The doctrine of minimalism takes many different forms. At its heart, it’s about the idea of paring down to the essentials, eliminating duplication and waste, and embracing what is pure and true in life. We could all benefit from being more focused and clear, especially at work.
Here are a few easy tips to incorporate the principles of minimalism into your work life:
Less talking, more listening. If you believe, à la Fran Lebowitz, that “The opposite of talking isn’t listening. The opposite of talking is waiting,” then this one is for you. When someone else is speaking, set aside what you plan to say next, and focus on the other person. What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? Then, allow a moment before you respond to reflect on what they said. Adjust your prepared remarks accordingly. Repeat.
Single-task it. Face it – multitasking doesn’t work. Your brain is perpetually on standby, trying to transition to the next task. You are not being as efficient as you think. If you are on a conference call, be on the conference call, not shopping online or approving invoices. Give your whole focus to the task; you’ll find that you are calmer as a result, and you will ultimately get more done.
Less stuff, more space. Is your desk space a shrine for snapshots and tchotchkes? Are your drawers full of unused office supplies, hot-sauce packets, and plastic utensils? Get rid of the stuff that you don’t use (trust me, that’s 99%of it) and come in tomorrow to a cleaner, more serene office or cubicle.
Touch each item once. This applies to both physical and digital clutter. If you open an email, be prepared to read and respond to it (unless you need more time -- more on that in a minute). Once you’ve dealt with a message, delete that email or save it to the appropriate (and appropriately named) folder, so that you can easily find it later. Same goes for actual paperwork -- pick it up, deal with it, and either pass it along or shred it.
Take a minute before answering emails and voicemails. This is good advice for a lot of reasons, including the old saw reminding us that to “act in haste, repent in leisure.” If you are about to fire off a fiery retort, take a breath. Or 10. Or take a walk to the corner and back. Responding in a calm and clear way makes it less likely that there will be follow-up or messy fallout to deal with. It only takes a little longer, but you’ll save your sanity and your schedule by not clapping back.
You don’t need that doughnut. No, really. Part of minimalism is being mindful about what we do, how we live, and how we sustain a healthy lifestyle. It may seem tempting in the moment, but packing a healthy lunch and some fortifying snacks to eat along the way will set you up for a calmer, clearer experience throughout the day.
Let it go. (You too, Princess Elsa.) As the work day goes by, we catalog countless rejections, real and imagined slights, beefs with co-workers, frustrations, aggravations, and gripes. Just let it go. If it’s worth addressing, do so calmly, and with a clear understanding of what you want the outcome to be. But, if it won’t matter a year from now, then take a deep breath and move on from it. You’ll feel better and live longer as a result.
Focus on what you have, not what you don’t. Yes, we all have goals. But where you are now is pretty great, too. After all, wasn’t there a point in time where this job was the one you had dreamed of, and you did a happy dance when the recruiter called to offer you the position? So plan for the future, but don’t sweat it. Do the job you’re in to the best of your ability, and the rewards will follow.
At its core, minimalism is about being intentional. Focus on a few of the tips from the list that most resonate with you, and you’ll come out ahead.
Laura Small is vice president and people director at advertising agency RPA.
The Texas Gulf Coast is a region where regulators and chemical companies are familiar with each other, both because of the sheer number of facilities in the region and because of the important roles each has when it comes to disaster preparation, response and recovery.
The daylong event included a morning panel featuring site managers, environmental, health and safety (EHS) officials and other executives from five chemical companies. The afternoon saw panels with federal, state and county officials, including a Coast Guard leader and the Port of Houston commissioner.
Any emergency preparedness or response along the Texas Gulf Coast must take into account land and sea, as well as the various needs of first responders, industrial facilities, residents and anyone working to support those efforts. Company executives in the morning panel discussed the unique nature of Harvey -- its heavy rain and flooding, that it affected many sites simultaneously -- while noting that employees, including contractors, were often personally affected by the storm, too.
While any storm can bring surprises, Nancy Randolph of Dow Chemical noted that planning for hurricanes is a year-round job, while Mike Zamora, ExxonMobil’s Americas director of manufacturing, pointed out that drills regularly occur at a regional and local level, not just when a storm is imminent.
