Organizational Development

Organization development (OD) is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and/or efficiency and/or to enable the organization to achieve its strategic goals. OD theorists and practitioners define it in various ways. Its multiplicity of definition reflects the complexity of the discipline and is responsible for its lack of understanding.

Emotionally Empathetic Leaders Excel at Everything

 

October 18, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” ~ Steven Covey

I saw a sign once that said “Everything starts with an ‘E’.

True, I thought, ‘everything’ starts with an ‘e’ but empathy starts with ‘u’ – (you).

In 1995, Daniel Goleman, argued the merits of social and emotional intelligence competencies like self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy and their capacity to add value to many domains of life, from workplace effectiveness and leadership to health and relationships

In a recent article, Goleman defines empathy as ‘having the ability to sense others’ feelings and how they see things’ and the ability to take an active interest in their concerns.

When I ask my coaching clients what skills they want to work on as a leader, many identify empathy.

Why is this trait so important to leaders?

As a leader, job one is to influence others towards improvement and change.  There are usually a multitude of ways to get others to change. Effective leaders are able to do advanced thinking to know  which strategy will work best with which individuals. The ability to accurately predict how another person will react emotionally and behaviorally in a given set of circumstances is what empathetic leadership is all about. The better you are at this trait, the more accurate and successful you will be in figuring out the approach that will work when you want to influence others.

Research reported in Scientific American suggests that our levels of empathy – the ability to understand the feelings of others – are lower today than 30 years ago.

An increase in social isolation is one theory used to explain this finding.

The trouble is that when there is no empathy, when we don’t work to understand the needs of others, there is a significant loss of trust. This can have major implications for business where trust is essential for successful leadership and partnerships.

So what if you take a 360-degree assessment of your Emotional Intelligence Competences and find that you score low on empathy. Are you out of luck? Not at all.

While personality traits have a strong genetic component, are hard to “change” and tend to be very stable over time, every trait can be “managed.”

For example, one of my clients is very high on a trait called “Urgency”– a CEO of a successful start up – she tends to be much more impatient than most of the other people she leads. She’s always been that way, and the trait has served her well in some instances. But over the years, she has had to learn how to manage a tendency that can otherwise sabotage her leadership goals. First by becoming aware of it, and then by learning a set of mental strategies that have allowed her to be more mindful in how and when she expresses this trait.

Here’s what you need to work on if you want to be more empathetic as a leader:

1.      Develop self-awareness

Self awareness – the skill of perceiving and understanding your own emotions, is the starting point. There is no way around this. You must be able to identify and understand the impact of your feelings on your thoughts and decisions.  Many of us confuse thoughts to be the same as feelings. So when someone asks how do you feel about a project, you might respond, “I think we have a lot to do.” Or, we might not distinguish between related emotions, for example, between frustration and irritability or happiness and excitement. Developing this self-awareness is a fundamental step towards greater empathy.

2.      Develop awareness of others

Greater understanding of others leads to a greater understanding of how to engage, respond, motivate and connect with them in such a way that you are able to advance mutual goals. This social awareness is at the heart of interpersonal effectiveness. This awareness extends itself to understanding the politics within an organization and how to navigate them and the ability to serve others. Developing awareness of others means you carefully consider what people want, and plan to communicate with them in a way that is intended to meet that need.

3.      Learn to appreciate the major differences among people

One of the best examples of strong skills in empathy is people who have traveled or worked in multicultural environments. They have learned that the way they see and experience things is often different from others. People with little or no skills in empathy might have an intellectual awareness of these differences. However, until they actually experience these differences, their skills in empathy will probably remain quite limited. As Goleman says, empathetic executives are better at international  assignments because ‘they can quickly pick up on the unspoken norms for behavior and the mental models of that culture.’

Goleman has identified the building blocks of emotional intelligence to be:

·        Self-Awareness

·        Self-Regulation

·        Social Awareness

·        Relationship Management

Great leaders understand the importance of social and emotional intelligence in an increasingly globalized, diverse and collaborative workplace. Diversity encompasses acceptance and respect while recognizing individual differences and uniqueness. Open communication plays an essential role in managing diversity as does building an awareness of social situations.

