Author: Saeed

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3 Practical Ways to Unleash the Power of Collaboration

November 17, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” ~ African Proverb

There is no way around it. The future of work is collaborative. And, yes, there is a way to work collaboratively, co-creatively and constructively with others. Even with people who have vastly different approaches and preferences than you. But first we must recognize that true collaboration is more than team members working on a project together. Much more. Collaboration is not just a matter of getting rid of cubicles and doors. The social, informational and spatial trends that are converging in the new age of technological innovation are demanding higher levels of sophistication and new patterns of collaboration that go beyond these simplistic fixes. They are demanding change at our roots. Let me explain.

Stuck in the old…

At the corporate level, our traditional systems still lack the nimbleness, structures, and culture needed for people to collaborate effectively.

To unleash innovation, companies must change the corporate culture to one of collaboration and trust; and implement tools to harness collective knowledge, experience and communities.

At a minimum, they must share knowledge across the organization by making data and information available to more people in the organization and empower them to act on that data. The current corporate culture in which we operate, still lacks the needed transparency to really foster true collaboration.

At the team level, collaboration is often confused with teamwork. In teams, employees with different knowledge, skills, and abilities may work side by side on common goals at the direction of a team leader and be individually accountable to that leader. Collaboration, however, involves interaction, debate, and working together towards a common goal. Collaboration demands mutual accountability.

At the individual level, it must be acknowledged that collaboration does not come naturally to most employees. For those born before the Millennials, competition was the expected mode of operation. The mindset shift needed for these workers, who have been conditioned into the thinking that individual effort will be rewarded with steady career progression, may be significant.

Embracing the new…

To maximize potential, companies must capitalize on the way many workers, in particular Millennials, already connect. Consider, for example, the widespread use and global connectivity made possible by social media. Such widespread use has bred familiarity and comfort with the now all too familiar platforms that we all use for both personal and professional gain.

Social networking has expanded rapidly worldwide. Its growth alongside the evolution of other Web 2.0 conferencing and collaboration technologies are clear indicators not only of the need but also of the changing nature of people’s willingness and desire to collaborate.

To be sure, there are disadvantages to the explosion of content that Internet communications brings. The recent epidemic of fake news and manipulation of U.S. democratic systems being the best example that comes to mind. But my thesis is that in the long run, the advantages will far outweigh the downsides of the virtual inevitability of these new ways of sharing.

What many of us fail to grasp is that the Internet is evolving – from publishing to commerce to user engagement – and we must evolve with it.

The Call to Action…

Let’s not mince words. Collaboration is hard work. It takes effective communication and coordination. It takes social and emotional intelligence. It takes teams that have been nurtured and taught to collaborate. Collaboration often fails because it is often just a simple mandate. Leaders who believe it’s a good thing simply lay it out as an expectation to follow without providing the requisite mechanisms or fostering the needed mindset shift to collaborate effectively.

When viewed as an activity and unsupported, the behaviors necessary for organization-wide collaboration fail to occur. Moreover, the current “do not criticize” climate of work may stymie healthy debate that actually stimulates creativity and innovation. Employees must learn together, be comfortable with each other, understand peer motivations and intentions and be able to speak the same collaborative language. That takes way more work on the part of leaders than just saying to employees that we expect collaboration. The same principles, by the way, apply to partnerships and coalitions. It is quite amazing how many times we convene people in a room with the expectation that by the sheer virtue of the convening, they will be able to collaborate. This forms the basis for the Collective Impact framework.

Collaboration takes time, effort, energy, resources and commitment. In the meantime, here are three practical things you can do right now to unleash the true power of collaboration:

1.      Leaders First: This means lead by example. Leaders should themselves role model effective collaboration and have the requisite communication and collaboration skills to do so. They should also understand their role in facilitating collaboration and maintaining a collaborative environment. Most importantly, leaders should not micromanage and should give employees the autonomy they need to perform the jobs they were hired to do. The future of work, is after all, autonomous.

2.      Use Collaboration Tools and Software: Web 2.0 technologies are exploding with opportunities and the reality of virtual teams and the global workforce necessitates a migration to these tools. Consider a serious investment that will allow you to harness the power of project management and communication tools that the new technology offers.

3.      Train your Teams: Studies and experience show that teams need to continue to improve communication, leadership, and critical thinking skills. Collaboration is greatly facilitated by training employees to know how to tap into individual and collective talent effectively, to have clarity about roles and responsibilities, and to know how to hold productive meetings.

Beyond these three, it should be noted that trust, open communication, as well as, shared vision and purpose are the foundations of effective collaboration. Indeed, many of the tenets of creating a positive work culture are necessary prerequisites for collaboration to take hold. Remember, that a truly collaborative workplace involves every employee at every level. For collaboration to truly be woven into the fabric of daily operations, the collaborative mindset must be infused in an organization’s culture 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.

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Build A Positive Work Culture

November 16, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle.

I was having a conversation with my son, who was about 13 at the time, when he said something that floored me. He said: “everything is about atmosphere.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that he thinks family life, office culture, and everything else comes down to the atmosphere that the adults and leaders create. OMG, I thought, this kid is brilliant!

I have used what he said ever since in my talks.

Now let’s break this down…

Google the phrase, “healthy workplace” and you get 20,600,000 results! Clearly it’s a hot topic. And just as clearly, there are thousands of interpretations of what the phrase means.

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy at work. Yes, competitive pay and benefits are important but keeping employees happy at work can come down to subtle changes in the values of an organization and how the organization treats its employees. The best places to work are those in which people can flourish, flex their creative muscles, and generally be their best selves. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is a combination of employee values, attitudes, expectations, and beliefs blended with the principles of the organization.  To a large extent, the culture shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the organization or team.

