12 Signs You Have a Healthy Company Culture

 

July 18 , 2019 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and feel that they’re valued.”

-Ken Robinson

There is a lot of talk these days about employee wellness. Rightly so. But what about the health of your company culture?

It seems like it’s stating the obvious that a positive work culture means greater productivity while a negative work culture can be counterproductive and even toxic.

A large and growing body of research on positive organizational psychology demonstrates that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.

A 2012 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.

What does a healthy culture look like?

Work 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.

Below are 12 key indicators of a healthy work culture:

  1. Respect.  Employees are respected for ‘who’ they are; not just ‘what’ they know and they respect their fellow workers and work meaningfully to avoid personality conflicts, gossip, and backbiting.
  2. Creativity.  Employees feel that their work exercises their creativity and imagination. They don’t feel stagnated and feel that the company values innovation and innovative thinking. They are encouraged to ‘think out of the box.’
  3. Strength Based. Employees believe that their personal strengths are utilized, nurtured, and supported. The organization takes the view that building upon employee strengths is the way to optimize performance.
  4. Open Communication.  Employees feel they have the freedom to contribute ideas and alternate views without fear of reprimand. They can weigh in knowing that all their ideas may not be implemented but they are welcomed.
  5. Knowledge Access.  Employees feel empowered if they have access to data and information which flows easily up, down and across the organization.
  6. Encouragement.  Employees feel that they are recognized and encouraged to perform their best. The company puts their money where their mouth is and supports employees to do their best with resources and incentives.
  7. Clarity.  Employees understand the direction their team and organization is headed. The mission, goals, and strategies are clearly articulated and inculcated.
  8. Emphasis on Learning. Employees should feel that they are learning and developing.  They should have access to new training, workshops, mentoring, coaching, and presentations.
  9. Positive Relationships. Employees work better when they feel they have quality, supportive, and energizing relationships with fellow workers. Employees feel that a positive work environment is important and prioritized for the company.
  10. Fairness. Employees feel that their work performance is assessed fairly following a set of standards that are evenly applied. Employees also feel that work promotions and assignments are based on a system of meritocracy vs. a system of favoritism.
  11. Contribution.  Employees must feel that they are making a contribution to the team and that they are justly recognized for their contributions. When contribution is not encouraged or recognized employee engagement suffers.
  12. Engagement. As a cultural norm, the company places emphasis on employee engagement but employees also accept their own responsibility to be engaged and to encourage others to stay engaged.

A Final Word

A healthy workplace environment is good for your company. Period. Company culture is important to the success of the employees because they are more likely to be productive when they enjoy their workplace. The costs of a poor company culture can result in low employee engagement, higher employee turnover, diminished customer service, and a host of other negative impacts on the bottom line. Too many managers micromanage their employees, lack transparency and open communication and don’t emphasize collaboration and team work. They lack direction and clear values.

As more younger generations enter the workplace, the same old management styles may not be as effective as they were in past decades. A positive company culture is a right, not a privilege. In the worst case scenario, toxic environments are toxic to your health. Employees will care for the company they are working for if they know that they are being looked after. Employees are the best asset of every organization, and putting effort into culture wellness can encourage better teamwork, increased productivity and reduce sick leave.

Good luck.

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I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Your Workplace is Broken and It’s Your Manager’s Fault

June 5 , 2019 •  9 minute read • by Saeed


“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boos the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, its amazing what they can accomplish.”

~Sam Walton

In high school, I had an English teacher who used to say that if you have one good friend in the course of your lifetime—just one—you should consider yourself lucky. Mr. Smith was right and the same can be said about good managers.

While the world’s workplace is going through extraordinary change, the practice of management has been frozen in time for decades.

Employees often cite lackluster benefits, low engagement, and lack of a challenge for their low levels of satisfaction. But when it comes to high levels of turnover, one culprit is likely to blame: poor management.

It’s been said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and in companies with high turnover, this is often true.

Turnover is costly to an organization in terms of both money and morale and losing a high-performing employee can be detrimental to a company’s health.

While a competent boss is likely to retain employees, an incompetent manager is likely to have the opposite effect. According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, there is a strong correlation between a competent manager and an employee’s satisfaction. In other words, the more competent the boss, the more likely the employee is to stay with the company.

But that kind of competence is an endangered species and when turnover is high in a company, that’s a sign that Nessie may be lurking just below the surface (Nessie is the adorable name given to a large marine creature believed by some to inhabit Lock Ness, Scotland).

Fear and Loathing On the Shop Floor

A 2012 study, conducted by psychologist Michelle McQuaid, the author of Five Reasons to Tell Your Boss To Go F**k Themselves, found the majority of Americans are unhappy in the workplace—and more often than not, they say their boss is to blame.

In fact, 35% of U.S. employees said they would willingly forego a substantial pay raise if their direct supervisor got fired.

Gallup research found that 60% of government workers are miserable because of bad bosses. Significant percentages of US workers describe their bosses as follows:

  • Self-oriented (60%)
  • Stubborn (49%)
  • Overly demanding (43%)
  • Impulsive (41%)
  • Interruptive (39%)

Even more alarming, research by New York-based psychologist Paul Babiak has suggested up to 4% of business leaders in the US could be psychopaths.

Too often businesses focus on the bottom line but neglect the human beings who are the backbone of the organization.

What human beings need (besides good leadership) is psychological safety.

Just Google Psychological Safety

Google conducted a massive two-year study on team performance, which revealed that the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.

It may be stating the obvious that when people are afraid, it hampers their creativity. Employees won’t take risks or try new things if they are in a constant state of fear.

When you manage via intimidation, people will fearfully work to meet expectations – but they will never exceed them. They will do the minimum required to keep you off their back but that’s as far as they will go. If you want to get optimal performance from people you have to not only capture their heads, but also their hearts.

When you create a safe, encouraging work relationship where it’s ok to make mistakes, you’ll end up with employees that are more proactive, creative and innovative.

Your Bad Boss Could Be Killing You (Literally)

Poor leadership is also resulting in elevated levels of anxiety, uncertainty, fear and indecisiveness across nearly all workplaces. But far worse, studies show that bad bosses are also bad for your heart.

In these studies clear links have been established between aggressive, intimidating or “bad” supervisors with increases in anxiety, depression, the deterioration of personal relationships away from work and, yes, even heart disease.

