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.

10 Ways to Make Your Performance Reviews Not Suck

 

April 4, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” ~ Jerry Seinfeld

Performance reviews are dreaded beasts of burden for managers and direct reports alike. They make people feel small. They reduce people to banal check boxes and categories. But they don’t have to be like this. If you are still marking people as ‘fair’ or ‘exceeding expectations’ in your annual form, you should really rethink your system. While this article is not about re-hauling your system, it is about helping you cope with whatever system you currently have in place. This article is about the universal principles you can deploy for better delivery, greater impact and ultimately stronger performance. Adopt these and you will exponentially improve the experience of giving and receiving your performance reviews on both sides of the table. Neglect them, and well, the experience will suck.

1.    It starts with intentions. You need to check your intention going into the meeting. You need to ask yourself if you are sincerely interested in learning and understanding what drives your employee or just being right. Do a serious check in with yourself and then really try to see the person for who they are. Leave your agenda at the door.  Remember, it’s about behaviors not personalities.

2.    Fail to plan, plan to fail. This is the worst time to wing it dude. You have to be ready if you get hit with information you were not expecting and is important to consider. You have to be ready to be flexible to create a mutually beneficial strategy if problems are surfaced you were not expecting. If you think you’re heading into a one-way conversation, you’ve already lost. If you can’t meet their expectations, be ready to acknowledge the importance of what they are saying, and then explain what you need to do and why. Be prepared for salary increase requests and revelations you may have not been aware of before. Don’t act surprised. Act curious.

3.    It’s about facts, not fiction. This is not the time for your opinions. Don’t let it become a case of he said, she said. If you share your opinion, you are opening the door for a counter opinion. Instead, be prepared with facts and evidence to support your case. As a best practice, keep a log of performance pluses and deltas throughout the year. Keep copies of related work you want to use as examples. Anticipate and be prepared for counter arguments but always present the facts.

4.    Emotions will get you in trouble. If you feel emotional or emotions begin to creep in, reschedule. This is not the time or place to emote. Emotions have no place in a performance reviews so you would do well to manage them accordingly. Being able to do this means the difference between responding or reacting, which can make the difference in a calm or chaotic performance review experience.

5.    Strengths and weaknesses are so yesterday. Can we not do better than this people? Seriously? Yes we can. Most performance reviews focus on strengths and weaknesses. Instead of strengths and weaknesses, focus on values and opportunities. It’s a better framework that invites a deeper understanding of what motivates the people you work with and it will help you coach and lead them to better performance outcomes. You’re welcome.

6.    Zip that lip. I’m always surprised by how little people listen. Listening is the most underrated element of communication. You can glean so much about what’s going on in the mind of your direct reports by listening and asking a few strategic and well placed questions. Trust me. The intel you gather through listening is indispensable and far more valuable than whatever you have to say. So zip it and learn.

7.    Values eat everything else for lunch. Values are in your DNA. Your values are probably your parents’ values. Values drive engagement, decisions, behavior, and well, you name it. A person’s emotional reaction is the easiest way to pinpoint a value. Negative emotions signal violated values. If the person becomes more emotional and animated in speaking about a topic, that’s because it’s important to them. There is a value hiding in there. Listen for repeated themes. Mine them for gold.

8.    Change the frame. People are locked into their own frame of reference. Change their frame, that is to say, change their perspective, and you’ll change their mind. Try asking powerful coaching questions: What if we could see this situation differently? What would a more positive perspective on this situation look like? Some people’s perspective is so intractable you may find yourself beating your head against the wall. Some people just aren’t willing to explore perspectives that are outside the realm of their own experience. It happens.  But at least you have made the effort if you try to get them to a new perspective. Recognize when the conversation should be terminated in order to maintain a respectful relationship and move on rather than trying to force your own viewpoint on the situation.

9.    At the end of the day, we work for the same place. Getting to agreement is not that hard. It’s just a process that’s well managed. Put everything on the table on both side and then look for the common ground. You don’t have to agree on everything but you both have mutual goals that intersect at some level. That intersection is what’s best for the enterprise and it’s where you should start looking for common ground. Sometimes you will need to reach to a higher level to do this so don’t try to get there too early. Make sure that the person feels sufficiently heard first. That’s your threshold for readiness. Once you cross that threshold, most people are congenial.

