Professional Development

Professional Development is the lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally determined and evolving preferred future.
In organizational development (or OD), the study of professional career development looks at how individuals manage their careers within and between organizations and how organizations structure the career progress of their members, it can also be tied into succession planning within most of the organizations.

4 Things Leaders Can’t Ignore About Organizational Culture

January 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

1. Organizational Culture = Leadership Values + Priorities

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

2. Organizational Culture = Performance + Productivity

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

3. Organizational Culture = Innovation + Creativity

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

4. Organizational Culture = Employee Satisfaction + Engagement

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

A Final Word

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

How to Get Stuff Done

January 17, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

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

eisenhower-boxOrganize Your Tasks

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

 

 

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

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

Set it up for Success

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

Have the Right Tools

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

Set a Deadline

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

Have an Accountability Partner

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

Bundle  Your Work

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

A Final Word

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

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

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

January 16, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

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

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

·        Idea

·        Team/Execution

·        Business Model

·        Funding

·        Timing

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

·        Timing (42%)

·        Team/Execution (32%)

·        Idea (28%)

·        Business Model (24%)

·        Funding (14%)

Inertia (and Emotions) are the Enemy

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

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

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

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

A final word…

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

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

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

The 4 Pillars of Leadership Effectiveness

January 11, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

1.      Employee Well-Being and Engagement

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

2.      Employee Productivity and Goal Setting

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

3.      Innovation and Continuous Improvement

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

4.      Effective Operational Processes

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

A Final Word…

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

Why Positive Feedback Doesn’t Always Motivate Better Performance

January 10, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

The Cult of Positivity

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

That is to say:

Positive = Good.

Negative = Bad.

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

Let me explain.

Positive Vs. Negative Feedback

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

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

What’s happening here?

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

 The Issue of Perception

It has been said that perception is reality.

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

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

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

Now, isn’t that a positive message?

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

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.

Conflict Resolution Is First Mindset Then Skill Set

December 12, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“We must not seek happiness in peace, but in conflict.” ~ Paul Claudel

Competition in our society is presented as the norm. In our recent political environment, competition and conflict has even been used to divide us.

But our species actually relies more heavily on cooperation for survival and self-preservation.

Have you ever watched two children engaged in conflict over a toy? Then you may have observed them appealing to fairness and striving towards resolution and negotiation rather than stoking the fires of conflict.

If you’ve followed my writing for any time, you will know that I like to talk about the unity of mindset and mechanism.

When we humans witness pain and grief, we become sad ourselves; when we are in the company of someone positive, it brightens our day. These are neurological mechanisms that develop empathy for others, which builds trust, a prerequisite for cooperation.

New studies have found that in fact cooperation, not competition, is the normative mindset in nature. This is because it is more energy-efficient and because predators and their prey actually strive to maintain a kind of balanced coexistence. Nature’s bias is towards harmony and balance, not destruction and chaos.

But conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. It is a normal, and even healthy, part of relationships.

But when handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable damage. In a work context, it can be disastrous.

To manage conflict effectively, first, we have to define it.

What Is Conflict?

Conflict is a disagreement over issues of substance and/or an emotional antagonism. Conflict arises from differences in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Managers and leaders spend a lot of time dealing with conflicts of various forms. In a work context, there are two basic forms of conflict:

  • Substantive Conflict – This involves disagreements over goals, resources, rewards, policies, procedures, and job assignments.
  • Emotional Conflict – This results from feelings of anger, distrust, dislike, fear, and resentment as well as from personality clashes.

Not all conflicts that arise are bad, but not are always good either.

What Causes Conflict?

