Why Your Values are the Secret Ingredient to the Life You Want to Live (and How to Discover Them)

May 8, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.”

~ Elvis Presley 

Values are everything. They act like an internal compass. Values are your ‘north star’ that lead you to land when you’re lost at sea. When our values are met, we feel great. When they are missing, we feel lost.

Success comes from the congruence between your goals and values. When you feel a setback, values keep you focused and motivated. So why are values so important and how do you discover yours?

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 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. You don’t realize this but your values are in collusion with your purpose.

Values trigger emotions

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 determine performance

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. Values are embedded deep within.

 

Values work from deep within

When you are not living by your values, it can feel like a beach ball being held under the water. There is a feeling of constant pressure pushing to the surface. Your values are buried deep in your unconscious mind and bringing them to the forefront of your consciousness is a simple but important exercise. The more tricky equation is living by your values once you’ve surfaced them.

So how do you discover your values and know which are core values?

You can “pick” values from a list but this often leads to people choosing “SHOULD Values” – that is to say, the ones they think they ‘should’ have.

Instead, start by asking yourself what you need for your personal or professional life and what is important to you. What can you compromise on and what is non-negotiable. Your mind will immediately lead to a value that is important, such as “Trust” or “Independence” for example.

Now, dig a little deeper and come up with another value that is greater than trust and keep on collecting words that you feel are important to you until you find your core value.

So how do you know which is your core value?

Your core value is the value that is greater than any other value. It is the center of the target – the one where you feel that there is nothing more important than this value. Find at least 5 of these and begin to live your life in congruence with them. Again, easier said than done. Courage is often needed to live by your values.

A final word

If you don’t know what your values are, how can you possibly know where you are going or know what success looks like for you? That’s why in a coaching context, we often start by discovering values.

We must also be aware that there are limiting beliefs that can hold us back from meeting our values. These are the road blocks that will prevent you from reaching your goals and can even block you from meeting your values. You need to be aware of these roadblocks as well as your values and work consciously to change limiting beliefs to empowering beliefs. This is how you bring limitless happiness into your life.

The alignment of empowering beliefs with core values and behaviors that match, is the secret sauce to a life fulfilled.

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.

What is True Leadership? (hint: it is NOT management)

April 26, 2018 • 3 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

~John C. Maxwell

Leadership is influence.

Leadership comes from our heart and our head. It’s our attitude, and attitude is everything.

Leadership is also the ability to focus a team’s attention and the ability to inspire a team towards a grander vision – a purpose that is bigger than ourselves.

In 1961, JFK visited the NASA Space Center. The United States was in the space race with Russia, a crucial period in geopolitical history. The Russians were ahead of us, and we felt threatened as a culture and a society. Kennedy wanted us to be the first to put a man on the moon. He offered a challenge and a penultimate goal to the dedicated people in the field:

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon returning him safely to the earth.”

– John F. Kennedy

Notwithstanding the risk to his own reputation, which was at stake on the world stage, his vision shook NASA to its foundations. In part because, the spacecraft they would use had only a tiny fraction of the computing power of the smarphone that is in your pocket right now.

But at the same time accountability, engagement, motivation, and morale within NASA soared. Most leaders find this surprising. We tend to think that morale is impacted negatively when accountability and pressure are at their highest. The reality is the opposite: providing teams with an inspirational stretch goal, narrowing their focus and harnessing their attention increases both accountability and the engagement of the team.  This is what James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 blockbuster book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies meant by Big Audacious Hairy Goal (BHAG).

As evidence, consider that during his tour of the NASA space center Kennedy stopped to speak with a janitor. He asked, “What do you do?” The janitor responded, “I am helping to put a man on the moon.”

How are you influencing others?

If that influence is coming from your heart and your head, it will have a positive impact on others. That is true leadership!

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.

*Photograph of President Obama and White House custodian Lawrence Libscomb by White House photographer Pete Souza

You Can’t Be A Great Leader If You Can’t Do These 5 Things

March 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~ John C. Maxwell

All leaders agree that certain leadership skills are must-haves in order to achieve the long-term results you desire. Here are the 5 that make my list in order of importance:

1.      Managing People

Managing people is part of leadership, but it’s a part that may not come naturally to some. In almost every job, people skills are every bit as important as technical, or hard skills. Inevitably, this means managing people to overcome interpersonal conflict, helping staff with their own goal setting, time management, and collaboration challenges, encouraging staff to diagnose their own performance, and establishing a culture of accountability for the team.

In short, the best leaders know how manage people to bring out their best as individuals and as a collective unit in order to get the results they want.

2.      Communicating Effectively

While technical skills are important, skills such as being able to communicate effectively are indispensible to you as a leader. We spend large portions of our careers learning the hard skills required to do our jobs, but relatively little time learning how to build effective relationships, communicate clearly, listen actively or communicate to persuade. These skills are critical to leadership and should not be seen as merely ‘soft’ skills.

In short, the best leaders use the full gamut of their communication skills to get the results they want.

3.      Empowering People

The best leader knows how to make staff shine, by delegating responsibilities according to each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses. They use an effective delegation model because they know that a leader’s ability to delegate will have a significant impact on driving business results. This means knowing how to define the span of freedom and responsibility in executing tasks for direct reports, empowering with clarity, ensuring staff take personal ownership for delivering on commitments

In short, the best leaders know how to best nudge, motivate and deploy their staff’s strengths to get the results they want.

4.      Leading Meetings

Leading effective and productive meetings is one of the most important skills a leader needs to have. This may seem like a superficial skill to focus on, but consider how many meetings are run daily in an organization and how many are in fact ineffective. Almost all meetings will be run by someone in a leadership role. You need to step back and consider how effectively organized those meetings are and look at the productive outcome. This means having the ability to engage people and knowing how to get everyone involved and participating in the meeting topic. It means managing meetings effectively, so each member is heard and getting to the main meeting points quickly. It means staying on time and on task, focusing on core objectives and limiting distractions, and perhaps most importantly, it means generating actionable results.

In short, the best leaders know how to hold productive meetings and use the format to get the results they want.

5. Managing Change

While you can’t know exactly what the future will bring, there is one thing you can train leaders to face: Change. Even seasoned leaders who may not be undergoing a complete culture transformation may be challenged by change management. These are difficult choices to make. How do you educate others about a change? How do you choose whether to try a different change tactic? How do you assess your own impact toward change? How, what and where do you communicate about the change?

The best leaders know that they must get everyone on board to share the same perception about the change effort to get the results they want.

A Final Word…

The Failure of the field of Learning and Development is not having taught people the bedrock principles about people, leadership and management.  Yes, people are complex but at the same time, there is a ton of research about what works and what doesn’t. And as long as you apply the research and your own experience in a thoughtful and intentional way, you will get the results you want.

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.

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.

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.

Respect is the Currency of Great Leadership. Here are 5 Ways to Earn It and 1 Rule to Remember!

February 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

High respect = High performance.

But you have to earn my respect. If I don’t respect you, why should I follow you?

The principle is simple. If people respect you, they will give their 100% to their work. But not 100% of the people will respect you.

That’s because of the 20:60:20 rule.

The rule says that 20% of your highest performing and most dedicated team members respect you already. Then, you have a reasonably high level of respect with your solid citizens (the middle 60%) that are good but not great. As for the bottom 20%, well, no matter how much you try, not everyone will love you. Trying to win the respect of your least productive people is, unfortunately, not an efficient use of time and effort, particularly in today’s time starved business environments.

Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leaders who strive to be liked absent respect, fail as often as authoritative rulers. Respect is earned not given. And if you buy the above arguments, namely that respect is the currency of leadership and that leaders need to at least ensure they have the respect of the 20+60%, then another key question emerges: How can leaders best earn the respect of their teams?

While the answer differs according to context, I have generally observed that leadership respect is a combination of five important factors:

1.      Respect is about listening:

Lean in, share acknowledgment and paraphrase what you hear them say. When you actively listen, you are not thinking about what you will say next. Be with them in the moment. This means that when employees talk with you, show interest and enthusiasm for their thoughts. Leaders who only like the sound of their own voice, never gain the benefit of the many voices around them. No matter how good you are, after a while, people will stop listening if you are not listening to them. Respect is a reciprocal act of listening and communication. By being open to input from peers, colleagues, and subordinates, you broaden your sources of information. By helping others be open to input from each others, you expand possibilities and opportunities to accelerate progress. This is how listening makes you a better leader.

2.      Respect is about accountability:

Successful organizational management necessitates accountability. There is no way around it. In practice, respect must form the foundation of accountability. Accountability is being responsible for our actions at all levels. It is about owning, correcting, and learning from our actions. It is about being transparent. It is also about being aware of the perceptions we create and taking responsibility for our emotional footprint at work (emotional intelligence). When leaders take personal accountability, they are willing to answer for the outcomes of their choices, their behaviors, and their actions in all situations in which they are involved. Accountable leaders are fixers, not blamers.

3.      Respect is about sharing success:

It shouldn’t seem hard. Give credit to others for their success; take responsibility for your own failures; and learn from both. If you are the type of leader who takes the credit for the work of your team members, you are no kind of leader at all. Good leaders share the credit with their teams when things go right and take the blame when things go wrong. Being a blame thrower spreads insecurity and decreases the odds of your employees taking ownership. Sharing credit builds investment in your enterprise by your employees and allows it to flourish.

4.      Respect is about consistency:

Are you constantly sending mixed message? Are you the manager who says she wants ideas from her staff and then proceeds to put down every idea brought to her? Without respect, it’s just harder for you to get shit done. If a leader develops a reputation for being inconsistent in either their words or actions, employees will eventually lose confidence in their ability to lead effectively. Consistency is not a concept; it’s a personal discipline. If you consistently demonstrate your commitment to a desired goal and are willing to invest the necessary time and effort to achieve that goal, people will also notice that and be inspired by your example.

5.      Respect is about walking the talk:

Lead by example. It’s the oldest leadership lesson in the book. Being a role model is about being value driven and being value driven earns respect. Child development specialist and author Dr. Robyn Silverman suggests that healthy self-confidence manifests as pride in who you are and what you’ve learned throughout your life. Show courage when faced with difficult decisions. Demonstrate trust (the cornerstone of all relationships) towards others and take actions to earn their trust. Demonstrate ongoing commitment to excellence. Do everything to the best of your ability; always.

As leaders, we must acknowledge the role we play as exemplars. People are savvy. If you don’t walk the talk, they’ll notice. Earn respect through actions and strong work ethic. To be a trusted leader who earns the respect of others, you must honor your words with actions and care for others beyond yourself (servant leadership). This helps build respect and trust within teams, between peers and colleagues, and ultimately promotes a sense of fairness that is essential to an engaged workforce. Walking the talk is the mark of a true leader and is exactly why leadership is so tough and exactly why there are so few real leaders. When you let promised work go undone, you lose respect and set a bad example. Effective leaders do not avoid responsibility, they do not procrastinate, and they do not under or over commit. If unsure about whether they can commit, they say no to the task and yes to the person asking for the commitment. In this way, leaders provide their own insurance that they won’t let promised work go undone.

 A Final Word…

The organization as collective entity achieves great results not only because of strong sales, growth, operational efficiency and competitive position, but also because of the positive workforce culture and strong values of respect and accountability. This concept applies to everyone in the organization but especially to the leadership who should be held accountable for their actions. Exercising complete respect consistently as a leader enables environments that bring out everyone’s best performance. It is essential for creating economic as well as social value. Leadership is not about being right all the time. It is not about having all the answers. It is rather about acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers. It is about the near-wins, not the wins. It is in the striving and the reaching, the journey, the promise of getting there, and the perpetual self-refinement.

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.

15 Reasons Why Some People Outperform Others at Work

 January 30, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill

I am an evangelist for personal effectiveness. Success is a weird thing. Consider how some people who are terrible at their jobs continuously get promoted while others who excel are blocked from advancing and quit or change careers.

Reflecting on my own experiences, I can tell you that how well you do your job has very little to do with how successful you are in your professional career. Rather, success is more about a set of skills and traits that people carry with them consistently from job to job. Skills and traits they have learned and honed over time achieving a level of fluency and mastery that allows them to practice and implement them seamlessly.

I’ve narrowed these down to 15 core skills that when enacted together, make for a powerful cluster of effectiveness. Let’s look at what sets some apart from others.

1.      They build and maintain relationships:

They understand that the world of work revolves around relationships. Their network is their greatest asset and they cultivate and nurture it. They don’t recycle jobs, people, and relationships. They don’t burn bridges or highways. They understand that being nice to people on the way up is important because they’ll meet the same people on the way down. They think about other people and act on those thoughts. When they have acted poorly, they take responsibility and own up to their mistakes. They are consistently giving to others and are generous with their knowledge and skills. When interacting with others, they are active listeners: They hear the message and value the messenger.

2.      They are cooperative:

They understand that people like to work with people who are cooperative. This means teamwork and collaboration are their modus operandi. They get the idea that no one has to lose in order for them to win. Isolation rarely leads to innovation. It is through cooperation with others that new ideas take shape. What they get implicitly is that cooperation leads to increased productivity and increased satisfaction in themselves and in their colleagues. Their mindset is to work towards the win-win and when conflicts arise, they have the skills to resolve them quickly.

3.      They are communicative:

They are effective communicators. You just can’t get around it. Humans are social by nature and the grease that keeps the social wheel moving is communication. When communicating, they are neither passive nor aggressive. They are able to communicate assertively with clarity and concision but they still bring the friendly. They are attentive to their own and others’ non-verbal communication. They are engaged listeners who are able to focus not only on the message but also on what’s behind the message. They avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to their own agenda. They are non-judgmental and appreciate individual differences. They use all their senses – sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and/or movement to steer conversations towards positive outcomes.

4.      They are good at self-regulation:

In a nutshell, they are good at managing their emotions. They are able to quickly identify negative emotions such as frustration, irritation, anger, and disappointment and are able to keep them in check. They maintain composure in the face of challenges. They keep non-productive self-talk to a minimum. They understand that emotions must be processed and they take quiet time to do so. Being a bull in a china shop emotionally only brings those emotions back later to ambush us. They understand that emotional mastery is not about controlling your feelings, but rather it’s about working with them productively by acknowledging, exploring and understanding them.

5.      They persevere:

Those that outperform others understand that a central key to success is doggedness and grit. I would rather hire a person that is hard working than naturally intelligent or naturally talented. That is because perseverance trumps both. They also understand that the things that they desire will need endless effort and time for completion. Perseverance means fighting through and pushing past your comfort zone. It means not giving up at the first sight of adversity. People who have a mindset of always persevering simply go farther.

6.      They are focused:

Focus is the gateway to success. That is because of the finite nature of time – the only thing no one has learned to make more of. Focused people understand Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to take up the time available to finish it. They understand that they have to learn to filter their efforts through the time they have. They set goals and focus on the things that help them move in the direction of those goals. They exclude distractions. They obliterate clutter (internal and external), and they master the use of organizational techniques and technology. Finally, they are present and in the flow. They are able to focus on the here and now rather than on what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future.

7.      They have perspective:

I am always struck by how often people don’t consider the importance of perspective or consider taking different vantage points on a problem or challenge. Multiple vantage points multiply the opportunities for successful action. This is an important skill for anyone, and people who routinely outperform others at work adopt this mindset as a way of short circuiting frustration by considering alternative perspectives. They understand that empathy is all about shifting perspective and that by adopting alternative perspectives they can proactively quiet down emotional centers in the brain, which helps them approach a challenge with a more positive mindset and greater energy and investment. This helps them solve problems more effectively.

8.      They are resilient:

Resilience is a quality successful people have in common. They are survivors. They understand that they will come across challenges whatever path they’re on. Life comes in waves. There’s no way to stop the waves crashing, but you can learn to surf. They view challenges as experiences that have to be endured and fought against. Resilience is simply the ability to bounce back from adversity and setback. This comes from the mindset of viewing failure as an opportunity to learn rather than allowing it to paralyze you.

9.      They manage their expectations:

This means they don’t get too high when they experience a win and they don’t get too low when they experience a setback. They look for where expectation gaps exist or where they might arise and manage them accordingly. An expectation gap is the chasm that exists between the expectations that are created on one side and how people believe those expectations have been met on the other. People that outperform are able to bridge those expectation gaps proactively because they know that failure to do so can be costly. They also know that if they violate expectations, they will be me with suspicion and ire so they don’t over-promise or under-deliver.

10.  They understand office politics:

Some people shy away from office politics while others just plain hate it. Those that outperform others embrace them. Let’s keep this real. Some office environments can be brutal. Being a Pollyanna in such environments can be crushing. This is not an argument for being Machiavellian either. But paying attention to interpersonal relations and politics and understanding social psychology and behavior is beneficial. Instead of avoiding, learning to leverage your emotional intelligence to navigate the highways and byways of work and can actually help you grow.

11.  They strive for visibility:

The nature of knowledge work makes it inherently difficult to see the fruits of your labor. Yet, it has always been my experience that exposure and visibility are key to career advancement. If no one sees you, you don’t exist.  People that outperform others know this truth and seek exposure by looking for more visible projects and opportunities. They document their accomplishments by keeping a running record so that they have information at their fingertips when it comes time to review their performance or throwing their hat in for the next project. Above all, they are strategic about who they get exposed to, how and when.

12.  They have drive:

Intrinsic motivation is arguably one of the most important predictors of success. The most successful people simply keep plugging away at their work longer than others. Rather than passivity, their internal drive prompts them to action. It’s one thing to say you are motivated to achieve your goals; it’s another entirely to have that motivation translate into action. People that outperform others understand a basic fact: All else being equal, your reap what you sow. They make decisions and once decisions are made, they devote and dedicate themselves to making it happen with dogged determination.

13.  They take risks:

Great, otherwise unforeseen opportunities often come from risk-taking. It is said that “a ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are made for.” Taking risks shows confidence and helps you stand out. We also learn from risks because they push us out of our comfort zone. Stellar performers have adopted the mindset of fail fast and fail forward.They see failure just as important if not more important than success. Facebook was famous for their “move fast and break things” mantra and they saw rapid growth as a result. This doesn’t mean all risk is good. Risk, after all, has to be calculated. Taking risks is a discipline that starts small and builds on initial successes.

14.  They are adaptable:

Stephen Hawking defined intelligence as the ability to adapt. People that are adaptable tend to go with the flow rather than resist the tide. Their energy is better utilized and more in tune with the nature of things. While most people are averse to change, outperformers embrace it. They have a growth mindset and are more spontaneous and accepting when unexpected changes happen. They anticipate change and build in margins for making adjustments so they can adapt to any situation at any given time. Being willing and able to adapt your behavior increases your ability to communicate and build productive relationships with other people. Adaptable people are flexible people not set in doing things only their way.

15.  They have a positive attitude:

Finally, just about everything on this list is influenced by positivity or negativity. Out-performers understand that it takes a positive attitude to achieve positive results. They know that attitude creates the way you feel about people and situations and that a positive attitude is infectious. I generally start my workshops and seminars by asking a fundamental question: What attitude did you bring into this meeting? This question kicks into gear a level of attitudinal awareness that people don’t often have. Your self-talk determines your attitude, which determines how you present yourself to the world. Think of your mind as a software program. You have control over the programming. Whatever you put into it is reflected in what comes out. You can choose whether what comes out is positive or negative.

A Final Word…

You will notice that nowhere on this list did I mention technical skills, intelligence or talent. Performance is about the day-to-day attitudes and skills you bring coupled with the quality of the results you deliver. If you adopt these traits as your roadmap and practice them consistently, there is virtually no way you can get lost on the journey to success.

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

©2018 – 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

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

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

January 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

The Social Instinct to Cooperate

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

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

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

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

The Evolutionary Reason to Cooperate

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

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

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

Cooperation at Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

 Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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