Being Aware of Our Emotions At Work Is Important Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 3-Part series that discusses the need and impact of our emotions at work. Links to Part 2 and Part 3 are at the end of this post. Please enjoy.

Have you ever been told to leave your emotions at the door because you are at work? I have. Early in my professional career this was a common workplace mindset. If you are a Baby Boomer you know this, if you are a Gen Xer you likely have heard this, if you are a Millennial or a Gen Zer you might think “this is just one more thing we have to fix”.

Today we know it is both impossible and counterproductive to try to ignore our emotions at work. Emotions in the workplace can’t be turned on and off; they are with us all the time. And because they are with us, being aware of our emotions at work and the emotions of others is important. If this sounds like the territory of Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ) then you are right.

We all have to ‘deal’ with our emotional self and our rational self but our best way forward is not to try to burry our feelings and emotions but to understand them and learn to use them wisely. Our first teachers on this journey were likely our parents and other role models. And the learning must continue at work. To have happy and successful employees as well as a productive, creative and successful business, leaders must help employees be aware of their emotions (and use them productively). Sometimes this will be by offering training, sometimes by coaching employees and sometimes in one-on-one discussions.

Before we get too deep into this discussion about emotions, lets first look at what emotions are and how they differ from feelings (yes, they are different). For this I lean on Les Greenberg, an internationally recognized psychologist, author and speaker who specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) .1 “The words emotions and feelings are often used interchangeably as there is no hard and fast rule defining each,” says Les. “A reasonable way of viewing them is to think of the major classes of emotions like anger sadness, fear and shame as the main branches of a tree while feelings, like disappointed, trusting, irritable, and amused are the more differentiated small branches, twigs and leaves emanating from the major branches. So, emotions refer to the major categories while feelings the more socially and cognitively influenced emotions.”

I have to confess, it was an ‘A-ha’ moment to think about emotions and feelings being different from each other. It also makes perfect sense to think that we all share a foundation of similar emotions we are born with but our feelings are individual and are shaped by our experiences. 

Workplace Policies and Procedures Versus Emotions

Workplace policies and procedures are important. But in the past they have often been an overused to create structure, define behaviour expectations, set boundaries and streamline processes. Instead of promoting a workplace built on empowering employees and transparent leadership, policies and procedures have also been used to create an image of ‘fairness’ and equality among employees. Sadly, this removes the option to discuss an employee’s individual talents, needs and goals in a meaningful way… you know, those things that set us up as individuals and help inspire and motivate us.

The uniqueness andsuccess we strive for is more attainable when we explore what
is important to us and others in our close circles.

And yes, avoiding emotions at work by setting up ‘policies’ also creates an immediate perception of efficiency. Imagine it being like the Henry Ford approach to controlled, repetitive and predictable automobile construction. In an environment where we all look the same, sound the same, want the same and do the same, this may work. But, there are very few places where people look, sound and want same things anymore.

Because we live in a world where we don’t have experience discussing emotions and feelings – whether they are ours or other peoples – people often feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Emotions and feelings have also historically labelled as unreliable and a weakness. So, avoiding emotions at work has looked like a bonus (in the short term at least). Ironically, the real vulnerability and weakness is when we try to ignore our emotions because they still find their way to the surface. 

Too often we give all of our attention to words people say and very little attention to
how those people are feeling, why they need us to ‘hear’ them and how we are feeling as a result.

So here we are with many of us having spent so little time paying attention to our emotions. The result is we are out of practice or have never learned how to use them. We simply don’t know how to tap into our Emotional Intelligence (EI) or Emotional Quotient (EQ). We don’t understand what our emotions and feeling mean, how to respond to them or how to respond to the people who evoke or display them. So, when we are faced with constructive feedback or a difficult conversation, these situations often stimulate an uncontrolled and unproductive reaction. Instead of working through those emotions and feelings in a healthy way, they cause a fight or flight impulse that damages trust, confidence, future communication, supportive relationships and even our reputation. In a perfect world we would all be able to use our emotions and feelings in a thoughtful, intentional (mindful) way to share and celebrate our uniqueness, interact and respond to others and build trusting relationships.  

The Personal and Business Benefits of Emotions

Every person and every business want to be unique. In business, success often depends on it. Interestingly, the uniqueness and success we strive for is more attainable when we explore what is important to us and others in our close circles. Our emotions and feelings, the emotions and feelings of our employees and the emotions and feelings of our clients are the only true compass. They:

  • Inform us if we are respecting our personal values.
  • Let us know when our wants and needs are being met or not met.
  • Tell us if we are in alignment with our workplace, project or community goals. 

In addition, emotions encourage us to have feelings of trust, to be collaborative and to willingly commit to decisions the team make. Alternatively, if we don’t feel trust (don’t feel safe) our emotions tell us to protect ourselves.

We are amazingly fortunate that many of today’s workplaces are multicultural and multigenerational. We also have four different generations in our highly technological and global workspaces. And, as with many things, these great opportunities help us overcome great challenges. For example, the pace of change is only getting faster while society tells us all to be unique. Translation: Even people working at the same company and doing the same job will have very different wants, needs and communication styles / points of reference. Knowing this is important for every employee but especially important for people in a leadership position. Our multicultural and multigenerational workforce will also have different ideas on how to make their work and the overall business better… and this is something we all need to recognize, listen to and appreciate as a tremendously valuable opportunity.

