Today we dispatched the January edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the best leadership links to read right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s edition: 5 mindset shifts to transform your organization, why you need a work BFF, how to make better decisions, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. (If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here:
Historically, hardliner capitalists have held that a company’s primary purpose is to make money. But that may be changing. One of the world’s most influential and powerful investors, Laurence D. Fink, CEO of the investment firm, BlackRock, has penned a letter this month, profiled here in The New York Times, that could be a catalyst for change. “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose,” writes Fink, adding, “to prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society.” Importantly, if companies fail to comply with this directive to deliver social as well as financial value, they risk losing BlackRock’s support. Explore the entire story here.
The secret to improving your behaviors and achieving lasting change may be found in emotional self-awareness says this interesting Key Step Media post. Why? “Absent self-awareness, we’re unable to consistently manage our impulses, motivations, and actions, instead letting our habitual reactions get the best of us.” To be more conscious of the choices you’re making in each moment, try the three practices for developing self-awareness recommended here.
** For more on honing your self-awareness, check out our enlightening prompts for reflection here, here, and here.
While many leaders and workers consider friendships at work to be a “nice-to-have”, few consider work friendships to be essential to performance. But Gallup‘s research tells a different story. “Our research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job” writes Annamarie Mann in this Gallup report. Consistently, their surveys show that having a “best friend” at work leads to better performance. This holds true across genders, but in particular for women who report that the social aspect of work is crucial to their engagement. Convinced? Gallup provides strategies leaders can use to create the conditions for meaningful friendships to form here.
**For more on relationship-building, explore our post on why tough-minded leaders must be ace relationship builders.
Today’s rapidly changing commercial and social environment is, “pressing organizations to become more agile; in response, a new organizational form is emerging” that exhibits five crucial mindset shifts writes McKinsey in this thorough article. Each of the five shifts are valuable individually but their impact is only truly optimized when they are all active and present simultaneously. To ensure your organization is equipped to rapidly adapt and thrive in today’s marketplace, work to make these five crucial shifts in mindset and approach.
**For more on adapting your organization, read our post on why organizations must grow or die.
“Fighter pilots have to work fast. Taking a second too long to make a decision can cost them their lives” writes Shane Parrish in this Farnam Street post on how to make better decisions. Since fighter pilots have to test out their decision-making chops when the stakes are high and time is short, there’s lots for us regular leaders to learn from them about how to assess situations and act — both in our everyday lives and when the pressure’s mounting. One highly effective practice, borrowed from fighter pilots, is the “OODA Loop.” Developed by U.S. Air Force Colonel John Boyd, the OODA loop stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Learn exactly how to apply it for better results in your leadership in this deep-dive into the practice.
As February approaches, many begin to experience a waning in the momentum they had towards reaching their goals on January 1st. To keep moving forward, we find it helpful to be mindful of the power of habits. After all, habits transform dreams into reality. To help you keep moving towards your loftiest aspirations with gusto, we compiled 32 quotes about the power of habits. The quotes are compiled from people across professions and spheres of influence. Read them here.
Continuous improvement is at the heart of leadership that works and at the center of a fulfilling life. To help with the transition to a new year filled with fresh challenges and opportunities for growth, we compiled a list of leadership resolutions for 2018. It’s not too late to glean inspiration from these resolutions. As this year ramps into full swing, there are still lots of motivating tips, goals, and leadership insights to explore here.
Enjoyed these links? Check out our recent link roundups from December, November, and October. Explore our suite of leadership resources here. Or, join our mailing list here.
Ready to take your leadership to the next level? For an immersive and transformational leadership experience in 2018, apply to attend our leadership Boot Camp, taught personally by our Founder — internationally renowned business leader and Fortune 300 CEO — Doug Conant, here.
An important part of leadership that works is continuous improvement. To keep growing, it helps to consult the vast wisdom of others, across professions and spheres of influence. Quotes — even though they’re short and don’t explore complex topics in depth — can often, within the space of a few characters, change our entire perspective about a challenge we’re facing, or provide an actionable insight we can apply in our leadership.
As February approaches, many begin to experience a waning in the momentum they had towards reaching their goals on January 1st. To keep moving forward, we find it helpful to be mindful of the power of habits. Setting intentions and goals is essential to leadership (and life) success. But how do you bring those intentions to fruition? You do it through small actions, repeated faithfully, until they become hardwired habits. It’s good habits that transform dreams into reality. (And, conversely, it can sometimes be a misguided adherence to bad habits that holds us back.) To help you keep moving towards your loftiest aspirations with gusto, we compiled 32 quotes about the power of habits. Enjoy! And make sure to share your favorite quotes about habits in the comments or by tweeting @DougConant.