Part of a chemical company’s response involves coordinating with government officials from the local level all the way up. As LyondellBasell site manager Kim Foley noted, planning out scenarios and executing them relies on interaction with local officials, whether they be ports, sheriff’s office, Coast Guard or others.
Much like scenario planning for facilities, good working relationships between companies and local officials don’t start during storms, but much sooner. Recent hurricanes have taught Chad Anderson of Huntsman that “you need to make your plans very, very early when it comes to building relationships and being a key stakeholder at the site. It’s also very good, from what we’ve seen, to test those relationships long before you actually need to use the relationships.”
Peter Greco of LyondellBasell pointed out that, from a technical standpoint, communications and information systems must be robust enough to handle any incident. This was made clear last year, he said, as “Harvey overwhelmed everything.”
A geographically specific challenge for the Texas Gulf Coast region is the sheer number of jurisdictional entities and an uncertainty about who companies need to report to beyond the immediate local jurisdiction, said David Wade of the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. Coordinators like Wade can help companies improve those efforts -- not just during an emergency situation but as an ongoing preparation and planning exercise. Because of the complexities of crisis communications, Wade said, he encourages all facilities, even smaller ones, to utilize local information-sharing systems so that everyone is in the loop.
The afternoon sessions also looked at Harvey from the port’s response, as well as legislators grappling with recovery efforts and planning for future efforts. This included Coast Guard Captain Kevin Oditt describing the challenging situation floodwaters presented to the Houston Ship Channel during Harvey from his perspective.
For the port and the Houston Ship Channel, there’s work to be done still to repair damage and and restore it to pre-storm state, much less prepare for future storms. Texas state Sen. Brandon Creighton called Harvey “the new benchmark” for these types of conversations. Meanwhile, fellow Sen. Larry Taylor called for a coastal barrier, or “spine,” to help protect the region, noting that had Harvey brought a storm surge directly up the channel, the Port of Houston could have been closed for months.
All that work will require commitment and resources, including federal funding, a point raised by both senators as well as discussed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Creighton also emphasized the need to ensure that federal funding formulas properly compensate Texas to help the state prepare for future storms.
Project management is a very much misunderstood profession that has often been equated to herding cats. Much of this confusion comes from the fact that project management isn’t a single discipline but rather the practice of bringing a set of disciplines together in order to achieve a common goal.
One of the big challenges in project management then is the definition and attribution of individual roles in projects that often require expertise and involvement from across an organisation. Today, I want to take a look at how these roles and responsibilities are defined and maintained and the importance in doing so.
The PRINCE2 methodology definition
Project management methodologies are frameworks and principles that underpin the planning, execution and success of projects across any given corporate structure, industry or deliverable. The definition of roles and responsibilities are core to all project management methodologies. If we look at the principles of the PRINCE2 methodology, which is the most widely practiced in the world today, we’ll see the importance of roles and responsibilities is described like thus. As Wikipedia notes:
“Roles are separated from individuals, who may take on multiple roles or share a role. Roles in PRINCE2 are structured in four levels (corporate or programme management, project board, project manager level and team level).”
PRINCE2 methodology stressed the importance of role definition and hierarchy but is also flexible to recognize that some pre-defined roles can be merged, while others can’t.
Broadly speaking, the stated hierarchy is defined by the level of involvement.
Corporate management level refers to the project’s sponsors, whose primary involvement will be defining the project’s mandate, defining project level tolerances and ensuring that the project delivers value for money.
The project board (sometimes referred to as a steering committee) can be seen as the executive and will comprise key decision-makers, including a business-oriented individual who is ultimately responsible for the project. It is the job of the board to provide the necessary resources and funding to the PM and his/her team.
The project manager is responsible for the day-to-day management of the project and is responsible for liaising and reporting back progress to the project board. Because this role is so pivotal, it cannot ever be merged with other roles and exists on a hierarchical level of its own.
The project team are responsible for executing and delivering the project within agreed time, cost and quality tolerances. Team member’s roles will vary depending on project scope and size. These could include various support roles with administrative and data compiling duties, as well as asset management.
The importance of hierarchy is largely an operational consideration in the execution of a project, in that it creates clear boundaries between roles. At a deeper level, PRINCE2 also has a clearly defined responsibilities tables with each product (outcome) broken down by where any given producer, approver or reviewer sits in the wider hierarchy.