  • Role Ambiguities – unclear job expectations and other task uncertainties increase the probability that some people will be working at cross purposes, at least some of the time.
  • Resource Scarcities – having to share resources with others and/or compete directly with them for resource allocations creates a potential situation conflict. You can imagine how in society, politicians exploit resource scarcities.
  • Task Dependencies – when individual or groups must depend on what others do to perform well themselves, conflicts often occur.
  • Competing Objectives – when objectives are poorly set or reward systems are poorly designed, individuals and groups may come into conflict by working to one another’s disadvantage.
  • Structural Differentiation – differences in organization structures and in the characteristics of the people staffing them may foster conflict because of incompatible approaches toward work.
  • Unresolved Prior Conflicts – unless a conflict is fully resolved, it may remain latent and later emerge as a basis for future conflicts over the same or related matters

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Leaders (Using Your IQ)

In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in the context of the larger environment, you can begin to solve conflicts strategically.  As an organizational leader, you can use various approaches to deal with conflicts between individuals or groups. These may include:

  • Appeal to Goals – You can focus the attention on one mutually desirable end state; i.e., shared goals. The appeal to higher-level shared goals offers all parties a common frame or reference against which to analyze differences and reconcile disagreements.
  • Change the People – Replacing or transferring one or more of the conflicting parties, conflicts caused by poor interpersonal relationships can be eliminated.
  • Change the Environment – Facilities, work space, or workflows can be rearranged to separate conflicting parties and reduce the opportunity for conflict to exist between the parties.
  • Change the Structure – Using liaison personnel, special task forces, cross-functional teams, and the matrix form of organizational management, can change interaction patterns and assist in conflict reduction.
  • Change Reward Systems – Creating systems that reward co-operation can encourage behaviors and attitudes and promote teamwork and reduce conflict.
  • Change Policies and Procedures – A change in policies and procedures can redirect behavior in ways that minimize the likelihood of known conflict-prone situations.
  • Train People – As a proactive measure, you can prepare people to communicate and work more effectively in situations where conflict is likely by training them in interpersonal skills.
  • Throw Resources at the Problem – You can use this strategy to resolve conflicts whose antecedents lie in the competition for scarce resources. Although it might be expensive, it removes all reasons for conflicts in the future.

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Individuals (Using Your EQ)

The ability to resolve conflicts positively is a key emotional intelligence skill. Conflict resolution is both mindset and skill set. Attitude towards the conflict and towards the relationship is a key mindset component while listening is a key skill set component. When you enter a conflict with a positive attitude and when you listen for where the pain points are for the other person, you are a quarter of the way towards resolving the conflict.

  • Self Awareness – As with most things, success in conflict resolution starts with self awareness. If you don’t know how you feel or why you feel that way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements. If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs. Your ability to handle conflict depends on being connected to your feelings and your values.
  • Social Awareness – The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments is often communicated nonverbally. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements through effective communication. When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem.  Listen carefully for what may be behind the words. Clarify. Restate. Reflect. Validate. Use empathy to develop your awareness of others.
  • Self-Management – One of the key components of conflict management is the ability to self-regulate. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is a vital aspect of conflict resolution. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it will be more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.
  • Relationship Management – During conflict it’s easy to forget about the other person or to disregard the importance of the relationship. Rupture in relationships is to be expected. But when there is rupture, there should also be an attempt to repair. Sometimes the best way to fix conflict is to apologize. This requires putting others before yourself. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

 A Final Word…

To be truly effective at conflict resolution, you have to make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Focus on the present. Listen. Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for your losses and only adds to your injury by further depleting and draining you of vital resources. It may mean that you lose the argument. It may mean that you give up being right. It may also mean that you end up a happier human being.

Don’t fight it. Just trust me.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…a simple 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).

Last thing…

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.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal, professional, and organizational development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. I also just love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Best,

Saeed

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

Values Eat Strategy for Lunch

December 6, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ~ Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Let’s pick up where we last left off.

In my most recent article The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It), I advanced the not-so- radical notion that values matter – a lot. So why exactly do values matter? Let’s dig in.

Values drive culture…

Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. People are values driven. People are attracted to other people and to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time as does your social network. It’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. The glue of the in-group is values.

Values drive brand identity…

Brand values reflect the very essence of a brand. There is no better example of that than Apple. ‘Think Different’ is a value not a strategy. Being ‘iconoclastic’ is a value not a strategy. Innovation is a core value not a strategy. Of all the big companies, Apple is famously subpar on its philanthropy. That was also a value (or rather a lack of value) driven by Steve Jobs.