Get it wrong and you’ll be seen as uncaring and insensitive.

Get it right and you will be set up for success.

Good luck.

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

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

What is the Impact of a Single Image?

September 30, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


Author’s Note: The photos in this story may be distressing to some viewers.

The strength of an image lies in its ability to quickly create a strong emotional connection with a very broad audience.

childlabor5In the early 1900s, child labor was still extremely common in the United States. It was not unheard of for child laborers to work 19 hour days with just a one hour break. The National Child Labor Committee wanted to end the practice but statistics weren’t having the effect they had hoped. So, in 1908, they enlisted the help of Lewis Hine and his camera to spread the word.

Hine was perhaps the earliest example of an investigative photojournalist and documentarian. Over the course of the next ten years, he surreptitiously photographed exploited children in disguise. At various times he went undercover as a bible salesman, postcard salesman, or as an industrial photographer making a record of factory machinery. His fifty pounds of photographic equipment was harder to conceal and when he was unable to win his confrontations with management, he simply waited outside the canneries, mines, factories, farms, and sweatshops and photographed children as they entered and exited the workplace. It was these photos, along with the detailed captions, that ultimately ended child labor in the United States

migrantmother-616x800

In 1936, Dorothea Lange took up a job for the federal Resettlement Administration, documenting rural poverty and the exploitation of migrant laborers. When her car broke down on the way to work, Lang spotted Florence Owens Thompson and her children. She snapped just a few shots, one of which resulted in arguably one of the most iconic photographs of all time. Migrant Mother, as it came to be known, became synonymous with the Great Depression – a symbol of an era. The image is remarkable because it simultaneously depicts the dignity of the subject concomitant with victimization of her by class.

VULTUREIn the latter half of the century, when South African photojournalist Kevin Carter captured a single image showing a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture, he won the 1994 Pulitzer for feature photography. The photograph, raised a lot of money for relief agencies. The photographer, on the other hand, came under very heavy criticism by the public for failing to intervene. Carter had been advised not to touch the victims because of disease, so instead of helping, he spent 20 minutes waiting hoping that the bird would take flight. When it didn’t, Carter scared the scavenger away and watched as the child continued its crawl to help. He then lit a cigarette, talked to God and wept. Subsequent research revealed that the child survived but died 14 years later from malarial fever. Carter on the other hand, tormented and broke, took his own life in July 1994, writing, “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain.” In this instance, the impact was also on the photographer.

gettyimages-591717242_custom-f98328fcdb082ecc3bee9051d117dcdfb523e988-s800-c85In the age of social media, scale is everything. In 2015, when the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi lying face down on a sandy beach in Turkey hit the newswire, it woke up the world to the Syrian refugee crisis. Similarly, the 2016 image of Omran Daqneesh, a bloody faced 5 year old little Syrian boy covered head to toe in a thick layer of dust after he was rescued from a building in Aleppo hit by an air strike. His bare feet dangling over the edge of his orange chair, he looks stunned and dazed.

After these images surfaced, international humanitarian groups saw a surge in donations and their impact has since become the focus of a research study examining just how a single image could have more impact than statistical reports, charts, and graphs combined.

The human brain is wired for images. It processes images 60,000 times faster than text. In fact, 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual.

And Images are immensely powerful. They have the ability to shift public opinion. The sear social issues into our consciousness. They offer glimpses into other people’s worldviews, cultivate empathy, and they have the power to galvanize public support. Indelible images like those showcased above can make someone remember a cause or campaign for years.

In the age of viral photos and memes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook images range in their power from increasing your web traffic to increasing your social impact. If you consider that you’ll generate up to 94% more post views by adding compelling visual content, images make common sense. Since the use of images and visual storytelling, simply defined as a narrative that is told through the mode of visual media, is cheaper and more accessible than ever before, the question has to be: why are you not incorporating visual storytelling into your nonprofit’s media strategy?

This post is dedicated to the work and memory of Kevin Carter.799_images

Hate your boss? Learn to Manage Up!

September 21, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed


“An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager. ”

-Bob Nelson

Sorry people, in this post, we’re going to get real. In fact, this is less blog post and more intervention for those of you out there who just can’t get along with your boss.

