Leading Blog


The Power of Bad

The Power of Bad

BAD gets into our head and it stays there leaving very little room for the good in our lives. We tend to focus on the bad, even in the face of a lot of positive things. Our brains are wired that way. It’s the negativity effect: the universal tendency for negative emotions and events to affect us more strongly than positive ones.

John Tierney and Roy Baumeister (the first researcher to identify the negativity effect) describe the phenomenon well in The Power of Bad:

We’re devastated by a word of criticism but unmoved by a shower of praise. We see the hostile face in the crowd and miss all the friendly smiles. The negativity effect sounds depressing—and it often is—but it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Bad is stronger, but good can prevail if we know what we’re up against.

Because of this, we have learned that it takes about four good things to overcome just one bad experience. It’s a rule of thumb, but it is useful to keep in mind when dealing with others and to understand our impact on those around us. “Being able to hold your tongue rather than say something nasty or spiteful will do much more for your relationship than a good word or deed.” Good relationships are more about what you don’t do. “Avoiding bad is far more important than doing good.” You don’t get much credit for going the extra mile, but you pay a big penalty for doing something bad.

So how do we eliminate or a least minimize the bad? The negative?

Not surprisingly, the more insecure you are, the more likely you are to act and think negatively. And our negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy dragging us deeper into the cynicism and doubt that undermines us. Negative thinking makes us small.

Positive people “literally see a bigger picture. Their eyes sweep a wider field of vision instead of just focusing on what’s straight ahead, as they do when prompted with negative stimuli. Positive emotions broaden your perspective and enable you to build skills that help you flourish both personally and professionally.”

We look for bad things. “Even when things are going your way, the amygdala keeps looking for the cloud behind the silver lining.” We create fears. They can become runaway trains that cripple us. When we do discover a fear, we need to put it in perspective. How important is it really? Rationally override the feeling by talking about it. How would you advise someone else in the same situation? Know what triggers your fear and calm yourself with coping statements. And breath. “A deep breath is a signal to the body that we’re safe.”

Depressed people suffer from extreme negativity bias in the way they see themselves, the world, and the future. Depressed people focus relentlessly on their weaknesses and failures, ignoring their strengths and diminishing their successes as flukes. They interpret one setback as a fatal mistake and imagine it, leading to the worst possible outcome.

Researcher Bethany Teachman says, “People with phobias want to avoid panic attacks, but that’s not the right goal to start with. The first goal is to stop caring whether or not you have a panic attack. A panic attack is uncomfortable but not dangerous. It’s a false alarm—a fear of fear. Once you make the decision to tolerate it, you get a sense of mastery, and eventually, the fear loses its power over you, and the panic attacks don’t come anymore.”

What should we do when delivering bad news? Many think that the best thing to do is to deliver it gradually or after some good news, but research says most people would rather have the bad news first and straight. The criticism sandwich doesn’t really do what we hope it would because the “brain doesn’t logically process threatening information.”

For praise or other good news to make a lasting impact, the brain must transfer it from the short-term working memory into long-term memory. This process gets disrupted when good news is followed by something negative. The brain uses so much energy to focus on the new threat that the previous pleasantness gets lost because of an effect called retroactive interference.

If you have to deliver bad news or criticism, the authors recommend that first, consider your objective. Are you simply delivering bad news, or are you trying to get someone to change?

When people heard first about their bad traits and then their good ones, they ended the experiments in a better mood, but they were also less inclined to do work to correct their bad qualities. The ones who heard the bad traits last were more worried but also eager for self-improvement. It’s not easy to motivate without demoralizing, but you can compromise by concentrating on the good feedback toward the end while also finishing up with a clear reminder of what's wrong and how to fix it.

From there, the authors advise us, among other things, to ask questions, and then once we’ve gotten the criticism across, use the power of bad to your advantage. (Good insights on delivering criticism begin on page 99.)

Hell motivates us more than heaven. Penalties for mistakes make us learn much more quickly than rewards. The fear of looking fat motivates us more to lose weight than the hope of looking slim. The advantage of penalties is that they are “so powerful that you often don’t have to use them. Rewards have to be doled out continually, but the mere threat of a penalty can make a lasting impact.”