32 Quotes about the Power of Habits
1. If you want to cultivate a habit, do it without any reservation, till it is firmly established. Until it is so confirmed, until it becomes a part of your character, let there be no exception, no relaxation of effort. – Mahavira
2. Without struggle, no progress and no result. Every breaking of habit produces a change in the machine. – George Gurdjieff
3. We can use decision-making to choose the habits we want to form, use willpower to get the habit started, then – and this is the best part – we can allow the extraordinary power of habit to take over. At that point, we’re free from the need to decide and the need to use willpower. – Gretchen Rubin
4. Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it. – Horace Mann
5. Whatever you want to do, if you want to be great at it, you have to love it and be able to make sacrifices for it. – Dr. Maya Angelou
6. Any act often repeated soon forms a habit; and habit allowed, steady gains in strength, At first it may be but as a spider’s web, easily broken through, but if not resisted it soon binds us with chains of steel. – Tyron Edwards
7. There is just no getting around that turning bad things into good things is up to you. – Deepak Chopra
8. Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. – Charles Reade
9. We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough. – Helen Keller
10. I just never, ever want to give up. Most battles are won in the 11th hour, and most people give up. If you give up once, it’s quite hard. If you give up a second time, it’s a little bit easier. Give up a third time, it’s starting to become a habit. – Lewis Gordon Pugh
11. To enjoy freedom we have to control ourselves. – Virginia Woolf
12. You can start right where you stand and apply the habit of going the extra mile by rendering more service and better service than you are now being paid for. – Napoleon Hill
13. Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts. – Aristotle
14. Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits. – Twyla Tharp
15. If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude. – Colin Powell
16. The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken. – Samuel Johnson
17. Good habits are worth being fanatical about. – John Irving
18. Our character is basically a composite of our habits. Because they are consistent, often unconscious patterns, they constantly, daily, express our character. – Stephen Covey
19. The best kind of happiness is a habit you’re passionate about. – Shannon L. Adler
20. Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going. – Jim Ryun
21. The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits. We can never free ourselves from habit. But we can replace bad habits with good ones. – Steven Pressfield
22. Self-reflection is a much kinder teacher than regret is. Prioritize yourself by making a habit of it. – Andrena Sawyer
23. Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today’s actions to tomorrow’s results. There’s a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which. – Gary Ryan Blair
24. Don’t try to rush progress. Remember — a step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction. Keep believing. – Kara Goucher
25. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant (paraphrasing Aristotle)
26. Courage is like—it’s a habitus, a habit, a virtue: You get it by courageous acts. It’s like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging. – Brené Brown
27. Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense. –Charles Duhigg
28. The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude. – Oprah
29. Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones. – Benjamin Franklin
30. People who cannot invent and reinvent themselves must be content with borrowed postures, secondhand ideas, fitting in instead of standing out. – Warren Bennis
31. The best way to change it is to do it, right? And then after a while you become it, and it’s easy. – Ursula Burns
32. Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. – Gandhi
Today we dispatched the December edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the most fascinating leadership links to read right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s edition, we compiled links specifically to inspire you to have a happy, productive, and fulfilling new year in 2018. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. (If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here).
Driven leaders are often tempted to “do more, be more, achieve more” but overwork and lack of balance can lead to, “diminishing returns” writes Executive Coach, Joel Garfinkle, in this SmartBrief post. To avoid burnout, stop trying to be perfect. Instead of chasing perfection at any cost, “work to achieve excellence.” Read all four of Garfinkle’s tips for avoiding burnout here.
Good leaders heed the quantity of time they spend with people; they try to devote ample attention to all their different stakeholders. But the effort won’t be worth much if there isn’t equal focus on the quality of that time says this thoughtful Harvard Business Review piece. The key to really engaging people and maximizing the time in your busy schedule? It’s found in being truly mindful and present in your interactions. And it’s essential. Read their four tips for being present here.
** For more on being present, check out our tips for better listening.
In times of crisis, an understandable instinct is to reassure and soothe, to let people know that everything is going to be OK. But that’s not always the most effective — or authentic — approach says this Inc. article that uses a thoughtfully-crafted letter from Elon Musk to his employees as a case study. To really connect with people, authentically acknowledge the scope of the problem, show how much you genuinely care, and take ownership to move things forward in an improved way.
**For more on leading better in tough situations, read our post on proactively leaning in to difficult challenges.
Continuous improvement is at the heart of leadership that works and at the center of a fulfilling life. To help with the transition to a new year filled with fresh challenges and opportunities for growth, we’ve compiled our list of leadership resolutions for 2018. In the spirit of pro-activity, we hope these goals will empower you to lift your leadership to new heights and lead your most productive, meaningful, and fulfilling year yet — with intention. Explore the resolutions here.
To get the best results in the new year, consider this important notion: your actions do not represent you alone — you are also representatives of your team, your company culture, your entire organization. Staying anchored in your principles, and doing what is right even when it is difficult or unpopular is very important for leaders both as individual contributors and as representatives of the entire enterprise. True leaders are expert ambassadors. Learn more about the power of carrying a spirit of ambassadorship in your leadership here.
Enjoyed these links? Check out our recent link roundups from November, October, September. Explore our suite of leadership resources here. Or, join our mailing list here.
Ready to take your leadership to the next level? For an immersive and transformational leadership experience in 2018, apply to attend our leadership Boot Camp, taught personally by our Founder — internationally renowned business leader and Fortune 300 CEO — Doug Conant, here.
Continuous improvement is at the heart of leadership that works and at the center of a fulfilling life. To help with the transition to a new year filled with fresh challenges and opportunities for growth, we’ve compiled our list of leadership resolutions for 2018. Our guiding theme for the new year is: INTENTION. How much can we maximize our impact by adding just a little more discipline and forethought to our leadership? In the spirit of pro-activity, we hope these goals for 2018 will empower you to lift your leadership to new heights and lead your most productive, meaningful, and fulfilling year yet — with intention. Each resolution links to an article or two we’ve posted in the past year that helps bring the lesson to life. Enjoy! (For further inspiration — check out our list of resolutions for 2017 and 2016).
In 2009, Doug Conant was in a near-fatal car accident. In the recovery journey that followed he learned some crucial lessons about leadership. The most important takeaway? Always ask, “How can I help?” Remember, people are often steeped in the same complex web of challenges that we are as leaders. They get just as many e-mails, texts, and phone calls. They have just as many kids, cousins, parents, spouses, religious groups, book clubs, to-do lists, vendors, colleagues, babysitters, and bank statements vying for their attention and depending on them to not drop the ball. Sometimes, all they need is for their leaders to simply show up at their side when the chips are down – letting them know that as a leader, you are right there with them, and that you are willing to help them do whatever it takes to get the job done. Approaching leadership with a “How can I help?” attitude really can, and does, make all the difference. To make a bigger impact in 2018 by helping often and earnestly, read more here.
