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.

4 Things Leaders Can’t Ignore About Organizational Culture

January 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

1. Organizational Culture = Leadership Values + Priorities

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

2. Organizational Culture = Performance + Productivity

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

3. Organizational Culture = Innovation + Creativity

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

4. Organizational Culture = Employee Satisfaction + Engagement

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

A Final Word

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

The 4 Pillars of Leadership Effectiveness

January 11, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

1.      Employee Well-Being and Engagement

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

2.      Employee Productivity and Goal Setting

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

3.      Innovation and Continuous Improvement

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

4.      Effective Operational Processes

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

A Final Word…

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

Why Positive Feedback Doesn’t Always Motivate Better Performance

January 10, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

The Cult of Positivity

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

That is to say:

Positive = Good.

Negative = Bad.

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

Let me explain.

Positive Vs. Negative Feedback

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

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

What’s happening here?

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

 The Issue of Perception

It has been said that perception is reality.

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

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

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

Now, isn’t that a positive message?

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

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

January 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

The Social Instinct to Cooperate

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

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

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

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

The Evolutionary Reason to Cooperate

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

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

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

Cooperation at Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

 Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

How Your Brain Sabotages Your Goals

January 8, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Focus on Why Not How Much

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

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

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

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

Brainstorming: The Most Simple and Most Powerful Way To Innovate

December 21, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

It Starts with Asking The Right Questions

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

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

Taking Brainstorming to the Next Level

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

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

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

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

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

One Final word…

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

How To Create A Personal Strategic Plan

 

December 20, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

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

SWOT Analysis

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

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

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

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

·        Opportunities: external conditions that may advance your plan.

·        Threats: external conditions that may hinder your plan.

Now Ask:

·        How can I Use each Strength?

·        How can I Stop each Weakness?

·        How can I Exploit each Opportunity?

·        How can I Defend against each Threat?

That’s your self assessment.

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

1. Your Vision Statement

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

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

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

2.     Your Mission Statement

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

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

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

3. Your Goal Statement

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

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

4. Your Strategies

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

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

5. How you know you are succeeding

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

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

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

Now, go execute it.

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

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

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

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

Nobody Cares About Your Presentation

December 19, 2017 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


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

Professionals love data. Audiences don’t.

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

But guess what? Nobody cares.

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

What is story?

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

1. Setting

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

 2. Character

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

 3. Plot

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

4. Conflict

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

5. Resolution

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

A final Word…

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

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

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

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

How Listening Makes You a Better Leader

December 14, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The word LISTEN contains the same letters as the word SILENT.” ~ Alfred Brendel

Pisssst. Listen up!

Good leaders are good listeners. They know they can shape organizational culture simply by listening. They know that listening to and respecting others builds working relationships and that relationships make things work.

In short, they know that listening makes them better leaders.

In fact, several studies support the idea that individuals who demonstrate solid listening skills, hold higher organizational positions and are promoted more often. The most important skill for organizations, therefore, is a listening behavior that is practiced as part an parcel of the organizational culture.

Listening & Communication

Everyone participates in communication on a daily basis. Communication is about people speaking and listening. Listening to others, as well as understanding others is essential. It is often said that listening is the first language skill one develops, and as a result all cognitive skills are dependent on the ability to listen. Leaders who have advanced communication skills create the opportunity for impact based on listening. Leadership depends on interactions and the use of communication. Since meaning is generated through communication, developing relationships with others and leading others requires knowledge and practice of listening behavior.

Listening & Trust

Trust makes organizations functional. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. Trust and credibility are necessary before a sense of community or team can be developed. It is critical for a leader to realize that listening means asking questions for clarification and paying attention to the needs and desires of others. This is how you develop an atmosphere of trust. If an atmosphere of trust has been established, it creates a much easier setting in which to ask powerful questions that lead to insights. Trust is formed when attention is given through the act of listening. The existence of trust allows for an opportunity of greater risk taking, and therefore, greater innovation.

Listening & Empathy

The ability to process information and adapt personal behavior requires the use of empathy. The process of empathizing with someone demonstrates the ability to seek to communicate trying to understand the speaker’s situation. 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 advancing your leadership goals. In fact, the big take away from a new study published in American Psychologist that explored the empathic accuracy of various forms of communication was that closing your eyes and listening intently increases empathy! You can improve your empathic listening through this and other communication techniques such as paraphrasing, self-monitoring, and asking clarifying questions to check for understanding.

