The Unconscious Bias Every Leader Needs to Know to Improve

The Unconscious Bias Every Leader Needs to Know

We all have biases. They aren’t all bad. I hold a bias that those in the medical profession are caring, intelligent and giving. It’s usually the biases with negative consequences that need our attention.

There are many types of cognitive bias. A bias is a way of thinking about the world or interpreting things going on around us which are patterns or systemic to us as individuals. Our experience of the world is subjective; we experience things in our own way. And we behave from our own perspectives hence why knowing a potential bias is helpful to determine if it’s has negative consequences and therefore needs to be reviewed.

Attribution Error

What is the Fundamental Attribution Error that creates bias? It is the idea that we attribute someone else’s behaviour to their character or personality, whereas we attribute our actions to external factors outside of our control. We hold other people fully accountable for all their behaviours, whereas we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We judge others personally for things, deciding that they were internally motivated to do what they did.

Here’s a real-world example: A client missed a session this morning which I was a few minutes late for anyway. If I attributed his no-show to poor planning and laziness and mine to the fact I was receiving a delivery, I’d be guilty of the fundamental attribution error. His character was to blame for his no-show whereas I justified my lateness because of the delivery (out of my control). (FYI, I didn’t blame him as he’s always punctual, so I knew something unusual, out of his control was going on, which it was).

Same with kids. Have you ever chastised your ‘lazy child’ for not doing their chores while you make an excuse for yourself for not getting your work done that day?

Especially Relevant When Giving Negative Feedback

This concept of attribution error came up recently at London Business School when I was delivering a (virtual) session on how to give feedback. When you are giving feedback please ensure you aren’t falling into the attribution error trap. Look at the behaviour the person is displaying and stay neutral about the intention or reasons for it (until you know).

Behaviours and the negative impacts of others are often attributed to character or personality under this error. They are mistaken for intentions often leading to you being emotionally judgmental (overtly or just in your mind) which then masks any understanding and empathy you might bring to the situation.

When you make an attribution about someone’s behaviour to their personality or character, those attributions tend to stick. They stick because of confirmation bias – we search for and interpret data that confirms our beliefs. That’s why it’s hard to shake a first impression of someone or something.

Other Implications

The Fundamental Attribution Error can impact any interaction you have. It can influence who you select to work on a project or get a promotion. It has been found to be the cause of everything from misunderstandings, hurt feelings to firings.

Unconscious Bias – 6 Steps to Address It

A bias is only unconscious if you don’t know you have it. Therefore, the first step in any development area is to start to become aware of it.

1. Notice what thoughts you have when others do something ‘wrong’ or act in a way that has a negative result versus your own actions. How often are you falling into the attribution error? What are the patterns you might have around blaming/judging/assuming? A specific person or situation?

2. Give people the benefit of the doubt until you learn more. If you notice you’re going to attribute someone’s mistake, error or bad behaviour to their character, brainstorm other possible attributions you could make to uncontrollable factors. This can help you break the cycle of attributing erroneously. What situational factors might be happening? These situational factors might be impacting more people than this one person, so could lead you to improve things overall.

3. Practice gratitude. When you notice your annoyed or frustrated with someone (even yourself), make a list of 3-5 positive characteristics or skills that they (you) have.

4. Get curious about what’s behind someone’s behaviour rather than assuming. As the image that accompanies this article suggests, get clear on what is real and what might be a figment of your imagination. You could ask them “what was behind that behaviour?” to learn more. Practice empathy – understanding what it’s like to be in their shoes and how they feel.

5. When giving feedback focus on the behaviour, not the intention or character. I recommend the COIN model which is “when you did/said this…” the impact was “this, this and this.” See here for detailed explanation. Ensure you see and understand a pattern of behaviour before making big decisions. If there are patterns of repetitive negative behaviours for someone, have a conversation with them to understand what’s behind it before making any big decisions about their work and role.

6. Look at your own actions for self-development. Look at your own patterns of behaviours with negative implications and examine if you need to do some development work. Are there themes in what you judge others for that might be applicable to you?

Awareness and understanding are the keys here to better interactions and hence results. You can’t really eliminate all biases and you can be aware and mitigate them to have the impact you want to have. This is especially important for the emotionally-charged times in which we are working and living. Our beliefs and biases about working from home, governments, mask-wearing, covid, racial unrest and more can cause division, blame and unhelpful responses if we don’t recognize and give consideration to others’ perspectives.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and/or life?