The old idea of increasing productivity and market share by making ‘work’ controlled, predictable and repetitive is no longer valid. Instead, a controlled, predictable and repetitive workplace often means falling behind. 

When we are respectful (and dare I say mindful) of our emotions, they become a gateway to developing a deep understanding and trust within ourselves and the people in our communities (personal and professional).

Conclusion / Summary

We are all unique, we are all individuals and we all have different feelings, emotions, wants and needs. You know this is true since I am sure that in many ways you are both the same and very different than people in your immediate family. Therefore it only makes sense we have to treat people as unique people even if they are working at the same company and doing the same job. And, we need to see this as something that is great because it adds diversity and a fresh perspective to our success.

Our feelings and emotions are at the heart of our uniqueness. They are what make us feel safe and trusting or cautious and guarded. They are what inspire us to be creative or tell us to protect ourselves.

I hope this article has given you some insight on how you may want to explore your emotions and the emotions of others at work and a fresh perspective on Emotional Intelligence (EI) and Emotional Quotient (EQ).

1: Les Greenberg is a psychologistwho specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is all about gaining a greater awareness of our emotions, and other people’s emotions – and building strategies to help them respond in a positive way – and if they have maladaptive feelings, to work on transforming those emotions from their negative state to a positive state. Les is also the author of the book ‘Changing Emotions with Emotions’.

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 2: Going Deep

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 3: Going Deeper

An other article you might like.

Read How to Prepare for a Job Interview Level 1


About Bruce and Bruce Mayhew Consulting.

Bruce is Corporate Trainer, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting specializes in customized Email Etiquette Training, Leadership & New Leadership Development, Generational Differences, Time Management Training and other soft skills training solutions in Toronto and across Canada. Bruce is also an Executive Coach to a few select clients.

Bruce is an experienced motivational speaker in Toronto and has inspired audiences across Canada and within the USA and the UK. Bruce works hard to always make sure your training event, conference, retreat, or annual general meeting is a success.

Being Aware of Our Emotions At Work Is Important Part 2: Going Deep

In Part 1 of this 3-part series I introduced the difference between emotions and feelings. I also explored how workplace policies and procedures have been an overused tool to help create structure, define behaviour expectations, set boundaries and streamline processes. Unfortunately, instead of promoting a workplace built on empowering employees and transparent leadership, policies and procedures have removed many opportunities to discuss an employee’s individual talents, needs and goals in a meaningful way and that help inspire and motivate us.

Now let continue that exploration by discussing the relationship between emotions, feelings and trust.

What About Trust?

“Trust is a complex feeling that derives from lack of anxiety and the ensuing sense of safety and security and  is perhaps the most important interpersonal feeling,” says Les Greenberg, an internationally recognized psychologist, author and speaker who specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) .1 Lasting relationships require trust; they even depend on trust being present. To trust the people around us we first have to learn to trust ourselves and feel safe sharing who we are, our thoughts and our ideas. Eventually, trust leads to unlimited confidence, creativity and commitment for all… including the company.

Once we learn to know and trust ourselves, it then becomes important to trust the people around us and know we can share our emotions. This trust only comes when we know we will be respected (and we will respect others) even when we share different experiences or points of view.

The more time we spend with our emotions the better we are at knowing why we have certain feelings.

Trust is one feeling we all want to experience. To trust someone, we must feel safe. If we are having a conversation with people we trust, we are more likely going to feel positive emotional triggers like interest, respect, collaboration and support. Trust feels good. When we have a conversation with people we don’t trust it will likely experience emotions like apprehension, being scared, hostility, frustration and perhaps regret.

At a corporate level, to be competitive, creative and strive for greatness means we have to create workspaces where employees, suppliers and clients feel safe and trust they can be their unique selves and draw on each other. This requires building corporate cultures that help employees intentionally strive to create and embrace emotional maturity. This is critically important and why companies have to help employees learn how to recognize and respect their emotions… and the emotions of others.

Hopefully your culture is learning that everyone is happier and more productive when we:

  • Learn how to connect with our feelings and emotions
  • Develop trusting and respectful environments
  • Feel connected to ourselves, our co-workers, our work and our company
  • Agree with and actively demonstrate company values
  • Clearly manage expectations
  • Choose to have difficult conversations in an open, trusting and respectful way

The Benefit of Knowing Our Emotions and Feelings

The first important step in understanding and managing emotions is to be aware of them… to notice when they are happening instead of ignoring or supressing them. Whether we are aware of our emotions or not, they always influence how we act. When we are present (mindful) and aware of our emotions we are best able to move on to the second important step of interpreting and understanding the feelings we are experiencing; and be able to make good choices when we respond.

Whether we are aware of our emotions or not, they always influence how we act.

The benefit of paying attention to our feelings and understanding our emotions is that we have lots more information about what is important to us. And, when we listen to other peoples’ emotions instead of only their words, their emotions will give us insight into what is important to them. The type of emotion they are having and the intensity of that emotion are all clues / information we can use. For example, are they feeling disrespected, ignored and undervalued or are they feeling proud and relevant? When we pay attention to emotions we will begin to build a reputation as a good listener who is empathic and caring… and this is key to being trustworthy.