A workplace culture study conducted by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Moreover, 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.  

These studies show that leaders understand that positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture can be counterproductive or even toxic.

So why then are so many employees unhappy at work?

It’s one thing to know that healthy work cultures lead to productivity. It’s another thing altogether to know how to create such a culture. While leaders know this, all too often they don’t put their money where their mouth is. As a result, a 2017 study of 17,000 U.S. workers in 19 industries found that 71% were either “actively looking for new job opportunities” or were thinking about it. That’s a staggering number of unhappy workers.

 What can you do?

At some level, we all have to take responsibility for our own happiness and engagement. But in an organizational context, maximizing employee happiness and engagement is a key management responsibility because of the direct correlation to productivity.

Creating a positive work culture isn’t as difficult as you might think. However, to be successful, leaders must become more strategic on key issues such as recruiting talent, building teams, providing a broader scope for personal and professional development, developing future leaders and influencing company culture.

The first thing you can do is look around. Ask. Do an audit of organizational culture by surveying your employees on their perceptions. In sifting through the research, I have narrowed down ten of the most important indicators of a positive work culture. If any of these indicators are subpar, you need to start building intentional strategy around each one immediately and then ensure that they are working together as a whole to make up an organizational culture of excellence. They are:

1.      Leadership. It all starts here. People don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Positive, accessible and fair leadership is critical to fostering a healthy work environment. When leaders express genuine appreciation – up, down, and across the organizational structure for employees’ contributions and recognize these contributions regularly, employees feel empowered and engaged. Leaders are not micromanagers. They are not rigidly tied to static job descriptions, titles, hierarchies and ranking systems. They are focused on hiring great people, playing to their strengths and putting their skills to the best use. They do not immediately take out the ‘blame thrower’ every time something goes wrong.

2.      Trust and Respect.  Employees respect their fellow workers and work meaningfully to avoid personality conflicts, gossip, and backbiting. They laugh WITH each other not AT each other. When employees face challenges such as accidents, illnesses or personal tragedies, leaders address these challenges with empathy, support and understanding. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. There is a high cost to low trust within organizations. Recognition increases trust between leadership and employees. So does honesty and integrity.

3.      Open Communication.  Employees feel they have the freedom to speak, ideate, and provide alternate views. There are no hidden agendas, no secrets and no rumor mills. Gossip is banished. Furthermore, employees are not surprised with any information and new information is communicated well throughout the company. Employees understand the direction their team and organization is headed in because the mission, goals, and strategies are clearly articulated and inculcated.

4.      Growth and Development. Employees are offered the chance to grow professionally through regular training, career tools, and different assignments and experiences. Employees feel that they are learning and developing.  They are not made to feel bad or guilty about seeking out professional development opportunities. They have regular access to new training, workshops, mentoring, coaching, and presentations to learn, grow and develop. Senior staff mentor junior staff as part of the culture. When employees feel this sense of investment from their employer, they are willing to reciprocate and invest back into the company with their hard work and creativity.

5.      Teamwork and Collaboration. Employees work better when they feel they have quality, supportive, and energizing relationships with fellow workers. Team members help each other with critical tasks – they don’t hear “that’s not my job.” Instead, they hear “we’re all in this together.” Space (both physical and mental) is created so that employees can collaborate when needed, but have time alone for calls, and deep thinking work. Collaboration is built into company goals and values. One study even found that 40% of Millennials (who are soon to comprise the majority of the workforce) are willing to pay out of pocket for social collaboration tools to improve productivity. Transparency and clear communication are the keys to fostering strong teamwork and collaboration.

6.      Mutual Accountability. Closely related to the idea of teamwork and collaboration is mutual accountability. Leaders and employees make and keep their promises and as a result, mutual accountability, trust and respect are fostered across the organization. Peers hold peers accountable for their commitments. They are direct and assertive when promises are missed, and they are quick to thank others for keeping their promises. Accountability to customers is no less important than accountability to one another.

7.      Engagement and Empowerment. Workplace happiness depends on leaders who know how to empower employees. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm for the company and work that is being done. Employees own their work and they encourage others to stay engaged. Employee empowerment means sharing of information, resources and tools that make it easier for employees to carry out their roles and responsibilities. Employees feel engaged because they feel they are part of a bigger picture, a grander vision. But Gallop tells us that employee engagement is stagnant in the US at 32%. Something is wrong.

8.      Contribution and Value.  Employees feel that they are making a contribution to the team and that they are justly recognized for their contributions. They feel challenged to grow and they feel part of the bigger picture. Employees feel that their work exercises their creativity and imagination. Their contributions are recognized, encouraged and valued. Employees believe that their personal strengths are utilized, nurtured, and supported. They are happy to start the day because they know their work and contribution has meaning.

9.      Fairness and Inclusion.  Employees feel empowered because they have access to data and information. They have equal access to leadership and feel that their performance is assessed fairly following a set of standards that are evenly applied. There is equal opportunity for every employee to realize their full potential and a fair chance to move up within the company if they so desire. There is nothing worse than favoritism for diminishing employee morale. Fair treatment is a standard followed by all and every person is recognized as valuable; not just the star performers.

10.  Flexibility and Autonomy. The best workplaces offer people flexibility and autonomy. Flexibility is crucial to employees’ ability to optimally manage their work and their lives. Autonomy is fundamental to human happiness. One study of more than 2,000 people across three continents found that workers were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence.

A healthy workplace environment is not stress free. But a healthy workplace environment encourages employee well-being, safety and skill development with programs established to mitigate the inevitable stressors that are present on any job. Turnover, in most organizations, is a result of management issues, communication breakdown, and the lack of opportunity to make meaningful contributions. It goes without saying just how beneficial it is to productivity and to your business bottom line to be attentive to your organizational culture. You could offer high salaries, great benefits, and half a year’s vacation, but none of this would make an impact on an employee’s attitude and work ethic. True empowerment and engagement comes in the form of fostering a healthy workplace culture and atmosphere.