If you feel you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you, then this article is for you. What you need to know is that there are just some truths you can’t avoid when it comes to the wild and wacky world of work. And it doesn’t get more real than when you have to deal with the boss you despise.

Whether you like it or not, you chose this ship (no one forced you to take that job) and it’s now up to you to navigate the murky waters in which you swim. If you didn’t already know, the most significant factor impacting your job satisfaction is your relationship with your boss. Managing up doesn’t mean sucking up but it does require you to tap into your higher self. The best way to do that is to, well, suck it up and face some cold hard truths.

Cold hard truth #1: Your are expendable. Remember, the most advanced technical skills and content knowledge do not supersede the relationship you have with your boss. That’s a harsh place to start but I felt I needed to first stick your face in a bucket of ice water and wake you up. Now you’re ready to hear the rest.

Cold hard truth #2: Most managers are either overextended, overwhelmed, or downright incompetent. Yup, I said it. Incompetent. That’s because they never learned the art and science of management. They were just thrown into it. While it may be hard, the best approach here is empathy and compassion. Seriously.

Cold hard truth #3: Even if your boss has some serious shortcomings, it’s in your best interest, and it’s your responsibility, to make the relationship work. That’s right. It’s your responsibility, not theirs. Once you get your head around that, you’ll be able to walk the higher ground. And walk the higher ground, you must.

Cold hard truth #4: Your job is to support your boss’ success. Whatever you actual job may be, that’s your real job. It’s not to drag them down, show them up, or step over or around them. This is your mission and you have no choice but to accept it if you want to be successful at your job.

Cold hard truth #5: As much as you’d like to see them crawl back under the rock from which they came, you are going to have to muster up some EQ and nurture your relationship. Get to know them as a person. I’m not saying go ice skating together but you do need to have a sense of them as a person, their motivations and their struggles. Simple questions about them as a human being can a go a long way to building empathy for them as a person.

Cold hard truth #6: Understand their goals. By understanding their goals, you’ll be able to calibrate what you do to what their desired outcomes and objectives are for themselves and the company. Everything you do is directly tied to that.

Cold hard truth #7: It is up to you to find a way to be a genuine source of help. That means being the most effective employee you can be and  creating value for your boss and the company. It doesn’t matter that you hate your job. Remember, you chose your job, it did not choose you.

Cold hard truth #8: You have to educate them on You. Research shows that great managers uncover what’s unique about each person on the team and then exploit it (I mean that in a good way). Instead of having the arrogant expectation that they should know you, help them uncover what’s great about you.  Tell them your strengths, your struggles, how you deal with pressure and conflict and what lights your fire. Help them help you.

Cold hard truth #9: Your boss is not a prescient mind-reader. Learn to communicate proactively and to anticipate their needs. Ask what they need or better yet, do what they need before they have to ask you to do it. Align your needs with their goals. Find their preferred method of communication and use it. If they like to read bullet points, don’t write long rambling emails that frustrate them. Even if they don’t ask, keep them updated on your projects and progress. And if your boss is a micromanager, the more outgoing information you convey, they less they will ask about what’s happening.

Cold hard truth #10: You may have to help your boss become a better leader. I know that’s so hard to swallow when you think or know you could do it better yourself. John Baldoni, author of “Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up” says that great leaders have established the three Cs necessary to become an influential leader – competency, credibility and confidence. Your boss may lack one or all three. Help to support their weaknesses and you will reap the rewards.

Before you go…

Remember how at the top we acknowledged that you are more intelligent and gifted than those above you.  Well, maybe you are. And maybe, you should give your boss some credit for that. The best leaders make every attempt at building their organizations with people who are brighter and more talented than they are. This is a laudable practice that should be admired by workers, not resented.

Despite your best efforts to build a good relationship, there may come a time when you’ve lost your boss’s trust. It happens. And while it may take some diligent effort on your part, it is possible to put the relationship back on track.  Be mindful. Be grateful. Be patient. Have a good attitude. Be positive. Do the best job you can do. If your work doesn’t speak for itself, or if it does and isn’t being recognized, rather than act out, move on honorably and look for a better fit.

Good luck.

