Why we feel zoom/video call fatigue & how to prevent it

Zoom Fatigue? What causes it and how to prevent it

Find you’re tired after a long day of video conferencing?

Noticing some dread at the prospect of jumping on another Teams meeting?

Zoom fatigue is a ‘thing’. We get tired of being on Zoom throughout a day. It’s not just from Zoom though, it’s from any video conferencing platform. Stanford University has conducted research¹ that concludes video conferencing is in fact wearing you out. Many office-based jobs have remote interactions that involve spending hours per day, even if not back-to-back, on video calls with others which will tire you out. The reasons in the research were from a psychological perspective, it’s about brain processing.

The researcher was quick to point out that this wasn’t meant to malign video conferencing, rather to educate and provide solutions so here goes:

Why does Zoom Fatigue Us?

1. Looking and Being Looked at.
We are looking at people almost continuously. People are looking at us almost continuously. Most people fear public speaking, often because of being scrutinized by others. It results in anxiety and fear. Yet video conferencing has turned us all into public speakers, even the audience members are “on show” or being looked at, potentially even when they are saying nothing. This means there can be an underlying sense of anxiety about being watched.

2. Disproportionate Head Sizes
That sounds weird I know. And if you are video conferencing with only one other person there’s a high likelihood their head appears on screen larger than in real life. Also, we usually only experience people that ‘close up’ if we know them intimately. It’s a closer sense of personal space then we would have with colleagues and strangers. Proximity often implies a force – either intimacy like romance or conflict with someone “in your face.” Our brain subconsciously processes this disparity and force versus what is ‘normal.’

3. Seeing Ourselves
It is not natural to stare at yourself in a mirror for long periods of time. That’s effectively what happens in many of the video conferencing platforms; our image is part of the view. It is tiring for our brains to continually process our own image. Other research does show that we are more judgmental or critical of ourselves when we see our image.

4. Restricted Mobility
Video conferencing restricts our physical movement as there is usually a fixed field of view for the camera. This is restrictive by definition. In-person meetings and audio calls allow more movement than video. Some emerging research is starting to show that cognition is better when we move.

5. Takes More Effort to Convey Messages
When we talk in-person it’s natural for our brain to subconsciously process body language and non-verbal cues and to project those non-verbal cues too. On video, we must consciously think about conveying those cues and transmit them. For example, in-person if we agree our head often nods in agreement without us having to think about it. On video, to ensure that agreement is conveyed through this medium we consciously decide to nod our head, maybe do a thumbs-up gesture towards the camera, maybe click on the ‘reaction button’ to say thumbs-up digitally and then we often want to check that our agreement was seen or received. That’s a lot of conscious thought. This brain processing is extra energy we do not have to expend in person, no wonder we are tired.

Top 10 Tips to Minimize or Prevent Zoom Fatigue:

1. Use audio only when appropriate. Just because we can video doesn’t mean we have to.

2. Do audio calls standing up, moving around or walking outdoors if possible occasionally.

3. Turn off your “self-view” if that’s an option on your video conferencing platform so you don’t see yourself. Or put a ‘post-it note’ over your image on the screen as another means of not looking at yourself.

4. Minimize full-screen views when videoing with only 1-2 people.

5. Take a break from screens in general. When you get off a series of video meetings to have a break, refrain from picking up your phone to check messages or scroll social media.

6. Move more, both on video calls and in general. Distance yourself from the camera so you can stand up and move around more.

7. When in long video meetings ensure there are proper breaks built into the agenda.

8. Periodically in long video meetings, when appropriate, turn off your camera for even a minute or two to be audio only to ease the burden on your brain processing. It’s analogous to putting your car in idle for a moment.

9. Look away from the screen for a few minutes, literally turn away, beyond just switching the camera off, to minimize the amount of visual stimulation you are taking in.

10. Set ground rules with your team or those you interact with about when to use video and when not to in order to increase everyone’s energy and performance.

Do you want to be more energized and productive at work?

Do you want your team to feel and perform better?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader in times of remote working and video conferencing.

