Festive Party Ideas for Remote Work or Family Situations

Office Christmas Party or Festive Party Ideas for Remote Working

Office Christmas parties can be awkward for leaders at the best of times. How do you be inclusive of all religions and traditions? How do you create a situation for people to have fun without getting carried away? How do you create time when everyone is so busy? Now with social distancing, how do you celebrate with people at multiple locations and stay safe?

The first question I’d ask is: “What is the purpose of your festive celebration?” Might seem simple and there are many answers. This is especially important if you are going to delegate the task of organizing the activity to someone else.

Once you’ve answered that I’d suggest going deeper: “What do you want people to feel during and afterwards?” You might think emotions have no place at work, and they are always present and what you do influences those feelings – ‘good or bad’. More on that in my previous article: Emotions at Work. How you want people to feel will very much dictate what type of celebration you undertake. Some examples are: to feel happy, joyous, valued, included, together, loyal or collaborative.

Here are ideas for how companies can engender the spirit of Christmas, Hanukah or the broad-reaching festive party remotely depending on size of company and budgets. The various ideas lead to different feelings. I’ve included small business Christmas party ideas too.

Festive Party Ideas

Festive jumper day – everyone wears a festive jumper. Can do an on-line poll for who has the ugliest jumper, the most homemade jumper or the biggest jumper.

‘Costume party’ so people of all faiths can dress in festive attire reflective of their traditions.

Online party by sending a festive pack to each employee with a beverage, crisps, chocolate, a Christmas cracker, etc.

A gift and handwritten card to each person. Delegate the budget to each team leader so they send personalized gifts and messages appropriate for each individual.

Advent calendar – each day of advent, a leader or a rota from the office posts a ‘gift’ in a group chat or on the company intranet. The gift can be some sage advice, a helpful tip, a joke or an hour off that day.

Christmas coronavirus survival stocking – comfy socks, hand wipes, a mask with a company logo, a food stuff, a magazine, ear buds, a nicely scented soap, hand cream, funny poster for behind their ‘desk.’ All assembled and sent to each employee.

Half day off to do a good deed in your community (safely) – check on an elderly neighbour, give a takeaway meal to a homeless, volunteer at a food bank or in a school (as allowed). Create a WhatsApp group (or other provider) to share pictures of what each person did.

Festive Party Games

Online cooking, cookie-making or cocktail-making class with ingredients sent to employees beforehand. For a cheaper version, one person sends out the recipe (could be their family favourite), each person buys their own ingredients, and everyone cooks the item together virtually at the same time.

Online game like an escape room or scavenger hunt (many companies can host these for you).

Christmas Quiz team competition or scavenger hunt with people together in small groups to solve the quiz.

Secret Santa – one person gives each employee a different name of another employee that they buy a gift for and mail it. If money and mailing are an issue, then the gift can be a virtual gift – something you’d like that specific person to have and either you have them connect one-to-one or you all share them on a video call.

Random Act of Kindness each day – someone in the company sends out a different act of kindness each day, the individual that does the act of kindness first (by sending in a photo to a group chat) gets a prize.

Festive Ideas for Feeling Valued

Handwritten personalized note to each employee acknowledging them. This can be from their manager, from a senior person in the organization or someone special to them. For example, name the qualities, characteristics and achievements that they bring to the team and to work.

Hot chocolate and fuzzies – each team member gives a compliment or appreciation to every other member of the team. It becomes a virtuous circle, it’s positive gossip to someone’s face instead of negative gossip behind their back.

Gift certificates for a local restaurant so the employee can celebrate with their family.

The intention of most festive parties at the end of the calendar year is to have a break from the work and come together as a community to have fun. The ideas above are just some ideas and what’s best for your organization and team might be different than those listed above. Keep your ears open for ideas or suggestions from our people as well. These ideas might be helpful for your family celebration as well if that’s remote this year.

What aspects of your leadership that celebrates and motivates your team throughout the year would be worthwhile to explore?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.


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Why do People Stockpile Toilet Roll? Leadership Lessons

Why do People Stockpile Toilet Paper/Loo Roll? The Leadership Lessons

Is there a toilet roll shortage at your grocers? Lockdown 2.0 has seen an increase in binge buying, albeit not to the point of massively empty shelves like we had in the Spring. And what does stockpiling toilet paper have to do with leadership? Lots – as it’s an example of human behaviour and motivations that might be present in your organization in a different way.

Let’s start with the theory before we move onto the application and tips.

What is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

Firstly, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was published in 1943 by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, in his paper “A theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review. In simplified terms, he proposed that human behaviour is based on psychological needs we want fulfilled, often unconscious needs. Historically, it was believed that the needs of one level had to be completely satisfied before ascending to the next. Now we know those levels can be overlapping and more fluid – this is relevant to the loo roll shortage so stay tuned.

Although the hierarchy is often depicted by a pyramid, this never appeared in Maslow’s original work. The goal of his theory was to attain self-actualization hence it appearing as the pinnacle.

Although the top tier appears first in every hierarchy depiction, humans move through these needs from the bottom up. So, for behaviour and hence motivation to rise to the next level, each level needs to be satisfied for the individual. This shows how needs must be met for an individual to be motivated to move to the next level and then behave accordingly. Individuals need to feel a certain degree of internal satiation to move up the levels.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Example – Stockpiling Toilet Paper

You might be seeing why Maslow’s theory might be relevant to the loo roll shortage and why loo roll delivery has increased as a niche delivery service this year. In the face of fear and uncertainty, which a pandemic elicits, people’s needs revert to more basic levels. Will they have a job? Can they provide food to their families especially after seeing empty shelves? How long can they afford their home if they lose their job or their company collapses? These are real questions, fears and situations people have faced and continue to experience this year. Add in the remote working and imposed distancing and isolation from friends and family and no wonder people are at Maslow’s “Basic Needs” level. Many people psychologically are on the lower rungs of the hierarchy in reality.

Even those not a risk of losing their job or home might also feel this due to fear and anxiety for themselves and others they know.

Toilet paper, toilet roll, loo roll or bum wad (whatever you call it) is a means of satisfying some basic needs, providing some comfort and security for yourself and your family. It is also literally soft and comforting in feel and texture, and a relatively inexpensive purchase for a physically large item that has no expiry date. So many unconscious factors contribute to its broad popularity as a purchase. Throw in diminished supply, triggering scarcity fears, and you see why there were empty shelves.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Business Scenario

In most office jobs, the average worker normally has all their basic needs met. They have secure pay, a safe working environment, the ability to eat, drink and use the toilet during work, their families are provided for and they feel part of a ‘work team’ or group. As such, they are often in the esteem and self-actualization levels. Note, I’m not talking zero-hours contracts and negligent operations.

