Our Brains Get More Capable When We Challenge Them.

Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset… and what Leaders should know.

Our minds are powerful tools that can ignite sustainable change and unlock new possibilities throughout our lives… and for the organizations that employ us during our careers. Only when we are aware of our potential can we effect the meaningful positive change we are capable of achieving. This is where the concept of Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset is important for individuals and their leaders.

Dr. Carol Dweck coined the terms ‘Growth Mindset’ and ‘Fixed Mindset’ as she described what people believe about intelligence and their ability to learn. The key question is, “does an individual believe that with awareness and consistent effort that their own mental abilities like critical thinking, creativity and even curiosity can be enhanced over time… or do they believe intelligence is fixed?”

What Is Growth Mindset?

Neuroscientists have shown that when our brains are routinely stimulated, our mental capacity and abilities are not fixed. It is called growth mindset when people know their mental effort can have a positive physical, emotional and an intellectual benefit. Let’s look at these three benefits one at a time.

Physically, the brain has the ability to grow new neurons every day. Each of us can easily boost this process within our own minds by being curious, asking questions and thinking through challenges. In addition, scientists have found a growth mindset not only helps build new neuron, existing neuron networks are strengthened and/or build more insulation which speeds transmission of electrical impulses.

Emotionally, knowing our brain can grow makes most of us approach learning and difficult situations (challenges) differently including being more likely to take an active role in learning. People who believe in growth mindset see learning as an opportunity to develop new skills and are curious about what they might be able to accomplish as they challenge their brains.

In a study where students were taught the mind grows, three times as many students showed an increase in effort and motivation compared with the control group. In addition, when we believe our effort matters, we are more likely to choose a greater challenge rather than look for an easy win and, we are less likely to give up when we experience difficult mental (and physical), challenges. It isn’t only our belief in ourselves and our effort to learn new things from our surroundings that matters. There is also a correlation between our ability to grow new neurons and external influences like good sleep habits and what we eat and drink (saturated fat and how much alcohol we drink are harmful). When people recognize our mindset is not fixed – that growth is not fixed – it’s also likely to lead to increased intrinsic motivation.

Intelligence also improves when people believe in growth mindset. People get smarter because they practice / study / research… or in other words, because of the effort they apply to learning. Because of their effort to challenges (their perseverance), their investment will likely lead to higher achievement and success as they increase their experiences and knowledge. People with a growth mindset also see failures as learning opportunities – not ‘failures’. They see feedback as valuable information to consider and enjoy putting in effort because they know hard work pays off. They might say, “Even if I make a mistake, I can learn and/or experience something new – and if I keep trying, I will get better and eventually I will succeed.”

In a nutshell, our belief and confidence in ourselves and our ability to learn influences our actions and therefore our future possibilities / successes.

People who believe in a growth mindset understand that as they learn a new skill, that learning is difficult and their progress will likely be slow. They know they may even make mistakes, but by trying over and over the challenge (opportunity) gets easier. As we learn our brain is building new neurons and/or strengthening existing pathways.

What Is Fixed Mindset?

Fixed mindset is when people believe their intelligence is ‘what it is now’ and their ability to learn / to become good at something they are not good at now is limited. People with fixed mindset believe more in ‘natural talent’ rather in their ability to learn. Studies show fixed mindset believers tend to put less effort into learning than people who believe in growth mindset and less effort in personal practice / study / research. Fixed mindset believers often see mistakes as failures not learning opportunities and are more likely to give up when they experience failure rather than to try again. They might say, “I’m likely going to make a mistake, so I don’t want to try, I don’t know how to do it and I don’t have the natural skills, so I can’t learn.”

Every successful person has failed and… they have not given up. A growth mindset is especially important for people who are aware of their natural talents because ‘talented people’ can easily learn to rely heavily on their talent and give up (far too easily), when they begin to struggle. They must learn they can reach even greater success (and awareness), when they study and work through difficulty.

For most of us our mindset is reinforced by our social environments and especially by our parents and teachers. For adults our mindset is often reinforced by our leaders at work and mentors. For example; as a teacher or a leader do you encourage your students or employees to choose a project that will challenge them… or do you give them projects they can complete easily? As a teacher or a leader do you act as a mentor and a coach? Just as people with a growth mindset are motivated by other people (and their environment) to exercise their cognitive abilities, people with a fixed mindset (sadly) learn to conform and embrace status-quo from the people around them and their environment.