When bad things do happen to us, our response becomes the key issue. While many people experience a traumatic event in their lives, most—four out of five—trauma victims did not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) afterward. “Instead of being permanently scarred, they underwent post-traumatic growth (PTG). Studies have found that more than 60 percent (sometimes 90 percent) of trauma victims undergo post-traumatic growth, including ones who initially showed symptoms of PTSD.

Our response to life is everything. “The growth comes not from the trauma but from the way that people respond to it to become kinder, stronger, and more mindful of the joys in life.” When things do go wrong—and they will—force yourself to see it from another perspective. “People of all ages can counter the power of bad by consciously rewriting their narratives, focusing on their blessings, and savoring the good moments of their lives.”

In 1841 Scottish journalist Charles Mackay published Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. In it, he writes, “Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” It’s up to each of us to see that good prevails.

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Unconditional Gratitude Stuck Flip the Script

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The Impact of Great and Terrible Leaders

Impact of Great and Terrible Leaders

MOST PEOPLE have been around a bad leader at some point. Someone who doesn’t communicate, sets impossible expectations, or is just difficult to be around. You’ve likely experienced the draining, exhausting feelings from having to work with or for that person. Hopefully, most people have also experienced a great leader. These are the people who inspire and motivate and encourage people to do their best work towards a common goal.

If you’ve experienced a bad leader and a great leader, you know the difference between the two can be night and day. But how do we turn those feelings into real action to develop great, future-ready leaders?

What Makes a Great Leader?

As part of my new book, The Future Leader, I interviewed more than 140 CEOs around the world and asked them each to define leadership. Their definitions were all over the board and included things like leaders being able to drive business success and reach goals to human skills like connecting with people and being humble. One of the main themes was that people believe a successful leader is someone who makes money and grows a business. The financial results definitely contribute to being a successful leader, but there is so much more that goes into becoming a truly great leader.

Consider these two definitions from CEOs I interviewed.

Judy Marks is the CEO of Otis Elevator and leads a team of over 70,000 employees around the world. According to Judy, “I think it’s really the ability to drive results, and I’ll leave that word results fairly generic. My role in terms of leadership is to set the vision and to share it. To create an environment where people can resonate not only with the mission but deliver it. To eliminate obstacles so my team can succeed.”

Hans Vestberg is the CEO of Verizon Communications, an American multinational telecommunications conglomerate with over 152,000 employees around the world. Hans believes leadership is: “Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the missions of an organization. That’s it. All else is footnotes.”

Which one most resonates with you and why?

First and foremost, great leaders care about their people. They are willing to go the extra mile to serve and get the job done. A great leader knows that a company isn’t really successful if its numbers improve but its people aren’t happy. Leaders help shape the world and have a profound impact on their employees’ lives. If you’ve had the chance to work for a great leader, you know those lasting feelings: a great leader inspires you to be better, mentors you along the way, and gives you the tools to succeed. Great leaders help the people around them improve, even to the point that their employees are better equipped than the leader themselves. When individuals are motivated and engaged, they naturally want to work harder and better, which brings financial success.

Impact of Great Leaders

Great leaders create engaged employees who want to come to work and give their best effort. A study by Zenger Folkman found that good leaders can double company profits, simply with their ability to motivate and engage employees. Organizations with the highest-quality leaders are 13 times more likely to outperform their competitors. Another study found that how managers lead accounts for a 28% variance in employee job satisfaction. Any company would love to have an increase in employee satisfaction, and it’s as simple as putting great leaders into management positions.

Great leaders also breed other great leaders. If you work for someone you admire and who displays great leadership skills, you’re more likely to also develop those skills and abilities. A great leader is like a pebble dropped in a pond who creates ripples of other good leaders all around them for years to come.

What Makes a Bad Leader?

On the flip side, a bad leader doesn’t care about people or creating an environment where employees want to improve and do their best work. Bad leaders often make their employees feel like cogs in the machine who are just there to clock in, do their job, and then clock out. Bad leaders often only care about the numbers or advancing their own career instead of creating a team mentality and moving the company towards success.