Often, when you’re the leader, it can feel like the whole world rests on your shoulders. That feeling can easily be compounded when things go awry or become particularly stressful. Instead of retreating inward and causing yourself more stress by letting counter-productive thoughts creep in about how you’ve failed, or how the task is proving impossible because it’s all up to you — choose to stop this self-pity-party dead in its tracks and just ask for help. It’s a simple, better choice you can make in the new year. Some leaders are reticent to ask for help because they’re fearful it diminishes their ability to problem-solve or will somehow make them appear weak or unequipped. But it’s not so. In 2018, try to remember that the people depending on you likely care less about how you get the job done and more that it’s handled with integrity and executed well. Think of how much more you can get done in the new year if you smartly leverage your network to solve tough problems instead of burning out because you try to do it all yourself. Want to learn strategies for asking for help? Explore our post with four key points about asking for help here.
Leadership that works is not a destination; it’s an ongoing journey, made up of many moments and choices over time. Each decision you make has an effect on your overall character. If you practice making better choices, those choices become habits, and those good habits have the power to transform your leadership. Ultimately, we become what we repeatedly do. You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to do a little better today than you did yesterday. By adding even a small amount of effort and discipline to tweaking the habits in your day-to-day routine, you can greatly alter the cumulative impact on your leadership legacy. To help, we identified the 5 key traits of a highly effective leadership habit. To maximize your impact — whenever possible, simply choose (even in the smallest way) to behave in a way that is more aligned with these 5 positive traits.
Meetings. We may not like them but they are an indispensable part of modern work life and they’re essential to getting things done. To transform meetings from a slog into a structured opportunity to move things forward, it helps to have to have a clear process for managing them properly.Because meetings are a significant part of a CEO’s life, Doug Conant has developed very clear rules and guidelines for meetings over the course of his 40-year leadership journey. He’s crafted these into a manifesto that can help leaders add discipline to ensure each meeting is as productive as possible. Check out his actionable CEO tips for holding better meetings here and advance your organization’s agenda more effectively in 2018.
Leadership is the art and science of influencing others — often people working as a unit in teams. As we strive to responsibly cultivate our influence with teams, and earn their trust, we must first be able to identify what the key components of highly-functioning teams are. If you can assemble a team that gets things done, and does so with integrity, it is deeply fulfilling to watch as everybody works together to shoot the lights out. But it can be tricky to get the balance exactly right. Many leaders struggle with this so it’s a huge competitive advantage to gain a better understanding of the ingredients to a successful team. We’ve learned that a great team boils down to three key things. You can cultivate higher performing teams in 2018 by using these guidelines to assess what the issues, or strengths, of any team may be.
One important thing we’re committed to practicing in 2018 is: courageously engaging with our toughest challenges. It can be tempting, and far too easy, to push off the hardest things until later, while addressing the easy stuff right away. Sometimes this can be a smart way to prioritize work. But when faced with harrowing issues or problems, the more you ignore it, the bigger it grows. In the new year, intentionally try to choose courage more often. When faced with thorny conundrums, instead of choosing avoidance, proactively lean in. This can have powerful results not just for you, but for your whole organization. As the leader, people look to you to set the tone and behavior standards for the overall effort. When you visibly choose to tackle the hardest issues first, when you choose to have the uncomfortable conversation, when you choose to own up to a mistake and fix it – no matter how painful it might be in the moment, those brave choices radiate outward and positively affect the behavior of everyone on the team. Over time, making braver choices will become woven into the fabric of your team’s behavior profile. By modeling this behavior, you can make courage part of the culture. To learn more about how you can make more courageous choices, explore our post about this behavior here.
The very best leaders approach their work in a way that is both tough-minded on standards and tender-hearted with people. Not either, or. Abundantly, they are experts at doing both; they deftly marry the “head” and the “heart.” Masterfully, they can simultaneously prioritize people and performance — and do so in a way that is humble, brave, and authentic to who they really are. If you’re hoping to carry this abundant spirit in your leadership behaviors in 2018, you may be wondering — what does this all mean from a tactical standpoint? What are the practices that bring this larger idea of leadership that works to life? What do abundant leaders have in common? In Doug’s experience, great leaders have these seven important things in common. If you study these seven things, you’ll find an equal balance of practices that are people-focused, and practices that are performance-oriented. For better results in the new year, try to capture these behaviors in your own leadership.
One of Stephen Covey’s most well-known habits, of his famed seven, is to begin all pursuits “with the end in mind.” If you can’t clearly envision your desired outcome, you can’t proactively bring it fruition. For leaders to succeed, they must have clear goals that guide the direction of their team, or even their entire organization’s efforts. Whether it’s an incremental quarterly sales goal, or a big-picture direction for the entire scope of your company, there must be clarity about where you’re headed. Your people need to know which way to go. If there is not a shared vision that everyone agrees to and understands, the work will lack discipline and focus — and you could end up toiling in vain, misdirecting resources, and wasting time. So how do you decide the right way to go? How can you pick goals that are highly motivating and aspirational but also practical and achievable? The key is to remember this motto: Pursue the Ideal; stay anchored in the Real. To honor this motto and choose the best goals, there are 3 key things you should consider. We break it down here.