With coronavirus this has all been destabilized; the satisfaction of the basic needs is necessary now – with many people uncertain of their continued pay, uncertain about employer and government assistance, afraid of commuting to the office or being exposed to the virus, poor sleep due to stress and trying to work remotely with insufficient space or tech and little to no in-person colleague interaction.

You might be expecting your people to be motivated by what formerly motivated them. That might not be the case. Here’s what to do about that.

Tips for Business Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Here are some ideas you might use for dealing with your team members during this time:

• Recognize people are at the lower level needs. Provide as much true reassurance of their jobs and pay as possible. Provide them with the tools they need to do their jobs. Some companies are sending holiday food baskets to ensure no one must choose between a special festive meal and their rent.

• Listen to peoples’ concerns about their situation. You might not be able to help and at least they don’t feel totally alone having shared it. Tune into feelings. I know most leaders and organizations are reticent about feelings at work (read my article on Emotions at Work for more on this) and those feelings are there whether you acknowledge them or not. Many leaders don’t want to deal with feelings because they “don’t know what to do with them.” The answer is nothing, you don’t have to do anything with the emotions. By acknowledging them you help people process them.

• Provide support beyond just the work needs if possible. When you truly listen, you will hear other concerns an individual might have. Is there a way of supporting that individual with concerns beyond just work? Many of my clients are being very flexible with working from home to allow those with a need to stay home to do so and those with a need to be in the office to do so (within government guidelines).

• Bring people together intentionally. Although belonging might appear to be ‘above’ the basic needs it is a strong benefit of work for many people, especially extroverts. Create occasions remotely to bring people together, remind them of the common vision that unites you all, allow them to bond again. Start or end meetings with a deeper check in/out such as, each person bring one item to show that has sustained you through lockdown.

• Create psychological safety. At the heart of this safety is “seeing” people for the unique individuals that they are, telling them that, and engaging with them in an authentic and transparent manner. Communicate as much as you can about the organization and about them as individuals. Read more in my article about Inclusive Leadership.

• Be aware of your needs and motivations and get support where appropriate. Self-care is important for everyone, including leaders. You can only give what you have. Go out in nature, move, exercise, breath, eat well, celebrate small wins, have connection with friends and loved ones, laugh, hug, help others, meditate or mindfulness, find gratitude and joy where possible. These activities create the happy chemicals for dopamine (motivation/reward), oxytocin (love), serotonin (mood stabilizer) and endorphins (pain killer).

Like it or not, we all work with human beings who have complex needs and motivations that are ever-changing. We are complex ourselves. These difficult times exacerbate that complexity. Check in with your people regularly, really check in to find out where they might be on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and then what you could do to help them feel fulfilled on that need to motivate them to the next level. My book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, provides more ways of authentically connecting with others.

What could you do to motivate your team more/differently that would help them feel better and hence perform even better?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to learn how to motivate others better.


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Which Leadership Styles are Emerging, Newer to Leverage

Emerging Leadership Styles to Use During the Time of Coronavirus

As American leadership and leadership styles are front and centre this week, it confirms that leading is hard. It takes effort for most people, not everyone is a born leader and leadership can be learned.

Leadership, like most theories and skills, is evolving in response to changing needs and circumstances. The stress, fast-paced rate of change, and the multiple demands for our attention necessitate leadership change. What made you successful and got you to where you are now will probably not get you to where you want to go next. Here are some newer, emerging leadership styles that can help you develop further.


There are newer leadership styles that have been emerging based on the evolution of people and work. Here is a summary of five of those styles.

Compassionate Leadership – Often quoted as getting its prominence from an internal initiative at Google in 2007 to bring mindfulness, emotional intelligence and leadership together. It’s about using the head and heart together to lead, a concept I fully endorse in my book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, compassion “is the “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Compassionate Leadership requires feeling what another feels (beyond just distress I think), understanding their thoughts and what’s underneath those thoughts and feelings and the desire to act for the betterment of the individual. This deep listening and understand necessitates mindfulness to suspend your thoughts, perspectives and judgements. Research, some by Harvard psychology professor Dr Ellen Langer, shows that mindfulness improves charisma and productivity, decreases burnout and accidents, and increases creativity, memory, attention, positive affect, health, and even longevity¹.

Inclusive Leadership – Inclusive leadership focuses on inclusion, diversity and having the “differences” present and participating in the situation. It ensures all people are represented and treated respectfully and all people feel valued and a sense of belonging. Leadership that is inclusive of all disparities or dissimilarities is what is needed. It’s especially relevant now with gender inequality, Black Lives Matter, differences in peoples’ situations around coronavirus, LGBTQ+, multiple generations in many organizations and more. For more on this, read my blog here.

Agile Leadership – Evolving from the software development industry, agile leadership is about creating the context for employees to collaborate, learn, give feedback, respond quickly in pursuit of better solutions. Constant learning and a growth mindset are key. It’s not about driving change, rather it’s about being the change and facilitating others to do the same. It involves being present to develop new insights, adapting to ‘what is’, being quick and decisive, being resilient, creative and innovative, letting go of what doesn’t work, guiding others and striving for better, more value, or improvement.

Conscious Leadership – This starts from a more internal perspective, becoming aware of internal automatic or habitual thoughts and responses so that we are no longer ‘run’ by them blindly. Once we become aware of those unconscious drivers in our thoughts, emotions and body sensations we can create what is needed rather than defaulting to something unconscious. In The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman and Kaley Warner-Klemp, the authors talk of it being an iceberg – the tip of the iceberg above the water is our external projection while the bigger piece below is our assumptions, beliefs, and self-created identity. Some aspects of conscious leadership are that we are responsible for our circumstances, our thoughts create our emotions, practice integrity, eliminate gossip, being curious and experiencing the world as an ally.

Mindful Leadership – Although the idea of being mindful might be newer in leadership, its roots in Buddhist practices is age old. Being mindful is about being present, in the moment, fully aware of what is transpiring. Initially it focuses on two aspects of emotional intelligence – self-awareness and self-management. Being mindful or aware of yourself is the starting point, and then ensuring you manage yourself to be as effective as possible in a given situation or interaction. A mindful leader has a presence and practice that is focused, clear, creative, and compassionate in serving. The biggest factor to do that is creating space/time to be present.

As you can see there are some overlaps and commonalities across these leadership styles. They are distinctly different from the command and control styles of the industrial and manufacturing era. That’s because work now is more complex, times changes so much more rapidly, and constant innovation is required. Here are some common threads from these 5 styles that you can incorporate into your leadership practice.