Even a 13-year old can tell you that much.

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.

Are You a Socially Intelligent Leader?

November 15, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Getting angry is okay so long as you get angry for the right reason with the right person to the right degree using the right words with the right tone of voice and appropriate language.” ~ Aristotle

People throw this word around a lot. Leadership. “Thank you for your leadership,” they say. You’re welcome. But what leadership are you talking about? I put paper in the copier today. That’s not leadership. When you designate the word leadership to the smallest of efforts, you demean the word. I never understand it.

Let’s face it. Leadership is hard work. As a leader, people across your organization are looking at you, your actions, your moods and your behaviors as a guide. Leaders can set the tone for success. They can also set the tone for failure. Their energy can impact their team and their organization — with positive as well as negative results. Studies show that how you act can directly impact how your team acts. All good leaders know that shared behaviors create unity and united teams are happier, more productive, and more successful.

Social Intelligence (SI) is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal for strengthening your leadership and your team.

In his book Resonate: The Art of Connecting, Daniel Goleman defines social intelligence leadership as the ability to:

1.      Discern how people feel and why,

2.      Express appropriate concern, and

3.      Interact skillfully to encourage positive states of thinking.

SI opens your eyes to how you come across to others and how your team’s behaviors can clue you in to what they want and need from you. Most importantly, SI helps you bridge the two for a successful, collaborative team that achieves excellence.

As leaders, we have to ask ourselves:

1.      What tone am I setting?

2.      How are my actions inspiring my team?

3.      How am I managing my emotions in tough situations?

4.      How do I influence others?

5.      How do I motivate others?

6.      How do I encourage collaboration across organizational boundaries?

As organizational leaders worry about the appalling low percentage of people who feel engaged in their work, academics are trying to understand what causes an increase in engagement.

They are finding that team members’ perception of shared personal vision, shared positive mood, and perceived organizational support (POS) have a direct, positive association on the members’ degree of organizational engagement.

Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis have come up with a way to measure an executive’s social intelligence and help him or her develop a plan for improving it. The seven key skills they focus on are more than just theory … more than just boosting your “people skills” — they’re about learning and understanding how people behave both individually and as a group. Listed here are each of the qualities followed by some of the questions they use to assess them:

1.      Empathy – Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?  Are you sensitive to others’ needs?

2.      Attunement – Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel? Are you attuned to others’ moods?

3.      Organizational Awareness – Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization? Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?

4.      Influence – Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests? Do you get support from key people?

5.      Developing Others Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring? Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?

6.      Inspiration – Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, and foster a positive emotional tone? Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?

7.      Teamwork – Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?  Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

So, what do socially intelligent leaders do?

They Empathize. A key component of building trust with others is empathy and trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. When employees believe that their leaders are honest, open and transparent, they are much more likely to trust their decisions. Empathetic leaders are aware of another’s feelings and understand how those feelings affect their needs. Empathy means you can appreciate what another person is going through, whether they agree with them or can relate to them or not.

They Listen. When colleagues express frustration, a socially intelligent leader knows how to listen carefully, empathize, and take measures to help improve conditions.

They Support. Socially intelligent leaders know how to provide emotional support to a colleague in distress. Goleman’s research shows that paying attention to someone’s concerns, actually allows that person to process them faster, shortening the time spent marinating in negative feelings.

They Care. Employees want to feel like they are cared about on a personal level. A socially intelligent leader will take the time to ask about an employee’s personal life. Employees feel valued when leadership shows an interest. Period.

They Engage. The socially intelligent leader observes her employees to find out what they do best. She talks to them about what aspects of their job they enjoy the most. She taps into and leverages the instincts and skills her employees have. This creates a win-win as she is able to reap the rewards of employee satisfaction, and employees grow increasingly inspired and confident about their work, skills, and talents. Moreover, they feel appreciated, that someone has their best interests in mind.

They Communicate. They are direct, but sensitive. They realize that communication is essential. If they sees performance slipping, they won’t wait very long to talk about it. They never dodge the truth, nor do they hang onto or hoard company information that could help their employees. They are not threatened by their employees’ knowledge. Quite the opposite, they encourage it.

They Collaborate. People actually expect their leaders to work for the group’s collective best interests as opposed to their own. Duh! They expect their leaders to help them solve problems and to help make their team experience more enriching. It even means helping make their career more rewarding by providing resources and reassurances of support to help them attain their goals and objectives.

A Final Word…

Leaders who emphasize social intelligence drive increased productivity and engagement encouraging employees to stay with their companies. They affect people’s abilities to perform at their best. Socially intelligent leaders recognize that emotions have a ripple effect and therefore uphold their responsibility to maintain a positive environment. They are engaged and as engaged leaders, they are in synch with their team and they are the glue helping to keep the team together. Some may argue that ultimately the evaluation of effective leadership performance is a subjective task that is based on the individual’s unique personal preferences. However, the traits highlighted above show a consistent correlation between specific behavior and employees’ perception of their leaders. These traits are closely related to the basic psychological profile of humans, which can also be applied to many other relationships in life.

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.

9 Life and Leadership Lessons From the Three Little Pigs

November 14, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” ~ Henry Ford

The story of “The Three Little Pigs” was one of my favorite childhood stories. The central idea behind this tale, that taking the time to perform a task the right way is prudent, and that shortcuts are a false economy, has been adopted by many work organizations since the book was initially published in 1849. Here are a few other lessons we can learn from this famed fable:

1.      Hard work pays off – The primary moral lesson learned from “The Three Little Pigs” is that hard work and dedication pay off. The first two pigs quickly built homes in order to have more free time to play. But the third pig labored in the construction of his house of bricks. Compared to the other two pigs, the third pig’s extra effort paid off in the end. He wasn’t eaten by the big bad wolf.

