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Leadership Is About Emotion

Make a list of the 5 leaders you most admire. They can be from business, social media, politics, technology, the sciences, any field. Now ask yourself why you admire them. The chances are high that your admiration is based on more than their accomplishments, impressive as those may be. I’ll bet that everyone on your list reaches you on an emotional level.

This ability to reach people in a way that transcends the intellectual and rational is the mark of a great leader. They all have it. They inspire us. It’s a simple as that. And when we’re inspired we tap into our best selves and deliver amazing work.

So, can this ability to touch and inspire people be learned? No and yes. The truth is that not everyone can lead, and there is no substitute for natural talent. Honestly, I’m more convinced of this now – I’m in reality about the world of work and employee engagement. But for those who fall somewhat short of being a natural born star (which is pretty much MANY of us), leadership skills can be acquired, honed and perfected. And when this happens your chances of engaging your talent increases from the time they walk into your culture.

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

English: Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s Take A Look At Tools That Allow For Talent To Shine:

Emotional intelligence. Great leaders understand empathy, and have the ability to read people’s (sometimes unconscious, often unstated) needs and desires. This allows them to speak to these needs and, when at all possible, to fulfill them. When people feel they are understood and empathized something, they respond PERIOD and a bond is formed.

Continuous learning. Show me a know-it-all and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have a clue about being human. Curiosity and an insatiable desire to always do better is the mark of a great leader. They are rarely satisfied with the status quo, and welcome new knowledge and fresh (even if challenging) input. It’s all about investing in yourself.

Contextualize. Great leaders respond to each challenge with a fresh eye. They know that what worked in one situation may be useless in another. Before you act, make sure you understand the specifics of the situation and tailor your actions accordingly.

Let Go. Too many people think leadership is about control. In fact, great leaders inspire and then get out of the way. They know that talented people don’t need or want hovering managers. Leadership is about influence, guidance, and support, not control. Look for ways to do your job and then get out of the way so that people can do theirs.

Honesty.  Not a week goes by that we don’t hear about a so-called leader losing credibility because he or she was dishonest. Often this is because of pressure to try and “measure up” and it’s not coming from a place of being real – often this relates to fear of not being accepted for your true self. We live in age of extraordinary transparency, which is reason enough to always be true to your core – your mission will be revealed, your motivations will show by your behaviors. But it goes way beyond this. It’s an issue that sets an example and elevates an organization. If you have a reputation for honesty, it will be a lot easier to deliver bad news and face tough challenges. Are you inspiring people from your heart? 

Kindness and respect. Nice leaders (people) don’t finish last. They finish first again and again. Ignorance and arrogance are leadership killers. They’re also a mark of insecurity. Treating everyone with a basic level respect is an absolute must trait of leadership. And kindness is the gift that keeps on giving back. Of course, there will be people who prove they don’t deserve respect and they must be dealt with. But that job will be made much easier, and will have far less impact on your organization, if you have a reputation for kindness, honesty and respect.

Collaboration. People’s jobs and careers are integral to their lives. The more your organization can make them a partner, the more they will deliver amazing results. This means, to the greatest extent possible, communicating your organization’s strategies, goals and challenges. This builds buy-in, and again is a mark of respect. People won’t be blindsided (which is a workplace culture killer) by setbacks if they’re in the loop.

Partner with your people. As I said above, people’s careers are a big part of their lives. That seems like a no-brainer, but leaders should have it front and center at all times. Find out what your employees’ career goals are and then do everything you can to help them reach them. Even if it means they will eventually leave your organization. You will gain happy, productive employees who will work with passion and commitment, and tout your company far and wide. This an opportunity to brand your greatness.

Leadership is both an art and a science. These tools are guidelines, not rigid rules. Everyone has to develop his or her own individual leadership style. Make these tools a part of your arsenal and use them well as you strive to reach people on an emotional level. Be Human. This Matters.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 12/15/13

Building a Culture of Learning

We hear a lot from the thousands of candidates we speak to every year.  One of the top items on a candidate’s wish list is a culture of continued learning.  Recent human resources trends have even come up with a new form of this learning called symbiotic learning.  Symbiotic learning has at its core a commitment to continued learning.  The difference is that symbiotic learning focuses on a two- way exchange of information.  This means that new and current employees, senior and junior, learn from one another.  But how does an organization build a culture of learning to promote this kind of exchange of information?