One longitudinal study conducted by Swedish researchers at the Stress Institute in Stockholm found that employees who had managers with the following traits are 60% more likely to suffer coronary heart disease:

  • Their managers were incompetent.
  • They were inconsiderate.
  • They were secretive.
  • They were uncommunicative.

In another 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.

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

Good management is clearly good for the bottom line, morale and turnover, but as it turns out, it’s also good for your cardiovascular health.

How So Called Leaders Fail to Lead

Besides their poor communication skills, lack of transparency, and their myopic vision, there are a number of other key ways that poor managers fail to lead. The list is actually quite long but I have tried to whittle it down here to the most problematic and observable behaviors of toxic bossary. If you recognize more than one of these signs in your boss, it may be time to start browsing the help wanted section of your local newspaper (is there still such a thing?)

1) They Are Narcissists Who Lack Empathy: Practically everyone I know, including myself, has either worked for a narcissistic boss or been exposed to one. You know the type: they are quick to claim credit and quick to assign blame. They treat everyone like they are dispensable, using people for their own gains and then discarding them, either literally or emotionally. Unfortunately, this one trait overrides every other.

Narcissists are fixated on controlling all outcomes, usually through micromanaging behaviors, sometimes subtle and sometimes guileless. They are usually hyper competitive and disingenuous. They will not think twice about firing you on the spot if you fail to agree with their point of view. These workplaces often have an undercurrent of fear because the employees have seen other staff members thrown out at a moments notice and fear the same could happen to them. Worst of all, narcissists lack remorse having very little to no ability to feel empathy for others. Due to their inflated sense of self-importance, the feelings of others are not something that keeps them up at night.

The Fix: Narcissists love flattery due to their over-inflated egos. If you are independently minded and refuse to kiss up to your narcissistic boss, or worse yet, challenge them in any way, your head will invariably be on the chopping block and the guillotine will fall swiftly and decisively. The best advice I can give you is to make a decision (to leave) before one is made for you.

2) They Take Credit For Your Work: A study done by the Society for Human Resource Management found that only 37% of polled employees were happy with how their ideas were received by their supervisors. In Good to Great, Jim Collins highlighted Level 5 leaders who were characterized as being exceptionally modest (which is one reason why few of them were well-known prior to the book). As the old saying goes, modesty is a virtue. Modest leaders share credit, which encourages their colleagues to contribute more effort and feel better about themselves and their help in producing organizational success.

The Fix: If you are the manager-leader, acknowledge your employees’ hard work and ideas and give credit where credit is due, both publicly and privately. Strong, confident, and effective manager-leaders take pride in the success of their people and are happy to sing their praises. It creates a win-win situation and is at the foundation of employee engagement. If you are the employee and your boss is not a narcissist, they may not realize they’re hogging the glory. If this is the case, having a private discussion with your boss may be enough to do the trick.

3) They Are Micromanages: There is nothing good about a practice that will eventually lead to a massive breakdown of confidence and competence in your employees. That’s gthe impact of micromanagement. What may be perceived as short term gains (control and task completion) never outweighs the long term loss of micromanaging otherwise perfectly competent staff. It is likely that they will end up becoming dependent on you, resenting you and eventually leaving you.

The Fix: Consider the reasons why managers micromanage in the first place (ego, insecurity, inexperience, perfectionism, arrogance). Train and coach managers in effective delegation techniques that provide the needed information for job completion without micromanagement. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests that you delegate results rather than methods. Tell your employee the objective you have for the task at hand and let them go. As long as you get the result you’re looking for and your team member learns along the way, we have a win/win.

4) They Show Favoritism: Poor leaders promote a culture of favoritism, often protecting or promoting those who reinforce their own ego. Once on a job, a manager confessed to me unabashedly (because she was also a narcissist) that she had a favorite on the team. The favorite got special assignments, special perks, and they were friends outside of work (all telltale signs). Not only are these arrangements unfair and unethical, but they kill staff morale. The blindside of their ego also doesn’t realize that the favoritism is rarely reciprocated. The teacher’s pet in my own example left for a better paying job the first chance she got.

The Fix: If you are the one favored, the most professional thing you can do is to not accept the benefits of favoritism. If the shoe is on the other foot, don’t resent the favored employee. After all it’s not their fault. You may have to other colleagues to check your perception or to HR if the situation is particularly egregious. Failing that, be patient, always endeavor to maintain trust, maintain your self-belief and stay positive. 

5) They Are Critical: To put it mildly, these bosses never learned how to give constructive feedback. Criticism is like a productivity poison injected into your veins. It has a negative effect on your self-image and studies have found that your self-image has far more to do with your performance than any other indicator. Many people who face endless criticism from a bad boss wind up quitting – as they should.

The Fix: First, easier said than done but try not to take it personally. Recognize that getting defensive, withdrawing or reciprocating the criticism is counterproductive. Try balancing out the criticism by getting positive feedback from other sources. Find a mentor or two, inside or outside your organization, to give you the constructive feedback you’re not getting from your boss. If you are a manager who is struggling with how to give constructive feedback, attack the problem, not the person; describe observable facts, not opinions or hearsay; and offer specific suggestions for improvement. 

Houston, We Have A Leadership Crisis

Combine too much work, too many demands, too many unrealistic expectations with too little appreciation and too many managers who, well, couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag, and you have a full fledged leadership crisis.

Companies make crucial mistakes when developing new managers, especially first time, front of the line leaders.

A survey of 1,367 executives by the Institute for Corporate Productivity reported that even among the best, highest performing companies, 66 % reported that they were ineffective at developing leaders and were getting worse.

Often, people are promoted into management roles for all the wrong reasons. The criteria used to promote is subjective, political, and/or not well thought through. Critical training opportunities are overlooked in the crucial first 90 days or not provided at all.

There is no correspondence between power and competency. It is more important than ever that we get leadership development right. The onset of new technologies means all kinds of professions are now in the cross hairs of change and nearly every organization is in the middle of some seismic industry shift.

This radical shift requires radical reformulation of the leadership ethos. Good leadership is a workplace right, not a privilege.

A Final Word

In Stanford Business School Professor Bob Sutton’s brilliant treatise on the subject of leadership aptly titled “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t,” Professor Sutton makes a well-reasoned argument that these despots, tyrants, and bullies are bad for the people that work with them and for them, and for the organizations that harbor them.

But he is also emphatic about this point: even if assholes are successful, life is too short and too precious to tolerate them.