PHOTO BY ANNE TAYLOR

Ditch New Year Resolutions. Find fun things to do near ME.

Ditch New Year Resolutions. Find fun things to do near ME.

I don’t do new year resolutions. They often don’t work according to research. They are often punitive (lose weight, exercise more, less alcohol, stop smoking).

This year I’m doing 21-4-21 with a focus on FUN (yes, even during a pandemic). Those who have followed my writing for years might recognize this as I’ve done 49-4-49 and 50-4-50 previously. 49-4-49 was forty-nine fun things between my 49th and 50th birthday. 50-4-50 was fifty acts of kindness to others the 12 months following my 50th birthday.

What’s Next

Christmas, New Year’s and the holidays are now behind us. This year has started out a little turbulent shall I say. We’re half way through the first month. Time is ticking. What’s next for you?

You can set your own direction. You can go with whatever comes along. You could do both or nothing.

Make Lemonade Out of Lemons

So, what are my 21 things you ask? I don’t have a full list yet, that’s part of the fun of this project. My list has to reflect the fact that, for me, this year has started in another lockdown and I want to jump into this project now and not wait for lessening of restrictions.

What I have on my list so far are:

Assemble a colourful puzzle. I’ve chosen a 1000-piece impuzzlble – it’s not a picture or scene, it’s repeatable pattern of 5 colours making it somewhat hard to figure out which of the 200 yellow pieces fit together. Scientific research proves doing puzzles lifts one’s spirit.

Knit a snood. My cousin sent me a kit to do just that! A snood is a loose-fitting collar to keep your neck warm. Research from Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute proved that knitting induces the relaxation response, lowers the heart rate, and high blood pressure drops. Further research shows it induces relaxation and reduces stress and anxiety as well.

Play in a virtual escape room. I like trying to solve the puzzles with friends that gets you out of an escape room. Apparently, they are offered virtually now so I’ll be finding one to try with some friends.

Cook 21 new recipes. I have 3 on my list for this weekend from Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, Flavour.

Participate in a pub quiz. This could be online or in person when permitted. Love me a pub quiz.

Play Yahtzee with a games group.

Kayak on the Thames when possible (and frankly when warmer and drier in the UK).

Climb at Go-Ape, a tree-top climbing course. I have a gift certificate from my birthday last year to still enjoy.

Do karaoke. This scares my silly and I want to give it a go.

Find some dance-event like when I did the silent disco a few years ago with my friend from Germany.

Visit the winter lights at Kew Gardens at the end of this year. Need to book this now was it’s a very popular event and had to close early this winter due to lockdown.

Walk Hadrian’s Wall. It’s a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122, located in the north of England. It’s 90 miles long, which I’m doing remotely right now, walking that distance over the next 35 days, with the hope to do it in situ later in the year when travel is allowed.

The added benefit of this project is that I’m feeling excited doing the research and planning for the activities themselves. Any ideas you have for me to add to my list would be greatly appreciated, especially for fun things to do early in the year when restrictions will be in place. And if you want to join me for a fun event this year, please reach out and suggest something.

2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. What would make it fun, satisfying, enjoyable, connecting, exciting, joyful, loving, fulfilling, gratifying for YOU?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in setting a direction for yourself this year. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and/or life?

Photo by Vincent Gerbouin from Pexels

2021 Create more of what you want/less of what you don’t.

Vision for 2021: Create Your Future. More of What You Want.

With 2020 behind us, thankfully, and the lengthening of daylight each day, my positivity says things can only get better. Now is the time to think and dream about 2021. What would you like to intentionally create for yourself this year? By thinking about what you want to create in your life this year and how you want to BE as you do those things, it just might be the hope you need to get through these darker months.

Now there are people out there that say they don’t want to plan; they want to accept what comes along spontaneously. If they plan they think they’ll take the fun out of life or miss what comes along. Why not have both? Think what you want in your life and be open to the serendipity that comes along.

Just like a company has a vision and strategic plan, or at least successful companies, you as an individual would do well to have a vision and strategic plan for your life. This isn’t about making New Year’s resolutions, those don’t work. This is simply about thinking about what you want and being intentional about having more of that in your life.