This time of year, we celebrate the virtue of gratitude. While we should flex our gratitude muscle throughout the year, it’s also important to take extra time during the holidays to pause, reflect, recharge, and re-commit to bringing gratitude to life in every area of our life. For us, part of that process is reflecting on the ways we can bring more thankfulness into our leadership. Not just because it’s a “nice” thing to do but because it’s a crucial business imperative. Giving thanks is about making people feel valued. And research shows the highest performing teams and organizations are comprised of people who feel valued. So, by giving thanks with your leadership, you can both feel more fulfilled as leaders and inspire better business results in the marketplace. To help you give thanks in the new year, we compiled 10 powerful ways to give thanks with your leadership here.
What are your leadership resolutions for 2018? Do you have a plan for bringing them to fruition? Our Founder, internationally renowned Fortune 300 CEO, Doug Conant, can personally help you reach your goals in the new year. He designed the ConantLeadership Boot Camp for real leaders facing real problems in the real world. Taught personally by Doug, the powerful process imparted at Boot Camp will empower you to win in the workplace and in the marketplace. You’ll learn practices you can put to work on Monday morning. And you’ll discover new, actionable insights about your unique temperament, strengths, beliefs, and skill set. Committed to maximizing your impact next year? Get started on your Boot Camp journey today. Apply now.
In leadership — integrity is foundational and mandatory. If there is not quality alignment between our words and our actions, nobody will trust us to get the job done, to have their backs, or to make tough decisions in a way that honors all involved stakeholders. People just won’t believe in us. So doing what we say, consistently, is crucial to earning buy-in and to effectively spreading our individual influence.
But consider this notion that is equally as important as our individual influence: our actions do not represent us alone — we are also representatives of our team, our company culture, even our entire organization. Staying anchored in our principles, and doing what is right even when it is difficult or unpopular is very important for us both as individual contributors and as representatives of the entire enterprise. True leaders are expert ambassadors.
Mette Norgaard, who is the co-author of our book, TouchPoints, remembers the first time she understood this idea. When she left her native Denmark to go to work in England at the age of eighteen, her father put his hand on her shoulder and said, “Remember – you are an ambassador of your country. The way you behave will represent the behavior of all Danes.” It was a powerful point packed into a handful of words. And she carries the spirit of those words of wisdom with her to this day in all her work helping to develop leaders.
Doing what we say, consistently, is crucial to earning buy-in.
We should all carry the same message in our leadership. One way to look at this aspect of leading is as a noble duty to other people, as well as to ourselves; what we do and what we say is often a reflection of others — people who may or may not be in the room to represent themselves (and who may never get the opportunity to speak for themselves at a high level). So it’s up to us as leaders to do right by them no matter the circumstance. If there is a tough negotiation, a crisis, or even a victory — we have to be vigilant delegates of the organization’s interests, and of the individuals who make up the organization. Part of being a trustworthy ambassador is always consciously acting with the knowledge that others are relying on us to embody our shared values with our words and deeds. That is a big, and important, responsibility. But it’s also a privilege — and it’s a chance to put our unique leadership stamp on something that is larger than we are.
What is most helpful to understand about this idea of ambassadorship is that you can view it as an opportunity to set high standards for the conduct you would like to see at all levels of the organization. Then, embody the desired conduct with your own actions to set the example. The more you embody the desired standards, the more credibility you earn to “put your hand on the shoulder” of other leaders and impart them with the same mission that you carry: to represent the enterprise responsibly and with integrity. The better an ambassador you are, the more you empower everyone else to be good stewards of the company in their own right. It becomes self-reinforcing and exponential.
Leading is a noble duty to other people, as well as to ourselves.
In a truly high-performing, highly-engaged organization, each individual brings this spirit of ambadassorship to their unique roles every day. Each contributor feels committed to the organization, each feels duty-bound to positively represent their fellow employees, and each is inspired to work tirelessly to bring the company goals to fruition. As leaders, this is the outcome we should all be working towards.
The more senior we become, the less we are around when much of the bustling day-to-day operations of industry are taking place. Many of the decisions that will materially advance the goals of the enterprise will be made when we are not in the room. If we lay the groundwork for performance by championing a spirit of ambassadorship with our own actions, then we can systematically empower others to do the same. We act with integrity, then they act with integrity — and everyone pays it forward with momentum. That’s how leadership ambassadorship works. Try bringing this awareness to your very next interaction and see where it takes you.
Searching for a proven process for becoming a better ambassador in each moment– both for yourself and your organization? I designed the ConantLeadership Boot Camp to help real leaders in the real world. This high-impact leadership development program, that I teach personally, will empower you to win in the workplace and in the marketplace in 2018. You’ll learn powerful tools you can put to work on Monday morning. Get started today: https://conantleadership.com/bootcamp/
Today we dispatched the November edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the most fascinating leadership links to read right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s edition: the future of retail, how to learn empathy, why you should embrace discomfort, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. (If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here).
In this fascinating interview with Jim Collins, he explains that to truly understand and articulate your leadership philosophy, it helps to be guided by a “beautiful, giant question” that frames what matters most. Inspired by the grandeur of Peter Drucker’s approach to thinking bigger, Collins relates how he channeled that nobler spirit to define what fascinates him: how does one build a company that is great and lasting? Read the full interview here.
Almost half of today’s employees are afraid to show civility because they fear being taken advantage of. But it’s a false belief. In fact, civility is good for business and good for teams, according to this SmartBrief post. The good news? You can set standards around civility and model the behavior you want to see by following the guidelines provided here by civility expert and Georgetown professor, Chris Porath.