¹https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/

 

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How HR Leaders (Anyone) can Build Trust in the Workplace

How HR Leaders, any Leader actually, can Build Trust in the Workplace

Trust has always been important in the workplace – among individuals, departments, functions and hierarchy. It’s now more important than ever as uncertainty is rampant in many aspects of both work and life. HR can both role model and lead the creation of a high trust culture. Anyone can impact trust – positively and negatively – through simple (maybe not all easy) daily behaviours.

What is Trust

According to Collins dictionary, trust is your belief that others are honest and sincere and will not deliberately do anything to harm you. This definition encapsulates both trust and psychological safety described by Forbes. They describe trust as you are offering others the benefit of the doubt when you are being vulnerable. Whereas they say psychological safety is you believing others are extending the benefit of the doubt to you when you’re taking a risk.

A simple example of trust in the workplace is people doing what they say they are going to do. A colleague commits to doing a specific task for a project by a specific time and then does it.
A more nuanced example of trust is being able to disagree with a senior leader about a decision even in a group setting without the risk to your career or being ridiculed.

Benefits of Trust in the Workplace

There are obvious and less obvious benefits of high trust which apply in any relationship, not just those in the workplace. These benefits focus on the workplace:

  • Having different and dissenting opinions openly shared leads to better decision making.
  • Pointing out unconscious bias comments, patterns and decisions e.g. challenging potentially racist or sexist comments in a discussion, resulting in equality, diversity and inclusivity.
  • Transferring your efforts or resources to another groups’ project to serve the organization’s greater goals.
  • Improving mental wellbeing as emotions and stress are shared so better retention, fewer grievances, less absenteeism.
  • Feeling safe so energy can go towards doing the work rather than manipulating the political environment.
  • Taking risks and speaking out leads to more creativity, new ideas and better solutions.

How to Demonstrate Trust in the Workplace

These ideas apply to HR leaders, leaders across the organization and most people interacting with others in general.

    1. Listen – really listen to people. As Stephen Covey said decades ago, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”¹ 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.
    2. Get curious – pause your own thoughts and potentially your defence mechanisms to understand someone else’s perspective. Ask questions to understand. A specific action for HR is to learn intimately about the business. This will help you position HR policies to support the business needs and to step truly into their shoes when you consider your initiatives and language. Encourage others to be curious too.
    3. Interrogate your own mindset – what are your feelings about risk, fear of failure, fear of looking stupid and making a mistake. Adopt a more supportive mindset for yourself, changing your internal dialogue to “if I make a mistake I’ll at least know and will learn from it.” Ask your team to become more self-aware too.
    4. 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.
    5. Act with integrity – do what you say you are going to do. If circumstances change communicate quickly and gain alignment to the impact of those changes. In the hardest HR situations act with the upmost integrity and with compassion. Examples are not tolerating gossip, or blame, any negativity in fact by calling it out respectfully in the moment. Not laughing at others or dismissing their ideas.
    6. Ask for feedback – and then listen and take it on board. This will show people you are engaged, care about the impact you have. This is also a great measure of how much trust there is in you or the organization. People will give helpful, constructive feedback when they trust you. Feedback might be vague or overly complimentary when they don’t feel safe to share.
    7. Encourage healthy conflict – disagreement and conflict are not bad especially when done respectfully and with the purpose of getting to the best solution, not just to ‘win.’ Practice asking questions that challenge someone’s idea in a way that shows respect. Think about debate rather than win/lose or judging right/wrong. Healthy debate leads to more thorough investigation and understanding.
    8. Own your mistakes – admit if you make a mistake or get something wrong. You can then talk about the learnings from those situations. This shows humility, builds trust and makes it safe for others to admit their mistakes. This means things don’t get hidden and continual improvement becomes possible.

What would be possible by increasing the trust in your team? The trust between people across different teams and functions?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

Endnotes:
¹ https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-5.html

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The Emergence of Spring. Change is Coming. How to Adapt?

With the Emergence of Spring, Change is Coming. How to Adapt?

I’ve been interviewing HR leaders for an upcoming talk I am giving to HR professionals about soft skills in the workplace. Many are saying the same thing – office employees have been working longer hours since working from home, some stating employees are working 1.5-2 hours more PER DAY!

As the UK restrictions are easing, facilities are opening. My gym and singing lessons could be face-to-face soon; how will I fit “commuting” to these facilities into an already busy day? How will office workers fit travel time for their activities, shopping and socializing into their back-to-back schedules?