Of course this is an area we should also tread lightly. For example, as we explore what other people may be feeling / needing, facing these emotions may be new for them and they may not fully understand them or be ready to share them with others / you. This is important and we should tread lightly. Emotions are deeply personal and for many people… private even. We may also not accurately identify someone else’s emotion. And, even if we are right at identifying their emotions they may not be ready to feel them, deal with them or want to share them with us.

It’s Dangerous When We Aren’t Aware Of Our Emotions

Emotions like fear, anger, frustration, disappointment can shut us down when it’s actually most important for us to stay present. Like Greenberg says, “Our emotions are an important source of helpful information”.1 When we aren’t aware of our emotions or don’t know how to manage them it often means we react instinctively… and that’s bad. Don’t get me wrong, reacting on instinct is great when we are in mortal danger, but within our personal relationships or when we are in a business meeting, responding with thoughtful intention is what is most important.

Reacting is usually not good – responding is usually very good.

When we react, we usually stop listening or worse, we stop thinking about what we are saying. In the heat of the moment we are more likely to say or do something we will soon regret. This is a risk to our reputation. You and I have all been in a situation when we did something we regretted. And then after that moment is done, we usually say something like “I don’t know what came over me”, or “That really isn’t who I am”. The thing is, others are far more likely to remember that one time when we behaved badly and forget the many times when we’ve behaved well. Our personal and professional brand is always developed based on other peoples experiences with us.

Knowing Our Emotions Is Empowering And Helps Us Build Trust

Knowing our emotions is the only way to be able to use them productively. 

Our emotions can help us achieve great things at work or avoid challenging situations. We can trust how we are going to respond when we learn how to manage our positive and negative feelings and emotions. For example:

  • Emotions can drive us to excellence. Emotions like motivation, curiosity and pride keep us interested and drive us to be creative, to learn new skills and look at challenges as opportunities.
  • Emotions like gratitude and trust empower a relationship or a project in amazing ways. 
  • Emotions like fear and worry put us on our guard and often get us to slow down and be more careful.

As leaders we have to manage a myriad of difficult conversations.

When we know our emotions and feelings, we can safely exhibit curiosity and ask people to clarify a point they are making without unintentionally triggering them. And, if we recognize we are feeling defensive we can choose to talk about that emotion and therefore often diffuse the tension within us and within our other stakeholder without doing or saying something we would regret later.

As leaders, we have to manage a myriad of difficult conversations.

Conclusion / Summary

Knowing ourselves and how we can use our emotional intelligence and empathy to understand what others feeling / needing will help us. Every situation from working through different opinions and goals on a project to giving someone constructive feedback to sharing a bad performance review will be better when we know our emotions and are able to recognize and control our positive and negative triggers. But remember, even when our empathy is turned on, we can guess what others may be feeling but we can never be certain; tread lightly.

As I said above, lasting relationships require trust. We have to be trustworthy and we have to trust others. To trust the people around us we first have to learn to trust ourselves and feel safe sharing who we are, our thoughts and our ideas.

1: Les Greenberg is a psychologistwho specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is all about gaining a greater awareness of our emotions, and other people’s emotions – and building strategies to help them respond in a positive way – and if they have maladaptive feelings, to work on transforming those emotions from their negative state to a positive state. Les is also the author of the book ‘Changing Emotions with Emotions’.

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 1

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 3: Going Deeper

An other article you might like.

You Are Asked To Meet Unreasonable Timelines: What To Do


About Bruce and Bruce Mayhew Consulting.

Bruce is Corporate Trainer, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting specializes in customized Email Etiquette Training, Leadership & New Leadership Development, Generational Differences, Time Management Training and other soft skills training solutions in Toronto and across Canada. Bruce is also an Executive Coach to a few select clients.

Bruce is an experienced motivational speaker in Toronto and has inspired audiences across Canada and within the USA and the UK. Bruce works hard to always make sure your training event, conference, retreat, or annual general meeting is a success.

Being Aware of Our Emotions At Work Is Important Part 3: Going Deeper

This is the third part of a 3-part series that discusses the need and impact of our emotions at work. In Part 1 I began by introducing the difference between emotions and feelings. In Part 2 I continued the exploration by discussing the relationship between emotions, feelings and trust.

Now, lets discuss the impact of emotions on negative triggers and difficult conversations.

Emotions, Negative Triggers and Difficult Conversations

Triggers are strong emotional reactions. They can be good things that happen like when someone says, “I love you”as well as when not so good things happen like when someone is giving us hard-to-hear feedback.

My suggestion on what to do during a difficult conversation that is opposite than what many of us do. Instead of talking about what you observed, talk about how you feel and what emotions you are experiencing. For example, say something like “I feel like you don’t think my ideas don’t matter when you interrupt me or talk over me in meetings”, versus“You clearly don’t think my ideas matter which is obvious when you interrupt me and talk over me in meetings.”

How we feel is real and nobody can argue that. But if we talk about why someone behaved the way they did, our viewpoint will usually include a level of assumptions, bias and stories we tell ourselves based on our hurt feelings. For example, when we feel hurt, attacked or otherwise triggered by someone, we almost always add intentional negative motivation as their reason for what they did and why they did it. For example:

  • “He said that to make me look bad.”
  • “She did that to upset me.” 
  • “They never fix a paper jam because they don’t care how others are inconvenienced.”
  • “They ate the last one because they knew it is my favourite.”
  • “They interrupt me in meetings because they have never valued my opinion.”