2.      Short cuts can cost you a lot – The first two pigs built houses of straw and sticks. While they were able to get the work done fast and had more time for leisure, their houses did not stand up to the huffs and puffs of the big bad wolf. They ended up losing their homes and in some versions, their very lives.

3.      Plan strategically – While it can be argued that all three pigs created a plan for the future – the first pigs made plans that were ultimately unsustainable. A straw house or even a stick house would not stand up against a hurricane.  Disaster preparedness was not part of their plan. The first two, could not delay the gratification of leisure time. The third little pig, on the other hand, did some future planning and decided to build a house that could withstand any future scenario, including a big bad wolf.

4.      Plan for the worst, hope for the best – The first two pigs never anticipated the big bad wolf. The third pig seemed to take all things into consideration in his choice of building materials. He was prepared when the unexpected happened. As the saying goes: “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” By considering every possible scenario, you can build a stronger house.

5.      Know your limits– The big bad wolf thought he was invincible. His bravado and ego were boosted by his early successes. He easily blew down the house of straw, and the house of sticks, though a little harder to blow down, was still no match for his lungs. But when he came across the house of bricks, he fell short. He had failed to assess the situation properly, and therefore, used his resources up on trying to do the impossible.

6.      Know when to quit – Sometimes it’s worth pursuing a goal; sometimes you need to be willing to let it go. The wolf pursued the three pigs even though he wore himself out trying to blow down the house of bricks. He should have stopped while he was ahead and focused on easier prey. But greed got the better of him and he continued his pursuit which landed him in hot water, or hot oil, depending on which version you read.

7.      Work hard now, reap the rewards later – The first two pigs were more interested fun and vacations. Building safe, sturdy homes was not a priority. They paid a dear price for their inability to delay gratification. But the third pig knew that some extra effort and austerity in the present, would lead to greater prosperity in the future.

8.      Be philanthropic – The third pig spent the time and effort to build a house from bricks and mortar. While his brothers were enjoying a leisurely existence, he was busy working away building a strong house. In the end, both of the lazy brothers found refuge in the sturdy home of their more practical brother in the versions where the pigs manage to escape the wolf. Just because he was the smarter of the three, did not mean he would thumb his nose at them and leave them in the cold. The third pig was a role model for empathy and understanding.

9.      Be Patient – The third little pig is nothing if not patient, a somewhat unrecognized virtue in leadership. Building a career, company, relationship, or in the case of our protagonist, a house, takes time. In his wisdom, the third little pig was deliberate and patient and his reward for his patience was to get away with his life.

There are more than just construction lessons to be learned from the three little pigs. These little characters can teach a lot about life and survival and their personalities reflect their outlook on the world. These lessons are prudent and practical and can be found in many of the writings of the greatest business minds in history – yet everything you need to know, you were probably taught in preschool.

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

7 Ways To Solve Problems Like a Consultant

November 13, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“All the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble … They can never be solved, but only outgrown.” ~ Carl Jung

At the core, consultants are problem solvers. Most consultants are brought in to solve a problem or provide a new way of looking at a problem. Garnering insights, thinking on your feet and learning to turn around a problem takes practice. The classic problem solving mechanism, based on a continuous improvement model, goes something like this:

1.      Define the problem.

2.      Assess all potential causes for the problem.

3.      Identify scenarios that can resolve the problem.

4.      Select a scenario for implementation.

5.      Develop an implementation plan.

6.      Monitor implementation of the plan.

7.      Verify if the problem has been resolved or not.

8.      Course correct as needed.

While, this is a rational and linear process that provides a clear frame of reference around which people can communicate, some people would argue (and they’d be right) that the world is much too chaotic for the rational approach to work as cleanly as intended. The dynamics of organizations and people are not nearly so mechanistic as to be improved simply by using off the shelf problem solving models.

In truth, the quality of an organization or life comes from how one thinks about the journey, not the destination. So, what I want to deal with in this post is the mindsetbehind the mechanism.

The mindset consultants bring to the table is different than most. They have to look past the problem itself. They have to challenge all of the assumptions and constraints around the problem. They have to ask the right questions which is far more important than having all the right answers. A good consultant will help the client come to their own conclusions while acting as a guide for the discussion.

Whether you are consulting on a project or not, and whether you are tackling problems in your personal life or at work, this post breaks down the mindset behind seven problem solving approaches you can take from the consulting world to begin breaking down your problems and tackling them like a pro.

1.      Consultants rely on data more than intuition.

I’m a big believer in intuition. But intuition is typically backed by years of experience. Consultants are typically generalists, which means they lack the 30 or 40 years of in-depth industry experience that their clients often have. Therefore, research will help you focus on key drivers that you can back up with hard data given your time constraints. Your boss or client might have a “gut” instinct for how to solve a specific problem based on their experience, and that is fine. But a good consultant will dig for hard data to prove or disprove that “gut” instinct before moving forward..

2.      Consultants don’t boil the ocean, they dive for the pearl.

It’s important to realize that when figuring out how to solve a problem, there is always an enormous amount of research and data analysis you could potentially do. Instead of trying to perform all of it, which is the equivalent of trying to boil the ocean, consultants focus on doing enough research and analysis to thoroughly prove or disprove the key drivers behind the problem they are analyzing and ignore everything else. By focusing their time and energy on the ‘key drivers’ of the problem, they dive into the largest and most salient aspects of the problem that, if solved, would have the biggest immediate impact. For example, if you are looking to cut costs, there may be a plethora of different ways to do that. Instead of spinning your wheels analyzing all of the potential cost saving areas, you’re better off focusing on the two or three costs that, if reduced, would have the largest overall impact on the organization.