 

The Nonprofit Sector Lacks the Urgency Needed to make Meaningful Impact

September 19, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“People like to chop wood because they see immediate results.” ~ Albert Einstein

I have been in the social sector for the entire 30 years of my career. As part of that career, I have sat in endless meetings where planners and self-appointed ‘leaders’ discuss and process information in steering committees, action teams, work groups, and task forces. The results are always disappointingly similar. The ratio of talk to action is disproportionate. One could argue that the reasons for this are multi-faceted and complex. They are not. The reason is simple. There is a lack of urgency in the social sector. If a particular program isn’t launched on time, no heads will roll in the same way that heads will roll if Apple misses its next iPhone launch date. The for-profit sector is driven by shareholder demands and the pressure is intense. The nonprofit sector is driven by its commitment to quality and service.

In the nonprofit sector, the pressure for raising funds to meet demand can be intense and this is where I have seen urgency take hold.

I once worked on a crowdfunding campaign for a suicide hotline. The hotline was losing vital state sponsored support that essentially decimated its entire operation within a few short months. Without a clear path to donors to fill the gap, we turned to the crowd. The entire organization pulled together, leveraged photography, film and story to make a compelling case and reached the campaign goal of $100,000 beating the time and money goal we had set for ourselves.

Urgency moves people to action. Many of the issues that we deal with in the nonprofit sector are chronic and lack such urgency. Homelessness, education, criminal justice reform, and so on. We simply accept that such change and reform ‘takes time.’

Urgency breeds innovation. When we are resolute that the issues we are working on ‘take time,’ we are less likely to innovate. Innovation often results from an urge to solve an immediate problem at hand. When we don’t see the problems as immediate, we fail to innovate on their behalf.

Urgency breeds true collaboration. So many collaborative efforts suffer from talk and no action. When we infuse urgency into the scenario, partnerships and collaborations take on new meaning. They become a need rather than a nice-to-have. Oh, it would be nice to have so and so at the table vs. we must have this person’s skills because without it we won’t make our timeline.

Urgency necessitates a structured plan. And this is where I see most initiatives, campaigns, projects, and programs fail. Because there is no urgency, there is also no structure. By this I mean:

  • No clear goals are articulated
  • No clear outcomes are articulated
  • No clear pathway to change is articulated
  • No clear work plan for change is articulated
  • No clear metrics for measuring change are articulated
  • No clear accountability mechanism is articulated to maintain and measure progress

For the sector to be successful at scale, it has to change its mindset and approach. It has to adopt an urgency to its approach that is calibrated to the urgency of issues we face in communities. Unless we do so, change will continue to be painstakingly slow.

The Building Block of American Enterprise Has Always Been Immigrants (And Why Steve Bannon Needs a History Lesson)

September 11, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“Remember, remember, always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his already famous 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Rose, rhetorical bomb-thrower Steve Bannon argues the merits of a Darwinian political environment and is on the attack against the usual targets, which to Bannon  is everyone who doesn’t fall in line with his nihilist ideology: Hillary Clinton, the democrats, the republicans, the “pearl-clutching mainstream media,”  the Catholic Church, the establishment, the George Bush White House, the elites, the “limousine liberals,” and of course immigrants.

In one particular exchange, in response to Rose pointing out that the US was conceived as a melting pot, Bannon disagrees vehemently and shoots back: “You couldn’t be more dead wrong. America was built on her citizens.”

Mr. Bannon, you couldn’t be more wrong.

The United States has always been a land of immigration. Anthropologically speaking, that trend started when the first indigenous people crossed the ice bridge connecting Asia to North America some 12,000 years ago.

Historically speaking, it wasn’t until the end of the 15th century that Europeans set their eyes on the New World in numbers. The French and Spanish were the first to establish settlements before the English and Dutch, among others, founded their first permanent colonies. On the eve of the American Revolution, the land was already a kaleidoscope of languages and ethnicities.

The workers who built the railroad came from the ranks of immigrants who found refuge in America following the Civil War. Every mile of track laid by hand; every spike driven into the ground; and every wooden tie was lifted into place by railroad workers primarily from Italian, Irish, and Chinese descent.

The Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s attracted more immigrants as businesses in the United States grew quickly. New technology and new ideas helped develop large factories where many new products were made. These businesses needed more workers to keep growing. Immigrants and migrants filled the labor demands of the new industrial order, transforming the nation.

Between 1882 and 1914 approximately twenty million immigrants came to the United States. Mass immigration from eastern and southern Europe dramatically altered the population’s ethnic and religious composition. Unlike earlier immigrants, who had come primarily from northern Europe—Britain, Germany, Ireland, and Scandinavia—the “new immigrants” came increasingly from Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Russia.

By 1900, New York City had as many Irish residents as Dublin. It had more Italians than any city outside Rome and more Poles than any city except Warsaw. It had more Jews than any other city in the world, as well as sizeable numbers of Slavs, Lithuanians, Chinese, and Scandinavians.

Modern times have been no different exemplified by some of the titans of business.

Steve Jobs’ father was a Syrian refugee.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft is an Indian immigrant. So is Sundar Prachai, CEO of Google.

Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder was a Soviet-born refugee.

Throughout American history, millions of people around the world have left their homelands for a chance to start a new life in this country. Despite many difficulties, both immigrants and migrants forged new communities in their adopted homes.

From the forefathers’ first steps, to the challenges faced in today’s globalized world, immigrants have always been part of the American story and part of the solution, not the problem. It is historical revisionism to believe otherwise.

3 Ways To Disrupt the Nonprofit Sector

September 7, 2017 •  6 minute read • by Saeed


“If you’re in the luckiest one per cent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 per cent.”

― Warren Buffet

Get this: the IRS approves tax exemption for new community benefit groups every 10-15 minutes!

Over  50,000 new nonprofits are recognized by the IRS as tax exempt organizations EACH YEAR.

That amounts to nearly 2 million nonprofit organizations in the United States.

Most nonprofits are small. More than 73 percent of public charities report annual expenses of less than $500,000. Less than 4 percent had expenses greater than $10 million.

In every vertical there are hundreds or thousands of nonprofits with similar names and missions competing for donors, activists, publicity and brand awareness, and followers on social media.

If nonprofits are going to truly solve the world’s toughest social issues and obtain the necessary resources to do it right, they need to examine how the sector can evolve to create more innovative and effective organizations.

Disruption #1: Harness the Power of Technology

The social sector is still very much in the nascent stages of what could be a significant transformation in harnessing the power of technology. The convening power of the Internet, rapid advances in technology, and the reduced costs of launching new applications in today’s wired world means that nonprofit organizations have an ever increasing array of tools to reach constituents with their key messages. But to take advantage of these advances, today’s nonprofits must race to adapt their business models to achieve their intended purpose with greater impact. For today’s nonprofit organization, the new digital landscape provides a multitude of opportunities to recreate yesterday’s broken business models while creating meaningful and sustainable long-term scalable impact.

However, the adoption rate of the social sector to leverage and harness the power of these new tools is still painfully slow and funders are not helping. The funding climate for nonprofits is still such that little attention is paid by funders to basic infrastructure needs. Nonprofits fluctuate between tracking a lot, or hardly anything at all. it appears that the social sector, which has traditionally had a low-tech/high touch sense of itself, is slower to adopt and optimize these enabling new technologies to communicate, collaborate, connect, build capacity, and build communities of learning and practice.

Disruption #2: Think More Like a For Profit

By no means do I want to suggest that a nonprofit is similar to a for-profit or that practices within the for-profit sector should be adopted wholesale. Still, the nonprofit sector is painfully inefficient. There is a reason for this. Where in the profit based corporate entity is motivated by delivering shareholder value, the public  benefit corporation is driven by its commitment to service. In the for profit model, there is built in incentives towards productivity and efficiency. Such incentives are practically non-existent in the non-profit sector.

Furthermore, in places like Silicon Valley, it’s almost a right of passage to test new ideas quickly, fail fast and fail forward. And there is a lot to be learned from failing. How does failing fast work in the nonprofit world, particularly when it’s donors or foundations money? The nonprofit sector is allergic to failure and that predilection leads to less risk taking and therefore less innovation.