Personally and professionally, I have yet to come across a workplace where leadership is not broken. Twenty-first-century success depends on good leadership and good leadership depends on trust, integrity, generosity, and empathy, among a slew of other character traits. There’s no team without it. And without team, there is no organization.

Underlying every team’s who-did-what confrontation are universal needs such as respect, competence, social status, and autonomy. Recognizing these deeper needs naturally elicits trust and promotes positive language and behaviors on the part of leaders.

Be weary of bullies, despots, ego-driven narcissists and tyrants. Bosses behaving badly or ineffectively lead to workplace zombies, high levels of stress, burnout, and attrition. McQuaid who’s taking on workplace bullying, one boss at a time, says ridding the workplace of the scourge of bad bosses will save our economy $360 billion in lost productivity each year.

We must demand more and expect better from our leadership. It’s good for the bottom line, good for the customer and good for the economy. Most importantly, it’s good for our health.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Are managers leaders? Are leaders managers?

May 6 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

The debate about management vs. leadership is a long standing one in organizational development literature. The terms “management” and “leadership” are often interchanged. Some, view management as distinct from leadership as day is from night. One key distinction often made between management and leadership is that as managers, we manage things (physical assets, processes, and systems) and as leaders, we lead people (customers, external and internal partners).

This is a false distinction.

While it is important to recognize the differences between leadership and management, it is also important to appreciate that the two have complementary strengths, as well. In fact, both are necessary for a high-performance organization. The truth is managers need to be good leaders – their people need vision, consideration, and guidance! And leaders need to be good managers of the resources entrusted to them!

So how do you do both?

  1. Be Mission Oriented: Never lose sight of the mission, purpose, and results you need to achieve. Put out the fires, yes, but try not to be distracted and forced into applying your energy in different directions. While these difficulties often need to be attended to, don’t allow them to diffuse your impact.
  2. Shoot for the Moon: Almost anyone can achieve easy goals. But what is your competition aiming for? Good leaders use their visioning skills to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals with a thorough understanding of how to reach them… not with reckless abandon. Good managers set up systems to help their people achieve the goals.
  3. Take the coach approach: good leaders and managers are also good coaches. They know that there are teaching moments and learning opportunities around every corner and they keep a pulse on their employees levels of engagement through structured coaching conversations. Not only must you coach your people, you must also change the culture to a mindset of a learning organization – a coaching culture if you will. You cannot be the only coach — the entire organization needs to know the skills, have the technologies, and create the atmosphere that allows people to help develop others through both formal and informal experiences.
  4. Be a role model: At the end of the day, people watch what you do, not what you say. Remember always that you are a role model of the organization who sets the standard by being a person of good character, knowing your job, and doing all that matters to advance the work. The standards you set are the standards that will be followed.
  5. Create inclusive environments: Diversity makes an organization effective by capitalizing on all of the strengths of each employee. It is about empowering people by understanding, valuing, and using the differences in every person. Mastering diversity leads to inclusion where all people feel they are highly valued for their uniqueness. In turn, the organization benefits from the synergistic effects of a cohesive team who bring an array of experiences to the table.

A Final Word

In order for you to engage your staff in providing the best service to your customers, clients or partners, you must enroll them in your vision and align their perceptions and behaviors. You need to get them excited about where you are taking them while making sure they know what’s in it for them. With smaller organizations, the challenge lies in making sure you are both leading your team as well as managing your day to day operations. Those who are able to do both, will create a competitive advantage. Both management and leadership are needed to make teams and organizations successful. Trying to decide which is more important, is like trying to decide whether the front or back wheel is more important to balancing a bicycle.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

5 Steps to Coaching Your Employees to Success (Based on the Co-Active Coaching Model)

March 14, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“While the big events of our lives create the impetus for change, it is the moment-by- moment choices that mold and shape us.” 

― Karen Kimsey-House, Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

If you have room in your head for only one nugget of leadership wisdom, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is: making progress at meaningful work. And coaching can help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.

To do so, regular communication around development — having coaching conversations — is essential to understand what drives each person.

Unfortunately, many supervisors think they don’t have the time to have these conversations, and many lack the skill. Yet 70% of employee learning and development happens on the job, not through formal training programs. This is an opportunity missed.

Coaching is a powerful experience that creates a resonant connection with another person and helps them achieve something they care about while helping them become more of who they want to be. If there’s anything an effective, resonant coaching conversation produces, it’s positive energy.

Start today to be a more effective manager by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members. As you resolve to support their ongoing learning and development, here are five key tips to get you started.

1.      Design Your Alliance

First, design and sustain your alliance. While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. But to do so, you need to establish an environment of mutuality and trust. As a coach, you must know how to work with your team member to empower them. This is a process of ‘co-creation’ where the employee also helps create the kind of coach she needs. Here, you can ask questions like:

  • What are you looking for in me as your coach?
  • If this coaching was to be effective, what would it look like?
  • What is the best way for me to challenge you?
  • How do you want me to respond when you have not completed something you wanted me to complete?

The designed alliance is the co-created space within which the coaching takes place. This space is dynamic and evolving so periodically you can check in on your designed alliance to see how it’s working for you. Just like ground rules you may need to add, modify, or delete some of your agreements depending on how the relationship has evolved.

2.      Listen with curiosity: 

Have you ever had the luxurious and deeply validating experience of communicating with someone who is completely focused on you and actively listening to what you have to say with an open mind and an open heart? What does that feel like? That’s coaching. And listening in coaching may be the most important skill set.

You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively and then follow your curiosity.

3.      Ask, don’t tell.

As a manager, you are used to problem solving. This is fine when you’re clarifying action steps for a project you’re leading or when people come to you asking for advice. But in a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Your path is not your employee’s path. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals and challenges and find their own answers. This is how people clarify their priorities and devise strategies that resonate with what they care about most and that they will be committed to putting into action.

There are two main types of questions, OPEN and CLOSED. Closed questions are less useful in coaching because they only promote a “yes” or “no” response. Open questions promote discovery and stimulate thinking. They are therefore ideal for coaching.

Open questions are ones that start with what, where, when, how, and who. Aim to avoid the ‘why’ question which can be seen as aggressive and stimulate a defensive response. There are three specific types of open questions you may find helpful when coaching. They are:

  1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”
  2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”
  3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

The best way to get someone to self generate ideas and solutions is by asking them, which is why powerful questions are so critical. And powerful questions are the key to helping individuals unlock their own potential.

