Motivation

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5 EASY WAYS TO BRING GRATITUDE TO THE OFFICE

This time of year is filled with swarming demands. You are juggling to-do lists, replies to investors, flittering holiday schedules. You have yearly success to evaluate and ugly sweaters to pick. It’s easy to feel like there is not enough — not enough time, not enough talent, not enough appreciation for the work you and your team are doing.

All this not-enough-ness leaves us feeling empty and depleted rather than full of comfort and joy.

Conscious leaders can gracefully combat feelings of scarcity by incorporating gratitude into the workday. Simple shifts towards thankfulness will inspire teams and provide hope and prosperity for the year ahead.

Here are five easy-to-implement ideas to inspire gratitude for your team and organization.

1. Make a list.

Take a break and grab a pen. Go sit somewhere quiet and make a list of what you are thankful for in your organization. Are there standout employees making a difference? Are you proud of new accomplishments or thankful for the light dancing across your keyboard as you type your next important email? Taking time to stop and make a list of what brings you joy at work can ground you. Then, take the time to share your responses with your team. When you lead with a vulnerable heart, this sets the stage for employees to follow, which leads to …

2. Acknowledge what’s going right.

Leaders are programmed to problem-solve. Addressing challenges and navigating unknowns probably led to your success. It is natural to jump right in and tackle obstacles with your team. A key shift towards leading with gratitude is to first recognize all the things going well right now. Start simple to build your gratitude muscles. The printer is working, and the lights are on. All members of your team arrived safely on time. Fresh coffee is percolating. Then you can move on to recognize the positive results of your team’s contributions. Last week’s demanding client is now thrilled with revision three of their blueprints. Perhaps you cut costs by changing suppliers and made five new connections leading to new sales.

Keep a running list with your team and review together at the end of each month. Celebrate your successes and confidently move forward to address new challenges. You can also…

3. Learn what your employees are thankful for in their work.

One-on-one meetings are essential to healthy workplaces. Providing space to share successes and voice concerns with a leader on a regular basis leads to better results. Rather than drag, these hours can be inspiring problem-solving sessions designed to provide insight on engagement and satisfaction at work.

Ask questions like:

  • What are you doing well?*
  • What are you working to improve?*
  • What roadblocks are in your way?*
  • How can we support you better?*
  • What about your work are you most thankful for?

These questions prompt employees to ponder which aspects of the job they enjoy and where they are thriving. They also uncover areas for improvement and perceived feelings of positive impact in their current roles. If employees struggle to identify what they are thankful for, you can work together to create a plan to make work more rewarding. Encourage them to go back to point number one and make their own gratitude lists. If they feel comfortable, invite them to share their responses with you.

4. Express gratitude for employee’s efforts.

Conscious leaders understand that people are vital to a healthy organization. With mixtures of personalities, preferences, and time available, you may feel unsure of how to express your thanks and appreciation to members of your team. Some folks love a good superlative, while others would prefer to melt away than stand on stage and accept an award. Take the time to ask what makes your employee feel special. Add a line to on-boarding paperwork to track favorite desserts or what movies they enjoy. Keep these notes in their file or their contact info on your phone. Then, when you notice a standout action, you can leave a note and a small token of appreciation on their desk. Too touchy-feely or out of budget? Jot a quick note-of-thanks email and click send. Or better yet…

5. Say thank you, in person, with an authentic heart.

My first job was a receptionist in a nail salon. I made appointments, put on jackets, and buckled folks in to the driver’s seat so their nail polish wouldn’t smear. At the end of each day, the owner would tell me, “Thank you for your work today.” No matter how many toe-nail clippings I’d swept or demanding women I’d navigated, I always felt seen and appreciated when my boss would say thanks. As an organizational gatekeeper, I’ve worked with many colleagues who say they like their work and they wish their bosses were more aware of how they navigate the frustrating parts of their roles. Employees want to be seen. Acknowledge the metaphorical toe nails and repeat the phrase, “Thank you for your work today,” with a sense of authentic appreciation as often as you can.

It takes time to see your people. When you choose to invite gratitude into your spaces and conversations, you can appreciate the positive impacts you and your organization make. Try out these ideas before the end of the year. With practice, you’ll be able to encourage your team to focus, with grateful hearts, on all you set out to accomplish.

This Article was written by Katie Huey of Conscious Company Media – Original here>

2019-06-14T11:37:38+00:00January 2nd, 2019|Culture, Emotional Intelligence, Employee Engagement, Motivation|

Empathy Is An Essential Leadership Skill — And There’s Nothing Soft About It

I get tired of hearing about “soft skills,” even when it’s acknowledged they are important. No less a hard-muscled body than the U.S. Army, in its Army Field Manual on Leader Development (one of the best resource on leadership I’ve ever seen) insists repeatedly that empathy is essential for competent leadership.

Why? Empathy enables you to know if the people you’re trying to reach are actually reached. It allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and strategize accordingly. Without empathy, you can’t build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Empathy is essential in negotiations and sales: it allows you to know your target’s desires and what risks they are or aren’t willing to take.