** For more on civility, explore Doug’s piece co-authored with Chris Porath in Harvard Business Review here.
“Online shopping is having an offline moment” as more companies that started in e-commerce are opening up brick-and-mortar stores, explains this thorough article in The Atlantic about why 2017 is a tipping point for retail. In the midst of what otherwise feels like a “retail apocalypse” with large, established retailers shuttering, e-commerce companies are realizing the value of storefronts. What does it all mean for the national economy and for the labor force? The Atlantic breaks down four major implications of these shifts here.
“Enlightened individuals understand that empathy correlates with performance” says Belinda Parmar, CEO of The Empathy Business, in this interesting Forbes interview. Many mistakenly think empathy means “being nice” but, organizationally, it actually refers to the “emotional impact a company has on its people” and creating an empathic culture is essential to getting the best results. Luckily, empathy can be practiced and learned; Parmar imparts actionable ways to nudge your organization towards empathy here.
**For more on transforming organizational culture with empathic leadership practices, explore our posts on the topic here, here, and here.
Looking forward to catching up on some reading during your impending holiday break? No matter your area of interest, the editors of Strategy+Business have you covered with their expert picks for the best books of the year in this much anticipated annual list. In this master list, experienced writers expound on their top three reads from 2017 in Leadership, Strategy, Innovation, Economics, Narrative, Marketing, and Management. Jump to your favorite topic or explore the picks from all the categories. And, enjoy!
** For more expert picks on business books, explore Doug’s “Foundational Favorites” here.
Meetings are an essential part of the modern workplace but they are too often mismanaged, time-wasting slogs. Understandably, the best leaders are always on the lookout for clear, usable guidelines for improving meetings. In this helpful post, Jesse Lyn Stoner offers seven simple best practices for more productive meetings. Tip #1? “Create a focused agenda.” Sure, it may seem obvious but even creating an agenda is so often overlooked.
**For more tips on better meetings, read our CEO Manifesto for Better Meetings here.
Sandy Speicher, Partner in IDEO, shares some important insights about leading creative teams in this Quartz post. Speicher has seen firsthand that in the course of any creative project, there will be a time that will feel deeply uncomfortable. It’s usually the time when the creative people on your team must stitch all the disparate pieces together to make meaning; it’s the time for synthesis. Synthesis often inspires frustration and “disequilibrium.” But as tempting as it can be to jump in with a fix, as a leader, the best thing to do is, “acknowledge how hard this particular part of the work really is, ask them great questions” and allow them to flex their creative muscles to figure it out and get through it. By owning and embracing the discomfort, you can empower beautiful results.
**For more on getting good outcomes from hard circumstances, explore our post on how pressure makes you better here.
Enjoyed these links? Check out our recent link roundups from October, September, August. Explore our suite of leadership resources here. Or, join our mailing list here.
Ready to take your leadership to the next level? For an immersive and transformational leadership experience, apply to attend our leadership Boot Camp, taught personally by Doug Conant, here.
This time of year, we celebrate the virtue of gratitude. Rightly so. The benefits of being grateful — both personally and professionally — are numerous and well-documented. While we should flex our gratitude muscle throughout the year, it’s also important to take extra time during the holidays to pause, reflect, recharge, and re-commit to bringing gratitude to life in every area of our life. For me, part of that process is reflecting on the ways we can bring more thankfulness into our leadership. Not just because it’s a “nice” thing to do but because it’s a crucial business imperative. Giving thanks is about making people feel valued. And research shows the highest performing teams and organizations are comprised of people who feel valued. So, by giving thanks with our leadership, we can both feel more fulfilled as leaders and inspire better business results in the marketplace.
Here are 10 powerful ways you can give thanks with your leadership to get better results year-round:
1. Honor people with your time. You’re the leader. You’re busy. People understand that. But, what if you gave just a little more generously of your time? I have found that the more I honor people with my time and devoted attention, the more they honor me right back with their commitment, hard work, and trust. Find ways to give people an opportunity to connect with you, whether it’s walking around the hallways, making more time in your calendar for face-to-face meetings, or even just jumping on a 15-minute phone call to listen to ideas and offer your insights. A little goes a long way.
2. Hold better meetings. Meetings are an essential part of modern work life but they’re so often a time-wasting slog that employees can begin to dread them. It doesn’t have to be that way. By crafting clear rules around meetings, you can ensure they are productive and efficient. Start by not scheduling them at wacky off-hours and commit to keeping them brief whenever possible. Then, make sure you’re just as prepared for them as your employees are. This way, people know you value their time as much as your own. And that you care about their work. It can make a huge difference. (You can read my full CEO Manifesto for Better Meetings here.)
3. Actually say “thank you” earnestly and often. Earlier in my career, I was fired from my job. It was thanks to the support of other people that I was able to get back on my feet. One of the lessons I learned from the experience was the importance of saying thank you to the people who help lift you up. Ever since, I’ve adopted a practice of hand-writing personalized thank-you notes to people in the organizations I’ve led. At last count, I’ve written over 30,000 notes to people at every level, in every imaginable department. They aren’t gratuitous or filled with platitudes. The notes celebrate specific achievements and contributions. It shows I’m paying attention. And that I’m deeply grateful.
Ask people what matters to them.
Some leaders think thank you “goes without saying” or that an employee’s paycheck is the thank you. It’s simply not the case. People want to hear it; they need to feel it. And there’s no downside to expressing gratitude when it’s been rightly earned with good work. So find a way to explicitly say thank you. Maybe handwritten notes aren’t your style. That’s fine. Find something that works for you and keep up with it diligently.