10.            Lock in the accountability.  To make sure everyone is walking away with a common understanding, solidify some action steps with clear timelines for who, when, how and how much of the behavior change you expect (did I say it’s about behavior?) Create opportunities to check in regularly during the year on the accountability action plan and support your direct report in maintaining their momentum to success. Provide more coaching support as needed.

A final word…

Performance reviews are generally not done well. People wait all year to provide critical feedback. This is a mistake. Nothing should be said at this stage that is a surprise to the employee because they should be working in a feedback rich environment that is constantly nurturing their growth. But we all know that’s not reality. So many workplaces suffer from so many dysfunctions. If you are lucky enough to work in a place where the culture supports a more progressive approach to performance reviews, then much of the above is already baked in to your day-to-day operations. If you are not, arm yourself with these tips and at least create a better experience for you and your direct report.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

2 Easy Steps to Transform from Manager to Coach

March 28, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” ~ Amelia Earhart

At the core, coaching is a more powerful form of communication and engagement. This richer form of communication begins by asking better, well crafted questions that focus not on the problem or the solution but on the individual and their process.

If you are a manager, this means getting off of your agenda for a moment and taking the time to better understand your direct report’s point of view. It means respecting their point of view and then together, co-creating a new possibility that would support your shared goals. It is about providing them with the space as well as the ability to tell you what they want or need. And this can happen during every conversation you have.

Coaching is the single most important managerial competency that separates highly effective managers from garden variety supervisors. Here are two steps that form the foundation of coaching to transform you from manager to coach.

Step 1: Ask Powerful Questions

To ensure you have a solid foundation to build from, you will need to start with a baseline of best practices, and then, over time you can make it your own by leveraging your own style, strengths and personality into your coaching.

Coaching engages a process of mindful conversation through powerful questions.

The right questions tend to show up naturally and organically within each conversation. The best coaches have attuned their listening skills to find the right question at the most appropriate time to unlock a key insight. This is both an art and a skill that must be practiced over and over to do well.

When this process of mindful inquiry is deployed against problems in a consistent manner not only are the ideas and solutions generated more meaningful, but there is a level of self-reliance and empowerment created in the individual that has lasting impact.

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

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

1. Clarifying questions: “What else can you tell me about that?”

2. Creative questions. “What if the possibilities were limitless?”

3. Process questions. “How would you approach that from a different perspective?”

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

Step 2: Foster Action and Accountability

Gaining insight into your own process is one side of the coin. It is half the story. The other side is acting on the solutions you generate.

In coaching, the desired solution is generated by the individual, not the coach, as they begin to better understand their own process. The magic of this method of engaging employees is that when they generate the solution, they also own it. And if they own it, we’re more apt to act on it.

Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies solutions and actions towards desired results.  Holding people accountable is about being clear, following up regularly, and having honest conversations when their commitment is wavering. Again, their process is more important than what they did or didn’t do. In coaching, you are always seeking to tap the roots, not swing from branch to branch.

A Final Word

At most companies, coaching isn’t part of what managers are formally trained to do. To foster higher levels of satisfaction and engagement, managers and employees should be having regular communication around growth and development. The best method to do this is coaching. It’s a powerful experience to create a resonant connection with another person and help them to achieve something they care about and to become more of who they want to be.

Without these regular conversations, employee growth is stunted. So is engagement and retention. Starting today, you can be significantly more effective as a manager — and enjoy your job more — by engaging in regular coaching conversations with your team members.

To do so effectively, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

Starting today, create and sustain a coaching partnership that is focused on moving forward positively, listening deeply, asking powerful questions and building accountability.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

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

The One Secret All Great Leaders Know

March 21, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things.” Dr. Peter F. Drucker

If you only know one thing about leadership, make it this one: the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at meaningful work. If your job involves leading others, the implications are clear: the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members be engaged and experience progress at meaningful work.

As a leader, your obsession should be keeping people engaged in their work. Countless studies have shown that companies with higher rates of employee engagement have been shown to meaningfully outperform those with lower engagement.

Engaged employees at work in a vital environment is not accident however. You must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis.