Fixed Mindset language you might hear at home, school or at work:

  • “I give up.”
  • “You can’t do this. Try this easier project.”
  • “I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake.”

Growth Mindset language you might hear at home, school or at work:

  • “I’m not good at this yet.”
  • “You can do better. Take until tomorrow to see what you can come up with.”
  • “When I make a mistake I will learn – at least what not to do.”

Conclusion

Our brains get more capable when we challenge them… when we experience new things and information.

Our mindset is a choice, it really is.

We all have beliefs about ourselves; what we are good at, what we are proud of, what we can and cannot do. The important thing to learn is that even though we may struggle at first and look like failures, the struggle is often the most important part of the road to success.

And it’s important to be clear that I am not suggesting you ignore your natural talents and strengths. I am not! Playing to your strengths is likely going to be satisfying and profitable. What I am saying is to not only do what comes easy for you – there is great benefit when you challenge yourself – including within the area of your strengths.

In today’s workspaces change is everywhere and constant. That is why today’s leaders must bring a growth mindset and language into your workplace culture; the alternative is to fall behind. If individuals and teams are not learning they are falling behind. When leaders adopt a growth mindset approach to how they lead, they apply a whole new level of motivation and excellence.

The most important aspect of a growth mindset environment (after knowing growth is possible), is to feel safe. We must feel safe to make mistakes and we must learn to learn from them. Feeling safe from mistakes isn’t a go-be-irresponsible get out of jail free card. We all have to be responsible and accountable. But when employees feel safe and experience a growth mindset environment, they begin to see every project as an opportunity to improve their skills, enhance their knowledge, make a positive difference… and as a way to show off their existing skills (all of which are especially important to Millennials and GenZ). These employees will also be more loyal.

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.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

What Is A Real Leader?

Real Leaders recognize leadership is a relationship between you and your employees. You have to value their well being, their effort, their successes like you would your family.
 
Leadership is being a coach and mentor just like you would coach your grandchildren – sharing respect and security; feeding their desire to grow… knowing there is always a learning curve.
 
Leadership is knowing that even though you may be an expert, we live in a culture of change and there is always something new to learn…. or you risk falling behind.
 
Real leadership is communicating with people as they are… not as if they were you – with your goals, your knowledge, your stresses. Leaders recognize people are individuals and do not wish to be mini-clones of you.
 
Leadership recognizes everyone has emotions – they do not freeze when they (or you) walk through the door. Leaders also recognizes the relationships you need to nourish and respect are based on emotions. Trust is an emotion; so is Motivation and so is Respect… and the list continues.
 
Leaders build relationships that last… and the foundation of a leaders legacy… the foundation of a leaders personal and professional brand is their ability to build trusting, respectful relationships while motivating the people around them to achieve their greatest potential.
 
Real leaders are not perfect… but they try and are transparent of their shortfalls as well as their efforts and their successes. Leaders know their vulnerability only builds greater loyalty from others.
 
Real leaders want to make a positive lasting impact in the lives of their employees as well as their suppliers, customers and shareholders.
 
Real leaders never want to make a positive lasting impact at the expense of their employees, suppliers, customers and shareholders.
 
Bruce….

What we do every day of our lives is what matters.

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.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

 

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15 Ways To Be Sure Your Business Meeting Isn’t A Waste Of Time

How you manage a business meeting with colleagues, clients or a combination of both can be a good indication of your leadership abilities. And while I’ve outlined 15 ways to be sure your business meeting isn’t a waste of time, I’m sure you’re already doing some. So perhaps, add them up your ‘Do’ column and ‘Need To Do’ column and see which list is longer.

Why is it important to review your business meeting management best practices?

It takes far less time to organize a great meeting (and reinforce a great personal reputation), than it takes to sit through a poorly organized meeting that is a waste of time… for everyone.