Impact of Bad Leaders

Employees who work for bad leaders often feel like their jobs are unenjoyable and meaningless. Studies have shown that working for a toxic leader leads to lower job satisfaction, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that lack of satisfaction carries over into other areas of employees’ lives. A study from the University of Manchester found that employees working for bad leaders or managers were more likely to experience clinical depression and over time became overly critical of their co-workers, took credit for each other’s work, and showed aggressive behavior to other people in the company. Clearly, the attitude of a bad leader isn’t contained in a single person. A leader sets the tone for the organization, which means their bad example and energy can spread through the entire organization and poison even good employees.

Bad leaders cause employees to become disengaged in their work and are one of the biggest reasons for employees leaving their jobs. In many cases, employees don’t quit companies—they quit managers and bosses who are difficult to work for. A Gallup survey of more than 1 million employees found a staggering 75% of people who had quit their jobs had done so because of their boss and not the actual position.

Developing Great Leaders

There’s a stark contrast between good leaders and bad leaders. It’s often easy to point out bad leaders in past organizations or looking in from the outside, but it’s more difficult to make a change when you’re in the midst of working for a bad leader. Companies shouldn’t be afraid to overhaul their internal teams and processes to get rid of bad leaders.

It’s impossible to only hire superstar leaders; organizations also need to learn how to develop people internally to create great leaders. Good leaders have a strong impact on the culture and overall success of the company. Investing in future leaders can have a large return as they motivate employees and help grow the company.

Leaders have the potential to make a huge impact in their organizations. Great leaders can inspire employees, attract talent, and increase revenue, while bad leaders can create a toxic environment and drive away employees and customers. Organizations need to prepare for the future by identifying and removing bad leaders and then replacing them with strong leaders and an internal leadership development program.

What kind of a leader are you and what kinds of leaders does your organization want to create?

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Leading Forum
Jacob Morgan is one of the world's leading authorities on leadership, employee experience, and the future of work. He is a 4x best-selling author, speaker, and professionally trained futurist. He is also the founder of The Future of Work University, an online education and training platform that helps future proof individuals and organizations by teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the future of work. His new book, The Future Leader, which is based on interviews with over 140 CEOs around the world is coming out January 2020.

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Good Followers Make the Best Leaders You Might Be a Bad Leader If

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Helping People Change

Helping People Change

MOST OF US want to help people. And typically, we go about it by trying to correct a problem. We focus on what we think they should be doing. Makes sense. To us. But it frequently does not create sustainable change in the other person.

Richard Boyatzis, Melvin L. Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten suggest a different approach in Helping People Change. Instead of coaching people for compliance, we should be coaching with compassion.

The conventional view of coaching is that it is an activity where, “based on your experience, expertise, or authority, you advise individuals on what they should do and how they should do it. While there may be time and place for it, this type of coaching for compliance is unlikely to lead to sustained behavioral change.” When people change out of obligation, they often lack the inner motivation they need to sustain that change. For people to changes in ways that stick, that change has to connect with their passion and core values. To do that, you need to coach with compassion.

Coaching with compassion is how we help a person frame the situation or opportunity in the context of who she wants to be as a person and what she would like to achieve in her ideal future. Such broad framing helps the person draw on the inner resources most likely to enable her to learn, change, or grow in the meaningful and sustained ways as she works through that situation, whatever it may be.

The PEA Versus the NEA

Coaching for compliance leads to a defensive response in the person being coached. They shut down and rather than learning or changing, they enter survival mode or what they term the zone of the negative emotional attractor (NEA). This is in contrast to coaching with compassion which elicits positive emotions as it focuses on a vision of a desired future state and strengths rather than weaknesses. This zone is called the positive emotional attractor (PEA). In this state, the person is relaxed and open, and new neural pathways form in the brain “paving the way for new learning, and sustained behavioral change to occur.”

For sustained learning to occur, it is important that coaches manage the emotional flow of the coaching process. This means being able to both read and influence the emotions the person is experiencing. Getting people into a PEA state begins by asking the right questions. Questions that “discover their views of the word, their situation, and how they feel.” “Our mistake is in thinking—often assuming—that we can see what the other person should do to lead to a better life, be more productive, or learn more.” When we focus on the wrong things as a coach, we essentially block change. (Chapter 4 is the game-changer in this regard.)