Another core aspect of role definition in project management methodology are the stakeholder roles. These stakeholder roles are defined by their interest in the project and its deliverables and are as follows:
Business sponsors: Individuals who make sure the project delivers value for money.
Users: The beneficiaries of the product that the project has been setup to deliver.
Suppliers: Those supplying the resources or skills in order for the project to deliver.
PRINCE2 methodology dictates that all stakeholder roles must be represented at both the project board and project team level. Individuals at all levels should be able to understand what is expected of them, what is expected of others and who the key decision makers are.
Specialists vs. generalists
In many projects, especially smaller projects, skills might need to overlap in order to fully utilize the individual skillsets available to you. The tension comes when there is a need for a specific specialism or technical skill set in order to complete a given task. In these cases, the more generalist skill sets of a project team may not be able to fill the gap.
It is the role of the project manager to balance a multi-skilled team with a more specialized one. This will involve thorough planning and the management of the project in stages (another PRINCE2 principle) so as to fully understand where and when specific skillsets will be required and what other stages will be dependent on this.
In some instances, it may be necessary to outsource or bring in external specialist help, but this presents its own set of challenges, not least in getting the budget signoff required.
Project management requires a structure and framework, but it also requires flexibility in order to adapt to any given environment and the unique challenges they pose. A key determinant of success, however, will always be the proper definition of roles and responsibilities. Getting this right from the outset will make for a smoother journey, where everyone involved is engaged and in the loop.
Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by William Vanderbloemen.
The next time you walk around your office, take a moment and listen. Do you hear people on your staff uttering phrases like, “That’s not my job”? If you do, then you may be in trouble.
This sentence is a sign of a bad work culture. It is a sign that people are not communicating and collaborating. If they were, they would take ownership of their responsibility to do what is best for the company, which includes helping other team members in their successes and failures. They would feel like their organization matters to them, instead of maintaining a “that’s not my job” attitude.
If you are noticing signs of a toxic staff culture -- one that prevents your people from doing excellent work they enjoy -- then you should take action to turn it around. But how?
You have three options.
Make a move
Interview your staff members and find out if the discontentment lies in the company as a whole or in a specific role. If a team member has bought into the mission of the company but feels frustrated in his or her current role, try shifting people into a role where they can thrive.
For example, you may have people with excellent technical skills but who lack project-management or people-management experience. Yet, they were promoted into management positions. They might have been promoted because they did great work in a technical role but do not have the skillset to be proactive, manage a lot of moving pieces, hit deadlines or supervise and lead a team. Understanding team members' skills and placing them in roles that align with their natural gift sets is a key component to employee engagement and a healthy staff culture.
Examine the culture of the people at the top, including yourself, and if there’s a problem, change it.
You can’t go through the motions of naming the full set of culture values for your company, then acting out a completely different set of values, and expect a healthy culture to manifest itself. You may not think your team notices your actions, but, as a leader, people watch you and emulate your behavior. The actions and behaviors of the leadership at your company set the groundwork for building a healthy culture and an irresistible workplace.
If you’re not in a leadership position but instead are an employee of a company with a toxic culture, then your best option may be to leave. I’m not encouraging anyone to job-hop, but if you’re stuck in an organization where the people at the top are not exhibiting a healthy culture and don’t plan to change, don’t expect to be the sole agent of culture change. Change from the bottom is very difficult to accomplish.
This is obviously the most radical option, especially because it will likely have to be someone at or near the top of the organization.
No matter how successful your company is, a bad culture can cause irreparable damage, and sometimes the only way to ward off a downward spiral is to remove the people who are introducing toxicity into the culture.
If you don’t have a healthy culture, you’re building an organization on sinking sand that will not last. Having employees come to the office excited to work affects everything including your bottom line. You need to work hard to retain your people because they are your greatest assets.
Q: Where can you find a mentor who's specifically dealing with the same problem you are currently facing?