What You Can Practice from these Leadership Styles

1. Being conscious, aware or mindful of yourself. Download the first chapter of my book free to help you KNOW YOURSELF better, to identify unconscious assumptions, beliefs, biases and preferences and motivators. From that place of self-awareness, you can then focus on others. It’s like the plane analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first before helping others put on theirs.

2. Lead with both your head and heart. This is scary and vulnerable and uncertain for many people. There’s always talk about work and business being ‘all about the facts.’ Except we are human beings with emotions and full lives beyond just work. Companies want the emotions of passion, loyalty, respect to name just a few to be present at work; what’s the denial about other emotions also being present at work? Leading from your heart doesn’t have to mean spilling your emotions around. It can be listening with such heart-felt attention or sensing that you feel the emotions of others and help them with those emotions, so they can be productive and happy. For example, if a colleague seems sad, you could say “I sense you’re sad, what’s up?” This allows the colleague to share or at least know they have been seen authentically. You don’t have to do anything with the emotion often, just having it named or shared is enough.

3. Be present in the moment. This is actually very hard because of the pervasiveness of technology in our lives. Technological advances such as email, smart phones, IM (instant messaging) and social media are all designed to disrupt us with their flashes and sounds. Notifications are called notifications for a reason. Research shows that these disruptions make us less efficient, reduce our attention span and cause stress. Research, some mentioned above, also shows that our efficiency and effectiveness are improved when we do focus. Choose to be present for what you’ve chosen to do. If in a meeting, be in that meeting, listening, processing, contributing, sensing – don’t be thinking of your unanswered emails (certainly don’t be trying to answer your emails while in the meeting). If the meeting doesn’t require your attention, why are you attending?

These suggestions of ideas to practice from newer leadership styles are not commonplace and probably not comfortable for most leaders. So what? You want to be better or have a different impact than you have now? You can change. If anything, coronavirus has proven to us that people can adapt and change when it matters enough to them.

I challenge you to try one small thing inspired by the styles above to improve your leadership.

What aspects of your leadership would be worthwhile to explore?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.



¹Dr Ellen Langer, Mindfulness, Da Capo Lifelong Books (30 Oct. 2014) Philadelphia PA. Print.  https://hbr.org/2010/04/leaders-time-to-wake-up

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Which Leadership Styles during the time of Coronavirus?

Leadership Styles During the Time of Coronavirus

Leadership and which leadership style to use can be a challenge on a good day. Add in a global pandemic like coronavirus, and deciding on which leadership style will be the most effective can be overwhelming. I believe that there is no one style that’s right for a given leader, rather it’s a breadth of approaches that one makes uniquely their own.

It’s also an interesting topic in advance of the presidential election in the USA as global political leaders often give us lessons in good and bad leadership.

Here are some outlines to help choose which leadership styles to use during the time of Coronavirus.


There are so many different styles of leadership based on a variety of models from many experts. Here’s a short summary of five styles that have stood the test of time. I’ll address five more, less well known and emerging leadership styles, in an upcoming article.

Transformational Leadership – from the 1978 book titled Leadership by American political scientist James MacGregor Burns, this style of leadership is often referred to in change management situations. The leader works side by side with their team to transform the individuals into leaders while working to identify, develop and execute a significant change in an organization. Nelson Mandela has been called a transformational leader.

Situational Leadership – this is more of a model developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1982 rather than a style. It’s a 2×2 model about choosing the approach best suited for the recipient depending on how much direction and support they need. For example, when the team member needs little support and direction because they are highly competent and committed you can delegate tasks, they need little instruction and involvement from you. Compared to someone newer, or less competent, needing more coaching instead.

Servant Leadership – this is the opposite of authoritative or autocratic. Researcher Robert K. Greenleaf created the expression in the 70’s. It’s exactly as it says on the tin – serving your followers; the leader focuses on the well-being and growth of their team members, putting the employee’s needs first to develop them to their highest potential. It’s all about empathy, listening, stewardship, persuasion, awareness, communication and development.

Transactional Leadership – this style was first discussed in the late 40’s by Max Weber and is more akin to management rather than leadership and still important to have in your toolbox to use when appropriate. This is about supervision, compliance, use of rewards and punishment and performance. This style might be necessary when handling a performance management issue to ensure clarity, authority, aligned expectations, monitoring and legal compliance if performance does not improve.

Authentic Leadership – coined by Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George, in his 2003 book of the same name. The key is an authentic leader’s self-awareness and interaction with others. It’s the epitome of lead by example or walk your talk. The five main characteristics of an authentic leader according to George are: purpose-led, strong values about the right thing to do, trusting relationships, self-discipline, act on their values and all with passion for what they are trying to achieve. Authentic is not about being and doing whatever you want ‘because that’s just me regardless of the impact on others. I just wanted to say that because I’ve heard people use authenticity as an excuse for negatively impacting others. As a leader you are responsible for your impact.

Consistent Aspects Across Leadership Styles

1. Leadership is necessary in pursuit of something, a goal or objective hence why it’s important for leaders to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. This vision can be for the results the organisation is pursuing and also for how you want your team to work together. Once you have a clear vision in your mind repeatedly communicate that vision for people to know and follow.

2. Understand team members as individuals. Different people have different motivations for working (money, power, relationship, learning, etc), different preferences (task-oriented vs people-oriented, rationale vs emotional) and react to things differently. Knowing as much as you can about the key individuals you work with helps you be more effective by adjusting your approach to them. More on this below.

3. Breadth of range is important to deal with different people, needs and situations. If there’s a fire in the building you need to be transactional or autocratic and yell “FIRE, GET OUT.” An emergency like that is not a time to be consultative, empowering or visionary. At London Business School we use the expression being yourself with more skill. Knowing different approaches when dealing with people allows you to effectively handle more situations than just ‘one-size-fits-all.’

4. Being self-aware in all ways – your motivators, your tendencies, your impact on others and your triggers (in terms of when you react rather than respond). By knowing how you operate you can self-manage to make conscious choices about your interactions in the moment.

5. Sensing what is going on with someone or with the situation, thereby being able to assess how best to engage them or respond. If you go to an employee to ask them to do a task, sense what’s going on for them. Are they occupied in another task? Have they just had an argument? Are they fully present to you and your inquiry? By sensing what’s going on for them you can adjust how you ask them to do the task. This way you can ensure they hear your request, understand it and align expectations with you.

6. Strive to develop people to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders have followers. Great leaders have followers that they develop into great leaders. Know the strengths and ambitions of someone so you can work together for them to develop themselves to achieve their ambition.