Three Cornerstones of Coaching

Building a good relationship with the person you are coaching requires the right mindset. “First, believe that individual change is a process, not an event.” Change doesn’t happen overnight. We need to make room for mistakes, feedback, and more practice.

Second, consider your approach to coaching as a chance to mine for gold, not dig for dirt.” We need to connect with people’s strengths and their desired outcomes. At one time, Andrew Carnegie had 43 millionaires working for him. Carnegie was asked, "How did you develop these men to become so valuable to you that you have paid them this much money?" Carnegie replied that people are developed the same way gold is mined. When gold is mined, several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold, but one doesn't go into the mine looking for dirt—one goes in looking for the gold.

Third, consider that the agenda for the conversation should come from the person being coached.” While the coach manages the process, “the fundamental reason for the process is to help the other person—not the coach to share his advice or experience.” It means listening more. This quote from gestalt psychotherapist Robert Lee is worth repeating every time we begin to work with others: “Our assumptions and stereotypes create filters for how we hear people. We don’t hear others from the place of who they are. We hear them through the filter of who we think they are.”

When we coach for problem identification and problem-solving—as seems to make the most sense—we risk having the process becoming bogged down in negative emotions. “A problem-focused approach may seem efficient, but it ignores the fact that thinking about and arousing feelings about problems activates the NEA, which in turn can close a person’s imagination to new ideas and possibilities. Recognizing that a problem exists is quite different from spending a lot of time thinking and talking about it.”

This book is invaluable not only for coaches but for leaders of all kinds—managers, parents, health care professionals pastors, and anyone who works with to guide others through life changes. The primary theme stressed throughout this book “is using personal vision to evoke positive emotions—essentially, to begin with the end in mind, thereby setting up the connections in the brain and emotions that will help us pave the road to the desired end.”

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Leader as Coach 7 Coaching Skills

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The Future of AI: What Jack Ma and Elon Musk Are Missing

The Future of AI

THERE IS LITTLE DOUBT that we underestimate the power of Artificial Intelligence.

AI is quickly becoming a force in nearly every facet of human life. Serial Entrepreneur and Billionaire Elon Musk warns that AI will become much smarter than the smartest human.

In a forum at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in China, on August 29, 2019, Elon Musk and Jack Ma exchanged differing views of the nature of AI.

“There’s just a smaller and smaller corner of intellectual pursuits that humans are better than computers, and every year it gets smaller. Soon we will be far surpassed in every single way,” says Musk.

Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma takes a different view. “When people talk about AI and say human beings will be controlled by machines—I never think that. It’s impossible. My view is that a computer may be clever. A human being is much smarter. Clever is very academic is knowledge-driven. Smarter is experience-driven.”

Musk quickly disagreed. “Definitely not,” said Musk. “Computers are much smarter than humans on so many dimensions. The first thing you should assume is that we are very dumb and that we can definitely make things smarter than ourselves.”

To which Ma responds, “Computer is only one of the collaborative tools that humans created. And computers are clever, but there will be more tools that human beings will create much cleverer than computers. “We invented the computer —I've never seen the computer invent a human being.

Ma is right: the creation is never greater than the creator. But even “clever” is not an attribute of a machine. Machines are not smart. They can access implanted memory faster and process data faster, but they are not smarter. Though they can be programmed to be and “learn” to be more lifelike, it is still artificial.

Nevertheless, Musk’s concerns are warranted. Technology does outpace our ability to understand it and comprehend its consequences. Technology extends our reach, and most always, the intention is to make the world a better place. However, in every case, it is not the technology that is the issue, it is the people using it. What is always addressed too late is the character required to use it properly.

Even with the basic AI we have today, we are seeing unprecedented changes that are beyond rendering certain skills and talents obsolete — they are reshaping what it means to be human. “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, the games will be indistinguishable from reality, you will not be able to tell the difference,” says Musk.

And that is happening.

At the Consumer Electronics Show this year, Samsung introduced the NEON project. Neons are like independent but virtual living beings that form memories and learn new skills, not AI assistants. Neons computationally create a “lifelike reality that is beyond normal perception to distinguish”—an artificial human.