The reality is, often when people do things that negatively trigger us, unless it is a rare occasion when they really are trying to hurt us, they have no idea of the impact they’ve made and/or how we are feeling. 

When we talk about how we are feelings it nearly always turns on other people’s empathy buttons and they will begin their own journey and want to understand us. In many cases, when they learn the impact they have, they will try to change their behaviour. Alternatively, if we talk about our assumptions (our guesses) of what they did and why, it’s understandable they may feel attacked. This of course negatively triggers them and puts them on the defensive and a downward spiral begins instead of being productive and working towards a harmonious solution. One approach drives cooperation and the other drives competition.

So next time, hold back on speculating why someone did something. Instead inform them how it made you feel (happy, disappointed, frustrated etc.) and then stop. Give them an opportunity to respond to your observations and your feelings – not assumptions and accusations.

We Train People To Behave In A Specific Way Toward Us

If people don’t trust us – or if they expect us to be mean, negative and self-serving, they will likely be negatively triggered no matter what we say or what actions we take. People react based on what we’ve trained them to expect from us. Our past behaviour matters. Our reputation (or brand) is just as important as the brand of some product or service.

If we have built a bad reputation people will not trust us and will likely not give us their best, most creative work. They will also likely not stand with us in an emergency. Why would they? But, if they do trust us and feel we respect them we will build a much more supportive relationship and level of loyalty.

In new relationships we often have to prove we are trustworthy – like how Alan Mullaly proved it when he joined Ford as CEO (2006 to 2014). It took a little while, but Alan’s senior leaders had to learn they could come to him with problems and that Alans approach was ‘let’s get everyone working to fix this’versus ‘let’s figure out who to blame’(I am paraphrasing).

When we build a reputation of fairness and trust, even when we deliver difficult news, a person’s response doesn’t need to automatically go to fear – it can be one ofsupport, caring, opportunity and even responsibility and choice. This is a powerful resource in self-awareness and trust in yourself and the people you are connected to.

Conclusion

It’s important for us to know what types of positive and negative events trigger us. Why? Because knowing our own triggers allows us to respond with intention versus react by instinct. It’s the difference between being in control… or not. And, as I said earlier it is most important to be in control of ourselves and not do or say something that will get us into trouble.

As leaders look to build the culture of their team or the whole company knowing your own emotions is the first step to building a healthy corporate culture. Same goes at home. When we act with intention and respect, we will always be able to develop trust, have open and respectful conversations and debate, build consensus and commitment.

1: Les Greenberg is a psychologistwho specializes in Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT). EFT is all about gaining a greater awareness of our emotions, and other people’s emotions – and building strategies to help them respond in a positive way – and if they have maladaptive feelings, to work on transforming those emotions from their negative state to a positive state. Les is also the author of the book ‘Changing Emotions with Emotions’.

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 1

Click Here for: Being Aware Of Our Emotions At Work Is Important, Part 2: Going Deep

An other article you might like.

Discuss Values With Your Team


About Bruce and Bruce Mayhew Consulting.

Bruce is Corporate Trainer, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting specializes in customized Email Etiquette Training, Leadership & New Leadership Development, Generational Differences, Time Management Training and other soft skills training solutions in Toronto and across Canada. Bruce is also an Executive Coach to a few select clients.

Bruce is an experienced motivational speaker in Toronto and has inspired audiences across Canada and within the USA and the UK. Bruce works hard to always make sure your training event, conference, retreat, or annual general meeting is a success.

How Values Help Solve Business Problems

I spent the early part of my career working for different companies. The one thing they all had in common (other than me), was that they never had meaningful discussions (with me at least), about company values, how important they are and how to use them.

Looking back, I see that instead of having a cohesive focus, every employee was only being guided by our personal values. No wonder work sometimes felt like a game of bumper cars.

Values Provide A Shared Approach

Today, as a leader, trainer and coach I am amazed of the disconnect I experienced. Consciously or unconsciously, values influence everything from who we hire, to how we motivate, to developing our strategic direction. And of course, when difficult decisions have to be made or in times of crisis, values help solve business problems by acting as a guide that supports the brand identity / brand personality.

When a company or leader doesn’t align everyone, there will be an unavoidable and inconsistent disconnect between the customer experience, the teams daily decisions and even how the team treated each other.

To change the image of bumper cars, I like to think of values as a rudder on a ship; they help steer our path toward our goals (strategic vision). And figuratively speaking, every company is made up of many small ships (departments / divisions) and many captains. When everyone in every ship has a consistent understanding of what is important, how to do thing and why, every ship will have confidence in each other and their path and point in the same direction, not crash into each other. This confidence allows everyone to move faster with fewer casualties.

When business values are shared, they help leaders and employees solve business problems and even avoid challenging situations before they arise. This saves the company time and resources and helps employees feel relevant and have impact. Values also help prospects understand us and builds a positive, dependable brand experience. 

Of course corporate values work hand in hand with a corporate vision and mission. In part, vision provides a shared direction ‘where’ and mission represents a shared purpose ‘why’. Values are the next piece of the puzzle by providing a shared understanding of ‘how’. Perhaps most importantly, vision and mission keep us from thinking we have to be all things to all… prospects. They give us confidence to say Yes or No… but that is a bigger discussion worthy of another blog.