1. Industry-specific conferences
Chances are if you make an effort to meet people within your industry, you will come across people who have been through the same ups and downs as you. Connect with those people, and learn from their experience so that you don't run the risk of making the same mistakes they did. -- Diana Goodwin, AquaMobile
2. Online courses
I built my business on the idea of "Just In Time Learning." Whenever I encountered a problem I didn't know how to solve, I found the expert in the industry on the topic, invested in their online course, learned from their mistakes and implemented it into my business. If it's a game-changing problem a course can't solve, I focus on finding a Mastermind Group full of folks in the same industry. -- Bryan Kesler, CPA Exam Guide
I've met many people who are doing what I would like to do via Facebook. I've found that most of them are willing to provide tips if you ask them for help. Good places to start will be Facebook groups. For instance, if your problem is relationships, you can look at a relationships advice Facebook group. If the group is high quality, you will find someone with decades of experience in the topic. -- Alejandro Rioja, Flux Chargers
4. Online forums
Follow online forums in your industry and join mentor groups. Go in and get involved in the conversations to determine who has similar thoughts and areas where you see a connection. Then, reach out to them. -- Angela Ruth, Calendar
5. Local entrepreneur groups
I've met a lot of people who have become friends and mentors among Vancouver's entrepreneur groups. Even smaller cities usually have good groups, and you can use apps like Meetup to find them. Make sure you make the effort to get to know the people in your group; that's how you find the ones in the same place as you. -- Adam Steele, Loganix
6. Incubator/accelerator programs
These programs often have mentors who are eagerly waiting to help someone just like you. They want to participate in solving other problems and may have the answers you are seeking. -- Murray Newlands, ChattyPeople
7. Google (but don't say you need a "mentor")
First, lose the word "mentor." That's a tricky word that seems to come with a lot of baggage. Once you remove that name, it becomes much less intimidating to find one because all you are saying is, "I'm looking for a subject matter expert on X, and I want to seek your advice on a few specific items." No life-long mentor needed. Now, where do you find them? Google top players and reach out. -- Codie Sanchez, CodieSanchez.com
With the advances made in streaming internet and smartphone technology, nearly everybody has the ability to make and publish videos. YouTube encouraged these people to share their videos to connect with others. Because of this, I have found videos addressing incredibly specific problems made by well-spoken individuals with clear solutions. Instead of just a Google search, try a YouTube search too. -- Bryce Welker, CPA Exam Guy
9. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn is probably the best place to find and connect with other entrepreneurs in similar spaces. If you can’t find someone directly, you have access to thousands of groups that you can tap into to find a mentor. The best part is, everyone’s professional history is available to you. So that way you can find a mentor to your specific criteria, whether it's by industry, experience, location, etc. -- Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
10. Competitors from other markets
By chance, I met someone in the same business as me in an airport waiting for a flight. We would have been competitors in the same area, but being so far apart made it really easy to vent and have a good conversation. That relationship became a valued mentor, and I recommend talking to competitors to anyone. No one knows more about how you feel than those who are doing exactly the same thing. -- Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
11. Your own existing network
The answer to many challenges you'll face in life lies in the resources of your network. Ask people whom you trust and let them introduce you as they'll know the insights into what their contacts are going through which are likely not public knowledge. -- Darrah Brustein, darrah.co
When I began in July 2010 as head of school at a 360-student, independent K-8, my administrative team and I simply did not have the manpower or the competitive advantage that so many other schools in our community enjoyed.
Staffing shortages were everywhere. We had no admissions director or marketing professional. There was no resource room, let alone anyone to staff it. Computers were formally taught only to our youngest grades, and by the librarian. Our athletics coaches were all volunteers. They even drove our kids to the games since we had no budget for bussing.
And then there was our administration. The three of us shouldered a myriad of responsibilities that extended well beyond conventional school leadership. Compounding the problem were the expectations from our board, who expected me to significantly raise the school’s academic standard after years of perceived complacency. Stress levels were high as we all tried to do more with less.
I remember clearly how one day, one of my administrators walked into my office. Her expression told me that she was upset, and tired.
“What is it?” I asked. “No one is going to say anything to you,” she began, “but you’re pushing them too hard.” By “them”, she was referring to office staffers who I had tasked to update our systems and modernize communication.
They were working hard -- as I was -- to move the school forward, and it was taking its toll. But I needed to scale back and find a different way to get the job done or I would be faced with mutiny.