As AI increasingly impacts our lives, wisdom has become a fundamental leadership responsibility. It requires leaders to focus on character as a primary differentiator between man and machine.

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Will AI Take Your Job Emerging Technology

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First Look: Leadership Books for January 2020

Here's a look at some of the best leadership books to be released in January 2020. Don't miss out on other great new and future releases.

9781633698529Teaching by Heart: One Professor's Journey to Inspire by Thomas J. DeLong

Teaching by Heart summarizes the author's key insights gained from more than forty years of teaching and managing. It illustrates how teachers can both lift people up and let them down. It proposes that the best teachers are also leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers. In examining how to lead and teach, renowned Harvard Business School professor Thomas J. DeLong takes the reader inside his own head and heart. He notes that, as teachers, we often focus more on our inadequacies and missteps than on our strengths and unique talents. He explains why this is so by dissecting and analyzing his own experiences--using himself as a case study. The book's goal is to help readers learn about the intricacies of teaching and managing, and to impart lessons about how teachers can create a unique teaching atmosphere. To do this, the author analyzes the process of creating a curriculum, preparing for an eighty-minute class, managing the fifteen minutes before class begins, and evaluating the nature of the teaching experience after the session concludes.

9781984825926All You Have to Do Is Ask: How to Master the Most Important Skill for Success by Wayne Baker

A set of tools for mastering the one skill standing between us and success: the ability to ask for the things we need to succeed. Studies show that asking for help makes us better and less frustrated at our jobs. It helps us find new opportunities and new talent. It unlocks new ideas and solutions, and enhances team performance. And it helps us get the things we need outside the workplace as well. And yet, we rarely give ourselves permission to ask. Luckily, the research shows that asking—and getting—what we need is much easier than we tend to think.

9781541742710Think Outside the Building: How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World One Smart Innovation at a Time by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

One of the leading business thinkers in the world offers a bold, new theory of advanced leadership for tackling the world's complex, messy, and recalcitrant social and environmental problems. When traditional approaches are inadequate or resisted, advanced leadership skills are essential. In this book, Kanter shows how people everywhere can unleash their creativity and entrepreneurial adroitness to mobilize partners across challenging cultural, social, and political situations and innovate for a brighter future.

9780718098537The Leader's Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John C. Maxwell

What is the greatest return on a leader’s time? After leaders have invested in their own leadership growth, what is the best way to accomplish their vision and grow their organizations? Develop leaders! The more leaders an organization has and the better equipped they are to lead, the more successful the organization and all of its leaders. In The Leader’s Greatest Return, Maxwell shares the most important lessons he’s learned about the leadership development process over the last quarter century.

9780525540816Edge: Turning Adversity into Advantage by Laura Huang

Laura Huang, a preeminent Harvard Business School professor, shows that success is about gaining an edge: that elusive quality that gives you an upper hand and attracts attention and support. Some people seem to naturally have it. Now, Huang teaches the rest of us how to create our own from the challenges and biases we think hold us back, and turning them to work in our favor. In Edge, Huang offers a different approach. She argues that success is rarely just about the quality of our ideas, credentials, and skills, or our effort. Instead, achieving success hinges on how well we shape others' perceptions--of our strengths, certainly, but also our flaws. It's about creating our own edge by confronting the factors that seem like shortcomings and turning them into assets that make others take notice.

9781119518372The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade by Jacob Morgan

Are you a future-ready leader? Based on exclusive interviews with over 140 of the world's top CEOs and a survey of nearly 14,000 people. Do you have the right mindsets and skills to be able to lead effectively in the next ten years and beyond? Most individuals and organizations don’t even know what leadership will look like in the future. Until now. The majority of the world's top business leaders that Jacob interviewed believe that while some core aspects of leadership will remain the same, such as creating a vision and executing on strategy, leaders of the future will need a new arsenal of skills and mindsets to succeed.

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

discounted books

Build your leadership library with these specials on over 39 titles. All titles are at least 40% off the list price and are available only in limited quantities.

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
— Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss)

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Whats New in Leadership Books Best Books of 2019

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LeadershipNow 140: December 2019 Compilation


twitter Here are a selection of tweets from December 2019 that you don't want to miss:

See more on twitter Twitter.

