Category Archives: Ascanio Pignatelli

Engage Your Employees with Elevated Communication

Ascanio Pignatelli
By Ascanio Pignatelli

In many ways, Adrian Aragon was a great CEO; hard-working and completely devoted to his staff and organization, but it was not until he analyzed his CEO performance review that he noticed the blind-spot in his leadership: the gap between how he saw his communication, and how his employees were interpreting it. Committed to becoming a better communicator and more effective leader, Adrian met with an old colleague Ivana Smith, one of the finest leaders and communicators he had ever met. After scrutinizing his report for what seemed like an eternity, Ivana asked Adrian: “Why do you think so many of your employees believe you have a negative mindset and don’t communicate effectively with them?”

Adrian took a moment then muttered, “With all the stress it’s hard to always maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude.”

Ivana nodded in agreement. “That’s true, being positive when stressed is a real challenge, however doing so will help lower your stress, increase your energy and make you feel a lot better. It will also help set the tone for your entire company.”

“I guess you’re right. I should probably be more positive.”

“More positive yes, but the real key is to really listen to them. The most important part of communication is effective listening. Most of us are rather disengaged when we listen, but if you can really listen to what your employees are saying you will be able to build more trust and rapport with them, resolve more conflict and connect in a deeper way with them.”

Ivana is right. Effective listening does two things; it ensures that the sender’s communication has been received as intended, and it tells the sender that their communication has value. There’s an old saying, “Listening is love.” Great listeners are masters at making those they are listening to feel important, and perhaps on some deeper level, loved. To really connect with your staff and make them feel valued you’ll want to move towards empathetic listening.

Disengaged Listening: Have you ever had a conversation with someone you felt just didn’t get anything you said despite their involved contribution to the conversation? You probably sensed their minds were completely focused on what they wanted to say next, and not on absorbing and processing what you were saying. Well, that is disengaged listening, and most of the time although we might be hearing what’s being said, our minds are actually busy thinking about what to say next. Disengaged listening isn’t just responsible for corrupting the communication that’s being received; it leaves the speaker feeling unimportant.

To escape the disengaged listening trap, the next time you are having a conversation with someone begin to notice when your mind either starts to wander from the conversation or is thinking about what to say next. The simple act of bringing awareness to how you listen will make you a much better listener and leave those you communicate with feeling valued.

Engaged Listening: Engaged listening means listening without judgment, opinions or preconceived notions. Engaged listening creates a space for others to really express what they are thinking without them feeling like they are being judged. It also ensures they are heard, and that their thoughts and feelings are important to you. You can become a more engaged listener by asking empowering questions; questions that probe, seek clarity, focus on solutions and put the power to solve a problem or challenge into the other person’s hands. For example, “How might you accomplish that?” or “What’s another way of seeing that?”

There is a direct link between employee engagement and how much those employees feel their company values them. Organizations that have created a culture that values its staff by listening to them in an engaged and nonjudgmental way will find its members reciprocating the value and respect they feel by raising their energy and level of engagement while at work. You can become a much more engaged listener by acknowledging and validating the feelings other people express to you the same way Ivana did with Adrian.

Empathetic Listening: This is the highest form of listening and will build strong ties with your employees if you master it. Empathetic listening is feeling what the other person is feeling through their communication. It includes deciphering body language, reading between the lines, listening for tonal discrepancies and looking for what’s not being said as much as what’s being said.

Listening at such a high level lets the person who is speaking know that you’ve captured their emotional experience. Although empathetic listening requires considerable focus, effort and concentration, with enough practice it can become routine.

Adrian worked hard at being a more positive and effective communicator. He became a lot less judgmental and shifted his focus from finding problems to finding solutions. Whenever his employees were upset about something he’d acknowledge and validate their feelings. And when they became stuck or frustrated, he’d ask them empowering questions to shift their perspective. He developed more rapport with them, and earned more of their trust, which left them feeling more valued, respected and connected to him. It didn’t take long after that for their own performance and engagement to increase as well.

Ascanio Pignatelli is an award winning speaker, seminar leader, coach and author of the forthcoming book Lead from Need. To book Ascanio for your next speaking event or workshop, please call him at 310-913-2313.

Four Ways to Boost Employee Performance and Job Satisfaction

Ascanio Pignatelli
By Ascanio Pignatelli

Kevin Wilson was a great leader, but his team was not producing the results he knew they were capable of. One day he arranged a meeting with Jim Hefner, a recently retired executive who had built and led a team that shattered every single company performance record. “Jim, how’d you build such an amazing team? They not only outperform the rest of us but they seem to have more energy, confidence and fun than anyone else.”

“Kevin, I’m a big fan and follower of (CSE). It’s a branch of industrial-organizational psychology known as Core Self-Evaluations. That’s what made us so successful. Ever heard of it?”

