Tag Archives: leadership

Become a Better Leader: Commit to Continuous Learning

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayIn order to excel in your work, in your life, or as a leader, you need to commit to continuous learning. Many leaders know this, but many more are missing the opportunities for powerful learning that could really help them get ahead on their goals.

Leaders are encouraged to learn “on the job.” The problem is that many of us don’t. Either because we’re too busy, we forget, we don’t know what we need to learn, or we don’t have the resources we think we need, we end up learning by chance or command. Neither one is very powerful.

Learning by chance means you take opportunities to learn whenever they show up, but you don’t necessarily go looking for more. A conference brochure arrives; it seems interesting; you go. A friend recommends a book; it looks good; you read it. You take opportunities to learn as they come to you – in other words, when it’s convenient.

Learning by command means you learn when someone else demands it. When your colleagues tell you that you need to learn to be more decisive, or when your profession requires that you get an advanced certification, or when your boss sends you to a workshop to learn specific skills, you are learning by command.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these approaches to learning. Anylearning that advances your expertise and builds your capacity may be worth your time.

Or it may not, and that’s the problem. You have so much potential, and there are so many opportunities to learn, and there is so much to be gained by learning that it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate your learning to the whims of chance and command. You need to learn by choice.

Learning by choice means carefully setting up your own learning opportunities based solely on what you need to get better results. Learning by choice is based on a number of assumptions.

Learning is leadership: Learning is an essential component of leadership. Some experts go so far as to say learning is leadership, a leader’s constant quest for the improvement of the business, people, and results. As a leader, what do you need to learn? What leadership skills, strategic practices, or management techniques will help you be more effective? Look at your results, and notice where there’s room for improvement. What do you need to learn in order to improve those results? This is the kind of learning that supports powerful leadership.

Learning is profit and competitive edge: The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal leadership is the innovation of the self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run, or be part of a business that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing to change, as well. Think about it. If another company is doing better than yours, what do you need to learn to be better able to compete? If you personally are stuck in a rut in your career, what do you need to learn to get a more competitive edge? Without asking these questions, you will start to languish in mediocrity, and that’s no place for a leader. Refuse to buy into the assumption that the economy, the market you’re in, or your products are creating your results. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, go out and learn what needs to change. You’ll feel more in control, and you will learn to lead the way to a more powerful and profitable place.

Learning is life: In addition to learning for all of the practical and rational reasons that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader, there’s one more: learning is part of the fun of life. When was the last time you picked up a new sport, game or hobby? We learn these things not because we have to, but because we want to. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them. You will know that you can do anything you want to as long as you know how to learn.

Learning is an essential component of leadership, but not all learning experiences are equally powerful. Learning by choice means understanding exactly what you need to learn in order to achieve your vision.

Try this simple exercise to sharpen your approach to learning.

  • Think about your vision or an important goal.

  • Brainstorm. What do you need to learn in order to achieve this vision or goal?

  • Choose one area in which to focus your learning, and choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact.

  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most powerful way I can learn in this area to get the best and fastest results?”

This approach will steer you away from learning by chance and help you choose your learning, so it’s more strategic and leads directly to your vision.

If you really want to lead well and live well, you must learn to learn well, too.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”


The Engaged Workforce: Who is Responsible?

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Walt Disney once said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” He understood perfectly whose responsibility engagement was – it was his. He was a hands-on leader, personally involved and engaged with his workforce.

Engagement is a leadership necessity. Once hired, it is leadership’s responsibility not Human Resource’s to keep employees engaged. When the leader of an organization is not engaged on a regular basis, trust and productivity rapidly erode. According to recent research being truthful and connected are huge factors in engaging, maintaining and increasing workforce productivity and loyalty. When a leader is totally involved and committed to an engaged workforce, everyone’s efficiency and productivity improves and profitability increases.

Where Engagement Begins: Experts often say engagement comes from the top down and permeates the workforce. Others say no, it’s a bottom up process. The answer is – it is both and then some. Engagement comes from inside out. If it only comes from the top down all you need is one mid-level leader to drop the ball and the game is lost. If it begins at the bottom, as soon as a member of the workforce runs into resistance from their management the chain is also broken.

There is a natural flow to the engagement of the workforce and it must flow from the inside out – from the heart and soul of an organization to the workforce in order to permeate it. It doesn’t matter if your business is a three-person accounting firm or a Fortune 500 organization, the natural flow of engagement is the same.

Engagement begins with a decision within the core operating culture of a business to make an engaged workforce a top priority. If not created at this level, the results will be mediocre at best with average productivity and reduced profitability instead of exceptional productivity and increased profitability.

The Flow of Engagement: Engagement flows through the workforce in a circular movement, not linear. When leadership at all levels becomes engaged with their workforce, productivity continues as is. When the workforce is in return engaged with leadership, productivity skyrockets.

Understanding that this is a circular flow is critical to successfully creating a workforce that is focused on the best interests of the business or organization.

What’s Next?

Get into the game by recognizing the need for creating an engaged workforce, discovering where it begins and how it works. Create a leadership roadmap that includes developing, promoting and participating in a full-time circular engagement program.