4.      Forward the Action

Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in their own stories.  While it can provide temporary relief to vent, it doesn’t generate solutions. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them. You might ask, “What is it you really want?” or “Which of the activities you mentioned offer the greatest potential for reaching your goal?” Then, when the employee is settled on an action, ask them what action, if taken, would make the biggest difference in helping them advance towards their goal.

5.      Build accountability.

Last, but not least, it is imperative that the employee follow through on commitments. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness. If your employee plans to network with other potential business partners, for example, give these plans more weight by asking her to identify specific individuals with dates and times and to deliver this information to you by a certain deadline.

A Final Word

If you want to build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak, try establishing regular coaching conversations.

Coaching accelerates progress by providing greater focus and awareness of choice. It concentrates on where you are today and what you are willing to do to get where you want to be tomorrow. Coaching provides a transformative space for your employee to experience easier and accelerated growth to move them towards their goals. It provides insights and clarity, pattern recognition and interruption, conscious commitment, real time feedback, and accountability.

Join the movement and coach your heart out.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

The Secret to Coaching Performance: Begin with Empathy

February 27, 2019 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“What is necessary to change a person, is to change his awareness of himself.”

Abraham Maslow

You’ve been a manager and a leader for a long time. You’ve followed the traditional route of managing performance. It has had mixed results. You want more. You yearn more. You want to develop and grow your people. You feel a sense of responsibility towards them and to yourself. If so, performance coaching may be just the remedy you need for your management hangover.

Re-framing the conversation

At first, when adopting a performance coaching approach, you may find it challenging to change the types of conversations you usually have with your employees. This is understandable. The likelihood is that these are long-standing relationships where conversations have been limited to tactical considerations vs. growth and development concerns. In contrast, performance coaching (coaching aimed at optimizing performance) seeks to re-frame such conversations into discussions of the results the employee seeks to achieve, in terms of both improved performance and improved operational results.

However, there are “basic” steps or pre-conditions that need to be met before an individual can successfully advance to the next level and achieve progress towards performance goals.

At the root of every organization are its people. Their needs are universally human. Humans generally want to contribute their best work, and they need to believe their work matters in order to do so. They need to be an accepted part of a tribe. They need to be empowered and enabled to get work done. They need their contributions appreciated, and their ideas and opinions respected.

So, where do you start?

Start with Needs

If you are a proponent of Freudian psychology, human beings are entirely driven by primitive urges like sex and aggression. If you are in the B.F. Skinner camp, they are just over-sized lab rats waiting to be conditioned.  At best, these approaches were dehumanizing. At worst, harmful. Their rather bleak, soul-less vision of human nature constituted the first two “waves” of psychology as a science. In the third wave, Abraham Maslow and the humanists brought a more optimistic view of human nature that focused more on positive mental health and psychology than their predecessors’ obsession with mental illness and misery.

It’s upon this work that the modern workplace can fashion its approach to performance and productivity coaching. Just as the Hierarchy of Needs is a model in which Maslow attempted to capture different levels of human motivation, a similar mental model is useful here to establish a baseline from which we start performance coaching.

A 2017 Gallup poll found that only three in 10 employees strongly agree with the statement that their opinions count at work. Gallup calculated that by “moving the ratio to six in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 27% reduction in turnover, a 40% reduction in safety incidents, and a 12% increase in productivity.” And macro-level employee engagement data is generally dismal, showing that nationally around 30% of employees are engaged with their work, meaning a healthy majority are disconnected and unmotivated.

The framework presented here recognizes that these employees are not having fundamental needs met and is grounded in developmental theory and builds on the work of Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs.”

These needs can be summarized as follows:

1.      The need to feel valued – Investing in employee appreciation is critical. In fact, if ensuring your employees feel valued is not one of your primary prerogatives as a manager, your company will suffer as a result. That is simply because feeling valued is probably the most central need humans have. Feeling valued is not a one-off like feeling appreciated. It’s something that is built over time. This reinforces the importance of regular coaching conversations.

2.      The need for psychological safety – Fear of failure is a key indicator of an environment with low levels of psychological safety. Psychological safety is present when the environment is safe for interpersonal risk taking and people feel able to speak up with relevant ideas questions or concerns.

3.      The need for trust – Trust is the foundation for building strong teams, creating a positive work culture, and producing results. You know the environment is suffering from a lack of trust when communication is covert, employees lack loyalty, and results are inconsistent.

4.      The need for connection – work relationships are incredibly important to employee well-being. As humans, we crave contact and connection with other people just as we do food, shelter, and safety. Hence the success of so many social media platforms. As humans, we crave contact and connection with other people. It’s an important component of belonging to a tribe and a key stimulator of intrinsic motivation.

5.      The need for meaning – People find meaning when they see a clear connection between what they highly value and what they spend time doing. That connection is not always obvious, however. Hence, the coaching conversation. We are usually pretty good at sharing financial data. But far more motivating to employees are stories about human impact and how what they do has influence on that impact.

6.      The need for autonomy – When asked why they decided to switch to a different career, the vast majority of employees represented in a recent U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics report indicated they felt either a lack of respect or a lack of autonomy. Autonomy is both a personal trait and a motivational state. From the time you learned to crawl, you have been striving towards a feeling of self-determination and self-directedness. But while we reach for autonomy and self-determination, we are continuously hamstrung by rules, structures, and policies. This means that although autonomy can be somewhat stable at the personality level, it can vary from situation to situation and moment to moment. Evidence from research suggests strongly that when the need for autonomy is satisfied, people feel more interested, engaged, and happy.

7.      The need for respect and recognition – Recognized employees are happy employees. How many times has your manager taken credit for an idea you had and how many times did your motivation go down the tubes along with it? You may or may not take your work home with you but you do take home the feelings you are left with when you have not been recognized for your contributions. You feel slighted, angry, and disappointed. You might even start hitting the job boards. Conversely, recognized employees tend to stick around and report feeling more fulfilled on the job. Despite years of research proving the overwhelmingly positive effect of employee recognition on the bottom line, few bosses take the time to recognize and reward their employees for a job well done.

8.      The need for growth and learning – Employees will always perform at their best when the environment is conducive to growth. One of the most important factors in employee engagement is whether employees feel as if they have opportunities for growth and development. Those who grow are far more likely to engage than those who stagnate in their roles. It’s no secret that innovative technology and generational expectations are redefining the relationship between work and learning. Careers today are a continuous learning journey rather than the product of one necessitating the modern workplaces to become hubs of personal development. That’s a good thing because with the dynamic and ambitious millennial generation set to make up half of the U.S. workforce by 2020, the demand for progressive career models is on the rise. If you want engaged employees, embrace continuous learning.