Kevin shook his head, “No.”

Excitedly, Jim leaned in to explain: “Well, CSE is the personality trait responsible for our temperament, our wellbeing, and how we judge our circumstances. It also drives our behavior. Those with high CSE are far more positive and confident in their abilities, satisfied with their jobs and perform them far better than those with low CSE. As a manager, your job is to coach and raise each of your employees’ CSE levels.”

Jim is correct; as a leader, your primary focus should be to personally coach the best out of your team members and raise their CSE levels. Doing so will ensure you are more satisfied with their work and perform it better. Fortunately, CSE can be easily assessed and increased by:

Shifting the “Locus of Control”: The “Locus of Control” is determined by the extent to which a person believed they control their success or performance. Employees who believe that they control their future (Internals) have an internal locus of control and are generally happier, more empowered, and more productive than those who attribute their success or performance to fate or their surroundings (Externals). As a result, internals are more satisfied with their work and perform better than externals. You can find out whether an employee is an internal or external by simply asking “What’s been responsible for your success/performance?”

If the answer reveals an external locus of control shift power back to your employee by asking “How has believing that you aren’t causing your success affected your career?” Let them explain so they can really experience how they’ve been limiting themselves, then ask: “If you knew that you were in complete control of your success, what would be possible?

Increasing Emotional Intelligence: Employees with a tendency to easily experience unpleasant emotions like anxiety, depression and despair have lower emotional intelligence (EQ) and will react far more negatively to stress. Because their EQ levels are lower, their ability to connect, understand and influence others is severely impaired.

For Kevin and others in leadership positions, the need for emotional stability is even more paramount, as they are the face of the organization and set the tone for employee morale. If you have an employee that’s emotionally unstable consider asking: “What can you do to not get so stressed out next time you have a presentation/sales call)?” Or “What might be a more appropriate way to react to an upset client/colleague?

Instilling Self-efficacy: Self-efficacy is the trait responsible for how likely we are to succeed with current goals and tasks, or take on a challenging assignment or “write it off” as impossible. (How likely we are to adhere to a diet or workout program is dictated by our self-efficacy.)

Those with high self-efficacy are more determined and persistent when dealing with adversity, and more likely to welcome new challenges as opportunities. The greater a person’s belief in their own power to influence an outcome the more likely they are to succeed with a new challenge. The following four step process can help you develop someone else’s self-efficacy:

  • Build confidence- Question any belief they might have that is limiting their performance. For example, if an employee thinks they aren’t experienced enough to manage a project you can remind them of their unique strengths and capabilities.
  • Promote modeling- Have inexperienced employees watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks so they too can develop those positive, “can-do” beliefs.
  • Evaluate to motivate- Rewards, recognition and positive feedback are key to helping your employees feel more competent, motivated and open to growth. Negative feedback can devastate those with low self-esteem, as they almost always take it personally.
  • Optimize the environment- Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free workplace that encourages your staff to get the nutrition, exercise, and rest they need so they can perform their best.

Increasing their Self-esteem: Self-esteem is the approval we have of ourselves and the extent to which we see ourselves as capable, significant, successful, and worthy. It is the most essential of the CSE domains since workers with low self-esteem are often unproductive because they are indecisive, fear making mistakes and strive for perfection which leads to frustration when it isn’t attained.

Generally they are highly irritable and pessimistic, and can drain the positive, enthusiastic energy of their more self-assured colleagues. Predictably, those with low self-esteem are more likely to be unsatisfied with their jobs, performing them considerably worse than those with higher self-esteem. To boost the self-esteem of your employees:

  • Recognize and celebrate their successes and accomplishments as much as possible.
  • Express your gratitude and appreciation to them for the contribution and difference they keep making.
  • Be a model of kindness and compassion to others, especially those with lower self-esteem.

Conclusion: Jim Hefner understood that coaching the best out of his team meant raising their CSE levels. He did everything he could to raise those levels and as a result his team was always more satisfied with their work, performed it better, and were more confident, motivated and enthusiastic. They were also far less stressed, had less conflict, coped more effectively with setbacks and were better equipped at capitalizing on opportunities. To better engage, empower and motivate your greatest resource and boost the bottom line lead like Jim and raise those CSE levels.

Ascanio Pignatelli is an award winning speaker, seminar leader, coach and author of the forthcoming book Lead from Need. To book Ascanio for your next speaking event or workshop, please call him at 310-913-2313.