Great business meetings are about choice. Do you choose to:

  1. Plan the meeting with no more than 3 key objectives to discuss or 3 key decisions to make?
  2. Invite only the people who need to be there?
  3. Build a reputation that your meetings start on time in order to respect everyone’s time?
  4. Build a reputation that your meetings finish on time in order to respect everyone’s time?
  5. Send your agenda out days in advance?
  6. Stay on topic, on agenda?
  7. As a participant, do you read the agenda in advance?
  8. As meeting organizer or participant, do you arrive prepared with the background and / or support documents you need to participate?
  9. Listen with purpose to learn? During the meeting, are you trying to understand (not necessarily agree with), other points of view? Please say yes.
  10. Participate? Stay relevant? Ask questions / provide your opinion only when you have meaningful contribution? Do you create value? If people have questions they will / should feel free to ask.
  11. Use a ‘Parking Lot’ for new topics… and new business meetings?
  12. Be respectful when you agree and when you disagree?
  13. Get to the point, not waste time, don’t ramble. Do you choose to be efficient and effective… especially if you have executives in the meeting.
  14. Review decisions and action items before you close to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  15. Document and distribute agreed-upon decisions and action items?

Conclusion
Far too many meetings leave us with the feeling our time and/or our opinion aren’t appreciated. And while much responsibility sits with the organizer, I believe it’s each of our responsibility to know what we can do to make sure business meetings are not a waste of time.

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring, learning and hosting great meetings.

We facilitate courses including Email Etiquette, Time Management training, How To Run Effective MeetingsLeadership Skills, Generational Differences, Difficult Conversations training… and more.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Examples of Noticing and Reinforcing Each Others Work, at Work.

One of the most effective ways to get the behaviour we want is to see in others is to sincerely reinforce that behaviour when it happens. In many ways this falls into the space of intrinsic motivation.

That said, providing feedback can sometimes feel like we are babying your co-workers. Get over it. We are not babying them or hand-holding. What we are doing is letting them know their efforts matter; that they are important and are making a difference.

One easy approach I would recommend is to focus on their effort and/or outcome and not make it too personal.

Here are some examples.

Awareness / Caring I

  • “Bob, you came in later today than usual. That’s very different for you so I just wanted to make sure everything is OK and ask if there is anything you might need?” Or
  • “Is that a new jacket? It is a great looking jacket.” Or
  • “How did your team enjoy the conference yesterday? They seemed really excited to attend.”

Awareness / Caring II

“I noticed you started the training meeting by reviewing the departments vision, values and how the training fits into us all achiving our goals. That really helped me focus my attention on how to use the training and where I needed to change.”

Appreciation I

“Thank you for your hard work. Your attention to detail made a difference.” (a focus on their effort)

Appreciation & Collaboration I

“You both found an interesting way to solve the problem and work together to complete the project even though you are in different time zones. Well done.”

Appreciation & Collaboration II

“Thanks for helping the marketing team get those financial numbers together. Having the finance departments input and suggestions helped clarify the expenses and potential ROI.” 

Being Clear – Getting To The Point

“You shared the objective and desired action item in the first sentence of your email. I want you to know this really helped us understand the reason for the detailed background you then provided.” (a focus on email etiquette / email writing technique)

Reinforce Desired Behaviour I

“Everyone is here on time and ready to start meeting. My thanks to each of you. This should help us get out on time as well.” (a focus on time management)

Reinforce Desired Behaviour II

“Before we close off today’s update meeting, I want to point out I noticed everyone gave each other the opportunity to speak without interruption and with an open, inquiring mind. Thank you – I think it is great how our team is really coming together.”

Reinforce Desired Behaviour III

“Bob, you worked really hard on this proposal outline and submitted it on time. It looks really good and gives each of the other managers a great foundation to all add their content while keeping a consistent objective and a consistent look for the company. Well done.”

It’s important to sincerely reinforce behaviour. If we are not sincere – it will show. It’s also important to say something as close to the behaviour as possible; don’t wait for their next performance review.

As with all things, practice makes perfect. When you see behaviour you want, especially if it’s behaviour that’s in the process of changing, try letting that person or people realize you see their effort and the positive impact they are having.

Reminders and positive feedback help others (and ourselves) visualize and recall expectations and the skills / actions associated with the behaviours we want to see / experience. The characteristics of good reminders and positive feedback include being:

  • Simple and brief (not a lecture)
  • Focused on the positive (what is), not the negative (what is not)

Little things matter.