Just as going into lockdowns and adjusting the pandemic necessitated change, so too will emerging from it.

The 4 Reactions to Change – SARA

There are often four stages to change, news or disruption that we navigate at different speeds depending on the situation and our experiences. The acronym is SARA:

Shock and disorientation – we’re knocked off guard.
Anger and other emotions– we don’t want the change, this disrupts our ‘normal.’
Rationalization – we start to process the change (sometimes if we’re in denial we might rationalize away the issue and hence be avoidant). We start seeing the future and not just what we’ve lost.
Accept – we accept the change and determine how best to move forward.

Coping with Change

Here are some ways to cope with the change at work that are coming as restrictions ease (at least here in the UK):

1. Breathe – breathing triggers your parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to “rest and digest” responses to change. In contrast, our sympathetic nervous system leads to “flight, fright, freeze” reactions in the face of stress. This is about being present in the moment, not regretting the past or anticipating the worst in the future.

2. Talk about it – talk to people about the change and how you feel. Share your hopes and fears with those close to you.

3. Find the joy or positives – what are the positives of the change? What would need to shift in you to enjoy the change? Imagine looking in someone’s eyes rather than trying to connect through a video screen. Review all the changes you’ve had in your life and feel the enjoyment because life is just a series of changes.

4. Focus on your goal – what goals do you have for yourself, your work and your life? Focus on moving towards those goals. This will limit the amount factors to consider or be bombarded by. Look at a bigger picture of your life and see how to build that within this change event.

5. Recognize what’s not changing – building on the previous point, there are many aspects in any situation that remain the same. Identify the things that are not changing both externally and internally. Within yourself, your skills, strengths, values and abilities remain the same despite the circumstances. Lean into those things that aren’t changing for perspective and resources.

Adapting to Change

1. Self-compassion – have compassion for yourself through times of change. Compassion means accepting yourself and your feelings. Change can be hard, especially when it is thrust upon us. We are often harder on ourselves than we would be on another person, expecting us to behave perfectly despite the challenges. Imagine “what would my best friend say to me right now?” and heed that advice.

2. Empathy – have empathy for others. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. You might not have gone through the same experience but chances are you can still feel the feeling from one of your own experiences. Empathy creates relatability and makes people feel like they’ve been seen and heard.

3. Make a plan – with the easing of restrictions and the anticipation of this “new normal” what’s a phased-approach that would work for you? Prioritize what needs to happen first, or what you want to happen. Identify ways you’ve gotten through change previously and add those to your plan.

4. Self-care – change is stressful. Ensure that you have balance in your life to counteract the stress. The usual about healthy eating, sleeping, exercise, supportive friends, etc are needed all the time and especially in times of stress.

5. Reframe the change – I hear people say I don’t like change. I then ask if they have children to which they often answer yes. Well, if you don’t like change, don’t have kids. People don’t like change that is thrust on them, for which they don’t have control. People accept change that they initiate. What’s the opportunity that the change presents? What can you control?

What would help you emerge from lockdown and restrictions leading the life you want and being the leader you want to be?

Book a complimentary coaching session with me here to explore how you could improve your effectiveness as a leader by building more trust.

 

Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

Balancing Strategic Focus vs Operational Execution

This topic of strategy vs operations has always been a discussion point with my Executive coaching clients. It’s comes up even more now with the uncertainty of the pandemic and ever-changing guidelines. For example, working with people in retail has meant that one day the stores are open and the next day the stores are mandated to close, with differing requirements by region. Having to respond to these types of operational changes is mandatory, time consuming and draining. How does a leader prioritize time, energy and headspace for strategic initiatives with this constant operational firefighting, let alone get others on-board?

Strategic vs Operational Thinking

Never has a company asked me to support their leader on being MORE operational. It’s not their operational thinking and focus that needs to be developed, especially if they’ve just been promoted to a more senior role. It’s usually about helping the leader develop their strategic thinking.

Operational thinking is required too. Strategic thinking is of no value if it doesn’t get implemented operationally. Ensuring operations are well-thought through and running smoothly is important to success. If operational thinking isn’t happening during the execution there won’t be any operations or business to worry about in the future.