3.      Consultants don’t just look at obstacles, they look for opportunities.

Most people see a wall, accept that it is there, and never examine the problem or even “push” against the wall to see where the resistance is coming from. Because no one has really checked, it may well be that the obstacle or constraint they were referring to was there years ago and no longer exists. Instead of thinking about what cannot be done, consultants think about what can be done. They use the obstacle as an opportunity to think of creative ways to overcome it. When you hit a wall, find a way to climb it or burrow a hole in the wall to get to the other side. Don’t just stand there and wonder why you hit the wall.

4.      Consultants don’t just see weaknesses, they look for strengths.

Focusing on strengths does not mean forgetting about your weaknesses and not working to improve them. But tripling down on your strengths will get you where you want to go faster than always pondering why your fail. A good consultant will hone in on and leverage you and/or the organizations’ talents, skills, or assets to make you even better at what they’re already good at. They will help you match people to environments or roles that are also congruent with their skills, knowledge, and assets. They will recognize this simple truth: most people are good at the things they enjoy, and they enjoy the things they’re good at.

5.      Consultants don’t focus on symptoms, they seek out the roots of the problem.

Consultants help determine the real problem – the problem behind the problem if you will. Often the client is trying to tackle a technical problem, when the issue is actually a business problem. It doesn’t help, for example, if you improve the efficiency and speed of your operations if the overall leadership strategy is driving the business off of a cliff. Finding the root cause requires persistence. It all starts by acknowledging the real situation. Ask yourself: “Is this same issue occurring again?” If your answer is “yes”, you are just facing and the symptoms are coming back again and again, you have a problem on your hands that requires a root cause analysis.

6.      Consultants look for how things have always been done and wonder if they could be done differently.

People are prone to all kinds of cognitive biases – be it false consensus or status quo bias or confirmation bias, or any of a variety of others that blind them to seeing the root cause of the problem or a viable solution.  People are often blinded by their very focused view of the world, and often get stuck on industry views, trends, and group-think within the company. Culture can stall innovation and constrain options. Consultants look for what’s behind the words someone is saying. Challenging all the basic assumptions is a good start to problem solving. In many cases the problem presented by the client is the wrong problem – they are asking the wrong question, and they just don’t know it.

7.      Consultants have more than a hammer in their toolbox.

In 1966 the prominent psychologist Abraham Maslow said: “It is tempting if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” When you only have one tool at your disposal, you fall prey to confirmation bias believing that the solutions to problems demand solutions we already happen to have at hand. When limited tools are applied inappropriately or indiscriminately, results suffer.  When a variety of tools are leveraged and customized to fit the situation, you are able to unlock the art of what’s possible. Build up your problem solving tool box with techniques you can adapt to a variety of situations.

A final Word…

In my experience consulting, nearly all the external constraints on a problem. To start, learn to ask probing open ended questions and see where they lead. Why is this important? How much does this impact the business? Why are you doing it this way? If you started from scratch today, would you do it the same way? What does that really mean? What matters most is don’t try to be clever or seem brilliant . Sometimes the right questions are being asked, and forcing some clever alternative is actually the wrong approach. Strategy consultants and problem solving professionals recognize that developing insight takes practice and takes active listening skills.  With practice and time, your problem solving process will become easier and you’ll be ‘nailing’ it like a pro.

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 Emotionally Intelligent People Manage Conflict

November 10, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“Conflict is the beginning of consciousness.” ~ M. Esther Harding

As emotional intelligence gains more traction as a 21st century skill in the workplace, more research is beginning to emerge that demonstrates that individuals with high emotional intelligence prefer to seek collaborative solutions when confronted with conflict. The implications for human resource development will continue to be examined and be of significance in productivity and organizational change management.

In the meantime, let’s figure out how to deal with the pain in the neck sitting in the next cubicle over. I’m kidding of course. It’s actually important to remember that everyone you encounter is doing the best they can from their own level of consciousness.

Let’s get started.

First: Manage the Emotions

Conflict arises from differences. When a conflict triggers strong feelings, a deep personal and relational need is at the core of the problem. To be successful at conflict management, you have to start by being successful at managing your own emotions.

Therefore, it makes sense to use the frame of emotional intelligence to resolve conflict. Daniel Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be: Self Awareness, Self Regulation, Social Awareness, and Relationship Management.

In a conflict resolution context, that might look like this:

·        Self-Awareness – Manage stress while remaining calm to accurately read and interpret verbal and nonverbal communication. Be aware of your own body language. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is vital to successful conflict resolution.  Staying calm and centered also helps you think through better solutions.

·        Self-Regulation – Control your emotions and behavior so you can articulate your needs in such a way that they are heard by others. Although self-regulation may seem simple on the surface, many people ignore, sedate or suppress strong emotionslike anger, sadness, and fear. This is not the same as self-regulation. Self regulation is about thinking before acting and seeing the good in others rather than the bad. It is about the ability to calm yourself down when angry and cheer yourself up when sad. It is about being flexible and adaptable.

·        Social Awareness – Pay attention to the feelings being expressed as well as the spoken words of the other. Pay attention to the social context. Pay attention to body language. The most important information conveyed in a conflict context is often non-verbal. When you’re in the middle of a conflict, paying close attention to the other person’s nonverbal signals may help you figure out what the other person is really saying, respond in a way that builds trust, and get to the root of the problem

·        Relationship Management – Be aware and respectful of differences by avoiding disrespectful words and actions which will help you resolve the conflict more expediently. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive or to let go. Be respectful of the other person and his or her point of view.