4. Provide opportunities to learn and grow. People want to learn. Investing in their development is good for them, good for you, and good for business. In today’s fiercely complex world, organizations must grow or die. The companies that win are the ones that are always adapting, always learning, always getting better. The best way to ensure your organization keeps pace is by championing a learning culture. That means providing tangible and plentiful opportunities for people to learn and grow. When you help people thrive, they get more engaged and stay excited about work. People don’t want to remain stagnant; they want to embrace their full capability. You can meaningfully value them by supporting their development. In my experience, if you give people the tools and energy to do their jobs with distinction, they will perform better and stick around longer.
5. Give the gift of giving back. One of the most powerful ways to value people is by helping them become more involved in causes they care deeply about. There is a growing awareness about the business case for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the benefits of “doing well by doing good.” But what sometimes gets less attention is how positively societal engagement affects employee engagement. Many employees want to feel that their work matters, that their efforts contribute to something larger than shareholder return or quarterly targets. When you identify ways to allow them to give back in partnership with their workplace, it means so much. So, ask people what matters to them. Think creatively about how you can leverage the resources of your organization to help them make a difference in a win-win way for them and for the organization. If you need help, CECP has resources that empower corporations to be a force for good in society here.
6. Offer to help. Leadership that works is anchored in a helping spirit. To value people (and transform your leadership), start more interactions with the four simple words, “how can I help?” You’ll be surprised how it sets the tone for your conversations and helps you shape more productive relationships. First, asking how you can help puts the emphasis squarely on the other party, not on you. It centers their issues and needs. (This alone can lead to improved interactions; too often leaders steamroll and dominate discussions.) Next, it signals that you are available – that you’re there for them. This means a lot. It shows they’re not alone. People can tell when their leaders are absent; it’s not a sustainable approach. If you don’t show up for others, why should they show up for you? The more you offer to help, the more you demonstrate that you’re in the fight with them — and the more extraordinary things you can accomplish together.
7. Choose the right goals. People deserve goals that are aspirational and They need to know what direction to go in and to have clarity around a shared vision. (And they should also feel that their input has been honored in the shaping of that shared vision.) To value people, take the time to make sure you’re choosing goals that motivate and inspire your whole team. What’s the best way to do that? Remember this motto: pursue the ideal; stay anchored in the real. The goals that will inspire engagement and activate your team members should be idealistic and realistic. If you aim too low, nobody gets excited. Where’s the rush in maintaining mediocre standards? If you dream too big, people become demotivated and failure-adverse. The sweet spot is right in the middle. By smartly embracing the tension between the ideal and the real, you can create a direction for the people in your organization that is unifying, inspiring, and invigorating.(To learn more about how to do this, go here.)
8. Listen like a leader. How many times have you been in a conversation where it’s clear the other person was not listening to you? How deflated and/or frustrated did you feel afterwards? As leaders, it’s urgent that we don’t leave others with those same bad feelings after they interact with us. It’s on us to uphold a higher standard – to model the right behavior. We’ve got to be better listeners. Listening is one of the simplest ways to tangibly demonstrate that you value the other people with whom you live and work.
Being dependable is rare and priceless.
Sure, it can be difficult. Often leaders are tempted to jump in with a quick fix (before they have all the information), or they’re distracted because they’re being pulled in ten different directions. But it’s no excuse. You can rise to the challenge. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn in a short period of time by simply listening more carefully. And you’ll be shocked at how much more completely and efficiently you can make decisions when you actually wait to get all the facts before interjecting. One more bonus? People will bring you their best ideas first because they know you’ll actually hear them out. So, don’t wait. Try to listen more intently in your very next interaction (for some tactical listening tips, go here).
9. Make a promise. If you want people to know you are serious about valuing them for excellent work, publicly declare your intention to do so. If you say it loudly and proudly, people know that you mean business and that you expect to be held accountable to what you say. Use clear language so the meaning is unmistakable. When I was CEO of Campbell Soup, we developed The Campbell Promise, which simply stated: Campbell Valuing People, People Valuing Campbell.We meant it. Our leadership team worked tirelessly to fulfill this promise with our entire suite of leadership behaviors — and the results were unprecedented employee engagement levels and cumulative shareholder returns in the top tier of the global food industry. Find a way to visibly declare how you intend to treat people. Make a promise or a pledge and commit to bringing it to life.
10. Do what you say. As Stephen M.R. Covey says, “Trust is the one thing that changes everything.” The most powerful way to consistently value people is to prove that you are worthy of their trust. You can’t accomplish this with one action or speech or initiative. You have to cultivate trust over time. Building trust may take a little while, but there is no other endeavor more worthy of your effort. When you show up for people in an integrity-laden way, you value them and their contribution to the overall effort. Although there are a variety of ways to inspire trust with your leadership, the single most important way is to do what you say you are going to do – and do it well. Over and over again. The more you walk your talk, the more people know they can depend on you in good times and bad, and the more they are willing to bring their best selves to work – because they will trust that you won’t let them down. Remember, being dependable is rare and priceless. So many leaders fall short in this area. Be the exception.
This holiday season, capture the spirit of gratitude in your leadership behaviors. Try harder, listen better, do more. Reflect on all the ways you can give thanks with your leadership by valuing people more fully. When you value people and influence them with honor, leadership is more joyful and more effective. Try these ten powerful options. Or brainstorm your own list of behaviors and practices to try. The possibilities are limitless.
Do you have a great way to give thanks with your leadership that I didn’t mention? Share in the comments or tweet me @DougConant.
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Today we dispatched the October edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the most fascinating leadership links to read right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s edition: what 525 CEOs say about leadership, how to be heard, the art of remembering what you read, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. (If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here).
“All management is the management of change” writes Robert H. Schaffer in this Harvard Business Review post that smartly challenges leaders to stop thinking about change management as a separate discipline that lies apart from their regular job. Instead, they should consider that managing change effectively is the crux of their duty as leaders.