7. Listen, ask questions, seek to understand first. These skills are part of the other 6 things I’ve listed here and important enough to name separately. Develop the skill of deep listening – minimizing your own perspective and view and really hear what’s said and not said to learn their perspective. Ask open, curious questions (often starting with WHAT) to fully understand what the other person is saying, rather than filtering their words through your perspective. This can eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings saving rework and time in the long run.

Your leadership style is often an amalgamation from learning and experience. How you interact with others will determine how well you influence, motivate and inspire others. As the first chapter in my book states ‘IT STARTS WITH YOU’ as you are the one reading this article and you are the only person you can change. Hopefully the ideas above have helped you consider aspects of your own leadership. I’ll share 5 more recent, emerging leadership styles next week.

What aspects of your leadership would be worthwhile to explore?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.

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Motivate Your Team for Superior Results and Engagement

How to Motivate Your Team and Yourself

A leader’s job is to motivate people to greater levels of performance. Leaders excite, influence, engage, stimulate, inspire and encourage others to do the work to the necessary quality standard to achieve the organisation’s goals. The higher a leader is in the organization the more their job is motivating others to achieve and less doing the actual hands-on work. A CFO rarely completes the spreadsheet of financials, they motivate those in their teams to do this and so much more. Here’s how to motivate your team and yourself for superior results and engagement.

How Do You Motivate Your Team?

There are actually two sides to that question: motivating them and NOT demotivating them. Frederick Herzberg, a clinical psychologist, is one of the earliest to research and articulate motivational theory and management. He found that there were certain factors that can demotivate people and other, separate factors that can motivate them. He called the demotivating ones HYGIENE factors and the others, MOTIVATORS.

The hygiene factors do not motivate people however, if there are not adequately addressed they can demotivate people. The motivators will motivate people to be more satisfied and potentially happier at work. In many situations, you might not have control over the hygiene factors of someone you work with especially with all the uncertainty now. And you can still use the motivators to drive satisfaction.


How to Motivate Your Team

The simplified answer is to address hygiene factors, so any demotivating circumstances are addressed and focus on the motivators. The ideal is high satisfaction on both hygiene and motivators. If you can’t address the hygiene factors, then fully focus on the motivators.

Hygiene Factors

1. Benchmark your company policies and practices around pay, benefits, working conditions and titles versus the marketplace. This will highlight if there are major discrepancies versus competitive firms that might contribute to demotivation. Especially with coronavirus, how are the needs of employees being meet for health and working environment? Do they have flexibility in their location and set-up given their personal circumstances? Do they have what they need to work? For example, do they have the correct equipment at home? Check employee forums, engagement surveys and water-cooler gossip to assess the level of satisfaction with hygiene factors.

2. Assess the company culture honestly in terms of interpersonal relationship issues. Are there complaints of bullying or discrimination? What is the company performance on inclusivity? How much does the culture support and respect individuals? Be honest in assessing what type of culture exists in the organization and how things feel for those on the front lines.

3. Role-model trust with conscious, servant or inclusive leadership. Role model trust, set clear expectations, be intentional with accountability and responsibility so that employees feel valued and are treated as adults. Show you trust – take a risk and show vulnerability. Risk making a mistake or getting it wrong. Acknowledge when you don’t know something. Give your time, support or resources to “competing” initiatives. Be generous to others verbally, publicly and even use the words “I trust you” when warranted. Give others the benefit of the doubt.


4. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Many people listen to respond thereby they often stop actively listening as they start to formulate their response. In my coach training listening was one of the first things we were taught. How to listen at many levels – to what the other person says, and doesn’t say, to their body language and energy, to your own intuition about their feelings. Don’t listen for listening sake, listen to learn, adapt and understand. You will learn a lot about someone when you really listen. Also, listen as people do change over time as their circumstances change so what motivates them might change too.

5. Get curious. Pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. Encourage others to be curious too. When people feel you are really interested in them and their work they feel recognized and seen. You’ll also hear what matters to them, what growth they’d like, what new responsibilities might interest them.

6. Give positive and constructive feedback to grow people. Use an easy structure like COIN (click here for a template) for both types of feedback. This allows it to be clear and quick. Give feedback on behaviours as people can more easily change behaviours then change who they are. Give 5-6 pieces of positive feedback for every negative. Yes, really that much positive, research proves it, positive is motivating. When you give real, balanced feedback (over time) people feel valued because you’ve taken the time to help them grown and develop.

7. Learn what motivates the individuals with whom you work. What excites them about their work? Every person is motivated by different things. There’s an assessment developed by John Hunt called the Work Interest Schedule¹ that puts forward 10 things that motivate people and each of us has a different mix or priority among these 10. They include: money, avoiding stress and/or risk, job structure, relationships/not working alone, recognition, power, autonomy and personal growth. Figure out which matter to the individuals you work with and position work in that context.

8. Recognize effort and achievement. This can be public or private, partly depending on the individual and the situation. You’ll need to use your judgment to what is best. If you say ‘good job’ at least say ‘you did a great job’ so they take it personally. Recognition comes in many forms, beyond money and promotion. Say it to them, say it to others in front of them, send an email, mail a card, send a gift, have a senior person reach out to tell them they’ve done good work, offer them resources like a coach or mentor as a reward.

9. Expose people to projects, tasks and situations that challenge and stretch them. This could mean having a junior person attend a senior meeting. Ensure they have the skills, background and your support to be able to meet the challenge. You’d hate to set them up to fail. When you give them the challenge be clear it’s a challenge and that you believe in them, be specific about why you believe they can do it.

10. Create alignment between their purpose and meaning and the company’s purpose or mission. To do this ask them, start a conversation. What attracted them to this type of work and your organization? What matters to them in their lives and with their work? Share what the bridge is for you between what matters to you in life and work – this might necessitate some thought on your part first.

Remind yourself every day that your job as a leader is to excite and motivate others to perform to the best of their abilities. You can’t be successful unless your team is successful. Motivated people are more satisfied and often go the extra mile. The same is true of you. When you’re motivated you’re more satisfied so think that these ways of motivating others also apply to yourself. When you notice your energy or motivation flagging, think of these 10 ways to motivate yourself.

What could you do to motivate your team more/differently that would help them perform even better?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to learn how to motivate others better.

¹ https://www.mts360.com/mts/wis.aspx

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Productive & Efficient at Work: Ideas to Increase Both.

How to Be More Productive and Efficient at Work

Productivity and efficiency improvements are important at any time and especially when working from home, as we need greater boundaries between work and home. By knowing you’re doing the best you can to be as productive as possible gives you permission to stop work at the end of the day and rejuvenate.