Crunch the numbers to see how much your productivity will increase with a more engaged workforce. Recently released research by Gallup shows that only 33% of the surveyed workforce is engaged in what you want and 49% are disengaged. Even worse, 18% of the workforce is actively engaged in causing failure.

Industry research analysts believe that up to 95% of employees are unaware of their company’s top objectives. Without understanding how important their contribution is to the company’s overall goal and what role their contribution plays, they will disengage, missing deadlines, dropping production levels and negatively affecting profits.

It will be obvious when you crunch the numbers; even a slight increase in the engagement of your workforce will yield significantly increased productivity.

Schedule Road mapping time to unleash the potential of an engaged workforce. If you do not plan to succeed you are by default planning to fail. Evaluate the circular flow of engagement energy in your workforce to see where it needs improvement. If you don’t have an obvious flow to the engaged energy of your workforce, create a roadmap to get your there. Then, take action and make it happen. Start today.

Walt Disney’s legacy lives on because he knew he was responsible for the engagement of his workforce and took an active role in creating the future he envisioned. The circular flow of engagement is evident in every aspect of the Disney Empire and was one of his success strategies — a strategy you can apply to create the results you envision.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

The 3 A’s: Ingredients for a Peaceful Office Life

By Esther Francis JosephEsther Francis Joseph

With many different personality types in an office setting, the workplace can either be a pleasant place to be or hostile territory. A lot depends on the dynamics and interactions between personnel. When a coworker has done something inappropriate in their role as a manager or as an employee, destructive emotions and reactions can arise. In either position the repercussions can affect the entire department and ultimately the company’s bottom line.

For example, John and his coworkers had been working on a project for one of their largest accounts for the last few weeks.  On the day before it was due to be presented to the client, John left work early with no explanation or forewarning.  Understandably, his coworkers were furious that he skipped the final preparations, and the company ultimately lost the account.  Now John is faced with working in a hostile work environment, knowing his coworkers are extremely upset with him.

If you are the person in the wrong, it is important to know what to do to resolve the tension you’ve created when seeking to improve office morale and return to a positive, productive workplace once again. A strong, respectful working relationship with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates can be achieved by utilizing these 3 A’s for a peaceful environment that everyone can enjoy being part of.

Apologize for a Peaceful Workplace: A disagreement among work staff can emerge from any number of situations.  An email that seemed a bit too harsh in its language, personal phone calls when that 5 p.m. deadline is looming; numerous other circumstances and reasons can lead to an interpersonal conflict that requires a subsequent resolution.

John knew that to successfully continue his work, he needed to apologize to his coworkers. John gathered them together and said, “I would like to apologize for leaving work early Monday, the day our project was due, without informing anyone. I realize my actions wasted weeks of everyone’s hard work, and cost us the account. You guys have every right to me angry with me.”

If you are the person who is at fault, whether you are an executive or staff member the first step is to apologize. For decision-makers this might be difficult to do, but for most people an apology is a powerful first acknowledgement of responsibility. No matter the title, it means that the individual apologizing understands his or her error and is not likely to repeat it. It helps to dissipate the anger and other negative emotions from other staff associated with the situation.

In terms of the act of apologizing, it is extremely important to be concise.  Frame your apology around the situation at hand, and do not stray from its focus.  Avoid long explanations and excuses for your behavior. Acknowledge what you have done and the impact it has had on others. Show that you regret your action and mention how you will act differently when faced with a similar situation in the future.  Perhaps most importantly, conduct your apology in a conference setting if possible, where there is an opportunity for further conversation from the offended parties.

For most people an apology involves a degree of embarrassment; one has to be humble to apologize. Humility often breeds compassion in others. This exchange of vulnerability and compassion is a necessary step in obtaining closure in many conciliatory situations, even in the office.

Agree for a Peaceful Workplace: It is equally important to simply agree with whatever feedback you receive from your apology if your goal is to restore that fragile working relationship with your coworkers. Agree with whatever your boss or coworkers have to say in regards to the circumstance. This act of agreeing emphasizes that you are willing to work through the situation, repair it and move beyond it.

After John apologized, he gave his officemates time to respond with their feedback.  Some expressed anger and disappointment but many expressed their anxiety over the real possibility of layoffs as a result of the lost account. Though it was hard, John listened attentively to everyone’s comments, only interjecting to say that he agreed with what they were conveying.

If you have apologized and shown remorse for your conduct, it is beneficial at this point to just listen to the input of others without offering any feedback of your own. By paying attention and accepting their contribution no matter what they might be, you are proving that your regret is truly heartfelt. Your office will see that and be more willing to forgive you. You’ll be perceived in a more favorable light.

Accept Responsibility for a Peaceful Workplace: Accepting responsibility for the situation is the third element in mending a workplace wrong you have committed. Be upfront and readily accept that the situation is, indeed, your fault. Any attempts to deflect fault will leave you appearing less than genuine. Readily accepting responsibility for both your successes and failures in the office shows that you are a mature individual and an asset to the company.