Elsewhere I’ve proposed a short list of 5 essential cognitive capacities and personality traits that every leader who assumes great responsibility must have. Empathy is one of the core five. (The others are self-awareness, trust, critical thinking and discipline/self-control.)

Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s experience, perspective and feelings. Also called “vicarious introspection,” it’s commonly described as the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. But make sure you are assessing how they would feel in their shoes, not how you would feel in their shoes. This is the tricky part.

I remember my husband taking me cross-country skiing for the first time early in our marriage. He was sure (putting himself in my shoes) that I would love the sport as much as he did. From the minute the skis were strapped on me, I absolutely hated it. Being generally clumsy and lacking good balance, the sensation of non-stop instability was anything but fun for me—in fact, it made me miserable. My husband kept insisting I would love it if I just gave it a chance. Naturally athletic and graceful, he couldn’t imagine the experience I was having in my shoes—now strapped tightly to long slippery sticks! It took years for me to convince him that my experience on cross country skis was utterly different from his. Fortunately, I discovered the pleasure of tramping around on snowshoes. The solidity and certainty gave me a chance to enjoy winter woods while he continued to enjoy sliding around on icy snow.

Like the practice of self-awareness, empathy involves scanning large sets of data, sorting out what’s noise and what’s essential information. The process is not so different from what a stock analyst does when scanning the market and looking for signals, anomalies and novel patterns that jump out and make him take notice, realizing something important is going on.

There is a significant business cost when leaders lack empathy. Just ask United Airlines which earned the dishonor of having committed “one of the worst corporate gaffes” ever, according to Bloomberg’s Christopher Palmeri and Jeff Green, when a physician was dragged off a plane to empty his paid seat for an employee. It took United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, three tries before his public response showed any empathy. Munoz’s first and woefully inadequate statement, “I apologized for having to re-accommodate these customers,” seriously missed the mark in attempting to relate to his customer’s experience. In his second statement, Munoz compounded the error by blaming the victim—describing the passenger as defiant, belligerent and disruptive. Only with his third try, when Munoz said, “I promise you we will do better,” did he demonstrate an empathic understanding of his current and future customers.

Lack of empathy is a major contributor to the tsunami of sexual harassment incidents that have dominated recent news and led to the departures of accomplished leaders. Commenting on an employee’s body or, worse, grabbing her, requires a failure of empathy. If a boss were able and willing to put himself in the employee’s shoes and understand how she would feel when subjected to his actions, he would be far less likely to do what he’s doing.

Can empathy be learned? To some degree. The capacity for empathy is an innate human trait, and like all of these, there is a spectrum of strength and weakness. Some people are more naturally gifted at quickly sensing other peoples’ experience. In fact, some of my clients have to be taught to put up an “empathic wall”—too much awareness of other peoples’ feelings cripples their ability to make decisions that lead to disappointment or bad feelings.

Very successful business leaders are often extremely fast information processors. With my clients who do not “suffer fools gladly,” I recommend taking a moment to deploy a bit of empathy—what’s behind a colleague’s wish to propose what immediately looks like a dumb idea? Follow with an empathic comment along the lines of “I can see why you got excited about that because it’s an important issue, but unfortunately it would raise compliance problems so we can’t pursue that route.” A 90-second investment of time can prevent the employee’s feeling humiliated and disaffected in the long-term.

If you’re naturally low on the empathy scale, at least know you have this deficiency and that there is a cost to it. You can learn to check yourself and do what does not come naturally: before you act, school yourself to think of the people who will be affected and what your action will mean to them. And try to remember to not just recognize but care about that impact on others. You can also make sure you have a trusted advisor who fills in the gap in your skillset. That advisor must be empowered to stop you if you’re forgetting that there are other people in the world and that their feelings and agendas are not the same as yours—and that these matter.

Whatever your natural endowment for empathy, your capacity for empathy and skill at deploying it waxes and wanes with your own physical and mental state. If you’re ill or tired, it’s hard to have empathy for anyone but yourself. If you’re in the throes of creative excitement, it’s disruptive to consider the perspective of others. And that’s fine, as long as it doesn’t last too long and you know to check back in with the human beings around you.

Don’t confuse empathy with making people happy or being nice. Sometimes you’ll suss out another’s perspective and feelings and purposefully ignore them. Or even use it to gain an advantage. Essentially empathy is a neutral data gathering tool that enables you to understand the human environment within which you are operating in business and therefore make better predictions, craft better tactics, inspire loyalty and communicate clearly.

Original Article in Forbes by Prudy Gourguechon here.

Two Simple Words That Help Drive Employee Engagement and Company Results

Employee EngagementWhen you put people first, profits follow.

You don’t get to be in the 100 Best Companies to Work For, for 19 years in a row, just by luck.

So when I saw that one of my local firms had achieved that goal, I went to meet with them to find out just how they had done that.

When I asked Stephanie Slate, Director of Talent Acquisition at JM Family Enterprises, a $14.9billion company, how they achieved such great levels of employee engagement, Stephanie’s put me straight right from the get go.

“Firstly,” Stephanie said “we don’t call people employees, we call them Associates. This is critical to our corporate culture because we want people to feel that they work with us, and not for us.”