Disruption #3: Change Funding Mechanisms

Grants and donations are the traditional funding mechanism but they are increasingly harder to obtain. Further complicating matters, funders can also be incredibly slow in approving grant proposals with their due diligence process. Once approved, they may restrict funds not allowing for flexibility to direct funds towards general operating costs or they may limit the funds nonprofits need directed at critical infrastructure instead requiring funds to be directed towards programming. Nonprofits are loathe to push back on unreasonable expectations  at the risk of losing funders.

Stronger sustainable funding mechanisms are needed as a holistic approach to fundraising that moves beyond traditional tactics such as securing grants or tapping a few wealthy corporate or personal patrons.

Some nonprofits are learning to become self-reliant (and therefore self-sustainable). For example, they offer trainings to members or peer organizations for a fee to generate income. Just as in the private sector, a thorough business plan, market analysis, and consideration of what you have to offer and who might be willing to pay for it are core elements of instituting a fee-for-service model.

Crowdfunding, originally used by entrepreneurs as a way to attract small-sized investments to for-profit ventures, is now widely available to nonprofits as well.

Nonprofits can also take advantage of economies of scale through shared services and back office support models that have added benefits of efficiency and better use of resources. Clearly however, more innovation (and disruption) is needed.

In Summary

  1. As a community, the social sector (nonprofits and their funders) should be self-reflective in asking ourselves some critical questions:
  2. What are ways we (as funders) might be unintentionally adding to the problem?
  3. Are we allowing leaders to do their work, or forcing them unnecessary administrative burden upon them?
  4. Are we building infrastructure or demanding services without the prerequisite capacity needed to deliver these services?
  5. Are our processes forcing nonprofits to compete with one another instead of collaborating?
  6. Are we too narrowly focused on a single issue when so many societal issues are interrelated?
  7. When we use the word “partnership” with our grantees, are we ignoring the inherent power differential in the funder-grantee relationship?
  8. Do we take enough risks? Have we failed enough to say that we do?

Finally, I’d love to hear from you. What are your ideas for disrupting the nonprofit sector?

Top 10 Rules For Facilitating A Successful Meeting

August 11, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept and the hours are lost.” ~ Unknown

When you are tasked with facilitating a meeting, there are some fundamental rules of the road to follow to get you safely to your destination. By definition, facilitation is any activity that makes an action or a process easy or easier. Here are the top 10 rules I’ve learned and honed after 25 years of facilitating meetings:

  1. Start the meeting well. First impressions count. Setting the right tone for the meeting is important. Review the agenda to let people know what’s up for discussion. Review the objectives. Set a positive tone with an inspirational opening activity. Please don’t make it cheesy. To the extent possible, make it relevant to the meeting at hand.
  2. Keep your eye on the objectives. Without objectives and/or stated purpose, meetings can easily turn into aimless social gatherings rather than productive working sessions. Be very clear about your purpose and pursue it with focus. You objectives should align with your agenda items. The whole agenda should work as a, well, as a whole. Aim for harmony.
  3. Maintain your focusControl tangents. Be careful about going on for too long and raising extraneous points. Bring your focus back to the stated agenda item, question or topic at hand when you find yourself taking unnecessary detours. If others are rambling, do the same. Remember, you are air traffic control and everyone is either trying to take off or to land and your job is maintain some sense of order.
  4. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it succinct. Agenda items, presentation, discussions, back and forths, and Q&As are best delivered in short sprints rather than long marathons. Long marathons test peoples’ attention spans. These days, our attentions are a major commodity not to be taken for granted or abused. Respect it. Don’t just be a bystander to a discussion that unfolds after someone says something provocative. Facilitate. Your task is to help people come to a common understanding or to consensus efficiently (BTW: consensus is not that everyone must necessarily agree with each other but rather that they can live with the decisions being made). Help people retain the information. Don’t babble like a brook and don’t let others do so either. When answers are long and rambling, people don’t know what to hang on to. Your job is to anchor them in something.
  5. Review “homework” from the last meeting. Not only does it remind participants what happened last week, it holds attendees accountable. It demonstrates continuity from one meeting to the next. It validates your work before and your work after.
  6. Attendees should walk away with concrete next steps or Action Items. The world’s most successful organizations demand that attendees leave meetings with actionable tasks. Apple, Google, Microsoft. You name it. Action is the name of the game. People talk too much and process too much at the expense of action – especially in the nonprofit world.
  7. Bring solutions, not problems. There are times when you need to develop solutions in the meeting to a stated problem. But I have sat through so many meetings where the facilitators have created a process to give the illusion of inclusion when they already know the solution. Forgive me, but that is a crazy waste of time. If you know the solution bring it. Let the attendees discuss your solution not the problem you already have a solution to.
  8. Make careful transitions. Before you transition from one agenda item to another, ask if everyone is finished with the current topic. Have a bridge that takes you from one point to the next. Good writers do this with their paragraphs. There is a bridge that takes the reader from one paragraph to the next. Good facilitators do the same thing.
  9. Every item should have an end time. Constraints breed creativity. People mistakenly think that open ended discussion lead to innovation. Wrong. By not placing an end time to agenda items or discussions, we encourage rambling, off-topic and useless conversation. Time constraints kick in a sense of urgency and urgency ignites attention. Creativity then starts to flow.
  10. End the meeting well. A productive meeting needs to end on the right note to set the stage for the work to continue. End on the same positive note you started. Congratulate. Inspire. Encourage. Above all, evaluate. Ask participants for what worked well and would could be improved the next time around. Use the feedback to improve the next meeting.