Understaffing is a real and growing problem, one that affects leaders and employees in every professional industry. These include:
Accounting and finance. According to a recent study, almost two-thirds of large accounting firms report that their teams are understaffed. Even the largest firms were greatly affected, dropping from an average staff of 84 to 40 in 2017
Marketing. According to a study from Workfront, a whopping 80 percent of those surveyed said they feel overloaded and understaffed.
Sales. One source posited that a whopping 82% of all sales teams today are understaffed.
Nursing. One out of five nurses will leave nursing within the first year due to overwork.
Education, law enforcement, air traffic control, and government are but a few more industries that report gross staffing deficits.
Being understaffed is not simply an undesirable condition. It has been directly linked to many serious problems for leaders and their teams. When prevalent for extended periods, understaffing can result in reduced product and service quality, lost business, increased stress and turnover, and even physical safety.
Quality. Product and service quality both suffer when fewer employees are available to serve customers and run production lines. Overstretched workers are also prone to make more errors. Poor quality over time diminishes a company’s reputation and drives away customers (see below).
Business. An understaffed business misses growth opportunities because it lacks the capacity to meet customer needs. If a business takes on new clients or products and can’t deliver the goods or services in a timely fashion, it can lose the business and damage its reputation in the industry. It’s also really hard to prospect and expand your client base when you can barely keep up with current demands.
Stress. Increased workloads add stress to complete work and meet performance expectations. Heightened stress lowers morale and employee job satisfaction and takes a toll on employees’ and leaders’ wellbeing.
Safety. Not only are overworked employees at risk for stress and its harmful side-effects, but in certain industries, such as nursing and prison security, being short-staffed can also mean an inability to care for the sick (36% of hospital nurses said their patient workload caused them to miss vital changes in a patient’s condition) or properly protect against dangerous inmates, respectively.
Leaders, for their part, feel mounting pressure to get more done despite an ever-shrinking budget. And since there simply isn’t enough manpower on hand, they ask current staff to achieve the work of many more. The results are predictable. Stress levels increase. Morale plummets. Workers start calling in sick. Some quit or threaten to do so. Leaders burn out if they aren’t phased out. And the downward cycle continues, resulting in organization-wide despondency.
So, what can understaffed leaders do to not only survive but thrive and over-deliver?
One strategy is to get super clear on tasks and responsibilities. These are formalized employee performance objectives that are clear, measurable, and mutually understood.
Effective teams need to know what’s being asked of them and how to prioritize their efforts. Leaders need to get them focused on what really matters most and will have the greatest positive impact on the company, such as actions that are most aligned with strategic objectives and most satisfy stakeholders.
Of course, it is difficult to build mutually clear expectations with others if you don’t know exactly what they are yourself. If goals aren’t clear and well-defined in your own mind, how can employees hope to achieve them, and managers hope to reach them? They can’t, and you can’t.
To achieve optimum performance and robust working relationships, the following questions must all be clearly answered and mutually agreed to:
What are we trying to achieve, in terms of output, customer engagement, or other metrics?
To achieve these goals, what work is required and at what level of quality?
What defines successful completion of work?
What are and aren’t the roles of the job?
What expectations are reasonable and appropriate relating to
When people have guidelines within which to operate, they are more empowered to act, take initiative, and innovate.
Organizations, teams and individuals each have a role in moving the #MeToo movement from talk to realistic action. Here are some ideas for doing so.
First, let’s apply the tried-and-true SPIN selling model (situation, problem, implications, needs payoff) to influence the holdouts. People who still don’t recognize #MeToo and/or are still not compelled to do something differently for themselves, on their teams and in their organizations perpetuate a colossal problem.
Situation: Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are still pervasive. Women finally feel empowered to share their own stories, and appalling examples are being exposed across all industries. The social media and celebrity support for the cause of #MeToo is not going away.
Problem: It’s not OK to harass people in the workplace, or anywhere else for that matter. More broadly speaking, #MeToo extends well beyond harassment and includes biases and unacceptable workplace actions based on race, religion, sexual preference, nationality, and any additional categories of what I’ll call “otherness” that human egos have made up.
Implications:As Simon & Garfunkel sang, “Fools, said I, you do not know, silence like a cancer grows…” Costly lawsuits and irreparably harmed brands. Great ideas go unshared and innovation is stymied. There is an exodus of valuable talent. Your client experience is tainted when they engage with your disconnected, disenfranchised people. These are just a few implications. Your organization will lose money in ways you haven’t yet contemplated and about which you’d be apoplectic if accurately quantified.