Listening & Feedback

Leadership is more successful when it seeks feedback through communication; in particular through active listening. Through offering feedback based on observation and listening, relationships are developed, leaders are formed and society is improved. Offering feedback keeps people making progress towards their learning, growth and development goals. Growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership. Feedback fuels motivation. The best feedback is communicated in a timely fashion and focuses on behavior. The best feedback also starts with listening because only then can feedback be tailored to the person’s specific needs as they have expressed them. Receiving constructive or critical feedback is also part of leadership. This is not possible without the skill of listening.

A final Word…

Leaders should be able to demonstrate various behaviors that emulate leadership. Leadership is not just about behaviors however. Leadership also encompasses relationships with others. Listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

Still, it has to be said that the concept of listening in leadership is not without its challenges. Leadership incorporates listening, yet listening is a skill that is not taught in leadership studies nor is a subject in leadership books. Leadership is perceived to be about personality. However, just as communication is about people, so too is leadership. Leaders are often surprised when they find out that their peers or subordinates consider them to be poor listeners. People have a dim view of poor listeners.

Human relationships trade on attention. If you can’t give someone your attention because you are distracted or your listening quotient is low, you run the risk of eroding or even losing the relationship. Conversely, because attention is the currency of all relationships, listening is an investment that will pay you back in dividends.

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

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

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

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

How Leadership and Culture Make or Break Worker Satisfaction

December 13, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things. ~ Peter Drucker.

Thank God it’s Friday. You may hear this refrain once a week. It’s usually a sign of a workplace that restricts creativity and autonomy. It’s usually a sign of a workplace that’s over managed and under led.

But what if things were different?

What if we could create a working environment in which people like working and in which people work well, a working environment which helps to enrich the life of those who work? What if we could satisfy the requirements of those who work and of those who employ as well as the requirements of the community as a whole?

Wouldn’t we all be happier?

The world of work suffers the same maladies regardless of geography, industry, or company size. I suspect therefore, and research supports this notion, that ‘satisfaction at work’ is a complicated subject because it deals with people and with relationships. The one thing people have in common is that they are all different. The container that holds that difference in the workplace is leadership and culture.

The Role of Leadership

Numerous studies have found that feelings of self-improvement, achievement, and the desire for the acceptance of greater responsibility and the pursuit of meaning are more important than money or rank for worker satisfaction. These factors provide greater rewards and incentives and therefore increase productivity. Therefore, what individuals want from their leaders is to be given challenging meaningful work and the trust and sense of empowerment to do that work and to progress along a path of learning and development. When this happens, worker satisfaction increases. If you’ve worked with good leaders and with great leaders, you’ve noticed a difference – an array of skills that sets them apart and is based on their people management skills. What you’ve noticed but may not have been able to label, is their emotional intelligence skills.

The Role of Culture

People are aware of their own position in the hierarchy, of the pecking order and of their place in it. Their commitment to their work depends on the style of leadership and on the extent to which the leadership takes responsibility for establishing a positive culture. What leaders often forget is that they are in fact in a reciprocal relationship with their workers. That relationship is both personal and structural. The commitment to the objectives of the company, for example, comes from the extent to which the company serves its employees – from the extent to which it helps them to achieve their needs and wants. What is good for the employees is good for the company. What benefits the people, also benefits the leadership. It is in the interest of leadership therefore, to establish a culture of respect, autonomy, and fairness. It is in the mutual interest of leaders and workers to encourage trustful co-operation, skilled communication, and positive culture.

 A final Word…

The current zeitgeist is obsessed with entrepreneurship. Our culture has always had a fetish for independence – being your own boss is the apex of ‘perceived’ satisfaction at work.

We want to be masters of our own destiny through self- employment. That’s a worthy pursuit. But independence for some may mean self-employment with guaranteed independence but for others it may mean the right to work (employment) and pay. Not all people can be or should be entrepreneurs.

Instead, I would argue that our collective attention as a society should be directed to creating satisfying work and satisfying workplaces. In this endeavor, we are not just concerned with our own satisfaction but with the satisfaction of the community as a whole.

What is characteristic of a community is that it consists of all the people together co-operating with each other for the common good and their joint struggle. Their glue is leadership and culture as driven by their shared values and by the co-creation of shared meaning.  If we were to take this approach, we might start to say ‘Thank God it’s Monday.’

Good luck.

My Simple Call to Action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. Please like, comment, and sharethe article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

Best,

Saeed

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