“Secondly our high associate engagement comes from a simple philosophy of People First. This is has been embedded into our culture, and it’s this that really makes the difference.”

Now, to be honest, People First is not a concept that I was hearing of for the first time.

In fact, I would say that the majority of CEO’s talk about People First cultures, but given that 68% of staff in the US are disengaged, clearly not everyone is walking the talk, so what is JM Family doing differently.

Stephanie said, “To create the People First culture, you need to have leaders who live the culture, which founder Jim Moran did, as does current CEO Colin Brown, and you need to recruit people that fit into that culture to both to maintain and strengthen it.”

Cultural fit is the most important recruitment quality that JM Family looks for in potential.

If a candidate has amazing skills but won’t fit the culture, then they don’t get hired. Stephanie mentioned that JM Family would even hire people with a great cultural fit and train them in the skills needed for the position, such is the importance of cultural fit to them.

So what does a People First culture look like?

During our conversation, there were several key themes that kept re-emerging, and these were.

  • Respect
  • Caring
  • Communication and Connection
  • Empowerment
  • Opportunities
  • Appreciation

Respect

JM Family wants their associates to feel both valued and respected. They encourage the new associates to ask questions, to be curious, and they listen to them, even the new associates.

With every new change that comes along, one of the first questions to be asked by senior management is “how will this impact our associates?’

Caring

The company cares about its associates, and it shows that by offering an excellent benefits package, but the caring extends well beyond that. They have medical staff and daycare services on site at main locations; they have several programs they have implemented and support that helps associates in times of hardship.

They even have a LifeCare Program, which is like an Associate concierge service that helps with non-work related issues. Stephanie said that she had used that service to help find a florist for her wedding.

Communication and Connection

Communication is key to ensuring that your associates feel like they work with you and not for you. During the onboarding process, all new Associates get to meet with a Vice President for a day, the Executive Management Team and are invited to a group Q&A session with the CEO.

They get to speak with them and ask them questions first hand. This not only helps the communication flow but also helps to make good connections between the new Associates and the Executive Management team.

I was also surprised to see that everyone calls the CEO by his first name and are very comfortable to approach him. This was something that I actually witnessed rather than was just told about.

Empowerment

Associates are encouraged to ask questions and to challenge things, although this has to be done constructively and in ways that will benefit the company. They also encourage associates to try new things and to learn from their mistakes, rather than to punish or criticize them for it.

This helps to create an empowered workforce that is proactive when they see opportunities to benefit the company.

Opportunities

One of the key reasons people cite for leaving their employers is a lack of career development and opportunities. When a company takes an approach where they hire for cultural fit and willing to train for a position, and they have five different divisions, there will always be opportunities to either advance or to try something different.

Appreciation

Appreciation is one of our most basic needs, after food, shelter, and safety, and JM Family do a great job at showing their Associates that they are appreciated. They have regular appreciation dinners and awards, and they also have a peer to peer appreciation program which allows people to recognize their colleagues for great work that they have done. Sometimes great work goes unseen by management, but programs like this allow for people to be recognized by their peers and for their efforts to be brought to the attention of the management.

So it’s great that JM Family has been ranked in the Top 100 companies 19 years in a row, but what does all this mean to the bottom line?

JM Family’s staff turnover rate is 7.1 percent, which is well below their competitors, which helps to reduce cost, which increases profit.

Their staff stays with the company 10.1 years on average, which compares very favorably with the national average of 4.2, and are happy to recommend the company, and the majority of new hires come from referrals which help to keep down recruitment costs and ensures that any open positions are filled quickly.

They have achieved record revenues in each of the last five years, with an average revenue growth of around 12 percent per year since 2011.

When you put your people first you create an engaged, excited and empowered work force, which helps to keep costs down and revenues growing.

Original Article by Gordon Tredgold- here

 

Emotional Control was key to Irish Rugby 6 nations Victory over England

Joe Schmidt and his team did a wonderful job on the emotional management of the Ireland team on Saturday last. With so much on the line and in such a cauldron of intensity and pressure they played angry and cool – a potent combination.

Rugby is a funny old sport for many reasons. Such as the fact that a 6ft 11in second row can play alongside a 5ft 9in who is 8 stone lighter, that you move forward by passing backward and that you beat seven shades of **** out of one another and shake hands with and cheer the opposition afterwards.

The physical and mental challenge particularly at the top level is daunting and I remember meeting many Americans on rugby tours, who can’t believe we play this game without padding and helmets like American Football. To be up for the challenge, to be able to give the sort of effort for this period of time requires a teeth gritting intensity of emotion that has to be raised and then maintained for the full game. Different players get there in different ways, some use anger, some fear and some pure will.

To meet some of the challenges of “putting your body on the line” requires getting into a state of mind that ignores pain as required and which ignores what you are putting your body through. Two 16 stone centres run into one another at speed, there is a 32 stone collision magnified by the momentum, there is effectively a car crash, inertia, g-force and falling to the ground without the ability to use your arms (one pair is protecting the ball and the other pair is making the tackle). When they get up after the first tackle all they have to do is do it another 20 times, while running 7-10 miles in 1000 directions at 10 different speeds while staying aware of every attempt by the opposition to invent a way around them.