9.      The need to understand the ‘why’ – If you don’t know your responsibilities and you don’t know why you are tasked with a particular project or outcome, it’s hard to be engaged. Unless employees understand the greater why behind what they do, their motivation to do it will always be less than 100%. This is a critical component of management but also a difficult one because often as managers, we just want the work to get done. The truth is however, that the change you seek will never happen organizationally unless people understand the ‘why’ behind their what. The way to approach this is simply to communicate the strategy in a more proactive manner, so that all employees understand the importance of the changes you seek to implement.

10.  The need for certainty and consistency – Finally, human beings don’t do well with uncertainty and a lack of clarity. Obviously, when employees feel insecure in their jobs because of pending lay-offs or toxic bosses, motivation is impacted. But more commonplace, when there is no vision, no goal, no north star, it impacts motivation. Most people can deal with a boss who is demanding and quick to criticize… as long as he or she treats every employee the same. And your company vision creates a sense of purpose and adds a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks. True,

I would argue that these top 10 needs all must be met at some level in order to optimize individual or group performance. This list does not preclude other needs such as the need for feedback. And we can discuss and debate the placement of each need in the hierarchy or whether some actually sit side-by-side. We don’t even have to think of it as a hierarchy. We can think of it as a chain that mustn’t have any weak links. Instead of debating how important we think each need is, manager-coaches should enter the conversation with this basic framework in mind. The highest-level need identified by the employee likely correlates to their main lever of motivation.

Ask Powerful Questions

Finally, to properly adopt a performance coach approach, you will need to reframe the conversation from a focus on evaluation and weakness to one that focuses on employee strengths, growth and development. Re-framing requires asking powerful questions in an effort to influence the way someone thinks about their role and their performance within that role. Research has it that self-perception is a greater predictor of performance than any other metric. Managers sometimes fear that such questions will be perceived as challenging the employees’ capacity to perform. Nothing is further from the truth (though I agree there is both a science and an art to the practice of asking powerful questions). If you are a manager of people, you need to start honing your questioning skill to a fine edge if you want to influence your employees’ performance.

A Final Word

By connecting your questions with the mindset of the employee, you begin to establish the baseline for having impact on their performance.

What kind of difference would it make for your company if your workforce was engaged in solving problems, making recommendations, expressing their new ideas, and taking care of your customers?

We all need employees who are enthusiastic and who bring their A+ game and their whole self to work every day.  You need this not just from your star players but from everyone every day. The single element that distinguishes one company from another more than anything else is its people and the effort they exert. I would argue that the secret to unlocking this unlimited source of energy for your company is to build and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees. When you trust and respect your people–and really connect with them–they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm.

The way to do that is to adopt an empathetic performance coaching approach.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Why Collaboration is Not Always the Answer

January 25, 2019 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


You’ve watched ants at work. You’ve seen them collaborating around a shared goal. Ants are social insects and outnumber humans a million to one. They would rule the world if they could strategically switch mindsets between teamwork and collaboration.

We all think we understand what collaboration is, we all think we understand what it means, if this is true then how come we constantly read accounts of it failing? Well this is not the case. Collaboration is misunderstood and overused.

As a matter of fact, it’s common for people to use the terms collaboration and teamwork interchangeably. It’s common, but it’s wrong.

Teamwork – Collaboration, What’s the Difference?

Teamwork

Teams are created usually by a manager who is looking for a specific single result. A group of people with the required skills are assembled. Tasks, timelines, goals, and success measures are created and the team is off and running. Their actions are interdependent, but are fully committed to the result articulated by the manager.

For the most part, as long as the team is provided with good leadership and has the project management skills to and coordinate the action, teams work well. That’s teamwork. But that’s not collaboration. The key for a successful team lies in its leader. You can have an ineffective, argumentative team but as long as strong leadership is provided to resolve disputes and help the team communicate and coordinate their activities, odds are the team will be successful. We have all been in these situations before where engaging in effective teamwork really hinges on the effectiveness of the leader. There is a certain framework backed by standards and expectations that we engage in, when we work on teams. Accountability on a team is usually, in theory at least, clear. So are the lines of communication and how delegated tasks are advanced. Control is key with teamwork.

Collaboration

Collaboration on the other hand is completely different. Collaborators usually have some shared goals that are only a smaller part of their overall responsibilities. Unlike teams, collaborators cannot rely on a leader to resolve differences, and cannot walk away from each other when they do disagree. In collaboration, the hierarchy experienced on teams is muted so accountability, communication, and how tasks are advanced all look different. Successful collaboration is reliant on the relationships of give and take between its participants. The end product comes from the effort of the group thinking and working together as equal partners; without a leader. Where collaboration breaks down is when there is a lack of trust, an inability to have healthy conflict and no framework established for accountability (mutual trust and agreement).

 So Teamwork or Collaboration? Which Should I use?

Both models are important and useful. It’s important to know how to be a team player but also to know how to be an effective collaborator. Knowing when to push and pull in each scenario is often a matter of emotional intelligence. With collaboration, you have to learn to share power and expect that your idea is not always the best idea.

Ask yourself these questions: Do I want participants to work as a team or as collaborators? Do I run this project as a collaboration or as a team? Which model will work best for this specific project? How do I prepare my personnel to excel as collaborators? How do I encourage team leaders?

Establishing teams uses up lots of internal resources. Collaboration is best when a project is greater than any one individual’s expertise and you don’t want to pull dedicated resources to ensure completion. Collaboration expands the team’s expertise.

Collaboration should not be thought of as a permanent solution. Collaborative groups should form, complete a project and disband. While collaborative engagements usually take longer, they should not be allowed to go ad infinitum. A team often stays together. When deciding whether a collaborative relationship is really necessary, assess if the conditions for success exist. Do people know how to work in a leader-less environment? Are they equipped to handle conflict? How will they communicate? How will they keep each other accountable?

A Final Word

So, collaboration and teamwork, no matter how similar they may seem are actually different. Both enable employees to work together efficiently to complete tasks and reach targets quicker. Both play an important role in the world of business. Choosing which to use, is an important decision with regards to resources as well as the capacity of personnel involved.