Conclusion:

Part of developing a brand identity / a brand personality is telling people what it is through marketing and advertising, but more importantly it is what people experience – the human characteristics that people attribute to our brand.

In many ways, the best way a business can invest in their brand identity is to not only pay for ads and expensive marketing but to also invest in their people, making sure they always represent the values the business stands for and therefore create a consistent employee and customer experience. Employees and customers should always instinctively ‘feel’ our values every time they see our logo because they have experienced our values. That is what creates a strong brand identity.

Helping each employee consistently live the business values is one of the best investments a business can make in their brand identity. Be sure every employee becomes an ambassador working to shape your brand personality in the way they share a vision and are aligned in how they listen to and work with each other and each customer.

Call To Action:

What one thing can you start doing tomorrow to make people feel more valued and not be told what the companies values are… but to start to understand how everyone can celebrate and share your corporate values.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to reading and discussing any comments you may have.

Bruce


About Bruce and Bruce Mayhew Consulting.

Bruce is Corporate Trainer, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting specializes in customized Email Etiquette Training, Leadership & New Leadership Development, Generational Differences, Time Management Training and other soft skills training solutions in Toronto and across Canada. Bruce is also an Executive Coach to a few select clients.

Bruce is an experienced motivational speaker in Toronto and has inspired audiences across Canada and within the USA and the UK. Bruce works hard to always make sure your training event, conference, retreat, or annual general meeting is a success.



3 Steps To Engage Employees… or Family Members.

Motivation and inspiration are wonderful things, if we nurture them in ourselves and others.

This is likely my shortest blog post / article. Not because this isn’t an important topic, but because inspiring people to be great doesn’t have to be difficult.

Too often we call out people when they do something wrong, but don’t reward them or recognize their efforts when the do something right… or do something well.

I’ve spoken with many ‘bosses’ who use the reasoning, “That’s what I pay them for.” Well, if you want to pay employees to ‘show up’, keep that approach. But, if you want the people who you trust with your product or service and who you trust with your clients to excel, to go the extra mile, to keep quality up and waste down, to make your clients and suppliers happy, then I recommend you try my 3 steps to engage employees.

Step 1.

Give them lots of praise and do it often. They need to know what they are doing well. Don’t assume they know they are doing well. And, shake up your reward approach. Sometimes tell them verbally in a Zoom call. Sometimes write them an email or even send them a hand-written note.

Step 2.

When you give them constructive feedback, do it in a way that is about sharing options on how to improve versus assigning blame.

If they did it well, but it just isn’t “your way” let it pass… or again talk about the many options (including yours) that could have been taken and evaluate the pros and cons of each openly… together. You may even learn something.

Do not let feedback feel like a personal attack.

Step 3.

Set realistic goals and then teach them how to break those goals into steps. Then, help them focus on the steps and the progress and successes they are having as they accomplish each step by going back to Step 1.

Thank you for reading about my 3 steps to engage employees. I will enjoy your comments / suggestions of this article.

Bruce


About Bruce and Bruce Mayhew Consulting.

Bruce is Corporate Trainer, Keynote Speaker and Executive Coach.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting specializes in customized Email Etiquette Training, Leadership & New Leadership Development, Generational Differences, Time Management Training and other soft skills training solutions in Toronto and across Canada. Bruce is also an Executive Coach to a few select clients.

Bruce is an experienced motivational speaker in Toronto and has inspired audiences across Canada and within the USA and the UK. Bruce works hard to always make sure your training event, conference, retreat, or annual general meeting is a success.

Click here to visit our website.

Situational Leadership® Explained

Situational Leadership® is a leadership model that suggests the best leadership style is contextual and therefore, varies from project to project, person to person and time to time. The approach a leader should use is contingent (dependent) on the following four main criteria and will maximize outcome for the project, the client / customer, the suppliers, the company and the employee / employees:

  1. The corporate culture of the organization including the values, procedures, inclusion and reward norms.
  2. What has to be accomplished and when including taking into consideration the project complexity, scale, risk and priority as well as the existing environment (in all its forms).
  3. The talent / ability of individuals including variables like education and experience, skill, values, confidence and communication style.
  4. How motivated / inspired the individual or team is to accomplish the task.

In a nutshell (as my dad would say), Situational Leadership® works on the premise there is no one best way to lead. Instead of leadership being determined by the leadership culture (of one person or perhaps of the whole organization), leadership takes on a flexible approach and projects are managed with an ‘adaptive’ feel. This I believe works especially well within a team or organization that uses Agile Project Management.

Situational Leadership® was introduced by Dr. Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1969. It was first introduced as Life Cycle Theory of Leadership and was renamed in the 1970’s. Later, Hersey and Blanchard split off from working together and each introduced slightly different versions of their original theory. Situational Leadership is a registered trademark of the Centre for Leadership Studies.

NOTE: Because this theory has evolved since the 1970’s and because Hersey and Blanchard have each introduced their own versions, the names of some of the elements have changed over time. I have tried to include many of these names within this article for future reference if you come across these terms in other articles or books. 

How to Determine What Leadership Style to Use

Even if we may not realize it, I believe the best leaders are already weighing the many variables identified in this model and are adjusting their leadership style accordingly. For example, most leaders give new employees extra direction and the opportunity to make a few errors (coaching and forgiveness) while we give more experienced employees who have gained our confidence more autonomy and expect greater results from them. But, what the Four Leadership Styles of Situational Leadership® does that I like is introduce a grid / model to help determine what leadership style may best fit and therefore helping leaders be more effective.