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management training, leadership skills, generational differences training… and more.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

Employee Burnout May Point To Time Management Challenges.

Are your employees burning-out doing the same thing over and over for 10 or more hours a day? There are five main challenges with that:

  1. There are now more Millennials in the job market than Boomers.
  2. Millennials want work-life balance / work-life integration as well as autonomy and opportunities.
  3. Millennials want to keep growing – they don’t like the same thing over and over.
  4. Gen Z employees are beginning to enter the job market (and they also like balance, autonomy and opportunities).
  5. Most Boomers and Gen Xers want the same thing Millennials and Gen Zers want.

Most people don’t want to leave the company they have chosen to work for. People quit because they don’t feel:

  • They are respected as individuals
  • Their work and efforts are respected
  • They are given opportunities (and challenges) to grow
  • They have the flexibility / autonomy most workers want

Unfortunately for both individuals (and the companies they work for), sooner or later if leaders don’t take care of high-potential employees… their most dedicated employees, they usually quit. You know the saying, “People don’t quit their jobs; they quit their bosses.”

While most employees don’t want to quit their work or the company they work for, they do quit to survive. They quit because they know they can do better elsewhere – either working for someone else or starting their own business.

Is this a time management challenge?
At first glance no… but on a bigger scale, absolutely.


Studies show Millennial job loyalty / job retention increases when their responsibilities change… when their new responsibilities give them new opportunities to grow.

To keep your best people it’s important to pay attention to both the work that needs to get done and the needs of the people doing that work. Some of the best companies don’t keep the best people by slotting them into pre-existing jobs; they find (and keep) the best people by designing flexible work and workspaces that meet their employee and company needs… and therefore their customer needs. When employees see the companies they work for trying hard to create balanced, flexible workspaces, many of those same employees become even more loyal.

A great leader takes the time to learn about their employees. Great leaders also take the time to recognize the potential (and dreams), within those employees and then develop that potential and helps support those dreams.

Is employee burnout a time management challenge? At first glance no… but on a bigger scale, absolutely. If you are overworking your employees, not helping them grow and be proud of their work, be ready for high turnover and high recruitment and on-boarding costs that are unavoidable when you have an never-ending stream of new employees.

Little things matter.

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management training, leadership skills, generational differences training… and more.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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Random Acts of Kindness for Leaders

Random acts of kindness are powerful ways to brighten someone’s day… help them feel visible… help them feel they matter… and are often completely free.Ramdom Acts of Kindness for Leaders

Random acts of kindness are also powerful opportunities for leaders.

We know the top few criteria that improve job / company loyalty are most often not salary… but instead aspects like feeling valued, feeling appreciated and making a difference. Translation… your random act of kindness may do far more than make someone’s day… you may also be improving loyalty, productivity and team spirit.

Improve the morale of the people at
your company even if they don’t report into you!

No matter how high or low in the company you are, I always recommend thinking about how you can be aware of the world around you and take ½ a second to see if you can improve someone else’s day while also improving the morale of the people who work at your company even if they don’t directly report into you!

Here are a few easy (mostly free), random acts of kindness at work suggestions that will have great impact:

  1. Surprise a teammate with a treat on their birthday. $ will cost a little
  2. Watch what your secretary or other administration staff drink or snack on. Bring them one – randomly. I’m sure they’ve saved you more than once and you may not even known it, so yes… they do deserve it. will cost a little
  3. Hold the elevator for someone – especially if their hands are full or if they seem in a rush. This also means you have to choose to be aware of your surroundings.
  4. Bring a coffee or lunch to a co-worker who is working hard on a deadline. will cost a little
  5. Give people positive feedback. Tell them you really appreciate what they did if they helped you and/or when you see they’ve done something great for someone else. Even consider a hand-written note!
  6. Share positive feedback you heard about someone’s work or attitude.
  7. If someone is at home sick, write a quick message hoping they feel better. Do this even if they are staying connected and are working remotely from home.
  8. Ask a team member to go for a walk for no other reason than to get out of the office and clear their (and your) head. You don’t have to talk about work.
  9. When you see a meeting that lines up with those future goals but not their current job responsibilities, ask them to come along with you as an observer. You will blow their minds and increase their loyalty and respect for you and the company 100%.
  10. Similar to #9, when you see a training opportunity or a conference internally or externally, that lines up with their future goals suggest they attend. Again, you will blow their minds and increase their loyalty and respect for you and the company 100%.
  11. If you can give them a junior role on a project team that lines up with their future goals even if it is outside their current responsibilities, again… you will blow their minds.