Creating a Culture of Learning

Many human resources teams struggle with ways to improve company culture.  One of the easiest ways to improve this culture is by creating a culture of learning that encourages employee development.  This can be easier said than done, but there are some important tips your human resources team can do to create this kind of environment:

  • Start from the beginning. A culture of learning should be instilled in employees from the very beginning. This means during the hiring process, hiring managers can nurture a culture of learning.  Introducing candidates to this concept doesn’t need to be difficult, though.  Human resources can structure job postings to specifically attract candidates that seek a culture of learning.  While interviewing, the hiring manager can use video interviews to introduce candidates to stimulating videos that offer deeper insights into their industry and company.  The human resources department can encourage a culture of learning that persists throughout an employee’s career.
  • Introduce training into employee onboarding. Believe it or not, many businesses don’t actually train their employees when they join the company.  In many cases, onboarding ends at the signing of hiring documents and the office tour.  A great way to instill a culture of learning is to start the new employees off with opportunities to learn new skills and enhance skills they already possess.  Consider how this simple step can help build a culture of learning that helps set an employee up for success and engender good feelings about the organization.
  • Partner senior and junior employees together for mentorship.  Many junior employees are very eager to learn new skills and grow within their career.  And many senior employees have years of experience and knowledge that could be lost if they were to retire. A great way to build a culture of learning is to pair these two types of employees together.  The junior employee feels they’re gaining valuable information to propel their career. The senior employee gains satisfaction from passing on knowledge. This is a great way to also build a team and enhance the company culture.
  • Offer employees opportunities to attend classes, symposiums, and other learning opportunities. It can be difficult for employees to learn more skills when there’s so much work to be done.  But human resources can build a program that offers employees opportunities to take a day away from the office to enhance their knowledge.  Employees often value these opportunities to focus on themselves instead of the work.  One day away from the office won’t mean an employee falls way behind.  But it could mean they gain valuable skills and knowledge that increase job satisfaction and enhance their work product. These kinds of opportunities support a culture of learning that endures beyond one employee’s experience.
  • Offer tuition reimbursement. It’s no secret that a better educated workforce can help a company produce better work overall.  Many companies that offer tuition reimbursement find that their employees stay longer than employees who don’t take advantage of this benefit. Human resources can use this to build a culture of learning that strengthens the health of the company overall.

Creating a culture of learning does not have to be difficult.  And it doesn’t have to be expensive when companies have limited budgets.  Try some of the ideas listed herein and find out how creating a culture of learning can support your company today.

Photo credit: Bigstock

Different Options To Pursue Education As a Professional

Learning is never over for professionals in all fields. The healthcare field requires constant classes to keep up with the rapid medical advances. Changes in federal, state, or company policy, could demand that current professionals receive further certification. Sudden moves across state lines, could require you to meet state standards not required in your original state. And let’s not forget the urge to switch tracks to pursue a different career entirely could lead us back to college.

At this stage, you might feel the need to have a toddler style tantrum over the idea of sinking more money into your education. Before you hit the floor, here’s a bit of good news: written within the IRS tax code are systems designed to help United States citizens afford to pursue higher education.

Employer Education Assistance Programs

Businesses have a looong history off offering their employees education based perks to their employees and their employee’s family through scholarships, grants, and educational programs. Recently, Starbucks has upped the ante by offering to pay all of the tuition costs for employees who wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University.

The Starbuck’s education program is derived from the tax code regarding employer assistance programs. Professionals can afford college by seeking a job at a company have one of these programs. Before you dive in, here’s a fun story to let you know what you need to know:

Billy-Bob is ecstatic that his employer ForeverSadandLonely Incorporated has implemented an Employer Assistance Program. The program will give him $10,000 dollars. The HR expert Barbara Ann explained that $5,250 of the program would be tax free, the other not be $4,750 would show up on his W-2 as taxable income. The program, upholding the laws of the IRS, helped him pay for tuition, class fees, books, supplies and equipment. Billy-Bob was annoyed he would have to pay for the rock climbing and knitting class out of pocket since the government program does not cover any recreational or hobby classes.

Work Education Fringe Benefits

Whether or not your current employer offers an education assistance program, the courses you plan to take might qualify as a business deduction. Work related education fringe benefits business education are expenses spent on education that can be deducted on your tax return. In order to utilize these benefits, the educational program must meet a few different requirements.

Check out the following stories to figure out what qualifies:

Cynthia Ruth is a nurse who is being required by her employer to take a communications course and by the Idaho State government to take a refresher course on medical technology in order to maintain her job, her salary, and her status as a nurse. Due to the fact that both the courses serve a business purpose, she can file the education fees as an education fringe benefit on her tax return.

On the other hand,

Polly-Ann’s is the head of marketing. Her employer has demanded that she pursue a psychology degree to maintain her position as head of marketing to help her understand how to market more effectively to their target audience. In this case, Polly cannot file the degree as a business expense on her tax return because the degree would qualify her to enter another field.