Needs Payoff (solutions to meet client’s needs): I don’t claim to have all the answers or even the right answers, but I’m bold enough to offer up some ideas. So here goes.
These are things you can do right now to start making #MeToo a thing of the past.
When in doubt, ask yourself, “Would what I’m about to say or do pass the ‘If it were my kid test’?” It’s like the "Wall Street Journal test" that compliance and legal folks teach people to invoke common sense: If you wouldn’t want it printed in the Wall Street Journal, then don’t type it in an email. Similarly, would you make that sexist remark to your daughter or son? Would you want someone treating your child in that belittling or dehumanizing way? If not, then shut the front door, as they say in polite circles.
Read University of Houston research professor and author Brene Brown’s latest, "BRAVING the Wilderness." This book is a candid reminder about the importance of building trust and that a key prerequisite to maintaining it is willingness to engage in uncomfortable conversations. The wilderness is a metaphor for those tough times when we feel alone, exposed or vulnerable.
Braving is a thought-provoking checklist to help us summon the courage to speak up anyway – or “Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil,” as Brown expressively phrases it. Braving isn’t some cutesy acronym; it’s a summary of the seven elements of trust that emerged from her research, and I love it as a gut check to help us choose courage over comfort when we see a #MeToo or similarly blatant “otherness” violation.
Even if your organization is slow with an official response to #MeToo, there is nothing stopping you from shifting mindsets and enforcing the right behaviors on your team, whether as a formal leader or team member.
Organize a team book club and read "BRAVING the Wilderness." See above and then use open-ended questions to lead a discussion. If you don’t believe me or Brown, Google confirmed the importance of trust and open communication with Project Aristotle. Google found that the number one most important factor influencing team effectiveness was psychological safety. This means that “team members feel safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other.”
Craft a Designed Alliance, which is an operations manual of sorts in which your team aligns on how to work best together. It’s an intentional, transparent, flexible and mutually agreed upon pact that supports and empowers everyone on the team by getting expectations and assumptions out on the table in no uncertain terms. Teams that most successfully use this tool have an “umbrella,” or a standing designed alliance coupled with situational ones for projects, meetings and other specific situations. Be as clear as possible when designing; ambiguity is the enemy.
Here are a few questions I typically use to jumpstart any team to design their alliance, including but not limited to #MeToo contexts:
What are we committed to as a team?
What will we collectively not tolerate, and what should people do in the event they hear or see something concerning?
What do we need from each other to empower us to take thoughtful business risks?
How do we want to give and receive feedback, both positive and constructive?
What assumptions do we have about each other, the team and the organization that we need to bust through and clean up?
Like any worthy change-management initiative, a thoughtful, coordinated and sustainable culture transformation to overcome #MeToo and similar harms will take time and extensive planning. As organizational development legend Peter Block said, “If we want a change in culture, the work is to change the conversation.”
The suggestions above for individuals and teams are certainly ways to change the conversation on a small scale. How about more broadly?
Elevate culture to a C-suite strategic priority and empower all the right people. Why? Because culture starts at the top, and the best definition of culture is what leaders tolerate of themselves and others. Don’t spend the money on a pulse survey to see if #MeToo violations are happening in your organization. They are, I guarantee it.
Is diversity and inclusion something your organization pays lip service to but doesn’t really honor? Is your HR team a bunch of order takers who merely execute on benefits and mind-numbing performance reviews? If the answer to both of those questions is anything but a confident and resounding no, then now is the time to expand and uplift the function to something like Chief People and Culture Office.
Hire a leadership or organization development company to help orchestrate a culture change. There are plenty of great consultants out there; find ones who won’t placate and simply tell you what you want to hear because they are more concerned about burning the bridge to the next engagement than transforming your culture.
The first step in solving any enormous problem is to take an action. Don’t just stand there looking at the problem in a state of overwhelm, denial, or analysis paralysis. Do something. Then observe what worked and do more of it. Understand what didn’t work and adjust. If you’ve made it this far in the article, consider your first step taken. Now, what will you commit to do next?