The visual representation of Situational Leadership® uses a standard X and Y graph to chart a potential solution.

  • The X axis identifies “Directive Behaviour” or “Task Behaviour”. This signals how much direction / instruction a leader must give to the individual or team. The higher the direction (furthest away from 0) the less able the individual or team is to direct themselves and be self-sufficient.
  • The Y axis identifies “Supportive Behaviour” or “Relationship Behaviour”. This signals the amount of support / help the leader needs to give. The higher the support (furthest away from 0) the more coaching, mentoring and motivation a leader has to give to the individual or team.

So, we see there are two key elements, the employee and the leader. For reference, these two elements are often called Performance Readiness level, Maturity level or Development level for the employee (yes, there are three names for one thing), and Leadership Style for the leader.

Both the employee Performance Readiness level and the Leadership Style are then broken down into four sub-groups. Each of the four sub-groups for employees have a direct connection to the four sub-groups for leaders i.e.: D1 to S1 and D2 to S2 and so on. These four groups are defined as follows:

Employee (D… or sometimes identified with an R): Performance Readiness, Maturity or Development Level

  • D1 = the enthusiastic beginner: Low confidence, inexperienced but enthusiastic, does not have skills but wants to learn.
  • D2 = the disillusioned learner: Has the skills but unwilling or lack confidence to do the task – some competence but low commitment, perhaps the situation is new to them even though the task is the same.
  • D3 = the capable but cautions performer: May be unwilling or lack confidence to do the task – high competence but variable commitment.
  • D4 = the self-reliant achiever: High competence and high commitment. They take responsibility. 

The development of your team can change over time… D1 to D2 or even D4 to D3 if technology, policy or the work changes. Also, these levels may be task specific, so an employee may be working at the D1 level for one of their responsibilities and D4 for another of their responsibilities.

Leader (S): Leadership Style

  • S1 = Directing / Telling: Autocratic leaders: Leader makes all decisions without consultation with the employee. The employee is told what to do. Who, What, When, How Etc.
  • S2 = Coaching / Selling: Leader a bit receptive to feedback from the employee but “sells” their ideas to get the agreement and cooperation of the disillusioned learner.
  • S3 = Supporting / Participating: Leader participates in decision making but most decisions are still made by them. Lead by example to hopefully give the employee confidence.
  • S4 = Delegating: Leader provides minimal direction and guidance. More focused on Strategic Vision and Direction than day to day decisions. Still responsible for the team and goals but gives the responsibility of execution to the employee or team. The employee or team determine Who, What etc.

Putting the Employee (D) and Leader (S) Information to Good Use

Using the analysis of the employee level a leader can use this information to choose the most appropriate leadership style. Therefore, when an employee shows their skill or comfort level for a task is at D1, the leader would know to use the S1 leadership style. Meanwhile, when that same employee (or another) showed their skill or comfort level was D4 for another task, that leader would know to use the S4 leadership style of management. 

Situational Leadership® is about finding the right balance of leadership behaviours and using them at the right time.

Conclusion

So, now we know there is a range of leadership styles that leaders can use when managing an individual or team. This helps leaders analyze the situation and adjust their leadership behaviour accordingly.

Something else I believe is important about this model. I like this framework because it treats every employee (or team) as unique, recognizing that no two are the same; they all have different levels of confidence, experience, motivation and dependability (for example). Within a supportive corporate culture most people will “grow” through each level for the whole variety of tasks they are responsible to complete, eventuality (we hope) becoming a D4 employee who is a self-reliant achiever for each task.

One other aspect I think is important is I believe this model shows how it’s important for leaders of today to see one of their greatest responsibilities is to help each employee be their best. It’s important we do not stop mentoring / coaching employees when they become ‘good at their job’ and reach a D2 or D3 level. It will always be best for the company and the employee when leaders offer mentoring and intrinsic reward at the D1 level, and also throughout the employees’ career, helping employees feel pride and a sense of purpose as they reach a higher level of productivity and job satisfaction.

Happy communicating.

Bruce

Situational Leadership® is a registered trademark of the Centre for Leadership Studies.

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So You Want To Be A Leader

When I ask people why they want to lead a team, four of the frequent responses I get are:

  1. I want the increased salary.
  2. My peers / schoolmates are climbing the ladder so I feel I should.
  3. My family expects it of me.
  4. I was asked.

Those are all great reasons. When I was new in my career at Scotiabank I think I would have said these as well. The question I have is, do people taking on leadership responsibilities really understand what is expected of them and how to succeed? I believe one of the things we don’t do for new or potential leaders is to clearly identify what their new responsibilities are. In addition, most companies don’t help their leaders learn what they need to succeed. So, let’s just list what a successful leader will find themselves doing… in no specific order