You can see here that of the 11 examples I have shared above, most of them are intrinsic motivators and only three might have a cost associated.

As a leader, one moment of your time can have great long-term impact.

Bruce

Conclusion

Almost nothing annoys me more or makes me feel more invisible than when someone enters through swinging doors in front of me and lets them swing shut… on me… especially if my hands are full. This happens all the time walking through Toronto’s business underground. Alternatively, nothing is quite like the feeling when someone sees me approaching and waits ½ a second to hold the door open as they go through so that the door doesn’t swing shut on me.

Little things like random acts of kindness do matter.

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management training, leadership skills, generational differences training… and more.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

 

How to be productive in a toxic work environment

Does work feel like torture? Do you feel you are being consumed in a toxic work environment or by a toxic boss?

You give. And, as your boss takes they make you feel like you’ve missed something important that would have been clear to a five-year old… except you didn’t miss anything. What did happen is somewhere between 8PM last night and 7AM this morning they changed their mind about project deliverables or one of a thousand other project changes they could have dreamt up. Either way they blame you and everyone on the team for not anticipating their abrupt change of plans.Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 5.30.20 PM

Certain toxic personalities make work very unpleasant.

So, you work harder, stay longer, triple check your work and you try to be a buffer for your team. But still, the more you give the more they push and the more they micromanage or become passive aggressive.

Toxic work environments aren’t fair to you and the people who report into you and who are trying to jump through imaginary hoops to satisfy the ever evolving demands of a passive aggressive boss (I won’t call them leader). This situation is also not fair to your friends and family.

Eventually, one of you will have to go. And for the sake of your health, don’t let it go on too long since stress like this can have quick negative impact on your health as well as your personal and professional relationships (and professional reputation).

If you do have to be the one to leave, don’t think of it as you giving up or a personal defeat. I’d actually suggest leaving a toxic work environment shows tremendous courage and may be one of the most difficult decisions you will make.

But for now, you are both still there, and for now you want to do the best work you can. So, how can you stay calm and feel proud of your work and hope your toxic boss is the one to go? I have some suggestions, and while I’m afraid they won’t put a full stop to the frustrating storm you are experiencing, they will help you experience less turbulence and greater pride in your work. Here are my 12 suggestions

  1. Get agreement on the company and your departments short-term Goals.
  2. Be clear of the company and your departments longer term Vision (future goals).
  3. Be clear of the company Mission.
  4. Be clear of the company Values AND what “living” those values should look like.
  5. Understand what YOUR goals are and measurements of success.
  6. Realize there is more out there than your current project or job. That when your boss creates a toxic environment it’s more of a reflection on them… not you. Your work is still something to be proud of, especially if you are focused on the first 4 points mentioned above.
  7. Document as much as possible. Try to get them to give you goals and instructions in an email – or write them an email confirming ‘your understanding’ of key goals, outcomes and timelines.
  8. Don’t become paranoid or paralyzed at work. Keep making decisions and keep projects moving forward. Be cautious – sure. But keep your eye focused on the project goal, vision, values and company / marketing language to keep you safe.
  9. Be careful not to slander anyone. Don’t get a reputation as a complainer. Either manage the challenge or get out.
  10. Now more than ever its important you have other work / a hobbies you can be proud of:
    • Volunteering
    • Creative outlets like painting, cooking or exercise (exercise helps decrease stress)
  11. Eat healthy and get as close to 7.5-9.5 hours of sleep as you can.
  12. Never lose focus on what is really most important:
    • Family / children / parents
    • Friends
    • Health

Good luck. Stay positive. Remember it’s not you.

I do hope these twelve strategies help you manage your toxic environment with a little more calm, sensitivity and ability to buffer your team as much as possible from the storm raging above you.

Bruce

Happy communicating, leading, mentoring and learning.

We facilitate courses including email etiquette, time management training, leadership skills, generational differences training… and more.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

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How to motivate and inspire employees in difficult times and through change.