Values drive engagement…

When a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Values struggle to survive in a culture which is over-managed and under-led.People are motivated by meaning and purpose which is derived from values. Without this, they have nothing to cling to and their engagement goes down over time. Values help us lean our ladder against a building. Values are embedded in the vision that keeps us climbing to the top. Now imagine having nothing to lean your ladder against. That feeling is the same as working in an environment without values.

Values drive decisions…

We make hundreds of decisions each day. Those decisions are a reflection of our values.  Or at least they should be. If you let the temporary pain of an immediate problem drive your decision making, you will likely be led astray. But your values will never abandon you. I pursued graduate school because I value education. You don’t even know this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values drive behavior…

If you want to correct performance, you have to focus on behavior not personality. Behavior best responds to values. You are more likely to change behavior (and to sustain the change) when the motivation comes from within. Your values determine how you handle conflict. When you’re angry about something or frustrated, you’re likely experiencing a values conflict. Your values form your conscience and together they are your court appointed attorney. When something or someone makes you behave or act against your values, then your conscience will raise an objection.

Values drive success…

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know when what success looks like for you?  Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. And when you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea.

One Final Word…

Given the importance of values, I am always amazed that most people and organizations coast without any consideration of values. They just flap in the wind of endless strategy setting sessions. At best, they make the mistake of picking core values out of thin air and trying to fit them into their organization. As if values could be purchased off the shelf in a “one size fits all” fashion.

Here, I do suggest a radical change. Instead of describing or discovering your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social and ideal seeking behaviors. Providing you give people a mechanism to co-create the values, you’ll create an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allow positive feelings to emerge in turn. You’ll create unity. Cultural change will happen, and soon. There is no choice. At the heart of that cultural change will be a new-found leadership emerging from the ranks, and that leadership will use the springboard of rediscovering lost values to take them where they need to go.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful and/or if it helped you think a little more deeply about a topic, 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 5 EQ Traits that Separate Good Leaders from Great Ones

December 1, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“What separates people…is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.” ~ James C. Collins, Good to Great

Intro…

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. At the end of this article, I’ll provide you with an exercise to show you what I mean.

Studies have demonstrated that the ability to understand your effect on others and manage yourself accordingly accounts for nearly 90 percent of career success when IQ and technical skills are roughly similar. In other words, it is the difference between good and great leadership.

Good leaders have technical chops, set strategy and execute and make smart decisions. They problem solve effectively and know how to use company resources.

Great leaders surround themselves with great people and they know how to motivate and keep them. Truly great leaders identify, understand and manage their own emotions. They are also able to do that with others in a way that  influences team morale and productivity. Great leadership starts with self-awareness and knowing your own leadership style. Here is how great leaders do what they do:

1.      Self Awareness – This means a clear understanding of your own strengths and weakness. It is also a willingness to triple down on strengths and weaken weaknesses. It means being emotionally balanced and resilient. It means independence and self reliance and it means seeking and responding positively to constructive criticism.

2.      Social Skills – The ability to develop and maintain social relationships is everything. Socially intelligent leadership includes effective communication skills and conflict resolutions skills. It means a participatory management style and the ability to get others to buy into your vision. It’s the ability to develop and motivate teams and to provide and receive constructive feedback. If in real estate its location, location, location; at work, it’s relationships, relationships, relationships.

3.      Self-Motivation – This means the ability to works consistently towards goals while maintaining high standards for work and performance. It means having ambition and strong inner drive and knowing how to tap into that in others. It means being optimistic and resilient. Again, doing this in good times is a sign of good leadership. Doing this during times of strife, is a sign of great leadership.

4.      Empathy – This, of course, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. What it looks like is having respect of others and listening with true intent. I cover empathy and leadership extensively in my article Emotionally Empathetic Leaders Excel at Everything.

5.      Self-Regulation – This means you do not make rash or emotional decisions or compromise your values and beliefs to win battles. You remain calm and in control in the face of adversity and challenge. You are adaptable and flexible in different situations, including challenges and crises. Above all, it means you are committed to assuming responsibility for your actions. How important is taking responsibility for your actions? The famed psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote that “Freedom is only part of the story and half the truth…. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplanted by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast.”