So this requires emotional regulation. Fast thinking (as per nobel winner Dr Daniel_Kahneman) of the sort required to react fast and make decisions in milliseconds is generally emotional in nature and it is also supported by good habits learned over years. Slow thinking – meaning thinking with the linear process-driven side of your head about the game and staying cool to make the right tactical decisions is different. Too much emotion can cause this part of your brain (with plans-logic-control) to be hard to access as your amygdala ( the part of your brain which has a primary role in the processing decision-making and emotional reactions) goes too much into fight or flight mode and your thinking and some of your habit based learning suffers or shuts down. Too much pressure to perform also shuts it down – interestingly a psychologist once told me we are most vulnerable to this as teenagers right around the time of the leaving cert (!).

It is well known by cognitive psychologists that too much pressure causes the player to use the same pathways to perform a skill that he or she used while learning the skill – like learning to drive versus experienced driving which is almost automatic. This is illustrated in sport by a study that showed that soccer players in the World Cup taking penalty kicks in the shootout to decide a game’s outcome are twice as likely to miss if they are kicking “not to lose” rather than kicking to win their game. Same goal, situation and ball but just a pressure difference.

Look at the pivotal role of the coach and/or leader in all of this. Trying to get the players ready to function with the punishment and intensity yet trying to keep them thinking so they play cute but also to their maximum physical capacity. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking pressure off. Joe Schmidt the Ireland coach has shown the skills to do this alongside the leaders in the team. Think of the narrow window through which he must motivate and engage his team. Enough intensity but not too much. Enough pressure to perform but no too much. Last Saturday was a masterclass.

Organisational and business teams who understand and use emotion rather than ignoring it – benefit from it hugely through increased performance and better outcomes in almost every area. Motivating and generating the most enthusiasm you can while keeping pressure off your team so they feel the freedom to try things, to innovate and be agile while keeping an eye on the strategy and tactics is a big challenge but necessary to be competitive in the 21st century organisation. Schmidt’s Ireland team demonstrated a level of tuned motivation and performance that was made possible by emotional understanding and control.

In rugby the famous warm-ups before matches with banging of heads etc are becoming less common – one such a man from Munster once told me about was of a French team they were playing in a club game who brought a cockerel into the dressing room before the match. During the warm-up in the dressing room my friend’s team could hear all sorts of shouting and bellowing en Francais reverberating through the thin walls. The French team ran out first and as my friend’s team passed the door to their dressing room as they followed them out, they looked in to see blood and feathers all over the place and no cockerel. “After seeing that” he said “we let them have the ball”

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

#Brexit result is evidence that we need to get the trust back.

#brexit leadership and trustI worked for nearly seven years in England after graduation and I got quite fond of your average middle English Joe and Jane. I worked side by side with some great people and played some rugby with and against some of the nicest people. This morning I am feeling somewhat sorry for our neighbours, who after #brexit have made an awful decision because of lack of trust in Leadership, unbridled misinformation, populist rhetoric, racist shield banging and outright lies.

Its been like watching a car crash in slow motion, after watching some despicable individuals throw oil on the road. Congratulations flowing in from Europes right wing 10% on a victory for nationalism are galling, particularly as this sort of thinking led to the war that caused the European Union to be set up in the first place, with England at its core.

Lack of trust in leadership and the negating of true expert opinion is a key element in this result. Similar to the causes attributed to the rise of Trump in the US. Lack of understanding of basic economics and the belief in lies written on posters and buses is also part of this. In Ireland I think we may be headed down that same road and its something we may need to fix before it gets any worse.

After this shock we need to change our mindset to WHAT NEXT. It’s happened, so how do we deal with it. In my view the biggest worry for Ireland is the expected UK recession and the resultant lack of spending power in our biggest single market. With the drop in sterling today our pricing has already risen by 5%. Other tariffs may be added, but also inflation in the UK may even things out. As for Northern Ireland, I remember well when there were borders in the north. Not just passport controls but the big black bomb proofed towers with armed soldiers, some not in their twenties, guarding them. Its not going to be as bad as then. However one has to worry for the economies at the border (both sides) and the fragile economy of Northern Ireland.

In terms of Leadership – the US and the UK are demonstrating a new kind of politics. Gone are the thoughtful, direct and trusted sources. Some would say that’s because gone are the thoughtful, direct and trusted people. I think they are still there but struggling to be heard …”‘s’cuse me… I’d like to say something…” Now we have NOISE! … soundbites, social media, trolls and clickbait.

Clickbait works by generating or taking content from any source that may or may not be true but is interesting enough or shocking enough to attract your attention so they get paid for your click. This leads to a lot of terrible content and misinformation. Take the anti-vax rhetoric for example – clickbait sites are paid to re-post and re-post that dangerous unethical rubbish.