Today’s business world moves quickly and new technology is being launched at an amazing pace. And which change is inevitable and sometimes exhausting, our basic human needs are still the same. You and I want to be valued and respected and, we respond well when we are.

As leaders in this fast paced world we sometimes forget to pay attention to ourselves… and the people we depend on (and who depend on us). We forget to be kind, honest, respectful and to honour the uniqueness of our team members.

So, here is a friendly reminder about how to motivate and inspire employees in difficult times and through change.

  1. Be honest. Share everything including exactly what you need and how long it’s expected to take.
  2. Tap into their values and their goals. Also remind them of the values and goals of the company.
  3. Tell your employees why change is important. Note: this is very different to ‘what you need’ in point #1. Be sure you share why it’s important to you / the company AND why it is important to them… how will it impact and / or improve them?
  4. Help them feel proud. If they have a special skill or talent let them know you appreciate it. People lean in when they feel respected and when their uniqueness is celebrated.
  5. If the work will be difficult say it will be difficult. Also, share how proud you are about what you can accomplish together. Show emotions but do not be emotional.
  6. Be a visible part of the team. Let them see you doing your part. Let them see you using your special skill or talent. Let them see you working hard / sacrificing / learning just like them.
  7. If you can, give them a challenge. Most people love to be challenged. Especially in their growth years Millennials and Gen Z love to know they are learning something and gaining new experiences. People are not very motivated to do the same thing over and over… especially if anyone could do it.

Conclusion

As their leader, always encourage your team members to continue building their experience as well as their personal and professional brands. Provide employees with the individual opportunities, recognition and visibility to gain or fine-tune new experiences.

When we help people grow and be proud they will be inspired – in good times and in difficult times. And, they will be more loyal to you and to the company.

In good times and in difficult times always be sure you create and sustain strong lines of communication with the people who you count on most… every one of your employees. Keep reminding them they are an essential part of the success of the company, and ultimately… their own futures.

Happy communicating.

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Use Your Company’s Core Values to Feel Similarity, Gratitude, Compassion and Pride

I love it when research and academic study supports business best practices; in this case Professor David DeSteno’s** work around Gratitude, Compassion and Pride.

Leadership and core values are two important places where I see the business world can benefit from Professor DeSteno’s research. You may be rolling your eyes and thinking… here we go, someone else preaching the importance of leadership adn corporate values. I hope you will let me explain because I think Professor DeSteno gives us some of the best evidence of why company core values drive long-term and short-term success. Here is why.

Professor DeSteno identifies one of the foundational elements required to experience gratitude, compassion and pride is Similarity. The idea is that similarity (when two or more people having something in common), builds an automatic connection – and with connection those people will also feel more compassion toward each other. Not only that, Professor DeSteno suggests similarity is likely to make:

  • Their goals seem more joined
  • Increase the compassion they feel for each other an each others needs / goals
  • Increase how trustworthy they perceive each other
  • How trustworthy your employees will be to each other

There are many examples of how similarity has drawn people together with both good and not-so-good outcomes. For example, here are a few familiar to me:

  • Religion – whether we practice a religion or not, we all can recall examples when religion has united many people (some blindly), to do great things and terrible things.
  • Race and culture – another familiar bond that is also responsible for many great and terrible behaviours / outcomes.
  • Social – there are countless, often surprising situations… like the bond between many Jeep drivers (there are local area Jeep Owners Clubs around the world).
  • How we dress – from lovers of cowboy hats and boots, to a love for Levi jeans to an eara’s love for a leather jacket and haircut similar to TV-icon Fonzie from the late 70s early 80s.

What I want to reinforce is that from a leadership perspective we should be eagerly embracing this benefit as an opportunity to increase:

  • Teamwork & Trust
  • Employee satisfaction & Loyalty
  • Productivity & Earnings

Similarity build bonds. Similarity makes us more likely to behave the same, to recognize and express the same social cues… and, similarity makes us more likely to trust each other.