Shani Magosky is the author of "The Better Boss Blueprint." She is an executive consultant and founder of The Better Boss Project®, which she developed from years of experience working with bosses at all levels and a desire to put a special focus on changing companies by helping people become better leaders – of others and themselves. Previously, she worked in three divisions of Goldman Sachs, managed a TV station, was chief operating officer of an all-virtual international marketing company and launched the leadership development consulting and executive coaching practice Vitesse Consulting, where she counsels a range of Fortune 1000 companies, tech startups, entrepreneurs, universities and nonprofits across multiple industries.
Hougaard and Carter argue that leadership starts with three core mental qualities -- mindfulness, selflessness and compassion -- that comprise “MSC Leadership.”
So, yes, the authors invite you to take up residence in your mind and get comfortable there. Leadership, it would seem, is an inside job. If that sounds a bit squishy for your taste, consider this: the book is based on findings from hundreds of research studies showing the benefits of mindfulness, selflessness and compassion for individuals, leaders and organizations. The authors also engaged leading scientists and a team of researchers to contribute and provide validation.
Moreover, the book is based on survey results from nearly 35,000 leaders from over a hundred countries, which provides the real-life examples that demonstrate how these mental qualities can help create what Hougaard and Carter call “a more human leadership and people-centered culture.”
How is it that these new-age sounding qualities are the foundation of strong leadership? Hougaard and Carter point to understanding the power of intrinsic motivation -- and a leader’s ability to harness it -- as the means to unleash optimal performance of their workforce.
Without a clear understanding of what motivates people, “even technically gifted and well-intentioned leaders can unknowingly create an indifferent -- or even hostile -- work environment,” they write. Leaders who manage their mind in a way that creates less unconscious bias will be able to see the potential of their people and therefore will foster a stronger sense of commitment with their team.
Here are three ideas offered up by Hougaard and Carter that will help you develop these important leadership traits.
Mindfulness is the ability to focus your attention. Start a practice of blocking at least 15 minutes out on your calendar every day that is devoted to disconnecting: no phones, emails or other distractions. Practice sitting quietly (or go for a brief walk), allowing your mind to simply be quiet.
Selflessness is the ability to let go of your ego and give your people the space to do what they do best. Consider what the words “being of service” mean to you. Identify one way you can better serve someone in your organization or the broader community. Note: Many times, being of service is a simple, easy act, such as sitting and listening to someone in need.
When you offer compassion as a leader, people feel safe and connected. Research has shown that actually practicing compassion for a few minutes each day measurably increases your ability to feel compassion for others. To develop compassion for your colleagues, think about someone who is struggling. Sit quietly and imagine how they are feeling but do not mentally take on their burden. Instead, imagine offering them support and compassion.
Are you placing too much emphasis on the external factors that drive your leadership effectiveness? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your mental game. Get inside your head and decide what role mindfulness, selflessness and compassion can play in upping your leadership game.
Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Join her Facebook community The People Equation and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”
SmartPulse -- our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership -- tracks feedback from more than 240,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our newsletter.
Have you ever had a salesperson ask you to tell them a story so they can get to know you?
Yes, it happens frequently: 20.6%
No, I’ve never been asked to tell a story: 79.4%
Interviews are stressful. These are high-risk situations for a candidate. It’s not surprising that 85% of you see a candidate make a catastrophic mistake that tanks the interview. While common interview mistakes like candidates checking their phone or watch are bad, bigger mistakes like poor answers to common questions are definite interview enders. Your job as an interviewer is to make the conversation as relaxed as possible. You’re looking to get to know this person. If you can reduce the stress level surrounding the discussion, you’ll get better responses from candidates and ultimately make better hiring decisions.
A friend of mine recently told me about a conversation he had with his brother, who he was coaching through some difficult times.
His brother had recently been promoted from the field into a corporate setting because of his excellent work. My friend’s brother expressed his frustration at how unimaginative his co-workers were and how they were always making mistakes. The brother went on about how unwilling everyone seemed to be about listening to his ideas or following his advice.
Finally, my friend, in exasperation, said to his brother, “What do you want people to do, lie down, and say, ‘Oh we are so stupid, and you are so smart, even smarter than us. We should follow your every idea!’” To which my friend’s brother replied, “Well, yes!”
Obviously, that was not going to happen any time soon. But the whole situation begs the question, “How do you increase your credibility in your organization?"