 

Lessons Learned

In last month’s article I suggested reflecting on 2020 which you can reread here. The self-reflection was to capture the successes, achievements and celebrations and release the failures, disappointments and regrets. From those reflections of the past year, what are the lessons you’ve learned?

What matters to you?

What do you want more of in your life? Less of?

If you could have a do-over of something within your control this past year, what would you do differently?

Think baby steps, what are some qualities you’d want more in your daily life (humour, fun, depth, lightness, purpose, consciousness)?

 

Create Your Future

With everything you’ve learned from 2020 now create a captivating vision for 2021. Think about the following questions. As you think about 2021 also think about how you want to feel. What would excite you about the year? It’s not just what you want to achieve, it’s also about how you want to feel.

What do you want in the year ahead? Think of all aspects of your life – family, work, personal, financial, health, fun, spiritual, relationships, etc.

What are you tolerating that you’d like to change in the next year?

What would you add more regularly to your life for more enjoyment, fun or fulfilment?

What is something you’d do this year if you didn’t care what people thought of it/you?

If this year was a chapter in the book of your life, what would this next chapter be called/what would its title be?

Things I’ve been thinking of for this year are: more joy, laughter, singing, delivering a new leadership program with a colleague, gratitude and lightness.

 

Capturing Your Vision – Vision Board or Something Else?

Now that you’ve thought of the various aspects you’d like in 2021, you have an idea of the overall them (from your chapter title) and some qualities or characteristics you’d like to experience more it’s time to pull them all together.

There are a few options for how to do this however, first why do this? Because we know that by engaging the creative part of your brain there’s more chance of following through than just relying on willpower. Images and visuals

1. Make a vision board – this is the most popular suggestion although this doesn’t appeal to everyone. Find images (from the internet, canva, pintrest, magazines) of the things you’ve just identified and put them together (on a poster, on-line). It’s essentially a collage, so you have a visual reminder of your aspirations for the year.

2. Write a list – so you can refer to it periodically through the year to plan your intentions into your schedule.

3. Pick some music that represents your theme and qualities – play it often.

4. Draw yourself a picture – this is what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I draw images and words for the coming year and at the end a central image usually emerges that I then photograph as my phone wallpaper.

There’s no right or wrong way to capture your visioning, do what appeals to you most or create your own idea and let me know what that is. Once captured plan

2021 will pass (if you’re lucky; the alternative is not pleasant) like every other year. To have an idea of how you want it to be better or different than 2020 requires visioning and then action. Take the time to dream, it doesn’t have to be long or all at one time. Then live the vision through reminders, action and inspiration. And enjoy whatever else comes along the way!

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided visioning time – and some practical tips for how to achieve that vision. What would make you more effective and fulfilled at work and personally?

: Conflict –Resolve it, if not Avoid it, at Work or Home.

Conflict –Resolve it, if not Avoid it, at Work or Home

Conflict exists at work, in the home and in the world at large as we know. How you deal with it will impact your effectiveness as a manager or leaders, your success in work and life and your happiness and well-being as a person. Many coaching clients dislike conflict. A new client had lower effectiveness scores on her 3600 report for “measuring progress of her team’s projects, ensuring accountability, giving direct feedback and addressing difficult situations.” The qualitative comments echoed a desire for “direct feedback, clarity of her position even if different than others, and tackle difficult situations early.”

Conflict Meaning

Conflict is essentially a disagreement between two or more people. This seems simplistic and often conflict is a serious disagreement or argument, often occurring over time. Conflict can arise from poor behaviours (bullying, discrimination, harassment, poor performance), misunderstandings (office etiquette, language, politics), differences (in opinion, personality, human, work ethic, ideas) or miscellaneous other things (ego, laziness, jealousy, assumptions).

There are two kinds of conflict. One is real conflict where you know there is tension, disagreement and differences with another. The second is what I call imaginary or ‘anticipative’ – this is where you assume or perceive or fear there might be conflict based on thoughts and feelings you are having, before even raising it with the other person. This article will give some tips for both real and anticipated conflict.

Of note, language is important. It influences us (when we think it) and others (when we say it) immensely. Notice the difference in how you feel and the impact of ‘we are in conflict’ vs ‘we disagree’ vs ‘we have a misunderstanding.’ Reserve ‘conflict’ for things that are truly that scale.

