Shifting a business model away from a traditional competitive model to something more cooperative requires a real transformation in the way a business thinks and operates. It takes time, energy and effort and it takes communicating the value of the shift towards cooperation both internally to employees and externally to customers. Doing so, is a worthy investment which will bring enormous benefits to the enterprise in terms of enhanced efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. It starts with hiring and on-boarding practices that seek out and foster a cooperative mindset and spans to coaching mentoring and performance management practices that reward and nurture cooperation.

I believe that cooperative social organization, be it in the workplace or in society at large, that nurture networks of communication, encourage sharing and experimentation, and foster a climate of mutual support where a cooperative mindset can flourish, is the only way to solve society’s most pressing problems. In other words, cooperation is vital to our survival as a species.

What do you think?

 Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How Your Brain Sabotages Your Goals

January 8, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Commitment in the face of conflict produces character.” ~ Unknown

Nearly half of all Americans make a New Year’s resolution.

Nearly half fail at achieving their newly minted goals each year.

The inevitable initial spike in activity is usually followed by a drop in motivation levels. Soon enough, more days at the gym give way to that nice looking piece of chocolate cake – even when you stand in front of the mirror and can see progress being made as evidenced by your new waist line.

Why?

Research has discovered that we are all too eager to use progress as an excuse to slack off. In practical terms, this means one step forward gives you permission to take five steps back. Your brain’s reward system kicks in and wants to be indulged. It convinces you that you deserve that yummy piece of cake.

When dieters were offered a thank-you gift of either an apple or a chocolate bar in goal setting studies, 85% of the self-congratulating participants who were informed about their progress chose the chocolate bar over the apple!

That’s not to say that progress is in and of itself a problem. But rather, how you feel about your progress and what you choose to do with the information you receive about your progress may very well be a huge problem. In other words, making progress on goals actually encourages people to engage in goal-sabotaging behavior.

Ironically, when we stand in front of the mirror and find that we can’t pull our jeans up even though we’ve been spending regular time at the gym, signals a lack of progress and increases motivation to do more. By God! It runs counter to everything we believe. Focusing on progress can actually hold us back from success!

Focus on Why Not How Much

It turns out that commitment to the goal is even more important than progress being made. Reminding yourself why you set the goal in the first place, is a more motivating and self sustaining force for positive change because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. We are more disciplined about our goals when our deeper commitment is in play than when our more superficial and ephemeral progress toward the goal is the focus. Commitment fosters accountability. Progress fosters indulgence.

Remembering the “why” will also help you see and act upon other opportunities as they arise. We fail at our goals for a variety of reasons. We may have set the goal too high or we may lack a system to achieve the goal. But at the most fundamental level, we fail when we aren’t that committed to the goal in the first place.

Focus on your commitment and you’ll achieve everything you want.

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Brainstorming: The Most Simple and Most Powerful Way To Innovate

December 21, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“To be creative, lose the fear of being wrong.” ~ Unknown

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

At its most basic level, brainstorming is a method and approach often used for problem solving. It encourages people to come up with thoughts and ideas. Some of these ideas can be crafted into original, creative solutions to a problem, while others can spark even more ideas. This helps to get people unstuck by “jolting” them out of their normal ways of thinking.

It Starts with Asking The Right Questions

The general process is for the meeting facilitator to post a single open-ended and strategically focused question to help participants understand and explore a given topic. Part of the power of questions is that they don’t just seek information, but lead to the co-creation of knowledge. Therefore, open-ended questions that invite people to think deeply about their experiences and the world around them are important for opening up conversations and learning. Conversely, how a question is framed can limit the range of responses to provide and lead to a pre-determined answer.

The focus on asking the right questions in strategic planning settings arises from the belief that questions can be transformational, in the sense that they introduce “alternative possibilities, theories and views of the world. Without the right questions, you cannot get the right answers. Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Closed questions are less useful because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response.

Taking Brainstorming to the Next Level

But good participatory design would indicate that there is more than just asking the right question and letting everyone call out their responses. Rapid fire brainstorming within time limitations can help generate ideas quickly, because you don’t have time to filter or over-think each one. But if you have more time and you want to provide a little more structure to your brainstorming, try the technique below to help you organize the rapid ideation and create actionable strategy from your session.