In his efforts to restore office morale, John finished with, “After listening to your comments and agreeing with everything that has been said, I’m willing to accept whatever reprimand is deemed appropriate. If necessary I am willing to offer my resignation to save another staff member their job. Once again, please accept my sincere apology; I promise that this behavior will not happen in the future.”

When implemented, these three important A’s – Apologize, Agree and Accept Responsibility – will establish more positive and productive relationships in the office. Everyone makes mistakes, and problems will arise in the workplace at one time or another. The ability to handle these situations effectively is the sign of a superior manager, employee or coworker.

Esther Francis Joseph is a personal coach and author of, “Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope,” her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life.

Lead Unconventionally and Beat the Competition

By Eric J. RomeroEric J Romero

Leaders inspire people to do amazing things; the type of things that their followers would not do on their own. With leadership, a vision and competitive advantage becomes reality. The more change an organization is facing, the greater the need for leaders. The more flexible a firm must be to survive in its environment, the greater the need for leaders. Given that today’s environment is characterized by frequent change, leadership is more important than ever before.

Unconventional leaders go a step further. They lead their companies to repeatedly create things that people love, but no one expected, especially their competition. Unconventional leaders are fanatical about the products and services they provide rather than profit, yet they tend to lead the most profitable firms in their industries. They create organizations built on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking which redefine their industries and sometimes the way people live. Through their companies, they often lead other firms in terms of technology, customer service, etc. Unconventional leaders beat the competition on a regular basis.

Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are prime examples of unconventional leaders. They do not look like typical business leaders and their leadership style is anything but conventional. In fact, their backgrounds are both contrary to what most people would expect of such successful corporate leaders. They both dropped out of college and have no formal management training. Despite this, or maybe because of this, they have unconventional leadership styles that have led to the creation of unconventional firms. In fact, the people with the most education and experience are often the most conventional thinkers.

Unconventional Thinkers: Unconventional leaders are unconventional thinkers, but what does that mean exactly? Unconventional thinkers stand out compared to most people. Their ideas are an amalgamation of ideas from a wide range of areas. They often use bits and pieces of very simple concepts in unique combinations to create new solutions to new or old problems. Their unique thinking is often reflected in their eclectic mix of interests and people with whom they form relationships. They like information and ideas, and often focus on things that most people overlook. Unconventional people like to think about things and understand them fully. To illustrate further, below is a comparison of conventional and unconventional thinkers.

Conventional Thinkers

  • Like safety, avoid risk

  • Say things like, “this is just the way we do things” and “everyone does it this way”

  • Accept things as they are presently

  • Will avoid expressing their ideas unless agreement is likely

  • Follow trends, there is safety in numbers

  • Are less willing to think, rather continue doing things the same way

  • Agreement is very important, as is consistency

  • Have a negative perception of differences; these are weird, strange, odd, etc.

  • Do not question why things are the way they are, do not think of a better way

  • Value established knowledge

Unconventional Thinkers

  • In the quest for improvements or even perfection

  • Think and act differently from most people

  • Re-evaluate everything, including their beliefs & assumptions, and change them if necessary

  • Integrate disparate ideas and knowledge into new ideas and solutions

  • Are not restricted by other people, do not care what they think or do

  • Like change, see it as an opportunity for improvement

  • Willing to try new things & learn from them whether or not they work out

  • Believe that constructive conflict is good, leads to more ideas and a better understanding of issues

  • Openly express what is on their mind

  • Value thinking and creating new knowledge

Although it might not be an easy change, conventional thinkers can become more unconventional in their thinking. Everyone is born an unconventional thinker. Just observe very young children and you can see the amazing creativity and free thinking they have. Unfortunately, as kids get older, they are taught to think like everyone else in their family, at school, etc. They learn to become conventional thinkers. However, if this can be learned, it can be unlearned. You might not become as unconventional and innovative as Steve Jobs, but you can become far more unconventional in your thinking.  Therefore you can become a more unconventional leader and below are some ideas that you can use to start on that path.

Become a More Unconventional Thinker

  • Force yourself to try new things: music, food, activities, travel, etc.

  • Question everything you do and believe, stop doing things to fit in or just because everyone else does it

  • Get used to people not agreeing with you. Always tell people what you think, even if they might not like it

  • Debate with people who disagree with you in order to understand their point of view. Accept their ideas even if they are different

  • Talk to people who are totally different from you and learn from them: younger, older, retired, foreigners, different professions, etc.

  • Try new ideas even if you are not 100% sure they will work

  • When new ideas don’t work out, view this as part of the learning required to try new things, the cost of creativity, not as a failure or mistake

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously, use humor to make fun of yourself when things don’t work out

Doing the above activities is easier if they are done with other people, so look for groups that can you can join or create to help you become more unconventional. While changing is not easy, becoming an unconventional leader has the potential to help you create significant competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking.

Eric J. Romero, PhD is a speaker, consultant, and coach. He helps managers become unconventional leaders who beat the competition. Eric teaches them how to create competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking. Eric has written over 20 articles and presented his ideas around the world for over 14 years. Originally from Brooklyn, his presentations are delivered with a sense of humor, 100% unedited honesty and street smarts.