We have also shrewd PR generating photo-ops and noise which the news media cover rabidly. Look at Farage and his poster “events” . They create an event which grabs the news-cycles and makes their point in large simple (if deceitful) images. Enough of this allows outsiders like Farage to generate more noise than anyone else in the noisy environment and win the attention of millions. In the US the rise of Trump generated by far the majority of the coverage of the primaries. It was like a Punch and Judy show and everybody wanted to know who Punch would punch next. The news channels need to wise up. They need to differentiate between real news and generated news. They are being manipulated and the tail is definitely wagging the dog.

Couple this to the short attention span being driven by our multitasking high speed lives and its more difficult to find the truth of any matter. There is also an assumption by many that every news source has an agenda and is in the pocket of some wealthy elite.

This is partly true, however even regulated news sources (such as the BBC) are not as trusted as they should be. I came across Jamal Edwards MBE recently who is a 24 year old entrepreneur with his own news channel. He founded his channel because his sister (16 at the time) and her friends did not trust the existing news sources to be unbiased. He gets his stories directly from AP and repackages them. Great news that they wanted to be informed but sad that they felt they could not trust the established feeds.

In the US we have Fox News, the most watched news channel (and exclusively watched) by Republicans. Telling their viewers what they want to hear and keeping it to the party line, its so bad as to be almost funny. I watch it sometimes to examine the subjectivity and almost for comedy relief (yes its that poor) and yet it is the main-stay of so many peoples source of information.

I am hoping we adapt by recognising clickbait for what it is – and ignoring it – disinformation for what it is and not letting it distract, and by finding a way to recognise the truth from the noise when we see or hear it – rather than content that may frighten us of which may just reinforce current opinion. We need to see our political leadership STOP claiming bias in the main stream media every time they are disagreed with, when in fact its mostly telling the truth as they see it.

We need to see leaders being more direct, espousing and living their values and leading by example. We need the serious ethical media channels smarten up, differentiate manipulation from real news while keeping our leaders honest. They need to raise the bar again and earn back the trust we need to see the unbiased truth and make informed decisions.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

2019-06-14T11:32:16+00:00June 25th, 2016|Culture, Leadership, Leadership Development, Motivation|

Learning about teamwork from Connacht’s success.

ConnachtWhat can we learn from the Connacht Pro12 victory gleaned from the wonderful team culture and leadership put together by Pat Lam?

Lets be clear, this was a massive upset. For a team that has finished in the bottom half of the table over the last number of years, to finish as Pro12 winners was an incredible feat. To get past teams in the run-in who were not weakened, as they sometimes are, by representation in the final stages of the European Cup was also incredible. They caught the eye of all the rugby playing nations with their style and passion as well as their success. As an auld Connacht rugby player myself it was emotional… “no no no I just have something in my eye…”

Was this a team full of stars? – No – but stars emerged nonetheless. Leaders were all over the pitch. Taking responsibility, making decisions, showing example. Rather than picking players who shone in this way, try to name a player who did not  – it is very difficult. They played for the guy next to them, for the crowd, for their community, their legacy. When the injury toll was high others slotted in, stepped up and played as if they had been there all season.

How does a team achieve all this? By leveraging the maximum they could from the potential of high performance teamwork. Where the sum is truly greater than the parts. Looking at the players on the pitch, with their interchangeable roles and their ability to change tactics on the move, acting in synch, one can see the purity of the team mindset.

Vision

It started with a Vision. Pat Lam set their targets and went after them – from there deciding the training, process and style of play that would garner the required performance. Look after the performance and the results look after themselves.

Humility and Service

Stories emerged early in Pat Lams tenure that he had the players up early in the morning and out sweeping the streets of Galway to get them to understand their community a bit more and to show service to their community was a priority. Understanding service is key to good leadership and good teams. It help all the individuals understand the team is the priority. Studies show that a team without egos and with the language of co-operation performs under pressure. They are always looking for solutions rather than to blame.

Trust

In a famous line from the end of the movie Black Hawk Down, Hoot, one of the rangers explains “They won’t understand why we do it. They won’t understand that it’s about the men next to you, and that’s it. That’s all it is.” Great teams understand this. Great rugby defences understand this too! The ability to trust the guy next to you, to trust your coach and to trust the system was all key to success. One story emerged after the final game, that the players chipped in to make sure 4 players that had trained with them during the year but had not played were also able to travel to Edinburgh with the team. Leave no man behind indeed.

Agility and Autonomy

During the games one could see that the players were adapting to the defence in front of them. Adapting to the moves of the opposition. This allowed the team to make decisions under pressure without fear. Rigid systems in rugby tend to have the players thinking only about the system, blind to the moves of their opposition. Similarly bureaucratic organisations whose adoption of change can be torturously slow. Agile autonomous teams can make decisions because they do not fear trying things and making mistakes. Because they are empowered to do so. Players would often go to Pat Lam after matches and say “sorry for that Pat” and he would reply – “well what did you learn from it?” It is also critical with empowerment that the required skills are there so that the team members can take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. This too was part of the plan and part of the training.

Joy in the game

When we enjoy what we do we jump out of bed in the morning, looking forward to the day. The style of joyous rugby being played by Connacht and the passion engendered by being part of something bigger than themselves improved commitment and workrate and added a meter of pace (or a bounce in the step) to players. The mindset is so important in rugby. So too in organisations. Home and away results show the importance of this. Its the same size pitch with the same posts so whats different?