You may win battles, but without engaged employees, you will lose the war.

The best leaders understand that to realize their higher purpose, to create value for all their stakeholders, and to win in the marketplace, they must win in the workplace. They understand that if you only focus on results, then it can be very easy to get distracted from building the team you need to get the results you want.

Here are 10 things great leaders do clearly and consistently to help employees be engaged and make progress at meaningful work:

1.      They continuously confirm that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities.

2.      They are relentless about motivating people and giving people energy to their best work.

3.      They create an environment where high performers feel unmistakably valued for their input and their output.

4.      They are uncompromising about maintaining standards of quality but do so by caring about their employees.

5.      They acknowledge mistakes and don’t blame others or take credit for their work.

6.      They understand that a good plan well-executed beats a perfect plan poorly-executed.

7.      The deliver on results consistently and repeatedly.

8.      They are role models for the standards they evangelize.

9.      They build and inspire trust.

10.  They hold others accountable and are accountable to themselves.

 A Final Word

In my over 30 years of leadership experience teaching and coaching leaders at various stages in their careers, locally, nationally, and internationally, I’ve developed a very clear worldview on what leadership behaviors contribute to success. This comes from my own leadership experience as well as hundreds of research articles, books on the topic and my observations of other leaders I have worked with. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t.

In a nutshell, I’ve observed that the very best leaders are masters at inspiring, influencing and setting up the structures, processes and environments that help highly valued people maintain their engagement and make progress at meaningful work. That is how they win every time.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

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

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

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

What is Leadership Presence and How Can You Develop It?

March 14, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Presence is more than just being there.” ~ Malclom S. Forbes

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of requests in my executive coaching practice for the development of what is called leadership or executive presence (EP).

It’s a hot topic. But what exactly is it and why does it matter?

Many of the articles that cover it define leadership presence as the ability to communicate and resonate effectively with your audience. These articles talk about the importance of having gravitas and charisma and espouse the virtues of being an extrovert. They talk about using body language, projecting your voice and using appearance to convey power.

To be sure, the ability to connect and engage with others in a way that is positive, impressive and inspiring is important. The ability to make a strong first and last impression has great value. But that’s only half the story. It’s only as they say, the tip of the iceberg. Actors also search for a strong “stage presence.” But rather than just a practice of technique, the best actors tap into their inner core to communicate their message to the outer world.

What preoccupies me is what’s below the water line, that is to say, the depth of character that gives rise to leadership presence. That is because for me, leadership presence has more to do with substance than with form. Leadership presence is about being comfortable in your own skin. It is a deeper archeology of who you are and how you show up in the world every day. It is from these depths that leadership presence emanates.

To demonstrate, let’s excavate.

Leaders are made, not born. First, is there such a thing as a natural born leader? That’s a complicated question and we can debate it for days. While there are certain personality traits and temperaments that are more suitable to leadership, the truth is that leadership can be developed, taught and learned. At the same time, leadership cannot be reduced to a set of strategies and tactics that automatically make you a leader when you practice them. For example, giving inspiring speeches is one of the qualities many great leaders exhibit. But if they don’t live the convictions they espouse, their rousing locutions are little more than empty rhetoric no matter how well delivered or how well constructed their sentence structures may be.

Leadership presence is about character. Character is such a central, important element of leadership that it should not and cannot be ignored in any discussion of leadership because character fundamentally shapes how we engage the world around us. If as a leader, people perceive your character as having serious defects, no amount of gravitas will save you. A key function in leadership is to engender trust in people. To do so, you must possess the character, competencies, and commitment to be a leader. Leadership presence is about exhibiting the values and virtues that embody leadership and the judgment to know when those virtues become vices in their excess or deficiency.

Leadership presence is about emotional intelligence. Self awareness, self regulation, social awareness, and relationship management are the hallmarks of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the engine that drives leadership presence. Like many things in life, the building block for leadership and leadership presence starts with self-awareness. Self awareness is the foundation of personal as well as professional growth. It starts with an acute awareness of your strengths and your vulnerabilities, but it is also a deeper awareness of your saboteurs, fears, and motivations. It is an awareness of how you see yourself and how others see you and an awareness of what drives you and what inhibits you. This awareness is crucial in the cultivation of leadership presence.