Here are 10 tips for building your credibility through the achievement of results.
1. Continue to do the work. If you have been promoted for the work that you have done, continue to do what you are asked to do and do it well. No one can argue with excellence. If you do excellent work, meet the required deadlines and keep your commitments, people will notice and the recognition will come. Your performance will build your credibility over time.
2. Look to make a difference. Sometimes when we feel unaccepted or even rejected, we tend to isolate ourselves and not look beyond the parameters of the work we are assigned. Don’t fall into this trap. Look to improve your processes. Figure out what works and doesn’t work. If there is a process outside of your scope of responsibility that directly affects your work, look for ideas on how to improve those processes and encourage those who are responsible to make the needed changes to make both of you successful.
3. Support others in their work. Sometimes when a person is new in a position, others may feel intimidated by or resentful of the new face at the table. Look to make allies by seeking opportunities to assist others in their work. Encourage and recognize them for their efforts. Offer experienced-based solutions that apply to the challenges they are addressing. Present your ideas in a way that acknowledges their good efforts and seeks to build on them rather than discredit them.
4. Humbly be right. If you come up with a solution that is a resounding success, keep your mouth shut. Let people draw their own conclusions. If you go out of your way to celebrate your individual success, rather than put the focus on the team effort, people will look for ways to discount your contribution, identify your weaknesses and let it be known what an arrogant and pompous individual you are. That also means that you do not want to go fishing for compliments. Let your results speak for themselves and let that be the end of it.
5. Offer concrete evidence. When making suggestions about what to do or a decision to make, be prepared to offer your opinion, supported by concrete evidence and data. Realize that someone may present evidence that runs counter to your idea, but being prepared with supportive information will go a long way to bolstering your credibility.
6. Be collaborative in your efforts. Even if you think you know what you should do, take the time to explore others’ experience and points of view. First, they may know something that you don’t know. Second, being inclusive goes a long way toward acknowledging value for the contributions others may make. Third, it signals that you are a team player. Lastly, it indicates that others’ ideas and experience matter to you.
7. Explain “why.” Sometimes soliciting ideas creates the false expectation that you will incorporate their suggestions or ideas into the final solution or decision. If you make a decision that doesn’t include their ideas, it may leave them thinking, “Well, I won’t share my ideas the next time around because they weren’t valued.” You want to make sure that they don’t draw such a conclusion. Take the time to explain why you made the decision that you did. Identify the goal, the criteria for your decision and the supporting evidence. If you take the time to do so, it will help them understand how and why you made the decision that you did and increase their buy-in.
8. Recognize the contributions of others. No one works in a vacuum. You rely on the members of your team and others to support you and perhaps to execute your plans. If you are successful, there are other people who enabled that success. Be sure to recognize everyone who contributed to the results. Don’t take the credit for your success. By drawing attention to others, it will build loyalty among your associates and ardent supporters for your expertise and leadership.
9. Look to develop others. If you are surrounded by people who don’t have the degree of expertise and experience that you would hope, identify their strengths and capitalize on them. Seek out and support opportunities for growth for key team members who have the capacity to develop their skills and talents in your targeted areas. It may take some patience on your part when people don’t initially meet your expectations, but if you are clear about your goals and help others to achieve, you will develop a reputation as someone who cares about the success of the entire team.
10. Continue learning. As smart and capable as you may be, everyone has something to learn. Much of that learning comes through our experience with others given the tasks that we are charged to complete. However, formal training might also be helpful. There are a wealth of resources available through classes and workshops both in person and online, as well as through mentors, coaches and books. If you are always looking to learn, making the changes to improve and striving to consistently do your best, the recognition will come.
Part of being a good leader is recognizing that you will not be successful without the assistance and support of others. Taking the time to be inclusive, draw on others’ strengths and experience, forget yourself and help others will help you achieve the results you desire and bring you positive recognition and additional opportunities.
John R. Stoker is the author of “Overcoming Fake Talk” and the president of DialogueWORKS, Inc. He has been in organizational development work for over 20 years helping leaders and individual contributors to learn the skills to assist them in achieving superior results. He has experience in the fields of leadership, change management, dialogue, critical thinking, conflict resolution, and emotional intelligence, and has worked with such companies as Cox Communications, Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and AbbVie. Connection with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.