If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs or the needs of another.

Second: Manage the Situation

Managing conflict takes skilled communication, negotiation, and sometimes mediation. A timely response to conflict situations is essential in finding solutions before conflicts are over inflated and become cancerous cells in the body of the organization (or frankly in the body of the person).

Conflict, handled well, can be a learning experience. Conflict handled poorly, can have a deleterious effect on the working relationship of colleagues.

To manage the situation use this 6 step process:

1.      Acknowledge – First acknowledge the conflict. Acknowledge that something is challenging you in order to open the door to creating a solution.

2.      Affirm – Let individuals express their feelings. Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be affirmed.

3.      Attribute – Don’t immediately get out the blame thrower. Find out exactly the root of the problem – what it’s attributable to – not whose fault it was. There is a difference. For example, you may find that it was something in the environment that caused the problem and not the other person. If that is the case, an entirely different type of solution may be needed.

4.      Accept –The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can accept. Look first for needs and common ground. Find solutions to satisfy needs. Problem-solve by generating multiple alternatives.

5.      Agree – Always work towards common areas of agreement, no matter how small. Agree on the problem. Agree on the procedure to follow. Agree on worst fears. Agree on some small changes to give an experience of success. Whether small, medium or larger, be sure you get real agreement from everyone.

6.      Act – Finally, put a plan of action in place. Determine which actions will be taken by whom and when and how often. Make sure all parties buy into the action plan. Maintain accountability to the agreed upon actions.

Third: Manage the Solution

If you’ve gotten this far in the conflict management process, you’ve done the major part of the work and you should celebrate and congratulate yourself. But don’t count your chickens before they hatch. You do have to manage the solution too because while there is always good momentum behind the initial agreed upon actions, people have a tendency to quickly slip into old habits. Determine follow-up you will take to monitor actions. You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in a couple of weeks to determine how things are going. Don’t stockpile issues and grievances in the meantime. Deal with issues as they arise; one at a time. Make sure your responses are healthy and constructive. Finally, determine in advance what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved.

Final Word

Conflict avoidance is not a learning mentality. We can actually grow from conflict by becoming conscious about our own participation, our own triggers, and our own ego. Conflict can be good for us.

But for the final word, I want to keep it real.

You may not be able to negotiate your way through every conflict. Some people are simply too stubborn to reason with and sometimes you have to give yourself that reality check. For example, passive-aggressive people are one of the most difficult personality types when it comes to conflict. Their silence, a sign of their passive resistance to resolution, is a non-starter. Some people have learned to only deal with conflict using explosive, angry, hurtful, and resentful reactions. Their ego is so fragile that they must win at all costs. Loss of relationship to these people is an afterthought. In such instances, a neutral outside facilitator (or mediator depending on the severity of the conflict) may be needed . In some cases the conflict becomes a performance issue, and may become a topic for coaching sessions, performance appraisals, or disciplinary action. There are also times when it’s best to cut the cord and move on.

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.

6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard

November 9, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Learning to provide productive feedback is one of the most important skills you can acquire as a supervisor and a leader (just as important is the ability to receive it, but let’s save that for another post).

To be effective, feedback should concentrate on the behavior, not the person. It should be specific and not generalized and it should be actionable and solution oriented. Feedback should also be part of the ongoing culture, not a one-time event. Creating a feedback culture – where everyone gives and receives feedback – can help both providers and recipients of feedback become better at using it to increase productivity.

Feedback can be provided explicitly (through oral or written language) or implicitly (through gestures or tone of voice). So when providing feedback, remember that the employee is also reading your body language. Make sure you are explicitly and implicitly congruent.

But have you ever wondered why your feedback doesn’t stick or have the intended effect?

Feedback is not a one-time event…

Feedback, done well, provides an opportunity to grow and motivates people to perform. Feedback, done poorly, will deflate the recipient and is ultimately counter-productive. Feedback is a process, not a one-time event.

But novice supervisors view feedback as a negative conversation because they fall back on it when performance is not up to snuff. That’s the first mistake.

To mitigate the potential impact of their negative impact, many supervisors have learned to provide feedback using the so called ‘feedback sandwich’ method. The feedback sandwich begins with a slice of positive feedback (top slice of bread), places a piece of negative feedback in the middle (the meat), and ends with another piece of positive feedback (bottom slice of bread). The feedback sandwich is supposed to minimize any detrimental effect the negative feedback may have on the individual. However, this method is so overused, that people see right through it. As soon as they hear the positive opening, they think: ‘here it comes’ and prepare themselves for the negative, never really hearing the positive.  There is a better way.

Instead of the Feedback Sandwich…

This is the wrong approach. Instead of this outdated and one-dimensional method, you have to think about feedback as an ongoing process of performance improvement. The right approach is to create a ‘feedback program’ that actually will help people grow and bring more productivity to your work environment. This will help both providers and recipients of feedback become better at incorporating feedback into performance improvement.

 

To create a ‘constant feedback workplace,’ there are six criteria you must follow, that if used together, will create an environment where learning is valued and supported and where productivity and people have only one direction in which to grow:

  1. Crediblethe feedback provider must be credible in the eyes of the recipient. Unless you have the respect of those you supervise, your feedback will not be well received or acted upon. Your credibility is everything. If you don’t follow through on what you say you’re going to do, you will erode your credibility with your team. Your credibility is build up over time and as a result of the history of your words and actions. Be credible before you’re visible.

 

  1. Trustworthy the feedback provider must be trusted by the recipient. Arguable, the most essential quality of leadership is trustworthiness. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. The feedback conversation is an opportunity to develop a relationship with the employee in which you are  viewed as a helpful resource who is committed to the employee’s success. This is fundamental to building trust.