To build on last week’s article about being more efficient with email (How to Be More Productive & Efficient with Email at Work), this week we’ll broaden the focus.

Working More Hours Isn’t Better

Most successful people tell me they have more work than time; they respond by working longer hours. Most are acknowledging that the implication of the pandemic is now a marathon rather than a sprint. Which means more hours are unsustainable and might not be effective anyway.

Research from Stanford University, by economics professor John Pencavel, found that productivity declined drastically if one worked more than 50 hours per week. In fact, if one worked upwards of 70 hours per week s/he would achieve only what they would have working just 55 hours. It’s not about working longer, it’s about working smarter as they say.


How to Be More Productive at Work


1. Set max 3-5 priorities for the day. An endless to-do list is overwhelming, discouraging and distracting thereby diluting your efforts. Ideally set these priorities at the end of the day before so you can hit the ground running when you get into work the next morning. Celebrate when you complete each task, that motivates you to keep up your progress.

2. Book time with yourself to do those key priorities. Literally put time in your calendar to think and do the work you need/want to do. Other people and their priorities will push into your calendar if you don’t claim the time first. Schedule your working times for when you are at your best. I wrote most of my book from 3-6:30pm in coffee shops, an odd time and it was the most productive time and location for me after trying various alternatives.

3. Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking between two things requiring mental focus (checking social media and reading notes, conversations and emails) has been proven to take longer than doing just 1 thing to completion.

4. Take breaks. This might seem counter-intuitive to getting things done and studies show taking frequent small breaks increases productivity, focus and creativity. The recommendation is a 5-min walk every hour. Ideally get outside, move, stretch. Checking social media is not a break as that requires continued mental resources. Productivity is about managing your time and your energy. Time without energy is not productive.

5. When you are finishing a task, identify the next step or action that needs to be done and note it down. This means you have an identified starting point when you return to work on that task making it quicker for you to get back into it.


How to Be More Efficient


1. Create routines out of repetitive tasks (if you can’t automate or get rid of them). Thinking takes energy. When we execute a routine, our brains use less energy and things can be done faster. Obama and Zuckerberg are said to wear the same thing most days, so they have one less decision that must be made that day.

2. Question what you are doing. What are the things you do workwise that no longer serve the organization and its goals? What are the things your team does that are no longer value-added? What would others question you about in terms of how you spend your time? This questioning is to identify the “work” that takes your time away from more important things. Also, what are you doing that your team, or another person could be doing? This points you to what you can delegate to free you up for things that only you can do.

3. Focus on the important not the urgent. The 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle says 80% of results come from 20% of things/effort, so identify the 20% and work on that. What are your key priorities for the year and the quarter – what work actually moves these priorities forward?

4. Create a ‘Parking Lot’ list when you’re focused. When doing group training I create a ‘Parking Lot’ flip chart. Its where I capture ideas that come up from the participants through the day that are important and unrelated to the training at hand. This way the idea is noted while keeping the training on-track. Have a blank page beside you to note thoughts that might be important and that are distracting you from the work at hand (not phone as that has more distractions on it). Afterwards you can decide what of the list makes it onto your agenda.

5. Change your language – to others and yourself. This means saying NO to others sometimes if you tend to take on too much, keeping you from your key priorities. Tips for how to do that from an interview I gave are here. Notice your self-talk. Do you say (out loud or in your head) that you’re so busy, have so much to do, can’t get it all done, are pulled in so many directions? If so, change your language to support yourself such as, “I am focusing on this right now,” “I have 2 key priorities to do.” This limits the chatter that takes you off task, to conserve your mental and verbal energy.

6. Accept that some tasks will be hard, frustrating, boring and STAY. STAY is part of the leadership model I use from the Co-Active training institute. We are adults, we are at choice, we are lucky to have work that hopefully we enjoy for the most part. And sometimes there will be things that are hard, frustrating, boring – focus and do them anyway. Just as you’d tell a child who must complete a chore or difficult school work. Focus on it, take a quick break every hour to move it towards completion.


Longer-term Ideas to Increase Productivity


1. Do an activity log to determine your time wasters and bad habits. For a few weeks, notice how you spend your time. Notice what distracts you. Notice your bad work habits. Do you flit between things, pick up a file you need to review 5x in the day without actually opening it and working on it? Do you let people interrupt often? Do you seek out others as distraction? Be honest about your time management. Note your time wasters so you can rectify them. Also, notice your good habits so you can leverage them more.

2. Notice any repeated frustrations you have with a process or person. When you are repeatedly frustrated with something or someone get to the root cause of it and improve the situation. If it’s a monthly report that seems to always have issues, investigate the issues to rectify them.

3. Improve your communication skills. A lot of time is wasted due to poor communication. Examples are not setting clear expectations, having misunderstandings that then need to be sorted, not listening well due to multitasking, and avoiding difficult conversations. By improving your communication skills especially as you rise in the organization you’re being a role model and creating a culture that fosters greater productivity.

4. Rejuvenate yourself on an on-going basis. Tired, stressed employees don’t contribute their best. Take time off, turn off notifications, don’t look at email, have a change of scenery. What energizes you? What motivates you? Studies show more ah-ha moments come for people who take timeout. Being out in nature, physical activity, a different environment and less technology are all suggested for improving one’s productivity and contribution.

5. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments. I don’t mean this in an arrogant, boastful way. Rather in an appreciative, conscious way. By celebrating (or at a minimum, acknowledging yourself) you motivate yourself and reinforce your strengths to apply to the work at hand. Also, if you enjoy your work, it should be enjoyable most of the time and celebrating yourself will remind you of the enjoyment.

All and any one of these ideas will aid you in being more productive at work, studies bear this out. Adopt 1 or 2 of them initially and notice the impact. Also, remind yourself how to have fun at work while staying productive. One way is to SMILE while working – research shows smiling signals to the parasympathetic nervous system to remain calm, helping you focus.

What leadership improvements would you and your team benefit from to be more productive and efficient at work?

If you’re like me and many of my clients, you can improve your productivity and efficiency. I challenge you to book a FREE coaching session with me here to identify the opportunities for improvement and enjoyment.


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Productive & Efficient at Work. Tips for Email.

How to be More Productive & Efficient at Work with Email

A quick way to be more productive and efficient at work is to have a strategy for dealing with your emails. Few job descriptions or role responsibilities include “answer emails” yet most people complain about full inboxes and being behind on answering them. People have email fatigue at work – they are tired of the endless receipt and need to answer.

First, let’s lay the foundation with some terminology before outlining the strategies and tips.