Outro…

Despite conventional thinking, emotional intelligence is not a soft skill.  In fact a bevy of research and best-selling books on the topic suggest the opposite: that emotional intelligence (EI) is a stronger predictor of success which helps us think creatively about how best to leverage our technical skills.

As an exercise, I ask my coaching clients to list the characteristics of a great mentor or role model and to classify each characteristic into one of three groups: IQ, technical skills, or emotional intelligence. Almost invariably, the majority of characteristics fall into the EI bucket.

You might like to try the same exercise at home. I’d be curious to hear about your results.

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 10 Personality Types You will Encounter in a Meeting and How to Handle Them

November 30, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“In each of us there is another whom we do not know.” ~ Carl Jung

A meeting is not a meeting without its attendees and the obligatory challenges that sometimes go along with their personality types. Below is a list of 10 archetypes I’ve come across during my 30 years of facilitating meetings and how to handle each of them. I’ve listed the traits from most positive to most negative based on my experience.

This list is not intended to be comprehensive but rather to capture the most common types.

Here is my challenge to the reader: Once you’ve read the list, name a ‘personality type’ you’ve encountered that doesn’t fit into one of the ten in the comments below. Bonus points go to those who also mention how to handle the type.

And here we go…

1.      The Leader: Proactive, confident, creative. First to jump in. Solution oriented. Use them to jumpstart discussions and be sure to actively recognize and praise their contribution.

2.      The Supporter: Creates a positive atmosphere and supports others’ ideas and suggestions. They may find it hard to give honest feedback they see as being critical. Their reservations and doubts will have to be solicited.

3.      The Diplomat: Will defuse conflict before it goes too far and can bring everyone back to a central focus or mutual goals. They can become frustrated if the meeting becomes too conflict ridden. Maximize their involvement as they are a key ally in a successful result.

4.      The Quiet One: It’s not a lack of interest or engagement but probably a lack of confidence or empowerment that keeps this personality type mostly quiet. Directly and positively engage or talk to them prior to the meeting to get their thoughts and encourage them to share the valuable ones during the meeting.

5.      The Distracted One: They are cell phone junkies obsessed with checking their inbox. It may be that asking them to turn off their cell phone is akin to asking them to turn off their oxygen tank but nonetheless you can politely create a ground rule that says cell phones used for emergencies only.

6.      The All Knowing One: They must flex their knowledge on every topic at every turn and often waste time and go into unnecessary tangents. You may have to directly return them to the point at hand and use other tactics that are effective with The Talker.

7.      The Interrupter: Get ready for frequent and repeated interruptions that could easily ‘go viral.’ Direct intervention is usually needed to remind this person that others need to finish their point prior to response. They do need recognition and reassurance that they will be heard.

8.      The Talker: It takes a long time for the talker to get to their central point because of their tangents and over-sharing of unnecessary details. You may have to proactively ask them to keep their comments targeted or summarize their point for them respectfully. They may also veer into side discussions so ground rules that specifically address side conversations may also be needed to avoid frequent interruptions.

9.      The Monopolizer: With their large ego, they will dominate, monopolize, and hijack the discussion. They think highly of themselves and by extension, less so of others. They are impatient and prompt intervention is needed so they don’t derail the meeting. Expect counter-reactions when the attempt is made to give them boundaries. The best approach is to be stoic and make consistent reference to time constraints and the need for everyone to equally contribute their ideas.

10.  The Critic: They are quick to criticize but unfortunately don’t have solutions of their own to offer. They can also veer off into the personal if overly empowered. As above, this needs to be ‘nipped in the bud’ before it escalates and derails the agenda. But a direct confrontation is not recommended. Instead, gently ask them explain the specific reasons why they disagree and propose their alternative forcing them to justify their negative comments.

One Final Word…

Once again, it should be noted that the above list of archetypes and countermeasures is by no means an exhaustive list. It is not meant to be. It is, however, meant to capture the ones you may come across more often.

Have I missed a type you’ve encountered? Add to the list by naming one in the comments below. Bonus points for those who offer a tip on how to handle the type.

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.