 

  1. Well-intentioned the intentions of the feedback provider must be genuine. The  job of feedback is to meet the employee where they are and give them what they need to take their next steps. If you can link the employee’s performance to real impact on the business, both positive and constructive feedback will be seen as sincere. If you are trying to catch the employee out, this will also be known to the employee and the feedback will be seen as a tool for discipline rather than improving on performance. This will erode your credibility and set you on an inevitable collision course. For feedback to be effective, the right emotional environment must be created. Before you provide your feedback, make sure you have checked in with yourself about your intentions. The main message should be that you care and want to help the person grow and develop.

 

  1. Timedthe timing of the feedback should be immediate and/or appropriate. It must come at a time when the employee can immediately act on the feedback, not at the end of the year during the performance review when there is no opportunity to incorporate the feedback into daily performance or projects. You must build in time during the trajectory of the work to give feedback that employees can immediately use to move them forward in their goals and objectives.

 

  1. Interactivethe feedback must be provided in a conversational context. If you don’t know what motivates your employee or where they’re going, then feedback is just another set of instructions to follow, which may or may be related to anything other than the delegated task. Ongoing conversations with the employee provide a basis to provide feedback about the goals and objectives, both short term and long, that employee is trying to attain. Employees want to learn and want feedback to help them improve, but they also want to know why it matters. Research suggests, this is especially important for the millennial generation.  When you are able to connect the feedback to an important future skill employees  have a reason to incorporate it and can incorporate the feedback more effectively. You can’t effective develop employees with one round of feedback that captures all the correction he or she needs to make to be a star performer. Feedback has to be iterative.

 

  1. Specificthe feedback must be clear in order to be useful to the recipient. That means the employee is able to walk away knowing exactly what they need to improve on. It is helpful to prepare your comments ahead of time and stick to the facts. To keep your feedback specific, limit it to a couple of key focus areas. When you bombard employees, you risk them feeling overwhelmed and attacked. Do not come in carrying the kitchen sink. Instead, come with descriptive feedback and specific action steps that focus on building strengths rather than picking apart weaknesses.

A final word…

Giving feedback is a skill and like all skills, it takes practice to improve it. The more practice you get, the less daunting it becomes. In both giving and receiving feedback, there are rules and tips you can follow to make it more effective. But in order for feedback to be truly effective, it must be incorporated into the daily work culture and should happen on a regular basis. This way, it becomes a powerful means of developing employees instead of an agonizing process that leaves both managers and employees demoralized.

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.

What is Your Emotional Footprint At Work?

November 7, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

We churn and create products all day long, be it code, spreadsheets, reports, charts, and whatever else we were hired to do.

But what amounts to our success and reputation at work, is less about the products we create, and more about the interactions we have with clients, colleagues, and customers.

Every interaction we have at work, from the first to the last, makes an impression, leaving an emotional footprint in our wake. Put another way, each and every one of those interactions leaves a trace – either building or eroding trust, empowering or disenfranchising someone, engaging or distancing us from each other.

The cumulative effect of these interactions has a major impact on what people think of us, what we think of ourselves, and how fulfilled we truly feel on the job.

You see, the issues that cause significant concern for leaders and supervisors are the people relationship issues and not the subject matter or the content of the work itself. Workplace conflicts, communication, stress management, and daily interactions amongst colleagues can make or break a product launch, a new business venture or the start of a new initiative. That’s why teambuilding is such a big industry.

We know for example that the impact of a toxic boss or a micromanaging one can be so intense that it is labeled among the top three reasons why employees resign.

In other words, affect trumps talent. You can be a genius, but if you are a toxic one, you are of little use to the team. In fact, you may be holding productivity back and impacting the team’s morale.

Of course it is practically impossible to disprove that talent, skills or hard work don’t count. They do. I am by no means suggesting they don’t.

But consider this: reputations built up over years of hard work, applied skill and talent, can be lost in a single moment when we lose control over our emotions. Showing up every day to bring your best skills and technical chops to work is important but showing up every day with a good attitude is crucial.

Some people seem to react to their emotions, unaware of how they feel, responding with whatever thought is running through their mind at the moment. Others seem to be aware of their emotions and how those emotions impact their thoughts. These individuals are conscious of how they are feeling and use these emotions to appropriately respond to the situation at hand.

Voilà! Therein you have the difference between people that apply Emotional intelligence to their world and those that stumble through it unconsciously.

So, the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation pay attention to your emotions. Own those emotions and don’t let them own you. Connect with others by sharing your emotions in a constructive and thoughtful manner. Practice being aware, name your emotions, and observe how this awareness impacts your thoughts, comments, and behavior.

You don’t have to be like the bosses you had who were blind to the impacts of their lack of emotional awareness. Remember them? Be an emotionally intelligent leader and turn challenging situations into rewarding ones. As someone once said, if you walk in the footprints of others, you won’t make any of your own.

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 Death of Micromanagement and the Rise of Autonomous Work Culture

November 6, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people and they tell us what to do.” ~ Steve Jobs

Micromanagers are bad news. They are bad for business and bad for employees. They lack personal leadership and tend to disempower staff, stifle innovation, kill creativity and foster poor performance.

Micromanagers cause time management issues when they cause work to be redone over and over again and cause bottlenecks in communication and decision making. With their over-controlling approach, they constantly communicate that they don’t trust you and strip you of all sense of ownership.

The costs of long-term micromanagement are high. They include low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity. In fact, the deleterious impacts of micromanagement are so intense that it is labeled among the top three reasons why employees resign.

Next to abusive and toxic bosses, micromanagers are the scourge of the workplace. But things are about to change.