HOW TO AVOID CONFLICT AT WORK OR HOME

The way to avoid conflict is to deal with any frustrations or issues early. The expression “nip it in the bud” is apt, deal with poor performance or behaviour as soon as you sense it. If you notice you’re annoyed or frustrated take time to figure out what the issue is and develop a plan for addressing it (either within yourself or with the other person).

Design Your Alliance. At the start of a coaching relationship I talk to my client about how we want to work together (download template here). We review goals and roles to agree expectations, we talk about what brings out the best in each other, we identify the qualities each of us are bringing to this working relationship. We even talk about “what if something’s not working? How do we want to raise it/deal with it?” By talking about all this overtly it sets a foundation and gives permission to talk about any deviations from this plan. You can do this with your boss, co-worker, employee or friend at any time.

Listen and Ask. Listen to others both what they are saying and not saying. Listen for any resentment or frustration with you or others to identify it early. And ask open questions (best questions start with WHAT) to find out what people are really thinking and feeling, what motivates them, what the reasons are for what they do, and what’s going on for them. Active listening and curious inquiry to understand can prevent tensions as people feel seen and heard and issues can be aired and addressed early.

Share Assumptions and their Impact. We create assumptions about people, ideas, situations all the time (it’s how our brain works). Often our assumptions about others are wrong as we are interpreting things through our perspective. When we act on those wrong assumptions it can lead to misunderstandings between you or negative feelings for you. When you view someone in a ‘not-so-nice-light’ ask yourself what am I assuming about them? What impact does that assumption have on you emotionally and intellectually? What underlying belief might exist for you? Doing this reflective exercise might reveal some emotional blind spots you have about yourself. For example, Joe isn’t doing his fair share of the work on a project. You assume he’s lazy and coasting on everyone else’s effort. That makes you feel resentful and wanting to exclude him. The underlying belief might be that you feel others might think you’re not pulling your weight and you don’t feel good enough.

Learn how to have ‘Difficult’ Conversations. Many coaching clients say they hate having difficult conversations and therefore avoid them. First, note the language. If you label it a difficult conversation it probably will be so define what the intention of the conversation truly is: “developmental, aligning expectations, giving feedback, clearing assumptions, working better together.” Secondly, learn models and tips for giving ‘negative’ feedback (one model can be found here), aligning expectations having performance management discussions. Lastly, make sure you are giving positive feedback and celebrating success of others regularly (5 positives to every 1 negative is the proven ratio¹), so they know you value their contributions and hence aren’t just hearing negative things from you.

HOW TO RESOLVE CONFLICT

It’s a tall order to provide a process or tips to resolve conflict in a short article as resolution depends on the situation, number of people involved, the severity and duration of the conflict, legalities etc.

Name it. Acknowledge that the conflict is present. Name the elephant in the room to yourself and those involved. This doesn’t have to be a grand announcement. The words could be as simple as “I sense some friction or lack of alignment between us that I’d like to clear up.” Ask about their thoughts and feelings. They might be reluctant so share yours. Say what you’d like to happen such as “I’d like us to work through this to be happier and more successful colleagues.”

Put the Issue Between You Both. Literally. If the conflict is about a specific topic or situation then write it down on a piece of paper, sit side by side (less confrontational) and put that paper on the table in front of you. This puts the issue more objectively outside of yourselves and the relationship and becomes the focus of resolution rather than blame. This can be done virtually by signing into the video conference on a second device and putting the paper/topic as that devices ‘participant so the two of you look at it in a third view.

Strive for the ‘3rd solution’ – not your solution or their solution, rather a better, new solution. I don’t mean compromise. Dig beneath the surface to identify the underlying needs or motivations of each party. Encourage each of you to find alignment rather than agreement. What can you align on? It might be as basic as agreeing there is a problem between you, or what the worst-case scenario is or what process you both wish to follow to find resolution. Brainstorm options or solutions together that would satisfy each of your needs.

Have Someone Facilitate. Ask a neutral third party to help. This could be a leader, HR partner, a professional. Someone looking for a resolution between the two rather than a judge of who’s right and who’s wrong. I had an emotive engagement with a colleague years ago involving misunderstandings and assumptions. A coach colleague of ours facilitated the discussion between us to get to understanding of each other’s points of view and essentially both accepting responsibility for the situation and clear the air to move forward.