1.     Brainstorm in layers – Start with silent individual brainstorming, and then ask participants to select their personal favorites to share in a small group. Ask small groups to agree on a specified number of distinct ideas to print clearly onto large cards, one idea per card. Invite the small groups to share their answers with the whole group by gradually calling for the cards. As you read each card aloud, show it to the group and post it on the front wall. Make sure to get equal numbers of cards from all the small groups.

2.     Cluster ideas – When there are about 15 cards on the wall, ask the group to create pairs of cards with similar intent (for added visual impact, use the ‘sticky wall’ and colored paper). Move cards with similar ideas together, first in pairs, then in larger groupings, or clusters. Ask each small group to hand up additional cards, a few at a time, until you have all the cards from all the groups. By the last round, most of the remaining cards will contain ideas similar to those already clustered, and the group can easily identify where to place them.

3.     Name the clusters – After all the cards are placed on the wall in clusters or columns, give each cluster a 3-5 word title that answers the focus question (e.g. improved customer service).

 4.     Confirm the resolve – After naming all the clusters, review the titles to ensure clarity. Discuss the overall impact the ideas will have, and confirm that they represent the consensus of the whole group. Gain commitment on immediate next steps.

One Final word…

Brainstorming is a tried and true method, especially in the early stages of a product or a company’s growth, to bring together a wide range of viewpoints. It’s a quick way to generate a large quantity of ideas; instead of just one or two. A group effort can exponentially increase the number of ideas and the technique above can help organize them. During brainstorming sessions, avoid criticizing or rewarding ideas. This tends to shut people’s thinking down. Instead, try to open up possibilities and to bring out creativity on the part of group members. Judgment and analysis at this stage stunts idea generation and limits creativity. Allow everyone to have a say. Facilitate the session so that the people who are quiet have equal time in the spotlight as those who have the tendency to dominate discussions.  Just as with other collaborative meeting techniques, be the ‘guide on the side, not the sage on the stage.’

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How To Create A Personal Strategic Plan

 

December 20, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Unknown

Creating a strategic plan is about getting from Point A to Point B. Period.

First, assess where you are now (Point A) and then define where you want to be (Point B). Your final step is to develop strategies that will be your roadmap from one point to the other.

What follows below is a classic organizational strategic planning process adapted for personal development. Whether organizational or individual, everything starts with a self-assessment.

SWOT Analysis

No strategic planning process would be worth its salt without a good Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats assessment (a.k.a S.W.O.T.).

Draw a grid 4 square grid and write in each corner:

·        Strengths: the attributes you possess that will help advance your plan.

·        Weaknesses: the attributes you possess that will hinder your plan.

·        Opportunities: external conditions that may advance your plan.

·        Threats: external conditions that may hinder your plan.

Now Ask:

·        How can I Use each Strength?

·        How can I Stop each Weakness?

·        How can I Exploit each Opportunity?

·        How can I Defend against each Threat?

That’s your self assessment.

Next, turn over your sheet of paper. Write down the headings I use below and follow the instructions under each category.

1. Your Vision Statement

Your vision statement is your north star – a mental picture of what your future self may look like. Your vision statement should pull you towards your optimal desired future state. It is the sun to your flower. It should be inspirational and focused on what you want to achieve over time. Here are some vision statements from some big players. Study them and then write your own.

Ikea’s vision is to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.

Amazon’s vision is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online.

2.     Your Mission Statement

Your mission statement should provide a top-level answer to the essential question: Why do you exist? Having a personal mission statement brings clarity and purpose to your life. Employees often can’t remember the company’s mission statement. That’s because they’re usually all-things-to-all-people word salads. Your mission statement is a concise statement of What you do, Who you do it for , and How you do it. Try creating one by studying the ones below.

Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

3. Your Goal Statement

A goal is a specific target, a destination, an end result or something to be desired. It is a major step in achieving your vision. Ideally, each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (a.k.a S.M.A.R.T.). You could have one or several goals to achieve your vision: lose weight, gain weight, whatever. A charity might want to increase donations by 20% in one year, or maybe increase community engagement through social media by 10%. You get the idea but remember The Law of Diminishing Returns which tells us that the more goals we set, the less likely we are to achieve them. One goal distracts from another, leaving us less likely to accomplish anything. In goal setting, quality, not quantity is what counts.