How to be More Productive at Work

Let’s start with what productivity means. Productivity is the ratio or rate of doing work in a given period of time. ‘How productive were you today’ in the context of an office is quite subjective, it’s your own assessment of how much you got done today usually relative to your never-ending to-do list. In a manufacturing environment it’s more measurable – how many units were manufactured in a certain period. Whether for office work or manufacturing most employers and leaders want productivity to be as high as possible. A productivity focus drives doing more in the same period. So, to be more productive, do the work faster.

How to be More Efficient at Work – What does this Mean?

Efficiency is the use of time and energy in a way that is not wasteful. This word begs the question what is wasteful? This notion implies that any idle time or energy not channelled toward a task is wasteful. Ironically, many people get their best ideas and are more creative when they aren’t chained to a desk or laser-focused on the task at hand for long periods of time. And there are often wasteful moments in multitasking which is explained in the tips below.

How to be More Effective at Work Means What?

Effectiveness is about doing the right things or more of the things that matter. This is the terminology I feel leaders could reflect on more. The focus here is on the results and not the time it took to get those results. An executive coaching client once said to me that his focus was doing what only he could do, the rest being delegated or stopped.

Email Best Practices at Work When Sending Emails

Almost everyone I coach complains of too many emails and we are all guilty of feeding into it by sending emails and replying to emails, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hence why we will start with the emails you generate.

  1. Communicate better. Send better emails. Write clearly and concisely. Keep it short to make it easy to read and long enough to be clear. If it needs to be long, what’s driving that? Items such as, purpose of email, succinct background, rationale/recommendation/issue, next steps, call to action are useful to include as appropriate. Ensure the subject line is clear. Have clear actions and deadlines in the email if not the subject line.
  2. Think before you send an email. Does the subject warrant a phone call, a meeting, an IM or an email? What’s the purpose of the email? Often people send emails to get a task or issue out of their exclusive domain and into other peoples’ spaces in order to advance it to some degree. Other times they are sent to check on progress. If this is the case, try a project management tool designed for that purpose.
  3. Be clear with the TO and CC fields. Include the fewest recipients as possible. Ideally have one person as the main TO receiver to be clear of who needs to do what.
  4. Be vocal about sending fewer and better emails. Be vocal about cutting down on email to create a culture change in your team, if not organization. Everyone would welcome the notion of fewer emails.
  5. Use email tools that allow scheduling, follow up flags, creating response templates for repetitive responses. Tools allow you to use the technology rather than be a slave to it. Ask your IT contact about what tools your company supports.
  6. Send fewer emails as that will have you get fewer replies back. Be a role model for the change you want to see in the world as Gandhi said.
  7. Avoid sending an email if you anticipate someone will be upset by it. Pick up the phone instead.

Managing Emails at Work that You Receive

Some of these suggestions will feel uncomfortable. That’s because there are psychological factors at play:

  • FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out if you don’t see an email immediately or first,
  • We are trained to respond to the ‘ping’ of notifications,
  • Needing to be or seen to be ‘always reachable’ in case of ‘emergency,’
  • Being an overachiever, perfectionist or driven to do everything possible.
  1. Close your email down when working on key projects and when meeting others. Research shows multitasking at work is inefficient. It’s fine to multitask when washing the car and listening to a podcast as different mental resources are used. At work, jumping between tasks requiring thought is inefficient, it is essentially stop/start and you lose flow, it takes you longer to get into focus when you flit between things. Continually hearing the ping of emails arriving can create anxiety and cause the stress hormone, cortisol, to be released thereby clouding the prefrontal cortex of your brain where your rational thinking happens.
  2. Only check email at specific times in a day so that answering emails fits amidst the bigger priorities. Checking emails 3-4 times a day should be enough. Allocate your time to your team, your strategic thinking, your key projects BEFORE dedicating time to reviewing email. When you’re checking email, focus on the email, don’t multitask with your phone or papers. Don’t check emails first thing in the morning, do some thinking or work on a key task before being drawn into reviewing emails.
  3. Analyse the emails you receive to identify opportunities for reducing them. For example, you can identify if there is one person who consistently sends most of them or one topic by sorting your inbox based on sender and subject (the same person sending many emails might imply unclear responsibilities), how many people are on the to and cc lines (may imply covering their butt, lack of clear decision making or laziness), if the email was printed would it be the thickness of a book (might imply emails being used in place of productive discussion), are you copied on many emails from your team (might imply they don’t feel full ownership, don’t understand your involvement or can’t get your input otherwise).
  4. Set guidelines with your team for when and how emails should be sent. What is the purpose of email in your team or organization? Set expectations for when you want to be copied or not. Additionally, talk about whether emails should be sent outside of traditional work hours and if they are, set the expectation of when you will respond.
  5. Set up “rules” in your email settings to sort them into sub-inboxes to handle them more efficiently. For example, emails you are copied on can go into a sub-folder for reading only.
  6. Inform others that if they need you urgently, to call. This manages peoples’ expectations of getting hold of you and alleviates any fears you have of being unreachable when you close your email.
  7. Unsubscribe to unread blogs, articles, newsletters. You haven’t read them now, you won’t in the future. At least set up a separate folder for BLOGS and set a rule to allocate blogs to that folder.
  8. Deal with an email if when reading it, it’s taken you longer than 2-3 minutes to read as you’ve already invested the time in it. If you read the email and don’t deal with it, you’ll have to reread it at another time creating repetition. It also eliminates any anxiety about that email between subsequent reads. Some people say only touch an email once – delete it, delegate it, respond to it, schedule it for a specific time to work on it.
  9. Apply the 80/20 Rule. Focus on the 20% of emails that will lead to 80% of the results. This is true for most work, not just emails.
  10. Delete emails that have lingered in your inbox. The adage goes that if it’s important and you’ve deleted it someone will chase you down.

You will always have more work to do then there are hours in the day, at least that’s my experience working with successful, ambitious people. The key is how many hours do you want to work for the success and satisfaction you want. Given that number of hours, what do you want to be focused on in that time? What is the high value work that only you can do? Most emails fall outside of that criteria so treat them appropriately.

What improvements would you and your team benefit from with regards to improving communication and setting expectations to reduce time lost to emails?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.

The topic of efficiency and effectiveness will continue next week when we look beyond just emails.


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Accountability & Responsibility: How Leaders Can Benefit from Both

Accountability vs. Responsibility in Leadership

Accountability and responsibility are often used interchangeably in daily conversations. In organizations and businesses, the confusion between these two words can have significant consequences – things might not get done, issues might explode and at an extreme justice might not be served. This blog explains Accountability & Responsibility, how leaders can benefit from both.