As leaders, we need to recognize that similarity is a gift we should be taking advantage of to increase loyalty, engagement, creativity, trust etc. while also strengthening your employees bond with:

  • The company
  • Your department (their coworkers)
  • Your product / service
  • Your clients / customers

I argue that if you are not using your core values to drive similarity and trust, you are likely ignoring one of the greatest (largely free), motivators at your disposal. Forget money – forget bonus – forget big offices and elite conferences in Hawaii (unless you want to create a bond among only those people… and risk isolating everyone else).Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 3.47.55 PM

Use core values to build feelings of similarity; to give everyone a shared focus, shared language and shared pride. Use core values as a verbal map to help guide their decisions. Your values should also create a bond with your customers, giving them confidence in what they can count on and where they should place their loyalty.

Not only does it build team character and cohesiveness, defining your values allows you to best use your resources in the best possible way to sustain engagement and achieve team-based excellence.

Studies by Professor David DeSteno identify that when employees are around people who are proud of their work, that pride is contagious… that they will be more likely to feel pride. In this example, similarity reinforces connection and that connection engages feelings of compassion and empathy. In short, feelings, compassion and empathy are contagious… or, Intra-Team Support as I call it in my example to the right.

And, it is suggested that this benefit doesn’t have to be direct. For example, even if I observe someone helping another person… my observation alone reinforces my social relationships and makes me more likely to help other people…  even people not connected with the observed demonstration of compassion. Double WOW!!

So, how can you build similarity? Define your company’s core values, and… use those core values throughout your organization. Help your people express your values in every action and decision they make.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

** David DeSteno is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, where he directs the Social Emotions Group. He is also an author and sought after speaker.

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Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Managing Difficult Conversations, Business Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

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How To Disagree With Your Boss Without Damaging Your Career: Part II

To Read Part I please Click Here.

In Part I of this article I began laying out 8 tips on how to challenge your boss in a smart and effective way. Here are the final few tips to help you with this complicated topic.

I am a strong believer that most plans have multiple options for success… but we don’t have time to debate every one of them. When you decide to bring an idea forward make sure it is about making noticeable business impact.

The best teams thrive on productive disagreement. If you can promote that with your team you will be part of a dynamic, strategic powerhouse that will achieve great things. You will be showing others what success looks like.

Prepare Your Message / How To Disagree With Your Boss!

You have to communicate your counter argument in a non-threatening way or risk the consequences. You don’t want to argue with your boss and earn the reputation as an arrogant / difficult employee. You do want a reputation as someone who is respectful and gets things done.

The fate of your reputation and your idea lies in your purpose and how you express your disagreement.Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 1.54.58 PM

An easy way to respect your boss when you have an idea is to ask if you can share. For example, “I’d like to share an idea I have for the project that I think will have a positive impact but I’m concerned it may sound like I doubt the project. I want to assure you that I don’t. May I share my ideas?” This approach helps set people’s expectations and make what you are about to say sound less threatening. The less you can surprise people the less risk you will have of triggering a defensive response.

You can be attentive… but in the end, you cannot control how someone feels. So, stay aware of how others respond and perhaps most importantly… how they are feeling. People often shut-down when they feel disrespected… whether you mean it or not.

Plan your message in advance. Research your idea (as suggested above), but in most cases you don’t want to spend days and days preparing to introduce your idea for a few reasons. First, it may look like you are aggressively pushing your agenda. Second, you don’t want your boss to think you have wasted valuable time preparing an elaborate presentation for an ‘idea / suggestion’ you have. Only you can make that decision based on the project, your work environment, attitudes and workloads.

As you prepare your plan, choose the word you will use carefully – be non-aggressive. For example:

  • Don’t use the words “I disagree”, instead try offering “recommendations” or “suggestions”.
  • Be careful of the word “should”, perhaps use the words, “consider” or “could”.
  • Ask, “Can I offer a suggestion.” Do not say “I have a better idea.
  • Ask for “background”, not the “rationale” when inquiring about other existing approaches.
  • Try using “I” statements to describe what you are feeling. For example, “I feel there may be another approach that may help.
  • Under no circumstances should you make people feel stupid, embarrassed and absolutely no name-calling.

I recommend practicing your first sentence beforehand – at least your first sentence. Keep your message simple and to the point.