I remember in the early nineties, the Sportsground held far more greyhound races than rugby matches. Connacht players played with passion but mostly on the losing side and travelled long nights on dark roads, often the rain to scrummaging or training sessions in Athlone and similar venues. We had then a raucous, faithful but small crowd watching the games in one isolated stand. Connacht have come so far since then – its incredible. One commentator put it well – “from dog track to top dog”…. indeed.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

2019-04-10T09:21:24+00:00June 1st, 2016|Leadership, Motivation, Team Performance|

Leaderships good intentions have a big blind-spot.

Leadership and CultureModern organisational leadership requires a whole new set of perspectives and competencies. Competition is no longer just for market share but for the right people. The performance of those people must be leveraged through developing engagement which means ensuring empowerment and motivation.

Leadership strategy in the business schools emphasises Vision and Mission first – which are different things – although surprisingly so many leaders do not get the difference. They are about purpose and direction. The Vision sets the purpose and the Mission the direction/goals/objectives. This difference is critical particularly as new generations of knowledge workers are more interested in the former than the latter.

Microsoft’s vision, famously, was ”a computer in every home”. It was about empowerment of the individual, in a time when computers were available only to large organisations. Great idea, great purpose, great results.

The challenges for large organisations are based around the ability to innovate, the ability to adapt (agility) and the ability to attract and retain great talent. Organisations which have the first two tend to have the third. Why? Because a company that is good at innovation has the space and ability to take risks that allows autonomy and learning to blossom. Environments like this allow people to make a difference and to grow and learn and they are highly motivational. The opposite of this approach kills companies. Read this report on Nokia for example: Nokia.

We do not motivate people, we create the environments that allow them to be self-motivated.

Agility means the ability to adapt, so autonomy and authority must be pushed out to the coal face, to the people that work with the customers or consumers. If you give your people these freedoms and coach them to enable accurate risk assessment and decision making you again create that motivating environment.

The millennial generation, today anyone below 35 years old, own many of the competencies required to thrive in purposeful organizations and are coming up on 50% of the available talent pool. Organisations must provide the motivational environment to attract this talent or they will wither and die.

But most good Leaders know this. The challenge is how to implement this in their organisation. Where to start? One issue is the lack of recognition of the culture that exists. Like a fish in water they are not aware that water is all around them. I know myself of the highs of gaining an understanding at a training course or conference and going back to the organisation full of good intentions. And then slowly and surely forgetting them as the organisational norm floods in and quenches the fire.

The main blind-spot is culture recognition. As Peter Drucker famously said:

Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Cultural change is key to improving organisational performance. It must be done in tandem with the process. Processes are easy to see and change particularly for the solution finding leadership style. Culture is the Mammoth in the room.

Culture change is possible of course with a plan, a communications strategy, time, and the will to make the changes. It requires true emotionally intelligent leadership; walking the talk, resonating the why and communicating the purpose throughout the organisation while sustaining the will to make the changes against constant opposition. This is the secret to turning good intentions into great results.

Aidan Higgins BE MBA of ADEO Consulting is a Leadership, Emotional Intelligence and Teamwork specialist working with Leaders and Teams in Ireland and the UK. He has over 25 years experience working in various capacities with individuals, teams and organisations of all sizes.

Emotional Intelligence and Teams

Emotional intelligence and teamsFor the past twenty years, important research has been done in organizations that backs up the claims made in the nineties relating to Emotional Intelligence and its importance by Goleman and many others. Research has shown that feelings and emotions have a direct impact on effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately the bottom line.

Emotional Intelligence has been shown to lead to better customer retention and long term customer relationships, and improved: Trust, Engagement, Influencing, Collaboration, Communication, Decision Making and Change Capability it also leads to Reduced Conflict.

Numerous studies explore the financial implication of emotional intelligence; particularly how higher EQ leaders produce more powerful business results. One such study tested 186 executives on EQ and compared their scores with their company’s profitability; leaders who scored higher in key aspects of emotional intelligence (including empathy and accurate self-awareness) were more likely to be highly profitable.  Leadership and Organization Development Journal 2009

Looking at the emotional intelligence of teams is important because most of the work in organizations today is done by teams. Leaders have a pressing need today to make teams work together better.

Modern businesses thrive when using teams to organize the work. Teams have more talent and experience, more diversity of resources, and greater operating flexibility than individual performers. Research in the last decade has proven the superiority of group decision-making over that of even the brightest individual in
the group. But the exception to this rule is when the group lacks harmony or the ability to cooperate. Then decision-making quality and speed suffer.

The important difference between effective teams and ineffective ones lies in the emotional intelligence of  the group. Teams have an emotional intelligence of their own. It is comprised of the emotional intelligence of individual members, plus a collective competency of the group. Everyone contributes to the overall level of emotional intelligence, and the leader has more influence. The good news is that teams can develop greater emotional intelligence and boost their performance.Teamwork performance improved by 25% in terms of goal achievement over standard functioning teams.