A successful business needs both sound strategic thinking to chart its course while having optimal operational thinking to deliver the day to day requirements.

What is Strategic Thinking?

It’s the intentional thought process a leader does to figure out how to achieve long-term success for the organization, team, initiative or project (depending on the leader’s scope). It’s about focusing on the future and working back how to lay the foundation for success. It involves lots of critical thinking skills like analysis, conceptualizing, identifying patterns and options, synthesize making choices and engaging. It’s about creating connections or links between different ideas, sources of information and opportunities for greater synergy or success.

Big A vs Little a Agendas

The concept of Big A and little a agenda is from my coach training and I teach my clients about it too.

When I work with clients we define their leadership development goals for the coaching. The ‘Big A Agenda’ is this bigger, overarching goal. At each session, the client brings situations and topics from their work life for which they want coaching. These daily topics are the ‘little a agenda’. In the coaching we create links between the little a agenda to the Big A Agenda so that each coaching session progresses them towards their leadership development goal. It’s the notion that every step you take is one more step in your legacy.

This concept gives you an opportunity to link operational topics or issues back to strategic priorities and opportunities while working with people on the execution. It’s a great chance for you as the leader to re-affirm the link between the daily operations and the businesses strategic goals (as there should be a link).

Tips to Balance Strategy vs Execution

There are no hard and fast rules on this, as it depends on the business and its current situation. Here are some ideas:

Remember this is a big part of your job. If you’re not doing this type of thinking for your business, area or function than who is? Every leader has some level of responsibility for strategic thinking. This means delegating and empowering others to do what they need to do so you have some time for this priority.

Set aside thinking time in your schedule before other people fill it up with operational topics. Put time in your calendar for your priorities before other people take your time for their priorities. Book it off. Call it something that doesn’t sound dispensable to others if they can see your calendar. Make it a “meeting” rather than solo time as solo time is easier to relinquish. Time is reported as the #1 barrier to strategic thinking.

Change your location. Take yourself out of your usual environment to trigger your brain that this is different than daily business. Also, it will minimize interruptions and distractions. Go for a walk. Sit in another room. Be in nature. Watch traffic in an intersection of traffic. Sit in your car (in the driveway even).

Stimulate thinking through a different lens. Strategic thinking is about the future. How can you put yourself into a different perspective than today’s position to think differently? A client and I once went to a museum together (when we could) and walked around assessing what we were seeing through the lens of his business. What would this museum piece tell me about my business? How could an exhibit inform my business’ future and/or success? What can I learn from this museum theme?

Talk to people who are outside your regular circle. My last 2 articles have been on bias – the Fundamental Attribution Error and Confirmation Bias. To minimize bias, it’s helpful to have an outside perspective, a person very different from yourself to highlight blind spots of which you’re not aware. Also, read information and data from different sources to broaden your input and perspectives.

Listen with an open mind and question, question, question again. Listen to what is being said while suspending your own judgment and assumptions. Listen to what is said and not said. Question what you hear, what is underneath what is being said. Be deep in your discussions, curious, not superficial, not taking what is said on face value.

In summary, prioritize your time to do what only you can do which is the strategic thinking for your area of responsibility. Delegate and empower others to execute so you can deliver on your responsibility. As you deal with operational issues, how could you do it strategically when possible thereby getting the best of both worlds?

Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here for support in further developing your leadership to balance the strategic vs operational. What would make you more effective?

 

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A Rife Unconscious Bias for Leaders to Perform Better

Another Unconscious Bias for Leaders to Unearth

This is my second article about cognitive bias – the collection of faulty ways of thinking that might be hardwired into the human brain according to American Professor, Ben Yagoda. He says science suggests we’re hardwired to delude ourselves. Some say it is possible to re-wire biases. This time I’m highlighting confirmation bias. Many people are more open to the notion that they could have confirmation bias than the Fundamental Attribution Error I wrote about previously, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bias

Many of us understand the idea of bias as it relates to media. A common example is the news media being biased in their reporting in favour or one political party or the other. Bias applies to individuals too. It’s a way of thinking about the world or interpreting things going on around us which has typical patterns or is 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.

What is Confirmation Bias?