** For more on managing change, explore our 25 quotes that tackle the issue.
If you’re an avid reader — or even a sporadic dabbler — you’ll want to explore this comprehensive Farnam Street post that details exactly what steps you must take to remember more of what you read. There are seven important ways to retain more information, draw better conclusions and connections, and effectively apply knowledge you’ve learned — and you’ll find them all here, explained in glorious, actionable detail.
The best leaders expect as much, or more, from themselves as they do from others, explains Dan Rockwell in this Leadership Freak post. To practice self-leadership, it’s important to have a framework for self-reflection and self-awareness, and Rockwell explores those themes with some provocative probing questions here.
** For more on self-leadership, explore our prompts for inward reflection here and here.
Adam Bryant has interviewed five hundred twenty-five CEOs over a decade for his “Corner Office” column in The New York Times. In his final column in the ten-year series, he shares the most pivotal, fascinating, and enlightening insights and stories he’s learned over the years, gleaned from five million words of transcripts. It’s worth exploring the entire post, but not surprisingly to us, Bryant determined that the absolute most important thing about leadership is trust. Read the full article here for more advice and leadership shop-talk on how to be an effective CEO.
**For more on the importance of trust, explore our leadership resources on the topic here.
Have you ever shared an idea or comment only to feel dismissed or ignored? If so, you’re not alone. It’s a common feeling in the modern workplace. To help established and aspiring leaders better voice their opinions and be heard more often, Jesse Lyn Stoner compiled this practical seven-step guide for getting your point across.
High performing teams are more than just a group of people working together. The best teams have complementary skills and pull together in sync to get stuff done. It’s not so easy to build extraordinary teams but it is doable. To help, Wally Bock identifies three “inconvenient truths” about teams in this interesting post. The top takeaway? Teams take time. They won’t become high-functioning overnight.
** For more tips on building great teams, explore our post on the three things the best teams have.
To build a culture of inclusiveness, leaders should find ways to ensure employees feel their contributions are valued and that they have meaningful social connections in the workplace, finds Gallup in this interesting post. Sadly, “just four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that their supervisor or someone at work seems to care about them as a person.” But there are insights here that can help leaders improve their workplace culture and bolster employee engagement.
Enjoyed these links? Check out our recent link roundups from September, August, and July. Explore our suite of leadership resources here. Or, join our mailing list here.
Ready to take your leadership to the next level? For an immersive and transformational leadership experience, apply to attend our leadership Boot Camp, taught personally by Doug Conant, here.
One of Stephen Covey’s most well-known habits, of his famed seven, is to begin all pursuits “with the end in mind.” If you can’t clearly envision your desired outcome, you can’t proactively bring it fruition. This is doubly true in leadership.
For leaders to succeed, they must have clear goals that guide the direction of their team, or even their entire organization’s efforts. Whether it’s an incremental quarterly sales goal, or a big-picture direction for the entire scope of your company, there must be clarity about where you’re headed. Your people need to know which way to go. If there is not a shared vision that everyone agrees to and understands, the work will lack discipline and focus — and you could end up toiling in vain, misdirecting resources, and wasting time.
So how do you decide which way to go? How can you determine a direction that is highly motivating and aspirational but also practical and achievable?
The key is to remember this motto: Pursue the Ideal; stay anchored in the Real.
The goals that inspire engagement and activate your team should be idealistic AND realistic. If you dream too small, nobody gets excited. Where’s the rush in maintaining mediocre standards? There’s no opportunity for growth. And the feelings of fulfillment after the goal is accomplished are muted, even dull. Nobody had to exert too much effort so they don’t feel the pride of a tough job well done.
You have to start where you are.
If you dream too big, people become demotivated and failure-adverse which can trap them in a cycle of inaction. What’s the point in trying if the goal is unachievable anyway? Why expend so much effort if the inevitable result is disappointment, and worse, a blow to one’s self-esteem and personal pride? People need to feel that there is a meaningful opportunity to show what they’ve got. They want to thrive.
The sweet spot for leaders lies right in the middle. By smartly embracing the tension between the ideal and the real, you can create a direction for the people in your organization that is unifying, inspiring, and invigorating. If you choose the right goals, you’ll be able to rally everyone around a shared vision. And it will be easier to keep the momentum going when obstacles rear their head. Best of all, when people are activated by the right goals, the challenge becomes fun, and the thrill of pursuing it, deeply satisfying.
There are three things to consider when choosing goals that pursue the ideal while staying anchored in the real:
1. Confront the worst, first. To effectively honor the “real” part of the equation, you’ll need to make a clear-eyed assessment of where you are now. The ugliest stuff. The things that get swept under the rug, skipped over, and omitted completely in glossy quarterly reports. To move forward, you have to start where you are – where you really are. Before you begin crafting your perfect goals, confront the brutal facts facing you, your team, and your organization.
Ask questions like: What are the obstacles we face? Is there anything toxic about the team or company’s culture? What are the resource constraints? What assumptions have you been making that might not be true? What’s the level of trust? What old paradigms are crippling you? What’s your biggest strength? Your largest weakness? What grandfathered-in behaviors and practices need to be abandoned?
Query, push, probe. There are no wrong questions. Be rigorous. Get input from everyone involved. This is the time do it, before you’re already mired in the exciting complexity of your new direction. Do an audit of your team’s performance as is stands right now. Make a list of issues of concern. And make a list of strengths and opportunities. Doing this exercise is not just academic. It will truly put you in the right position to choose the right goal(s).