Leadership presence stems from your core. The source of leadership presence is rooted in your values, your purpose, your principles and your convictions. It is not a strategy. It is not a tactic. It is not swagger. It is not a front. It is an indelible impression made on you by your life experiences that you turn outward to the world. If you have lived an examined life, your ability to tap into this aspect of who you are and why you exist will be much easier. There is a correlation between how much you have excavated your own inner psyche and how confident you may be in your own skin as a leader.  Leadership presence is the ability to deploy who you are at your core against your leadership objectives.

Leadership presence is about congruence. Finally, leadership presence is what you believe and how you live what you believe every day. It is the authentic integration of what you believe with what you say and do. What comes out of your mouth should not be different than the actions you take or the behaviors you manifest. It is the alignment of your actions and words and the congruence between what you believe and how you act in the world that demonstrates who you are and your leadership character. Therein is the integrity that all great leaders demonstrate. If you are a lone wolf who demands collaboration, you are incongruent as a leader. If you are incongruent as a leader, those you hope will follow your message will see through this incongruence and will be unsettled by it. Ultimately, they will not follow.

A final word

While some might argue that presence is an innate quality, you can demystify the building blocks of presence and train yourself to strengthen our own engagement with audiences. Think for a moment about a person whom you consider to have remarkable leadership presence – someone you admire and respect. What qualities do they possess? What behaviors do they engage in? Were they born that way or did they learn along the way? We know when someone has it – and, on the flipside, we know when it’s missing. Leadership presence is not about power posing. Leadership presence is about self awareness first and foremost. This is followed by situational awareness and the emotional intelligence needed to cater your response to the person or circumstance at hand. If you start from the inside and work your way out, not only will you tap into your inner leader, but you will do so in a way that is authentic and lasting. Anything else, is an exercise in superficiality.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

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

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe.

By that I mean your life is a reflection of you. If you want to change your life, you have to change yourself. If you want to change the world, you have to be that change.

I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world.

It’d be great to have you along on this journey.

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

6 Essential Things All Great Managers Do

March 6, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Always treat your employees exactly as you want them to treat your best customers.” ~ Stephen R. Covey

Managers get a bad rap the world over. Meddling managers are seen as a distraction to real work rather than as facilitators of strategy, collaboration and career growth. The truth is that bad managers are actually a liability and good ones a commodity.

If you are a manager and if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work in a positive work environment. It is not rocket science. People perform better when their workday experiences include more positive emotions, stronger intrinsic motivation (passion for the work), and more favorable perceptions of their work, their team, their leaders, and their organization. While I usually make a distinction between the two, for the purposes of this post I’ll be using manager and leader interchangeably. Let’s take a look.

1.      Great Managers are Great Coaches who engage in regular coaching conversations with their team members helping them articulate their goals and challenges through powerful open ended questions that help individuals tap into their own inner creativity and resources. They co-create and sustain a developmental alliance that supports them in taking ownership over their own learning, and helps them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

2.      Great Managers are Great Connectors who understand the importance of relationships, motivation, and meaning. They know what drives each person and gives their inner work life purpose. They help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission and strategic objectives, and they provide timely feedback when there is misalignment between the individual and the organization in order to help each person learn and grow on an ongoing basis. They are also focused on growing their internal and external networks because they recognize that these connections are a source of opportunities they can leverage on behalf of their teams and organizations.

3.      Great Managers are Great Talent Agents who select top performers and focus on their strengths. The craziest thing I see organizations do is hire people and then put them in roles that expose their weaknesses rather than exploit their strengths.  Once exposed, they create performance goals around these weaknesses with elaborate schemes to ‘improve’ them that just turn a potentially star performer into Sisyphus. Great managers help people find systems, both personal and organizational, that help them deploy and maximize their strengths.

4.      Great Managers are Great Communicators which is not to say they talk all the time. Yes they are clear when they communicate and can motivate and inspire others through their speech. But just as importantly, they have well honed listening behaviors. They know that listening to and respecting others helps shape organizational culture, builds working relationships and creates the opportunity for impact. They get that work is all about relationships and that listening is a vital component of creating and maintaining relationships.