Responsibility in Leadership

Let’s start with RESPONSIBILITY. People are responsible for tasks, processes and executing a role. Hence why most job descriptions list responsibilities related to the job. People are responsible before doing the work as well as when they are doing it and responsible for what they did once it’s done.
Ideally employees assume their responsibilities rather than being assigned their responsibilities. People TAKE responsibility for something – our tasks, a response, an action.
Responsibilities can be shared between people. An obvious example is staff in a retail shop. Every retail employee has the task of serving customers while some are responsible for taking payment and some for stocking merchandise. Every task needs at least one person who is responsible for it. And an individual usually has many tasks for which they are responsible.

Accountability in Leadership

ACCOUNTABILITY is when an individual has to answer to another or to someone in authority. You are accountable for something when you have an obligation to update, justify or explain a given result or task to an individual or body beyond yourself.

People are HELD accountable for an outcome or result. Accountability becomes particularly important after something has been done, a situation has occurred. The accountable person is the one who people will look to for an explanation or status of the situation. The accountable person has a duty to give an account to others.
Unlike responsibility, accountability can’t be shared. The buck stops with the ONE person who is accountable.

Examples of Accountability and Responsibility in Leadership

A simple example is illustrated by my friend and her 8-year-old son. He is accountable for vacuuming/hoovering the hallway daily for his pocket money/allowance (they have a shedding dog). He is accountable to his mother for getting it done and has to explain to her why it isn’t done or not done to a satisfactory standard. If my friend did the vacuuming herself, she would be responsible for it as she has no one to answer to about whether or how it’s done.

My friend above is a financial analyst. She is responsible for providing updated costs on a quarterly basis to her boss for one aspect of a particular project. Her colleague is responsible for providing revenue figures to the same boss for the project. The boss is accountable to the Chief Financial Officer for the overall project financial reporting. The boss monitors the results, raises the alarm if the numbers are off-track and deals with the consequences if the reporting is late or inaccurate.

How to Distinguish Between Responsibility and Accountability in Leadership

The key to distinguishing between accountability and responsibility comes down to communication. Here are some ideas on how to:

  1. Use the words responsible and accountable when discussing tasks and setting expectations. Be clear if someone will have to answer questions and deal with the (negative) consequences of the work to others in authority.
  2. Define who is responsible and accountable for the different tasks and projects within your team. There is a project management acronym, RACI, which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed. It says each project and process should be broken into tasks with the letters R, A, C, I assigned to the different elements. Each task can only have 1 person accountable for it. As an aside, consulted means who needs to be consulted while working on the task and informed means who needs to be informed about any resulting decisions.
  3. Ensure those who are responsible take the responsibility rather than you assigning it. This means discussing responsibilities with an employee in a way that empowers and engages them to take on the tasks. Some tips to do this: give the context of how this work fits into the bigger picture/company mission; explain why they are the right person for the job; describe what success looks like; ask them what the work means to them, what more they need to know to take it on, what their plan is to approach it, what obstacles they foresee.
  4. Be prepared to be vulnerable when you’re accountable for a project. By being accountable you are taking ownership for the results, which if something goes wrong, means you have the duty to explain those results and face the consequences. It might mean admitting a mistake, overturning a decision and making amends to improve the situation. This is often where politicians fail – in their accountability – being vulnerable and admitting mistakes.


We are all responsible for what we do and how we do it. When working we take responsibility for our work and the quality standard we deliver. When we’re in a leadership position it usual goes the step further to accountability for the deliverables of your team. The key for those who are accountable is to stand up and share information and answer questions especially when things go wrong.


What leadership improvements would you and your team benefit from with regards to clarity between accountability and responsibility?


Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.


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How to Demonstrate Inclusive Leadership Across the Workplace

Inclusive Leadership: Strategies for Effective Leadership During Times of Crisis

How do you focus on strategies for effective, inclusive leadership during times of crisis? By choice. And the Black Lives Matter movement, gender gap, and under-representation of people of colour and women in leadership positions is part of the crisis. Many leaders realize diversity and inclusion must be fostered and in fact will help deal with the societal inequity, the pandemic and this new normal.

Inclusive Leadership – What is it?

Inclusive leadership is a leadership that focuses on inclusion, diversity and having the “differences” present and participating in the situation. It ensures all people are represented and treated respectfully and all people feel valued and belonging. Leadership that is inclusive of all disparities or dissimilarities is what is needed. These differences can span national origin, industry background, gender, race, sexuality, age, education, neuro-diversity, introversion/extroversion and thinking preferences.

What could you do to be that leader that brings those less-heard voices and underrepresented people to the forefront?

Benefits of Inclusive Leadership

Diversity is important for many reasons. Beyond just the fairness and justice of equality for all, the bottom-line benefit for organizations is financial. Numerous studies from the Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey to the World Economic Forum document that diversity leads to innovation and greater financial performance, often double-digit improvements in fact.

Every organization has innovation in its mission or vision or as a key strategy. Now most organizations need innovative ideas to deal with the unprecedented situation in which we all find ourselves. Diversity prompts innovation because different perspectives are present and hence we think differently. We question our assumptions. Challenging our assumptions opens ideas and solutions to potential thinking that wasn’t apparent from one’s insular perspective.

Strategies for Inclusion Leadership

The key to productive diversity is for it to be well-managed. Diversity that is poorly managed does not have the same positive returns. Here are some strategies for better inclusive leadership:

    1. Commit to being inclusive and be vocal about it. Make it a priority. If looking to hire someone new ask to see diverse candidates. Ask HR or your recruiters why diverse candidates aren’t being put forward if that’s the case. Require your leadership team or other leaders to mentor and promote underrepresented employees. Call out racism and sexism when you hear it and when you might say it. Be courageous in noticing it and naming it.
    2. Create psychological safety for people to participate. Psychological safety is present when someone is not afraid of a negative consequence (to their image or career) for who they are. Create safety by being engaged with your people, ask them questions and listen to the answer; have their backs especially when they take a risk; give them credit and appropriate visibility; condemn gossip and talking behind peoples’ backs; eradicate blame; give and ask for feedback; be self-aware and require others to be the same; build trust through being impeccable with your word; include others in decision making; explain why things are happening the way they are or why they are not happening; communicate openly, honestly and frequently.
    3. Be aware of your biases and blind spots and those of the organization. Look at your track record of hiring and promoting people. With whom have you historically surrounded yourself? Are they people just like you? How inclusive is the organization? Get the numbers on genders, POC, less-able-bodied, education institutions etc at all levels in the organization. What are the types of people the organization has fired or managed out? The numbers don’t lie. Ask people who are different from you about your biases and blind spots. Make it safe for them to tell you. Reflect for yourself on your thoughts when a woman asks for time off for a sick child versus a man (or do men ever ask?) or when you see a CV with the name Mohammed versus Michael versus Michelle.
    4. Invite all voices into the discussion. This is both a micro and macro strategy. On a micro level when you have a meeting ensure every person speaks. Encourage those who are reluctant. At this time of uncertainty, it’s good to periodically check in with everyone at the beginning of the meeting to get people talking and sharing to create a sense of all being in it together and to highlight how this situation is different for different people. On a macro level, bring different voices than usual into projects or discussions in order to challenge assumptions and provide different perspectives.
    5. Ensure equal access with remote working. Confirm all employees have tech and infrastructure to work at home if that’s continuing. Use closed captioning on virtual meetings and reiterate points in the chat box for those hard of hearing, or those that might need to be listening for a baby or child at that time, send info in advance of meetings so introverts and neuro-diverse individuals can process the information to prepare and therefore fully contribute.
    6. Be compassionate. Recognize and acknowledge that everyone handles things differently whether that’s with the pandemic, home life or work challenges. People are affected by things differently especially with all this uncertainty.
    7. Be humble. You don’t have all the answers, you might make mistakes, others might have better ideas and solutions. Your role as a leader is to unleash the potential in others to move towards the desired goal or outcome. Let others unleash their potential, don’t be precious about from where the next great idea or advancement comes.
    8. Be curious. Be curious with others to understand their differences, their differing opinions and ideas relative to the work. Don’t just stop at the superficial, delve deeper asking “what is it about that that is important?” Or “Tell me more” or “Help me understand what’s behind that”. Like a new puppy let loose in a playground, leave no stone unturned.
    9. Be vulnerable. Especially in an on-going crisis, acknowledge your challenges and vulnerabilities (those that are acceptable within your job; an accountant can’t say they are bad with numbers). Share the challenges of juggling work and home. This allows others to be vulnerable too and creates safety.

Consciously have diversity of people as a focus within your organization and strive to manage them well (if not exceptionally) to leverage each of them for the solid contribution they can make to each other, the organization and the goals.

What inclusion leadership improvements would you and your organization benefit from?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.



¹ https://blog.capterra.com/7-studies-that-prove-the-value-of-diversity-in-the-workplace/ and https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/04/business-case-for-diversity-in-the-workplace/ and https://www.irelaunch.com/blog-diversity-in-the-workplace-benefits


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Working with a diverse team means understanding how to lead across generations. Here are a few leadership strategies to effectively lead across age generations.

How to Lead Across Generations

Now more than ever leaders and managers are having to lead across different generational groups. COVID-19 is showing two different trends among Baby Boomers: some being forced to retire due to organizational constraints and others staying in the workforce due to the poor economy and not able to financially retire. This means that many organizations have 4 generations of workers; a real breadth of ages, attitudes and experiences for leaders to manage and draw on.

Leading Across Generations

One of the best leadership styles for leading across generations is servant leadership. That means putting the needs of other people first over yourself; serving others in the pursuit of goals rather than using power to achieve.

Leading Across Borders and Generations – The How-To of Servant Leadership

Interestingly, the aspects of servant leadership that can help you lead better across generations can also help you lead better across borders such as, in multi-cultural organizations.

    1. Be self-aware about your beliefs, the stereotypes or biases you hold about the various generations. We all have some form of preconceptions towards others so reflect on what you might believe about Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials or Gen Z. Encourage your employees to be self-aware as well.
    2. Understand people as individuals rather than making assumptions about them or buying into generalizations based on age or generation. Everyone is unique. In your team, what are each person’s values, motivations, needs and working styles?
    3. Notice your impact on others and be intentional about what impact you want to make. Consider each individual and situation, what behaviour on your part would best serve this moment? This also means leading by example. As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world”.
    4. Listen. Everyone wants to feel valued and respected regardless of which generation they fall into. The biggest way to have your team feel valued is to really listen to what they say, and don’t say. Listen for the words and the emotion. Say phrases such as “what I think I heard you say is….” which shows you are trying to understand them and their ideas.
    5. Embrace differences and leverage them for the best outcome. Research shows that well-managed diversity improves organizational performance. Diversity makes us think better as an organization; we question our assumptions thereby coming to more innovate and well-rounded solutions. People of different ages, backgrounds, education, races, genders, and generations bring diversity by definition. Value those differences by creating space for everyone to contribute.
    6. Create an environment that allows people to perform at their best. What does each individual need to be their best selves? What are the strengths of each team member and how do you foster there use more? The first step in this is asking people what brings out their best and what are their strengths. The key is for both you and them to consciously know. Too often organizations focus on weaknesses, gaps or development areas rather than having people use more of their strengths more often. Share among the team who is great at what.
    7. Be courageous and vulnerable. You won’t get it right all the time when managing individuals. Sometimes you’ll have a bad day, sometimes others will have a bad day. Be courageous to continue trying new behaviours and saying new things. It takes vulnerability to try new things and risk making a mistake or looking foolish.
    8. Give constructive feedback consistently and ask for feedback about yourself. Constructive feedback is positive feedback (what they do well that you’d like them to continue doing) and developmental (what you’d like them to do differently for improved effectiveness). Research shows that high performing organizations give 4-6 pieces of positive feedback for every 1 piece of developmental. Leaders give constant feedback throughout the organization and they accept feedback, solicit it in fact about themselves.
    9. Create trust or psychological safety amongst members in the team. Many of the previous behaviours such as listening, self-awareness and understanding others will help build this safety and trust. Additionally, have your employees’ backs, if they fail or make a mistake, support them and strive for learning. Give them opportunities to shine. Banish blame. Promote positivity, openly squelch negativity. Involve the team in the bigger picture and in key decisions so they are engaged.
    10. Coach team members rather than problem solving for them. Coaching helps people figure out their own solutions to issues. The leader needs to listen, ask questions, suspend making assumptions, refrain from giving them ‘what you think the answer is.’ It might take more time initially which will pay off in the long-run as it breeds inner resourcefulness in staff.

Leading Across Generations Training

You can probably find some training for leading across generations and my belief is that most of the elements that make leaders successful at managing across generations are the same elements that make leaders successful in managing people, as individuals are unique. Practice the 10 behaviours and approaches above to improve your effectiveness with any team. Encourage the team members to talk to each other, share ideas, leverage their unique strengths and value the differences rather than disparage the differences.

If you are lucky enough to have multiple generations working in your organization, leverage each of them for the solid contribution they can make to each other, the organization and its goals.

What cross-generational leadership improvements would you and your organization benefit from?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to assess your leadership and address what might be impeding greater success.


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