Confirmation bias is the tendency to see, seek out, interpret and favour information that supports our existing ideas, beliefs and values. We gather evidence to support our thoughts and beliefs (both the conscious and subconscious ones).

For example, if you decide to buy a blue Mini, you will start seeing blue Minis everywhere. It’s not because more blue Minis have been unleashed on the roads, it’s just that you now have a heightened awareness of and predisposition to them. In many cases you are looking to confirm the decision you made to buy a blue Mini.

The Risk of Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias has us see and seek information and data that corroborates our ideas and hypotheses. By definition, it has us discount or ignore anything that appears contradictory or different to what we believe or think.

This is what social media algorithms do – they see what we searched for and give us more of the same. If you’re searching for the best plant-based recipes this might be all right. If you are trying to understand who to vote for in the next election your initial thoughts will just be confirmed.

A Trump supporter will hear his speech and get confirmation of his positives while a Trump detractor will hear the same speech and get confirmation of the negative opinion – all from the same words.

Confirmation Bias Leadership Implications

Confirmation bias appears in every aspect of life, including work, as it is a form of judgement (good or bad), our brain assesses things to make sense of it. To name just a few leaders should be particularly aware of are:

Judging People’s Performance – if you think a team member is good at their job you will see more things that confirm this belief. If they make a mistake, you are quicker to dismiss it as an exception. Conversely, if you think someone is lazy, you will repeatedly find evidence to confirm they are lazy.

Making decisions – many people have an intuitive response when faced with a decision. What confirmation bias tells us is that they then gather as much evidence as possible to justify proceeding with that decision. This also means we can say the decision is based on sound rationale and not emotion.

Hiring or promoting situations – Imagine the leader of another department is someone you don’t like, they have different ideas than you, behave differently, and have a different disposition. And their results are consistently strong, maybe even above expectations. Confirmation bias would need to be put aside to give them the recognition or respect they deserved.

Unconscious Bias – 6 Steps to Tackle 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. Become self-aware about your own biases and notice how you confirm that, often unconsciously. These biases could be towards yourself, others or concepts/ ideas. I worked with a coaching client this morning who sometimes feels “not good enough” and therefore tries to “prove” he is. When he receives emails from his boss, he reads it through the lens of “not good enough” so perceives criticism where none is intended.

2. Foster diversity of people, ideas, perspectives and input. Talk openly about confirmation bias. Some experts say it’s the most pervasive and damaging bias. Involve people of diverse backgrounds in developing solutions and making decisions. Diversity includes race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, education, age, experience, etc. Let a project or decision be viewed by someone outside of the project (or department or organization) for an ‘external’ view.

3. Create a system of open communication. We find it easier to see the shortcomings in other peoples’ thinking than in our own and vice versa. Create a culture and compassionate communication that allows flaws and gaps to be pointed out in each other’s ideas and solutions. This requires courage and bravery especially for junior people to point out bias in a senior leader.

4. Reward behaviour that highlights omissions, differences and gaps. People rarely want to speak up with a dissenting view for fear of being punished (hence whistle-blower laws). To mitigate that fear the act of sharing contrary data and opinion needs to be rewarded. The first time someone says something contradictory how do you (or others) respond? Learn to acknowledge and praise them so others follow suit.

5. Systematize your company’s decision-making process to include contradictory data. By doing this you make the standard process more bias-proof. For example, at P&G we were trained to do one-page recommendations that included strategic rationale, financial benefit and research or data of probable success. It could easily have included a fourth element of risk or contrary data. By adapting current systems to include highlighting potential bias is easier than creating a new and separate system to address the bias.

6. Conduct “autopsies” in advance of key decisions or projects. Gary Klein, a cognitive psychologist, suggests ‘post-mortems’ in advance. Imagine a project has failed very badly and analyse what led to that failure. This can become part of the procedure or checklist for key decisions. This forces the contrary view and encourages the contrary evidence to be considered. It’s easier to collect evidence in support of our theories (we can never fully prove a theory until it’s implemented), so take time and try to disprove them to be more certain.

Awareness and understanding are the keys to better ideas, interactions and hence results. You can’t eliminate all biases and you can be aware and mitigate them to have the impact you want to have. This is especially important for these emotional-charged times in which we are working and living.

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?

 

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: 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

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: 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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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