Creating an environment that encourages everyone to work together can have a big impact on your team’s performance.  Finding the correct balance between autonomous working, teamwork and collaboration will help to play to each person’s individual strengths to keep the workforce engaged and efficient.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

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©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Blame: The Toxic Team Killer on the Loose

January 15, 2019 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Average people place blame, exceptional people take responsibility.”

-Craig Valentine

Toxic work environments, that is to say, those that feature narcissistic leadership, poor communication, high turnover, absenteeism, lack of trust, lack of accountability and a lack of employee engagement, are the most rife for blame-ridden interactions.

You know that blame has infiltrated your team (or worse your psyche) when there is a general lack of accountability, avoidance of responsibility, lack of commitment to excellence, and an environment where everyone seems to be out for themselves. When something goes wrong, the first question often posed is: “Whose fault is it?”

Blame is the killer of innovation and creativity. It is a death sentence for a culture of learning and unless it is addressed at its roots, it becomes a pathogen that erodes motivation, collaboration, engagement and productivity.

Blame, in short, costs money.

It has been empirically proven that positive work environments, absent of blame, increase productivity. In contrast, when people work in an atmosphere of blame, they expend their productive energy on covering up their errors, avoiding accountability and hiding their real concerns. A lack of accountability can be deadly to team accountability and to our personal efforts to fulfill our potential.

Accountability emphasizes keeping agreements and commitments in an environment of mutual respect. Blaming, in contrast, is an emotional process that discredits and shuts down the blamed. Where accountability leads to inquiry, learning and improvement; blame short circuits learning, makes inquiry difficult and reduces the chances of getting to the real root of a problem.

The qualities of blame are judgment, anger, fear, punishment, and self-righteousness. The qualities of accountability, on the other hand, are respect, trust, inquiry, moderation, curiosity, and mutuality.

Why do people blame?

Since the dawn of civilization we’ve assigned unseen causes to effects that we can’t explain.

When we are threatened, we often have what is known as the Fight or Flight response. Our bodies are very adept at letting us know there’s a “danger” that needs to be addressed, so we need to pay attention. This primes our system to move our attention outside. There is a certain sense to this. After all, we might not escape danger if we can’t take our focus off our internal world of thoughts, feeling and sensations.  When fight or flight dynamics enter the realm of interpersonal relationships it looks like blame.

Blame provides some immediate relief and a sense of having solved a problem. Blame is like a sugar high – it produces a brief spike in satisfaction and then a crash. It doesn’t serve the system’s long-term needs and can actually prevent it from functioning effectively. Like sugar, blame can also be addictive, because it makes us feel powerful (having avoided the danger) and keeps us from having to examine our own role in a situation. Blame has its foundations in fear and insecurity and works cyclically by causing more fear and insecurity.

How to shift from blame to accountability:

There are a few principles to remember before your knee-jerk reaction of fault-finding and assigning blame:

  • Shift from blame to accountability:

Developing a strong culture of transparency and accountability will focus your team’s efforts where they belong: on taking individual responsibility for their actions.

  • Become self aware:

Your current attitude, expectations, and beliefs have a powerful effect on thought, emotion, and ultimately behavior.

  • Don’t assume the worst:

Everyone is always doing as well as they can within their personal limitations, their personal history, what they know and don’t know and what they’re feeling in that moment.

  • Failure is not the enemy:

Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes these mistakes are harmful to the team’s efforts. Every mistake contains a lesson.

  • Proactive communication is key:

Accountability comes from clear expectations, follow-through on commitments, and ongoing conversations, to review both explicit and tacit agreements in order to verify shared understanding.

  • Look at the part you played:

Even if, in your mind, you are 99% right and your partner is 99% wrong, it’s your job to look at the 1% you did that was harmful or unhealthy.

 The Coach Approach

If you find yourself confounded by the blame game, before you take out the blame thrower, take the coach approach. Bring your complaints about someone else to a third person to get coaching on how to raise your concerns.

Valuable questions from the coach include:

  • Tell me about the situation.
  • What results do you want?
  • What’s another way of explaining the other person’s actions?
  • How might the other person describe the situation?
  • What was your role in creating the situation?
  • What requests or complaints do you need to bring to the other person?
  • How will you state them in order to get the results you want?
  • What do you think your learning is in this situation?

 A final word…

Finally, when we give responsibility for our feelings and actions away to others, we are left progressively more weak and powerless people. When we stop blaming others we begin to take responsibility for our emotional states. It’s then that we really begin to have choices. When we continue to be habitually sucked into the blame game, we drive erode our relationships. Developing accountability takes courage and the willingness to learn new ways of thinking and acting.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others. 

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Why You Should Only Work with Trained Coaches

October 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The only journey is the one within.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke

Professional coaching is a relatively recent profession so some of the misconceptions surrounding what coaching is and is not, shouldn’t be surprising. It seems that everyone these days is a coach of one form or another.

What Coaching is and is not…

Historically, coaching has often been used remedially, as companies attempted to correct employees’ unwelcome behavior or perceived lack of competencies. Many conventional programs still use this approach. Obviously, this is a misappropriation of coaching since it yields few positive or lasting results. It is also entirely antithetical to the paradigm of coaching.

The best and most effective programs support the whole person and not isolated issues or problems. They take into account things like habitual patterns of thoughts, emotional states, and underlying mental models that may keep someone stuck.

In the 1990s, the first established accreditation groups for professional coaches were formed and coaching went from being used remedially to how we mostly recognize it today – as a developmental tool initiated by the client who is seeking self-improvement and lasting results.

In a study of the professional coaching industry by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), coaching was found to be used by 90% of organizations surveyed. Even in the global economic recession of 2008, when companies were cutting corners left and right, 70% reported increasing or maintaining their commitment to coaching.

As coaching has grown in value and evolved in design, so too has its potential for mainstream application. Today, Harvard Business Review reports that coaching is a $1 billion a year industry.

Coaching, it appears, is a growth industry.

So, what is coaching and what do coaches really do?

The International Coach Federation (ICF) — the leading global coaching organization and professional association for coaches — defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”

Despite this guidance, one of the challenges of defining coaching and its effectiveness remains the relative lack of adequate research with significant enough control groups and clear parameters and measurement tools applied to a coaching framework that fully supports the complete range of ways in which personal and professional development efforts can influence behavior change.

But there are enough evidence-based insights that validate the value of coaching when applied in a systematic framework by a trained professional.