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What is Leadership You Might Be a Bad Leader If

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How Good Leadership Can Impact Employees’ Innovative Behavior

Impact Employees Innovative Behavior

There’s increasing pressure on organizations to be more competitive, and leaders need to have the right skills to influence employees’ innovative behavior.

GOOD LEADERSHIP is an important element in the success of any organization. Having effective leaders can help a company achieve its goals and maximize efficiency. In most cases, leaders have a profound influence on their employees. Besides helping them better handle workplace-related challenges, leaders evoke innovation and creativity and inspire them to reach their full potential.

There’s been a lot of debate on whether leadership skills can be acquired in life or the person must be born with them. The answer is both. There are some people who seem to be born with great leadership skills, as well as those who developed them later in life. To encourage employees to become more innovative, leaders need to pay attention to a number of issues.

Employee Motivation Leads to Better Decision-Making

What can be increasingly hard for modern businesses is keeping employees motivated. A common trend among younger workers is switching jobs, and this is becoming a serious issue in the modern workplace. The generation that’s been criticized the most for being unattached to their organizations and their willingness to move from one job to another, are millennials. According to the analytics and advisory company Gallup, 21% of millennials have changed jobs within the past year. The main reason why the millennial workforce is so keen to switch jobs lies in their low engagement. Gallup reveals that 55% of millennials are not engaged at work. They don’t want to settle for less, and if they don’t get what they need and expect from their workplace, millennials will be more than happy to leave for a better opportunity. This creates a challenge for leaders who need to be very innovative to motivate this young workforce to stay.

To motivate their employees, leaders first need to understand what drives them. During the hiring process, leaders can ask deeper questions to get a better sense of the strategies and techniques they could use to improve employees’ motivation and performance. Another effective way to make workers motivated is to give them the freedom of choice. This topic has sparked the interest of a professor of psychology, Edward Deci, who spent 20 years researching the field, and who discovered that “meaningful choice engenders willingness”. This will not only result in better decisions, but also increase the level of employee innovation. A study that analyzed innovative work behavior among service providers in Oman supports this claim. Based on responses from 320 employees, the study shows that employee motivation is a powerful tool to “mediate the relationship among leadership and employees innovative work behavior.”

The Importance of Recognition

Employee recognition also plays an important role in engagement. When employees get praised for their work and performance, they’re more likely to continue repeating that same behavior. Despite this, many managers and leaders make the same mistake. According to a survey conducted by the employee engagement platform Achievers, 43% of respondents say their managers are OK in giving recognition, while one in five admit their managers are horrible in giving proper recognition. Half of the respondents believe being recognized for their hard work has helped them improve their relationship with their bosses.

Though companies usually offer perks and benefits to keep their employees happy, giving someone recognition for their hard work isn’t just about physical rewards. In fact, recognition is more about acknowledging employees for their contributions to the business.

Creating a Culture of Transparency

Besides employee recognition, what’s fundamental to business success is ensuring trust and transparency within the organization. Leaders who are more open and honest with their teams will empower employees to openly speak about issues that are affecting their performance. If there’s no trust within the organization, teams won’t feel engaged, and they’ll be less likely to take risks to solve specific problems. However, in a transparent and healthy environment that empowers employees to experiment, they’re more likely to succeed. Transparency will encourage collaboration among team members and make their work less stressful, because in a transparent work environment, they aren’t afraid to express their opinions. Meanwhile, if they’re constantly live in fear of being penalized for an error, they’ll be less proactive and won’t be able to think creatively.

Final Thoughts

The nature of work is changing, and organizations today are more agile and less hierarchical in structure than in the past. The role of leaders is about to change as well. Since there’s increasing pressure on organizations to be more innovative, leaders will need to find ways to influence employee innovation and improve their performance. Without the right leadership skills, this isn’t possible.

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Leading Forum
Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business. His inspiration sessions have been attended by over 420,000 people. Richard is a regular guest at radio and television programs. With his international research team, he investigates tech trends like robotics, drone technology, autonomous transport systems, Internet of Things, virtual reality, biotech, nanotech, neurotech, blockchain, 3D and 4D printing and of course augmented and virtual reality and their impact on various industries. Findings are published weekly in the form of compelling articles, e-books and white papers.