  1. Build a vision / support a vision.
  2. Be the ambassador of the corporate culture… even if it is limited to within your team.
  3. Include your team so they feel part of the plan.
  4. Practice great time management – plan ahead.
  5. Be a role model.
  6. Build trust within their team… of them and of each other.
  7. Be transparent with goals and objectives.
  8. Be transparent with your core competencies and especially your gaps.
  9. Be quick to take responsibility for mistakes you make.
  10. Put others needs ahead of your own. 
  11. Treat everyone like an individual. 
  12. Learn everyone’s unique strength and core competencies.  
  13. Learn everyone’s unique goals.
  14. Stop doing your last job… and the one before it.
  15. Set clear expectations for yourself.
  16. Set clear expectations for others. 
  17. Keep everyone accountable – including yourself.
  18. Share the reason ‘Why’. 
  19. Delegate responsibilities – you can’t do it all yourself.
  20. Be ok being part of a project team… but not the leader. You shouldn’t always take the lead. People with greater subject matter expertise (more time and a desire to grow) might be a better choice.
  21. Stay calm under pressure. 
  22. Be an ambassador of your corporate values (you do know them – and what they mean right)?
  23. Carry the weight of continuous problem solving.
  24. Don’t solve everyone’s problems – build that capacity in others.
  25. Know you are going to have to disappoint people.
  26. Be disappointed from time to time.
  27. Be remarkably proud from time to time.
  28. Spend much of your time inspiring you team, other departments, suppliers. 
  29. Be a coach. 
  30. Be a mentor.  
  31. Live through audits. 
  32. Take responsibility for your team when things don’t go well. 
  33. Shower praise on your team when things go well. 
  34. Write performance reviews. 
  35. Resolve conflict.
  36. Hire people. 
  37. Onboard people. 
  38. Fire people.
  39. Develop Diversity and Inclusion strategies.
  40. Listen more than you speak.
  41. Guide and champion the ever-present need for change.
  42. Suffer through sleepless nights worrying.
  43. Suffer through sleepless nights working.
  44. Develop training strategies for your team and for individual teammates.
  45. Empower people and teams by helping them think through the strategic approach to making a decision.
  46. Make sure people and teams have the resources and support they need to succeed.
  47. Give people time and encouragement to be creative.
  48. Let your team and teammates make good decisions, even if they are not 100% the same decisions you would have made. 
  49. Be a tiebreaker only when a team is locked in making a decision.
  50. Have fun… and help your team have fun.

Being a great leader is complicated and it isn’t something that comes naturally. You may have some natural skill (that often is empathy), but just like great professional athletes, if you want to become great you will have to study, train and practice. And lets not forget, even when athletes are Olympic level – the best of the best – they still make mistakes from time to time. We are all human; the idea is to acknowledge that mistake, learn from it and then do the next best thing.

So, do you still want to be a leader?

If you do, I encourage you take some sort of assessment to explore what your natural strengths and gaps are… like Myers Briggs, Strength Finder, Kolbe or Hogan. Gain confidence with your strengths and look for opportunities to learn and fill some of your gaps. Your success is your goal. As an individual you will have to study, train and practice. I also encourage you to find a mentor and a coach.

And, if you are senior in an organization, are you / your company helping potential leaders, new leaders and even your existing leaders to be successful?

Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any questions – or would like to add to my list or leader responsibilities.

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Be A Great Leader: New Leadership Development

The job of a leader is not to be in charge and make all of the important decisions, it’s to take care of:

  • The vision of the organization (designed by giving everyone at the company, their suppliers and their customers a voice)
  • The values of the organization (designed by giving everyone at the company, their suppliers and their customers a voice)
  • The people who are in their charge 

Many leaders, especially new leaders often struggle defining their responsibilities. They were great at their previous j.o.b. which is why they were promoted into their leadership position – but nobody ever helped them train to be a great leader.

Now, instead of being great at their j.o.b., they have to support and take care of the people who are now doing that job and likely other people as well. To be successful, leaders (and especially new leaders) have to let go of much of the expertise that helped them stand out and get promoted. Unfortunately, that isn’t an easy thing to do. But, now is the time to go through a metamorphosis – a transform into a leader.

Leadership transformation isn’t something that miraculously, genetically happens. Leadership is a learned skill. Like being an athlete, being a leader is a combination of many different skills and abilities. In addition to the Vision and Values skills I mention above, leadership is about creating a healthy corporate culture that is built on team members being able to depend on a leader who:

  • Inspires and Motivates Others
  • Promotes Cooperation, Collaboration and Teamwork
  • Is Transparent / Manages Expectations
  • Takes A Moment To Be Proud of the Accomplishments of Others
  • Champions Diversity (in all its complex splendor)
  • Respects Everyone
  • Innovates / Promotes Change / Improvement
  • Gives Employees Space to Learn and Ask Questions
  • Listens with Curiosity
  • Sees Failure as Learning Experience Everyone Has (as long as there aren’t too many)
  • Is Empathetic and Compassionate
  • Builds a Trustworthy Workplace Culture
  • Gives Credit to Others
  • Takes Responsibility for Challenges

Measuring success based on quarterly results and the stock market doesn’t work in the long-run. These criteria are more likely to uninspire and demotivate employees rather than to create a successful and agile organization. Why? Because quarterly results and the stock market are not an indicator of a healthy corporate culture. 

So as a leader, shake off all of the old expectations that to be a great leader you have to know it all and be the ultimate authority. Instead, embrace your soft skills. Be the leader people can trust and who helps your people be their best because. This is the only way the company will ever be at its best and for you to succeed is for all of the people who rely on you to be at their best.

Happy communicating.