2. Honor every stakeholder. If you’re really going to choose a goal that is aspirational and achievable, you must ensure it motivates the most possible people. You might not be able to inspire everyone, but the more stakeholders you consider, the better the chance the direction you choose fires the organization up in a productive way. Take the time to think carefully about all the voices that touch the core issues. What are the different outcomes that drive them? Some might be solely interested in shareholder return, others in talent recruitment, others societal engagement and CSR. How can you build a bridge between all these different drives and influences? How can you creatively find ways to manifest a uniting vision?
Be thoughtful and thorough. Through a mix of personal touchpoints and data analysis, your imagination might be kindled in ways you never imagined. Look at it from another person’s perspective. Maybe what motivates them is the key to reimagining your goals in way that sparks your levers, too.
Have enlightening conversations. Ask people what propels them forward. When did they feel most engaged in their work? How can you choose a goal that helps replicate those conditions, but pushes it even further? What does the data say? When the things you’re measuring were good in the past, what were the conditions in the organization that led to that positive performance? How can you re-engineer those same conditions in the future and lift results even higher?
3. Be crystal clear. Once you’ve done your due diligence and developed a direction that pushes people AND gives them ample opportunity to deliver, it’s time to make absolutely, certainly, indubitably, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% sure that everybody is on the same page. This sounds like overkill. But there’s no such thing. At ConantLeadership, we always say that “clarity is next to godliness.”
No matter how many people you’ve spoken with, how many times you’ve refined the vision, how precisely you’ve honed the message – you probably weren’t as clear as you thought you were. You have to make sure. Dispel ambiguity. Triple-check that the expectations of the new direction are clear to everyone and that they are equipped with the tools they need to bring it to life.
Importantly, this is a step that occurs in perpetuity. You have to repeat the goal(s) earnestly and often. Don’t be afraid to be bold and brazen. The goal – if you’ve picked the right one — is the point of energized mobilization for the entire effort! Paint it on the wall. Put it in your email signature. Shout it from a megaphone. If you’ve completed the other two steps, and arrived on a message that is aspirational and achievable, and that honors all stakeholders, hearing it reinforced and celebrated shouldn’t be a drag; it should be a rallying cry. It should spur exhilaration and determination.
Don’t be afraid to be bold.
Sure, it may sound like a tall order. You’ve got to choose a goal that adequately inspires and motivates your team – that is idealistic AND realistic – and that creates a rallying point for the entire effort. But it is possible. And it’s worth doing your due diligence to make it happen. When you begin with the end in mind and follow the three steps outlined here, you’re on your way to paving a path of enormous achievement, growth, and enthusiasm.
Tried this process? Let us know how it went in the comments.
Today we dispatched the September edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the best leadership tips to read right now, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s edition: A workout for your brain, how to fix your performance reviews, a primer for better listening, and more. As always, we’re sharing the articles from our newsletter here in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. (If you like what you see, you can sign up to receive our newsletter here).
In the digital age so rife with distractions, many busy workers boast of their ability to multitask. But, according to this interesting post by Daniel Goleman, multitasking is a myth, and the attempt to master it is harming our productivity in other ways. Instead of rapidly shifting back and forth between tasks, he recommends targeting “cognitive control”, which can be practiced by brain “workouts’ designed to strengthen your mindfulness muscle. Learn the tactics in the full post here.
During reflective thinking, or “slow thinking”, leaders have an opportunity to examine “underlying assumptions, core beliefs, and knowledge.” Insights unearthed from reflection can also improve overall productivity and decision making. So why is it something of a lost art? In this Harvard Business Review post, the authors argue for a return to valuing this slower form of thinking and they provide actionable ways to do it.
**For more ways to spark “slow thinking”, check out our thought-provoking prompts for reflection here, here, here, and here.
Your job title, no matter how impressive, is not an accurate measure of your power or influence, writes Wendy Marx in this SmartBrief post. Sure, formal authority is part of the equation, but the real secret to influencing others lies in “informal power.” You can measure your informal power by doing a “power audit” and Marx tells you how here.
Only 14% of employees say performance reviews motivate them to improve according to this fascinating Gallup post. Gallup says the most essential question for leaders to ask themselves is, “How do we hold people accountable for their performance in a way that is more accurate, helpful and inspiring?” What’s the best path forward? To reimagine performance reviews for the 21st century, make sure they have these three qualities.
** To further reimagine performance reviews, check out Doug’s unique practice for giving feedback here.
“Generative listening”, or listening in a productive way that generates creativity, isn’t easy. But it is achievable with discipline and practice says Mary Jo Asmus in this post. What’s the trick? Asmus provides four ways you can start practicing right away.
In leadership and life, much of the big things you’ll need to accomplish won’t be easy; they’ll require lots of determination and persistence. But what does persistence look like when you really break it down? In this post, Rebecca Elvy explores the exact five characteristics required for a persistent pursuit of your goals.
As the information age continues to explode, there’s more and more to know in any given field, explains this Kellogg Insight post. It’s hard for any one person to know everything so they tend to know a lot about one specific area where they can become experts. With this increased phenomenon of specialization, individuals have to work together more than ever to share their expertise and knowledge, and get things done. They break down the science of collaboration here and give some tips for how to creatively foster knowledge-sharing in your organization.
As massive technological shifts change the landscape of business, and lots of work that was formerly done by humans will be increasingly performed by machines, lifelong learning for executives and organizations is competitive necessity argues this thorough and well-sourced McKinsey article. The more businesses use information-rich tools, the more important it becomes how people interact with those tools — as “workers, managers, and executives need to keep up with the machines and be able to interpret their results.” Use this comprehensive article as a guide for rethinking how to continuously improve the skills of your employees and the competitive profile of your organization.
** For more on this, explore our post on why organizations must grow or die.