When you speak:

  1. State the topic on which you disagree and explain your position. Talk about what you are feeling – but don’t be emotional. Don’t use inflammatory or accusatory language. Don’t complain or disagree but do have a solution. Offer suggestions including S.M.A.R.T. reasons why you think your idea is helpful.
  2. Reintroduce the plan goals and values remembering to promote the parts of the existing plan that you do agree with. Don’t make it appear the decision is a Win-Lose event; every decision should be a Win-Win. You want to be a team player who is focused on supporting the team, the company and the project goals.
  3. Present your idea with pride, confidence and enthusiasm but do not appear like a know-it-all who’s challenging their authority. Be polite and professional.
  4. Be careful about including your co-workers unless you have their absolute permission… and in this case, I hope they are sitting with you when you present the idea. You want to speak for yourself and let others speak for themselves.
  5. Let your boss know you are looking forward to their input / thoughts / questions about your idea. Two-way feedback allows you both to work through details and perhaps clarify project important goals that may impact your idea / the project.

You want to support your career goals – not hurt them. Don’t present a list of problems to your boss without any thought of a solution.

Eventually, when you have done this a few times (and have a great boss who trusts you), you’ll be able to speak your mind without damaging your career.

Be Careful With Emotion

As I always say in my Managing Difficult Conversation workshops, share emotion but don’t be emotional. Sharing emotion lets people know you care… that you are human. Believe it or not, that approach increases the chances of your idea being heard… and accepted (if it is a good idea). Bosses get nervous when employees appear emotionally attached. For Example: Calmly saying, ‘I feel very connected to this project and I want it to succeed’ shows you care. But, pounding on the boardroom table and screaming those same words suggests you have lost perspective and are not thinking rationally.

Always remain calm and confident. Never lose your temper.

Let It Go / Know When To Back Down / Respect the Final Decision

Your boss doesn’t agree with your suggestion / idea? Thank your boss for the opportunity and then let it go! As a leader, your boss may have 100 reasons for their decision. For example, the company strategy could be shifting in response to competitors’ moves (but not yet been shared company-wide). Stay calm, carry on.

Be sure your boss understands you will fully support whatever decision is agreed upon. The more you make them feel it isn’t a competition for you the more they won’t feel it’s a competition next time you have a suggestion. Protect your reputation and your influence for your career.

There will be many times during your career that you will not always agree with the decisions others make – and others wont agree with you…and that’s OK. By letting this be OK you will get the experience of working on many important projects. Trust me – that collection of experience and being part of many collaborative teams where you will meet and work with great people is far more important.

Conclusion

My corporate training and coaching career has proven to me that every workplace has a variety of personalities, work styles, cultures, education and experience; so, challenges are inevitable. So, making them work for us – not against us is important.

Great Leaders primary responsibility it to build long-term company success. How they do this is by listening to dedicated, talented, hard-working employees and earning employee trust. When great leaders have employees who feel listened to and trusted, these employees will often also be the leaders most loyal and motivated employees; a great leaders most important asset – a leaders best opportunity to achieve their responsibilities.

Disagreement is helpful as long as it’s strategic, measurable, actionable, relevant and timely.

SUMMARY:

  • Don’t have a conversation when either of your attention is elsewhere – like on a tight deadline or running to pick up the kids after work.
  • Tell your boss you have a suggestion for an alternative approach… then ask them if they would like to schedule a one-on-one meeting. Challenging your boss in front of others is risky – for you and your idea.
  • Prepare for any conversation, but especially when you are challenging your boss. Your first sentence is important – it will set the mood for the whole meeting. Take every precaution to not sound confrontational.
  • Be sensitive to their mood… especially if they often get stressed easily.
  • Never embarrass anyone – especially someone you report to.
  • Never seem aggressive, condescending, or accusatory.
  • Never make demands.
  • Always respect them and respect their final decision.

Happy communicating, mentoring and working with people from all generations.

To Read Part I please Click Here.

Click here to join our priority list to receive our latest Business Communication blog posts.

If you enjoyed this post we think you’ll like:

Bruce Mayhew Consulting is an Executive Coach who facilitates courses including Managing Difficult Conversations, Business Email Etiquette, Generational Differences, Time Management, Leadership and Mindfulness.

Bruce Mayhew on Canada AM

Click on the image to watch us on Canada AM.

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

Call us at 416.617.0462.

View Bruce Mayhew's profile on LinkedIn

Bruce Mayhew Consulting

I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.

 

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