5.      Great Managers are Great Delegators who ensure even allocation of work and understand that employees are more effective performers when they feel challenged and stretched by assignments that help them grow. Great managers do not micromanage but make sure that the staff person understands exactly what is expected of them and what success looks like. Once they have communicated clearly about progress milestones and deadlines, they step back and give employees the freedom to do their job how they think it is best done, so long as the desired result is reached.

6.      Great Managers are Great Role Models who earn the respect of others because they lead by example and act as servant leaders. If they demand that their employees work more, it is because they work more. If they demand punctuality, it is because they are punctual. If they require stronger commitment, it is because they are fully committed. They cultivate a culture of trust based on their integrity infused behavior and they strive to develop other leaders rather than hog the glory. In short, they walk the talk of great leadership.

A Final word…

Leadership and management are not simple. If they were, great leaders and managers would not be so highly valued and such a rare commodity. The 6 traits highlighted above are by no means exhaustive. Great managers must excel at seeing the big picture, create loyalty, exercise emotional intelligence, create engagement and do much, much more. There are many personal qualities a great leader must develop over the course of their life and career. But these 6 traits are essential. I have never seen a manager succeed at being a great leader without them.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

3 Powerful Ways to Foster A Positive Work Environment

March 2, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expect it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.” John Maxwell.

I want to start this article with a little story about my son. He was 10 years old when we were having a conversation that just blew me away. For some reason that I can’t recall now, he all of a sudden piped up with this statement: “Well, everything is about atmosphere anyway.” The statement was so all encompassing and filled with surety I had to explore further. “What do you mean,” I asked. “Think about it,” he said, “atmosphere is the most important thing at home and at work.” He went on to explain how parents determine the atmosphere of the home and how leaders determine the atmosphere of a work environment. He essentially argued that the atmosphere we create has the biggest impact on happiness and productivity.

I couldn’t agree more.

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. The level of work satisfaction with their jobs and the level of team satisfaction can have a powerful impact on individual performance.

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.

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

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

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

The research is clear. Employees and employers mutually benefit from a positive, engaged and purpose-driven work place. While there isn’t a magic bullet, it is possible to create a workplace atmosphere that better serves people, and ultimately impacts communities and society. You can start to move the needle with these few simple steps. Yes, it’s clearly good for the bottom line but more importantly, it’s good for your overall health and well being too. Think about it. Everything is about atmosphere.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

Motivation, Commitment, and Intention: The Secret Sauce to Success

February 27, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer

It’s a general management belief that employers are able to get the best out of people if they follow what motivates them. While it’s true that to lead people effectively, you must first understand them, research suggests that the link between motivation and performance is not a linear causal chain.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is broadly defined as the willingness to exert energy and effort toward goals. The root word, ‘motive,’ is defined as something that causes a person to act. There are two basic types of motivation:

1.      Intrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation is done for reasons that are internal to one ’s self. It is for self satisfaction and not for the fear of a consequence. The reward is within the action itself and does not need external factors to guide behavior.

2.      Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors where the actions are done because of what has been said. This means that if we are told to do something, we do it because of extrinsic motivation.

It is generally believed that when a person’s behavior is aligned with a sense of personal causation and self-interest, i.e., intrinsic motivation, it is self-sustaining. Extrinsic motivation is less powerful because when the external reward is taken away, so is the motivation. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is the more desirable and self-sustaining of the two.

Furthermore, new brain research suggests that dopamine – a neurotransmitter that carries chemical messages from your brain to the rest of your body – plays an important role in motivation. Long thought to be the happy neurotransmitter, dopamine is actually the reward and punishment transmitter. This means that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad. These neuroscience discoveries point to the idea that the brain can be retrained to increase a person’s motivation for rewards. That means there is hope for your teenage slacker after all.

But wait. This is where things actually start to get complicated.

The Role of Commitment

Have you ever wondered why you can’t stick to your new year’s resolution? Research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will. Or have you ever wondered why after motivating yourself to exercise and making progress on your goal, you still eat that yummy piece of cake? It’s your brain’s reward system kicking in and wanting to be indulged. Research has discovered that we are all too eager to use progress as an excuse to slack off and indulge. Dope-a-mine.