Autonomy is the Alternative

Autonomy is the antithesis of and antidote to micromanagement. Self-determination, or the ability to exercise autonomy, is central to health and contentment. The desire to be autonomous is a natural inclination and research supports how much of a priority it is for workers.  One study of more than 2,000 people across three continents found that workers were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence.

In fact, study after study has shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature simply have higher levels of productivity, creativity, engagement and overall job satisfaction.

For example, in a study of 230 Taiwanese community health center workers, researchers found the more autonomy employees had at work, the more satisfied they were with their jobs and the less turnover. A similar study in Australia achieved the same results with home care workers.

Clearly, giving workers more control over their tasks is one of the best ways employers can recruit and keep top talent. It’s also the best way to combat micromanagement at the macro level.

Autonomy in Action

Autonomy means that there is someone who sets strategic direction and the destination for the employee, but the employee can decide on the path to get from point A to point B.

It tends to be the case that there is less autonomy in the lower ranks and more the higher you go.

Workplaces can support autonomy across the board by giving people real control over various aspects of their work — whether it’s deciding what to work on or when to do it.

Autonomy in the workplace can also be applied to teams. An autonomous team is one that is self-managed and receives little to no direction from a supervisor. When team members work well together, they can help to enhance each other’s strengths, and can compensate for each other’s weaknesses. Working in such a cooperative and enriching environment can have a positive impact on job satisfaction.

Autonomy does not mean lack of structure. In fact it is important to find a balance between autonomy and structure. Autonomy creates a specific kind of motivation called intrinsic motivation—the desire to do something for its own sake. It restores the ownership that the micromanagement style takes away and it restores engagement at a significant level. Workers happily work within required structures, when they have autonomy.

The most important aspect of autonomy at work is a perceived feeling of choice. Whether employees are truly able to make their own decisions is less important than whether or not they feel that they are.

To provide this balance, managers must define the desired end result clearly, and outline boundaries and parameters to achieve those results. Then, they must get out of the way and let people create within this frame.

The Birth of the Results Oriented Workplace

This desire and drive towards autonomy explains the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished.

I would even argue that the rise of entrepreneurship, side hustles, and lifestyle businesses are a result of people wanting greater autonomy and freedom from being chained to their desks. This innate desire is a powerful force that ROWEs leverage by giving people the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their goals.

While ROWEs are still relegated to more enlightened Silicon Valley start ups like AirBnB who practice the model with great ehem, results, they are an inevitable wave and future trend in the world of work.

In the meantime…

If you feel oppressed by your lack of autonomy you may want to talk to your supervisors about potential leadership opportunities on certain projects and more autonomy in your work. In extreme cases, you may want to have a talk with your supervisor about the deleterious effects of micromanagement on your productivity. It may seem like a small aspect of your work life, but if it is having an impact on your happiness, job satisfaction, and even your health, it could even be time to search for a new gig.

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.

People Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Supervisors

November 3, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” ~Unknown

There is a well known management axiom that says people don’t leave jobs, they leave their supervisors. You may be a new boss or just a bad one or a well intentioned one that just doesn’t recognize the impact of your actions.

Which ever one you are, this post is for you.

If you are in charge of a person or team, and you are struggling with productivity and satisfaction, there are several classic ways that you may be jeopardizing and undercutting your team’s development. You may have been promoted into the role without the proper training and coaching. It may be that you just don’t know how to lead and interact effectively with people. It happens to all us. You can overcome this but you’ll have to immediately stop certain behaviors:

  • You won’t let go of problems or mistakes. You return to discuss negative events continually and look for faults in your employees.
  • You won’t accept constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. You can’t deal with disagreement from employees who have their own opinions about work-related issues.
  • You break promises. You make up stories when you don’t know the answer to an employee’s question instead of finding out and communicating out appropriately.
  • You cause dissension among staff members (either intentionally or unconsciously) by your actions and words.
  • You fail to communicate, and lack clear expectations, timelines, and goals. You change your mind frequently leaving employees off-balance. You change expectations and deadlines frequently. Employees have trouble knowing where they stand and whether they’re meeting expectations. You forget that employees fail to feel a sense of accomplishment when expectations don’t exist or are not consitent.
  • You use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple, positive communication would correct the problem. You ignore employees until there is a problem, then pounce. You seek out the guilty when all you need to do is correct a problem with a well thought out solution.
  • You take credit for successes and positive accomplishments of your team members. You are equally as quick to blame employees when something goes wrong. You throw employees under the bus. You criticize publicly. You praise disingenuously.
  • You micromanage and by doing so, you lower productivity and job satisfaction.
  • In the worst cases, you discriminate against employees.

Here’s how to avoid these mistakes:

  • Learn – take a class on supervision and management and learn how to provide feedback, how to coach, how to conduct performance reviews and how to empower your employees.
  • Let go – You can’t do everything and your team won’t learn if you don’t delegate and share decision making as much as possible.
  • Get out of the weeds – Operate at your level – set a vision, be strategic, understand and articulate the big picture. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing the work of someone a level below you, focusing on minutiae, and micromanaging.
  • Teach and coach – Development is an active job. You have to spend time with your team members, be accessible, share your knowledge and experience, and offer guidance and feedback. You can’t do that if you are constantly in meetings or behind closed doors. Consistent teaching and coaching is essential for team development.
  • Trust and empower – You don’t have all the answers and no one expects you to. Trust that your team can come up with some pretty good solutions too and encourage them to give input, take risks, and share their opinions regularly.
  • Acknowledge – Part of your job is being a great advocate for your team. If you’re not willing to share the spotlight when things go well or take the blame when things go wrong, then team development will suffer.

If you’re frustrated by your poor-performing team, it may be time to stop focusing on what they’re doing wrong and think about what you may be doing wrong. Chances are you’ll discover that the barrier to their success is you.

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.