Take your resources into account as well as those things that might facilitate the achievement of your goals or be a barrier to them.

4. Your Strategies

This is where the fun begins. Each goal should have 1-3 strategies: what you will do to reach your goal. Be sure to separate the things that must absolutely be done this year, from the things that would be nice to have, but aren’t urgent. What concrete action or set of actions needs to be taken tomorrow, to reach your goal?

Our hypothetical charity might create celebrity partnerships to support their programs or invest in optimizing the website to increase online giving…

5. How you know you are succeeding

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used to measure your progress towards your goals. You may have heard the famous management axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Your metrics will ultimately let you know whether or not your strategic plan was effective. The target is the number you need to reach to achieve your goal. It’s the number of related books you read each month, number of miles you jog a week, number of yoga classes each month and so on.

6. Putting it all together “the personal strategic plan”

If you did all of the above, you’ve completed a personal assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, developed a vision for your future, a personal mission statement, specific goals and related strategies to achieve your vision, and a way to measure your progress. Those are all the essential elements of a strategic plan and essential elements of your personal development plan.

Now, go execute it.

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. I am thrilled to share my time, expertise and knowledge with you and to know it’s of value. Please like, comment, and share the article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. Also, feel free to post it on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it (with the proper credit of course).

If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

©2017— All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Nobody Cares About Your Presentation

December 19, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“All of us contain music and truth, but most of us can’t get it out.” ~ Mark Twain

Professionals love data. Audiences don’t.

We love to present data. Power Point presentations are full of data. We love charts and graphs and analytical data. Presenting data makes us feel smarter. It says we’ve done our homework and we know our stuff.

But guess what? Nobody cares.

For the audience to make a connection with you, your product, your client, or whatever you are presenting on, they have to have a reason to care. That reason to care is emotional, not analytical. Even master orators like President Obama can put people to sleep. So how do we make the audience care? The answer is story.

What is story?

The term story means “connected account or narration of something happening.” A story, then, has five basic but essential elements that connect the narrative.

1. Setting

The setting is the location of the action. This could be a city or inside a one room school house. Unusual settings can be interesting but everyday setting can help audiences better visualize the story and feel connected to the plot. Sometimes, the setting is so strong, that it becomes another character in the story.

 2. Character

The characters are the individuals that the story is about. Every story has a main character which is called the protagonist. The protagonist determines the way the plot will develop and is usually who will bring the story to resolution (another story element).

 3. Plot

A story has a plot. A plot should have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. This allows the audience to make sense of the action and follow it from start to finish.

4. Conflict

Every story has a conflict to (re) solve. The plot is centered on this conflict and the ways in which the characters attempt to resolve the conflict.

5. Resolution

Finally, every story must resolve. It’s important that the resolution solve all parts of the conflict. It’s also important that the solution is not implausible. The resolution should make sense to the rest of the story.

A final Word…

The above elements are by no means exhaustive. There are other elements to a story such as the narrator (storyteller), the time, the sequence, the climax, exposition, point of view, rising and falling action and the moral of the story. But every story must contain at least the 5 elements to connect the narrative. For a story to work, each of these elements should be present and developed fully.

Story is not for everyone. When first exposed to story, hard core data wonks think it’s ridiculous. None of this “touchy feely” stuff for me, they say. “I was trained as a researcher,” they say. “I was trained to look for facts, and evidence, and to think analytically.”

All I can say is keep an open mind. The story framework has benefited me in my work in countless ways. I’m not suggesting that you replace data with story but that you compliment data with story. I’m suggesting that you explain your data through stories. The success of your presentation is, after all, determined by how compelling it is.

The power of a story will appeal to an audience in a way that data does not. People relate easily to stories and therefore they will be more easily able to relate to you. You’ll appear more human when telling stories. You won’t bore your audience if you tell your story well. You won’t need as many notes and you can be spontaneous. Stories make facts more digestible. Stories help us connect to the data on an emotional level. But keep it brief and keep it simple. A great presenter is made not by what they say, but by what they choose not to say.

Take it from me. I know from my experience that when I am telling a story to an audience, the music and truth are coming out.

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. I am thrilled to share my time, expertise and knowledge with you and to know it’s of value. Please like, comment, and share the article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. Also, feel free to post it on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it (with the proper credit of course).

If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

©2017— All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.