It turns out that commitment, rather than progress, is the deeper source of motivation. Commitment to the goal is even more important than progress made towards it because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. So that reminding yourself why you set the goal in the first place, is a more motivating and self sustaining force for positive change. Ultimately it seems, we are more disciplined about our goals when our deeper commitment is activated than when we are just focused on progress.

Implementation Intentions

So you have motivation and you have commitment. Then why is it you still can’t implement?

It turns out intentionality is the key missing ingredient for most. When researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers with the goal of regular exercise, the group that was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions” – where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long – achieved far greater success. Amazingly, 91 percent of this group achieved their goal, as compared to just 29 percent of the control group (commitment) and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise (motivation) but did not have an implementation intention. Over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals. For whatever reason, our brains need that extra nudge.

A Final Word…

Success, motivation and progress are not so straight forward. But deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success. By simply writing down a plan that outlines exactly when and where you intend to do your thing – whether it’s a new exercise routine or finally writing that first novel, you are much more likely to actually follow through. As the research indicates, what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your intention for implementation.

In the end, both the journey and destination need to be intentional.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

If You Want to Keep Your Employees, Kill Your Job Descriptions

February 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“I got to get on the good foot” ~ James Brown

James Brown released the track ‘Get on the Good Foot’ in 1972 as a two-part single on an album of the same name released in the same year. It was his first gold record. To me, this track is all about playing to your strengths – something we rarely do with our employees.

That process starts with job descriptions, which are almost always some ancient HR relic created for compensation.

Why Job Descriptions Suck

The obligatory job description that identifies an employee’s tasks and responsibilities is regarded as the critical building block of HR. But most are outdated, poorly structured, generic, bloated, overly complex word salads that hardly ever actually describe jobs. It is ironic that we even call them “job descriptions.” We should just call them what they really are: ‘let’s-hope-we-get-someone-really-good-wish lists.’

Perfect employees don’t exist. You are looking for a unicorn. That’s why no job description is going to be perfect, either. And that’s why you always end up slapping a horn on a horse.

Job descriptions do everything but deliver on their eponymous promise. So why not kill them? Or at least choke them a little.

What Research Says

This idea is not too farfetched when considering some recent studies. Working off the premise that many hiring practices today are poorly suited to the rapid changes confronting many businesses, UCL School of Management Assistant Professor Vaughn Tan examined whether or not people performed better when they were able to adapt their job descriptions to focus on their strengths and drop those components they felt were not beneficial. The result was a more satisfied and successful workforce.

Or take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR team. They looked at workers who were retained over time and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at the innovative social networking company. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied and engaged workers who were retained longer.

The Minimalist Approach

If you only have a partial idea of who you need to hire and what those people need to do anyway, why not try a paradigm shift? Instead of packing a bowling ball into a marble bag, try building out only the skeleton of a job description and allowing candidates to co-design the fuller description with you in a way that speaks to their strengths and to your needs. Research shows that this approach works well for rapidly changing industries such as technology start-ups, advertising, and film production companies where predicting the future is more difficult. It is actually really easy to make your job descriptions speak to the candidate, describe their key objectives, and be open to possible alternative backgrounds.

A Final Word

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. But as they continue to compete for talented people, they will begin to create jobs around them. Keeping job descriptions minimal, instead of the current practice of covering all the bases, creates more possibilities and more opportunities. Unicorns don’t have to be real for people to believe in them. The same goes with the “perfect candidate.”So why not try something new and allow people to dance on their good foot.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

You Can’t Have Success At Work (or in Life) Without This One Thing

February 21, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Coming together is a beginning; staying together is progress, working together is success.” ~ Henry Ford

Everyone wants success. And success comes from results.

No matter what the pursuit, be it for profit or non-, a new product or collaboration, whether you are selling a house or developing your leadership team, or whether you are a new startup or long standing stalwart of business, results are the name of the game.

But what people often overlook is that results and relationships are two sides of the same coin. In fact the quality of the results you get is a direct output of the quality of the relationships you’ve built.

Here is how the process works.

Results come from actions

If you want results, you have to take action. But how many times do you take action without getting the results that you want?

The reason why people don’t get the results they want is often because they have not spent the time developing the required relationships or the shared understanding that is required to achieve those results.