This is the Start not the End. This first conversation should be viewed as just that, the first in a series. Check in with each other. How’s it going? You could each rate the effectiveness of the solution or process on a scale of 1 to 10. What would it take to increase the rating (if it’s not a 10)? You might need smaller more frequent conversations because of the emotional nature of the conflict. Recognize it’s a journey rather than a quick fix.

Research shows that organizations with diverse people, ideas and solutions are more innovative and successful when well managed. Diversity means differences by definition. It’s not avoiding the differences that are key, it’s managing them for optimal engagement and results.

What conflict resolution skills would you benefit using?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could resolve, if not avoid, conflicts

 

Endnote: ¹ Dr John Gottman 2002

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Blood Donation and Organ Donation – The Best Christmas Gifts

Want to give a Christmas gift or Hanukah gift that lasts a lifetime and costs you nothing? It’s possible.

Many people are being quite reflective this year given the global pandemic. One of my clients was considering quitting her job after a couple of months into the first lockdown. She realized she wasn’t happy in her role and thought she didn’t want this work to be her future. She’s just left it. A presenter on Loose Women (a rate, cheeky, lunch-time indulgence) announced this week she was leaving the show after 10 years. As much as she loved her job, she reflected during lockdown that she wanted to be more daring and braver with her one life. She wanted more fulfillment by helping others.

I’m inviting you into this reflective space. What do you want for your work? Your life? Yourself? Who do you want to be? Most people want to be generous, help others and leave some form of legacy. Blood donation while you’ re alive and organ donation when you die are great and easy ways of doing that.

Blood Donation UK

Yes, giving blood helps others, saves lives and is selfless. As the slogan says: it’s in you to give. Assuming you meet the criteria it’s easy to donate. The practitioners at the clinics are well versed in doing their job and especially helping 1st time donors. Blood donation centres have been open throughout the pandemic. Apparently, there’s been a 15% decrease in donations in the UK during coronavirus.

Why Give Blood?

• Nearly 400 new donors a day are needed to meet demand

• Around 135,000 new donors a year are needed to replace those who can no longer donate

• 40,000 more black donors are needed to meet growing demand for better-matched blood

 

I’ve been donating since 1989. When I worked at P&G there was a mobile blood donation clinic in our building that we were encouraged to visit. That was my first donation and I have been doing it since. I’ve donated in the 3 countries in which I’ve lived. I’m grateful to be healthy especially this year with all suffering and fear of illness around us.

I once received a thank you card from my Mum’s cousin, whom I didn’t know well at the time. She had had breast cancer a few times and therefore multiple blood transfusions. She wrote to thank me when she found out that I was a regular donor as someone that had potentially saved her life or saved other sufferers. That hit home for me.

Book yourself for an appointment at a NHS Blood Donation clinic near you through this link .

Organ Donation

Organ donation is a great gift when you die. The donation rules changed in England last month to be opt out. That means upon death, one’s organs will be donated (if they meet the criteria) unless you’ve opted out of the donation. It’s automatically assumed you’ll donate your organs.

Unfortunately, we were not able to donate my parent’s organs upon their deaths as they had died of cancer, so the organs weren’t usable. This why organ donation is so important, not all organs can be used as it depends on the cause of the death of the donor and their condition when alive.

Tell your family you are happy to have your organs donated as the medical staff will still ask your family members. There is no link for you to follow here as I’d like to you to stay in the programme and not opt out. If for religious or other reasons you need to it’s easy to find. If you live in another country that requires opting in to donate your organs, please do so.

It’s the time of year to think about gifts and the type of year to reflect on what matters. What gifts do you want to be known for and what would you do if you were more daring? My next blood donation is scheduled for January; I have expressed my wishes to have my organs donated.

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for some guided reflective time – who do you want to be? What legacy do you want to leave? What work will fulfill you more?

: Giving Feedback - Afraid they will take it Personally?

Giving Feedback – Afraid the Recipient will take it Personally?

Are you reluctant giving feedback? If so, you are like many leaders and managers. Two clients said this last week: “I don’t want them to take it personally.” What came out after some coaching was that: (1) they didn’t want to hurt the person; and (2) they were afraid of how the person might react.