Lead from Need: Four Ways to Motivate Employees

Ascanio Pignatelli
By Ascanio Pignatelli

His CEO performance review is in and Scott is clearly alarmed. Unless next quarter’s KPI goals are met the Governance committee will ask for his resignation. He grabs his phone and calls Jarin, his gregarious college roommate and the person who transformed Silicon Beach’s most dysfunctional company into one of its most electric. “Jarin, I need your help. My staff is not producing like they once were. They are lethargic, apathetic, unmotivated, dis…”

“Disengaged,” interjects Jarin. “So how are you keeping your people engaged?”

“We’ve been investing heavily into employee engagement programs, but they’re not really working. We keep pouring money into recruiting and retaining the best. We even keep increasing salaries, benefits and perks, basically giving them everything they want, but nothing’s working.”

“The problem is you’re giving them what they think they want, but not what they really need,” explains Jarin. “Your employees are emotionally detached; their real needs aren’t being met. Fat salaries and perks are great, but what they really want is to be inspired, connected and living a life of purpose. They need to feel valued. As their leader you need to lead from need. Once our basic survival needs have been met, we all aspire to satisfy the four deeper needs: connection, contribution, freedom and growth.”

Jarin is right and is part of a new wave of leaders who know that to get the best out of someone you need to coach and empower them to greatness. As a leader in your organization you want to ensure that your employees feel they are:

  • Connected: building relationships with others
  • Contributing: doing something meaningful
  • Free: have a sense of choice and autonomy
  • Growing: developing personally and professionally

Connection: Companies with employees who have strong personal ties to each other have far higher engagement rates than those that don’t. To connect with your employees, create greater trust and loyalty by being more authentic. Great leaders don’t fret over public opinion and neither should you. Let go of who you think you should be, and just be yourself. You will gain their trust and respect in the process. Be vulnerable. Show them the real you. We all have the same fears of not being good enough, smart enough or worthy enough, so why pretend we are the exception? The best managers connect deeply with their employees by paying attention to what’s important to them. Carve out some time each week to grab lunch or a coffee with your key team members. Find out what they enjoy doing outside of work and get to know them personally. Finally, let them know that you and the company care for them. As their need to belong is met, they will give more of themselves, which, in turn, fuels their next need: their need to contribute.

Contribution: Studies show employees are happiest when they know they are making a difference and helping others. Often their contribution goes unnoticed. Metrics for measuring an employee’s contribution should shift from measuring their individual performance to measuring their team’s performance. How are your staff members influencing those around them? A staff member with excellent soft skills who constantly uplifts his fellow employees is an incredible asset to your team, yet this won’t show up in any assessment. To help your workers feel they are contributing something meaningful you can try recognizing and publicly celebrating their accomplishments as often as possible or sharing a client story that shows your employee the difference they are making in someone’s life.

Freedom: Self-direction is the key to performance, creativity and engagement. The real you only shows up when you feel free. Employees are far more loyal and productive in workplace environments that respect their freedom and encourage their self-expression. To ensure your staff feels a sense of autonomy remind them that everything they do is a choice. Choice is power, and when your employees believe they have a choice they will become more engaged in the process. Align their choices with their values, not their fears. When we choose from fear, our actions lack power. When we choose from our values our actions have more power, more meaning and more energy. Give your employees more flexibility to accommodate their schedules. What long-held beliefs might be blocking new win-win opportunities? Decentralize whatever authority you can to give your workers more decision-making power. This will empower them and make your company much more efficient.

Growth: If your staff feels they are not making progress in their own personal development they will soon become disconnected and seek opportunities elsewhere. Ensure that each employee is constantly challenged so that they can grow. The greater a person’s belief in their own power to influence an outcome, the more likely they are to succeed with a new challenge. To help your employees grow, try building confidence. Challenge any belief they might have that is limiting their performance. For example, if an employee thinks they aren’t experienced enough to manage a project you can remind them of their unique strengths and capabilities.

Another way to promote growth is modeling. Have inexperienced employees watch other colleagues with similar skills perform more advanced tasks. Seeing others with similar abilities succeed at a task will help them develop positive, “can-do” beliefs. Recognition and positive feedback are key to helping your employees feel more competent, motivated and open to growth. Negative feedback can devastate those with low self-esteem. Finally, optimize the environment. Create a vibrant, energetic, stress-free workplace that encourages your employees to get the food, exercise, rest and water their bodies need so they can perform at their best.

The most successful CEOs in the world unleash the energy and creative power of their employees by honoring those four needs: connection, contribution, freedom and growth. They know that what really motivates people – once their basic financial needs have been met – is their desire to grow and develop as human beings, connect and collaborate with others, and contribute something to a worthy cause. Like Jarin, you can inspire your employees to reach their full potential by making your company a place where those four needs will be met.

Ascanio Pignatelli is an award winning speaker, seminar leader, coach and author of the forthcoming book Lead from Need. To book Ascanio for your next speaking event or workshop, please call him at 310-913-2313.