Instead, they charge straight into action without the necessary relationship equity, the trust, and the shared agenda needed to help facilitate their action. This is particularly evident when people take on a new role or project. They charge in to objectives and targets and get busy at work without realizing that the time spent ensuring everyone is on the same page will triple or quadruple their productivity.

Relationships generate opportunities

When you’ve got good relationships in play then things become possible. Out of these possibilities, real opportunities emerge.

I was recently speaking to a police officer about community policing. His approach and how he builds trust with young people is a perfect example of how relationships lead to possibilities which lead to opportunities for action and results.

He told me that he often starts with visiting schools in plain clothes and when there has not been an incident. The police uniform is such a strong symbol of power that it becomes a barrier to authentic relationship building. This approach makes it ‘possible’ for him to have presence on the campus without ringing alarm bells creating ‘opportunities’ to listen and hear. Over time, the kids get used to his visits and begin to think: “maybe he really cares about us,” which in turn helps to build trust, a cornerstone of strong relationships. It is these relationships, the officer explained, that have helped him keep his community safe because they become a valuable source of information and because he is able to design an alliance with the community through the relationships.

It is the depth of his relationships that determine the quality of his results.

So what do strong relationships look like?

When people at work disagree, two outcomes are in doubt:

1. What decision will be reached?

2. How will we feel about working together in the future?

The first question involves the substantive issue, how the content of the dispute will be resolved. The second involves the relationship issue, how the individuals will deal with each other as people. You can win at one level and lose at the other—get what you want substantively, yet make an enemy. Or vice-versa—you may not obtain what you want substantively, yet strengthen a working relationship. To disentangle the two issues, explicitly separate your working relationship with the other person from whether you agree with or approve of that person’s viewpoint. That means thinking, “I will treat this person well whether or not I like what that person thinks or does.”

The relationship is more important than the issue or problem at hand.

Strong relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. They create shared understandings. They declare when there is a breakdown and repair accordingly. They complete the past before moving to the future. They put people first. That means thinking about other people and acting on those thoughts.

How do you develop strong working relationships?

Harvard professors Roger Fisher and Scott Brown provide several suggestions in their book Getting Together: Building a Relationship That Gets to Yes. Here are some of the major points they make:

  1. Separate relationship issues from substantive issues.
  2. Be unconditionally constructive.
  3. Beware of partisan perceptions.
  4. Balance reason with emotion.
  5. Inquire, listen, and understand.
  6. Consult before deciding.
  7. Be trustworthy.
  8. Use persuasion, not coercion.
  9. Accept and deal seriously with people.

A Final Word

Remember the old adage that being nice to people on the way up is important because you’ll likely meet the same people on the way down. That means maintaining a decent working relationship with your colleagues even though you may not like what someone does. The relationship doesn’t imply that you agree or approve of that person’s behavior. Despite your disagreements, you can keep open lines of communication with people you regard as difficult or even as enemies. That’s the only way improvement can ever occur. It’s possible and sensible to disentangle substantive and relationship issues because at the end of the day, the possibilities you generate in your work (and in life) are as ‘big’ as the relationships you build.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

The Devil is In the Implementation: 5 Reasons Why You Fail to Execute on Your Ideas

February 15, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

I know. You don’t have to tell me. You’re inspired. You just got a great idea for a new business or product. Or maybe you just had a great meeting or strategic planning session and you can’t wait to implement the new ideas and strategies that emerged. Or maybe you just made your resolution for the New Year.

Whatever the case, there is a spike in your enthusiasm and excitement in the beginning. You are excited to get to the action, to see the results, to impact change, and to make improvements. But before long, you start to lose momentum to execute on your Big Audacious Hairy Goals. You fail to follow through. Your great ideas begin to melt and run down your arm like a scoop of ice cream in the middle of July.

In all the examples above the problem is not the idea, the plan, the goal or the strategy. The problem is the people and their behaviors that either drive or impede progress on the idea. The problem is how you execute.

Steve Wozniack likes to tell the story of how Steve Jobs only learned to execute after he was fired from Apple and started NeXT. Jobs was just 30 years old, wildly successful, fabulously wealthy and a global celebrity when he was suddenly fired. But that firing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was when he came back to Apple that most of the iconic products we know and use today were launched because in his time away, he had learned how to execute.