Successful meeting facilitation is a skill. It’s both art and science. Done well, I believe it has the power to create impactful change. Done poorly, it’s just one more of the drudgeries we have to deal with at work.

Good Luck.

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

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

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3 Reasons Why You Should Think (Really) Big!

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

The Best Leaders Hire For Emotional Intelligence Not Just Technical Skills

July  12, 2017 •   3 minute read • by Saeed


Silicon Valley is associated with nerd culture stereotyped as socially awkward, tech savvy, sci-fi loving loners who probably don’t rank high on emotional intelligence.

But the stories I have heard about Silicon Valley scions like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg suggest otherwise. In fact, these folks rank high on emotional intelligence and the way they approach candidate interviews proves it.

Jobs famously would conduct interviews by taking a walk around the block with the person being interviewed. The longer the walk went, the more likely it was that Jobs thought the person compelling.  Surely, he was trying to get a sense of the whole person and not just their technical skills.

Musk famously asks candidates one question and listens closely to what they say: “Tell me the story of your life and the decisions that you made along the way and why you made them and also tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.”

The answer tells him who really knows what they’re doing and who’s grandstanding, and it helps him choose employees who are likely to share his goals and work ethic.

At Facebook, the focus of the interview is on connection just like the mission of the company. So Zuck wants to know: “On your very best day at work – the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world – what did you do that day?”

Obviously, these questions reveal more about the candidate than stale and overused questions with well rehearsed responses such as “what is your greatest weakness?”

What are some of your best interview questions that you’ve asked or that you’ve been asked?

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

June 26, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“Trust is like an eraser, it gets smaller and smaller with every mistake.” ~ Unknown

In relationships, trust is the fundamental building block from which everything else is built. Full stop.

Need proof?

A new study from the Ken Blanchard Companies examining the connection between trustworthy leadership behavior and productive employees demonstrates significant correlation between trust and numerous positive employee behaviors including performance, loyalty and productivity. Duh!

But how do you build trust?

That’s simple but not necessarily easy. Trust is built over time and by people sharing and being increasingly vulnerable with each other.

Think your staff meetings are enough? Think again.

You have to spend unstructured time together getting to know each other outside of work.

When I lived in the UK, I noticed that co-workers went out for drinks with each other after work on a regular basis. The pub culture helped. Nevertheless, discussing what is important in your life, who your family is, and what is going on in your life outside of work is an essential part of relationship building and trust.

When you add a new team member, you have to work to foster trust. When someone leaves, you have to start this process over again.

Your team will never reach their potential, individually or as a group, unless you are willing to be equally vulnerable with each other. High performing teams need this level of, let’s call it intimacy.

Only when a high level of trust is created among team members is there a chance to reach your goals as a collective. Otherwise, it’s every man or woman for him or her self.