These are genuine concerns when giving feedback, especially when thinking of how to give constructive feedback. You want someone to accept the feedback, be empowered by it and not defensive, to take it on board and make changes. Hence why you should read this article to know how to give feedback well. The worst thing you can do is avoid giving feedback out of the fear of not knowing how.

How to Give Constructive Feedback

Most fears about giving feedback are about giving constructive or developmental feedback. In other words, telling someone what they need to improve (formerly called giving negative feedback). Few people worry about giving positive feedback; telling someone what they do well. Honestly though, a lot of leaders give too little positive or confidence-building feedback.

⇒Learn a model for giving feedback – like the COIN model, detailed explanation and template here. This template works for positive or constructive feedback. It stands for Context, Observation, Impact and Next Step. This level of detail for both types of feedback makes it meaningful as it’s specific to the individual and not just general fluff (like well done, good work). Also, use the word YOU when giving feedback to highlight it’s about that person; it makes it more personal.

Describe How to Give Feedback Constructively

Like a good photograph you want your subject to appear in their best light, to look good. And you as the photographer want to have your work well-regarded. Same for giving any type of feedback, you want the subject or recipient to look good and for you to be perceived well or credible.

⇒Give feedback at the outer 3 levels of this bullseye below – focusing on behaviour. Be specific about the behaviour (good or bad) that you want to comment on – what specifically did the person do or say. Environmental comments are about where or when someone did something that impacted their effectiveness (positive or negative). Capability is about how they did something and often can be helped with training.

This bullseye mitigates the likelihood that someone will take the feedback “personally” as it focuses on environment, behaviour and capability rather than identity and values. This is about a team member’s effectiveness of doing the job. If you give feedback about someone’s identity that is personal. It’s why parenting experts advise to tell a child “that behaviour was bad” rather than “you are bad or bad boy.”

Where to Give Feedback

© Anne Taylor 2020

Of note, this bullseye can be used for giving and receiving feedback. If you receive feedback that’s towards the middle of the bullseye ask, “what did I say or do that made you feel that way?” Or, depending on who’s giving you the feedback at an identity level, be confident in who you are and your value potentially choosing to ignore the feedback.

How to Give Feedback – The Positive Kind

Research shows that financially successful companies give positive feedback 4-6 times for every 1 piece of ‘negative’ feedback. Few people are near this ratio consistently, at work or at home. Typical reasons for not doing it are: why should I congratulate them for doing their job?, they’ll expect a raise or promotion, no one praises me, it will go to their heads, they know their doing well and I’m British, we don’t do that.

⇒Use the COIN model and target giving feedback about behaviours you want to reinforce (positive) and behaviours you want changed (developmental). Catch people doing things well more often than when they make mistakes or when things could be improved. Practice seeing and saying what people are doing well.

Giving confidence building feedback will increase employee engagement, have them use those skills more often by making them top of mind and make employees feel more valued in their contribution. These are big benefits for just telling people what they did well.

What’s Stopping You from Giving Feedback

The biggest barrier or roadblock to giving feedback is often our own insecurity or self-doubt. We worry about offending or hurting someone which is a noble cause. The risk of not giving feedback is that you don’t help people grow by being clear on their strengths and improving their developmental areas. By not giving feedback you are not being truthful and trusting in the relationship with your employee whereas you want them to be truthful and trustworthy.

⇒ Start by reflecting on what stops you. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t really look at all the ways you are stopping yourself, you won’t grow.

Whatever your reasons are for not giving more feedback, I challenge you to figure out how to get over it. It will immensely improve your effectiveness and performance by improving your team and you’ll make them feel better about their work at the same time. My book, Soft Skills HARD RESULTS, has a whole chapter on feedback, loaded with examples, tips and tricks because it’s that important.

How could your people and results improve with you being better at feedback?

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

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

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.

 

Photos by Brett Sayles and Tim Mossholder from Pexels

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.

LEADERSHIP STYLES

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.

 

Endnotes:

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.

LEADERSHIP STYLES

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.

Photo by Luke Webb from Pexels

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.

Motivators

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.

Endnotes:
¹ https://www.mts360.com/mts/wis.aspx

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