If you perceive yourself or are perceived as having an “execution problem,” by others, you will benefit from knowing the fundamental reasons why.

Reason #1: You Don’t Have the Right Mindset

In strategy sessions, people often ask questions like: “What would success look like?” and “What action will you take to implement the strategy?” These questions and their answers do not lead to change. That is because, as we have established above, we have a people problem and people are about behavior. And obviously, if you are asking the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers. Because we are a culture obsessed with positivism, we look to assets and strengths. Fair enough. But what about weaknesses? The right question to ask instead is: “What current behavior do I see in myself, my team, my manager, or my organization that will make success less likely?”

This question is about facing reality, which is a pre-requisite for strategy execution. By articulating the answer to this question, you are identifying the potential barriers to progress, which you must first remove before you can see change. You are also recognizing that behaviors drive results and that mindset drives behavior. To impact change, you have to shift the mindset that leads to behaviors that are not getting results. This is fundamental.

Reason #2: You Don’t Have the Right Goals (or you have too many of them)

Sometimes, people are focused on the wrong things and sometimes they are focused on too many things. If you try to attend to all of your competing priorities, you will lose focus. It is far better to apply more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns kicks in which says in a nutshell that you will achieve 2-3 goals with excellence and 5-6 goals with mediocrity . That is because human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. Multi-tasking is a myth. It causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity.

Once you have the right goals and the right number of goals, you can identify the right people with the right strengths to apply towards specific goals. Here, you will have to make choices. Execution is about being laser focused and maintaining momentum. The pitfall is trying to get forward momentum on all your work instead of the most important work. You have ask yourself: “What will make the biggest impact?” and “What will get me the biggest bang for my buck?” Then, you have to make that thing happen.

Reason #3: You Don’t Have the Right People

In any team, organization, or coalition, there are strong performers and weaker ones. There are those that are fit for the task because the task speaks to their strengths and those that aren’t because, well, it doesn’t. Strong performers can be identified by their skills, knowledge and commitment. In any environment, you should know the strengths of the people are at the table. If you take a purely democratic and all-inclusive approach, you will miss the opportunity to identify the people who are most essential to achieving your goal. In the case of yourself this becomes about self-awareness.

Reason #4: You Don’t Have the Right Mechanism

Execution is a discipline and, well, it takes discipline to execute. What I mean by that is having the discipline to organize people, assemble resources, and then generate a plan that others can follow in a methodical and systematic process is what it takes to make progress. Organizations (formal or informal) and their related processes are largely conservative bodies that don’t like surprises or chaos. Therefore, you have to be as methodical in your approach as possible. This means disciplined project management, feedback loops, data driven decision making, clear roles and responsibilities, accountability measures, success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), kaizen (continuous improvement), scrum, agile, Six Sigma, Lean and so on.

Reason #5: You Don’t Have the Right Support

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and you really feel like you’re already doing all of these things, and yet somehow you’re still perceived as having an “execution problem,” then consider getting an Implementation Coach. Coaching is often used in organizations to fix leadership flaws, but that is only one focus of coaching. If the problem is truly endemic, I recommend hiring an Implementation Coach. The role of an Implementation Coach is to ensure that implementation success is a priority, working at the deepest level to build the skills, knowledge, capacities, systems, and processes needed to deliver results and then to ensure those results will be sustained. The main imperative of an Implementation Coach should be to delivering lasting outcomes.

In addition to being outstanding problem-solvers, these individuals are practical, experienced, and excellent coaches. Their distinctive strength is in knowing how to work with and coach people to get things done. These caching session are about focusing on larger behavioral patterns to the extent that they are getting in the way of the task at hand.

 A Final Word…

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I can give you 20 good ones in one conversation. Ideas without implementation are illusion. The art and science of success lies in their execution. Put another way, “the devil is in the implementation.” Many people get energetic about their ideas but fail when it comes time to establishing a systematic approach to execute on those ideas and fail in maintaining motivation. I’ll deal with motivation in some upcoming posts. For now, remember this: execution is a discipline in and of itself. It is the flip side of the coin to planning and setting the right strategy. You need both to succeed.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

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

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

.