Fairness, honesty, recognition, openness, transparency, and effective communication are the hallmarks of a trusting work environment.

Trust or the lack of it has major motivating implications. Trust is a lubricant for loyalty. People want to perform their best for those they trust. People begin to believe in themselves if they are recognized and trusted for their efforts in an organization.

On the other hand, when trust is broken, it’s extremely hard to repair. That’s when your once star performer starts spending more energy on self preservation and job hunting than excelling in their role. That’s when ideas dry up. That’s when innovation stagnates and that’s when communication mostly becomes one way.

Take care of your employees. Stop treating them like expendable commodities. Stop making everything about what they can do for you. They are not just idea and execution machines. Take the time upfront to develop trusted relationships. If you show them you care about them – their lives, their thoughts, their values – your business performance will only increase.

Recognize their efforts. Most importantly, recognize their extra efforts. Recognition increases trust between leadership and employees.

There is a high cost to low trust. An organization with high levels of trust will withstand any crisis. Conversely, an organization with low levels of trust can come apart at the smallest sign of trouble.

Effective leadership moves organizations from current to future states. The bedrock of effective leadership is trust.

What are your thoughts on how to protect trust among team members? Tell me about it in the comments!

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

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

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

May 30, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“People leave their supervisors, not their companies” ~ Unknown

Stress-producing bosses are not just bad for productivity, morale, loyalty, and engagement. They are literally bad for your heart.

In a large-scale study of over 20,000 employees conducted at the Karolinska Institute, results showed a strong link between leadership behavior and heart disease in employees.

The study also found that the stress of belonging to hierarchies itself is linked to disease and death. The lower someone’s rank in a hierarchy, the higher their chances of cardiovascular disease and death from heart attacks.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize your impact on those around you. No matter where you are in the org chart, from first level manager to CEO, your efforts and attitude impact your team.

Gallup calls this the “Cascade Effect” – that is to say, engagement at one level impacts the morale of those below you in your organization.

Performance is Personal Before it is Organizational

Relationship problems in the workplace have been found to be associated with absenteeism, decreased productivity and decreased engagement. You could probably add a few more to the list based on your own observations.

I’ve personally seen this pattern repeat itself time and time again: The issues that impede organizational progress the most are the people relationship issues – not the subject matter or the content of the work itself.

That’s because whatever the topic – revenue generation, customer service, or business results – it requires collaboration, communication, and coordination by people to move the ball forward.

It is the people that must understand and embrace the mission. It is the people who must be empowered to act on it. And most importantly, it is the people who must develop productive working relationships to advance the project.

Negative work environments increase stress. Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.

3 Characteristics of a Positive Work Environment

Conversely, the Karolinska study also showed that employees who rated their managers as inspirational, positive and enthusiastic also reported less short-term sick leave.

Supervision is not just about ensuring task completion. As a boss, it’s imperative that you create a positive and healthy work culture for your team. In fact, this should be on every supervisorial job description.

Here are three ways to foster a positive work environment:

1.      Demonstrate Empathy – defined as the ability to experience and relate to the thoughts, emotions, or experience of others, empathy is more than mere sympathy. It is a key part of social and emotional intelligence critical to being an effective leader. Transformational leaders show their teams that they care about their needs and achievements. Giving time and attention to others fosters empathy. So do active listening skills. Good listeners foster trust which in turn fosters greater engagement. Leaders can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching, training, and other professional development opportunities.

2.      Show Gratitude – Show appreciation for your team members as a routine part of your day-to-day interactions. Act on the belief that employees will do their best if their contributions to the team are recognized. Praise publicly and criticize privately. Criticizing employees publicly can create a sense of embarrassment among all who are present and diminish their respect for you as a leader.

3.      Reinforce Purpose – Today’s employees, especially Millennials, want more from their jobs than just a paycheck. Research shows that employees with a strong sense of purpose are at least four times more likely to be engaged in their jobs as other employees. They are also healthier, happier and more productive. Explain to employees exactly where they fit into the company structure and how they contribute to the success of the business. Institutionalize purpose driven conversations.

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to design work that better serves people, organizations and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your cardiovascular health.

Good luck.

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

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

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant