4 Things Leaders Can’t Ignore About Organizational Culture

January 19, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

1. Organizational Culture = Leadership Values + Priorities

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

2. Organizational Culture = Performance + Productivity

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

3. Organizational Culture = Innovation + Creativity

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

4. Organizational Culture = Employee Satisfaction + Engagement

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

A Final Word

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

The 4 Pillars of Leadership Effectiveness

January 11, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

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

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

1.      Employee Well-Being and Engagement

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

2.      Employee Productivity and Goal Setting

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

3.      Innovation and Continuous Improvement

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

4.      Effective Operational Processes

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

A Final Word…

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

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

How Listening Makes You a Better Leader

December 14, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

Pisssst. Listen up!

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

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

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

Listening & Communication

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

Listening & Trust

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

Listening & Empathy

The ability to process information and adapt personal behavior requires the use of empathy. The process of empathizing with someone demonstrates the ability to seek to communicate trying to understand the speaker’s situation. The ability to accurately predict how another person will react emotionally and behaviorally in a given set of circumstances is what empathetic leadership is all about. The better you are at this trait, the more accurate and successful you will be in advancing your leadership goals. In fact, the big take away from a new study published in American Psychologist that explored the empathic accuracy of various forms of communication was that closing your eyes and listening intently increases empathy! You can improve your empathic listening through this and other communication techniques such as paraphrasing, self-monitoring, and asking clarifying questions to check for understanding.

Listening & Feedback

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

A final Word…

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

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

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

Good luck.

My Call to Action…

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

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

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

The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It)

December 5, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” ~ Ernesto Che Guevara

Workplace culture has a voracious appetite for command and control structures – an insipid left-over of the industrial revolution and Taylorized bureaucratic systems. In collusion, our K–12 system still adheres to this century-old, industrial-age mindset designed to help people survive a day at the factory not cope with the fast-paced mode of the modern day workplace or the even faster speed of living.

The modern day workplace is broken and we need radical change to fix it.

Stress at work…

For U.S. workers, the 40-hour, five-day work week became the standard in 1938. A recent Pew survey found that 35 percent of adults say the Internet, email and mobile phones have increased their hours worked. For office workers, the number rises to 47 percent. Consequently, nearly half of workers today say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week. As a result, job stress is far and away the major source of stress-related illness for American adults.

More work does not lead to more productivity…

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

We are not engaged and we are not happy at work…

According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. workers who are engaged at work is a low 33% (29% if you are a Millennial) and worldwide that number is an even more paltry 15%. That means the majority of the workforce (more than 70%) is checked out!

Moreover, only 21% of workers feel they are managed in a motivating way and only half know what’s expected of them on a daily basis. Nearly three-fourths of American workers are actively hunting for a new job, and the vast majority don’t feel like they get enough recognition from their company. Skyrocketing stress, a lack of recognition, promotion opportunities, and collegial support were cited as some of the reasons.

The myth of work-life balance…

The concept of a work-leisure dichotomy first surfaced in the mid-1800s while the more modern expression ‘work–life balance,’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and in the United States in the mid 1980s. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress.

Meanwhile, workplace policies are taking a schizophrenic turn. When in 2013 Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took away employees’ work from home option, most saw the decision as regressive. After all, not far from the Yahoo campus, a Stanford study had reported that work from home policies boost worker productivity by as much as 13 percent. According to Gallup, 43 percent of U.S. employees work remotely all or some of the time. But Mayer was focused on another batch of studies that showed the opposite and was facing a sinking corporate ship.

If we were to listen to Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest business tycoons, we would shift to a three-day work week, put in 11-hour work days and retire at 75. But ironically, a 2008 survey of workers by the Families and Work Institute found that 46% of those offered the option of a compressed week declined it most of the time.

The bottom line is that for the knowledge economy and jobs that mainly require interactions with clients (consultant, sales etc.) or don’t require much interaction at all (columnist), the office has little to offer besides interruption.

We need radical humanization of the workplace…

So what’s the solution to all this malaise?

1.      Radical Leadership: change starts at the top. We need ‘change leadership’ and if your specific workplace is broken because of poor management practices, you may need a change in leadership. People, after all, don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors.  Some of us work for micromanagers. Some of us work for toxic bosses. Some of us work in chaos.  The deleterious costs of dysfunctional workplaces and dysfunctional management are high. They include low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity. Many managers are promoted into their roles without the requisite training needed to be able to coach and develop their employees into success. It’s time to significantly raise the bar on leadership requirements. If you are satisfied with mediocre performance and having 70% of your people checked out, then don’t invest in your leaders and once in a while remind yourself of the classic definition of crazy.

2.      Radical Culture: for the most part, organizational culture is set at the top.  It is the culture that shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the company. Generally speaking, a positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture is counterproductive or even toxic. People are values driven. Values are directly related to success and failure and directly related to culture. Values are in the DNA of your workplace culture. People are attracted to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. They gravitate towards others who share their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time. That’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. So when a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Instead of describing your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social behaviors creating an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allowing positive feelings to emerge in turn.

3.      Radical Autonomy: Study after study has shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature simply have higher levels of productivity, creativity, engagement and overall job satisfaction. This desire and drive towards autonomy and independence is innate in us as humans. Restrictions on our autonomy lie at the heart of a great deal of our unhappiness. That’s why prison, the ultimate punishment in our society, is an extreme form of restricting our freedom. Studies with physicians have shown that sources of dissatisfaction for that profession do not stem from having to deal with insurance companies or paperwork but rather from lack of control over their daily schedules. I would argue that the same is true for all workers. This explains the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished. Guess what? Employees in these workplaces are more engaged and more productive.

One Final Word…

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy and engaged at work. Workers are the greatest asset any organization has. And while competitive pay and benefits are important, how we treat employees and how we manage work getting done are far more important factors that contribute to productivity. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture and trust their employees to do and be their best. The best places are those in which people can flourish by flexing their creative muscles and believing they have the freedom and independence to be their best selves. This is how you develop the power of synergy, empathy and good will. And these synergies generated on a daily basis are unstoppable.

Now, is that a radical idea?

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

The 5 EQ Traits that Separate Good Leaders from Great Ones

December 1, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


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

Intro…

If you’ve worked with good leaders and with great leaders, you’ve noticed a difference – an array of skills that sets them apart and is based on their people management skills. What you’ve noticed but may not have been able to label, is their emotional intelligence skills. At the end of this article, I’ll provide you with an exercise to show you what I mean.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outro…

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

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

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

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

Let’s Get Over the Fear of Giving and Receiving Feedback

November 29, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” ~ Ken Blanchard

Let’s get real about this.

The workplace is a beehive of feedback whether we ask for it or not. Things like facial expressions, gestures, silence, reactions, etc. give us a sense of how people are reacting to us and/ or our work. Moreover, when we receive direct feedback, much is offered very cautiously because most colleagues want to be supportive and friendly, after all everyone realizes that you will continue to work together after the feedback is delivered. All the more important that the feedback relationship be a productive one.

But feedback is marred by stigma. Employees are afraid all they’ll hear is negative feedback and criticism. Supervisors anticipate a defensive response to whatever they say and however they say it. As a result, feedback is not practiced or incorporated into the fabric of the organization and consequently one of the potentially most effective tools for performance improvement remains underutilized. Most people appreciate and need feedback to improve performance and advance their careers.

So, here are some quick tips to help you give and receive feedback. At the end of this article, I’ll point you to another resource to get an even more in depth understanding of feedback and its role in the modern workplace.

How to Give Feedback

Interpersonal conflict in work teams is inevitable.  Indeed, some level of tension works to feed creativity and motivation.  But when the behavior or attitude of a teammate is interfering with the team’s efficacy, you may find it necessary to provide some challenging feedback.

Below are some things that may be helpful in delivering feedback, especially when presenting difficult feedback:

1.      Choose the right place and time. Offer your feedback in a private, quiet place where your teammate won’t feel embarrassed or defensive. Feedback should be immediate or close to the time of when the task was completed.

2.      Focus on behavior. Discuss how current behavior is causing unintended results. Do not ever make the feedback about personality. That only generates a defensive response. Outline how current behavior is impacting the team as a whole.  Try to be specific and support your ideas with examples.

3.      Create an alliance. Ask permission to offer suggestions or ask if you can suggest possible changes in behavior or attitude.

4.      Mutual reinforcement. Try to explain how both of you might benefit from a change. Try to tie it to the larger goal or vision for the project or the organization. In other words, contextualize the feedback whenever possible to make it a greater learning opportunity.

5.      Make it two-way. Make sure that the exchange is a conversation, not an attack, a lecture, or a reprimand. Do this by asking questions and allowing the recipient to come to their own conclusions or to offer their own ideas.

6.      Be attentive. Give the other party plenty of time to respond and listen attentively. Remember, this is a dialogue not a monologue. Listen for areas of concern or areas where further development, training, and coaching may be needed.

7.      Check your language. Use the pronouns “I” and “We” rather that “you.”

8.      Check your tone. Don’t be the least bit condescending. Don’t get defensive or overly aggressive. Avoid aggressive language.

How To Receive Feedback

Let’s face it, if feedback is critical, it may hurt. We all say we want feedback, but some of us just want validation and not necessarily to know have some work to do. It hurts our ego to learn we are imperfect. Still, feedback must be embraced if we are to get better. Since we grow and learn from honest and constructive feedback, it is important keep in mind the guidelines below for receiving feedback effectively:

1.      Don’t be defensive. Even if the feedback is hard to hear, stay cool, ask honest questions, and process the intent of the feedback before you react.

2.      Listen for the unspoken message.  Sometime you have to read between the lines to find the true feedback.

3.      Don’t listen selectively.  Try to take in the whole of the feedback.  Don’t focus on one statement or one detail that rubs you the wrong way.

4.      Ask follow up questions.  To discover the underlying truth of the feedback you receive, you may have to ask questions that call for elaboration, examples, clarification, and details.

5.      Don’t blame the feedback provider. Unless they are just destroying you, assume an honest intention and recognize that giving feedback is also an art. Not many people are good at it.

6.      Don’t react emotionally. Receiving feedback can be nerve racking so try to stay relaxed.   If you hear something surprising, take time to think it through before you react.

7.      Be receptive.  Establish yourself as a person who will listen thoughtfully to feedback.  This doesn’t mean that you have to accept all criticism, it just shows that you are eager to improve and grow.

8.      Absorb and Act.  Not all feedback is useful but through honest introspection you can decipher those parts of the feedback that will help you find success.  Once you have done this, then set a course of action to incorporate it into your performance.

For feedback to be really effective, it should be woven into the culture of the organization. The ‘constant feedback workplace’ is one in which employees and supervisors learn to interact around feedback to improve performance and productivity. For a deeper dive in creating a feedback culture and making the most of employee feedback, see my recent article titled 6 Criteria for Providing Feedback That is Heard. In the meantime, use the incorporate the tips above immediately into your daily work because feedback is the most promising tool for behavioral change that managers have at their disposal.

Wait! Before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Build A Positive Work Culture

November 16, 2017 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle.

I was having a conversation with my son, who was about 13 at the time, when he said something that floored me. He said: “everything is about atmosphere.” I asked him what he meant and he explained that he thinks family life, office culture, and everything else comes down to the atmosphere that the adults and leaders create. OMG, I thought, this kid is brilliant!

I have used what he said ever since in my talks.

Now let’s break this down…

Google the phrase, “healthy workplace” and you get 20,600,000 results! Clearly it’s a hot topic. And just as clearly, there are thousands of interpretations of what the phrase means.

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy at work. Yes, competitive pay and benefits are important but keeping employees happy at work can come down to subtle changes in the values of an organization and how the organization treats its employees. The best places to work are those in which people can flourish, flex their creative muscles, and generally be their best selves. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture.

What is workplace culture?

Workplace culture is a combination of employee values, attitudes, expectations, and beliefs blended with the principles of the organization.  To a large extent, the culture shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the organization or team.

A workplace culture study conducted by Deloitte found that 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success. Moreover, 83% of executives and 84% of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.  

These studies show that leaders understand that positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture can be counterproductive or even toxic.

So why then are so many employees unhappy at work?

It’s one thing to know that healthy work cultures lead to productivity. It’s another thing altogether to know how to create such a culture. While leaders know this, all too often they don’t put their money where their mouth is. As a result, a 2017 study of 17,000 U.S. workers in 19 industries found that 71% were either “actively looking for new job opportunities” or were thinking about it. That’s a staggering number of unhappy workers.

 What can you do?

At some level, we all have to take responsibility for our own happiness and engagement. But in an organizational context, maximizing employee happiness and engagement is a key management responsibility because of the direct correlation to productivity.

Creating a positive work culture isn’t as difficult as you might think. However, to be successful, leaders must become more strategic on key issues such as recruiting talent, building teams, providing a broader scope for personal and professional development, developing future leaders and influencing company culture.

The first thing you can do is look around. Ask. Do an audit of organizational culture by surveying your employees on their perceptions. In sifting through the research, I have narrowed down ten of the most important indicators of a positive work culture. If any of these indicators are subpar, you need to start building intentional strategy around each one immediately and then ensure that they are working together as a whole to make up an organizational culture of excellence. They are:

1.      Leadership. It all starts here. People don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors. Positive, accessible and fair leadership is critical to fostering a healthy work environment. When leaders express genuine appreciation – up, down, and across the organizational structure for employees’ contributions and recognize these contributions regularly, employees feel empowered and engaged. Leaders are not micromanagers. They are not rigidly tied to static job descriptions, titles, hierarchies and ranking systems. They are focused on hiring great people, playing to their strengths and putting their skills to the best use. They do not immediately take out the ‘blame thrower’ every time something goes wrong.

2.      Trust and Respect.  Employees respect their fellow workers and work meaningfully to avoid personality conflicts, gossip, and backbiting. They laugh WITH each other not AT each other. When employees face challenges such as accidents, illnesses or personal tragedies, leaders address these challenges with empathy, support and understanding. Trust is the cornerstone of all relationships. There is a high cost to low trust within organizations. Recognition increases trust between leadership and employees. So does honesty and integrity.

3.      Open Communication.  Employees feel they have the freedom to speak, ideate, and provide alternate views. There are no hidden agendas, no secrets and no rumor mills. Gossip is banished. Furthermore, employees are not surprised with any information and new information is communicated well throughout the company. Employees understand the direction their team and organization is headed in because the mission, goals, and strategies are clearly articulated and inculcated.

4.      Growth and Development. Employees are offered the chance to grow professionally through regular training, career tools, and different assignments and experiences. Employees feel that they are learning and developing.  They are not made to feel bad or guilty about seeking out professional development opportunities. They have regular access to new training, workshops, mentoring, coaching, and presentations to learn, grow and develop. Senior staff mentor junior staff as part of the culture. When employees feel this sense of investment from their employer, they are willing to reciprocate and invest back into the company with their hard work and creativity.

5.      Teamwork and Collaboration. Employees work better when they feel they have quality, supportive, and energizing relationships with fellow workers. Team members help each other with critical tasks – they don’t hear “that’s not my job.” Instead, they hear “we’re all in this together.” Space (both physical and mental) is created so that employees can collaborate when needed, but have time alone for calls, and deep thinking work. Collaboration is built into company goals and values. One study even found that 40% of Millennials (who are soon to comprise the majority of the workforce) are willing to pay out of pocket for social collaboration tools to improve productivity. Transparency and clear communication are the keys to fostering strong teamwork and collaboration.

6.      Mutual Accountability. Closely related to the idea of teamwork and collaboration is mutual accountability. Leaders and employees make and keep their promises and as a result, mutual accountability, trust and respect are fostered across the organization. Peers hold peers accountable for their commitments. They are direct and assertive when promises are missed, and they are quick to thank others for keeping their promises. Accountability to customers is no less important than accountability to one another.

7.      Engagement and Empowerment. Workplace happiness depends on leaders who know how to empower employees. There is a sense of pride and enthusiasm for the company and work that is being done. Employees own their work and they encourage others to stay engaged. Employee empowerment means sharing of information, resources and tools that make it easier for employees to carry out their roles and responsibilities. Employees feel engaged because they feel they are part of a bigger picture, a grander vision. But Gallop tells us that employee engagement is stagnant in the US at 32%. Something is wrong.

8.      Contribution and Value.  Employees feel that they are making a contribution to the team and that they are justly recognized for their contributions. They feel challenged to grow and they feel part of the bigger picture. Employees feel that their work exercises their creativity and imagination. Their contributions are recognized, encouraged and valued. Employees believe that their personal strengths are utilized, nurtured, and supported. They are happy to start the day because they know their work and contribution has meaning.

9.      Fairness and Inclusion.  Employees feel empowered because they have access to data and information. They have equal access to leadership and feel that their performance is assessed fairly following a set of standards that are evenly applied. There is equal opportunity for every employee to realize their full potential and a fair chance to move up within the company if they so desire. There is nothing worse than favoritism for diminishing employee morale. Fair treatment is a standard followed by all and every person is recognized as valuable; not just the star performers.

10.  Flexibility and Autonomy. The best workplaces offer people flexibility and autonomy. Flexibility is crucial to employees’ ability to optimally manage their work and their lives. Autonomy is fundamental to human happiness. One study of more than 2,000 people across three continents found that workers were nearly two and a half times more likely to take a job that gave them more autonomy than they were to want a job that gave them more influence.

A healthy workplace environment is not stress free. But a healthy workplace environment encourages employee well-being, safety and skill development with programs established to mitigate the inevitable stressors that are present on any job. Turnover, in most organizations, is a result of management issues, communication breakdown, and the lack of opportunity to make meaningful contributions. It goes without saying just how beneficial it is to productivity and to your business bottom line to be attentive to your organizational culture. You could offer high salaries, great benefits, and half a year’s vacation, but none of this would make an impact on an employee’s attitude and work ethic. True empowerment and engagement comes in the form of fostering a healthy workplace culture and atmosphere.

Even a 13-year old can tell you that much.

Good luck.

Wait, before you go…

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

Why would you follow me?

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

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

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

Best,

Saeed

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

The What, How, and Why of Change Management

November 2, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Socrates

What is Change Management?

Broadly speaking, all change, whether it’s strategic organizational change or unanticipated personal change is about transitioning individuals, teams, and/or organizations from a current state to a desired future state in order to fulfill or implement a vision and/or strategy.

For leaders, change management is about empowering individuals to accept and embrace changes, both planned and unanticipated, in their current environment.

Change management is the continuous process of aligning with the set of external conditions creating the necessity for change—and doing so more responsively and effectively.

How Does Change Management Work?

Change management means a systematic approach and application of the mechanisms that support the change process. It means defining and adopting specific strategies, tactics, methods, activities, and approaches for embracing, implementing and dealing with change. Common obstacles to change include resistance, poor communication, insufficient capacity, lack of adequate resources, lack of proper engagement, and poor management of the overall change effort.

1.      It Starts with a Vision. Whether change is prompted by external or internal conditions , it must start with a vision. The vision will assist in motivating those impacted to advance their thought and actions in right direction.

2.      It Takes the right Strategies. The right strategy will ensure that the vision is achieved. Strategies provide the “roadmap” for achieving the vision. Without a strategic plan and vision, the change effort will fail.

3.      It Takes Clarity about Roles and Responsibilities. Being crystal clear about who is doing what, where, when , how and why is critical to the change effort. That means clarity on expectations, standards, scopes, and specific role of each contributor.

4.      It Takes Inclusion. Don’t even think about moving forward with your change effort without involving the key stakeholders. Stakeholders are those who will be impacted by the change. It is critical that they are involved in the process and understand how the change initiative will impact their current (and future) state.

Why Are We Even Doing This?

As leaders, our opinions, perspectives, and biases of the change process will have an impact on our efforts to support and guide our teams. Therefore it is critical that we understand, support, sponsor, and steward the change process to success.

Asking the right questions will help leaders assess the right approaches to change.

1.      Do we know the changes, their impact, rationale and benefits?

2.      Can we articulate the need for change?

3.      Is this the right time for change?

4.      How will the change impacting existing workloads?

5.      How can we achieve some early wins?

6.      Are there other organizational or sector change efforts that will impact our change effort?

7.      Can we combine forces, collaborate and coordinate with those efforts and integrate communications, goals, strategies and resources?

8.      Can we learn from past change efforts – what did or did not work well?

9.      What level of trust exists between groups and how will it impact the change effort?

10.  How can we make the messages clear, interesting, and engaging?

Communication Tips

·        When the decision has been made, emphasize that change will happen.

·        Explain the benefits but also acknowledge the negatives of the change.

·        Provide as much detail as possible to minimize rumors.

·        Acknowledge when you do not have the answers. Do not guess.

·        Update your team regularly on the progress of the change.

·        Articulate the business rationale and the events leading up to it.

·        Clarify the vision and specific change plans.

·        Ensure consistency about the message across the organization.

Conclusion

Change management is complex and leaders have a specific role in the process. Whether you are embarking on a new change initiative or considering change within your functional area, remember that change is a fast-breaking story: Sometimes you’ll hear the news from management; sometimes you’ll hear it from employees. You may be tempted to stay silent but even your silence will be interpreted – and probably not favorably. Gaps will be filled by the grapevine.  When you don’t have answers, don’t give answers but as a leader, force yourself to the front lines and manage the change. This will boost morale and ensure long term success.

Good Luck.

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

May 23, 2017 •  8 minute read • by Saeed


“A meeting is an event at which the minutes are kept but the hours are lost.” – Unknown

The spectrum is wide: Meetings can be laboratories for innovation or they can also be borefests that waste time and productivity.

Like you, I’ve sat through thousands of unproductive meetings. It took me a while to figure out what was happening: People really don’t know the basics of how to manage meetings.  Meeting management is part art and part science. With this article, I want to share some of the best practices I’ve learned over 25 years of facilitating meetings to help you improve yours so you can generate greater creative dialogue, increase productivity and maybe even change the world.

Let’s start here. There are at least 10 reasons that I can think of to hold a meeting. We hold meetings to:

  1. Share information
  2. Update status
  3. Obtain input
  4. Improve process
  5. Improve communication
  6. Transfer knowledge
  7. Reach agreement (or consensus)
  8. Advance thinking
  9. Make decisions
  10. Innovate

Regardless of meeting purpose, this list of best practices, will help your meetings be successful every time.

The Basics

1.     Do you even need a meeting?

Before you start planning your meeting, you need to ask yourself if you really even need a meeting. To figure out if your meeting is necessary or not, ask: What do I want to achieve with my meeting? Every meeting should have a goal and a purpose and by defining what that goal is, you can eliminate all meetings with obscure goals. Buh-bye!

2.     Who should you invite to the meeting?

Do you invite everyone you know to every party you have? Think about who you should invite and why. As a general rule only those who have a clear role at your meeting should be invited. The decision about who is to attend depends on what you want to accomplish in the meeting.

3.     What’s on your Agenda?

Whatever is on the agenda, it should be relevant and engaging. Agendas have to be timed and there has to be a flow. How information is prioritized and structured is very important to the success of the meeting. The hierarchy of how agenda items are presented usually starts out broadly with general information and background and evolves into more detailed actionable items as the meeting progresses.

4.     How long should your meeting be?

While there is a temptation to schedule longer meetings, it’s far better to keep it as short as possible. That way, you ensure that meeting participants are focused on the agenda. There’s no ideal length. It just depends on your agenda, participants, and what you are trying to get done.

5.     What kind of ground rules should you have?

You don’t always need ground rules but there are times when they may be necessary. There are four powerful ground rules I like to use: 1) stay engaged, 2) stay focused, 3) maintain momentum and 4) reach closure (or move towards consensus). Depending on the meeting, you may want a ground rule about confidentiality as well. List your primary ground rules on chart paper. Keep the ground rules posted at all times. Explain them if you have to.

One Level Up

6.     What kind of planning should you do?

I have an 80/20 rule about meetings which says that if you put 80% of your time into the planning, you’ll do 20% of the work in the meeting. On the other hand, if you put 20% time in planning, you’ll be sweating the other 80% out in meeting. Planning means preparing yourself (you know the content and objectives), preparing your audience (they know why they are there and have received the agenda and other necessary materials in advance to be well prepared for the conversation), and preparing the space (which includes not only the right seating arrangement and meeting participants’ comfort but also attention paid to technology and back-ups you may need).

7.     What kind of atmosphere should you create?

One that’s conducive to innovation and learning of course. I had this conversation with my son when he was about 10 years old. He said to me that everything is about atmosphere and went about making a case with examples of why that was true. He impressed me and he convinced me. The location should be comfortable, well lit and large. Ideally, other rooms nearby would be available for small group break-out sessions.

8.     Should you leverage visual communication?

Hell yes! Most of us are visual learners (65%) and we live in an ocularcentric world. Yet, so many of our meetings appeal only to auditory learners (30%). Use video, still images, graphs, Power Point and Prezi presentations to engage participants.

9.     How should you open the meeting?

The cardinal rule of meeting facilitation is to start and end on time. This lets your participants know that your respect those who showed up on time and reminds late-comers that the scheduling is serious. Use a meeting opener that’s fun and informative. All the better if your opener is tied to the overall theme of your meeting and is not just arbitrarily plopped in for fun. Relevant meeting openers that are positive and inspiring are better that generic icebreakers.

10. How should you close the meeting?

Always, and I mean always, end your meeting on a positive note and with concrete action steps and take-aways. Summarize what happened in the meeting and briefly list the action steps that need to take place to move the project or team forward. Remind everyone of the big-picture. End with enthusiasm for the future. Try a reflective question like: “What’s one thing you’ve learned today that you can apply tomorrow?” Trained facilitators also evaluate the meeting by using the Plus/Delta method. Put up a piece of chart paper up and draw two columns labeling one Plus and the other Delta. Ask participants what worked (The Plus) and what could be improved next time (The Delta).

Advanced

11. How can you prewire the meeting for success?

In other words, how can you set it up for success by doing some work up front. Maybe you need to meet with a meeting participant outside the main meeting to catch them up because they’ve been on vacation. Maybe you need to send some research that needs to be reviewed in advance. The more prepared your participants are, the higher your chances of success.

12. How should you lead the meeting?

If you are leading the meeting, your main responsibility is threefold: 1) Did you meet your meeting objectives? 2) Did you do it on time? and 3) Did you do it with the participation of the whole group? If you can answer these questions with a ‘Yes’ then you’ve been successful. As the leader, you create value when you make sure that the meeting runs smoothly by monitoring and guiding the discussion, connecting the dots and helping the group reach new insights and understandings.

13. How should you manage the conversation?

Prevention is the best policy here. Be as specific as possible in your agenda and meeting expectations. That way, meeting participants are on the same page when they enter the meeting room. To make sure they are, review the agenda and ask participants if they have the same understanding of the meeting objectives. There are certain meeting personality types you will encounter in every meeting.  If you feel that someone has spoken too much, thank him or her for their insights and comments, but point out respectfully that it’s important to hear from others. On the other hand, if someone is silent, address that person by name and ask him or her a specific  and direct question. That way, you’re bound to get a reply. Thank them and return to their point again to encourage their participation. Create a ‘Parking Lot’ to manage off-topic discussions by placing a piece of chart paper on the wall with that label. Then put anything that is not on the agenda and could potentially derail the meeting, into the Parking Lot. As a last resort suggest a separate meeting where the unrelated issue can be discussed.

14. How can you divide and conquer?

Working in small groups gives participants a chance to practice the higher-order thinking skills that are needed for breakthrough conversations. Participants in small groups generally learn more of the material, contribute more, and retain their knowledge, enthusiasm and motivation longer.  Small group work can range from short, informal discussions to more formalized exercises that involve deeper level problem solving.  that make up the majority of class. Contrary to popular belief, you can incorporate small group work into any of your larger meetings. You can also use paired discussion or triads if you don’t have enough people to form a small group. Pose a question or a problem and give participants a set amount of time to tackle it. Have them share out their findings at the end and compare notes with the other groups you formed.

15. How can you generate new creative ideas?

The Holy Grail of meeting time is generating useful, creative and actionable new ideas that advance the project, team or product to the next level. That means having the right process and the right questions to guide the process. The go-to method is brainstorming. Traditional brainstorming, invented by Alex Osborn back in the 1940s is based on the principles of withholding judgment and quantity over quality when it came to idea generation. That’s fine. There will always be a time and a place for brainstorming but you can take your traditional brainstorming to a new level by adding some more structure to it using techniques such as Mind Mapping (identifying a central topic and linking this to a new idea and repeating the process until you have a web of ideas) or using the 5 Whys technique (an iterative interrogative technique where the answer to each Why question forms the basis of the next question until a the cause and effect relationship underlying a particular problem has been discovered).

In future posts, I’ll discuss other techniques for idea generation. In the meantime, don’t forget to follow up to your meeting. Meeting management is part art and part science. Timely follow up is just a vital professional habit  that you should have in all that you do and it is particularly important in establishing continuity after the meeting. Notes, next steps and highlights should be distributed to make sure that the train of ideas and actions keep moving down the track.

Good luck.

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

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

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

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6 Secret Weapons To Supervise Like A Superhero

May 22, 2017 •  4 minute read • by Saeed


“With great power comes great responsibility” – Voltaire and Uncle Ben from the Spider-Man comic books.

First off, I am by no means suggesting that you should wear tights and a cape to work. Unless you want to of course, in which case I would suggest checking the employee manual beforehand for appropriate dress code at your workplace.

That aside, this post is about developing your core supervision muscles. By making the following list of practices second-nature and part of a daily habit, the people you work with will come to know that when they’re in trouble, they can rely on you to save the day.

Let’s dive in.

Secret Weapon #1: Stand On Top of Skyscrapers

Not literally of course. The English verb “supervision” is derived from the two Latin words “super” (above) and “videre” (see, observe). To supervise, in other words, means having a birds-eye-view. It means not being shackled down by a narrow perspective. Superman literally had super-vision. When superheroes are faced with a conflict or difficult decision, you often find them on top of a skyscraper contemplating their next move. In the same way, try gaining a balcony view of the issue at hand so you can make a better decision. Learn to step outside of the pool where everyone else is drowning and look at things from a different vantage point. The new perspective will help you make a better decision.

Secret Weapon #2: Build a Shied of Self-Knowledge and Self-Management

If you can’t manage yourself, you have no business managing others. Being able to reflect on who you are and to contemplate your own behavior is the source of great achievement. It can also be the source of many pitfalls. Taking things too personally, being overly self critical, or mistrusting your own instincts are all possible side effects of too much inward turning. These self defeating tendencies can have a huge impact on how well you function at work.

Neophyte supervisors tend to feel insecure and even attacked when people disagree with them or criticize their approach. If you feel that your co-workers are constantly “shooting you down” and think that the subtext of many of your conversations with them shows that they are right and you are wrong – you may be struggling with defensiveness. Don’t be defensive! Be proactive instead. Use consistent and assertive communication skills and be clear about tasks, goals, and objectives you set for your team. Check in regularly to make sure expectations are managed accordingly. Manage yourself better and your team will manage themselves better.

Secret Weapon #3: Don’t Mask Your Identity

Thick masks and helmets limit the superhero’s peripheral vision and the ability to connect authentically with people. That is why superheroes have an alter ego (think Clark Kent, Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne). Most supervisors are inadequately trained for their role and are only in it because of consecutive promotions (in some superhero comics, the reluctant hero is conscripted into saving the world by some kind of sinister secret agency).

Moreover, many supervisors are subject to pressures from above and below (middle management trap) and come into the battlefield with their own vulnerabilities. To compensate, they may pretend to be something they are not. Regardless, the nature of the supervisory encounter is rife with power and authority. Each party brings to it their personal (Diana) and professional (Wonder Woman) identities, knowledge, skills, beliefs, worldviews and the impact of life experiences.

Start with understanding your supervision style. Know and understand how your style fits with that of your team members. In my experience, when these relationships are collaborative, transparent and open to constructive input, both parties benefit. The supervisory relationship should be a collaborative one centered around mutual respect and a shared agenda: We all want to save Gotham City. Doing so means working together.

Weapon #4: Embrace What Makes You Different

Embracing what makes you different, is exactly what Steve Jobs did to spectacular success. Every superhero has a special set of skills that makes them different than the next. That’s what makes the Justice League a superior force against global villainy. Jobs had a notorious ability to be focused. He complimented it with an embrace of Zen Philosophy and simplicity.

He also dared to be different and had a dogged self-belief that pushed him through difficult times. As a superhero or supervisor, you must be able to bounce back quickly from defeat. Wolverine is the most famous superhero with a healing power that allows him to recover from injuries, but lots of other heroes have this, including Deadpool and the Hulk. Cultivating this ‘power’ is paramount to success as a leader. It is the very definition of resiliency.

Secret Weapon #5: Know Your Strengths and Know Your Weaknesses

Superheroes understand their strengths and weaknesses.  Even though their weaknesses can sometimes be complicated (like radioactive fragments of their home planets), more often than not, they are super obvious: easily overwhelmed senses, an unprotected face or an unwieldy cape . You may think your weaknesses are hidden from view by your protective armor but don’t be surprised to find that people can see right through you.

Superheroes plan around their weaknesses. They augment their strengths through learning and adaption.

There are actually two types of strengths – the known (realized) and the unknown(unrealized). Your known powers will almost always come without any difficulties or inconveniences. The unknown powers however only come when you are truly tested.

To be super, means being able to harness both. Theodore Roosevelt had a famous quote admiring those in the ‘arena’ of life who are “willing to be marred by dust and sweat and blood.” You have to be in the arena and be tested to know all of your strengths. So, don’t be afraid of making mistakes as a first time supervisor. Face fears. Practice perseverance. Reinforce resilience.

Secret Weapon #6: Inspire and Motivate Your People

Superheroes are inspiring because they are role models of integrity, trust, perseverance, resilience, and justice. They are incorruptible but they are not infallible. Their vulnerability coupled with the ability to overcome it, also serves to inspire us. Motivation is the combination of desire, values, and beliefs that drives you to take action. These three motivating factors are at the root of why people behave the way they do. Because you ultimately control your values, beliefs, and desires, you can influence your motivations. This means, if you consider something important and assign value to it, you are more likely to do the work it takes to attain the goal. When motivation originates from an internal source and is combined with a realistic goal and circumstance, the odds of a good outcome are greatly increased.

Superheroes have a universal appeal because they inspire us to greater heights. We need heroes – super and otherwise – because they are merely a reflection of our deeply human desire for a better self.

Up, up and away!

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

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

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