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Ostergaard Innovation Improvisational Comedy

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Team Leader as Team Coach

Sandahl Team Coach

TEAMS HAVE PERSONALITIES. You know this from your own experience. Teams go through mood changes. No doubt you’ve felt it after a great team success or alternatively, the gloom and doom when things do not go as planned.

It’s a team experience. It’s in the air. It’s mostly invisible, but it affects team performance. There’s an opportunity for leadership in that experience that is generally overlooked. Taking advantage of it as part of team development is an example of the skill set of team leader as team coach.

Team leader as coach is not new. It’s a generally accepted leadership competency, working with individual team members, one-on-one. To that now familiar leadership style it’s time to add team leader as team coach: the ability to work with the team as a whole.

The goals are similar: support, development, empowerment and ultimately improved team results. The difference is the environment and what that means in terms of skills needed to be effective.

The Essential Mind Shift

Where individual coaching is almost always a private, confidential dialogue between two people, team coaching happens publicly and in the moment with the whole team present. The conversation has multiple voices and the conversation between team members is just as important, often more important than the conversation between team members and team leader.

In the midst of the team working on an issue that is timely and important at the content level, how the team interacts, how the team communicates and how that supports or undermines team performance, is showing up too. You are witnessing the team as a system, playing out team dynamics.

It’s a challenge to shift your attention to this wider lens because of course, you’re an active part of the system too. But what it will give you is awareness of the underlying patterns that impact team behavior, and ultimately team results.

Real World. Real Time.

With a team coaching mindset, team meetings have two purposes: an action purpose and a learning purpose. The action is obvious: attend to the business. The learning purpose is about becoming more aware of the team dynamics.

For example, take notice of how the team holds accountability. On your team, is it loose? Rigorous? Situational? Is it a mixed bag and different for different team members? How would you rate accountability on your team based on watching the team in action? Are you satisfied with that score?

These are all good questions for your own consideration. They are also good questions to start an important team conversation. Facilitating that conversation is at the heart of team leader as team coach. Just as there are times when you need to be the commander as a leadership style, there are times to be a team coach, engaging the team and building a whole team culture.

Intervening can happen during any team discussion when you notice a pattern, a mood change or a disruption in the flow. Obviously, it’s important that you focus on the issue at hand. Decisions need to be made; issues resolved. At the same time there is an opportunity to step back and watch the movie of how the team interacts. Is there permission, even encouragement for bold, out of the box ideas? Or is the team tentative? Based on what you’re seeing, how would you rate trust on this team?

Skills for an Effective Team Coach

The number one skill is curiosity. Set aside analysis and evaluation for a moment and just be immensely curious. In our training of team coaches we suggest that they imagine they are team anthropologists studying team behavior with a perspective of, “isn’t that interesting.”

A second skill, related to being curious is to ask simple, open-ended questions. The best open-ended questions start with “what”, and the most powerful of all is, “what else?” By the way, “Say more” also works.

Notice how important tone is when asking a question, especially when it comes from the team leader. Imagine the different ways this question could be delivered: “What made you think this was a viable option?” There is a curious version of that question and an accusatory one too, delivered with a bite.

Remembering that here you are coaching the team as a whole rather than individuals, deliver the question openly, to the team. Avoid polling individual team members.

A third skill is the practice of being a mirror to the team. This is a skill that includes clarifying, summarizing and active listening. It starts with your observation, “Here’s what I’m noticing…” and invites response from the team. “What do you see?” Or “Does anyone else see that?”

Look and Listen Below the Surface

That’s where the invisible forces of the team dynamics are at play. You are already well-practiced guiding and following the content level of a team conversation above the surface and get plenty of practice. That’s where the action happens.

The learning for you and for the team happens by becoming more aware of what’s happening below the surface. The leadership competency of team coach creates a way to uncover the team dynamics that hold the team back from operating at its best.

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Leading Forum
Phillip Sandahl, the internationally renowned bestselling author of Co-Active Coaching and the CEO of Team Coaching International (TCI) and Founding Partner / COO of TCI, Alexis Phillips are authors of the new book, Teams Unleashed: How to Release the Power and Human Potential of Work Teams.

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