Most research has focused on identifying the tasks and processes that make teams successful. But just learning a script won’t make a good actor great; the actor has to be able to deliver the lines with real feeling. A piano student can learn the music of Bach, but she has to be able to play with heart to be really good. Successful teams can apply the principles of effective task processes, but they must also work together wholeheartedly.

Group Emotional Intelligence

In an article entitled “Building the Emotional Intelligence of groups,” Vanessa Urch Druskat and Steven B. Wolff (Harvard Business Review, March 2001) identify three conditions essential to a group’s effectiveness:

  • Trust among members
  • A sense of group identity
  • A sense of group efficacy

To be most effective, the team needs to create emotionally intelligent norms — the attitudes and behaviors that eventually become habits — that support behaviors for building trust, group identity and group efficacy. Group identity is described as a feeling among members that they belong to a unique and worthwhile group. A sense of group efficacy is the belief that the team can perform well and that group members are more effective working together than apart.

Group emotional intelligence is not a question of catching emotions as they bubble up and then suppressing them. It involves courageously bringing feelings out into the open and dialoging about how they affect the team’s work. If emotions are avoided, there is a false or superficial tone that “everything’s just fine.” Groups cannot work together without having personalities that butt up against each other. Admitting to this is the first step in clarifying and finding common ground upon which to move forward.

Group emotional intelligence is also about behaving in ways that build relationships both inside and outside the team. Building relationships strengthens the team’s ability to face challenges. In order to strengthen relationships, the group must feel safe to be able to explore, embrace and ultimately to rely on emotions in work. Emotions must be considered for the good of the group. Feelings count, but then there are the tasks at hand and the work that needs to be done. Team leaders must constantly balance harmony with productivity.

A team’s effectiveness can depend on how well it works together in harmony. A leader skilled in creating good feelings can keep cooperation high. Good team leaders know how to balance the focus on productivity with attention to member’s relationships and their ability to connect. There is even research that shows that humor at work can stimulate creativity, open lines of communications and enhance a sense of trust. Playful joking increases the likelihood of concessions during a negotiation. Emotionally intelligent team leaders know how to use humor and playfulness with their teams.

Creating good moods in employees may be even more important than previously thought. It is common sense to see that workers who feel upbeat will go the extra mile to please customers and therefore improve the bottom line. There is research to show that for every 1 percent improvement in the service climate, there’s a 2 percent increase in revenue. New research from a range of industries now reaffirms the link between leadership and climate and to business performance. According to Daniel Goleman in Primal Leadership (2002), how people feel about working at a company can account for 20 to 30 percent of business performance.

Part of understanding the emotional reality of a team is uncovering the particular habits ingrained in a team or organization that can drive behaviors. A prime example is the notion of “It’s just the way we do things here.” The team leader is effective when he or she looks for signs that reveal if such habits are working or not. It is the leader’s job to explore and expose unhealthy work habits in order to build more effective group norms.

In any group, people will eventually cross lines and confrontation becomes necessary. There must be a means for doing this that is firm yet not demeaning. The team leader sets the tone for this because of the position he or she is in. Caring confrontation is an art that can be learned and taught to both leaders and members. The use of humor can be very effective as a means for bringing errant members back into the group fold. The message is, “We want you as part of this group, your contributions are needed.”

These are the group norms that build trust and a sense of group identity for members: interpersonal understanding, perspective taking, confrontation and caring. They can be learned and developed wherever they don’t exist naturally. It may take some time and attention, but they are too important to be overlooked. Teams are at the very foundation of organizational effectiveness and they won’t work without mutual trust and common commitment to goals.

Building self-managing teams that have emotional intelligence

One of the first tasks of a team leader is to build greater team awareness. This is the job of each individual member of the team, as well, but the leader’s job is to instill a sense of responsibility individuals for the well-being of the team. In order to do so, Cary Cherniss, chair of a well-known research group on emotional intelligence, puts forth ground rules for teams. Everyone on the team should take responsibility for:

  • Keeping us on track if we get off track
  • Facilitating group input
  • Raising questions about procedures, asking for clarification about where we are going and offering summaries of issues being discussed to make sure we have a shared understanding
  • Using good listening skills to build on the ongoing discussion or to clearly signal that we want to change the subject, and ask if that is okay

This is an example of how a leader can create a self-managing team. What is important for the leader, emphasizes Cherniss, is to remind the group of its collaborative norms by making them explicit. Everyone can practice them because they are upfront and repeated at each meeting.

Clearly the setting forth of core values and operating norms is important to ensure that a team works smoothly together. But like most things, they must be repeated again and again. When values and norms are clear, teams can go about their work even in the absence of the leader.
In self-aware self-managing teams, members hold each other accountable for sticking to norms. It takes a strong emotionally intelligent leader to hold the team to such responsibility. Many teams are not accustomed to proactively handling emotions and habits. And many leaders have difficulty stepping out of the role of director in order to let teams self-direct.

However, when the values and norms are clear, and self-management principles are explicit and practiced over time, teams become not only effective, but also self-reinforcing. Being on the team leads to positive emotions that energize and motivate people.