While many people attach the title of coach next to their name, it does not mean they are practicing true coaching or know how to get lasting results. The key to personal and professional transformation is the coachee’s belief in the benefits of coaching and their own ability to make lasting behavioral changes, couple with an evidence based methodology applied by a trained professional.

In a 2013 study published in Research in Organizational Change and Development, researchers adapted traditional clinical psychological practices into the context of executive coaching into a highly-customizable process of program design and found the approach was highly effective in enabling executives to develop behaviors and competencies aligned with their ideal future state and in improving adaptability in both actions and thoughts.

The International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, conducted a study in 2016 and examined the emerging approach to workplace coaching, which increasingly emphasizes “enhancing both the performance and the well-being of individuals and organizations in ways that are sustainable and personally meaningful.” They found that simplicity and personalization lie at the heart of this methodology and the effectiveness of coaching as a framework.

Another large-scale study of executive coaching conducted in 2016 found that a strong working alliance from the perspective of the coach and coachee predicted coaching effectiveness.

Conclusion

All of these research studies simply validate what the professional coaching industry has known for decades. Clear, practical models make coaching methodologies accessible and more likely to create lasting individual and organizational change. Deep personalization, in which the coach seeks to understand the coachee’s personal values and goals in a holistic way, is equally critical to success.

From an evidence-based perspective, this kind of coaching has been demonstrated as being highly effective in many peer-reviewed studies with randomized control groups.

Trained coaches who excel in relationship management competencies, understand the importance of building a foundation of trust and a strong working alliance with their clients, and establish clear tasks and goals to reach desired outcomes, were rated most highly for successful coaching results.

Final Word

Coaching has exploded as an industry. Today, I hear many execs say they have not one but two or three coaches who help them with everything from leadership presence to public speaking to shifting to a growth mindset. But I also hear just as many people self proclaiming to be a leadership coach, an executive coach, a motivational coach and a life coach. Cue eye rolls.

As good coaching is fundamentally a quality conversation based in trust, it follows that authentic, individualized coaching is vital to cultivating genuine organizational change and personal development.

Coaching is about being in service to the growth and development of the person being coached. As a leader, if that excites you and drives your leadership engine, then coaching skills are an appropriate and successful addition to your leadership toolbox.

But to be of true service to clients, you can’t just print up some business cards and call yourself a coach.

To be accredited by the International Coach Federation, a training program must meet a number of criteria. Among them, it must offer a minimum of 125 hours of contact between students and faculty, six hours of observed coaching sessions, 10 hours of mentor coaching and a performance evaluation. There are more than 446 programs (132 in the United States) accredited by the federation.

I, myself, am about to complete a year-long program at the Coaches Training Institute, the world’s largest in-person coach training organization, a Harvard Medical School affiliate and widely considered to be a pioneer and the “Gold Standard” in the coaching industry, to become a certified coach. I can tell you from my own experience, that while the course has been rigorous and sometimes taxing, there is no substitute for professional training. It is the best decision I have made for my own career as a professional coach.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

A Special Offer:

In addition to being an organizational development and leadership consultant, I am a personal leadership coach who specializes in helping passionate, thoughtful, creative people like you find your inner leader and live the life you deserve.

As a trained co-active coach, I am currently enrolled in a 6-month professional development program to complete my certification. As part of that training, I need practice clients to try out my new skills, and I am offering a huge (>50%) discount for the first five practice clients.

You can do a free call with me to see if my approach and style would be a good fit for you (and no worries if it’s not – coaching is super personal and I’m happy to recommend you to other coaches that might be a better fit for you).

You can check out my website here. You can also contact me on LinkedIn.

Three Simple Steps To Transform Your Team Retreats

October 24, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction, you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

~Patrick Lencioni

There are many good reasons to conduct a team retreat: to create trust, clarify roles and responsibilities; establish goals and vision, orient new members; reconnect and re-energize team members; and/or address critical issues or opportunities, to name a few. However, bringing the entire team together in person can be a challenge. Greater still is the challenge of engaging them effectively — and to do so, you need to create a focused, meaningful, and enjoyable experience for everyone. Here are some ideas for team retreats that really hit the mark.

Step 1: Pay Attention to Design and Planning

First, identify the purpose and specific outcomes you want from the retreat.

  •  Is it time for strategic or tactical planning?
  • Are you trying to solve an important team or organizational issue?
  • Do you need to re-energize the team?

Second, schedule a planning meeting with your team leaders – you know who they are – to determine the retreat purpose and outcomes; learn what’s most pressing for your team; better understand team dynamics; and assess team engagement, strengths, weaknesses, etc. In addition, discuss timing, duration, location, number of attendees, etc. You don’t need to finalize all the details yet, just enough to develop a draft agenda.

After meeting with your leaders, it’s a good idea to have brief “input” conversations with some or all team members to understand their views, gather topic ideas and get participants excited about the retreat. Input conversations can last anywhere from 20-40 minutes. Some sample input questions include:

  • What do you think is working well with the team?
  • What would you like to see the team do more of, do better or do differently?
  • What do you think the team should stop doing?
  • What are three things the team should focus on over the next 12 months?
  • What is your vision for this team over the next three years?
  • What would help you feel more engaged and useful as a team member?
  • What would help the team work even more effectively together?

Using the information from your team leaders and input conversations, craft an action-focused agenda that incorporates the retreat’s purpose and desired outcomes.

Some things to consider:

  • Avoid status or progress reporting. Instead, have participants review status reports ahead of time and focus sessions on generating ideas, solving problems, making decisions, etc.
  • Structure adequate time for building relationships. Schedule time to eat together, walk together and learn about one another. It’s ideal if you can hold a retreat over two days that includes a social dinner.
  • Build some flexibility into your agenda to accommodate hot topics or deeper dives into important issues.
  • Create discrete sessions with time blocks of one to three hours to help participants digest information, offer natural break points and provide variety. Have each session build upon one another in a logical order based on your goals.
  • As you create the agenda, decide what output you want from each session and plan for how to capture key issues, ideas, resources, outcomes and action steps from each session. This will make documenting the retreat much easier.
  • Schedule ample time (at least 45 minutes) at the end to discuss action items, accountability, takeaways, appreciations and other closing activities.
  • Decide on any supporting materials, resources and preparatory work. Make sure participants have the agenda, materials and instructions at least one week before the retreat. Communicate with team members throughout the planning process to answer questions, remind them about pre-work, help them with logistics, etc.