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Twitter Chat Do’s and Don’ts

Having an engaged twitter following expands your reach and influence. But, building a network is time consuming and mysterious to many of us. Twitter followers can come and go and often we have no idea why. I’ve discovered Twitter are a great way to build contacts… but more than that… build a network of engaged, like-minded professionals that can provide advice and suggestions.

One thing I’ve learned is that – like most things – a great twitter relationship is a give and take relationship. Those who want people to follow, look, buy, connect, link etc are quick to be disconnected and even blocked (by me at least). But, those who offer, share, suggest and so forth are people I look forward to connecting with… again and again. I have found a disproportionally high number of people in that latter group by participating in Twitter Chats.

While every chat has a moderator who will manage all the questions and gently corral the conversation, that chats that I’ve participated in that have been effective when participants follow a few simple rules. To help you I’ve put together this quick list of Twitter chat Do’s and Don’ts. Enjoy.

  1. If you are new to #TwitterChats, perhaps follow one staying silent. Learn how others are engaging and responding. It’s not rocket science so you will pick up quickly.
  2. Often at the beginning of a TwitterChat a moderator will ask people to introduce themselves. Be ready for this… what is your business and/or specialty / accomplishments? Basically, it’s an elevator speech in 280 Twitter characters.
  3. Start your answer / post by identifying what question you are responding to by using the A1, A2, A3 identifier at the front of your response (A1 = Answer to question 1)
  4. End your answer / post using the relevant #Hashtags:
    • Twitter Chat Name and/or Conference Name #WorkTrends for example
    • Topic / Industry #HR, #Leadership, #EmailEtiquette
  5. As a participant, stay on topic – don’t derail the conversation. This is not your conversation to hijack. You are a guest not the organizer or the invited expert. If you have an agenda and something you want to say, write a blog and post it on your blog, LinkedIn, post if from your own Twitter and Instagram account. Put it out on your Facebook page and link it from your website. You have many different options but don’t elbow your way into someone else’s space – that is rude.
  6. If you arrive late, take a moment to see what has been asked and answered. Don’t just blurt out your answer – it may have already been covered. If it was covered, consider liking that response and adding a note of your support. That way you look supportive as well as show your expertise / knowledge.
  7. Watch who else is participating. Follow them. Say hi to them. Use their name in your reply if you are agreeing with what they said and want to add.
  8. Stay positive. Even if you disagree – don’t disagree. Instead, consider saying something like, “That’s interesting, my experience has been different. I’ve noticed….”

One More Thing: If you are the invited guest expert:

It is likely the host will provide you the 3 – 5 questions they are planning to cover. I strongly recommend you write up your responses to those questions in advance. I alway do this in Word and, I include the relevant hashtags (#) in my responses.

Writing some responses in advance helps me quickly answer questions and/or add advice which means a quick answer is more relevant to participants and we can get more topics covered because I’m not wasting time typing my responses. Doing this also lets me write complete thoughts / answers using Twitters 280 character limit and lets me include the appropriate A1/A2 and Hashtag references.

We hope you enjoyed this post.

Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Generational Differences, Leadership Skills, Motivation Skills, Difficult Conversation Training, Business Email Etiquette, Time Management, Mindfulness and more.

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 Bruce Mayhew Consulting facilitates courses including Business Writing, Email Etiquette, Time Management and Mindfulness. Give us a call at 416 617 0462. We’ll listen.

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Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Embrace Inclusion… Not Only Diversity

Ponder This…

Do you embrace diversity? Of course you do. But, is there a difference between Diversity and Inclusion?

Here is what I’m thinking.

Diversity is bringing people to the table (or video conference), with different skills, experiences, cultures, beliefs, orientations, genders, ages, generations, as well as (of course) people with disabilities and who use special support systems. As individuals and companies we are getting better at this. Unfortunately, this is often where it stops. 

So, I ask you to pause for a moment. Who is actually listened to within that diverse group? Are all those diverse voices valued equally?

Perhaps not.

So, what if we repositioned diversity to instead look at inclusion from the point that employees aren’t only tolerated or accommodated… but instead leaders are creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong? Like with any family, when people feel they belong (versus tolerated), that employee and the whole team will be more joyful, more creative, more loyal, more engaged and more productive.

What if our effort was to make sure we did value the different skills, experiences, cultures, beliefs, orientations, genders, ages and generations we gathered together? What if we did value the experiences and knowledge people with disabilities and who use special support systems have? What if our effort was to make sure we did listen to everyone equally… and value them equally?

To do this we have to pause and do some self-reflection.

To do this we – including me – likely have to become a bit more self-aware to make sure an unconscious bias wasn’t leaking into our conversation or our evaluation. We have to demonstrate that all decisions are made in a transparent, consistent and informed manner that considers everyone.

The benefit is that within yourself or in your network, inclusion will help you grow as you seek to understand new perspectives. This will benefit you and your network personally… and professionally. In your company, inclusion will help develop innovation, new opportunities and resilience within your operation and your place in the economic market.

This idea of creating a sense of belonging is just a thought that has been growing in my brain lately… no doubt triggered by something I’ve read.

I hope this got you thinking of diversity in a different way.

Happy communicating… mentoring… and training.

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Plan.  Engage.  Succeed.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

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Find answers to your Professional Development questions / needs at brucemayhewconsulting.com.

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#ReadingIsGood

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#leadershipdevelopment

#Leader

#UnconciousBias

#SelfAware

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