Every company faces specific performance challenges for which teams are the most practical and powerful vehicle. The critical challenge for senior managers is how to develop emotionally intelligent teams that can deliver maximum performance. Teams have a unique potential to deliver results, and executives must foster self-managing and emotionally intelligent teams that will be effective. In doing so, top management creates the kind of environment that enables teams as well as individuals to thrive. So the Organisation can thrive.

Good Leaders understand and use Autonomy

I was coaching a number of C-Suite Leaders from a large multi-national a few weeks ago and part of our work included the topic of Autonomy and its importance to Leadership. Great discussions and feedback reminded me there are some assumptions and some blind spots with regard to autonomy.

Autonomy and Motivation

The level of autonomy is the degree to which an organisation or leader gives their people the discretion or independence to schedule their work and determine how it is to be done. It can also mean allowing them to determine which work to do, trusting them to select their solution to a problem using their understanding of organisational strategy in the context of the organisations vision and goals.

Autonomy is important to motivation, one of the top three people motivators in fact. It helps your people feel they have some say in what happens and that they can make a difference in the world.

Autonomy is a key part of empowerment and engagement so including it and using it as part of one’s Leadership style is very important.

In a bureaucratic or hierarchical organisation autonomy is limited. Not only is this de-motivational but it retards decision making, response times, service quality and people growth over time. The more decisions people can make the more they learn and grow. Sometimes people make mistakes. People make less mistakes with experience, and when supported by training and communication and an understanding of the goals and objectives even less. Autonomy also allows the growth of your next stage of leaders who take over when decision makes leave or go missing.

 

How much Autonomy is needed?

This is something to judge in context. There is a difference between delegation and abdication. Throwing someone in at the deep end can teach them to swim, but sometimes they drown.

A good leader will encourage autonomy in their people. They will make a decision about the level of risk suitable to the roles involved. They will look at risk and work to mitigate through mentoring and support. So it is a complex decision but in general there is not enough autonomy given. Leaders who keep intervening to fix the problem are often well meaning but this is not the best solution in the long term. Serving your team is about putting in place that which is needed for the team to thrive. Some leaders only give Autonomy to some of their people and often need to review how their perspective or opinion of some of their people (particularly those not being given autonomy) is influencing who gets autonomy and who does not. This can be a blind spot.

 

Leaderships own Autonomy

It is also a good exercise to examine one’s own relationship with autonomy. A Leader who has no autonomy is not a Leader.  He or she is a manager. In a bureaucratic organisation, a “leader” who is all about control and “the rules” cannot inspire or motivate or engage the people around him. If this person becomes about growing his or her people, about carving out autonomy and with resources, empowerment – then he or she becomes a leader.

On the other hand a leader who is overly focused on their own autonomy may have problems aligning with the organisations goals and objectives. This can become apparent when change happens and the organisation is forced to change direction. Sometimes these leaders become about their own power, whether this is used for their own ends or to protect their own team this can cause tensions in the organisation.

A key part of leadership growth is to become aware of their relationship with autonomy. Both their own and that of their people. Part of this relationship is often emotional and often this can be a part of mindfulness or awareness work.

Aidan Higgins

What is this Employee Engagement that is so critical to Organisational success?

IMG_1207The now well circulated Gallup Poll of 2013 on Employee Engagement found that on average up to 70% of employees were not engaged with their organisation effectively meaning 35% of spend on people was wasted. Further a large portion of these employees were actively working against the interests of their organisation. These numbers are scary. The estimated cost to the US economy is 500Bn (yes Billion) per annum. It also means that in an average 100 employee company it costs around 1.5 Million per annum – excluding the cost of negative activity.

Employee engagement is an enabler for the factors an organization needs to thrive – better customer satisfaction and retention, better employee retention, increased sales and increased productivity. Engaged employees excel at what they do.

So what is engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

To engage employees it is necessary to provide an environment and a culture, through Leadership and good management practice, that encourages alignment with the Organisations goals:

Employees are clear about what is expected of them at work. They also know their boundaries and limits. They can take a risk and know someone has their back.

Employees feel they are listened to and that their opinion counts and makes a difference.

Everybody feels they are moving forward, learning and growing. This is more than just experience, its learning new skills, adapting to new challenges and keeping up with changes.

The people who work in the company are given the materials and resources to do their job. They can focus on doing the job, not resourcing it.

Everyone understands the “why” of the organisation. What it is the Organisation is about.  This aligns with the individual’s purpose and values.

Employees get to be their best, work their best and reach their potential while doing their job. The Organisation does not get in the way of them doing their job – for example systems, paperwork, form filling etc. do not become the main activity.

People work in teams that are jointly committed to quality work, similar effort and which are led, or managed, to ensure strong relations, fairness and team as well as individual recognition.

Praise or feedback is received regularly (weekly) and is tied to evaluating and discussing  overall progress and upskilling. Personal development is encouraged and the “Boss” or “Manager” cares about the employee as a person.

The key to engagement is to create an environment and a culture which encourages Autonomy, Motivation, Empowerment and Positive Realism. It requires Authentic Leadership and a Service focus to encourage the fairness, trust and safety in which to grow the potential of your people and your Organisation.

Aidan Higgins