Step 2: Get Expert Facilitation

While it’s not uncommon for a team member to facilitate a retreat, having outside facilitation helps every participant fully engage in the retreat. Also, an outside facilitator also helps reduce bias or undue influence and may notice and address team issues or dynamics not obvious to participants. Some other good practices for facilitation:

  • Start with a warm-up that gets everyone talking. An easy exercise is to pose a couple of questions that participants discuss with one or two people next to them. It’s good to include one personal and one organizational question.
  • Announce the retreat objectives and outcomes, preview the agenda, cover any logistics and discuss how participants can get the most from their time together.
  • Set expectations up front for how you will facilitate the retreat, such as balancing participation, managing interruptions, encouraging constructive comments, etc.
  • Capture highlights from each session using flipcharts, a note taker, recording device, etc. Some facilitators find it useful to use separate flipcharts for ideas, resources, action steps, “parking lot” or other categories as needed.
  • Check in periodically about participants’ comfort level, questions, concerns, etc. The more transparent you are as a facilitator, the more the participants can relax and trust the process.
  • After a long or complex session, briefly summarize highlights and outcomes. If there is time, ask participants to share their own takeaways from the session.
  • If the discussion veers off the agenda, refer back to the retreat objectives and outcomes. Ask if this conversation supports their overall retreat goals, if the topic supersedes other agenda items or if it can be covered elsewhere.
  • Have plenty of food, beverages, time for breaks and table toys to help quell the “fidgets.” Periodically check people’s energy and take a short break if needed.

 Step Three: Don’t Neglect Outcomes and Next Steps

For a retreat to be worthwhile, participants must know their ideas and decisions will actually go somewhere after the event. It’s equally important for team members to understand their own responsibilities to take actions after the retreat. Here are some ideas for documenting the retreat and creating accountable action steps:

  • After each session, capture key points and outline next steps, responsible parties and time frames. Use action verbs to clarify what needs to be done (write, call, review, schedule, plan, etc.).
  • The final session should be used to summarize all next steps. Discuss how participants will hold themselves and others accountable for taking action. In addition, invite participants to share takeaways, appreciations, personal commitments and other comments.
  • Consider pairing people to accomplish tasks. This helps boost accountability and build team member relationships between meetings.
  • Move away from a “minutes” mindset. Try to organize retreat notes logically rather than strictly chronologically. Participants won’t necessarily remember who said what when so it’s useful to group related ideas and actions together.
  • Suggest ways to incorporate progress checks from the retreat into subsequent staff meetings. For example, if you do a strategic plan, organize future team meeting agendas to parallel strategic goal areas from the plan.

Final Word

Team retreats can be powerful events that help clarify organizational vision, address complex issues and energize a team. With collaborative planning, a steady focus on the desired outcomes, skillful facilitation, and the willingness to hold people accountable, you can transform your team retreat from a necessary evil to the event of the year!

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Want Top Flight Performance? Give Your Employees C.R.A.P.

July 17, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Leadership is not a position or at title, it is action and example.” ~ Unknown

If you think there are a lot of definitions of leadership then you might be very concerned by the number of models there are to explain what leaders actually do! In fact, there is solid leadership research and literature that points the way to a more conscious approach that leads the path to accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations.  Here is one of the simplest definitions offered by management guru Peter Drucker:

·        Leadership: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-maker

·        Management: from an ancient Greek word meaning path-follower

What Does Poor Leadership Look Like?

You wake up, take one look in the mirror, and realize that you simply can’t face going into the office. You feel demoralized, dejected and defeated. Your expectations have gone unmet and your boss just doesn’t seem to get it. Like a polar ice cap, their unconscious behavior has slowly eroded your morale over time. You complain to your friends and spouse that all you get at work is crap.

Here is some of what they do:

  • They contact employees on their time off
  • They micromanage instead of fostering trust and empowering you
  • They are unwilling to listen to new ideas (or worse yet, take the new ideas but don’t give you credit)
  • They provide vague, useless feedback
  • They don’t foster a learning and growth environment
  • They criticize publicly
  • They iterate and reiterate your work until all feeling of satisfaction and engagement is squeezed out of it like a wet sponge

Do you recognize any of this? The truth is it doesn’t have to be this way.

What Does Good Leadership Look Like?

When working at their best leaders challenge, inspire, enable, model and encourage positive behavior, creativity and productivity. They do this through committing themselves to particular sets of behaviors linked to these values.

These leadership traits are an observable and learnable set of practices, available to anyone prepared to spend time developing them. Now, let’s look at some of what great leaders actually do:

  • They thrive and learn from adversity and challenge
  • They take risks and regard failure as a chance to learn
  • They seek challenging opportunities to help you grow, innovate and improve 24/7
  • They envision an uplifting and ennobling future
  • They enlist others in a common vision by appealing to their values, interests, hopes, and dreams
  • They achieve results through others and build trust in doing so
  • They are impeccable role models (and readily admit failure)
  • They recognize individual contributions to the success of every project
  • They celebrate team accomplishments

These traits and others, all go hand in hand to create a working environment that empowers employees to be their best. When employees feel that growth in the company is impossible, their motivation goes out the window and they stop performing at their best. And can you really blame them? What happens next is crucial. They either give up and move on, or face the dysfunction head on. Most choose the former. Look around. Is there a constant exodus in your company?

Give Them C.R.A.P.

The key to employee retention, engagement and satisfaction is consistent quality supervision.  People want caring, respect, appreciation and praise (C.R.A.P.) from their organization. But unfortunately, leaders are often not trained and don’t know how to show they care and that they respect their people or how to give appreciation and properly praise people. Training leaders on these skills is crucial. Most want to give their people C.R.A.P but have not been taught how to. If they are equipped to give their people C.R.A.P., they will, and if they are not, well, they just end up giving them crap!

A Final Word…

By giving your people C.R.A.P. you will inspire loyalty and your impact on the organization will go beyond the bottom line. Most leaders, I believe, have the desire to succeed but have never been trained on basic leadership skills. They are unconscious. Much of leadership is about becoming conscious, learning and then applying skills that support and serve your workforce. If an organization does not have consistent, ongoing leadership training, it will struggle with employee retention, because supervisors and mid-level leaders are the drivers of employee retention. Without trained leaders, you will never optimize your employee retention, and ultimately, your bottom line will flounder. There is a better way. Give them C.R.A.P.

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