Kelly is interning as an engineer while pursuing a bachelor in engineering from a local college. In order to maintain her position after the internship, she will need to graduate. Unfortunately, Kelly cannot file the education as a business expense because a bachelor in engineering is a minimum educational requirement for engineers by the business and the field.

If you’re education is lucky enough to qualify as a business expense, you will need to make an itemized list of all the educational costs that are tax deductible. You can find more information on the topic here.

Graduating college without student debt is extremely hard. Thankfully, the IRS financial code allows US citizens to utilize employer education assistance and business fringe benefits to pursue higher education while limiting debt. If you cannot escape all student debt, it will be up to you to come up with a manageable payment plan. Don’t forget that you can significantly decrease the overall amount paid on loans by paying off some of the loans while you are in college.

Photo credit: Bigstock

Personality Types And Career Success

Every office is made up of different personalities with different strengths and weaknesses. For HR professionals, understanding these personalities is a key component of building successful teams, providing opportunities for advancement, and making other important personnel decisions.

But what role does personality actually play in a person’s professional development? Are some personalities more likely to be satisfied at work than others? Which personality types are more likely to lead more employees?

New data from the infographic below — compiled by Truity, developer of the TypeFinder® personality type assessment and other scientifically validated, user-friendly personality assessments — offers answers to these questions and more.

Some of the most interesting findings about personality type in the workplace include:

  • INFJs showed one of the smallest gender-wage gaps, with female INFJs earning 87 percent of what male INFJs earn.
  • ESTJ man were the highest earners of all type/gender groups at $75k.
  • ESFJs had the highest job satisfaction rating of all types.
  • ENFPs showed one of the largest gender-wage gaps, with female ENFPs earning just 72 percent of what make ENFPs earn.

Check out the full infographic to learn more about all the personality types in your office:

What do you think? Does personality type affect success and job satisfaction in your office?

Igniting Social Learning: #TChat Preview

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap)

Social learning. Two simple words with so many meanings.

The TalentCulture community understands one meaning very well. After all, we exist is to encourage social learning among talent-minded professionals. But this week, we want to look more expansively at the role of learning in today’s social business environment.

Our mission is to unpack this concept collaboratively – sharing ideas and information about how and why social learning can make a meaningful difference for individual careers, as well as organizations.

We even have some heavy-hitter experts to help us see how leading-edge learning tools and techniques can transform business.

MichaelClarkWhat’s Your Learning Goal?

Yesterday, I started the conversation on Forbes.com by thinking aloud about 5 ways anyone can jump-start social learning. As I fleshed-out these thoughts, a key question kept coming to mind: When you pursue learning, what’s your purpose?

  • Are you learning, so you can teach?
  • Are you teaching so you can learn?
  • Are you learning for learning’s sake?
  • Or do you have other intentions?

What’s more, does your goal really matter? I think it does. Arguably, the most powerful learning experiences are fueled by purpose-driven passion.

Truth is, learning should propel us not just through school, not just through work, but through life. And when our personal quest for knowledge, skill and competence aligns with business goals, the results can make a meaningful difference.

#TChat Focus Topic: Let’s Get Social About Learning

Life is a continuous process of learning and skill development. And by nature, learning is a social activity. Throughout our lives we look to others – parents, teachers, mentors, managers, experts, peers and others – for information, instruction, insight, guidance and validation. It’s all part of the learning process.

So, what does it mean to apply emerging social tools and techniques to the process of continuous learning? And why does it matter? Let’s talk about it!

TChatRadio_logo_020813#TChat Radio

#TChat Radio – Tuesday, March 26 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT

Tune-in online and discover new ways to ignite professional and organization learning, as we interview Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, and Justin Mass, Sr. Manager of Learning Technology & Design at Adobe.

#TChat Twitter

#TChat Twitter – Wednesday, March 27 at 7pm ET / 4pm PT. Join our weekly online forum, and share your thoughts with others about these key questions:

Q1: How & why should we define social learning & talent development in the world of work?
Q2: How can we bridge today’s skills gap by connecting business with education?
Q3: We equate social learning with online learning, but is that view complete? Why/why not?
Q4: What are the most important technology platforms for social learning today?
Q5: What critical metrics should leaders should use to measure social learning & talent development?

Want to see more about this week’s topic? Watch Michael Clark, talk with TalentCulture community manager, Tim McDonald in this preview video on YouTube, or read Tim’s “Sneak Peek” blog post now.

Throughout the week, we’ll keep the discussion going on the #TChat Twitter stream and on our new LinkedIn Discussion Group. So please join us share your ideas and opinions.

We’ll see you on the stream!

Image credit: Pixabay